§ *SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz, "the declaration made by Her Majesty's Government to this House on Thursday last of their policy on the Cretan question."
§ *MR. SPEAKER
asked if the right hon. Gentleman had the leave of the House. The pleasure of the House having been signified by general assent,
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
said: The House will remember that on Thursday last the right hon. Gentleman made a statement to this House of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and he said at the time that an identical statement would be made in the other House of Parliament. Now, Sir, that did not turn out to be absolutely correct, because a statement appears to have been made in another place which was not identical, but which contained additional particulars of a very important character—["hear, hear!"]—to which I will presently refer. What we were informed was that a telegram was sent late on Wednesday night to the Five Powers in those terms:—Inform Government to which you are accredited that Her Majesty's Government propose to make the following public declaration of the policy which they are prepared to pursue and which they believe to be in accordance with the views of their allies.Now, it was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman that that was a remarkable proceeding; he said it was a departure from ordinary diplomatic tradition, and that they were making this statement of their views before receiving the full and formal assent to those views of their colleagues.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
Of their allies. That savours of the new diplomacy. It is quite true that it was a remarkable departure from diplomatic custom. The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned, which was correct, that we did not, on this side of the House, ask for that statement. We were willing to leave it to the discretion of Her Majesty's Government to determine what was the time and what 1451 was the manner in which they would announce to this House the policy they intended to pursue. It was volunteered by the Government, I have no doubt, for very good reasons, at that time, and it was made public, as we were told, before the assent of the other Powers had been given. That in extremely important with reference to the first question which I desire to ask Her Majesty's Government. I would first remind the House what was the declaration under several heads. It was:—(1) That the establishment of administrative autonomy in Crete is, in our judgment, a necessary condition to the termination of the international occupation; (2) that, subject to the above provision, Crete ought, in our judgment, to remain a portion of the Turkish Empire; (3) that Turkey and Greece ought to be informed by the Powers of the above Resolution; and (4) that if either Turkey or Greece persistently refuse, when required,"—we were told in another place that the emphatic words werewhen required—to withdraw their naval and military forces from the island, the Powers should impose their decision by force upon the State so refusing.The first question I have to ask is this, Has the assent of the other Five Powers been given to those proposals of the Government in the manner and form in which they were there presented, or has any modification been made of those terms? I ask that for this reason—that immediately those terms and that programme of Her Majesty's Government were published here there was a demonstration of a character which certainly did not bear signs to very cordial assent in other quarters. I do not desire to press that matter, which it might not be desirable now to raise, but that is the reason why I think it is very important we should be told, in the first place, whether or not these categorical terms of the policy put forward by Her Majesty's Government have been accepted, and are practically now in force, in what is called the Concert of Europe. There is at least one thing in regard to this publication which I am entitled to refer to, and that is, that it was an invitation to this House, as it was to the world, to discuss the terms of this policy. ["Hear, hear!"] That may be regarded sufficient justification 1452 of the Motion I shall make, and I am happy to say that the courteous reception which it has had from the Leader of the House implies that he does not differ from that view. It was obviously intended that the House of Commons should discuss this question when they became acquainted with the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I do not know whether it will be alleged by anybody that a discussion of the situation in which we find ourselves—a very grave situation without doubt—is premature. There is one quarter in which I am sure that such an allegation will not be made, and that is upon the Treasury Bench; nor will it be made by the able representative of the Foreign Office in this House. On Thursday night I suggested that we should take time to consider the policy so propounded and that the Debate should take place on Friday, but when the Leader of the House suggested that this was too early I acquiesced at once and waived the request for Friday. But what was my surprise—and I will add my satisfaction—when I found in the journals the next morning this announcement—Mr. George N. Curzon, Under Secretary of State for Foregn Affairs, was the chief speaker at a largely-attended Smoking At Home at the United Club.[Laughter.] Although I was taken by surprise, I do not complain, because it may come to this—that "Smoking At Homes" may be the only places at which we shall find ourselves able to discuss the great affairs of the Empire. [Laughter.] At all events, the Under Secretary had the advantage which I think Mr. Carlyle in his Life of Frederick the Great describes as "the Tabak Parlament." [Laughter.] In that speech the right hon. Gentleman entered at length on the whole of the Eastern Question, and especially upon the Cretan Question. I do not propose to discuss that speech here. It would not be in order, but I may refer to it. I will, however, give the House an idea of the speech from what I believe are called the head lines in the journal in which I read the speech. They are as follows:—"Three Aspects of the Cretan Question"; "Other Influences at Work"; "The Present Situation"; "The Attitude of the Powers"; "The Charges against the Government"; "The Proposed Reforms and General Reforms in Turkey." [Laughter.] A more comprehensive view of 1453 the subjects to be discussed at a Smoking At Home it is difficult to conceive. [Laughter.] Although there were in that speech some remarks not altogether favourable to the House of Commons as a place of discussion, and some severe remarks upon the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman, as I desire to acknowledge, was extremely favourable and kind to myself—[laughter]—because he said I had asked the following questions:—What is the international question in Crete? Why are you there? What is your object? What are you doing? Let us understand where we stand.The right hon. Gentleman quotes these questions as having been propounded by me; and he said:—I think that is a most reasonable question and a question which no member of the Government would shrink from giving a reply to; and, indeed, a reply to these questions will not merely elucidate a great deal of the position, but will, I think, give us a clue for the comprehension of the present and the future.That is exactly the clue we want to get here, which is the proper place, in my opinion, for an exposition of this Question—[cheers]—so that we may have that clue to the comprehension of the present and the future. The only point to which it seems to me necessary to refer in that speech—for, no doubt, we will have the substance of it again from the right hon. Gentleman—is that the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the "solution" which had been propounded by Her Majesty's Government without any reserve as to the rest of the Powers. ["Hear, hear!"] On Thursday it was stated that the assent of the Powers had not been received; but as the Under Secretary made no reserve as to the assent of the Powers, I presume that on Friday the assent had been received. But the right hon. Gentleman made another statement. He said that this solution was due mainly to the initiative of Lord Salisbury.
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. GEORGE CURZOX,) Lancashire, Southport
I said "due in the main."
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
Yes, I said, "mainly." That is an important statement. It is one the right hon. Gentleman has made on many occasions in reference to the arrangements of last August in reference to Crete. But I am not sure that it is a very discreet or diplomatic 1454 statement, because when one party in a concert takes all the credit to himself, it is very likely that the other partners might not altogether acquiesce in that view of the situation—["hear, hear!"]—and there are circumstances which lead one to believe that that is not the view which has been taken in other quarters. ["Hear, hear!"] I would also recommend to Her Majesty's Government, if I may be permitted to do so, not to be too anxious to claim all the credit for themselves in this matter, especially in regard to the latter part of the articles which I have read to the House. [Cheers.] I have referred to this speech to make it perfectly clear that, if the Government find themselves entitled in other places to enter into extensive discussion of the present situation, they cannot complain—and I do not believe that they do complain—of our asking for equally full explanation and discussion in the House of Commons. [Cheers.] Now, in order to make it clear what are the explanations we specially desire to receive from the Government, I should like to state the propositions upon which the questions which I desire to put are founded. First of all, I venture to affirm that the present situation—that is to say, the present insurrection in Crete; the intervention of Greece; the intervention of the Powers by force of arms in Crete—has been the direct result of the entire failure of the arrangements made by the Council of the Powers of last autumn. [Cheers.] That arrangement was founded upon the worn-out idea that you can reform Turkey, leaving Turkey to be the engine and the instrument to carry out those reforms. [Cheers.] That was the system upon which the reform of last August was founded, and it is because it was founded upon that false conception that it has failed. [Cheers.] We are still, no doubt, without official information as to what happened since that arrangement, and the causes of its failure. Consequently, we must take the best information we can get upon the subject, and I find in The Times, from its Vienna correspondent, on February 27, the following statement, which is ascribed to Georgi Pasha Berovitch, the Governor of Crete:—Referring to the reforms which were to have been introduced into Crete, the Pasha said 1455 that they were the best that the Christians could have expected; but as they would have done away with the supremacy of the Turks, the latter placed every obstacle in the way. The Christians were driven to despair by the delay in the execution of the reforms, and eventually hostilities broke out. From this brief account of Georgi Pasha Berovitch it is clear that the Porte took away with one hand what it had given with the other; and thus the full responsibility for the sanguinary events in Crete rests with the Sultan and the Camarilla.[Cheers.] We have there the causes of the failure of the arrangements of last August. With regard to the policy set forth by Her Majesty's Government, I observe with satisfaction that the article of autonomy is placed first—["hear, hear!"—because it shows that the fundamental principle and the policy of the Government is the practical expropriation of Turkish rule from the island of Crete. ["Hear, hear!"] Everything depends, in my opinion, upon the completeness of that expropriation, and, therefore, what we have to inquire is how far and how completely does the autonomy that you propose to give to Crete get rid of Turkish rule, which has been the cause of all these evils and to reform which you entirely failed last autumn. [Cheers.] Of course, you may continue to speak of the integrity of the Turkish Empire, and the consolidation of the Turkish Empire. The question is whether that is a phrase or a reality. If it is only a phrase it does not so much signify; but let us examine what is the reality of this autonomy which you have put first in the statement of your policy. At all events, this, I hope, is clear and cannot be departed from—that the Government have arrived, and I hope those with whom they are acting have also arrived, at this conviction, that there is no reform possible in Crete except upon the condition of practically and substantially removing all Turkish authority and rule in that island. [Cheers.] If we have got so far, we have made a great advance in the solution of the Eastern Question. [Renewed cheers.] The Leader of the House said truly the other day that there are many forms of autonomy in the Turkish Empire. I think the more correct expression would be that there have been many experiments at autonomy in the Turkish Empire. The right hon. Gentleman referred to Servia. Servia is a very good illustration. In the original attempt 1456 to establish autonomy in Servia the Turkish troops were left in the country. That experiment entirely failed. It was not until the Turkish troops were removed from the country that anything like true autonomy was established in Servia, Then we all remember the experiment of Eastern Roumelia, which was loudly proclaimed as the great triumph of British policy in the Treaty of Berlin. Hardly was the ink dry upon the instrument by which the autonomy of Eastern Roumelia was established when that also disappeared; and the garrison which the Turks were to have held in the heights of the Balkans never appeared at all. ["Hear, hear!"] And Eastern Roumelia as a separate item also disappeared from the face of the arrangements in the Balkan Peninsula. All these figments of Turkish autonomy have disappeared wherever you have a real autonomy and true reforms. But at least let us know that the autonomy which you are going to establish in Crete is a real autonomy which will remove the power of the Turk at once and altogether from the island. [Cheers.] What is this autonomy to be? It is a very vague term without some definition, and we ask you to explain to us its nature. First of all, has the plan been settled? [Cheers.] That is a most important question. Or is it hung up to be settled in future by the Powers? That is a most material point on which we ought to have an answer. We have always assumed that the policy of Lord Salisbury was first to settle the autonomy beyond further dispute, and then to proceed to the measures which may be necessary to set it in operation in Crete. ["Hear, hear!"] But there has been propounded elsewhere a different policy, and that is why I put this question. It is that autonomy is not to be given first, but that you are first to put down the Cretans in Crete and expel the Greeks, and then discuss the autonomy afterwards. [Cheers.] It is impossible for two policies to be more discordant than these. Because, what may happen? You may combine to coerce first and quarrel over autonomy afterwards., so that coercion will take place and autonomy will never be realised [Cheers.] I want to know whether the policy of Lord Salisbury is, as I believe and hope, the policy of settling 1457 the autonomy first and not to proceed to the coercion until that settlement is arrived at. I would ask what form of autonomy is it that you are going to set up in Crete? I am afraid, from the statements that have been made, that you are going to set up a government which is one the Cretans do not desire. [Cheers.] They wish for union with Greece. [Renewed cheers.] You say that you will not permit that. I want to know why? [Cheers.] Can there be anything more dangerous in a situation of this kind—can there be anything less statesmanlike—when you are removing one form of government and setting up another, than to set up the new Government in a shape which is distasteful to the people who are to be governed? [Cheers.] And yet that I gather to be the policy which is about to be pursued. It is said that you desire to set up a Government like that in Samos. Well, Samos is a small island. I believe that there is a nominal Turkish Governor, and I am told that he has a guard of honour of sonic 20 soldiers. And that represents the integrity of the Turkish Empire in Samos. But there the population is homogeneous. They are almost all Christians; the number of Mussulmans is small. In Crete the conditions are totally different. You have a large predominant Christian population, but you have also a large Mussulman population also. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore you must have some controlling power. A merely indigenous autonomy would still leave these two populations face to face uncontrolled; and so that the last state of that island will be worse than the first. ['"Hear, hear!"] There will be no controlling power to obtain justice for the minority of Mussulmans against the majority of Christians, and I for one have no hesitation in saying that I desire protection for the minority of Moslem, as much as for the majority of Christians, for this is not a religious question in any sense of the word. But how in the world is an indigenous autonomy in Crete to keep the peace between these two parties! You have an example of similar conditions in Thessaly, where Greece has to deal with a Christian and a Mussulman population, and from all I have read the Greek Government have done their work well in Thessaly. [Cheers.] The Mahomedan population in 1458 Thessaly recognises that in the Greek Government they have a protector, and the two populations live side by side in amity and peace. There is this remarkable fact. I road the other day in the "State Papers" a document proceeding from a man who is recognised as one of the most sagacious European statesmen of this century—I mean Prince Leopold, who afterwards became King of the Belgians. He was invited to assume the throne of Greece, and he considered, with the caution and sagacity which belonged to him, what were the conditions on which alone Greece could be constituted a permanent and prosperous State. And the main thing on which Prince Leopold relied was the necessity of adding Crete to the kingdom of Greece. He argued the point in a letter to the Duke of Wellington, and for any man who wishes to understand this, which is the crux of the question, I recommend the reading of that letter of Prince Leopold's. He pointed out what would be the consequences to Greece and to Crete in the future if that union was not effected; and a more prophetic document it is impossible to conceive. You may trace in it the history of all the evils which have since occurred. It was to a very great degree, if not altogether, Prince Leopold's reason for declining the Crown of Greece; and it is because, unfortunately, the policy of the Duke of Wellington, which was very different from the policy of Mr. Canning, refused the annexation of Crete to Greece at that period, that we are confronted with the present difficulties. I have yet to understand the ground upon which the English. Government are opposed to the annexation of Crete. [Cheers.] So much for the autonomy which you are going to establish in the future. But there is another and a very urgent question. What are you going to do now, and at once? What are you going to do in that sort of interregnum which you contemplate, and in which you are going to occupy and deal with the island before you establish the autonomy? I have heard it very absurdly stated that the Greek Government have been guilty of a breach of international law. That is an entire misuse of the term. The action of Greece is no breach of international law; it is something quite different. I have heard it compared to a raid. But a raid is the 1459 act of private individuals, not of a responsible Government. ["Hear, Lear!"] That is filibustering. But when a responsible Government comes forward and takes part in the affairs of another country that is intervention, which may or may not result in war. It is a casus belli; but whether it result in war or not depends on the circumstances of the case. That is a perfectly accurate description of the Greek action. But what have the Powers done? They have gone to Crete; they have taken possession of the territories of the Sultan; and they have assumed to deal with them as they like and to give them to whom they like. That is an intervention at the very least. [Laughter.] I have seen that abroad it has been called a "deposit." It is a deposit in one sense. If you take from a man his purse full of money, and you, take the money out of it and give it to someone else, and then return to the man "the integrity" of his purse—[laughter]—that would be the manner of dealing with the deposit, and in which it is proposed to deal with Crete. Therefore both of these operations are interventions, in the true sense of the term, and, if the Turkish Government choose to deal with them so, they are casus belli. Let us deal with this question on recognised grounds, and in the proper terminology. I want to know what you are now, and at once, going to do with Crete? As I understand, you are going to Lave an occupation, a condominium of the six Powers. And now comes in the statement, to which I have referred, made in another place as to how that condominium, is in the interim to be worked. It is to be worked by Turkish police. [Opposition ironical cheers.] The arrangement of a disturbed country by a condominium of six Powers operating through Turkish police seems to be about as unsatisfactory a settlement as you could well have. [Cheers.] What is to happen if the six Powers are to depute the Turkish police to go into the mountains and settle the disturbances between the Mahomedan and Christian populations? I really cannot call this anything but an insane proposal. [Cheers.] Surely you can find some better instrument to pacify Crete than Turkish police acting under the joint direction of the six Powers. The whole difficulty arises from your determina- 1460 tion not to have peace kept by the only people who could keep it. [Cheers.] I have, I hope, moderately put before the Government the points on which we require and request from them information. But I cannot sit down without asking the question which, I am sure, is in the heart of every man in whom the love of freedom breathes. I ask what, under your policy, is to be the fortune of Greece? [Cheers.] I say that is the first question in the mind of every Englishman today. [Cheers.] The deliverance of Crete from the abominable tyranny of the Turk is at last I Lope proclaimed. [Cheers.] Whose work Las that been? [Cheers.] I say without hesitation and without reserve that the deliverance of Crete is due to the Greek King and to the Greek people alone. [Cheers.] That King and that people have greatly dared and they Lave greatly done. [Cheers.] They came to the rescue of this oppressed people who had fallen among thieves. [Cheers.] They came and played the part of the good Samaritan. [Opposition cheers and Ministerial laughter.] Yes, you may laugh, but I say they played the part of the good Samaritan while the concert of the priest and Levite passed by on the other side. [Cheers.] That work, worthy of their immortal race, will remain to them as an inheritance of imperishable fame when the laughter of the Gentlemen opposite Las disappeared and I Lope will be forgotten. [Cheers.] I read with anything but satisfaction the speech the other day by a Member of the Cabinet who thought it a good opportunity to jeer and sneer at the Cretans in the struggle for liberty in which they are engaged. I do not charge the Government with that spirit. I do not believe that the language of Lord Balfour of Burleigh represented the feelings of the Cabinet in this matter. But the Lour of the triumph of the Greek people in the cause of others is also the crisis of their own. In the critical circumstances in which Greece is placed I feel that those to whom her fortunes are most dear ought to utter no word that should place her in danger. But this, I think, we are entitled to say, and we are bound to say—a word of solemn warning to Her Majesty's Government let them beware of the perils of the path upon which they are entering—a 1461 path in which they will not be their own masters, in which they will not be the persons to say where they shall advance or where they shall go. They may be forced by others into deeds which the conscience of the English nation will condemn. I will say no more than that we must reserve to ourselves the absolute right of judgment upon those transactions when they arise. Greece has earned for herself the right to judge of the course she shall pursue, and in the cruel position with which she is now threatened it is not for us, to whom her future is dear, to counsel her to any measures which may endanger the noble future that lies before her. She has done great things for freedom in the past, more greater than that which she has accomplished to-day, she has great things to do for freedom in the future. She has given at least autonomy to Crete, and autonomous Crete will one day—I feel assured at an early day—be joined to her Throne. [Cheers.] And by a far-sighted policy guiding her undaunted spirit she will live to fulfil that mission of emancipation upon which she has entered. [Cheers.] Her safety is the precious hope of all that are desolate and oppressed, and we may devoutly pray that she will long endure to hand on, like the torch-bearers of her classic age, the lamp of freedom which her valour has kindled, and which her wisdom may long keep alive. [Loud cheers.]
, who was received with Ministerial cheers, said: I hope that I may succeed in catching some echo of the note of dignity and of moderation which, with the exception of one passage, to which I shall presently call attention, has characterised the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. At the opening of his remarks the right hon. Gentleman addressed a few observations to myself. He complained that the Leader of the House not having acceded to a discussion upon this question on Friday last, I had taken his Friday and had presumed to make a speech elsewhere upon the same evening. The reason, if I remember aright, why the Leader of the House was unwilling to surrender Friday was because it would have interfered with the devotion of Friday night to the discussion of Supply. But so successful is that scheme, and so 1462 expeditious on Friday last was the House in the discharge of its business—a compliment which it is only rarely that one can offer it—[Opposition cries of "Oh!"]—that by nine o'clock the House had risen, and I, therefore, was at liberty to fulfil a long-standing engagement elsewhere. The right hon. Gentleman said that I gave extensive information in that speech. That certainly was not my impression nor my intention. [Laughter.] But the right hon. Gentleman has gone on to invite me to give a more ample clue this evening in a more proper place than I was then able to do. It is to that invitation that I will now respond, and I hope that in the course of doing so I may succeed in giving a different aspect to the new version of the old Scriptural story of the Samaritan and the Levite which we have had put before us this evening by the right hon. Gentleman. Whatever may be the merits, or whatever may have been the conduct of the Samaritan in this case, about which I shall have to say very little, I shall hope at any rate in the observations I have to make to prove that the Levite and the publican—[loud laughter]—I should have said the priest—have not passed by on the other side. [Laughter and cheers.] It is, I think, true that for the proper comprehension of the case before us some reference to past incidents is necessary. A big Blue-book was laid before the House yesterday. It may be said that that Blue-book contains nothing but past history; and that being so, no reference is needful to it, and that it throws very little light upon the present. I think that that is not the ease, and that from even a casual perusal of that book three points stand prominently forth, which it is essential that the House should grasp in order to understand the present position. The first is this—that throughout the period which that Blue-book covers—namely, the whole of the earlier and middle portions of last year—the policy of the Government was consistently devoted, to use Lord Salisbury's words, to a thorough reconstruction of the Government of Crete, to a mitigation of the authority of the Sultan, and to the imposition, if necessary by forcible means, upon the Sultan of the necessary reforms. And I would remind the House that it was in the interest of Crete herself, and with the view of 1463 carrying out those objects, that the Government declined last year to take part in the blockade of the Cretan coasts which had then been suggested, and equally declined to embark upon those military and naval demonstrations which I remember were urged upon us by some ardent spirits in this House. The second point is this. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken with some contempt of that scheme of reforms. No doubt it is now superseded, and therefore forgotten, and it is easy to speak in a slighting manner of the dead. But it is only fair to remember that that scheme was received with more than contentment, with gratitude, by both sections in the island, and more especially by the Christian section; that 30 out of 40 Christian deputies signed the declaration to the foreign Consuls expressing their complete satisfaction with the scheme, which was more than they had expected or asked for, and signified their intention of conforming to and assisting in its execution. The third point, and upon this I cannot lay too much stress, is this—that by that scheme the Powers assumed the joint responsibility for the present and for the future of Crete, which they have ever since been discharging, and which is the explanation and basis of their conduct at this moment. In the last clause of the scheme hon. Members will find that the Powers declared that they would "assure themselves" of the execution of these reforms, and, as the autumn went on, they, in the first place, delegated their military Attachés to represent them upon the Gendarmerie Commission; they appointed delegates also upon the Judicial Commission sent to the island to reorganise the law Courts, and as soon as trouble commenced they sent their ships and their sailors to the places where distress and disorder occurred. Meanwhile at Constantinople they were dissuading the Turkish Government there from sending any reinforcements to the island; and finally, less than three weeks ago, they occupied the principal seaports on the coast. By these steps they showed that they were prepared continuously to discharge the obligations they had taken upon themselves last summer. That being so, and the Powers, having, so to speak, taken Crete out of the hands of the Turk, a fortiori they could not allow Crete to be taken by anybody else 1464 out of their hands. [Cheers.] That was the situation after the reforms had been enacted. I will not weary the House by asking them to accompany me through a tedious record of the incidents of last autumn and winter. The right hon. Gentleman says the reforms failed, but they failed because they were never allowed a chance of being carried into effect. ["Hear, hear!"] The gendarmerie, upon which so much rested, was, owing to inherent difficulties in the constitution of a foreign body, not embodied until the end of the year.
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
was understood to ask who was responsible for the creation of the gendarmerie.
I could answer that question, but I do not think it is material. ["Hear, hear!"] The situation in the island was greatly aggravated by a lack of funds owing to the financial embarrassments in which the Government had long been involved and the difficulty of raising a loan on satisfactory terms. Meanwhile there was increasing agitation and disquiet, and, I am sorry to say, intrigue going on in the island. The old distrust between Mahommedan and Christian, which has existed in Crete now for 250 years and which is almost ineradicable from the blood of the people, revived, both parties declining, in the fear which they commonly shared, to return, the one to the villages and the other to the towns. In the meantime it is not capable of dispute that agitators continued to arrive in the island; a propaganda was conducted and the hopes of the Christians were excited by a prospect of fresh concessions. That brings us down to the end of the year. In December and January the old situation of panic, and of firing, of incendiarism and wounding, and even of massacring, had revived, and so we come to the first day of the last month. I wish to ask the attention of the House a little more closely to the incidents of this most critical month of February. On February 1 the British Consul reported that British ships were necessary for the protection of British subjects. They arrived, and I do not think any words used in this House could exaggerate the debt which is owed by both parties in that unhappy island to the exertions on the one hand of the captains and the crews of the vessels, for which my right hon. Friend the First 1465 Lord of the Admiralty is responsible—["hear, hear!"]—and, on the other hand, to Her Majesty's Consul in the island, Sir A. Biliotti, who can scarcely have slept for many weeks past, and to Colonel Chermside, who was representing the Government on the Gendarmerie Commission, and who has been practically acting as joint Consul with Sir A. Biliotti. At this time all reports agreed that the Turkish garrisons, about whom the right hon. Gentleman had had nothing favourable to say, behaved extremely well, and were held in proper control. Then we come to the events of the first and second weeks of February and the appearance of the Greeks upon the scene. It was on February 7 that a Greek ironclad and transport first arrived, their object being to protect the Greek subjects and to save from danger the Greek women and children. [Opposition cheers.] Then on February 12 there arrived the flotilla of gunboats headed by a Prince of Greece. [Opposition cheers.] On the same day a Greek ironclad, although there had been no declaration of war, fired upon a Turkish ship that was conveying Turkish forces to the relief of one of the beleaguered garrisons.
The date was February 12, though I do not see the relevancy of the remark. [Cheers.] On February 16 there arrived in the island Colonel Vassos with 1,500 men, with instructions to occupy the island in the name of the King of Greece. Upon the wisdom or the reverse of the Greek proceedings, upon the motives by which they may have been actuated, I do not desire, it is clearly not my business, to say one word, but there can, I think, be no doubt whatever, from all the information we have received, that, from the first, the arrival of these Greek ships and troops greatly aggravated the situation. "Hear, hear!"] On the one hand it excited the Christians with new hopes—[Opposition cheers]—and on the other hand it infuriated the Mahommedans and reduced them to a state of sullen rancour and almost of despair. [Opposition laughter.] As early as February 11 the Consuls and the Admirals acting together reported to their Governments that the only chance for the peace of the island 1466 lay in the withdrawal of the Greek forces; the continued abstention of the Turks, the mixed occupation of the Powers, and, finally, in the organisation of the gendarmerie and reforms in the administration. Upon the first point, the withdrawal of the Greeks, as the House knows well, the representations that were made by the Powers were without effect. [Opposition cheers.] On the second point, the influence of the Powers was successfully exerted at Constantinople to prevent any reinforcements whatever being sent to the island. The four principal seaports were occupied by detachments from the allied fleets, and the gendarmerie, having been constituted, arrived in the island, and Major Bor, as temporary commander, took up his post. Meanwhile the tension had increased in the island, and it was just about this time that those unhappy massacres took place to which I have had occasion to refer to this House, and in which the Mussulmans were the sufferers. The House will easily understand how this arose. The bulk of the Mussulmans, having fled for safety into the bigger towns on the sea coast, there were scattered communities of Mussulmans left in the interior, where the majority of the population is Christian. It is these unhappy people who were beleaguered in one place and in another, and who, from time to time, as the Christians gained the upper hand, suffered, and even in some cases were practically extinguished. Thus, when the right hon. Gentleman talks this evening about the action of Greece having brought hope and peace and goodwill to the island, and when he compares it to the action of the good Samaritan in the tale—[Opposition laughter, and an HON. MEMBER: "A tale?"]—well in the parable—[Opposition laughter and cheers]—I always thought a parable was a tale in illustration—[cheers]—I hope he will see that, while I do not desire to dispute for one moment that such may have been the object with which those troops were landed, and with which they endeavoured to conduct themselves, such has not been the consequence in its operation upon the state of society in the island. ["Hear, hear!"] I now come to what is really in itself an important incident, but which has, I think, assumed almost undue proportions in the part it has played in public attention in this 1467 country. I allude to the bombardment. [Some Opposition cries of "No!"] I suppose I may allude to the bombardment? I quite understood, with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that we are discussing wide issues—["hear, hear!"]—and I thought that, as so much has hitherto turned on the incident of the bombardment, and as it is such a material point in the consideration of the question, I might be allowed, perhaps, as we have full information, to state to the House exactly what did occur. ["Hear, hear!"] It was on February 15 that the detachments from the ships of the Powers, 450 men, were landed at Canea. An intimation was sent on that day by the Powers to the Greek Commodore and the Greek Commander on land, and to the Cretan insurgents on the heights of Akrotiri, commanding Canea, that they had taken the town under their protection. Three days later the insurgents sent an official notification, in reply, that they intended to attack the Turkish outposts on the morrow. The Admirals reported that this would be a most menacing measure for the occupying forces, and that, should the Turkish outposts be driven in, fire would then be opened upon the position of the allied forces in the town; that the Admirals were unanimous in deciding to prevent this, and that fire from the ships would be used to check such an advance of the insurgents. The Admirals reported that such a step was necessary for the safety of their men in the town. [Cheers.] On the next day they did more. They sent an urgent remonstrance to the Greek naval and military commanders against any attack upon Canea. The Creek Commodore replied that he was not responsible for the action of the insurgents in question. Then, on the same day, February 19, we heard that the insurgents' guns were advanced and it was reported that any further advance would have to be stopped, that the Admirals were unanimous on this point, and that the step was necessary to prevent loss of life among their own people in the temporary possession of the town, which would be most probable if the investment became closer. In consequence of these messages the Admirals were authorised to assist any attack on the town—[cheers]—and consequently any censure anyone may have thought fit to bring against the Admirals must be brought against those who sit 1468 upon this Bench. ["Hear, hear!"] Then came the day of the bombardment, which was on the evening of February 21, and about which we received the information that the insurgents having renewed their attack on the south-eastern side of the town, fire had been opened from the German, Russian, Austrian, and English ships; that after a few minutes the Greek flag had been hauled down and the firing had ceased. The French and Italian ships did not fire, their guns being masked by the other ships. The only other point that has since arisen is in regard to the wounded. Fearing that there might be wounded, the Commanders asked leave to send their medical officers on shore, and were declined permission by the Greek Commodore. The House will be aware that during the last ten days I have been almost daily assailed with questions as to the incidents of this bombardment. Some points may still perhaps be in doubt, and it may therefore be for the general advantage of the House if I am permitted to read the latest information which we have received. This is the account of what actually happened from the British Admiral:—Revenge at 4,700 yards fired three shells; Harrier at 3,800 yards, Dryad at 4,000 yards, fired each about six shells.That is 15 shells in all in place of the 40 about which we heard. [Cheers.]Distance of buildings occupied by insurgents from Turkish outposts 1,800 yards, the latter about 1,500 yards from the suburbs of Halepa, and these are 1,200 yards from Canea. Insurgents had commenced forward movement, without provocation, for two hours before ships opened fire, and had closed 800 to 1,000 yards on Turkish outposts. Turks were and have been throughout, absolutely passive until attacked, so much so that it is presumed that they are short of ammunition. [Laughter.] All the necessary communications with insurgents passed through Greek Commodore a few days before. Bread and flour were allowed to be landed at Akrotiri on his application, on the condition that insurgents remained passive. Last warning was passed through Greek Commodore on the day before attack.This is an interesting and, I think, a conclusive account. We now know that the successive allegations which have played so conspicuous a part at question-time in the House for the last 10 days are for the most part entirely erroneous. ["No, no!" and "Hear, hear!"] I will summarise them. There was an allegation that the proceedings began by an attack 1469 by the Turks on the insurgents, and that I have shown to be untrue. ["Hear, hear!" and "No, no!"] There was the allegation, a very unimportant one, that the British Admiral gave the signal, and that the British Fleet fired 40 out of 70 shots. There was the allegation that the Turks fired on the wounded, and that after the bombardment the Turks continued firing, but that the Greeks and Cretans were prevented from returning the fire for fear of a renewed bombardment. All these allegations have been exploded by the information we have received; and I should like to inform the House that so far were these statements from being true that we hear that the Turks did not reply from the arsenal at Suda, although they were repeatedly fired on from the hills, and that the British Admiral and his flag lieutenant were fired on by the insurgents while they were reopening the telegraph office outside the arsenal. Now, I do not think that any body can contend that a "people rightly struggling to be free" are to be at liberty to fire upon a British Admiral and his flag lieutenant. [Ironical cheers.] There are another half-dozen reports which have done duty during the last ten days, but they also, I am afraid, must be considered to be exploded, culminating in the story of a great massacre of Mussulmans in Sitia. These reports have been industriously circulated, but they must all be relegated to the limbo of exploded fictions. ["Hear, hear!"] Now I come to the present situation in the island, and I am afraid it is very serious indeed, and the telegrams indicate that it may become more serious still. Desultory firing has been going on in the neighbourhood of the towns, the Admirals are endeavouring to prevent each side from continuing aggressive action, and we can only hope that their efforts may be attended with good results. I apologise to the House for having detained it so long with this narrative of incidents, which, however, is not immaterial for the formation of a judgment. ["'Hear, hear!"] And now I turn to the larger question raised by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman; his speech was, in fact, a question as to what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government. ["Hear, hear!"] Throughout this time of trouble that policy has been based on two main principles—first, 1470 loyalty to our obligations entered into with the other Powers of Europe—["hear, hear!"]—which we have since conscientiously discharged and to which we are not going to be faithless; and, secondly, a regard for the future of the island itself. It is for these reasons that we have contended throughout that, though in the interest of order it was highly expeditious that the Greek troops should withdraw, yet it would be impossible usefully to consider proposals for enforcing that result until the Powers had made up their mind what was to become of Crete. It is to the future of Crete our eyes throughout have been turned. In the course of the discussions with our colleagues which ensued it soon transpired that on this point, as before, the Powers were in practical agreement. I do not think there has been a breach in the absolute unanimity of action at Constantinople and at Athens. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the assent of the Powers had been given to the scheme of policy that was put forward the other day by the right hon. Gentleman sitting on my right. Well, Sir, we have every reason to believe that the Powers are in absolute agreement.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
The phrase used by the Leader of the House was that it had not received formal assent, but that the general assent of the Powers was secured. I should be glad to know if the Government have received the formal assent.
Yes; I think that the full assent of the Powers has been received. The right hon. Gentleman has said you are proposing to offer autonomy to Crete—what is that autonomy you are going to give, and can you give us an assurance that it will be full and complete? Sir, by autonomy the Government intend that the effective authority for internal government of the Sultan shall cease to exist in Crete—["hear, hear!"—that there shall be a government in Crete, but that that government shall not be the government of the Sultan. ["Hear, hear!"] That, I think, is the answer in a sentence to the question the right hon. Gentleman has put. There is only one other point about which the right hon. Gentleman asks, and to which it is necessary I should reply, and that is in reference to the Turkish police, as he calls them, in the island.
Upon that point I think the right hon. Gentleman has perhaps not given sufficient importance to the critical nature of the situation as it now stands. When we hear of Moslem garrisons beleaguered by hostile populations it is quite obvious that there must be some force in the island until a permanent gendarmerie can take its place to save those beleaguered Moslems from the fate that otherwise awaits them; and, when slurs are, perhaps not unnaturally, cast upon the Turkish soldiery, it should be remembered that the Turkish soldiers for months past in Crete have acted with exemplary obedience, and that in Armenia and elsewhere, where Turkish soldiers have taken part in lamentable excesses, they did so under the authority and instructions of their own officers. ["Hear, hear!"] There is no reason to believe that, under proper authority and in places where there may be European supervision and control, Turkish soldiers and police are not perfectly capable of efficiently discharging the temporary duties intrusted to them. This will be, I think, only a necessary and temporary measure, which, of course, will cease to apply when the gendarmerie are ready to take their place. One other observation I have to make. The right hon. Gentleman has asked a number of questions which he will excuse me for saying it is very difficult to reply to. Let me remind him that Great Britain is only one of the six consenting parties, and that each party naturally approaches the question from its own standpoint, and has its own interests to consider. The Powers are not as six men seated at one round table, a situation which we all know is not invariably fraught with harmony—[laughter]—but they are like parties at different tables, not all round, and some, indeed, with very sharp corners. But, so far from any undue delay in the proceedings having arisen from the common action of the Powers, I submit to the House unanimity has been arrived at and action has been carried out with very reasonable speed. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested the conclusion he would prefer—annexation to Greece. ["Hear, hear!"] It is not for me to discuss that suggestion, but one thing I think at least is obvious— 1472 that, be it wise or unwise, be it right or wrong, it is, at any rate, impossible, in face of the present attitude of the Powers of Europe; and I should have thought, looking at the facts and the condition of the island, that this was the last moment when the prospect of such a step would be likely to lead to peace between the rival factions in the island. What is the only alternative to this autonomy offered? I imagine it would be that Great Britain should recede from the Concert of the Powers, and I cannot think that in any part of the House there will be a disposition to recommend that step. ["Hear, hear!"] It would not mean, in the first place, that Crete would be annexed to Greece, because we know the attitude of the other Powers; it would be encouraging Greece to persist—a step which, I think, would be absolutely wicked unless we were prepared to assist her in so doing. It would not mean war in Crete alone; it would mean war on the northern frontier of Greece, in a region where the slightest spark would kindle a wider flame. It would mean disturbances in Thessaly, and, finally, it would be good-bye to all the reforms we still look forward to carrying out. But I imagine that the real object everybody has in view is the future peace and prosperity of the island. The first condition of that prosperity is its liberation from the rule of the Turks. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman has said that autonomy would not be satisfactory to the people of Crete. That is not the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. Autonomy is what the people of Crete have set before themselves for a century. It was much more than they asked for or were content to receive a year ago. We believe it now meets to the full extent their wants, and I hope that in the course of this Debate, at least, nothing may be said, and I hope nothing has been said in the course of the speech I have made, and which I am grateful to the House for having listened to for so long—[cheers]—I hope nothing has been said which may in any degree tend to retard that result. [Cheers.]
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
thought that some parts of the speech to which the House has just listened would excite a good deal of alarm. The right hon. Gentleman had made an extremely able speech, from his own 1473 point of view; but he was very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman, while making a defence of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, had found it necessary to attack the kingdom and people of Greece. In the history which the right hon. Gentleman has given of the events which had led up to the present situation, there were some very large and grave gaps, and that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was calculated, and he dared say, intended, to produce the impression that if it had not been for the intervention of Greece, the condition of the people of Crete would be better than it was. He held that the intervention of Greece alone had brought about the present amelioration of the condition of things in the island. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman said the reforms had been adopted, and were apparently going forward very well; but the right hon. Gentleman forgot to tell the House that the acceptance of those reforms by the people of Crete was largely due to pressure from the Government of Greece. ["Hear, hear!"] Was it not a notorious fact that the reforms were interrupted by action from Constantinople? Then, the right hon. Gentleman spoke a good deal about the gendarmerie, and from what he said the House might be led to imagine that the gendarmerie had restored peace to the island. Of all the failures in connection with the history of Crete none was so famous and so grotesque as the failure of the gendarmerie. ["Hear, hear!"] What did the correspondent of the Telegraph say that morning?The Commission for the re-organisation of the European Gendarmerie met this morning, but was unable to come to any decision, as there are no funds with which to pay the men.That was the end of this extraordinary gendarmerie the beneficent effects of which were interrupted by the invasion from Greece. In spite of all the right hon. Gentleman had said, the invasion of the island by Greece was what had led up to the present state of things. ["Hear, hear!" He contended that the policy of the Government with regard to a blockade of Greece was right. The only fault to be found with it was that it was not consistent. From the very first Lord Salisbury had resisted a blockade of Greece; and if he wanted to form an 1474 indictment of Lord Salisbury's present policy he could not do better than to turn to Lord Salisbury's own Dispatches on the subject. The Government had now thrown in their lot with the other Powers as to the coercion of Greece. He wondered if they had asked themselves how that coercion was to be carried out? ["Hear, hear!"] In the autumn of last year Lord Salisbury was opposed to the policy of blockading Greece. The right hon. Gentleman had indicted the policy of the Greek Government, but he would call his attention to a Dispatch of Lord Salisbury's as to the conduct of Greece last autumn, in which he said that the conduct of the Greek Government had been perfectly correct—["hear, hear!"]—and that a blockade of Greece, even by the united fleets of the Powers, would be no easy matter. He was surprised that Lord Salisbury had now entered on a policy which must result in an attempt at a blockade. ["Hear, hear!"] He would ask the Government what they really intended to do with regard to the Greek force now in Crete, and how they were going to restore order there? Everyone would read with alarm the announcement that peace was to be pre-served by Turkish police. Did the right hon. Gentleman deny that the soldiers who were to be employed as police were the very men whose hands were still red with the blood of Christian Armenians?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said the right hon. Gentleman had said it was true that the Turkish soldiers committed these I atrocities, but that they only did so because they were under the authority and orders of their officers. That was the force that was to keep peace in the island between Mussulmans and Christians. Furthermore, he would ask, Who was to pay those soldiers? Every correspondent in every capital in Europe declared that the one thing the Powers were determined not to do was to spend one farthing in restoring peace in Crete. This was the joyful and tranquillising information the right hon. Gentleman had to give to the world, the people of Crete, and the Government of Greece. ["Hear, hear!"] Had the right hon. Gentleman considered the position of the Greek question? The Government of Greece was no longer able to control the passions of the people. 1475 He warned the Government of the responsibility of carrying out a policy which might drive the King of Greece from the throne which he had occupied with so much benefit to the people. How were the Powers going to get rid of the Greeks in Crete? Were they going to fire upon them or to bombard the towns on the littoral in which they had taken refuge? If the Government of this country took any part in driving out the Greek soldiers in Crete he did not think that their tenure of power would be of greater duraton than that which would be allotted to the king of Greece. There was indeed only one final solution of the question—the transfer of the government of Crete to the Government of Greece. Was it not therefore unwise on the part of the Government to delay that solution, to leave the Cretans to the tender mercies of the Turkish soldiers, who only massacred when ordered to do so by their officers and chiefs. ["Hear, hear!"]
*SIR E. ASHMEAD-BAKTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said that no one would dispute the fact that the Powers had undertaken a very great responsibility with regard to the condition of Crete. The truth as to the state of affairs in the island only made it more clear how baseless and how fraudulent had been the agitation so actively propagated in this country. For the last few weeks the Mussulman inhabitants of Crete had been hunted from their homes in the interior and driven to the sea-coast towns. That had been the beginning of the trouble in Crete, and he feared that the account of their sufferings now given by the Under Secretary would prove to be understated. He believed that eventually it would be found that not a few hundreds, but thousands of Mussulmans had been massacred in the interior. He understood why it was that the Irish Members were taking part in this agitation. This Cretan movement was largely an agrarian movement inflamed by religious animosity—it was practically what would happen in Ireland if the persons whom hon. Gentlemen from Ireland represented got the upper hand. [Laughter.] The Mussulmans in Crete were the chief landowners, and the Cretan Christians were exterminating them in order to seize their land. In every Cretan revolt during the present century the Mussulmans had suffered more than the Christians, 1476 until the balance had been turned by the arrival of Turkish troops. What was the responsibility of the Great Powers with regard to Crete and the Mussulmans? During the last ten days 3,000 Mussulmans had been beleaguered in two places. Neither was more than 12 miles from the sea. The Admirals had close by 20 great warships, with 12,000 fighting men on board. They were told nine days ago the critical position of these Mussulmans. The Consuls of England, Italy, and Russia had then solemnly stated that a landing force of 300 men would be sufficient to rescue these Moslem sufferers. He asked the Government why that force had not been landed? If they allowed the Mussulmans to be massacred wholesale in Crete, how could the sympathisers of the Christians complain if the Mussulmans retaliated in other parts of the Empire? It was for the interest of the Christians throughout the Ottoman Empire that these beleaguered Mussulmans in Crete should be rescued. It was by no means certain that the Cretans desired union with Greece; he believed the majority of the Cretans would prefer independent autonomy under the suzerainty of the Sultan to union with Greece. The action of the Greek Government had been taken not to obtain reforms for Crete, not for Cretan autonomy, but to prevent Crete from enjoying autonomy. ["Oh, oh!"] He was not satisfied with the international law and authorities of the Leader of the Opposition, for he believed that he had higher authorities behind him than the right hon. Gentleman to support the view that the invasion of territory of a foreign State without declaration of war in time of peace was an act of piracy. The whole of the agitation in this country was fraudulent, no doubt unintentional on the part of many of its supporters, who looked upon Greece as an heroic little Power struggling to obtain liberty for an oppressed people. The real fact was the reverse of this. The Greeks had attacked the Turkish power in an island where they knew they were safe from retaliation, and in order to prevent the Cretans from obtaining the autonomy which they desired. The power of the Sultan and the strength of the Turkish forces had been previously reduced by the influence of the Great Powers. The Greek Government were not moved by the noble motives alleged; they desired to prevent Cretan autonomy, 1477 and by interfering in this unprovoked and aggravating way when the hands of the Turks were tied, they had turned a peaceful and orderly settlement into a perfect pandemonium of bloodshed and massacre. No attempt had been made by the Leader of the Opposition to prove the statement that the application of reforms had been prevented by the Turkish Government. Indeed, an official denial on the part of the Government had been given to this view by the Under Secretary of State in his speech before the United Club on Friday last. There was no foundation for the statement that the Turkish Government in this matter had behaved otherwise than in good faith. He believed that the Turkish Government were not at all averse to see autonomy established in Crete, if the rights of the Mussulman population, as well as those of the Christian, could be secured. Crete had long been a costly burden to Turkey, and but for the fact that the Sultan felt bound in honour to protect his Mussulman subjects in Crete—who would, as present events showed, be exposed to outrage and massacre if Turkish authority was withdrawn—Crete would have been abandoned long ago. He hoped that the Powers would insist on international law being respected, and would secure autonomy and good government for Crete, while on the other hand teaching Greece that piratical expeditions of this kind could not be allowed. He maintained that the Turkish soldiers were among the best disciplined forces in the world. During the Russo-Turkish war, as several hon. Gentlemen opposite knew, they behaved in a most exemplary way towards non-combatants on the other side. He questioned very much whether it could be proved that any organised body of Turkish soldiers took part in the outrages in Armenia—[cries of "Oh, oh!"]—and tinder suitable leader-shin they could not find a better body of troops for maintaining order and for purposes of policing than Turkish troops. Hon. Members opposite did not care how many Mussulmans were sacrificed. [Opposition cries of "Oh!" and an HON. MEMBER: "How much do you care for Christians being massacred?" [Opposition cheers.] He felt very deeply indeed for the events that took place in Armenia, and the only reason the hon. 1478 Gentleman made that observation was because he had declined to express sympathy for sham atrocities in Sassun which never happened. ["Oh!"] The moment he was satisfied there were terrible deeds in Armenia in the last three months of 1895, that moment he expressed his extreme horror and regret. He had done his best to secure a better state of things for the unfortunate Armenians, and that in a more practical way than the reckless vituperation of hon. Members opposite. He denied that the failure of the scheme of reforms proposed and practically carried out by the Powers was due to the Turkish Government. The failure was attributable to the fact that Greek secret societies set to work immediately, flooded the country with agitators and arms, stirred up race and religious feelings in the island, and started in the western districts savage risings by which the Mussulman inhabitants were driven to the coast. That was the cause of the turmoil and disturbance. The Austrian Government foresaw the danger, and made a most sensible proposal last September to keep arms and agitators out of Crete by means of a naval cordon. That would have averted all the present trouble. Now we should have to blockade not only Crete, but Greece as well, when it was too late. The Leader of the Opposition spoke in favour of the expropriation of Turkish authority in Crete. Did the right hon. Gentleman and his friends mean to drive the whole of the Mussulman population out of Crete, because, if the island were handed over to Greece, and Colonel Vassos was left in charge, the whole of the 70,000 Mussulman inhabitants would be exterminated? If the Cretans had a few years of autonomy it was very doubtful if they would desire union with Greece. They had proved themselves the most turbulent people in the East, and the best thing which could happen would be an autonomy for the Cretans under the sanction and control of the Great Powers, which would put an end to the condition of anarchy that had prevailed too long. During the last four months he maintained that the provocation had come from the Christian population, and that the action of Greece had caused scenes of rapine and massacre. It was only by the intervention and the enforcement of order by the Great Powers that this appalling state of anarchy and bloodshed could be brought to an end.
§ MR. R. B. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
observed that the hon. Member for the Yildiz division of Constantinople—[Opposition laughter and Ministerial cries of "Oh!"]
§ *SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I rise to order. I must ask you, Sir, whether a personal reference of that kind is permissible?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I do not think the hon. Member is exceeding the limits of Debate. [Opposition cheers.] I do not think the observation was in the nature of a personal insult. [Opposition cheers and Ministerial cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ MR. HALDANE
rose to proceed with his speech, but was received with Ministerial cries of "Withdraw! "
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I have already said that I did not think the hon. Member had exceeded the limits of Debate. If I thought he had I would have called upon him to withdraw. [Opposition cheers.]
§ MR. HALDANE
could assure the hon. Member he did not intend any personal reflection. He observed that this was the first occasion upon which the hon. Gentleman had received any symptom of assent from hon. Members sitting around him. His speech had been listened to in silence, not even the Member for King's Lynn being present to throw the light of his countenance upon him. [Laughter.] He desired to associate himself unreservedly with the sentiments which were expressed in dignified language by the Leader of the Opposition as regarded the future of the relations of Crete to Greece. They on that side of the House, at any rate, and, perhaps, many on the other, desired and hoped that the time might come when that natural union of the island, which never should have been dissevered from the mother country, should take place once more. However that might be, the natural sentiment of the people of this country, they knew that at the present time they were face to face with a situation, in which their hands were not wholly free. There was impatience on that side of the House with what was called the Concert of Europe, because they thought it prevented this country from having free action. His first observation on that was that the action of the Concert of Europe had not been by any means an ineffective action in the past. It was by means of the Concert of Europe that Mr. Canning succeeded in realising the great 1480 ideas with which his name was indissolubly associated in their memory. It was the Concert of Russia, France, and England that fought the battle of Navarino, and emancipated Greece from Turkish rule. It was by the Concert of Europe that the Treaty of Berlin was passed, and the Balkan States freed from oppression, and he did not think that even now in Montenegro and Servia they would find any disposition to cavil at the work of the Berlin Treaty. ["Hear, hear!"] What would be the position of this country if we broke away from the Concert of Europe and set ourselves to work out the emancipation of Crete with such aid as we possessed standing by ourselves? Was the agreement between the Powers as to the future of Turkish rule in Crete an instrument we should be called upon to give up at the present time? The question of Crete could not be isolated from the rest of the Eastern Question. He was glad to hear of the proposed autonomy for Crete. If we and the Powers concerned were in earnest—and there was no reason to think the latter were not—the present difficulty would be solved and matters left open for the future union of Greece and Crete. The assurance as to keeping Turkish police in Crete was not wholly satisfactory. We stood at a time which was indeed critical, when a false step might cause mischief. [Ministerial cheers.] The insular tone of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Egypt the other day was a tone which exposed us to the danger of other Powers seizing on the opportunity to put us in difficulty on other questions, and if we broke away form the Concert of Europe now, who knew but that we might get a Collective Note which might raise questions even more difficult than those we had to face at present. So he was glad to see Her Majesty's Ministers assuming a friendly attitude towards other Powers, and by no vote of his would he put any difficulty in their way. But our present relations to other Powers must not be the be-all and end-all at which we should aim. There was a future for Greece—the only Liberal country in that part of the world—a country with which some of the noblest sentiments were associated—and he used the word "Liberal" in relation to it in a much wider sense than it was commonly used on those benches—a country which 1481 had aspirations the most nearly akin to our own. It was hoped that Greece had still before it another great future, and that as part of that future they might see it reach a condition of honourable and effective government in the East of Europe and embrace in its territory the island of Crete, which never should have been taken from it. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. LEONARD COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
remarked that it had been truly said by the Leader of the Opposition that the step taken last week was a step unexampled in Parliamentary procedure in respect of diplomatic and foreign negotiations. The Foreign Minister of the Crown had communicated a scheme of action to our allies, and before obtaining their formal assent, both Houses received a message indicating what was proposed. What was the meaning of this step? It appeared to himself that Lord Salisbury took action similar to his action last year in respect to arbitration, in indicating the kind of policy he proposed, and inviting the opinion of Parliament and the country upon the policy, so that he might know with what force he could go in council with the United States on that subject, and on this occasion into council with Europe with respect to Crete. The House was therefore answering the question of the Government—whether Parliament was prepared to support them in the policy they had indicated, and to which the Government were, to a certain degree, committed. The hon. and learned Member who had just spoken had intimated that for himself he was prepared to support the policy which Lord Salisbury had indicated. He himself was strongly disposed to sympathise with Lord Salisbury in his foreign policy. In many transactions it had been a policy of which he altogether approved. [Cheers.] His action when the proposal came to blockade Greece and prevent the movement of men and munitions of war from Greece to Crete was altogether admirable. But the policy of Lord Salisbury in that respect was a policy to depart from the Concert of Europe. For some days Lord Salisbury and England were the subjects of unmeasured vituperation. England was held up to obloquy because Lord Salisbury refused to join in a policy which would have left the Cretans open to the action of the Turks. 1482 In looking back on the past he observed that Lord Salisbury had not always agreed with what had been the policy of the other countries of Europe in respect to these matters. What was the situation now? At the end of last year a scheme of reform was drawn up for the government of Crete. That scheme had failed. The hon. Member below him said that it failed owing to the intrigues of the Greeks, who desired it to fail, and stated that there was no evidence to the contrary. The evidence might be judged by some to be worthy of acceptance, by others of rejection; but, at all events, there was the evidence of the gentleman who was appointed by the Sultan himself to be the Governor of Crete. At all events, there was evidence of a continuous character that the scheme of reforms which was adopted by the Powers and promulgated last autumn had been thwarted and prevented in consequence of the Sultan himself using all his powers to prevent its being successfully carried on. The Powers tried their best, and they failed because there were troublesome persons in the world who insisted on spurring one onwards to do more than was perhaps consistent with prudence. Having failed, the Powers acknowledged their fault, and another policy had now been put forward, and the question was whether the present polity could obtain success. The hon. and learned Member who had just spoken had referred to the present policy, but had omitted to touch upon what was the critical question upon which he conceived the whole chance of success depended. They were going to establish, or try to establish, an administrative autonomy in Crete, and in pursuit of that design they were going to insist that the Greek and Turkish troops when required should retire. We could not always have our own way, and the real question, so far as he could see, was what was to be done supposing that the retirement was not so easily effected. [Opposition cheers.] They might address their moral suasion to both parties, and say that it was extremely inconvenient to precipitate a crisis which might cause a European war; they might say that their plans were such that if carried out faithfully they would give good government to Crete. But what if the Greek and Turkish troops did not retire? [Opposition cheers.] What was the 1483 European Concert going to do if both refused to retire? He was inclined to think that when Lord Salisbury suggested to the European Powers the policy that these troops should retire when required—laying great stress on the words "when required"—he reserved to himself considerable discretion as to the conditions under which the order should be given requiring them to withdraw. If that could be done peacefully by moral force there was much to be said in favour of maintaining the Concert of Europe by such a process; but if it was to be done by an act of war against Greece, then, he ventured to think, the question would seriously arise whether the United Kingdom must not retire from the Concert of Europe in connection with that. [Loud Opposition cheers.] It was very dangerous to utter such an opinion now, he knew. [Ministerial cheers] He had not spoken without much deliberation. He knew it might be said, perhaps with some truth, that the Greeks by such utterances would be encouraged to persevere and to remain. [Ministerial cheers.] But let them observe the alternative. Why had Lord Salisbury put this policy before them? Was it to obtain for them such a concurrence of opinion that if the occasion arose they would be bound to support the use of force against Greece and to support an act of war? If they doubted whether we should be called upon so to act, now was the moment to express that doubt. [Opposition cheers.] They would be open to just censure of a very severe kind if now, by their silence as much as by their words, they encouraged the other Powers to believe that this country would join in an act of war against Greece, and encouraged Lord Salisbury to think that he would be supported by unanimous public opinion in such an act of war. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not think that Lord Salisbury held that opinion himself, nor that he relied upon a unanimous public opinion, or even upon a preponderance of public opinion, in support of such a policy. He thought Lord Salisbury distrusted the future in respect of that question. Although it might seem that he left the problem still unsolved in saying that it must depend in a large measure on the conduct of other Powers, and particularly on the conduct of Greece, he still thought they would be open to the severest condemnation if they kept silence 1484 at this crisis and allowed it to be supposed for one moment that we should not hesitate, and hesitate long, before allowing Lord Salisbury to carry them in concert with the other Powers into a war against Greece—["hear, hear!"]—or if they kept silence and allowed Lord Salisbury to imagine that he would be supported by anything like the concurrence of public opinion if the action he had now initiated should lead to such a result. The hon. and learned Member who had just sat down had not considered this contingency. If they did not look this contingency in the face, that discussion was worse than useless. His right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition had not said much about it, but he himself had introduced it, and he hoped it might be faced, in one sense or the other, by those who followed him. [Cheers.]
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said the right hon. Gentleman had spoken with his usual judicial independence. It could not be said, however, that in his speech he was a very warm supporter of the policy of Lord Salisbury. He was surprised at the way in which the right hon. Gentleman had been interrupted by his own side, as though nobody sitting on that side of the House might venture to criticise the Unionist Government. Hon. Gentlemen should have taken an example from the way in which they on that side met the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddington. He did not think a stronger speech than that in favour of the policy of the Government could possibly be made. His hon. and learned Friend was so zealous against the present policy of the Liberal Party that he positively went out of his way to attack a speech made by his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
§ MR. HALDANE
said he had entirely agreed with the speech of the Leader of the Opposition as to what they would like to do, but he was in agreement with the Government, inasmuch as they were doing the only thing that could be done. [Ministerial cheers.]
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
thought his hon. and learned Friend had made an attack upon the Leader of the Opposition in stronger terms, and had protested against his making reckless speeches on the 1485 ground that they ought to limit themselves to considering what it was possible to do, and that, therefore, the honest, intelligent, and able Government—[laughter]—ought not to be blamed. He confessed that he himself was going to find fault with his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. [Laughter.] He entirely agreed with the Under Secretary of State that his right hon. Friend was wrong in comparing them to the Levite and the priest, and the Greeks to the Samaritan. The priest and the Levite went on their way; they did not bombard or blockade the man who had fallen amongst thieves. [Laughter.] The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs relied upon the very old history contained in the Blue-book. The right hon. Gentleman thought it better to found his defence of the Government on what the Government were inclined to do two years ago than on what they were doing at present. It was no answer to the complaint that we had bombarded the Cretans to say that we had refused to blockade Crete a year ago. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Great Powers had taken Crete out of the hands of the Turks and therefore that no one had a right to take Crete out of their hands. But it should be rembered that Crete belonged to the Cretans. [Cheers.] The destinies of Crete ought to depend upon the wishes of the Cretans, and he was not surprised that they should desire to throw oft' the last link of Turkish rule and join with their fellow-countrymen in the kingdom of Greece. The right hon. Gentleman said that all the disturbances in Crete were owing to agitators who were sent over by Greece. Had the right hon. Gentleman any proof of that?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
No, no! I will not have them from you. [Renewed laughter.] The Under Secretary had given another and a much better reason for the disturbances. The right hon. Gentleman explained that the international gendarmerie proposed to be established had 1486 not been established, and that consequently the Cretans were left to the tender mercies of the Turkish garrisons. He could understand that under these circumstances the Cretans, dreading further atrocities, had broken out into rebellion, and he thought they were right in doing so. [Cheers.] The Under Secretary then went on to talk of having exploded 12 fictions contained in questions that had been addressed to him from the Opposition side of the House. The chief question was whether 40 shells had been fired upon the Cretans, and the right hon. Gentleman assured the House that only 15 shells had been fired. It was a small matter whether 40 or 15 shells had been tired. The fact remained that shells had been fired, and it was against that that they protested. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman had said with regard to the bombardment that the Cretans advanced after they had been told that they must not advance, and that therefore the Admirals had a perfect right to fire upon them. Then again the right hon. Gentleman says that it was an exploded fiction that the Turkish troops issued from the towns held by the International Forces and retired again to those towns after they had attacked the Greeks. But in the protest, dated Feb. 24th, sent by the Creek Government to the Lowers, the following description of what had occurred was given:—The Turks, under the protection of the Great Powers around Canea, have attacked the Christians encamped at Froudia, and having defeated them the Christians were about to occupy the advanced posts abandoned by the Turks; therefore the Admirals believed it to be their duty to fire upon Christians who were coming up to help against the aggressors, who were supported by two Turkish ships anchored near the fleets. Thus the Turks fired from their position on the land and the ships fired from the sea, and they had the assistance of the foreign fleets.The following day the Turks attempted the same procedure, hoping to provoke a fresh bombardment by the fleets. It is only the calmness of the Christians which avoided a similar scene of atrocity. It was noticed that the bombardment was preceded by a visit of the Turkish military commandant of the Admiral, after which the European cannons immediately opened fire upon the Christians.That statement, derived from the Greek Admiral on the spot, and from the Greek Consul had been supported by all the newspaper correspondents, including the correspondent of The Times. Therefore 1487 the Under Secretary had not exploded what he was pleased to call the fiction in regard to the bombardment. The statement that the Turkish troops emerged from the towns, attacked the Greeks or Cretans and then withdrew, was supported by a telegram from Router's agent at Canea that morning. The right hon. Gentleman said that the origin of all this was that the Greeks had the effontery to send ships into Cretan waters, and that one of their ships stopped a transport carrying Turkish troops to Crete.
It was not carrying Turkish troops to Crete, but carrying Turkish troops from one end of the island to the other.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said the right hon. Gentleman then went on to explain that there was no necessity for Greece to have done this, because, subsequently to this, the Great Powers had urged at Constantinople that no fresh troops should be sent to Crete.
I must have expressed myself unintelligibly. The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. A long time before this incident in Cretan waters the Ambassadors had constantly urged at Constantinople that it would not be wise to send troops to the island—[cheers]—and, as a matter of fact, not a single transport was sent to the island. The transport that was stopped by the Greeks was removing Turkish troops from one end of the island to the other.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said he thought the Greeks had a perfect right to stop the transport. [Cheers and laughter.] His hon. Friend, the Member of Haddington, had said there was no stain upon the honour of this country from what had occurred: at the bombardment. [Ministerial cheers.] That, no doubt, was the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but on the Opposition side of the House they were almost all agreed, probably with the sole exception of his hon. Friend the Member for Haddington, that there had been a stain put upon the honour of this country by the bombardment of the Cretan troops. [Cheers.] Some hard facts remained, and he did not think that any amount of talking on the other side of the House would get over them. The Armenians were massacred for more than a year. During all that time the Ambassadors, like a number of old women, twaddled and twaddled over a table at 1488 Constantinople—[laughter]—and all the while the Sultan had a free hand. The Ambassadors explained the difficulties of the situation in Armenia, but they referred to their magnum opus in Crete. There, at least, they said they had introduced a good sound system of reform. But had that system of reform, the magnum opus of the Great Powers, produced the result they anticipated in Crete? After all the agitation in this country in favour of the Christians in Turkey, after all the denunciations of the Sultan at meetings throughout the country, attended not only by the Liberals but by Conservatives, the fact remained that all we had done was that we had fired upon the Cretans, and that we intended to coerce the Greeks into leaving the island. [Cheers.] With regard to the future what he wanted to know was what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin wanted to know, were we going to join the Great Powers in coercing the Greeks if they do not leave Crete, and if they refuse to submit to the will of the Great Powers? If we were not prepared to do so, we ought, at once, to tell the Great Powers. [Cheers.] We had no right to sign Joint Notes sent on behalf of the Great Powers to Greece, and saying that we would coerce the Greeks if they did not retire from Crete, if it was not our intention to do anything of the kind. [Cheers.] They were told that the Concert of Europe might break up. For his part he did not care if the Concert did break up. [Cheers and laughter.] In this matter of the Eastern Question we had ever been the evil genius of Europe. We had forced Europe into war in order to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire. What had we done in the case of Crete? In 1867, when the Cretans had vanquished the Turks and were almost independent, the Concert of Europe wanted to give autonomy to the Cretans? Who stopped it? We, and we alone, stopped it. [Cheers.] And then we talked about using the Concert of Europe. We stood to the Concert when it acted as we wished, and retired from it when it did not. But now we were absolutely told that we were to commit what would unquestionably be an atrocious and wicked crime. [Cheers.] We were to drive the Greeks out of Crete if they would not go of their own accord, in order that the Concert of Europe should 1489 not be broken down. The Government had no right to drag this country into an infamous attack on civilisation and humanity. [Cheers and ironical cheers.] The Under Secretary said that after the Greeks had been turned out the Cretans were for a time to be left to the tender mercies of the Turkish gendarmerie, and that the Turkish gendarmerie could be depended on because they would obey their officers. But Turkish officers and soldiers were united in attacking the Armenians, and they would also unite in attacking the Christians in Crete. He would admit that the Christians often attacked the Turks; but the Mussulmans always forced the soldiery and gendarmerie to side with them, their co-religionists; and in any disturbances between Mahomedans and Christians in Turkey the troops always ended their interference by helping to massacre the Christians. One thing must be made as clear as possible. The Government might carry out their policy by means of their majority [Ministerial cheers]—but it was not the policy of the country. [Cheers and cries of "Oh!"] It was not the policy of the united country. It was the policy of the Unionist Party. The Opposition protested against it, and regarded it as the greatest crime we could commit to attack the Greeks in this fashion. [Cheers.] Liberals all over the country, with the single exception of the hon. Member for Haddington—[laughter]—were opposed to the Government of this country—[ironical cheers and laughter]—siding with the Turks against the Christians; and that the Government had certainly clone. [Cries of "No!" It was really a little too absurd—[ironical cheers]—of hon. Members opposite to say, after we had fired at the Cretans in order to protect Canea from their attack, that we had not sided with the Turks. [Cries of "No!"] Should we be told that we were not siding with the Turks if, as Lord Salisbury had announced, we used force to compel the Greeks to retire? [Cheers.] The policy of Her Majesty's Government might be in accordance with the views of hon. Members opposite and of their constituents, but it was entirely contrary to the views of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, and to the views of those whom they represented. [Cheers.]
§ MR. T. W. LEGH (Lancashire, Newton)
said that the Debate had been opened by the Leader of the Opposition in a speech of unusual moderation, but it was marred by an uufortunate reference to the Concert of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman forgot that the Concert which he described as a concert of "Priests and Levites" was re-established by the Government of Mr. Gladstone in 1880 for the purpose of coercing the Turk. Truly, it existed now not solely for that purpose, but also for the purpose of maintaining European peace. The hon. Member for Northampton attacked the Government for taking the side of the Turks. A more unfounded accusation had never been brought against the Government. As the Blue-book showed, this was the only Power which had been consistently friendly to the Cretan cause. After an immense amount of trouble the Powers elaborated a scheme of reforms which was gladly accepted both by Mussulmans and Christians. There was the authority of the Under Secretary for the fact that from that moment the Greek revolutionary societies deliberately set to work to bring about the present condition of things. What had the Powers done? They allowed a Greek expedition under the command of a Greek Prince to land in Crete; and they allowed provisions and munitions to be landed; but, when the insurgents fired on the Marines of the Powers they naturally drew the line. The important part of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was that in which he pronounced emphatically in favour of the annexation of Crete by Greece. He himself saw very little to admire in the action of the Greeks. Their action in forcing this crisis was unpardonable. If they had only waited a few years Crete would inevitably have fallen to them. The final break-up of the Turkish Empire might not be very long. The Turks had already lost command of the sea; and if the Cretans declared in favour of the union with Greece the Turks could not prevent it. But there were serious objections to the policy of annexation. The bloodless revolution in Eastern Roumelia in 1886 very nearly precipitated a European war. But for the promptitude of Lord Salisbury and Sir W. White it would have been difficult to prevent a general conflagration in the Balkan Peninsula. War did break out between 1491 Servia and Bulgaria, and was only stopped by the interposition of Austria. If the Creeks were allowed to take possession of Crete merely because it was a desirable possession, their example would be followed by other countries. Servia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro would claim to take possession of territory. The Turk was not so effete that he would not tight for his European possessions, and the result would be war in the Balkan Peninsula. Sooner or later Austria would be drawn in, and then it would merely be a matter of days before Russia followed. The Leader of the Opposition did not believe in this eventuality, which, however, was not baseless in the eyes of those best acquainted with European polities, though they might not be supported by Mr. George Bussed and the leaders of the Liberal Forward policy. He declined to believe that the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean looked forward without alarm to a crisis being brought about in Constantinople. Nor was he disposed to think that Lord Rosebery would regard such an event with equanimity, hon. Members opposite, and also the Leader of the Opposition, had east doubt on the efficiency of the Concert of Europe. What they had to consider in the present instance was whether it was worth the risk of a European war on account of sentimental admiration for Greece. ["Hear, hear!" and Opposition laughter.] For his part he declared most emphatically that it was not. At the present time, despite the insinuations of hon. Gentlemen opposite, he believed the Powers were in agreement, and that not one of them approved of the action of Greece. ["Hear, hear!"] If any one of the Great Powers showed any signs of hesitation, or of retiring from the Concert, what was already a difficult situation might at once become a most dangerous one; and, in conclusion, he would venture to suggest that those who, apparently with a light heart, were going to take part in a Division that would amount to a Vote of Censure on the Government, would thereby incur a very grave responsibility. [Cheers.]
§ *MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE (Leeds, W.)
, who was received with cheers, said he should he glad to see perfect unity among the European Powers, if it was thought that that unity would produce good and lasting results. But they had yet 1492 to wait for that happy consummation. How could the Powers be agreed when they did not know what was going to happen, or what shape the negotiations now going on would ultimately take? The difficulty in discussing the matter on the present occasion was the lack of information. He did not blame the Government for that. But the Government told them that they were proposing to set up autonomy in Crete. How were they going to do it? He did not think the Government knew themselves. ["Hear, heal"] They were told that the Turkish gendarmerie were to be employed in Crete. Were the gendarmerie to be police, or were they to be Turkish soldiers acting as such, and were they to be under Turkish officers, and, if so, who was to control the Turkish officers? [Cheers.] Suppose Crete firmly rejected the proposals of the Powers, was it proposed to coerce the Cretans as well as Greece? [Cheers.] If, so, how was it to be done? Was it to be done by Turkish soldiers or the gendarmerie, or by sending British soldiers? [Cheers.] Did the Government contemplate with equanimity the prospect of diverting the Guards from Gibraltar and sending them to Greece to force upon her an autonomy which the Cretans might not want? [Cheers.] He did not agree with the hon. Member for Haddington that the Concert of Europe had done as much as he claimed. The hon. Member began by carrying them, back to the Treaty of Berlin and to the freedom which was given to various countries which, until then, were under the dominion of the Turk, and he exclaimed, "See what the Concert of Europe did then?" But the hon. Member was altogether in error in taking that view. It was Russian action—[cheers]—sole and isolated action, which brought about that happy result. [Cheers.] Unfortunately the action of Russia as set forth in the Treaty of San Stefano was curtailed at Berlin by the Concert of Europe. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for the Newton Division had carried the matter a step later, and in arguing in favour of the concert of Europe alluded to events of importance in 1880. The hon. Member referred, he presumed, to the final cession of Thessaly to Greece, and to the extension of Montenegrin boundaries, but was he sure that the Concert of Europe was so effective on that occasion as he 1493 seemed to think? He should have thought that happy result was due rather to the action of England. It was true that on that occasion Russia co-operated with England. But two or three of the Great Powers stood altogether aloof. ["Hear, hear!"] He would not say for a moment that the Concert of Europe was not a great instrument for effecting national purposes in European policy. If an important thing was to be done in Europe it followed that the more Powers that could unite to compel that it should be done the better. ["Hear, hear!"] That was obvious; but if now one among the six Great Powers of Europe actuated by a selfish motive and by threatening a little opposition reduced the European Concert to impotence, then the alleged Concert of Europe might become a disgrace to Europe itself. ["Hear, hear!"] They had been told for three years past what the Concert of Europe was to do. They had waited patiently and were still waiting for some definite result, but the Concert had done nothing up to the present time. ["Hear, hear!"] It had yet to justify its existence. What happened last year when the proposal was made—he thought by Austria—to blockade Crete? Lord Salisbury himself—as the right hon. Member for Bodmin had pointed out—then departed from the European Concert by telling the Powers that he would be no party to such a proposal. If the Prime Minister could act apart from the Concert of Europe in one respect he could act apart from it in another. He repeated that up to the present time the Concert of Europe had effected no positive or lasting result, not even in relieving the Armenians. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore, he and those hon. Members who agreed with him looked upon the Concert of the Powers with grave suspicion. He could understand the policy of the Government up to a certain point. They had committed themselves over and over again with regard to other Powers to maintain the Concert of Europe, and bound themselves hand and foot by making the integrity of the Turkish Empire one of the mainstays of their policy. ["Hear, hear!" and Ministerial dissent.] The maintenance of the integrity was mentioned in the Queen's Speech, and it was impossible for right hon. Gentlemen opposite to deny that it was one of the mainstays of 1494 their policy. He was much pleased, however, that evening, when he heard the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs say that the first condition of the good government of Crete was the liberation of the island from the rule of the Turk. ["Hear, hear!"] With that sentiment he heartily agreed, but he confessed that he utterly failed to perceive how it could be associated or reconciled with the object of preserving the territorial integrity of the Turkish Empire. ["Hear, hear!"] Years ago the Tory policy was the preservation of the territorial and political integrity of the Turkish Empire, but if that policy as exemplified in the Treaty of Berlin was to recur he did not mind whether the Tory Government went in for Turkish integrity or not. But as far as the policy of the Government in Crete was concerned, the best that could happen would be that the history of Wallachia and Moldavia should be repeated. The Powers in that case were agreed. In 1857 they set up two Assemblies, one in Wallachia and another in Moldavia. The two Assemblies met and resolved to unite and set up an independent Roumania. The Powers assembled in Paris, and to save their dignity decided that they must adhere to their action and again set up the two Assemblies. Then Wallachia and Moldavia decided to elect Prince Alexander, and so they were united through their head. Subsequently they again decided to have one Assembly. They proclaimed their unity, and Europe, completely baffled, acquiesced. [Opposition cheers.] Did Europe get much satisfaction out of that? If some such result happened in the case of Greece we should welcome it, but it would reflect no credit on this country. ["Hear, hear!"] It was premature to express a final judgment upon the matters before them—[Ministerial cheers]—and he had not done so. In the first place they did not know what action Greece was going to take, and that was a most important factor in the matter. They did not know, and he did not believe the Government knew, what were the real views of the Cretans themselves; and, further, they did not know what exact shape the proposals for autonomy were going to take. Personally, he would not 1495 be a party to that policy, indicated to a certain extent by the action of the warships off Canea; he would not be a party to the coercion of Greece. [Opposition cheers.] He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin that all these years the Powers had done nothing. Greece had acted with promptitude, with decision, and with success, and by her action she had forced the hand of Europe, and Europe was labouring heavily in the rear. Because Greece had done what Europe ought to have done—[Opposition cheers]—he would have no part whatever in coercing her. She had done great service to the cause of liberty in Europe, and deserved the gratitude of every Britisher. [Opposition cheers.]
§ *MR. VICARY GIBBS (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
said the hon. Member for Leeds asked whether if the Cretans declined to accept autonomy, we should attempt to coerce them. If they objected to any such control by the Powers as would prevent their fighting with one another, assassinating one another, and causing a danger to the peace of Europe, he sincerely hoped the Great Powers of Europe would coerce her. Then the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool said the Under Secretary had made an attack upon the kingdom of Greece. He did not think the speech of the right hon. Gentleman justified such a charge. It was only fair they should assume that the Government had not only better means of judging who was to blame than any private Member could possibly have, and that they were more likely to approach the matter from an impartial standpoint. The hon. and learned Member for Haddington said he longed to see the day when Crete would be reunited to the kingdom of Greece. When in the world's history had there been a kingdom of Greece to which Crete belonged? Never. Who were the gentlemen who were rousing the sentimental enthusiasm of hon. Gentlemen opposite? Who were these Levantines who called themselves Greeks? ["Oh!"] They were a mixture of Albanians, Franks, Slavs, and everybody except Greeks. There were no men of Greek blood on the mainland, whatever there might be in Crete, They were gone over and over again. What 1496 was there in the history of these people to arouse enthusiasm? Did hon. Gentlemen like fraudulent bankruptcy? ["Oh, oh!"] Oh, let them have the truth! He would suggest some test-books. Let them read "The War of Greek Independence," by a respectable Scotchman, Mr. Finlay. The Greeks, carrying out their national aspiration for the acquisition of other people's property without paying for it, stole some of Mr. Finlay's property in Athens. [Laughter.] If hon. Gentlemen did not like a Scotchman's view of the Greeks, let them take that of an able Frenchman in Le Roi des Montagnes, an amusing satire, which gave a very fair picture of the modern Greek character. Or let them turn from the romantic to the more prosaic Stock Exchange Year Book. [Laughter.] Greece had done nothing either in the recent or long past to show that there was any advantage whatever to be gained by increasing the territory which was placed under its Government. There were many people on the Continent as warm friends of liberty as any hon. Gentleman who sat on the opposite benches, but they did not desire to place the Cretans under Greek rule, and there was not a jot or tittle of evidence that the Cretans desired to be put under Greek rule. What he desired to see was that the Government, when they had to choose between bad Government in Turkey and thoroughly dishonest Government in Greece, should have consideration neither for one nor the other. He believed an administrative autonomy under strong control from the Powers, which would prevent religious fights breaking out which had disgraced Crete in the past, would be, on the whole, the best arrangement that could be made. The Leader of the Opposition said that a mere indigenous autonomy would not do, because of the strong religious differences. Those were curious words for an advocate of Home Rule to utter, for he must know that precisely the same conditions which now existed in Crete had existed on various occasions in Ireland. [Cries of "Oh!"] Ireland had been disgraced by most violent quarrels and shedding of blood between men of different religions, but he must not now enter upon a discussion of the Irish Question. How long was it since hon. Members 1497 considered that religious opinion should afford a basis for different treatment by law? They held up their hands in horror at the murder and bombardment of Christians. But they were not murdered because they were Christians, but because they were insurgents, and were endangering the peace of Europe. He dared say the last man hung for murder was a Christian; but that did not prove that the courts of justice had set themselves against Christianity. Nor had the Powers, because they stopped aggressive lighting on the part of Christians, while they did not attack Turks, who were conducting themselves in a way deserving of the approval of Europe. He had made those remarks, because it would really do some of them good if they cleared their minds of cant in this matter. It was believed to be a popular thing, he knew, to butter up the Creeks and represent them as the finest fellows in the world. It was supposed that that sort of thing would go down in the country; and the Government were-asked what they were going to do if the Creeks did not clear out of Crete. He hoped the Government would coerce them. They would commit a gross dereliction of duty if they did not compel this mischievous set of men to clear out of an island in which they had not the faintest business; or ran the risk of plunging Europe into war, by not loyally and fairly supporting their allies in the removal both of the Greeks and the Turks—the Greeks first, because they had no business there; and the Turks because, although the island belonged to them just as much as any part of our Empire belonged to us, they had shown themselves impotent to govern it.
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
remarked that, although it might be strictly correct to say that at no time was Crete connected with the kingdom of Greece, yet undoubtedly at the close of the great war of independence Crete was as free as Greece was, and had it not been for the action of the Powers of Europe at that time, Crete would have been connected with Greece in point of law as well as in point of fact, and the insurrection which had since taken place would by that means have been avoided. They desired further information on two points—as to the character of the proposed autonomy, and the nature of the proposed coercion. With regard to the 1498 proposed autonomy, it was undoubtedly the fact that, subject to the suzerainty of the Sultan, various forms of autonomy had, in times past, been tried in the Turkish Empire. The case of Samos could not be stated as on all fours with Crete, because Samos was a very small island, and the racial and religious differences did not exist there in the acute form in which they existed in Crete. Reference had also been made to the period during which Servia had a sort of autonomy under the suzerainty of the Sultan. Well, one of the events that occurred in 1862 was the bombardment of the town of Belgrade by the Turkish garrison which had been left in the citadel for the purpose of maintaining the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan in Servia; and if they left these Turkish soldiers as policemen in Crete they would have incidents of the same kind occurring again and again. They all, he hoped, had a desire to maintain the peace of Europe. But were the Government going the right way to maintain it by this arrangement, which could not possibly afford a permanent solution of the Cretan question, but, instead of removing difficulties, would create them. They did not recognise the existing facts. The Greek troops were in the island, and the great desire of the Cretans was to be connected with the kingdom of Greece. How did the Government intend to face these facts? Was it the intention of the Powers to send a force into the interior of Crete? To blockade the Piraeus would be like locking the stable door after the steed had escaped; and would only stir up such a stormy feeling in Greece that it would have to find a safety valve in Southern Macedonia, and all the fleets in the world could not prevent that from taking place. With regard to the religious question in Crete, the animosity of the Mussulman minority against the majority had been fomented by the Turks. The Greeks had had experience in dealing with Mussulman minorities in Thessaly and in Epirus, and they were very well contented under Greek rule. If that was so, they were more likely, on racial grounds, to be content with Greek rule in Crete. If the Powers would act upon the suggestion to employ Colonel Vassos and his men as the police of the Powers instead of the Turkish soldiers they would approach much nearer to a settlement of 1499 the question. He had listened with amazement to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Haddington, who referred to the Concert of Europe existing it the time of the battle of Navarino. But that was not a Concert in the present sense of the term, but a Concert of three Powers—England, France, and Russia—most keenly interested in the matter, who were not held back by anyone whose interest was not as great as the others. Then the hon. and learned Member referred to the Treaty of Berlin, as if that had been a liberating instrument. As a matter of fact, the Treaty of Berlin, in some important particulars, put the clock back. For instance, with regard to Asia. Minor, there was a considerable tract of country in Armenia in which there would have been a material guarantee in the presence of Russian troops for the execution of reforms but for the Treaty of Berlin. The Treaty of Berlin put the clock back by establishing Eastern Roumelia, into which Turkey had still liberty to send her troops. When they looked back, he thought they would find that the European Concert on the whole, with one or two rare exceptions, had not been a liberating influence. Of course, they all admitted that if certain particular Powers had been brought to act together they might have been able to effect great and beneficial things, but he was afraid that if they looked back at the history of the last two years they could not see the prospect of any improvement in the future. He thought the time had arrived when this country should ask itself whether it was in every respect to go on acting in concert with Powers which had on many points made different aims from our own, and which exercised a retarding and a non-progressive influence. It did not follow that if they left the Concert of Europe with regard to Crete they left them on other questions. The history of Crete had been very peculiar. It had a history different from other portions of the Turkish Empire. They were now face to face with difficulties not to be found in other districts of the Turkish Empire. What was the nature of this autonomy? Was it to be complete autonomy? Was it to be a plébiscite? Were the people of Crete to be allowed to say whether they wished to be placed under the Greeks or not? Were they prepared to have as Governor a member of the Greek Royal Family? Were they pre- 1500 pared to have Greek troops and not Turkish troops? It was said that a Note had been presented, and if that were so they would be face to face with the situation in an acute form. He thought that this country would on no condition approve of the forces of the country being used for the purpose of repressing the Cretan rising or against their gallant liberators when the Powers had failed.
On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ *MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said the Debate had developed two remarkable points. There was the astounding version of the recent history of these events laid before the House by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and there was the singular paucity of light thrown by the right hon. Gentleman on the ultimate issues of the policy Her Majesty's Government proposed to carry out. He wished to draw attention to an extraordinary omission in the history of these events as placed before the House by the right hon. Gentleman. They had all considered the Blue-books and the record of these events given in the Press, and they were perfectly well aware that the Sultan had adopted in the case of Crete with reference to the reforms alleged to have been agreed upon between himself and the Powers last August, which gave a momentary satisfaction to the unfortunate Cretans—the same policy which he had adopted in the case of reforms for Armenia. The same policy was clearly in the mind of the man whom the forms of the House did not permit an hon. Member to characterise as he would wish, and who had reduced the forms of civilised government to a mockery and banished even a semblance of humanity from the Eastern world. That policy had forced on the Cretans and on a people who were always in sympathy with their fellow-countrymen the absolute necessity of prompt and vigorous action in order to effect a change in the condition of Crete. The Cretans and the Greeks saw that the Powers were not taking action in order to make this new constitution a reality; in fact, they saw that the new constitution was dead before it was born, and, like all other constitutions offered to other parts of the Turkish Empire, a complete fraud and imposture. It seemed to him that their 1501 position imposed an imperative duly on the Greek people to act as they had acted. The other day he was talking to one of the few Englishmen who were really familiar with the island, and, speaking of the period following the desolating war of insurrection in 1807, which required 70,000 Turkish troops to crush it out and bring about what he supposed some of the supporters of the Government below the Gangway-he would not insult the Government by suggesting that they would say such a thing might describe as the establishment of law and order in Crete, he said, after going through every part of the island, that he saw not a single house with a roof upon it, that whole villages were destroyed, and that hardly a family existed which had not had many of its members killed in that ruthless war. That was a state of things which the Creeks remembered more clearly and with more passionate feeling and resentment than we could feel here. They were near to the minds and hearts of the Greek people; they knew what the course of the Powers had been and how they had wholly failed to check the, atrocities carried out by the Turks, to the direct order of the Sultan, in Armenia. [Mr. GIBSON BOWLKS: "No, no!"] That was proved by the Dispatches of Her Majesty's Minister and Consuls.
§ *MR. CHANNING
said he was endeavouring to show that the Cretans and the Greeks might dread the intervention of the Turks, owing to the inactivity of the Powers in preventing the horrors in Armenia. In connection with the bombardment at Canea, the Under Secretary and other Members said that the Turks absolutely did nothing; but the hon. Member for Northampton had referred to the protest addressed by the Greek Government to this country. Those who had read the report of the Greek Commodore were aware that the statements of the English and allied Admirals were contradicted by the statement made to his own Government by the Greek Commodore. This statement was as much entitled to credence as the statements which had been given to the House by the right hon. Gentleman. Then there 1502 were the accounts of the correspondents of The Tunes and other eye-witnesses, describing the operations of the, Turks against the Christians, the tiring of the Turks and the Turkish ships on the Christians, and the attacks made upon them while engaged in carrying away their wounded. When he heard the astounding version of these events given by the right hon. Gentleman he was reminded of the well-known saying of Lord Beacons-field, when he described the Bulgarian atrocities, though clearly established, as mere "coffee-house babble." What was the present situation in Crete? In Canea a force of 400 or 500 men had been landed; and that was the only force on shore callable of supporting the views of the allied Powers, and of maintaining law and order. The number of armed Mussulmans in Canea was many times as large, and this country, in conjunction with the Powers, was doing nothing to protect law and order, and to give security to life and property in Crete. The force was wholly inadequate to do this; and yet England was pledged to the Powers, if they insisted upon it, to destroy the only force now in Crete which could maintain law and order—the Greek troops, under Colonel Vassos, and the Meet, under Prince George—if the Greeks attempted to resist this new edict to leave Crete. In this matter he thought that, the English people would support the views of Mr. Gladstone in condemning the policy of trusting to the Powers. They could take but one view of the Concert of the Powers—namely, that it had been to prevent good from beginning to end—that they had acted not only to paralyse the efforts of the people to effect their liberty, but had withdrawn all the checks on the worst excesses of what was evil. The Government were surely ashamed of the abominable event which took place on Sunday week? [Mr. CURZON: "Not a bit of it."] Then, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman would learn from the people whether they were ashamed of these deeds, and whether they resented a policy which was disgraceful to the arms of England, and which cast dishonour on the policy of the Government. He protested against any Concert of Europe in which England was dragged at the chariot wheels of a Tsar or an Emperor, and in which it took I no part to see that life was made 1503 worth living for these poor people. He must say it was a significant contrast to note that when in South Africa it was a question of British supremacy, which found its outcome largely in the development of commercial undertakings and the amassing of large fortunes, which the German Emperor for a moment threatened, the soul of England, the England of the classes, the England of hon. Members opposite—[laughter]—was up in arms and ready to go to war with Germany. But when Germany adopted the policy, which she was apparently attempting to do now, of asking them to join in coercing one of the noblest efforts of a nation like the Greeks to free their compatriots, then, of course, they were at once to yield to the dictates of Germany and to become the willing instruments in a policy that was as cruel as it was infamous. The Greek organisation and forces in the island of Crete, placed directly in the hands of the Powers the very instrument which they could, and ought to use in order to produce peace and development of settled order there. In addition, it had the great advantage of being a force which could be controlled by the Powers. There would be no difficulty if they treated Greece as the mandatory of Europe in using this Greek force under strict European control. This seemed to be the natural and rational solution, and he did not see why England should not be strong enough to demand such a solution from the other Powers. If that solution were unavailable why should not they at least insist that Crete should be occupied by a European force and that the Turks should be absolutely removed from the island? That seemed to him the simplest and most natural course it England was not strong enough to carry out the policy which he had ventured to suggest. There was no part of the Blue-book which reflected so great honour on Lord Salisbury as the Dispatch in which he referred to his refusal to join in the blockade of Crete. ["Hear, hear!"] That was a brave and a wise act. Lord Salisbury referred in that Dispatch to the extreme danger of intrusting the people to Turkish rule in any form whatever. But suppose there was to be this autonomy which was foreshadowed by the Prime Minister, they had no guarantee whatever that the Powers would be able to control the Turks if they 1504 were left in the island, or that they would not have another hell upon earth in a few weeks which would defy the European Powers to deal with except at the risk of a general European war. England, in making her mighty Fleet the instrument of the will of the European Concert, was assuming a terrible and dangerous responsibility—a responsibility which he thought the people of this country would repudiate with indignation and resentment.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that the speech of the hon. Member who had just spoken, in spite of the calm assumption with which he professed to speak for the people of England, and in spite of the portentous scheme of foreign, policy he had laid down, would not assist either the House or the Government in coming to a decision on this matter. One point he must deal with. The hon. Gentleman, in spite of the fact that the Under Secretary of State had, on the authority of the British Admiral on the spot, contradicted the rumours which had been circulated by newspaper correspondents with regard to the action of the Fleet, and the cause of that action and the antecedent circumstances, had thought lit, in the absence of his right hon. Friend—
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that was so, but it was his fault that he should have repeated calumnies that had been refuted. It was not creditable to the hon. Member to question the word of a British Admiral on the spot giving his account of the proceedings. He was pleased to hear the very business-like speech of the Under Secretary. There was only one feature of the speech that did not content him; that was when he looked across the Table and, smiling at the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition as one Roman augur might smile at another, complimented him on the dignity and moderation of his speech. He rather thought that that speech was inflammatory and mischievous, and, although the right hon. Gentleman deprecated any assertion that it was inopportune, he ventured to think, in spite of his authority, it was most inopportune. The situation in Europe was so grave and serious that he thought no light word should be said even by the humblest 1505 Member of that House, who should always remember that he spoke to the ears of a listening Europe. The situation in Crete was not a situation that had accidentally grown up; it was a situation that had been created. For 50 years Greece had been filling the island of Crete with disorder and sending emissaries to it, not to attempt to bring that island into a peaceful and orderly condition, but to assist in the efforts which she fondly, but falsely, hoped would end in the final annexation of the island to herself. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that the Greeks were good Samaritans; but the good Samaritan was a man who, going about his lawful business, found a victim of oppression and poured oil and wine into his wounds. But these Greeks were persons who, going about on unlawful business and finding a victim, poured, not oil and wine into his wounds, but gunpowder and vitriol. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Northampton asked for chapter and verse as to the alleged unlawful expeditions and sending of arms and men to Crete, and then, having asked this, he, like jesting Pilate, who asked what was truth, went out without waiting for an answer. He would give him chapter and verse. If the hon. Gentleman would take the Turkish Blue-book, No. 7, 1896, and look at Pages 166, 170, 189, 209, 213, 237, 254, 279, 291, 295, 305, and 330—he spared him the extracts—he would see on the authority of the British Consul and of Captain Drury, of H.M.S. Hood that, between the 23rd of June and the 15th of August 1895, no fewer than nine Greek expeditions with arms and ammunition, filibustering expeditions, landed in Crete. Further, it would be found by adding up the numbers of men that they amounted, according to one version, to 1,000, and according to another version 1,500 men, raiders, filibusters—pirates, he might almost call them and this was before any action was taken by the Greek Government. These were raiders who landed with arms and ammunition in Crete, and if hon. Members would refer to the pages he had mentioned, they would find indisputable evidence that while the Powers were engaged in formulating a new constitution, yet, at that very time, and because of that very fact, Greece was pouring men, arms, and ammunition into Crete to create disturbance there. He had said 1506 these men were raiders. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth appealing to the moral law, and even to the law of nations against the wickedness of raiding in South Africa; he had heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin say that such was his joy when the raiders into the Transvaal were defeated by force of arms that he could have joined with President Kruger in singing a psalm of praise, and he should have thought that such a stern, unbending moralist as the right hon. Gentleman, the one "just man made perfect" in the House, would to the raiders from Greece have applied the same rule and judgment as he applied to the raiders from Mafeking; but apparently he had not sympathy against raiders unless the raids were against his fellow psalm-singers in the Transvaal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth drew a very proper and well known distinction between private raiding by the raiders' expeditions and the public action of Greece, and claimed that the public action of Greece was what he called "intervention." That, was a large word. Piracy was an act of intervention with the desire to rob or kill without lawful authority or just cause, and the action of Greece came entirely within the line and real definition of the word piracy.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
said the action producing casus belli by a regular Government was not piracy, as everybody knew.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
did not think that everybody did know that. Had the right hon. Gentleman forgotten that the Algerines were guilty of piracy even though they were carrying out the orders of the Dey, their lawful Governor, and that the Powers of Europe declared the slave trade, though conducted by the orders of a regular sovereign, piracy? Had he forgotten that a statute of the House had declared the slave trade piracy, and did the right hon. Gentleman wish to be, or require him to be, wiser than a statute?
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
said the slave traders were individuals, and the slave trade was not carried on by a Government.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said if the right hon. Gentleman had gone up some of the oil rivers from the Bight of 1507 Benin, he would have found the trade conducted absolutely through and by the sovereign of the country, and he must, know that under the Law of Nations one sovereign was as good as another sovereign. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman claimed that the true remedy was the annexation of Crete to Greece, or, in other words, he claimed that an incendiary having set fire to the house should, for reward—or punishment—he thought it would be punishment, be allowed to annex the remainder of the property not destroyed. He did not think that was an encouraging proposition for the principles of public law and morality in Europe. This Cretan Question had not grown, it had been created, and the soil of Crete, unfortunately, was fertile for these troubles, and they needed little cultivation. Since Apostolic times the Cretans had borne an evil character which their history had justified. They were always rebels against any Government, and they would be still rebels. For 900 years they rebelled against the Romans, for 400 years they rebelled against the Venetians, and for 200 years they had rebelled against Turkey, and they would still rebel even though their sovereign were the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton. [Laughter.] He did not think that in this respect the European Concert deserved all the ill things that had been said of it during the evening. Undoubtedly there had been an honest attempt on the part of Europe to settle this difficulty. The effort was long and continued, and in August last it arrived at what was supposed to be success in the shape of a new constitution for Crete. This was arrived at by the exercise of all the wisdom of all the Powers, and it was accepted finally by the Turkish Government because it was recommended by the Powers. He did not know how you could get a new constitution for any island under better auspices. It was accepted, and it must have been to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government a startling surprise that the failure of that constitution took place before the ink was dry with which it was printed, and it might almost be said before it was printed, for its failure was announced before the Blue-book conveying the information of it was distributed in the House. Why did it fail? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth said, because the 1508 Turks opposd it and threw difficulties in its way. ["Hear, hear!"] Had he forgotten that the Turks had practically been turned out of the island by the European Concert? They were prevented from sending more troops to carry on their authority, and consequently were not in a position to put obstacles in the way of carrying out the constitution. It had scarcely been printed, and probably the Cretans knew as little about it as the House did to within five days ago. Undoubtedly it could not have been begun to be carried into practice, and to say that the Turks opposed it was to ignore the fact that there had practically been an evacuation of the country by Turkey, and practically a cessation of Turkish authority. Certainly, from the day the constitution was adopted. ["No, no!"] Who said "No? Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen should read the Dispatches. In August last Consul Biliotti complained of the evacuation of the interior parts of Crete by Turkish troops, and pointed out the extreme danger of thereby causing great disasters in the island. It was not possible to say that Turkey exercised any considerable degree of authority at the time, or even before the time when the constitution was adopted. The Christians, when the constitution was brought to their knowledge, were profuse in expressions of gratitude. The Christian Deputies accepted the 14 articles in the name of the Christian population, they assured the Consul of the grateful acknowledgment of the Christian population, and expressed their anticipations of the effect of the new regulations as conducive to the peace and progress of the island in language not unlike the peroration of a Home Rule speech in the House of Commons. [Laughter.] There was every disposition to accept the constitution, and yet, in a few months, it was confessed and it proved to be, a most complete failure. And why did it fail? Not on account of the intervention of Turkey, not on account of any indisposition towards it on the part of the Christians, it failed entirely because, as soon as Greece saw there was a prospect of pacification of the island, as soon as she saw there was a prospect of the Cretans beginning for the first time in their history to live in peace and contentment, withdrawing from the agitation stirred up, Greece considered it was time to intervene, she threw aside the mask, gave 1509 up the flimsy pretexts of private raiding, private filibustering, assisted by Committees in the capital, and secretly fomented by persons of influence and supported by speeches in the Greek Parliament, Greece threw aside the mask and declared herself the enemy of Turkey, and without any allegation of a grievance against Turkey, or demand for redress, or declaration of war, sent forth what he still did not hesitate to call a piratical expedition under Colonel Vassos to the island of Crete. It was the Samaritan, it would be seen, that caused the trouble, as it was foreseen the Samaritan would cause trouble. It was not surprising that one Power in Europe foresaw the trouble and proposed the only practical means of preventing it, he alluded to the Austrian proposal for the blockade of Crete. It was a most practical proposal on the part of the Austrian Government, and he thought it matter for some regret that Her Majesty's Government did not feel themselves able—he was not questioning their decision—but by the light of recent events it was to be regretted that Her Majesty's Government did not accept that proposal. It would have had the advantage of preventing the trouble before it arose instead of forcing the Powers to deal with it after it had arisen, and would have spared both the Cretans and the Greeks a vast amount of trouble and of human life. A great deal of praise had been bestowed upon England for refusing that offer, and it had been suggested that England would never join in the coercion of Greece. That was an entire misapprehension of the position taken up by Lord Salisbury on the matter. In his Dispatch in reply to the Austrian proposal, on the 29th July 1896, Lord Salisbury first of all showed that the, proposal to blockade as made was irregular in itself and difficult to carry out, and then he used these remarkable words:—If Greece were to assume a hostile attitude to the Turkish Government, and make any aggression upon the independence or integrity of the Turkish Empire, the collective guarantee into which the Powers entered at the Treaty of Paris would become a matter of serious consideration, and if all the Powers resolved to give effect to it, I thought it quite possible that Great Britain might think that abstention would not be consistent with her engagements under that treaty.1510 That was exactly what had now occurred. Greece had assumed a hostile attitude to the Turkish Government, had made an aggression upon the independence or integrity of the Turkish Empire, and consequently, as Lord Salisbury pointed out, the collective guarantee of Europe had become a matter of serious consideration, the Powers had resolved to give effect to it, and Great Britain had thought that abstention would not be consistent with her engagements. The proposal of Austria to prevent the evil having been refused, the Turks having been prevented from occupying and policing the island or sending any real enforcement to Crete, and the Greeks being allowed to pour in, without restriction, arms and filibusters, of course the result was that state of anarchy and warfare which they now saw. To the 1,500 filibusters were added the 1,500 pirates under Colonel Vassos, and with these 3,000 added to the normal Cretan rebels, a large force was formed which was certain to lead to the outrage and bloodshed which followed. The latest development had been that very remarkable and, as he ventured to think, that most creditable instance of the new diplomacy which the Foreign Secretary had consciously or unconsciously borrowed from the Secretary of the State for the Colonies. One point alone he did not quite apprehend. He understood that of the four points of the Ultimatum to be addressed at once to Greece and Turkey, the third point was that Crete, although granted autonomy, should still remain under the sovereignty of Turkey.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he would nut stay to inquire what exactly was the difference between sovereignty and suzerainty. The only thing he could not make consistent with that was the inspired commentary of the right hon. Gentleman himself, the scholiast of the Foreign Office, who had given them a commentary on the third point, which was that although there was to be autonomy in Crate it was not to be under the authority of the Sultan. He could not make that consistent with the third point as stated authoritatively to the House of Lords and to that House by the Leader. He had no doubt, however, that some explanation would be forthcoming in due time. He wished to insist upon one point, and it was this: that whatever 1511 arrangements they might be going to make for Crete, it was essential that that arrangement should recognise and maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire. The Government held the even stronger view that not merely the integrity of the Turkish Empire but the status quo of the Turkish Empire should be maintained, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking on the 13th October last, said:—The cardinal fact of the present political situation in Turkey was this, that Russia, in concert with Austria and with Germany, was determined to maintain the status quo of the Turkish territory. Well, that was the policy which had been the traditional policy of England, and if any single Power—if we—departed from that policy and attacked Turkish territory, as sure as he stood there we should be met by active resistance on the part, not merely of one, but of more than one European Power. We must start from the point that Turkish territory was to be maintained. If the Turkish Empire was to be maintained, reforms in the administration of the Turkish Umpire were absolutely necessary. That was the view of the Government of England; that was the view of the people of England.So that this autonomy that was to be granted to Crete must be consistent with the status quo of the Turkish Empire, and indeed if the Government were to adopt any other view than that they would at once not only separate themselves from, but would at once break up the Concert of Europe. He could not sympathise with the ridicule which had, he regretted to say, been poured that night upon the Concert of Europe. It was the only method by which they could act upon a question like the Cretan Question. But the Concert would be in the greatest difficulty in dealing with Crete. They had Greeks in the Island, they had insurgents and Mussulmans, and he did not quite know and could not imagine how the European Concert was going to pacify Crete unless it was prepared to take the island permanently into its own hands and be prepared not merely to have ships there, but to land armed forces in sufficient numbers. He recognised the difficulty of the situation, and would not add to it by any imprudent words. All he would say in conclusion was that this Cretan question, just as it had not arisen but had been created by Greece, so also it was not a question by itself. It was part and parcel of that great Eastern 1512 Question on the solution of which depended whether Austria, Hungary, Bavaria, Roumania, and Servia were to continue to exist; on the solution of which depended whether the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, Persia, and Asia. Minor should remain in the hands of an unaggressive Power, or pass into the hands of the most ambitious and aggressive Power in Europe.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
desired to intervene in the Debate because he felt, and he believed others felt with him, that the speeches made by the hon. Member for Lynn Regis, the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield, and peculiarly the speech made by the hon. Member for St. Albans, did not represent and ought not to be considered to represent the views of their Party. [Cheers.] He did not believe that there were 10 per cent. of the hon. Members on that side of the House who desired to associate themselves with the attacks which had been made upon the Greeks. ["Hear, hear!"] They bad listened with pleasure and respect, and for his part with absolute acquiescence, to what had been said by the Under Secretary. His speech contained no censure of the Greeks, and it was the speech of a statesman. There was not one word in that speech of the tone which animated every sentence of the speeches to which he had alluded. The hon. Member for King's Lynn spoke of the Greek people as pirates, and the hon. Member for St. Albans said the Greeks stood condemned by the "Stock Exchange Year Book." That was an intolerable way of dealing with the question. He was no particular admirer of the Greeks as individuals; but he knew Greece and Turkey, and there was absolutely no comparison at all as to the conditions of the two countries, and it was their bounden duty to support the live civilisation of Greece as against the dead and effete civilisation of Turkey. It might be true that the King of Greece and perhaps the Greek community had done things which had exposed them to the censure of the Stock Exchange. If so, all he could say was that they had taken the most effectual method of cleansing themselves of the stain cast upon them. They had been told that they must find words of condemnation for what the Greeks had done. The Greeks had done precisely what 1513 every Englishman in similar circumstances would have done. They had, rightly or wrongly, gone to the rescue of the men and women who were their own kith and kin. Let them sweep aside all this travesty of argument about the analogy, or supposed analogy, between the King and Government and Parliament of Greece, and the action of a commercial company in South Africa. The Greeks entered upon their action in Crete at enormous risk. Politicians at the helm of the great nations of Europe might regard their action as incompatible either with the future of Greece or the welfare of Europe, but that was totally different from the spirit of censure which had been exhibited. The prevailing sentiment in this country did not condemn Greece—[Opposition cheers]—and it would endorse the policy of the Government on one condition only, that it would lead to the absolute liberation of Crete from the dominion of Turkey. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had stated the policy of the Government with a lucidity and logical sequence which was beyond all praise. He had quite convinced him. He believed the maximum of good would result from the policy of the Government, but they wanted an assurance that they were pursuing it with the object he had indicated. Unionist Members could not go to their constituents and ask for their support unless they could convince them that the Government had in view the liberation of Crete from Turkey. He did not believe in the fore-cast of the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield. The Turkish Empire could never be reconstituted or revivified. He wished to dissociate himself from the sentiments which had been expressed by a section—he believed it was only a small section—of his Party, and associate himself with the sentiments of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs; and, in the belief that the Government intended to bring about the emancipation of Crete from Ottoman rule, as soon as possible, he supported their policy.
§ MR. JAMES BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
regretted some of the speeches from hon. Members opposite, and he should be sorry to think they represented the general feeling of the Conservative Party. He believed that among their constituents were many who felt strong sympathy with the action of Greece, and were 1514 anxious that the conduct of the Government should be animated by sympathetic regard to the position of Greece. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs did not make it clear that the proposals of the Government had been accepted in their entirety by the other Powers.
§ MR. BRYCE
said he was glad to hear that. Then the Under Secretary did not give a clear idea of what was meant by "administrative autonomy." Would it include the appointment of a Christian Governor, whom it would be out of the power of the Sultan to dismiss or recall; and for what period would he be appointed? Then, what provisions were to be made for the constitution of the gendarmerie. Before Greece withdrew her forces from Crete she would expect to know what was to be secured to the Christian population there. The Under Secretary eulogised the conduct of the Turkish troops in Crete, but the Blue Book stated that in July they made raids on Christian villages, set fire to houses, and cut down trees. Other depredations were also spoken of. The Consular reports showed that the Mussulman troops could not, be relied on. It was stated in the Blue-book that the Turkish troops witnessed a series of cruel and unprovoked murders without trying to prevent them. After evidence like that he thought the House would feel that these Turkish troops ought not to he intrusted with the preservation of order, and that they would be useless for the purposes of police or pacification. The Under Secretary had not told them how long the Turkish troops were to be kept in Crete, and this was a serious matter. They had been told that the Turkish troops only obeyed their officers in the case of the Armenian massacres; but if they did so once they might do so again, and were they to understand that if the Turkish troops remained they were to be entirely officered by Europeans? The condition of the island was very grave; the whole of the interior was in the hands of the insurgents, and the country was of so mountainous a character that it would be a very difficult task to subdue them. Did the Government propose to let loose the Turkish troops into the interior of the island? He suggested that by far the best course, if the Powers insisted on continuing their occupation, 1515 would be to make use of the Greek troops for the preservation of order. Not a word had been said against the Greek troops; they were the troops of a civilised Power—["hear, hear!" and laughter]—they were on their good behaviour in this matter, and they possessed knowledge which it was impossible for any foreign gendarmerie imported from Montenegro or elsewhere to possess. If the Powers wished to restore peace it would be far better to make the Greek troops the mandatories of Europe rather than the Turkish troops. He was glad that the Under Secretary had not joined in any censure of Greece, for Greece was entitled to the great credit of having done what the Powers ought to have done long ago. It was owing to the neglect by the Powers of the provisions of the Treaty of Berlin that the condition of Macedonia was so dangerous. They were now told that Crete was to receive "administrative autonomy," but those words were not mentioned until the Greeks had entered the island. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not believe they would ever have peace in Crete until she was united with her mother-country. For the last. 30 years there had hardly been a year, or even a month, in which shiploads of Cretan refugees, driven out by Turkish oppression, had not been landed on the coast of Greece. He hoped the union of Crete with Greece would not be long delayed. The Powers apparently wished to retard its accomplishment, but the best way to remove the cause of danger was to remove the cause of discontent. What had the Concert of Europe accomplished? It was the Concert of Europe that, during the last two years, had secured immunity for the Sultan of Turkey in his policy of massacre. [Cheers.] The Concert of Europe, as the Under Secretary had said, was composed of very different Powers with very different aims and entertaining very different views of their own interests. Some Powers had no care for Crete; some had no respect for the will of the people; some had said that their first object was to preserve the integrity of the Turkish Empire, and to preserve it apparently by maintaining still longer a rule which the Christian subjects of the Sultan had found intolerable. But we were not one of those Powers. [Cheers.] We were a free people. [Cheers.] We believed that the 1516 revolt of the Cretans and the intervention of Greece on their behalf were amply justified, and we desired the extinction, as soon as possible, over as large an area as possible, of the rule of the Turk, which had everywhere proved a desolating and blighting rule. [Cheers.] He joined in warning the Government that the country would expect that, in any consultation they might hold with the other Powers of Europe, their influence should be exercised in securing for all the subjects of Turkey the maximum of freedom, the release of as many Christian people as possible from the direct rule of the Sultan, and that the utmost consideration should be shown to Greece, who, in its intervention in Crete, had been animated by the best motives, with which the people of this country heartily sympathised. [Cheers.]
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
congratulated the House on the marked difference in tone between the speeches of hon. Members on the Opposition side in criticising the Government and their speeches on the subject on former occasions. ["Hear, hear!"] It was now felt that the position of affairs in Crete was of so grave; a character that the violent language which had been used on former occasions was unsuited to the situation. But his main reason for rising was because it was assumed by hon. Gentlemen opposite that sympathy with Greece was only to be found on their side of the House. [Opposition cries of "No, no!"] He had heard it said by several Members, and especially by the hon. Member for Northampton. Perhaps those hon. Gentlemen got that idea from the speeches made by three or four hon. Members on the Ministerial side, who were almost alone in being unqualified admirers of the Sultan and his rule. [Laughter.] He was not afraid to state that he had always sympathised, and that he now entirely sympathised, with Greece. [Cheers.] Greece was now acting a part which Englishmen would act in similar circumstances. [Cheers.] If there were an island 60 miles from our coast—the same distance as Ireland—[laughter]—and if men of the same race and the same religion as ourselves suffered the persecutions to which the Cretans had been subjected, he ventured to say that no man calling himself an Englishman and worthy 1517 of the name would hesitate for one moment to adopt the course the Greeks had followed in regard to Crete. [Cheers.] But the real difficulty in the situation was the present attitude of Greece. ["Hear, hear!"] If Greece now acted in a precipitate and unreasonable manner she would destroy whatever hope there was of accomplishing the object she had in view. ["Hear, hear!"] If Greece could be got to withdraw her troops from Crete the main difficulty of the situation would disappear, and the fault he found with the scheme proposed by his right hon. Friend the Under Secretary—which, it must be remembered, was not the policy absolutely of Her Majesty's Government, but the policy of the Concert of Europe—was that it made it hard for Greece to comply. ["Hear, hear!"] It should be the duty of this country to do all that was possible with the view of making it easy for Greece to retire from Crete. ["Hear, hear!"] What was the defect in the scheme proposed which would make this important object difficult of attainment? Why, that it was proposed, or suggested, to leave the maintenance of order in the island to Turkish police. [Opposition cheers.] It was idle to expect that the Greeks would approve of any such arrangement. ["Hear, hear!"] If the European Powers wanted to make it easy for Greece to retire from Crete, the withdrawal of the Turkish and Greek troops should take place at the same time. [Cheers.] He confessed that he had no confidence whatever in Turkish police, and he believed that very few persons had confidence in them. ["Hear, hear!"] The history of the immediate past did not justify, on the part of the House of Commons, much less on the part of Greece or of the Cretan people, any feeling of confidence whatever in Turkish police or in Turkish officers. Such an arrangement would practically still give Turkey power over the island; and, in view of both the present and the future, he would not abide by it if he were a Cretan or a Greek. [Cheers.] Why had the Powers of Europe taken up this question? As far as he could see, they were governed by two motives—suspicion of each other and self-interest. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] If that was so, if it was for their own objects and aims that the Powers were interfering to pacify Crete, then he would say, 1518 let them pacify the island at their own expense; and he thought that that policy ought to be pursued by the Concert of Europe and the Government. Let the Concert of Europe say that it would undertake the pacification of Crete—would undertake to maintain the authority of the law and the security of life and property—and then all excuse would be taken away from Greece for refusing to withdraw her troops. If such a line as that were taken peace would probably be secured to Crete; time given to the people to organise themselves into a civilised nation, and, as the years went by, Greece, if she could only exercise patience, would see, what he believed the majority of the English people desired to see, the fruition of her hopes in the annexation ultimately of the island to the mother-country. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LOPD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
, who was received with loud Ministerial cheers on rising, said: As this Debate has gone on for a considerably longer period than was anticipated either by the Leader of the Opposition or by myself when it began, and as there is still some business to transact before 12 o'clock, the House probably will allow me to intervene at this stage in order to answer certain questions that have been put to the Government since the able and exhaustive speech of my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. [Cheers.] Now, various Members on the other side, doubtless with different degrees of conviction, have attacked the Conceit of Europe. The Concert of Europe, it is said, may be all very well as far as it goes, but what has it done either for Crete or for Greece, or for Europe as a whole, during the years it has been in existence? Sir, I take up that challenge—[cheers]—and I say that, whether we consider the action of the Concert of Europe in regard to the particular places situated in the Eastern part of Europe, or whether we regard it in relation to the peace of Europe as a whole, the services it has done during the last few years had been incalculable to mankind and to civilisation. [Cheers.] I do not, of course, deny—who can deny?—that the Concert of Europe, powerful, useful, and effective instrument though it be, is an instrument which, from the nature of its constitution, must work 1519 slowly, and, from that fact, must, under some circumstances, work imperfectly. ["Hear, hear!"] That none of us who sit on this Bench, and no impartial observer outside party politics, would be disposed for a moment to deny. But when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen tells us that the European Concert has not only so far been useless, but has in certain respects been absolutely noxious—when he goes the length of telling us that but for the European Concert it would have been possible for this country to exercise pressure upon the Porte in favour of the good government of the subjects of the Porte—then I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that he is mistaken. [Cheers.] An attempt on the part of this country during the last two or three years to exercise separate and independent pressure upon the Porte outside the Concert of Europe would not only in my judgment have broken up that Concert, but it would have been rendered absolutely ineffectual by the opposition of other Powers of Europe, who would have felt themselves naturally absolved from all loyalty to the general arrangement which by our action would have been destroyed. [Cheers.] So much for the objections to the Concert of Europe. Now I ask whether it be true, as has been stated over and over again in this Debate, that so far as Crete itself is concerned, the action of the Powers has been useless up to the present time, and that if now, at the eleventh hour, Europe has determined to give autonomy to Crete, that determination is the result simply of the action of the Greek power, and that if Europe had stood aside and had never intervened, Greece, having a free hand, would have brought about that desirable result, it might be months, it might be years ago. That is not the fact. [Cheers.] If Europe had stood on one side and had left Turkey and Greece to light out the destinies of Crete together, is there a man in this House who doubts for one moment that Crete, instead of being as she is now, upon the very verge and edge of receiving complete autonomy under a Turkish suzerainty, would have been ground down under the heel of the Ottoman, dominion, and that Greece would have been absolutely powerless—[cheers and cries of "No, no!"]—to obviate that disastrous result? [Cheers.] So much for the effects of the Concert 1520 of Europe in Asia and in Crete. What has been the result of the Concert of Europe in Europe itself? [Cheers.] It is an easy criticism to say that if the Concert of Europe had been more rapid in its unanimity, quicker in its action, more dexterous, more rapid in its decisions, this evil or that evil might have been avoided. I dare say it might have been. But without the Concert of Europe would Europe now be at peace? [Cheers.] It is impossible, of course, to give mathematical demonstrations of what would have occurred in a particular condition of affairs which condition of affairs has not actually existed; but, if mathematical demonstration is impossible, there is, I believe, not one responsible statesman in any country in Europe, whether he belongs to the Triple Alliance, or to France, or Germany, or any other of the Powers concerned, who does not recognise the critical and dangerous character of the crisis through which Europe has been passing during the last three or four years, and who does not hold it as a cardinal article of his faith that it is the Concert founded; if the Concert of Europe be alone, which has preserved Europe from the untold evils of a general war. [Cheers.] If these contentions of mine be well founded; if the Concert of Europe be innocent, as I believe it to be innocent, of any of the evils that have happened in the Asiatic dominions of Turkey; if its action has been in the highest degree beneficial to Crete, and, as we hope, will be in the highest degree beneficial to other populations of Turkey in the future; and if, in addition to all these benefits, it has given peace to Europe—then I have vindicated, and vindicated completely, the enormous advantage which the Concert of Europe has given to mankind, and I have laid before the House the strongest reason which exists for our doing all that we can, consistently with our other duties, to maintain that Concert unimpaired so far as we are concerned. [Cheers.] I pass from these general observations to the more detailed questions and criticisms which have been put to the Government by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and here I must be permitted to say that in this Debate it is fair and right to ask us for principles; it is not fair and it is not right to ask from us detailed statements. I think the Opposition are amply justified 1521 in requiring us to lay down in clear and unmistakable language the lines of policy which we desire to adopt, but when they ask us for the detailed method by which that policy is to be carried out they must remember the general difficulties of the situation, they must remember that we are by hypothesis acting with five allies, and that some agreement as to details must be come to with them before these details are announced in this House or elsewhere. Let me illustrate that general proposition by two main questions which have been put to us by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Member for Aberdeen was very anxious as to the nature and character of the autonomy which we desire should be given to Crete, and he asked whether there was to be a Christian Governor, whether that Governor was to be irremovable, and what his position would be. I should not say that Crete had autonomy at nil unless there was a Christian Governor or, at all events, if it did not depend on the Cretans themselves whether their Governor was Christian or not. [Cheers.] I am not in a position to tell the House what is to be the Constitution of Crete, but I am in a position to tell the House that by autonomy, subject to the suzerainty of the Porte, we mean a form of Government familiar in the Turkish Empire, in which the Sultan and the Porte will not have the power of intervening in the local affairs of the country at all—[cheers]—and that broad declaration of policy will, I hope, be sufficient to satisfy both the right hon. Gentleman and other Members of the House who are naturally and justifiably anxious as to the views we take of the future government of the island. The other question which has naturally interested the House is as to the position of the Turkish forces in the island. The Turkish force as an efficient military organisation will, I presume, be in any case only a transitional factor in Cretan history. But we are asked, not what the future is to be when the Cretan constitution is in working order, but what the condition of Crete is to be during that transitional stage which must elapse before a complete constitution is granted. A lurid picture has been drawn by hon. Gentlemen opposite of what may be expected from the Turkish soldiers during that period. We have been told that in Armenia in recent 1522 times, in European Turkey in times not very far gone by, the Turkish soldiers have rendered themselves guilty of such atrocities that the notion of leaving Crete under their uncontrolled power is one which cannot for a moment be tolerated. Though I understand that, on the whole, the conduct of the Turkish troops in Crete has been exemplary during the last year, during recent events, still I perfectly understand and sympathise with the views expressed by the Cretans, whose opinions I have endeavoured shortly to describe, and I can assure hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last, that we are as alive as they are, and he is to the absolute necessity of seeing that under any circumstances the Turkish soldiers in Crete shall be under the control of the Powers whatever be the exact day or month on which or in which the last of them is required to leave the island. [Cheers.] That is not, I admit, a detailed statement, but it is a general statement of polity, and with a general statement of policy I trust that both sides of the House will, on the present occasion, be contented. If I may venture to add one other consideration, one not without its weight, to what I have stated on this subject, I would remind the House that at this moment the Mussulman population is in a minority—relatively speaking, an insignificant minority—and if you could suppose all the Mussulman troops were withdrawn, and no power, no gendarmerie, established in the island, undoubtedly the first result would be a great massacre of Mussulmans by Christians—a result which, I believe, would be equally abhorrent on both sides of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] However, I pass from those two broad questions as regards the future of Crete to answer a question put specifically by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and repeated by all those who have supported him. The right hon. Gentleman has said over and over again, "Autonomy for Crete is all very well, but why not hand over Crete to Greece?" I am the last person to make any attack upon any foreign nation whatever, and I may say that individually I have always felt the strongest sympathy for the welfare of the small free States in the Balkan Peninsula and in the East of Europe, and the most earnest wish that they may do all for the 1523 happiness of their population and the progress of humanity in that part of the world which their best friends expect of them; but when the Leader of the Opposition told us that all these States, by which I suppose he meant Servia, Bulgaria, and Roumania, look to Greece as their leader—
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
Not the States that have been emancipated; the States that have not been emancipated. [An HON. MEMBER: "What States?"] I intended, of course, populations.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Of course, I accept the right hon. Gentleman's version of his own speech, but a speech in which he talked about States that do not exist seems to me a very curious speech. [Cheers.] I have enumerated all the States that are in existence, but, of course, I do not wish to press the right hon. Gentleman on that point, because I really only brought it forward in order to remind the right hon. Gentleman of an episode in his own political career or in the political career of a Government of which he was a distinguished member, which would explain why it is that in our judgment it would be dangerous to hand over Crete to be an integral part of the Greek Kingdom. In 1886 the right hon. Gentleman and his friends came into power; it was immediately after the State of Eastern Roumelia was joined to Bulgaria, and formed the community which is at present ruled over by the Prince of Bulgaria. The result of that junction—in my opinion a very fortunate and happy junction of populations—["hear, hear!"]—was to excite great jealousy in the Greek community, which naturally re-acted on the Greek Government. The Greek Government of the day proceeded to arm and to threaten the Turkish Empire with a view of getting out of the Turkish Empire, I suppose, some quid pro quo for the increase of dominion which had been given to Bulgaria. The English Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member, and of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, who last spoke, was the Under Secretary for 1524 Foreign Affairs, and the Concert of Europe proceeded to inform the Greek Government that this menace of the peace of Europe would not be tolerated—[Ministerial cheers]—and that it was the duty of Greece forthwith to disarm. The Greek Government of that time, a Government quite as anxious for freedom as I believe the present one is, and animated by the very same motives, proved recalcitrant. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, adhering to their opinion and acting with the Concert of Europe, proceeded to inform the Greek Government that under those circumstances force must be used. [Ministerial cheers.] And force was used, and under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman and the Member for Aberdeen and his colleagues upon that Bench, not excluding the right hon. Member for Montrose—[cheers]—the whole coast of Greece from east to west was blockaded by the forces of Europe. [Cheers.] Europe did that for the preservation of peace and in the interests of mankind—[cheers]—and, Sir, what Europe did then, and what the right hon. Gentleman did then, we are justified, if occasion seems to demand it, in doing now—[prolonged cheering]—in order to promote and further the same great cause. It surely is no news to any Gentleman who interests himself in these matters to know that if Crete, instead of being given—as it will be given by our plan—complete freedom as a part of the general Ottoman dominions, is added to Greece, in that event Servia, Bulgaria, Roumania, Albania, and Montenegro—all these States and populations would feel that there was a disturbance of the status quo which required them, in as far as they are independent States, to mobilise their armies, to prepare for eventualities, and to occupy, it may be this or it may be that portion of the Turkish Empire; and, be it remembered, these are not States all arrayed in common accord against the Turkish Empire, they are rivals one with another. [Cheers.] And if, at a time like the present, we were to disturb the status quo, as the right hon. Gentleman desires us to disturb it, we should, without adding one tittle of freedom to Crete, imperil the whole peace of the East of Europe; and the peace of the East of Europe cannot be imperilled, as everyone knows, without imperilling the peace of even greater 1525 and more important portions of European civilisation. [Cheers.] I hope I have justified the course which the Government have pursued. [Loud cheers.] I can assure the House that freedom and good government have no more earnest advocates in this House or in this country than the Members of Her Majesty's Government. [Cheers.] We are advocates of freedom. [Cries of "Oh!"] In the history of the world, Sir, freedom and peace have not always proved compatible. But at the present crisis, and with regard to the affairs now under the consideration of the House, we believe, and believe most firmly, that the cause of peace is the cause of freedom—[cheers]—and that the cause of freedom is the cause of peace. We believe that no heavier responsibility can be taken upon himself by any man in this House than to urge the Greek Government—of whose motives I make not a word of complaint—to urge the Greek Government, now that the object of freedom in Crete has been attained, for ends which, from the nature of the case, must be selfish ends, to imperil in the future interests extending far beyond the dominions of the Greek population. The right hon. Gentleman, in his elaborate peroration this evening, brought in the parable, to which allusion has been more than once made, of the good Samaritan and the man who fell among thieves. Sir, the good Samaritan would not have been through all these 18 centuries held up as a model for admiration if, as an incidental result of his good action, he was going to add largely to his estate. [Prolonged cheering.] If it be true—and I doubt not that it is true—that the Greek public were animated by generous emotions, by generous sentiments, and by a generous policy in all that they have done, let them reflect that their object, as far as Crete is concerned, has now been absolutely attained—[cheers and cries of "No!"]—and that they lay themselves open to the suspicion by further action that they have not been animated by pure motives alone, but that there was an admixture of national ambition in the course which they have pursued. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not believe that that is the case. I believe that as soon as it is understood by the Greek public that Europe is determined to give autonomy to Crete, and that any further action on the part of the Greeks will imperil the general stability 1526 of European affairs, then they will see that duty and patriotism equally require them to withdraw from the position which hitherto, from the highest motives, they have taken up. May that be the policy which they adopt. In the meantime, the course which we have before us is a plain and simple course, and it is a course which we shall pursue for the benefit of Greece itself, for the benefit of Crete, for the benefit of East Europe, and, above all, for the benefit of the peace of Europe, which is the greatest interest of mankind. [Loud cheers.]
MR. JOHN MOHLEY (Montrose Burghs)
, who was received with Opposition cheers, said: I am sure there is no dissent from the claim which the right hon. Gentleman has made for himself and his Government, that they are lovers of freedom and of peace. I cannot imagine any British Government which should be other than lovers of freedom and of peace. But we cannot forget that at this moment it is not at all impossible—some think that it is only too probable—that the effect of the policy which Her Majesty's Government are now pursuing will be to endanger peace, and that it has already done so. [Cheers and cries of "No!"] No one who listened to the speech of the Under Secretary and to his account of the state of Crete, and realised to himself the possiblity that Greece may refuse to evacuate the island—no such one could avoid the feeling that the cause of peace is at this moment exposed to most serious risk and danger. Everyone who listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend who moved this Motion will agree that in that speech, and in all that has been stated from this Bench, we have endeavoured to avoid giving—and I hope that I shall continue to avoid giving—a party complexion to this Debate. [Cries of "Oh!"] I think all of us here feel and recognise all that the right hon. Gentleman so eloquently and forcibly said as to the possible dangers that may arise from rash advice given in this House or rash action taken outside. We recognise the critical condition of these circumstances as fully as the right hon. Gentleman, and if there are aspects of the policy of the Government which we think imprudent and ill calculated to carry out the ends the Government have in view, that does not arise from party considerations but from 1527 our reading of the situation. The right hon. Gentleman secured the loud cheers of his friends behind him by a reference to the events of 1886. I am not going to dwell upon those events. [Ironical laughter.] I chanced to be a Member of the Cabinet whose actions the right hon. Gentleman criticised. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "Described."] Yes, but there was an innuendo. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "You are quite right."] The coercive measures taken against Greece in 188G were taken under a totally different state of circumstances from those which now exist—[cheers]; but as the right hon. Gentleman made a point of the coercive action taken by us, which was very different from that to which I think Her Majesty's Government will have to resort if their views are insisted upon, I may remind him that no less a person than the Prime Minister has expressly said, in a dispatch now in the hands of hon. Gentlemen, that the circumstances in 189G were entirely different from the circumstances under which our Government acted in 1886. ["Hear, hear!"] The Austrian Government reminded Lord Salisbury of what had taken place ten years ago, and Lord Salisbury replied: "The distinction between the two appears to me very marked;" but the right hon. Gentleman now assumes, for the sake of his argument, that the circumstances of 1886 and 1897 are identical—a statement which Lord Salisbury has in advance repudiated. [An HON. MEMBER: "Read on."] He says: "If Greece were to make any aggression upon the independence or integrity of Turkey—" [Ministerial cheers.] Yes, but that has been denied by the Under Secretary; it has never been stated that Greece has been guilty of aggression. Greece has intervened just as the other Powers have intervened. [Loud dissent.] The more the settlement of 1886 is examined the less I think will it be found that there is any parallel with the condition of things under which Her Majesty's Government are now acting. The right hon. Gentleman began with a vindication, with which I do not quarrel greatly, of the Concert of Europe. I admit that great perils might arise from any departure from that Concert, but, when it is said that the Cretans might still be ground down by Turkish domination were it 1528 not for the Concert of Europe, it is not explained how the Ottoman Government could have got its troops into Crete. It was not denied by the right hon. Gentleman that such is the position of Crete that were the Admirals agreed Turkey could not have landed, as she did in 1862, the large number of troops which would be required to pacify the whole of the interior of the island. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman implied that we had gone too far in asking for details. The right hon. Gentleman said that we had a right to demand from the Government a clear exposition of their principles and of the general line of their policy, but that to ask for details was going too far, because the Government were acting in concert with five other Powers and because the details were not yet fully settled. Yes, but the immediate point before every Member of the House and before Greece is this. The Greeks will say: "When you require us to evacuate Crete it is of no use to give us general principles or lines of policy. We cannot undertake to evacuate Crete or to retire from the enterprise we have entered upon until we know, not only the general principles and the lines of your policy, but the details," which the right hon. Gentleman rather complains of us tonight for asking Her Majesty's Government to give us. ["Hear, hear!"] This is a case in which the whole worth of the settlement to be arrived at will depend upon details. Therefore we have a full right to ask Her Majesty's Government for some further particulars, with regard to which Her Majesty's Government have not given us one glimpse, of the kind of autonomy, how far and how wide it is to be, which they propose to give to Crete. ["Hear, hear"!] The right hon. Gentleman said that there were two main questions which he felt bound to answer. One was as to the nature of the autonomy which was to be conferred upon Crete. He, however, did not give us any answer to that question except by making use of a very vague and 1529 unsatisfactory phrase. Then the second question related to autonomy. I can quite understand that the details of the scheme of autonomy are not yet settled; but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that what we understand Her Majesty's Government to mean now is a complete reversal of the policy which was announced by Lord Salisbury. The policy which was announced by Lord Salisbury as being carried out by the Powers was one of automony preceding coercion. Lord Salisbury—it may not be his fault—appears to have been baffled in carrying that policy out, because we are now told that the Greeks are required to evacuate Crete before they are told what is to be the scheme of autonomy which is to be conferred upon Crete. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Powers had agreed upon a scheme of autonomy which the Cretans would be justified in accepting, there is no reason why the right hon. Gentleman should not have given us some information with respect to it to-night, or should not have foreshadowed what kind of autonomy it was. Another important point upon which we desire information is how order is going to be maintained in this distracted island. Upon that point the right hon. Gentleman has no information whatever to give us. Are we to suppose that Turkish troops or Turkish police, or both, are to be used for maintaining order where they have so signally failed in doing so? My right hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen has read page after page from the Blue-book in which the action of these Turkish troops is only too plainly written. I cannot suppose that in that case the Cretans will have fair play, or that it is an argument that will induce the Greeks to evacuate the island in compliance with the determination arrived at by the Concert of Europe. I will not go back to what the Under Secretary said, that these troops were very good unless their officers ordered them to be bad; but I would remind both him and the right hon. Gentleman 1530 the First Lord of the Treasury, that they have given us no details whatever, not even any general indications, of the way in which this force is to be disciplined and maintained. ["Hear, hear!"] A more extraordinary device was never heard of. Here you have got Turkish troops ordered not to obey their own Turkish masters. They are to be under a sort of Condominium, as my right hon. Friend said, and we do not know who is going to pay for them. I think we might fairly have been told at all events, that the Government have thought out fully this extraordinary device. ["Hear, hear!"] After all, in my judgment, the most important points in the Debate to which the attention of the Government should be given, are to be found in the speeches made, not on this side of the House, but on the other side, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin, the Member for North Armagh, and the Member for Belfast. It is well worth their while to take warning by those speeches. ["Oh, oh!" and "Hear, hear!"] My right hon Friend the Member for Bodmin, speaking, as he always does, with perfect freedom—[Ministerial cheers]—and imperfect responsibility, took a very definite view as to the danger that Her Majesty's Government would be running if they used the military forces of the Crown in the coercion of Greece. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for West Monmouth used language which is very proper—language that any of us should use upon this question. My right hon. Friend warned the Government that they were walking into a pass which led them they knew not where, but which might lead them to ulterior action which would undoubtedly be condemned by the bulk of the people of this island. ["Hear, hear!"] I for my part shall be very careful not to use any language about Greece beyond the language of admiration for the services she has rendered to humanity and her own race. [Cheers.] I agree with what 1531 was said by the Under Secretary, that anyone incurs a great responsibility in this House or this country who ventures to give advice to Greece either one way or the other. I think he would incur a very grave responsibility, and I am sure that advice, in one direction or the other, given in this House or in this country would fail with the Government of Greece, because they are face to face with a very complex and difficult and urgent set of circumstances, and those circumstances will have—must have—far more effect upon them than any words spoken by a friend in England. Therefore, we leave it where my right hon. Friend put it. We warn the Government of what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin, that they are apparently committing themselves to courses which may lead them into action which I am perfectly sure they will find even their own friends, their own general supporters in the country, look upon with grave doubt, and, in many cases, with profound and loud condemnation. ["Hear, hear!"] As to what may ultimately happen to Greece, it may be, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen has said, that the very first act that the first assembly chosen under your system of autonomy brings into operation will be to pronounce for annexation to the kingdom of Greece. That, in my judgment, would be a very happy consummation. [Cheers.] It is the natural consummation, it is the consummation which ought to have taken place but for misguided policy on the part of Great Britain in 1828 and 1830, and if that end comes it will be the end which lovers of humanity and civilisation in those distracted parts would most earnestly desire. ["Hear, hear!"] I think it will be agreed on the whole that we have avoided giving to this discussion anything like a party complexion. ["Hear, hear!"] We admit the difficulties in which the Government have been working, but we do not believe that they have 1532 taken the best way to meet and to solve those difficulties. ["Hear, hear!"] We look with the greatest doubt and dissatisfaction on the scheme which Lord Salisbury and the right hon. Gentleman have announced to-night, and to which apparently they adhere. We fear that there are grounds for apprehending that we are to-night only talking of the beginning of what may prove to be a most formidable set of transactions; and we do not think that Her Majesty's Government, so far as at present informed of their position, have taken up a position which will best enable them to grapple and deal with the new aspects which those transactions may by-and-by assume. That being our view, we have stated the opinions we hold. We have warned the Government of the dangers they are incurring, and we have listened almost with pain to one or two of the speeches from the other side. The speech of the hon. Member for St. Albans was one, I am quite sure, that no Gentleman on the Front Bench can agree with. The hon. Member said that if you want to know the Greek character and worth, the true measure of Greek aims, you must look to the "Stock Exchange Yearbook." [Laughter.] Language of that kind was received with loud approval by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Whatever may be the true ancient Greek character or the modern Greek character, I do not believe any one opposite will deny that, whatever may take place in future, the action of Greece, even at the eleventh hour, has in fact promoted that settlement—["No, no," and cheers]—and the more satisfactory the settlement is the more credit would be due to Greece. ["No," and cheers.] We are satisfied with the discussion that has taken place, and my right hon. friend will not divide the House. ["Oh, oh," and Ministerial cries of "Divide!"]
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
said it was not his intention, and he set out by indicating that it was not his desire, to take a Party division on the question. He 1533 asked the leave of the House to withdraw the Motion. [Cheers and cries of "No!"]
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.