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Selected Speeches on British Foreign Policy 1738-1914

Part 5 out of 8

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to us that if this principle could be brought into action, the
continuance of the war might be obviated. It was stated at the same
time by the French Plenipotentiary at Paris, and by others, that
where the honour or the essential interests of a country were mainly
concerned, it could not be expected that such differences should be
submitted to a friendly Power. But, in our opinion, this was not such
a case. It appeared to us that sooner than rush into war--sooner,
above all, than expose Denmark again to such an unequal contest--it
was possible to propose the good offices of a friendly Power, with
this condition--that both Powers should submit to the decision
respecting the line of frontier offered by the arbitrator to whom the
matter might be referred. In fact it was to be an arbitration rather
than good offices. Now, I cannot but believe that any impartial
arbitrator would have fixed upon a line far more favourable to Denmark
than that which the German Powers had proposed. A Power which was
impartial and without passion would probably have given, not the
line as far as the north of Flensburg, but a line to the south of
Flensburg, whereby that important town might have been preserved to
Denmark, and that Power would have had a port in the Northern Sea by
which her independence might have been maintained. It was, however,
entirely a question for the two Powers to accept or to refuse that
arbitration. I may say further that my noble friend (the Earl of
Clarendon) and myself, who were the British Plenipotentiaries at the
Conference, thought that after the fairness and the impartiality which
the Emperor of the French had shown throughout this question, his
friendliness, and at the same time his wish for the maintenance of
peace, the two Powers might well have accepted his good offices. The
opinion was, however, expressed by one of the Plenipotentiaries--an
opinion afterwards confirmed by an official declaration--that no Power
represented at the Conference, and therefore committed to a certain
degree as to the questions before the Conference, could properly be
accepted as the arbitrating Power. It then appeared to us, and we so
informed the Plenipotentiaries, that in our opinion the King of the
Belgians, whose impartiality is likewise well known, and whose long
experience of European affairs makes him most desirous to preserve the
peace of Europe, might perform these functions to the satisfaction of
the Powers concerned. But the question of who should be the arbitrator
never arose, Austria and Prussia said that they could accept the good
offices of a friendly Power in accordance with the Treaty of Paris,
but that they could not accept the decision of that friendly Power as
final; and in the meantime they asked for a long armistice. Now, my
Lords, it appeared to us that if that proposal were accepted, then,
after a period of two or three months of armistice, during which the
naval operations of Denmark would be suspended, a decision would
have been announced which, if it in any way displeased the
German Powers--if it did not go to the full extent of all their
demands--would have been refused by them. The Plenipotentiary of the
German Confederation completely confirmed our view of this question
by declaring that in his opinion this territory of Schleswig belonged
altogether to the Prince of Augustenburg, or rather belonged to the
competency of the German Confederation; that they could therefore
accept no arbitration, and could not be bound by anything that
was decided. They evidently meant that every foot of territory in
Schleswig might, if they chose it, be demanded at the end of the good
offices by the German Confederation. Thus, according to what I am
sorry to say has been the usual manner of the German Powers, their
refusal was not a direct and straightforward one. It is somewhat like
their declaration at the beginning, that they went into Holstein for
the purpose of Federal Execution, that they went into Schleswig for
the purpose of material occupation, and that they wished the question
of the sovereignty of Holstein and Schleswig to be decided in the
German Confederation, knowing perfectly well how that decision would
be made; and then, lastly, they wished to have the appearance of
accepting the good offices of an arbitrator without really intending
to accept them. The Danish Plenipotentiaries, most unfortunately in my
opinion--most imprudently in my opinion--gave a decided refusal to the
proposal. Of course, it was for them to judge as to the security of
their own country and the prospects of war; but I certainly regret
deeply that they should have rejected the arbitration. The proposal
that I made certainly did not exactly agree with the line of the
Schlei, but it was a proposal which we, the British Plenipotentiaries,
thought was for the benefit of Denmark, and was most likely to obtain
for the Danes a peace which would have been satisfactory to them. And
now, my Lords, all other means having failed, one other proposal was
made on the part of France by the French Plenipotentiary, who was
directed to make this proposal--that, leaving the Danish part of
Schleswig to the Danes, and the German part to the Germans, the line
to be drawn in the disputed district should be decided by a vote of
the population, to be taken in some fair manner, the details of which
might be considered afterwards. [The Earl of Clarendon: The votes were
to be taken in each commune.] Yes, and these votes were to decide the
line to be drawn and the district which was to belong to Germany and
to Denmark respectively.

The Earl of Derby: May I ask the noble Earl if that decision was to be
taken during the occupation of the province by the German troops?

Earl Russell: No; the French proposition was clearly that the Prussian
troops should evacuate the district before the vote was taken by
means of Commissioners. At the same time, it was the opinion of the
Danes--and I believe that opinion to have been well founded--that
although the people of Schleswig generally were perfectly satisfied to
remain united to Denmark, such had been the effects of the occupation,
such had been the agitation on the part of Germany, the political
societies in Germany having sent persons to agitate all over the
country, that the decisions would through that influence have become
corrupted, and the plan of the Emperor, which otherwise might have
been successful, would have been rendered unjust. The proposition
was accordingly refused. My Lords, it was with great regret that the
Plenipotentiaries of the neutral Powers received this decision.

My Lords, I must say that my noble friend (the Earl of Clarendon) and
I have received from France and from the other neutral Powers the
firmest support during the continuance of the Conference. We held
frequent private meetings with the neutral Powers, in which we
discussed the proposals to be made. There was nothing exhibited in
those meetings but the most earnest desire to provide for the safety
and independence of Denmark, and I must say that the utmost harmony
prevailed on all sides; and the French, Russian, and Swedish
Plenipotentiaries alike did all in their power to contribute towards
the success of the proposals we made. We shall, therefore, leave the
Conference with a strong sense of our obligations for the support
which we received from them. After this decision there remained
nothing more for the Conference but to accept the declaration which
was made at the last meeting--and which has been repeated to me to-day
by the Austrian Ambassador--it is simply that the two Powers, Austria
and Prussia, have no intention of carrying on hostilities with the
view of obtaining possession of any territory beyond the Duchies of
Schleswig and Holstein, and that they have no intention of making any
conquest of any portion of the Danish territory on the continent or of
the Danish islands. That declaration is purely voluntary, and is not
in any way extorted as to the manner in which these Powers propose
to act. At the same time it comes rather late--though they make the
declaration I suppose they cannot intend us to accept it--and we
certainly cannot accept it as one upon which we can implicitly rely.
After that which has happened with respect to the Treaty of 1852, and
after that which has happened with respect to the treatment of the
Danes after the pledges given, but more as I am afraid owing to German
popular opinion, which Austria is desirous to conciliate, which
Prussia is desirous to conciliate, which the German Confederation,
above all, is anxious to conciliate, I am sorry to say that, greatly
as I have respected Austria, greatly as I have respected Prussia, we
can no longer rely, as we have done, upon their declarations.

Well, my Lords, but the question comes as to what, at the end of the
Conference, is our position, and what will be our course? And without
intending, or being able to pledge, the Government in case of
contingencies which have not arisen, I think it is due to Parliament
and to the country--especially at this period of the Session--to
declare what is the view which the Government take of the position,
the duty, the interests, and the future policy of England. My Lords,
with regard to our honour, I conceive that in honour we are in no way
engaged to take part in the present war. Although it has been stated
to the contrary on the part of Denmark more than once, there has
been at no time any pledge given on the part of this country or Her
Majesty's Government promising material assistance to Denmark in this
contest. Three times Her Majesty's Government during the period I
have held the seals of the Foreign Office have endeavoured to induce
Denmark to accept propositions which we regarded as favourable to her
interests. In 1862 I made propositions to her, but those propositions
were rejected. When Lord Wodehouse went to Denmark, he and the Russian
Plenipotentiary proposed that Denmark should repeal the Constitution
which she had concurred in but a few days before; but she would not at
that time receive the proposal. We believe that, if she had consented
to the arbitration which we proposed in the Conference, the result
would have been as favourable to her as, under the circumstances in
which she was placed, she could have expected. My Lords, I do not
blame Denmark for the course she has thought fit to pursue. She has
a right--I should be sorry to reproach her in any way in her
present state of weakness--she has an undoubted right to refuse our
propositions, but we on our side have also a right to take into
consideration the duty, honour, and interests of this country, and not
to make that duty, that honour, and those interests subordinate to
the interests of any foreign Power whatever. My Lords, our honour not
being engaged, we have to consider what we might be led to do for the
interests of other Powers, and for the sake of that balance of power
which in 1852 was declared by general consent to be connected with the
integrity of Denmark. My Lords, I cannot but believe that the Treaty
of 1852 having been entered into, if there had been at an early
period--say in December or January last--if France, Great Britain, and
Russia, supported by the assistance which they might have counted upon
receiving from Sweden, had declared for the maintenance of the Treaty
of 1852--the succession of the King of Denmark might have been
established without difficulty, and might have been peaceably
maintained, and that the King and his Government would have remedied
all the grievances of which his German subjects complained. I believe
the King of Denmark would have found it to his advantage to grant
to his German subjects that freedom, those privileges, and that
self-government in their internal and domestic matters which they had
demanded, and that they would thus have become quite contented as
subjects to the King of Denmark. That desirable result, however, could
not be brought about. In reference to the Treaty of 1852, I have to
repeat what I stated on a previous occasion--that it was not a treaty
of guarantee, that the Governments of France and Russia were competent
to acknowledge the treaty, but that they had not pledged themselves
to maintain the connexion of Schleswig and Denmark, that not being a
question of the general balance of power in Europe. Well, the French
Government have frequently declared and have repeated to us only
within the last twenty-four hours, that the Emperor does not consider
it essential to the interest of France to support the line of the
Schlei. He declares he does not think that France would be inclined to
go to war for such an object. He urges that a war with Germany would
be a most serious thing to France, that our armies would not be
marshalled to oppose the invasion of Denmark, and that such a war
would consequently be attended with great cost and great risk. I
think that if that war were successful, France would expect some
compensation on account of her participation, and that compensation
could hardly be granted without exciting general jealousy among the
other nations of Europe, and thus disturbing the balance of power
which now exists. I cannot deny that if the Emperor of the French puts
forward these considerations--if he declares that for these reasons,
though he would give us moral support, he would afford us no material
assistance in such war--I must say I think he is justified in that
refusal, and in adopting such a line of conduct. I cannot but admit
that if a great war with Germany arose, whatever might be the issue,
it might reproduce those great contests which took place in 1814, and
which led to such unsatisfactory results. The Emperor of the French is
a Sovereign singularly wise and sagacious, and I will say valuing,
as he has proved that he values, the peace of Europe, I am not in a
position to find fault, nor can Her Majesty's Government find any
fault with the decision to which the Emperor has come. But the Emperor
of the French having thus declared his policy, and the Emperor of
Russia having constantly refused to join with us in affording
material support to Denmark, our position, of course, must be greatly
influenced by those decisions. In the first place, is it the duty of
this country--if we are to undertake the preservation of the balance
of power in Europe as it was recognized in 1852--is it a duty
incumbent on us alone? The French Government sees very clearly the
dangers to which France might be exposed by interfering, but it says
at the same time that it would be an easy operation for England;
that England, with her naval power, might add most materially to the
strength of Denmark and assist in bringing the war to a conclusion.
My Lords, I must say there are many considerations which induce me to
arrive at a different conclusion. I cannot but think, in the first
place, that we should suffer perhaps considerably if our commercial
marine was exposed to depredations such as might take place in the
event of our being at war with Germany. That is one consideration
which ought not to be overlooked. But there are other considerations
of still greater moment. One is--Would our interference bring this
war to a conclusion? Without giving military aid could you recover
Schleswig and Holstein, and even Jutland from the Austrian and
Prussian forces? Well, my Lords, we have for a long time in our
conduct of foreign affairs shown great forbearance and patience. I
think we were right in being forbearing, and think we were justified
in being patient. But if our honour or our interests or the great
interests of Europe should call upon us to interfere, I think such
interference ought to be clearly effectual, as nothing would more tend
to diminish the influence of this country than a course of action
which would show that while we were predominant at sea, and that no
Austrian or Prussian ships of war could venture to leave port, yet at
the same time our interference could not ensure, as we hoped it would,
the safety of Denmark, nor lead to a speedy termination of the war.
But, my Lords, the whole position and influence of this country with
regard to foreign countries ought to be fully considered by Parliament
and by the country; for we have great interests with multiplied
complications arising from various connexions and various treaties
with every part of the world. It is no longer a question with
reference to the balance of power in Europe. There are other parts of
the world in which our interests may be as deeply involved, and in
which we may some day or other find it necessary to maintain the
honour and interests of this country. The civil war now raging in
America, ending how it may--whether by the establishment of
an independent republic in the South, or whether it ends most
unexpectedly, as it would be to me, I confess, by restoring the
Union--still the United States of America or the Northern States,
or whatever they may be called, will then be in a totally different
position to that which they were in a few years ago. A great army will
then be maintained by the United States. A formidable navy will also
be kept up. Our relations with that Power are liable at any moment
to interruption. I hope and trust that our friendly relations may
continue uninterrupted; still, those relations must be considered and
kept in view as well as our interest in the maintenance of the balance
of power in Europe. My Lords, let us look at other parts of the world.
Look at the great commerce which has grown up in China, where it is
necessary for us always to maintain a considerable naval force to
protect it. Look at our immense possessions in India and see how
necessary it is that they should be considered at all times. In any
question, therefore, of peace or war--while it is very probable that
this country with allies could carry on a war successfully--yet when
it comes to be a war to be carried on by England alone, there are
other contingencies to be looked at, and the position of this country
is to be considered with reference not to Europe alone, but with
reference to our interests in every quarter of the world. My Lords,
these are considerations to be borne in mind with respect to this
question of Denmark. It may be said that other combinations might be
made--that although we could not ourselves attack the German Powers
with any great amount of success, yet there are vulnerable points upon
which they, and especially Austria, may be open to attack; that those
doctrines and theories which Austria and Prussia have put forward,
with regard to foreign nationalities, may be retorted upon them, and
especially upon Austria with effect--they may be applied to other
parts of Europe than Schleswig and Holstein; that the German
nationality is not the only nationality in Europe; that the Italian
nationality has as much right to be considered as the Germans; and
that if we were to enter upon a course of supporting nationalities, we
should be perfectly justified by the doctrines and conduct of Austria.
This, no doubt, would be sufficient if the object were merely to show
to Austria and Prussia that they are vulnerable on their own ground.
But, my Lords, I think it is the duty of England to show a greater
attachment to peace than Austria and Prussia have shown, and not, if
possible, to light a flame which might extend to every part of Europe,
but rather to endeavour to confine the war within the narrowest limits
possible. Therefore, my Lords, with regard to this question, it is
the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that we should maintain the
position which we have occupied, and that we should be neutral in this
war. I do not mean to say that contingencies may not arise in which
our position might become different, and in which our conduct might be
altered. It may be said, 'Will you allow these German Powers to act
as they please? If, contrary to their professions and promises, they
should decide upon sending a combined Austrian and Prussian force to
Copenhagen with the declared object of making Denmark assent to terms
which would be destructive of her independence--will you then remain
entirely indifferent to such proceedings?' My Lords, I can only say in
answer to such a question, that every Government in this country
must retain to itself a certain liberty--as long as it possesses the
confidence of Parliament--a certain liberty of decision upon such
points. All I can now say is, that if the Government should think it
necessary to come to any fresh decision--if the war should assume a
new character--if circumstances should arise which might require us
to make another decision, it would be our duty, if Parliament were
sitting, immediately to apply to Parliament upon the subject; and if
Parliament should not be sitting, then at once to call Parliament
together in order that it may judge the conduct which Her Majesty's
Government should pursue.

In the meantime, my Lords, I have given you an outline of the course
of these negotiations. I have given you an account of the efforts
we have made for peace, which, like the efforts made in 1823 by the
Governments of Lord Liverpool and Mr. Canning, have been unfortunately
unsuccessful. I say that our policy at the present time is to
maintain peace. If there is any party in Parliament--if there is any
individual in Parliament--who thinks as Lord Grey thought in 1823
that we ought to go to war, it will be competent for them to ask Her
Majesty to interfere materially in the contest. If they think that in
any respect we have failed in our duty, it is competent for them to
take any line of conduct they may think proper. But, for ourselves, I
say with confidence that we have maintained the honour of the country,
that we have done everything in our power to preserve the peace of
Europe, and that, those efforts having failed, we can rest satisfied
that nothing has been wanting on our parts which was needed by the
honour or the interests of this country--that nothing has been left
undone which it was our duty to do.


Sir, this debate has lasted for some time, and, as was to be expected,
many and various opinions have been expressed by those hon. gentlemen
who have taken part in it. I hope it will not be supposed that, on the
one hand, I necessarily agree or acquiesce in those opinions which I
do not expressly mention for the purpose of saying I differ from them,
or, on the other hand, that I differ from those opinions in which I do
not go out of my way to express agreement. I think that in the actual
state of Europe the House will hold me justified if I do not think it
expedient to go into a general detailed discussion of the political
situation, and the more so as that situation is changing not merely
from week to week, but from day to day, and I may say, from the
telegrams received, almost from hour to hour. I shall confine myself,
therefore, as closely as I can, to the questions which have been
put to me in the course of this discussion. First of all comes the
question of the hon. member for Wick (Mr. Laing). He wants some
guarantee that no intervention is contemplated on our part. He wants
some assurance that this country will not be dragged into a war as it
was in the Crimean case. He admits the policy of the Government is
intended to be that of non-intervention; but he fears that it may be
possible to drift into a quarrel without intending it. But I suppose
when the hon. member speaks of intervention he means either armed
intervention or intervention of such a nature as, though not
immediately, yet in ultimate result might lead to an appeal to
physical force. If that is what he refers to, all I can say is that
if the speech which Lord Derby about a week ago delivered in another
place--if the opinions which I myself have invariably expressed on
that subject, not merely when occupying the position I now hold, but
for many years past when these questions were under discussion--if,
what is infinitely more important, the unanimous feeling (for I
believe it to amount to unanimity both of Parliament and the people
out of doors)--the feeling that we ought not to be dragged into
these Continental wars--if all these things, taken together, do not
constitute a guarantee that ours will be a pacific policy, a policy of
observation rather than of action--then I am unable to understand in
what language a stronger guarantee can be given. But if what is meant
is intervention of a different character--intervention in the shape of
friendly advice tendered by a neutral Power, then I think the question
whether intervention of that kind is under particular circumstances
desirable or not is a question which must necessarily be left to the
discretion of the executive Government. I am not personally very fond
of the system of giving advice to foreign countries. I entirely agree
with what has been said by the right hon. gentleman opposite upon the
subject, when he said that you are never more likely to lessen the
influence of England than when you are constantly endeavouring to
increase it by giving advice. I think that the right of giving advice
has of late years been largely used; and that it has sometimes been
not only used, but abused. Still, there is truth in the proverb which
says that lookers-on see more of the game than the players; and cases
do occur when warning given by a friendly and neutral Power--by a
Power which is well known to have no interest of its own to serve, by
a Power desiring nothing more than the restoration of peace, and
that that peace shall be permanent--may do something to shorten the
duration and limit the extent of a war that might otherwise spread
over the greater part of Europe. As to the state of affairs at the
present moment--for that, I apprehend, is the practical question on
which the House wishes an answer from me, I wish distinctly to assure
hon. gentlemen and the country that the British Government stand, as
regards the European controversy, free, unpledged, and uncommitted
to any policy whatever. The sole diplomatic act which the present
Government have taken--and it was almost the first act of any kind
they had to perform--was that of supporting in general terms at
Florence and Berlin the proposition made by the French Government for
a temporary cessation of hostilities. It seemed to us that to support
that proposition was on our part simply an act of humanity and common
sense. The House will recollect what were the circumstances of the
case. Venice had been ceded, not indeed to Italy, but ceded by
Austria. A great battle had been fought, a decisive victory had been
gained, Austria had invoked the mediation of France. France had
accepted the post of mediator. She asked us to support, not the terms
of peace--that would have been premature--but merely the general
proposition for an armistice in order that the belligerent parties
might have time to consider whether, under the totally altered state
of circumstances, it would not be possible to substitute negotiations
for further bloodshed, and to obtain the results of the war without
continuing the war itself. We did not feel it in our power to refuse
our assent to that principle. But, while in general terms we have
supported the proposition of an armistice, we have pledged ourselves
to no terms or conditions of peace whatever. We have pledged ourselves
to nothing beyond the general advice that an armistice should take
place. The circumstances under which that advice was given have
passed. Our mediation and our advice have not been officially asked
by the combatants, and we have abstained from giving it. That is the
present state of the matter. The right hon. gentleman the member for
Stroud (Mr. Horsman) has asked me whether there is any expectation of
an armed mediation on the part of the French Government. Well, it is
not my duty, nor is it in my power, to answer for other Governments,
but only for our own. All I can say is, I have not the slightest
reason to believe that any step of that kind is in contemplation, and
I have strong reasons to believe that no such step is contemplated.
[Mr. Horsman: I did not ask that question. It was another hon.
member.] Then the question was asked by the hon. member for Wick (Mr.
Laing). Then these two questions were put to me--first, whether the
British Government has been invited by that of France to address joint
communications to all or any of the belligerent Powers? The French
Government have taken up the matter, and it now rests with that
Government. The French Government may or may not ask us to join in
that work of mediation; but, should they do so, I do not think it
would be the duty of the British Government to join in any such
mediation, unless we have a distinct understanding as to the terms the
French Government will propose. The second question of the right
hon. gentleman is, whether the British Government has expressed its
readiness to concur with the Government of France in recommending
Austria to terminate the war, by accepting the two conditions proposed
by Prussia and Italy as to her surrender of Venetia, and ceasing to be
a member of the German Confederation? Now, Sir, as to that, Venetia
has been, I understand, ceded by Austria, and whether or not any
questions will arise as to that settlement being absolute or
conditional, I do not know; still I apprehend that none of us can
entertain a doubt that the final result will be that Venetia must pass
from Austria. Venetia has been, in effect, conquered not by Italy but
for Italy; Venetia has been conquered in Germany. Whatever the manner
of the transfer may be--whatever may be the precise nature of the
measures adopted by France--I do not think any reasonable man can
entertain a doubt that Venetia, at no distant period, will belong
to Italy. Then, with regard to the question as to whether we have
recommended Austria to terminate the war by assenting to the proposal
of ceasing to be a member of the German Confederation, I must remind
the right hon. gentleman that that proposal has never been made, so
far as I am aware, as the sole condition of peace, that Austria should
cease to be a member of the German Confederation. No doubt various
preliminaries have been discussed between the two Governments. If the
question were narrowed to the issue whether Austria would conclude
peace by ceding Venetia and by consenting to quit the Confederation,
that, no doubt, would be a question upon which we should be in a
position to give an opinion; but since we have no reason to think that
the acceding to those two conditions by Austria would terminate the
war, and since we do not know accurately and precisely what are the
terms which would be likely to be accepted by one or other of the
belligerent parties, it would be clearly premature on our part to
express an opinion on the abstract question as to what conditions
might or might not be accepted. With regard to the general policy of
the Government I have only one remark to make. I think there never was
a great European war in which the direct national interests of England
were less concerned. We all, I suppose, have our individual sympathies
in the matter. The Italian question I look upon as not being very
distant from a fair settlement; and with regard to the other possible
results of the war, and especially as to the establishment of a strong
North German Power--of a strong, compact empire, extending over North
Germany--I cannot see that, if the war ends, as it very possibly
may, in the establishment of such an empire--I cannot see that the
existence of such a Power would be to us any injury, any menace, or
any detriment. It might be conceivable enough that the growth of such
a Power might indeed awaken the jealousy of other Continental States,
who may fear a rival in such a Power. That is a natural feeling in
their position. That position, however, is not ours, and if North
Germany is to become a single great Power, I do not see that any
English interest is in the least degree affected. I think, Sir, I have
now answered as explicitly as I can the various questions which have
been put to me. I think, in the first place, I may assure the hon.
member for Wick that there is no danger, as far as human foresight
can go, of Continental complications involving this country in war. I
think, in the next place, that if we do not intend to take an active
part in the quarrel, we ought to be exceedingly cautious how we
use menacing language or hold out illusory hopes. If our advice is
solicited, and if there is any likelihood that that advice will be of
practical use, I do not think we ought to hesitate to give the best
advice in our power; but while giving it under a deep sense of moral
responsibility, as being in our judgement the best, we ought carefully
to avoid involving ourselves or the country in any responsibility for
the results of following that advice in a matter where no English
interest is concerned. I do not think we ought to put ourselves in
such a position that any Power could say to us, 'We have acted upon
your advice, and we have suffered for it. You have brought us into
this difficulty, and therefore you are bound to get us out of it.' We
ought not, I say, to place ourselves in a position of that kind. And
now, Sir, I have stated all, I think, that it is possible for me
to state at this time, and it remains for me only to assure the
House--knowing, as I do, how utterly impossible it is for any member
of the Executive to carry on his work effectively without the support
of public opinion--it only remains for me to say that, as far as the
nature of the case allows, I shall always be anxious that the House
shall be conversant with everything that is done.


The frequent and far too complimentary manner in which my name has
been mentioned to-night, and the most kind way in which you have
received me, have placed me in a position somewhat humiliating, and
really painful; for to receive laudation which one feels one cannot
possibly have merited, is much more painful than to be passed by in
a distribution of commendation to which possibly one might lay some
claim. If one twentieth part of what has been said is true, if I am
entitled to any measure of your approbation, I may begin to think
that my public career and my opinions are not so un-English and so
anti-national as some of those who profess to be the best of our
public instructors have sometimes assumed. How, indeed, can I, any
more than any of you, be un-English and anti-national? Was I not born
upon the same soil? Do I not come of the same English stock? Are not
my family committed irrevocably to the fortunes of this country?
Is not whatever property I may have depending as much as yours is
depending upon the good government of our common fatherland? Then how
shall any man dare to say to any one of his countrymen, because he
happen to hold a different opinion on questions of great public
policy, that therefore he is un-English, and is to be condemned as
anti-national? There are those who would assume that between my
countrymen and me, and between my constituents and me, there has been,
and there is now, a great gulf fixed, and that if I cannot pass over
to them and to you, they and you can by no possibility pass over to

Now I take the liberty here, in the presence of an audience as
intelligent as can be collected within the limits of this island,
and of those who have the strongest claim to know what opinions I do
entertain relative to certain great questions of public policy, to
assert that I hold no views, that I have never promulgated any views
on those controverted questions with respect to which I cannot bring
as witnesses in my favour, and as fellow believers with myself,
some of the best and most revered names in the history of English
statesmanship. About 120 years ago, the Government of this country
was directed by Sir Robert Walpole, a great Minister, who for a long
period preserved the country in peace, and whose pride it was that
during those years he had done so. Unfortunately, towards the close of
his career, he was driven by faction into a policy which was the ruin
of his political position. Sir Robert Walpole declared, when speaking
of the question of war as affecting this country, that nothing could
be so foolish, nothing so mad as a policy of war for a trading nation.
And he went so far as to say, that any peace was better than the most
successful war. I do not give you the precise language made use of by
the Minister, for I speak only from memory; but I am satisfied I am
not misrepresenting him in what I have now stated.

Come down fifty years nearer to our own time, and you find a
statesman, not long in office, but still strong in the affections of
all persons of Liberal principles in this country, and in his time
representing fully the sentiments of the Liberal party--Charles James
Fox. Mr. Fox, referring to the policy of the Government of his time,
which was one of constant interference in the affairs of Europe, and
by which the country was continually involved in the calamities of
war, said that although he would not assert or maintain the principle,
that under no circumstances could England have any cause of
interference with the affairs of the continent of Europe, yet he
would prefer the policy of positive non-interference and of perfect
isolation rather than the constant intermeddling to which our recent
policy had subjected us, and which brought so much trouble and
suffering upon the country. In this case also I am not prepared to
give you his exact words, but I am sure that I fairly describe the
sentiments which he expressed.

Come down fifty years later, and to a time within the recollection of
most of us, and you find another statesman, once the most popular
man in England, and still remembered in this town and elsewhere with
respect and affection. I allude to Earl Grey. When Earl Grey came
into office for the purpose of carrying the question of Parliamentary
Reform, he unfurled the banner of 'Peace, retrenchment, and reform',
and that sentiment was received in every part of the United Kingdom,
by every man who was or had been in favour of Liberal principles, as
predicting the advent of a new era which should save his country from
many of the calamities of the past.

Come down still nearer, and to a time that seems but the other day,
and you find another Minister, second to none of those whom I have
mentioned--the late Sir Robert Peel. I had the opportunity of
observing the conduct of Sir Robert Peel from the time when he took
office in 1841. I watched his proceedings particularly from the year
1843, when I entered Parliament, up to the time of his lamented death;
and during the whole of that period, I venture to say, his principles,
if they were to be discovered from his conduct and his speeches, were
precisely those which I have held, and which I have always endeavoured
to press upon the attention of my countrymen. If you have any doubt
upon that point I would refer you to that last, that beautiful, that
most solemn speech which he delivered with an earnestness and a sense
of responsibility as if he had known he was leaving a legacy to his
country. If you refer to that speech, delivered on the morning of the
very day on which occurred the accident which terminated his life, you
will find that its whole tenor is in conformity with all the doctrines
that I have urged upon my countrymen for years past with respect to
our policy in foreign affairs. When Sir Robert Peel went home, just
before the dawn of day, upon the last occasion that he passed from the
House of Commons, the scene of so many of his triumphs, I have heard,
from what I think a good authority, that after he entered his own
house, he expressed the exceeding relief which he experienced at
having delivered himself of a speech which he had been reluctantly
obliged to make against a Ministry which he was anxious to support,
and he added, if I am not mistaken, 'I have made a speech of peace.'

Well, if this be so, if I can give you four names like these--if there
were time I could make a longer list of still eminent if inferior
men--I should like to know why I, as one of a small party, am to be
set down as teaching some new doctrine which it is not fit for my
countrymen to hear, and why I am to be assailed in every form of
language, as if there was one great department of governmental affairs
in which I was incompetent to offer any opinion to my countrymen. But
leaving the opinions of individuals, I appeal to this audience, to
every man who knows anything of the views and policy of the Liberal
party in past years, whether it is not the fact that up to 1832 and
indeed to a much later period, probably to the year 1850, those
sentiments of Sir Robert Walpole, of Mr. Fox, of Earl Grey, and of Sir
Robert Peel, the sentiments which I in humbler mode have propounded,
were not received unanimously by the Liberal party as their fixed and
unchangeable creed? And why should they not? Are they not founded upon
reason? Do not all statesmen know, as you know, that upon peace, and
peace alone, can be based the successful industry of a nation, and
that by successful industry alone can be created that wealth
which, permeating all classes of the people, not confined to great
proprietors, great merchants, and great speculators, not running in
a stream merely down your principal streets, but turning fertilizing
rivulets into every by-lane and every alley, tends so powerfully to
promote the comfort, happiness, and contentment of a nation? Do
you not know that all progress comes from successful and peaceful
industry, and that upon it is based your superstructure of education,
of morals, of self-respect among your people, as well as every measure
for extending and consolidating freedom in your public institutions?
I am not afraid to acknowledge that I do oppose--that I do utterly
condemn and denounce--a great part of the foreign policy which is
practised and adhered to by the Government of this country.

You know, of course, that about 170 years ago there happened in this
country what we have always been accustomed to call 'a glorious
revolution', a revolution which had this effect: that it put a bit
into the mouth of the monarch so that he was not able of his own
free-will to do, and he dared no longer attempt to do, the things
which his predecessors had done without fear. But if at the Revolution
the monarchy of England was bridled and bitted, at the same time the
great territorial families of England were enthroned; and from that
period, until the year 1831 or 1832--until the time when Birmingham
politically became famous--those territorial families reigned with
an almost undisputed sway over the destinies and the industry of the
people of these Kingdoms. If you turn to the history of England, from
the period of the Revolution to the present, you will find that an
entirely new policy was adopted, and that while we had endeavoured in
former times to keep ourselves free from European complications, we
now began to act upon a system of constant entanglement in the affairs
of foreign countries, as if there were neither property nor honours,
not anything worth striving for, to be acquired in any other field.
The language coined and used then, has continued to our day. Lord
Somers, in writing for William III, speaks of the endless and
sanguinary wars of that period as wars 'to maintain the liberties of
Europe'. There were wars to 'support the Protestant interest', and
there were many wars to preserve our old friend 'the balance of

We have been at war since that time, I believe, with, for, and against
every considerable nation in Europe. We fought to put down a pretended
French supremacy under Louis XIV. We fought to prevent France and
Spain coming under the sceptre of one monarch, although, if we had not
fought, it would have been impossible in the course of things that
they should have become so united. We fought to maintain the Italian
provinces in connexion with the House of Austria. We fought to put
down the supremacy of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Minister who was
employed by this country at Vienna, after the Great War, when it was
determined that no Bonaparte should ever again sit on the throne of
France, was the very man to make an alliance with another Bonaparte
for the purpose of carrying on a war to prevent the supremacy of the
late Emperor of Russia. So that we have been all round Europe and
across it over and over again, and after a policy so distinguished, so
pre-eminent, so long-continued, and so costly, I think we have a fair
right--I have, at least--to ask those who are in favour of it to show
us its visible result. Europe is not at this moment, so far as I know,
speaking of it broadly, and making allowance for certain improvements
in its general civilization, more free politically than it was before.
The balance of power is like perpetual motion, or any of those
impossible things which some men are always racking their brains and
spending their time and money to accomplish.

We all know and deplore that at the present moment a larger number
of the grown men of Europe are employed, and a larger portion of the
industry of Europe is absorbed, to provide for, and maintain, the
enormous armaments which are now on foot in every considerable
Continental State. Assuming, then, that Europe is not much better in
consequence of the sacrifices we have made, let us inquire what has
been the result in England, because, after all, that is the question
which becomes us most to consider. I believe that I understate the sum
when I say that, in pursuit of this will-of-the-wisp (the liberties of
Europe and the balance of power), there has been extracted from the
industry of the people of this small island no less an amount than
L2,000,000,000 sterling. I cannot imagine how much L2,000,000,000 is,
and therefore I shall not attempt to make you comprehend it. I presume
it is something like those vast and incomprehensible astronomical
distances with which we have been lately made familiar, but, however
familiar, we feel that we do not know one bit more about them than we
did before. When I try to think of that sum of L2,000,000,000 there
is a sort of vision passes before my mind's eye. I see your peasant
labourer delve and plough, sow and reap, sweat beneath the summer's
sun, or grow prematurely old before the winter's blast. I see your
noble mechanic, with his manly countenance and his matchless skill,
toiling at his bench or his forge. I see one of the workers in our
factories in the north, a woman--a girl it may be--gentle and good, as
many of them are, as your sisters and daughters are--I see her intent
upon the spindle, whose revolutions are so rapid that the eye fails
altogether to detect them, or watching the alternating flight of the
unresting shuttle. I turn again to another portion of your population,
which, 'plunged in mines, forgets a sun was made', and I see the man
who brings up from the secret chambers of the earth the elements of
the riches and greatness of his country. When I see all this I have
before me a mass of produce and of wealth which I am no more able to
comprehend than I am that L2,000,000,000 of which I have spoken, but I
behold in its full proportion the hideous error of your Governments,
whose fatal policy consumes in some cases a half, never less than a
third, of all the results of that industry which God intended should
fertilize and bless every home in England, but the fruits of which
are squandered in every part of the surface of the globe, without
producing the smallest good to the people of England.

We have, it is true, some visible results that are of a more positive
character. We have that which some people call a great advantage--the
National Debt--a debt which is now so large that the most prudent, the
most economical, and the most honest have given up all hope, not of
its being paid off, but of its being diminished in amount. We have,
too, taxes which have been during many years so onerous that there
have been times when the patient beast of burden threatened to revolt,
so onerous that it has been utterly impossible to levy them with any
kind of honest equality, according to the means of the people to
pay them. We have that, moreover, which is a standing wonder to
all foreigners who consider our condition, an amount of apparently
immovable pauperism, which to strangers is wholly irreconcilable with
the fact that we, as a nation, produce more of what should make us all
comfortable than is produced by any other nation of similar numbers on
the face of the globe. Let us likewise remember that during the period
of those great and so-called glorious contests on the continent of
Europe, every description of home reform was not only delayed, but
actually crushed out of the minds of the great bulk of the people.
There can be no doubt whatever that in 1793 England was about to
realize political changes and reforms, such as did not appear again
until 1830; and during the period of that war, which now almost all
men agree to have been wholly unnecessary, we were passing through a
period which may be described as the dark age of English politics;
when there was no more freedom to write or speak or politically to
act, than there is now in the most despotic country of Europe.

But it may be asked, did nobody gain? If Europe is no better, and the
people of England have been so much worse, who has benefited by the
new system of foreign policy? What has been the fate of those who were
enthroned at the Revolution, and whose supremacy has been for so
long a period undisputed among us? Mr. Kinglake, the author of an
interesting book on Eastern Travel, describing the habits of some
acquaintances that he made in the Sahara deserts, says, that the
jackals of the desert follow their prey in families like the
place-hunters of Europe. I will reverse, if you like, the comparison,
and say that the great territorial families of England, which were
enthroned at the Revolution, have followed their prey like the jackals
of the desert. Do you not observe, at a glance, that, from the time of
William III, by reason of the foreign policy which I denounce, wars
have been multiplied, taxes increased, loans made, and the sums of
money which every year the Government has to expend augmented, and
that so the patronage at the disposal of Ministers must have increased
also, and the families who were enthroned and made powerful in the
legislation and administration of the country must have had the first
pull at, and the largest profit out of, that patronage? There is no
actuary in existence who can calculate how much of the wealth, of the
Strength, of the supremacy of the territorial families of England
has been derived from an unholy participation in the fruits of the
industry of the people, which have been wrested from them by every
device of taxation, and squandered in every conceivable crime of which
a Government could possibly be guilty.

The more you examine this matter the more you will come to the
conclusion which I have arrived at, that this foreign policy, this
regard for 'the liberties of Europe', this care at one time for 'the
Protestant interests', this excessive love for 'the balance of power',
is neither more nor less than a gigantic system of out-door relief for
the aristocracy of Great Britain. (Great laughter.) I observe that
you receive that declaration as if it were some new and important
discovery. In 1815, when the great war with France was ended, every
Liberal in England whose politics, whose hopes, and whose faith had
not been crushed out of him by the tyranny of the time of that war,
was fully aware of this, and openly admitted it, and up to 1832, and
for some years afterwards, it was the fixed and undoubted creed of the
great Liberal party. But somehow all is changed. We who stand upon the
old landmarks, who walk in the old paths, who would conserve what is
wise and prudent, are hustled and shoved about as if we were come to
turn the world upside down. The change which has taken place seems
to confirm the opinion of a lamented friend of mine, who, not having
succeeded in all his hopes, thought that men made no progress
whatever, but went round and round like, a squirrel in a cage. The
idea is now so general that it is our duty to meddle everywhere,
that it really seems as if we had pushed the Tories from the field,
expelling them by our competition.

I should like to lay before you a list of the treaties which we have
made, and of the responsibilities under which we have laid ourselves
with respect to the various countries of Europe. I do not know where
such an enumeration is to be found, but I suppose it would be possible
for antiquaries and men of investigating minds to dig them out from
the recesses of the Foreign Office, and perhaps to make some of them
intelligible to the country. I believe, however, that if we go to the
Baltic we shall find that we have a treaty to defend Sweden, and the
only thing which Sweden agrees to do in return is not to give up any
portion of her territories to Russia. Coming down a little south, we
have a treaty which invites us, enables us, and perhaps, if we acted
fully up to our duty with regard to it, would compel us to interfere
in the question between Denmark and the Duchies. If I mistake not, we
have a treaty which binds us down to the maintenance of the little
kingdom of Belgium, as established after its separation from Holland.
We have numerous treaties with France. We are understood to be bound
by treaty to maintain constitutional government in Spain and Portugal.
If we go round into the Mediterranean, we find the little kingdom of
Sardinia, to which we have lent some millions of money, and with which
we have entered into important treaties for preserving the balance of
power in Europe. If we go beyond the kingdoms of Italy and cross the
Adriatic, we come to the small kingdom of Greece, against which
we have a nice account that will never be settled, while we have
engagements to maintain that respectable but diminutive country under
its present constitutional government. Then, leaving the kingdom of
Greece, we pass up the eastern end of the Mediterranean, and from
Greece to the Red Sea, where-ever the authority of the Sultan is more
or less admitted, the blood and the industry of England are pledged to
the permanent sustentation of the 'independence and integrity' of the
Ottoman Empire.

I confess that, as a citizen of this country, wishing to live
peaceably among my fellow countrymen, and wishing to see my countrymen
free, and able to enjoy the fruits of their labour, I protest against
a system which binds us in all these net-works and complications, from
which it is impossible that we can gain one single atom of advantage
for this country. It is not all glory, after all. Glory may be worth
something, but it is not always glory. We have had within the last few
years dispatches from Vienna and from St. Petersburg which, if we had
not deserved them, would have been very offensive and not a little
insolent. We have had the Ambassador of the Queen expelled summarily
from Madrid, and we have had an Ambassador driven almost with ignominy
from Washington. We have blockaded Athens for a claim which was known
to be false. We have quarrelled with Naples, for we chose to give
advice to Naples, which was not received in the submissive spirit
expected from her, and our Minister was therefore withdrawn. Not three
years ago, too, we seized a considerable kingdom in India, with which
our Government had but recently entered into the most solemn treaty,
which every lawyer in England and in Europe, I believe, would consider
binding before God and the world. We deposed its monarch, we committed
a great immorality and a great crime, and we have reaped an almost
instantaneous retribution in the most gigantic and sanguinary revolt
which probably any nation ever made against its conquerors. Within the
last few years we have had two wars with a great Empire, which we are
told contains at least one-third of the whole human race. The first
war was called, and appropriately called, the Opium War. No man, I
believe, with a spark of morality in his composition, no man who
cares anything for the opinion of his fellow countrymen, has dared to
justify that war. The war which has just been concluded, if it has
been concluded, had its origin in the first war; for the enormities
committed in the first war are the foundation of the implacable
hostility which it is said the inhabitants of Canton bear to all
persons connected with the English name. Yet though we have these
troubles in India--a vast country which we do not know how to
govern--and a war with China--a country with which, though everybody
else can remain at peace, we cannot--such is the inveterate habit of
conquest, such is the insatiable lust of territory, such is, in my
view, the depraved, unhappy state of opinion of the country on this
subject, that there are not a few persons, Chambers of Commerce to
wit, in different parts of the kingdom (though I am glad to say it has
not been so with the Chamber of Commerce at Birmingham), who have been
urging our Government to take possession of a province of the
greatest island in the Eastern Seas, a possession which must at once
necessitate increased estimates and increased taxation, and which
would probably lead us into merciless and disgraceful wars with the
half-savage tribes who inhabit that island.

I will not dwell upon that question. The gentleman who is principally
concerned in it is at this moment, as you know, stricken down with
affliction, and I am unwilling to enter here into any considerable
discussion of the case which he is urging upon the public; but I say
that we have territory enough in India, and if we have not troubles
enough there, if we have not difficulties enough in China, if we have
not taxation enough, by all means gratify your wishes for more; but
I hope that whatever may be the shortcomings of the Government with
regard to any other questions in which we are all interested--and may
they be few!--they will shut their eyes, they will turn their backs
obstinately from adding in this mode, or in any mode, to the English
possessions in the East. I suppose that if any ingenious person were
to prepare a large map of the world, as far as it is known, and
were to mark upon it, in any colour that he liked, the spots where
Englishmen have fought, and English blood has been poured forth, and
the treasure of England squandered, scarcely a country, scarcely a
province of the vast expanse of the habitable globe would be thus

Perhaps there are in this room, I am sure there are in the country,
many persons who hold a superstitious traditionary belief that,
somehow or other, our vast trade is to be attributed to what we have
done in this way, that it is thus we have opened markets and advanced
commerce, that English greatness depends upon the extent of English
conquests and English military renown. But I am inclined to think
that, with the exception of Australia, there is not a single
dependency of the Crown which, if we come to reckon what it has cost
in war and protection, would not be found to be a positive loss to the
people of this country. Take the United States, with which we have
such an enormous and constantly increasing trade. The wise statesmen
of the last generation, men whom your school histories tell you were
statesmen, serving under a monarch who they tell you was a patriotic
monarch, spent L130,000,000 of the fruits of the industry of the
people in a vain--happily a vain--endeavour to retain the colonies of
the United States in subjection to the Monarchy of England. Add up the
interest of that L130,000,000 for all this time, and how long do you
think it will be before there will be a profit on the trade with the
United States which will repay the enormous sum we invested in a war
to retain those States as colonies of this Empire? It never will
be paid off. Wherever you turn, you will find that the opening of
markets, developing of new countries, introducing cotton cloth with
cannon balls, are vain, foolish, and wretched excuses for wars, and
ought not to be listened to for a moment by any man who understands
the multiplication table or who can do the simplest sum in arithmetic.

Since the 'Glorious Revolution', since the enthronization of the great
Norman territorial families, they have spent in wars, and we have
worked for, about L2,000,000,000. The interest on that is L100,000,000
per annum, which alone, to say nothing of the principal sum, is three
or four times as much as the whole amount of your annual export trade
from that time to this. Therefore, if war has provided you with a
trade, it has been at an enormous cost; but I think it is by no means
doubtful that your trade would have been no less in amount and no less
profitable had peace and justice been inscribed on your flag instead
of conquest and the love of military renown. But even in this year,
1858--we have got a long way into the century--we find that within the
last seven years our public debt has greatly increased. Whatever be
the increase of our population, of our machinery, of our industry, of
our wealth, still our national debt goes on increasing. Although we
have not a foot more territory to conserve, or an enemy in the world
who dreams of attacking us, we find that our annual military
expenses during the last twenty years have risen from L12,000,000 to

Some people think that it is a good thing to pay a great revenue to
the State. Even so eminent a man as Lord John Russell is not without
a delusion of this sort. Lord John Russell, as you have heard,
while speaking of me in flattering and friendly terms, says he is
unfortunately obliged to differ from me frequently; therefore, I
suppose, there is no particular harm in my saying that I am sometimes
obliged to differ from him. Some time ago he was a great star in the
northern hemisphere, shining, not with unaccustomed, but with his
usual brilliancy at Liverpool. He made a speech in which there was a
great deal to be admired, to a meeting composed, it was said, to a
great extent of working-men; and in it he stimulated them to a feeling
of pride in the greatness of their country and in being citizens of a
State which enjoyed a revenue of L100,000,000 a year, which included
the revenues of the United Kingdom and of British India. But I
think it would have been far more to the purpose if he could have
congratulated the working-men of Liverpool on this vast Empire being
conducted in an orderly manner, on its laws being well administered
and well obeyed, its shores sufficiently defended, its people
prosperous and happy, on a revenue of L20,000,000. The State,
indeed, of which Lord John Russell is a part, may enjoy a revenue of
L100,000,000, but I am afraid the working-men can only be said
to enjoy it in the sense in which men not very choice in their
expressions say that for a long time they have enjoyed 'very bad

I am prepared to admit that it is a subject of congratulation that
there is a people so great, so free, and so industrious, that it can
produce a sufficient income out of which L100,000,000 a year, if need
absolutely were, could be spared for some great and noble object; but
it is not a thing to be proud of that our Government should require
us to pay that enormous sum for the simple purposes of government and
defence. Nothing can by any possibility tend more to the corruption of
a Government than enormous revenues. We have heard lately of instances
of certain joint-stock institutions with very great capital collapsing
suddenly, bringing disgrace upon their managers and ruin upon hundreds
of families. A great deal of that has arisen, not so much from
intentional fraud, as from the fact that weak and incapable men have
found themselves tumbling about in an ocean of bank-notes and gold,
and they appear to have lost all sight of where it came from, to whom
it belonged, and whether it was possible by any maladministration
ever to come to an end of it. That is absolutely what is done by
Governments. You have read in the papers lately some accounts of the
proceedings before a Commission appointed to inquire into alleged
maladministration with reference to the supply of clothing to the
army, but if anybody had said anything in the time of the late
Government about any such maladministration, there is not one of those
great statesmen, of whom we are told we ought always to speak with so
much reverence, who would not have got up and declared that nothing
could be more admirable than the system of book-keeping at Weedon,
nothing more economical than the manner in which the War Department
spent the money provided by public taxation. But we know that it is
not so. I have heard a gentleman--one who is as competent as any man
in England to give an opinion about it--a man of business, and not
surpassed by any one as a man of business, declare, after a long
examination of the details of the question, that he would undertake to
do everything that is done not only for the defence of the country,
but for many other things which are done by your navy, and which are
not necessary for that purpose, for half the annual cost that is voted
in the estimates!

I think the expenditure of these vast sums, and especially of those
which we spend for military purposes, leads us to adopt a defiant and
insolent tone towards foreign countries. We have the freest press in
Europe, and the freest platform in Europe, but every man who writes an
article in a newspaper, and every man who stands on a platform, ought
to do it under a solemn sense of responsibility. Every word he writes,
every word I utter, passes with a rapidity, of which our forefathers
were utterly ignorant, to the very ends of the earth; the words become
things and acts, and they produce on the minds of other nations
effects which a man may never have intended. Take a recent case; take
the case of France. I am not expected to defend, and I shall certainly
not attack, the present Government of France. The instant that it
appeared in its present shape, the Minister of England conducting
your foreign affairs, speaking ostensibly for the Cabinet, for his
Sovereign, and for the English nation, offered his congratulations,
and the support of England was at once accorded to the re-created
French Empire. Soon after this an intimate alliance was entered into
between the Queen of England, through her Ministers, and the Emperor
of the French. I am not about to defend the policy which flowed from
that alliance, nor shall I take up your time by making any attack upon
it. An alliance was entered into, and a war was entered into. English
and French soldiers fought on the same field, and they suffered, I
fear, from the same neglect. They now lie buried on the bleak heights
of the Crimea, and except by their mothers, who do not soon forget
their children, I suppose they are mostly forgotten. I have never
heard it suggested that the French Government did not behave with the
most perfect honour to this Government and this country all through
these grave transactions; but I have heard it stated by those who must
know, that nothing could be more honourable, nothing more just, than
the conduct of the French Emperor to this Government throughout the
whole of that struggle. More recently, when the war in China was begun
by a Government which I have condemned and denounced in the House
of Commons, the Emperor of the French sent his ships and troops to
co-operate with us, but I have never heard that anything was done
there to create a suspicion of a feeling of hostility on his part
towards us. The Emperor of the French came to London, and some of
those powerful organs of the press, who have since taken the line of
which I am complaining, did all but invite the people of London to
prostrate themselves under the wheels of the chariot which conveyed
along our streets the revived Monarchy of France. The Queen of England
went to Paris, and was she not received there with as much affection
and as much respect as her high position and her honourable character
entitle her to?

What has occurred since? If there was a momentary unpleasantness, I
am quite sure that every impartial man will agree that, under the
peculiarly irritating circumstances of the time, there was at least
as much forbearance shown on one side of the Channel as on the other.
Then, we have had much said lately about a naval fortification
recently completed in France, which has been more than one hundred
years in progress, which was not devised by the present Emperor of the
French. For one hundred years great sums have been spent on it, and
at last, like every other great work, it was brought to an end. The
English Queen and others were invited over, and many went who were not
invited. And yet in all this we are told that there is something to
create extreme alarm and suspicion; we, who have never fortified any
places; we, who have not a greater than Sebastopol at Gibraltar; we,
who have not an impregnable fortress at Malta, who have not spent the
fortune of a nation almost in the Ionian Islands; we, who are doing
nothing at Alderney; we are to take offence at the fortifications of
Cherbourg! There are few persons who at some time or other have not
been brought into contact with a poor unhappy fellow creature who has
some peculiar delusion or suspicion pressing on his mind. I recollect
a friend of mine going down from Derby to Leeds in the train with a
very quiet and respectable-looking gentleman sitting opposite to
him. They had both been staying at the Midland Hotel, and they began
talking about it. All at once the gentleman said, 'Did you notice
anything particular about the bread at breakfast?' 'No,' said my
friend, 'I did not.' 'Oh! but I did,' said the poor gentleman, 'and I
am convinced there was an attempt made to poison me, and it is a very
curious thing that I never go to an hotel without I discover some
attempt to do me mischief.' The unfortunate man was labouring under
one of the greatest calamities which can befall a human creature.

But what are we to say of a nation which lives under a perpetual
delusion that it is about to be attacked, a nation which is the most
combined on the face of the earth, with little less than 30,000,000 of
people all united under a Government which, though we intend to reform
it, we do not the less respect, and which has mechanical power and
wealth to which no other country offers any parallel? There is no
causeway to Britain; the free waves of the sea flow day and night for
ever round her shores, and yet there are people going about with whom
this hallucination is so strong that they do not merely discover it
quietly to their friends, but they write it down in double-leaded
columns, in leading articles. Nay, some of them actually get up on
platforms and proclaim it to hundreds and thousands of their fellow
countrymen. I should like to ask you whether these delusions are to
last for ever, whether this policy is to be the perpetual policy of
England, whether these results are to go on gathering and gathering
until there come, as come there must inevitably, some dreadful
catastrophe on our country?

I should like to-night, if I could, to inaugurate one of the best and
holiest revolutions that ever took place in this country. We have had
a dozen revolutions since some of us were children. We have had one
revolution in which you had a great share, a great revolution of
opinion on the question of the suffrage. Does it not read like madness
that men, thirty years ago, were frantic at the idea of the people of
Birmingham having a L10 franchise? Does it not seem something like
idiotcy to be told that a banker in Leeds, when it was proposed to
transfer the seats of one rotten borough to the town of Leeds, should
say (and it was repeated in the House of Commons on his authority)
that if the people of Leeds had the franchise conferred upon them it
would not be possible to keep the bank doors open with safety, and
that he should remove his business to some quiet place out of danger
from the savage race that peopled that town? But now all confess that
the people are perfectly competent to have votes, and nobody dreams of
arguing that the privilege will make them less orderly.

Take the question of colonial government. Twenty years ago the
government of our colonies was a huge job. A small family party in
each, in connexion with the Colonial Office, ruled our colonies.
We had then discontent, and, now and then, a little wholesome
insurrection, especially in Canada. The result was that we have given
up the colonial policy which had hitherto been held sacred, and since
that time not only have our colonies greatly advanced in wealth and
material resources, but no parts of the Empire are more tranquil and

Take also the question of Protection. Not thirty years ago, but twelve
years ago, there was a great party in Parliament, led by a duke in
one House and by the son and brother of a duke in the other, which
declared that utter ruin must come, not only on the agricultural
interest, but upon the manufactures and commerce of England, if we
departed from our old theories upon this subject of Protection. They
told us that the labourer--the unhappy labourer--of whom it may be
said in this country,

Here landless labourers hopeless toil and strive,
But taste no portion of the sweets they hive,--

that the labourer was to be ruined; that is, that the paupers were to
be pauperized. These gentlemen were overthrown. The plain, honest,
common sense of the country swept away their cobweb theories, and they
are gone. What is the result? From 1846 to 1857 we have received into
this country of grain of all kinds, including flour, maize, or India
corn--all objects heretofore not of absolute prohibition, but which
were intended to be prohibited until it was not safe for people to
be starved any more--not less than an amount equal in value to
L224,000,000. That is equal to L18,700,000 per annum on the average
of twelve years. During that period, too, your home growth has been
stimulated to an enormous extent. You have imported annually 200,000
tons of guano, and the result has been a proportionate increase in the
productions of the soil, for 200,000 tons of guano will grow an equal
weight and value of wheat. With all this, agriculture was never more
prosperous, while manufactures were never, at the same time, more
extensively exported; and with all this the labourers, for whom the
tears of the Protectionist were shed, have, according to the admission
of the most violent of the class, never been in a better state since
the beginning of the great French war.

One other revolution of opinion has been in regard to our criminal
law. I have lately been reading a book which I would advise every
man to read--the _Life of Sir Samuel Romilly_. He tells us in simple
language of the almost insuperable difficulties he had to contend with
to persuade the Legislature of this country to abolish the punishment
of death for stealing from a dwelling-house to the value of 5_s_., an
offence which now is punished by a few weeks' imprisonment. Lords,
bishops, and statesmen opposed these efforts year after year, and
there have been some thousands of persons put to death publicly for
offences which are not now punishable with death. Now, every man and
woman in the kingdom would feel a thrill of horror if told that a
fellow creature was to be put to death for such a cause. These are
revolutions in opinion, and let me tell you that when you accomplish,
a revolution in opinion upon a great question, when you alter it from
bad to good, it is not like charitably giving a beggar 6_d_., and
seeing him no more, but it is a great beneficent act, which affects
not merely the rich and the powerful, but penetrates every lane,
every cottage in the land, and wherever it goes brings blessings and
happiness. It is not from statesmen that these things come. It is not
from them that have proceeded these great revolutions of opinion on
the questions of Reform, Protection, Colonial Government, and Criminal
Law, it was from public meetings such as this, from the intelligence
and conscience of the great body of the people who have no interest
in wrong, and who never go from the right but by temporary error and
under momentary passion.

It is for you to decide whether our greatness shall be only temporary
or whether it shall be enduring. When I am told that the greatness of
our country is shown by the L100,000,000 of revenue produced, may I
not also ask how it is that we have 1,100,000 paupers in this kingdom,
and why it is that L7,000,000 should be taken from the industry,
chiefly of the labouring classes, to support a small nation, as it
were, of paupers? Since your legislation upon the Corn Laws, you have
not only had nearly L20,000,000 of food brought into the country
annually, but such an extraordinary increase of trade that your
exports are about doubled, and yet I understand that in the year 1856,
for I have no later return, there were no less than 1,100,000 paupers
in the United Kingdom, and the sum raised in poor-rates was not less
than L7,200,000. And that cost of pauperism is not the full amount,
for there is a vast amount of temporary, casual, and vagrant pauperism
that does not come in to swell that sum.

Then do not you well know--I know it, because I live among the
population of Lancashire, and I doubt not the same may be said of the
population of this city and county--that just above the level of the
1,100,000 there is at least an equal number who are ever oscillating
between independence and pauperism, who, with a heroism which is not
the less heroic because it is secret and unrecorded, are doing their
very utmost to maintain an honourable and independent position before
their fellow men? While Irish labour, notwithstanding the improvement
which has taken place in Ireland, is only paid at the rate of about
1_s_. a day, while in the straths and glens of Scotland there are
hundreds of shepherd families whose whole food almost consists of
oatmeal porridge from day to day, and from week to week; while these
things continue, I say that we have no reason to be self-satisfied and
contented with our position; but that we who are in Parliament and
are more directly responsible for affairs, and you who are also
responsible though in a lower degree, are bound by the sacred duty
which we owe our country to examine why it is that with all this
trade, all this industry, and all this personal freedom, there is
still so much that is unsound at the base of our social fabric?

Let me direct your attention now to another point which I never think
of without feelings which words would altogether fail to express.
You hear constantly that woman, the helpmate of man, who adorns,
dignifies, and blesses our lives, that woman in this country is cheap;
that vast numbers whose names ought to be synonyms for purity and
virtue are plunged into profligacy and infamy. But do you not know
that you sent 40,000 men to perish on the bleak heights of the Crimea,
and that the revolt in India, caused, in part at least, by the
grievous iniquity of the seizure of Oude, may tax your country to the
extent of 100,000 lives before it is extinguished; and do you know
that for the 140,000 men thus drafted off and consigned to premature
graves, nature provided in your country 140,000 women? If you have
taken the men who should have been the husbands of these women, and
if you have sacrificed L100,000,000, which as capital reserved in the
country would have been an ample fund for their employment and for the
sustentation of their families, are you not guilty of a great sin
in involving yourselves in such a loss of life and of money in war,
except on grounds and under circumstances which, according to the
opinion of every man in the country, should leave no kind of option
whatever for your choice?

I know perfectly well the kind of observations which a certain class
of critics will make upon this speech. I have been already told by a
very eminent newspaper publisher in Calcutta, who, commenting on
a speech I made at the close of the session, with regard to the
condition of India and our future policy in that country, said, that
the policy I recommended was intended to strike at the root of the
advancement of the British Empire, and that its advancement did not
necessarily involve the calamities which I pointed out as likely to
occur. My Calcutta critic assured me that Rome pursued a similar
policy for a period of eight centuries, and for those eight centuries
she remained great. Now, I do not think that examples taken from
pagan, sanguinary Rome are proper models for the imitation of a
Christian country, nor would I limit my hopes of the greatness of
England even to the long duration of 800 years. But what is Rome now?
The great city is dead. A poet has described her as 'the lone mother
of dead empires'. Her language even is dead. Her very tombs are empty;
the ashes of her most illustrious citizens are dispersed--

The Scipios' tomb contains no ashes now.

Yet I am asked, I, who am one of the legislators of a Christian
country, to measure my policy by the policy of ancient and pagan Rome!

I believe there is no permanent greatness to a nation except it be
based upon morality. I do not care for military greatness or military
renown. I care for the condition of the people among whom I live.
There is no man in England who is less likely to speak irreverently
of the Crown and Monarchy of England than I am; but crowns, coronets,
mitres, military display, the pomp of war, wide colonies, and a huge
empire, are, in my view, all trifles light as air, and not worth
considering, unless with them you can have a fair share of comfort,
contentment, and happiness among the great body of the people.
Palaces, baronial castles, great halls, stately mansions, do not make
a nation. The nation in every country dwells in the cottage; and
unless the light of your constitution can shine there, unless the
beauty of your legislation and the excellence of your statesmanship
are impressed there on the feelings and condition of the people, rely
upon it you have yet to learn the duties of government.

I have not, as you have observed, pleaded that this country should
remain without adequate and scientific means of defence. I acknowledge
it to be the duty of your statesmen, acting upon the known opinions
and principles of ninety-nine out of every hundred persons in the
country, at all times, with all possible moderation, but with all
possible efficiency, to take steps which shall preserve order within
and on the confines of your kingdom. But I shall repudiate and
denounce the expenditure of every shilling, the engagement of
every man, the employment of every ship which has no object but
intermeddling in the affairs of other countries, and endeavouring to
extend the boundaries of an empire which is already large enough to
satisfy the greatest ambition, and I fear is much too large for the
highest statesmanship to which any man has yet attained.

The most ancient of profane historians has told us that the Scythians
of his time were a very warlike people, and that they elevated an old
scimitar upon a platform as a symbol of Mars, for to Mars alone, I
believe, they built altars and offered sacrifices. To this scimitar
they offered sacrifices of horses and cattle, the main wealth of the
country, and more costly sacrifices than to all the rest of their
gods. I often ask myself whether we are at all advanced in one respect
beyond those Scythians. What are our contributions to charity,
to education, to morality, to religion, to justice, and to civil
government, when compared with the wealth we expend in sacrifices
to the old scimitar? Two nights ago I addressed in this hall a vast
assembly composed to a great extent of your countrymen who have no
political power, who are at work from the dawn of the day to the
evening, and who have therefore limited means of informing themselves
on these great subjects. Now I am privileged to speak to a somewhat
different audience. You represent those of your great community who
have a more complete education, who have on some points greater
intelligence, and in whose hands reside the power and influence of the
district. I am speaking, too, within the hearing of those whose gentle
nature, whose finer instincts, whose purer minds, have not suffered as
some of us have suffered in the turmoil and strife of life. You can
mould opinion, you can create political power. You cannot think a good
thought on this subject and communicate it to your neighbours, you
cannot make these points topics of discussion in your social circles
and more general meetings, without affecting sensibly and speedily the
course which the Government of your country will pursue. May I ask
you, then, to believe, as I do most devoutly believe, that the moral
law was not written for men alone in their individual character, but
that it was written as well for nations, and for nations great as this
of which we are citizens. If nations reject and deride that moral law,
there is a penalty which will inevitably follow. It may not come at
once, it may not come in our lifetime; but, rely upon it, the great
Italian is not a poet only, but a prophet, when he says:

The sword of heaven is not in haste to smite,
Nor yet doth linger.

We have experience, we have beacons, we have landmarks enough. We
know what the past has cost us, we know how much and how far we have
wandered, but we are not left without a guide. It is true we have not,
as an ancient people had, Urim and Thummim--those oraculous gems
on Aaron's breast--from which to take counsel, but we have the
unchangeable and eternal principles of the moral law to guide us, and
only so far as we walk by that guidance can we be permanently a great
nation, or our people a happy people.


AUGUST 8 AND 10, 1870


Sir, in view of the approaching prorogation of Parliament, I am
anxious to state at as early a period as possible that Her Majesty's
Government are not in a position to lay further papers upon the table
relating to the subject alluded to in the Question of the hon. member
for Wakefield (Mr. Somerset Beaumont). Knowing well the anxiety which
the House must feel with reference to the course which the Government
intend to follow, I will, in a few sentences, explain to them exactly
what we have done and what we have endeavoured to do. In so doing I
shall confine myself strictly to statements of fact, not mixing up
with them anything in the nature of explanation or defence, if,
indeed, defence be requisite, but will allow such explanation or
defence to stand over until the proper opportunity for making it shall
arrive. On Saturday, the 30th of July, the Government made a proposal
to France and Prussia severally in identical terms, and that proposal
was that an agreement should be contracted by this country with
each of them, whether under the name of a treaty or whatever other
designation might be given to the agreement, to this effect: that if
the armies of either one of the belligerents should, in the course
of the operations of the war, violate the neutrality of Belgium,
as secured by the terms of the Treaty of 1839, this country should
co-operate with the other belligerent in defence of that neutrality
by arms. It was signified in the document so transmitted that
Great Britain would not by that engagement, or by acting upon that
engagement in case of need, be bound to take part in the general
operations of the war. And, of course, the other contracting party was
to enter into a similar undertaking to use force for the preservation
of the neutrality of Belgium against the offending Power. We proposed
that the treaty or engagement--for it has now taken the form of a
treaty--should hold good for twelve months after the ratification of a
treaty of peace between the two belligerent Powers, after which period
it is stipulated that the respective parties, being parties to the
Treaty of 1839, shall fall back upon the obligations they took upon
themselves under that treaty. Briefly stated and divested of all
technical language, that, I think, is the whole of the contents of the
proposed treaty. On the same day--last Saturday week--and two days
before the discussion which occurred in this House in connexion with
foreign affairs, the whole proposal was made known by the British
Government to the Austrian and Russian Governments, and confidence was
expressed that, under the extreme pressure that existed as to time,
those Powers would not hesitate to adopt a similar measure. That is
the course Her Majesty's Government have followed in the matter. Now
as to the reception of this proposal by the other Powers. As far as we
have been informed, the Governments of both Austria and Russia take a
favourable view of the proposal. I will not say that the negotiation
has proceeded so far as to entitle us to regard them as held bound to
a particular course, but, in the main, I may say that the reception
of our proposal has been favourable by both of those Powers. And now,
with regard to the two belligerent Powers. The proposal, having been
sent to Lord Augustus Loftus on the 30th ult., on Friday, the 5th
inst., Count Bernstorff informed Earl Granville that Count Bismarck
had left Berlin for head-quarters, and that, consequently the
communication with him through Lord Augustus Loftus had been delayed.
The terms of the proposed treaty, however, having been communicated on
the same day--Saturday week--to the respective Ambassadors in London,
Count Bernstorff had telegraphed their substance to Count Bismarck,
who had informed him that he had not then received any proposal from
Lord Augustus Loftus, that he was ready to agree to any engagement
that would tend to the maintenance of the neutrality of Belgium; but
that, as the intended instrument was not before him, he could only
give a general assent to its purport, and must not be regarded as
bound to any particular mode of proceeding intended to secure that
neutrality. Count Bernstorff subsequently informed Earl Granville
on the same day, on the 5th of August, that he had received a later
telegram from Count Bismarck to the effect that he had then received a
summary of the draft treaty from him, that he had submitted it to the
King of Prussia, and that he was authorized to state that His Majesty
had agreed to the plan. Later still on the same day Count Bernstorff
informed Earl Granville that Count Bismarck again telegraphed to him
stating that he had seen the actual document, and authorizing him to
sign the treaty. Count Bernstorff has not yet--at least, had not when
I came down to the House--received his full powers in the technical
sense, but he expects to receive them in the course of the day,
and therefore I think that the engagement may be regarded as being
completed on the part of Prussia. Now as regards France. That country
has accepted the principle of the treaty, but the French Government
were desirous to introduce some modifications into the terms of the
instrument that were not of a nature, as we thought, in any degree to
interfere with the substance of the clauses. The House will perceive
that as we had made an identical proposal to the two Powers, it was
impossible for us to undertake to alter the body of the instrument,
for fear the whole arrangements might come to nothing, although
the sole object of the modifications so proposed was to prevent
misunderstanding. We had no difficulty in giving such an explanation
as we thought amounted to no more than a simple and clear
interpretation of the document. That explanation was sent to Paris
on Saturday evening. Perhaps the pressure of affairs in Paris may
naturally account for the fact that an answer did not arrive by return
of post in a regular manner this morning; but we have reason to
believe that this explanation will remove all difficulty on the part
of the French Government and will lead to the signing of the treaty.
Possibly, therefore, even before the termination of the present
sitting it will be in our power to make a further communication to the
House. In the meantime I shall be glad to answer any question, if my
statement has not been sufficiently clear; but, as I said before, I
should wish to refrain from saying more than is absolutely necessary
on the present occasion, and I hope the House will not enter into any
general discussion upon the subject.

As far as I understand, my hon. and gallant friend the member for
Waterford (Mr. Osborne) has complained that we have destroyed the
Treaty of 1839 by this instrument. As I pay so much attention to
everything that falls from him, I thought that by some mistake I must
have read the instrument inaccurately; but I have read it again, and I
find that by one of the articles contained in it the Treaty of 1839 is
expressly recognized. But there is one omission I made in the matter
which I will take the present opportunity to supply. The House, I
think, have clearly understood that this instrument expresses an
arrangement between this country and France, but an instrument has
been signed between this country and the North German Confederation
precisely the same in its terms, except that where the name of the
Emperor of the French is read in one instrument, the name of the
German Confederation is read in the other, and vice versa. I have
listened with much interest to the conversation which has occurred,
and I think we have no reason to be dissatisfied at the manner in
which, speaking generally, this treaty has been received. My hon.
friend the member for Brighton (Mr. White) speaking, as he says, from
below the gangway, is quite right in thinking that his approval of the
course the Government have taken is gratifying to us, on account of
the evidently independent course of action which he always pursues
in this House. The hon. and gallant gentleman opposite (Colonel
Barttelot) has expressed a different opinion from ours on the great
question of policy, and he asks whether we should not have done well
to limit ourselves to the Treaty of 1839. We differ entirely on that
subject from the hon. and gallant gentleman; but we cannot complain of
the manner in which he has expressed his opinion and recognized the
intentions of the Government. From gentlemen who sit behind me we have
had more positive and unequivocal expressions of approval than fell
from the hon. and gallant gentleman. The only person who strongly
objects to the course taken by the Government is my hon. and gallant
friend the member for Waterford; and I do not in the least object to
his frank method of stating whatever he feels in opposition to our
proceedings in a matter of so much consequence, though I do not think
it necessary to notice some of his objections. In the first place,
he denounces this treaty as an example of the mischiefs of secret
diplomacy. He thinks that if the treaty had been submitted to the
House it would not have been agreed to. My hon. and gallant friend is
a man much enamoured of public diplomacy. He remembers, no doubt, that
three weeks ago the Duc de Gramont went to the Legislative body of
France and made an announcement as to the policy which the French
Government would pursue with respect to Prussia. The result of that
example of public diplomacy no doubt greatly encouraged my hon. and
gallant friend. Then we have a specimen in the speech of my hon. and
gallant friend of the kind of public diplomacy which we should have
in this case if his hopes and desires were realized. He says that if
Belgium were in the hands of a hostile Power the liberties of this
country would not be worth twenty-four hours' purchase. I protest
against that statement. With all my heart and soul I protest against
it. A statement more exaggerated, a statement more extravagant, I
never heard fall from the lips of any member in this House. (Mr.
Osborne: Napoleon said it.) Whatever my hon. and gallant friend's
accurate acquaintance with the correspondence of Napoleon may induce
him to say, I may be permitted to observe that I am not prepared to
take my impression of the character, of the strength, of the
dignity, of the duty, or of the danger of this country, from that
correspondence. I will avail myself of this opportunity of expressing
my opinion, if I may presume to give it, that too much has been said
by my hon. and gallant friend and others of the specially distinct,
separate, and exclusive interest which this country has in the
maintenance of the neutrality of Belgium. What is our interest in
maintaining the neutrality of Belgium? It is the same as that of every
great Power in Europe. It is contrary to the interest of Europe that
there should be unmeasured aggrandizement. Our interest is no more
involved in the aggrandizement supposed in this particular case
than is the interest of other Powers. That it is a real interest, a
substantial interest, I do not deny; but I protest against the attempt
to attach to it the exclusive character which I never knew carried
into the region of caricature to such a degree as it has been by my
hon. and gallant friend. What is the immediate moral effect of those
exaggerated statements of the separate interest of England? The
immediate moral effect of them is this, that every effort we make on
behalf of Belgium on other grounds than those of interest, as well
as on grounds of interest, goes forth to the world as a separate and
selfish scheme of ours; and that which we believe to be entitled to
the dignity and credit of an effort on behalf of the general peace,
stability, and interest of Europe actually contracts a taint of
selfishness in the eyes of other nations because of the manner in
which the subject of Belgian neutrality is too frequently treated in
this House. If I may be allowed to speak of the motives which have
actuated Her Majesty's Government in the matter, I would say that
while we have recognized the interest of England, we have never
looked upon it as the sole motive, or even as the greatest of those
considerations which have urged us forward. There is, I admit, the
obligation of the treaty. It is not necessary, nor would time permit
me, to enter into the complicated question of the nature of the
obligations of that treaty; but I am not able to subscribe to the
doctrine of those who have held in this House what plainly amounts to
an assertion, that the simple fact of the existence of a guarantee
is binding on every party to it irrespectively altogether of the
particular position in which it may find itself at the time when the
occasion for acting on the guarantee arises. The great authorities
upon foreign policy to whom I have been accustomed to listen--such as
Lord Aberdeen and Lord Palmerston--never, to my knowledge, took that
rigid and, if I may venture to say so, that impracticable view of
a guarantee. The circumstance that there is already an existing
guarantee in force is of necessity an important fact, and a weighty
element in the case, to which we are bound to give full and ample
consideration. There is also this further consideration, the force of
which we must all feel most deeply, and that is the common interest
against the unmeasured aggrandizement of any Power whatever. But there
is one other motive, which I shall place at the head of all, that
attaches peculiarly to the preservation of the independence of
Belgium. What is that country? It is a country containing 4,000,000 or
5,000,000 of people, with much of an historic past, and imbued with a
sentiment of nationality and a spirit of independence as warm and as
genuine as that which beats in the hearts of the proudest and most
powerful nations. By the regulations of its internal concerns, amid
the shocks of revolution, Belgium through all the crises of the
age, has set to Europe an example of a good and stable government,
gracefully associated with the widest possible extension of the
liberty of the people. Looking at a country such as that, is there
any man who hears me who does not feel that if, in order to satisfy a
greedy appetite for aggrandizement, coming whence it may, Belgium were
absorbed, the day that witnessed the absorption would hear the knell
of public right and public law in Europe? But we have an interest in
the independence of Belgium, which is wider than that--which is wider
than that which we may have in the literal operation of the guarantee.
It is found in the answer to the question whether, under the
circumstances of the case, this country, endowed as it is with
influence and power, would quietly stand by and witness the
perpetration of the direst crime that ever stained the pages of
history, and thus become participators in the sin? And now let me deal
with the observation of the hon. member for Waterford. The hon. member
asks: What if both these Powers with whom we are making this treaty
should combine against the independence of Belgium? Well, all I can
say is that we rely on the faith of these parties. But if there
be danger of their combining against that independence now,
unquestionably there was much more danger in the position of affairs
that was revealed to our astonished eyes a fortnight ago, and before
these later engagements were contracted. I do not undertake to define
the character of that position which, as I have said, was more
dangerous a fortnight ago. I feel confident that it would be hasty to
suppose that these great States would, under any circumstances, have
become parties to the actual contemplation and execution of a proposal
such as that which was made the subject of a communication between
persons of great importance on behalf of their respective States.
That was the state of facts with which we had to deal. It was the
combination, and not the opposition, of the two Powers which we had to
fear, and I contend--and we shall be ready on every proper occasion to
argue--that there is no measure so well adapted to meet the peculiar
character of such an occasion as that which we have proposed. It is
said that the Treaty of 1839 would have sufficed, and that we ought
to have announced our determination to abide by it. But if we were
disposed at once to act upon the guarantee contained in that treaty,
what state of circumstances does it contemplate? It contemplates
the invasion of the frontiers of Belgium and the violation of the
neutrality of that country by some other Power. That is the only case
in which we could have been called upon to act under the Treaty of
1839, and that is the only case in which we can be called upon to act
under the treaty now before the House. But in what, then, lies
the difference between the two treaties? It is in this: that, in
accordance with our obligations, we should have had to act under the
Treaty of 1839 without any stipulated assurance of being supported
from any quarter whatever against any combination, however formidable;
whereas by the treaty now formally before Parliament, under the
conditions laid down in it, we secure powerful support in the event
of our having to act--a support with respect to which we may well say
that it brings the object in view within the sphere of the practicable
and attainable, instead of leaving it within the sphere of what might
have been desirable, but which might have been most difficult, under
all the circumstances, to have realized. The hon. member says that by
entering into this engagement we have destroyed the Treaty of 1839.
But if he will carefully consider the terms of this instrument he
will see that there is nothing in them calculated to bear out that
statement. It is perfectly true that this is a cumulative treaty,
added to the Treaty of 1839, as the right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr.
Disraeli), with perfect precision, described it. Upon that ground I
very much agree with the general opinion he expressed; but, at the
same time, peculiar circumstances call for a departure from general
rules, and the circumstances are most peculiar under which we have
thought it right to adopt the method of proceeding which we have
actually done. The Treaty of 1839 loses nothing of its force even
during, the existence of this present treaty. There is no derogation
from it whatever. The Treaty of 1839 includes terms which are
expressly included in the present instrument, lest by any chance
it should be said that, in consequence of the existence of this
instrument, the Treaty of 1839 had been injured or impaired. That
would have been a mere opinion; but it is an opinion which we thought
lit to provide against. The hon. member has said that this is a most
peculiar method of bringing a treaty before the House. I admit it.
There is no doubt at all that it is so. But it is not easy to say what
circumstances there are that will justify the breaking up of general
rules in a matter so delicate and important as the making of
communications to Parliament upon political negotiations of great
interest. The rule which has been uniformly followed in this country
is this: that no treaty is communicated to Parliament unless it
becomes binding; and it does not become absolutely binding upon the
signatories until it has been ratified; and, by the law and usage of
all civilized countries, ratification requires certain forms to be
gone through which cannot be concluded in a moment. Under these
circumstances, we had only this choice--whether we should be
contented to present a treaty to Parliament without the usual forms
having been gone through, or whether we should break down the rule
which we think it is, on the whole, most desirable to observe, and we
thought it best to adopt the course we have followed in the matter.
The hon. member for Wakefield (Mr. Somerset Beaumont) has asked
whether this treaty has been concluded with the sanction of Belgium.
My answer is that I do not doubt the relevancy of that inquiry, but
that the treaty has not been concluded with the sanction of Belgium,
for we have advisedly refrained from any attempt to make Belgium a
party to the engagement. In the first place, Belgium was not a party
to the Treaty of 1839. But that is a matter of secondary importance.
What we had to consider was, what was the most prudent, the best,
and the safest course for us to pursue in the interest of Belgium.
Independently of Belgium, we had no right to assume that either of the
parties would agree to it, and we had also to contemplate the case in
which one party might agree to it and the other might not. If we had
attempted to make Belgium a party we should have run the risk of
putting her in a very false position in the event of one of the
parties not agreeing to the proposal. It was, therefore, from no
want of respect or friendly feeling towards Belgium, but simply from
prudential considerations, that we abstained from bringing that
country within the circle of these negotiations. The hon. member has
also asked whether Austria and Russia have been consulted upon the
subject of the treaty, but upon that point I have nothing to add to
what I communicated to the House the other day. Both these parties
have been invited--as Her Majesty has been advised to announce from
the Throne--to accede to the treaty, and I said on Monday that the
reception of the treaty, as far as those Powers were concerned, had
been generally favourable. I have no reason to alter that statement;
but, on the part of Russia, a question has arisen with regard to which
I cannot quite say how it may eventually close, especially from the
circumstance that the Emperor and his chief advisers upon foreign
affairs do not happen to be in the same place. That question, so
raised, is whether it might be wise to give a wider scope to any
engagements of this kind; but if there is any hesitation on this
point, it is not of a kind which indicates an objection of principle,
but, on the contrary, one which shows a disposition to make every
possible effort in favour of the treaty. We are in full communication
with friendly and neutral Powers on the subject of maintaining
neutrality, and upon every side the very best dispositions prevail.
There is the greatest inclination to abstain from all officious
intermeddling between two Powers who, from their vast means and
resources, are perfectly competent for the conduct of their own
affairs; and there is not a less strong and decided desire on the
part of every Power to take every step at the present moment that can
contribute to restrict and circumscribe the area of the war, and to
be ready without having lost or forfeited the confidence of either
belligerent to avail itself of the first opportunity that may present
itself to contribute towards establishing a peace which shall be
honourable, and which shall present the promise of being permanent.
That is the general state of the case, with regard to which I do not,
in the least degree, question the right of the hon. member behind me
to form his own judgement. I cannot help expressing the opinion that,
allowing for all the difficulties of the case, and the rapidity with
which it was necessary to conduct these operations, we have done all
that appeared to be essential in the matter; and the country may feel
assured that the conduct which we have pursued in relation to this
matter has not been unworthy of the high responsibility with which we
are entrusted.


NOVEMBER 27, 1879


Gentlemen, I ask you again to go with me beyond the seas. And as I
wish to do full justice, I will tell you what I think to be the right
principles of foreign policy; and then, as far as your patience and my
strength will permit, I will, at any rate for a short time, illustrate
those right principles by some of the departures from them that have
taken place of late years. I first give you, gentlemen, what I think
the right principles of foreign policy. The first thing is to foster
the strength of the Empire by just legislation and economy at home,
thereby producing two of the great elements of national power--namely,
wealth, which is a physical element, and union and contentment, which
are moral elements--and to reserve the strength of the Empire, to
reserve the expenditure of that strength, for great and worthy
occasions abroad. Here is my first principle of foreign policy: good
government at home. My second principle of foreign policy is this:
that its aim ought to be to preserve to the nations of the world--and
especially, were it but for shame, when we recollect the sacred name
we bear as Christians, especially to the Christian nations of the
world--the blessings of peace. That is my second principle.

My third principle is this. Even, gentlemen, when you do a good
thing, you may do it in so bad a way that you may entirely spoil the
beneficial effect; and if we were to make ourselves the apostles of
peace in the sense of conveying to the minds of other nations that we
thought ourselves more entitled to an opinion on that subject than
they are, or to deny their rights--well, very likely we should destroy
the whole value of our doctrines. In my opinion the third sound
principle is this: to strive to cultivate and maintain, ay, to the
very uttermost, what is called the concert of Europe; to keep the
Powers of Europe in union together. And why? Because by keeping all in
union together you neutralize and fetter and bind up the selfish aims
of each. I am not here to flatter either England or any of them. They
have selfish aims, as, unfortunately, we in late years have too sadly
shown that we too have had selfish aims; but then, common action is
fatal to selfish aims. Common action means common objects; and the
only objects for which you can unite together the Powers of Europe are
objects connected with the common good of them all. That, gentlemen,
is my third principle of foreign policy.

My fourth principle is--that you should avoid needless and entangling
engagements. You may boast about them; you may brag about them. You
may say you are procuring consideration for the country. You may say
that an Englishman can now hold up his head among the nations. You may
say that he is now not in the hands of a Liberal Ministry, who thought
of nothing but pounds, shillings, and pence. But what does all this
come to, gentlemen? It comes to this, that you are increasing your
engagements without increasing your strength; and if you increase
engagements without increasing strength, you diminish strength, you
abolish strength; you really reduce the Empire and do not increase it.
You render it less capable of performing its duties; you render it an
inheritance less precious to hand on to future generations.

My fifth principle is this, gentlemen, to acknowledge the equal rights
of all nations. You may sympathize with one nation more than another.
Nay, you must sympathize in certain circumstances with one nation more
than another. You sympathize most with those nations, as a rule, with
which you have the closest connexion in language, in blood, and
in religion, or whose circumstances at the time seem to give the
strongest claim to sympathy. But in point of right all are equal, and
you have no right to set up a system under which one of them is to be
placed under moral suspicion or espionage, or to be made the constant
subject of invective. If you do that, but especially if you claim for
yourself a superiority, a pharisaical superiority over the whole of
them, then I say you may talk about your patriotism if you please, but
you are a misjudging friend of your country, and in undermining the
basis of the esteem and respect of other people for your country you
are in reality inflicting the severest injury upon it. I have now
given you, gentlemen, five principles of foreign policy. Let me give
you a sixth, and then I have done.

And that sixth is, that in my opinion foreign policy, subject to all
the limitations that I have described, the foreign policy of England
should always be inspired by the love of freedom. There should be a
sympathy with freedom, a desire to give it scope, founded not upon
visionary ideas, but upon the long experience of many generations
within the shores of this happy isle, that in freedom you lay the
firmest foundations both of loyalty and order; the firmest foundations
for the development of individual character, and the best provision
for the happiness of the nation at large. In the foreign policy of
this country the name of Canning ever will be honoured. The name of
Russell ever will be honoured. The name of Palmerston ever will
be honoured by those who recollect the erection of the kingdom of
Belgium, and the union of the disjoined provinces of Italy. It is that
sympathy, not a sympathy with disorder, but, on the contrary, founded
upon the deepest and most profound love of order--it is that sympathy
which, in my opinion, ought to be the very atmosphere in which a
Foreign Secretary of England ought to live and to move.

Gentlemen, it is impossible for me to do more to-day than to attempt
very slight illustrations of those principles. But in uttering those
principles, I have put myself in a position in which no one is
entitled to tell me--you will bear me out in what I say--that I simply
object to the acts of others, and lay down no rules of action myself.
I am not only prepared to show what are the rules of action which in
my judgement are the right rules, but I am prepared to apply them, nor
will I shrink from their application. I will take, gentlemen, the name
which, most of all others, is associated with suspicion, and with
alarm, and with hatred in the minds of many Englishmen--I will take
the name of Russia, and at once I will tell you what I think about
Russia, and how I am prepared as a member of Parliament to proceed in
anything that respects Russia. You have heard me, gentlemen, denounced
sometimes, I believe, as a Russian spy, sometimes as a Russian agent,
sometimes as perhaps a Russian fool, which is not so bad, but still
not very desirable. But, gentlemen, when you come to evidence, the
worst thing that I have ever seen quoted out of any speech or writing
of mine about Russia is that I did one day say, or, I believe, I
wrote, these terrible words: I recommended Englishmen to imitate
Russia in her good deeds. Was not that a terrible proposition? I
cannot recede from it. I think we ought to imitate Russia in her good
deeds, and if the good deeds be few, I am sorry for it, but I am not
the less disposed on that account to imitate them when they come. I
will now tell you what I think just about Russia.

I make it one of my charges against the foreign policy of Her
Majesty's Government, that, while they have completely estranged from
this country--let us not conceal the fact--the feelings of a nation
of eighty millions, for that is the number of the subjects of the
Russian Empire--while they have contrived completely to estrange the
feelings of that nation, they have aggrandized the power of Russia.
They have aggrandized the power of Russia in two ways, which I will
state with perfect distinctness. They have augmented her territory.
Before the European Powers met at Berlin, Lord Salisbury met with
Count Schouvaloff, and Lord Salisbury agreed that, unless he could
convince Russia by his arguments in the open Congress of Berlin, he
would support the restoration to the despotic power of Russia of that
country north of the Danube which at the moment constituted a portion
of the free State of Roumania. Why, gentlemen, what had been done
by the Liberal Government, which, forsooth, attended to nothing but
pounds, shillings, and pence? The Liberal Government had driven Russia
back from the Danube. Russia, which was a Danubian Power before the
Crimean War, lost this position on the Danube by the Crimean War;
and the Tory Government, which has been incensing and inflaming you
against Russia, yet nevertheless, by binding itself beforehand to
support, when the judgement was taken, the restoration of that country
to Russia, has aggrandized the power of Russia.

It further aggrandized the power of Russia in Armenia; but I would not
dwell upon that matter if it were not for a very strange circumstance.
You know that an Armenian province was given to Russia after the
war, but about that I own to you I have very much less feeling of
objection. I have objected from the first, vehemently, and in every
form, to the granting of territory on the Danube to Russia, and
carrying back the population of a certain country from a free State to
a despotic State; but with regard to the transfer of a certain portion
of the Armenian people from the government of Turkey to the government
of Russia, I must own that I contemplate that transfer with much
greater equanimity. I have no fear myself of the territorial
extensions of Russia in Asia, no fear of them whatever. I think the
fears are no better than old women's fears. And I don't wish to
encourage her aggressive tendencies in Asia, or anywhere else. But I
admit it may be, and probably is, the case that there is some benefit
attending the transfer of a portion of Armenia from Turkey to Russia.

But here is a very strange fact. You know that that portion of Armenia
includes the port of Batoum. Lord Salisbury has lately stated to the
country, that, by the Treaty of Berlin, the port of Batoum is to be
only a commercial port. If the Treaty of Berlin stated that it was
to be only a commercial port, which, of course, could not be made an
arsenal, that fact would be very important. But happily, gentlemen,
although treaties are concealed from us nowadays as long as and as
often as is possible, the Treaty of Berlin is an open instrument.
We can consult it for ourselves; and when we consult the Treaty
of Berlin, we find it states that Batoum shall be essentially a
commercial port, but not that it shall be only a commercial port.
Why, gentlemen, Leith is essentially a commercial port, but there is
nothing to prevent the people of this country, if in their wisdom or
their folly they should think fit, from constituting Leith as a great
naval arsenal or fortification; and there is nothing to prevent the
Emperor of Russia, while leaving to Batoum a character that shall be
essentially commercial, from joining with that another character that
is not in the slightest degree excluded by the treaty, and making
it as much as he pleases a port of military defence. Therefore I
challenge the assertion of Lord Salisbury; and as Lord Salisbury is
fond of writing letters to _The Times_ to bring the Duke of Argyll to
book, he perhaps will be kind enough to write another letter to _The
Times_, and tell in what clause of the Treaty of Berlin he finds it
written that the port of Batoum shall be only a commercial port. For
the present, I simply leave it on record that he has misrepresented
the Treaty of Berlin.

With respect to Russia,--I take two views of the position of Russia.
The position of Russia in Central Asia I believe to be one that has
in the main been forced upon her against her will. She has been
compelled--and this is the impartial opinion of the world--she has
been compelled to extend her frontier southward in Central Asia by
causes in some degree analogous to, but certainly more stringent and
imperative than, the causes which have commonly led us to extend, in
a far more important manner, our frontier in India; and I think it,
gentlemen, much to the credit of the late Government, much to the
honour of Lord Clarendon and Lord Granville, that, when we were in
office, we made a covenant with Russia, in which Russia bound herself
to exercise no influence or interference whatever in Afghanistan; we,
on the other hand, making known our desire that Afghanistan should
continue free and independent. Both the Powers acted with uniform
strictness and fidelity upon this engagement until the day when
we were removed from office. But Russia, gentlemen, has another
position--her position in respect to Turkey; and here it is that
I have complained of the Government for aggrandizing the power of
Russia; it is on this point that I most complain.

The policy of Her Majesty's Government was a policy of repelling and
repudiating the Slavonic populations of Turkey in Europe, and of
declining to make England the advocate for their interests. Nay, more,
she became in their view the advocate of the interests opposed to
theirs. Indeed, she was rather the decided advocate of Turkey; and now
Turkey is full of loud complaints--and complaints, I must say, not
unjust--that we allured her on to her ruin; that we gave the Turks a
right to believe that we should support them; that our ambassadors,
Sir Henry Elliot and Sir Austin Layard, both of them said we had most
vital interests in maintaining Turkey as it was, and consequently the
Turks thought if we had vital interests, we should certainly defend
them; and they were thereby lured on into that ruinous, cruel, and
destructive war with Russia. But by our conduct to the Slavonic
populations we alienated those populations from us. We made our name
odious among them. They had every disposition to sympathize with us,
every disposition to confide in us. They are, as a people, desirous of
freedom, desirous of self-government, with no aggressive views, but
hating the idea of being absorbed in a huge despotic empire like
Russia. But when they found that we, and the other Powers of Europe
under our unfortunate guidance, declined to become in any manner their
champions in defence of the rights of life, of property, and of female
honour--when they found that there was no call which could find its
way to the heart of England through its Government, or to the hearts
of the other Powers, and that Russia alone was disposed to fight for
them, why, naturally they said, Russia is our friend. We have done
everything, gentlemen, in our power to drive these populations into
the arms of Russia. If Russia has aggressive dispositions in the
direction of Turkey--and I think it probable that she may have
them--it is we who have laid the ground upon which Russia may make her
march to the south--we who have taught the Bulgarians, the Servians,
the Roumanians, the Montenegrins, that there is one Power in Europe,
and only one, which is ready to support in act and by the sword her
professions of sympathy with the oppressed populations of Turkey.
That power is Russia; and how can you blame these people, if in such
circumstances, they are disposed to say, Russia is our friend? But
why did we make them say it? Simply because of the policy of the
Government, not because of the wishes of the people of this country.
Gentlemen, this is the most dangerous form of aggrandizing Russia. If
Russia is aggressive anywhere, if Russia is formidable anywhere, it is
by movements towards the south, it is by schemes for acquiring command
of the Straits or of Constantinople; and there is no way by which you
can possibly so much assist her in giving reality to these designs, as
by inducing and disposing the populations of these provinces, who
are now in virtual possession of them, to look upon Russia as their
champion and their friend, to look upon England as their disguised,
perhaps, but yet real and effective enemy.

Why, now, gentlemen, I have said that I think it not unreasonable
either to believe, or at any rate to admit it to be possible, that
Russia has aggressive designs in the east of Europe. I do not mean
immediate aggressive designs. I do not believe that the Emperor of
Russia is a man of aggressive schemes or policy. It is that, looking
to that question in the long run, looking at what has happened, and
what may happen in ten or twenty years, in one generation, in two
generations, it is highly probable that in some circumstances Russia
may develop aggressive tendencies towards the south. Perhaps you will
say I am here guilty of the same injustice to Russia that I have been
deprecating, because I say that we ought not to adopt the method
of condemning anybody without cause, and setting up exceptional
principles in proscription of a particular nation. Gentlemen, I will
explain to you in a moment the principle upon which I act, and the
grounds upon which I form my judgement. They are simply these grounds:
I look at the position of Russia, the geographical position of Russia
relatively to Turkey. I look at the comparative strength of the two
Empires; I look at the importance of the Dardanelles and the Bosphoros
as an exit and a channel for the military and commercial marine of
Russia to the Mediterranean; and what I say to myself is this. If the
United Kingdom were in the same position relatively to Turkey which
Russia holds upon the map of the globe, I feel quite sure that we
should be very apt indeed both to entertain and to execute aggressive
designs upon Turkey. Gentlemen, I will go farther and will frankly
own to you that I believe if we, instead of happily inhabiting this
island, had been in the possession of the Russian territory, and in
the circumstances of the Russian people, we should most likely have
eaten up Turkey long ago. And consequently, in saying that Russia
ought to be vigilantly watched in that quarter, I am only applying to
her the rule which in parallel circumstances I feel convinced ought to
be applied, and would be justly applied, to judgements upon our own

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