§ MR. LAYARD
* Sir, in pursuance of a notice which I have given, I now rise to call the attention of the House to the actual state of the relations of this country 832 with Russia and Turkey. I humbly conceive that no time could be more opportune than the present for bringing to the notice of the House this most momentous subject. You are called upon, Sir, to leave the chair, that we may resolve ourselves into a Committee to take into consideration the Navy Estimates. We are invited to make very considerable additions to our naval forces, and to vote extraordinary sums to meet certain contingencies, which can mean nothing else but war. I think it therefore but natural for the Government, indeed almost their duty, to state to this House, before we agree to those additions and that increase, what their intentions really are, and to set before the country distinctly the position in which we now stand, in order that we may respond with confidence to the appeal about to be made to us. And it is the more necessary that these statements should be made at this moment, for, owing to a somewhat extraordinary reserve, not to use a stronger term, on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers, we are somewhat at a loss to know in what position we really are. I trust that this evening all such doubts will be cleared up. But, before asking what the Government are going to do, I have another duty to perform. I wish to see what the Government have done. It is with great reluctance that I recur to old errors and past grievances. I know it is always unpalatable to Government to refer to blue books. With regard to those documents a rather singular practice seems to exist. If an independent Member wishes in the course of the Session to ask a question which it may be inconvenient to Ministers to answer, or seeks explanations which it does not suit them to give, he is told, "This is not the proper time—it is better not to discuss the matter now—it is inconvenient to give one document without the others—when they are all published you can enter on the discussion with a full knowledge of the facts." But when the blue books are published, generally some six months after the public interest has abated, if the same Member rises to make any remarks upon them, he is told, "It is now too late—let bygones be bygones—it is of no use to rip up old sores—better let things remain as they are." That is all very well under ordinary circumstances; but when a great matter like the present is at stake, it is, I humbly submit, the duty of the House to have at least one discussion on the blue books. We may learn a useful lesson from them; we may learn 833 how for the Government may be warranted in persevering in their previous policy; how far vacillation and indecision may have brought us into the straits in which we now are; and how far the former conduct of Ministers warrants our placing confidence in them for the future. Moreover, I feel I have a threefold duty to perform in calling public attention to the documents they contain. I owe a duty to the country, to this House, and to myself. To the country and this House, because last Session on several occasions I deferred to the wishes of the Government, and refrained from insisting upon information and declarations which I then thought of considerable importance, and which I still think would have placed us, had they been afforded, in a better position than we now, are. To myself, because I ventured at the same time to submit to the House opinions which were then questioned, but which I believe have been since fully supported by facts; and because I feel called upon to show the House that it was from no idle desire to bring myself under their notice that I then asked for explanations which I then believed and still believe were most essential to the public service. But I do not wish to go at any very great length into these blue books. Whatever allusions I may make to them will I trust be made with all impartiality. I have no wish to make this subject a plea for factious opposition to the Government, although that is a motive, unfortunately, too frequently attributed to young Members who take an independent course. All I desire to show is, that if the Government had adopted in the first instance a more straightforward and energetic policy, we should not be in the position we now are; and that if they wish to carry this great question to a successful issue, they must not continue in that course which they have hitherto pursued.
I ventured to state last year that it was my firm conviction, that if at the commencement of this momentous question the Government had adopted a tone equal to its importance, we should not be now beset with the difficulties which surround us. I confess I see no reason whatever to change my opinion. I have gone through the papers on the table with the greatest possible care; few Members, I believe, have devoted more attention than I have to them, and, with the sincerest desire to give the Government the benefit of every excuse they can advance, I see no cause 834 for thinking otherwise than I then did; on the contrary, I am persuaded, and those who are much better able to judge than I am, agree with me in the conviction, that I was right.
What, let me ask, was the state of things last year? Why, early in the winter the Government was informed, from numerous sources—sources beyond all suspicion—that Russia was making vast armaments by sea and by land. I will not enter into the question which had arisen between the French and Russian missions at Constantinople. I quite agree in the propriety of the instructions sent by the Government to their agents abroad, that with that question we had nothing to do; but surely, when we saw a Power like Russia arming itself for a great contest, the question ceased to be one of mere local or particular interests; and, becoming one of European importance, it was incumbent on the Government to ask the reason and the cause of those armaments. It is now useless to tell me that the Government did not possess positive information at that period with regard to the designs of Russia. In answer to such an assertion, I will shortly call the attention of the House to three points—the evidence we then had of the military preparations of Russia, of her naval preparations, and the declarations made by the Emperor himself, through his agents, to Her Majesty's Ministers. On the 6th and 7th of January, Sir G. H. Seymour informed Lord John Russell, who was then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that orders had been given to the 5th corps d'armée to advance to the frontiers of the Danubian provinces without even waiting for their reserves, and to the 4th corps, under General Dannenberg, then stationed in Volhynia, to hold itself in readiness to advance if necessary. Lord Cowley wrote on the 20th of January, that the French Government had received similar information of the military movements of Russia on the frontiers of Turkey. Here, then, is proof of great military preparations as early as January. On the 9th of February Lord John Russell wrote to Sir G. H. Seymour:—I have to acquaint you that, in a despatch dated Odessa, January 24th, Mr. Consul-General Yeames reports that orders have reached Sebastopol for the equipment of the fleet, so that it may be ready for sea at a short notice."—[No. 84.]We had thus information, not through vague reports, but through Her Majesty's 835 agents themselves, that the Russian Government was making, early in the winter, vast naval and military preparations.
I cannot help quoting here a despatch of the noble Lord to Colonel Rose, which puts out of the question altogether the supposition that Her Majesty's Government were not prepared, at that period, for some great movement by Russia. After informing Colonel Rose that Prince Menchikoff was about to proceed to Constantinople, and noticing the rumour that he would demand the dismissal of the Turkish Foreign Minister (mark! this was in February), the noble Lord goes on to say:—If the Russian troops should advance to the frontier, you must give immediate information to Her Majesty's Government. I trust I need not suppose the case of their advancing beyond the frontier to the attack of the capital. In such a case Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe will be upon the spot, furnished with the requisite instructions.Surely, then, if the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs so early as January in last year thus informs Her Majesty's representative at Constantinople that Russian armies may possibly march, not only to the frontier, but to the capital, he must have had reason for believing that a very serious state of things had arisen. When Prince Menchikoff arrived at Constantinople, Colonel Rose at once warned the Government that great military preparations were being actively carried on by Russia, and that the negotiations with Prince Menchikoff had assumed a very alarming phase. In giving an account of his interview with Prince Menchikoff, he declared that the explanations he received were very far from satisfactory. He admitted that he could not even understand Prince Menchikoff's reply. He asked the Prince to state what the Russian Government meant by these warlike demonstrations. The Prince said, "Our intentions are peaceable, but we shall not disarm, nor will we withdraw our troops"—in fact, giving us to understand that they were ready for any emergency. But I find that, at that period, Count Nesselrode had actually informed the Government that the Emperor intended to back his representations at Constantinople by force if necessary. In a despatch from that Minister to Baron Brunnow, which was communicated to the British Government on the 8th of June, he writes:—The Emperor promised to carry his patience and moderation to the utmost extremity; but, in communicating to the Cabinet of London the military preparations which coincided with the open- 836 ing of the negotiations, he did not conceal from it that the moment might come when he would be obliged to have recourse to them."—[No. 236.]Here, then, we find that, as early as last winter, Baron Brunnow had informed the Government that the Emperor was making military preparations, and would be compelled, in case of necessity, to make use of them to back up Prince Menchikoff's representations. But the Government say that Sir G. H. Seymour received the most positive assurances in direct contradiction to this information and these statements. Surely, however, there was some ground for suspicion. In the commonest affairs of life we do not usually place touch faith in a man who, having said he meant to do one thing, is openly doing another. During all that time the Government, accepted the assurances made to Sir G. H. Seymour, even in direct contradiction to the very announcement by Count Nesselrode himself, without any formal demand for proof of the pacific intentions of the Emperor. They did not even say, "We are quite ready to believe you; but give orders to disarm; withdraw your troops, and stop your armaments." Not a word of such language can I find. There is another fact to which I would call the attention of the House. It is important, though not in itself perhaps a great matter, because it shows that we had positive proofs of the falsehoods—I cannot use a milder term—at that time uttered by the Russian Government. We have seen Lord John Russell hinting to Colonel Rose that Prince Menchikoff would demand the dismissal of Fuad Effendi, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs. Now, though Prince Menchikoff did not openly demand his dismissal, although he undoubtedly did secretly, yet he refused all communication with him; and the natural and inevitable result was, that Fuad Effendi himself took the step of resigning. What does Prince Menchikoff say to Reshid Pasha, in a note dated the 19th of April?—While desiring to overlook the past, and requiring as reparation merely the dismissal of a deceitful Minister, and the public execution of solemn promises, the Emperor was compelled to demand some guarantees for the future.Now mark the direct contradiction in a memorandum from Baron Brunnow to Lord Clarendon, communicated on the 26th of May (a copy of Prince Menchikoff's note, be it observed, having been received by Her Majesty's Government on the 9th):—Russia never required, as has been falsely, 837 alleged, the dismissal of this Minister. The resignation of Fuad Effendi was voluntary."—[No. 191.]Having so many proofs of the double dealing of Russia, I cannot conceive why Her Majesty's Government did not make such inquiries and representations as would have removed all doubts whatever as to her real intentions. Under such circumstances, it need not be a matter of surprise that the Russian Government should congratulate themselves upon their success in cajoling and deceiving the British Ministers. They could not suppress their joy. They must even add to the insult they had inflicted upon us by communicating their delight to the Ministers themselves. In a celebrated despatch from Count Nesselrode to Baron Brunnow, which was officially communicated by order of Count Nesselrode to Her Majesty's Government, we find this remarkable passage:—You will assure the Ministers of the Queen, in the most positive terms, that the intentions of the Emperor are still the same, and that all the idle rumours to which the arrival of Prince Menchikoff in the Ottoman capital has given rise" [the occupation of the Principalities amongst them] "are not only exaggerated, but even destitute of any sort of foundation.Assertions all positively refuted by facts. He then adds:—The Emperor desires you to thank Lord Aberdeen and Lord Clarendon very particularly in his name for the salutary impulse which they have recently given to the decisions of the British Cabinet. The former has on this occasion shown us a new proof of confidence, of which our august master is highly sensible.The Emperor then condescends to say an encouraging word to the young beginner:—The latter, with whom our relations have hardly yet commenced, thus enters upon them under auspices which justify us in hoping that they will be of the most satisfactory nature."—[No. 138.]Not a good word for my noble Friend the Member for the City of London, whose language, I confess, is not always so deserving of Russian compliments. At the end of the despatch there is a very curious sentence. For the convenience of such hon. Members as are not so well acquainted with the French language as they perhaps ought to be, an English translation generally accompanies French despatches in the blue books, and I dare say hon. Members are usually satisfied with reading this translation. But I prefer looking at the original French; and as the passage to which I allude appears to me rather equi- 838 vocal, I am sure the House will excuse me for quoting it:—"Sous ce rapport, Lord Aberdeen nous semble avoir parfaitement compris le beau rôle qu'avait à y jouer l'Angleterre." In my humble opinion, le beau rôle that the noble Earl at the head of the Government is supposed to have so perfectly understood, seems rather ironical. But it would appear that the translator of the Foreign Office had a tender regard for the feelings of the noble Earl; for, turning to the translation, I find the somewhat dubious compliment of Count Nesselrode turned into the more dignified assertion that—"In this point of view Lord Aberdeen appears to us to have fully understood the important part which England had to play." I have been told that it is all very well to say a more decided course should have been taken in the first instance; but, while the Porte was not prepared, Russia was prepared for war. I maintain, that had we assumed a proper attitude, war would not have ensued. However, admitting, for the sake of argument, that war might have been the result, I contend that Russia was not prepared. It is a very different thing saying that a nation is preparing for war and that it is prepared for war. I deny that Russia was prepared. On the contrary, we know that it takes her some time to prepare her armaments; and I contend the fault was, that when Russia was preparing, a more decided course was not taken. On the other hand, I do not hesitate to assert, founding my conviction on the despatches from Lord Stratford, and on my own personal knowledge, that Turkey was not wholly unprepared. I may refer to a despatch from Lord Stratford to Lord Clarendon of the 30th of May, which gives an outline of the preparations already entered into by the Porte, which, in my humble opinion, fully equalled, if they were not considerably more than, any preparations at that time made by Russia. And, subsequently, events proved it; for when all those exaggerated accounts of the Russian forces in the Principalities were dispelled, by the Russians being brought face to face with the Turks, it turned out that they had not 30,000 men; and if Omar Pasha had been allowed, early in the autumn, to take the step which the Turkish Government then wished to take, and which that able commander urgently pressed upon them to adopt, my belief is, he would have driven the Russians out of the Principalities.
839 But we are told we have gained a great deal by waiting, because Austria was not then with us. Even upon that point I find some very contradictory statements. It appears to me, from the best proof that can be afforded, that Austria was with us; at any rate, we have her assurances that she was so; and, surely, if we were so ready to receive the assurances of Russia, we might have placed equal confidence in those of an old ally. In proof of what I have stated, I trust the House will allow me to read an extract from a despatch of Lord Westmoreland to Lord Clarendon, dated Vienna, June 17:—Count Buol declared that he had spared no efforts, in his communications with the Cabinet of St. Petersburg, to induce them to abandon the policy they appeared to have adopted towards the Turkish Government; he had not concealed from them the unfavourable impression it had created upon the sincerest friends of the Emperor, and he had still hopes that these remonstrances might produce their effect. In replying to these assurances, I communicated to Count Buol the despatch from your Lordship of the 7th instant, in which I am instructed to express to him the satisfaction of Her Majesty's Government at his views of the Russian proceedings, and at the course the Austrian Government intended to pursue, as reported in my despatch of the 30th of May; and with the view of bringing more explicitly before him your Lordship's sentiments, I read to him the last-mentioned despatch. Count Boot was much satisfied with your Lordship's expressions; he desired me to state that he considered himself as entirely united with your policy with respect to the Turkish empire; he regards the maintenance of its independence and integrity as of the most essential importance to the best interests of Austria, and he would employ every means in hit power to effect that object. He repeated his Former declaration, that he would take no engagements with Russia not to oppose her with arms; and he even added, that, should he be called upon to carry out an armed intervention on the frontiers it would be in support of the authority and independence of the Sultan."—[No. 277.]These assurances were given in June. These sentiments are quite in accordance with the true policy and interests of Austria. They do her honour. We know m more at present than is stated in this despatch. It is indeed all we can reasonably require—that Austria will support the in dependence and integrity of Turkey, even to the extent of armed intervention.
The Russians crossed the Pruth. Now I remember rising in this House to inquire—and almost apologising for entertaining a doubt on such a matter—whether any formal protest had been entered against this crossing of the Pruth? To my infinite astonishment I can find no protest whatever. At any rate, none appears in 840 the blue books as having been formally addressed by the British Government to the Emperor of Russia. There is, indeed, some little talk at St. Petersburg, by Sir G. H. Seymour, about its being very wrong, that it would not do, that it had created a painful feeling in England, but there is no formal protest worthy of the nation. If we did not want open war, surely at that moment the Government might have said, in the most distinct and positive terms, to Russia, "What you have done is a direct violation of treaties, a direct violation of international law, and we enter our formal protest against it." No protest, as far as I can see, was entered; and Russia was delighted to find that we did not take up the question as a great and powerful nation might have been supposed to have done—that we did not consider it ourselves, or permit the Porte to consider it, as a cases belli—that we were still willing to give her time to complete her preparations and to perfect her plans. What wrote Sir G. H. Seymour to Lord Clarendon in September?—The chances of a favourable issue are further diminished by the belief indulged (as I know, upon certain grounds) by the Russian Cabinet, of its being impossible that the Turkish armies should hold together until the spring."—[No. 119.]Here we find Russia candidly confessing her reason for wishing for delay. It was our utter neglect of the warnings which we had received from all sides—none snore emphatic than those from Lord Stratford—that undoubtedly made Count Nesselrode observe to Sir G. H. Seymour, that "he thought war would hardly be undertaken by the Government of a country professing such peaceable intentions, and so manifestly interested in the cultivation of peace, as England." Of course, that was the natural inference, after Russia had taken all these hostile steps, after she had made all these warlike movements, without any formal protest. I regret that the time I have already taken up prevents me reading to the House several of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe's despatches. They are amongst is the most interesting and able documents in the collection of State papers published, and have, no doubt, been amongst those which have attracted most attention from hon. Members. They are full of warnings to the Government against the evil—nay, fatal—effects of their undecided and vacillating policy. I will only quote from one sent home in August. Lord Stratford writes:— 841When at a later period the Russian troops were about to enter the Principalities, I implored your Lordship with increased earnestness to contemplate the Eastern question in all its magnitude, and to pursue a course of policy which would successively enlist every kind of exertion in favour of a triumphant issue."—[No. 70.]That is but one of these warnings. They are innumerable. I will not trouble the House with more, but merely express my confident belief that the House will agree with me in saying that no exertions have been wanting on the part of Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople to open the eyes of the Government to the danger which then threatened the Turkish empire, chiefly from our own want of decision.
Even when compelled to take any decisive step, the Government still endeavoured to keep the real merits of the question out of sight—you could never be brought to call things by their right names—the sham was carried on to the last. You appear to have been afraid to own what you were really doing. This system of equivocation was persevered in to such an extent that, even when you had up the fleet, instead of boldly proclaiming the reason for that step, you declared that it was summoned to Constantinople to protect British lives and British property. British lives and British property! The fleet was not required to protect British lives and British property. They had never been in danger. Englishmen and English property were, I am confident, as safe in Constantinople then as they would have been in any part of England. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe could not accept this pretence without alluding to it in a despatch, couched, it appears to me, in somewhat ironical terms, not very respectful to the Government. He writes in October to the Earl of Clarendon:—I am deeply sensible of the interest so liberally displayed by Her Majesty's Government in the preservation of British lives and property at Constantinople. …. It is with reference to your Lordship's despatch of the 23rd ultimo, that I express this sentiment, which authorises me to consider the presence of Her Majesty's squadron here, if I thought proper to require it, as intended to embrace the protection of the Sultan also, in case of need.So, after all, the fleet was not brought up to protect British lives and property, but to protect the Sultan.
I trust I have said enough to show that, notwithstanding repeated warnings—notwithstanding positive facts, brought to the notice of the Government, not by vulgar rumour, but by their own agents—not- 842 withstanding that Government were then acquainted with a state of things which imperatively called upon them to place themselves in a position to meet any events which might occur, they failed to take those precautions which the emergency required, and to assume that attitude which the honour of this country and, let me add, the interests of peace, required. The Government themselves admit the errors they committed. I judge them by their own confessions. Sir G. H. Seymour, in more than one despatch, apologises for having accepted assurances from the Russian Cabinet, whilst facts were directly at variance with them; and Her Majesty's Ministers themselves are compelled to offer as an excuse for results which they cannot deny, that they placed too much confidence in, and were deceived by, Russia.
I now come to the celebrated Vienna note. It may be in the recollection of the House that I ventured to warn Her Majesty's Ministers last Session against the course they were taking in reference to that celebrated document. I pointed out to them the palpable error they were committing, and the difficulties they were inevitably preparing for themselves. Every prediction which I then made was soon afterwards verified. It was only by the well-known circular of Count Nesselrode, putting the Emperor's own interpretation upon the Vienna note, that this country was fortunately saved from committing a great and manifest act of injustice. I warned the Government that, by obtaining the consent of Russia to that note before they had consulted Turkey, whose interests were directly concerned, and who had to sign the note, they exposed themselves to the danger of having to force upon Turkey a document which might be most detrimental to her. An assertion has since been hazarded by Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that Turkey had been consulted, but when the noble Earl was pressed upon the subject, he assumed a somewhat non mi ricordo tone, and admitted that he could not tell whether she had been so consulted or not. The House will, doubtless, remember the career of the note to which I allude, although any attempt to follow the various notes described in the blue books would be difficult enough. With a Constantinople note, and a Vienna note, and a Paris note, and a London note, flying, shuttlecock fashion, backwards and 843 forwards over Europe, I am not surprised that the noble Earl should be forgetful of the real merits of the question. The point is this—was the Vienna note communicated or not to the Turkish Government or to the Turkish Minister before it was communicated to and accepted by the Russian Government? The noble Lord the Member for the City of London in his speech of last year admitted to the House that the Russian Government had accepted the note, which had then been forwarded to the Porte, and stated that there was consequently every reason to hope that the question would be settled—not mentioning a word about Turkey's acceptance. What was, therefore, our position? why, instead of remaining the allies of Turkey, we became the allies of Russia. The note, whether framed or not by the British Government, was proposed by us. Having been submitted to one party and accepted, we are bound then to make the other party accept it; and so we should, in spite of Lord Stratford and Lord Cowley's remonstrances, if Count Nesselrode's circular had not shown the immense injustice we were about to commit.
It is not necessary to trouble the House with all the despatches which show that the Turkish Government was not consulted. I will only quote, two. On the 13th of August, Lord Stratford writes to Lord Clarendon to say that, on receiving his Lordship's instructions (with reference to the Vienna note), he waited on Reshid Pasha, and reminded him of the intelligence which had arrived from St. Petersburg the day before by telegraph, purporting that the Emperor of Russia had signified his readiness to accept that note. Here, then, is proof, in Lord Stratford's own words, that Reshid Pasha had not been consulted, for he (the Ambassador) was instructed to press the acceptance of the note on the Porte. Lord Clarendon, on September 10th, in writing to Lord Stratford, says:—Reshid Pasha appears to complain that the Porte was not consulted, and I have to observe that the course previously pursued by the Porte, when a proposal for settlement was submitted to it, appeared to render subsequent consultation inexpedient, as leading only to further loss of time.Here it is admitted by Lord Clarendon that the Turkish Minister had not been consulted. And yet we have the noble Earl saying in another place that he had every reason to believe that the Porte was 844 consulted! although, when pressed a little, he admits that he knows nothing about it! It does appear most extraordinary that the Foreign Secretary, considering the great importance of this question, should be writing on the 18th of October (the month after the Vienna note) to inquire of Lord Westmoreland whether the Turkish Minister had or had not been invited to the Vienna conferences. I will also on this question take the Government's condemnation from their own months. They admit themselves that the Vienna note was a great mistake.
I now come to another point. It has been said, "It is all very well to condemn the Government for not taking stronger measures, but we could not get France to go with us." I will prove, by quotations from despatch after despatch, that every proposal to take active and energetic measures, from the very first sending of the French fleet to the Greek waters to the ultimate entry of the combined fleets into the Black Sea, came from France. In a despatch dated the 28th of January, Lord Cowley announces the intention of the French Government to send their fleet into the Bay of Salamis. On June the 7th, Count Walewski communicated to the Earl of Clarendon, a despatch from M. Drouyn de Lhuys, in which he said:—We never doubted that, from the moment when the Government of Her Britannic Majesty should share in our apprehensions, common interests, and an equal desire to maintain the integrity and independence of the Ottoman empire in their present condition, would unite the efforts of France and of England for the attainment of the same object. It is in this confidence, which has been so fully justified, that I drew up, by the Emperor's orders, M. de la Cour's instructions, and that I gave to him, under date of March 22nd, authority to call the French fleet to the Dardanelles.He proposed to Lord Clarendon to give similar instructions. So much for the second step: now for the third. On the 2nd of August, Lord Clarendon, in a despatch to Lord Cowley, writes that, in an interview on the 30th of July,—Count Walewski informs me that he had received instructions to propose to Her Majesty's Government that, in the event of Russia not accepting, within a very short time, or not showing herself well disposed to accept, the measures of conciliation submitted to her, the fleets of France and England should, without delay, receive orders to enter the Dardanelles upon the first demand of the Porte. I told Count Walewski that I adhered to the opinion I had several times expressed to him upon this subject, and that I could see no advantage in hypothetical agreements, which would never supersede subsequent discussion and 845 deliberation between our respective Governments, nor materially influence their decision upon events as they arose.I confess that the noble Earl's arguments do not appear to roe to be of a very intelligible nature. On the 1st of September we find M. Drouyn de Lhuys writing to Count Walewski—The Emperor is of opinion that we should no longer delay asking the Porte that our naval forces, without passing the castles, may anchor at the entrance of the Dardanelles.On the 23rd of September, Lord Clarendon tells Lord Cowley—that Count Walewski informed the Earl of Aberdeen (who was present at the interview) and himself that his Government, with reference to the crisis which appeared to be imminent, thought it indispensably necessary that both fleets should be ordered up to Constantinople, and his Excellency added that he was directed to ask for the immediate decision of Her Majesty's Government, in order that no time might be lost in sending instructions to the Ambassadors and Admirals.And finally, in a despatch from Lord Cowley to Lord Clarendon, dated the 16th of December, we find the French Government proposing that the combined fleets should issue from the Bosphorus, and sweep the Black Sea of all Russian vessels. I say, then, what truth can there be in the allegation that the French were not prepared to co-operate with us, and to take decisive measures? I am perfectly astounded that such an assertion should have been made in defiance of the truth; for when we come to compare dates and facts, we find every proposal, as I have shown, step by step, from the sending of the French fleet to Salamis to the entrance of the allied fleets into the Black Sea, has collie from the French Government. And, Sir, as we are now discussing the conduct of the French Government, I trust it will not be deemed presumptuous in me to bear my humble, though hearty, testimony to the extreme honesty, and straightforward and honourable conduct of the French Emperor in all these transactions; and, let me add, of his Minister, because I know in this country doubts have sometimes been entertained whether the Emperor and his minister were of the same opinion. I find, on reference to the despatches of Lord Cowley, that he affords us the means of contradicting any such insinuation; for, in order to remove all doubt that could possibly exist on the subject, we find him going in person to the Emperor, after interviews with M. Drouyn de Lhuys, and receiving the most distinct 846 and positive assurances from Her Majesty himself that his opinions were strictly in accordance with those of his Minister. I am equally desirous of testifying to the extreme ability which the State documents of that eminent Minister (M. Drouyn de Lhuys) display; and I adroit with regret—I may almost say shame—that they do offer a strong contrast to the State papers of the English Government. And while thus speaking of the share which the Emperor and his Minister have had in these transactions I trust I may be permitted to call the attention of the House to another person who has played a very distinguished part in them. I mean Lord Cowley. I do think that my noble Friend has displayed very consummate ability. If any one has come out of them with credit to himself and honour to his country, it is he. He has written but few despatches, but all are to the point. All that he foretold came to pass. The way in which he has managed our relations with the Emperor of the French and his Government in all these difficult and delicate transactions is deserving of the highest praise; and I have the more satisfaction in bringing these facts to the notice of the House as I cannot forget that the appointment, when made, was considered to have been made in a somewhat irregular manner by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London.
Having thus disposed of the excuse that we could not act earlier in a more decisive manner, on account of the want of co-operation of the French Government, I come to a very important event, which has thrown upon us considerable discredit—I mean the unfortunate affair of Sinope. I confess that it appears to tie that that affair demands considerable explanation. We are told by a despatch of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that it was not merely an attack on Turkey, but an attack on the honour of England. The Emperor of the French and his Government have declared the same thing with regard to Franco. I trust, therefore, that the House will bear with me whilst I compare dates with reference to this melancholy event. I have little doubt that they will agree with me in thinking that very full explanations are needed. Lord Clarendon wrote to Lord Cowley on the 7th of October; it must be borne in mind that the battle of Sinope took place on the 30th of November:—It, therefore, appears advisable to Her Majes- 847 ty's Government that general instructions should be given to the Ambassadors and Admirals to employ the combined fleets in whatever manner, and at whatever place they may think necessary for defending the Turkish territory against direct aggression. If the Russian fleet were to come out of Sebastopol, the fleets would, as a matter of course, pass through the Bosphorus.On the 8th of October, instructions in this sense are sent to Lord Stratford, and Admiral Dundas is directed to inform the Russian Admiral commanding at Sebastopol—that if the Russian fleet should come out of that port for the purpose of landing troops on any portion of the Turkish territory, or of committing any act of overt hostility against the Porte, his orders are to protect the Sultan's dominions from attacks; and he was to express a hope that no measures would be resorted to by the Russian Admiral that would endanger the peaceful relations between Great Britain and Russia.I find, by a despatch to Lord Clarendon, dated November 5, that Lord Stratford, acting, as he appears to have believed, in accordance with instructions from home, had prevented the Porte from carrying out their intention of sending a large fleet into the Black Sea. He writes:—I have succeeded in dissuading the Porte from sending a detachment of line-of-battle ships and sailing frigates into the Black Sea at this moment, and, also, in obtaining the transmission of orders to Omar Pasha to postpone any attempt which he may have in contemplation to pass the Danube at the head of his army; and to Selim Pasha on the Asiatic frontier, to keep as much as possible on the defensive for the present, But I cannot answer for the strict execution of these repressive instructions; and I am not without apprehension that such interference with the plans of the commanders-in-chief may embarrass their proceedings, and give an unfair advantage to their opponents. …. It is impossible not to view with regret and anxiety this prolonged state of vacillation between peace and war. However well meant our efforts may be, it is impossible not to deny the embarrassment which they occasion to the Porte under its present circumstances; and it is, therefore, to be hoped that some manifestations of reluctance at the Porte to continue in a state of such dangerous indecision may be viewed with friendly indulgence."—[No. 252.]Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, like an honourable man, did what he was commanded to do, and obeyed his instructions by preventing the Porte sending out that fleet which might have prevented the attack at Sinope; but he renounces the responsibility of any such act, and warns the Government of its consequences. On the 12th of December, after the event of Sinope, we have a despatch from Lord Cowley to the Earl of Clarendon, in which he says:—Both the Emperor and his Minister are of 848 opinion that the instructions sent to the Ambassadors and Admirals would have justified them in giving material support to the Turkish squadron, had any French or English vessels been near enough to do so.In a dispatch, dated December 4, addressed to the Earl of Clarendon, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe says:—Two frigates under Ottoman colours, one of them belonging to a Turkish steam navigation company, have been captured by the Russians, who in their turn have undergone some loss of men.The House will see, by referring to the despatches of Mr. Guarracino, our Consul at Samsoun, that information relative to the Russian fleet being in the Black Sea was communicated on being 24th of November, on the 25th of November, and again on the 26th of November, to the Embassy at Constantinople; and allowing the utmost time for transmission, it must have reached in time to have allowed the combined fleets to prevent the catastrophe.
So far back as October the Admirals must have been in a position to prevent the attack on the Turkish fleet. What I wish to know is, what became of the instructions sent out from England on the 8th October, which must have reached Constantinople about the 20th of the same month? Why were they not acted upon? Rumours of Russian ships of the line being in the Black Sea had prevailed for some time, and it appears to me that it would have been very easy to have sent a steamer to see whether such were really the case or not. Lord Stratford writes:—Rumours of Russian ships of the line being at sea have occasionally prevailed for some time. Uncertainty of information, a wish to avoid as long as possible the chances of a collision, the arrival of a new French Ambassador, and the state of the weather, were natural causes of demur in coming to a decision as to sending the squadrons into the Black Sea at this time of year.Then, in speaking of the catastrophe, his Lordship says:—Our first thought was to send out a sufficient force to Sinope, with the view of delivering the town and port from whatever portion of the Russian squadron might have remained there after the action.And now comes a most important sentence:—The extreme probability that such a measure would have led immediately to war with Russia—a result which Her Majesty's Government are anxious, if it be possible, to avoid—inclined us to take the preliminary step which I have stated above.Of what use, then, were the instructions to 849 defend at all cost the Turkish fleet? Were Her Majesty's Government so intent on preserving peace that they would not allow the fleet to go out to prevent that terrible catastrophe, or even to go out afterwards to see what had been done? Why on earth, therefore, I ask. were those instructions sent out to Admiral Dundas on the 8th October? Lord Stratford betrays the secret; they were rendered null and void by this extraordinary determination to avoid collision at any risk and every sacrifice. Was this an honourable way to preserve peace? On the 20th of December the Earl of Clarendon thus writes to Lord Stratford de Redelitfe:—I have to state to your Excellency, in reply to your despatch of the 5th instant, that Her Majesty's Government agree in your opinion that a complete inquiry should be instituted into the circumstances which preceded and attended the late fatal occurrence at Sinope; as it would seem from the reports inclosed in your despatch, that, if timely notice had been conveyed to Constantinople of the Russian force that was cruising off Sinope, the catastrophe which ensued might have been averted by the combined fleets.I assert that such an inquiry is necessary, and that the country have a right to demand the fullest explanations on the subject from Her Majesty's Government.
I do not pretend to condemn the Russians for attacking and destroying the Turkish fleet at Sinope. They were at war: they declared they were at war, and we knew they were at war. On their side there were no shams and idle pretences. They were engaged in hostilities against Turkey, and had a right to avail themselves of every occurrence which gave them an advantage over their enemy. I condemn the affair at Sinope, because I believe it to have been a most barbarous and unnecessary massacre. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe says it was accompanied by most uncalled-for acts of barbarity, and any British officer will tell you that the Turkish vessels, greatly inferior in numbers and in size to those of the Russians, might have been captured without half the slaughter. And so they would have been had they been attacked by a brave and generous enemy! To show the extreme barbarity with which the Russians acted, I may mention an incident which I have from a good source, and which deserves being brought to the notice of the house. After the battle had ceased, and the unfortunate Turkish vessels had been all sunk, the Russians manned their yards to celebrate their ill-gained victory. Spying 850 a few miserable men still clinging to the floating masts and spars to save their lives, they sent boats to pick up those who were still in a state to swell their triumph at Odessa, and then, loading their guns with grape, they swept away the rest from the wrecks. What a contrast to this act of brutality was afforded by the noble conduct of the commander of a Turkish frigate, who, when he saw there was no choice between death and dishonour, gave leave to all those who wished to quit his vessel to go on shore, and then, to prevent his orders being disobeyed, put the torch himself to the powder magazine and blew up his ship! Talk of this being a war in the cause of Christianity! it is not hard to say who have behaved most like infidels!
I have now gone through the principal questions connected with this most important subject, vial I think the House will agree with me that I have made out my case. Her Majesty's Government must admit it, as I have quoted their own words. I take their condemnation out of their own mouths. They have admitted, that every step which they took was a mistake from the very beginning. With regard to the way in which they ought to have dealt with these difficulties in the first instance, and when there was still time to preserve peace, they own that they were completely deceived by Count Nesselrode's assurances. As to the manner in which they ought to have conducted the negotiation, they admit that the Vienna mite was a great error; and with respect to the mode in which they ought to have met hostilities when war commenced, they declare that the affair at Sinope demands a searching inquiry and full explanation.
Having thus passed in review the past conduct of Her Majesty's Government, I now come to what is really at this moment the most important question—what are the Government going to do? We are told that we are not at peace, that we are not at war, and that we are not neutral. This situation does certainly seem most anomalous; but, in order to show that it is not quite novel, the noble Earl at the head of the Government cites the state of the relalations between Turkey and the great Powers at the time of the battle of Navarina. It does certainly appear to me that this is a very extraordinary analogy to make. It is clear that we are not in the position that the great Powers were then; we must, therefore, be in the position that Turkey occupied at that period. I ask 851 any man in his senses whether, if Turkey had been a strong Power, she would have received that insult—the destruction of her fleet—without declaring war? Why did she not declare war? Because she dared not. If the noble Earl's simile, therefore, means anything, it is that Russia has insulted us, and we are too weak to resist the insult. But I will willingly seek another cause for this anomalous state in which we now are, and I have no difficulty in finding it. Ministers are still hoping that some unexpected and providential event may lead to a patching up of the differences between Turkey and Russia. I am as anxious as any one that means should be found to preserve peace, if that peace can be concluded on terms consistent with the honour and interests of England, and with the full redress of the wrongs which Turkey has suffered. But I have, unfortunately, no difficulty in knowing what those terms would be after the acknowledgment made by the noble Lord, two nights ago, that the letter published in the French official paper, and purporting to be from the Emperor of France to the Emperor of Russia, was a genuine document, that it had been submitted to the English Government before being sent, and that Her Majesty's Ministers agreed to its contents. Now, the terms offered to the Czar appear to be, that there shall be a simultaneous withdrawal of the Russian troops from the Principalities, and of the combined fleets from the Black Sea, and that Russia shall negotiate with Turkey alone. These two admissions appear to me to include the very principles for which we have hitherto been contending. Her Majesty's Government have declared, that our fleet has not gone into the Black Sea with any hostile intention, and therefore we are not in the same position as Russia. As, however, no one can deny that we have committed an act of hostility by entering the Black Sea in the manner we have done, I will not press that point. But as to the proposal to concede the claim of the Czar to negotiate alone with the Porte, why, anybody who is acquainted with the relations between Russia and Turkey, is aware that this is the point for which Russia has contended from the earliest times. It is what she has always insisted upon—that no European Power has any right to prevent her from interfering with the affairs of the Porte. It is by this claim that she has hitherto prevented Turkey from being taken into the family of 852 European nations; and we know that to maintain this arrogant pretension, she contrived to exclude Turkey from those negotiations which led to the treaty of Vienna. No longer ago than the 19th of November, Sir H. Seymour wrote, that "Count Nesselrode wished to remind him, that there was no instance of a Turkish plenipotentiary having taken part in deliberations having an European character." And on the 2nd of January of this year, he declared that Russia "would never suffer any power to interfere between herself and the Porte, as it would be contrary to the practice which had prevailed for the last century, were they to negotiate otherwise than directly with the Sultan's Government." This is the most vital point with Russia. If she had been allowed to negotiate alone with Turkey; she would have gladly given her better terms, and the affair would have been settled long ago. True, it is declared that any convention between Turkey and Russia is to be submitted to a conference of the representatives of the four Powers. But can any one doubt that every effort will be made, by bribes and threats, to compel the Turkish Plenipotentiary to consent to a disadvantageous agreement, and, if we venture to resist it, we may be involved in a war such as we are now trying to shuffle out of. Sir, nothing is said as to existing treaties and the status quo ante bellum. On the contrary, we are led to believe that the Government are ready to negotiate on the footing of existing treaties and the status quo ante bellum. Sir, if I know anything of this country, if I know anything of Englishmen, after all the sacrifices we have made, and the losses to which we have been exposed—after all the blood that has been shed, and after all Turkey has suffered, in consequence of these Russian aggressions—they will not permit the Government to open negotiations on such a footing. Sir, I would oppose Ministers were such to be the case, in every way my humble means and abilities would permit;—and I am sure that there are those in this House who would help me. What are these treaties? Why, they are the very treaties which have given rise to all these difficulties—those which Count Nesselrode cites as the basis of his demands. Interpret them as you like; he has told you what interpretation Russia puts on them. He declares that the treaty of Kainardji gives Russia what she claims. Are you then to con- 853 cede to Russia the power of putting her own construction on those treaties? Are you to renew those treaties which have given rise to all this mischief, to all these pretensions, and which have brought Europe to the brink of a war? What was the status quo ante bellum? The power of Russia to interfere in the Danubian Principalities to the extent of an almost admitted sovereignty over them—to shut out from the Black Sea all fleets except her own, converting it into a mare clausum—her arrogant domination over Circassia on the most unjustifiable grounds—her exclusion of our commerce from the whole of that coast—the monopoly of the navigation of the Danube, Such was the status quo ante bellum.
As I have alluded to the claim of Russia with regard to the Danube, I cannot help reminding the House that last year I ventured to ask the noble Lord the Member for the City of London whether the information was correct as to Russia's having impeded the navigation of that river? I did not ask that question from any desire of bringing myself to the notice of the house, but because it was necessary at that time to show that Russia was acting upon a great system, of which the obstruction of the Danube to the commerce of foreign nations was a part. The noble Lord replied, that it was very true the navigation had been impeded, in consequence of an overflowing of the waters, but that Russia had nothing at all to do with it. An hon. Member on the other side of the House, not being satisfied with this answer, rose two or three nights after and repeated the question. The noble Lord was absent, and the Government was fortunately represented by another noble Lord, who is remarkable for the lucid and straightforward manner in which he replies to such questions, and for his boldness in speaking the truth even when Russia is concerned. My noble Friend the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) at once, in a most masterly manner, gave the House a whole history of the matter. He told us that for months—nay, years—we had been remonstrating against the proceedings of Russia on the Danube; that through her wilful neglect the mouths of that river had been silted up; that as long as Turkey had possession of them they had been kept open for our slipping. The statements of the noble Lord were completely confirmed by the papers which were 854 afterwards laid on the table. I submit that if a Member rises to put a serious question to Ministers, he should not be treated in the manner I have described. If the question be an idle question, it is but right that it should receive an idle answer; but if it be asked for a good and useful purpose, it is but right that it should be answered in a straightforward manner.
To return, Sir, to the status quo ante bellum. I maintain, that if the Government consent to return to the former state of things, we shall be in a far worse position with regard to Russia than we have ever been. As negotiations proceed, Russia appears to increase her claims. Every fresh proposal she makes is worse than the last, and it would really seem that the Government, thinking that she cannot well go further, is now ready to accede to her demands. Sir, after all we have endured, after all the blood that has been shed, unless we wish to have that blood upon our heads, and to render all the sacrifices that Turkey has been called upon to make of no avail, we are bound to carry the war in which we have embarked to a satisfactory issue, and we must have some palpable and tangible results from it. Among these results we must have the destruction of the existing treaties and of the status quo ante bellum. Russia must no longer have it in her power to interfere in the internal administration of Turkey, and thus to endanger the peace of Europe. Until Moldavia, Wallachia, and Servia are freed from the dangerous protectorate of Russia—until the navigation of the Danube is completely thrown open—until the Black Sea is no longer a mare clausum—until Circassia is declared free to our trade—until the passes of the Caucasus are closed against the entry of Russia into the centre of Asia—and until the Emperor can no longer claim the right of protecting the Christian subjects of the Sultan—no peace with Russia can be otherwise than dishonourable, or can but lead sooner or later to the very evils which we are now going to war to avoid. As long as Russia retains her present hold upon the Danubian Principalities, she can at all times exert her pernicious influence upon the Christian population of Turkey. I have no fear of a Russian invasion of India; but you must remember that, as long as Russia holds the Caucasus, she possesses the high road into Central Asia, and that she can bring her influence and intrigues to bear upon our 855 Indian population, rendering any other tenure than a military tenure impossible in India.
I have been told that it is impossible for Mussulmans to rule over a Christian population in Europe, and that, whether they have justice on their side or not, they cannot be tolerated any longer. I must confess that I heard this remark from the hon. Member for the West Riding with great surprise, for it applies in one of two ways. If it infers that a numerically smaller race should not rule over a larger race from which it differs in religion—that there is some universal law against such a state of things—then I ask what do you say of our tenure of India? If I understand the hon. Member to mean that Mussulmans are placed beyond the pale of the law, and are to be considered the lawful prey of Christians, then what becomes of his eloquent declamation in favour of the oppressed races of India—not only Mussulmans, but Pagans? how can he object to what he has termed the massacres in Burmah and Borneo? I know that a very humble work which I have had the honour of publishing has been quoted against me, as proving that the Turks are unworthy to govern. But the statements that work contains require some explanation. The Nestorian massacre, it must be remembered, was not committed by the Turks, but by rebel Kurdish tribes; and the Porte waged a costly war against their chief, Beder Khan Bey, to punish him for this very massacre. The three wars in which the Porte has been engaged of late years have been in defence of the Christians. The war in Albania was undertaken because the inhabitants had committed atrocities on Christians. The war in Bosnia was entered into for the purpose of compelling the Mussulmans of that province to admit Christians to the rights granted to the ether Christian subjects of the Sultan, but which had not before been enforced in Bosnia, owing to the peculiar nature of the tenure of land and the opposition of the feudal landowners. After a severe struggle the campaign was brought to a successful issue by Omar Pasha.
No doubt barbarous acts of oppression are committed in Turkey. I have unfortunately too often witnessed them myself. No man regrets them more than I do, and no man has endeavoured to do more to prevent their recurrence. But one thing I will say, that, whenever such cases have 856 been brought to the notice of the Sultan or of his Ministers, immediate redress has been afforded, and no one who has had communications with the Sultan, or with many of those men who have of late years been his advisers, can be ignorant of his humane and enlightened character, and his desire to place all his subjects on the same footing of equality. Look what a vast change has taken place in Turkey during the last fifteen years. We all remember the glowing description given last year by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton of the improvements which have been going on in that country. I cannot perhaps go quite so far as my noble Friend did on that occasion, but still I must say that there has been very great improvement. When I consider that the Turkish Government has to deal with a great variety of races, professing different religions and speaking different languages, I cannot but wonder at what has been effected, though admitting that much more remains to be accomplished. Talk of Russia! Why, she has been endeavouring to advance ever since the time of Peter the Great, and yet is far behind Turkey in many respects, although the Government has far better materials to work upon, in a compact people without any great differences of religion, and looking upon their Emperor as a God upon earth, who has only to order to be obeyed.
Look next at our trade with Turkey. Its increase has been almost incredible; in that respect no nation can be compared with her, for it has increased within little more than ten years from half a million to three millions. I am told that much of this trade is not actually carried on with Turkey, but through Turkey with Central Asia. Undoubtedly it is. But I ask why did not that trade exist before? Because we had not the liberal transit-dues now levied by the Porte, and the encouragement and protection of late granted to our merchants. To these causes we owe this enormous increase. If you allow the Sultan to proceed with his reforms, and will save him from the interference of Russia, hostile to all Turkish intercourse with Europe, and to all internal improvements, our trade will be increased in a still greater ratio. The same remark applies to the trade of France. Look, again, at the increase of wealth among the Christian subjects of Turkey. We hear much of the great prosperity of the Greeks—of their 857 commercial establishments scattered over the world from New York to Calcutta—of their activity and enterprise. But are they the Greeks of Greece? No; they are the Greeks of Turkey, and owe their prosperity to protection and immunities they have enjoyed under the role of the Sultan. Another most important feature in Turkey is the toleration extended to all religions. I stated last year that one of its consequences was the increase of Protestantism, and that it was mostly to check this growing spirit of religious inquiry that Prince Menchikoff was sent to insist upon the Emperor's claims to the protection of the subjects of the Sultan professing the Greek religion. I find this statement fully confirmed by Lord Stratford in one of his despatches. The jealousy of Russia extends equally to Catholicism.
We are told that the time is come when we must put the Greeks in the place of the Mussulmans, and that the Byzantine empire must be restored, with its seat at Constantinople. It is high time for the House to become aware how preposterous is such an idea. Where do you find the Greeks? I stated last year that there were a million and three quarters of Greeks in the Turkish empire, but I now learn from the most authentic sources that they do not exceed a million. Are we to set up such a miserable sham of a constitutional Government at Constantinople as that which exists at Athens? Are you to transpose the present Royal Family and its Greek Ministry to rule over the various races which inhabit the Turkish provinces in Europe? Would you have the country more quiet, or would its inhabitants have less oppression and injustice to complain of? Would not the different races cut each other's throats in a ten times greater degree than they ever did under the Turkish rule? I do not stand here to defend a religion which is repugnant to my feelings and common sense, and which I believe to be false; but I do maintain that there are times when even the question of religion merges in that of right and wrong—justice and injustice; and that we are bound in this instance to consider the great cause of truth, without reference to the Mahomedans or to sects of any denomination. I am no advocate for the Turks. Find those who will govern better and are ready to be put in their place, and I am as willing as any man to see the change made, if it be for the benefit of civilisation and humanity. Another argument has been put forth in 858 another place by a noble Earl (Earl Grey) for whose talents and knowledge I have the greatest admiration. He says it is a great pity that we ever interfered at all, that we should have allowed Russia to exact what terms she liked from Turkey, and that she might even have taken possession of the Ottoman empire, as it is against the law of nature that despotic nations should exist, as they contain in themselves the elements of decay, and that Russia will consequently fall to pieces of her own accord. Now, it appears to me that this is a most dangerous doctrine. Where are you to stop Russia? Is she to go on taking the whole world? I am ready to admit that no Government whose institutions are based upon despotism, upon principles which are inconsistent with human intelligence, can eventually maintain itself. I have a conviction that it must ultimately fall to pieces. But, unfortunately, there is a question of time; we must consider how much evil such a system may produce to mankind before it perishes of itself. Had I lived in the time of the invasion of the Goths, the Vandals, and the Huns, I might have foretold that those tribes could not introduce their barbarous manners and institutions into Europe; that they would inevitably in the end be either destroyed or absorbed into the more civilised races of Christendom. But before that took place, with what blood did they not deluge Europe! How many centuries did they not throw back the civilisation of mankind! So it may be with Russia. She may eventually fall to pieces. I am convinced she will; but remember that in the meanwhile she may cause incalculable evils to mankind, and may inflict a blow upon the liberties and civilisation of Europe from which it may take centuries to recover. If we wish for an example of the effect of Russian domination, let me only turn to the inhabitants of the two unfortunate provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia, which are declared to be under her protection against Turkish tyranny. Let me ask whether it had not been better for these men had they never been born than to have fallen under Russian rule? I consider the argument, however ingenious, to be most dangerous.
I must be allowed now to say a few words on a very delicate subject. I approach it with some degree of reserve; but I feel it necessary, when we are about to engage in a great contest, that there should be no concealment. The House will remember our want of success in the early period of 859 the Peninsular war—the example of Moore, the struggle between the Duke of Wellington and those at the head of affairs. We have seen in the papers on the table that disagreements of a very unfortunate nature have taken place between our Abassador and Admiral at Constantinople. I do not say this in any invidious spirit, for the same differences exist between the French Admiral and Ambassador. But I do think that this country has the right to ask that these disagreements should cease, that the instructions of those who have charge of our diplomatic relations, and those to whom are confided our naval and military operations, should be perfectly clear and distinct. This has become the more necessary now that we are about to send to Turkey an auxiliary land force under a general officer. It rests with Her Majesty's Ministers that such should be the case. I perfectly agree with what my noble Friend the Member for the City of London stated the other evening, that the duties of those authorities should not clash; that those which the Admirals were called upon to perform were of a strictly professional nature; and that, being responsible for their proper discharge, it remained with them to judge in what manner their instructions were to be carried out. But when I understand from various sources, upon which I place the fullest reliance, that these disagreements have become matter of public notoriety in Constantinople, have got—I am sorry to be obliged to use the word—to a scandalous extent, and given rise to very painful impressions, I think it is but due to the country and to the cause in which we are embarked that means should be taken to prevent their recurrence.
Sir, I have thus brought to the notice of the House what appear to me to be the most important topics connected with this momentous question. I feel that I have trespassed too long upon the attention of the House, and I am deeply grateful for the kind indulgence which has been granted to me. I trust that we shall now hear such a statement from one of the Ministers of the Crown as will remove all further doubt as to the position we are really in. The country has a right to demand it. The country is prepared to do its duty if Her Majesty's Government will but perform theirs. But one feeling prevails amongst men of all classes—not arising from what my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester has termed "the innate bellicose spirit of Englishmen," but from far 860 higher and nobler feelings—the conviction that we are about to be engaged in a great struggle in support of right against wrong, and for the maintenance of principles upon which our material interests, as well as the cause of civilisation and liberty itself, may depend. It was with such feelings that, with a general burst of unpremeditated enthusiasm, those brave men who marched a few days ago on their way to embarcation for foreign service were followed through the streets of London. All were animated with the same spirit—those who were going out to shed their blood in a just cause, and those who, with true British heartiness, marked their approbation of the policy which sent them forth. Let the Government be true to the cause in which they have now entered; let them resolve to carry it to a speedy and satisfactory issue in a manner worthy of the honour and interests of England, and they will receive the undivided support of this great country. For myself, I hope never again to recur to the painful topics which I have considered it my duty to bring before the House this evening. I am willing to forget what has passed in my hopes for the future, and it would ill become me, and those who think with me, if we did not, in such a crisis, tender to Her Majesty's Ministers our humble though very cordial support.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
Sir, I rise at once to follow the hon. Member for Aylesbury; but, before I address myself to the topics of his able speech, I think it my duty to answer those observations that he made just before he sat down. I, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, am not disposed to throw myself and my colleagues upon the forbearance or indulgence of the House. I appeal to its wisdom and to its justice. We on our part are prepared to perform our duty. I hope the House of Commons will not fail to perform its duty. If we have forfeited their confidence, or deserved their censure, it is not on the question of going into Committee of Supply, or by a sidelong communication of disapprobation, that the House ought to proceed, but, upon issue fairly joined, we should be enabled to ascertain whether, with advantage to the State, possessing the confidence of the House, we can continue to conduct public affairs, or ought to deliver them into other and abler hands. I beg leave to state that I am extremely glad that before we proceed to vote the Navy Estimates, I am not called upon, as I was in the early part of the evening, to 861 discuss whether the assistant-surgeons shall mess in the cockpit or the ward-room—that I am not called upon to discuss whether rum or whisky is the more healthy and palatable spirit. It is not to minute questions of that kind that your attention is now drawn; but, in a great crisis of public affairs, the question is fairly raised in a very able speech—What has been the conduct of the Government in the negotiations which have taken place, what is their intention, and what is their policy? Now, I must say that the tone of the hon. Gentleman is that of an accuser. He has said most distinctly, and repeated it, that he has made out his case. He went on to say that if we had adopted a straightforward policy we should not be in the position in which we now are; and he talked of the excuses which he thought we should use. Now, I am not prepared to offer any excuses, nor am I prepared to admit that the position of this country by our vacillation, as the hon. Member has termed it, or by our hesitation in failing to adopt a straightforward course, is involved in any danger or any risk. I say that the Government have dune their very utmost to perform a solemn duty—to preserve the peace, if they could possibly attain that great object consistently with the maintenance of the honour, of the country, and up to the present time we have succeeded. Now, Sir, the hon. Gentleman first alluded to the state of affairs in the early part of last year, and referred particularly to a despatch written by my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) in February last. I wish to call the attention of the House to the policy at that time pursued by the British Government. The disputes at Constantinople had turned upon a question pending between Russia and France with respect to certain privileges claimed by both countries at Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulchre, and my noble Friend wrote a despatch which is well worthy the attention of the House. It did not appear to Her Majesty's Government that it was prudent on the part of Great Britain to take an active part in that controversy; and my noble Friend, in the despatch to which I refer, wrote thus:—We should deeply regret any dispute that might lead to conflict between two great Powers of Europe, but when we reflect that the quarrel is for exclusive privileges on a spot near which the heavenly host proclaimed peace on earth and goodwill towards men—when we see rival Churches contending for mastery on the very 862 place where Christ died for mankind, the thought of such a spectacle is melancholy indeed.It was clearly not the interest of England at that time to interfere, and it is very remarkable that it was by the influence of the British Ambassador, Lord Stratford de Redeliffe, that Turkey was persuaded to make arrangements which were satisfactory both to France and Russia with regard to the matter in dispute. By the influence of England was terminated that controversy which threatened destruction to the independence of Turkey. After that matter had been adjusted, a message was sent by Russia to Turkey, through the medium of Prince Menchikoff, in a manner highly menacing, and which led Colonel Rose, at that time representing the English Government at Constantinople, to entertain very serious apprehensions with reference to the intentions of Russia. Colonel Rose accordingly sent a despatch to Admiral Dundas, then commanding the English fleet at Malta, summoning him to hasten to the Dardanelles, and it is alleged that there was some hesitation on the part of England in not at once coming to the rescue of Turkey when her independence was first threatened. Now, how does the matter stand? Admiral Dundas, exercising, as I think, a sound discretion, did not at once obey the summons of the British Envoy at Constantinople. Did Turkey suffer any inconvenience on that account, or was she subjected to any inconvenience by the hesitation of Admiral Dundas in obeying the summons of our Minister? So far from it, that very shortly afterwards Colonel Rose, who had summoned Admiral Dundas to Constantinople, expressed his satisfaction that Admiral Dundas had not obeyed his summons—that he had not appeared in the Dardanelles; and Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, on his arrival. received the assurance of the Sultan that, far from regretting the delay in the appearance of the British fleet, he was convinced the absence of the fleet had been conducive to the advantage of the Turkish interests. The hon. Gentleman proceeded to observe that too much reliance had been placed upon Russian assurances, and he, I think, from the strong terms of censure he used, appears to think that the head of the Government is more particularly responsible for that misplaced confidence. Now, I can assure the House that there is no one of the colleagues of my noble Friend Lord Aberdeen who is not prepared fully to share all the responsibility of the 863 course which was taken, and it would be most unjust to my noble Friend if it were not so. True confidence is not a plant of rapid growth, but, at the same time, dark and malignant suspicions do not quickly take root in generous minds; and it must not be forgotten that for a long series of years Russia was the ally, the faithful ally of this country—that she has shared in our dangers, partaken in our counsels, and that on many great occasions she has taken part in the victories and the struggles which have conduced to the honour of England and to the peace of Europe. It was not unnatural, therefore, when we received these assurances of Russia's pacific intentions, and of the absence of any desire on her part to invade the independence and integrity of Turkey, that we should place confidence in assurances which were given solemnly and repeatedly. But how stands the fact with respect to dates and with regard to our determination when Prince Menchikoff left Constantinople, after having assumed a tone and put forth demands which were utterly inconsistent with the independence of the Turkish Government? From that moment the suspicion, and more than the suspicion, of the Government was aroused; and if hon. Gentlemen will look to the dates, they will see that the English fleet was ordered to be sent to Besika Bay on the 31st of May, while the Danubian Principalities were not entered by the Russian forces till the 7th of July. Again, are we always lagging behind, for that is the nature of the accusation which the hon. Gentleman has brought against us? Why, by looking at the dates again, you will see that our fleet was ordered to Constantinople on the 23rd of September, while the Porte did not declare war until the 26th. The order for the fleet to proceed to Constantinople was actually given in London before the Porte had declared war. The hon. Gentleman dwelt at some length on certain expressions in that despatch which ordered the fleet to enter the Dardanelles. But the hon. Gentleman is perfectly aware that by the obligations of the treaty of 1841 it was not open to the British and French fleets to pass the Dardanelles till the Porte had declared war. But feeling the necessity of making a demonstration on the earliest possible day, believing that the presence of the British fleet was necessary at that time for the protection of the Turkish Government, and relying on his belief that the Turkish 864 authorities would issue the necessary firman for the admission of the fleet into the Dardanelles, he directed the British Ambassador to send for the fleet, and the fleet proceeded to Constantinople.
And now with respect to the order for the ships being sent into the Black Sea. The hon. Gentleman has dwelt upon the disastrous affair of Sinope, and he thinks it might have been averted if the fleet had entered the Black Sea at an earlier period, and he went on to state that every step in advance on our part was taken at the instance of France, that this country never moved actively and decisively of its own accord. How stands the fact? The order of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe to Admiral Dundas, to enter the Black Sea, was given, if I mistake not, on the 11th of November. Unfortunately, at that moment M. de la Cour. the French Ambassador, who concurred in that order of the 11th of November, was about to leave Constantinople, a circumstance which appeared to the French Admiral to justify his hesitation in obeying the order, on account of the change in the diplomatic authority that was about to take place, and he accordingly demurred to obey the order of the French Ambassador, and declined to go into the Black Sea at that time. General Baraguay d'Hilliers succeeded M. de la Cour. On his arrival he concurred with the orders given by his predecessors, but, notwithstanding this, the French Admiral, on other grounds—on purely naval grounds—refused at that time to go into the Black Sea, though Admiral Dundas was willing to obey the order of the British Ambassador. Then the hon. Gentleman proceeded to say that the disaster at Sinope was to be ascribed to a want of energy on the part of the naval powers. How stands that fact? Who is to blame? Is there any doubt as to the party on whom the blame rests? The authority of Lord Stratford will probably be held to be conclusive on that point, and, if the House will allow me, I will read to them his opinion. In the despatch, No. 371, Lord Stratford, writing from Constantinople on the 17th December, 1853, says:—I cannot indeed conceal from myself that the late destruction of so many Turkish vessels at Sinope would, probably, never have occurred if the ships of England and France had been sent thither at an earlier period.But what is the noble Lord's next observation?—Not that I would throw the blame of that 865 disaster anywhere but on the Porte and its officers. They alone, or their professional counsellors, were cognisant of the miserable state of the defences at Sinope. They alone are answerable for the obvious imprudence of leaving so long in helpless danger a squadron exposed to attack from hostile ships of far superior force. But referring to the simple fact, irrespective of its causes, I am naturally anxious that the loss of the example should not be added to that of the ships.It is clear from this that Lord Stratford himself, the very highest authority, says distinctly that the disaster at Sinope is to be ascribed to the imprudence of the Turkish authorities, who neglected the repeated warnings as to the danger that would accrue from leaving the ships in their defenceless position at Sinope; that it was to that circumstance, and to that alone, the disaster was to be ascribed.
The hon. Gentleman referred also to a document which has been much dwelt upon elsewhere—I allude to the Vienna note; and he ascribes great blame to the Government for the rashness with which that note was adopted by the British Cabinet. Now, let it be observed that that note was not suggested by the English Government; it was the suggestion of the French Government. It was adopted—readily adopted by the Conference at Vienna, and after some alterations suggested by the British Government, it was finally adopted and recognised by the four Powers. And it is said that that course was adopted without any reference to the constituted authorities at Constantinople. I will explain to the House why that was done. On the 9th of July it was known here that the Turkish Government, acting by the advice of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, had consented to frame a note, formed partly from the note of Prince Menehikoff, which had been as a whole rejected, and partly from the answer to that note framed by the Turkish Minister; and the two notes, so compounded into one, were entirely to the satisfaction of the Turkish Government, containing all they desired. Now, if hon. Gentlemen will compare that note, so compounded with the Vienna note, suggested by the French Government, and adopted by England and by the four Powers, it would require a very acute eye to detect any substantial difference between the two propositions. We did not, therefore, adopt the Vienna, note till the Turkish Government were prepared, as we thought, to adopt a note which in its substance was identical with it. But from the moment the Vienna note received the interpretation which was put upon it by 866 Count Nesselrode, from that moment the English Government declared, in the language of Lord Clarendon, that the whole matter had assumed another phase—that it would be unworthy of this country, after the interpretation which Russia had put upon the note, to force it, either in form or in substance, upon the Turkish Government; they repudiated it absolutely, and they acted at once upon the clear ground that the intentions of Russia were hostile to the independence of Turkey, and that, under pretext of protecting a portion of her co-religionists in Turkey, she really sought to exercise a civil protectorate and control over a large portion of Turkish subjects. What was the consequence? We issued an order, dated the 8th October, which gave absolute power to Lord Stratford to defend the territory of Turkey, and, if necessary, to cause the British fleet to pass the Bosphorus into the Black Sea, for the purpose of defending the Turkish territory. The Russian aggression at Sinope followed; and what wits the course that was immediately taken by the British Government? On the 24th December we sent out an order to Lord Stratford extending our protection of the territory to a protection of the flag also of Turkey; and, further, we ordered that, no Russian ships of war should be allowed to remain in the Black Sea; that if any were met with, they were to be desired to return to Sebastopol; and if they would not obey, that force was to be used.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
The 24th of December. The disaster at Sinope happened on the 30th of November; the account of the disaster was received on the 17th of December; and the orders for the fleet to enter the Black Sea, in order to protect the Turkish territory and the Turkish flag, were issued on the 24th of December.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
No; the order of the 8th of October was confined to the protection of the Turkish territory. Immediately after the receipt of the interpretation which Count Nesselrode put upon the Vienna note—when the mask was thrown aside, and when no doubt existed that the real intention of Russia was to establish a civil protectorate over the subjects of the Sultan—immediately after the receipt of that note, the delusion, if 867 delusion it may be called, arising from false assurances, ceased, and the order of the 8th of October was sent out. After the disaster at Sinope that order was carried one step further, and the order was given that the Russian ships should no longer be allowed to navigate the Black Sea. Then the hon. Gentleman asks what has been the result of all this. I will tell the hon. Gentleman. In the first place, we have avoided war up to the last moment. In the next place, we have formed a cordial union with the French Government; and I cannot omit this opportunity of expressing my cordial agreement with the hon. Gentleman in his opinion that, throughout all these arduous transactions, through all these complicated negotiations, perfect good faith has been observed by the French Government, and especially by the Emperor at the head of it, whose conduct throughout has been most exemplary. I hold it to be only discharging a debt of justice to express this opinion, and to state that we have not the slightest ground of complaint in any one particular against France. We have, then, cemented the union between France and England. Have we done nothing more? We have succeeded in combining Austria and Prussia with us in the most important of these transactions. Some doubt has been thrown out as to the exact meaning of the Vienna note. That question is immediately connected with another subject, on which the hon. Gentleman touched, and the question arises, what is the true interpretation of the old treaties. What were the engagements which Turkey had contracted by the treaty of Kainardji? Turkey rejected the Vienna note, putting her own interpretation upon those engagements; Russia, by Count Nesselrode's comments, put her interpretation upon them in an opposite sense. Turkey interpreted those engagements in consistency with her independent rights and integrity. Russia put, another interpretation upon them, inconsistent with the independent rights and with the integrity of Turkey. Is it no advantage that we have obtained the concurrence of Prussia—that we have obtained the concurrence of Austria—and that we have obtained the efficient combination of France and England in support of that interpretation of the old treaties which Turkey herself put upon them, and in absolutely repudiating the Russian interpretation? All this we have succeeded in doing, while we have up to this moment succeeded also in maintaining peace; 868 and, what is more, we have obtained the consent of Austria and Prussia to the declaration that the terms offered by Turkey are reasonable terms. More than that, we have obtained the concurrence of the four Powers to the declaration that the terms are such as ought to be accepted by Russia; and further, we have obtained the concurrent declaration of the four Powers that the counter-project of Russia, rejecting those terms, is inadmissible. We have cemented the union with France—we have obtained the concurrence, in addition, of France, Austria, and Prussia—we have obtained their assent to a new engagement that the independence and the integrity of Turkey ought to be preserved—that the terms offered by the Porte are reasonable—that the interpretation put by the Porte upon the treaty of Kainardji is correct—that the interpretation put by Russia upon the same treaty is ill founded, and that the counter-project of Russia ought not and cannot be accepted. And not only have we cemented our union with France—not only have we combined Austria and Prussia with France and England—but we have insulated Russia. She stands alone. That which at the beginning of 1853 was a quarrel between Russia and Turkey has now assumed the aspect of Russia contending against Europe united; and I must say, that to have obtained all these advantages, with war not yet declared, appears to me, I will not say the triumph of diplomacy, but a great advantage. [Laughter.] That does not seem to be the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Well, let me entreat them not to deal with this as an ordinary question of going into a Committee of Supply. Let them raise the question fairly and distinctly. If we have misconducted the question—if the honour of the country has been sacrificed in our hands—I repeat that that question is not one of a trifling nature. If hon. Gentlemen opposite think that we are unfit to conduct these transactions, let them say so, and say so manfully. Do not let them weaken the hands of Government, while they continue to entrust us with the management of these affairs. Well, then, let me proceed further and state what we have done. I say we are ready for war. We are prepared. France, too, is prepared. Russia has not yet crossed the Danube. There is not a Russian ship of war now navigating the Black Sea (which has hitherto been treated by her as a mare clausum), and England has declared that, 869 while she remains there, no Russian ship shall navigate that sea. France and England have determined that the Principalities shall be evacuated. Austria and Prussia have stated that they agree that the independence of Turkey shall be maintained, and that the occupation of the Principalities by Russia is inadmissible; and further, I say that that which was before a mere Turkish quarrel has now become a European quarrel; and the settlement, like the quarrel, must be European also. Let me ask then, what you, the House of Commons, will do? We are prepared, if you will support us, to do our duty; we are ready to go into Committee of Supply, to ask you to place the means of maintaining the honour of this country in our power. We ask you for 10,000 men additional for our Navy establishment, and we ask you for an addition of 10,000 men to our Army. We ask for great sacrifices on the part of this country—we propose to add to the expenditure of this country by an amount of more than 2,000,000l.; and is this an occasion on which you should potter over blue books—on which you should indulge in miserable carping at petty details, and endeavour to sow the seeds of disunion between us and our ally? Till I see it, I will not believe that the House of Commons will take such a course. If you have any grounds of complaint, put it into a substantive form. Put ns upon our trial. Let their be a full discussion of the question, and decide once for all, whether we are in the wrong or no. If we are wrong, say so. If we are right, encourage us by your approbation—the highest encouragement which Government can receive, and constituting in a great emergency the strongest inducement to make exertions. But let me emphatically warn the House against the course which is now attempted to be taken, as one in the last degree disadvantageous to the public interest, that the Committee of Supply should be gone into without the opinion of the House being taken on this part of our policy. The hon. Gentleman says he has made out his case. Made out his case, Sir! Why, how miserable a spectacle is it, that, after the speech which the hon. Gentleman has made, the question to be put should be, "That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair." Surely, if the case was made out at all, it required a Motion of a more substantial and definite nature, for the honour of the House and the safety of the State. We have now 870 been sitting seventeen days—the papers have been upon the table for a fortnight—we have had a great deal of discussion in this and in the other House of Parliament with respect to them—but yet no direct Motion has been made on the subject. I thought that some notice of a direct Motion would have come from that quarter of the House where a strong opinion on this subject is believed to prevail; but we are now discussing the miserable question, "That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair," and no direct Motion has been made—no opinion has been pronounced—we have no opportunity of knowing whether or not we are to be sustained by the favourable judgment of this House; and now, though the hon. Gentleman has hardly omitted a single topic of adverse comment, yet after this to have to conclude with a Motion of this kind! Sir, I am ashamed to have trespassed so long upon your time in reply to it, and I beg pardon of the House that on such a Motion as this I should have occupied them so long.
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
said, he rose with considerable diffidence to follow the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, feeling that it might be considered presumptuous in him to grapple with so able and ingenious an antagonist, but he must say, he had known occasions on which the weapon of the right hon. Gentleman had been more keen than to-night, and when he might well have shrunk from encountering him on the field. He for one thought the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aylesbury was justified in the course he had taken. He thought it was due to the dignity of the House that, when Her Majesty's Government laid papers upon the table as reasons for calling for increased estimates from the people, that House should discuss their policy, and that the representatives of the people should have the opportunity of pointing out where they thought errors had been committed. He considered, indeed, that such a course was only just to the Government itself. He wished to take that opportunity of stating his dissent from opinions that had been expressed by Friends of his in that House and in another place as to the neutral course that this country ought to have pursued in the present instance. He likewise wished to declare his entire disapproval of opinions uttered upon platforms by hon. Members of that House—Members of what were termed the Peace party—opinions in which, he was happy to say, the people of this 871 country did not participate, and which, if they did, would tend to tarnish and dim the national honour. The language held by the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), whom he had always considered as the exponent of Liberal principles, at a public meeting in Manchester a few days ago, had caused in his mind astonishment and regret; but the hon. Gentleman, however able in other respects, must have read English history to but little advantage, to have forgotten how the liberties of England were originally won, and how they have ever been maintained. Let him not be misunderstood. He would not give way to any man in a dislike to war, for he had some opportunity in early youth of seeing its evil effects and its horrors on a peaceful and industrious population; but there was something worse even than war—and that was for a powerful nation to stand aloof whilst the liberties of a people were being cut down—to see the strong and the powerful give way to their ambition—and the weaker fall crushed without succour, though their cause was just. It had been said by the noble Earl at the head of the Government, with great amiability, that all war was sinful—but he (Lord Jocelyn) denied that war was sinful when undertaken in a righteous cause, and war was nowhere more just than where a people were engaged in fighting for their own liberties, and in which a strong and powerful State took part with the weak and defenceless when engaged in such a struggle. Those who had collated the blue book presented to the House had certainly shown great ingenuity, for the papers were placed in such a manner as to draw the attention to everything, rather than the question which the House and the country had in view. The real question before them was a question of the international police of the civilised world; and he would ask the members of the Peace Society how the peace of Europe could be maintained without such a system, or what would be the result if their views were fully carried out? Would not civilisation, without the maintenance of the balance of power amongst nations, meet in the ever-concurring circle with that point of barbarism from which it had emerged? and would not the old struggle have to be renewed between might and right? and would not might be triumphant, and barbarism override law and order?
This was not now, whatever it might have been originally, a question of the possession of keys or the guardianship 872 of shrines, which might have been settled by negotiation and arbitration, but a question in which the liberties of Europe were involved. From the moment when the Russian army crossed the Pruth—from the moment when Prince Menchikoff made those insolent demands on the Porte, which, if complied with, would have rendered the Sultan little better than a puppet in the hands of Russia—from the moment that the Emperor of Russia demanded a protectorate over 10,000,000 of the subjects of the Porte—from that hour it became clearly the duty of the Western Powers to interfere—for it then became a question in which England and France were vitally interested. It had been argued elsewhere that this was a question of no importance to England. He denied that assertion. It had been stated by the hon. Member for the West Riding that it mattered little whether the fleets of Russia were or were not in the Bosphorus, and that if Russia triumphed at Constantinople, our commerce would be as prosperous as if under the flag of the Porte. But this was a sordid and a narrow view to take of the question. It was not so much to be viewed in a mere pecuniary light—though there, too, he might differ from the hon. Gentleman—as in the light of a great question in which the liberties of Europe were imperilled—a view which the past history of Russia entirely confirmed. Either by violence, or by fraud, or by treaty, Russia had, during the last half century, absorbed an extent of territory and population equal to one-third of her European dominions—Poland, Bessarabia, Mingrelia, the Crimea, and Georgia. And wheresoever her conquests extended, we find the liberty of the people destroyed, and their energy paralysed. Wherever Russia penetrated, her first step after conquest was to extinguish freedom and promulgate the despotic principles upon which her own Government was based. Where Russia placed its iron heel, free institutions decayed, and although it might be said that the institutions which she found in Poland and elsewhere could not be deemed of a popular character, yet they were the germs which might have grown into popular institutions, for they were similar to those which were planted in our own country in feudal times, and which had since produced that glorious tree under which they now lived in liberty and tranquillity. If they looked at the commercial policy of Russia, they found it a restrictive code—that it was a system of high tariffs; and when 873 they looked at one of the great outlets of Southern Russia, they found that, so far from the navigation of that noble river being facilitated, it was very seriously impeded—every difficulty was thrown in the way of its navigation. Wherever Russia had influence, that influence proved most baneful to the State over which she exercised it. Even Austria at the present time, owing to this circumstance, did not assume the high and the proud position she was entitled to do; instead of taking the firm and decided course which became so great a nation, she was, owing to Russian influence, wavering, vacillating, and undecided, so that it was almost impossible to judge how she was affected towards us. Well, then, let them look at Turkey—that so-called effete and fallen Ottoman race. Why, there they found public opinion—he could not say rapidly, but it was gradually gaining ground; that since the establishment of the tanzimat, liberal institutions had been gradually introduced; that their commercial policy resembled our own, and that they knew and appreciated free trade. They had been told over and over again that the Turks were an effete and fallen race; but yet the same spirit, the same energy, the same valour, which beat in the bosoms of the Osmanlis, 400 years ago, when they twice thundered at the gates of Vienna, were now shown on the banks of the Danube in the brave army of Omar Pasha.
He now came to the more immediate question, namely, the course of policy which had been pursued by Her Majesty's Government. He freely admitted to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham) that it would be most desirable, and to the advantage of the world, if a pacific solution, could be brought about, but his quarrel with the Government was not for their wish to obtain a pacific solution, but because he thought the means which they resorted to for that purpose were the very worst they could have adopted. The blue book showed only one distinct line of policy on the part of the British Government, and that was, at all hazard and at all risk, to conciliate the Emperor of Russia. There was, in the whole course of conduct pursued by the Government on this question, a vacillation, a lack of energy, a want of action, where it was especially desirable there should have been vigour, firmness, and determination. He found the British Government, through its Ambassador at St. Petersburg, stating its entire reliance and confidence in Russia, 874 and receiving complimentary messages in return, and this, too, whilst their own employés gave them other and far different information. This had been clearly shown by the hon. Member for Aylesbury from facts which were now made public, and of which they were then cognisant. They had been told by their consul in the south of Russia, so early as April, that Russia was arming; by their consul at Sebastopol, that orders had been received to prepare a squadron to effect a landing on the Turkish coast. Colonel Rose had intimated his opinion very distinctly to the same effect, and Sir Hamilton Seymour related a conversation he had had with the Russian Minister, Count Nesselrode, from whom he could not, though he put the question, obtain a satisfactory answer with respect to these armaments. Sir Hamilton Seymour says:—With respect to the armaments, the subject was one upon which it was manifest that the Chancellor was unwilling to be questioned, and that, as I really believe, because he was unable to return a satisfactory answer.What, then, was the course the Government ought to have pursued? Ought they not to have noted with firmness and resolution?—ought they not to have used the fulcrum which could have been moved, and which, if they had moved, would have prevented all the unfortunate occurrences which had since happened? Sir Hamilton Seymour wrote on April 7 to Lord Clarendon, as follows:—The three points which appear to me to be established by the paper of which I have offered your Lordship a summary, are—first, the satisfaction felt by the Emperor at the proof of confidence in his word manifested by Her Majesty's Government—this is expressed in plain words; second, which is plainly to be seen, the apprehensions entertained by the Russian Cabinet of an alliance, having for its object a joint action upon the affairs of Turkey between England and France; and third, the almost equally evident desire of proving that such an alliance must, from the opposing interests of the two parties, exist more in appearance than in reality.Now, with this intimation in their hands, that what the Emperor of Russia most dreaded was a cordial alliance between France and England, what was the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government? Fortunately this matter was made clear by a despatch of the French Government. He would read the despatch of Monsieur Drouyn de Lhuys, published in the Moniteur, to Monsieur de la Cour, the French Ambassador at Constantinople:— 875Paris, March 22, 1853.Sir,—I shall return at a later period to the different points on which you will have to treat during the course of your mission. I only now propose to trace out to you some instructions to regulate your attitude and your language in the crisis through which the Ottoman empire is passing. As the faithful ally of Turkey, engaged by her traditions not less than by her interests to support her and preserve her from a catastrophe, France wishes in good faith to come to her assistance. It is for this object, Sir, that the Emperor has ordered our squadron to proceed into the waters of Greece. I still hope that this demonstration will only have the character of a measure of precaution and surveillance; but it was essential that our naval forces should approach towards the theatre of events, in order that no one should be able to feel a doubt as to our solicitude for the destinies of the Ottoman empire. It is necessary for me, however, to foresee the case wherein the gravity and imminence of conjunctures at Constantinople might determine the Porte to invoke our support. Admiral de la Susse would then attend to your requisitions, and I cannot too strongly impress on you the necessity of concerting with him the means of facilitating your communications with the squadron. So long as the Divan shall only be exposed to moral pressure you will confine yourself to keeping up its courage, and enlightening it with your counsels. If Prince Menchikoff, on the contrary, should break off the negotiations which have been opened, or have recourse to coercive measures in order to render them efficacious, you will have other duties to perform. Three hypotheses are admissible; I shall pass them in review each in its turn, and point out to you the conduct you would have to adopt in presence of each of them; 1. It may happen that Russia may begin by occupying the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. However serious this attack might be on the integrity of the Ottoman empire, it would not be new. You would, therefore, wait until the Porte, considering Russia is in a state of war with it, shall of itself, and without any excitation on your part address to you a demand for intervention, and you would then be authorised to cause the squadron to enter the Dardanelles; but even should such a demand not be made to you, the state of affairs would not the less require a more active surveillance, and you should request Admiral de la Susse to come and anchor either at Ourlac or in the Gulf of Enos. The latter position is of great strategic importance, and its occupation would perhaps deter Russia from the idea of making a demonstration against Varna or Bourgas. 2. If, nevertheless, the fleet of Sebastopol should put itself in movement, and if, at the same time that the Russian army should enter into the Danubian provinces, it should approach the Turkish shore of the Black Sea, or commit, alone, any act of hostility, there would be no longer any doubt; war would have commenced, and the Sultan would be released; ipso facto, from the treaty of the 13th July, 1841. The moment would be come for our squadron to pass the Dardanelles, and you would no longer hesitate to call for it to pass the Castles, if the Porte should adhere to that combination: It would be, however, necessary that the Porte, on this subject, should make a formal and written demand, and if Rifaat Pasha, which I do not suppose, should not take the initiative, you will not fail to recommend him to 876 address a similar demand to the Ambassador of Her Britannic Majesty. In any case, you will take care to make known your resolution, either to Colonel Rose or to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, and to tell them that France, being solely influenced by the general interest which is attached to the maintenance of the Ottoman empire, and pursuing no private object, would sincerely regret that England should not join with her in her efforts. If the Porte should desire to have us participate in the garrisoning of the Castles, that is, if it should desire to authorise a landing, you are to explain to Admiral de la Susse, that he ought, in case Admiral Dundas should also present himself at the Dardanelles, to come to some understanding with him, in order that this occupation, destined to cease as soon as circumstances shall render it no longer necessary, should be made in common by the French and English forces. The most simple combination would be that which would attribute to each squadron the defence of one of the shores. 3. Events, in fine, may assume a more decisive appearance; the Russian fleet, in a word, may want to menace and force the Bosphorus. If matters were to arrive at that extremity, you ought, on a new and pressing demand of the Ottoman Porte, to advise Admiral de la Susse, when he shall have provided the Castles of the Dardanelles with sufficient forces to ensure his return, to draw closer to Constantinople, and to give the Turks, in addition to the material support of his squadron, that of his professional experience. He would then enter on the plenitude of his action, and you would not have any more to interfere with his operations, except to fix the moment when it would appear to you necessary for him to quit the Bosphorus. I need not tell you, Sir, that the Government of His Imperial Majesty rejects completely the idea that Prince Menchikoff's mission can lead to so fatal a dénouement, but it is my duty to put you in a position not to be taken unawares by any event. Besides, it appears to me quite impossible that, in such an hypothesis, where the question should turn on the existence or down, fail of the Ottoman empire, the English fleet should not be called on to do its duty by the side of the French squadron; and you would take care, if the situation assumed so menacing an aspect, not to conceal from the Embassy of Her Britannic Majesty the extreme powers which have been confided to you. These grave resolutions, Sir, have been suggested to His Imperial Majesty's Government only by the general interest of Europe to prevent a violent breaking-up of the Ottoman empire. My instructions apply, consequently, to all the circumstances which may appear to you sufficiently characterised to endanger the existence of Turkey.—Accept, &c.But how did our Government proceed after Prince Menchikoff preferred his demands to the Porte, claiming for Russia a protectorate over the subjects of the Sultan belonging to the Greek Church? He could at once tell them how the French acted. M. de la Cour summoned the French fleet to the Bay of Salamis. Our Chargé d'Affaires, Colonel Rose, in the absence of Lord Stratford, took a vigorous step; he summoned the British fleet, and ordered 877 them to advance towards the Dardanelles. This order Admiral Dundas did not obey. How did our Government act? Why, notwithstanding the step the French Government had taken, they intimated to Russia that they had not acquiesced in the British fleet approaching the Dardanelles, though summoned by Colonel Rose, their own Chargé d'Affaires; and, further, that they had disapproved of the act of the French Government; thus, instead of showing to Russia a firm alliance with France, doing all they well could to remove that salutary impression—proving the truth of Count Nesselrode's remark, that the alliance between France and England was "more in appearance than in reality." Good God! if a Government having such an opportunity in their own hands—knowing that was an effectual, the only power they possessed to sway Russia—a cordial alliance with France—could so far forget what was due to their position as to prove to the Russian Government that such an alliance did not exist, was he wrong in saying that they had lost and thrown away the favourable moment for action, and lost the best opportunity for preserving peace? He now came to the question—What should the British Government have done—what would have been the course worthy of British statesmen—when the Russian forces had crossed the Pruth? The Porte was then released from the treaty of 1841. Should not the English and French fleet have immediately passed the Dardanelles, and taken possession of the waters of the Black Sea? They should have declared themselves supreme in those waters, and should have destroyed the first Russian ship that came out of the harbour of Sebastopol. That was the proper mode of acting towards Russia; and in that way they would have secured the cordial and friendly co-operation of the French Government. What was the view of the French Government, and how would they have acted? His opinion of the course which they would have pursued was backed by that of M. Drouyn de Lhuys, who wrote in a style and spirit worthy of the brave and gallant nation he represented. The despatch of M. Drouyn do Lhuys to Count Walewski was as follows:—Monsieur le Comte—The language which lord Clarendon has used to you, the attitude which he has assumed before the House of Lords, and that of Lord John Russell before the House of Commons, and, in fine, the tendencies of public opinion, so clearly manifested by its principal organs, shows 878 that, in the crisis produced in the East by the Cabinet of St. Petersburg, the Government of Her Britannic Majesty wishes to come to an understanding with the Government of His Imperial Majesty, to ward off the dangers which a violent aggression, directed against the Ottoman empire, would incur to the balance of power in Europe, and, in particular, to the common interests of France and England in the Mediterranean. All my correspondence for some months past has had no other object than to point out, these dangers, and prepare the means for that accord. The Cabinet of London could, therefore, have never doubted our co operation to cause the spirit of the treaty of the 13th July, 1841, to be respected, and to remind the Cabinet of St. Petersburg that the Ottoman empire, placed by that arrangement under a collective guarantee, could not, without a serious disturbance of the relations now existing between the great Powers of Europe, be on the part of either of them the object of an isolated attack, and one so little justified as that with which appearances now seem to threaten it. But, Monsieur le Comte, as I have already several times mentioned, there is by the side of diplomatic negotiations another action to exercise, and it is the attitude assumed by the Cabinet of St. Petersburg itself, which has shown the necessity of it. When we knew that the army cantoned in the smith of Russia was on a war footing—that it was provisioned as on the eve of a campaign—when the fleet of Sebastopol was ready to weigh anchor—when considerable purchases of wood were made for throwing bridges over the Pruth and the Danube; if all this did not indicate that hostilities were declared, it at least showed that they were approaching, and that their commencement only depended on a word. Who could guarantee us that, under the influence of a first movement, that word would not be pronounced at St. Petersburg, and if it had been, that the City of Constantinople would be protected from a coup de main? It was a danger of this kind that we feared, and as, if it were to be realised, the game would be lost at the outset, prudence imposed on us the duty of doing everything to prevent it. In what could such a measure of foresight more resemble a provocation than did the armaments of Russia herself? Why should not France and England, for the object of maintaining the treaty of 1841, have the right or doing that which one of the Powers which signed that convention was doing with such very different designs? Such are the considerations which determined us to send our fleets to Salamis, and which we now recommend to draw closer to the Dardanelles, not to take the initiative in an aggression, not to encourage Turkey to refuse every arrangement, but to secure her against an immediate danger, and to reserve, in case of need, to diplomacy the resources which it would no longer have if it had to struggle against faits accomplish.. As to the steps which Lord Clarendon proposes to us to take at St. Petersburg, what already took place at Constantinople when the Prussian Minister and the Austrian Chargé d'Affaires united with the Ambassadors of France and England to endeavour to shake the resolutions of Prince Menchikoff, points out the line which we have to follow. The authority of our representations will be greater if it be increased by that of the representations of the Cabinets of Vienna and Berlin, and if, on diplomatic ground at least, there be established between the great Powers an accord to declare 879 that the spirit of the important arrangement in which they, as well as Russia, took part in 1841, is opposed to the affairs of the East being treated otherwise than in common, and in conference, where all interests would be examined and discussed. Far from doubting that Prussia and Austria, so long as all hope of an arrangement shall not be lost, wish to separate themselves from France and England, what we know of their sentiments authorises us in thinking, on the contrary, that they, like us, feel the danger, and propriety as well as policy recommend our doing nothing without them. It is by leaving to the Eastern question its true and European character that we have the greater chance of settling it without serious risk for the maintenance of peace. The treaty of 1841, Monsieur le Comte, on the bearing of which every one is now agreed, must serve us, if I may so express myself, as the basis of operations. All the Powers which signed it have a right to invoke it, and it would be, in my opinion, to commit a fault, and to weaken the effect of our proceedings subject to making known at present our particular impressions), not to combine with the Cabinets of Berlin and Vienna when there is everything to indicate that they will receive our overtures—Accept, &c.These were the views of the French Government, and could it be said that the whole action of the French and English Governments had been similar when they thus found what were the opinions of the French Government? This despatch, he thought, clearly showed that action must have been repressed wholly by the English Administration. They were told last year, when it was asked, "Why did not the English fleet pass the Dardanelles?" "Oh, it would have been considered a casus belli, and we could not expect a pacific solution of the question." Had the passage of the Dardanelles within the last few weeks been made a casus belli? Then they had heard Ministers argue in another place, "Oh, but Turkey was unprepared, and Russia might have marched upon Constantinople, and that would have brought on war." He (Lord Jocelyn) denied, however, either that Turkey was unprepared, or that it was possible for a Russian army to have marched upon Constantinople. What was the fact as to the Russian army? Why, that there were in May last only 40,000 concentrated together at Galatz, and that 20,000 only passed the Pruth. When it was recollected that in 1828 Marshal Diebitsch crossed the Danube with 60,000 Russian troops, of whom only 15,000 reached Adrianople, by the aid, at that time practicable, of the Russian fleet, which 15,000 troops, on their arrival, were utterly inefficient from exhaustion, Her Majesty's 'Government need not have been so extremely afraid of the Russian troops, who, though powerful in defence, were notoriously weak for external action. As 880 an instance, they had only to look at the Hungarian campaign. It might be urged the army might have taken another line—the interior; but the same arguments would still hold good, for the state of the Russian commissariat would prevent them from making that advance. And when a British Minister told the House that Turkey was unprepared for defence, he begged to say that that Minister must have forgotten facts. What were the facts? Omar Pasha, seven months before, was at the head of 40,000 men, operating in Montenegro; six months ago, orders were sent by the Turkish Government to Omar Pasha to fall back on the passages of the Balkan. He (Lord Jocelyn) would ask any living man whether he thought, after what we had seen upon the banks of the Danube, that it was possible for a Russian army to have passed the Balkan when held by a Turkish force? He would next just refer to what the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had called the pacific measures, but which he (Viscount Jocelyn) called the dilatory measures, which had led to an European alliance against Russia. He denied that there was such an alliance. How did they know what Prussia or Austria would do? They hoped and trusted that those Powers would act with us—but what proof of their intention had we upon which to found any opinion? Now, did Ministers know what Austria would do? They were told, indeed, that Austria and Prussia would be neutral; but, even so, that was all that was to be expected. He was prepared to assert the conviction that Austria and Prussia would have gone, at least, quite as far with us as they would now had we in the outset exhibited the energy that should have been manifested; so that, in this respect, we had gained nothing whatever by delay. Great harm, in fact, had been done by the delay which had occurred. But for that delay, the Turkish fleet cruelly destroyed at Sinope would now have been floating tranquilly in Turkish waters. Had the French and English fleets entered the Black Sea, would it have been possible for the Russian fleet to have moved out of Sebastopol, or to have destroyed the Turkish squadron at Sinope? He believed that, if the English and French fleets had been in the Black Sea at the time, the disaster at Sinope could never have occurred; and he thought that he had shown that the arguments adduced for not sending the fleets into the Black Sea the moment the Russians crossed the Pruth, were not good arguments, for the Turkish 881 army was prepared to advance; while, for the Russian army, an advance was impossible. He now came to another and more serious question—one which the right hon. Baronet had not yet answered. He (Lord Jocelyn) agreed with the hon. Member who made this Motion, that the House had a right to demand what Ministers were going to do. What are our troops and our fleets going to effect? Were they going to reestablish those treaties which had been disposed of as mere waste paper, or were they going to put a limit to the grasping ambition of Russia? If their object was merely the re-establishment of defunct treaties, he believed the people of England would not go with the Ministers; but if it was intended to place a curb upon the aggressive spirit of Russia, then, he believed, the people of this country would join, heart and soul, with them. The House surely had the right to ask information when it was called upon to vote increased estimates, and, as representatives of the people, were bound to inquire how the money was to be expended, and what were the objects of the increased armaments? He asked whether our troops were about to take the field to meet the Russian armies, or was it a mere idle demonstration, which would be attended with precisely the same success as distinguished the vacillating policy which had been pursued? The country had a right to that information, and the House was justified in calling for it. He believed the Government would receive the support of the House in all measures that might be necessary for the maintenance of the national honour, but they must expect that their conduct will be closely watched and their proceedings rigidly canvassed, the more so on account of the mode in which they had hitherto conducted their policy. He firmly believed that the cause in which they had embarked was just and righteous; and he believed that the Providence which disposed of the fate of armies, would assist England in a just and righteous cause. He would conclude in the language of old, employed in the days of chivalry, and say, "May God defend the right!"
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
said, he had never come down to the House with a more earnest desire than on this occasion to give his support to the Government, because he felt that we were at a juncture when the safety and happiness of wide-spread nations might depend on the course that should be pursued by our Go- 882 vernment; and that it was of the utmost importance that the Government, in the course it seemed inclined to pursue, should receive the unanimous and unhesitating support of the House and of the country at large. His feelings on the subject had been confirmed and augmented by the speech of the noble leader of the House a few nights since, in introducing the Reform Bill—a speech which showed that, while his noble Friend, predisposed, on the one hand, to remedy and remove, so far as he could, internal abuses, was prepared not to falter in resisting manfully our foreign enemies. He was satisfied that the Government, acting upon these principles, would meet with the heart-and-soul aid of the people. Having, however, expressed this feeling and this conviction, he could not refrain from declaring, as a representative of the people, that he had never been more surprised, he would say shocked, than at the language which had been used by the right hon Gentleman (Sir J. Graham), a Minister of the Crown, on this occasion of proposing the Navy Estimates. He had always thought that, if there was an occasion on which the representatives of the people were especially called upon to seek explanations and information from the Government, it was when they were called upon by that Government to vote away the people's money. He was sure that his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell), the great authority in that House upon all constitutional questions, would confirm this proposition; and he felt equally satisfied that the proposition would be sanctioned, on this particular occasion more emphatically, by another noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston), also on the Treasury bench, who had laid it down as a clear principle that the Members of that House were not only entitled, but bound, to insist upon that full information from Government which would enable them thoroughly to comprehend all our foreign affairs. Then, if that were so, the House surely was entitled to know for what were wanted 20,000 additional men and 2,000,000l., that they were called upon to vote. Yet the First Lord of the Admiralty, because an hon. Gentleman had ventured, in very moderate terms, to ask for reasonable information, and to criticise, to a certain extent, the policy of Government, had treated the hon. Gentleman's questions and his observations with contempt, as alike unworthy of the occasion and undeserving of answer. Now, it appeared to him (Lord D. Stuart) that his 883 hon. Friend (Mr. Layard) had done no more than his duty in putting these questions, and that the House would not be doing its duty if it did not obtain full information on all points connected with this most important question. It was in the highest degree incumbent upon the representatives of the people to know upon what the people's money was to be expended, and whether this enormous increase of their burdens was to be really applied to some specific and adequate purpose. He trusted that some other Member of the Cabinet, less transported with indignation towards the hon. Member for Aylesbury, would rise to give explanation, without telling those who sought for information that, if they chose to criticise the policy of the Government, they could move a vote of want of confidence. He was not going to "potter" through the despatches, but would simply state the complaint made against the Government on this question of its over-condescension to the Russian Autocrat—its hesitation and vacillation—composed, to adopt an expression of a noble Lord, of "one part cowardice and three parts discretion." Russia had been styled our old and faithful ally. Admitting that Russia had been an old ally, it was not to be admitted that she had been, by any means, a faithful ally; and it was not to be endured, in any case, that she was to treat this great country and our allies with the greatest conceivable arrogance and injustice. It was not the fact that Russia had been "our faithful ally." She had been utterly, grossly faithless to her alliance with us, and to our treaties with her, over and over again, and on the most signal occasion. In the case of Poland—she had violated her alliance, she had violated her treaties, she had violated the sacred oath taken by her Emperor before God and the Holy Trinity. In the case of Adrianople, her violation of alliance and of treaties had been equally flagrant—equally shameless; in the case of Cracow her violation of treaties had been so glaring that Her Majesty had been advised by Her Ministers to denounce it in the Speech from the throne; in the case of Hungary her conduct had been marked with a perfidy scarcely less monstrous. Faithlessness, in a word, had been the characteristic of this "faithful ally," yet the Government of this country had persisted in receiving the assurances of the Autocrat and his Ministers with the most credulous confidingness—with the same confidingness, as 884 the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs himself expressed in another place, that the assurances he received from Russia were such as he should have no more thought of disbelieving than he should the positive assurances of an English gentleman. It was all very well, and very pleasant, to be on those terms with foreign Governments, but the question arose, whether they were justified in being on those terms. They could believe the word of English gentlemen, because they had assurances of their former conduct; and all that they knew of them made them sure they would not be guilty of an act of deception. But had the Emperor of Russia done anything which was to give him a right to claim the same confidence being placed in him? It had been very much the fashion in that House to speak with admiration of the Russian Government. He had never joined in such expressions; on the contrary, he had always maintained that the conduct of Russia had for more than a century been marked by treachery and by inordinate ambition. As regarded the Prince now on the throne, whether they examined his conduct towards those who were unfortunately his subjects, or his dealings with other countries, they would find him to be equally unworthy of credit. He had never been bound by the faith of treaties or by his own declarations when he had found it convenient to forget them. Her Majesty's Government, it appeared, believed in the assurances of the Russian Government, notwithstanding the information of a contrary character afforded them by their own agents, and, among others, by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, who told them on one occasion that Russia spoke peace, but that her acts were the acts of war; but in spite of this the Government continued to believe Russia. No doubt they were desirous to maintain peace, and the object was a laudable one. He would yield to no man as a defender of peace, and he would honour the Government for any course of conduct they might pursue calculated to preserve peace, so long as it was consistent with the honour and interests of the country; but he firmly believed that the course adopted by the Government during its quarrel with Russia had not been such as to secure peace, but, on the contrary, that it was the best that could have been devised to bring about a war; and now were they not on the brink of war, after having already been exposed to many of the evils of war by their peace 885 policy? Had not large sums been spent? Had not commerce been interrupted? Could they calculate the amount of loss experienced in the different countries of the world by the interruption to trade created by the uneasiness and uncertainty that had prevailed? Could they tell how many lives had been sacrificed, how many torrents of blood had been shed, during this interval of negotiations for peace? Were they not chargeable with all this loss and all this blood, which had been cruelly shed? If it was true, as was the general opinion throughout Europe, that a bolder policy would have prevented all that had occurred during the last year, surely our Government had much to answer for, as it must be held responsible for all the disasters that had occurred. The whole question lay in a nutshell. The demands of Russia were not for the amputation of a limb but for that which must have infused poison into the whole system, and Turkey could not possibly submit to them. Russia then committed the unwarrantable act of taking possession of Turkish territories. Now, the right course for the allies of Turkey to have taken, whenever they ascertained this to be the intention of Russia, was to have informed her at once, and plainly, that such an act would be treated as an act of war. The general opinion of those with whom he had had an opportunity of conversing on the Continent thought was, that, if the attempt of Russia had been met in that way, it would have been nipped in the bud. But, more than that, it was the general opinion that if England had not been governed by a Minister who, right or wrong, was supposed to have a strong leaning to Russia, and who, by former acts, was understood to show a great desire to comply with any of the demands of that country—it was the general opinion that if, instead of such a Minister, we had had one of a firmer character, not only would the Pruth never have been crossed, but that the demands of Russia would never have been made. Wherever he (Lord D. Stuart) had gone, he had heard but one opinion on the subject, and that one opinion had been pronounced in a single word and in a single name—"Palmerston." "If you had had a Minister of that description," was the almost universal expression of every statesman and politician that could be talked with on the Continent, "nothing would have happened." The Emperor of Russia had long fixed his eye on Turkey. It had been the traditional policy of Russia 886 ever since the time of Peter the Great to get possession of Turkey; and no doubt she thought the time was come when this country was ruled by a statesman that she expected would be her friend, and when she did not expect that the cordial union would subsist between England and France which happily we now saw. They had succeeded in removing from the charge of the foreign affairs of this country a states man who had always been an obstacle to the views of Russia; and it was worthy of notice that, so long as that Minister was at the head of foreign affairs, none of those things occurred, for, though they were often told his policy was dangerous to the peace of Europe, yet, so long as he was at the Foreign Office, the affairs of Europe were kept from confusion and disorder. But now, when he was no longer in that position, they found themselves on the brink of a war, of which no one could calculate the consequences. This country was bound in every way to act for the defence of Turkey. We were bound in honour, because, if there were no treaty engagements to that effect, it could not be denied that, by speeches from the Throne and by official assurances given in many ways for a great many years, Turkey had been led to expect our assistance, and to rely on our aid, whenever she should be engaged in a just quarrel. There were persons who thought we should not interfere in this quarrel at all, but in that opinion he could not participate. Turkey had unquestionably justice on her side. Russia could not point to any specific grievance of which she had to complain against Turkey, but put forth generally a claim to the control of a portion of the subjects of the Porte, and, in attempting to enforce this claim, she was committing the greatest atrocities in the provinces of which she had taken possession. It was unnecessary to show how much it was for the interests of this country that Turkey should be maintained. Our commerce with that country was increasing to have enormous extent, and it was no answer to say that it was a commerce of transit. If Russia had possession of the country no such commerce of transit would be allowed, because, instead of the liberal policy of the Sultan, they would have the prohibitory tariff of the Czar. Then, if Russia once got to Constantinople, and held possession of the Dardanelles, she would become a maritime power of such strength Russia and importance, that the whole independence of Europe would be threatened. Russia 887 had progressed since the days of Peter the Great to an enormous extent, as was amply shown in a pamphlet, entitled, The Progress and Present Position of Russia in the East, written twenty years ago by one of the greatest diplomatists this country ever possessed, the work being ascribed to Sir John McNeil, formerly Ambassador in Persia. Mention was there made of the uniformity of the means by which Russia had extended her power, and it was observed that, commencing with disorganisation, she next resorted to military occupation on the pretext of restoring tranquillity, and this was followed by protection and incorporation. Such was the course pursued with regard to Poland, Georgia, and the Crimea. The conduct of Turkey in the trying circumstances in which she had been placed deserved the warmest eulogy, and ought to strengthen the disposition of this country to make sacrifices on her behalf. Attacked in the most arrogant manner by Russia, insulted through her representatives, and exposed to the utmost humiliation, she had displayed conduct at once firm and conciliatory, courageous and moderate; conduct which would do honour to the most civilised State, and the most enlightened Government, in Europe. He believed there was not a statesman who better understood the question of Turkey, or who was more anxious to defend the interests of England, as connected with it, than Lord Stratford de Redcliffe; and he also stated, that "Turkey had exhibited a spirit of self-devotion, unaccompanied by any fanatical demonstration;" and that "the Sultan appealed with perfect success to the zeal of the Mussulman, and the loyalty of her Christian population." What he (Lord D. Stuart) saw in the country agreed entirely with this description. The Turks were accused of fanaticism, but he maintained they were showing the greatest patriotism. If any attempt were made by a foreign Power to interfere with the internal affairs of this country, especially upon any subject connected with religion, would not the Protestants of this country rise up as one man to repel the intruder? And would they then be told that all their zeal and desire to defend their rights and honour was nothing but fanaticism? Though the Turks had come forward to defend their Sovereign, they had exhibited no fanatical conduct. There had been no insolence offered to the Christians, nor any disturbances whatever that could be referred to religious feeling. When he was 888 at Constantinople in December last, there was a series of émeutes, but they were occasioned by a number of the younger portion of the population, the students of law, as they might be called—the softas—who had got the notion that the Government was going to make concessions to Russia, and sign an inglorious and dishonourable peace. But there was no other disturbance whatever. They declared at once that they had no desire to interfere with the Christians or their privileges, and no person was molested. He had himself been walking about, and had passed the greater part of the day, in the bazaars and that part of Constantinople which was more particularly inhabited by Mussulmans. He wore a Frank dress, and he met with no annoyance, and he did not believe that a single Christian had been injured upon that occasion. On going to Pera, he was informed by a merchant that there were English ships of war, to which Europeans, if endangered by the outbreak, might retire; but the fact was, that there was no need of such an opportunity. The Turkish Government met this demonstration by removing some of the more noisy of the persons implicated in the affair, and by issuing a proclamation stating that no such treaty was to be signed, and that no armistice was to be concluded. The truth of this was soon made manifest, for shortly afterwards Omar Pasha had the satisfaction of gaining the victory of Csitate, a victory which proved that the Turks were able to face the Russians in the open field. He was glad to state that the Turkish army was in extremely good order. The troops were fine men, who were well formed, well equipped, and well cared for, both in barracks and in hospital. Under Omar Pasha, at all events, they were also well commanded, and he trusted that they would be able to give such a good account of their enemy as would continue to do them honour, and would suffice to defend their territory until they should receive the succour of this country and France, to which they were entitled by their valour, the nature of their cause, and the conduct which had been pursued by their Government. He could not sit down and altogether omit making an observation with regard to that most disastrous affair of Sinope, which would never be forgotten, and which, he feared, reflected no credit upon the arms of the allies of Turkey. Our Ambassador had stated that, if our fleet had been in the Black Sea, this disaster never would 889 have occurred; but the right hon. Gentleman said that the Turks alone were responsible for it, because they alone were aware of the defenceless state of Sinope. For himself, he could not reconcile the fact of our fleets not being in the Black Sea with the instructions in the blue books, because it appeared to be clear that they had been ordered to protect the Turkish territory. The disaster at Sinope was indeed a most melancholy and most barbarous affair. Russia had declared that she would commit no aggressive act upon Turkey, and then she attacked that Turkish fleet, lying peaceably in Turkish waters, and attacked it with a force so superior, that it would have been no disgrace to the Turkish commanders to have struck to them at once. In a very short time the Turkish fleet was put completely hors de combat; but, not satisfied with that, the Russians continued, with excessive barbarity, to fire upon them until they were utterly destroyed. He had heard the Turks speak of this matter, and he found that, like himself, they did not exactly understand the kind of limited war that was going on. He had heard them say that there was no dishonour on account of those proceedings either upon Russia or Turkey, for they had both done their duty; but they considered that the dishonour rested with other flags. The noble Earl at the head of the Government had said that we, too, had had our Sinope. We had laid our battle of Navarino, it was true, to which we could never look back with satisfaction. It had been described as an "untoward event," and so it was; but he was not aware that in that action we violated any agreement into which we had entered, or any proclamation which we had made, or committed any of those barbarities, or occasioned those useless murders and unnecessary bloodshed, which had disgraced the affair of Sinope. In fact, the two cases were in no respect upon a par. He contended that the Government were not justified in putting their hands into the pockets of the British people if they were not going to do something better than to establish the status quo before the war. Were they going to drive the Russians out of the Principalities? Were they going to make her relinquish her demands? Were they going to compel her to pay indemnity to Turkey? And, above all, were they going to place things upon such a footing that this country, Europe, and the world should not again be exposed to 890 danger arising from unscrupulous Russian ambition? If they were about to do that, and to obtain from Russia solid guarantees that she would not disturb the peace of Europe, then they would be justified in their proceedings, and the end for which they strove would of them.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Sir, at the outset I must ask the indulgence of the House, on account of my recent illness, to bear with me while I make a few remarks on this subject. It seems to me there has been some misunderstanding on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, as to the purpose and object of the Motion submitted to the House by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aylesbury. His desire, as it scents to me, is not so much to incriminate Her Majesty's Government, as to obtain from them some declaration of their intentions on this question. That declaration has not yet been made by any member of the Government. Now, it seems to me there is much to be said for the Government on the present occasion. They had a very difficult and delicate task to perform. Before them was the inception of a great war. They were acting on behalf of the English people, and they were to justify that war, if war should happen. And I think that their difficulty in acting with anything like decision may be borne with and excused; for it seems to me, if they had rushed hastily into war, the first person to find fault with them would have been the very Gentlemen who now complain of them. I say, Sir, the Government had to satisfy the people of England that they had exhausted all the means of peace before they undertook this war. Now, I am as great an enemy to war as any of the gentlemen who are members of the Peace Society. But I object to those who are members of that Society supposing that every person who differs from them is either a knave or a fool. The danger, Sir, in this case, was immediate. The Government had to decide whether they should at once accept the war that was presented to them, or attempt to solve the difficulty by all the means and appliances of negotiation. I do not mean to say that the statement made by some hon. Gentlemen may not be true, that if the Government had taken a more decisive part the Emperor of Russia would have been stopped in his course. We might have said, "If you pass the Pruth we shall send a fleet to Cronstadt," We might have said that crossing the 891 Pruth was an act of war, and we shall declare war upon it. But that would have been acting with more decision, and though we should have been at this moment at war, it does not follow that the Emperor of Russia would have receded in the least from his demands on Turkey. Now, we have to decide, not upon a minute examination of the blue books, not on the conduct of the Government, but we have to take the situation of the Government, the situation of the people of England, and the circumstances presented to the Government—the very difficult circumstances—under which they acted; and, above all things, we ought to make the world understand that on this subject the people of England are united. We are not cavilling at, or trying to pick holes in the coat of the Administration for what has been done, but we are telling the world that England considers the conduct of the Czar of Russia as the overweening extravagance of ambition, and that we are determined to put a stop to his career of spoliation, and that in this matter we act as one man. If we had had a declaration from the Government of what they intended to do, I think the country would certainly have been more satisfied. It appears to me, so far as I can understand the question, that the Government, so long as peace was possible, have attempted all means of obtaining peace. But now that war is certain, they are acting with all becoming promptitude and resolution under the circumstances. It would seem to me that our duty upon the present occasion is not so much to look back upon what may be deemed by some the shortcomings of the Government, as to support them in their more determined action, and to look forward and consider what would be the wisest course to pursue. What has the Emperor of Russia demanded? It seems to me rather curious that throughout our discussion on this subject, whether in newspapers or in Parliament, the real difficulty with which it is beset has been evaded. What are we afraid of? No man has explained what. We have heard, it is true, a great deal about "the honour of England;" but I always apprehend, when people talk of "the honour of England," that we shall experience something very like injustice. We are afraid, if we leave Turkey to herself, that the Emperor of Russia would take possession of Constantinople. What are we afraid of there? We are afraid that Russia, retaining the 892 possession of the capital of Turkey, would say she had become possessed of Turkish rights—that she being the stronger, and Turkey being the weaker, she was about to take possession of the rights and privileges which Turkey had given up. Now, I want to show the House and the country that it is our interest to go to war now—for we shall certainly have to go to war by and by. We may go to war under circumstances not nearly so advantageous as the present. Supposing we were now to abstain from going to war, what would Russia do? She would take possession of Turkey, she would take possession of Constantinople, and she would immediately say, "We are in possession of Turkish rights." Being in possession of Constantinople, she would be in possession of the Dardanelles; she would shut up the Black Sea, and she would advance to Egypt, and, advancing to Egypt, she would cut us off from India and the East. Therefore, Sir, our interest is now to prevent Russia getting possession of Constantinople. It is our interest at the present moment, because we are in alliance with France. If we allow Russia to get possession of Constantinople, circumstances might, perhaps, occur to sever that alliance. I am willing and anxious to pay my humble tribute of applause to the loyalty and honesty of purpose exhibited by the Emperor of France; but honesty among nations is not to be found. I am very much afraid, if we were now to follow the advice given us, and allow Russia to get possession of Turkey, that we should have a much more difficult game to play. Therefore, I say—I do not know if my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) is present, but if he is, I would say, by deferring you do not wholly prevent war, but you defer war to a much more disadvantageous occasion than the present. Well, Sir, if the Government have determined to go to war—if they have exhausted all the means of keeping the peace, and are at last driven to war—it behoves us to support them as far as we possibly can in their determination to carry out their warlike proceedings. Now, I would ask the House how we should best assist the Government in going to war. Is it by finding fault with them, or is it by cordially uniting as one man, and saying to the Emperor of Russia, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no further?" History tells us that that Power is as ambitious as it is unscrupulous. It has all the vices of barbarism and all the vices of 893 civilisation. It is barbarous in reality; it is civilised only in appearance. It has all the means which civilisation affords of extending its ambitious views, and it is as unscrupulous as if there was no public law. The blue books exhibit that system which an hon. Gentleman has characterised by the word "falsehood." That is the only word which applies to the conduct of Russia. A more flagrant instance of the violation of all law—of all public law—was never seen than that involved in the note presented by Prince Menchikoff. Let us bring the matter, as it then stood, home to ourselves. Suppose in 1829, Austria, being a Catholic country, had said to England that she would send an army to Ireland, unless we emancipated the Roman Catholic population there—what should we have said? We are a strong people, and we should at once have taken our revenge for that insult upon our honour. The position in which Russia stands to Turkey at the present moment, is precisely as if Austria had sent an army to Ireland in 1829. I say the conduct of the Government is justified on a consideration of public law, and of the honour and duty of England. I am not one of those who think it worth while to inquire what have been the faults which the Government have committed in their diplomatic negotiations on this question. They may have acted with vacillation. What then? I am certain the people of England would have said, if they had not acted as they have done, that they had rushed heedlessly into a war; and therefore, I say, they were perfectly justified in all that they had done. But I think we should call on the Government to give us an answer to the last question of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard), namely, what do they intend to do? and I hope that some Member of the Government will give a full and explicit answer to that question; that they will state clearly what it is they intend to do, so that we may be in a position to say to them that we will support them or that we will not. Therefore, Sir, though wholly incapable of expressing my ideas on the present occasion—feeling myself too weak to do so—still I would call on the Government at this time to answer that question fully and completely, so that they may satisfy this House what they intend to do, and what the course of the policy is which we are called on to support.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Mr. Speaker, after the very generous, and, I must 894 say, the very wise speech of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, who has last addressed us, I can have no hesitation in rising to give that information to the House which he very properly asks in reference to so grave and important an occasion. Sir, I think, however, in saying that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty mistook the position in which we stand, he rather committed an error, because I think it was not my right hon. Friend, but my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard), who mistook the position in which we meant to stand on this question. It seems to me that when the Government come forward and say events are hastening towards war—we ask you to enable us, at least, to make preparations for war, though not to vote the estimates of actual war. There appears to me, at the period at which we have arrived, to be three courses which the House may adopt with propriety, according to its particular disposition or inclination. It may say, first—"War is impending, but you, Her Majesty's present Ministers, have committed so many errors, that we cannot allow you any longer to have the conduct of affairs upon so momentous a question." It may say, secondly, as I understand the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield to say, "There may be errors in the course of your negotiations; and one man may think that at one point we should have been more decided, and another might think that we might make more secure alliances at another time. But these are questions of difficulty, upon which decision is not easy. We will waive the consideration of these grounds, and we shall vote the estimates for the year." The third course is to say, without entering into the question of the negotiations at all, "We will look entirely forward; we will give our confidence to the Government, but we will watch their proceedings, and if they enter upon war, we will see that it is carried on with all the vigour and judgment necessary to bring it to a successful conclusion." Any one of those three courses the House may take, and any one of those courses might be fitting for the occasion; but my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury has taken another course, which I must say I think, if it was not satisfactory to the Government, it can hardly be so to this House, because he lays it down on certain grounds which he assumes he has proved, that the Government were entirely in error. He says, 895 "Although I have made out my case, yet, notwithstanding that, I have the magnanimity to excuse you; I will give you my pass for all the errors which you have committed, and now, with a sort of lame and limping confidence, you may take your votes which you have proposed." I say that course is hardly satisfactory. I say, with my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham), let us know whether you will take the course which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield takes—whether you will censure us, or whether you will give us your full confidence. I am not arguing in favour at this moment of any particular course, but I say any one of them is open for the House of Commons to take on a most grave and important question.
Sir, in alluding to the negotiations that have passed, I wish to refer as little as possible to the particular documents to which my hon. Friend has referred, and will confine myself to some general outline of the course which the negotiations have pursued. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury says, and says truly, that as long as there was a question between France and Russia respecting the Holy Places, it was not the concern of our Government to say which was in the right, or which was in the wrong; but immediately there was a menace of force, and of fleets and armies, that then it did become a question interesting to the Government of Great Britain. But if any censure is to fall in this respect, it would rather fall on the Administration of Lord Derby which preceded us, and the conduct of Lord Malmesbury, then in the Foreign Office, than upon ourselves. I cast no censure upon it, but it was perfectly evident that, while Lord Malmesbury was at the Foreign Office, there were threats of force and other preparations held out by Russia, upon the pretext that the Ambassador of France had threatened a course, in order to compel Russia to agree to terms which she said were inconsistent with the engagements which had been entered into by the Sultan. I was myself informed by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, in answer to a question I put to him, that M. de Lavalette stated that, unless his terms were complied with, he should immediately send for the French fleet in order to enforce his requisition. It immediately then became a question, when such threats were held out, whether or not the Government of England would think it wise at least to interpose its advice and good offices to 896 induce the French Government to do what it really did afterwards in the fairest and handsomest manner, namely, desist from the pretensions which she declared were founded upon treaties and strict justice, but pretensions which at the same time must lead to opposite pretensions being put forward by Russia, at the risk of threatening or disturbing the peace of Europe. Such was the state of the case when the Earl of Aberdeen entered office. The Earl of Malmesbury had written a private letter to Lord Cowley, our Ambassador at Paris, calling his serious attention to these circumstances. I followed in the same course, and on the very day on which I accepted the seals of the Foreign Office, I also wrote to Lord Cowley, calling his serious attention to the subject. Now it seemed to me that the very first thing which it was necessary to do was to endeavour to induce France to desist from the pretensions which she had put forward, because if France and Russia had gone to war upon the question of the Holy Places, there would have been imminent danger, not only to the peace of Europe, but immediately to the independence of Turkey, and it would have been impossible for England—seeing that she did not abet or take part in the pretensions of France in that question—it would have been impossible, I say, for her to have taken part with France in the war that might have ensued, and which would have been of very great danger to the country. The object which we had in view was accomplished; the French Government, as I have already said, behaved with the greatest fairness. They felt that their Ambassador had gone beyond that which was prudent, that he had executed his instructions in a manner that was offensive and alarming to the Sultan. The Government of France withdrew the Ambassador from Constantinople; they did not insist upon their pretensions, and by this means the question with respect to the Holy Places was very soon settled in a manner in which no party could find cause of complaint. From that moment we had this very great advantage, namely, that we could act with France in the cause of Turkey. Now the hon. Member for Aylesbury must not consider that as a subject of no importance.
Let me again state to the House what had been and what was the case when we entered office. The case was that France had made a claim upon Turkey in respect of a treaty of 1740; she then declared, and 897 declares to the present day, that those claims were perfectly well founded in truth and justice. But we could not abet France in that respect, and therefore it was of the utmost importance that the question of the Holy Places should be settled, and put out of the question, as it were, in order that England and France might act cordially together with respect to the pretensions of Russia. Now in attaining that object I assert, what I have repeated over and over again, that for the settlement of this question we are greatly indebted to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, who, having a perfect knowledge of the affairs of Turkey, having great influence with the Turkish Government, and having very great power, by means of his ability, of enforcing his opinion, was of the greatest use to Her Majesty's Government in enabling us to effect that decision. Now then, I come to the conduct of Russia with respect to the claim she has made on the subject of the Holy Places. The allegation made to us over and over again for several months—made to Sir Hamilton Seymour, to Lord Clarendon, made to myself, made to the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government—was to the effect that the concession made to France by the Sultan was at variance with the solemn engagements between Russia and Turkey—at variance with the written word of the Sultan, and such as Russia could not allow to take effect. She said, therefore, that she required things to be replaced in state quo in which they rested two years before, and required that by some means she should have security that this status quo should not again be disturbed. During the whole of this time, during the several months which elapsed, Russia never at any time suggested or hinted such claims as she now put forward, or that it was her object or intention to gain anything with respect to her general protectorate over the Greek subjects of Turkey. Russia never said that she wanted to acquire anything further than security on the subject of the Holy Places. Now the whole of that conduct was no doubt a deception. There was concealment and deception on the part of Russia towards the Government of this country. But while we gave credit to the assurances of Russia, we were not blind to the possibility that the Government of Russia might be so deceiving us, and that she had ulterior measures in view. For that reason I wrote—and my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury has 898 quoted the letter, though I hardly know for what purpose—to Colonel Rose, saying that, if Russia should advance to the frontier, we ought to have early intelligence of it, and that Lord Stratford do Redcliffe would, when he arrived, have more stringent instructions as to the course he was to take with respect to any invasion directed towards Constantinople which the Russian Government might attempt.
The mission of Prince Menchikoff was one which, while it pretended to be a mission in order to settle the question of the Holy Places, and while it was stated over and over again by Count Nesselrode at St. Petersburg, and by Baron Brunnow in London, to be a conciliatory mission, was, in effect, as it afterwards appeared, a mission, endeavouring, by some mode or other, to gain a complete supremacy on the part of Russia over Turkey, and to make Turkey act in future as the complete vassal of Russia. Be it observed, and this I think hon. Members should always bear in mind, that when the Emperor of Russia and his Minister say that it is not the policy of Russia to destroy the integrity of Turkey, I believe that that declaration is a sincere one to a certain extent. I believe that the object of Russia has been not at present to force on the conquest and partition of Turkey, but that she would rather have delayed that conquest and partition for some time, and that her intentions in the present year were to degrade Turkey still more than she had been degraded before by successive wars and treaties on the part of Russia, and that she hoped by some means—whether by menace or force, or by means of costly and lavish diplomacy—to obtain from the Sultan concessions which would render him completely subject to Russia; so that if at any time after he should put forward his just claims, or should show any disposition to throw off the burden, that then Turkey would have become so utterly prostrate and helpless that the final conquest of the country would be an easy task. Such would, I believe, have been the policy of Russia. But when Prince Menchikoff endeavoured to carry that policy into effect, we had sent to the same place the person the best qualified in all Europe to meet such pretensions, and to counteract such efforts,—we sent out the nobleman to whom I have already alluded, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, to Constantinople, and be it observed, that if we wanted to have her subservient to Russia—if we had 899 wanted to compliment away the independence of Turkey, as my hon. Friend seems to suppose—if we had wanted to rely to the utmost upon what would have been the ultimate will of Russia—we should not have sent to Constantinople a nobleman who was known beyond all other men for his attachment to the cause of the independence of Turkey, who had always given her the wisest counsels, and who had endeavoured more than any other man to give to her that internal force and strength by which her commerce and independence would be most effectually sustained and enlarged, and by which its state of dependence on Russia might be changed into one of complete independence. Well, Sir, events soon after took the course which, from the character of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, might have been expected. Prince Menchikoff made one demand after another, with the view, as he stated, of softening those demands and making them less stringent to Turkey. At last, without adopting what I think the plan which Russia was bound to have taken towards Turkey, and saying, "These are the stipulations which we are desirous of having from you, but we have no right to force them from you if you think they trench at all upon your independence"—instead of taking this course—a course which not only all men of other nations, but even many of the Russians themselves, think would have been the proper course, Prince Menchikoff determined to break off all relations, and to go back to the Russian Emperor. It has been said most strangely that when this took place, and when the Emperor of Russia threatened to occupy the Principalities, no protest was made by the Government of this country. But not only was there a protest—not only was there a demand made in the first place in the department of the Earl of Clarendon—but what was of ten times more value than that was, that within ten days after this, when Prince Menchikoff left Constantinople, there was an order sent out to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, placing at his disposal, for the purpose of coming up to the neighbourhood of the Dardanelles, the British fleet, and there was, at the same time, an order sent to the Admiralty to send Admiral Dundas to the neighbourhood of the Dardanelles for that purpose. Now the hon. Member for Aylesbury expressed a doubt in one part of his speech as to what it was that their fleet was sent to protect—whether it was British in- 900 terests or those of the Sultan. The despatch sent by the Earl of Clarendon to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe on the 31st of May, after stating that we were not yet fully informed of the final issue of the mission of Prince Menchikoff, goes on to say:—Nevertheless, the departure of Prince Menchikoff, followed by the entire Russian mission, is a fact in itself of such grave importance, the military preparations of Russia on the Turkish frontier are upon a scale of such vast magnitude, and the danger which threatens the Porte may be so imminent, that it appears indispensable to take measures for the protection of the Sultan, and to aid his Highness in repelling any attack upon his territory,It was external, therefore, and not internal danger that was to be arrested.I have, accordingly, to inform your Excellency that, by Her Majesty's commands, the fleet now stationed at Malta is placed at the disposal of your Excellency, and that orders will be sent to Admiral Dundas to conform to the requisitions he may receive from you, and to repair to such place as you may direct in the event of your considering the presence of a British force absolutely essential to the safety of the Turkish empire.Now, Sir, could any written despatch have protested in more eloquent words, or with greater firmness and decision, than the transmission of such orders to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and to the British Admiralty? I stated at the time, in this House, that the British fleet was sent to the neighbourhood of the Dardanelles in order to give a proof of the interest which Her Majesty took in maintaining the independence and integrity of the Turkish empire. It was, therefore, clear to Russia, and to the whole world, that we meant, in case Russia should proceed in her unjustifiable demands, and enforce them by her armies, that England meant, in conjunction with France, to oppose such pretensions, and to resist such force. When this took place—and I must add to this, that so far was the Russian Court from thinking that we were acting in complete blindness with respect to her designs, that it complained, in a circular transmitted throughout Europe, that we had made a threatening demonstration against Russia by the movement of the British fleet to the vicinity of the Dardanelles, thereby showing it perfectly understood from that movement—though it applied most unjustly and most untruly the argument derived from the fact—what were the intentions of the British Government.
The next question that arose was, whether the entry of Russian troops into the Principalities should be considered as a 901 cause of war, and acted upon as such by Turkey and her allies? Well, Sir, upon that question we can again have no better authority, as I conceive, than that of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. We thought—and that, too, was the opinion of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe—that, unprepared as Turkey was at that time to provoke hostilities with Russia, she ought not to say—as she undoubtedly had the most perfect right to declare—that the entry into the Principalities was a casus belli. We thought that Turkey by so acting would be exposed to very great danger. We could not conceal from ourselves all along, with respect to this argument used against us, that, comparing the force of Russia, as it had been collected, organised, and disciplined, for many years—above half a million of men kept continually in arms, and drilled with the greatest skill and regularity—and the position of Turkey, on the other hand, as we all knew it to be, with the bad state of her finances, the small amount of her armies, the disaffection which she might have to fear, owing to the activity of Russian emissaries—we could not, I say, conceal from ourselves that if Turkey, unprepared, was to rush into that war, it could not but be a very unfortunate course for her to adopt. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe took the same view of the subject, and, knowing the position of Turkey as it then was, he said that, for two purposes—first, that of endeavouring to negotiate peace, and, in the second instance, for the purpose of preparing for the course of events which might arise—it was not advisable for Turkey to declare war upon the occasion of the entry of the Russians into the Principalities. Would it have been wise for the allies of Turkey, in this case, who were not exposed to the dangers which threatened that country, to advise her to expose herself to this risk, when her best friends thought it was unadvisable and injudicious. This I conceive a sufficient justification for not immediately declaring that we would precipitate hostilities, or that we would warn Russia that war was to have followed immediately upon her entry into the Principalities. It is very easy for any person at any part of these negotiations to say, "Oh, but if you had but taken a different course, and told the Emperor of Russia that you would at once have gone to war, he would not have entered the Principalities, he would have hesitated before doing so." There is no authority for saying, that if we had done so and so another person would have done 902 so and so; no proof can be given that such would have been the case, and no person can be sure but that with respect to the entry into the Principalities, such a course as that suggested might not have been more likely to have assisted than prevented the object in view. It is more than probable that Russia would have considered it such an affront to her dignity as to have led her to enter the more quickly into a war to which she was thus provoked.
We then come to the negotiations with respect to the Vienna note; and here I must say, with respect to the one or two words used in that note, and referred to by the hon. Member for Aylesbury, that I am not going to defend the phraseology of that note. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has explained that it was no note of ours—it was not our framing; but with respect to the spirit of the Vienna note, and the intention with which it was framed, I am quite ready to defend it. I think a single illustration will place the spirit in which that note was framed in a correct point of view. If you find a friend of yours possessed of no very great means and threatened with some most extravagant and expensive lawsuit by a man of 50,000l. or 100,000l. a year, you may very well say to him:—"I see you are right. I think that very possibly you might be able to show that you were in the right in this cause; but it is probable, while he will have the means of prosecuting his suit, that you may be ruined in the process, and, therefore, some concession beyond your absolute and strict right may well be made by you in this case." I think that was the sort of spirit in which the allies of Turkey advised her to sign the Vienna note; and, for my part, seeing the dangers to which Turkey was exposed, I think it was good and wise advice that she should sign that document, though she was not absolutely compelled to do so. But, Sir, from the moment that Count Nesselrode had affixed a meaning to that Vienna note—from the moment that he showed that if that note had been signed he would have considered it equivalent to that note which the Emperor of Russia's Ambassador had presented at Constantinople, we not only ceased to urge Turkey that she should agree to and sign that note, but we took more vigorous steps, in order, if necessary, to support by force the independence of Turkey. The fleet was ordered to leave the Dardanelles, and go into the Bosphorus; and on the 8th of 903 October, orders were given that that fleet should protect the coasts of Turkey on the Black Sea, both on the European and the Asiatic side.
I come, Sir, therefore, now to another step in these transactions. I come to what occurred on the 30th of November, at Sinope. The orders given to the Ambassadors and Admirals were what I have stated. The Ambassadors thought that it was advisable that a certain number of ships should go into the Black Sea; that they should visit Varna and the mouth of the Danube; and, in short, should take means to observe well what was going on in the Black Sea. It so happened, however, at that moment that the French Government displaced their Ambassador at Constantinople, and sent another Ambassador, General Baraguay d'Hilliers, in his place. The French Admiral declined to take the orders of an Ambassador who was about to leave Constantinople, and the Ambassador who followed did not think it advisable to take the course which the English Ambassador had desired Admiral Dundas to pursue. This was a misfortune, and we know that the ships that were left at Sinope were, in consequence, exposed to that dreadful calamity which overtook them. But I do not think that, under the circumstances, any party was much to blame in the affair; because I do not believe that it would have been possible to provide against every occurrence which might take place in that state of affairs in the Black Sea. It would not have been consistent with the safety of the fleet to disperse it in various parts of that sea; and, if it had been all sent to Sinope, some attack might have been made on Varna. It was a matter for the exercise of the discretion of the Ambassador; and I do not believe that he was in fault in not insisting upon his orders, seeing that he could not obtain the concurrence of the French Ambassador and Admiral. The disaster that took place at Sinope was one which must have afflicted every man in this country with the most painful feelings. Sir, I must own I was greatly surprised at reading the congratulations which were addressed by the Emperor of Russia to his officers and his Admirals upon the receipt of the intelligence of that affair. That the destruction and butchery inflicted by some six or seven large line-of-battle ships upon six or seven frigates of very inferior size—that a victory pushed to the extent of the most dreadful carnage, without any sort of 904 generosity being shown in the use of the advantages possessed by a vastly superior force—that that should be a source of glory to Russia—that it should be any reason for congratulation from a Sovereign to his subjects, did, I own, strike me with a feeling of the greatest disgust and astonishment. Sir, that event was as deeply felt in France as it was here; and, in consequence of it, orders were given to the Ambassadors at Constantinople that the English and French fleets should take the command of the Black Sea—that they should not only protect the flag of Turkey, but should likewise prevent reinforcements being sent from one Russian port to another, and that wherever they found a Russian ship of war they should send her back to Sebastopol, or to the nearest port. It is impossible to deny that the operations contemplated by these orders amount as nearly as possible to warlike operations as it is possible for any operations to do. There have been, in the course of the last twenty years, in Europe, transactions somewhat resembling it. Our blockade of the Texel, the French siege of Antwerp, the French occupation of Ancona, the battle of Navarino, and various other transactions, have been carried on without a declaration of war. But, seeing the nature of the orders issued by the French and English Governments, no one can be surprised that the Emperor of Russia should withdraw his Ambassadors both from London and Paris.
But this brings us, Sir, to the present situation, which has been justly described as one upon the brink of war. I have stated as shortly as I could, without argument and without quotations, the general course which the British Government has pursued. We have now to consider the prospect before us, and what remains to be done. With regard to diplomatic correspondence—with regard to terms of peace—there were terms proposed by the Ambassadors of the four Powers at Constantinople—terms very nearly assented to—assented to in such a manner at Constantinople as to be sent to Vienna by those representatives, and to be adopted and approved at Vienna by the conference of the four Powers. Sir, it does not appear to me that those terms were either derogatory to the dignity of Turkey, or were they such as were at all unbefitting the Emperor of Russia to accept. What course did the Emperor of Russia pursue? Be it remarked that he was reported to have 905 said at Olmutz—I do not wonder at the declaration—that he had been asked to agree to the Vienna note, and it after-wards appeared that Turkey would not agree to it; that he thought it unreasonable to put him in such a position; and that he hoped, when next terms of peace were proposed, they would be such as Turkey would be sure to accept. Well, the four great Powers had exerted themselves to obtain them. But when these propositions arrived at St. Petersburg, in the first place no formal and regular answer was given to them; and in the second place counter-propositions were transmitted to Vienna, without taking any formal notice of the propositions sent to St. Petersburg. Now, I must say, that, considering that these Powers—England, France, Austria, and Prussia—representing all the great Powers of Europe with the exception of Russia—that these terms were proposed with the view to prevent a bloody and costly war extending all over Europe—considering all this, I say that the course taken by the Emperor of Russia showed a total disregard of the peace of Europe, an utter contempt of the opinion of Europe, and a disregard of those Sovereigns with whom he had been in alliance. Instead of any acceptance of these propositions, other propositions, which shall shortly be laid upon the table of the House, were sent to Vienna; they contained propositions which were very much like a repetition of the old demands of the Emperor of Russia, with the addition of other demands, one of which was that the refugees of different nations should be expelled from Turkey—an article no doubt intended to weaken Turkey, and one which would be; a fertile source of remonstrances and of occasions for war whenever it might please the Emperor of Russia. Count Buol, the Austrian Minister, communicated those propositions to the Conference, but declared expressly that he did not recommend them for adoption.
I come now, Sir, to the letter which was addressed by the Emperor of the French to the Emperor of Russia. I was asked yesterday whether that letter was a genuine document. There is no doubt, Sir, that letter is a genuine document, and it is an attempt made by the Emperor of France and the Government of France to induce the Emperor of Russia to reconsider his determination to evacuate the Principalities which he had wrongfully occupied, and—not to conclude a treaty, not 906 a separate negotiation, as my hon. Friend (Mr. Layard) supposed—but to draw up articles with a Turkish plenipotentiary, which were afterwards to be submitted to a conference of the four Powers. For my own part, I should say that in point of dignity the entrance of Russia into the conference of the six Powers would be more becoming her dignity and position than the submission of her treaty with Turkey to the approbation of the four other Powers. At all events, there is no concession to Russia in the propositions thus made. I will not attempt to say that I entertain the hope that the Emperor of Russia will accede to that proposition, or that he will abstain from enforcing, with all the power of Russia, those unjustifiable demands which he has hitherto made against Turkey. What, Sir, must then be our position? There can be but one position for us. It must be on the side of Turkey, defending her against that aggression. If I am asked further, before entering upon this Committee of Supply, what are the means to which we look forward; and in the terms of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Baillie), what are the engagements we propose to make, I should say that in the first place there has been an exchange of notes between England and France, promising to co-operate together in giving that assistance to Turkey, and declaring on the part of both Powers that no selfish interest—no increase of territory or power—is sought by either nation in the prosecution of this design. Such is the nature of the engagement into which the two great Powers have willingly entered. They feel that the cause is one, in the first place, of the independence of Turkey—a Power which has been most cruelly outraged—a Power which has resisted in the Cabinet with firmness and great ability, the unjust demands of the diplomatic Ministers of Russia—which has also resisted on the field, with courage and with skill, the attacks of the armies of Russia. But, Sir, this cause involves still more. It is to maintain that peace of Europe of which the Emperor of Russia is the wanton disturber—it is to throw back upon the head of that disturber the consequences which he has so flagrantly and, I believe, so imprudently invoked—it is to maintain the independence, not only of Turkey, but of Germany and of all European nations. The state of Germany for these few years past has been one, in which they were not, it is true, dependent 907 upon the Emperor of Russia, but still one in which their independence was not very loudly asserted. I could not but think, on reading the account of the transaction which took place last year in Paris, that there was too much acquiescence on the part of the German Powers in the unjustifiable pretensions of Russia. The House is already aware—and I have already had occasion to refer to the circumstance, with that commendation which I think is due to the noble Earl—that when the Earl of Malmesbury found that the Emperor of the French meant to be faithful to the engagements of the country over which he was called to reign, and that his object was to maintain the peace of Europe, he (the Earl of Malmesbury) declared on the part of this country the Queen's ready and willing recognition of that new occupant of the Imperial Throne. But the Powers of Germany acted very differently. They thought it advisable to wait until the Emperor of Russia had declared his mind upon the subject. The mind of the Emperor of Russia was that the Emperor of the French might be acknowledged, but that, not being descended from a line which had for centuries occupied the Throne, the Emperor of Russia could not call the Emperor of the French his "brother." The Emperor of the French had too much good sense to attach any very great importance to whether he was called "My good friend," or "My brother," but the Powers of Germany one and all desired their Ministers to wait at Paris, and not to recognise the Emperor of the French until they were sure that this unusual form of recognition by the Emperor of Russia had been received; so that if the Emperor of the French had chosen to say, as he had full right to do, "I will stand by established forms—I will not have those forms departed from in my case—and I consider it part of my dignity to maintain them"—not one of those Powers of Germany, who were all ready to recognise him and to call him their "brother," would have recognised him at all. Well, Sir, I say, that shows that the state of Germany is not one of such complete independence as one would wish to see. But I cannot help thinking—and, indeed, the symptoms of it are increasing every day—that this violent attempt on the part of Russia—this violation of right and justice—has aroused, both in Austria and in Prussia, a sense that they must in future consider the welfare of Europe, and not merely the preservation of 908 the friendship of the Emperor of Russia. My belief is, therefore, although we have no engagement with them—and I state plainly to the House they are not bound with us in any manner to resist this attempt of Russia—that that great nation, divided, as it may be, into separate States, will feel too much the importance of its position—with its 35,000,000 of people, with its enlightenment, with its civilisation, and the importance of maintaining its independence—not to take care that the aggression of Russia does not become so formidable as to threaten the independence of that great Germanic Power. I believe, therefore, Sir, that in undertaking this contest, if we have not the immediate assistance of Austria and Prussia, they will look on with a view, not to aid Russia—not to engage themselves to Russia—but, on the contrary, to use all their influence, and, if necessary, their arms, to stop her in her attempted progress of conquest and aggrandisement.
Sir, I have said we have an engagement with France. We have now proposed to make an engagement with Turkey, by which we should be sure, in addition to the provisions which are necessary in such cases, that Turkey will not agree to any peace while we are giving her our aid and assistance, without our consent and concurrence. That engagement with Turkey is not completed, but I can have no doubt, from the manner in which the affairs of Turkey have been lately conducted, that she will willingly accept the aid and assistance which England and France can give her upon the condition that I have stated. And here, Sir, let me say, in entering upon this contest we shall have the greatest confidence in, and reliance upon, our French ally. The conduct of the Emperor of the French during the whole of these transactions—during a whole year of intimate and daily intercourse with the Government of this country—has been so loyal, so frank, so straightforward, that it is impossible not to place the utmost reliance upon his sincerity and good faith.
Now, Sir, with respect to the exertions it may be necessary to make—I do not speak of efforts that may hereafter be requisite, but at the very first beginning of this struggle—we shall think it necessary, in the estimate for the year, to add no less than 3,000,000l. of money to the amount which was asked last year from Parliament. In saying that this is a large increase in our establishments of navies and of armies, I 909 the First Lord of the Admiralty has said, and which I said in the beginning of my speech, that these resources are necessary; but if you think that the direction to be given to them can be better given by other hands, declare so by some early vote, and place the direction of the resources of this Empire in those more skilful and more able hands. If, however, you do not take that course—if you confide them to us—we shall expect that confidence in allowing us to carry on those hostilities according to the best of our judgment, without which no such contest can be conducted to a successful issue. Recollect, that success in war depends upon secrecy—depends upon combination—depends upon rapidity—and that it is inconsistent with explanations upon the operations of the war. I am not asking too much, therefore, when I ask you to adopt one or the other of those alternatives—either to place the Government in other hands, or, confiding it to ours, to give us that confidence which will enable us to carry on the contest with vigour, and according to the best of our judgment. Sir, it is not to be forgotten that war brings with it increased burdens. Let no man suppose that we can enter upon a struggle with the empire of Russia in support of a Power comparatively feeble, without making considerable efforts, and without calling upon the people to bear burdens greater than they have had to sustain during the time we were at peace with all the world. If they are not prepared to bear those burdens, let them not enter into this war; but let them, if they do enter into this war, endeavour to carry it to a successful issue. For my part, if most unexpectedly the Emperor of Russia should recede from his former demands, and, at the sight of all Europe disapproving of his conduct, and two of its most considerable nations prepared to act in arms against them against him, he should acknowledge the independence and integrity of the Porte, in the only manner in which it can be satisfactorily done, I shall, and we shall all rejoice to be spared the pain, the efforts, and the burdens of this war. But if that is not to be done—if peace is no longer consistent with our duty to England, with our duty to Europe, with our duty to the world—if the ambition of this enormous Power has got to such a pitch that even its moderation is more ambitious than the ambition of other States—if Russia will not be content with anything less than the subjuga- 910 may repeat that which my right hon. Friend tion of the whole empire of Turkey, and the possession of Constantinople itself—if such are her feelings, and such are her objects, then we can only endeavour to enter into this contest with a stout heart. May God defend the right! and, I, for my part, shall be willing to bear my share of the burden and the responsibility.
§ MR. CROSSLEY
said, the friends of peace were undoubtedly in the minority with reference to this question, but a time might come when they would be in the majority. He believed that the interests of this country, in the first instance, would be best promoted by stating to Turkey that we were ready to give her the benefit of our advice and mediation, but that we positively declined to interfere by force of arms in this matter. England was not a part of continental Europe, and ought not, therefore, to entangle herself with European politics. Deprecating war as a great evil, still he admitted, with the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, that if the impending war should come, it ought to be prosecuted with vigour and rapidity, and the supplies necessary for so carrying it on ought to be readily furnished by the people of this country. He did not, however, think that war was incompatible with the progress of the Parliamentary reform which had been proposed by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London.
§ MR. BAILLIE moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
I hope, Sir, the House will, on this occasion, before it separates, agree to the Vote for the number of men that we think necessary for enabling this country to carry on vigorously any war that may be commenced against Russian aggression. Of course, on any other occasion the Government would be quite willing that any charge against them should be amply discussed on the question for the House resolving itself into a Committee of Supply; but I trust that on the present occasion the House will not separate without granting the number of men to be voted for the Navy which are necessary for increasing the strength of this country.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Mr. Speaker, we are not responsible for the debate that has taken place this evening. I admit my own opinion was that, considering the importance of the occasion, and the documents that have been placed upon the table, it was quite impossible the Go- 911 vernment should suppose that some discussion should not have taken place on these transactions. In fact, it is due to the House and to Her Majesty's Ministers themselves that some discussion should take place. Had this point been more under my control, I would have consulted the convenience of Her Majesty's Government, as to the moment when that discussion should have taken place; had the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Layard) not brought forward the subject, I would have felt it to be my duty to convey to the noble Lord my conviction—a conviction which I think he must share—that a discussion should take place on the papers on the table; but still I should have been ready to meet the wishes of the noble Lord generally as to the mode and the moment of discussion. But, Sir, circumstances are now changed by what occurred this evening. A gentleman with whom I have not the honour to act in public life, and with whose intention I had not the slightest means of becoming acquainted until I heard it mentioned in the House, has brought the whole question before the House, in a speech which justly commanded the attention of his hearers. But how has that speech been met by Her Majesty's Government? I do not refer to the speech which we have just heard from the noble Lord, and which was worthy of himself and the occasion. I differ from the noble Lord in some of the positions which he laid down, and in some of the conclusions which he drew, and I should be perfectly ready, on the proper occasion, to endeavour to show that I was justified in the differences that I entertained, but the tone of the noble Lord was, I repeat, worthy of the occasion, and was made with due respect to the hon. Gentleman who introduced the subject. But how was that speech met by the Minister of the Crown who first rose to address the house? The first observation of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty was to cast contempt and contumely upon the important diplomatic documents that have been placed upon the table of the house of Commons. Why was it that the House was graciously addressed respecting them by Her Majesty a fortnight ago? It was communicated by Her Majesty in Her Gracious Speech, with all the solemn emphasis of the occasion, that after a year of agitating negotiations concerning the 912 most important events of human nature—peace and war—the papers relating to those negotiations should by Her Gracious Majesty's indulgence, be laid upon the table. Her Majesty deigned to inform us that the papers explanatory of the negotiations that took place on the subject should be communicated to us without delay. What was the object of communicating those papers to us without delay? We are told by the First Lord of the Admiralty that the House of Commons is not to potter over blue books. But why, Sir, are there such things as blue books? What is the intention of those state secrets and those important documents being placed upon our table, and being submitted to our consideration, if, on the first occasion that presents itself to offer an opinion, a Minister of the Crown rises and tells us that we are not to potter over blue books? Sir, the question has been brought before us to-night in a manner not unbecoming its importance. The noble Lord has just uttered a speech laudable, as I said before, for its tone, but still full, in my opinion, of fallacious statements and untenable positions, and I think it is but fair, as there must now be a discussion, that the discussion should take place continuously. The noble Lord says, it is important to the public service that the Vote for the number of men should be taken without loss of time. I should wish that it could have been taken without any discussion whatever, and had it rested with me, I would not have opposed it; but, placed as the question now is, it will be more convenient to the House and more satisfactory to the country, that the discussion commenced to-night should be concluded before we enter into Committee of Supply. So far as the influence of our example may be exercised on foreign nations, foreign nations will know, from the tone of the British Parliament this night, that there will be no difference of opinion as to the number of men that will be voted, or with respect to anything that may be requisite to afford support to Her Majesty's Government in the prosecution of a just war, Certainly, after what has occurred, I must say that the Motion—which has been made by an hon. Gentleman—that this discussion may be adjourned, that it may be concluded, as I doubt not it will be, on the next night, seems but fair and reasonable.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I may be allowed to say that the declaration the 913 right hon. Gentleman has just made is a most important one, namely—the assurance, for himself and those who act with him, that there will be a general feeling to support the Vote for the increased number of men, and for those measures which may be necessary for the public service. After that declaration, I can have no objection to consent that the discussion should be postponed.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday next.
§ The House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock till Monday next.