§ Resolution [8th February] reported.
§ MR. C. S. PARKER,
who was met with persistent interruptions, said, he had a few words to say which would not displease hon. Members opposite, being directed to what both sides of the House desired—that they should at the present juncture present a more united expression of opinion in Parlia- 1425 ment. He was not going to conclude with a Motion, and he was not going to offer any obstruction, nor should he detain the House more than a few minutes. The Vote of Credit had been carried in Committee by a large majority, and no doubt it would be carried in the House; but the vote of a majority, however large, was not the voice of a united Parliament, and it had been the general wish to arrive at entire unanimity. An overture for that purpose was made a few nights ago by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone); but it was not received on the other side—which was, perhaps, not to be wondered at—as it was intended. Upon this, most of the Leaders on the Opposition side of the House had abstained from voting; and a minority of 124 had recorded their votes against the demand of the Government. As a Member of that minority, he wished to take this opportunity of saying how far he went with the majority, and why he had felt bound to oppose the Vote. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, for the Government, had undertaken to answer two Questions, one as to the policy to be pursued by Great Britain at the Conference, the other as to the use to be made of the £6,000,000. As to the policy, the assurances given by the right hon. Gentleman, without being altogether satisfactory, had so far relieved his apprehensions, that on this ground he would have seen no reason, at the present stage, and at this crisis of European politics, to refuse the Vote. But the answer to the second Question—what use was to be made of the £6,000,000?—was to the last degree scanty and vague. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the greater part of the amount might not be expended at all; the Secretary to the Treasury said it was possible that none of it, and probable that hardly any of it, would be spent; while the Secretary of State for War, evidently anxious to lay hands on it, said—"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." When the Chancellor of the Exchequer was further pressed as to how the Vote was to be spent, he indicated little else but "transport" and "boots and shoes." Now, transport to any large extent would not be required unless and until the Government were on the very verge of war. 1426 As to the other item, everyone knew what was meant by "boots and shoes." During the war with our American Colonies some Members of the House of Commons, being also members of the Society of Friends, objected to voting Supplies of warlike stores; but they did not object to voting money to be spent on "barley and other grain," which was wide enough to include gunpowder. No doubt, "boots and shoes" would be found to have an equally elastic meaning. However, being thus left without sufficient information, he had tried in vain, by studying the Army and Navy Estimates of former years, to learn how it was possible in little more than six weeks—for the Vote would lapse on the 31st of March—to spend in mere preparation for war so large a sum as £6,000,000. But without some such information he had not thought it right to vote the money. He could understand, though he much regretted, the curt refusal of the Government to accept the offer of the late Prime Minister, that instead of a money Vote, they should receive a Vote of Confidence in their proposed policy. For his own part, he had been prepared to vote as much money as was wanted for immediate use. But this would not satisfy the Government; though the House was sitting daily, they insisted on a vote of Credit, large enough to include not only what they wanted, but what they might or might not want. For this there was no precedent, and in financial proceedings beyond all others, the House of Commons was bound to reverence the invariable usage by which it had attained to its present position and power. Therefore, having regard to the responsibility of laying on the taxpayer what was in no way shown to be a necessary burden, and further to the serious mischief of creating a precedent, by voting a Credit of £6,000,000 in so loose a manner, he and others had felt themselves compelled to protest against such a Vote, thus presenting an appearance of disunion, which might have been avoided, had the Chancellor of the Exchequer only asked, in the usual form, for what he actually required, from time to time, for present use.
MR. J. COWEN
I have not, during this or the previous Sessions, except for a few minutes on Thursday, taken any part in these Eastern debates. I would, 1427 however, be glad to be allowed the privilege, before the Vote passes its final stage, of making a few remarks. There is no duty appertaining to the office of a Representative that I approach with more hesitation, and undertake with greater reluctance, than that of appearing to interrupt the course of Business by troubling Members with any utterances of mine. I would not do so now if it had not been for some comments made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) on Friday night. The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood the observations I made the previous evening, and quite unintentionally, I am sure, misrepresented them. I was not present when he spoke, or I should have replied there and then. I do not profess to quote his precise words; but in effect he said I upheld the doctrine of allowing the Government of the day to have uncontrolled authority in foreign affairs—that while we might at all times fight over domestic politics, we had to accept implicitly, and without criticism, the action of any Party in power on foreign questions. I think I have correctly represented the right hon. Gentleman's statement. I do not think there is a Member in this House who will subscribe to such political gospel. It may flourish in the arbitrary atmosphere of the Russian Court, but it cannot live in England. I, at least, repudiate such a faith. I spoke on Thursday entirely without premeditation. I uttered the feelings and the thoughts that came unbidden to my lips on listening to the very grave statements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They were only a poor reproduction of the world-old sentiment which a Whig statesman, historian, and poet has put into the mouth of a Roman minstrel, who, when mourning the memories of a heroic and vanished past, sung regretfully of the timeWhen none was for a Party,And all were for the State.A man speaking under strong emotions ought not to be made an offender for a word. If that rule were applied to the right hon. Gentleman, he would have a good deal to answer for. I claim no exemption, however, on that ground. The exact phrases I used did not bear, and certainly they were not intended to bear, 1428 the interpretation put upon them. I said that, while we might at all times discuss domestic questions fully and frankly, when national interests were imperilled—national existence possibly at stake—then we should close our ranks, forget that we are Whigs, Tories, or Radicals, remember only that we are Englishmen, and present a united front to the world. The time when, the circumstances under which, this effacement of Party landmarks was to take place, constituted all the point that was in my sentence. I did not say—I did not think—it would have been unpardonable presumption if I had—that everyone who agreed with me was a patriot, and everyone who disagreed with me was not. But what I did say was, that, in my judgment—it might not be the judgment of other people—patriotism and good sense required that the course I indicated should be followed. The general principles of national action—whether we are to try to put up a Monarchy in one country, or destroy a Republic in another—whether we are to be partizans in a strife or neutrals—must be decided by the people, and by them alone. But the policy having been assented to, its execution must be left to the Executive. If they blunder, you may censure them, dismiss them, or impeach them; but in a moment of national peril do not paralyze their movements by unnecessary complications. In our foreign relations, there are matters that it is undesirable to publish, and that cannot, with justice to other nations, be known outside the Foreign Office. The right hon. Gentleman himself admitted on Monday last that, when he asked for a Vote of £2,000,000 at the time of the Franco-German War, he did not state all, or even the chief grounds, for making that demand. To have done so in Parliament would, he said, at that time, have been attended with inconvenience, if not danger. Was it not possible that in the present crisis there were circumstances known only to Ministers that prevented them explaining fully the reasons for the course they were pursuing? The confidence that Parliament gave the late Government might be fairly granted to the present one on such an issue. We may always with advantage dilate on the broad principles, on the general issues that are at stake in foreign questions; but, when the time for action comes, it 1429 not unfrequently happens that the details of diplomacy, the whispers of State, supply the circumstances that determine the course of Cabinets. Reasonable politicians recognize the position of men weighted with such responsibility. I regret that so much feeling has been thrown into this dispute. Good, earnest, and devout men, both in and out of Parliament, sincerely desirous of serving what they believe to be the interests of their country and freedom, have manifested in the discussion a somewhat intolerant temper. I honour their motives, I respect their intentions; but I have not been able altogether to approve their attitude. While they have been keenly suspicious of our own Government, they have said, or insinuated, all manner of smooth things, and put the best interpretation on the doings of foreign rulers. The Czar and his Ministers have had their designs appraised by sympathizing admirers; but our own Government have been subjected to constant, and I must say, I think, undeserved innuendoes. There is no Member of this House, who, by training, instinct, and conviction is more anti-Tory than I am. There is no one who has voted more persistently against the policy of the Ministers—not even the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar)—but I will trust my own countrymen, whatever their politics, before the statesmen of either Russia or Germany. I have more faith in British Ministers, whether Whig or Tory, than I have in the Chancellors of any Imperial despotism, however pretentiously pious. In considering questions of foreign policy, we often, in my judgment, form an inadequate and imperfect historical conception of the position and antecedents of this country. Some see only gold, and coal, and cotton through every national arrangement. Trade is with them the measure of every standard. Production and consumption are the end of being. I have no wish, certainly, to disparage commerce; but I do not believe in this extreme epicurean philosophy of barter. It takes a low and sordid conception of human life. Man is higher than the beast, and requires something better than a stall well littered and a trough well filled. I agree on this point with the spirit of the teachings of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, who has striven to lift the consideration of foreign 1430 politics to a higher level. The maintenance of the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire which my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) declares to be an obsolete phrase, and to be ancient history, was for years, if not for generations, a settled principle of British politics. All Parties in the State acknowledged, accepted, and acted upon it. Twenty-four years ago we went to war, spent many millions of money, and sacrificed some thousands of lives to uphold it. At the conclusion of the war we entered into Treaties which guaranteed the right of Turkey to European existence, and bound this country, as one of the Great Powers, to defend that right. In 1871, the late Government re-endorsed the agreement, and, along with the other Powers, added to the contract a declaration that the arrangement should not be altered without general consent. No Government would have been warranted in reversing this uninterrupted current of national action without some mandate, direct or indirect, from the nation. I am not defending these Treaties. I am not saying that the Crimean War was either just or necessary; but what I do say is, that the maintenance of the independence of Turkey was as much a principle of our foreign, as the right of refuge is of our political, and as free trade is of our commercial, policy. The Government would not have been justified in changing this policy without some formal or informal expression of public opinion. No one can deny that an expression of opinion has been got. A man must be either blind, or deaf, or both, who does not see and hear that a great change has taken place in the minds of a considerable section of the people of this country on this subject. Many persons, and those highly influential, are averse to our former policy with respect to Turkey. Opinion is in a state of transition. It has manifested itself on this side of the House, where there are not two, but three times two Parties. It has been shown in the Ministerial Benches, and has produced its effect within the close precincts of the Cabinet. When we are in such a state of political chaos, I appeal to hon. Gentlemen on both sides whether it is either wise or desirable to be so intolerant with each other? Some have gone forward, others 1431 have gone back, and some have been stationary on this question. We shall best promote the interests of the nation by showing liberal consideration for each other's opinions and susceptibilities. The question before Europe is, is Turkey to be strangled; and, if so, has Russia to succeed to her possessions? We may hesitate to confront the inevitable issue, but we cannot either postpone or evade it. Are the Osmanli to be annihilated, by those who murder for the love of God, and are their places to be filled by the Muscovites and their satraps? That is the problem to which all this diplomacy leads up. There are hon. Gentlemen who will answer the interrogatory in the affirmative—who will declare that for its bad government Turkey's throat should be cut. I cannot go that length with them. I admit that the rule of the Porte in the past has combined every evil that can be covered by civil government. In times of peace it has been too weak or too apathetic to make its will respected. In times of excitement, it has enforced its edicts by a spasmodic exercise of authority—sometimes cruel, often capricious, and not unfrequently sanguinary. Industry has been discouraged; trade has been looked upon with contempt; taxation has been little better than legalized plunder; and the whole administration of the Pashas has been systematically and thievishly corrupt. Their procedure has been absolutely indefensible. But when all this has been said, it is only right to add that the Government of Turkey is no worse than that of other Asiatic and African States with whom we hold close if not cordial relations. The Governments of China and Persia are as bad; that of Egypt, which is propped up by English capitalists, is worse. Turkey has most of the vices common to all Oriental communities, and in her case those have been intensified by contact with a debased form of Christian civilization. When we remember the history—the black history—of American and West India slavery, when we recall the ferocity—for no other word will express it—with which Ireland was, and with which Poland is, ruled, we should manifest some moderation in our denunciation of the Turks. I repeat that there are Governments as venal, as tyrannical, as lawless, and as lazy who are our Allies, and with our own record in Ireland 1432 in the past, and in India more recently, English politicians should not be so ready to rush into hysterics over Turkish delinquencies. It is either sectarian or partizan bigotry, or imperfect historical knowledge that leads men to declare that every Mussulman is little better than a wild beast, an anti-human specimen of humanity, and that the Ottoman Empire is the foulest political organization in existence. Such exaggerations are born either of ignorance or religious rancour. It is true that the Christians in Turkey have been denied any participation in the civil administration, just as the Catholics and the Jews were in this country till recently, and as our Hindoo and Mahomedan fellow-subjects are in India to-day. But as a set-off to this exclusion, they have been relieved from the duty—the onerous duty—of bearing arms. No man is persecuted in Turkey because he is a Christian. There is there not only complete, but contemptuous, toleration. The Mussulmans look with pity upon the different sects into which Christians are divided; and while they refuse to treat them as civil equals, they scorn to persecute them as inferiors. The persistent cry about the material misery of Bulgaria has been exploded. It has been proved by a cloud of witnesses that the Bulgarian peasant is in a vastly superior position to the Russian farmer, and is the equal of the same class in this country. This fact has been so well attested that no one will attempt to gainsay it. It has been urged with force by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) and others, that even if this statement is correct, it is not an answer to the demand of the Christians for civil and political equality. It is not sufficient that they should be commercially prosperous and freed from all exclusion on the score of their religion. They require something further and more. I admit the justice of their claim. I grant the necessity for its immediate concession as completely as my hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath (Mr. P. J. Smyth). On that ground I am entirely at one with these hon. Gentlemen. We are reminded that England sympathized with the Italians in their struggle for national existence, and we are asked, why refuse to Bulgaria what we rejoice has been conceded to the countrymen of Cavour and Garibaldi? The circum- 1433 stances are not analogous. In Italy there were broadly marked natural features and boundaries—the sea on the one side, the mountains on the other. The people, too, were homogeneous. They spoke the same language, held the same faith, shared the same glorious national memories. The same is the case with the Slavs in Montenegro and Servia, with the Latin races in Rou-mania, and with the Greeks; but it is not the case with the inhabitants of Turkey proper. One village there is Mahomedan, the next Christian, and the third partly Jewish. The people are dotted about in settlements like gipsies. Remove the Turkish rule entirely from Roumelia, and you simply substitute a Christian despotism for a Mahomedan. Slavs, Albanians, Greeks, adherents of the Latin Church, and of the Greek Church, Jews, Mussulmans, are all gathered together in indescribable and unhappy confusion. Heretofore, the Mahomedans in those districts have been the dominant race, because they have been the most numerous and the most tolerant. Supplant it by Christian ascendency, and you only replace one bad form of exclusive rule by another. You put the boot on the other leg. If the Mahomedans have hitherto persecuted the Christians—which, as Christians, I deny, but as citizens I admit—it is certain that the Christians would in the future persecute the Mahomedans. Remove the restraints, and the fierce fanatical passions of hostile classes will be let loose, and they will fly at each other's throats. We know how the Servians and the Roumanians persecute the Jews, how the adherents of the Greek Church persecute the followers of the Latin creed, how the Slav hates the Greek and the Greek hates the Slav. I do not say these difficulties ought to prevent the Christians from enjoying the freedom they are entitled to; but I cite the facts for the purpose of showing that the creation of a nationality amongst the heterogeneous and conflicting creeds, races, and tribes in Turkey proper is a very different thing to the creation of a nationality out of the homogeneous people of Hungary, Poland, and Italy. Persons well acquainted with the East—I do not endorse their opinion, but I give it for what it is worth—maintain that the rule of the Turk, with all its drawbacks, would, if reformed, in the 1434 districts where the Mahomedans predominate, be preferable to the constant struggle for mastery between the rival sects and races who hate each other more bitterly than any of them hate the Mussulman. The glowing but fictitious pictures that we have had recently drawn in this country of the magnanimous Montenegrins, the chivalrous Servians, and the meek Bulgarians, have been rudely blurred by this year's war. I fear an impartial historian will declare that the moral characteristics of the different races do not differ greatly. In a balance of virtues, the Mahomedan population—I do not mean the Pashas, or their military or their ecclesiastical leaders, but the Mussulman peasantry—are the equals, and in some respects the superiors, of their Christian neighbours. We have been often assured that they are dead or dying. But in the bloodstained spurs and passes of the Balkans they have recently given striking evidence that they live. Their courage and military skill were derided in this House last Session. It was declared, with wearying iteration, that Turkey consisted only of a ring of corrupt Pashas and a horde of semi-savage brigands from Asia. This war has shown that there is a Turkish nation beyond the denizens of the sumptuous palaces on the Bosphorus, and beyond the gathering grounds of the Bashi-Bazouks. The memorable struggle before Plevna will be associated in history with the sieges of Saragossa, Tournay, Londonderry, Antwerp, and Kars. The name of Osman will be linked with the foremost commanders of modern times. It was not the dinted, rusty scimitar of Mahomet that that gallant Moslem wielded. The skill that planned the fortifications, the dauntless courage that manned the deadly breach in face of such fearful odds—and when, the last crust consumed, the last cartridge gone, that led the final charge, was the brilliant, dazzling, fire of genuine patriotism. A people capable of such intense energy, such generous and complete obedience, such utter self-sacrifice, and such heroic devotion, have vindicated their right at least to live. The greatest want of the Turks has been their inability to adapt themselves to the constant changes and the incessant movement going on around. Their traditions, their training, and their creed have kept them stationary. While other 1435 nations have been persistently proselytising and progressing, the sons of Islam have stood still. They must move, or they will be swamped by the complex and competing forces that are surging around them. All intelligent Turks recognize this. And their honest efforts to improve their administration, to establish their Constitution, and their gallant struggle against their domineering enemies, ought to win for the remnants of the race another opportunity of assimilating themselves to the wants of modern life. The Turkish people are no worse to-day than when we fought for their independence in the Crimea, and the Turkish Government is better. All that has been said of their lust, cruelty, and oppression was as true in 1856, when we concluded two Treaties for their defence, or in 1871, when the late Government accentuated, endorsed, and confirmed that Treaty, as it is to-day. If Turkey is dying, there is no reason why Russia should slay her before her time. Let her die in peace. If she is dying, that is no justification for the Northern vulture to prey upon the yet quivering body of his stricken victim. If the Osmanli are driven to the other side of the Bosphorus, their dominions will become the spoil of their relentless enemies, whose fierce hussars are now streaming into Roumelia for the double purpose of a war of conquest and a religious crusade. I am not now speaking of British interests, I am not thinking of the danger Russia may be to our Indian Empire; but I ask English Liberals if they have ever seriously considered the political consequences of an Imperial despotism bestriding Europe—reaching, indeed, from the waters of the Neva to those of the Amour—of the Head of the Greek Church, the Eastern Pope, the master of so many legions, having one foot on the Baltic, planting the other on the Bosphorus. When icebergs float into Southern latitudes, they freeze the air for miles around. Will not this political iceberg, when it descends upon the genial shores of the Mediterranean, wither the young shoots of liberty that are springing up between the crevices of the worn-out fabrics of despotism? Is it the part of English Liberals to encourage these sanguinary apostles of Christianity—who are now swarming from Sarmatian swamps and Scythian wilds, in their raid into South- 1436 eastern Europe—to plead for this coarsest phantom of social and political life? The Russian people are an inoffensive, unaggressive, and kindly race—not educated, superstitious, and somewhat intemperate. It is certainly not of them that I am afraid; but there is a ring of Christian Pashas at St. Petersburg as corrupt and cruel as the ring of Mahomedan Pashas at Constantinople. They have always been the camp-followers of civilization—as merciless and unscrupulous as camp-followers usually are. They have the ferocity of barbarism with the duplicity of civilization. Their first word is gold, the second the sword, the third Siberia. Bribery, bayonets, banishment, are the triple pillars upon which their politico-military-ecclesiastical system stands. I have no wish to generate antipathies towards either the Russian or any other people. But, in the presence of existing circumstances, it is necessary that every man should speak the honest convictions of his mind; and I cannot regard this handing over of two-thirds or three-fourths of the Continent of Europe to an aggressive military, ecclesiastical autocracy, otherwise than as dangerous to human freedom, peace, and civil progress.
§ MR. RATHBONE
remarked that he had not spoken a word in the House on the Eastern Question either last year or this. He had abstained from speaking because he felt that the majority of the Government were sincerely anxious to preserve peace, and that they had no intention of fighting for the maintenance of the integrity of Turkey. He wished now, however, to notice some of the observations of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. J. Cowen), and he should speak as an Englishman, and not allude to either cotton or corn. The House and the Government ought to act in their collective capacity as Englishmen in the same way as they did as individual Englishmen. The other day he was speaking to a foreign diplomatist, who said—"England has lost to a great extent her influence in the affairs of the Continent because we cannot understand how Englishmen, who, as individuals, are so self-respecting and quiet in their demeanour, should, when dealing with public affairs, have been of late so violent, so riotous, and so nervous about their own position." He thought that, whether as individuals 1437 or as a nation, we ought to be guided by the rule—"In quietness and in confidence shall be our strength." It was because he thought the Government and individuals had not been guided of late by this rule that he ventured to make these few remarks. The hon. Member for Newcastle spoke—he thought with some justice—of the constant suspicions of our own Government that had been expressed; but, in his opinion, the hon. Gentleman was wrong when he went on to call upon us to suspect every Government except our own and that of Turkey. Was it wise to go on with this constant policy of distrust? How did wise men act towards one another? If they were obliged to act with a man they could not always rely upon, did they go on treating him as a rogue? Certainly not Then why should they do it with foreign nations? Putting aside the past, it seemed to him that there were in Europe Governments whose interests, like our own, required the establishment of peace and good government and as much freedom as was possible for the Christians in the East. Why should we not consult with those Governments as to some basis on which we could act in the Conference? In his judgment, we did not rely sufficiently on the greatness of England. Englishmen in general, and perhaps the Government, did not recognize the increase in the power of England that had arisen from the changes which had occurred in navigation of late. When ships were propelled by sails or by steam, and had to rely upon coaling stations, a Fleet would often be delayed at Malta or Gibraltar for several days or even weeks: but now ships took their coal supply with them, and were directed in their movements by telegraph, and our preponderating naval power could be directed with rapidity and certainty on any point where it was needed. Under these circumstances we should not be so nervous; foreign nations knew that if they attacked any of England's vital interests they would have England on their back.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he cordially concurred in that part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), in which that hon. Gentleman said that it was the duty of Englishmen to combine for the protection of the interests of England as Englishmen. He (Mr. Parnell) simi- 1438 larly thought it was the special duty of Englishmen at that juncture to act in accordance with that invitation; but he would remind hon. Members that they were not all Englishmen in that House. There were in that Assembly some Irishmen, who were equally entitled to consider what their interests were. On that rule he had endeavoured to act from the very first with reference to this question. When the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) gave Notice of his Amendment, he (Mr. Parnell) thought that, as it was of a Party character, he, as an Irish Member, could have nothing to do with it. Therefore he drew up a resolution, which was accepted by the Party to which he belonged, to the effect that they would abstain from voting on that Amendment. But that Amendment having been subsequently withdrawn, he thought he might be permitted to carry out his policy of acting in the interests of Ireland in the further stages of the question; and, on the ground that Ireland would have to pay a portion of the £6,000,000, he had voted against the Vote of Credit. The interests of the English Empire were involved in this question to a very considerable extent. England had important interests in India, and if Russia took up a powerful position at Constantinople, or put herself in the way of obtaining it, there could be no doubt that the interests of a trading country like England would be threatened in the East; and if Russia were to find herself in such a position as to desire it, she could shut England, France, and Italy out of the Suez Canal, and arrogate to herself the right of trading with India alone. The question, however, to be considered was this—was Russia likely to be in this powerful position? Although that contingency was not very probable, yet there were other reasons which made it desirable that England should view with extreme jealousy any strengthening of Russia in the Mediterranean. England had always been unfair to Russia. England had always opposed Russian interests, and kept her back from enjoying her rights in that sea, and had endeavoured to cripple her in every way. England undertook the Crimean War against Russia, and spent a vast amount of blood and treasure. It was, therefore, natural that Russia should be 1439 jealous of England, and not look upon her as a friend. In his opinion, the policy of the Government, in so far as they had done anything to keep watch and guard over Russian intentions, had been a prudent and a just one, bearing in mind the statement of the hon. Member for Newcastle, that they were only to look at English interests in this matter. But, taking a wider view, considering that Turkey was not a European Power, that she occupied a position to which she was not entitled save by the strong hand, and that in a variety of ways she was regarded as a nuisance to Europe, then we might come to the conclusion that it was the duty of England to have adopted a wiser policy, and to have made Russia a friend. He might observe, however, that he was fully inclined to think that if England were placed in the same position as Turkey—if she were struggling for existence against a tremendous Power—the vengeance of England and Englishmen upon the innocent cause would not be less than the action which Turkey had taken with regard to the Bulgarians. It was true that there had been hangings at Adrianople after short trials; but the principal atrocities had been committed by the Bashi-Bazouks and other irregular forces. But when the American Colonists rose in revolt, Hessians and other mercenaries were let loose on the women of the American cities by the deliberate policy of the English Government. That was also the case in Ireland, in Wexford, when a portion of the people rebelled. We should not, therefore, blame the Turks so much for what they had done. The right hon. Member for Greenwich, in his speech at Oxford the other day, blamed the Irish Members for not marching shoulder to shoulder with the Liberal Party in support of freedom, and stated that the Bulgarians had suffered horrors a hundred times worse than Ireland had ever undergone. But if the right hon. Gentleman had carefully studied the history of Ireland, he would have discovered that Ireland had suffered more at the hands of the English Government than had the Bulgarians at the hands of Turkey. The poet Spenser had written of a part of Ireland, for the information of his Royal Mistress, that hardly one living thing was to be seen on the face of the earth, and that if the people 1440 could by chance get some green food like water cresses to eat, they used to creep forth from their hiding-places in the night to eat it, and that there was scarcely anything but corpses all over the land. But there were some Bulgarians left—a great many—but no attempt had been made by the Turkish Government to destroy the Bulgarian nationality in the way the English had done in Ireland. He denied that the wrongs of the Bulgarians were a hundred-fold greater than those suffered by the Irish people. The Irish nation was invited to join the English Party to fight shoulder to shoulder in the cause of freedom. The Irish people in times past had not been ashamed to fight for their own freedom. In that way they felt as much entitled to freedom as the Bulgarians. If, however, he was to join any Party in that House for the purpose of assisting the Bulgarians in fighting for freedom, he must first be sure that that Party would not at the first touch of steel throw down their arms and run away, as the front Opposition Bench did the other night. Looking back to the first moment when that Eastern Question arose, he could not help seeing that the Opposition had never been sincere in their action, and in enforcing those principles which they said they had at heart. Had he supported the Amendment, he would have been placed in a most difficult position by its withdrawal. Hence he thought it wise not to vote upon the question at all. Last Session, when the right hon. Member for Greenwich brought forward his Resolutions, the first thing was to "whittle them down;" the most important were withdrawn, and the fight that followed was of such a nature that it could only be called a sham battle. The other night, when he was walking out of the House on the first division, he was extremely horrified to find that the noble Lord the Leader on the front Opposition bench was following him. The Government, on the other hand, would do well to consider their real position. They had asked for £6,000,000, a sum which would be entirely inadequate if they had any warlike purpose in view. Although he believed there were many hon. Gentlemen opposite who desired to fight Russia—not to fight Russia themselves, but to send others to fight her with all speed—yet he did not believe 1441 that the Prime Minister ever intended to fight Russia, but by a policy of bluster and brag to frighten her and keep her away from Constantinople. If they really wished to intimidate Russia, they must tell her that they would fight her. In those speeches made by the Premier at the Guildhall and elsewhere, much was said as to what would be done did the Russians reach Constantinople, and now they had reached that city the most the Government did was to send the Fleet to the Dardanelles and ask for a Vote of £6,000,000. If nothing more was done, it was certain that the Russians would laugh at them, and they would be held in contempt by Irishmen and all the Continental nations. He could conceive one reason why the Vote was asked for. The Straits were narrow, and any Power that held them might easily prevent the Meet from coming back. Perhaps these £6,000,000 were to bribe the Russians to let the Fleet back again. If be thought that war was imminent, that the Government really intended to go to war—although he did not think such was the case—he should very seriously consider whether it would become his duty to vote for war or against it. On the one hand, the miseries which war entailed would influence him; and, on the other, he should be swayed by the fact that if England was at war, the Irish Representatives would have an opportunity of bringing forward various questions and getting them settled. The opinion of the Irish people, so far as England was concerned, was at present worth nothing. They might hold meetings in Dublin until they were black in the face, and England would take no heed. All Ireland might be united, but the English people cared nothing about it. A war with Russia would direct the attention of the Government to Irish evils, and influence them to redress them. If they were asked to vote for war, or against it, it would be the duty of every Irishman to balance carefully in his mind if he would vote for the interests of Ireland or for the cause of humanity generally.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, it was not his intention to offer any reply to the speech to which the House had just listened, neither was it his intention to offer any further opposition to the Vote. He only wished to express, in a few words, the ex- 1442 treme pain with which he had listened to the speech, eloquent as it was, of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen). He had himself been once or twice in the position of hearing the sentiments which he uttered loudly cheered from the opposite benches, while they were received in grim silence upon his own side, and he had never felt so doubtful of the correctness of his opinions as he did on these occasions. If other hon. Members felt like him in that respect, he was sure that the hon. Members for Pembroke, Hull, and Finsbury, and especially the hon. Member for Newcastle, must at the present have very uncomfortable feelings indeed. He had no doubt that when they came to reflect more calmly over the speeches they had made, they would regret the line they had taken in addressing speeches entirely to win the cheers of Members on the other side of the House. The hon. Member for Newcastle claimed to have made a patriotic speech. It appeared to him (Mr. Anderson) that the speech of the hon. Member was not founded on true patriotism. Not only were the sentiments of that speech not truly patriotic, but they were very ill-timed. The hon. Gentleman appeared to have chosen for the delivery of a carefully-prepared oration in exaltation of the Turks the very day when, according to the news that had been received, the Turk had administered to this country something like a soufflet. Perhaps the news might be entirely untrue, like that which was received on Thursday, and which had frightened hon. Members opposite so very much, and some of the right hon. Gentlemen on the front Opposition bench. But if the news of that day were true, it proved that the present position of affairs was a result which a year ago had been foreseen by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, who had, about that time, pointed out to the House that one of the greatest dangers of the position of isolation in which the Government were placing the country in regard to the other Powers of Europe was that Russia and Turkey might make a peace between themselves, without in the least consulting the wishes or interests of this country. That appeared to be exactly what had taken place, and, if so, it was a very ill-timed opportunity for the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. J. Cowen) 1443 to take to speak in exaltation of the Turk.
§ MR. E. J. REED
said, he should not have addressed the House had it not been for the observation of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), who seemed to have fallen into a muddle. Nothing could be more lowering in his (Mr. Reed's) belief to the character of hon. Members of that House than to make speeches for the purpose of being cheered on the opposite side of the House to that on which they usually sat. But it must happen in times of crisis and difficulty, when opinions were divided in a marked and striking manner, that hon. Members speaking on one side would elicit cheers from those to whom they were ordinarily opposed in politics. But he appealed to the House whether he did not seek to do most ample justice to the opinions which were held by the Opposition, and whether he did not go out of his way to rebuke what he considered the unfairness which had been often shown on the other side of the House to the greatest minds and the greatest men on his side. What he said the other night he still adhered to—that they ought to remove out of the way the mere money question, and discuss the proceedings of the Government on the principles of their policy. He thought great misapprehension existed upon the Opposition side of the House as to the patriotic course taken by Members of the front Bench. He thought the most patriotic course was to remove all difficulties out of the way of the Government, and to leave the responsibility with them. He fully sympathized with those who had committed themselves to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford; but it was left to their own judgment to vote as they thought fit, and he thought the conduct of those who refused to vote showed a great amount of prudence. We were now in a position in which angry discussion and recrimination would be unwise. He doubted whether there was a single man who, viewing dispassionately the position, could question that the Government were placed in a position of the greatest possible difficulty, and that it behoved the Opposition to recognize that difficulty, which had been arrived at through the Government pursuing that policy of neutrality which Liberal Members had con- 1444 tinually urged upon them. It was their duty from that time forward to give the most hearty support to the Government in this their time of great difficulty and delicacy, and he, for one, believed that the more support they received from that side of the House the more likely would they be to steer clear of the very extraordinary dangers of the present time.
§ MR. WADDY
thought the time had passed when anything would be gained by discussing the errors of the Government. Whatever might have been their action up to the present time, they would all of them be of opinion that they were now in the presence of circumstances of the greatest possible gravity, and that nothing on earth could be so unwise as to indulge either, on the one side or the other, in personal recriminations, or in anything which partook of the character of violence and passion. He felt it to be his duty to vote against the Grant of £6,000,000, and having done that, he considered that the responsibility of taking the money and of spending it rested, not upon those who had voted against it, but on those who had voted the other way, and that it would not be patriotic on their part to place any further obstruction in the path of the Government. But he was bound to say that, considering what they had heard and the circumstances that had now arisen, it became more and more difficult for some of them to understand the propriety of some of the later acts of the Government. He had heard with some little surprise the statement that had been made by the right hon. Member for Greenwich, to the effect that he considered, under the circumstances revealed on Friday, that the Government were entirely warranted in instructing the Admiral to take a portion of the British Fleet to the Bosphorus. [Mr. GLADSTONE: With the permission of the Porte.] In any case he ventured to consider it a wrong, not a wise, step. He had no intention of discussing the question in an angry vein, but he desired to point out the radical fallacy underlying such a course of conduct. They were told it was to be sent to protect British subjects residing in Constantinople. How were they going to do that? Were these men-of-war to patrol the streets, or was it the intention to land men who would take upon themselves the duties of the police of Constanti- 1445 nople? What on earth was the Fleet to do when it got there? They were told that the Fleet was ordered to the Bosphorus to protect British subjects residing at Constantinople. That vague term sounded very well; but how were men-of-war to protect them, and against whom?—the Turkish Government or a mad mob? Was it proposed to land men from the men-of-war who should take upon themselves to some extent the duties of the police of Constantinople? But the Russians were as much entitled to be the police of Constantinople as we were, and if they did that, they would give great strength to the argument of Russia, that if England were going to approach Constantinople, and could not trust them—if England were going to approach it by sea, they would come and take possession of it from the other side. There was one point to which he wished to direct attention. One of the evil effects of asking for the Vote had already been seen. It had already been said that great numbers of people were in favour of it. He did not deny that there was a war Party in the country, and also in that House, and was of opinion that charges had been made which were neither becoming the dignity of the House or of the nation. He did not think any man in the House doubted the way in which the feeling which had prevailed at these meetings had been got up. Whatever might have been the intentions of the Government or their motives, there could be no doubt that they had misled a large portion of the people, and that going to war had been the object of many of the meetings which had taken place. And what had been the result? Language had been used in that House in reference to the Sovereign of a friendly Power which was altogether unworthy of its dignity, and he blushed for his country when he listened to such speeches as had been delivered by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hall) and the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen). If hon. Members differed from the policy of the Emperor of Russia, he hoped that in such an important crisis they would be able to moderate their tone and treat him with some amount of consideration. He was now charged with everything evil. He was called a breaker of Treaties, a man whose word was not to be taken, and he was even charged with the fate 1446 that had befallen Poland. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members who cheered seemed to have forgotten their history. The partition of Poland began in 1772, and was completed in 1791. The rebellion broke out in 1830, and 14 years later the Emperor Nicholas came to this country, and nothing was then thought too good for him. Long after, in 1874, the present Emperor of Russia came over to this country, and on the 19th of May these were the words addressed to him in the presence of many hon. Members whom he now saw present—We recognize in your Majesty the enlightened Ruler of a great Empire, and we especially desire to call to remembrance on this occasion the great boon you have conferred on your people by the abolition of serfdom throughout your vast dominions; by which act, so consonant with the sympathies of Englishmen, the liberty and happiness of so many millions of your Majesty's subjects have been enhanced, as well as the national prosperity of your Empire. We fervently trust that the visit of your Majesty will tend to cement the friendly relations between the two countries, and we pray that your Majesty will long be spared to reign over your people.That was the way in which the Emperor was addressed before all the magnates of the land. [Cries of "Who did it?"] It was done, and at the Guildhall, and, as he was challenged, he would say who were present. There were the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Duke of Richmond, the right hon. Benjamin Disraeli, Sir Stafford North-cote, Mr. Cross, Lord Derby, Mr. Gathorne Hardy, the Marquess of Salisbury, Lord John Manners, the Judges, several of the Bishops, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and two personages even more powerful, Mr. Hart Dyke and Mr. Winn; also Mr. W. H. Smith, Captain Pim, and Sir H. Drummond Wolff. [Sir H. DRUMMOND WOLFF: And the right hon. Member for Bradford.] All the personages he had named went on that occasion to meet that Potentate, and were pleased to behold him wearing the Ribbon of the Garter presented to him by the Queen on his breast, and yet now no language was too strong, or too violent, or too bitter to use towards him. He thought that in future it would be well if we endeavoured to treat Sovereigns who were still our Allies with greater courtesy and consideration.
Sir, I do not propose to add anything to this debate, 1447 so far as it has partaken of a controversial character, and, indeed, I am reluctant to occupy the time of the House for a single moment. My objections to the Vote, which is now reported, were of a character too strong to be satisfied by anything but a distinct and deliberate opposition both by speech and by vote. By the kindness of the House I enjoyed the fullest liberty of offering my observations to the House, and having done so I feel that my responsibility is at an end, and that it would not be becoming the dignity of the House or of hon. Members to attempt to worry, by repeated debates and divisions, a Government who are engaged in transactions undoubtedly of an anxious and difficult kind; and, therefore, Sir, I hope we may consider this question nearly at an end. But I wish to be permitted to say a word in reference to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen)—if I may still call him so—made with regard to a remark which I made upon a former speech of his. I have gathered very imperfectly the explanation of my hon. Friend; but, as far as I could gather it, I heard it with satisfaction. I certainly stated with all the accuracy I could what he appeared to me to have said, and he has stated with all the accuracy he could what I said. That, however, is not so important as the position in which our relative opinions are at present left; and taking the speech he has made to-day as the measure of his opinions, I do not see that there is, or can be in principle, much difference between us. My hon. Friend says Party ought to give way to patriotism, and undoubtedly that is so; but he admits, on the other hand, that patriotism may permit, and may require hon. Gentlemen, in matters of foreign policy, to question even proposals made by the Government of the day. If that be so, we are quite agreed on that principle; and the only question that can arise is as to the application of the principle to particular instances; wherein I suppose we must, as he says, practise tolerance one with another with regard to the conclusions at which we may arrive. My hon. Friend went on to question certain statements which he said I had made against the Turkish Government and the Turkish people, and which, if I understand him aright, were due either to gross ignorance or 1448 religious rancour. I naturally feel much indebted to my hon. Friend for the manner in which he has been pleased to take notice of anything that falls from me; but I am not going to reply to my hon. Friend. Until a very recent date I was perfectly ready to maintain in this House, and out of this House, everything that I have said, and everything I have written concerning the Turkish system and the Turkish Government; but I do not care to repeat those hard speeches now. It appears to me it would be singularly ill-judged in point of taste and feeling, if, simply because my hon. Friend accuses me of gross ignorance and religious rancour, I were to go back on accusations against the Turkish Government, which may have been, but are not now necessary, and which, in my view, it was necessary to urge when the Turkish was a great military Power, exercising that power for purposes which I thought disastrous to mankind; but which it would be most ungenerous and unmanly to dwell upon now, when Turkey lies prostrate and beaten. My hon. Friend may exult as much as he chooses in any censure of that kind, which he is quite welcome to multiply as much as he pleases without the smallest fear of any objection on my part. As to the speech of my hon. Friend in general, I do not know whether it was originally intended for this occasion, or whether it may not have been intended for some other occasion; but it is evident that it was thought better to produce it now than that such a valuable composition should blush unseen; and this I will say, that in my opinion it was not well adapted to the purpose to which I think all our speeches ought to be directed—namely, that of soothing excited feeling and softening animosities rather than exasperating them. I greatly doubt whether, if that speech becomes widely known beyond the walls of this House, it will tend to increase the confidence of Europe in the sobriety of the English mind. I hope that in this House that stability and that sobriety are not in danger. My hon. and learned Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Waddy) says that there is a war Party in this country—and certainly there are passions excited in no small degree in various quarters—but I trust that at least those who feel themselves impelled in that direction will keep their impulses under 1449 the government of their reason, and will ask themselves what are the purposes of any war into which they may desire to enter; what are to be the means by which it is to be carried on; and what are the conclusions they expect to arrive at from it. There was an ancient hero who described his position under particular circumstances in these words—Arma amens capio, nec sat rationis in armis.Unhappily the case so represented is a case which, although one would suppose that the rational character of human nature would always preclude it, is one of the commonest cases in the history of the world. I am bound to say I have, however, the fullest confidence in the character of my countrymen, and I have not the least hesitation in saying, with regard to those I see opposite to me, that I feel sure that in this great and critical moment they will say nothing and do nothing to increase any tendency that may exist amongst them towards inflammatory feeling; but will do all in their power to keep sentiments of that nature within the guidance of reason and judgment.
§ MR. MACDONALD
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) had made a very clever but a very mischievous speech. It contained principles which hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they came to consider them, would deeply regret having applauded. He would oppose the proposal by his vote and by every other means at his command. The hon. Member for Newcastle would do well to consider from whom he had those cheers that greeted him. He regretted that at a time when large numbers of our countrymen were suffering from want of employment the Government had asked for that Vote. They had not said a word to show there was-any necessity for it.
§ MR. STORER
said, it appeared to him that the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) had been misinterpreted, as he did not understand that his hon. Friend had spoken with personal disrespect of the Emperor of Russia. Of course, the hon. Member had spoken of him as the Head of a system of tyranny the most despotic on the face of the earth; and as the Head of a Church, the most superstitious debased, and intolerant of any that disgraced the sacred name of Christianity.
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
said, he ventured to hope that now the Government were furnished with the resources which they had judged to be necessary for the maintenance of our Forces abroad, they would pursue a calm and moderate, but, at the same time, an independent policy in the negotiations in which they were engaged. He hoped that the people of this country would resume an attitude more tranquil and more dignified than had been displayed in many of the meetings which had taken place on this question. He would suggest to those who were engaged in getting up agitation out-of-doors upon the question that the conditions on which the neutrality of this country rested were conditions which it must be the aim of every Power interested in commerce and navigation in the East to maintain. The interests of England were those which belonged to her as a great maritime Power. Let the people of England, therefore, remember that if their merchant navy was more exposed to the attacks of privateers than the merchant navy of any other country, it at the same time furnished resources for the development of a fighting Navy, which, in the event of war, would not be rivalled by any other Power.
§ DR. WARD
said, he had been asked as a matter of justice to recur to a few words which had been used by the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. J. G. Hubbard). With regard to the deputation of medical students that had waited on the Secretary of State for the Home Department the other day, the right hon. Gentleman had said that he thought that the recent demonstration was "a most deplorable exhibition;" and he went on to say that the Home Secretary had been wrong in receiving those who were only looking forward for an opportunity of exercising their profession. In his (Dr. Ward's) opinion, that was a most unfair charge to bring against a number of young men, who, in their collective capacity, had thought it right in this grave crisis to express their confidence in Her Majesty's Government; and he had the authority of the persons who were so unjustly assailed, to say that the allegation of the right hon. Gentleman was quite unfounded. In reference to the general question, speaking as a Catholic, he asserted that the truth was that the 1451 Catholic subjects of Turkey had always been treated by that Power with the greatest tolerance, whereas the Catholic subjects of Russia had endured the grossest oppression. Was it wonderful, therefore, that the Irish Catholics should hesitate before they gave their vote in favour of Russian aggression? In his opinion, the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and of a certain section of the Liberal Party who were so fond of the Greek Church, had helped Russia in her assault upon the liberties of Europe. We were not afraid of Turkey, but we had grave reason to fear Russia; because, wherever the latter placed her foot, she crushed down all that the Liberals of this country had been fighting for for years. It was a matter for the deepest regret that in the hour of their country's danger, the Liberal Party should have been found ranged upon the side of Russian oppression and despotism.
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
said, he had found no fault with the medical students for expressing their confidence in Her Majesty's Government; but what he had taken exception to was that they had passed a resolution, amid vociferous cheers, in favour of war with Russia. He regretted to see a band of young men belonging to such an admirable profession taking that position; but he approved their passing a Vote of Confidence in Her Majesty's Government, inasmuch as he had himself voted in their favour.
§ MR. BIGGAR
considered that the question of whether the country should go to war or not was of the most serious importance. They were asked to vote this money as a Vote of Confidence in the Government. Now, he did not think that the Government was altogether unworthy of their confidence; but, at the same time, he did not think them worthy of the full confidence of that House. Much fault could not be found with the despatches of Lord Derby; but, unfortunately, other persons—especially Sir Henry Elliot and Mr. Layard—took the opportunity of telling the Turks that these despatches did not represent the opinions of the Cabinet, and that in the end England would come to their assistance. The effect of that was to lead the Turks to defy the Russians, and to refuse the reforms demanded of them. 1452 He, therefore, thought the Government were much to blame for not having disowned Mr. Layard and Sir Henry Elliot more emphatically. Then there were the speeches of Lord Beaconsfield, who had spoken slightingly of the Bulgarian atrocities and held up the Turks to admiration. Both in that House and in his speech at the Guildhall, the noble Lord had encouraged the Turks, and for that reason he could not give the Government unqualified confidence. However, they had now got the Vote, and the responsibility for its appropriation must rest with them. They had not yet explained, though they ought to have done it, how they intended to spend it. If the country did not go to war, they could not need it; and if it did go to war, it would be useless for the purposes of the Army; while the Navy would now, as in the Crimean War, be useless against Russia. They talked of fighting Russia. How were they going to do it? They would require far more than the 32,000 they had in the Crimea. Moreover, they were deficient in superior officers, and the troops were for the most part boys. In fact, before the country went to war, they should reconstruct their military system, or they would suffer the severest disaster, as, indeed, would have been the case in the Crimea, if it had not been for their Allies. He should recommend the Government to make peace on as moderate terms as they could, and then to apply themselves to the re-modelling of the military and naval system of the country in such a manner as might at some future time afford a fair chance of engaging in war with success.
§ Resolution agreed to.