§ MR. RYLANDS,
in rising to call attention to the action taken by Sir Henry Elliot, and the opinions expressed by him with regard to the treatment by the Porte of the Christian inhabitants of the Turkish Provinces, and to the announcement made by Her Majesty's Government that they contemplate his return as Ambassador to Constantinople, said, that he had postponed his Notice in deference to the representations of his Friends, and upon the ground that a discussion would be inopportune at a time when negotiations were pending between Her Majesty's Government and one of the Powers concerned. He confessed that he submitted to these representations with reluctance, because he believed the silence of the House was likely to have a prejudicial effect upon the proceedings which were going on. The feeling out-of-doors, he believed, was one of dissatisfaction, that Parliament was abrogating its functions, and 569 not fulfilling its duty, in refraining from an expression of opinion as to the course which events should take. Every subsequent day since he had postponed his Notice had only confirmed him in his belief that the policy of silence in that House had been a great mistake. He might be told that if they talked about these things in the House of Commons whilst negotiations were still pending they would only make matters worse, but he did not believe it; because during the transactions now pending, which had extended over the last 12 months, the curtain had occasionally been lifted, and in place of mystery and mystification we had been permitted to see how the actors had performed their parts in this country and at Constantinople; and on every occasion when the curtain had been so lifted, we had seen the Government taking a course not calculated to fulfil the expectations of the country, but to destroy these expectations. There had been a succession of miserable failures. It had been said that if these matters had been referred to in the House of Commons they would have been made still worse; but he thought they might very well have been made somewhat better. In his opinion, matters were now more unsatisfactory than they had been for the last 12 months. The situation was, in fact, at the present moment, worse than it had ever been. There was a remarkable article in The Times of yesterday expressing the view he believed to be generally entertained that Parliament had failed in its duty at this crisis, and that this long silence had led to serious results. The writer said that the—Russian cloud in the Turkish horizon has become lower, larger, darker, and more ready to break. The self-complacency and fatal obstinacy of Turkey have increased in equal proportions,and that Turkey was gaining fresh courage for "more wilful and deliberate misgovernment." It was because he believed that Sir Henry Elliot had done more than any other man to encourage the self-complacency and fatal obstinacy of Turkey, and to encourage the Turks in the course of their wilful misgovernment, that he ventured to call the attention of the House to his position and his probable return to Constantinople. He expected he should be met by the statement that he was making a personal 570 attack, and that it was ungenerous of him to bring the matter before the House; but this was not of the nature of a personal attack, and sympathy with Sir Henry Elliot's state of health — a sympathy which he (Mr. Rylands) himself felt—ought not to prevent the House discussing the important considerations dependent on his position at Constantinople. It would also be said, in the words of Lord Derby, that there was not a more zealous, industrious, or public-spirited man than Sir Henry Elliot in the service of the Crown. He did not deny that. It would further be said that Sir Henry Elliot was an able diplomatist. He was quite prepared to grant that assertion, but that was beside the point. What he asserted was that it was a positive disadvantage and danger, considering his proclivities, to send Sir Henry Elliot to Constantinople; for his well known opinions and past conduct proved that he did not put that pressure upon the Porte which he ought to have done to prevent injustice to the Christian population. The question of the misgovernment of the Turkish provinces was the crucial point of the Eastern Question, and as long as the Government did not deal with that they did nothing. If the condition of the Christians was not satisfactorily dealt with we might ransack dictionaries for meaningless words with which to pad the Protocol, get the document signed, and think we had achieved a great success; but we should find we had left embers of discontent smouldering, from which at any time might burst forth a much greater conflagration than we had hitherto witnessed. The House had a right to ask the Government what their policy really was. Did they want to do anything or nothing? If they wanted to go back to the do-nothing policy of Lord Derby at the beginning of last year, they could not do better than send out Sir Henry Elliot again. During the last 12 months there had been three great epochs in the Eastern Question. The first was at the beginning of last year, before the breaking out of the Servian war and the perpetration of the Bulgarian atrocities. The second was when the proposition was made by Her Majesty's Government for an armistice between Turkey and Servia and the pacification of the provinces. The third was the assemblage of the Conference at Constantinople. And he 571 asserted that whilst the Government did seem at some points to have changed their policy, Sir Henry Elliot had not changed his policy in the slightest degree, but had resisted any such change of policy on the part of the Government, and it was to that point that he wished to direct the attention of the House. When Lord Derby was carrying out his do-nothing policy last year, of course he had the active and zealous support of Sir Henry Elliot. It was called "nonintervention;" but it really was intervention in favour of the policy of Turkey, and against any Power attempting to interpose in behalf of the struggling nationalities. The insurrection in Herzerovina and Bosnia was caused by years of intolerable misgovernment and oppression. When the people began to rise, Sir Henry Elliot reported to his Government that he believed all the disturbance was caused by Russian intrigue and Russian agents, and he never recognized that there were any evils in the Turkish rule, and did not sanction anything that could be done to ameliorate the condition of the Christians. He now came to the second era—the occurrence of the Bulgarian atrocities and the outbreak of war between Turkey and Servia. The great excitement occasioned by these events, and the strong pressure of public opinion, drove Lord Derby out of his do-nothing policy. He urged upon Turkey and Servia an immediate armistice, and he proposed in September last as the basis of pacification the following provisions:—1. The status quo, speaking roughly, both as regards Servia and Montenegro. 2. That the Porte should simultaneously undertake, in a Protocol to be signed at Constantinople with the representatives of the mediating Powers, to grant to Bosnia and the Herzegovina a system of local administrative autonomy, and guarantees against the exercise of arbitrary authority. Guarantees of a similar kind to be also provided against maladministration in Bulgaria. These proposals were sent to all the Courts in Europe, and the concurrence of the Czar was obtained to them; while at home there was an amount of cackling over this diplomatic egg of Lord Derby's which certainly caused some amusement all over the country. Lord Beaconsfield said that all these measures for the pacification of Europe were due to Lord Derby, and he triumphantly 572 asked at Aylesbury in his speech of September 20—I want to know what European Minister has done so much, and done it so efficiently?Lord Derby spoke naturally with more modesty of his own proposals, but still with some pride and confidence. He told a deputation on the 27th September that whilst peace was not absolutely certain, yet the dispositions on all sides were favourable, and he confidently believed that they would see this matter brought to an end without any further effusion of blood. But the cackling of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Edinburgh last autumn exceeded that of any of his Colleagues. He boasted that—at the present time England is taking the lead in the arrangements of Europe. Yes, England, I say, is taking the lead. England is now respected amongst the Powers of Europe. It is her proposals that have been submitted to the Porte with the concurrence of the Powers of Europe.What became of these boasted proposals of Lord Derby? They shared the fate of all the other eggs produced by the Government in their diplomatic arrangements. After a period allowed for incubation they turned out to be addled. But, at least, it must be admitted that this proposal of Lord Derby's was a well-meant attempt to improve the condition of the Christian inhabitants of Turkey, and so far to carry out the desires of the people of England. How was it met by Sir Henry Elliot? With undisguised hostility. He displayed far greater zeal and activity in resisting the new line of the Government than he I ever did on behalf of the Christians of Turkey. He poured forth his vials of wrath and contempt upon those "shallow" politicians in England who were prepared to sacrifice British interests and high British policy merely on account of the massacre of 10,000 or 20,000—the number was not material—of Christian men, women, and children in Bulgaria, in cold blood, and with unheard-of barbarities. He ransacked the papers in the East—The Neologos and The Levant Herald for passages attacking Russia, misrepresenting the events in the Provinces, calumniating the wretched Bulgarians, and justifying the excesses of the Turks—and such passages, so culled from the papers, he enclosed in his despatches to the Foreign Office. But he 573 did not stop there, for he entered into the fray with all the zeal of a partizan, and went out of his way to attack the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and to denounce everybody in this country who had urged that the Porte should be effectually controlled. He cast doubts upon the motives and veracity of the correspondents of the London papers, and he sought to terrify the Government by telling them that their proposed plan of autonomy for the disturbed provinces would occasion insurrections in other parts of Turkey. In his despatch to Lord Derby of September 27 Sir Henry Elliot unfavourably compared the proposals of Her Majesty's Government with these of Turkey. He said the—proposals of the Porte (creation of a general Elective Assembly, &c.,) appear to give more ample control over the Administration than was suggested by Her Majesty's Government. Exceptional measures for insurgent provinces alone would be certainly fatal to tranquillity elsewhere, and it is indispensable that they should be general if insurrections are to be avoided. The great difficulty that I apprehend is connected with the proposed Protocol, which would nearly give Powers Treaty-rights of interference in the internal administration."—[Turkey. No. 1 (1877.) p. 327.]Thus it was that Sir Henry Elliot raised the gravest objection against the main proposals of Lord Derby, and there can be no reasonable doubt that his opinions being well understood at Constantinople would have a material influence upon the issue. What he (Mr. Rylands) wanted to ask, therefore, was this:—After all this opposition which Sir Henry had offered to the proposals of the Government themselves, why was he allowed to remain at Constantinople? After the course he had taken it would have been only natural for the Government to have withdrawn him. They did not withdraw him, and the second epoch came to an untimely end. And now they came to the third epoch—that of the Conference and the Mission of Lord Salisbury. It was the same old story. When Lord Salisbury went to Constantinople the Turks said he spoke like a Russian. He was very unpopular with the Turkish Government—as unpopular, in fact, as Sir Henry Elliot was popular. Sir Henry, all through those proceedings, was to be found acting in such a way as was likely to render the representations of Lord Salisbury abor- 574 tive. The first proposals of the Conference were rejected by Turkey, and at a meeting of the Ambassadors held at the Russian Embassy on January 5th to consider the course to be pursued, Sir Henry Elliot justified the rejection of the proposals as "seriously impairing the independence of the Porte, which we had promised to respect." It was not difficult to understand why the voice of Lord Salisbury, powerful as it was in representing the voice of this country, and backed by the claims which Great Britain had upon the consideration and gratitude of' Turkey by the expenditure of blood and treasure on her behalf, was nevertheless ineffectual. There was another Ambassador of England standing by the Porte and practically whispering in the ears of the Sultan and his Ministers—"Do not fear. High British policy and the recognition of British interests will in the last resort always demand the maintenance of the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire." [Lord JOHN MANNERS: Is the hon. Gentleman making a quotation from a despatch?] No; he was only summarising the effect of all Sir Henry Elliot had said and done. Of course, the Conference failed. The reduced demands of the Powers were still too high for the Porte and Sir Henry Elliot. The plan which Sir Henry Elliot always advocated was a general Administrative Reform for the whole Empire, and the establishment of a new Constitution, accompanied by a fresh batch of paper promises. This was the plan actually adopted by the Turkish Government, as an alternative for the proposal of the Great Powers. The early deliberations of the Conference were interrupted by the firing of cannons announcing the promulgation of the new Constitution, and its delusive promises were thrust in the face of the Plenipotentiaries before their departure. Lord Salisbury was not deceived by the promises of the Porte; but at the close of the Conference on January 15th he delivered an important speech, which was well worthy of the attention of the House. He said—If this Conference breaks up because the Sultan and those in the confidence of his Imperial Majesty will not listen to the counsels of the six Guaranteeing Powers, the position of Turkey before Europe will have been completely changed, and will be extremely perilous. It will be known in all the countries 575 that the Porte, after having enjoyed for twenty years the security assured to her by the accord of the Christian Powers, refuses to listen to their complaints against the hardships which the Christian subjects of his Imperial Majesty have to endure ….. It is my duty to free Her Majesty's Government of all responsibility for what may happen, and I am therefore instructed to declare formally that Great Britain is resolved not to give her sanction either to maladministration or to oppression, and that if the Porte from obstinacy or inactivity offers resistance to the efforts now being made to place the Ottoman Empire on a more sure basis, the responsibility of the consequences will rest solely on the Sultan and his advisers."—[Turkey, No. 2 (1877), p. 362.]General Ignatieff concurred in the sentiments expressed by Lord Salisbury, and stated that—The maintenance of an Ambassador at Constantinople becomes equally superfluous from the moment that his advice united to that of the Representatives of all the Guaranteeing Powers of Turkey has no longer that value which ought to attach to the unanimous manifestation of European opinion dictated by the desire for peace and order."—[Ibid. 365.]There was something dignified and impressive in the withdrawal of the Ambassadors from Constantinople on the grounds stated by Lord Salisbury and General Ignatieff. It was the only course consistent with the honour and self-respect of the Great Powers. But again Sir Henry Elliot stepped in to spoil the effect of the whole thing, and to act as bottle-holder to the Turks when staggering under the blow of the retiring Ambassadors; and he took care to let it be distinctly known that his quitting Constantinople was no sign of displeasure at the conduct of the Porte, and that he hoped soon to return to find them in the enjoyment of prosperity and happiness. This conduct on the part of Sir Henry Elliot was so extraordinary that it was impossible to suppose he would have acted as he did had he not known that he would be backed up by at least two or three Members of the Cabinet. The other day Lord Derby affirmed in "another place" that Sir Henry Elliot withdrew from Constantinople as an expression of dissatisfaction at the failure of the Conference, and not as a positive rupture of diplomatic relations with the Porte. The Government, he said, almost went out of their way to make this clear to all concerned. Perhaps some hon. Member on the Treasury Bench would tell the House when and where the Government went 576 out of their way to make this known. He had not seen anything of it in the usual channels of information. On the contrary, the grounds of Sir Henry Elliot's temporary withdrawal were ostentatiously announced so as to deprive it of any appearance of dissatisfaction with the Turks. There was in the Blue Book, No. 2, a despatch, in which Lord Derby approved of Sir Henry Elliot returning to England "to report upon the situation of affairs in Turkey." He (Mr. Rylands) had now gone through the three epochs of Turkish affairs as tersely and briefly as he could, and they had arrived at the final stage, or fourth epoch, of this discreditable history. He was, of course, not going to discuss the points at present under the consideration of the Powers. He was at a loss to understand whether the Government wished the negotiations as to the Protocol to succeed or not; but if they did desire them to succeed, that end was not likely to be promoted by the announcement that Sir Henry Elliot would probably go back to his post. The Government had repeatedly said that the Liberal Party had been making mischief, and ought to keep their mouths shut: but if this advice were acted upon, and the country did not freely express its opinion, it was not at all unlikely that Sir Henry Elliot would again represent the English nation at the Porte. His return would enable the Government to resume their old position at Constantinople. They would shut their eyes, as far as possible, to the crimes and misgovernment of the Turkish Power. There were men who were colour-blind, and if they wanted a man who could not give evidence as to the hue of materials, they would pick out a colour-blind man. There was a moral blindness in Sir Henry Elliot which prevented him from sympathising with the inhabitants of the provinces of Turkey, or recognising important facts affecting their condition, and that was the man to furnish the Government with replies to inconvenient Questions. He (Mr. Rylands) again asked the Government to say what they meant. What had the Porte done to meet the demand of Lord Derby for protection to the Christians in the Turkish provinces, and for the punishment of the perpetrators of the horrible massacres in Bulgaria? If the demands were a sham, Lord Derby might be satisfied with a sham Consti- 577 tution and sham promises of reform; but if they were not a sham, in what manner did the Government intend to show their dissatisfaction at the recent conduct of the Porte? He did not believe the Government were in earnest. He could not believe, after Turkey had treated them with so much contempt, after Turkey had laughed its own promises to scorn, after it had resisted with contumely the demands of the Foreign Secretary and had done nothing to fulfil these demands, he could not believe that Lord Derby was serious in intending to send Sir Henry Elliot back to Constantinople. The Government were running two horses. They ran two horses at the Conference—Lord Salisbury and Sir Henry Elliot—and backed Sir Henry Elliot to win. Let them get up in the House and say whether they were running two horses now, and meant to maintain Sir Henry Elliot now. Were they going to do the same again, and to say that it mattered not to them about 10,000 or 20,000 Christians being massacred, so long as we maintained our interests in connection with Turkey? In the present state of affairs it was the duty of Parliament to be more outspoken than it had been lately, and he hoped that, in regard to future events, the House would not allow the Government to go on without canvassing their acts and intentions. The country had long looked with great doubt on the conduct of the Government, and had only kept quiet because they had hoped against hope for a change in their policy. The matter could not slumber while the disturbances in the Turkish provinces continued; and, although the Cabinet might sleep and send blind Consuls to the East, we were not dependent on the Consular Service for information, but were well served in that respect by the Press. He might instance The Times' telegram of that morning from its Pera correspondent giving an account of the plundering of a village, and the outrage of its inhabitants, by Bashi-Bazouks. A great deal of what had taken place might have been prevented if the Government had had a strong and enlightened policy; and the people of this country would no longer allow their honour and character to be dragged in the depths of infamy because the Government chose to palliate those atrocities. The Opposition were taunted 578 with not proposing a Resolution. He and his Friends did not want to challenge divisions on these matters. What was the use of challenging divisions against the serried ranks opposite? He never saw a more determined and consistent body of supporters of any Government, and he acknowledged that those on his side of the House were outnumbered; but, notwithstanding all the majorities of the Government and their Parliamentary triumphs, the time would come when a reckoning would be made, and the Government would be held responsible for this inhuman state of affairs, unless they showed a more decided determination to put an end to them by exercising all the power and energy of which they were possessed.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, that the hon. Member for Burnley had put a Notice on the Paper, but instead of referring to it had attacked the Government; had discussed the Eastern Question, and had charged the Government with the grossest duplicity in that matter. So far as the Government was concerned, he would leave them to take care of themselves; but he would say that the policy of Lord Derby had been straightforward throughout, and had been dictated by the highest principles of humanity. As to the Eastern Question, that was not the occasion nor the time when he would trespass upon the House with any observations upon it; but when they came to the case of Sir Henry Elliot—a man whom he had known all through his life, and who was a very old friend of his—he was sorry that the hon. Member (Mr. Rylands) was going away, as when a Member attacked the character of another man he ought to remain in the House and listen to the answer—[Mr. RYLANDS resumed his seat]—and he maintained that nothing could have been more unjust than the attack now made upon him. That must be apparent to all those who had really studied the Blue Books—nothing, he would repeat, could be more unjust than these constant attacks upon the character of an old servant of the Crown, who had resided in many parts of the world, had gained a distinguished position, and was one of the ablest diplomatists of this country. He had resided in Turkey for 11 years, having been appointed to Constantinople by Lord Derby, who showed admirable discretion when he 579 made the appointment. If the character and faults of Sir Henry Elliot had been what the hon. Member stated, they must have been known to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) when he was in office prior to 1874; but he (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) always understood that right hon. Gentleman had expressed the highest opinion of the ability and conduct of Sir Henry Elliot; and yet at this time, when they were anxious to transact the important business of the country, and then to adjourn for the Easter vacation, and when they could not divide the House upon this question, the hon. Member thought it prudent to make this attack upon Sir Henry Elliot. If they could divide, the whole House—except, perhaps, two or three of his own satellites—would go into the Lobby against the hon. Member. The hon. Member for Burnley wasWilling to wound, and yet afraid to strike,and yet he came down there and attacked the character of an honourable man. That was part of the policy and conduct of the Opposition on the Eastern Question. They gave Notice of an intention to discuss the policy of the Government—they made bitter attacks upon the Government and others, and then when the time came for a division, and they could test the feeling and opinion of the House, a division was by certain tactics of the Opposition prevented, and they were referred to the opinion of the people, and not allowed to take the opinion of the House at present. Why did not the Opposition divide the House on these questions? After they brought them forward they were afraid—And back recoiled, they know not why, Scared at the sound themselves had made.The word "garbled" had become a Parliamentary one, and only extracts from Sir Henry Elliot's despatches had been taken from the Blue Books, but they should take the whole of these Books. If they did that, they would find that he had acted in the most admirable manner. Was it not the fact that when Sir Henry Elliot first heard of these outrages which had very fairly excited the indignation of the country, he suggested to the Sultan the expediency of sending regular troops to the scene of the disturbance instead of Bashi-Bazouks, and that the person who had been most instrumental 580 in preventing these troops from being sent was General Ignatieff? It was, in fact, part of the Russian policy that those outrages should continue, inasmuch as they not only served as a pretext for interference, but excited a strong anti-Turkish feeling in England. He would not be tempted on that occasion to go into the general question or to say anything to justify the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, which anybody who looked into the official Papers would find to have been most fair and straightforward. But he did think there should be a cessation of all those innuendoes and indirect charges directed against hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House, as though they favoured the commission of atrocities. It was with great regret that he had read the letter of the right hon. Gentleman the late Premier, which had appeared two days before in The Times, in reply to a communication made to the right hon. Gentleman from a Liberal gentleman at Wolverhampton on the subject of the abolition of capital punishment. In that letter the right hon. Gentleman said—The subject of capital punishment is not one which I am disposed, individually, to stir, or even at the present time to examine. It seems to me that other public duties are far more urgently incumbent upon the nation and on myself—for example, to labour that capital punishment and other much worse outrages be no longer, through or with our connivance, inflicted from day to day on the innocent sufferers subjected to the yoke of Turkey.Whilst reading it he could not help asking himself if it was fair to write in the strain adopted by the right hon. Gentleman in connection with a subject that had nothing whatever to do with the Turkish Question, and to hint, as he had done, that these outrages had been perpetrated with the connivance of our Government. What was the meaning of connivance? Why, it meant not only to be a party to a transaction, but to justify it. If the right hon. Gentleman's letter meant anything at all, it meant that the Conservative or some Party had supported the Bulgarian atrocities. Well, for himself, he utterly denied that any Party in the country had connived at these outrages. [Mr. GLADSTONE said, he accused no political Party of such conduct.] The language, at all events, employed by the right hon. Gentleman had been sufficiently strong. In a recent publication he characterized the atroci- 581 ties as "orgies which Hell itself might have envied." He (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman repudiated the opinion of charging any political Party with connivance in such deeds. He was himself of opinion that no Party approved of the outrages, or had held any opinion in respect to them other than that of indignation. He asserted that while their true policy was one which would maintain the dignity and the greatness of this country, the procedure followed by Her Majesty's Opposition was calculated to maintain neither.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
The hon. Member who has just sat down has made an impassioned speech in defence of Sir Henry Elliot. I think it would be a misfortune if any attack should be made upon a public servant in this House in reply to which no impassioned speech should be made. But the hon. Gentleman seems to have lost sight of much of the defence of his friend, and he has turned to other matters which have nothing to do with Sir Henry Elliot. I can excuse him, however, for many Gentlemen opposite seem to have my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich on the brain. It would seem to be impossible for them to allude even to the Eastern Question without quoting certain words he has uttered or written. The hon. Gentleman opposite says he blames my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley for not bringing this matter to a clear issue by moving a Motion. I can, however, easily account for the course he has adopted. If we had reason to believe that the Government had made up its mind to send Sir Henry Elliot immediately back to Constantinople, a clear enough issue would have been raised. But as the matter now stands, and as Sir Henry Elliot's return to Constantinople is, at any rate, delayed on account of the state of his health, every hon. Member will feel that it is not the time now to make a distinct Motion on the subject. Now, very few things are more unpleasant, especially to myself, than to take any part whatever in a debate which may be considered as a personal attack upon any individual, especially when the gentleman on whom the attack is made is one whom everybody who knows him respects, more particularly those who have the privilege of his personal friendship. For that 582 reason I shall at once proceed to that which is in my mind by far the strongest ground why I feel it my duty to criticise the possibility of Sir Henry Elliot being sent back to Constantinople as our Ambassador. I am the more glad to touch on that ground, because I think it not only justifies the course we are taking, but is not a ground inconsistent with the high honour or eminent ability of Sir Henry Elliot. It amounts to nothing more than this—that he entirely differs from the opinion which we hold on this subject, which is held by the Government themselves, and which is certainly held by the country. Therefore, he ought no longer to represent this country at the Porte. I shall at once proceed to deal with Sir Henry Elliot in respect to the affairs in Bulgaria. I am not going into the question that was before us last Session. This much, however, I may say—that if Sir Henry Elliot, acting as our Ambassador at Constantinople, if the Government, and if our Consuls in Turkey had realized, as they ought to have realized, the real meaning of those atrocities, we should have had information respecting them sooner. Had that information been obtained we should not have had the Answers we on more than one occasion received from the Prime Minister. Such Answers, indeed, would have been impossible. Most of these events happened in May and early in June, and if they had been fully realized, especially by our Ambassador, information would have been sent to this country which would have caused the Answers of the Government to have been very different from what they were. I shall pass from that point, however, and shall allude now to Sir Henry Elliot's opinion with respect to these deplorable occurrences. On September 4 he sent a despatch which accompanied Mr. Baring's Report, and in it he defended himself with much warmth—justifiable warmth—against any want of feeling in the matter, and the despatch closes with these two paragraphs—We may, and must, feel indignant at the needless and monstrous severity with which the Bulgarian insurrection was put down, but the necessity which exists for England to prevent changes from occurring here which would be most detrimental to ourselves, is not affected by the question whether it was 10,000 or 20,000 persons who perished in the suppression. We have been upholding what we know to be a semi-civilized nation, liable under certain cir- 583 cumstances to be carried into fearful excesses; but the fact of this having just now been brought home to us all cannot be a sufficient reason for abandoning a policy which is the only one that can be followed with a due regard to our interests."—[Turkey, No. 1. (1877), p. 197.]Of course, these who agree with that opinion will support the sending back of Sir Henry Elliot to Constantinople; but I shall be very much surprised if the Leader of the House and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs give their support to any such policy. I ask the House whether it is prepared to state that the necessity of preventing certain changes at Constantinople is so great that the slaughter of some 10,000 or 20,000 men, women, and children is to be to us a question of subsidiary importance? Are we to support this semi-civilized nation whatever may be its excesses? The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) seems to think that it does not matter what is the opinion of the country. But I think there are few men on either side who doubt that that feeling is that this country will no longer be willing, if ever it was willing, to send out a Minister to Constantinople whose policy it is to uphold our so-called interests on such terms. Nothing has been more remarkable than the change of feeling which has taken place in this country on this Eastern Question. I do not now complain of the Government; I do not say Lord Derby has not appreciated that feeling very much more than the hon. Gentleman who last spoke. At the beginning of this Session we had a despatch of the 20th of May, which we did not receive last year, and I never could quite understand the reason why we did not get it. I think it would have been better if that despatch had been printed at the time; because if it had been thoroughly known in England and in Europe Her Majesty's Government might have found their path easier in this matter than it has been. But that despatch, at the time it was written, expressed very much the opinion of the country. Lord Derby stated, before the Bulgarian atrocities had excited the feelings of the country so strongly against Turkish misrule, that the Turkish Government must not expect anything except moral support, even if Russia did advance. I believe that the lesson we gained from the Crimean War, and what has since occurred, would have induced 584 us to arrive at the determination not to spend any more blood or treasure in support of what Sir Henry Elliot called a semi-civilized nation. But now that we have had the lesson of the Bulgarian outrages, I say the overpowering feeling of this country is that we should not give even moral support to Turkey. That is not a mere matter of sentiment, though it will be a bad thing for England when sentiment ceases to enter into her dealings with foreign affairs. It is a matter of clear practical interest. We are a practical people, and we have come to the conclusion that a nation which rules as Turkey rules is not possessed of that force and permanence to induce us to uphold it. We have come to the conclusion that the Turkish Government is of little use to us against Russia or any other Power; and we have, therefore, come to the conclusion that it is not in accordance with English interests that we should support such a Power. Interest and duty generally go together, both as regards nations and individuals. We feel now that we ought no longer to stand between Turkey and the natural punishment that must inevitably follow her misrule. Well, if that be the case, it is utterly impossible for us to contemplate the return of Sir Henry Elliot as Ambassador at Constantinople. I entirely admit that in considering our foreign policy we must not be guided solely by our sympathy with these poor victims of Turkish misrule, and that we must remember the danger of a European war. I shall make an appeal to the Government. The Government are anxious to maintain European peace. For myself, I should complain if they did not exhaust every effort to secure such an object. But how can that peace be best preserved? I believe it can be best preserved by the fulfilment of European duty. I believe that this is one of these exceptional cases in which we ought to call upon the nations of Europe to declare that the law of right and wrong has been broken by Turkey, and that she should be called upon in future to obey the law which rules all other civilized nations. There has been talk of coercion. My opinion is that if there is to be coercion it ought not to be the coercion of one State, but the combined coercion of all Europe. I say that what most endangers the peace of Europe is 585 Turkish misrule. There are some hon. Gentlemen who think it is Russian intrigue. Well, there are some, I believe—not the unfortunate bondholders themselves—who think that it is Russian intrigue that has caused Turkish repudiation. But what makes Russian intrigue possible? Why it is, I repeat, Turkish misrule, Turkish arrogance, Turkish cruelty, and Turkish corruption. That being so, I ask will it help to promote the peace of Europe to send back to Constantinople as our representative that man who, with a sincerity and honesty that I admire, has declared that the country should be upheld in its misrule because it is in accordance with English interests to do so? But there is another ground on which I ask the Government not to send him back, and that is because they will by so doing stultify themselves. What was the meaning of the despatch written by Sir Henry Elliot to which I alluded? If it means anything at all, it means that Turkey must be upheld, because English interests are involved, and that is a policy of intervention. But if the Government have any policy at all, it is a policy of nonintervention. Nothing has been more clearly stated in the speeches and despatches of the Government. We on this side of the House have been taunted with the remark that we have deserted our principle of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries. I am not prepared to take upon this matter or any other matter a definition of my principles from hon. Gentlemen on the other side, or, in fact, from anyone but myself. I do not know that it has ever been laid down as a cardinal rule that there should never be any intervention in the affairs of another country. We ought not to interfere in the affairs of another country unless there was the strongest possible, the most exceptional, ground for doing so, and also unless we were sure that our interference would do good to the oppressed. For my own part, I am in the present case prepared to uphold that England should not interfere by herself, or even in conjunction with Russia. But I think that very great responsibility will rest upon the Government if by any act of theirs they should prevent European intervention. This much, however, is certain—that the Government is pledged not to interfere on behalf of Turkey. What was Lord Derby's despatch? It 586 was as much of a rebuke as it was possible to convey without a reproach in actual words. Lord Derby had said that no political considerations would justify the toleration of such acts, and that was the line taken by Lord Salisbury in the Conference. Nothing could be stronger than the words of Lord Salisbury at the last sitting of the Conference, when he warned the Turkish Government, that if they did not accept the conditions that were then offered them we would leave them entirely face to face with Russia, and they must not expect our support. Therefore, Her Majesty's Government, having Sir Henry Elliot's despatch before them, will stultify Lord Salisbury's statements if they send Sir Henry Elliot back to Constantinople as our representative. Does any one suppose that his return would be regarded as a mere matter of course in Constantinople itself? Let me show the feeling in Constantinople with regard to Sir Henry Elliot. The Bassirett, a leading Turkish journal of January 11, says—Sir Henry Elliot, during his residence in Constantinople, has won the affection and sympathies of all Osmanlis. He rendered signal services during the recent crisis in Bulgaria. It is hoped that His Excellency will speedily return to his post.I only mention that as showing the feeling with which Sir Henry Elliot's return would be received at Constantinople. Does any one doubt that the effect of his return to that city, in the opinion of those who had the knowledge that he had written this despatch, who had the knowledge that that despatch was the expression of his honest and most sincere feeling, and who had the knowledge that the Government had been warned of the effect which that despatch would have at Constantinople, would be to give hope and strength to those who were promoting intrigues in Turkey, and were desirous of dragging England into conflict with Russia, in the event of future complications in the East? I will read an extract from a letter received from Constantinople yesterday. I cannot give the name of the writer, but it would be impossible to find at Constantinople any one more trustworthy or better informed, but he is a resident at Constantinople. The Government at Constantinople is not a Government which I would wish to inform of the name of the writer. But I will give the name of the writer confidentially 587 to any hon. Member who wishes it. The letter is dated 19th March. It says—"The condition of the country is not improved; robberies, murders, and outrages occurring every day." Here let me remark that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) seems to have some doubt as to whether it is a fact that these outrages are continuing. If he will only look to the Notice Paper he will find there the mention of the most dreadful outrages. There is nothing in the Bulgarian horrors much worse, scarcely worse, than these two terrible atrocities. It may be said—"Oh, but how do we know this to be true?" We know very well from whom this account comes; it is from Mr. Evans, the author of A Tour in Bosnia, who gained general credence for his statements, and of the truth of which I, for one, am fully convinced. We constantly hear it stated with regard to Bosnia that the horrors there are very much the fault of the insurgents themselves, who will not allow the refugees to return. But here, the refugees have returned, and 10 of them have been set upon and cut to pieces with nameless horrors. I trust the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bourke) will make special efforts to ascertain whether this story is true or not. Then there is what occurred at Glomosh. Talk about Russian intrigues when such things as these were being done! What country, I ask, would not take hope from any foreign Power that had any kind of sympathy with these who were the victims of such horrors? The writer of the letter went on to say—It is becoming painfully evident, even to the most zealous philo-Turks, that the Turks attribute the check of the Conference and the unwillingness of the European Powers to entertain the idea of coercion, purely and simply to fear of Moslem power here and in India. They speak defiantly against all Europe, and already threaten to submit no longer to Capitulations in regard to the rights of foreign subjects resident in Constantinople and the Turkish Empire. The idea that Europe is afraid of them is, in the opinion of everyone who knows the Turks, fraught with great danger; and it is the knowledge of this fact that makes many peace-loving residents here prefer the alternative of war, with all the sufferings which it may entail. As to the reforms mentioned in the Circular of Safvet Pasha to the Ottoman Embassies as having been put into execution, we first heard of them through the European Press. The amnesty is true; but alas! it is only for the Moslem, for Achmet Agha, Tossoun Shefket, and Co., while many innocent Bulgarians still languish in prison. The poor Bulgarians generally are de- 588 sponding. I see some occasionally, and I ask them of their condition. They reply mournfully—'Do not ask; we have nothing good to report. God is afar off. We had great hopes from the Conference; that failed. Then we learnt that Russia was going to execute the plan of the Conference; now we learn that England will not permit it; so we fold our hands in despair.' The poor people know nothing of diplomacy; they only feel their own woes, and we must not blame them if they should judge wrongly.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I have already said that, as the writer is a resident at Constantinople, I will not give his name—and I think that if the hon. Member was in his position he would share my feeling. I have no objection to tell the hon. Member privately the name of the writer. Not merely the poor Bulgarians, but also the English people, I maintain, know very little of the present action of diplomacy in connection with the Eastern Question. I do not blame the Government for not giving this information; but what I say is this—that it is plain, from the articles which have appeared in the Press upon the present state of the negotiations, that what is making it improbable, or at any rate very doubtful, whether the efforts to preserve the peace of Europe will be successful, is that the English Government are demanding from Russia, as a condition for signing the Protocol—whatever the Protocol may be—that Russia should disband and demobilise her Army. Well, I only wish to say this—that the Government may or may not have given that advice—they may or may not be able to give reasons for giving it—but it will be very difficult to persuade these people in Constantinople and Turkey—it will not be easy to persuade the English people that if this Army which Russia has on the borders of Turkey is disbanded, because England has demanded and pressed for it, it will be very difficult indeed—Murmurs]—I do not understand why the hon. Member should make these audible remarks; he had better wait till he hears what I have to say. I was saying it will then be very difficult not to hold the British Government responsible for the good government of these Turkish subjects from this time forward. If we take upon ourselves the solemn responsibility of sending back the Russian Army we take 589 upon ourselves also the responsibility of seeing that these poor people have that good government which might otherwise, perhaps, be obtained by a Russian invasion of Turkey. This certainly would cause a great change in the position of affairs; but I believe a great change for the better in the condition of these poor people would follow from an invasion by Russia, however great the other evils. Nothing, I can assure the House, but the strongest possible feeling that English duty and English honour are concerned, would have induced me to take part in any personal action against Sir Henry Elliot. He is an English gentleman who bears the highest character as a public servant, and who has discharged his duty with the utmost devotion and zeal. It is, however, that very devotion and zeal that renders him, with the opinions to which he is pledged, the more dangerous as the representative of Her Majesty's Government at a post like that of Constantinople. I most heartily desire that his health may soon be renovated, and that he may live to represent Her Majesty with honour and dignity at some other Court; but with all my heart I do protest against his representing Her Majesty at Constantinople. I do not complain of Sir Henry Elliot for holding his opinions. They are opinions which have been held by many eminent statesmen on both sides of the House until lately; but the opinions professed in the despatch are not the opinions of the country—they are not the professed opinions of the Government. He is not without Scotch tenacity, and cannot, perhaps, be easily driven from the opinions he has formed. To send him back to Constantinople would be to send back a representative bound, in consistency, to act in support of a policy contrary to the feelings, the interests, the conscience, the honour, and the duty of England.
§ MR. BOURKE
Mr. Speaker, in the few remarks which it will be my duty to make to the House I think I may with confidence appeal to the indulgence of the House in the position in which I am placed; because I do not think that any one here will fail to admit that, speaking as I do at this moment, it is my duty not to say one word which could by any means prevent a solution of the difficulties which are now before Europe; or to say one word which could endanger the various and important interests 590 which are connected, directly and indirectly, with this great question. And I say, in the first instance, that there is no feeling that more oppresses me at the present moment than the feeling which hon. Gentlemen opposite admit as much as we do on this side of the House, that one of the great dangers that are now hanging over the Christian populations of Turkey is the fanatical feeling of the Mussulman population. I am quite sure the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) will admit than any words of an unadvised or imprudent character, that I might let fall, might have a very prejudicial effect upon their safety, and might, perhaps, be the means of casting upon me the responsibility of having said something which would increase the danger and perhaps produce a catastrophe as regards them. I need not now remind the House of the many other considerations which are now in the face of the Government—namely, the negotiations which are going on for maintaining the peace of Europe, and also many other considerations which are involved remotely in the settlement of this Eastern Question, but all of them involving issues which must be of the greatest moment to this country. Now, in commenting on the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Forster), and the hon. Member (Mr. Rylands) who has brought forward this Motion, I would like to separate the question of Sir Henry Elliot altogether from other questions of public policy which have not very legitimately been introduced into this discussion. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was mainly directed to occurrences which have taken place in Bulgaria and elsewhere, and which have been known under the name of the atrocities, outrages, and so forth. I do not think it is necessary for me on this occasion to enter upon that subject; because, if I were gifted with all the powers of language that the right hon. Member for Greenwich possesses, I could not describe the horror of the Government, the aversion of the Government, the culpability, in the opinion of the Government, of the Turkish rule more forcibly than they are described in these Blue Books. I should therefore only be wasting the time of the House if I were once again to repudiate on the part of the Government anything 591 in the shape of palliation or excuse for even the least of these horrors. Last Session I had opportunities of addressing the House on this subject, and I defy any hon. Member to say that I ever held language of a character that could by any ingenuity be interpreted into palliation of the least one of these horrors. Upon three occasions last year the subject was discussed, and in the many speeches which have been made upon this subject nobody has ever brought one charge against me of having said one word in palliation of these atrocities. I shall not, therefore, go into that subject; but, at the same time, I think it right to draw the attention of the House to the fact that it is perfectly impossible for Her Majesty's Government to control these terrible occurrences. Had Turkey been a British Colony it would have been difficult enough to do so; but I think it is the first time in the history of this or any other nation I believe that an Ambassador or a Government were held to be in the least degree responsible for anything that occurred in a foreign country. If hon. Gentlemen would bear this in mind—however disgusted they may be with the Turkish Government, or horrified at the atrocities that have been committed—I do not think they would bring these terrible accusations and insinuations against Her Majesty's Government of conniving at and palliating these atrocities. This is the first time I have had an opportunity of addressing the House upon the subject this Session; and I may tell the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich that the thing that has made Her Majesty's Government and all who sit upon this side of the House feel so strongly with regard to his writings and speeches upon this subject is that he seems to have ignored that fact altogether, that he has imputed to Her Majesty's Government, if not directly, at any rate indirectly, connivance in these matters. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Where?1 Certainly, I have always understood that the general purport of the right hon. Gentleman's speeches and writings has been to blame Her Majesty's Government for either not showing greater sympathy for the sufferers by these Bulgarian atrocities, or for not doing something to put a stop to their committal, and that has been the impression 592 of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. But although that has been the feeling of the right hon. Gentleman and many others who think with him, nobody has been able to point out what Her Majesty's Government are to do to put an end to these atrocities. Not one single suggestion of that kind, from last May until the present moment, has ever been made which Her Majesty's Government could adopt without plunging this country into war. Now, Sir, I think that the course which the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) has taken is one that is unfair both to this House and the Government as well as to Sir Henry Elliot. It is unfair to the House, because if the House does really feel strongly upon this subject — and the cheers with which the hon. Gentleman was greeted certainly show that a section of it does feel strongly about it—it was the duty of the hon. Member to formulate his charges in such a way, and to bring them forward at such a time, that the House could have given an opinion upon them. Bringing them forward as the hon. Member has brought this Motion forward it was impossible for Her Majesty's Government to know what specific charges were going to be brought against Sir Henry Elliot, or to know what portion of Sir Henry Elliot's conduct was to be impugned. More than all is it unfair to Sir Henry Elliot, because, if this alleged misconduct of Sir Henry Elliot was deserving of the censure of this House, certainly Sir Henry Elliot would have wished that this House should have an opportunity of giving an opinion upon the subject, and not that these vile and calumnious charges should have gone forth to the world, and no person should have been able to know what the opinion of the House of Commons was—
§ MR. RYLANDS
Surely the hon. Gentleman does not charge me with having given utterance to vile and calumnious charges?
§ MR. BOURKE
If the words "vile" and "calumnious" are un-Parliamentary I beg to withdraw them. But all I can say is that if I were to make a charge or charges similar to those which the hon. Member for Burnley has made against Sir Henry Elliot I certainly should consider them both vile and calumnious. To say of an old public servant that he is a "bottle-holder to the Turks," is to say what 593 is both vile and calumnious; to say that Sir Henry Elliot was a man of honour with one breath, and then to say that he was carrying out a policy, not only opposed to the opinions of Lord Salisbury, but of Her Majesty's Government, is to say what is vile and calumnious; and to say that he is convicted before the world of "moral blindness" is, I think, going as near to blasting a man's character as it is possible to go. Now, the hon. Gentleman has said that this policy of silence is one which cannot longer be maintained; but who is it that has forced this, or recommended this, policy of silence upon the House of Commons? Certainly not Her Majesty's Government. We have tried — and I think every hon. Member on this side of the House has tried—to force the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and bring them to a division; and certainly so far as silence goes what a farce it is to be talking about silence when the whole of our policy is here in these Blue Books, so that every person who can read may know what it is. A debate would not produce one-fourth the information if it were to be protracted for a fortnight as these despatches in the Blue Books contain. But here the hon. Member for Burnley says he wants to know what the policy of Her Majesty's Government is? I say was there ever such an idle pretence made in this House? The policy of Her Majesty's Government is in the Blue Books, and if hon. Gentlemen will only read them I cannot understand how they can be ignorant of it. I am not going to say that we have any right to take notice of what occurred in "another place;" but the policy of Her Majesty's Government has been explained to the country through that other place in the most authoritative manner, and in a manner with which apparently the Press of this country is perfectly satisfied. The mode in which the hon. Gentleman has brought forward his charges has not been quite fair. He has not quoted one single expression of Sir Henry Elliot's from beginning to end of his speech. He has made up his case by making vague allegations, unsupported by a single atom of proof. Now, I wish to grapple with this question in a way that the House generally will consider fair. The first charge against Sir Henry Elliot is that he was apathetic as to the atro- 594 cities, and did not send information about them to this country; and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster) said—"Thank God we have a Press, or we might not have heard of them." Now, on May 9, Sir Henry Elliot forwarded a despatch from Vice Consul Dupuis reporting the outrages committed by the insurgents. That is to be found in the Blue Book. Before, however, they were known here, Sir Henry Elliot had spoken to the Turkish Government about the atrocities. [Cries of What date On the 9th of May. ["No!"] Well, on the 9th of May he sent the despatch of Vice Consul Dupuis. In that despatch Sir Henry Elliot said the continuance of the insurrection in Bulgaria might provoke among the Mussulman population a spirit of fanaticism and revenge which it would be difficult to restrain. [Mr. RYLANDS: Hear, hear!] I wish the hon. Gentleman would not display so much partizanship. Subsequently, Sir Henry Elliot obtained from the Turkish Government a promise that they would endeavour to avert the threatened danger. That was, however, the promise of an expiring Government. Before a new Government could be formed, Sir Henry Elliot received further reports from the Vice Consul announcing the arming of the Mussulman population and the employment of Bashi-Bazouks, with rumours of pillage and massacre, and he wrote on May 12 saying that as soon as the new Government was formed he would communicate to it the information he had received, and point out the danger of allowing the authorities to act as they had been doing. On the 24th. of May Sir Henry Elliot reported that he hadmade strong representations to the Porte of the evils resulting from the employment of Bashi-Bazouks."—[Turkey, No. 3. (1876) p. 212.]and that orders had been sent to the authorities in Bulgaria not to employ Circassians as irregulars. On June 8 he reported that—The Bulgarian insurrection appears to be unquestionably put down, although, I regret to say, with cruelty, and, in some places, with brutality.Is that the language of a man who is doing nothing, and who is indifferent to the events which are occurring about him?The Bashi-Bazouks," Sir Henry Elliot continued, "have now been recalled, but not before 595 they had done enough to embitter the feelings which must be entertained by the Christians towards the Mussulmans." — [Turkey, No. 3. (1876), p. 267.]That is not the language of a than who is apathetic or careless? Outrages, however, still continued, and on the 19th of June he wrote—I have again spoken very seriously to the Grand Vizier on the subject, and remarked that the manner in which his colleagues had just been murdered by a Circassian gave an idea of what must be the position of unarmed populations left absolutely at the mercy of hordes of those savages."—[Ibid. 344.]Hitherto no newspaper reports had been published and no questions had been asked in Parliament on the subject, but Sir Henry Elliot was steadily keeping it in view and losing no opportunity of urging the case of the Christian sufferers. But the instances I have mentioned are not the only ones in which Sir Henry Elliot had brought the subject before the Porte. On the contrary, he said in his despatch of July 6—For weeks past I have never seen one of the Turkish Ministers without insisting on the necessity of at once putting an end to these excesses."—[Ibid. 370.]And, again, in another despatch, dated July 14, he wrote as follows:—Since the suppression of the Bulgarian insurrection few days passed without my urging upon the Porte the necessity of taking measures for putting an end to the excesses that were being committed, and previous to the receipt of your Lordship's telegrams on this subject I had directed Mr. Sandison to repeat my former representations in very forcible terms."—[Turkey, No. 5. (1876), p. 13.]Now the attention of the country was first called to the Turkish atrocities by a letter from Constantinople in The Daily News of the 23rd of June, upon the statements in which Lord Derby directed Sir Henry Elliot to report, and the writer of that letter bore witness to the efforts already made by Sir Henry Elliot in the following words:—I believe it is no secret that our Ambassador has brought his influence to bear upon the Government with a view to putting an end to them" [meaning the cruelties].Finally, it is right to point out that the terms of Lord Derby's despatch to Sir Henry Elliot of the 9th of August, which was received with general approbation in England, had been almost literally anticipated by Sir Henry Elliot in his advice to the Porte, reported in 596 his despatch of the 6th of July. He wrote—I have strongly recommended that an energetic commander should be appointed over the irregulars to be employed in Servia, and I have pointed out to the Turks that if the progress of their troops in that Principality is marked by barbarities upon an unresisting population, the indignation throughout Europe may become so great that the Government may be driven by the force of public opinion to step in to put a stop to them."—[Turkey, No. 3. (1876), p. 369.]Why should he be singled out? These extracts will, I think, suffice to show the manner in which Sir Henry Elliot dealt with the question from the first, and that, instead of being chargeable with indifference to what was passing and with inaction or slackness in making proper representations to the Turkish Government, he throughout showed the greatest solicitude for the sufferers, and reiterated in the strongest language his remonstrances respecting the cruelties which were being perpetrated; receiving from Her Majesty's Government their approval of each successive step. I will, in the next place, advert to the despatch, dated the 4th of September, which has been alluded to by the hon. Member for Burnley, and also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted one sentence from that despatch. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: I read two sentences.] I will give the whole extract as quoted by the right hon. Gentleman. It is as follows:—We may, and must, feel indignant at the needless and monstrous severity with which the Bulgarian insurrection was put down, but the necessity which exists for England to prevent changes from occurring here which would be most detrimental to ourselves, is not affected by the question whether it was 10,000 or 20,000 persons who perished in the suppression. We have been upholding what we know to be a semi-civilized nation, liable under certain circumstances to be carried into fearful excesses; but the fact of this having just now been brought home to us all cannot be a sufficient reason for abandoning a policy which is the only one that can be followed with a due regard to our own interests."—[Turkey, No. 1. (1877), p. 197.]Now, what I would say about that passage is that I altogether repudiate the meaning which was attached to it by the right hon. Gentleman. The House has very often heard the highest authorities complain of the interpretation which is sometimes put on sentences 597 taken from their speeches and even upon the speeches themselves. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, for example, does not always accept the interpretation which is put by some hon. Gentlemen on his speeches; and I must follow his example with respect to the extract quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. Indeed, I cannot help regarding the interpretation placed on that passage as one of the most unfair which could have been put on it by any moderate man; and even though it might be liable to such an interpretation, still, to pick out a single sentence from a number of important despatches written during a whole year, I think is about the unfairest mode of making a quotation which could well be adopted. I say so because it is evident from the whole tenour of Sir Henry Elliot's despatches that he had denounced the atrocities which were being committed in every way he possibly could, and used the strongest language he could command to try to prevent their recurrence. To suppose because he spoke of 10,000 or 20,000 persons as having perished Sir Henry Elliot was indifferent to the loss of human life was the greatest mistake. What he did was to point out that this country had great interests at the back of the question—interests which everybody is acquainted with, but which it would not be prudent or advisable for me to dwell upon. At the same time, they are interests which, to use the words of the Prime Minister last year, we are firmly determined to maintain. Now, with respect to a report which appears to have reached Lord Augustus Loftus at St. Petersburg that he had encouraged the Porte to resist certain proposals, Sir Henry Elliot, in writing to Lord Derby, said it must be perfectly well known to the Russian Government that if up to that time a rupture with Turkey had not occurred it was principally owing to his influence in recommending a prudent and conciliatory line of conduct. But not one single attempt has been made in the course of the debate to quote from that or any other despatch, or, indeed, to quote anything in proof of the accusations which have been so freely made against Sir Henry Elliot. There is just one other despatch I would like to read. It is from Sir Henry Elliot to Lord Derby, dated November 24, 1876— 598The language attributed to me by the "Times" correspondent, mentioned in your Lordship's telegram, is incorrect. The statement that I advised the Grand Vizier to bring forward reserves or restrictions is the exact reverse of the truth, and I have never intimated that the scheme of constitutional government removes the necessity for the reforms and liberties proposed by Her Majesty's Government for the disturbed provinces; but I have said that when the new measures are published, with which we are not yet acquainted, it will be necessary to see whether they confer upon the provinces in question that which was demanded for them. For months past I have been urging the Porte to lose no time in removing the disabilities under which the Christians labour. The statement that I have urged that Turkey would come all the easier out of the ordeal of the Conference by holding herself ready to stand upon her rights, and by proving that she might at any time have force on her side, is absolutely false."—[Turkey, No. 1. (1877), p. 716.]Now that disposes, in my opinion, of all the accusations that have been brought against Sir Henry Elliot. I think it covers the whole of the ground with regard to this subject. ["No."] If it does not, I hope some hon. Member will bring forward proof to the contrary, and we shall be able to meet him. The only other quotation with which I will trouble the House is Lord Derby's despatch of November 23 to Sir Henry Elliot—I have received your despatch of the 2nd instant, upon the subject of insinuations made by General Ignatiew and at Livadia, that you have encouraged the Porte to resist the concessions demanded by Russia. I am quite aware of the groundlessness of those insinuations, and I have much pleasure in expressing to your Excellency the entire satisfaction of Her Majesty's Government with your proceedings."—[Turkey, No. 1. (1877), p. 713.]At that very time Lord Salisbury was going to Constantinople, and do you think that, if those insinuations were in accordance with the policy of Her Majesty's Government, they would have written that despatch? So far as Lord Salisbury is concerned, the first suggestion about his going to Constantinople came from Sir Henry Elliot, and from first to last I can only say that I have Sir Henry Elliot's assurance that his language at that time to the Porte was invariably this:—"Whatever, in my opinion, may have been the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the past, there can be no doubt in regard to the future, for they have sent a Cabinet Minister to Constantinople, and you must not take my opinions expressed in the past as being the opinions of Lord 599 Salisbury, who is here now, and who will tell you the whole policy of Her Majesty's Government on the subject." That was the language Sir Henry Elliot held during the whole of the Conference, and in regard to certain passages in the Correspondence, in which Sir Henry Elliot points out what he considers certain dangers, it must be remembered that all those are despatches sent by Sir Henry Elliot expressing his own honest opinion privately to his own Government. Not one of them was seen by the Porte, and the language used to the Porte by Sir Henry Elliot was totally different, and was in accordance with the instructions which he received from the Government and from Lord Salisbury. I do not think it necessary further to trespass on the attention of the House, and I trust that in the few remarks I have made I have vindicated the character of Sir Henry Elliot. I can only say that during the whole of his diplomatic service in Constantinople and elsewhere he has faithfully performed his duty. He has carried out his instructions, and if there is anything in these Blue Books on which to found a Vote of Censure, it was Her Majesty's Government who sent him there, and who are responsible. When it is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that it is desirable for him to return to his duties, whether at Constantinople or elsewhere, I am quite sure that he will retain the character that has ever distinguished him of being an accomplished diplomatist, and a theroughly honourable English gentleman.
Sir, I entirely concur, allow me to say, with the prognostication of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, for I have no doubt that Sir Henry Elliot's character will survive this and any other debate which may be held about him in Parliament, and that he will hand down the character of an accomplished diplomatist and a thoroughly honourable English gentleman. I subscribe heartily to that opinion. I thought from the exordium of the hon. Gentleman that he was going to make a speech of great prudence, and I heard it with great satisfaction. I must say I was afterwards surprised at the vehemence, and, I may say, violence of the language which he used. That language was that a "vile and calumnious" attack had been made on Sir 600 Henry Elliot. Now this, in my opinion, is violent and vehement language. [An hon. MEMBER: Justified.] It is not justified, as far as my hearing went, by what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands); but it was most imprudent, whether justified or not, coming, as it did, from an organ of the Government at a moment such as this. I think I shall be borne out by many hon. Gentlemen opposite when I say that that is not the style of language that it is the business and policy of the agents of the Government to hold in such discussions. I have a complaint to make against the hon. Gentleman himself, though it is a small one. He says that I have imputed to Her Majesty's Government coldness and indifference about the Bulgarian outrages. I ask him, "Where?" He cannot tell me where. What I have said has not been said in a corner, and what I have written has gone to the world; and I submit that when the hon. Gentleman charges me with having said that which, perhaps, would have been vile and calumnious—certainly very reprehensible on my part—he ought to have quoted the language which is the foundation of his charge, instead of telling me what is the general impression as to what I said. I have heard it from him, and I heard it from his Chief also, a few days ago. When I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to a matter of fact and as to a charge made by Sir Henry Elliot against me, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said there was an "impression" of the kind. We do not ask questions as to the "impressions" which exist, but as to matters of fact; and I do request that, in this House, at any rate, when these extreme proceedings and extreme language are imputed to me, hon. Gentlemen will be so kind as to call me to account in a practical way, and to show when, what, and where it is to which they refer. Until that is done I must be excused for treating the charge very lightly, and with the utmost triviality, even when it comes from one who is so much respected as the hon. Gentleman opposite. I think the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the nature of this case as respects Sir Henry Elliot. It is no charge against Sir Henry Elliot, or against any other man, that he holds certain opinions. In my view the question about Sir Henry Elliot is not whether he has been guilty 601 of misconduct in any form, either great or small—as to which I should certainly be the very last to accuse him—but the question is whether the opinions which he holds, and which he is now known by the whole world, including the Ottoman Porto, to hold, allow of his now representing the British nation at Constantinople, with safety to British interests and in conformity with British feeling. This is a matter totally distinct from any question or charge or attack on him or any other person. I will suppose it was some other man. Suppose, for instance, it was my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane), who has spoken this evening, and who has subscribed to the strongest of Sir Henry Elliot's declarations. I have a great respect for my hon. Friend; but I hope he will not think I am making an attack on him if I say that, with all my respect for him, I deem him to be totally disqualified from representing the British nation at Constantinople. I look into his face and appeal to his good humour; and while recognising his character and the kindness and courtesy I have at all times received from him, I say that if he were to go to Constantinople, there to represent, or to be in an office supposed to represent, the general feeling of this country, he would, without any intention to do so, misrepresent us most abominably. This is only by way of illustration. The sole question I seek to raise about Sir Henry Elliot is, whether his opinions are or are not such as to be in harmony with the general convictions of the country. I will not go at length into the case. I am sorry we have been led into it, but it is unavoidable. What I had hoped would be this. Her Majesty's Government a short time ago stated that they contemplated the return of Sir Henry Elliot to Constantinople. Now, I think with the feelings which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) has described, and which I believe to be very generally entertained on this side of the House, it was but right, and fair, and honest, that we on this side should convey to the Government a distinct intimation that if Sir Henry Elliot's return, instead of being abstract and contingent, should at any time become a practical measure, it would be made the subject of serious contest in this House. There is no discourtesy, I hope, in conveying that intimation; we 602 mean nothing that is disrespectful to Sir Henry Elliot; and some of those who have been so busy in appealing to the Opposition to challenge the vote of the House upon a particular question would, perhaps, if that contingency should arise, have a very good chance of being gratified in the desire they entertain. With regard to Sir Henry Elliot, I shall be very brief. The hon. Member (Mr. Bourke), I think, entirely misunderstands the charge against him. To imagine that that charge is made in respect of any insufficiency of representation or verbal feebleness, or of the perfect sincerity of his representations and expostulations to the Porte, is a perfectly vain imagination. I do not think my right hon. Friend himself or anyone sitting in this House could have made representations to the Porte upon the facts—when he became conscious of the facts, when he fully opened his eyes to their character—which were more constant, earnest, and forcible than the representations of Sir Henry Elliot. But having said that—and I hope my avowal to the same effect will not be unsatisfactory to Sir Henry Elliot—the hon. Member seems to think that he has disposed of the whole case. But this is not so; and I will endeavour, with the permission of the House, to explain the case as I understand it to be with regard to these Bulgarian outrages, and all the other outrages and mischiefs of Turkey. Nothing could be stronger than the representations made by Sir Henry Elliot as to the impolicy, the folly, and the guilt of these outrages. As far as words were calculated to produce an impression—and I am not now speaking of the precise time at which the words were used—it was impossible to go further. But what I find is that, over and above his representations upon the outrages, and behind all these representations, there lay in the mind of Sir Henry Elliot an admission of a principle which in his view was wholly paramount to the outrages—namely, the principle "What will be the bearing of this or that measure upon British interests?" Is that an unfair statement? Is it not entirely borne out by the quotation of my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster), and by the whole strain of Sir Henry Elliot's despatches? If I understand the passage in the despatch of September 4, it means this — "The 603 severity has been 'needless and monstrous;' but there is something else which we must look at besides the severity and besides the degree in which it is needless and monstrous; and, however needless and however monstrous, we must be prepared to endure it or take no positive measures against it, for by these measures we should disturb the Turk in the possession of power, his continued possession of which, without alteration, is vital to what we consider the interests of England." In other words, the sense which we entertain of what British interests require is to be for us the measure of right and wrong all over the world. That is the meaning of the passage cited from the despatch of September 4, and it is the meaning of the whole conduct of Sir Henry Elliot from first to last. Let me here parenthetically do justice to the Government. My right hon. Friend pointed out, and I have great pleasure in referring to it—for though this passage has been in a manner justified by the hon. Member he shrank from its entire justification—that this passage had been emphatically repudiated by Lord Derby. I make that statement here frankly and boldly. This despatch of the 4th of September was received at the Foreign Office on the 14th, and on the 21st of September Lord Derby wrote a despatch to Sir Henry Elliot, in which he uses these words—The Porte cannot afford to contend with the public opinion of other countries, nor can it suppose that the Government of Great Britain or any of the Signatory Powers of the Treaty of Paris can show indifference to the sufferings of the Bulgarian peasantry under this outbreak of vindictive cruelty. No political considerations would justify the toleration of such acts."—[Turkey, No. 1. (1877), p. 238.]Not, be it observed, the commission of such acts, but "the toleration" of such acts. Those are the sentiments expressed by Lord Derby within a few days after he receives this declaration from Sir Henry Elliot; and I take this sentence as conveying an emphatic repudiation of the opinion which, unhappily, Sir Henry Elliot had been induced to form. The hon. Gentleman says that I have shown that I did not feel inclined to admit the construction which might be put upon my speeches by opponents. That is true. But when I deprecate and repudiate the construction put upon my speeches by other men, I endeavour to 604 substitute my own construction, and that is exactly what the hon. Gentleman refused to do. He said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford had most unfavourably construed this passage by the meaning he assigned to it; but he did not tell us what was the meaning of the passage. If it were qualified or contradicted elsewhere I should be delighted to admit it; but the meaning of it as it stands is expressed in the closing words of the dispatch—We have been upholding what we know to be a semi-civilized nation, liable under certain circumstances to be carried into fearful excesses; but the fact of this having just now been strikingly brought home to us all cannot be a sufficient reason for abandoning a policy which is the only one that can be followed with a due regard to our own interests."—[Turkey, No. 1. (1877), p. 197.]That is a precise contradiction of the position of Lord Derby. The meaning of it is, that some political considerations would justify the toleration of these acts. Notwithstanding that you have denounced these proceedings in the despatch of the 21st of September, you have not in acts done anything except tolerate them. It is then with the opinions entertained by Sir Henry Elliot that we have to do. He has with great consistency, with perfect honour, and no doubt with unwearied diligence, been maintaining that which he thought to represent the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. I do not know that there is any proof in any part of the Blue Books that he has outrun the spirit of these intentions, except that single and important passage which I have just cited. These opinions of Sir Henry Elliot we have now before us with the utmost clearness. The hon. Member (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) says that I was Prime Minister for a long time, and that I approved of the conduct of Sir Henry Elliot. Undoubtedly I did; and I am aware of no circumstance that arose during the comparatively tranquil relations of the late Government with Turkey upon which I had any reason to suppose that there would be such important differences of sentiment and principle with regard to the Eastern Question between Sir Henry Elliot and ourselves as I have now described to exist. The events which have lately happened have brought into discussion a multitude of ideas which formerly lay buried; and I 605 confess that I did not know till now what Sir Henry Elliot's opinions on the Turkish question really were. Again, the hon. Member (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) says—"Sir Henry Elliot never worked counter to Lord Salisbury at Constantinople. These are the despatches which he wrote to his Government, and they do not express what he said to the Porte." That may be perfectly true, and I believe it is perfectly true. I am convinced that Sir Henry Elliot never knowingly took a single step to counteract Lord Salisbury. But these despatches and opinions of his, though they may have been intended for the information of his Government, are now publici juris—they have become part of the property of the world. If Sir Henry Elliot goes back to Constantinople, and again remonstrates upon outrages and massacres, the men to whom he remonstrates know all the time that his remonstrances are hemmed in within a fence of iron, because he is prohibited from action by a principle paramount to all other considerations—namely, what English interests require. Were this the time, I should wish to descant upon this principle—that British interests are to be the measure of right and wrong all over the world. What is to be the consequence to civilization and humanity, what is to be the consequence to public order, if British interests are to be the rule for British agents all over the world, and are to be for them the measure of right or wrong? If such a standard is set up for us, you cannot deny to every other nation on the face of the globe the privilege you claim for yourselves. French interests will then be the measure of right and wrong for France; Austrian interests will be the measure of right and wrong for Austria; Russian interests will be the measure of right and wrong for Russia, and will be the justification which you have provided for the promotion of Russian interests all over the world. Sir, I will not lose the right to protest against the assertion of such a doctrine by France, by Austria, by Germany, or by Russia; and therefore I will make my protest now, and make it first, when it is, unhappily, advanced on the part of England, and when three or four Members, dispersed in different parts of this House, seem disposed to support it. Sir, one gets thrown off when one hears such doctrines advanced, but it is absolutely necessary to contro- 606 vert them, and I really believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite must think so too. However, I have done on this point. In a despatch of Sir Henry Elliot dated September 30, and in another despatch. dated October 20, he gives his opinion upon three points of the utmost importance. First, he gives his opinion as to the signature of any Protocol by the European Powers with respect to the internal affairs of Turkey. Now, recollect that, at this moment, Her Majesty's Government are engaged in. negotiations on this very subject with the Powers of Europe, and, if they can agree as to terms and other conditions, are about to sign a Protocol upon the internal affairs of Turkey. Sir Henry Elliot says, if I understand him, that anything recorded in a Protocol will be an infringement of the Treaty of Paris. He says—The Protocol will constitute an infringement of the provisions of the Treaty of Paris, for it will confer upon the Powers the right of interference in the internal administration, from which by that Treaty they were debarred.—[Turkey, No. 1. (1877), p. 424.]But that is exactly the object of the Protocol we are now about. That Protocol, as we are given to understand, contemplates the interference of the Powers in general with the reforms finally admitted to be necessary—that is to say, reforms which include foreign interference in the domestic affairs of Turkey. How is it possible that Sir Henry Elliot, in such circumstances, can become the Representative of British opinion at Constantinople? If Sir Henry Elliot were a man of less firmness of character, if I thought more meanly of him, I might have been glad to think that he might become a fitting organ of opinions different from those which he before advocated. So much for the Protocol. But here is a principle upon which all the proceedings of the Government during what I may call their best period were founded. That principle formed the distinction drawn by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary between inconvertible paper and real currency when. he said—"We cannot take promises; we must have guarantees." But what does Sir Henry Elliot say upon guarantees? He says—Against the proposal to obtain a guarantee for the execution of those measures by an International Commission or any other direct foreign 607 control, there are many, and, as appears to me, insuperable arguments to oppose."—[Turkey, No. 1. (1877), p. 580.]These are his concientious convictions, made known to the Government, and published to Parliament and the world. I do not believe for one moment that they were used by him at the time to embarrass Lord Salisbury, but yet utterly crippling and paralyzing him as the Representative of this country in the main purpose which he contemplated in the settlement of these affairs. And here is another question, which may be said to be of less importance; still, he speaks of it as if it were important. In the same despatch Sir Henry Elliot uses these words—"Russia having formerly pretended to a right of protection over certain subjects of the Sultan," &c. There Sir Henry Elliot says that the Russian protection is a pretence. I should like to know whether any Member of Her Majesty's Government will countersign that declaration? It is an historical fact—I stated it the other night—that Russia obtained that protectorate by the Treaty of Kainardji. [Mr. BOURKE dissented.] I hope that the next time the hon. Gentleman addresses the House he will give expression to his opinion and the ground on which it is based; but I tell him that he differs from every historian, from every legist, and from every Secretary of State and Minister who had anything to do with the War of 1854. What was disputed then was not the question of a Russian right of protection, but the extent and construction to be put upon it. But never, as I believe, from the commencement of the quarrel in 1854 was it denied on the part of the British Government that the Treaty of Kainardji conferred a certain right of protection on the Russian Government. I have given the opinions with regard to the Protocol and guarantees, and with regard to the paramount nature of British interests as necessarily controlling, and, it may be, overruling our proceedings on behalf of humanity in Turkey, as being conclusive reasons why Sir Henry Elliot cannot possibly become an adequate Representative of British interests under the circumstances which are now before us at Constantinople. I heartily wish him a long and distinguished career; but not at Constantinople. I pass on now to another matter. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bourke) found 608 fault with the policy of silence maintained on this side of the House. That policy was adopted at the desire of the Government; it was at the express request of the Government. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Not on the appeal of the Government.] It was distinctly approved by the Government and admitted by my noble Friend on this side in deference to public principle, and so recognized by Government, that we should remain silent in consequence of the negotiations that were going on. But the hon. Gentleman taunted us with this policy of silence, and said it had not been owing to the views of the Government. Well, I will not depart from it now. I have given no opinion as to the coercion or non-coercion since the first night of the Session in deference to that principle, and I will still observe the same rule of abnegation. But the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight seemed astonished at the allegation that outrages were being continued in Bulgaria. There is no doubt that they have continued, or that they do continue from day to day; and it is much to be lamented that we have not more methodical and rapid information from the Government on the subject. When we do get information, on an average three or four months old, we are open to the question—"How do you know that the outrages are going on now?" And when we ask for information, the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary very courteously says that we shall have another Blue Book when Lord Derby thinks it good for us, and I have no doubt in the order and arrangement of the last Blue Book. I never before in my life saw a Blue Book of 1,200 pages containing such a mixture of subjects.
§ MR. BOURKE
was understood to say that in the preparation of the Blue Book the usual practice had been followed.
But this is a reforming Government, and should seek to improve arrangements when they are defective. The other night I had a long catalogue of these outrages—the times, places, persons, and particulars—some of which I meant to have laid before the Government. I will not refer to that catalogue how, because I have got another catalogue since. I have two journals from Constantinople containing an account of similar outrages, with their particulars, and it will give the 609 House an idea of what is going on in that miserable country. Here, for instance, in a letter from Rutschuk, in the district of Ternivo, is an account of a murder on March 13, another on March 14, and another on March 15. [An hon. MEMBER: On what authority?] On the authority of a newspaper, which, if he likes, I will show to the hon. Gentleman; it is a newspaper of some name and character, but I do not like to name it in this House, because it is within my own knowledge that it has been suppressed before, and I do not wish to have it suppressed again. But if the hon. Gentleman were to see it, he would find that the particulars have stamped upon them the fullest evidence of good faith. I think it will show that "this semi-civilized country"—which I do not recognize as semi-civilized at all, because by semi-civilized I understand a country on its way to true civilization, and which has accomplished half the journey—has immense ingenuity for particular purposes. Here is a case which will show that ingenuity. I pass by all the murders and worse outrages, and give a case of plunder. On the 8th of March a zaptieh and two other Turks went by night to a village, and there took with them a garde-champêtre, and began to pay nocturnal visits, plundering the inhabitants and taking from them their money, and wounding many of them. The inhabitants brought their complaint before the authorities, and the parties charged were taken up. That often happens, but then what happens is usually this — the people make their charge, but when asked for witnesses, they say they were going along the road when they were attacked, and had no witnesses to call, and so the parties charged are released. But in this case the garde-champêtre gave evidence against the zaptieh and the other two men. There was a regular cul-de-sac it would seem, for the local authorities, but the resources of their ingenuity were not exhausted, for they produced a Greek doctor who declared that the garde-champêtre was out of his mind. I know the House is limited in point of time, and I will not further detain it. I must again express my hope that the Government will recollect the condition in which it stands with regard to these outrages, and the aggravated form they may possibly in certain circumstances assume; 610 and that they will make it their care and study to take the measures which they may deem wisest for the purpose of protecting the lives and property of the subject-races in any coming crisis in the unhappy Provinces of European Turkey.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Mr. Speaker, I regret to say that it is impossible for me to enter into any elaborate argument in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, because we are in this position—that we have only 20 minutes left during which any Business can be done. If we do not close the Sitting by 10 minutes to 7, we shall be obliged to meet this evening, and shall lose the Motion for adjournment over the holidays till late to-night; and, moreover, we shall lose the Notices which many hon. Members are anxious to give. I therefore find that I am unable to enter fully into this matter. But I rejoice to think that my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State, representing the Department which is specially concerned in this matter, has had the opportunity of delivering a speech which has been entirely satisfactory to all hs Colleagues, and which is, I think, a complete answer to the statements made on this occasion. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) has adverted to that speech, and said it was characterized by too much violence and vehemence for the occasion. My hon. Friend certainly used some strong, but not un-Parliamentary expressions. I venture to say that under the circumstances warmth was not only excusable but justifiable and proper. Why, what is it that we feel to be so hard in this matter? What is it that my hon. Friend especially, representing as he does the Foreign Secretary, feels to be so injurious to his feelings as to call forth that warmth? It is that an attack which ought to be an attack upon the policy of the Government has taken the shape—I know not whether intentionally or not, but most unquestionably it has taken that shape—of an attack on an individual; the Representative of his Government, acting, not in his individual capacity, but as the servant, the faithful and the able servant, of his Government, under circumstances of the most trying character. It is all very well for us to sit here and to speak or write in this country with regard to these transactions, which have caused so much feeling, and so much natural and proper 611 feeling. But we have to remember that the position of Sir Henry Elliot was one of very great difficulty, and of a very different character from that of those who criticise him so freely. He was placed at Constantinople as the Representative of Her Majesty's Government; and although I entirely agree, in the true and proper sense of the words, with the indignant repudiation by the right hon. Gentleman of any such doctrine as the allowing of any desire for the interests of England to override the claim of humanity; yet I say that in the position which Sir Henry Elliot occupied at Constantinople, sent there, as he was, to represent the interests of this country, it was his duty—and it was a duty which he recognized and fulfilled honourably and nobly—to give full effect to these interests, and to lay before his Government those things which he considered the circumstances of the case demanded. I have said before—and I would say it a hundred times if I were called upon to do so—that in this matter there is no collision between the true interests of humanity and the true interests of England. We repudiate altogether the idea that the true interests of England can ever consist in ignoring the claims of humanity. It would be to falsify the history of this country—it would be a descent from the position which we hold in the eyes of the civilized world if we were to admit that idea for one moment. It was not that we were indifferent—it was not that Sir Henry Elliot was indifferent to the sufferings of the Christian population of Turkey—the question was, in what manner could we best provide that which it was most difficult to provide for—namely, the present mitigation and the ultimate removal of those causes of discontent, of disease, which we feel to be a source of danger as well as of suffering to Turkey, and therefore to Europe and to all civilized Powers. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking of the conduct of Sir Henry Elliot, referred to other days when he himself was connected with the Government, and alluded to that period as one of a comparatively tranquil character. It was a period of that description, and some have thought that perhaps advantage ought to have been taken of that comparatively tranquil period to make matters better for the Christians of Turkey, and to endeavour 612 to provide against the misgovernment which has been the cause of so much pain and suffering. But the period during which the present Government and Sir Henry Elliot have been dealing with these questions has not been one of a tranquil character in Turkey itself, or in that part of Europe. The policy which we have been pursuing in endeavouring to bring about a satisfactory settlement of these questions has been rendered doubly and trebly difficult by Turkey being unfortunately torn by internal troubles, by rapid changes of Government in that country, by violent revolutions unknown almost even in the history of the East, and by pressure and war from without. We say that all these things must be taken into account, not as diminishing the evil, and not as rendering it unnecessary for us to grapple with that evil, but as rendering it necessary for us to be at once firm, prudent, and careful in what we do. I have not time to enter into the matter properly; but I do wish to say this one thing. We recognize in every possible way the necessity for using our influence in endeavouring to bring about an amelioration in the condition of those who are now suffering from Turkish misrule. We also believe that an improvement ought to take place in the organization of our Diplomatic and Consular Services throughout Turkey. There is much to be done in that way; and the subject is one which is engaging the serious attention of Lord Derby at this moment. If we are to do anything it must be done with caution and prudence; but, at the same time, with a determination to make such improvements in the Service as may enable us to get better information, and more efficiently to exercise the vigilance which it is desirable and possible for one Government to exercise over another. But depend upon it, you cannot improve a Government, though you may destroy a Government, by coercion. You may coerce a country in order to put a stop to a war, or to begin a war; but you cannot, effectually at all events, coerce a country to improve its administration unless you carry that country with you. You must deal with it in a different spirit. But I feel, as I said before, that we must close this discussion. I only wish, in conclusion, to make one remark in answer to a personal observation. My right hon. Friend the Member for 613 Greenwich has said that there had been some kind of appeal by the Government to Members of this House not to raise discussions on this subject. I suppose he refers to what I said when there was a question of resuming the debate, which he himself raised, on the Treaty question. I did not make such an appeal. On the contrary, the noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Hartington), I think, himself asked whether the Government considered that an appropriate or inappropriate time for the debate going on. I said the Government would not at all interpose or express any wish that the House should not go on; but I did say that, looking to what was going on at that moment, I did not think it a particularly expedient time, and I advised the House not to enter into the discussion. At the same time, I said it would not be a matter that I should wish to appeal to the House about. It did so happen that the day on which that question was raised was the very day on which we had received the last Russian proposal; and, having received it, but not having had time to consider it, it struck me as not a particularly desirable moment for discussion. But we have never appealed to Members not to raise discussion. One other word before I sit down. With reference to the Kainardji Treaty, we dispute altogether the construction put on it by my right hon. Friend. We enter our protest against that construction, and we contend that the despatches of Lord Clarendon will prove that the construction of my right hon. Friend is not the correct one. I ask the House now to allow this discussion to close; and I hope that you, Sir, will be allowed to put the Question of the adjournment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.