§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I am sure that on grave occasions like the present but one sentiment pervades 1077 both sides of the House—namely, the hope that the debate which is to follow will do honour to the country and to the ancient assembly to which we belong. With this feeling I am sure that both sides of the House will deeply regret the absence of one who illustrates our debates by his ability, his wit, and his eloquence. To me personally it is a matter of still greater regret, inasmuch as I am here to represent him, although unworthy and unable to fill his place; and I must ask of my noble Friends behind me their utmost indulgence, inasmuch as it falls to me to move Resolutions which, had he been present, he would have moved in so much better a manner. My Lords, I trust that in doing so I shall not in the heat of debate say anything unfair I to any Member of the Government, and that I shall not trespass upon your Lordships' convenience by too lengthened a statement.
My Lords, that being my wish, it is a matter of regret that anything like personal matters should at this moment be brought before your Lordships; but in a few words I must complain to the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of a circumstance that is reported to have occurred in another place last night. It appears that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs "in another place" ["Order, order!"]—has alluded to a Correspondence which he says was carried on by me upon a former occasion. I shall say no more than this, that if such a Correpondence exists, I wish, and have already expressed my wish, to the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) that Parliament should be made acquainted with its contents, and I trust that the noble Earl will produce it to this House.
My Lords, I turn now to the Resolutions of which I have given notice. I do not I think that any of your Lordships will object to my first Resolution, namely,That this House has heard with deep concern that the sittings of the Conference recently held; in London have been brought to a close without accomplishing the important purposes for which it was convened.It must be matter of very great regret to us all, that the Conference has failed, because the circumstances attending it have led to events which will, I am afraid, lead to still further disagreeable complications. First of all we have, I am afraid, lost the goodwill and good feeling of some very ancient allies. We have for many years been allied in very close friendly feeling with Germany and the German Powers, especi- 1078 ally with Austria and Prussia. With one of these Powers we are connected by a Royal marriage. My Lords, it must be matter of deep regret to us all, that the events to which the Correspondence which we are about to discuss has reference have for the time completely divorced us from these alliances. Then, again, I am afraid that in consequence of these events we have to lament a great violation of public right, and a violation of—for I can call it by no other name—the Treaty of 1852—a treaty in the conclusion of which both political parties in this country took an interest and a part. This is a matter of very great consequence. The violation of that treaty sets a very bad precedent for the future. It is a great breach of the public law of Europe, and may at any time be quoted as an excuse for violence and wrong. Looking at the details of this unfortunate business, there is one feature in it which must be looked at with a certain degree of apprehension—I mean the appearance of, as it were, a new Power in Europe, the Diet of the German Confederation. It appears to me that that body has overstepped its former attributes, and has, in interfering with an European treaty, taken upon itself an authority which, especially under the peculiar circumstances of the case, it had no right to assume. In fact, my Lords, if the Diet is to be permitted to throw its whole weight against any treaty that may have been signed by Austria and Prussia, on the ground that the general interests of Germany will be interfered with if such treaties are maintained, I do not know who will make treaties with Austria and Prussia, or how any treaties are to be made with any of the German States separately with any hope of their being upheld and their objects carried out. There is another point of great consequence which the events that have occurred have brought before the world, namely, the introduction of a principle which, so far at least as its interpretation is concerned, is a new one; I mean the principle of nationality. And I must express my regret that the noble Earl has not in the many discussions which have taken place—either in the Correspondence or in the Conference—as far as I can ascertain, put a categorical question to the persons who maintain this principle, and asked them for a plain and simple interpretation of what they mean by "nationality." If by "nationality" they mean that a people may rise against a tyrannical Government—that Power abused is revocable—then all Englishmen will 1079 accept the principle; but it would appear—unless some other interpretation shall be given—that nationality now means that one nation has a right to invade another, for the purpose of assisting its discontented subjects to rebel. And this nationality is described to be the produce of, or to exist in consequence of, a certain majority in language or religion; and in some way, until now unheard of, to be the foundation which gives a right first to the revolted subjects to rebel, and then to a foreign Power to invade the territory and assist them. Nothing can be more dangerous to the peace of the world than such a principle as this as now defined. Nothing can be more perilous or render it more impossible to maintain peace. I do not know what, under such a principle, is to become of the smaller Powers of Europe. Take, for instance, Switzerland, in which three different languages are spoken—German, French, and Italian. If you were to follow out this principle, Switzerland, which has hitherto been respected as the very cradle of liberty and independence, would be divided between the three great Powers—Italy, Germany, and France. And what would become of our own country if brought under this principle? There are, at least, three languages spoken in the United Kingdom; and if languages are to form the distinction, England would be one country, Scotland another, Ireland a third, and, perhaps, Wales a fourth. I therefore regret that in the many discussions which have taken place the noble Earl has not insisted upon some interpretation of this principle, which seems to me to be pregnant with mischief, in order that we may understand what nationality really means in a political and international sense. Lastly, we must deeply regret the failure of this Conference, from the natural feeling which Englishmen entertain at seeing a very ancient country—a country which has existed for more than a thousand years, whose former monarchs were our monarchs, and whose existence, as compared with that of its invader, Prussia, is as the cedar to the fig tree, invaded, dismembered, and annihilated, under circumstances of gross and unparalleled cruelty and barbarity. That must cause us to feel not only regret at the failure of the Conference, but the warmest indignation when we remember the circumstances to which I am about presently to allude; and I regret to say that the war, since its recommencement, has been carried on in the same shameful manner in which it was 1080 before. It is now my duty to show that I am right in my second Resolution, in which I lay the blame for these things on Her Majesty's Government, and declare—That it is the opinion of this House, that while the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government has failed to maintain their avowed policy of upholding the integrity and independence of Denmark, it has lowered the just influence of this country in the councils of Europe, and thereby diminished the securities for peace.My Lords, before I go into the Correspondence, which I will do as shortly as possible, quoting as little as I can, and as fairly as I can, to the noble Earl opposite and to myself, I must anticipate a question which has been asked elsewhere, and, probably, will be repeated in this House—a challenge to us to declare what our policy is, and what we should have done if we had been in office? Now, I think that a most preposterous and unfair question. Preposterous, because it is impossible for an Opposition to declare what it would do when a question of war or peace is at issue, and while in ignorance of the means at the disposal of the country for carrying on a war, of the Allies on which it could depend, and of a thousand details, without a perfect knowledge of which no man would dream of entering into a war unless he was insane. If that were a fair question, I think I might quite as fairly ask what would the Government do if they occupied the place of the Opposition?—although there is one thing which it is not difficult to predict they would do, and that is, endeavour to turn us out as soon as possible. I, therefore, candidly tell your Lordships that if we, situated as we are, and ignorant of the matters to which I have referred, were to say we were prepared to go to war, we should be unfit to conduct the affairs of the country. Let us to-night, then, say nothing upon that point. That is the reason why those upon whose support we rely in proposing this Resolution are not, I believe, at all anxious at this moment that any Government should proceed to war. And one thing appears to me to be perfectly palpable, that no moment could be more inopportune for going to war than the present. I do not say that the time has not passed when by risking a war, war might have been prevented. Of that I am even convinced, and it is not I only who say so. I have heard it stated by numbers of persons who are good judges of the circumstances to which I have alluded—I have heard it stated by Germans themselves—men as eager to maintain their objects in 1081 Denmark as any men could be—that if the Government had taken a firm tone and made a strong demonstration at the outset, war would have been averted. I think, too, I can show your Lordships that that statement was justified. The noble Earl and also the noble Duke who sits on the Government benches (the Duke of Argyll), drew an analogy between the circumstances which have taken place with respect to Denmark and Germany and those which occurred in 1859 in Italy, and also between the Correspondence which I then carried on and that which was carried on in the present instance. The noble Earl was good enough to give me credit for the way in which I endeavoured to preserve peace, and for the policy I pursued. I can assure the noble Earl that praise from a man so eminent as he is is exceedingly pleasing to me; but I can hardly help recollecting that the noble Earl was one of those who accused me, and tried, and condemned, and, I may say, hanged me for that policy. The noble Earl was one of those who drove us from office on the ground of our foreign policy, and who did so before they had read a single one of my despatches, for the papers had not at the time been laid on the table. That, perhaps, was my fault; but I must do the noble Earl the justice to say that, having condemned and hanged me, as a conscientious man he cut me down before I quite ceased to exist. There is, however, a great difference between the result of his policy and that of the Government to which I belonged. In the policy carried on by the noble Earl he has had the misfortune to have no assistance whatever, and to have possessed no influence whatever over our Allies. That was not the case with respect to the Italian question; because, although it is true that Austria, with a stupidity perfectly unpardonable, rushed to her own fate, and lost one of the fairest provinces of the empire, yet we had influence enough to prevent Prance and Piedmont from advancing, and the whole question would have been if not settled, at least discussed in peaceful Conference if Austria had not followed her insane course. I do not accept the analogy, therefore, to which I have referred. We had influence sufficient, at all events, to prevent two great Powers from rushing into war; but in this case the noble Earl seems to have had no influence with any Power what so over. Am I not right, then, my Lords, in I saying that the Government has failed in upholding the independence and integrity of Denmark? Schleswig, which was part 1082 of Denmark Proper, and which has been so for some centuries, and not only Schleswig, but Jutland, are now in possession of the Germans; and so complete is the failure of the noble Earl's policy, that it fell to him to carry out the painful and almost humiliating task of being himself the person to propose in the Conference the dismemberment of a kingdom the integrity of which he had declared essential to the welfare of Europe, and dear to the feelings of the people of this country. The noble Earl was obliged to propose in the Conference the division of Schleswig into two parts, and was compelled to submit to a refusal of his proposition on the part of the triumphant Germans. Denmark, indeed, might say to England, in the words of the dying Mercutio to Romeo—"Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm."
Now, my Lords, I think this state of things has been brought about by the default of Her Majesty's Government. What accuse them of is this—that of not having made up their minds on any definite course of policy, and of not keeping in view, as a mark from which their eye ought never to have been taken, the invasion of Schleswig. With what I may term the municipal differences in Denmark we had nothing to do. But this was an International question, and this was the point at which England had a right to interfere, even by force, if she thought proper to do so, and this point ought to have been constantly before his eyes. The noble Earl, and the Cabinet of which he is a Member, ought to have been prepared a month before with the course which in that event they intended to pursue, completely warned as they must have been of what was taking place by their Ministers abroad.
My Lords, the first great fault which the noble Earl, in my opinion, committed, was that he made himself too much of a partisan, and did not maintain that independent character which would afterwards have been of great service to him as an arbitrator and mediator between the parties. He plunged at once into the municipal question. We know the noble Earl's aptitude and power in regard to the making of constitutions and laws for the internal government of a country. In his time he has made himself immortal by a Reform Bill, of which I will say nothing but that it appears to be liked by others better than by himself—for others have accepted it, but he has never ceased endeavouring to alter it. The taste for Reform had not 1083 left him when he entered the Foreign Office, should, however, have thought that his experience of the Foreign Office would have shown him that there was quite enough to be done in dealing with the matters which come within the scope of that Department without seeking other fields of business, anxiety, and labour. That, however, was not the feeling of the noble Earl. He had not been long at the Foreign Office when it occurred to him that the great cure for all the evils existing in the case of Germany and Denmark was to propose a Reform Bill. On the 29th of April, 1861, I think he proposed a new Constitution for Denmark and the Duchies. Against that Constitution I have nothing to say, except that it closely resembled that Constitution which he afterwards advised the Danes to give up. That Constitution, like his own Reform Bill, did not please the noble Earl very long; and finding himself at Coburg, and having perhaps less to do than if shut up in the Foreign Office, he constructed another Reform Bill; and on the 24th of September, 1862, he produced what he considered would be the panacea for the existing state of things. The consequence was—as your Lordships may easily guess—that he pleased neither party. The Danes did not like one of these Constitutions; the Germans said it was impossible for them to assent to the other. Thus the noble Earl was placed rather in the position of a partisan than of a judge between Denmark and Germany. He had cut the ground from under his own feet as an independent English Minister to whom both parties, in the event of their being unable to agree, could have referred for an impartial opinion. This was soon followed by a memorable circumstance which bears vitally on the whole question, to which we may attribute much of what has been called Danish obstinacy, which greatly complicated matters, and to which I am firmly of opinion we may attribute the general failure of this unhappy business. I allude to the speech of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government on the 23rd of July, 1863, in which he declared that if Denmark were attacked he, for one, believed that she would not stand alone. That speech was not unprepared; it was made after notice had been given to him of the intention to ask him a question; and the only possible meaning to be put upon it was that which I believe the noble Viscount intended at the time. I recollect well the effect of 1084 that speech. Everybody believed it to mean nothing else than this—that if Denmark were invaded, England would assist her. I have been told—or at least I have heard it said—that the noble Lord in that remark meant to allude to Sweden; but it is impossible, because the question put to the noble Lord which gave rise to the answer and the context of the noble Lord's speech, delivered on the 23rd of July, 1863, shows that the noble Lord intended England when he made use of those words. The result of such a statement, solemnly made in Parliament by the Prime Minister of England was, that it was looked upon throughout the recess, and it was dwelt upon by Denmark as of serious meaning, and that it would be carried out in the event of Austria and Prussia entering her territory. That speech must, I think, have greatly increased the difficulties of the Foreign Secretary when he had to press the Danes to give up one thing after another—the Patent and the Constitution, to allow the Eider to be crossed without resistance, and to submit to every possible degradation; and he must have felt the difficulty in the reliance of the Danish Government on the material assistance of England. In the autumn which followed this memorable speech, the King of Denmark unfortunately died unexpectedly and after a short illness; but even before his death the consequences of these differences between Denmark and Germany were apparent. Here again the noble Earl showed that dilatoriness, and I may almost say carelessness, which in a great measure has been the cause of the failure of his efforts. On the 1st of October, Sir Augustus Paget informed the noble Earl that the new Constitution for Denmark was about to be submitted to the Rigsraad in conformity with the Royal Message. Sir Augustus Paget told the noble Earl then, that it was a matter much to be regretted that constitutional changes should be made just at that moment, and that they would be sure to produce great irritation in Germany. Before this the noble Earl knew that the Constitution had already been a matter of discussion, and that it involved the question whether Denmark had kept faith with Germany or not? Again, on the 13th of October, Sir Augustus Paget wrote to the noble Earl enforcing on his attention the danger of this Constitution, in producing irritation in Germany. From all the information which was forwarded to 1085 him it was to be expected that the noble Lord would have taken a strong line; but instead of that he replied to Sir Augustus Paget on the 21st of October, that the question was entirely an International question, and could not form a subject of Federal interference. After that the noble Earl took great pains afterwards to induce the King to withdraw the Constitution; but for two months before that, all the noble Earl said was that England would be glad if it were not signed; but he never pointed out the consequences which would ensue from the advice of England not being taken, I should like to show your Lordships some of the warnings which were conveyed to the noble Lord by his different Ministers abroad. Your Lordships will remember that after the late King of Denmark had died, before signing the Constitution, the new King was pressed by his subjects and his Ministry to sign it. The noble Earl attempted feebly to dissuade him, but he did it, and thence arose all those further troubles which resulted in the invasion of Schleswig. These are the warnings which he received from abroad. On the 16th December, Sir Augustus Paget wrote to the noble Earl informing him that the Danish Government had been summoned to withdraw their troops from Holstein, and that in all probability they would be withdrawn with the exception of the tête-de-pont of Frederickstadt, which was the key to the position in Schleswig, and about which, therefore, it was right that some arrangement should be made. On the 14th December, Sir Andrew Buchanan wrote from Berlin, that Austria and Prussia had declined to give any explanation as to the nature of the arrangements which they would accept from Denmark; that they had merely stated generally that they would require the fulfilment of the engagements contracted by Denmark in 1851, and had declared that Schleswig must be withdrawn from the Constitution before the 15th of January. He goes on to say that the Austrian and Prussian Governments had thus followed out the whole policy of the Diet, of which Denmark had so frequently complained. The noble Earl got another warning from Lord Augustus Loftus at Munich, on December 23rd, who told him that the separation of Schleswig from Denmark would be the annihilation of the Danish Monarchy; "and the maritime position of Schleswig is of European importance, as it commands the port of Kiel, which was one of the chief reasons why its position was coveted by Germany." There 1086 can be little doubt that the object of the invasion is to take possession of that port. Then, again, Sir Andrew Buchanan writes on the 14th of January—I shall not, therefore, characterize the grounds on which M. Bismark rests his defence of the intended invasion of Schleswig. It will be more reasonable to inquire whether there may not be other causes for that measure, which, if not unobjectionable, present it in a less odious point of view than as a mere wanton interruption of the peace of Europe and a needless infliction upon Denmark of the horrors of war.My Lords, the noble Earl received further information on the subject from Lord Wodehouse, who had been sent to Copenhagen, and who, writing on the 3rd of January, says—He was desired by the King to declare that; the occupation of any part of Schleswig by the Federal troops would be treated by Denmark as an act of war, which must at all hazards be resisted by force. If the Danes were driven by superior numbers out of Schleswig, they would continue their existence in Jutland; if they were compelled to retreat from Jutland, they would fight to the last extremity in the Islands, until Copenhagen itself was in the hands of the enemy."—No. 4, 495.In the same month Sir Alexander Malet writes—The tension of the public mind is very great, and I am bound to say that there is a wonderful indifference to our representations, while they are at the same time resented as interfering with a cherished project."—No. 4, 516.Now, my Lords, with those representations before us, I think we are perfectly justified in saying, in the words of the Resolution, that through the policy adopted by Her Majesty's Government the just influence of this country has been lowered. I have shown your Lordships the warnings which the noble Earl received, though I am sure that a man of his quickness of intellect could not have failed to perceive the state of things even without such representations. But, notwithstanding all his means of information, there seems to have been some fatality about, which prevented him from seeing matters in the right light. If he ever intended to defend Denmark from an attack on the part of the German Powers, no doubt the time for him to have done so was when he received those warnings in the middle and the end of December. But what were his replies to all those warnings? On the 24th of December he writes—It would be no less impossible for Her Majesty's Government to enter into any engagement, that if the Federal troops should not limit their operations to the Duchy of Holstein, but should on some pretence or other extend their opera- 1087 tions to the Duchy of Schleswig, Her Majesty's Government would maintain an attitude of neutrality between Germany and Denmark."—No. 4, 413.Now, one would expect that the noble Earl would have taken his stand on the broad question of the Treaty of 1852, and the great International question, and the balance of power, because the German Powers took to themselves the right to abrogate the treaty signed by five or six Powers, on the ground, forsooth, that Denmark had not kept faith in respect of the engagements which she had entered into with the German Powers by a separate agreement, in which none of the signatary Powers were guarantors. The noble Earl ought to have made his stand on International law and the faith of treaties if he meant to defend Denmark at all. Sweden at that time was strong in her determination to assist. If at the time to which I refer the noble Earl had come forward with a declaration that a certain number of troops and a certain portion of the British fleet would support the Danish army if the German Powers invaded Denmark, he would, no doubt, have had Sweden with him, and with 100,000 men on the Eider ready to receive the invaders I am perfectly convinced that not a single German would have crossed that river. But, my Lords, I am not now going into the question, whether the noble Earl ought to have given such assistance. I am only saying that if ever he meant to interfere actively, that was the time for action; and I am contending further, that if it was considered right by the noble Earl to maintain peace and not to run the risk of war—a risk which, I think, my Lords, was very small indeed—he ought to have said at once to Denmark, "We wont help you; you have not kept your faith in some small matters; but, whether great or small, because you have not kept your faith you must take the consequences." That is the language which, I think, the noble Earl ought to have used if he really never intended to offer material assistance to Denmark. I hope, my Lords, I shall not be accused of anything like vanity if I refer to a despatch which I wrote in 1852 to the Danish Government, when I was informed by Sir Henry Wynn, our Minister at Copenhagen, that he observed some symptoms of an intention on the part of Denmark to slide away from the engagements she had contracted under the Treaty of 1852. At that time there were great intrigues in Denmark, as there are now; and the Treaty had not been signed six months 1088 when I was told that some leading persons were trying to persuade the King not to fulfil his engagements, and that he was likely to follow their advice. In that despatch to Sir Henry Wynn, dated December 14, 1852, I said—You will not conceal from M. de Bluhme and from all persons called upon to exercise an influence in the decision of the question, that if his Danish Majesty should from whatever cause find himself unable to carry out the engagements he has contracted, Her Majesty's Government must hold His Majesty and that section of the Danish people who will have been the cause of such inability alone responsible for any dangers which may thence arise to the security of Denmark and the integrity of the Danish dominions."—Correspondence, 228.My Lords, I think it is evident that the noble Earl had not made up his mind to any policy whatever; and this want of resolution on his part perfectly explains the faltering tone of his despatches, and the difficulties into which every day he plunged deeper. Now, there is one very remarkable proof of this—namely, a conversation which the noble Earl had with Count Bernstorff, the Prussian Minister in this country, on the 14th of January, twelve days before the meeting of Parliament, and fifteen days before the invasion of Schleswig—an invasion which had been threatened for the previous three months. The Prussian Minister called upon the Foreign Secretary, and the noble Earl wrote an account of the conversation which took place on the occasion to Lord Bloomfield. He says—I had a conversation a short time ago with Count Bernstorff on the subject of the proposed occupation of Schleswig by Prussia. He said he had not fully understood the observations I had made in a former conversation. That the proposed occupation, if it were to take place, would be done under the regular authorities and by the regular troops of Prussia; that no danger, therefore, could be incurred by the King of Denmark; and that when he should have complied with the just demands of the German Powers the Duchy of Schleswig would be again placed under his sceptre. I had spoken on a former occasion in the sense that Denmark would resist such an occupation, and might be aided by Great Britain. He wished to have an explanation of what I had then said. It is to be observed that, in speaking to Count Bernstorff on the occasion alluded to I had expressly declared that I could not say what the decision of the Government might be, as the Cabinet had not yet deliberated, and consequently not submitted any opinion to the Queen; but that judging from the general current of feeling in Parliament and in the nation, I thought an invasion of Schleswig by Germany might lead to assistance to Denmark on the part of this country."—No. 4, 534.From this conversation it is clear that at the date of his interview with the Prussian 1089 Minister, twelve days before the meeting of Parliament, the noble Earl and his colleagues had not made up their minds as to whether they would give Denmark material assistance or not. At that time the German troops were actually about to march into the Danish territory, and to realize that invasion which had been threatening some three months previously. Do not let me be misunderstood, I do not say the Government ought to have resolved on assisting Denmark; but I am pointing out the time at which they might have assisted her effectively, if assistance were to be given to her at all. I may be wrong in that; but I cannot be wrong in this; here we have the noble Lord's own account with the Prussian Minister, by which it appears beyond a shadow of a doubt that, up to that time, Her Majesty's Ministers had not made up their minds as to whether they should assist Denmark or not. The noble Earl concluded the conversation with Count Bernstortf in this way—Count Bernstorff adverted shortly but pointedly to the dangers which might be incurred by Europe if Germany and England should ever become enemies. I fully admitted them, and as fully regretted their existence; but I said that, since the month of May, Great Britain had warned Austria of these dangers; that Prussia and Germany had likewise been warned; but that the voice of England was unheeded, and little time was now left for counsel, wisdom, and moderation; I hoped it would not be thrown away.That is exactly what the noble Earl did; and his policy may be very shortly epitomized. To Denmark he said, "Take care what you are about;" to Germany, "Take care what you do;" and beyond that the noble Earl did nothing. Now, while this Correspondence was going on and while events were proceeding to a crisis, what had become of Russia and France, who signed with us the Treaty of 1852—those mighty Allies from whom the noble Earl expected assistance? They did nothing. In his difficulty the noble Earl turned to his Allies and could not find one, I am not going to defend their conduct, because, as co-signataries of the Treaty of 1852, it was their duty to take more active steps with a view of effecting an arrangement of the question between Denmark and Germany, than those which they really took. But I am afraid we shall find that there were reasons, equally attributable to the policy of the noble Earl, which indisposed these Allies from coming—I will not say eagerly, but willingly forward to assist him. The proof of this may be found, I 1090 think, in the answers given by Franco on several occasions when she was appealed to by the noble Earl; but, at all events, France cannot be accused of having acted unfairly towards the Danes, because General Fleury, who went to congratulate the King on his accession, and met Lord Wodehouse at Copenhagen, distinctly and categorically told the Danish Government that France would not help them. France, therefore, cannot be blamed for any of those illusions which were held out to Denmark by England. As to the Danes themselves, not only have they been encouraged to resist the demands, just or unjust, whichever they may be, of Germany, by the speech of Lord Palmerston, but I think they were also encouraged to do so by the language held to them at different times by our representative. When Sir Augustus Paget had a long conversation on the 10th of December with M. Hall, the Danish Minister, trying to persuade him to give up the Constitution, he finds M. Hall obstinate, and says—I replied that Denmark would, at all events, have a better chance of securing the assistance of the Powers alluded to by retiring beyond the limits of the Confederation, than if she provoked a war by resisting what might be considered the legitimate authority of the Diet on Federal territory."—No. 3, 365.Now surely, in private life, if a man gives you advice in this way, the inference is that if you follow the advice, and the adversary still persecutes you, you will receive assistance at the hands of your adviser. Then, again, in a conversation with M. Hall as to the revocation of the Constitution—a proposal which the Danes asked six weeks to consider—and which was not acceded to—Lord Wodehouse says—If the time were too short before January 1 to pass a repealing Act, I felt confident that Her Majesty's Government would urge upon Prussia and Austria to extend the term they had named, and it could hardly be supposed that so reasonable a request would be refused."—No. 4, 418.Further on he said—It was my duty to declare to him (M. Hall) that if the Danish Government rejected our advice. Her Majesty's Government must leave Denmark to encounter Germany on her own responsibility."—No. 4, 418."If she rejected our advice!" Surely, that was not a prudent way for our representative to express himself. But while this advice would have been very good if it had come six weeks sooner, it was given too late; and I say, therefore, that, not- 1091 withstanding the warnings of many months—I may say even the warnings of some years—with respect to this question, and notwithstanding the danger became daily more imminent, he took no strong means to prevent it. He never told the Danes that he would not help them, or the Germans that in a certain contingency he would oppose them. With such a policy, it was impossible that what has happened should not have happened; and I have shown it to be quite true that the Cabinet, within a fortnight of the invasion, had no idea of what they intended to do respecting it
My Lords, I now come to another question of much importance. It is perfectly well known to those who have conversed with Frenchmen of any rank that they were deeply offended by the noble Earl's refusal of the Emperor's proposal of a Congress—by the manner of refusal rather than the act; that this refusal for a time alienated France from us, and was one of the causes why the noble Earl did not get the assistance which he wished. As to the Congress it strikes me that the noble Earl did not look at events with the sagacity which sometimes distinguishes him, and as to which (his policy in the American war, for instance) I have always been ready to do him justice. That France has not held back from any want of sympathy for Denmark is evident from the strong and pithy language used by the Emperor in reference to that country when he was submitting his proposition for a Congress. In replying to this proposition the noble Earl said that negotiations were in progress between the signataries to the Treaty of 1852, and that the addition of Spain, Portugal, Turkey, and other Powers, as deliberating Powers, would scarcely improve the chances of peace. I must say that, for the sake of an epigram, the noble Earl acted imprudently in risking our relations with the French Government. Instead of seeing the situation in the same grave light as the Emperor of the French, the noble Earl answered his proposal by a sort of jesting language, which was very ill-timed, and could have but one result—to offend the Sovereign to whom it was addressed. No doubt it did offend the French Government. I am not speaking of the Emperor personally, because His Majesty is far above that kind of feeling; but I say the language of the noble Lord has offended the French people who have elected him as their Sovereign, and in his peculiar position nothing could be more 1092 ill-judged than for the noble Earl to have placed him before the French nation as a person who may be safely answered with such language. Before this your Lordships all know the Correspondence which took place about Poland; you all know the impression of the Emperor and of the French people that the English Government went so far respecting Poland that they ought to have gone further, and that they left the Emperor in the lurch. That is openly stated by French politicians. I am not going to argue that Her Majesty's Government were wrong in not going to war for Poland. On the contrary, I think we did perfectly right in not making war for Poland, for, much as I feel for that unfortunate people, I never could see what means we had of rendering them material aid. I, however, say that Her Majesty's Government should take more care in their Correspondence—with the Governments of France and Russia in particular. The sort of Correspondence which has recently been carried on with the various Powers has left an impression throughout Europe that we are constantly in the habit of holding out hopes of assistance to weak States and menaces to other Powers without meaning to carry out our threats; that all we say ends in smoke, and that we end by doing nothing at all. The Cabinet had not made up their minds towards the end of January as to what they would do respecting Denmark; but the Germans had made up theirs, and they invaded Schleswig. My Lords, I will not attempt to describe the hardships which were inflicted upon the unfortunate Danes, who appear not to have been at all prepared for the struggle, but to have evinced that want of readiness for war which is the notorious vice of democratic Governments. They were totally unprepared, and they therefore succumbed to the superior resources of their opponents. Then came proposals for negotiations, protocols, and notes—and lastly the Conference. And with what results? From the first meeting of the Conference the Plenipotentiaries appear to have been floating as it were in a balloon. They had no basis; and at last the noble Earl, to whom I must give the credit of leaving no stone unturned to arrive at a peaceful solution of the question, when such a result was no longer attainable, was obliged to submit to the humiliation of offering a proposal for the dismemberment of the Danish monarchy and finding that proposal refused.
1093 I think, then, my Lords, that I am right in saying that the just influence of this country has been lowered abroad. I think I might prove it; but it would be a disagreeable and painful task to do so. I might refer to the foreign newspapers to show to you what are the opinions of foreign nations with regard to this country now—I do not speak of German papers, which naturally have a hostile feeling against this country, but I speak of the French newspapers—and I never, in my recollection, saw England spoken of in those organs as England is spoken of now. In former years I have heard England spoken of with hostility, envy, and malice, but with a certain degree of respect and fear. But we are now spoken of by those papers—I do not mean those who have been our habitual opponents, but by the Débats and papers of that character—we are spoken of by them as the betrayer of our friends, cowards, and expressions such as these. Well, my Lords, how then is it possible to say that we are not lowered in the eyes of Europe?
My Lords, I have detained you now longer than I had intended to do. It is very difficult to condense a subject of such importance in making a statement, I think it will require no further argument on my part to show the position in which England stands in respect to this Correspondence.
Once more I must refer to the speech made by a noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) in another place. I should like your Lordships to compare it with the last speech he has just made in Parliament on this occasion, and I shall merely invite your Lordships to draw your own conclusions, and you must feel as I do, that our country is deeply humiliated in the eyes of foreign nations. The speech which the noble Lord made on the 23rd of July, 1863, is this—It is an important matter of British policy to maintain the independence and integrity of the Danish monarchy. I am convinced at least that if any violent attempt to overthrow this right, and interfere with that independence, those who made the attempt would find in the result it would not be Denmark alone they would have to contend with."—[3 Hansard, clxxii. 1249, 1252.]On the 27th of June, 1864, the same noble Lord speaks in these words—but at this time Denmark was dismembered and abandoned, and the Germans in possession of Schleswig. He says—The contest is as regards Schleswig, and not as regards the independence of Denmark, or the safety of the capital, or of the Danish Monarchy. 1094 I do not mean to say, therefore, and I think it right to put in this reservation, if the war should assume a different character—if the existence of Denmark as an independent power in Europe should be at stake—if we had reason to expect to see in Copenhagen the horrors of a town taken by assault, the destruction of property, the sacrifice of the lives not only of its defenders but of its peaceful inhabitants, the confiscation that would ensue, the capture of the Sovereign as a prisoner of war, and other humiliations of that kind—I do not mean to say if any of those events are likely to happen, the position of this country might not be a subject"—for what? "for reconsideration. We might then think it our duty to adopt another course.I think, my Lords, I need say nothing more. Contrast those two speeches one with the other, both speeches spoken by the same man, and in the same place, and that man the Prime Minister of England. And now I ask you, my Lords, am I right? The noble Earl concluded by moving to resolve—That this House has heard with deep Concern that the Sittings of the Conference recently held in London have been brought to a Close without accomplishing the important Purposes for which it was convened:That it is the Opinion of this House, that while the Course pursued by Her Majesty's Government has failed to maintain their avowed Policy of upholding the Integrity and Independence of Denmark, it has lowered the just Influence of this Country in the Councils of Europe, and thereby diminished the Securities for Peace" (The Earl of Malmesbury).
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, we all knew before this debate began, and if we had not known it we should know it now, that the Resolution proposed by the noble Earl has not for its object to affirm any principle, or to settle any policy. The Resolution itself, as well as the speech of the noble Earl, have been carefully framed so as to avoid and evade all those obligations in respect to great questions of public policy which are not less incumbent upon Oppositions than upon Governments. This is a pure faction fight. ["No, no!" and "Hear, hear!"] Do not let my friends opposite imagine that I am making this a subject of complaint—faction fights are perfectly fair things—though I may think that foreign policy is not the ground on which these battles should generally be fought; because I hold that they tend to compromise the country in regard to its foreign relations. I am not going, however, to complain of this on the present occasion. My Lords, I am but too happy to find that our tongues are at last freed—that we are able to meet our opponents face to face, and to tell them what we have to 1095 say for ourselves, and something also of what we think of them.
But, my Lords, I must ohserve—and I beg the House's attention to the statement—that this Resolution is not so worded as to define the grounds upon which the Government is sought to be censured. Of course the gist of the Resolution is, that by the misconduct of the Government the influence and reputation of this country have been lowered, and at first sight the Resolution might lead the reader to suppose that the grounds stated for this condemnation are the failure of our policy with regard to Denmark. But a careful reading will show that no grounds whatever are assigned. I have my own theory, which I will explain to the House in a moment as to the wording of this Resolution; but I should like to ask the noble Earl who has just sat down a question. I know that the privilege of answering questions is generally confined to Governments, and is not shared in by Oppositions, but I hope the noble Bail will not object to enjoy by anticipation one of those pleasures which may so soon fall to his lot in office. It has been stated, upon what appears to be good authority, that this Resolution is the production of no less than sixteen persons. What I wish to ask the noble Earl is whether he will favour the House with their names. ["Oh, oh!"] If he will, I think that will explain all. I have no doubt whatever that among those sixteen right hon. Gentlemen or noble Lords there was a peace party and a war party. If the Resolution had been drawn, as this one appears to be at first sight, implying that the influence of this country has been lowered because we had failed to maintain the integrity of Denmark, such a Resolution would have pointed to a war policy, and I have no doubt that the peaceful section of the Committee would have said, as one of them has already virtually said, "We shall not vote for such a Resolution, because any policy that is in favour of war would, in our opinion, be a policy of insanity." Consequently, in order to meet that objection, and in order to make the Resolution absolutely void of all principle, the sentences have been connected by the word "while," so as to render what apparently was an expression of opinion merely the assertion of two facts.
My Lords, the noble Earl appears to suppose that we complain of him for not announcing the policy which he intends to 1096 adopt if he comes into office. I can assure the noble Earl that he has entirely mistaken the nature of our objections to his Resolution. We do not ask him what his policy will be if he conies into office. What that policy would be we know well enough already. He would go to the Parliament and the country for his policy, although he has sneered at us for so doing. What we do complain of, however, is that this Resolution does not tell us why he condemns us and what he would have done if he had been placed in our position. I listened carefully to the speech of the noble Earl, and I noticed that when he even touched upon the question of policy, he appeared at once to guard himself. "Do not let it be supposed that I mean we should have done so and so. I only mean that if such a thing had been done, such and such a consequence would have followed." This being the nature of the Resolution, and the present question being merely a trial of strength between parties, I trust I may be allowed to deal with it somewhat in its personal character. The case of the Opposition against the Government appears to be this—first, they say "You were quite right in not going to war." The noble Earl, whose absence we all so deeply regret to-night—[Ironical laughter]—I can assure noble Lords opposite that our regret is perfectly sincere—["Hear, hear!" and laughter]—for whatever may be our party feeling, we all respect the noble Earl and admire his powers; we wish the character and credit of the debates of this House to be maintained; and we regret his absence all the more because of the cause to which it is assigned. The case against the Government, then, appears to be this—"You were right not to go to war." Lord Derby said so distinctly the other night, although the noble Earl who has just sat down carefully avoided saying so.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
I beg your pardon: I distinctly said you were quite right in not going to war at the breaking up of the Conference.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
Very well; then the noble Earl agrees with his leader, he says—"You were right not to go to war upon the breaking up of the Conference." Now, I say that involves the further proposition that the honour and interests of England do not demand that we should go to war. If that be so, I want to know how it is you divide the 1097 honour of England from the honour of those who represent the Crown of England? If the noble Earl opposite would have been justified in not going to war, were we not justified in not going to war? I say the one proposition involves the other. The case of the Opposition, then, I apprehend, is this:—You, the Government, have involved yourselves by promises on the one hand, and by threats on the other; and though we do not say the honour of England is concerned, we do say that personally the present Government is compromised, and it would be better we should come into office, as we are at least free from the charge of making those promises and holding out those threats." That, my Lords, is a very pleasant theory for noble Lords opposite; but with the permission of the House I propose to examine how far it will stand investigation. My Lords, very early in October last there was a very remarkable conversation held at Copenhagen between the English Minister at that capital and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of that country. It was a conversation which involves the whole secret of subsequent transactions. At that time the new Constitution, which has been the immediate occasion of this unfortunate war, had not been passed, but it was being prepared by the Government of Denmark. The British Minister remonstrated earnestly with M. Hall against the passing of that Constitution. He also at the same time urged the Government of Denmark to revoke the Patent of March. These were subjects intimately connected. Now, I beg the House to observe the language of M. Hall. As to the Patent, he asked, "Will England promise—if we revoke the Patent—will you give us an assurance of her support?" The reply of the English Minister was immediate—his answer was that he could not even forward such a request, as he was sure it would be of no use. Then, as to the Constitution, M. Hall's language was substantially this—"I know there is a war coming upon us from Germany, which I do not wish to avoid, as being inevitable at some time; there can be no better moment for us." What was his reason for saying that? Did he say he relied on the support of the English Government? Not at all. He said—"We do not expect the support of the English Government, but we rely upon the public feeling of England, which is being aroused on our behalf." Now observe 1098 the date at which this conversation was held. It was held in October, before the death of the King, and before the Schleswig-Holstein question had attracted such universal attention—before the press of this country teemed with those articles on the subject of Denmark, which, however generous, sometimes exhibit very little knowledge of the details of the Schleswig-Holstein dispute. How, then, was it that M. Hall relied not on the Government of England—but upon the public feeling of England being roused on behalf of Denmark? Allow me to reply—and I do so without hesitation—that M. Hall pointed in that conversation amongst other things, and chief amongst other things, to certain proceedings which had taken place in your Lordships' House. Now, my Lords, in what I am about to say, do not let me for a moment be misunderstood; do not let it be supposed that I think myself entitled to complain, or if I were entitled that I am disposed to complain, of what may be said or done in this House by the independent Members of your Lordships' assembly. My Lords, during the ten years I have had the honour of sitting on this bench there has been more than one occasion upon which I have myself been deeply grateful for the language which has been held by noble Lords, independent of party in this House. I say there have been occasions—aye, more than one—when services in the cause of Europe, and the cause of liberty and freedom in Europe, which could not have been rendered by the Government, and would not have been rendered by the official Opposition, were rendered in this House by independent Members of it. My Lords, I will specify one example of what I mean. When, immediately after the close of the Crimean war, the attention of the world was directed to the atrocious proceedings of the Austrian Government in Italy, upon which subject those who were Members of the Government were necessarily silent, and when, I am afraid, the sympathies of the noble Lords opposite were not sufficiently alive to the interests of the Italians to induce them to speak, the voice of remonstrance, of warning—aye, of threat—was raised by two noble Lords, one of whom is now no more, and the other I deeply regret to see is not present in the House to-night. My Lords, I refer to Lord Lyndhurst and the Earl of Ellenborough. I shall not soon forget the observations which were made by my noble 1099 and venerated Friend, Lord Aberdeen, then at the head of the Government, when he listened to the famous speech in 1856 from Lord Lyndhurst, on the wrongs which were inflicted on the Italian people, and when he distinctly pointed out to Parliament and to England that those evils were of such a character that they could not be remedied except by the last resource of war. I well remember the observation made by Lord Aberdeen on the significance and effect of such a speech coming from such a man in your Lordships' House. It is often said that this House is a cold and unimpassioned assembly, and it may be so in some degree; but there are subjects upon which your Lordships seem to respond more immediately to the feelings of the people than even that other assembly which is in intimate contact with the people. So it was upon the Question of Italy. I do not know whether the debates in this House had much influence upon opinion in this country, but I know that they did exercise much influence abroad. Speeches of this character, coming from independent members of the House, from men of great name—of great repute, of mature years, are supposed in foreign countries to speak the mature opinions of the English people. Why, then, do I say that M. Hall trusted to what had been said in this House, and not to the Government? I know he did not trust himself to the Government, for in that very conversation he told us he did not do so. I have now to refer your Lordships to what took place on a remarkable debate in the month of May last; and I wish to remind the House of the circumstances under which it took place. In September, 1862, my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office had proposed, for the settlement of the Schleswig-Holstein dispute, a constitution, which the noble Earl opposite, absurdly enough—I hope he will excuse me for saying so—called a Reform Bill. This constitution, however, was supposed to be too German in its tendency and adverse to the interests of Denmark. Now, what happened at the beginning of the next Session of Parliament? Your Lordships will not probably have forgotten the attack made on my noble Friend by the noble Earl (Derby). Do you not recollect the joke, "Can't you let it alone?" and I thought the attack of the Opposition was to be made, not that we were doing this or that, but that we were interfering at all in the matter. In the month of May following, the subject was 1100 brought forward by Lord Ellenborough in a powerful and eloquent address. Upon that occasion, Lord Derby came forward most handsomely, and said—I imputed to him (Earl Russell) that I thought he had interfered gratuitously, and without sufficient cause, for the settlement of the Schleswig-Holstein question. I certainly was not then aware of the length and elaboration of the diplomatic correspondence which had taken place, and I was not aware how entirely the noble Earl's interference was justified by the consent of the different Powers."—[3 Hansard, clxx. 1755.]These words, I think, entirely dispose of a multitude of the arguments directed against us in this debate. We did not interfere gratuitously. We were asked on all sides to interfere; on the one hand and the other we were asked, in every form of suggestion and request, by all the parties to this dispute, to assist in procuring its settlement. But now, my Lords, I must quote what Lord Derby said with regard to the main Question. These were Lord Derby's words, and I beg the House to listen to their import and to answer whether M. Hall was not justified in his confidence and reliance, not on the language of the Government, but on the language of the Opposition. Lord Derby says—The integrity of Denmark is of vital importance to this country.I say no language so exaggerated as this has ever fallen from any Member of Her Majesty's Government. Lord Derby goes on to say—It is policy as well as justice to support against the claims of ambitious nations her fair and equitable rights. It is our duty, as it is our policy, to protect her against aggression; and although, God forbid, that last extremity should be forced upon us, yet, I say, if the question arises whether Denmark should lose its integrity, and he frittered away. I say there is no alternative that would not be preferable in point of fact to a peace which would be considered so disastrous and so destructive to Denmark.Those were the words of the noble Earl, and in words as distinct as these he held out hopes to Denmark. And yet these are the men who come here and tell us that we alone, as distinguished from them, have held out hopes to Denmark. They tell us that we have placed the country in a position of humiliation, because we have not assisted Denmark, and that they are free to take office to-morrow and to desert Denmark, whose integrity they have declared to be of vital importance to us. My Lords, I will say more. My own firm conviction is that the Danish Government 1101 and the Danish people—and I do not blame them for it—have been speculating on a change of Government in this country. Poor Denmark! She has been expecting, not that we should assist her, but that, for declining to assist her, we should be driven from office by a Vote of Want of Confidence, and then that noble Lords opposite would assist her when they came into power. Instead of which she finds us assailed by a Motion of Want of Confidence because we have ever said a word in her behalf and endeavoured to form an European alliance in her defence. Den mark, entertaining these expectations, has been betrayed, not by us, but by the language of noble Lords opposite.
Having said so much on the question as between the Government and the Opposition, I wish to add a word upon a point to which the noble Earl only alluded slightly—the contrast that has been drawn between the position of France and that of England. I must do the noble Earl the justice to say that he treated this branch of the argument in a spirit of much greater fairness than others who have attacked the Government; but as this was a heavy point of attack upon us in another place, let me say that I do not see how the assertion can be accounted for, that the position of England is humiliated in consequence of the course we have adopted towards Denmark, whilst the position of Prance is perfectly upright, fair, and honourable, except by those party feelings which lead men to attack their own country through the existing Government. I do not know how this contrast can be drawn between the two countries. We were co-signataries of the same treaty. We were bound by precisely the same obligations. I will go a step further, and, speaking for myself, declare my firm conviction that England has no selfish or material interests what ever in the question. I deny the proposition of Lord Derby, that the vital interests of this country are concerned in the maintenance of the integrity of Denmark. I deeply sympathize with the Danes. There is no Member of this House, I venture to say, who sympathizes with them more deeply than I do; but I say that we in this country have no selfish or material interests whatever in the maintenance of the Treaty of 1852. I do not say the same of France. I think France has a material interest in preventing the advance of the German Confederation along the waters of the Baltic. As to England 1102 dreading Germany as a naval Power, the very notion of it is ludicrous. Lord Ellenborough said last year, in the debate to which I have already referred, that a German fleet would be no great source of strength to Germany; but, even if it were, I say it is quite as likely to be friendly to England as the Danish fleet has been. Again, I ask, what is the position of the two countries? England has recoiled before the risk of war with the whole of Germany when that war must be carried on alone. France has recoiled before the fear of a war with Germany which would have been carried on in close alliance with England, one of the greatest Powers of Europe. France has recoiled before that war when her own material interests were nearly concerned, at a time when England who had no interests was prepared to join her. I am not blaming the Emperor of the French—he is at perfect liberty to be the judge of his own interests and actions—but I say that the contrast drawn between the positions of England and of France is simply ridiculous, and founded upon a gross misrepresentation of the relative position of the two countries.
Referring to France in another point of view, the noble Earl said that France, through General Fleury, had given full notice to Denmark that she would on no account give her material aid in this struggle. The noble Earl no doubt quoted that statement from the blue-book; but it is evident that his study of the blue-book cannot have been very close or complete, because he will find that we made immediate inquiry into the truth of this report, and the French Government immediately contradicted it. They said it was very possible General Fleury might have advised Denmark not to let slip any opportunities for peace at that moment, because at that moment the French Government did not mean to act. But the French Government distinctly stated that nothing had been said which did not leave the hands of the Emperor perfectly free.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
It is at page 443. I come now to the speech of the noble Earl, which I confess I have very great difficulty in following. I could not, to say the real truth, detect the trace of an argument throughout—I do not know what he was at. At one moment he seemed to say that we had interfered gratuitously, and against that I have only to quote the 1103 opinion of his chief (the Earl of Derby), who says we were fully justified in interfering. At another moment he said we held out hopes to Denmark and threats to Germany. It is perfectly true that over and over again we intimated to Germany the dangers which must result from the course she was pursuing, and I hold that we were perfectly justified in holding this language and in pointing out these dangers. But not one word did the noble Earl mention of the attempts made to engage France with us in joint action on this great European question. I say that every one of these intimations to the German Powers was strictly parallel with similar intimations made by France, and that they all had reference to the attempts we were then making, and which it was thought might be successful, to induce France to undertake joint action along with us. At the time we were making these endeavours to secure joint operation, which might possibly end in war, it was our bounden duty to warn the German Powers of the danger they were incurring; and we should have forfeited our duty as Ministers of the English Crown if we had not held out such intimations to the German Powers. Then again, it has been said that all this time we were plotting war. But if there be one principle which has been accepted in this country by all parties more decidedly than another, it is that joint action by England and France in all the great questions of European difficulty is the surest means by which the danger of war can be averted. The noble Earl repeatedly referred to a particular time when he thinks we ought to have adopted a more decided policy. He of course warned the House—as he always took care to do—that he did not say he would have done this himself; but he thinks that if it had been done peace would have been secured. What was the particular juncture at which the noble Earl suggested, though he did not advise, that we should have gone to war? When the German Powers were about to cross the Eider? Think of the position that England would have been in. He did not say a word about France. He said England might have done this, and would have done it with complete success. What was the time of year when the invasion of Schleswig took place? It was in the month of February, when hard frost was prevailing, and the Baltic was entirely inaccessible to our ships. What probability of success, then, 1104 had England at that time if she went to war with Germany? In such circumstances England, with her 30,000 or 35,000, or at the outside, 40,000 men, would have been called on to meet the united German force of perhaps 250,000 men, which would have been ranged against her in a single week or ten days. For it must be remembered that we had to deal not with the policy of M. Bismark or Count Rechberg, but with the fanatical feeling which inspired the whole population of the German States. What probability—nay, I will ask, what possibility is there that such a course would not have staved off war? It is very easy for those who are not in a position of responsibility to say they would have adopted this course or that. Early in this Session my noble Friend (Earl Grey) on the cross benches expressed a confident hope as to the result which would have attended such an interference on the part of England. I can only say that I always envy the strength of my noble Friend's convictions. I often wish I could be as certain of things I see with my own eyes as my noble Friend is of the most distant and contingent possibilities. I venture to say that if you go into the probability of war or peace being secured by the efforts of England against united Germany, it is almost absolutely certain that we should have been obliged to go to war with the whole of Germany, having but a very small land force, and with the Baltic inaccessible on account of ice. The noble Earl opposite (Earl of Malmesbury) hinted, though he did not say, that this was the policy to which he would have committed the Government. I beg to remind him of the words of a noble Lord who is likely to be a colleague of his, that such a policy would have been a policy of "insanity."
There is one part of the subject I wish to deal with before I close. I wish to speak of those opponents of the Government who condemn us, not on the ground which the noble Earl has avowed, that of wishing to drive us from office that he may occupy our position himself, but who oppose us on a definite ground of principle and of policy. These noble Lords are the advocates of a war policy. And again I say I deeply regret the absence of Lord Ellenborough, who has spoken in that sense more than once with all the vigour of his great powers, I do not deny that there is in the country, I will not say a large party, but a great number of persons, who feel bit- 1105 terly disappointed that England has not gone to war for the sake of Denmark. This is a feeling which has much of my sympathy, and all of my respect. I confess that in dealing with this subject I feel that the fate of the Government is a matter of very small importance. What is important is that the English people should be satisfied that if we have refrained from war, it has not been merely because we have recoiled from difficulties and dangers to be incurred by ourselves, but from much higher considerations—considerations connected with the peace of Europe and the difficulties which Say in the way of enforcing the cause of justice. I beg noble Lords who participate in this feeling to consider what it is that men mean when they talk of going to war for Denmark. It is commonly said that going to war for Denmark means going to war to support the Treaty of 1852. But those who speak thus seem to have forgotten that practically the Treaty of 1852 has long ceased to be a living question—at all events since the first meeting of the Conference it has ceased to be so. It was not by us but by the Danes themselves that the treaty was abandoned. ["Oh, oh!"] I shall be glad if the noble Lord will answer me in a more articulate manner when I sit down, but I must maintain the position which I have stated. How many of your Lordships have read and carefully studied the Treaty of 1852? It has often been said that it was a treaty of recognition and not of guarantee, and this, at least, is now generally understood. But this is not the point on which I now wish to dwell. It was a treaty of recognition, but what was it that it recognized? It was a recognition of a personal union between the Crown of Den mark and the Crowns of the two Duchies, and not of a union of the countries or their institutions. It was simply a recognition that the King of Denmark should also be the Duke of Schleswig and Holstein—a recognition of what has been called a personal union. But directly the Danes entered the Conference they said—"We will have no personal union; we will not be satisfied with a personal union." Now, my Lords, I am not blaming the Danes for taking up this position. On the contrary I think that they were perfectly right in doing so. It was said last year by Lord Ellenborough that Schleswig was a province which had belonged to Denmark for 400 years. That is perfectly 1106 true in one sense, but not in another. It is true that it was a fief of the Danish I Crown, but for many hundred years it was I divided between the different occupants of the throne, and it was not until the year; 1720—the date of our own guarantee of part; of Schleswig—that the whole of that duchy was united to the Crown of Denmark, and then it was united solely by a personal I union. Remember that as long as Denmark was a despotism a personal union was a real union, because, as far as regards external relations with foreign countries, a despotic Sovereign wields the whole power of all his crowns, and in this case the King of Denmark had all the power of the Duke of Schleswig and the Duke of Holstein. But the moment you introduce responsible, liberal, or democratic Government, the case is entirely altered. Personal union ceases to be union for any practical purpose whatever, and unless the three Parliaments agree, the King of Denmark has not, as he formerly had, the power of the three kingdoms united. Now observe the facts of this case. Liberal institutions were adopted in Denmark, the Government of which became not only liberal but highly democratic in the year 1837. The moment that that took place the two populations were brought into contact, and the jealousies and rivalries between the two nationalities and the two peoples had free course to come into collision. What were the facts with regard to the Duchy of Schleswig? At the very first general election—and I take these facts not from a German authority, but from a work of great ability and research written by a Danish partisan, M. Gosch, a gentleman connected, I believe, with the Danish Legation in this country—a large majority of the local representatives were what were called Schleswig-Holsteiners, that was, they were hostile to more than a personal union between the Duchies and the Kingdom. They were, in fact, opposed to the existing Danish Government. The Parliament lasted for six or seven years, and at the next general election the majority in favour of the autonomy of the Duchies, as it was called, was still larger, and at the present moment, the division of parties stands, I believe, as 16 to 27. The noble Earl talked about nationality as if it were a mere question of language and races. Why, we are dealing with separate provinces, having their own institutions, their own national life, their own desire for 1107 political autonomy. It is not a mere question of languages and nationalities. The people of the Duchy of Schleswig—I speak of Schleswig especially—wish to keep together. They would not have objected—they do not, I believe, object—to a merely personal union with Denmark; but the Danes say, "We wont have that; we must have you incorporated in the kingdom." That this is a true interpretation of the facts is shown by the language used by the King of Denmark himself in the Patent of 1846, referring to the question of succession, which was afterwards settled by the Treaty of 1852. His Majesty said in that Patent—More particularly, we hereby assure our faithful subjects in the Duchy of Schleswig, that we do not intend by these letters patent in any way to trespass upon the autonomy of the Duchy, such as it has hitherto been recognized by us, nor to make any alteration in those other relations which at present connect it with Holstein. We, on the contrary, hereby renew our assurance that we will, for the future, as hitherto, protect our Duchy of Schleswig in the enjoyment of the rights which belong to it as an inseparable, but yet independent part of our monarchy.There is the testimony of the Danish Monarch himself that the Duchy of Schleswig was contending for its own autonomy; that it was under his Crown, but was an independent part of the monarchy, and an independent part of the Danish State. Now, if you are to fight for Denmark in the present war, you would be going to war to force the Schleswigers not to be united, as formerly, by a personal union, but to be incorporated with Denmark. Is that an object for which England could go to war? I will put aside all question as to our power to meet alone the whole German Confederation; I will put aside all questions as to the danger and inconvenience which might be incurred by England in such a war; I will even go the length of supposing that it was within our power easily to effect our object; and I ask, is it an object which we have a right to go to war to effect, or which we have the smallest chance of effecting with any regard to justice or good policy? I apprehend that there can be but one answer. It is not an object that we could propose to ourselves; I believe it is an object that we could not have effected. And I am satisfied that, when the people of England find that this is the only result for which they would have contended if they had gone to war, they will see that the Government has abstained 1108 from war not merely from selfish or unworthy considerations, but because we really had not an object which it was within our right or competence to contend for.
My Lords, I hope that it will not be supposed that in anything I have said I intend to bear hard against the Danish Government or the Danish people, much less that it will be imagined that I have the slightest sympathy with the course taken by the great German Powers. I believe there is not a single partisan of Germany in your Lordships' House. We may think, and we do think, that the Danes have committed great errors and great faults, but we are also of opinion that those errors might have been corrected without violence, and certainly atoned for without blood. Moreover, we especially condemn the conduct of the Prussian Government, because we believe that they have hurried on this war from the worst and most selfish motives. I believe that it is very much in order to enable the present Government of Prussia to trample more effectually upon the liberties of their own people that they have put themselves at the head of this fanatical movement of the German people, and that they have deluged the North of Europe with blood. I say that a greater crime was never committed by any Government; and I would earnestly appeal to the Prussian people, whether they will allow their Government to go on sacrificing and trampling on their liberties, under the pretext of engaging the national feeling of Germany in a crusade against a weak and helpless Power.
As the noble Earl has referred to a speech which was delivered by my noble Friend Lord Palmerston the other day, in laying the papers upon the table of the House, and severely animadverted upon the tone adopted by the noble Lord, I wish to say one word with respect both to the present position of this country and to the future. All that the Government of England has said, or ought to say, was that we did not think it right to commit this country to war merely for the purpose of settling the Schleswig-Holstein dispute; but that should new objects be developed, or should the war take a new direction, we and those who might succeed us in office would hold ourselves free to deal with any conjuncture which might arise as to them, or to us might seem fit. That was all that was said by the noble Viscount in another place, and all that was said or implied by my noble Friend the Secretary 1109 for Foreign Affairs in your Lordships' House. Nay, more, I maintain that the language held by the English and by the French Government on this point are all but identical. The French Government, in writing to decline the proposition which was made to them in January in reference to joint action in support of Denmark, said they were not prepared at that conjuncture to enter into any engagements to promise material aid to Denmark, or to incur any risk of war with Germany; but they distinctly reserved to themselves, in the event of the war taking a new direction, and the balance of power in Europe being imperilled, the right of dealing with that altered condition of affairs as they might deem advisable. This is the position taken by the two Governments, and it is a position, I contend, consistent with the honour and dignity of this country.
My Lords, I should deeply regret—but more, I must say, for the sake of this House than of Her Majesty's Government—that this meaningless Resolution, involving no principle and no policy—not even condemning the Government on any specific grounds—should be placed on the Journals of the House of Lords. But I will frankly own that, whatever may be the result of the Vote which is to be given tonight, we are not ashamed of any thing which we have said or done. Neither are we ashamed of having forborne to do anything from which we have refrained. I do not regret that we have interfered in this question as we have done, because it was, I think, our bounden duty to take that course. I do not regret that we advised Denmark to fulfil all her promises to Germany. I do not regret that we distinctly intimated to her our opinion as to the particular measures which we thought a violation of the stipulations into which she had entered; or that we warned the German Powers of the dangers that would arise if France and England should be compelled to take up arms against their aggressive movements. I am not sorry that we endeavoured to form a close alliance with France, and to rally her to our support, because my firm conviction is, that if she had advanced as we invited her to do, this war would not have been waged nor all this blood shed. I do not regret that we invited—hoping against hope—the great Powers of Europe to a Conference in Lon don, to see if we could settle this question by means of negotiations; or that, having failed in that endeavour, we refused to com- 1110 mit England to a war in which she had no immediate interest, and from which we could expect no results adequate to the evils which it would entail. Above all, I do not regret that we have resisted that temptation to which you (the Opposition) now are yielding—the temptation of identifying our own personal sympathies and our own party objects with the honour and interests of our country.
said, he would not enter into the details of this Question after they had been so ably handled by his noble Friends on both sides of the House. But he should not feel easy if he did not express his opinion upon the state of foreign countries and our policy as connected with them. The aspect of affairs was far from cheering either in the New world or in the Old. In the New, a cruel civil war to excite our reprobation and our pity; in the Old, much which it was natural to deplore, but much which it was necessary to condemn. I We saw a nation that had from a man, falsely and unreflectingly called great, inherited with his dominions his profligacy and; cunning, but little of his capacity. It has been seized with a love of wealth and power, and for its gratification has trampled I on the weak and truckled to the strong, serving as the tool of the Muscovite through; a course of treachery and cruelty unprecedented even in the history of Russian oppression and Polish suffering. Backed by Austria on no possible principle, on a war of intent hard to conceive, unless it be that she dreamt of gaining influence with, the German Courts, ruled by their mobs fanatical for war, and hoped to make such influence a counterpoise to her difficulties in Italy and her worse embarrassments in Hungary, Thus seeking glory in war, Prussia had not gained the shadow of it, but she had grasped the substance of plunder. Were we to stand by silent and see her butchery and pillage of a gallant people? We should then really be humbled. If we had not felt indignation, we should have been under a delusion. If we had not expressed indignation, we should have incurred everlasting disgrace. People talk of humiliation. There is nothing humbling in being unable to prevent wrong by staying the wrong-doer; but it is humiliating to stand by in silence. All Europe knew that we could not make war single-handed against half or two-thirds of the Continent. To have rushed into such a war, how just so ever the grounds of it, would have been utter 1111 insanity. We had a right and a duty to abstain from this, and also a right and a duty to express our indignation. We were not bound, as Mr. Mills has well said, to be chivalrous, but we were bound to be honest and speak out. If the language in which we expressed our honest feelings was strong, stronger than usual in diplomatic intercourse, no harm could be done. Threats, or anything to be construed into threats, we had no right to use, seeing we were prevented by our insulation from acting. He did not find by examining the papers that any such had been used, and he spoke the more confidently on this that he had for the moment been misled by clamour at home and abroad to doubt whether menacing language had not been employed. The examination of the Correspondence and the whole case had convinced him to the contrary, and he gave it as his deliberate opinion that there had been no threats used by his noble Friend (Lord Russell). So it was the grossest fallacy to pretend that promises had been given to Denmark. This was urged from an expression of his noble Friend in the House of Commons (Lord Palmerston), that Denmark should not stand alone if Germany attacked her. But the expression was used in a statement that Russia and France viewed the matter as we did, and consequently the expression only meant that others as well as ourselves would stand by the Danes. He deeply lamented that France had not at the proper moment interfered. She owed incalculable benefits to her wise and politic ruler, whose aversion to all that might slacken her great and rapid progress in the peaceful arts and affect the existing material prosperity she was enjoying, could not be doubted. But he felt confident, as confident as one could be of any event which had not happened, that her interposition at first would have proved effectual without the least risk of hostilities. That the Conference had ended without general pacification he deeply lamented, owing to the refusal of arbitration. He had said, on the first announcement, that there were three ways of refusing an offer to refer:—one was plainly and frankly to say No, as the Danes had done; another was to say Yes, but on condition of a two months' armistice, a thing altogether out of the question; a third was to say Yes, but on condition of not being bound by the answer. These were only roundabout refusals, and, therefore, the German Powers had refused quite as plainly as the Danes.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
My Lords, I naturally feel considerable reluctance in intruding upon your Lordships on a question of this gravity and importance; but that reluctance is greatly increased when I find myself obliged, for the first time for many years—if not in my life—to differ from the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and I believe I may say, as far as foreign politics are concerned, from my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary. Since 1827 I have always looked for guidance, when I needed it, on foreign politics to my noble Friend at the head of the Government; and I can conscientiously say that I have on every occasion voted with my noble Friend on these affairs, not merely out of deference to his authority, but from a conscientious feeling that I was right in so doing. On the present occasion I regret to say that I cannot support the policy of the Government. When the Resolution of the noble Earl opposite was proposed, I felt myself in considerable difficulty; but with the whole tenor of his speech I entirely agree. He says, if I understand him rightly, that the Government have brought on war, and have led the way to the present unfortunate state of things by their vacillation, indecision, and weakness. In that I entirely agree; but I am forced on this occasion to give my opinion, not upon the noble Earl's speech, but upon his Motion. I was astonished to hear the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), talk of this as what in Irish phrase might be termed a "faction fight." Would it have been becoming in this House to receive in silence the papers laid before us, accompanied as they were by such a speech? On the contrary, we were specially invited by the Government to examine those papers and to give our opinion, and we were expressly told not to be in a hurry. I have examined the papers, and I am bound to say that I do think that they show that these affairs have been greatly mismanaged, and that it is owing to that mismanagement that there is a war, and that Denmark has been almost swept off the political map of Europe. But, my Lords, I cannot vote for the Motion of the noble Earl opposite, because, though undoubtedly it is a censure upon the Government, and as such must be taken, if it is carried, yet its terms are such I cannot support. I do not think, in the first place, that it expresses the truth; and if it does so, that truth is not which this House ought to blazon to the world. 1113 I do not think that the influence of England, properly exercised, is one jot lowered in the eyes of Europe. The influence of this country depends on her power, and never did the power of England stand higher than at the present moment. We have the finest fleet in the world; we have an army, which, although small, has never been found inadequate for any necessary purpose; we have financial resources which seem almost inexhaustible; and the commerce of the country, so far from being an impediment to our going to war, adds immense weight to us in any war. If any country with which we have commercial relations happened to go to war with us, it would suffer by the interruption of commerce relatively and comparatively far more than England. We have shown that we can suffer a great interruption to our manufactures and commerce without our resources being impaired. I think, therefore, that the Resolution of the noble Earl, whether drawn up by a council of sixteen, as the noble Duke told us, or by an individual, is mistaken in asserting that the isolation of the English Cabinet implies a want of solid power on the part of England. I perfectly agree there is an isolation at the very moment when we require combined action.
My Lords, in order to justify my remark that those affairs have been mismanaged, I do not think it necessary to go back to the long period which the noble Earl has referred to; but I must observe that I was astonished to hear the terms in which the noble Duke spoke of the Treaty of 1852. The noble Duke was a Royal Commissioner who sat in front of the throne when a Royal Speech was delivered, in which no less than three paragraphs were devoted to that treaty. Why, my Lords, we have heard of that treaty as the sole ground on which Her Majesty's Government called on the other Great Powers for their co-operation in the matter. They went to France and said, "You were a party to the Treaty of 1852." They went to Russia and said, "You were a party to the Treaty of 1852." They went to Prussia and Austria, and said, "How can you set aside the terms of the Treaty of 1852?" And, after all this, the noble Duke comes forward and says, it is not what you can call a binding treaty.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
I do not doubt it. The Danes have given 1114 it up! Why, it is torn to shreds. And that was the treaty which was to have preserved the integrity and independence of Denmark. What has become of the integrity and independence of Denmark? About a fortnight ago I observed in this House that, before very long, Denmark would become either a province of Germany or part of a Scandinavian empire. I little thought then how near was the time at which my words would be realized. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) undertook tonight to hold out a similar expectation to that put forward on a previous occasion by my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs—that if those wonderful fleets of the Austrians and Prussians should go to Copenhagen and force harsh conditions and a treaty on Denmark, the Government will reconsider the question of assistance. Well, I have no doubt they will if they should be in office; but I venture to think that when those fleets are before Copenhagen there will be still less inclination in this country for our going to war than there is at this moment, when, I apprehend, there is not a man in the country who thinks we ought now to go to war. My Lords, the time forgoing to war is past; but, looking back, we find there have been different times at which different tones were taken by Her Majesty's Government in respect of the question of peace and war; whereas, as I contend, you ought never to have spoken a word about war without being fully prepared to follow up your words by acts. It is of a want of decision and determination I accuse my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office. It is impossible for any one to read the papers and not see that sometimes the Government were inclined for war. It is impossible not to see that not only the Cabinet collectively, but the noble Earl himself at different times, were, at different times, of different dispositions as regards this question. I beg to have it clearly understood that I do not, by the Amendment I propose to move, or by any observations of mine, mean to assert that at any time the noble Earl in any despatch, or the English Government by any word, spoken by our representatives here or abroad, gave any pledge or promise that England alone, or in alliance with other Powers, would support Denmark in a war. If that had been done, I entertain no doubt whatever that my noble Friend and the Government would have redeemed their pledge; but the question is, have you not, by your whole conduct, given Denmark 1115 reason to suppose that you would go to war in her behalf, and afterwards abandoned her in her present unfortunate position? I assert that such is the case. If I were asked at what time the Government might with advantage have declared their intention to go to war—supposing that at any time they had an intention of taking that step—I would name the 18th of September, when Mr. Grey had the interview with M. Drouyn de Lhuys, the particulars of which he reports to the noble Earl in a despatch of that date. I do not wish to read passages from blue-books, and therefore I shall merely state that, on the occasion to which I refer, a proposition was made by Her Majesty's Government to the Government of the Emperor of the French, that a joint representation should be made to the Germanic Confederation on the subject of the threatened Federal execution in Holstein. France refused because, as M. Drouyn de Lhuys said, if the two nations made such a representation they must "go further." He reminded Mr. Grey of the position in which France and England had put themselves with Russia in respect of Poland, and he stated that France could not join in a formal representation and there stop short. The noble Duke has told your Lordships truly that England and France can command the peace of the world; and if the Government were determined to meddle as much as they did—I do not say whether they were right or whether they were wrong in doing so—when they were saying at Frankfort that they could not see the Federal occupation with indifference, they should have held the same language with the French Minister, and acting on his observation about going further, they should have asked France to combine with England to insist, even by war if necessary, on the fulfilment of the conditions of the Treaty of 1852. Had they done so, they would have placed themselves in a position to keep the peace between the German Powers and Denmark, no matter how fanatic the German people and their Governments might have shown themselves to be. There would have been no such hostilities and no such destruction of the Danish Kingdom as have since taken place.
My Lords, the noble Duke has spoken of the contrast which has been drawn, he thinks unfairly, between the conduct of England and the conduct of France. Well, a contrast has been drawn, and I think with good reason. France was straightforward all through, but England was not 1116 so, because her mind was not made up. The death of the late King of Denmark occurred at a very critical moment, and I think that is the important epoch from which we should look at what has been done by our Ministers. The differences which had existed between Germany and Denmark before that occurrence had been of long standing—had been increasing in acerbity, and had been daily getting more dangerous; but, as has been said by the noble Earl opposite, every one knew—every statesman and every newspaper writer knew—that what was at the bottom of the dispute was the wish of Germany to possess the Duchies and the port of Kiel. What was the language held by my noble Friend (Lord Wodehouse), when, on the accession of the new King, he, like the representatives of other Powers, was sent to Copenhagen, not on a mere complimentary mission—though, of course, that was the pretence—but to take a part in matters connected with the Schleswig-Holstein question, and to observe what was going on? My noble Friend, in a remarkably able and clear despatch to Earl Russell, recounts what had occurred at an interview which he had with M. Hall, the Danish Minister, and says he told M. Hall that if Denmark did not listen to the advice of Her Majesty's Government we should leave her to the responsibility of meeting Germany alone. I do not say that this bound England positively to go to war, but the expression, "If you do not take my advice I leave you to act on your own responsibility," surely can leave on the minds of Englishmen no doubt that the inference must be, "If you do take my advice, you will not be left to act on your responsibility." Well, then, it is said with truth, "But M. Hall did not take our advice." No doubt. But M. Hall was turned out of office because he did not take the advice of England, and the King risked almost his throne—certainly he forfeited for a time his popularity—to bring in a more conciliatory Minister, who, after M. Hall had prorogued the Estates, and when it was impossible constitutionally to revoke the Constitution, took the necessary steps to convoke both Estates again in order that the advice of England might be legally followed. Had the Danes not a right to suppose, therefore, that they would not be left to encounter Germany alone? But is this all? There is a despatch which shows that our Minister at Copenhagen was instructed to keep something back from the Danish 1117 Government. But secret diplomacy will not do for England. I am happy to say it is a game at which English Ministers always fail, and they always will be defeated by persons less scrupulous than themselves. Now, I think every word ought to have been shown to the Danish Government; there should have been no mystery whatever. But, in the papers, Lord Napier reports a remarkable conversation which he had at St. Petersburg with Prince Gortschakoff on the 26th of January, in reference to a despatch which Lord Napier was ordered to communicate to that Minister. The despatch appears to have been communicated by telegram, and the Prince remarked that it was better to wait for details—There were, however, two points, said Lord Napier, on which he wished to be particularly informed. First—What was the nature and extent of the material assistance which, in the contingency indicated, Her Majesty's Government designed to afford to Denmark? And, secondly—Did Her Majesty's Government make such assistance conditional on the co-operation of all or of any of the Powers parties to the engagements of London? Would they act with all, or with some, or would they even act alone?"—No.5, 622.Thus it appears that there was a contingency indicated in which Her Majesty's Government proposed to afford assistance to Denmark; and not only was there a question of armed and material assistance, but it was even a question left open whether our Government would not act alone. Of course these communications at St. Petersburg became known at Copenhagen, and will it be contended after this that we have not encouraged the Danish Government in their hopes of receiving material assistance from us? It is quite true that, on the 4th of February, the noble Earl made a speech here in which he distinctly stated that he was not inclined to give material assistance to Denmark. But if this were his fixed intention, why had he not said so at once to the Russian Government? Why was there any doubt? Why was there any concealment? The words of the noble Earl in this House were—We have given at no time any assurance or even hope of material assistance to Denmark. The Danish Minister at Her Majesty's Court has repeatedly said to me, 'We expect no material assistance from England, but we do expect sympathy.' That is the extent of our engagements as regards Denmark."—[3 Hansard, clxxiii. 57.]Now, if all the noble Earl's language had been like this, there could have been no 1118 doubt as to his meaning, but he goes on to add—What the future may bring forth it would be rash for me to say … … I do ask your Lordships that we may be permitted to decide upon events as they arise, and to take such measures" [not excepting military measures, your Lordships will see] "as we may think best for the peace of Europe, for the welfare of Denmark as a separate and independent nation, and for the real good of the Germans as a great Power."—[3 Hansard, clxxiii. 57.]This is materially different from the language of France, although it is quite clear that the French Government reserved to itself the right to act at any moment as it might think best for itself. We say we shall do what we think right to secure "the welfare of Denmark as a separate and independent kingdom." Now, on the 11th of February, the Danish Minister at this Court made a formal application for aid. This was after the noble Earl's speech from which I have just quoted; and we will now see what M. Bille wrote to Earl Russell a week after that speech. He said—But the Danish Government need not look so far back in the past to gain the assurance that the active assistance of England will not fail them under the present circumstances. The Treaty of London, in contempt of which the German Powers are at the present moment invading a Danish country, is especially due to the invariable interest which England takes in the maintenance of the Danish monarchy. And of all the great Powers, England has always been that which has endeavoured with most perseverance to remove the prospects of a collision. Recently, too, the Cabinet of London gave it to be understood at Frankfort, that in the case of an attack of Schleswig, Denmark would not be left alone in the contest. Germany has thought she could continue her course and pay no attention to these words, but the Danish Government have not failed to see in them the expression of a determination which the British Government will put in execution with all the energy which characterizes the English nation,"—No. 5, 677.There is no use in going back to the words of the noble Viscount the First Minister, and I do not agree with the noble Earl opposite as to the importance which he attaches to words spoken under totally different circumstances from those we are now considering. But from the despatch to which I am referring, and which was written on the 11th of February, Her Majesty's Government seem to have allowed it to be understood at Frankfort, that in case of an attack upon Schleswig Denmark would not be left alone in the contest. Am I to be told, after such a despatch, that Denmark had no expectation of help from England? Well then, 1119 on the 19th of February, the noble Earl writes to Sir Augustus Paget in these terms—With regard to the request that friendly Powers should come to the assistance of Denmark, Her Majesty's Government can only say that every step they may think it right to take in the further progress of this unhappy contest can only be taken after full consideration and communication with France and Russia. These Powers are as much interested in the maintenance of the integrity of the Danish monarchy as Great Britain; and Her Majesty's Government may fairly have recourse to their advice and concert in any measures to be taken for the preservation of that integrity. In respect to the act of guarantee of the Duchy of Schleswig of 1720, inasmuch as the Austrian and Prussian Governments have made a solemn declaration that they have no intention of disturbing the integrity of Denmark, it is not necessary at the present moment to examine the question of principle—that is, the validity of the guarantee itself."—No. 5, 704.As far as the papers go, I believe that this guarantee of 1720, to which the noble Earl here refers, is perfectly valid at this moment. My noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office does not say whether he will or will not defend the integrity of Denmark; but he says that, in case of certain contingencies, which have not yet arisen, the present decision of the Government may be reconsidered. I do not think, for my own part, that we ought to look too narrowly at the literal interpretation of words spoken here and there, but that we ought rather to consider the influence which they may have been calculated to exercise upon Denmark. Well, in March the fleet was moved: was not this in contemplation that Denmark was not to be left alone? On the 9th of March Earl Russell, in connection with the Conference, wrote a remarkable despatch to Sir Augustus Paget at Copenhagen, desiring him to check the expectations of the Danes in reference to material aid from England. The portions of the despatch to which I refer are as follows:—I must request you, before you require on the 12th instant, that the answer should be given on that day, to state to M. Monrad and M. Quaade the very great imprudence, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, of throwing away a fair chance of settling a question in regard to which the whole of the Powers of Germany are ready to contend in arms against Denmark, and neither France, nor Great Britain, nor Russia, nor Sweden are ready, in present circumstances, to fight in her support. … Had Her Majesty's Government been willing to bind Great Britain to afford material assistance to Denmark, Her Majesty's Government would have had the right, in return for that assistance, to prescribe the manner in which Denmark should fulfil her engagements to Germany. But, as Her Majesty's Government have never offered material aid, so, on the other 1120 hand, they have never gone beyond offering advice to Denmark with the most sincere desire to enable her to maintain her integrity and independence, but without any promise of material support."—No. 5, 780.About the same time, however, the fleet was moved; and the noble Earl, when questioned in this House on the 8th of March as to the cause of this removal, said—All I can say is, that the Government will best consult, according to their own opinion, the honour and interests of this country. They will not make war when the safety and the interests, the integrity and the independence of Denmark can be secured otherwise; and they will not neglect any means by which that safety and independence can be secured. With regard to the fleet, some ten days or a fortnight ago, with a view to have that fleet at command, it was directed to rendezvous at one of the home ports, so that orders might be at once conveyed to it. II it were thought necessary to give any orders to that fleet, it would be at once within our reach, and certainly I could not expect that any fleet of Austria or of Prussia would venture to encounter the squadron of Her Majesty."—[3 Hansard, clxxiii. 1632.]Might not it be a fair inference that Denmark was to expect material assistance from England after this declaration, the news of which would reach Copenhagen about the same time as the despatch to which I have just referred? In reference to the intention of the Austrian fleet to go to the Baltic, Lord Russell said, on the 11th of April, when questioned upon the subject—My noble Friend alluded to the Austrian fleet going to the Baltic; that is a question on which Her Majesty's Government have made representations to the Austrian Government. At present the Austrian Government have promised that they have no intention to send their fleet into the Baltic. They say they are about to send their fleet into the North Sea to protect the commerce of the German Powers, which is very extensive. That is a legitimate object. England is quite free to act in such cases, and while we will not act without it is absolutely necessary, and while I am fully conscious of the power of England, yet we do not wish to hurry into war without necessity; and, for my own part, I think that, a pacific policy is our true policy."—[3 Hansard, clxxiv. 764.]But why should not the Austrian fleet have gone into the Baltic if the noble Earl was not at that time prepared to take active steps with the English fleet to prevent it? At that time a state of uncertainty prevailed in all quarters, whether it was to be war or peace. I might refer as witnesses to the conduct of the Government to any merchant upon any stock-mart in Europe, or to the whole of the public of the metropolis. Why, in all places of resort for intelligent and educated men in Europe, the question has been from day to 1121 day, and from week to week—"Is England going to war or not; why does not the Government make up its mind on the subject?"
My Lords, I must say that I never heard any speech in Parliament which caused me more distress than that delivered the other night by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. His argument was that Denmark's strongholds were gone, and that it was now too late to fight. That, however, did hot prove, that if we had ever thought of going to war we ought to have done so before we had arrived at our present I difficulties. The noble Earl has urged that we ought not to go to war because both Russia and France refused to act with us, although those two Powers were quite willing to give Denmark the benefit of their advice. I, however, believe that, so far I from that being a reason why we should not go to war, it is a convincing argument in favour of a contrary course, because those two Powers have been so far compromised that they certainly would not have acted against us. The noble Earl, however, came down to the House this day week and made a speech which, I will at once avow to him, dissipated the slightest idea I might have entertained of the possibility of going to war, and convinced me that the adoption of such a course would simply be an act of insanity. What are we now to go to war for? There is nothing left for which it is worth our while to engage in such a struggle. The Treaty of 1852 and the integrity and independence of Denmark have all alike disappeared. The only man in the whole country whom I have heard speak of war is the noble Earl himself, who came down to this House the other evening, and stated that the course of the Government might possibly be reconsidered in case certain contingencies occurred. In the case of the bombardment of Copenhagen, there is to be a reconsideration of the subject; but to go to war then would, in my opinion, be the height of insanity. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) chose to be rather merry when he spoke of the manner in which the noble Earl, the Mover of the Resolution, had avoided all reference to the course which he would have pursued if he had been placed in the circumstances which the Government have found themselves compelled to meet. Without dwelling upon the subject, I think that if I had been placed in such a position I would have acted in a more straightforward manner, and would have decided at 1122 the outset which course to pursue, and have announced it; whether I would have afforded Denmark protection, or entirely abstained from armed intervention. I may perhaps refer to some words of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, spoken by him in 1823. The words I am about to quote are general maxims, and I think are even more applicable to the present time than they were to the events of 1823. Lord Palmerston said—We had but two courses from which to choose—neutrality or war in conjunction with Spain; but whichever we had determined to adopt, it became us to adopt it decidedly and adhere to it consistently. Some, indeed, had proposed a middle course, and, strange to say, would have had us use threats in negotiation, without being prepared to go to war it negotiation had failed. Such a course would have been degrading. To have talked of war, and to have meant neutrality, to have threatened an army and to have retreated behind a State paper, to have brandished the sword of defiance m the hour of deliberation, and to have ended with a penful of protests on the day of battle, would have been the conduct of a cowardly bully, and would have made us the object of contempt and the laughing stock of Europe."—[2 Hansard, viii. 1453.]In respect to this question, I have framed as mild an Amendment as I could devise; but I believe it is clear, embodying the opinion I entertain—that we have misled the Danish Government, and therefore that we are, in a great degree, the cause of the pitiable position in which Denmark is now placed. If we had said at first we would give no help, Denmark would have done what she seems to be doing now—she would have sent at once to Berlin to obtain the best terms she could make there. And I believe that if she had gone there at first and had expressed herself willing to adopt some such plan as the line of the Schlei, it would have been possible to preserve the Danish Monarchy from the dangerous position which it now occupies. I believe that by the course they, the English Government, pursued, they bewildered our own people, and misled the Court of Copenhagen. The Danes did not believe—no one believed—when they saw our fleet set in motion and our flag hoisted, that that fleet would return to our ports, and that our flag would be only employed to cover our own ships without taking any steps on behalf of Denmark, The Danish Government could not have supposed that the Ministers who had exhibited so much zeal, energy, and determination in their favour upon paper, would have left them in the hour of their distress without lending them 1123 a helping hand, or making one effort to save them. My Lords, I beg leave to move the Amendment of which I have given notice.
To omit all the Words after the Word ("convened") for the Purpose of inserting the following Words: ("That this House regrets that Denmark was allowed to expect from the English Government material Aid in support of the Objects of the Treaty of May, 1852") (The Marquess of Clanricarde).
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
My Lords, I think the noble Duke near me (the Duke of Argyll) has so ably defended the course of the Government from the attacks of the noble Earl opposite, and I also think that the noble Marquess who has just sat down (the Marquess of Clanricarde) has so little weakened the statement of ray noble Friend, that I feel it quite unnecessary to attempt any vindication of the Government; for not only is my noble Friend much better qualified by a knowledge of the circumstances for that office, but I do not share the responsibility for the course they pursued during the time they were most active in the affairs of Denmark. Until very lately I knew no more of what was going on than any of your Lordships. Before I became a member of the Government I had no other data upon which to form an opinion than other Peers had; but having formed an opinion from the Correspondence which has been laid before your Lordship, I shall express my opinion upon this question as frankly as if I was addressing your Lordships from below the gangway. In doing so I shall refrain from quoting blue-books, because I assume that all who take an interest in the question have either read those ponderous volumes for themselves, or those who have not had the courage to do so, have read in the newspapers of the last few days the discussions in which all the important points have been fully brought out either for or against the Government. I proceed to state what was my opinion. It was that at the outset of these affairs—before "coming events had cast their shadows before"—I think the Government exhibited foresight and an appreciation of the gravity and European importance which those events might assume. I pass over the communications which took place, the remonstrances with the German Powers, the warnings to Denmark in the last three months of 1863. Most of those communications were, I think, judicious, and all of 1124 them showed an earnest desire to prevent war by bringing about an amicable settlement of disputed points. Those efforts would have been successful if they had been met in a corresponding spirit, and a real desire of conciliation on the other side. As time passed, the pressure and vehemence of public opinion in Germany increased, and the determination of Denmark to resist the demands that were made upon her was strengthened. The Government having exhausted all their efforts diplomatically to bring the question to a solution, in January last, applied to the two great Continental Powers, France and Russia, who were, more interested than ourselves in maintaining the Treaty of 1852, which two other Continental Powers, who like us were parties to that treaty, seemed determined to disregard. The Government applied to Russia and to France to know whether, for the sake of maintaining the integrity of Denmark and the balance of power in Europe, they would join with us in giving material aid to Denmark; and, as your Lordships know, they applied in vain. What was the position of the Government in January last? If your Lordships will carry your minds back to that period you will, I think, make allowance for the extraordinary difficulties in which Her Majesty's Government were placed, not alone with having to deal with this question, but also having to decide in what manner they should deal with a question which more than any other in the modern history of Europe has been vexed by ramified complications as to the relations between the Duchies and Denmark, between the Duchies and Germany, and between the Duchies themselves—a question which for a century had perplexed the diplomatists and courts of Europe, and which was suddenly aggravated and brought to a climax by the unexpected death of the King and the rights and acts of his successor.
Her Majesty's Government having met with no response from France and Russia to their invitation—those two Powers having manifested almost complete unconcern—the fact that the treaty justified no sacrifice on our part, and Denmark not being an idea to fight for, the Government had to choose whether they would coldly imitate the stoical indifference of those two Powers, and folding their arms remain passive spectators of another partition like that of Poland, or whether they would do what the noble Earl opposite quarrels with 1125 them for not having done—to warn the German Powers not to cross the Eider—in which case he says there would have been little risk of war. That may be his opinion; but mine is that no course would have been more rash or more ineffectual. You could not have used such a threat without being prepared to act, and act immediately; and, as the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) has said, to send out our ironclads with perhaps 30,000 troops to meet the dangerous fogs upon the icebound const of Denmark. Then, indeed, persistence would have been a point of honour with Germany. If it produced nothing else it would have produced German unity. The result of such a policy would have been absolutely to prevent Austria and Prussia, backed by the enthusiasm and the armed force of all Ger many, quailing before our menace even if they had been disposed to do so. They would have determined, not only to chastise the Danes, but to secure a portion of the sea coast which has been so long an object of desire to the German democracy. We might, indeed, have protracted the struggle, but we should have been at war with all Germany. We should very soon have exhausted all our means of offence or retaliation; and we should have blockaded the ports of the Baltic and Adriatic, with far more real injury to our own commerce than to those with whom we made a case of quarrel. We should have called into life and action all those restless spirits that swarm all over Europe, and we should soon have found ourselves giving direct or indirect assistance to revolution in Hungary and Galicia, and to the efforts which Italy would make to obtain Venetia. The embers now smouldering in the principalities and the other provinces of Turkey in Europe would have burst into flame; and, in point of fact, ours would have been the hand to set fire to the combustibles now scattered about Europe. I ask your Lordships whether a junction with revolution would have been a rightful occupation for England to engage in with her world-wide interest, and with her duties, not only abstract but genuine, to the cause of civilisation, peace, and humanity all over the world. We should, moreover, have engaged in this contest singlehanded, while France would have stood by, a watchful but not indifferent spectator, waiting till events decided into which scale she ought to throw her sword. And with what object should we thus have 1126 set fire to the four corners of Europe? For the purpose of assisting Denmark to uphold a treaty and to repel unjust aggression. I have not the least doubt that if we sent out an expeditionary force to any particular point on the continent of Denmark, it would have held and occupied the place to which it was sent; but would it have dislodged one man of the 100,000 or 200,000 men that Germany would have sent into the territories of Denmark? Would they have produced a different feeling in Germany with regard to the Duchies? Would they have altered the intention of those German Powers who were parties to the treaty? I suppose there must have been some limit to the duration of our military occupation of Denmark and of our naval support. Let me ask your Lordships what would be the prospects and condition of Denmark after that force was withdrawn? It seems to me that those who say we ought to have gone to war before the invasion of Schleswig, or that we ought to go to war now, either have not so well calculated the consequences as to make either their advice or their censure of any importance, or else are men who wish to make political capital for themselves by tall talk—if I may use an Americanism—and desire to obtain the vulgar praise by advocating a policy from which they themselves would in office be the first to shrink. My Lords, we all feel, and have felt, the greatest sympathy for the Danes; our desire, our temptation to go to their relief has been very great. But, my Lords, sentiment is no pretext for war, which can be justified only by the very strongest sense of duty; and unless some obligation upon the Government amounting to a duty can be shown, the Government ought not to have assisted Denmark by going to war. The moment the question came to be thoroughly understood, from one end of England to the other, there was not a doubt upon the subject. Prior to the year 1852, the date of the Treaty of London, no one pretends that we had any treaty engagements binding us to support the Danes. My noble Friend admits that the treaty simply bound us to recognize King Christian as King of Denmark, but did not bind us to guarantee the Danish dominions. We should have been no more justified in going to war for such an object than in going to war for the defence of Poland because we were parties to the Treaty of Vienna. But while Her Majesty's Government abstained 1127 from going to war, would they have been justified if they had made no exertion—if they had looked on calmly while a great wrong was being perpetrated—if they had taken none of the measures which were in their power for the protection of Denmark? In that case I think they would have greatly deserved to be censured, and I myself, if sitting below the gangway, would have joined in such a vote. What was to be done, I think, was done honestly and in good faith. My noble Friend, like many others both in and out of Parliament, accuses my noble Friend the Secretary of State of using the language of menace, and of using too strong expressions in his despatches, when he had no intention of carrying these menaces out. In considering these the time is very important, because my noble Friend had then no reason to believe that France would be left alone in this business, and that other Powers who were equally bound with ourselves would have shrunk and slunk away from their obligations. I must say I think this charge comes with singular inconsistency from the very persons who charge my noble Friend with not having held strong language, and with not having assumed a decided attitude at the beginning of the war. But I do not think any honest Englishman will blame my noble Friend for having exerted his utmost efforts to avert from Denmark the calamities of war; or, having gone through all the despatches, will stay to question whether one particular expression was too strong and another too weak—whether the right word was always used in the right place—but will sympathize with the Minister writing under the deep anxiety that a British Minister should always feel when labouring in the cause of peace. My noble Friend who brought forward the vote of censure this evening (the Earl of Malmesbury) must remember how bitterly he was censured for his unsuccessful interference at the outset of the war between Austria and France—
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
Not for that particular cause, nor for that policy only, though, of course, my noble Friend takes what belongs to himself. I remember that my noble Friend laboured so energetically that his policy was called "fussy," and his despatches, though they may all have been necessary, were certainly numerous, being from January to 1128 June in that year at the rate of a despatch and a half a day; and yet he did not succeed in averting war. I can, however, assure my noble Friend that if any vote of censure had been brought against him for the manner in which he conducted affairs at that time he should have had my vote heartily given, for I thought his policy sound, I thought that he was ill-treated, that he failed from no fault of his own, and that to attack him on the ground of want of success would have been an unworthy proceeding. I now say the same thing in reference to my noble Friend behind me (Earl Russell). Reading the blue-books three months ago I formed the same opinion of the conduct of my noble Friend. It is perfectly true that his efforts to maintain peace have failed, and that the Conference has failed and I know there is nothing so popular as success, and that the want of success is a great boon to political opponents, who are always seeking whom they may devour. Yet I must say I do not think, under the circumstances, it would have been possible to act otherwise than was done by my noble Friend; and I think that the conduct of my noble Friend and his Colleagues has been thus far successful—that it has met with sympathy and approval on the part of the country. The country feels satisfied with the conduct of the Government because they have not allowed England to be dragged into war without a sufficient cause. They have resisted all those temptations, I will call them, which have been more active in this case than at any time I remember; they have disregarded all the provocations, all the appeals—some honest, some very much the reverse—which might have led men to act upon their feelings, to the sacrifice of their duty, and because—I say it boldly because conscientiously—they have secured peace without dishonour to this country. Nobody can re-echo more cordially than I do the sentiment expressed by Lord Derby a few evenings ago, that "much as he loved peace, he loved England far more;" and in that feeling I declare that if I believed peace to be inconsistent with the honour of the country I would advocate war. But there is no reason why we should have war; we are merely bound by treaty with five other Powers to recognize a certain state of things whenever it shall happen. I shall not now discuss whether that treaty was a wise one or not, or how far the rules of prudence and foresight were 1129 observed in regard to the stipulations laid down, to which we are not more bound than any other Power, and which we have less means than any other Power of carrying out. But, I ask, why should we alone depart from the policy of non-intervention, which it is the duty of this country as far as possible to observe? My noble Friend (the Earl of Malmesbury) said that advice was given to Denmark. But no advice that was not for her interest was ever given to Denmark, and to that advice no conditions were annexed. Over and over again Denmark was told that she was not to expect material assistance from us, and I do not know how words could be made more plain. Lord Wodehouse said the same when he went to Copenhagen, and the Danish Minister himself admitted that that was the case. My noble Friend and I constantly told the Danish representatives here that no material support was to be expected from England; and on the very last evening before M. Quaade left this country I had a conversation with him, and asked him whether my noble Friend and I had ever varied in our assurance that Denmark could not expect material aid from this country, and whether I had not also urged him to disregard the representations made by persons here for their own party objects, that the pressure of public opinion would compel the Government to go to war for Denmark. M. Quaade admitted that we had assured him more than once that England would not give Denmark material assistance, and that we had never varied in our language. And not being able to give, and Denmark knowing that we should not give her, material aid, my noble Friend did that which was the next best; or perhaps a better thing still, he induced the Powers who signed the Treaty of 1852 to meet in Conference. There were great delays before the Conference assembled—delays originating in the first place with the Danes themselves, who would not give an answer for fear of complications at Copenhagen—and those delays are among the circumstances which in this matter are most to be deplored. The Conference has been treated both in this and in the other House of Parliament with something like contempt, as certain beforehand to be a failure. It may possibly have been a failure, because no arrangement favourable to Denmark was likely to be admitted. But it was the only chance of preventing the absorption of the Danish peninsula; 1130 and it was reasonable to expect that when the representatives of the great Powers of Europe were assembled in order to make peace, their labours would not terminate without result. I will ask any candid man whether the protocols do not justify the calling together of the Conference? Why, my Lords, six weeks' escape from the horrors of war—six weeks' time given for reflection, would alone be a sufficient justification for such a measure. Besides that, the territorial question was narrowed down to a few square leagues; and being so narrowed it was in a state in which arbitration would have been an honourable and satisfactory termination. Arbitration was practically refused by the German Powers; it was absolutely rejected by the Danes; but my noble Friend and myself and the representatives of the neutral Powers were so anxious to save Denmark from the result of hostilities, which we knew could only be fresh loss and disaster, that we should not have abandoned our attempts to bring about a satisfactory termination had not the Danes, in consequence of their anxiety to resume the blockade, refused to give another day. I believe that never before in the history of Conferences and Congresses were the representatives limited to a certain number of hours, which was practically the case in this instance, and therefore we were placed at a great disadvantage. That frontier line, the proposal of which to the Danes was, my noble Friend thinks, a humiliation to them, was one which I should have been exceedingly glad if they could have procured, because it is impossible to maintain the treaty by restoring Holstein to Denmark. It would be to Denmark a damnosa possessio. She never could restore her authority over subjects determined to resist it, and would have to rule over a people more and more hostile to her rule. The Danes were left to act as they pleased, but I cannot but regret that they refused the line of frontier—unsatisfactory and insufficient as it was—that was proposed to them by the British Plenipotentiaries. It would have left them Alsen and Duppel and the north of Schleswig, and would have obtained for them a guarantee from the Confederation never to interfere with that territory; and that portion of northern Schleswig would have formed a sort of neutral ground by which German interference would have been kept at a distance; whereas now the Confederation will be brought up to the imaginary frontier of Jutland, and Denmark will have 1131 to contend against the absorbing influence, the wealth, the intelligence, and the activity of Germany. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) has attributed the failure of my noble Friend to prevent war, and the failure of the Conference to restore peace, to the imperfect relations which existed between England and France. Upon that I wish to say a few words, because I think that to a great extent it is true. My opinion is that the Danish Question never would have taken its present development, and that the German Powers would have acted very differently, if they had not believed that there existed a coolness between the two Governments of England and France. This is only a fresh proof of the importance, which cannot be exaggerated, of a good understanding between England and France, not alone as regards the magnitude and increasing proportion of their reciprocal interests, but more especially with regard to those matters of dispute which are constantly arising in different parts of the world, and the solution of which depends upon the light in which they are viewed by England and France. I do not think that there could be a better illustration of that than the Trent affair, in which I have no hesitation in saying that, to the opportune and unsolicited expression of opinion on the part of France, England and the United States were mainly indebted for a termination of the quarrel honourable to both parties. Again, my Lords, I believe that the war with Russia was mainly attributable to the obstinate disbelief of the Emperor Nicholas, that England and France could ever be brought to act cordially together. Now, I admit that there was a soreness and irritation between France and England, not unnatural, very much to be regretted, but in reality without foundation. It began, as my noble Friend said, with respect to Poland. We all know that France would have gone to war with Russia in defence of Poland if Austria and England would have joined her. Our co-operation, therefore, was of very great importance. We have not, perhaps, the same chivalrous and romantic feeling as the French. We did not think that it was our duty or our interest to go to war for Poland. But the Government would have been wholly unable to resist the pressure of public opinion last year, and to avoid making some attempt to mitigate the horrors which were being perpetrated in that country. That attempt was made by Eng- 1132 land in conjunction with France; but we could go no further. We declined the overtures of France for a war with Russia; and I believe—and I have good reason for saying so—that there is not now a reasonable Frenchman who does not consider that we did France a good service by not undertaking ourselves, or encouraging her to undertake, the Quixotic enterprise of marching 200,000 men across Germany to attack Russia, the people of which would have risen as one man with even greater energy and patriotism than they displayed in 1812. The next matter to which the noble Earl alluded was the Congress. He said that we had insultingly refused to take part in the Congress proposed by France, and that if England had not so refused the result would have been to prevent those complications in the North of Europe that have since arisen. Now here again I believe we did France good service, although at first the course which we adopted produced some irritation. I have not the slightest doubt that the Emperor spoke truly what he thought when he said that the Congress was a work of necessity, and that its result would be pacification; but he overlooked not only the obstacles to the reconstruction of the map of Europe, but the impossibility of the task. I think that it was too much to expect that the Sovereigns of Europe would meet in Congress at Paris upon no other basis than the International law of Europe. It was too much to expect that the desires of the Congress would be submitted to unresistingly, and without the very wars which it was invited to prevent. The difficulties were not diminished by the manner in which the proposal was laid before Europe, without any warning or notice, or any communication with the Powers who were called upon at once to say "Yea" or "Nay." It was declined by my noble Friend in a manner at which I think that no offence could be taken, because reasonable people do not take offence where no offence can possibly be intended. My noble Friend's answer did not contain all those flowery phrases and honied words which were to be found in other replies, and the true value of which no one better understands than the Emperor. My noble Friend, feeling that such a Congress would not induce Russia to give up Poland, Austria Venetia, France Rome, or England Gibraltar, and that it would never have been brought to declare that the International law of Europe was "a worn-out and tattered rag," feeling that the 1133 cause of peace and good understanding between nations would be prejudiced rather than promoted by such a Congress, felt it his duty frankly, honestly, and without disguise, to declare his opinion; and I believe that there is no reasonable man in France who will not now admit that our course was neither unwise nor unfriendly, and ought not to impair the good relations between the two countries, upon which the relations and policy of other countries so greatly depend. We should be very wrong if we inferred from the existence of any irritation arising out of these circumstances, that France has been less active than our selves in the cause of Denmark, or that the Emperor has been animated by the petty and spiteful spirit which is attributed to him. The French Government have been perfectly candid and straightforward throughout the whole affair. They have seen from the first that the cases of England and France were not parallel; that whereas we could give naval assistance to the Danes, France could only give military assistance; that she must be prepared to make war on a gigantic scale with United Germany, and that in the present happily peaceful disposition of the French nation that would be an impossibility, unless it was understood beforehand that for that war France would seek for compensation. But what that compensation was Europe in general, and France in particular, perfectly well understood. To suppose that the Emperor did not wish for a peaceful solution of affairs by the Conference, and that he thwarted our efforts to arrive at such a result, would be an entire mistake. The communications between the two Governments throughout the whole time that the Conference was sitting were of the most friendly and confidential character. The Protocols are before your Lordships to attest not only the cordiality but the ability and good sense with which we were assisted by the French Envoys. I may say the same of the representatives of the other neutral Powers. Our relations with all the other Powers of Europe—save the two German Powers—are upon the same footing. I would, under those circumstances, ask my noble Friend in what consists the loss of influence of which he complains? He has quoted French newspapers in support of his statements; but it is not on authority of that description, I hope, that your Lordships are to be called upon to affirm this Resolution. It is not on the diatribes of foreign correspondents, re- 1134 echoed here by the parties with whom they have originated, that we are to ground the opinion that England made promises to Denmark which she failed to keep, and that she is become reduced to the position of a third-rate Power. I do not complain of what is written and said abroad in regard to England, because we sometimes say ten times worse of her at home; but I treat such idle attacks as those to which I am referring, and which I will not raise to the rank of calumny, as sheer nonsense. England, my Lords, does not lose caste by not rushing into war without sufficient cause. The statesmen of England know well her resources, both moral and material. They know the enormous development of which her material power is capable, and they are alive to the irresistible force of public opinion. They are well aware how slow the English people are to believe in the necessity of going to war, but how they can, when occasion arises, unite as one man in the defence of the honour and interests of the nation. I therefore utterly disregard all such taunts as have been thrown out against us, come from what quarter they may; they can be of no importance unless they served to goad the Government into the adoption of a course for which there would be no justification; and I trust your Lordships will not this evening give them any weight by allowing them to influence your minds so far as to induce you to record it as your opinion that this country has fallen from her high position among the great Powers of Europe.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
My Lords, I listened attentively to the speech of the noble Duke who spoke in the early part of this debate (the Duke of Argyll), and I must confess that I did not perceive that he dealt with a single point on which the Resolution of my noble Friend near me is based. Perhaps the noble Duke thought it more prudent to avoid ground which he could not touch without danger. But although he kept aloof from the real question at issue, he made one or two observations to which I wish shortly to address myself. The noble Duke suggested that the Resolution of my noble Friend was the production of sixteen gentlemen, whom he called upon him to name, who he thought were probably divided into a peace and war party, inasmuch as different portions of the Resolution in his opinion showed some such difference of view. Now, my Lords, the noble Duke will, perhaps, allow me to 1135 ask him a question on the same subject as to Her Majesty's Cabinet, which, omitting the noble Earl who has just spoken, and who only lately joined the Government, is, I believe, exactly composed of sixteen persons. Will the noble Duke tell me whether there is not a peace and war party in the Cabinet? And will he be good enough to name those who are thus divided? I think these are questions which I have as good a right to put as the noble Duke has to demand similar explanations with respect to the preparation of this Resolution. The noble Duke also said something about a "faction fight," and he informed us, if I am not mistaken, that he meant before he sat down to tell us what he thought of the Opposition. He did not, however, perform his promise, and we are still in ignorance what he thinks of us; but with respect to the observations which he made about a faction fight, I would simply say, that if the policy of a Ministry is to be impeached, it is not likely that their friends are the persons who would be the first to move a vote of censure upon them. What many of the friends of the present Government think of them at heart it is not for me to conjecture; but I cannot help thinking that if their votes were on the present occasion given by ballot—a system of voting, however, to which I object—they might not be found to be quite satisfactory to those whom they generally support. The noble Duke went on to contend that he had a right to know what the policy was which the Opposition would have pursued had they been in the place of the Government. I entirely deny that the noble Duke is entitled to an answer to that question, which is not in the slightest degree raised by the Resolution before the House. If the noble Duke had asked what line of policy we would not adopt, I think I could answer him satisfactorily. I have no objection to tell him that in dealing with the two contending parties we should not have held out to one of them, and that the weaker, hopes and expectations which were only meant to be dashed to the ground, leaving the Power whom we had induced to rely upon us in a worse condition than before. And we should not, on the other hand, have used menacing and insulting language to the aggressive Powers, which by our conduct afterwards we should have proved meant nothing, and which, therefore, could produce only disregard and contempt. Such, we say, is the policy which Her Majesty's 1136 Government have pursued, and such is the policy which by this Resolution we propose to condemn.
My Lords, in order that the question at issue may be narrowed within reasonable limits—for there is some danger of our losing ourselves on too wide a field in the discussion—I would first of all consider the state of affairs at the time of the accession of the present King of Denmark on the death of his predecessor, on the 15th of November last. Your Lordships are aware that the succession was recognized by the Treaty of London of the 8th of May, 1852. The object of that treaty was expressly stated to be the maintenance of the integrity of the Danish monarchy. I observed a few days ago in a leading journal rather a curious argument on this subject. It stated that, inasmuch as Holstein and Schleswig were no portion of the Kingdom of Denmark, if those Duchies were torn from that Kingdom its integrity would still be preserved. The very terms of the treaty, however, I think, refute any such argument, because it is expressly described as an arrangement by which the succession to the whole of the dominions united under the sceptre of the King of Denmark should devolve on the present King, then Prince Christian. In all the discussions that have taken place on the question of the integrity of Denmark, that State has been regarded as embracing both the Kingdom and the Duchies. Now, the great Powers of Europe, and almost all the minor States with the exception of six, were either originally parties to that treaty or subsequently acceded to it, and Austria and Prussia affixed their signatures to it without any reservation or qualification. This is a point which it is important to bear in mind, because in the course of the discussions which have since taken place it has been asserted both by Austria and Prussia that they signed the treaty with a reserve (it must have been a mental one) against the incorporation of Schleswig with the Kingdom of Denmark; and as to the claims of the Confederation over the Duchies, I think I cannot show better what were the obligations contracted by that treaty than by quoting the words of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who said—Her Majesty's Government have seen with surprise and pain the language which has been held at Berlin with regard to the Treaty of London of May, 1852. The Powers who signed that treaty, or who subsequently acceded to it, must recollect that they bound themselves thereby not to Denmark alone, but to Great Britain, France 1137 Russia, and Sweden, who were parties to it, and to all the other States and Powers whose accession thereto was asked for and obtained, and that the declared object and purpose of that treaty was not to regulate the reciprocal relations of Denmark and Germany, but to servo as an arrangement essential for the general interests of Europe.The succession thus secured was unfortunately burdened by some unhappy legacies left by the late King. The first of these arose out of what are generally called the engagements of 1851–2; and these arose out of circumstances strikingly similar to those which have since occurred. Holstein and Schleswig had for a long period of time enjoyed a community of administration with respect to their local affairs separate from the Kingdom of Denmark, but never formed a constitutional unity. The King of Denmark proposed to give a free and independent Constitution to Holstein, and also, by a common free Constitution, to unite Schleswig with the kingdom in closer bonds of union. The Diet, under one of the laws of the Confederation, which prohibits any State belonging to it from changing its Constitution without the consent of the Sovereign and the Constitutional Representatives, interposed and demanded the revocation of this Constitution. The King of Prussia was then named the Minister of the Diet for Federal execution. Holstein was occupied. Schleswig was seized upon as a material guarantee. The brave Danes resisted; but after a fight of nine hours they yielded to overpowering numbers, and military possession was taken of the whole of Schleswig. An armistice followed, which lasted till the Treaty of July, 1850—that treaty was followed by the engagements of 1851–2, and ultimately by the Treaty of London. With regard to those engagements, I will quote the noble Earl's own description. He says—The engagements of Germany and Denmark towards each other in 1851 were singularly obscure and indefinite. They were contained neither in treaty nor in a convention, but in notes and despatches exchanged between Denmark on the one side, and Austria and Prussia on the other, to which the two parties assigned a different degree of force and validity.But there were two points of those engagements on which there can be no doubt—one was an agreement on the part of Austria and Prussia for the abolition of the community of administration which had subsisted between Schleswig and Holstein; the other was an engagement on the part of Denmark not to incorporate Schleswig in the kingdom, or to take any steps tend- 1138 the late King of Denmark, in the Constitution which he had framed for the kingdom and Schleswig, and which was complete with the exception of his signature. The position of the present King with regard to that Constitution was one of great embarrassment. It is well described by Sir Augustus Paget—It ought to be taken into consideration that this project bad been drawn up and brought to maturity without any participation on the part of His Majesty, who, it was well known, was opposed to the policy it indicated: on ascending the throne His Majesty had found it complete, less his signature, which, unless he was compelled to encounter a revolution, and to risk his crown without support from any quarter, it would be impossible for him to withhold.But that which immediately endangered the security of Denmark was the Royal decree with respect to the constitutional position of Holstein, which was issued on the 30th of March preceding the late King's death. That Constitution was extremely favourable to Holstein, and again I should wish to describe it in the words of Sir Augustus Paget, who says:—Such being the meaning which, from the reading of the document itself and the explanation which has been given to me by the Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs, I attach to the proclamation of the 30th of March, I cannot but come to the conclusion that it is neither injurious to the interests of the Duchy of Holstein, nor calculated to place the Duchy in a position of inferiority towards the other parts of the Danish monarchy. I believe, on the contrary, that it is the creation of a state of things of which few countries in Continental Europe would be disposed to complain, or with which Holstein itself might well be satisfied if its ideas were confined to the protection of its legitimate interests and national welfare.It may be well asked why there was such a desire on the part of Austria, Prussia, and the Diet to have that Constitution revoked? Austria and Prussia objected to it because it gave free and liberal institutions; for the noble Lord opposite (Lord Wodehouse) will recollect that in the course of his mission M. von Bismark told him distinctly that Germany would never be on good terms with Denmark as long as the present democratic institutions of Denmark were maintained. The Diet were opposed to it, because it severed the tie between Schleswig and Holstein; and the States of Germany hoped, by keeping up the connection between them, to draw Schleswig under German influence by means of Holstein. This was the state of things at the time of the King's death. 1139 Another circumstance occurred, which it is important to bear in mind in considering the policy of the Government. A few days before the death of the late King the French Emperor had made a proposal to all the Great European Powers to meet in a general Congress for the purpose of settling any disputes which had arisen and were likely to disturb the peace of Europe; and among these were particularly specified the affairs of Denmark and Germany. Your Lordships can have no doubt that if at this critical conjuncture there had been a cordial concert and co-operation between the French Emperor and the English Government, it was highly probable that none of the disasters and calamities which have since befallen Denmark would have occurred. For that I have the admission of the noble Earl who has last spoken—a Minister of great experience, and as likely to be well informed on the subject as any Member in your Lordships' House. For months before the death of the King of Denmark the Diet had had under consideration this Patent of the 30th of March with respect to the Constitution of Holstein, and it was quite evident from their deliberations, and the proposals made by Austria and Prussia, that the Federal Execution would be made the pretext for extending the claim over Schleswig and dismembering the Danish monarchy. Of course it did not escape the sagacity of the noble Earl, that from the first the Diet had these ulterior views, that (to use his own words)Some of the Powers of Germany showed an intention of availing themselves of the execution and the occupation in Holstein and Schleswig as a means of creating a revolution in those Duchies with a view to the dismemberment of the Danish monarchy.On the 9th of July a summons was issued from the Diet to the King of Denmark to revoke the Patent of the 30th of March within six weeks. At this critical moment your Lordships will remember the remarkable speech made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government on the 23rd of July at the close of the Session. It was not a sudden impulse of the noble Lord's generous nature. He had ample time for deliberating what he should do and what he should say, for notice had been given him by an hon. Friend of mine (Mr. Seymour FitzGerald) of his intention to put the question. The noble Lord, therefore, was prepared to give an answer; and before the assembled House of Com- 1140 mons and, I may say, in the face of Europe, he said—The hon. Gentleman asks what is the policy and the course of Her Majesty's Government with regard to that dispute. As I have already said, we concur entirely with him, and I am satisfied with all reasonable men in Europe, including those in France and Russia, in desiring that the independence, the integrity, and the rights of Denmark may be maintained. We are convinced—I am convinced at least—that if any violent attempt were made to overthrow those rights, to interfere with that independence, those who made the attempt would find in the result that it would not be Denmark alone with which they would have to contend."—[3 Hansard, clxxii. 1252.]This was not uttered in the spirit of prophecy, it was a promise and pledge. ["No, no!" "Hear, hear!"] It was so understood by the Danes, and was so meant by the noble Lord. It is most important that we should bear this declaration in mind when we come to consider whether hopes and expectations were not held out to Denmark, because it will give point to all the subsequent language of the noble Earl however guardedly expressed. In a despatch written on the 13th of October, the noble Earl endeavoured to impress on the Danish Government that "they should not forcibly oppose the threatened Federal Execution unless it were extended to the Duchies." What is the meaning of this? Is it not that they should forcibly oppose the Federal Execution if extended to Schleswig? And can any one believe that the noble Lord meant that Denmark should do this alone and single-handed—that the Danes should encounter alone the overwhelming force of the German Powers? The noble Earl well knows that when the war did commence the Germans brought 68,000 men into the field against whom the Danes could only muster between 30,000 and 40,000 men. It was idle to suppose that Denmark would rush single-handed to her own destruction. Again, on the 22nd of October, 1863, the noble Earl says—It seems to Her Majesty's Government that Denmark, with a due regard for her own interest, should at once withdraw the Patent of the 30th of March, and rest her opposition to Federal Execution on the ground that it involves interference in matters relating to the constitution of the Danish monarchy and in the affairs of Schleswig."—No. 3, 171.My Lords, we must always bear in mind, with reference to the hopes and expectations held out to Denmark, the warnings which at this time the noble Earl was addressing to the Diet, as to its claims upon Schleswig and the right and duty of Eng- 1141 land to interfere. At page 124 of the Correspondence you will find him stating that—If the Diet take steps for a still further object, and invade Holstein for the purpose of compelling the King of Denmark to acknowledge certain rights, which the German Confederation claim as belonging to Schleswig, by virtue of the arrangements of 1851–52, the Diet will be entering upon a grave European question, as to which they have no exclusive competency of decision, and on which it belongs quite as much to every other European Government to form an opinion and pronounce a judgment."—No. 2, 124.Again, on the 29th of September, 1863, the noble Earl says—The aim of the Execution consists unmistakably in carrying out the Diet's decrees—that is to say, to establish between the said Duchies, together with Schleswig and the Kingdom of Denmark Proper, a general Constitution, connecting them by a common union. It is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to shut their eyes to the gravity of the proposition which the Diet have to consider. Her Majesty by the Treaty of London of May 8, 1852, is bound to respect the integrity and independence of Denmark. The Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia have taken the same engagement. Her Majesty could not see with indifference a military occupation of Holstein, which is only to cease upon terms injuriously affecting the Constitution of the whole Danish Monarchy. Her Majesty's Government could not recognize this military occupation as a legitimate exercise of the powers of the Confederation, or admit that it could properly be called a Federal Execution. Her Majesty's Government could not be indifferent to the bearing of such an act upon Denmark, and upon European interests. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, earnestly entreat the German Diet to pause, and to submit the questions in dispute between Germany and Denmark to the mediation of other Powers unconcerned in the controversy, but deeply concerned in the maintenance of the peace of Europe and the independence of Denmark."—No. 2, 145.Well, my Lords, how were these notices—threatenings I suppose we must not call them—regarded by Denmark herself? My noble Friend opposite (Lord Wodehouse), in a conversation which he had with M. Hall, the Danish Minister, was told by him that they had come to a decision not to offer resistance in Holstein in consequence of the representations of Her Majesty's Government. In answer to this communication the noble Lord said—It would be most imprudent to precipitate a war by resistance to the Execution; but he was careful to explain that Her Majesty's Government would not take upon themselves the responsibility of the determination which might be arrived at by the Danish Court.After having distinctly advised the Danish Government not to resist the invasion of the Duchies, after the Danes had abandoned 1142 Holstein upon the representation of the noble Earl—the noble Lord, acting for Her Majesty's Government, seems here to have backed out of the consequences of the advice which had been given, and upon which the Danish Government had acted down to that period. At this time unfortunately the King had put the finishing hand to the Constitution of the 18th November. I regret very much that this was done. I recognize the difficulties with which His Majesty, who had not been a party to the Constitution originally, had to contend; but I am compelled to admit that if this Constitution was not an actual incorporation of the Duchies, it was a step tending directly towards that incorporation, and therefore it was a violation of the engagements of 1851–2. This increased the embarrassment of affairs, and they became more complicated by the revival of the claims of the Prince of Augustenburg to the succession of the Duchies, which was countenanced by the Diet. There was, therefore, the question of the treaty, and there was the dispute about the succession; and just at this critical moment, the noble Earl, not having before given an answer to the invitation of the Emperor of the French to join in a general Congress, thought fit on the 25th of November, only seven days after this complicated embarrassment had arisen, and when it would have been most important to secure the goodwill and co-operation of the Emperor of the French—at this most critical moment the noble Lord thought fit to send a refusal which, though not intended to be uncourteous, seems to have been in the style usually adopted by the noble Earl who, as has been explained by the noble Earl opposite, is not in the habit of flattering in his correspondence. The prejudicial effect of this refusal is shown by the account given of an interview with M. Drouyn de Lhuys on the 29th of December, 444, in which Lord Cowley was compelled to remark thatIt would be a grievous thing if the difference of opinion, which had arisen upon the merits of a general Congress, were to produce an estrangement which would leave each Government to pursue its own course."—No. 4, 444.The embarrassment of the position no doubt rendered it extremely difficult to know how to deal with the question; but Her Majesty's Government recommended, very properly, that the Patent of the 30th of March should be revoked. The Patent was revoked on the 7th of 1143 December; but at that time the noble Earl had already been warned by Sir Augustus Paget, that "in sacrifices no concessions, no fulfilment of engagements would satisfy the German Governments, that they were bent upon the dismemberment of the Monarchy of Denmark that they might place the Duchies with the ports belonging to them in the hands of a Prince devoted to Germany." The noble Earl had got the Patent of March revoked, and supposed that he had done a great thing; but Austria and Prussia refused to be satisfied with the concession. They said to Denmark, "It is too late; you have violated your engagements of 1851–2; you must revoke the Constitution of the 18th of November." Then the noble Earl strongly recommended Denmark to revoke that Constitution, saying that, if she rejected this advice, Her Majesty's Government must leave her to encounter Germany on her own responsibility. Now, what is the meaning of this language, "If you do not do this, we must leave you to your own responsibility?" Does it not mean, "If you do it, you may expect support?" What other meaning could be attached to these words? M. Hall upon the noble Earl's advice to revoke the Constitution said—The revocation of the Patent had been asked for—it had been granted; the evacuation of Holstein had been urged—it had been agreed to; if the constitution was annulled, some other concession would be required.And the noble Earl thought it reasonable thatDenmark should know the limits of the demands of Germany, and be able to bring to a close this long and wearisome dispute.Austria and Prussia had immediately, and in the most peremptory manner, demanded the revocation of the Constitution in forty-eight hours, and the noble Earl was to solicit for more time, or their proceedings would endanger the Danish throne. He advised Denmark to summon the Rigsraad at once in order to obtain a repeal of the Constitution, telling her that if she did not adopt that course she would have no chance of averting a contest with the German Powers. At the same time he appealed to Prussia and Austria, and said, "Do not press Denmark so hardly; give her a little time allow her six weeks to enable her to repeal the Constitution in a legitimate manner." But the German Powers were deaf to entreaties. They refused to listen to them. 1144 They launched the thunderbolt of war against Denmark; Holstein was occupied; Schleswig was taken as a material guarantee; and an advance was made into Jutland.
And then, my Lords, a proceeding took place which I must confess appears to me to be the very worst feature in that policy of the Government which we are called upon to condemn. Your Lordships must bear in mind that this invasion of Schleswig had been characterized by the noble Lord at the head of the Government as "an iniquitous aggression." Austria winced under that expression, and asked for an explanation of the noble Earl, who with his accustomed argumentative courtesy said that "an unnecessary war must be an iniquitous war, and that, therefore, the expression of the noble Viscount was a correct one." But when concession after concession had been made by Denmark on the advice of Her Majesty's Government, and after hopes had been held out of material assistance, when Schleswig had been occupied as a material guarantee, and Jutland invaded under pretext of strategical necessity, when Denmark was lying helpless and bleeding at the foot of her conquerors, then—can it be believed?—the noble Earl and Her Majesty's Government attempted to justify to Denmark the possession—the forcible possession—which had been taken of the Duchies. You must remember that the noble Earl is dealing with what the Government considered an iniquitous aggression. Well, in a despatch addressed to Sir Augustus Paget, February 22, 1864, the noble Earl says—Her Majesty's Government are, however, impressed with the conviction that the wish of the Danish Government for the evacuation of Schleswig can only be realized when that Government shall be prepared to give some sufficient security for the good and equal government of the subjects of the King of Denmark of German origin who may be resident in the Duchy. And Her Majesty's Government think it may be fairly asked, whether the Danish Government are prepared to do so, and also whether they contemplate the organization of the Danish monarchy on a different footing? Her Majesty's Government are very well disposed towards Denmark, and would willingly assist her in extricating herself from the difficulties in which she is now involved; but Her Majesty's Government cannot lose sight of the just claims of the German subjects of the King, and they desire to act in this matter in consort with the Allies of Great Britain."—No. 5, 727.My Lords, I cannot trust myself to characterize this despatch as I think it deserves. It is calculated to call up a blush of shame upon the cheek of every Eng- 1145 lishman. And then, to crown the whole, the noble Earl denies that Her Majesty's Government have ever done more than offer advice to Denmark. This is the language of the noble Earl in writing to Sir Augustus Paget, March 9, 1864—Her Majesty's Government do not pretend to dictate any course to an independent State like Denmark which that State is not willing to follow. Had Her Majesty's Government been willing to bind Great Britain to afford material assistance to Denmark, Her Majesty's Government would have had the right, in return for that assistance, to prescribe the manner in which Denmark should fulfil her engagements to Germany. But as Her Majesty's Government have never offered material aid, so, on the other hand, they have never gone beyond offering advice to Denmark with the most sincere desire to enable her to maintain her integrity and independence, but without any promise of material support."—No. 5, 780.It is true that the Government may have given no direct promise of material support, but do not the passages I have quoted convey a strongly-implied promise? Though I the statement of the noble Earl may therefore be true to the letter, I venture to ask every honest man whether it is true in spirit? What, then, should have been the course of Her Majesty's Government? The noble Earl who spoke last (the Earl of Clarendon) intimated that the supporters of this Motion were crying out for war. We say no such thing. In our opinion the Government should have maintained peace; but we think that if they did not mean to assist Denmark they should have distinctly stated so, and should have followed the example set by the Emperor of the French, who clearly gave Denmark to understand that he had no intention to give her material aid in the conflict. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) taunted my noble Friend (the Earl of Malmesbury) with not having read the despatches, for (he said) if he bad, my noble Friend would have seen that General Fleury's language had been contradicted by another despatch. Now, the fact is that there is no contradiction at all. According to Earl Cowley, M. Drouyn de Lhuys said—The instructions given to General Fleury prescribed to him to conform his mission as much as possible to the conveyance of Parliamentary messages from the Emperor. Should he be obliged—and it was hardly to be avoided—to speak on political matters, he was to advise all possible concessions for the maintenance of peace. It might be that, with a view of furthering this pacific policy, the General had stated that the support of France must not be expected in the event of war; but he (M. Druyn de Lhuys) was positive that no declaration had been made by the General, which did not leave the Emperor 1146 free to take any course which events might render expedient.If the noble Duke discovers a contradiction here, his mind is differently constituted from mine. You will find that up to the very last Sir Augustus Paget says to M. Monrad, "The prospect of Foreign support is by no means certain;" and, again, "I told him frankly and honestly there was very little chance of support." Why not have said plainly and honestly that no such support would be given? On this part of the question I ask your Lordships whether I have not established to your satisaction, that hopes and expectations of material assistance were held out to Denmark, and that those hopes have been cruelly disappointed?
My Lords, I now turn to the course pursued with regard to the aggressive Powers, as to which I venture to think there has been an exhibition of menacing and insulting language followed at times by very submissive conduct, alternations between heat and cold, between weakness and violence, calculated to bring discredit upon the Government and upon the country. It was known perfectly well from the first that Austria and Prussia were making the Federal Execution a pretext for their own designs upon Schleswig. But they spoke in the most plausible manner. The noble Earl talked of "invasion," to which they objected, "Oh, no! It was not invasion; it was only occupation." This puts one in mind of ancient Pistol, when accused of stealing,Steal! convey, the wise it call!Then they say, "A Federal execution is not a hostile proceeding. It may wear the stern face of war, but this is but a mask, and if you look beneath it you will see only the mild countenance of material guarantee." The independence and integrity of Denmark is ever upon their lips; our proceedings, they would say, may look like dismemberment, but it should be remembered that a broken bone often becomes stronger when re-united, and though the tie between Denmark and the Duchies may be severed for a time, the nexus will be stronger after our operations. "It is better for Denmark," say they, "that we should take the matter into our own hands, because if we leave it to the Diet there will immediately ensue the proclamation of the Duke of Augustenburg." But I should like to know what Denmark has profited by this Jacob's voice with Esau's hands? Now, in this state of 1147 things, what was the course of the noble Lord? It was a succession of threats and of submission, of violence and of forbearance, without any settled policy. He begins by a little warning to Germany to look at home. He says to Lord Bloomfield—You will communicate these views to Count Rechberg, and tell him that if Germany persists in confounding Schleswig with Holstein other Powers of Europe may confound Holstein with Schleswig, and deny the right of Germany to interfere with the one any more than she has with the other, except as an European Power. Such a pretension might be as dangerous to the independence and integrity of Germany as the invasion of Schleswig might be to the independence and integrity of Denmark.Then the noble Earl tries what a threat will do, and in a memorandum read to M. Bismark he says—Should Federal troop9 enter Holstein on purely Federal grounds, Her Majesty's Government would not interfere; but should it appear that Federal troops had entered the Duchy on international grounds, Her Majesty's Government may be obliged to interfere.Then the noble Earl seemed to think that he had gone too far, and in order that all apprehension of war might be removed be writes to Sir Andrew Buchanan on December 1, 1863—I have to state to you that the line of policy to be pursued by Her Majesty's Government in the questions at issue between Denmark and Germany is perfectly clear. That policy is to advise Austria, Prussia, and the other Powers who signed the Treaty of London, to adhere to their engagements, and to advise Denmark to observe all the engagements which she has taken to Germany."—No. 3, 393.Now as the engagements of Denmark were, in the opinion of the noble Earl, "singularly obscure and indefinite," and Austria and Prussia considered themselves released from their Treaty obligations, this advice was safe at least, though not very practical. I do not, however, object to this advice. But what I do object to are the alternations and oscillations which the noble Earl exhibited. This being announced as his clear policy, he next writes to Lord Bloomfield, on the 8th of December, and tries the effect of advice as to the limits of the Federal Execution—As the Diet seems determined to proceed with the proposed execution in Holstein, Her Majesty's Government consider it to be of great importance that the objects of that measure should be distinctly defined, and that it should be strictly limited to the enforcement within the Duchy of Holstein of the rights which the German Confederation alleges to have been disregarded by the Danish Government. In conformity with this principle the Federal commanders should be strictly prohibited from extending the execution to any parts of the frontier in respect to which 1148 any doubt may exist as to whether it belongs to the Duchy of Holstein, and that, more particularly at Rendsburg, no doubtful or mixed territory should be occupied by the Federal troops."—No. 3, 343.His advice being received with the most perfect indifference, the noble Earl next tries the influence of a little ambiguous threatening in his despatch of the 24th of December—The Danish Government will, it is understood, offer no resistance to the entrance of Federal troops into Holstein; but that those troops, having entered Holstein on the ground of Federal rights, should be used for depriving the King of Denmark altogether of the Duchy of Holstein, and for transferring that Duchy to another claimant, would be a proceeding of which Her Majesty's Government could not possibly approve. It would be no less impossible for Her Majesty's Government to enter into any engagement that if the Federal troops should not limit their operation to the Duchy of Holstein, but should on some pretence or other extend their operations to the Duchy of Schleswig, Her Majesty's Government would maintain an attitude of neutrality between Germany and Denmark. But Her Majesty's Government are fully alive to the perils of the present state of affairs, and are sensible of the critical character which attaches to the next step to be taken with regard to them."—No. 4, 413.This despatch certainly does not adhere to the "clear policy" of advice which was said to have been adopted by Her Majesty's Government. But the threat which it contained not having answered, the noble Lord administered another dose with an additional ingredient of insult. Your Lordships will find the following words in a despatch of the 31st of December—Her Majesty's Government do not hold that war would relieve Prussia from the obligations of the Treaty of 1852. The King of Denmark would by that treaty be entitled still to be acknowledged as the Sovereign of all the dominions of the late King of Denmark. He has been so entitled from the time of the death of the late King. A war of conquest, undertaken by Germany avowedly for the purpose of adding some parts of the Danish dominions to the territory of the German Confederation, might, if successful, alter the state of possession contemplated by the Treaty of London, and give to Germany a title by conquest to parts of the dominions of the King of Denmark. The prospect of such an acquisition may, no doubt, be a temptation to those who think it can be accomplished; but Her Majesty's Government cannot believe that Prussia will depart from the straight line of good faith in order to assist in carrying such a project into effect. If German nationality in Holstein, and partially in Schleswig, were made the ground of the dismemberment of Denmark, Polish nationality in the Duchy of Posen would be a ground equally strong for the dismemberment of Prussia. It appears to Her Majesty's Government that the safest course for Prussia to pursue is to act with good faith and honour, and to stand by and fulfil her treaty engagements. By such a course she will command the sympathy 1149 and approval of Europe; by a contrary course she will draw down upon herself the universal condemnation of all disinterested men."—No. 4, 445.I entirely approve of this sentiment; but what I say is—do not be continually altering your tone; stick to your policy if you have one—but it is perfectly clear that you have none at all. I believe neither at this time nor at any time have the Government had a fixed policy. This will be apparent in the next despatch. It appears the noble Earl had stated to the Prussian Ambassador that Denmark might possibly be aided in the war by Great Britain. An explanation of this statement was asked for; and the explanation, as given by the noble Earl, was certainly an extraordinary one. He says—I had a conversation a short time ago with Count Bernstorff on the subject of the proposed occupation of Schleswig by Prussia. He said he had not fully understood the observations I had made in a former conversation. That the proposed occupation, if it were to take place, would be done under the regular authorities, and by the regular troops of Prussia; that no danger, therefore, could be incurred by the King of Denmark, and that when he should have complied with the just demands of the German Powers, the Duchy of Schleswig would be again placed under his sceptre. I had spoken on a former occasion in the sense that Denmark would resist such an occupation, and might be aided by Great Britain. He wished to have an explanation of what I had then said. It is to be observed that in speaking to Count Bernstorff on the occasion alluded to, I had expressly declared that I could not say what the decision of the Government might be, as the Cabinet had not yet deliberated, and consequently not submitted any opinion to the Queen; but that, judging from the general current of feeling in Parliament and in the nation, I thought an invasion of Schleswig by Germany might lead to assistance to Denmark on the part of this country."—No. 4, 534.I pass over the want of caution of the noble Earl in speaking in this unguarded manner without the sanction and authority of the Cabinet. But it evidently appears from this conversation that the noble Earl and the Government were waiting for the utterance of Parliament, and the opinions of the nation, and endeavouring to discover the direction of the wind before they could make up their minds as to the policy which they ought to pursue. Now, I ask your Lordships again if I have not established this second part of my case—that there has been insulting and menacing language, followed by weak and vacillating conduct, which induces foreign Ministers to regard the representations of the Government with indifference and contempt.
1150 I will not trouble your Lordships with any observations with regard to the overtures which were made to France and Russia to induce them to join us in affording material aid to Denmark, but I must be permitted to say a few words upon the subject of the Conference. Now, I entirely agree that the Government was perfectly right in endeavouring to procure the concurrence of the great Powers in some arrangement which would settle the unfortunate Danish Question; and I regret as much as any one that the Conference was a failure: but I think the experience of the noble Earl might have convinced him that this failure was probable, because the Conference met without any definite or certain basis. What were the circumstances in connection with the Conference? The noble Earl originally proposed that the Conference should assemble without a basis. Denmark proposed that the Treaty and the engagements of 1851–2 should form the basis of the Conference. But this was refused by Prussia and Austria, who stated that such a proposal would have been accepted by them, before the commencement of hostilities, but that things had now gone too far, and much more would be required. Then the noble Earl proposed "that the basis of the Conference should be simply to find the means of restoring to the North of Europe the blessings of peace." What but failure could be expected from such a vague and indefinite basis? It was, indeed, the very ground on which the noble Earl objected to the proposal of the Emperor of the French for a Congress. In his answer, he said—Her Majesty's Government would feel more apprehension than confidence from the meeting of a Congress of Sovereigns and Ministers without fixed objects ranging over the map of Europe, and exciting hopes and aspirations which they may find themselves unable to gratify or to quiet.And now, my Lords, I come to the last scene in this strange eventful history, presented by the extraordinary desire which the Government have shown to lead the public to believe that there is in some secret corner of their heart the lurking intention of going to war in the event of the occurrence of some indefinite contingencies. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) who has given an explanation of their conduct, said that the Danes were trading upon the hope of a change in the Government. Is that the secret motive, then, of the inconsistency of the Government in having peace on their lips, but 1151 holding out a dim prospect of distant war, that the Danes may not be altogether thrown into the arms of their opponents? On the 27th June, the noble Earl delivered a speech, in which he said—It is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that we should maintain the position which we have occupied, and that we should be neutral in this war. I do not mean to say that contingencies might not arise in which our position might become different, and in which our conduct might be altered.The contemplated events were decently veiled by the noble Earl under the word contingencies; but the noble Lord at the head of the Government rudely tore off the veil, and exposed the events which would provoke interference in the most open manner. He said—If the war should assume a different character, if the existence of Denmark as an independent Power in Europe should be at stake, if we had reason to expect to see at Copenhagen the horrors of a town taken by assault, the destruction of property, the sacrifice of the lives not only of its defenders, but also of its peaceful inhabitants, the confiscation which would ensue, the capture of the Sovereign as a prisoner of war and other humiliations of the kind—I do not mean to say that if any of these events were likely to happen, the position of this country might not be a subject for reconsideration.I can hardly believe that the noble Lord was speaking in earnest, and yet the subject is one too serious and painful for jest. I feel if anything were needed to add to the humiliation inflicted upon this country by the policy of the noble Earl it is this declaration.
And now, I think, I may confidently ask your Lordships whether the justice of the Resolution proposed by my noble Friend has not been completely established—whether the policy of the Government has not failed to secure the integrity and independence of Denmark—whether we have not been humiliated in the eyes of foreign nations? I think I may venture to repeat the words of Lord Chatham uttered in this assembly—But yesterday and England might have stood against the world; now none so poor to do her reverence.It is impossible for us to erase the bloody pages upon which the history of this Danish war is recorded; but we can refuse to be accessaries to the dishonour of our country, we can at least raise our voices in reprobation of a policy which has brought us to shame; and we may be able by outvotes to-night to vindicate, though late, the honour and dignity of England.
My Lords, I am anxious to follow the noble and learned Lord, because if I could agree with him and with the noble Marquess who spoke earlier, that, in the course of the negotiations, promises had been made to Denmark by which she had been induced to engage in an unequal contest, I should say that not only ought the House to adopt this Resolution, but also to affirm that the honour of the country requires that Denmark should be sustained by us in the war. I shall endeavour to prove that we have given no such promise; that the advice we did give to Denmark was sound, and was given in conjunction with the Allies of England, who are equally responsible with us for that advice. There are three principal points upon which advice was given by Her Majesty's Government to Denmark. The revocation of the Patent of March 31, the question of resistance to the Federal Execution in Holstein, and the repeal of the Constitution of November 18. I will first refer to the Patent of March. The Diet having objected to that Patent as inconsistent with the engagements between Germany and Denmark, Her Majesty's Government advised the King of Denmark to withdraw it, and that advice was ultimately accepted. Was that advice accompanied by any promise of assistance? There is a despatch from Sir Augustus Paget, dated October 14, in which he gives an account of an interview with M. Hall, in which you find this statement—M. Hall replied that there was one other condition on which the Patent could be withdrawn—namely, that England and France would give to the Danish Government a formal promise to support them against any further demands of Germany. I (Sir Augustus Paget) said 'I did not think much would be obtained by my forwarding this message.'"—No. 3, 161.Therefore, no promise of support was held out as a condition on which the Danish Government were to revoke that Patent. The Danish Government, as I have said, ultimately accepted our advice; but although I should be sorry to say a harsh word against Denmark, with which I have strong sympathies, as all must have with those who are struggling against fearful odds, yet I must observe that that concession to our advice, as well as every other concession of the Danes, was made too late. That was the opinion of M. Hall himself. The Patent was revoked on the 4th of December; and M. Hall then observed to Sir Augustus Paget, that he feared it must be considered as a concession altogether 1153 illusory, because the passing of the new Constitution had rendered the Patent of little importance. The next point which was dwelt upon at length by the noble and learned Lord was the advice in which I had some share—the advice to Denmark not to resist Federal Execution in Holstein. In the first place, I would point out that that advice was not the advice of Her Majesty's Government alone, but it was first given by Sweden—a great Friend of Denmark; and it was also given at the same time, and, I believe, in the same manner, by France and Russia. Therefore the Government cannot be held solely responsible for the consequences of that advice, even if I were to admit that those consequences have been fatal to Denmark—which I do not believe, but rather say that the advice was sound and wise. My part in that advice was small. I did not arrive at Copenhagen until nearly the end of last year, and as early as the 2oth of November, Sir Augustus Paget reported to the Government that M. Hall would give the same advice to the present King as he had given to the late King—that no resistance should be offered to the Federal Execution in Holstein. It has been represented, both here and upon the Continent, that it was on account of urgent pressure through me that the Danish Government made that concession, The fact is, that long before I went, the Minister had determined to give that advice, and at my first interview with M. Hall, he told me that it was already decided that no resistance should be made to the Federal troops. I now come to the very material point of the Constitution of November. The noble and learned Lord said he relied not only upon the letter, but also upon the spirit of the despatches relating to that subject, and he added that the spirit of all the communications to the Danish Government was that they would receive material aid. Speaking of what I know, I affirm that, not merely in the letter of what I wrote to my Government, but in the spirit of all the advice I gave to the Danish Government, and I believe of every word I spoke at Copenhagen, I gave the Danish Government no reason to expect any material aid from England. When I gave advice at Copenhagen I was always met with the natural question, "If we act upon your advice, what will you give us in return? Will you give us material support?" That was what I could not promise, and what I did not promise. The 1154 material despatch bearing upon this point is that in which I reported the interview I had with M. Hall, advising hint to withdraw the Constitution. Let me just point out what that Constitution was, It has been represented as a kind of Reform Bill; and it has been said, what would have; been the feelings of this country if, after the passing of the Reform Act of 1832, a foreign country had come to us just before the elections were held, and demanded that we should repeal that Act? I think a more just parallel would be if we unfortunately, in consequence of a disastrous war, had entered into engagements with some foreign country respecting the conditions upon which England should be united to Ireland, and then we had passed a Reform Bill changing the conditions of the union notwithstanding the remonstrances of the Foreign Power with which we had engagements. This Constitution was no Reform Bill. There were in it provisions of a liberal character affecting the electoral body, but that was not the spirit in which it wa9 passed and was accepted by the Danish people. Sir Augustus Paget in one of his despatches points out that the excitement about the Constitution was not on account of internal reforms, but that it was chiefly valued by the Danish people because it was looked upon as a step towards the union of Schleswig with Denmark. The Germans, moreover, on that very account, remonstrated against it as a violation of the engagements of Denmark. It was in that spirit it was regarded by Her Majesty's Government, who had to consider what advice they should give. I must observe that when I went to Berlin, on my way to Copenhagen, with instructions to ask what were the demands of the Prussian Government, although I could not obtain any explicit statement from M. von Bismark, yet he did say that, if the Constitution of November were brought into operation on the 1st of January, the German Powers would consider themselves relieved from all their engagements to Denmark. It was, therefore, my object to prevent, if possible, this Constitution from taking effect. That was the position at the time I went to M. Hall. The advice that was then given was not tendered by England alone. The first step I took was to ask the Russian Minister to give me his support. He said he had general instructions to join in the advice I should give, but he would telegraph to his Government for specific authority. The French Envoy also commu- 1155 nicated with his Government, and received for answer that he was to support the advice given by England. M. d'Ewers and I went together to see M. Hall, and it was then that I made the declaration which has been so much commented on. I told the Danish Minister that—General Fleury had informed M. d'Ewers and me that he was instructed to tell the Danish Government that France would not go to war to support Denmark against Germany. It was my duty to declare to him, that if the Danish Government rejected our advice, Her Majesty's Government must leave Denmark to encounter Germany on her own responsibility."—No. 4, 418.That advice was not tendered to Denmark singly. A little further on your Lordships will find that M. d'Ewers made a similar declaration.M. d'Ewers pointed out forcibly the perilous situation in which Denmark was placed. He was instructed to declare in explicit terms that Russia must leave to Denmark the responsibility of the consequences which might ensue from the rejection of our advice."—No. 4, 418.The statement of the French Government, that they would not take part in a war between Denmark and Germany, was not the unconditional declaration which might be supposed from the despatch I have quoted. It is perfectly true that I understood General Fleury to make the statement in an unconditional manner, and that I so reported it to Her Majesty's Government. But Her Majesty's Government having referred the matter to Paris, a most explicit declaration was returned, that the French Government did not acknowledge the accuracy of the representation of the language of General Fleury, but that, on the contrary, France was at liberty to take any course she thought proper. Therefore, I contend that the French, Russian, and English Governments occupy the same position as regards this matter. As the point has been so much referred to, I would appeal to other testimony which I think most important, and that is the way in which this advice was viewed by the Danish Government itself. Sir Augustus Paget saw M. Hall the evening of the same day that my interview with him took place, and while the language I had used must have been fresh in his recollection. What did M. Hall say to Sir Augustus Paget? Sir Augustus Paget reports in his despatch of December 22, that M. Hall said, "There was no prospect of support if Germany continued her aggressions." There is a further despatch, in which I state I had several conversations with M. Hall, and 1156 repeatedly endeavoured to shake the resolution at which he had arrived; but M. Hall as constantly declared that I afforded him no equivalent—meaning that I did not promise him the support he desired. Let me refer to another passage in a despatch of Sir Augustus Paget's, which I am additionally anxious to quote, because a wrong interpretation has been put upon some words used by that Minister to M. Hall as to the position of Denmark if our advice was rejected. Sir Augustus Paget, writing on the 3rd of January, details a conversation which he had with M. Monrad—in which the latter, M. Monrad, repeated more than once that there was nothing left but to "lancer le peuple." "I replied," says Sir Augustus Paget, "by stating, as clearly and forcibly as I could, the immense advantage which it would be to Denmark if negotiations could be substituted for war; the support she might expect in the one case, and her en-entire isolation in the other." Therefore it is evident that Sir Augustus Paget in pointing out the alternatives which were presented to the Danish Government could not have meant to allude to any offer of armed assistance in case they followed our advice, but to assistance in negotiation. I may further state that the Danish Government did not in fact follow this advice at once, as has been represented, but a considerable time after it was given, when circumstances had entirely changed. They did not make any promise to set about repealing the Constitution until after they had actually received from Germany a summons to that effect, upon pain of Schleswig being occupied within forty-eight hours. That summons was despatched on the 16th of January, and the advice I ventured to offer was given on the 20th of December. The noble Lord says that no time was allowed by Germany for the repeal of the Constitution; but it thus appears that nearly a month was given.
I have thus shown that the advice given to Denmark was given in conjunction with our Allies, and in no case was it accompanied by a promise of armed assistance. I wish now to say a few words on the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Of course, it was not possible for me to be acquainted with every stage of the negotiations, as these only came to my knowledge during a very short time; but taking the intention of the Government as exhibited by these papers, it appears distinctly that their endeavour in the first instance 1157 was to obtain for Denmark an opportunity for negotiation by interposing their good offices in the character of mediator. Up to the time of the King's death the Prussian Government itself was anxious that Her Majesty's Government should mediate between Germany and Denmark. But, after the King's death, matters became changed, and a much more serious state of affairs arose. The endeavour then mode by Her Majesty's Government was to obtain, by concert and co-operation of the Allies of this country who had signed the Treaty of 1852, such an arrangement, to which the representatives of Denmark and of the Diet would be parties, as might settle the questions in dispute peaceably and fairly. When it was found that this could not be brought about, Her Majesty's Government took the further step of asking our Allies, whether they would give material aid to Denmark in conjunction with England, and whether they would take any steps to prevent the dismemberment of Denmark? Was not that a distinct policy—a distinct course for the Government to take? The answer of Russia was that she could not assist; and the French answer was equally decided. We have no reason to blame the French Government for the course they took in their own interests. But if the honour of England has been tarnished by the course pursued, why are we to consider that France stands in a different position? I take it that France has been largely influenced by a maxim which has guided her conduct from the time of Louis XIV., and that is never to quarrel with Germany when Germany is united; that is a very serious quarrel for France, and she always thinks twice before engaging in it. Her Majesty's Government being left in this position, were they to go to war alone for the purpose of maintaining the integrity and independence of Denmark? I think this House and the country generally are of opinion that Her Majesty and the Government came to a very wise decision—namely, that under the circumstances it would not be the duty of this country in a matter specially concerning the Continental Powers, to engage in a war alone for the support of Denmark. The Resolution of the noble Earl opposite affirms that the just influence of this country has been lowered, and that the securities for peace have been diminished. My Lords, I think the securities for peace are diminished, but I do not think they are diminished by the action or want of action of Her Ma- 1158 jesty's Government; but because there has been a wanton disregard on the part of two of the chief Powers of Europe of a solemn treaty signed not many years ago—they are diminished because there is uncertainty and disunion among the great Powers, and that ancient accord which existed between them and preserved peace for so many years, has been broken and permanently impaired. It may be—and in my judgment it probably will be—the duty and policy of this country to abstain more than she has done of late from interference with the affairs of the Continent. But I would ask, considering the Treaty of 1852, which we had signed, and the parts successive Governments had taken in the negotiations between Denmark and Germany, was it possible for this country to abstain from diplomatic interference on behalf of Denmark? I maintain that that interference has not been by promises which bind us in honour to give material support to Denmark; and I ask this House to pause before they give the weight of their authority to a Resolution which affirms that the just influence of this country has been diminished by honest and persevering, though they may have been unsuccessful, efforts to avert from Europe the calamity of war.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
My Lords, there can be no doubt that this Resolution amounts to a distinct censure on Her Majesty's Government for the policy which they have pursued; but I have listened—and listened in vain—all the evening, to hear from any one of the noble Lords opposite anything approximating to a real defence of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) delivered a speech which, with great submission, I must describe as composed of personalities and miscellanies. He told us first that this was "a pure faction fight"—then he spoke of the sixteen Noblemen and Gentlemen by whom he said this Motion was concocted; then he informed us that with those who had principles in this matter, however misguided they might be, he could sympathise; but that he shrank from those who came here to wage a mere party warfare, and for them he could make no allowance. He then travelled into the subject of Italy, and into a great many other subjects into which I will not follow him; and finally he said that he would tell us what he thought, not only of this Motion, but of us who sit on this side of the House. My noble 1159 Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (the Earl of Clarendon) spoke in a very different strain; but the pith and point of his speech was, as it seemed to mo, simply an argument on a hypothesis as to what would have been the result if there had been an intervention at the time, not when my noble Friend said that it ought to have taken place, but when he said that it was possible that it might have taken place. And, finally, my noble Friend who has just sat down, instead of a defence of the Government, to my astonishment—and I will say to my concern—has delivered a speech full of censure of the Danes and the Danish Government. I think that my noble Friend might have spared that. Considering the part which we have taken, I think our lips ought to have been sealed against finding fault with the Danish Government. Let it be borne in mind that there is not one single concession which we have asked of Denmark, with one single exception, which came quite at the close of the Conference, and was not unreasonably considered by the Danish Plenipotentiaries inadmissible, that Denmark has not at our instance agreed to. But the censure of the noble Lord is of a piece with the remark of the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary at the last meeting of the Conference, in which he stated to the world that it is the obstinacy of Denmark which has proved the insurmountable obstacle before which all the efforts and labours of this Conference have been rendered fruitless. My noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy used a phrase which struck me very much. He said that Her Majesty's Government had been labouring in this matter with honesty and with good effect. I do not for a moment doubt the honesty of intention either of my noble Friend or of any one of Her Majesty's Ministers; but I do most distinctly join issue with him on the assertion that they have laboured with good effect. Let me reduce the point to the standard of every day common sense. It is perfectly fair either in public or private life, when an individual for the first time miscarries or fails in the business which he undertakes, to give him the advantage of the supposition that some accident may have occurred, or that some unforeseen circumstances may have defeated his calculations. When even he has failed twice or thrice it is generous at least that he should have the benefit of the doubt; but when failure marks the beginning, 1160 the middle, and the end, when every single part of your policy is summed up in that one word "failure," then there is only one inference which Parliament can draw, and it is the duty of Parliament to give expression to it. To each particular measure which Her Majesty's Government urged upon Denmark the Danes have assented, and with what result? They urged the revocation of the Patent of March. The Patent of March was revoked—and what came of it? They pressed the repeal of the November Constitution. That Constitution was repealed—and what came of it? They entreated Denmark to retire from Holstein and submit to Federal Execution. Denmark knew perfectly well what Federal Execution meant, but at your urgent instance she acceded—and what good came of that? They urged Denmark to cede Frederickstadt, and consequently to surrender the whole defensible frontier. Denmark yielded most reluctantly—and what took place? The loss of the Dannewerke, the abandonment of Schleswig, and the final fall of Düppel. But this was not all. Again you pressed upon Denmark a Conference without a basis, and an armistice without equality of terms—a most one-sided and unequal armistice. Denmark, with the greatest reluctance, and at your urgent instance, accepted both the Conference and the armistice—and I say again, what came of it? Failure, failure, failure. The noble Earl the Chancellor of the Duchy indeed seemed to imply that it was from the very first a hopeless and despairing undertaking. But this was not always the view of Her Majesty's Government. Not long ago the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs took me to task and reprimanded me with some sharpness, and with all the weight of his experience, for venturing to say that the Conference was a delusion, and that the armistice would lead to nothing. The noble Earl then appeared to think that I was very foolish; but, with great submission, I think that the result has rather justified my inexperience than his statesmanship. The great fault in the whole policy of Her Majesty's Government which at once strikes one is this—that they never at any time had any definite point; they never drew any line of which they were prepared to say, "so far will we go in this matter and no further." Each single position which they have successively taken up has been successively abandoned. You started by inscribing on 1161 your banner the independence of Denmark, You closed the Conference with a modest wish, a most modest wish—that that integrity and independence should be preserved. You started with the Treaty of 1852 as almost the condition of action—and that treaty received its coup de grâce from the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary, in the Conference, when he proposed what amounts in fact to a dismemberment of the Danish Kingdom. You started with the declaration of the noble Lord the Prime Minister, which will never be, as it never has been, forgotten in Denmark, that if the German troops invaded Schleswig, "Denmark will not stand alone." But Denmark does remain alone, and not a hand is raised to help her. You start with a very fiery declaration by the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary, when he warned the Austrian fleet not to venture into the Baltic, and hinted in no obscure terms at what the British fleet would do under such circumstances. You close, as my noble and learned Friend (Lord Chelmsford) has pointed out, with a speech from the Prime Minister in the other House, in which he explains what were the ulterior contingencies to which the Foreign Secretary here alluded, and tells you that when Copenhagen is taken by siege, when the town is subjected to the horrors of an assault, and the King of Denmark is a prisoner, then it will be time "to re-consider the whole of this question." But the truth is that I look upon this catastrophe not merely as the failure of a particular policy, but as the failure of the means which you have consistently and steadily employed towards your ends. You condemn, and justly condemn, the general who in war allows himself to be defeated simply because his powder is wet or his bayonets blunt; how much more justly ought you to condemn the diplomatist who is beaten on his own field of action because the language which he employs—the very essence of diplomacy, the rudiments of his craft—is calculated not to conciliate but to exasperate and excite. Yet this has been the case throughout these transactions. I do not refer to the terms of this or that particular dispatch, but to the language which you have now used for several years. The noble Lord the Prime Minister was, I think it will be admitted, the first during the many years that he was Foreign Secretary, to import this new system of strong expressions into the diplomacy of the Foreign Office; but 1162 there was this, at least, to be said for the noble Viscount, that he generally backed up his language by strong action, and, at all events, his strong expressions were for the most part regulated by the conventionalities of diplomatic intercourse. But the noble Earl opposite has very much improved upon the noble Viscount. He has gone far beyond his model. We have heard from the noble Earl during the last two years denunciations against every one of the Great Powers in Europe. He has denounced France, he has denounced Russia, he has denounced Austria, he has denounced Prussia—and I am bound to say that the strength of his action has been exactly in inverse proportion to the strength of his expressions. The language which the noble Earl has used would, in a former generation, have been tantamount to a declaration of war. He has spared no threat, be has abstained from no menace. If, without offence to the noble Earl, I may say so, it really has struck me when I have read his despatches or heard his speeches, that they were not the calm, measured, and deliberate expressions of an English Foreign Minister, but they rather savour of the earlier recollections of the noble Earl. They are, in fact, electioneering speeches, addressed from the platform of the Foreign Office to the free and independent Governments of Europe. We indeed in England know how to appreciate them—we make the proper deductions and the right allowance for all that falls from the noble Earl; but it is too much to expect that this shall be done by foreign nations. At first they were startled—then they were bewildered; and now, when they find that no action follows, their language towards ns is naturally becoming more and more contemptuous. May I recall to the recollection of the noble Earl an exquisite passage in one of the most charming of plays that adorns the literature of this country—I mean Mr. Sheridan's play of The Rivals. The noble Earl will remember the advice given by Sir Lucius O'Trigger to a gentleman who was very much inclined to talk, but was very unwilling to fight. "Sir Lucius, let me be in a rage. Let me be in a passion, dear Sir Lucius; if you love me, let me be in a rage;" and what is the answer? "Pho, pho; do things decently and in a Christian manner, and when you meet your antagonist let your courage be as keen but at the same time as polished as your sword." Now, if the noble Earl had borne that 1163 advice in mind, and if his policy had been as polished in its language as it was keen in its temper, the result would, I think, have been different. If, indeed, the noble Earl was unprepared to make use of his sword at all, he would, in my opinion, have better consulted his own dignity and the credit of the Government by keeping it in its scabbard, instead of idly flourishing it in the air. But I must draw a further moral from the present catastrophe; for the result of what has taken place is, that the whole of your foreign policy from beginning to end seems to have broken down. It is now some fourteen years since the noble Lord at the head of the Government declared in the memorable debate on Greek affairs, that the foreign policy of England was founded on the circumstances of each particular case. That fatal doctrine which was protested against by Sir Robert Peel in the last words which he uttered in the House of Commons, and which was denounced in your Lordships' House on the same occasion, has since then been taken up and carried much further by the noble Earl opposite, until at length your foreign policy has become a mere hand to mouth policy regulated by the supposed expediency of the hour, without any prescribed rules, and with no standard or principle whatsoever to which to adhere. The result is that you have stood by as witnesses, sometimes as unwilling accomplices, sometimes even as accessaries, of the wrong-doing which has been perpetrated in Europe during the last few years. During that time we have seen the sanctity of treaty engagements disappearing, forcible intervention in the concerns of weaker nations becoming too much the rule of more powerful States, the law of the strongest growing into the public law of Europe—till at length you find yourselves in the presence of a grievous calamity, the dismemberment of a small State, without a shadow of justice, without the colour of a pretext, by a greater State, because that greater State wishes to annex its territory. If this principle of dismemberment is to be accepted, I cannot see which of the minor States in Europe can be secure. In the words of Sir James Macintosh, employed on a not very dissimilar occasion, they will become an inexhaustible reserve, from which equivalents will be continually drawn; they will be the counters on the chessboard of European polities, to be given, to be taken, to be sacrificed, to be exchanged, in order to 1164 rectify a frontier, or to satisfy the ambition of some greater Power. But whatever the foreign policy of the noble Earl may be, he is much too great a master of Parliamentary tactics not to know that when he asks us to swallow this bitter cup of humiliation it is necessary that it should be accompanied by some condiment to make the draught palatable. And what, let me ask, is the condiment with which the noble Lord proposes to furnish the House and country? He holds out to us the equivalent of peace. But when the noble Lord talks of peace, he is not in the position to speak as the exponent of a peace policy. We shall hardly forget that he proposed, not peace, but war against Austria and Prussia, both to Russia and France. He has even endeavoured to disentangle the minor States of Germany from the larger ones, in order to proclaim war upon them. Whatever party the noble Lord's policy may please, it is not a policy which ought to satisfy that party which views war as indefensible and peace to be purchased at any price. My Lords, peace, if it is to be had, ought not to be bought by national humiliation. The great complaint which I make of the Government is that, so far from giving us peace, they, by their conduct, have brought us, to the injury not only of our credit, but of our material interests, to the very verge of an European war. I have said that peace ought not to be purchased by national humiliation; and in this respect the case of individuals and nations is very similar; for the individual or the nation which once suffers the chastity of its honour to be soiled will soon find, to its bitter mortification, that there is but a short step from insult to injury and from injury to open aggression. The argument of the noble Earl, when he told us that if we went to war we should find the floodgates of hostility open upon us in all directions, our commerce cut up, and every man's hand against us, is but a poor compliment to his own foreign policy. But if the argument be good for anything, it is an argument not against this particular war, but against all wars; it is an argument in favour of peace at any and every price. I can understand and respect, however little I agree with the conscientious logic of a limited school of politicians in England, who believe that war is wholly indefensible; but I do not understand and I cannot respect the part which Her Majesty's Government has taken in these transactions. I cannot 1165 bring myself to respect what I must call shabby policy, which in the case of a strong Power first provokes war and then recedes from it; which reserves the thunders of British hostility for China, for Brazil, for Japan, and the Kingdom of Ashantee; but which, when Russia throws back in our face the despatch we send her, or America threatens to intervene, bids us look on discretion as the better part of valour, and turn pale at the consequences which may follow on our imprudence.
My Lords, there is another point on which, with your Lordships' permission, I wish also to say a few words. It has been said, both here and elsewhere, that it is all very well to lay this Vote of Censure on the table of the House, but that those who bring it forward are prepared to declare no policy of their own. They say, "What is your policy?" My Lords, in censuring an existing Government as we propose, we do in reality state that in which our policy consists. Under the form of a retrospective censure we are indicating the course of future action. Sir Robert Peel, on a very memorable occasion, was challenged, and Sir Robert Peel refused to state his policy when he moved his Vote of Censure. But if Her Majesty's Ministers ask for any further explanation, we may fairly reply that they shall have it when they explain to us things which are as yet unintelligible—when they explain to us those many despatches which are omitted and manipulated and extracted and garbled, and which, under the title of a Danish Correspondence, are heaped together into a huge pile of unreadable papers; when they point out to us the reasons of the difference between their language and conduct; when they tell us how they reconcile their war-like manifestoes formerly with their peaceful professions now; and lastly, when they inform us what are those contingencies with regard to which they reserve to themselves liberty of action. When they tell us all this, then will it be time enough for them to ask to be further enlightened as to our policy. But what does this mode of argument prove? Why, it comes to this, that a Government has nothing to do but so to blunder and mismanage matters as to cut off all retreat, to make all escape either to the right hand or the left hand impracticable, and to leave nothing but a narrow groove in which their policy can move; and, then, in consideration of all this, that Government is to be absolutely freed from all Parliamentary 1166 censure, and, as a consequence, from all Parliamentary responsibility. We are indeed taunted with the uselessness of our vote to-night in a practical point of view. For my own part, my Lords, I cannot say that I look upon this Vote of Censure as useless. What may be the result of the division to-night is, I think, a matter of comparatively little consequence. This House has a duty to perform. It has, for generations past, been its special province to discuss questions of foreign policy, and when it has formed an opinion upon them, whether favourable to the Government or otherwise, to express their opinion freely and fearlessly. In justice to itself now this House is bound to express its opinion; nor could it on such an occasion as this be silent, without abdicating its rights and its duties. But there is also a duty which belongs to individual Members of this House—and as an individual Peer I venture to claim my right, and duty, and privilege—when a free, innocent, Christian country, allied to us in blood, in religion, in language, is ruthlessly and barbarously trampled down in spite both of the laws of God and man; and when I see this nation dragged into unwilling complicity into this foul deed—to clear my conscience, to express my abhorrence of the crime, to disclaim all participation in it, to wash my hands of this innocent blood, and to shake from my feet at least the dust of this national infamy.
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord who has just sat down for having gone somewhat beyond the immediate subject of his Resolution, and travelled into some general considerations affecting the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government. I must remark myself, that with regard to the foreign policy of the Opposition it would be indeed a most difficult task to discover what that policy is, or how any two of them agree in their notions of what our foreign policy should be. The other night the noble Earl who is not now present (the Earl of Derby) gave us his view of the state of affairs, which appeared to me to have this result—that it would be wrong to contemplate war with respect to Denmark under any circumstances whatever. That was the only conclusion which could be drawn from his speech. But the noble Earl who has brought forward this Motion (the Earl of Malmesbury) has taken a different view, and has stated his opinion so clearly that there can be no misunderstanding about it; 1167 that at a certain period—when the German troops were about to enter Schleswig—he would have preferred a decision in favour of war, which he told us would have been attended with little or no risk, would have prevented all the miseries that have happened, because it would in reality have rendered war actually impossible, without any sort of danger to this country. If that be the case, I cannot be astonished that the noble Earl would have preferred war under such a contingency. But I must find some fault with the noble Earl who spoke last (the Earl of Carnarvon), and who tendered a definition of our foreign policy as one which would exclude war in every case. Now, I really wonder at that assertion; because I have several times had to explain the grounds upon which I think a war inevitable, and the grounds upon which it is a matter of debate and consideration. I have said more than once that if the honour of the country is involved, you can have no hesitation, no weighing of the inconveniences and disadvantages of war; but you must at once make the choice which is alone consistent with honour. I have said, likewise, that if there were some great and paramount interest of the country involved, that there again all minor consequences would be lost sight of, and we must accept war. But, at the same time, I have said that if the question is of minor interest, if some advantage can be gained for another nation by going to war, but if, at the same time, there is some risk, some chance of failure in your object, no great certainty, and the prospect of adding considerably to the weight of your debt, you have a right to set the advantages against the disadvantages, and if you think it unwise or inexpedient you have a perfect right to refuse to enter into a war.
My Lords, with regard to the Question which is immediately before the House, the noble Earl who has brought it forward is very happy in not having had himself to encounter the difficulties and to consider the perils which have attended this war in Denmark. The Treaty of 1852 was, I believe, a wise treaty in its general objects, and well calculated to promote the peace of Europe; but a treaty more artificial, more exposed to contingencies, and less under the control of the States which were removed from the field of action, never was made. It depended, in the first place, upon the accomplishment by the Danes of all their promises to the German Powers; 1168 it depended, in the next place, on the moderation of the German Powers as regarded Denmark, and the Germans asking for no more than they were entitled to, and showing some forbearance towards Denmark. Unfortunately, these conditions, which did not depend on England, France, or Russia, were never accomplished. The Danish Government—I know not whether from necessity or impolicy—governed its German subjects in such a manner as to produce continual irritation, and to excite feelings similar to those existing in Belgium before the Revolution. On the other hand, the Germans, instead of asking no more than they had a right to, asked conditions which were altogether incompatible with the existence of Denmark as an independent State. If, therefore, this artificial treaty was not carried into effect by those Powers principally concerned, it became a matter of immense difficulty when the moment of danger occurred, to preserve Denmark from the consequences of that treaty. The noble Earl who brought forward this Motion, and those who followed him—but more especially the noble Earl who is now absent (the Earl of Derby)—has spoken of our continual promises to Denmark, and threats to Germany; that we threatened Germany first, if there was a Federal Execution; next, if Schleswig was taken possession of; and next, if Jutland was invaded. These statements are plausibly made. We on this side of the House have asked all along for a proof of these statements, and not one proof ha3 been offered. On the contrary, my noble Friends who have spoken before me from this bench have shown that none of these threats have been uttered, and that the charges are entirely without foundation. Just to show the nature of these charges, it was said that we threatened Germany if she proceeded to Federal Execution; but what was the real state of the case? We said that if Germany had reason of complaint against the Government of Denmark in Holstein, that the people of Holstein as to their laws and taxes did not enjoy their full privileges—Federal Execution was quite right; but if that Federal Execution were prolonged, and if under its name an attempt was made to carry on the Government at Copenhagen by this system, that a small minority of the population of the Danish Monarchy should have the same representation as the majority, that, we said, would be a complete departure from the nature of a Federal Execution, and 1169 must cause serious remonstrance. But what has occurred? A different demand altogether has been made; Schleswig and Holstein have been asked for a Prince of Augustenburg; and that which for many years was the greatest danger to the Danish Government, being overcome by a German minority in Copenhagen, has entirely passed away. Therefore, this remonstrance was not a mere idle threat. The danger has ceased to exist, and in that respect, therefore, the British Government would have nothing further to demand. I am not finding fault with the noble Earl opposite for any language which he used in despatches, but I may observe that when he found the German Powers were likely to carry things to an extremity, he wrote a circular to say that such a course was calculated to produce grave complication.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
I rise to order. I have no objection to any despatches that I ever wrote being laid upon the table, but I appeal to your Lordships whether it is right that despatches which have not been laid upon the table should be used in debate. I think the rule is a fair and just one. It is not from any personal feeling that I raise the objection; but I think we had better adhere to the rule, and not establish a precedent for its violation.
§ EARL RUSSELL
I always understood the rule to be, that should a Secretary of State in either House of Parliament use a despatch he was obliged to produce it. I have no objection to produce the despatch to which I refer; I refer to it not to find fault with the noble Earl, because I think he did right in telling those Powers that they ought to fulfil their engagements, and that by carrying things to an extremity they would produce grave complications.
THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I rise to order. The rule of the House is that no Member of the Government should allude to a despatch which has not been laid upon the table; and that rule is founded on the ground that noble Lords who may wish to answer comments made upon despatches should have the documents before them. It is very well for the noble Earl to say he will produce the despatch, but he cannot do so for several days, when the whole matter will be forgotten. The course taken by the noble Earl is unfair, because he must have intended to refer to this despatch, and therefore he should have laid it upon the table.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
I rise to order. If the noble Marquess speaks of an Order of the House, he ought to cite the Order to which he refers.
§ EARL RUSSELL
I do not know how far noble Lords opposite would carry this principle. Do they mean to hold that we cannot refer to a matter of historical importance unless the despatch, if the matter referred to was the subject of a despatch, happens to have been laid upon the table of the House? I conceive that such a rule would very much embarrass our debates. I may say that the policy of the present Government may be seen in despatches now on the table of the House. That policy was to warn Germany that Her Majesty's Government could not help regarding in a serious light the beginning of a war in Schleswig, believing that it would be likely to lead to serious complications; and we thought it right at the same time to advise Denmark to fulfil her obligations in order to avoid such a calamity. I do not think I am saying anything disparaging to the noble Earl opposite when I state that, as the Foreign Minister of another Government, he followed a similar course. I think it has been made quite clear that, with regard to promises, there have been no promises made to Denmark, that we would give her material assistance; because when, on the 9th of March, I wrote to Sir Augustus Paget that no promise of material assistance had been given, and that if we had given such a promise we; should have had a right to call upon Denmark to follow our advice as to conciliating Germany, it is quite clear that if Denmark felt—however erroneously—that she had reason to think we had given her a promise of material support, the Danish Minister would hardly have failed to say, "You tell us in March you never gave us a promise of material support; but look at those promises in December—look at those promises in January. How can you assert that you did not give us a promise?" I think it is quite clear that no word of that kind fell I from the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Denmark; he fully admitted no such promise had been made. We know also, from the papers, that when my noble Friend (Lord Wodehouse) went to Copenhagen he was reproached by M. Hall because he would not give a promise of this kind. When my noble Friend asked the Danish Minister to repeal the Constitution, the latter said, "Will you assure me that if the Constitution is repealed the German 1171 troops will not enter Schleswig?" But my noble Friend refused to give any such promise or to hold out any such hope. And on a subsequent period, when writing to Sir Augustus Paget, I said—With regard to the request that friendly Powers should come to the assistance of Denmark, Her Majesty's Government can only say that every step they may think it right to take in the further progress of this unhappy contest can only be taken after full consideration and communication with France and Russia. These Powers are as much interested in the maintenance of the integrity of the Danish Monarchy as Great Britain; and Her Majesty's Government may fairly have recourse to their advice and concert in any measures to be taken for the preservation of that integrity.The Danish Government must, therefore, have fully understood that we thought we were not bound to give material assistance to Denmark. They must have understood that we thought the matter one of European concern, and that the European Powers should be consulted on the subject. I must beg your Lordships to look to the very different judgment which is passed on the conduct of Great Britain and France respectively with respect to certain proceedings which have taken place within these two last years. Last year Her Majesty's Government were joined with France and Austria in making remonstrances to Russia with respect to Poland. The Austrian Government not only promised "the six points" which were first adopted, but also proposed a seventh point, to which France and England gave their adhesion. However, when the question came to this—whether Great Britain would be ready to consult with France as to the means to be taken if the answer of Russia should be unfavourable, Her Majesty's Government, in concert with Austria, saw very clearly that this would lead to a European war; and they weighed well what were the objects to be obtained and what were the means which must be taken in order to obtain them; they could only be obtained by entering into a mighty contest waged to dismember Russia. Having learned the opinions of Austria, we find that she was equally opposed to this course with ourselves. The result was, that England and Austria declined undertaking such a war for such objects. The Emperor of the French then said, reasonably enough, "I was ready with these two great Powers to enter on a contest with Russia on behalf of Poland; but, as these two Powers wont join with me in rendering material assistance to Poland, I cannot think it is the 1172 duty or the interest of France to undertake the contest alone, and, therefore, dear as that object is to France—lively as is the sympathy of France for the Poles—I shall refrain altogether from appealing to arms in support of that people." This year another great question arises. France and England are both signataries to the Treaty of 1852. It is binding on both to recognize the integrity of the Kingdom of Denmark. Prussia and Austria having made up their minds to invade and take possession of certain provinces of that monarchy; we appeal to France and Russia, and say, "Here is a case which interests us as regards the balance of power in Europe, and which we have now declared to be a matter of great importance. Do you consider it is a case in which you can join us in giving material assistance to Denmark, to save her from being overwhelmed." Both France and Russia declined acting in co-operation with the British Government in the case of Denmark, as we had declined an invitation of the previous year—the invitation of France to interfere in the case of Poland. The British Government then says, "We are ready to enter into co-operation, but if we are to be left alone, if France and Russia will not act with us, we declare that there is no obligation on us to act alone; we neither will give a promise of material assistance, nor will we afford material assistance itself to Denmark. We will allow the war in Denmark to proceed." That is exactly acting in the case of Denmark as France acted in the case of Poland. But everybody is ready to say, and more especially the Opposition part of the community, "What grand conduct on the part of the Emperor of the French! How wise of him to refrain from making war in Poland when he could not obtain the assistance of his Allies! But in the case of the Government of Great Britain it is a base desertion by her of the country she hoped to befriend." That, my Lords, is exactly what has happened with regard to Denmark. The war went on, and Jutland was entered. It certainly was contrary to what Austria and Prussia had declared, for they said they would only take Schleswig as a material guarantee. But we never promised Denmark that we would prevent the entrance of the German troops into Jutland, nor had we threatened Germany in any way to make a casus belli of that event. We remained, therefore, in the same position as we had occupied before the Austrian 1173 and Prussian troops entered Jutland. At the same time, I think it is impossible not to make some observations with regard to the conduct which Austria and Prussia have pursued. It appears to me, I own, that it would have been fairer—that it would have led to less difficulty—if those two great Powers had taken the bold line which was taken by the German Confederation. If they did not mean to observe the treaty which they had signed, if they did not intend to maintain the integrity of Denmark, it would have been far better if they had said at once, "The sufferings of the German inhabitants of the Duchies have been such, the sympathies of the German people with them are such, the conduct of the Danish Government has been so unfaithful with regard to the treaty, that we declare ourselves entirely free from its engagements, and shall enter the Duchies upon that footing." Such was the feeling of the German Confederation. But Austria and Prussia said, "We enter into Holstein solely for the purpose of a Federal Execution;" and afterwards, when they entered Schleswig, they said, "We enter Schleswig solely for the purpose of occupation as a material guarantee, and we shall not depart from that line unless Denmark should herself continue to refuse justice and fulfil her obligations." Well, they have not adhered to this declaration. Neither of these Powers has kept its engagement; because when the Conference met, and when the question was, on what terms would these Powers make peace? the first proposition that they put forward was that Schleswig and Holstein should have political independence, without naming the Sovereign who was to rule over the Duchies. And when they were questioned on the subject they said, "The Diet at Frankfort must decide who shall be the Sovereign," it being quite notorious that the German Diet would never place the King of Denmark in possession of those Duchies. Thus they did, in fact, though in the manner I have stated, completely violate the Treaty of 1852. I say, therefore, it would have been far better if they had made that open declaration, and if, instead of pretending to enter Holstein for the purpose of Federal Execution, and Schleswig for the purpose of occupation as a material guarantee, they had declared that they meant to violate the treaty and that a German Prince must rule over the Duchies. It would in that case have been similar to the manner 1174 in which Victor Emmanuel took possession of the kingdom of the Two Scicilies. He plainly declared that as the people were discontented with their former Sovereign he meant to take possession of those States, in order to comply with their wishes. I think this would have been a much better mode of proceeding than that which Prussia and Austria adopted. When the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury), who was my predecessor in the office of Secretary of State, had to discuss these matters, he pointed out, as he has pointed out to-night, the evils which must follow the adoption of any such principles by Powers like Prussia and Austria. But when the noble Earl says that this principle of nationalities must be altogether disregarded, I cannot agree with him. It is quite true that there is no Power in Europe that can say that it will govern entirely on the principle of nationalities, because there is no Power in Europe in which there are not many nationalities comprised within the same country; and I think it would be going back in the science of government and of civilization if you were to say that a Sovereign could not govern with perfect justice, granting equal rights to his subjects of every nationality. So far I entirely agree with the noble Earl; but at the same time it is impossible not to admit that, whether with regard to Italy, Germany, or other States of which we may hear more hereafter, this principle of nationalities has taken deep root in Europe, and being countenanced and promoted by so great a Sovereign as the Emperor of the French, it is difficult to discard the principle from consideration by the Government of this country. Now, with regard to this case, it is a most powerful consideration that the German subjects of the King of Denmark had at their backs upwards of 40,000,000 Germans, all excited to the utmost pitch on the subject of establishing the separate nationality of their fellow-countrymen. The noble Earl seems to think that it was entirely an object of ambition, in order to get possession of the harbour of Kiel, that the Germans made these efforts, and have expressed such sympathy with the inhabitants of Holstein and Schleswig. But I cannot say that I think it was merely as an object of ambition that they did this. I do believe that there was an honest feeling among the German people—whatever may have been the grounds for it—that the German subjects of the King of Denmark had not the 1175 rights which they ought to have, and did not enjoy a protection which they ought to enjoy; and it was with a view of rescuing them from a state which they thought one of degradation and inequality that the German people first took up a question which has become so popular in Germany. This feeling had a material influence in the decision of the question; because after the German armies had entered Holstein and Schleswig—after they had, so to speak, cultivated and promoted these ideas of separation from Denmark and of independence under the Prince of Augustenburg, or any one else—it was impossible to consider the question as being in the same position as it had occupied before. It was impossible to restore those two Duchies to the Crown of Denmark in their integrity; it was impossible to restore those parts of the Duchies, at least, which were inhabited solely by Germans, because those people had become imbued meanwhile, not only with a stronger conviction of their rights, but with a more decided wish for separation from Denmark and for their existence as an independent State. I say, then, that this is a view of the question which has to be considered by Her Majesty's Government. The Emperor of the French has noticed it, partly because he favours the principle of nationality, and partly also because he has a very accurate knowledge of the state of Europe and the different countries of Europe. I say that if after what had occurred we had attempted to drive the German troops out of Holstein, and then had assembled the Diet of Holstein, there would have been an instant declaration in favour of independence by the Diet; and if we had been so unwise as to attempt to go to war we should have had to govern by military force, and subdue the German inhabitants of Holstein by force, in order to reduce them again under the dominion of the King of Denmark. That was a position which it did not become any English Government to take. But, I say, besides that, the question which the noble Earl has put—whether there was not a time when we might have said to the German Sovereigns that they must not enter into Holstein—although it is a question to which I conceive that two answers may be given, yet implied so much hazard, implied the danger of so great a war, was so encompassed by difficulties on every side, it was so likely to lead in the prevailing excitement and enthusiasm of Germany to a war, as my noble Friend has said, against the whole 1176 German people united, and the risks of that war, if we had gone into it without the assistance of France and Russia, were so great, that I think any English Government would hardly have been justified in coming before an English Parliament and an English people, and declaring that they had committed this country to all these dangers in the hope and on the chance that the threat might be successful, and that Germany might yield to it. If we had had to deal with the Cabinets of Berlin and Vienna alone, I believe we should have found no difficulty in arriving at a peaceful solution of the question. I think that any one who is intimately acquainted with this subject, and even those who have gathered their information about it from a perusal of the papers, must have perceived that it was not much the wish of Prussia, and not at all the wish of Austria, to depart from the Treaty of 1852. On the contrary, it was with the greatest reluctance that the Cabinet of Vienna, after some ineffectual attempts to adhere to the treaty, made some proposition which should have satisfied anybody; but it was, I am convinced, with a very sincere reluctance that they gave the signal for a departure from a treaty to which they, in common with other Powers, had attached their signatures. Austria is not so adventurous in her spirit as to desire to meet danger without a necessity; and it is evident that it would hereafter be open to any one who proposed to depart from a treaty to say, "You departed from the Treaty of 1852, and how can you reproach us for doing the same thing?" Besides, when the German armies entered Schleswig, and when they took so much pride in the rejoicings of German nationalities, the Austrian Government was too cautious not to perceive that there were other nationalities whose pride might also be roused, and whose imitation of the example set by the inhabitants of Schleswig might be encouraged by the departure from the Treaty of 1852. It was, therefore, not because the Cabinets of Vienna and Berlin desired to satisfy any ambitious project that they determined to depart from the treaty, but because they yielded to strong popular impulse; being determined, in the first place, not to allow the minor principalities to supplant them as leaders of the German Confederation, and, in the next place, because they dreaded the popular impulse and liberal tendency of the Democratic party in Germany. It was on these accounts they departed from the Treaty of 1177 1852. But, in addition to these reasons, I am convinced that the conduct of Russia has exercised considerable influence upon this question. I could not help remarking to the Ambassador how different was the conduct of the present Emperor from that of the Emperor Nicholas in the year 1848. I believe the reason of the change of the policy of the Russian Government to be attributable to a certain sympathy which I believe to exist on the part of Russia towards Austria and Prussia. They all dread the advance of popular democracy in Germany, and therefore they were willing to sacrifice Denmark to carry the popular party in Germany with them.
Now, my Lords, having spoken at some length upon this question, I must say that, although it may be an easy topic for a personal attack, I believe any Government in our place would have experienced as great a difficulty as we did, considering the excited state of Germany, and the determination of Austria and Prussia rather to assume the direction of the storm than to resist its force. One of the most dogmatic writers ever known, Rousseau, has said very truly, "The science of Government is a science of combinations, applications, and exceptions, according to time, place, and circumstance." There is no invariable rule which you can follow upon all occasions. You cannot neglect time and circumstance, the popular feeling, or the disposition of different Courts; the means by which you can obtain your object may at one time be easy, and at another time difficult. There is a passage in M. Thiers' History of the Consulate and Empire, an example of this fact—which I think is pregnant with instruction for all of us. At the celebrated meeting between Napoleon and Alexander at Erfurt, these two monarchs entered into an agreement with respect to Spain; they determined that the Danubian Principalities should be transferred to the Emperor of Russia, and they decided also upon various other arrangements with respect to the different nations of Europe. By their conduct these two potentates would seem to have had the power of making any disposition of Europe which might have pleased them. What, however, became of those arrangements. Like other projects of the moment they were destined never to be realized. If those two mighty monarchs were unable to carry out the arrangement upon which they agreed, is it at all wonderful that so artificial a Treaty as that of 1852, by 1178 which a people had its then future Government decided upon without being consulted, should be found impossible to maintain? The noble Earl has charged us with having no guiding principle in connection with our foreign policy. There is one principle which is as capable of general application as it is useful to mankind, and that is the non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations. Therefore it was that when, I soon after I first accepted the seals of the Foreign Office, the question of Italy came before us: Her Majesty's Government decided to leave the people of Italy free to dispose of their own destinies—they said that they were the best judges of the Government they would have. That declaration, following the declarations of the Emperor of the French, completely decided the question, and no attempt has since been made to disturb the unity and independence of Italy, which Her Majesty's Government rejoiced to see established. In reference to the great civil struggle now going on in America, there have been from time to time great exhibitions of sympathy on one side or the other, and I cannot but perceive that there exists on the other side of the House the strongest sympathy with the Southern States—the strongest desire to allow the Confederate States to have the greatest advantage in the present contest. This feeling was even so obvious that when men attempted, contrary to Her Majesty's proclamation of neutrality, and contrary to their duty, to consent to the fitting out of expeditions on behalf of Confederates from Liverpool and other ports, those attempts were evidently viewed by the other side of the House with a considerable amount of sympathy. But Her Majesty's Government proceeded on the principle of right—upon the principle of duty towards both belligerents. They took care that such expeditions should not sail—they took care that such vessels should be seized—and if they had not been seized I feel fully convinced that we should now be engaged in war with the Northern States. I have stated the course we have pursued upon general principles; I have stated the course which we have pursued in regard to Germany and Denmark; and if I am obliged to plead to the indictment that has been brought against us, all I can say is that we are guilty of endeavouring to promote peace, that we are guilty of endeavouring to maintain justice, and that we are guilty of promoting freedom in Europe and throughout the world.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, if after the protracted discussions which have taken place, and at this late hour, I venture to trespass upon your Lordships, it is because there are one or two points to which I think your Lordships' attention should be more particularly directed. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) objects to the terms of the Resolutions, and denies that the just influence of the country has been lowered, because, he says, the influence of a country depends upon its power, and that we at this moment possess a finer fleet and a finer army than we ever possessed at any former time. I would submit to my noble Friend that the influence and power of a country do not depend merely upon physical power. Even with respect to an army, Napoleon said the moral power was more important than the physical. It is still more important among nations; and our just influence and power depend not only upon fleets and armies, but upon the respect and goodwill borne towards us by other nations. I ask your Lordships, Does this country at this moment enjoy the respect and goodwill of the other nations of the world to the same extent as formerly? I ask you whether, as a matter of fact, that is the case or not? My noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster indeed denied that this country had fallen in the estimation of other nations, and found great fault with a noble Lord on this side who contended that it has, because he referred to the foreign newspapers in proof of his statement. I have yet to learn that the newspapers of the day are not to be regarded as indications of the popular feeling. But the fact of our having lost character in the eyes of the civilized world does not rest only upon the authority of newspapers. I am sure none of your Lordships are so ignorant of what is now going on in Europe as not to know that the character of this country does stand so well with other nations as it used to do, and as it ought. My noble Friend (Lord Clarendon) himself admitted that there had been a coolness between the French Government and that of England, and he traced to that coolness some of the misfortunes which have occurred. We know that Russia is ill-disposed towards us—we know that Germany is exceedingly irritated against us—and Denmark, which has such bitter reason to rue our professed friendship, entertains towards us almost as much animosity as against the Germans themselves. That 1180 we are not regarded with goodwill and respect either by the Governments or by the people of other nations is too notorious to be disputed, and is proved by the very despatches which have been laid on your table. I am convinced that such a state of things cannot have been brought about without some fault on the part of our own Government. No nation falls into such general odium and disrepute without being itself to blame; and I do not think we have to go far to find the causes which have brought us to this unhappy position. My noble Friend (Lord Clarendon) has acknowledged that what happened with respect to Poland produced a coolness between our Government and that of France, and to this coolness the unhappy issue of the negotiations in which we have since been engaged is mainly to be attributed. But our failure with respect to Poland was the inevitable result of the policy we pursued. That policy seems, therefore, to have been the first great error of the Government. It was defended on a former evening by my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, upon the ground that the Government had only followed with respect to Polish affairs the course chalked for them by that which had been pursued in somewhat similar circumstances in 1831. I ventured at the moment, speaking from memory, to deny the accuracy of that statement. Upon referring to the authentic documents which describe the policy of 1831–2. I find I might have made my denial still stronger, and that the policy of the British Government with respect to the Polish war of 1831, instead of affording a precedent for my noble Friend's policy in 1863, was in every respect the reverse of it. I would remind your Lordships that in 1831, while the Polish war was still raging, an application was made to our Government by that of France to join in a proposal to Russia for an immediate suspension of arms, with a view to negotiations for the purpose of re-establishing peace between the contending parties by some lasting arrangement. Remember that in 1831 the war in Poland was a different affair from what it now is. Then the insurgents held the capital for a considerable time, and they had a regular army and a regular Government with whom we could treat. None of these things existed in 1863; and, as Lord Ellen borough justly observed, if we had proposed a suspension of arms there was no one to treat with. Yet how was the proposal made by France in 1831 received by 1181 the English Government? The answer to the note presented by Prince Talleyrand was written by Lord Palmerston, then Foreign Secretary, and if it bad been written last year against what we then did, it could not have stated the objections to our policy more clearly. In this note Lord Palmerston pointed out to Prince Talleyrand that a simple offer of mediation would certainly be refused by Russia, and that it could not be expedient to make a proposal which there was no ground to hope would be accepted, and which, if refused, would leave to the two Governments the embarrassing alternative of either acquiescing in a rejection of their proposal or of taking measures to enforce it by means of a more direct and effectual interference. As the British Government were not prepared to adopt the latter course he declined to agree to the French proposal. Your Lordships will perceive that in 1831 the British Government refused to adopt the very course that has now been taken, and for the reasons which were urged against it when this subject was brought before the House last year. A Government ought not to take a step of such importance without considering beforehand what it may lead to. In this case the alternative of acquiescence was chosen, and it was decided not to go to war. Thus the very evil foreseen in 1831 has presented itself now. In 1831–2 no formal remonstrance was addressed to the Russian Sovereign on behalf of his Polish subjects; and Lord Palmerston instructed Lord Durham, our Ambassador at St. Petersburg, to touch upon the subject of Poland with great delicacy, because it was not consistent with the power and dignity of the British Empire to insist too strongly upon points, which, if refused, it might be inexpedient, if not impossible, to support by force of arms. Lord Durham, in reply, said, that in pursuance of these instructions he had abstained from presenting any note upon the subject of Poland to the Russian Minister, saying, that he knew such a note would only lead to a formal repetition of the justice of our reasoning, and that he feared the publicity of our interference would oblige the Emperor of Russia either to take steps of additional severity or to postpone any conciliatory measures he might contemplate towards the Poles, in order to prove to his Russian subjects that he was not controlled in what they consider the administration of their internal affairs by a Foreign Power, I cannot help thinking that that was a 1182 wiser course than sending irritating remonstrances to Russia, and, above all, wiser than publishing those remonstrances for general information. What has been the effect? In the first place it encouraged the Poles to continue the war—next it irritated Russia—and lastly it proved to Germany that we could use strong language without any intention of following it up by forcible measures. That was the lesson taught to Germany; and the consequence was that in the autumn of last year we entered on those negotiations under extreme disadvantages. After all that has been said, I certainly shall not trouble your Lordships with further references to the long and complicated Correspondence. It is enough to say that according to the statement of Her Majesty's Government themselves, it has ended in a triumph of might over right. We resisted that oppression by what, at least, must be called very strong language. Some will have it that we did too much, others that we did too little. In my own judgment we did too little, and we asked too much. It is the great fault of this Correspondence that Her Majesty's Government went on too long insisting on the maintenance of the Treaty of 1852, and the arrangements which may be considered as forming part of that treaty. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) has told us that the treaty has long ceased to be a practical question; and the noble Earl says that it was an artificial treaty. According to both their statements—which are quite true—the Government ought to have foreseen that the treaty could not be maintained. They went on, however, maintaining it in words, while at the same time they did nothing to support it. If the treaty were so defective (as I think it was) the Government would have been wiser if they bad earlier accepted the necessities of the case, and had endeavoured to form some arrangement more acceptable to Germany. After twelve years' vain attempts to get the parties to agree upon the meaning of this treaty, and the manner in which it could be best carried into execution, it ought to have been seen that it was impracticable in its character. Moreover, it bad the inherent vice of being framed in total forgetfulness of the principle that all Governments, whether great or small, exist only for the benefit of the governed; and it affected to dispose of the Duchies and to regulate their future, not with a view to the welfare of their inhabitants, but according to the supposed interests of Europe, 1183 and to the claims to the Duchies (as if they had been private property) possessed by certain Princes, according to the antiquated principles of feudal law. Little foresight was needed to see that such a treaty could not be permanently maintained, and if Her Majesty's Government had earlier suggested that it should be revised, so as to effect an arrangement fair and just to all parties, they would have placed themselves on irresistible ground, and they would have been able to say that the arbitration of the sword must be postponed until all attempts to settle the question by peaceable means had failed. It is said of those who impugn the conduct of Her Majesty's Government that they are supporters of a warlike policy. I altogether deny the justice of that reproach. One of my objections to the policy of Her Majesty's Government is, that in their over anxiety for peace they have acted in a manner which has in fact exposed the nation to greater danger of ultimate war. The noble Earl the Secretary of State himself admitted distinctly that the securities for peace are diminished; and can any one look at the existing state of Europe without seeing that such is the fact? By the license given to this one unprincipled act of aggression they have destroyed men's faith in treaties and in the existing public law of Europe; they have set loose ambitious desires, and already the air is full of rumours of schemes for spoliation and unprincipled aggrandizement. To suppose that this state of things can continue without involving us in danger of war is absurd. We have been told that we ought never to go to war unless our own interests are immediately affected. I, for one, entirely contest that principle. I am persuaded that if we lay it down as a rule to act upon simply selfish considerations, and never to interfere unless our own interests are affected, whatever schemes of spoliation and aggression are entertained by other nations, giving free scope to that unprincipled ambition by which the councils of nations are too frequently guided, wrong and violence will prevail without check; and if we ourselves should become their object, in the day of our necessity we must expect the rule we have applied to others to be applied to us, and we shall meet with no sympathy or support in any quarter, because we have deliberately withheld our aid from the weak when threatened with oppression. I do not mean to say that we should undertake the general redress of all 1184 cases of injustice. Far from it. The circumstances of each case must be taken into account, and it must be considered whether we can interfere with advantage. But the power which we possess and the station which we occupy impose on us the sacred duty of maintaining, as far as we are able, the principles of justice in the international relations of Europe. Looking at the condition of Schleswig before the invasion, it was in the enjoyment of undisturbed peace. There was no serious attempt at resistance to the authority of the Danish Government. But it was perfectly clear that once we allowed the German troops to enter Schleswig, under cover of their presence a system of agitation would be got up which must make it practically impossible to bring about a satisfactory settlement. That is the noble Earl's reason for not interfering now, and I admit its force. It was shown from the first that that difficulty would occur, and therefore I say that that was a reason for our interfering earlier and preventing a state of things arising, in which we are powerless to undo the evil that has been done. But we are told that it was impossible for us even at an earlier period to interfere with effect, that we could not make war against united Germany for the defence of Schleswig, There would have been no question of war. It would have been a question whether Germany should make war upon us. ["Oh, oh!" and "Hear, hear!"] It is not an immaterial difference, and you feel that it is not an immaterial difference at this moment. If you now wanted to assist Denmark you must make an offensive war, and drive the Germans out; and that would be a very difficult operation. But while the Danish army was unbroken, while the strong fortifications were in existence, while Sweden was ready to stand by you, I say that it was not an operation of such great difficulty that we should maintain a defensive position which Germany would be slow to attack. My noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy asked how it was possible that we could act at sea, or how we could send a fleet into the Baltic, which was frozen up. I have inquired of very high authority, and I am informed that at that season of the year, when peace is preserved, there is a regular trade in cattle from the west coast of Schleswig to England, which is carried on by large steamers with the utmost facility; and that we had at that 1185 time means quite sufficient to have sent between 20,000 and 30,000 men to assist the Danes and Swedes in maintaining a very narrow frontier, of which both the flanks would have been perfectly secure. It would then have been a question whether the Germans would attack us; and I think that the statements of my noble Friends themselves go far to prove that they would not. Because, what has my noble Friend the Secretary of State just told you? He has told you that Austria went very reluctantly into this whole scheme of policy, and that although yielding to Prussia she saw very well the dangers which she was encountering, and the difficult questions which she was starting. I believe that that is perfectly true. I believe that Austria, under the vain delusion that by acting in this manner she would hereafter secure for herself support in defending Venetia, has reluctantly followed Prussia into this scheme. But if she was reluctant to enter into it when she knew that there was no danger from us, is it likely that she would have gone into it if she had known that she would have to attack us? My noble Friend has said that Austria was afraid of disturbing Hungary and Venetia; that she was afraid of the state of her finances. All that is perfectly true; but all those arguments go far to prove that there was not the slightest danger of her venturing upon offensive operations if we had firmly maintained a defensive position. I am not prepared to say that there would not have been some small risk in pursuing such a policy; but in the affairs of nations it is always a question of comparative risk; and I firmly believe, looking at the present state of affairs, that the risk which you have actually incurred is far greater than that which you would have run by following a more decided and more manly policy. But if that was not your intention—if you had made up your minds not to go to war, then I say that it is perfectly clear that you ought not to have used the language which you did. My noble Friend has referred at great length to the text of the various despatches to show that we made no promises to Denmark. I quite agree with my noble Friend that we did not in so many words make any promise that we would interfere: but I ask any fair and impartial man—I ask those of your Lordships who were present when my noble Friend the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) spoke this evening, whether there 1186 can be a doubt, taking the whole course of the Correspondence, that the conduct of our Government was such as to create expectations in the mind of that of Denmark that assistance would be rendered to them. The same is the case with regard to our threats to Germany. My noble Friend said that there were no threats, only warnings. I think that the distinction is a nice one—when warnings are accompanied by language such as that which was used by Her Majesty's Government, it is hardly possible to distinguish them from threats. These reasons satisfy me that, in point of fact, the Resolution which has been moved is completely in accordance with the truth. It is true that the influence of the country has been diminished, and that that has been the result of the Foreign policy of the Government. The noble Marquess said that even if that was true it ought not to be asserted by such a Resolution as this. It appears to me that if the country has been lowered in the eyes of the world by the policy of the Government, the best course that can be adopted to relieve us, as far as possible, from the stain upon our national reputation, is to show that in this matter the Government, who were intrusted with the guidance of the national affairs, have not truly represented the feelings and the will of the nation, and it is only by the two Houses of Parliament that that can be shown. On that ground I think that the Resolution is one which we ought to adopt. It might, perhaps, in some respects have been better worded; but I think it expresses a correct judgment as to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and that—a matter to which I attach importance—without expressing any confidence in their political opponents. With regard to the Amendment proposed by my noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde), I cannot help observing that it seems to me utterly inconsistent with the speech which was made in support of it. It only regrets that Denmark was led to expect aid from the English Government; but a good part of the speech of my noble Friend went to show that at one time aid might properly have been afforded. If it had been afforded, no harm would have arisen from the raising of those expectations, and, therefore, the Amendment of my noble Friend is by implication a decided approval of that very timid policy which part of his speech denounced. It is a censure of Her Majesty's Government quite as distinct as that conveyed by the 1187 Resolution. I do not know whether he intends to press that Amendment, because as a Vote of Censure it can hardly be adopted by Her Majesty's Government, and as a censure upon wrong grounds it is not likely to be accepted this side of the House. Therefore, I trust that my noble Friend will not press it, but will allow us to divide, "Contents" or "Not-Contents," upon the Motion originally submitted to the House.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, when I make a promise that I will be brief I do not like to break it; and I certainly have no great temptation to do so on the present occasion, because, if I think it hardly necessary to answer at great length the speech of my noble Friend the noble Earl who has with such admirable impartiality objected to everything and everybody in the House; on the other hand, I am so well satisfied with the course of this debate that, although speeches proverbially have not very great influence upon the votes of Peers, particularly of those Peers who are absent from the House, I believe that the statements, facts, and arguments which have been adduced on this side of the House will have the greatest possible effect in showing to the country how futile are the accusations which have been brought against Her Majesty's Government. I shall, therefore, only say a few words with regard to the reasons why I ask your Lordships not to agree to the second Resolution of the noble Earl opposite, or to the Amendment proposed by my noble Friend the noble Marquess. With regard to the Amendment, if the facts were as described, I see no Parliamentary objection to its form; but I do think that what we have heard to-night shows that the facts are not as my noble Friend has stated them. I need hardly trouble your Lordships by again alluding to the speech which was made by Lord Palmerston last year, when he said he concurred entirely with Mr. FitzGerald and all reasonable men in Europe in desiring that the independence and integrity of Denmark might be maintained. When Lord Palmerston made that statement he knew that the great Powers of Europe were co-signataries of a treaty declaring it to be of the utmost importance that the integrity and independence of Denmark should be preserved, and could hardly fail to suppose, at the time he made that speech, that they would join with England in resisting any attempt to destroy that independence. It is, I 1188 may add, absurd to contend that the remonstrances addressed by the Government to Germany amounted to a threat that this country would go to war for Denmark; and it is hardly creditable that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) should make the assertion which he has done, to the effect that Denmark had been deluded, in the face of the fact stated by my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that the Danish Minister admitted that such was not the case. For these reasons I hope your Lordships will not agree to the Amendment; while, with regard to the substantive Resolution before us, I would say that if the noble Earl who has just spoken (Earl Grey) had not so entirely found fault with it, I should have supposed he had a hand in framing it, from my knowledge of his tactics. I recollect the noble Earl having on one occasion pointed out the advantage of having no meaning in the terms of a Vote of Censure, inasmuch as all the soft Members of the House might in consequence be induced to vote for it; and I can have no doubt that this Resolution, in that respect at all events, completely meets his views, inasmuch as there seems to me to be no policy or principle involved in it. It is, however, intended as a Vote of Censure, and in that light we accept it. The noble Earl who introduced it to our notice blames us for having, as he says, blown hot and cold—but what, I would ask, has been the policy of the Opposition? The noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Argyll) read a remarkable extract from a speech made by Lord Derby last year, in which he went further even than the declaration of my noble Friend at the head of the Government, and said that the independence and the integrity of Denmark were of vital importance to this country. We have heard that speeches have been made in another place by the leaders of a party of a very peaceable character, who have described war as insanity; and we have had allegations made to-night against the pacific policy of the Government. I listened with the greatest attention to the speech of the noble Earl who opened this discussion, and the only suggestions which I heard him make were, that we should have demanded from Germany a definition of the word nationality—a definition which I have no doubt a German Professor would be glad to give him at any length, but which would not, I think, contribute much to the integrity of Denmark—that we had not 1189 used language strong enough towards Germany at a particular juncture, and that we should have entered on military operations at a moment when owing to the nature of the weather they must have been singularly useless. Now, if that be not blaming the Government for being too peaceable and not sufficiently warlike I do not know the meaning of plain English. With respect to another point with which fault has been found with the Government—namely, the refusal to enter a Congress on European matters—I venture to say that there is hardly a Member of this House who does not believe that refusal was right. It is said, however, that it was couched in terms discourteous to the Emperor of the French; but I have never yet heard a sentence quoted to establish the justice of that charge. As regards the Conference, there has been a sort of general sneering on the other side with respect to it; but I do not know whether noble Lords opposite really object to our having gone into it or not; but it is, at all events, very remarkable that, with their acute minds, they have not been able to detect a single flaw in the very difficult discussions which took place while it lasted. Certainly they have not objected to our efforts to obtain a suspension of hostilities. As to the allegation that we have lost our just influence in Europe, I, for one, do not believe in the truth of that statement. I feel, on the contrary, that we have maintained an influence. There was the most perfect harmony and concord among the neutral Powers throughout the sitting of the Conference; we parted on the most amicable terms—nay, more, the agreement between us was greater in reference to our policy in this matter than before. This is, I think, better proof that we continue to maintain our just influence in Europe than can be found in reading a few extracts from newspapers, which may represent the daily feeling of the people of the places in which they are published, but which can hardly form a ground on which to base your Lordships' decision in this important subject. It is natural that certain parties in Italy and Germany should wish to see us involved in war with the hope that they may gain some advantages regardless of the difficulties in which we might be involved. And as regards France, though I have not the slightest complaint to make against the Emperor, nevertheless the French people will, I think, be more than human if, with their feelings towards this 1190 country, they did not see with satisfaction England embarking alone in a war—a circumstance which might give them a great political pre-eminence and a commercial advantage. But these facts did not at nil go to prove that we have lost our just influence in the councils of Europe. I do trust that this House will not give an opinion which I believe myself to be a false one. We cannot possibly have any official information as to the exact state of public opinion with regard to us on the Continent of Europe; and even if, contrary to my belief, the opinion which we are asked to express were perfectly true—neither in a national nor a public-spirited sense is it desirable that this House should publicly complain of the degradation of the country in the terms proposed by the noble Earl.
§ On Question, That the words proposed to be loft out stand part of the Motion? their Lordships divided—
§ Resolved in the Affirmative.
§ Then the said original Motion agreed to.1193
|Beaufort, D.||Grey, E.|
|Buckingham and Chandos, D.||Hardwicke, E.|
|Manchester, D.||Home, E.|
|Marlborough, D.||Lucan, E.|
|Richmond, D.||Macclesfield, E.|
|Rutland, D.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Abercorn, M.||Manvers, E.|
|Bath, M.||Mayo, E.|
|Exeter, M.||Mount Edgcumbe, E.|
|Hastings, M.||Nelson, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Orkney, E.|
|Abergavenny, E.||Portarlington, E.|
|Amherst, E.||Powis, E.|
|Aylesford, E.||Romney, E.|
|Bandon, E.||Rosse, E.|
|Bantry, E.||Rosslyn, E.|
|Belmore, E.||Sandwich, E.|
|Brooke and Warwick, E.||Selkirk, E.|
|Cardigan, E.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Stanhope, E.|
|Cathcart, E.||Stradbroke, E.|
|Cawdor, E.||Verulam, E.|
|Coventry, E.||Westmoreland, E.|
|De La Warr, E.||Wilton, E.|
|Devon, E.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose).|
|Canterbury, V.||Dunsandle and Clanconal, L.|
|Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty).|
|De Vesci, V.||Egerton, L.|
|Hardinge, V.||Farnham, L.|
|Hawarden, V. [Teller.]||Feversham, L.|
|Hill, V.||Grantley, L.|
|Hood, V.||Grinstead, L. (E. Enniskillen)|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore).|
|Melville, V.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Kingsdown, L.|
|Oxford, Bp.||Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont).|
|Abinger, L.||Northwick, L.|
|Arundell of Wardour, L.||Polwarth, L.|
|Bagot, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Bateman, L.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Berwick, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Bolton, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Boston, L.||Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield).|
|Churston, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Clements, L. (E. Leitrim).||Silchester, L. (E. Longford).|
|Clifton, L. (E. Darnley).||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Clinton, L.||Sondes, L.|
|Clonbrock, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Colchester, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway).|
|Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.]|
|St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Conyers, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Crofton, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Denman, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|De Ros, L.||Tredegar, L.|
|De Saumarez, L.||Walsingham, L.|
|Digby, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Cleveland, D.||St. Vincent, V.|
|Northumberland, D.||Strathallan, V.|
|Tweeddale, M.||Bangor, Bp.|
|Beverley, E.||Blantyre, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Blayney, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Braybooke, L.|
|Cadogan, E.||Castlemaine, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden).|
|Desart, E.||Clarini, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry).||Cloncurry, L.|
|Erne, E.||Dunfermline, L.|
|Hillsborough, E. (M. Downshire).||Forester, L.|
|Howe, E.||Kilmaine, L.|
|Huntingdon, E.||Lilford, L.|
|Morton, E.||Middleton, L.|
|Mount Cashell, E.||Moore, L. (M. Drogheda).|
|Stamford and Warrington, E.||Petre, L.|
|Plunkett, L. (Bp. Tuam, &c.|
|Vane, E.||Rodney, L.|
|Bangor, V.||Ross, L. (E. Glasgow).|
|Doneraile, V.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown).|
|Saltoun, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss).|
|Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield).||Wharncliffe, L.|
|Wigan, L. (E. Crawford and Balcarres).|
|Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford).|
|Westbury, L. (L. Chancellor).||Chester, Bp.|
|Down, &c., Bp.|
|Armagh, Archbp.||Ely, Bp.|
|Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.|
|Grafton D.||Hereford, Bp.|
|Saint Albans, D.||Lincoln, Bp.|
|Somerset, D.||London, Bp.|
|Sutherland, D.||Ripon, Bp.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Annaly, L.|
|Anglesey, M.||Aveland L.|
|Bristol, M.||Belper, L.|
|Camden, M.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery).|
|Normanby, M.||Calthorpe, L.|
|Townshend, M.||Camoys, L.|
|Westminster, M.||Carew, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Churchill, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye).|
|Caithness, E.||Clanwilliam, L.(E. Clanwilliam).|
|Chichester, E.||Congleton, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne).|
|De Grey, E.||De Mauley, L.|
|Ducie, E.||De Tabley, L.|
|Durham, E.||Ebury, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Foley, L. [Teller.]|
|Essex, E.||Gardner, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Harris, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Hatherton, L.|
|Granville, E.||Houghton, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland).|
|Lovelace, E.||Keane, L.|
|Minto, E.||Leigh, L.|
|Morley, E.||Lismore, L. (V. Lismore).|
|Portsmouth, E.||Llanover, L.|
|Russell, E.||Lyttelton, L.|
|Saint Germans, E.||Lyveden, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Methuen, L.|
|Sommers, E.||Minster, L. (M. Conyngham).|
|Strafford, E.||Monson, L.|
|Suffolk and Berkshire, E.||Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo).|
|Yarborough, E.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Eversley, V.||Overstone, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Panmure, L. (E. Dalhousie).|
|Leinster, V. (D. Leinster).|
|Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough). [Teller.]|
|Stratford de Redcliffe, V.|
|Sydney, V.||Rivers, L.|
|Torrington, V.||Sandys, L.|
|Saye and Sele, L.|
|Carlisle, Bp.||Seaton, L.|
|Sefton, L. (E. Sefton).||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|Seymour, L. (E. St. Maur).||Taunton, L.|
|Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde).||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Stafford, L.||Wensleydale, L.|
|Stanley of Alderley, L.||Wentworth, L. (V. Ockham).|
|Suffield, L.||Wodehouse, L.|
|Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.||Wrottesley, L.|
|York, Archbp.||Byron, L.|
|Charlemont, L. (E. Charlemont).|
|Portland, D.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath).|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Northampton, M.||De Freyne, L.|
|Brownlow, E.||Erskine, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Fingall L. (E. Fingall).|
|Cowley, E.||Fitzhardinge, L.|
|Gainsborough E.||Gifford, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Howard de Walden, L.|
|Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe).||Kenlis, L. (M. Head fort).|
|Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare).|
|Radnor, E.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore).|
|Scarbrough, E.||Londesborough, L.|
|Bath and Wells, Bp.||Lurgan, L.|
|Durham, Bp.||Manners, L.|
|Manchester, Bp.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden).|
|Rochester, Bp.||Poltimore, L.|
|Salisbury, Bp.||Stuart de Decies, L.|
|St. Asaph, Bp.||Sudeley, L.|
|Worcester, Bp.||Vernon, L.|