§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [6th December], "That the said Address be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. WHITBREAD,
in rising to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice, said: Sir, it was not my desire to have moved the Motion of which I gave Notice upon this occasion. I should much have preferred if it had stood as a Resolution by itself. I had no desire to break in upon the practice —I think a very good one—which has prevailed in recent years of allowing the Address to pass without any Amendment being proposed. I was anxious, for another reason, to have moved my Resolution independently; because I did not desire that hon. Members opposite should suppose that my Motion was moved as an Amendment to any Vote for Supplies for our Army now engaged in Afghanistan. What I wish to obtain is the decision of the House upon the subject, as disclosed in the Papers which have been laid upon the Table. My Motion refers to the past conduct of Her Majesty's Government; and I do not wish that it should be mixed up with questions of the present or of the future. I am well aware of the vast interests which are touched by those who speak of the affairs of our Indian Empire; but I do not believe that any harm can arise from arguments directed solely to considerations of strict and impartial justice. I do not wish to be led away into saying anything upon the various questions that surround the one which I wish to bring under the notice of the House. I do not intend to say more than a single word upon the war which is now going on, and that is, as I have already said in another place, that it seems to me to be unnecessary and unjust. But, although I should not advise the stoppage of Supplies, I think that 311 in the moment of success we might do that which we could not do if we were to suffer a reverse; and I maintain that directly we have obtained a substantial success, we should be justified in doing our best to terminate the war. I would further express a hope that any demands which may be made by the Indian Government upon Shere Ali should be as little humiliating as possible; and I cannot help thinking that the course of the debates will show that, at all events, such grave errors have been committed that it is our strict and bounden duty to come down somewhat in the conditions which some might deem it necessary to impose, and from the arrogant position we nave assumed. Now, in the first place, I must ask the House to consider what has been the policy of previous Governments in relation to this question. The first extract in the Papers which have been laid before us to which I would ask the attention of the House will be found in page 44 of the Afghanistan Papers. It is an extract from a despatch of the 4th of January, 1869, from the Government of Lord Lawrence to the India Office at home. They set forth in paragraph 5 the policy which they recommend. They say—We venture to sum up the policy which is recommended or supported, in various languages and by various arguments in our Minutes, somewhat as follows:—We object to any active interference in the affairs of Afghanistan by the deputation of a high British officer with or without a contingent, or by the forcible or amicable occupation of any post or tract in that country beyond our own Frontier, inasmuch as we think such a measure would, under present circumstances, engender irritation, defiance, and hatred in the minds of the Afghans, without in the least strengthening our power either for attack or defence. We think it impolitic and unwise to decrease any of the difficulties which would be entailed on Russia, if that Power seriously thought of invading India, as we should certainly decrease them if we left our own Frontier, and met her half way in a difficult country, and, possibly, in the midst of a hostile or exasperated population. We foresee no limits to the expenditure which such a move might require, and we protest against the necessity of having to impose additional taxation on the people of India, who are unwilling, as it is to bear such pressure for measures which they can both understand and appreciate. And we think that the objects which we have at heart, in common with all interested in India, may be attained by an attitude of readiness and firmness on our Frontier, and by giving all our care and expending all our resources for the attainment of practical and sound ends over which we can exercise an effective and immediate control.312 That was the policy which was pronounced by Lord Lawrence's Government, and it was the policy which was followed in the time of Lord Mayo and Lord Northbrook—what they desired to see was a strong, just, and merciful Government established in Afghanistan, which should be an independent State, and friendly to the English Government. I should like, in the next place, to read an extract from a private letter of Lord Mayo, which was written not long after the Umballa Durbar, which showed that Lord Mayo's views were the same as those enunciated in the despatch of Lord Lawrence's Government. The extract is taken from Hunter's Life of Lord Mayo, and it appears in page 271 of that work. It is as follows:—Surround India with strong, friendly, and independent States, who will have more interest in keeping well with us than with any other Power, and we are safe. The Central Asia question is only a bugbear if prudence be observed, and will have no reality for many years to come.In another letter he said—Our influence has been considerably strengthened both in our own territories and also in the States of Central Asia by the Umballa meeting, and if we can only persuade people that our policy is non-intervention and peace, that England is at this moment the only non-aggressive Power in Asia, we should stand on a pinnacle of power that we have never enjoyed before.That was Lord Mayo's opinion, as expressed in a private letter. At page 93 of the Afghanistan Papers will be found paragraph 4 of the despatch of the Government of India to the Duke of Argyll, dated the 1st of July, 1869, which is as follows:—We entirely agree with the principles laid down in Tour Grace's despatch, i. e., that it is for the interest of our Indian Empire that there should be a strong and settled government in Afghanistan, such as may promote commerce with us and protect the people of the country from the evils of civil war; that the discretion of the Indian Government should be kept absolutely free as to the occasions on which such assistance should be given or withheld;' that further, we should abstain from exercising 'any interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan,' and give no pledge which would lead the Ameer to believe that we should ever countenance or support a notoriously cruel and oppressive Government.It will be remembered that, shortly after Lord Mayo became Viceroy, at the wish of Shere Ali a Conference was held at Umballa, the result of which was stated 313 in the despatch from which I have just read. No doubt when Shere Ali met Lord Mayo he asked for more than the British Government could give him; for years before the Conference Shere Ali had been engaged in a tedious civil war, and had great difficulty in seating himself firmly on the Throne. He desired, therefore, not only pecuniary assistance from the British Government, but also dynastic pledges, which would secure for the heir of his choice the succession to the Throne, and guarantee his country against the evils of civil war. Lord Mayo received him nobly; and all who remembered and deplored the noble Lord, will recollect that he was well calculated to make an impression on such a Ruler as Shere Ali. Lord Mayo thus summed up the practical results of the Conference in the despatch dated the 1st of July, 1869, which will be found in page 94 of the Papers—While we distinctly intimated to the Ameer that, under no circumstances, should a British soldier ever cross his Frontier to assist him in coercing his rebellious subjects; that no European officers would be placed as Residents in his cities; that no fixed subsidy or money allowance would be given for any named period; that no promise of assistance in other ways would be made; that no Treaty would be entered into, obliging us under every circumstance to recognize him and his descendants Rulers of Afghanistan, yet that we were prepared by the most open and absolute present recognition, …. to give all the moral support in our power, and that in addition we were willing to assist him with money, arms, ammunition, Native artificers, and in other ways, whenever we deemed it possible or desirable to do so.Having read that paragraph once or twice, I was a little astonished the other evening at hearing my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. E. Stanhope) assert that no promise whatever had ever been given to the Ameer that he should not be required to receive British officers in his country, and that the point was never mentioned between him and the Ameer. According to The Times, my hon. Friend ventured to say that no such promise had ever been given; and that he could only reply that Lord Mayo made no mention of such a communication in his despatch home, and had never mentioned it to the Ameer. It is difficult to reconcile that statement with the paragraph which I have just read.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I did not say exactly what I am reported to have said. What I did say was, that in the conversation which took place between the Ameer and Lord Mayo the latter never mentioned the subject of a Resident Agent.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
The hon. Member has mistaken my point, which was, not whether the subject was ever mentioned between the individual Viceroy and the individual Ameer, but whether such a promise had ever been given. The gist of the hon. Member's argument was that no attempt was made to impose a Resident Agent upon the Ruler of Afghanistan contrary to a promise that had been given, and he said that no such promise was ever given. But the subject was thus summed up in the very next page of Lord Mayo's despatch—The position of affairs at the close of the Conferences may, in the Viceroy's words, confidentially addressed to Your Grace, be summed up as follows:—Firstly, what the Ameer is not to have—no Treaty, no fixed subsidy, no European troops, officers, or Residents, no dynastic pledges. Secondly, what he is to have—warm countenance and support, discouragement of his rivals, such material assistance as we may consider absolutely necessary for his immediate wants, constant and friendly communication through our Commissioner at Peshawur, and our Native Agents in Afghanistan; he, on his part, undertaking to do all he can to maintain peace on our Frontier, and to comply with all our wishes on matters connected with trade.After reading that extract, the hon. Member cannot contend that no promise was ever made to the Ameer that he should not be required to receive European officers as Residents. Very possibly the subject was never mentioned between the Ameer and the Viceroy; but that was only because it was an unmentionable topic. Dost Mahomed, the father of the present Ruler of Afghanistan had said if we desired to remain friends with the Afghans we ought not to force them to receive European officers as Residents. However, the fact is that at the time of the Umballa Conference the subject was broached to the Ameer; and if Lord Mayo did not do so himself it was on account of Shere Ali's known hostility to the project. I will not weary the House by recounting the various occasions on which the policy of non-intervention has been approved in this and in the other House of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman 315 the Chancellor of the Exchequer has twice expressed his approval of the policy of non-intervention—on the 9th of July, 1869, and on the 22nd of April, 1873. I also recollect a very strong statement of Lord Derby in the same direction—to the effect that the Protectorate of Afghanistan must necessarily follow, if we forced the Ameer against his will to receive our officer as a Resident. It is desirable, at this point, to call the attention of the House to what was our understanding with Russia; and if hon. Members will turn to the Papers they will find the understanding set forth at page 104 of the Papers. In the 6th paragraph of the despatch from Lord Northbrook to the Duke of Argyll, dated the 30th of June, 1873, it is said—In the latter part of the year 1869 the presence of Mr. Douglas Forsyth at St. Petersburg afforded an opportunity for a more full discussion of the proposals which were under the consideration of the two Governments. The subject of the influence which should be exercised by Russia and Great Britain respectively, over the States on their Frontiers was frankly entered into, and it was agreed that beyond the limit of the Provinces which the Ameer of Afghanistan then held he should not attempt to exercise any interference or influence, that the good offices of England should be exerted to restrain him from all thought of aggression, and that, similarly, Russia should exercise all her influence to restrain Bokhara from transgressing the limits of Afghan territory.And then, at the end of paragraph 7, Prince Gortchakoff is reported to havestated that he saw no objection to English officers visiting Cabul, though he agreed [with the Earl of Mayo that Russian Agents should not do so.I think that that is an important admission on the part of the Russian Representative. At the bottom of the page we shall see the further declaration of Prince Gortchakoff. It is said thatPrince Gortchakoff, on the conclusion of these communications, requested Sir Andrew Buchanan to tell Lord Clarendon that' as both Governments are free from all arrières-penseés, ambitious views, or unfriendly feelings towards each other, the more fully and frankly all questions connected with Central Asia are discussed between them the more effectually will the 'mists' be blown away which, through the misrepresentations of over-zealous subordinate Agents, may, at any time, hang over them.Moreover, the result of the communication that had passed was thus summarized by Prince Gortchakoff in a de- 316 spatch to Count Brunnow on the 1st of November, 1871—
- (a.) "That the territory in the actual possession at the present moment of Shere Ali Khan should be considered to constitute the limits of Afghanistan.
- (b.) "That beyond these limits the Ameer should make no attempt to exercise any influence or interference, and that the English Government should do all in their power to restrain him from any attempts at aggression.
- (c.) "That for their part the Imperial Government should use all their influence to prevent any attack by the Ameer of Bokhara upon Afghan territory.These principles had been unreservedly accepted both by the Cabinet of London and the Governor General of India."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 105.]That was the position of affairs between Russia and England as relating to Afghanistan at the time of which I am speaking; and, as will be seen on referring to page 116, Shere Ali was made fully acquainted with it. I would here note that, as will be found upon the following page (page 106), it was about this time that General Kaufmannassured the Ameer of Afghanistan that he had given no encouragement to Abdool Rahman Khan, the nephew of the Ameer, who was residing as a refugee in Russian territory and was supposed to entertained designs upon the tranquillity of Afghanistan.This Abdool Rahman Khan is the man who, of all others, could be most formidable to the Ameer—much more so even than Yakoob, his son. He was the son of Shere Ali's elder brother, who carried on a civil war against him for so many years, and very nearly prevented him from gaining the Throne. Abdool was still anxious to stir up trouble on the border, and would have done so if General Kaufmann had not dissuaded him. General Kaufmann told him that living within the Turkoman country as a refugee he was not to abuse the hospitality he was receiving by making any attack upon Afghanistan, saying that Russia tad no quarrel either with the Ameer of Afghanistan or with the British Government. At that time it does not appear that Russia was doing anything in her relations with Afghanistan of which this country could complain. I assert that somewhat boldly; because I wish it to be clearly understood that it was the case that up to that time there was nothing of which we had cause to 317 or did complain. This is a fact which I wish to be distinctly understood. In the year 1873 Lord Northbrook had occasion to make the Ameer acquainted with the decision arrived at, both with regard to the boundary of Afghanistan and that of Seistan. The latter, which was the boundary between Afghanistan and Persia, gave considerable offence to Shere Ali, and Lord Northbrook, wishing to explain the matter to him, proposed to send a British officer to Cabul for the purpose. Here I beg the House to observe the course of action taken by Shere Ali. He declined to receive a British officer, and proposed instead that his own Minister should wait upon the Viceroy. Lord Northbrook accepted that proposal; and I mention this point, because it is one constantly recurring in reference to proposals on our part to send European officers to Cabul, which proposals have been just as constantly refused. It is well to bear this in mind, in order that we may the better understand the question when we come to deal with that part of it which relates to the refusal of the Ameer to receive the last Mission. When the Afghan Envoy, Noor Mahomed Shah, came to Simla he opened up, besides the two questions of the boundaries, a great many other questions. He again asked for an unconditional Treaty, his master having complained always that the only Treaty between Afghanistan and England—that of 1855—was a one-sided Treaty, in that it bound the Ruler of Afghanistan to a great many things and bound England to very little. He therefore wanted an unconditional guarantee against external attack; but when asked whether the Ameer would receive European Residents, the Envoy replied that, in the interest of both countries, he could not recommend that the point should be pushed, and that branch of the question was dropped. Lord Northbrook, after referring home, felt justified in giving to the Ameer assurances which went rather beyond those of Lord Mayo; but he got no unconditional guarantee. The result was, that the Envoy went away not quite so well pleased as did Shere Ali from the Durbar at Umballa. He had got assurances that went even further; but I believe the explanation of it is this—that Shere Ali put rather too hopeful a construction upon the promises made to 318 him by Lord Mayo. Though I admit that those promises were very carefully worded, I cannot help thinking that part of the subsequent disappointment of the Ameer results from this. There is a rather curious little reference to this in the Papers, where it is stated, at page 201, that Sir Lewis Pelly thought, in reading over the agreement come to after the Umballa Conference, he detected in the Persian version words which seemed to convey that the English Government would visit with "severe punishment," instead of with "severe displeasure," any attempt on the part of his rivals to disturb his position as Ruler of Cabul, or to stir up civil war in the Kingdom. The reason why no more definite agreement was come to between Lord Northbrook and Noor Mahomed Shah was that, though the Viceroy was prepared there and then to give him something more definite, the Envoy declared that he had no power to treat further. Now, we come to the first part of the story, as it relates to the present Government. On the 22nd of January, 1875, Lord Salisbury instructed the Government of India to address the Ameer, with a view to getting his sanction to a Resident Agent in Afghanistan. This Instruction is conveyed in a despatch, which commences by stating that Her Majesty's Government have followed with anxious attention the progress of events in Central Asia and on the Frontiers of Persia and Afghanistan, and then proceeds as follows:—I have therefore to instruct you to take measures, with as much expedition as the circumstances of the case permit, for procuring the assent of the Ameer to the establishment of a British Agency at Herat. When this is accomplished it may be desirable to take a similar step with regard to Candahar. I do not suggest any similar step with respect to Cabul, as I am sensible of the difficulties which are interposed by the fanatic violence of the people.The next paragraph is a very interesting one. It says—The Ameer has more than once in former years expressed his readiness to permit the presence of an Agent at Herat, and it is therefore not possible that, if his intentions are still loyal, he will make any serious difficulty now."—[Ibid. p. 129.]This, I think, was the beginning of the mistaken policy. I have no doubt Lord Salisbury believed that the Ameer had really consented to receive these Agents; 319 and upon that point I should like to call the attention of the House to one or two other extracts from the Papers which are before us, because it really seems to me to have been the beginning of the mischief—this belief that the Ameer would consent to receive the Envoys. The evidences upon which Lord Salisbury founded that belief are two notes of private conversations which Captain Grey, who acted as Persian interpreter, had with Noor Mahomed Shah at Umballa, and which will be found in page 173 of the Papers. In the despatch which Lord Northbrook wrote home in reference to this one of Lord Salisbury, he expressed an opinion that it was very doubtful, though perhaps possible, that the Ameer had made this concession, or agreed to accept the Residents, in a private conversation with Captain Grey; and he added, that if such an assent was given, it was given in a private conversation, of which there was no official record; and that, therefore, it would be impossible upon such a foundation to press upon the Ameer the reception of these Agents. Captain Grey's note of the conversation which, as I have said, is to be found on page 173 of the Papers, is very curious. It is contained in an "Extract from Memorandum of Conversations between Captain Grey and Noor Mahomed Shah, dated 31st March, and 1st April, 1869;" and in the first conversation it is recorded that the Ameeris open to any proposition for securing his northern border, while doubtful of any Russian power for aggression for some years to come, still thinks precautions should be taken; would construct forts on his own part or under our superintendence and admit European garrisons if ever desired; would gladly see an Agent or Engineer superintendent there (in Balkh), Herat, or anywhere but actually in Cabul, which might lead to the supposition of his being a puppet.But on the very next day Captain Grey had another conversation with this same Noor Mahomed Shah, and it is recorded that—The Secretary asked him if the Ameer would sanction Native Agents in Afghanistan either as visitors or as permanent residents, supposing the British Government wished it; the Minister replied that he did not wish to commit himself, and asked, rather anxiously, whether European Agents were intended, observing at the same time that it was of no use to send any but Mahomedans, Hindoos were of no good at all.320 That is the evidence, as far as Captain Grey is concerned; and the question is of some importance, because it is referred to again in the Instructions given to Sir Lewis Pelly in reference to the Conference at Peshawur. I have yet to learn that the assent to the Resident Agents was given, or given in such a form that it could possibly be used against the Ameer at all; and I want to draw the attention of the House to a short statement which has been made by Mr. Seton-Karr, who was Foreign Secretary to the Government of India in 1869, at the time of the Umballa Durbar. Mr. Seton-Karr has not authorized me, personally, to make use of his statement; but he entrusted it to a friend, with full power to use it as he thought most fitting. Mr. Seton-Karr states thathe was the bearer of every confidential communication between Lord Mayo and the Ameer, and was present at every interview between them. He gave Lord Lawrence an account of what occurred in a letter dated the 5th of April, 1869, which he has authorized Lord Lawrence to use. In that letter there is the following paragraph:—'He, Shere Ali, is told that we don't want British officers as Residents at Cabul or anywhere else, and he says they would do him harm in the eyes of his people.'I can hardly believe, therefore, that there was a real assent to the reception of these officers as Residents. If there was, it was given in very private conversations with Captain Grey, and on condition of dynastic pledges and an almost unconditional Treaty, without which nothing would have been done. After a delay of some months, Lord North-brook's Government in India replied to the despatch of Lord Salisbury. In that reply it was set forth that, in the opinion of Lord Northbrook, Lord Salisbury very much underrated the value of the Native Agents the Government already had in Afghanistan; he denied that any real information which it was necessary for them to possess had ever been kept back by these Agents; he asked what piece of information which they ought to have known could be pointed to which had not been received from these Agents; and he went on to express the opinion entertained by everyone around him that the value of British Residents in Afghanistan would be positively nil, unless the Ameer and his people cordially welcomed them. There is not 321 wanting some evidence of this. There are the cases, both recent, of Major Todd at Herat, and Major Lumsden at Candahar, both of whom were as much imprisoned as they would have been if shut up in a gaol, with regard to the information they could get or transmit to their Government. They were watched on all sides; and no one was allowed to have access to them, except those who could tell the story which it was desired should be known. There is, in short, no more difficult position than that of a British officer residing in the midst of a hostile population, determined that he should neither obtain, nor transmit any information which could be of value. The fact of the matter is that, as things at present stand, more could be learnt of Afghanistan affairs by an official residing at Peshawur, than by similar functionaries living in Herat or Candahar. With regard to the larger question—whether the Ameer would willingly receive these Residents—Lord Northbrook took considerable pains to ascertain the views of all those who were entitled to speak on the subject, and for that purpose he addressed a communication to the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, in order to obtain his views, and those of such officials as might be considered competent to advise on the following points:—First, whether the Ameer of Afghanistan would willingly consent to the appointment of British officers as Residents at Herat and Candahar, or at either place; second, whether the presence of such Residents at either place would he advantageous to the British Government; third, whether the Lieutenant Governor was satisfied with the sufficiency and accuracy of the intelligence received from the British Agent at Cabul, and if not, whether his Honour could suggest any way of procuring fuller and more accurate intelligence."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 130.]The answers received to these questions were practically unanimous. The opinion of the Punjab Government, set forth at page 132 of the Papers, is in these words—If the concurrence of all those who may be supposed to have the means of forming a correct judgment of the sentiments of the Ameer is of any value, we must be prepared to find him most unwilling to receive a British Agent at Herat. On this the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, Sir Richard Pollock, Major-General Reynell Taylor, Colonel Munro, and Captain Cavagnari are all agreed, and their views are confirmed—1. By those of Nawab Foujdar 322 Khan and Nawab Gholam Hassan Khan, who have successively served as British Agent at Cabul, and who have means of knowing the present sentiments of the Ameer. 2. By the opinion of Noor Mahomed Shah, the Cabul Envoy, who, when at Simla in 1873, advised the Foreign Secretary that a specific request should not be preferred to the Ameer for British officers to be stationed within the Afghan dominions. 3. By the recent acts of the Ameer in objecting to permit Sir D. T. Forsyth to traverse Balkh on his return journey from Yarkund and in discouraging Colonel Baker from returning to India from Teheran viâ Cabul.There was a remarkable agreement among all these officers on the subject; and it seems to me to have been a very strong step for the Government at home to re-open this question, and to insist upon sending these Resident Agents into the territories of the Ameer against his will. Lord Salisbury, believing that the Ameer had previously consented, remarked that if he was still loyal it was not possible that he should refuse now to receive them. On this the Indian Government very properly remarked that it did not necessarily follow that because the Ameer declined to receive these Residents he had become disloyal. There were strong grounds for his refusal; because there cannot be a doubt that there was a very strong party—if not an unanimous people—in Afghanistan opposed to the reception of these Residents. I, for one, doubt very much whether the Ameer could have maintained his rule if he had permitted these Agents to reside in his dominions. What did his people believe on the subject? You will find, from every page of this Book, their belief to have been that if once they allowed these British Residents to come in their independence was gone. You may cast all sorts of hard words against these people of Afghanistan. They have been called barbarous, and I daresay they are; they have been described as treacherous, and I daresay the description is accurate; they may be called an uncivilized race, who will not admit strangers within their country if they can help it; but, at all events, they are independent, and love their independence. Neither Lord Salisbury nor Lord Lytton seem to have realized the feeling entertained by the whole people of Afghanistan upon this subject of the British Resident. They said—If we once admit him, he will be writing all sorts of reports about 323 us to his Government, and then they will come and interfere with us and take our country from us; at any rate, it is not possible that we should maintain our independence in the management of our own internal affairs if we once admit him. Before I leave this despatch, there is one more paragraph which I wish to mention, and that is the one in which Sir Richard Pollock expresses hisconviction that no unfavourable change whatever had occurred in the disposition of His Highness, and that he leaned as much as ever on the British Government."—[Ibid. p. 134.]Lord Northbrook, in the same despatch, reminded Lord Salisbury of the promise given at the Umballa Conference on the question of the Resident British Agents, and begged to be allowed to continue the conciliatory policy followed by so many Viceroys. It was not long, however, before the Home Government returned to the charge; and on the 19th of November, 1875, Lord Salisbury wrote a despatch to the Indian Government, in which he urged them to find—or, as he said, "if need be, to create"—an opportunity for sending a Mission to secure the assent of the Ameer to the British Residents in his dominions. Lord Northbrook's Government did not take so long to reply this time; and I am glad to say that they adhered firmly to the policy which they had already announced as their wish to follow. They asked for a re-consideration of the whole question; expressed a doubt whether Lord Salisbury had weighed all the reasons advanced in their former communications; and repeated some of them. With respect to the proposal for finding or creating an occasion for sending a Mission to the Ameer with the object indicated, they very properly pointed out that if it were thought necessary to send such a Mission at all, the most advisable course would be—To state frankly and fully to the Ameer the real purpose of the Mission, and to invite him to enter cordially into those closer relations with the British Government which the Mission is to endeavour to establish. The Ameer and his advisers are shrewd enough to understand that only matters of grave political importance could induce us to send a special Mission to His Highness' Court. If the Mission were ostensibly directed to objects of minor political importance, the Ameer and his officials would be incredulous. He might then decline to discuss 324 the weightier questions brought forward by our Envoy, and in all probability his confidence in us would he shaken, especially as the proposal to establish British Agents in Afghanistan is, as we pointed out in our despatch of the 7th of June, a departure from the understanding arrived at between Lord Mayo and the Ameer at the Umballa Conferences of 1869."—[Ibid. p. 151.]Then they asked over again that they might not be driven to depart from the policy which was pursued by Lord Lawrence and by Lord Canning and Lord Mayo; and they pointed out that if these British Agents were sent into Afghanistan without the cordial consent of the Ameer, they would run a risk of having insults offered to them for which it would be difficult to hold the Ameer responsible. The despatch also pointed out over again, with considerable detail, the reasons which guided them in asking a further consideration for this matter in their former despatch. It was hardly possible, therefore, that the Viceroy and his Government could have more manfully or sturdily maintained their policy; and I am glad that they did so. Only conceive the way in which this attempt to force British Residents upon Afghanistan was to be carried out! Of what nature were the men with whom they had to deal? Fancy an Englishman, or even a man endowed with all the shrewdness of a Scotchman, endeavouring to create an opportunity, and putting forward some flimsy pretext to suspicious Asiatics, thoroughly awake to what was going on, and then imagining that they would not see through it! Lord Lytton succeeded Lord Northbrook as Viceroy; and we are told in one of his despatches that he went out to India well prepared to deal with this question, after previous communication with the Government at home and with the Russian Ambassador. I do not at all complain of his communicating with the Russian Ambassador before leaving London. It was natural that the Viceroy who was going out should take every opportunity of learning the views of the Russian Ambassador; but there is a very ugly interpretation to be put on some things that occurred afterwards in connection with this proceeding. Lord Lytton went out with powers to give more definite declarations of support to the Ameer, and to obtain more definite arrangements on the subject of Resident Agents in 325 Afghanistan. These powers appeared partly to be contained in the Instructions drawn out for him by the Secretary of State. These Instructions state that—Her Majesty's Government are, therefore, prepared to sanction and support any more definite declaration which may, in your judgment, secure to their unaltered policy the advantages of which it has been hitherto deprived by an apparent doubt of its sincerity. But they must reserve to themselves entire freedom of judgment as to the character of circumstances involving the obligation of material support to the Ameer, and it must be distinctly understood that only in some clear case of unprovoked aggression would such an obligation arise.And further—The Ameer must be made to understand that, subject to all fair allowance for the condition of the country, and the character of the population, territories ultimately dependent upon British power for their defence must not be closed to those of the Queen's officers or subjects who may be duly authorized to enter them."—[Ibid. p. 159.]That communication when made to the Ameer would naturally strengthen him in his notion, that when once he had admitted British Agents there would be an end of his independence. Lord Lytton wrote, on the 5th May, 1876, his first letter to the Ameer. It will be found at page 174 of the Blue Book. It was nominally from the Commissioner at Peshawur to the Ameer; but, of course, it was written under the instigation and the directions of the Viceroy. He says to Shere Ali, that as soon as he heard of the arrival of the Viceroy in IndiaI lost no time in waiting on him; and in the course of a lengthened interview with which I was honoured by his Excellency, the present Viceroy inquired very cordially after your Highness's health and welfare, and those of his Highness Abdoollah Jan; intimating his intention of deputing to your Highness, as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made, his friend, Sir Lewis Pelly, who has accompanied his Excellency from England, and who will return so soon as his interviews with your Highness are completed. Sir Lewis Pelly will be accompanied by Dr. Bellow and Major St. John for the purpose of delivering to your Highness in person a khureeta, informing your Highness of his Excellency's accession to office, and formally announcing to your Highness the addition which Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to make to Her Sovereign titles in respect to Her Empire of India.That was the opportunity, or the pretext, which the Viceroy found or created, or 326 rather, which I suppose was created for him at home. The Ameer looked at the last few lines of that letter—for that is the pith of it—and soon saw through it. The letter, after assuring the Ameer of the friendly feelings by which the Viceroy's intention was prompted, went on to say thatSir Lewis Pelly, who is honoured by the new Viceroy with his Excellency's fullest confidence, will be able to discuss with your Highness matters of common interest to the two Governments.I do not complain of the tone of that letter; but there you have the pretext of announcing his own accession to office and the assumption of the title of Empress; and then comes the pith of the letter, which, as in many other cases, is contained in the last line, and of course Shere Ali, being pretty wide awake to what was on foot, was not deceived by it. The Ameer replied on the 22nd of May. His reply will be found at page 175 of the Blue Book. He says—In the particular of the coming of the Sahibs for the purpose of certain (some) matters of the two Governments is this—that the Agent of this friend formerly personally held political parleys at the Station of Simla on these subjects. These having been considered sufficient, and efficient, were entered in two letters … and need not be repeated now.And he goes on to say—At this time, if there be any new parleys for the purpose of refreshing and benefiting the God-given State of Afghanistan entertained in the thoughts, then let it be hinted, so that a confidential Agent of this friend, arriving in that place and being presented with the things concealed in the generous heart of the English Government, should reveal them to the suppliant at the Divine Throne, in order that the matters weighed by a minute and exact investigation may be committed to the pen of affectionate writing.I think it is clear from that, that Shere Ali saw through the pretexts of announcing the arrival of the Viceroy and the addition of Empress to the Queen's titles. He saw that we wanted him to do something in reference to British Agents, or something else, and he first wished to know what it was. This answer appears to have angered the Viceroy; and, as will be found at page 175, the Native Agent at the Court of Cabul wrote a letter, which was, to a certain extent, explanatory of the Ameer's reply. The Native Agent says the 327 Ameer was afraid that the real meaning of the thing was, that he was to be ordered to receive British Residents; and he observes that, as to the coming of the Sahibs, in his view of the state of affairs it is not advisable, remarking, that the point chiefly to be regarded is, that even if for the purpose of securing the good-will of the British Government the Ameer should consent to receive a British Agent, and to make the necessary arrangements for his safety, then this grave difficulty would arise—that what was done could not be concealed from the Russian authorities, who were on his northern borders, who were extremely fearless, and who would want to have Agents in his country too. Now that may, perhaps, have been an excuse; but, at all events, it shows that there was no more desire to receive Russian Agents than British on the part of the Ameer. I quote this, because it is held that the great desire of Shere Ali was to receive Russian Agents, and not English; but I do not think that proposition can be maintained. The second letter of the Viceroy, dated 8th July, 1876, and which will be found at page 176 of the Papers, gives the first indication of the new—that is, the threatening—policy which has landed us in our present situation. In the last paragraph it says—I am to repeat that, in proposing to send a friendly Mission to your Highness, the Viceroy has been actuated by a cordial desire, which it rests with your Highness to reciprocate, for the continuance, on closer terms than heretofore, of amicable relations between the two Governments in view of common interests, more particularly affecting Afghanistan and the personal welfare of your Highness and your dynasty. It will, for this reason, cause the Viceroy sincere regret, if your Highness, by hastily rejecting the hand of friendship now frankly held out to you, should render nugatory the friendly intentions of his Excellency, and oblige him to regard Afghanistan as a State which has voluntarily isolated itself from the alliance and support of the British Government.Here was the first distinct threat of the withdrawal of all support from the Ameer if he did not accede to the Viceroy's proposals. That threat was conveyed in language which was certainly direct. It is here important to bear in mind one fact connected with the Russian Agent at Cabul, and that is this—that we never find that anything was done by a Russian Agent at Cabul which could be complained of by our Government prior 328 to the receipt by the Ameer of this threatening letter. Let the House turn to the Central Asian Papers, and at page 79 they will find proof of what I have just said. At the foot of that page, in a telegram dated September 16, 1876, sent from Simla by the Viceroy to Lord Salisbury, it is stated that the Indian Government would send home by the next mail a despatch expressing a decided opinion on the necessity of Her Majesty's Government remonstrating with Russia on the subject of the Correspondence that had passed with the Ameer, through the hands of Russian Agents, two of whom were then in Cabul. On page 83 of the "Correspondence respecting Central Asia" you will find the written despatch, and also certain enclosures. The point with regard to the enclosures is this—that the earliest intelligence received by us of anything done by the Russian Agent or Agents, of which we could complain, is to be found in the Cabul Diary from the 4th to the 14th of August, 1876. This is the first mention of anything in connection with a Russian Agent at Cabul of which we had cause to complain. Now, if you turn to page 76 of the same Papers you will find that, by the Cabul Diary of the 1st of June, 1876, the Ameer had been in receipt on the previous day of Russian communications. It is recorded that on the receipt of the letters the Ameer summoned the British Agent, and showed him the letter of the Governor of Samarcand to the Naib. Its purport is that the Russian Government, with regard to Afghanistan, aims at nothing but friendship; that Mirza Abdul Karim has left with a Murrasila from the Russian Governor General to the Ameer; and that the Naib should appoint an Agent to escort him to Cabul. I quote this in order to show that up to this time, June, 1876, we had never complained, or had reason to complain, of anything done by the Russian Agent at Cabul, and that the Ameer always acted with openness in sending the communications to us. In order to show that that and previous communications were not regarded with anything like distrust, I would point out to the House that at page 79—Paper No. 70—it is recorded that on the 6th of September, 1876, Lord Derby transmitted to Lord Augustus Loftus, for his information, and without re- 329 mark or complaint of any kind, a copy of a despatch, inclosing these Cabul Diaries of 30th May to 1st June. That, to my mind, shows conclusively that up to the time at which we began to threaten the Ameer he acted with perfect openness. Afterwards, there may, perhaps, have been something to say on the other side. The Viceroy, after sending his second letter to Shere Ali by the Commissioner at Peshawur, also sent certain Instructions, by the same hand and on the same day, to the Native Agent at Cabul, with the last paragraph only of which will I trouble the House, in the following words:—If the Ameer … still declines to receive the Viceroy's Envoy, the responsibility of the result will rest entirely on the Government of Afghanistan, which will thereby have isolated itself from the alliance of that Power which is most disposed, and best able, to befriend it."—[Ibid. p. 177.]This threat having been sent to the Ameer, he sent, on the 3rd of September, 1876, a reply, not altogether unfriendly in character. After suggesting that he disliked the idea of a Mission, the Ameer proceeded—I have come to this conclusion, that if an Envoy of the British Government, and a selected trusted Representative of this Government, should meet on the Frontier to explain mutually the views and wishes of their respective Governments, it would be a very advantageous arrangement; or, should that course not approve itself to the British authorities, then, that the British Agent at Cabul, who has long been intimately acquainted with all my wishes, should be summoned to his own Government, and expound the whole state of affairs, and, having fully understood the desires and projects of the British Government, should return back to me, and explain them all to me in private, after which I should be the better able to decide what course it is incumbent on me to adopt in the interests of my country."—[Ibid. p. 179.]Lord Lytton assented to the proposal; and on the 7th of October, 1876, Nawab Atta Mahomed Khan, the British Native Agent at Cabul, had a conversation with Sir Lewis Pelly at Simla. He stated the Ameer's grievances about the Seistan boundary, about Mahomed Yakoob Khan, and our desire for the appointment of political Agents, and he used the following remarkable phrase:—"that the Ameer regards the Agents from Russia as sources of embarrassment," but hardly knew how to get rid of them. This 330 certainly did not look as if the Ameer had made up his mind to side with the Russians. Upon the question of Yakoob Khan, there can be no doubt that the Ameer was very sore on account of Lord Northbrook's interference; but the facts were really these:—This son was the man to whom the Ameer mainly owed his position. He had fought for his father, and helped him materially to ascend the Throne. They quarrelled, and it was owing to the good offices of Lord Mayo that they were reconciled. After this, Yakoob Khan, being anxious to see the Ameer, came under a safe conduct from Herat to Cabul, when he was immediately cast into prison. Lord Northbrook very properly represented to the Ameer that the assistance rendered to him by England, from the time of Lord Lawrence downwards, had been given to him upon the one ground that England desired to see a strong, just, and merciful Government established in Afghanistan. Now, was it possible that we, who had spent so much money, taken so much pains, and bound ourselves to such obligations to the Ameer, would allow him, without a word of remonstrance, to commit this atrocious act upon his son, who had come to him under a safe conduct? Lord Salisbury frankly said that this was a just and proper course to take. But the Ameer looked upon it as a violation of our pledge not to interfere with his internal government. After having seen Sir Lewis Pelly, the Native Agent had an interview with the Viceroy, which is recorded on page 183 of the Afghan Papers; and I think there is more in this one little conversation derogatory to British honour, and calculated to work permanent harm, than in any other Paper that has ever come under my notice. The Viceroy said he was going to open his mind frankly to the Native Agent, who came to him under the somewhat peculiar circumstances and with the Mission which I have described in the words I quoted just now from the letter addressed by Shere Ali on the 3rd September, 1876, to the Commissioner of Peshawur. Lord Lytton, in the course of the conversation, made use of the following words:—The Ameer had apparently come to the conclusion that, having nothing to hope from us, and, at the same time, nothing to fear, he may safely stand aloof from the British Go- 331 vernment; confident that, in the event of external attack, we shall he obliged to help him, for the protection of our own interests, even if we are under no contract obligation to do so. This was a very natural conclusion; but, unfortunately for the Ameer, there was a fatal flaw in its premises. It is true that, if the Ameer proves himself our friend and loyal ally, not our interests only, but our honour, will oblige us to defend his territories and support his Throne. But the moment we have cause to doubt his sincerity, or question the practical benefit of his alliance, our interests will be all the other way, and may greatly augment the dangers with which he is already threatened, both at home and abroad. As regards the former, the British Government can only assist those who value its assistance; and the assistance which the Ameer seems at present disinclined to seek or deserve may, at any moment, be very welcome to one or other of those rivals, from whom he will never be free till he has our assured support. As regards the latter, our only interest in maintaining the independence of Afghanistan is to provide for the security of our own Frontier. But the moment we cease to regard Afghanistan as a friendly and firmly allied State, what is there to prevent us from providing for the security of our Frontier by an understanding with Russia, which might have the effect of wiping Afghanistan out of the map altogether? If the Ameer does not desire to come to a speedy understanding with us, Russia does; and she desires it at his expense.Here was the Viceroy speaking in the name of the Sovereign of England, in the course of a conversation described as private—but which was no more private, in fact, than is this debate—and suggesting to the Ruler of Afghanistan that as there were rival pretenders to his Throne, he (in other words, England) would offer his help to one of those rivals, unless the Ameer accepted his terms. Is it possible to draw any-other conclusion from these documents, and will anyone say that such a conclusion is worthy of the policy of England? Is it the kind of diplomacy that you in this House approve for our Representative to turn round upon the Ameer, whose friendship we had always professed to desire, and to say to him—"If you do not admit our political Residents into your country we will turn to one of your rivals, from whom you are never safe once our support is withdrawn from you?" I cannot conceive any statement more derogatory to the dignity of England, solemnly made by the man who was professing to speak in the name of his Sovereign. Of this I am sure—that if he was speaking in the name of his Sovereign, he was not speaking either the sense or the 332 judgment of the English people. I think it will be fitting that before these debates close the Government should give the country some unqualified assurance on this subject. Well, with regard to the second paragraph of this statement which he made, what about this understanding with Russia? How far has it gone? Is there another secret Treaty? Is it possible that the farce could go further? Here we have Viceroy after Viceroy protesting to this man,—the Ameer—that we desired to have an independent State between us and the Russians whom we saw coming on in Central Asia; that that was the great object of our wishes; and that for that purpose we were prepared to give him money and troops, and, in fact, anything he wanted; and yet, at the same time, we were intriguing over his head, and had even gone so far as actually to ascertain that Russia was ready and willing to enter into an agreement for the division of his country? This half-educated and half-civilized Prince was accused of intriguing with Russia; but whatever might be his intention, he must have found that the British Government had been in advance of him. It appears to me to be hardly probable that this matter can stop exactly where it stands. This House is entitled to know how far the Government have gone with Russia in this matter. We are entitled to know whether there is anything more with respect to it than is recorded in this Blue Book. It is due to us that we should be informed how far the plan—if I may so call it—of the division of Afghanistan has gone. Has it as yet taken the stage of a written proposal, and are the lines drawn on the map? I think we ought to know clearly from the Government exactly what the position is in which we stand with regard to Russia upon this point. But that is not all. The Viceroy goes on to threaten the Ameer through his Agent. He tells him that our relations with the Ameer "cannot remain as they are; but that they must become either worse or better." He then re-affirms the necessity that exists for the British Government to watch the Afghan Frontier, and speaks of an arrangement to which he says it is expedient the Ameer should accede for the reception of British Residents and a special Mission. I am not 333 going to trouble the House with the poetical allusion to the "earthen pipkin and the iron pots;" but I should like to have some information with regard to a statement which it seems to me is more deserving of condemnation than any other I have read. In the last few lines of page 183 it will be seen that the Viceroy went on to observe thatBritish policy does not permit of the alteration of definite Treaty engagements. The Ameer has hitherto had only verbal understandings with us. The letter given him by Lord Mayo was not in the nature of a Treaty engagement, and was, no doubt, vague and general in its terms.Now, I may, I think, say, with the concurrence of the House, that this is language which is calculated to shake the confidence not only of the Ameer, but of every Prince in India. Here we have this diplomatist drawing a sharp line between written Treaty engagements and the word of Her Majesty's Representative. ["Oh, oh!"] Is that an unfair interpretation? [Cries of "Yes!"] I will read the paragraph over again—The Viceroy went on to observe that "British policy does not permit of the alteration of definite Treaty engagements"—that is to say, of the Treaty of 1855, which has always been looked upon as a one-sided Treaty, and the only clause in which, in reality, is that which binds us to respect the territory of the Ameer. The Viceroy goes on to say that the Ameer has hitherto had only verbal understandings with us; and what conclusions, I would ask, could the Ameer draw from all this, except that British policy did permit the alteration of verbal understandings? [The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER: Read to the end.] I will; because there are, in my opinion, three things mentioned in this paragraph to which it is desirable that the attention of the House should be distinctly drawn. We have, first of all, the reference to Treaties; then to letters written by our Representatives; and then to verbal negotiations. The end of the paragraph is—The letter given him by Lord Mayo was not in the nature of a Treaty engagement, and was, no doubt, vague and general in its terms.[The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] Well, the letter was no doubt, "vague and general in its terms." 334 I do not know what construction my right hon. Friend is going to put upon it; but to my mind it appears that we have here a plain distinction drawn by the Viceroy between the obligations which are imposed by written Treaties, and the obligations entailed upon us by the verbal promises of our Viceroy. Can there be any other rational construction, I would ask, placed upon the words which I have quoted to the House? And what more dangerous question, I should like to know, could be raised throughout India than that which those words suggest? What have the Native Princes of India to depend upon in most cases? Not on written engagements, but upon verbal assurances given to them by the Viceroy; and if you cast the slightest doubt upon the fact that the promise of one Viceroy is binding upon his successors, you are aiming one of the heaviest blows which you could possibly deal at the confidence which is reposed in our Government in India. My right hon. Friend, at all events, is awake to the gravity of the point; and I shall be glad if, in the course of this debate, he would give us some explanation on the subject. The Viceroy seems to have been very much enamoured of this singular sentence with regard to the obligations of Treaties; because you will find, if you turn to page 216, that there is a reference to the point, and that there was a distinct idea in his mind that the obligation imposed upon us by a Treaty was one thing, and that by verbal assurances another. I am now about to quote from a letter of Sir Lewis Pelly addressed, during the Peshawur Conferences, to the Minister of the Ameer, Syud Noor Mahomed Shah. Sir Lewis Pelly says—Your Excellency's contention is that the British Government is already bound, by its existing engagements with the Ameer, to support and defend His Highness against any foreign or domestic enemy; and that consequently the Ameer has nothing to gain by a Treaty of Alliance which, so far as the British Government is concerned, would be a mere re-statement of the obligations it has already contracted on his behalf, whilst, so far as His Highness is concerned, it would impose upon him obligations altogether new. This is, I think, a fair summary of your Excellency's argument: and the argument would be perfectly sound if its promises were true. But, unfortunately for the Ameer, they are fundamentally erroneous. The only obligations ever contracted on behalf of each other by the British Government and the 335 Barakzai Rulers of Afghanistan are embodied in two Treaties, of which the first was signed in 1856 and the second in 1857.Now, are there, I would ask, no other obligations except those contracted by these Treaties? Have hon. Members not seen how Shere Ali clung to what he called the writings which were given to him by Lord Lawrence and Lord Mayo? They were his charters. He repeated, over and over again, that there was no need of any Treaty. He was, he said, satisfied with the assurances which he had received, and wanted nothing more. He had the writings of Lord Lawrence and Lord Mayo, and they were, as he himself expressed it, "efficient and sufficient." I can hardly conceive that the Ameer could have put any other construction upon the language which was used by the Viceroy than that which I have put upon it. It seems to me to be the reasonable construction. Well, the Envoy was told to convey an account of what had taken place faithfully to the Ameer, certain conditions being attached to the opening of negotiations—namely, the location of British officers on the Afghan Frontier, and the maintenance of an attitude of friendship and confidence on the part of the Ameer. The second condition there was no difficulty in acceding to; but the residence of British Officers in his territory evidently was a great stumbling block throughout these communications. On this point of the introduction of British Agents on the Frontier there is a very remarkable statement, and it is the first time we hear anything definite with regard to the re-arrangement of Frontier. The Viceroy in the account of his second interview, on the 13th of October, 1876, with the Native Agent, Atta Mahomed Khan, says—Should the Ameer not consider the advantages worth the concession required by him, viz., British Agency on the Frontier, and a really friendly attitude on the part of the Ameer himself, it would then he needless for him to depute his Minister to meet the Viceroy's Envoy, and the Viceroy would he free to adopt his own course in his re-arrangement of Frontier relations, without regard to Afghan interests." [Ibid. p. 185.]This is the first occasion on which we have the question of the re-arrangement of Frontier introduced. We have next a letter from the Viceroy to the Ameer, dated Simla, October 11th, 1876, 336 which conveyed to His Highness an invitation to attend the Proclamation of Her Majesty as "Empress of India" at Delhi. Now, I am not sure that the Viceroy did a wise thing in inviting the Ameer to grace his triumph at this grand Delhi Proclamation; because he would be sure to meet on that occasion a great many Native Princes whose internal affairs had been very considerably interfered with by different British Residents in India. I do not like, I may add, to dwell in detail on this point of the reception of British Agents on the Frontier. Hon. Members will find in the Papers letters dated November 23, December 5, 7, 11, 18, and 21, which depict the attitude of the Ameer at the time. They are to be found at pages 192, 193, and 194. In the first of these letters, which is written by Atta Mahomed Khan, and which is dated Cabul, November 23, it is stated that—The general result of their observations was that the Government of Afghanistan was not in a position to receive British officers within its Frontier."—[Ibid. p. 192.]The letters then went on to show that there were signs of yielding in the Ameer; and in the last of the series, which was dated December 21, the writer says, after a lengthened interview with the Ameer, His Highness observed—God willing, for ever, the friendship existing between our Government and the British Government will remain more firm than before, and this true friendship will never be disturbed. Whatever objections or pleas have been hitherto made as to the residence of British officers on the border are owing to the savage conduct of the people of Afghanistan, and even now we agree to their residence on the border owing to helplessness."—[Ibid. p. 194.]The meaning of that is, that he had been driven to this concession; that pressure had been put upon him; in other words, that he had been bullied; and that he could not resist any longer giving his consent to the residence of British officers within his territory. Then he sends an Envoy to meet Sir Lewis Pelly at Peshawur, and the first interview of this Envoy is with Dr. Bellew. You will find an account of it at page 195. Dr. Bellew, in a Memorandum, dated January 28, 1877, of his visit to the Envoy, records the following observations made by the latter:—The Ameer now has a deep-rooted mistrust of the good faith and sincerity of the British, 337 Government, and he has many reasons for this mistrust.Dr. Bellew's reply to that observation was to the effect that he had always thoughtThe disposition of the British Government towards that of the Ameer was of a most friendly character, and that he felt sure, from all that he could see as a private individual, that its most earnest desire was to see the Ameer's Government strong and prosperous, and consolidated on a firm basis.The answer of the Envoy was—That is what you say. But the promises of your Government are of one sort and their acts of another. Now listen to me. I tell you what I know. It is twenty-two years since the Government of the Ameer made a Treaty with John Lawrence Sahib, and it has not from that time to this diverged from it. At that time the Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan refused to consent to the residence of British officers in his country, because he knew the lawless character of his people, and how they had killed Englishmen in the streets of Cabul at the time of Shah Shuja's overthrow. Well, his explanation was accepted and friendship continued, and then after a time the Ameer (Shere Ali Khan) came down and met Lord Mayo. Again the question of British officers was advanced, and on the same grounds objected to. After this you came with Pollock Sahib to Seistan. You will recollect that on one occasion he spoke in praise of Yakoob Khan, and I immediately warned him that if he desired to secure the Ameer's confidence he would never mention the name of Yakoob Khan again. Well, when I returned from Teheran I met Lord North-brook, and discussed various matters at Simla, where the question of British officers coming to Afghanistan was again mooted. Now, why all this pressing to send British officers to Afghanistan when you declare that you have no wish to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan? It has roused the suspicion of the Ameer." —[Ibid. p. 195.]Now, the more I read these Papers, the more it seems to me that there had not been so much intrigue with other Powers as a deeply-rooted feeling in the hearts of the people of Afghanistan against the introduction of British Residents into their country. They evidently felt that their independence would be gone the moment they gave way on that point. Dr. Bellew paid the Cabul Envoy a second visit, which is referred to at page 202, and there, again, the Envoy uses words which I cannot help thinking are spoken from the man's own heart. In his interviews with Dr. Bellew he appears to have spoken perfectly freely; and that, I believe, is the impression which has been conveyed to the minds of many of those who knew 338 him in India. He says here, at page 202—God grant that the issue be favourable (well). But you must not impose upon us a burden which we cannot bear, and if you overload us the responsibility rests with you.Dr. Bellew adds—I interposed here, and asked the Cabul Envoy what the burden was which he alluded to. He at once replied — The residence of British officers on the frontiers of Afghanistan.He told Dr. Bellew at the first interview that the allusion to his assent to the admission of British Agents to reside in Afghanistan "was as much as an order for his death." There is a ring of truth about this story that the people of Afghanistan were violently—fanatically, if you will—opposed to this step. That the opposition was a true one I think we can, after reading these Papers, hardly entertain a doubt; and, moreover, it was an opposition which, it seems to me, the Ameer hardly dare face. In the Report of the Conference at Peshawur between Sir Lewis Pelly and the Ameer's Agent on February 15, 1877, Sir Lewis Pelly says—But, in the most friendly manner, I beg the Envoy to understand that, if the Ameer reject all we offer and all we ask, and no basis of negotiation is left, the Viceroy, while observing the terms of the Treaty of 1855, will decline to support the Ameer and his dynasty in any troubles, internal or external, and their unknown consequences, and will continue to strengthen the Frontier of British India without further reference to the Ameer."—[I bid. p. 210.]Now here I would ask, how was the Viceroy going at once to strengthen the Frontier and maintain intact the Treaty of 1855? That is a matter which appears to me to require explanation. Then the Cabul Envoy says that he does not understand what "strengthening the Frontier" meant; and Sir Lewis Pelly replied—The Viceroy will take such measures as he may deem wise and lawful for strengthening the Frontier of British India and providing for the safety and repose of that Empire; and this without communication with the Ameer.Then the Cabul Envoy asks—Does this mean, within the territories of the Ameer of Afghanistan, or otherwise pSir Lewis Pelly replied—That the object of the present Conference is not to interfere with Afghanistan."—[I bid.]339 Now was that, I would ask, a satisfactory answer? Now this Pelly Conference, as it is called at Peshawur, was brought to a close at the time of the death of Noor Mahomed Shah, the Ameer's Envoy. The death of the Envoy occurred on the 26th of March, and on the 30th of March the Conference was, by order of the Viceroy, brought to a close, although another Envoy was present at Peshawur at the time. If you want to see the reason for the closing of the Conference you must turn to pages 170 and 171—to the despatch of the Viceroy, dated the 10th of May, 1877. The Viceroy there tells us that—The Afghan Envoy, who had long teen suffering from a mortal disease, expired shortly after his receipt of this communication. His surviving colleague, the Mir Akhor, declared that he had no authority to answer any question from the British Government; and Sir Lewis Pelly was consequently instructed to close the Conference on the ground that there was no basis for negotiation. Apparently the Ameer, whose object was still to gain time, was much surprised and embarrassed by this step. At the moment when Sir Lewis Pelly was closing the Conference, His Highness was sending to the Mir Akhor instructions to prolong it by every means in his power; a fresh Envoy was already on the way from Cabul to Peshawur; and it was reported that this Envoy had authority to accept eventually all the conditions of the British Government. The Viceroy was aware of these facts when he instructed our Envoy to close the Conference.Now, it is a little difficult to understand why the Conference was closed when that which the Viceroy had taken so much trouble to gain appeared to be at last within his grasp. Was not it the obvious solution of the difficulty, that by that time it was deemed expedient that there should be an extension of our North-Western Frontier? The Viceroy tells us that it was evident it was not desirable to go further with the Conference when he found that Shere Ali was not friendly in his disposition towards us, and was obviously not cordial about the receipt of these British Residents. But had he at any time, I would ask, found the Ameer cordial with respect to the reception of those Residents? Had he not been warned, over and over again, by every officer whom he came across in India, that the Ameer was strongly opposed to such a step? He, nevertheless, presses on the subject; and when at last he knew that the Envoy of the Ameer was about to accept all his terms, he closes the Con- 340 ference. He found by that time that the mere location of British officers in the Ameer's territory would not be sufficient, and that he wanted an extension of Frontier. It is impossible to account otherwise for his closing the Conference after so long a delay when he was on the point of having the very terms acceded to for which he had been asking throughout. Well, a great break occurs at this stage of the proceedings. The matter was reported to the Government at home in a despatch dated 10th of May, 1877, from Simla, and you will find towards the close of that despatch, at page 172, the following remarkable passage:—The further course of Cabul politics we cannot foresee, and do not attempt to predict. But we await its natural development with increased confidence in the complete freedom and paramount strength of our own position. In the meanwhile we see no reason to anticipate any act of aggression on the part of the present Ameer, or on our own part any cause for interference with His Highness. Our relations with him are still such as we commonly maintain with the Chiefs of neighbouring and friendly countries. But whilst, on the one hand, they are now relieved from all liabilities, real or imputed, on behalf of his personal fortunes or those of his dynasty, on the other hand, they have been placed by our recent arrangements with Khelat (and others which will be separately reported to your Lordship) in a position much less dependent than heretofore upon the personal disposition, or uncontrolled conduct, of so uncertain a neighbour.Now, this step was taken of closing the Conference, and it was reported home in the despatch from which I have been quoting, and which is dated the 10th of May, 1877; but it appears, I confess, to my mind, somewhat curious that this despatch is the first official record of these transactions we have following the despatch of the 28th of January, 1876; or, in other words, for a period of a year and a-quarter. That was a very long time for the Viceroy to be left without counsel and support from the Government at home. It seems to me that a Viceroy inaugurating a thoroughly new policy, which had been opposed by his Predecessors, should have sought advice from home during that period. But Lord Lytton does not appear to have done that. Is it possible that a despatch on the subject was delayed? because had such a despatch been written there were members of the Viceroy's own Government who would 341 have been found to protest against it. I hold in my hand a letter which has been addressed to the Editor of The Daily News by Sir Henry Norman. It is too long to read; but I may inform the House that Sir Henry Norman states that if he and his Colleagues had been consulted they would certainly have protested against this policy. I will read only one sentence from the letter. Speaking of how odd it would appear if he cordially concurred in adopting a policy which he had a few weeks previously deprecated, Sir Henry Norman says—I did no such thing, nor did Sir William Muir or Sir Arthur Hobhouse, who, with myself, were members of the Viceroy's Council during all the discussions preceding Sir Lewis Pelly's Mission; on, the contrary, we objected to the policy, and to measures in connection with it.We can understand that it would have been inconvenient to write home under the circumstances. I wish also to point out that as it was possible to carry out this policy only by deliberately concealing it from Parliament, it was so concealed. During the spring of 1877 a good many persons began to hear from India reports of these Conferences which alarmed them; but the matter was allowed to rest for a time. There were, however, later on, debates on the subject, both in the House of Lords and the House of Commons. One of the most important was that which took place in the House of Lords on the 15th of June, 1877, and it was a debate, I may observe, which threw the whole of us off our guard in reference to this question. That debate was opened by the Duke of Argyll, who, in the course of his speech, remarked that—Rumour said that the Government of India had determined upon a complete change of policy, and had resolved to insist on the Ameer receiving a Resident British Envoy at his Court. It had been said, too, that a particular officer had been appointed."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxiv. 1832.]Well, what was the reply of the Marquess of Salisbury?We have not tried to force an Envoy upon the Ameer at Cabul—we have not suggested Sir Lewis Pelly as an Envoy at Cabul. … Our relations with the Ameer of Cabul have undergone no material change since last year. I do not believe that he is worse disposed towards us than hitherto, or that his feelings are in any way more embittered towards the British Government."—[I bid. 1835.]342 Well, Lord Lawrence spoke after the noble Marquess in the debate, and he was followed by Lord Northbrook, who said—I heard what fell from the noble Marquess to-night … with the greatest possible satisfaction, because I feel it would be no light matter to change a policy which has been pursued deliberately by successive Governments in this country, and which has received the cordial support and approval of men like Lord Canning, my noble Friend who has just addressed your Lordships, and Lord Mayo."—[Ibid. 1842.]I have seen that some explanation has since been given of the answer of Lord Salisbury on that occasion, and it is to the effect that we had not meant to send a British Resident to Cabul. Now, for my own part, I am disposed to doubt whether even the literal correctness of that explanation can be maintained; for it will, I think, be found from one of the Viceroy's letters to the Ameer, that he proposed to send Sir Lewis Pelly to him at Cabul or elsewhere. But be that as it may, I contend that the speech of Lord Salisbury was one which was calculated to throw us off the scent, particularly in that sentence which says that our relations with the Ameer have undergone no material change since last year. And now I wish, in dealing with that point, to make this remark. There is, to my mind, nothing more important than that our Questions and Answers to each other should be not only literally true—as I assume the Answer to which I have just referred to be—but that they should be frank. Eight hon. and hon. Gentlemen who sit on the front Benches opposite have far more interest in this than independent Members. If we cannot rely absolutely on the information which we receive in Question and Answer in Parliament, it would be impossible to conduct the business of the country without resorting to practices which would be distasteful to every Englishman. If, where it may be done, an Answer were to be given which, while it may be literally true, might serve to throw us off the scent, then it would become necessary for us to frame our Questions in the form of the clauses of a criminal indictment, and that would be to degrade the business of Parliament. I, for one, trust that we shall always be able to maintain the practice which has hitherto prevailed; and that when we receive an Answer to any Question which we may 343 put, it shall be one which, as heretofore, we may accept with implicit reliance on its honesty and straightforwardness. If that practice should be departed from, and a new mode of putting and answering Questions should be adopted in its stead, nothing, to my mind, could tend more to bring our proceedings into disrepute. But to return to Shere Ali and his fortunes, we find that the Government thought that the Ameer might well be left to reflect upon the situation in which he was placed. On the 30th of March the Viceroy closed the Conference at Peshawur, and thus shut the door between his Government and the Ruler of Cabul. And when was this course taken? That Government, which is always talking about prestige, closed the door of communication between them and the capital of Afghanistan, and withdrew from it their Native Envoy, at a time when grave events were happening in Europe, and when England seemed to be madly bidding the rest of Europe to stand aside in order that she might step in as the champion of Mussulman rule, and alone settle the question with Russia. This was the time chosen to take away our Native Agent from Shere Ali's Court, leaving no one to point out to him that neither in Europe, nor in Asia, were you afraid of the great "White Czar. And this we are told is diplomacy. The Ameer was left alone to his reflections: did they ever consider for a moment what those reflections were likely to be? Might he not have reasoned with himself thus—"This new Viceroy is angry with me. He has broken up the Conference. No Viceroy has ever before treated me with insult and the bard language this one has done. I used to get fair words from Lord Lawrence, and Lord Mayo, and Lord Northbrook; but this last Viceroy casts some doubts on the promises which I received from them. He has gone so far as to tell me that he has been in communication with the Russians for dividing my Kingdom and blotting me out altogether; had I not better talk to the Russians? That General Kaufmann always appears very civil to me. He says nothing about Resident Agents. He makes friendly inquiries after me, and he has got under his control that nephew of mine, who is a most dangerous conspirator against my Throne." Was there any improbability in sup- 344 posing that Shere Ali would have reasoned with himself in that way? The Viceroy had shut the door against himself, but had left it open to Russia, and that at a moment when we were threatening Russia by bringing over troops from India to the Mediterranean. The Government, I may add, never found anything to complain of between Shere Ali and the Russians until after they had written threatening and insulting letters to the Ameer. After that there were, I admit, some intrigues. But be that as it may, the Government approved the course which had been taken by the Viceroy; and I would now quote a passage which will be found at page 223, and which is almost the last extract with which I shall trouble the House. The passage occurs in a despatch dated 4th October, 1877, from Lord Salisbury to the Governor General of India. He says—Upon this point the history of the events reported in the letter under reply is unhappily conclusive, and demonstrates but too plainly how erroneous was the opinion expressed so recently as the year 1875 by Sir Richard Pollock, the Commissioner of Peshawur, that 'no unfavourable change had occurred in the disposition of the Ameer.' Shere Ali's confidential Envoy stated explicitly that his master had 'now a deep-rooted mistrust of the good faith and sincerity of the British Government.'Here we have a specimen of putting two paragraphs together in such a way as to create a very misleading impression. You will find, at page 195, that in the interview which he had with Dr. Bellew, the Afghan Envoy stated that—The Ameer has now a deep-rooted mistrust of the good faith and sincerity of the British Government.But why? Because of the Indian Government pressing upon him the question of the residence of British officers on his Frontier; and this sentence, taken from the report of a conversation on the 28th January, 1877, is quoted as a proof that the opinion expressed by Sir Richard Pollock in 1855 as to the disposition of the Ameer was plainly erroneous. [Cries of "Read on!"] If I have omitted anything material, there are other hon. Gentlemen who are capable of supplying the omission. Now, on the 14th of August, 1878, the Viceroy writes to the Ameer that a British Envoy will visit him "immediately at Cabul." He gives him no time to consider his position. Then, on the 345 21st August, the Mission was postponed; and when at last it proceeded, in the course of the next month, our Envoy was, as we all know, refused admission. But why was it sent on that particular day, when it seemed probable that, if time were allowed, it would not be rejected? Because it had been prepared with a certain amount of pomp and circumstance, and was designed to invite the attention of the Native nobles who had been asked to accompany it to a sort of triumphal entry into Afghanistan against the wishes of its Ruler and its people. The policy of parade had been carried so far that we could not afford that the Mission should be postponed or recalled. What was the account given in the telegram of the circumstances attending the meeting of Major Cavagnari with the commandant of Ali Musjid? I think the Government are under a heavy responsibility in that matter. The account was, that the Commandant of the fort threatened Major Cavagnari, saying that, save for his personal friendship, he would shoot him on the spot. Remember how every newspaper was led into the belief that our Envoy had been insulted. The Government are quick enough to contradict everything that tells against them and their policy; but in this case this false telegram—false, that is, in the sense of giving an absolutely untrue impression of the facts—was allowed to do its work. I repeat, the Government are under a very grave responsibility for letting the war fever be lashed up in such a manner. They had pressed the Mission on, and I do not say that it could not possibly have been right to do so, even against the wishes of the Ruler of Afghanistan; but that could only have been so if the circumstances of the case were urgent, and if there was no other course open. But were the circumstances of the case urgent? Certainly not. The Papers which were delivered to us relating to Central Asia throw much light on that point; and it must be patent to all who have read them that our real cause of complaint was against Russia. It was Russia who had violated her agreement with us, in sending an Envoy to Afghanistan; and you must remember that it was the Russian Mission that was the immediate cause of the British one. Lord Cranbrook seems to have seen it in this light, for 346 on the 8th August, 1878, he writes, to Lord Salisbury—It is the Russian Cabinet alone which is responsible for the acts of its Agent; and it is the Russian Governor General of Turkestan, rather than the Ameer Shere Ali, who, with or without authority, is at this moment pursuing a policy of which the effect must be to seriously agitate the minds of Her Majesty's subjects throughout India. In view of the gravity of the situation the Secretary of State for India may safely leave to Lord Salisbury, who has a full knowledge of the question, the adoption of such language at St. Petersburg as he may think best calculated to bring about a result such as the engagements of Russia entitle us to expect."— [Central Asia, No. 1 (1878), p. 143.]These sentences have the right ring about them. We shall see how they were acted upon. In the meantime, it appears that on the 14th August M. do Giers, in conversation with Mr. Plunkett, used these words—Everything has been stopped. The political as well as the military precautions which, we thought ourselves justified in taking against you—everything has been stopped."—[I bid. p. 148.]This conversation was known at the Foreign Office on the 19th August, and it was not until that day that Lord Salisbury takes any action upon Lord Cranbrook's letter of the 8th. The demand he makes of the Russian Government is conveyed in the following words, addressed to Mr. Plunkett:—I must therefore request you to mention these reports to Prince Gortchak off, and to enquire whether there is any foundation for them. You will not conceal from His Highness that proceedings of the kind referred to would cause uneasiness in India and dissatisfaction in this country, and should it prove that there is any truth in the statement that a Russian Mission has proceeded to Cabul, you will express the hope of Her Majesty's Government that it may be at once withdrawn, as being inconsistent with the assurances so frequently received from His Highness."—[I bid. p. 160.]Mr. Plunkett, receiving this on the 26th of August, and being unable to find M. de Giers at the Russian Foreign Office, writes to him according to his instructions. But it is not until the 6th September that he calls to inquirewhy he had not yet received any answer to the request of Her Majesty's Government that the Russian Mission should be withdrawn from Cabul."—[I bid. p. 162.]On the 13th September Mr. Plunkett writes to Lord Salisbury, enclosing M. 347 de Giers's reply, which had just reached him from Livadia. M. de Giers says—The dispositions of the Imperial Government in regard to the Central Asian Question … have necessarily "been affected by the political condition in which we were placed by the attitude of England during the recent crisis in the East. But, under the present circumstances, those dispositions are the same as formerly, and are not of a nature to give rise to any distrust on the part of the English Government.He adds, thatthe Mission … is of a provisional nature, and one of simple courtesy."—I bid. p. 164.]By a letter addressed to the India Office, on September 20th, we learn thatLord Salisbury infers from M. de Giers's note that his Excellency acknowledges that all the former assurances of the Russian Government in regard to Afghanistan have now recovered their validity."—[I bid. p. 165.]I will here observe this—that M. de Giers does not promise to withdraw the Mission to Cabul, nor does he say the previous Russian assurances have recovered their validity, which is the construction of Lord Salisbury. It is altogether a very vague statement; and its right answer would have been to acknowledge with courtesy his letter, say that we were glad to learn that the dispositions of Russia were the same as formerly, but that we should be glad also to know by what date the Russian Mission would be withdrawn, and whether we might count upon the former Russian assurances having recovered their validity. The truth is, that whilst ready enough to go to war with the Ameer, the Government was not pressing Russia with the persistency with which she ought to have been pressed on this subject. Some time ago it used to be the fashion for hon. Gentlemen opposite to complain of Lord Derby because his utterances to the Russian Government were too gentle and tender. Well, if Lord Derby's utterances were gentle, Lord Salisbury's are lamb-like. But, after all, let the House bear in mind the date. It is a fact that on the 13th September Mr. Plunkett was in possession of M. de Giers's reply, which Lord Salisbury professes to look upon as satisfactory, and it was not till the 21st of September that we pressed on our Mission into the Khyber Pass. If the Russian assurances were to be relied upon, why was the Government in such 348 a hurry to press the Ameer? It seems to me that we have actually gone to war with the Ameer—that we took the step that we knew would lead to war a week after our officer was in receipt of Russian assurances that the very cause of the war was going to be removed by the Russian Government. I admit that Mr. Plunkett's despatch containing M. de Giers's assurances were not received in England till the 18th of September; but why did they not send a telegram? What is the use of the telegraph? It is not given you merely to send showy telegrams, in order to raise a war fever; it was given you that you might take steps to stop a war. The case is this—we have had cause for complaint against Russia, and we have fastened it upon the Ameer; we have gone to war with the Ameer on account of that Russian Mission; and the upshot of the war will probably be this, as far as I understand it—that we shall annex the territory of the independent tribes lying between us and Afghanistan. This is an odd example of vicarious punishment. There is, too, an ascending scale of punishment —to the Russians, remonstrances of the most gentle order; to the Ameer, war; to the independent tribes, annexation. And it is curious, also, that the punishment falls exactly in the inverse ratio of the ability of the different parties to resist. I have detained the House very far beyond what I had anticipated; but these Papers are interesting, and the story, I think, cannot be told without copious reference to them. We have seen the Government land us in this war; a war, as I think, unjust and unnecessary at the outset. I cannot come to the conclusion that anything else has been in their minds since the Pelly Conference was closed but this advance and rectification of the Frontier; and I am driven reluctantly to the belief that they took the opportunity of the Ameer's unwise and improper conduct—for unwise and improper, I think, his conduct was—to make that advance. And now, when you have made that advance, I should like to know what particular end you expect to gain from it? That is a question I am not going to enter into at large. It may very likely form the subject of another debate. But the charges that I bring against them are that they have adopted a new policy in India; that they have 349 adopted that policy against the advice of all previous Viceroys, and against the advice of every officer of experience who has served in the Punjab, and who is entitled to form an opinion upon it; that they have acted upon that policy, and attempted to carry it out by threats, and by language unworthy of the British Government, calculated to defeat the very end they have had in view, and to shake confidence in us throughout India; that they concealed this policy from Parliament and the country; and that it was only by concealing this policy that it could be carried out, for if we had had the story before us, there is such a consensus of opinion among those who have served long in India that I would have defied them to do so; further, that having a cause of complaint against the strong, they fixed the quarrel on the weak; and that, by their conduct, they have brought us to a war in which already gallant men's lives have been lost, and homes made desolate, to atone for the blunders and errors of their Administration. Now, these are grave charges. I have brought them on the foundation of the Papers that have been laid before us; and unless the Government can clear themselves completely of these charges, I am justified in asking the House to assent to the Motion which I now make.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House disapproves the conduct of Her Majesty's Government -which has resulted in the War with Afghanistan,"—(Mr. Whitbread,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, that the speech to which they had just been listening had, as they would naturally have expected, been couched in moderate terms—more moderate, indeed, than those in which the hon. Member had recently addressed his constituents at Bedford. He would endeavour to follow his example, and to avoid, so far as possible, what he might call the "personalities" of the question. He must ask the indulgence of the House if he had to follow the hon. Gentleman's speech at some length. As he understood the charges brought by the hon. Mem- 350 ber against the present Government, they were these—that the irritation of the Ameer's mind had been caused entirely by the Government, and mainly, as the hon. Member evidently thought, because they had tried to induce him to accept British Residents. And then he went further, and maintained that the Government, having been desirous of late to annex additional territory in India, had taken advantage of a certain misconduct on the part of the unfortunate Ameer, in order to achieve that annexation. These were the grave charges that had been brought, to which he desired to offer a complete and entire opposition. But as they ranged over a long course of years, it would be necessary for him to present the House, in his reply, with a consecutive narrative of the relations of this country with Afghanistan, in the course of which he would endeavour to meet the various points of the hon. Member. When the Ameer, after various vicissitudes of fortune, succeeded at length in getting under his authority the greater part of Afghanistan, he was desirous of entering upon friendly relations with the Indian Government. Lord Lawrence aided him with money and arms, and if he had remained in India he would probably have arranged a meeting with the Ameer. That intention had been carried out by Lord Mayo, who met him and discussed certain subjects with him very fully and frankly; and though he (Mr. E. Stanhope) was ready to admit that the representations made by Lord Mayo in the letter written at the close of the Conference had been misunderstood and misrepresented by the Ameer, yet, at the same time, there could be no question that, whether from the nature of the assurances or from Lord Mayo's own personal influence and judicious conduct, the Ameer left that Conference a satisfied and a happy man. It had been said that Lord Mayo gave the Ameer a promise that we would never press a British Resident upon him. He (Mr. E. Stanhope) had, on a former occasion, said in that House—and he was ready to say it again—that as between Lord Mayo and the Ameer the subject was never mentioned. But it was mentioned by Lord Mayo's authority in the conversations between his Agents and the Agents of the Ameer. And what happened was this—It was abundantly clear from 351 the despatch which the hon. Member opposite did not desire to read the end of, that the Ameer did wish us to establish Resident Engineer Agents within his dominions for the purpose of affording him advice. It was a boon which he asked us to grant him. It was included among the boons which he had asked from Lord Mayo at the time that he had begged for assistance in money and arms, and it was one of the boons which Lord Mayo thought that we ought not to grant at the then stage of our relations with him. The then state of things was summed up by the Duke of Argyll in 1869, when he said—I have every reason to believe that Lord Mayo has consistently pursued the same policy of non-intervention and of the avoidance of entangling engagements, which was pursued by my noble Friend the late Governor General of India (Lord Lawrence). So far as my own instructions to Lord Mayo are concerned, they certainly have been to avoid all entangling engagements for the future with Afghanistan, and to maintain the British Government and the Government of India perfectly free in regard to that and other conterminous States."—[3 Hansard, cxcv. 1087.]After this interview the first difficulty that arose was with reference to the Seistan boundary in 1872. The Ameer did not understand the nature of an arbitration, and the decision undoubtedly rankled in his mind for some time. But the terms of it, although, perhaps, very different from what the Ameer had expected, had been faithfully kept by him. But in 1873 a new element was introduced into the matter. Lord Northbrook, as it would appear, suggested that an Envoy should be sent to the Ameer to explain the Seistan decision to him. And what was the reply of the Ameer? He said that he should like to send an Envoy to us; but that if we preferred to send to him, he was willing to receive him. That was the spirit in which he received the overtures of Lord Northbrook. It was eventually agreed that he should send an Envoy to us, and then it appeared that the advances of Russia in Central Asia had greatly alarmed the Ameer. It was true that the Duke of Argyll seemed to think that the Ameer only pretended to be afraid of the results of those advances; but he (Mr. E. Stanhope) thought that from the Papers themselves there undoubtedly was substantial ground for the fears which the Ameer had then ex- 352 pressed. It seems perfectly clear that the Ameer was alarmed by the Russian advance in Central Asia, and that he sought our protection against its consequences. Upon that point he accepted the statement of Lord Northbrook's despatch to the Home Government on the advance of Russia, although, as Lord Northbrook stated, it was drawn more in accordance with Mr. Gladstone's speech on Mr. Eastwick's Motion than as expressing the views of the custodians of India. Lord Northbrook was of opinion that it was necessary and desirable that some more definite assurances should be given to the Ameer on this point, and he stated that the Cabinet at home gave their consent to his giving them. Upon that point he fully accepted the assurance of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Lord Northbrook, however, gave those further assurances wrapped up in such a perfect mist of conditions that it was not surprising that the Envoy described those assurances as obscure, and asked for something a little more definite. The Envoy asked that the assurances should be put into writing, to be sent by Lord Northbrook to the Ameer, and that in that writing it should be stated distinctly that we intended to protect him against Russia. And what was the reply of Lord Northbrook? He would ask the House to remember what was the one assurance which had been given to the Ameer in 1869 by Lord Mayo—an assurance in writing which was peculiarly prized by him, and which it was evident from the beginning to the end of these Papers he had stuck to with the greatest tenacity. Well, Lord Northbrook sent a letter to the Ameer, and annexed to it certain conversations—he only called them conversations, not assurances—which had been held with the Envoy, and a Memorandum which the Envoy was instructed to show him, adding, with reference to affording him protection—But the question in my opinion is one of such importance that the discussion of it should be postponed until a more convenient opportunity.And the Memorandum also contained those words and no more. Lord Northbrook stated in his despatch that he had added those words because the Envoy had not authority to enter into the subject; but there was nothing in the 353 Papers to show that the Envoy had not the necessary authority. Then in 1874 occurred the arrest of Yakoob Khan. He had no particular reason for disputing the proposition of the hon. Member, that the conduct of the Ameer in imprisoning Yakoob Khan was such that the Government could not justify it. There was one point of view of the matter, however, from which, doubtless, the Ameer might look at it. The Ameer stated that he had put his son in prison for two reasons—first, for rebelling against his authority; and, secondly, for engaging in intrigues with Persia to undermine his authority. Therefore, the Ameer himself might well conceive that he had ample justification for the course which he had pursued with regard to his son; and he quoted against us the language of Lord Mayo's letter, in which he said he (the Viceroy) should regard with the severest displeasure any rivals who might attempt to dispute the Throne with him. Our interferences on behalf of Yakoob Khan had rankled in the Ameer's breast for years, and it was the only grievance to which he had referred in his last letter. There was a good deal of evidence as to his state of mind in reference to us at this period of our relations. Lord Northbrook's Government told us that his language after the return of the Envoy from Simla in 1873 was "anything but satisfactory;" he had refused to let peaceful expeditions, sent under Colonel Baker and Mr. Forsyth, pass through his territory; he hesitated about accepting our gift of arms; and he had refused to accept the present in money we had offered him. In the meantime, it was abundantly clear that his relations with Russia had altered, and that he now no longer addressed them in merely courteous language, but as soliciting their favour. And what did he do towards England? In the earlier stages he said he was quite prepared to confer with Her Majesty's Government on the subject of his relations with Russia; and he sent on the letters which he had received from the Russian Governor General, in order that the Indian Government of the Queen might suggest replies. But if the House carefully studied the Papers in consecutive order, it would find that after a time his friendly communication was altogether dropped; and the only account which Her Majesty's Government received of any 354 letters having passed between the Ameer and the Russian Governor General was the simple statement of the fact by our Agent.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
asked the hon. Member to state the date at which this form of communication was dropped?
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, that if the right hon. Gentleman would carefully examine the documents, he would find it very difficult to fix any very definite date for this event; but he would find the whole of it taking place within the years 1873–4–5; and when they came to 1876, the House would find the Agent representing—before Lord Lytton had said one word directly or indirectly either to the Ameer or to anyone connected with him—the estrangement and the annoyance of the Ameer. This was stated in various ways and by different persons; but there could be no doubt of the fact that the estrangement and alienation came about before Lord Lytton had had any communication with the Ameer, and was the result of action taken by former Rulers of India. The Viceroy, in a despatch dated May 10, 1877, wrote—In short, the information gradually extracted from our Cabul Agent convinced us that the system on which we had hitherto conducted our relations with Shere Ali had practically resulted, not only in the alienation of His Highness from the Power which had unconditionally subsidized and openly protected him; but also in the increased closeness and confidental character of Ms relations with the only other Power that can ever cause serious danger to our Empire in India."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 168.]This was the state of things with which his noble Friend (Lord Salisbury) had to deal; and in referring to the action of his noble Friend, he wished it to be clearly understood that up to the present time he had dealt entirely with events which happened before Lord Lytton went to India, [and before the Ameer had any knowledge whatever of what Lord Salisbury had done in his capacity of Secretary of State. Up to the time of which he had been speaking, all Lord Salisbury's actions had been included in confidential communications between himself and the Government of India; and he now came to speak of the time at which the Government of India communicated what they had to say to the Ameer. It was clearly admitted by Lord Northbrook that the circumstances of 355 the time, and the steady advance of Russia, might at length force the Government of India to give to the Ameer assurances utterly different from, and far more definite than, those they had hitherto given; and though he explained in a despatch in 1875 that he regarded the interference of Russia with Afghanistan as neither probable nor near, yet, at the same time, he intimated that if that advance took place it might be desirable not only to give more definite assurances, but actually to enter into a Treaty with the Ameer for protecting him against foreign aggression, adding that the appointment of a Resident at Herat would be a necessary consequence of any such engagement as that to which he referred, and of the advance of the Russian Frontier. Lord Salisbury's reply to this was, that if the Government were to wait for an indefinite period, as hinted by Lord Northbrook, the time for useful action might have passed, and that our influence with the Ameer, which was already on the wane, might have altogether disappeared. So that the only difference between Lord Salisbury and the Viceroy was as to the opportuneness of the time for the course which was suggested; and the consequences of the delay which resulted rested, to a very large extent, on Lord Northbrook, who for more than a year disregarded the instructions which he received from home. Which of the two was right? Events had shown that the contingency which Lord Northbrook described as neither near nor probable had happened within three years; that the time had passed for the representations which might have been made to the Ameer to be made with any chance of success; and that Lord Salisbury showed himself to be gifted with foresight which was entirely wanting in Lord Northbrook. Acting upon the conclusions at which he had arrived, Lord Salisbury instructed Lord Lytton, on his arrival in India, to propose a friendly Mission to the Ruler of Cabul. A great deal had been said upon the pretext on which the proposal of that Mission was based; but it seemed to be forgotten that the Ameer's own Minister had suggested to Lord Northbrook that it being necessary first to familiarize the Afghan people with the very idea of a Mission and of communication with the people of India, it would be unwise at the out- 356 set to set fully forth all the objects which it was hoped to attain by means of the Mission. The Envoy was to be instructed to offer to the Ameer certain definite assurances in the event of his asking for them; but the Ameer positively refused to receive the Mission on the 22nd of May, 1876—a date which was important, because at that time neither the occupation of Quetta nor the proposal of a Resident Envoy at Cabul had been made, and these were the events which in some quarters were said to have led to all or a great part of the difficulty that had arisen. After the refusal further negotiations were commenced; and the Ameer agreed that Her Majesty's Government should withdraw their Native Envoy from Cabul in order to confer with him at Simla as to the views of the Ameer. This was done, and the grievances, supposed or real, of the Ameer were set out at great length in the conversations which were recorded in the Afghan Papers. It transpired that his special grievances were—our decision as to the Seistan boundary, our interference in the case of Yakoob Khan, and certain steps we had taken with regard to Wakhan. It was then shown to the Ameer that Lord Lytton was most anxious to discuss these or any other grievances, and, if possible, to remove any misunderstanding that might have arisen. After this, further conversations took place between Lord Lytton and our Agent at Cabul, and he wished to protest against the language in which these conversations were described. It was certainly true that if there had been any desire on the part of the Government to withhold facts, they would have been amply justified in keeping back the records of these conversations, for the reason that they were just as strictly confidential communications as were those which passed between a client and his legal adviser, whom he wished to put in possession of certain facts, but not in the precise language which he would use when addressing the Court. Thus Lord Lytton impressed upon the Envoy the importance of the Ameer being induced to do something in order to strengthen himself in his external relations. It might be that some incidental expression might have been used which was not quite so judicious as could be wished; but the House would make every allow- 357 ance for the circumstances in which that Conference was held; and they must remember that such confidential communications were never before given in any such form as that in which they now had them. In one of these it was curious to observe what a number of fallacies the hon. Member had discovered. He had tried, indeed, to make out of it that between this country and Russia there was a secret Treaty for the partition of Afghanistan. He thought he should waste time if he offered any observations on that subject. The evidence brought forward was so utterly meagre and unsupported by any facts, that he did not think it was worthy of any further consideration. But what was a much more serious matter was this—that the hon. Gentleman endeavoured also to draw the conclusion that the Government of this country was prepared to fulfil its written engagements, but that it would not keep its verbal engagements. Now, that was an utterly and entirely unfair and misleading interpretation to put on Lord Lytton's words. The distinction Lord Lytton drew as between verbal and written assurances was the distinction which was always drawn by the Ameer; and it was pointed out—as it always had been pointed out—that what the Ameer wanted was written and not verbal assurances. He said so in 1869, and he got them; and he said so in 1873, and he did not get them; and the Ameer had always relied on that little scrap of writing from Lord Mayo as something to be prized, because it was to the Oriental mind a thing he could understand. It was not a mere verbal undertaking, surrounded by conditions and all sorts of suggestions which were to the Oriental mind utterly and entirely a puzzle. Then followed the series of communications between Sir Lewis Pelly and the Agent of the Ameer. There was only one condition, and that was the condition of Lord Lytton that there should be Resident Agents on the Frontier of Afghanistan. The hon. Member quoted a great deal against this proposal, and he must therefore ask the permission of the House to allow him to interpose at this point of his narrative what were the real facts on that subject. In 1857, the question of Resident Envoys was not only raised, but it was accepted for a definite purpose by the Ameer, and was incorpo- 358 rated in the Treaty. Under that Treaty they were entitled to appoint Resident? Agents for a certain purpose, not, indeed, at Cabul, but in other places. Again, in 1859 the question was mooted, and there could be no question whatever that the Ameer assented in principle to that condition. They had heard quoted the authority of Mr. Seton-Karr. This was the gentleman who, having been confidentially employed, thought fit, before any of these documents were given to the world, to give to the public his version of the transactions. Now, he was told Mr. Seton-Karr was a gentleman who did not speak the languages principally used on the occasion, and his evidence was not so powerful as that of other gentlemen concerned in the matter. He was not going to give his own evidence against that of Mr. Seton-Karr; he was going to ask the House to allow him to quote a much greater authority than his own. He was going to rest satisfied with the statement of Lord Northbrook's Government. When the hon. Gentleman approached that period he ceased to read anything from the Papers. He gave them a general idea of what he thought; but if he had read one passage they would have had Lord Northbrook's Government's definite views. He referred the House to the following paragraph in the despatch of Lord Northbrook's Government in 1875:—On the whole, however, we think that either the Ameer himself or his Minister, Noor Mahomed Shah, did in confidential communications with Captain Grey express a readiness to accept at some future time not far distant the presence of British Agents at places in Afghanistan, excepting Cabul itself. But our impression is that the intimation was intended to be contingent either upon the receipt of far more substantial assistance than was promised the Ameer at the Umballa Conferences, or upon the conclusion of a Dynastic Treaty, that is, upon obtaining the recognition, in a Treaty with the British Government, of his son Abdoolla Jan as his successor. Such a formal recognition His Highness was anxious to secure, but Lord Mayo, for obvious reasons, declined to entertain the proposal."—[Afghanistan, No. 1,pp. 131–2.]Now that was clear and distinct. [Mr. Childers: Read the next paragraph.] He did not want to do anything unfair, he had not the next paragraph, and he did not know what it was, but he thought it had nothing to do with it. Passing on from 1869, it was clear the subject of Envoys was again discussed 359 in 1873. Under Lord Northbrook's express instructions the Foreign Minister discussed the matter with the Agent of the Ameer, and then he suggested the appointment of Resident Agents in Afghanistan. Entire concurrence was expressed by the Agent in principle; but in order to familiarize the people it was thought desirable, in the first instance, only to depute an Agent to examine the Frontiers of the country, and not to reside there until the people of the country understood the matter. The position of affairs, then, was this—that the principle had been assented to more than once by the Government of Afghanistan; that Lord Northbrook had himself suggested it as an indispensable condition for making a complete and definite Treaty with the Ameer; and that the Agent of the Ameer came to Peshawurin 1877 on the express condition, which had been fully explained to him, that it was understood he assented to the condition of the acceptance of Resident Agents. From the first the great object the Ameer had in view was apparent. The Agent went over all the old grievances, and he showed no disposition whatever to come to a definite point. There was great delay; and all this time it was well known that the Ameer was hostile—so hostile that he had endeavoured to incite the neighbouring tribes to enter into a religious war. The conversations were drawn out to such a length that they seemed to be almost interminable. [An hon. MEMBER: There is no evidence of that.] Was the hon. Member who said there was no evidence prepared to disbelieve the distinct statement, not of Lord Lytton, but of the Government of India? Well, that being so, from the spirit in which the Ameer had acted, and in which he had instructed his Agents to continue the negotiations, it did not appear to the Government that there was any great hope of the negotiations ending satisfactorily. However, the Government were prepared to continue the negotiations. Now, the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had made a great deal of what took place at the time, and he had endeavoured to show that the Government were desirous of snatching an opportunity of ending those negotiations. Well, he (Mr. E. Stanhope) durst say they were, for it seemed to him they would 360 lead to no satisfactory results. But the inference which the hon. Gentleman drew from the despatch of Lord Lytton's Government was not, he believed, such as the House would be disposed to draw. That Government had stated that the Ameer still desired to gain time; that he was sending another Envoy; and that it was reported that he was prepared to accept our conditions. Probably, it was a report spread about by the Ameer himself to gain time, because he did not desire to commit himself finally either to Russia or to England. Then it was said—"Why did not Lord Lytton send home an account of those negotiations?" In the first place, the Government of India waited till those negotiations were concluded, and then sent home a despatch of great length and importance with the least possible delay. He thought it was unjust to the Viceroy of India to say that he delayed, for an unworthy motive, to send home a despatch because he desired to prevent a division of opinion in his Council from becoming known. If such imputations were to be made, he wished to know why did not the Duke of Argyll send a despatch to India and tell the Indian Government distinctly in 1873 what his policy was with reference to Afghanistan? He sent a telegram which it was impossible for any ordinary human being to understand. The hon. Member alluded to a letter written by Sir Henry Norman, in which he said that he had no opportunity of representing his dissent from the opinions of Lord Lytton, because of the delay in this despatch. That was a misleading statement. He (Mr. E. Stanhope) had an opportunity that very day of conversing with a gentleman who held a very responsible position not long ago in the Council of India, and he told him it was a well-established rule that dissent could not be entered before anything was discussed; but that when the thing was thoroughly discussed it was open to any Member of the Council to make an entry of his dissent in the Minutes, and to call upon the Governor General to send the Minutes home. Sir Henry Norman neglected that opportunity. The next point to which he thought the hon. Member attached considerable importance was a statement of his noble Friend (Lord Salisbury) soon after the conclusion of the Conferences. Well, 361 Lord Salisbury had given a full explanation of that in the other House of Parliament. To that explanation it was almost impossible for him (Mr. E. Stanhope) to add. If the House was not prepared to accept the assurances which his noble Friend gave as perfectly sincere there was really nothing more to say. But he did know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) and the hon. Member for Bedford, in the speeches which they had made in the country, had misquoted the language of Lord Salisbury. It might have been accidental; but it was rather curious that the language should have been misquoted in the same way in both speeches.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, they must be very much obliged to him for affording them an opportunity of making these explanations. They were unfortunate in being reported by The Daily News.
§ MR. CHILDERS
believed the report in The Times was verbatim. The report in The Daily News was a very short one.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, nobody who read the speech of Lord Salisbury could doubt for a moment that the circumstances were exactly those which he stated. He explained that then he spoke under circumstances which prevented any full statement—and he answered a definite question put by the Duke of Argyll, and the proof that he was understood in what he stated was to be found in the subsequent speech of Lord Northbrook, who said that he understood Lord Salisbury's speech to apply only to an Envoy at Cabul. To resume; the Conference being broken up, the Government considered it desirable to review the position in which we stood towards the Ameer. It was explained to him most fully that we desired and sought no quarrel with the people of Afghanistan. Our object was that they should enjoy their independence, their peace, and their prosperity. We had no wish to interfere with their domestic concerns; and while we carefully guarded ourselves from being supposed to accept the interpretation which the Ameer had put upon certain assurances of Lord 362 Mayo's, we told him that we would not withdraw from the obligations we had previously entered into. We did not disguise from him that we should have preferred a policy of hearty co-operation for the protection of our common interests; but if he would not have it, then we were prepared to revert to our former relations, only hoping that the day would come when he would see matters in the same light as we did, and be prepared to welcome proposals made to him in absolute good faith. So matters continued till an event happened which changed the whole aspect of affairs. We learned in July last that a Russian Mission had arrived at Cabul, and had been welcomed by the Ameer, after having rejected our Mission. Considering the events which were happening in Europe, and the attitude of the Ameer, this appeared to the Government of India to constitute a grave political declaration, and to necessitate a re-consideration of our whole position. He (Mr. E. Stanhope) supposed that our only motive for caring about the affairs of Afghanistan had been the interest of India. We are placed in that country in a position unexampled in the history of the world, as trustees for its many millions of inhabitants, and responsible for their contentment and prosperity. The Government of India had always held that the maintenance of Afghanistan as an independent, strong, and friendly Power was desirable, not only as a barrier against the encroachments of any foreign Power, but as a security to our Frontier. Not that we had, or have, any expectation of invasion, still less any fear of it. But it had long ago been pointed out that the influence of a Russian Mission at Cabul would be perceptible throughout the length and breadth of India. As long ago as 1847 Lord Palmerston thus expressed to Lord John Russell his views with reference to Afghanistan—A Russian force in occupation of Afghanistan might not be able to march to Calcutta, but it might convert Afghanistan into the advanced post of Russia, instead of that advanced post being in Persia; and whatever Hardinge may say of the security of the rest of our Frontier, you would find in such a case a very restless spirit displayed by the Burmese, by the Nepaulese, and by all the incorporated States scattered about the surface of our Indian Possessions. These things would lead to great expense, require great efforts, and might create considerable damage. The best method of preventing 363 these embarrassments seems to be to take up such a position, not in posse, but in esse, as would make it plain to everybody that we could not be taken by surprise.Well, the Government of India, entertaining the same opinion, felt that while Afghanistan was under British influence, our Frontier—in itself a purely accidental one—was comparatively secure; but that if she were to become a mere tool of a foreign Power, a formidable element of disturbance and intrigue would be introduced upon our Frontier, while within that Frontier the disturbing effect (to say the least of it) would be enormous. It would, he was sure, very much surprise the House if he were to tell it how numerous were the disturbances which had constantly been occurring upon our Frontier. There had been during the last 28 years no less than 19 expeditions, in which 68,000 men had been engaged, and no less than 60 or 70 affairs of minor importance. And what, he should like to know, would have been the condition of our Frontier, if those who dwelt upon the other side of the mountains had always been hostile to us instead of friendly? We should have been driven from a permanent state of peace establishment into one of constant preparation for war. And what was the course which was, under the circumstances, taken by the Government of India? It might have been, under some circumstances, judicious to have treated the conduct of Shere Ali as a merely unfriendly act, and we might have remained inactive, or the suggestion of Lord Lawrence might have been adopted, and we might have retired from our present position to the line of the Indus. That was a matter which, however, he did not think he need argue for a moment, for everybody must be aware what would be the effect which would be produced in India by any such abandonment of our position as Lord Lawrence proposed. The point was one, he might add, which he was quite content to leave as it had been placed by the Duke of Argyll, in saying we could not allow Afghanistan to pass entirely under the influence of a foreign Power. Or we might have insisted that the course taken by the Ameer amounted to an act of open hostility to us; but a much more moderate view was taken by the Government of India. They said— 364It appeared quite possible, however, that the significance of this event might have been over-rated or misconstrued in India, or that the Ameer himself might be induced, by timely diplomatic representations, to realize the gravity of his action, and to appreciate its inevitable effect upon his relations with our Government. But the only hope of clearing up any such misunderstandings, or of bringing our legitimate influence to bear upon the Ameer, lay in the renewal of direct personal intercourse with him through a British Envoy."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 239.]That being so, the Government of India proposed to send a friendly Mission to the Ameer; and they pointed out that they did not at the time anticipate that there would have been any serious difficulty on the part of the Ameer in accepting that Mission. They hoped that he would, on the contrary, really have welcomed it; and that to make the attempt was, at all events, not only desirable, but absolutely necessary. And what were the steps which were actually taken? Were they unfriendly? Sir Neville Chamberlain was appointed to conduct the Mission, and he was given an escort of no unreasonable strength, and one by far smaller than that which the Ameer himself had brought with him into India upon a former occasion. If a smaller one, indeed, had been sent, it would have been regarded by the people of India as derogatory to our prestige. We had, besides, sent, in deference to the Ameer, Gholam Hussein Khan, who had already acted as Agent in Cabul, to announce the Mission. But it would appear that, from first to last, the sole object of the Ameer was delay. Our Agent was allowed to make only short marches. Four letters had been sent to the officers of the Ameer, of which a great deal had been said—they had been sent to clear the way, as it were, for our Agent, and in order that there might be no mistake as to his responsibility. That being so, Gholam Hussein Khan arrived in Cabul on the 10th of October. He had an interview with the Ameer, and from that time several letters had been received giving an account of the state of feeling of the Ameer. Among those letters, which had been, as far as they were in the possession of the Government, set forth in the Blue Book, there was one to which he thought it desirable attention should be drawn, because it explained the great point in all these communications—that 365 most of them had been written under the influence of the Ameer. That letter explained previous letters, and was from Gholam Hussein Khan to Munshi Muhammad Bakhtyar Khan, and it was as follows:—The facts are these: Whatever I write is what I hear from the Wazir or from the Ameer, and some sentences are from myself. Considering that the post is in the hands of the Ameer, and that nobody is allowed to communicate with me, you may imagine what sort of an account I can give. The temper of the Ameer is hasty (or touchy), and he gives little or no attention to the letters from the British Government. The reason of his not inviting the English Mission is the intention to delay. Three Russian officers have gone hack and two are still in Cabul. I suspect that the coming of the English Mission is impossible so long as the Russians are here (or until the Russians have gone back). If the British Government is content to delay for its own purposes, then conciliatory letters may prove useful, but in the event of delay being considered injurious, then my stay here is of no profit, and I should be recalled in some suitable manner."— [I bid. p. 247.]That being, as we were informed by Gholam Khan, the state of things, what did Lord Lytton do? Did he show himself as anxious to precipitate matters as some seemed to suppose? No; he telegraphed to Major Cavagnari that he was to take great care not to proceed in his arrangements with the Frontier Tribes in such a manner as to offend the Ameer, before the opportunity had been afforded of seeing whether he would accept our Mission. The delay, however, continued to go on, and time passed to such an extent that the Government of India felt they could wait no longer. Major Cavagnari accordingly proceeded and had an interview with the Agents of Shere Ali at Ali Musjid; and, with regard to that interview, he was glad to find the hon. Member opposite had not that evening spoken as he had done at Bedford, because at Bedford he spoke of the telegram which was sent by the Viceroy, giving an account of it, as a lying telegram.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
The word "lying" is one which never ought to be used in public speaking, and I am sorry it should have been. What I intended to convey was that the telegram, whoever it came from, gave a false impression of what had occurred.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
The telegram was from the Viceroy, and such a word as "lying" applied to it was, in his opinion, 366 deserving of serious reprobation, and the hon. Member had certainly used it.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
denied that he had applied such language to the Governor General. He had copied the telegram from a newspaper, not knowing who was the author of it, and what he wished to state—and what he was prepared to state in that House or anywhere else—was that the telegram, in giving an abbreviated account of what had taken place, had conveyed a false impression of the scene at Ali Musjid.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
was sorry the hon. Gentleman had not corrected the report of his speech which appeared in the papers, and would only add upon that point, that any imputation on the character of the Governor General of India, who had such important negotiations to conduct, appeared to him to be extremely undesirable as well as unfair. They had great difficulty in presenting the telegrams in such a way as to do justice to the Viceroy, and afford an impartial statement of the facts. To say, then, that what he asserted was utterly untrue, was very hard on the Viceroy. That being the case, he was prepared to justify the telegram. Having read the Reports of Colonel Jenkins and Major Cavagnari, he was convinced that what the Viceroy had said was the whole truth. He would not quote the Report, which had been often quoted; but he really had thought that the House would believe the truth of the Viceroy's statement as to what passed at that interview. That interview was also remarkable for another thing—the tact shown by Major Cavagnari. At any moment an incautious word from him might have precipitated a conflict; and obviously, if Lord Lytton had intended that result, he would never have instructed him to preserve a cautious demeanour towards the subjects of Shere Ali. After the refusal of the Commandant of Ali Musjid to admit our Mission, the Viceroy, so far from precipitating a collision, telegraphs home that he would endeavour to avoid it, and, if possible, to obtain a pacific solution. And after that, he instructed his Envoy to address a final Ultimatum to Shere Ali, and to offer time for consideration. This forbearance was carried so far as to cause a delay of two months before the insult was resented, and of postponing military operations to the very last day possible 367 before the commencement of the winter. He wished to ask hon. Members opposite, at what point of the negotiations was it that, in their opinion, the Government had gone wrong? He would like to know precisely what they would have done in like circumstances? How would they have treated the Prince who had tried to stir up the Border Tribes against us, and who, in order to embarrass us at a time when, to say the least of it, our relations with another foreign country were strained, had received an Envoy from that country whose intentions were avowedly hostile to us, while our counter-Mission was rejected in the face of all India, and at a point outside his own territory to which he had advanced his forces? In view of all those facts, the Government of India had felt that a crisis had arrived in our relations with Afghanistan; that if such conduct were tolerated, a feeling might get abroad that we were losing our strength; and that that paramount influence in Afghanistan which ought to be ours was not only going, but absolutely gone. The Indian Government had felt that Afghanistan under a foreign Power might prove a constant menace to our safety in the East, and they had accordingly represented to the Government at home the absolute and urgent necessity of taking some steps to secure our position. There could be no pretence for saying that Lord Lytton desired war—of all people in the world he was one of the least likely to desire it; and if there was one thing for which he would be remembered gratefully, it would be for the re-establishment of our Indian finances on a sound basis. Was it likely, then, that he should desire to overthrow that satisfactory basis, and to risk his whole reputation and undertake the anxieties of war? The Government at home had entered upon the war with no light heart—though sometimes they had been accused of desiring war—but that had been at a time when they had achieved peace. In truth, they desired no war, and no annexation of Afghanistan; yet, when dangers and trials were pressing, and when they felt that to take some notice of them was necessary and unavoidable, if they had failed to do so they would have been untrue to their trust. In that spirit, they were quite ready to submit their conduct to the 368 judgment of Parliament, and were not afraid of the verdict.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
Sir, in my opinion, the two speeches we have listened to this evening are not likely to diminish the wonder that has been expressed in several quarters at the contrast between the eager warmth with which this matter has been discussed out-of-doors, six weeks ago, and the calm and dispassionate manner in which it has been debated within this House. But the circumstances have greatly altered; for six weeks ago the question of war and peace was still open, and those who regarded war as a great calamity would have been something less than Englishmen if they had not discussed the subject with animation. The Government, however, have now taken upon themselves the responsibility of declaring war. Overt acts of war have been committed; and it has become the duty of Parliament to say conscientiously whether they think what has been done should have been done or left alone. We are bound to do that, unless we are ready to sink to the rank of an Assembly which only meets to register the foregone conclusions of the Government. A theory has been propounded by several leading papers, that when war has once been declared the House of Commons has nothing to do but to hold its tongue and vote the money. But I cannot endorse it; for the simple reason that it goes to maintain that the most important of all resolutions which the Executive can take—if only it be taken without first consulting Parliament—is ipso facto removed from the cognizance of Parliament. I do not propose to touch on any of the matters which have been treated so exhaustively by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), except in so far as that is rendered necessary by some of the observations of the last speaker. It is especially necessary to refer to certain remarks of his with regard to Lord Northbrook; because Lord Cranbrook's despatch identifies Lord Northbrook's reputation with that of the Government which I had the honour to support. Lord Cranbrook, in the ninth paragraph of his despatch, has attempted to throw upon Lord Northbrook the consequences of the fatal step that was taken in 1876, and which has involved us in the war with the Ameer; and the Under Secretary of State for India evidently regards 369 —and justly so—Lord Northbrook as the recalcitrant agent of the present Government. The hon. Gentleman said—"Events showed that representations which were addressed to the Ameer in 1876 ought to have been addressed to him in 1875, and would have been addressed to him but for Lord North brook." Sir, I should rather say that events have proved the truth of Lord North-brook's prediction, and that the consequences which Lord Northbrook said were certain to arise, if a certain fatal step was taken in 1875, have actually resulted now that that step was taken in 1876. Lord Northbrook prophesied that if British Residents were pressed on the Ameer he would refuse to receive them. He has refused. He prophesied that the refusal would impair the influence of the British Government in India. It has done so to such a degree that we are going into a great war to restore that influence. He prophesied that the Ameer would be thrown into the arms of Russia; and he has been thrown so completely into the arms of Russia that no one knows if he will be got out of them. The hon. Gentleman, towards the close of his speech, asked the cardinal question on which the issue of this debate must turn, and that is—at what specific point of those negotiations the conduct of the late Government would have diverged from that of Her Majesty's Ministers? Although I am not in the secrets of the late Government, I will not hesitate to name the exact point of separation, and that is just halfway through the Blue Book, at page 128, at the time when Lord Salisbury wrote a letter raising again the question of the British Agents in the territories of the Ameer, and insisting that his policy with regard to that matter should be carried through. Lord Northbrook, however, clearly shows that his policy with regard to Afghanistan had been to show the Ameer that we desired to assist him with our advice whenever he required it, and not to press upon him the presence of a British officer within his territories. While I thank the Government for the fulness of the Blue Book—and feel bound to compliment the editor upon the skill with which he has arranged the several documents—I have yet to complain that there is one hiatus in the Papers which will have to be explained in a manner which will bring more conviction to the House than has been 370 produced hitherto—the absence of the I Minute of General Norman, Sir Arthur Hobhouse, and Sir William Muir. Had that been given, it would have let some light in upon what is the difference between the old and new policy of the Indian Government. Taking the Papers as a whole, however, such well-digested information, tracing the whole course of events, has never been laid before Parliament to my knowledge, and they give those who study them an opportunity of so tracing them. We have often heard of the high pitch to which the art of writing well is carried among our Anglo-Indian officials; but this collection of Papers proves that at the India Office there exists not only the art of writing well, but a still higher and rarer literary quality—the art of arrangement. This Book contains not merely the materials of history. It is history itself. Almost without a word of comment, the story is left to tell itself; and the only exception brings into strong relief the merit of the performance; for I cannot but think that the author himself would be glad if he had ended the Book at page 260. Lord Cranbrook ought to have been sufficiently confident in the excellence of his own production to have sent it into the world without the tail which he has put to it; and the unfortunate—and to those whose political and administrative reputations are concerned the very unfortunate—brevity and condensation of paragraph 9 contrasts most unfavourably with the full and detailed exposition of the rival policies of Lord Lawrence and Lord Lytton, of the late Cabinet and the present one. As to the merits of those policies we differ, and differ widely; but as to their intention, it is difficult to see how there can be any difference of opinion whatsoever. The old policy consisted in full reliance upon a well-disciplined and well-appointed army, stationed within our own borders; in keeping our troops in hand in a country where there was, or soon would be, complete means of lateral communication all along our Frontier, and where that Frontier would not be cut transversely by great ranges of mountains—as high as the mountains of the Bernese Oberland—which would hinder, instead of furthering, that facility of concentration which is the soul of modern, and indeed of all, warfare. Another supposed—and, as I think, very material—advantage of the old policy 371 was that our Frontier lay in a plain; and the inhabitants of a plain when once conquered are conquered for ever; while there are few instances in history in which the inhabitants of mountains have been finally and thoroughly subdued and assimilated. Situated, to a great extent, in a fertile country, in the midst of their supplies, and in the very heart of the best recruiting ground in India, our Army had nothing to do, except to look after the people who were in front of them, and no reason to trouble themselves about the people among whom they lived, or, still worse, the people who were behind them. And while this policy was, according to the very distinguished military men who held it, the most effective policy from a military point of view, it had, in the eyes of the soldier-statesmen who governed India, and who, while they were soldiers, were not ashamed of being statesmen, this immense recommendation—that it was an economical policy. That was the opinion not of holiday soldiers, or penny-wise and pound-foolish economists. The Minute of 1869 embodying that opinion was signed by the statesman who saved the Punjab, and the General who had been Chief of the Staff of the Army which recovered India. Men who had been in such a position at such a crisis knew very well that a military danger, far more serious than any external military danger, would be the internal discontent that would infallibly result from increased and increasing taxation. Such men as these—such a man as Colonel Reynell-Taylor, the Commissioner of Umballah, who in three desperate campaigns has fought throughout the length and breadth of the country which he now wisely governs—hold the same view; as General Norman, who, in the course of 10 years, was 25 times thanked in general orders and despatches for services in the field—held the view that the old system of Frontier defence was the most effective for military purposes; and that the system which was most effective for military reasons was—as in the long run must always be the case—the most truly economical. To put against opinions like these you have, indeed, great names; but I must beg to remind the House that this is a matter on which we want something more than great names—we want exact calculations. General Norman, and Colonel Taylor, and Sir John 372 Lawrence, are arguing in favour of a system which they know by experience; which they have worked, and, to a great extent, have founded; a system which was in force for many years; a system which was in force from the moment when the Government of Lord Ellen-borough evacuated Afghanistan to the moment when the Government of Lord Lytton occupied Quetta. But the new policy is a thing of the future. The military and still more financial arrangements connected with it are matters of hypothesis and conjecture; and I am bound to say that the imaginations and ideas of some of its warmest supporters are—like the garrisons which they propose to plant a couple of hundred miles from our present Frontier—not in the plain, but in the clouds. What are the data on which we are relying, as against the minute, the well-founded, the familiar, and household knowledge of the old school of Punjaubee administrators? Here is a specimen of what—in default of any estimates proceeding from official and authentic sources—is put forward as a guide to the public opinion of the country. General Shakspear, of the Artillery—a very hard-fighting officer, though his distinguished services were done elsewhere than in India, and who appears to be at least as courageous with his pen as with his sword—writes to The Times from the scientific club to say that, whereas our present Frontier would take 100,000 men to defend it, a scientific Frontier would require only 5,000 men. Now, here we have a scientific soldier writing about a scientific Frontier from a scientific club, who tells us that, if the Russians attempted to invade us—for that, of course, is the contingency under which we should require 100,000 men to hold our present Frontier—wecouldkeepthem back with 5,000 men. Sir, I cannot imagine how anyone—soldier or civilian—can believe that, by placing behind our backs a range of mountains 100 miles broad, 13,000 to 17,000 feet high, and swarming with turbulent and faithless mountaineers, we could at once repel Russia, and keep up our numerous, lengthy, and perilous lines of communication with smaller forces than we have at present. It is at least an open question among scientific military men that a line on the summit of a range of mountains—or, still more, on the re- 373 verse of a range of mountains—is the very worst and most dangerous line to defend. You have not only to protect your main Passes—and for every one of those main Passes, if Russia came, 5,000 men would be barely sufficient garrison—you have to watch and block every mule track, and even foot track, by which Infantry could pass in order to take your garrisons in the rear. Look at the experience of Turkey. By far the greatest and most unmitigated misfortune of Turkey in the late war was the defeat which befel her at a time when events, political and military, were hurrying so fast that very little was heard of it in London—the battle which, I think, is called the battle of Kesnova. The Turks held the Shipka Pass and the neighbourhood in immense force, and with a most powerful artillery. They were attacked in front by the main Russian Army. They beat the Russians handsomely. They were on the very point of ruining their army, when Skobeleff pushed his Infantry across paths by which he could not drag a single field-piece. He took the victorious army in the rear. He had it at a hopeless disadvantage. Without a gun to help him, two-and-forty pieces of Artillery fell into his hands in a couple of hours. And when once they were beaten, the whole Turkish Army, being on the mountains—instead of being on their own side of the mountains—were captured, if I recollect right, to the number of 28,000 men. Now, brave as the Turks are—heaven knows that I do not wish to argue too closely from them to our own valiant battalions; but everybody who has studied military history knows that, in order to fight his best, the British soldier must, like other soldiers, be placed in a position which accords with, the well-established principles of the art of war. I am stating the case insufficiently. I am conceding half of what is urged on the other side, when I say that if we push our line across the mountains, for every soldier who, owing to our improved positions, we could spare from the front, we should be forced to tell off two to guard our communications. Austria requires 60,000 men permanently to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina—countries in which, taking them together, two-thirds of the population are favourable to her—and if we chose to place behind our Frontier a dis- 374 trict much like Bosnia and Herzegovina, with mountains thrice as high, and with a population not a man of which we can trust, to believe that we should in the end get off more cheaply than Austria, is, in my opinion, to labour under nothing short of infatuation. And, what is more, that is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. If the object of this war—the wisdom of which we condemn and you justify—is to provide India with a Frontier which can be defended more economically, what is the meaning of the announcement made in this House last Friday by the Under Secretary of State for India? What is the meaning of his declaration that the Indian Government, with the unanimous consent of the Indian Council, had determined to increase the Native Army? And The Times newspaper—which throughout the whole of this business has shown a minute acquaintance with the military intentions of the Government that is more than prophetic—The Times newspaper, which two full months before war was declared, before ever the Chamberlain Mission had started from Peshawur, before nine out of ten Englishmen knew that such a Mission was to be sent, told us the exact number of troops which would be required in case Afghanistan was invaded, and entered into details so minute that it pointed out the destination of every half-squadron and half-battery— The Times newspaper now informs us that the Indian Government intends to increase every Native Infantry battalion by 200 men, and to add a proportionate complement of European officers. Under the old policy we contrived to guard India with 500 bayonets in a battalion; and since we have been informed by the Prime Minister—on the most solemn and important occasion on which, except from his place in Parliament, a Prime Minister can speak—that we have gone to war to extend our Frontier; and since, by the confession of the Ministry, the first result of our extension of Frontier, as I can well believe, will be to add 40 per cent to the strength of our Infantry—apart from justice, apart from international morality, on grounds of British, or, as it is now called, Imperial expediency—I emphatically put in my protest against such a war. I should very much like to know whether 375 Lord Beaconsfield, before he made his declaration at the Guildhall—which committed the country to a permanent military occupation of the North-Western Highlands—had considered in detail the practical objections which the Indian authorities made to such an occupation in the year 1869, and had satisfied himself of the practical arguments by which those objections should be refuted? Let hon. Gentlemen turn to pages 56 and 57 of the Afghan Papers—I have not risen to take up their time by reading lengthy extracts, and still less shall I presume to translate into my own feeble and insufficient language the phrases in which the ablest and most distinguished of our Punjab officials have put their opinions and their experience on record; but I beg hon. Gentlemen to read that part of Colonel Reynell-Taylor's despatch which refers to the inconvenience—a word which, in the Indian language, means the peril—of permanently stationing Native troops on the other side of the mountains, and still more among the mountains themselves. It has been my great good fortune — a good fortune which I wish had been shared by some very prominent statesmen—to have had just enough connection with India to make me more than distrustful—to make mo absolutely sceptical as to my own power of forming any sound opinion of Indian subjects as the result of my own observation. But I do know just enough of India—or, rather, of Anglo-India—to have some means of judging the relative value of the opinions of others; and I am certain that when Colonel Reynell-Taylor states, and gives the grounds for his statement, that the permanent occupation of the new Frontier will put a strain—and a very serious strain—on the discipline and the morale of our Native Army, he has said something which will require a more weighty answer than a few clever sentences in a debating speech in the House of Commons. I look in vain in these Papers for a confutation of these, as I think, convincing—and, if convincing, most alarming—arguments. At this moment, on both sides of the House, we are under the deep impression produced upon our judgments and imaginations by successes, which prove that the quality of British soldier ship has not deteriorated, and the average quality of British military leadership has largely and unmistakably 376 improved. At this moment our Native troops, who have taken part in those successes, are under the influence of the just pride and exultation which spreads itself like a second patriotism through a successful army; but when two or three—or, if you like, 20 or 30—years have gone by; when the novelty has worn off, and the cold, the discomfort, the exile, the entire breaking up of that family and domestic life which, to the Native soldier, constitutes a necessity of military service, have done their work, then the discontent of the 25,000 Sikhs and Poorbeah Sepoys, who will be quartered in the Passes, will add a very serious feature to our Indian difficulties. But it will be said you may quarter the European troops in the Passes, and keep the Natives in the plains. That may be said in the House of Commons; but it will not be regarded as a practical solution of the question in India. With 200,000 men in arms under the command of the independent Princes of India; with Scindiah adopting the Prussian system to arm his entire male population; with our own Native Army 120,000 strong; our 40,000 or 50,000 British linesmen, and our 10,000 British Artillerymen are not a man too many to enable the Englishmen resident in Hindostan to sleep quiet in their beds. When the first flush of victory and confidence is over, I will venture to say that the least acceptable proposition which could be made to the Anglo-Indian community would be to denude Cawnpore, Meerut, and Allahabad, in order to send 12,000 or 15,000 British bayonets to the other side of the Suleiman mountains. These were the considerations, I cannot doubt, which weighed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when, in August, 1877, he made his declaration against advancing our present Frontier. So strong was the right hon. Gentleman's opinion in favour of the view which I have been advocating, that he declared himself opposed to the military occupation of Quetta. Considerations—political and diplomatic—have since, I suppose, modified the right hon. Gentleman's judgment; but on the military question—and I have not attempted to deal with any other—I boldly quote him as an authority in favour of my view. It is a thousand pities that we did not leave it for Russia, if she wants to invade us, to entangle herself in a 377 preliminary conflict with the Ameer, and hamper and handicap herself with the bitter animosity of that most resentful nation—the effect of whose patient but watchful hostility we ourselves, a generation ago, learned by memorable experience. I could wish no worse fortune for our worst enemy than to have turned himself—as we have contrived to turn ourselves—into the enemy of the Afghan race. An hon. Friend of mine opposite—who, I think, has not been in India—the other day, when speaking to his constituents, described the Ameer as the puppet of Russia. With much greater justice, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Eastern Division of the West Riding (Mr. C. Beckett-Denison)—who has been in India for a long time and to some purpose—spoke of the Ameer as a Potentate who was anxious to rub the noses of England and Russia together. But, unfortunately, we needs must step in and remind Shere Ali that there was a Power far more formidable than Russia, and far nearer to his doors, who demanded of him much greater sacrifices, and was determined to inflict on him a more intolerable humiliation. I candidly admit that the negotiations with Lord Northbrook in 1873 left the Ameer sullen. I am very much inclined to think that they found him sullen; but Shere Ali, whatever else he may be, is no fool; and some much stronger motive than sullen-ness is required to induce a Ruler to defy a Power which could at any time occupy his capital on six weeks' notice, and that motive was terror—terror, mixed with indignation, at the persistent determination to force upon him British Residents; the invitation—for so he would read it—to accept the fate of so many other Native Rulers who had admitted British political officers within their Frontiers—to run the usual round of semi-independence, total dependence, and then final subjugation and extinction. He knew his people better than we know them. He knew that when Afghans saw the white faces lording it in their streets they could not be trusted to keep their fingers off the foreigner. He knew—if we have forgotten it—how often, among a people less hot-blooded and vindictive than his, the downfall of a Native dynasty has begun with an attack upon the British Residency. And in this frame of mind he heard that Quetta—which stands at the back 378 gate of his country, as Peshawur stands at the front gate—was occupied by a military force; and he heard it, as we well know, with much the same feelings as George III. heard that Napoleon was encamped with 100,000 men on the cliffs off Dover. And, finally, his Envoy was invited to a Conference at Peshawur, to which our Envoy came with the draft of a Treaty in his pocket, which as hon. Gentlemen will see, if they turn to pages 190, 191, was expressly, carefully, and most effectually drawn for the purpose of turning him into a subsidised dependent. If we wished to hurt his feelings; if we wished to pick a quarrel with him; if we wished to thrust him—whether he willed it or not—into the capacious arms of Russia, I cannot even conceive what other course we should have taken. But the details of the process by which this unhappy Ruler was forcibly alienated from British influence, which by the end of this week will be familiar to the country, I leave in more capable hands. My endeavour to-night was not to enlarge upon the justice or injustice of our conduct—though my vote in the division will be affected by that consideration—but to show, apart from right or wrong, that we are doing not well, but ill for our own interests by going to war in quest of a scientific Frontier.
§ MR. MARTEN
said, it must be assumed that the Government was following the advice of military men of experience, and he pointed out that the testimony of an experienced commander like Lord Napier of Magdala was in favour of the Frontier which was now sought for North-Western India. In that noble Lord's opinion the assertion that we were secure in India if we remained within our mountain boundary was at variance with all history. A mountain chain that could be pierced in many places was no security if you hid behind it. How much Austria lost in not defending the Bohemian mountains; and what might have been the position of the Turks had they properly secured the passage of the Balkans? The principal charge the Mover of the Amendment had made against the Government was that they had inaugurated a new policy with regard to our Indian Possessions, and that that policy was a policy of preserving ourselves against the aggressions of Russia. But he (Mr. Marten) dis- 379 tinctly repudiated that charge; for he contended that they had, on the contrary, endeavoured to pursue the same policy, making allowance for the changes which were found necessary under the altered circumstances. As he understood the policy of the Indian Government and of England with regard to Afghanistan, it was that we desired Afghanistan should be independent, strong, and, above all, that it should be friendly to us; and if these three conditions were fulfilled, our position on the North-Western Frontier would be safely protected. The real ground of complaint put forward by the Ameer, according to his Envoy, was the interference of the Viceroy with regard to his son. How could it then, in fairness, be said that we had given him umbrage by asking that he should enter with us into an offensive and defensive Treaty, which was, he contended, a proposal for a complete alliance justified by the advances of Russia, and for the due effect of which it was necessary that we should have the means of having Resident Agents? Reviewing the Papers at considerable length, the conclusion he arrived at was, that had we, at an earlier period, adopted a wise and friendly policy we might still have been on friendly terms with the Ameer, who had at one time avowed his willingness to be the enemy of our enemies. That friendly disposition had, for some reasons not clearly explained, been disturbed. He (Mr. Marten) was very strongly impressed with the belief that both the Indian Government and the Government of this country, before the accession to power of the present Ministry, had not been sufficiently alive to the active progress made by Russia in Central Asia. The House was asked to express its disapproval of the general policy of the present Government; but from what had been already said in the debate, and the references that had been made to the Papers in the hands of hon. Members, the present war, he maintained, had been forced upon the Government by circumstances arising out of the policy of their Predecessors; and if they had pursued a timid or procrastinating policy they would have lost a great opportunity, in his opinion, of strengthening our Indian Frontier. The purchase of the Suez Canal shares; the assumption of the title of Empress of India by Her Majesty; the visit of 380 the Prince of Wales to that country; were, he believed, all portions of a policy which had been pursued by the Government with great skill and perseverance, and which was calculated to uphold our great and glorious Empire.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I understood the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Marten) to say that the policy which the Government have recently pursued in India is not a new one, but is only the policy of their Predecessors, with some slight rectification. I think, in the face of the Papers, he will find it difficult to establish such a statement as that; and I think it entirely inconsistent with all that fell from the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India. I listened with great attention to the very able statement he made tonight. It was a clear and consistent statement; but I thought it a little incomplete. It made clear the position which the Government occupied as to Afghanistan; but it left me a little in doubt as to the position which the Government think they occupy in regard to Russia. I understand, from the account given in the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanhope), that the hostility—and the evidently increasing hostility—of the Ameer towards this country was an all-sufficient justification for the policy pursued. He told us that this hostility was in a measure due to the action we had taken with regard to his son, Yakoob Khan; to our refusal to complete with him a defensive and offensive alliance; that it was owing to the unfortunate action of previous Viceroys; that it was due to a variety of circumstances; but there was one thing which had not the slightest effect on the good will of the Ameer towards us, and that was the attempt to force upon him the residence of British officers in his territory. This statement was made on the authority of Captain Grey, who reported that Mahomed Shah had declared the Ameer would not object to receive European Agents in other places than Cabul. But the hon. Gentleman omitted to quote the statement which followed the one he read, and which is from the Governor General in Council, in which he says, in reference to this statement, that, looking at all the circumstances of the case, and the absence of all official record of a conversation of a private and confidential nature, he was not 381 justified in founding an opinion that the Ameer was willing to receive a European Agent at Herat. Proofs are not wanting that both the Ameer and his father, Dost Mahomed, persistently, and on all occasions, objected to such a Mission. And what stronger proof could be afforded of this than the fact that he refused an alliance with his powerful neighbour and £100,000, rather than accept such a condition? What are the proofs the hon. Gentleman has given us of the unfriendliness of the Ameer? First, he tells us of the attempt to get up a "Jehad" against the British Government. But I believe that if there is any truth in what appears to be only a rumour—for though he tells us this upon the authority of the Governor General, it must be recollected that the Viceroy does not report from his own knowledge, but from Native and other sources—but suppose there is anything in this report that a religious war was attempted to be got up, it was directed against both Russians and English. The second proof of hostility is the refusal of the Ameer to accept the Mission. That refusal is a proof of his dislike at having the Mission thrust upon him, and not of his unfriendliness towards us. From the general argument, it appears the Government have thought these reasons sufficient to change the policy of their Predecessors; but what I wish to point out is that no intimation of this change was given to the House. When the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) gave Notice of his Resolution I gave Notice of an addition thereto, in the shape of a censure upon the Government for not having, previous to declaring war, taken Parliament into its confidence, and for having withheld Papers so long and on inadequate pretexts. This was not in any sense hostile to the Motion of the hon. Member. Indeed, I hoped to have his support. I find, however, that, owing to a change in the order of the debate, which has transformed the Resolution into an Amendment, I am not able to propose my Resolution. Therefore, I withdraw it. But I do this the more willingly because I clearly understood from the speech of the hon. Member for Bedford that he proposed to include in his reasons for condemning the conduct of the Government, the grounds I purposed to set out in my ad- 382 dition. As it is, even if the failure to consult Parliament was not in itself the cause of war, and even if it cannot be shown that war might have been prevented if the House had had the previous opportunity of discussion, yet there is a great difference between consulting Parliament now, when the country is irretrievably committed to war, and of consulting Parliament before the war commenced. There may have been times of national peril and emergency, when it was impossible to take the opinion of Parliament before it became necessary to declare war; and there have been many and more frequent cases in which Parliament has been kept so fully informed of all the circumstances leading up to war that they were fully prepared for its declaration, and might even be said to have consented by implication. But in this instance we have been kept in absolute ignorance of what was going on, and not merely so, but we have been misled by statements and assurances that, if true to the letter, had the effect of throwing us off the scent. I do not attempt to deny that what has been done may be in strict accordance with Constitutional precedent. But I want the House to see that the use of this precedent, in the present instance, practically reduces the House of Commons to impotence, so far as influence over our foreign relations is concerned. Whatever might be the intention of the Government, practically, the effect of it is to deprive the nation of all control over foreign affairs. Some hon. Members have invented a convenient theory by which opposition is silenced in the presence of foreign complications. If we attempt discussion before war breaks out, we are hampering the Government in negotiations and endangering peace. If we wait until war is upon us, then it is said that, in an unpatriotic way, we are dividing the country in the presence of the enemy; while if we postpone discussion until the war is over, until arrangements are made, then we are told we are guilty of futile fault-finding and unnecessary retrospection. The thing, in fact, comes to this—that it is not the business of the House of Commons or the people to express an opinion on foreign affairs—this should be left to the responsible Advisers of the Crown—the House of Commons confining its functions only to paying the bill. I 383 want to ask them to consider to what their practice will eventually lead. They mistake the temper of the people of this country—they reckon without their host—who think the people will consent to a system so fatal to the future destinies of the country. You may bring Parliamentary government into contempt; but the only result will be that public opinion will find expression in less satisfactory ways. You may diminish the influence of Parliament; but you increase that of public agitation. You may choke up the channel between the people and the Ministers of the Crown; but the stream will still flow on, and find a less safe and less convenient course. If, on general grounds, it behoves Parliament jealously to guard its just authority, in the present case we have special reasons for deprecating the treatment we have received. There has been a great change in the policy which has governed India for the past 40 years, and which has been advocated by leading Members of the present Government; and during the time that this change has been in progress, we have had frequent assurances from the Ministry that there was not the slightest intention of changing it. I do not taunt the Government with the fact that their utterances now are inconsistent with their previously expressed opinions. Circumstances may have changed, or, what is more probable, their view of the circumstances have changed. But I do complain that they have allowed us to believe no change was in contemplation. The Papers produced, and the speech we have heard to-night, show the extent and nature of this change, and the degree to which the old policy of masterly inactivity with regard to India has been abandoned, for what I call a policy of "masterful activity." Lord Cranbrook has drawn up the case for the Government in paragraph 10, and tells us how when he came into office circumstances demanded a policy of timely precaution—an admirable phrase; one of those phrases for which we are indebted to the present Government, meaning more than it appears to mean. I confess I do not understand how it is possible to reconcile speeches made in former debates by Members of the Government with the evidence we find in these Papers. The speech which my hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan) has already quoted from the 384 Chancellor of the Exchequer I hope the latter will explain with satisfaction to us, who require no assurances of his good faith, but who are compelled to say that we have been misled by it. On August 9, 1877, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—I have always demurred to the idea which has been put forward by some, that the beat way to meet danger is to advance beyond our Frontier, and have always held that the true lines we ought to lay down for ourselves are these—to strengthen ourselves within our Frontier, and to do so by a combination of measures, moral and material.And, again—The main lines of our policy are unchanged, and I believe the country will be satisfied with and will wish them to continue."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxvi. 718–22.]Yes, Sir; but would the country have been satisfied if they had known that at the very moment when these words were uttered our policy had been changed—that a policy of "timely precaution" was in full progress—and that an English Viceroy had actually been instructed by his Government to find a pretext—or, if he could not find one, to create one—to cover demands which they dared not openly avow? The other night the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke with some indignation of a statement made by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, to the effect that the war was being waged on false pretexts; but he did not appear to me to appreciate the exact nature of the accusation which I understood the noble Lord to bring, and which, in any case, I now venture to repeat. We do not accuse the Government of going to war on a pretext which to them appears insufficient; we do not accuse them of such grotesque wickedness; but we do say that the pretext held out to us is not the real one. We do not make this charge on our own authority; we make it on the authority of the friends and supporters of the Government. I find the semi-official newspaper, The Pioneer of India, of the 21st August, speaks of the Mission to Cabul as follows:—It is a measure for which the way has been carefully prepared by the policy of the Indian Government during the last two or three years, and it should begin the establishment of our relations with the most important State on our Northern Frontier on a satisfactory basis. Everything that Lord Lytton has done in connection with the North-Western Frontier has been directed towards undoing the blunders of 385 the past. The work has been one of time, be-cause the way had to be picked carefully. There has been a powerful, though wrong-headed, opposition at home to circumvent.Now, how can this be reconciled with the assurance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that at this time there was no change in the main lines of our policy with Afghanistan? I do not know whether it is a strictly Parliamentary practice "to circumvent" an Opposition, which I understand to mean "to take in." But it is not alone the wrong-headed opposition which suffer, but so also do the Parliament and people, from being kept in the dark. We have been told that the Russian Mission at Cabul, which took place after the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is sufficient to account for a change in the policy of the Government; but I can point out that pressure upon the Ameer began years before this Russian Mission was thought of; and, in any case, the Russian Mission was certainly not a just cause of war against the Ameer of Afghanistan. The reception of the Russian Mission by the Ameer was, I believe, very unwilling on his part. I believe it to have been unwilling for one reason—that he delayed it for more than a month before he allowed it to enter his territory. But I say the reception of that Mission would be a very natural act, a mere act of self-preservation, after the warnings and threats which he had received from the Viceroy. He had been told by the Viceroy that very probably Russia and England would combine to wipe him out of the map; and I think it very natural that he should take the first friendly offer he received from one of the two Powers. Then we have the fact of the withdrawal of Sir Lewis Pelly's Mission, just at the moment when news came that the Ameer was prepared to assent, although unwillingly, to the demands which were made upon him. When you couple that with the peremptory manner in which the Mission of Sir Neville Chamberlain was carried through, and the violent language of the Viceroy about the earthen pipkin and the two iron pots, it certainly seems to me as though, on the part of the Indian Government at all events, there was a foregone determination to go to war, and to find in the Cabul Mission, or in something else, an excuse for a policy which was to end in a rectification of 386 territory and a scientific Frontier. If the reception of an English Mission was the sole object of the Government, that might have been obtained on two or three occasions; but if a rectification of territory was what was wanted, then we can easily understand that such a policy as was pursued was a very sure and certain way of effecting the desired object. I desire to ask hon. Members whether, assuming that British interests would be served by such an alteration of Frontier as is now contemplated, whether we are to hold that British interests are altogether independent of considerations of right and justice? Does anybody suppose that we should have dared to avow or carry out such a policy in a European country? And is it sufficient to call a man a barbarian in order to discharge oneself of all obligations to treat him with common fairness and consideration? Are we to go on piling up one pretext after another; to act as judges in our own cause; and in this way to justify our policy of injustice and aggrandisement? Only carry this a little further, and it would be a justification of any invasion of national freedom and national independence. Only admit that a country has to follow the law of self-preservation without reference to others, and it is evidently a justification for an attack—say of France upon Belgium, or Germany upon Holland, or the absorption of Canada by the United States—and this deliberate attempt to substitute might for right in dealing with Indian Princes, and the law of force for the law of nations, is certain, in my opinion, to have a most disastrous effect upon the true foundations of our Indian Empire. The Duke of Wellington, writing a letter to Major Malcolm, said—I would sacrifice Gwalior, or every Frontier of India, ten times over in order to save our credit for scrupulous good faith.Recently a celebrated historian, who gave utterance to a similar sentiment, was very severely taken to task; but I do not suppose anyone would venture to doubt the patriotism of the Duke of Wellington. But what are we doing? What of this scrupulous good faith? What of our prestige in India? These we are willing to throw away in pursuit of the hazy phantom of a "scientific Frontier." What is a scientific Frontier? The Government have not vouchsafed 387 to us at present any definition of what they understand by it. I do not suppose they would find it easy to get any two great military authorities to agree upon the exact boundary which should give us security; and if they did agree, who is there that does not know that agreement would have no finality about it? If you begin a policy of this kind it has no end. Bach successive stage brings us one step nearer to the inevitable time when we shall find ourselves face to face with Russia, and any further rectification of Frontier will be only possible at the expense of a European war. It is a curious thing that whenever we have had the misfortune to be governed by Ministers who affect a spirited foreign policy, the country at once becomes a prey to apprehension and panic. At one time it is Spain which is the object of this unworthy fear; then France; and now it is Russia. We hear a great deal of a "great" England and of our Imperial destiny; and this great, England, with enormous resources in men and money, is betrayed into an unworthy and undignified apprehension, which, I say, should never enter into its mind as long as it does not meddle with what does not concern it. Those take the truest estimate of Imperial greatness and power who believe that "when a strong man armed keepeth his house his goods are in peace," and none can make him afraid. Those, on the contrary, take a mean, unworthy view who are always going fussily about, going to war with some one, for fear that some one should anticipate them by going to war with them. I have only one point more to which I wish to call attention. I object strongly not only to the policy of the Government, and to the way in which it has been carried out, but also to the time at which it has been adopted. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary lately rebuked an hon. Gentleman for speaking of Russia as an enemy of this country, and said the Queen was on friendly relations with all the European Powers. At the time of Sir Neville Chamberlain's Mission there was no emergency—we were in full enjoyment of peace with honour—at that time there was a slight revival in trade, which had been depressed so long. Now that revival is absolutely checked, and the nation's industries are prostrate—trade is worse than 388 I ever knew it before. I can speak with authority of my own district. Birmingham is fortunately situated in having so many industries carried on there that it does not suffer so much as other towns in times of bad trade, for if one trade is slack, the chances are that another trade will be busy. But, at the present time, I know no trade which is making any satisfactory return for the capital engaged in it; and I know of a great many which are being worked at a loss. In the district of Staffordshire things are still worse. The coal and iron industries are almost destroyed. Of 150 blast furnaces in South Staffordshire, less than 40 are at work; and there is not a month in which one or more are not added to the unemployed. I happen to be President of the Board of Arbitration which settles the wages of the ironworkers for the whole of the central district of England; and I have had, unfortunately, to my great regret, to award three successive reductions of wages, until they have touched the lowest point which has been known for 25 years, and there is not the slightest sign of seeing improvement. And yet this was the time—when there was no emergency, when there was no reason for haste—when the Indian Government chose, and which the Home Government approved, for taking steps which so greatly add to the prevailing distress and stagnation. I suppose it may be said that in criticizing and condemning the policy of Her Majesty's Government we are acting the part of a factious Opposition. Her Majesty's Government seem to think that the functions of a Constitutional Opposition is to shut its eyes and open its mouth, and take all the Government pleases to send them. But it was not always so. It was not in this sense that the Leaders of the Conservative Party used to understand the duties of an Opposition. In 1857, at the time of the China War—which, in my opinion, was as unjust and as immoral as the present war—Mr. Disraeli opposed the Government of the day, and supported a Vote of Censure upon them, which was carried; and afterwards, when Parliament was dissolved and Lord Palmerston appealed to the country, Mr. Disraeli, in an address to the electors of Buckinghamshire, wrote some words which are very apposite to the present occasion. He said of Lord Palmerston— 389With no domestic policy, he is obliged to divert the attention of the people from the consideration of their own affairs to the distraction of foreign polities. His external system is turbulent and aggressive that his rule at home may be tranquil and unassailed. Hence arise excessive expenditure, heavy taxation, and the stoppage of all social improvement. The general policy which I should enforce at this juncture may be contained in these words—'Honourable peace, reduced taxation, and social improvement.'Sir, we appeal from Lord Beaconsfield in 1878 to Mr. Disraeli in 1857. For my own part, I would not wish wiser words or better words in which to appeal to my constituents when the time comes—as I sincerely hope it may come very soon—when the nation will be called upon to decide between the two sides of the House. If its decision should be against us, we shall bow to it with what resignation we may; but until we know it to be given at the polling-booth I, for one, will not believe the nation will sanction a policy the military necessity for which is doubted and denied, and which, regarded from any ordinary standpoint of morality, is unjust in its objects, and dishonourable in the means by which it is sought to be obtained.
considered the most satisfactory chapter in the Blue Book was that which recorded the success of Lord Mayo in gaining over Shere Ali as the real friend of this country. There were two policies to be pursued with respect to Afghanistan as a Frontier State; one was to have treated him as an independent Sovereign—in which case neither we nor Russia had any business to have a Resident at his Court—and the other was to say we would defend him against the assaults of foreign foes, provided his foreign policy met our views—and in that case we must have a British Resident upon whom we could depend to give us authentic information of what was going on in his Kingdom. As long as Russia did not interfere with Afghanistan we were content to stand aloof; but as soon as she sent a Mission to Cabul, and the new factor of Russian aggression came into consideration, it was necessary to provide in some more determined manner for the safety of the Empire under our control. Lord Mayo was satisfied that the Russians meant to be friendly, and that the fears of Shere Ali might be set aside; and Lord 390 Northbrook assured him he was safe under the assurances of Russia, but Shere Ali himself knew better. Before the ink was dry on the Treaty of Umballa we found that General Kaufmann was opening communications with the Ameer; and as Lord Northbrook chose to rely upon Russian assurances we had thrown the Ameer into the arms of that Government. These assurances reminded him of the Acts of Parliament which were passed at the time that the English were conquering India. England acted in a similar manner last century, when, in spite of the written law at home, we conquered India. But for that disobedience of the law, we should have been without half the Deccan and half of Hindostan at this moment. Therefore, without considering the question of right, they could not close their eyes to the fact that the Russians had never ceased advancing in Central Asia since 1847, and the Ameer had a better chance of observing that advance than we had. Shere Ali, from his own Kingdom, could serve the Russians if he chose. He was on the spot, while we had to depend upon despatches at at least 1,000 miles from what would be the scene of action. It was, to his mind, clear from the first that the Russians meant more than they said when they wrote letters to the Ameer expressing hopes that he would be friendly to the Russian nation, and telling him that by good behaviour he might in time merit the favour of their good master the Czar. After these letters had been treated by Lord Northbrook in the way he had described, the relations between India and the Ameer entered upon a new phase; because in consequence of a disturbance which had arisen in reference to the boundaries of Afghanistan, it was considered necessary that there should be an interview between Lord Northbrook and the Ameer. This was after Shere Ali had received letters from Russia which had caused him apprehensions as to which he had received assurances. At that negotiation Shere Ali asked more than any Government of England could grant; and he was also told that, as there was no possibility of his being invaded by Russia, the question of guaranteeing him against the consequences of such an invasion could not be considered. From that point commenced the ultimate 391 enmity of the Ameer, who began to think that he had better turn his eyes to what he thought might prove the strongest nation; and it also became clear that Russia meant more than courtesy in sending her first messengers, for she increased their number and the frequency of their visits, and showed a disposition to take steps which might favour her advance, either in Central Asia or in Hindostan. He thought the despatch quoted by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) would not serve his purpose; because it was based upon the supposition that Russia was not to interfere with Afghanistan. This was at the basis of their negotiations; and he therefore failed to see the force of the arguments used by those who had the direction of the Government of India at the period in question. If the Russians were not in Afghanistan, England need not be there; but the contrary state of facts applied with equal force; and he warned the country that it behoved it to take care of itself in this matter, if Russia was to be allowed to occupy a position from which she could pour her troops down through the Passes into India. He did not think the country could look with equanimity on such a state of things. Such a course reminded one of no parallel in history except it be that of that King who, while the battle was going on which decided the fate of his Sovereignty, retired to a little place apart, and meditated upon the fortune of the shepherd who had nothing to do with Kingdoms. He did not think they would be content to say—"Here on this mole-hill I will sit me down; to whom God will, be victory." That was not the course which would recommend itself to the country. Their fathers won the Empire of India with the sword and the bayonet, and India had, at all events, received some benefits. The ryot might be poor; but he knew now that what he sowed would be his to reap. He knew also that in India everyone was equal before the law; and he (Mr. Ridley) could not believe there were not some ties beyond those of military occupation which bound together the Indian Government and its subject-population. Such was the Empire they had received from their fathers, and it was their duty to see that it passed from their hands untarnished and the extent of its territory undiminished; and not only that, 392 but that it passed to their descendants protected, in the first place, from the hands of a foreign invader; and, in the second place, by developing mutual interests and strengthening ties, increase the happiness, contentment, and freedom of the country.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
congratulated the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Ridley) upon the ability he had exhibited in his first speech to the House. He must be allowed to say, however, that he thought it would have been a speech which would have been more appropriate in support of the Government had they acted in a determined manner towards Russia instead of against the Ameer of Afghanistan. The real question of importance that they had before them was this—whether the war with Afghanistan was necessary or not, whether it was provoked, and whether the Government could have avoided that war? There could be no more important question than that, and it seemed to him that it transcended all other questions before the House. As to the charges made against the late Government, he would be content to let them rest; and especially with reference to that 9th paragraph in the despatch to which so much reference had been made, he was quite content to leave that charge and its reply to the judgment of the country. He had not intended to say much upon one other question; but it was of so much importance that he must make some allusion to it. He referred to the question whether the statements made by the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India were consistent with the facts in his possession? The Under Secretary of State for India passed very lightly over the speech made by Lord Salisbury in 1877; but it was of some importance that they should briefly consider it. In that speech Lord Salisbury said—"Our relations with the Ameer of Cabul have undergone no material change since last year." With what had since transpired that statement seemed to him wonderful. That speech was made in June, 1877, and on March 30 the Conference at Peshawur had been closed, and negotiations with the Ameer had been broken off, the Native Agent must have been withdrawn, and, in fact, that policy of not insisting upon the reception of Resident Agents—a policy supported by Lord Lawrence 393 and Lord Mayo, and a change from which was resisted by Lord Northbrook and disapproved by half of Lord Lytton's own Council—a disapproval they heard nothing of until quite recently—that policy had been changed, and changed for months, and the result of that change was to break off negotiations with the Ameer; and yet Lord Salisbury stated there was no material change in our relations with the Ameer. Lord Salisbury also stated there was no reason for "any apprehension of any change of policy in our Indian Empire." This was one of those statements which were literally true, but which were, he might say, naturally misinterpreted. There was no apprehension of change of policy, because the change had been already made for months. They had, however, a complaint to make far more important than any charge against the late Government, or any charge of inconsistency in the statements of Members of the present Government, and that complaint was, that a change in policy was made which resulted in war, and which most men experienced in Indian affairs thought must, and all knew might, result in war, and yet Parliament was allowed to separate without any consultation being held with regard to this change. He quite admitted that there would be a danger in depriving the Executive of the power of declaring war; it was an ancient and a proper Prerogative; but, like many another Prerogative, it depended on its being exercised in the spirit of the Constitution. He did not for a moment say that under no emergency could a fresh line of policy be adopted without Parliament being consulted; but what he did say was that when there was not an emergency a fresh line of policy ought not to be adopted without some intimation to Parliament, as had been the case in the present instance. But now let him go to the main question, which was one of the most important that could come before the House or the country, and that was—were we engaged in a war in which we ought to be engaged? He would not go over the story told by his hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread). He would not go back to the condition of affairs before Lord Lytton went out to India; though, at a fit time, he would be quite prepared to defend the acts of Lord Northbrook, Lord 394 Lawrence, and Lord Mayo. They all three carried out the same policy. The House at that hour—a quarter to 12 o'clock—would not wish to hear extracts; but would it allow him to refer to a letter that had appeared from Sir Henry Norman? Sir Henry Norman, who distinguished himself at Delhi, had been Indian Military Secretary. He was on Lord Mayo's Council, and was on Lord Northbrook's Council, and remained for some time on Lord Lytton's Council. On his return home, the present Government showed their confidence in him by placing him on the Indian Council. Sir Henry Norman, in that letter, said—My opinion was, and is, that up to the time of Lord Northbrook's departure the Ameer had no feeling of hostility to us, though he was somewhat out of temper, and was disquieted by writings which more or less pointed at measures distasteful to him. Any real resentment he may have subsequently shown is entirely due, according to my belief, to measures taken from April, 1876, to the present time.The writings to which he alluded were, he supposed, those of Sir Henry Rawlinson, whose book, published in 1875, recommending the annexation of a great part of Afghanistan, was doubtless in the Ameer's possession, and had much to do with his suspicion of the intentions and real desires of England. But the Ameer had not declared war against us. The question was, why we had declared war against him; what grievance we had against him; not what grievance he had against us. He was suspicious and angry about the course we adopted with reference to his son; but there was no reason to suppose he would commit any acts of hostility. Lord Lytton went out—he was not blaming Lord Lytton—under positive orders from Lord Salisbury to insist on the reception of permanent Agents, and then came the first overt act in our change of policy towards the Ameer—the letter dated July, 1876, insisting on the reception of such Agents. What was the next step? By arrangement with the Ameer our Native Agent at Cabul came to Simla in order to know what were the desire and objects of the Viceroy, so that he might convey information with regard to them back to the Ameer. Then came that remarkable conversation which the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State had passed over lightly—in his opinion, somewhat 395 too lightly. The Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. E. Stanhope) had stated that this conversation was confidential; but did hon. Gentlemen opposite suppose that the two statements—first of all, that if the Ameer did not do what was required of him rivals might be encouraged; or, secondly, that the Russians might wipe him out of the map—were not intended to be communicated by the Vakeel to the Ameer; and, if so, was it not to be expected that from the moment he received them he would be frightened, angry, and suspicious? Well, as a matter of fact, he did become very much frightened, and at last sent word that he was helpless; that he greatly objected to have English Agents sent to reside on his territory, but that if it was insisted on, he would send one of his Ministers to meet our Envoy; and after considering all the difficulties of his position, the Ameer said they might arrange that British officers might be brought to live on the Border. Here, therefore, was a great concession made by the Ameer; but the Ameer's Minister died, and the Conference was broken up. The hon. Gentleman's explanation of the reason why Lord Lytton closed that Conference he must confess he could not understand; nor could he make the account of it given by Lord Lytton himself consistent with the statement of Viscount Cranbrook. Lord Lytton had certainly said in his despatch that the Ameer had been inciting the Border Tribes against him, and preaching a, jehad; but, so far as he (Mr. W. E. Forster) had been able to see from the Papers, no proof whatever of that statement was furnished. But, be that as it might, the Conference was broken up, the Native Agent was withdrawn, and nothing more was heard of any proceedings for a period of 14 months. And what, he would ask, was the position of the Ameer during that time? We had withdrawn our promise to protect him, and there was a positive statement in the despatch of Lord Salisbury to the effect that we had done so, for he said—Any illusions, therefore, which Shere Ali may have entertained upon this point have "been effectually dissipated. He has further learned that the British Government will not undertake the formal responsibility of assisting him to defend his country from the attacks of external foes, or of supporting his dynasty against sedi- 396 tion, unless British officers are allowed to reside on the Frontier for the purpose of acquiring information for communication to their Government.—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 224.]There was a curious letter at page 247, in which it is stated—I suspect that the coming of the English Mission is impossible so long as the Russians are here (or until the Russians have gone back).That brought out a remarkable coincidence of dates. That letter was written on the 19th of September—the very same day on which Lord Salisbury received a reply from St. Petersburg that the Russian Mission was a mere Mission of courtesy. He really saw no ground for proceeding to hostile measures with the Ameer. The threatening messages which had been sent to him were still rankling in his memory; and how could they, at a time when he was suspecting that he was the pipkin, as he was told, between the "two iron pots," expect him to refuse permission to the Russian Envoy to enter his territory? He hoped the House would consider—he was sure the country would, when they read the whole of these statements—that the Government were not justified in this war upon the Ameer. No doubt he was a barbarian, but he had his own feelings about independence; and the Government ought to have considered much more deliberately whether they should force their Envoys upon him. He might be told this was not a mere question of justice or injustice; that it lay much deeper; that this was a necessary war—necessary to the safety of India—and that they must not be led away by sentimental considerations of justice. Well, but what would be said if, instead of being a necessary and a wise war, it was an unnecessary and an unwise war? Suppose that, instead of securing the safety of India, it positively endangered it? Many people certainly entertained this opinion, and among them were some who knew much more about the matter than he did, or, for that part of it, than the majority of hon. Members knew. They were going to war with Afghanistan in order to guard India against Russia. But how? Was that object to be effected by conquering and annexing Afghanistan, and by extending our Frontier over that mountainous country until we met Russia at a disadvantage? 397 ["No!"] Some people had advocated that; he did not know whether the Government had done so. Well, then, should we leave Afghanistan independent? But in what a position would she be, and with what disposition towards us? This was not our first Afghan War; we had had another; and there was not one now that he could find to justify it. In this case, too, we should leave memories behind in a hostile Afghanistan, though we said our great object was to guard against Russia by having a friendly Afghanistan. There was a report that the Ameer had fled out of the country. If that were true, whom were we to put in his place? Was it another Shah Soojah? Then it was said we wanted to rectify our Frontier. Well, he would not enter into that question; but this he would say—that for every one competent military expert who said that the new Frontier was scientific there were two who said it was unscientific. One word about the only statement which the Government had vouchsafed as to their grounds for going to war before war was declared. The Government said in the most authoritative manner, through the lips of the Prime Minister, that they were bound to go to war, not because they had been provoked and were obliged in honour to do so, but because they wanted a rectification of Frontier. That confession of Lord Beaconsfield was, perhaps, the most cynical statement which ever fell from a Prime Minister. It was made on the 9th of November, when the Government had not yet got an answer to the Ultimatum sent to the Ameer. It was possible that the Ameer would have accepted the Ultimatum. There was not a single word in the Ultimatum about a rectification of Frontier; and yet the Prime Minister said we were making an arrangement for rectifying our Frontier. He blushed to hear it; and the only excuse he could find for the statement was that we were taking the Frontier, not from the Ameer, but from independent tribes. If so, why go to war with the Ameer? He was one of those who, whenever an important question arose, asked himself, when he opposed the Government—"What should I do if I were not in Opposition?" He, and those who acted with him, could not tell Gentlemen opposite the exact course they would take; but it might 398 fairly be asked what would be the direction of their policy? He thought the enormous majority of those, both in and out of the House, who supported this Amendment would, first of all, say they would have "peace with honour." That, however, was not very easy since the Government had chosen to plunge us into war. He believed the Opposition might go further and say—"We would take—and you ought to take—the very first opportunity of coming to honourable terms with the Ameer." Haying shown the enormous superiority of our strength, we ought to try to convince him that we returned to our old and disregarded our new policy. What was this old policy—the policy of Lord Lawrence, Lord Mayo, and Lord North-brook? It was to try to convince the Ameer first, that it was neither our wish nor our interest to annex his territory, or to conquer him, or to take from him his independence; and, secondly, that it was our interest, and would be our intention, to secure him from any unprovoked attack by Russia. That was the assurance which Lord Northbrook gave to the Ameer; an assurance qualified by the necessary condition that the aggression was not to be provoked by the Ameer himself. That was our old policy, and it formed a strong contrast to the new one, which was to protect the Ameer against Russia, but only on the condition that he submitted to terms which he believed would destroy his independence. We might return to that old policy, though it would not be easy to do so, because the Government had made the Ameer suspicious and caused his people to share his suspicion. Having endeavoured to answer a question which might be asked of the Opposition, he desired in turn to put a question to Her Majesty's Government. He thought the country ought to know more about our relations with Russia in this matter. It ought to know something more about the understanding referred to by Lord Lytton, when he sent word to the Ameer—If the Ameer does not desire to come to a speedy understanding with us; Russia does; and she desires it at his expense."—[I bid. p. 183.]He thought they had a right to ask whether there was an attempt at such an understanding with Russia now; and he would therefore repeat the question 399 put by his hon. Friend the Member for Bedford—"Is there any probability of our having another secret Treaty with Russia?" If there were no secret understanding with Russia, he should like to know what was the meaning of Lord Lytton's statement, which certainly was not made without authority? They ought to know why, and upon what ground, Lord Lytton ventured to send such a message to the Ameer. Still more important was it to know how the matter stood now. It seemed to him almost impossible to believe that our relations with Russia in this business rested as stated in the documents which had been presented to Parliament. On the 8th of August, 1878, the Indian Secretary told the Foreign Secretary—It is the Russian Cabinet alone which is responsible for the acts of its Agent; and it is the Russian Governor General of Turkestan, rather than the Ameer Shere Ali, who, with or without authority, is at this moment pursuing a policy of which the effect must be to seriously agitate the minds of Her Majesty's subjects throughout India."—[Central Asia, No. 1 (1878), p. 143.]What did the Government do upon that? Lord Salisbury sent on the 19th to our Embassy at St. Petersburg a request that the Mission to Cabul might be at once withdrawn. On the 18th of September he received an answer that the Mission was of a conditional nature and one of simple courtesy. Yet war was declared against the Ameer afterwards; and in the Papers presented to Parliament one of the chief grounds for the declaration of war was alleged to be the formal reception of this Mission. Therefore, he repeated his question—"Have the Government accepted this explanation of Russia as satisfactory; and, if so, why did they make this reception of an Envoy one of their chief grounds of complaint against the Ameer?"
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Lord John Manners.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he presumed there would be no difference of opinion as to the necessity for the adjournment of the debate, or as to the desirability of continuing it on the next day (Tuesday). He presumed that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would appeal to those hon. Gentlemen who had 400 Notices on the Paper to give way. There was, however, one point which it was desirable to decide, and as to which some understanding ought to be come to that night. A very general opinion had been expressed by very many hon. Members that as there was very little Business on the Paper for Wednesday the debate should be continued on that day. If that were the wish of the majority of the House, there were two ways in which the object in view might be accomplished. They might either meet at the usual hour, or the Standing Orders might be suspended, and the debate continued at the ordinary hour in the evening. It was very desirable that some understanding should be arrived at; and he was sure that in this matter it would be the wish of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as it was of himself and his Friends, to consult the convenience of the House.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, as his name was on the back of the Bill which was down for Wednesday, and as his hon. Friend who had charge of it was not present, perhaps, before the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose, he might be allowed to say a few words. This measure affected a large number of voters, especially in the large towns, like London, and it dealt with an entirely novel question, which had never before been discussed in that House. The matter had, however, been under the consideration of several Revising Courts, and it had engaged the attention of a great many local bodies in London and elsewhere. Therefore, it could not be assumed that the Business on the Paper for Wednesday was purely formal. There were also obvious objections to continuing the debate on the Wednesday. If it were commenced at the usual hour, 12 o'clock, he feared there would be a very small attendance. On ordinary Wednesdays hon. Members came down at some time in the day, because there was the certainty, at some time or other, of a division. But there would not be this attraction to bring them down next Wednesday; and there might be, therefore, the greatest difficulty in making a House. If, on the other hand, they were to meet in the evening, that would be very unusual. There was no absolute pressure of time which rendered this step necessary; while it was also open 401 to the objection that many hon. Members had already made arrangements which would keep them away during the greater portion of the evening.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, this was really one of those questions which must be decided entirely by reference to the convenience of the House. No doubt it was desirable, as much as possible, to shorten the time for which hon. Members were to be detained in London at this season; and as there were a great many speeches to be made it would be an advantage if they could go on with the debate on the Wednesday. At the same time, he felt very strongly the force of the two objections which had been urged by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke). He and the Government, and he was sure he might say the noble Lord opposite, were only anxious to fall in with what was the general feeling of the House. It appeared to him that the most convenient course, if anything were to be done in the way of altering their course of procedure, would be to take the debate in the morning, and not to attempt to meet in the evening. In the first place, five nights of consecutive debate was very hard work; and, secondly, a good many arrangements had probably already been made for the evening. On the other hand, Wednesday morning might be very well spent in the discussion. If a Sitting were proposed in the evening, it would be necessary for him to give Notice that evening that he would move the suspension of the Standing Orders. It would not, however, he believed be necessary to give Notice that evening of any formal Motion that the debate be taken on Wednesday morning. Unless he heard any decided expression of opinion that they should sit in the evening, he thought it would probably be better that he should not give that formal Notice, but that the debate should be continued on the Wednesday morning, if it were thought on the next (Tuesday) evening, after consideration, that it was desirable to do so.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he entirely concurred in the views expressed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) against the Morning Sitting on Wednesday. It was quite certain that they would have a very small attendance; and, in his opinion, the 402 debate would be very inferior indeed. If they were to continue the debate at all on the Wednesday, his own feeling would be in favour of an Evening Sitting. It would, however, be very hard work to have five nights' debate in succession; and, therefore, he was decidely in favour of not interfering at all with the Wednesday arrangements. They certainly could not interfere with them without creating very great difficulty and inconvenience; and the course proposed was certainly most unusual and unprecedented. He did not suppose there ever was such a proposal made before; and he certainly did not remember a previous instance where the Wednesday was taken for a purpose of this kind. He, therefore, hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he did not feel very strongly on this matter, would not fall in with the suggestion.
§ MR. DILLWYN
would remind the House that it would be very difficult to ascertain the feeling of hon. Members generally on the subject at that moment, for the great majority of them had gone home immediately after the Motion for the Adjournment. For his part, he was very strongly opposed to still further trenching on the privileges of private Members, who were continually being cut down bit by bit. If they consented to this alteration on the present occasion, it would be erected into a precedent to be followed at other times, and thus private Members would be deprived of the one day which still remained to them on which to bring on their Bills.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
entirely agreed in the course suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Since he conferred with his right hon. Friend earlier in the evening, he had ascertained, so far as he had been able to discover what were the feelings of Members, that it would not be in accordance with the wishes of the majority in the House that the debate should be continued on Wednesday evening. It would, therefore, be unnecessary to give formal Notice that night of a Motion to suspend the Standing Orders. This discussion would call the attention of hon. Members to the subject; and no doubt by the next day the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, have been able to ascertain what was 403 the general feeling of the House as the continuance of the debate.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.