§ 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 informod, in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech that the conditions on which Her Majesty's neutrality is founded had not been infringed by either 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. Speaker— If there is anyone who hears me as I rise to address the House, and who is under the anticipation that I intend on the present occasion to arraign keenly the past policy of Her Majesty's Government, or to attempt any review of that policy, such a hearer, I believe I may say and I hope, will be disappointed. We approach this debate under great and peculiar responsibility; and in order that I may show the House that I do not use these words in a manner altogether general and vague, I will briefly state what are the propositions on which I shall endeavour to dwell, and which I shall hope to impress upon 929 the minds of hon. Members. In the first place, I would say that I think it is evident a great change—though it is not now possible to explain that change in all its details—has come over the conditions of this question since the proposal of the Government which we are now discussing was made, and even since the proposal of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Fors-ter). I hold, in the second place, without the smallest doubt, that we cannot consistently with public duty assent to the Vote that is now before us. In the third place, I take particular note of the object of the Government in proposing this Vote. It was to procure some united expression of opinion, some such development of the state of mind and sentiment in this House and in the country, as would really strengthen their hands in the Councils of Europe. I will not only admit but assert that that object is one most highly desirable to attain, while I despair altogether of its attainment by the particular method which Her Majesty's Government propose. And, finally, having gone so far, I will endeavour to point out that there is a method by which that object might be attained—if not with the sanguine expectation that the Government may adopt that method—as it seems to me they might without dishonour, and even without prejudice to anything that may hereafter be done—at any rate, which the consciousness that I have contributed what little in me lies towards the tranquil and concordant settlement of this great question. ["Oh! oh!"] I am extremely sorry that before a word has fallen from my lips to excite the susceptibilities of hon. Gentlemen opposite, it should be thought necessary to receive with jeers an expression of that kind. But be that as it may, I can assure those hon. Gentlemen that no word shall consciously fall from me, beyond what the absolute necessities of my argument may require, that will partake of invective, or, so far as I am able to avoid it, of criticism.
I begin, however, by noticing under a sense of public duty in the way of criticism, two matters which were contained in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and I cannot but refer, in the first place, to the language which was used by him on the opening night of 930 the Session. He then used, without the least qualification, these words—"Until we know the Russian demands and conditions we have no proposition to make." I took very particular pains to assure myself that the relief conveyed to my mind by those words was a real relief, and not founded upon a misapprehension or an inaccurate recollection of anything that had fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Well, time passed on, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer found himself unable to act upon the engagement which he had given to the House; and it was afterwards stated that that engagement was given under the belief that within a very few days the conditions of the armistice would have been made known. I did not, of course, for a moment question the good faith of my right hon. Friend or the Government in regard to that matter; but it was certainly unfortunate that he should find himself in the position' of importing ex post facto into his engagement a term which it had not contained; and I do think that in his speech in which he proposed the present Motion and under the Notice which he gave before he knew the conditions of the armistice, he ought to have offered to the House something by way of explanation, and even of apology. ["No, no!"] It is, it seems to me, of the utmost importance that declarations of this nature, by the organs of Government, relating to the course of conduct they mean to pursue on matters of great moment, should be accepted with implicit confidence by the entire House; and they cannot be so accepted by the House—although they may be by the three or four Gentlemen who say "No, no!"—unless we understand that we have them stated with exactness. I think it my duty to take notice of this circumstance, not meaning to impute blame or to go beyond noticing what I think was an unhappy omission; but in the interest of those general rules under which Members of Parliament and Members of the Government are accustomed to conduct their proceedings.
There is another matter, perhaps, of less importance, which also, I think, calls for notice. In describing, as far as he knew them, the conditions of peace which were to precede the armistice, and particularly in describing one of those 931 conditions affecting Bulgaria, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that there was a rumour afloat to the effect that there was to be a Prince of Bulgaria to he selected by the Emperor of Russia. That certainly was a rumour of a most astounding character. It was mentioned strictly as a rumour, and not as matter within the knowledge of the Government; but it was mentioned as a portion of a most important Ministerial statement, and intended to enter into the body of those considerations which my right hon. Friend was urging upon the House in support of the proposal he had then to make. I asked my right hon. Friend what was the source of the rumour. I put the question, not under the influence of an idle curiosity, but because the rumour was thought fit to form part of a Ministerial statement of the highest moment. It was important that we should have an opportunity, so far as he could give it, of accurately appreciating the value of the rumour; and therefore I asked if my right hon. Friend could give me information; but my right hon. Friend utterly declined to give me that information. I wish to say, in my place as a Member of Parliament, that it appears to me that the House of Commons, or even the person putting the question, was entitled to have received that information. I pass on with satisfaction from these remarks, because we have important matter before us, and it has only been from what I thought a necessity of duty that I have referred to such matters at all.
An immense change has occurred, as I think will be felt on all hands, in the conditions of this debate since its commencement. I do not hesitate to say that when, on the first night of the Session, I experienced an intense relief, and when last Thursday week the whole of that relief was extracted from me, and in lieu of it an oppressive sense of coming embarrassment and mischief took its place, I was under the influence of one apprehension more than any other—an apprehension so grave and so serious as to absorb every other. It was a sense of the enormous responsibility which the Government and Parliament and the country would incur if we took any step that was either in itself calculated to prolong the war, or even short of being calculated to prolong the war was calculated to produce 932 in the mind of the Sultan and his advisers the belief that we might possibly appear as their allies, and thereby, through the medium of that belief, to induce them to prolong the war. Sir, it is with an immense satisfaction that, in consequence of the signature of the armistice, I find myself relieved from that apprehension; but I wish to point out in a few words that that apprehension was not unreasonable. Often and often have we heard Gentlemen on the Treasury bench complain, and Gentlemen in other portions of the House complain, of the disposition shown on this side to impute to the Government a desire either to assist the Turks in the war, or to take measures calculated to encourage them in the belief that they would ultimately receive assistance. That imputation undoubtedly I have often heard. The imputation probably was repeatedly made; but are we the only persons who have made that imputation? Are we the only persons who have believed down to a late period that many of the steps of the Government would have that unfortunate effect? The answer given by the Government upon all occasions has been—"Look at what Lord Derby wrote on such a date; look at our declaration that the Turks are not to expect assistance from us." But in the Papers laid on the Table, and as late as the 21st of December last, Musurus Pasha, as Lord Derby has recorded, expressed the hope entertained by his Government that they would have England on their side in the prosecution of the war. I do not wish to push this matter further, and I do not go back upon it as a matter of accusation; but I go back upon it as a matter of explanation and defence of those who have seen this character in the measures that have been taken by the Government. I think it is not unfair that I should vindicate them and myself by pointing out that the same expectation was entertained by the Turkish Ambassador himself, and that he thought he had heard those words spoken aside, and that he, too, had known something of those underground channels of communication through which we have had too much reason to fear that encouragement—cruel encouragement, I may say, by whomsoever given—had been conveyed to the Ottoman Porte to persevere in the struggle, from which they have so grievously 933 and perhaps fatally suffered. I have made freely the admission that the greatest of the fears entertained, at least by myself, has disappeared. I think, upon the other side, it must be felt that what to some the greatest, or one of the greatest of all the inducements, to persevere with a proposal of this kind, has disappeared also. But I will examine that more carefully by-and-bye. What I wish to say at the present moment is this—that the character of this debate is eminently, and indeed entirely, prospective. I listened on Friday night with very great pleasure to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Balfour)—a speech distinguished by its candour as much as he is himself distinguished by the great promise which belongs to his ability. My hon. Friend stated in that speech, with happy terseness of expression, that every argument that was more than three weeks old would be an anachronism in this debate. I do not want to bind him, or to be bound myself, by the precise multiple of seven by three; but I accept that declaration in its spirit, that it is the present position that we have to consider. Let bygones be bygones. [Laughter.] I hope that remark does not offend any hon. Gentleman. I am sure I desire to avoid it, and will do all in my power not to offend. It will be greatly to their own convenience if they will kindly extend their indulgence on such an occasion as this, as far as they can, to allow free scope for my argument. I will not finish the sentence if they do not like it; but I think it is fair that I should refer to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tam-worth (Sir Robert Peel), who did me the honour to refer to a speech that I had made elsewhere. Most legitimate was that challenge. There is nothing more Parliamentary. There is no rule of Parliamentary procedure more legitimate than that Members of this House who make speeches elsewhere should be liable to be called upon to account here for their expressions. My right hon. Friend wished, perhaps, to avoid a charge which might be disagreeable, and simply quoted my words with perfect accuracy, and left them to speak for themselves. They did appear to speak for themselves, for they drew a most emphatic cheer from that side of the 934 House, with regard to which I will only say that it did not appear to be a cheer of approbation. It appeared that I said that I had boasted that I had been employed for 18 months as an agitator. I did no such thing as boast. It was not a boast. I look upon it as a misfortune that a person who has served the public and the Crown for such a length of time as I have done should have found himself driven to so much extra-Parliamentary action in such a time as this. I have never boasted of my conduct. I have always spoken of it in terms of apology. For 18 months, I said, it had been my endeavour to oppose with very feeble means the policy of the Prime Minister. It has been stated that this is altogether a matter of personal hostility. I do not complain of imputations of that kind. I have never from the beginning of this controversy made one single imputation as to the motives of one single man. I think I have never read a speech directed against me in this controversy of which imputations as to my motives have not been the staple of the argument, with one marked exception, which I rejoice to take the opportunity of acknowledging, in the case of the present distinguished and learned Solicitor General (Sir Hardinge Giffard), who, in a speech to his constituents, which I had the pleasure of reading, discussed my conduct, and, of course, disapproved of it, but expressly acquitted me with regard to motives. However, the simple explanation of my conduct is this—I have complained of the conduct of the Government for ambiguity and uncertainty; but the policy of Lord Beaconsfield, I think, I perfectly understand. I have found in it nothing ambiguous or uncertain. Taking his speeches in this House, his answers about the Bulgarian outrages, his speech at Aylesbury, and his speeches at the Guildhall, they appeared to me to form a perfectly consistent whole. I knew what I had to deal with; and, therefore, wishing not to be ambiguous myself—of which I have been sometimes accused— I referred to the policy of Lord Beacons-field as that which I understood, and stated that, with the best of the feeble means in my power, it would be my object to oppose it. I need not trouble the House with any statement on the right hon. Baronet's allusion to my description of this as the most indefensible 935 and ill-advised measure that was ever submitted to Parliament, or to his congratulation to the country on the felicities it has derived from the Divorce Act. That is susceptible of controversy, and I am afraid I am widely at issue with my right hon. Friend; but I am not disposed to recede from what I said on that occasion. But my duty at the present moment is plainly this—to avoid as far as I can in this debate what may properly be called controversy, and to show as clearly and as strongly as I can what are the reasons which restrain me, and which may possibly be, to some extent, the same as restrain others, from supporting the particular proposal of the Government; and, above all, to show as well as I can how far it is or might be possible for us to go towards meeting the Government, and towards fulfilling the purpose which they declare to be the aim and object of this Vote.
Now, Sir, I take the Motion before us to fulfil the first part of that engagement, and to show why it is that we—I ought not to say we, but I—cannot support this Motion. I know it is only according to human nature when professions are made, such as I have made, with a desire to promote, if it were possible at this late stage of a great controversy, some approximation to agreement, for a person in his own mind to say—"That is all very well; but, if so, why not support our policy?" Now, Sir, I must show reasons why I think the proposition cannot be supported. First, I will point out the absence of arguments in its favour, and then those objections to the proposition which appear to me never to have occurred to the minds of many Members of this House, and which even, I will venture to say, if they have occurred at all have occurred very slightly and cursorily to the minds of Her Majesty's Government. First of all, let me point out cursorily what in the present state of this question are not the objects of the Vote. When the Vote was first mentioned, there were many possible or actual objects which have now passed out of view. The Vote is not intended to follow up the Speech delivered at the opening of the Session. With that Speech it has no affirmative connection whatever. I am rather disposed to argue that it has a negative connection with the Speech, and that a man who 936 reads that Speech is entitled to say that the Vote ought not to have been proposed at all, because everything that was said by Her Majesty in that Speech with regard to her intention to appeal to Parliament for additional Supplies is said on the supposition of a prolongation of hostilities. But hostilities are now not prolonged, and we are debating a proposal of the Government which is entirely outside of that Speech, and which, thought of course, I cannot question the liberty of the Government to make it, is, so far as it goes, in a certain contrariety with regard to the anticipations which that Speech was calculated to raise. I observe as remarkable that this proposition, although one of very great importance indeed, was not introduced by reading a paragraph in the Speech from the Throne or by Royal Message. I do not say there is anything wrong in that. There are precedents for such a course of procedure; but the common practice is, unless there be a strong reason to the contrary, to introduce proposals of this kind, lying wholly outside the ordinary course of business, in one of these two ways. But observe, then, that this proposal has no connection whatever with the Speech from the Throne; for, if it had, undoubtedly the paragraph in the Speech would in the usual course have been read from the Table. When the proposal was made and the speech in support of it was delivered, it was difficult, undoubtedly, to make out a positive argument or statement. It consisted for the most part of surmise and theory, and rather vague anticipation; but I think no one who heard that speech would say that it was evidently the purpose of the Government, by obtaining authority to arm, to influence the preliminary negotiations which were going on between Turkey and Russia. But whether that was so then or not, it cannot be so now, because those preliminary negotiations are at an end. Again, it is quite evident that the purpose of the Vote is not to indicate the conditions of our neutrality. Much might be said of those conditions; and I am afraid that when this occasion has passed by, there are some of them which we may hear of again. I do not wish to multiply the occasions of discord; but I confess it was with astonishment I heard nine months ago that we demanded of Russia—it was perfectly unnecessary, and Russia had no power to comply with 937 the demand—that Egypt should be free to supply her whole resources and her military population to aid the Porte in her war against Russia, and that Russia should under no consideration be allowed to touch Egypt. I do not know what injustice is if that were not injustice. Moreover, it was perfectly unnecessary, as Russia could not have touched Egypt. I do not know how to give Russia sufficient credit for the way in which she bore the affront. Nobody has touched the conditions of neutrality except one party—except ourselves. [Hear, hear!"] Wait a moment. We imported a new condition. In our original statement to Russia we said that we could not view without jealousy, without interposition— I do not quote the exact words—the transfer of the possession of Constantinople. [Mr. GATHORNE HARDY: Passing into other hands.] Thank you. Prince Gortehakoff agreed that they had nothing to do with taking Constantinople into their hands, although military requirements might, of course, make this necessary, and they must, therefore, preserve perfect freedom of action. The meaning of that was obvious. It meant that a temporary occupation of Constantinople, like the occupation of Paris, and like any other occupation, must remain a matter within their free discretion. Well, we received that declaration from Prince Grortehakoff, and we let it remain without notice for seven months; nor was it until the middle of December that we produced a claim to the effect that Russia should renounce the temporary occupation of Constantinople. I confess that that was a proposal which was open to exception on various grounds; but upon which I will not dwell, except as they are necessary for my argument. Then, Sir, finally, this Vote is not necessary in order to stop the advance of the Russians. They are stopped already; they are stopped by the armistice; and though I do not think we were in a position to ask' it, yet in the answer Prince Gortehakoff has given to our demand in December last, he has given an honourable engagement against the occupation or possession of Constantinople. It was possible in the nature of things that for some temporary purpose, for the sake of what is called "prestige," the sham production which I wish were banished from the language and the minds of men—but it has great power over the minds of men, 938 and it may have over the minds of Russians as well as others—it was in the nature of things possible that for the sake of the vindication of military honour there might have been some occupation of Constantinople. I am rejoiced to think, so far as I can understand the terms of Prince Gortchakoff's despatch, that that is now entirely excluded, and that it would be a virtual breach of faith if any military occupation were to take place. Well, Sir, these purposes are no longer in view; and I now ask myself, what are the purposes contemplated by the Gentlemen who have proposed this Vote, or by the Gentlemen who intend to support it? I have heard a great deal said about its being intended to strengthen the hands of the Government, to protect British interests, and to put us upon a footing with other Powers. Let me for a very few moments deal with these three supposed objects of the Vote. First, it is said to strengthen the hands of the Government. The right hon. Baronet who has to-day, I believe, become Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach)—and whom I congratulate on his advancement— made an appeal to us on Friday night which appeared to be founded upon very great inattention to matters of history. He appeared to be under the impression that in all matters of national interest abroad it was unpatriotic for Gentlemen in Opposition to differ from the measures of the Government. I do not know at what period of our history such an opinion prevailed. Of all Leaders of the Opposition in this country that I have ever known or read of, perhaps the late Sir Robert Peel was the most conscientious, the most circumspect, and the most strict in observing the limits he laid down for the action of the Opposition. But Sir Robert Peel did not scruple to join, in the first year in which I sat in Parliament, in objecting to the foreign policy of Lord Palmerston in Belgium and Spain; and I believe that that conduct of his was entirely agreeable to Parliamentary precedent. If I go further back, I find it was the foreign policy of Mr. Canning which aroused against him an amount of animosity greater than any which in the whole of our history was ever discharged at the head of a public man. If I go still further, I ask what is the brightest jewel in the fame of Fox? Undoubtedly, the resist- 939 ance he offered to the Revolutionary War. It is the duty of the Opposition to study methods of conciliation with the Government if they can; it is the duty of an Opposition not to magnify small causes of difference into great ones. But I am sure that, so far as I am concerned, no Gentleman opposite will say that my difference with the Government has been small. I have always held that they were bound by the honour of the country to marshal in Europe, so far as they could, a common purpose and concert in order to enforce upon the Porte, in case of need, that which was necessary for the good government of the country.
I will endeavour to show, as we do not wish to push these doctrines to extravagance, why it is that we cannot come up to the point which you ask us to come up to, and what is the point up to which with a safe conscience we can go. If, then, we are to strengthen the hands of the Government—a proposition to which we do not demur—I am certainly entitled to ask, nay—I am bound if I can to ascertain—for what purpose we are called to strengthen their hands. At present I know nothing of this purpose, except in the utterly vague and, as it seems to me now, irrelevant proposition that it is to protect British interests; because I do not see, in the actual position of affairs, what distinct and separate British interest is likely to be brought into question. The Suez Canal is not in question; Egypt is not in question. As regards Constantinople, as I have said—and as I cannot help thinking it will also be the contention of the Government—we have an engagement—a virtual engagement—against even the momentary presence of the Russian Army in Constantinople. As regards the Straits, you have this great advantage—that the question is to be referred to European concert; and that even those words which appear to me perfectly innocent—words in which it appears to be indicated that there was to be a preliminary understanding between Russia and the Porte, binding the Porte, but no one else—even these words, we are told, have been removed from the bases of peace. Therefore, as to the settlement, nothing has been said by Her Majesty's Government; and my poor wit is a great deal too blind to discover anything in the shape of a British 940 interest which, in this great question of the East, is now at issue. Then we are told this Vote is to put us on a footing with other Powers. What is the meaning of that? The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertford (Mr. Balfour) —to whom I am glad again to refer just before he retires for a moment of slumber—said it was to put us on a footing with others. What is the moaning of that phrase? Do we not pay £25,000,000 a-year for our peace establishment, and what is the use of our paying £25,000,000 a-year if it is not to keep us on such a footing? What is our share in the operations of a war in Europe—especially the preliminary operations? It is a naval share. But we are on a footing, and we are more than on a footing, with others already. We are the only people except the belligerents who have done, and done with an ample force, an act which is liable to be construed-—and perhaps be argued to be —I will not stop to argue it, an act of war already. I contend that the whole of what may be conceived to be included in these words has been done long ago, and that for everything that can properly pertain to us in any of the proximate contingencies of the future, we are already upon a footing with others. I am bound to say that argument has not been advanced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I will now state my views. I need not state them in terms so strong as to be offensive, or to excite any asperity opposite; but, at the same time, I must state my objections sufficiently strongly to be perfectly clear and explicit. The first objection that I have to this Vote is that it is a perfectly unreal Vote as it stands. In my opinion, if we are going to make war, or to make one step in the direction of war, that step should be a real one. Do not let us proceed by a mere flourish of trumpets. Do not let us proceed by pretending to do that which in reality we do not do. Now, I say this—and I will say it with confidence until I am corrected—there may have been changes since I was conversant with pecuniary matters, changes in the manner of business and payments, which may affect what I am about to state; but I state it with the utmost confidence, in relation to the transactions 941 of the Exchequer of this country, so far as my own experience has made me conversant with them, that you are asking for £6,000,000 with less than two months to spend it in, for the augmentation of your military and naval establishments. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a statement which was perfectly satisfactory to me, has told us that no portion of this money has yet been expended. Now, I will venture to tell him this. He said the expenditure of it would be improbable. I will go a great deal further, and tell him it is absolutely impossible. He cannot do it; there are no contrivances known to us, within the regular order of business within which, if not spent already—I am entirely placing my confidence in him on that point— there are no contrivances by which he can expend it in the regular enlargement of the military and naval establishments between this time and the 31st of March. Without speaking from mere vague impressions, I will give the House facts. I was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1854, and war was declared in the latter part of March in that year. From the time war was declared—I do not know whether it is known to all Gentlemen in this House—control over the public expenditure did not diminish; it was extinct. There is no such thing as Treasury control—as real Treasury control— over war expenditure. Everything-—as to the extent of establishments, as to the provision of stores, as to the prices to be paid for them—the whole thing, so far as administrative direction in ordinary times is concerned, entirely escapes from all Treasury restriction. Every effort was made that the establishments of the day could make, to make and accelerate military preparations, which followed the declaration of war in 1854. Those efforts were not ineffective, because this little country, which was then supposed to have no Army, went into the Crimea and fought the battle of the Alma in September with an Army somewhat greater than that which the vast military power of France was able to produce on the same date. Although this was the state of things, the charges in anticipation, incurred right and left without stint or limit, on the 10th of October, after more than six months of war, was within a few hundred thousands, paid out of the ordinary revenue of the country. I will go one stop 942 further, for I am sure the House will receive this information with interest. It is commonly stated—and I think not very inaccurately—that the cost to the country of the Crimean War, which lasted for two years at the outside, was about £80,000,000. What was the actual charge out of these £80,000,000 in the first half of the time—in 12 out of the 24 months? It was £6,200,000. That was the amount at the end of 1854, when we were engaged in actual war with this gigantic Power—as nearly as possible the sum we are now asked to vote. But we are now asked to vote for expenditure within a period which will probably be a period of six weeks, a sum of money as largo as all we could contrive to spend in the first 12 months of the Crimean War. That is rather, I think, in the nature of what may be called an unreal proceeding. With facts like these within our recollection— and I am speaking from Papers open to the view of all men, and especially of official men—it is certainly rather an unreal proceeding that the House of Commons, with a tremendous conflict of Parties, with meetings held all over the country, and I know not what, should be called upon to vote these £6,000,000; while, according to the evidence derived from the facts of the past, it will be hardly possible for any ingenuity or extravagance—I beg the Secretary of State for War to believe that I am attributing to him only ingenuity, and not extravagance—to put any portion of the money into charge and payment by the 31st of March; and if it is not got into the payment by the 31st of March, it comes back into the Exchequer, and the work has to be done over again. Then, Sir, to mend, or to aggravate, or what you may think proper to call it, this appearance of unreality, how are we to provide all this money? I should have thought, if your object be to impress the minds of foreign countries with the willingness of this country to support you in the negotiations, and to support you, if need be, in arms, that there is one method that is far beyond all others for producing an impression of sincerity, and that is to test the feelings of men by their willingness to make sacrifices. If the right hon. Gentleman and the Government had thought fit to give to Europe a deep impression of the earnestness of this country, he should have 943 proposed some taxes; but he proposes to issue some Exchequer Bonds. It does not appear to me, when he speaks of outward and visible signs, that a very profound impression of earnestness will be produced abroad, when it is stated that in this great crisis the House of Commons, on its most crowded benches, with every circumstance of interest which could magnify the event, summoned in the name of glory and of magnanimity to a great effort, was at length induced to enter into a mood of heroism, and to resolve to add £6,000,000 to the National Debt. It reminds me of something I read the other day in the newspaper about the desire of the Khedive of Egypt to testify his anxiety for the maintenance of public faith and honour, and to discharge his duty, and he determined to indicate it by a stoppage of dividends. I do not carry through the comparison, but I only speak of the contrast—Quid dignum tanto feret hic promissor hiatu—between the dignity of the appeals made to us, the gravity of the motives alleged, the efforts that are used to rouse us into our highest mood, and the result, which is at the outset an addition of £6,000,000 to the National Debt. That, I say, shows the unreality of the proceeding.
Now, let me proceed to another point. It is a proceeding, as far as I know— and our knowledge, I am sorry to say, has not been in the least enlarged by the statements of the Government; whether it will be in future stages I know not —it is a proceeding, as far as I know, entirely and absolutely without precedent in one single point. What precedents have been alleged? I will not rake up the annals of previous periods. Some inquiry I have made about them. Some of my right hon. Friends, I think, may enter upon them. I will go to the only precedent that has been alleged— namely, the precedent of 1870; and if the definition of a precedent consists in its having every imaginable point of un-likeness, then the Vote of 1870 is one of the very best precedents that ever was alleged. Let me make that good. I shall not put my strong points first, but will go over them in rapid succession. The Vote of 1870, as a Vote of Credit, was taken near, not at, the commencement of the Franco-German War. The 944 Government considered the matter at the commencement of the war, and determined that it would not be wise to make any addition to the military establishments of the country. But shortly after a special occasion arose which required that a Vote of Credit should be given. That, however, was very near the commencement of the war. This Vote is to be used after the close of the war. Conversely, that Vote of Credit was taken at the close of the Session, when Government and Parliament were about to part company. We asked for the moderate sum of £2,000,000, without putting the 600 Members of this House to the serious inconvenience of abandoning their recreation and their business in the Recess and gathering again in Parliament. Here, on the contrary, a proposition is made when we have just come up to town with blooming looks and with energy at the commencement of the Session, with an enormous fund of strength unexpended in us, and quite competent for months to come to deal with any proposal the Government may wish to make, and to discuss it in a spirit of good humour and liberality. That, surely, is a contrast. I am very curious to know what answer will be made to the challenge of my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) the other night, who said—Wait till the occasion has arisen, and then make your proposal. I take now the amount. In 1870 we asked the House of Commons to vote £21,000,000 —I am speaking roughly—for the Army and Navy; £21,000,000 plus £2,000,000 is £23,000,000, and £23,000,000, therefore, was the total sum which appeared to us adequate to the very special exigency that had arisen. With £23,000,000 thus obtained through the Vote of Credit we were already £2,000,000 behind the ordinary Estimates which are in the pockets—of course I am not speaking personally—of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. As against the £23,000,000 which was then judged by Parliament and by the country perfectly adequate to an emergency which had arisen, they propose to add£6,000,000to£25,000,000, making a total of £31,000,000. And for what emergency? Now, Sir, in 1870, I cannot say that in the speech which I made upon the Vote of Credit the reasons for that Vote were fully stated. It was not possible for me to state 945 them without the gravest imprudence. [Ministerial cheer s.] But wait a moment, if you please, for the conclusion of the sentence. They were perfectly understood. ["No!"] They were perfectly understood by every man in the House of Commons—everyone knew that they arose out of a proposal for the partition of Belgium-—most dishonourable in itself, but of which the authorship was contested, and with regard to which we wore absolutely precluded by our public duties from giving information. But we made a very decisive proposal. We made to each of the belligerent Powers a proposal to enter into a new engagement for the period of the war then raging, and under that new engagement each of them was to join us against the other, or against any Power, infringing the independence of Belgium. Therefore I do not anticipate any contradiction of what I am now stating—that the purpose of that Vote was perfectly well known and understood in the House of Commons. It could not be stated explicitly in speeches; but it was unmistakably read in every line of the Treaties that we made. What is the purpose of this Vote? Vague generality; to support some British interest. There is no separate British interest in danger. Now I come to this vital point of difference. What is the danger to British interests? We can very well estimate when we recollect that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us with some appearance of satisfaction that either the whole, or the greater part, of the money will never be wanted at all, and the right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) on Friday night said—"I beseech you to vote this money, for your voting it will be the best security that it will never be spent." Was that our language? We asked for the money we wanted, and it was known for what we wanted it. We set about spending it at once. That the whole absolutely was spent I will not say, for there was a greater difficulty than there is now in recruiting, and I am not sure that we could get the 20,000 men in a very limited time. But then, again, the Vote of Credit was asked in order that we might spend it for the purpose we proposed. Here it is asked for purposes in the air, purposes in the dark, purposes that are still behind the screen, and with an engagement from Her Majesty's Government that probably the 946 Vote, or the bulk of the Vote, will not be wanted, and that the real aim is to make us strong in the Council that is to be held. Now, I think, after all these points of contrast on every single head of the subject, it is hardly worth while to notice the one remaining point-— namely, that the magnanimous Resolution of 1878 is to provide the money, or such of it as is to be wanted, by addition to the National Debt; whereas the Vote of £2,000,000 asked for in 1870 was paid for out of the revenue of the year. Now, I think we shall hear no more of the matter of the precedent. I have given you the objection that this proceeding is totally unreal, and as an unreal proceeding it is not agreeable to the dignity of Parliament and the country. I have given you the objection that it is entirely without precedent in any shape or form as to every substantial point involved in the case.
I come to a matter which is totally unconnected with foreign policy, but which, in my opinion, deserves serious consideration. This Vote—if I understand anything about finance at all, or anything about the function of the House of Commons in regard to British finance—is contrary to all the rules which determine our duty in laying a charge upon the people. I will not say it is against the competency of the House of Commons. It is within the competency of the House of Commons, if they think fit, to vote not merely £6,000,000, but £6,000,000,000. Everything is within the competency of the House of Commons; but it is not within the spirit of that ancient, unwritten charter under which the House of Commons acts for the people. This is a matter on which the first foundations of the power of the House of Commons as an historical Assembly were laid. This is the field upon which were fought all our greatest and noblest battles for freedom. This is a matter upon which our ancestors—and I hope all of us have some respect for our ancestors— entertained the greatest and strictest jealousy, and from which nothing could induce them to deviate one foot or one inch, and for one hour or for one minute nothing could induce them to deviate from the rigid line of duty. And my proposition is this— that it is the duty of the House of Commons to refuse sternly to lay a 947 charge upon the people except after proof that it is required. And, so far as I know, we should not in this way tamper with the great subject of charging and taxing the people for any political aim or end whatever, however innocent or honourable that end might be in itself. In morality the means are not justified by the end, nor are they justified in Constitutional law and usage. Confidence is very well; but cannot you express confidence in the Government without charging the people? Is our vocabulary so poor, are our resources so narrow, that if we want to support the Government we can do it in no other way than by placing at their absolute disposal— for it is an absolute disposal—an enormous charge upon the people, to the nature of which the people will be in some degree blinded by the careful avoidance of all taxes to meet it, but with respect to which there is no proof given that the charge is needed?—for one Minister tells us that he thinks the Vote will not be wanted, and another Minister, more liberal still, says that if we only vote the money it will be the greatest security that it will never be wanted at all. Now, it is said—and I have no doubt it is said with perfect truth—that the object of this money is, in the words used by the Government, to strengthen their hands in negotiations. Well, Sir, I now pass from the financial question, and I am very thankful to the House for hearing me with patience and kindness; but I think they will perceive before I sit down that the purposes for which I speak are not controversial purposes, though I cannot well avoid that tone, but that the object is to strengthen the hands of the Government in the Councils of Europe. Now, this is a subject quite distinct from that which I have endeavoured to convey to the mind of the House, and which dwells in my own mind. It is really an attempt to associate arms with negotiation. Now, permit me to say that such an attempt, by whomsoever made, is radically bad. Let me not make my proposition too broad. I do not pretend to say that it is under all circumstances wrong when two Powers have a difference and are still in negotiation upon it —I do not mean to say it is always wrong for them to strengthen themselves for an issue of force which they see coming upon them; but what I do venture to state, al- 948 mostin the nature of a general proposition —though I know the danger of general propositions in politics—is this—that it is bad, bad as to the precedent, bad as to practical interests of peace, when a Conference of European Powers is about to sit, for any one of those Powers to make a prelude to that Conference by the clash of arms—by the clash of arms, or, if you tell me that you are not going to spend the money, by the anticipation of the clash of arms, by that which naturally introduces the clash of arms. This is really a very grave subject. I beseech hon. Gentlemen to consider what they are about. I have never been one of those who have talked in unlimited terms of the doctrine of peace. I have been one of those who, at any rate, in one instance, have been responsible for a serious war; but we shall all be agreed in recognizing the general mischiefs of war, and in admitting it to be among our most sacred duties to choose, wherever we can, for the settlement of international or European difficulties, those methods which are peaceful. I would venture to urge upon this House that, during this 19th century in which our lot has been cast, some little progress has been made in civilization, in the general recognition of the principle that the leading Powers of Europe acting together in the face of day, exercise, and ought to exercise, a great moral authority in the settlement of disputed questions. It is our interest not to depreciate, but to magnify that power; it is our interest not to make little, but to make much of Conferences. But if, before going into Conferences, we are to take Votes for naval and military establishments, we are doing our best to destroy the character of those Conferences. If we may take such Votes, every other Power may take them. If we may take them for our peace establishments, other Powers may take them for theirs. If peace is best preserved by preparing for war, that is a doctrine which, if it be good for us, is good for them. They take what they think is necessary for them in time of peace; we take what we think is necessary for us in time of peace. In the special tension of affairs in Europe, the special expenditure of Prance might at the present moment be greater than ours, though I am not certain that it is. I am not even sure that that of Germany is greater than ours, notwithstanding 949 its enormous amount. The expenditure of Austria is much below ours, and that of Italy is far less—I believe it is not one-half of ours. But hon. Gentlemen seem to think that we have no peace establishment at all; that the cost of our peace establishment does not run into eight figures; that there is no burden on the people, and that this Vote is a sort of beginning, every thing else not being worthy to be taken into account. I cannot argue with those who take this view; but I do hold this argument—that, so far as I know, there is no case when a Conference of the Powers of Europe has been called together where those Powers, as a preliminary to its assembling, have increased or taken powers to increase their naval and military establishments. I am curious to know whether it is so—perhaps Her Majesty's Government can tell us—but it appears to me that this Vote is entirely at variance with the principle of taking from war as much as we can and giving to peace as much as we can. It is a step backwards —a stop towards violence and barbarism, instead of towards reason—a step in the opposite direction to that in which we have been endeavouring to march, and it ought to be viewed with the utmost aversion by all who are in favour of peaceful methods. These are strong objections, in my opinion, to the proposal of the Government. But now, I want to know whether, upon their own showing, the Government can, by means of this proposal, attain the end they have told us they have in view; and when I say they have told us, I mean the end that on the highest authority without doubt they have in view. The Chancellor of the Exchequer used a striking expression in his speech the other night. He said—"Our object is to go in the Councils of Europe armed with the strength of a united nation." Does he think that this Vote is likely to exhibit us in the character of a united nation? I am coming, I know, near tender ground when I speak of the state of public opinion out-of-doors. Hon. Gentlemen have boon exceedingly pleased with some of the good campaigning conducted within the last few days. My own opinion is that as to certain metropolitan transactions we shall hear a good deal more than we have yet heard. You are delighted, also, with what has happened at Sheffield. Well, that was not 950 the first remarkable town's meeting that has been held at Sheffield. Sheffield is one of the most Radical towns in the country, and I do not wonder at your looking on what occurred there as the dawn of a better day. But the question comes to be, was it really a town meeting? At Sheffield, in 1863, at the time of the war in America, there was a similar meeting, with a similar thick and dense assemblage, and a resolution was carried in favour, to all intents and purposes, of war with America. That is to say, it was a resolution in favour of the immediate recognition of the Confederate Government. If you will reflect on that resolution of 1863, it may assist you a little in estimating the value of the triumph obtained in Sheffield. What I want hon. Gentlemen opposite to observe is this. We hear of the resolutions passed at different meetings. Now, I have seen the resolutions which wore passed at large and public meetings against the Vote proposed by the Government. Have hon. Gentlemen opposite seen any that were passed in its favour, for I have not been so fortunate? The meeting at Sheffield said nothing in favour of voting those £6,000,000. I do not believe that even the Guildhall meeting rose to such a height of sublimated enthusiasm as to vote to add these £6,000,000 to the National Debt. But I will be very liberal to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am most anxious to give them no offence if I can avoid it. I will make every possible concession which can be made—and concession which, I think, the argument and the state of the case does not at all justify. I will say, take the meetings at Sheffield and at the Guildhall as you like, and forget those at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham. Take them all your own way and read them as you think proper, it remains not the less true that the effect of this Vote which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes in order to exhibit before the world a united nation, can be nothing but to exhibit a divided nation. True, you may have a majority in the House of Commons; but is a majority unanimity? Do you think the nation is united in favour of this Vote? You know perfectly well—I speak of that which is not doubtful—that the Nonconformists of this country are a large fraction—I do not say a large proportion—of the population. Well, you know the state of 951 sentiment among them. You know that they are nearly to a man opposed to this Vote. ["No, no!"] Nearly to a man. Would it not be a great misfortune—I now make an appeal which is not a Party appeal to the Government—would it not be a great misfortune, which you ought not to incur except under an overruling necessity, to exhibit this picture of a divided nation in circumstances such as those that now exist? Is it not worth while to consider whether there is any path along which we can walk in some kind of union and concord? Now, what I wish to do in the remainder—I hope the very limited remainder—of the time that I shall occupy is to get at the root of this case, and to inquire for myself and for others what it is about which we are in conflict. I know that we are in conflict about this Vote. Nothing can remove our objections to the Vote proposed under the circumstances in which we stand. But what are the real purposes about which we are now in conflict? I am afraid that we have been in serious conflict further back. But many of the former differences between us have in the course of events passed, if not into oblivion, yet beyond the reach of recall, and they no longer exist as practical considerations to divide us.
Now that I have stated all my objections—and I trust that I have stated nothing in a way that could annoy or greatly shock the opinions of hon. Gentlemen opposite—I frankly own that I cannot altogether abandon the hope that by some proceedings independent of this Vote we may arrive at the partial or substantial fulfilment of the purpose which the Government has in view. [Murmurs.] It is quite clear that we shall not obtain it, nor make one inch of progress towards it, by manifestations of the kind. I will take no notice of them. I am very grateful to hon. Gentlemen for the kind and attentive hearing which they have given me, and I will endeavour to state in a simple and straightforward manner that which appears to me might possibly be done. Our position is this—Without professing confidence in Her Majesty's Government generally—which is really irrelevant-— and without going back upon the past and reviving subjects of difference, we may admit that Her Majesty's Government are the Government of the country, and that they are the actual Represen- 952 tatives of the country in the Councils of Europe. I am desirous to the furthest point to which I can go to give them the strength they want by the exhibition of a united nation. It appears to me that there are many things which the Government will have before them when they go into the Conference, with regard to which we must have practically one and the same view. I will just refer to two or three of the questions that must come before the Conference. One subject of the greatest importance that must come before them, is the perfect freedom of the navigation of the River Danube. I am very imperfectly informed upon that point, and have seen conflicting statements regarding it. But I see with great regret that it is stated—I hope it is not true—that Russia intends to claim from Roumania the restitution, or as I would rather call it the alienation, of the bit of territory called Bessarabia, which, under the terms of the Peace of Paris, was, I think, very wisely demanded from Russia, in order to exclude her from the position of a Danubian Power. She had no natural interest in the Danube. It was a term imported late into the controversy with Russia; but it was a very proper thing to be done. Well, I hope if that question comes in any form before the Conference—as I suppose it must come— that such influence as the Government possess will be used to oppose that alienation. I do not mean in a hostile manner, because I deprecate, until a real necessity comes into view, even the remotest association of friendly discussion with the rumour of arms. But I hope— and I cannot doubt—that the Government will exercise their influence in a manner which possibly will prevent that restitution, and I shall support them in that case in everything that relates to the free navigation of the Danube.
Now I will take the question of our conduct to Turkey. Her Majesty's Government, in July last, promised to do their best to secure liberal terms for Turkey. I am rather sorry that that engagement has been so long kept from our knowledge, because it is now seven months or more since it was entered into. Now, with regard to that engagement, it appears to me to be one capable of senses that are altogether mischievous and wholly contrary to our duty. But it is also capable of senses that are 953 innocent. In an innocent sense, I do not in the least object to the Government using its good offices in favour of leniency to Turkey. But, then, when I speak of leniency to Turkey, I mean leniency as between Turkey and the other Powers; and by leniency to Turkey I do not mean cruelty to the subjects of Turkey. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] I am heartily glad to notice that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not appear altogether to disapprove that sentiment. But if the influence of the Government is not going to be used against the privileges of the subjects of Turkey, then my hopes rise rapidly, and begin to glow within my breast; because that is the very subject, and the main subject, upon which our alarm and jealousies have been excited, I will not say whether with or without cause, because that would lead me back upon what I will now treat as forbidden ground. But I wish to show my right hon. Friend that I am not endeavouring to judge the prospect of proceedings or the probable policy of the Government in a narrow or captious spirit; and I can conceive circumstances in which liberality to Turkey is an object that might fairly be proposed to be pursued by the Government. I will go further, and say what shape that liberality should assume. In my opinion, there is no shape in which liberality to Turkey would be more appreciable by the subjects of that liberality than in the shape of a little money. I may be wrong; but my impression is that that commodity is estimated in Turkey at its full value. I think that anybody who would present to Turkey a solid expectation of any future fund upon which, or upon some portion of which, a little loan could be effected in the European markets, would find that the anodyne—the soothing operation of such a suggestion—would be marvellous, and would help us to dispose of many abstract difficulties. I am not one of those who think that it would be a hardship upon the people of Bulgaria to be made to pay a considerable tribute. If men liberate themselves—and that is what they ought to do—at all events, they ought to strain every nerve to bring about their own liberation—-they ought to fight as Montenegro has done, refusing to ask aid from anybody, but relying upon the strong 954 arms and resolute hearts of their own children. We might not expect them to comply with such a condition; but if people have not virtue and manhood enough in them to liberate themselves, they must be content to take the enormous boon of liberty subject to some alloy, and to pay for it. I believe it is kindness to Turkey, in your arrangements for Bulgaria and the other Provinces, to get rid of points of future friction between the Suzerain Power and the people subject to that suzerainty. If it be said that they would not pay the tribute, I reply that in that case it would be perfectly just that the European Powers, if they thought the payment of a tribute a fair and reasonable condition to impose, should tell the people of Bulgaria and of the other Provinces similarly circumstanced, that unless they paid that tribute, and kept in good faith the arrangement made for them in good faith, they must in future be content to fight their own battles for themselves. Then there is another question that will have to be discussed— that of the Straits. All I can say in respect of the Straits is that I hope Her Majesty's Government will be content to act on this point in concert with the rest of Europe. Here, again, I think that we have some common ground with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If I remember right, he spoke of that question at a former period in connection with Constantinople, and he said—"No doubt this is a British interest, but it is also the interest of others quite as much as of England." Then, if it is the interest of others quite as much as of England, do not let us do their work. He spoke the other night of the distinguished foreigner. There are a great many distinguished foreigners, who are extremely anxious that England should do the work which they ought to do themselves. They know the lively susceptibilities of this people, and they practise upon our simplicity by taunting us with having retired from intervention in Europe. But what they mean is that there are certain things which they wish to have done, but they do not wish to make the costly sacrifice of doing them for themselves, and would find it very convenient for us to do it for them. Therefore, I say, let the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer take his 955 ground beside the other Powers of Europe.
I come now to the other question which will come before the Conference, and that is as to the condition of the Hellenic Provinces. In considering this question, we must distinguish between the Kingdom of Greece and the Hellenic Provinces. I do not say that the Kingdom of Greece has, or can have, any positive substantive claim for itself upon Turkey or upon any of the other Powers; but I think that the Hellenic Provinces have a very considerable claim upon them. And even with regard to the Kingdom of Greece, I would go as far as to say that I do not think that the Government of Greece can be very severely blamed for what they are now doing. Indeed, I am rather astonished that so young and so small a Government has been enabled to exercise so lengthened a forbearance and so great a pressure upon the national spirit of its own people. But with regard to the Hellenic Provinces, the question is most important. It has come to be slowly understood in this country that while there is a very strong sympathy at the present moment between Russia and the Slav subjects of Turkey, there is very little sympathy indeed between Russia and the Hellenic Provinces. On the contrary, it might almost be said that in certain circumstances there is an antipathy between them. I do not think that Turkey has any reason to complain of the conduct of her Hellenic Provinces during this war. I am astonished at the patience they have displayed, especially since the catastrophe which has reduced Turkey so low. I could not have believed that their patience would have endured so long. I do not want to preach any extreme doctrine upon this subject; but I cannot, for the life of me, conceive why, within reasonable limits, the Government of this country, towards which the Greeks have the strongest feeling of sympathy, and from which they would rather receive assistance and countenance than from any other quarter in the world—I cannot conceive why the Government of this country should not assume its natural and beneficial attitude in the Conference in befriending the cause of the Hellenic Provinces. The Slavs have a powerful champion in Russia, and it is most natural and most becoming, it is most poli- 956 tic and most expedient, if we want to check the advance of Russia in the South, that within reasonable limits we should associate ourselves with the cause of the Hellenic Provinces in the Councils of Europe. I am sure that there is a deep policy in this. The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night spoke with alarm and misgiving as to the extension to be given to Bulgaria itself. I really go a long way with him if that is to be an extension to the undue prejudice of a great race. Why should not the right hon. Gentleman and the Government avail themselves of the probable assistance they would derive from the strong national life and sentiment of that people, by befriending their cause and becoming in a certain sense the advocate and champion of that cause in the Conference which is about to meet? I begin to hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite have seen, in some degree, that I have spoken the language of reality when I have said it appeared to mo, in the midst of this fierce controversy that is going on, and that threatens to exhibit us as a divided instead of a united people, that there were modes of proceeding by which we might get rid, not only of any lingering animosity amongst us, but of this appearance of division. Some Gentleman —I forget his name—who sits on the other side of the House, is reported to have said, in addressing his constituents on the Eastern Question—"The question is whether we are to go into the Conference with the undivided support of the country." That is the question; but there are modes by which you may go into the Conference with the undivided support of the country other than by asking a Vote of £6,000,000, a proceeding which is without precedent, and is, in my view, contrary to Constitutional principles. If, as I understand, it is the desire of the Government to go into the Conference, not only in the spirit of peace—far be it from me to ascribe to them a departure from that spirit—but in an attitude conformable to that spirit, if they are going to work as far and as long as they may, not in setting up of separate and entirely British interests where there is no separate British interest at all; but in prosecuting European interests in concert with the Powers of Europe, and reserving their separate action for the time and the contingency 957 when British interests shall really be involved; if, above all, it is given us to hope that we are not going into the Conference for the purpose of abridging those concessions to the subject-races of Turkey; of practical liberty and security which the fortune of war and the sword of Russia have won for them, I, for one, will lament most profoundly any issue to which we may be driven which shall exhibit us—and exhibit us falsely—in the light of a divided Parliament. As far as I know—and my assurance will carry weight, for I am supposed to keep the very worst company in connection with this question—there will be no inclination on this side of the House to raise these phantoms of unreal difference and to appear to be at odds with you when in fact we are at evens. I shall try to make an humble effort to promote that agreement, and I shall give you the last of it in these few words. I should have been glad if this Vote would be withdrawn also; of course I mean with the substitution of another method of proceeding. I do not wish to propose anything except what would be equitable in principle, and therefore I think that the Vote might, at any rate, be postponed; and with that postponement of the Vote—so that, on a nearer evidence of necessity, and with a perfect reservation of your freedom of judgment, to push it hereafter, if you should think fit—you might adopt an intermediate proposal, which I cannot help thinking would go far to disarm opposition, and which I even venture respectfully to submit, by disavowing opposition, even in its own character, would be better than the Vote you desire. It is that, instead of choosing this intricate and singular and novel method—the last epithet you ought to like the least—of obtaining the support of Parliament, you should resort, without, if you like, surrendering your judgment or future intention as to the Vote, to an old and Constitutional method. You might feel —I do not wonder at your feeling— that, after all the controversy you have had, it is well and it is desirable on public grounds—it would not be necessary in ordinary cases, but in a case like this it would be desirable and expedient —that, if possible, the Government should be supported by some declaration before they go into this Conference. I think it eminently desirable, on the 958 ground that we have been exhibiting ourselves as a divided people. What I want is to see that wound healed and the breach closed. Revert then, without, if you like, abandoning anything you have said, but adopting an easy and early measure—to the Constitutional method of inviting the sense of both Houses. You are not afraid of defeat or difficulty in the House of Lords, and, so far as I know—though I cannot presume to speak except as an individual— many of those who are supposed to go the furthest on this question would be glad to find the means of agreement with you. I have made a note of the points I considered most essential; and, in touching upon them, the manifestations partly of the House and partly of the Treasury Bench lead me to believe that this is really a subject of serious consideration, and that that man will do a real public service who, if possible, shall extricate us from the dilemma in which we find ourselves—namely, the danger of presenting ourselves at the Conference as a divided Parliament. Now, Sir, supposing the two Houses of Parliament—an interval being given them, and this proposal of £6,000,000 standing for future consideration—were to present to the Crown a humble and loyal Address, setting forth that they were desirous unitedly of supporting the action of Her Majesty's Government in the Councils of Europe, that would do something to bury the controversies of the past. Supposing they said it was their desire and determination to aid Her Majesty on all occasions in defending the interests of this Empire with the strength of this Empire, and that it was their desire to pursue European objects and purposes by means of concert among the Powers of Europe; supposing they recognized and adopted the engagement which has been given by the Executive Government, that they would endeavour by friendly means to obtain for Turkey the most favourable arrangement that circumstances would permit in all matters that might arise as between the belligerents or between the Powers of Europe. I hope you would not grudge, and would not refuse, in this great crisis—in this great day, when the future fortunes of 12,000,000 or 14,000,000 of men are to be dealt with and decided, and a line is to be drawn which shall mark for them the 959 boundary between the two conditions of servitude and freedom—I hope you would not grudge or refuse to say a word in mild and guarded terms for that which is dearer to Englishmen than life itself—namely, the liberty which they have fought for, which they have inherited from their fathers, which they cherish for themselves, which they mean to hand down to their sons, and with which they must sympathize, and which they most earnestly desire to see passed on to and enjoyed by all the nations and peoples of the world. You would not, surely, grudge the expression of your hope that in all questions between Turkey and her subjects the influence of this country would be used in a manner agreeable to its ancient and noble traditions, and in support of the just and well-ordered freedom which affords, and which alone can afford, the smallest hope for the future peace and prosperity of England.
Now, Sir, I have done. I have detained the House long. I am indebted to hon. Gentlemen opposite as well as to hon. Gentlemen behind me for the fund of patience they have exhibited. I trust I have effected something to redeem the pledge with which I set out, and if I have not been able fully to abstain from criticism, that I have shown criticism not to be my main purpose. I resume my seat in declaring that, next to the paramount and sacred duty of promoting the interests of justice, humanity, and freedom all through the world, there can be no object at the present moment nearer to the heart of every Englishman and every Member of Parliament, than, in a great crisis like the present, which has now reached its ripeness, to make some effort, however humble, towards the re-establishment of domestic concord and peace by enabling those who are charged with the cares and anxieties of Government to enter the Council Chamber of Europe strong in the strength of an united people.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Sir, I am not surprised at the cheers which have greeted the close of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and if, like him, I could attempt to forget all that has passed, and if I could indeed suppose that the project he has advanced was one for the honour of the Government and the good of the country, I might meet it in a different tone from that which I 960 shall think it my duty to adopt. I am glad we have a sign, now that Parliament is called together, that some moderation and temperance is adopted in the language which right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Members have in the country used in view of the existing state of things. But I cannot but remember that within the last few days the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us has indicated that he has no confidence in the present Government, and that he considers the Government to be typified and embodied in its head. Nor can I forget that the noble Lord has been watched, and I will venture to say misrepresented—I do not say wilfully, because I would not impute that—but consistently misrepresented by the right hon. Gentleman during the whole of the 18 months to which he has referred. I feel as deeply as the right hon. Gentleman can do the gravity of the issue which we are debating. We have within the last few years seen Treaties upon which the greatest expenditure of time and trouble—nay, I may add the greatest expenditure of blood and treasure—has been made, torn to pieces and scattered to the winds; and therefore, when we are on the eve of a new Treaty, it seems to me that it is incumbent upon us to take care that that Treaty should be so framed as to be more lasting than were those which have preceded it. Why, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, who has at times ventured to impugn the neutrality of Her Majesty's Government, was himself not in favour of neutrality; he was himself in favour of our drawing the sword on one side.
I beg pardon. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not desire to misrepresent me, and the case is so important that I must repeat what I said. What I spoke of was action by us in concert with the Powers of Europe. I never expressed any opinion in favour of our drawing the sword in concert with a particular Power.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
The right hon. Gentleman was within the hearing of the House within a very few moments, and I understood him to say that we should have used pressure or coercion upon Turkey in concert with other Powers; but in the case of the failure of concert, then by ourselves. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no; I said force in 961 concert.] The right hon. Gentleman assumes that the nation which has contended with overwhelming forces would have submitted to the force of the concert of nations of which he speaks. There is no proof or indication that such would be the case. Turkey may have been blind, but she has been brave. She may have been foolish, but she was at least determined. She believed that she had interests to support, and, although the terms proposed to her were again and again filtered down until they took form in the Protocol, she still resisted the combined entreaties of the Powers; and, though she considered England to be her friend, she still resisted the importunities of this country. What did this country do? It has been said that we have neglected the interests of those Provinces which were oppressed by Turkey. I deny it in every term it is possible for me to use. What was the course this Government took? The right hon. Gentleman, who has been in office for years, says it was not until 1875 the condition of Turkey was thoroughly known. Why was it not known? Has the right hon. Gentleman no responsibility for not knowing it? In 1871 he renewed the Treaties. He renewed them, I presume, because England was deeply interested in their renewal. Did he, then, in 1871, renew the Treaties without inquiring into the condition of Turkey? In 1872 our Consuls reported to him that Turkey was in a good condition and going on well. He was satisfied with those reports. In 1873 inquiries may have been going on, but it was not until another Government was in power that the condition of Turkey attracted the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, when that condition might have its effect upon the condition of the Government. Well, Sir, I strongly object to the course which the right hon. Gentleman has taken on this occasion. It seems to me that those who have within a very recent period—even since this Vote was under discussion—taken upon themselves to address the strongest language with respect to it to excited audiences, have no right to come into this House and with "bated breath and whispering humbleness" to speak to us in a totally different tone and with a totally different intention. Sir, I think that the Government have much reason to complain of this. The right hon. 962 Gentleman has stated that we encouraged the Turks to go to war without one tittle or shadow of proof; and when the right hon. Gentleman condemned listening to rumours and not giving authority for statements, did he act in conformity with that condemnation? What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by those underground communications of which he spoke between Turkey and England which encouraged Turkey to continue the war? Who was the author of those rumours? Who was the man who gave currency to those rumours? Who, I ask, is the individual the right hon. Gentleman accuses of being the author of those underground communications? Let the right hon. Gentleman dare to name him. Why, Sir, we have seen, not only for the last 18 months which he admits, but for years past, the feeling — I will not use a stronger phrase — with which the right hon. Gentleman has pursued my noble Friend who now sits in the other House. There had been here and there small indications — a little oozing of lava from cracks in the mountain; but at length it poured forth in pent-up force at Oxford on the devoted head of my noble Friend. But, Sir, how is it that Turkey has been encouraged? Turkey has been encouraged by those who, like the right hon. Gentleman, who has been a Prime Minister, and by those who have been his followers, have gone to and fro in the country stating that the Government were not sincere in their professions of neutrality, and that the Prime Minister was for war in behalf of Turkey. Let the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) dare to say in his place in the House of Commons what he said at Selkirk—that the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government had never concealed his desire to plunge this country into war. Let the hon. Member prove this statement, or let it go into some category which it is not Parliamentary to name. Does the right hon. Gentleman opposite expect us to submit to those taunts which have been made outside the House and then to come here and listen, without indignation, while he addresses us in this meek manner as if they had never been uttered. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of ciphers. I am one of the ciphers of the Government. I am content to be one of those ciphers; 963 but the right hon. Gentleman, when he spoke of the ciphers in the Ministry of the Duke of Wellington, forgot that one of those ciphers was Sir Robert Peel. If Sir Robert Peel was a cipher, then, I repeat, I am content to be one. Why, the right hon. Gentleman, a few days ago, put forward Lord Beaconsfield as the beginning and end of the policy of the Government. What did the right hon. Gentleman say? He used these remarkable words, and they are so remarkable that I cannot help calling the attention of the House to the passage. The right hon. Gentleman said—To my own great pain and with infinite reluctance, but under the full and strong conviction of my political old age, for the last 18 months I may he said to have played the part of an agitator. My purpose, I may tell you fairly, has been, with extremely inadequate means, and in a very mean and poor degree, hut still to the best of my power, for the last 18 months, day and night—Well, Sir, it is said that misery makes men acquainted with strange bedfellows. My noble Friend is a most excellent companion by day, but if for the last 18 months the ideal of him conjured up by the right hon. Gentleman has been the nightmare of the right hon. Gentleman, he must have been disturbed by strange phantoms.
—"day and night, week by week, month by month, to counter-work as well as I could what I believe to be the purpose of Lord Beaconsfield.For my part I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman did mean to do so. The right hon. Gentleman is one of those impulsive natures which, when they take a matter in hand, invariably go through with it. In all the great changes that have taken place in his career I have no doubt he has entertained a firm and unhesitating belief in the course he has taken at the time. But, Sir, is that a very good description of a safe and wise politician? A friend of mine kindly sent me a passage which I think the House will say has some bearing upon the particular idiosyncrasy and the impassioned feelings of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman says that my noble Friend Lord Beaconsfield is the head and front of our shocking and wicked policy—the very embodiment of that policy. Well, a Ministry ought to be perfectly willing to be tried by that test. We know that Lord Beaconsfield from the first professed certain intentions 964 that he has kept to them; that he has acted upon them; and we know, too, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham has admitted, that from first to last, according to our profession, we have kept this country at peace, and that not under such easy circumstances as the right hon. Gentleman may suppose. The right hon. Gentleman, in his new policy, to which he gave expression the other day, intimated that the first object of his attack was to be Lord Beaconsfield; but now so entirely has the right hon. Gentleman changed his mind, that he is willing to be a party to an Address from both Houses of Parliament in order to show that they have the utmost confidence in Lord Beaconsfield. Well, Tom Moore was not a bad satirical writer on political matters, and he suggests that a man should set up a sort of ideal, contrary to which he should always act. He says in his "Recipe for a Good Politician"—Keep him always reversed in your thoughts night and day,Like an Irish barometer turned the wrong way.If he's up, you may swear that foul weather is nigh;If he's down, you may look for a bit of blue sky.Never mind what debaters or journalists say,Only ask what he thinks and then think t'other way.Is he all for the Turks? Then at once take the wholeRussian Empire (Czar, Cossacks, and all) to your soul.In short, whatsoever he talks, thinks, or is,Be your thoughts, words, and essence the contrast of his.Well, Sir, I think that that passage sets forth emphatically the policy on which the right hon. Gentleman admits that he has acted. The right hon. Gentleman says there has been a great change. Well, no doubt a certain amount of change has occurred. Changes have occurred day by day; but we have not observed that with those changes there has been any change in the bitter sentiments expressed by right hon. Gentlemen opposite in reference to Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) made a speech the other night, to which, on account of its ability, we all listened with pleasure; but there was not a sentence which was 965 not impregnated with the gall of which he has an abundant supply. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford is said to have spoken with moderation. Yes. The speech was calm, and apparently of a peaceful nature, but he imputed charges and accusations against the Government of the most formidable character. But they were told to forget all this before the debate was over. It is impossible to forget it. It is impossible not to condemn those right hon. Gentlemen, however much they may wish to get out of the scrape into which they have brought themselves, however anxious they may be to get out of the charge which I make against them —of stopping Supplies, of taking a course which is inconsistent with that which has been taken by any Opposition heretofore—I say it is impossible this can be passed by lightly, for they are attempting to stop Supplies at a time when they know they cannot displace the Government. The right hon. Gentleman divided his speech into four parts. I do not enter into the question of his criticisms on my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I have no doubt he will take care of himself. They were criticisms which did not affect the case, and which will never affect the credit which the House will give to any statement made by my right hon. Friend. Now, the right hon. Gentleman says that when this proposal was made his objection was made because there was an idea that the war would be prolonged. ["No, no!"] I took it down at the moment, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman disputes it. It was then going on. But how was it going on? The Turks had assented-—had sent Delegates to assent to—the bases of peace, and we had every reason to suppose that they would be listened to. The reason apparently given to show why we had given encouragement to Turkey to prolong the war was because Musurus Pasha had said something or other—that we some time or other might come to help him. Now, is it to be supposed that because the Minister of a State in the condition in which Turkey is has a hope that this would occur—is it to be supposed that that is proof that the Government ever gave encouragement to Turkey? On the contrary, we repeated again and again that it was 966 in vain for him to offer any such prospects to the Turkish Government, and that the mind of the Government was made up. He was told that so long as Turkish interests alone were in question nothing would induce us to intervene. But because the Minister of the Turkish Empire entertained hopes, we are supposed to have encouraged them. I will venture to say that neither the Minister for Turkey nor anyone else can produce any evidence that we held out any such encouragement as the right hon. Gentleman suggests. Now I come to the second head; but here I may make one remark. I might comment in stronger terms on what the right hon. Gentleman said the other day, but I think there has been quite enough discussion of that. Still, I have always said this with respect to the right hon. Gentleman—that when he adopts this high tone in lecturing the Government, he might remember that those Tories whom he so much abuses were the men with whom he once acted; and the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), when he spoke of him as having given the whole of his honourable life to the services of freedom and peace, might have recollected that at least half of that honourable life has been spent in the Tory Governments and in the service of the Tory Party against which he had made these charges. The right hon. Gentleman was, I believe, even during the time I have been in Parliament, a member of the Carlton Club. I do not suppose that he feels it an imputation that he was a member of that Club. All I say is that when he attacks so bitterly the Party to which he once belonged he is going beyond the limits of fairness. Then he said that this Vote was not in connection with the Speech. That is true as to the terms of the Speech; but Parliament was called together to assist our efforts for peace, and we believe that this Vote will have that beneficial effect. The Vote, which was not asked for in the terms of the Speech, rests on what has happened since. But I now come to the important part of the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman. He says—"It can no longer influence preliminary negotiations." I am not sure of that. Why not? Preliminary negotiations are not over. We have not heard for what time 967 the armistice is granted, or upon what terms. We know as a matter of fact that the Russian Armies have advanced to certain positions which, if the armistice were abandoned, would put them in possession of points which might be deadly to Turkey, and perhaps deadly to Europe. There are other points on which great doubt still remains, and therefore I venture to say that the question is not yet settled, and that a great deal yet remains under consideration. Well, the right hon. Gentleman has made one statement which I am glad to recognize, and that is from his study of the question, looking at it from the outside. He has come to the conclusion that Prince Gortchakoff has given an honourable engagement against the occupation of the Turkish capital. Surely, then, those negotiations and those despatches which he admits have brought about so desirable a result have not fallen altogether to the ground. We were taunted very frequently with not carrying into effect that which we had promised in May; but, according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, the effect of what we did has been that it was laid down that Constantinople should only be approached for strategical reasons, which reasons having ceased, according to the right hon. Gentleman, the Russians cannot in honour approach that capital. Well, now, the right hon. Gentleman assumes that we are objecting to the Opposition condemning our foreign policy, and he tells us that the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies objected to this Vote; and he said all Oppositions have objected to foreign policy, and he points to Peel, Pox, and others as having done so. Quite true, they have objected, and no one complains of that. But what we do object to is an Opposition attempting to stop Supplies. If they stop Supplies, they stop the course which the Government thinks necessary to carry on its existence—that which is essential to the interests of the country. If we misuse Supplies, Parliament is sitting, and Parliament we have not attempted to exclude from our deliberations. We live under the eyes of Parliament, and Parliament has the power, if we misuse any portion of the Vote, of condemning us for it. That is legitimate. But stopping Supplies is another and totally different thing, and I believe has never been attempted before upon 968 any Ministers who are in the position of the Government of the country. Objections to different items in an Estimate I can understand; but here you are taking the initiative against any Supply at all, and deny us that confidence which is necessary for strengthening our hands, even though you know we must remain in office, according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright). I will not go out of the way to accuse the character of Mr. Fox, but I have heard with some astonishment that it was the proudest period in his political history when he pursued the course he adopted as to the war between England and Prance. In my opinion nothing was more unpatriotic in the history of the country, and I think it is a stain on the political character of Mr. Pox, and certainly it could never add anything to the credit of his life. The right hon. Gentleman asked what distinct British interests were in danger. Well, distinct British interests are few; but I have yet to learn that because others have interests involved with British interests, Great Britian is not to take steps to protect those which concern her. But still more is she bound to take steps if there are others able to take action which may affect her in defence of their interests. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) has put it as an absurdity, that if this Vote was necessary for diplomatic purposes it ought to be refused. I should have thought that that would have been one of the strongest arguments in its favour. It seems to be thought that England alone should have no special interests. Other nations are acting upon their own interests—they are all acting upon their own interests—and I am bound to say in any negotiations we may enter into we must consider those interests, and pay a deference to them as long as they do not interfere materially with our own policy. I do not understand what is meant by the selfish interests of England. Our interests may be just the same as those of other nations, and it is at least desirable that we should be ready to defend them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) talks of the vast cost of our peace establishment, and implies the needlessness of asking money for naval and military purposes, and he 969 made a curious reference to the time of the Crimean War. He told us, and I daresay correctly, what was the course taken by the Government at that time. The troops went out rapidly, it is quite true; but what was the state of those troops? There were brave officers and soldiers; but what was wanting? Why, they were destitute of everything that was necessary to bind an Army together. It was hardly to be called an Army when it came to move. It was without transport; it had no commissariat; it had no medical arrangements; and it had to borrow surgeons from the Meet. No force, I believe, was ever landed in the face of an enemy so utterly wanting in all the appliances which ought to accompany an Army, and which ought to be provided as a preliminary to action. The right hon. Gentleman tells how efficient it was made in 12 months; but he does not tell us what was spent in that time. It may be that the ordinary Estimates that had been voted were applied to the purposes of the war, leaving deficiencies to be made up. There were, of course, large Votes on the ordinary Estimates and Votes of Credit—voted, I venture to say, in confidence in the Government without any statement being made as to how they were to be applied. They were handed over to the Government for the purposes of use, as we ask for this Vote now for the purposes of use. If you look through the Papers of the Crimean War, you will see that again and again there were Votes of Credit without any specification of the way in which they were to be used. [An hon. MEMBER: That was for war.] Yes; but still money was voted without specific application, and the objection that has been made to this Vote is that we do not say in detail what we are going to do with it. It seems to me a most extraordinary proposition. What said the right hon. Gentleman about his precedent in 1870? He said he could not state publicly everything he knew, and that there were good reasons why the Government should not state publicly all they knew. No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman and those who have sat in Cabinets, how many occasions there are in which Members of Cabinets fight, as it were, with their hands tied behind them—occasions when Members of the House may attack them, and they are unable to break con- 970 fidence and so defend themselves, though the answer they have may be absolutely perfect. As to the mode in which this money is to be raised, everybody can see what that mode must be under the circumstances. It is simply impossible to raise it by taxes in the course of two months, and as it is necessary that we should have the money, my right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) has taken that which is the ordinary means of obtaining it. With respect to precedents, it is all very well to talk about the 1870 Vote as not being a precedent; but I say it is, in spite of all the exceptions you may make. The Government asked for a Vote for strengthening our Forces, and they received it in a lump sum of £2,000,000, to spend as they thought fit. That is a precedent. Referring to the terms of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), I want to know whether the Vote of 1870 was a departure from the policy of neutrality and peace, because the money might have been used under conditions? Was it a breach of neutrality and peace because you meant to use it with reference to certain Treaties by which you had engaged yourselves? If not, why is ours to be considered a breach of neutrality and peace? That Vote did not lead to war, but it was spent, and, as it turned out, uselessly spent. It was spent for a purpose advantageous in itself, but exactly at the period when it was of the least service, and I will toll the reason why. Twenty thousand men were added to the Army, and no sooner was that done than it was reduced again. It was at the time they were beginning the Reserve; and ever since the Reserve has been lagging behind because they reduced the Army at the very time when they had the men whom they might have passed into the Reserve. I think that was as foolish a policy as was ever adopted; because you first of all wasted your £2,000,000, and then you wasted the means of obtaining a Reserve. The right hon. Gentleman then said that negotiation and armaments are utterly incompatible. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] I understood him to say that this Vote of Credit is taken at a time when we propose to go into Conference, and that when you are going into a Conference is exactly when 971 you ought not to be putting on your armour. I took down the words from the right hon. Gentleman's lips as I understood them. I thought that was rather a remarkable thing to be said; because the latest Conference we have had was the Conference of Constantinople, and just previous to that Conference Russia mobilized her Forces. She not only mobilized her Forces, but advanced to the frontier, and she mobilized such an enormous mass of her Forces that it is almost impossible to suppose that when she went into that Conference she must not have meant war. I never heard any complaint of the course taken by Russia, who mobilized her forces on the frontiers of Turkey at the time the Conference was sitting. It was never suggested by hon. Gentlemen opposite that these preparations were an impediment to peace; but they led all Europe to suppose that the Conference must fail, because so large an expenditure had been incurred that it was inferred war was intended. But this is a totally different transaction; it is a preliminary and precautionary measure, and not a measure of war, as the Russian course was. Anyone who knows anything of the requirements of modern war will know perfectly well that the amount of this Vote could by no means carry us far into war; and, besides, the House is sitting, and it is known perfectly well that before war could be declared, or we should be plunged into war, the House would have an opportunity of expressing its opinion. But it is important we should have everything ready in case it should be required at any moment; for if anything has been proved of recent years, it has been that wars arise suddenly and have broken out from unforeseen causes. When the right hon. Gentleman compares the expenditure of different countries, let him also compare their armaments, and when he says Austria and Germany do not spend so much money, let him remember what armies they have on a peace footing, what resources they have for immediate movement, and then compare with their armies our small army, which I value very highly, but which I quite admit is a peace establishment, and which could not engage in a great war without large additions and expenditure. I say the comparison the 972 right hon. Gentleman makes between the peace establishments of the different countries is quite untenable. He tells us he is anxious for a path to concord; none can desire it more than we; but as the right hon. Gentleman objects to an unreal Vote, we object to an unreal concord. We have asked the House to give us this Vote, not as a general Vote of Confidence; but because on our responsibility we believe it will be highly advantageous to the country that we should have it. Everyone must desire that we should be united at the present crisis, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite have such confidence in what we are going to do as to be ready to adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to an Address of both Houses, surely he cannot hesitate to trust the Government, which he is ready to praise so highly, and to which he is so prepared to give his confidence, with the small sum of money asked for? I do not think it will be prudent of me, as it was easy for the right hon. Gentleman in his unattached position to do, to go through the different proposals which the Government ought to support in the Conference. I will say that the Government have shown that they have no separate interests, that they have no desire to act except in concert with Europe, not indeed in the coercion of the Turk, in proposing which the right hon. Gentleman stood almost alone. Those who sit beside him were unable or unwilling to support him in the proposition he was desirous to make to that effect, and therefore I have the right to assume that the right hon. Gentleman stood almost alone with respect to coercion. We have shown our anxiety that the subject populations of Turkey should receive fair terms; that they should obtain, under adequate guarantees, such good government as shall ensure that their liberties will be respected, and that they may be able to live in security and happiness under whatever Government may be determined upon. But that anxiety is not confined to the Slav populations; it includes all the populations of Turkey. Our great desire is that such bases of peace shall be laid down as, by making those who are brought under its influences contented, may ensure that the peace shall be permanent; and whether the specifics of the right hon. Gentleman would lead to such a peace would require 973 grave discussion. He has spoken of the duty of men to defend their own interests and to fight for them. I think there is great justice in what he said of the Bulgarians, who owe everything to others and hardly anything to themselves; and who, therefore, though they might be dealt with fairly by those who have delivered them, might be placed under conditions to which they would have no claim to object. When the right hon. Gentleman lays down so broadly as he has done in a recent article, the right of oppressed peoples to rise against their oppressors, the question is, who is to judge what is oppression? Who is to say when the people are sufficiently oppressed to rise? What is the amount of oppression that will justify them in doing so? The Bulgarians may say that the tribute you put us under is an oppression. And the very peace which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to produce may turn out to be, by resisting the payment of that very tribute, broken; and so bring about the very evils which he deplores and wishes to prevent. But it is obviously impossible that we can discuss this question here. So it is with all these points. We cannot discuss them here. We cannot tell what may be the views of the different Powers in relation to them. We can only speak of them in the merest generalities; and in discussing them at all we may be taking on ourselves a task which may lead us into difficulties even greater than those which have already been brought about. Now, Sir, I come to the question of the present position of affairs. We have heard that the preliminary bases of peace are signed; we have heard that the conditions of the armistice are signed; but we have not yet ascertained on what conditions the armistice stands, or for how long it is to continue. With regard to the bases of peace, I frankly own that they appear to me to convey but the vaguest idea of what is intended. We have not the full information on that subject which I think we ought to have had. With regard to the bases of peace, it will be remembered that at first we were told by the Russian Ambassador the Dardanelles were not mentioned; then we found that they were included; then Prince Gortehakoff told us that the Dardanelles would be taken out; yet we are now told to-day that the Dardanelles are among the 974 conditions, and that ulterior measures are to be taken respecting the Straits between the Sultan and the Czar. That is not a state of things so clear or satisfactory that we can say the bases of peace are fully established. The hon. Gentleman who sits for Orkney (Mr. Laing) advised that we should have trust in Russia, and the right hon. Member for Birmingham said we had a mean and ignorant jealousy of Russia. I will not say that I am prepared to ignore facts. I cannot shut my eyes to what has occurred in former years, nor can I believe that the suspicions of this country were always wrong, and that the course of Russia has always been right. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has put before the country his views on this matter. If I had said a short time ago suddenly to the Liberal Party in this House—"Do not you all agree that there is legitimate ground of jealousy with regard to Russia?" would they have adopted that sentiment? No, for they did not know that the right hon. Gentleman had written such a sentence. The right hon. Gentleman has had the courage to lay down that position in the article of which I shall read two or three short paragraphs. He says there are many grounds on which there is fair and frank reason to distrust Russia. I do not think we do any dishonour to a country or necessarily disparage or insult a country when we say it has had a large ambition which it has testified by great wars; nor are we forbidden to say that we think we have a right to look with jealousy at present events on account of the proceedings which Russia has adopted in former years. But the right hon. Gentleman has dwelt on that subject. I will not read much, but I should like very much to call attention to one or two passages; because it bears upon the circumstances in which we are placed, and to which he has called attention. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Will you read the whole article?] The whole article?—No, no! The right hon. Gentleman has already spoken for an hour and a half, and has stated to the House his opinions fully. I shall not, therefore, read the whole of his article in the Nineteenth Century for February. He says—Our view ought, in my opinion, from the first to have been this—that we should keep the separate action of Russia out of Turkey by 975 means of the common action, which was the true aim of the Treaty of Paris in 1856. What may now he practicable, in the way of limiting that separate action, will be practicable only by the use of that same instrument.But every attempt was made by us to obtain the concert of Europe, except that of dipping our swords in the blood of the people of Turkey, which we refused to do. Short of that, everything was done by this country to bring about that common concert without relegating to Russia single action, and we retain the same views. What says the right hon. Gentleman next?—But then there is no Power with hands so clean as to be beyond reproach. Here the misfortune is that the Power whose hands seem to many the most soiled of all in Christendom is also the Power under the greatest temptation to misuse its opportunities for corrupt and disorganizing purposes.Sir, I should be sorry to use language as strong as that of a friendly Power. It is language which I quote but do not adopt.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
You may say, "Take it as a whole," but there is nothing to qualify the meaning of that passage. The right hon. Gentleman then says—We seem, then, to arrive at three important propositions which will serve for guides in considering the parts of the subject as they come up in detail. First, there is a legitimate ground for jealousy of Russia; secondly, the safest and most effective check upon Russia is to he found in the concert of Europe; thirdly, the setting up of separate interests and the advancement of separate claims, even without passing beyond the sphere of diplomatic action, tend to break up that concert, and are, therefore, to be eschewed unless in grave and evident necessity.I am quite willing to adopt that.
I have said that what I call the selfish interests of one Power ought not to be sought without regard to the interests of other Powers, and that you have no right to thrust down the throats of others what is purely selfish to yourself, where others had interests bound up with yours, to which you ought fairly to give effect.I do not think any of my Colleagues will differ from that sentiment. What does the right hon. Gentleman say next, as to the point at which we have arrived, in a very remarkable passage?—We have now reached in the Eastern Question of to-day a stage at which we have to deal, not with the high honour of the Monarch, or the 976 valour of the soldiery, nobly rivalled by its patience and devotion, or the generous emotions of a great and single-minded people, but with the excited spirit of a military caste and with a diplomatic service essentially astute and much maligned indeed if it be remarkable for scrupulosity.I think I may fairly close the book and say that the position to which we have come at the present moment is admittedly, and on the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, one of a very grave character; which requires that the Government of this country, with its enormous interests, should have the full support of this House. When you talk of European interests which others have, remember you have worldwide interests—interests in Asia, Africa, America, Australia, and all the islands of the sea—these interests are vulnerable as well as glorious to this country, and therefore it seems to me that we are bound to make due provision for the people who trust in us to protect their freedom and their liberties—and that they should believe that we have not only the wish to protect, but that we are determined, and that we have the power to protect them. And what the right hon. Gentleman calls prestige is a prestige which it is very desirable this country should possess. I do not care about the word; but the country in relation to Colonies, and in relation to foreign nations, should have the reputation of being at once able and willing to protect its own interests and defend its own subjects. In this instance the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) said, as I understood him, that the fact of Russia being engaged in this war entitled her to protect her rights and make peace alone with Turkey, without reference to European interest; and he gave the instance of France and Germany. We did not, he said, interfere between France and Germany with reference to the terms of peace; but he totally forgets that we are in relations with Russia by Treaties from which she cannot separate herself without the consent of the other Powers; therefore, she is bound to bring into Conference with the other Powers the subjects which are in dispute. That makesthe whole difference. He is perfectly correct in saying that we did not interfere between France and Germany, but we have the right to interfere with reference to Russia. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the 977 City of London (Mr. Goschen) stated the other evening—upon what authority I do not know—that if this Vote had been asked for to defend Constantinople it or far more would have been granted without hesitation and unanimously. That was a very bold statement, but it would have involved intervention in war, which we had previously avoided.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I did not say that if it had been proposed it would have been voted. I spoke of the prospect of the occupation of Gallipoli for the protection of Constantinople, and said that in such a case you would probably get the Vote.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
The right hon. Gentleman practically admits what I have said—if you had called on Parliament for a Vote to defend Gallipoli or Constantinople there would have been an unanimous vote of money for the purpose. But I am afraid what he said for his Party was emphatically what he called "bounce"—not a word in common use, but certainly a most emphatic word—what he said was "bounce" so far as regards those whom he professed to represent. [Mr. GOSCHEN: I spoke for myself.] I am now speaking of the right hon. Gentleman's opinion only—it could not be a matter of fact. Then we have heard a good deal about the meetings which have been held. An hon. Gentleman spoke about the meeting at Guildhall being an organized gang, and of people who had been guilty of riotous proceedings in coming down to the House of Commons and waiting on the Postmaster General — those peacebreakers who had waited on him being the Lord Mayor and the Governor of the Bank of England. But are there no indications that the right hon. Gentleman opposite does not even represent his own Party? Look at the West Riding of Yorkshire —is there any name there more associated with Liberal politics than the name of Fitzwilliam? Where is Lord Eitzwilliam found on this occasion? He has spoken as if he felt it a deep shame to be associated with you on account of the course you have pursued in opposing this Vote. There was once a name in this House which was celebrated for rescuing Liberal Governments from difficulties. That name was Fortescue. Where is the name of Forteseue to-day? It is withdrawn from a Liberal Association because of the 978 adoption of a line of conduct of which he who bears it cannot approve. I now come to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe). He, too, has used some extraordinary language with respect to the course which has been taken by the Government — language which I should have thought scarcely becoming the seat of learning which he represents —a constituency which, it was said by my noble Friend at the head of the Government, he created on purpose for him, and one to which he should try to do honour. But the right hon. Gentleman, nevertheless, condescended to speak of the proposal of the Government as a dodge, and what was called "the confidence trick," which, I understand, is a sort of trick resorted to by card players or sharpers. I am not conversant with such tricks, but I presume it applies to the Government. [Mr. LOWE: Showing money.] "Showing money," he calls it—that is, I suppose, trying to palm off flash notes as real money, or pretending to have money when we really have not, in order to get someone to place money in our hands. But those gentlemen who get money in the way the right hon. Gentleman suggests are not sitting in public and do not spend it under the public eye when they have secured it. To use language which I have no doubt is familiar to him, they "bolt" with the money; but we are obliged to spend it in the face of those who gave it to us, and to be answerable for that expenditure. We are, therefore, in a very different category from those whom the right hon. Gentleman calls "dodgers." He also talks of snobbishness and vulgarity, and I am sure I do not wish to impugn his great ability as a teacher of manners; but I may observe that such language seems to me to be better suited to the other side of the globe. Now, by some persons, the proposal before the House is called a sham and by others a war Vote. Allow me to tell them that it is neither one nor the other. It is possible that we may not spend it all; but I may, I think, venture to say that we shall spend some of it. [An hon. MEMBER: Some of it has been spent already.] We have not spent any of it, and whoever that interruption comes from seems to be taking rather a liberty after the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We 979 have before us one great object—the object which we have had in view from the very beginning of these transactions. We have been thinking of British interests. To us there are no interests like them, and we have sought to obtain in South-eastern Europe a permanent and solid peace—a peace that will last—for there is no greater folly than to be a party to a patched-up arrangement that could not be durable. It may seem to some to be a small thing that an Empire should be broken up, and there are many persons I know who would care but little to see the Turkish Empire broken up. Everyone has a right to his own opinions on this subject; but the question is, whether a great uprooting of that character may not interfere with other Empires. It may weaken the strength of the greatest nations. It may work mischief to the Austrian Empire, to the Italian Kingdom, or even to the French Republic. You may wish that the Turkish Empire should crumble into dust, but you must not lose sight of the consequences which may follow its fall. You have before you a task so infinitely difficult that any impediments thrown in the way, by thwarting and baffling in the smallest degree those who are responsible for the conduct of its affairs, might produce results which would be felt throughout the country for centuries to come. I hope I may, without being deemed selfish, and with a view to the interests of the world, believe that the British Empire has a commission far beyond the conflicts of Party, and that the maintenance of its power and independence is a subject of so serious a character that no man, be his politics what they may, can be otherwise than appalled at the gravity of the issues before us. For my own part, I think it is better that we should look difficulties in the face at once than try to put them off. It may be that you grudge giving us these £6,000,000 now; but if you refuse them to us, perhaps you would have to spend £600,000,000 hereafter. Therefore it is that with a view to European concert, with a view to a settlement on a sound footing of these bases of peace, which, as they at present stand, are so vague and uncertain, we ask you to give us your confidence. That is surely no great demand to make upon you at such a moment. We have a right, I contend, after what has passed, 980 to ask you to have confidence in our future policy. It has been misrepresented, and we have had to bear the misrepresentation until Parliament met. Our conduct has been impugned and misrepresented in spite of all the documents which were before those from whom the misrepresentations have come; and who have, I presume, believed in those underground currents and those rumours of some mysterious communications between this country and Constantinople, of which the Government knew nothing. Thus to impugn the character of a British Government is to weaken its force and power, and you have no right to do so. To do so is unjust. You have a right to meet us in the fair field of debate and argument, but not to indulge in those surmises which are contrary, I will say, not only to the honour of a Government as a Government, but to those individuals who compose it. The right hon. Gentleman opposite referred to my noble Friend Lord Carnarvon, and no one has a higher opinion of the honour and character of Lord Carnarvon than I have. No one could regret more his secession from the Ministry. I felt the value of his friendship, as well as of his support, in public affairs; but when the acts of the Government are impugned and misrepresented from beginning to end, I would beg those who speak of Lord Carnarvon and eulogize his conduct in contradistinction to that of the other Members of the Government, to remember that he is responsible —and I am sure he would be the last to disavow the responsibility—for every word and every act of the Government as a Government until the occurrence of that solitary proceeding in respect to which he differed from his Colleagues and retired from Office. I know the noble Lord's high sense of honour; I know that whatever he may do in the future, he will never throw discredit upon the Government with which he was connected. We ask you, then, to treat us as an English Government. We have asked on our own responsibility for this money. We ask to have it speedily; we ask for it because we want it; yet you say you will not give it to us. You tell us that you are prepared to pass an empty Vote; but the right hon. Gentleman who proposes such a step must think we are but children in the school of politicians, when he asks us to accept 981 this paper Vote without anything to represent it at our hacks. We ask for confidence in our truthfulness. We ask you for this confidence because you have a guarantee that we cannot fail you. That guarantee is the Parliament we have called together at the earliest moment, because we are not afraid to act in the light of day. We ask you for your confidence, because if you are not prepared to give it to us, it is time that we should give place to someone else. We do not wish to be crippled. We do not wish it to be thought that while guiding the destinies of this country we are not fit to be trusted with a sum of money like this with the definite object of being applied to our Army and Navy. We have no desire—who could desire?—to enter into a war. Is there a man in this House—nay, a man in the civilized world, almost—who could be insensible to the gravity of such a course? We have hitherto preserved peace; we mean to keep peace, and we believe we are going the right way to keep it when we ask you to assist amid the confusion and complications which we see around us. The nations of Europe are armed to the teeth. A single spark may kindle Europe into a flame which may involve every interest we hold dear to an extent of which we have no idea at this moment. It is because we feel all this, and because it is our anxiety and our intention, in the face of Parliament and the country, not only to protect British interests, but to do our part in the European concert for the benefit of subject-nations, for the benefit of ruling nations, and for the benefit of mankind, that we ask you, in spite of all the attempts at delay, to give us this Vote.
§ MR. PEASE
said, he deeply regretted the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, which he believed would be read in the country with great uneasiness. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman had given them any reason whatever for this Vote. He told them most emphatically that it was for keeping the peace; but yet, the articles of peace having been signed, the armistice agreed upon, and the advance of the Russians having subsided, instead of this debate being adjourned, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had made a speech which must misrepresent to the country the real objects of Her Majesty's 982 Government. He believed the Vote was entirely contrary to the policy of peace which Her Majesty's Government had hitherto so successfully pursued. The view of the matter in his part of the country, and by himself, was that it was putting money into the hands of the Government in order to help Turkey to get better terms. He contended it was contrary to international policy that we should arm a Government to go into a Conference of peace. The same course might be adopted by other Governments. Therighthon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Assheton Cross) had spoken of there being a "lying spirit" abroad; but how had that "lying spirit" been produced? By the uncertainty of tone which every now and then cropped up in Ministerial journals and Ministerial speeches. Then, again, they had been told that there was a united Cabinet. So there might have been in a certain sense and up to a certain point; but when they came to the ultimate objects and ultimate aim of their policy on the Eastern Question they were not united, therefore it was not surprising that some doubt should exist in the minds of Liberals whether they ought to vote the money asked for. He thought that the moving of the Fleet up the Dardanelles was a great mistake. He believed hon. Gentlemen opposite had been educated by the Prime Minister, who was a man of steadfast purpose, and who seemed always determined to have his own way. He hoped that the House would watch the Government and see that they did not prevent the Christian subjects of Turkey obtaining their fair share of liberty. He maintained that the money was not necessary unless it was required for purely war purposes. He thought that the Vote of £2,000,000 during the Franco-German War was a great mistake, as it had led to a considerable addition to the Army, and an increase since that time of something like £12,000,000 to the expenses of the country. He contended that the asking for this Vote was a breach of the neutrality which the Government had hitherto pursued. He objected to the Vote because it must inevitably lead, as he had said, to the impression that its latent object was to obtain better terms for Turkey than she was likely to get if she were left to settle matters with Russia alone. The £6,000,000 that were asked for might 983 be spent in almost any manner, and it was unconstitutional for the House of Commons to vote money without having some control over its expenditure. Had Russia kept its pledges or had it not? It had kept every pledge that had been given by Prince Gortchakoff, through Count Schouvaloff, to Lord Derby, and in that fact we were much stronger and safer than with these £6,000,000, because the moment Russia broke one of the pledges, that moment the Government of St. Petersburg would have the public feeling of all England—aye, and of all Europe—against it. He was one of those who thought that money would be given ungrudgingly if the honour or the interest of the country were at stake; but it would be given very grudgingly now, because it was believed that neither the one nor the other was in question. There was hardly a man engaged in trade that he knew of that was not cutting down his expenditure, and the figures of whose balance-sheet were not less favourable than they were a year or two ago; there was widespread depression of trade, and surely this was a most unfit time for additional taxation. It was true that no new taxes were at present about to be laid on; but if not now, they would have to be paid at a future time. Not only so, but he ventured to say, notwithstanding what might be asserted at some public meetings to the contrary, that with the object for which this particular Vote was desired the people, as a whole, had no sympathy. Perhaps the most important question raised by the discussion was the position which Her Majesty's Government should occupy in the European Conference which would shortly assemble. Would the Government go into that Conference saying —"We have got a grant of £6,000,000, which was grudgingly given by Parliament, and which was not sympathized with by the country at large;" or would they enter the Conference able to declare—"We are the Constitutional Government of a great country, and we have a united and a free people at our back—a people who are not afraid of sacrifices, or of prompt action and strong action when necessary, a people who dislike paltry payments and paltry grants; but a people who are anxious, above all things, to secure to other nations the blessings of that liberty which they themselves enjoy?" 984 He trusted it would be in the latter spirit that Great Britain would take part in the Conference.
§ MR. FORSYTH
said, he would certainly vote for the Government proposal in case of a division being taken on it, but he would be glad if that course could be avoided. One reason why he should support the Vote of Credit was that the Government had told the House that they would not use it for warlike purposes nor for armed intervention; but merely desired that it should be carried, so that they might go into the Conference armed with the outward and visible sign of the confidence of the country. He (Mr. Porsyth) would suppport it as an outward and visible sign of his inward and spiritual faith that the Government would make use of it wisely and well. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had dwelt upon the necessity of our presenting a united front at the approaching Conference; but he doubted whether the result of a division would enable us to show such a front, because, although the Government proposal would undoubtedly be carried by a great majority, yet still there would be a large and a powerful minority opposed to it. He hoped that, in these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government would take into consideration the proposition of the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), even though not in the exact form or terms of that proposal. If the Vote were not withdrawn, it might be postponed, and the Amendment being withdrawn, a Vote of Confidence in Her Majesty's Government might be unanimously passed by both Houses. It was not necessary to ask hon. Members opposite to approve of the policy of Her Majesty's Government during the last three years; but it would be sufficient if they were to say that they trusted the honour and the interests of England to them in the approaching Conference, and would back them up with all England's strength in protecting them. Another reason why he should vote for the proposal was because he did not believe it would lay any burden upon the taxpayers, for he did not think that a single shilling of the money asked to be voted need be spent. There were only three of the terms of peace proposed by Russia to Turkey that would even indirectly affect the interests or the honour of this country, and they were 985 those which related to Constantinople, to the Straits, and to Bulgaria. The permanent occupation of Constantinople by-Russia was entirely out of the question. As regarded the Straits, Russia did not even intend to raise the question in the shape of asking for the right of navigation through them exclusively for her own ships of war. The question of the opening of the Dardanelles might be put out of consideration, for he firmly believed that Russia would prefer the Straits to remain closed rather than that the Fleets of England, France, Italy, Austria, and Germany should have access to the waters of the Black Sea. There remained certainly one question in which he did think the interests of England were largely concerned, and that was the question of providing for the freedom and good government of the Christian Provinces of the Porte, and upon this point he trusted England would stand firm. Lord Carnarvon had published his speech on his late resignation in the form of a pamphlet, and in the preface to it he said—I have thought it right to avoid any reference, however indirect, to that largest question of all—which it is my unceasing hope this war will solve—the fuller liberty and the better government of the Christian subjects of the Porte.He (Mr. Forsyth) fully agreed with Lord Carnarvon that this was the largest question, and he hoped the influence of England would be used in the Conference to rescue the Christian Provinces from the misrule of so many centuries, and place them upon a better basis. More glorious than a thousand victories would be a course of action which would bring about a result so glorious. His chief object, however, in rising was to express an earnest hope that by some means they might not have any division upon the Vote, and thus they might present a united front at the Conference. ME. MONK expressed his satisfaction at finding that the calm, temperate, and statesmanlike speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) had made at least one convert on the Ministerial side of the House. He believed the Government would have done wisely to accept his suggestion, as they might have done but for the pressure brought to bear upon them by their supporters in that House. He approached the consideration of the 986 Vote with misgiving and apprehension-The Government had never explained the Vote, while from their point of view on the Opposition side of the House it was inexplicable and uncalled for. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) had endeavoured unsuccessfully to justify the Vote on the ground that it was required to enable the Envoys to go to the coming Congress in Court dress, while the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) was rebuked for suggesting that the money would be spent in sending them with "shotted guns and revolvers." If it were not a war Vote, why was so large an Estimate for naval and military stores laid on the Table? It was idle to say that £6,000,000 were wanted in the interest of peace to enable England to present a brave and bold front at the Congress. Would that Congress meet before the middle of March? How, then, could the money be spent before the end of the financial year, when any surplus must be surrendered into the Treasury? Parliament was called together three weeks earlier than usual to be taken into the confidence of the Government; but up to the present time neither the House nor the country had any information as to what the policy of the Government was. Unless a real necessity for the Vote could be shown, the present time was ill-chosen for imposing fresh burdens upon the people, commercial distress being prevalent, and want and misery rife in the country. He hoped the Government would recall the Vote of £6,000,000 as they recalled the Fleet from the Dardanelles, and take up a position of observation, which would be intelligible to the House, and meet with the approval of the country. If it were the policy of the Government to aid Russia in effecting the complete liberation of the Christian populations in Turkey, he would give them his warmest support. But why, then, did the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer speak disparagingly of the reforms proposed by Russia for Bosnia, Herzegovina, and the Christian Provinces, and denounce them as "whether good or bad, being of a sweeping character?" Of course they were. If they were not so, they would not tend to a final settlement of the Eastern Question. If England went into the Congress determined to act with Russia, 987 those reforms would be carried out. If, however, the Party opposite continued to revile Russia and to carp at every act of her Government, they would make the name of England to be loathed by the Christian races in the East of Europe. He felt constrained to say that he distrusted the policy of the Government. It had broken down. They were disunited among themselves. They were discredited in the country. It had been urged by some of their supporters that something should be done for the honour of England, that England should go to war with Russia—why, he knew not— lest she should sink in the estimation of the world, and become a third or fourth-rate Power. ["No, no!"] He was glad to find that those sentiments did not meet with approval in the House. At the Conference held last year at Constantinople, England formulated certain moderate propositions; but though they were insisted on strongly by Lord Salisbury, our Ambassador (Mr. Layard) was informed from home that moral pressure only would be put upon Turkey to induce her to accept them. Did not that fact encourage resistance on the part of the Porte? Russia alone stood firm. Unfortunately Her Majesty's Government clung tenaciously to the vain hope of maintaining the independence and the integrity of the Ottoman Empire in preference to the policy of insisting upon the Porte recognizing the reasonable claims and the just rights of her subject-races. Too late they admitted that the independence and integrity of the falling Empire was a thing of the past. It had already become a dissolving view. Hon. Members disclaimed any wish to go to war. He gave them credit for sincerity in that wish, but by their acts and by their unreasoning jealousy of Russia they might easily drift into war. They professed to support the Vote with the view of protecting British interests. Did the House imagine that Members sitting on those —the Opposition—benches were not as watchful over British interests, and as jealous of British honour, as hon. Members opposite? Aye, even more so, for some of their British interests were purely imaginary—such, for instance, as those connected with the Euphrates Valley and the Persian Gulf. Much had been said as to the intentions of the Czar. For his part he respected the 988 solemn promises made by the Emperor, and regarded him as the champion 'of oppressed Christian races, and as the deliverer of long-suffering and downtrodden nationalities. Since Parliament had met there had been a series— he had almost said a comedy—of errors. Even Mr. Layard could not send home a message without a blunder, which cost the Cabinet one Colleague and almost lost them another. That was a message upon which hung the issues of peace or war. Then, too, the Prime Minister told the country that his Cabinet was a united one, while he had the resignations of two of his Colleagues in his pocket. In conclusion, he would ask whether Russia had broken any one of her promises to Lord Derby? Her present demands could not be called unreasonable. They were extremely moderate compared with those made by Germany upon France at the close of the Franco-Prussian War. The concessions demanded by Russia for the Christian races were no more than what every lover of freedom in the country and, he believed, a large majority in that House would desire to see granted. If he felt a regret, and he did feel such a regret, it was that Greece had by some occult influence, which time might explain, been kept in the background all last year, and consequently was now left out in the cold. He was convinced that the Eastern Question could never be finally settled until the extension of the limits of the Kingdom of Greece was taken into consideration. It was idle to think of ignoring Crete and the Islands of the Egean Sea. They had from time to time during the last 20 years implored England to assist them in their desire to be joined to Greece, and it could scarcely be disputed that they must ultimately form part of the Hellenic Kingdom. He regretted that Greece had so long delayed the movement she made a few days since, as owing to her inaction the fulfilment of her hopes would probably be postponed for a time; but he firmly believed that the day was not far distant when the Greek Empire would once more be re-established upon the shores of the Bosphorus.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
observed that the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment before the House had had uphill work in advancing reasons in support of it. He felt he 989 did not represent the policy of a united Party, and did not go heart and soul with the Amendment himself. The right hon. Gentleman knew it was brought forward to redeem a pledge or menace made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and which was contained in a letter written last year to the Baptist ministers of Worcestershire, and repeated this year in a letter to the electors of Greenwich, addressed to E. Davis, Esq. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) seemed in their speeches to carry out the dictum of an hon. Gentleman who was known in that House as Single-speech Hamilton, and who said—"First ascertain your object, and then find out principles to support it." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had gone on a fishing expedition in order to support his Amendment, and he could conceive the other right hon. Gentleman poring over these Papers as they came out piecemeal to find arguments based on something which had been omitted to be done, and might have been done. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich had told them there was no analogy between the present Vote and that taken in reference to the Belgian Treaty; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London said the difference in the two Votes was this—that, whereas the present Government said they would not spend the money, the late Government spent the money at once. As far as there could be analogy between the French and German War and the war now ended there was an analogy between the two Votes. At that time Belgium was under the united guarantee of Europe. So was Luxemburg; but the Government of England separated itself from the European concert, and made a Treaty with France and Germany to secure Belgium, and leaving Luxemburg out in the cold. Both the Treaty of 1870 and the despatch of Lord Derby in 1876 actually defined what were British interests, and the two were, mutatis mutandis, the same. Why was the Belgium Treaty of 1870 concluded? It was justified by the revelation of the Benedetti Treaty. Would the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ox- 990 ford (Sir William Harcourt) say that if the Benedetti Treaty had been in existence, but not published, it would not have equally justified this demand of the late Government? The hon. and learned Member said there was a good deal of ambiguousness and reticence on the part of the Government; but in these eases he ought to know that ambiguousness was a virtue and silence a necessity. Indeed, there might be grave reasons justifying this Vote which the Government could not divulge, and patriotic reasons why the House should not demand further explanations. They all knew the tension of the diplomatic relations of Germany and France; they knew that Austria and Italy had both of them great interests involved, and it might well be that there was another Benedetti Treaty, involving the existence of both Holland and Belgium. Hon. Members opposite ought, if they objected to the Vote, to openly say they refused to accede to it, and not to find fault upon small, niggling issues, such as comparisons of dates and sham proposals, intended only to embarrass the Government at this critical moment of our national history. They were bound to take steps owing to the mysterious conduct of Russia. ["No!"] Was there no mystery in the conduct of Russia? Was there no mystery about the signing of the terms of peace? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had said that going into the Conference armed was a threat which should not be made use of. Might he ask, then, why, when Russia entered the last Conference with her Army mobilized, the right hon. Gentleman went to the meeting at St. James's Hall and advocated the cause of Russia and the policy of Mr. Canning— a policy which ended in the destruction of the Turkish Fleet and the opening of the Black Sea to Russia? If they were to go to war—and they would not go to war unless they were urged to it by the war Party below the Gangway opposite —they did not mean to go into it unprepared. What they wanted was means, not of going to war, but of being certain that, if war should be necessary, they should be able to lay their hands on sufficient funds without coming down again to that House to find their efforts fettered by the unpatriotic manoeuvres of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. The hon. Member for 991 the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) asked if the veracity of the Emperor of Russia were doubted? He would express no doubt of the veracity of any honest man, whether Emperor or gentleman; but, although the Emperor might not be deficient in veracity, the circumstances might be too strong for his pledges to be carried out. Lord Aberdeen, a statesman remarkable for the moderation of his language, in a despatch to Lord Heytesbury, written immediately after the Peace of Adrianople, said that, although the Czar had declared that, so far from desiring the overthrow of the Turkish Empire, he was anxious for its maintenance, the Treaty of Adrianople did not place the Porte in the position which might have been expected from those declarations. And it might be that the Czar now would not be able to restrain his generals and statesmen in their hour of exultation, and conditions might be exacted far beyond the moderation of previous declarations. In referring to the terms of peace he would refer only to those mentioned by the right hon. Member for Greenwich. The first was—Bulgaria, within the limits of the Bulgarian nationality not less than the limits of the Congress, to be an autonomous Tributary Principality, with a national Christian Government," &c.That seemed very simple at first sight, but what was a "national Christian Government?" Did it mean that it was to belong to the Orthodox Greek Church or the United Greek Church? He had had personal experience of both, and he knew that they hated each other with a holy hatred which far exceeded the love of woman. Then Roumania was to have her independence; but before the war Roumania had everything she could desire. She had her own Parliament, her own Prince, armies of her own, her agents at foreign Courts, and two or three years ago Her Majesty's Ministers asserted her right to make commercial treaties on her own behalf and independently of her Suzerain. He admitted the gallantry of the Roumanians; but they certainly had no inducement to go into the war beyond a sporting desire to get something out of it. With regard to the independence of Servia, although some hon. Members opposite might think she had behaved in a very gallant way, he considered her 992 conduct had been utterly loathsome. Then there was the provision that there should be an ulterior understanding between Russia and the Porte as to the Straits. Everybody would admit that the geography of the Straits required that some restriction should be put upon their use, and even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) had laid down some rules for the navigation of the Straits. He would not go into that question further than to say that it was one for the European Powers to settle. He observed that, in the telegrams sent to the newspapers as to the terms of peace, the words with reference to the ulterior understanding being between Russia and the Porte remained the same as they were in the first instance, though the Russian Government had undertaken to alter the terms, and it appeared to him that the questions involved required a good deal of elucidation. The noble Lord at the head of the Opposition told them on the first night of the Session that the policy of the Government had been misunderstood and misinterpreted. He did not dispute that fact, but would ask by whom? It had been represented that the Government had encouraged Turkey. But when had they done so? The Government had held out no hope to Turkey, and the only hope held out to her was from the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, who had said that there was a war Party in the Cabinet. Though the Government had not encouraged Turkey, who had encouraged Russia? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich in 1876 never breathed a word in that House about the Bulgarian atrocities. There were debates in that House on the subject, but the right hon. Gentleman was not in his place. During those debates the House was informed that Mr. Baring had been sent to make special inquiries about the facts, and the right hon. Member for Bradford had approved the language held by Lord Derby, but the right hon. Gentleman was not in his place; nor did he begin the part of agitator until there was a vacancy in the representation of Buckinghamshire. That, however, was not the first time the right hon. Gentleman had acted, perhaps not intentionally, but practically, as the advocate of Russia against 993 British interests. He did so as soon as he had retired from the Cabinet at the time of the Crimean War. On the 25th of May, 1855, after Lord Russell's return from the Conference at Vienna, the right hon. Gentleman urged us to make peace with Russia on her own terms, and not to insist on limiting her power in the Black Sea or on the taking of Sebastopol. The name of Palmer-ston had been recently desecrated at an orgie at Oxford. The right hon. Gentleman should remember the rebuke he received in 1855 from that statesman—Sir,—I heard the speech of my right hon. Friend who spoke last night (Mr. Gladstone) with admiration, no doubt, but also with considerable pain; because it appeared to mo, taking the whole of his speech, especially the concluding part, that his opinions were adverse to the war, were adverse to the expedition to the Crimea, were adverse to the terms of peace on which we proposed to conclude the war; and yet my right hon. Friend was a party to all those courses; and I regret that any circumstances should have occurred since he quitted the Government to have so entirely altered his opinion."—[3 Hansard, cxxxviii. 1271.]The right hon. Gentleman even panegyrized in that House the Russian soldiery. He told the House how 40,000 men voluntarily overtaxed themselves in a forced march, which cost them one fourth of their numbers, and he asked what must be the spirit of soldiers whose zeal and devotion to the Emperor so far outran the orders of their commanders? But this panegyric was passed while we were at war with Russia, whose soldiers had been charged with bayoneting our own on the battle-field. This was on the 3rd of August, 1855, when Mr. Layard made the following remarks, which probably contributed to the strong affection existing between the two:—But if there was any one thing which would make the prospect of peace more remote than ever, it was the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford. Such a speech as the House had just hoard from him was calculated to destroy almost every hope of peace. Although he (Mr. Gladstone) complained that he was unable to find various documents of the Russian Chancery in the English Press, he might find them printed in a paper which the right hon. Gentleman no doubt took in, Le Nord, published at Brussels, the Russian organ in Europe. If he and the other right hon. Gentleman near him read that paper, they might see there what was the effect of their speeches—that they were looked upon as the advocates of Russia in England. He did not wish to impute to them that they wished to play 994 into the hand of the enemy, or that they were traitors to their own country, but that such was the effect of their speeches could not be doubtful. Now, could any speech have been made more calculated to damage our cause, to render peace more difficult, and encourage Russia to persevere and to reject every reasonable proposition, than the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this evening? He (Mr. Layard) believed that no Russian could have made a speech more thoroughly calculated to have that effect, and nothing could raise the spirits of the Russian soldiers more than the eloquent, if not exaggerated, picture drawn by the right hon. Gentleman of their courage, endurance, and patriotism."—[3 Hansard, exxxix. 1832.]The right hon. Gentleman was not content with doing all that, for in 1870 when Russia knew that she had a friend at Court, and repudiated the Black Sea Treaty, the right hon. Gentleman, before the Conference took place, came down and told the House-—inaccurately as he afterwards acknowledged—that the British Government had never laid much stress upon the Russian power in the Black Sea even before Lord Granville took his place in the Conference, and before the Representative of our Ally— France—was able to join the Conference. At the St. James's Hall Conference, when Lord Salisbury had scoured Europe in the cause of peace, and when the Russian Government had striven to render peace impossible by the mobilization of her Army both on the European and Asiatic frontiers of Turkey, the right hon. Gentleman had advocated a return to the policy of Canning, which ended in the destruction of the Turkish Fleet, the opening of the Black Sea to Russia, and conquests in Armenia. Nor could we forget the pain and humiliation with which, last year, the right hon. Gentleman had referred to his favourite topic, the Bulgarian atrocities. Then he had practically said—"Though I may harrow the House and excite the country by my recital of these acts, yet if you on that side venture to contrast the atrocities of irregular soldiers and undisciplined levies with the disciplined, systematic, Governmental cruelties practised by the Russians on the Poles, then I will rake up every isolated act of severity practised by a small band of civilians and soldiers in India when aghast and indignant at the massacre of their fellow-countrymen. Nay more, I will ransack the grave of Sir James Brooke, and in honour of holy Russia cast dirt on 995 the grave of that heroic Englishman." Hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House were charged with being anxious for British interests only; if for "British" was read "Russian," that would represent the loadstone of the policy of the right hon. Member for Greenwich. For that he had been consistent through inconsistencies; for that he, the late and would-be Leader—Maire du Palais —of the Liberal Party, maintained the sternest and now the only despotism in Europe; for that he, a free trader, maintained the strictest system of protection; for that he, the dis-establisher of Churches, maintained an ecclesiastical system, where Dissenters, male and female, were flogged by Cossack whips, and driven through half frozen rivers into the genial pale of an Eastern orthodoxy. But they on that side had a right to speak. They also were Representatives of the people, and they would inform those whom it might concern, that neither by audacity of statement, nor violence of language, nor by any other form of vehement articulation, would they be cowed, coerced, intimidated, or dragooned into a servile acquiescence or traitorous collusion with the dangerous ambitions of Russia. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, in one of the picnic orations, in which, during the Recess, he at a critical moment thought fit to add to the difficulties of the Government, dwelt with pleasure on the supposed divergences in the Government. He did not for a moment wish to intrude into the secrets of the Cabinet, but he thought he might say on behalf of hon. Gentlemen around him, that if there were divergences in the Government, there were no divergences in the Conservative Party; and if he might venture a word of advice to the Government, he would say—"Trust and believe in your majority, not on account of its numbers and discipline, for that would be an unworthy vaunt; but because it represents as clearly, as accurately, and as sharply as in 1874." If any demurred at this appreciation, he was willing to leave it to the verdict of time, and to that ordeal which on that side they did not fear. But he believed the great majority of the people and of the House were determined in one thing—that, notwithstanding the outcry of discontented and do- 996 spairing factions, notwithstanding the Radicalism of the future, notwithstanding even the exertions of that Birmingham 600, who last year organized in honour of the Member for Greenwich so gigantic a failure, they would not allow the credit and fortunes of the country to be staked on reckless Party manoeuvres, or sacrificed to the sleepless egotism of discharged and shipwrecked politicians.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, that the invective of the hon. Member for Christ-church (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) appeared a little artificial and exaggerated. He thought the hon. Member would have done much better if he had endeavoured to answer the statements and arguments, imitating the judicial calmness, gravity, and impartiality of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and avoiding imputations of motives on a statesman whose reputation would always be identified with English statesmanship. He had come down to the House in the belief that the inexorable logic of facts had brought both sides nearer to an agreement than was possible some days or weeks ago. It appeared, however, from the reception given to the pacific offers of the right hon. Gentleman, that they were no nearer to a formal agreement than they were when this debate began. The Secretary for War did not seem to desire the union of the House so much as a great majority. He confessed he did not altogether regret the spirit in which the offer of the right hon. Member for Greenwich had been received; for he should have felt very considerable difficulty in according a Vote of Confidence to a Government for which he had expressed in the country a feeling of entire disapproval. Some misapprehensions had been removed by this debate as to the existence of a war Party in the House, and even, perhaps, in the Cabinet. He rejoiced to receive the assurance of everyone on the other side that they were still in favour of the strictest neutrality and absolutely opposed to war; but when he found the Home Secretary stigmatizing their misapprehensions in strong language he could not help thinking some injustice was done, and that those misapprehensions were more reasonable and natural than he seemed to suppose. The Secretary for War had in strong language reprobated the right 997 hon. Member for Greenwich because he had told the country the proceedings of the Government tended to war; but if there were misapprehensions abroad, they appeared to have been shared by Members of the Government itself, for Lord Carnarvon had distinctly stated with reference to a certain proceeding taken by the Cabinet that it seemed to be a step in the direction of war. The Home Secretary said these misapprehensions were due to a "lying spirit" in the country—surely a very uncharitable expression—but did the existence of such a spirit account for the existence of these misapprehensions in his own Cabinet, over whose deliberations, they knew, the spirit of truth always pre-sided? The Government still pressed for this Vote. It appeared now less probable than ever that it would be spent. He quite understood that it was not what was called a general Vote of Confidence—he supposed it was only a Vote of conditional confidence in return for conditional neutrality. But he contended even if limited in that way, it could not be claimed from them as an act of patriotism if they had reason to disapprove the policy the Government were likely to pursue. Now that there had come a collapse of Ottoman Power, the Government had to substitute for their past policy as to Turkey another policy—namely, that of obtaining for Turkey the most favourable conditions of peace, and that policy was just as unpalatable to the Liberals as the previous policy of the Government. He did not believe it possible to obtain terms favourable to Turkey which would not be unfavourable to the Christian population. A peace which would still leave portions of the Christian population of Turkey subject to Turkish misrule, would be only a hollow truce, to be followed in time by another insurrection, which would be followed by intervention by a great Power with all its consequent risk and danger. He did not suppose Her Majesty's Government had been blind to these facts, but it appeared they had been unable to reconcile their desire to ameliorate the condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte with their deep-seated distrust of Russia. This country was entitled to be watchful of her interests, but he did not think she was entitled to put the worst possible interpre- 998 tation on the acts of Russia, of which she had not received a full explanation. That course did not tend to a peaceful solution of the question. Throughout the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary, and other Members of the Government, there ran one continual innuendo against the good faith of Russia. If they wanted to make a man a thief, the best way was to be continually suspecting his honesty. He thought there was great force in the inquiry the other night of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) when he asked—"Why did you ask for these assurances from Russia if you were absolutely determined not to believe any assurance she made?" There was absolute danger in that course. The Government had put on the conduct of the Russian Government and on the words of her diplomatists and the action of her Emperor the most offensive possible construction, and the result was great indignation on the part of the Russian people against this country. Could they be surprised that such conduct was resented by a people who, whatever might be thought of their rulers, had all the pride, as well as the tenacity and courage of a great Northern race? He had some letters from Moscow, in which it was said the very name of "Englishman" was loathed. Surely, hon. Gentlemen did not think that was desirable? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary stated that the Emperor of Russia had said he would not occupy Constantinople except for strategic reasons; but, having looked through the Blue Books, he had been unable to find that the Emperor had used the words attributed to him. The Russians had stated from the first that a permanent occupation of Constantinople was outside their views, but the question of a temporary occupation was reserved. Our Government understood that position of Russia from the commencement, and allowed seven months to pass without objecting. Subsequently when the Russian Government stated that they would not proceed towards Gallipoli unless the Turkish troops concentrated there, Lord Derby wrote to the effect that he was glad to receive that assurance. If, therefore, there had been any want of frankness, it had not been on the part of the Russian Government. He was not 999 ashamed to admit that in his opinion British interests in the East of Europe included not merely the good government and the welfare of the Christian inhabitants of Turkey, but included the idea of more cordial and friendly relations between the two great countries of Russia and England. If this Eastern Question were once satisfactorily settled, he did not see any reason why England and Russia should be alienated from one another. So far as our interests in the Indian Empire were concerned, the responsibility we had in reference to India might be glorious, but it could not be profitable. It was not a responsibility that any other nation need covet. We might yet, he thought, look for cooperation from Russia instead of jealousy in carrying on a work which was the most onerous and responsible any nation ever undertook. The true interest of this country was to see that the States which took the place of the Turkish Empire should be as strong and independent as possible. The Duke of Wellington, writing in October, 1829, said—There is no doubt it would have been more fortunate and better for the world, if the Treaty of Peace had not been signed, and if the Turkish Empire had been dissolved. The natural course would have been for the Great Powers of Europe, in discussing the disposition to be made of the wreck of the Turkish Monarchy, to have included those important parts of it that the Emperor of Russia has taken to himself. It is difficult now to have such a discussion.He held there could now be nothing unpatriotic in holding the views held by the Duke of Wellington in 1829. He hoped that in the Conference which was shortly to take place the interests of Greece would be considered. On this point he went further than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich; for he was anxious that the interests of the Kingdom of Greece should be considered, as well as the interests of the Grecian Provinces. He believed that the extension of the Grecian Empire would lead to the establishment of an independent State, or, at any rate, to a nucleus of resistance against Russia or any Power bent upon a policy of aggression and oppression. He wished he could have seen some chance of the Motion being withdrawn; for then they might have proceeded, with some hope of general agreement, to an entirely 1000 new chapter of the question, but that was now past. The House was asked to vote money which was to be borrowed but not spent, in order to defend interests which were not to be attacked. Such a Vote could do no good; it might possibly do a deal of harm.
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Chamberlain) had spoken of the temporary occupation of Constantinople as if it were not objectionable, and had quoted an opinion of the late Duke of Wellington bearing on that subject. Now, if it were not presumptuous in him (Mr. Chaplin) to differ from so great an authority, he would say it was his firm conviction that the occupation of Constantinople by Russia, even if it were limited to a short time, would be not only a daring infringement of the conditions of our neutrality, but a menace and a blow to this country; and nowhere would it be more fatal to our interests and to our moral influence, than when the story was told in every town and every village, every mosque and every bazaar, throughout our vast dominions in India. Turning to the Vote before the House, he would take them back for a moment to the last Session. On the last occasion when he addressed them on that question last Session, the policy of England in relation to the present war had been fully stated by a Member of the Government sitting in that House. That policy, they were told, was a policy of conditional neutrality, and the conditions on which their neutrality would be observed, they were informed, had been declared by Her Majesty's Government, without losing a moment, on the outbreak of the war. Well, in common with the majority of that House, and also, as he believed, with the majority of the people of England, he was able heartily to endorse the policy then announced, because the duty of this country in that crisis seemed to him to be perfectly clear. That duty he held then, and held still, was that they should maintain a strict and even a severe neutrality between the two belligerents as long as the rights and the interests of this country would permit it; but if ever those rights and interests should be menaced or assailed, with all our force we should uphold them, and that Russia must not be allowed to set foot in Con- 1001 stantinople and to become mistress in that part of the world as long as England had the means of preventing it. He had at the same time expressed his earnest hope that they would shortly receive the assurance of Her Majesty's Government that while the attitude of this country would be one of strict neutrality, our position would also be one of armed and complete preparation for any eventualities which might arise. Last Session reached its close, and, as far as they were aware, no further action was taken by the Government, and from that time to this a vast number of people throughout the country, of whom he was one, had been watching the conduct of the Government on that point with the utmost anxiety. He could state that it had been with no small sense of relief that they had heard that the Government had at last resolved on taking those measures of precaution which, so far from being unnecessary and uncalled for, as hon. Members opposite seemed to think, had, in the opinion of those on his side of the House, if anything, rather been delayed too long. They had learnt that day that an armistice had at length been concluded, and, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) had very properly stated, that a great change had occurred in the situation since the Amendment had been moved. He (Mr. Chaplin) would admit that there might be a change under some circumstances; but he was not prepared to admit that that change necessarily followed from anything they knew at present. They did not yet know what the terms of the armistice were. They had a right, therefore, to conclude that one of two things had happened—namely, that those terms either respected or infringed the conditions of our neutrality. If they respected those conditions, it was all very well and good, so far as those conditions alone were concerned; yet he could not admit even then that the immediate necessity for this Vote had passed away. Supposing that among the terms of the armistice there had been an entry or occupation of Constantinople by the armies of Russia, he asked what the position of this country would then have to be? In those circumstances were we to abandon or to maintain our conditions? The Government had over 1002 and over again stated to the House— and they repeated it only last Thursday —that they were determined to adhere strictly to those conditions. What would hon. Gentlemen opposite say if the terms of the armistice in any degree infringed those conditions? He was surprised that the right hon. Member for Bradford—who spoke before the armistice had been concluded—had said so little on that point, on which he was bound to have expressed his opinion fully and frankly. The conditions which the Government had laid down for our neutrality wore either right or wrong from the beginning. If he had thought they were wrong, the noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) would doubtless have opposed them. But nothing of the kind occurred; and the first objection he had heard taken to them came that night from the right hon. Member for Greenwich, who had objected to conditions ensuring the perfect safety of Egypt and the Suez Canal. Would that right hon. Gentleman, therefore, have taken no steps, had he been Prime Minister, to secure our highway to India by the Suez Canal? The right hon. Gentleman was bound to give to the House a full explanation on the subject. He had stated that he thought Russia ought not to have been tied down to exclude Egypt from the scene of war, and, of course, the Suez Canal. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I never said a word about the Suez Canal.] Perhaps not; but he (Mr. Chaplin) had understood the right hon. Gentleman to have mentioned Egypt, of which the Suez Canal was a part. If it was not, why, then, he did not know where it was. Now he wanted the House really to consider the position. That cruel and aggressive war, which had produced in its results so much misery and destruction, not only to the combatants themselves, but to thousands upon thousands of poor, helpless, suffering creatures, who had been driven from their homes and deprived of the means of supporting themselves, and who were dying by hundreds daily, if they were to believe the news from Constantinople—and, as a member of the committee which had been endeavouring to relieve that mass of want and wretchedness, he could state that the accounts which daily reached them were too harrowing to relate—that cruel 1003 and aggressive war, he said, had progressed with varying fortune, until now, when Russia was absolute mistress of the situation. There had been nothing for some time past to prevent her from obtaining, either by the dictation of her own terms of peace, or by some secret arrangement with Turkey, which was entirely played out, any position whatever, either in a military or political point of view, which might appear to be most desirable for herself, and which might give her the command of the Turkish capital and the control of the Straits of the Dardanelles. He did not suppose there were many persons in this country who held the opinion that the possession of Constantinople by Russia would not be a grave menace to England. The hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House spoke of the miserable jealousy of Russia which existed in this country. He (Mr. Chaplin) did not wish to say anything to encourage, nor need, he believed, do so, any feeling of that kind. The hon. Gentleman, however, in speaking as he did, seemed altogether to ignore one view of the case. He did not positively charge Russia with having now any de-sign upon Constantinople or the Straits; but then there were possible and very probable contingencies indeed which in the existing state of affairs ought not to be left out of sight. The present Vote had been defended, and could easily be defended, on the ground of the confidence which its passing would show was felt in the Government by the country; and there was, he contended, some reason why the Government should desire to have some "outward and visible sign" of that confidence, notwithstanding the amusing comments which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) on the use of those words by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The House must not lose sight of the proceedings which had occurred throughout the country during the last six months. In referring to them, he (Mr. Chaplin) desired to guard himself against saying anything unduly offensive to any hon.Member of the House, but he could not altogether refrain from making some personal references. One man—and that a man who by his past career had justly earned a great position 1004 in this country—one who had himself filled the highest offices in the State, and who had commanded the following of a large and powerful Party—a man who was at one time, he believed, adored by many and feared by some, but respected and esteemed by all—had, without a word of warning, cast all past traditions of statesmanship, as hitherto received in England, to the winds. Once a great and influential statesman, he was now a restless wanderer. ["Oh, oh!"] He did not wish to speak with disrespect; but that statesman had spent his time for the last 18 months in traversing the country, as he had stated at Oxford a few days ago, for the purpose of keeping up a public agitation with respect to the Eastern Question which he hoped would override the opinions of the British House of Commons. Dealing with the warm and impulsive nature of the English people, shocked as they had been by stories of atrocities—too horrible, he (Mr. Chaplin) admitted, in any case, but in this case generally onesided—the right hon. Gentleman did succeed in creating a sensation, which was felt, he believed, more on the Continent than at any time in England; for no man could doubt that the European nations were at one period entirely misled as to the state of feeling in this country upon the question. It could not be otherwise, for, however much they might laugh at "those funny English," as they called them, no foreign statesman of distinction could have believed it possible that the right hon. Gentleman could have pursued the course he followed unless he had the overwhelming feeling of the country to support him. Well, he did not wonder, so far as the right hon. Gentleman was concerned, that he objected to the Vote; for it would not be regarded out of England so much as a Vote of Confidence in the Government as a direct Vote of Want of Confidence in the right hon. Gentleman himself. The country would decide that evening, or, perhaps, to-morrow, by the voice of the Imperial Parliament, between the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister; and when that decision was taken, the right hon. Gentleman would, he thought, at last be convinced that the real feeling of the country was not on his side. He was curious, indeed, to know whether the right hon.
1005 Gentleman ever could have believed he had the country at his back, and wondered whether he had any qualms of conscience on the point. A year ago he gave it as the excuse for his extraordinary proceedings, and in his speech that night he had again raised the question. Speaking at St. James's Hall, the right hon. Gentleman said—Unless we have a great justification for this meeting we all, in our several capacities, deserve to be censured, and no censure can be too severe for me.And he went on then to give his justification, and said—We think the power and reputation of England with respect to this enormous question have been employed for a purpose and to an effect directly at variance with the convictions of the country.It might be perfectly possible that the right hon. Gentleman was entirely right, and that all those hon. Members who sat on the Ministerial side of the House were entirely wrong; but, if so, what was to be said of those great spontaneous outbursts of feeling in all parts of the country—at Manchester, Sheffield, and in the City of London, presided over by the Lord Mayor—in support of the policy of the Prime Minister and the Government? For himself, he did not like to look at it; but if hon. Members looked for a moment at the reverse side of the picture, and if to be burnt in effigy at Manchester—the likeness being said to be extraordinary—and to have bills with regard to one posted all over the City at almost every turn was not to be taken as a sign of feeling on the part of the people, why, he had nothing more to say on the subject. He must leave the right hon. Gentleman to enjoy whatever consolation he was able to derive from the kind of support he had lately been receiving, and it was with no sense of triumph, but with genuine sorrow and regret, he found himself obliged to say that out of his own month the right hon. Gentleman stood convicted, and that upon his own showing no censure could be too severe for him. There was yet another ground, he thought, on which the Vote could be defended, though it might be considered ridiculous by some hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. They laughed when 1006 it was stated that the Vote was demanded in order to strengthen the hands of the Government when they went into the Conference. But he should ask them to consider for a moment what sort of position England would occupy when she went into the Conference if, unlike Prussia, Austria, France, and all the rest of the Powers, who were armed to the teeth, she chose to enter into the Conference weak and unarmed? We had not more than 120,000 men, while Russia had 1,000,000, and would be mistress of the situation at Constantinople and that part of the world. Now, he would ask in all seriousness—and he could assure the House that he was giving expression to his deep and sincere convictions— were we to sit with our arms folded when that was the probable state of things which would confront us at the Conference? Was that the policy which hon. Gentlemen opposite recommended to the country? If so, the sooner their opinions went forth to the country the better. Then it might be said, as had been again stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich that evening, that so late as the 21st of December Turkey was seriously under the impression that England would at length come to her aid. Now, all he could say was, that if all the speeches which had been made, and all the despatches which had been written, were not sufficient to tell Turkey that the Government never intended to go to war, and were not sufficient to undeceive her, nothing that we could do would have that effect. And now, what was the most prominent fact in the situation? Why, that Turkey was destroyed—that she had ceased to exist, and that it was no longer a question between Russia and Turkey, but between Russia and Europe, and, foremost among the nations of Europe, between Russia and England. The position of things at the present moment was not unlike what it was before the Crimean War. Writing on the 6th of May, 1856, one of the men still living who were responsible for that war pointed out the future danger of an "encroachment upon and absorption of Turkey by Russia," adding that "such a danger to the peace, liberty, and privileges of all Europe we were bound to resist by every means in our power." Now, if that danger was great in May, 1007 1856, he asked the House if it was less in February, 1878? The question they were considering, in fact, was whether the liberties and independence of Europe were to be placed at the mercy of one great, cruel, and despotic Power, which was to bestride the Continent of Europe from the Egean Sea to the Baltic? There were some people who could not be convinced; there were others who would not be convinced; and there were others, again, who could not afford to be convinced, because if they were, it would amount to their own complete self-condemnation; and in this last category, he feared, he must include the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. At Oxford the right hon. Gentleman, he observed, had made a speech containing a most vehement attack upon Lord Beaconsfield and the Tory Government. He could not compliment the right hon. Gentleman upon that part of his speech which referred to Lord Beaconsfield. It was certainly a very safe, but not, he thought, a very chivalrous proceeding; and he could not believe it would have been so readily undertaken if Lord Beaconsfield had still been Mr. Disraeli. At the same time, he doubted very much whether even Lord Beaconsfield himself could have administered a severer castigation than had been heard from his right hon. Friend (Mr. Hardy) that afternoon. He could sympathize entirely with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich in the unbounded astonishment which he expressed at Oxford at the discipline of the Tory Party and the want of discipline among his own Friends; but the reason of the difference was not far to seek. The Tory Party were united because they had had for many years, and still had, the great good fortune to have for their Leader one upon whose sagacity and judgment, upon whose genius and resources, upon whose knowledge of his countrymen, and upon whose courage and determination, an experience of 40 years taught them they could implicitly rely. They know that he was not dismayed by a factious and unscrupulous Opposition in a moment which might be fraught with great national danger; they knew that he was not misled by a false and artificial agitation—how false and artificial was proved every day by the outburst of spontaneous feeling which occurred in every part of 1008 England. They knew he was not misled by any agitation, even though it was headed by his bitterest foe. Lord Bea-consfield's Party recognized the difficulty with which he was surrounded now. He had their perfect sympathy in the responsibility which rested upon him—a responsibility which, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich himself would perhaps admit, was sufficiently grave at any time; but which had been aggravated a thousand-fold by the conduct, not of all, not even of many, but of some of his opponents. That conduct on the part of their opponents only added to the determination of Lord Beaconsfield's Followers to support and rally round their Chief upon the Eastern Question. ["Oh, oh!"] He quite understood that on the opposite side those feelings were not very well understood, and he could assure them that it was in this community of feeling and reciprocating sympathy that the secret which the right hon. Gentleman had never yet been able to discover was really to be found—namely, the true power of a Leader and the constant devotion and fidelity of a Party. The Liberals were said to be weak, disorganized, and disunited at the present moment, He thought he could tell them why. It was because within the last 12 or 15 years they had followed one who, with a powerful majority at his back, had twice succeeded in destroying and scattering the Party to the winds. Even now, when the right hon. Gentleman had very properly withdrawn from the position in which he was—well, a little less successful than Lord Beaconsfield— anything like a real organization was rendered impossible, because the Liberal Party were liable at any moment to the spasmodic assistance of the right hon. Gentleman, which upset all calculations, and would be intolerable to anyone less long-suffering than the noble Lord who had succeeded him. This was a perfectly fair and simple explanation of the fact which at Oxford so much perplexed the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. There was, however, something much more serious to consider to-night than the mere disagreement of Parties. What was the duty of England at the present moment? was the question which hon. Members must answer to themselves and to the country. They had been told that 1009 a Conference must shortly be assembled to settle various European questions which had arisen out of the present war, and among them there were two of vital importance to this country—namely, those relating to the future of Constantinople and the Dardanelles. He sincerely trusted that the conditions of our neutrality would be strictly adhered to and respected by Russia; but if, unhappily, Russia, in the exultation of her victories, should treat them with disdain, or by any means before the assembling of the Conference should endeavour to become mistress of the situation in that part of the world, the duty of this country would be to show that she was willing, as undoubtedly she was able, with Allies, if possible, but without them if might be, to keep those questions open for decision by that European Conference, and when once that Conference had decided, to accept, within certain conditions, and to abide by that decision. As to what those limits were or ought to be, he would not venture to express an opinion, because they could only be settled by the most experienced statesmen of England and Europe. If, however, he was asked what he believed to be the duty of the House of Commons at this moment, he would state his opinion. He believed it might yet be the proud destiny of England to restore the blessings of lasting peace to an outraged and horror-stricken world, to enforce, it might be, moderation on the victor; to give consolation to the nation which in grief and sorrow was now overcome; and to remove at once and for ever the yoke of suffering from those who for centuries had undoubtedly been most cruelly oppressed. All this, and more than this, might yet be the destiny of England, if England were united and strong, and spoke with the strength of a united people. But, if we were divided in our councils, if, by disunion, we showed that we were weak, he dreaded that that might happen which happened once before, when England was divided. Into war we might be driven now by Russia, precisely as we drifted then. It was, therefore, the duty of the House of Commons to be united in their vote upon this question, and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Forster) to re-consider his decision. He believed that all hon. Members cherished a most 1010 fervent hope that peace would be permanently restored; and, when the object of all was the same, surely the minority might bow to the majority, as to how that common object could most successfully be accomplished. He besought hon. Members opposite not to be led to a decision which he believed they would before long repent, and which might do much to hinder and defeat the ultimate object they desired to attain. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, in the most solemn manner of which he was capable, not to press his Motion to a division. If this appeal were responded to, the fear he (Mr. Chaplin) had at present would leave him, and, in its place, would come a high and ardent hope that the Government—not the Whig Government, not the Tory Government, but the Government of England and the Queen would be able so manfully to grapple with their task that the good work would prosper in their hands, because they would be striving, in the highest and holiest cause, which must ever be the cause of England—namely, the attainment of a peace which should secure the liberties of nations, the independence of Europe, and the happiness of millions upon millions of mankind.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I must decline to follow the last speaker (Mr. Chaplin), either in vituperation of my opponents or in eulogy of my Leader. That part of the hon. Gentleman's speech was of a kind of which we have had some specimens before, and of which I think we have now had enough. But I must express my surprise that after the former wrestle between the hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich, and after the severe throw which the hon. Gentleman then got, he should have ventured, even after my right hon. Friend's speech, to renew the attack this evening. I was also surprised at the two Secretaries of State indulging in personalities towards my right hon. Friend. There is an old saying that if you have a bad defence, the best way is to abuse plaintiff's attorney. The Parliamentary version appears to be that if you cannot meet an opponent's arguments here, your best plan is to attack what he says elsewhere; and so the speech at Oxford and my right hon. Friend's magazine articles 1011 formed the staple of these two speeches. But the Home Secretary went still further. What were his words the other night?He further said that we have spoken with two voices, and that we poured forth from the same fountain sweet waters and bitter waters. I grant at once that in our despatches there is bitter enough water for the Turkish Government. But I defy you to find one drop of sweet. Well, then, to proceed further, I ask, have we ever on the other hand deceived Russia? …I ask, also, whether we ever deceived the country? We told the country in the Queen's Most Gracious Speech that so long as the conditions of our neutrality were not violated, so long would that neutrality be adhered to. But, on the other hand, I say in the speeches which have been made throughout the country there has been a 'lying spirit' abroad, and in the Resolution before the House there is an evil spirit lurking, although at first sight somewhat difficult to discover.Who can doubt that the right hon. Gentleman in that language referred to my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich? A "lying spirit," indeed! Such incautious language as this ought not to have come from a Colleague of those Ministers who, before Lord Carnarvon told the whole story in "another place," denied that there were any dissensions in the Cabinet. I pass on to the Secretary of State for War. The right hon. Gentleman made a charge against my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich, that he had been for half his life a Member of the Tory Party and of the Carlton Club. I have always understood that what takes place within the walls of our Clubs is not repeated outside, least of all in this House. If we are to retaliate, I should be tempted to allude to a Member sitting opposite who has spoken in this debate, and belongs to the same Whig Club as myself. But I trust we shall drop this unworthy line of argument. But the Secretary of State could find nothing to approve in what was proposed either outside or inside this House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich concluded one of the most temperate and moderate speeches I ever heard with a proposal for a truce, based on a Vote of Confidence. This was not to the taste of the Secretary of State, who characteristically posed as a Minister of War denouncing an armistice. But this is not all. The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), 1012 whom I am glad to congratulate on his well-deserved promotion, and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the other night referred to certain meetings and spoke with praise and satisfaction of the resolutions which had been passed at them. I have only heard of two of those meetings, to which this praise could apply. The first was at Sheffield, and there possibly they misunderstood, as many have misunderstood, the policy of the Government. The policy of Her Majesty's Government is more neutrality, but the good people of Sheffield supposed that it was a policy of more armour-plates. Then came the meeting in London. I am not aware whether hon. Gentlemen on the other side are acquainted with the circumstances of that meeting; but whether or not, I will state them. It was called for Thursday last, at 3 o'clock, at the Cannon Street Hotel, to protest against the Vote of £6,000,000. The invitation was by ticket, and of course only intended for those who desired to protest against the Vote. Now, what was done? Certain Gentlemen, whose names are well known in connection with the Tory Party in the metropolis, circulated that morning through the Post Office several thousand copies of a card which I hold in my hand. The card was as follows:—Vote of confidence. Supporters of the foreign policy of the Government who are desirous of supporting the honour and interests of this country at the present crisis are invited to attend the meeting at the City Terminus Hotel to-day not later than 2 o'clock.The room had been engaged for 3 o'clock, but these people came at 2, and found that the persons by whom the room had been engaged had not arrived. They invaded the house, dispersed two meetings, one consisting of ladies who were hustled out of the room, broke the chairs and tables, and, having succeeded in wrecking a part of the hotel, walked off to the Guildhall, and there passed the resolution to Her Majesty's Government which had been referred to. Now, is that the way in which public meetings are to be conducted henceforth? What if a meeting to support the Government were broken up by a party of Liberals from the country getting early possession, wrecking the furniture, and smashing the windows? The hon. Member for the West 1013 Riding (Mr. C. Beckett-Denison) was the other day most anxious that there should be no adjournment of the Motion of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given Notice, on the ground that two days delay would afford time for noisy public meetings to be got up throughout the country; but I presume that the hon. Member has nothing but congratulations to offer to Her Majesty's Government now on the success of the great public meeting at the Guildhall. I turn, however, from these violent speeches and proceedings to the proposal before us. Nothing is more remarkable in connection with this Eastern Question than the extent to which history repeats itself. When Mr. Pitt was at the height of his power, after some years of war between the Empress Catherine and the Porte, that right hon. Gentleman, fearing that the arms of Russia would succeed more than had been expected, and it being supposed that the object of Russia was to get possession of Constantinople, proposed to the House to take measures to meet the emergency. Ocksakow and subsequently Ismaila had been captured by the Turks. I will read the words of the Message of the 25th March, 1791—His Majesty's endeavours to effect a pacification between Russia and the Porto having hitherto been unsuccessful, and the consequences which may arise from the further progress of the war being highly important to the interests of His Majesty and his allies, and to those of Europe in general, His Majesty judges it requisite, 'in order to add weight to his representations,' to make some further augmentation of his naval force, and His Majesty relies on the zeal and affection of the House of Commons that they will be ready to make good such additional expenses as maybe incurred by these preparations for the purpose of supporting the interests of His Majesty's Kingdoms.Upon that Message from the Crown there arose a series of debates, five in number, which are among the most important to be found in our Parliamentary history. Every movement on the part of the Opposition, however, was defeated by a large majority, generally of two to one, and what is known in history as the Russian armament took place. But, what was the result? Let mo quote the impartial historian—But Pitt seems hardly to have acted with his usual prudence. A military menace to a great Power like Russia in the full career of conquest and with vast resources, was likely to irritate, but certain not to deter. A war undertaken without alliances, except the doubtful one 1014 of Prussia, for an object which concerned all Europe, would have been at the best but an ill-omened enterprise. The Russian armament was, in fact, a mistake.Mr. Pitt himself in the following Session came down to Parliament and stated that the armament against Russia had failed in a great degree, and that we had not obtained what we had intended to obtain; and the result was that Russia obtained all she wanted, including even Ocksakow, which had been the great object of Mr. Pitt's efforts. I might refer to other remarkable resemblances between 1791 and the present time—such as the resignation of one Minister and the contemplated resignation of another, the charge against Mr. Fox that he was the enemy of his country and the friend of Russia, and so forth. My object, however, is to point to the great distinction between the form of Mr. Pitt's proposals and that now adopted. What was the Vote that Mr. Pitt proposed on that occasion? In the previous year, 1790, when there had been a dispute with Spain in consequence of the seizure at Nootka Sound of vessels belonging to this country, a Vote of Credit of £1,000,000 was asked for by the Government in order to fit out an immediate expedition. Spain was compelled to give way. But on this occasion, in 1791, Mr. Pitt pursued a very different course. He declined to ask for a Vote of money, stating that it was right and proper to ask for such a Vote when we intended going to war, but that the Government had no right to ask for a Vote of money, but only for one of Confidence, when they were strengthening the Army and Navy with a view to negotiations. Mr. Pitt said that the House was not called upon to give its assent to any Supplies either for constructing armaments or carrying on a war. All they had to do was to wait until the. Supply was asked, and then, if they thought it proper or necessary so to do, they might refuse it. These were not the words of a Minister with a mere casual majority at his back. Mr. Pitt had a majority of over 100 in the House, but he was not prepared to depart from the well-ascertained rule and practice of Parliament in relation to this particular subject. The same thing had occurred in 1718; indeed, Mr. Pitt referred to it. On that occasion the Quadruple Alliance 1015 against Spain under Cardinal Alberoni was formed by this country; but though the King's Message spoke of increased armaments to compel Spain to join the Alliance, yet as no declaration of war was contemplated, no money was asked for, and the House was advised simply to adopt an Address to the Crown in harmony with the Message. Many other precedents may be quoted in support of my contention that the Government now propose to take an unconstitutional course. In 1831, after the liberation of Belgium, the King of Holland denounced the armistice, and there was great fear of a general war with England and France on the one side and the three Northern Powers on the other. England and France, however, intervened without any formal declaration of war; Antwerp was taken, and Holland yielded. On that occasion did the Government come down and ask for a Vote of Credit? No, they distinctly declined to do so, being satisfied with the confidence of Parliament, and the additional supplies were afterwards voted. The case of 1840–41 was still more in point. The dispute between Turkey and Egypt, and the alliance between England and the three Northern Powers in favour of Turkey, all but brought us into war with Prance. It was averted by Lord Palmerston's courageous action; but in that instance did the Government of 1840 come down to the House and ask for a Vote of Credit? No, they followed the precedents of 1718, 1791, and 1831, and no Vote of money was asked for. The matter was fully debated in Parliament at the end of the financial year in 1841, and the additional Estimates were brought forward in the usual way. Lord John Russell, Sir Robert Peel, and, indeed, all the leading statesmen on both sides agreed that this was the right course—Lord John Russell pointing out that if the Government had asked for a Vote of Credit there would have been danger of increasing the exasperation which then existed in Prance. It was, however, urged by Colonel Sibthorp and Mr. Hume that the Government ought in the first instance to have done as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done now—asked for a Vote of Credit, instead of going through the negotiations without one and coming for money afterwards. A division took place, and 1016 the Government were supported by the whole strength of the Opposition, except a 'few Members below the Gangway on both sides. I find that 8 Members voted in the minority, Mr. Hume and Colonel Sibthorp being the tellers, and the only Member of the minority now alive is Lord Beaconsfield. Is it impossible that some recollection of his defeat has led to the action of the Government on the present occasion? Such, Sir, are the precedents. I know of one in the opposite direction. The Vote of 1871 was a specific increase of the Army in view of a specific military object—the military defence of Belgium under Treaties with the two belligerents. The Abyssinian and Ashantee Votes were also for specific military operations. This is for a diplomatic demonstration, and is totally different. But what is its nature? It has been called a war Vote and a sham Vote, and hon. Gentlemen opposite have taunted those who said it was a war Vote with the opinion of those who said it was a sham Vote, and have taunted those who said it was a sham Vote with the opinion of those who said it was a war Vote. I venture to say it is both. It is a war Vote, for except during war it is impossible to spend a further £1,000,000 a-week on our military and naval establishments. On the other hand, although in reality a war Vote, in form it must be a sham Vote, as no one-seriously contemplates spending the whole amount between this time and the 1st of April. Besides, is there any instance on record of a first Vote of Credit being asked for which was not to be met by increased taxation? There are cases, no doubt, in the middle of a war; but no modern instance, certainly, of a first Vote—no instance since our finances have been placed on a sound footing. This Vote has to be met by a loan, and hitherto it has been the absolute rule of Parliament and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide for such a Vote out of the taxes. Thus the last Vote of Credit granted by the House, that for the Ashantee War, was, in fact, a Supplementary Estimate, for in that case the money was not asked for until it had been spent; that of 1870, a genuine Vote of Credit, was to be expended out of the year's income, and was so expended. The Abyssinian Votes 1017 of Credit, exceeding £8,000,000, were fully met by taxation; and, going back still further, the Votes for the Crimean War represented actual expenditure, which was partly met by taxation. If it be said that the Vote might be met by money in the Exchequer, I would ask what prospect is there of a surplus? We have been told that we are going to stop the Supplies. But that cry was tried in another country not many months ago. Yet perhaps it is the secret of the present proposal. It is just possible that the Vote has been brought forward that capital may be made out of it by this cry of "stopping the Supplies" going forth to the country. I am bound to say the last speech looked very like this. Let me ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what sort of precedent this will form? Diplomatic negotiations are not the only difficulties Governments find in their way. They are always subject to being met with serious emergencies, and no doubt it might strengthen their hands to have a large amount of money at their disposal. What will be said hereafter about this Vote? It will be pointed to as a Vote of Confidence given to the Government to meet a particular emergency. It will establish a precedent for breaking into the rule that Estimates represent money requirements only, and as there may be great emergencies and small emergencies, why should there not be large money Votes of Confidence and small Votes? Or why should there not be a Vote of £10,000,000 to a Government with a majority of 100, and a Vote of £5,000,000 to a Government with a majority of 50? And so we shall have this system of voting sham Supplies used as a means of propping up a Government, so that they may use the money when they think fit without being exposed to the criticism of Parliament, as they would be if they asked for it in the usual way. ["Oh, oh!"] I do not say that recklessly; I am but quoting the words of the hon. Member for Christchureh (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), who said to-day—What we want is, if war should he necessary, to he able to carry it on without the necessity of coming down to this House to ask for money, subject to the criticism of the right hon. Member for Greenwich.I leave that argument to the Chancellor 1018 of the Exchequer. We have been asked to vote confidence in the foreign policy of the Government for the immediate future. But has their foreign policy in the immediate past been such that the House is bound to place this £6,000,000 at their disposal? The Home Secretary described that policy as consistent; but I hold, on the contrary, that it has been inconsistent, uncertain, feeble; and, what is more, that it has been provoking, and for that, more than any other reason, we are in danger of being led into some serious complication. In 1876, at first, the policy was the maintenance of the status quo; then it was the independence and territorial integrity of Turkey; and now it is absolute neutrality, except as to British interests, without regard to the fate of that country. But is the Government consistent even in its reasons for neutrality? What said, in November last, the Prime Minister at the Lord Mayor's banquet, in the presence of several Colleagues, and of the Turkish Ambassador alone among the Ambassadors of foreign Powers in London—There may have been many reasons for this policy. A principal one to which I will refer is this—it was not more for the benefit of England than for that of Turkey. The Government of Turkey have shown that vigour and resource which prove that they have a right to be recognized among the Powers of Europe. Whatever may be the fortune of war, the independence of Turkey is not doubted now.What a satire on this speech is Lord Salisbury's language on the first night of the Session—Not one word about the independence and integrity of Turkey has crossed the lips of my noble Friend (Lord Beaconsfield) to-day.Again, the uncertainty and feebleness of the policy of the Government is shown by their conduct with regard to the movements of the Fleet. We have it on authority which cannot be disputed that it was decided to send the Fleet to the Dardanelles, not only on the 23rd of January, but also on the 15th—two days before the meeting of Parliament. That fact has been stated by the late Secretary for the Colonies with Her Majesty's permission. I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what grounds he justifies the sending of the Fleet to 1019 the Dardanelles on the 15th of January, and why that order was cancelled? I wish also to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a similar question as to the sending of the Fleet to Gallipoli and the Dardanelles on the 23rd of January, when Lord Derby resigned, and only returned to the Cabinet when that order was revoked. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the Fleet had been sent there for two reasons—because the Russians were advancing on Gallipoli; and, on the other hand, because there was great alarm at Constantinople; so that the Fleet was sent, primarily, to keep the waterway open, and also to protect life and property in Constantinople. The Secretary of State for the Home Department gave a different explanation. He said they sent the Fleet to protect our subjects in Constantinople, and that keeping the waterway open merely meant securing its safe return. Now, which is the real reason? There is another matter on which I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question. A great deal has been said on the other side of the delays of the Russian Government in sending the bases of peace from St. Petersburg to the Grand Duke Nicholas near Adrianople; and my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London has pointed out unanswerably that, as a matter of fact, the delay was that of Her Majesty's Government. That, however, is not the only case of grave delay. On the 15th of January the Government obtained from Russia this declaration—Russia undertakes not to direct military operations on Gallipoli unless the Turkish troops are concentrated there.This was the key-note of the whole difficulty, and the assurance should have been immediately conveyed to Turkey. How was this, that Mr. Layard was only authorized to convey it to the Porte on the 1st February, 17 days later? If Her Majesty's Government, instead of waiting 17 days after they got the assurance from the Russian Government that they would not occupy Gallipoli unless Turkish troops were concentrated there, had informed the Porte at once of that decision of the Russian Government, the whole difficulty about sending the Fleet to the Dardanelles and the resignation of Lord Derby would have been avoided. 1020 I say also that your language has been provoking. I do not so much allude to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to that of the two Secretaries of State. In the course of his speech the Home Secretary made no less than four charges against Russia, and finally he turned round to the Opposition and said—"Is that all you have to say for your friends?"
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
When I made use of that expression, which I certainly did, and saw the interpretation— an erroneous one—which was put upon it by hon. Members of the Opposition side of the House, I instantly withdrew it. In fact, I expressed my regret at having used it.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I did not hear the withdrawal; but after the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman I sincerely apologize to him for referring to his words. One right hon. Gentleman said the Emperor of Russia would keep his promises, if circumstances would permit. Is that a fit expression to be used by a Cabinet Minister? You cannot more insult a man than by telling him he will keep his promises if circumstances will permit. Speaking again of the Russian Government and Russian diplomatists, the Home Secretary said they would show as much sincerity in the future as they had in the past. Is that also fit language to be used by a Queen's Minister? Nations are offended and alienated not so much by the studied phraseology of diplomatic documents, as by an inspired and partizan Press, and the restless rhetoric of political orators. If, however, we are to talk about broken promises, what about the scandalous employment of Shefket Pasha, or the delayed amnesty to the Bulgarians, in the teeth of the solemn promises of the Sultan given to the Queen? I pass, however, from these controversies to the real question before us tonight. We who sit on this side have no thought of displacing Her Majesty's Government. We could not if we would; we would not if we could. You hold the reins of power; you have a largo majority at your back; you will have to be represented in the approaching Conference; and it is the business of the Opposition to do all they can to assist you, in order that you may speak the voice of England in a 1021 proper and legitimate way—not by sham Votes, but by real support wherever your policy is such as can be approved. If that be so, let us consider for a few minutes what is the best plan to pursue. Well, the war is over; and at this moment a new volume in the history of Europe is opened. The day of Turkish sway in the south-east of Europe has gone; and it is gone, in our opinion—and I believe also in the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite— never to be restored. We might possibly have prolonged its existence—we might possibly have anticipated Russia, by another course of policy, if the Government had had the courage of the opinions which they formerly expressed. But I will not enlarge upon that. The time for it has passed. It seems to him that the decline of British influence in the settlement of this great question dates from that day in September, 1876, when Her Majesty's Government distinctly refused to co-operate with Russia and Austria in insisting that the Porte should comply with what was the desire of Europe in connection with the Servian War. Another opportunity which Her Majesty's Government appear to me to have missed was at the time of the Conference. If we had then insisted, in concert with the rest of Europe, upon the Turks accepting the conditions laid down by the Conference, I firmly believe that Turkey would have yielded. In fact, the language of the Turkish Minister on that point was perfectly clear.Turkey," said Safvet Pasha to Musurus Pasha, "could only oppose to the forces of the Powers the evidence of her regrets and the acts signed by themselves.Again, when the war was on the verge of breaking out, I think that if, even on the brink of hostilities, we had sent the Fleet up, and England had stood between the living Russia and the dying Turkey, and had insisted upon the latter obeying the behests of Europe, and the former sheathing the sword, the war would have been avoided and Turkey would not now have been destroyed. But the Government declined to act, and, from that moment, the final crash became only a question of time. In the end of Julylast, the Government made another feeble effort. It is notorious that we had ascertained the Russian terms of peace, and 1022 Mr. Layard was feebly asked to find out what Turkey would submit to. But the Porte refused to have anything to do with our mediation, and from that moment our influence disappeared. England had then only to wait for a new turn of the tide. It came, and the Ottoman Power disappeared. And what have we to do now? It appears to mo that our duty in Congress is perfectly clear. Our first object should be to secure, beyond the possibility of interference, the freedom of our route to India. Our connection with India should be the paramount object of our policy, and, at the same time, to secure our predominance in the Mediterranean, and especially in its Eastern waters. In connection with the Dardanelles and Constantinople, we have no doubt interests to which it is necessary that Her Majesty's Government in Congress should have regard, and indeed pay the most careful attention. But it is not on the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus that our eyes should now be fixed. These will, and must be, secondary questions in the future, but the question, above all, to which our attention should be directed is our connection with India across Egypt by the Suez Canal and the line of Railway. Remember that from the present time Turkey, in whatever way she may be constituted, will be the vassal of Russia, and the Khedive is the vassal of Turkey. The Khedive is unfriendly to us at this moment, and tempted to be more so; and the Porto has never relinquished the absolute right of closing the Canal to our ships, if it thinks fit. No European or international compact secures us the use of the Canal for ships of war, and, compared with this, whether for military or commercial purposes, the Dardanelles are as nothing. Are we, then, to enter the Congress and discuss this question with a drawn sword? For my part, I prefer to increased armaments the possession of a clear and distinct policy; not an Austrian policy, nor a mere anti-Russian policy, but two definite objects — namely, the maintenance of our Indian connection, and the support of the down-trodden Christians of Turkey. I would say to Her Majesty's Government —"Discard at once your old traditions, and boldly face the inevitable change which has now come over the whole aspect of the 1023 Eastern Question." Remember how deeply you have irritated Russia. Do you think these paper armaments will diminish that irritation? You distrust her. So do I. Do not imagine that you have the monopoly of that distrust, or of the reprobation of Russian principles of Government. But I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite of one important fact in history. Did we not all distrust France, and for long generations look upon her as our natural enemy? Yet the entente cordiale with France was the basis of our foreign policy for nearly 40 years after 1830. Let me also entreat Her Majesty's Government not to lean upon that broken reed;— Austria—for military purposes. It is very true that the bold initiative of Count Beust, and the cautious statesmanship of Count Andrassy, have, for a time, kept that heterogeneous Empire together; but be assured that, at the very first sign of war, Austria will have enough to do to take care of herself. The old maxim is in force at this moment—Bella gerenti alii to felix Austria nube.The Secretary for War has talked about mobilizing: and the hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Chaplin) thinks we are unarmed and weak. [Mr. CHAPLIN: I merely said we were weak as compared with other Powers.] The comparison ought to be not as to the numerical strength of the Army, but as to the Army and Navy taken together. England's real power is to be found in her Navy; and, as a matter of fact, we are expending upon our Army and Navy more than Austria, or than any other of the military Monarchies. The strength of British policy is not now to be found in an alliance with a great Military Power for warlike operations on land, but in the supremacy and efficiency of our Navy, which, as I have before contended, and as is now admitted, is as powerful as the Navies of the whole of Europe united—in non-intervention in the affairs of military Monarchies, and in encouraging and sympathizing with the efforts of oppressed peoples. This was the policy of Canning; this was the policy of Palmerston; but I do not see it in this mischievous and unstates-manlike Vote of Credit. We may be defeated in our present protest; but I 1024 believe that the time will come, when hon. Gentlemen on the other side will bitterly regret that they listened to the cynical counsels of Berlin and the feeble promises of Vienna.
Sir, I am anxious to make an explanation for the purpose of removing a misunderstanding which might arise upon a point of no very great importance. I endeavoured to illustrate the impossibility of spending at more than a certain rate of expenditure by a reference to the first year of the Crimean War. What I said was, that in the first six months of the war the whole expenditure, with the exception of a few hundred thousand pounds, was paid out of the ordinary sources of revenue. I then said that for the year there was only an excess of some £6,000,000; but I do not think that remark with regard to the £6,000,000 was not accurate. I withdraw what I said about the 12 months.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I trust we shall be allowed to proceed with this debate to-morrow. There are several Notices of interest on the Paper, and I observe that the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) has a Motion for a Commission of Inquiry into the existence of certain practices in the Church of England. I hope, however, that, considering the great interest and importance of this debate, he and the other Members who have Notices on the Paper, will refrain from proceeding with them to-morrow.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.