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Selected Speeches on British Foreign Policy 1738-1914

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Gentlemen, there is only one other point on which I must still say a
few words to you, although there are a great many upon which I have a
great many words yet to say somewhere or other. Of all the principles,
gentlemen, of foreign policy which I have enumerated, that to which I
attach the greatest value is the principle of the equality of nations;
because, without recognizing that principle, there is no such thing
as public right, and without public international right there is no
instrument available for settling the transactions of mankind except
material force. Consequently the principle of equality among nations
lies, in my opinion, at the very basis and root of a Christian
civilization, and when that principle is compromised or abandoned,
with it must depart our hopes of tranquillity and of progress for

I am sorry to say, gentlemen, that I feel it my absolute duty to make
this charge against the foreign policy under which we have lived for
the last two years, since the resignation of Lord Derby. It has been
a foreign policy, in my opinion, wholly, or to a perilous extent,
unregardful of public right, and it has been founded upon the basis of
a false, I think an arrogant, and a dangerous assumption,--although
I do not question its being made conscientiously and for what was
believed the advantage of the country,--an untrue, arrogant, and
dangerous assumption that we were entitled to assume for ourselves
some dignity, which we should also be entitled to withhold from
others, and to claim on our own part authority to do things which we
would not permit to be done by others. For example, when Russia was
going to the Congress at Berlin, we said: 'Your Treaty of San Stefano
is of no value. It is an act between you and Turkey; but the concerns
of Turkey by the Treaty of Paris are the concerns of Europe at large.
We insist upon it that the whole of your Treaty of San Stefano shall
be submitted to the Congress at Berlin, that they may judge how far to
open it in each and every one of its points, because the concerns
of Turkey are the common concerns of the Powers of Europe acting in

Having asserted that principle to the world, what did we do? These
two things, gentlemen: secretly, without the knowledge of Parliament,
without even the forms of official procedure, Lord Salisbury met Count
Schouvaloff in London, and agreed with him upon the terms on which the
two Powers together should be bound in honour to one another to act
upon all the most important points when they came before the Congress
at Berlin. Having alleged against Russia that she should not be
allowed to settle Turkish affairs with Turkey, because they were but
two Powers, and these affairs were the common affairs of Europe, and
of European interest, we then got Count Schouvaloff into a private
room, and on the part of England and Russia, they being but two
Powers, we settled a large number of the most important of these
affairs, in utter contempt and derogation of the very principle for
which the Government had been contending for months before; for which
they had asked Parliament to grant a sum of L6,000,000; for which they
had spent that L6,000,000 in needless and mischievous armaments. That
which we would not allow Russia to do with Turkey, because we pleaded
the rights of Europe, we ourselves did with Russia, in contempt of the
rights of Europe. Nor was that all, gentlemen.

That act was done, I think, on one of the last days of May in the year
1878, and the document was published, made known to the world, made
known to the Congress at Berlin, to its infinite astonishment, unless
I am very greatly misinformed,--to its infinite astonishment.

But that was not all. Nearly at the same time we performed the same
operation in another quarter. We objected to a treaty between Russia
and Turkey as having no authority, though that treaty was made in the
light of day--namely, to the Treaty of San Stefano; and what did
we do? We went not in the light of day, but in the darkness of the
night--not in the knowledge and cognizance of other Powers, all of
whom would have had the faculty and means of watching all along, and
of preparing and taking their own objections and shaping their own
policy--not in the light of day, but in the darkness of the night, we
sent the Ambassador of England in Constantinople to the Minister of
Turkey, and there he framed, even while the Congress of Berlin was
sitting to determine these matters of common interest, he framed that
which is too famous, shall I say, or rather too notorious as the
Anglo-Turkish Convention. Gentlemen, it is said, and said truly, that
truth beats fiction; that what happens in fact from time to time is
of a character so daring, so strange, that if the novelist were to
imagine it and to put it upon his pages, the whole world would reject
it from its improbability. And that is the case of the Anglo-Turkish
Convention. For who would have believed it possible that we should
assert before the world the principle that Europe only could deal with
the affairs of the Turkish Empire, and should ask Parliament for
six millions to support us in asserting that principle, should send
Ministers to Berlin who declared that unless that principle was acted
upon they would go to war with the material that Parliament had placed
in their hands, and should at the same time be concluding a separate
agreement with Turkey, under which those matters of European
jurisdiction were coolly transferred to English jurisdiction; and the
whole matter was sealed with the worthless bribe of the possession
and administration of the island of Cyprus! I said, gentlemen, the
worthless bribe of the island of Cyprus, and that is the truth. It is
worthless for our purposes, worse than worthless for our purposes--not
worthless in itself; an island of resources, an island of natural
capabilities, provided they are allowed to develop themselves in the
course of circumstances, without violent and unprincipled methods
of action. But Cyprus was not thought to be worthless by those who
accepted it as a bribe. On the contrary, you were told that it was to
secure the road to India; you were told that it was to be the site of
an arsenal very cheaply made, and more valuable than Malta; you were
told that it was to revive trade. And a multitude of companies were
formed, and sent agents and capital to Cyprus, and some of them, I
fear, grievously burned their fingers there, I am not going to dwell
upon that now. What I have in view is not the particular merits of
Cyprus, but the illustration that I have given you in the case of the
agreement of Lord Salisbury with Count Schouvaloff, and in the case of
the Anglo-Turkish Convention, of the manner in which we have asserted
for ourselves a principle that we had denied to others--namely, the
principle of over-riding the European authority of the Treaty of
Paris, and taking the matters which that treaty gave to Europe into
our own separate jurisdiction. Now, gentlemen, I am sorry to find that
that which I call the pharisaical assertion of our own superiority has
found its way alike into the practice and seemingly into the theories
of the Government. I am not going to assert anything which is not
known, but the Prime Minister has said that there is one day in the
year--namely, the 9th of November, Lord Mayor's Day--on which the
language of sense and truth is to be heard amidst the surrounding din
of idle rumours generated and fledged in the brains of irresponsible
scribes. I do not agree, gentlemen, in that panegyric upon the 9th of
November. I am much more apt to compare the 9th of November--certainly
a well-known day in the year--but as to some of the speeches that have
lately been made upon it, I am very much disposed to compare it with
another day in the year, well known to British tradition; and that
other day in the year is the 1st of April. But, gentlemen, on that day
the Prime Minister, speaking out,--I do not question for a moment his
own sincere opinion,--made what I think one of the most unhappy and
ominous allusions ever made by a Minister of this country. He quoted
certain words, easily rendered as 'Empire and Liberty'--words (he
said) of a Roman statesman, words descriptive of the State of
Rome--and he quoted them as words which were capable of legitimate
application to the position and circumstance of England. I join issue
with the Prime Minister upon that subject, and I affirm that nothing
can be more fundamentally unsound, more practically ruinous, than the
establishment of Roman analogies for the guidance of British policy.
What, gentlemen, was Rome? Rome was indeed an Imperial State, you may
tell me--I know not, I cannot read the counsels of Providence--a State
having a mission to subdue the world; but a State whose very basis it
was to deny the equal rights, to proscribe the independent existence,
of other nations. That, gentlemen, was the Roman idea. It has been
partially and not ill described in three lines of a translation from
Virgil by our great poet Dryden, which run as follows:

O Rome! 'tis thine alone with awful sway
To rule mankind, and make the world obey,
Disposing peace and war thine own majestic way.

We are told to fall back upon this example. No doubt the word 'Empire'
was qualified with the word 'Liberty'. But what did the two words
'Liberty' and 'Empire' mean in a Roman mouth? They meant simply
this--'Liberty for ourselves, Empire over the rest of mankind'.

I do not think, gentlemen, that this Ministry, or any other Ministry,
is going to place us in the position of Rome. What I object to is the
revival of the idea--I care not how feebly, I care not even how, from
a philosophic or historic point of view, how ridiculous the attempt
at this revival may be. I say it indicates an intention--I say it
indicates a frame of mind, and that frame of mind, unfortunately, I
find, has been consistent with the policy of which I have given you
some illustrations--the policy of denying to others the rights that
we claim ourselves. No doubt, gentlemen, Rome may have had its work to
do, and Rome did its work. But modern times have brought a different
state of things. Modern times have established a sisterhood of
nations, equal, independent; each of them built up under that
legitimate defence which public law affords to every nation, living
within its own borders, and seeking to perform its own affairs; but if
one thing more than another has been detestable to Europe, it has been
the appearance upon the stage from time to time of men who, even in
the times of the Christian civilization, have been thought to aim at
universal dominion. It was this aggressive disposition on the part
of Louis XIV, King of France, that led your forefathers, gentlemen,
freely to spend their blood and treasure in a cause not immediately
their own, and to struggle against the method of policy which, having
Paris for its centre, seemed to aim at a universal monarchy. It was
the very same thing, a century and a half later, which was the charge
launched, and justly launched, against Napoleon, that under his
dominion France was not content even with her extended limits, but
Germany, and Italy, and Spain, apparently without any limit to this
pestilent and pernicious process, were to be brought under the
dominion or influence of France, and national equality was to be
trampled under foot, and national rights denied. For that reason,
England in the struggle almost exhausted herself, greatly impoverished
her people, brought upon herself, and Scotland too, the consequences
of a debt that nearly crushed their energies, and poured forth their
best blood without limit, in order to resist and put down these
intolerable pretensions.

Gentlemen, it is but in a pale and weak and almost despicable
miniature that such ideas are now set up, but you will observe
that the poison lies--that the poison and the mischief lie--in the
principle and not the scale. It is the opposite principle which, I
say, has been compromised by the action of the Ministry, and which I
call upon you, and upon any who choose to hear my views, to vindicate
when the day of our election comes; I mean the sound and the sacred
principle that Christendom is formed of a band of nations who are
united to one another in the bonds of right; that they are without
distinction of great and small; there is an absolute equality between
them,--the same sacredness defends the narrow limits of Belgium, as
attaches to the extended frontiers of Russia, or Germany, or France.
I hold that he who by act or word brings that principle into peril or
disparagement, however honest his intentions may be, places himself in
the position of one inflicting--I won't say intending to inflict--I
ascribe nothing of the sort--but inflicting injury upon his own
country, and endangering the peace and all the most fundamental
interests of Christian society.


APRIL 2, 1880


Now, I have charged at various times what I think an essential
count in this indictment--that intelligence had been kept back from
Parliament. Intelligence necessary to full understanding and to
competent discussion has been withheld from Parliament at the very
time of that discussion. I have shown various instances; I might show
more. But I will name now only very briefly that remarkable case of
the Afghan War. We were carried into that war, gentlemen, as you will
recollect, without any previous notice or preparation. No papers had
been laid upon the table to enable us to judge of the state of our
relations with Afghanistan. Some suspicion had arisen, and a question
had been put in the House of Lords; and the answer had been that there
was no change of policy, or no sensible and serious change of policy
towards Afghanistan intended. At that moment there were in possession
of the Government--and for twelve months after--papers of the
most vital consequence--what are called the conferences at
Peshawur--opening up the whole case in every one of its aspects; and
the Government, with these papers in their hands, kept them back for
eighteen months, until they had hurried us into this deplorable, and,
I must say, into this guilty war. The island of Cyprus was
taken; responsibility of governing Asia Minor was assumed; a
_quasi_-territorial supremacy was asserted over Syria in common with
the rest of Asia Minor, which was a matter with respect to which we
knew very well that the jealousies of France were sure to be aroused;
but we were called upon and compelled, gentlemen, to discuss that
matter, I think, in the end of July, 1878, at the celebrated epoch of
'peace with honour'--we were called upon to discuss that matter
in total ignorance that France had remonstrated, that France had
complained; and the Government never let drop in the debate the
slightest intimation or inkling that such was the case. We had to
debate, we had to divide, we had to take the judgement of Parliament,
in utter ignorance of the vital fact that great offence had been given
to a faithful and a powerful ally by the steps taken by the Ministry;
and it was only when the papers were laid, two or three months after,
by the French Government, before the French Chamber, that we became
aware of the fact that these papers were presented to us. How is it
possible for any House of Commons to perform its duty if it consents
to be treated in such a way,--if it consents not only to exercise
every patience and forbearance, which must often be the case before
intelligence can be produced, but if it consents to be dragged through
the mire by being set to pronounce formal judgement upon national
emergencies of the highest import, and to do that without the
information necessary for a judgement; and when it is believed that
information has been withheld, no notice whatever is taken of the
fact, and perfect satisfaction is felt by the members of that majority
whom you are now called upon to try?

Well, that is the withholding of information, gentlemen; but there has
been even worse than that--worse, I am grieved to say it. I cannot
help saying it without being in a condition to trace home the charge
if this was thought needful, and I am very unwilling to fasten it upon
any one without that full and demonstrative evidence which the
case hardly admits of; but I will say this, that news--that
intelligence--has been falsified to bewilder and mislead to their
own peril and detriment the people of this country. You remember,
gentlemen, what happened at the outbreak of the great war between
France and Germany in 1870. At that time there existed for a few
days a condition of things which produced in that case excitement of
expectation as to the points upon which the quarrel turned; and you
remember that a telegram was sent from Berlin to Paris, and was
published in Paris, or rather, if I recollect aright, it was announced
by a Minister in the Chamber, stating that the King of Prussia, as he
was then, had insulted the ambassador of France by turning his back
upon him in a garden, where they had met, and refusing to communicate
with him. The consequence was an immense exasperation in France; and
the telegram, which afterwards proved to be totally and absolutely
false, was a necessary instrument for working up the minds of the
French people to a state in which some of them desired, and the rest
were willing to tolerate, what proved to be a most disastrous war.
That war never was desired by the French nation at large, but by false
intelligence heat was thrown into the atmosphere, party feeling and
national feeling to a certain extent were excited, and it became
practicable to drag the whole nation into the responsibility of the
war. I remember well at that time what passed through my mind. I
thought how thankful we ought to be that the use of methods so
perilous, and so abominable--for the word is not too strong--never
could be known in our happy country. Yes, gentlemen; but since that
time it has been known in our happy country. Since that time false
telegrams about the entry of the Russian army into Constantinople have
been sent home to disturb, and paralyse, and reverse the deliberations
of Parliament, and have actually stopped these deliberations, and
led experienced statesmen to withhold their action because of this
intelligence, which was afterwards, and shortly afterwards, shown to
be wholly without ground. Who invented that false intelligence I
do not know, and I do not say. All I say is, that it was sent from
Constantinople. It was telegraphed in the usual manner; it was
published in the usual manner; it was available for a certain purpose.
I can no more say who invented it than I can say who invented the
telegram that came to Paris about the King of Prussia and the French
ambassador; but the intelligence came, and it was false intelligence.

That was not the only, nor was it the most important case. You
remember--I am now carrying your recollections back to the time of
the outbreak of the war with Afghanistan, and if you recollect the
circumstances of that outbreak, at the most critical moment we were
told that the Ameer of Afghanistan had refused to receive a British
Mission with insult and with outrage, and that insult and outrage were
represented as at once enlisting our honour and reputation in the
case, as making it necessary to administer immediate chastisement. I
do not hesitate to express my full belief that without that statement
the war with Afghanistan would not have been made, would not have
been tolerated, by the country; but it was difficult, considering the
nature of our Indian Empire, considering how it is dependent upon
opinion in Asia, and upon the repute of strength, it was difficult to
interfere strongly--indeed. Parliament was not sitting--but it was
difficult even by opinion out of doors strongly to protest against
military measures taken in a case where the authority of the Crown
had been insulted, and outrage committed upon it by the Ameer of
Afghanistan. That intelligence was sent. We were never undeceived
about it until we were completely committed to the war, and until our
troops were in the country. The Parliament met; after long and most
unjustifiable delays the papers were produced, and when the papers
were produced and carefully examined, we found that there was not a
shred of foundation for that outrageous statement, and that the temper
and pride of the people of this country had been wrought up, and the
spirit of wrath fomented and kindled in their bosoms, by intelligence
that was false intelligence, and that somebody or other--somebody or
other having access to high quarters, if not dwelling in them--had
invented, had fabricated for the evil purpose of carrying us into
bloody strife.

All these are among the acts which I am sorry to say it is my business
to charge upon the majority of the late Parliament, and upon every
member of that majority; and all these are the acts which those
who are invited to vote or who intend to vote for my noble
opponent--whatever may be his personal claims, all these are the
acts, the responsibility of which they are now invited to take upon
themselves, and the repetition of which, by giving that vote, they
will directly encourage.

The next charge is the charge of broken laws. We have contended--it is
impossible to trouble you with argument--but we have contended, and I
think we have demonstrated, in the House of Commons, sustained by a
great array of legal strength and bearing, that in making that war in
Afghanistan, the Government of this country absolutely broke the laws
which regulate the Government of India. I do not say they admit it;
on the contrary, they deny it. But we have argued it; we believe, we
think we have shown it. It is a very grave and serious question; but
this much, I think, is plain, that unless our construction of that
Indian Government Act, which limits the power of the Crown as to the
employment of the Indian forces at the cost of the Indian revenue
without the consent of Parliament--unless our construction of that Act
be true, the restraining clauses of that Act are absolutely worthless,
and the people who passed those restraining clauses, and who most
carefully considered them at the time, must have been people entirely
unequal to their business; although two persons--I won't speak of
myself, who had much to do with them, but two persons who next to
myself were most concerned, were the present and the late Lord Derby,
neither of them persons very likely to go to work upon a subject
of that kind without taking care that what their hand did was done

Now besides the honour, if it be an honour, of broken laws, the
Government has the honour of broken treaties. When I discussed the
case of broken laws, I told you fairly that the Government denied the
breaking of the laws, and make their own argument to show--I suppose
they think they show--that they did not break the laws. But when I
pass to the next head, of the broken treaties, the case is different,
especially in one of the most material points, which I will state in a
few words, but clearly. The first case which we consider to be that of
a distinctly broken treaty is that of sending the warships of England
through the Dardanelles without the consent of the Sultan of Turkey.
We believe that to be a clear breach of the Treaty of Paris. But that
also, if I remember aright, was argued on both sides, and, therefore,
I pass on from it, and I charge another breach of the Treaty of
Paris. That famous Anglo-Turkish Convention, which gave to you the
inestimable privilege of being responsible for the government of the
island of Cyprus without deriving from it any possible advantage; that
famous Anglo-Turkish Convention, which invested us with the right of
interference, and caused us to interfere both as to the integrity
and as to the independence of the Sultan by our own sole act; that
Anglo-Turkish Convention was a direct and an absolute breach of the
Treaty of Paris, which, bearing as it did the signature of England, as
well as the rest of the Powers, declared that no one of these Powers
should of themselves interfere in any matter of the integrity or
independence of Turkey without the consent of the rest. And here I
must tell you that I never heard from the Government, or any friend
of the Government, the slightest attempt to defend that gross act of
lawlessness, that unpardonable breach of international law, which is
the highest sanction of the rights of nations and of the peace of

It is not, however, in matters of law only. We have been busy in
alienating the sympathies of free peoples. The free Slavonic peoples
of the East of Europe--the people of Roumania, the people of
Montenegro, the people of Servia, the people of Bulgaria--each and all
of these have been painfully taught in these last few years to look
upon the free institutions of this country as being for them a dream,
as being, perhaps, for the enjoyment of this country, but not as
availing to animate a nation with a generous desire to extend to
others the blessings they enjoyed themselves. In other times--it
was so when Mr. Canning was the Minister of this country, when Lord
Palmerston was the Minister of this country, when Lord Clarendon was
the Minister of this country at the Foreign Office--it was well known
that England, while regardful of her own just interests, and while
measuring on every occasion her strength and her responsibility,
yet was willing to use and willing to find opportunities for giving
cordial aid and sympathy to freedom; and by aid and sympathy many a
nation has been raised to its present position of free independence,
which, without that sympathy, would probably never have attained to
such a height in the order of civilization. The sympathies of free
people ought to be a dear and precious object of our ambition.
Ambition may be a questionable quality: if you give a certain meaning
to the phrase, it ill comports with the Christian law. But there
is one sense in which ambition will never mislead men; that is the
ambition to be good, and the ambition to do good in relieving from
evil those who are grievously suffering, and who have not deserved the
evils they endure: that is the ambition which every British statesman
ought to cherish. But, as I have said, for the last two years
especially--and even for more than two years--more or less, I
think, during the whole active period of the foreign policy of the
Beaconsfield Administration--the sympathies of these now free peoples
of the East have been constantly more and more alienated; and except,
perhaps, in a single case which I am glad to cling to--the single
and isolated case of Eastern Roumania--except this case, the whole
strength of England, as far as they have been conversant with it, has
been exercised for the purpose of opposing their best interests.

Well, gentlemen, while free peoples have been alienated, a despotic
Power has been aggrandized through our direct agency. We have
more than any other Power of Europe contributed to the direct
aggrandizement of Russia and to its territorial extension. And how?
Not by following the counsels of the Liberal party. The counsels
of the Liberal party were the concert of Europe--the authoritative
declaration of the will of Europe to Turkey. Had that authoritative
declaration been made, we believe that it would have been enforced
without the shedding of a drop of blood. But even suppose there had
been bloodshed--I am not now speaking of that, I deem it too absurd
a supposition; but suppose that force had required to be used, that
force would not have given to Russia, or to any other Power, a
claim to territorial extension. We chose to cast upon her the
responsibility; and she, making great exertions and great sacrifices
of blood and treasure, advanced this claim to territory, the
consequence of which is that she has received by that a great access
of military reputation, and likewise an enlargement of her borders,
which we have been the main agents in bringing about.

Now I think I anticipate your feelings when I say that although we,
and all of us, say that the rights of a Power, the rights of a nation,
ought not to be invaded because it happens to have the misfortune of
a despotic Government, yet none of us would wish that the agency of
England should be gratuitously and wantonly employed in extending the
limits of that despotism, and causing it to exercise its power where
that power had not before prevailed. In truth, as you know, the case
is even more gross than I have supposed it, because the most important
case of this extension was that in which a portion of Bessarabia was
handed back to Russia. That portion of Bessarabia had been under free
institutions--perfectly free representative institutions. It was
handed back to Russia, and placed under despotic institutions, and it
was so handed back under an arrangement made between Lord Salisbury,
the Minister of England, and Count Schouvaloff, the Minister of
Russia. They agreed beforehand that this should be done at the
Congress at Berlin, with this reservation--Lord Salisbury said,
'Unless I convince you by my argument that you ought not to do it.'
You may attach what value you please to the reservation, but I think I
can illustrate without much difficulty the effect of that promise made
beforehand. You remember, perhaps, that in the year 1871 the Russians
demanded that the Treaty of Paris should be altered, and that the
restriction should be removed upon their right to build ships in the
Black Sea. The whole of the Powers of Europe met in London by their
representatives, and they agreed to that change, and the charge,
gentlemen, has been laid upon the British Government of having made
that change; and not only so, but I read in one of the blue placards
this morning that Mr. Gladstone removed the restriction from the
Emperor of Russia. Now I repel that charge. What we did was--we
considered the matter with the other Powers of Europe; we required
Russia to admit that she had no power to make the change except with
the consent of the other Powers. The other Powers could not deny that
the change was in itself not unreasonable, and so the change was made.
But I want to know what people would have said, supposing, in
the middle of these deliberations, somebody had produced a
Salisbury-Schouvaloff agreement. Supposing he had produced a
memorandum signed by Lord Granville, the Foreign Secretary of England,
and Count Brunow, the ambassador of Russia, and supposing in that
memorandum Lord Granville had, before the meeting of Europe in
congress, pledged himself to give this concession to Russia unless he
could convince the Russians by his argument, I want to know what then
would have been our responsibility? Gentlemen, I would not have been
the man, under circumstances like those, to deny for one moment that
virtually and practically the whole responsibility of the treaty
rested upon our shoulders; and so I say now the responsibility for
handing back free Bessarabia to despotic Russia rests upon the Cabinet
that is now in power, and on the majority that is now soliciting your
suffrages for re-election.

I cannot go through the whole of the matter; yet, at the same time, it
is desirable that you should have it in your minds. But while we thus
handed over a free representative country to despotism, we likewise
handed over a liberated country to servitude. We recollect the vote
for six millions was taken in order to act upon the Congress at
Berlin. It was taken in order to show, as was so much boasted of
at the time--to show that we were ready to support in arms what we
recommended at the Congress at Berlin. And what did we recommend, and
what was the great change made at the Congress of Berlin, in deference
to our representations--that is to say, what was the great change
purchased by your six millions? I will tell you what it was.
The Treaty of San Stefano had relieved from the yoke of Turkish
administration four and a half millions of people, and made them into
a Bulgarian province. With regard to one and a quarter millions of
those people who inhabited a country called Macedonia, we at the
Treaty of Berlin, by virtue of your six millions--see how it was used
to obtain 'peace with honour'!--we threw back that Macedonia from the
free precinct into which it was to be introduced for self-government
along with the rest of Bulgaria, and we put it back into the hands of
the Sultan of Turkey, to remain in exactly the same condition in which
it had been before the war.

Well, gentlemen, I won't speak of India. I have spoken of India
elsewhere. I won't speak of various things that I might enter upon,
but one thing I must mention which I have never taken the opportunity
of mentioning in Scotland, and that was the manner in which, those
proceedings are justified. I am going now to refer to a speech of the
present Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Lord Salisbury. He was meeting
an allegation some opponent had made, that it was wrong to take the
island of Cyprus; and he justified himself by an appeal to history for
once, which is, however, a rare thing with him. But he made out his
case in this way: 'Take the island of Cyprus? Of course we took the
island of Cyprus. Wherever there is a great European controversy
localized in some portion of the great European region, we always step
in and appropriate some territory in the very heart of the place where
that controversy raged.' 'Why, dear me,' he said, 'in the time of the
Revolutionary War, when the Revolutionary War turned very much upon
events in Italy, we appropriated Malta. At a previous time when the
interests of Europe had been concentrated a great deal upon Spain, at
the time of the latter part of the reign of Louis XIV, we stepped in
and appropriated Gibraltar.' And this is positively advanced as a
doctrine by the Secretary of State, that wherever there is a serious
conflict among the European Powers or the European peoples, we are
to step in, not as mediators, not as umpires, not as friends, not to
perform the Christian and the truly British art of binding together in
alliance those who have been foes, but to appropriate something for
ourselves. This is what Ministers have done, and this is what the
majority have approved. Aye, and if, instead of appropriating Cyprus
only, they had appropriated a great deal more--if they had taken
Candia too, if they had taken whatever they could lay their hands
upon--that majority, equally patient, and equally docile, and not only
patient and docile, but exulting in the discreditable obedience with
which it obeyed all the behests of the Administration--that majority
never would have shrunk, but would have walked into the lobby as
cheerfully as it did upon the occasions of which you have heard so
much, and would have chuckled the next day over the glorious triumph
they had obtained over factious Liberalism. I have done with these
details, and I will approach my winding up, for I have kept you a long
time. I have shown you--and I have shown you in a manner that our
opponents will find it very difficult to grapple with, though I have
stated it briefly--I have shown you what your six millions were used
for; and I say without hesitation that the main purpose for which your
six millions were used--the main change which was effected--was to
throw a million or a million and a quarter of people inhabiting
Macedonia, who were destined by the Treaty of San Stefano for freedom
and self-government, back under the lawless government of Turkey.

All these things have been going on. I have touched some of them in
detail. What has been the general result, what is the grand total,
what is the profit, what is the upshot, what is the balance at the
end? Worse than ever. When Her Majesty's Government came into office
their Foreign Secretary declared that the state of our foreign
relations all over the world was thoroughly and absolutely
satisfactory; and what is the declaration of the Prime Minister now?
He says this is one of the most formidable crises ever known, and that
unless you keep the present Government in power he cannot answer for
the peace of Europe or the destinies of the country.

That is the report solemnly made by the head of the Government upon
the state of things, which is as different from the state of things
he found when he came into office as is the deficiency of eight and a
quarter millions that he hands over to the new Parliament, from the
surplus of six millions which the former Parliament handed over to
him. I cannot, I think, state the matter more fairly than that. You
are--deluded I was going to say, but I could not make a greater
blunder, for deluded you are not; and deluded the people of England
are not, and the people of Scotland will not be, but you are flattered
and inveigled by compliments paid to the existing Administration in
various newspapers abroad. Is not that a fine thing? Never mind your
finances; never mind your legislation, or your interests, your
characters, or anything else. You have only to look into some paper
ardently devoted to the Government and you will see that a paper in
Vienna, a paper in Berlin, or even sometimes a paper in Paris has been
saying what very fine fellows these present Ministers are, how well
they understand the interests of the country, and what a pity it would
be if they were to be displaced. I will give you a sound practical
rule upon this subject. It is totally untrue and absurd to suppose
that there is a general approval by the foreign press. I see that Lord
Dalkeith is reported to have said the other day that everywhere except
in Russia the press was in favour of the present Government.

Well, I think I know a good deal of the foreign press, and I will give
Lord Dalkeith this challenge--defy him to produce Italian newspapers,
that have any circulation or influence in Italy, in favour of the
policy of the present Government. I defy him to produce a newspaper in
the Greek tongue, representing the Greek people, either in free
Greece or beyond it, that is in favour of the policy of the present
Government. I defy him to produce a paper in the Slavonic language
that is in favour of the policy of the present Government. Oh! you
say, the Slavonic language--that means Russia. It does not mean
Russia. It means in part Russia; but there are twenty, aye, and nearer
thirty millions of Slavonic people outside of Russia in the east
of Europe; and I doubt if you could produce a single paper in the
Slavonic language in favour of the policy of the present Government.
I say to him, go to the small States of Europe--go to Belgium, go to
Holland, go to Denmark, go to Portugal--see what their press says.
Gentlemen, I mistrust the press, and especially the official press,
of foreign capitals, whether it be St. Petersburg, Vienna, or Berlin.
When I see those articles I think that a large experience enables me
tolerably well to understand their purpose. If they are vehemently
praising the British Ministry--mind, not praising the British nation,
not praising British institutions, but praising a particular British
Ministry as opposed to some other possible Ministry--I know the
meaning of that to be that they regard that Ministry as admirable
instruments for the forwarding of their own purposes, and making the
British nation, through their medium, both dupes and victims.

Now, gentlemen, I go back to the foreign policy of the Liberal party,
and I ask, what has that done? I do not think that any party is
perfect in its foreign or any other policy; but I prefer the policy
of the Government of Mr. Canning, and the policy of the Government of
Lord Grey, and the greater part of what was done by Lord Palmerston in
foreign affairs, and by Lord Russell in foreign affairs, to that which
is now recommended to you. But they did not earn any praise at the
hands of the press at Vienna or Berlin. There was no man more odious,
no man more detested by the Continental press of those capitals than
Mr. Canning, unless, possibly, it may have been Lord Palmerston. He
did not seek honour in these quarters; and seeking honour there is not
a very good sign. But the praises of the Liberal party, if they are
to be sung, are sung elsewhere; they are sung in Italy, which had its
hearty sympathy, and its efficient though, always its moral aid.
They were sung in Spain, when Mr. Canning, though he was too wise to
undertake the task of going single-handed to war for the purpose--when
Mr. Canning firmly and resolutely protested against the French
invasion of that country under the Bourbon restoration. They were sung
in Greece, when he constituted himself the first champion of the Greek
regeneration, which has now taken effect in the establishment of a
free and a progressive country, with, I hope, a bright future before
it. They were sung in Portugal, when Mr. Canning sent the troops of
England to defend it against Spain. Nay, even poor Denmark, unhappy as
has been its lot, does not owe the unhappiness of that lot to England,
for the British Government of Lord Palmerston, in which I was
Chancellor of the Exchequer, did make a formal offer to France that
we should join together in forbidding the German Power to lay
violent hands upon Denmark, and in leaving the question of Denmark's
territorial rights to be settled by a process of law. We made that
proposal to France, and the reason that it was not acted upon was
that, most unfortunately, and, I think, most blindly, the Emperor of
the French refused it.

These are the acts of the Liberal party. The Liberal party has
believed that while it was the duty of England above all things to
eschew an ostentatious policy, it was also the duty of England to have
a tender and kindly feeling for the smaller States of Europe,
because it is in the smaller States of Europe that liberty has most
flourished; and it is in the smaller States of Europe that liberty
is most liable to be invaded by lawless aggression. What we want
in foreign policy is the substitution of what is true for what is
imposing and pretentious, but unreal. We live in the age of sham. We
live in the age of sham diamonds, and sham silver, and sham flour,
and sham sugar, and sham butter, for even sham butter they have now
invented, and dignified by the name of 'Oleo-Margarine'. But these are
not the only shams to which we have been treated. We have had a great
deal of sham glory, and sham courage, and sham strength. I say, let
us get rid of all these shams, and fall back upon realities, the
character of which is to be guided by unostentatiousness, to pretend
nothing, not to thrust claims and unconstitutional claims for
ascendancy and otherwise in the teeth of your neighbour, but to
maintain your right and to respect the rights of others as much as
your own. So much, then, for the great issue that is still before us,
though I rejoice to think how many of our fellow subjects in England
have acquitted themselves well and honourably of their part in
the fray; and I rejoice--I will not say much more because here my
expectations were so high--but I rejoice not less when I think how
extraordinary has been the manifestation thus far of Scottish feeling
in the only three contests that have taken place--in the city of
Perth, in the city of Aberdeen, and in the city of Edinburgh, where we
certainly owe some gratitude to the opponent for consenting to place
himself in a position so ludicrous as that which he has occupied.
But at the same time we are compelled to say, on general grounds of
prudence and of justice, that it is a monstrous thing that communities
should be disturbed with contests so absurd as these, which deserve
to be censured in the old Parliamentary language as frivolous and

One word upon your past. I have no doubt the great bulk of you
are Liberals, but yet I shall be very glad if some of you are
Conservatives. Are Conservatives seriously considering with the
gravity which becomes the people of this country--the responsible
people of this country--what course they shall take upon the coming
occasion? Great things have been done in the last three days, and
these things are not done in a corner. The intelligence, limited, but,
I think, intelligible, has been flashed over sea and land, and has
reached, long before I address you, the remotest corners of the earth.
I can well conceive that it has been received in different countries
with different feelings. I can believe that there are one or two
Ministers of State in the world, and possibly even here and there a
sovereign, who would have eaten this morning a heartier breakfast if
the tidings conveyed by the telegraph had been reversed, and if
the issue of the elections had been as triumphant for the existing
Administration as it has been menacing, if not fatal, to their
prospects. But this I know, among other places to which it has gone,
it has passed to India--it has before this time reached the mind and
the heart of many millions of your Indian fellow subjects--and I will
venture to say that it has gladdened every heart among them. They have
known this Government principally in connexion with the aggravation of
their burdens and the limitation of their privileges. And, gentlemen,
I will tell you more, that if there be in Europe any State or country
which is crouching in fear at the feet of powerful neighbours with
gigantic armaments, which loves, enjoys, and cherishes liberty, but
which at the same time fears lest that inestimable jewel should be
wrenched out of its hands by overweening force--if there be such a
State, and there may be such a State in the East and in the West--then
I will venture to say that in that State, from the highest to the
lowest, from sovereign to subject, joy and satisfaction will have been
diffused by the intelligence of these memorable days.


JULY 4, 1864


Mr. Speaker,--Some of the longest and most disastrous wars of modern
Europe have been wars of succession. The Thirty Years' War was a war
of succession. It arose from a dispute respecting the inheritance of
a duchy in the north of Europe, not very distant from that Duchy of
Holstein which now engages general attention. Sir, there are two
causes why wars originating in disputed succession become usually of a
prolonged and obstinate character. The first is internal discord, and
the second foreign ambition. Sometimes a domestic party, under such
circumstances, has an understanding with a foreign potentate, and,
again, the ambition of that foreign potentate excites the distrust,
perhaps the envy, of other Powers; and the consequence is, generally
speaking, that the dissensions thus created lead to prolonged and
complicated struggles. Sir, I apprehend--indeed I entertain no
doubt--that it was in contemplation of such circumstances possibly
occurring in our time, that the statesmen of Europe, some thirteen
years ago, knowing that it was probable that the royal line of Denmark
would cease, and that upon the death of the then king, his dominions
would be divided, and in all probability disputed, gave their best
consideration to obviate the recurrence of such calamities to Europe.
Sir, in these days, fortunately, it is not possible for the Powers
of Europe to act under such circumstances as they would have done
a hundred years ago. Then they would probably have met in secret
conclave and have decided the arrangement of the internal government
of an independent kingdom. In our time they said to the King of
Denmark, 'If you and your people among yourselves can make an
arrangement in the case of the contingency of your death without
issue, which may put an end to all internal discord, we at least will
do this for you and Denmark--we will in your lifetime recognize the
settlement thus made, and, so far as the influence of the Great Powers
can be exercised, we will at least relieve you from the other great
cause which, in the case of disputed successions, leads to prolonged
wars. We will save you from foreign interference, foreign ambition,
and foreign aggression.' That, Sir, I believe, is an accurate account
and true description of that celebrated treaty of May, 1852, of which
we have heard so much, and of which some characters are given which in
my opinion are unauthorized and unfounded.

There can be no doubt that the purpose of that treaty was one which
entitled it to the respect of the communities of Europe. Its language
is simple and expresses its purpose. The Powers who concluded that
treaty announced that they concluded it, not from their own will or
arbitrary impulse, but at the invitation of the Danish Government,
in order to give to the arrangements relative to the succession an
additional pledge of stability by an act of European recognition. If
honourable gentlemen look to that treaty--and I doubt not that they
are familiar with it--they will find the first article entirely
occupied with the recitals of the efforts of the King of Denmark--and,
in his mind, successful efforts--to make the necessary arrangements
with the principal estates and personages of his kingdom, in order to
effect the requisite alterations in the _lex regia_ regulating the
order of succession; and the article concludes by an invitation and
appeal to the Powers of Europe, by a recognition of that settlement,
to preserve his kingdom from the risk of external danger.

Sir, under that treaty England incurred no legal responsibility which
was not equally entered into by France and by Russia. If, indeed,
I were to dwell on moral obligations--which I think constitute too
dangerous a theme to introduce into a debate of this kind--but if I
were to dwell upon that topic, I might say that the moral obligations
which France, for example, had incurred to Denmark, were of no
ordinary character. Denmark had been the ally of France in that severe
struggle which forms the most considerable portion of modern history,
and had proved a most faithful ally. Even at St. Helena, when
contemplating his marvellous career and moralizing over the past, the
first emperor of the dynasty which now governs France rendered justice
to the complete devotion of the Kings of Denmark and Saxony, the only
sovereigns, he said, who were faithful under all proof and the extreme
of adversity. On the other hand, if we look to our relations with
Denmark, in her we found a persevering though a gallant foe.
Therefore, so far as moral obligations are concerned, while there
are none which should influence England, there is a great sense of
gratitude which might have influenced the councils of France. But,
looking to the treaty, there is no legal obligation incurred by
England towards Denmark which is not equally shared by Russia and by

Now, the question which I would first ask the House is this: How is it
that, under these circumstances, the position of France relative
to Denmark is one so free from embarrassment--I might say, so
dignified--that she recently received a tribute to her demeanour and
unimpeachable conduct in this respect from Her Majesty's Secretary
of State; while the position of England, under the same obligation,
contained in the same treaty, with relation to Denmark, is one, all
will admit, of infinite perplexity, and, I am afraid I must add,
terrible mortification? That, Sir, is the first question which I will
put to the House, and which, I think, ought to receive a satisfactory
answer, among other questions, to-night. And I think that the answer
that must first occur to every one--the logical inference--is that
the affairs of this country with respect to our obligations under the
treaty of 1852 must have been very much mismanaged to have produced
consequences so contrary to the position occupied by another Power
equally bound with ourselves by that treaty.

Sir, this is not the first time, as the House is aware, that the
dominions of the King of Denmark have been occupied by Austrian and
Prussian armies. In the year 1848, when a great European insurrection
occurred--I call it insurrection to distinguish it from revolution,
for, though its action was very violent, the ultimate effect was
almost nothing--but when the great European insurrection took place,
there was no portion of Europe more influenced by it than Germany.
There is scarcely a political constitution in Germany that was not
changed at that period, and scarcely a throne that was not subverted.
The King of Denmark, in his character of a sovereign prince of
Germany, was affected by that great movement. The population of
Germany, under the influence of peculiar excitement at that time, were
impelled to redress the grievances, as they alleged them to be, of
their fellow countrymen in the dominions of the King of Denmark who
were his subjects. The Duchy of Holstein and the Duchy of Schleswig
were invaded, a civil war was excited by ambitious princes, and that
territory was ultimately subjected to a decree of that Diet with which
now we have become familiar.

The office was delegated to the Austrian and Prussian armies to
execute that decree, and they occupied, I believe, at one time
the whole Continental possessions of the King of Denmark. In 1851
tranquillity had been restored to Europe, and especially to Germany,
and the troops of Austria and Prussia ultimately quitted the dominions
of the King of Denmark. That they quitted them in consequence of
the military prowess of the Danes, though that was far from
inconsiderable, I do not pretend to say. They quitted the territory, I
believe the truth to be, in consequence of the influence of Russia, at
that time irresistible in Germany, and deservedly so, because she had
interfered and established tranquillity, and Russia had expressed her
opinion that the German forces should quit the dominions of the
King of Denmark. They quitted the country, however, under certain
conditions. A diplomatic correspondence had taken place between the
King of Denmark and the Courts of Berlin and Vienna, and the King of
Denmark in that correspondence entered into certain engagements, and
those engagements undoubtedly were recommended to a certain degree by
the wish, if possible, to remedy the abuses complained of, and also by
the desire to find an honourable excuse for the relinquishment of his
provinces by the German forces. The King of Denmark never fulfilled
the engagements into which he then entered, partly, I have no doubt,
from negligence. We know that it is not the habit of mankind to
perform disagreeable duties when pressure is withdrawn, but I have no
doubt, and I believe the candid statement to be, that it arose in a
great degree from the impracticable character of the engagements into
which he had entered. That was in the year 1851.

In 1852, tranquillity being then entirely restored, the treaty of
May, which regulated the succession, was negotiated. And I may remind
honourable members that in that treaty there is not the slightest
reference to these engagements which the King of Denmark had entered
into with the Diet of Germany, or with German Powers who were members
of the Diet. Nevertheless, the consequence of that state of affairs
was this, that though there was no international question respecting
Denmark, and although the possible difficulties which might occur of
an international character had been anticipated by the treaty of 1852,
still in respect to the King of Denmark's capacity as Duke of Holstein
and a sovereign German prince, a controversy arose between him and
the Diet of Germany in consequence of these engagements, expressed
in hitherto private and secret diplomatic correspondence carried on
between him and certain German Courts. The House will understand that
this was not an international question; it did not affect the public
law of Europe; but it was a municipal, local, or, as we now call it, a
federal question. Notwithstanding that in reality it related only to
the King of Denmark and the Diet of Germany, in time it attracted the
attention of the Government of England and of the ministers of the
Great Powers, signatories of the treaty of 1852. For some period after
the treaty of 1852, very little was heard of the federal question and
the controversy between the Diet and the King of Denmark. After the
exertions and exhaustions of the revolutionary years, the question
slept, but it did not die. Occasionally it gave signs of vitality;
and as time proceeded, shortly--at least, not very long--after the
accession of the present Government to office, the controversy between
the Diet and the King of Denmark assumed an appearance of very great
life and acrimony.

Now, Her Majesty's Ministers thought it their duty to interfere in
that controversy between the German Diet and the King of Denmark--a
controversy strictly federal and not international. Whether they were
wise in taking that course appears very doubtful. My own impression
is, and always has been, that it would have been much better to have
left the federal question between the Diet and the King to work itself
out. Her Majesty's Ministers, however, were of opinion--and no doubt
there is something to be said in favour of that opinion--that as the
question, although federal, was one which would probably lead to
events which would make it international, it was wiser and better
to interfere by anticipation, and prevent, if possible, the federal
execution ever taking place. The consequence of that extreme activity
on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers is a mass of correspondence
which has been placed on the table, and with which, I doubt not, many
gentlemen have some acquaintance, though they may have been
more attracted and absorbed by the interest of the more modern
correspondence which has, within the year, been presented to the
House. Sir, I should not be doing justice to the Secretary of State
if I did not bear testimony to the perseverance and extreme ingenuity
with which he conducted that correspondence. The noble lord the
Secretary of State found in that business, no doubt, a subject genial
to his nature--namely, drawing up constitutions for the government of
communities. The noble lord, we know, is almost as celebrated as a
statesman who flourished at the end of the last century for this
peculiar talent. I will not criticize any of the lucubrations of the
noble lord at that time. I think his labours are well described in
a passage in one of the dispatches of a distinguished Swedish
statesman--the present Prime Minister, if I am not mistaken--who, when
he was called upon to consider a scheme of the English Government for
the administration of Schleswig, which entered into minute details
with a power and prolixity which could have been acquired only by a
constitutional Minister who had long served an apprenticeship in the
House of Commons, said:

Generally speaking, the monarchs of Europe have found
it difficult to manage one Parliament, but I observe, to my
surprise, that Lord Russell is of opinion that the King of
Denmark will be able to manage four.

The only remark I shall make on this folio volume of between 300 and
400 pages relating to the affairs of Schleswig and Holstein is this--I
observe that the other Powers of Europe, who were equally interested
in the matter, and equally bound to interfere--if being signatories to
the treaty of 1852 justified interference--did not interpose as the
English Government did. That they disapproved the course taken by us
I by no means assert. When we make a suggestion on the subject, they
receive it with cold politeness; they have no objection to the course
we announce we are going to follow, but confine themselves, with
scarcely an exception, to this conduct on their part. The noble lord
acted differently. But it is really unnecessary for me to dwell on
this part of the question--we may dismiss it from our minds, and I
have touched on it only to complete the picture which I am bound to
place before the House--in consequence of events which very speedily

All this elaborate and, I may venture to say--not using the word
offensively, but accurately--pragmatical correspondence of the noble
lord on the affairs of Schleswig and Holstein was carried on in
perfect ignorance on the part of the people of this country, who found
very little interest in the subject; and even in Europe, where affairs
of diplomacy always attract more attention, little notice was taken of
it. This correspondence, however, culminated in a celebrated dispatch
which appeared in the autumn of 1862, and then, for the first time,
a very great effect was produced in Europe generally--certainly in
Germany and France--and some interest began to be excited in England.
Sir, the effect of the Secretary of State's management of these
transactions had been this, that he had encouraged--I will not now
stop to inquire whether intentionally or not, but it is a fact that he
had encouraged--the views of what is called the German party in this
controversy. That had been the effect of the noble lord's general
interference, but especially it was the result of the dispatch which
appeared in the autumn of 1862. But, Sir, something shortly and in
consequence occurred which removed that impression. Germany being
agitated on the subject, England at last, in 1863, having had her
attention called to the case, which began to produce some disquietude,
and gentlemen in this House beginning to direct their attention to it,
shortly before the prorogation of Parliament, the state of affairs
caused such a degree of public anxiety, that it was deemed necessary
that an inquiry should be addressed to Her Majesty's Government on the
subject, and that some means should be taken to settle the uneasiness
which prevailed, by obtaining from Ministers a declaration of their
policy generally with regard to Denmark.

Sir, that appeal was not made, as I need hardly assure or even remind
the House--for many were witnesses to it--in any party spirit, or in
any way animated. I will say, by that disciplined arrangement with
which public questions are by both sides of the House in general very
properly brought before us. It was at the end of the session, when few
were left, and when the answer of Her Majesty's Ministers could not at
all affect the position of parties, though it might be of inestimable
interest and importance in its effect on the opinion of Europe and
on the course of events. That question was brought forward by an
honourable friend of mine (Mr. Seymour Fitz-Gerald) who always speaks
on these subjects with the authority of one who knows what he is
talking about. Well, Sir, a communication was made to the noble lord
the First Minister on the subject, and it was understood on this side
of the House, from the previous declarations of the noble lord, and
our experience of his career generally, that it was not an appeal
which would be disagreeable to him, or one which he would have any
desire to avoid. The noble lord was not taken by surprise. He was
communicated with privately, and he himself fixed the day--it was a
morning sitting--when he would come down and explain the views of the
Government in regard to our relations with Denmark.

I am bound to say that the noble lord spoke with all that perspicuity
and complete detail with which he always treats diplomatic subjects,
and in which we acknowledge him to be a master. The noble lord entered
into particulars and gave to the House--who, with few exceptions, knew
little about the matter--not only a popular, but generally an accurate
account of the whole question. He described the constitution of the
Diet itself. He explained, for the first time in Parliament, what
federal execution meant. The noble lord was a little unhappy in
his prophecy as to what was going to happen with regard to federal
execution; but we are all liable to error when we prophesy, and it was
the only mistake he made. The noble lord said he did not think there
would be a federal execution, and that if there were we might be
perfectly easy in our minds, for it would not lead to any disturbance
in Europe. The noble lord also described the position of Holstein as
a German duchy, in which the King of Denmark was a sovereign German
prince, and in that capacity a member of the Diet, and subject to the
laws of the Diet. The duchy of Schleswig, the noble lord said, was not
a German duchy, and the moment it was interfered with, international
considerations would arise. But the noble lord informed us in the most
reassuring spirit that his views on our relations with Denmark were
such as they had always been. I will quote the exact passage from
the noble lord's speech, not because it will not be familiar to the
majority of those whom I am addressing, but because on an occasion
like the present, one should refer to documents, so that it may not be
said afterwards that statements have been garbled or misrepresented.
The noble lord concluded his general observations in this manner:

We are asked what is the policy and the course of Her
Majesty's Government respecting that dispute. We concur
entirely with the honourable gentleman (the member
for Horsham), and, I am satisfied, with all reasonable men
in Europe, including those in France and Russia, in desiring
that the independence, the integrity, and the rights of
Denmark may be maintained. We are convinced--I am
convinced at least--that if any violent attempt were made
to overthrow those rights, and interfere with that independence,
those who made the attempt would find in the
result that it would not be Denmark alone with which they
would have to contend.

I say that is a clear, statesmanlike, and manly declaration of policy.
It was not a hurried or hasty expression of opinion, because on a
subject of that importance and that character, the noble lord never
makes a hasty expression of opinion. He was master of the subject,
and could not be taken by surprise. But on that occasion there was no
chance of his being taken by surprise. The occasion was arranged. The
noble lord was perfectly informed of what our object on this side was.
The noble lord sympathized with it. He wanted the disquietude of the
public mind in England, and on the Continent especially, to be
soothed and satisfied, and he knew that he could not arrive at such
a desirable result more happily and more completely than by a frank
expression of the policy of the Government.

Sir, it is my business to-night to vindicate the noble lord from those
who have treated this declaration of policy as one used only to amuse
the House. I am here to prove the sincerity of that declaration. It is
long since the speech of the noble lord was delivered, and we have
now upon our table the diplomatic correspondence which was then being
carried on by Her Majesty's Government on the subject. It was then
secret--it is now known to us all; and I will show you what at that
very time was the tone of the Secretary of State in addressing the
Courts of Germany mainly interested in the question. I will show how
entirely and how heartily the secret efforts of the Government were
exercised in order to carry into effect the policy which was publicly
in the House of Commons announced by the noble lord. I think it must
have been very late in July that the noble lord spoke--upon the 23rd,
I believe--and I have here the dispatches which, nearly at the same
period, were being sent by the Secretary of State to the German
Courts. For example, hear how, on July 31, the Secretary of State
writes to Lord Bloomfield at Vienna:

You will tell Count Rechberg that if Germany persists
in confounding Schleswig with Holstein, other Powers of
Europe may confound Holstein with Schleswig, and deny
the right of Germany to interfere with the one any more
than she has with the other, except as a European Power.
Such a pretension might be as dangerous to the independence
and integrity of Germany, as the invasion of Schleswig
might be to the independence and integrity of Denmark.
(_Denmark and Germany_, No. 2, 115.)

And what is the answer of Lord Bloomfield? On August 6, after having
communicated with Count Rechberg, he writes:

Before leaving his Excellency I informed him that the
Swedish Government would not remain indifferent to a
federal execution in Holstein, and that this measure of the
Diet, if persisted in, might have serious consequences in
Europe. (P. 117.)

I am showing how sincere the policy of the noble lord was, and that
the speech which we have been told was mainly for the House of
Commons, was really the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Well, that
was to Austria. Let us now see what was the dispatch to Prussia. In
the next month Earl Russell writes to our Minister at the Prussian

I have caused the Prussian charge d'affaires to be informed
that if Austria and Prussia persist in advising the
Confederation to make a federal execution now, they will
do so against the advice already given by Her Majesty's
Government, and must be responsible for the consequences,
whatever they may be. The Diet should bear in mind that
there is a material difference between the political bearing
of a military occupation of a territory which is purely and
solely a portion of the Confederation, and the invasion of
a territory which, although a part of the German Confederation,
is also a portion of the territory of an independent
Sovereign, whose dominions are counted as an element in
the balance of power in Europe.

I have now shown the House what was the real policy of the Government
with respect to our relations with Denmark when Parliament was
prorogued, and I have also shown that the speech of the noble lord the
First Minister of the Crown was echoed by the Secretary of State to
Austria and Prussia. I have shown, therefore, that it was a sincere
policy, as announced by the noble lord. I will now show that it was a
wise and a judicious policy.

Sir, the noble lord having made this statement to the House of
Commons, the House was disbanded, the members went into the country
with perfect tranquillity of mind respecting these affairs of Denmark
and Germany. The speech of the noble lord reassured the country, and
gave them confidence that the noble lord knew what he was about. And
the noble lord knew that we had a right to be confident in the policy
he had announced, because at that period the noble lord was aware that
France was perfectly ready to co-operate with Her Majesty's Government
in any measure which they thought proper to adopt with respect to the
vexed transactions between Denmark and Germany. Nay, France was not
only ready to co-operate, but she spontaneously offered to act with us
in any way we desired. The noble lord made his speech at the end of
July--I think July 23--and it is very important to know what at that
moment were our relations with France in reference to this subject. I
find in the correspondence on the table a dispatch from Lord Cowley,
dated July 31. The speech of the noble lord having been made on the
23rd, this is a dispatch written upon the same subject on the 31st.
Speaking of the affairs of Germany and Denmark, Lord Cowley writes:

M. Drouyn de Lhuys expressed himself as desirous of
acting in concert with Her Majesty's Government in this

I have now placed before the House the real policy of the Government
at the time Parliament was prorogued last year. I have shown you that
it was a sincere policy when expressed by the noble lord. I have
shown that it was a sound and judicious policy, because Her Majesty's
Government was then conscious that France was ready to co-operate with
this country, France having expressed its desire to aid us in the
settlement of this question. Well, Sir, at the end of the summer of
last year, and at the commencement of the autumn, after the speeches
and dispatches of the First Minister and the Secretary of State, and
after, at the end of July, that reassuring announcement from the
French Government, there was great excitement in Germany. The German
people have been for some time painfully conscious that they do not
exercise that influence in Europe which they believe is due to the
merits, moral, intellectual, and physical, of forty millions of
population, homogeneous and speaking the same language. During the
summer of last year this feeling was displayed in a remarkable manner,
and it led to the meeting at Frankfort, which has not been hitherto
mentioned in reference to these negotiations, but which was in reality
a very significant affair.

The German people at that moment found the old question of
Denmark--the relations between Denmark and the Diet--to be the only
practical question upon which they could exhibit their love of a
united fatherland, and their sympathy with a kindred race who
were subjects of a foreign prince. Therefore there was very great
excitement in Germany on the subject; and to those who are not
completely acquainted with the German character, and who take for
granted that the theories they put forth are all to be carried into
action, there were no doubt many symptoms which were calculated to
alarm the Cabinet. Her Majesty's Government, firm in their policy,
firm in their ally, knowing that the moderate counsels urged by France
and England in a spirit which was sincere and which could not be
mistaken, must ultimately lead to some conciliatory arrangements
between the King of Denmark and the Diet, I suppose did not much
disquiet themselves respecting the agitation in Germany. But towards
the end of the summer and the commencement of the autumn--in the
month of September--after the meeting at Frankfort and after other
circumstances, the noble lord the Secretary of State, as a prudent
man--a wise, cautious, and prudent Minister--thought it would be just
as well to take time by the forelock, to prepare for emergencies, and
to remind his allies of Paris of the kind and spontaneous expression
on their part of their desire to co-operate with him in arranging
this business. I think it was on September 16, that Lord Russell,
the Secretary of State, applied in this language to our Minister at
Paris--our ambassador (Lord Cowley) being at that time absent:

As it might produce some danger to the balance of power,
especially if the integrity and independence of Denmark
were in any way impaired by the demands of Germany,
and the measures consequent thereupon, if the Government
of the Emperor of the French are of opinion that any
benefit would be likely to follow from an offer of good services
on the part of Great Britain and France, Her Majesty's
Government would be ready to take that course. If, however,
the Government of France would consider such a step
as likely to be unavailing, the two Powers might remind
Austria, Prussia, and the Diet, that any act on their part
tending to weaken the integrity and independence of
Denmark would be at variance with the treaty of May 8,
1852. (No. 2, 130.)

Sir, I think that was a very prudent step on the part of the Secretary
of State. It was virtually a reminder of the offer which France had
made some months before. Yet, to the surprise, and entirely to the
discomfiture of Her Majesty's Government, this application was
received at first with coldness, and afterwards with absolute refusal.

Well, Sir, I pause now to inquire what had occasioned this change in
the relations between the two Courts. Why was France, which at the
end of the session of Parliament was so heartily with England, and so
approving the policy of the noble lord with respect to Denmark and
Germany that she voluntarily offered to act with us in endeavouring to
settle the question--why was France two or three months afterwards so
entirely changed? Why was she so cold, and ultimately in the painful
position of declining to act with us? I stop for a moment my
examination of this correspondence to look for the causes of this
change of feeling, and I believe they may be easily discerned.

Sir, at the commencement of last year an insurrection broke out in
Poland. Unhappily, insurrection in Poland is not an unprecedented
event. This insurrection was extensive and menacing; but there had
been insurrections in Poland before quite as extensive and far more
menacing--the insurrection of 1831, for example, for at that time
Poland possessed a national army second to none for valour and
discipline. Well, Sir, the question of the Polish insurrection in 1831
was a subject of deep consideration with the English Government
of that day. They went thoroughly into the matter; they took the
soundings of that question; it was investigated maturely, and the
Government of King William IV arrived at these two conclusions--first,
that it was not expedient for England to go to war for the restoration
of Poland; and, second, that if England was not prepared to go to war.
any interference of another kind on her part would only aggravate the
calamities of that fated people. These were the conclusions at which
the Government of Lord Grey arrived, and they were announced to

This is a question which the English Government has had more than one
opportunity of considering, and in every instance they considered
it fully and completely. It recurred again in the year 1855, when a
Conference was sitting at Vienna in the midst of the Russian War, and
again the English Government--the Government of the Queen--had to deal
with the subject of Poland. It was considered by them under the most
favourable circumstances for Poland, for we were at war then, and at
war with Russia. But after performing all the duties of a responsible
Ministry on that occasion, Her Majesty's Government arrived at these
conclusions--first, that it was not only not expedient for England to
go to war to restore Poland, but that it was not expedient even to
prolong a war for that object; and, in the next place, that any
interference with a view to provoke a war in Poland, without action on
our part, was not just to the Poles, and must only tend to bring upon
them increased disasters. I say, therefore, that this question of
Poland in the present century, and within the last thirty-four years,
has been twice considered by different Governments; and when I remind
the House that on its consideration by the Cabinet of Lord Grey in
1831, the individual who filled the office of Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs, and who, of course, greatly guided the opinion of his
colleagues on such a question, was the noble lord the present First
Minister of the Crown; and when I also remind the House that the
British plenipotentiary at the Conference of Vienna in 1855, on whose
responsibility in a great degree the decision then come to was arrived
at, is the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I think
that England, when the great difficulties of last year with respect
to Poland occurred, had a right to congratulate herself that, in a
situation of such gravity, and at an emergency when a mistake might
produce incalculable evils, her fortunes were regulated not only by
two statesmen of such great ability and experience, but by statesmen
who, on this subject, possessed peculiar advantages, who had
thoroughly entered into the question, who knew all its issues, all the
contingencies that might possibly arise in its management, and who
on the two previous occasions on which it had been submitted to the
consideration of England, had been the guiding Ministers to determine
her to a wise course of action.

Now, I must observe that what is called the Polish question occupies a
different position in France from that which it occupies in England. I
will not admit that, in deep sympathy with the Poles, the French are
superior to the English people. I believe I am only stating accurately
the feelings of this country when I say, that among men of all classes
there is no modern event which is looked back to with more regret than
the partition of Poland. It is universally acknowledged by them to be
one of the darkest pages of the history of the eighteenth century. But
in France the Polish question is not a question which merely interests
the sentiments of the millions. It is a political question, and a
political question of the very highest importance--a question which
interests Ministers, and Cabinets, and princes. Well, the ruler of
France, a sagacious prince and a lover of peace, as the Secretary of
State has just informed us, was of course perfectly alive to the grave
issues involved in what is called the Polish question. But the Emperor
knew perfectly well that England had already had opportunities of
considering it in the completest manner, and had arrived at a settled
conclusion with regard to it. Therefore, with characteristic caution,
he exercised great reserve, and held out little encouragement to the
representatives of the Polish people. He knew well that in 1855 he
himself, our ally--and with us a conquering ally--had urged this
question on the English Government, and that, under the most
favourable circumstances for the restoration of Poland, we had adhered
to our traditional policy, neither to go to war nor to interfere.
Therefore, the French Government exhibited a wise reserve on the

But after a short time, what must have been the astonishment of the
Emperor of the French when he found the English Government embracing
the cause of Poland with extraordinary ardour! The noble lord the
Secretary of State and the noble lord the First Minister, but
especially the former, announced the policy as if it were a policy
new to the consideration of statesmen, and likely to lead to immense
results. He absolutely served a notice to quit on the Emperor of
Russia. He sent a copy of this dispatch to all the Courts of Europe
which were signatories to the Treaty of Vienna, and invited them to
follow his example. From the King of Portugal down to the King of
Sweden there was not a signatory of that treaty who was not, as it
were, clattering at the palace gates of St. Petersburg, and calling
the Czar to account respecting the affairs of Poland. For three months
Europe generally believed that there was to be a war on a great scale,
of which the restoration of Poland was to be one of the main objects.
Is it at all remarkable that the French Government and the French
people, cautious as they were before, should have responded to such
invitations and such stimulating proposals? We know how the noble lord
fooled them, to the top of their bent. The House recollects the six
propositions to which the attention of the Emperor of Russia was
called in the most peremptory manner. The House recollects the closing
scene, when it was arranged that the ambassadors of France, Austria,
and England, should on the very same day appear at the hotel of the
Minister of Russia, and present notes ending with three identical
paragraphs, to show the agreement of the Powers. An impression
pervaded Europe that there was to be a general war, and that England,
France, and Austria were united to restore Poland.

The House remembers the end of all this--it remembers the reply of
the Russian Minister, couched in a tone of haughty sarcasm and of
indignation that deigned to be ironical. There was then but one step
to take, according to the views of the French Government, and that
was action. They appealed to that England which had itself thus set
the example of agitation on the subject; and England, wisely as I
think, recurred to her traditionary policy, the Government confessing
that it was a momentary indiscretion which had animated her councils
for three or four months; that they never meant anything more than
words; and a month afterwards, I believe, they sent to St. Petersburg
an obscure dispatch, which may be described as an apology. But this
did not alter the position of the French Government and the French
Emperor. The Emperor had been induced by us to hold out promises
which he could not fulfil. He was placed in a false position both to
the people of Poland and the people of France; and therefore,
Sir, I am not surprised that when the noble lord the Secretary of
State, a little alarmed by the progress of affairs in Germany, thought
it discreet to reconnoitre his position on September 17, he should
have been received at Paris with coldness, and, ultimately, that his
dispatch should have been answered in this manner.

I fear that I may weary the House with my narrative, but I will not
abuse the privilege of reading extracts, which is generally very
foreign to my desire. Yet, on a question of this kind it is better
to have the documents, and not lay oneself open to the charge of
garbling. Mr. Grey, writing to Lord Russell on September 18, 1863,

The second mode of proceeding suggested by your lordship,
namely, 'to remind Austria, Russia, and the German
Diet, that any acts on their part tending to weaken the
integrity and independence of Denmark would be at
variance with the treaty of May 8, 1852,' would be in a
great measure analogous to the course pursued by Great
Britain and France in the Polish question. He had no
inclination (and he frankly avowed that he should so speak
to the Emperor) to place France in the same position with
reference to Germany as she had been placed in with regard
to Russia. The formal notes addressed by the three Powers
to Russia had received an answer which literally meant
nothing, and the position in which those three great
Powers were now placed was anything but dignified; and
if England and France were to address such a reminder a
that proposed to Austria, Prussia, and the German Confederation,
they must be prepared to go further, and to
adopt their course of action more in accordance with the
dignity of two great Powers than they were now doing in
the Polish question.... Unless Her Majesty's Government
was prepared to go further, if necessary, than the mere
presentation of a note, and the receipt of an evasive reply,
he was sure the Emperor would not consent to adopt your
lordship's suggestion. (No, 2, 131.)

Well, Sir, that was an intimation to the noble lord with respect
to the change in the relations between England and France that was
significant; I think it was one that the noble lord should have duly
weighed--and when he remembered the position which this country
occupied with regard to Denmark--that it was a position under
the treaty which did not bind us to interfere more than France,
itself--conscious, at the same time, that any co-operation from Russia
in the same cause could hardly be counted upon--I should have said
that a prudent Government would have well considered that position,
and that they would not have taken any course which committed them too
strongly to any decided line of action. But so far as I can judge
from the correspondence before us, that was not the tone taken by
Her Majesty's Government; because here we have extracts from the
correspondence of the Secretary of State to the Swedish Minister,
to the Diet at Frankfort, and a most important dispatch to Lord
Bloomfield: all in the fortnight that elapsed after the receipt of the
dispatch of Mr. Grey that notified the change in the feeling of the
French Government. It is highly instructive that we should know
what effect that produced in the system and policy of Her Majesty's
Government. Immediately--almost the day after the receipt of that
dispatch--the Secretary of State wrote to the Swedish Minister:

Her Majesty's Government set the highest value on the
independence and integrity of Denmark.... Her Majesty's
Government will be ready to remind Austria and Prussia
of their treaty obligations to respect the integrity and
independence of Denmark. (No. 2, 137-8.)

Then on September 29--that is, only nine or ten days after the receipt
of the French dispatch--we have this most important dispatch, which
I shall read at some little length. It is at p. 136, and is really
addressed to the Diet. The Secretary of State says:

Her Majesty's Government, by the Treaty of London of
May 8, 1852, is bound to respect the integrity and independence
of Denmark. The Emperor of Austria and the
King of Prussia have taken the same engagement. Her
Majesty could not see with indifference a military occupation
of Holstein, which is only to cease on terms injuriously
affecting the constitution of the whole Danish monarchy.
Her Majesty's Government could not recognize this military
occupation as a legitimate exercise of the powers of the
Confederation, or admit that it could properly be called
a federal execution. Her Majesty's Government could
not be indifferent to the bearing of such an act upon
Denmark and European interest. Her Majesty's Government
therefore earnestly entreats the German Diet to
pause and to submit the questions in dispute between
Germany and Denmark to the mediation of other Powers
unconcerned in the controversy, but deeply concerned in
the maintenance of the peace of Europe and the independence
of Denmark. (No. 2, 145.)

My object in reading this dispatch is to show that, after the
indication of the change of feeling on the part of France, the
policy--the sincere policy--of the Government was not modified. The
Secretary of State writes thus on September 30, to Lord Bloomfield at

Her Majesty's Government trusts that no act of federal
execution to which Austria may be a party, and no act of
war against Denmark on the ground of the affairs of
Schleswig, will be allowed to clash with this primary and
essential treaty obligation. Her Majesty's Government,
indeed, entertain a full confidence that the Government of
Austria is as deeply impressed as Her Majesty's Government
with the conviction that the independence and integrity
of Denmark form an essential element in the
balance of power in Europe. (No. 3, 147.)

Now, this takes us to the end of September; and I think the House
up to this time tolerably clearly understands the course of the
correspondence. Nothing of any importance happened in October that
requires me to pause and consider it. We arrive, then, at the month of
November, and now approach very important and critical affairs. The
month of November was remarkable for the occurrence of two great
events which completely changed the character and immensely affected
the aspect of the whole relations between Denmark and Germany; and
which produced consequences which none of us may see the end of. Early
in November the Emperor of the French proposed a European Congress.
His position was such--as he himself has described it, there can be no
indelicacy in saying so--his position had become painful from various
causes, but mainly from the manner in which he had misapprehended the
conduct of the English Government with regard to Poland. He saw great
troubles about to occur in Europe; he wished to anticipate their
settlement; he felt himself in a false position with respect to
his own subjects, because he had experienced a great diplomatic
discomfiture; but he was desirous--and there is no doubt of the
sincerity of the declaration--he was desirous of still taking a course
which should restore and retain the cordial understanding with this
country. He proposed, then, a general Congress.

Well, when Parliament met on February 4, I had to make certain
observations on the general condition of affairs, and I gave my
opinion as to the propriety of Her Majesty's Government refusing to be
a party to that Congress. Generally speaking, I think that a Congress
should not precede action. If you wish any happy and permanent result
from a Congress, it should rather follow the great efforts of nations;
and when they are somewhat exhausted, give them the opportunity of an
honourable settlement. Sir, I did not think it my duty to conceal my
opinion, Her Majesty's Government having admitted that they had felt
it their duty to refuse a proposition of that character. I should
have felt that I was wanting in that ingenuousness and fair play in
politics which I hope, whoever sits on that bench or this, we shall
always pursue, if, when the true interests of the country are
concerned, agreeing as I did with the Government, I did not express
frankly that opinion. But, Sir, I am bound to say that had I been
aware of what has been communicated to us by the papers on the
table--had I been aware, when I spoke on February 4, that only a week
before Parliament met, that only a week before we were assured by a
Speech from the Throne that Her Majesty was continuing to carry on
negotiations in the interest of peace--that Her Majesty's Government
had made a proposition to France which must inevitably have produced,
if accepted, a great European war, I should have given my approbation
in terms much more qualified.

But, Sir, whatever difference of opinion there might be as to the
propriety or impropriety of Her Majesty's Government acceding to
the Congress, I think there were not then--I am sure there are not
now--two opinions as to the mode and manner in which that refusal was
conveyed. Sir, when the noble lord vindicated that curt and, as I
conceive, most offensive reply, he dilated the other night on the
straightforwardness of British Ministers, and said that, by whatever
else their language might be characterized, it was distinguished by
candour and clearness, and that even where it might be charged with
being coarse, it at least conveyed a determinate meaning. Well, Sir, I
wish that if our diplomatic language is characterized by clearness
and straightforwardness, some of that spirit had distinguished the
dispatches and declarations addressed by the noble lord to the Court
of Denmark. It is a great pity that we did not have a little of that
rude frankness when the fortunes of that ancient kingdom were at

But, Sir, another event of which I must now remind the House happened
about that time. In November the King of Denmark died. The death of
the King of Denmark entirely changed the character of the question
between Germany and Denmark. The question was a federal question
before, as the noble lord, from the dispatches I have read, was
perfectly aware; but by the death of the King of Denmark it became an
international question, because the controversy of the King of Denmark
was with the Diet of Germany, which had not recognized the change
in the _lex regia_, or the changes in the succession to the various
dominions of the King. It was, therefore, an international question of
magnitude and of a menacing character. Under these circumstances, when
the question became European, when the difficulties were immensely
magnified and multiplied--the offer of a Congress having been made on
November 5, and not refused until the 27th, the King of Denmark having
died on the 16th--it was, I say, with the complete knowledge of the
increased risk and of the increased dimensions of the interests at
stake, that the noble lord sent that answer to the invitation of the
Emperor of the French. I say, Sir, that at this moment it became the
Government of England seriously to consider their position. With the
offer of the Congress and with the death of the King of Denmark--with
these two remarkable events before the noble lord's eyes, it is my
duty to remind the House of the manner in which the noble lord the
Secretary of State addressed the European Powers. Neither of these
great events seems to have induced the noble lord to modify his tone.
On November 19, the King having just died, the Secretary of State
writes to Sir Alexander Malet, our Minister to the Diet, to remind him
that all the Powers of Europe had agreed to the treaty of 1852. On the
20th he writes a letter of menace to the German Powers, saying that
Her Majesty's Government expect, as a matter of course, that all the
Powers will recognize the succession of the King of Denmark as heir of
all the states which, according to the Treaty of London, were united
under the sceptre of the late King. And on the 23rd, four days
before he refused the invitation to the Congress, he writes to Lord

Her Majesty's Government would have no right to interfere
on behalf of Denmark if the troops of the Confederation
should enter Holstein on federal grounds. But if execution
were enforced on international grounds, the Powers who
signed the treaty of 1852 would have a right to interfere.
(No. 3, 230.)

To Sir Augustus Paget, our Minister at Copenhagen, on November 30--the
House will recollect that this was after he had refused the Congress,
after the King had died, and after the question had become an
international one--he writes announcing his refusal of the Congress
and proposing the sole mediation of England. Then he writes to Sir
Alexander Malet in the same month, that Her Majesty's Government can
only leave to Germany the sole responsibility of raising a war in
Europe, which the Diet seemed bent on making.

This is the tone which the Government adopted, after the
consideration, as we are bound to believe, which the question
demanded, after having incurred the responsibility of refusing the
Congress offered by the Emperor of the French, after the death of the
King of Denmark, after the question had been changed from a federal to
an international one--such, I repeat, is the tone they took up, and in
which they sent their menacing messages to every Court in Germany. I
say that at the death of the King of Denmark it behooved Her Majesty's
Ministers, instead of adopting such a course, maturely to consider
their position in relation to the events which had occurred. There
were two courses open to Her Majesty's Government, both intelligible,
both honourable. It was open to them, after the death of the King
of Denmark, to have acted as France had resolved under the same
circumstances to act--France, who occupies, we are told, a position in
reference to these matters so dignified and satisfactory that it has
received the compliments even of a baffled Minister. That course was
frankly announced shortly afterwards to the English Minister by the
Minister of France in Denmark. On November 19 General Fleury said to
Lord Wodehouse at Copenhagen:

That his own instructions from the Emperor were, not
to take part in any negotiations here, but to tell the
Danish Government explicitly that if Denmark became
involved in a war with Germany, France would not come
to her assistance.

If England had adopted that course it would have been intelligible
and honourable. We were not bound by the treaty of 1852 to go to the
assistance of Denmark if she became involved in a war with Germany. No
one pretends that we were. As a matter of high policy, much as we may
regret any disturbance in the territorial limits of Europe, being a
country the policy of which is a policy of tranquillity and peace,
there were no adequate considerations which could have justified
England in entering into an extensive European war, without allies,
to prevent a war between Denmark and Germany. That was, I say, an
honourable and intelligible course.

There was another course equally intelligible and equally honourable.
Though I am bound to say that the course which I should have
recommended the country to take would have been to adopt the same
position as that of France, yet, if the Government really entertained
the views with respect to the balance of power which have been
expressed occasionally in the House by the noble lord, and in a
literary form by the Secretary of State--from which I may say I
disagree, because they appear to me to be founded on the obsolete
tradition of an antiquated system, and because I think that the
elements from which we ought to form an opinion as to the distribution
of the power of the world must be collected from a much more extensive
area, and must be formed of larger and more varied elements: but let
that pass: yet, I say, if Her Majesty's Government were of opinion
that the balance of power were endangered by a quarrel between Germany
and Denmark, they were justified in giving their advice to Denmark,
in threatening Germany, and in taking the general management of the
affairs of Denmark; but they were bound, if a war did take place
between Germany and Denmark, to support Denmark. Instead of that, they
invented a process of conduct which I hope is not easily exampled in
the history of this country, and which I can only describe in one
sentence--it consisted of menaces never accomplished and promises
never fulfilled.

With all these difficulties they never hesitate in their tone. At
least, let us do them this justice--there never were, in semblance,
more determined Ministers. They seemed at least to rejoice in the
phantom of a proud courage. But what do they do? They send a special
envoy to Denmark, who was to enforce their policy and arrange
everything. Formally the special envoy was sent to congratulate the
King on his accession to the throne of Denmark, and all the other
Powers did the same; but in reality the mission of Lord Wodehouse was
for greater objects than that, and his instructions are before us
in full. Without wearying the House by reading the whole of those
instructions, I will read one paragraph, which is the last, and which
is, as it were, a summary of the whole. They were written at the end
of December. Recollect, this is the policy of the Government after
refusing the Congress, and after the death of the King of Denmark,
which had therefore incurred a still deeper responsibility, and which,
we must suppose, had deeply considered all the issues involved. This
is the cream of the instructions given by the Government to Lord

The result to be arrived at is the fulfilment of the treaty
of May 8, 1852, and of the engagements entered into by
Prussia and Austria and Denmark in 1851-2. (No. 3, 353.)

Lord Wodehouse could not possibly be at fault as to what he was to do
when he arrived at his destination. His was, no doubt, a significant
appointment. He was a statesman of some experience; he had held a
subordinate but important position in the administration of our
foreign affairs; he had been a Minister at a northern Court; he had
recently distinguished himself in Parliament by a speech on the
question of Germany and Denmark, in which he took a decidedly
dangerous view. Lord Wodehouse received clear instructions as to what
he was to do. But, at the same time, what was the conduct of the
Secretary of State? While Lord Wodehouse was repairing to his post,
did the Secretary of State in the least falter in his tone? It was
about this time that the great diplomatic reprimand was sent to Sir
Alexander Malet for having talked of the 'protocol' of 1852 instead of
the 'treaty'. This was the time that instructions were sent out that
if anybody had the hardihood to mention the 'protocol' of 1852 he was
immediately to be stopped. However elevated his position might be,
even if it were M. Bismarck himself, he was to be pulled up directly,
in the full flow of his eloquence; note was to be taken of this great
diplomatic _lapsus_, and the Minister was to telegraph instantly home
to his Government how he had carried out his instructions in this
respect. On December 17, the noble lord wrote to Sir Andrew Buchanan,
our ambassador at Berlin:

Let it suffice at present for Her Majesty's Government
to declare that they would consider any departure from
the treaty of succession of 1852, by Powers who signed or
acceded to that treaty, as entirely inconsistent with good
faith. (No. 3, 383.)

Similar dispatches were sent to Wurtemberg, Hanover, and Saxony. On
December 23 the noble earl wrote to Sir Andrew Buchanan:

If the overthrow of the dynasty now reigning in Denmark
is sought by Germany, the most serious consequences
may ensue. (No. 3, 411.)

I want to know what honourable members mean by cheering the words I
have just quoted. If you wish to convey even to a little Power that if
it does a certain thing you will go to war with it, you take care not
to announce your intention in an offensive manner; because, were you
to do so, probably, even the smallest Power in Europe would not yield.
And certainly if you wish to tell a great Power in Europe what may be
eventually the consequences if it should adopt a different line from
that which you desire, you would not abruptly declare that if it
declined to accede to your wish you would declare war. Why, there
are no dispatches on record in the world--there is no record in
any Foreign Office of language of this kind. The question is, what
interpretation can be put on these threats. The Secretary of State
writes again on December 25 to Sir Andrew Buchanan, stating that:

Any precipitate action on the part of the German Confederation
may lead to consequences fatal to the peace of
Europe, and may involve Germany, in particular, in difficulties
of the most serious nature. (No. 4, 414.)

On December 26 the Secretary of State writes to Sir Alexander Malet,
and sends him a copy of the treaty of 1852, in order that he might
communicate it to the Diet. Now, that is the state of affairs after
the King of Denmark's death; after he had been perfectly acquainted
with the policy of France; after he had been frankly told that the
French Emperor had explicitly informed Denmark that if she got
involved in war with Germany, France would not come to her assistance.
Now the words 'if she went to war' might have been interpreted in two
ways; because she might get into war without any fault of her own,
and Germany might be the aggressor: but there could be no mistake in
regard to the words 'if she became involved in war'. Neither Denmark
nor England could make any mistake in regard to the policy of France,
which the Secretary of State now says was a magnanimous policy.

Notwithstanding these threats, notwithstanding these repeated menaces,
and notwithstanding every effort made by Her Majesty's Government to
prevent it, federal execution took place, as it was intended to take
place. One day after the most menacing epistle which I have ever
read--the day after the copy of the treaty of 1852 had been solemnly
placed before the Diet by Sir Alexander Malet--on December 27,
federal execution took place. At any rate, I do not think that is
evidence of the just influence of England in the councils of Germany.

What was the course of Her Majesty's Government at this critical
conjuncture? Why, Sir, they went again to France. After all that had
happened their only expedient was to go and supplicate France. I will
read the letter. [Mr. Layard: Hear, hear!] The honourable gentleman
seems to triumph in the recollection of mistakes and disappointments.
I will give him the date, but I should think it must really be seared
upon his conscience. December 27 is the date of federal execution: and
Her Majesty's Government must have been in a state of complete panic,
because on the 28th they made application to France, which is answered
in a few hours by Lord Cowley: 'I said Her Majesty's Government were
most sincerely anxious to----' (laughter). I wish really to be candid,
not to misrepresent anything, and to put the case before the House
without garbling any of the dispatches.--'I said that Her Majesty's
Government were most sincerely anxious to act with the Imperial
Government in this question.' No doubt they were. I am vindicating
your conduct. I believe in your sincerity throughout. It is only your
intense incapacity that I denounce. The passage in the dispatch is
Shakespearian; it is one of those dramatic descriptions which only a
masterly pen could accomplish. Lord Cowley went on:

Her Majesty's Government felt that if the two Powers
could agree, war might be avoided; otherwise the danger
of war was imminent. M. Drouyn de Lhuys said he partook
this opinion; but as his Excellency made no further
observation, I remarked it would be a grievous thing if the
difference of opinion which had arisen upon the merits of
a general Congress were to produce an estrangement which
would leave each Government to pursue its own course.
I hoped that this would not be the case. Her Majesty's
Government would do all in their power to avoid it. I
presumed I might give them the assurance that the Imperial
Government were not decided to reject the notion of
a Conference. (No. 4, 444.)

Well, Sir, this received a curt and unsatisfactory reply. Nothing
could be obtained from the plaintive appeal of Lord Cowley. Well, what
did Her Majesty's Government do? Having received information that the
threat of federal execution had been fulfilled, having appealed to
France, and been treated in the manner I have described, what did the
Government do? Why, the Secretary of State, within twenty-four hours
afterwards, penned the fiercest dispatch he had ever yet written.
It is dated December 31, 1863, and it is addressed to Sir Andrew

Her Majesty's Government do not hold that war would
relieve Prussia from the obligations of the treaty of 1852.
The King of Denmark would by that treaty be entitled
still to be acknowledged as the sovereign of all the dominions
of the late King of Denmark. He has been so
entitled from the time of the death of the late King. A
war of conquest undertaken by Germany avowedly for the
purpose of adding some parts of the Danish dominions to
the territory of the German Confederation might, if successful,
alter the state of succession contemplated by the
Treaty of London, and give to Germany a title by conquest
to parts of the dominions of the King of Denmark. The
prospect of such an accession may no doubt be a temptation
to those who think it can be accomplished; but Her
Majesty's Government cannot believe that Prussia will
depart from the straight line of good faith in order to assist
in carrying such a project into effect. (No. 4, 445.)

You cheer as if it were a surprising thing that the Secretary of State
should have written a single sentence of common sense. These are
important state documents, and I hope Her Majesty's Government are not
so fallen that there is not a Minister among them who is able to write
a dispatch--I do not say a bad dispatch, but a very important one. I
wish to call attention to its importance:

If German nationality in Holstein, and particularly in Schleswig, were
made the ground of the dismemberment of Denmark, Polish nationality
in the Duchy of Posen would be a ground equally strong for the
dismemberment of Prussia. It appears to Her Majesty's Government that
the safest course for Prussia to pursue is to act with good faith and
honour and to stand by and fulfil her treaty engagements. By such a
course she will command the sympathy of Europe; by a contrary course
she will draw down upon herself the universal condemnation of all
disinterested men. By this course alone war in Europe can be with
certainty prevented. (No. 4, 445.)

Well, Sir, that I think was a bold dispatch to write after the
rejection, for the second or third time, of our overtures to France.
That brings us up to the last day of the year.

But before I proceed to more recent transactions, it is necessary to
call the attention of the House to the remarkable contrast between the
menaces lavished on Germany and the expectations--to use the mildest
term--that were held out to Denmark. The great object of Her Majesty's
Government when the difficulties began to be very serious, was to
induce Denmark to revoke the patent of Holstein--that is, to terminate
the constitution. The constitution of Holstein had been granted very
recently before the death of the King, with a violent desire on
the part of the monarch to fulfil his promises. It was a wise and
excellent constitution by which Holstein became virtually independent.
It enjoyed the fullness of self-government, and was held only by
sovereign ties to Denmark, as Norway is held to Sweden. The Danish
Government were not at all willing to revoke the constitution in
Holstein. It was one that did them credit, and was naturally popular
in Holstein. Still, the Diet was very anxious that the patent should
be revoked, because if Holstein continued satisfied it was impossible
to trade on the intimate connexion between Schleswig and Holstein, the
lever by which the kingdom of Denmark was to be destroyed. The Diet,
therefore, insisted that the patent should be revoked. Her Majesty's
Government, I believe, approved the patent of Holstein as the Danish
Government had done, but, as a means of obtaining peace and saving
Denmark, they made use of all the means in their power to induce
Denmark to revoke that constitution. Sir Augustus Paget, writing to
the Foreign Secretary on October 14, and describing an interview with
M. Hall, the Prime Minister of Denmark, says:

After much further conversation, in which I made use of every argument
to induce his Excellency to adopt a conciliatory course, and in which
I warned him of the danger of rejecting the friendly counsels now
offered by Her Majesty's Government--(No. 3, 162)--

M. Hall promises to withdraw the patent. What interpretation could M.
Hall place on that interview? He was called upon to do what he knew
to be distasteful, and believed to be impolitic. He is warned of the
danger of rejecting those friendly counsels, and in consequence of
that warning he gives way and surrenders his opinion. I would candidly
ask what is the interpretation which in private life would be put on
such language as I have quoted, and which had been acted upon by those
to whom it was addressed?

Well, we now come to the federal execution in Holstein. Speaking
literally, the federal execution was a legal act, and Denmark could
not resist it. But from the manner in which it was about to be carried
into effect, and in consequence of the pretensions connected with it,
the Danes were of opinion that it would have been better at once to
resist the execution, which aimed a fatal blow at the independence of
Schleswig, and upon this point they felt strongly. Well, Her Majesty's
Government--and I give them full credit for being actuated by the best
motives--thought otherwise, and wished the Danish Government to submit
to this execution. And what was the sort of language used by them in
order to bring about that result? Sir Augustus Paget replied in this
way to the objections of the Danish Minister:

I replied that Denmark would at all events have a better chance of
securing the assistance of the Powers if the execution were not

I ask any candid man to put his own interpretation upon this language.
And on the 12th of the same month Lord Russell himself tells M. Bille,
the Danish Minister in London, that there is no connexion between the
engagements of Denmark to Germany, and the engagements of the German
Powers under the treaty of 1852. After such a declaration from the
English Minister in the metropolis, a declaration which must have
had the greatest effect upon the policy of the Danish Government--of
course they submitted to the execution. But having revoked the patent
and submitted to the execution, as neither the one nor the other was
the real object of the German Powers, a new demand was made which was
one of the greatest consequence.

Now, listen to this. The new demand was to repeal the old
constitution. I want to put clearly before the House the position
of the Danish Government with respect to this much-talked-of
constitution. There had been in the preceding year a Parliamentary
Reform Bill carried in Denmark. The King died before having given his
assent to it, though he was most willing to have done so. The instant
the new King succeeded, the Parliamentary Reform Bill was brought to
him. Of course great excitement prevailed in Denmark, just as it did
in England at the time of the Reform Bill under similar circumstances,
and the King was placed in a most difficult position. Now, observe
this: England, who was so obtrusive and pragmatical in the counsels
which she gave, who was always offering advice and suggestions, hung
back when the question arose whether the new King should give his
assent to the Reform Bill or not. England was selfishly silent, and
would incur no responsibility. The excitement in Copenhagen was great,
and the King gave his assent to the Bill. But mark! at that moment it
was not at all impossible that if Her Majesty's Government had written
a dispatch to Copenhagen asking the King not to give his assent to
the Bill for the space of six weeks in order to assist England in the
negotiations she was carrying on in behalf of Denmark; and if the King
had convened his council and laid before them the express wish of an
ally who was then looked upon by Denmark with confidence and hope,
especially from the time that France had declared she would not assist
her, I cannot doubt that the King would have complied with a request
that was so important to his fortunes. But the instant the King had
sanctioned the new constitution, the English Government began writing
dispatches calling upon him to revoke it. Aye, but what was his
position then? How could he revoke it? The King was a constitutional
king; he could have put an end to this constitution only by a _coup
d'etat_; and he was not in a position, nor I believe if he were had
he the inclination, to do such an act. The only constitutional course
open to him was to call the new Parliament together with the view of
revoking the constitution.

But see what would have been the position of affairs then. In England
the Reform Act was passed in 1832, new elections took place under
it, and the House assembled under Lord Althorp, as the leader of the
Government. Now, suppose Lord Althorp had come down to that House with
a King's speech recommending them to revoke the Reform Act, and have
asked leave to introduce another Bill for the purpose of reforming the
constitution, would it not have been asking an utter impossibility?
But how did Her Majesty's Government act towards Denmark in similar
circumstances? First of all, the noble lord at the head of the Foreign
Office wrote to Lord Wodehouse on December 20, giving formal advice to
the Danish Government to repeal the constitution, and Lord Wodehouse,
who had been sent upon this painful and, I must say, impossible
office to the Danish Minister, thus speaks of the way in which he had
performed his task:

I pointed out to M. Hall also that if, on the one hand, Her Majesty's
Government would never counsel the Danish Government to yield anything
inconsistent with the honour and independence of the Danish Crown, and
the integrity of the King's dominions; so, on the other hand, we had
a right to expect that the Danish Government would not, by putting
forward extreme pretensions, drive matters to extremities.

And Sir Augustus Paget, who appears to have performed his duty with
great temper and talent, writing on December 22, says:

I asked M. Hall to reflect what would be the position of Denmark
if the advice of the Powers were refused, and what it would be if
accepted, and to draw his own conclusions. (No. 4, 420.)

Now, I ask, what are the conclusions which any gentleman--I do not
care on what side of the House he may sit--would have drawn from such
language as that? But before that, a special interview took place
between Lord Wodehouse and the Danish Minister, of which Lord
Wodehouse writes:

It was my duty to declare to M. Hall that if the Danish Government
rejected our advice, Her Majesty's Government must leave Denmark to
encounter Germany on her own responsibility.

Well, Sir, I ask again whether there are two interpretations to be put
upon such observations as these? And what happened? It was impossible
for M. Hall, who was the author of the constitution, to put an end
to it; so he resigned--a new Government is formed, and under the new
constitution Parliament is absolutely called together to pass an Act
to terminate its own existence. And in January Sir Augustus Paget
tells the Danish Government with some _naivete_:

If they would summon the Rigsraad, and propose a repeal of the
constitution, they would act wisely, in accordance with the advice of
their friends, and the responsibility of the war would not be laid at
their door.

Well, then, these were three great subjects on which the
representation of England induced Denmark to adopt a course against
her will, and, as the Danes believed, against their policy. The plot
begins to thicken. Notwithstanding the revocation of the patent, the
federal execution, and the repeal of the constitution, one thing more
is wanted, and Schleswig is about to be invaded. Affairs now become
most critical. No sooner is this known than a very haughty menace is
sent to Austria. From a dispatch of Lord Bloomfield, dated December
31, it will be seen that Austria was threatened, if Schleswig was
invaded, that:

The consequences would be serious. The question would cease to be a
purely German one, and would become one of European importance.

On January 4, Earl Russell writes to Mr. Murray, at the Court of

The most serious consequences are to be apprehended if the Germans
invade Schleswig. (No. 4, 481.)

On the 9th, again, he writes to Dresden:

The line taken by Saxony destroys confidence in diplomatic relations
with that State. (No. 4, 502.)

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