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Selected Speeches on British Foreign Policy 1738-1914

Part 7 out of 8

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On January 18 he writes to Lord Bloomfield:

You are instructed to represent in the strongest terms to Count
Rechberg, and, if you shall have an opportunity of doing so, to
the Emperor, the extreme injustice and danger of the principle and
practice of taking possession of the territory of a State as what
is called a material guarantee for the obtainment of certain
international demands, instead of pressing those demands by the
usual method of negotiation. Such a practice is fatal to peace, and
destructive of the independence of States. It is destructive of peace
because it is an act of war, and if resistance takes place it is the
beginning of war. But war so begun may not be confined within the
narrow limits of its early commencement, as was proved in 1853, when
the occupation of the Danubian Principalities by Russia as a material
guarantee proved the direct cause of the Crimean War. (No. 4, 564.)

It is only because I do not wish to weary the House that I do not read
it all, but it is extremely well written. ['Read.']

Well, then, the dispatch goes on to say:

Such a practice is most injurious to the independence and integrity of
the State to which it is applied, because a territory so occupied can
scarcely be left by the occupying force in the same state in which it
was when the occupation took place. But, moreover, such a practice may
recoil upon those who adopt it, and, in the ever-varying course of
events, it may be most inconveniently applied to those who, having set
the example, had flattered themselves it never could be applied to
them. (No. 4, 564.)

Well, the invasion of Schleswig is impending, and then an identic note
is sent to Vienna and Berlin in these terms:

Her Majesty's Government having been informed that the Governments of

Austria and Prussia have addressed a threatening summons to Denmark,
the undersigned has been instructed to ask for a formal declaration on
the part of these Governments that they adhere to the principle of the
integrity of the Danish monarchy. (No. 4, 565.)

And again, writing to Lord Bloomfield, the Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs speaks of the invasion as 'a breach of faith which may
entail upon Europe widespread calamities'. But all these remonstrances
were in vain. Notwithstanding these solemn warnings, notwithstanding
this evidence that in the German Courts the just influence of England
was lowered, the invasion of Schleswig takes place. And what is the
conduct of the Government? They hurry again to Paris. They propose a
joint declaration of the non-German Powers. Earl Russell writes to
Lord Cowley in the middle of January. An answer was sent, I believe,
the next day, the 14th, and this is Lord Cowley's statement in
reference to the opinion of the French Government:

As to the four Powers impressing upon the Diet the heavy
responsibility that it would incur if, by any precipitate measures, it
were to break the peace of Europe before the Conference which had
been proposed by the British Government for considering the means
of settling the question between Germany and Denmark, and thereby
maintaining that peace, can be assembled, M. Drouyn de Lhuys observed
that he had not forgotten that when Russia had been warned by France,
Great Britain, and Austria of the responsibility which she was
incurring by her conduct towards Poland, Prince Gortsehakoff had
replied, 'that Russia was ready to assume that responsibility before
God and man.' He, for one, did not wish to provoke another answer of
the same sort to be received with the same indifference. (No. 4, 536.)

The drama now becomes deeply interesting. The events are quick. That
is the answer of the French Government; and on the next day Lord
Russell writes to Lord Cowley to propose concert and co-operation with
France to maintain the treaty--that is, to prevent the occupation of
Schleswig. Lord Cowley writes the next day to Lord Russell that the
French Government want to know what 'concert and co-operation' mean.
Lord Russell at last, on January 24, writes to say that concert and
co-operation mean 'if necessary, material assistance to Denmark'. That
must have been about the same time when the Cabinet was sitting to
draw up Her Majesty's speech, assuring Parliament that negotiations
continued to be carried on in the interest of peace. Now, Sir, what
was the answer of the French Government when, at last, England invited
her to go to war to settle the question between Germany and Denmark? I
will read the reply:

M. Drouyn de Lhuys, after recapitulating the substance of my dispatch
of January 24 to your Excellency, explains very clearly the views of
the French Government upon the subject. The Emperor recognizes the
value of the London treaty as tending to preserve the balance of power
and maintain the peace of Europe. But the Government of France, while
paying a just tribute to the purport and objects of the treaty
of 1852, is ready to admit that circumstances may require its
modification. The Emperor has always been disposed to pay great regard
to the feelings and aspirations of nationalities. It is not to be
denied that the national feelings and aspirations of Germany tend to
a closer connexion with the Germans of Holstein and Schleswig. The
Emperor would feel repugnance to any course which should bind him to
oppose in arms the wishes of Germany. It may be comparatively easy
for England to carry on a war which can never go beyond the maritime
operations of blockade and capture of ships. Schleswig and England are
far apart from each other. But the soil of Germany touches the soil of
France, and a war between France and Germany would be one of the most
burdensome and one of the most hazardous which the French Empire could
engage. Besides these considerations, the Emperor cannot fail to
recollect that he has been made an object of mistrust and suspicion in
Europe on account of his supposed projects of aggrandizement on the
Rhine. A war commenced on the frontiers of Germany would not fail to
give strength to these unfounded and unwarrantable imputations. For
these reasons, the Government of the Emperor will not take at present
any engagement on the subject of Denmark. If, hereafter, the balance
of power should be seriously threatened, the Emperor may be inclined
to take new measures in the interest of France and of Europe. But for
the present the Emperor reserves to his Government entire liberty.
(No. 4, 620.)

Well, Sir, I should think that, after the reception of that dispatch,
though it might have been very hard to convince the Foreign Secretary
of the fact, any other person might easily have suspected that the
just influence of England was lowered in another quarter of Europe.

Sir, I have now brought events to the period when Parliament met,
trespassing, I fear, too much on the indulgence of the House; but
honourable members will remember that, in order to give this narrative
to-day, it was necessary for me to peruse 1,500 printed folio pages,
and I trust I have done no more than advert to those passages to which
it was requisite to direct attention in order that the House might
form a complete and candid opinion of the case. I will not dwell,
or only for the slightest possible time, on what occurred upon the
meeting of Parliament. Sir, when we met there were no papers; and I
remember that when I asked for papers there was not, I will frankly
say, on both sides of the House, a sufficient sense of the very great
importance of the occasion, and of the singular circumstance that the
papers were not presented to us. It turned out afterwards from what
fell from the Secretary of State in another place, that it was never
intended that the papers should be presented at the meeting of
Parliament. The noble lord at the head of the Government treated the
inquiry for papers in a jaunty way, and said, 'Oh! you shall have
papers, and I wish you joy of them.' That was the tone of the First
Minister in reference to the most important diplomatic correspondence
ever laid before Parliament since the rupture of the Treaty of Amiens:
but we are all now aware of the importance of these transactions. It
was weeks--months almost--before we became masters of the case, but
during the interval the most disastrous circumstances occurred,
showing the increased peril and danger of Denmark, and the successes
of the invaders of her territory. We all remember their entrance into
Jutland. We all remember the inquiries which were made on the subject,
and the assurances which were given. But it was impossible for the
House to pronounce any opinion, because the papers were not before it,
and the moment we had the papers, a Conference was announced.

One word with respect to the Conference. I never was of opinion that
the Conference would arrive at any advantageous result. I could not
persuade myself, after reading the papers, that, whatever might be the
cause, any one seriously wished for a settlement, except, of course,
Her Majesty's Ministers, and they had a reason for it. The Conference
lasted six weeks. It wasted six weeks. It lasted as long as a
carnival, and, like a carnival, it was an affair of masks and
mystification. Our Ministers went to it as men in distressed
circumstances go to a place of amusement--to while away the time, with
a consciousness of impending failure. However, the summary of
the Conference is this, that Her Majesty's Government made two
considerable proposals. They proposed, first, the dismemberment of
Denmark. So much for its integrity. They proposed, in the second
place, that the remainder of Denmark should be placed under the joint
guarantee of the Great Powers. They would have created another Turkey
in Europe, in the same geographical relation, the scene of the
same rival intrigues, and the same fertile source of constant
misconceptions and wars. So much for the independence of Denmark.
These two propositions having been made, the one disastrous to
the integrity and the other to the independence of Denmark, the
Conference, even with these sacrifices offered, was a barren failure.

And I now wish to ask--after having, I hope, with some clearness and
in a manner tolerably comprehensive, placed the case before honourable
members--what is their opinion of the management of these affairs by
Her Majesty's Government? I showed you that the beginning of this
interference was a treaty by which England entered into obligations as
regards Denmark not different from those of France. I have shown you,
on the evidence of the Secretary of State, that the present position
of France with respect to Denmark is one quite magnanimous, free from
all difficulties and disgrace. I have shown you, I think, what every
man indeed feels, that the position of England under this treaty, on
the contrary, is most embarrassing, surrounded with difficulties, and
full of humiliation. I have stated my opinion that the difference
between the position of England and that of France arose from the
mis-management of our affairs. That appeared to me to be the natural
inference and logical deduction. I have given you a narrative of the
manner in which our affairs have been conducted, and now I ask you
what is your opinion? Do you see in the management of those affairs
that capacity, and especially that kind of capacity that is adequate
to the occasion? Do you find in it that sagacity, prudence, that
dexterity, that quickness of perception, and those conciliatory moods
which we are always taught to believe necessary in the transaction
of our foreign affairs? Is there to be seen that knowledge of human
nature, and especially that peculiar kind of science, most necessary
in these affairs--an acquaintance with the character of foreign
countries and of the chief actors in the scene?

Sir, for my part I find all these qualities wanting; and in
consequence of the want of these qualities, I see that three results
have accrued. The first is that the avowed policy of Her Majesty's
Government has failed. The second is, that our just influence in the
councils of Europe has been lowered. Thirdly, in consequence of our
just influence in the councils of Europe being lowered, the securities
for peace are diminished. These are three results which have followed
in consequence of the want of the qualities to which I have alluded,
and in consequence of the management of these affairs by the
Government. Sir, I need not, I think, trouble the House with
demonstrating that the Government have failed in their avowed policy
of upholding the independence and integrity of Denmark. The first
result may be thrown aside. I come therefore to the second. By
the just influence of England in the councils of Europe I mean an
influence contra-distinguished from that which is obtained by
intrigue and secret understanding; I mean an influence that results
from the conviction of foreign Powers that our resources are great and
that our policy is moderate and steadfast. Since the settlement that
followed the great revolutionary war, England, who obtained at
that time--as she deserved to do, for she bore the brunt of the
struggle--who obtained at that time all the fair objects of her
ambition, has on the whole followed a Conservative foreign policy. I
do not mean by Conservative foreign policy a foreign policy that would
disapprove--still less oppose--the natural development of nations. I
mean a foreign policy interested in the tranquillity and prosperity of
the world, the normal condition of which is peace, and which does not
ally itself with the revolutionary party of Europe. Other countries
have their political systems and public objects, as England had,
though they may not have attained them. She is not to look upon them
with unreasonable jealousy. The position of England in the councils of
Europe is essentially that of a moderating and mediatorial Power.
Her interest and her policy are, when changes are inevitable and
necessary, to assist so that these changes, if possible, may be
accomplished without war, or, if war occurs, that its duration and
asperity may be lessened. This is what I mean by the just influence
of England in the councils of Europe. It appears to me that just
influence of England in the councils of Europe has been lowered.
Within twelve months we have been twice repulsed at St. Petersburg.

Twice have we supplicated in vain at Paris. We have menaced Austria,
and Austria has allowed our menaces to pass her like an idle wind. We
have threatened Prussia, and Prussia has defied us. Our objurgations
have rattled over the head of the German Diet, and the German Diet has
treated them with contempt.

Again, Sir, during the last few months there is scarcely a form of
diplomatic interference which has not been suggested or adopted by
the English Government--except a Congress. Conferences at Vienna,
at Paris, at London, all have been proposed; protocols, joint
declarations, sole mediation, joint mediation, identic notes, sole
notes, united notes--everything has been tried. Couriers from the
Queen have been scouring Europe with the exuberant fertility of
abortive projects. After the termination of the most important
Conference, held in the capital of the Queen, over which the chief
Minister of Her Majesty's foreign relations presided, and which was
attended with all the pomp and ceremony requisite for so great an
occasion, we find that its sittings have been perfectly barren; and
the chief Ministers of the Cabinet closed the proceedings by quitting
the scene of their exertions and appearing in the two Houses of
Parliament to tell the country that they have no allies, and that, as
they have no allies, they can do nothing. Pardon me, I must not omit
to do justice to the exulting boast of the Secretary of State, who, in
the midst of discomfiture, finds solace in the sympathy and politeness
of the neutral Powers. I do not grudge Lord Russell the sighs of
Russia or the smiles of France; but I regret that, with characteristic
discretion, he should have quitted the battle of the Conference only
to take his seat in the House of Lords to denounce the perfidy of
Prussia, and to mourn over Austrian fickleness. There wanted but one
touch to complete the picture, and it was supplied by the noble lord,
the First Minister.

Sir, I listened with astonishment--I listened with astonishment as the
noble lord condemned the vices of his victim, and inveighed at the
last moment against the obstinacy of unhappy Denmark. Denmark would
not submit to arbitration. But on what conditions did the German
Powers accept it? And what security had Denmark? That if in the
Conference she could not obtain an assurance that the neutral Powers
would support her by force on the line of the Schlei--what security, I
say, had she that any other line would be maintained--an unknown line
by an unknown arbiter? Sir, it does appear to me impossible to deny,
under these circumstances, that the just influence of England in
the councils of Europe is lowered. And now, I ask, what are the
consequences of the just influence of England in the councils of
Europe being lowered? The consequences are--to use a familiar phrase
in the dispatches--'most serious', because in exact proportion as that
influence is lowered the securities for peace are diminished. I lay
this down as a great principle, which cannot be controverted, in the
management of our foreign affairs. If England is resolved upon a
particular policy, war is not probable. If there is, under these
circumstances, a cordial alliance between England and France, war
is most difficult; but if there is a thorough understanding between
England, France, and Russia, war is impossible.

These were the happy conditions under which Her Majesty's Ministers
entered office, and which they enjoyed when they began to move in the
question of Denmark. Two years ago, and even less, there was a cordial
understanding between England, France, and Russia upon this question
or any question which might arise between Germany and Denmark. What
cards to play! What advantages in the management of affairs! It
seemed, indeed, that they might reasonably look forward to a future
which would justify the confidence of Parliament; when they might
point with pride to what they had accomplished, and appeal to public
opinion to support them. But what has happened? They have alienated
Russia, they have estranged France, and then they call Parliament
together to declare war against Germany. Why, such a thing never
happened before in the history of this country. Nay, more, I do not
think it can ever happen again. It is one of those portentous results
which occur now and then to humiliate and depress the pride of
nations, and to lower our confidence in human intellect. Well, Sir,
as the difficulties increase, as the obstacles are multiplied, as
the consequences of the perpetual errors and constant mistakes are
gradually becoming more apparent, you always find Her Majesty's
Government nearer war. As in private life we know it is the weak who
are always violent, so it is with Her Majesty's Ministers. As long
as they are confident in their allies, as long as they possess the
cordial sympathy of the Great Powers, they speak with moderation, they
counsel with dignity; but, like all incompetent men, when they are in
extreme difficulty, they can see but one resource, and that is force.
When affairs cannot be arranged in peace you see them turning first
to St. Petersburg--that was a bold dispatch which was sent to St.
Petersburg in January last, to ask Russia to declare war against
Germany--and twice to Paris, entreating that violence may be used to
extricate them from the consequences of their own mistakes. It is only
by giving Government credit, as I have been doing throughout, for
the complete sincerity of their expressions and conduct, that their
behaviour is explicable. Assume that their policy was a war policy,
and it is quite intelligible. Whenever difficulties arise, their
resolution is instantly to have recourse to violence. Every word they
utter, every dispatch they write, seems always to look to a scene of
collision. What is the state of Europe at this moment? What is the
state of Europe produced by this management of our affairs? I know not
what other honourable gentlemen may think, but it appears to me most
serious. I find the great German Powers openly avowing that it is not
in their capacity to fulfil their engagements. I find Europe impotent
to vindicate public law because all the great alliances are broken
down; and I find a proud and generous nation like England shrinking
with the reserve of magnanimity from the responsibility of commencing
war, yet sensitively smarting under the impression that her honour is
stained--stained by pledges which ought not to have been given, and
expectations which I maintain ought never to have been held out by
wise and competent statesmen.

Sir, this is anarchy. It therefore appears to me obvious that Her

Majesty's Government have failed in their avowed policy of maintaining
the independence and integrity of Denmark. It appears to me undeniable
that the just influence of England is lowered in the councils of
Europe. It appears to me too painfully clear that to lower our
influence is to diminish the securities of peace. And what defence
have we? If ever a criticism is made on his ambiguous conduct the
noble lord asks me, 'What is your policy?' My answer might be my
policy is the honour of England and the peace of Europe, and the
noble lord has betrayed both. I can understand a Minister coming
to Parliament when there is a question of domestic interest of the
highest character for consideration, such as the emancipation of
the Catholics, the principles on which our commercial code is to
be established, or our representative system founded. I can quite
understand--although I should deem it a very weak step--a Minister
saying, 'Such questions are open questions, and we leave it to
Parliament to decide what is to be our policy.' Parliament is in
possession of all the information on such subjects that is necessary
or can be obtained. Parliament is as competent to come to a judgement
upon the emancipation of any part of our subjects who are not
in possession of the privileges to which they are entitled; the
principles on which a commercial code is to be established or a
representative system founded are as well known to them as to any
body of men in the world; but it is quite a new doctrine to appeal to
Parliament to initiate a foreign policy. To initiate a foreign policy
is the prerogative of the Crown, exercised under the responsibility of
constitutional Ministers. It is devised, initiated, and carried out in
secrecy, and justly and wisely so. What do we know as to what may be
going on in Downing Street at this moment? We know not what dispatches
may have been written, or what proposals may have been made to any
foreign Power. For aught I know, the noble lord this morning may have
made another proposition which might light up a general European war.
It is for Parliament to inquire, to criticize, to support, or condemn
in questions of foreign policy; but it is not for Parliament to
initiate a foreign policy in absolute ignorance of the state of
affairs. That would be to ask a man to set his house on fire. I will
go further. He is not a wise, I am sure he is not a patriotic, man
who, at a crisis like the present, would accept office on conditions.
What conditions could be made when we are in ignorance of our real
state? Any conditions we could offer in a vote of the House of Commons
carried upon a particular point might be found extremely unwise when
we were placed in possession of the real position of the country. No,
Sir, we must not allow Her Majesty's Government to escape from their
responsibility. That is at the bottom of all their demands when they
ask, 'What is your policy?' The very first night we met--on February
4--we had the same question. Parliament was called together by a
Ministry in distress to give them a policy. But Parliament maintained
a dignified and discreet reserve: and you now find in what a position
the Ministry are placed to-night.

Sir, it is not for any man in this House, on whatever side he sits, to
indicate the policy of this country in our foreign relations--it is
the duty of no one but the responsible Ministers of the Crown. The
most we can do is to tell the noble lord what is not our policy. We
will not threaten and then refuse to act. We will not lure on our
allies with expectations we do not fulfil. And, Sir, if it ever be the
lot of myself or any public men with whom I have the honour to act
to carry on important negotiations on behalf of this country, as the
noble lord and his colleagues have done, I trust that we at least
shall not carry them on in such a manner that it will be our duty to
come to Parliament to announce to the country that we have no allies,
and then declare that England can never act alone. Sir, those are
words which ought never to have escaped the lips of a British
Minister. They are sentiments which ought never to have occurred even
to his heart. I repudiate, I reject them. I remember there was a time
when England, with not a tithe of her present resources, inspired by a
patriotic cause, triumphantly encountered a world in arms. And, Sir, I
believe now, if the occasion were fitting, if her independence or her
honour were assailed, or her empire in danger, I believe that England
would rise in the magnificence of her might, and struggle triumphantly
for those objects for which men live and nations flourish. But I, for
one, will never consent to go to war to extricate Ministers from the
consequences of their own mistakes. It is in this spirit that I have
drawn up this Address to the Crown. I have drawn it up in the spirit
in which the Royal Speech was delivered at the commencement of the
session. I am ready to vindicate the honour of the country whenever
it is necessary, but I have drawn up this Address in the interest of
peace. Sir, I beg leave to move the resolution of which I have given


My Lords, in laying on the Table of your Lordships' House, as I am
about to do, the Protocols of the Congress of Berlin, I have thought I
should only be doing my duty to your Lordships' House, to Parliament
generally, and to the country, if I made some remarks on the policy
which was supported by the Representatives of Her Majesty at the
Congress, and which is embodied in the Treaty of Berlin and in the
Convention which was placed on your Lordships' Table during my

My Lords, you are aware that the Treaty of San Stefano was looked on
with much distrust and alarm by Her Majesty's Government--that they
believed it was calculated to bring about a state of affairs dangerous
to European independence, and injurious to the interests of the
British Empire. Our impeachment of that policy is before your
Lordships and the country, and is contained in the Circular of my
noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in April last.
Our present contention is that we can show that, by the changes and
modifications which have been made in the Treaty of San Stefano by the
Congress of Berlin and by the Convention of Constantinople, the menace
to European independence has been removed, and the threatened injury
to the British Empire has been averted. Your Lordships will recollect
that by the Treaty of San Stefano about one-half of Turkey in Europe
was formed into a State called Bulgaria--a State consisting of upwards
of 50,000 geographical square miles, and containing a population of
4,000,000, with harbours on either sea--both on the shores of the
Euxine and of the Archipelago. That disposition of territory severed
Constantinople and the limited district which was still spared to the
possessors of that city--severed it from the Provinces of Macedonia
and Thrace by Bulgaria descending to the very shores of the Aegean;
and, altogether, a State was formed, which, both from its natural
resources and its peculiarly favourable geographical position, must
necessarily have exercised a predominant influence over the political
and commercial interests of that part of the world. The remaining
portion of Turkey in Europe was reduced also to a considerable degree
by affording what was called compensation to previous rebellious
tributary Principalities, which have now become independent States--so
that the general result of the Treaty of San Stefano was, that while
it spared the authority of the Sultan so far as his capital and its
immediate vicinity, it reduced him to a state of subjection to the
Great Power which had defeated his Armies, and which was present at
the gates of his capital. Accordingly, though it might be said that
he still seemed to be invested with one of the highest functions
of public duty--the protection and custody of the Straits--it was
apparent that his authority in that respect could be exercised by him
only in deference to the superior Power which had vanquished him, and
to whom the proposed arrangements would have kept him in subjection.
My Lords, in these matters the Congress of Berlin have made great
changes. They have restored to the Sultan two-thirds of the territory
which was to have formed the great Bulgarian State. They have restored
to him upwards of 30,000 geographical square miles, and 2,500,000 of
population--that territory being the richest in the Balkans, where
most of the land is rich, and the population one of the wealthiest,
most ingenious, and most loyal of his subjects. The frontiers of his
State have been pushed forward from the mere environs of Salonica and
Adrianople to the lines of the Balkans and Trajan's Pass; the new
Principality, which was to exercise such an influence, and produce a
revolution in the disposition of the territory and policy of that part
of the globe is now merely a State in the Valley of the Danube, and
both in its extent and its population is reduced to one-third of what
was contemplated by the Treaty of San Stefano. My Lords, it has been
said that while the Congress of Berlin decided upon a policy so bold
as that of declaring the range of the Balkans as the frontier of what
may now be called New Turkey, they have, in fact, furnished it with
a frontier which, instead of being impregnable, is in some parts
undefended, and is altogether one of an inadequate character. My
Lords, it is very difficult to decide, so far as nature is concerned,
whether any combination of circumstances can ever be brought about
which would furnish what is called an impregnable frontier. Whether it
be river, desert, or mountainous range, it will be found, in the long
run, that the impregnability of a frontier must be supplied by the
vital spirit of man; and that it is by the courage, discipline,
patriotism, and devotion of a population that impregnable frontiers
can alone be formed. And, my Lords, when I remember what race of men
it was that created and defended Plevna, I must confess my confidence
that, if the cause be a good one, they will not easily find that the
frontier of the Balkans is indefensible. But it is said that although
the Congress has furnished--and it pretended to furnish nothing
more--a competent military frontier to Turkey, the disposition was so
ill managed, that, at the same time, it failed to secure an effective
barrier--that in devising the frontier, it so arranged matters that
this very line of the Balkans may be turned. The Congress has been
charged with having committed one of the greatest blunders that could
possibly have been accomplished by leaving Sofia in the possession of
a Power really independent of Turkey; and one which, in the course
of time, might become hostile to Turkey. My Lords, this is, in my
opinion, an error on the part of those who furnish information of
an authentic character to the different populations of Europe, who
naturally desire to have correct information on such matters. It is
said that the position of Sofia is of a commanding character, and that
of its value the Congress were not aware, and that it was yielded to
an imperious demand on the part of one of the Powers represented at
the Congress. My Lords, I can assure your Lordships that there is
not a shadow of truth in the statement. I shall show that when the
Congress resolved to establish the line of the Balkans as the frontier
of Turkey, they felt that there would have been no difficulty, as a
matter of course, in Turkey retaining the possession of Sofia. What
happened was this. The highest military authority of the Turks--so
I think I may describe him--was one of the Plenipotentiaries at the
Congress of the Porte--I allude to Mehemet Ali Pasha. Well, the moment
the line of the Balkans was spoken of, he brought under the notice of
his Colleagues at the Conference--and especially, I may say, of the
Plenipotentiaries of England--his views on the subject; and, speaking
as he did not only with military authority, but also with consummate
acquaintance with all these localities, he said nothing could be more
erroneous than the idea that Sofia was a strong strategical position,
and that those who possessed it would immediately turn the Balkans and
march on Constantinople. He said that as a strategical position it
was worthless, but that there was a position in the Sandjak of Sofia
which, if properly defended, might be regarded as impregnable, and
that was the Pass of Ichtiman. He thought it of vital importance to
the Sultan that that position should be secured to Turkey, as then His
Majesty would have an efficient defence to his capital.

That position was secured. It is a pass which, if properly defended,
will prevent any host, however powerful, from taking Constantinople
by turning the Balkans. But, in consequence of that arrangement, it
became the duty of the Plenipotentiaries to see what would be the
best arrangement in regard of Sofia and its immediate districts.
The population of Sofia and its district are, I believe, without
exception, Bulgarian, and it was thought wise, they being Bulgarians,
that, if possible, it should be included in Bulgaria. That was
accomplished by exchanging it for a district in which the population,
if not exclusively, are numerically, Mohammedan, and which, so far as
the fertility of the land is concerned, is an exchange highly to the
advantage of the Porte. That, my Lords, is a short account of an
arrangement which I know has for a month past given rise in Europe,
and especially in this country, to a belief that it was in deference
to Russia that Sofia was not retained, and that by its not having been
retained Turkey had lost the means of defending herself, in the event
of her being again plunged into war.

My Lords, it has also been said, with regard to the line of the
Balkans, that it was not merely in respect of the possession of Sofia
that an error was committed, but that the Congress made a great
mistake in not retaining Varna. My Lords, I know that there are
in this Assembly many Members who have recollections--glorious
recollections--of that locality. They will know at once that if the
line of the Balkans were established as the frontier, it would be
impossible to include Varna, which is to the North of the Balkans.
Varna itself is not a place of importance, and only became so in
connexion with a system of fortifications which are now to be razed.
No doubt, in connexion with a line of strongholds, Varna formed a
part of a system of defence; but of itself Varna is not a place of
importance. Of itself it is only a roadstead, and those who dwell upon
the importance of Varna and consider that it was a great error on the
part of the Congress not to have secured it for Turkey, quite forget
that between the Bosphorus and Varna, upon the coast of the Black Sea,
the Congress has allotted to Turkey a much more important point on the
Black Sea--the harbour of Burgos. My Lords, I think I have shown that
the charges made against the Congress on these three grounds--the
frontiers of the Balkans, the non-retention of Sofia, and the giving
up of Varna--have no foundation whatever.

Well, my Lords, having established the Balkans as the frontier of
Turkey in Europe, the Congress resolved that South of the Balkans,
to a certain extent, the country should be formed into a Province to
which should be given the name of Eastern Roumelia. At one time it was
proposed by some to call it South Bulgaria; but it was manifest that
with such a name between it and North Bulgaria there would be constant
intriguing to bring about a union between the two Provinces. We,
therefore, thought that the Province of East Roumelia should be
formed, and that there should be established in it a Government
somewhat different from that of contiguous provinces where the
authority of the Sultan might be more unlimited. I am not myself
of opinion that, as a general rule, it is wise to interfere with a
military Power which you acknowledge: but, though it might have been
erroneous, as a political principle, to limit the military authority
of the Sultan, yet there are in this world other things besides
political principles--there are such things as historical facts,
and he would not be a prudent statesman who did not take into
consideration historical facts as well as political principles. The
province which we have formed into Eastern Roumelia had been the scene
of many excesses, by parties on both sides, to which human nature
looks with deep regret; and it was thought advisable, in making these
arrangements for the peace of Europe, that we should take steps to
prevent the probable recurrence of such events. Yet to do this, and
not give the Sultan a direct military authority in the province, would
have been, in our opinion, a grievous error. We have, therefore,
decided that the Sultan should have the power to defend the barrier of
the Balkans with all his available force. He has power to defend his
frontiers by land and by sea, both by the passes of the mountains and
the ports and strongholds of the Black Sea. No limit has been placed
on the amount of force he may bring to bear with that object. No one
can dictate to him what the amount of that force shall be; but, in
respect to the interior and the internal government of the province,
we thought the time had arrived when we should endeavour to carry
into effect some of those important proposals intended for the better
administration of the States of the Sultan, which were discussed and
projected at the Conference of Constantinople.

My Lords, I will not enter into any minute details on these questions.
They might weary you at this moment, and I have several other matters
on which I must yet touch; but, generally speaking, I imagine there
are three great points which we shall have before us in any attempt to
improve the administration of Turkish Dominion. First of all, it
is most important--and we have so established it in Eastern
Roumelia--that the office of Governor shall be for a specific period,
and that, as in India, it should not be for less than five years.
If that system generally obtained in the dominions of the Sultan, I
believe it would be of incalculable benefit. Secondly, we thought it
desirable that there should be instituted public assemblies, in which
the popular element should be adequately represented, and that the
business of those assemblies should be to levy and administer the
local finances of the province. And, thirdly, we thought it equally
important that order should be maintained in this province, either by
a _gendarmerie_ of adequate force or by a local militia, in both cases
the officers holding their commissions from the Sultan. But the whole
subject of the administration of Eastern Roumelia has been referred to
an Imperial Commission at Constantinople, and this Commission, after
making its investigations, will submit recommendations to the Sultan,
who will issue Firmans to carry those recommendations into effect. I
may mention here--as it may save time--that in all the arrangements
which have been made to improve the condition of the subject-races
of Turkey in Europe, inquiry by local commissions in all cases where
investigation may be necessary is contemplated. Those commissions are
to report their results to the Chief Commission; and, after the Firman
of the Sultan has been issued, the changes will take place. It is
supposed that in the course of three months from the time of the
ratification of the Treaty of Berlin, the principal arrangements may
be effected.

My Lords, I may now state what has been effected by the Congress in
respect of Bosnia--that being a point on which I think considerable
error prevails. One of the most difficult matters we had to encounter
in attempting what was the object of the Congress of Berlin--namely,
to re-establish the Sultan as a real and substantial authority--was
the condition of some of his distant provinces, and especially of
Bosnia. The state of Bosnia, and of those provinces and principalities
contiguous to it, was one of chronic anarchy. There is no language
which can describe adequately the condition of that large portion
of the Balkan peninsula occupied by Roumania, Servia, Bosnia,
Herzegovina, and other provinces. Political intrigues, constant
rivalries, a total absence of all public spirit, and of the pursuit of
objects which patriotic minds would wish to accomplish, the hatred of
races, the animosities of rival religions, and, above all, the absence
of any controlling power that could keep these large districts in
anything like order--such were the sad truths, which no one who has
investigated the subject could resist for a moment. Hitherto--at
least until within the last two years--Turkey had some semblance of
authority which, though it was rarely adequate, and when adequate, was
unwisely exercised, still was an authority to which the injured could
appeal, and which sometimes might control violence. But the Turkey of
the present time was in no condition to exercise that authority. I
inquired into the matter of those most competent to give an opinion,
and the result of my investigation was a conviction that nothing short
of an army of 50,000 men of the best troops of Turkey would produce
anything like order in those parts, and that, were the attempt to
be made, it would be contested and resisted, and might finally be
defeated. But what was to be said at a time when all the statesmen of
Europe were attempting to concentrate and condense the resources of
the Porte with the view of strengthening them--what would have been
the position of the Porte if it had to commence its new career--a
career, it is to be hoped, of amelioration and tranquillity--by
dispatching a large army to Bosnia to deal with those elements of
difficulty and danger? It is quite clear, my Lords, that such an
effort at this moment by Turkey might bring about its absolute ruin.
Then what was to be done? There have been before, in the history of
diplomacy, not unfrequent instances in which, even in civilized parts
of the globe, States having fallen into decrepitude, have afforded no
assistance to keep order and tranquillity, and have become, as these
districts have become, a source of danger to their neighbours. Under
such circumstances, the Powers of Europe have generally looked to
see whether there was any neighbouring Power of a character entirely
different from those disturbed and desolated regions, but deeply
interested in their welfare and prosperity, who would undertake the
task of attempting to restore their tranquillity and prosperity. In
the present case, you will see that the position of Austria is one
that clearly indicates her as fitted to undertake such an office.
It is not the first time that Austria has occupied provinces at the
request of Europe to ensure that order and tranquillity, which are
European interests, might prevail in them. Not once, twice, or thrice
has Austria undertaken such an office. There may be differences of
opinion as to the policy on which Austria has acted, or as to the
principles of government which she has maintained; but that has
nothing to do with the fact that, under circumstances similar to
those which I have described as existing in Bosnia and the provinces
contiguous to it, Austria has been invited and has interfered in the
manner I have described, and has brought about order and tranquillity.
Austria, in the present case, was deeply interested that some
arrangement should be made. Austria, for now nearly three years, has
had upwards of 150,000 refugees from Bosnia, which have been supported
by her resources, and whose demands notoriously have been of a
vexatious and exhausting character. It was, therefore, thought
expedient by the Congress that Austria should be invited to occupy
Bosnia, and not to leave it until she had deeply laid the foundations
of tranquillity and order. My Lords, I am the last man who would wish,
when objections are made to our proceedings, to veil them under
the decision of the Congress; it was a decision which the
Plenipotentiaries of England highly approved. It was a proposal which,
as your Lordships will see when you refer to the Protocols which I
shall lay on the table to-night, was made by my noble friend the
Secretary of State, that Austria should accept this trust and fulfil
this duty; and I earnestly supported him on that occasion. My Lords,
in consequence of that arrangement, cries have been raised against
our 'partition of Turkey'. My Lords, our object has been directly the
reverse--our object has been to prevent partition. The question of
partition is one upon which, it appears to me, very erroneous ideas
are in circulation. Some two years ago--before, I think, the war had
commenced, but when the disquietude and dangers of the situation were
very generally felt--there was a school of statesmen who were highly
in favour of what they believed to be the only remedy--what they
called the partition of Turkey. Those who did not agree with them were
those who thought we should, on the whole, attempt the restoration
of Turkey. Her Majesty's Government at all times have resisted the
partition of Turkey. They have done so, because, exclusive of the high
moral considerations that are mixed up with the subject, they believed
an attempt, on a great scale, to accomplish the partition of Turkey
would inevitably lead to a long, a sanguinary, and often recurring
struggle, and that Europe and Asia would both be involved in a series
of troubles and sources of disaster and danger of which no adequate
idea could be formed.

These professors of partition--quite secure, no doubt, in their own
views--have freely spoken to us on this subject. We have been taken up
to a high mountain and shown all the kingdoms of the earth, and they
have said--'All these shall be yours if you will worship Partition.'
But we have declined to do so for the reasons I have shortly given.
And it is a remarkable circumstance that after the great war, and
after the prolonged diplomatic negotiations, which lasted during
nearly a period of three years, on this matter, the whole Powers of
Europe, including Russia, have strictly, and as completely as ever,
come to the unanimous conclusion that the best chance for the
tranquillity and order of the world is to retain the Sultan as part of
the acknowledged political system of Europe. My Lords, unquestionably
after a great war--and I call the late war a great war, because the
greatness of a war now must not be calculated by its duration, but by
the amount of the forces brought into the field, and where a million
of men have struggled for supremacy, as has been the case recently, I
call that a great war--but, I say, after a great war like this, it is
utterly impossible that you can have a settlement of any permanent
character without a redistribution of territory and considerable
changes. But that is not partition. My Lords, a country may have lost
provinces, but that is not partition. We know that not very long ago
a great country--one of the foremost countries of the world--lost
provinces; yet, is not France one of the Great Powers of the world,
and with a future--a commanding future? Austria herself has lost
provinces--more provinces even than Turkey, perhaps; even England has
lost provinces--the most precious possessions--the loss of which
every Englishman must deplore to this moment. We lost them from bad
government. Had the principles which now obtain between the metropolis
and her dependencies prevailed then, we should not, perhaps, have
lost those provinces, and the power of this Empire would have been
proportionally increased. It is perfectly true that the Sultan of
Turkey has lost provinces; it is true that his armies have been
defeated; it is true that his enemy is even now at his gates; but all
that has happened to other Powers. But a sovereign who has not yet
forfeited his capital, whose capital has not been occupied by his
enemy--and that capital one of the strongest in the world--who has
armies and fleets at his disposal, and who still rules over 20,000,000
of inhabitants, cannot be described as a Power whose Dominions have
been partitioned. My Lords, it has been said that no limit has been
fixed to the occupation of Bosnia by Austria. Well, I think that was a
very wise step. The moment you limit an occupation you deprive it of
half its virtue. All those opposed to the principles which occupation
was devised to foster and strengthen feel that they have only to hold
their breath and wait a certain time, and the opportunity for their
interference would again present itself. Therefore, I cannot agree
with the objection which is made to the arrangement with regard to the
occupation of Bosnia by Austria on the question of its duration.

My Lords, there is a point on which I feel it now my duty to trouble
your Lordships, and that is the question of Greece. A severe charge
has been made against the Congress, and particularly against the
English Plenipotentiaries, for not having sufficiently attended to the
interests and claims of Greece. My Lords, I think you will find,
on reflection, that that charge is utterly unfounded. The English
Government were the first that expressed the desire that Greece should
be heard at the Congress. But, while they expressed that desire, they
communicated confidentially to Greece that it must on no account
associate that desire on the part of the Government with any
engagement for the redistribution of territory. That was repeated,
and not merely once repeated. The Greek inhabitants, apart from the
kingdom of Greece, are a considerable element in the Turkish Empire,
and it is of the greatest importance that their interests should be
sedulously attended to. One of the many evils of that large Slav
State--the Bulgaria of the San Stefano treaty--was, that it would have
absorbed, and made utterly to disappear from the earth, a considerable
Greek population. At the Congress the Greeks were heard, and they were
heard by representatives of considerable eloquence and ability; but it
was quite clear, the moment they put their case before the Congress,
that they had totally misapprehended the reason why the Congress had
met together, and what were its objects and character. The Greek
representatives, evidently, had not in any way relinquished what they
call their great idea--and your Lordships well know that it is one
that has no limit which does not reach as far as Constantinople. But
they did mention at the Congress, as a practical people, and feeling
that they had no chance of obtaining at that moment all they
desired--that they were willing to accept as an instalment the two
large provinces of Epirus and Thessaly, and the island of Crete. It
was quite evident to the Congress, that the representatives of Greece
utterly misunderstood the objects of our labours--that we were not
there to partition Turkey, and give them their share of Turkey, but
for a very contrary purpose--as far as we could to re-establish
the dominion of the Sultan on a rational basis, to condense and
concentrate his authority, and to take the opportunity--of which we
have largely availed ourselves--of improving the condition of his
subjects. I trust, therefore, when I have pointed out to your
Lordships this cardinal error in the views of Greece, that your
Lordships will feel that the charge made against the Congress has
no substantial foundation. But the interests of Greece were not
neglected, and least of all by Her Majesty's Government. Before the
Congress of Berlin, believing that there was an opportunity of which
considerable advantage might be made for Greece without deviating into
partition, we applied to the Porte to consider the long-vexed question
of the boundaries of the two States. The boundaries of Greece have
always been inadequate and inconvenient; they are so formed as to
offer a premium to brigandage--which is the curse of both countries,
and has led to misunderstanding and violent intercourse between
the inhabitants of both. Now, when some redistribution--and a
considerable redistribution--of territories was about to take
place--now, we thought, was the opportunity for Greece to urge her
claim; and that claim we were ready to support, and to reconcile the
Porte to viewing it in a large and liberal manner. And I am bound to
say that the manner in which our overtures were received by the Porte
was encouraging, and more than encouraging. For a long period Her
Majesty's Government have urged upon both countries, and especially
upon Greece, the advantage of a good understanding between them. We
urged that it was only by union between Turks and Greeks that any
reaction could be obtained against that overpowering Slav interest
which was then exercising such power in the Peninsula, and which had
led to this fatal and disastrous war. More than this, on more than
one occasion--I may say, on many occasions--we have been the means of
preventing serious misunderstandings between Turkey and Greece, and on
every occasion we have received from both States an acknowledgement of
our good offices. We were, therefore, in a position to assist Greece
in this matter. But, of course, to give satisfaction to a State which
coveted Constantinople for its capital, and which talked of accepting
large provinces and a powerful island as only an instalment of its
claims for the moment, was difficult. It was difficult to get the
views of that Government accepted by Turkey, however inclined it might
be to consider a reconstruction of frontiers on a large and liberal
scale. My noble friend the Secretary of State did use all his
influence, and the result was that, in my opinion, Greece has obtained
a considerable accession of resources and strength. But we did not
find, on the part of the representatives of Greece, that response
or that sympathy which we should have desired. Their minds were
in another quarter. But though the Congress could not meet such
extravagant and inconsistent views as those urged by Greece--views
which were not in any way within the scope of the Congress or the
area of its duty--we have still, as will be found in the Treaty,
or certainly in the Protocol, indicated what we believe to be a
rectification of frontier, which would add considerably to the
strength and resources of Greece. Therefore, I think, under all the
circumstances, it will be acknowledged that Greece has not been
neglected. Greece is a country so interesting that it enlists the
sympathies of all educated men. Greece has a future, and I would say,
if I might be permitted, to Greece, what I would say to an individual
who has a future--'Learn to be patient.'

Now, my Lords, I have touched upon most of the points connected with
Turkey in Europe. My summary is that at this moment--of course, no
longer counting Servia or Roumania, once tributary principalities, as
part of Turkey; not counting even the new Bulgaria, though it is a
tributary principality, as part of Turkey; and that I may not be
taunted with taking an element which I am hardly entitled to place in
the calculation, omitting even Bosnia--European Turkey still remains
a Dominion of 60,000 geographical square miles, with a population of
6,000,000, and that population in a very great degree concentrated and
condensed in the provinces contiguous to the capital. My Lords, it
was said, when the line of the Balkans was carried--and it was not
carried until after long and agitating discussions--it was said by
that illustrious statesman who presided over our labours, that 'Turkey
in Europe once more exists'. My Lords, I do not think that, so far as
European Turkey is concerned, this country has any right to complain
of the decisions of the Congress, or, I would hope, of the labours of
the Plenipotentiaries. You cannot look at the map of Turkey as it had
been left by the Treaty of San Stefano, and as it has been rearranged
by the Treaty of Berlin, without seeing that great results have
accrued. If these results had been the consequences of a long war--if
they had been the results of a struggle like that we underwent in the
Crimea--I do not think they would have been even then unsubstantial
or unsatisfactory. My Lords, I hope that you and the country will not
forget that these results have been obtained without shedding the
blood of a single Englishman; and if there has been some expenditure,
it has been an expenditure which, at least, has shown the resources
and determination of this country. Had you entered into that war--for
which you were prepared--and well prepared--probably in a month you
would have exceeded the whole expenditure you have now incurred.

My Lords, I now ask you for a short time to quit Europe and to visit
Asia, and consider the labours of the Congress in another quarter of
the world. My Lords, you well know that the Russian arms met with
great success in Asia, and that in the Treaty of San Stefano
considerable territories were yielded by Turkey to Russia. In point of
population, they may not appear to be of that importance that they are
generally considered; because it is a fact which should be borne
in mind that the population which was yielded to Russia by Turkey
amounted only to about 250,000 souls; and, therefore, if you look to
the question of population, and to the increase of strength to a
State which depends on population, you would hardly believe that the
acquisition of 250,000 new subjects is a sufficient return for the
terrible military losses which inevitably must accrue from campaigns
in that country. But although the amount of population was not
considerable, the strength which the Russians acquired was of very
different character. They obtained Kars by conquest--they obtained
Ardahan--another stronghold--they obtained Bayazid--and the Valley
of Alashkerd with the adjoining territory, which contain the great
commercial routes in that part of the world. They also obtained the
port of Batoum. Now, my Lords, the Congress of Berlin have so far
sanctioned the Treaty of San Stefano that, with the exception of
Bayazid and the valley which I have mentioned--no doubt very
important exceptions, and which were yielded by Russia to the views
of the Congress--they have consented to the yielding of the places I
have named to Russia. The Congress have so far approved the Treaty of
San Stefano that they have sanctioned the retention by Russia of Kars
and Batoum. Now the question arises--the Congress having come to that
determination--was it a wise step on the part of the Plenipotentiaries
of Her Majesty to agree to that decision? That is a question which may
legitimately be asked. We might have broken up the Congress, and said,
'We will not consent to the retention of these places by Russia, and
we will use our force to oblige her to yield them up.' Now, my Lords,
I wish fairly to consider what was our position in this state of
affairs. It is often argued as if Russia and England had been at war,
and peace was negotiating between the two Powers. That was not the
case. The rest of Europe were critics over a Treaty which was a real
treaty that existed between Russia and Turkey. Turkey had given up
Batoum, she had given up Kars and Ardahan, she had given up Bayazid.
In an examination of the question, then, we must remember that Russia
at this moment, so far as Europe is concerned, has acquired in Europe
nothing but a very small portion of territory, occupied by 130,000
inhabitants. Well, she naturally expected to find some reward in her
conquests in Armenia for the sacrifices which she had made. Well, my
Lords, consider what those conquests are. There was the strong fort of
Kars. We might have gone to war with Russia in order to prevent her
acquiring Kars and Batoum, and other places of less importance. The
war would not have been, probably, a very short war. It would have
been a very expensive war--and, like most wars, it would probably have
ended in some compromise, and we should have got only half what we had
struggled for. Let us look these two considerable points fairly in the
face. Let us first of all take the great stronghold of Kars. Three
times has Russia captured Kars. Three times, either by our influence
or by other influences, it has been restored to Turkey. Were we to go
to war for Kars and restore it to Turkey, and then to wait till the
next misunderstanding between Russia and Turkey, when Kars should have
been taken again? Was that an occasion of a _casus belli_? I do not
think your Lordships would ever sanction a war carried on for such an
object and under such circumstances.

Then, my Lords, look at the case of Batoum, of which your Lordships
have heard so much. I should have been very glad if Batoum had
remained in the possession of the Turks, on the general principle that
the less we had reduced its territory in that particular portion of
the globe, the better it would be as regards the prestige on which the
influence of the Ottoman Porte much depends there. But let us see what
is this Batoum of which you have heard so much? It is generally
spoken of in society and in the world as if it were a sort of
Portsmouth--whereas, in reality, it should rather be compared with
Cowes. It will hold three considerable ships, and if it were packed
like the London Docks, it might hold six; but in that case the danger,
if the wind blew from the north, would be immense. You cannot increase
the port seaward; for though the water touching the shore is not
absolutely fathomless, it is extremely deep, and you cannot make any
artificial harbour or breakwater. Unquestionably, in the interior the
port might be increased, but it can only be increased by first-rate
engineers, and by the expenditure of millions of capital; and if we
were to calculate the completion of the port by the precedents which
exist in many countries, and certainly in the Black Sea, it would not
be completed under half a century. Now is that a question for which
England would be justified in going to war with Russia? My Lords,
we have, therefore, thought it advisable not to grudge Russia those
conquests that have been made--especially after obtaining the
restoration of the town of Bayazid and its important district.

But it seemed to us the time had come when we ought to consider
whether certain efforts should not be made to put an end to these
perpetually recurring wars between the Porte and Russia, ending, it
may be, sometimes apparently in comparatively insignificant results;
but always terminating with one fatal consequence--namely, shaking to
the centre the influence and the prestige of the Porte in Asia and
diminishing its means of profitably and advantageously governing that
country. My Lords, it seemed to us that as we had now taken, and
as Europe generally had taken, so avowedly deep an interest in the
welfare of the subjects of the Porte in Europe, the time had come when
we ought to consider whether we could not do something which would
improve the general condition of the dominions of the Sultan in Asia;
and, instead of these most favoured portions of the globe every year
being in a more forlorn and disadvantageous position, whether it
would not be possible to take some steps which would secure at least
tranquillity and order; and, when tranquillity and order were secured,
whether some opportunity might not be given to Europe to develop the
resources of a country which Nature has made so rich and teeming. My
Lords, we occupy with respect to this part of the world a peculiar
position, which is shared by no other Power. Our Indian Empire is on
every occasion on which these discussions occur, or these troubles
occur, or these settlements occur--our Indian Empire is to England a
source of grave anxiety, and the time appeared to have arrived when,
if possible, we should terminate that anxiety. In all the questions
connected with European Turkey we had the assistance and sympathy
sometimes of all, and often of many, of the European Powers--because
they were interested in the question who should possess
Constantinople, and who should have the command of the Danube and
the freedom of the Mediterranean. But when we came to considerations
connected with our Oriental Empire itself, they naturally are not so
generally interested as they are in those which relate to the European
portion of the Dominions of the Porte, and we have to look to our own
resources alone. There has been no want, on our part, of invitations
to neutral Powers to join with us in preventing or in arresting war.
Besides the great Treaty of Paris, there was the Tripartite Treaty,
which, if acted upon, would have prevented war. But that treaty could
not be acted upon, from the unwillingness of the parties to it to
act; and therefore we must clearly perceive that if anything could be
effectually arranged, as far as our Oriental Empire is concerned, the
arrangements must be made by ourselves. Now, this was the origin of
that Convention at Constantinople which is on your Lordship's table,
and in that Convention our object was not merely a military or chiefly
a military object. Our object was to place this country certainly in a
position in which its advice and in which its conduct might at least
have the advantage of being connected with a military power and
with that force which it is necessary to possess often in great
transactions, though you may not fortunately feel that it is necessary
to have recourse to that force. Our object in entering into that
arrangement with Turkey was, as I said before, to produce tranquillity
and order. When tranquillity and order were produced, we believed that
the time would come when the energy and enterprise of Europe might be
invited to what really is another Continent, as far as the experience
of man is concerned, and that its development will add greatly not
merely to the wealth and the prosperity of the inhabitants, but to the
wealth and prosperity of Europe. My Lords, I am surprised to hear--for
though I have not heard it myself from any authority, it is so
generally in men's mouths that I am bound to notice it--that the step
we have taken should be represented as one that is calculated to
excite the suspicion or enmity of any of our Allies, or of any State.
My Lords, I am convinced that when a little time has elapsed, and
when people are better acquainted with this subject than they are at
present, no one will accuse England of having acted in this matter but
with frankness and consideration for other Powers. And if there be
a Power in existence to which we have endeavoured to show most
consideration from particular circumstances in this matter it is
France. There is no step of this kind that I would take without
considering the effect it might have upon the feelings of France--a
nation to whom we are bound by almost every tie that can unite a
people, and with whom our intimacy is daily increasing. If there could
be any step which of all others was least calculated to excite the
suspicion of France it would appear to be this--because we avoided
Egypt, knowing how susceptible France is with regard to Egypt; we
avoided Syria, knowing how susceptible France is on the subject of
Syria; and we avoided availing ourselves of any part of the _terra
firma_, because we would not hurt the feelings or excite the
suspicions of France. France knows that for the last two or three
years we have listened to no appeal which involved anything like an
acquisition of territory, because the territory which might have come
to us would have been territory which France would see in our hands
with suspicion and dislike. But I must make this observation to
your Lordships. We have a substantial interest in the East; it is a
commanding interest, and its behest must be obeyed. But the
interest of France in Egypt, and her interest in Syria are, as she
acknowledges, sentimental and traditionary interests; and, although I
respect them, I wish to see in the Lebanon and in Egypt the influence
of France fairly and justly maintained, and although her officers and
ours in that part of the world--and especially in Egypt--are acting
together with confidence and trust, we must remember that our
connexion with the East is not merely an affair of sentiment and
tradition, but that we have urgent and substantial and enormous
interests which we must guard and keep. Therefore, when we find that
the progress of Russia is a progress which, whatever may be the
intentions of Russia, necessarily in that part of the world produces
such a state of disorganization and want of confidence in the Porte,
it comes to this--that if we do not interfere in the vindication
of our own interests, that part of Asia must become the victim of
anarchy, and ultimately become part of the possessions of Russia.

Now, my Lords, I have ventured to review the chief points connected
with the subject on which I wished to address you--namely, what was
the policy pursued by us, both at the Congress of Berlin and in the
Convention of Constantinople. I am told, indeed, that we have incurred
an awful responsibility by the Convention into which we have entered.
My Lords, a prudent Minister certainly would not recklessly enter
into any responsibility; but a Minister who is afraid to enter into
responsibility is, to my mind, not a prudent Minister. We do not, my
Lords, wish to enter into any unnecessary responsibility; but there is
one responsibility from which we certainly shrink; we shrink from the
responsibility of handing to our successors a diminished or a weakened
Empire. Our opinion is that the course we have taken will arrest the
great evils which are destroying Asia Minor and the equally rich
countries beyond. We see in the present state of affairs the Porte
losing its influence over its subjects; we see a certainty, in our
opinion, of increasing anarchy, of the dissolution of all those ties
which, though feeble, yet still exist and which have kept society
together in those countries. We see the inevitable result of such a
state of things, and we cannot blame Russia for availing herself
of it. But, yielding to Russia what she has obtained, we say to
her--'Thus far, and no farther.' Asia is large enough for both of us.
There is no reason for these constant wars, or fears of wars, between
Russia and England. Before the circumstances which led to the recent
disastrous war, when none of those events which we have seen agitating
the world had occurred, and when we were speaking in 'another place'
of the conduct of Russia in Central Asia, I vindicated that conduct,
which I thought was unjustly attacked, and I said then, what I repeat
now--there is room enough for Russia and England in Asia. But the
room that we require we must secure. We have, therefore, entered into
an alliance--defensive alliance--with Turkey, to guard her against
any further attack from Russia. We believe that the result of this
Convention will be order and tranquillity. And then it will be
for Europe--for we ask no exclusive privileges or commercial
advantages--it will then be for Europe to assist England in availing
ourselves of the wealth which has been so long neglected and
undeveloped in regions once so fertile and so favoured. We are told,
as I have said before, that we are undertaking great responsibilities.
From those responsibilities we do not shrink. We think that, with
prudence and discretion, we shall bring about a state of affairs as
advantageous for Europe as for ourselves; and in that conviction
we cannot bring ourselves to believe that the act which we have
recommended is one that leads to trouble and to warfare. No, my Lords.
I am sure there will be no jealousy between England and France upon
this subject.

In taking Cyprus the movement is not Mediterranean; it is Indian. We
have taken a step there which we think necessary for the maintenance
of our Empire and for its preservation in peace. If that be our first
consideration, our next is the development of the country. And upon
that subject I am told that it was expected to-night that I should
in detail lay before the House the minute system by which all those
results, which years may bring about, are instantly to be acquired.
I, my Lords, am prepared to do nothing of the kind. We must act with
considerable caution. We are acting with a Power, let me remind the
House, which is an independent Power--the Sultan--and we can
decide nothing but with his consent and sanction. We have been in
communication with that prince--who, I may be allowed to remind the
House, has other things to think about, even than Asia Minor; for no
man was ever tried, from his accession to the throne till this moment,
so severely as the Sultan has been; but he has invariably during his
reign expressed his desire to act with England and to act with Europe,
and especially in the better administration and management of his
affairs. The time will come--and I hope it is not distant--when my
noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs may be able to
communicate to the House details of these matters, which will be most
interesting. But we must protest against being forced into statements
on matters of importance which are necessarily still immature. And we
must remember that, formally speaking, even the Treaty of Berlin has
not been ratified, and there are many things which cannot even be
commenced until the ratification of that treaty has occurred.

My Lords, I have now laid before you the general outline of the
policy that we have pursued, both in the Congress of Berlin and at
Constantinople. They are intimately connected with each other, and
they must be considered together. I only hope that the House will not
misunderstand--and I think the country will not misunderstand--our
motives in occupying Cyprus, and in encouraging those intimate
relations between ourselves and the Government and the population of
Turkey. They are not movements of war; they are operations of peace
and civilization. We have no reason to fear war. Her Majesty has
fleets and armies which are second to none. England must have seen
with pride the Mediterranean covered with her ships; she must have
seen with pride the discipline and devotion which have been shown to
her and her Government by all her troops, drawn from every part of her
Empire. I leave it to the illustrious duke, in whose presence I speak,
to bear witness to the spirit of Imperial patriotism which has been
exhibited by the troops from India, which he recently reviewed at
Malta. But it is not on our fleets and armies, however necessary they
may be for the maintenance of our Imperial strength, that I alone or
mainly depend in that enterprise on which this country is about to
enter. It is on what I most highly value--the consciousness that in
the Eastern nations there is confidence in this country, and that,
while they know we can enforce our policy, at the same time they know
that our Empire is an Empire of liberty, of truth, and of justice.


AUGUST 3, 1914


Last week I stated that we were working for peace not only for this
country, but to preserve the peace of Europe. To-day events move so
rapidly that it is exceedingly difficult to state with technical
accuracy the actual state of affairs, but it is clear that the peace
of Europe cannot be preserved. Russia and Germany, at any rate, have
declared war upon each other.

Before I proceed to state the position of His Majesty's Government, I
would like to clear the ground so that, before I come to state to the
House what our attitude is with regard to the present crisis, the
House may know exactly under what obligations the Government is, or
the House can be said to be, in coming to a decision on the matter.
First of all let me say, very shortly, that we have consistently
worked with a single mind, with all the earnestness in our power, to
preserve peace. The House may be satisfied on that point. We have
always done it. During these last years, as far as His Majesty's
Government are concerned, we would have no difficulty in proving that
we have done so. Throughout the Balkan crisis, by general admission,
we worked for peace. The co-operation of the Great Powers of Europe
was successful in working for peace in the Balkan crisis. It is true
that some of the Powers had great difficulty in adjusting their points
of view. It took much, time and labour and discussion before they
could settle their differences, but peace was secured, because peace
was their main object, and they were willing to give time and trouble
rather than accentuate differences rapidly.

In the present crisis, it has not been possible to secure the peace
of Europe; because there has been little time, and there has been
a disposition--at any rate in some quarters on which I will not
dwell--to force things rapidly to an issue, at any rate, to the great
risk of peace, and, as we now know, the result of that is that the
policy of peace, as far as the Great Powers generally are concerned,
is in danger. I do not want to dwell on that, and to comment on it,
and to say where the blame seems to us to lie, which Powers were most
in favour of peace, which were most disposed to risk or endanger
peace, because I would like the House to approach this crisis in which
we are now, from the point of view of British interests, British
honour, and British obligations, free from all passion as to why peace
has not been preserved.

We shall publish Papers as soon as we can regarding what took place
last week when we were working for peace; and when those Papers are
published, I have no doubt that to every human being they will make
it clear how strenuous and genuine and whole-hearted our efforts
for peace were, and that they will enable people to form their own
judgement as to what forces were at work which operated against peace.

I come first, now, to the question of British obligations. I have
assured the House--and the Prime Minister has assured the House more
than once--that, if any crisis such as this arose, we should come
before the House of Commons and be able to say to the House that it
was free to decide what the British attitude should be, that we would
have no secret engagement which we should spring upon the House, and
tell the House that, because we had entered into that engagement,
there was an obligation of honour upon the country. I will deal with
that point to clear the ground first.

There has been in Europe two diplomatic groups, the Triple Alliance
and what came to be called the 'Triple Entente', for some years past.
The Triple Entente was not an Alliance--it was a diplomatic group. The
House will remember that in 1908 there was a crisis, also a Balkan
crisis, originating in the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The
Russian Minister, M. Isvolsky, came to London, or happened to come to
London, because his visit was planned before the crisis broke out. I
told him definitely then, this being a Balkan crisis, a Balkan affair,
I did not consider that public opinion in this country would justify
us in promising to give anything more than diplomatic support. More
was never asked from us, more was never given, and more was never

In this present crisis, up till yesterday, we have also given no
promise of anything more than diplomatic support--up till yesterday no
promise of more than diplomatic support. Now I must make this question
of obligation clear to the House. I must go back to the first Moroccan
crisis of 1906. That was the time of the Algeciras Conference, and it
came at a time of very great difficulty to His Majesty's Government
when a General Election was in progress, and Ministers were scattered
over the country, and I--spending three days a week in my constituency
and three days at the Foreign Office--was asked the question whether
if that crisis developed into war between France and Germany we would
give armed support. I said then that I could promise nothing to any
foreign Power unless it was subsequently to receive the whole-hearted
support of public opinion here if the occasion arose. I said, in
my opinion, if war was forced upon France then on the question of
Morocco--a question which had just been the subject of agreement
between this country and France, an agreement exceedingly popular on
both sides--that if out of that agreement war was forced on France
at that time, in my view public opinion in this country would have
rallied to the material support of France.

I gave no promise, but I expressed that opinion during the crisis, as
far as I remember, almost in the same words, to the French Ambassador
and the German Ambassador at the time. I made no promise, and I used
no threats; but I expressed that opinion. That position was accepted
by the French Government, but they said to me at the time--and I think
very reasonably--'If you think it possible that the public opinion
of Great Britain might, should a sudden crisis arise, justify you
in giving to France the armed support which you cannot promise in
advance, you will not be able to give that support, even if you wish
to give it, when the time comes, unless some conversations have
already taken place between naval and military experts.' There was
force in that. I agreed to it, and authorized those conversations
to take place, but on the distinct understanding that nothing which
passed between military or naval experts should bind either Government
or restrict in any way their freedom to make a decision as to whether
or not they would give that support when the time arose.

As I have told the House, upon that occasion a General Election was in
prospect. I had to take the responsibility of doing that without
the Cabinet. It could not be summoned. An answer had to be given.
I consulted Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the Prime Minister; I
consulted, I remember, Lord Haldane, who was then Secretary of State
for War, and the present Prime Minister, who was then Chancellor of
the Exchequer. That was the most I could do, and they authorized that,
on the distinct understanding that it left the hands of the Government
free whenever the crisis arose. The fact that conversations between
military and naval experts took place was later on--I think much
later on, because that crisis passed, and the thing ceased to be of
importance--but later on it was brought to the knowledge of the

The Agadir crisis came--another Morocco crisis--and throughout that
I took precisely the same line that had been taken in 1906. But
subsequently, in 1912, after discussion and consideration in the
Cabinet it was decided that we ought to have a definite understanding
in writing, which was to be only in the form of an unofficial letter,
that these conversations which took place were not binding upon the
freedom of either Government; and on the 22nd of November, 1912, I
wrote to the French Ambassador the letter which I will now read to the
House, and I received from him a letter in similar terms in reply. The
letter which I have to read to the House is this, and it will be known
to the public now as the record that, whatever took place between
military and naval experts, they were not binding engagements upon the

My dear Ambassador,--From time to time in recent years
the French and British naval and military experts have consulted
together. It has always been understood that such
consultation does not restrict the freedom of either Government
to decide at any future time whether or not to assist
the other by armed force. We have agreed that consultation
between experts is not, and ought not, to be regarded as
an engagement that commits either Government to action in
a contingency that has not yet arisen and may never arise.
The disposition, for instance, of the French and British Fleets
respectively at the present moment is not based upon an
engagement to co-operate in war.

You have, however, pointed out that, if either Government
had grave reason to expect an unprovoked attack by
a third Power, it might become essential to know whether
it could in that event depend upon the armed assistance of
the other.

I agree that, if either Government had grave reason to
expect an unprovoked attack by a third Power, or something
that threatened the general peace, it should immediately
discuss with the other whether both Governments
should act together to prevent aggression and to
preserve peace, and, if so, what measures they would be
prepared to take in common.

Lord Charles Beresford: What is the date of that?

Sir E. Grey: The 22nd November, 1912. That is the starting-point for
the Government with regard to the present crisis. I think it makes it
clear that what the Prime Minister and I said to the House of Commons
was perfectly justified, and that, as regards our freedom to decide
in a crisis what our line should be, whether we should intervene or
whether we should abstain, the Government remained perfectly free,
and, _a fortiori_, the House of Commons remains perfectly free. That I
say to clear the ground from the point of view of obligation. I think
it was due, to prove our good faith to the House of Commons, that I
should give, that full information to the House now, and say what I
think is obvious from the letter I have just read, that we do not
construe anything which has previously taken place in our diplomatic
relations with other Powers in this matter as restricting the freedom
of the Government to decide what attitude they should take now, or
restrict the freedom of the House of Commons to decide what their
attitude should be.

Well, Sir, I will go further, and I will say this: The situation in
the present crisis is not precisely the same as it was in the Morocco
question. In the Morocco question it was primarily a dispute which
concerned France--a dispute which concerned France and France
primarily--a dispute, as it seemed to us, affecting France, out of an
agreement subsisting between us and France, and published to the whole
world, in which we engaged to give France diplomatic support. No doubt
we were pledged to give nothing but diplomatic support; we were, at
any rate, pledged by a definite public agreement to stand with France
diplomatically in that question.

The present crisis has originated differently. It has not originated
with regard to Morocco.

It has not originated as regards anything with which we had a special
agreement with France; it has not originated with anything which
primarily concerned France. It has originated in a dispute
between Austria and Servia. I can say this with the most absolute
confidence--no Government and no country has less desire to be
involved in war over a dispute with Austria and Servia than the
Government and the country of France. They are involved in it because
of their obligation of honour under a definite alliance with Russia.
Well, it is only fair to say to the House that that obligation of
honour cannot apply in the same way to us. We are not parties to
the Franco-Russian Alliance. We do not even know the terms of that
Alliance. So far I have, I think, faithfully and completely cleared
the ground with regard to the question of obligation.

I now come to what we think the situation requires of us. For many
years we have had a long-standing friendship with France. I remember
well the feeling in the House--and my own feeling--for I spoke on the
subject, I think, when the late Government made their agreement with
France--the warm and cordial feeling resulting from the fact that
these two nations, who had had perpetual differences in the past, had
cleared these differences away. I remember saying, I think, that it
seemed to me that some benign influence had been at work to produce
the cordial atmosphere that had made that possible. But how far that
friendship entails obligation--it has been a friendship between
the nations and ratified by the nations--how far that entails an
obligation, let every man look into his own heart, and his own
feelings, and construe the extent of the obligation for himself. I
construe it myself as I feel it, but I do not wish to urge upon any
one else more than their feelings dictate as to what they should feel
about the obligation. The House, individually and collectively, may
judge for itself. I speak my personal view, and I have given the House
my own feeling in the matter.

The French fleet is now in the Mediterranean, and the northern and
western coasts of France are absolutely undefended. The French fleet
being concentrated in the Mediterranean, the situation is very
different from what it used to be, because the friendship which has
grown up between the two countries has given them a sense of security
that there was nothing to be feared from us.

The French coasts are absolutely undefended. The French fleet is in
the Mediterranean, and has for some years been concentrated there
because of the feeling of confidence and friendship which has existed
between the two countries. My own feeling is that if a foreign fleet,
engaged in a war which France had not sought, and in which she had not
been the aggressor, came down the English Channel and bombarded and
battered the undefended coasts of France, we could not stand aside and
see this going on practically within sight of our eyes, with our arms
folded, looking on dispassionately, doing nothing! I believe that
would be the feeling of this country. There are times when one feels
that if these circumstances actually did arise, it would be a feeling
which would spread with irresistible force throughout the land.

But I also want to look at the matter without sentiment, and from the
point of view of British interests, and it is on that that I am going
to base and justify what I am presently going to say to the House. If
we say nothing at this moment, what is France to do with her fleet in
the Mediterranean? If she leaves it there, with no statement from us
as to what we will do, she leaves her northern and western coasts
absolutely undefended, at the mercy of a German fleet coming down the
Channel, to do as it pleases in a war which is a war of life and death
between them. If we say nothing, it may be that the French fleet is
withdrawn from the Mediterranean. We are in the presence of a European
conflagration; can anybody set limits to the consequences that may
arise out of it? Let us assume that to-day we stand aside in an
attitude of neutrality, saying, 'No, we cannot undertake and engage to
help either party in this conflict.' Let us suppose the French fleet
is withdrawn from the Mediterranean; and let us assume that the
consequences--which are already tremendous in what has happened in
Europe even to countries which are at peace, in fact, equally whether
countries are at peace or at war--let us assume that out of that come
consequences unforeseen, which make it necessary at a sudden moment
that, in defence of vital British interests, we should go to war: and
let us assume--which is quite possible--that Italy, who is now neutral
because, as I understand, she considers that this war is an aggressive
war, and the Triple Alliance being a defensive alliance her obligation
did not arise--let us assume that consequences which are not yet
foreseen--and which, perfectly legitimately consulting her own
interests, make Italy depart from her attitude of neutrality at a time
when we are forced in defence of vital British interests ourselves to
fight, what then will be the position in the Mediterranean? It might
be that at some critical moment those consequences would be forced
upon us because our trade-routes in the Mediterranean might be vital
to this country.

Nobody can say that in the course of the next few weeks there is any
particular trade-route the keeping open of which may not be vital to
this country. What will be our position then? We have not kept a
fleet in the Mediterranean which is equal to dealing alone with a
combination of other fleets in the Mediterranean. It would be the very
moment when we could not detach more ships to the Mediterranean, and
we might have exposed this country from our negative attitude at the
present moment to the most appalling risk. I say that from the point
of view of British interests. We feel strongly that France was
entitled to know, and to know at once, whether or not in the event
of attack upon her unprotected northern and western coasts she
could depend upon British support. In that emergency, and in these
compelling circumstances, yesterday afternoon I gave to the French
Ambassador the following statement:

I am authorized to give an assurance that if the German
fleet comes into the Channel or through the North Sea to
undertake hostile operations against the French coasts or
shipping, the British fleet will give all the protection in its
power. This assurance is, of course, subject to the policy
of His Majesty's Government receiving the support of
Parliament, and must not be taken as binding His Majesty's

Government to take any action until the above contingency
of action by the German fleet takes place.

I read that to the House, not as a declaration of war on our part, not
as entailing immediate aggressive action on our part, but as binding
us to take aggressive action should that contingency arise. Things
move very hurriedly from hour to hour. Fresh news comes in, and I
cannot give this in any very formal way; but I understand that the
German Government would be prepared, if we would pledge ourselves to
neutrality, to agree that its fleet would not attack the northern
coast of France. I have only heard that shortly before I came to the
House, but it is far too narrow an engagement for us. And, Sir,
there is the more serious consideration--becoming more serious every
hour--there is the question of the neutrality of Belgium.

I shall have to put before the House at some length what is our
position in regard to Belgium. The governing factor is the Treaty
of 1839, but this is a treaty with a history--a history accumulated
since. In 1870, when there was war between France and Germany, the
question of the neutrality of Belgium arose, and various things were
said. Amongst other things, Prince Bismarck gave an assurance to
Belgium that, confirming his verbal assurance, he gave in writing a
declaration which he said was superfluous in reference to the treaty
in existence--that the German Confederation and its allies would
respect the neutrality of Belgium, it being always understood that
that neutrality would be respected by the other belligerent Powers.
That is valuable as a recognition in 1870 on the part of Germany of
the sacredness of these treaty rights.

What was our own attitude? The people who laid down the attitude of
the British Government were Lord Granville in the House of Lords, and
Mr. Gladstone in the House of Commons. Lord Granville, on the 8th of
August, 1870, used these words. He said:

We might have explained to the country and to foreign
nations that we did not think this country was bound
either morally or internationally, or that its interests were
concerned in the maintenance of the neutrality of Belgium.
Though this course might have had some conveniences,
though it might have been easy to adhere to it, though it
might have saved us from some immediate danger, it is
a course which Her Majesty's Government thought it impossible
to adopt in the name of the country with any due
regard to the country's honour or to the country's interests.

Mr. Gladstone spoke as follows two days later:

There is, I admit, the obligation of the treaty. It is
not necessary, nor would time permit me, to enter into the
complicated question of the nature of the obligations of
that treaty; but I am not able to subscribe to the doctrine
of those who have held in this House what plainly amounts
to an assertion, that the simple fact of the existence of
a guarantee is binding on every party to it, irrespectively
altogether of the particular position in which it may find
itself at the time when the occasion for acting on the guarantee
arises. The great authorities upon foreign policy to
whom I have been accustomed to listen, such as Lord
Aberdeen and Lord Palmerston, never to my knowledge
took that rigid and, if I may venture to say so, that impracticable
view of the guarantee. The circumstance that
there is already an existing guarantee in force is of necessity
an important fact, and a weighty element in the case to
which we are bound to give full and ample consideration.
There is also this further consideration, the force of which
we must all feel most deeply, and that is, the common
interests against the unmeasured aggrandizement of any
Power whatever.

The treaty is an old treaty--1839--and that was the view taken of it
in 1870. It is one of those treaties which are founded, not only on
consideration for Belgium, which benefits under the treaty, but in the
interests of those who guarantee the neutrality of Belgium. The honour
and interests are, at least, as strong to-day as in 1870, and
we cannot take a more narrow view or a lass serious view of our
obligations, and of the importance of those obligations than was taken
by Mr. Gladstone's Government in 1870.

I will read to the House what took place last week on this subject.
When mobilization was beginning, I knew that this question must be a
most important element in our policy--a most important subject for the
House of Commons. I telegraphed at the same time in similar terms to
both Paris and Berlin to say that it was essential for us to know
whether the French and German Governments respectively were prepared
to undertake an engagement to respect the neutrality of Belgium. These
are the replies. I got from the French Government this reply:

The French Government are resolved to respect the
neutrality of Belgium, and it would only be in the event
of some other Power violating that neutrality that France
might find herself under the necessity, in order to assure
the defence of her security, to act otherwise. This assurance
has been given several times. The President of the
Republic spoke of it to the King of the Belgians, and the
French Minister at Brussels has spontaneously renewed the
assurance to the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs to-day.

From the German Government the reply was:

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs could not
possibly give an answer before consulting the Emperor and
the Imperial Chancellor.

Sir Edward Goschen, to whom I had said it was important to have an
answer soon, said he hoped the answer would not be too long delayed.
The German Minister for Foreign Affairs then gave Sir Edward Goschen
to understand that he rather doubted whether they could answer at all,
as any reply they might give could not fail, in the event of war, to
have the undesirable effect of disclosing, to a certain extent, part
of their plan of campaign. I telegraphed at the same time to Brussels
to the Belgian Government, and I got the following reply from Sir
Francis Villiers:

The Minister for Foreign Affairs thanks me for the
communication, and replies that Belgium will, to the
utmost of her power, maintain neutrality, and expects and
desires other Powers to observe and uphold it. He begged
me to add that the relations between Belgium and the
neighbouring Powers were excellent, and there was no
reason to suspect their intentions, but that the Belgian
Government believe, in the case of violation, they were in
a position to defend the neutrality of their country.

It now appears from the news I have received to-day--which has come
quite recently, and I am not yet quite sure how far it has reached me
in an accurate form--that an ultimatum has been given to Belgium by
Germany, the object of which was to offer Belgium friendly relations
with Germany on condition that she would facilitate the passage of
German troops through Belgium. Well, Sir, until one has these things
absolutely definitely, up to the last moment, I do not wish to say all
that one would say if one were in a position to give the House full,
complete, and absolute information upon the point. We were sounded in
the course of last week as to whether, if a guarantee were given
that, after the war, Belgium integrity would be preserved, that
would content us. We replied that we could not bargain away whatever
interests or obligations we had in Belgian neutrality.

Shortly before I reached the House I was informed that the following
telegram had been received from the King of the Belgians by our
King--King George:

Remembering the numerous proofs of your Majesty's
friendship and that of your predecessors, and the friendly
attitude of England in 1870, and the proof of friendship
she has just given us again, I make a supreme appeal to
the diplomatic intervention of your Majesty's Government
to safeguard the integrity of Belgium.

Diplomatic intervention took place last week on our part. What can
diplomatic intervention do now? We have great and vital interests in
the independence--and integrity is the least part--of Belgium. If
Belgium is compelled to submit to allow her neutrality to be violated,
of course the situation is clear. Even if by agreement she admitted
the violation of her neutrality, it is clear she could only do so
under duress. The smaller States in that region of Europe ask but
one thing. Their one desire is that they should be left alone and
independent. The one thing they fear is, I think, not so much that
their integrity but that their independence should be interfered with.
If in this war which is before Europe the neutrality of one of those
countries is violated, if the troops of one of the combatants violate
its neutrality and no action be taken to resent it, at the end of the
war, whatever the integrity may be, the independence will be gone.

I have one further quotation from Mr. Gladstone as to what he thought
about the independence of Belgium. It will be found in _Hansard_,
volume 203, page 1787. I have not had time to read the whole speech
and verify the context, but the thing seems to me so clear that no
context could make any difference to the meaning of it. Mr. Gladstone

We have an interest in the independence of Belgium
which is wider than that which we may have in the literal
operation of the guarantee. It is found in the answer to
the question whether, under the circumstances of the case,
this country, endowed as it is with influence and power,
would quietly stand by and witness the perpetration of
the direst crime that ever stained the pages of history, and
thus become participators in the sin.

No, Sir, if it be the case that there has been anything in the nature
of an ultimatum to Belgium, asking her to compromise or violate her
neutrality, whatever may have been offered to her in return, her
independence is gone if that holds. If her independence goes, the
independence of Holland will follow. I ask the House from the point of
view of British interests, to consider what may be at stake. If France
is beaten in a struggle of life and death, beaten to her knees, loses
her position as a Great Power, becomes subordinate to the will and
power of one greater than herself--consequences which I do not
anticipate, because I am sure that France has the power to defend
herself with all the energy and ability and patriotism which she has
shown so often--still, if that were to happen, and if Belgium fell
under the same dominating influence, and then Holland, and then
Denmark, then would not Mr. Gladstone's words come true, that just
opposite to us there would be a common interest against the unmeasured
aggrandizement of any Power?

It may be said, I suppose, that we might stand aside, husband our
strength, and that, whatever happened in the course of this war, at
the end of it intervene with effect to put things right, and to adjust
them to our own point of view. If, in a crisis like this, we run away
from those obligations of honour and interest as regards the Belgian
Treaty, I doubt whether, whatever material force we might have at the
end, it would be of very much value in face of the respect that we
should have lost. And do not believe, whether a Great Power stands
outside this war or not, it is going to be in a position at the end
of it to exert its superior strength. For us, with a powerful fleet,
which we believe able to protect our commerce, to protect our shores,
and to protect our interests,--if we are engaged in war, we shall
suffer but little more than we shall suffer even if we stand aside.

We are going to suffer, I am afraid, terribly in this war whether we
are in it or whether we stand aside. Foreign trade is going to stop,
not because the trade-routes are closed, but because there is no
trade at the other end. Continental nations engaged in war--all their
populations, all their energies, all their wealth, engaged in a
desperate struggle--they cannot carry on the trade with us that they
are carrying on in times of peace, whether we are parties to the war
or whether we are not. I do not believe for a moment that at the end
of this war, even if we stood aside and remained aside, we should be
in a position, a material position, to use our force decisively to
undo what had happened in the course of the war, to prevent the whole
of the west of Europe opposite to us--if that had been the result of
the war--falling under the domination of a single Power, and I am
quite sure that our moral position would be such as to have lost us
all respect.

I can only say that I have put the question of Belgium somewhat
hypothetically, because I am not yet sure of all the facts, but, if
the facts turn out to be as they have reached us at present, it is
quite clear that there is an obligation on this country to do its
utmost to prevent the consequences to which those facts will lead if
they are undisputed.

I have read to the House the only engagements that we have yet taken
definitely with regard to the use of force. I think it is due to the
House to say that we have taken no engagement yet with regard to
sending an expeditionary armed force out of the country. Mobilization
of the Fleet has taken place; mobilization of the Army is taking
place; but we have as yet taken no engagement, because I do feel that
in the case of a European conflagration such as this, unprecedented,
with our enormous responsibilities in India and other parts of the
Empire, or in countries in British occupation, with all the unknown
factors, we must take very carefully into consideration the use which
we make of sending an expeditionary force out of the country until we
know how we stand. One thing I would say.

The one bright spot in the whole of this terrible situation is
Ireland. The general feeling throughout Ireland--and I would like this
to be clearly understood abroad--does not make the Irish question a
consideration which we feel we have now to take into account. I have
told the House how far we have at present gone in commitments and the
conditions which influence our policy, and I have put to the House,
and dwelt at length upon how vital is the condition of the neutrality
of Belgium.

What other policy is there before the House?

There is but one way in which the Government could make certain at the
present moment of keeping outside this war, and that would be that it
should immediately issue a proclamation of unconditional neutrality.
We cannot do that. We have made the commitment to France that I have
read to the House which prevents us from doing that. We have got the
consideration of Belgium which prevents us also from any unconditional
neutrality, and, without those conditions absolutely satisfied and
satisfactory, we are bound not to shrink from proceeding to the use of
all the forces in our power. If we did take that line by saying,
'We will have nothing whatever to do with this matter' under no
conditions--the Belgian Treaty obligations, the possible position in
the Mediterranean, with damage to British interests, and what may
happen to France from our failure to support France--if we were to say
that all those things mattered nothing, were as nothing, and to say
we would stand aside, we should, I believe, sacrifice our respect and
good name and reputation before the world, and should not escape the
most serious and grave economic consequences.

My object has been to explain the view of the Government, and to place
before the House the issue and the choice. I do not for a moment
conceal, after what I have said, and after the information, incomplete
as it is, that I have given to the House with regard to Belgium, that
we must be prepared, and we are prepared, for the consequences of
having to use all the strength we have at any moment--we know not how
soon--to defend ourselves and to take our part. We know, if the facts
all be as I have stated them, though I have announced no intending
aggressive action on our part, no final decision to resort to force at
a moment's notice, until we know the whole of the case, that the use
of it may be forced upon us. As far as the forces of the Crown are
concerned, we are ready. I believe the Prime Minister and my right
hon. friend the First Lord of the Admiralty have no doubt whatever
that the readiness and the efficiency of those forces were never at
a higher mark than they are to-day, and never was there a time when
confidence was more justified in the power of the Navy to protect our
commerce and to protect our shores. The thought is with us always of
the suffering and misery entailed, from which no country in Europe
will escape by abstention, and from which no neutrality will save us.
The amount of harm that can be done by an enemy ship to our trade is
infinitesimal, compared with the amount of harm that must be done by
the economic condition that is caused on the Continent.

The most awful responsibility is resting upon the Government in
deciding what to advise the House of Commons to do. We have disclosed
our mind to the House of Commons. We have disclosed the issue, the
information which we have, and made clear to the House, I trust, that
we are prepared to face that situation, and that should it develop, as
probably it may develop, we will face it. We worked for peace up
to the last moment, and beyond the last moment. How hard, how
persistently, and how earnestly we strove for peace last week, the
House will see from the Papers that will be before it.

But that is over, as far as the peace of Europe is concerned. We are
now face to face with a situation and all the consequences which it
may yet have to unfold. We believe we shall have the support of the
House at large in proceeding to whatever the consequences may be and
whatever measures may be forced upon us by the development of facts
or action taken by others. I believe the country, so quickly has the
situation been forced upon it, has not had time to realize the issue.
It perhaps is still thinking of the quarrel between Austria and
Servia, and not the complications of this matter which have grown out
of the quarrel between Austria and Servia. Russia and Germany we know
are at war. We do not yet know officially that Austria, the ally whom
Germany is to support, is yet at war with Russia. We know that a good
deal has been happening on the French frontier. We do not know that
the German Ambassador has left Paris. The situation has developed so
rapidly that technically, as regards the condition of the war, it is
most difficult to describe what has actually happened. I wanted to
bring out the underlying issues which would affect our own conduct,
and our own policy, and to put them clearly. I have put the vital
facts before the House, and if, as seems not improbable, we are
forced, and rapidly forced, to take our stand upon those issues, then
I believe, when the country realizes what is at stake, what the real
issues are, the magnitude of the impending dangers in the west of
Europe, which I have endeavoured to describe to the House, we shall
be supported throughout, not only by the House of Commons, but by the
determination, the resolution, the courage, and the endurance of the
whole country.


AUGUST 6, 1914


In asking the House to agree to the resolution which Mr. Speaker has
just read from the Chair, I do not propose, because I do not think
it is in any way necessary, to traverse the ground again which was
covered by my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary two or three
nights ago. He stated--and I do not think any of the statements
he made are capable of answer and certainly have not yet been
answered--the grounds upon which with the utmost reluctance and with
infinite regret His Majesty's Government have been compelled to put
this country in a state of war with what, for many years and indeed
generations past, has been a friendly Power. But, Sir, the papers
which have since been presented to Parliament, and which are now in
the hands of hon. members, will, I think, show how strenuous, how
unremitting, how persistent, even when the last glimmer of hope seemed
to have faded away, were the efforts of my right hon. friend to secure
for Europe an honourable and a lasting peace. Every one knows in the
great crisis which occurred last year in the east of Europe, it was
largely, if not mainly, by the acknowledgement of all Europe, due to
the steps taken by my right hon. friend that the area of the conflict
was limited, and that, so far as the Great Powers are concerned, peace
was maintained. If his efforts upon this occasion have, unhappily,
been less successful, I am certain that this House and the country,
and I will add posterity and history, will accord to him what is,
after all, the best tribute that can be paid to any statesman: that,
never derogating for an instant or by an inch from the honour and
interests of his own country, he has striven, as few men have
striven, to maintain and preserve the greatest interest of all
countries--universal peace. These papers which are now in the hands of
hon. members show something more than that. They show what were the
terms which were offered to us in exchange for our neutrality. I trust
that not only the members of this House, but all our fellow subjects
everywhere will read the communications, will read, learn, and mark
the communications which passed only a week ago to-day between Berlin
and London in this matter. The terms by which it was sought to buy
our neutrality are contained in the communication made by the German
Chancellor to Sir Edward Goschen on the 29th July, No. 85 of the
published Paper. I think I must refer to them for a moment. After
referring to the state of things as between Austria and Russia, Sir
Edward Goschen goes on:

He then proceeded to make the following strong bid
for British neutrality. He said that it was clear, so far
as he was able to judge the main principle which governed
British policy, that Great Britain would never stand by
and allow France to be crushed in any conflict there might
be. That, however, was not the object at which Germany
aimed. Provided that neutrality of Great Britain were
certain, every assurance would be given to the British
Government that the Imperial Government--

Let the House observe these words:
aimed at no territorial acquisition at the expense of France
should they prove victorious in any war that might ensue.

Sir Edward Goschen proceeded to put a very pertinent question:

I questioned his Excellency about the French colonies--

What are the French colonies? They mean every part of the dominions
and possessions of France outside the geographical area of Europe--
and he said that he was unable to give a similar undertaking
in that respect.

Let me come to what, in my mind, personally, has always been the
crucial and almost the governing consideration, namely, the position
of the small States:

As regards Holland, however, his Excellency said that
so long as Germany's adversaries respected the integrity
and neutrality of the Netherlands, Germany was ready to
give His Majesty's Government an assurance that she
would do likewise.

Then we come to Belgium:

It depended upon the action of France what operations
Germany might be forced to enter upon in Belgium, but,
when the war was over, Belgian integrity would be respected
if she had not sided against Germany.

Let the House observe the distinction between those two cases. In
regard to Holland it was not only independence and integrity but
also neutrality; but in regard to Belgium, there was no mention of
neutrality at all, nothing but an assurance that after the war came
to an end the integrity of Belgium would be respected. Then his
Excellency added:

Ever since he had been Chancellor the object of his
policy had been to bring about an understanding with
England. He trusted that these assurances--the
assurances I have read out to the House--
might form the basis of that understanding which he so
much desired.

What does that amount to? Let me just ask the House. I do so, not with
the object of inflaming passion, certainly not with the object of
exciting feeling against Germany, but I do so to vindicate and make
clear the position of the British Government in this matter. What
did that proposal amount to? In the first place, it meant this: That
behind the back of France--they were not made a party to these
communications--we should have given, if we had assented to that, a
free licence to Germany to annex, in the event of a successful war,
the whole of the extra-European dominions and possessions of France.
What did it mean as regards Belgium? When she addressed, as she has
addressed in these last few days, her moving appeal to us to fulfil
our solemn guarantee of her neutrality, what reply should we have
given? What reply should we have given to that Belgian appeal? We
should have been obliged to say that without her knowledge we had
bartered away to the Power threatening her our obligation to keep
our plighted word. The House has read, and the country has read, of
course, in the last few hours, the most pathetic appeal addressed
by the King of Belgium, and I do not envy the man who can read that
appeal with an unmoved heart. Belgians are fighting and losing their
lives. What would have been the position of Great Britain to-day
in the face of that spectacle if we had assented to this infamous
proposal? Yes, and what are we to get in return for the betrayal of
our friends and the dishonour of our obligations? What are we to get
in return? A promise--nothing more; a promise as to what Germany would
do in certain eventualities; a promise, be it observed--I am sorry to
have to say it, but it must be put upon record--given by a Power which
was at that very moment announcing its intention to violate its own
treaty and inviting us to do the same. I can only say, if we had
dallied or temporized, we, as a Government, should have covered
ourselves with dishonour, and we should have betrayed the interests of
this country, of which we are trustees. I am glad, and I think the,
country will be glad, to turn to the reply which my right hon. friend
made, and of which I will read to the House two of the more salient
passages. This document, No. 101 of my Paper, puts on record a week
ago the attitude of the British Government, and, as I believe, of the
British people. My right hon. friend says:

His Majesty's Government cannot for a moment entertain
the Chancellor's proposal that they should bind themselves
to neutrality on such terms. What he asks us in
effect is to engage to stand by while French colonies are
taken if France is beaten, so long as Germany does not take
French territory as distinct from the colonies. From the
material point of view--

My right hon. friend, as he always does, used very temperate language:
such a proposal is unacceptable, for France, without further
territory in Europe being taken from her, could be so
crushed as to lose her position as a Great Power, and
become subordinate to German policy.

That is the material aspect. But he proceeded:

Altogether, apart from that, it would be a disgrace for
us to make this bargain with Germany at the expense of
France, a disgrace from which the good name of this country
would never recover. The Chancellor also in effect asks us
to bargain away whatever obligation or interest we have as
regards the neutrality of Belgium. We could not entertain
that bargain either.

He then says:

We must preserve our full freedom to act, as circumstances
may seem to us to require.

And he added, I think, in sentences which the House will appreciate:

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