Speeches on Questions of Public Policy, Volume 1
John Bright

Part 8 out of 9

whose opinion formed the basis whereupon the Government grounded their
plea for the popularity of the war, were in favour of the setting up of
nationalities; but my hon. Friend showed that the Government had no such
object, and the war no such tendency. The next misrepresentation was,
that my hon. Friend had spoken in favour of the _status quo_; but
there is not the shadow of a shade of truth in that statement. What my
hon. Friend said was precisely the contrary; but the noble Lord, arguing
from his own misapprehension of my hon. Friend's meaning, went on then
to show that it would not do to establish a peace on the _status
quo_ terms, thus knocking down a position which nobody had set up.
The noble Lord was also guilty of another mistake with reference to an
observation of my hon. Friend as to the character and position of the
Turks. We have referred over and over again to a monstrous statement
made by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton as to the improvement of
the Turks--a statement which is contradicted by all facts. Tonight, with
a disingenuousness which I should be ashamed to use in argument--[Cries
of 'Oh!']--it is very well for hon. Gentlemen who come down to cheer a
Minister to cry 'Oh!' but is it a fact, or is it not? Is there a man who
hears me who does not know perfectly well, when the noble Lord said that
the Turks had improved within the last twenty years more than any other
nation in Europe, that the statement referred not to the Christians,
whose rights and interests we were defending, but to the character of
the Mahometan population? But to-night, with a disingenuousness which I
could not condescend to be guilty of, the noble Lord has assumed that
the statement referred to the condition of the Christian population.

The real question was, as every hon. Gentleman knows, What was the
condition of the Mahometan? and there is not a Gentleman in this House
who is not aware that the Mahometan portion of the population of the
Turkish Empire is in a decaying and dying condition, and that the two
great Empires which have undertaken to set it on its legs again will
find it about the most difficult task in which they ever were engaged.
What do your own officers say? Here is an extract from a letter which
appeared in the papers the other day:--

They ought to set these rascally Turks to mend them [the roads],
which might easily be done, as under the clay there is plenty of
capital stone. They are, I am sorry to say, bringing more of
these brutes into the Crimea, which makes more mouths to feed,
without being of any use.

I have seen a private letter, too, from an able and distinguished
officer in the Crimea, who says--

'Half of us do not know what we are fighting for, and the other
half only pray that we may not be fighting for the Turks.'

The only sign of improvement which has been manifested that I know of
is, that on a great emergency, when their Empire, under the advice of
Her Majesty's Government, and that of their Ambassador, was placed in a
situation of great peril, the Turks managed to make an expiring effort,
and to get up an army which the Government, so far as I can hear, has
since permitted to be almost destroyed.

Another sign of improvement is, perhaps, that they have begun to wear
trowsers; but as to their commerce, their industry, or their revenue,
nothing can be in a worse condition. You have now two Empires attempting
to set the Turkish Empire up again; and it is said that a third great
Empire is also about to engage in the task. The Turk wants to borrow
money, but he cannot borrow it to-day in the London market at less than
from eight to nine per cent. Russia, on the other hand, is an Empire
against which three great Empires, if Turkey can be counted one still,
are now combined, and it is said that a fourth great Empire will soon
join the ranks of its enemies. But Russian funds at this moment are very
little lower than the stock of the London and North-Western Railway. You
have engaged to set this Turkish Empire up again--a task in which
everybody knows you must fail--and you have persuaded the Turk to enter
into a contest, one of the very first proceedings in which has forced
him to mortgage to the English capitalist a very large portion--and the
securest portion, too, of his revenues--namely, that which he derives
from Egypt, amounting in fact, in a fiscal and financial point of view,
to an actual dismemberment of the Turkish Empire, by a separation of
Egypt from it. Why is it that the noble Lord has tonight come forward as
the defender of the Greeks? Is it that

he has discovered, when this war is over, that Turkey, which he has
undertaken to protect, the Empire which he is to defend and sustain
against the Emperor of Russia, will have been smothered under his
affectionate embrace? or, to quote the powerful language of the
_Times_, when the Vienna note was refused, that whatever else may
be the result of the war in which Turkey has plunged Europe, this one
thing is certain, that at its conclusion there may be no Turkish Empire
to talk about?

The noble Lord quoted a letter which I wrote some time ago, and which,
like others who have discussed it, he found it not easy to answer. In
that letter I referred to Don Pacifico's case; and I am sure that the
noble Lord the Member for Tiverton will remember a despatch which he
received through Baron Brunnow, from Count Nesselrode, on that subject,--
a despatch which I think the House will forgive my reading to it on the
present occasion, as it gives the Russian Government's estimation of
that act of 'material guarantee' on the part of England:--

'It remains to be seen whether Great Britain, abusing the
advantages which are afforded her by her immense maritime
superiority, intends henceforth to pursue an isolated policy,
without caring for those engagements which bind her to the other
Cabinets; whether she intends to disengage herself from every
obligation, as well as from all community of action, and to
authorize all great Powers, on every fitting opportunity, to
recognize to the weak no other rule but their own will, no other
right but their own physical strength. Your Excellency will
please to read this despatch to Lord Palmerston, and to give him
a copy of it.'

If there had been no more temper--no more sense--no more unity in the
negotiations which took place with regard to this matter, in all
probability we might have had a war about it. It was a case in which
Russia might have gone to war with this country, if she had been so
minded. But Russia did not do that. Fortunately, the negotiations that
ensued settled that question without bringing that disaster upon Europe.
But the noble Lord again misinterpreted my hon. Friend (Mr. Cobden). I
appeal to every Gentleman who heard my hon. Friend's speech whether the
drift of it was not this--that in this quarrel, Prussia, and certainly
Austria, had a nearer and stronger interest than England, and that he
could not understand why the terms which Austria might consider fair and
safe for herself and for Turkey, might not be accepted with honour by
this country and by France? Now, I am prepared to show that, from the
beginning of this dispute, there is not a single thing which Austria
wished to do in the course of the negotiations, or even which France
wished to do, that the Government of the noble Lord did not
systematically refuse its assent to, and that the noble Lord's
Government is alone responsible for the failure in every particular
point which took place in these negotiations. I will not trouble the
House by going into the history of these negotiations now, further than
just to state two facts, which will not take more than a few sentences.
The noble Lord referred to the note which Russia wanted Turkey to sign,
known as the Menchikoff note; but the noble Lord knows as well as I do,
that when the French Ambassador, M. De la Cour, went to Constantinople,
or whilst he was at Constantinople, he received express instructions
from the Emperor of the French not to take upon himself the
responsibility of inciting the Sultan to reject that note, ['No.'] I
know this is the fact, because it is stated in Lord Cowley's despatch to
the noble Lord.

I am expressing no opinion on the propriety of what was here done; I
simply state the fact: and it was through the interference of Lord
Stratford de Redcliffe--acting, I presume, in accordance with
instructions from our Cabinet, and promising the intervention of the
fleets--that the rejection of that note was secured. The next fact I
have to mention is this. When in September, last year, the last
propositions were drawn up by Counts Buol and Nesselrode, and offered at
Olmütz by the Emperor, as a final settlement of the question, although
Austria and Prussia were in favour of those propositions; though Lord
Westmoreland himself said (I do not quote his exact words, but their
substance) that they were of such a nature as might be received; thus
indicating his favourable opinion of them; and though, likewise, the
Emperor of the French himself declared that they guarded all the points
in which England and France were concerned (for this was stated by Count
Walewski when he said that the Emperor was prepared to order his
Ambassador at Constantinople to sign them along with the other
Ambassadors, and to offer them to the Porte in exchange for the Vienna
note), nevertheless, the Earl of Clarendon wrote, not in a very
statesmanlike manner in such an emergency, but in almost a contemptuous
tone, that our Government would not, upon any consideration, have
anything further to do with the Vienna note. The rejection, first of the
amended Menchikoff note, and then of the Olmütz note, was a policy
adopted solely by the Government of this country, and only concurred in,
but not recommended, by the French Government and the other Governments
of Europe. Whether this policy was right or wrong, there can be no doubt
of the fact; and I am prepared to stake my reputation for accuracy and
for a knowledge of the English language on this interpretation of the
documents which have been laid before us. That being so, on what
pretence could we expect that Austria should go to war in company with
us for objects far beyond what she thought satisfactory at the
beginning? or why should we ask the Emperor of the French to go to war
for objects which he did not contemplate, and to insist on conditions
which, in the month of September of last year, he thought wholly

But one fact more I hope the House will allow me to state. There is a
despatch in existence which was never produced to the people of this
country, but which made its first appearance in a St. Petersburg
newspaper, and was afterwards published in the Paris journals--a
despatch in which the Emperor of the French, or his Minister, urged the
Russian Government to accept the Vienna note on the express ground--I
give the exact words--that 'its general sense differed in nothing from
the sense of the original propositions of Prince Menchikoff.' Why, Sir,
can there be dissimulation more extraordinary--can there be guilt more
conclusive than that this Government should act as it did, after it had
recommended the Emperor of Russia to accept the Vienna note? For the
noble Lord has told us, over and over again, that the Government of
England concurred in all the steps taken by the French Government. The
House will allow me to read the very words of the despatch, for, after
all, this is no very small matter. I have an English translation, but
the French original is underneath, and any hon. Gentleman who chooses
may see it. The despatch is from M. Drouyn de Lhuys, the French Foreign
Minister, who states:--

'That which the Cabinet of St. Petersburg ought to desire is an
act of the Porte, which testifies that it has taken into serious
consideration the mission of Prince Menchikoff, and that it
renders homage to the sympathies which an identity of religion
inspires in the Emperor Nicholas for all Christians of the
Eastern rite.'

And farther on:--

'They [the French Government] submit it to the Cabinet of St.
Petersburg with the hope that it will find that its general sense
differs in nothing from the sense of the proposition presented by
Prince Menchikoff.'

The French words are:--

'Que son sens général ne diffère en rien du sens du projet
présenté par M. le Prince Menchikoff.'

It then goes on:--

'And that it gives it satisfaction on all the essential points of
its demands. The slight variation in the form of it will not be
observed by the masses of the people, either in Russia or in
Turkey. To their eyes, the step taken by the Porte [that is, in
accepting it] will preserve all the signification which the
Cabinet of St. Petersburg wishes to give it; and His Majesty the
Emperor Nicholas will appear to them always as the powerful and
respected protector of their religious faith.'

This despatch was written, recommending _la note Française_; which
is the basis of, and is in reality and substance the same thing with,
the Vienna note; but, up to this moment, neither the Government of
France nor the Government of which the noble Lord is a Member has for an
instant denied the justice--I do not say the extent or degree--but the
justice of the claim made on the part of the Russian Government against
the Turks; and now they turn round upon their own note and tell you that
there was a different construction put upon it. Was there any
construction put upon it, which was different from the recommendation
here made and the argument used by the French Government? No; and the
whole of that statement is a statement that is delusive, and if I were
not in this House I would characterize it by a harsher epithet. I say
now what I stated in March last, and what I have since said and written
to the country, that you are making war against the Government which
accepted your own terms of peace; and I state this now only for the
purpose of urging upon the House and upon the Government that you are
bound at least, after making war for many months, to exact no further
terms from the State with which you are at war, than such as will give
that security which at first you believed to be necessary; and that if
you carry on a war for vengeance--if you carry on a war for conquest--if
you carry on a war for purposes of Government at home, as many wars have
been carried on in past times, I say you will be guilty of a heinous
crime, alike in the eyes of God and of man.

One other remark perhaps the House will permit me to make. The noble
Lord spoke very confidently to-night; and a very considerable portion of
his speech--hoping, as I do, for the restoration of peace at some time
or another--was to me not very satisfactory. I think that he would only
be acting a more statesmanlike part if, in his speeches, he were at
least to abstain from those trifling but still irritating charges which
he is constantly making against the Russian Government. I can conceive
one nation going to war with another nation; but why should the noble
Lord say, 'The Sovereign of that State does not allow Bibles to be
circulated--he suppressed this thing here, and he put down something
else there'? What did one of the noble Lord's present colleagues say of
the Government of our ally? Did he not thank God that his despotism
could not suppress or gag our newspaper press, and declare that the
people of France were subject to the worst tyranny in Europe? These
statements from a Minister--from one who has been Prime Minister, and
who, for aught I know, may be again Prime Minister--show a littleness
that I did not expect from a statesman of this country, whose fate and
whose interests hang on every word the noble Lord utters, and when the
fate of thousands, aye, and of tens of thousands, may depend on whether
the noble Lord should make one false step in the position in which he is
now placed.

And when terrible calamities were coming upon your army, where was this
Government? One Minister was in Scotland, another at the sea-side, and
for six weeks no meeting of the Cabinet took place. I do not note when
Cabinets are held--I sometimes observe that they sit for four or five
hours at a time, and then I think something is wrong--but for six
weeks, or two months, it is said no meeting of the Ministers was held.
The noble Lord President was making a small speech on a great subject
somewhere in Cumberland. At Bedford he descanted on the fate of empires,
forgetting that there was nothing so likely to destroy an empire as
unnecessary wars. At Bristol he was advocating a new History of England,
which, if impartially written, I know not how the noble Lord's policy
for the last few months will show to posterity. The noble Lord the
Member for Tiverton undertook a more difficult task--a labour left
unaccomplished by Voltaire--and, when he addressed the Hampshire
peasantry, in one short sentence he overturned the New Testament and
destroyed the foundations of the Christian religion.

Now, Sir, I have only to speak on one more point. My hon. Friend the
Member for the West Riding, in what he said about the condition of the
English army in the Crimea, I believe expressed only that which all in
this House feel, and which, I trust, every person in this country
capable of thinking feels. When I look at Gentlemen on that bench, and
consider all their policy has brought about within the last twelve
months, I scarcely dare trust myself to speak of them, either in or out
of their presence. We all know what we have lost in this House. Here,
sitting near me, very often sat the Member for Frome (Colonel Boyle). I
met him a short time before he went out, at Mr. Westerton's, the
bookseller, near Hyde Park Corner. I asked him whether he was going out?
He answered, he was afraid he was; not afraid in the sense of personal
fear--he knew not that; but he said, with a look and a tone I shall
never forget, 'It is no light matter for a man who has a wife and five
little children.' The stormy Euxine is his grave; his wife is a widow,
his children fatherless. On the other side of the House sat a Member,
with whom I was not acquainted, who has lost his life, and another of
whom I knew something (Colonel Blair). Who is there that does not
recollect his frank, amiable, and manly countenance? I doubt whether
there were any men on either side of the House who were more capable of
fixing the goodwill and affection of those with whom they were
associated. Well, but the place that knew them shall know them no more
for ever.

I have specified only two; but there are a hundred officers who have
been killed in battle, or who have died of their wounds; forty have died
of disease; and more than two hundred others have been wounded more or
less severely. This has been a terribly destructive war to officers.
They have been, as one would have expected them to be, the first in
valour as the first in place; they have suffered more in proportion to
their numbers than the commonest soldiers in the ranks. This has spread
sorrow over the whole country. I was in the House of Lords when the vote
of thanks was moved. In the gallery were many ladies, three-fourths of
whom were dressed in the deepest mourning. Is this nothing? And in every
village, cottages are to be found into which sorrow has entered, and, as
I believe, through the policy of the Ministry, which might have been
avoided. No one supposes that the Government wished to spread the pall
of sorrow over the land; but this we had a right to expect, that they
would at least show becoming gravity in discussing a subject the
appalling consequences of which may come home to individuals and to the
nation. I recollect when Sir Robert Peel addressed the House on a
dispute which threatened hostilities with the United States,--I
recollect the gravity of his countenance, the solemnity of his tone, his
whole demeanour showing that he felt in his soul the responsibility that
rested on him.

I have seen this, and I have seen the present Ministry. There was the
buffoonery at the Reform Club. Was that becoming a matter of this grave
nature? Has there been a solemnity of manner in the speeches heard in
connection with this war--and have Ministers shown themselves statesmen
and Christian men when speaking on a subject of this nature? It is very
easy for the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton to rise and say that I
am against war under all circumstances; and that if an enemy were to
land on our shores, I should make a calculation as to whether it would
be cheaper to take him in or keep him out, and that my opinion on this
question is not to be considered either by Parliament or the country. I
am not afraid of discussing the war with the noble Lord on his own
principles. I understand the Blue Books as well as he; and, leaving out
all fantastic and visionary notions about what will become of us if
something is not done to destroy or to cripple Russia, I say--and I say
it with as much confidence as I ever said anything in my life--that the
war cannot be justified out of these documents; and that impartial
history will teach this to posterity if we do not comprehend it now.

I am not; nor did I ever pretend to be, a statesman; and that character
is so tainted and so equivocal in our day, that I am not sure that a
pure and honourable ambition would aspire to it. I have not enjoyed for
thirty years, like these noble Lords, the honours and emoluments of
office. I have not set my sails to every passing breeze. I am a plain
and simple citizen, sent here by one of the foremost constituencies of
the Empire, representing feebly, perhaps, but honestly, I dare aver, the
opinions of very many, and the true interests of all those who have sent
me here. Let it not be said that I am alone in my condemnation of this
war, and of this incapable and guilty Administration. And, even if I
were alone, if mine were a solitary voice, raised amid the din of arms
and the clamours of a venal press, I should have the consolation I have
to-night--and which I trust will be mine to the last moment of my
existence--the priceless consolation that no word of mine has tended to
promote the squandering of my country's treasure or the spilling of one
single drop of my country's blood.

* * * * *





_From Hansard._

[On February 22 Lord Palmerston announced in the House of Commons that
Mr. Gladstone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Sidney Herbert, the
Colonial Secretary, Mr. Cardwell, the President of the Board of Trade,
and Sir James Graham, the First Lord of the Admiralty, had resigned the
offices which they had accepted a fortnight before. The ground of this
secession was the impression entertained by the above-named personages
that the Committee of Inquiry moved for by Mr. Roebuck was equivalent to
a vote of censure on them, as they had formed part of the Government of
Lord Aberdeen, whose conduct of the Russian war was impugned by the
appointment of the Committee. The places vacated by these secessions
were filled up on February 28.]

I am one of those forming the majority of the House, I suspect, who are
disposed to look upon our present position as one of more than ordinary
gravity. I am one, also, of those, not probably constituting so great a
majority of the House, who regret extremely the circumstances which have
obliged the right hon. Gentlemen who are now upon this bench to secede
from the Government of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. I do not
take upon me for a moment to condemn them; because I think, if there be
anything in which a man must judge for himself, it is whether he should
take office if it be offered to him, whether he should secede from
office, whether he should serve under a particular leader, or engage in
the service of the Crown, or retain office in a particular emergency. In
such cases I think that the decision must be left to his own conscience
and his own judgment; and I should be the last person to condemn any one
for the decision to which he might come. I think, however, that the
speech of the right hon. Gentleman is one which the House cannot have
listened to without being convinced that he and his retiring Colleagues
have been moved to the course which they have taken by a deliberate
judgment upon this question, which, whether it be right or wrong, is
fully explained, and is honest to the House and to the country.

Now, Sir, I said that I regretted their secession, because I am one of
those who do not wish to see the Government of the noble Lord the Member
for Tiverton overthrown. The House knows well, and nobody knows better
than the noble Lord, that I have never been one of his ardent and
enthusiastic supporters. I have often disapproved of his policy both at
home and abroad; but I hope that I do not bear to him, as I can honestly
say that I do not bear to any man in this House--for from all I have
received unnumbered courtesies--any feeling that takes even the tinge of
a personal animosity; and even if I did, at a moment so grave as this,
no feeling of a personal character whatever should prevent me from doing
that which I think now, of all times, we are called upon to do--that
which we honestly and conscientiously believe to be for the permanent
interests of the country. We are in this position, that for a month
past, at least, there has been a chaos in the regions of the
Administration. Nothing can be more embarrassing--I had almost said
nothing can be more humiliating--than the position which we offer to the
country; and I am afraid that the knowledge of our position is not
confined to the limits of these islands.

It will be admitted that we want a Government; that if the country is to
be saved from the breakers which now surround it, there must be a
Government; and it devolves upon the House of Commons to rise to the
gravity of the occasion, and to support any man who is conscious of his
responsibility, and who is honestly offering and endeavouring to deliver
the country from the embarrassment in which we now find it. We are at
war, and I shall not say one single sentence with regard to the policy
of the war or its origin, and I know not that I shall say a single
sentence with regard to the conduct of it; but the fact is that we are
at war with the greatest military Power, probably, of the world, and
that we are carrying on our operations at a distance of 3,000 miles from
home, and in the neighbourhood of the strongest fortifications of that
great military Empire. I will not stop to criticise--though it really
invites me--the fact that some who have told us that we were in danger
from the aggressions of that Empire, at the same time told us that that
Empire was powerless for aggression, and also that it was impregnable to
attack. By some means, however, the public have been alarmed as if that
aggressive power were unbounded, and they have been induced to undertake
an expedition, as if the invasion of an impregnable country were a
matter of holiday-making rather than of war.

But we are now in a peculiar position with regard to that war; for, if I
am not mistaken--and I think I gathered as much from the language of the
right hon. Gentleman--at this very moment terms have been agreed upon--
agreed upon by the Cabinet of Lord Aberdeen; consented to by the noble
Lord the Member for Tiverton when he was in that Cabinet; and ratified
and confirmed by him upon the formation of his own Government--and that
those terms are now specifically known and understood; and that they
have been offered to the Government with which this country is at war,
and in conjunction with France and Austria--one, certainly, and the
other supposed to be, an ally of this country. Now, those terms consist
of four propositions, which I shall neither describe nor discuss,
because they are known to the House; but three of them are not matters
of dispute; and with regard to the other, I think that the noble Lord
the Member for the City of London stated, upon a recent occasion, that
it was involved in this proposition--that the preponderant power of
Russia in the Black Sea should cease, and that Russia had accepted it
with that interpretation. Therefore, whatever difference arises is
merely as to the mode in which that 'preponderant power' shall be
understood or made to cease. Now, there are some Gentlemen not far from
me--there are men who write in the public press--there are thousands of
persons in the United Kingdom at this moment--and I learn with
astonishment and dismay that there are persons even in that grave
assembly which we are not allowed to specify by a name in this House--
who have entertained dreams--impracticable theories--expectations of
vast European and Asiatic changes, of revived nationalities, and of a
new map of Europe, if not of the world, as a result or an object of this
war. And it is from those Gentlemen that we hear continually, addressed
to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, language which I cannot well
understand. They call upon him to act, to carry on the war with vigour,
and to prosecute enterprises which neither his Government nor any other
Government has ever seriously entertained; but I would appeal to those
Gentlemen whether it does not become us--regarding the true interests
and the true honour of the country--if our Government have offered terms
of peace to Russia, not to draw back from those terms, not to cause any
unnecessary delay, not to adopt any subterfuge to prevent those terms
being accepted, not to attempt shuffles of any kind, not to endeavour to
insist upon harder terms, and thus make the approach of peace even still
more distant than it is at present?

Whatever may be said about the honour of the country in any other
relation involved in this affair, this, at least, I expect every man who
hears me to admit--that if terms of peace have been offered they have
been offered in good faith, and shall be in honour and good faith
adhered to; so that if, unfortunately for Europe and humanity, there
should be any failure at Vienna, no man should point to the English
Government and to the authorities and rulers of this Christian country,
and say that we have prolonged the war and the infinite calamities of
which it is the cause.

I have said that I was anxious that the Government of the noble Lord
should not be overthrown. Will the House allow me to say why I am so?
The noble Lord at the head of the Government has long been a great
authority with many persons in this country upon foreign policy. His
late colleague, and present envoy to Vienna, has long been a great
authority with a large portion of the people of this country upon almost
all political questions. With the exception of that unhappy selection of
an ambassador at Constantinople, I hold that there are no men in this
country more truly responsible for our present position in this war than
the noble Lord who now fills the highest office in the State and the
noble Lord who is now, I trust, rapidly approaching the scene of his
labours in Vienna. I do not say this now to throw blame upon those noble
Lords, because their policy, which I hold to be wrong, they, without
doubt, as firmly believe to be right; but I am only stating facts. It
has been their policy that they have entered into war for certain
objects, and I am sure that neither the noble Lord at the head of the
Government nor his late colleague the noble Lord the Member for London
will shrink from the responsibility which attaches to them. Well, Sir,
now we have those noble Lords in a position which is, in my humble
opinion, favourable to the termination of the troubles which exist. I
think that the noble Lord at the head of the Government himself would
have more influence in stilling whatever may exist of clamour in this
country than any other Member of this House. I think, also, that the
noble Lord the Member for London would not have undertaken the mission
to Vienna if he had not entertained some strong belief that, by so
doing, he might bring the war to an end. Nobody gains reputation by a
failure in negotiation, and as that noble Lord is well acquainted with
the whole question from beginning to end, I entertain a hope--I will not
say a sanguine hope--that the result of that mission to Vienna will be
to bring about a peace, to extricate this country from some of those
difficulties inseparable from a state of war.

There is one subject upon which I should like to put a question to the
noble Lord at the head of the Government. I shall not say one word here
about the state of the army in the Crimea, or one word about its numbers
or its condition. Every Member of this House, every inhabitant of this
country, has been sufficiently harrowed with details regarding it. To my
solemn belief, thousands--nay, scores of thousands of persons--have
retired to rest, night after night, whose slumbers have been disturbed
or whose dreams have been based upon the sufferings and agonies of our
soldiers in the Crimea. I should like to ask the noble Lord at the head
of the Government--although I am not sure if he will feel that he can or
ought to answer the question--whether the noble Lord the Member for
London has power, after discussions have commenced, and as soon as there
shall be established good grounds for believing that the negotiations
for peace will prove successful, to enter into any armistice? ['No!

I know not, Sir, who it is that says 'No, no,' but I should like to see
any man get up and say that the destruction of 200,000 human lives lost
on all sides during the course of this unhappy conflict is not a
sufficient sacrifice. You are not pretending to conquer territory--you
are not pretending to hold fortified or unfortified towns; you have
offered terms of peace which, as I understand them, I do not say are not
moderate; and breathes there a man in this House or in this country
whose appetite for blood is so insatiable that, even when terms of peace
have been offered and accepted, he pines for that assault in which of
Russian, Turk, French and English, as sure as one man dies, 20,000
corpses will strew the streets of Sebastopol? I say I should like to ask
the noble Lord--and I am sure that he will feel, and that this House
will feel, that I am speaking in no unfriendly manner towards the
Government of which he is at the head--I should like to know, and I
venture to hope that it is so, if the noble Lord the Member for London
has power, at the earliest stage of these proceedings at Vienna, at
which it can properly be done--and I should think that it might
properly be done at a very early stage--to adopt a course by which all
further waste of human life may be put an end to, and further animosity
between three great nations be, as far as possible, prevented?

I appeal to the noble Lord at the head of the Government and to this
House; I am not now complaining of the war--I am not now complaining of
the terms of peace, nor, indeed, of anything that has been done--but I
wish to suggest to this House what, I believe, thousands and tens of
thousands of the most educated and of the most Christian portion of the
people of this country are feeling upon this subject, although, indeed,
in the midst of a certain clamour in the country, they do not give
public expression to their feelings. Your country is not in an
advantageous state at this moment; from one end of the kingdom to the
other there is a general collapse of industry. Those Members of this
House not intimately acquainted with the trade and commerce of the
country do not fully comprehend our position as to the diminution of
employment and the lessening of wages. An increase in the cost of living
is finding its way to the homes and hearts of a vast number of the
labouring population.

At the same time there is growing up--and, notwithstanding what some
hon. Members of this House may think of me, no man regrets it more than
I do--a bitter and angry feeling against that class which has for a long
period conducted the public affairs of this country. I like political
changes when such changes are made as the result, not of passion, but of
deliberation and reason. Changes so made are safe, but changes made
under the influence of violent exaggeration, or of the violent passions
of public meetings, are not changes usually approved by this House or
advantageous to the country. I cannot but notice, in speaking to
Gentlemen who sit on either side of this House, or in speaking to any
one I meet between this House and any of those localities we frequent
when this House is up--I cannot, I say, but notice that an uneasy
feeling exists as to the news which may arrive by the very next mail
from the East. I do not suppose that your troops are to be beaten in
actual conflict with the foe, or that they will be driven into the sea;
but I am certain that many homes in England in which there now exists a
fond hope that the distant one may return--many such homes may be
rendered desolate when the next mail shall arrive. The Angel of Death
has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of
his wings. There is no one, as when the first-born were slain of old, to
sprinkle with blood the lintel and the two sideposts of our doors, that
he may spare and pass on; he takes his victims from the castle of the
noble, the mansion of the wealthy, and the cottage of the poor and the
lowly, and it is on behalf of all these classes that I make this solemn

I tell the noble Lord, that if he be ready honestly and frankly to
endeavour, by the negotiations about to be opened at Vienna, to put an
end to this war, no word of mine, no vote of mine, will be given to
shake his power for one single moment, or to change his position in this
House. I am sure that the noble Lord is not inaccessible to appeals made
to him from honest motives and with no unfriendly feeling. The noble
Lord has been for more than forty years a Member of this House. Before I
was born, he sat upon the Treasury bench, and he has spent his life in
the service of his country. He is no longer young, and his life has
extended almost to the term allotted to man. I would ask, I would
entreat the noble Lord to take a course which, when he looks back upon
his whole political career--whatever he may therein find to be pleased
with, whatever to regret--cannot but be a source of gratification to
him. By adopting that course he would have the satisfaction of
reflecting that, having obtained the object of his laudable ambition--
having become the foremost subject of the Crown, the director of, it may
be, the destinies of his country, and the presiding genius in her
councils--he had achieved a still higher and nobler ambition: that he
had returned the sword to the scabbard--that at his word torrents of
blood had ceased to flow--that he had restored tranquillity to Europe,
and saved this country from the indescribable calamities of war.

* * * * *





_From Hansard_.

[On May 22 Mr. Disraeli moved, 'That this House cannot adjourn for the
Recess without expressing its dissatisfaction with the ambiguous
language and uncertain conduct of Her Majesty's Government in reference
to the great question of peace or war, and that, under these
circumstances, the House feels it a duty to declare that it will
continue to give every support to Her Majesty in the prosecution of the
war, until Her Majesty shall, in conjunction with her allies, obtain for
the country a safe and honourable peace.' This was met by an amendment
from Sir Francis Baring, 'That this House, having seen with regret that
the Conferences at Vienna have not led to a termination of hostilities,
feels it to be a duty to declare that it will continue to give every
support to Her Majesty in the prosecution of the war until Her Majesty
shall, in conjunction with her allies, obtain for this country a safe
and honourable peace.' Mr. Disraeli's resolution was rejected by 319
votes to 219. Sir F. Baring's motion having become substantive, was met
by an amendment of Mr. Lowe, to the effect, 'That this House having seen
with regret, owing to the refusal of Russia to restrict the strength of
her navy in the Black Sea, that the Conferences at Vienna have not led
to a termination of hostilities, feels it to be a duty to declare that
the means of coming to an agreement on the third basis of negotiation
being by that refusal exhausted, it will continue,' &c. Mr. Lowe's
amendment was negatived and Sir F. Baring's motion carried without a
division on June 8.]

Last year, when the declaration of war was brought down to the House, I
took the opportunity of addressing the House in opposition to the policy
of the Government of that day. I was told I was too late; and it has
been also said repeatedly in this debate that those who take the views
which I take are too late on this occasion. It seems to be one of the
consequences of the, I would say, irresponsible system of diplomacy in
this country with regard to foreign affairs, that we are never allowed
to discuss a mischief when it is growing, but only when it is completed,
and when no remedy can be applied. And now we are at liberty to discuss
the conduct of the Government in the Conferences at Vienna; and, though
we were repeatedly told from the Treasury bench that it might be
injurious to the public service to discuss what was going on till the
affair was concluded, I suspect the House has come to the conclusion
that we have been pursuing our true duty to the country in the debate
that has taken place.

We are indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for
Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) for having placed his notice on the table
of the House, and not less to my right hon. Friend and Colleague that
he, before the recess, moved the adjournment of the debate. I am
satisfied myself that the people of this country have no intention to go
wrong either in home or foreign affairs, and it requires only that
questions of this nature should be frequently discussed by the
intelligent men of which this House is composed to set before them the
true state of affairs, and to bring them to a wise opinion with regard
to the policy which is being pursued. Now, we are not discussing the
policy of the war--that is, of the origin of the war. If we were, I
should lay claim to some degree of foresight in the opinion which I
expressed a year ago, for there seems to be a general feeling that the
sacrifices that have already been made are somewhat greater than the
results that have been obtained. I am anxious, in the observations I may
have to address to the House, to impress my opinions on them, if it be
possible to do so, and to lay before my countrymen out of the House that
which I believe involves their true interests with regard to this
question. It is necessary, therefore, to have a basis for our
discussion--to fix what were the objects of the war--to ascertain, if
that be possible, whether those objects have been secured and
accomplished--and whether there can be anything in prospect which we are
likely to gain that will justify the Government and the House in
proceeding further with the war.

Now, in my observations I am not about to carry on this discussion with
the Gentlemen below me, who are interested in a question which is not
the question before the House. They are interested in some vast, and, as
it seems to me, imaginary scheme that would involve Europe in protracted
and widely-extended hostilities; and I think that, so far as the House
is concerned in discussing the question with the Government, these
Gentlemen are almost, if not altogether, out of court. It appears to me,
if they were logical in their course, finding that the objects of the
Government and the objects of the Government of France were entirely
different from those which they have at heart, and believing, as they
do, that the objects of the allied Governments are not worth a war, that
they ought rather to join us on this bench, and, instead of there being
one Peace bench in the House, there would be two Peace benches, and the
Peace party would clearly gain a considerable accession of strength. The
noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies has stated over and
over again--and, amid the confusion of statements which he and his
Colleagues have made, I think he will not find fault if I assume that
the object of the war is simply the security of the Turkish territory
from the grasp of Russia, and probably from the grasp of any other
Power--the noble Lord has stated that he apprehends that if Russia were
to extend her empire by the possession of Turkey, it would give her a
power that would be unsafe with regard to the other nations of Europe.
When the noble Lord speaks in that vague, and, if I were not speaking of
a man so eminent, I should say, absurd language of the liberties of
Europe and the civilization of the world, I should say he means by that
merely those great objects, so far as they can be conserved by the
conservation of the Turkish territory.

The noble Lord tells us--we are now getting out of some of the
mystifications--that he has no kind of sympathy that would lead him into
war for the oppressed nationalities of Europe. The noble Lord the Member
for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) a few nights ago turned the cold
shoulder to the people of Hungary. He said he thought there could be no
greater calamity to Europe than that Hungary should be separated from
the Austrian Empire. Well, then, we have got rid of Hungary; and, next,
the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell)
tells us it is quite a mistake to suppose that he ever intended to go to
war for Poland. In fact, he stated--what will be very disheartening to
hon. Gentlemen below me--that he never supposed we were going to war for
such a Quixotic object; that the case of Poland is one that is hopeless,
and therefore it would be madness in England and France--not
indiscretion--not a doubtful undertaking--but positive madness in
England and France to take any part in promoting resistance in that

Having now got rid of Hungary and Poland, we only require that some
Member of the Cabinet should get up later in the evening--and that I
have no doubt will be the case--to state that it is utterly impossible
for this country to involve itself in hostilities with a view to the
regeneration of any part of Italy. The noble Lord the Member for London
tells us we are not going to war for the sake of conquest; and that, I
think, is a matter which ought to be kept in mind by hon. Gentlemen who
are urging the Government on to a prolonged war. He stated on Tuesday
night, 'Be it always remembered that we are seeking no object of our
own;'--it would be a very odd thing if we were to go to war for the
objects of somebody else--'that we are seeking no object of our own;
that when peace is concluded we shall not have acquired one ell of new
territory, or secured any advantage whatever for ourselves. It is for
Turkey and the general system of Europe that we are struggling.' In
fact, the whole matter always resolves itself into some general
mystification, and at this moment we are, every man of us, almost
entirely in the dark as to what are the ultimate objects of the war.

One other point that I ought to mention is the question of crippling and
humbling Russia. I am, of course, willing to admit that when people go
to war they are not expected to be very nice in their treatment of each
other, and, if the taking of Sebastopol be an object of those who are in
favour of the war, to take Sebastopol they will inflict any injury they
can upon Russia. But the noble Lord told us last year that he still
intended to leave Russia a great empire. I thought that exceedingly
considerate of the noble Lord, and I understand--I think it has been
stated in the public papers--that it is considered at St. Petersburg a
great condescension on the part of so eminent a statesman. Well, then,
if we are not going to war for nationalities, nor for conquest, nor for
any such crippling of Russia as would be effected by her dismemberment,
we come to this simple question--in the condition in which Turkey has
long existed, what are the means by which the security of Turkey can be
best guaranteed? No man asserts that the security of Turkey can be
absolute, but that it must be partial and conditional. As it is well to
have high authority for these statements, I have here an extract from a
speech made by Lord Clarendon a few nights ago on the Resolution moved
by Lord Grey. The noble Lord then stated:--

'My noble Friend says, and says truly, that the attainment of all
this would offer no security to Turkey. The value of a treaty
must always depend upon the spirit in which it is agreed to, and
the good faith with which it is entered into. No treaty can make
a weak Power like Turkey perfectly safe against a powerful
neighbour immediately in contact with her, if that neighbour is
determined to act the aggressive towards her.'--[3
_Hansard_, cxxxviii. 1152.]

Thus Lord Clarendon admits, what is perfectly obvious to the common
sense of all who have heard anything of Russia or Turkey, except from
the lips of the Prime Minister, that what we are seeking to obtain is
not an absolute security for Turkey, but a conditional security, such as
her circumstances, her population, her government, and geographical
position render attainable by her friends and allies. We have now been
fourteen months at war, and two Cabinets--the Cabinets of Lord Aberdeen
and of the present First Minister--I might say four Cabinets, for the
Cabinets of France and Austria must have agreed to the same thing--have
agreed to certain terms, and have offered them to Russia. They have been
accepted as the basis of negotiations, conferences have been opened, and
certain proceedings towards a settlement have taken place; and now I
should like to know whether the terms which were offered were offered in
earnest. Judging of the Cabinet of Lord Aberdeen by the conduct of some
of its Members, and especially of Lord Aberdeen himself, I am certain
that they were sincere in the terms they offered. But the _Times_
newspaper, which now in its many changes has become the organ and great
stimulant of the present Cabinet, expresses its astonishment that any
person should think that peace was intended by the Conferences at
Vienna. The _Times_ states that the object of the Conferences was
not to bring about a peace, but to shame Austria into becoming a
faithful and warlike ally.

Now, when the noble Lord the Member for London was sent to Vienna to
negotiate, I confess I was one of those who formed the opinion that the
noble Lord, amid the many eccentricities of his career, would not have
undertaken that mission unless he himself had been honest with regard to
the terms to be offered, and anxious, if possible, to consolidate a
peace. There were, however, certain persons--malicious people, of
course--who found out that it would be convenient to the First Minister
to have the noble Lord at a distance, at least for a time. But I never
adopted that idea. I did not believe that the noble Lord's journey to
Vienna, with a retinue that required him to occupy no less than thirty-
two rooms in one hotel, would have been undertaken unless the noble Lord
considered that the object was a reality, on which the interests of the
country and of Europe depended. I think he would have been the last man
in the country to lend himself to such a miserable hoax as going to
Vienna, not to make peace, but to shame Austria into becoming a faithful
and warlike ally. I assume, therefore, that terms were sincerely
offered, and that those terms gave guarantees which were sufficient, and
a security which was as ample as the circumstances admitted for the
integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire. It is from that
starting-point that I would discuss this question.

There are hon. Members in this House who think that even if those terms
were obtained they would still be in no degree a compensation for the
enormous sacrifices which the country has made. I happen to hold the
same opinion, and it was with that conviction that I protested against
going into the war. Indeed, I think that the argument I used a year ago,
that nothing to be obtained in the war could at all approach a
compensation for the enormous sacrifices the country would be called
upon to make, has been greatly strengthened. Well, Sir, the terms
offered are called 'bases:' from which one understands, not that they
are everything, but that they are something capable of what diplomatists
call 'development.' I recollect a question asked of a child at school,
in one of those lessons called 'object lessons,' 'What is the basis of a
batter pudding?' It was obvious that flour was the basis, but the eggs
and the butter and the rest were developments and additions. But if the
bases are capable of development, so I take it for granted that the
meaning of negotiation is not the offering of an _ultimatum_, but
the word involves to every man's sense the probability of concession--
butter, it may be--but concession of one sort or another.

I will not go through all the Four Points, because the attention of the
House ought really to be centred upon the third article and the matters
connected with it. The House must remember that this article involves
two most important subjects--first, the territorial guarantee, which if
it were sufficiently secured would be everything the House and the
country required from the war--namely, that the territories of Turkey
shall never be molested, so long as the treaty shall continue, by any of
the great Powers who are parties to such treaty; and, secondly, that the
preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea shall cease. Now, the
territorial guarantee was granted without difficulty. [An hon. Member:
'No.'] Well, no difficulty was made about the territorial guarantee but
this:--Prince Gortchakoff said, very wisely, that he would not enter
into an absolute pledge to go to war in case of any infraction of the
treaty, and the noble Lord who said 'No' will find, when he has examined
the question a little more closely, that it does not make the slightest
difference as to the actual results of a treaty whether a Power
guarantees in the mode proposed by Russia, or in the manner proposed by
the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, because, when an
infraction of a treaty occurs, the power of judging whether any of the
Governments who are parties to such treaty should go to war or not, is
left with each individual Government. If, for example, France stretched
her dominions westward towards Morocco, or eastward towards Tunis or
Tripoli, it would, of course, have been the duty, and would have been in
the power of Russia, even had she accepted the exact terms proposed by
the allies, to judge for herself whether a case had arisen which
required her to go to war, or which justified her in doing so.

Such a case arose very lately with reference to Schleswig-Holstein. We
were bound, under an ancient treaty, to go to war in the event of the
infraction of certain treaties affecting Schleswig-Holstein; but when
this case occurred the subject was considered by the Government, the
noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) being at the time, I believe, Foreign
Secretary--who most wisely and properly, not only for this country, but
for the interests of Schleswig-Holstein and of Europe, declined to act
upon what was represented to be the strict letter of the treaty, and
England did not engage in war in consequence of the disputes which then
took place. I must say that what seems to me as the most statesmanlike
and elevated declaration in the protocols is the statement of Prince
Gortchakoff, that the blood of Russia is the property of Russia, and
that he will not pledge himself that years hence--it may be even a
century hence--the blood of Russia shall be shed in a cause which, when
the time arrives, may be one which would be altogether unworthy of such
a sacrifice.

With respect to the question of the Christian protectorate, the House
will probably recollect that it was represented over and over again by
Ministers in this House--it was stated in the speeches of Lord Clarendon
in another place--that the proposition of Russia, as conveyed in the
Menchikoff note, was intended to transfer the virtual sovereignty of
10,000,000 or 12,000,000 of Ottoman subjects to the Czar. If that were
so, the Menchikoff note and all the old protectorate treaties being
abolished, surely the House will consider whether the combination of the
three propositions--the territorial guarantees, the Christian
protectorate, and the Black Sea project--do not give such securities to
Turkey as the condition of Turkey will permit. Now the preponderance of
Russia in the Black Sea, as I think my hon. Friend the Member for the
West Riding (Mr. Cobden) showed very clearly the other evening, is in a
certain sense a fact which all the negotiations in the world cannot
write off. I see that one of the public journals this morning,
commenting upon my hon. Friend's speech, says, 'Yes, truly, the
commercial preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea is a fact which
cannot be denied;' and then proceeds to argue that it does not follow
that Russia should have a political and naval preponderance. But I do
not know any case in which there is a commercial supremacy in a sea like
the Black Sea that is not followed by a preponderance of every other
kind. The question now is, however, how is that preponderance to cease?

The noble Lord the Member for the City of London referred the other
night to a proposition made by the French Government, but which, I
think, does not appear at all distinctly in the protocols, with regard
to making the Black Sea a neutral sea. I conceive that was so monstrous
a proposition, in the present condition of Europe, that I am surprised
it should have been entertained for a moment by any sensible man. I
supposed it was found so utterly indefensible that it does not appear as
a distinct proposition in the protocols. This proposal of making the
Black Sea a neutral sea gave place to another project, and it appears to
me very like asking Russia, voluntarily or by compulsion, to perform the
operation of amputation upon herself. I maintain that the third article
as offered to Russia in December last could not mean what the noble Lord
offered to Russia at Vienna, because the cessation of preponderance does
not mean the transfer of preponderance, but rather the establishment of
an equilibrium--not the destruction of an equilibrium and the
establishment of preponderance on the other side.

Some hon. Gentlemen talk as if Russia were a Power which you could take
to Bow Street, and bind over before some stipendiary magistrate to keep
the peace for six months. Russia is a great Power, as England is, and in
treating with her you must consider that the Russian Government has to
consult its own dignity, its own interests, and public opinion, just as
much at least as the Government of this country. Now, what was the
proposition of this third article? The proposal was, that Russia should
have eight ships; but what was the proposition with regard to her
present antagonists? That Turkey should also have eight ships, that
France should have four, and that England should have four; and I
believe that in a preceding protocol, which has not been alluded to in
this debate, it is proposed that the contracting Powers should have two
ships each at the mouth of the Danube, so that if these terms had been
agreed upon, Russia would have had eight ships in the Black Sea, while
Turkey, France, and England would have had twenty. Now, that is not a
mere cessation of a preponderance; it is not the establishment of an
equilibrium; it is a transfer of the supremacy of the Black Sea from
that country which, if any country should be supreme there, has the best
claim--namely, Russia. Besides this, however, Turkey would have had
whatever ships she liked in the Bosphorus, and the allies would also
have had as many ships as they chose in the Mediterranean and the

Now, let us for a moment consider the offer with which Russia met this
proposal. The first proposition was that of the open Straits, which is
disapproved by the hon. Baronet opposite. I am not about to say that
this proposition should have been accepted in preference to the other,
but I think it is the true interest of Europe, and also of Turkey
itself, that the Straits should be thrown open. At any rate, it must be
admitted that the preponderance of Russia, in the sense in which we now
understand it, would be absolutely destroyed if the Straits were thrown
open. Russia made a proposition which appears to me to be highly
satisfactory--that such regulations should be made by the Sultan and his
Government with regard to the position and duration of the anchorages of
ships between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea as would preclude the
possibility, so far as there were means of doing so, of any
inconvenience or danger to Constantinople from the opening of the
Straits. If that had been agreed to, all nations would have been
entitled to the passage of the Straits, and I believe that all nations
would equally have respected the privilege thus granted to them. Now,
suppose these Straits, instead of being one mile wide, had been ten
miles wide, what difference would it make to Turkey? If the Straits were
ten miles wide they would be open. Turkey would have no right to close
them, and European nations would not permit her to pretend to, or to
exercise, any such power; but Constantinople would be no more secure
then than it would be now with the Straits open, whether they were ten
miles wide or one mile wide. If the Straits were open, the consequences
to Constantinople and to Turkey appear to me to be precisely the same.
Turkey would be equally safe; Turkey would be equally menaced. Our
fleets would visit the Black Sea in the course of the season, and the
Russian Black Sea fleet, if it chose, would visit the Mediterranean.
There would be no sort of pretence for wrangling about the Straits; and
the balance of power--if I may use the term--between the fleets of
Russia, France, and England, would be probably the best guarantee that
could be offered for the security of Constantinople and Turkey, so far
as they are in danger of aggression either from the Black Sea or the

But it is said, the Sultan's sovereignty would be menaced--that he has
an undoubted right to close the Straits. I doubt whether that right will
be very long maintained; but if it be maintained, and if you are to
reject any proposition which interferes with the Sultan's sovereignty, I
ask you whether the sovereignty of the Czar is not as dear to him? and
whether, if, in negotiations of this kind, you can find any mode of
attaining your object without inflicting injury upon either the
sovereignty of the Sultan or the Czar, it would not be much more
statesmanlike to adopt it, and so to frame your treaties that neither
should feel that it was subjected to an indignity, and therefore seek to
violate such treaties at the first opportunity? Well, but the second
proposition, which I think the hon. Baronet approved, and which I think
the noble Lord proposed, was, that the Sultan should open the Straits at
will. I ask the House whether that proposition, if accepted, would not
imply that the Sultan could have no other enemy than Russia?--which I
think is doubtful. If the Black Sea were open to the West, and the
Mediterranean closed to the East, surely that is assuming that the
Sultan could have no enemy but Russia. The Sultan could close the
Straits to Russia, but the Western Powers could always proceed to the
Black Sea. The French plan, in my opinion, exposed Turkey far more to
the West than the Russian plan exposed her to the East. Nothing can be
more short-sighted than the notion which the noble Lord the Member for
London started at the conferences, that Turkey could have no enemy but
Russia. In fact, everybody there seemed to be on exceedingly good terms
with himself. The Austrian Minister said nobody would suspect Austria--
no one could be suspected but Russia. But our experience for many years
will tell us that there has been just as much menace from the West as
from the East--the rapacity of the West is not less perceptible than
that of the East. ['Hear.'] Some one expresses a sentiment in opposition
--it is a gentleman who has never read the Blue Books--he does not know
that almost the whole of this business began in a threat of the most
audacious and insulting character from the Ambassador of France--a
threat to order up the French fleet to the Dardanelles, and further to
land an expedition in Syria to take possession of Jerusalem and the
whole of the Holy Places. Do you mean to tell me, you and the noble Lord
himself, who tried to frighten the country with the notion of the French
fleet coming to invade England, that the fleet which three years ago
threatened England, and more recently threatened the Dardanelles, has
for ever abandoned rapacious desires, and that therefore there will
never again be a menace against Turkey from France?

I understand, however, there is a very different opinion prevalent upon
the southern shores of the Mediterranean. The Emperor of Morocco, a
potentate somewhat allied to this country, as I am told his empress is
an Irish lady--the Emperor of Morocco, who is not very well versed in
what is going on in this House, has been making inquiries of the most
anxious character as to whether the particular guarantee which the noble
Lord was going to enter into included the territory of Morocco; and I
understand he has not been able to find it out from the most assiduous
study of the Gibraltar newspapers. It so happens that the Governor of
Gibraltar--the noble Lord at the head of the Government corrected me the
other night when I called him an irrational man--has issued an ordinance
by which he has entirely suppressed the newspaper press in that town and

Now we come to the question, which of the propositions would be most
secure? I was very much struck by an observation which fell from my hon.
Colleague (Mr. M. Gibson) in the course of his speech the other night--a
point I think very worthy of the attention of the House and of the
Government; he said the limitation plan was one which must depend for
its efficacy on the will and fidelity of Russia. I am not one of those
who believe Russia to be the treacherous and felonious Power which she
is described to be by the press of this country, as she is described by
the noble Lord to be. I believe the right hon. Baronet the Member for
Southwark gave her the same character. Although Russia may not be more
treacherous than other Powers, when you are making a bargain with her,
it is better you should make the efficacy of the terms depend more on
your own vigilance than on her good faith. The noble Lord the Member for
London has admitted that the limitation plan is, after all, an
inefficient one. He said that Russia might get another ship--perhaps
three or four--and when she had doubled the navy permitted to her,
perhaps the noble Lord would be writing despatches about it, although I
am not sure he would do that. I think it would be holding out a
temptation to buy Mr. Scott Russell's great ship as one of the eight
ships she is to be allowed to keep by the treaty.

My hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding remarked that Russia might
purchase vessels of large size from the United States, and still keep
within the prescribed limit; but if this great ship, now building in the
Thames, should succeed, as I hope she will, Russia might buy her and
send her into the Black Sea. Somebody says she could not go there
without passing the Straits, but, as she is built for mercantile
purposes, that monster vessel might freely be taken up, and then form
one of the eight ships allowed to Russia. Another proposition has been
alluded to by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay)--that
pointed out by the Russian Plenipotentiary--that Russia and Turkey
should enter into a friendly treaty between themselves and arrange that
point; but the other diplomatists would not allow it, unless it were
done under the eyes of the conference and bearing the same features of
force and compulsion as their proposal of the limitation possessed. I
was astonished to hear the hon. Baronet, as I understood him, say that,
even although it could be shown that the Russian propositions were
better than our own, he thought the proposition which bore on its face
coercion of Russia was most desirable. A more unstatesman-like and
immoral view upon a great question between nations I have rarely heard
of. [Sir William Clay rose, and was understood to deny the sentiments
imputed to him by the hon. Member.] I understood my hon. Friend so.
Perhaps he did not mean what I thought he did mean, but that was the
conclusion I came to from his argument, and I do not think he will say I
entirely misrepresented him. It has, however, been said by the press
that, whether we were sincere or not at the conference, Russia was not.
Hon. Gentlemen have read in the _Times_ and other papers blowing
the flames of war, that from first to last Russia was treacherous and
insincere. I would put it to the noble Lord the Member for London
whether he can say that was the case, for I observe he said, in his
speech in this House on the 23rd of January last, in answer to a
question from the hon. Member for Aylesbury, or some other Member--

'My hon. Friend will see that by that act the Russian
Plenipotentiary accepted this interpretation as the basis of
negotiation, of course reserving to himself the power, when this
basis shall have been laid down in a definite article, of making
any observations on the part of his Government which he should
think proper.'--[3 _Hansard_ cxxxvi. 911]

Of course the Russian Plenipotentiary, when he accepted it, did so upon
the understanding that it was the basis of negotiation and discussion,
as no one will deny it was a question capable of being solved in more
ways than one, and it was no indication of insincerity for him to refuse
the precise mode proposed by the Plenipotentiary for England. With
regard to the terms proposed, I should like to read to the House a
statement I have on very good authority as to the language which Prince
Gortchakoff held at Vienna. The statement I have is not to be found in
the protocols, but I believe it may be relied upon as the precise words
he used. The noble Lord insisted, as I understand, that it was no
indignity to ask Russia to limit the number of her ships in the Black
Sea; but I would submit it is precisely the same in principle as if she
were asked to limit the amount of her force in the Crimea to four or six
regiments. Prince Gortchakoff said--

'To ask from an independent Power that it should limit its force,
is to assail its rights of sovereignty on its own territory. It
is with a bad grace that they would sustain the rights of the
Sultan and wish to attack those of the Emperor of Russia. The
proposition to render the Black Sea inaccessible to vessels of
war of all nations is so strange (_si bizarre_) that one is
astonished to see the fate of nations confided to men such as
those who have conceived it. How could it be believed that Russia
would consent to give herself up disarmed at the good pleasure of
the Napoleons and the Palmerstons, who will be able themselves to
have armed forces in the Mediterranean?'

There was no answer to that. If any diplomatist from this country, under
the same circumstances as Russia was placed in, had consented to terms
such as the noble Lord had endeavoured to force upon Russia--I say, that
if he entered the door of this House, he would be met by one universal
shout of execration, and, as a public man, would be ruined for ever.

I wish to ask the House this question--whether it has deliberately made
up its mind that this was a proposition which ought to have been imposed
upon Russia? If they have ascertained which is the best--and I rather
think the general opinion is that the proposition of the Government is
the worst; but, assuming that it is not so, and that there may be some
little difference--I want to know what that difference is, and if there
is any difference which can be measured even by the finest diplomatic
and statesmanlike instrument ever invented, I ask, is that difference
worth to this country the incalculable calamities which a prolonged war
must bring upon us? I am of opinion that, with the territorial guarantee
and the abolition of the Christian protectorate, either the terms
proposed by the noble Lord or by Prince Gortchakoff would have been as
secure for Turkey as it is possible under existing circumstances for
Turkey to be by any treaty between the great Powers of Europe. And,
recollect that we have been thrown a little off the original
proposition, for when that proposition was first agreed to in the
Cabinet of Lord Aberdeen I am satisfied in my own mind that it meant
something very like that which the Russians themselves have proposed.

If we take this first protocol of the conference, and look to the speech
made by Count Buol and to the proposition he made, you will find the
third article runs in this language: 'The treaty of July 13, 1841, shall
be revised with the double object,' and so on. But what is the meaning
of revising the treaty of 1841? The treaty has only one object, which is
to guarantee to the Turk the right he has claimed since his possession
of Constantinople--namely, that the Straits should be closed under the
guarantee of the Powers, except in case of war. Therefore, when the
Aberdeen Government, of which the noble Lords were Members, originally
agreed upon these terms, their object was that the Black Sea should be
thrown open, or, at least, that the closing of the Straits should be
relaxed; and I presume that it was not until after it was known that,
while Russia had no objection to the opening of the Straits, Turkey was
very much opposed to it, that it was found necessary to change the terms
and bring them forward in another form. But, surely, if this be so, the
House and the Government should be chary indeed of carrying on a
prolonged war with Russia, Russia having been willing to accept a
proposition made originally by us, and which I believe to be the best
for Turkey and for the interests of Europe. If, I say, this be so, was
the Government justified in breaking off these negotiations, because
that really is the issue which this House is called upon to try? Can
they obtain better terms? If the terms are sufficient for Turkey they
ought not to ask for better ones. I do not say they may not get better
terms. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding (Mr.
Cobden), that England and France, if they choose to sacrifice 500,000
men, and to throw away 200,000,000_l_. or 300,000,000_l_. of
treasure, may dismember the Russian Empire. But I doubt whether this
would give better terms for Turkey--I am sure it would not give better
terms for England and France. Now, what has it cost to obtain all this?

And here I must be permitted to say one word with regard to the course
taken by those right hon. Gentlemen who have recently taken their seats
on this bench, and whose conduct on this question has been the cause of
great debate, and of language which I think the state of the case has
not wholly justified. I presume it will be admitted that these right
hon. Gentlemen at least know the object of the war as well as any other
men in this House. I presume, too, that, entertaining as they do a very
serious idea of the results of a prolonged war, they are at liberty to
come to the conclusion that certain terms, to which they themselves were
parties, are sufficient; and if this be the conviction at which they
have arrived, surely no Member of this House will say that, because they
were Members of a Cabinet some time ago which went into this war,
therefore they should be forbidden to endeavour to avert the
incalculable calamities which threaten their country, but should be
expected to maintain a show of consistency, for which they must
sacrifice everything that an honest man would hold dear. Have these men
gained anything in popularity with the country, or even with the Members
of this House, by the course they have taken?

I am almost ashamed to say anything in the defence of those who are so
capable of explaining and defending their own conduct in this matter;
but I may be pardoned if I rejoice that men ranking high as statesmen,
powerful by their oratory, distinguished by their long services, have
separated themselves from that rash, that inexcusable recklessness
which, I say, marks the present Government, and are anxious to deliver
their country from the dangers which surround it. My hon. Friends below
me--and I am quite sure not one of them will suppose that I speak from
the mere wish to oppose them in any way; they are personal friends of
mine, and it pains me now to differ from them; but hon. Members seem to
think, when they are looking a long way off for the objects to be gained
by war, that a man who looks at home is not a friend to his country. Is
war the only thing a nation enters upon in which the cost is never to be
reckoned? Is it nothing that in twelve months you have sacrificed 20,000
or 30,000 men, who a year ago were your own fellow-citizens, living in
your midst, and interested, as you are, in all the social and political
occurrences of the day? Is it nothing that, in addition to those lives,
a sum of--I am almost afraid to say how much, but 30,000,000_l_. or
40,000,000_l_. will not be beyond the mark--has already been
expended? And let the House bear in mind this solemn fact--that the four
nations engaged in this war have already lost so many men, that if you
were to go from Chelsea to Blackwall, and from Highgate and Hampstead to
Norwood, and take every man of a fighting age and put him to death--if
you did this you would not sacrifice a larger number of lives than have
already been sacrificed in these twelve months of war.

Your own troops, as you know, have suffered, during a Crimean winter,
tortures and horrors which the great Florentine hardly imagined when he
wrote his immortal epic. Hon. Members are ready, I know, to say, 'Whose
fault is that?' But if our loss has been less than that of the French,
less than that of the Turks, and less than that of the Russians, it is
fair to assume that, whatever mistakes may have been committed by the
Government, the loss in the aggregate would, even under other
circumstances, have fallen very little short of that which I have
attempted to describe. Are these things to be accounted nothing? We have
had for twelve years past a gradual reduction of taxation, and there has
been an immense improvement in the physical, intellectual, and moral
condition of the people of this country; while for the last two years we
have commenced a career of reimposing taxes, have had to apply for a
loan, and no doubt, if this war goes on, extensive loans are still in

Hon. Members may think this is nothing. They say it is a 'low' view of
the case. But, these things are the foundation of your national
greatness, and of your national duration; and you may be following
visionary phantoms in all parts of the world while your own country is
becoming rotten within, and calamities may be in store for the monarchy
and the nation of which now, it appears, you take no heed. Every man
connected with trade knows how much trade has suffered, how much profits
in every branch of trade--except in contracts arising out of the war--
have diminished, how industry is becoming more precarious and the reward
for industry less, how the price of food is raised, and how much there
is of a growing pressure of all classes, especially upon the poorest of
the people--a pressure which by-and-by--not just now, when the popular
frenzy is lashed into fury morning after morning by the newspapers--
[Murmurs]--but I say by-and-by this discontent will grow rapidly, and
you (pointing to the Ministerial bench) who now fancy you are fulfilling
the behests of the national will, will find yourselves pointed to as the
men who ought to have taught the nation better.

I will not enter into the question of the harvest. That is in the hand
of Providence, and may Providence grant that the harvest may be as
bountiful as it was last year! But the House must recollect that in
1853, only two years ago, there was the worst harvest that had been
known for forty years. Prices were very high in consequence. Last year
the harvest was the greatest ever known, yet prices have been scarcely
lower, and there are not wanting men of great information and of sound
judgment who look with much alarm to what may come--I trust it may not
come--if we should have, in addition to the calamities of war,
calamities arising from a scarcity of food, which may be scarcely less
destructive of the peace and comfort of the population of this country.

I will ask the House in this state of things whether they are disposed
to place implicit confidence in her Majesty's Ministers? On that (the
Opposition) side of the House there is not, I believe, much confidence
in the Government; and on this side I suspect there are many men who are
wishful that at this critical moment the affairs of the country should
be under the guidance of men of greater solidity and of better judgment.
I will now point out one or two causes which I think show that I am
justified in placing no confidence whatever in her Majesty's Government.
Take for example what they have been doing with Austria. The noble Lord
at the head of the Government has stated to us that it was of European
importance that Hungary should be connected with Austria. The noble Lord
the Member for the City of London said the other night it was of
essential importance that Austria should be preserved as she is--a great
conservative Power in the midst of Europe. Well, but at the same time
this Government has been urging Austria, month after month, to enter
into the same ruinous course which they themselves are disposed to
pursue. They know perfectly well that if Austria were to join either
with Russia on the one hand, or with the Western Powers on the other, in
all human probability this great Empire would no longer remain that
'great conservative Power in the midst of Europe,' but would be stripped
on the one side of her Italian provinces, and of Hungary on the other;
or, if not stripped of these two portions of the Empire, would be
plunged into an interminable anarchy which would prove destructive of
her power.

What can be more inconsistent than for Ministers to tell us that they
wish Austria to be preserved, and, at the same time, to urge her upon a
course which they know perfectly well must end in her disruption, and in
the destruction of that which they think essential to the balance of
power in Europe? We are told, with regard to our other alliance, that it
is a very delicate topic. It is a very delicate and a very important
topic; but there is another topic still more delicate and important--
namely, the future of this country with regard to that alliance. I think
we have before now spent 1,000,000,000_l_. sterling, more or less,
for the sake of a French dynasty. At this moment there are French armies
in Rome, in Athens, in Gallipoli, in Constantinople, and in the Crimea,
and the end of all this, I fear, is not yet. It has been repeatedly
stated in this House that the people of France are not themselves
enthusiastic in favour of this war. I would fain hope, whatever else may
happen, that between the people of England and of France an improved and
friendly feeling has grown up. But, as far as the war is concerned, your
alliance depends on one life. The present dynasty may be a permanent,
but it may be an ephemeral one, and I cannot but think that when men are
looking forward to prolonged warfare they should at least take into
consideration the ground on which they are standing.

Lord Clarendon has told us, with regard to Russia, that Europe was
standing on a mine, and did not know it. I do not know that he is much
more acute than other people, but I can fancy that Lord Clarendon, by
the blunders of his negotiations and the alliances he has endeavoured to
form, has placed this country on a mine far more dangerous and
destructive than that upon which he thinks Europe was placed by the
colossal power of Russia. There is another point I have to touch upon.
To me it was really frightful to hear the noble Lord the Member for
London (Lord John Russell) tell the House that we are not lighting for
ourselves, but for Germany. I recollect one passage among many in the
noble Lord's speeches upon this point; and, in looking over what has
been said by Ministers, one really wonders that they should have allowed
anything of the kind to appear in _Hansard_. On the 17th of
February last year the noble Lord said,--

'They (England and France) feel that the cause is one, in the
first place, of the independence of Turkey.... It is to maintain
the independence, not only of Turkey, but of Germany and of all
European nations.'--[3 _Hansard_, cxxx. 906.]

['Hear, hear!'] An hon. Member cheers. What a notion a man must have of
the duties of the 27,000,000 of people living in these islands if he
thinks they ought to come forward as the defenders of the 60,000,000 of
people in Germany, that the blood of England is not the property of the
people of England, and that the sacred treasure of the bravery,
resolution, and unfaltering courage of the people of England is to be
squandered in a contest in which the noble Lord says we have no
interest, for the preservation of the independence of Germany, and of
the integrity, civilization, and something else, of all Europe!

The noble Lord takes a much better view, as I presume many of us do, of
things past than of things present. The noble Lord knows that we once
did go to war for all Europe, but then we went to war with nearly all
Europe, whereas now we are going to war in alliance with France only,
except the little State of Sardinia, which we have cajoled or coerced
into a course which I believe every friend to the freedom of Italy and
to Sardinia will live to regret. All the rest of Europe--Spain,
Portugal, Italy, Austria, Prussia, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark, and
Sweden--take no part in the war, and yet our Ministers have--what I
should call, if I were not in this House, the effrontery and audacity to
get up and tell us that they are fighting the battle of all Europe, and
that all Europe is leagued with us against the colossal power of Russia.
Europe in the last war did, for the most part, unite with us. We went to
Spain because we were called to go by the patriot Spaniards, but I think
the Duke of Wellington has stated, in his despatches, that if he had
known how little assistance would be received from them he would not
have recommended even that expedition.

But now, not only has all Europe not united with you, but other
countries will not even allow their men to fight with you. You pay the
Turks to fight their own battles, you enlist men in Germany to fight the
battles of Germany, and the persons engaged in Switzerland and Hamburg
in enlisting men for you are looked upon with suspicion by the
authorities, and I am not sure that some of them have not even been
taken into custody. Why, then, should you pretend that all Europe is
leagued against Russia, and that you have authority to fight the battles
of all Europe against Russia, when the greater part of Europe is
standing by apathetically wondering at the folly you are committing? I
would appeal to the noble Lord the Member for the Colonies--I beg his
pardon, the Member for London--but he has been in so many different
positions lately that it is extremely difficult to identify him. I would
appeal to the noble Lord, because, however much I differ from him, I
have never yet come to the conclusion that he has not at heart the
interest of his country, that he is not capable of appreciating a fair
argument when it is laid before him, and that he has not some sense of
the responsibility as to the political course he takes, and I would ask
him if there be no other world of kingdoms and of nations but that old
world of Europe with which the noble Lord is so disposed to entangle
this country?

I wish the noble Lord could blot out from his recollection, for a little
time, William III, and all the remembrance of what has been called by
the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) 'the Dutch
conquest,' which is supposed to have enthroned the Whig aristocracy in
this country. I would ask the noble Lord to do this for to-night--for an
hour--for five minutes. There is a country called the United States of
America. Only on Tuesday night the very remarkable circumstance
occurred--and I think the House will be of opinion that it is one worth
notice--of two of those distinguished men being present and listening to
the debates in this House who have occupied the position of President of
the United States; a position, I venture to say, not lower in honour and
dignity than that of any crowned monarch on the surface of the globe.
The United States is precisely the country which is running with us the
race of power and of greatness. Its population will, I believe, at the
next census exceed the population of the United Kingdom; in its
manufactures and general industry it is by far the most formidable rival
that the great manufacturers of this country now have to contend with;
it has, I suppose, ten steamers for one steamer of this country; its
magnificent steamships have crossed the Atlantic in a shorter time than
the steamships of this country; the finest vessels which are at this
moment performing the voyage between England and the Australian colonies
have been built in the United States; therefore, in shipbuilding
industry the United States not only compete with, but in some respects
even excel, this country. Look at our present position and that of the
United States.

May I entreat the attention of this House, for I am not declaiming, I am
not making a party attack, I am treating of that which, in my mind, is
of vital importance to every family in the kingdom. This year the
Chancellor of the Exchequer told you that he must have a sum of
86,000,000_l_. in order to carry on the various departments of your
Government, and to defray your vast military expenditure. The United
States has at this moment in her Treasury enough, I think, to pay off
all her debt. Deduct the whole amount of the expenses of the Government
of the United States, not only of the general Government, but also of
the thirty independent sovereign States, from the 86,000,000_l_. we
are spending, and you will find that at least 70,000,000_l_. will
be left, which is, therefore, the sum of taxation that we are paying
this year more than the people of the United States.

Some hon. Gentlemen know what it is to run a horse that has been
weighted. I heard, the other day, of a horse that won every race in
which it started, up to a certain period when it was for the first time
weighted. It then lost the race, and it is reported in the annals of the
turf that it never won a race afterwards. If that be the case with
regard to a horse, it is much more true with regard to a nation. When a
nation has gone a step backwards it is difficult to restore it to its
position; if another nation has passed it in the race, it is almost
impossible for it to regain the ground it has lost. I now speak
particularly to hon. Members opposite, for there are, perhaps, more
Gentlemen upon that than upon this side of the House in the happy
position of owners of vast, productive, beautiful, and, I hope,
unencumbered estates in the various parts of the kingdom. We are now
about ten days' voyage from the United States, and within ten years we
shall probably communicate with that country by telegraph as quickly as
we now do with the Crimea. I hope it will be for a much better object.
The people of the United States are our people, and there are few
families in England which have not friends and relatives connected with
or settled in that country. The inducements for men to remain at home
and their attachment to the place of their birth are necessarily to some
extent weakened by the facility with which they can now travel almost
round the world in a few weeks.

Do you believe that when the capital of the greatest banking-house in
Lombard street can be transferred to the United States on a small piece
of paper in one post, that the imposition of 70,000,000_l_. of
taxation over and above the taxation of an equal population in the
United States will not have the effect of transferring capital from this
country to the United States, and, if capital, then trade, population,
and all that forms the bone and sinew of this great Empire? I ask hon.
Members to remember what fell on a previous evening from the right hon.
Gentleman the President of the Board of Works. The right hon. Gentleman
talked of the war lasting, perhaps, six years with our resources
undiminished. Now, nothing is easier than for a Cornish Baronet,
possessing I am afraid to say how many thousands a year, a Member of a
Cabinet, or for all those who are surrounded with every comfort, to look
with the utmost complacency upon the calamities which may befall others
not so fortunately situated as themselves. Six years of this war, and
our resources undiminished! Why, Sir, six years of this war, at an
annual expenditure of 70,000,000_l_., give 420,000,000_l_. to
the side of the United States as against the condition of the people of
this country.

Am I, then, talking of trifles? Am I talking to sane men, that it is
necessary to bring forward facts like these? I am amazed, when the
newspaper press, when public speakers, when Gentlemen on both sides of
this House are so ready to listen and to speak upon questions relating
to Turkey, to Servia, or to Schamyl, that I cannot get the House of
Commons to consider a question so great as the expenditure of
420,000,000_l_., and when we have to consider if we shall trust
that vast issue in the hands of the noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen
on the Treasury bench.

I have stated that I have no confidence in the Government, and I will
now tell the House another reason for that want of confidence. My hon.
Friend the Member for the West Riding, on a previous occasion, treated
the right hon. President of the Board of Works very summarily; but I
wish to call the attention of the House to what was said by the right
hon. Gentleman in 1850, in the debate which then took place upon the
foreign policy of the noble Lord now his chief. On that occasion the
right hon. Gentleman told the House that the foreign policy of the noble
Lord now at the head of the Government had made us hated by every party
in every nation in Europe; he said that the noble Lord had excited the
disaffected to revolt, and, having brought upon them the vengeance of
the Governments under which they lived, had then betrayed them. I do not
say that this is true, but I state it upon the authority of a Minister
now in the Cabinet of the noble Lord; but, whether true or not, I cannot
have confidence in the right hon. Gentleman when sitting in a Cabinet to
carry out the foreign policy of the noble Lord.

I will take the case of another Minister, and I do not think that when
he speaks he will call my observations undeserved. A most distinguished
Member of the Government--the Chancellor of the Exchequer--has been
twice elected within a very short period, once before and once since his
acceptance of office,--I must say that I do not like to see these
changes, when a man one night sits on one bench and another night on
another,--on the 8th of February, 1855, the right hon. Gentleman,
addressing his constituents at Radnor, said:--

'I am not prepared to give my vote in favour of any change in our
policy which would attempt to make England a first-rate military
Power. It seems to me that it would be little short of madness to
attempt any such gigantic undertaking. It is our true wisdom to
limit ourselves to that amount of military force which shall
enable us to defend our own shores, and to protect our great
dependencies abroad. If we can completely defend our own coasts,
it appears to me that the objects of our national policy have
been fulfilled.'

And then, as if he had in view the language of the noble Lord at the
head of the Government and that of his colleague the Member for London,
he proceeded to say,--

'I wish to see a cessation of that inordinate and senseless
desire which has been sometimes expressed of late, almost
usurping the functions of Providence, that we should go to almost
all parts of the world to redress wrong and to see that right is

I say that the right hon. Gentleman had the language of his colleagues
in view, and when he speaks he will no doubt admit that such was the
case. For what did the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies say
when he addressed the baillies and the enthusiastic citizens of
Greenock? He said,--

'It is likewise to be considered, and I trust we shall none of us
forget it, that this country holds an important position among
the nations of the world--that not once, but many times, she has
stood forward to resist oppression, to maintain the independence
of weaker nations, to preserve to the general family of nations
that freedom, that power of governing themselves, of which others
have sought to deprive them. I trust that character will not be
forgotten, will not be abandoned by a people which is now
stronger in means, which is more populous and more wealthy than
it ever has been at any former period. This then, you will agree
with me, is not the period to abandon any of those duties towards
the world, towards the whole of mankind, which Great Britain has
hitherto performed.'

Now let us see what the right hon. Gentleman said, after having accepted
the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman made
a speech, and it was just after the death of the late Emperor of Russia,
and, in referring to the new Emperor, he said,--

'If, however, it should please this mighty Potentate to continue
in the course of aggression upon which his father had entered,
and if our reasonable hopes of a more pacific policy should be
disappointed, then let him know that in England he will find a
country prepared to maintain its own rights and the rights of
other nations.'

Observe, 'the rights of other nations;' and he goes on,--

'A country which, although its army has been placed in a perilous
position, and has had to undergo the rigours of a Russian winter,
has its resources unimpaired, has its revenue flourishing, has
its trade substantially undiminished, has its spirit unbroken,
and will be prepared, in case of necessity, to vindicate its own
honour, and to maintain the rights and liberties of Europe.'

I wish the House to observe what a complete change there is in the
language of the right hon. Gentleman upon these two occasions. Either of
the two opinions which he expressed may be right, but both of them
cannot be so, and I confess that when I find that a Gentleman says one
thing one day, and a month later, when he comes into office, the exact
opposite, I do not think that I can be expected to have that confidence
in him as to be willing to entrust him with the vast issues depending on
the war.

I will now refer to a colleague of the right hon. Gentleman--one who has
also distinguished himself--I mean the First Lord of the Admiralty. That
right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) has said nothing upon the subject of
the war, and I have felt that he must entertain great doubts as to its
policy; but, not very long ago, he also addressed his constituents, and
indulged in very hostile and insulting language towards 'our great and
magnanimous ally;' but he, too, has changed his mind; and not long ago
he went down by express train to Folkestone or Dover--I forget which--to
meet in the most friendly, and probably in the most humble manner, the
very potentate whom he had formerly abused.

If I have disposed of these Gentlemen and shown why I can have no
confidence in them, are there any better reasons why I should have
confidence in those two noble Lords who were the active and restless
spirits in the Cabinet which the noble Lord the Member for London
overthrew? I regard those noble Lords as responsible for the policy of
this war. I am bound to suppose that they acted in accordance with their
conscientious convictions; but, still, the fact of their having embarked
in that policy is no reason why I should have confidence in them. But,
are those two noble Lords men in whom the House and country ought to
place implicit confidence? What of late could be more remarkable than
the caprices of the noble Lord the Member for London? When that noble
Lord was in the Government of Lord Aberdeen he went to Greenock, I think
to Bedford, and certainly to Bristol--and, in fact, he took every
opportunity which offered itself of bringing himself before the public;
and, with his power of speech, his long experience, and eminent
character, did his utmost to stimulate the feelings of the people to a
policy which I believe to be destructive, and which I think the majority
of this House in calm moments does not believe to have been the wisest
which could have been pursued. It certainly appears to me to be
unjustifiable that, while Lord Aberdeen was honestly endeavouring to
bring the negotiations to a peaceful conclusion, the noble Lord was
taking a course which rendered statesmanship valueless in conducting the
foreign policy of the nation. The noble Lord, however, at last brought
his conduct to a climax. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr.
Roebuck) came forward as a little David with sling and stone--weapons
which he did not even use, but at the sight of which the Whig Goliath
went howling and vanquished to the back benches.

I am afraid, Sir, to trust myself to speak of the conduct of the noble
Lord on that occasion. I presume that we shall have to wait for the
advent of that Somersetshire historian, whose coming the noble Lord
expects, before we know whether his conduct on that occasion was, what
some persons still call it, treachery to his chief, or whether it arose
from that description of moral cowardice which in every man is the death
of all true statesmanship. But in the year 1853 the noble Lord the
Member for London gave me a strong reason why I should feel no
confidence in his present chief. The House will remember that he then
ejected the present First Minister under whom he now serves from the
Cabinet of which he himself was then the head, and in the explanation
which he made to the House, he told us that men like Lord Grey and Lord
Melbourne, men of age, of authority, and experience, had been able in
some degree to control his noble Friend, but, that he being younger than
the noble Lord, and having been a shorter time on the political stage,
had found it difficult to control him. The description which the noble
Lord might give of his colleague is a little like that which we
occasionally see given of a runaway horse--that he got the bit between
his teeth, and there was no holding him.

The noble Lord the Member for London was the captain of the State
vessel, and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was the mate. But how
is it now? The noble Lord the Member for the City of London has accepted
the position of mate in the most perilous times, in the most tempestuous
weather, and he goes to sea with no chart on a most dangerous and
interminable voyage, and with the very reckless captain whom he would
not trust as mate. Sir, the noble Lord the Member for London has made a
defence of his conduct at the Conferences at Vienna. I am willing to
give him credit that he did then honestly intend peace; but I do think
that when he goes again, and on such a journey, he will do well to leave
some of his historic knowledge behind him. They were indeed historic
fancies. There is nothing to me so out of place as the comparison which
the noble Lord made between the limitation of the Russian fleet in the
Black Sea and the destruction of Dunkirk, or between the condition of
the Black Sea and that of the lakes of North America. The noble Lord can
never have heard of the Falls of Niagara. If there were Falls like them
between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean the cases would be somewhat
similar, for the Russian fleet in the Black Sea would not then be
exposed to the assaults of the vast navies of England or France. When I
allude to this subject, I am reminded of that Welshman whom Shakspeare
immortalised, who found some analogy between a river in Macedon and a
river in Monmouth. He knew the name of the river in Monmouth, and he did
not know the name of the river in Macedon, but he insisted upon the
analogy between them because there were salmon in both.

Well, Sir, I now come to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I
do not complain that he is at the head of the Government. The noble Lord
the Member for the City of London had thrown everything into such
inextricable and unlooked-for confusion that any one next door to him
must necessarily occupy the place. But I cannot have confidence in the
noble Viscount, because I cannot but recollect that in 1850 he received
the condemnation of his foreign policy in the other House of Parliament;
and in a speech which I shall never forget, the last and one of the best
ever delivered by the greatest statesman of the time, he received a
similar condemnation, and the noble Viscount only escaped condemnation
by a direct vote of this House by the energetic defence of the noble
Lord the Member for the City of London, and by the stress laid upon many
Members on this side of the House. But only six weeks after this the
noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) presented to the noble Viscount a letter
from his Sovereign, which I cannot but think must have cost him much
pain, and to which I will not refer further, except to say that I do not
know how it is possible, if the contents of that letter were true, that
either the noble Lord or the House can be called upon to place implicit
confidence in the noble Lord the leader of the Government.

I have observed the noble Viscount's conduct ever since I have had the
honour of a seat in this House, and the noble Viscount will excuse me if
I state the reason why I have often opposed him. The reason is, that the
noble Viscount treats all these questions, and the House itself, with
such a want of seriousness that it has appeared to me that he has no
serious, or sufficiently serious, conviction of the important business
that so constantly comes before this House. I regard the noble Viscount
as a man who has experience, but who with experience has not gained
wisdom--as a man who has age, but who, with age, has not the gravity of
age, and who, now occupying the highest seat of power, has--and I say it
with pain--not appeared influenced by a due sense of the responsibility
that belongs to that elevated position.

We are now in the hands of these two noble Lords. They are the authors
of the war. It lies between them that peace was not made at Vienna upon
some proper terms. And whatever disasters may be in store for this
country or for Europe, they will lie at the doors of these noble Lords.
Their influence in the Cabinet must be supreme; their influence in this
House is necessarily great; and their influence with the country is
greater than that of any other two statesmen now upon the stage of
political life in England. They have carried on the war. They have,
however, not yet crippled Russia, although it is generally admitted that
they have almost destroyed Turkey. They have not yet saved Europe in its
independence and civilization,--they have only succeeded in convulsing
it. They have not added to the honour and renown of England, but they
have placed the honour and renown of this country in peril. The country
has been, I am afraid, the sport of their ancient rivalry, and I should
be very sorry if it should be the victim of the policy which they have
so long advocated.

There is only one other point upon which I will trouble the House, if it
will give me its attention. These Ministers--the right hon. Member for
Southwark, the Commissioner of the Board of Works, especially, and
evidently the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am afraid many other
Members of this House--seem to think little of taxes. Some Members of
this House seem to have no patience with me if I speak of the cost of
the war; but I am obliged to ask its attention to this point. I
recollect reading in the life of Necker, that an aristocratic lady came
to him when he was Finance Minister of Louis XVI, and asked him to give
her 1,000 crowns from the public treasury--not an unusual demand in
those days. Necker refused to give the money. The lady started with
astonishment--she had an eye to the vast funds of the State, and she
asked, 'What can 1,000 crowns be to the King?' Necker's answer was,
'Madam! 1,000 crowns are the taxes of a whole village!'

I ask hon. Gentlemen what are the taxes of a whole village, and what
they mean? They mean bareness of furniture, of clothing, and of the
table in many a cottage in Lancashire, in Suffolk, and in Dorsetshire.
They mean an absence of medical attendance for a sick wife, an absence
of the school pence of three or four little children--hopeless toil to
the father of a family, penury through his life, a cheerless old age,
and, if I may quote the language of a poet of humble life, at last--'the
little bell tolled hastily for the pauper's funeral.' That is what taxes
mean. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire spoke the other night in a manner
rather flippant and hardly respectful to some of us on this question.
But the labourers of Dorsetshire as well as the weavers and spinners of
Lancashire are toiling, and must toil harder, longer, and with smaller
remuneration for every single 100_l_. that you extract in taxes
from the people in excess of what is necessary for the just requirements
of the Exchequer of the country. I hope I may be permitted to treat the
question on this ground, and I ask the House to recollect that when you
strike down the children in the cottage you attack also the children in
the palace. If you darken the lives and destroy the hopes of the humble
dwellers of the country, you also darken the prospects of those children
the offspring of your Queen, in whom are bound up so much of the
interests and so much of the hopes of the people of this country. If I
defend, therefore, the interests of the people on this point, I do not
the less defend the permanence of the dignity of the Crown.

We on this bench are not willing to place ourselves alongside of noble
Lords who are for carrying on this war with no definite object and for
an indefinite period, but are ready to take our chance of the verdict of
posterity whether they or we more deserve the character of statesmen in
the course we have taken on this question. The House must know that the
people are misled and bewildered, and that if every man in this House,
who doubts the policy that is being pursued, would boldly say so in this
House and out of it, it would not be in the power of the press to
mislead the people as it has done for the last twelve months. If they
are thus misled and bewildered, is it not the duty of this House to
speak with the voice of authority in this hour of peril? We are the
depositaries of the power and the guardians of the interests of a great
nation and of an ancient monarchy. Why should we not fully measure our
responsibility? Why should we not disregard the small-minded ambition
that struggles for place? and why should we not, by a faithful, just,
and earnest policy, restore, as I believe we may, tranquillity to Europe
and prosperity to the country so dear to us?

* * * * *


[This letter was originally published with notes containing extracts
from those authorities which confirmed the writer's views. The text of
these notes has been omitted, but the references have been retained. It
has been thought desirable to reprint this letter, as explaining the
policy which Mr. Bright thought it his duty to recommend--a policy which
was as wise and just as it was unfortunately unpopular.--J. E. T. R.]

[Mr. Absalom Watkin, of Manchester, having invited Mr. Bright to a
meeting about to be held in that city on behalf of the Patriotic Fund,
and having stated that in his opinion the present war was justified by
the authority of _Vattel_, Mr. Bright replied in the subjoined

I think, on further consideration, you will perceive that the meeting on
Thursday next would be a most improper occasion for a discussion as to
the justice of the war. Just or unjust, the war is a fact, and the men
whose lives are miserably thrown away in it have clearly a claim upon
the country, and especially upon those who, by the expression of
opinions favourable to the war, have made themselves responsible for it.
I cannot, therefore, for a moment appear to discourage the liberality of
those who believe the war to be just, and whose utmost generosity, in my
opinion, will make but a wretched return for the ruin they have brought
upon hundreds of families.

With regard to the war itself, I am not surprised at the difference
between your opinion and mine, if you decide a question of this nature
by an appeal to _Vattel_. The 'law of nations' is not my law, and
at best it is a code full of confusion and contradictions, having its
foundation on custom, and not on a higher morality; and on custom which
has always been determined by the will of the strongest. It may be a
question of some interest whether the first crusade was in accordance
with the law and principles of _Vattel_; but whether the first
crusade was just, and whether the policy of the crusades was a wise
policy, is a totally different question. I have no doubt that the
American war was a just war according to the principles laid down by
writers on the 'law of nations,' and yet no man in his senses in this
country will now say that the policy of George III. towards the American
colonies was a wise policy, or that war a righteous war. The French war,
too, was doubtless just according to the same authorities; for there
were fears and anticipated dangers to be combatted, and law and order to
be sustained in Europe; and yet few intelligent men now believe the
French war to have been either necessary or just. You must excuse me if
I refuse altogether to pin my faith upon _Vattel_. There have been
writers on international law who have attempted to show that private
assassination and the poisoning of wells were justifiable in war: and
perhaps it would be difficult to demonstrate wherein these horrors
differ from some of the practices which are now in vogue. I will not ask
you to mould your opinion on these points by such writers, nor shall I
submit my judgment to that of _Vattel_.

The question of this present war is in two parts--first, was it
necessary for us to interfere by arms in a dispute between the Russians
and the Turks; and secondly, having determined to interfere, under
certain circumstances, why was not the whole question terminated when
Russia accepted the Vienna note? The seat of war is three thousand miles
away from us. We had not been attacked--not even insulted in any way.
Two independent Governments had a dispute, and we thrust ourselves into
the quarrel. That there was some ground for the dispute is admitted by
the four Powers in the proposition of the Vienna note. [Footnote:
Colonel Rose to Lord John Russell, March 7, 1853--Blue Book, part i. p.
87. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe to the Earl of Clarendon., April 9 and
May 22, 1853--Ibid, part i. pp. 127 and 235. Lord John Russell to Sir G.
H. Seymour, February 9, 1853--Eastern Papers, part v. p. 8. Earl of
Clarendon to Sir G. H. Seymour, April 5, 1853--Ibid, part v. p. 22. Lord
Carlisle's Diary in Turkish and Greek Waters, p. 181.] But for the
English Minister at Constantinople and the Cabinet at home the dispute
would have settled itself, and the last note of Prince Menchikoff would
have been accepted, and no human being can point out any material
difference between that note and the Vienna note, afterwards agreed upon
and recommended by the Governments of England, France, Austria and
Prussia. But our Government would not allow the dispute to be settled.
Lord Stratford de Redcliffe held private interviews with the Sultan--did
his utmost to alarm him--insisted on his rejection of all terms of
accommodation with Russia, and promised him the armed assistance of
England if war should arise. [Footnote: Lord Stratford to the Earl of
Clarendon, May 19, 1853. See, however, a despatch of May 10--Blue Book,
part i. p. 213.]

The Turks rejected the Russian note, and the Russians crossed the Pruth,
occupying the Principalities as a 'material guarantee.' I do not defend
this act of Russia: it has always appeared to me impolitic and immoral;
but I think it likely it could be well defended out of _Vattel_,
and it is at least as justifiable as the conduct of Lord John Russell
and Lord Palmerston in 1850, when they sent ten or twelve ships of war
to the Piraeus, menacing the town with a bombardment if the dishonest
pecuniary claims made by Don Pacifico were not at once satisfied.
[Footnote: Count Nesselrode to Baron Brunnow, February, 1850.]

But the passage of the Pruth was declared by England and France and
Turkey not to be a _casus belli_. Negotiations were commenced at
Vienna, and the celebrated Vienna note was drawn up. This note had its
origin in Paris [Footnote: Earl of Westmorland to Lord Clarendon, July
25, 1853--Blue Book, part ii. p. 19.], was agreed to by the Conference
at Vienna, ratified and approved by the Cabinets of Paris and London
[Footnote: Earl of Clarendon to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, August 2,
1853--Blue Book, part ii. p. 27. Lord Cowley to Lord Clarendon, August
4, 1853--Ibid, part ii. p. 37.], and pronounced by all these authorities
to be such as would satisfy the honour of Russia, and at the same time
be compatible with the 'independence and integrity' of Turkey and the
honour of the Sultan. Russia accepted this note at once [Footnote: Sir
G. H. Seymour to the Earl of Clarendon, August 5, 1853--Blue Book, part
ii. p. 43. Count Nesselrode, August 6, 1853--Ibid, part ii. p. 46.],--
accepted it, I believe, by telegraph, even before the precise words of
it had been received in St. Petersburgh [Footnote: Sir G. H. Seymour to
Lord Clarendon, August 12, 1853--Blue Book, part ii. p. 50. Count
Nesselrode to Baron Meyendorff, September 7, 1853--Ibid, part ii. p.
101.]. Everybody thought the question now settled; a Cabinet Minister
assured me we should never hear another word about it; 'the whole thing
is at an end,' he said, and so it appeared for a moment. But the Turk
refused the note which had been drawn up by his own arbitrators, and
which Russia had accepted [Footnote: Lord Stratford de Redcliffe to the
Earl of Clarendon, August 13, 1853--Blue Book, part iv. p. 69. Lord
Stratford to the Earl of Clarendon, August 14, 1853--Ibid, part ii. p.
71.]. And what did the Ministers say then, and what did their organ, the
_Times_, say? They said it was merely a difference about words; it
was a pity the Turk made any difficulty, but it would soon be settled
[Footnote: Lord Cowley to Lord Clarendon, from Paris, September 2, 1853--
Blue Book, part iv. p. 87. Lord Clarendon to Lord Stratford de
Redcliffe, September 10, 1853--Ibid, part iv. p. 95. The _Times_,
September 17, 1853.]. But it was not settled, and why not? It is said
that the Russian Government put an improper construction on the Vienna
note. But it is unfortunate for those who say this, that the Turk placed
precisely the same construction upon it; and further, it is upon record
that the French Government advised the Russian Government to accept it,
on the ground that 'its general sense differed in nothing from the sense
of the proposition of Prince Menchikoff.' [Footnote: Earl of Clarendon
to the Earl of Westmoreland, July 25, 1853--Blue Book, part ii. p. 1.
Count Nesselrode's Memorandum of March 2, 1854, in the _Journal des
Debats_.] It is, however, easy to see why the Russian Government
should, when the Turks refused the award of their own arbitrators, re-
state its original claim, that it might not be damaged by whatever
concession it had made in accepting the award; and this is evidently the
explanation of the document issued by Count Nesselrode, and about which
so much has been said. But, after this, the Emperor of Russia spoke to
Lord Westmoreland on the subject at Olmutz, and expressed his readiness
to accept the Vienna note, with any clause which the Conference might
add to it, explaining and restricting its meaning; [Footnote: Lord
Westmoreland to Lord Clarendon, September 28, 1853--Blue Book, part ii.
p. 129. Lord Cowley to Lord Clarendon, October 4, 1853--Ibid, part ii.
p. 131. Lord Clarendon to Lord Cowley, October 7, 1853--Ibid, part ii.
p. 140. Lord Clarendon to Lord A. Loftus--Ibid, part ii. p. 132.] and he
urged that this should be done at once, as he was anxious that his
troops should re-cross the Pruth before winter. [Footnote: Earl of
Westmoreland, September 14, 1853--Blue Book, part ii. p. 106.] It was in
this very week that the Turks summoned a grand council, and, contrary to
the advice of England and France, determined on a declaration of war.
[Footnote: Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, September 26, 1853--Blue Book,
part ii. p. 130. M. Drouyn de Lhuys to Count Walewski, October 4, 1853--
Ibid, part ii. p. 136.]

Now, observe the course taken by our Government. They agreed to the
Vienna note; not fewer than five Members of this Cabinet have filled the
office of Foreign Secretary, and therefore may be supposed capable of
comprehending its meaning: it was a note drawn up by the friends of
Turkey, and by arbitrators self-constituted on behalf of Turkey; they
urged its acceptance on the Russian Government, and the Russian
Government accepted it; there was then a dispute about its precise
meaning, and Russia agreed, and even proposed that the arbitrators at
Vienna should amend it, by explaining it, and limiting its meaning, so
that no question of its intention should henceforth exist. But, the
Turks having rejected it, our Government turned round, and declared the
Vienna note, their own note, entirely inadmissible, and defended the
conduct of the Turks in having rejected it. The Turks declared war,
against the advice of the English and French Governments [Footnote: Lord
Stratford de Redcliffe, September 20, 1853--Blue Book, part ii. pp. 149,
151. Lord Clarendon, October 24, 1853--Ibid, part ii. p. 131. Lord
Stratford, November 17, 1853--Ibid, part ii. pp. 271, 281. Lord
Stratford--Ibid, part ii. p. 288. Lord Clarendon to Lord Stratford,
November 8, 1853--Ibid, part ii. p. 219.]--so, at least, it appears from
the Blue Books; but the moment war was declared by Turkey, our
Government openly applauded it. England, then, was committed to the war.
She had promised armed assistance to Turkey--a country without
government [Footnote: Lord Clarendon to Lord Stratford--Blue Book, part
i. pp. 81, 82. Lord Stratford to M. E. Pisani, June 22, 1853--Ibid, part
i. p. 383. The same to the same, July 4--Ibid, part i. pp. 383, 384.],
and whose administration was at the mercy of contending factions; and
incapable of fixing a policy for herself, she allowed herself to be
dragged on by the current of events at Constantinople. She 'drifted,' as
Lord Clarendon said, exactly describing his own position, into the war,
apparently without rudder and without compass.

The whole policy of our Government in this matter is marked with an
imbecility perhaps without example. I will not say they intended a war
from the first, though there are not wanting many evidences that war was
the object of at least a section of the Cabinet. A distinguished Member
of the House of Commons said to a friend of mine, immediately after the
accession of the present Government to office, 'You have a war Ministry,
and you will have a war.' But I leave this question to point out the
disgraceful feebleness of the Cabinet, if I am to absolve them from the
guilt of having sought occasion for war. They promised the Turk armed
assistance on conditions, or without conditions. They, in concert with
France, Austria, and Prussia, took the original dispute out of the hands
of Russia and Turkey, and formed themselves into a court of arbitration
in the interests of Turkey; they made an award, which they declared to
be safe and honourable for both parties; this award was accepted by
Russia and rejected by Turkey; and they then turned round upon their own
award, declared it to be 'totally inadmissible,' and made war upon the
very country whose Government, at their suggestion and urgent
recommendation, had frankly accepted it. At this moment England is
engaged in a murderous warfare with Russia, although the Russian
Government accepted her own terms of peace, and has been willing to
accept them in the sense of England's own interpretation of them ever
since they were offered; and at the same time England is allied with
Turkey, whose Government rejected the award of England, and who entered
into the war in opposition to the advice of England. Surely, when the
Vienna note was accepted by Russia, the Turks should have been prevented
from going to war, or should have been allowed to go to war at their own


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