§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
rose and said: Sir, in rising to move an answer to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Message, I have a deep sense of the solemn, I may say the awful, importance of the Motion that I am about to propose. It is now more than half a century since a Message of a similar import was brought to this House. For the period of nearly forty years this country has been in the enjoyment of the blessings of peace, and those blessings have been never more widely nor more exten- 199 sively valued. The privileges of the people have been increased, their burdens have been diminished, and, with an increasing and prosperous commerce, wealth has been diffused throughout the country. We have had lately an exhibition of the pride, pomp, and circumstance of war; but it is impossible to think of war without reflecting at the same time of the bloodshed that it occasions, of the prosperity that it interrupts, and of the misery that it inflicts. It is, therefore, Sir, only from a paramount sense of the necessity that we should engage in this war that I appear here to advise this House to reply in terms of assent and encouragement to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Message. In performing this task I will endeavour to avoid, as much as I am able, consistently with doing justice to the subject—I will endeavour to avoid those questions which we have already discussed on former nights of debate; I allude to questions with regard to the conduct of the Government, as to whether more or less of protracted negotiations should have been undertaken—as to whether the tone which was adopted by Her Majesty's Government at certain periods of that negotiation was the best fitted to secure that honourable peace at which we aimed. I shall endeavour rather to point to the course which Russia has pursued, and to show that, unless we are content to submit to the further aggrandisement of that Power, and, possibly, to the destruction of Turkey—whose integrity and independence have been so often declared essential to the stability of the system of Europe—we have no choice left us but to interpose by arms. Sir, in referring in the first place to the affairs of Turkey, I should beg the House to remark that a great change has taken place in the internal condition of that country during the last twenty or thirty years. We are all acquainted with the system of violence and misrule which used formerly to prevail, and those who have watched the conduct of Lord Stratford will be aware what has been the advice which he has given, and what the beneficial effects that have flowed from it. Long acquainted with the affairs of Turkey, having deeply at heart the maintenance of that empire, he has constantly said (not yesterday nor the day before, but during a long series of years)—"The independence of Turkey cannot be maintained without the assistance of the other Powers of Europe; that assistance cannot be afforded unless Turkey shall 200 adopt with regard to her subjects in general, and with regard to her Christian subjects in particular, those general rules of justice and fair treatment which are established by the public opinion of Europe." That advice, though not immediately nor fully adopted, has yet been so far followed that there has been a great improvement in the treatment of the subjects of Turkey—that the Christian subjects of the Porte, in particular, have derived great advantages from these changes—that they have enjoyed the free exercise of their religion—that they have prospered in their trade—and that their welfare has greatly increased under the Government of the Sublime Porte. Sir, this is a very essential and important part of this question; because, if I am not mistaken—and it is no new opinion of mine, for I have held it at least from the commencement of the discussions of last year—it is not the prospect of the decay of Turkey, it is not the fear of her immediate dissolution, which has incited the Russian Government to demands inconsistent with her independence, and to aggrandisements subversive of her territorial limits; but it has been the fear that the old system of Russia, the system of making progress gradually, of depriving Turkey of her dominions one after another, of interfering more and more with her internal government, would not be successful—it has been the fear that the Ottoman Government, instead of declining, would exhibit to Europe a Government of internal concord within and of power and strength without—it has been this fear which has impelled Russia to what I believe will be found an unsuccessful, and what I believe Russia herself will consider a premature, attempt against the independence of the Ottoman empire. If, Sir, we look to Russia, we shall observe that while all the Powers of Europe have been, during this interval of peace, with more or less success, attempting to improve their internal organisation—while they have considered questions of commerce, questions of legislation, with a view to improvement, with a view to the promotion of the future welfare of their subjects, it has been almost the sole object of the Government of Russia to form and to maintain an overpowering army—to complete her military organisation and to be ready on any occasion to throw the sword into the balance in her transactions with the other Powers of Europe. We have, therefore, at the present moment, without even the immense 201 effort which has been made during the past year—we have an immense military power, on the part of Russia, prepared, and, as we have heard within the last two days, already—commencing an attack upon the territories and upon the existence of Turkey. On the other side, Sir, if we have not at the present moment the material assistance, we have at least the moral approbation of all Europe, approving of the efforts which we have made to resist the aggressions of Russia. We have joined together to resist by arms those aggressions two Powers at the head of the civilised nations of Europe, who have tested by conflict in arms, and by rivalry in peace, the great qualities which each possesses, and who have learnt from that conflict and from that rivalry to esteem one another's courage and capacity.
Sir, I will now proceed to state, not in detail, because the House, having had the opportunity of studying the papers on the table, and having debated the greater part of them on past occasions, is fully informed with respect to those details—but I will now proceed to state the great outline of what has occurred with respect to the question now under the consideration of the House. I may as well, however, just say first, that in treating of this subject I shall keep wholly out of view the dispute which has furnished, not a cause but a pretext for the interference of the Emperor of Russia. I shall, therefore, keep out of view the question of the Holy Places. I will not touch upon the silver star, or the key of the great gate, or the key of the little gate, or any of those questions which were put forward as subjects of discussion, All these matters of dispute, whether they deserved the contention that took place about them or not, were settled by the agreement of all the Powers concerned. What I have to treat of are other questions and other demands. Now, Sir, in referring to the relations between Russia and Turkey, we must always keep in view that the Empress Catherine, after a successful war, obtained from the Sultan an article which I will read to the House with respect to the Christians generally residing in the Sultan's dominions. We must recollect, also, that some territory was given up to the Empress by that treaty of peace, and that she declared to her subjects that the peace was glorious and successful because she had obtained an assurance of protection for those who were members of the same religious community as the Russian em- 202 pire. The seventh Article of the Treaty of Kainardji runs thus:—The Sublime Porte promises to protect constantly the Christian religion and its churches, and it also allows the Ministers of the Imperial Court of Russia to make, upon all occasions, representations as well in favour of the new church at Constantinople, of which mention will be made in Article XIV., as on behalf of its officiating ministers.That is the whole of what is contained in the seventh article of the treaty of Kainardji. The House will perceive at once the promises that are made in the former part of this article—first, that there is an assurance that the Porte will protect the Christian religion of its subjects. And if there had been any persecution of that religion—if the Christians had been deprived of the power of resorting to their places of Divine worship, if they had been injured and slain because they held their religion, the Emperor of Russia might justly have complained of the infraction of the treaty. But there is another thing likewise very obvious—namely, that there is no especial detail with regard to any privileges or immunities which the Christians possessed—no interference stipulated for with the ordinary administration of the affairs of the Sultan in his own dominions. There is a protection stipulated for, but it is a protection of an exceptional kind, and not to be used without some special cause, some great neglect, or some maltreatment of the Christian subjects of the Porte. Now, Sir, coming to the events which took place last year, the House will have perceived that no sooner was the question of the Holy Places settled than further demands, which had already been put forward, were insisted upon by the Ambassador of Russia. In the first place, according to rumour, these demands had taken the shape of a treaty offensive and defensive. They afterwards took the shape of a convention. After this there was a formal document—a sened requiring the Sultan to give certain pledges to Russia. Again, a note was insisted upon, but a note which was to be an agreement with Russia, a stipulation with Russia that the privileges and immunities which the Christians held in the Turkish empire should be enjoyed for the future without molestation. The Sultan's Ministers had at first refrained from asking the opinion of Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires, and afterwards of Her Majesty's Ambassador, with respect to these proposals. They had naturally been alarmed at the manner in 203 which the proposals were made, and the threats which were used in case the proposals were not adopted. And here, Sir, I cannot but refer to the statements that were made at a particular date by Count Nesselrode in a despatch written by him to Baron Brunnow, and which was communicated by the desire of the Russian Government to Her Majesty's Government. On the 7th of April, after enumerating various other demands which, according to rumour, had been made by Russia at Constantinople, all of which Count Nesselrode denies, he at length ends with saying:—That all the rumours relative to the hostile and threatening language held to the Porte by our Ambassador are not only exaggerated, but destitute of any kind of foundation.On the 9th of April, two days after that date, Lord Stratford writes, saying, with respect to the Turkish Ministers:—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.I cannot doubt that Lord Stratford's assertions were perfectly well founded—I cannot doubt that the language used to the Porte during the whole of that mission of Prince Menchikoff was of a threatening character—threatening, in the first place, in case the proposals should be divulged, with, at the same time, great and tempting offers of support—threatening, in a later period of the mission, that in case the proposals were refused, great calamities would ensue. Therefore, Sir, in stating to Lord Clarendon, on the part of the Russian Government, that the rumour of the use of hostile and threatening language was a report wholly destitute of any kind of foundation, Count Nesselrode did but pursue that system of deception and concealment which has unfortunately been the characteristic of Russia in these negotiations. But at the same time that these proposals had been made at Constantinople—proposals, as I have said, in the first instance of a tempting character, and offering the ships and the troops of Russia in aid of the Sultan, if the terms of Russia were accepted—the language held to Her Majesty's Minister at St. Petersburg was of a very different character. In speaking of the conduct of the Russian Government on a former occasion, I certainly used very strong language of reprobation. I do not now think, Sir, that that language was at all too strong. I cannot—although the 204 words were uttered in debate—I cannot, upon reflection, say that the terms I then used at all exaggerated the character of the transactions I was then describing. But these terms appear to have excited great indignation at St. Petersburg, and the Emperor of Russia has done me the very great honour of ordering an article to be inserted in the Journal of St. Petersburg, in which reference was made, not very fairly, and certainty very unexpectedly by us, to the confidential communications which had taken place between the Emperor and the British Minister at his Court. Such was the nature of that article, that it gave an impression—an impression which was eagerly seized by the abettors of Russia in the different Courts of Europe—an impression that the English Government had been some party to or had listened favourably to proposals for the partition of the Turkish empire. It therefore became necessary that we should lay before Parliament and this country, what really had taken place, and to the divulging of that information which, out of regard for a foreign Sovereign, we had not before thought ourselves justified in producing. We have no reason, Sir, to regret the publication of that correspondence. From that correspondence, it appears that the Emperor of Russia, having, in the year 1844, declared that the time might come when the dissolution of the Turkish empire might take place, and that in that case he should be anxious to learn the desires and views of the English Government upon the subject, in 1853 insisted, and insisted against all reason, that the moment of the dissolution of the Turkish empire was at hand, and that it was necessary that the English Government should agree with him as to what was to he done in that case. The answer which I as Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs gave to that overture is before the world, and it is in substance that we could not be parties to any project of the kind. But at the time that that correspondence was taking place, I took occasion, in this House, because there were symptoms in this and in other countries that men's minds were all tending in that direction, that the dissolution and fall of Turkey was at hand, I took the occasion of declaring in this House, in answer to a noble friend near me (Lord Dudley Stuart), that to such a partition of Turkey as might be imagined by those who had taken part in other partitions, England would never be a party. So, too, 205 my noble Friend (Lord Clarendon), who succeeded me in the office which he now fills with so much ability, replied to the same effect. In spite of what then looked like an offer of part of the Turkish territory for ourselves, he replied in terms as decided that our policy was to maintain the Turkish empire, to support her independence and her integrity, and that we had no wish to be sharers in her spoils. Now, Sir, it might be that the Emperor of Russia, from his observation of Turkey, had arrived at the opinion that the fall of Turkey could not really be prevented, and that it was advisable, in order to prevent war, that some arrangement should be entered into with the great Powers of Europe. That may have been his intention, but I think the natural impression was that which Sir Hamilton Seymour evidently derived from the conversations which he held with the Emperor of Russia—namely, that if the Emperor of Russia appeared to be so convinced that the fall of Turkey was at hand, he had it in contemplation that the fall of Turkey should take place. But be that as it may, whatever was the real meaning of the Emperor of Russia in these conversations and otherwise, Her Majesty's Government had hoped that when England entirely refused to be a party to any such project, it would have been relinquished by Russia, and that she would certainly calculate the consequences of having all Europe opposed to her in case she should proceed to an armed aggression.
I will now again refer to the mission of Prince Menchikoff. Prince Menchikoff ended with a demand for certain privileges and immunities for the Christians residing in Turkey. The Turkish Minister, being alarmed, had recourse to the Ministers of the four Powers at Constantinople, asking their advice and assistance. Lord Stratford was disposed to agree with the Turkish Government, that these demands of Russia were dangerous to the independence of Turkey. But the four representatives came to the decision that it was a question which so nearly touched the free action and dignity of the Porte that it was not proper for them in their then situations to offer any advice or instruction on the subject. When that decision was communicated to the Minister of the Sultan, he declared that the Porte had already come to a decision, and that that decision was adverse to the demands of Russia put forward by Prince Menchikoff. Prince Menchikoff 206 having, as I said, pronounced threats of the calamities that would follow the rejection of his terms—threats, by the by, totally inconsistent with the language that he had before held to Her Majesty's Ambassador—Prince Menchikoff having pronounced these threats, proceeded with great state and ceremony to leave Constantinople, and returned to the Russian territory. Upon this intimation, Her Majesty's Government, thinking that the time had arrived when there was danger to the independence of the Porte, directed that Her Majesty's fleet, then at Malta, should proceed to the neighbourhood of Constantinople, and Her Majesty's Ambassador was further directed, if it should be necessary, to bring the fleet up to Constantinople. Now, Sir, I think that step was an irrevocable proof of the desire of Her Majesty's Government to support and preserve the independence of the Sultan. If terms had been obtained which were honourable to the Sultan—which would have maintained the independence of his authority and the integrity of his dominions—the fleet would probably have returned to Malta; but whilst demands were insisted upon which could not be submitted to, while those demands were to be enforced by arms, still more was it impossible for Her Majesty and the Emperor of France, in concert with whom Her Majesty acted, to withdraw their forces from the support of the Sultan. I lay the more stress upon this circumstance, because it was at the time a matter of inquiry in this House. A fear was expressed—a fear in which I did not participate—that there would be a sudden invasion, on the part of Russia, directed immediately against Constantinople. Put this, at all events, was clear, that the House approved of the demonstration which was then made, and approved of the declaration which I made at that time—that it was a proof that Her Majesty was determined to support the Sultan against unjust aggression. Sir, when the intelligence arrived at St. Petersburg that the last demands of Prince Menchikoff had been refused, it was decided there that a message should be sent, conveying a letter of Count Nesselrode's, demanding, in the most peremptory terms, that Prince Menchikoff's note should be signed within eight days, and announcing that, in default of such signature, the Principalities, part of the Sultan's territories, would be occupied by Russian troops. It was quite impossible for the Sultan, with any regard to his honour, to assent to such 207 terms; and the menaced invasion by Russian troops immediately took place.
The question then arose, what was the Sultan to do under these circumstances? Lord Stratford—as I have always said, the truest and best friend of the Porte—advised the Sultan not to exercise his right of making it a casus belli, but recommended him to renew negotiations, in the hope that honourable terms might be obtained, and in the meantime to strengthen those places by sea and land the defences of which during peace had been greatly neglected as well as greatly diminished. That advice was taken by the Porte, and it was in conformity with the opinion of all the four Powers, of England, of France, of Austria, and of Prussia. Fresh negotiation accordingly took place; the Sultan, offered, by the advice of his Ministers, fresh terms of peace. These terms arrived at a moment when a note had been agreed upon by the representatives of the four Powers at Vienna, and therefore the Sultan's terms were set aside, and the other proposals were transmitted to Constantinople. The Sultan agreed to those proposals, with some modifications. I am not going to enter into verbal niceties as to the question of the Vienna note. But what is perfectly plain—what any one who reads it will, I think, admit at once—is, that the Vienna note, as modified by the Porte, as altered in some respects by the Porte, conceded to the Emperor every security he could have wished as to the privileges and immunities of the Christian subjects of the Porte. The Sultan said that he considered it due to his own honour to maintain unimpaired and unviolated the privileges and immunities of his Christian subjects. He was ready to make this declaration in a note to the Minister of the Emperor of Russia. Therefore the sole difference, and yet a difference upon which all these subsequent demands of Russia have been made—the difference was this, that, according to the proposal of the Sultan, the Christian subjects of the Porte would have enjoyed all their privileges and immunities—they would have had them under the sanction of solemn documents, confirmed by the Sultan, as their sovereign; they would have had them under the sanction of a declaration that it was due to his own honour to preserve them; they would have had them under the sanction of an assurance given to all the great Powers of Europe—to all the five Powers of Europe—to Russia also; to Russia no less, though no 208 more, than to any other Power. The Russian proposal, on the contrary, was, not for increasing the immunities and privileges of the Christian subjects of the Porte—whose privileges and immunities, I may remark, had not been diminished, but increased, of late years—but that all those privileges and immunities should be confirmed by a special treaty with Russia, and thereby the Russian Minister would have had the power, on every question of spiritual, nay, on every question of civil privilege, of interfering between the Sultan and 12,000,000 of his subjects. Therefore the question was not, as the Russian Government has repeatedly put it, a question of a religious desire on the part of the Emperor to protect the Christians of his own community in the Sultan's dominions. That was not the question. That security was afforded—that security was amply afforded. But the question was, whether the sovereignty of these 12,000,000 of people should be transferred from their own sovereign, the Sultan, to a foreign sovereign who possessed an overwhelming force. Sir, the position which was taken by Her Majesty's Government at that time is stated so clearly in the circular of Lord Clarendon, dated the 13th of June, that it is one of those few documents which I shall take the liberty of reading to the House. My noble Friend says:—The repeated assurances of the Russian Government, given both to the Government of Her Majesty and to the French Government, that Prince Menchikoff's mission to Constantinople had reference solely to the Holy Places, had led Her Majesty's Government confidently to hope that the satisfactory arrangement of that long-pending question would have removed all grounds of difference between Russia and the Porte. But, under the plea of confirming ancient treaties, further demands were put forward by the Russian Ambassador, involving a protectorate of the Greek Church in Turkey, not only as regards the spiritual, but also the civil rights and immunities of its members. Every concession which could be made was offered by the Turkish Government, who, throughout these trying negotiations, displayed a most moderate and conciliatory spirit; but it would have been impossible for them to have complied with these last demands without derogating from the sovereign rights of the Sultan, and virtually surrendering the independence of the Ottoman empire; and Her Majesty's Government have, therefore, entirely approved the advice given by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe to the Porte. In these views and opinions there is a complete agreement between Her Majesty's Government and the French Government; and the English and French fleets, which have been ordered to approach the Dardanelles, will act in concert under the orders of the respective Ambassadors of the two countries, In taking this step Her 209 Majesty's Government are actuated solely by the desire to uphold the independence of the Turkish empire—an independence which the Great Powers are deeply interested in upholding, and which has been acknowledged by them as necessary to the balance of power in Europe." [No. 251.]Such, Sir, was the position taken up by the English and French Governments. Now, when the Vienna note, modified in the manner I have stated, reached St. Petersburg, the Emperor, who had agreed to the original note, and who had agreed to it even as altered with a view to make the sense of it more clear to the Cabinet in London, refused to accede to that modified note. Not long afterwards there appeared that which the Russian Government had declared to be a confidential despatch, but which might not to have been confidential, because it showed the spirit in which the Russian Government were prepared to agree to the Vienna note. It showed that, while the Emperor accepted every word of that note, he did not affix to it the sense which was affixed to it by the four Powers, the sense which the English Government, in particular, had affixed to it, and, therefore, the intention of the Russian Emperor clearly was, according to his own expression, to accept the terms, according to one sense at Vienna, according to another sense in London and Paris, according to another at Berlin, and afterwards to enforce them in another sense at Constantinople. Why, Sir, I say, that, in agreeing to sign that note, if such was the intention of the Russian Government, they not only ought not to have made their explanation of it confidential, but they should have told the Powers with whom they were treating under whose sanction this note was to be signed, what interpretation they put upon it. And, therefore, the proposition to sign that note, knowing perfectly well, admitting themselves that they knew, what was the sense affixed to it by the four Powers, and especially by England and France, and affixing another sense to it themselves, which they meant to keep secret, but no doubt to make use of against the Turkish Government afterwards—I cannot call that proposition anything less than what I described it to be in the speech to which so much blame has been attached—a fraudulent interpretation. I should say that this interpretation was given in a note signed by Count Nesselrode. It is said to have been written by a subordinate in the Foreign Office at St. Petersburg, but Count Nesselrode has assumed its responsibility. Sir, the modi- 210 fied note having been thus rejected by Russia, the question arose whether any further effort at negotiation should be made. Even then the Sultan's Government were far from being adverse to a settlement of the question. But an event occurred of the utmost importance. A step was taken by Turkey from which she thought she could no longer refrain—I refer to the declaration of war by Turkey. Sir, it is always in the power of tyrannical Governments to endeavour to impose upon other Governments unjust terms; but that which is not in their power is that their attempts should not excite the indignation, should not provoke the anger, of those against whom they are directed. Such was the effect of the menaces of Russia against Turkey; such was the effect of the invasion of the Principalities, containing 4,000,000 of the subjects of the Sultan. The fanaticism, if you choose to call it so—the enthusiasm, as the Turks would call it, of their nation was roused; they hastened to the standard of the Sultan, and thousands of men appeared in arms on the banks of the Danube to resist the aggression of Russia. The Sultan had from the first moment of the entry of the Russians into the Principalities a just cause of war; encouraged and excited by his subjects, he thought he could no longer—after this last proposal of peace had been rejected, he thought he could no longer refrain from a declaration of war. Well, Sir, it is hardly for us to blame the conduct of the Sultan in that respect. The wrong was with Russia; the wrong arose from the conduct of the Russian Government. It might be imprudent in Turkey at any time to resist that force of Russia; but, Sir, it was an imprudence which we must all honour—it was an imprudence which arose from a just sense of independence, and natural resentment of the wrong which had been done.
Sir, when that war was declared, of course, the negotiations became more and more difficult; still terms of great moderation and great fairness, which were recommended by the four representatives at Constantinople, were adopted by the Porte and transmitted to Vienna as the basis of negotiations for a treaty. Upon considering these terms, the representatives of the four Powers at Vienna, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria, were entirely agreed with respect to their moderation, and they were forwarded to St. Petersburg, with a recommendation from 211 the Austrian Government, in the name of Austria, and in the name of the other Powers, her allies, requesting the assent of Russia to these fair terms of peace. The first impression at St. Petersburg was, that no answer should be given to this request. The step actually taken was little short of that determination. It was, setting aside all these proposals recommended by the four Powers, to propose other terms, those terms containing in substance the Menchikoff note which the Porte had originally rejected, and containing, besides, an article regarding refugees which had not hitherto been put forward by Russia. The Vienna Conference assembled, and they declared that these terms were inadmissible. Still Count Buol, anxious—and to his honour it should be said—anxious for the preservation of the peace of Europe, earnestly requested of Count Orloff, the Russian Minister, that other proposals might be made, that preliminaries of peace might be transmitted to Vienna, might be there considered, might be modified according to the views of the four Powers in conference with the Russian Minister, and might be transmitted to Constantinople for the assent of the Sultan. Well, this proposal was not assented to, but preliminaries were sent—pretended preliminaries of peace, preliminaries as inadmissible as the former, although the article referring to the refugees was not contained in them, and it was not insisted that the Turkish plenipotentiary should go to St. Petersburg or to the Russian headquarters, but in all other respects terms were submitted which could not have been assented to. Again the Conference rejected these terms as inadmissible, and declared that they could not transmit them to Constantinople. We have, then, the agreement, not of England and France, but of all the four great Powers of Europe, that with respect to this dispute between Russia and Turkey, Turkey has proposed and is ready to assent to fair and moderate terms of peace, and that the terms of peace proposed by Russia are unjust, intemperate, and inadmissible. I think, Sir, after this, considering how much connected Austria and Prussia have been with Russia now for many years, that the three northern Powers were connected on many occasions of European difficulty—I think that it will not be denied that in this contest Turkey must have been greatly in the right in order to have such an agreement of the four Powers. The moderate proposals of Turkey on the 212 one side, and the inadmissible proposals of Russia on the other, seemed to preclude all hopes of an amicable termination of these negotiations. The remaining question was, therefore, whether or not we could any longer maintain the position which we had maintained—a position showing our interest in Turkey, and our sympathy with her in her struggle, but at the same time taking no active part in her support. Sir, it is obvious that, after the Emperor of Russia had rejected those terms, he must have intended to prosecute the war. The intelligence we have now received puts that intention beyond doubt; but there was moral evidence of it without such intelligence. We therefore considered with the Government of France what step remained for us to take. We came to the decision that we might propose to Russia to evacuate the Principalities within a certain number of days, at the same time informing her that her refusal to do so would be considered equivalent to a declaration of war. That step we have taken; but of course no one would expect that the Emperor of Russia, having refused reasonable terms, would yield to a summons so peremptory. He has declined to give any answer to that proposal, and it remained for Her Majesty and the Emperor of the French to consider if any other step, and what, remained. They considered that no other course but war did remain. They considered that, after having given, at all events an implied promise of assistance to the Sultan in his resistance to the unjust demands of Russia, they would be wanting in honour if they did not fulfil that implied promise of material aid. They considered that the safety of Europe depended upon the maintenance of the equilibrium of which the integrity and independence of Turkey form a part. They considered that it would be impossible to hope to maintain that integrity and independence if Russia was allowed unchecked and uninterrupted to impose her own terms upon Turkey. It was therefore decided by Her Majesty's Government at once to address this House—to advise Her Majesty to send down a message to the Houses of Parliament, and at the same time to issue a declaration of war. That declaration of war has been issued. We can none of us be insensible to the gravity and importance of such a declaration—we should all have been glad to have avoided it; but I hold that, consistently with our position—consistently with our duties to 213 Europe—consistently even with the general interests of this country, we cannot permit the aggrandisement of Russia to take any shape that her arms might enable it to assume. Sir, there are, I imagine but few in this country who think that any other course was open to us. There are, I know, some who think that this country might remain altogether apart from the conflicts of other European nations; that we might be indifferent when the independence of a Power is assailed, when a country may be obliterated from the map of Europe, and some Power already great may obtain a fearful preponderence over the Powers of Europe. These persons, I say, indifferent to the triumph at one time of democracy, at another of despotism, at another time of republicanism, and to the aggressions that are made at different periods in the name of one or the other, may think it right to say, like the philosophic husbandman of Virgil—Illum non populi fasces, non purpura regumFlexit, et infidos agitans discordia fratres;Aut conjurato descendens Dacus ab Istro:Non res Romanæ, perituraque regna.But we, Sir, who are following the maxim which, since the time of William III. has governed and actuated the councils of this country—we, who have believed that we have a part in the great question of the liberties and independence of Europe—we who believe that preponderance cannot safely be allowed to any one Power—we who believe it is our duty to throw our weight into the scale in these conflicts—we who have seen our country rise to power, rise to reputation, rise, I may also say, in moral greatness, by the assertion and maintenance of these doctrines—we who have seen the country support burdens and incur great sacrifices in the maintenance of these maxims—maxims which I believe to be connected not only with your honour and your dignity, but with your very safety as a nation—we are not prepared to abandon our position in Europe, and we ask you, by agreeing to the address of to-night, to be firmly prepared to maintain it. Sir, I may be asked two questions, supposing that this House is prepared to assent to this Address—questions which I will not deny the privilege of any Member to ask—to which I should be glad if I could give full and satisfactory answers, but to which I can only give such answers as my duty will permit. I may be asked, in the first place, with what allies are we about to undertake this con- 214 test. Now, Sir, in the first place, as I have repeatedly assured this House, we were acting in cordial concurrence throughout these negotiations, and we are acting in this last and final step, which ends negotiation and begins war, in cordial concurrence with France. I have not been able to lay upon the table of the House any formal agreement. We had proposed a formal agreement to France; in the then state of affairs, another form of agreement was thought by the French Government to be preferable; that was only a provisional agreement, and therefore I cannot lay anything in the shape of a convention before the House; but the two Governments are agreed that their concurrence should be put in the shape of a convention, and I hope before long to lay a formal instrument of that nature upon the table. But while I say this with respect to a formal document, the House may rest assured that with regard to the spirit of the agreement, with regard to friendly intercourse, with regard to frank communication, no two Governments were ever more closely allied than the Governments of England and France are at this moment. Then, Sir, we have to consider the position of those other two Powers with whom we have agreed in the negotiations—with whom we have agreed, not only in the protocols that have been signed, but so far that the Governments, both of Austria and Prussia, recommended to the Emperor of Russia to accede to the terms that were proposed, and to evacuate the Principalities at our demand. But, Sir, I must say that I can add but little to the statement I made on a former occasion, that while it is perfectly clear to us what the interests of these great German Powers demand, we have no document, no formal agreement that we can lay before the House, or even an assurance, that these two Powers will take part in the war against Russia. At the same time, the communications made by the Emperor of Austria and his Government have been most frank and most direct. They have expressed an entire agreement with us as to the necessity of maintaining the independence and integrity of Turkey; but when we asked, as I think we were bound to ask, some short time ago, what, in case of a rupture, would be the conduct of Austria, the answer of Austria for the moment was of a satisfactory nature. It reserved, however, an application to the Government of Prussia, and my belief is, that if the Government 215 of Prussia had acceded to that proposal, had acceded to the views of Austria, I should have been able now to make a most satisfactory communication to the House. But it did not appear to the Prussian Government that they could accede to our proposals. The Prussian Government has stated to the world its views upon this subject. I must say, those views at present seem to me to be too narrow. I had always thought that Prussia was a European Power—I had always considered her as one of the principal Powers of Europe; but in the document to which I refer, allusion is made only to German interests, and the duties of Prussia towards Germany, and there is no allusion whatever to her duties towards Europe. I trust, however, that a short time may bring us communications of another kind. I cannot but think that if Prussia means to maintain her position in Europe, distinguished as she has been, distinguished as she is, both in arts and in arms, she can hardly allow that the disturbance of the balance of power in Europe, and the immense aggrandisement of Russia which would ensue, can be matter of indifference to Germany, less than to Europe. Sir, I state the case to the House as it is—that negotiations are still going on, and that even the passage of the Danube by the Russian troops has not brought from Austria an immediate declaration that she will be in arms to oppose that aggression. I have stated that I think she would have been so prepared were it not for an apprehension that, Prussia not concurring in her course, danger might surround her if she proceeded to that step. But I repeat again that which I have always thought with respect to this subject—that it is impossible that this war should proceed, and that the great German Powers should not feel that it is their bounden duty—that it is their interest, fully as much as it is the interest of England, to assert their independence, and to check this unjust and unprincipled aggression. Such, Sir, is my belief—such is my hope on this subject.
The other question which may be asked of us is with regard to what we expect as the object and termination of the war. Now, Sir, I have said that I can state no more than that which I consider it my duty to state, and I consider that I should be departing from that duty—grossly departing from that duty—if I at all restricted the Government of England from at any time assenting to terms of peace which that 216 Government thought honourable and just. For my part, I should not think any terms honourable and just that did not provide for the security of the Turkish empire; but with regard to the manner in which that security is to be provided, we all know what are the chances and contingencies of war—we all know how quickly the aspect of Europe may change from one month to another, and I think it would not be right, it would be a course not only wanting in prudence but in justice to the people of this country, if I were to specify the details of any terms that were to be procured as the terms upon which peace would be concluded. This House well knows that if terms were agreed to which it should think insecure and dishonourable, this House has it in its power to rebuke and to censure the Ministers who should make such a peace. This power has been exercised—whether wisely or not is not the question—but this power has been exercised, and the Ministers who signed a peace censured by this House were driven from office for agreeing to such terms of peace. I think the House may be satisfied to leave the question in this position—that, having taken up arms from necessity, for the sake of supporting an ally, our first object must be resistance to the aggressor and protection to our ally, and that we shall continue in arms so long as that ally is threatened by his formidable opponent. I know not, therefore, Sir, that I can add anything to the statement which I have made in regard to the course which these negotiations have taken with respect to the causes of the war and to its object. That object is plain and simple. An ally, one of the Powers whose integrity and independence are sanctioned by the public law of Europe, has had his provinces assailed and invaded, and is required to sign dishonourable terms of peace as the price of the evacuation of these provinces. He refuses to agree to these terms which he considers dishonourable; we go to his support in resisting that aggression. We have already agreed to a convention with Turkey, a convention which, not being ratified, I am sorry that I cannot lay before the House, but which provides that for the assistance which we shall give, Turkey shall not make peace without the concurrence and consent of England and France. The convention does not contain—I think it would have been very wrong if it had contained—any stipulations with regard to the internal government of Turkey. We have proposed no such con- 217 vention to the Porte; we have proposed to her a convention, in the nature of a military convention, which, when it is laid upon the table of the House, will, I think, be sanctioned by the approval of the House as well as of the country. Well then, Sir, I leave the case as it at present stands in the hands of the House, fully convinced that the great majority of this House have at heart the honour and greatness of this country—that they will all lament, as I do, that the necessity of war should be brought to us—but that they will none of them be disposed to shrink from a contest which is honourable, and which I trust will end in securing the independence of our ally.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to return Her Majesty the thanks of this House for Her Most Gracious Message, and for the Communication of the several Papers which have been laid before it in obedience to Her Majesty's Command:—To assure Her Majesty of the just sense we entertain of Her Majesty's anxious and uniform endeavours to preserve to Her people the blessings of peace, and of our perfect confidence in Her Majesty's disposition to terminate the calamities of war, whenever that object can be accomplished, consistently with the honour of Her Majesty's Crown, and the interests of Her people:—That we have observed with deep concern that Her Majesty's endeavours have been frustrated by the spirit of aggression displayed by the Emperor of Russia, in his invasion and continued occupation of the Provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia; in the rejection of equitable terms of peace proposed under the sanction of Four of the Principal Powers of Europe; and in the preparation of immense forces to support his unjust pretensions:—That these pretensions appear to us subversive of the independence of the Turkish Empire:—That we feel that the trust reposed in us demands on our part a firm determination to co-operate with Her Majesty in a vigorous resistance to the projects of a Sovereign whose further aggrandisement would be dangerous to the independence of Europe,
§ MR. LAYARD
I can say, Sir, most unfeignedly, that no man in this House has listened to the noble Lord the Member for the City of London with more pleasure, with more satisfaction—indeed, I may add, with more enthusiasm than I have myself; and if the noble Lord would not think me presumptuous, I would say that on the three occasions on which he has addressed the House on this most momentous question, be has made speeches worthy of the subject, worthy of his own great reputation, and worthy of a Minister who ought at such a moment to have the affairs of the country under his direction. I have listened to his sentiments, so nobly expressed, upon all 218 these occasions with a pleasure which would be unmixed, were there not at the same time other considerations forced upon me. I am bound to inquire whether these are the personal and individual sentiments of the noble Lord, or whether they are also the sentiments of the Ministers with whom he is acting? I am bound to ask whether at this moment, in another place, the noble Earl who is at the head of the Government is not expressing sentiments, if not diametrically opposed to, at least very strangely at variance with the sentiments which we have just heard? I am bound to ask whether there are not right hon. Gentlemen on the very bench occupied by the noble Lord who have not cheered him during his speech, and who do not participate in his sentiments? I regret to say that there are good grounds for my asking these questions. Were there not, I would not venture upon such an occasion as this to intrude myself upon the notice of the House. I feel at this moment in a very difficult position, and under a grave responsibility, but, at the same time, I feel that I have a duty to perform, and that from that duty it would be wrong in me to flinch. However little experience I may have had, I have found that a man almost always has cause to regret not having pursued the course which he was convinced was the right one; and I have the more reason for saying this now because under very nearly similar circumstances last year I yielded to the advice of those in whom I had great confidence, in refraining at the request of the Government from bringing before Parliament a discussion which would, I now solemnly believe, have evoked an expression of opinion in this House, and in the country, which might have gone far towards preventing the unfortunate results to which these negotiations on the Eastern question have led. At nearly the beginning of this Session it was my painful duty to have to review the past conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers. I totally disagreed with the policy which they had pursued, and I felt that, whether right or wrong, that policy had been carried out in a way which was not creditable either to the diplomacy or to the statesmen of this country; but in concluding my speech, I said that, if Her Majesty's Government would in future only pursue a course and adopt measures which were equal to the occasion and worthy of the circumstances in which we were placed, I would give them my most cordial though humble support. But, Sir, since that period an alteration has taken place in the 219 state of matters. We were then arguing on very insufficient grounds. Other documents, of a very important nature, which have thrown an entirely new light upon these transactions, have now been published. Things have occurred which have snore than confirmed the opinions which I even then formed of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, and I feel bound to recur to the subject. When I discussed the policy of the Government I was taunted because I did not bring some definite question before the House, in order to test its feelings with regard to the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers. I may be again taunted on the same grounds, and I will, therefore, state distinctly to the House what it is my intention to do. Upon such an occasion as this, I would be the last man to propose an Amendment to the Address, or to take any step which might interfere with the general expression of loyalty towards Her Most Gracious Majesty, or have a tendency to show that the country was not united as one man in supporting the Crown in this great struggle; but if it is the feeling of this House, after what I shall state to it, that the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers ought to form the subject of a Parliamentary inquiry or a division in this House, I, humble as I am, shall be the first to ask Her Majesty's Ministers to name an early day upon which I can bring this question formally before the House.
The noble Lord in his speech said that the papers upon the table had been so often discussed that it was scarcely of any use to revert to them. It is true that the papers which were at first laid upon the table have been discussed, but as yet nothing whatever has been said with regard to those most important documents which on a subsequent occasion have been submitted to Parliament. I have hitherto purposely avoided referring to them, because I have been told that I might impede the action of Her Majesty's Government; but I think the time has now come, especially as these papers go far to prove the opinions which I shall lay before the House, when some discussion should be raised upon them. Sir, in the year 1829, when the noble Earl now at the head of the Government was Minister for Foreign Affairs, Russia was engaged, as at this moment, in a war with Turkey. Her troops crossed the Balkan, and though her army was in a very critical condition, the Porte was compelled to conclude a disastrous treaty with 220 General Diebitsch. The noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen) has more than once and within the last few days claimed the honour of having framed that treaty, upon which were mainly based the claims which Russia now puts forward for the protection of the Greek Christians of Turkey. In 1842, the same noble Earl being at the head of the Foreign Office, a revolution took place in Servia. The Prince of that province was expelled by a popular movement, the Porte confirmed the nomination of a new Prince, and took other steps, which, by its treaty connection with Servia, it had a perfect right to take. But the Russian Government opposed that order of things, insisting that the Porte should cancel its acts, and that there should be a new election, and, though France was at that time willing to go with us, the noble Lord now at the head of Her Majesty's Government approved and abetted Russia in all the acts which she then undertook, and made that most extraordinary statement to which I have before alluded, "that Russia had a right to put her own construction upon her own treaties"—an assertion which, if there be anything in it, would completely justify every step that Russia has taken which has led to the present war. Can we be surprised, then, that in the year 1844, when the noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen) was again at the Foreign Office, the Emperor of Russia should have visited this country, and have taken the opportunity of proposing to Her Majesty's Government a scheme which was part of the hereditary policy of his family, and which was almost the political testament by which he came to the empire? That visit of the Emperor ended in a certain agreement between him and certain of Her Majesty's Ministers, which has been laid upon the table. I am not now about to discuss it, although I will say that it contains two propositions which appear to me exceedingly dangerous as involving a principle for which Russia has always been contending. They state, that although the policy of Russia and England will be to maintain the present political combination—that is to say, the existence of Turkey—as long as possible, yet if they foresee that it must fall to pieces, they will enter into previous concert in relation to the establishment of the new order of things to succeed it; thus leaving it in the power of Russia to interpret such signs as she thought fit, at any period most convenient to her, into proofs of the approaching dissolution of the Otto- 221 man empire. I know not what documents may have passed between the persons who were the parties to that memorandum, or whether that memorandum was accepted by some of Her Majesty's Ministers as a correct record of that which had passed between them and the Emperor of Russia, and as setting forth the principles that had been agreed to as a basis of action by both parties in case of the event happening which was predicted by the Emperor of Russia. But, Sir, it is not surprising that when in the beginning of last year a change took place in the Government of this country, and the noble Earl found himself at the head of the Government, the Emperor of Russia, on the moment of receiving intelligence of the new Administration, renewed the proposals that had been accepted on his former visit to this country by Lord Aberdeen.
I must now entreat the attention of the House for a few moments to these important secret documents last laid on the table, more because I wish to show the extraordinary divergence of opinion which existed then, and exists at this moment, between the different Members of the Government than to offer any detailed criticism upon them. The first proposal was made on the 11th of January, 1853. After congratulating Sir Hamilton Seymour on the return to office, and the accession to the head of the Government, of the nobleman with whom he had had an intimate acquaintance, and expressing his great regard that he had entertained for Lord Aberdeen for almost forty years, in the very next breath the Emperor of Russia refers to the proposal for the partition of Turkey. That proposal was, however, not renewed very distinctly on that occasion; but a few days after it was again brought under the notice of Sir Hamilton Seymour, and in very distinct and positive terms. Sir Hamilton Seymour lost no time in communicating these extraordinary conversations to Her Majesty's Government, and at the same time he called the attention of the Government, very ably, I believe, to the dilemma in which we should be placed, either if we received these propositions, or if we took no notice of them—in the one case that we should be called to take part in carrying them out, having sanctioned them; in the other, we should have allowed the Czar to make proposals, and, not giving an answer to them, we should have tacitly sanctioned the policy 222 that he had told us he would adopt. This despatch was received in England on the 6th of February. On the 9th of the same month—and the dates were important—the noble Lord who has just spoken, and who was then at the Foreign Office, returned an answer to Sir Hamilton Seymour. I do not wish to criticise the noble Lord's despatch, but I should say that it was hardly suitable to the occasion; it contained a very good account of the general principles involved in the partition of falling empires, and expressed a disinclination to enter further upon the subject; but I humbly submit that a more direct and decided answer ought to have been returned, and that the Government should have at once declared that no proposal such as the Emperor had made could ever be entertained for one moment by a British statesman, and that any attempt to carry it out would at once lead to war. I may be told that this was a secret despatch, and that the Government could not honourably make use of it; but I very much doubt whether any such obligation exists. If a man comes to me and says, "I have an intention of murdering your friend, but I tell it you in the strictest confidence—you must not make a disclosure of it to any human being," I say that the greatest casuist that could be found would not hold that I was bound by any such implied pledge of confidence. Now, in this despatch I find a passage in which the noble Lord admits that the Emperor of Russia has a right by treaty to interfere in behalf of the Christian subjects of the Turkish Government. The time is gone by for dwelling on this extraordinary admission, which, however, the Emperor of Russia might surely quote as justifying all his subsequent proceedings. I will admit that the answer of the noble Lord, however, was quite sufficient for the Emperor to believe that the English Government would not entertain his proposal; and the next despatch of Sir Hamilton Seymour, acknowledging the receipt of the noble Lord's answer, tells us that the Emperor of Russia was very sorry to hear that the British' Government would not listen to his proposal. Shortly afterwards Sir Hamilton Seymour was called upon to be present at what he is justified in terming the most important and most interesting interview in which a diplomatist was ever engaged. On that occasion the Emperor took an opportunity of laying before our Ambassador very fully his views on 223 the Eastern question; and that, there might be no mistake whatever, the Emperor lays down the principles on which he would carry out the partition, and makes a proposition of territorial concession to England which he thought might induce this country to join in his nefarious project. Sir Hamilton Seymour lost no time in sending home a despatch containing an account of this conversation to the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) now at the head of the Foreign Office. But what do I find? That although the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) then at the head of the Foreign Office had answered the first despatch within three days—and I entreat the House to notice the dates, because this is a momentous consideration—no answer was returned to that despatch by the noble Earl who had succeeded him at the Foreign Office, I think, for seventeen days, nor was it submitted to the Cabinet Council till the 13th of March, being seven days after its receipt. I beg the House to consider the commencement of the noble Earl's reply. Instead of rejecting the proposal of the Czar as my noble Friend (Lord John Russell) had done, he begins to throw somewhat of a doubt upon the policy of the noble Lord who had preceded him in the Foreign Office. He says:—I need not assure you that I think the opinions and proposals of the Emperor of Russia ought to receive that consideration which their importance demands.And mark these further words:—Although Her Majesty's Government feels compelled to adhere to the principles laid down in Lord John Russell's despatch of the 9th of February, yet they gladly comply with the Emperor's wish, that the subject should be further and frankly discussed.And this was written in direct opposition to Sir H. Seymour's urgent entreaties, that he should be directed to put an end to these dangerous conversations:—You are handling hot coal, for God's sake give me instructions to discontinue these discussions; do not let us prolong them a moment longer than is absolutely necessary.And yet, in spite of his repeated remonstrances, after a delay of seventeen days, on the 23rd of March, he is told to inform the Emperor that we are ready to take these proposals frankly into further consideration. And what does the Emperor of Russia say, after he receives this communication from Sir Hamilton Seymour? In his despatch of the 20th of April, Sir Hamilton Seymour says:— 224His Majesty then said that he wished to state to me the real and sincere satisfaction which he received from your Lordship's despatch (Lord Clarendon's), marked secret and confidential, of the 23rd ultimo.No wonder that he received it with satisfaction, although he had not received the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell's) reply with satisfaction; and the result was that the memorandum, which was drawn up, I conceive does contain some very damaging admissions. But I principally wish to draw attention to this despatch in order to show its bearings on some other circumstances connected with this case. In referring to these despatches I wish to say very little on what occurred last year, and if I do allude to it, I trust the House will believe that it is from no wish to make any vain boasting upon what I stated then. But I ask the House if these despatches do not, word for word, confirm almost every syllable I uttered last year. I then said that this great Eastern question was one of independent nationalities, and the Emperor of Russia has said the very same words. He has said:—I will not allow England or France permanently to occupy Constantinople, nor shall I permit any attempt at the reconstruction of a Byzantine empire, or at the enlargement of the kingdom of Greece, so that it may become a powerful State.And, again, he added:—If you like, I will consent to Servia and Bulgaria being placed upon the same footing as the provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia.But what was the position of these Principalities, but that of mere creatures and dependents of Russia? But the speech of the noble Lord to-night is the best justification of what I said last year; and, I ask, could anything have been more favourable to my case? I heard on one occasion a right hon. Gentleman in this House talk of connivance or credulity as connected with the conduct of the Government in these transactions. As an Englishman I revolted at the bare idea of such a thing as connivance in such a matter; but I must now confess that there are circumstances connected with this case of so extraordinary a nature that, without saying that I believe there was connivance, I must say that there was something that I cannot explain, and that I cannot understand. Is it that, as there were two parties in the Cabinet at the time, there was connivance and credulity among the different Members of the Government, and that out of this unhappy and unnatural 225 union was begotten that monstrous policy which has brought us into all this difficulty, and has involved us in a war?
Now, Sir, I am about to refer for a few moments to some opinions of the Times newspaper. I cannot quote to the House all its opinions, because I might in that case quote from hour to hour opinions upon all sides of any question. But if I prove to the House that the opinions of the Times which I will read are the opinions of any of Her Majesty's Government, then I think there is an importance which attaches to them that cannot be denied. This, Sir, is a most momentous question, and I entreat the attention of the House to it. I do not at all exaggerate—I will prove to the House that every one of those secret and confidential despatches were communicated, if not on the very day, at least one or two days after their arrival, and furnished the materials for the leading articles of the Times: and that there are men, and not clerks in the Foreign Office, because the contents of these despatches could not have got beyond one or two Members of the Cabinet—men who have been endeavouring to bring the country to approve of the sentiments of the Emperor of Russia and to give their consent to the nefarious transactions to which he had alluded. Perhaps some Members of this House may remember that in February and March last year there appeared a very extraordinary series of articles in the Times, saying that the time had come for the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, and even that it would be necessary that we should take into consideration whether we could not agree to some partition of that country. I was myself particularly struck with those articles, which came out for no possible purpose that I could then understand. But the other day, when these secret papers were brought to light, I thought that I recognised expressions in them which I had noticed in these leading articles of the Times. I happened at the time to be with a Gentleman, a Member of this House—a dispassionate and calm-judging man—not agreeing with me in sentiments; and I said to him—" Let us go and look at the Times, and see if there is any coincidence between the articles in that journal and the secret correspondence." Well, to my astonishment, of course, but also to his, we found in an article in the Times published at the beginning of last year, the very same words used as those that appeared 226 in the despatch from Sir Hamilton Seymour, and that subsequently articles followed other despatches, frequently the very day after their arrival, sometimes containing almost the very same words. ["Hear, hear!"] Do not believe that I wish to exaggerate anything; but I say this is a question of the utmost importance—the significance of which cannot, indeed, be exaggerated, and one in which the interests of this very empire are at stake. If the secrets of the Cabinet are not to be divulged to the House of Commons, and yet are to be made use of in this manner to frustrate the endeavours of those in the Cabinet who are attempting to carry out the true policy of this country, such men as are struggling to maintain those interests, and to maintain its honour, will feel that no emphasis that I can lay on such a proceeding, and no time that I can take up in disclosing it to the House, can be ill employed. Now, Sir, the first despatch, the House will remember, was received in this country on the 23rd of January, 1853. Well, on the 26th of January came out the first of the series of articles in the Times newspaper, to which I refer. I entreat hon. Members who may doubt my statement to turn to these articles for themselves, and not to take it simply on my assertion. The next despatch was received on the 6th of February. Now, on the 11th of February we have this extraordinary article published in the Times, four days after the receipt of the despatch. It states:—We do not suppose that it is the intention or the policy of Russia to accelerate a catastrophe in the East, and the good offices of this country will again be employed to lessen the perils of a situation which is becoming critical. We cannot, however, forget that the attempt to prolong the brutal and decrepit authority of the Turks in Europe is purchased by the surrender of fine provinces and a large Christian population to barbarous misgovernment; and we shall rejoice when civilisation and Christianity are able to repair the injuries of the Ottoman conquest.Again it was stated in the Times on the 23rd of February, 1853, after various comments on the exhausted state of Turkey:—With the utmost political caducity, with a total want of ability and integrity in the men who arc still its rulers, with a declining Mussulman population, and an exhausted treasury, the Porte unites, as if by way of derisory contrast, a dominion over some of the most fertile regions, the finest ports, and the most enterprising and ingenious people of southern Europe.…. It is hard to comprehend how so great a positive evil can have been so long defended by politicians 227 as a relative good; and though we are not insensible to the difficulties attending any change in the territories of so huge an empire, we are disposed to view with satisfaction rather than with alarm the approach of a period"—How did the Times know the period was approaching?—when it will be impossible to prolong the domination of such a Government as that of the Porte, over such a country as that which is now subject to its authority.In the next sentence (and, remember, this was written two or three days after the arrival of the despatch), it says:—Perhaps that period is less distant than is commonly supposed; and it may be the part of wise statesmen to provide against such a conjuncture, which it is beyond their power indefinitely to postpone. We do not believe, and we do not mean to imply, that any combination of Austria and Russia, hostile to the territorial claims of the Ottoman empire, is now in existence, or is likely to be formed without the knowledge of the other European Powers. We have strong grounds to believe"—When the Times says that, we know what it means—that Prince Menchikoff is sent from St. Petersburg to Constantinople upon a special embassy for the express purpose of declaring, in the name of the Emperor Nicholas, that, as head of the Greek Church, he cannot submit, or allow the Eastern Church to submit, to the conditions of the firman recently obtained by the French Ambassador with reference to the holy shrines in the Holy Land.Now, the first intimation of Prince Menchikoff's mission was contained in Sir Hamilton Seymour's despatches, received February 14 and February 21, two days before this article appeared. Now, on the 6th of March came that most important despatch which gave the whole plan of the partition. I said before, that no answer was returned till the 23rd, and that no Cabinet Council was held upon this despatch till the 13th, seven days being allowed to elapse by those Members of the Cabinet who had it in their possession before they submitted it to their Colleagues. But it was submitted to the Times, because on the 7th of March, the very following morning, when it was impossible that the despatch from Sir Hamilton Seymour could have gone beyond one or two Members of the Cabinet, and when no clerk in the Foreign Office could have known its contents, almost the very words of the despatch are given in a leading article. The Times says:—The state of the Turkish empire and the relations of the European Powers to the East are 228 subjects on which it may be useful for reflecting politicians and the independent press to form and express opinions, though the consummation to which these opinions point be still unwelcome and remote. Statesmen bound to transact the business of the day, and to recognise at every turn the obligations of what is called State necessity, are restrained within narrower limits, and would probably be unable to give effect to any novel or original conception, if it had not previously been entertained by the mind and reason of the public.The meaning of this is evident. It is a feeler to see how far a plan for the partition of Turkey would be accepted by the public in this country. It was an endeavour to ascertain whether the Emperor's proposal could be entertained by a Minister without incurring the danger of any public remonstrance. I have told the House that the Earl of Clarendon in his despatch said that he did not agree with the policy of his predecessor in the Foreign Office (Lord J. Russell); and now mark how the Times article goes on:—We are, therefore, by no means surprised that, in adverting to the differences which have recently taken place in Turkey, and especially on its European frontiers, Lord John Russell should have expressed his dissent from the opinions which have been recently put forward on this subject, and should have repeated in his place in Parliament, speaking under the weight of official responsibility, the old story of the integrity and independence of the Ottoman empire. We ourselves, however, are not affected by similar considerations.Well, but how did the Times know that the noble Lord dissented? The article continued:—We do not, therefore, concur in the opinion of Lord John Russell, that no greater calamity could occur to Europe at the present time than the necessity of considering what ought to be done in such a case as the dismemberment of that empire. It would, we think, be a far greater calamitymark these words, because, if not actually the very same, they convey precisely the same meaning as those used in the Emperor's communication—that the dismemberment commenced before any such consideration took place.Why, this remark about the dismemberment having commenced was what the Emperor told us himself. The article went on to say:—And here we must be allowed to express our surprise that any statement should, for an instant, confound the policy which it might be proper to pursue in the event of a dissolution of the Turkish empire with that which led to the partition of Poland.Thus attempting to justify the proposed 229 scheme, which, in order to keep out of sight its nefarious character, was carefully distinguished from the great political crime already committed by Russia. On the 10th of March an article appeared in the Times commencing with these words:—Prince Menchikoff arrives in a more strictly diplomatic capacity, and we have reason to believe"—the House knows what that means—we have reason to believe that his instructions are more conciliatory than those of Count Leiningen.Now I find that on February 21, in the despatch of Sir Hamilton Seymour, sent to the Earl of Clarendon, it is said:—His Excellency (Count Nesselrode) wished to assure me that the instructions with which Prince Menchikoff would be provided were of a conciliatory nature.No Cabinet Council was held till the 19th of March, when the despatch received on the 6th was discussed and an answer returned on the 23rd of March. That answer commenced with the following words:—Although Her Majesty's Government feel compelled to adhere to the principles and the policy laid down in Lord John Russell's despatch of the 9th of February, yet they gladly comply with the Emperor's wish that the subject should be further and frankly discussed.On the same day an article appeared in the Times, which commenced thus:—The opinions we have expressed on the present condition and future prospects of the Ottoman empire do not coincide with the views entertained by Lord John Russell, and communicated by him to the House of Commons; they differ from the course of policy which this country has pursued in former times and on several occasions; and they are entirely at variance with the system which a large numerical proportion of the London press is attempting, not very brilliantly or successfully, to defend.Honour to the British press, that, though wanting the brilliant epigrammatic pen which had shaken a Colonial Minister and almost upset a Cabinet, it rejected with indignation the nefarious and unprincipled scheme to which the Times had endeavoured to reconcile the country! The Times added, near the end of its article,—He (the Emperor) has said that it is an object of his ambition to stand well with this country, and to deserve its confidence. His proceedings on this occasion will bring that assurance to the test, and he can give us no greater proof of moderation and good faith towards Turkey and the rest of Europe than a willingness to co-operate on these subjects, as he has before done, with the British Government.230 On the same day on which the Times announced that its endeavours to reconcile the British public to the partition of Turkey had failed, the answer to the despatch which had been delayed for sixteen days was sent to St. Petersburg. I need not trouble the House with further extracts from the Times. [Ironical Cries of "Hear, hear!"] If noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench desire it, I will read every one of the articles I have by me, for the more I read the more I shall strengthen my case. [An expression of dissent.] Good gracious! [A laugh.] But surely, no man in this House will tell me, after what I have read, that the person who wrote those articles was not acquainted with these despatches, or had not received direct communication from those who were. Well, putting aside the charge against the person who made these communications to the newspapers, I ask what must have been the effect of these articles in Russia, where the greatest care is taken to examine every shade of opinion in this and other countries? When the Russian Government saw the substance of despatches, sent from St. Petersburg appearing in the Times almost on the very day after that on which they were received, what could it think but that the articles must have been written by some person in communication with the Ministry? Again, do you think that Baron Brunnow was not aware of these conversations between Sir Hamilton Seymour and the Emperor of Russia, and of what passed at St. Petersburg; and what must have been his surprise to find almost every day after the receipt of these despatches that the information and opinions contained in them were re-echoed by the Times newspaper? Baron Brunnow well knew too, what, at that time, was a matter of public notoriety, that the Times represented the opinions, and was the official organ of at least a section of the Ministry, and that those who were directly connected with that newspaper had been privy to most of the proceedings of Lord Aberdeen on the formation of the new Government, some of the Members of which were actually supposed to have received their offices through its influence. It might be said that, after all, the evidence, from identity of sentiments, was only circumstantial, and that the circumstance might be accounted for by a strange coincidence; but that the writer in the Times was acquainted with the contents of the despatches, I confess, Sir, 231 that no doubt whatever remains upon my, mind. Mark, I am now endeavouring to show that there were two parties then in the Cabinet, and that there are two parties now, and that these discordant elements have been striving to counteract the influence of each other, and that one of these parties wishes to pursue a policy which I, and I believe the country, most completely concur in. Let me now recur to a speech of the Earl of Clarendon, on the 25th of April last, in the House of Lords, when the Marquess of Clanricarde asked a question with reference to the alarm that had been excited at Constantinople by the demands of Prince Menchikoff. The noble Earl, although he had received all the secret despatches and many others now published, made use of the following words:—It was not for hint to say that the Emperor of Russia was to be blamed for not making his intentions publicly known, or for not keeping the public informed in regard to his Envoy's proceedings. There were, certainly, considerable military and naval preparations concurrent with the arrival of Prince Menchikoff at Constantinople, but the extent of those, he considered, had been greatly exaggerated. There had been no disguise whatever on the part of the Emperor of Russia as to his intentions in sending his Ambassador, and he showed no hesitation in answering any question the Government of this country thought proper to put to him. He (the Earl of Clarendon) could only say that Her Majesty's Government felt precisely the same confidence as his noble Friend in the honour and integrity of the Emperor of Russia."—[3 Hansard, cxxvi. 378.]Let the House bear in mind that this was said after all the secret communications had been received. The noble Earl added—Some exaggerated reports of recent events had been circulated within the last four days which were calculated to excite alarm; but their Lordships would be pleased to hear that Her Majesty's Government had recently received a despatch from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, dated the day after his arrival at Constantinople, in which he gave them every reason to think that the views entertained by all parties upon the question were such as to ensure a satisfactory result."—[3 Hansard, cxxvi. 379.]There appears to be some extraordinary mistake here. Either the date of the receipt of the despatch alluded to by Lord Clarendon has been changed in the blue book, or the noble Earl has misquoted the despatch. There is only one despatch written by Lord Stratford, the day after his arrival, and that was received on the 26th of April, the day after Lord Clarendon's speech. Unless, therefore, the date has been for some purpose changed, he 232 could not have quoted this despatch—which, moreover, so far from corroborating his assertions, states exactly the contrary. I am willing to accept the only explanation—that Lord Clarendon meant to quote the despatch written by Lord Stratford on the day of his arrival at Constantinople. But did that document authorise Lord Clarendon to assert, in the most solemn manner, that all parties believed that the disputes between Russia and Turkey would be brought to a satisfactory result? Most certainly not. It contained only a few lines, and was written before Lord Stratford had had any opportunity of ascertaining the real state of affairs. After announcing his arrival that day, he says:—I have only to add that, while the Turkish Ministers intimate a strong sense of anxiety and alarm as to the eventual intentions of Russia, the impressions of the Austrian Legation, founded on the language of the Russian Ambassador, are favourable to the existence of moderate views on the part of that Power, and to a friendly solution of the pending question.Let it be observed from whom this opinion, unsatisfactory as it was, was received—from the Austrian Minister! Did not Lord Clarendon thus wilfully deceive the country? I ask, what must Russia have thought? what must Baton Brunnow have thought? Why, that there was a party in the Cabinet who were screening him and his Government, a party keeping the country in the dark. Again, notwithstanding what had passed between the Government and the Emperor of Russia, notwithstanding the proofs of double dealing we had received, on the 22nd of March, Lord Clarendon, writing to Lord Cowley at Paris, expresses his regret, and actually condemns the French Government for sending their fleet to the Greek waters, and he said, in reference to a conversation he had held with Count Walewski:—Her Majesty's Government, I added, were disposed to place reliance on the Emperor of Russia, from whom they had often received the most solemn assurances that it was both his interest and his intention to uphold the Turkish empire, and that if any change in this policy were contemplated by His Imperial Majesty, the intention should be communicated without hesitation or reserve. No such communication having been made, Her Majesty's Government were bound to believe, until they had proofs to the contrary, that the mission of Prince Menchikoff was not of a character menacing to the independence and integrity of Turkey.On the 23rd of March Lord Clarendon wrote to Sir Hamilton Seymour a despatch in which, after expressing entire approval of Admiral Dundas for having refused to 233 obey the summons of Colonel Rose, and alluding to the dismissal of Fund Effendi and the advance of the Russian forces, he said:—Her Majesty's Government have felt no alarm, and have not shared the apprehensions which the facts above alluded to (the reports current about Prince Menchikoff's &c.) might appear to justify, for on more than one occasion they have received personal assurances from the Emperor of Russia that it was his determination to maintain the independence of the Turkish empire," &c.Thus justifying the whole proceedings of Russia, and screening her. I may be told that, although the despatches just published show grounds for distrust of Russia, yet that the assurances in the secret despatches given by the Emperor, on the word of a "gentleman," were such as to remove all apprehensions. But I find in the secret despatches, as well as in the public, that Sir Hamilton Seymour repeatedly warns the Government of the double-dealing of Russia—warns them that she is preparing the dissolution of Turkey. The following passages showed clearly that Sir Hamilton Seymour took an accurate view of the matter:—The Emperor must have settled in his own mind that the hour, if not of its dissolution, at all events for its dissolution must be at hand. The Emperor's words and manner, although still very kind, showed that His Majesty had no intention of speaking to me of the demonstration which he is about to make in the south. … Would the understanding be acted upon? That, indeed, may well be doubted, and the rather as the Emperor's assurances are a little contradicted by the measures to which it has been my duty to call your Lordship's attention.The word "fraudulent" has been used with regard to the conduct of the Emperor of Russia; and if I had not seen these secret despatches, I should equally have said his conduct was fraudulent. But I do not wish to screen the Czar, and I say that be has been guilty of gross fraud. But then that is the policy of his House, and a policy that has been pursued by Russia for years, and almost for centuries, as everybody who knows anything of the history of Russia must be well aware. But if the Emperor of Russia's policy was fraudulent, what I complain of is, this misleading of the public in a solemn manner before the most august assembly in the world, and the putting forward of opinions directly contrary to the facts. I will not press the same argument as to differences of opinion in the Cabinet from the conduct of the Government during the re- 234 cess, when greater latitude is perhaps used, and things said that a Minister would not always like afterwards to be bound by. But I remember reading the speeches delivered by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in Scotland, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Manchester, on the Eastern question. The noble Lord's speech led everybody to believe that the integrity and independence of Turkey could be maintained, but the right hon. Gentleman expressed a diametrically opposite opinion; and there consequently was the greatest difficulty in collecting what was the policy of the Government. Here, then, were two eminent Members of the Government giving opinions of a diametrically opposite nature on a question of the most momentous importance. I happened at that time to be on the Continent, and I was frequently asked what I believed to be the true policy of the Government? I could return no answer. It is not difficult to understand the evil effects which such contradictions had upon foreign Governments. I might continue this line of observation up to the present moment. Her Majesty's speech at the, beginning of the Session was a document almost unworthy of the occasion. It spoke of the quarrel as if it involved no great principle; but the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), in the debate upon the Address, made a speech to which I listened with intense pleasure; and I thought, after all it was, perhaps, better not to place in the mouth of the Sovereign any strong expressions, and that the noble Lord's speech was to be taken as indicating what the Royal speech meant. Therefore, I did not rise to move any Amendment or make any remarks on the Address. But my astonishment was unbounded when I found that the noble Earl at the head of the Government, in another place, held quite different language—his talk was still of peace—that he hoped to maintain peace, and that peace was the policy of the Government—and that he desired to be left to his prayers and his hopes for peace. Was this suitable language to be held at such a time as this? To declare that we could not go to war could only be an encouragement to Russia. The true policy of a great country was neither peace nor war, but upon the maintenance of its honour and its interests. Similar declarations were made by the Premier at the Mansion House and elsewhere about a 235 policy of peace. And even now the question was almost, are we at war? If one noble Lord says we are at war, and another noble Lord says we are at peace, whom are we to believe? The proclamation and other public documents that have been issued are of the same vacillating, undignified character. I do not want to hear any inflated proclamations; but let the people of England be told plainly that they have great interests at stake, and tell them what we are going to war for. Let them know that this is a question not only affecting the general civilisation and freedom of Europe, but our own material interests; and that if it is not taken up now, it will have to be taken up by and by, and that in the meantime it may lead to disasters which nothing that we can do will be able to repair. Early in the Session, when I expressed my opinion of the mismanagement of this great question by Her Majesty's Government, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty (Sir J. Graham) got up, and admitted all that I had said; but, said he, "It is very true we may have been vacillating; but see what we have gained? Why, we have got Austria and Prussia with us." That was announced as the triumphant result of all their temporising. But where are Austria and Prussia now? What has the noble Lord told us to-night? No man can count upon more than the armed neutrality of Austria, which means nothing at all. But were we ever justified in believing that Austria would act with us? In the memorandum of 1844, before Austria was under her present obligations to Russia, the Emperor of Russia said that between him and Austria there existed already an understanding and an entire conformity of principle with regard to the affairs of Turkey. This is repeated distinctly in two, or three, or four secret despatches of Sir Hamilton Seymour's, in all of which he tells us that he suspects that there exists a distinct understanding between Russia and the Austrian Government. I believe such an understanding existed as early as 1842, between Austria and Russia, with regard to the manner in which they would jointly deal with the Turkish empire. Let me ask, after all these negotiations with Austria to which the Government refer with so much satisfaction, what kind of a promise have we received from that Power? what policy is she prepared to adopt? In one of the last despatches from Lord Clarendon to Lord Westmoreland that have been 236 placed on the table, a very important document in many respects, I find a most extraordinary paragraph. It is to this effect:—This measure, on the subject of which tranquillising assurances have been given to the Porte, is not to be considered of a hostile nature towards either of the belligerents; its object is solely to preserve the Austrian frontiers from insult, and, if necessary, from the contagion of insurrection in the adjoining Turkish provinces; and even if an armed intervention on the part of Austria should become indispensable, it would be with the firm intention of preserving intact in all respects the status quo established by treaties—an intention which Count Buol is confident will be shared by the other Powers who are represented at the Conference of Vienna.I ask the Government, have they agreed to any such proposal? Are we, I ask, to go to war to restore old treaties and the status quo? Is that the understanding we have entered into with Austria? But observe the dangers into which this divergence of opinion in the Government has led us. If it were merely confined to debates in the Cabinet, it would be had enough; but look to the state it has brought us to with regard to our preparations for war. In making these remarks, I make them with a deep sense of the responsibility that I incur; but I can state, from information I have received within the last few hours, that in Constantinople nor any part of Turkey have adequate preparations been made, either for the proper provisionment or transport of any troops we may now be sending there. Not a sack of corn has been got, not a horse has been got to assist in the transport of the baggage or of the troops. And at Malta we are told that the troops are living fourteen together, in small and miserable tents, not fit for the accommodation of one or two men. Why, I ask, should they expose fine men, with prospects no way brilliant, to the damp and dew, while a number of spacious public buildings might have been appropriated to their use? Then an account is given of the rain falling upon the Highlanders, and how they are suffering; and it is asked if there be no ordnance or hospital board to see how these men are lodged. Then look to the fleet. Every day I see in the papers that the fleet is at Beicos. What, I ask, is the fleet doing at Beicos? Are we to have another Sinope, whilst we are continuing in utter inactivity in the Bosphorus? We hear of the Russian fleet going out to sea, and landing troops on the 237 Turkish coast. The Sampson has just reported that a detachment of the Russian fleet had appeared off the coast of Circassia, had very wisely embarked the garrisons from the detached forts, which would have fallen an easy prey to an enemy, and had landed troops and stores for those places which must be defended—and all this while our fleet is at Beicos Bay. Then I am told that our fleet have no coals. Why, they have been lying there these two months doing nothing, and why should they remain for two months without coals? I said, on a former occasion, that we ought to have some explanation about Sinope, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty on that occasion contradicted me when I said that under the instructions of the 8th of October the fleet could have acted in the Black Sea, in case of a Russian fleet having left Sebastopol with hostile intentions. I say now they could have acted under these instructions; and if they could not have acted under them, I ask the Government to explain why they could not? I see there is a despatch which contains a communication that was made by the British Minister at Constantinople to the Ottoman Secretary of State, to whom he puts categorical questions respecting the state of the fortifications at Sinope, and the sending of the fleet there. It is rather curious language to use to a Prime Minister. He asks the Prime Minister of Turkey for information on these subjects—he asks to be fully informed on these points; and begs if Reshid Pasha cannot give him the required information at once, that he will take steps to get it. I want to know where, after that communication, is the independence of Turkey? He asks who is to blame for sending the fleets there; but did that justify our fleet remaining in the Bosphorus while the Turkish fleet was destroyed? He asks who sent the Turkish fleet to Sinope, but that is not what we want to know; we want to know why our fleet did not prevent the massacre at Sinope? But what has been the consequence of all this delay? The Russians are crossing the Danube. The importance of the position at Kalafat is misunderstood—it is of political as well as of military importance. It is important to prevent them from getting at Servia, for if they get to Servia they may raise an insurrection which may extend to other provinces. The Turks are therefore bound to keep a very considerable portion of their army at Kalafat, but 238 they have thereby greatly weakened Omar Pasha; and should the Russians, by concentrating a large force and crossing the Danube which they will easily be able to do, defeat the Turkish commander-in-chief, Constantinople may be in their hands in three months. It is stated that we are going to make an entrenched camp at Gallipoli to save the capital; but when all Turkey is in the hands of the Russians, where is the use of saving the capital? In this most critical state of things, it is said that Lord Stratford has been hammering out of the unfortunate Turks concessions in favour of the Christians; but is that generous? Is it fair, for the assistance we give them, to get out of them concessions in favour of the Christians? Is it politic, I ask? You have got at the head of the Turkish Government the most enlightened of Turkish Ministers. He is a man who will make all possible concessions; but give him time; otherwise you will undermine his authority and strengthen the fanatical party in Turkey, and the result may be that you will have a rebellion in Turkey. I read a letter from Constantinople in which it is stated that some delay has occurred in the signing of the convention between England, France, and Turkey—on account of some demands in favour of the Christians, and that the Turks openly declare that they had better give way to the Russians at once, for then they would only have one master instead of four with which they are now threatened; the writer adds—that no doubt it would be mortifying to them, but that submit they must. I ask, is that politic? I say you are doing all you can to prevent these Christians having these privileges. You are asking the Turkish Government to put the Christians into the army, and to submit them to conscription. If you desired to check the progress making by the Christians, and to render them miserable, you could not devise a better plan than that. What will be the result? You may not take advantage of these conventions and articles, but the French and the Austrians will do so, and you will find those persons who may be taken for the army, under some plea of exemption, going to the French and Austrian Ambassadors, and seeking their intervention; and we shall have no end of interventions every day. Then, it is said they must abolish the capitation tax; but recollect at the same time the great mass of revenue you call upon the Turkish Government to abolish at once and at a most 239 critical period. I cannot better illustrate the mode in which the Porte views these demands than by relating an anecdote. I think it was in the year 1844 that the dragoman of the British Embassy, after having had a long discusssion with the Minister for Foreign Affairs about the abolition of some imposition of which the Christians complained, and which the Porte agreed to do away with, was rising to depart, when the Pasha stopped him, and said:—We have a favour to ask of your Government, which, of course, will be conceded as readily as that we have just granted to you. The Sultan has received a petition praying him to intercede with Her Majesty the Queen on behalf of the poor people of England, who it appears cannot eat their bread without paying a tax for it.The document to which the Pasha referred was signed by various persons, and amongst thorn by the hon. Member for the West Riding, and it asked for the intercession of the Sultan on behalf of the people of this country, requesting of him to use his influence with Her Majesty's Government to abolish the tax upon bread. I ask all those who have the interests of the Christians in Turkey at heart not to embarrass the Turkish Government at present, and they will get these concessions in good time. But do not, while you talk of defending Turkey and are making arrangements to defend her territory, be persecuting Reshid Pasha until you drive him to tears, in order to extort from him, almost at the peril of his life, measures which are in direct violation of the civil and religious law of Turkey. Is it, I ask again, generous or politic to do so?
I think we have been greatly misled as to the intentions of Austria. She never can embark in any policy which would really lead to the ends most essential to the interests of this country and of Europe. Her interests are substantially the same as Russian interests. Like Russia, she can never tolerate a strong or a liberal State in Turkey—she must have there a weak Government and divided populations, amongst whom she can intrigue. She may assist in getting back the status quo ante bellum, but she will go no further. I cannot refer, with respect to Austria, to a higher authority than the noble Viscount before me (Visct. Palmerston), and I will read what that noble Lord said with respect to her in 1849: in a well-known speech, he laid down, in terms equally forcible and just, our true policy in regard to that country, 240 and pointed out the mistakes we were in danger of committing. The noble Viscount said:—It is not as the ancient ally of England during war—it is not as the means of resistance in the centre of Europe to any general disturbance of the balance of power—it is as the former (though I trust it is no longer so)—the former symbol of resistance to improvement, political and social—it is in that capacity that Austria has won the affections of some men in the conduct of public affairs. There are persons who see in the relations of countries nothing but the intercourse of Cabinets—who value a country not for its political weight, but for its political opinions—and who consider that the relations between countries are sufficiently intimate when the personal intercourse of their Governments is placed on a complimentary footing. Sir, there are men who, having passed their whole lives in adoring the Government of Austria, because they deemed it the great symbol of the opinions they entertained, at last became fickle in their attachment, and transferred their allegiance to the Government of France, because they thought that in that Government they saw an almost equal degree of leaning to the arbitrary principle, and because they, forsooth, suspected that Government of designs hostile to the interests of freedom. We have heard of persons of that sort making use of the expression old women.' Public men ought not to deal in egotism, and I will not apply to them the expression that has fallen from their own mouths. I will only say that the conduct of such men is an example of antiquated imbeeility."—[2 Hansard, cvii. 809.]If the description which the noble Lord gave of it was given merely in reference to its juvenile days, or its days of indiscretion, we might hope that during the few years which have since elapsed it might have been improved; but I fear antiquated imbecility is a hopeless and incurable malady, which can only increase as time moves on. I could also quote the speech of the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) on the same subject, when he told us of the noble Viscount being an English Minister, and not being a French Minister, an Austrian Minister, or a Russian Minister, applying those terms by inference to the present head of the Government. We have now entered upon a most vital question, which demands the whole of our energy, and which must be met with a conviction that a great cause is at stake of the deepest interest to the country. If any Member of the Government—if any right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury benches—doubt that we are going to war to maintain great principles, if he have scruples about fighting for Mussulmans against Christians, if he have misgivings as to the justice and necessity of this war—let that man, I say, retire at once—for if he 241 do not, he is betraying his country. This is not a moment for half-convictions and shams. If men enter into a war of this magnitude, they must do it heart and soul. The vessel of the State is in danger, it is tossed to and fro by the waves, and if there be an unsteady hand at the helm, or some person who has mistaken his mission, or who is treacherous to the cause—I say, throw your "Jonah" overboard. If you do not, your vessel will be wrecked. Let us know what you are going to do. I do not ask you to let me know what your plans of operations are. If you wished to answer me you could not, for I conscientiously believe you have no plans at all. I do not think any man should ask to have the plan of operations disclosed to the enemy, or that we should tell them what we are about to do. I do not want to know what boundaries you are going to make, or what treaties you are going to sign; the result of a war like this must be in the hands of God, and God alone can determine what the result will be. But what I want the Government to say is, that by the help of God, and relying on the stout hearts and strong arms of England, we shall do our utmost to carry this war to such an issue as will prevent Russia hereafter from returning to her aggressions, and from threatening the independence, freedom, and civilisation of Europe—that we shall take care to reduce her within limits beyond which she will not hereafter be able to go. I think we are fairly entitled to say to the Government, that if they go to war merely to defend the territory of the Ottoman empire, and to restore old treaties and the status quo, we are entering into an unnecessary war, which will involve us in vast expense, and may entail upon us great bloodshed, without accomplishing the ends we have in view, or protecting us from a recurrence of those very evils we are now about to make these enormous sacrifices to avoid. Now that we have entered upon this war, there can be but one end to it—the placing of Russia in such a position as will prevent her again threatening the liberties and civilisation of Europe, and aiming at such acquisition of territory as would render her dangerous to the very existence of this country. This is not a little war. It might have been made a short war if it had been taken up last year. If, after that affair of Sinope you had sent your fleet into the Black Sea, and destroyed the Russian fleet, as you might have done, 242 you might have made a peace at once. But now you have got into a great war—a war of which no one can foretell the end. It is not easy to meet the Russians in Turkey. You do not know what Turkey is, or what are the resources of the country for the maintenance of an army. The troops may become infected with the worst of fevers, and you do not know how many of those men who are now going to that country will return, unless you make some preparations more worthy of the occasion than you appear to have done. I am told that this is not a period to bring on a discussion of this nature—not a moment to embarrass the Government by such discussions. I am not insensible of the responsibility I have taken upon myself. I have thought night and day upon the course I ought to pursue; but I have now made up my mind that I have a duty to perform, and I will not flinch from it, at whatever risk to myself. I have asked myself, is it better for us now to suffer a temporary inconvenience, and if possible place the affairs of this country in the hands of a strong and united Government, who will carry on this great war in a manner worthy of England? or, in order to avoid that inconvenience, should we allow the present state of things to go on until, from divergence of opinion, vacillation, and doubt, we shall he involved in disasters from which it may cost us incalculable sacrifices of blood and treasure to extricate ourselves? I have been told, too, that thus to expose the past policy of the Government, is to shake the confidence of France and of Germany in the straightforwardness of British Ministers, and in our sincerity in entering upon the war. It appears to me that what I have attempted to show will have precisely the contrary effect. It will prove to the world that, however much inclined any Minister, or any Government, in this country might be to compromise its dignity and interests, by listening to such proposals as those made by Russia, or by sanctioning her ambitious policy, yet that there has been but one feeling in England, and that Ministers have been compelled to adopt, however tardily, the only policy worthy of the nation. No Minister could oppose the popular feeling on the subject, and, with the exception of a small section in this House, we have one united feeling on the subject. If compromises should be proposed that would be unworthy of the dignity and character of the country, there is public opinion, and 243 there are statesmen that are able to resist all those attempts, and to carry the country triumphantly to the position in which it should be placed. I know I may weaken my own position by intruding myself upon the House at such a moment; yet, however inexperienced I may be in this House, I feel convinced that in thus having undertaken the discharge of what I consider to be a sacred duty, I shall at least be acquitted of being influenced by any personal or party motives, or by any wish to oppose that which may be for the true interests of the country; and if I should fail in the object which I have had in view, or should have had the misfortune of incurring the displeasure of the Members of the House, I shall at least have the satisfaction of reflecting, poor as that satisfaction may be, that I have, on two occasions, warned the country against the calamities which may be impending over it.
§ MR. BRIGHT
* Mr. Speaker, there are two reasons which may induce a Member of this House to address it—he may hope to convince some of those to whom he speaks, or he may wish to clear himself from any participation in a course which he believes to be evil. I presume I am one of that small section of the House to whom the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Mr. Layard) has referred, when he alluded to the small party who objected to the policy by which this country has arrived at the "triumphant position which it now occupies." In coming forward to speak on this occasion, I may be told that I am like a physician proposing to prescribe to-day for a man who died yesterday, and that it is of no use to insist upon views which the Government and the House have already determined to reject. I feel, however, that we are entering upon a policy which may affect the fortunes of this country for a long time to come, and I am unwilling to lose this opportunity of explaining wherein I differ from the course which the Government has pursued, and of clearing myself from any portion of the responsibility which attaches to those who support the policy which the Government has adopted. We are asked to give our confidence to the Administration in voting the Address to the Crown, which has been moved by the noble Lord the Member for London, and to pledge our support to them in the war in which the country is now to engage. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Dis- 244 raeli) on a recent occasion, made use of a term which differed considerably from what he said in a former debate; he spoke of this war as a "just and unnecessary war." I shall not discuss the justice of the war. It may be difficult to decide a point like this, seeing that every war undertaken since the days of Nimrod has been declared to be just by those in favour of it; but I may at least question whether any war that is unnecessary can be deemed to be just. I shall not discuss this question on the abstract principle of peace at all price, as it is termed, which is held by a small minority of persons in this country, founded on religious opinions which are not generally received, but I shall discuss it entirely on principles which are held unanimously by all the Members of this House. I shall maintain that when we are deliberating on the question of war, and endeavouring to prove its justice or necessity, it becomes us to show that the interests of time country are clearly involved; that the objects for which the war is undertaken are probable, or, at least, possible of attainment; and, further, that the end proposed to be accomplished is worth time cost and the sacrifices which we are about to incur. I think these are fair principles on which to discuss this question, and I hope that when the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston) rises during this debate, he will not assume that I have dealt with it on any other principles than these. The House should bear in mind, that at this moment we are in intimate alliance with a neighbouring Government, which was, at a recent period, the originator of the troubles which have arisen at Constantinople. I do not wish to blame the French Government, because nothing could have been more proper than the manner in which it had retired from the difficulty it had created; but it is nevertheless quite true that France, haying made certain demands upon Turkey with regard to concessions to the Latin Church, backed by a threat of the appearance of a French fleet in the Dardanelles, which demands Turkey had wholly or partially complied with; Russia, the powerful neighbour of Turkey, being on the watch, made certain other demands, having reference to the Greek Church; and Russia at the same time required, and this I understand to be the real ground of the quarrel, that Turkey should define by treaty, or convention, or by a simple note, or memorandum, what was conceded, and what were the 245 rights of Russia, in order that the Government of Russia might not suffer in future from the varying policy and the vacillation of the Ottoman Government.
Now, it seems to me quite impossible to discuss this question without considering the actual condition of Turkey. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) assumes that they who do not agree in the policy he advocates are necessarily hostile to the Turks, and have no sympathy for Turkey. I repudiate such an assumption altogether. I can feel for a country like that, if it be insulted or oppressed by a powerful neighbour; but all that sympathy may exist without my being able to convince myself that it is the duty of this country to enter into the serious obligation of a war in defence of the rights of that country. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton is one of the very few men in this House, or out of it, who are bold enough to insist upon it that there is a growing strength in the Turkish empire. There was a Gentleman in this House, sixty years ago, who, in the debates in 1791, expressed the singular opinion which the noble Lord now bolds. There was a Mr. Stanley in the House at that period, who insisted on the growing power of Turkey, and asserted that the Turks of that day "were more and more imitating our manners, and emerging from their inactivity and indolence; that improvements of every kind were being introduced among them, and that even printing-presses had been lately established in their capital." That was the opinion of a Gentleman anxious to defend Turkey, and speaking in this House more than sixty years ago; we are now living sixty years later, and no one now, but the noble Lord, seems to insist upon the fact of the great and growing power of the Turkish empire. If any one thing is more apparent than another, on the face of all the documents furnished to the House by the Government, of which the noble Lord is a Member, it is this, that the Turkish empire is falling, or has fallen, into a state of decay, and into anarchy so permanent as to have assumed a chronic character. The noble Lord surely has not forgotten that Turkey has lost the Crimea and Bessarabia, and its control over the Danubian Principalities; that the kingdom of Greece has been carved out of it; that it has lost its authority over Algiers, and has run great risk of being conquered by its own vassal the Pasha of Egypt; and from this he 246 might have drawn the conclusion that that empire was gradually falling into decay, and that to pledge ourselves to effect its recovery and sustentation, is to undertake what no human power will be able to accomplish. I only ask the House to turn to the statements which will be found nearly at the end of the first of the blue books recently placed on the table of the House, and they will find that there is scarcely any calamity which can be described as afflicting any country, which is not there proved to be present, and actively at work, in almost every province of the Turkish empire. And the House should bear in mind, when reading these despatches from the English Consuls in Turkey to the English Ambassador at Constantinople, that they give a very faint picture of what really exists, because what are submitted to us are but extracts of more extended and important communications. It may fairly be assumed that the parts which are not published are those which described the state of things to be so bad, that the Government has been unwilling to lay before the House, and the country, and the world, that which would be so offensive and so injurious to its ally the Sultan of Turkey. But, if other evidence be wanting, is it not a fact, that Constantinople is the seat of intrigues and factions to a degree not known in any other country or capital in the world? France demands one thing, Russia another, England a third, and Austria something else. For many years past our Ambassador at Constantinople has been partly carrying on the Government of that country, and influencing its policy, and it is the city in which are fought the diplomatic contests of the great Powers of Europe. And if I have accurately described the state of Turkey, what is the position of Russia? It is a powerful country, under a strong Executive Government; it is adjacent to a weak and falling people; it has in its history the evidences of a succession of triumphs over Turkey; it has religious affinities with a majority of the population of European Turkey which make it absolutely impossible that its Government should not, more or less, interfere, or have a strong interest, in the internal policy of the Ottoman empire. Now, if we were Russian—and I put the case to the Members of this House—is it not likely, according to all the theories I have heard explained when we have been concerned in similar cases, 247 that a large majority of the House and the country would be strongly in favour of such intervention as Russia had attempted? and if I opposed it, as I certainly should oppose it, I should be in a minority on that question inure insignificant than that in which I have now the misfortune to find myself with regard to the policy of the Government on the grave question now before us.
The noble Lord the Member for London has made a statement of the case of the Government, and in favour of this Address to the Crown; but I thought it was a statement remarkably feeble in fact and in argument, if intended as a justification of the course he and his Colleagues have taken. For the purposes of the noble Lord's defence, the Russian demand upon Turkey is assumed to be something of far greater importance than I have been able to discover it to be from a careful examination of the terms in which it was couched. The noble Lord himself, in one of his despatches, admits that Russia had reason to complain, that she has certain rights and duties by treaty, and by tradition, with regard to the protection of the Christians in Turkey. Russia asserted these rights, and wished to have them defined in a particular form; and it was on the question of the form of the demand, and the manner in which it should be conceded, that the whole of this unfortunate difference has arisen. Now, if Russia made certain demands on Turkey, this country insisted that Turkey should not consent to them; for although the noble Lord had attempted to show that Turkey herself, acting for herself, had resolved to resist, I defy any one to read the despatches of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe without coming to the conclusion that, from the beginning to the end of the negotiations, the English Ambassador had insisted, in the strongest manner, that Turkey should refuse to make the slightest concession on the real point at issue in the demands of the Russian Government. As a proof of that statement, I may refer to the account given by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, in his despatch of the 5th of May, 1853, of the private interview he had with the Sultan, the Minister of the Sultan having left him at the door, that the interview might be strictly private. In describing that interview, Lord Stratford says, "I then endeavoured to give him a just idea of the degree of danger to which his empire was exposed." The Sultan was not suffi- 248 ciently aware of his danger, and the English Ambassador "endeavoured to give him a just idea of it;" and it was by means such as this that he urged upon the Turkish Government the necessity of resistance to any of the demands of Russia, promising the armed assistance of England, whatever consequences might ensue. From the moment that promise was made, or from the moment it was sanctioned by the Cabinet at home, war was all but inevitable; they had entered into a partnership with the Turkish Government (which, indeed, could scarcely be called a Government at all), to assist it by military force; and Turkey, having old quarrels to settle with Russia, and old wrongs to avenge, was not slow to plunge into the war, having secured the co-operation of two powerful nations, England and France, in her quarrel. Now, I, have no special sympathy with Russia, and I refuse to discuss or to decide this question on grounds of sympathy with Russia or with Turkey; I consider it simply as it affects the duties and the interests of my own country. I find that after the first proposition for a treaty had been made by Prince Menchikoff, that envoy made some concession, and asked only for a Sened, or Convention; and when that was disapproved of, he offered to accept a note, or memorandum merely, that should specify what should be agreed upon. But the Turk was advised to resist, first the treaty, then the convention, and then the note or memorandum; and an armed force was promised on behalf of this country; at the same time he knew that he would incur the high displeasure of England and France, and especially of England, if he made the slightest concession to Russia. It was about the middle of May that Prince Menchikoff left Constantinople, not having succeeded in obtaining any concession from the Porte; and it was on the 3rd of July that the Russian forces crossed the Pruth; thinking, I believe, by making a dash at the Principalities, to coerce Turkey, and deter her allies from rendering her the promised support. It has been assumed by some that if England had declared war last year, Russia would have been deterred from any further step, and that the whole matter would have been settled at once. I, however, have no belief that Russia on the one hand, or England and France on the other, would have been bullied into any change of policy by means of that kind. 249 I come now to the celebrated "Vienna note." I am bound here to say, that nobody has yet been able clearly to explain the difference between the various notes Turkey has been advised to reject, and this and other notes she has been urged to accept. With respect to this particular note, nobody seems to have understood it. There were four Ambassadors at Vienna, representing England, France, Austria, and Prussia; and these four gentlemen drew up the Vienna note, and recommended it to the Porte as one which she might accept without injury to her independence or her honour. Louis Napoleon is a man knowing the use of language, and able to comprehend the meaning of a document of this nature, and his Minister of Foreign Affairs is a man of eminent ability; and Louis Napoleon and his Minister agreed with the Ambassadors at Vienna as to the character of the Vienna note. We have a Cabinet composed of men of great individual capacity; a Cabinet, too, including no less than five Gentlemen who have filled the office of Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and who may, therefore, be presumed to understand even the sometimes concealed meaning of diplomatic phraseology. These five Foreign Secretaries, backed by the whole Cabinet, concurred with the Ambassadors of Vienna, and with the Emperor of the French and his Foreign Secretary, in recommending the Vienna note to the Sultan as a document which be might accept consistently with his honour, and with that integrity and that independence which our Government is so anxious to secure for him. What was done with this note? Passing by the marvellous stupidity, or something worse, which caused that note not to be submitted to Turkey before it was sent to St. Petersburg, he would merely state that it was sent to St. Petersburg, and was accepted in its integrity by the Emperor of Russia in the most frank and unreserved manner. We were then told—I was told by Members of the Government—that the moment the note was accepted by Russia we might consider the affair to be settled, and that the dispute would never be heard of again. When, however, the note was sent to Constantinople, after its acceptance by Russia, Turkey discovered, or thought, or said she discovered, that it was as bad as the original or modified proposition of Prince Menchikoff, and she refused the note as it was, and proposed 250 certain modifications. And what are we to think of these arbitrators or mediators—the four Ambassadors at Vienna, and the Governments of France and England—who, after discussing the matter in three different cities, and at three distinct and different periods, and after agreeing that the proposition was one which Turkey could assent to without detriment to her honour and independence, immediately afterwards turned round, and declared that the note was one which Turkey could not be asked to accede to, and repudiated in the most formal and express manner that which they themselves had drawn up, and which, only a few days before, they had approved of as a combination of wisdom and diplomatic dexterity which had never been excelled? But it was said that the interpretation which Count Nesselrode placed upon this note made it impossible for Turkey to accede to it. I very much doubt whether Count Nesselrode placed ally meaning upon it which it did not fairly warrant, and it is impossible to say whether he really differed at all from the actual intentions of the four Ambassadors at Vienna. But I can easily understand the course taken by the Russian Minister. It was this:—seeing the note was rejected by the Turk, and considering that its previous acceptance by Russia was some concession from the original demand, he issued a circular, giving such an explanation or interpretation of the Vienna note as might enable him to get back to his original position, and might save Russia from being committed and damaged by the concession, which, for the sake of peace, she had made. This circular, however, could make no real difference in the note itself; and notwithstanding this circular, whatever the note really meant, it would have been just as binding upon Russia as any other note will be that may be drawn up and agreed to at the end of the war. Although, however, this note was considered inadmissible, negotiations were continued; and at the Conference at Olmutz, at which the Earl of Westmoreland was present, the Emperor of Russia himself expressed his willingness to accept the Vienna note—not in the sense that Count Nesselrode had placed upon it, but in that which the Ambassadors at Vienna declared to be its real meaning, and with such a clause as they should attach to it, defining its real meaning. It is impossible from this fairly to doubt the sincerity of the desire 251 for peace manifested by the Emperor of Russia. He would accept the note prepared by the Conference at Vienna, sanctioned by the Cabinets in London and Paris, and according to the interpretation put upon it by those by whom it had been prepared,—such interpretation to be defined in a clause, to be by them attached to the original note. But in the precise week in which these negotiations were proceeding apparently to a favourable conclusion, the Turkish Council, consisting of a large number of dignitaries of the Turkish empire—not one of whom, however, represented the Christian majority of the population of Turkey, but inspired by the fanaticism and desperation of the old Mahomedan party—assembled; and, fearful that peace would be established, and that they would lose the great opportunity of dragging England and France into a war with their ancient enemy, the Emperor of Russia, they came to a sudden resolution in favour of war; and in the very week in which Russia agreed to the Vienna note in the sense of the Vienna Conference, the Turks declared war against Russia,—the Turkish forces crossed the Danube, and began the war, involving England in an inglorious and costly struggle, from which this Government and a succeeding Government may fail to extricate us. I differ very much from those Gentlemen who condemn the Government for the tardy nature of their proceedings. I never said or thought that the Government was not honestly anxious for peace; but I believe, and indeed I know, that at an early period they committed themselves and the country to a policy, which left the issue of peace or war in other hands than their own—namely, in the hands of the Turks, the very last hands in which I am willing to trust the interests and the future of this country. In my opinion, the original blunder was committed when the Turks were advised to resist and not to concede; and the second blunder was made when the Turks were supported in their rejection of the Vienna note; for the moment the four Powers admitted that their recommendation was not necessarily to be accepted by the Porte, they put themselves entirely into the hands of the Turk, and might be dragged into any depth of confusion and war in which that respectable individual might wish to involve them.
The course taken by Turkey in beginning the war was against the strong ad- 252 vice of her allies; but notwithstanding this, the moment the step was taken, they turned round again, as in the case of the Vienna note, and justified and defended her in the course she had adopted, in defiance of the remonstrances they had urged against it. In his speech to-night, the noble Lord. (Lord J. Russell) has occupied some time in showing that Turkey was fully justified in declaring war. I should say nothing against that view, if Turkey were fighting on her own resources; but I maintain that, if she is in alliance with England and France, the opinions of those Powers should at least have been heard, and that, in case of her refusal to listen to their counsel, they would have been justified in saying to her, "If you persist in taking your own course, we cannot be involved in the difficulties to which it may give rise, but must leave you to take the consequences of your own acts." But this was not said, and the result is, that we are dragged into a war by the madness of the Turk, which, but for the fatal blunders we have committed, we might have avoided.
There have been three plans for dealing with this Turkish question, advocated by as many parties in this country. The first finds favour with two or three Gentlemen who usually sit on the bench below me—with a considerable number out of doors—and with a portion of the public press. These persons were anxious to have gone to war during last summer. They seem actuated by a frantic and bitter hostility to Russia, and without considering the calamities in which they might involve this country, they have sought to urge it into a great war, as they imagined, on behalf of European freedom, and in order to cripple the resources of Russia. I need hardly say that I have not a particle of sympathy with that party, or with that policy. I think nothing can be more unwise than that party, and nothing more atrocious than their policy. But there was another course recommended, and which the Government has followed. War delayed, but still certain—arrangements made which placed the issue of war in other hands than in those of the Government of this country—that is the policy which the Government has pursued, and in my opinion it is fatal to Turkey, and disastrous to England. There is a third course, and which I should have, and indeed have all along recommended—that war should have been avoided by the acceptance on the part of Turkey either of the last note of Prince Menchi- 253 koff, or of the Vienna note; or, if Turkey would not consent to either, that then she should have been allowed to enter into the war alone, and England and France—supposing they had taken, and continued to take, the same view of the interests of Western Europe which they have hitherto taken—might have stood aloof until the time when there appeared some evident danger of the war being settled on terms destructive of the balance of power; and then they might have come in, and have insisted on a different settlement. I would either have allowed or compelled Turkey to yield, or would have insisted on her carrying on the war alone. The question is, whether the advantages both to Turkey and England of avoiding war altogether, would have been less than those which are likely to arise from the policy which the Government has pursued? Now, if the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton is right in saying that Turkey is a growing Power, and that she has elements of strength which unlearned persons like myself know nothing about, surely no immediate, or sensible, or permanent mischief could have arisen to her from the acceptance of the Vienna note, which all the distinguished persons who agreed to it have declared to be perfectly consistent with her honour and independence. If she has been growing stronger and stronger of late years, surely she would have grown still stronger in the future, and there might have been a reasonable expectation that, whatever disadvantages she might have suffered for a time from that note, her growing strength would have enabled her to overcome, and the peace of Europe might have been preserved. But suppose that Turkey is not a growing Power, but that the Ottoman rule in Europe is tottering to its fall, I come to the conclusion that, whatever advantages were afforded to the Christian population of Turkey would have enabled them more rapidly to grow in numbers, in industry, in wealth, in intelligence, and in political power; and that, as they thus increased in influence, they would have become more able, in case any accident, which might not be far distant, occurred, to supplant the Mahomedan rule, and to establish themselves in Constantinople as a Christian State, which, I think every man who hears me will admit is infinitely more to be desired than that the Mahomedan power should be permanently sustained by the bayonets of France and the fleets of England. Europe would thus have been 254 at peace; for I do not think even the most bitter enemies of Russia believe that the Emperor of Russia intended last year, if the Vienna note or Prince Menchikoff's last and most moderate proposition had been accepted, to have marched on Constantinople. Indeed, he had pledged himself in the most distinct manner to withdraw his troops at once from the Principalities, if the Vienna note were accepted; and therefore in that case Turkey would have been delivered from the presence of the foe; peace would for a time have been secured to Europe; and the whole matter would have drifted on to its natural sohttion—which is, that the Mahomedan power in Europe should eventually succumb to the growing power of the Christian population of the Turkish territories. The noble Lord the Member for London, and his Colleague the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, when they speak of the aggrandisement of Russia relatively to the rest of Europe, always speak of the "balance of power," a term which it is not easy to define. It is a hackneyed term—a phrase to which it is difficult to attach any definite meaning. I wish the noble Lord would explain what is meant by the balance of power. In 1791, the whole Whig party repudiated the proposition that Turkey had anything to do with the balance of power. Mr. Burke, in 1791, when speaking on that subject, used the following language:—He had never heard it said before, that the Turkish empire was ever considered as any part of the balance of power in Europe. They had nothing to do with European policy; they considered themselves as wholly Asiatic. What had these worse than savages to do with the Powers of Europe, but to spread war, destruction, and pestilence among them? The Ministry and the policy which would give these people any weight in Europe, would deserve all the bans and curses of posterity. All that was holy in religion, all that was moral and humane, demanded an abhorrence of everything which tended to extend the power of that cruel and wasteful empire. Any Christian Power was to be preferred to these destructive savages.Mr. Whitbread, on the same occasion, said:—Suppose the Empress at Constantinople, and the Turks expelled from the European provinces, would any unprejudiced man contend that by such an event mankind would not be largely benefited? Would any man contend that the expulsion of a race of beings whose abominable tyranny proscribed the arts, and literature, and everything that was good, and great, and amiable, would not conduce to the prosperity and happiness of the world? He was convinced it would. This was an event with which the paltry consideration of the 255 nice adjustment of the balance in Europe was not to be put in competition, although he was a friend to that balance on broad and liberal principles. He abhorred the wretched policy which could entertain a wish that the most luxuriant part of the earth should remain desolate and miserable, that a particular system might be maintained.And Mr. Fox, when speaking of Mr. Pitt's system, said,—and be it remembered that nobody is so great an authority with the noble Lord the Member for London as Mr. Fox, whose words I am now about to quote:—His (Mr. Pitt's) defensive system was wicked and absurd—that every country which appeared, from whatever cause, to be growing great, should be attacked; that all the Powers of Europe should be confined to the same precise situation in which this defensive system found them." "Her (Russia's) extent of territory, scanty revenue, and thin population, made her power by no means formidable to us—a Power whom we could neither attack nor be attacked by; and this was the Power against which we were going to war. Overturning the Ottoman empire he conceived to be an argument of no weight. The event was not probable; and if it should happen, it was more likely to be of advantage than injurious to us.It will probably be said, that these were opinions held by Gentlemen who sat on that side of the House, and who were ready to advocate any course that might serve to damage the Ministers of the day. I should be sorry to think so, especially of a man whose public character is so much to be admired as is that of Mr. Fox; but I will come to a much later period, and produce authority of a very similar kind. Many hon. Members now in the House recollect the late Lord Holland, and they all know his sagacity and what his authority was with the party with which he was connected. What did he say? Why, so late as the year 1828, when this question was mooted in the House of Lords, he said:—No, my Lords, I hope I shall never see—God forbid I ever should see—for the proposition would be scouted from one end of England to another—any preparations or any attempt to defend this our 'ancient ally' from the attacks of its enemies. There was no arrangement made in that treaty for preserving the crumbling and hateful, or, as Mr. Burke called it, that wasteful and disgusting empire of the Turks, from dismemberment and destruction; and none of the Powers who were parties to that treaty will ever, I hope, save the falling empire of Turkey from ruin.I hope it will not be supposed that I am animated by any hostility to Turkey, in quoting sentiments and language such as this, for I have as much sympathy with what is just towards that country as any other man can have; but the question is, 256 not what is just to Turkey, but what is just to this country, and what this House, as the depositary of the power of this country, has a right to do with regard to this most dangerous question. I am, therefore, at liberty to quote from the statesmen of 1791 and 1828, the political fathers and authorities of the noble Lord the Member for London, and to say, that if I hold opinions different from those held by the Government, I am, at least, not singular in those opinions, for I can quote great names and high authorities in support of the course I am taking. This "balance of power" is in reality the hinge on which the whole question turns. But if that is so important as to be worth a sanguinary war, why did you not go to war with France when she seized upon Algiers? That was a portion of Turkey not quite so distinct, it is true, as are the Danubian Principalities; but still Turkey had sovereign rights over Algiers. When, therefore, France seized on a large portion of the northern coast of Africa, might it not have been said that such an act tended to convert the Mediterranean into a French lake,—that Algiers lay next to Tunis, and that, having conquered Tunis, there would remain only Tripoli between France and Alexandria, and that the "balance of power" was being destroyed by the aggrandisement of France? All this might have been said, and the Government might easily have plunged the country into war on that question. But happily the Government of that day had the good sense not to resist, and the result had not been disadvantageous to Europe; this country had not suffered from the seizure of Algiers, and England and France had continued at peace. Take another case—the case of the United States. The United States waged war with Mexico—a war with a weaker State—in my opinion an unjust and unnecessary war. If I had been a citizen of the American Republic, I should have condemned that war; but might it not have been as justly argued that, if we allowed the aggressive attacks of the United States upon Mexico, her insatiable appetite would soon be turned towards the north—towards the dependencies of this empire—and that the magnificent colonies of the Canadas would soon fall a prey to the assaults of their rapacious neighbour? But such arguments were not used, and it was not thought necessary to involve this country in a war for the support of Mexico, although the 257 Power that was attacking that country lay adjacent to our own dominions. If this phrase of the "balance of power" is to be always an argument for war, the pretence for war will never be wanting, and peace can never be secure. Let any one compare the power of this country with that of Austria now, and forty years ago. Will any one say that England, compared with Austria, is not now three times as powerful as she was thirty or forty years ago? Austria has a divided people, bankrupt finances, and her credit is so low, that she cannot borrow a shilling out of her own territories; England has a united people, national wealth rapidly increasing, and a mechanical and productive power to which that of Austria is as nothing. Might not Austria complain that we have disturbed the "balance of power" because we are growing so much stronger from better government, from the greater union of our people, from the wealth that is created by the hard labour and skill of our population, and from the wonderful development of the mechanical resources of the kingdom, which is seen on every side? If this phrase of the "balance of power," the meaning of which nobody can exactly make out, is to be brought in on every occasion, to stimulate this country to war, there is an end to all hope of permanent peace. There is, indeed, a question of a "balance of power" which this country might regard, if our statesmen had a little less of those narrow views which they sometimes arrogantly impute to me, and to those who think with me. If they could get beyond those old notions which belong to the traditions of Europe, and cast their eyes as far westward as they are now looking eastward, they might there see a power growing up in its gigantic proportions, which will teach us before very long where the true "balance of power" is to be found. This struggle may indeed begin with Russia, but it may end with half the States of Europe; for Austria and Prussia are just as likely to join with Russia as with England and France, and probably much more so; and we know not how long alliances which now appear very secure, may remain so; for the circumstances in which the Government has involved us are of the most critical character, and we stand upon a mine which may explode any day. Give us seven years of this infatuated struggle upon which we are now entering, and let the United States remain at peace during that period, and who shall say what will then 258 be the relative positions of the two nations? Have you read the Reports of your own Commissioners to the New York Exhibition? Do you comprehend what is the progress of that country, as exhibited in its tonnage, and exports, and imports, and manufactures, and in the development of all its resources, and the means of transit? There has been nothing like it hitherto under the sun. The United States may profit to a large extent by the calamities which will befall us; whilst we, under the miserable and lunatic idea that we are about to set the worn-out Turkish empire on its legs, and permanently to sustain it against the aggressions of Russia, are entangled in a war. Our trade will decay and diminish—our people, suffering and discontented, as in all former periods of war, will emigrate in increasing numbers to a country whose wise policy it is to keep itself free from the entanglement of European politics—to a country with whom rests the great question, whether England shall, for any long time, retain that which she professes to value so highly—her great superiority in industry and at sea. This whole notion of "the balance of power" is a mischievous delusion which has come down to us from past times; we ought to drive it from our minds, and to consider the solemn question of peace or war on more clear, more definite, and on far higher principles than any that are involved in the phrase, "the balance of power." What is it the Government propose to do? Let us examine their policy as described in the message from the Crown, and in the Address which has been moved to-night. As I understand it, we are asked to go to war to maintain the "integrity and independence of the Ottoman empire"—to curb the aggressive power of Russia—and to defend the interests of this country. These are the three great objects to which the efforts and resources of this country are to be directed. The noble Lord the Member of London is, I think, the author of the phrase, "the integrity and independence" of Turkey. If 1 am not mistaken, he pledged himself to this more than a year ago, when he was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in a letter to somebody at Newcastle-on-Tyne, in answer to an Address from certain enthusiasts in that town, who exhorted the Government to step in for the support of the Ottoman empire. But what is the condition of that empire at this moment? I have already described to the House what it would have been if my policy had 259 been adopted—if the thrice-modified note of Prince Menchikoff had been accepted, or if the Vienna note had been assented to by the Porte. But what is it now under the protection of the noble Lord and his Colleagues? At the present moment there are no less than three foreign armies on Turkish soil: there are 100,000 Russian troops in Bulgaria; there are armies from England and France approaching the Dardanelles, to entrench themselves on Turkish territory, and to return nobody knows when. All this can hardly contribute to the "independence" of any country. But more than this; there are insurrections springing up in almost every Turkish province, and insurrections which must, from the nature of the Turkish Government, widely extend; and it is impossible to describe the anarchy which must prevail, inasmuch as the control heretofore exercised by the Government to keep the peace is now gone, by the withdrawal of its troops to the banks of the Danube; and the licence and demoralisation engendered by ages of bad government will be altogether unchecked. In addition to these complicated horrors, there are 200,000 men under arms; the state of their finances is already past recovery; and the allies of Turkey are making demands upon her far beyond anything that was required by Russia herself. Can anything be more destructive of the "integrity and independence" of Turkey than the policy of the noble Lord? I have seen only this day a letter in the Times from its correspondent at Constantinople, which states that Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and one of the Pashas of the Porte had spent a whole night in the attempt to arrange concessions which her allies had required on behalf of the Christian population of Turkey. The Christians are to be allowed to hold landed property; the capitation tax is to be abolished—for they are actually contending for the abolition of that which the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) says is a positive benefit to those upon whom it is imposed; and the evidence of Christians is to be admitted into courts of justice. But the Times' correspondent asks, what is the use of a decree at Constantinople, which will have no effect in the provinces?—for the judges are Turks of the old school, and they will have little sympathy with a change under which a Christian in a court of justice is made equal with his master the Turk. This correspondent describes what Turkey really wants—not three fo- 260 reign armies on her soil, nor any other thing which our Government is about to give her, but "a pure executive, a better financial administration, and sensible laws;" and it must be admitted that the true wants of the country are not likely soon to be supplied. Now, so far as regards Turkey herself, and the "integrity and independence" of that empire, I put it seriously to the House—do you believe, if the Government and Lord Stratford de Redcliffe had advised Turkey to accept the last note of Prince Menchikoff, a note so little different from the others, offered before and since, that it was impossible to discover in what the distinction consisted; or if the Government had insisted on Turkey accepting, as the condition of their co-operation, the Vienna note, either as at first proposed by the Conference, or with the explanatory definitions with which the Emperor of Russia at Olmutz offered to accept it, that they would have injured the "integrity and independence" of Turkey? Nay, I will not insult you by asking whether, under such circumstances, that "integrity and independence" would not have been a thousand times more secure than it is at this hour? If that be true, then the "balance of power" theory has been entirely overthrown by the policy of the Government, for no one will argue that Turkey will come out of her present difficulties more able to cope with the power of Russia than she was before. With her finances hopelessly exhausted, will she ever again be able to raise an army of 200,000 men? But there are men, and I suspect there are statesmen, in this country, and men in office, too, who believe that Turkey will not be Turkey at the end of this war—that she cannot come out of it an Ottoman Power—that such a convulsion has been created, that while we are ready to contend with half the world to support the "integrity and independence" of the Ottoman empire, there will shortly be no Ottoman empire to take the benefit of the enormous sacrifices we are about to make.
But we are undertaking to repress and to curb Russian aggression. These are catching words; they have been amplified in newspapers, and have passed from mouth to mouth, and have served to blind the eyes of multitudes wholly ignorant of the details of this question. If Turkey has been in danger from the side of Russia heretofore, will she not be in far greater danger when the war is over? Russia is always there. You do not pro- 261 pose to dismember Russia, or to blot out her name from the map, and her history from the records of Europe. Russia will be always there—always powerful, always watchful, and actuated by the same motives of ambition, either of influence or of territory, which are supposed to have moved her in past times. What, then, do you propose to do? and how is Turkey to be secured? Will you make a treaty with Russia, and force conditions upon her? But if so, what security have you that one treaty will be more binding than another? It is easy to find or make a reason for breaking a treaty, when it is the interest of a country to break it. I recollect reading a statement made by the illustrious Washington, when it was proposed to land a French army in North America, to assist the colonies in overthrowing the yoke of this country. Washington was afraid of them—he did not know whether these allies once landed might not be as difficult to get rid of as the English troops he was endeavouring to expel; for, said he, "whatever may be the convention entered into, my experience teaches me that nations and Governments rarely abide by conventions or treaties longer than it is their interest to do so." So you may make a treaty with Russia; but if Russia is still powerful and ambitious—as she certainly will be—and, if Turkey is exhausted, and enfeebled by the war—as she certainly will be—then I want to know what guarantee you have, the moment the resources of Russia have recovered from the utmost degree of humiliation and exhaustion to which you may succeed in reducing her, that she will not again insist on terms with Turkey infinitely more perilous than those you have now ruined Turkey by urging her to refuse? It is a delusion to suppose you can dismember Russia—that you can blot her from the map of Europe—that you can take guarantees from her, as some seem to imagine, as easily as you take bail from an offender, who would otherwise go to prison for three months. England and France cannot do this with a stroke of the pen, and the sword will equally fail if the attempt be made.
But I come now to another point. How are the interests of England involved in this question? This is, after all, the great matter which we, the representatives of the people of England, have to consider. It is not a question of sympathy with any other State. I have sympathy with Turkey; I have sympathy with the serfs of 262 Russia; I have sympathy with the people of Hungary, whose envoy the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton refused to see, and the overthrow of whose struggle for freedom by the armies of Russia he needlessly justified in this House; I have sympathy with the Italians, subjects of Austria, Naples, and the Pope; I have sympathy with the three millions of slaves in the United States; but it is not on a question of sympathy that I dare involve this country, or any country, in a war which must cost an incalculable amount of treasure and of blood. It is not my duty to make this country the knight-errant of the human race, and to take upon herself the protection of the thousand million of bunion beings who have been permitted by the Creator of all things to people this planet. I hope no one will assume that I would invite—that is the phrase which has been used—the aggressions of Russia. If I were a Russian, speaking in a Russian Parliament, I should denounce any aggression upon Turkey, as I now blame the policy of our own Government; and I greatly fear I should find myself in a minority, as I now find myself in a minority on this question. But it has never yet been explained how the interests of this country are involved in the present dispute. We are not going to fight for tariffs, or for markets for our exports. In 1791, Mr. Grey argued that, as our imports from Russia exceeded 1,000,000l. sterling, it was not desirable that we should go to war with a country trading with us to that amount. In 1853, Russia exported to this country at least 14,000,000l. sterling, and that fact affords no proof of the increasing barbarism of Russia, or of any disregard of her own interests as respects the development of her resources. What has passed in this House since the opening of the present Session? We had a large surplus revenue, and our Chancellor of the Exchequer is an ambitious Chancellor. I have no hope in any statesman who has no ambition; he can have no great object before him, and his career will be unmarked by any distinguished services to his country. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer entered office, doubtless be hoped, by great services to his country, to build up a reputation such as a man may labour for and live for. Every man in this House, even those most opposed to him, acknowledged the remarkable capacity which he displayed during the last Session, and the country has set its seal to this—that his financial measures, in the remission and 263 readjustment of taxation, were worthy of the approbation of the great body of the people. The right hon. Gentleman has been blamed for his speech at Manchester, not for making the speech, but because it differed from the tone of the speech made by the noble Lord, his Colleague in office, at Greenock. I observed that difference. There can be no doubt that there has been, and that there is now, a great difference of opinion in the Cabinet on this Eastern question. It could not be otherwise; and Government has gone on from one step to another; they have drifted—to use the happy expression of Lord Clarendon to describe what is so truly unhappy—they have drifted from a state of peace to a state of war; and to no Member of the Government could this state of things be more distressing than to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for it dashed from him the hopes he entertained that Session after Session, as trade extended and the public revenue increased, he would find himself the beneficent dispenser of blessings to the poor, and indeed to all classes of the people of this kingdom. Where is the surplus now? No man dare even ask for it, or for any portion of it. Here is my right hon. Friend and Colleague, who is resolved on the abolition of the newspaper stamp. I can hardly imagine a more important subject than that, if it be desirable for the people to be instructed in their social and political obligations; and yet my right hon. Friend has scarcely the courage to ask for the abolition of that odious tax. I believe, indeed, that my right hon. Friend has a plan to submit to the Chancellor by which the abolition of the stamp may be accomplished without sacrifice to the Exchequer, but that I will not go into at present. But this year's surplus is gone-and next year's surplus is gone with it; and you have already passed a Bill to double the income tax. And it is a mistake to suppose that you will obtain double the sum by simply doubling the tax. Many persons make an average of their incomes, and make a return accordingly. The average will not be sustained at the bidding of Parliament; and profits that were considerable last year, will henceforth show a great diminution, or will have vanished altogether. I mention this for the benefit of the country Gentlemen, because it is plain that real property, lands and houses, must bear the burden of this war; for I will undertake to say, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will prefer to leave that 264 bench, and will take his seat in some other quarter of the House rather than retrace the steps which Sir Robert Peel took in 1842. He is not the promoter of this war; his speeches have shown that be is anxious for peace, and that he hoped to be a Minister who would dispense fiscal blessings to the people; and I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman will consent to be made the instrument to reimpose upon the country the Excise duties which have been repealed, or the import duties which, in past times, inflicted such enormous injury upon trade. The property tax is the lever, or the weapon, with which the proprietors of lands and houses in this kingdom will have to support the "integrity and independence" of the Ottoman empire. Gentlemen, I congratulate you, that every man of you has a Turk upon his shoulders. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) spoke of our "triumphant position"—the position in which the Government has placed us by pledging this country to support the Turks. I see nothing like a triumph in the fact, that in addition to our many duties to our own country, we have accepted the defence of twenty millions or more of the people of Turkey, on whose behalf, but, I believe, not for their benefit, we are about to sacrifice the blood and treasure of England. But there are other penalties and other considerations. I will say little about the Reform Bill, because, as the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) is aware, I do not regard it as an unmixed blessing. But I think even hon. Gentlemen opposite will admit that it would be well if the representation of the people in this House were in a more satisfactory state, and that it is unfortunate that we are not permitted, calmly and with mutual good feeling, to consider the question, undisturbed by the thunder of artillery, and undismayed by the disasters which are inseparable from a state of war. With regard to trade, I can speak with some authority as to the state of things in Lancashire. The Russian trade is not only at an end, but it is made an offence against the law to deal with any of our customers in Russia. The German trade is most injuriously affected by the uncertainty which prevails on the continent of Europe. The Levant trade, a very important branch, is almost extinguished in the present state of affairs in Greece, Turkey in Europe, and Syria. All property in trade is diminishing in value, whilst its burdens are increasing. 265 The funds have fallen in value to the amount of about 120,000,000l. sterling, and railway property is quoted at about 80,000,000l. less than was the case a year ago. I do not pretend to ask the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) to put these losses, these great destructions of property, against the satisfaction he feels at the "triumphant position" at which we have arrived. He may content himself with the dream that we are supporting the "integrity and independence" of Turkey, though I doubt whether bringing three foreign armies on her soil, raising insurrections in her provinces, and hopelessly exhausting her finances, is a rational mode of maintaining her as an independent Power. But we are sending out 30,000 troops to Turkey, and in that number are not included the men serving on board the fleets. Here are 30,000 lives! There is a thrill of horror sometimes when a single life is lost, and we sigh at the loss of a friend—or of a casual acquaintance! But here we are in danger of losing, and I give the opinions of military men and not my own merely—10,000, or it may be 20,000 lives, that may be sacrificed in this struggle. I have never pretended to any sympathy for the military profession—but I have sympathy for my fellow-men and fellow-countrymen, wherever they may be. I have heard very melancholy accounts of the scenes which have been witnessed in the separations from families occasioned by this expedition to the East. But, it will be said, and probably the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton will say, that it is a just war, a glorious war, and that I am full of morbid sentimentality, and have introduced topics not worthy to be mentioned in Parliament. But these are matters affecting the happiness of the homes of England, and we, who are the representatives and guardians of those homes, when the grand question of war is before us, should know at least that we have a case—that success is probable—and that an object is attainable commensurate with the cost of war. There is another point which gives me some anxiety. You are boasting of an alliance with France. Alliances are dangerous things. It is an alliance with Turkey that has drawn us into this war. I would not advise alliances with any nation, but I would cultivate unity with all nations. I would have no alliance that might drag us into measures, which is neither our duty nor our interest to undertake. By our present alliance with Turkey, Turkey can- 266 not make peace without the consent of England and France; and, by this boasted alliance with France we may find ourselves involved in great difficulties at some future period of these transactions. Sir, I have endeavoured to look at the whole of this question, and I declare, after studying the correspondence which has been laid on the table—knowing what I know of Russia and of Turkey—seeing what I see of Austria and of Prussia—feeling the enormous perils to which this country is now exposed, I am amazed at the course which the Government have pursued, and I am horrified at the results to which their policy must inevitably tend. I do not say this in any spirit of hostility to the Government. I have never been hostile to them. I have once or twice felt it my duty to speak, with seine degree of sharpness, of particular Members of the Administration, but I suspect that in private they would admit that my censure was merited. But I have never entertained a party hostility to the Government. I know something of the difficulties they have had to encounter, and I have no doubt that, in taking office, they acted in as patriotic a spirit as is generally expected from Members of this House. So long as their course was one which I could support, or even excuse, they have had my support. But this is not an ordinary question; it is not a question of reforming the University of Oxford, or of abolishing "ministers' money" in Leland; the matter now before us affects the character, the policy, and the vital interests of the empire; and when I think the Government have committed a grievous—it may be a fatal error—I am bound to tell them so. I am told indeed that the war is popular, and that it is foolish and eccentric to oppose it. I doubt if the war is very popular in this House. But as to what is, or has been popular, I may ask, what was more popular than the American war? There were persons lately living in Manchester who had seen the recruiting party going through the principal streets of that city, accompanied by the parochial clergy in full canonicals, exhorting the people to enlist to put down the rebels in the American colonies. Where is now the popularity of that disastrous and disgraceful war, and who is the man to defend it? But if hon. Members will turn to the correspondence between George III. and Lord North, on the subject of that war, they will find that the King's chief argument for continuing the war was, that it would be dishonourable in him to 267 make peace so long as the war was popular with the people. Again, what war could be more popular than the French war? Has not the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) said, not long ago, in this House, that peace was rendered difficult if not impossible by the conduct of the English press in 1803? For myself I do not trouble myself whether my conduct in Parliament is popular or not. I care only that it shall be wise and just as regards the permanent interests of my country, and I despise from the bottom of my heart the man who speaks a word in favour of this war, or of any war which he believes might have been avoided, merely because the press and a portion of the people urge the Government to carry it on. I recollect a passage of a distinguished French writer and statesman which bears strongly upon our present position; he says:—The country which can comprehend and act upon the lessons which God has given it in the past events of its history, is secure in the most imminent crises of its fate.The past events of our history have taught me that the intervention of this country in European wars is not only unnecessary, but calamitous; that we have rarely come out of such intervention having succeeded in the objects we fought for: that a debt of 800,000,000l. sterling has been incurred by the policy which the noble Lord approves, apparently for no other reason than that it dates from the time of William III.; and that, not debt alone has been incurred, but that we have left Europe at least as much in chains as before a single effort was made by us to rescue her from tyranny. I believe if this country, seventy years ago, had adopted the principle of nonintervention in every case where her interests were not directly and obviously assailed, she would have been saved from much of the pauperism and brutal crimes by which our Government and people have alike been disgraced. This country might have been a garden, every dwelling might have been of marble, and every person who treads its soil might have been sufficiently educated. We should indeed have had less of military glory. We might have had neither Trafalgar nor Waterloo; but we should have set a high example of a Christian nation, free in its institutions, courteous and just in its conduct towards all foreign States, and resting its policy on the unchangeable foundation of Christian morality.
§ MR. J. BALL
said, perhaps it would 268 not be improper that a few observations should be made by the representative of a country none of whose Members had yet taken part in these debates. He agreed with the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) that none of the reasons for war to which he had referred were just or satisfactory to the House. He agreed with him that the maintenance of the balance of power was not a sufficient justification for war; but yet he was prepared to support the war. He agreed with the hon. Member that the maintenance of the integrity and independence of Turkey was not a sufficient justification for war, but yet he was prepared to support the war. He agreed with him that the support of the commerce and trade of England was not a sufficient justification for war, but yet he was prepared to support the war. He believed that the real justification was larger, vaster, higher, and nobler than any of these—it was the maintenance in civilised society of the principles of right and justice. That, he thought, was the real ground on which the war was to be justified. What was it among individuals that cemented them into cities and States but the maintenance of law? and if the day should come, as the hon. Member for Manchester thought, when war would be impossible, and peace be a necessity, he believed that could only happen in one way—not from any idea of self-interest as a nation, but from a recognition of the principles of justice in relation to nations as well as to individuals. The hon. Member for Manchester had quoted, and had seemed to approve, the idea that nations must and would trick throughout all treaties and engagements whenever it suited their convenience so to do. Against that doctrine he protested. He believed there was in the minds of men, and in the heart of nations, something higher than self-interest—conscience—and that conscience might supply motives more powerful, as well as more worthy, than mere considerations of self. The hon. Member for Manchester had spoken of Turkey's declaring war; but he had said nothing of the unjustifiable invasion of the territory of the Sultan which led to that declaration; no doubt if there were not that unprovoked invasion our conduct would be most erroneous. The hon. Member had asked, why not force Turkey to adopt the Menchikoff note? Because to have done so would have been as great an invasion of her rights as the occupation of the Principalities. The people 269 of this country would approve the war if it was clearly stated that the cause of resistance to Russia was the cause of resistance to wrong, and if there was no attempt made by our Government unduly to interfere with that of Turkey. He would beg to conclude by expressing his dissent from the view taken by the hon. Member, that the correspondence published argued a want of unanimity in the Cabinet.
THE MARQUESS OF GRANBY
said, it had been a matter of deep regret to him to hear the tone and language which had been used that night by hon. Members on the other side of the House, in speaking of the conduct of the Emperor of Russia in the recent transactions in the East. That aggression might be real and might be most dangerous to the interests of this country, but he thought it would be more becoming this great and powerful nation to enter into the discussion of the question in the spirit of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), than in the language which he had heard used in the House that night. He had observed that tone with regret, for it was a tone and manner which the Emperor of Russia had not stooped to employ. The Emperor of Russia had given the Government of this country full credit for their efforts to maintain the peace of Europe—a credit which they had utterly denied to him. No matter what the Emperor of Russia might say or do, or what Her Majesty's Government might say or do, in his opinion there was still the same danger. Let them examine coolly into the case which had been set forth by the hon. Member for Manchester. He (the Marquess of Granby) knew that many hon. Gentlemen believed, that no matter what the Emperor of Russia might say or do, there was always some underhand dealing in his conduct; and if they entered on a discussion of these blue books and secret correspondence, actuated by such views, it was hardly possible that the House could arrive at a true or impartial conclusion. He would ask the House to remember, as it was stated by the hon. Member for Manchester, that France was in this case the first aggressor, though she had certainly made the amende honorable. Then it was said that the Emperor of Russia had acted fraudulently to this country, though he thought that when the House came to consider the whole question, the hon. Member who had made use of such an expression would see cause to regret it. Were not the demands which 270 Prince Menchikoff had made in direct consequence of the demands which the French Government had put forward? Prince Menchikoff had stated in the first instance that the only two objects which the Imperial Government had in view were to obtain recompenses to the Greek Church for injuries done them through the concessions granted to the Latins, and to have some guarantee that such a state of things should not occur again. Prince Menchikoff had never required territorial aggrandisements; on the contrary, he only required that the subjection in which Turkey was held should be put a stop to. Prince Menchikoff's note, however, was rejected. Then came the Vienna note, which was drawn up by the French Government, and adopted by the Ambassadors of the four Powers—adopted after anxious and mature deliberation. The Emperor of Russia accepted that note. To that note of the four Powers the Emperor of Russia expressed his willingness to accede; and yet Her Majesty's Government stigmatised him as the disturber of the peace of Europe. Now, as far as he (the Marquess of Granby) understood the question, all that Russia asked was a kind of protectorate over the members of the Greek Church. Was there anything in that demand of which the British Government had reason to be afraid? Was there anything in that which would lead them to say the Emperor only wanted Constantinople? That was the secret of the whole case. The noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell) had expressed himself to that effect, when he wrote to Sir Hamilton Seymour on the 9th of February, 1853, saying that the more impartially Turkey was ruled, the less opportunity would it afford for the interference of the Court of Russia. What was it that the Emperor of Russia had done in all this which justified the abuse which had been levelled at him in the course of the present debate? While on the subject, he might say that he entirely agreed with his right hon. Friend below him (Mr. Disraeli), that if Her Majesty's Government had been more of one mind, or if Lord Aberdeen had had more command over the Cabinet, they would not now have been going to war with Russia. He also agreed with his right hon. Friend, that if the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston) had been at the head of the Government, there would have been no war; and he (the Marquess of Granby) believed that if the press of this country 271 had possessed the power which was so often spoken of, there would likewise have been no war; though, above all, if the civil war which had been raging in the Cabinet had been put an end to, there would have been no war also. Reviewing all the circumstances of the case, he felt that the war into which the country was now plunged was mainly due to the vacillation and indecision exhibited by the Members composing Her Majesty's Government.
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
said, he should be sorry that anything should fall from him calculated to disturb the unanimity in which, in his opinion, it became them to reply to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Message. At the same time he wished that they could have had from Her Majesty's Ministers some declaration of the views and objects they proposed to themselves in entering on this war. They knew that one of the objects was the maintenance of the integrity and independence of the Turkish empire, but they required to be informed, now that Russia had wantonly forced on a war, whether increased taxation, the loss of trade and commerce, and probably a great loss of life, were to be submitted to without our experiencing a return equivalent to the sacrifices we made. They ought to be distinctly informed whether it was intended by means of this war to place Europe in a position to afford security for the future preservation of the peace. He was afraid, unless the war was undertaken with greater vigour than appeared to characterise the negotiations which preceded it, that this country and the whole of Europe would be forced into a state which lie could only describe as that of chronic war. It had been stated in the progress of the debate by an hon. Friend near him (Mr. Layard) that one portion of the Government was imbued with an anxiety—with a monomania for peace, while another part of it was sensible of the necessity of carrying on the war with vigour. That, perhaps, might account for the fact; but whatever was the reason of it, he must say that hitherto they had not seen that vigour in council which was necessary to carry every enterprise, whether of peace or of war, to a satisfactory and salutary conclusion. But he must impress upon the House the necessity, even the duty, of Ministers giving some information with regard to the proceedings of our fleet in the Black Sea. He hoped they would not shirk that question, and 272 that they would tell the country what it had been doing, and what it was now doing. With every desire to give credit to the gallant Admirals, both of England and France, with one of whom he had the honour to be personally acquainted, and towards whom he entertained a feeling of friendship and respect, he must be permitted to say that affairs there wore a very ugly aspect. It had been said that the fleets were ordered to go into the Black Sea, and sweep the Russians out of it as early as the 8th of October; certainly, however, they were ordered to go there in January, and with most distinct injunctions not to allow any Russian ship they met with to hold the sea, but to call upon it to return to harbour, and, in case of resistance, to capture it, and bring it back to the Bosphorus. But how was it possible that such orders could be executed if the ships remained at Beicos Bay, where they had laid snugly at anchor ever since? Under these circumstances it was no wonder they did not fall in with the Russian fleet. Yet it was now stated that that fleet had come out from Sebastopol, had proceeded to the coast of Circassia, and had transported from thence a number of troops back to Russia, troops which might have been captured in security; and would it not be thought that on the first news of such an event reaching the Admirals that they would have been eager to make prizes of this audacious Russian fleet, which had thus come forth to beard the navies of England and France? No such thing—they only sent out two steamers to see what had happened! Now, such a course did not appear to him to prelude any great results. On the other hand, he was confident in the assertion that, if this war were properly carried on, it would be the most beneficial war that the country had ever undertaken. He believed that now we were at war, a great deal too much was said of peace. Peace was, no doubt, a thing to be desired by every humane and Christian person; the object, however, could alone be to obtain a peace of lasting duration, for the country would not be satisfied with a peace upon any other terms, and if Her Majesty's Ministers accepted any other, they would be unfit to direct the councils of a great nation like England. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester was one of those who thought that peace was to be desired before all other things—at all hazards and every cost. Why, no one could be for war in itself; 273 this was only a state of transition. He looked upon war as upon a surgical operation, which was painful, dreadful, and only to be resorted to in cases of extreme necessity. And he did think that war would have the effect of placing Europe in a better condition than it was or had been in for a great number of years. Russia had now afforded the opportunity of placing it in such a position; and it was our part, our duty, to seize that opportunity, and if they did not, posterity would not pardon them. In days now passed a great crime had been perpetrated in -allowing the partition of Poland. At that moment they were expiating the pusillanimity which their forefathers had been guilty of. But let them take warning, and not suffer the present crisis to pass without taking such measures as shall for ever put a curb in the mouth of the haughty Muscovite. He had heard with very great satisfaction the speech made by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell); but more particularly was he satisfied with his declaration that no convention bad been entered into with regard to the internal affairs of Turkey. It was not that he disregarded the condition of the Christian inhabitants of that country, far from it. But if they once interfered by treaty, and made stipulations as to the internal affairs of any other country, they not only sinned against that great principle of non-intervention which had been proclaimed, and for many years acted on in this country, but they perpetrated the very wrong which they were taking up arms to prevent, and while they were sending fleets and armies to contend against Russia for interfering with the independence of Turkey, they would be committing acts inconsistent with that independence. It was not his intention to say one word to prevent the unanimity with which the Address was about to be accepted; but he hoped an answer would be given to the question he had put about the fleet. And he must say he did think the House of Commons and the country ought to have an assurance that the war would not be concluded without in some way or other clipping the claws of Russia, so that she might be rendered unable for the future to inflict upon this country and upon Europe the evils which at that moment they were suffering at her hands.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I might, indeed, have wished, upon an occasion of such importance as the present, when Her Majesty has applied to Her Par- 274 liament for support in a great contest, the magnitude and the importance of which it is impossible to deny, that questions arising out of detail, matters connected with the conduct of negotiations, might have been postponed to another and a more appropriate occasion, and that the House might have looked simply at the appeal which the Sovereign has made to it, and have responded unanimously, as I am sure it will; but not only unanimously, but without mixing up in its assurances of loyalty and devotion to the Crown any topics of a minor and subordinate character. At the same time, I know full well it is a privilege of this House, when questions are brought under its consideration by the Government, to discuss freely and minutely any topics which they may think properly connected with the subject under debate. I shall, however, be excused, I trust, if, not following the example of some of those who have gone before me, I do not pursue the steps of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) in all the detailed examinations on which he has thought it right to enter, of the conduct of the Government in the course of the long negotiations which have ended in the unhappy rupture now announced. There is, however, one topic to which my hon. Friend has alluded, and which I cannot allow to be passed over in silence. My hon. Friend has quoted divers passages from the Times newspaper. Taking it as the unquestionable organ of the British Government, and contrasting the opinions expressed in certain leading articles in the Times, he has opposed to those opinions the deliberate course, and the general principles, which Her Majesty's Government have followed and adopted. Now, Sir, I do not presume to inquire from what sources the newspapers of this country may take their inspirations, but if any inference is to be drawn from the identity of opinion expressed in those articles, and the opinions expressed by the Government of Russia, I should be disposed to draw a very different inference from that which the hon. Member has felt disposed to draw. And, if I were to search out the origin of the inspiration which dictated those articles, it is not to the English Government certainly that I should go, but I should be disposed rather to go to that of Russia.
Sir, I say that the question which tonight is submitted to the House is, whether Her Majesty shall receive that support of Parliament in the contest in which this country is about to be involved. Now, it 275 is known, I think, to those who have given their attention to the affairs of Europe for a considerable time that the views of Russia upon Turkey are not of yesterday or even of this century. It is well known that for a great length of time it has been the standing and established policy of Russia to endeavour to obtain possession of at least the European part of Turkey, and subsequently of the Asiatic part. That policy has been pursued with undeviating and systematic efforts. It has been ever kept in view, and when opportunities have offered steps in advance have been made. When checks have been experienced those steps have been withdrawn, but only for the purpose of taking advantage of the next opportunity which offers. Delay has been no element in mitigating or inducing Russia to abandon its schemes. Its policy has been to keep one object in view—not to hide or to lose that object—but, perpetually grasping at its possession, to watch the course of the other Governments of Europe, and to take advantage of every opportunity that might present itself, by which it might get even the slightest advance towards the ultimate objects of its ambition. Nor, Sir, do I blame the Russian Government for entertaining such a policy. A policy of aggrandisement, pursued by legitimate means, is a policy which you may condemn as dangerous to yourselves, and oppose as destructive to the liberties and independence of other States, but it is without reproach to the Government that pursues it, provided it is pursued by open, undisguised, and avowed means, without concealment, without subterfuge, and without fraud. The course, I am sorry to say, which the Russian Government has pursued, at least in these recent transactions, has not been that open and straightforward course which would justify it in avowing and in boldly declaring its policy. But was it from ignorance that that policy was pursued? Did the Russian Government entertain any doubt whether aggrandisement in the direction of Turkey would or would not peril its relations with other countries? Why, Sir, no such inferences were ever excited. I had frequent occasions, when I held the seals of the Foreign Office, to communicate with an eminent Russian diplomatist upon the relations between the two countries, and his language to me was always this: he said:—"Russia and England entertain different views of constitutional principles. You think constitutional government the best, we think arbitrary government pre- 276 ferable; you endeavour to propagate your notions, we naturally endeavour to support our own; but we have great European interests in common, and so long as we do not come into contact upon the affairs of Turkey—so long as England and Russia have no differences upon those important affairs—so long, I tell my Government, there is nothing in our opposite principles of government which will prevent England and Russia from acting amicably together in matters on which they have great and common interests." Then, what was it that made the Russian Government think that the recent occasion seized upon by it was favourable to the advancement of these long-cherished designs and wishes? Why, no doubt, Russia speculated upon differences—irreconcilable, as it thought—between England and France. It never imagined that there could be a cordial union between these two Powers. It speculated, too, upon the differences between England and Austria. It thought that the differences of opinion which had prevailed between the two Governments, and, to a certain degree, between the two nations, would prevent cordial action between them; and thinking, therefore, that there was disunion, and an impossibility of combination, among the great Powers of Europe, Russia thought that was a favourable moment for making another great step in the progress of aggrandisement towards Turkey. And that step was made with all the ability, with all the sagacity, which has ever characterised the policy of that able and ambitious Government. It sought no acquisition of territory, no rearrangement of the map of Europe—it sought that which was more useful to its views than the acquisition of any portion of the Turkish empire—it sought but the concession from the Sultan to the Emperor of the real sovereignty over the whole Christian population of Turkey. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) said he could not see what harm would have arisen from the Sultan accepting either the Menchikoff note or the Vienna note. Why, Sir, it is impossible for any man not to see that if, by a concession from the Sultan, the Emperor of Russia had been made the arbiter of all the concerns, religious, civil, and political, of the whole Christian population of the Turkish empire, the sovereignty of the Sultan would have been held simply at the will and discretion of the Emperor. And that is his object, and this is the greatest move that has for a length of time been 277 made towards the extinction and partition of the Turkish empire. Sir, the Russian Government pursued that course with a secrecy and a concealment which showed the certainty of its convictions that that which it demanded was a thing which could not and ought not to be granted. The Turkish Government, acting with a just sense of that which was due to its own interests, consulted its allies. In the last memorandum of the secret correspondence, what is the language which the Russian Government uses in regard to its policy towards Turkey, and with regard to the manner in which the European Governments should also behave towards Turkey? Why, throughout, the Emperor of Russia professes an anxious desire to maintain Turkey as it is; apprehensions are expressed that that will not long be possible; but, he says, the mode of preventing it will be by the Powers of Europe abstaining from pressing imperious demands on Turkey, supported by menace. And that opinion is recorded at the very moment when Prince Menchikoff was doing at Constantinople the very thing which the Russian Government said the Governments of Europe ought to abstain from doing, if they wished to maintain the independence and integrity of Turkey. I say, then, Sir, it is impossible for any man who has eyes in his head, or is capable of drawing a conclusion, to doubt there is a settled intention on the part of Russia to overrun and overthrow the Turkish empire for the purpose of establishing in the territory of Turkey the ascendancy and domination of Russia.
It may be said, "What of that?" "Is it possible," it is asked, "for us to maintain things as they are?" "The Turkish empire," the hon. Member for Manchester says, "is in a state of rapid and progressive decay," and that I am the only man in the world who is blind to that fact. I think the contrary is the truth. Why, I will appeal to the events of the last eight months in proof of the truth and the correctness of my opinion. Compare the resistance which Turkey has made within the last eight months to the arms of Russia with the military events of former years, and let any man say whether Turkey has not shown proofs of vitality and energy which few people imagined it could display under circumstances so embarrassing as those in which the country has been placed. And, Sir, among the reasons which, I have no doubt in my own mind—and, indeed, it is avowed in the correspondence—urged 278 Russia to strike the blow at the present time was this, that the Russian Government was aware of the progressive improvement in Turkey tending yearly to strengthen the Turkish Government, and aware also that by this improvement, and by the progress in welfare and comfort of the whole of the Christian and Greek population, they were gradually withdrawing their eyes from Russia for support, and looking for their well-being and improvement to other sources than the Emperor of Russia. The Russian Government saw that the Christian population was slipping out of its hands, and that the Turkish Government was gradually getting too strong to be easily overthrown; and, therefore, it was thought no longer convenient to delay striking the blow.
But then some hon. Gentlemen say, "You are supporting Mahomedanism against Christianity." Why, Sir, that has nothing to do with the great question in which Europe is now about to engage. In the first place, I contend—as, indeed, the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) stated upon a former occasion—that, however much you may wish that those vast and fertile regions, the most favoured portions, almost, of the earth, should be ruled by a Christian Government and cultivated by a Christian population, the truth is, in the present state of those countries, the Mahomedan race is the only one that can keep the country together as an empire, and govern it as such. The Christian population, as every one who understands the subject is well aware, is divided into so many religious sects, into so many national divisions, into such minute fragments, that there is no one of them sufficiently powerful to rule over the whole, and no one of them that would probably submit with tranquillity to the domination of any other. The Turkish Government, therefore, affords the only method by which these great countries could be kept in a state of independence. But the real question is, not what you would wish to see established in the Turkish empire, but that which you are determined shall not be established—it is not what might be, but what for the interests of all Europe ought not to be. And that which ought not to be, and that which I trust Europe will take care shall not be, is the transfer of those countries to the sceptre of the Emperor of Russia. That is the object which, I trust, the Powers of Europe—I speak in the plural, because I trust the plural, and not the 279 dual, will be the proper expression with regard to those Powers—have determined shall never take place.
The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) asks, "What is our interest in this war?" and he also asked me to explain the meaning of the expression "the balance of power." Now, the hon. Member for Manchester and I differ so much upon almost every question involving great principles that I am afraid I shall be unable to gratify him by complying with his request to explain the meaning of the expression "the balance of power." I think, however, that a man of his unquestioned ability, of his extensive knowledge, who has arrived at the age which he has attained, and who has not by his intuitive perception acquired a knowledge of the meaning of the words "balance of power," is not likely to be greatly enlightened by any humble effort of mine. Why, Sir. call it what you like—"balance of power," or any other expression—it is one which has been familiar to the minds of all mankind from the earliest ages in all parts of the globe. "Balance of power" means only this—that a number of weaker States may unite to prevent a stronger one from acquiring a power which should be dangerous to them, and which should overthrow their independence, their liberty, and their freedom of action. It is the doctrine of self-preservation. It is the doctrine of self-defence, with the simple qualification that it is combined with sagacity and with forethought, and an endeavour to prevent imminent danger before it comes thundering at your doors. Now, Sir, I know that the hon. Member for Manchester is so attached to his principles—very properly and very sincerely so—that he thinks that peace is, of all things, the best, and that war is, of all things, the worst. Now, Sir, I happen to be of opinion that there are things for which peace may be advantageously sacrificed, and that there are calamities which a nation may endure which are far worse than war. This has been the opinion of men in all ages whose conduct has been admired by their contemporaries, and has obtained for them the approbation of posterity. The hon. Member, however, reduces everything to the question of pounds, shillings, and pence, and I verily believe that if this country were threatened with an immediate invasion likely to end in its conquest, the hon. Member would sit down, take a piece of paper, and would put on one side of the account the contribu- 280 tions which his Government would require from him for the defence of the liberty and independence of the country, and be would put on the other the probable contributions which the general of the invading army might levy upon Manchester, and if he found that, on balancing the account, it would be cheaper to be conquered than to be laid under contribution for defence, he would give his vote against going to war for the liberties and independence of the country, rather than bear his share in the expenditure which it would entail. The hon. Member has a perfect right to entertain these opinions, and to avow them in this way; but I do not think that that is the general feeling of the country, and, therefore, I look with as much confidence for the vote of the House, and for the support of the country, in carrying out the policy which, by necessity, the Government have been compelled to adopt, as if the very eloquent—eloquent it certainly was—but somewhat hypothetical argument of the hon. Member had not been urged, to induce the House to take a different view of the matter. The real question which we have to consider is, not whether the Mussulman is better or worse than a Christian—whether it is desirable to hasten, more or less, those internal reforms which must sooner or later take place in the Turkish empire—not that we have proposed to Turkey a convention containing exactly the same declaration which we have urged Turkey to resist in the face of Russia—for nothing of the sort has been done—but I say the question is not, whether sooner or later, those reforms and that equality of religion and races shall take place in Turkey, which sooner or later must inevitably take place. The question we have to consider is this, whether Turkey is to lie prostrate at the feet of one great overwhelming Power—whether one Power is to bestride the globe from the north to the south, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, to dictate to Germany, to domineer in the Mediterranean, to have the whole of the rest of Europe at its mercy to deal with as it pleases—or whether that Power shall be taught that there are limits even to the ambition of a Czar—that there are limits even to the conquest of a military empire, of which one may say that the whole territory is one great camp, and the population one recruiting depôt—and that in spite of the power which a Sovereign may be able to sway—in spite of the military resources which he is able to command—that there 281 does exist in the Powers of Europe a respect for the principles of national independence—that there does exist in the Powers of Europe a determination to resist the overwhelming encroachments of any Power, be that Power what it may—and that we are able, as we are willing, since resort to arms has become necessary, to maintain in arms, by sea and by land, the liberties of Europe and the independence of nations.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, having had, on a previous occasion, the opportunity of making some remarks upon the papers on the table, I should not have presumed now to address you, but for two reasons; and the principal one is, that this being a Motion for an Address to the Crown in answer to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Message, I thought it hardly consistent with my duty to the Gentlemen with whom I have the honour of sitting, if I allowed it to pass entirely unnoticed on their part. I rise, sir, to support the Address which the noble Lord has moved. I rise to support it in the same spirit in which I endeavoured to express my opinions upon the first night that we met. Sir, the power of declaring war is the prerogative of the Crown. I look upon that prerogative as a real prerogative; and if Her Majesty sends a Message to Parliament, and informs us that She has found it necessary to engage in war, I hold that is not an occasion when we are to enter into the policy or impolicy of the advice by which Her Majesty has been guided. It is our duty, under such circumstances, to rally round the Throne, and to take subsequent and constitutional occasions to question the policy of Her Majesty's Ministers if it be not a proper one. Sir, I know that the expression of these opinions has subjected myself and others who sit on this side of the House to imputations which I think unjust; and, to my great surprise, those imputations have come from the Treasury bench. We have been told that it was not open to us to support Her Majesty under the circumstances to which we refer, and at the same time to reserve to ourselves the right of questioning the policy which has recommended Her Majesty to have recourse to such an extreme measure as war. But I must, on this occcasion, however, as I have done on previous occasions, vindicate the right of the Opposition not only to support the Government under the circumstances in which we feel it our duty to support the present Govern- 282 ment, but at the same time to question the prudence of the counsels which has rendered it necessary that all parties in the nation should surround the Crown with their unanimous support. Sir, this question has before been argued in this House. I have met with a passage only this evening, which I will quote, because it not only is brief, but is part of a speech made by one who was a great favourite of the House, and whose words can never be quoted here without some effect. Mr. Canning was once taunted in the same spirit in which hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House have been taunted, because they support a Government carrying on a war, of which Government they, at the same time, disapprove. How did Mr. Canning meet this taunt? In answer to Mr. Sheridan, he said:—Mr. Sheridan has stated it as a matter of grave imputation against those who, like myself, are ready to vote for every measure of defence and preparation that the Minister may think proper to propose, that while we concur in such measures, we do not withhold expressions of distrust and disapprobation of the general conduct and system of the policy of those who propose them. It is urged as if there were something uncandid in not giving confidence to a Government at the moment the subject of debate is one on which you agree. Now, Sir, I am, on the contrary, of opinion that it would be much more uncandid and unfair to conceal our general sentiments at the moment of our expressing our approbation.And he adds,—We are not ready, whatever we may think of the counsels by which we have been brought into our present danger—whatever we may think of the chance of being extricated from it by the same counsels; we are, therefore, not ready to obstruct those counsels in anything confessedly directed to that end—we are, therefore, not ready to deliver our common country defenceless into the possession of the enemy.I think, Sir, that a complete vindication, and the best authority for the course that we have thought proper to adopt; and on this, and on all similar occasions, we shall feel it our duty to support Her Majesty in vindicating the honour of the country, and in defending the best interests of the empire.
Sir, there is another reason why I have ventured this night to rise. Since I expressed my opinion upon the documents—the weighty documents—which detail the conduct of the Government in the negotiations, and which were placed on the table at the meeting of Parliament, other documents have been added for our consideration, and, remembering the opinions which I have expressed, I cannot allow these 283 documents to pass without some brief notice on my part. Those documents have been referred to in the course of the debate. They have been referred to by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard), in a speech of eminent ability, which I thought might have attracted more attention and a completer answer than it has yet received from Her Majesty's Ministers; and no doubt there is in these documents, and in the observations of the hon. Member for Aylesbury, much which I think cannot ultimately be passed by unnoticed by Her Majesty's Government. Sir, the hon. Gentleman who addressed the House after the noble Lord, referred, without circumlocution, to the fact that there was a discordance of opinion in the present Cabinet on the important policy which now occupies our consideration, and which has led to such vast results. I am the last person, I am sure, who would in this House fancifully assume any variance of opinion in a Cabinet. I think there is no weapon of opposition more illegitimate—I would say more unconstitutional, or, if I might use the language of the Emperor of Russia, more ungentlemanlike. I remember, some few years ago, when the present First Minister of the Crown, with the "aid," as we were informed by the present Leader of the House of Commons, "of some foreign conspirators"—and I am sure the noble Lord is a gentleman who would never make such a statement without due authority—I say that I remember, a few years ago, when the First Minister of the Crown, by the aid of foreign conspirators, prevailed upon the First Lord of the Admiralty, sitting opposite me, to impeach, as it were, a Secretary of State, who is also sitting opposite to me—I remember that I had occasion, both publicly and privately, to protest against a course of Parliamentary persecution which I thought so unjustified and unprecedented. It was my opinion, that as not the slightest evidence existed which could in any way make a difference, so far as the opinion of the Cabinet was concerned, between the noble Lord and his Colleagues, that nothing could be more unjust, nothing more unfair and unparliamentary, than to bring an attack against the noble Lord then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs as distinct and isolated from his Colleagues. No circumstances had ever transpired which for a moment justified the belief that the foreign policy of the Cabinet of the noble Lord 284 the Member for the City of London was not supported by the whole of his Colleagues; and in this House, although I highly disapproved of that foreign policy, and especially of the insurrectionary mission into Italy, I took the opportunity, when I presumed to address the House, of stating in the most distinct manner, so far as I was concerned, that my disapprobation was a disapprobation of the policy of the Cabinet, anti not of the policy of the individual.
Sir, I say that on that occasion not a circumstance had transpired which could authorise the belief that the Members of the Cabinet of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London had any difference of opinion upon foreign affairs, nor have I any reason to believe that they had. But is that the case at the present moment? The hon. Member for Aylesbury has called your attention to the strange contradiction in expression, in sentiment, and in conduct, that prevails upon this subject in the present Administration. On a previous occasion I have myself also alluded to it. Sir, we have Members of this present Cabinet who tell us that the integrity and independence of Turkey are facts, and facts of the utmost importance. We have Members of the present Cabinet who tell us that the integrity and independence of Turkey are not facts, but are phantoms and phrases. We have a Secretary of State in the other House of Parliament, and a Secretary in a most important department, so far as foreign policy is concerned, telling us that it is the interest and intention of England to secure for the Christian subjects of the Porte equal privileges with the Mussulman subjects of the Porte; and we have the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) to-night informing the House most positively, that the present Administration have no intention whatever of insisting upon such a policy. We have the war in this House called a blessing, and in another place we have it denounced as a curse; and, above all, about to embark in a war to uphold the independence of the Porte, we have the Foreign Minister of England, in a despatch which is read in the Senate of his country, announcing that, although we may succeed in crippling Russia in the coming struggle, the irretrievable destruction of Turkey is the most probable of events. I say then, Sir, that it is a fact that there is a difference of opinion in the present Cabinet—that there has been a difference of opinion in the pre- 285 sent Cabinet on the policy which we ought to pursue between Russia and Turkey. Nor is it wonderful that that difference of opinion should exist. There have always been two theories upon that important subject which, in common phrase, is called "the Eastern question." Two theories have always existed, and each has been maintained by statesmen of eminence. There are statesmen who are of opinion that there is vitality in Turkey—that, far from being exhausted, it is a country full of resources, and of resources hitherto only imperfectly developed. There are statesmen, and the noble Lord opposite (Visct. Palmerston) is one of them, who believe that Turkey is a country not only qualified for independence, but absolutely capable of progress. Statesmen of this school, upholding these opinions, have been of opinion that, with wisdom and with firmness, Turkey might form a substantial and a real barrier against Russia. Then there is the other school, which believes that there is no vitality in Turkey—that it is decaying and decrepit—that its resources, always imperfectly developed, perhaps, are now virtually exhausted, and that it is totally impossible that it can long exist as an independent or quasi-independent community; and these statesmen, not wishing to hand over this rich prey to its powerful neighbour, have been of opinion that by encouraging the Christian subjects of the Sultan, and by advancing the civilisation and increasing the right of those classes, you might in time prepare a population for Turkey which would prevent that intermediate state of anarchy which otherwise would happen between the fall of a great empire and the rise of a new Power.
These, Sir, are opinions that may be entertained, and conscientiously entertained, by men of great abilities, however various the conclusions at which they arrive, and however opposite the results which they ultimately adopt. But it is a notorious fact that the present First Minister of the country has never concealed that he was a disciple, or rather a professor and votary, of the second class of opinions. He never has believed in the vitality of Turkey—he has never professed to believe in the vitality of Turkey—he has never professed that he believed it could be an independent State, and of course he could not believe it was a progressive one. He has been called upon in the course of his career to act on different occasions, when this great "Eastern question" has 286 been placed before him for its solution or its management. The hon. Member fur Aylesbury has referred to several of those occasions. The year 1829 will not be easily forgotten. We have it upon record, that Lord Aberdeen, then Secretary for Foreign Affairs under the Duke of Wellington, agreed with the Russian Government that the Turkish ports in the Mediterranean should be blockaded, and if that blockade had been established Turkey could not perhaps have held out its first campaign—certainly could not have maintained itself during a second. I mention this because it is convenient at the present time, when the Duke of Wellington is no longer with us, to tell the world that the Duke of Wellington was Prime Minister and responsible for all that then occurred. But it is a well-known fact, and upon record, that the Duke of Wellington repudiated the agreement of Lord Aberdeen, as the Secretary of State who assented to the blockade, and it was owing to the Duke of Wellington that it was abrogated. We have it upon record—I heard it myself from the most illustrious of modern statesmen, and I do not doubt that there are some Gentlemen in the House who have heard it also—that Prince Metternich never would have encouraged Turkey to make a second campaign in 1829, had he not had a moral conviction that the British fleet would have entered the Black Sea; and we know that Lord Aberdeen prevented it. I do not say that he did not act from what he considered to be a sense of duty—that he thought, on the whole, it was much better that he should temporise and patch up the existence of a State which he believed to be in a condition, not only of rapid decay, but of impending dissolution—but if Lord Aberdeen on that occasion committed a great mistake, it should be remembered that he is the statesman who is called, at the present moment, to preside over the destinies of this country, at a time of a still more trying and stirring exigency, when the same materials are in action and the same questions are at issue.
Sir, I must now call the attention of the House to that mysterious document, the memorandum of 1844—a document which hardly anybody has referred to—to which the Member for Aylesbury has only slightly alluded, which has received but little attention from the press, and which certainly, from the way in which it has been placed before the House, without note or comment, 287 I should not be much surprised if those who have been little accustomed to papers of this description were to pass by as a document little worth notice. But I hope to show to the House that this is one of the most important public documents which has ever been submitted to Parliament. I venture to say that nothing but the unprecedented circumstances which have occurred—circumstances unforeseen and unexpected, which must have confounded any Cabinet when they became known—could ever have brought that document under the consideration of the House of Commons. It is called the Memorandum of Count Nesselrode of June, 1844; but it is a document which, from the whole tenor of its expressions, from one end of it to the other, must be called and treated as an agreement, for it says, "to secure these objects of common interest, the Emperor agreed with Her Britannic Majesty's Ministers," and it goes on further to say that "this notion was, in principle, agreed on during the Emperor's last residence in England." In fact, this document, which is not very long, is drawn up and composed in a form which assumes that there is an agreement, and its object is to embody the spirit of that agreement which had been entered into between the then Government of England and the Emperor of Russia personally, during the visit of the Emperor to this country. Now, then, what are the points upon which the agreement takes place? The first point is nothing more nor less than a proposition for the partition of Turkey, made by the Emperor of Russia to the English Government. That is the first point in the document. The English Government is not asked to enter upon that partition to-day or to-morrow; but the very fact that such a suggestion was made, and that the subject was dwelt upon, shows that the time was not considered far distant. The first point, then, of the agreement is that there shall be a partition, when it becomes necessary, of the Turkish empire. And how is that partition to be effected? It is to be effected by the agency of Great Britain, and Russia, and Austria alone, with the studied omission of France—with the express, the intentionally express, omission of France. And the noble Lord who has just addressed us, speaking on a subject of which he is a master like a master, giving to the House all the reasons for the lamentable condition of affairs at present, tells the House he had no doubt that the catastrophe was precipitated, because when the present Govern- 288 ment came into office, the Emperor of Russia had an idea that there was no good feeling between England and France. Why, Sir, there was no good feeling between Great Britain and France when the Minister of England, in the year 1844, agreed to the ultimate partition of the Turkish empire by England and Russia and Austria alone without French interference or intervention. Observe now that you have in this document the prospective partition of Turkey, you have the marked exclusion of France, and you have something else which is exceedingly connected with the subject of our discussion to-night. What does the Emperor say, and what does Lord Aberdeen agree with the Emperor in 1844? Although they were not then ready for the partition of Turkey, the Emperor says that the Turkish Government have a very awkward habit of freeing themselves, or endeavouring to free themselves, from engagements to which they are bound by treaty; and that, if they do that, and the parties with whom they are under treaty endeavour to enforce a fulfilment of their engagement, it is apt to create a jealousy among the other Powers. When a case of that kind occurs, and the Porte fails in its obligations towards one of the great Powers, it is suggested, and apparently agreed, that no other great Power shall interfere to countenance or support her.
But is there nothing else? Yes; the Emperor of Russia says that it is of great importance to vindicate the rights of the Christian subjects of the Porte; and the Emperor quits England in the belief that he has made this agreement—that he has made an agreement with the present Prime Minister of England, who was then Secretary of State: first, that when the time shall arrive there shall be a partition of Turkey, and that that partition shall be effected by Russia, Austria, and England alone, without the interference of France: secondly, that, in the meantime, he is to interfere in the government of Turkey upon pretence of treaties and treaty rights, which no other great Power is to question; and upon the pretence also of vindicating the rights of the Christian subjects of the Porte. But then, Sir, we are told that this was not an agreement—that it was only a memorandum of Count Nesselrode, found in our Foreign Office, and never heard of until it had been noticed in the St. Petersburg Gazette. What evidence of concord, it may be asked, is there? 289 There is no signature of Lord Aberdeen. It is not a convention—it is not a protocol—it is only an understanding between two gentlemen, and two gentlemen who were old friends. But let me ask this of any one who has the courage to say that this was not an agreement between those two gentlemen—What was the answer which was sent to this document when it was forwarded from St. Petersburg? The English Minister is waited upon by the Russian Ambassador here, who gives him, with great form and ceremony, to hold as a sacred deposit, what affects to be the substance of an agreement entered into between the Emperor of Russia and the Ministers of Her Britannic Majesty. We have been told the result. The Minister received the document—locked it up in the Foreign Office—handed it over to his successor—invested it, in fact, with every accident and circumstance which could impart to it the character of a great State secret, but did not consider himself bound by it. Did he consider himself bound to give any answer to Count Nesselrode? Did he say, "I have received this which affects to be an agreement between the Emperor of Russia and the Government of Great Britain, but the notion of such an agreement is a complete dream—no such conferences ever took place; no such agreement was ever entered into; there ought to be no mistake on so grave and important a subject as the partition of an empire; and, in order to prevent misconception, I too send a memorandum." If he did that, where is the memorandum? Where is the answer to Count Nesselrode? I am bound to believe, in the absence of that document, that no answer was ever sent; I am bound to believe, therefore, that this document was received by Lord Aberdeen in the same spirit in which it was drawn up, and I am bound to look upon it as an agreement between Lord Aberdeen and the Emperor of Russia—in the first place as to the partition of Turkey, and, in the next place, as to the unquestioned and unchallenged interference of the Emperor of Russia in the government of Turkey, first, upon the ground of treaty rights, and secondly, as the champion and the vindicator of the Christian subjects of the Porte.
Well, then, Sir, let us see whether the document of the Czar is not materially affecting our position at the present day—whether it has not materially contributed to bring us into the position which we now occupy. And here, Sir, I am bound to 290 say that I think the observations of the noble Lord were very fairly put, so far as they related to the ultimate intentions of the Emperor of Russia, or to the policy of his country. I think that upon this point considerable misconception prevails, and that nothing could be more inexpedient than that England should go to war because it thinks that any foreign potentate has not behaved with sufficient candour, or that the policy of a foreign Power has been dictated by an undue spirit of aggression. These are not causes which would warrant us in hazarding so great a stake of life and treasure. With respect to the first point—the personal conduct of the Emperor of Russia—I am bound to say that, having read this "secret and confidential" correspondence, I entirely acquit him of any duplicity. He informed us not only of his future plans, but of his present intentions; and I should say that a frankness, which is very remarkable, characterises that correspondence. As for saying that when secret and confidential letters are published in this way there may not be traits and details which may create an impression unfavourable to the individual, all I would observe on it is, that I should think hardly any Gentleman in this House would like his secret and confidential correspondence to be suddenly published to the world, and the whole of his character and conduct to be suddenly and severely guaged and ascertained by what might appear upon the face of that correspondence—a correspondence, in this instance by the way, which was not written or conducted by the principal. But if you come to the spirit of aggrandisement on the part of Russia, I am bound to say also that I think the noble Lord made a very just observation, that we should not be in too great a hurry to believe that Russia is animated by any extraordinarily immoral propensity to increase her territory. I do not think it becomes any of the great Powers of Europe to urge that topic. I do not understand how France—our faithful ally at this moment—can come into court with clean hands and urge as a complaint against the Emperor of Russia the fact of the occupation of the Principalities, while she herself is in possession of one of the most considerable of the Principalities of Turkey—namely, the province of Algiers. I do not think it becomes England to do so with her Indian wars, and her recent proceedings in Burmah. Nor do I think it becomes that country to which the hon. 291 Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) has referred as one that had redressed the political equilibrium—I mean the United States, which has recently absorbed Texas—to come forward at this moment and dilate on the immoral tendencies and the immoral policy of Russia. We oppose the policy of Russia, because, if she succeeds in getting possession of Constantinople, we believe she will exercise such a preponderating influence in European politics as would be fatal to the civilisation of Europe, and injurious to the best interests of England,
Well, Sir, the class of politicians represented by the noble Lord in his speech tonight—who believe there is vitality in Turkey—who believe there are the elements of continued independence in Turkey—who believe that she may be maintained in that independence and in her territorial integrity—that class of politicians may fairly call upon us to support her in this emergency. But as to that other class of politicians to whom the hon. Member for Aylesbury referred, and whose position is illustrated by the memorandum of 1844, I confess I cannot understand how they can call upon us to support the integrity and independence of a country which they believe to be utterly incapable of either quality. I say, then, you have been brought into the position you now occupy by a divided Cabinet, representing discordant opinions. We know the opinions of that portion of the Cabinet which the First Minister of the Crown represents. We have those opinions illustrated by the policy of 1829 and the policy of 1844. After the fall of Sir Robert Peel, and while the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell) was First Minister of the Crown, and the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department (Viscount Palmerston) was Secretary for Foreign Affairs, we were not troubled with any schemes of partition. And again when Lord Derby succeeded to office, no plans of partition were suggested to us; so notorious was the determination of the late Government, and of the Government of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, to maintain a good understanding with France. These partition schemes were considered to be so far settled in the year 1844, that when the Emperor of Russia returned to St. Petersburg he believed that the policy of Catherine had been virtually fulfilled; but the Ministry of that day, of which Lord Aberdeen was a 292 Member, was much briefer than at the time was anticipated. During the whole period that the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was Prime Minister, and during the time the Earl of Derby was Prime Minister, those plans were suffered to sleep. Yet, almost within forty-eight hours of the arrival of the news at St. Petersburg, that Lord Aberdeen had unexpectedly become Prime Minister, we find the Emperor, with feverish haste and undignified restlessness, sending for the British Ambassador and proposing to revert to the agreement of 1844.
Well, Sir, the circumstances under which Lord Aberdeen acceded to office were very remarkable. There was a patriotic determination on the part of various sections of this House who had little sympathy with each other in party or political feeling, to secure peace and Parliamentary reform. Sir, no time was to be lost in the attainment of those objects, and it was perfectly clear that, by turning us out, and making Lord Aberdeen Prime Minister, a large measure of reform could alone be obtained and peace preserved. We had then the Emperor of Russia instantly reverting to this policy. You say that the Emperor of Russia has been guilty of duplicity. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), who really understands the question, talks of the deception with respect to the mission of Prince Menchikoff. Why, what do we find in the "secret and confidential" despatches, which range only over the first two months, barely three months, of the year? What are the great features? The features are these—a proposition for the partition of Turkey in the spirit of the memorandum of 1844; and shortly after, when this is discovered not to be quite ripe, as much in the opinion, as it appears to me, of the Emperor of Russia as of the English Ministers, either at St. Petersburg or at St. James's—what next? A frank piece of information that Prince Menchikoff is at Constantinople with certain objects which they care not to explain, and which you do not even ask them to explain. The Emperor says, "I shall be above board—I tell you fairly Menchikoff is at Constantinople; if the Porte will not consent to his demands, I will not be trifled with; I will use force." That is in the month of February. In that month the Emperor tells Sir Hamilton Seymour that he will not be trifled with, and that if Menchikoff cannot obtain his objects, he will have recourse to force. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) 293 has given us a rapid but accurate narrative of these strange events, so that I need only allude to them to complete my argument. Sir Hamilton Seymour, who was not in the secret, much agitated, communicates with the Secretary of State, who then happened to be the noble Lord the Member for the City of London—a Member, I believe, of that school of politics who have faith in the vitality of Turkey, who believe that that country has great resources undeveloped, and that it may be both independent and progressive, a professor of what I will call, to make things simple, British politics on the subject, not Russian ones. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), who, I believe, took the seals of the Foreign Office with no serious intention of fulfilling the duties of that position, otherwise he would not have remained in it for so brief a time—indeed, we were informed, from the first formation of the Ministry, that another individual was to occupy that position—the noble Lord is called upon to answer this strange communication, and he does so in a despatch which I am as little inclined as the hon. Member for Aylesbury to criticise, in which I think there is much to praise; but still, one ought to be impartial, and as one is criticising his Colleagues, I am bound to say that there are some portions of this despatch to which I should have thought the noble Lord might have referred in his opening address, for they appear to me to need some explanation. This is what you call an historical despatch, and I think the occasion justified it. The noble Lord refers to the Succession war, and to the demise of the dynasty of the Medici. I doubt not the Emperor of Russia had heard the Succession war, the last of the Medici perhaps was more familiar to the poetic historians, amongst whom the noble Lord once figured. But when the noble Lord referred to the Succession war—to which he often refers, and always with vigour and accuracy—when he adorned the pages of his despatch with that felicitous recollection of the last of the Medici, I could not help wondering why the noble Lord, as he is apt to be historical, and wished to make an impression, a friendly impression, upon the Emperor of Russia, had not in this despatch referred to an instance and an illustration which I think would have been far more apposite and instructive. Why did not the noble Lord take a case more in point? Because neither of the instances to which he refers has really any analogy with the partition of Turkey. 294 Both are cases in which possibly a dismemberment and certain appropriation of territories was to be occasioned at the extinction of a dynasty. That is not the case with Turkey. The Sultan is alive; he is a young man, with a great many wives and a great many children. Suppose the noble Lord had said, "Sir, the only instance which I can recall to instruct us at this perplexing moment, is one with which your Majesty must be acquainted, and of more recent occurrence. It is not a political dilemma that occurred from the extinction of a dynasty, but rather from the partition of a kingdom. Sir, if we look to what occurred at the partition of Poland, I think that England, that Europe, and that even Russia, may have cause to hesitate before they again embark in such a venture, which has led to consequences so perilous even to your Majesty." But no; not a word about Poland. There is, however, something else in this despatch which I confess I read with the utmost astonishment. The tone in general is good, except that the noble Lord says that he thinks that at present there is no sufficient evidence to prove that the Sultan cannot govern his dominions; and his successor soon took especial care that the Sultan should not be able to govern his dominions, so far as the instructions from the Secretary of State to our Ambassador could bring about that. The noble Lord says that, as we cannot consent to the partition—the noble Lord certainly did not consent to the partition; but the noble Lord says:—"Your Majesty may find something to occupy you. There are means by which you may advance your hereditary policy. The memorandum of 1844, so far as the partition is concerned, is, in my opinion, impracticable; but the schemes of 1844, which are to prepare for the partition—viz. the protectorate of the Greek subjects of the Sultan—surely this is an office the exercise of which may well occupy your Majesty, and which may, in the meantime, effect all that a reasonable man may desire." What does the noble Lord say? He reminds His Majesty of that protection which the Emperor has already said he had found so burdensome and inconvenient. He tell us that it is "no doubt prescribed by duty and sanctioned by treaty." Now, mind, these are remarkable words. This is not merely a right, it is a duty. A man may possess a right, and it may be an inchoate right; he may not choose to exercise it; he is master of himself, and 295 though he has it may come to the conclusion not to exercise it. Some men have a right of free warren; but a wise man would not exercise such a right in the present day. It is not merely a right the Emperor may decline to exercise; but it is also a duty which it is prescribed to him to fulfil. I think that is a remarkable admission. I want to know where are the treaties which sanction this right and which prescribe this duty? I think the noble Lord who was then Secretary of State, though for too short a time (Lord J. Russell), ought to condescend to inform the House where these treaties are to be found. The noble Lord is a very dexterous hand at a schedule—I do not know any statesman who has placed more schedules on the table of the House of Commons. Now if the noble Lord will place upon the table a schedule of the treaties which prescribe it as a duty to the Emperor, and sanction it as a right, that he should protect the Christian subjects of the Grand Seignior, I think that would be one of the most instructive diplomatic documents that could possibly be offered now to our consideration. But I am told, at least I read it to-day in one of those organs that sometimes injure statesmen by defending their conduct and vindicating their character—I am told that this is a malignant misrepresentation, and that the protectorate referred to—the protectorate under the treaty—was that of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. But, unfortunately, this is an answer of the Secretary of State—it is an answer to a passage which, I think, is about as clear and as complete as any passage that ever I read. What says the Emperor, as reported by Sir Hamilton Seymour? This is the passage to which the then Secretary of State replies. The Emperor says:—In that empire"—of course the Ottoman empire—"there are several millions of Christians whose interests I am called upon to watch over, while the right of doing so is secured to me by treaty.He adds that he makes a moderate and sparing use of the right. Thereupon we have the answer of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). He agrees to it, and says:—It is no doubt prescribed as a duty, as well as sanctioned by treaty, that you should guard over the interests of the several millions of Christians in the Ottoman empire.But what are we going to war about? I thought we were going to war to prevent the Emperor of all the Russias from protecting the Christian subjects of the Sultan 296 of Turkey. That is really the question we are going to war about. We are not going to war to ensure the evacuation of the Principalities, although that may be the formal pretext of the declaration, because, the Emperor has twenty times offered to evacuate the Principalities if you will give him this protection over the Christian population of the Porte—a protection which, according to the Secretary of State who commences these important papers, will involve us in a European and enduring war—a protection sanctioned by treaty, and "no doubt prescribed by duty." It is not a casual admission—it is made doubly impressive. First it is a right, secondly a duty, and then it is a doubtless duty. I am not mentioning this to blame the noble Lord, at least not much, but when we hear Potentates and Ministers in other countries called fraudulent, when we are told that every modification of falsehood has been by them exhausted, when the passions of the country are excited to involve them in scenes of warfare, the cause of which is still obscure and the end of which is darker still, I must ask myself whether there is any foundation for these statements, what this fraudulence is about, what these modifications of falsehood apply to. What is the fraud? Is it the pretence, the plea, the pretext of the Emperor of Russia, that he should be the protector of the Christian population of the Porte? Now, my opinion is, that there is no plea whatever for the Emperor to assume that protection. I have shown the House on a former occasion, in a brief but accurate analysis of the treaty of Kainardji, the slight fabric upon which that monstrous claim was built up. But what does the Emperor of Russia care for my opinion? He cares for the opinions of Secretaries of State, responsible Ministers of the Crown, men with whom he holds "secret and confidential" correspondence, men upon whose advice and counsel the Queen of England is to declare war against him and his subjects and all his Russias. When, then, I say, when he has a secret despatch in which it is said, in answer to his own expressions, that the protectorate over millions of the Christian population of Turkey is doubtless his right, is even his duty to fulfil, then I say no wonder that the Emperor of Russia was a little nettled when he found that the Minister who had made this frank and complete admission was the first person who in the British Parliament should denounce that claim of 297 his as fraudulent. Notwithstanding that unfortunate paragraph about the treaties, I still could have wished that the noble Lord had remained Secretary of State, for I agree with the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard), who has touched upon that point so fully that it is unnecessary for me to refer to it, that there is a marvellous contrast in the tone, manner, and inclination between the despatches of the noble Lord and those of his successor. I say that it is this conflict in the Cabinet between British principles and Russian principles, British sentiments and Russian sentiments, upon this question that has ultimately brought us to the position in which we now find ourselves. I say that the partition of Turkey was by the Emperor himself, early in the course of these despatches, entirely set aside. It was not Lord Clarendon who closed that subject; it was the Emperor himself, who, speaking to Sir Hamilton Seymour early in the year, said, "The business of Montenegro has blown over; the time has not arrived to touch on that subject;" "therefore," virtually, he said, "I shall resort to other means by which I may obtain that supremacy in Turkey which must be a compensation and a substitute for the absolute and material appropriation of the States of Turkey; therefore I have sent Prince Menchikoff to Turkey, and my instructions to him are, if he cannot obtain his purpose, he is to use menaces, for I am not to be trifled with." I have thus traced the progress of the secret agreement of 1844. I have shown how the Emperor, systematically, candidly, with almost fatal frankness, required that agreement to be fulfilled, and endeavoured to work it out in all its provisions. And I ask you how you would have acted under those circumstances? I ask the House to consider how the present Government acted, with this full and complete knowledge of the views and policy of the Emperor? Now, mind you. I entirely acquit the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) from being a supporter of Russian politics in the Cabinet. I believe from first to last he has always maintained British principles, and was disposed to act on a British policy. He was at the head of foreign affairs only for a moment. He was called on to decide a difficult question, with no anterior experience of it, and he left office before it was well entered into. There was a different tone in the language of his successor, different conduct, and, as the hon. Member for 298 Aylesbury has shown you in clear detail, a totally different policy. What should have been the conduct of the Ministry? I ask the House to decide by their moral vote, for we shall not come to a formal vote, to say whether this war might not have been prevented?
Let me recapitulate before I sit down that I may not be misinterpreted, because these are questions on which there should be no misconception. I say that there are two systems of policy to apply to the management of what is commonly called the Eastern question, but which resolves itself into the geographical question, namely, the possession of that site which commands the empire of the world—the city of Constantinople. There is that school of opinions which I call British opinions, advocated by the noble Lord the Leader of this House (Lord J. Russell) and the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Viscount Palmerston), who believe in the vitality of Turkey, that it may remain an independent and even a progressive country, and form a powerful and sufficient barrier against the encroachment of Russia. There is the other school, which I call the school of Russian polities, that believes that Turkey is exhausted; that all we can do is, by gradually enfranchising the Christian population, to prevent, when its fall takes place, perfect anarchy, and contemplates the possibility of Russia occupying the Bosphorus. I say that the First Minister of this country has, during a long and consistent career, maintained on this subject Russian politics—that at every period of his career he has maintained a policy opposite to that supported by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. I say that in 1829 he did it, and that in 1844 he entered into a virtual agreement with the Emperor to carry out the policy of ultimate partition and intermediate interference. I say that during the Ministry of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and the Ministry of Lord Derby the Emperor of Russia never presumed for a moment to attempt to act on that agreement. I say that, from the moment Lord Aberdeen was the First Minister of this country, the Emperor of Russia never lost a moment in attempting to carry out his policy. I believe that the noble Lord opposite, in his brief interposition in the business, intended to assert British policy. I believe that sincerely; but the management of the business fell out of his hands into those of a noble Lord under the immediate, 299 and naturally immediate, influence of Lord Aberdeen, and for a considerable time the Government attempted to fulfil the policy of the memorandum of 1844, but at last, and by the efforts of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department, a contrary policy was adopted, which has terminated, and I shall shortly show the reason, in a state of warfare.
I ask, what is the course the Government ought to have adopted when they found so undisguisedly what was the purpose of Russia, and what was the secret agreement which Russia deemed probable of fulfilment? Mark one important fact. The Emperor of Russia, when he came to this country in 1844 personally to enter into this secret agreement, based the whole of his future operations upon an estrangement between England and France—the partition was to take place without the interference or interposition of France. Now, in 1844 there was a cordial understanding between England and France generally throughout the Government of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), and entirely through the Government of Lord Derby. But was there a cordial understanding between England and France when Lord Aberdeen acceded to power? Had the Emperor of Russia any reason to believe that there was any change in the feelings of this country towards France? A storm of invective against the Emperor of France was raised by the Colleagues of the noble Earl. No wonder the Emperor of Russia was in such extreme haste. No wonder he was so sanguine and so precipitate. No wonder he sent to Sir Hamilton Seymour immediately there was at the head of the Government of this country the individual who had agreed to the ultimate dismemberment of Turkey, who had agreed before the partition that Russia should indirectly govern Turkey, and who was surrounded apparently by Colleagues preventing a good understanding with France as much as possible. And then we are told by one of the Ministers that the Emperor made a mistake in supposing there was any change of feeling between the two countries. Why, was there not a change of feeling between the two countries? Is it not a fact that there was a considerable change, and have we not since found there was a most fatal alteration in the feelings of the two countries? No one can at this moment calculate the evil, the injury, which the conduct of the Colleagues of Lord Aberdeen 300 and himself occasioned with reference to that point?
Well, then, I say, what ought the Government to have done when these communications were made? Suppose you had said, as the Emperor of Russia said with regard to Prince Menchikoff's mission, "We are not to be trifled with. This is no trifling matter. We know the plans have been long matured, devised with great judgment, and ripened with great vigilance. We know the Emperor of Russia is not acting from caprice, but upon a supposed agreement with this country of ten years old. He is counting upon an estrangement between England and France, for, in conversation with Sir Hamilton Seymour, he reverts to the point that this is to be carried into effect without the interference or interposition of France. We must lose no time in letting the Emperor of Russia know that he is labouring under most serious and awful misconception. We must tell him great changes have taken place since 1844—that no Cabinet is bound by what can be considered only as an agreement between gentlemen; and, however favourably that may have been received at the moment, great changes have since occurred in the position of Turkey, in the progressive improvement of Turkey, and in the opinions of the people of this country with respect to Turkey. We must tell him it is totally impossible to sanction these plans and prospects of his—that we look upon Turkey as capable of forming an independent barrier to any aggressive Power; and though we are anxious to maintain with him a cordial friendship, he must dismiss from his mind for ever those plots and plans which he has nursed with so much sedulousness and so much secrecy." Was anything of this kind said? Ought not the Government to have said more? "Sir, we find you are labouring under a great mistake. You are misconceiving the relations which subsist between England and France. The relations are not dynastic relations. They do not depend in any degree on the families which occupy thrones; they have been formed by the development of the material interests of the two countries and the intimate alliance which those interests suggest. We cannot consent to the partition of Turkey. That is out of the question; but if it were absolutely necessary and inevitable to consider the state of that Power, the first counsellor we should call in would be France. You are labouring under a great 301 mistake, and you must relieve your mind from all this misintelligence." And do you believe, I ask, that if the Emperor of Russia—a prince of great sagacity, shrewdness, and ability—had been met in that way—if you had told him that partition was out of the question—that Turkey was not only to be maintained, but to be permitted to enter into the community of European nations—that France was the cordial friend of England, as you wished Russia also to be—do you believe that we should be at this moment discussing this question, or even in the possession of this painful "secret and confidential" correspondence? No, Sir, the war has been produced by one man. It has been produced by that individual who occupies the most eminent post in this country. And certain I am that, as time elapses, and not ere long, that will be the general conviction of all England.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I hope, Sir, I shall not have to occupy the House for any long time, while I reply to some at least of the observations which have been made in the course of this debate by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. I own I was a good deal surprised by the speech of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard). That speech was no doubt a very able speech, but what was still more remarkable than its ability was the bitterness with which it was distinguished. I own I cannot imagine how it is that the hon. Gentleman, who, we have been accustomed to believe, takes more interest in the welfare of Turkey, and is more desirous to prevent that Power being overthrown by Russia, than any other Member—that he upon this occasion, when the House is asked whether or no it will support Turkey in an active, earnest, and effectual manner against Russia, should have filled three-fourths, or even more, of his speech with personal attacks upon Members of the Administration. How flimsy, too, are the materials on which these attacks are based! The hon. Gentleman is famous for excavations, and he seems to have been excavating the columns of the Times newspaper for the past year. He has produced extracts from the Times to show that the opinions of the writers in the Times agreed very much with the opinions of Russia. If he had shown that they agreed with the opinions of the English Government it might be some matter of charge that the English Government and the editors of the Times were in communication with respect 302 to the Eastern question; but when he shows that the opinions entertained by the Times were the opinions which the hon. Member does me the credit of saying I was rebutting in this House, and declaring to be contrary to the policy of the Government, I really cannot see what purpose the hon. Gentleman hoped to attain, when he brought out the grave charge—almost a charge of impeachment—that he found the despatches received at the Foreign Office agreed in sentiment with the opinions given by the editors of the Times, and upon those premises he arrives at the somewhat illogical conclusion that the Times and the Government were leagued and agreed together. Unless the hon. Gentleman means to proceed generally with regard to papers, and to extend those inquiries which we have lately had some knowledge of, and to ask the editors of all the newspapers how they form their opinions, and who are the writers of particular articles—unless he goes to that length, I really do not see how he can make anything out of the charges he has made against the Government. With regard to the statement, that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs differed from me in respect to the communications made to the Emperor of Russia, I cannot but think that, though the expressions may be different, the sentiments are the same. The resolution not to agree in any previous arrangement with regard to Turkey was exactly the same, and as firmly declared by my noble Friend as it was previously declared by me. I need not, I think, refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright). The opinions of the hon. Member, no doubt, are sincerely entertained by him. My noble Friend near me (Viscount Palmerston) has expressed his entire difference from those opinions, and I think he has sufficiently treated of that subject to render it unnecessary in me to say a word upon it.
But then comes the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), and he is very much impressed with the notions of the Emperor of Russia, and says that there are certain things that are gentlemanlike, and others that are not. He says that he believes allusions to the differences between Members of the Government are not gentlemanlike; and believing these allusions to be ungentlemanlike and unconstitutional, what does he do? Why, he proceeded with painful detail and 303 at very considerable length, to point out the differences which he says existed in the Administration of 1829 between the Duke of Wellington and Lord Aberdeen, and he points out differences of a similar kind which he believes to exist between Members of the present Government; and he charges against one Member of the present Government and its head the faults for which his Colleagues must be responsible as well as the Earl of Aberdeen. That is the course the right hon. Gentleman adopts, and his theory of what is gentlemanlike very widely differs from his practice. But the right hon. Gentleman has criticised the memorandum of 1844, and the secret correspondence lately laid on the table; and in doing so he took not only parts of sentences totally separate from other parts, but mis-states the whole foundation of the memorandum and the correspondence, because the proposal of the Emperor of Russia is not to this effect, that "Turkey is a weak Power—she cannot maintain herself—let us ask her to give up her provinces—I will insist on having Bulgaria—do you insist on having Egypt, and we shall share the territory between us." That was the nature of the partition of Poland. The first, second, and last partition of Poland, all went on the strength of the combined Powers, and all consisted in making demands upon Poland, which bit by bit destroyed her territory and subverted her independence. Now the proposal of the Emperor of Russia was not of that kind, and therefore any reference on my part to the partition of Poland would have been a gratuitous impertinence, and would have been considered by the Emperor of Russia and his Government as having no application whatever to the proposal that he had made. Now, I think it is fair to suppose that the Emperor of Russia may well have imagined, as many persons, not in Russia alone, but in various other countries of Europe have imagined, that Turkey is a Power that cannot long maintain herself, and that the hour of her dissolution may be near at hand. Likewise, we may suppose that the Emperor may think that it would be very injurious to his empire and very injurious to his policy that, whilst he is respecting the integrity and independence of Turkey, England and France should agree upon what is to be the ultimate fate of territories that now form parts of Turkey. Well, if we take this supposition—a supposition I think natural enough—we arrive easily 304 enough at the first sentence of the memorandum of 1844. The right hon. Gentleman says it is a memorandum the sole object of which is the partition of Turkey, and which shows that that was the ruling idea in the Emperor of Russia's mind, and that in fact it contained a plan for that partition. Now, what is the first sentence of the memorandum:—Russia and England are mutually penetrated with the conviction that it is for their common interest that the Ottoman Porte should maintain itself in the state of independence and of territorial possession which at present constitutes that empire, as that political combination is the one which is most compatible with the general interest of the maintenance of peace.The right hon. Gentleman, then, conveyed to the House a false notion of the contents of the memorandum. The memorandum goes on to state that it would be very unfortunate if the dissolution of the Turkish empire should come about suddenly, and that there should be no previous agreement on the subject; and the Emperor proposes that England and Russia should so far understand each other as, in the face of the dissolution of Turkey, to devise measures as to what should have to be done. Sir, in accepting that memorandum, I believe Lord Aberdeen lost no time in communicating its substance to the Government of France; and so far from being on bad terms with France, it was the Government of Sir Robert Peel at that period which first gave rise to the phrase of the entente cordiale, which then subsisted between England and the Government of Louis Philippe. So far, then, has the right hon. Gentleman mistaken the facts of the case, or allowed himself to ramble. Well, the right hon. Gentleman treats of the despatch which I had the honour to write, and says it was evidently my object that, not agreeing to the partition, I should give to the Emperor of Russia an occupation, and point out to him an employment in which he could spend his time in future, and that that employment should be the protection of the Greek subjects of the Porte. Now, the right hon. Gentleman made that representation by dint of leaving out part of a sentence; because the sentence I used, after saying that the Sultan should be advised to treat his Christian subjects with equity and religious freedom, went on to say:—The more the Turkish Government adopts the rules of impartial law and equal administration, the less will the Emperor of Russia find it necessary to apply that exceptional protection 305 which His Imperial Majesty has found so burdensome and inconvenient, though no doubt prescribed by duty and sanctioned by treaty.My object was not to point out that he should interfere more, but that, as the Government of the Sultan improved, he would find less occasion to interfere. Well, the right hon. Gentleman finds fault with the end of the sentence, "Though no doubt prescribed by duty and sanctioned by treaty." Well, I should have supposed that the treaty of Kainardji imposed certain obligations upon Turkey, and reciprocal obligations on the Emperor of Russia, else why does the hon. Member for Aylesbury and others wish to get rid of the obligations of that treaty? Is it not that in that treaty there is an engagement taken on the part of the Sultan to the Emperor of Russia that protection shall be given to the Christian religion and its churches? Can anybody believe that it would be consistent with any duty which the Emperor of Russia has, that treaty having been signed, to hear of villages being destroyed, and the irregular troops of the Sultan, being authorised by the Sultan himself to kill men, and lead women and children away into slavery. I say the Emperor of Russia could not hear of those circumstances and not feel himself bound to remonstrate with respect to such outrages. Therefore, Sir, I was saying no more than what was generally acknowledged ever since the signature of the treaty of Kainardji, when I said that, in exceptional cases the Emperor could give protection to the Christians. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, although this appears at the end of the despatch, the whole purport of the document is to reject the proposal of the Emperor, that before the fall of Turkey we should make some arrangement as to the future division of its territory.
With respect to the general observations of the right hon. Gentleman, in which he divided the Cabinet into those who he says pursue a British policy, and those who pursue a Russian policy, I believe, whatever difference of opinion there may be as to Turkish institutions and Turkish rule, and the administration of the law in that country, that with respect to Russia there is no difference whatever in the Cabinet, and that we are all determined not to allow any weakness on the part of Turkey to contribute to the aggrandisement of Russia. That is, in fact, the essential part of this question. Those who are most con- 306 vinced of the weakness of Turkey, were naturally the most apprehensive of a war with Russia; not that they wished to favour the projects of Russia, but because they were afraid that, in the event of a war taking place, the position of Russia would become formidable in the balance of power. The right hon. Gentleman appears to find fault with the progress of the negotiations. Far be it from me to deny him the right which he or any other Member of this House possesses, of blaming the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in these negotiations. I believe, however, that the country in general would have blamed us if we had on the commencement of these transactions declared that there was no resource but war. If, under the delusive hope which the hon. Member for Aylesbury entertains, that if the war had been entered into earlier it would have been a short war, we had entered upon that war before we had exhausted the means of negotiation, the people of England would have blamed us for such conduct. I said last year that we ought not to make war till we had exhausted every resource for effecting a pacific termination of the disputes. The only way by which you would obtain the hearty assent of the people of this country to any war would be by showing them that you have made long-continued—and protracted, if you will—efforts to effect a pacific solution of the question. The Government are ready; they may meet with the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman, and with the censure of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury, but they believe that if either the right hon. Gentleman or my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury will produce a Resolution stating that we did not go to war sufficiently early, that we did not use that language to the Emperor of Russia which the right hon. Gentleman would have put into our mouths, I believe the country would disapprove of any such Resolution. I am quite sure that the language that the right hon. Gentleman would have had us use to the Emperor of Russia would have been totally unsuited to the occasion. If we had said to the Emperor, "You have proposed to us a partition of Turkey; no such proposition shall be allowed," the Emperor of Russia would have said, "I proposed no partition; what I asked you to do was to make an arrangement against the fall of Turkey happening without preparation." This answer we could not have met, because it would 307 have been precisely within the terms of his proposal. I, therefore, submit to the House that we ask them to agree to a vote, not upon the ground that we have taken the first opportunity of making war, but that we have exhausted every endeavour to avoid war. And we even come before this House with every wish to restore peace as soon as it can be done consistently with the honour and interests of this country—that we know and have weighed the great power of Russia in any contest in which she may engage—that it has been with reluctance that we embark in this contest—but that, having entered upon it, we feel ourselves bound to give to Turkey every assistance in our power, and we rely upon the support of the nation in the struggle in which we are engaged.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, he had no confidence in France, and he did not think the explanations of the Government had been sufficiently satisfactory. There had been, in his opinion, great neglect and great delay, and he must complain of the vacillation that had characterised the councils of the Government. He believed, nevertheless, the country would be ready to assert the national honour and dignity. He did not like the sudden changes that were constantly taking place in the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had hit them hard, and very hard, and they would go home and feel it. Poor creatures, he pitied them. He believed the war might have been avoided if proper steps had been taken at an earlier period, and for his part his humble services were at the disposal of his country.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I have to ask your advice, Sir, as to the next question. I wish to move that this Address be carried up to Her Majesty by the whole House. It is usual, I believe, to appoint a Committee in such cases to prepare the Address, but I believe that course will not be absolutely necessary, and if we could depart from it I would at once move that the Address be presented to Her Majesty by the whole House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The noble Lord has correctly stated the practice of the House. Whenever an Address has been agreed to by the House in answer to a Message from the Crown, it has been usual to appoint a Committee to draw up an Address in con- 308 formity with the Resolution of the House, but when an Address from the House to the Crown has been taken up by a Privy Councillor it has not been usual to appoint a Committee to draw it up, though the Address presented by a Privy Councillor would be in the same form as an Address presented by the whole House. The form of the Address, however, can as well be drawn up by the whole House as by a Committee, and if the noble Lord will move that the Address be presented to Her Majesty by the whole House, I am not aware of any objection to that course.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Then, Sir, I will now move that the Address be presented to Her Majesty by the whole House.
That the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by the whole House.
That such Members of this House as are of Her Majesty's Most honourable Privy Council do humbly know Her Majesty's pleasure when She will be attended by this House with the said Address.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I hope, Sir, the House will agree to meet on Monday at half-past two, when I am led to believe I shall be in a position to convey
House the command of Her Majesty, that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to receive the Address of this House shortly after that hour—namely, about three o'clock.
§ The House adjourned at One o'clock till Monday next.