LORD HENRY LENNOX
Sir, before you leave the Chair, I am anxious to put a Question to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Os-borne) whether he is satisfied with the nature and the tenour of the reply he just now received from the noble Viscount at the head of Her Majesty's Government? for, if he is satisfied, I feel no hesitation in saying that he is the only Member in the House who is so; and when to-morrow morning the newspapers carry the intelligence over the country, I venture to say that few of their readers will sympathize with the answer of the noble Viscount. The noble Lord and the Government have all along discouraged any attempt on the part of the House to inquire what was going on in the Conference; and if complete secresy had been observed throughout Europe with regard to what was going on in the Council Chamber in Downing Street I should be the very last to undertake the responsibility of pressing upon 1277 Her Majesty's Government or my hon. and gallant Friend a course which would jeopardize the satisfactory issue of the deliberations which are being held there. But such is not the case. Though Her Majesty's Government maintain silence on the subject, the journals of Paris, Vienna, and Berlin teem with news of what passes, or is supposed to pass, in the Council Chamber of Downing Street. It will be recollected that when the Session began, the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, and his noble Colleague in another place, came down night after night and declared that it was the firm intention of Her Majesty's Government to abide by the Treaty of 1852. On a subsequent occasion the noble Viscount announced that the efforts of the Government had been successful in bringing about a Conference, which was immediately to meet to settle the most difficult and perplexing question to which I am now referring. The noble Lord added, amid the sympathizing cheers of his party, that the Conference was about to assemble on the basis of maintaining the integity of the dominions of King Christian IX. The noble Viscount and his noble Colleague having over and over again declared, that the Government was pledged to that policy, is, I think, a sufficient excuse to my gallant Friend to press his Question on the Government. I wish, therefore, before you, Sir, leave the Chair, to ask my hon. and gallant Friend whether he will give to the House an assurance that he will on an early day again call the attention of the House to this subject—I am sure that if he does he will receive the sympathy of a majority of the House and of the country—and endeavour to elicit from Her Majesty's Government whether the statements which are contained in the foreign journals be or be not true; and whether it be a fact that the Government, who early in the Session declared in favour of the Treaty of 1852 and the integrity of the Danish dominions, are now, by their representatives sitting in the Conference, which would not be sitting at all except on the basis of the effectual annihilation of the Treaty of 1852, by which alone King Christian sits on the throne of Denmark; and whether that basis is conducive to the dismemberment of Denmark?
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
I do not know what assurance I can give the House on this subject. Before I give any I should wish hon. Gentlemen on the other side to give me some assurance that, in the event of my again resusci- 1278 tating the discussion on the Treaty of 1852 I shall not be met by the "Previous Question." The course which I have hitherto taken in this matter has not met with very great encouragement from hon. Gentlemen opposite. My noble Friend now asks me whether I feel satisfied with the answer which I to-night received from the noble Lord at the head of the Government? Well, Sir, I may say in reply, that so far as my own private feelings are concerned—though I am thankful for the smallest favour—I do not feel exactly satisfied with that answer. I may add that it struck me from the first that this Conference was instituted rather to preserve the integrity of the Treasury Bench and to prevent the dismemberment of Her Majesty's Ministers than to maintain the integrity of Denmark. I would remind the House, too, that we have been going on in this way from day to day, and from week to week, and that we seem likely to go on in the same manner until at last the month of July will have arrived, when hon. Gentlemen on both sides will be leaving town, and this question will die a natural death. For my own part, I am surprised at the reticence which the House has observed on the matter. Up to a certain point the Government were probably right in deprecating the discussion of the subject, and I, perhaps, was wrong in bringing on my Motion when I did. Now, however, that we have arrived at the 6th of June, and we see that the Question is allowed to drag its slow length along from day to day, I think the House of Commons ought to be put in possession of some definite information with respect to it. What, I would ask, is the present position of the House and of the country generally? Why, that while the lowest inhabitant of the most petty capital on the Continent learns from his paper what is taking place at the Conference, we get "the best information" from foreign newspapers. So that it comes to this—that we, the subjects of a constitutional Sovereign, are the worst informed persons in Europe on a subject which is transacted in our own capital under our very noses. How long, I should like to know, is this to continue? If I were to use the word "farce," Sir, in connection with these proceedings I should, I believe, be called to order by you; but this I may say, that the House of Commons is placed in regard to them in a most humiliating position, and is being tricked into silence by 1279 the Members of the Government, who1 appear to have taken the vows usually taken by the monks of La Trappe. Whether they are digging their own graves is a different question; but of this I am certain, that if we submit to be put off day after day with evasive answers, in which the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton is so great a proficient, that he would be eminently qualified on that score alone for the degree which he took the other day at Cambridge, we shall be digging the grave, not only of the dignity of the House of Commons, but of the national honour.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I hardly know anything in our Parliamentary system which to my mind is more to be admired than the reserve which obtains in Parliament when it is known that Her Majesty's Government are engaged in important negotiations upon which the question of peace or war may turn. I think it a characteristic of our system which marks it out from all other attempts at Parliamentary government, and is one of the surest guarantees for the endurance of constitutional rule. But I must say that, after listening to the observations and accepting without annoyance the taunt of the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us about moving the "Previous Question,"—I having moved the "Previous Question" on a former occasion, when I thought it was for the interest of the country and due to Her Majesty's Government—I must say that I was disappointed by the answer which the noble Lord gave to the Question which was put to him by the hon. Gentleman at the commencement of our proceedings this evening. Wishing for the sake of the highest considerations, for the advantage of the country, to acknowledge in the fullest spirit the sound privilege which attaches to a Government in the position of carrying on negotiations—and negotiations by a Conference — I think that, in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, it would have been salutary, and it would have been wise and politic on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to have shown more candour and frankness than has been exhibited by the noble Lord to-night. Because you must remember that Parliamentary reserve under these circumstances depends upon one constitutional condition, and when that is observed the Parliamentary reserve is perfectly intelligible and constitutional. The condition of the reserve 1280 of Parliament when a Government is engaged in negotiations is that Parliament is acquainted with the principles upon which the negotiations are conducted, and approves the general policy of the Government. That is the condition which has always been acknowledged, and on which the salutary system of Parliamentary reserve under these circumstances is founded. But what the House of Commons is alarmed about—I am sure I do not misrepresent the general feelings of the House in this matter—what at this moment agitates the House is, that they are not convinced that the policy which was frankly announced by the Government before these communications commenced is the one which they are now pursuing; and the House and the country too are becoming anxious because they are not satisfied that the condition of Parliamentary reticence any longer exists and is observed. I do not want to penetrate the secrets of the Conference, but it has been well said by the Gentlemen who have addressed, us, that there is not that reserve in other countries which is observed in England. I myself read in a German paper the other day an absolute account of what took place on a most critical day in the Conference, and that not by way of rumour or on dit, but with all the forms of diplomatic accuracy, and I have reason to believe from subsequent inquiry that it was an authentic document. Now, Sir, although the House of Commons and those who sit on this side of the House are more than desirous, when these critical and important questions arise, not to interfere with the course of Her Majesty's Government or to embarrass negotiations, it is utterly impossible, it would be most pedantic for us to pretend that we are entirely ignorant, or believe that we are entirely ignorant, of what is taking place within a few yards of the House in which we are assembled; and there are rumours—rumours which appear to us of an authentic nature — which are enough to disquiet and disturb us all. No one could expect that while conducting negotiations of this kind the noble Lord would enter into any details; we should not expect minute communications from a Government who are conducting negotiations upon matters of detail which must change almost every day or even hour; still, it would have been satisfactory to the House if we had been informed by the noble Lord, that though the negotiations are not concluded — 1281 though the Conference was sitting and might sit for some time, still he could assure the House that the principles of policy which he had announced to the country were those upon which the Government entered into the Conference, were those which were guiding and animating their councils; that he believed that there was a fair prospect that they would succeed; and that if they did not succeed, Her Majesty's Government would have had the opportunity of vindicating, as far as their opinion was concerned, the policy which they recommended, and would appeal with confidence to the candid consideration of Parliament. But when we hear, as we do hear, that the course which the Government is pursuing is one exactly contrary to that which was announced in this House, it is impossible to expect from an assembly in which the popular element prevails to so large an extent as it does in the House of Commons, that we upon these Benches should hold ourselves in dignified reserve, and should not expect from the Ministers, whom under such circumstances we are inclined and prepared to trust, some communication to guide and enlighten public opinion. I therefore very much regret that the noble Lord has not said something which the House had a right to expect. I think that when we are informed that the question now in agitation is the continuation of the suspension of hostilities, the noble Lord ought to have given some general assurance to the House as to what had been the course of the negotiations. It would certainly have been satisfactory to the House to have heard something that would have persuaded us that what every man says in the city is not correct. I should have been glad to hear something from the noble Lord which would have assured us that Her Majesty's Ministers are not pursuing in the Conference a policy directly contrary to that which was announced in this House as the basis of their negotiations, and by the announcement of which, allow me to remind the House, they have obtained this Parliamentary reticence and reserve. It is because the noble Lord frankly declared what was the policy of the Government that he obtained that reserve. It was not because we are indifferent. It was because when such great interests were at stake the general policy of the Government was satisfactory to our convictions and to the conscience of the nation that we felt it was our duty to be 1282 silent; but I must say that the silence of the noble Lord and his answer to the Question that was asked at the commencement of the proceedings this evening fill me with great anxiety and apprehension. If the policy of the Government has been entirely changed—if at the moment when the renewal of the suspension of hostilities is in debate that policy has been entirely changed—I say that it is due to Parliament that some announcement should be made. We all know what was the general policy of Her Majesty's Government. In matters of this kind no one wishes to pin the Ministry to minute particulars. The noble Lord told us frequently, he told us continuously, that the policy of Her Majesty's Government was to maintain the Treaty of 1852 — or, rather, I should say, describing as he did the scope and tendency of the policy of 1852, it was to maintain the integrity and independence of Denmark. That was what the noble Lord has constantly told us; and because he went into the Conference to maintain that policy, and to uphold the integrity and independence of Denmark, the House of Commons has been silent, and it has in my mind exercised a wise and salutary Parliamentary reticence; so that it should not be said that we interfered and threw obstacles in the way of a happy solution of these circumstances of great difficulty and peril. But if, as rumour tells us, it is now otherwise—which appears to me too incredible to accept—if it be true that the Government who but five months ago were making overtures to the Emperor of the French to stir up a European war in order to maintain the integrity of Denmark; if, incredible as the fact may be, the men who followed such a policy—I think, at that time, a most dangerous, but at least a candid policy—should be the men who, having at last succeeded in calling together a Conference, are themselves accomplishing the destruction of the integrity and independence of Denmark—then I say that some explanation is due to the House of Commons, and the noble Lord may rest assured that neither Parliament nor the country can long be silent under circumstances so extraordinary. No one wishes to interfere with the course of Her Majesty's Government, if that course is a frank one; but, I say, no Minister is entitled to ask for Parliamentary reticence and reserve during the progress of negotiations if he has not first fulfilled the great condition of such Parliamentary reserve — that his policy 1283 shall be known to the country and generally approved by Parliament. If he follows a policy totally contrary it may be right—it may be possible to justify it; but when that change takes place, especially at a moment like the present, when the continuation of an armistice is in question, he is bound to come forward and frankly tell us, "Our policy is changed. We are perfectly prepared to vindicate our course. All we ask is, that you should continue your confidence to us, or at least that you should call our conduct in question, and let it receive either the sanction or reprobation of the House of Commons." If the hypothesis—which I should call wild, were it not for the authentic rumours and, I fear, accurate information which have reached me—is correct, I must say that it is impossible that any body of men should have been more elaborately deceived and mistaken than the House of Commons has been. Is it that we have relied merely upon the assurance of the Government? Is it merely that the noble Lord has come forward and told us that the policy upon which he was conducting his negotiations —that the basis upon which subsequently he entered into the Conference—was to maintain the integrity and independence of Denmark? Is that all? If that had been all we might have said that the noble Lord might be able to allege circumstances which might explain his conduct—that we might have misconceived him—that we might have placed too favourable a construction upon the declaration of the Minister. But that is not all. The noble Lord brought, as it were, Europe into witness and testimony of his policy. When we pressed the noble Lord for information he was always ready with assurances that "It is not merely the English Government that are prepared to maintain the integrity and independence of Denmark. Austria is equally anxious; Berlin is now desirous to maintain the integrity and independence of Denmark. So futile are your fears that I myself have this moment received a despatch." He told us one night, I remember, when I asked for some information— and the House was delighted to hear it from so high an authority and from so authentic a quarter— that Prussia was as desirous to maintain the integrity of Denmark as was the noble Lord himself. I should think the House of Commons and the country generally must have been surprised at the attitude 1284 maintained towards the Government. I do not regret it, for I would rather we should err on that side—nay, I think the noble Lord, with his long experience of difficult matters, must himself have been a little startled at the temper shown by the House of Commons. When on any evening he came into the House and found it anxious and agitated in consequence of news which had reached it, the noble Lord could hardly have speculated on the felicitous conclusion of his own management. Let the House remember what has occurred, and then let them contrast with that the silence and reserve which have been observed—silence and reserve not arising from indifference, from want of sympathy with others, from any want of feeling as to the magnitude of the conjuncture, or any want of perception as to the great interests at stake, but arising from a sentiment of patriotic prudence on both sides of the House, and a determination, under the circumstances, to assist the Government. Let me remind the House of some of the great incidents which it was the duty of the noble Lord to announce, and the replies which the noble Lord gave to appeals that were addressed to him. First of all, the House will remember the anxiety originally felt when the subject was first brought under our consideration. Parliament was about to be prorogued, when we had an assurance from the noble Lord that sent us all to our constituents without a care — I am sure it must have made every heart in Copenhagen happy and serene when the House of Commons was assured by the Premier that if difficulties ever arose, Denmark would not find herself alone. There are many like myself who — I will not say trembled, but hesitated, when they heard that war might be imminent, remembering, on the one hand, that grave national interests, and, on the other, that national honour, were concerned. But we were soon informed that we need not be nervous, for the noble Lord, whose prescience as a politician is celebrated, while he informed Denmark that she would not be alone if attacked, assured England that there was not the slightest probability of any such eventuality. When we met again, the Federal Execution, which before had been ridiculed, was impending. The House was prepared if Execution were carried out on constitutional principles that it could not interfere with the action of the Diet in Holstein; and I do not be- 1285 lieve that we should have done so. But then came the passage of the Eider. That was a great point on which the House and the country had fixed their attrition, and there was a general understanding that if the Eider were passed Her Majesty's Government must take such steps as would assert the spirit of their policy. But (he Eider was passed, other rivers were passed, and at last Jutland was invaded. The House cannot have forgotten the answer which the noble Lord gave to my question on that subject. He said the invasion of Jutland was an atrocity. That was the language used by the head of the Government—language which might rank with Borne of the great invectives that are recorded, and it shows what was the spirit of the Government at that time. After those various occurrences we found ourselves in the midst of Conferences and negotiations. And the House, notwithstanding the disappointments to which it had been exposed—notwithstanding matters affording ground for the belief that the conduct of the Government was very far from satisfactory—generously supported Her Majesty's Government the moment that a Conference was called. The House of Commons did so because the noble Lord told us frankly and candidly, and often repeated the statement, that the Government entered into that Conference for a definite object and with a definite view. We do not want to hold the noble Lord pedantically to the fulfilment of any particular detail which he may have announced at such a moment. All we want is that the spirit of his policy shall be observed and maintained. It was because we credited the noble Lord with this assurance that we were silent. A suspension of arms took place for a month; and that I held to be an incident of great importance, having ventured to remind the House that a Conference without an armistice or cessation of hostilities is generally fruitless and unsatisfactory. The mouth has now expired or is about to expire; and were there no rumours or suppositions, no causes to justify men in thinking that that is happening which is not for the honour or the interests of England—were there no causes existing to make the House suppose that the policy of Her Majesty's Government has in any way changed— were everything as smooth as a summer sea, and were there no grounds for anxiety and dark mistrust in the public mind—it would still, I maintain, have been the office and duty of the Minister on an occa- 1286 sion such as the expiration of an armistice to come forward and give some account to Parliament of the progress of these negotiations. He ought at least to have re-assured the public mind and given them some confidence in the conduct of these discussions, and have reiterated the spirit of that policy which Parliament had sanctioned, if not by a formal vote, at least by its silence. The House will see that the noble Lord ought to be called to account, even if there were no cause for anxiety. But if what I have ventured to call a wild hypothesis be true, if it be the fact that Her Majesty's Government in this interval have entirely changed their policy, if there themselves are participating in the partition of Denmark, which only five months ago they were stirring up an European war to prevent, then I say it is a mockery of the House of Commons if, under such circumstances, the noble Lord remains silent.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, We have just had a magnificent display of virtuous indignation from the right hon Gentleman, who knows that he is attacking me in a position in which I cannot go into the defence that he challenges. He is like a man that attacks another who has his arms tied behind him. He knows that, because he has been in office. He knows that I am tongue-tied at the present moment, and that I cannot enter into an ample reply to the attacks which he has showered upon me. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman declares that he has a policy; he always moots this policy, and reproaches us, who, he thinks, have not a policy. Well, I challenge him to say what his policy is. Let him tell us fairly what he wants the Government to do; and let him ask this House to give a vote in support of Her Majesty's Government if they will adopt the policy which he thinks they ought to carry out. Let him propose that this House will support the Crown by all the means that may be necessary to give effect to the policy he contemplates. When he does that I shall say he is sincere in the course that he adopts in this House. We know what a negotiation is, especially a negotiation carried on with a great variety of Powers, having different views and different interests at stake; and the right hon. Gentleman ought to feel that to state from day to day what have been the points of difference, what have been the results of this interview or that Conference, must endanger the result which everybody who is anxious for the peace of Europe must desire to see attained. And therefore, in 1287 spite of the taunts of the right hon. Gentleman, I shall not be induced to violate what I consider my duty, and to throw impediments in the way of a successful result by telling the hon. Gentleman that which I dare say would be satisfactory to him, and which I can quite understand would be satisfactory to the House, from day to day, and from meeting to meeting, what each member of the Conference has proposed, and what each member of the Conference has objected to. ["Oh!"] Yes, that is what the right hon. Gentle-man, asks ["No, no!"]; that is exactly what he wants. ["No!"] The foreign papers tell him certain things, and he wants me here to go into those very details which he sees in the foreign papers. There is a great difference in statements made by a Minister of the Crown in this House and reports which are circulated through Europe and are told in the foreign newspapers. The right hon. Gentleman may take as much or as little as he pleases of those statements. But though I have the greatest desire to show every possible respect to this House, and though I am quite aware they ought to be informed of everything which can with propriety towards the public interest be communicated to them, I will not, even to gratify the desire of this House, depart from what I consider to be my duty. When Members calmly reflect on the motives which prevent Her Majesty's Government in the present state of affairs from going into details which they are anxious to hear, I am sure they will see that we are acting rightly. When the negotiations now going on have arrived at a stage at which, consistently with the national interests, the Government can make known what we have agreed to or proposed, I am quite satisfied we shall be able to convince the House that in this matter we have acted in accordance with our duty and with the soundest opinions that we have been enabled to form.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
Sir, I think that those who have listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend must feel satisfied that the noble Lord who has just sat down has entirely misrepresented him. There is a reticence and reserve based on the ground that premature disclosure would be injurious to the public service. There is also a reticence and reserve which it may be prudent for Ministers to observe when frankness may be injurious to the Government. It is not true that my right hon. Friend or the 1288 House wishes the noble Lord to give day by day details of all that has occurred in the Conference, or to state what has been said by this or that Plenipotentiary. That is not what my right hon. Friend wants. That is not what the House of Commons desires at the present moment. When this Conference was first proposed I put a question to the noble Lord and asked him on what basis he proposed to go to this Conference. The noble Lord replied that, in order to avoid hurting the susceptibilities of certain Foreign Powers, the noble Earl had assembled the Conference on the basis of maintaining the peace of Europe. ["Hear!"] Yes—but the noble Lord added (and I will thank the hon. Gentleman who cheered to cheer this also) that the only principle on which the Government could go into the Conference was that of maintaining the integrity of Denmark. But was that all? We all know that the noble Lord the Foreign Minister addressed a despatch to France and Russia in the winter for the purpose of inviting their concert and co-operation to settle the affairs of Denmark; and when the noble Lord was asked what he meant by "concert and co-operation," he distinctly said that he meant the lending of material assistance to Denmark by the three great Powers. The noble Lord upon being asked upon what event that material assistance was to be given to Denmark, said it was to be given if any proposition were made for the dismemberment of that monarchy. It is not from day to day that we want to know what is going on; but it is now stated in such form and on such authority that the House cannot discredit it, that not only has the Government taken the question into consideration, but that they have themselves been parties to propose that very dismemberment which they denounced only a few months ago, and which they said would be a just cause of war, and with respect to which they said they were prepared to join France and Russia in lending material assistance to prevent. We want to knew, has the Government done that? We want to know whether they are themselves parties to an expressly opposite policy from that which they announced to this House. We want to know whether the Government have taken up a course and position which, I undertake to say, five out of six in this House and out of it would consider a humiliation and a disgrace to the country. We wish to know from the noble Lord, before we agree to continue confidence in 1289 the Government, whether that rumour— that more than rumour — whether that statement, which is generally believed to be true, is true — that the Government have been parties to that course which, before the Conference, they were the first to denounce?
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
Sir, I regret that no member of the Treasury Bench has thought fit to answer my hon. Friend, but that the Government seem determined to bring this debate to a conclusion without giving the House of Commons any of the information that it seeks. The noble Lord has told us calmly to reflect upon the motives of Her Majesty's Government. I have done my best calmly to reflect upon them, and I have come to the conclusion that the answer to that appeal is, that this is the 6th of June. The noble Lord knows that if by such answers he can veil himself behind his position of negotiator— if he can put off day by day the necessity of giving the House of Commons the account he is bound to render—if he can put off explanations until an advanced period of the summer, the Government is safe, at least for this year—and to the noble Lord and those who sit with him the welfare of Denmark, the maintenance of treaties, and the fulfilment of the pledged word of England, are trifles compared with that which is paramount in their minds, namely, the advanced stage of the Session, I think the noble Lord is making an experiment on the patience of the House and the country, which will not be answered by the results. It is idle to talk of details. We all know he has made a complete change of policy. We all know, from sources which we cannot doubt, although they are not officially confirmed, that the dismemberment of Denmark has been approved—nay, proposed—by Her Majesty's Government themselves. I say it is idle to attempt to withdraw their conduct from the judgment of the country and the House of Commons. The reason why the House of Commons and the country are becoming impatient of the length of time that the Conference has dragged on, and are beginning to intrude on that sacred reserve which the noble Lord claims for the position of negotiator, is that they are made to suspect that under the auspices of the noble Lord, England, under pretence of serving and defending Denmark, is in reality betraying her. She has pushed Denmark from concession to concession—she has first forced her 1290 to retire from Holstein, then to abandon Rendsburg, then to consent to an armistice, then to abandon Schleswig south of the Schlei, and now there are rumours that the noble Lord intends to yield to the extravagant and flagitious demand of the Germans, and hand over a Danish population to German rule. I venture to say that neither the House of Commons nor the country will long submit to the silence the noble Lord wishes to impose on them, but that they will require from him that account which he is constitutionally bound to render, and not permit him to stifle discussion, under pretence of friendship for Denmark, by asking the House not to interfere while negotiations are going on.
said, he thought it would be lamentable if the language used on this or the other side of the House should have the effect of extorting from Her Majesty's Government any disclosures perilous to the cause of peace. He frankly acknowledged that he appreciated to the full the argument addressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks to the Government, for he put it with great force, that the silence of the House during several weeks had been purchased by the declaration made by the Government of the views and principles with which they were going into the Conference. But he must call upon the House to remember, that during the discussions which took place at an earlier period, just before the Conference commenced, the Government, being asked repeatedly to state on what basis they proposed to go to the Conference, at length stated, though with the greatest reluctance, that the parties to the Conference were meeting without any other basis than a common desire of restoring peace to the North of Europe. Surely that statement was a retractation of that other and impossible principle which the Government propounded to the House at an earlier period of the Session; and he thought, therefore, that those who valued the peace of Europe should welcome the retirement of Her Majesty's Government from a position which was perceived, all over Europe, to be untenable, rather than taunt them with the words which they used earlier in the Session.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, that there was a fear lest the delay would be injurious chiefly to one party, and that the weakest. The present period of the year was more favourable than any other to naval operations in the Baltic, and it 1291 might be said by the friends of Denmark that the Conference were tying the hands of the weaker party by further postponement. It was plain that the noble Lord's expectation was, that the weaker party would be brought to consent to a prolongation of the armistice. The noble Lord, however, in taking such a course was undertaking a great responsibility. The policy pursued by the noble Lord's Government exposed them to the imputation that the delays which were unfavourable to Denmark were favourable to Her Majesty's Government. If the armistice was prolonged so as to be carried into July, Her Majesty's Government might deal with the matter almost as they pleased. Being pretty familiar with the feelings of the Danes upon the subject, he (Mr. Darby Griffith) knew that what they wanted was some geographical boundary line, which would separate them permanently from a people so unfeeling and unscrupulous as the Germans had proved themselves to be; and if the Government, without extending the armistice too long, were able to discover such a line, he, for one, would not complain, but would rather rejoice at the separation of two nations who were now as hostile to one another as the Russians and the Poles.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman speaking of the separation between the different portions of the disputed territory. Any union whatever of the German population of Schleswig and Holstein with the Crown of Denmark would not lead to permanent peace. Whatever was to be done should be done with the assent of the population, otherwise permanent peace would not be secured. It would not do for that House or any other authority, to deal with the people of the Duchies without ascertaining their wishes by means of a constitutional vote of the people, or of an assembly elected for the purpose. He hoped Holstpin would not receive any accession of Schleswig territory which might contain a hostile population; nor, on the other hand, would it add to the strength of Denmark if an unfriendly population were united to it.