§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Mr. Speaker—When, Sir, three weeks ago, this Motion stood fixed for debate, it was postponed upon a statement by the Premier that, so far as the Government were concerned, they could not adequately discuss its terms until the publication of the proceedings of the Conference had supplied them with their answer. At the same time it was declared that a day would be given to its consideration. After that, Sir, I must be allowed to express my deep regret that the Prime Minister should have attempted to throw on me the responsibility of the postponement of a measure, the success of which I have very much at heart. Sir, we have now before us the proceedings of the Conference, and if I refer to the point at all, it is only because I wish to repeat now, what on the former occasion I said—namely, that the case that I have to lay before the House was not affected by the fact that the Conference was sitting, and is not now affected by its termination. The Motion calls in question the policy, under all the circumstances of the case, of going into the Conference at the outset. What, Sir, were those circumstances? They were these. A great Power declared her intention of violating her treaty engagements. On that declaration, never withdrawn, but, on the contrary, expressly declared to be "irrevocable," we went into a Conference. We went into that Conference—as I shall attempt to show—without necessity, and with indecent haste. We accepted it on the suggestion of the friend of the violating Power, and at the worst moment of an appalling war, in which the Power proposing the Conference was engaged. We went into it without concert with the Power who was our chief ally in the war closed by the torn-up treaty, and on the suggestion of her enemy. Those, Sir, are the circumstances to which the Motion on the Paper alludes. I shall attempt to show that it was both unwise and unjust to accept the Conference without concert with each of our allies, and that it was fatal to the respect in which treaties should be held, that, at such a moment, and in such haste, we should go into a Conference at all. By accepting the proposal of Prussia we have weakened, I maintain, and 895 I think that it can be proved—we have weakened the securities of peace. It is, I should hope, hardly necessary to discuss at length the character of the Russian Note. We are, doubtless, all agreed that Earl Granville was right when he said of it, that it was "a declaration of an intention to violate" a treaty. The Turks called it a "denunciation." Austria called it a "repudiation"—which is better still. Repudiation is a harder name than even violation. Violation may be the act of a Power that is only violent and grasping; but repudiation is the crime of a Minister who, like the Russian Chancellor on this occasion, displays a cynical contempt for public law. We are agreed, then, as to the Circular. Violent, however, as was its language, I admit that our condemnation of it was sufficient. I admit that nothing could have been better than Earl Granville's reply. I have not to-day resorted to warmer words in describing the doctrine of the Russian Chancellor than those which, throughout the Correspondence, Earl Granville habitually made use of. Well, our allies agreed with us, and we marked our reprobation of the Circular in an answer which everyone approves. But, a week or two later, we marred the effect of our answer—we destroyed the utility of our answer, and we compromised the dignity of the country and the security of peace by going into a Conference upon that Circular, and that a Conference suggested by Prussia, which in this case meant—suggested by Russia herself. Well—but we made a bargain. We extorted, I shall be told, a promise that there was to be "no foregone conclusion as to the result." Well, I know we said so. We said so very often. I asked a gentleman, who is addicted to arithmetical calculations, if he would kindly tell me how many times the phrase occurs in the Papers. This eminent authority informs me—That 'no previous assumption' occurs 10 times in 8 despatches; 'no foregone conclusion' 9 times in 7 despatches, and 'no assumption' once, making a grand total of 20 such phrases in 16 despatches, not to mention 3 'foregone conclusions' in the index, and 2 'foregone conclusions' in the Protocols; or 25, in all.There can be no doubt, then, that at least we said that there should be "no foregone conclusion." Why, not content with saying so ourselves, we made everybody else repeat our shibboleth. Indeed, 896 Earl Granville, in the character of Jephthah, obtained Biblical results; for Prince Gortchakoff, for one, could not pronounce his shibboleth at all at the first time of trying. In No. 57 we made Count Bismarck telegraph to Prince Gortchakoff, to make him telegraph back again to say that there was "no foregone conclusion." The first time he said, by telegraph to London—The formula is to be that the Conference shall meet without the previous assumption of any foregone conclusion. That is also our view. Each one will bring to it his own unfettered opinion.This was all wrong; so we applied to him again, when, in order to be quite sure, he dictated the words in English, as the House will find at No. 116. He did not exactly know what the phrase might mean; but, whatever it was, he was ready to swallow it whole and agree to it at once, in order to get into the Conference. Count Bismarck was more frank with us. He told us plainly, that the phrase upon which we plumed ourselves was so unnecessary as to make our anxiety about it appear ridiculous. At No. 82 he said—A Conference without a clear understanding that it was subject to no previous assumption as to its results would defeat its own objects and be useless.For my part, I think that, understanding or no understanding, it was useless, in face of the Czar's official declaration that his decision was "irrevocable." Why, Sir, Russia would not have gone into the Conference unless there had, in fact, been a "foregone conclusion." Why did she indignantly refuse to go into a Conference on the subject in 1867, upon the suggestion of Austria, and yet accept at once when Prussia proposed one now? Because, in 1867, there really would have been "no foregone conclusion;" whereas on this occasion everybody knew that there was one. Look at No. 112. General Ignatieff is a great authority on foreign affairs in Russia. He is admired as a skilful diplomatist throughout all Europe. Well, in No. 112, General Ignatieff, Russian Ambassador at Constantinople, is asked by Sir Henry Elliot if he knows the "basis" fixed for the deliberations of the Conference. I must, in passing, say that General Ignatieff is as famous for frankness as Count Bismarck, and that in consequence he is the enfant terrible of Russian diplomacy. Did he know the 897 basis for the Conference? Of course, he did. He says—The basis must, of course, be the late declaration of my Government that the neutralization of the Black Sea is at an end.Of course, it must. But, what every diplomatist knew, General Ignatieff alone was found to speak. The form of the Russian Circular might have prevented any doubt as to the "basis" upon which the Conference would meet. As the Turks said of it, at No. 67—In it Russia does not invite the assent of the other parties, but merely signifies to them her decision.It was on the 30th November that Russia said that there should be "no foregone conclusion." If the House will allow me to speak for one moment of myself—I only do so because it bears upon the question—two days after that date I was myself in St. Petersburg. What did I find? I found the whole official Press declaring that though Russia had said that there was to be "no foregone conclusion," yet that she had not the smallest intention, in any event, of withdrawing from the position that she had taken up. The Journal de St. Pétersbourg—the Foreign Office paper—a paper the proof sheets of the political part of which are daily read by one of the chiefs of that office—that paper reprints articles on foreign policy from the semi-official papers, and those reprints are read in Russia as official utterances, just as much as though they were signed "Gortchakoff" or "Alexander." Now, reprinting an article from The Gazette of the Academy—itself a semi-official paper—the Foreign Office journal said, in announcing the agreement for a Conference—We believe that the Russian public will await with confidence the result of its deliberations. There is no ground for believing that the Russian Government yields one iota of its just demands. Let Europe, which admits their justice, clothe them in a legal dress by the decision of the Conference. The stability of Europe will gain thereby, and the dignity of Russia will not be lowered.This was early in December, and the article appeared, I believe, on the same day on which Prince Gortchakoff assured us, in our own familiar English, that the "formula" for the meeting of the Conference was "no foregone conclusion." This is not all. Some weeks later—long after Russia had accepted our so-called "basis" for the Conference, a paper more official still, if that were possible— 898 the official journal published a few out of many addresses that had been put into the mouths of the peasants in different parts of the Empire. By so doing, it gave, in the opinion of all Russians, an official recognition to those selected. Well, the one placed in the very first position, and honoured by large type in the "official journal," was one in which England and Austria were coupled together as the "insolent Powers," whom the Czar was thanked for "humbling." This was just before the first meeting of the Conference that met "without a foregone conclusion." There is only one thing more that must be said upon this point of the "foregone conclusion," and that is this—one of the grounds on which I have often heard the policy of the Circular defended in Russia was, that England could not be expected to resent it, when governed by a Cabinet presided over by a Minister whose opinion was contrary to neutralization. Well, it does seem to bear upon this point of the "foregone conclusion" that, in the debate on the Address, that Minister should have stated from his official place, and, as it were, almost in his official capacity, the view that he had held as a private Member. At all events, we seemed to see from his speech that England went into the Conference with a "foregone conclusion." This was the view taken of the speech in Russia. The most important independent paper in Russia, The Moscow Gazette, of the 7th of March, says of it—Thus it was once more proved out of the mouth of the English Government, that the neutralization of the Black Sea had no importance for England.Now, there is another defence, that is made for our conduct in going into the Conference. It is said that Earl Granville's answer to the Circular was couched in terms so severe that, seeing that it was followed by a second Note from Russia, more courteous than the first, the whole correspondence amounted to a virtual withdrawal of the Russian claim. As to that statement, I have only this to say—that the Russian second Note contained no withdrawal from the position taken in the first, and that at the time at which it was written a conversation took place between Prince Gortchakoff and Sir Andrew Buchanan, in which the Russian Chancellor said—you will find it at p. 16—"The decision of the Czar 899 is irrevocable, and I cannot, therefore, discuss the point of form." More than this:—the Russian second Note was explained away by the official papers at St. Petersburg; and in explaining it they resorted to terms as offensive as any that had been made use of upon the first occasion. The article on this subject in The Golos was ascribed by rumour—but well-founded rumour, I have reason to believe—to a very high functionary of the Russian Foreign Office. I need not quote these articles to the House; but will only say that in St. Petersburg no one could be found who ever heard of the Russian second Note being meant for a withdrawal. Now, I assert distinctly that our Government was aware of this. Why, even now it is afraid to print the communications which its own Ambassador addressed to it, as to what was said and thought in Russia. At p. 16 there is an extract, five lines long, from a despatch. When I turn to the index I find that we are supposed here to be given—"Rumours and opinions at St. Petersburg." Yes! But there is not one word in the extract about either "opinions" or "rumours." There are several places in the Papers where the Foreign Office index-maker has behaved in this tantalizing way; but on this occasion one is really tempted to ask seriously what can be the nature of those opinions which were prevalent in St. Petersburg in November, and which it was "prejudicial to the interests of England" to reveal in February? I am not experienced in these matters; but I really begin to believe that the much-used phrase "prejudicial to the public interests," means "prejudicial to the interests" of right hon. Gentlemen who sit on that Bench. I can tell the House what was the opinion at St. Petersburg, and that was, that England had agreed to a Conference, in order that it might attempt to save its honour by a farcical formality. We are now offered, by apologists for the conduct of the Ministry, a fresh defence. We are told the Protocol signed at the first meeting of the Conference is a virtual withdrawal of the Circular. [A cheer.] It is a fact, not without interest, that there should be found hon. Gentlemen who take that view. I may say, in passing, that we told France in a despatch that "nothing but mere formal matters were discussed" at the first meeting; so I had thought that this Protocol 900 was "a mere formal matter." It seems, however, that it was more than that, and one newspaper has called it "a landmark in the development of international morality," and many fine names besides. Still, after all, when we come to read it, the only remarkable thing about it is that it tells us nothing we did not know before. Russia herself—whatever her acts—has always had for the principle of the efficacy of treaties what may be called a Platonic love. Each time that she has broken treaties the violation has been accompanied by a declaration that nobody was more ready to observe them. Did Russia make any difficulty about signing this declaration? None whatever; no more than she did about the "foregone conclusion." Provided she got all she asked, she was very glad, indeed, to set her hand to any number of declarations, which could always be repudiated at a future date. Russia is far too sensible, and far too cynical a Power, ever to stick at declarations. There were, I believe, two forms proposed—the milder one, of course, by us; the stronger one by Austria. If we are to trust the semi-official papers of Vienna, we positively put pressure upon Austria to make her consent to a Protocol, which would have been—I was going to say a sham, but the whole Conference is a sham—not merely a sham, but an open and notorious piece of humbug. Austria refused, and insisted on the stronger form—at least, so say the Vienna papers of January 18. But, after all, what does even the stronger form amount to but a declaration that in international morality a principle exists which nobody has denied? Prince Gortchakoff himself wrote, in his answer to the Austrian reply—It is well understood that a transaction concluded by common consent cannot be modified but by common assent:—as the House will observe, almost the very words of the Protocol. But he went on to say that the Treaty in question having been violated, had ceased to exist. This refers to the hollow pretexts alleged in the Circular; but such pretexts can always be found by a Power that wishes to find them. They could hardly be weaker than in this case. Russia had "slept upon her injury." She had treasured up these pretended breaches of the Treaty, to bring them out at what she herself had the audacity to 901 call "a favourable opportunity." Sir Henry Elliot called the pretexts "extremely futile;" and I agree with him, for I consider that their futility was only exceeded by the arrogance with which they were expressed. Still, as I say, such pretexts can always be found. What is needed is that the other Powers should refuse to recognize them when they are found. On the very same day on which Prince Grortchakoff wrote that treaties "could not be modified but by common assent," he wrote also to Austria "the Russian declaration has solved the Black Sea Question by a unilateral act," a statement which well illustrates the worth of declarations such as these. I will say no more about the Protocol. It lays down no new principle; it is implied in every treaty; and may be said to be actually expressed in that Treaty which Russia—respecting the principle—declared she meant to break.
I have now shown, as I venture to think, that we went into the Conference on a declaration by Russia that she intended to violate her treaty obligations, and without that declaration having been in any way withdrawn. This is certainly the Russian view. The Golos—an inspired paper of great authority—said on the 21st of this month, eight days ago, that an article in The Times, on the result of the Conference, though clever, is untrue, inasmuch as it asserts that Russia has practically withdrawn the Circular. The Golos goes on—Some think it well that the English should amuse themselves with such a view, but we cannot agree in this opinion. Our adhesion to any Conference was announced beforehand in the Circular itself; and in going into one we did so, only to allow Europe to make our declaration into a treaty and harmonize it with the Treaty of Paris. From the moment of our declaration the restrictive articles ceased for us Russians to exist, but they were not yet abrogated by the other Powers. The Conference converted our unilateral Circular into an act of universal obligation, and made it a part of International Law. It is, then, out of the question to talk of any withdrawal of our Circular.Even the official papers—if one may use such a phrase as to a portion of the Press of a country in which all papers are more or less official—even the official Press does not attempt to disguise the completeness of the Russian triumph. The Journal de St. Pétersbourg of the 15th of March, for instance, says—Let us hope that the foreign newspapers will end by admitting how much wisdom and moderation 902 there was in the step which Russia took four months ago, and of which the assent of Europe has now admitted the complete justice.For my part, I frankly admit the wisdom—the worldly wisdom—but I have my doubts about the moderation. The same paper on the next day—the 16th—sets to work to show how the victory was won, and ascribes the result to physical force—However wise the intentions of the Great Powers, it is doubtful whether those intentions would have borne fruit had the language of the Imperial Cabinet been less firm, and had it not been backed by a knowledge of the vast progress made by Russia since 1856, and which would give her in the event of a struggle, far greater power than she possessed at the time of the Crimean War.The Golos of the 17th of March was even more jubilant than The Journal—Russia has won a great victory, and her triumph is the close of the struggle of 15 years ago. Her enemies beat her in arms, but in agreeing to destroy to-day that which they built up then they themselves pronounce their condemnation. One cannot even conceive a more brilliant triumph than this victory of reason. Every stipulation that restricted our rights in the Black Sea is struck from the Treaty of Paris; Russia enters once more on her right of having in that sea a war fleet, unlimited in size and strength, and of erecting naval arsenals. This is the grand result obtained by our diplomacy. If some cowards have feared that we should have bought it only by concessions on our part, the event shows that their fears were totally ungrounded. Russia could not have hoped for a more glorious solution of the question left unsettled by the Crimean War.Well, in spite of all these repeated statements, I suppose that we are to be asked to believe that Russia has repented, having seen the error of her ways. For my part, I do not think so, and I repeat that the Russian declaration—never in any way withdrawn—was the basis of the Conference. I have now to show that we went into that Conference at a moment when, of all others, our doing so was undesirable: I shall attempt to show that the invitation of Prussia was really that of Russia, and that there was also no previous concert with our allies. As for the Prussian origin of the Conference, I do not know that any attempt will be made to-day to deny that. It has been denied, and I will consider the denial presently; but for the moment I wish to consider the action of Prussia in detail, and to try and see how far Russia was behind Count Bismarck. According to the latter—at No. 54—the Conference was to be one "to take into consideration the question raised by the overtures 903 made by the Cabinet of St. Petersburg in the Circular." The word "overtures" is superhuman in its excellence. What we called a "violation," what the Turks called a "denunciation," what the Austrians called a "repudiation" and an "abrogation," Count Bismarck called "overtures"—a far prettier word. Well, we jumped at this proposal, and in No. 184 we warmly thanked Prussia for having "assisted to obtain some of the results which Her Majesty's Government had desired," though what those results were I cannot conceive. We had previously thanked Prussia with effusion, as the French would say. The index précis of No. 37 says—"Her Majesty's Government pleased with friendly conduct of the Prussian Government." Now, what had been Earl Granville's view of the position of Prussia? What I have just quoted is the view of the Cabinet as a whole; but what was Earl Granville's first impression? We find it in No. 35, where he thrice expresses his disappointment. I do not wonder that he should have done so. Count Bernstorff had just informed him that Count Bismarck "advised the avoidance of polemical despatches circulated in the Press"—referring, of course, to Earl Granville's publication of the English answer. I do not know that a more insulting piece of advice was ever given to a great Power. Well, as I say, in No. 35, we have only Earl Granville's opinion before he had consulted his Colleagues. In No. 37 we have the opinion of the Cabinet. Earl Granville had expressed "disappointment" at the conduct of Prussia. The Cabinet did not express disappointment. On the contrary, they expressed "pleasure"—that is to say, that on the very same day on which Earl Granville had expressed his "disappointment" at the conduct of Prussia in the afternoon, on the same day, in the evening, he had, in the name of the Cabinet, to express his "pleasure," and to agree to the idea of a Conference. It appears that Prussia took the Russian side in this matter from the first. She continued to take it to the last. Those Protocols show us the Prussian Ambassador declaring that his instructions were merely to support the Russian view. Perhaps there was no treaty; but there was at least an understanding. At all events, from the public newspapers themselves, we know that the 904 Emperor William is the Czar's "devoted friend," and that the Czar stands towards the Emperor William in the relation of being "yours till death." Not only is there now proof of an understanding, but the Papers show us that our Government knew it at the time. No. 11 is a singular despatch. Earl Granville relates the first conversation between Count Bernstorff and himself, which took place after the receipt of the Russian Circular. He asked—"Whether Count Bernstorff supposed the Czar of Russia had reason to hope for support from Prussia or any other Power?" That is a question as direct as any of those that are put here at torture time, and, like some of those, it remained without an answer. The despatch contains no answer. The index contains no answer. There was no answer. There was no answer—that is, at the time; but on the 17th of January there was an answer. There was an answer in the Protocol of the first sitting of the Conference, and that answer is contained in the Prussian Plenipotentiary's speech—for his first statement to assembled Europe was—That his Court had instructed him to support and to recommend the desire of the Imperial Government of Russia to see the stipulations of 1856, relative to the navigation of the Black Sea, submitted to a revision, which should eliminate certain clauses.That was the answer. I am no enemy to Prussia; but I maintain that on this particular occasion, thanks to the necessities of the war, the invitation of Prussia was that of Russia herself. Not only, Sir, did we go into the Conference upon an invitation such as I have described, but we went into it in so great a hurry that we forgot even to consult our allies. I am not speaking of our going into the Conference without the presence of a Plenipotentiary of France. That is, comparatively speaking, a trifling matter, and one on which I lay less stress. I am speaking of the absence of previous concert. Take, for instance, our preliminary dealings with our chief ally in the war terminated by the Treaty of 1856. France had, with singular disrespect, been left by Prince Gortchakoff to hear of his Circular from the newspapers. It was held back, and only communicated to her—10 days later—on the 19th of November. No cause is assigned for this insulting and extraordinary 905 delay. The first communication that France received from us was, when she suddenly learnt by telegraph that we invited her to attend a Conference, proposed by Prussia and accepted by us without inquiry. The facts are startling when stated in this naked way; still, I think that each clause of the proposition is capable of proof. No. 37 shows that we, in reality, agreed to the Conference on the 25th November. On the 27th we telegraphed to France for her "concurrence." On the very same day, however, on which this telegram reached Tours—that is, on the 28th, and long before we had heard the views of the French Government—we instructed our Ambassador at St. Petersburg, and Mr. Odo Russell, at Versailles, to state that we accepted the Prussian proposition. On the 30th November only was it that Earl Granville received a telegram from France, expressing her amazement at the Prussian origin of the Conference that we asked her to attend, and by No. 55 we see that Earl Granville did not venture to deny that Prussian origin. Lord Lyons was more bold. In No. 79 he wrote that he had said—What Prussia proposed was a Conference to be held at St. Petersburg, without any special conditions. This proposal Her Majesty's Government rejected, and made a proposal of their own, in which it was expressly stated that the Conference was not to be held at St. Petersburg, and in which certain preliminary conditions were laid down as indispensable. It is not to the Prussian proposal, but to this English proposal that the French Government is asked to consent.These words were afterwards approved by Government in a despatch. We see, then, that having in writing to St. Petersburg, and in writing to Versailles (No. 85), distinctly admitted that the proposal we accepted was a Prussian proposal, in our communications at Tours we asserted the very contrary. What did the Cabinet mean when they approved of Lord Lyons' saying that Count Bismarck having proposed a Conference at St. Petersburg, we had "rejected" this proposition? I suppose it will be said that we rejected St. Petersburg, and proposed London. But rejecting St. Petersburg would not amount to rejecting the Prussian proposal, and St. Petersburg was not the Prussian proposal at all, nor London ours. At p. 24 we see that St. Petersburg was the suggestion of Russia, not of Prussia; and by No. 58 we find 906 that London was the proposal of Turkey. I repeat that St. Petersburg was not the Prussian proposal, and I fear that Lord Lyons' statement, that we "rejected" the Prussian proposal, is one of those which the Prime Minister calls "unauthorized;" but in this case it was approved by Government. Well, there is another way in which to escape from the dilemma. Lord Lyons said that the Prussian proposal which we rejected was for a Conference "without conditions," and he says that we, in what he is pleased to call "our proposition," made certain "special conditions." I am afraid that the plural here must be looked upon as another of these "unauthorized statements." We never laid down but one condition, and that condition was a self-evident proposition, as far as words went, and a mockery as far as facts. It is our old friend "no foregone conclusion." Still, we can hardly have "rejected" the Prussian proposal on this ground, inasmuch as Count Bismarck very gravely said to Mr. Odo Russell—That, in his opinion, a Conference with a foregone conclusion would defeat its object, and be useless;so that this can scarcely have been his proposition. If we were right when we told M. de Chaudordy that we "rejected" the Prussian proposition, Prussia certainly did not know of the rejection, for long afterwards, in No. 82, we find Count Bismarck saying that—As the Powers have accepted his proposition, he leaves the day for the meeting of the Conference to us.Russia, too, thought it then, and thinks it still, a Prussian proposition, for as late as the 16th of March—last week—the official journal said—"In spite of the English Press, a Conference proposed by North Germany was accepted." I think that nothing more discreditable was ever revealed in a diplomatic correspondence; and, for my part, I consider that we were guilty of the meanest equivocation. On discovering the Prussian origin of the Conference, France began to hesitate, and finding cajolery in vain, we in turn commenced to bully her. On the 15th of December we entered upon a course of telegrams, and on the 19th Earl Granville sent Lord Lyons that mysterious despatch, of which an extract is given in No. 119. I do not know whether the index to Parliamentary 907 Papers is intended to contain a précis even of passages which have not been printed; but, at all events, it is so here. I do not know, I repeat, whether this is the customary course; but it is certainly a convenient course for those who are not in the secrets of the Administration. Possibly in this case, and in the others to which I have already made allusion, some portions of the despatches which seemed dangerous were struck out only at the last moment, and the index was forgotten. The gentleman at the Foreign Office who corrects the proofs must take warning for another time. No. 119 is an extract which has no guile in it at all. Nothing can be more moderate than its tone. It expresses Earl Granville's wish that the Conference should no longer be postponed, and that is all. But when we turn to the index we find—Russia and Prussia urge the early meeting of the Conference, which must take place even without a French Representative.In the extract there is not one word about Russia; not one word about Prussia; not one word that is imperative; but from the index it seems that France was right, and that the co-operation of the confederates was carried even to the point of insisting that the Conference must take place with or without France. Why were these parts of the despatch struck out at the last moment? Because we let them pass without remonstrance—that is the reason, without doubt. Probably this imperious missive was hid from France. At all events, such was our pressure and such her misery that she consented to send a Plenipotentiary, provided we asked for a safe-conduct. I will not go into the history of this negotiation. The whole narrative is a commentary on the policy of going into a Conference of this character in the middle of the most horrid of modern wars. It was on the 17th December that France consented to be represented at the Conference. It was not till the 10th January, at night, that M. Favre was permitted to receive Earl Granville's letter. On the 14th he sent to Count Bismarck a request for a safe-conduct. No answer was returned, although the safe-conduct had been promised us. On the 18th we wrote a begging-letter, No. 178, repeating our request to the Prussians to let out M. Favre. On the 21st we wrote again, No. 186; but our only answer was that 908 on the 23rd Count Bismarck telegraphed to all the German papers one of those wondrously vexatious paragraphs which he knows so well how to compose—Count Bismarck has now declined to furnish M. Jules Favre with a safe-conduct.I need hardly add that we did not remonstrate. But we had not waited for M. Favre. Five days before he got our letter we pressed the Government at Tours to name another Plenipotentiary. We did not think the Government of Defence sufficiently solid to be recognized as the Government of France; but we did think it solid enough to compromise, if need were, French interests, or to help us barter away our honour. When asked to recognize the Government of Defence, we often answered that when France should recognize that Government, then would we. We were not sure, we said, that these men could speak in the name of France. Yet all the time we pressed with humiliating persistency for the attendance of their Representative at a Conference at which the highest interests of Europe were at stake. Anybody would do. Anybody might come. If not M. Favre, then M. Tissot. If not the head of the Government, then the Secretary of an unrecognized Legation. Anybody—provided that the Prime Minister would be enabled to walk down to the House of Commons and to say—"France was invited, and France came." There is only one more point in the Papers to which I will allude. The last of all the Papers, and the last words of that! This is not a case of "all's well that ends well." I must say that, looking to the fact that this Paper is far later in date than any of the others in the series, it certainly was tempting fate to keep back the Papers in order that this one might be printed. I have shown already how we tried to cajole France into coming to the Conference. I have shown how we tried to bully her. By this Paper I am enabled to show that not only cajolery and bullying, but even bribery was tried. This was a Conference either upon the Eastern Question or upon the validity of treaties; it was not a Conference about the war. Prussia would have refused to go into a Conference about the war. Why was France invited to attend? Because she is, as the Queen's Speech at the beginning of this Session told us, an "indispensable member of the European family"—though 909 in this case she came near being dispensed with altogether. She was asked because, without her consent, the acts of the Conference would have had no value. This is why France was asked. She was not asked because of any private advantage to be gained by her in coming, but for European objects. Yet we see by this Paper that our Government told France, and wishes it to be known that it told France, that any day after the meeting of the Conference was formally over, but before the members had left the table—at which, I believe, by the way, they always lunch—the French Plenipotentiary might raise a discussion on the terms of peace. Can anything be more discreditable than such a bribe? I have now, Sir, attempted to show total want of concert with one of our allies. With the others, the concert was only partial. As to the absence of France, I do not lay stress on it—still, it was our fault for going into such a Conference at such a time. Earl Granville himself said "that he would not have consented to enter the Conference unless France had been invited" to attend. But there are invitations and invitations, and if you invite a man to dinner on the day on which he is to be hanged, that can hardly be considered a very serious invitation. You will tell me, no doubt, that France has come in now. Yes. Four months later, under peace; under a different Government; under a set of circumstances—that is, which you cannot have foreseen. Yes; France has come in and has given an unwilling assent to your proceedings. Yes; unwilling—as you may see by page 38 of the new Papers or Protocols—that is, by the Due de Broglie's speech at the only meeting of the Conference which he attended.
I believe that I have now shown that which I set out to prove—namely, that we went into the Conference on the Russian declaration, without that declaration having been in any way withdrawn, and that we did so in an extraordinary hurry and at the worst of moments. Why? Why did we go into the Conference? Did our allies ask us to do so? Not one of them—not one. Was there any need? Did we go into the Conference to avoid an otherwise immediate war? Not a bit of it. Russia was not less desirous of peace than we ourselves, although glad, of course, to got without fighting all that she would 910 have gained by a successful war. Why, I repeat, did we go into the Conference? The Prime Minister has lately made some statements on this subject, to which, with the permission of the House, I will allude. He said that—To have declined a Conference would have been to have kept open a European quarrel with one ally prostrate—namely, France, and with Austria, our next best ally, in the position of actually having taken the initiative some years ago, in proposing the abrogation of the condition now in question.That was one of the Prime Minister's two defences, and one which I will ask the House to consider. This statement, in plain words, can only mean that in refusing a Conference we should have stood alone. Is that so? I do not dwell upon the fact that, at the moment of the issue of the Circular, France was far from prostrate, but was coping upon almost equal terms with Prussia. I do not dwell on this; but I come at once to our other allies. Now, as for Austria, she answered this attack for herself—Count Beust answered by anticipation our Prime Minister when he answered Prince Gortchakoff. Look at No. 28. This was a reply to a confidential despatch from Prince Gortchakoff, in which he reproached Austria with now leading the anti-Russian party among the nations, although in 1867 she had taken the initiative in the opposite direction. Count Beust, No. 28, answered this statement at great length, and he afterwards said to Lord Bloomfield—That he was glad to have been able to answer Prince Gortchakoff's observations regarding his despatch to Russia, now three years old, on the subject of a revision of the Treaty of 1856.This was made as an official communication to Lord Bloomfield, and is contained in No. 43. Austria herself, we see, was indignant at the allegation with regard to her views, which was made confidentially by Prince Gortchakoff, and repeated here publicly long after it had been contradicted—repeated by the Premier. I must go further. This argument about Austria was worth nothing if it did not mean that we should have stood alone. Now, not only was Austria with us, but so were Italy and Turkey too. If those who are going to speak on the other side of this question are willing to confine themselves to what appears in these Papers, I am willing. The Papers show that Austria was more firm than we 911 were, and that Italy and Turkey followed steadily in our steps. If, however, you are going beyond the Papers—if we are to be told that other Powers advised us to accept the Conference—then I must ask leave to go outside the Papers too, and to show how firm was the language of the King of Italy; and language, too, which must have been brought to the knowledge of the Government. At the same time, the Papers are strong enough—I want nothing more. All of them tell one way. Nothing can be stronger than the language of Count Beust to M. de Nowikoff. Turkey, as we see at pp. 14 and 18, was as firm. At p. 29, Italy formally contradicts a rumour that her policy differs in any way from that of Austria and England, and by No. 50 we, in the most formal way, thanked both Austria and Italy for their "prompt and cordial" co-operation. At No. 41 Austria, and at No. 44 Italy, and in numerous places Turkey, told us that "the views of the Governments were identical;" but none of these said so after we had agreed to the Conference. Indeed, so emphatic is the line taken by all our allies in support of our original position—and, consequently, rather against than for our subsequent action—that Government have strained every nerve to try and find something that makes the other way. At p. 56, under the No. 101, we have their only success; and it is certainly a ridiculous abortion—an extract three and a half lines long evidently picked out of a parenthesis in the middle of a despatch—Austria," Count Beust said, "is far from desiring to prevent a peaceful settlement of the question in dispute, and has not the slightest wish to encourage the Porte to take an energetic line.That is all! Not another word! One of those gentlemen of the road, known as Queen's messengers, and who live in fear of my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, was hardly sent all the way from Vienna to Whitehall with those three lines and a half in a large bag. If I thought so, I would gladly vote with my hon. Friend for their total and immediate suppression. Certainly that innocent document might have gone by post, and even on the smallest and most public of postal cards. No, Sir, that is a short bit from a long despatch—a despatch relating a conversation between 912 Lord Bloomfield and Count Beust. What can have been the character of this conversation, of which it was detrimental to the public service—that is, to the right hon. Gentlemen on that Bench—that a word should be revealed to an expectant Parliament beyond these three lines and a half? Now, in this case, it is not necessary to call rumour to one's aid. It is plain, from the tone of even these three lines, that we urged Count Beust to lower his tone, and consent to condone the offence of Russia; and he replied, in terms of commonplace conventionality, that his tone was not immoderate, and "that he was far from desiring to prevent a peaceful settlement of the question in dispute." Of course, he was "far from desiring" that which no one desires—war; but he believed—and, as I think, justly—that the course taken by our Government was of all courses the most likely to lead to war, if not immediately, at any rate in the future. So much for the Prime Minister's statement as to our allies. Now, to turn to his other singular defence for his policy in going into the Conference upon the Russian Note. These were, I think, his words—If we had said to Russia that she must take the consequence of her act, we should have placed ourselves in a position of estrangement from that Power at a time when we had a most sacred duty to discharge—namely, to keep together in co-operation the neutral influences of Europe, in the hope that at some happy moment we might be able to contract that range of destructiveness which we had long seen extending.Well, I think, Sir, that the right hon. Gentleman had best not have made that statement. It is strange that, with the knowledge he must necessarily possess of both the sets of Papers, which he has advised the Crown to lay before Parliament, he should have used such an argument as that which I have quoted: that he should have argued that we were bound to co-operate with Russia in respect to the war at that moment of time, when only a few weeks earlier she had, in the most insulting manner, declined co-operation. I must say, Sir, that I think that the right hon. Gentleman forgot the date—I do not know whether he ever forgets dates—I hope he forgot the date. Why, the Russian Circular was issued on the last day of October; but on the 16th of October—that is, a fortnight earlier—we had addressed to Russia that extraordinary despatch 913 which is numbered 202 in the Papers relating to the war. That was the despatch of which my hon. Friend who sits near me, the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Auberon Herbert), once said, that it was—"like a toad in a rock—the wonder was how it came there at all." That despatch was one in which we invited Russia to come to an understanding with us, as to the terms on which peace between France and Germany might be made, and to co-operate with a view to joint action. This despatch was telegraphed, and was communicated to Prince Gortchakoff on the 17th of October. What was the result? Our Ambassador was "snubbed." The Russian Chancellor said—That he could not see that any advantage could be hoped for from England and Russia agreeing as to what might be reasonable terms of peace.Our Ambassador insisted, and the Prince finally agreed to submit our telegram to the Czar. What did the Czar say? The Czar said that he thought "that any agreement between the neutral Powers would prove a barren and impracticable measure." So much for the chance of co-operation with Russia. If the Prime Minister had borne the dates in mind when he was speaking, he would have found that two days after our attempt at "co-operation with Russia," the Czar called his Ministers together at Tsarskoe-Seloe, and declared his intention of denouncing his treaty obligations. Really, Sir, I am at a loss to conceive how a Minister can assert that the chief reason why we ought to have forgotten our dignity and closed our eyes to future danger to European peace, was that a fortnight after this we were bound to use all efforts to try and secure the co-operation of Russia in respect to the war. Why, then, I ask again—why did we go into the Conference? I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why. The pretexts of the Premier are not worth much, as I have shown. Why, then, were we in so terrible a hurry? Russia hesitated. She promised not to act. At page 26, she called her own Circular—"the abrogation of a theoretical principle, without immediate application;" and, in No. 63, we find General Ignatieff—usually bold enough—telling the Grand Vizier that—The Czar's honour being satisfied by the step that he had taken, he had no intention at present 914 of proceeding further by the creation of a fleet in the Black Sea.No wonder that Russia hesitated and took this humble line. She was without allies. Our allies were all Europe except Prussia, and the Prussian arms at that moment were taxed almost beyond their powers. The odds were so overwhelming that Russia could not, for a moment, have ventured to brave a struggle. The country was not aroused. Addresses, it is true, were voted by many of the towns; but I have it on the authority of distinguished Russians of all parties, that enormous pressure was put on to secure congratulations that should have been spontaneous. In Moscow, where alone in Russia a true public opinion exists, there was no enthusiasm. The subscription which was started to pay for the Black Sea fleet collapsed. The Gobs—one of the most popular papers in St. Petersburg—opened a list, and at the end of two days had collected 38 roubles—that is, not £5. So dead did the whole thing fall, that the Imperial Cabinet had to trump up a ridiculous story of an American alliance, and to exile to Olonetz, on Lake Ladoga, the St. Petersburg correspondent of the Independence Belge, for revealing this "State secret," which never, in fact, existed. Men talk of Russia's colossal power. Colossal size; but not colossal power! It is as easy to exaggerate the strength of Russia at the moment as it is difficult to over-estimate her future might. Russian statesmen know their weakness. They know that they are far more vulnerable in Central Asia than we in India. They know that in Poland, which as late as 1863 required 200,000 men, and a long struggle, Austria has a weapon against them, which, if pressed, she knows how to wield. The truth is, that Russia was frightened, and that we were frightened too, and that we stepped out of her way and gave her a success which was not merely a diplomatic victory over us, but a conquest of the international principle, and a triumph over public law. How sad must be the consequence of our step. There was an opinion growing fast before the war, and which would have grown again after its cessation, which had for direction to extend the sphere of treaties. What becomes of that opinion after the startling success of the Russian Chancellor? This declaration was an attempt 915 to carry into public matters that kind of open cynicism which shocks in private life. What becomes of all our treaties—not political only, but commercial too—if such a doctrine is to prevail? I do not suggest that we should have insisted that the Russian Note should be withdrawn. It would not have been necessary that it should have been withdrawn. It would have been enough for us to have shown that we looked upon it as an empty threat. It would have been enough for us to have rested our case upon Earl Granville's Note until the times had changed. What do you think that Russia would have done? Would she have invaded Austria in the depths of winter? If so, Austria was prepared to take the consequences. Would she have invaded Turkey? If so, Austria and Turkey, supported by our fleet, were there. She would not have invaded either. I have no wish to fight for the neutralization of the Black Sea. I am not, indeed, myself a partizan of neutralization, which has, however, in my opinion, no bearing on the question. It would not have been necessary to fight. I do not wish to fight for Turkey. We should not have had to fight for Turkey. These are not the points. The point is, that the Executive Government has, through an exaggerated timidity, permitted the obligations of treaties to be publicly released. I know that in these times it has become the fashion to mock at treaties, and that a cynical view is taken of their obligations. It would be a sad day, however, and one to be deplored, whenever our Government should back that view with the weight of its approval. How are you ever to have peace—except the peace of exhaustion—unless you have an adequate sanction to enforce international agreement, and where are you to find that sanction except in treaties? Yet treaties will habitually be broken by certain Powers, unless the breaking of them is habitually discountenanced by the moral and peaceful Powers. A great deal has been said of late of the decline of England. For my part, I believe that this country was never more rich in all the elements of power. If, owing to our action in the present case, some discredit may have attached to our name, it is no fault of ours. It is none of the fault of England; but comes of the timidity of her statesmen, and the weakness of her 916 rulers. It is said that the policy of the Government has been a peace policy. I do not think that it has been either a peace policy or a safe policy. It may be a policy for a time cheap—although your Estimates do not show it; but it is not a truly pacific policy, if it is neither calculated to maintain the present dignity of this country, nor the security of any in the future.
§ MR. SOMERSET BEAUMONT
said, he was glad the hon. Baronet had called the attention of the House to a matter of such great interest. The results of the Conference were two,—first, the abrogation of the clause which ensured the neutrality of the Black Sea; and, secondly, the Protocol which affirmed that no Power could liberate itself from the obligations of a treaty. As to the first point, he did not think that the principle of neutralization had been treated with due respect. It should not be forgotten that it was that principle which kept inviolate the frontiers of Belgium and secured the safety of Switzerland. He was not going to express an opinion whether we were right or wrong in assenting to the abrogation of the neutrality of the Black Sea. That neutrality stood condemned since, in 1867, Count Beust gave his consent to its abrogation in a confidential manner, first to France, and afterwards to the other Powers. But that was a very different thing from assenting to such a proposition at the very time when Prince Gortchakoff allowed himself to say that the Emperor's decision on the subject was irrevocable. It was a great misfortune that our Government, before going into the Conference, had not come to a preliminary understanding with Austria and Italy, as to what equivalent should be given in return for such important concessions. There was an equivalent of great importance which had not been referred to, and which we might have asked for. Besides the Treaty of 1856 there was another of the 16th of April of the same year, by which England, with Austria and France, were jointly and severally bound to support the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire. There was a good opportunity for asking Prussia to join in that joint and separate guarantee, and if she refused we might infer that she had an understanding with Russia contrary to the general freedom of Europe. 917 On the other hand, if she consented, we should have divided the responsibility with a Power to which the independence of Turkey was even of greater importance than it was to ourselves. As to the second point of the Protocol, which recognized that it was an essential principle of the Law of Nations that no Power could liberate itself from the engagements of a treaty unless with consent of the contracting Powers, that seemed to him to be a pompous piece of unmeaning solemnity. We had lately had some experience of the manner in which Protocols of an abstract nature were treated. In July last the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) appealed to the Prime Minister, to know whether he had reminded the belligerents of the engagements of the Treaty of 1856, and the Prime Minister's reply was to the effect that, though he had reminded Prussia and France of "that great European Act," they told him pretty nearly to mind his own business. Very much importance, therefore, could not be attached to a Protocol for which we had sacrificed so much. Indeed, no Protocol of such a general character could have any great value, unless there was some tribunal prepared to enforce it, or some spirited Government ready to resist its abrogation. His belief, drawn from a perusal of the Papers, was that Government had gone into this Conference with the intention of taking the advice of Austria, and of asking for some equivalent; but for some reason, which could not be ascertained from these Papers, they had not insisted upon the equivalent which they intended to ask for, and they had adopted this Protocol as a makeshift, so as to conceal an ignominious failure. He appealed to the Government to state what their policy was with respect to these Treaties of 1856. His impression was that this was the first nail in the coffin of these Treaties. He had never been any very great admirer of them, because their object was to guarantee the independence of the Ottoman Empire, which was not a very wise object. At a moment when we were discussing Army Re -organization Bills and increased Estimates, the House had a right to ask the Government to state what they considered their obligations to be under the Treaty of 1856, which had now been so much altered by the concession made. He should like to 918 know also whether Government, which now sought protection under the ægis of the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), intended to maintain its treaty obligations with respect to Belgium, against which the hon. Member voted in August last? If that was to be the policy of Government, he thought it would be much better, and much more conducive to the honour of this country, if the Prime Minister were to state it at once, and not leave our allies to be betrayed in the moment of danger. He had great pleasure in seconding the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House regrets that Her Majesty's Government accepted a proposition for the assembling of a Conference under the circumstances disclosed in the Papers relating to Prince Gortchakof's Circular Note, which have been laid before Parliament."—(Sir Charles Dilke.)
§ MR. RYLANDS
,* in rising to move as an Amendment—That, in the opinion of this House, the course taken by Her Majesty's Government in accepting a proposal for the assembling of a Conference upon the Treaty of Paris of 1856 was consistent with the honour and interest of this Country, and calculated to promote the maintenance of the peace of Europe.said, that the Government had not in any way accepted his Amendment; he moved it entirely as an independent Member of the House, and he was the more encouraged in the course he had marked out for adoption, because he, unfortunately, felt compelled to vote against the Government in certain matters of policy which they initiated. He felt still more freedom of action because the hon. Baronet, who had moved the Resolution, agreed with himself on many of the great political questions of the day, and because even now he did not despair of finding the hon. Baronet in the same Lobby as himself on many future occasions. If it was thought that the Motion would be better met by a direct negative, he did not wish to stand in the way of the disposition of the House; but, so far as he was concerned, he was so satisfied with the course the Government had taken, believing, as he did, that it was not only consistent with the honour and interest of England, but calculated to make for Europe a peaceful future, that he could not hesitate to put before the House an Amendment, which he sincerely hoped would be accepted. He did not wish to go into the old question, 919 which had been debated very much in this House a few years ago, and which had some bearing on the present Motion—he meant the policy of the Crimean War. He thought that there had been a great change of opinion since the Crimean War, and that many persons were now inclined to think that it was a great mistake, and that the Treaty did not compensate for the sacrifices of the war in which we were involved. A very strong opinion had been held that the Crimean War might have been entirely prevented if the proper steps had been taken. But the nation drifted into war because public opinion was excited by the Press, by which the most inflammatory statements were issued; and the Leaders of the Government—Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell—made the gravest charges against Russia and her Emperor, amounting even to fraud and falsehood. In addition to this, his right hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) made one of the most eloquent speeches ever delivered in that House, but that speech was calculated to rouse the unreasoning passions of the people of this country, and almost to madden them. The war was commenced and carried on, and it had to be fought to the bitter end. He did not wish to raise the whole question of that war. He was willing to take this Motion upon the assumption that the policy of bolstering up Turkey and curbing the power of Russia was the right one in the interests of this country; but even then it became a question how far the neutralization of the Black Sea was an essential part of the policy recommended by Lord Palmerston's Government, and carried out by the Crimean War. There had been an attempt made to show that the policy of the neutralization of the Black Sea was the turning-point of the whole affair, and that, when the negotiations proceeded at Vienna in 1855, though three Points in dispute were agreed to, the war was continued for 12 months on the question of the Black Sea. He thought it was most unfortunate that the war was then continued. If any reasonable arrangement had then been made, the continuance of the war would not have been necessary. But it did not appear that the question of the continuance of the war was, as the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had said, the gist of the whole affair. The Four 920 Points discussed at Vienna were very important points, and included the question of the Danubian Principalities, the question relating to the Greek Christians, and the opening of the Danube under the regulation of the Treaty Powers—all points of material importance to the integrity of Turkey. When the negotiations were pending the present Bishop of Winchester, then Bishop of Oxford, said in the House of Lords that all the main objects for which this country had engaged in war had already been gained; that the question upon which the negotiations had failed was that of limitation, and he thought that to require any sovereign State to limit the number of its ships of war was an indignity to which it could not be expected to submit. And then the right rev. Prelate said no peace could be lasting or secure with a great nation which had inflicted upon it—even though its humiliation for a time should be ever so complete—terms which it felt to be unworthy of its inherent greatness. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), when the negotiations were being carried on at Vienna, did not tell the House that the Point as to the limitation of Russian war vessels in the Black Sea was the gist of the whole affair. On the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman, speaking of the proposal of that limitation, said Lord John Russell, who had been Plenipotentiary at Vienna, proposed the most humiliating conditions that could be made to any Government, and that it was a humiliation which a great nation must necessarily struggle against till the last. Let us place ourselves in the position of Russia. Let us suppose that after a great war we were put, by a combination of other Powers, in the humilating position of having to sign a peace limiting the powers of our fleet in our own Channel. If such an indignity were put on this country, he, for one, would join with his patriotic fellow-countrymen at any time, and on the first opportunity, to strike off that humilating badge. How was it that the Plenipotentiary of England held such a tone at Vienna in 1855? He could not help calling attention to the fact that the course which Lord Russell took at Vienna was not calculated to promote peace. The speech which Lord Russell made in the House of Commons on his return from the Vienna Conference showed that it was 921 not probable he would come to terms of a moderate character. The noble Lord said—What is the position of Russia? It may not be such as would have justified us in making war; but, being at war, it behoves us seriously to consider. Russia has increased her power more than any other Power in Europe. She has 60,000,000 inhabitants, an army of 800,000 soldiers, six or seven fortresses in Poland, and a great plan of fortifications in the Baltic, which, if undertaken, would have given her a complete predominance, so much so that neither Denmark nor Sweden, nor any other Power, could have held up a finger against Russia in the Baltic."—[See 3 Hansard, cxxxviii. 1082–3.]Lord John Russell went on to give other reasons why we should fight the battle out. Russia, he said, by distributing distinctions among German Princes, and by contributing money to pay their debts, had undermined the vital strength of Germany, which ought to be the seat of independence, and which should stand forward for the protection of Europe against Russia. The fact of Russian progress and power was a sufficient justification in the eyes of many for this country entering into and carrying on the Crimean War; but there was a small party in that House, at that time in a hopeless minority, headed by the present Prime Minister and by the right hon. Member for Birmingham—whose absence from that House he deeply regretted—who were of a contrary opinion. Was it because that party had not been listened to in a time of excitement, occasioned by falsehoods which had been circulated with reference to the supposed designs of Russia, that the House was to be told that, now that our state of mind had become calmer, the policy of Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell was to govern the country for ever, and that, even in view of eventualities arising out of the great changes that had occurred in Continental politics, that policy was not to be altered? Since that time there had been a great alteration in the opinions entertained with respect to the position of Russian power in the Black Sea; and the change had taken place not only in this country, but also in France and Austria. His hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) referred to Austria, and gave the impression that Austria was not prepared to maintain an attitude similar to our own. But he (Mr. Rylands) thought that Austria by no means acted, in that sense. Count Beust, the Austrian Minister, 922 had admitted that Russia was placed in a humiliating position with reference to the Black Sea. The complaint of Austria was, that when she proposed a modification in 1867 her proposal had not been received with gratitude by Russia, but rather the contrary, Austria went to Russia then for a purpose, and with a design to enlist the sympathy of Russia. So long as this humiliation existed, it offered to other Powers an opportunity of intrigue. He thought there was no doubt that there had been an understanding between Prussia and Russia, before the outbreak of the war, that in consideration of Prussia helping Russia to get rid of this humiliating condition, Russia should not interfere in preventing Prussia from carrying out her policy. France, some time since, sought to bribe Russia by consenting to her being rid of such a humiliating condition. We had no special interest, nationally, in preserving this condition. His hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea said that a great blow had been aimed at the Treaty. That he (Mr. Rylands) admitted. He was not prepared to dispute that the course taken by Prince Gortchakoff in this matter was a great blow to treaty obligations, which had not been cured by the Protocol, and could not be cured by any subsequent events; but it was not the first, nor the greatest. We had had nothing but blows at treaty obligations for the last half-century. It was little more than half a century ago when the Plenipotentiaries of the Great Powers signed a treaty which was to settle the condition of Europe in such a way as to be everlasting. Yet that treaty, which cost this country a hundred millions of money and hundreds of thousands of lives, had been torn to shreds, and in many cases we had been consenting parties to its infraction. He agreed with Mr. Mill that treaties were not made to be eternal, but were often transient in their character. George Washington, who was one of the greatest statesmen and wisest men that the world ever saw, remarked that, whatever might be the nature of the convention entered into, his experience taught him that nations and Governments rarely abided by such agreements longer than it was their true interest to do so. Almost all experience showed this. When we were in strict alliance with Prussia and with France, and thought we could 923 place reliance upon them, those countries were secretly plotting. He was not concerned with the question whether Benedetti or Bismarck was the worse; but neither of them considered himself to to be bound by treaty obligations. The lesson which these blows at treaties should teach this country, was to have as little as possible to do in the future with treaties and guarantees. When we joined in treaty engagements with other Powers, it was like a partnership in which we incurred unlimited liability, while the other partners came in upon the limited liability principle. The Money Article in The Times was not a bad exponent of the effect that this blow to treaty obligations had had upon the commercial circles in this country. One of those articles contained the following statement:—The Russian Note has caused a hope to be entertained in the City that the warning thus given will cause England for the future to have as little as possible to do with treaties or guarantees. Her position in such affairs is compared to that of an established merchant, who might in good faith enter into a transaction in joint account with a number of partners, every one of whom would simply intend to take any benefit that might accrue, and, in the event of loss, to break off from their liability, and throw upon his shoulders the whole reponsibility.The hon. Member for Chelsea argued that we ought to have taken our stand upon Lord Granville's Note, and have declared war, if the Russian Government went from a technical to a practical violation of the Treaty. His hon. Friend thought she would not proceed to that extremity; but then they were bound to look to the possibility the other way. His hon. Friend said that if war had ensued a few months back Russia would have had no ally; but he (Mr. Rylands) thought that if Russia had commenced building ships in the Black Sea, and we had declared war, we should have been puzzled to know where our allies would come from. He need not point out to the hon. Member for Chelsea the numerous cases in which treaties had been broken, and in which England had been left without allies, and had not felt herself bound to go to war. He regretted that Mr. Odo Russell should have been led to make the unauthorized statement, that if Russia persisted in her designs we should be bound, either with or without allies, to go to war to support the Treaty of 1856. When Cracow was occupied by Austria in 1846, in violation 924 of the Treaty of Vienna, Lord Palmerston refused to go to war to protect its independence because, as he declared, England, being deserted by her co-signataries of the Treaty, was not obliged to fight single-handed in its support. Lord Russell being then Prime Minister, had the responsibility of governing the country; and under those circumstances there was a difference between the tone of the speeches he then made and that of his recent letters to The Times. Lord Russell then said, that—England ought to have been invited to a Conference, and that the violent seizure and occupation of Cracow was a violation of the Treaty of Vienna, and Her Majesty's Government had directed Lord Palmerston (then Foreign Secretary) to protest against it individually and collectively.But at that time we did not go to war, because we stood alone, and Lord Russell himself declared that so far from losing honour or prestige on that occasion, "though our protests had been disregarded, our moral force had been increased and fortified." And why? Because, as Lord Russell said—"there was no Treaty, ancient or modern, which we had either violated or set at naught." It was upon that that our honour and prestige depended; and if we kept our own engagements we need not fear that we should lose our honour or our prestige. Again, there was the case of Schleswig-Holstein, in which England, though, with other Powers, she had guaranteed the integrity of Denmark, held back from maintaining that so-called treaty obligation, on the ground that other Treaty Powers were not prepared to support her in that action. On that occasion Lord Palmerston, then Prime Minister, on the 27th of June, 1864, said—That while feeling that, from first to last, in these late events, Denmark had been ill-used, Her Majesty's Ministers would have been glad to recommend their Sovereign to take part with Denmark in the approaching hostilies. But, on the other hand, considering that, as both France and Russia had declined active co-operation, the task of driving the Germans out of Schleswig-Holstein would have fallen on this country alone, Her Majesty's Ministers had not thought it consistent with their duty to recommend their Sovereign to undertake such an enterprize."—[See 3 Hansard, clxxvi. 319–50.]Lord Russell, in defending the Government from the Vote of Censure then proposed against them, and for which, indeed, there was some ground—for Denmark had partly been led into the position she took up through "the 925 meddling and muddling" policy of Lords Russell and Palmerston—said—It would have been most unwise for England to enter into hostilities with Germany without the aid of France, Russia, and Sweden, They were equally parties to the Treaty, and England was not bound to act alone.Then the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government also said—That our Government had done all they could to preserve the peace of Europe in conjunction with France, Russia, and Sweden; and having failed, were they to act single-handed? There were abundant reasons against so Quixotic an enterprize, and none for it.Lord Brougham likewise expressed the opinion that it would have been absurd for us to go to war without allies; but the most remarkable speech of all on that occasion was made by Lord Palmerston, who, answering the observations of those who alleged that the honour and prestige of England had been lowered by the conduct of the Government, "maintained that this country stood as high as ever in the estimation of Europe." And referring to the Vote of Censure, the noble Lord continued—The Motion asserts that the just influence of the country has been lowered. This is not the fact; it is a gratuitous libel on the country by a great party who hoped to rule it,"—[See 3 Hansard, clxxvi. 1279–80–81.]Lord Palmerston went on to show what his Government had done during its five years' tenure of office in reducing taxation and expenditure, and promoting the trade and prosperity of the country, contending that they had administered its affairs with honour and advantage. That was a just line of defence to take; for the first duty of the Government of this country was not to Denmark, Belgium, Turkey, or any other foreign State, but to the 30,000,000 of population immediately under its care, and the many more millions in distant lands whose interests it affected. No doubt when that question as to the Black Sea lately arose there might have been found a number of Gentlemen, like the hon. Member for Chelsea, who thought Russia would have been afraid, and would have knocked under to us; but Her Majesty's Ministers were bound to recognize the possibility of a different eventuality, and but for their wisdom and prudence public opinion might have become so inflamed, and the position of the Government so difficult, that they might have again drifted into war for objects in which we 926 had but slight interest, and to the destruction of objects in which we had the deepest interest. Under the circumstances he thought it was the best possible course that there should have been a Conference held, at which the great Powers could consider and determine what should be done to prevent future complications of, perhaps, the very gravest character; and that opinion had been expressed by the leading organs of the Press. He had in his hand an extract from The Times, which said—It has been admitted from the beginning, by every organ of opinion in England, that Russia had a perfect right to lay her grievance before the Powers which were parties to the Treaty of Paris, and call upon them to discuss the propriety of releasing her from her engagement respecting the Black Sea,He thanked Her Majesty's Government for the course they had taken. And he thought they had every reason to be satisfied with the result of the Conference. It had cleared away the source of danger to the peace of Europe. Had we sullenly and obstinately refused to go into the Conference, resting upon Lord Granville's protest, no doubt some persons would have thought they had adopted a spirited policy and occupied an impregnable position, but they would have been responsible for the consequences. Probably, the hon. Member for Chelsea supposed Russia would not immediately have taken any active step and might have contented herself with raising her standard before Europe, and leading her own people to believe that she was prepared to brave, if need were, the animosity of Europe in order to maintain her inherent rights. But a fertile source of future danger would have remained open; and they could hardly have hoped to hold Russia, who would always have been looking forward to possible contingencies that might favour her objects, permanently down to the terms of the Treaty. If with prospects of peace and calm in Europe, as far as our interests were concerned never before surpassed, our Government now asked for largely increased Votes for the Army and Navy, he shuddered to think what would have happened had they rashly rejected the proposal of a Conference, and entailed on the present, as well as on succeeding generations, a heritage of difficulty and disaster. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke), however able and argumentative, had failed to convince him that this country had anything to regret by the Conference. In 1856, various treaties were entered into, the first and most important of which was that which placed the Danubian Principalities under the control and protection of the five Great Powers of Europe, and which bound Russia under certain obligations to keep the peace towards Turkey. But if they looked into the history of such treaties, they would find that like piecrust, they were made to be broken, and always had been broken when opportunities presented themselves to the aggrieved parties to renounce the obligations they imposed. The Treaty of 1793 with the United States, which prevented that Power from building certain war vessels was soon afterwards evaded or broken by the American Government. Then, again, when we ceded Dunkerque to France, we stipulated for the reduction of the fortifications. Within about five years afterwards the fortifications there were as strong as ever. As in the Treaty of 1856, when a great Power found itself placed under peculiar disadvantages it was impossible to expect that such Power would, not avail herself of the earliest opportunity to put an end to the Treaty. By the Treaty of 1815, the integrity of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was guaranteed. In 1830, however, when a portion of her territory revolted, we sent a fleet to the coast of Holland to take the Dutch ships that were blockading a part of that coast, and we compelled the King of the Netherlands to give up his claim to Belgium. So much for the obligations conferred by treaties. England herself had sinned in this respect, and she could not, therefore, go into a war of this character with clean hands. A revision of the Treaty of 1856 was demanded on behalf of Russia. Now, he was not going to defend the despatch of Prince Gortchakoff. On the contrary, he considered that it was a disgrace to the nation whose Minister had written it. But the simple question for us to consider was this—was England to go to war for the purpose of teaching Prince Gortchakoff good manners? And as to the course taken by Count Bismarck, he (Mr. Muntz) asked whether it was 928 likely, under the peculiar circumstances of Russia and Germany at that time, that Count Bismarck would recommend any other course? To judge of the matter fairly, it was only necessary to assume the position of Russia. He imagined England obliged to submit in the hour of misfortune to conditions of peace limiting us to a certain number of ships of war, and to build no forts on the South Coast. Would such conditions be tolerated long? Would the next generation tolerate them for a day? He was, he confessed, fond of peace, but only so long as the honour and interest of the country could be maintained. Otherwise, he would spend his last shilling and shed the last drop of his blood in vindication of both. Suppose for the trifling point raised on Prince Gortchakoff's Note war had been declared. Austria might have been induced to put up 100,000 men in Transylvania, and Italy might have given some support; success, perhaps, might not have been doubtful, but a number of Alabamas would have been all over the world, teasing our commerce. Perhaps some of the independent Indian Princes would have taken advantage of our condition, and the affair would have ended with several millions added to our Debt, and a feeling of animosity towards us on the part of Russia for years to come. Would it have been worth while to pay this for a mere fancy? One word as to Turkey: her best interests would be best promoted by our letting her alone? We had done her more mischief than good by our interference on her behalf. We had commenced our relations with Turkey by destroying her fleet at Navarino. The difficulties of Turkey were not external. She was perfectly competent to defend herself at that moment against Russia, either by sea or by land. She had an admirable fleet, a fine army, and good artillery. Her dangers lay in maladministration; in the system of peculation going on throughout the kingdom, by which two-thirds of the taxes never reached the Imperial Exchequer: in her unfortunate acquaintance with the Stock Exchange; and in her ever-increasing debt were to be found the causes of her weakness. She had another difficulty to contend against—four-fifths of her people were Christians, and the time was rapidly coming when they would no longer tolerate the system 929 under which they were forced to live. He would ask the House whether we should improve the condition of Turkey by involving her in a great war, a war which would leave her in a state of financial embarrassment, at its close a prey to anyone who might like to despoil her? The best thing they could do would be to leave her to herself and allow her to improve her administration in her own way. But the Conference had, at all events, obtained for the first part of the Treaty of Paris the solemn recognition of all the Great Powers of Europe, and had enabled us to avoid a war which would only have led to a vast expenditure of money and blood without any result which would have justified such expenditure. He begged, therefore, to second the Amendment.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the course taken by Her Majesty's Government in accepting a proposal for the assembling of a Conference upon the Treaty of Paris of 1856 was consistent with the honour and interests of this Country, and calculated to promote the maintenance of the peace of Europe,"—(Mr. Rylands,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said: Sir, I have the misfortune to differ from both sides of the House on this question. In the first place, the purport of the Amendment is to award high praise to Her Majesty's Government, and to show that they have done everything that was possible for a Government to do, but in my opinion their conduct has not been consistent in this matter. Earl Granville commenced by writing very warlike despatches, which would not meet with much favour from the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), because if they had been carried out this country would have been involved in war. The course pursued at the Conference, and the result of their deliberations, can only be considered as rather tame, after the tone of these first despatches, but while I cannot concur in the praise awarded by the hon. Member for Warrington to Her Majesty's Government, on the other hand I am not prepared to concur in the censure 930 contained in the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke). Sir, I belong to that small minority who think that the Crimean War was a mistake. It caused a great expenditure of treasure, and what was of far greater importance, the loss of the best blood of the country, in support of a cause in which we had little interest. The Government of that day was not justified in exercising what the late Lord Derby once most appropriately designated as that most awful prerogative of the Crown—the declaring of war. It has been the policy of this country for years, and was particularly the policy of the late Lord Palmerston, to support Turkey, and it is owing to the Western Powers that she owes her present position in Europe, for if she had been left to herself she would long ago have gone to pieces. For many years statesmen have foreseen the approaching downfall of Turkey; Burke in his history of the French Revolution speaks of—The barbarous anarchic despotism of Turkey, where the finest countries, in the most genial climates in the world, all wasted by peace more than any countries have been ruined by war; where arts are unknown; where manufactures languish; where science is extinguished; where agriculture decays; where the human race itself melts away, and perishes under the eye of the observer.The state of Turkey has not improved from what it was at the end of the last century, and all who have visited that country, as many hon. Members like myself no doubt have, must have observed traces of villages where no population is now to be found. The policy of this country should be one of friendly feeling towards Russia. I am aware she is unpopular with many, and the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, as one of the most talented Members of the advanced Liberal party, naturally looks with no very friendly feeling towards her. Those of us who are deeply attached to Monarchical Government in preference to Republicanism cannot regard a Power like Russia with the same hostility as she is regarded by those in this country who entertain democratic views, and on that ground, amongst others, I am glad the result of the Conference has been to prevent a war. The hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, stated that he did not wish this country to be involved in a war with Russia; but if the course he recommended had 931 been followed, which appeared to be marked out in Earl Granville's earliest despatches, this country would have been involved in war, and therefore I cannot support the Motion. Sir, that Minister who lightly counsels war incurs an awful responsibility, and that Member of this House who urges on the Government to undertake a war incurs in his humble capacity a similar responsibility. The result of the Conference has been to place the peace of Europe on a more secure basis, and as I cannot blame the Government for having brought about this result, while deeply regretting to differ from many of those with whom I usually have the privilege and the honour to act, I feel bound to give a reluctant vote against the hon. Member for Chelsea.
said, that his object, in common with that of the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke), was the maintenance of the honour and tranquillity of this country, and the peace of Europe, and it was because he did not believe that the proceedings of the Conference were calculated to secure that result that he felt himself constrained to support his hon. Friend's Motion. He considered his hon. Friend had been treated rather hardly by the Prime Minister, in charging him, after what had occurred, with being the cause of delaying the introduction of the Government Licensing Bill; and important as that subject was, he considered the consideration of questions involving the foreign policy of the Government, which might lead to complications of the gravest character, was of as great interest to the country as even a Licensing Bill. With regard to the whole of those proceedings, if there was one Power that above all others had acted in a dignified manner, consistent not only with the traditions of diplomacy but also with that policy which was the wisest in European history, he should say that Power was Turkey. The Turkish Ambassador to this Court had shown not only a knowledge of the subject, but a strong feeling of what was due to other nations on this occasion. Now to proceed to the original cause of disturbance and of the Conference. It should be borne in mind that two Notes had been written by Prince Gortchakoff—one a public Note, dated the 31st of October, and the other a private and confidential communication, 932 dated the 1st of November. The first Note contained two causes of complaint, of which the first was stated in the following words:—We have witnessed the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, whose position had, under the guarantee of the Great Powers, been defined in the Treaty of Peace and the subsequent Protocols, accomplish a series of revolutions which are equally at variance with the letter and spirit of these transactions, and which first led to the union, and subsequently to the election of a Foreign Prince. These facts have obtained the sanction of the Porte and the consent of the Great Powers—or at any rate the latter have not thought it necessary to enforce their decisions. The Representative of Russia was the only one who raised his voice to remind the Cabinets that by this tolerance they would be departing from the distinct stipulations of the Treaty."—[Correspondence No. 1.]This statement, he was sorry to say, was in direct contradiction of every fact of history. In the Official Correspondence he found—although the arrangement of the Papers was such as to make reference exceedingly difficult—a letter from Sir Henry Elliot, dated November 18, in which he stated what was really the true version of the story—In the conversation which I had with Aali Pacha yesterday he dwelt upon the extreme weakness of the arguments by which Prince Gortchakoff had endeavoured to justify the repudiation of the neutralization clauses of the Treaty of 1856. The alleged infractions of the Treaty in regard to the Danubian Principalities had been carried out in spite of the strongest remonstrances of the Porte, upon whom it was now sought to visit them."—[No. 62.]And, again, the Italian answer, a most able State Paper, quoted the following passage from the despatch written in November, 1866, by Prince Gortchakoff to General Ignatieff, in which Prince Charles of Hohenzollern was recognized as Prince of the United Principalities:—The Imperial Cabinet can only applaud a result as fully in harmony with the traditional sympathy which binds Russia to these people—her co-religionists—as with her desire to see the Ottoman Empire consolidated by the satisfaction of the legitimate wishes and wants of the Christian races which inhabit it."—[No. 53.]Out of the mouth, therefore, of Russia herself it was proved, even in these Papers, that she cordially approved at the time of the change now put forward as one of the grounds for saying that the Treaty of 1856 had been violated. The second complaint was weaker than the first. It was that there had been various breaches of the neutrality of the Black Sea, and Russia gave a long list 933 of cases; but the most remarkable fact was that the breach which appeared to be strongest and most capable of proof was the breach by a Russian man-of-war entering the Black Sea contrary to the Treaty of 1856. Russia, therefore, was hardly justified in using words of great moment in the same despatch—namely,That his Imperial Majesty could no longer hold himself bound by the stipulations of the Treaty of 1856, so far as they restricted his rights in the Black Sea, and that he had only the safety and dignity of his Empire in view.If these were the real grounds given in the public document, why did Prince Gortchakoff write another despatch on the following day, in which he stated—That which must impugn Russia in respect to those modifications is not the appearance of factitious hostility towards her by which they are characterized, nor is it the consequences which may ensue to a great country from the creation upon its frontiers of a small quasi-independent State; it is chiefly the facility with which scarcely 10 years after its conclusion a solemn arrangement, clothed with a European guarantee, has been infringed both in letter and in spirit under the very eyes of the Powers who should have been its guardians.This change of ground—this change of venue, as lawyers would call it—conclusively showed that Russia knew that the reasons for her conduct given the day before were not the true ones; it showed that she was not certain of the result of her own proceedings, and was not prepared to go to war; but in the midst of European dangers and complications deliberately added a fresh element of difficulty, with a view to release herself from stipulations which she found to be onerous. The real position and intentions of Russia were revealed in a conversation held by General Ignatieff with the Grand Vizier, and described by Sir Henry Elliot in a despatch dated the 20th of November—namely—The Emperor had felt that clause (namely, the neutralization clause) to be a blot upon his reign, which he could not leave to his successor to wipe out, and the Porte ought to be sensible of his having abrogated it in the manner the least calculated to produce inconvenience."—[No. 63.]General Ignatieff spared no pains, it seemed, to induce the Grand Vizier to take a favourable view of the step which had been adopted by the Russian Government, and added that—His honour being satisfied by this step, the Emperor had no intention at present of proceeding further by the creation of a fleet in the Black Sea.934 And, therefore, all those phantoms, all those horrors of war which hon. Gentlemen had pictured as likely to arise from opposition to the demands of the Russian Government, had no application whatever to this case. The Russian Government, to use a common phrase, were merely "trying it on," and they succeeded to an extent wholly beyond their expectations. Reference had been made to the infraction of other treaties as to which England had not interfered. But those were cases in which England was not called on to interfere by other nations who were parties to the same treaties; whereas, in this case, Turkey, Austria, and Italy all objected to the alteration demanded, and the Austrian Note especially was very strong upon the point. In the replies forwarded on the part of this country the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had shown that ability which always distinguished him in writing diplomatic despatches. Earl Granville stated that—If, instead of such a declaration," (as that which had been made) "the Russian Government had addressed Her Majesty's Government and the other Powers who are parties to the Treaty of 1856, and had proposed for consideration with them whether anything has occurred which could be held to amount to an infraction of the Treaty, or whether there is anything in the terms which, from altered circumstances, presses with undue severity upon Russia, or which, in the course of events, had become unnecessary for the due protection of Turkey, Her Majesty's Government would not have refused to examine the question in concert with the co-signataries to the Treaty."—[No. 4.]In these remarks he begged to express his entire concurrence, and if there had been nothing more, he (Mr. Goldsmid) would have only pronounced words of unqualified approval. But there was more, as he would show in a minute. First, however, he wished also to refer to the Austrian answer, which appeared to him to be also a very able State Paper. In it Count Beust pointed out that his Government had received with "profound surprise" the Russian Note, and that they considered the method of altering the Treaty which was proposed must cause "serious uneasiness." The Austrian Note further rightly pointed out that if Russia had brought the question forward in a proper manner, there could have been no objection to entertaining any proposition she might choose to make; but Russia had no right, pro-prio motu, to take the matter into her 935 own hands and say, "We will abrogate the Treaty." The Turkish answer was, of course, undecided, because she was in the position of owing a certain amount of allegiance to the other Powers; but the reply of the Italian Government was excellent; that of the French being that they were not in a position to enter into the question, so great was their own distress. The notice which Prussia took of the proceeding was to propose a Conference; to which our Government eagerly agreed. There was a mistake and a departure from Earl Granville's original platform. And the mistake was greater because France declared that she was not in a position, in consequence of her own painful condition at home, to go into a Conference. Was not this reasoning unanswerable? Did it not give our Government a most obvious ground for maintaining their former position? They ought to have said to Russia, "We are willing to consider any complaint which you or any other member of the European family may make; but it must be made in a proper manner and at a proper time, when all the parties interested will be able fairly to discuss the question. Now, France, our principal ally, cannot do so, so we must wait till the war is over." Russia could have had no reasonable objection to such a declaration, and he believed that if that course had been taken the Conference would have arrived at a much more satisfactory conclusion. Yet our Government accepted the Conference—it is true, on the nominal understanding that there was to be "no foregone conclusion," but obviously with the idea and intention that the demands of Russia should be conceded. That the Conference was brought about by Prussian influence was quite clear, for the Prussian Minister had that fact placed on record in the first Protocol. Then with respect to the attendance of the French Minister at the Conference. At first Her Majesty's Government most properly pressed that point; but afterwards, I regret to say, that, after almost bullying France to send some one instead of M. Jules Favre, they gave way and began the Conference without France. Again, at this point, England ought to have said that she would not go into a Conference at that time, but that if Russia made her complaint in a proper form before the different Powers she would then concur in the application for a Conference 936 at a proper time. And now to consider the proceedings at the Conference. At the first meeting the Protocol adopted was not of much more use than the Treaty of 1856 appeared to have been. The second meeting on the 24th January was not of much more effect; but he must do the Turkish Minister the justice of saying that his answer was most dignified, and his statement most admirable. Considerable discussion took place on the proposition to introduce a new Article, to which the Turkish Minister could not agree; and, finally, the form in which it was adopted was proposed by the Italian Minister. It was only at the last sitting but one that the French Minister could attend. He stated that he did not see any ground for the Conference; but for the purpose of agreeing with the other Powers he was willing to sign what had been agreed upon. That was a reasonable statement on the part of France, and was an additional proof why Her Majesty's Government ought to have declined going into the Conference until France could be present; and, in fact, until the Franco-German War was ended. The result, then, of the Conference was to give up all we had fought for in the Crimean War—namely, the neutralization of the Black Sea; and Russia, as usual, gained her end. Now, his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea said he did not attach much importance to the neutralization of the Black Sea. Upon that point he could not say that he agreed with him. Turkey was now, he believed, in a condition to defend herself against the attacks of Russia. It did not at all follow, however, that she would be some 10 or 12 years hence. He had been in Turkey, and had been a witness to the great progress she had made morally and physically. He had gone over all the prisons in Constantinople, and had found in them a system of classification of the employment of the prisoners in useful labour, and even of photographing prisoners prevailing in the most well-ordered manner. The Turkish Government were also most anxious to obtain the services of the French and English officers for the purpose of drilling their soldiers, as well as to adopt all the improvements in naval architecture. Turkey was not, therefore, in his opinion, so retrograde a Power as some hon. Members might imagine. But there was another 937 question—namely, the financial one. The debt of Russia, though larger, was not at all proportionate to that of Turkey. The debt of the latter country was between £80,000,000 and £90,000,000, and that of Russia £220,000,000; but then that sum was spread over a population more than double that of Turkey. Moreover, the credit of Russia was better than that of Turkey, and therefore, in the event of war hereafter, Turkey would probably be unable to supply herself with the means of carrying it on. The neutralization of the Black Sea might thus be of great importance to Turkey some 10 years hence. It had been said, that Lord Palmerston thought lightly of this neutralization; but, according to The Morning Post of that morning, Lord Palmerston had declared in writing that the neutralization of the Black Sea was of the greatest importance, and that England ought never to agree to give it up. And here he (Mr. Goldsmid) felt bound to complain that the Prime Minister should have, during the sitting of the Conference on that very point, declared publicly that he considered the neutralization of the Black Sea of no importance. If he thought so, he ought not to have expressed his opinion at such a time. And Sir Henry Elliot agreed with him when he said—in No. 66—"An effectual substitute for the neutralization of the Black Sea will certainly not be found." He knew that Austria and France did not share that opinion; but he was sure that all would agree that if the Treaty of 1856 could be, as it had been, broken with impunity by Russia, so could the present Treaty. The Times of that day contained a remarkable article from The Moscow Gazette upon the Treaty just signed, which bore out that opinion. That article showed that if Russia by her own free-will could tear up the Treaty of 1856, she could equally tear up the Treaty just made, and he predicted that, before many years were over, she would do so. He (Mr. Goldsmid) hoped that his forebodings might not be realized; but he feared that a few years would prove them to have been too true. He was of opinion that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Warrington was too strong, and that the result of the Conference was not likely to lead to a permanent peace. He believed that the policy recommended by the hon. Member for Chelsea would have been much more 938 likely to do so, and that the peace which had now been patched up would not last long. However that might be, there was one conclusion with which he (Mr. Goldsmid) cordially agreed—namely, that we ought to take care to carry out any treaties into which we had entered; but he cordially concurred in the remark—never let us enter into any treaties again.
said, he regretted to commence his remarks in the absence of the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, because he should have to comment upon some of that hon. Member's observations. He regarded the present discussion as almost unprecedented; because hon. Members who were warm supporters of the Government, and more governmental, in fact, than the Government themselves, came forward to find fault with the policy of the Administration in the face of the declaration that the Ministers would regard the success of the Motion as tantamount to the adoption of a Vote of Censure, necessitating their retirement. The hon. Member who had just sat down had several times stated what, in his opinion, the Government ought to have done, and what they ought to have said to Russia. The opinion of an individual Member on those points must be taken for what it was worth; but when the hon. Member stated that the Protocols just signed would be valueless, because the Protocols of 1856 were not maintained in their entirety, he forgot that the circumstances of the two cases were wholly different. In 1856, a combination of the Powers of Europe in a death struggle with Russia had brought that country temporarily to the ground; and after the lapse of 14 years it could not be said that it was unreasonable that Russia should have a claim to the reconsideration, and even to the alteration where it required it, of the Treaty signed in 1856. He was sorry not to see in the House the mover of this great Resolution (Sir Charles Dilke), for the sake of which important Bills had been put back, the wheels of legislation stopped, and the time of the House wasted, as the Motion could come to no practical result. He had some right to speak on the present Motion, as he had given Notice of his intention to move the Previous Question in reference to it. He expected, by that means, to enable the 939 House to dispose of the subject in the most convenient form; but he never wished to stand in the way of Business, and, therefore, he withdrew the Notice. He confessed that when the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea gave Notice of his Motion he could not understand what was meant. His hon. Friend had been a warm admirer of the Government, and supported them on almost every occasion. Why, then, bring forward so severe and unusual a Motion at such a time? The anxiety to know what his object was had also been felt out-of-doors. Touching appeals had been made to the hon. Baronet to abandon this Motion. Up to this morning the newspapers had not given up hope that he would withdraw it. The Daily Telegraph of this morning said—Is it too much to hope that Sir Charles Dilke will withdraw the unmeaning Motion which stands in his name for this evening? It is chiefly in his own interest that we ask the question. If he wishes to rise in the opinion of the House and the country, let him shun the fatal reputation of being an unpractical crotchetist. What can be more barren of any useful result than the debate which he insists on provoking? What end does he propose? The Session is still young, and yet we have had two debates on the Black Sea Question. Why did not the hon. Member for Chelsea give the country the benefit of his reflections on these two occasions? There are 658 Members in the House, each one of whom has as much right to have his crotchet as Sir Charles Dilke; and if his example is largely followed, we shall have the better half of the Session wasted in fruitless talk.But the hon. Baronet remained deaf as an adder. His hon. Friend, with his political tendencies and affections, must himself have felt the responsibility he incurred, and shuddered at the thought of what the result of his Motion might be. He could fancy the hon. Baronet looking out of window that morning, and sighing—The dawn is overcast, the morning lowers,And heavily in clouds brings on the day"—the day not in this caseBig with the fate of Cæsar and of Rome;but, it might be, of the Premier and the Government. But he (Mr. Gilpin) trusted the Division—if Division there was to be—would make him a wiser if a sadder man. After hearing the speech of the hon. Baronet he was as much at a loss to know his object as he had been before. His hon. Friend said the Conference was a sham. Now, he denied that the Conference was a sham; and he put the one opinion against the other. Long quotations 940 were made from the Russian papers; and his hon. Friend, having been a cherished guest in St. Petersburg, had a perfect right to read them. But when the hon. Baronet asked what in future would be the worth of treaties, he ventured to say they would be worth just as much as ever, and be held binding so long as they were entered upon with a fair view to the interests of those entering into them; but if two parties entered into an engagement very advantageous to one and very disadvantageous to the other, the latter was sure to try, if he could fairly, to get out of it. When the Treaty of 1856 was signed, there were not wanting eminent English statesmen who declared that it was not founded on the laws of justice, even though it might be founded on the law of superior strength. He believed that the time had come when the provisions of the Treaty of 1856 required revision. It had been said that Prince Gortchakoff had behaved rudely; but we were not to be hurried into a war because the Prince of another country was rude to our foreign Ministry. And he (Mr. Gilpin) had yet to learn that there was any intentional rudeness on Prince Gortchakoff's part. The Crimean War cost £100,000,000, and the loss of 100,000 lives, and that might have been repeated on a still larger scale if we had gone to war on this occasion. Surely that would have been a very heavy price to have paid for the suggested rudeness of Prince Gortchakoff. In his opinion it was well that the Conference met, if its result had been only to obtain from the Russian Plenipotentiary the declaration in which he announced that the principal object of the Conference was to efface the unpleasant memories of the past. As to the doctrine that to be prepared for peace you must be ready for war, he believed it to be not only unsound but rottenness itself; and the Government would never do justice to the best interests of this country until they proposed to other nations a mutual disarmament, such as would very materially lessen the burdens of each State. To those who proposed that England should be the policeman of Europe, he replied that we had not the power to create an Army large enough to keep Europe in order, and that we should extend our influence much more by showing the world that we were a happy, 941 united, and prosperous people, than by pursuing a policy of threatening and boasting. The hon. Member for Chelsea was more French than France herself. He complained that France was not consulted, and that England went into the Conference without the French Ambassador. But the Duc de Broglie told the Plenipotentiaries that although France would not of herself have seen any sufficient reason to modify the stipulations of the Treaty of 1856, and would have preferred their maintenance, yet, from the moment that the new arrangement, agreeable to the Russian Government, was agreed to by that of Turkey, the party principally interested in the question, the French Government willingly entered into the feeling of conciliation which had dictated it, and gave its assent to all the decisions of the Conference. Thus, it had been reserved for the hon. Member for Chelsea to discover that France had not been well used in this Conference. He hoped that the hon. Baronet would divide, and that the House would meet his Motion with a direct negative. He (Mr. Gilpin) wished the House to show by its vote that it was not in favour of a meddling and mischievous policy. It was in favonr of our preserving a calm and dignified attitude towards foreign nations, and of securing for the country the blessings of peace.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
I confess that I am unable to see any connection between the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, and the Motion before the House. The hon. Member began by giving an account of all the means and appliances—Parliamentary and the reverse—which had been brought to bear upon the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) to induce him to withdraw from the discharge of what he considered to be a public duty in this House; and having described the failure of those applications, the hon. Member ended with an animated appeal to the Government to dismiss our Army, put an end to our fleet, and trust to the good feeling of the various Powers of Europe not to take advantage of our weakness. ["No, no!"] [Mr. GILPIN observed that he did not recommend the Government to disband the Army or abolish the fleet.] I apprehend that the hon. Gentleman advocated disarmament; but I do not 942 see how the proposition has any bearing upon the Motion we are discussing. I am equally at a loss to understand the extra-Parliamentary course taken by the hon. Member in reading a long extract from a Liberal paper, and how it concerns the very serious and important question now under debate. I think the hon. Baronet need be under no apprehension that either his conduct or his motives will be misconstrued out-of-doors. I think the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken will probably find that in the opinion of the country one of the essential duties of the House of Commons is being at this moment discharged at the instance of the hon. Member for Chelsea. For if it be not one of the essential duties of the House of Commons to criticize and canvass jealously and fully the Executive functions of the Government in regard to an important international treaty, I do not know where to find a legitimate subject for the exercise of the duties of this House. I have sat in this House a greater number of years than the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin), but I never until to-night heard it laid down as a principle that an hon. Gentleman had no right to discuss the conduct of the Government in making treaties with foreign Powers. Passing from that point, however, I will venture to ask the attention of the House to what appear to me to be considerations proper both to the Motion of the hon. Baronet, and the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands). The Motion of the hon. Baronet confines itself to the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in going, under existing circumstances, into the Conference at all. The Amendment takes a wider sweep, and invites us to applaud not only the conduct of the Government, but the results of the deliberations of the Conference, more especially in view of the interests of European peace. With respect to the first branch of the question, the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea went, in so exhaustive and logical a manner, through the Papers submitted by the Government, that I feel there is but little left for me to say in following and enforcing his arguments. But I take leave to observe that in the first instance a question arose which ought to have been considered by the Government in regard to the Power from whom the invitation 943 to a Conference proceeded. Was it from one of the allies of England during the Crimean War? The utmost that can be said is that it came from a Power which was nominally neutral, and which, if it erred at all, did not err in showing favour to the cause England had espoused. But on the face of these Papers, it is open to doubt whether the original suggestion for a Conference did not come from St. Petersburg rather than from Berlin. On this point I will refer to the despatch No. 35, from Earl Granville to Lord Augustus Loftus, recording a conversation with Count Bernstorff, in which the latter is made to say of Russia's Circular—It had been a great surprise to the Government of the King, and had placed His Majesty's advisers in considerable embarrassment. But in the same way as they recommended moderation to us so they had done at St. Petersburg; that the proposal for a Conference at St. Petersburg was Prince Gortchakoff's; that the place had not been selected by Count Bismarck; and that it was the sincere desire of the Prussian Government to hasten a satisfactory conclusion of this question."—[No. 35.]Again, in despatch No. 37, Earl Granville writing to Mr. Odo Russell, after acknowledging the receipt of two telegrams reporting the results of conversations with Count Bismarck, said—In the former you state that Count Bismarck had expressed himself as taken by surprise by the Russian Circular; that he regretted it, but could not interfere or return an official answer to it at present; and that he showed the greatest anxiety to prevent the matter leading to hostilities. From the second it appears that his Excellency offers, with the consent of Her Majesty's Government, to take the initiative in proposing a Conference at St. Petersburg, which he understands Prince Gortchakoff would be ready to accept; and he strongly recommends St. Petersburg as the place of meeting with a view to the speedy settlement of the question, and begs that Her Majesty's Government, if they agree, will invite the French Government to join."—[No. 37.]I think these paragraphs suggest a doubt as to whether the original idea of a Conference did not emanate from St. Petersburg. But admitting that the suggestion was first made by Prussia, at what conclusion do we arrive? It is evident that the affair had been arranged between Russia and Prussia, Russia having been cognizant of the intention of Prussia to propose a Conference before it had been mentioned by Prussia to Her Majesty's Government. Prussia was then maintaining a struggle with 944 France, our ally during the Crimean War; and during that war Prussia was actuated by what has been called "benevolent neutrality." Was the course we pursued dictated by honour or good feeling towards France? Surely it could not have been. Before any answer had been given to the Russo-Prussian proposal, England should have communicated with France, found out the real views of the French Government with reference to the Conference, and then, and not till then, should we have answered the proposal made by Prussia. But what happened? With eager haste, without a moment's delay, England accepts the proposal of Prussia. It is made on the 24th November, it is accepted on the 25th, and it is not till the 27th that France is informed, not of the intention to accept, but of the fact of acceptance. But the case is even stronger than that. On the 25th Her Majesty's Government was informed that Russia, frightened, it may be startled, by the unanimous condemnation of Europe—with the exception of Prussia—had formally announced her intention of not acting upon Prince Gortchakoff's Circular. But that information was in the possession of Her Majesty's Government when they accepted the Conference. There was, therefore, no reason for the indecent haste which caused us to accept the Conference without the knowledge of our principal ally in the Crimean War; and in that respect the conduct of the Government is consequently deserving of the censure moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea. That being the case, what next happens? England immediately persecutes and bullies France, under all the melancholy circumstances in which she was placed, into joining her. I confess I read these despatches with pain and surprise, considering the circumstances of the French Government, and considering that England had refused, when asked by Austria and Italy in an early stage of the Franco-German War, to interfere and stop hostilities, if possible, to take one single step in the direction, for I have no hesitation in saying that, on the face of the despatches, it appeared to be a foregone conclusion to force the French Government to accede to the proposal with respect to the neutralization of the Black Sea. The reluctance of France to accede to it appears in repeated despatches. 945 At last Her Majesty's Government, despairing of persuading France to take, what I would call this untoward step, on the 19th of December cavalierly informs them that, with or without the concurrence and assent of France, the Conference will have to assemble in London on a certain day; and not till then France agrees, reluctantly, to come into the Conference. Then we have next these—what shall I call them?—these melancholy negotiations about the safe conduct of the French Plenipotentiary. Surely, under the circumstances, if England had wished France to be represented, the course for England to have adopted was clear. She ought to have said to Prussia—"This Conference is your proposal, asked for by you, avowedly in the interest of your ally, Russia; it is for you to secure the attendance of the French Plenipotentiary in London; and when you have secured his presence the Conference shall meet, and we will proceed to discuss the proposals which your ally, Russia, may make." This would have been a practical, a straightforward, and a candid course; but instead of this, we had those negotiations, and all the paraphernalia of international communication, in order to procure, through the favour of Prussia, the presence of this essential representative of France. It so happens that all these negotiations fail, and the Conference meets without the presence of the man who is said at the outset to be essential to the assembling of the Conference. Everything is really settled without the knowledge of the representative of France. The Conference sat four times without his presence, and at last, in February, the Plenipotentiary is introduced to the Conference. Now, let me ask, what is it the French representative is instructed by his Government to say, when at length he is permitted to open his mouth? He gives in most emphatic, though courteous phrase, an absolute contradiction to the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman told us, on the first night of the Session, that France had officially agreed to the abrogation of the 3rd Article of the Treaty of Paris.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
In an argument addressed to those who suggested that we ought not to consent to the 946 abrogation of that Article of the Treaty the right hon. Gentleman said—Who is it that you would have looked to in order to maintain the policy in the East, if matters now stood again as they were? France. But France, by official acts, expressed her readiness to give up the neutrality of the Black Sea."—[3 Hansard, cciv. 105.]
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
The Plenipotentiary of France said—As regards the principal object of the Conference, the French Government, sharing the feelings expressed by the Plenipotentiary of Turkey, would not personally have seen any sufficient reason to modify the stipulations established by the Treaty of 1856, and would have preferred their maintenance.I prefer to take from the accredited representative of France, when he is at last permitted by Prussia to appear at the Conference, what is the real view of the French Government than to take it from the lips of the Prime Minister. If the right hon. Gentleman, in his capacity of Prime Minister—the prime mover in these extraordinary proceedings—tells us he was absolutely ignorant when Parliament met of what was the opinion of the existing French Government, I hold that the case of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea is conclusively proved. It was worse than a blunder of the right hon. Gentleman to go into this Conference in absolute ignorance of the opinion of the French Government on what was one of the great principles in the great Crimean struggle. He has shown that at the time the Conference met, when he addressed the House at the opening of the Session, he was in complete ignorance of the views of the French Government on the prime subject which the Conference was convened to consider. It was a great blunder, too, on the part of the Government to accept, in the eager way they did, this Conference at the instigation of Prussia, without any previous communication with our ally in the Crimean War. Now I come to consider the Amendment of the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands). He asks us to put aside all consideration of the circumstances under which this Conference was held, and to express our admiration of the results which have been achieved from it. Now, in the course of his speech he attempted to grapple with the statement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) 947 that it was the 3rd Article of the Treaty of Paris, which was the cause of the continuance of the Crimean War, and of the failure of the Vienna negotiations. The hon. Gentleman, however, far from impugning the historical accuracy of that statement, contented himself with a very unnecessary argument against the reasons which induced the English and French Governments to continue the war, because they could not otherwise obtain what they deemed a just satisfaction of the claims of themselves and of Turkey, and a proper protection of the peace of Europe. The hon. Member ought to have known not only that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was historically accurate, but that the dates showed something even more striking. The Vienna Conferences terminated in June, 1855. What was the state of affairs not only in Europe, but in Asia? Kars had not fallen; she was in the midst of her glorious defence. The chances of war were in favour of Turkey in Asia as well as in Europe. All, or nearly all, the Russian forts on the eastern littoral of the Black Sea had fallen into the hands of the Circassians, who were the allies of ourselves and of Turkey. Subsequently, owing to the inconceivable and, I believe, unexplained blunder on the part of the allied Governments, Kars was permitted to fall, though not until the month of November. From that time the fortune of war was in favour of Russia in Asia. At Paris the Russian diplomatists pressed this point strongly, and contrary to good faith, and what was due from one ally to another, in consequence of the success of the Russian arms in Asia, and subsequent failure of the Vienna negotiations, the whole of the eastern shores of the Black Sea to the Turkish confines were sacrificed, with the tribes which had hitherto maintained their independence. The result is that Russia possesses, without impediment, the whole eastern littoral of the Black Sea up to the Turkish frontier; and you have now, by abrogating the 3rd Article of the Treaty of Paris, enabled Russia to win back by her diplomacy all that she had lost in war during these two years. That is actually the condition of affairs. The whole of that protracted and gallant struggle, in which so many thousands of valuable English lives were lost, and such enormous sums of English money 948 sacrificed, has only produced these Protocols, which place on record a truism as old as any Conferences or diplomatists, and which Russia will find no difficulty in finding an excuse for evading whenever she sees an opportunity when it can serve her purpose. But it will be said that we have received an equivalent; let us consider what it is worth. By the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, we are asked to applaud the result of the Conference in the interests of European peace, and we are told that the equivalent is the neutralization of the Black Sea. Now, I should like to know what is the opinion of Sir Henry Elliot, our Ambassador at Constantinople, who is, it may be presumed, in a position to form a pretty accurate judgment on it? On the 21st of November he wrote to the Government that—An effectual substitute for the neutralization of the Black Sea will certainly not be found; but if it is to come to an end, some fresh security might, perhaps, be found for Turkey by a slight modification of the engagements relative to the closing of the Straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles against ships of war of all nations."—[No. 66.]And what is the opinion of Turkey herself? I believe it has been said in this House that Turkey had ceased to attach importance to the neutralization of the Black Sea; but the Turkish Ambassador has put on record at the Conference his opinion that the observance of that provision, far from having given rise to difficulties, has contributed hitherto to the maintenance of peace; that the Sublime Porte was satisfied with it, and regretted that Russia saw in it anything that wounded her honour. Thus we find on all sides the opinion that the provision was a greater guarantee for peace than that which has been now substituted for it. And when I come to consider what the equivalent is, I cannot but be surprised that it should be acceptable to those hon. Gentlemen who represent—I will not say the peace-at-any-price principles, because they have disclaimed them—but who appear as the advocates and friends of peace. Has the neutralization of the Black Sea failed to maintain peace? Obviously not. And what is the real ground of the objection of Russia to it? Why, that if it were maintained it would still continue to subserve the cause of peace. Indeed, nothing can be clearer than that, when a 949 neutral space—either of land or water—intervenes between the territories of rival and historically hostile Powers, it is a powerful support of peace. Are hon. Gentlemen who seem to adopt a contrary opinion prepared to follow it to its logical conclusion? Will they abandon the neutrality of Belgium, and subvert that of Luxemburg? Is Switzerland no longer to be neutral? Will the Government, encouraged by the demonstrations of the lovers of peace, send out instructions to our Commissioners at Washington that the neutrality Treaty of 1817 is to be abrogated, in order to maintain and perpetuate friendly relations between Great Britain and the United States; and will they declare that henceforth, in the interest of peace, those two Powers shall be at liberty to maintain any amount of naval force on the lakes and great rivers of Canada? The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has pleaded in favour of general disarmament, and he approves of the Conference because it does—what? Because it sanctions—and by sanctioning I venture to think will necessitate—the building of forts, the armament of arsenals, the gathering of hostile fleets on that very sea which hitherto has carried none but ships of commerce on its bosom. The obvious offence of the abrogated Treaty of 1856 being its peaceful character, when was it that Russia began to complain and talk of having discovered that the neutralization of the Black Sea was either hostile to her dignity or prejudical to her safety? Was it during the lifetime of Lord Palmerston? [Mr. GLADSTONE: Yes.] Does the right hon. Gentleman say "yes?" [Mr. GLADSTONE assented.] Then I will inquire of him why he refused my request the other night, when I asked him to produce the despatches of Sir Andrew Buchanan in explanation of his statement that he had frequently informed the late Lord Clarendon and Earl Granville that Russia would some day take steps for the abrogation of the neutralization of the Black Sea? If Sir Andrew Buchanan had made such statement before the accession of the present Government to office, it is very extraordinary that he did not inform them of it, and until the despatches are produced the inference is clear and unmistakable, that during the lifetime of Lord Palmerton no such declaration was made on the part of 950 Russia, nor during the Administration of Earl Russell, nor of the late Lord Derby. I believe I may say that during the time that the present Lord Derby held the Seals of the Foreign Office no such declaration was made. What, then, is the conclusion? That it was not until the right hon. Gentleman opposite acceded to office that Russia saw her opportunity. She saw that the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister from whom she thought she might hope to extract the fruit of the tremendous struggle which England had engaged in with her—a struggle that had to be engaged in, I am afraid, in some degree, owing to the weakness of the right hon. Gentleman and the Colleagues with whom he acted—and a struggle which the right hon. Gentleman did little or nothing either to prevent or sustain. Such being the equivalent for the neutralization of the Black Sea, and such the means by which it has been obtained, I will next ask, how stand at the present moment our obligations towards Turkey with reference to the separate Treaty of April, 1856? There are persons in this House, no doubt—we have heard some this evening—who hold that whenever it becomes onerous or difficult to adhere to a treaty, or to fulfil a guarantee, it is the course of true policy to do neither one nor the other. But I do not think that that is the opinion of the Government, and I say that while our treaty obligations towards Turkey remain technically the same, our moral obligation to maintain her integrity is increased. By forcing on her against her declared wish this substitute for the neutralization of the Black Sea we have incurred towards her a still greater moral obligation, if it be possible, than existed before. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that it was England that in the Conference insisted upon the substitute now accepted; and I will do the Government the justice to say that since the signing of the new Treaty they have not shown any disposition to shrink from the morally increased obligations we have incurred. There was a remarkable passage in the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty the other night, when he spoke of the necessity of our building vessels fitted for coast defences and operations in shallow water rather than of iron-clad fighting ships, and added—The probability has been suggested of a Russian fleet coming out of the Baltic to attack us; 951 though I do not believe she would do anything of the sort, or that any such fleet could escape our iron-clads, I agree that every precaution should be taken to meet every emergency that may arise, and that we should not only be able to send a strong fighting fleet into the Baltic and the Danube to meet any combination that recent events may have rendered possible, but also that we should provide adequately for the defence of our own coast by the construction of four vessels of the Monitor class.That is the first fruit of the peaceful solution of the Black Sea difficulty, and I do not think it is one that hon. Gentlemen, who are so friendly to peace ought to feel particularly satisfied with; the speech, too, which we heard lately from the Prime Minister, of which I heartily approved, when he declined to accept the courteous invitation of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) to take back his Estimates, had an ominous ring in it as to the security of peace. I therefore give the Government the credit of an honest and sincere intention to fulfil our new obligations. I must also say that I agree in the remark that fell from the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goldsmid), that we can look with hope and confidence to the power of Turkey herself to vindicate her own rights and to maintain her own national existence. I believe that no greater mistakes have ever been made by public men in this country than in reference to the military power and resources of Turkey. In October, 1853, some weeks before the news of the first battle in the Principalities reached England, I heard from Lord Ponsonby, who was well acquainted with the resources and condition of Turkey, a remarkable prediction as to the result of the war between that country and Russia. The noble Lord said that even if Turkey were left alone she would be able to repel the aggressions of Russia, and three weeks afterwards that view was fully confirmed by the news of the battle of Oltenitza, followed by the defence of Silistria, and the first battles of the campaign; and if Turkey was able in 1853 to hold her own against Russia she is much more able to do so now. I was astonished to find that Mr. Odo Russell told the Prussian Government that England was prepared to go to war with or without allies. Could England look for a more vigorous or effective ally in the East than Turkey herself? I recognize with pleasure the present determination of Her Majesty's Government to fulfil their 952 treaty obligations; but I must say this, that if we are called upon at no distant date to fulfil those treaty obligations; if war should break out in the East as the result of that unlimited warlike competition which has now been sanctioned between Turkey and Russia in the Black Sea; a great responsibility will rest on the Ministers who have been so precipitate in urging this dangerous change. The transformation of our relations is now complete. We have passed from those provisions that have maintained peace in the East of Europe for 14 years, and which, so far as human foresight can judge, would have maintained it for years to come, and we have adopted the principle that hostile fleets should sail in the Black Sea, that forts should be built, and arsenals provided with warlike stores and gear; and yet we trust that peace will still be maintained. But if the contrary should be result, I repeat that great will be the responsibility that will rest upon the English Ministry; and I think that it is only fair and right and just that there should be men like the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea who should rise in their place and tell them that in the event of war the country will recognize the responsibility of a Minister who has abrogated a treaty for the sake of his own personal views expressed in this House years ago, and who has imperilled peace in the vain hope of circumventing or conciliating the great military despotism of the North.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
In these days of startling alliances I have been much amused at the alliance to-night of my noble Friend opposite (Lord John Manners) with the hon. Baronet below me (Sir Charles Dilke). Their language has been so synonymous that one would almost suppose they had been parties to an agreement in the portico. The noble Lord referred to the indecent haste of the Government in going into the Conference, and the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea said that the Government were ready to swallow any—the word is too strong for me to use: if the House will allow me I will use it—were ready to swallow "any insult" which might be offered to them. Now, I must say that I am glad of the opportunity of addressing a few words to the House upon this Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, because having listened to his speech, and having 953 read the Papers that are in our hands, I entirely dissent from the views that he has expressed as to the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. Whatever differences of opinion may exist among hon. Members as to the preliminary circumstances which may have induced the Government to enter into this Conference for the purpose of entertaining the suggestions contained in Prince Gortchakoff's Note, I do not think there is anyone in this House who will get up in his place and say that he is prepared to find fault with the result that has been obtained by the Conference. That result is one which I rejoice to have seen accomplished by the policy of the Government, provided always that both during the Conference, and before the Conference, the character and dignity of this country have been throughout upheld and maintained. Now, the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea said, in the course of his observations, that this Conference had been a great diplomatic triumph for Russia. He quoted what he called public opinion in Moscow. The newspaper called The Golos, he said, stated that such was the prevalent opinion in Moscow. Nothing can be more erroneous. My hon. Friend near me spoke very fairly and very truly when he observed that we do not expect to have the time of this House occupied by quotations from The Golos newspaper, or any other newspaper. The hon. Baronet said this Conference was a great diplomatic triumph for Russia. Now, I will not grudge Russia her triumph upon this occasion, if that can be called a triumph which is the result of the deliberate opinion of all the Cabinets of Europe who were parties to the Treaty of 1856. I should say that it was rather a triumph for the policy of this country. Read these Papers. England throughout took the initiative in all this matter. Prince Gortchakoff's letter was received by Earl Granville on, I think, the 9th of November. Earl Granville did not hesitate a moment. He answered it by a despatch to Sir Andrew Buchanan on the 10th. He took the initiative before all the Cabinets of Europe, and, whatever may have been the result of the Conference, whatever may be the opinion of Europe as regards the conduct of this country, it cannot be denied that England took the initiative, that the policy which has been 954 successful was the policy which England undertook. I say that this is a triumph rather of the policy of England than for Russia. Peace was menaced—war was imminent. Nothing that I recollect during the time I have taken notice of public affairs has been so quickly attained as that peace was secured. It has been said by the hon. Baronet below me that Russia did not give way on any matter—that she gained her point entirely. Now, let me prove to the House in a very few sentences that that is not strictly the case. It is perfectly true that Russia, through the Note written by Prince Gortchakoff on the 31st of October, said that she would no longer be bound by the stipulations of the Treaty of Paris, 1856. I think Prince Gortchakoff told Sir Andrew Buchanan that the Emperor's decision was irrevocable. So far from Russia maintaining her position, she immediately afterwards expressed regret at the form she had used. She signed, the first annexe to the Protocol of London, which the hon. Baronet sneered at, and said was worth nothing. The words of the annexe are as follows—The Plenipotentiaries [of the different Powers] recognize that it is an essential principle of the Law of Nations that no Power can liberate itself from the engagements of a Treaty, nor modify the stipulations thereof, unless with the consent of the Contracting Powers, by means of an amicable arrangement.That is what the hon. Baronet calls a worthless document. He says that as a friend of Russia. I do not think he will venture to spend his next winter in Moscow. Russia signed that annex to the first Protocol before anything else had been done. I believe that she signed it in good faith. If she did not sign it in good faith, she was guilty of a cynical hypocrisy such as has not been heard of since the days of Louis Quatorze. Two points are raised by this discussion—and I do not altogether agree with the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin) in looking upon this as a lost night—because the discussion of the points raised by the hon. Baronet enables the Government clearly to place their conduct and the policy that they have pursued not only before this country, but before the Cabinets of Europe, and will show the world that, at all events, in the conduct we have pursued we have acted according to the principles and the 955 character which this country ought to maintain. The two points raised by the hon. Baronet below me are these—has the policy of England been endorsed by the other Powers of Europe; and secondly, has that policy been dictated by any other Power?—because the hon. Baronet assumed frequently that the Government had been led to do this and that at the instance of Prussia, and therefore by Russia. If the House will permit me, I will show that, so far from that being the case, our line of conduct has been clear and distinct thoroughout, and that, so far from accepting the propositions of Russia, over and over again in these Papers it appears that the Government refused to accept the proposals made by Russia and Prussia, and that they followed a line of policy which they believed to be the one that was best for the country. I hold it to be essential to the highest interests of this country that our Government should endeavour to keep up a good understanding and a friendly feeling between this and foreign countries. We should never permit any personal prejudices to interfere with such an understanding. If the terms of the Note of Prince Gortchakoff were such as to ruffle the kindly nature and the good feeling of Earl Granville, the latter acted most judiciously in not giving way to the impulse they may have given rise to. During the course of the negotiotions upon this subject, no persons have distinguished themselves more by their judicious despatches than Earl Granville, Sir Andrew Buchanan, and Count Beust. I am not quite certain, but I rather think that I heard the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government deny to-night that he disapproved the stipulations relating to the neutralization of the Black Sea at the time they were entered into; but I myself, in common with many others in this House, have always felt that these stipulations respecting the Black Sea were injurious to Russia. To me it has always been evident that such stipulations must be unendurable to a gigantic Power like Russia. And it is a remarkable thing in reading these Papers to find that, although this Treaty was signed in 1856, Italy, Austria, Prussia, and France, all before 1859, had been endeavouring to persuade Russia to extricate herself from the position in which she was 956 placed. Russia complains—and to my mind most justly complains—that since the Treaty of 1856 was signed the balance of power in Europe has been most essentially altered. And is she not perfectly correct in making such an assertion? Why, Europe is hardly the same now as she was then; its whole features on the map presents a totally different appearance; and Russia has a right to demand that under such circumstances the conditions of the Treaty of 1856 should be revised. Let me remind the House of the alterations that have occurred in Europe since that date. Italy, or rather Sardinia, which was in 1856 a small and insignificant territory, is now a Power which embraces all the country from the Tyrol and Savoy to the Southern Sea. Savoy and Nice, which belonged in those days to Sardinia, have passed into the hands of France, and I always regretted that the Government of the day did not, as they ought to have done, interfere to protest against the flagrant violation of the Law of Nations which the transfer of those Provinces entailed. Not alone were Italy and France interested in that transfer, but this country also, as being bound to maintain the independence of Savoy in connection with that of Switzerland. Again, the Danubian Provinces are now united under one head, and I shall come presently to a most admirable despatch of Sir Henry Elliot, in answer to an assertion made by Prince Gortchakoff in reference to those Provinces. Austria has been pushed out of Germany, and Prussia has become a great and gigantic Power, and has detached a great part of Alsace and Lorraine from France. In fact, it is impossible to point to any other period of 14 years in which such, enormous changes have occurred in Europe as the one that has elapsed since the signing of the Treaty of 1856. I always regret the little confidence that can be placed in the assurances of Ministers elsewhere than in this country—and in all cases we are quite right to exact the most binding stipulations we can obtain assent to. Of course, those stipulations will be violated in the course of time, but that we must look forward to as a natural consequence. It is impossible to forget that at the very moment when Italy was pledged to surrender Savoy and Nice to France, Count Cavour disclaimed any engagement or 957 any disposition to part with Savoy—which shows how vigilant Ministers in this country should be in dealing with foreign Powers. This is what Count Cavour says in writing to the Chevalier Nigra, at Paris, upon this point—The King's Government would never consent even at the price of the greatest advantages, to cede or exchange any part of the territory which for so many ages had formed the most glorious appanage of the House of Savoy.And Sir James Hudson, writing to the Foreign Secretary on the 10th of February, No. 34, page 39, of Correspondence respecting the proposed annexation of Savoy and Nice to France, says—The Count said that he could only repeat to me what he had already stated, that Sardinia was under no engagement to cede, sell, or exchange Savoy, or any other part of her dominions.But, continued the Count—The question is a question for Savoy, and not for the rest of the kingdom.The House will agree with me that, looking at the events that have occurred, in Europe during the few past years, one of the first fruits of the present complications has been the excessive ease with which, upon the flimsiest pretexts, the most solemn obligations and the plighted faith of nations have been set aside. In illustration of this—one of the worst features of the present day—I need go no further back than October last. In that month Prince Gortchakoff tears out a page and erases the sanction that Russia has solemnly given to the Treaty of Paris in 1856. In November, Count Bismarck, without any previous communication with the other Powers of Europe, announces that he will consider himself free to deny the guaranteed neutrality of Luxemburg of 1867. In December the Prussian Gazette de la Croix, which is understood to receive its inspiration from Count Bismarck, proclaims that "Belgium is a nation henceforth the enemy of Germany," and in the same month, probably under similar inspiration, the Prince of Roumania signifies to Europe that—he considers the suzerainty of the Porte an intolerable burden, and that he must cancel an article of the Treaty of Paris that the development of the Danubian Provinces may not be hampered.That is the way that the most solemn obligations of treaties are violated. I say it is to be regretted that such should be the morality of the present day. I 958 now come to the Note of Prince Gortchakoff, and to the manner in which that Note was answered by Earl Granville, and on looking at the conduct of the latter I do not think it can be said that the Government have failed in their duty to the country in the matter. It is a remarkable fact that this despatch of Prince Gortchakoff was written immediately after information had been received from Prussia of the capitulation of Metz. On the 28th of October Metz capitulated with 3 Marshals, 50 Generals, 6,000 officers, and 173,000 soldiers, and immediately Prince Gortchakoff was instructed to write his despatch to Baron Brunnow, which was subsequently communicated to Earl Granville, to the effect that he could no longer hold himself bound by the Treaty of 1856, as far as it related to the neutralization of the Black Sea. It is a remarkable feature in that despatch that Prince Gortchakoff assigns as one of the reasons for the conduct of the Russian Government that—The Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, whose position had, under the guarantee of the Great Powers, been defined in the Treaty of Paris and the subsequent Protocols, accomplish a series of revolutions which are equally at variance with the letter and spirit of these transactions, and which first led to the union, and subsequently to the election of a foreign Prince. These facts have obtained the sanction of the Porte and the consent of the Great Powers, or at any rate the latter have not thought it necessary to enforce their decisions. The Representative of Russia was the only one who raised his voice to remind the Cabinets that by this tolerance they would be departing from the distinct stipulations of the Treaty."—[No 1.]Now, it is a most remarkable thing that, as Sir Henry Elliot tells Earl Granville in his despatch dated Therapia, November 21, 1870—The first of the infractions of the Treaty of 1856, which Prince Gortchakoff cites as justifying the proceedings about to be adopted is the union of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, and their being placed under a foreign Prince, which, far from being the acts of the Porte, were carried out in spite of her strenuous resistance; but it may possibly have escaped the remembrance of Her Majesty's Government that it was Count Kisseleff, the Russian Plenipotentiary at the Conference of Paris, who at the meetings of the 22nd of May and 5th of June, 1858, stated that the almost unanimous desire of the Principalities for a union under a foreign Prince was rational and legitimate, and who appealed to the Treaty of Paris itself in support of their right to have their demand taken into consideration."—[No. 65.]If that is the way in which Prince Gorchakoff writes his dispatches, there need be no apprehension that the noble Earl 959 the Foreign Secretary will not be able to give him as much as he requires. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, on the opening night of the Session, said—The answer made by the Government upon the receipt of the Note of Prince Gortchakoff was recognized as a becoming and an adequate one.I think that thoroughly gave expression to sentiments entertained, not only in this House, but very generally in the country. Earl Granville does not lose a moment in answering the despatch of Sir Andrew Buchanan on the 10th of November. He asks—In whose hand lies the power of releasing one or more of the parties from all or any of these stipulations? It has always been held that that right belongs only to the Governments who have been parties to the original instrument.',—[No. 4.]Again, Earl Granville, at once, without consulting any Power in Europe—and recollect he meets with the unanimous approval of all the Powers of Europe afterwards—Earl Granville goes on to say—I need scarcely say that Her Majesty's Government have received this communication with deep regret, because it opens a discussion which might unsettle the cordial understanding it has been their earnest endeavour to maintain with the Russian Empire; and, for the above-mentioned reasons, it is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to give any sanction, on their part, to the course announced by Prince Gortchakoff."—[No. 4.]Do not let the hon. Baronet, then, go away from his seat under the impression that what he has stated as an imputation against the policy of the Government is founded on fact, because Earl Granville immediately and distinctly says—It is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to give any sanction to the course announced by Prince Gortchakoff;and he adds that—Her Majesty's Government would not have refused to examine the question in concert with the co-signataries to the Treaty.Well, the despatch of Sir Andrew Buchanan to Earl Granville is a very spirited one. I only wish every Ambassador we have abroad had a good deal of the spirit and character of Sir Andrew Buchanan, and I would recommend to hon. Gentlemen the perusal of several of his despatches from St. Petersburg, and particularly the one at page 16 of these Papers. In fact, throughout the whole Correspondence I think Sir Andrew Buchanan comes out of the 960 affair in the most satisfactory manner. Well, Sir, there are two points put in issue by the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Dilke)—namely, has the policy of England been endorsed by the Powers of Europe who were co-signataries of the Treaty of 1856, and was that policy dictated, as regards the Conference, by any other Power? Now, there can be no doubt whatever that, if you look through the several documents bearing on this question—Prussia, Austria, Italy, and even Turkey herself, one and all, express, not only their surprise at the grave events, but their willingness to concur in the policy which may be suggested by Her Majesty's Government. To read the extracts in proof of this would occupy too much of the time of the House; but all these Powers, one after another, strongly support the view taken by Her Majesty's Government. I have seen it stated that Turkey was unwillingly drawn into the Conference. Nothing could be further from the truth than that, as the Papers laid before us show. Sir Henry Elliot, many of whose despatches, and very good ones, too, appear in the book before us, says that Turkey herself felt it was impossible any longer to maintain this stipulation of the Treaty of 1856; and, having ascertained that several of the Powers were opposed to it, said she was quite ready to revise it. Ali Pasha himself said that, although he was rather indisposed towards the Conference, yet seeing that the other Powers of Europe thought it was impossible to maintain the existing state of things, he was quite willing to enter into negotiation with them on the subject. Well, Sir, the hon. Baronet has said that the result of the action of Her Majesty's Government will not be peace. What will it be if it is not peace? I say that that result would, to my mind, have justified the adoption of almost any means for its attainment short of the loss of the character of England. And when I see that it has been accomplished in the manner it has been, I think it reflects not only honour on this country, but the utmost credit on the judgment, the discretion, and the ability of our Foreign Secretary. Does the hon. Baronet want us to go to war for Turkey, because, after all, finding fault with the Government in this matter means that? ["No!"] Have we not had enough of "blood and iron" during the last six 961 months? Have we not had enough of the miseries and horrors of war? Have we not seen the power and prestige of a nation of 40,000,000 people shattered and destroyed in that brief period? Have we not seen whole provinces wasted, of which I may say in the touching words of Longfellow—There is no fireside howso'er defended,But has one vacant chair!The air is full of farewells to the dyingAnd mournings for the dead.The heart of Rachel for her children cryingWill not be comforted.That is a true picture of the state of things in those ravaged and desolated provinces; and is not that sufficient for a time? Two great events during the last few months have been threatening the peace of Europe—the one in the far East, the other in the West. In the West, the house next door to us, so to say, has been burning, without any attempt, rightly or wrongly—I do not now enter into that question—without any attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Government to quench the conflagration or to succour its victims. But, as regards the far East, I ask is there anyone so blind to the real interests of this country as to wish to see it again involved in a distant strife, far away from the chief seat of our power and the centre of our resources? Is there, I ask, anyone so blind to the real interests of this country as to wish to see us again involved in a distant strife in support of that tumble-down, crazy, old building on the shores of the Bosphorus, for the seat of that Government which for many generations has been not only a scandal to civilization, but, from its very weakness, a source of danger to the peace of Europe? Sir, of the Eastern Question I think we have had enough. It has been the constant theme of diplomatic interference for the last 30 years—the constant cause of European complications. I believe that by this Conference, and the result, you have placed the Eastern Question on a better basis. The Government can only choose between two courses. They may choose war; they may choose peace. If they had elected to go to war on such a question as this, my belief is that the public opinion in this country would, in the short space of six months, have hurled the strongest Minister from power with ignominy and disgrace. They have 962 elected for peace; they have laboured for peace. [An hon. MEMBER: Peace at any price.] No; I emphatically deny that. Not peace at any price. [An hon. MEMBER: Yes!] But they have had in view the honour and interest of this great country. They have laboured for peace, and have succeeded. The result of this Conference has been a source of gratification to every class of people in this country, and it will find a response in tens of thousands of British homes. Do not suppose for one moment that the spirit of this nation is less sound and vigourous than it was; but the fact is this country is determined never again to be dragged into and involved in a war in defence of a system or of a Government like that of Turkey as it was in the former Crimean campaign. I enter my protest, therefore—thanking the House for the way in which they have enabled me to express my opinion—I enter my protest against the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, and I may say that I am prepared to give my humble but genuine and heartfelt support to the policy which has been adopted by Her Majesty's Government, and which has been carried out with so much ability, with so much discretion, with so much forbearance and good feeling by the Foreign Secretary.
§ MR. C. DALRYMPLE
said, the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down had appeared that night in a new character as a defender of Her Majesty's Government. From the tenour of some of the remarks made by him he had been somewhat doubtful on what side the right hon. Baronet was speaking; for in one part of his speech he had dwelt with special emphasis on the flimsy considerations by which treaties were set aside, and it seemed that in putting that point forward so prominently he was ranging himself rather on the side of the hon. Member for Chelsea. However that might be, he thought Her Majesty's Government, up to the time when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth rose, were very greatly in need of a defender. But there was one thing common to all the speeches which had yet been made against the Motion of the hon. Member for Chelsea—namely, that they did not answer the speech of that hon. Member. Nor did he think it would be easy to answer that speech, for if there was anything more noticeable 963 in it than another it was that it was founded on facts derived from the Papers now on the Table. The hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Dilke) had only supplemented information so obtained by special knowledge of his own, and it was notorious that the House always paid attention to special knowledge. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin) had said that the proceeding of the hon. Baronet in proposing a Motion tantamount to a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government was unprecedented. The hon. Baronet would not, however, have done his duty if he had failed to give expression to his sentiment upon this question. For his own part he was inclined to congratulate the House on the resumption of the debates on foreign affairs. It was important we should divest ourselves of the tendency to take an insular view of the conduct of foreign States—a tendency which was going far to diminish our influence in the Cabinets of Europe. Two lines of defence were being adopted on behalf of the Government; the one, which might be called the outer line, was that the neutralization of the Black Sea was untenable, and the other, the inner line, that the Government had entered on the Conference with no foregone conclusion. As to the former of these two points, the House had heard, on more than one occasion, that Lords Clarendon and Palmerston held that the neutralization could no longer be maintained. It would be remembered that there had been a correction of the statements relating to Lord Clarendon which were made on the first night of the Session, and anyone who knew the character of Lord Palmerston as an English Statesman, would be able to rate, at their due value, the statements regarding him. The House would not soon forget what he took leave to call the indiscretion, par excellence, of our time, when the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, when referring to this point, "depreciated," as it had been well said, "the importance of the principal issue for which his Government was at the moment contending." But what was the value of these reminiscences of the opinion of individual statesmen? Surely the point was not what was their opinion, nor what the particular terms of the Treaty were, but whether the tone adopted by Her Majesty's Government, in view of the position taken up 964 by Russia to free herself of her treaty obligations, was a proper one. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government on the first night of the Session stated that he believed that the country regarded the reply of Earl Granville to the Note of Prince Gortchakoff as adequate, manly, and becoming. He did not know that it was much to say of it that it was manly and becoming; had it been followed up, it might, perhaps, have been adequate. He was not much versed in the mysteries of diplomatic correspondence; but the reply seemed to him to contain an extraordinary amount of circumlocution. It was important to remember the moment selected by Prince Gortchakoff for the despatch of his Note. His (Mr. Dalrymple's) hon. Friend the Under Secretary for India delivered his annual interesting speech on foreign affairs at Elgin on the 15th of November; and, on that occasion, he spoke of the attitude of Russia as one "of neutrality and observation." And, yet, at that time, that attitude was being exchanged for an attitude of active hostility. But there was a special offensiveness in the choice of the time, which should not be overlooked. On the 24th February, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, when replying to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), specially condemned the opinion that we ought to have told Russia that she must take the consequences of her step; because, had we done so, we should have been imperilling the opportunity which might be within our reach of limiting the range of misery and destruction in the West of Europe. And yet it was immediately after we had in our capacity of a neutral Power made overtures to Russia, with a view to acting in concert for the purpose of limiting the duration of the war, that the Note of Prince Gortchakoff was despatched with every circumstance of deliberate insult. And this was a state of things on which the country was expected to look with complacency, and to waive and condone as though completely matters of course. As to the second point—that there was no foregone conclusion—he thought there was, unquestionably, a foregone conclusion in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. It was known, moreover, that Count Bismarck was not indisposed to a 965 revision of the Treaty in a sense favourable to Russia, and it was also known, beyond all doubt, that the Conference had been suggested by Count Bismarck. Had it not been for some of the speeches made to-night, he would have been inclined to doubt whether any hon. Member could have read the Papers submitted to the House, and could have risen from the study of them without a painful misgiving that we had not pursued, he would not say a spirited policy—for even the Government could hardly consider their policy spirited, but even a passably honourable and dignified policy. It was difficult to see how we could have come out with credit from a Conference initiated and carried out to a conclusion as this had been. We took insults very easily now, and he sometimes doubted whether we could be insulted. At Washington exiled felons were feted under the very eyes of our special Plenipotentiaries, and no notice was taken of the fact by Government. One thing, at all events, we must never again attempt, though, perhaps, we might never be in a like case, for he could scarcely think that any country would trust us again—and that was to undertake treaty obligations unless we could meet the charge that in the autumn of 1870 we failed to take our stand on our treaty obligations, and in the following spring, because we were not strong enough to take our position, we were compelled to set Russia free.
§ VISCOUNT ENFIELD
, on the part of the Government, wished to offer a few observations to the House on the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, and he hoped that the statement he had to make as to the policy of the Government would be such as to entitle it to the confidence of the House and the approbation of the country. In the first place, he was bound to say that the hon. Baronet, in his strictures upon the conduct of the Government with reference to the recent condition of France were such as on calmer reflection he would admit were stronger than the occasion warranted. Respecting Turkey and Russia, he hoped, in spite of all that had been said by the hon. Baronet and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), and a very small minority of the speakers, that the sacrifices of this country during the Crimean War, of treasure, and the yet more 966 precious sacrifice of blood, had not been thrown away. The position of Turkey since the Crimean War had been ameliorated. Turkey had been able to equip, man, and hold a Navy which was in a creditable state of efficiency, and her Army was in such a condition as would enable her to hold her own against hostile visitors. The internal condition of Turkey had also improved since the Crimean War. The Danubian Provinces had secured autonomy; the Christian population and subjects of the Porte were no longer as hostile to her rule as formerly; and if in sentiments these important sections were not pleased with Mussulman rule, they knew that their material prosperity and happiness depended upon internal tranquillity and the absence of foreign war. If her finances were not as prosperous outwardly as her best friends could wish, she still paid her way. The position of Russia, in consequence of the Treaty of 1856, had been one which a proud and sensitive nation must have deeply felt, for if she did not lose much territory, great restrictions were placed upon her power of injuring her neighbour by maritime aggression. Matters were in this position when Europe was astonished by the celebrated Note of Prince Gortchakoff, of the 31st of October, of which it had been truly said that it was at once an international affront and a diplomatic blunder. The Government of England had to deal with it in some shape or other, and before doing so they had to consider the aspect of Continental countries. Now, the Correspondence would show that, although the Treaty had remained in force up to the present time, it had not been regarded in the same light by Austria, France, or Italy. Sir Henry Elliot, in writing to Earl Granville on the 27th of November, said—I informed your Lordship by telegraph of the Russian Ambassador having shown documents from which it appeared that as far back as 1859 the Austrian, French, and Prussian Governments were encouraging Russia to find a means of escaping from the stipulations of the Treaty of Paris. In speaking to me upon the subject, General Ignatieff said that the Italian Government had also repeatedly urged the expediency of obtaining the modification of the Treaty; and it must be confessed that the despatches to which he pointed in confirmation of the correctness of his assertions lead too clearly to the conclusion that within three years from the date of the signature of the Treaty the whole of the parties to it, with 967 the single exception of Her Majesty's Government, had exhibited to the Russian Government a readiness to sacrifice one of the principles which had been deemed most essential to the security of Turkey, and to allow it to be supposed that the exaggerated distrust persisted in by Great Britain was the sole obstacle in the way of the accomplishment of the legitimate wishes of Russia. It is unnecessary for me to comment upon documents of which I have had only a partial and cursory glance; but your Lordship will not be surprised to learn that their immediate effect upon Aali Pasha was to make him feel that the clauses of the Treaty now repudiated by Russia, having been condemned by so many Governments, not only as objectionable in themselves, and calculated to prevent a good understanding between Turkey and Russia, but as being of a nature not to be submitted to by any great Power, the continued maintenance of the principle of the neutralization had become hopeless."—[No. 93.]Again, Count Beust wrote—I have never made a secret of my conviction that the Treaties of 1856 have placed Russia, in the Black Sea, in a situation unworthy of a great Power, since they limit the part she has to play in the waters which wash her territory, and I can say I have lost no opportunity of inducing the other guaranteeing Courts to share this conviction. It has, therefore, so much the more pained me to see that the Imperial Government has chosen a way for the redress of its grievances which, regarded from every point of view, appears to me most unhappily chosen."—[No. 28.]If that was the feeling of other Powers with regard to that portion of the Treaty of 1856 which was supposed to press unfairly and harshly upon Russia, what was the position of England when the Note of Prince Gortchakoff first appeared? The condition of France was one of extreme depression and humiliation, that country being engaged in a war in which she had sustained very severe losses. That of Prussia was not much better; for, although she was the conqueror, she was so entangled in the meshes of the war, that she could take no active part in other hostile movements; Italy was hampered by the changes which were taking place with respect to Rome; Austria was still suffering from the debilitating effects of her war with Prussia; Turkey was insufficiently armed for operations by land, and her finances, though possibly sufficient in time of peace, were wholly inadequate for sustaining a great war. England, therefore, was alone able at that time to stand up for treaty obligations. But what course could England take? Could she leave the question alone, and suffer Russia without let or hindrance to break through treaties with perfect immunity? No one in that House, hardly anyone in 968 the country would, he believed, have approved such a line of conduct. Should she have met diplomatic menaces with corresponding threats, and at once with feelings of outraged pride have declared war against Russia, a very small number of persons, and those certainly not the most wise or the most thoughtful, could have approved such a step. Would it have been better, as another course of action, for England to have said—"We will do nothing at present in the matter; but we will take up a position of armed watchfulness, increase our armaments, and the moment there is any overt and active infraction of the Treaty, we will call you to account and endeavour to cripple your powers of doing mischief?" This would have involved a period of uneasy suspense to Turkey and to England, and paralyzed public credit and international confidence. As another method of dealing with this question, should England have tried to form an offensive alliance against Russia with France, with Turkey, with Italy, and with Austria, and urged them into common action? He believed that, looking at the attitude and position of those countries, we should have encountered a humiliating refusal. There remained, however, another, a wiser, a more statesmanlike, and, he believed, a more efficacious method of vindicating public right—namely, by substituting full and free discussion for an appeal to arms. What line did the Foreign Secretary adopt? In a reply at once firm, courteous, spirited, and conciliatory, he replied to the Russian Note, and laid down in unmistakable language the doctrine, afterwards embodied in the Protocol of the 17th of January, that no one Power, a signatary to a treaty, should release itself from the obligations binding upon her. He thought the course followed by his noble Friend was the right one, and the approbation expressed in the speeches delivered that evening, and especially in that of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), struck, in his opinion, the right chord. The hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke), and the noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire (Lord John Manners), had found great fault with the Government for the course which Earl Granville had pursued in seeking the views of the Prussian Government on this question; but he would 969 remind the noble Lord that, although Prussia had taken no part in the Crimean War, she was at any rate one of the signataries of the Treaty of Paris; and, England having acted on friendly terms with her since, it was surely not surprising that the Foreign Minister should have sought her advice and assistance at this moment. Although some fault had been found with Mr. Odo Russell's mission to Count Bismarck, he could say that it had received official approbation, and that great credit was due to Mr. Russell for the tact, discretion, and dignity with which he had conducted a difficult task. The hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea took exception to the proposition made by Count Bismarck that the Conference should meet at St. Petersburg. It was true that Count Bismarck suggested St. Petersburg or Constantinople; but Earl Granville, though he would have been willing to accept Berne, Brussels, or Dresden as the place of meeting, firmly resisted Count Bismarck's proposal, and at the same time showed that the Conference could be held neither at Constantinople nor at St. Petersburg. Count Bismarck, in reference to this matter, stated to Mr. Odo Russell that the Russian Circular of the 31st of October had taken him by surprise; that while he had always held that the Treaty of 1856 pressed with undue severity on Russia, he entirely disapproved the manner adopted and the time selected by Russia, and that he could not interfere owing to the war going on, and he concluded by recommending a Conference. Nothing then occurred, nor had anything occurred during the sittings of the Conference, to cast a doubt upon the good faith of Germany. Now, the proposal was not objected to on the part of Austria. Count Beust had written to the Austrian Ambassador at St. Petersburg as follows—Having made these few observations, I wish to state that sentiments hostile to Russia by no means dictated our answer to the Russian declaration of the 19th-31st of October last, but merely anxiety to protect the regular and pacific development of International Law. This anxiety, coupled with that of protecting the interests of Europe in general and ours in particular engaged in the question, will guide our deliberations at the Conference. As Prince Gortchakoff, with reason, states, we understand the legitimate interests of his Government quite as well as the general interests of Europe, and the Russian Despatch only does me justice in saying that I have too great a sense of the dignity of my country not to appreciate 970 what the anxiety for her own requires of Russia. It is precisely to conciliate all these considerations and all these interests that, in our conviction, the Conference should apply itself. The head of the Russian Cabinet can count upon the Imperial and Royal Government commencing this task without bias of any sort, and with a sole view of consolidating the peace of the East by obtaining for the question started by Russia a result of a nature to spare the national susceptibilities which we know how to respect, without weakening the guarantees which other nations claim who are equally interested in the questions affecting the Black Sea. For we are confident that our meaning has been thus interpreted at St. Petersburg. To understand, to appreciate the sentiments of dignity of a neighbouring country is not to give way in its favour, and the sincere desire to do away with every subject of discord would not lead us to sacrifice for it our own interests. If, as we hope, the Powers take up this ground, we shall succeed, as the Imperial Government of Russia desires, in guaranteeing the repose of the East and the equilibrium of Europe.Again, with reference to the policy of Italy, Sir Augustus Paget, writing to Earl Granville on the 15th of November, said—M. Visconti Venosta informed me to-day that he limited his reply yesterday nearly to the same terms as those he had employed on the first occasion. He told the Russian Minister that he felt it due to the Power principally interested (Turkey) not to say more until he became acquainted with the views of the Ottoman Government. His Excellency states, however, that he added that if the other Powers should come to an agreement that it was desirable to modify some of the stipulations of the Treaty of Paris, the Italian Government would not refuse to co-operate in this work, on the understanding, of course, that the main object of the Treaty—the integrity, stability, and independence of the Turkish Empire—were maintained. He said this to prove to the Russian Minister that the Italian Government was always animated by conciliatory sentiments, and also because if other Governments were of opinion that alterations in the Treaty could be agreed to without inconvenience or danger, it did not appear to him that it behoved Italy by itself to be an obstacle to such arrangements. His Excellency, however, begged Baron Uxküll to understand that he reserved, until he should be in possession, of the views of other Governments, the formal reply of the Cabinet of Florence to Prince Gortchakoff's communication. I am enabled to state that it is M. Visconti Venosta's desire to shape as far as possible the policy of the Italian Government in the present grave conjuncture in accordance with that which will be followed by Her Majesty's Government and Austria."—[No. 21.]It was, therefore, with the complete assent and co-operation of three, at least, of the Great Powers that the Conference was held. As to the spirit which throughout had animated England in relation to France, this could not be described or summed up more accurately 971 than in Earl Granville's despatch to Lord Lyons of the 6th of January—I have already instructed your Excellency to explain to the French Government the reasons for which they so sincerely desired the presence of a French Representative at the Conference, and it is the less necessary for me to recapitulate them here since they have been fully done justice to by the French Government themselves. Her Majesty's Government have all along deemed it of importance to the Provisional Government to be represented at the Conference, and they considered it very essential to the position which France should henceforth hold in Europe to show that, even at a time of temporary defeat, she has not lost her interest in questions of European importance, and particularly in one in which she herself is so closely concerned; and that she should bear in mind that although engaged in a fearful struggle, she is still the most powerful maritime power of the Continent. I should not have consented to enter the Conference unless France had been invited to attend; I took care to assure myself that her Representative would be treated with all the respect due to the Representative of a great nation; and I shall now take every care that any decision which may be come to, either in the form of a Declaration, or a Protocol, or a Convention, shall be left open for the ultimate adhesion of France, and I shall make a point of communicating with the Representative of France in London before and after each sitting of the Conference."—[No. 153.]It might be natural for France to feel some little jealousy or pique at not having it in her power to take the initiative in this matter. But there was nothing in the despatches to show that France at any time rejected the notion of meeting England or the other Powers assembled at the Conference, nor did she anywhere definitely reject the principle that the Treaty of 1856 might be revised. Animated accordingly with feelings of mutual trust and mutual respect, the Great Powers entered the Conference, and their first act was to place on record in unmistakable terms their view that no Power should allow itself to depart from stipulations to which it had agreed without the knowledge and consent of the other Powers. By the result of the Conference the position of Turkey had been in no way endangered; he would go further, and assert that her position had been materially improved. It gave to Turkey free and unrestricted access of her fleets at all times and under all circumstances to her waters. It assured her of the material support of her allies, not only in times of actual and existing danger but when danger might only be apprehended. It took away all reasonable 972 ground of complaint on the part of Russia of fancied humiliation as between herself, Turkey, and her European allies. It recorded the denunciation of a principle rashly advanced, but, as he hoped and believed, successfully combated by six great European Powers, that one party to a Treaty might release itself when it pleased from the obligations of such a Treaty, without the assent of its co-signataries. It had given to Turkey additional liberty and additional safeguards by modifying some of the restrictions of the passage of ships of war through the Straits of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles. Such being the state of things which preceded, attended, and resulted from the Conference, Her Majesty's Government might fairly claim merit, instead of being subjected to condemnation, for accepting the Conference. He hoped and trusted that the country would think that the Government had pursued a wise and statesmanlike policy in not rushing rashly, madly, and blindly into war, but, in concert with her allies, France, Austria, and Italy, had endeavoured to place the future peace and prosperity of Turkey on a safer and more trustworthy foundation.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Otway.)
As the subject of the Motion is one that involves a Vote of Censure upon the Government, I should feel no difficulty under ordinary circumstances in assenting to the proposal for adjournment. But looking at the clock, and remembering that the number of hours at our disposal before the adjournment is limited, I feel confident that I may call upon my hon. Friend to address the House at once, regretting the difficulty under which he will labour in doing so.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, he thought it would not be reasonable to adjourn before 12 o'clock. ["Divide!" "Go on!"]
I beg to assure my right hon. Friend that I should not have dreamt of moving the adjournment at this hour if it were not that I am quite incapable of addressing the House to-night. I cannot, however, allow personal considerations to stand in the way, and though I think it is almost incumbent upon me to take an opportunity of addressing the House upon the subject 973 which has been discussed to-night, if my right hon. Friend states that my doing so would be for the convenience of Public Business, I will withdraw my Motion, and seek some other opportunity of making a statement.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said, that the discussion which had arisen, and the character which the debate had assumed, fully justified the object which he had in view in putting the Notice on the Paper; but he did not think it advisable to press the matter to a Division. ["Oh, oh!"] Had there been a further expression of opinion, and especially in the latter stages of the debate, by the leaders of opinion on either side, a Division would have justifiable. As it was, he thought he should best consult the convenience of the House by withdrawing the Motion. ["Oh, oh!"]
I do not rise for the purpose of addressing the House upon the question, being perfectly satisfied with the position in which the matter is left, as far as the Government are concerned, by the speech of my noble Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I will only appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), and express to him what I think is the general feeling, that it would be more satisfactory that we should come to a direct issue upon the main Question than upon the Amendment which he has moved in a sense friendly to the Government. Of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) will exercise his own judgment as to dividing the House; but I apprehend the Question will be put in the usual way, and I am bound to say that it is our intention to use our privileges as Members of this House, and declare that "the Noes have it."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. OSBORNE
I must say that, often as I have attended debates in this House, I have never been called on to come down and give a vote under a greater sham, or upon a greater pretence 974 than I have been called upon on this occasion. The hon. Gentleman—Baronet, I beg his pardon—the Member for Chelsea has come down here emulating the popular description of this month; he has come down like a lion, and gone out like a lamb. Now, Sir, I ask myself, Why have we been called down here, on the eve of the Easter holidays, to preside at a dead horse being flogged? If the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea had those high aspirations for the honour of England which he dwelt upon, why did he not bring forward this Motion at the proper time? [A cry of "He did."] If so, why does he not divide now? Even, as my hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory) reminds me, if he walked alone. As to the general question, I am very much of opinion that the same remark which was made on the Peace of Amiens might be made in respect to the Conference discussion—namely, that it is a settlement at which everyone is glad, but of which nobody can be proud. That is, I think, an axiom which may be said to settle the whole of this debate. But the hon. Baronet is six weeks too late in bringing his Motion forward; and he can hardly expect, with the example of the horrors of war in a neighbouring country before our eyes, that he can induce this House to come to a Vote of Want of Confidence in the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government. As far as I am concerned I have perfect confidence in the man to whose hands the foreign policy of this country is confided. I know the great difficulty of conducting our foreign policy, and although the Government may be open to much criticism for their action during the war, I, for one, am not disposed to re-open the wounds which have since been nearly healed. My disposition is rather to "rest and be thankful." But I hope that the proceedings of this night will be a warning to young and aspiring Members—to those representing the metropolis especially, and that they will see the propriety of not coming down to the House with fine patriotic sentiments, and then retreating from the responsibility they have incurred with their tails between their legs. That is not the way the doctrines of patriotism ought to be cultivated in this country. The hon. Member for Chelsea, having made his Motion, should have gone into the Lobby 975 with whatever amount of tail he could carry behind him. I say the business of the country ought not to be interrupted in this way, but that he ought to have acceded to the appeal made to him by the First Minister of the Crown, for had the hon. Baronet succeeded in his Motion he might perhaps have found the large majority of the borough of Chelsea disposed to send him even to the city of Waterford. But, whatever might have been the issue, of this I am certain—that we are only rendering the decisions of this House ridiculous if, by way of moving mock Motions of Want of Confidence in the Government, we imperil the healthy public opinion of the country by recommending a declaration of war which we never intend to make.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down had brought an accusation against his hon. Friend and Colleague which was most undeserved. The hon. Gentleman had said that the Motion was six weeks too late. But why was it six weeks too late? Because in deference to an appeal from the Leader whom the hon. Gentleman was elected to follow, his hon. Friend had postponed the discussion of this great and most important subject to the present moment. His hon. Friend was told some six weeks ago that he could not enter upon this discussion because the Conference was sitting, and his reply was that he thought that no reason why he should not state his views on the subject, as he did not wish to touch on the conclusions which the Conference might adopt. But, having bowed to the appeal of the Prime Minister on that occasion, it was hardly worthy of any hon. Member, especially one sitting on that side, to say that his hon. Friend had brought on the discussion at an unsuitable moment. If the discussion had been worse than useless it was not owing to the calm and lucid reasoning of his hon. Friend, but to the beating about the bush, and to the logical tergiversation of hon. Members on that (the Ministerial) side. The right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) stated that the want of morality in the faithful observances of treaties was one of the remarkable characteristics of the day; and yet the right hon. Baronet thought this was no occasion for raising a debate on the subject. The right hon. Baronet 976 said he would not stick up for any obsolete broken-down establishment at Therapia or Constantinople. But what we had to do was to see that Russia should not sit astride on the Bosphorus. For that Lord Palmerston had spoken, for that English blood had flowed, and English gold had been freely given. Many hon. Members in that House would be no parties to having the engagements of this country broken, or her honour trodden on, notwithstanding the opinions of Gentlemen sitting beside him. He had risen only because he wished to vindicate the honour of his Colleague, which had been most unworthily attacked by the hon. Member for Waterford.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, hon. Members on the other side were very hard on the hon. Baronet for wishing to withdraw his Motion, but that was not the only Motion which it had been proposed to withdraw. The House had been engaged not so much in debating the Motion of the hon. Baronet as the Amendment. ["No, no!"] The hon. Baronet had asked the House to express its regret that a certain course had been pursued by Her Majesty's Government, and an Amendment had been moved declaring that the conduct of the Government was deserving the approbation of the House. But that Amendment had been withdrawn. It was important that the House and the country should understand that the Amendment, brought forward in the interest of the Government—["No, no!"]—had been withdrawn, and that the Motion now before the House was whether they did or did not regret the course which her Majesty's Government had thought proper to pursue.
§ Original Question put, and negatived.