§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Question [Feb. 17] again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. COBDEN
Mr. Speaker, it has been sometimes alleged against me that I am accustomed to speak to this house as though I were addressing the country. Now I can say upon this occasion, with unfeigned sincerity, that I would sooner address this audience than any other with which I am acquainted upon the important and serious question which we have now before us; because I do not believe that there is in the Kingdom an assembly more deeply impressed with the gravity and importance of the question, or more disposes to approach its discussion with that earnest consideration which its magnitude demands. Nor should I venture to address the House at all on the subject of a war with Russia, if the issue before us were one simple and intelligible to all, and the means to be employed as well as the end which is contemplated in carrying on the war, were clearly intelligible to myself. But it is because, even after the explanation of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who addressed us on Friday, and whose speech, I must say, reminded me of the trumpet blast before a shock of arms—even after that speech, when I expected to find some explanation of the exact objects of the war into which we are about to enter, and the means by which it was to be carried on, I am, I confess, still in ignorance upon several points in connection with the subject. It is not to speak upon abstract principles of non-interference, or upon abstract questions of peace, that I rise to address the House; but with reference to the points at issue between Turkey and Russia, and of the war between England and France on the one side, and Russia upon the other. If the house will condescend to give me its attention for a 918 short time, I will promise strictly to confine myself to the practical question in hand. In order that we may perfectly understand the subject we are discussing, it is necessary to begin at the beginning, because we have been so much excited on this question—our passions have been much appealed to against the acts of Russian aggression upon Turkey, and we have so constantly considered the conduct of Russia as an affront offered to ourselves, that we appear to have forgotten the origin of this unfortunate dispute. I must call to the recollection of the House, therefore, that in 1851 a gentleman presented himself at Constantinople, on behalf of the French Government, and made demands for certain privileges to be conceded to the Latin or Catholic Christians. That gentleman represented the French Republic at that time. We probably have not forgotten that M. Lavalette's demands at Constantinople startled us almost as much as those of the celebrated Menchikoff did afterwards, by his rude appeal to force for the concession of the demand he then made upon the Turkish Government. That is the origin of all the subsequent proceedings in reference to the Holy Places. That I may not appear to rest this assertion upon my own authority, I will read an extract from a despatch sent by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who was then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to Lord Cowley, on the 28th of January, 1853. The noble Lord states;—But Her Majesty's Government cannot avoid perceiving that the Ambassador of France at Constantinople was the first to disturb the status quo in which the matter rested. Not that the disputes of the Latin and Greek Churches were not very active, but that without some political action on the part of France these quarrels would never have troubled the relations of friendly Powers. In the next place, if report is to be believed, the French Ambassador was the first to speak of having recourse to force, and to threaten the intervention of a French fleet to enforce the demands of his country. I regret to say that this evil example has been partly followed by Russia, and although the report of the march of 50,000 Russian troops to the Turkish frontier appears to have been unfounded or premature, yet it is but too certain that if the quarrel is prolonged, the Emperor means to support his negotiations by arms." [No. 76.]In a despatch to Lord John Russell, dated St. Petersburg, Jan. 6, Sir Hamilton Seyniour says:—I believe that I may state to your Lordship that measures have been taken by the Russian 6 Government to ensure the 5th corps d'armée being 919 placed in a state of preparation for active service. I propose taking an early opportunity of speaking to the Chancellor upon the object of the information which I now feel authorised in submitting to your Lordship, with the observation, that I cannot help connecting these military preparations with the threat partly made by the French Government, of sending an expedition to Syria in the event of satisfaction not being obtained for the claims of the Latin Church." [No. 64.]These two documents show clearly that even twelve months ago it was the opinion of our statesmen that it was France—the French Republic, under the French President—who probably at that time had some expectation of being one day Emperor, and who thought, no doubt, that he might make a little "political capital," as it is called, by going to Turkey and making peremptory demand for privileges to Latin Christians—it was, I say, at that time fully believed that the French Government commenced the proceedings which have now led to this disastrous issue. Now, let it be borne in mind that it was because the Turkish Government had made some concessions to the French Government upon the subject of the Latin Christians, and thereby changed the status quo in which that question formerly was, that Russia intervened and put forward her claims for similar concessions to be made to her. It is true, as we are told, that in the case of France she made a most handsome withdrawal of her demands, when she found that the question was likely to become one of great political difficulty. But still the fact must be borne in mind, that the origin of the first movement of Russia is traceable to the proceedings of France in that matter. Russia made certain claims with respect to the privileges of her religious sects at the Holy Places, with reference to the cupola, the porters attending the door of the Holy Sepulchre, the key of a certain door, crosses and stars, and other matters, It is heartsickening to find, upon a quarrel concerning the very tomb of Christ himself, that now in our day Europe is to be deluged with blood. Why, it is enough to confirm the doctrine of the Cynic, that we are not progressive beings—that we move in cycles of instinct, which, after a lapse of 700 or 800 years, lands us back again at the time of the Crusades, or something worse; for we are not now going, to fight, as then, against the Mahomedans on behalf of the Christians, but in favour of the Mahomedans and against the Christians. Russia, however, intervened and claimed certain privi- 920 leges for her co-religionists at the Holy Places, and, enlarging her demands, claimed a certain protectorate over a great body, composed of the Christian population among the subjects of the Porte. The exact nature of the demands upon which the present issue hangs was to be found in the Sultan's Proclamation, dated July 13, 1853. "The real cause," said the Sultan in that document—Of the existing dispute with Russia is the desire of that Power to obtain a binding and exclusive engagement from the Porte concerning the religious privileges of the Greek churches and priesthood, which the Porte cannot in justice be expected to give. It has been repeatedly declared, in a friendly and sincere manner, that the Porte did not refuse to give assurances sufficient to remove the doubts on which the Russian Government establishes this dispute, in the same manner as the Porte can give assurances to the whole world in a matter so firmly settled; and that, whereas, if one Government should enter into an engagement, having the colour or force of treaty, with another concerning the religious privileges of a nation consisting of so many millions of its subjects, the independence and sovereign rights of the Power thus bound would be impaired, such an engagement could not be consented to.That was the Sultan's statement of the question at issue. A Russian state paper gave its own definition of the demands made, which were stated to be "explanatory and positive acts of guarantee." Russia said, "I require certain privileges to be secured to my co-religionists in Turkey;" the Porte replied, "I am willing to make a general declaration that those privileges which you demand shall be secured." But Russia said, "No, I want a special guarantee, in the form of a treaty." The Turkish Government resisted the demand in this shape. It is right to state that, pressed by other diplomatists, Prince Menchikoff relaxed a little of his demands, and said that he would be content with a sened, instead of a treaty. I am not sufficiently versed in diplomatic terms to know the exact meaning of a sened. But, being still further pressed, Russia said that, instead of a sened, it would take a "note verbale." We come now nearly to the state in which the question at present stands. The Porte refused to give any of these securities, and she was encouraged in that refusal by our Ambassador and Her Majesty's Government. After this the question was transferred to Vienna. The representatives of the four Powers at Vienna agreed to draw up a note, which they hoped would satisfy Russia, and which would also be one which the Turkish Go- 921 vernment would consent to sign. This led to a rather remarkable, and, I am afraid, not very creditable display of ambassadorial talent and skill. A note was drawn up in terms which were approved not only by the four Powers, but by the respective Governments of England and France, and was accepted by Russia. But when this note was presented to the Turkish Government, an interpretation was put upon it by the Porte precisely identical with the meaning of the original note which had been presented by Menchikoff, and which she had refused. It was not discovered by our Government or by our diplomatists that the note bore this interpretation. I confess I have read every word of these papers, and I should be just as little inclined to see any objection to the phraseology as they did. It has, however, been admitted, even by the parties who drew up the draft of that note that it did bear an interpretation different from that which they intended to give it. It was avowed also by Count Nesselrode that the interpretation put upon the words by the Porte was similar to the terms upon which it was assented to by Russia. The consequence of this was that the consulted Powers who had given their assent to the note, and had urged very strongly upon the Turkish Government the acceptence of the note, withdrew their acquiescence, and joined with the Turkish Government in their refusal to sign it. That is, I believe, precisely the history, as concisely as it can be given, of the course of events from the commencement up to the time when there existed any hope of an amicable adjustment of the matter by the Congress at Vienna. The practical question, then, which we have before us is this:—Was it right or wrong, in the interests of the Turkish Government itself, that it should have been advised not to sign that note? Because if the Porte had not been advised to withhold her signature, and if she had been threatened with the withdrawal of the fleets from Besika Bay, no doubt the Turkish Government would have immediately signed the note. The non-signature of the note was the act of the allies, and not of the Turkish Government. The Turkish Government made a resistance, it is true, but if she had been threatened with the withdrawal of material support, there it no doubt whatever but that the Turkish Government would have accepted the note. Looking at all the circumstances bearing upon the case, was it 922 advisable that the refusal of that signature should have been insisted upon in the case of Turkey? What did Russia want? She required a certain declaration to be signed which would have given her the right hereafter to interfere with Turkey, provided the declaration was not carried out by that Power. The case was precisely similar to that of the treaty made between this country and the Brazils for putting down the slave trade. When we found, or chose to see, that Brazil did not carry out the terms of that treaty, we passed a law which compelled Brazil to fulfil her own treaty. The case was like it in principle, and I could mention others very similar to it. But the whole circumstances of the case connected with Turkey and Russia must be taken into account before you can take your stand upon abstract principles. You have said by your diplomatists, "Do not sign this note, because, if you do, you will sign away your independence and virtually dismember your own empire." But has the Sultan any independence? That is the question. Has he an independent position in this matter? Does he stand independent even towards his allies? Is not the fact notorious that if you interfered at all in Turkey, it was upon the understanding that in one way or another you intended to obtain, if not a guarantee, at all events some very strong security, for the better treatment of the Christian subjects of the Porte, similar to the which Russia has attempted to obtain by treaty. Is it not notorious that we have insisted upon a redress of the grievances of the Christian subjects of Turkey? It comes, then, to this—that we are to go to war, and deluge Europe with blood, because Turkey refuses to do by a note to Russia that which she is going to do for the four Powers of Europe. That is the whole difference—I do not now argue whether right or wrong—for which Europe is to be plunged into war. Was there ever such an infinitesimal ground of national quarrel as this? If Turkey were a country homogeneous in the character of its population, united and identical in its religious faith, with no division of races, no incurable prejudices, between one part of the population and the other, then it might be a case in which you would so resolve to protect those who were threatened. Suppose, for instance, the case of Prussia. If Russia proposed to interfere with Prussia—a progressive, moral, and highly instructed count- 923 try—although, perhaps, some might say it has too much of the schoolmaster in its administration—but administering its affairs with as much purity, economy, and justice as in any country in the world—in such a case you might say, "Hands off, Russia; you are comparatively a barbarous country; you wish to drag this highly-civilised nation down to the level of your serfdom; you want to gain an influence over Prussia, with a view of degrading her. We will interfere and require you to withdraw your demands, and we will declare war, if necessary, in order to compel you; and having driven you from the frontier, we will keep Prussia secure from your attacks, and enable her to continue in her progressive policy." But is that the case with Turkey? Have you not unfortunately, in Turkey, the fact that the Sultan and the Ottoman Government—which is the only authority we recognise in Turkey—do not represent the great body of the population of Turkey? And not merely does Turkey not represent the great body, but she does not represent one-fourth of the population of Turkey in Europe. But there is also the still more important fact, that it is not only a majority of the population of Turkey in Europe that is not represented by the Government of Turkey, but there is a majority actually opposed to the Government, and which is looking on with eagerness and anxiety to the success of that very policy on the part of Russia which you are now preparing to impede by force of arms. For, is it not notorious, whether it comes from Russia or England, the Christian population of Turkey are looking anxiously for that amelioration which Russia, for sinister purposes, probably, for selfish ends, undoubtedly, proposed to give to them. Now I wish to draw your attention, above all things, to the condition of the Christian population Turkey. Towards the close of the last Session of Parliament, on the 16th of August, when most hon. Gentlemen had gone to breathe a purer air and to follow a more pleasant occupation, this question came before the House, and I took the opportunity of saying that the condition of the great mass of the Christian population of Turkey in Europe was a most lamentable one, and that any satisfactory settlement of the affairs then in dispute would be found to hinge upon a due appreciation of that question. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Visct. Palmerston) rose in his place, and made a declaration 924 which has had a very great tendency to cause misapprehension in the public mind with respect to the state of the Christian population of Turkey. If hon. Gentlemen who have not so keen an appetite for blue books as I have will favour me with their attention for a short time, I will give them a summary of the facts relating to this, which in my opinion is the important part of the subject, and which I believe will be universally so considered before many weeks have elapsed. I will draw my information only from our own official documents and blue books, sadly mutilated though they are, more than half of them being merely extracts. In the month of February of last year, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe was; reappointed Ambassador at Constantinople for a special purpose. He had left Constantinople the year before, then Sir Stratford Canning, not expecting to go back. And I may mention that, at a banquet, at which he was entertained previous to leaving Constantinople, he made a speech, in which, if hon. Gentlemen will look back, they will see what his opinion was with respect to the administration of Turkey, and what his apprehensions were of the result of a long continuance of the same system of maladministration. The Earl of Clarendon, in giving to Lord Stratford his letters of instructions, on the 25th of February, 1853, said:—Your Excellency will, with all the frankness, and unreserve that may be consistent with prudence and the dignity of the Sultan, explain the reasons which lead Her Majesty's Government to fear that the Ottoman empire is now in a position of peculiar danger. The accumulated grievances of foreign nations, which the Porte is unable or unwilling to redress, the maladministration of its own affairs, and the increasing weakness of the executive power in Turkey, have caused the allies of the Porte latterly to assume a tone alike novel and alarming, and which, if persevered in, may lead to a general revolt among the Christian subjects of the Porte, and prove fatal to the independence and integrity of the empire, a catastrophe that would be deeply deplored by Her Majesty's Government, but which it is their duty to represent to the Porte is considered probable and impending by some of the great European Powers."—[No. 94.]Lord Clarendon goes on to state—and it is important to bear the fact in mind—that Lord Stratford de Redcliffe had been appointed specially to go to Constantinople to communicate this statement to the Government of the Sultan; and he then proceeds to say:—Nor will you disguise from the Sultan and his Ministers that perseverance in their present course must end in alienating the sympathies of 925 the British nation, making it impossible for Her Majesty's Government to shelter them from the impending danger, or to overlook the exigencies of Christendom, exposed to the natural consequences of their unwise and reckless maladministration.Now that is a letter of instructions given to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe when he went to Constantinople. Can anybody suppose that at this moment Turkey does not stand in an exceptional state when you send your Ambassador specially to tell its Government such truths as these? Again, I find that on the 24th June Lord Clarendon sent a despatch to Lord Stratford, in which the same subject is again referred to, In this despatch he states:—Your Excellency has long and zealously laboured to obtain for the Christians in Turkey that their evidence should be received in the courts of justice with the same consideration and respect as that of their Mussulman fellow-subjects, and that the barbarous distinction which fanaticism has long interposed between Turks and Rayahs in this respect should no longer be allowed to prevail. Your Excellency is instructed to state to the Porte that it is the deliberate opinion of Her Majesty's Government that the only real security for the continued existence of Turkey as an independent Power is to be sought by enlisting the feeling of its Christian subjects in its preservation; that, although Turkey may get over her present difficulties by the aid of her allies, she must not reckon upon external assistance as a permanent resource, but that she must create for herself a surer defence in the affections of the more intelligent, active, and enterprising class of her subjects; and that it is impossible to suppose that any true sympathy for their rulers will be felt by the Christians so long as they are made to experience, in all their daily transactions, the inferiority of their position as compared with that of their Mussulman fellow-subjects, so long as they are aware that they will seek in vain for justice for wrongs done either to their persons or their properties, because they are deemed a degraded race unworthy to be put into comparison with the followers of Mahomet. Your Excellency will plainly and authoritatively state to the Porte that this state of things cannot be longer tolerated by Christian Powers.Bear these words in mind, "This state of things can be no longer tolerated by Christian Powers." The despatch goes on to say:—The Porte must decide between the maintenance of an erroneous religious principle and the loss of the sympathy and support of its allies. You will point out to the Porte the immense importance of the election which it has to make; and Her Majesty's Government conceive that very little reflection will suffice to satisfy the Turkish Ministers that the Porte can no longer reckon upon its Mussulman subjects alone as a safeguard against external danger, and that without the hearty assistance of its Christian dependents, and the powerful sympathy and support of its Christian allies, the Turkish empire must soon cease to exist.926 Now, I beg the attention of the House to two points in this letter. First, the Christian Powers insist and demand that the Turkish Government shall ameliorate the condition of its Christian population. They say that they will not tolerate the evils and the oppressions under which they labour. Could Russia have said more than that? The letter then proceeded further to state, that the Porte must make its choice between renouncing its religious principles and the loss and support of its allies. Now, I do ask what possible good or permanent alliance can be made between two countries, when one of the Governments demands, as one of its conditions, that the other shall abandon its religious principles and opinions? Do you think it possible that the large fanatical population of Turkey will be induced to abandon their religious principles? If not, it will be impossible for the Government to do justice to their Christian subjects. Except by the complete abandonment of the Koran, it is impossible for them to place the Christians upon a footing of equality with the Mussulmans. The law of the Koran takes a man from his cradle, and never parts with him to the grave; the precepts of the Koran mould his character, form his civil and religious code, and exercise an influence over all the social intercourse of the whole people. Do you suppose that, having a religion which requires them to treat the Christians as tributaries and not as equals, it will be possible so to change the administration of Turkey as to place the Christians upon the same footing with the Mahomedans? It is altogether impossible. I now come to the first letter from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe to the Earl of Clarendon, in which he refers to the state of the Christian population in Turkey. On July 4, 1853, he writes:—Already the dissatisfaction prevailing in Bulgaria threatens to end in an insurrection of the Christians. A party in Servia is at the same time suspected—I hope erroneously—of looking to the first occasion for making a push towards independence. The whole of European Turkey, from the frontier of Austria to that of Greece, is almost denuded of regular soldiers, and exposed to the protection of Albanian hordes, habituated to turbulence and plunder. Information has reached me from Scutari that the Montenegrins are preparing to make an incursion into Turkey, with the prospect of finding sympathy and co-operation among the Christian tribes in that neighbourhood. A spirit of fanaticism, dangerous alike to the Rayahs and to the authorities—dangerous to neglect and difficult to control—appears to be rising in other parts of the country. The Greeks, though still quiet, have taken up a position, and hold in 927 society a language which indicates views of ambition unrestrained by principles or by treaties." [No. 353.]Now, about that time, Lord Stratford had very properly directed an inquiry to be made throughout Turkey by our Consuls there, with respect to the condition of the people and the state of the Christian population of Turkey. Having collected together a great number of reports—I am sorry to see that they have been so much garbled in the blue book, some having dwindled down to not more than three or four lines; but, having collected these facts, Lord Stratford handed them to the Turkish Government, and it was in reference to them that he wrote to M. Pisani, the chief interpreter of the Embassy to the Porte, on the 22nd of June, 1853. In this letter, Lord Stratford says:—You will communicate to Reshid Pasha the several extracts of consular reports from Scutari, Monastir, and Prevesa, annexed to this instruction. You will observe that they relate in part to those acts of disorder, injustice, and corruption, sometimes of a very atrocious kind, which I have frequently brought by your means to the knowledge of the Ottoman Porte. The assurances given to me by the late Grand Vizier, the appointment of a more trustworthy Pasha at Salonica, and the order for Hazzi Hussein Pasha to repair forthwith to Constantinople, had warranted a hope that the grievances so justly and loudly complained of, could at length be effectually redressed. But it is with extreme disappointment and pain that I observe the continuance of evils which affect so deeply the welfare of the empire, and which assume a deeper character of importance in the present critical state of the Porte's relations with Russia. You will read this instruction to His Highness, you will communicate fully the contents of the accompanying extracts, and you will press upon his mind the urgency of adopting adequate measures for the repression of crime, and the protection of the Sultan's loyal and peaceable subjects, without further delay."—[No. 355. Incl. 1.]In a letter of the 4th of July, the same subject is further followed up, and Lord Stratford writes:—The character of these disorderly and brutal outrages may be said, with truth, to be in general that of Mussulman fanaticism, excited by cupidity and hatred against the Sultan's Christian subjects, and, unless some powerful remedies be applied without further delay, it is to be feared that the authority of the central Government will be completely overpowered by some of the provinces, and that the people, despairing of protection, will augment the disorder, by resorting to lawless means of self-preservation."—[No. 355. Incl. 2.]The House must remember, that is the communication of our Ambassador to the Government of the country to which he is accredited. Can any one suppose that the 928 Government to which such an appeal is made can be administering its affairs in such a way as that it can possibly lead to prosperity, or even to permanence? I will now read one or two of the extracts from the consular reports. The Consul at Scutari writes on the 1st of June:—All that remain to protect these districts, are three battalions of regular troops, and 1,200 irregular topchi, who are quartered on the borders. All the desperate characters have raised their heads again, and acts of rapine and robbery are again very frequent at the expense of the Christian. Osman Pasha, the Governor of this province, is a Mussulman, and sees with perfect indifference all these excesses. The Christians, who are exposed to the vengeance of their enemies, live in a continual state of alarm. It must, however, be borne in mind, that the Christian population of these districts is three times greater than the Turkish, and if they have hitherto been kept down, it was merely by the hope of political improvement under the promising administration of Omar Pasha."—[No. 354. Incl. 17.]The next report is from Monastir, dated June 10. The Consul says:—Aoni Pasha is of opinion that it is exceedingly imprudent to leave the provinces of Thessaly and Thrace, the inhabitants of which are notoriously disaffected and ready to join the Hellenes on the first opportunity, thus denuded of all regular defence. Only 6,500 Albanian irregulars, picked men, are to be levied for Shumla. Considering the numerical force of the bands which Albania cart furnish if necessary, this is a very inconsiderable body indeed, and, coupled with the fact already mentioned, that all the regular troops are to be withdrawn from Thessaly and Thrace, leads me to infer that, in the event of the rising of the Greeks in these provinces, it is intended to employ the Albanians against them. How far a plan of this kind would be consistent with good policy, to say nothing of humanity, I must leave your Excellency to judge, believing, for my part, such a result, whether casual or contemplated, by no means improbable."—[Inci. 12.]The report from Prevesa states:—The frontier districts of Thessaly and Epirus appear likely to cause considerable embarrassment to the Government, in the event of pending negotiations assuming a less pacific character. The rural population, oppressed by fiscal exactions, and subjected to intolerable acts of violence and injustice, cannot be expected to entertain any but the most rancorous feelings towards their persecutors. The inhabitants of the greater part of these villages being, moreover, exclusively Christian, and seeing no other prospect of relief open to them, are continually thronging the foreign Consulates with the view of seeking some friendly intervention. After thus depicting to your Lordship the disastrous condition of these frontier districts from various causes, it may be readily conceived that for some time past the emigration of whole families to Greece, which can only be accomplished by stealth, has been practised to a considerable extent; and that parties so circumstanced, together with the whole body of Suliots, 929 Chimariots, and other Epirotes domiciled in Greece, will be eager to avail themselves of the first favourable occasion of promoting disturbances in this province."—[Incl. 15.]Although I have never before ventured on reading such long extracts to this House, I am sure no apology will be needed on this occasion, because it appears to me that, when yon are going to send troops to occupy the interior of a country like this, it is of vital importance that the House should be well informed of its condition. The report of the Consul from Damascus is highly important, as showing not only the amount of disaffection among the Christian subjects of the Porte, but even the Mussulmans, ground down as they are by the Government, are also disaffected to the rule of the Sultan. On June 7, the Consul writes:—But the worst feature, under present circumstances, is the highly agitated state of the population of this city. All the classes of the Mahomedans are most anxious to see the embarrassments of the Porte increase, and herself involved in a disastrous war. They wish to see her humbled, in the hope that her officers in Syria will cease to persevere in a system of administration prejudicial to the interests of the effendis and grandees—whose property has been sequestered under various pretexts, and has been so heavily taxed as to have reduced their incomes to one-half—and to the artisans and tradesmen, who find themselves at the mercy of rapacious tribunals and police officers."—[Incl. 7.]Now, the House will, perhaps, remember that when I alluded to this subject at the close of the last Session, the noble Lord, now the Secretary of State for the Home Department, rose in his place, and said:—The hon. Gentleman has been greatly misinformed as to the state of Turkey for the last thirty years. I assert, without fear of contradiction from any one who knows anything on the subject, that, so far from having gone back, Turkey has made greater progress and improvement than any other country during the same period."—[3 Hansard, cxxix. 1809.]When the noble Lord made that statement, these consular reports had been more than a fortnight—I will not suppose in his hands, for I cannot suppose he was aware of these reports at the time when he made the declaration I have just quoted—but at all events they were in the hands of his colleagues. The statement of the noble Lord was made within a week after Lord Clarendon had addressed to Lord Stratford a reply to the despatch containing these consular reports, and stating that they had received the most serious attention of Her Majesty's Government. Of course, the noble Lord must be excepted from the 930 other members of Her Majesty's Government who had seen the consular returns. [Cheers.] But some hon. Members appeared to cheer, as though they conceived that the description given by the noble Lord of the condition of Turkey was a correct one. Now, I would ask the noble Lord, upon this the first opportunity which I have of doing so, whether still he has faith in that declaration, and I ask him—bearing in mind that we are speaking of the condition of Turkey, and of the Turks themselves—to say upon what facts he founds that opinion, for most assuredly he can find no support for it in the official documents. I beg now to call the attention of the House to a document which was written by the Foreign Secretary, and despatched to our Ambassador at Constantinople, with the sanction of the Government, and by order of Her Majesty. We will see whether the colleagues of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton consider the present state of Turkey as one of progress and improvement. Lord Clarendon writes to Lord Stratford den Redcliffe on the 28th of July, 1853:—The urgent necessity of extricating Turkey from her present position by peaceful means is now more clearly than ever impressed upon Her Majesty's Government by the numerous reports from Her Majesty's Consuls in different parts of the empire, which your Excellency, has transmitted, upon the alarming state of the country, and by your Excellency's opinion respecting the dangers which threaten the authority of the Sultan in Bulgaria and Servia from the disaffection of the people, and in European Turkey from the absence of regular troops; while it appears that the Montenegrins are preparing to make an incursion into Turkey, and that the Shah of Persia, instigated by Russia, is collecting an army at Sultanieh; and your Excellency considers that a spirit of fanaticism, dangerous alike to the Rayahs and the authorities, is rising in various parts of the country; and that the Greeks have taken up a position which indicates views unrestrained by principles or by treaties. But at the same time the Turkish Government, now weak, is so little mindful of its interests not to offend Christian Powers at this moment, is so powerless to enforce its own orders, that your Excellency was compelled on the 22nd ult., and again on the 4th inst., to address to the Porte an energetic remonstrance against the rapine, the exactions, and the cruelties to which its Christian subjects were exposed.Now, mark the two following lines:—It is evident, then, that imminent and daily-increasing perils menace not alone the authority of the Sultan, but the very existence of the Turkish empire."—[No. 370.]Imminent and daily increasing perils in a country which has made more progress and improvement during the last thirty 931 years than any other country. Recollect, I am quoting the language of Lord Clarendon to the representative of Her Majesty at Constantinople. But the Foreign Secretary proceeds:—There is too much reason to fear that the number and the intensity of these perils must be increased by delay in putting an end to the state of things which your Excellency has so powerfully described. But it is from England and France alone that Turkey can look for active sympathy and support. In the event of a struggle, all other Powers would be found neutral, or would become hostile; and if England and France were now prepared to run the risk of a European war, and to disregard the commercial, the social, and the political disasters it would entail—if they were prepared, in short, as your Excellency says, to stop at no sacrifice from the objects they have in view, there is little doubt that they would cripple the resources of Russia, and that, on the signature of peace, it is more than probable that the exclusion of that Power from the Greek protectorate, and from the Principalities, would be secured. Russia would be effectually repelled, but Turkey, in the meanwhile, might be irretrievably ruined; and we might then find it impossible to restore her integrity, or to maintain her independence. To protect Turkey against foreign aggression is the interest of England and France; nor would the task present any insurmountable difficulty; but both might find themselves powerless to guard Turkey against those elements of internal dissolution which now appear to constitute her greatest danger.Her internal dissolution! The danger of the internal dissolution of a country which has made more progress during the last thirty years than any other country on the face of the earth! Is progress and reform the way to dissolution? I thought corruption and misgovernment, falsehood and duplicity, were the paths by which you arrived at the dissolution of States. Lord Clarendon goes on to say:—Her Majesty's Government are well aware that the resources of Turkey are great, and that hitherto they have been but partially explored; but they fear that their further development, or the adoption of those reforms which your Excellency has so long and so judiciously recommended, would be improbable during a time that the Sultan would be engaged in a war with a foreign Power, and his European provinces were reduced to a state bordering on anarchy, and which, even now, compels your Excellency to contemplate, as stated in your despatch of the 7th instant, the necessity of calling up the British fleet, not for the purpose of repelling a Russian attack upon Constantinople, but in order to protect the Christians from an intended rising of the Mahomedans against them. It is not, then, because we have any doubt that the policy of Russia has been unjust and ungenerous, and is indefensible; it is not alone because we think that war is a calamity; but it is because we do believe that war would be an additional danger to Turkey, that Her Majesty's Government are determined to preserve peace by every means 932 consistent with the national honour and the maintenance of that principle for which we have been contending in Turkey; and in this respect their opinions are strengthened by those of your Excellency, upon whose judgment, experience, and accurate information Her Majesty's Government place the fullest reliance.Now, it is a very generous feeling, and I hope a natural one, which leads us, at a time when the Government of a weaker Power is undoubtedly treated with injustice by the Government of a neighbouring and more powerful State, not to inquire too minutely into the past errors and failings of the injured country. But this House should bear in mind what the situation is in which we are now placed. We are going to form an alliance with Turkey—to use a commercial simile, we are called upon to go into partnership with that country. If a man is asked to go into partnership with another individual, he is always, upon such an occasion, disposed to inquire into the condition, the circumstances, and the future prospects of his proposed partner; and I hold that what is wise in the case of an individual, must be also wise and absolutely necessary in the case of a State. Now, I entreat the House to bear in mind that Lord Clarendon, in the despatch which I have just quoted, points to a rising of the Christian population of Turkey as a probable contingency in the case of a war. I ask the House to remember that Lord Clarendon there states that war will increase the danger in which the Turkish Government are now placed, even to the danger of the dissolution of the Turkish empire. But Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, never weary in trying to excite the Turkish Government to effect some reform in their administration, describes, in a despatch, dated the 24th of November, 1853, an interview which the Sultan had given to the officers of the British fleet, who were presented by our Ambassador himself on the occasion. In that despatch I find the following very significant passage:—When I reminded His Majesty of what I had so often urged as to internal improvements, productive of benefit to all classes of his subjects, the answer was one of acquiescence; but not, I think, such as I was entitled to expect.Such was the treatment which Lord Stratford de Redcliffe received from the Sultan when he pressed upon him the subject of internal reform. But it may be asked, has anything changed since the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) made that statement which I have referred to—has there 933 been any sign of improvement—have we had any intelligence from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe to lead us to suppose that he entertains any hope of improvement? I will read to you an extract—it is a very short one—from a despatch of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, dated the 31st of December, 1853, in which he refers to the internal condition of the Ottoman empire. He is speaking of the impending war, and of the intention to incorporate Turkey into the European system, and to give that empire the safeguard which other countries have in being acknowledged as belonging to the European family of nations. Lord Stratford writes, on the 31st December, only two months ago:—I am of opinion that with a view to the condition of the non-Mussulman communities in this empire, and the development of those resources on which the Porte's independence must ever mainly rest, it would not be safe to hedge round the Ottoman empire with European guarantees, unless the Porte engaged, at the same time, to realise and extend her system of improved administration in good earnest.So that the very last allusion made by your Ambassador at the Court of Constantinople to this subject—the most vital of all in the present question—is to warn you not to commit yourself to Turkey unless you have better guarantees and better security than you now have that the Government of that country will introduce something like reform and improvement into their internal administration. It may probably be said that the disaffection of the Christian population of Turkey arises from their being incited from other countries. Inquiries had been made with respect to the reported rising of some Greek Christians in Arta, whether there was any truth in the statement that the insurrection had originated from the instigation of the Government of Greece. I have no doubt that what may happen, for instance, in Bulgaria, say to-morrow, may be stimulated by the Russians from the other side; but I beg the House to bear in mind that the documents contained in the blue books now upon the table, and a portion of which I have quoted, go to prove that the grievances of the Greek Christians are such as to naturally lead them not only into acts of insubordination, but into acts of open rebellion. We have facts before us sufficient in themselves to account for the disaffection of the Greek Christians, without entering into an estimate of the external influences which way be brought to bear upon them; and the House will remember that in the consular 934 report from Prevesa which I read, it was stated, that the inhabitants of Thessaly, oppressed by fiscal exactions and subjected to intolerable acts of violence and injustice, were abandoning the country, and going into the kingdom of Greece for protection. What could be more natural, considering the condition in which they are placed, than that when in Greece they should continue to sympathise with their oppressed fellow-countrymen whom they have left behind them? But it appears to me, and I have derived my information from official resources only, that there is a spirit of disaffection among the Christian population of Turkey which must explode. I do not give that as my individual opinion—I have carefully abstained from saying one syllable from any information of my own; but, unless we are to disbelieve the statements of our accredited agents, we must expect to hear, and that shortly, of an insurrection of the Christians in Turkey. I have read some statements of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe in connection with this subject; I have also read extracts from the despatches of Lord Clarendon to the same effect; and I may now remind the House that, in writing to the Earl of Westmoreland, on the 20th of September, 1853, the noble Earl at the head of Foreign Affairs urged, as a strong reason for avoiding war, that it would "entail the dissolution of the Ottoman empire." I find on another occasion—the 14th of June, 1853—in writing to the Earl of Westmoreland, Lord Clarendon says:—If the Russian army proceeded beyond the Principalities, and other provinces of Turkey were invaded, a general rising of the Christian population would probably ensue, not in favour of Russia nor in support of the Sultan, but for their own independence; and it would be needless to add that such a revolt would not be long in extending itself to the Danubian provinces of Austria.Now what I want the House to bear in mind is this—that in contemplating a war in defence of Turkey, and especially a war on the ground upon which we are going to put it, we are not simply entering into a war in the light in which the matter is generally considered, but we are going to fight for the domination of the Ottoman portion of the population of Turkey, and against the interests of the great body of the people of that country. Now, I do not stand here to malign Turkey because the Turks are of a different religion to me—I merely wish to allude to the fact that we are going to fight on the side of the 935 Mussulman, instead of on the side of the Christian population of Turkey, and that, too, on a question relative to the Holy Sepulchre. It is lamentable enough that, in the nineteenth century, we are going to fight about the birth-place of the Prince of Peace at all; but the matter is still worse when we reflect that we are going to fight against the interests of the Christians of Turkey, who form the great majority of the people of that country—a point, I think, of paramount importance in this question. In dealing with the Sultan, his dignity and authority, you are not dealing with the great body of the people. Let us suppose that the people of European Turkey had votes, and a representative system, and a popular assembly like this, what would be their policy—would it be the policy of the Sultan or of the Czar at this moment? Most undoubtedly they would take what the Czar is trying to secure to them, and it is likely a great deal more. We are notoriously going to fight on the side of the Mussulman minority of the population of Turkey; and without making it a religious question—though I am not sure that the people of this country will not come to view it as a religious question—but, putting it upon the representative principle, I appeal to your constitutional instincts Whether you are not going to fight the battles of the Mussulmans in Turkey—whether you are not going to take the part of a dominant race, who are not more than a quarter of the whole population, against the great body of the people, and whether you are not prepared to support by force of arms a policy which is neither formed by, nor intended for, the benefit of the majority of the nation? I do not suppose you will persevere long in such a course as that; and, moreover, I say that if you wanted to fight Russia, and prevent her from encroaching farther eastward or westward, you could not have taken up worse grounds than you have done. Why, you are giving to Russia the popularity in Turkey which you ought to have there. Would it not be more wise and more natural, if it was necessary for you to interfere at all, to take the side of the great majority of the people, rather than that of the Turks? If you had done that you might have had the popularity and favour with the Christian population of Turkey which the Emperor of Russia now enjoys; and that popularity and favour would have given a chance—the only chance—of preventing the encroachments of Russia in that coun- 936 try. You may depend upon it, that if Russia sends her armies into Turkey—the consular reports and ambassadorial letters which I have read prove what I say—the Christian population will rise in their support; and, recollect, you may send 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, or even 50,000 troops if you like, but you will find no favour in that country, 1,500 miles off, with the great majority of the people. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London said, the other night, "May God defend the right!" I say the right is on the side of the great majority of the people, and I should be a recreant from the representative principle if I did not say so. Sir, when I speak of these affairs, I abstain from all that censure on the Russians which some hon. Gentlemen lavish upon them. I hope it will not be thought that I have any sympathy with Russia, or with its system of government. I do not think there is anything more Russian in my composition than in that of anybody else, and if I abstain from all those denunciations against Russia for the step she has taken, it is because I believe that in this case the Turkish Government, which I admit has been wrongly and unjustly treated by the Russian Government, does not represent the people of Turkey—does not represent their interests—and does not possess their confidence. I say the right is on the side of the majority of the people of Turkey; and, knowing that it is in their interest the Czar of Russia is moving—knowing, as I do, the state of degradation into which they have been reduced—I am not sorry, from whatever source it comes, that the Christian population of Turkey should be protected against their Mussulman oppressors. I am anxious in this place to throw out a word of warning and caution. We are on the point of sending our troops to Turkey. Now, I hope we are not going to send our troops there for the purpose of interfering in any internal dissensions which may take place in that country. I hope you will apply the principle of non-intervention so far as to allow the troops to keep clear of internal disputes in Turkey. I feel the more anxious on this point, because, in a despatch from M. Drouyn de Lhuys, dated the 4th of October, 1853, there is rather an ominous line or two on this subject. He says:—The question now is to determine what use shall be made; of these naval forces. Their presence in the waters of the Bosphorus will manifest the ultimate union of France and England. This 937 striking proof of the agreement of the two great maritime powers, and of their common solicitude for the destinies of Turkey, will afford the Sublime Porte a moral proof, which will admit of its maintaining itself as a regular Government, of its calculating upon the tranquillity of its populations, and of its abstaining from appealing either to religious feelings or to fatal auxiliaries.Now, I confess I look with a little suspicion on that passage in the despatch of M. Drouyn de Lhuys, where he speaks of the fleets going to Constantinople to maintain the regular Government of Turkey, and to preserve the tranquillity of its populations; and I hope that if our troops are going to Turkey, they will not, at all events, be sent there to take part in the domestic troubles of that country. Now, Sir, I would ask, although we may not be disposed to make this a religious question, is it not a notorious fact, that religious fervour, and religious fervour alone, has carried on the war between Turkey and Russia? We have religious fanatics on the one side, and men equally fanatical and equally cruel on the other. In the addresses of Omar Pasha to his soldiers no appeal is made to the sentiment of patriotism; he does not ask the whole population of Turkey to support him in the war against Russia, he only appeals to the Mahomedan portion of the people, and while he ignores the existence of three-fourths of the population altogether, he calls upon the Mussulmans to go forth to battle in defence of a religion of the sword. I will read an extract or two from the proclamation issued by Omar Pasha on taking the command of the army:—To the Imperial Soldiers—When we are fighting with our enemy, let us be always firm and courageous. We will not turn our backs upon him. We will be avenged, and will sacrifice our heads and our lives. Here is the Koran. We have sworn it on the Koran. You are Moslems, and I am sure that you will sacrifice your heads and your lives for your religion and Government Let us fight, and offer ourselves up as our ancestors have done. As they have left our country and our religion to us, so must we leave them to our children All of you know that the object of this life is to serve worthily God and the Sultan, and thus to gain heaven.I think these appeals are sufficient to account for the efforts made by the Turks; and I am convinced it is no sentiment of patriotism, but simply religious fanaticism, which has brought vast hordes of men from Asia and Africa to the support of the Sultan—men proud and barbarous in character—and that it is absurd to form exaggerated notions of the resources of Turkey, because 938 she has kept an army in the field for six months, and because her soldiers have shown courage in fighting. The Turks have always shown courage, particularly behind breastworks; and, martial courage is the only quality which has given them power in Europe. I have referred to the internal state of Turkey; but I cannot here ignore die arguments which are used by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the question to induce the house to enter into this war. I would not say a word upon this view of' the question if I did not believe that the arguments to which I allude are calculated to mislead the county. The first argument is, that we should go to war in order to prevent Russia getting possession of Turkey, and excluding our commerce from that country; and a long statement has been made in this Home for the purpose of showing how insignificant our trade with Russia is, as compared with our trade with Turkey. I am afraid that erroneous and very dangerous opinion is shared in by many people in this country, who may be induced to go into a war with the idea that they will thereby protect their interests, while their interests are all on the other side, as I am prepared to show you. It is not easy to know what the imports into this country from other countries are—our official returns give us no means of ascertaining their precise extent; but I have been into the City and conversed with some of the most eminent merchants engaged in the Russian and Levant trades. I have ascertained from them what our trade with Russia was last year, and I find that I have undervalued it by at least one-half. The facts have astonished me; and as they will doubtless be as much a matter of surprise to other hon. Members as to myself, I will briefly state them to the House. We have been told that our exports to Russia amounted to less than 2,000.000l. Well, Russia is a protective country—she still labours under that Protectionist delusion that existed in this country up till a few years ago; but when I want to know the particulars of our trade with any country, I always inquire not only what we export to it, but what we import from it. If we import from a country largely, depend upon it we pay largely for it, or, if not, we shall be doing a very profitable trade. I was under the impression that our import trade from Russia amounted upon an average to between 5,000,000l. and 6,000,000l., and I was not altogether sure that this was not 939 an exaggeration. I have now got information from sources that may be relied on. Here are accounts from two houses that did not compare notes together of the exports into England from Russia—one account for last year and the other a general average. Our trade with Russia last year, as hon. Gentlemen opposite would recollect, was unusually large. Our imports were as fellows:—Tallow, 1,800,000l.; linseed, 1,300,000l.; flax and hemp, 3,200,000l.; wheat, 4,000,000l.; wool, 300,000l.; oats, 500,000l., other grain, 500,000l.; bristles, 450,000l.; timber, 500,000l.; copper, 140,000l.; hides, 60,000l.; iron, 70,000l.; miscellaneous, 200,000l.; making a total of 13,020,000l.Such were our imports from Russia for 1853. The other house to which I applied gave me an average year, and they have made the total amount 11,300,000l.; but they have put down wheat at 2,000,000l. instead of 4,000,000l., which was the amount last year, when there was an unusually extensive importation of wheat, and that makes exactly the difference. I am credibly informed, in addition to this, that there is about 1,000,000l. worth of produce comes down the Vistula and other rivers to Prussian ports on the Baltic, and is exported to this country; so that it may be said that our imports from Russia will average altogether 12,000,000l. sterling per annum. And bear in mind that you have articles imported from Russia of primary importance and value to your manufacturers. Take, for instance, the article of tallow. How would your locomotives travel without tallow? How would your mechanic carry on his operations if he did not grease his wheels? [A laugh.] Your means of locomotion depend to a great extent upon the article of tallow. We import linseed to the value of 1,300,000l. per annum from Russia. I observed the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire laughing a moment ago. He represents an agricultural constituency. No class in this country have so great an interest in the importations of linseed as the agriculturists; who are always complaining about the high price of food for cattle. Surely they do not want our supply of linseed cut off. To turn to the district I represent myself—there can be no doubt that, if you stop our trade with Russia, you will inflict great misery and hardship upon some parts of the West Riding of Yorkshire; and I am informed that the manufacturers of Sheffield would find it impracticable to 940 carry on business so far as the finest quality of articles is concerned, if they were deprived of a supply of Russian iron. Let us refer now to Turkey. I hear it stated that our exports to Turkey amount to nearly 3,000,000l. per annum. That is true; but I have it from the very best authority, that about 1,000,000l. of that is for articles exported to Trebizond for the markets of Persia and Central Asia. Here, then, you have 2,000,000l. of exports to the Turkish empire, including what passes through into the Wallachian and Moldavian provinces; and I am told that the present imports from Turkey into this country do not amount to more than 2,250,000l. per annum. Compare the Russian and Turkish trades together, and you will find that in the former you have one of three times the importance of the other. There is no one foreign country whose trade is so important to us as Russia, excepting the United States; and it is well to remember that all the carrying trade between our ports and Russia is in our own hands. Now, is there any ground for urging this country into a war with Russia, for the purpose of protecting our commercial and trading interests? None whatever. The advantage is all on the other side. I do not say you should fight for a tariff, whether high or low. I am only meeting an argument which is constantly brought forward on the other side. I have been myself charged with gross exaggeration in having stated that the Russian trade was more valuable and important than the Turkish trade; but I appeal for my vindication to the facts which I have just submitted to the House. When I say that our exports to Russia are only 2,000,000l., while our imports from Russia are 12,000,000l., I need not tell those Gentlemen who are acquainted with commercial affairs that the difference is paid for in an indirect trade. We are, so to speak, the bankers and brokers of the whole world. The sugar and coffee we get at Cuba and Brazil we take to Russia in payment of hides and tallow; the raw cotton of New Orleans we exchange for the tallow and wheat of Russia, which very foolishly protects its mills instead of getting its cotton goods direct from Manchester; and some of the imports are paid for in gold. I trust that those who have hitherto held out to the country that the Turkish was superior to the Russian trade will be no longer deluded by such a fallacy. I have said but now that I would not have alluded 941 to this subject had I not believed that statements had been made which were calculated to mislead the country. The question I have to put to the House now is, how are you going to carry on the war if you go into it? You are sending land forces to Turkey. Twenty or thirty years ago such a thing would have startled the whole country. Why, if you were going to fight the battles of another country. 1,500 miles off, you could have done so by your natural arm—the Navy. What can 20,000, 30,000, or even 50,000 soldiers do in such a distant and barbarous country as Turkey, except complicate its internal affairs? You may dispose your fleet, and, that too, in a short time, so as to guard Turkey against external danger for a season; but if you send your army to Constantinople, and join it there with the forces of France, such as may be spared from Rome and Algiers, you will not save Turkey, while you may complicate your relations with your French ally. What is this war? For what are we going to fight? Is it a war on behalf of the balance of power against the aggression of the Czar? Has the time come when the great contest between Cossackism and Republicanism is to be fought? and is England the only country which is to fight the battle? The noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell) talked the other night of united Europe opposing the encroachments of Russia; but when he came to explain, it turned out that he did not mean Europe at all, the fact being that all the great countries of Europe, with the exception of England and France, are remaining neutral. Now I will ask hon. Members to cast their eyes on the map of Europe. Where does England stand in that map? We are altogether to the westward of Russia, with all Germany, Belgium, Holland, and Scandinavia—for the latter is as much interested in the progress of this terrible Power as, for the sake of argument, I will admit we are, Now; in Austria, Prussia, and the rest of the German States, in Belgium, Holland, Sweden, and Denmark, are a population of 70,000,000 or 80,000,000 souls. These countries have about 700,000 or 800,000 men under arms, whom they have been for the last ten years constantly drilling, parading, and manœuvring. The anterooms of every Court in Europe has of late glittered with gold and scarlet, and people began to think that these great military preparations would be used for some purpose. There is a traditional notion, 942 which I own I do not share, that the Russians are to come and play the part of the Goths and Huns, and that they will overrun Western Europe. That day, I suppose, in the Opinion of some persons, has now come, and the noble Lord has told them of the treacherous Czar, who has thrown down the gauntlet to all mankind. Well, the day of trial arrives, and we find that England is to send 20,000 or 30,000 land forces over the backs, as it were, of the Belgians, the Dutch, the Danes, the Swedes, the Austrians, and the Prussians—over, in fact, the most military people in Europe—in order to fight battles for their safety and independence. England has the least interest in this great European question, as it is called. She is an island, invulnerable by land and impregnable by sea, so long as her commerce flourishes as it does now, and is, in fact, the only nation which has nothing to fear from the aggressions of the Czar. Yet, in this war, we are left alone to indulge that combativeness which has assumed the name of John Bullism. The truth is, the people of Austria and Prussia do not believe the interests of Europe are engaged in this question. They believe we are seeking to increase our influence in Turkey, and therefore they do not care to come forward and assist us. A noble Lord (Viscount Jocelyn), who speaks so blandly on every question that I am always in hopes of hearing him speak on the other side, said:—"You must go and fight the Russians—you must not be content with the status quo ante bellum; you must go beyond that, and cut off the Caucasus, so as to prevent the Russians penetrating Asia, for, if they do, your Indian empire will not be secure." That was a sort of argument which I think would make all Europe believe that we were fighting a selfish battle—that we were not fighting for the independence of Europe, but to maintain our own pre-eminence in India; and is it not very likely to lead the French people, who are not the least prejudiced people in the world on the subject of English rapacity and English ambition, to the same suspicion, and thus we may ultimately not have anybody to join us in meeting this Russian aggression? But is there no one in this House who will say, "At all events, if we are going to fight this battle of Cossackism for Turkey, let us fight it with our Navy, and not send a miserable 20,000 or 30,000 men to the neighbourhood of Constantinople, or to the banks of the Danube?" If there be such a 943 party in this House, I care not on which side, so that they oppose such a mad policy as that of sending troops so great a distance, I am one of them. I have now done. I have merely to add one word more. When I heard the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck)—and no one was more pleased than I was to see the hon. and learned Gentleman again among us—dealing unmeasured, unqualified, and uncharitable invective upon some gentlemen of the Peace party, I exclaimed, "He is himself again." The hon. and learned Gentleman said we must fight the Russians now, because if we did not we should have to fight them hereafter. I do not like arguing in the future tense, in that way especially, when such serious questions are concerned. By the same rule, a man might bring one a bowl of poison, and say:—"You may as well take it now, because you will be sure to die some time." I will not deal with the question of peace and war as an abstract question; but a great deal has been said about the Peace party. Now there is no party in this country that can for a moment hesitate to join in a war of justice and self-defence—at least no political party. There is a religious party, whose virtues far transcend their numbers, who religiously believe that by the tenets of the New Testament they are forbidden, under any circumstances, even in self-defence, to take away human life. For that body I have the greatest respect. There is another party who think, as Sir Robert Peel thought, it would be desirable to allay the warlike spirit of the people of England by a propagandism, or what is vulgarly called agitation. We have been gradually carried onward by that martial enthusiasm, which ten to one must have an end in war. I have been of that party which would remove everything tending to excite that martial enthusiasm, and would teach my fellow-countrymen not to give way to the abuse of that quality which they so eminently possess—combativeness. I like that quality, and I think I have some of it myself—but I do not like to see Englishmen expose themselves to the risk of war by keeping always on hand one of the most expensive of all luxuries, a prejudice against some foreign country. I will appeal to the Ministers themselves, and to any one in this country who will look at the tone used by a large part, and that the most popular part, of the press, and at public meetings—whether there is not an excellent eld for the operations of such a so- 944 ciety, which tends to divert men's minds from persisting to rush into war, and teaches them the blessed advantages of peace? I think there is not one hon. Member in this House, whatever his politics may be, who will not say that he has been shocked at the levity with which this question of war has been treated in some quarters. If it had been a boat-race, or a cock-fight, or a game at skittles, or anything of that kind, they could not have dealt with it with more levity than they have done. I have no hesitation in saying I am opposed to this war with Russia—I am opposed to all war, when it hangs on so fine a thread—so gossamer like you can hardly feel or touch it—as whether the Sultan shall sign a note declaring to the Emperor Nicholas that he will preserve all the rights of Christian subjects, or whether he shall give that declaration to all the European Powers. On such an infinitesimal difference as that I dare not go to war—I dare not advocate going to war, with all its horrors, and at the risk of deluging half Europe with blood. I have not the courage to say it, and therefore I say, having got into this question, and being now in the position of having voted against the principle of a Bill, and endeavouring in Committee to make the best of it, I say, "Let us fall back on that Vienna note." ["Oh oh!"] I profess I see no objection to it. It saves the honour of the Sultan, because it is not the original note of Prince Menchikoff—it is the note of the four Powers, and therefore not the note of Russia. I would withdraw the promise of material assistance to Turkey unless she signed that declaration. Diplomacy has not much to boast of, and will not suffer much, if we are rescued from war, even at the expense of another inconsistency. I take upon myself all the unpopularity of opposing this war, and I would not give six months' purchase for the popularity of any Gentleman in this House or out of it who will vote for it.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he should refrain from entering at any considerable length into the arguments of the bon. Member (Mr. Cobden), and should endeavour, after a few passing remarks upon them, to revert to the question as submitted to the House by the hon. Member for Aylesbury. The hon. Member for the West Riding had told them he was opposed to this war with Russia upon three leading considerations—because it was a war of Mussulmans against Christians, because it was backing a small minority 945 against an overwhelming majority, and because he found from two friends in the City that the imports from Russia into England amounted to eleven or thirteen millions. What had brought the people of this country to support Her Majesty's Government was the discovery that they were really in earnest in resisting the aggressions of Russia. It was not connected with any of those considerations on which the hon. Gentleman based his opposition to their policy, and he (Lord J. Manners) trusted the people of England never would consider whether they were going to war in defence of a minority or a majority, or what was the religion of the people upon whom unjust attacks were made, nor whether the balance of trade was in favour of one side or the other. With respect to the last argument, as to the extent of our trade with Russia, he submitted that it might be much more appropriately addressed to the Autocrat of all the Russias than to the Parliament of England. When the hon. Gentleman was reading extracts from the instructions of Lord Clarendon to our Ambassador at Constantinople, he could not fail to notice how very nearly the language of those instructions agreed with the language of the Russian state papers, and he could not help feeling, with the hon. Gentleman, that when they talked of going to war in favour of the independence of Turkey, there were passages in those instructions and despatches which could not be reconciled with a real desire to maintain that independence. Nor could he help remembering that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech delivered at Manchester last autumn, and which found such favour in the eyes of hon. Gentlemen there, that they were very nearly proposing the right hon. Gentleman as a member of the Peace Society—that in that speech he used terms which made the people of England understand that he had very little desire to maintain the independence of the Turkish Government, full as it was, according to the right hon. Gentleman, of anomalies, misery, and persecution. He (Lord J. Manners) regretted such language should have been used in such a quarter, and that such language should be found in the instructions of Lord Clarendon. He was much surprised to hear the noble Lord the Member for the City of London say that from first to last Russia had never given this country any idea whatever of the ultimate tendency and object of her demands. If one thing 946 was more clear than another it was that warning after warning was given by the various agents of England of the intentions of Russia, which were obvious to most people from the first, and he found almost the first of these warnings was addressed to the predecessor of the noble Lord as early as December 5, 1852, by Colonel Rose, not depending on his own observation, but on the formal declaration of the Russian Ambassador at Constantinople of what the noble Lord said was never disclosed. On the 5th of December, 1852, writing to Lord Malmesbury, who was then Foreign Secretary, Colonel Rose says:—M. D'Ozeroff has prejudiced much his position at this important Moment by making a formal declaration to the French Ambassador that Russia, by virtue of the treaty of Kainardji, protects the orthodox—that is, the Greek—religion in Turkey. M. de Lavalette takes this the more to heart, because he has lately formally declared that France makes no claim to protect the Turkish Roman Catholics. He has made known M. D'Ozeroff's declaration to his colleagues and the Porte. The Porte has heard this assertion of Russian protection of the religions interests of ten or eleven millions of her subjects with unmingled dissatisfaction.That was as far back as December, 1852. It was received in England just as the noble Lord entered upon office, and he was bound to give credit to the noble Lord for the vigorous measures which he seemed willing to take, and the clear conception shown by him of the danger threatened from Russia. In responding to the language of M. Baudin, he wrote to Lord Cowley thus:—The anxiety felt by the French Government is very natural.… Her Majesty's Government think it desirable that some understanding should be arrived at between the great Powers on this important subject, and I will immediately take into consideration the steps that may be necessary for this purpose.The noble Lord, in the course of his speech, made another assertion, which he confessed he heard with equal surprise. The noble Lord said, from the moment that France abandoned her extreme pretensions—from the moment, in fact, that the Aberdeen Cabinet came into power—there had been the most complete and cordial union as to actions and intentions between the Governments of France and England. The noble Lord must have put out of sight, or entirely forgotten, the whole of the communications which, for a quarter of a year subsequently to Lord Aberdeen coming into office, were directed 947 by the noble Lord's successor as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to the Governments of Russia, France, and Turkey. The noble Lord did not trouble the House with dates or details, and he did wisely, because it would have been impossible but to admit, so far from the action of England being in accordance with the action of France, Lord Clarendon persisted in refusing to co-operate with France, and made known to the Government of Russia that England will not co-operate with France. And it was his (Lord J. Manners') firm belief that the knowledge as acquired at St. Petersburg induced the Emperor to persist in Prince Menchikoff's demands. The explanations given by the Russian Government during the time the armaments were going on were so contradictory that it would naturally be supposed they would awaken suspicion. Count Nesselrode, the Chancellor of the Empire, writes a formal despatch to Baron Brunnow, on Jan. 14, in which he says:—The Emperor has, therefore, considered it necessary to adopt in the outset some precautionary measures, in order to support our negotiations, to neutralise the effect of M. de Lavalette's threats, and to guard himself in any contingency which may arise against the attempts of a Government accustomed to act by surprises. The object of our measures is not in any way to throw doubt on the independence of the Ottoman empire.That despatch was communicated to Her Majesty's Government, and they were invited to believe the only object which the Emperor of Russia had in view in these armaments was to procure a sort of moral counterpoise at Constantinople to the threats which M. de Lavalette had at a former period held out. Two days afterwards—on the 16th of January—General Castelbajac, just appointed French Ambassador at St. Petersburg, had his first interview with the Emperor, and alluded to the subject of the rumoured military preparations. The Emperor replied:—That the accounts of his military preparations were much exaggerated; that they were not caused by the question of the Holy Buildings, though he avowed the intention of inspiring awe at Constantinople, in consequence of some insult which had been offered to the Russian flag.Here was a statement that these armaments were not in any degree directed against the supposed threats on the part of France; that they had nothing whatever to do with the question of the Holy Places, but were to avenge or procure some satisfaction for insults then for the first and last time alleged to have been 948 offered to the Russian flag at Constantinople. Shortly afterwards, when Prince Menchikoff arrived at Constantinople, Colonel Rose, whose conduct he humbly thought was beyond all praise, asked for some explanation of the threatening armaments. In the first place, Prince Menchikoff almost denied any movement whatever among the Russian troops. He next admitted, and proceeded to explain and justify them.He then took up" (said Colonel Rose) "another ground of argument, and said that the military movements of Omar Pasha had caused suspicion to the Russian Government, who thought that he might carry war and Mazzini's doctrines into the Austrian territory and the, Danubian provinces.Here they had no less a person than Prince Menchikoff giving to Colonel Rose another version of these armaments. It was then neither the threats of France, nor the insults offered to the Russian flag, but a fear lest Austria should be invaded by Omar Pasha at the head of his troops and the doctrines of Mazzini. All these conflicting explanations were communicated to Lord Clarendon before the end of March, and before that time Lord Clarendon, in addition to those most suspicious self-contradictory explanations, had the most direct evidence of the nature of those armaments and movements of troops. Sir G. H. Seymour informed Lord John Russell—Orders have been despatched to the 5th corps d'armée to advance to the frontiers of the Danubian provinces, without waiting for their reserves, and the 4th corps, under the command of General Count Dannenberg, and now stationed in Volhynia, will be ordered to hold itself in readiness to march, if necessary. Each of these corps consists of twenty-four regiments, and, as your Lordship is aware, each Russian regiment is composed of three battalions (each of about 1,000 men), of which one battalion forms the reserve. General Lüders' corps d'armée accordingly, being now 48,000 strong, will receive a reinforcement of 24,000 men soon after its arrival at its destination; and supposing the 4th corps to follow, the whole force will amount at least, according to official returns, to 144,000 men.On the 2nd of April, Colonel Rose, in submitting the accounts received from the Consuls in the Principalities, said:—The tenor of this report, taken in consideration with that of Mr. Consul Yeames' last report from Odessa, can leave, I think, no doubt as to the hostile nature of the intentions of the Russian Government.In spite of all these facts, Lord Clarendon persisted in believing the declarations, such as they were, of the intentions of the Emperor of Russia, and in disbelieving and 949 taking no notice whatever of all those warnings and all those threatening movements. At last the nature of Prince Menchikoff's mission became apparent. On the 7th of March Colonel Rose penetrated the secret, and communicated the real object of the mission to Her Majesty's Government.I regret to state to your Lordship, that all the circumstances connected with the mission of Prince Menchikoff, which I shall transmit tomorrow by Her Majesty's steam ship Wasp, to Malta, to be forwarded to your Lordship without delay, have assumed a serious and threatening appearance. It is true that the declarations of the Russian Ambassador are pacific, but facts unfortunately do not bear out those declarations.On the 9th of March, Colonel Rose again stated to the Government:—Circumstances connected with the mission of Prince Menchikoff have gradually come to light, and cause grave apprehensions for the independence, if not the destiny, of Turkey. * A day or two after the arrival of Prince Menchikoff, another man-of-war steamer arrived here, conveying Vice-Admiral Korsinoff of the Black Sea fleet, and General Nicapotchiaski, chief of the staff of General Rudiger's two corps d' armée, with other military officers. The presence of these superior officers of the naval and military forces, which are to act against the Porte, should she not comply with Russian demands, had its due effect, particularly as it is known that the 5th and 7th corps have been concentrated, and placed on the war footing under the command of General Rudiger, whose head-quarters are at Kisheneff, in Bessarabia.He thought the great fault they must judge Lord Clarendon to have committed was, that he persisted to the last in believing the declarations of the Russian Government, and disbelieving every fact brought under his notice. The right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty had favoured the House with a most beautiful sentiment, that dark and malignant suspicions did not quickly take root in generous minds. As a general rule, no doubt the proposition was sensible as well as honourable; but the position of things resembled nothing so much as a gentleman walking down St. James's Street arm-in-arm with a friend and meeting a casual acquaintance, who took off his hat and said, "I entertain for you the most profound respect and admiration," but proceeded to pull the nose of the gentleman's friend. He thought the gentleman would attach more importance to the unfriendly act than to the friendly and even complimentary expressions. Lord Clarendon, however, committed a greater fault in making known to the Emperor of Russia that Eng- 950 land was not prepared to act in concert with the Government of France. Lord Clarendon, in a despatch to Lord Cowley, dated the 22nd of March, said:—I told his Excellency (Count Walewski), that when the intelligence from Constantinople was analysed and divested of the colouring imparted to it by local excitement, there was but one fact to deal with, namely, that General Menchikoff, in pursuance of the orders of the Emperor of Russia, announced nearly two months ago, had declined to hold official intercourse with Fuad Effendi, because that Minister, in the opinion of his Imperial Majesty, had acted with bad faith to Russia. Fuad Effendi had accordingly resigned, but Prince Menchikoff had not required this, and he had declared that no disrespect was intended to the Sultan by the omission of the customary visit to his Minister. Under these circumstances, I said Her Majesty's Government had not thought Colonel Rose justified in requesting that the British fleet should come to Vourla, and they hint learned with much satisfaction that Admiral Dundas had considered it his duty to remain at Malta until he received instructions from England. For similar reasons, I told Count Walewski that Her Majesty's Government regretted the order given to the French fleet to sail for the Greek waters.In communicating the same intention to Sir G. H. Seymour, the noble Lord seemed to take pains to convince Russia that she had nothing to fear from the joint action of France and England on this important question. Lord Clarendon instructed Sir G. H. Seymour to inform Count Nesselrode that "Her Majesty's Government felt no alarm." What! no alarm at the concentration of 45,000 troops on the Danubian frontier—no alarm at the threats of Prince Menchikoff—no alarm at the information then received from Colonel Rose as to the nature of Prince Menchikoff's mission and the real intentions of Russia—no alarm at the accounts through other channels! Sir G. H. Seymour is instructed to say:—Her Majesty's Government have felt no alarm, and have not shared the apprehensions which the rumours and facts above alluded to might appear to justify; for on more than one occasion they have received the personal assurances of the Emperor of Russia that it was his determination to maintain the independence of the Turkish empire, and that should the views of his Imperial Majesty undergo any change upon that important question, they should frankly be made known to Her Majesty's Government. No such communication having been received, Her Majesty's Government felt secure that, whatever might be the object of Prince Menchikoff's mission, neither the authority of the Sultan, nor the integrity of his dominions, was exposed to danger& Her Majesty's Government regret that the alarm and irritation which prevail at Paris should have induced the French Government to order their fleet to sail for the waters of Greece; but position in which the French Government 951 stands is in many respects different from that of Her Majesty's GovernmentAnd it concluded—You will read this despatch to the Chancellor, and give him a copy of it, should he desire it.The date of that was the 23rd of March; and what, he asked, must have been the conviction of the Chancellor of the empire of Russia, and of the French Government, on receiving that authoritative information, that the position of England in many respects at that time differed from the position of France? There could be but one conviction, and he thought if he traced on the events, they would see what that conviction was, and to what it inevitably led. On the 5th of April again Lord Clarendon instructed Sir G. H. Seymour thus:—Baron Brunnow yesterday communicated to me a despatch in which Count Nesselrode expresses his satisfaction at the confidence placed by Her Majesty's Government in the policy and intentions of the Emperor with respect to Turkey. I assured Baron Brunnow, and you will repeat the assurance to Count Nesselrode, that that confidence remains unabated.That was after the intentions of Russia were manifested at Constantinople, after the Turkish Ministers found out and informed the English representative that the demands to be made by Prince Menchikoff would be fatal to the independence of the Sultan, and that he meant to claim the whole protectorate of the Christian subjects of the Porte. As early as March 19th, Rifaat Pasha suspected and communicated the secret treaty which Prince Menchikoff was ordered to propose. On the 25th Colonel Rose wrote:—Your Lordship will see that, in spite of Prince Menchikoff's denunciations against the Turkish authorities, should they reveal his secret demands, they, in consideration of the danger which would ensue from a compliance with them, determined to make them known to Her Majesty's Government. The Grand Vizier informs me also, that in the projected treaty there is a clause which could be interpreted into protection by Russia of the Turkish Greek Church.On April 9th, Lord Stratford wrote to Lord Clarendon:—This combination of alarm, seeking for advice, and of reluctance to entrust me frankly with the whole case, is attributable to the threatening language of Prince Menchikoff, and to the character of his proposals. Rifaat Pasha has been emphatically warned of the danger which he would be sure to incur if any of those proposals were to transpire, and the earnestness with which the Russian Ambassador insists upon an early reply increases the embarrassment and apprehension of the Porte.Before then, Lord Clarendon wrote that 952 letter of the 5th of April, he was informed that a secret treaty was proposed, and under circumstances, and with threats and denunciations, which could leave no doubt on the mind of any reasonable or reasoning man, that the objects of Russia were such that she could not venture to communicate them to Powers friendly to Turkey. But after the existence of that secret treaty was communicated to Lord Clarendon, after Lord Stratford had informed him of its nature, Lord Clarendon still withheld his belief of the statements made by the accredited agents of his own Government, and informed the Government of France that the information received was erroneous, and that he would disbelieve and disregard it. On the 18th of April Lord Clarendon wrote to Lord Cowley:—Count Walewski has read to me a despatch from M. de Benedetti, which appears to have given some uneasiness to the French Government, and particularly as regards a secret, treaty similar to that of July 8th, 1833, which is said to have been pressed upon the acceptance of the Porte by Prince Menchikoff. I told Count Walewski that the same information had been communicated to Her Majesty's Government by Colonel Rose, but I had reason to believe that the treaty in question would be a written agreement with respect to the Holy Places, and the mode of conducting divine worship and religious ceremonies there by the Greek and Latin communities.This showed that Lord Clarendon regarded this secret treaty as a matter of no consequence whatever, because he had heard from some authority that it merely had reference to the way divine service was to be performed in the Holy Places. Now he (Lord J. Manners) wished to ask Her Majesty's Government what reason Lord Clarendon had, on the 18th of April, for believing any such thing? Who was his authority? Who gave him the information? Clearly not Colonel Rose, and certainly not Lord Stratford. He could not find in the blue book that the information came from Sir G. H. Seymour, or Lord Cowley, or that any one gave any such information, and, therefore, he thought the Government bound to tell who gave the information which Lord Clarendon believed in preference to official and authoritative information communicated by accredited agents from St. Petersburg, Constantinople, and Paris. Now, he said, when Lord Clarendon took such special pains to show to the Emperor of Russia and to the Government of France, that the views of the English Government were not in accordance with those of the Government of 953 France—when Lord Clarendon showed he was determined to believe everything favourable to Russia, and nothing whit cast a doubt on the integrity of her intentions—when Her Majesty's Government had refused, in language which he had quoted to the House, and which he wool venture to characterise as alike unjust and unwise, to act upon information on which the French Government acted in bringing up their fleet to Salamis, it was not to be wondered at that France, when the veil was torn from Lord Clarendon's eyes, and, England announced her intention, almost too late, to interfere effectually, was a little suspicious, and entertained doubts as to the sincerity of England. On the 5th of June, just a quarter of a year after the Government had been warned of the danger to Turkey, and the imminent peril of the Principalities being occupied by Russian forces, Lord Cowley wrote:—His Majesty inquired whether it was certain that Admiral Dundas had been actually ordered to leave Malta, and, on being assured of the fact, at quiesced in telegraphic orders being sent to Marseilles to order the Chaptal to get under weigh with despatches for Admiral de la Susse and M. de la Cour.No wonder that the Emperor of the French required the most positive and stringent assurances that orders had been dispatched, and that England at last, and not at first, as erroneously stated by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), was prepared to co-operate with France in resisting the aggression which it had been manifest for months before that Russia intended to make on the integrity and the independence of Turkey. Thus might be said to terminate the first act of this drama. At the conclusion of Prince Menchikoff's mission, and not at the commencement, the English Government adopt the course of acting cordially with France, in opposing resolutely these monstrous pretensions Russia. Now, the House would allow him to ask if, instead of that despatch of the 23rd of March which he had quoted. Her Majesty's Government had instructed Sir Hamilton Seymour to communicate to Russia that her explanations of these armaments were altogether illusory and deceitful—that they required explanation which should be really such, and than unless these were forthcoming, they would be prepared to co-operate with France—that they saw through the object which had brought Prince Menchikoff to Constantinople, and that in the event of their 954 suspicions being realised, Russia must prepare to encounter the joint opposition of France and England—he would ask whether they believed that, if that course had been taken, Prince Menchikoff would have received upon the 15th of April fresh and more peremptory instructions to push his demands to the utmost? It was as a most curious and instructive fact, that for days previous to the 15th of April, Prince Menchikoff was represented at Constantinople as vague in his language and undecided in his demands—as employing sometimes entreaty, and sometimes threats, to induce the Turkish Government to comply with them; but they were told that, upon the 15th of April, he received fresh instructions—that his language then became more peremptory and urgent—that upon the 19th he left his ultimatum with the Sultan's Ministers, and pressed for an immediate compliance with its requisitions—and that, tailing to obtain this, he quitted Constantinople; war Was virtually declared, and the Principalities were occupied. Was it too much to believe that, previous to these peremptory instructions leaving St. Petersburg, Count Nesselrode was in possession of that extraordinary and astounding despatch which assured the Russian Government that England had no shadow of doubt of the Emperor's intentions; that her position at Constantinople was in many respects different from that of France; and that whatever were the objects of Prince Menchikoff's mission, Her Majesty's Government would not allow themselves to believe that either the independence of the Sultan or the integrity of his empire was exposed to any danger? It was Own that these peremptory orders came. It was then that Prince Menchikoff felt the moment had arrived at which he might press his demands—that France might, if she chose, offer some opposition—but that he was, at all events, secure that England would not stand in his way. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding had said that England had advised the Porte to reject the ultimatum of Prince Menchikoff. If England had done that, if she had said, three months before, that these demands should never be conceded, he maintained that they would never have been pressed, and that the ultimatum would never have been offered. But the fact was, that England never did take that course; she never did advise the Porte to reject Prince Menchikoff's ultimatum. The Porte consulted the English Ambassador upon the subject, and the 955 English Ambassador said—and said very properly, under the instructions which he had received from the Government—that he could not advise the Porte either to accept that ultimatum or reject it. The decision which was come to—and the fact was most creditable and most honourable to the Sultan and his advisers—was come to unanimously by the Ministers of the Porte, acting upon their own responsibility, without any reason to hope that they might depend even upon the moral, still less upon the material, assistance of England in giving effect to that decision. Why, at that very time England was not only not assisting Turkey, nor advising Turkey to resist, but she had just avowed her belief in the assurances which she had received from the Ministers of the Czar. Thus terminated (as he had said) the first act of this drama. The ultimatum of Prince Menchikoff had been rejected. England, so far from acting in cordial co-operation with the policy of France, as the noble Lord on Friday night had represented, had, up to that moment, set herself in direct opposition to that policy. Russia had ample time, with at least the toleration of this country, to press forward her army towards the frontier; and in a short time, every step having been taken, and every preparation made, the Turkish Ministers having refused to accede to the humiliating proposition made to them, the curtain draws up upon the second act, and finds a Russian army having crossed the Pruth and in possession of the Principalities, and Her Majesty's Government willing and anxious to take part with France in resisting this monstrous aggression. He now came to the diplomatic operations of the Government; and no one, he thought, could for a moment presume to blame them that for months they endeavoured to settle this dispute by negotiation rather than by force; but he also thought that it could neither be doubted nor denied that the effect of these prolonged negotiations was in itself very prejudicial to the interests of Turkey, and serviceable to those of Russia. It enabled Russia to strengthen her army, to prepare her fleets, and to set her whole diplomatic network of intrigue and finesse at work in every part of Europe. It tended very much to paralyse the operations of the Turkish army, of the Turkish fleet, and of the Turkish Government. It tended very much to make the Mussulman population of the Turkish empire feel that the Sultan was wavering, and not in earnest; and, as 956 they pursued the tale as it was told in these blue books, they would see that these results naturally followed. Still, he was ready to admit that, until Turkey had declared war, Her Majesty's Government were fully justified in trying to settle this tremendous question by peaceful means. But why was it that Russia had crossed the Pruth and entered the Principalities—nay, more, why was it that she bad taken the further step of proceeding to incorporate them in her empire without a declaration of war? Was it not clear that her object was to prevent those treaties which were her real instruments of aggression and oppression against Turkey from falling to the ground? She knew that the moment war was declared the treaty of Kainardji and all subsequent treaties would be at an end; and he thought that this suggested a most important question for consideration—Was Her Majesty's Government justified, after Turkey had been compelled to declare war, in insisting on the renewal of those treaties as one of the conditions of negotiation and peace. It was impossible to speak upon this subject without paying a just tribute of admiration to the spirit of moderation which the Sultan and his Ministers had displayed throughout. They had reason to know, and they knew full well, that the pretensions of Russia were based upon those treaties; they knew she would never consent to depart from her own interpretation of them; they knew that Russia was endeavouring to gain by stealth what Turkey herself was strong enough to prevent her gaining by force; and yet they had displayed, from first to last, from the commencement of Prince Menchikoff's mission down to the close of the year 1853, a moderation which was altogether surprising, which might almost be called excessive. But, he did think, that after Turkey had declared war—after Russia had persisted in her refusal even to evacuate the Principalities—after it had become clear that her object was to secure to herself the protectorate over all the Greek Christians who were subjects of the Porte, or to bring about the complete incorporation of the Principalities into the Russian empire—he did think that it was not wise upon the part of Her Majesty's Government to insist on the renewal of the treaties as the basis of negotiation. Well, then, at last, upon the 25th of October, Russia was informed that England had taken her part, and that she would not consent to the terms of Prince Menchikoffs proposition 957 being forced on the acceptance of Turkey. He would not enter now into the merits of the Vienna note. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding had said that he would even now propose to put an end to the dispute, to restore peace, and to render war unnecessary, by forcing Turkey to accept that note. So lame and impotent a conclusion to so otherwise able a speech he must confess that he had never hoard. He trusted there was no other Gentleman in that House who would propose, after all that had been said and done, to settle the question in that way. This brought him to the question which he knew some hon. Gentlemen thought was the only real and important question which they now had to discuss—What were the objects which Her Majesty's Government proposed to themselves in entering upon and continuing this war? What was the policy which they proposed to adopt in the future? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had called upon the House either to adopt a vote of want of confidence in the Government, or to vote them their unlimited confidence. The statement as to the course which the House should take had been made at the commencement of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, had occupied the middle of it, and had taken up the whole of his peroration. The noble Lord the leader of the House of Commons followed him, but in a mitigated form, and each said that what they asked on the part of the Government was full and unlimited confidence. The noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman had stated that they could easily understand a vote of want of confidence, and seemed to invite the House to come to that vote. He had no doubt that if they were in the Opposition they would adopt that course; but he thought that hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House consulted the true interests of the country in doing nothing which might tend in the slightest degree to embarrass the future actions of Her Majesty's Government. They were prepared to support any measures which, on their responsibility, Her Majesty's Ministers might state to be necessary for the vigorous prosecution of this war, and for bringing it to a speedy, safe, and honourable termination. But when time noble Lord asked them, reading these blue books, to come to a decision upon the merits or demerits of the Government, upon all these past transactions, and to put that decision in the shape of a vote of unlimited confidence, he frankly confessed 958 that it was impossible for him, and he believed that it would be equally impossible for ninety-nine out of every hundred of the Members of that House, to come to any such conclusion. But while it was impossible—morally impossible—that they should bear testimony in the manner which had been suggested to the firmness and wisdom of Lord Aberdeen and Lord Clarendon in reference to the past—they were willing, in reference to the future, to give every practical mark of confidence which a Government was entitled to demand. They were willing to vote the money and the men which they required—to give them everything which the Government might state to be necessary; but he thought that while doing this they would be giving just occasion for censure if they abstained from stating their opinion—which he believed to be also the all but unanimous opinion of the people—as to the spirit in which the war should be conducted. The noble Lord had told them truly that success in military measures depended very much upon secrecy, and that he would not give any explanation which would throw light upon intended operations. He thought he had said that most wisely. He believed that such secrecy upon the part of the Government was not only prudent, but obligatory; but he by no means thought that such reserve should be reciprocal on the contrary, he thought that Her Majesty's Government would have reason to complain if, after the whole subject had been laid open to review, and to the judgment of the House of Commons, that house should maintain an obstinate silence, and should refuse to state its own opinions, and the opinions of the country, as to the object with which the war had been undertaken. They might be told that it was enough to know that it had been undertaken to maintain the independence and the integrity of Turkey, but they had seen what estimate Lord Clarendon and the Chancellor of the Exchequer put upon that independence; and the hon. Member for the West Riding did but recall the attention of the House to sinister rumours, which for months past had been prevalent, as to what was intended by maintaining it. It was said, with what truth he knew not, that the independence of Turkey was to be maintained by a Protectorate in Commission—and that the great Powers of Europe were going to do that blamelessly which we were going to war with Russia for attempting. If that were, indeed, the object of the war, 959 he would join his voice to that of the hon. Member for the West Riding, and say "Heaven forbid that we should enter into it!" He trusted that Her Majesty's Government would give no sanction to so unwise and fatal a course. It would involve us in great difliculties—would lead us to interfere in all the religious commotions of Turkey, and at the best would be adding fuel to fire. The noble Lord continued: We vote your increased supplies with acclamation, the people follow our troops with shouts of enthusiasm to the transports; party strife, as far as this side of the House, is stilled to strengthen the hands of the Executive; but for what? To enable you at the end of a war, which may be long bloody, and expensive, but which we will not believe can be otherwise than triumphant, to rivet again round the neck Turkey the chains of Russian dependence that have already eaten into her heart's core! To hand back again to Russia as her private property and preserve the Black Sea which has witnessed the catastrophe of Sinope, and the affair of St. Nicholas, and to place in the cunning grasp of Russia every one of those diplomatic instruments of oppression and intimidation which she has shown herself so willing and able to use! No, Sir, it is not for objects like these, it is not to compel Russia to accept her own terms, it is not to enable her to gain by diplomacy what she has failed to gain, or rather has absolutely lost, by the sword, that the people of England grant these supplies and welcome this war. If such, Sir, be the intentions with which Government has entered upon this war, believe me, such are not the intentions of the country, nor, I venture to add, of the great majority of both Houses of Parliament. It was well said, Sir, by Lord Ponsonby, early in these proceedings, that he feared not the arms of Russia, but the diplomacy of England. I trust, Sir that we shall not have hereafter to regret that the glories won by the arms of England were lost by her diplomacy; and that the cause of Turkey, which bade fair to triumph by her own inherent strength an valour, was overwhelmed by the fatal counsels and inept dictation of her European allies.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, that the two speeches which had been made that night raised two distinct questions. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden disputes altogether the policy of any interference in the affairs of Turkey, while the 960 noble Lord who had just sat down, approving of that policy, disputes the manner in which the Government had fulfilled the obligations imposed upon them. Now he must say that, considering the importance of this question, and the great interests that were involved in the crisis in which they stood, and considering also the impossibility of avoiding discussion upon it, it had struck him that there was considerable force in what was stated by the noble t Lord the Member for the City of London; (Lord J. Russell) the other night, namely, that if this question was to be raised at all, it had better be raised upon some distinct Motion upon which the opinion of the House and the country could be taken. For no highly beneficial result could follow an incidental discussion like the present, where they obtained the opinions and criticisms of individual Members, without arriving at any conclusive judgment of the House itself. There was nothing, however, to complain of in the manner in which the proceedings of the Government had been criticised, while the occasion which had been selected for offering these criticisms was a strictly constitutional one. It was the occasion when they were called upon to go into Committee for voting supplies, and it was only natural that questions should be asked as to what purposes the supplies were to be devoted. Before he proceeded to remark upon the more interesting part of this question, he must be permitted to advert for a few moments to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding; he confessed it was with surprise and regret that he listened to many portions of that speech. He dissented from his arguments, his facts, and his history, and as the hon. Member exercised a very deserved influence over large masses of his countrymen, he could not allow his observations to pass without expressing his opinion as to some of the fallacies he had uttered, and without supplying some few facts which he had omitted. First, he felt surprise that one so acute as his hon. Friend should treat this question as a mere dispute between two neighbouring States, of which the causes and the consequences were confined to themselves, and with which other countries had nothing to do, and also that he should have expatiated on the folly of going to war to uphold a country which according to him was in a state of moral and material decay. He should have thought that by this time his hon. Friend would have discovered that 961 this was not a question of Turkey, but a question of Russia—a question of Europe; not what Turkey was at this moment, but what she would be if absorbed by Russia. The question was, shall the Emperor of Russia be Emperor of Turkey also? He was sorry to refer to the speech of his hon. Friend in his absence; but there was one leading point in it upon which all his arguments were grounded, and which he therefore could not avoid noticing. The hon. Gentleman grounded his argument on the supposed fact that the whole dispute grew out of a miserable note which was to form the foundation of a harmless treaty—a mere question of a protectorate over a Christian population; and he (the hon. Member) added that Russia wished for this protectorate for sinister purposes, and to gratify purely selfish motives. Did not that admission involve the whole question? What, he would ask, was the origin of this affair? The commencement of the aggression was in pursuance of a policy long planned and deliberately carried out, by which the possession of Constantinople was held indispensable for the accomplishment of Russian ends, and having once accomplished that what was to prevent her getting possession of Greece. Not only did Russia desire to extend her empire from the White Sea to the Mediterranean, but to establish a dictatorship over Europe, bringing to bear upon the civilised races of Europe the semi-barbarons hordes of the north. But if Russia became mistress of the Mediterranean, not only would the balance of power be destroyed, but the commerce of England would be destroyed, our Indian empire more than threatened, and the liberties of Europe endangered. The danger which one far-seeing man foresaw was now real and imminent, and that "delusion" of Napoleon at St. Helena was now a dread reality. There was not a statesman in Europe whose attention had not been drawn to the appalling prospect of Russian aggression. There was not a Cabinet in Europe which had not in recent days felt the secret influence of Russia; and Russia being a power enormous in its proportions, absolute in its principles, military in its organisation, and secret and crafty in its designs, was the fear not a natural one that her influence might extend itself in this struggle beyond the mere boundaries of Turkey? While there were certain maxims of national morality to uphold and guide the conduct of other States, there were none in Russia, or, if there were, 962 the thirst for territory overrode them all. In constitutional States a check was kept upon the ambition of sovereigns by the conduct of their subjects or the nature of their institutions, but such considerations had no weight or influence with barbarians thirsting for conquest. We valued our commercial relations, because we depend upon commerce, but Russia thought only of political advancement, which depends only upon war, and the present being considered a favourable moment the long-meditated blow had been struck at Turkey. Modern history would be searched in vain for a parallel to the crime which Russia had commenced, and was now following up in Turkey. The whole proceedings of Russia, from the opening of the dispute down to the massacre of Sinope, not even excepting the declarations of the Emperor himself, whose disregard for truth had become proverbial, was a series of continued fraud, falsehood, and deception. Russia by her conduct, in fact, throughout the dispute had shocked the whole of Europe, and what added to time scandal was time circumstance that the Emperor professed to be actuated by a desire to promote the cause of the Christian religion. This aggression had been a long-meditated crime, which would have been incomplete if religion had not been invoked to sanctify its shame and accomplish its infamy—that religion which in all ages had been the cloak of the hypocrite and the plea of the robber. It was religion which comforted the conscience of the Czar While he led his legions across the Pruth—it was religion which was invoked only that it might be rejected and trampled upon by the vile instruments who called it in aid. On what ground the hon. Member for the West Riding justified the possession of Turkey by Russia, he confessed he was at a loss to understand. The hon. Member said he would reduce it to a practical question. In what respect was it a practical question? Now, was it a pecuniary, a commercial, or a political question? Was it to be settled on the ground of justice and morality? Treating it as a pecuniary question, he (Mr. Horsman) believed that, if Russia possessed Constantinople, the estimates for our necessarily increased fleets would yearly meet with opposition from the hon. Member, and he would soon find that there was some difference between having the Russians at Constantinople instead of the Turks. Dealing with it as a commercial question, the tariff of Turkey was freer than that of 963 Russia, for was the free navigation of the Danube and the opening of the Black Sea to be counted as nothing? In a political point of view, if Russia obtained possession of Constantinople, she would then be almost able to dictate terms to Europe, and, if she increased her power by absorbing Constantinople, she would become omnipotent in Europe, and, if omnipotent in Europe, what terms might she not dictate, what inroads might she not make upon our liberties? But what had been the conduct of Turkey? Could any one say that throughout the whole of this war she had not won the admiration of Europe? At the commencement of the dispute our assistance to Turkey was apologetic and weak; and it was contended that a minority of infidels were endeavouring to rule over a majority of Christians. The early successes of Turkey were, in fact, deplored, as being likely to render her less manageable. In a debate upon Turkey at the close of last Session, on the 16th of August, the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) said that the picture of Turkey's decay drawn by the hon. Member for the West Riding was overcharged, and he spoke of the progress which that Power had made within the last thirty years. The noble Lord was present that night. Did he adhere to his former opinion? Since the commencement of the war, had we not been surprised at the achievements of that "miserable power?" In arms she had been eminently triumphant. Her generals had crossed the Danube in the face of armies supposed to be numerically superior; they had defeated the Russians on every occasion that they had fought man to man; and the troops with which the Czar had so haughtily crossed the frontier had suffered constant defeat. The hon. Member for the West Riding said the Turks could not fight; but had they not, he again asserted, by their moral superiority, and by their calmness and moderation, gained the admiration of Europe? Brave in battle, they were still more brave in council, disconcerting even the arts of Russian diplomacy. It was the Sultan alone that had encountered the Russian arms; it was he alone that had successfully opposed the diplomacy of Russia. It would be impossible to conceive anything more difficult than the position in which Turkey had been placed since the commencement of the war. During the whole period of these negotiations Turkey had not made one false step. The conferences of Ambassa- 964 dors had made many, but she had saved herself from ruin by not following them. Her allies had failed her, but she had never failed herself. She had confronted the subtleties of the Czar, she had turned aside the menaces of Austria, and she had routed the armies of the Russians on the Danube. But, threatened by her own subjects, and provoked from without, her Government had maintained a calm and resolute attitude. Throughout there had been no excitement, no irritation, no want of self-control, no overweening confidence at one time, no misplaced timidity at another. And if to all that was added, what in his opinion supplied the pretext of all her claims for admiration, her abstinence, her scrupulous abstinence, from all appeals to the religious fanaticism of her people, and holding in mind that it was in the cause of civilisation and freedom she was battling, while she combated for her own existence—he would say that there was not a Christian Cabinet in Europe that might not learn something from Turkey's example—not a Christian man that would not pant for her success in the day of battle. Now, the obligation of this country to support Turkey having been acknowledged by Her Majesty's Ministers, the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) had raised the question how these obligations had been fulfilled, and the noble Lord who had spoken last proceeded in a speech of much ability and perfect fairness to prove, from the despatches on the table—what, indeed, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London was not understood the other night to deny—that throughout those negotiations the Cabinet of this country had been much deceived. But the question which had to be determined was not whether the Cabinet had been deceived, but whether that deception implied such an amount of incapacity and weakness on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers as called for a diminution of the confidence of that House in their ability, and such as was deserving of its censure. Now he had examined the blue books with, perhaps, as much industry, though he could not analyse them with as much ability, as the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Manners), and he would confess that he had done so with very much the same feeling—a feeling rather unfavourable to the diplomatic hesitation of Her Majesty's Ministers. But he was bound to acknowledge, after a patient investigation of these papers, that throughout the negotiations he found the 965 Earl of Clarendon, who had the conduct of them, not only in a position of great difficulty, but that his position, when he had to come to a decision, was such as involved only a choice of difficulties—that it was impossible for him to adopt any course which would not have been questioned as doubtful at the moment and as very hazardous in its results. And he had, therefore come to the conclusion that no course could have been suggested—he had heard none suggested by any party—and undoubtedly the noble Lord who had just spoken had suggested none—which would not have been far more questionable at the time, and ulteriorly far more disastrous, that that which had been adopted by the Cabinet. At the same time he was quite ready to express his sympathy for those Gentlemen who maintained that a more energetic policy should have been pursued last year on the occupation of the Principalities. He himself, for one, had entertained that opinion, He felt so at the time, and, indeed, he should have beer glad if the passage of the Pruth had been made a casus belli. He had thought the occupation of the Principalities should have been immediately met by the real of our Ambassador from St. Petersburg. He should have been very glad if our squadron had been so employed as long ago to have left Russia without a fleet. Such, with his limited information, and still more limited responsibility, would have been his views. Her Majesty's Ministers, however, with larger information before them, and knowing the responsibility attendant on such a policy, adopted another course; but had the result shown that they were wrong in so doing? He did not quite understand if the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Manners) had taken up the same position at the hon. Member for Aylesbury, with regard to the course which should have been adopted on the invasion of the Principalities. He had understood that hon. Gentleman to say that if, when the Principalities had been invaded, they had met that occupation by a declaration of war, Russia would have receded, and that peace would have been the result; and it must be allowed that in making that statement the hon. Gentleman was representing the opinion of a very large section both in the House of Commons and out of it. But that our declaration of war would have caused the Czar to retire from his occupation—though an opinion which any hon. Gentleman had a right to hold—was, in his 966 (Mr. Horsman's) view, an assertion which no party had a right to make. For that was an assertion not only not supported by a tittle of evidence, but it was directly contradicted by every probability offered by established facts. Now, what was the position of Russia at that time? She had, in the first place, the strongest hopes of engaging the German Powers on her side; and next, she altogether discredited the possibility of a cordial alliance between France and England. She was intriguing to create an insurrection among the Christian subjects of the Porte, and it was very well known that in other parts of the world she had other designs and machinations by which she expected to embarrass England and strengthen herself. Well, now what would have happened upon our making that declaration to compel her to evacuate the Principalities? In the first place, the displeasure of the German Powers would have been awakened; and next, from what had been since seen of the fixedness of purpose of the Russian Emperor, could any man now suppose that a mere threat of war on the part of England, unsupported by an ally, would have induced so proud a Monarch as he was to retrace his steps, with the German Monarchs on his side, and all the chances in his favour? But then they must also contemplate another contingency which Her Majesty's Ministers could not leave out of sight. Suppose that a hostile declaration had not succeeded—suppose that the Czar had sent forth a defiance—suppose that England found herself actually at war with him—what, then, would have been their position? First of all, the majority of European nations would have been against the Government of England. And what would happen at home? Was it imagined that there, at least, Her Majesty's Ministers would have been in a majority? What would have been the course of proceedings in that House? Why, would they not have been told that Government had acted with the greatest precipitancy? Would they not have been reminded that the Principalities had been occupied before without war ensuing? Would they not have been told of the dreadful calamities of war, and that it was the duty of Ministers to have exhausted negotiations even unto the very last verge of concession, before having recourse to so awful au alternative? Would they not have been told that it was the interest of Russia herself to remain at peace, and that with so proud a Potentate, who considered 967 himself the conservator of order in Europe, while conciliatory measures might have gained their end, Her Majesty's Ministers had resorted to force. Thus hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been found acting on these convictions—Ministers would not have been supported by the leading parties out of doors, and the people of England, unconvinced of the necessity of war, and disunited as to its policy, would have been impatient of its burdens, while in that House the question would be used as the constant theme for party motion against the Government, which would have sacrificed its strength and character, and perilled even its existence by that precipitate energy which they were now sneered at and blamed for not having displayed at an earlier period. Such would have been the condition—the embarrassing and disastrous condition—of this country, if the declaration of war had not succeeded in intimidating the Czar, and he thought that subsequent events had gone to prove he was not the man to have been so intimidated. But it was also said by the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) that the noble Earl administering the Foreign Department had shown himself very weak and very credulous, because, having received assurances from the Russian Chancellor of the pacific intentions of his master, he had believed those assurances, at the very time when he was in possession of those very reports which showed him that Russia was increasing her preparations for war; and the noble Lord over and over again declared that the noble Earl was highly censurable for thus believing, while these increased armaments were going on, in the probable preservation of peace. At the same time, it appeared to him that the noble Lord had made some important admissions in his speech, to justify him (Mr. Horsman) in speaking of it as being characterised by injustice, because on an examination of those despatches he did not find that the Earl of Clarendon, with the evidence of increased armaments on the one side, had trusted merely to the assurances of the Russian Minister on the other. He rather thought the noble Earl was too experienced a diplomatist to trust so much to Russian diplomacy in preference to obvious facts. He had found in these despatches no absolute mitigation of the war cry, but that the assurances of peace were confirmed and supported by other circumstances which gave to them a weight and a credibility which they might not 968 otherwise merit. No doubt Russia at that time was concentrating large armies, and for the purpose of ambitious designs, if circumstances had favoured their execution. At that time she had hopes of the co-operation of the two German Powers; she might fancy that by an immense display of forces she would intimidate those Powers into an alliance with her; she also scouted the idea of anything like a cordial alliance between France and England; and if the result of the negotiations had been in accordance with the hopes she had entertained she would have marched her armies to Constantinople. But these blue books showed that Lord Clarendon had other information; he was in possession of those despatches to which the hon. Member for Aylesbury referred the other night, by which Austria and Prussia pledged themselves that in the case of an aggressive war being undertaken by Russia, they would range themselves on the side of France and England. He was also well aware—on which the people of England could not congratulate themselves too much—that they had a sure, a trusty, and cordial ally in the Emperor of the French. And, therefore, he had not merely trusted to the assurance of an old diplomatist, but he knew that those assurances accorded with the interest of Russia, and that she could not enter on that war except at manifest disadvantage, and to the detriment of those interests. Now, suppose that in the month of last July the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) had gone to the Foreign Office to remonstrate with the noble Earl on the folly of continuing negotiations, while Russia was continuing her armaments, and let him imagine Lord Clarendon to put this question to the noble Lord:—"You think Russia is intent on war, but suppose the result of the negotiations unfavourable to her, and that on their termination Russia is so completely alone that not only in the event of hostilities will she have the armies and fleets of England and France against her, but that in certain contingencies these will be backed by Austria and Prussia—are you of opinion that she will go on against such odds?" Now, what would have been the answer of any sensible man to such a demand? He would have said at once, "If such a combination as that just described could be brought about—if the position of Russia could be rendered so isolated, and her going to war so fatal, the Government of England need not trouble itself about her 969 armaments, for that Russia understood her interests too well to engage in a war," and that the noble Earl might therefore go down to the House of Peers, and say, notwithstanding all appearance to the contrary, that he had every confidence in the preservation of peace. That appeared to him to have been the position of Government. It was not that they trusted merely to the assurances of a Minister that peace would be preserved, but they expected that the Emperor of Russia had always an eye to his own interest; that that was a ruling principle of his life; and, therefore, when Lord Clarendon calculated, on that occasion, that the Czar would act in accordance with his interest, he made that calculation which every prudent man would have made, and he was deceived as every prudent man might have been. The noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) put a question regarding the character of these despatches. It was, however, quite impossible to maintain, that written, as these despatches were, under such circumstances of peril and difficulty—with an enemy in from so formidable as the Czar—with allies so slippery as the German Powers—it was impossible to maintain that in everything that had been written they had used precisely the right words, or that every answer had been dispatched precisely at the right time. On the contrary, there was much room for criticism. He found in them evidence of confidence frequently misplaced, of calculations frequently falsified, and quite sufficient testimony that the old and worn-out machinery of notes and conferences had been brought to bear without success. But he must say that, taking these notes as a whole, they presented to him the parties conducting these negotiations, as men meeting together in critical circumstances, under a sense of their responsibility, conscious of the momentous consequences that would ensue from the slightest false step, deeply impressed with the calamities of war, incurring danger in the interest of peace, and devoting all their energies, zealously and conscientiously, amidst divers interests, to settle the demerits of a great European question, for the warding off, perhaps for the next generation as well as this, the heaviest calamities that could be inflicted upon man. Now the noble Lord followed up this statement by another, and which he (Mr. Horsman) thought of all the statements he made was the least supported by facts. He stated that the delay which had resulted from 970 negotiation had tended greatly to the injury of Turkey and to the advantage of Russia. Now, he must say on the contrary, whether by accident or design—it being impossible to sever a policy from its results—that if war was inevitable from the first, it was impossible for any combination of circumstances to have placed this country in a situation more favourable, or in one giving more life to our movements, more union to our councils, than that in which she happily now stands. And, on the other hand, would it have been possible to have placed the Emperor of Russia in a position of greater difficulty and embarrassment, from which to extricate himself without humiliation and loss—whether our Government had to calculate on the adroitness of its own diplomatists, or the blundering of his—than the position in which he was now so happy to see him. Eight months ago the Emperor of Russia was in a great position—he was the representative of order or legitimacy in Europe; now he stood forward unmasked as the greatest of revolutionists and isolated without one popular sympathy, without the support of one Cabinet—foiled in his intrigues with Persia—repelled by Sweden and Denmark—separated from Austria and Prussia—unsuccessful in war in Asia, and well thrashed on the Danube—he had shown an alacrity in sinking, which, if he might say so without disheartening the feelings of the hon. Member for the West Riding, was perfectly refreshing. England and France were masters of the situation, and the Czar must submit to any terms they might dictate, or he must continue to fight under disadvantages that must lead to his eventual extinction. The noble Lord had asked the ends and objects for which they were going to war. He, too, would have been glad if the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had comforted them by saying that they were not going to war to establish the status quo ante bellum by the renewal of the old treaties. On the contrary, he believed it was their duty to take care not to secure a peace unless that peace was guaranteed by full, certain, and ample securities against a similar aggression in future. The same motives for aggression would always exist—a better excuse could not be wanting; and it behoved them to guard against the recurrence of attempts to which Turkey would otherwise always be subject, and by which Europe would always be embarrassed. But there was an additional guarantee, for which they 971 had provided in the case of the war between Turkey and Russia. By the treaty of Adrianople Turkey was made to pay the sum of 5,000,000l. for the expenses of the war which was not her fault. Now, the present war had been attended with ruinous expense to Turkey, and he therefore trusted that one of the conditions of peace would be that Russia should be made to give her indemnification for its expenses, and that Turkey should receive material guarantees in the restoration of those territories of which she had been deprived. He had no great fear of Russian armaments, although he had of Russian diplomacy, and he held the opportunity which she had now given should not be allowed to pass unprofitably, and that, if she had thus forced upon Europe the direst of calamities, she should be made to pay for it the severest penalties. He believed the people of England did not care much whether past negotiations had been successful, but he thought they would insist on future operations being consistent and manly. He believed they were entering on a crisis, the extent and magnitude of which might still depend on the ability with which it was met; and they had a right to expect that the Ministry which was to guide them through that crisis should have a sure policy and a defined purpose; that in the worst vicissitudes of war they should speak rather as men than as diplomatists; and thus the people of England, if they were so led, and for such a purpose, would welcome any sacrifice and gladly brave any dangers which were to save Europe from a barbaric incursion, and establish more firmly than before the peace and liberties of the world.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, he did not mean to question that part of the eloquent speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, in which he had passed a just panegyric on the statesmanlike qualities displayed in the papers laid before the House. But he must say he thought his concluding observations exceedingly dangerous. He begged the House to consider that the first despatch in these blue books was dated May, 1850, and that they were now in February, 1854, and yet this was the first time that any attempt was made, either by the present or by any former Government, to give the people of this country any information of what was going on in reference to these transactions. He believed that such a proceeding was unparalleled in the records of Parliament, 972 and it was the more important, as he believed that the country stood in great need of information. The hon. Gentleman who opened this debate (Mr. Layard) had several times last Session attempted to bring this matter forward, and Her Majesty's Ministers then felt the discussion so inopportune that they be sought him, almost as a personal favour, to postpone it. When, at last, the hon. Gentleman, in the present Session, did seize the opportunity to bring this matter before the House, he was met by Her Majesty's Ministers with taunts and reproaches for employing his time in pottering over blue books, instead of lauding him for his efforts to bring the subject before the House. At present, all they knew was that the Sovereign and her confidential advisers were going to war, but they did not know if anybody else was going to war. Now, would it not be well to examine a little who was going to support them? It was said the country would support them, but the country was an abstract term; let him come a little to the concrete. They had heard from the hon. Member for the West Riding that certain persons in this country were exceedingly ill-disposed to be interrupted in their manufacturing munitions of war for the enemy. They seemed to think it an interference with free trade, and, if that was their feeling, the House might depend upon it that, though these merchants might not take their goods to Russia direct, they would find means to have them carried—aye, and by English merchants, too—to those places where they might supply the enemy with the means of destroying our soldiers. It was not to be supposed, then, that these manufacturers were likely to support them in the war. They might, perhaps, flatter themselves that the poor would be favourable to the war, for Ministers said, "We shall only raise taxes from the rich. We shall double the income tax, but we shall not take any taxes from the poor." But let him ask them, would not the taxes upon the rich ultimately fall upon the poor? Besides, had they shown yet one single reason why the people of England should go to war? The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) said that he and all his friends were ready to vote the supplies. No doubt of it. They would vote anything to get Ministers into a mess. The question was, how they would act when they had got them into a mess. Why, they would do precisely what the Whigs did during the last war— 973 they would torment and tease the Government with hostile criticism, in order to displace them if possible. But even Ministers were not immortal; he might add that their position was not immovable. How could they be sure that the noble Lord would continue to act as he now proposed? Suppose that he were in opposition, what would he do? Just what the Gentlemen opposite were now doing. He would assuredly lend no strength to those who might be in office to assist in carrying on the war. He therefore heartily prayed for the noble Lord, both personally and officially, in Eastern phrase, "May his shadow never be less." How otherwise could he answer for the conduct of the war? How could they be sure that there would not be in the newspapers some letter to the electors of London, or perhaps to a Bishop, blowing up the whole Government? How could they know that the noble Lord would not play the Guy Faux to his own party? Now that the people of this country were entering upon war, it was right and proper they should be told what they were going to war for; and though he had read the blue books through, he had not found a word upon that subject. He was led to believe, and he thought he could prove it, that they were about to enter upon a religions war. They were entering upon a crusade for the tomb of Geoffrey de Bouillon, which was already so broken that it was scarcely discernible, and into this crusade they were to be led by that author of all mischief, the Pope. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham) had told them what he expected. In the favourite phrase of Mr. Pitt, he evidently wanted indemnity for the past and security for the future. A document had appeared from Prince Metternich, in a foreign journal, in which he showed that of all the nations upon earth England had the least interest in this question, and that the only end of going to war was to inflict such a wound upon the enemy as should disable him, in order to make him sue for peace, but it was impossible for Russia and England to inflict such a wound on each other. Now he would show them what the public thought upon this question, by quoting an extract from a journal that was conducted with great talent and ability, and that possessed, he believed, a considerable circulation. The journal was one that was chiefly to be found in public-houses, and 974 was consequently read by a greater number of persons than Many of the other papers:—It is high time they should be finally assured that every penny taken out of every Englishman's pocket, to pay the charges of this contest, we are determined to get back again. No rascal Autocrat must be permitted to disturb the peace of Europe 'on tick.' It is not enough that he should be beaten, humiliated, quashed. He must and shall be made to 'pay the piper.' We are a nation of shopkeepers, We post our daybook and keep up our ledger. We shall have it heavy account to balance with Russia for this 'vexatious defence' or 'malicious prosecution;' and by Him that made Englishmen with a hatred of oppression and a love of justice, that headstrong Autocrat who has presumed to trifle with the peace of Europe and the progress of mankind shall be made to pay us 20s. in the pound, or to have an execution put into his house, and a broker's man placed in possession. We would arouse the attention of every good subject to this consideration, so that a sound basis of public opinion may be laid at the outset, and so that Ministers may be set right and kept right by the people, should they be inclined to go wrong. We deliberately reiterate the conviction that henceforth no war on our part can be justified, either to the consciences or to the understanding, which does not also bear out not merely the right, but the soundness of the policy of making it bear its own charges. Indemnity for the past and security for the future, are the right of every State that is 'sinned against, not sinning.'Now he wished to know whether this was really and truly the sort of support Her Majesty's Ministers were receiving in the country? Was this truly the object for which they were now going to war? Let it be remembered that the circumstances under which we should prosecute this war were very different to those of the last. In the last war we took ships from the enemy every day; every now and then we took a rich colony and absorbed the trade of the world, so that we increased in wealth enormously; but in the present war we should have nothing to take; we should have only hard blows to give and heavy bills to pay. But it was said, "This is a popular war, and the whole country is anxious to get into it." No doubt the country was very angry with Russia, and therefore we ought to go to war; but he must say that the hon. Gentleman near him (Mr. Cobden) had taken more pains than any man he knew to excite that opinion. Nay, a short time ago he even volunteered to crumple her up like a sheet of paper;—and if he had been only good enough to put the threat into execution, he would have saved the world a good deal of trouble, and that House a good deal of debate. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had said, if he 975 (Mr. Drummond) were not mistaken, that the original cause of this trouble was the Holy Places; but that the whole of that question was now given up. All given up! Why, what superscription was that at the back of the blue books? Where were those blue books about what was now called the balance of power? Nowhere; but here was the title of those with which the House was now pottering: "Correspondence respecting the Rights and Privileges of the Latin and Greek Churches in Turkey." The Latin and Greek Churches were the whole subject of the blue books; and they constituted the matter with which the House had now to deal. And he would maintain that from the very first up to this hour, this was the whole subject, and nothing but the subject. This was what he wished the country to consider and to understand. He wanted the country to consider and to understand that it was not the balance of power, but the Latin and Greek Churches, that we were going to fight about, and we were to all intents and purposes entering into a religious war. The balance of power he should come to before he sat down; but, meanwhile, he would assert, that the sole question was a religious question. Sir Stratford Canning, for example, said, in a despatch to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, then Foreign Secretary:—The French legation at this Court considers itself entitled by the treaty of 1740 to take the lead in vindicating the alleged rights of the Latin Church (i. e. Greek Papists, subjects of the Porte). The Pope has been moved to exert his influence in furtherance of the views adopted by France; and all the Catholic Powers will be engaged by his Holiness to co-operate for the same purpose. The Spanish, Sardinian, and Neapolitan representatives have severally given in notes to the Porte, seconding the French demands. The Austrian chargé d'affaires has recently received instructions to support the Latin view of the question. The Sultan proposes mixed commissions to examine into the claims of all the Christian sects.What object his Holiness might have in starting this question he neither knew nor cared; all he had to do with was the correspondence, from which he found that the same thing continued to go on. And in another despatch from our Ambassador at Constantinople, he says:—I am informed that the Spanish, Sardinian, and Neapolitan representatives have severally given in notes to the Porte, seconding the French demand, and stating that they act by the express command of their respective Governments.The Greeks, as on former occasions, are un- 976 derstood to be preparing for a vigorous resistance; and, judging from expressions which M. de Titoff has let fall in conversation, I have little doubt that they will be strongly, if not ostensibly, supported by Russian influence.The Porte is fully aware of the important political considerations involved, and the strong conflicting passions likely to be engaged in the pending controversy. It will probably be slow to commit itself to a conclusive answer; and its reception of General Aupick's application appears, though courteous, to have been reserved. Aala Pasha is evidently inclined to doubt whether the terms of the treaty referred to by that Minister are calculated to bear him out in his view of the subject.In the following year, namely, 1851, Sir Stratford Canning, in writing on the 4th of November, to Lord Palmerston, said:—M. de Lavalette, instead of pushing his right to an extreme, took upon himself the responsibility of declaring his readiness to extend the principle of joint possession to the whole number. In so doing he would have anticipated the instructions of his Government, and exposed himself to the animadversion of Rome and of certain parties in France.Meaning that party represented by Count de Montalembert. In another despatch it was stated that M. Lavalette had more than once talked of the probability of a French fleet appearing before Jaffa, unless the demands of France, in respect to the Holy Places, were conceded. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in a despatch to our Ambassador at St. Petersburg, complained as follows:—Her Majesty's Government cannot avoid perceiving that the Ambassador of France was the first to disturb the status quo in which the matter rested. Not that the disputes of the Latin and Greek Churches were not very active, but that without some political action on the part of France those quarrels would never have troubled the relations of friendly Powers. In the next place, if report is to be believed, the French Ambassador was the first to speak of having recourse to force.That was to say, these things were begun under the pretence of religion, but secretly with a political end. In all this the Turks behaved uncommonly well. They did not care one farthing whether the dog eat the hog or the hog the dog, so that the matter was settled; and they said, "We will send a Commissioner to Jerusalem, who will put you both to rights." Accordingly Azif Bey went to Jerusalem; he invited the different parties to meet him in the Church of the Holy Virgin, and here was the account of what took place:—Azif Bey invited all the parties concerned to meet him in the Church of the Virgin, near Gethsemane. There he read an order of the Sultan 977 for permitting the Latins to celebrate mass once a year, but requiring the altar and its ornaments to rest undisturbed. No sooner were those words uttered than the Latins, who had come to receive their triumph over the Orientals, broke out into loud exclamations of the impossibility of celebrating mass upon a schismatic slab of marble, with a covering of silk and gold, instead of plain linen, among schismatic vases, and before a crucifix which has the feet separated instead of one nailed over the other.What an example was here set to the world! But this was not all. The cupola of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was broken down, and the parties there could not agree who should repair it. "Very well," says the Sultan, "if you cannot agree among yourselves who shall repair it, I will repair it for you." Thus Colonel Rose said:—The cupola of the Holy Sepulchre has for a length of time been in decay, and the violent disputes of the Greeks and Latins as to who should repair it are the cause that nothing has been done to it. It has now been decided that the Sultan is to repair it, and M. de Lavalette apprehends no dissension on this score. But Fuad Effendi foresees that embarrassment will arise from the pretensions of the rival sects as to whether the inscriptions round the cupola are to be in Greek or Latin, whether the sacred images in it are to be made and habited according to Greek or Latin fashions.So that, in fact, this was a dispute whether the milliner was to come from Paris or from St. Petersburg, to dress up these idols. [Laughter.] Yes, the matter did appear very fanciful, and it was certainly extremely ludicrous if—war was not impending over us about it. He did not like troubling the House with extracts, and he would only read one more, for he was anxious to prove the assertion with Which he had set out—that this was a holy war, and that the question of the balance of power was altogether an after thought which had nothing to do with the real cause of quarrel. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) said:—We should deeply regret any dispute that might lead to conflict between two of the 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 good-will towards men;' when we see rival Churches contending for mastery in the very place where Christ died for mankind, the thought of such a spectacle is melancholy indeed. Both parties should be told that, above all, they ought to refrain from putting armies and fleets in motion for the purpose of making the tomb of Christ a cause of quarrel among Christians.He had read this passage because he thought it exceedingly creditable to the 978 person who indicted it—exceedingly creditable to the Sovereign, of whom he was a servant—and exceedingly creditable to the Administration of which he formed a part. But still he must come back to this plain point—why were we not told all this a year ago? He believed that if we had, the result would have been that such a storm of indignation would have been raised, and also of laughter, as to the whole subject, that we should have heard no more of it at all. Sir Hamilton Seymour said, in 1851, that the difficulty he apprehended arose from concealment and underhand dealing. Then he (Mr. Drummond) asked why, in 1853, had not the House of Commons all these things before it. Then it was added—"The grievous difficulties from which the whole of Europe is at present suffering, have proceeded mainly from concealment and underhand dealing." This put him in mind of a story he had heard a long time ago. A Highlander brought home for his lady-love a parrot which spoke exceedingly well. Another Highlander, determined not to be outdone, went to Edinburgh and bought an owl, which he presented to his lady-love. When the owl came, "Oh," said they, "he cannot speak." "No, he cannot speak," replied the Highlander; "but see what a power o' thought there is in his face." So he supposed it was pretty much the same with the Government. It had been contended, and especially on this side the House, that we have interfered a great deal too much in continental matters. He thought so, too, but not upon precisely the same grounds. It was, in his opinion, not befitting this country to be taking part, whether justly or unjustly, with those Imperial and Royal tyrants who had trampled upon the rights of the people from Archangel to Naples; nor was it decent to be showing sympathy with those who said they would establish the liberties of Europe by the indiscriminate slaughter of every official person. But there never was a time when we might have so well escaped from continental meddling. The Emperor of Russia had broken the treaty of Vienna. The Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia were as much bound to enforce the fulfilment of that treaty as ourselves. But they also had broken it. The consequence was, a complete diplomatic chaos; and there was a complete carte blanche for future action. Now, he believed that if the Government had taken advantage of this occurrence, 979 they would have been able to mediate with better success between sovereign and people than by any course they had hitherto pursued. He came new to what was called the balance of power. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) said the other night, and also last year, that he was surprised at any person who doubted the policy of maintaining it, and that it was a subject which had occupied the attention of every statesman in Europe. But, without venturing to express an opinion opposed to those of greater and wiser men than himself, he might call the attention of the House to solid facts. They all knew the time when consternation seized every Minister of Foreign Affairs in Europe because a Bourbon was going to mount the thrones of Spain and Naples. But, in point of fact, was France one whit more powerful after that event than before? It was notorious she was not. Nor did he believe that, if the intention of Catherine was now fulfilled, which she declared when she christened her second son Constantine, of placing him upon the throne of Constantinople, that Russia would have been one whit more powerful than she was now, or that, if the Emperor of Russia obtained possession of Constantinople now, he would be one bit more powerful than he was at the present moment. But could it be said that Turkey held the balance of power? We had found out that Turkey was our ancient ally, and that her existence as an independent State was necessary to the balance of power in Europe. Why had we not found that out before we took away from her the whole kingdom of Greece? How came we not to think of that before we fought the battle of Navarino, respecting which he remembered hearing Lord St. Helen's say, in respect to that action, "That was a capital battle, but you knocked down the wrong man." How came we not to think of that when the Russians forced the Balkan and were approaching Constantinople, which we might have stopped by sending our fleet to Varna? We had thus reduced the Ottoman empire to the lowest possible state; yet now we hoped to restore its tottering frame under pretence of upholding the balance of power in Europe. On this subject he would read a remarkable passage from a speech delivered by Mr. Burke, in the year 1791, in a debate in that House:—The second point was extremely new, and contrary to all the politics with which he was acquainted, either ancient or modern, to bring 980 the Turkish empire into the consideration of the balance of power in Europe. Mr. Burke proceeded to show the impolicy and danger of this country espousing the cause of the Ottomans. What was the real state of the question? Merely to plunge ourselves into an immoderate expense to reduce the Christian nations to the yoke of the infidels, and make them the miserable victims to these inhuman savages."—[Parl. Deb., Nov. 29, 1791.]Such was Mr. Burke's opinion as to the advantages of upholding Turkey. But, supposing the maintenance of Turkey was necessary for the balance of power in Europe, he contended that they could not prevent the war from being a religious war. On this point he would quote from a State paper of Prince Metternich:—If the fury of war be now let loose—if, what in modern times has never been witnessed, England and France unitedly array themselves against an opponent, the latter will certainly not be able to keep within the narrow limits of a promise. The stake is too enormous to be risked without the prospect of some gain or other. Such a war Russia cannot terminate with the exclusive aid of mere military auxiliaries. She will have to impart to the war a religious character, in order that it may ignite and inflame without her own boundaries, and place arms in the hands of the subjects of the Sultan against their own master. Turko-Christian insurgents are the auxiliary troops which Russia will then press into her service, and it remains to be seen whether a mere geographical and national boundary can oppose an effective barrier against the stream of awakened fanaticism.Then, here he would ask, what were we to go to war for? What was the war for? Hitherto, he admitted, the business had been managed with a great deal of wisdom and discretion on the part of Her Majesty's Government; but it was not very long ago, with great difficulty, they persuaded the people of this country to look to the really defenceless nature of their own shores. It was not very long since they persuaded the people to allow them to put their own shores in a better, but by no means a complete, state of defence. It was then the fashion to cry, "Up with the Emperor Nicholas," and "Down with the Emperor Napoleon." This year they had turned round. The Emperor Napoleon was the favourite, and they joined with him to make war upon the other Emperor. And what were they doing besides? They were sending the élite of the army to the furthest limits of Europe, or rather into Asia, leaving the Emperor Napoleon to send, as his contingent, those reprobate troops, the condemned regiments from Algeria. When the noble Lord talked about the massacre of Sinope, did he not recollect something about the smoking cave of Colonel le Pe- 981 lissier? These were the troops France was sending out—such were the troops we were sending, leaving ourselves defenceless. ["No, no!"] Why, it was said by a late speaker that we were sending 40,000 troops. [An Hon. MEMBER: We have not 40,000 to send.] Then that was a good reason for not sending them. We were, however, sending out 20,000: that was not denied. We were, then, going to war; and, going to war under such circumstances, he should certainly be no party to any factious vote which might tend to weaken the hands of the Government. At the same time he should like to know who was to be the Minister of War. Mr. Canning, in his day, thought this a question of sufficient importance to insist that Lord Castlereagh should not hold that office, or he would resign. We were not, however, told who was to be the Minister of War; but we had seen enough to show us that there was a feeble hand at the helm. There was a shaking of the topsails, and an unsteadiness in the vessel's course, which showed that they did not know how to steer their future progress. They were without a chart; they had no compass; and the crew were not particularly united. This was shown in their instructions; and he must say he did not believe that the character of any general or admiral was safe in their hands, for he believed they were capable of sacrificing either to please any faction in that House. ["No, no!"] Why, had they not done so in the case of Sir James Brooke? But if it were true that this war was undertaken to establish the balance of power—if it were true that they were determined to humble the Russians and to support the injured Turks, and they were also resolved to compel Austria and Prussia to stand true to their engagements, or make them take the consequences—then he said, "Go where glory waits you." Let them enter upon that path on which France had already entered; let them enter upon the course to which the first Napoleon was pledged, remembering that the second Napoleon holds himself pledged to fulfil all the traditions of the first. Let them strike a blow at the heart of Russia, and not go wasting your shot in the Black Sea. Let them do an act which should effect at once all these ends—an act which at length, would be but tardy retributive justice—let them proclaim the re-establishment of the kingdom of Poland. By such an act they would do more to bring continental sove- 982 reigns to their senses than by any other yet suggested.
§ MR. I. BUTT
said, that he dissented from many of the propositions of the speech which they had just heard. He utterly denied that the war in which they were about to engage was in any sense a religious one, or that we were going to war open any absurd dispute about the custody of the Holy Places. Surely the hon. Member did not forget that, early in the transactions, every question on that subject had been set at rest, and then it was—after this bad been settled to the satisfaction of his own Envoy—that Russia put forward demands, the practical effect of which would be to transfer to Russia the allegiance of 12,000,000 Christian subjects of the Porte—the inevitable result of which world have been at no distant day to place the Czar upon the throne of Byzantium. He would not debate with the hon. Member whether this would injure the interests of Great Britain; he said, with Lord Chatham, "I will not argue with the man who does not understand that this to England is a question, of life and death." He (Mr. Butt) had ventured to ask the attention of the House, because he believed that upon this question the expression of opinion ought not to he confined to those who were accustomed to take a lead in their deletes, but that there ought to be a general expression from the House—from the representatives of every part of the United Kingdom—that, if Ministers were now earnestly about to resist that gigantic tyranny which had assumed an attitude of undisguised menace to the liberties of Europe, in that resistance they would receive from the people of these countries it cordial, a generous, and an enthusiastic support. But he (Mr. Butt) did not believe it inconsistent with these sentiments to canvass their past policy, to seek information as to their present position, or even to ask for assurances as to their intentions for the future. On the contrary, he (Mr. Butt) believed that the support which that House would give to Ministers would lose all its moral weight if it were that of a House of Commons prepared blindly to vote whatever a Minister asked, and if it were not a free and deliberate support, founded upon a knowledge of their intentions a concurrence in their policy, and on a reasoning approval of their plans. This he believed was the true position of a British House of Commons upon an occasion like this. He could not admit that, even in relation to a 983 war, their only duty was to vote supplies. This was the first time since the Revolution that a Minister of the Crown had asked the House of Commons to vote war estimates without a full statement of the causes that made them necessary, and the objects for which they were asked. It was the prerogative of the Crown to declare war, but it was equally the constitutional right of that House to give or to withhold the supplies that were necessary to carry on war, and when these supplies were asked for they had a perfectly constitutional right to have the fullest information. He heard with surprise the language that had been used by the first of Her Majesty's Ministers who had addressed the House. That language amounted to a claim to withdraw the foreign policy of the country altogether from the cognisance of Parliament. When negotiations were proceeding they were told that to inquire into them was to damage the public service; when they were concluded, to canvass them was to potter over blue books. Against these doctrines he might perhaps venture to quote the words in which the constitutional historian of England describes upon such questions the position of Parliament. Hallam thus describes the advantages of parliamentary discussion of such subjects:—The pulse of Europe beats according to the tone of our parliament. The counsels of our kings are there revealed, and by that kind of previous sanction which it has been customary to obtain, become as it were the resolutions of a senate, and we enjoy the individual pride and dignity which belong to republicanism, with the steadiness and tranquillity which the supremacy of a single person has been supposed particularly to bestow.In the days of the Tudors he knew language had been held to the House of Commons, in which English Sovereigns told them to leave foreign politics to the Crown, and not meddle with things too high for them; but in these days he (Mr. Butt) had hardly expected any Minister to use language which, after all, very closely approximated to this. Upon an occasion like this, the House had a perfect right to canvass the past policy of Ministers. But it was essential for them to ask information both as to their present position and as to the objects for which they were going to war. Was this country now at war? In the legal and official sense we certainly were not. But if we were really and practically at war, what delayed its formal declaration? Surely they had a right to have these questions answered when they 984 were asked to vote these supplies. They had no Message from the Crown; the only information they had was conveyed in Her Majesty's Speech at the opening of the Session, and in that they were told that, while the efforts of this country for peace would be continued, Her Majesty thought it advisable to increase her armaments—for what purpose? "To give weight to her representations" in the interests of peace. Was this the purpose for which they were now asked to vote these supplies? Was there a man in that House who would vote them for such a purpose? Was there a Minister who would advise their Sovereign now to enter on further negotiations with the Emperor of Russia. But, he asked again, was England now at war? The question was one that vitally affected the honour and the character of this country. Instructions have been sent to our Admiral to enter the Black Sea, and to compel every Russian vessel of war which he met to return to a Russian port, and this order was given while we were at peace. Now he asked, according to the law of nations, how were they to justify this order? If Admiral Dundas had found it necessary to enforce that order, if he had fired into a Russian ship of war and burned her, and destroyed her crew, while that ship was passing from one Russian port to another, how by the law of nations could they have justified this act to the vessel of a nation with whom we were at peace? Would they justify it by the allegation of a defensive treaty with the Porte? Was there such a treaty? If there was, it was impossible then to justify their conduct to the Porte. These orders were actually given, and might have been executed, while diplomatic relations were still subsisting between this country and Russia upon the assumption that they were friendly Powers. He (Mr. Butt) hoped that before the debate closed some Minister of the Crown would distinctly tell them the ground upon which they justified the orders to Admiral Dundas. The question affected in more ways than one the honour of the British flag. See the effect of the doubtful position in which their fleet was placed. Their ships lay at Constantinople, neither at peace nor at war. What is the consequence? Under the protection of the British flag, and almost under the shelter of their guns, a flotilla of their allies is destroyed in the massacre at Sinope; after this is done their Admiral enters the Black 985 Sea, and leaves it without firing a shot. He returns to his anchorage to avoid the bad weather which was apprehended. In old times their hearts used to thrill when they spoke of the British flag as "one that braved the battle and the breeze;" but now it would seem the highest merit of a British Admiral was that he went out the day after the battle, and came back the day before the storm. This was not the fault of the Admiral, it was the result of the anomalous mission on which they sent our fleet—a mission upon which he could not help thinking a British Admiral never should have been sent—a mission which was nothing more than to act as a kind of special constable, and keep the peace in the Black Sea. He asked, then, that Ministers should distinctly explain to them their present position. But it was of no less importance that, if war is to be declared, the country should know what was to be the object of that war. It was all very well to say it was to resist Russia; but there was another question behind, one in which the honour and the good faith of this country were now deeply involved. Were they prepared unreservedly to support the sovereign rights and the absolute independence of the Ottoman Porte? If they were not—if they entertained any ulterior designs—if they had any reservation in their support, then they would be guilty of the deepest treachery to a confiding ally. The First Lord of the Admiralty had stated the other night, that after Count Nesselrode's manifesto it became impossible to force the Vienna note upon the Sultan, implying that but for that manifesto we should have compelled the Sultan to accept it. Had we done so we should have inflicted upon Turkish independence a deeper wound than any which Russia could strike. What right had we to force the Sultan to sign any note? His position was plain. He had violated no treaty, He had broken no law. Russia had no right to demand his signature to any note which he himself rejected; but neither had France nor England, And had we forced him to adopt the Vienna note, the only difference between that and the ultimatum of Prince Menchikoff would have been that Turkish independence would have fallen by the hands of three assassins instead of one. If he referred to these past transactions, he did so with reference to the future. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London had told the House that a convention had 986 been proposed to the Porte, which he had no doubt would be accepted, and that by this convention the Porte was to be bound not to make peace without the consent of France and England. He (Mr. Butt) must ask the attention of the House to the fact that terms of a very different character had already been proposed to the Porte. In the despatch of the 24th of December last—a despatch which he had read with a feeling of humiliation when he found a British Minister rebuking and repressing the national spirit of a people rising in defence of their country against the invader—in that despatch Lord Clarendon instructed our Ambassador to demand from the Sultan, as the condition of our naval assistance in the Euxine, not that the Sultan should pledge himself not to make peace without the concurrence of France and England, but that he should give a very different pledge, binding him to submit to any terms of peace to which France and England might agree; with the reservation, that his assent should not be asked to anything which he had already refused. Now, he thought the House had a right distinctly to be informed which of these conditions was embodied in the convention which the noble Lord told them had been proposed. Did that convention bind the Sultan to accept any terms of peace that France and England might dictate? He trusted one of the Ministers would give a distinct answer to this question, for if they imposed upon the Sultan such terms, utterly destructive of his independence, as the condition of their military assistance, then it might be that the armaments which they were asked to vote to maintain against Russia the independence of the Porte, they might in reality be voting for its subjugation. It was now too late to impose conditions. The honour and good faith of England were pledged; and he (Mr. Butt) could conceive no more monstrous violation of both than if, now, after they had in the first instance encouraged the Sultan to resist—after they had restrained him from driving back the invader at a time when he (Mr. Butt) believed the bravery and spirit of his people, if not repressed by us, could have done it—if, after all this, and when, on the faith of our friendship, he had invited our ships to anchor where their guns commanded his palace—if, after all this, we were now to turn round on him and coerce him to make any concessions which he himself judged inconsistent with his dignity or prejudicial to 987 his rights. These were subjects upon which he (Mr. Butt) thought the House had a right to expect the fullest and most unreserved statement of the views of Ministers. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last had attempted to drag into this question the religious element, but would any man venture to tell him that it was a part of the Christian religion to side with the Christian oppressor against the unbeliever whom he oppressed? The days were gone by when pillage and rapine were to be justified by the name of the Christianity they profaned. That subject was one on which he wished to say but little; but they had Divine authority for judging of men, not by their professions, but by their acts. Let them try the antagonists by this test. Suppose a stranger, who knew nothing of the religion of either party, but who did know the acts of both, and the duties which Christianity enjoins. On the one side he would find unprovoked invasion—wilful violation of treaties—an army entering an unoffending country, and maintaining its occupation by cruelty and oppression. On the other side he would find scrupulous observance of engagements—patience under insults—moderation under the infliction of wrong—firmness and devotion to the cause of justice and right. He (Mr. Butt) could not help thinking that, judging by the test of their actions, he would come to the conclusion that it was on the southern bank of the Danube that the true Christians were to be found. But if any Gentleman in that House harboured the delusion that they were to benefit the Christian population of Turkey by removing them from the authority of the Sultan to subject them to that of the Czar, they might bring the matter to a practical test. The population of Wallachia and Moldavia were Christians. How had they now been treated by that Russian army which crossed the Pruth to protect the Christian subjects of Turkey? But the contrast was still more complete. In 1848 these Christian provinces had been occupied by Russian and Turkish forces at the same time. He would ask of hon. Gentlemen to read the despatch in which Sir Hamilton Seymour contrasted the conduct of the two armies. The Turkish general treated the people with equity and mildness, the Russians were the instigators of prosecution and oppression. The Turks carefully avoided pillage and scrupulously paid for everything they used, the Russian ravages resembled those of a flight 988 of locusts. This was the description of the cold and cautious language of diplomacy. This was in 1848. But the despatch went on to say, that last year, just as the provinces were recovering the devastation of their former visit, the Russian forces once more crossed the Pruth. They then professed to pay for what they consumed; but how? by forcing on the people notes which they had extorted from their impoverished exchequer, under the pretence of reimbursing themselves the expense of their former occupation. Could there be a doubt that when an English or a Turkish army entered these provinces to drive out the Russians, they would be hailed by the Christian population as their deliverers from the tyranny of their Christian oppressor, and after this was he to be told that they were to permit Russia to seize on Constantinople for the sake of the Christian population of the East? He (Mr. Butt) had ventured to take part in this debate only that he might add his individual voice to the expression of what he believed to be the universal feeling of the people of the United Kingdom. If Ministers were now prepared unreservedly and energetically to defend the liberties of the world against the aggression by which they were threatened, they would receive from that people a cordial and an almost unanimous support. But let him add, if they proved themselves unworthy of that people—if they paltered with the crisis—if they had any secret reserve in their support of that Turkish independence which was the only barrier against Russian domination, but to which, at all events, the honour and faith of England were now irretrievably committed—if their military armaments were but a parade to introduce the conditions of a dishonourable peace—then, when the prophecy of Napoleon was realised, and in the cycle of events a northern incursion had, a second time, trampled down the nations of Europe, history would record their names as those of the men, who, in the crisis of England's destiny, betrayed the interests and greatness of their country, and with them the cause of the freedom and civilisation of the world.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
I must say, Sir, that the Government have no cause to complain of the tone the debate has assumed this evening, though, at the same time, it must be confessed that the Government is placed between two fires. We are told by one party in the House that we have arrived tardily at the right place, but 989 that we took the wrong road to it; we are told by another that we took the right road at first, but that now we have arrived at the wrong place. These two lines of argument have both been maintained with great skill and ingenuity, and therefore if I have anything to complain of them it is this—that though hon. Gentlemen criticised the conduct of the Government from either point of view, I will not say unfairly, but at any rate severely, they are yet unanimous in declining to test the opinion of the House as to the prudence and wisdom of the course which Government has thought fit to pursue, and they to criticise. The noble Lord the Member for Colchester (Lord J. Manners) tells us, that it is all but the unanimous opinion of this House and the country that these negotiations have been signally mismanaged. Well, if the noble Lord thinks that to be the universal opinion of the House, why does he not ask them to express it? We are placed, as I have previously said, between two fires, yet, in spite of these different attacks from two hostile camps, we cannot get any means of ascertaining what the House really thinks of our policy. Perhaps the tactics of hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to the Government are the tactics which some have attributed to Russia with regard to Turkey. It was said that the last thing which Russia sought or expected was the overthrow of Turkey by Russian arms, but that her wish was to weaken Turkey and degrade her with a view to her own destruction. Perhaps their wish is not at once to destroy us, but to weaken before they overturn, and so, ultimately, to achieve our overthrow and the spread of their more orthodox faith at the same time. As it is no doubt the wish of the House to finish this debate to-night, I will at once promise to make scarcely any reference to the blue books, and I certainly will not read a single passage from them; but I must say the selections made by hon. Members, so far, have been considerably more remarkable for their ingenuity than for their fairness. I do not think it, necessary myself to trouble you with extracts; and I do not believe it possible but that any man coming with the mind of a special pleader to the perusal of such a mass of papers as these must be able to make a charge against the Government of having omitted this or forgotten that, or neglected the other which they should have foreseen and provided for. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard), not content with a good deal of 990 criticism of isolated portions of the negotiations, complained of the translation of the papers, and said that beau rôle, was translated an "important part," which he thought an unsatisfactory translation. The hon. Member also, in reading that despatch, read it as if it referred to the present question, the invasion of the Principalities; the fact being that it referred to the previous transaction, which had been concluded. It referred to the efforts made by Lord Stratford to set at rest the differences in respect to the Holy Places, which previous dispute he did succeed in reconciling, thereby bringing into close connection Turkey and France, who, up to that time, had been the parties to the dispute. On that success which Lord Stratford achieved on that occasion we were afterwards able to form our alliance with France, which has been the key-stone our whole policy ever since. Up to the period when Lord Stratford went to Constantinople we had kept entirely out of those negotiations of which the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) has spoken; for we, as a Protestant nation, had nothing to do with a quarrel which originated in the ignorance and fanaticism of two different sets of monks at Jerusalem. I think the French nation committed a great diplomatic error in ever entering into that discussion originally, but it showed great dignity in abandoning it, and, by an alliance with England, enabling Turkey to resist the usurpation which arose out of it on the part of Russia.
But it is objected that all the existing difficulties arose entirely from the neglect of the Government to use vigorous measures last year; and it is almost impossible for me to answer that charge without plagiarising from the argumentative and eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman). In the first place the Government do not shun discussion on these negotiations, or on the details of these a negotiations; but hon. Gentlemen opposite must remember that they have facts before them, and that they have the advantage of criticising the past. We had no facts to deal with—we could only speculate as to the future. However, I give you all that advantage, and I say that, looking at the whole results of our policy, I am not afraid to pit them against the possible results of any course which you may suggest or recommend. Of course, it is easy for any Gentleman to say, "If you had done anything else, other events would have followed;" and 991 no doubt it is a very philosophical observation that different causes would have produced different results; but it is idle to deal with questions in that debating-club kind of way. We have to deal with facts. Let us compare, therefore, the results of the line of policy which we adopted with that which you say we should have adopted. You say, if we had acted with vigour when the Principalities were first invaded we should have had peace. But what were the circumstances of this country at that time? We have now a magnificent fleet in the Black Sea. Had we a magnificent fleet in the Black Sea then? We have now a numerical superiority over the fleet of Russia; then we were numerically inferior. We had not gut at that time a second fleet to send to the Baltic, where Russia has, I believe, twenty-eight sail of the line; that second fleet we have ready now. Turkey, also, has made good use of the interval, the necessity of which, seen by Her Majesty's Government at home, was seen also by Lord Stratford on the spot. Lord Stratford's advice was identical with ours as to the Porte's not treating the invasion of the Principalities as a casus belli. He saw the danger of involving Turkey in a contest for which she had made no preparation while the army of Russia was formidable, in numbers at least. And what is the loss that Turkey has suffered by the delay? What is the state of things at the present moment? Has she not organised, drilled, and brought into the field a considerable army, and are not her alliances in Europe considerably more favourable than they were then? How stand her relations with Austria and Prussia? The House should recollect for how many years Russia had been acting in close connection with Prussia, and allied to her by ties of blood; and the relation between Russia and Austria was that of a benefactor and a grateful friend. It required time to effect an alteration of such intimate relations between countries. But since that time the manly language and patriotic expressions of the Prussian people had shown that she knew how to estimate the proper position in which she should stand in Europe, while Austria now held a very different tone towards Russia, evidently showing that she now took a different view of her own interests from what she did a year ago. When you consider the great changes which have been thus effected, I think no man of common fairness, who even now looks at the case with an impartial eye, 992 I can hesitate in admitting that the Government, placed in circumstances of great difficulty, had taken a wise and a just course—a course at once the most prudent for the purpose of avoiding war, and the most prudent for the purpose of maintaining it, if ultimately it became indispensably necessary.
I own I am not one those who are inclined to ask the House of Commons to support the Government on the ground that we are entering on a slight and paltry struggle, to which one can see an easy and immediate termination. When I hear it stated that Russia is a country which you may leave to her own plans, secure that she is not formidable because no nation of slaves ever was formidable, I reply that is a delusion, and a delusion which the history of every great conquest in the world tends to discredit. It is disproved by the Russian campaign in Italy, and also by her advance into the heart of Europe during the last war; and to say that she could not make great conquests is to forget the history of Europe during the last century. It is most impolitic, for the mere purpose of depreciating the prowess of Russia, to underrate her capabilities of aggression, and to deny her such aggressive reputation, as her campaigns in 1773 and 1804, as far as Austria and Prussia were concerned, and her conquests in respect of the Turkish provinces in former years, justify her in claiming. Then, again, you say that Russia is not powerful, because she is a nation of slaves. Now, recollect what is the power of Russia. The Russian peasantry are a primitive people; and among all primitive nations the feeling of nationality is strong. In Russia, consequently, it is strong, and the form it takes there is lust of territory. It may be said that the population is, part of it, semi-barbarous; but then it must be remembered that it has at its head a Government possessed of, and using, all the appliances and modes of modern civilisation. And here there is a marked difference between the circumstances of the two countries—Turkey being a country of which the Government is Asiatic, while the people are European; Russia being a country where the people are Asiatic, whilst the Government is European. In the one case, the intelligence and power of mind below are subject to that which, after all, is brutal and ferocious; in the other, the inferior element of force is subject to the directing influence of mina above. Russia is thus a most 993 powerful country; and in considering its strength we must not omit to take into the account the personal character of the Emperor. Now, I feel as strongly as any man can what have been the misdeeds of Russia during these transactions; but because we are going to engage in a struggle with this nation, that is no reason why we should either undervalue or underrate the ability of her Emperor; and there can be no doubt that his personal character, the masculine energy with which he sets in motion, and the iron hand with which he controls, all the operations of that country, greatly deserve calculation. Recollect, he has not only nationality, but he has also religion to appeal to. I say, therefore, that you must not underrate him, and that you must not undervalue Russia; but if you are going to engage in a mortal struggle, you must make your preparations in proportion to your estimation of your antagonist.
Now a great deal has been said, and much has been made, of the progress and civilisation of Turkey, and it is very true that that country has made great progress during the last few years; but yet I cannot in any way agree with the theory that a country like Turkey, under the influence of Mahomedanism, can, under any circumstances, advance in civilisation and improvement in the same ratio as a country under the influence of Christianity; and it ought to be understood, in reference to this branch of the question, that we are not inclined to be embarked in this war, so much for the purpose of defending Turkey as of opposing Russia. It is a fatal thing in a question like this to intermix the slightest particle of pretence with the real motives which are actuating us; and to lead away the people of England, as some portions of the press in many instances have done, to think that we were influenced in favour of the Turks, and their cruelties and barbarism, instead of being urged on against Russia to resist her aggression; and I protest against it being said that we are not induced to take the part which we do in this matter for the purpose of keeping up the balance of the Powers of Europe and resisting the encroachment of Russia, but out of a romantic feeling and sympathy for Turkey and her institutions. I have previously said that I consider it a fallacy to suppose that, because Russia is what is called a nation of slaves, that, therefore, she is a weak nation; but there is another fallacy, also, still more incorrect, and that 994 is, to say that a nation of free men, like ourselves, cannot unite for war, or combine for national purposes, and that we cannot make any sacrifices for national advantages when such advantages are to be secured by a necessary war. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) says, "You have not shown that England has any interests in this quarrel." In the first place I say, wherever there is a European interest there is an English interest; and next, if there be a country which, above all other countries, has an interest in maintaining the security of nations, it must be that which, like England, is engaged in commerce all over the world. If this be a question for Europe generally, surely England has most concern in it. But Austria is most exposed to immediate peril and danger, and she has, what I trust she will exercise, the greatest power of stopping and punishing Russian aggression at the onset. I have mentioned the fallacy that nations of slaves cannot conquer, as commonly received here. The converse of it is as commonly received in St. Petersburg. They think that a nation of freemen cannot war. They think that our factions prevent combination; and they think we are too much absorbed in commerce to attend to any great national object. The hon. Member for the West Riding made a speech of great ability in a debate here last year, which speech has had, I believe, a most mischievous effect on foreign polity in Europe, because foreign nations, who are unacquainted with the shades of English politics, cannot but think a speech from him speaks the opinion of the great mass of the people of England. ["No, no!"] I do not say that it does; but it is not unnatural that foreigners, who know the hon. Member only as having been the eloquent and successful advocate of a great social question, which was settled by his means, should have thought that, whatever other question he took up, he was equally the mouthpiece of public opinion. Now I believe that speech of the hon. Member was read at the time at St. Petersburg with unbounded admiration, as an encouragement to Russian policy, and an assurance that the English people would refuse their support to the English Government.
I think, however, that we are showing at any rate now that there is no truth in the Russian proposition, that a nation of freemen cannot be roused into going determinedly into war. I do not think that 995 in any part of this country you can find the slightest backwardness to strain every nerve for the cause we have in view. The people of England love peace; to them peace is an object on account of their interest and likewise on account of their religion. I believe if we had pursued what has been called a more vigorous course last summer—I believe if we had plunged the country into war, we should have justly been called to account for having precipitated a calamity which might have been averted—at any rate for not having exhausted every means which could be thought of to ward off from the civilised world a calamity so great. But now I believe the people of England are satisfied that the Government have done their utmost to preserve peace, and to uphold the dignity and honour of this country. And I see in every part of England the effects of that belief—that the people are not disposed to oppose the Government, but to support them. We were told some time ago that we could not trust Ireland, and yet when our regiments are ordered abroad, in no part of the United Kingdom is there greater eagerness to join them than in Ireland. We were told by persons affecting a spurious sort of patriotism—by persons who affected to be rebels, or who at least used strong language in that part of the Kingdom—that "England's danger would be Ireland's opportunity." Well, England's danger has come, and Ireland's opportunity has also come, and Ireland, with national and characteristic feelings and true patriotism, is using that opportunity to show how heartwhole is her loyalty to the Queen and her allegiance to the State. Sir, in the difficult circumstances in which the Government are placed, it is a matter of consolation to them to see such a spirit animating the people. I trust that that spirit will be worthily seconded by those to whom the duty is intrusted of seeing that their efforts are best directed, and that they themselves are placed in a position to give every efficiency to their loyalty and their patriotism; and I trust it may be said—of course I cannot speculate upon time or date—but it is my firmest belief that, as we have been compelled to draw the sword in defence of justice, of public order, and of public law—when that sword shall be sheathed it shall be sheathed with honour.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I have always thought that one of the causes of the prolongation of the last great European war was the ignorance of the people of this 996 country as to the origin and object of that struggle. Even to this moment they are matters of controversy. Whether the French Republic, for example, was an aggressive Power, or whether, on the contrary, if it bad been left alone, it would not have proved a Power essentially pacific:—whether the ambition of the first Emperor was an insatiable ambition, or whether, on the contrary, at a particular period of his life a conservative policy was not a necessity of his career; why we went to war; whether it was to put the Bourbons on the throne of France, or to reduce the limits of France, or to establish a constitutional Government in France, are still subjects of controversy, though forty years have passed, in the pages of our most eminent writers and our most popular historians. Now, Sir, I have always felt that if ever this country were embarked again in a war, which might become one of magnitude, if I were in a position which might in any way allow me to induce the people of this country to understand the cause and the object of the struggle in which they were about to engage, I certainly would make the attempt. I have ever thought that every nation, this nation particularly, would be much more prepared and much more willing to make the exertion and to endure the burdens which a state of warfare must induce and occasion, if they really knew why they were going to war, and for what they were going to war, than if they were hurried into a contest by inflammatory appeals to their passions, and carried away by an excitement which at the first moment may be convenient to a Minister, but which in a short time is followed by the inevitable reaction of ignorance, perhaps of ignorance and disaster combined.
Five and twenty years ago there was also war between the two Powers which have now mutually declared war—Russia and Turkey. Then the two great western Powers, so often referred to of late, interfered; but they took part on the side of Russia, and not of Turkey. By their union with Russia there was enacted a slaughter of Sinope on a scale compared with which the late event, so much deplored may be looked upon almost as a miniature performance. The present perplexed and the recent prostrate condition of Turkey are entirely ascribable to the events of that war, in which France and England were united against the Porte. Now I believe that at that time there was not a Member of this House who really had a 997 clear idea why we went to war on that occasion, and what was the object we intended to accomplish when we levelled a blow at the power of Turkey, which is indirectly the cause of the perils, and the perplexing circumstances which we are now called upon to consider. Well, Sir, this is an additional reason why it should be the first duty of Parliament and of the people clearly to comprehend the cause and object of the impending war. Now, Sir, for my part I cannot understand how I am to obtain that knowledge but by studying these State papers, which Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to lay upon our table, and which, in language which a few years ago was not Parliamentary, are now called "blue books." I know no other source from which I can obtain any knowledge as to the cause of the war; and I know not any means by which I can clearly arrive at the object of a war unless I first ascertain what is its cause. I, therefore, Sir, have listened with some dismay to the observations of those hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me in the debate, who have more than once informed us that we have no business to consider the past—that we are merely to consider the actual position of the Government of the country—and that we are not to inquire by what means we have arrived at our present position. I cannot draw any coarse line of demarcation with respect to these transactions between the events that have recently occurred, and the events that are occurring at this moment. I deny that you can distinguish at this moment the past from the future in those events. What is occurring at this moment is occasioned by the words written in these very despatches lying on our table. The policy there developed is preparing that future which you say is alone to absorb our attention, and is occasioning those very events which, even at this instant, may be giving a new colour to the future, which you say is alone to be the object of our study. I therefore protest against the doctrine of the First Lord of the Admiralty that we are to support the Government or to censure the Government, and that there is no middle course for the House of Commons to follow when Her Majesty has announced from the Throne that in a moment of danger she appeals with confidence to our loyalty for her support. When we are on the eve of a war, are we to be told that the House of Commons, with all the responsibility which devolves upon it at such a crisis, is to express 998 no opinion on the past, but that we must either become the servile adherents of the Government, or be exposed to the imputation of embarrassing a Ministry. I therefore feel it my duty to attempt to ascertain the cause and the object of the war before us. I don't think that this is a mere critical pursuit. I don't think that that is a task which merely consists of making observations upon the papers on the table. The right hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House protested against the reading of isolated passages from these despatches. He says that it is unfair, and that it is a manœuvre no Minister call protect himself against. Well. Sir, I cannot promise the House that I will read to them the "blue books" entire; yet, if we admit the validity of the right hon. Gentleman's objection, this would scent to be the only course open to me. But I will promise the House that I will read very few extracts from these despatches, and, far from taking isolated extracts, I will read these only with one object, namely, to maintain a position which I wish to establish to the House, and which I am sure cannot be established by any manœuvres in debate, or by having recourse to garbled extracts, or to isolated passages accommodated to the occasion.
Sir, the relations between Russia and Turkey have become of late years so familiar to hon. Gentlemen, that our duties in debate are much facilitated by the previous knowledge which exists. When I first entered Parliament some sixteen or seventeen years ago, when the relations between Russia and Turkey were brought forward, they were considered a theme for ingenious and eccentric minds. The designs of Russia were the occasional topic of a very small minority in this House. At that time the predominant opinion of the House of Commons and the country was, that there was no subject on which there was so much exaggeration as the territorial aggression of Russia. Afterwards, as the subject advanced, and by the progressive result of frequent discussions, but discussions always at long intervals and in thin Houses, there grew up certainly an opinion adopted by a respectable minority in the House, that there was a systematic design on the part of Russia, not only of possessing India, not only of attaining other great objects, but of conquering and permanently possessing Constantinople; and so far as what was then called the Eastern question—it took the form of a controversy between those who 999 believed that Russia had no political designs, and those who were fully convinced she had a direct and immediate purpose to conquer the Ottoman empire. Well, Sir, this question has gradually attracted the attention of the country—circumstances have developed in Turkey—information has been obtained, and that which I believe is the truth has been adopted by many who are entitled to the character and reputation of statesmen, namely, that Russia has no intention of forcibly conquering the Ottoman empire, but that by an adroit policy and by indirect means she purposes to obtain an influence over the Christian population of the Turkish empire, and thus exercising an authority which would have been the result of her possessing the seat of the Sultan. That, I believe, has been for some years the received tenet of those who are capable of forming a correct and moderate opinion upon this important subject. Sir, I apprehend that has been the opinion which has been adopted by those who have held responsible positions in this country of late years. I apprehend that that is the meaning which we must ascribe to the frequent expressions of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the papers on the table, which refer to the declarations—personal declarations of the Emperor of Russia—and which I need not remind the House, never appear in the printed documents which are in our hands. I apprehend we have received from Her Majesty's Ambassadors, or from other sources, such distinct declarations on the part of the Emperor of Russia on this subject, namely, that he did not contemplate, under any circumstances, an invasion of the territorial integrity of Turkey, that Her Majesty's Government—the present Government like preceding Governments—have rested with confidence upon those declarations. Sir, I don't know that the policy of Russia is expressed in more accurate language than in a despatch of Count Nesselrode's at the beginning of January, 1853. On the 14th of January, 1853, he says, speaking of his Court:—We have always desired the maintenance of the Ottoman empire, as being, take it all in all, the least mischievous arrangement for all European interests, which would not fail to come into collision in the East if the gap existed.He proceeds to say:—We will accordingly use our utmost efforts to avoid to the last, so far as depends upon us, without prejudice to our honour, whatever may be 1000 calculated still further to shake this body, at once so feeble and so tottering, at the risk of causing it to fall into powder.He says, in another despatch:—There exists a community of interest between 50,000,000 of the Russian population and 12,000,000 of the orthodox which constitute the majority of the Sultan's subjects.And he tells you afterwards, in another despatch, so late as June, 1853, no less plainly, that this claim of patronage over these 12,000,000 subjects of this foreign Power the Emperor will defend to the last extremity as an assertion of his inheritance. Thus, Sir, at the outset of these negotiations the policy of Russia is distinctly and explicitly expressed. Ascendancy is to be obtained over the Turkish empire, and to be obtained, not by territorial conquest, but by exercising a peculiar influence over 12,000,000, who compose the large majority of the Sultan's subjects in Europe. There is a purpose distinctly expressed and a policy clearly defined in the despatches which are addressed to Her Majesty's Government. Now it is not merely that the object is defined, but we are no less candidly informed of the mode by which it is to be attained. This influence is to be exercised over 12,000,000 of the Sultan's subjects, not by conquest, which Russia disclaims and always disclaimed, but by the stipulations of treaties, by maintaining the treaties that exist, and by extending the spirit of those treaties. All this you see from the very beginning of this important controversy. What I may call the base of the diplomatic campaign was a treaty, and that was the treaty which has been quoted half a dozen times in this discussion—namely, the treaty of Kainardji. Now, I will not presume to read the treaty of Kainardji to the House, but I think the House will agree that it is very expedient, when a particular treaty is the foundation of transactions of this vast importance, that we should have a clear idea of that treaty. We have had many references made to the treaty of Kainardji, and I think I can, without much troubling the House, place before it the essence and the peculiar character of that treaty. In article 7 of the treaty of Kainardji there is this clause:—The Sublime Porto promises to protect constantly the Christian religion and its churches; and also it allows the Ministers of the Imperial Court of Russia to make, on all occasions, representations—1001 Now, mark for what—as well in favour of the new church at Constantinople, of which mention will be made in the 14th article, as in favour of those who officiate therein.Then, article 14 of the treaty of Kainardji, which is the only other article to which I need refer, is this:—It is permitted to the High Court of Russia, in addition to the chapel built in the house of the Minister, to construct in the Galata quarter, in the street called Bey Oglu, a public church of the Greek rite, which shall be always under the protection of the Ministers of that empire, and shielded from all obstruction and all damage.Now, observe, the Christian subjects of the Porte are, by this treaty of Kainardji, placed under the special protection of the Sultan; and Russia, interpreting that treaty, states that the Christian subjects of the Sultan are placed specially under the protection of Russia. Under the treaty of Kainardji representations may be made in favour of their new church; but so cautious is they Porte, that the very street in which the new church is building is mentioned; it is the church in the street of Bey Oglu; and the Russian interpretation of that article of the treaty is, that because the Porte consents that the Minister of Russia shall interfere in favour of a particular new church building in a particular street, she has the power of interfering in favour of every church of that denomination in the Sultan's dominions, and of course in favour of all communities of that faith in the Sultan's dominions, who happen to be the large majority, if his subjects. Now, that is the treaty of Kainardji, and these are the claims which are made upon that treaty.
A despatch of Sir H. Seymour, dated January 8, 1853, explains the system on which Russia proceeds. Count Nesselrode, he says, treated asExaggerated the apprehensions which he expressed as likely to arise in Turkey and elsewhere from the appearance of a Russian army on the frontiers of the Sultan's dominions.As regards the present crisis, his Excellency expressed the hope and the belief that it would be brought to a conclusion by negotiation, but observed that it was necessary that the diplomacy of Russia should be supported (appuyé) by a demonstration of force. It would be required that the Porte should strictly fulfil its engagements towards the Greek Church and the Emperor; it would further be exacted that a corresponding compensation should be made to the Greek Church for any new concession made (I believe his Excellency said at the expense of the Emperor's co-religionists) to the Latin Church.1002 And when Count Nesselrode expressed his belief that this question would be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, upon what did he rest his belief? I beg the House to mark this—upon theExertions which were to be made by Her Majesty's Government at Paris and at Constantinople to advocate the rights which the Russian Government are entitled to claim, and to discountenance the pretensions of the French Cabinet.Now I beg the House to observe how clear and transparent is the policy of Russia. Here is a great demonstration of force; but what is it to do? It is to support a diplomatic movement to increase the influence of Russia over the population of Turkey who profess the Greek religion. And how is it to be effected? how is it to "be peaceably" effected? that is the point. Not by force, but by the friendly exertions of Her Majesty's Ministers at Paris and at Constantinople. We have at once a distinct declaration by Russia of her policy. We have a distinct declaration that her demonstration of force is only a demonstration, but that her object is to be attained—peaceably attained—by the exertions of the English Ministers at Paris and at Constantinople. You know the Power with whom you have to deal. You have the policy of that Power clearly and perfectly defined. You have the object avowed, ascendancy over Turkey. You have the methods described, which are her influence over the Greek Christian population, and that is to be effected by Russian diplomacy—a diplomacy, of which I think I may say, without using the epithets which the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) uses with regard to foreign Ministers—a diplomacy which while I will not call it fraudulent, is still a diplomacy with regard to which a man, if placed in contact with it, would certainly, if he were a prudent man, be upon his guard. Now, Sir, I want to know, with this object expressed, with these means detailed, and with this diplomacy to deal with, I want to know how Her Majesty's Ministers encountered such a combination. I think I shall be able to show the House that it is impossible for us to obtain that which is at this moment the most valuable and desired information for the House of Commons and the people of England—namely, the object of the present war—unless we preliminarily ascertain what has been the cause of it. It is, therefore, not to criticise the past—or what is erroneously called the past—it is not to cavil 1003 with expressions, it is not to garble despatches, it is not by quotations here and misquotations there to make a colourable case of mismanagement against the Ministry, at a moment of national exigency like the present, that I am led to quotation, but because I want the House clearly to understand how we have been brought into this position, why we are at war, or at all events in danger of being immediately at war, because that is the only mode by which this House and the country can ascertain what is the object of this actual or of this certainly menaced state of warfare.
It is unnecessary for me to touch upon the question, now exhausted in debate respecting the Holy Places. It was, in fact, virtually soon settled at Constantinople. Even Count Nesselrode, at a very early period in these despatches, expresses not only his surprise, but his satisfactory acknowledgment of the conciliatory spirit of France. Nor would I dwell upon this for a moment, had not the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) reminded me that I once was a Minister of State, for he said it was the Government of Lord Derby that was really responsible for this question. Now, Sir, whatever may have been the faults of the Government of Lord Derby, they need not look back with any regret or remorse to their relations with the Eastern question. The question of the Holy Places was not indeed formally settled when we left office, but certainly it was the strenuous and confidential exertions of Lord Malmesbury that brought the French Government to the right tone of viewing the conduct of M. Lavalette; and I believe that had it not been for the preliminary steps which that noble Lord took, the withdrawal by France of that envoy from Constantinople—I think under the circumstances a wise and magnanimous act—would never have taken place. But on the question of the Holy Places, Count Nesselrode tells you at an early period that he views with satisfaction, and even with surprise, the conciliatory character of the conduct of France. Colonel Rose tells you at an early date, in despatches familiar to every Gentleman, that he had conversed with the French Ambassador at Constantinople, and so far as France is concerned there never would be any further discussion or difficulty on the subject. But all this time the forces of Russia are accumulating on the frontier. All this time Count Nesselrode is telling 1004 you that his Government will ask an equivalent for the privileges which the Greek Church has lost at Jerusalem, but the settlement of which his Government has resolved not to disturb. Even the mission of Prince Menchikoff is at this time mentioned. What does Sir Hamilton Seymour say?—Count Nesselrode observed that there was necessarily some vagueness in Prince Menchikoff's orders, as it was hardly ascertained to what extent the rights secured last year to the Greeks had been infringed; that as it is not meant to regain from the Latins the privileges they have subsequently acquired, the object to be sought was an equivalent to the Greeks.Observe this language. After this it appears that the Emperor will insist on the promise made to him in favour of the Greek Church being fulfilled. On a subsequent occasion, in an important despatch from Count Nesselrode to Baron Brunnow, we hear that this was to—obtain for the Greeks some recompense for the wrong which has been done them, and, above all, to secure them from further injury.Now, Sir, I was very much surprised by the observation made by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) on this subject the other night. The noble Lord feels very deeply the conduct of Russia. It is not merely that he is overcome by the responsibility, and it is an awful responsibility, of a Minister who has advised his Sovereign to go to war; but the noble Lord feels so acutely the conduct of Russia, that on more than one occasion in these discussions, he has indulged in the language of invective, both towards the Russian Minister and towards his master. We were told the other night that the conduct of Count Nesselrode was fraudulent. That is a very strong expression. [Cheers.] It is easy to cheer, but Count Nesselrode has for nearly fifty years sustained a high position, and is supposed to be one who has administered affairs with moderation, with wisdom, and under circumstances of difficulty, no doubt, with success. His conduct is described as fraudulent. The conduct of the Emperor, we were also told the other night, was the conduct of a butcher—he had given orders for a work of butchery. Now, mark this—I do not mention it without an object. At present we have to deal with Count Nesselrode. His conduct, the noble Lord told us the other night, is fraudulent.Nothing could be more unsatisfactory than the conduct of Count Nesselrode. He kept saying that his Imperial master would seek an equi- 1005 valent for the Greek Church. He was constantly repeating that his Imperial master was determined to have some equivalent, or that some arrangement should be made compensatory to the Greek Church for the privileges which it had relinquished. But Count Nesselrode never told us what he wanted.Wicked Count Nesselrode! Infinite duplicity of Russian statesmen! But does not it occur to the House, though it might not have occurred to the noble Lord, that if he wanted to know exactly and precisely what Count Nesselrode meant, that he should not have waited for Count Nesselrode to tell him, but that he should have asked the question of Count Nesselrode? The first great complaint made by the noble Lord of the conduct of Count Nesselrode, which in the end he denounced as fraudulent, is, that he was perpetually harping on the determination of the Emperor of Russia to obtain some compensation for the Greek Church for the privileges it had lost; but he never told Her Majesty's Government what he meant by what he said. But why is Sir Hamilton Seymour at St. Petersburg, if he is not to ask for that information? Why are there envoys at the capital of Russia?—why are there Secretaries of State?—why are there protracted and distracted Councils in Downing Street—if the upshot of all these individuals, all these ambassadors, all these ministers, all these deliberations, is, that the noble Lord is to come down to the House with the country in a state of war, that war having been occasioned apparently by the intentions of the Emperor of Russia, and the great complaint of the noble Lord being that the Emperor of Russia never told them what he wanted, the noble Lord confessing, by that very observation, that he never asked the Emperor of Russia the question? I say, that at this stage of the proceedings here is the gist of the matter. We ought to have said to Russia, "The affair of the rival Churches is settled, an affair in which we never interfered—why is there still this demonstration of force on the frontier? You say you want an equivalent for the Greek Church for the privilege it has lost. Define what you want precisely and explicitly. If you continue to make demonstrations when the object for which they were originally made has already been settled; if you go on announcing that you require equivalents and compensations, and do not define what you deem an equivalent, or what you mean by a compensation, then we tell you that you cannot count on that which you have de- 1006 clared to be your great means of obtaining the peaceable conclusion and attainment of your object, namely, the friendly offices of Her Majesty's Government at Paris and at Constantinople. "Now, I ask the House, was that ever said? I can only say it does not appear upon the papers which are upon the table. It never appears from those papers that any formal or precise demand was made upon the Russian Government of what they meant by equivalents and compensations. Those who speak after me will have an easy opportunity of confuting what I say, if they can refer to the documents and find what unfortunately I am not able to do. But I do not wish to press the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) unfairly upon this point. I admit that the noble Lord individually is very free from objection on this point, because the noble Lord in the brief time during which he occupied the Foreign Office made, I think, such inquiry as he well could as to the assembling of troops upon the frontiers, and other subjects of great importance. But at the time when the subject ought to have been pressed to the inquiry to which I refer, the noble Lord relinquished the seals of office, and another personage became Secretary of State, and I am bound to say—and I shall say nothing which I shall not at least attempt to prove—I am bound to say that from that moment there is a different character in the diplomatic proceedings. It seems acknowledged even by Sir Hamilton Seymour, in one of his despatches, that he is surprised at the change in the tone of Count Nesselrode—and I should say that it is evident that that new character may be described, and fairly described as a bias in favour of Russia. I of course refer to the accession of Lord Clarendon to office.
Lord Clarendon is appointed Secretary of State, mind you, and the moment he is made Secretary of State, by a curious coincidence he is called upon to perform the most important act that a Secretary of State under the circumstances could fulfil. For Her Majesty's Ambassador was about to repair to the very scene of these important transactions, and Lord Clarendon had to draw up the instructions for Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. Sir, I have been rather surprised that in the course of these discussions a more minute reference has not been made to that which really is the most important State paper on the table. The only person who has made use of it is the hon. Member for the 1007 West Riding (Mr. Cobden), who has, to-night, quoted a passage from this despatch, and for what purpose? To show that Lord Clarendon at that moment, as proved by his instructions to Lord Stratford, was totally ignorant of the resources of the Turkish empire and of the Turkish people. That was the argument of the hon. Member for the West Riding. It suited the conclusion that he was endeavouring to impress upon the House. That conclusion is, that the Turks are exhausted, that they are incapable of any effort—that we are interfering for a miserable minority of a people—that they are a race who can achieve nothing; and he says, "I will prove my case by the best evidence, and it is that of the Secretary of State." I shall quote the language of the Secretary of State for a very opposite purpose to that which the hon. Member for the West Riding had in view. My answer to the hon. Member for the West Riding—so far as the authority of Lord Clarendon for his conclusion goes—is the passage of the Danube by Omar Pasha, and the battle of Oltenitza. But let that pass. I am to examine the conduct of a Ministry whose policy is to support the independence and the integrity of the Porte—who for this great object have not hesitated to involve this country in war, and who are not justified in their course unless they have confidence in the resources of the country and in the character of the people; and unless they believed that the integrity and independence of Turkey were not mere phrases, but palpable and real facts. Remember that you have the armies of Russia collecting on the frontier of Turkey—you have had warnings of these warlike preparations from the Russian Minister himself. You have had the avowal from this double-dealing Count Nesselrode, stating that the object of the mission of Prince Menchikoff was a vague mission, but that, however vague might be his instructions, there was one result that he was to secure, namely, a great concession to the Greek Church—an equivalent, a compensation. You knew all this—you knew that the integrity and independence of the Porte were at stake—the Secretary of State was called upon to fulfil the most important function of a Minister under such circumstances, namely, to draw up instructions for the Queen's Ambassador, who was repairing to the seat of action. What are these instructions? What are these instructions of the Secretary of State of a Ministry who uphold 1008 the integrity and the independence of the Porte, and who, to maintain that independence and that integrity, are going to war?—Lord Stratford de Redcliffe is instructed to tell the Porte, "with all frankness and without reserve," that "it is now in a position of peculiar danger." He is to insist upon "the accumulated grievances of foreign nations, which the Porte is unable or unwilling to redress," and "upon the increasing weakness of its executive power." The Government whose independence we profess to defend is to receive our dictation as to reforms and improvements, and as to the development of its commercial resources. It is told:—Its perseverance in its present course must end in alienating the sympathies of the British nation, and in making it impossible for Her Majesty's Government to shelter it from the impending danger to which the Sultan and his Ministers have exposed it.The "exigencies of Christendom" are then ascribed to—what? To the ambition of Russia. Was that the cause of the exigencies of Christendom and of the perilous position of Turkey which are pointed out in the instructions of the Secretary of State? No; the cause which Lord Clarendon assigns is, not the ambition of Russia, but "the unwise policy and reckless mal-administration of the Sultan himself." Now, I ask the House, is this the way maintain the independence of a Power menaced by the warlike legions of Russia? Was it at this moment of its utmost need—was this the moment to lecture Turkey about internal reforms and commercial policy? And when these admonitions are coupled with a significant intimation that at this moment the conduct of the Porte must be distinguished by the utmost moderation and prudence—what is that but to say—what is that but to hint, that the Porte should comply with the demands of Russia?—demands, of course (I will make this concession to the Ministry)—demands of course consistent with the independence of the Porte; but how the word independence is to be interpreted is obvious from the insolent character of our friendly dictation. Now, Sir, here we are. We have come to this point. Weeks, even months, are passing. You may examine a blue book [an allusion to a Member on the Ministerial bench so engaged], but you will not change the facts. Weeks and months are passing—still the armies of Russia are collected on the frontier—still the Minister of Russia tells you 1009 there is one thing that his master will never change about, and that is, in his determination to have an equivalent—a compensation—to the Greek Church for the privileges of which it has been deprived, and means by which a security for these new rights shall be obtained. Still you have that important mission announced, and still we have not the slightest tittle of evidence that Her Majesty's Government ever demanded from Russia an explicit declaration of what she meant.
Well, Sir, Prince Menchikoff arrived at Constantinople—I hurry over, or will but very slightly glance at circumstances which are so familar to every Gentleman in this House, and I only touch upon these circumstances at all that my statement may be complete. Prince Menchikoff arrives at Constantinople. I need say nothing about the despatch of Colonel Rose, one of the most able and most ill-used of public men. What does Colonel Rose tell you? He tells you of the arrogant bearing of the Russian Minister—he tells you of the secret threats to the Porte—he tells you that a Turkish Secretary of State has been ignominiously expelled—he tells you that the Prime Minister threatens to resign, and that the Grand Vizier sends for him (Colonel Rose), and informs him that the independence of Turkey is at stake. He himself expresses in his despatch that the circumstances are most exigent, and that unless some step is taken, he can no longer answer for the independence of Turkey or the balance of power. He tells you all this. I hardly stop to criticise these important circumstances; and if I do stop at all, it is only to answer an argument which has been urged in this House, and also in the other House of Parliament, namely, that Colonel Rose, when he demanded that our fleet should be sent to the Dardanelles, was precipitate in making that request, because he afterwards acknowledged that the arrival of the fleet was unnecessary. But it seems to be forgotten that it was notorious not only at Constantinople but at Paris, that Colonel Rose had sent for the fleet; and that an alteration in the tone of the Russian Envoy was occasioned by this announcement. Well, you had these despatches of Colonel Rose and not only these despatches, but you had on the 19th of March (when Colonel Rose was writing) those of Sir Hamilton Seymour—not a man distinguished by his want of confidence in Russia—not a man who would 1010 be eager to describe the conduct of Count Nesselrode as fraudulent, telling you that he asked Count Nesselrode—What credit was to be attached to the rumours which reached me from so many quarters, as to military preparations in the course of being made?Count Nesselrode answers, that he believed he might state that I had not been correctly informed. Sir Hamilton Seymour then inquires:—Does your Excellency authorise me to assert that you are not arming, or ant I only to report that you believe you are not arming?Count Nesselrode replies:—I will not assert, but I have reason to believe, that the tendency is rather to slacken than to urge on military preparation.Sir Hamilton Seymour then says:—I apprehend this relaxation of preparation to allude to the order for the purchase of horses, which has been rescinded.Well, after all this—after all the despatches of Colonel Rose—after this despatch from Sir Hamilton Seymour, which I have just read, what is the tone of the new Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs? What is the tone of the statesman who drew up the instructions for Lord Stratford? What effect is produced upon him by all that he read and all that he heard? Why on the 22nd of March he writes to Lord Cowley, "I had yesterday a long interview with Count Walewski upon the events that have recently taken place at Constantinople." Let the House remember what those events were—a Prime Minister threatening to resign, a Secretary of State ignominiously expelled, and the Grand Vizier announcing that the independence of his country is at stake—secret intimations that treaties would be demanded that would destroy Turkey—the personal declaration of Colonel Rose that even the balance of power was at stake—and the despatch of Sir Hamilton Seymour, showing how unsatisfactory was his communication with Count Nesselrode. Now Lord Clarendon gives this as his private, but calm and dispassionate summary of all that had occurred to Lord CowleyWhen the intelligence from Constantinople was analysed, and divested of the colouring imparted to it by local excitement, there was but one fact to deal with.What was that? the armament of Russia? No; that—Prince Menchikoff had declined to hold official intercourse with Fuad Effendi, the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs.1011 Lord Clarendon says, he had informed Count Walewski that Fuad Effendi had resigned—but Prince Menchikoff had not required this, and he had declared that no disrespect was intended to the Sultan by the omission of the customary visit to his Minister.This is the summary of Lord Clarendon of all these events. Lord Clarendon not only denounces, I may say, the order of Colonel Rose for the advance of the British fleet, but absolutely expresses himself glad that Admiral Dundas had not obeyed him, and even regrets the order given to the French Admiral to proceed to the Greek waters, treating France with this sententious dogma, namely, that "a policy of suspicion was neither wise nor safe." Lord Clarendon adds—and it is of great importance to notice it—that—Her Majesty's Government were disposed to place reliance on the Emperor of Russia's solemn assurances to uphold the Turkish empire;and that he was—bound to believe that the mission of Prince Menchikoff was not of a character menacing to the independence and integrity of Turkey.Now, I must again remind the House that we have no evidence, so far as I can recollect, in the State papers on the table, of these personal assurances of the Emperor of Russia. I do not say that it may not be most discreet and wise on the part of the Government not to give us the despatches in which these assurances are made, but in the absence of these documents, we are bound to speculate on what may be their possible character and contents; and, judging from the antecedents that we have had, it is quite possible that the Emperor of Russia may have said to Sir Hamilton Seymour—as, I believe, he has said to great personages in this country and in other countries—that nothing would induce him to take any step to destroy the independence and integrity of the Ottoman empire; that he sought no territorial aggrandisement; and that that was a policy which he was perfectly ready to maintain. All this is perfectly consistent with everything which has, up to this period, occurred on the part of Russia, and respecting which our Government asked no explanation. What does Lord Clarendon write to our Ambassador at Constantinople at the same time—that our Government feels no alarm at the reports of Colonel Rose—that we feel quite secure that the objects of Prince Menchikoff's mission, whatever they may be,"—1012 So that, therefore, at this period, the Ministry had no description by Russia of what those objects were; but yet Lord Clarendon says:—The objects of Prince Menchikoff whatever they may be, do not expose the authority of the Sultan, or the integrity of his dominions; so far from thinking that Turkey has anything to apprehend from Russia.Well, I am not surprised when I trace the policy of Her Majesty's Government as indicated through all their despatches up to this moment, that Count Nesselrode should have told our Minister at St. Petersburg, that he looked very hopefully to a peaceable solution of this question; and the hon. Gentleman who introduced this discussion in a speech which did not disappoint the expectations of the House—who was quite entitled to introduce the subject, not only from his former connection with the Embassy at Constantinople, but from his general knowledge of the East—the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) very properly touched upon that extraordinary despatch, which, at this time, came from St. Petersburg, in which we are informed that the Emperor of Russia was grateful for the salutary impulse given to the policy of this country by the accession of Lord Aberdeen and Lord Clarendon to office. The Emperor of Russia was grateful to Lord Aberdeen for that renewed instance of his confidence; and the hon. Gentleman quoted a phrase which amused the House, and which I believe has somewhat diverted the country—namely, the happy irony with which Count Nesselrode complimented Lord Aberdeen on the beau rôle which he had played. But I think that quotation, was somewhat short, because, if I remember rightly, the First Minister is complimented, not merely on beau rôle he is playing, but that beau rôle it defined; and what is that definition?—namely, that he has left France isolée.
On the 1st of April, Colonel Rose informs us of the secret convention which Prince Menchikoff demanded from Turkey. Colonel Rose had hitherto not been looked upon as an authority; but there was a timely vindication of the discrimination and sagacity of Colonel Rose, because in ten days afterwards, on the 11th of April, Lord Stratford arrives at Constantinople, and confirms everything that Colonel Rose had reported. One would suppose that Lord Stratford would have opened the eyes of those who talk so much of Russian 1013 duplicity, but who seem to have forgotten that there may be an English quality of an opposite character. Yet after this, after the information from Colonel Rose is confirmed by the highest authority, after Lord Stratford has announced that Russia is trying to obtain a secret convention from Turkey which would destroy its independence, Lord Clarendon writes to Sir Hamilton Seymour, May the 16th:—That Her Majesty's Government being compelled either to think that Prince Menchikoff had exceeded his instructions, or to doubt the assurances which they had received, did not entertain the latter alternative.Introducing this alternative, He says:—Her Majesty's Government have felt the advantage of the frank and friendly explanations offered by the Emperor of Russia," [explanations, mark, which have never been seen by the House of Commons] "it had enabled them to disregard, instead of sharing in, the apprehensions which the proceedings of Prince Menchikoff, coupled with the military preparations in the south of Russia, had not unnaturally produced throughout Europe.Immediately after, Prince Menchikoff leaves Constantinople; and on June the 8th, Count Nesselrode, in a despatch to Baron Brunnow, to be delivered to Lord Clarendon, announced the occupation of the Principalities. That despatch proves—if the view of the Government be right—violence and perfidy. Violence, against Turkey, because it announces that, because Turkey has not chosen to yield to its dictation in a course which Turkey believes menaces its independence, Russia had resolved to have recourse to force; and perfidy, because, according to the view of the Government, Count Nesselrode had, up to that moment, been deceiving them. Yet, with regard to the latter point, what does he say in the despatch? He says, that, from the very first, he had communicated to the Government of England his intentions with regard to Turkey. I ought not to have omitted that document, announcing as it does, that the Emperor will occupy the Provinces as a deposit until satisfaction; declaring that, in acting as he has done, he has remained faithful to his declarations to the English Government; that in communicating with the Cabinet of London as to the military preparations coincident with the opening of the negotiations, he did not conceal from it that the tune might yet come when he should be obliged to have recourse to them; complimenting the English Government on the friendly intentions it had shown; contrasting its conduct with that of France; 1014 and laying all the blame of Prince Menchikoff's subsequent failure, of all men, on Lord Stratford. We want to have these declarations of the Emperor of Russia; we want more than these declarations of the Emperor of Russia—we want the despatch. We want the evidence of this early declaration from Count Nesselrode to the English Government, of the whole intentions and policy of his country. I say this despatch proves violence and perfidy according to the views of the Government. But if so, why is it that Lord Clarendon after all this—after Colonel Rose's declarations had been confirmed by Lord Stratford—after the occupation of the Principalities—after Count Nesselrode had declared, in his vindication, that from the first the English Government was cognisant of the policy of his country, and of the intentions of the Emperor—why is it that Lord Clarendon writes in a circular that—He does justice to the moderation which has heretofore distinguished the Emperor of Russia's policy, and rests the hope of an amicable conclusion on the Emperor's repeated declaration to respect the integrity of the Turkish empire.Mind, that is the circular of the Secretary of State after the Chancellor of Russia has publicly declared that the English Government were cognisant from the first of the intentions of the Russian Government. After all this, Lord Clarendon writes a despatch on the 4th of July, which, I am bound to say, is a sensible and spirited performance, and in which several pages are expended in proving that he has been taken in. I will not make ally comment upon it. I would have quoted several passages in his favour, but the impatience of his Friends opposite will not permit me; and I refer them to his vindication.
I have now gone over the negotiations from January till the end of July. I have reviewed those negotiations until we approach the Vienna note. There is only another important despatch which I am bound to notice. It is a summary of the seven months' negotiations. Lord Clarendon was appealed to by Lord Stratford to take a more decided course, and Lord Stratford said, "that in any case nothing can be worse than a hesitating, uncalculating course." Lord Stratford then tells the English minister "to look an evil in the face, which, if evaded, will return;" and what is the language of Lord Clarendon in the last despatch, which I am going to read? On the 28th of July, he says:— 1015No doubt that France and England, if they set to work in earnest, may certainly cripple Russia, but Turkey may be wholly and irretrievably ruined, and peaceful negotiation is the only course to pursue.Why, if that were a good argument then, it is a good argument now. If it were a good argument during the whole course of these negotiations, it is now an argument fatal to the policy of the Ministry who recommend war. If the inevitable consequence of crippling of Russia, be the irretrievable destruction of Turkey, why go to war at all? What, then, becomes of this war for the maintenance of the integrity and independence of Turkey? Well, Sir, Count Walewski proposes that we then go to the Dardanelles, but Lord Clarendon objects; he says it is a hypothetical arrangement, and he reads to Count Walewski his despatch to Lord Stratford, in which he states that—in case of further aggression or undue delay on the part of Russia, the Government will be prepared, in conjunction with France, to take more active measures against a Power of whose hostile designs there could be no reasonable doubt.While he objects to hypothetical arrangements be advocates a hypothetical policy, and, omitting to read what he had written to Lord Stratford, retains the opinion, that if England and France cripple Russia, the destruction of Turkey is irretrievable. I regret that the apostle of peace, who quoted to-night the instructions of the Secretary of State to Her Majesty's Ambassador, to prove that this country has no confidence in the resources or energy of Turkey, omitted to quote that passage also. It would have heightened the colouring of his picture, strengthened his case, and enforced his argument, if he could have shown, after seven months of negotiation, the Secretary of State writes his solemn opinion, that the active interference of England and France must sooner or later ensure the irretrievable ruin of Turkey. I proceed to draw what I consider the inevitable conclusion from the despatches to which I have called the particular attention of the House. Remember that they spread over a period of seven months; remember that they notice every principal incident—that in January the Russian army was accumulating upon the Turkish frontier—that the Chancellor of Russia has announced to Her Majesty's Minister at the Court of St. Petersburg that his Courts about to demand measures of compensation in favour of the Greek Church—remember that throughout this 1016 period we have no formal and specific demand made to Russia to express explicitly her intentions—remember that, throughout this period of seven months, Minister after Minister sent fruitless warnings to the Secretary of State—they came from St. Petersburg—they came from Constantinople—they are disclaimed and rejected when they come from a Chargé d' Affaires, they are confirmed and authorised by an Ambassador—armies are assembling—vague demands are made—haughty, ostentatious missions are sent; the Prime Minister of Turkey tells you that the independence of his country is at stake—your own diplomatic agents simultaneously inform you that the balance of power is at issue; and all this time, in every form—in letters to Constantinople, in despatches to St. Petersburg, in instructions to our own Ministers, in conversations with Baron Brunnow, in conversations with Count Walewski—there is no admission on the part of Her Majesty's Secretary of State that there is any cause for alarm. If there be no cause for alarm, why have you diplomatic agents—why should there be any Ambassadors—why should there be any despatches? Why may you not have locked up in some secret cabinet some letter of the Emperor of Russia—to place under your pillow and sleep in peace, though you may be responsible for the safety of the world.
Let us try to find out, then, the cause of this war. My Lord Clarendon talks in one of his letters of an alternative, and I shall offer an alternative also. Either the Government was influenced by a degree of confidence which assumed the morbid character of credulity, or they were influenced by connivance—I mean by connivance a policy which calculated that it was better that the inevitable dissolution of the Turkish empire should take place by the indirect means alluded to, than that its independence and integrity should disappear in an European war undertaken to maintain them. Now, Sir, that is an alternative important to decide. Was it credulity, or was it connivance? On ascertaining that point depends our also ascertaining the object of this war. I believe the cause of the war has been the conduct of these negotiations, during these first seven months by the Government. If that conduct has been prompted by credulity, they may carry on the war with success and spirit. The fact that they have been deceived by the word of an Emperor may be a mournful 1017 fact. It is a lamentable circumstance, but it is an accident to which generous minds may be liable; and the very fact that they are undeceived may animate them to greater exertions, and to efforts which will vindicate their conduct to their country and to posterity. If their conduct has been influenced by credulity, it is possible that you may have a war—a long and a severe war—but it will be a war carried on for great objects, and may end in great public benefit. Russia, by her perfidious conduct—if it have been perfidious—may have precipitated a struggle which, perhaps, was inevitable. Russia may be forced at the end of this struggle to a position which may secure the independence of Europe, and the safety of civilisation. You may have a war which may restore Bessarabia to the Porte—may convert the Crimea into an independent country, destined to flourish under the guarantee of the great Powers—a war that may make the Danube a free river—and the Euxine a free sea; but all this is dependent upon the somewhat humiliating but comparatively pardonable circumstance—that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government has been the consequence of credulity. But let us for a moment contemplate the results of the alternative. If their conduct has been suggested by connivance, you may have a war; but it will be a war carried on by connivance—a timid war—a vacillating war—a war with no results, or rather with the exact results which were originally intended. It will not be a war which will place Russia in that position which we think necessary for the security of Europe and our country, but it will be a war which will end with some transaction similar to Prince Menchikoff's note, or to the arrangements of the Vienna Conference. Now, these are two results so far opposed—so very different and so very opposite—one, I believe, so welcome to the people of this country, the other so entirely unsatisfactory, that I think it is the duty of this House, even if we "potter over blue books," to try to ascertain the truth of these important facts.
I have now taken you through these seven months important negotiations, ending with a despatch from a Secretary of State, from which only one inference can be drawn, namely, that under no circumstances ought we to go to war for the integrity and independence of Turkey. I have offered you the only alternative which can explain this strange conduct of the Ministry, and I 1018 have asked you to decide whether it is credulity or whether it is connivance. But, Sir, there is a passage which I must now call the attention of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) to, because I think it demands some explanation. You know last year we were not permitted to touch upon this question. You know last year sometimes a question was asked, and the Ministry, perhaps not without reason, deprecated discussion. Therefore, I think the noble Lord is the last person who ought to complain of being troubled with inquiries on this question. But the noble Lord must feel that if, in 1853, he told the House of Commons that it was inconvenient to answer questions, in 1854 the creditor would have the right at least to ask that the bond should be satisfied. It is due, I think, to the country and the Government of which the noble Lord is a member, that he should throw some explanation over the circumstances to, which I am going to refer, which may assist us to a solution of this question, whether the conduct of the Government has been prompted by credulity, or whether it has been suggested by connivance?
On the 25th April, 1853, a noble Lord in another place addressed some questions to the Secretary of State. The Marquess of Clanricarde adverted to the alarm recently excited by the announcement of the special mission of Prince Menchikoff from St. Petersburg to Constantinople, and by the French Government having considered this mission to be of such grave importance as to induce them to send a portion of their fleet to Salamis, circumstances which pointed to the advantage of a union between England and France. Now, this was the most important inquiry with regard to the Eastern question that had been made, and second only in interest to the debate which took place at the end of the Session, on the Motion of Lord Malmesbury. Lord Clarendon expressed a strong opinion with respect to the obligation to maintain the independence and integrity of the Ottoman empire. He stated also, with regard to the mission of Prince Menchikoff, that, the Turkish Government having made to the French Government certain concessions which appeared to be inconsistent with concessions previously made to the Emperor of Russia, the Emperor of Russia, knowing the interest felt by the Greek population in the Holy Places, determined upon sending Prince Menchikoff on 1019 a special embassy; and that Prince was ordered to arrange that matter of the Holy Places, and to place it on a permanent and satisfactory footing. Now, at the time when Lord Clarendon made that statement, he was fully aware, to put it very briefly—first, that great military preparations were being made by Russia, and consequently that there was considerable danger of the peace of Europe being disturbed; and, secondly, that Prince Menchikoff had spoken of the question of the Holy Places lightly, as a question which he did not understand, and as of a secondary nature; and that, from Colonel Rose's despatches which he had received more than a month, he was also aware that the real object of the mission of Prince Menchikoff was the securing a treaty with the Porte, which was inconsistent with the interests of England and France, and incompatible with the independence of the Porte itself. He was aware also that Prince Menchikoff, having failed in his object, had quitted Constantinople (had threatened to quit Constantinople). I ask the House, was Lord Clarendon justified in making that statement to the House of Lords and to the Parliament of England, when he was in possession of that information? What is the condition of the forbearance of the two Houses of Parliament towards Ministers? It is that they should be at least met in a frank and candid spirit; that if the Minister rises and says it is inconvenient to the public service that an inquiry should be answered, a patriotic and proper feeling should render every Member silent; but there is a clear understanding that no Minister should rise in his place and mislead Parliament. I, therefore, ask the noble Lord, or any of his Colleagues that may follow me in this debate, did they, or did they not, think that Lord Clarendon was justified in the statement he made on the 25th of April in the House of Lords—that statement being briefly that Prince Menchikoff's mission was to arrange and dispose of the question of the Holy Places—when he had information that Prince Menchikoff had absolutely quitted Constantinople, (threatened to quit Constantinople), and that his object was to obtain a secret convention—secret as respects England and France—and inconsistent with the independence of Turkey an incompatible with its honour.
But we have been told that we have enough of information on this question. We must not "potter over blue books." 1020 A year ago we made inquiry of the Minister in his place in Parliament—which of all places in the world should animate a man to a noble fulfilment of his duty—and we were met by the usual answer, that the inquiry was inconvenient; but information was given, which information we did not find to be fraudulent until we had the blue book to "potter over." Talk of the conduct of Prince Menchikoff! I think that the Parliament of England have been treated by a Secretary of State in a harder fashion than they were treated by the Russian Minister. I will give no opinion on the alternative; but what I want hon. Gentlemen to do, is to apply this alternative to all these documents—to apply this alternative to the representation made by the Secretary of State when he was in possession of Colonel Rose's despatches; and I ask you whether that representation made by Lord Clarendon was influenced by credulity or connivance?
It is impossible for me not to notice the Vienna note: the next phase of these transactions. The noble Lord has noticed it, and I shall probably be able to treat it as briefly as any Gentleman who ever spoke on so difficult and delicate a subject. But the most remarkable thing is the language of the noble Lord on this extraordinary document. Here are all the diplomatic wiseacres of Europe assembled at Vienna in a conference; and they draw up a document which Turkey and Russia both agree in ascribing the same meaning to, and which meaning is the one not intended by any of the Ministers or diplomatists of Europe who were engaged in the drawing it up. That is the first remarkable circumstance. But the most curious thing is, that the Vienna note, to my poor view, and I apprehend to that of men of common understanding, appears in the exact spirit, and almost in the exact shape, of the rejected Menchikoff ultimatum, which was at once to be considered as a casus belli. Is that connivance or not? Is it connivance when this note having been first sent to the Emperor of Russia and accepted by him, is then hurried to Constantinople and offered to the Sultan, with hardly a moment's time for consideration, because he is apprised that time is precious, and is providentially rejected by him? How does the noble Lord treat this? Upon the hypothesis of connivance—but I express no opinion, I speak only of facts—it is very easy to understand it. Having intended 1021 from the first that there should be no real struggle for the independence and integrity of Turkey—having intended, from the first, that the ultimatum of Prince Menchikoff should be accepted, they would have been very glad, by means of a Vienna note, to have obtained their purpose. The other hypothesis—credulity—is very difficult to apply it to the case, because I can hardly imagine that any Minister could be so credulous as to suppose that Turkey, having rejected the ultimatum of Prince Menchikoff, would have accepted the note of the Vienna Conference. But what was the language of the noble Lord with respect to this note? He said, "I do not know whose note it is—it is none of our child" [expressions of dissent from Lord JOHN RUSSELL.] The noble Lord will have the means and the opportunity of correcting me. I understood the noble Lord to say, "We did not draw the note, although we are responsible for it." "I know," was the language in another place, "that we are formally responsible for it;" and I believe a noble Lord said, "We did not touch it up, but others did." Well, at the end of the last Session, when the country began to he somewhat alarmed respecting these transactions in the East, when the noble Lord the Member for the City of London was pressed in this House upon the subject, he answered, I admit, fairly and frankly enough. But what was the reply to the question by a Minister more peculiarly responsible, and more particularly qualified to give an answer to such a question? What did the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs say? Lord Clarendon did not speak of this note at all in a depreciating tone. On the contrary, he was most sanguine; and in reply to the question of Lord Malmesbury, said that, in point of fact, the Vienna note had brought the negotiations to the point of a satisfactory conclusion. He said also, that the note originated with the French Government, that it was slightly modified by us, that it contained nothing derogatory to the independence or integrity of the Porte, and he could see, therefore, no difficulty to its acceptance by the Porte. The note, then, it appears, was drawn up by a very able man the French Secretary of State—it was sent to all the other great Ministers of Europe—it cattle here, and had the advantage not only of the full consideration of the Cabinet, but of a Cabinet of all the talents. It is not 1022 hurriedly decided upon, but is here a considerable time, and we have the opinion of the Secretary of State, "that it contained nothing derogatory to the independence or the dignity of Turkey, and he thought it brought negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion." I say, what are we to think of the discrimination of these statesmen? It is very easy to say that the Vienna note was an unfortunate affair, but it is one of the most important political documents since the Treaty of Vienna. Here you have the peace of Europe depending, and you have grave statesmen concentrating their intellect on the question, and they produce a note which they themselves now admit to be the greatest failure on record. But I look upon this matter in another spirit. I cannot believe that some of the ablest and most eminent men in England, whom I now look upon, and those most able and eminent men whom I might look upon in another place, could have produced such a failure or such a document. But if from the first there was a foregone conclusion—I do not say in the whole Cabinet, but in the majority of the Cabinet—for I think I may be able to adduce strong evidence hereafter, that upon many points the Cabinet were not united; if, I say, there did exist a foregone conclusion in the minds of the Cabinet, or a majority of it, that the independence and integrity of Turkey was a farce, and that by a conscientious connivance the affair might be settled by means of this note, then we can account for its production and its failure.
I have now carried the House through two of the most important stages of these negotiations. I have examined the seven months of negotiation which elapsed from January to July much more briefly than I could have wished to have done, and now let me ask the House to bear in mind the alternative which I have suggested as a means of explaining the cause, and throwing some light on the object, of the war. I now approach an interval—a dreary interval—after the failure of the Vienna note. What is the conduct of the Government? This is a most important period, and I entreat the House, although it may weary them now, to remember that, if these events are of the magnitude which all of us believe, that it will facilitate useful discussion if we examine them completely. The more complete the examination of these papers and these transactions, the more 1023 satisfactory it will be to the country, and the more it will save the time of the House hereafter. I come, therefore, now to the third period, the interval that took place between the failure of the Vienna note and the affair of Sinope. Now, what is the tone of the Government for those two or three months? I shall not refer, as some one in another place has referred, to articles in a journal which Emperors, they say, read, and to which Prime Ministers are supposed to contribute. I will not refer to them as evidence of the feelings of the Government upon foreign affairs, though the journal is considered semi-official. Never was such a depreciatory tone taken with respect, to Turkey as in the interval which elapsed between the failure of the Vienna note and the crossing of the Danube by Omar Pasha. We were told that we might mediate for Turkey, but we must not do more—that we might do a little, but not much—that Turkey was in fact "used up"—and that in short the thing might be settled in some way or other without England doing anything like going to war. I do not say that that is evidence; but as for evidence we have that of one of the most distinguished Members of this House—of one who forms a part of Her Majesty's Government, and who is supposed to be peculiarly in the confidence of the First Minister of the Crown. That right hon. Gentleman made one of those progresses which public men make sometimes through the country. He found himself on this occasion in a city second only in importance to the metropolis, and while there he found time to give his opinions to an interested assembly upon the state of our foreign affairs. How did the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer then view the Turkish question? This Chancellor of the Exchequer, who will probably have to propose new taxes in due time to carry on the war undertaken for the integrity and independence of Turkey—said that the integrity and independence of the Turkish empire were a very different thing from the integrity and independence of England or France, and we must not in any way confound this sovereignty of Turkey, full of anomaly, of misery, and of perplexity with that of the countries he had named. Now, I want to know what that means. If the independence and integrity of Turkey are different from the independence and integrity of England and France, I would advise this House—if that is the opinion of Her Majesty's Ministers and 1024 more particularly of the Finance Minister—to think twice before they enter into this war. What is the case of Russia? Why, the case of Russia is exactly that described by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Russia says to you, "We are prepared to respect the independence and integrity of the Porte." You have, at least you tell us so, the personal assurances of the Emperor to that effect; but, according to your opinion, the integrity and independece of Turkey are very different things from the integrity and independence of England and France. Therefore, let the Sultan be at Constantinople—let him still possess his side of the Danube, but let us govern three-fourths of his subjects. And why not? It is, you know, a "sovereignty full of anomaly, full of misery, and full of perplexity." Why, Count Nesselrode could not have made a better plea—more fraudulent, if you please. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes a speech at Manchester, at a time when Parliament is not sitting, when every man is anxious to receive some cue of the opinion of Her Majesty's Government on the Eastern question, to tell the people that the cause of the Turks is hopeless. For my own part, however, I believe that there were one or two virtuous men in the Cabinet, though not enough to save a city. They were in the minority; but it was understood that they did their duty, that their recommendations were right—and were adopted six months after the proper time. Certainly nothing could be more gloomy than the state of Turkey at the time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was stating the views of the Cabinet at Manchester.
Now, what was it that changed the aspect and fortunes of Turkey? What was it that gave a new impulse to the Cabinet? It was not diplomacy, not Vienna note, not instructions to ambassadors, depreciating the energy of the land they affected to save—not that accumulated mass of trifling, or worse than trifling, which we have upon our table—no, it was the energy of the Turks themselves. The valour and patriotic spirit of the people whom the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) reviles—the energy, the patriotism, and the enthusiastic vigour of a "sovereignty full of anomaly, full of misery, and full of perplexity," which Europe witnessed and admired, and which among all classes in England met with a prompt and generous sympathy, The Danube 1025 was crossed, the battle of Oltenitza was won; Russia, which had been accumulating her menacing forces, was beat back by the very men whom your own Minister and Ambassador had counselled for months to forfeit their independence, and to let their country fall to the ground. But no sooner had the first flush of this good fortune passed over, and a little reaction occurred—no sooner had there been a lull in the public mind, than the policy of credulity or of connivance was at its dirty work again, and the Turks were told, since they had shown themselves capable of fighting successfully for their country, "Not, for God's sake, to disturb the peace of Europe." Give over this fighting. Respect the feelings of the Emperor of Russia. We are going to send you some new propositions almost as good as the ultimatum of Prince Menchikoff, and more successful, we trust, than the Vienna note; and certainly there never was a more disgraceful period, either for diplomatists or for Ministers than when the Sultan was repeatedly asking us to prove our sincerity by entering the Black Sea, which we as often declined to do. It was as disgraceful for France as for England. One day we were told the Admiral had quarrelled with the Ambassador; another day the Ambassador with the Admiral; then the two Admirals disagreed, and then the two Ambassadors; at least we are told so if we "potter over blue books." But my opinion is that all this time there was a great diplomatic conspiracy going on, which was to settle this affair in a manner which, if it had succeeded, would only, as Lord Stratford de Redcliffe tells us, have postponed the evil day, and forced us to a solution of this imperial difficulty under circumstances of much aggravated disadvantage. Well, as the battle of Oltenitza saved the Turks once, the slaughter of Sinope operated again in their favour. The fleets were ordered to enter the Black Sea; but when we entered the Black Sea what did we do? Was that a policy of credulity or a policy of connivance? When I heard of the return of our squadron to Constantinople, I could not help recalling the words of a great orator when he was addressing an assembly not less illustrious than this: when he said, "O! Athenians, the men who administer your affairs are men who know not how to make peace or to make war." Well now, Sir, having expressed my opinion that the cause of this war is the conduct of the Ministry, or at least of 1026 a powerful majority in the Ministry, who influenced the negotiations for the first seven months, I have a right to express my fear that, if it has been a policy of connivance which has only been baffled by events, it will lead, after, perhaps, a disastrous war, to an ignominious peace.
I come now to the last point, to the preparations which the Government have made for the future. Sir, the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty has given us a catalogue, though an imperfect one, of some of the advantages which we now enjoy—though otherwise we should not have possessed them—to meet the difficulties which we have to encounter. And first of all I was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that, though the Government have not done much in the interval, they have succeeded in cementing a good understanding and alliance with France. The right hon. Gentleman ought to he a judge of the importance of such au alliance. About a year ago an alliance with France was not in such favour on the Treasury benches. I remember it was imputed as a great fault to a noble Friend of mine, who was once Secretary of State, that he was too fond of an alliance with France; and when I remember the acrimony, the vituperation, the ignorant impertinence with which Lord Malmesbury was assailed during his tenure of office, on this very head, and contrast the public opinion toward that nobleman at this moment with what it then was, as his Colleague then and happily his Friend still, I must express my satisfaction. The country now recognises his sagacity, and that he was a Minister of unswerving firmness; but this time last year the French alliance, since happily cemented by Her Majesty's Ministers, was not so much in vogue as at present. Far be it from me to allude to past debates, nor should I have done so had I not found that so discreet and experienced a Minister as the leader of the House thought it expedient that this year our discussions should be again enlivened by abusing another Emperor. Last year the Emperor of the French was a pirate; this year the Emperor of Russia is a butcher. After the trial of Dr. Sacheverel, Sir Robert Walpole said that the Whigs had had quite enough of roasting a parson. I should say that Her Majesty's Ministers have now had quite enough of roasting an Emperor, and I should not be surprised that, if the war be shorter than some imagine, perhaps 1027 by this time next year they may have succeeded in cementing a peace with Russia. What the character of the Emperor of Russia may be then I cannot say, but I have no doubt that the First Lord of the Admiralty will do justice to it. But we are told by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) that we have entered into a mutual alliance with France to prosecute this war. That is an important declaration, and I wish the noble Lord had favoured the House with more details upon the subject. The noble Lord was somewhat vague in his reference to the conditions of this alliance. I think the country and the House have a right to know what are these projected engagements as to not disturbing the territorial arrangements of Europe; for that I inferred was one of the conditions of this projected alliance. I think if the noble Lord and his Colleagues have entered into any engagement of that nature, they have entered into one of the most unwise and most unnecessary engagements possible.
§ MR. DISRAELI
The noble Lord's tone was certainly somewhat low and diplomatic when he referred to the treaty. But I am, however, very glad to find that he has not recommended such engagements. The hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) and others have referred to the balance of power, and some Gentlemen have spoken of it with ridicule, and assuredly in a manner that I will not imitate. But, Sir, I never will confound the maintenance of the balance of power with the maintenance of the present territorial distribution of Europe. They have nothing to do with each other; and if we confound them, this country may be involved in great dangers and difficulties. We all know—at least those who, like the noble Lord opposite and other hon. Members, who believe in the absolute existence of a balance of power—we all, I say, know what it is at Madrid, what it is in Belgium, what it is on the strategic line of the Adige, what it is at Constantinople; but though this is true, it is not true that the distribution of territory sanctioned by the treaties of Vienna has necessarily anything to do with the balance of power. And we had a proof of that in 1848, when the greatest changes in Italy were sanctioned by the most emienent statesmen, even by so illustrious a man as Prince Metternich, as not in any way disturbing the balance of 1028 power. I impress this on the House, because the future of Italy mainly depends on the appreciation of this truth. But we are told by the noble Lord that, in order to strengthen our position at this moment, we have entered into an alliance with Turkey. I must be allowed to observe that, admitting that alliance with Turkey to be not only expedient but necessary, my astonishment is that that treaty was not entered into months, ay many months, ago. It is a notorious fact that during the last eight weeks there have been repeated attempts to negotiate directly between Russia and Turkey. It is known that in one instance the attempt was nearly successful, and I should like to know what would have been the position of the noble Lord opposite and his Colleagues if he had had to come down to Parliament to say that Russia and Turkey had succeeded in settling this affair between themselves on terms fatal to the independence of Turkey and injurious to the interests of England, because Her. Majesty's Ministers had omitted at the proper time to bind Turkey by a convention to the fulfilment of necessary engagements. I should say they would have been in almost as compromising a position as had Turkey signed the Vienna note; and I believe that would have been a position which, for dismay, disgrace, and disaster has been rarely equalled.
I am sorry that when the noble Lord gave us this information with respect to the treaties with Turkey and France, he did not in any way confirm the flattering statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty with regard to the German powers. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in his catalogue of the immense achievements of Her Majesty's Ministers, and in his announcement of their successive labours for the welfare of the country, told us that we might congratulate ourselves on having drawn the German powers into union with England and France. But I observed with deep regret—though I believe the statement was perfectly justifiable—that the noble Lord distinctly stated that neither Austria nor Prussia was bound in any way to interfere if war should continue. But, Sir, I think it was the duty of Her Majesty's Ministers to demand from those Governments a distinct and categorical answer as to what they intended to do if war proceeds. I think, moreover, that that is a subject on which Her Majesty's Ministers are bound to give information to 1029 Parliament. On Friday night, the noble Lord said that I had made a most important observation because I rose with the concurrence, indeed at the request, of hon. Gentlemen on these benches, to state that we should offer no opposition to the Vote for men which the noble Lord wished immediately to pass. The noble Lord was pleased to say that that was an important declaration. I confess myself that I was rather surprised at the somewhat exaggerated view which the noble Lord took of those simple words. For whatever might be our opinion of the conduct of the Government in the management of those transactions which have led to this terrible conclusion, I cannot suppose that on these benches there could be any difference of opinion as to the duty which we have to fulfil—to support our Sovereign, and to maintain the honour of our country. I can assure the noble Lord that so long as the Opposition benches are filled by those who now occupy them, he will at least encounter men who will not despair, under any circumstances, of the resources and of the fortunes of their country. The noble Lord possesses great historical information, and has great experience of this House. I cannot but believe that the noble Lord must have drawn his opinion of those who sit opposite him from his recollection of other and preceding Oppositions. I do not know whether, on the part of the noble Lord, it was an impulse of memory or of remorse. But this I can say—for this I can answer on the part of myself and my friends—that no future Wellesley on the banks of the Danube will have to make a bitter record of the efforts of an English Opposition to depreciate his efforts and to ridicule his talents. We shall remember what we believe to be our duty to our country; and however protracted may be the war, however unfortunate may be your councils, at least we shall never despair of the Republic.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Mr. Speaker, late as is the hour (one o'clock) to which this debate has been protracted. I should feel that I was not discharging the duty which I owe to this House and to the Crown, if I permitted the debate to close without making some observations in reply, and in consequence of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat. Sir, I am ready to admit that we are met here on one of the most important and solemn occasions which can fall to the lot of Parliament—to 1030 deliberate upon a most momentous question. The country, by the admission of the responsible advisers of the Crown, is—I am afraid, I must say—on the very verge of war. The House and the country have a right to know what has been the conduct of the Government, and what have been the circumstances which have led us to this condition, We have laid before Parliament papers which show what the conduct of the Government has been, and we have laid them before Parliament for the express purpose of affording it an opportunity of fully considering and reviewing that conduct, and, if it thought fit, of expressing an opinion thereupon. But I must confess I did not expect to hear from any Member of this House that which has just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman; because I think that, if it were to be the opinion of this House that Her Majesty's Government, in the discharge of its public duties and in the conduct of this great and important negotiation, upon a matter involving not only the interests of this country, but the peace and welfare of Europe, was chargeable either with credulity or with connivance—I think that if the house felt that those were the only alternatives on which they were called upon to pronounce, it would declare that we no longer held the confidence of this House and of the country. But we are told that the Government, with regard to which this House has only the alternative of condemning them for credulity or for connivance, is, nevertheless, to receive the confidence of Parliament—that the supplies necessary to carry on the war are to be entrusted to them—and that the Gentlemen who sit opposite are ready to commit to the hands of such a Government the fate and the fortunes of the country.
Well, Sir, a Government, standing in the position in which we do, must expect that its conduct will be scrutinised to the bottom. Now there are many charges which might be brought against us. We might, in the first place, be accused—any Government in our position might be accused—of having rashly, improvidently, and without due regard to the heavy responsibility which devolved upon us, brought the country to the condition of being obliged to draw the sword and rush into war. That is a charge which no one has made against us. That charge would, indeed, have been a heavy one, and if it had been proved against us, would have showed us to be deserving of the severest 1031 condemnation of the country. That charge, I say, no man has brought against us, and such a charge cannot be alleged against the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers. Another charge might be, that by delay, and the absence of sufficient vigour at the proper time, we had allowed matters to come to this pass, which they would not have done if the Government had pursued a different course. I think that charge is one which cannot justly be brought against the Government, but, on the contrary, I am ready to maintain that, as far as our conduct is to be measured by the forbearance which we have exhibited, we are entitled to the favourable consideration of the country. If it is said that we have forborne to the last moment, and have exhausted every means of negotiation—that we have clung to every hope of terminating in an amicable way the dispute which threatened the peace of Europe—that we have trusted even those who were unworthy of being trusted—that we believed assertions which events have shown to be untrue—in short, that we have postponed to the utmost that decision to which at last we may be forced to come—I think that this cannot be urged as a charge against the Government, but, on the contrary, the result must be that—which I think has taken place—that the country, seeing there has been no precipitation, no desire for war, but rather the greatest anxiety to avoid it, and that the Government has clung to the last to every hope of peace—will rally round the Government as one man, feeling that the war is a necessity which cannot be avoided, and the people will, therefore, be prepared to make those sacrifices which every war necessarily entails.
But, Sir, we are accused of credulity. I say that the facts in the blue books before the House justify us in having for a long time reposed belief and confidence in the assertions of the Russian Government. The right hon. Gentleman has accused my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with having misled Parliament on the 25th April, by declaring at that time that Russia asked for nothing beyond a settlement of the question of the Holy Places; whereas, says the right hon. Gentleman, at that time Prince Menchikoff had left Constantinople, and the Government then knew that he had been urging the adoption of a secret treaty upon the Porte. What, Sir, are the facts? Prince Menchikoff left Constantinople on the 22nd 1032 May, and what was the latest declaration which our Government had received on the 25th of April?—not from reports that prevailed at Constantinople, which, though entitled to some credit, yet, as we all know, were to be received with much allowance and abatement. Upon April the 25th, what was the last communication which the Government had received on these matters from the mouth of Count Nesselrode himself? On the 28th of March, Sir Hamilton Seymour asked Count Nesselrode whether the settlement of the question of the Holy Places would arrange every subject of difference between Russia and Turkey? Count Nesselrode said:—It will. That question once settled, there will remain but some small chancery matters, private claims, such things as always exist between Governments which have any commercial and intimate intercourse with each other.That statement was again repeated on the 30th April, when Count Nesselrode declared to Sir Hamilton Seymour that the arrangement then negotiating at Constantinople contained nothing beyond what was already made known to the British Government, through Sir Hamilton Seymour at St. Petersburg, and through the Russian Minister at the Court of St. James's. Well, Sir, I say that, when such positive assurances were made by the Government of a great country like Russia, Her Majesty's Government were entitled to believe them. But it is said, "Aye, but you heard of military preparations by Russia, and you ought, therefore, to have inferred that some other demands were going to be made." Why, we were ourselves told by the Russian Government of these military preparations, but we were informed that their sole and only object was to counteract the menacing language which was used by France, and that they were made solely and entirely with reference to the question of the Holy Places. We were told also, it is quite true, that Russia demanded some proof of confidence—some reparation from Turkey for the offence which had been committed by the abandonment of the pledges made in regard to the Holy Places. Why, we were at the same time told that this proof of confidence, and this security for the future, was to be a treaty about the Holy Places—a treaty confirming the firmans which the Sultan had given for the settlement of that question; but there never was the slightest intimation that the treaty was to apply to any other 1033 question, and I must say that, when Count Nesselrode asserted, at a later period of the negotiations, that Her Majesty's Government knew from the beginning what were the demands which Prince Menchikoff was to make, he stated that which was utterly at variance with the truth. It is painful to speak of a Government like Russia in terms of censure and condemnation; but I must say, in vindication of Her Majesty's Government, that throughout the whole course of that negotiation, the Russian Government, by its various agents and by itself, exhausted every modification of untruth—beginning with concealment and equivocation, and ending with assertions of positive falsehood.
Complaint has beet made of the forbearance shown by Her Majesty's Government in these negotiations. Has anything been lost, I ask, by the forbearance with which the Government have dealt with this question? If, in the course of last summer, steps had been taken which would have brought matters to the point at which they now are—if we had found ourselves in June or July on the brink of a rupture with Russia—our position would not have been such as it is at the present time. Many men indeed, say, that Russia would have given way, if we had shown more vigour. Well, I admit that this is a very plausible opinion. Many men may be justified in entertaining it; but, after all, it is but an opinion. It is but an opinion, and might have turned out to be a wrong one. Now, if it had turned out to be a wrong one, and if, instead of obtaining the submission of Russia, we had urged Russia to the point at which we are now likely to find her, we should have made a great political mistake, and this country would not have been in the position in which she is at the present moment. There were many reasons why forbearance was desirable. It was of the utmost importance in a matter affecting the great interests of Europe, that though England and France were from the beginning heartily, cordially, and entirely together, we should endeavour to obtain the concurrence of Austria and Prussia. We knew that those two countries had an interest in the matter more direct and greater than had either England or France. To Austria and Prussia it is a vital matter, a matter of existence—because if Russia were either to appropriate any large portion of the Turkish territory, or even to reduce Turkey to the condition of a mere dependent State, it must be mani- 1034 fest to any man who casts a glance over the map of Europe, and who looks at the geographical position of those two Powers with regard to Russia and Turkey, that any considerable accession of power on the part of Russia in that quarter must be fatal to the independence of action of both Austria and Prussia. Well, it was of great importance to get those two Powers with us as far as possible, and to obtain their concert and concurrence; but neither of them could be expected to risk lightly a rupture with their great and powerful neighbour. The reasons which might lead Prussia not to risk herself—the reasons, I would rather say, why those who wished well to Prussia would not desire to thrust her forward singly—are obvious to any man who looks merely at the map of Europe. As to Austria, we knew that she was under great obligations to Russia, and it was natural that she should be unwilling to break with that country as long as it was possible for matters to be arranged by amicable adjustment; and if Austria had seen that England was deaf to her counsels, and unwilling to meet her wishes, and had hurried matters on, and precipitated a war which Austria thought that a little more forbearance, and the exercise of her influence at the Court of St. Petersburg, might have averted—I say, if Austria had felt that such had been the conduct of England and France, we should not have been entitled to her active co-operation in the war that is now impending. It was, therefore, of the greatest importance to avail ourselves as much as we could of that influence which Austria possessed, or imagined she possessed, at the Court of St. Petersburg, and to convince Austria that we considered and consulted her interests and position, as well as our own, and were willing to give every possible opportunity for an amicable settlement of existing differences, if by her means it could be effected. I believe I shall not overstate the truth when I say that the conduct of England and France in that respect has been fully appreciated by Austria and by Prussia; whereas, if matters had been hurried on in the course of last summer, when we might have had no reason or right to expect their co-operation, I cannot persuade myself that the conduct of Austria and Prussia would have been the same as it is at the present time. Well, then, Sir, I say that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government is not blameable, either on the ground of precipitation or on the ground of too much forbearance. 1035 The interests at stake are too great and important not to have justified every possible degree of forbearance, short of the sacrifice of those interests which it is our duty to protect.
But, Sir, it may be said, what is the object for which this country is asked to give the means for carrying on war; is the object of sufficient magnitude to justify the efforts which you require the country to make? Why, Sir, I answer that question by saying, that it is the opinion of the Government that the object is worthy of the effort, and that opinion is shared by France, by Austria, and by Prussia. All those Powers have acknowledged in the most solemn and distinct manner that the independence and integrity of the Turkish empire is an essential condition for the maintenance of the peace of Europe—that it is an essential element in the balance of power, and that it would be a calamity to Europe if any attempt was made to destroy that integrity and independence. Why, even Russia, while she is pursuing the course which is acknowledged by all, except herself, to be fatal to that independence—even Russia does not venture to deny the principle that the integrity and independence of the Turkish empire is an essential element and condition of the welfare of Europe. Now, Sir, it is manifest that if Russia were to appropriate these territories, now under the sway and sovereignty of the Sultan, she would become a Power too gigantic for the safety of the other States of Europe. Bestriding the Continent from north to south—possessing the command of two seas, the Baltic and the Mediterranean, enveloping the whole of Germany, embracing regions full of every natural resource and with a population of enormous extent—she would become dangerous to the liberties of Europe, and her power would be fatal to the independence of other States. I say therefore, it is the duty of the other countries of Europe to prevent such enormous aggrandisement of one Power as that which would result from such a change. I shall be told, very likely, that Russia does not want any accession of territory—that she does not pretend to take permanent possession of anything belonging to the Sultan—that she merely holds the Principalities as a pledge for concessions which she requires—concessions which she says are essential to her dignity and her honour. Why, the Turkish Minister's reply to that statement is exactly the truth. He said, Better far 1036 would it be for Turkey to have one of her limbs cut off, than to have infused into the whole body politic a poison which would destroy her vital energies and lay her prostrate at the feet of her powerful neighbour. That, Sir, which Russia demanded was nothing less than right of sovereignty over 12,000,000 of the subjects of the Sultan, which would have the effect of rendering the Sultan the nominal, and not the real, sovereign of his country. I say, therefore, that concession was a course which Turkey was justified in refusing, and which every other Power—England, France, Austria, and Prussia—united to declare could not be made without the sacrifice of the independent sovereignty of the Sultan. I maintain, then, that the object for which we are contending is one which a due regard for the interests of this country, for the welfare of Europe, and for the peace of the world, justifies us in aiming at by the course we intend to pursue. We are told, however, that the general and abstract principle of the balance of power, which some persons seem to look upon with ridicule and contempt, is undeserving of the care of statesmen; that there is something in the condition of the Turkish empire which makes it unworthy of our support; that it will be impossible to prevent its dissolution; and that because that empire is not as far advanced in civilisation as other countries, it ought to be-conquered by Russia, and blotted out of the map of Europe. I have been asked by the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), whether I still maintain the assertion I made last Session, that there is scarcely any other country in the world which had made, in the same period of time, such progress in its internal arrangements as Turkey has done. I abide by that assertion. Any man who looks into the condition of that country at present, and compares it with what it was thirty years ago, will admit the truth and justice of my assertion. It is true that Turkey is behind England and France in civilisation, but we are not on that account to forget how much further advanced she is now than she was in the time of Sultan Mahmond. Every one who knows anything of her internal arrangements—of her army and navy—of her justice and administration—of her commercial system—of her religious toleration—must allow that great progress has been made since that period.
But it is said, forsooth, that Turkey is 1037 not worth defending because the Christian subjects of the Sultan are not in all respects placed on terms of equality with the Mussulman. I believe, however, that, legally speaking, the distinction between the two races is, that the Christians pay the kharaj or tribute, and are exempt from the conscription—that they are not admissible as witnesses in civil cases, although I believe they may give evidence in criminal prosecutions. But if the fact of one race being on a footing of inequality as compared with another justifies you in considering the country in which such inequality exists undeserving of an independent political existence, what would have been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding if he had lived not very long ago—historically speaking, and in the life of nations, it is not long ago—when there prevailed a penal code in Ireland which placed our Catholic fellow-subjects on a much worse footing and in a inure degraded position than the Christian subjects of the Porte now occupy? I fancy, Sir, in those days when this country produced many men eminent in literature and science, that they would have been surprised if they had been called a set of barbarians, and if they had been told that they ought to be reduced to subjection by France, in order that the Catholics might be put upon the same footing with the Protestant subjects of this realm. I say that the inferior position of the Christian in the Ottoman dominions is no reason why, upon great and political grounds, this country and France, Austria, and Prussia, should not combine to maintain the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire. I hope the progress of improvement in that Empire will be continued; and I look forward, as one of the elements in the future security of Turkey, to her putting her Christian and Mahomedan subjects on terms of perfect equality. I can assure the House that not only has this been the anxious object of the present Government, and of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but it has also been the anxious desire of former Administrations. When I had the honour of becoming Foreign Secretary in 1846, when the Government of my noble Friend the Member for the City of London acceded to office, Sir Stratford Canning was then in London. I sent for him, and asked him to return to his post at Constantinople, assuring him that there was no 1038 man in whose ability, sagacity, and knowledge of Turkish affairs, the Government were disposed to place greater confidence. Sir Stratford Canning said he would go on one condition, and that was that he should be allowed to exert all his influence in his character of Ambassador from Great Britain to induce the Turkish Government to go on in the course of national reform on which- they had set out, and to place their Christian and Mahomedan subjects on the same terms of equality. I closed with his offer at once, and assured him that we should be only too happy to secure, on such conditions, the services of one who had proved himself to be well worthy of the respect and confidence of his country. But it is said that this is an interference on the part of Her Majesty's Government, similar to the right of interference of the Russian Government, demanded by the note of Prince Menchikoff, and by other proposals of a similar nature, to which Russia wished Turkey to assent. Why, there is the greatest difference between the two cases. We interfered by offering to the Sultan advice which he was at liberty either to refuse or to accept, as he chose. We demanded no protectorate over his Christian subjects; we asked him to improve the civil and political position of his Christian subjects, in order that they might be bound more closely to him by the ties of gratitude—that they might become more useful and devoted subjects—and that they might take a greater interest in the welfare and maintenance of his empire. Far different was that course from the demands of Russia. Russia demanded a right of protectorate, and that she should stand between the Sultan and his subjects—that if those subjects should feel aggrieved they should go to St. Petersburg instead of to Constantinople for redress, and that they should apply for the protection of the Czar instead of appealing to the justice of the Sultan.
Well, then, Sir, I say that the object we have in view is one of great importance, and one which deserves that the best efforts of the country should be made to attain it. But is it likely we shall succeed in our efforts? What is the power and the nature of the adversary with whom we shall have to cope? There are two things equally dangerous in matters of this kind—one to undervalue your adversary, the other to overrate him. But overrating an adversary is as dangerous as underrating his power. I must say that, in my 1039 opinion, there never has been a great State whose power of external aggression has been more overrated than that of Russia. It has been said that Russia is powerful in self-defence, and it is inferred from that that she is equally powerful in aggression. But the very circumstance which makes her so powerful within, makes her also comparatively weak without. The vast distances which an invading army has to traverse in Russia, the difficulties of obtaining supplies, and the dangers and fatigues of the march, tell in her favour when she is assailed, but equally tell against her when she becomes the assailant. She has to march great armies over long distances, at an immense expenditure of money and a vast waste of human life, and her internal arrangements for this description of service are not such as to afford the greatest result from a given expenditure of money. We all know that there is a great difference between men paraded on paper and men marshalled on the field; and we know that an army, very powerful when it starts on the beginning of a long march, often presents a very different aspect when it arrives at the scene of operations. We heard last year that hundreds of thousands of men were to be poured into the Danubian Principalities; but that the Russians have never had there any great forces in the field is proved by the circumstance, that in the encounters which have taken place they have invariably had the worst of it; and that when they have attempted to force the position of the Turks or to cross the Danube, they have not been able to effect these objects. Well, then, Sir, this being the state of things with regard to Russia; the Turks, on the other hand, have shown an energy and vitality which few people believed them to possess. Talk of Turkish fanaticism! Why, what the Russians call fanaticism we, in this country, should call public spirit and patriotism. The Russians stigmatise as fanaticism the patriotism of the Turks in rallying round the Sultan to defend his throne and person.
I was reading the other day a despatch from one of our consuls in European Turkey, in which he said that the contingent required of the district was 1,000 men, but that 4,000 appeared on the day of muster, and that the remaining 3,000 expressed the deepest disappointment and mortification when told that they might return to their homes, their services not being required. To this they replied that all they wanted was rations and arms, and 1040 that pay and clothing they would supply for themselves. This, Sir, is one instance out of many of the spirit of the people. Their valour and bravery in the field are known to all the world. The manner in which Omar Paella has conducted the campaign in which he is engaged, has proved that he is a man of great military skill and ability. Now, Sir, my opinion, then, is that any one great Power like England or France would be able successfully to assist Turkey against Russian aggression. I am convinced that if either England or France alone were to take Turkey by the hand and assist her, Russia would never succeed in accomplishing her object. But when England and France together take the cause of Turkey up, I maintain that the chance of Russia is utterly desperate. And I think we are entitled to expect that, if the war should continue, Austria and Prussia would not remain idle and passive spectators of the conflict. There must be, no doubt, in Prussia a spirit of public independence and freedom, and, if any of the spirit of old Frederick remains, they will not quietly permit the destruction of Turkey by Russia. Austria must have forgotten all her traditionary policy—she must be blind to all her own interests, if she could permit the aggression of Russia on the Turkish empire. Therefore, I say that England and France, being the active supporters of Turkey, and the whole opinion of Europe being against Russia, who will not have a single ally to support her in a career of injustice, I cannot doubt what will be the issue of the coming conflict.
I must say that it is a noble sight, Sir, to see England and France, two countries which for centuries have been in rivalship with each other, now united in a common course of action—bound by reciprocal engagements, and having in view as the result of their operations no selfish advantage. It is a noble sight to see them standing forth in defence, not of their own interests only, but of the liberty and welfare of the whole of Europe. It is a proud sight to see those fleets and armies which have hitherto met only in deadly conflict, ranging themselves side by side in generous emulation—not armed for the purpose of conquest, not for the oppression of mankind, but in a noble cause to defend right against might, and justice against oppression. I say, that being the case, I care not for the accusations of credulity or connivance. We are willing on this question 1041 to be judged by this House and by our fellow-countrymen; and I am convinced that the people of England will be satisfied that we have not involved them recklessly, and without due cause, in the necessity of a war. That war, though I do not wish to underrate its consequences, or the exertions which it may require—that war will, I think, be different from other wars in which we at former times have been engaged. But I will not dwell upon that. I feel no hesitation in appealing to the country for assistance in the contest in which we may be involved; but this, at least, I will say, that, if the country or this House think that we have shown the weakness of credulity or the infamy of connivance, let them take from us the conduct of a war which we should be totally imcompetent or unworthy to conduct—let them place its conduct in the hands of those in whose judgment and sagacity they may rely, and in whose integrity they may place their confidence.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, he had heard with deep regret the remarks of the noble Lord who had just sat down on the Mahomedan religion. He thought that they were unworthy of the noble Lord, whom he regarded as a most sincere Protestant. In his opinion there had been, on the part of the Treasury bench, a gross, unworthy, and unjustifiable system of delays; they had shown themselves political toadies of the Emperor of Russia, and he believed they would yet succumb to him, as he had told them last year they would. It was unworthy of this great country to be giving way either to Austria or France; and he would tell them no man entertained a greater suspicion of the subtlety of the French Emperor than he did; and he hoped the country would not be humbugged. He was afraid it would, though. Let England only rely upon herself. He himself only held a small appointment—he was merely a colonel of the militia, but as such, even also in a pecuniary point of view, as well as with all his energies, he was prepared to come forward in defence of his country, and was ready to be sent anywhere in its cause. He was one of the old school, and he hoped that England would not lose sight of the principles of that school. He would, however, thank the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston) for what he had done in organising that most useful and constitutional force—the militia; and he hoped the Government would rely on that force. But he would 1042 warn the House to beware of the noble Lord the Member for London, for he (Colonial Sibthorp) placed no confidence in him whatever.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ House in Committee of Supply.
§ (1.) 16,024,100l. Exchequer Bills.
§ MR. J. WILSON moved, that a sum of 16,024,100l. be granted to meet outstanding Exchequer Bills.
§ Agreed to.