§ MR. MONK
Mr. Speaker—Sir, it will doubtless be in the recollection of the House that early in last year the hon. Member for Galway brought forward a Motion in reference to the disturbed state of Servia and of Crete, and in a very able and temperate speech called the attention of the House and of the Government to the unhappy condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte in the Island of Candia. I am deeply sensible of the disadvantages under which I lie in approaching a subject which has been so ably treated by my hon. Friend, and which has risen considerably in importance during the past twelvemonth. I can only throw myself upon the indulgence of the House, feeling sure that that indulgence will not be asked for in vain. 1226 There is, however, one difficulty under which the hon. Member for Galway laboured last year from which I feel myself altogether relieved. I allude to the apprehension, which he then felt, lest any expressions of sympathy with a suffering Nationality uttered in this House should raise false hopes which might tend to prolong what was then considered by many to be a hopeless contest. For more than eighteen months the struggle for independence has been carried on in Crete, and unless the Great Powers intervene it seems likely to be indefinitely prolonged. In the meantime the non-combatants have for the most part left the island, and vast numbers of women and children have been removed, so that on the ground of humanity there is no longer any cause for further reticence on our part. During the past year subjects of great national importance have so fully occupied the time and attention of Parliament, that the affairs of Crete seem almost to have escaped our notice; yet from time to time the atrocities committed in that unfortunate island have furnished occasion for questions in this House, and in November last a voluminous blue book was issued by the Foreign Office on the subject, and presented by Her Majesty's command to Parliament. No one can, I am sure, rise from a perusal of that blue book without feeling convinced that the insurrection had assumed far larger proportions, and a much more formidable aspect, in the autumn of last year than it had at the time when the subject was discussed in the early part of 1867; and, judging from the latest accounts received from Constantinople and from Athens—let me add, from no Philhellenic sources—I see no probability of an early cessation of hostilities.
In the debate which ensued on the Motion of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory), the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, while claiming credit to the Government for its sympathy with the Christian races in the East, expressly declined to give a semblance of encouragement to a hopeless insurrection, or to compromise the Government or the Cretans by a precipitate or premature action. And shortly before the Easter Recess the noble Lord, in reply to the hon. Member for Louth, who inquired whether tranquillity might be considered to be now re-established in Crete, said—The true state of matters scorned to be that the insurrection had dwindled down to very small 1227 proportions; but it would be premature to say that tranquillity had actually been re-established.Now, Sir, notwithstanding that reply of the noble Lord, I shall venture to ask him, before I sit down, whether he deems the insurrection to be absolutely hopeless; and, if not, whether he does not think that the time has arrived when a more decided action on the part of Great Britain, in concert with the other protecting Powers, would be neither precipitate nor premature? For my own part, I believe that the Porte cannot re-conquer Crete. Such, too, appears to have been the opinion of our Ambassador at Constantinople so long ago as in February, 1867. That opinion was conveyed in a despatch to the Secretary of State, which by a singular coincidence reached the Foreign Office on the very day upon which the noble Lord stated his belief that the insurrection was a hopeless one, though perhaps at that time the despatch may not have reached his eye. Lord Lyons writes from Constantinople, February 6, 1867—I did not conceal from Aali Pasha that I was far from being as sanguine as he was with regard to the success of the Porte in restoring tranquillity in Crete and satisfying the Christian inhabitants by the measures he contemplated."—[Blue Book, p. 8.]But I will quote a much later authority—perhaps almost as high an authority as Lord Lyons himself. The able and distinguished correspondent of The Times at Athens, who is known personally to some, by name and reputation to many, hon. Members, writing from Athens in January last, says—The pacification of Crete is not likely to be the work either of Turkey or of Greece. It must be brought about by the political influence of the Great Powers, and by the public opinion of Europe."—[Times, February 8, 1868.]Again, on the 17th of March, he writes—Skirmishes frequently occur between the Mussulman Greeks of the island and the insurgent Christians, but the Ottoman troops have generally remained inactive during the winter, and almost all the volunteers from Greece have returned, on account of the difficulty of procuring subsistence where war is carried on without depôts or discipline. There appears to be no immediate prospect of a termination of hostilities."—[Times, April 8, 1868.]Once more, on the 25th ultimo—The affairs of Crete continue in the same position. Blockade running is kept up, and the emigration of Christian families continues. The proportion of men who emigrate is now considerable, judging from the numbers that are seen at Athens."—[Times, April 9, 1868.]1228 Let us, then, consider for a moment what has been done during the past year towards the re-conquest or pacification of Crete. Has Turkey been able to maintain the blockade of the island? Why, Sir, the Arcadi made no fewer than twenty-three blockade-running voyages before she was captured and destroyed. The Enosis has made a score of successful voyages; and her consort, the Crete, is running with the regularity of a mail steamer between Syra and Candia. In the Pall Mall Gazette of the 11th ultimo, I find the following, from Constantinople, written on the 29th of February:—The subjection of Crete appears to be as remote now as when the Grand Vizier went on his mission. Omer Pasha openly expresses his opinion that it is perfectly hopeless to expect any success against the insurgents as long as the blockade is carried on in its present manner. It is certainly astonishing that a force of upwards of thirty vessels of all classes cannot in some way intercept the single blockade-runner, which keeps up communication with the island with the regularity of a Mail Service.The insurgents themselves, who, since the removal of the inhabitants of the lowlands and of their wives and families, are almost entirely confined to the Mountaineers and Volunteers—the latter being very few in number—ridicule the notion of surrender. They thoroughly distrust the Turks, and will not even hear of autonomy. Annexation to Greece alone will satisfy them. The House is aware that in January of last year the French Government strongly recommended the cession of Crete. Mr. Fane writes from Paris, on the 24th of January, 1867, that the Marquis de Moustier said that—He had now come to the conclusion that it would be far better for the Porte to give up Candia than to seek to conciliate the Christian population by giving some form of local autonomy to the island. He believed that the country was lost to Turkey, and that it would be better for the Sultan to accept this conclusion than to grant concessions which would not permanently reconcile the population to Turkish rule, while they would form a precedent on which every part of the Turkish Empire might found a claim to quasi independence. Crete, his Excellency said, had become a permanently sore limb of the Empire, and it was better to amputate it than to allow it to form the nucleus of gangrene, which might spread to every part of the Empire…… He felt convinced that the course he had suggested was the wisest which the Sultan could adopt. He added that, if he were himself in the Sultan's position, he would not hesitate also to abandon Thessaly."—[Blue Book, p. 2.]To that policy, Austria, Prussia, Italy, and Russia gave in their adhesion in the 1229 course of last year. But, writes the noble Lord, in reply to Mr. Fane, referring more particularly to a conversation he had held with the Prince de la Tour d'Auvergne respecting the cession of Crete—Nor could I conceal from him my opinion that the Porte, having, as it believed, put down by force of arms the insurrection directed against its authority, would at once, and decidedly, refuse to sacrifice a province which it had re-conquered at the cost of so much blood and treasure."—[Blue Book, p. 3.]I must confess that the words of the noble Lord somewhat surprised me. More than a year has elapsed, and what progress has been made towards the re-conquest of Candia? What, in short, has been the policy of the Porte? Declining to listen to the Great Continental Powers, who recommended a Mixed Commission of Inquiry for Candia, and rejecting with disdain the proposal of local autonomy, the Porte sent the Grand Vizier himself to Crete. The mission of Aali Pasha, as the House is aware, and as might have been expected, turned out a complete failure. In his celebrated Proclamation of November last what are the means which he proposes for the pacification of the island, and for redressing the wrongs and grievances of the Christian inhabitants? Does he propose any organic reforms? Any measures for the amelioration of the condition of the Christians? Nothing of the kind. The "Instructions for the Commanders of a Military Circle," which are appended to, and form part of, the Proclamation, commence with a statement that is palpably untrue. They then proceed to breathe forth destruction and utter extermination against all who still continue in arms against the authority of the Porte.
"The Candian insurrection" writes Aali Pasha, "no longer exists." Let the House bear in mind that these words were written at the end of October last—The Candian insurrection no longer exists. Those who are at this moment maintaining the disorder in the island, and are preventing a portion of the inhabitants from peaceably devoting themselves to their labours, consist of bands of foreign and native brigands, which it is necessary to destroy, whilst effectually protecting, by God's help and under the auspices of our august Sovereign, the citizens who have submitted against their destructive incursions." — [Blue Book, p. 303.]Are these words of conciliation? Are they words of wisdom, or even of common prudence? Are they calculated to inspire the Cretans with confidence in their rulers? Is it too much to say of the Turks?—Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat.1230 It has, however, been alleged that certain of the Great Powers have been playing fast and loose with the Cretan question. It may be so. I neither affirm nor deny it. This seems to me to be neither the time nor the occasion for discussing the motives of the other Powers. But so far as Great Britain is concerned, I must do the noble Lord the justice to say that there has been no vacillation, no temporizing on his part. The policy of the Government of Great Britain has been the same in 1867 that it was in 1830—namely, to preserve Candia to the Turks, and to uphold by means of moral support the tottering sway of the Porte over an island, which is a source of weakness to it, and of real danger to its very existence. But I will not take up the time of the House by recurring to the wrongs inflicted upon this unhappy island, by means of foreign diplomacy, in preserving it to the Turks in 1830. That policy was commented upon at some length, and in terms of just severity, by the hon. Member for Galway in the discussion of last year. The memorable protests of Earl Russell and of Lord Palmerston in this House will never be forgotten—Let Candia remain in the hands of the Turks, and what probability was there that the Greeks in that island would remain patient under that yoke which their brethren had shaken off?"—[2 Hansard, xxii, 563.]Truer words were never spoken in this House. The prophetic speech of Lord Palmerston has been fulfilled to the very letter. At the same time, I admit that it is impossible for statesmen to disconnect or dissociate the Cretan insurrection from the Eastern question. In all human probability the solution of that momentous question cannot be postponed for many years. The march of events is as rapid as it is sure. Great Britain alone of the Great Powers has endeavoured to stave it off by opposing the views of France and of Russia as to the settlement of the Cretan question. The Government may have been perfectly justified in opposing those views, and in refusing to offer any advice to the Porte, the adoption of which might possibly lead to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire; but I venture to think that the Foreign Secretary is scarcely justified in withholding from Parliament the important State documents, written by Prince Gortchakoff, for which I am about to move. Those despatches contain the views of Russia, not only on the Cretan question, but on the condition of the Christians 1231 throughout Turkey, and a sketch of the measures which Russia deems necessary for the amelioration of their condition. I have privately given to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a list of those State Papers. The first has reference to the probable consequences of the Cretan insurrection; the next, to the necessity for immediate action on the part of Great Britain; the third to the condition of the Christians in Turkey; and the fourth contains the Russian view of the reforms necessary to ensure progress and tranquillity in Turkey. I am surprised that those documents should have been suffered to remain in the pigeon-holes of the Foreign Office at a time when a heterogeneous mass of Papers was being presented to Parliament on this subject. It is true that we have had Consular Reports from all parts of the Ottoman Empire on the condition of the Christian subjects of the Sultan. Some of them contain valuable information; but I regret to add that a perusal of them can leave no doubt in any impartial mind that—in the words I believe of Lord Lyons—The status of the Christians in the Empire is still very far from what it ought to be," and that the "administration of justice is not only faulty, but oppressive to Mussulmans and Christians alike.In the debate of last year my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Layard) expressed a desire to see a Consular Report from Crete, in order that he might ascertain whether the complaints of the Cretans were justified or not. With the permission of the House, I shall be happy to gratify my hon. Friend by reading an extract from the Report of Consul Dickson, and I trust that he will find it satisfactory and conclusive on that point. It is written from Canea, on the 4th of April, 1867—With reference to the subject under consideration—namely, how the stipulations agreed upon by the British Government and that of Turkey in regard to the treatment of the Christian subjects of the Sultan have been observed in Crete—it behoves me, in replying to this question, to recur to the state of the island anterior to the insurrection, which has since placed the whole land under exceptional circumstances as to its administration. I can, moreover, only offer such remarks on this head as my short experience of the island itself enables me to make.The very fact of Delegates having in the course of last spring been elected by the whole Christian population of the island, for the purpose of peaceably deliberating in general assembly upon the legal course for obtaining redress to certain grievances preferred against the Government (a practice somewhat similar to that adopted in ancient 1232 time under the denomination of 'syncretism'); the catastrophe that has since ensued by non-compliance in due time with the popular demands, or, at any rate, by the Porte withholding some suitable concessions at so critical a juncture; on the other hand, the allegation put forth by the authorities that the true source of such discontent must be rather attributed to the innate Hellenism with which the Cretan Christian population are imbued, fomented as this sentiment continually is by agencies at work on the adjacent land of Greece, besides the many political changes in a liberal sense which have of late years been wrought in Europe; all the above stated circumstances, I regret to add, only convince me the more that the treatment of the Sultan's Cretan Christian subjects has not been such as might be desired, or even in strict accordance with Treaty provisions. I shall not recapitulate the several grievances specified in the petition to the Sultan (of which a copy was forwarded in my despatch of the 9th of June last year), and which I consider to be in a great measure well founded, yet, as I distinctly declared to the Cretans at the time, by no means to such a degree as ought to provoke insurrection.I may briefly state that I ventured on several occasions to suggest to the authorities the expediency of the Hatti-Houmayoum of 1856 being fully carried into effect not only in Crete, but, as I took the liberty of observing, throughout all the Christian provinces of the Empire.In the despatches of Prince Gortchakoff remedial measures are proposed. Those despatches have, I understand, been published in the Journal de St. Petersburg. I trust there is no bar on the plea of diplomatic etiquette to their production, as I believe them to be essential to Parliament and to the country in order to enable us to understand the true connection between the Cretan Insurrection and the policy of our Government and the interests of Great Britain.
In February of last year the Foreign Secretary, in tendering friendly advice to the Porte, utterly repudiated all idea of interfering with the right of the Porte to exercise an independent judgment in its internal affairs. I certainly do not blame the noble Lord for that expression of opinion; but I ask the House to mark the result. Aali Pasha and the Council of Ministers at Constantinople, relying upon the support of Great Britain, declined, as I have already stated, to send to Crete a Mixed Commission of Inquiry, upon which the Great Powers would be represented, and refused to grant the mild measure of local autonomy, which had received the sanction of the noble Lord himself. Mr. Elliott reported from Constantinople that Fuad Pasha thought that autonomy would be attended by infinite difficulties, and that it would be only the first step towards annexation to Greece. Well, Sir, I believe 1233 that the Porte would have acted wisely if she could have prevailed upon herself voluntarily to cede Candia, as Great Britain ceded the Ionian Islands, to Greece. So late as in August last. I incline to think that a solution of the Cretan difficulties might have been found by the grant of local autonomy under a Christian governor. Now, I fear, it is too late. The impassibility of the Porte exceeds belief.
Is it, then, to be wondered at that the five great Continental Powers should have presented an Identie Note last summer, protesting against the blind suicidal policy of the Porte? Is it surprising that, seeing the inability of Omer Pasha to restrain the recklessness of his soldiers, they should have sent vessels of war to take away the unarmed villagers of the lowlands, and especially the unfortunate women and children, out of the reach of their brutality? I honour them for so doing, and I blush to think that Great Britain alone stood aloof from that act of charity.
I would gladly have passed over in silence the Consular Reports of the murders, violations, and outrages committed during the past eighteen months upon the Christian inhabitants of the lowland villages, who had taken no part in the insurrection. But it is impossible to do so. The blue book literally teems with them. I am willing to make large, very large, deductions on account of the national antipathies of our Consular Agents, the Messieurs Calocherino. But enough, far more than enough, remains on the higher authority of our Consul, Mr. Dickson, and of Lieutenant Commander Murray of H. M. ship, the Wizard, to make one's blood run cold. I can scarcely bring myself to believe that Omer Pasha and his chief officers were present and took part in the burning of villages—in the destruction of churches—the cutting down of vineyards and olive-yards—the murder of unarmed and aged men, and the violation of women—but I maintain, and I am ready to prove by irrefragable testimony, that they took no steps and did not endeavour to prevent those crimes. Lieutenant Commander Murray writes to Vice Admiral Lord Clarence Paget from Canea, July, 22, 1867—The reign of terror which has long threatened, has become a fearful reality. Parties of Bashi-Bazouks, who have given up service with Omer Pasha (not finding it sufficiently remunerative), scour the country, and put to death any man, woman, or child they find.The Acting-Governor, Server Effendi,Was obliged to confess that the Government 1234 is powerless to prevent these atrocities from taking place, nor do they care to prevent them, for the Turks now openly avow their intention of killing all the Cretan Christians."—[Blue Book, p. 238.]Again he writes, August 4—In the towns of Candia, Retimo, and also in this town (Canea), there are organized fanatical bands who call themselves 'Zoreda' (weazels), who leave the towns at night and murder any Christians they can lay their hands on."—[Blue Book, p. 257.]Consul Dickson writes to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, July 26, 1867—The brutalities lately committed on Christian women and children defy description.And he proceeds to speak ofThe inability and apparent reluctance of the authorities to do justice, and thus prevent similar outrages being repeated."—[Blue Book, p. 221.]The chief perpetrators of these atrocities appear to be Cretan Mussulmans, who joined the Turkish army as irregulars, or Bashi-Bazouks, on the first breaking out of the insurrection, and whose chief occupation from that time to the present has been to wreak their vengeance on the helpless, inoffensive lowland villagers and on their unhappy wives and families. But I will spare the House the pain of listening to the details of the outrages as related in this blue book. At the same time, I will take leave to remind the House that these atrocities are not merely isolated acts—they form part of an organized system not now for the first time practised by the Turks, and which the Porte is either powerless, or does not endeavour to repress. Some hon. Members may have read the interesting work on Greece written by the late Minister of Greece in this country, M. Tricoupi. Let me ask them to recall to their recollection the affecting chapter on Scio. The atrocities committed by the Turks upon the inhabitants of that unhappy island in 1822 defy description. For weeks the whole island was one continued scene of murder, conflagration, and plunder. The same atrocities have been committed; in Candia, and the authorities have done nothing to prevent them. I feel strongly on this subject, Sir, and if I make use of strong terms, I can assure the House that it is not without cause. I have heard the heartrending details of the massacre of Scio from one who was residing in the island at the time, and whose father, father-in-law, and brother-in-law—having voluntarily entered the citadel as hostages of war—upon the distinct assurance that their lives and persons should be respected, and that not a hair of their heads should be 1235 injured—were brutally murdered in cold blood by the Turkish authorities. With such traditions as these, is it surprising that Turkish promises are regarded as valueless by the Cretans? Have their promises been kept hitherto? Why, Sir, it is notorious that the Hatti-Houmayoum has been a dead letter in Candia, and that there is protection neither for life nor properly in the island. The Grand Vizier's Proclamation was a mere string of empty words. It was thoroughly worthless—aye, worse than worthless; it was a positive insult to the oppressed. The insurrection, as might have been expected, broke out with fresh vigour almost before the sis weeks' armistice had expired, and with much greater chance of success, since the women and children had been removed, and none remained save those who were determined to obtain their independence or to perish in the attempt. It docs not require the spirit of prophecy to foretell that the efforts of the Porte to stamp out the insurrection by means of military circles must be futile and ineffectual in the mountainous districts. I think, then, that I am justified in asking the noble Lord whether he is not of opinion that the time has arrived when Great Britain might take a more decided action, in concert with the other protecting Powers, with a view of putting a stop to further bloodshed by advising the Porte either to grant such concessions to Crete as would make it a happy province, or to cede the island to Greece. Is England always to stand aloof while the other Great Powers are practically showing their sympathy with suffering and oppressed nationalities? It is unnecessary for me to remind the noble Lord that he has left open a door for England to recommend the Porte to abandon the contest, when success seems hopeless. He has stated that he would not oppose the cession of Candia, if the Porte were willing to agree to it. In a despatch to Lord Cowley, dated March 27, 1867, the noble Lord writes—Doubtless it would be competent to us, and it would be our duty, to advise the discontinuance of bloodshed, if it were clearly proved that the re-conquest of the island was impossible; but Her Majesty's Government had no information which could justify them in pronouncing that the cause of the Porte in Crete was hopeless, and unless they were convinced that it was so they must let matters take their course."—[Blue Book, p. 56.]I trust that I have shown sufficient cause for more active interference on the part of the protecting Powers.
1236 Before I conclude, I will ask the permission of the House to read a short extract from a letter of the Plenipotentiaries of the three protecting Powers to Prince Leopold, afterwards King of the Belgians, at the time when the Crown of Greece was offered to him—In case the Turkish authority should be exercised in a manner offensive to humanity"—in Candia or in Samos—"each of the allied Powers, without however entering into a special or formal engagement to that effect, would deem it its duty to interpose its influence with the Porte, in order to assure to the inhabitants of the above-mentioned islands protection against arbitrary and oppressive Acts."—[Annual Register, 1830, p. 304.]In conclusion, I will express a hope that the noble Lord will, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, acknowledge the responsibilities of this country towards the unhappy Cretans, whose heroism and perseverance under the greatest trials and difficulties merit something more than mere sympathy from the Government and people of Great Britain. I trust that the noble Lord will grant the Papers for which I am about to move, and that he will afford Parliament and the country every facility for forming a deliberate opinion, not only on the Cretan difficulties, but on the Eastern question—which is even now looming in the distance—by laying upon the table of the House every document and State Paper which may aid us in forming a sound judgment upon this important subject.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copy of any Despatches or Correspondence between the Russian Government and the Foreign Office on the subjects of the Insurrection in Crete and of the condition of the Christians in Turkey in the years 1866 and 1867,"—(Mr. Monk,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
Sir, although the Papers to which attention has been called appear to me to suggest considerations very different from those which have occurred to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), yet I should not on that account alone have asked permission to address the House. My principal reason for desiring to do so is, that at this moment—when hon. Members are 1237 invited, for the sake of humanity and of religious freedom, to express opinions in favour of the separation of Crete from Turkey, and its annexation to Greece—I am anxious that those to whom this invitation is directed should not shut their eyes to the light of experience; should not forget that other experiments, similar to that now recommended, have been tried under more favourable conditions, and have produced, with reference to humanity and to religious freedom, most lamentable results. That the House will forgive me for that anxiety, I am certain; because of those lamentable results thousands of men of my own race and creed have been among the first victims, and they, entertaining the exaggerated ideas which in some distant places prevail, as to the power and influence of a Member of this Assembly, have repeatedly applied to me, and, although I have done what I could, have, I regret to say, applied to me almost in vain, to aid them in their misfortunes.
But before I proceed to the subject to which I principally desire to direct attention, I may perhaps be permitted to make a few observations as to Crete itself. Now, in the first place, I would remark, that it is not fair to judge of the Turkish Government by acts of barbarity committed by its soldiers, not exceeding, probably, those of which the other side have been guilty during the insurrection. Wars have seldom been the best schools of humanity, nor is it to be expected that civil war, or above all, an insurrectionary war, should be a favourable exception to the rule. A more correct opinion will be formed of the Turkish Government by considering what it did at a period anterior to the insurrection, and whether it has or has not displayed a conciliatory disposition at those times in the autumns of 1866 and 1867, when it too sanguinely believed that the rebellion was on the eve of being put down. If, without travelling back forty years or more as has been done by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester, we recur to Consul General Longworth's Reports of 1858, which have lately been re-printed, we shall learn from that dated 20th of August of that year, that the Turkish Governor, Vely Pasha, made great exertions for the benefit of the island by encouraging trade, improving the harbour, and promoting the building of churches, schools and hospitals. I would especially call attention to the fact, as indicating an absence of anything like bigotry, that he 1238 gave money out of his own pocket for the erection of churches. If the aspirations of my hon. Friend and other Philhellenes should be fulfilled; if Crete should be separated from Turkey, and united to Greece, we shall, I apprehend, have to wait some considerable time before we see a Greek Governor take out of his own purse money for building a Mahomedan mosque. Among the measures adopted by Vely Pasha for improving the island, was the making of roads, and at first the Cretan Christians were enthusiastic for the accomplishment of his plans—But when it was seen that the roads could not be made without labour or pecuniary sacrifice, they turned round and opposed them, and there was no abuse too violent or fiction too absurd which they did not lavish on everybody connected with them. Under the Hatti-Houmayoum Turks were permitted to turn Christians, and — what did not please the Cretan Christians quite so much—Christians were allowed to turn Turks. These people, who are always talking of Turkish fanaticism, now sought to trample on it with a fiercer fanaticism of their own. Not content with fair proselytism, they resorted to the most scandalous means of making converts.Vely Pasha had intended to apply the whole of a sum of money received from Egypt for the benefit of the island in building a Greek church—But indignant at these excesses he now decided that the funds should be distributed among the schools and hospitals of all Christian sects indiscriminately. The Greeks were much incensed at this.It is thus made clear that the Christian Cretans were scarcely more fanatical against the Turks than they were against one another. Let us now pass on to those periods in the autumns of 1866 and 1867, when the Turkish Government thought that it was on the point of putting down the insurrection. In November 1866, the Turkish Government offered an amnesty. In the autumn of 1867 they offered a project of reforms, which the Cretan Christians, it is true, rejected, but which the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley), in his despatch of the 25th of October, characterized, and I believe correctly, as amounting very nearly to a concession of local autonomy, and as including the most important point—equal rights for Mussulmans and Christians. The Turkish Government also, without waiting for the acceptance of its otters, set free, as is distinctly stated by Consul Dickson on the 12th of October, all political prisoners without exception. Measures such as these surely indicate on the part of the Government much less of 1239 fierce tyranny than of anxiety to conciliate its discontented subjects.
But then it may be said, that the dislike entertained by the Cretan Christians for the Turkish Government suffices to show that it is a bad one, and that their happiness would be promoted by the annexation of the island to Greece. Now in the first place it should be borne in mind, that although the Christians form the majority of the population of Crete, there is an important minority of Mahomedans. But even if the Christians only be considered, it is not quite clear from their disliking the Turkish Government that it is a bad one, or that they would be the happier for being freed from it. To be convinced of this, we have only to look at the Ionian Islands. The majority of the Ionians preferred, or at all events they persuaded the Ministry and Parliament of England that they preferred, the bad government of Greece to the good government of England. We did not desire to retain unwilling subjects; their wish, or supposed wish, was complied with; and what has been the result? Examine the Consular Reports; laid before Parliament last year; and you will see that in December 1865 the Deputy of Corfu, taking a temporary farewell of the Greek Assembly, declared that his presence among them was useless, and that he could not remain the impassive spectator of the ruin (égorgement, or throat-cutting, is his emphatic term) of the Seven Islands and of Corfu at their head. You will see that in September 1866 Consul General Saunders stated that the consciousness of all that Corfu has lost, by its subservience to clamour and intrigue, was too fully impressed upon all reflecting minds to admit of any other than one absorbing feeling of self-condemnation and unavailing regret. But further it may be argued, that even if mere discontent would not suffice to prove the badness of the Turkish rule in Crete, it is proved by the island having been for two years in a state of chronic rebellion. And this would, I apprehend, be true if the insurrection were (to use a phrase which is applied to better things) self-supporting. But no one can bestow any degree of attention on the Papers before us without perceiving that the rebellion would long ago have been at an end, if it had not been kept up from without. An almost constant succession of Greek cruizers has landed in Crete rebel volunteers, and arms, and provisions, and these proceedings have been sanctioned by Greece in open violation of her duties as a 1240 neutral. Nor has her interference stopped there. The return cargoes have consisted, not merely of women and children, not merely of the wounded, not merely even of Cretans who were tired of the contest; but peaceable Cretans, who desired to remain where they were, have been carried away against their will from their homes and their native island by their Greek deliverers. This striking fact is not only expressly stated by the Grand Vizier in his circular of the 14th of October 1867, but his statement is confirmed in advance by Consul Dickson, in his letter of the 3rd of the same month. If you desire to know what good Greece has effected, either for herself or her Cretan friends, you have only to look at Mr. Erskine's despatch of the 23rd of October 1867, from which you may learn that to support in a state of semi-starvation the Cretans who had been carried to Greece would absorb one-fourth of the ordinary revenue of the country, and that delegates had been sent to Athens by the Cretan Assembly to intimate to the Hellenic Government that the insurrection must cease, unless Greece would contribute to the prosecution of the war in Crete, and to the support of the Cretan refugees in Greece, sums exceeding half the ordinary revenue of the kingdom. The Government, it appears, despatched to Crete two or three persons of influence, to endeavour to make arrangements for the continuance of the insurrection, on terms somewhat less ruinous to Greece. Why all this was permitted by Turkey is obvious enough. The Papers show clearly, I think, not only that she would have put down the rebellion if she had had to deal with Crete alone; but that if she had had to deal with Crete and Greece alone, she would have declared war against the latter, and have put an end at once to the Cretan insurrection and the kingdom of Greece. But Turkey was aware that the protecting Powers were behind, and would not allow Greece to be attacked. This is very plainly stated by Mr. Lloyd, the Consul at Syra, in a despatch of the 3rd of February, 1867. Now, it might have been expected that, if the great Powers were resolved to guard Greece against what would otherwise have been the consequences of her shameless breaches of International Law, they would at least have insisted that those acts should be discontinued. But England is the only Power which has consistently remonstrated against the conduct of Greece. France, indeed, did the same at first, but towards the close of 1866 she entirely 1241 changed her line of conduct. Russia has, from the beginning, taken the course—in which she was afterwards supported by France, and, to a certain extent, by Prussia and Italy—of addressing lectures, not to Greece, the wrongdoer, but to Turkey, the party injured—of addressing to Turkey lectures and remonstrances amounting almost to a demand that she should reward her enemy by delivering up to Greece the government of Crete—a step which, considering the large number of Mahomedans in the island, it was impossible for Turkey to take without dishonour. How the Great Continental Powers justify, even to themselves, what they have done, I am at a loss to explain, except by supposing that they have adopted some maxim like the old one which teaches that no faith should be kept with heretics and infidels — some such maxim as this—that the rules of International Law are binding on a Mahomedan State, but that for the benefit of such a State those rules have neither vigour nor validity. Instead of wondering that, under these circumstances, Turkey has failed in putting down the Cretan insurrection, the wonder appears to me to be that she has succeeded in keeping it in check. Let us make the case our own. Let us imagine that Ireland, instead of having England interposed between it and the rest of Europe, had been as easy of access from the Continent as Crete is from Greece. Let us further suppose that, even during the last thirty-five years, when we have been at least endeavouring to improve the government of Ireland, one of the Catholic Powers of the Continent had been constantly Bending cruizers to land there rebel volunteers, and arms and provisions, and to take back return cargoes, not only of women and children and wounded men, but of such peaceable and home-loving Irishmen as could be found and carried away against their will. Let us likewise assume that the other Catholic Powers had been in league to prevent us from defending ourselves by attacking our enemy; and then tell me what you think would have been, under such circumstances, our success in preventing a chronic insurrection in Ireland.
I now pass to that part of the subject which was my principal reason for desiring to address the House; and I ask hon. Members, before they sanction or favour the separation of semi-barbarous tribes from the Turkish Empire, to consider well what have been the results of those experiments 1242 of the same kind which have already been made. Let us turn to Servia and Roumania. From Servia I believe that the Mahomedans have been driven, out; but I have fuller information respecting the condition of the Servian Jews, Under the Turkish rule they appear to have had no great cause of complaint; but the case has been entirely altered since Servia has been practically independent. In 1861 a law was passed, prohibiting Jews from settling in the interior of Servia, and from entering into any trades which they had not already carried on. Even the children of Jews already settled in the country were not allowed to pursue their fathers' trades. Notwithstanding repeated remonstrances from the English, French, and other Governments, continued from time to time up to last year, notwithstanding the favourable disposition of the ruling Prince, and the wishes of the Servian persants, who find that they are supplied with the ordinary articles of consumption by the Jews on better terms than by other traders, the influence of the mercantile class in Belgrade, and other places, who are jealous of Jewish competition, is, as is explained by Consul General Longworth in a despatch of the 10th of August, 1865, as well as in subsequent communications, so great, that this disgraceful law remains unrepcaled. In Roumania the condition of things is more serious still. The persecution there affects a Jewish population which is estimated by their enemies at 500,000, and which really exceeds 300,000 souls. By the 46th Article of the Convention of the 19th of August, 1858, under which the present Rouman State exists, it was stipulated that all Roumans, of whatever faith, should be equal before the law, and admissible to all employments, though the political rights of such as were not Christians were left to the discretion of the Legislative Assembly. In 1866 when the Constitution was framed, a clause was introduced for conferring full equality on persons of all religions; but a tumult arose at Bucharest, a riotous mob pillaged the synagogue, and the Constitution was so altered as to exclude all but Christians from political rights. These occurrences appear to have suggested the idea, that a persecution of the Jews would be popular. In May, 1867, the Minister of the Interior, M. Ion Bratiano (formerly a Red Republican), issued to the prefects a circular, by which he attempted to revive, by his own authority, old laws which had 1243 been abrogated, forbidding Jews to dwell in the rural districts; and he directed that they should be expelled from farms and inns of which they were lessees or proprietors. He also ordered the police to treat the Jews as vagabonds without the formalities required by law. It deserves notice indeed, as a peculiar characteristic of this Rouman persecution, that men are first driven lawlessly from their homes, and then illegally punished as vagabonds. The circular was acted on with a barbarity quite in keeping with the document itself. Numbers of Jews were thrown into chains; some were imprisoned, others driven from the country. Telegrams were sent to my hon. Friend the Member for London (Baron Rothschild), Sir Moses Montefiore, and myself, and to the Alliance Israelite of Paris, and in consequence of the communications which we made, and of those which the English and French Governments received from their own agents, those Governments offered representations to Prince Charles and his Ministers, which procured some mitigation of the persecution I have described. In June the Court of Appeal of Jassy set aside as illegal the sentence by which three Jews had been condemned as vagabonds. But the circular has never been revoked, and the persecution has from time to time been renewed with the greatest persistency and determination. I will not dwell on the various deeds of oppression I of which the Rouman Jews have been the victims; but I will ask permission shortly to mention them, taking first the outrages and acts of injustice committed by the populace and subordinate authorities, and then the intolerant laws and proceedings passed and adopted by the National Assembly and the Government. In June, 1867, more than 200 Jews were beaten and insulted at the very moment of Prince Charles entering Jassy. This is stated by Mr. St. Clair, the British Consul in that city, in his despatch of the 28th of June. In July ten Jews, who were alleged by the Rouman authorities to be vagabonds from Turkey, but who were believed by the Consuls to be natives of Roumania, were carried from Galntz across part of, the Danube, and landed in a marshy island where one of them perished in the mud. The survivors were afterwards sent back by the Turkish authorities to Galatz; and in a struggle between the Turkish boatmen, who wished to land the unhappy Jews, and the Roumans who would not receive them, they were all thrown into the water 1244 and two were drowned. These facts, which are stated in despatches of July the 16th, from Consul Ward, and July the 20th, from Consul General Green, led to an energetic, but ineffectual protest by the Consuls General of Austria, France, England, Italy, Prussia, and Russia. In October 1867, a wholesale expulsion of Jews from the villages round Galatz took place by order of the Prefect. About the same time the Mayor of Jassy, imitating the Minister Bratiano, revived by his own authority, an old law which had been repealed, prohibiting Jews from keeping Christian servants; and M. Neuschatz, a respectable banker, was fined for disobedience to the Prefect's illegal order. In December, 1867, in consequence of the death of a child at Kalarasch, the mediaeval assertion that the Jews used Christian blood in their religious ceremonies was renewed. The Jews of the town were ill-treated, and the synagogue was gutted by the mob. The Government ordered a Commission of Inquiry, the Report of which threw the whole blame of the disturbance on a medical man and a schoolmaster, who had excited the populace, and whom the Government stated to have been arrested; but these mischievous slanderers seem never to have received any punishment. In January 1868, the Jews were accused of having poisoned a monk whohad died at Berlad, and were seriously ill-treated. No redress was afforded, and the Government attributed the mischief, not indeed to any guilt on the part of the Jews, but to their "overbearing behaviour." This is an improvement on the old fable of the wolf and the lamb. In February 1868, the Jews were expelled by the prefect from the district of Vaslin; a list has been sent to me of the names of between twenty and thirty of the families who were thus driven out. In March 1868, M. Lecca, the prefect of the district of Bacao, of whose hostility to the Jews the Government was well aware, expelled a large number. I have a list, which I am assured is incomplete, of the names of nearly 100 of the sufferers, specifying also the names of the communes, and of the owners of the estates from which they were banished. The misery of persons thus thrust out of their homes, at a season which, I am told, was as inclement in Roumania as it was here, may be imagined; and that misery was heightened by the system, which, as I have already noticed, seems to have been adopted throughout 1245 this Rouman persecution, of punishing as vagabonds those whom the Government had first driven from their dwellings. For all these acts of oppression on the part of the prefects, the Government must be considered as clearly responsible since they have not only retained in office officials whom, like M. Lecca, they know to be hostile, but have removed those who do not share their persecuting tendencies. This is distinctly stated by Consul Ward, in his despatch of the 16th of July, 1867.
I pass on to the proceedings emanating directly from the Rouman Ministry or the Chamber. In January, 1868, an order was I issued by the Government prohibiting Jews from being contractors, or bidding at Government auctions. In February, a law was passed imposing on Jews, in common with the other inhabitants of the country, the obligation of military service, but disqualifying the former for any rank in the army. On the 24th of the same month, on a petition being presented from the village of Hangou, complaining of the conduct of some Jewish innkeepers at that place, the Chamber voted at once, and without even an inquiry into the truth of the complaint, a resolution requesting the Minister of the Interior to put into execution the laws (which by the way do not exist except in the imagination of the Chamber and of the Government) for the expulsion of the Jews from all the rural districts. In March, 1868, the President and thirty other Deputies, forming about one-fifth of the Chamber and belonging to the Ministerial party, presented a project of law which carries us back to the times of our own Henry III. and Edward I., and indeed exceeds, in its mixture of absurdity and cruelty, the barbarous statutes of that remote period. I cannot venture to occupy the time of the House by reading the Preamble, but I may perhaps be permitted to give a few specimens of its allegations. It states—among much other rhodomontade—that 500,000 Jews have invaded Roumania, and created a compact colony which has acquired a monstrous monopoly, and completely destroyed the commerce and retail trade of the native population; that the concentration of capital in their hands has created a monetary crisis; that the Jews have monopolized food and drinks; that the Roumans are forced to consume the food and drinks prepared by the Jews, while the Jews refuse with disdain those prepared by the Roumans; that the Jews of Spain, England, France and Austria, are neither 1246 Spaniards, Englishmen, Frenchmen nor Austrians, but only Jews; that the nationality of any people is obscured if it allows itself to be isolated by foreign and heterogeneous groups, and that when national union is thus menaced, the public liberties become mere chimeras; that the Rouman State is tolerant towards the free exercise of all forms of worship, but that it cannot shut its eyes to the morality of a religion of which it is the principal object to ruin the highest interests of the nation; and that the legislators of other countries have been equally with themselves obliged to put an end to the evils caused by the Jews.
The enacting part of the proposed law is worthy of the Preamble. The 1st Article prohibits the Jews from establishing themselves in town communes without permission from the Communal Council, and from settling even temporarily in the rural communes under any pretext whatever. The 2nd Article declares Jews disobeying the 1st to be vagabonds. The 3rd forbids Jews to hold any real property either in town or country, and declares that on any attempt being made to purchase or sell for them any such property, two-thirds of the price shall be forfeited to the local charitable institutions and the remaining third to the informer. The 4th imposes severe penalties for the infraction of the 3rd. The 5th prohibits the Jews from taking leases of lands, inns, mills, distilleries, vineyards, or stables for cattle, and from undertaking anything connected with the State, or any public establishment. The 6th forbids the authorities to entertain any demand emanating from a Jew relative to matters of business prohibited by the 5th. The 7th makes it unlawful for Jews to carry on any trade except by the especial permission of the authorities of the commune. The 8th renders illegal the sale by Jews to Christians of any food or drink; and the 9th suppresses all Jewish communities and committees in the different villages.
The object of those who proposed this outrageous law was of course to drive all Jews out of the country. On the proposal being made, the leading men of the Jewish community immediately telegraphed to their co-religionists in Paris, London, and elsewhere. In consequence of representations made to the Governments of France, England, Austria, and Prussia, those Governments, and also I believe that of Russia, remonstrated against the preposterous proposal, and it has not at 1247 present received the sanction of the Chamber. Brought forward, however, by the friends of Bratiano, it has been made to I serve his purposes, by enabling him to assume the character of a protector of the Jews, whilst in fact oppressing them. He obtained the consent of the Chamber to the adjournment of the project of law by declaring that its provisions were too violent, but that he was quite aware of the great mischief done by the Jews, and would take effectual measures to put a stop to it. What those efficacious measures were to be, is plain from what has been done by the Prefect Lecca, and from the declarations which have been made by Bratiano to the leading Jews, that such was the state of public feeling, that he must act against their co-religionists and drive them out of the rural communes, or else the population would rise against him. Only this morning I have received a letter informing: me that the national guard of Bacao had used the arms, with which they were provided for the defence of their country, in firing into the houses of the Jews.
Such, then, is the condition of Roumania. Compare its Government, or even that of Servia, with the Turkish Government in Crete, so long as the island was not stirred into insurrection by Greece, and who can doubt the superiority of the latter? But to suppose that the state of Crete, if separated from the Turkish Empire, will be similar to that of Rou-mania, would be to form a conjecture far too favourable. If the semi-civilized Roumans are practising cruel oppression against an unoffending and industrious population with whom they have no cause of quarrel, unless perhaps that the Jews successfully compete with them in trade—what conduct could be expected from the barbarous Christians of Crete, if they became the dominant class, towards the Mahomedans, whose religion has hitherto been that of the Government, and against whom their passions have been inflamed by an obstinate war? Is it not perfectly dear that the hapless Mussulmans would only have to choose between expulsion and destruction? In considering the condition of Turkey, Parliament should never lose eight of two short but most instructive sentences in Lord Lyon's despatch of the 6th of May, 1867—In short, very little progress has been made towards enabling tae Christians to feel that the Ottoman Government is, as regards them, a national Government. They submit to it as a less 1248 evil than anarchy and confusion, and each Christian race appears to value it chiefly as a safeguard against what appears to be to each the great object of dread, the domination of any of the other Christian races in the Empire.The appeals to sympathy on behalf of the Christian races which it is desired to free from Turkish rule, appear to me to be in part founded upon a vague idea that it must always be a right and religious thing to take up the cause of those who call themselves Christians, against Mahomedans. I am sure, however, that no such idea will be allowed to mislead this House. The expulsion of the Mussulman from Servia, the prohibition of the Jews from farming and trading in the interior of the same principality, the outrages practised on the large Jewish population of Roumania, the extermination of the Mahomedans in Crete, and in every other part of Turkey which may be separated from the Empire — these are the results of freeing semi-barbarous races from Turkish rule, the actual results of the process so far as it has gone, its probable results if it shall go further. And these consequences I venture to say that yon will agree with me in declaring to be consistent neither with Christianity nor morality, with religion nor with right. It would be vain to hope for the immediate establishment in Turkey of what we should consider a satisfactory Government; but the best thing we can do is to continue to afford to the Turkish Empire the support of England, making it a condition of that support that the Porte should gradually, but with more energy than has hitherto been displayed, pursue the course upon which it has already entered, that of improving its rule, and developing the rights of its Christian subjects until they shall have attained perfect equality with the Mahomedans.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, that the hon. Member for Reading (Sir Francis Goldsmid) in his remarks had wandered over a large portion of Europe, but the question before the House was the state of Crete, not the condition of the Jews in Servia and the Principalities. He was surprised at the observations which had fallen from the hon. Member, knowing his antecedents and the philanthropic views which he usually advocated in that House. On the Inst occasion when this subject was brought under consideration, he (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) thought that any discussion would be premature, because there was at that time every reason to hope that the war was 1249 about to cease, and a discussion under such circumstances was likely to prejudice rather than promote the interests of those whom they desired to serve. When the question of Crete had formerly been raised he (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) thought the discussion of it premature; but a year had elapsed since then, and he regretted to have to concur in the observations of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), that, if we might credit the reports of eye witnesses, there was little prospect of the war in Crete—he would not call it the insurrection—coming to a close. In one of disable despatches, written to Earl Cowley, April 13, in last year, his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) said he had had a conversation with the French Ambassador here, who represented the views of the French Government to be that Turkey should be induced to cede Crete to Greece. His noble Friend added, in effect, that in the event of the war continuing, or of the area of the war being enlarged, it would be a question for fair consideration whether that advice should not be given to Turkey. A long period had elapsed since then, and the war still continued. It was true that the well-known blockade-runner the Arkadi had been taken, but others which had taken its place were introducing ammunition and soldiers, and the war seemed as interminable as ever. Now, he concurred heartily in the policy of non-intervention as contrasted with what had been properly called the "meddling and muddling" policy advocated by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Layard), which had done the greatest harm. But we must consider what our relations with Greece were. Greece was a creation of this country. Along with France and Russia, we stood towards her in loco parentis, and we engaged to promote her interest to the extent of our ability. We showed this concern for her well-being when we advanced large sums of money to her and ceded to her the Ionian Islands. We stood, therefore, in a different position towards Greece from that in which we stood towards other countries, and it was a question how far we might not have the right to interfere for the promotion of her interests. Originally it was intended that Crete should become a part of Greece, and when Greece was offered to Prince Leopold he wrote a most interesting despatch to the Duke of Wellington, dated February 9, 1830, in which he pointed out the constant danger from Turkey that would exist if Crete did not belong to 1250 Greece. This was one of the causes which induced Prince Leopold to refuse the throne. Then, in a protocol into which we had entered in 1830, the English Government, in conjunction with the Allied Powers, had expressed itself strongly as to the mode in which Crete should be governed by Turkey, and the propriety of affording to the people of that island a sufficient protection against arbitrary and oppressive acts. At that time Crete was almost independent. Only two or three fortresses remained in the hands of the Turks, and it was by the Act of the Three Powers that it was restored to the Turkish Empire, but the initiative was taken by England. We, therefore, had a right when we found what misery prevailed there to do our best, by advice to the Porte, in favour of the people of the country. The hon. Gentleman had cast doubts upon the treatment which the Cretans had received from the Turkish Government. But no one who had studied the Papers which had been presented to Parliament could doubt that there had been an entire violation of faith on the part of the Turks towards those unhappy people. The Hatti-Humayoun had never been fairly carried out. The Consular reports of 1858, though produced at the dictation of an Ambassador who distinctly intimated what he wished them to be, were, nevertheless, very damaging to the Turkish Government. In the East, whether we chose to interfere or not, our influence was paramount. The opinion of this country and of the House of Commons had the greatest possible weight there. He had been much struck by what M. Marc Girardin said upon this subject in the Revue des Deux Mondes, October, 1862. These were his words—What is the complaint? In 1840 there was a Turkey and a Turkish Government; in 1862 there remains nothing but England and an English Government. The East can no longer face decrepit, mouldering Turkey, but it has to encounter vigorous and powerful England. Greece, Egypt, Syria, the Lebanon, Servia, the Dnnubian provinces, no longer look to Constantinople, but to London. Turkey has found the secret of being even more formidable than she was in the 15th or 16th century, by being nothing of herself, and of being everything through England.We were supposed to have the credit of justifying and upholding the present state of things, but that was not the case, as would be seen by anyone who read his noble Friend's despatches. His only wish now was that we should go one step further than we had already done. He thought that even without joining in a collective 1251 note his noble Friend, by his own representations, might do much good. His hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Layard) had himself said—Wherever the Osmanli has placed his foot he has bred fear and distrust. His visit has been one of oppression and rapine. The scarlet cap and the well-known garb of the Turkish irregular are the signals for a general panic. The women hide in the innermost recesses to save themselves from insult; the men slink into their houses and offer a vain protest against the seizure of their property.And Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, in 1858, wrote thus—Abuses continue to swarm in every department. The prohibition of bribery and corruption is merely on piper; no public example has yet been made of any public functionary accused of these offences. Some charges have been submitted to an inquiry leading to no result. Though mixed tribunals have been established partially, the judicial procedure is still defective and the course of justice impure. The new codes of law which are said to be in progress have yet to come into practice. Commissions have been formed for the amendment of prisons, and a better organization of the post office and police, but no improvement of consequence has hitherto resulted practically from their labours. The fiscal department is quite as irregular and defective as ever.The opinion of Sir Henry Bulwer would be found in a despatch dated April 24, 1860, and was as follows:—Wherever the Turk is sufficiently predominant to be implicitly obeyed, laziness, corruption, extravagance and penury mark his rule; and wherever he is too feeble to exert more than a doubtful and nominal authority, the system of government which prevails is that of the Arab robber and the lawless Highland chieftain.Where government was conducted in this manner, it was no wonder that the charges brought against it with respect to Crete should be believed. He warned hon. Gentlemen who wished to understand the condition of the Turkish Government not to be misled by statements as to the progress Turkey was making. We had entered into a solemn engagement with the kingdom of Greece, and to a certain extent with Crete, and we were justified in insisting as strongly as possible that the Turkish Government should become a Government of justice and equality. And now as to the mode in which the war was conducted. The hon. Gentleman who had introduced the subject had read different extracts to show the horrible atrocities that had been committed, and he did not understand how in the face of the Consular Reports they could possibly be denied. Mr. Consul General Dickson, in a despatch to Lord Stanley dated October 15, 1866, said— 1252On the road at the village of Nero-kuru the murdered bodies of a Cretan Greek, his wife, and their son (a young child), and her brother have just been discovered, lying near to a Turkish farm. The woman was stripped naked, and the child's head severed from the body. The tezkereh, or pass, with which the party had been provided by the authorities to insure their free passage through this part of the country was found torn to pieces.Mr. Erskine, writing in November following, said—One gentleman describes the massacre of 200 persons, chiefly old men, women, and children; and the barbarities committed by the troops as beyond all belief. Another states that the Turks refused all quarter to the Christians, and mercilessly chopped off the heads of the unfortunate wounded, as well as dead; a reward of 100 lira having been offered for each head thus brought to the camp.It was perfectly extraordinary to contrast the improvement in Greece as compared with Turkey. Since 1821 the population of the Peloponnesus had increased from 398,000 to 600,000, and since 1831 the number of schools had increased from 101 to 1,310. Although the population of Greece, moreover, was but a twentieth part of that of Turkey, its shipping was greater and was increasing, while that of Turkey was declining. Its population had doubled in 38 years, while its revenue had increased from £178,000 to £1,000,000. Its exports and imports had doubled, and its mercantile marine consisted of several thousand vessels. While Greece was thus advancing, Turkey, as had been said, was dying for want of Turks. Of the 200,000 inhabitants of Candia not 20,000 were Turks; of 30,000 in Rhodes only 2,000 were Turks; of 35,000 in Scio, only 1,000; of 50,000 in Mitylene, only 5,000; of 60,000 in Samos, only 10,000; and of 10,000 in Patmos, only 20. In Albania two-thirds of the people were Greeks, and in Thessaly there were only 30,000 Turks to 170,000 Greeks. In Smyrna there were in 1830 80,000 Turks, whereas there were now but 40,000, while the Greeks had increased from 20,000 to 71,000. [Mr. LAYARD asked the authority for these figures.] He was quoting from statistics which had been collected, and he thought the hon. Gentleman would hardly dispute so notorious a fact as that the Turks were decreasing, there being in the whole Empire only 4,000,000 Mahomedans to 11,000,000 Christians. Now, he did not wish to hasten what he believed to be inevitable—namely, the fall of the Turkish Empire; but the best way of retarding 1253 that event was to secure justice for the Christian races, and he thought England would be justified in advising Turkey to consider whether, in view of the antagonism existing between the two races, it was not the wisest policy to cede Crete to Greece. He did not blame the noble Lord for declining to join in the Collective Note, but he would appeal to him whether the contingency hinted at in his own despatch had not arrived, and whether in justice and humanity we were not now bound to interfere.
§ MR. LAYARD
said, he was of opinion that debates of this kind caused considerable mischief, by encouraging hopes which could not be fulfilled, and leading to results not desired by any Members of the House, but the present discussion might have a good effect if it elicited from the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) a declaration that the British Government were not prepared to join in the policy pursued by some European Powers in Turkey, and would take no part in the intrigues which were carried on in that country, and which had led to the unfortunate state of things in Crete. The noble Lord deserved great credit for his refusal to share in a policy dangerous to the peace of Europe and prejudicial to the interests of the Christians themselves, and he (Mr. Layard) had reason to believe that some of the Powers had already begun to regret the course they had pursued and to admit that the noble Lord's policy had been more just and statesmanlike. It would be idle to conceal that the Cretan insurrection was part of a system which for some years had been carried on in the East. There was one very powerful State whose policy it was to weaken the Turkish Empire, to render all reforms impossible, and to embitter the relations between the different races, so that the fall of the Empire might sooner or later occur. That Power was well known to be Russia, and Aali Pasha, in the able report on the insurrection in Crete which he had recently addressed to the Sultan, after mentioning the intrigues of Greece and two other causes to which it had been attributed, concluded by saying that there was a fourth, which, more than all others, influenced such things in the East, and which His Majesty would at once recognize by the simple allusion to it. There was no doubt that he referred to the policy of Russia, which was founded on the hypocritical pretence of resistance to oppression and corruption, the vindication of political and religious liberty, the support of nationalities, 1254 and respect for treaties. Now, in what country did there exist more oppression and corruption than in Russia—more outrages on political and religious liberty, more contempt for the rights of nationalities, and more shameless violation of treaties? In Poland and among the German population in the Western provinces, as it is well known, and not denied by the Russian Government, there was a systematic attempt to crush the sentiment of nationality and to compel the people to renounce their language and faith. This showed the unreasonableness and injustice of the remonstrances addressed by Russia to Turkey, in which she called upon us to join. It was, in fact, Russia which was bringing about the state of things in the East which had been described. Nobody would contend for a moment that Turkey was well governed, and he had himself witnessed instances of misgovernment and misconduct on the part of Turkish officials. The account of Turkish rule in some of the distant provinces of the Empire which he had written many years ago, and which had been quoted that evening, was perfectly true; but it must be remembered that great changes had since been made, and things which happened then could not happen now. Turkish Ministers would themselves admit that misgovernment still existed, and that it was difficult in so large an Empire to maintain a proper control over all their subordinates, who frequently violated or exceeded their orders. It was only fair that credit should be given to Turkey for what she had really accomplished. The agents for carrying out the policy of Russia in Turkey were Servia, Roumania, and Greece; Belgrade and Bucharest being the centres of the propagandism amongst the Bulgarian population, and Athens amongst the Greeks. The Bulgarians, however, were fairly well governed by Turkey; they enjoyed religious liberty, and they hoped to obtain more from Turkey by remaining obedient to her rule than by rising against her. They were, therefore, on the whole, not ill-affected to the Porte. As for Servia, the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory), and others who advocated her cause, declared some time ago that if Turkey satisfied Servia by giving up Belgrade and other fortresses, there would be an end to all differences between them. He (Mr. Layard) remarked, however, at the time that no such result could be expected, and, in 1255 fact, no sooner had Turkey yielded this point that the Servians renewed their intrigues, and demanded more than they had ever asked before. Armed bands from Servia crossed the Turkish frontier and pillaged not only Mahomedan but Christian villages; and so bad was the conduct of the Servian Government, that France and Austria, who had before supported that Government, were compelled to address very strong notes to it, and he believed he was correct in stating that the noble Lord, although he had declined to join with them in a collective remonstrance, had represented in the strongest terms to the Prince the want of good faith of which he had been guilty in countenancing those bands, and in pursuing a policy hostile to Turkey. Wherever the Turkish Government endeavoured to introduce reforms they were thwarted, for the promoters of the policy to which he referred did not wish to see Turkey well governed, and its population contented. He called in question the statistics of his hon. Friend opposite, and asked where they were obtained, but his hon. Friend did not appear able to state. He spoke, inadvertently no doubt, of the population of Turkey as being 15,000,000 or 16,000,000. It must be inferred that he meant Turkey in Europe only, because the population of the whole of Turkey was much larger. His hon. Friend seemed to forget that he must eliminate 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 of Christians, including 4,000,000 of Roumanians, from the populations under the direct rule of the Sultan, which would leave about 10,000,000 for the number of the inhabitants of what might properly be called Turkey in Europe. There were, however, no accurate statistics on the subject. There were various high authorities who reckoned the Turks or Mahomedans of Europe at considerably above 5,000,000, and the Turks considered themselves as more numerous. It was a great and mischievous error to assume that all the Christians in Turkey were Greeks. His hon. Friend spoke of the population of Albania as consisting of one-third Turks and two-thirds Greeks; but a very large portion of the population of Albania was Greek neither in race nor religion; the Christians were for the most part Catholics, and of a different race altogether from the Greeks. [MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE: I said they were the Christian population.] The Christian population was divided into more than one sect, whilst the Mahomedans were 1256 homogeneous. As regarded the revolution in Crete, we knew full well that was brought about almost entirely by the agents of the Greek Government. No doubt the Cretans may have had causes of complaint. He was not in a position to state whether the Turks could have carried out the Hatti-Humayoum; but still a great deal had been done, and certainly the island had not been ruined under Turkish rule. Among various mis-statements made by the Greeks was one that he saw the other day quoted by some one writing in The Times. It was to the effect that the island of Crete had been depopulated by the Turks; that before the Turkish conquest the population amounted to 800,000, and that it was owing to its occupation by the Turks that it had been reduced to its present number. What was the truth of the matter? According to Francesco Barozzi, quoted by Daru in the History of Venice (vol. 7, p. 130), the population of Crete in 1577, under the Venetian rule, amounted to 193,798. According to Pashly (Travels in Crete, vol. 2, p. 326), about the time of the Mahomedan conquest it had fallen to 80,000. In 1821 it had risen to 270,000; in 1834, owing to the Greek revolution, it had fallen to 129,000; before the last rebellion it had risen to 320,000. There was no doubt that Pashly was correct, for he gave the numbers for every village and district. This was a complete answer to the statement that the population of Crete had been destroyed by the Mahomedans during their occupation of the island. Exaggerations of this kind had been put forward to induce the British Government to support the policy of Russia and some other Powers in Crete. It was no wonder that these exaggerations should have made some impression upon Europe, seeing that, as was stated in Aali Pacha's report, there were no less than 117 journals in Greece propagating them throughout Europe, and that they were backed up by the Russian and the Greek Governments. His hon. Friend assumed that the stories of which they had heard, and which had been repeated that evening, of the atrocities committed by the Turks were true. For his part he believed them to be enormous exaggerations. They made, however, a strong impression upon the French Government, which was induced in consequence to allow its vessels to assist in removing a large number of refugees from the island. The French Admiral conveyed 1257 some of them from Crete to Greece, and his evidence on the subject cannot be called in question. According to a despatch from Mr. Ellis to Lord Stanley, of the 3rd of August, 1867 (p. 220)—During the voyage from Crete the (French) Admiral questioned through his interpreters the Cretans whom he had on board, and who were mostly women, as to whether they had ever witnessed any cruelty committed by the Turks. They all answered that they had not seen any act of cruelty committed; but that people had very often told them that such things had taken place, and that they believed in the truth of such statements. The reports from Russian sources are of so incredible a nature that I have never thought myself justified in reporting them to your Lordship.In fact these stories of the atrocities committed by the Turks in Crete were like the stories of the mutilation of English women during the Indian mutiny. Although it was confidently asserted that many cases of mutilation had occurred, to this day not a single case had been verified. The conduct of some of our agents abroad in sending home these exaggerated statements could not be too much deprecated; but, if we employed Greeks as our Consular agents, we must expect that their natural sympathies would lead them to repeat and to exaggerate what they heard. He regretted to see that amongst our Consular agents in Crete there were two Greeks, whose sympathies were openly in favour of the insurgents. The Reports of one of these gentlemen were so enormously exaggerated that even Her Majesty's Consul, Mr. Dickson—who was no friend to the Turks—was compelled in one of his despatches to offer as an apology for him that he was ill in bed and wrote under the influence of an excited imagination. Yet these Reports were laid before Parliament, and printed, and went out to Turkey and the world. If agents of foreign Powers in Ireland were to send to their Governments for publication such calumnious reports, we should complain, and probably demand that they should be called upon to prove their statements, and, in default, dismissed. He should be inclined to treat with great severity any British agent who sent home Reports of this nature, which he had not taken the trouble to investigate. He might refer to some evidence in favour of the Turks. Hon. Gentlemen might, perhaps, have seen the statements published in Florence by some Italian volunteers who went with the son of Garibaldi to join the Cretan insurrection. Young Garibaldi heard 1258 enough in Greece to deter him from proceeding further, but his companions went on. After some time they returned, and in the published account of their proceedings they said that one of their reasons for leaving the Cretans was the terrible cruelties committed by the Cretans on Mahomedan prisoners. Amongst other instances, the Turkish commander sent a Greek with a flag of truce to propose certain terms to the insurgents. They cut off his nose and ears and half his tongue, and sent him back in this horrible condition. He did not mention these matters with a view to excite any feeling against the Cretans; he simply referred to them to show what might be expected in times of civil war from semi-barbarous populations. The persons who were really responsible for them were those by whom the insurrection was instigated and encouraged. It was said that there was a great destruction of property, but that was one of the misfortunes which invariably attended war. It was, however, stated by Aali Pasha in his report that for the large sums owing to the Mahomedans by the Christians there was in Crete no security but the standing crops. The private debts in Crete, he states, amounted to 150,000,000 piastres, and two-thirds of those debts were owed by Christians to Mahomedans. Was it likely, he justly asks, that the creditors would destroy the only security they had for the re-payment of their money, or was it more probable, as was alleged, that the destruction of property was the work of the Christians themselves, who desired by this means to take revenge upon their antagonists? Some of the European Powers had been deceived by these exaggerated accounts; and what had been the result of the policy they had in consequence pursued? They had introduced into International Law precedents of a most dangerous description. No doctrine, perhaps, was more dangerous than that of sauvetage—a word of new coinage, which means an alleged right of neutrals to approach the shores of a country in arms against the lawful Government, and to remove, on the ground of humanity, the wives and children of those engaged in the insurrection. Such a course might be most dangerous in its effects by prolonging a war. He would wish to know whether this was a doctrine of International Law universally I recognized, or only applicable to Turkey? Would Russia have tolerated such a doctrine if we had on similar pretences removed 1259 the Circassian women and children, and so have left the men free and unfettered to continue their insurrection? Another most serious innovation on International Law was the new mode of blockade-running which had been practised by the Greeks, with the sanction of some of the European Powers. There were vessels used as blockade runners, armed with six or eight guns, resisting all attempts to stop them, and firing into Turkish cruizers and slaughtering their crews; and the voyages of these vessels were not only justified by the Greek Government, as being made without any violation of International Law, but they were on several occasions actually escorted by Greek men-of-war. Would such a doctrine have been tolerated by Americans during their civil war? If that doctrine were admitted there was no meaning in the word neutrality. Were these things to be accepted as precedents, or were we to adopt one set of doctrines as applicable to Turkey and another to other European countries? He could not help saying that the conduct of the Greek Government was deserving of our strongest condemnation. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) appeared to contend that we were bound to support the Greeks, because we were to a great extent answerable for their existence as a kingdom, but if we were bound to protect them against other countries we were also bound to see that they fulfilled their obligations as a nation; and towards Turkey they had broken all these obligations, and done what no good neighbour ought to do to any State. On the other hand, Turkey had behaved towards Greece with the greatest moderation; for she might with justice have either declared war against Greece, or have taken a still more serious step, and have suspended her diplomatic relations with Greece, have sent out of Turkey the Greek Minister, expelled from her territories every Greek merchant and resident, and put an end to the whole of the coasting trade, from which Greece derived so much advantage. He would like to know on what grounds Greece had been supported in her flagitious attempt to annex Crete by some of the European powers. The Cretans themselves did not ask for annexation to Greece, and did not wish for it. They knew quite well that if they were so annexed they would merely become the spoil of a few persons in Athens. What they wished for was, perhaps, autonomy, or, failing that, to remain subject to the Turkish rule with proper security 1260 for good and equal government. The Turks, moreover, were not prepared to give up Crete, and it might fairly be asked if they were not, after all, the best judges of their own interests, and whether there was not something in the plea that they could not abandon an island containing so large a proportion of Mahomedans? It might or it might not be true that the Mahomedans would be expelled from Crete if Turkey gave up the island. Such a course would not be without precedent, for, in gaining her independence, Servia expelled the whole of the Mahomedan portion of the population. It was true that Servia engaged to compensate them for their loss of property; but, from that time to the present, not a single step had been taken to fulfil that engagement. The Turks might, with some show of reason, argue that the same result would follow in the case of Crete were the Christians to get the upper hand; and, considering the antagonism of race, he was by no means sure that there was not good ground for such a fear. The Constitution which was contained in the blue book laid before the House, and which the Turkish Government were prepared to concede to Crete, appeared to be almost everything that the Christian part of the Cretan population could desire. No country in the world, probably, was composed of a greater number of different races, professing a different creed, than the Turkish Empire, and the Turkish Government had to reconcile the antagonism of Mahomedans, Catholics, Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, and to administer equal justice to and to restrain men who cordially hated each other, and who were equally willing on the first opportunity to persecute the professors of other creeds. He had never supported the misdeeds of the Turkish Government, nor was he there to plead their cause; on the contrary, he had condemned them as strongly as any man. He only asked for justice for the Mahomedan population, comprising many millions of souls. We were bound to see that the Mahomedans were not sacrificed to the Christians, as well as that the Christians were not sacrificed to the Mahomedans—that all were treated with equal justice, and the rights of all equally respected. At the present moment this end could not, he believed, be effected by any Government so well as by the Turkish. In most parts of the Turkish Empire the people were not only divided into Mahomedans and Christians, but the Christians 1261 were again split up into various sects; so that it would be most impolitic to put any one section politically above another. The safest way would be to leave matters as they stood at present, and to allow the various populations to work out their own destinies without foreign interference or intervention. Viewing the case in this way he thought the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary had shown wisdom in the policy he had adopted.
A great many topics have been touched upon in the course of this discussion, and I am afraid I shall not be able to do justice to them all; but the House will expect a few words from me before the discussion closes. Now, first, with regard to the Motion which the hon. Member has made. He asks me to lay upon the table various Papers. I do not quite know what are those Papers of the Russian Government to which he refers; but if I rightly interpret his Notice, I apprehend that he refers to certain despatches which were addressed by the Russian Government to their own officials, and confidentially communicated to the Foreign Office. Clearly these were not and could not be included in the published Papers, for this reason — they were not ours to give or withhold. If the Russian Government gave us permission to produce them we should be free to do so; but, unless they gave us that permission, it would be a breach of courtesy, and to a certain extent a breach of faith, if we were to make public that which has been placed before us in confidence; and I need not say that if we did that we should not receive many more communications of the kind. With regard to the other Papers which bear upon the general condition of the Christian races in Turkey, as affected by the events of the past few years, I thought it best to exclude them from the Cretan blue book, partly because they refer to a subject which, though no doubt connected to a considerable extent with this war, is yet separate and distinct; and I thought that in the case of a publication which is already sufficiently voluminous, I should be rather confusing those who read it than throwing additional light upon the matter, if I were, following merely the order of date, to insert a very considerable number of Papers bearing only indirectly upon that particular subject. And I was partly influenced in excluding those Papers by the feeling that if they had been mutilated and published in the shape of extracts only, they might have 1262 given, in some case, an unfair impression as to the facts; while, if they were published absolutely as they stood, they would include various comments upon the conduct of agents of other European Powers; which it would not be a desirable thing to do. I do not say these objections are of an insuperable character. Many things may be published, when a crisis is over, which are not convenient to publish at the moment, and perhaps the hon. Member will be contented with my assurance that, in addition to the series of Cretan Papers which are printed, and which will appear in a few days, I will look through those which relate to the general condition of the Christian population, with a view to see whether there are any which can, without public inconvenience, be laid upon the table; and, if so, I shall have no objection to produce them. Now, with reference to the general question of policy which has been raised. I have no need to state at length what the views of Her Majesty's Government are, because those views have been expressed and repeated in different forms in the course of the public Correspondence, and because I see no reason to depart from that course which we originally adopted. We have declined throughout to recommend to the Porte the separation of Crete from the Empire, and we have done that because we felt assured that advice of that kind would not be accepted by the Turkish Government, except under pressure which would almost amount to compulsion, and such pressure it would be totally inconsistent with our position and with our duty to employ. We were also influenced by the fact that we could not conceal from ourselves that there was a good deal of force in the argument continually made use of by Turkish statesmen, that where you have a revolution in one province, and that revolution is encouraged and supported to a great extent by foreign assistance and sympathy, if you are to interfere on behalf of that insurrection, and by your interference to give it the upper hand, and give the insurgents that which they desire, that is not a course which could lead to a permanent, or even to a temporary pacification of the Empire as a whole; but the same means which produced insurrection in one part will be applied to another, and, either immediately or in the course of a very few months, you will have the insurrection which you pacified in one place breaking out somewhere else. I do not desire to erect 1263 that into a general principle; but I do say that, in this particular instance, it will apply; and I have no doubt whatever that if, by pressure amounting to compulsion, we had, at the beginning of last year, induced the Turkish Government to consent to the separation of Crete from the Empire, we should at this moment have had to deal with a similar claim to independence in Epirus and Thessaly. If the Porte had proposed to cede Crete, no objection would have been made on our part; but we thought that it was a matter for the Turkish Government, and not for us to decide. But I should also say that we have never ceased to do what was in our power to secure a good and impartial administration for the Christian population of Crete. With regard to the scheme of a mixed Commission of Inquiry to be carried on by foreign agents, I confess I never was very sanguine of it being likely practically to succeed. I did, on the part of the British Government, give a conditional assent to it, not much expecting that it would be put in practice, but rather as a preferable alternative to some other steps that were proposed. But I always stated to those who put forward that proposition that it was not easy to see how an International Commission, charged to inquire into the stale of an island, was to carry on its inquiry while the war was going on. If, on the other hand, a cessation of hostilities were made a preliminary condition, the Commission would be a very effective intervention in the strife, because a large Turkish force would be maintained in the island, at great expense, doing nothing. Then, again, it seemed vain to hope that an inquiry of that kind could be carried on in a judicial spirit. You would be quite sure to have great differences of opinion, and probably the end of it would have been that separate Reports would have been made by each member of the Commission. Then there would have been the inconvenience of raising wild hopes and extravagant expectations in the minds of the population, and the sense of injury which would have been produced in the event of these hopes being disappointed. I never, therefore, thought that that Commission was likely to come into operation, unless it had been adopted by the Porte as a means of saving their honour, they having previously made up their minds to the cession of the island, and wishing for a pretext for doing so, without seeming to yield to the insurgents. But, although we did not support 1264 that proposal, we have never ceased to urge the adoption of the plan of a better local administration. I do not think that our exertions, and those of other Governments in that respects, have been altogether unsuccessful. A very elaborate scheme has been framed by the Grand Vizier; and, though it is too early at present to say how that scheme, if fairly put into operation, will work, it seems to me, so far as I can judge from its construction, to be drawn up in a spirit of conciliation and of fairness; and, if it is well administered — for I need not say that in the East much less depends upon a paper Constitution or law than upon the man who administers it—I think it will give satisfaction to all, except those whose object is the total separation of Crete from the Empire. The hon. Member who raised this question (Mr. Monk) referred to a statement I made last year, and asked me, whether I now consider, as I said then, that the Cretan struggle is hopeless? Under certain conditions, I do consider it hopeless. I do consider it a hopeless struggle, unless a diversion were to be effected by a civil war upon a large scale in some other province of the Turkish Empire, or unless the insurgents were to receive the direct support of any foreign Power, which is not now an event that can be contemplated as probable. I have no doubt whatever that the insurrection has been protracted in the hope of one or other of these events occurring. We all know that this war has not been maintained by the resources of the island itself. It has been fed by supplies and stores of all kinds poured in from Greece; and I am bound to say that it has received very great encouragement from the practice which in the origin was undoubtedly adopted out of a feeling of humanity, but which, nevertheless, has been unfortunate in its results and in the effect it has produced on the minds of those concerned — I mean the practice of conveying refugees from the island. This, which was begun from motives of humanity, kept alive a constant belief, which, of course, was propagated by the local leaders, that Europe was about to interfere, and that if they could only hold out a few weeks longer, their work would be done. It is very hard to say what amount of suffering has been inflicted on those unfortunate people by that mistaken belief. As to the appeal which was made to me, or rather to the British Government, to interfere with a view to stop the effusion 1265 of blood, my answer is, that at present there is little effusion of blood going on. For a long time past we have not heard of anything but the most insignificant skirmishes going on. I cannot say exactly how the island is divided between the Imperial forces and the insurgents; but I take it that the Imperial forces occupy the low lying districts, and that the districts occupied by the insurgents are mostly those in which regular troops cannot act, or, at least, can only act with very great difficulty. In answer to the question as to the outrages which have been committed, I cannot deny that many such acts have been perpetrated. But I am afraid that outrages of this description will always take place during a civil war and still more during a war which is both religious and civil, in a country which is only partially civilized. I utterly deny, however, that which was stated by one hon. Member, that a system of violence and outrage had been organized by the Turkish Government. So far as I am able to learn, it appears that many of the acts of violence which are said to have been committed by the regular troops have been inquired into by the authorities, with a view to the punishment of the perpetrators. But it must be borne in mind, in the first place, that most of the reports which reach this country from Crete, proceed from Greek sources, and are rather imaginative in their character; and next, that outrages have not been committed on one side only, and further that many of the worst acts have not been the work of soldiers, certainly not of regular soldiers, but of Cretan Mussulmans, inhabitants of the locality, who have been driven from their homes by the war, who are ruined and starving, and in whose case, therefore, religious fanaticism is combined with the strongest feeling of personal resentment. Given these elements in any part of the world, I am afraid that results must necessarily be looked for, which every man must regret to contemplate. My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) takes up the case of the insurgents upon a new ground. He says that the British Government stands to the Greek nation in loco parentis; that the Greeks want to possess Crete, and that therefore we ought to give it to them. Now, I cannot admit the force of this argument. I quite understand the fooling of those who lay stress upon the wishes, or what they believe to be the wishes, of the Cretan population 1266 itself, but I do not admit that the Greek nation have any locus standi in the matter. They, no doubt, would be glad to obtain extension of territory, and they are not the only Government or people in that position. But if it is said that they require it for the purpose of defence, or as a protection against Turkey, my answer is, that they have a far more effectual protection in a European guarantee. And that guarantee is not a name only, but a very decided reality, for if any person will look at the transactions of the last two years, he will see that—I will not say the Greek Government, but the Greek people, have been perfectly conscious of its existence and of its value. They cannot be attacked by Turkey, and there is no other Power likely to come into collision with them. With regard to the Greeks, as a race, I wish to speak of them with all possible respect. I believe they have fine and noble qualities, and that they have before them a brilliant future. But it must be said that, during the last forty years of peace which they have enjoyed, they have not been very successful in administration, or in making the most of the territory which they actually possess. I cannot help thinking that if they would only trust to themselves and to time; if they would only devote themselves to the improvement of their internal administration, they would be doing a great deal more—I will not merely say for their own happiness; but in the long run for the greatness of their country, than it is possible for them to do by these attempts to obtain further possessions by giving encouragement and support to insurrections. My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton has spoken in very high terms of the extent to which English influence prevails in the East. For my part I do not believe that that influence quite reaches the height stated by the French writer whom my hon. Friend has quoted, nor, for my part, am I desirous that it should do so. We have no desire for the possession of any exclusive influence in that region. But no doubt our influence is considerable, and for this reason — that when an English Minister gives advice at Constantinople, the Government and people there—so far as the people take an interest in political matters—know that it is given in a disinterested and impartial spirit — that we really believe what we say, and that we have no private object to promote. And if we desire to retain the influence which I 1267 believe we at present possess, we must continue to use it in the same spirit—that is to say, we must consider not only what will gratify our own feelings, or what will meet the popular wishes either here or throughout the rest of Europe; but we must fairly consider what we would do ourselves if we were in the position of the rulers of the Turkish Empire, and what would be most likely to contribute to its safety and independence. Our policy hitherto has been based not upon any preference for Christians over Turks or for Turks over Christians, but simply upon a respect for the obligations of International Law and upon a frank recognition of the duty of neutrality which we owe to a friendly State. With respect to the future, I must decline on the part of the Government to give any pledge, simply because it is impossible in the actual state of the world to foresee what future complications may arise, or what may be the advice that under the new circumstances with which we may have to deal it would be useful and safe for us to give. But certainly I do not think it my duty at present to press upon the Porto the cession of Crete; and I am convinced that if that advice were given it would be unavailing. I think it is a matter absolutely for them to decide, and I believe that more than one European Government which last year committed themselves hastily and prematurely to an opposite conclusion have since that time come round more or less to the view which we have taken of the case, practically dropping the policy which they had before avowed.
There is only one other subject to which I will advert, and that is the one which the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Francis Goldsmid) introduced—namely, the persecution—for it is nothing less—of the Jewish race which is carried on at present in the Principalities. I can assure the hon. Baronet that he cannot feel upon that subject more strongly than I do. I really think it is a question which concerns Christians even more than Jews, because if the Buffering falls upon the Jew the disgrace falls upon the Christian. I know of no instance in our time of a series of oppressive acts which were committed so completely—I will not say merely without any provocation, but, so far as I can see, without any reasonable and intelligible motive whatever. In so far as those acts were connived at or encouraged either by the local officials, or, as I fear must have been the case in some instances, by the Roumanian 1268 Government itself, I can only explain that connivance or encouragement by the tendency of a weak and not very scrupulous Government to trade upon the worst popular passions. It is, however, but just to say that Prince Charles, the ruler of the country, has expressed himself very strongly upon the subject, and I believe that so far as his personal power and knowledge extend, he has done and will do what he can to prevent a repetition of these occurrences. But these things will not be lost sight of by the British Government, and perhaps I may mention that only this afternoon I have sent off another despatch in consequence of facts supplied to me by the hon. Baronet, containing a strong remonstrance. The French, the Austrian, and other European Governments are holding the same language, and and I believe that the manifestations of public opinion which will thus be brought to bear from the whole of Europe will not be without effect.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he would not admit that there had been any error in the concession of the fortress of Belgrade to the Government of Roumania, for it was quite useless to the Turkish Government, and was a source of great expense to them. He congratulated the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Layard) upon his new-found moderation in treating the subject that evening. The hon. Member having on previous occasions been a strong partizan of the Palmerstonian doctrine of maintaining the integrity of the Porte—in the full acceptation of the phrase. No doubt hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal Benches believed they saw responsibilities looming before them, and wished to separate themselves from opinions that might no longer be convenient or advantageous.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.