§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [31st January], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair" (for Committee of Supply).
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, having been informed in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech that the conditions on which Her Majesty's neutrality is founded had not been infringed by cither belligerent engaged in the war in the East of Europe, and having since received no information sufficient
to justify a departure from the policy of neutrality and peace, sees no reason for adding to the burthens of the people by voting unnecessary Supplies,"—(Mr. William Edward Forster,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, it was a most extraordinary thing that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who in his dealings with individuals and deputations, to say the least, maintained the good old traditions of official courtesy, should have introduced into the discussions of the House a method of debate which he would not attempt to characterize by any disparaging epithet; but of which he would only say that, especially as a contrast to the temperate and carefully reasoned speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), whom the right hon. Gentleman was answering, many who sat on the benches behind the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary must have listened to with regret. They must have regretted when he told the House that an evil spirit was lurking in the Amendment; and he was sure they did so when the right hon. Gentleman said that a "lying spirit" was evinced in many of the speeches made in the country—an epithet which, if it had been applied to any individual Member, Mr. Speaker would not have allowed to go unchallenged; but which, as a collective compliment, he supposed Liberal Members were intended to divide among themselves at their leisure. The right hon. Gentleman had challenged them to speak in the House as they had spoken in the country. He (Mr. Trevelyan) did not know to whom that challenge applied. He was there to answer it to-night. He earnestly hoped, however, in the interest of the order and decency of public discussion in these heated times, that the Home Secretary would not find it necessary to speak in the country as he had spoken in the House. When they read in the papers of what had happened the day before yesterday at Manchester, and the still more alarming account of what happened yesterday in the City of London, they could not but fear lest some of their greatest seats of wealth should be set in 825 a blaze if only a few sentences should be uttered there such as had fallen in that House last night from the official representative of public order and of the majesty of the law. The right hon. Gentleman was indignant with them because they had called his Party a war Party, and because they had argued as if the proceedings of the Government had a warlike tendency. Now it was rather hard that when there was a Vote before the House, which they were told they must not call a sham Vote, but which asked for a sum of money to be distinctly expended on naval and military matters, amounting to one quarter of the combined Naval and Military Estimates of the year, they were to be prevented from thinking that it had a warlike tendency, especially when accompanied by solemn and significant intimations about the advance of the Russian Armies, by dark hints about Russian projects, and insinuations against Russian honour and veracity. He would not read again the definite assurances given by the Russian Government, both about the permanent occupation of Constantinople and as to the Dardanelles; but he asked if the Government did not believe those assurances, why did they take so much trouble to get them? If, on the other hand, they did believe Russia, why, in the name of European peace and the dignity of their own country, did they go on talking as if they distrusted her? The events of yesterday threw light on several things. In several parts of the metropolis and its suburbs meetings were disturbed by organized gangs—["No!"]—well, for the sake of hon. Gentlemen opposite, he would withdraw the word "organized;" it did not add anything to his argument. Private rooms were entered and sacked, as if they had been Bulgarian villages, windows and doors were destroyed, large mobs of well-dressed people were assembled and alternately cheered the Turk, cried "Down with Russia," and gave three cheers for Her Majesty's Ministers. Fezzes were lifted up; there were Turkish banners, and what was much more serious, there were men, and some of them of advanced age, whose only object was at this great crisis of the national history to give an opinion on national affairs, who were hustled, ill-used, and driven off the scene by violence. A deputation afterwards came 826 down to that House to give the Ministry a history of these riotous and illegal proceedings. They were received by Her Majesty's Postmaster General. They informed Her Majesty's Postmaster General, in the elegant language of the deputation, that the opponents of the Government had not the pluck to risk their lives and limbs in the business of the meeting, but were obliged to disappear down back stairs; and the only judgment the noble Lord thought fit to pass on those proceedings was to tell the deputation that he was glad the City had done its duty. If that was the way in which the Ministry discouraged war passions, all he could say was that he should not hesitate to characterize them as the leaders of the war Party, even although, as the result of giving that opinion, his windows were broken with the approbation of Her Majesty's Postmaster General. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer was right, and that this was not a Vote of Confidence. It was not a Vote on which they could argue out the Irish policy or Colonial policy of the Government. But none the less was it certain that a Vote of Credit for £6,000,000, after the disclosures which have been made both here and in "another place" on this day week, was a Vote of the most unlimited, the most unprecedented, and, as far as his side of the House was concerned, the most strangely earned confidence that ever was asked by a Government before. It was useless to refer to the Vote of 1870 as a precedent for the present one. There was no analogy between the two situations. In 1870 a war was not ending, but a gigantic war was only beginning. It was then the opinion of our military authorities that the French was the stronger of the two armies, and there was a belief that Germany would soon be at the feet of France. The annexation of Belgium was, therefore, apprehended, to prevent which was the unanimous wish of the country and of Parliament. Therefore Parliament, almost in silence and almost without opposition, placed a very moderate Vote of Credit at the disposal of the Ministry. They did it with an alacrity which showed two things—first, that they were convinced that the Government knew the policy of the country, and that the country understood the 827 policy of the Government. What, especially in this last respect, was that position compared with this? If this was not a serious question; if they were not to argue it upon solid and substantial grounds; if what was wanted was not money, but the power of being able to say during the Recess that something had been done to make good the brave words that had been so freely used; if what had caused this demonstration was not the advance of the Russians towards Gallipoli, but the incursion of three hon. Baronets, with 40, or was it 70, hon. Members behind them, into the room of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then all he would say was that he did not know what class or order of men had most reason to complain—Parliament, which it had befooled; the woollen and cotton manufacturers, whose orders had been countermanded; the working men who had lost their employment; or the parents, who were led to believe that their sons were about to be sent out in thousands to be shot. The repetition of the policy of the Crimean War had been described by a high authority as insane. He neither challenged nor endorsed that decision; but a repetition of the Vote of Credit of 1870, unless the money was really wanted, was a proceeding which partook of the nature both of insanity and of inanity. He, for one, however, refused to look upon the present as a sham Vote. It appeared to him rather in the light of a solemn appeal to Parliament to place the sword of Great Britain, belt, scabbard, and all, in the hands of the Government. That being so, he wanted to know whether its recent proceedings were so re-assuring that it could safely be trusted with the future of the Empire. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the House that the bases of peace were elastic, and admitted of more than one interpretation; and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman asked them to arm before going into the approaching Conference. Almost in the same breath he had told Parliament that those bases of peace, or some of them, concerned other Powers even more immediately than they did England; but he did not at the same time inform the House that those Powers had armed. Austria had not especially armed, nor had France, nor Prussia; and yet none of these Powers 828 spent anything like the immense annual sum which the House of Commons voted for our Army and Navy Departments. So that it would appear that England was the only Power in Europe that could not go into a Conference without special preparations. The intelligent foreigner, who had obliged his right hon. Friend with a peroration, described the policy which his right hon. Friend was pursuing as a wise and prudent policy; but it was a question whether that foreigner would have recommended the same course to his own country. No doubt he was sufficiently intelligent to recognize that wisdom and prudence, in the carefully disguised form in which he recommended them to the right hon. Gentleman, were virtues which had better not begin at home. The right hon. Gentleman, or at any rate the Minister who sat on his right (Mr. Cross), had described the speech of his right hon. Friend on that side of the House (Mr. Forster) as vague and indefinite. Far from being either vague or indefinite his right hon. Friend had clearly laid down what he would fight for, and what he would diplomatise for. But that was not so with the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had given the House no explanations on the exact points on which he would insist with Russia. The right hon. Gentleman had given rumours and innuendoes which he might have left with the irresponsible Members of his Party. He did not say what was to be the casus belli or the casus armandi. All he asked was that the Government might be enabled to speak with the voice of Great Britain at its back. Now, he thought that those who sat on the Opposition benches knew pretty well what the voice of Great Britain was; what they wished to be made acquainted with was the voice of Lord Beaconsfield. With the assembling of a Conference the neutrality of this country came to an end, and the policy of Great Britain would come to the front. The manifest intention of the Government was to use this Vote in support of the policy which they meant to pursue, and therefore the House ought to be informed distinctly what that policy was. It was no use going back to the declarations of the past. Those declarations had been made while there was one man in the Cabinet who sympathised with the Opposition on the Eastern 829 Question; but now the only man who held these opinions had been squeezed out of the Cabinet. They could not go back, therefore, to the speeches of Lord Carnarvon, or to the speeches of Lord Derby, Lord Salisbury, or the Secretary of the Home Department, while they still had the honour of being the Colleagues of Lord Carnarvon. They must look to the opinions of a Minister who, after the great victory he had won—for it was a victory to get rid of a dissentient Colleague without breaking up his Government—had now, he would not say an undisputed, but certainly a somewhat less disputed authority. What, therefore, he asked, were the British interests to which the Prime Minister attached importance? In the eyes of those sitting on the Opposition benches, British interests demanded, first of all, the final settlement of the Eastern Question, and the final and complete tranquillization of Southern Europe. That desired consummation would not be attained until the outrages under which these Provinces had been groaning for centuries were supplanted by an efficient government which would inflict no such injustice upon them in future. On this point Lord Derby had spoken in these most decided terms—I do not understand the determination of our elder statesmen to stand by the Turkish rule whether right or wrong. I think we are making ourselves enemies of races which will very soon become dominant races, and I think we are keeping back countries by whose improvement we, as great traders in the world, shall be great gainers.Those were the opinions of Lord Derby but in 1867. But what were the opinions of the Prime Minister in one of his recent utterances? At the Guildhall Lord Beaconsfield had declared himself to be in favour of the integrity of Turkey, while in the same breath he said that this country was prepared to fight one, two, or three campaigns. Everyone could understand what such statements, made in such collocation, by the most responsible man in the country at such a time must inevitably mean; and now came Lord Beaconsfield's Chancellor of the Exchequer, and asked Parliament to vote a very large sum of money to be used in equipping military expeditions in support, it was supposed, of a policy which Lord Beaconsfield had publicly announced, and which the noble Lord had never retracted or explained away. 830 But he came now to Bulgaria, and it was, he thought, impossible to have heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking of that country and the comparison which he made between it and the West and South-west of England without feeling that we were going into a Conference under conditions in which British interests were likely to receive a very dangerous extension and a very perverted construction. On this point he could not help referring to the appointment as Ambassador at the Court of Vienna of Sir Henry Elliot. He desired to speak with all respect of Sir Henry Elliot, as for every member of his illustrious family. The views which Sir Henry Elliot held upon the relation of the Christian races to Turkey were perfectly legitimate in themselves; but as the views of our Ambassador at the Austrian Court, they were only too likely—and the thought was an alarming one—to cause Austria and England to play into each otter's hands at the Conference now approaching. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the House that the people of this country were lovers of freedom and supporters of all that was noble; but his right hon Friend was mistaken if he imagined that when they loved freedom they loved it in such a way that the idea in any degree entered their thoughts of limiting the liberties of Bulgaria, even though the extension of those liberties should carry peace and order from the boundaries of Servia to the Ægean Sea. Certainly the people of England had not yet forgotten that Tatar Bazardjik and Batak, where the worst atrocities had been committed, lay within the boundaries of those very districts. There was another point upon which England would have to say yes or no at the Conference, and with regard to which her answer would be emphasized by this Vote. During the last 18 months there had been an unfortunate tendency to excite public feeling against oppressed races, whose only faults were those which naturally sprung from their having been so long oppressed, and against those countries which, by a feeling of kindred race, were inclined to take up cudgels for their neighbours who lived across the borders. In society and in a portion of the Press there was a tendency to decry and depreciate the victims of oppression which always came to the front 831 when the attempt was made to free the oppressed. Just as in the war between the North and South there were people always saying that the American negro was brutal and idle, and undeserving of sympathy, just as in the war between Prance and Austria in 1859 it was said that the Italians of Lombardy were cowardly and treacherous, so we were told now that the Greeks were schemers, and the Montenegrins savages. With regard to the Servians, he could not forget the fact that the Prime Minister had never lost the opportunity of denouncing their conduct—[Ministerial cheers]—in terms which would be fitting and proper if they had come from the hon. Gentlemen who had just cheered, but which were ominous and significant when they were expressed by a Prime Minister. If England went into this Conference armed, the Premier, it was feared, would make use of the prestige given by this Vote, and offer to the Servians some practical proof that they had incurred the disapprobation of England. Now, the British taxpayer, possibly, had no great admiration for the Servians; but, at the same time, he did not want his money to be spent in fighting against them. He did not want to be taxed 4d. in the pound because a nation of 1,100,000 pig drivers, whom he had never heard of until the last two years, had committed an ungentlemanly action somewhere in the centre of Europe. A few weeks might decide whether Greece was to be a nation any longer; whether Thessaly and Epirus were not only to continue to suffer the tyranny which they had endured for centuries; but whether all the ruffians and desperadoes who had been driven from the emancipated Slavonian Provinces were to be allowed to concentrate upon those two wretched districts the cruelties which they had not been allowed to exercise elsewhere. The sympathy of this country with Greece was historical. That sympathy had inspired some of our noblest poetry. It had added a page to our naval triumphs. It was the special glory of our diplomacy. It was identified with a statesman who had the rare good fortune of having left a memory which was cherished by both the great Parties of the State. The country wished well to Greece. We had surrendered Islands to her in deference to Greek national feeling—Islands which she had governed 832 honestly and faithfully in the interests of the populations. And surely England could not now insist that terms should be enforced which would replace Greeks under the misgovernment of Turkey, conducted in the sole interests of Constantinople Pashas. The substance of a despatch, published apparently through the indiscretion of a Greek Minister, showed that the influence of Great Britain had not been used so effectually as it might have been against the root of the bad feeling between Greece and Turkey. Our Government, as a go-between, had handed from Turkey to Greece a despatch which complained in a threatening manner that the non-official Press of Greece was writing against Turkish interests, and insisted or suggested that the official Press of Greece should write down the national aspirations. This country valued its free Press almost as much as its Parliamentary institutions. So susceptible were we on this point that when Napoleon was at the height of his power at the commencement of the present century, we went to war with him because he suggested an interference with the freedom of the London Press. And yet the influence of such a country as this was to be employed in forcing upon Greece those opinions of the dignity of literature which had found a place in the breast of an Oriental despot, and this by a Government which was now asking for this Vote of £6,000,000 in order to maintain what they called English honour. The news of that day showed that if war was renewed or prolonged, Greece intended to assert herself, and remember her ancient traditions; and if this Vote led this country into war, we should have to fight not only against Russia, but against the allies of Russia; not only with Turkey, but against the enemies of Turkey. And the first of these enemies, and the one most helplessly exposed to our strokes would be the Greece which Canning protected, and for which Byron died. The position of England and Russia was almost unprecedented in history. During the year preceding the present war we had acted with Russia in the most important part of her foreign policy. Russia and England both remonstrated against Bulgarian massacres. Russia and England both demanded the punishment of the 833 perpetrators of those massacres. The Turks treated our remonstrances equally with those of Russia as waste-paper. England and Russia had acted together at the Conference. The Turks had thrown our proposals in both our faces. England and Russia had attempted a final settlement of affairs by the London Protocol; but, failing in this, at last Russia went to work to enforce demands which were the demands of England as well as her own; but demands which England was not willing itself to enforce. That war was now coming to an end. He believed, indeed, that if this ill-omened Vote were not upon the Table the war would have been at an end already. The question now was the compensation to Russia for the great loss of the hundreds of thousands of men and the tens of millions of money which she had spent in carrying out the decrees of Europe. He did not suppose that any body in this country would express satisfaction at Russia gaining an increase of territory; but a general opinion prevailed that it would be unjust and ungenerous for us to step in at the eleventh hour and to tell Russia that she was not to have some solid advantage in return for all her sacrifices. That was the general feeling of the country at large. It was the wish of Lord Beaconsfield that Russia should have nothing. ["No, no!"] Well, then, he was unfortunate in his language, for he expressed that wish in the dangerous form of a sneer against the Sovereign of a sensitive and high-spirited people at a pro-Turkish demonstration—for the Guildhall banquet was nothing less than a pro-Turkish demonstration—in the presence of the Ambassador of the country with whom the Czar was at war. If the Russian Ministers had not been more careful of their tongues with regard to our own beloved Monarch we should have been at war long before now. This was not the first country that had learned how expensive it was to have a Prime Minister who made epigrams. If this Vote passed every epigram of Lord Beaconsfield outside would already have cost £1,000,000 sterling. The House knew how the Government of which Lord Beaconsfield was the head dealt with war in the past. The cost of the Abyssinian War was estimated at £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. Economists, who had an inkling of the truth, con- 834 tinually pressed the Government as to the cost that had been incurred, and were told over and over again that £4,000,000 would be rather under than over the mark. But 12 months later it became the disagreeable duty of the right hon. Member for the University of London to inform the House that, so far from falling short of £4,000,000, the expenditure amounted to very nearly £9,000,000. If the same munificent profusion and almost barbaric expenditure occurred on this occasion, for every £6,000,000 asked for £15,000,000 would be expended. He could not help remembering that it was promised that when Lord Beaconsfield got into office there would be an end to harassing and plundering. But already, he thought, the country would regret the unsensa-tional foreign policy of Lord Granville, and the careful economy which was the rule under the Government of the right hon. Member for Greenwich. He would now turn to a topic which he knew was rather unpopular in that House. So far from having foreseen the expense of this war, he believed the majority of those who were urging the Government to enter upon it had not considered the nature of the war. If we fought for our own interests—for the Suez Canal, for instance, or the maintenance of our Empire in India—no doubt we should fight with great success. But if we had to fight in Bulgaria, we must remember that the Russia of 1854 was a very different country from the Russia of 1878. Russia then had no railways, and the consequence was that the troops were brought down to the scene of action in small and inadequate numbers. In 1854 we had the aid of one of the most powerful nations of the day, the base of our operation was on the sea, and yet the fortress we took cost us 20,000 lives lost in battle, and almost as many more by disease. We had not been at war many months before we were obliged to scrape up boys and colonists to fill the ranks with recruits. Now the condition of Russia was changed. Russia had railways, Russia had allies, Russia had a population of 80,000,000 of people, and, in addition, there were the 12,000,000 people for whose emancipation she was fighting, or who were fighting to emancipate their neighbours. We, on the other hand, should have no allies if we fought 835 Russia. The Turkish Regular Army was already defeated, and we should have nobody with us except those irregular soldiers, who would kill nobody but such of our soldiers as had been previously wounded. We should have to fight over again the war that had now been fought, and what, he asked, had been the expense? Each of the belligerents had lost 150,000 men, or 25,000 per month. Our recruiting only brought us in 29,000 in the course of a year. The Government should think very seriously before attempting to fight Russia on land. We could not compete on land with the great military Powers, because our energies were drawn out into so many channels. And now he would conclude. But before he did so he must ask the House whether, before they passed this Vote of Credit and Confidence, they had any special reason to think that the Ministry had been particularly frank and candid in their treatment of the House? Before the House passed a Vote of Confidence in them it would be right to see whether they had confidence in the House. During the last fortnight the Ministry had had nothing but peace on their lips, and yet they took a resolution which, in the opinion of at least one of their number, might have committed the country to war. On Wednesday it was determined to send the Meet to the Dardanelles, and on Thursday the Chancellor of the Exchequer came down to the House and made an explanation which appeared to be thorough and complete; but he did not tell the House that the gravest resolution which could be taken had been taken, and such a one as had not been taken in England for 20 years. They were told there was unity in the Cabinet. They now knew that on the 2nd January an eminent Minister was severely condemned by Lord Beaconsfield in the Cabinet Council, and they all knew by experience in that House what a severe condemnation by Lord Beaconsfield was. On the 12th January, the same Minister expressed a very decided opinion against sending the Fleet into the Dardanelles, and on the 15th it was decided, in spite of his remonstrances, and in the teeth of his remonstrances, to adopt that resolution. On the 17th the Ministers went to the House of Lords, and there used expressions which convinced the 836 country that the Cabinet was united. Now it was possible that in the literal sense of those words that construction was not conveyed; but none the less was that construction put upon it by both political Parties, by all the newspapers, and by the commercial world, which had been awaiting the opening of Parliament with feverish eagerness in order to learn whether the Cabinet was united in favour of a peaceful policy. All he could say was that hitherto it had been the practice not only of English statesmen, but of Englishmen generally, to think only secondarily of the exact form of words they used, but primarily of the idea which those words would convey to those for whose information they were spoken; and, consequently, they would all be very careful before they passed a Vote which would place the voice of England at the disposal of Gentlemen who spoke so very unintelligibly with their own. We were not the only people who had been harassed and puzzled during the last few months; and when the history of these times came to be written, it would be found that Turkey had as grave an indictment to bring against some Members of our Government as ever a nation brought against individuals. In the first place, it was their diplomacy, backed up by sending the Fleet to Besika Bay, which prevented the Eastern Question being settled in a form that would have been acceptable to Europe. War broke out, and at the most critical moment of the war the Prime Minister made a speech which was considered by the pro-Turkish newspapers as a direct encouragement to Turkey. And how was this mystery to end? Would it end in the smoke of war, or in one of those bonfires of "tall talk" which had been so often lighted up at the expense of the British taxpayer to bewilder Europe and disturb our commerce, which was not in so flourishing a state already? He knew how this matter would end if the voice of the people of this great country were to be heard. In the boroughs, where the voice of the people could make itself heard, there was a majority of two to one in favour of peace; and, taking the whole of the constituencies, he was satisfied that there would be a large majority in favour of a consistent, clear, unmistakeable peaceful policy. It 837 was because the nation had not been, and would not be, appealed to, to say whether it wished its money to be poured out like water in order to prolong the agony of Turkey, and to rouse the ill-will of Russia in a quarrel that was none of England's, that he should give this proposal the most unflinching and unhesitating opposition.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
It is curious—it is even painful—to hear the perverse misrepresentation which still continues to characterize the speeches, I was almost going to say the opinions, of hon. Members opposite. We have just listened to the speech of the hon. Member opposite, and I am sorry to see that even he, able and accomplished as he is, is drifting into the same despairing position. What are we to do with such people? Why, they are blind leaders of the blind, and "none so blind as those who won't see." The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down certainly did not appear to see the position in which we are placed at the present moment; and although I may pity his sorrows, I have no pity whatever for his follies; for his Party blunders in prosperity, and learns no lessons in adversity. The hon. Member referred to the speech of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) as being a careful and temperate speech, and I daresay it was a good speech, looked at from the point of view of the hon. Member. I, however, was very much disappointed with the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. I really expected better things from him. He told us that he had a great respect for the illustrious members of the family of Elliot, but that he had very little respect for the opinions of the Prime Minister. He said—"We want to know what is the policy of Lord Beaconsfield?" I should say of all people in this House who could not comprehend the policy of Lord Beaconsfield it would be the hon. Member who has just sat down. I hold in my hand a speech of the hon. Member, who is reported to have made it at a place called Selkirk, and I am really surprised that an intelligent Gentleman like him should want to know what the policy of Lord Beacons-field is. At Selkirk he said—The terrible danger of the situation lies in this—that the man who is not only titular Prime Minister, but who is the most strong-willed, 838 audacious, and pertinacious of his Colleagues, in whose hands all but a very few (I am afraid only three) are nothing better than puppets, has never disguised his desire to plunge the nation into such a war as I have described.It would, therefore, be useless to communicate to the hon. Member what was the policy of Lord Beaconsfield, seeing that he has already formed his own view of it and is not likely to change that view. I entirely agree with what was said last night by the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright)—namely, that this question lies in a very small compass. The question before the House is, shall we adopt the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Bradford, or shall we vote this Credit to the Government? Hon. Members opposite have spoken as though this Vote were the beginning of a vast expenditure. [Cheers.] Well, then, they are quite mistaken in thinking so. The intention in asking for this Vote is merely to provide for what may be necessary until the 31st of March, 1878. I should have thought that this House would in the present instance have followed the precedents that have been more than once set us, and would have passed this Vote nemine contradicente, seeing that the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) himself characterized the situation as critical, remarking that these were no ordinary times, and that on the next few days might depend the general peace of the world. In these circumstances, therefore, the Government might well have expected that this Vote would be passed nemine contradicente. But it appears that other councils—divided councils, I believe, have prevailed, and consequently we have the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman, having been a Member of the Government of 1870, who themselves asked for and obtained a similar Vote, would have been one of the last to bring forward this Amendment. But even he, sound-minded and high-minded as he is, could not resist the temptation. The real truth is, that the success of their opponents has stimulated the appetite of hon. Members opposite for place. A good many hon. Members who have spoken have told us what they think of this Amendment. I will tell you what I think of it—and the opinion I am going to express is not my own, but it is 839 acknowledged by tens of thousands out-of-doors—they consider that this Amendment, brought forward at this critical moment, is an ungenerous attempt to embarrass the country, and to discredit and to throw dirt upon the Government of the Queen in the eyes of Europe. That I take to be the drift of this Amendment. It is the result of an agitation which a dissatisfied section of the community have been keeping up for a long time past. Placards have been posted up all over the country exciting the people against the Government, and we have had speeches and pamphlets enough for the most exorbitant appetites for agitation. It was only yesterday that I read the most extraordinary speech that has come under my notice. The right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) used this language with regard to the policy of the Government—it really has become almost a personal affair with the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said—My purpose has been, with extremely inadequate means, and in a very moan and poor degree, hut still to the best of my power, for the last 18 months, day and night, week by week, month by month, to counteract as well as I could what I believe to be the purpose of Lord Beaconsfield.The policy of Lord Beaconsfield I am not here to defend, neither am I here to defend the policy of the Cabinet—they can defend themselves very well; but this I will say—that it is evident upon the face of things that for the last 18 months the policy of Lord Beaconsfield has been the policy of the Cabinet, and the policy of the Cabinet has been the policy of the country. I am surprised that in these circumstances the borough of Bradford, which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) represents, has not followed the patriotic example of Sheffield and other places, and also of the City. When the right hon. Gentleman got up to-night to present a Petition, I expected to hear that it was from 20,000 inhabitants of Bradford in favour of his Amendment; but no! it was a Petition from Glasgow or some other town against the proposal of the Government. Some of us cannot have helped wondering why the right hon. Gentleman should have been put forward to move this Amendment. The Times, the other day, in a very sensible article, said—"The tactics of the Oppo- 840 sition are a matter of profound indifference to the public." With that I agree; but the policy of the Opposition can never be a matter of indifference to the country. We expect Party feeling, and strong Party desires to take a share in the administration of this great country; but we expect also that those Party desires should not be carried to that excess which we have seen during the last two years. To judge by some of the speeches I have read, it would be really thought that the Government were bent on war; that, although they have disclaimed it a hundred times, they are pursuing a policy of treachery and revolvers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford proceeded to analyze this Vote, and he did so under two heads—he spoke of it financially and politically. He said the demand was unnecessary and unprecedented. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich at Oxford, on Wednesday, called it "the most indefensible proposition ever in my time submitted to Parliament." The right hon. Gentleman nods assent; but I happen to recollect that he used precisely the same words about the Divorce Bill; and yet everyone will admit that that Act did effect a considerable amount of good in some circles. The right hon. Member for Bradford says the proposal is unnecessary. Well, I think the Government are the best judges whether it is necessary or not. They say it is, and they ask the House to give it, and that is generally the way in which necessities of that land are provided. Then the right hon. Gentleman says the Vote is unprecedented. He says the Government of 1870 took a Vote of Credit; but that was at the end of the Session, while this Vote of £6,000,000 is proposed at the beginning of the Session. Well, but the Government of 1870 could not have taken the Vote of Credit at the beginning of the Session, for Earl Granville, the Foreign Minister at the opening of that Session, said "there was a state of profound peace." This must have been a lapsus lingua, I presume. The right hon. Gentleman said we took a Vote for 20,000 men; but that was not "a Vote to flourish about in the face of everyone—it was not a Vote to defend England or English interests." We wanted it to defend Belgian interests. Now, really to suppose that that Vote of 20,000 men was not a Vote to defend, strictly speaking, 841 English interests, but, as the right hon. Gentleman says, Belgian interests—
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I did not say that the Vote was not to defend English interests, nor that it was to defend Belgian interests. I said it was to fulfil the obligations we were under to Belgium.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I did not mean that the right hon. Gentleman said it was not to defend English interests—that was only an expression of my own; but he said that Vote of 20,000 men was to defend Belgium if Belgium had been attacked by either Germany or France. Then the right hon. Gentleman said this is a "sham Estimate." The hon. Gentleman who spoke last said it was not a "sham," but a "war Estimate." Whom are we to believe? The right hon. Gentleman then turns round and says—he is becoming quite an adept in vituperation—you have become the laughing-stock of Europe. He says—"I will not enter into the question of International Law, but I shall be followed by international lawyers"—I hope if we are to have international lawyers we shall only have one or two, for I do not know greater bores—"I shall be followed by international lawyers who will tell you that the Articles of the Treaties of 1856 and of 1871 do not apply to the present condition of things." I should think Earl Granville, who was Foreign Secretary at that time, must look with distrust on such a statement.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I am very sorry to interrupt the right hon. Baronet. I did not say the Articles of the Treaties of 1856 and 1871 no longer applied. I simply said that one Article relative to the navigation of the Straits only applied when Turkey was at peace, and therefore did not apply when Turkey is at war.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I do not see that in the Treaty, and I read it carefully to-day. The right hon. Gentleman says he gave us the statement of the Plenipotentiaries at the time. No doubt the Emperor of Russia bound himself most solemnly to attend to the obligations of the Treaty. Prince Gortchakoff in October, 1870, says that—It is neither from England nor Russia that can arise the dangers which may menace the Ottoman Empire; that the two Cabinets have an equal desire to maintain its existence as long 842 as possible by allaying and by conciliating the differences between the Porte and the Christian subjects of the Sultan; and that, in the event of a decisive crisis presenting itself, despite these efforts, both are equally resolved to seek for its solution in a general agreement of the great European Powers.That is the deliberate statement of Prince Gortchakoff; and I am sure that Earl Granville, who was Foreign Minister in 1871, will be vastly interested and surprised if he can find any international lawyers to persuade him that the engagements he then thought he was making were literally of no value whatever. Several speakers, not having been so successful as they wished in other directions, have determined to make political capital out of one thing—and that is the Earl of Carnarvon. The-Earl of Derby has disappointed them, and therefore they magnify the Earl of Carnarvon. It is very gratifying to see the interest which the Members of the late Cabinet take in a seceding Member of the present Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman said—these are his words with reference to the Earl of Carnarvon—"It is quite clear that the noble Earl stood between the Government and a dangerous policy." [Mr. W. E. FORESTER: Hear, hear!] What a pleasant sort of Colleague he must have been! No doubt he had been resigning for the last four or five months. This reminds me of what used to be said by Lord Palmerston of the right hon. Member for Greenwich. He was resigning so often that the country began to think nothing of it; but, at last, he was not satisfied until he did resign himself, with a large majority at his back. He was constantly resigning; therefore, the loss was not so great when the event did come. Notwithstanding all the right hon. Gentleman said against the Government—notwithstanding all his denunciations and those of other hon. Members—I do think the country take a bolder view of the policy of the Government. I believe they see in that policy both prudence and honesty of purpose, notwithstanding all the denunciations which have been uttered against them for a long time past. I must admit there are many people in this country who have thought and do think that there are grounds for fear in their policy—that this Vote implies a threat of war. The hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) called it a 843 war Vote. I remember that last night a right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. John Bright) expressed his belief that the Vote was one framed with the intention of rivetting the chains upon the Christian subjects of Turkey. I, on the other hand, think the proposal involves no menace of war; but is solely and only made with a view of enabling the Government, with a bold front and a strong arm, to labour in the interests of peace. As was said last night, their policy has been entirely directed in the direction of this object, and this only. This is shown in many ways. Mr. Layard, in his despatch to the Earl of Derby, written in May last, put it very concisely when he said—Since my arrival in Constantinople my main object has been to prepare the way for peace, and I have thought, in so doing, I should best carry out the wishes and intentions of the Government.All the despatches in all the Blue Books breathe the same language; and I believe the policy of the Government may be broadly stated to be this—it means, and has meant all through, to persevere in the neutrality which they have hitherto observed, and that they will not depart from that neutrality until it shall be indispensable as an act of self-defence. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), in a speech recently delivered, expressed his opinion that there was in the country a mischievous and inflammatory party desirous to urge the Government into war. Let me tell the House where that party is to be found. Last year the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) taunted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich—and the House cheered it to the echo—with a desire to involve England in a war in company with Russia as against Turkey. What a pretty mess we should have found ourselves in if the policy with which the right hon. Gentleman was credited had been acted upon! The hon. and learned Member for Oxford had said only the day before yesterday, when seconding the right hon. Member for Greenwich, that he lamented that England could not claim the glory of having shared with Russia in the work of promoting religious liberty. But this meant, if it meant anything, that the hon. and learned Gentleman lamented the fact of England not having shared 844 in the frightful massacres that occurred in Bulgaria from the benevolent protection of Russia. The hon. and learned Gentleman represents the inflammatory party, for I cannot understand anyone, unless he wished for war, suggesting that England should take up arms with Russia for the protection of people whose status involved the independence of Turkey. Last night the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham truly said that he hoped the experiences of 1854–56 had not been lost in this House. They certainly have not. I remember that the voices of then powerful Ministers urged England to go to war for the independence and integrity of Turkey; and I remember further that much of what was said caused me to come to the determination never again to vote for a proposal the effect of which could possibly be to enable England to go to war in support of what was called the independence and integrity of Turkey. But the times have changed. I well remember—indeed, I never can forget—the immortal Parliamentary eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman, now Member for Birmingham, during those debates. No record of those speeches can ever convey an adequate idea of the emotion and effect they created in this House. I was a young Member. I remember how I hung upon his lips and was entranced by the utterances of his impassioned soul. I determined from that time that never again would I ever give a vote in favour of war to support the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire. I often think of those times, having now sat in this House for nearly 30 years—of those poor fellows whose bones lie bleaching on Sebastopol's inhospitable plain, men who at the call of duty forsook all the endearments of home, and sacrificed their lives in the vain hope of curbing the ungodly lust of power of a semi-barbarous despot. I vowed then, and have often vowed since, that never again would I support a war for maintaining the integrity and independence of Turkey. But these are very different times. No Government would endeavour to promote such a war, and the country would never tolerate it. While, however, we are all against going to war for Turkey we cannot disguise the fact that there are questions of immense importance 845 now raised in the South-east of Europe which must affect European policy. The keystone of South-eastern Europe is—to quote from the admirable speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night—in process of removal. The state of things which we have for centuries been engaged in maintaining is being made the theatre of great modifications. The Government have a most difficult and arduous task in dealing with the upheaving of a position which has so long been maintained partly, if not mainly, by the influence of this country. I was sorry to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer say one thing. He said, in effect, that it was hardly to be expected that Russia would not ask for something in the way of territorial indemnity; but Russia has told us all through that she did not intend to ask for anything of the kind. ["No, no!" "Where?"] The Czar of Russia said he required nothing like an indemnity or compensation. Russia, of course, is not consulting her national interests; she fights only in order that civil and religious liberty may be accorded to the Christian subjects of the Porte. Yet the first thing she asks is that Roumania should cede back Roumanian Bessarabia. She asks for Kars, for Batoum, for Armenia. They are nothing, if you like. She asks for them, though she gave England to understand that, in the patriotic excitement of her people, she would not seek her own material interest. I cannot, in the face of this, understand the speech of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), who, in "another place," on Thursday last, said he should be shocked by an assertion that Russia was fighting for her own material interests, and followed his assertion by asking what could be "baser" than for the Prime Minister to hold that were our own interests to be attacked we should be bound to protect them with the sword? I do not call that a very patriotic sentiment. I am sure the country would not take that view. In the year 1853, Lord Palmerston, writing to Lord Clarendon, said that the policy of the Russian Government, in furtherance of its practice to push forward its encroachments as fast and far as the apathy or want of firmness of other Governments would allow, was to use moderate language and disinterested professions at St. Petersburg and London, and active aggres- 846 sion by its agents on the scene of operations. This is my view. I must say, speaking honestly and fairly, I have a great distrust of Russia. The record of the Treaties of 1856, 1870, and 1871 clearly show to this country that we cannot depend upon what Russia may promise. It is said she is fighting not for her material interests, but for religion's sake and for civil and religious liberty. A despot fighting for civil and religious liberty! No, no, that will not do. Civil and religious liberty are sacred words in this country—emblems of peace and good will, which have illustrated the career of statesmen, and which still illumine with a celestial flame the troublesome paths of this world. But to say that Russia is fighting for civil and religious liberty—no, I cannot allow it. Well, it is said that Russia is fighting for religion. Have any of us, let me ask, been in the regions which have been devastated and destroyed within the last few months? Go there and see the desolation and destruction which have resulted from famine and the sword. See how they have polluted the fairest gardens of the East, and turned the smiling valleys of the Balkans into ruinous heaps, and then tell me that Russia is fighting for religion only, for civil and religious liberty, and I am tempted to declaim that magnificent line of Lucretius—Tantum roligio potuit suadere malorum.Sir, I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham is going to vote for this Resolution. He did not say last night whether he would vote or not; but this I can say—that I shall vote for it myself, and I am sure it will also be supported by a large majority in this House. That, however, in my opinion, is not sufficient. A majority in Parliament has been proved in our Constitutional history not to be sufficient for a Government unless public opinion out-of-doors is at its back. In our Parliamentary history we have two very notable instances of that. When Lord Bute was in power, in the teeth of an unbroken majority, he was driven from office by the force of public opinion, and by the outburst of popular hatred; and Mr. Pitt, when he was at the zenith of his power as Minister—at a time when there was war between Russia and Turkey—was re- 847 fused by the House of Commons a Vote of money which was asked for, with a view to support Russia. These are two notable cases; but, as regards Her Majesty's Government, I believe that public opinion is with them in this matter. And why do I say so? Because, as we are all aware, the country knows perfectly well that the aims and exertions of Her Majesty's Government have all been directed to the procuring of peace. We have been told that the weakness of England is the great extent of her dominion; but that the strength of England can only be measured by the power she possesses to make use of it. Sir, it is that strength and that power we want placed in the hands of Her Majesty's Government at this juncture, in order that they may use it for English interests and in the interests of peace. A great deal has been said about Russian sympathies and Russian influences in this country. My sympathies—except those which I have in common with everybody in the country for suffering humanity—are only and solely in favour of the honour and power, the prestige and the character of our country. These are what I want to see maintained in the face of Europe; and I am satisfied that if the House of Commons are not prepared—as I believe they are—to give their support in a very ample manner to the Government on this Motion, I say I am satisfied there is a power out-of-doors still stronger to which an appeal would not be made in vain. And, further, I am convinced that that appeal would have no other effect than to put a tongue in every heart in England, to excite the patriotism of the country, and to ensure to the Government that increased confidence and power which the miserable tactics of Party faction would be unable to destroy.
§ MR. LOWE
I have, Sir, to congratulate the House, if so humble a person as myself may be allowed to do so, on the announcement which was made to us before the debate was renewed. I cannot give full utterance to the feelings of pleasure, which doubtless we all experienced, on hearing that the dreadful butchery which has been desolating some of the fairest districts in the world for so many months has, for a time at least, been put an end to; and that we may open our newspapers without 848 being horrified by the details of misery and desolation to which we have recently been accustomed. I have no right, perhaps, to make the observation; but I confess that it would have given me pleasure if I had heard some congratulation of the kind from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Leader of the House. It may be that he thinks it premature to indulge in such congratulation; but I cannot myself doubt the information he has given us, and that a Treaty of Peace has either been signed or will be signed immediately. It is the one subject on which, in our differences, we may be and ought to be united. Of course, such information coming upon me suddenly, I can hardly pretend to say what difference it may make in my argument; but at present it seems to strengthen extremely the case of those on this side of the House. There is no doubt that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked for this money there was a double purpose for which it might be applied. First, it might have been necessary for taking steps to vindicate the neutrality of England in the war between Turkey and Russia; and, secondly, it might have been required in order to increase the influence of England in the contemplated European Conference. Now, as to any question of active hostility, and, therefore, any demand for money for immediate emergencies, the case is closed, inasmuch as the armistice has been signed. Consequently, if the Government make out a case at all it must depend entirely on whether the House is convinced that there is a necessity for the Vote so that our hands might be strengthened in the Conference. What I propose to do, with the permission of the House, is to show whether this Grant ought to be made; and in order to do so I will point out to the House how it came to pass that the Grant was ever asked for. The history of the matter is a curious one, and will well repay the attention of the House. In the Queen's Speech from the Throne, prepared by Her Majesty's Ministers, occurs this passage—Hitherto, so far as the war has proceeded, neither of the belligerents has infringed the conditions on which my neutrality is founded—that was a solemn statement on behalf of the Queen—and I willingly believe that both parties are desirous to respect them, so far as it 849 may be in their power. So long as these conditions are not infringed, my attitude will continue the same.Nothing could be more satisfactory or clear than that. But the Speech went on to say—But I cannot conceal from myself that, should hostilities be unfortunately prolonged, some unexpected occurrence may render it incumbent on me to adopt measures of precaution. Such measures could not be effectually taken without adequate preparation, and I trust to the liberality of my Parliament to supply the means which may be required for that purpose.So that the Queen's Speech was directed entirely to the case of a breach of neutrality, and the money which would be asked for would be devoted to protecting England against a breach of neutrality. Now, however, that ground is absolutely cut away by the news we have received this evening. The ground on which the Government asks for the Vote is, therefore, entirely gone, and if the Motion is to be supported, it must be on grounds which were not in the minds of the Government or of the House at the commencement of the Session. Then, again, the Chancellor of the Exchequer informed us that until the Government had received the Russian demands and conditions, they would have no proposal to make as to money. At the present moment we not only know the Russian demands and conditions, but those demands and conditions seem to have assumed the form of an armistice; and that, again, appears to strengthen the view that the grounds which may have existed for asking for the money have utterly gone. On the Wednesday following the announcement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to which I have referred, the Government thought fit, for reasons which I will not go into now, to order the Fleet to go into the Dardanelles, with the view, as was said, of clearing the waterway and protecting British interests. Her Majesty had called Parliament together with the view of having the advice and assistance of Parliament in the present state of public affairs. That was a most important step. Did Her Majesty's Government take the advice of Parliament or give Parliament any chance of advising it on the subject? Not so. The whole matter was a dead secret. It was concealed from Parliament. It was concealed also from those most nearly affected. It was concealed from 850 the belligerents. The strictest secrecy was enjoined. The next day the Chancellor of the Exchequer came down to the House, and gave Notice for a grant of money, and the reasons he gave for it could leave no doubt that it was intended as the sequence and part of the—I will not say hostile, but the active—step taken when the English Fleet was sent into the Dardanelles. No notice was given to us. The fact was concealed from us about the Fleet; and not only was the fact concealed from us altogether, reasons were given which, to say the least, were far from satisfactory. We were told that the reason this money was asked for was because Russia was making rapid advances and the Treaty of Peace was not signed. I maintain, on the strength of what we now know, that in giving that reason the Government were not dealing fairly and candidly with the House. If the right hon. Gentleman chose not to give any reason that was another matter; but if he undertook to give a reason for it, I think he ought to have given the full and true reason. That, however, was not done, and so the matter remained. If the Fleet was only to keep the waterway open and protect British interests, why was the matter kept such a profound secret? Why was not Russia taken into our council? If it was to protect humanity, an arrangement surely might have been made; but the strictest secrecy was enjoined and nothing was known about it. The next step was—for some reason or other, and I am sorry to say I cannot tell the reason—the Fleet was withdrawn from the Dardanelles. I say I cannot tell; because, so far as I can see, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary are in direct opposition to each other in the reasons they give. The Home Secretary says that the Fleet was withdrawn because it was believed the terms of peace had been settled. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech in introducing the Vote, said it was one of the errors that had been much dwelt upon that the step taken was due to the fact that it was understood satisfactory terms of peace had been arrived at.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
What I said was—We have been informed that the bases of peace have been accepted. I read it from the despatch.
§ MR. LOWE
I took the words down. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman sees 851 how to reconcile these two things. I do not. I have given the words I took down from his lips. I have no doubt it is capable of explanation; or, perhaps, it is not capable of explanation—that is, that is one of these mistakes which will arise. I have quoted the matter to show how necessary it is to have a little charity in public affairs. Two Gentlemen, neither of whom would be capable of anything but direct and fair dealing, appear on the first sight to contradict each other on a matter upon which they must both be well informed; but with regard to which, if I were to use the language of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cross), I might say a "lying spirit" prevails. I will not say that I believe there has been a mistake somewhere; but it inculcates upon my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary a little charity and moderation. Then this is the state in which things were. The Meet was suddenly called back, without having had the opportunity of doing anything, and this was met by the resignation of two Secretaries of State. It has been said that Lord Derby wrote an excellent despatch in regard to neutrals—a despatch which everybody was content to be bound by; and then it is asserted by the Home Secretary, I think, that that despatch has never been infringed. That is, perhaps, a matter to be decided by authority, and I quote the Minister (the Earl of Derby) who resigned his office because he considered the Government had infringed it; and he not only resigned because he thought so, he consented to return to office, and he still retains office, holding the opinion that that proceeding was utterly unjustifiable. There is, too, the case of the Earl of Carnarvon, who has not seen fit to return. The object I have in view is to show the House what position the Government had arrived at at the time. It had already given Notice in the Queen's Speech that money would be called for. Then it wavered, then it gave the fresh orders recalling the Fleet, then this expedition, which no doubt would have been put forward to us as the grounds why this money was to be voted, vanished into thin air, and then all that remained was this unhappy Vote. What was to be done with that? In the position of things what could they do with it? It was confronting them, looking them hard in the face; how could they get rid of it? They could 852 not say they asked for it on account of the advance of Russia, or the concealment of the terms of peace. It would not do to say they wanted it for that, or in order to assist our operations in the Dardanelles. What was the reason? I can understand what sort of a deliberation it was. I can understand people asking—"What shall we hang it upon?" One would say—"Let us take it as money given in order to secure neutrality." I can imagine another saying'—"Connu, connu, we can't have that dodge over again." I fancy I see the Chancellor of the Exchequer or somebody else rising at the end of a long and wearisome discussion, and saying—"I have discovered the remedy. It is quite true we have put it out of our power to say anything about the severe conditions of neutrality, because we have been the first to break them by sending the Fleet into the Dardanelles. That will never do." But true genius is only found in great difficulties; and I have no doubt that it occurred to some one to say—"After all, we have worked out the idea of getting the money for the purpose of interfering between the belligerents. But the future is always open to us. This war cannot last for ever, and when it comes to a conclusion there must necessarily be a Conference, and when there is a Conference it is desirable that we cut a very imposing figure, and in order that we may cut an imposing figure, ask for a Vote of Confidence." In other words—"We will work the confidence trick." I have no doubt that that was the reason which prompted them. I believe it is simply and solely an effort to get rid of the disagreeable and uncomfortable obligation which has been thrown upon the Government because they chose, instead of pursuing a plain and open course, to violate the neutrality they were bound to observe, and draw back from their declaration of neutrality. If that is the case, the question arises, what are we to do with this Vote? If it is a Vote which came into existence in this manner, is it right, is it fair in the circumstances, that we should be asked to support it? What possible reason can be given why we should support it? I will take the arguments as they are given. We are to vote this because it is necessary that those who go into the Conference should be strong, and because it 853 is necessary that the Government should speak with the full force of England. And, therefore, we are called upon, in order to show that we are strong, and that England entirely approves of the action of the Government, to pass this Vote. If there is any justice in any of the things I have pointed out, it is almost impossible for us on this side to approve of the action of the Government. Unless there can be given some explanation infinitely more satisfactory than anything that has been put before us, I, for one, if you put me to torture, could not say I approved the conduct of the Government. It is extremely hard that, because the Government gets itself into this scrape, it should put us in such a dilemma that we are called upon to express a confidence we do not feel because they deem it necessary on patriotic grounds to wrest it from us. There are things a Government has a right to demand from us; there are sacrifices I would make to support a Government to which, unfortunately, I am opposed. I do not say that the Government asks for a general Vote of Confidence; it does much worse—it asks the Committee to participate in a course of vulgarity and snobbishness. It says—"We want to say we are strong, and the way is to show how rich we are; we therefore ask for £6,000,000"—if it were £60,000,000 it would be all the same, so far as I can see—"which is to be at the disposal of the Government for two months; and that is to prove our strength. It does not follow," as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "that a single shilling will be spent; all the Powers of Europe will be frightened by the mere fact of our being empowered to spend it; and so we shall have our own way in the Conference, and shall be enabled to rehabilitate the fallen Turkish power." It is an abuse of the powers of Government to put before us such a proposition. They have a perfect right—at least, one must concede it, they being the stronger—to deal with our money, to trample upon us, to torment us, to out-vote us; but there is one thing they have no right to do, and that is to make us do what no gentleman could think of doing without repugnance. They have no right to put us in the position of the "Bourgeois Gentilhomme," rattling the money in our pockets to show how rich we are. Such a degradation transcends 854 the limits allowed to a Parliamentary majority. Not only have they no right to make us act in a manner unbecoming English gentlemen, but I do not think it is fair upon us that we should be made extremely ridiculous. I am pre-pared to make many sacrifices for the country; of course, everyone is prepared to die for it; but everyone is not prepared to make himself a laughing-stock to all mankind. And it involves nothing less that we should really seek to frighten five great military Powers, not by arms, not by levies, not by the collection or raising of money; but by the mere possibility of raising money, which may be applied in some unknown manner, if it be possible to scrape it up or to make an excuse for doing it, and that within less than two months, because the frightening period cannot begin until the Conference meets. It has not met yet. Observe another thing about this theory of imparting supernatural power by granting millions of money. By March 31 the spell will be spent. Only think of the miserable position of our Minister in the Conference at midnight on the 31st of March or the 1st of April. The position of Samson when his last locks were falling off under the shears of Delilah would be nothing to it. He will say—But yesterday, the word of Caesar mightHave stood against the world;but now 'tis 12 o'clock! I go further, and maintain, with some plausibility, not only that they have no right to make us vulgar and ridiculous, but they have no right to enlist our sympathies in a cause which is utterly futile. No man except the Prime Minister can really imagine that five great military Monarchies—any one of which can put into the field five times as many men as we can—are to be terrified, not because we have resorted to a conscription or a levy en masse, or any preparation for desperate resistance; but because we have put it into the power of the Government to spend a certain sum of money during a period of two months. I do not undervalue the capacity and good sense of hon. Gentlemen opposite; and I have too good an opinion of them to think that they would propose anything so utterly preposterous and ridiculous if it had not been that I could trace the motive in the manner I have done to the miserable necessity they were under of 855 doing something. By the two totally different versions given of their intentions, they have entirely overreached themselves. As far as I know, this Vote is one without precedent; if I am wrong, I can be set right by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has access to the best information. Everybody knows how we proceed on such occasions. In military matters we begin with men; we treat all other matters as depending upon the number of men; and, having determined that, then follows the stores and arms necessary for them. I cannot understand voting so much for the Army, Navy, and other matters with absolute discretion to the Government to do as they please. Instead of frightening Plenipotentiaries when they are assembled, I think you will frighten anyone who has any respect for the British Constitution, if it has come to be accepted as a principle that whenever we want to bolster ourselves up in the eyes of foreign countries we are to say it is a question of a Vote; if it is a small difficulty, that £3,000,000 will probably frighten them; if it is a bigger difficulty, it may require £5,000,000, and if it is a very large one, it may be £20,000,000. If this sort of thing is to go on, you will make wreck of your finances in no time. There never will be a time when the Government will not want its hands strengthened by grants of money. I entirely protest against being drawn into this matter. It is not a question of patriotism with me. I think in some cases a Government may fairly ask for much from us; but this is past all the limits of human patience; and no people who view the thing as I do, can possibly acquiesce in it. I would really hope it is not too late for the right hon. Gentleman to re-consider the question. What we have heard this evening renders the matter less pressing than ever; and can it be worth the while of the Government to force the matter further, as they undoubtedly can in their omnipotence and with their command over their own side? They might command this side also if it were a case in which the honour and the interests of the country were concerned; but for what honour or interest they are going to make this country contemptible and supremely ridiculous I cannot imagine. I will not go into the question of peace or war. I trust there is good sense 856 enough—I will not say sense of the ridiculous enough—here to enable us to laugh this thing out of the House. I think the Government could very easily dispense with this Vote. I think they want—and it is a very proper thing for them to want—to have a united England when they go into the Congress. No desire is more legitimate, and there is none we ought to make more sacrifices for. The way to obtain unity is exceedingly simple. It is not to be done with silver and gold, nor yet with iron. The reason you are in difficulties in going into the Conference is because you know well that a very considerable part of the intellect, of the education, of the wealth of England is against anything that would tend to keep up this detestable abomination of Turkish domination in Eastern Europe. So recently as the 25th of December it has been said that the Government undertakes to get the best terms it can for Turkey. What does that mean? The best terms for Turkey are the worst possible terms for the wretched people they have misgoverned. Whenever the Prime Minister has a chance, he always does something to let it be thought that his opinions and those of the great majority of the people of this country are against the delivery of these wretched populations. He did it a year and a half ago in the celebrated speech about a second and a third campaign. This year his tone implied disbelief in the word of the Emperor, and was in the highest degree unbecoming. I would suggest a simple remedy. Muzzle your Prime Minister. If you cannot do that, let it be at once understood that in these frisky hours he does not represent the opinions of the Government. If you want the people of England to be united, consider their feelings and wishes. Do not look at the matter in such a stiff, stately, and buckram manner as you do. Consider that you are dealing with flesh and blood. Think the people's thoughts; use their language; and lead them to understand that, instead of giving everything grudgingly and unwillingly, as they are apt to imagine, you are their leaders, to lead them in the course they wish. It is not an unreasonable course. They wish for freedom, for liberation from misery and suffering to a large class of people. You yourselves share their feelings, and why will you be at such 857 pains to make everybody believe you are hostile to this course? If you only do that you may, indeed, do what the Chancellor of the Exchequer most justly wished should be done—you may go into the Congress with a united England behind you, and speak with a weight you will not attain even if you get liberty to spend £100,000,000.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY
observed that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward this Motion on Monday he treated it as a subject of grave importance. It seemed to him that when a statement was made by a responsible Minister of the Crown that this Vote should be granted, it was hardly consistent with the dignity of the House and the gravity of this question to meet the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with an Amendment saying it should not be acceded to because that would increase the financial burdens of the people. Much as he was in favour of economical administration, he thought it was not right to oppose the Vote on that ground. A Motion of this kind ought to have been met by a direct Vote of Want of Confidence. Had such a step been taken he knew how it would have been met, and what would have been the answer of the House. He hoped that when the division took place Europe would be convinced that England was in earnest, and that her earnestness originated out of a desire to secure a satisfactory peace. He hoped, furthermore, it would show that she was thoroughly prepared to defend her own interests. Turkey being now in a condition which would not serve our purposes, should we trust Russia to settle the destinies of people in the Turkish Provinces? He was willing to give Russia every credit for good intentions; but it needed all our charity to put a favourable construction upon the course of Russia during the last month. He thought there could be but one answer to the question. We were not prepared to leave Russia to settle the matter. The wisest course we could take was to say we would not let things go by chance—that we had a definite policy, that we were prepared to maintain the engagements which this and other countries had entered into, and would insist that England and Europe should have a voice in the settlement of this important question, and the securing of the peace of 858 Europe for some time to come. The Government were perpetually called upon to say what they were afraid of, and why they asked for this money. When the facts of the case which the Government could make out against Russia were stated, the danger would be that they would so inflame the minds of the people of this country that they would not listen to reason on the matter of peace or war, and something might happen to force the hands of the Government and bring about that war which we were all so desirous of avoiding. The Government had been attacked; but it was to be borne in mind that they had all along been placed in a very awkward and difficult position. They came into office inheriting the old traditions of the Foreign Office, one of which was that Turkey was to be kept as a bulwark against Russia. But all of a sudden the conscience of the people seemed to wake up, and they said—"We won't keep up Turkey any more." It was extremely difficult for the Government to adapt themselves to that altered state of things; but everybody must admit that they had kept us out of war up to the present time. He believed the House and the country would be ready to consider everything that might be fairly advanced by Russia with regard to terms and the compensation she might ask for her sufferings and losses. Certainly the terms which were read out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night sounded very large; but the country would be anxious to discuss them dispassionately so far as they did not militate against justice and right, and to settle the question of peace on a permanent basis. As to the point which was put before the House last night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) relative to the Dardanelles, no one in common fairness could dispute that Russia had a real cause of complaint. If we were not driven to point out what the action had been which had driven the Government to ask for this Vote—for that could not be done without danger of the war feeling being pushed to extremity—we might look to a happy termination of the troubles which had so long oppressed that portion of Europe. He did not agree on many points with the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan); but he did agree with him 859 that it was England's interest that this question should be put on a permanent basis—not on such a basis that we might be saved from embarrassment for some ten years to come; but that it should be settled once for all in the interest of England and of Europe, and that contentment, justice, and prosperity might be the lot of those fair lands to which that boon had so long been denied.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
said, he had listened with the greatest pleasure to the able and temperate speech of his hon. Friend who had just sat down, who had given a tone to the debate it did not before possess. He listened to speeches last night the beginning and the end of which was peace, but their inside was as full of powder as a fish torpedo. He quite admitted that an Empire such as ours might require at some time or other to be defended by the sword; and if such an occasion should arise the Government appealing to the country in such a cause would be speaking in the name of united England. But he asked himself, was England now united? We, he feared, required a new definition for the term unanimity. Ten days ago we were told that the Government was united; but now we were informed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) that for the last month two Members of the Cabinet had been in a chronic state of resignation. Was the country, then, unanimous in support of this policy? It appeared to him to be unanimous the other way. There was scarcely a town in England from which remonstrances against this Vote had not arrived. It was all very well to say that this was a mob agitation. He had observed that whenever out-of-door agitation, though carried on by the greatest scamps and scoundrels in the country, was in favour of the Government, it was the voice of the nation; but if it was against them it was mob agitation and the work of a "lying spirit." The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. C. B. Denison) had said he did not mean to be governed by a mobocracy. For his own part, he would be disposed to agree with him, but then he would include under the name of mobocracy even an assemblage at the Guildhall under the Lord Mayor of London. In Perth and Leith the candidates opposed to this Vote had defeated the candidates in favour of it 860 by 3 to 1; and in Greenock his hon. Friend had defeated a Conservative opponent with a Liberal and Radical thrown into the scale. This House of Commons had not been elected to decide on questions of peace or war; and until an appeal was made to the country he should continue to believe that the heart of England was not with this Vote. With regard to the Russian terms of peace, he asked was it right and patriotic of the Home Secretary to have said things about the Emperor of Russia which no common jury in England would be allowed to assume against a defendant in a matter in which only a few pounds were at stake? It might now fairly be assumed that the delay in signing the terms of peace was due to military, diplomatic, and political difficulties which had arisen. It was exactly a fortnight since the Chancellor of the Exchequer assured us in the most solemn terms that nothing had occurred to call for the Vote of Credit foreshadowed in the Speech from the Throne; and therefore if anything had occurred it must have occurred since then. In one sense, a great deal had occurred since then. In the first place, we have been on the verge of war. Indeed, he was not sure that we had not been at war without knowing it. Some of his hon. Friends held that, though we had not declared war, we had made war without declaring it. We had sent our Fleet into the Dardanelles and called it back again—a proceeding which reminded him of what had been once done by a King of France—The British Fleet, with twenty thousand men, Steamed up the Straits, and then—steamed down again.It was said that Russia desired to have a quid pro quo. She desired a war indemnity, no doubt, as Germany had desired it when she exacted it from France and held a material guarantee until the indemnity was paid. He could not express his gratification at the thought that the gallant State of Montenegro should have gained the independence for which it had so bravely fought. With regard to Servia, he was not concerned to defend her; but surely they did not want £6,000,000 to deal with that part of the question. Austria was much more interested in respect to it -than we were, and yet she was not adding £6,000,000 to her Budget. With regard to the formation of Bulgaria into 861 an autonomous State, under a Russian Prince—who now turned out to be as apocryphal as the Russian princes who used to be met at Homburg and Baden-Baden—he thought that was the very object for which they had all desired before the breaking out of the war. Mr. Layard, indeed, said it would be the destruction of the Turkish Empire; but the destruction of the Turkish Empire was a process which had been going on for many years past. The case of Turkey in Europe was not merely that of the sick man—she was dead, and it was vain to try to resuscitate her. They had been endeavouring to galvanize a corpse. Even if they were to guarantee Turkey now—pressed as she was on the one side by the Slav race and on the other by rising Hellenic nationalities fired with new ambition—she would fall to pieces in two years. Russia, with all her faults, had the germs of national, municipal, and communal life; but where was the national life of Turkey? If we put, in the place of a dying Power a young, vigorous nationality, of whom we could make a friend, and with whom we could act in concert, that would be the best course to adopt for British interests. The British Government wanted to go to the Conference with cheque-book in one hand and a loaded revolver in the other. For what? To make themselves look respectable? If every nation did the same the Conference would be a forest of bayonets. With reference to the question of the Dardanelles, to talk of the Emperor of Russia and the Sultan settling it between them was very like sheer nonsense. It was a European question, and it must be settled by European opinion. But there was a feeling growing up in Europe that England was playing her own hand, and they might call it independence, but it looked very like isolation. Yet, within the last few days, a report had prevailed that this money was required, not to back up England, but to re-assure Austria. Well, he said, that the interests of Austria and those of England, were not the same. We ought to be aware of entangling alliances, or of allowing ourselves to drift into war. It was easy to generate and to foster national animosities. Formerly, Englishmen and Frenchmen regarded each other as natural enemies. Thank God! that miserable feeling had passed away. But it seemed 862 that exactly the same thing, or something very like it, was arising in regard to Russia. Surely two great nations, bound together, not only by dynastic alliances, but by a common interest, and which ought to be the pioneers of civilization in the East—where there was room for them both—were created for better things than to cut each other's throats? Men talked glibly of throwing 10,000 blue-jackets into Gallipoli, just as 14 years ago they talked glibly of throwing 30,000 red-jackets into Düppel; but the first shot that was fired between England and Russia would kindle Europe into a blaze, and then their £6,000,000 would be found to go a very little way. Yet, though very little, indeed, for the purposes of a war, that sum was a heavy price to pay for a Vote of Confidence which they did not altogether feel. Moreover, at present, in his part of the country, the springs of industry were almost dried up; the iron trade was nearly gone; scarcely a coal mine paid its way; and the people were in a state of great misery and privation. And when he thought of such Votes, and the starving children, and the poor creatures huddled together at the workhouse door or trudging barefoot through slush and snow to receive their scanty pittance he could not bring himself to support a Vote that was either wantonly extravagant or ridiculously inadequate.
said, that in his opinion, hon. Gentlemen opposite had not shown any consciousness of the gravity of the step they were about to take. While admitting that the Vote before the House, not through any action of the Government, but because of the very nature of the case, involved the question of confidence, he would appeal to the supporters of the Amendment to say whether they desired the Amendment to be carried, or if it was a patriotic course to pursue to try to turn their opponents out of office in the present very grave position of affairs, when they must know that there was no chance whatever of their being able to replace them in the event of their appealing, as they necessarily would do, to the verdict of the country. He contended that they had one of the two objects in view—either they really desired that the Amendment should be carried, which would have the effect of turning out the only Government which could possibly 863 carry on public Business; or else they did not desire this, in which case it was a mere paper Amendment, which they thought it good policy to flourish in the face of the country. It could not be said that the proposal of the Government was, on the face of it, extravagant. Russia was known to be ambitious; she was not known to be very scrupulous; and it would hardly be maintained that this demand for £6,000,000 was an outrageous one, seeing that from one end of the Continent to the other men's minds were agitated by rumours of war, and that there was hardly a nation from Denmark to Greece which was not arming, preparing to arm, or which had not already armed. The feeling by which hon. Gentlemen opposite were influenced seemed to be a survival of the feeling shown by the country in 1876–1877; but circumstances had entirely changed since that agitation had occurred. The Power which perpetrated the outrages which had horrified Europe which had defied the Great Powers at the Conference was now as much blotted out as the Turkey that formerly threatened the liberties of Europe and marched its armies to the very gates of Vienna. Every argument which did not take account of this; every argument, he might almost add, which was of older date than three weeks was, therefore, an anachronism; since the Ottoman Power—the persecutor of its Christian subjects—was really no more, and the basis on which so much of the agitation of the last 18 months was founded no longer existed. When, therefore, foreign nations saw that the efforts to hamper the foreign policy of the Government continued when the avowed objects of those efforts had by the mere march of events ceased to exist, they could only put one interpretation on the conduct of the Opposition. They would say that its real motive throughout had been a cowardly horror of war—that so long as a decent cloak could be found for this in general philanthropy, philanthropy was the order of the day; but that when this failed some other excuse was seized upon, drawn either from an ill-timed economy or the minutiae of Constitutional precedent. If such an idea really prevailed on the Continent nothing could exaggerate its danger, and he was very much afraid that it would lead to a state of things which would make war inevitable.
864 Much had been said about the absurdity of our going armed into the Conference; but he would ask those who spoke thus what ground except our strength had we to justify our interference in the affairs of any other country than our own? Our real title to take any such step laid, not in the fact that we had a sort of historic right to do so, but because it was undoubtedly the fact that we were a Great Power. A Great Power was not a Power which had a command of fine sentiments, but a Power which could be dangerous to its enemies, useful to its friends, and which possessed great resources which it could and would use. If we ceased to possess these qualities, we might, indeed, attend the Conference; but the mere fact that we had been once a Great Power would give us no weight there. In a Conference affairs were not settled as in a Gas Committee, by a majority of voices, but by the comparative influence derived ultimately and not very remotely from the material power of the nations who took part in it. Refusing, therefore, to our Delegates the weight which the Vote now asked for was calculated to give them, in their endeavours to bring about a satisfactory and durable peace, hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to him to be incurring a grave responsibility, and he did most earnestly ask them to consider whether the Amendment they had announced their intention of supporting was not calculated to produce exactly the opposite effects to those which they desired.
§ MR. W. CARTWRIGHT
said, he had taken no part in what was called the agitation in regard to this question. He had, however, tried to the best of his ability to ascertain the nature of the Vote which was submitted to the House, and of the reasons urged against it. It was, in his opinion, a Vote of immediate Confidence based on recent occurrences that was asked from the House. He had had very great difficulty in making up his mind as to how he should vote; but the small Correspondence presented to the House since the opening of the Session had supplied him with data which had led him to a conclusion that would sway his vote on the present occasion in support of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). They had heard a great deal about "British interests," and beyond doubt there were 865 interests which, in the present political juncture, might be touched in a sense adverse to the interests of this country; but the Ministers of the Crown, and notably the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had also recognized the fact that amongst these interests many affected other nations of the Continent; and which, therefore, were to be regarded as general European interests. In dealing with these interests, therefore, there should be concert and co-operation, and it was of capital importance that, in the present critical state of affairs, this country should be prepared to take its share in such concert and co-operation with the Great Powers. He searched, however, in vain through that Correspondence for any evidence as to the co-operation with the other States of Europe, and he was forced to the conclusion that there was not the agreement which ought to exist between Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of the other Great Powers. With regard to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, the basis of which he should define as conditional neutrality, by which he understood absolute impartiality, subject strictly to certain conditions not being infringed, the point of real importance was that having reference to Constantinople. Lord Derby, in his despatch of 6th May, had stated that Her Majesty's Government would not be prepared to witness with indifference the passing into other hands than its present possessors a capital holding so peculiar and commanding a position. The reply to that despatch on the part of Russia had been that, while accepting this proposition, the Imperial Government of Russia could not prejudge the course and issue of the war; and that reply had been received by Her Majesty's Government without protest and without remark at the time against this distinct reservation. On the 12th of December the Turkish Government, being then sorely pressed after the fall of Plevna, addressed an appeal to the Powers of Europe to intercede. On the very following day a despatch was indited by Lord Derby and addressed to Prince Gortchakoff, which involved a departure from the original conditions. He (Mr. Cartwright) contended that the despatch to which he referred did not maintain the position originally taken, while the contention of the Home Secretary on the previous evening was that Her Majesty's 866 Government had never swerved from the points laid down in Lord Derby's despatch of May last. On the 6th May objection had been confined to the transfer of the possession of Constantinople; but, on the 13th December, objection was extended to the temporary occupation of Constantinople by Russia. Again, on January 12th, Lord Derby further departed from his position by this new condition for the maintenance of English neutrality—that there should be no Russian advance even to Gallipoli. The despatch of the 6th May was written after protracted diplomatic Correspondence as the maturely considered expression of British conditions, and it was not till the Turkish collapse arose that these modifications in the original conditions were made. Her Majesty's Government had professed also to confine itself to the position of the mere channel of communication between Russia and Turkey upon the subject of peace, and yet there was evidence that the Government had itself sat in judgment upon the Russian proposals. For although the Russian reply was in the hands of the Government on January 29th, no communication had been made for a whole week to Constantinople; while, in the interval, the Russian Government had been asked to make modifications in its answer to suit the views of the English Government. In regard to Turkey, he maintained that Her Majesty's Government had pursued a course which approached very nearly to benevolent neutrality. That was shown by the fact that on the 14th December the Foreign Secretary informed the Turkish Ambassador that the Government would do their utmost to obtain the best possible terms for Turkey. Nothing was more remarkable in recent transactions connected with this question than the inaccuracy of the information received from Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople, who was, of course, himself misled. He (Mr. Cartwright) would not say one word against that right hon. Gentleman; but there could be no question that there were misstatements in his despatches, and that the intelligence which came from Constantinople was more or less ambiguous and doubtful. There appeared to be an air of mystery running through the Correspondence, and a remarkable instance of it was conveyed in the telegram from Constantinople con- 867 veying the terms. These were inaccurate; but it possibly occurred that the Ministers of the Sultan, hastily reading them over, might have misapprehended their meaning; but how was it that, so far as the Correspondence showed, there had been no subsequent correction of this great inaccuracy? In matters outside the area of that reticence which public interest required, when the Government appealed for the confidence of the nation in a critical moment, it was bound to give the most ample information; and this information he had not been able to find in the Blue Books which had been published on the subject. On the contrary, there was a great deal of mystery, and a great deal left out in the Papers which might have been communicated to the House; and he regarded as unwarrantable the action of the Government in withholding any documents which they could produce in relation to Greece. That evening they had received very important intelligence; but it had not come from Mr. Layard in Constantinople, but from Musurus Pasha in London. There had, no doubt, been a great many despatches given to the House by the Government; but he wanted to know, had the Government made frank communication of matter which, as regarded present negotiations, there could be no ground for concealing? The Government asked for a Vote of Confidence; but he, for one, could not, although he had tried hard to find it, discover a reason why that confidence should be given them. One word more he desired to say. The war was practically at an end; diplomatic action would now begin. He hoped that, in whatever was done in the future, when the Conference met, the influence of this country would not be thrown into the scale in favour of an obsolete formula—"the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire," but that it would be given in favour of those rising elements of strength in the East which were indigenous to the soil, and which, at the same time, were capable of being raised to a nation which might prove an obstruction and barrier to designing or ambitious foreign Powers. There was one point more—that of the possible occupation of Constantinople. As to the occupation of Constantinople, let them remember as a warning that in our own time there had been an occupation 868 hastily undertaken which had proved most disastrous to the Power that undertook it. That was the occupation of Rome by the French, in behalf, it was said, of ancient interests. The French went easily to Rome, but once there they were grievously perplexed how to extricate themselves from a most untoward entanglement, and that occupation continued to hang like a millstone around the neck of the French Empire.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had been struck with two remarkable facts which were very closely connected with the question before the House. It appeared to him that during the last 15 months marvellous hallucinations had existed throughout the country. Not only that, but they had seen a large number of persons, supposed to be in full possession of their senses, doing their best to bring about the precise results which they professed most to deprecate. As to the origin of this war-—there was no use in mincing matters; hon. Members would be able to fill up the details—but he would ascribe it to the agitation got up by an ex-Minister in search of a "political cry." ["Oh, oh!"] He desired to speak with no discourtesy; but he was stating his impression, and he believed what he had said would be endorsed by the general opinion of the country. The agitation was supported by well-meaning but misguided persons, who had brought themselves into the strange belief that Christianity and carnage were convertible terms, and that the best way to relieve an oppressed nationality was to put it through a course of fire and sword, and subsequently consign it to the rule of a tyranny much more grinding and intolerable than that from which it suffered. What surprised him was that the persons who were taking this line were the very persons who declaimed against war, and yet who were chiefly instrumental in giving rise to it. He did not approve the course taken by the Government, and thought they were in some degree responsible for what had occurred. He was convinced that if the Government had interposed a year ago, and told Russia—"You shall not be permitted to go beyond certain limits," the war would never have taken place. He had heard a great deal from the other side of the House about the existence of a war Party—a Party determined at all risks, without reason, without an object, 869 to drive the country into war. All he could say was that if such a Party existed the persons composing it ought to be confined in Bedlam. He and those who sat near him were not advocates of war; they deprecated war; they would resort to it only when it became a painful necessity; but that did not make them a war Party, and such a Party did not exist. Last year all England was deluged with speeches and pamphlets on atrocities—atrocities which were manufactured for a political purpose, and an endeavour was made to prove that the Turks were utter barbarians, and not fit to live on the earth, and that therefore they ought to be exterminated. But it was discovered eventually, upon investigation, that the atrocities committed by the Turks were equalled by atrocities committed on the other side, and that there was nothing to choose between Bashi-Bazouk and Cossack. The misgovernment of Turkey he would be the last to uphold, but he could not understand why England should be the European policeman to interfere with it. History also showed that the Turkish Government contrasted favourably with that of Russia. He confessed frankly that during this struggle his sympathies had been with the Turks, for two reasons. In the first place, the Turk had, against overwhelming odds, been fighting for his home and country with a courage worthy of an Englishman; and, in the next place, he felt the conviction that the war undertaken by Russia against Turkey was for aggression and spoliation. ["Hear, hear!"] He would withdraw the latter assertion if the Emperor kept his word. He would go further, and say that the Turks had been fighting the battle of England and of Europe. ["No!"] Well, wait till the Conference met, and then they would see that the cause of the Turk must be taken up by those Powers who were not prepared to submit to Russian domination. They might like or dislike the Turk, but there he was, and he was the inevitable Turk, and they could not get rid of him. He should like to know what hon. Gentlemen opposite were going to do with him. The right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) had the credit of inventing what was called the "bag-and-baggage" policy. Let the House assume for a moment that such 870 a policy could be carried out, and that they could remove the Turkish Government and the 20,000,000 of Turks into Armenia, what were they going to do with the territory? There was a little difficulty for diplomatists to surmount. Another policy, which had been a good deal spoken of, was an older policy, and known as the peace-at-any-price policy; but if the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) were in his place, he (Mr. Bentinck) should like to ask him whether he was prepared to maintain that the peace-at-any-price policy could be upheld by Great Britain, and whether he was prepared to say that that policy would not subject this country to greater disasters than any war could produce? He had always contended for the maintenance of the armaments of this country, because he believed that was the true peace policy. He would only add a word with respect to the division they were to take. In his belief it could not be a Party vote. That was impossible. As for the Government, they could not be turned out; the right hon. Member for Greenwich had made any other Government impossible. Therefore, under all the circumstances, he regretted that the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had been moved. His belief was that the friends of peace throughout the country would rejoice that means were to be given to the Government of exercising a strong voice in the Councils of Europe. The honour of the House was involved in the Vote they were about to give. Every Member of the House who voted would be compelled to say one of two things—either that he was prepared to uphold the honour and defend the rights of this country, or that he was prepared to sacrifice both the honour and rights of his country for the miserable and sordid objects of Party warfare.
§ MR. P. J. SMYTH
Sir, I do not regard this question as one of confidence or no confidence in Her Majesty's Government. Although I disapprove of the negative policy of Her Majesty's Opposition—and the front Opposition Bench has never favoured us with any other on the Eastern Question—I deem it my duty to support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). Dis- 871 guise it as we may, the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is interpreted by Europe as a demonstration in support of Turkish domination in Eastern Europe. That domination is virtually overthrown, and I believe it to be for the interest of mankind that it should wholly cease. If I plead guilty to the weakness—if such it be—of being attracted towards a great Prime Minister who has the courage of his convictions, I cannot be insensible to the fact that this question involves great principles which I feel that I could not abandon in the East without ceasing to uphold in the West. The time, happily, has arrived, when the phrase "conditional neutrality," of which we have had for the last eight months such a wearisome iteration, must give up its meaning. It is an ambiguous, and, as appears from a recently published despatch, an elastic phrase. If neutrality was meant, why not say neutrality unqualified by any epithet? Read by the light of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and the despatch of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—that of the 6th of May—it meant absolute neutrality as regards the events of the war, though they should lead to a Russian occupation of Constantinople, with a reservation of the right of the Government to exercise its influence at the final settlement. That is the neutrality of Austria as defined by Count Andrassy. There are, however, some enthusiastic persons in this country who attach to the phrase another meaning; who see a menace to clearly defined British interests in every Russian victory, and in the exercise by Russia of the plainest of belligerent rights. It is time that this confusion should cease, and that it should be avowed that British neutrality is actually neutrality as understood by the rest of the world—that is, neutrality pure and simple, and subject to no condition save that Russia shall not seize and occupy that road whose existence as yet is a mystery to all except the Turcophile geographers who pin their faith to small maps. Hitherto, I admit, the two great Parties in this country, though differing widely, apparently, in their sympathies, have been substantially united on the basis of neutrality. No matter how the organs of one Party may have denounced Russia, those of the 872 other Turkey, the result practically has been a Joint-Stock Do-Nothing Company, Limited by British Interests. Every nation, especially in time of war, is bound to keep a watchful guard over its interests, but this ostentatious avowal of a policy of unmitigated selfishness marks a new era in humanity. The policy may have been a wise one or the reverse—a little time will tell—but heretofore men and nations have been wont to claim, even for questionable proceedings, the sanction of noble motives. No doubt—though the motive has never before been so openly proclaimed—a regard for British interests was the mainspring of the conduct of this nation in the great convulsions which have affected the destinies of mankind for the last 100 years—from the American Revolution to the Franco-German War—but, calmly surveying those events, must it not be admitted now that a too exclusive devotion to British interests has led the British nation into serious mistakes, and that at times she was belligerent when she ought to have been neutral, and again, neutral when she ought to have been belligerent? She has been neutral in this conflict, and I hold that she ought to have been belligerent from the beginning—not for Russian purposes, nor for Turkish, nor yet for purposes specifically British; but for justice, truth, and right, and for the sake of that political liberty which ought to be for her the dearest of British interests. Sir, I ventured to give expression to this sentiment on the first occasion on which the Eastern Question came before this House last Session. I am more than justified in repeating it now, and in repeating also that the cause in issue on the Danube and the Balkans was and is—not Russian versus Turkish domination; but liberty or slavery, weal or woe, life or death for Christian peoples. Such being unmistakably the issue, a policy of neutrality is a policy of effacement and desertion—effacement as regards England herself, as the highest expression of Constitutional freedom; desertion as regards the oppressed nationalities, which had been taught to turn their eyes towards this country as a protector and a friend. What have we beheld? Interest lifted above duty, national prestige sacrificed to national jealousy, and a thousand British pamphlets, Britain's only offering to a cause which a hundred 873 thousand British swords should have leaped from their scabbards to uphold. Seventy years ago England in her own person could defy the eagle of Napoleon—now, her highest ambition is to be the fly on the diplomatic wheel. She was first, then—is the second, now? What may be her position to-morrow? A localized war implies a localized treaty of peace. The idea of excluding this country from a participation in the final settlement has never, I am convinced, been entertained for a moment by either of the principal belligerents; but she would do well to remember that as a neutral she could advance no claim of right to participate, except for the protection of certain specifically defined interests. In other respects, the only claim she could advance—and it is one which will not be contested—must be founded not on her individuality as a nation, but on her membership of the European family. But a treaty of peace concluded with or without her participation, is there not some reason to apprehend that its legacy for her will be peace with a war establishment, to be followed at no distant day by a war without Allies? She cannot look to the Turk, whom, in his sorest strait, she abandoned; she cannot look to the Russian, in whose face she has flaunted the banner of British interests; she cannot look, above all, to the nationalities, to whom in the crisis of their fortunes she could extend, indeed, the cheap comfort of lectures and resolutions, but not the solid help of a man or a gun. War begets war; and this is especially true of that device of modern philanthropic diplomacy, the localized war. But there are eternal principles which will not be localized, and which will overleap the barriers which a selfish diplomacy may erect. Witness Servia. She was admonished, she was threatened, she was implored not to complicate the situation; she was told that if she drew the sword she would greatly displease her neutral friends, and seriously compromise her own position. This was the language of diplomacy, but Nature spoke a different language, and to it Servia hearkened. Why, Sir, for four centuries the sword of Servia has never kissed the scabbard. As a drawn sword it is represented on the arms of the reigning Prince. It could not, it dare not seek repose until it had re-established, with a secure 874 frontier, and in Sovereign independence, the Serb nation. Diplomacy has also been practising, and, I am sorry to say, with disastrous effect, upon the Greeks. We have now the deplorable admission that all the influence of this country was exerted to keep Greece quiet. Hopes were hold out, promises, I fear, were actually given, that if she kept quiet the quiescent Greeks would obtain at the settlement the same benefits as the insurgent Slavs. Such promises, it is needless to say, could not be redeemed, and, therefore, if made, they should not have been made. The Greeks, being neutral in the war, should necessarily be ignored in the settlement. Ah! before listening to this deceitful counsel, the Greeks should have remembered how little they are indebted for their Kingdom to European diplomacy. It robbed them of the legitimate fruits of a victory purchased by incredible sacrifices, and by deeds of daring unsurpassed in the annals of warfare. The statesmanship of Canning, the heroism of the Greeks, and the sword of Russia, sufficed to liberate a race; but a barbarous diplomacy stepped in at the close, and, in defiance alike of nature and of justice, constituted a Kingdom of Greece minus the Isles of Greece and the land of Achilles. The external Greeks, who are attracted towards the Kingdom like the bees to Hymettus, and the internal Greeks, who naturally sympathize with their brethren under the Turkish yoke, felt that the hour had come, when, by one last heroic effort, they might crown the edifice of national freedom. But a Protector stopped the way. England, by treaty arrangement, is a Protector of Greece, and she discharges, it appears, that function, by dissuading her protegéfrom seizing an opportunity—the like of which she will not have for many an aeon—threatening her, that if she dared to draw the sword against her ancient enemy, the Protector would permit Grecian cities to be bombarded, and the Crescent re-erected on the Acropolis. In the economy of Providence an opportunity arrives for every oppressed nationality, and woo to the nation that then talks instead of acts, or looks to foreign diplomacy for the freedom which native swords alone can win. Is the manner in which the name of India has been used throughout this controversy consonant with the dignity of England, 875 or just towards that Empire which gives a title to Her Most Gracious Majesty? What connection can there possibly be between Turkish rule in Bulgaria and British rule in India? Or, is the Indian Empire a structure so frail—a glittering pagoda without a pillar to support it—that a blast of liberating war from the Danube sends a tremour through every fibre? India apart, Constantinople and the Suez Canal are not British but European interests. Monsieur de Lesseps always intended that his great work should be maintained as an international highway for the ships, public and private, of all nations. That is the design with which the Suez Canal was constructed. The generous object might be best secured, perhaps, by means of an International Commission, and by making the Delta neutral territory, under the guarantee of the Powers. The claim of any one of the great Powers, whether in virtue of purchased shares in the Canal or of territory adjoining, to exercise exclusive control over that international highway would infallibly excite jealousies, and lead ultimately to complications fatal to the peace of Europe and pregnant with peril to India. The Mediterranean States, France especially, could not be expected to look with complacency on a British occupation of Egypt. I remember many years ago reading on a signboard at Charleville Forest—a place familiar to my hon. Friends the Members for King's County—the cabalistic words—"Man Traps and Poluphloisboio set here!" The advocates of Egyptian annexation fancy, I presume, that a similar notice erected on the North coast of Africa would strike terror into all poachers from the Mediterranean. Road to India! Why, the effect of Egyptian annexation would virtually be to place India on the Mediterranean, with the certain result that the fall of British Egypt would be the fall of British India. Constantinople has been described as a barrier between Europe and Asia. Yes, a barrier against enlightenment and religion seeking to regain their source. But why should such a barrier be? Why not rather a bridge—a bridge of gold—by means of which the West might repay a portion of the immeasurable debt she owes to the East? Why not, in the form either of a free city or in that of the capital of a revived Eastern Empire, a star whose 876 beams would illumine two continents? Yesterday the indispensable barrier was the Isthmus of Suez, to-day it is Constantinople. Science has levelled the one—civilization rejects the other. Barriers, interests, concerts, lines of demarcation; but vanished the proud boast—Britannia needs no bulwark, no towers along the steep!But Constantinople as a barrier is worthless, it appears, without that other barrier, the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. If the artificial waterway connecting the Mediterranean with the Bed Sea must be regarded as the common property of all commercial nations, then, á fortiori, the natural highway between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea must likewise be so regarded. Why proclaim free trade on the Canal and uphold protection in the Straits? What interest has France, or Italy, or Germany, or Austria, or Spain, in the maintenance of this unnatural blockade? And here is England, the champion of free trade, with a Fleet equal in power to the combined Fleets of Europe, pretending—for I can regard it only as a pretence—to rest the security of her road to India on the maintenance of this barrier of a barrier. What road is meant, I should like to know? Is it the Euphrates Valley? I have searched the Stock Exchange list, but I can find no quotation. Is it the Suez Canal? That is, or ought to be, absolutely neutral. I fail to discover any possible connection between a blockaded Dardanelles and any actual or possible road to India; and, even if I did make such a discovery, I would say, away with the barrier that contravenes the manifest designs of nature and is a standing affront to the commerce of the world. The freedom, we are told, of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles would convert the Black Sea into a Russian lake. Well, at present it is a Turkish lake. Remove the barrier, and it becomes, not a Russian, but a European and an American lake. The world—the Old World and the New, with all their continents—would gain by the transformation, and I fail to see in what India would suffer detriment. The danger to India, if danger there be, is from within and not from without. Base your administration upon justice, efface by gentleness the recollections of the Company's dark deeds, and find in the contentment of the subject- 877 races a security which no external barrier can confer and no road can take away. States based on justice need no rampart save that winch justice herself creates, like the protecting reef which the coral architect throws around his fairy isle. By all means let England watch over and be ready to defend her special interests—tbat is her duty; but is it her whole duty? Does she acknowledge no duty to humanity, to civilization, to liberty? Happily, her duty to principles identified with her name is not incompatible with her duty to interests which she is bound to guard. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, in an eloquent passage, compared Turkey to the withered, decaying trunk, the nationalities to the living, but struggling tree. What is the moral? "Cut down the trunk, why cum bereth it the ground?" Protect, befriend the living, but struggling tree, that so, when it attains maturity, it may cast a friendly shade over those very interests in whose name a passive or an active, a benevolent or a malevolent neutrality would arrest its growth. A year ago every heart in England thrilled with joy at the announcement that the entombed colliers had been rescued. Whole races are entombed in the South-east—they have been entombed for centuries. What will be be the verdict of history on the selfish neutrality that bade this great free nation look on in sullen apathy, while the magnanimous despot of the North sacrificed blood and treasure in the glorious effort to liberate and save? ["Oh, oh!"] If the phrase "magnanimous despot" offends the susceptibilities of hon. Gentlemen, I withdraw it. I will substitute atrocious tyrant—yea, the atrocious tyrant who, a few years ago, was cheered, féted, and applauded in this metropolis. This is not mere sentiment—though it should be remembered that in our own day sentiment has created a Kingdom of Greece, a Kingdom of Belgium, freed Venice, and restored Hungary—it is the dictum of the best statesmanship as accepted five years ago by the noble Earl himself, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The discussions which took place in this House last Session, and, during the Recess, out-of-doors, have had the effect at least of dispelling some fallacies. Among them none was more mischievous than that very modern 878 one, the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire—as if, for two centuries, under the eye of Europe, the work of disintegration had not been going on. The Treaties of Carlowitz, of Belgrade, of Kainardji, of Jassy, of Bucharest, of Ackermann, and of Adrianople, all tell the same story—a decaying Empire, and one whose integrity was not deemed to be essential to the European equilibrium. As regards its independence, that has never been admitted. Witness the Crusades, the Wars of Venice and Genoa, Lepanto and Navarino. Witness the withdrawal of the Turkish garrisons from the Servian fortresses, at the instance of the late Lord Derby, in 1862. Witness the Conference at Constantinople, and the London Protocol; witness Canning in 1827; the Duke of Wellington in 1829; and Lord Derby in 1877. As for the Treaties of 1856, they are gone—they can never more be appealed to. The British interest fallacy was virtually dispelled by the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and by the Gortchakoff Letter. There remains only the neutrality fallacy. It has survived all the rest, because of its dexterity in changing its form, rendering it impossible to grapple with it. Egypt may wage a vile and mercenary warfare against Russia, but Russia may not retaliate and make war upon Egypt. It is neutrality, but is it fair play? Threats of terrible things to occur in the event of Russia setting fire to the Persian Gulf, and dumping a pyramid into the Suez Canal—it is neutrality, but is it dignity? Wait till both combatants are exhausted, and then strike home for British interests—it is neutrality, but is it chivalry? At one period Besika Bay was found, to be an inconvenient station, and so the Fleet was removed. A little later, the same bay was found to be a convenient station, and so the Fleet returned. I do not complain either of the coming or the going. But I do complain that in its searches for a convenient station, a British Fleet should, at a critical juncture, have overlooked the Bay of Cattaro, from which the rainbow flag of England might have cast a gleam of hope and sunshine on the unnamed demigods who could only die in defence of the liberty of their unconquered mountain. There is a universal wish that 879 negotiations may eventuate in peace. I share that wish, provided that the final Treaty shall embody the conditions of lasting peace. To do so it must satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the nationalities—Roumanians, Bulgarians, Montenegrins, Servians, Greeks. However ardent the desire for peace, it is the part of wisdom to contemplate the possibility at least that negotiations may fail. In such an eventuality, the war will enter on a now phase, and assume wider dimensions than before. What then will be the attitude of England? Whatever the sympathies of hon. Members, it must be admitted that Russia, in declaring war against Turkey, was strictly within the limits of her national right and of the public law. No hon. Member can point to any act of Russia, from the passage of the Danube to the present hour, inconsistent with the declaration of Livadia. To draw the sword against her, except in necessary defence of vital interests wantonly assailed, would be a crime as black as any in history. Such a war would degrade the sword of Wellington and Napier to the level of the yataghan of the Circassian and the Kurd. It would be a war against nationality, liberty, and law, and in support of despotism, slavery, and crime. It would be disaster now, and infamy for ever. Neutrality, I conceive, would mean abdication in the present, and humiliation in the future. There is a third course—it is alliance offensive and defensive, not with selfish and ungrateful Austria, but with the uprisen nationalities of the East, and therein alone, I do firmly believe, lies the path of honour, of duty, and of interest. The highest interest of a great nation, with proud traditions, is not peace—it is prestige. Prestige may be forfeited by a wicked or a disastrous war; but it may more easily be forfeited by an unprincipled neutrality, or an ignoble peace; and the nation whose prestige is gone is an extinct volcano, unworthy the notice even of the passing traveller. The policy I advocate is little in harmony, I know, with the feeling of this House. I am all the more grateful, therefore, for the indulgence extended to me. It is a policy of war, and of war for that despised thing—an idea. But the idea is of the class that ennobles men and glorifies States. It is the idea that impelled John Sobieski to raise the Siege of Vienna—it is the idea that moved 880 Cyrus, after the conquest of Babylon, to set the captive Jews at liberty, bidding them return to the land of their fathers, to carry back their sacred vessels, and rebuild the Temple.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, that in rising, as he did, to continue the debate after his distinguished countryman who had just sat down (Mr. P. J. Smyth), he must naturally do so with some disadvantage and hesitation. That hon. Gentleman never addressed the House without entrancing it with the charms of his eloquence, and still more so with the fine and lofty feeling which they all must recognize. But if he (Mr. Bourke) were, on that occasion, to follow the hon. Gentleman into the vast domain of subjects which he had opened up—with much eloquence, he admitted—he should, he thought, be trespassing unduly upon the indulgence and time of the House, and be negligent of the issue before the House, which was very simple, though a very grave one—very simple compared with the range of subjects discussed by the hon. Gentleman. In addressing himself to the subject now before the House, he hoped he should be able to do so without offending any of those foregone conclusions which hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House had arrived at on that question; for nobody could have observed the feeling of the country on the subject for the last two years without being convinced that certain foregone conclusions had been arrived at which no argument could shake, which no logic could alter. Therefore, when they saw that in that House foregone conclusions had been arrived at on the question, he thought it would be great presumption on his part if he were to attempt to argue against foregone conclusions, which in reality had very little connection with the subject now before the House. For instance, there were, no doubt, hon. Members in the House who believed, and who always had believed, that it would be a good thing for the future civilization of the East if Turkey were dismembered and destroyed. There were other persons in the House who said that we ought from the first to have taken our stand and to have drawn the sword for the great principle of fidelity to Treaties, notwithstanding the calamitous events which had taken place in Eastern Europe. But, as he had already said, he would not attempt to deal with these foregone con- 881 clusions. Parliament had not been called together to consider foregone conclusions. They had to deal with issues far more limited and far more practical, and all Europe was now looking to that House with expectation to see what the issue of this great debate would be. He did not suppose for one moment that Europe believed that England had an intention of drawing the sword for the suppression of liberty, whether that liberty was the liberty of Greece or of any other State. But Europe did believe that England had vital interests in the East—interests involving the liberties of Europe and the commerce of the world. He would also remind the House that discussing the question from the point of view that he did, he must be to some extent on that occasion tongue-tied; it was impossible for him to reveal many of the transactions which had occurred. He believed that if he could treat upon those subjects without reserve there would not be a single opponent of the Vote before the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the earlier part of his speech the other night, described all those events which preceded the collapse of the military power of Turkey, and the proposal for an armistice. Nobody could doubt that they had before them one of those great chasms in history, dividing the past and present from the unknown future; and that, if they had interests in the East, in the Mediterranean, and in India, it was the duty of this country to do everything it could to secure for those interests in the future that consideration to which their importance entitled them. Nobody could take up the map of Eastern Europe and observe some of the preliminaries for the armistice without seeing that there was truth, and a great deal of truth, in an observation to be found in a despatch of Mr. Layard, to the effect that if these arrangements were carried out the Ottoman Empire might be looked upon as gone. ["Hear, hear!"] That, no doubt, was a consummation which hon. Members on the other side of the House, and some hon. Members on the Ministerial side, could not help rejoicing at; but he thought it was our duty and the duty of Europe to look far beyond any sentiment of that kind, because we could not but feel it was our duty, not only not to witness its destruction, but to do all we could to ensure that this Eastern Ques- 882 tion, which had caused so many wars, in the political re-settlement that must come over the whole of these vast regions, should be settled in a way that would be productive of permanent good in the future. When they considered the vast regions that the re-settlement must embrace, extending from the Pruth to the Adriatic, and from the Black Sea to Asia—when they took up a map and then looked at these preliminaries for an armistice—they could not shrink from the feeling that they were called upon to assist at a re-settlement in regard to races that differed from each other in nationality, in religion, and in many other respects; and they could not but feel that they had presented to them problems of the greatest magnitude and difficulty. These were problems that had baffled European statesmen for centuries past, that had led to wars innumerable, to secret compacts, to misgovernment of every description, and to jealousies which had ever been fruitful of danger. If, therefore, there was a new order of things bursting into existence, it would be the duty of this country, if it possibly could, to assist in making such arrangements as would not only benefit the races immediately concerned, whether they were Christian or Mussulman, but would contribute to the establishment of a permanent peace. It would depend on Europe whether such a satisfactory settlement as that should be made, or one which would only sow the seeds of future wars and fresh disturbances. No one could doubt that the preliminaries of the armistice, so far as they knew them, were vague—that they were open to various constructions, and that they were so general that they might be described as wholly uncertain. As representing the Foreign Office and looking forward to this country taking a part in a great re-settlement, it would be gross imprudence in him to speculate upon how those blanks were to be filled up, and how that great edifice which they saw foreshadowed should be erected, the scaffolding of which had hardly been presented to their gaze in those terms. He saw in the Amendment the words "burthens of the people"; but it was with the view of preventing those burdens from being increased that Her Majesty's Government asked them for this Vote. It was to enable Her Majesty's Government to speak with authority when they came to the Con- 883 gress or Conference with regard to the pacification of the East; and if that end was successfully accomplished, it would prevent future burdens being imposed upon the people. One of the great disadvantages under which we laboured as a Constitutional country was that in all our negotiations with foreign States those negotiations were carried on with mighty Powers which were already armed, and which could mobilize their forces first and find the money afterwards, whereas our Government was forced to come to Parliament and ask for grants of money when necessity arose. The policy of Her Majesty's Ministers on Eastern affairs had often been enunciated. Our interests had been defined in the most categorical manner; and certainly there was now one great interest to be considered which had not been very often mentioned in that discussion—namely, that of the permanent pacification of the East, including therein a harmonious modus vivendi for the various races in that region. If that was a great object which they were to promote when they went into the Conference, surely it was not -unreasonable that the Government should ask Parliament for the means of putting themselves on an equality with those Powers which they would have to meet there; for they might depend upon it that the Powers which met there would not be estimated by their number, but by their strength. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) spoke of riding into the Conference with shotted guns and revolvers. That, of course, was a figure of speech; but he (Mr. Bourke) said, in answer to it, that it was much more likely to produce peace than war, if they went there having an outward and visible sign of the strength of this country, such as that Vote would supply—he thought it would be safer and more likely to effect the desired purpose than hollow panegyrics and meaningless phrases. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think England had no great interest in this question, and that all these matters ought to be settled between the two belligerents. He alluded to the Franco-German War, and the case of Alsace and Lorraine, but there was no similarity between that case and this case of Turkey. There were Treaties no doubt which still existed which they were bound to respect, although they had been rudely 884 dealt with of late. The right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) asked him (Mr. Bourke) a Question which he thought it would be convenient for him now to answer. He asked him whether Her Majesty's Government had allowed Mr. Layard to communicate to the Turks the pledge given by the Russian Government—that they "had no intention of directing their military operations on Gallipoli unless Turkish regular troops should concentrate there?" Now, he (Mr. Bourke) had placed on the Table that evening Papers which would give an answer to that Question, and which would be in the hands of hon. Members to-morrow. From those Papers it would be found that Mr. Layard did inform the Turks of the answer of the Russian Government; but he could not be authorized, without further communication, to state, in the name of Her Majesty's Government, that the pledge would be observed. Of course, that would have entailed a responsibility which he was not prepared to undertake. Lord Augustus Loftus was, however, instructed to ask the Russian Government if they would authorize Her Majesty's Government to communicate it in their name to the Porte; and the Russian Government having, in their answer received that day, given their consent on condition that the whole text of their assurances should be communicated to the Porto, instructions to that effect had been sent to Mr. Layard. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ernest Noel) had complained that the Government had not stated their opinion on the bases of peace, or their policy in the matter. Now, his answer to that was that they did not know what the bases of peace were—they had not the slightest idea what they might be more than was already before the House. The policy of the Government with regard to Greece had been several times alluded to by hon. Members during that debate. Well, their policy on that point had been perfectly frank and uniform from the first. They had given Greece originally the friendly advice that, looking to her own interests, it would be imprudent that she should engage in war with Turkey. He could assure the House—and the fact would be proved by the Papers—that it was not from the slightest hostility to the aspirations of Greece that they gave her that counsel. They had felt that it 885 was their duty to localize as much as possible the area of belligerent operations; and seeing that in all probability Turkish troops, regular and irregular, would have invaded Greece, they had. thought it incumbent on them to discourage Greece from entering into war with Turkey; but from first to last they had never shown anything but the most friendly feeling towards that State. They had never offered her any menace; but it did strike him—although he would not now enter into that subject, because it was not his duty to do so—it did strike him on taking them up that the arrangements foreshadowed by those preliminaries of peace, if carried out, might not suit the interests of Greece. He could not see that to make such arrangements as the ones proposed would suit the aspirations of Greece. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) had made a very lucid and amusing speech; but one which was based, he thought, upon assumptions which were entirely erroneous. He had displayed great ingenuity in building up arguments from a state of things which was entirely devised by his own imagination, and afterwards throwing them to the winds. Nothing could be more erroneous than his statement as to the movements of the Fleet. He had also mentioned Lord Carnarvon in support of his case; but they knew that Lord Carnarvon had told the House, and had told the country, that he approved of the Vote which had been proposed. The right hon. Gentleman had also said that they had committed a breach of neutrality. He (Mr. Bourke) did not know what breach of neutrality they had committed—perhaps they should hear further on in the debate. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had said that they were going to flaunt their money bags in the face of Europe, and he said that that was an act which he should characterize as snobbish. He quite agreed with him that a snob was objectionable, but he thought there was a kind of person still more objectionable, and that was the person who, having said that he would defend the rights of his country, at the last moment shrank from taking the steps necessary for defending them. Some people called that a war Vote, and others called it a paper Vote. It was 886 neither a war Vote nor a paper Vote. It was a Vote proposed by a Government which, during all the negotiations which they had had to conduct during the last two years, had carried them on in such a way that the country had not been involved in war. Their voice had from the first been in favour of peace. When the insurrection broke out in Bosnia and the Herzegovina they recommended to the Porte, in the most earnest and the strongest language that diplomacy knew of, that the Porte should take immediate measures for restoring peace. Was not that a policy which the most ardent lover of peace would wish to pursue? When Servia again proposed to go to war, they recommended her strongly to avoid those miseries which that war had entailed on her. They saw that she would very likely be made the victim of other Powers, and he had yet to learn that by going to war she had gained any advantage. At the Conference they did the best they could to maintain peace, and when unhappily the war broke out, they protested in the strongest manner against Russia taking the violent course she did; and they took the earliest opportunity after it did break out of endeavouring to bring about a peace. Whether they had been successful in those efforts or not there was, he maintained, abundant evidence to show that this was not a war Ministry. It was idle, therefore, for hon. Gentlemen opposite to contend that the Vote was intended to carry out a warlike demonstration and a warlike policy. Such a policy was entirely inconsistent not only with what they intended to do in the future, but with everything which they had done in the past. All he had to say, in conclusion, was that if the Congress did meet, and if the Powers of Europe were asked to deal with these great questions, they would certainly be called upon to meet nations who had great forces at their command. Would they then refuse to those persons who were to represent them, the outward and visible sign of England's resolution to protect her rights, and to show to the Powers of Europe that England's voice would not be raised in vain? He asked them, he asked the House, in the name of their common country, to give them the means of performing their duty to their country and themselves.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he expected that when the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs rose to address the House, he would, after the news which had been communicated to hon. Members in the early part of the evening with regard to the signature, or alleged signature, of an armistice, have informed them how that intelligence was likely to influence the action of the Government. The hon. Gentleman, however, speaking in the name of his Department, had told the House that England was on the verge of a most dangerous chasm; but he allowed it to be supposed that in his opinion the difficulty could be overleaped by the granting of a Vote of Credit which would expire on the 31st of next March. He hoped the House would have noticed that the hon. Gentleman had not alluded by one single sentence to the real or alleged advance of Russian troops from stage to stage, a circumstance which formed the staple of the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on the preceding night. He did not know whether the signature of the armistice had or had not altered the opinion of the Government; but, at all events, he wished to point out, it had been dropped out of that night's debate. Why had not the Under Secretary of State alluded to those dangers on which the Home Secretary had dwelt so much on the previous night? He hoped that if the armistice had been really signed, the Home Secretary sincerely regretted the speech which he delivered not four-and-twenty hours before. If the Government really believed in the speech of the Home Secretary, how was it that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had not indicated that the danger which was supposed to exist on the previous night still existed? They had been asked to adopt the Vote on the previous evening mainly because the Russians, as they had been told from time to time with dramatic effect, were advancing from point to point in the direction of Constantinople. Now, however, that the armistice was said to have been signed, not a word of information had been vouchsafed on the part of the Government as to whether, if that statement should prove to be accurate, it would influence either their opinions or their conduct. The noble Lord the 888 Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) had asked them last night after, not before, the speech of the Home Secretary, not to indulge in recrimination. That was a little rebuke he had administered to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cross), for a more biting speech, and one more full of recrimination, had never been delivered. Though the noble Lord had asked for no recrimination after that speech, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary could hardly expect that the words he had uttered last night should not be dwelt upon by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. The noble Lord had exhorted them to be charitable, and he (Mr. Goschen) would be charitable both to the Under Secretary and to the Home Secretary in supposing that the Under Secretary had composed the speech he had just delivered before the signature of the armistice; and that the Home Secretary had composed his speech be-fore he had heard the speech of the right hon. Member for Bradford. The Home Secretary had not answered the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster), but had answered a speech which he expected to hear, but which had never been made at all; and when an observation had been made to him on the subject, the Home Secretary replied that he believed he had heard that kind of speech made out-of-doors. Was that the way to deal with an important speech like that of the right hon. Member for Bradford? If the Home Secretary had been anxious to strengthen the Government in the negotiations which were about to issue, he ought to have picked out those parts of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which indicated the points of policy on which this country would be unanimous. He ought to have pointed out, and dwelt in the face of Europe, on that most conciliatory and temperate part of the speech which showed that on many points hon. Gentlemen on that side would unite with Her Majesty's Government in maintaining the interests of this country. The Home Secretary, however, had had nothing to say to that part of the speech; but had accused the right hon. Member for Bradford with having called hon. Gentlemen oppose a "war Party," implying that he had made speeches out of the House which he did not dare to make in the House of Commons. He 889 (Mr. Goschen) did not wish to misrepresent the Home Secretary, but he believed that was the effect of his statement. Now, if there was one man more than another with regard to whom such a statement ought not to have been made, it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, who, of all persons in that House, had the courage of his opinions—not to get up in that House supported by cheers, and make somewhat offensive attacks, but to meet his own constituents and to tell them when he did not agree with them—a far truer courage than to make accusations in that House, backed up by the cheers of an excited majority, a majority which cheered unfair allegations made in the most offensive language. He regretted that he should have to dwell on such a point; but he did not think it tended, on a question of such great Imperial importance, to raise the character of their debates when a. Home Secretary, a Minister of the Crown, spoke, after a pointed allusion to speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on that side, spoke of a "lying spirit" being abroad. Did hon. Members opposite think that the Opposition would be mealy-mouthed when they had to reply? A more offensive Parliamentary phrase had seldom been heard in that House. The Home Secretary began his speech by stating that the speech of his right hon. Friend was ambiguous. Now it happened that the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) had observed that that speech was particularly specific, and that in the discharge of his duty as a Member of the Opposition he went almost beyond the practice in defining the policy, and indicating the points upon which he would be prepared to support Her Majesty's Government. Notwithstanding the tone of the speech of the Home Secretary, it was important that they should not be misled on that side of the House by taunts and gibes, that they should not be led aside by being called friends of Russia, from the position they had taken up. That attitude was that, for reasons that had been observed, although they could not support the Government in that Vote, yet there were certain points on which the House of Commons would be unanimous if those interests of the country on which they were all agreed should be attacked. The Home Secretary had spoken of the 890 despatch of the 6th May—the famous despatch which was the charter of the policy of the Government—and he said, and said truly, but with a certain amount of bombast, the Government would never swerve from the line of policy there laid down. For his own part, he (Mr. Goschen) hoped they would not. No one accused them of going to abandon the interests laid down, no one invited them to do so, and many hon. Members on that part of the House would be prepared to endorse some of the points as being English interests. But, he asked, were those interests going to be attacked? They did not hear of one. Not Egypt, for they were agreed upon that. Were their interests going to be attacked in the Straits? These debates would be shortened if it might be assumed that the Government were satisfied, as they appeared to be, that as regards the Straits, the voice of England was to be heard. If the voice of England was to be heard, he was anxious that it should not be misrepresented, and for his part he agreed with his right hon. Friend, that any unilateral arrangement by which Russian men-of-war alone were to be admitted to the Black Sea would be unsatisfactory to this country, and that the Government were bound to protect our interests in this respect. Let them not be misled by taunts into conveying to any foreign country the idea that they were indifferent on this subject. He should greatly regret the results of these debates if by statements on the Ministerial side it should appear abroad that hon. Members were disagreed on those subjects on which they were really agreed, or agreed upon a policy with which they disagreed. Certainly every hon. Member on that side of the House desired that England should be able to speak with a strong voice at the Conference. They differed, however, from hon. Members opposite in one material point—that was upon what constituted real strength when they went into Conference. Was it a piece of paper—the war Vote, or the sham Vote, as it had been called? Would the Government not go into the Conference equally strong if Europe had the knowledge that they represented a policy approved by the country, and that in support of it the country would be prepared to vote not only £6,000,000, but £60,000,000? Even 891 the noisiest of hon. Gentlemen opposite would, he believed, in their calmer moments, prefer that it should be thought in Europe that the Liberal Party did care for the interests of England, and would support the Government in maintaining those interests even if they did not support this Vote. We ought not to be charged with a desire to weaken the influence which both the Government and the Opposition would exercise in the Councils of Europe in this question. Well, the policy of the Government, he would assume, was to maintain the interests of England as they had been defined by themselves, and to secure the voice of England being heard with effect in the Council or Congress that was to take place. Meanwhile, what means were they taking to secure their influence and their power, and to strengthen the hope that when they were in Congress they would be able to act effectively? They, in fact, dealt with the matter in several ways; but one of the main objects which seemed to have been pursued during the last few days, and one which he (Mr. Goschen) deprecated, had been to excite in the country a fear and jealousy of Russia. He must say that from that point of view he regretted beyond measure the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman last night. Her Majesty's Government had met the Russian Government in several different ways. In the first place, they had written despatches and diplomatic notes. He did not find any great fault with them for what they had written, if they stood alone. Such communications constituted a proper and traditional weapon with which to fight Russian diplomacy; but, besides sending the despatches, Her Majesty's Government had had recourse to other methods of action. They had been meeting Russian diplomacy by moving the British Fleet to and fro; and this very night a new discrepancy had been exhibited with regard to the motives which had induced them so to act. An endeavour had been made to get at the bottom of the reasons which had led to the Fleet being moved to and fro, and the result was that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs denied, in the strongest terms, that the reason stated by the Leader of the House was the one that had influenced Her Majesty's Government to give the order for the movements of the Fleet. He had 892 understood the Under Secretary of State to say that the movements of the Fleet had nothing to do with the protection of British interests; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer said last night that the Fleet had been ordered to the entrance of the Dardanelles for the protection of British interests. The right hon. Gentleman had been very ingenious in reconciling the various statements which had been made on this subject; but, so far as the House and the public were concerned, they were simply bewildering. Although it was wished to keep the movement secret which was so to act, giving that order to the Fleet to move to and fro was a comparatively innocent mode of attempting to meet Russian diplomacy; but the third method of effecting that object, which Her Majesty's Government had adopted on the eve of a Conference, in view of which it was desirable that we should establish friendly relations with Russia, was to inflame the public mind against that country, and that, too, while they were still proceeding upon imperfect information. ["No, no!"] What, did they not try to inflame the public mind? Was not that the aim and object of the speech delivered by the Home Secretary the previous night? What was the meaning of the words as he (Mr. Goschen) heard them? The speech of the Home Secretary would tell. It meant, of course, that he had raised a strong presumption against or established a case of duplicity on the part of the Russian Government. The right hon. Gentleman, when he made that speech, reminded him more of a barrister in the Central Criminal Court, weaving a web of circumstantial evidence around a prisoner in the dock than of a British Minister speaking in the House of Commons on that passage in the Queen's Speech which said that Her Majesty believed Russia was observing the conditions of neutrality. There was one point that was essential in such an indictment, and that was that it should be correct. The right hon. Gentleman had asserted that the right hon. Member for Greenwich had charged Her Majesty's Government with having delayed the negotiations for peace, and he denied that they had in any way contributed to the delay. But what were the facts? Of course, he did not for a moment impute to Her Majesty's Government that they were not most anxious to avoid 893 delay; but, no doubt, there had been unavoidable difficulties arising out of that unanimous state of the Cabinet of which so much had been heard. What were the facts? He must ask the permission of the House to refer to two or three dates, in order to answer the challenge which the bold Home Secretary had thrown out. The first application on the part of Her Majesty's Government to the Russian Government was made on December 29th. In that application they informed the Russian Government of the desire of Turkey to treat for peace, and made their now famous suggestion on that subject. On the same day, he thought—at all events, within 24 hours—the Russian Government returned an answer to the effect that the Commanders-in-Chief in the field would be able to state the terms; but no answer was returned by our Government to that communication until six days afterwards, and then it was suggested that the negotiations should be through the two Governments. Again Russia answered within 24 hours, rejecting that view of the case—he did not say whether rightly or wrongly—and again Her Majesty's Government took three days—from the 5th to the 8th of January—to consider the point. The result of the consideration was that on the latter date they telegraphed accepting the very idea which had been proposed by Russia on the 29th of December. Thus, through the action of Her Majesty's Government, no fewer than 11 days were lost in the negotiations for peace. Did this not show that there had been delay on the part of Her Majesty's Government? There had been delay; and, so far as he could make out, not that of a wearied Ministry taking a holiday, but he believed it was due to the absence of union in the Cabinet—an absence of union which, for aught they knew, might still prevail, and which must be taken into consideration when the House was asked to pass a Vote like that which was now under discussion. Well, on the 29th of December, as he had said, the Government heard heard that the Russian Government proposed that the negotiations should be conducted through the Commanders-in-Chief. On the 1st of January there was an article in a well-informed organ of public opinion, stating that the Eng- 894 lish Government had been insulted, and there was to be a drumhead Conference. On the 2nd of January Lord Carnarvon made his famous speech, and hung out his signal of distress. It was not, however, until the 4th that an answer was sent to Russia. Was it not clear that the delay in the negotiations was due to the differences existing in the Cabinet? It was on account of discord in the Cabinet that five days were lost, and then Her Majesty's Government made the suggestion to treat through the European Cabinets. The Russians remained firm to their point, and Her Majesty's Government remained for three days apparently considering whether they could accept the decision of Russia, and not until the 9th did they inform Turkey of the result. He called that a rather significant history, and it appeared to him that it bore in a not unimportant manner on what the right hon. Gentleman had cited when he spoke of the delay caused by Russia in order to throw odium upon that Power, to stimulate the country, and to make a speech that would tell, and which, for all he knew, had told. It had told because the country did not know these facts. The right hon. Gentleman had tried to throw the odium of delay upon Russia, when for 11 days the English Cabinet was responsible. And it should be remembered that these were 11 most important days, for on the 2nd of January Sofia was taken, and on the 9th and 10th the Schipka Pass. These great events, which changed the military situation, took place while the English Cabinet were considering in what way Russia should be addressed. He did not cite those facts to prove that Russia was right, but to show the danger of casting out insinuations, merely to stimulate the House into voting the money asked for, that Russia was causing the delay while her armies were marching on from post to post. Then as to the Russians having sent their terms of peace by messenger, the Homo Secretary made something of that point last night. He (Mr. Goschen) thought his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford had shown, in reference to the orders to the Fleet, how dangerous it was to send important information by telegraph. He supposed, because he was urging that there had been delay on the part of Her Majesty's Government, 895 he should be told that he was pleading the cause of Russia. They on that side of the House were accustomed to that; but they must not be discouraged from doing their duty by such false insinuations. Russia sent these terms by messenger. Her messenger left on the 3rd or 4th of January, and he arrived on the 13th, or four days after the intimation had been given to Turkey by the British Government. Therefore, assuming that Russia was wrong in sending the terms by messenger, she would only be responsible for four days' delay, while the English Government would be responsible for 11. He could pursue the point onward from the 13th to the 24th, but he would not at that time of the night attempt the task. Since the 24th of January we had had no kind of information, and he must say that he thought it was surprising that in the absence of information the Home Secretary should have pursued that point, and have pressed the charge against Russia of intentional duplicity in suppressing any communication with regard to the armistice in order that she might advance her armies. For his part, he objected to insinuations against a foreign Power unless they could be proved and embodied in a despatch to be communicated to that Government. It was not the duty of an English Minister to come down to the House of Commons and make a speech of that kind which could not be answered, and which could only tend to produce a kind of hostile and bitter feeling, even if explanation should afterwards be offered. That kind of thing was of a piece with the rumour mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the Russian Prince who was to be placed at the head of the Province of Bulgaria. No Minister spoke that night before the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but he should have thought that an early statement would be made with respect to the bearing of the news as to the signing of the armistice. Where did the right hon. Gentleman get the information from with regard to a Russian Prince? They had a right to demand of the Government either to substantiate or to withdraw that statement that a Russian Prince was to rule over Bulgaria.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I never made any such state- 896 ment. I merely spoke of it as a rumour.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, then it was not a statement—it was only a rumour. A rumour the source of which the right hon. Gentleman did not state—a rumour with regard to which he was obstinately dumb. Why was the rumour circulated? Was it not in order to inflame the public mind against Russia? ["No, no!"] Then, what was the object? Were they to believe the rumour, or were they not. Was it true? He was anxious to know, for his mind had been inflamed. The right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) had said it was ridiculous to vote money with the foregone conclusion that it was not to be spent; but he (Mr. Goschen) would do his best to vote any actual money to the Government if they would tell the House that they themselves believed a Russian Prince was going to be put into Bulgaria. He might mention that he understood the rumour had been contradicted in the official journal of Russia. [Laughter.] He did not wonder at the Party which jeered when the name of the Emperor of Russia was mentioned, jeering at the Russian Press. They would swallow any story told against Russia, and no rumour was too absurd for them to swallow, not only with delight, but with positive gluttony. A very significant incident had occurred that evening. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) made an amusing speech, and they enjoyed it very much; but they were silent when the right hon. Baronet left behind the jocular vein, and, speaking with real earnestness and eloquence, made a vow that he would never again vote money on behalf of the Turkish cause. [Ministerial cheers.] Those posthumous cheers were all very fine, but the right hon. Gentleman was not cheered when he spoke of his vow. When the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer last evening spoke of the bases of peace, and when it was made clear that all that had been demanded at the Conference had been achieved, he had not a word of sympathy for all that had been achieved by Russia in the course of her military successes. What was the reason that no sympathy was shown? Did not the Government know full well that the objects of the Conference had been achieved, and achieved by other than English means? He hoped that it was 897 not jealousy of the victories of another country. ["Oh, oh!"] He believed there was something in that. He believed that there was a feeling of jealousy at the success of Russia, but he would be only too glad if that was repudiated by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He entreated them to repudiate it. [Cheers.] Were they really jealous of the growing power of Russia? ["No, no!"from the Ministerial benches.] That was the first satisfactory cheer he had heard from that side. Well, if it were not jealousy, was it fear? ["No, no!"] Neither fear nor jealousy? ["No, no!"] And still the Government wanted money. He did not mean pusillanimous fear, but that fear which, as the noble Lord the Postmaster General said, made them draw the sword and not sheathe it until the lily of peace was twined round it. He had been under the impression that writers in the Press and the summoners of public Conservative meetings had been filled with alarm at the encroachments of Russia. That, it seemed, was a mistake, and hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side were now, he supposed, to congratulate themselves upon Russian successes. ["No, no!"] What! There was no jealousy, there was no fear, there was no congratulation! Well, then, hon. Gentlemen viewed the whole thing with indifference. And yet they asked the taxpayers of the country to vote £6,000,000 of money. He wished to know what were the dangers against which this money was intended to guard? Were the grounds assigned those on which the Liberal Party could support the Vote? Last night they might have thought it was to be the seizure of Gallipoli, or the occupation of Constantinople. But no mention of either of those fears had been made that night by any Member of Her Majesty's Government. Had that alarm disappeared? If so, the Government ought to say so, and not ask them to vote money for a purpose which was not defined. Otherwise they would be perfectly justified in refusing to vote the money. If the Government would say they believed the danger still existed, they would perhaps obtain unanimous support; would they appeal for that support? He trusted that the alarm caused by the speech of the Home Secretary would be allayed. He wished to support the Government if he could, but they would not say what 898 they wished him to do except that they did not wish to "leap into a chasm." What were the dangers that were to be obviated by this Vote of £6,000,000? They had got satisfactory assurances about the Straits. According to hon. Gentlemen opposite, it was to be voted not on account of any feeling of jealousy against Russia, not because our interests were being attacked, not because of any fear of Russia, but simply to express confidence in Her Majesty's Government. He (Mr. Goschen), however, preferred the Under Secretary's phrase that they wanted an "outward and visible sign." We knew they had never swerved from the lines they had laid down, although everybody thought they had wavered a good deal. ["No, no!"] Of course hon. Members opposite believed everything they said before they said it—["No, no!"]—cheering contradictions before they heard them—["No, no!"]—which he hoped they would not do again. Why did they want an "outward and visible sign?" He was afraid it was because the diplomatists were too hard-hearted and unbelieving to have confidence in the Government. In his opinion, it was wanted to convey, among other things, to foreign Powers that we meant business. But would not the Powers believe it without the Vote? The Government simply asked for the confidence of Parliament in order to make those Powers feel that we meant business. The Government wished to be supported in the eyes of Europe, and therefore they came to the House of Commons for "an outward and visible sign" that they had the confidence of the House. It had been asked, was this a sham Vote or a war Vote? The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that some said it was the one and some the other. He (Mr. Goschen) would show it was both. Because it was intended to be a menace, it was a war Vote. It was a sham Vote because it was to be bounce. If the right hon. Gentleman asked for the money in advance, and said he did not intend to spend it, then it was not to strengthen our armaments, it was not to build ships or purchase stores, but it was to be an outward and visible sign in the Conference. That was why it differed from the Vote of 1870. Then the men were raised and the money was spent. But what was the present Ministry going 899 to do? Were they going to spend it, or were they not going to spend it? Why, if he pressed them too much, he began to fear that they would spend it. On the day the Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted the money, or wanted ships, let him come to the House of Commons and state the actual objects for which he required it, and then the House would consider whether they should incur the responsibility of voting it. But he trusted to the sense of fairness in the Government, and the sense of justice in the country, that they should not be charged with refusing necessary Supplies in an emergency, when they were only asked for an outward and visible sign—for Supplies that were not necessary, but only to be used till the 31st of March next. They were not refusing Supplies which the Government wanted. He denied it in his place in Parliament, and would deny it in any place he might be called upon to speak. He denied that for the honour or the interests of this country this money was wanted; it was wanted to strengthen the voice of a Government which ought to be strong without it, which ought to be able to speak with authority, and without allowing foreign nations to throw it in their teeth that they had not got the confidence of the country. ["Oh, oh!"] He was only paraphrasing the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, "No one would be listened to unless he was strong." Were they not strong without that piece of paper? Ay, stronger without it, because then they had the resources of England at their back. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said—We desire that we should be armed with this, which would he not only a Vote of Credit, hut a Vote of Confidence.And afterwards the right hon. Gentleman said—We do not desire a Vote of £6,000,000 to he spent in this way or in that, hut in order that the Government may he able to go into the negotiations with the voice of England at their back.It they were to be any use in Conference there should be some "outward and visible sign." Oh, he had been complimenting the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs under a mistake. He was dreadfully disappointed that the 900 Representative of the Foreign Department had not contributed at least one remarkable expression to their debates, and now he found that "outward and visible sign" was a Cabinet phrase. Well, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said if they were to be of any use in the Conference there should be some "outward and visible sign" that they possessed the confidence of England. If they were to be told that the opinion of England was not to be expressed by them, but by "So-and-so," that would be not only humiliating to them, but injurious to the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made use of the slipshod phrase about "So-and-so" expressing the feelings of England. But who was "So-and-so?" He knew who "So-and-so" was. What the Government wanted in the Conference was not this Vote of money; what they wanted was a division. They said they wanted union; but that was a rhetorical expression. They wanted to take the division list with them into the Conference and to say—"Look at our majority, we are able to speak in the name of So-and-so and So-and-so." In other words, they wanted to speak in the name of a body created by the Patronage Secretary of the Treasury. [Laughter]. He trusted he had not spoken on the present occasion with any unbecoming levity. ["Oh, oh!"] He must apologize to hon. Gentlemen opposite, if he was not able to speak in a "lying spirit;" but he begged to assure them that he felt deeply and strongly on the question before the House, because he thought, to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it would be humiliating and unbecoming in this country that the Government could not go into the Conference except with those "outward and visible signs" of a sum of money which there was no intention to spend. It was not flattering to Members of the Opposition that the Government did not feel themselves in a position to take part in the proceedings of the Conference, unless they passed a Vote to which in their consciences they could not assent. That was not the position for the Government to take up. He, for one, was anxious that the Government should go into the Conference strong; but he regretted the proposal of the Vote for this, among other reasons—that if they went into it 901 with the division list, the other Powers would be able to say there was a large section of their fellow-countrymen whom they did not represent. When, however, they went into the Conference, having passed the Vote by their majority, he would nevertheless wish them to state that although they might not be supported by the minority on a particular question, that minority would support them if any single point were mooted which was contrary to the real honour and interests of England. They might truly say that whatever might be the divisions among us, every Englishman was prepared to make sacrifices whenever any real question was touched in which, as was so eloquently pointed out by his right hon. Friend, that honour and those interests, not leaving out of sight the position of those populations which had so long suffered, were involved. In that event, they would find the minority added to the majority without the loss of a single man.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he could not well understand the position which had been taken up by the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken (Mr. Goschen). He expressed a desire to support Her Majesty's Government, but he had not offered to the House any idea of the way in which he intended to give practical effect to that desire. He declared himself anxious that they should speak out with a strong voice, and should be supported in their defence of British interests; but he himself suggested no way of protecting those interests, and declined to agree to the way that the Government, speaking with the responsibility of Advisers of Her Majesty, proposed to Parliament. He said if they wanted to build ships or to raise men he would support a Vote for that purpose. But knowing that their neutrality was conditional—knowing that they intended to preserve peace unless certain conditions were infringed—he said with the same voice that he would give them nothing to prepare for those possibilities against which he desired to guard, and which all must admit could not be met without due preparation. He (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) could not understand that position were it not that under the whole argument of the right hon. Gentleman, in common with that of many hon. Members who had preceded him, might be detected the real motive 902 of their action—namely, that, though knowing the importance of the crisis, and admitting that the Government possessed the confidence of the country, they were led by mere personal feeling against the Prime Minister to refuse to those on that side of the House, who had acted very differently towards them in similar emergencies, that support which was necessary for the defence of the interests and honour of the country. But he believed that the people were beginning to appreciate this conduct, and that a knowledge of this might have led to the singular complaint of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) that evening. That hon. Gentleman and those who agreed with him had attempted the unconstitutional course of appealing to mass meetings in order to overawe—or at any rate to bias—the decision of the House of Commons, and, greatly to their disappointment, the monster they raised had turned against them. Why was it that they had heard the hon. Member for the Border Burghs talk of the necessity of securing order and decency at public meetings; why was it that the hon. Gentleman was reduced to make a pitiful appeal to his (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach's) right hon. Friend (Mr. Cross) as the guardian of law and order, and to denounce the Lord Mayor of London and the Governor of the Bank as leaders of organized gangs, with the natural sympathy, evidenced by his cheers, of the hon. Member for Sheffield?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
I beg to say that when the hon. Member referred to the Lord Mayor I was not attending to his observations.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
The hon. Member's cheer was readily recognized; but he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) never said the hon. Gentleman had cheered the particular reference to the Lord Mayor. He had hoard him cheer the denunciation by the hon. Member (Mr. Trevelyan) of these terrible meetings that had been held in the country. He did not wonder that, after the experience of the hon. Member for Sheffield as to the feeling of his constituents—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman is in possession of the House, 903 and the hon. Member for Sheffield can make any statement he may wish in the course of the debate.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
He should sympathize in the denunciation delivered by his hon. Friend. With regard to the objections which had been taken by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen) to any statements indicating suspicion of Russia, he wished to express his own belief that the Emperor of Russia would meet the promises if circumstances permitted. He believed that the generals and diplomatists of Russia would show as much sincerity in the future as they had shown in the past; and he should be extremely sorry to excite one spark of fear or jealousy in the country or in that House by anything which he might say with regard to the proceedings of Russia. But he would just ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that, although he had very justly deprecated any language of unnecessary or improper strength being used towards a Power with whom we were on friendly terms like Russia, yet no speaker who sat on the other side of the House had ever, as far as he remembered, deprecated any language, however violent, however unfair, applied to another Power with whom we were also on friendly terms—namely, Turkey. The Government were asked to justify the Vote they were proposing to the House. The Amendment of the right hon. Member for Bradford stated that he saw no reason for voting unnecessary Supplies. That was the pith of the question. Were the Supplies necessary or were they not? The right hon. Member for the City of London said—"Oh, the situation is changed by the armistice of which they had so recently heard."
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I asked whether it was changed? I did not give an opinion one way or the other, but asked for information.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
would also hesitate to express a decided opinion; because, in the first place, he was not sure, although he hoped the news was true, that the armistice had been signed; and, in the second place, he did not know what the terms of that armistice might be. It was possible—he spoke without knowledge—that there might be terms in that armistice more dangerous to Europe than 904 anything which appeared in the bases of peace which had been communicated to Her Majesty's Government. It was possible there might be questions of the occupation of territory or of fortresses, which might make the circumstances even graver than they had hitherto appeared. He did not say that it was so; but he said that before they expressed an opinion as to the effect of the armistice, they must know—first, whether it had been actually signed; and, next, what the terms were. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cross) as basing the case of the Government on the continued advance of the Russians. His right hon. Friend had very properly referred to that continued advance as a serious element among the circumstances which the House had to consider; but he had not for a moment, neither had his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, based the case of the Government in proposing that Vote, either solely or mainly, on that advance; though, he must add on this point that, for all we knew, that advance might be continuing still. But he was bound to say that he had listened with amazement to the hypothesis of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—that dissensions within the Cabinet had led to delay in the negotiations. He did not think it necessary to reiterate arguments in order to show who were responsible for that delay—it was enough for him to know that those who had profited by it were the Russians, and that was a fact worth any amount of argument. But putting all this aside, supposing the bases of peace accepted, a satisfactory armistice concluded, and the Russian advance checked, was there no necessity for preparation on the part of this country? Let them look for a moment at the relative positions of the two parties to this war. There was no longer any equality between the contending forces—adopting the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, the scale of the Turks had kicked the beam—an expression which very fairly described the overwhelming defeat which had overtaken the Turkish arms. The right hon. Gentleman had further admitted that there was legitimate ground for jealousy of Russia, and that the safest and most effective check on Russia was to be found in the concert of Europe. In that concert Her Majesty's 905 Government hoped to have their fair share. But they knew that the other Powers were in a state of armed preparation, which it was the boast of this country that our forces were never in, during times of peace. And besides this, some at least of the other Powers were in such a geographical position that they could almost immediately interfere by force to secure that their interests should be respected; and, under these circumstances, was there no need to ask the House of Commons to place this country on an equality in this European Conference with other Powers. Her Majesty's Government did not regard this Vote as an empty thing, though they believed that by asking the House to assent to it, they were taking the best means to secure that, not only this, but a far larger expenditure, should not be incurred. It was strange to observe how quickly hon. Members opposite had discovered that they wanted a policy of peace, although, when the interest of their own country was not touched, they had advocated a policy of war. But if they did want such a policy, it would be more certainly attained by supporting the Government in the matter of that Vote, than by confining them to a miserable inaction, which was the only alternative proposed, which would cause England's enemies, if she had any, to rejoice, and her friends—and she had friends—to mistrust her. That was the reason why the Government asked for this Vote. If required to protect those interests which hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves admitted must be protected, the money would be spent; but he again repeated that the Government believed the Vote to be one of peace rather than war, and it was with the hope and intention of securing and maintaining peace that they proposed it. But let him for a moment refer to the published bases of peace. Was there nothing in them that suggested some kind of preparation on the part of this country for what might possibly occur? He hoped he might allude to the question of the Straits, without being charged with attempting to excite the fear or jealousy of Russia. What had happened with regard to this subject, which it was essential should be clearly and concisely put before the country? On the 21st of January the Russian Ambassador stated that in the bases of peace 906 sent to the Grand Duke Nicholas no mention was made of the Straits. On the 24th of January Mr. Layard informed Her Majesty's Government that the question of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles was to be settled between the Sultan and the Emperor of Russia. On the 25th of January the Russian Ambassador communicated the bases of peace in which these words occurred— "Ulterior understanding for safeguarding the rights and interests of Russia in the Straits." On the 30th of January Prince Gortchakoff declared that the Article referring to the Straits was vague and unnecessary, and that he had no objection to suppress it altogether. He denied that it referred to an understanding between Russia and Turkey alone, and stated most categorically that Russia considered the question of the Straits a European question, which could only be settled in concert with other Powers. Well, that was a very satisfactory result so far as it went; but why was the Article ever inserted in the bases of peace? Could we suppose it was due to the haste with which those bases were prepared? Why, we had been led to understand that they were so carefully framed, so complicated, and so voluminous that they could not be transmitted by telegraph, but had to be sent by courier at the cost of precious time and a continuance of the war for perhaps a fortnight longer than was necessary. These facts appeared to him to be worthy of the consideration of the House and of the country, especially when taken in connection with the fact that three times during this century—in 1807, in 1829, and in 1833—the Russians had endeavoured to force the Porte to grant them the exclusive right to pass through the Straits at all times and under all circumstances, and that when Turkey had been reduced to her present position it was scarcely likely that, having been abandoned by all the European Powers, she should care to insist on the exclusion from the Treaty of a condition so peculiarly desirable to Russia, and which, however injurious to the interests of European Powers, might appear to the Porte to have comparatively little influence on her own fortunes. He would now turn to the article in the bases of peace affecting Bulgaria, and he must say he was really unable to understand how it was that hon. 907 Gentlemen opposite should both in and out of the House be always stating that the Government and the Conservative Party took no interest in the condition of the Christian populations. Why, he could quote despatches without end to show the interest which had been taken in their condition by the Government. Perhaps, however, he might be told that despatches were mere waste paper; but he could also refer to the action of Lord Salisbury as the Plenipotentiary of England at the Conference, when it would be admitted that reforms were agreed to by all the Plenipotentiaries of the European Powers, including the Plenipotentiary of Russia, for the purpose of securing the good government and freedom, as far as it could be given to them, of the inhabitants of those districts. But those reforms were essentially different from the Article proposed in the present bases of peace, for there never was a question at the Conference as to the establishment of a tributary State. That point was distinctly reserved in the bases of the Conference as one which should not be considered. What did we find in the bases of peace? An autonomous Bulgaria, of indefinite extent; but possibly implying the evacuation of the Quadrilateral by the Turks, and the substitution of a new State for the greater part of the present possessions of Turkey in Europe. He admitted that the position of things was now changed. But what did the proposed Bulgaria really mean? It was conceivable—athough the interpretation might not be accurate, and he hoped it was not—that Bulgaria, as defined in this base, might mean a Principality which should be neither free, nor autonomous, nor Bulgaria. It might mean a Principality which would not necessarily be under a Russian Prince, but subject to Russian influence, guided by Russian officers and advisers, maintained by means derived from Russia; and, in fact, having its whole policy directed by Russia, as had been the ease with other autonomous Principalities in times past. ["Oh, oh!"] He did not say this would be so, but that it might; and if his supposition were true, would such a State be a peaceable neighbour to the remnant of Turkey on the South, or to some other Power on the North? On the contrary, it was likely to become a hotbed of insurrection, and to lead to a 908 renewal of all the troubles which constituted the history of most of the Northern Provinces of Turkey for many years past. This was a point which he mentioned now because several hon. Gentlemen who had spoken seemed to think that this Article in the bases of peace was so satisfactory that it could only result in a durable peace. He had not heard it stated in the course of the evening's debate that the Vote was a war Vote, though it had been freely spoken of as such elsewhere. He denied that this was so, and said that this might fairly be described as less of a war Vote than that of 1870; because, while that was voted to be spent at once, the Government had stated that this was not to be spent until it was clearly necessary to do so. In 1870, at the very commencement of the war between Germany and Prance, before there was a sign that Belgium would be attacked, the Government asked for a Vote of Credit to strengthen the Military and Naval Forces of Great Britain for the protection of Belgium. It seemed to him that if the Vote now asked for was a departure from a policy of neutrality, it was less so than was the Vote taken in 1870. But that was no departure from a policy of neutrality. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich say with regard to it? The present Prime Minister spoke of the position of this country at the time as being one of "armed neutrality." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich took great exception to that expression. The phrase, he said, was eminently unsuited to the circumstances and to the unequivocal friendliness this country entertained for both parties to the war. He described the position of Great Britain as that of a neutral. What was the difference between the position of affairs at that date and the present time which made this Vote loss compatible with perfect neutrality than that? He would not dwell upon the objections which had been raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe). The right hon. Gentleman favoured them with some very violent epithets as to the policy which Her Majesty's Government recommended to the House. It was, he said, vulgar, ridiculous, unconstitutional; and he based these epithets almost entirely on the view that the Vote would technically expire on the 31st of March. The right 909 hon. Gentleman said—and very wisely, considering the tone of his argument—that he would not go into the question of patriotism; and although he occupied the responsible position of Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Liberal Government of 1870, it would appear from his speech that he had either forgotten or been ignorant of the foreign policy of that Government. As to the Vote expiring on the 31st of March, if a renewal of it were required, and if the House were satisfied to support the Government in the policy they had always adhered to, he was confident they would continue the Vote beyond the 31st of March, and as much longer as might be required. The question was, had the House confidence in the Government, or had it not? At all events, the course they had pursued was in accordance with the policy laid down in the despatch of the 6th of May, and the Vote they asked for was a logical and natural sequence of it. Eight hon. Gentlemen opposite had no alternative to propose; they admitted that they had no hope of supplanting the Government; and some of them expressed concurrence in the objects at which the Government aimed. Yet they thought it consistent with their duty to their constituents and the country to decline to give the Government the means they deemed necessary to carry out their policy. At Oxford the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was reported to have spoken of the condition of the Irish Representation as deplorable. He did not admit the accuracy of that description; but however that might be, he was sure that the Irish Representatives would not find in a time of difficulty and danger to their country an opportunity for a Party move. The right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had disclaimed the Amendment as a Party move, and after the speech of the right hon. Member for the City, he should be reluctant to attribute that character to it. He could not help thinking, therefore, that on further consideration these right hon. Gentlemen might see the strength of the case of the Government and the difficulty of their own, and reflecting on the way their action had been received by the country, might withdraw the Amendment. ["No, no!"] If not, he was confident that the great Liberal Party would not support a Motion calculated to deprive the Govern- 910 ment of its power in the Councils of Europe, or be misled by personal abuse of the Prime Minister, and by misrepresentations of the grossest kind of the acts and intentions and views of the Government, into action that would paralyze the arm of England at a time when that arm might be more necessary than ever to maintain the interests of our Empire and the freedom of Europe. ME. GLADSTONE moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.
§ House adjourned at a quarter after One o'clock till Monday next.