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samedi 21 juin 2014

Disraeli : le grand discours du 9 février 1871 N°1848 8e année

L’article de Tony Blair m’a tellement insupporté par toute la fausseté et la petitesse qui en faisaient la forme et le fond qu’il m’a plu de connaître à la lecture de l’ouvrage précis et fin de Christopher Clark, « Les somnambules  -Eté 1914 : comment l’Europe a marché vers la guerre » (Editions Flammarion, 2013) le passage sur le discours de Benjamin Disraeli dont le teneur nous rappelle, qu’autrefois, des hommes politiques savaient ce qu’était de penser, de proposer, de tracer. Ce discours du 9 février 1871 est à bien des égards remarquable
Dans son propos que vous trouverez ci-dessous ou bien dans le Hansard, l’ancien futur Premier ministre fait un tableau général de l’état des relations  internationales depuis la défaite de la France en 1870 qui entraîne, selon lui, la remise en cause du traité de Paris de 1856 qui mit un terme à la guerre de Crimée et oblige à une nouvelle diplomatie.
Il s’inquiète de voir la Russie passer d’une politique « légitime » d’expansion qui la conduit en mer Noire à la conquête ou le contrôle des Détroits ce qu’il juge « dangereux ». De même pointe-t-il du doigt les ambitions et les belligérances des Etats-Unis au nom de leur « exception ». Quant à l’Allemagne de Bismarck il en souligne l’état tout à fait singulier et ne discerne pas de danger pour le Royaume-Uni : on oublie trop souvent que le chancelier allemand était de mesure (l’annexion de l’Alsace et de la Lorraine lui a été plus imposée)  et de prudence (question balkanique), ce n’est qu’après son départ en 1890 que les relations entre l’Allemagne et l’Angleterre iront en se dégradant, l’hostilité d’Edouard VII envers Guillaume II était publique.

Sir, it is little more than six months since Parliament was prorogued, under circumstances of great anxiety, and we are re-assembled to-day to encounter a state of affairs that all must admit to be greatly complicated, and which I myself think to be not devoid of danger. When we returned to our constituencies Europe was on the eve of a war which, looking to its consequences, may, perhaps, be described as the most important war of this century. Her Majesty's Government then took the opportunity of indicating to the House the general policy which they felt it their duty, under the circumstances, to advise Her Majesty to follow. That policy was a policy of neutrality, and was a wise and a just policy. I cannot recall at this moment whether war had been declared at that period; but whether it had or not, there was a considerable and mysterious pause before the actual commencement of hostilities which 71 was very favourable to negotiation; and I then took the liberty of suggesting to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that the policy of the Government should not only be a policy of neutrality, but of an armed neutrality. The right hon. Gentleman then said that a policy of armed neutrality was a very serious thing. That was why I recommended it. We had to deal with a very serious state of affairs, and it appeared to me that if we were to have a chance of coping with them and controlling them we should use an instrument of equal temper. The operation of an armed neutrality is three-fold. Its first tendency, of course, is to prevent; its second, to shorten war; and, in the third place—and not the least important—when pacification is contemplated, to insure the acceptance of just and temperate terms of peace, so that the seeds of future disquiet and inevitable struggle should not occur at the very moment when general tranquillity appears to be about to be accomplished. The last instance of an armed neutrality was the occupation of the Danubian Provinces by Austria; and I believe that no one will deny that that act on the part of Austria tended greatly to shorten the Crimean War. I do not presume for a moment to speak on this question of high general policy as one more competent to deliver an opinion upon it than any Gentleman who is sitting in this House; but hon. Members may, perhaps, recollect that four years ago myself and my then Colleagues had under responsibility the duty of considering a state of affairs almost identical with that state of affairs which obtained in the middle of last July. There was then a war imminent, occasioned by the rivalry between France and Prussia. Indeed, for 48 hours it appeared inevitable, and yet that war was prevented—was prevented by that Treaty which guaranteed the neutrality of Luxemburg, upon which I will not at this moment dwell, though I may have to advert to it. Now, that was an opportunity, certainly, all will admit, to those who had then the management of affairs, to form some opinion as to the motives of the principal actors in those transactions, the influences which regulated their conduct, and the objects which they contemplated; and we arrived then at three results for the future regulation of our 72 conduct in these matters. First of all, which was of course obvious, that the danger to the peace of Europe was the rivalry between France and Prussia; secondly, that Prussia would never commence hostilities herself; and thirdly—and that was the most important and practical point—that it was consequently necessary that the English Government should concentrate all its resources, all its diplomatic influence, and exercise its unceasing vigilance at Paris, to prevent the ruler of France from commencing hostilities, which were so dreaded and deprecated. Now, it does not appear to me that Her Majesty's Ministers, when these unfortunate transactions commenced in July, did use that requisite energy, and were not sufficiently prepared for the circumstances which they had to encounter. I must remind the House that Her Majesty's Ministers were placed in a peculiarly favourable opportunity to press their opinions and their policy upon the Emperor of the French. I give Her Majesty's Government full credit for the energy and promptitude with which they obtained the withdrawal of the candidature of the Prussian pretender to the Throne of Spain. But their success in that proceeding gave them an additional claim and hold upon the French Government:—because the House will understand that for a mediator to come forward between two such Powers as France and Prussia, and accomplish so difficult a task as the withdrawal of the Prussian Prince who was a candidate for the Spanish throne, required a great exertion and expenditure of influence on the part of the Crown of this country. Influence, however considerable, is at the same time a limited quality. It cannot be expended for a certain object, or in a certain degree, without being diminished for other purposes in an equal degree. If Her Majesty, for instance, made an appeal to the King of Prussia that ultimately led to the withdrawal of the pretender to the throne of Spain, on other occasions and in reference to other matters, no doubt such a course would give Prussia a moral claim on England. Her Majesty had done the Emperor of the French a great service: and if at that moment—in July—the business had stopped as it was, the Emperor of the French would have had a considerable diplomatic triumph. It would 73 have added to the credit of his dynasty and position, and would have been owing to the mediatorial influence of the Crown of England. When the Ambassador of the Queen therefore went to the Emperor of the French and announced that he had succeeded in his difficult and important office, and the Emperor—notwithstanding his appeal to the Queen to use her influence, and notwithstanding that Her Majesty had used her influence successfully—the Emperor said, "I will, nevertheless, proceed on my own course," Lord Lyons should have declared—"This is an outrage to the Crown of England, and I am instructed to tell you that if you thus discard the result of the Queen's intervention, and if this is the mode in which you express your gratitude for the successful exertions of the solicited influence of our Sovereign, you must take the consequences. I do not say we are going to throw ourselves into the fray, but the neutrality that we shall observe will be an armed neutrality." If that had been the case, I do not believe there would have been war.

Sir, there was another ground on which I apprehend the right hon. Gentleman might have successfully appealed to the Emperor of the French and prevented the war, and that was — I called it to the recollection of the House at the end of last Session—that Russia and Great Britain had guaranteed to Prussia the possession of her Saxon provinces, and that if Russia and Great Britain had represented to the Emperor of the French—being neutral Powers, and his allies—that if he persisted in the insane course upon which he was about to enter, it was more than probable that he would force Russia and Great Britain to place themselves in a position if not absolutely of belligerents, yet in a hostile position, that would have influenced a Sovereign who was hesitating to the very end. You must remember that the Emperor of the French was for peace in the morning and war in the evening, and if the English Ambassador had, in the interval, represented a definite policy, such as that which I have indicated, there is every probability that the Emperor of the French would never have embarked in this war. Now, what was the answer given to me by the right hon. Gentleman? The right hon. Gentleman rose and repudiated the guarantees which had been 74 given by this country and Russia to Prussia of the possession of her Saxon provinces, and he gave two reasons for his repudiation. The guarantee was given in 1815 under the Treaty of Vienna, The right hon. Gentleman said, that Prussia had become much more powerful since the guarantee of the Saxon provinces was given in 1815, and he said, in the second place, that the Diet of Germany had been recently abolished. Now, Sir, the first reason of the right hon. Gentleman was a strange one. If I owed a man £5,000, and he asked me to repay him, he would be surprised if I said to him—"True, it is, I owe you £5,000; but in the interval that has elapsed since the loan you have come into the possession of an estate of £5,000 a year, you are more powerful and richer, and therefore your claim can no longer be recognized." Then, with regard to the second reason, the abolition of the German Diet, I answer at once that the guarantee does not at all refer to the German Diet in any sense whatever, and the only effect of the existence of the German Diet would be this—that, in all probability, Prussia would then have a right to appeal to the other Powers of Germany to assist her if her Saxon provinces had been invaded. The question for Her Majesty's Government was this—What were the circumstances contemplated when the guarantee of the Treaty of Vienna was given by the Great Powers? Now, what were the circumstances? The circumstances were these — The signataries to the Treaty of Vienna, in the distribution arrangement of territory, were anxious that States bordering upon France should be strengthened. France was looked upon as the great disturber. Future aggression was contemplated by France, and it was therefore thought the best policy to strengthen, as much as possible, the States contiguous to the French boundary. For that reason the King of Sardinia received a great accession of territory, and the kingdom of the Netherlands was created. But the brunt of the struggle was evidently to be borne by Prussia. Prussia was to take the Rhenish provinces. Prussia required, and deserved, compensation for her great sacrifices and sufferings; and though she wished to find that compensation in the North of Germany, she ultimately accepted the Saxon pro- 75 vinces on condition that a guarantee should be given by the Great Powers, and especially by England, that practically, in case there was a war occasioned by the aggressions of France, and Prussia was attacked in her new territory, she should be guarded by the guarantee which was given. Now, what were the circumstances in July last? It is difficult for us to realize what was the state of affairs in July now that the King of Prussia is sleeping in the bed of Louis Quatorze at Versailles. But the fact is the King of Prussia was very much alarmed at the state of affairs; he had been surprised—I mean, of course, in a military sense—and was not prepared for war. Although, as I have heard, and have no doubt, the Prussians did not despair of ultimate success in the struggle, they were, in a military sense, surprised; and Russia, which has since made so many Field Marshals, was particularly anxious, to support Her Majesty's Government in maintaining peace last July. There is no country more adverse to war than Russia, and it is very much to her credit; but, as she generally attains her objects without war, this is less surprising; but if there be any kind of war which Russia especially dislikes, it is an European war, and an European war commenced by France. These were the circumstances we had to deal with in July last; and I maintain that if proper representations had been made to the Emperor of the French—if it had been pressed upon him that this country had entered into solemn engagements guaranteeing the provinces of Saxony to the King of Prussia—the Emperor of the French would have recoiled from the possible results of an infringement of the Treaty. Some hon. Gentlemen seem to be incredulous as to Prussia not being ready for immediate war in July last. I speak on the very highest authority when I say that Prussia was perfectly prepared for seeing the Palatinate overrun by the French. As far as the Palatinate was concerned, the Prussians had no doubt that the French would entirely and immediately overrun it, although they may have had confidence that they could prevent their capital being taken. It was under these circumstances—very different, of course, from those which now prevail—that a successful appeal, in my opinion, might have been made by our Government, 76 upon this ground, to the Emperor of the French; and, I think the war might have been prevented. How was the case met by our Government, and, I am sorry to say, by more than one hon. Gentleman who spoke on the occasion alluded to? It was met on the part of the Government by a repudiation of a national engagement, a treaty of the most solemn and stringent kind. I want to know what hon. Gentlemen mean by the habit which, I am sorry to say, I have seen of late growing up in this House, of deriding the character and stipulations of treaties. What is the alternative if they are not supported, if they are not upheld by public opinion and by the sentiment of the House of Commons? What alternative is there? If it be true, as we have heard from a high authority, that no Power will observe a treaty the moment it has the opportunity of breaking it, you are really dissolving society into its original elements, which appear to me to be "blood and iron." It is easy to say that the Treaty of Vienna has been violated twenty times over, and that it is an obsolete document; but, in the first place, it has not been violated twenty, nor ten, nor five times over. No doubt, great changes have been made in the distribution and arrangement of territory which it sanctioned; but the Great Powers and statesmen who attended the Congress of Vienna most scrupulously and cautiously abstained from doing more than sanction an arrangement and distribution which was the inevitable consequence of a long war; and they never in any instance bound themselves to maintain the distribution that was then made, except in the case of the Saxon provinces of Prussia. Even if the Treaty of Vienna had been in some instances violated—which I dispute, but do not dwell upon now, because it does not touch the question—that is no reason why other important stipulations, which have not been violated, should not be maintained. There are many things of the utmost importance in the Treaty of Vienna besides the mere arrangement and distribution of territory. That was considered by the leading statesmen in this manner. They said—"We will not bind ourselves to any of these arrangements of territory; we contemplate that the time may come when changes will occur, and when those changes occur we will consider 77 them on their merits." The withdrawal of the Austrians from Italy is no violation of the Treaty of Vienna in the circumstances under which it was accomplished; nor, I believe, in the opinion of higher authorities than myself, are any of those changes which have occurred violations of the Treaty, though they are changes of it. But in the Treaty there are things in importance equal to or greater than that of the distribution of territory. Take, for instance, the free navigation of rivers; that is one of the most important subjects that can possibly engage our attention. If, in the conduct of public business, a question arose as to the navigation of rivers, and I was told that the Treaty of Vienna was an obsolete document, and that it must not be referred to, I should be totally at a loss as to where I was to find any foundation for the doctrine of the free navigation of rivers, which is of the utmost importance to the welfare of humanity. Judging from what I hear, before a month is over we may be discussing in this House the free navigation of the Danube. Where would you be if the Treaty of Vienna, which was the first public document that, by a series of masterly clauses and provisions, established the free navigation of rivers—where would you be if the Treaty of Vienna was to be looked upon as a mere obsolete document? There is another river the free navigation of which, judging from all we hear, will be under our consideration soon. I mean the St. Lawrence. If we are not to respect the rights of nations as determined by the Treaty of Vienna, I do not believe there is any document in existence which will enable you to treat in a satisfactory manner the question of the navigation of the St. Lawrence.

In my opinion there was not sufficient energy exercised on the part of Her Majesty's Government in July last, at the commencement of these unhappy circumstances, to meet the conjuncture, and that they were not prepared for an event which, in my opinion, they ought to have contemplated. The proper policy for England would have been an armed neutrality; it might have prevented, and it certainly would have shortened the war; and if it had existed at this moment, I have no doubt it would have obtained for the discomfited just and temperate terms, and given a dif- 78 ferent character to Europe. But I may be told—"An armed neutrality might have been, under the circumstances, a very sufficient and proper policy; but how could an armed neutrality be adopted by a country without armaments?" I admit we should have placed ourselves in a position that might have been awkward and embarrassing if it could have been shown that this terrible war between rival races—for it comes to that—has been occasioned by neutrals not having that command of organized force which becomes great nations. It is possible that the Ambassador of the Queen, when he went to the Emperor of the French to make the appeal which I suggest, might have been answered in this manner—the Emperor of the French, who is extremely well-informed about everything in England, might have said—"Yes, Sir; I understand the policy of your Government is an armed neutrality; but an armed neutrality is a very serious thing for a nation that for a year and a half has been disbanding its veterans; an armed neutrality is a very serious thing for a nation with skeleton battalions and attenuated squadrons, and batteries without sufficient guns, and yet more guns than gunners; an armed neutrality is a very serious thing for a nation without a military reserve." The Emperor of the French might have added—"Nevertheless, you are still mistress of the ocean; yet, as you must have a Channel Meet, and scarcely can do without a Mediterranean Fleet, I think it would be difficult for you to establish a fleet for the North Sea, since for a year and a half you have left off shipbuilding—since you have reduced your famous blue-jackets — since, as I well know, you have not been furnishing due artillery to your men-of-war, and you can't deny that for a year and a half you have been living on the stores that were accumulated by preceding Governments." Sir, I confess that would have been an answer to my suggestion of armed neutrality which would have been certainly for the moment somewhat embarrassing. I have no wish on this occasion to make a single criticism upon the conduct of the two right hon. Gentlemen who preside over the great Departments of the Army and the Admiralty. They were preferred to those eminent posts because, as was understood generally in the country, they were 79 deemed, on the whole, the administrators most competent to reduce the naval and military strength of the country, and I am bound to say that the country, which is always just to public men, has unanimously agreed that these right hon. Gentlemen have entirely fulfilled the confidence reposed in them. But I cannot help making one remark upon the conduct in this respect of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman challenged the existence of the late Government upon a grave question of policy with regard to Ireland in a manly and straightforward manner. I have not changed my opinion as to that policy; I did not think it was a policy calculated to secure the tranquillity of Ireland and put an end to those feuds which seem indigenous to that country, or that it would make every district of that island a Utopia. Still, no one can deny that the right hon. Gentleman came forward on that occasion in a manly, straightforward manner. His policy was openly declared, and he appealed to the last Parliament, elected by the restricted constituency, and the last Parliament gave him a large majority. At a later period he appealed to the Parliament elected by the new constituency, and that majority was increased. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, gained his position, as far as the policy for Ireland, was at issue, in the most clear and honourable manner; and no one grudged him his triumph—at least, I did not. But the right hon. Gentleman was a candidate for the suffrages of a large and, as he believed, of an economically inclined constituency, and, not having sufficient confidence in the bold policy he had enunciated, he suddenly turned round, and apparently to obtain votes, in which he did not even succeed, he denounced the then Government on account of the extravagance of their military and naval establishments. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Expenditure.] Well, we will not quarrel about the word; it comes to the same thing whichever we use. But the right hon. Gentleman, denouncing the extravagance of the late Government, said to the electors—"If I am in power next year I will terminate all this expenditure; I will put an end to these costly establishments, and you shall have a great reduction of taxation in consequence." This was a mere episode in the career 80 of the right hon. Gentleman. It did not obtain him the seat he then solicited, nor do I believe it obtained for him half-a-dozen seats in this House. He would have had a complete majority if he had adhered to his first policy, which, though I believe erroneous, was the policy of a statesman, was perfectly intelligible, and had been deliberated upon in this House. My complaint against the right hon. Gentleman is that when he was summoned by his Sovereign to occupy the highest position in the kingdom, with a responsibility attached to it which no language can describe, and no degree of feeling equal, the right hon. Gentleman could not have been 10 minutes in the Cabinet of the Queen without knowing that the representations he had made respecting the military and naval expenditure of the country and the consequent reduction which he had pledged himself to was one of the greatest mistakes any Minister could possibly have made. The facts upon which this conclusion would be arrived at by him were State secrets at the time; but they have since been revealed in ravaged Europe. Why, the right hon. Gentleman sent his most trusty Councillor upon these subjects abroad to examine into these matters; he sent the member of his Cabinet on whom he naturally most depended for a correct opinion upon the state of Europe. Lord Clarendon went to the Continent. Lord Clarendon had conferences in Germany with more than one Sovereign, and with many most eminent statesmen. By one of those lucky combinations which sometimes occur in public life, Lord Clarendon met the Prime Minister of Russia, Prince Gortchakoff, who happened to be in Germany at that period, and he had confidential conferences with Prince Gortchakoff; and the consequence of these communications with German Sovereigns and statesmen and the Chancellor of Russia was that Lord Clarendon repaired to the capital of France, and conferred confidentially with the Emperor of the French. Now, Sir, there may be difference of opinion as to the position of the late Lord Clarendon as a statesman, as there will be upon the character and career of every public man. Perhaps Lord Clarendon was more adapted for an Ambassador than a Minister of State; others may differ from this view, but no one will dispute that Lord Clarendon was a consummate man of the world, 81 with a quick perception of character, and gifted with that versatile and captivating sympathy which extracts secrets from the most reserved, and obtains the confidence of the most close. Now all this time Lord Clarendon was communicating confidentially with the right hon. Gentleman—the right hon. Gentleman admitted this at the close of last Session—and who can doubt what were the results at which Lord Clarendon arrived? Lord Clarendon must have comprehended the whole situation—the danger to the peace of Europe from the continued rivalry of France and Prussia; the causes which prevented Prussia from commencing the contest; the restraint necessary in consequence to impress upon the Emperor of the French; and the right hon. Gentleman must have been perfectly well aware of everything Lord Clarendon did, of everything that passed through his mind, and of all the information that he gained. Under all these circumstances, it is to me most difficult to comprehend the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot understand how a person filling the position of the right hon. Gentleman should have deemed himself bound by the rash rhetoric of the hustings to continue those reductions of what he calls expenditure, but which are, practically speaking, establishments, seeing that the reduction is, in fact, a reduction in the number of men and boys and in the amount of stores. How is it possible that the right hon. Gentleman could, possessing this knowledge, have pursued such a course, and countenanced the framing of harum-scarum Budgets which have dissipated the resources of the nation?

The danger which Lord Clarendon must have foreseen eventually resulted in the war between France and Germany; and now let me impress upon the attention of the House the character of this war. It is no common war, like the war between Prussia and Austria, or like the Italian war in which France was engaged some years ago; nor is it like the Crimean War. This war represents the German Revolution, a greater political event than the French Revolution of last century — I don't say a greater, or as great, a social event. What its social consequences may be are in the future. Not a single principle in the management of our foreign affairs, accepted by all statesmen for guidance 82 up to six months ago, any longer exists. There is not a diplomatic tradition which has not been swept away. You have a new world, new influences at work, new and unknown objects and dangers with which to cope, at present involved in that obscurity incident to novelty in such affairs. We used to have discussions in this House about the balance of power. Lord Palmerston, eminently a practical man, trimmed the ship of State and shaped its policy with a view to preserve an equilibrium in Europe; and we have recently been favoured with a letter from M. Guizot to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in which the balance of power is declared to be absolutely necessary to the peace of Europe. We have heard hon. Gentlemen in this House, on some occasions, deride the idea of a balance of power as altogether a fancy; but what has really come to pass in Europe? The balance of power has been entirely destroyed, and the country which suffers most, and feels the effects of this great change most, is England. Now, what has been the first consequence of the destruction of the balance of power by this war, which I sincerely believe, if we had been energetic and prepared, this country might have prevented? The first consequence is that Russia repudiates the Treaty of 1856. There is nothing in diplomatic history so unqualified as the repudiation of the settlement of 1856 by Russia. Now, I am not going to inveigh against the designs of Russia. Russia has a policy, as every great Power has a policy, and she has as much right to have a policy as Germany or England. I believe the policy of Russia, taking a general view of it, to have been a legitimate policy, although it may have been inevitably a disturbing policy. When you have a great country in the centre of Europe, with an immense territory, with a numerous and yet, as compared with its colossal area, a sparse population, producing human food to any extent, in addition to certain most valuable raw materials, it is quite clear that a people so situated, practically without any seaboard, would never rest until it found its way to the coast, and could have a mode of communicating easily with other nations, and exchanging its products with them. Well, for 200 years Russia has pursued that policy; it has been a legitimate, though a disturbing policy. It has cost Sweden 83 provinces, and it has cost Turkey provinces. But no wise statesman could help feeling that it was a legitimate policy—a policy which it was impossible to resist, and one which the general verdict of the world recognized—that Russia should find her way to the seacoast. She has completely accomplished it. She has admirable seaports; she can communicate with every part of the world, and she has profited accordingly. But at the end of the last century she advanced a new view. It was not a national policy; it was invented by the then ruler of Russia, a woman, a stranger, and an usurper—and that policy was that she must have the capital of the Turkish Empire. That was not a legitimate, it was a disturbing policy. It was a policy like the French desire to have the Rhine—false in principle. She had no moral claim to Constantinople; she did not represent the races to which it once belonged; she had no political necessity to go there, because she had already two capitals. Therefore, it was not a legitimate, but a disturbing policy. As the illegitimate desire of France to have the Rhine has led to the prostration of France, so the illegitimate desire of Russia to have Constantinople led to the prostration of Russia. Now, when Russia repudiated the Treaty of 1856 I do not think the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government was a wise one. I admire the reasoning by which Her Majesty's Secretary of State showed to the Russian Minister the fallacy of his position; but I think that the inference he drew from his own premises was lame and impotent. Our proper answer to the first note of Prince Gortchakoff should have been to protest against it, and to have said at once that Russia must take the consequences of such a step. In that case, I doubt very much whether at this moment we should have heard any more about it. But that was not the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government. The plan of a Conference on the Treaty of 1856, which France could not attend, was not politic; and the inability of France to take part in it was alone a sufficient reason in refusing to listen to any such project. Let me recall to the House for a moment the circumstances under which the Treaty of 1856 was negotiated. I know there are hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who 84 think the Crimean War was a great mistake. I am not one of them. I think the Crimean War might have been prevented. I have not the slightest doubt that in the month of July, 1854, if our Government had informed the Government of Russia that war would be the consequence of their passing the Pruth, the Pruth would not have been passed. I believe that is not now mere conjecture, but a matter of acknowledged fact. But when that war was declared I believe it was a just and necessary war; I believe there never was a war carried on for a nobler purpose or with purer intentions, nor one which the people generally of this country ever supported with more enthusiasm. There was a great demur at the time as to the terms of peace; they were not thought adequate. It is true they did not call upon Russia, under defeat, to yield up any of her provinces; and I wish that fact could be recollected by other Powers. It is true, also, that the Allies did not propose to mulct Russia by calling on her to pay a great indemnity; and that, too, should not be forgotten by nations who are influenced by precedents. But I think the Treaty was admirable, because it devised a plan for neutralizing the Black Sea, which absolutely, as far as human arrangements could control affairs, really prevented that part of the world again disturbing the general peace. Well, that Treaty was regarded, at the time as a magnanimous Treaty. I believe it was so accepted by Russia. She obtained terms after the fall of Sebastopol as favourable as those which she refused at the Conference of Vienna. I doubt there is an example of such terms being offered by the conqueror under similar circumstances. Now, Sir, I do not pretend to divine what is passing at the Conference. All sorts of rumours are afloat; but I cannot understand, or conceive it possible, that a British Minister, after the immense sacrifices made by the Allies, and especially by this country, in order to obtain that Treaty of 1856, will consent in Conference to give up the whole point for which those sacrifices were incurred. There really is nothing in the Treaty of 1856 of vital importance — nothing that did secure and can maintain the general peace of Europe with regard to that part of the world, except the termination 85 of the naval preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea by a plan which spared the pride of a great country. To obtain that result the Allies expended three hundred millions of treasure. I cannot trust myself to tell what was the loss in human lives, infinitely more valuable. You fought four pitched battles and made two of the most terrific assaults ever known in the history of sieges, and all to obtain this result. Why, there is hardly a family in England, from the haughtiest to the humblest, which has not some painful recollection of the sufferings and sacrifices of that war. In my parish church there is a memorial window to the memory of two sons of an hon. Baronet, once a Member of this House, both of whom fell in the Crimea. The eldest, who was little more than of age—a youth of great promise and distinguished appearance—had just married, and the very week after his marriage he was summoned to his regiment, one of the finest in our service—the 23rd Fusiliers. He fell at Alma after many acts of valour. Exactly a year afterwards his next brother, who had succeeded to his title—an officer of Artillery, also in the same army — died in the trenches before Sebastopol. The mother of those gallant youths raised that memorial window in my parish church because—to use her own words—amid her terrible sorrows she had the proud consolation of knowing that her sons had died for their country. But now you are going to tell her that she is not to have that proud consolation—that they did not die either for the honour or the interest of their country—that it was all moonshine. I think that the mothers of England will feel very differently in future, and the sons of England, too, will not be so lavish of their lives, if this mockery is to occur. But the most curious thing in all this affair of the Treaty of 1856 is the conduct of Her Majesty's Government when they received the note of Prince Gortchakoff; and it is to me perfectly incredible. What did Her Majesty's Government do? They consulted Count Bismarck—certainly a most eminent man, and there is no man whose opinion on a difficult question I should think more valuable. But he is the Minister of Prussia, who was not our ally in the Crimean campaign, and whose conduct then was equivocal and ambiguous; and they sent, as 86 I understand—but we are to have the Papers laid before us, and I am sure Papers were never more wanted — they sent Mr. Odo Russell in their difficulty to consult Count Bismarck. Now, what said Count Bismarck? Count Bismarck said this—"I see that your Government is extremely indignant because Russia has repudiated the Treaty of 1856. Well, it is a very extraordinary thing; but only three months ago your Prime Minister repudiated a most solemn treaty with regard to my country — namely, that which guaranteed the Saxon provinces to my Sovereign." Why, at that moment it was a toss up whether those Saxon provinces would or would not be invaded, and I believe it is in those very provinces that Count Bismarck's estate is situated, though that is a matter that of course would not affect his opinion. However, Count Bismarck, with that cynical cordiality which distinguishes him, said—"Notwithstanding the way in which you have treated us, I will do everything I can for you. I will suggest a Conference, and the practical consequence of a Conference is that you condone the great offence of Russia, and then that will happen at the Conference which always does happen at Conferences to which Russia is a party, and particularly where Prussia also is a party—namely, that Russia will gain her object." But Count Bismarck is a man of the world who goes with the times; so he does not stop here—the Treaty of Vienna is an obsolete treaty; the Treaty of 1856 is now successfully repudiated by Russia; the balance of power no longer exists. And therefore the unfortunate Sovereign Prince of Luxemburg, to secure the neutrality of whose territory we had laboured, and had incurred so great a risk, has notice served upon him, which puts an end to the Treaty of Luxembourg. That is the third repudiated treaty. Now let me say one word about that Treaty. I wish to speak thus, because the matter has not been so much before the House of Commons as might be desirable, and the observations of a Secretary of State have not been correctly apprehended. By the Treaty of Luxemburg the five signataries gave a joint guarantee to maintain the neutrality of the Grand Duchy, and the question has been raised as to what were our liabilities in respect of the joint guarantee. I do not apprehend 87 that as regards our liabilities to the Grand Duke of Luxemburg the slightest difficulty is likely to arise. I believe that the liability of each of the co-signataries towards the Grand Duke of Luxemburg merely extends to this—that they shall not themselves violate the neutrality of his territory. But the liabilities that the signataries to that Treaty incur to each other in respect of the engagement are much larger and of a far more complicated character. Guarantees of the neutrality of their territories are not given to Princes out of mere affection or personal respect—they are given for much larger objects, to secure the peace of Europe and to maintain the general tranquillity. And therefore a signatary of the Treaty who violates the neutrality of the territory of the Grand Duke of Luxemburg incurs a large responsibility to England and to the other signataries of the instrument; and it would be open to us, at any moment and in any manner we might think proper, to assert our rights if they should be so violated. It has been said that there is in existence a secret Treaty between Prussia and Russia entered into before the war. I make no statement to that effect myself. It once fell to my lot, in reference to transactions relating to the Crimean War, to state to this House that there was in existence a secret Treaty between two great Powers—France and Austria—having reference to the state of Italy, by which the former undertook not to attack the latter in case certain things should be done in the course of that war, and Lord Palmerston contradicted me upon the subject. In about a week after, however, Lord Palmerston, as a man of honour, having ascertained the real facts, thought it his duty to come down to the House and to acknowledge that such a Treaty did exist. I merely advert to that circumstance to show that I make no such assertions until I am convinced of their truth. When I am convinced of the existence of a Treaty such as I have described between Prussia and Russia, I shall state the fact openly in this House. I feel called upon, however, to make this remark—that if, when Her Majesty's Government communicated with Count Bismark respecting the repudiation of the Treaty of 1856, they were ignorant of the existence of such a Treaty, they were exceedingly ill-informed; but if 88 they were aware of its existence—and I wish the House to observe this possibility particularly — and yet under such circumstances made the appeal to Count Bismarck which led to this Conference, then I say that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government is of a very grave character, and that the censure of this House would be a very light punishment for them to undergo.

There is another Treaty upon which I will not stop to make a comment, which has been violated in consequence of the destruction of the balance of power produced by this war—a war which, I believe, England might have prevented, and that is the Treaty which secured Rome to His Holiness the Pope, entered into by the King of Italy, by which the latter bound himself to defend the former from all aggression. We were not parties to that Treaty, and can be only indirectly concerned and interested in it; but the violation of that Treaty is, in my opinion, complete. I am not at all surprised at the result; it is the necessary result of the alliance between the Papacy and Liberalism. Why the Pope should destroy Churches—even if they were Irish Protestant Churches—and why he should secularize ecclesiastical property, I never could understand. His Holiness, however, succeeded in his object; but the Protestant Church Establishment in Ireland was not legally disestablished at the time when the Papacy was disestablished itself. I do not dwell upon this Treaty, because I have no doubt but that in the course of this debate we shall have a satisfactory vindication of the policy of the Government, and a complete interpretation of their views, from the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird).

Now, Sir, I have shown the House what a complicated state of affairs, what difficulties, and what possible dangers have arisen in Europe from this war, which has destroyed the balance of power, and which war, I think, might have been prevented. But those difficulties and dangers are not limited to Europe. The Atlantic Cable unhappily conveys not only communications relating to commercial matters. Everything that happens in the diplomatic circles of Europe appears to reach the other side of the great waters with a rapidity rivalling that by which the knowledge of the price of gold and 89 of cotton is conveyed across the Atlantic. I am surprised at the course which was taken by the Sovereign of America in this matter. I should have thought that he would not have condescended to imitate the example of Europe. But to my great surprise the United States have also got hold of a Treaty with this country which they intend to repudiate. This Treaty was a treaty negotiated—as all treaties entered into with the United States have been negotiated—with great concessions on our side. The enjoyment of it was lost, wantonly lost by the United States by their abrogation of the treaty of reciprocity with Canada, although even after that occurrence they enjoyed the advantages of its provisions for many years longer by the forbearance and indulgence of English statesmen. That Treaty is now brought forward by the United States as an act of injustice on our part and as a means and opportunity for misunderstanding. I was very glad to hear from the Queen's Speech that the attention of England had been directed to this question, and that there seems to be a prospect of having at least some formal communication upon the question. There is one point connected with America which I cannot refrain from noticing, and that is, the extraordinary tone in which the authorities of America communicate with our Government and with the people of this country. The tone of the American Government towards the Government of England is different from that used towards the Government of any other country. It is not, as I once thought, the rough simplicity of Republican manners that occasions a rudeness so painful. Nothing can be more courteous than the Government of the United States to the Russian Government and, I have no doubt, to the German Government; but if they have any communications to make to the Government of this country, or any cause to give their opinion as to the conduct of the English people, a tone is adopted and language used which it may be forbearing not to notice for a time, but which, if persisted in, must ultimately lead to consequences which, though they may not be intended, all will deplore. Now, I am not going to dwell upon the wild words of demagogues, who, I suppose, in the United States, as in all other countries, are reckless in their expres- 90 sions. I am talking of persons of high official authority. I will take, for instance, the chief Senator (Mr. Sumner)—I look upon the Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs as the chief man in the Senate, and only second to the President, for to a certain degree he exercises the functions of royalty. No treaty with the United States can, I believe, be concluded without his concurrence. This gentleman commenced his Parliamentary career last year by an invective against the British Government. Having to deal with the difficulties between the two countries, having to exercise the functions of a judge and a statesman, he commenced the campaign by a violent invective against the English Government and the English nation, exciting the passions of the people of America. Then the President of the United States, the Sovereign of America, recently in one of those grave State papers which a person of his exalted position periodically produces, having occasion to speak of the English Government and people uses language which I wish I could describe as either friendly or respectful. It was, I think, very unfortunate that the Fenian prisoners were sent to America. It is a questionable thing to me whether they ought to have been amnestied. But, as I have said on a former occasion, it is best that an amnesty should be complete; and if they were to be freed I think they ought to have been allowed to go to Ireland, instead of being sent to America as first-class passengers in a Cunard boat, with a £5 note in their pockets. The people of America received them, in pursuance of the system of always insulting this country, with all honour, and by a large majority in the House of Representatives decided to treat them with every possible respect. I want to know what is the reason why the Government and people of England are treated by the Government of the United States in a different manner from that in which other countries are treated. The time has come when we ought to know that. At the first blush one would think it impossible for two nations to be on terms of more thorough and complete understanding. Notwithstanding the Celtic or Teutonic emigration which the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address (Mr. Morley) has noticed, the English character of the original settlers 91 in these colonies has always predominated. They have, perhaps, improved our language; but they still speak it. We have the same laws, the same literature, and the same religion. Our commercial relations are on a vast scale; and though our terms of exchange might be improved, the reciprocal benefit is great and unquestioned. There is every circumstance which ought to unite two nations in the bonds of real friendship, and yet it is impossible that the Government or the people of this country can be brought in any public way before the authorities of the United States without some expression being used, or some course taken which is offensive to our honour. What is the cause of this? It cannot arise from the original quarrel. The result of the original quarrel was certainly calculated to leave feelings of humiliation and vindictiveness, but not on the part of the Americans. Nor can it arise from the course taken by England during the Civil War. Nothing is more unjust than the statement that the cause of the Southern States was taken up by either party in this country; and, with regard to the charges so constantly made, that the party represented on this side of the House acted in a party sense with regard to the Southern Confederation, it is utterly untrue. There were hon. Gentlemen, no doubt, on both sides of the House who expressed their opinions and brought forward Motions; but nothing like a party Motion was ever made. The late Lord Derby, who was well acquainted with America, from the first believed that the Northern Confederation would be successful, and as regards the House of Parliament where he was eminent he surely may be assumed to represent the party sitting on this side. As regards this House, I may, perhaps, though with less authority, claim to be regarded as the representative, and under no circumstances whatever did I sanction any such Motion, and for this reason alone, if not others—I felt that it was impossible to limit our interference to the recognition of the Southern States. It would have involved us in a war with the Northern States, and of such a result I would not take the responsibility. Sir, there is no ground for the charge. It is futile. The reason of this offensive conduct of the United States is this — There is a party in America, who certainly do 92 not monopolize the intelligence, the education, and the property of the country, and who, I believe, are not even numerically the strongest, who attempt to obtain political power and to excite political passion by abusing England and its Government because they believe they can do so with impunity. These are the last men who would take this tone if they thought England would resent such conduct; but the idea is impressed upon them that they may insult the Government of England with impunity. You may say, if they have no really hostile intent, and it is a mere electioneering game, is it not better for us to be forbearing and contemptuous? Well, it is not exactly that. The danger is this — Habitually exciting the passions of millions, some unfortunate thing happens or something unfortunate is said in either country; the fire lights up, it is beyond their control, and the two nations are landed in a contest which they can no longer control or prevent. As there is to be a Commission, it would be a very good opportunity for us to come to some clear understanding on the subject, and let it be known England cannot be insulted or injured with impunity; though I should look upon it as the darkest hour of my life if I were to counsel or even support in this House a war with the United States, still the United States should know that they are not an exception to the other countries of the world — that we do not permit ourselves to be insulted by any other country in the world—and that they cannot be an exception. If once our naval and military establishments were in that condition which, I hope, on Thursday, or some early day, we shall find they are—if once it is known that Her Majesty's dominions cannot be assaulted without being adequately defended—all this rowdy rhetoric which is addressed to irresponsible millions, and, as it is supposed, with impunity, will, I believe, cease.

Now, Sir, that is the state of affairs which we have to deal with at the commencement of the Session. And as there is not one of the subjects which I have mentioned which will not, probably, be brought forward for our consideration in its course, it has seemed to me not inappropriate that, on the first day, some general view should be put before the House of the consequences of the war be- 93 tween Germany and France. The whole machinery of States is dislocated. There is not an engagement between Powers which is not impugned or looked upon with suspicion and without confidence, and it is very likely that with every one of the countries to which I have alluded we shall have to discuss our diplomatic engagements and the stipulations which now exist. I hope I may presume to say that I have never been what is called an alarmist. I have never magnified the dangers which this country has had to undergo. I hope I may add that I have never been in favour of a meddlesome policy, though I am not prepared to support what is called non-intervention under all circumstances. I am quite aware that the relations of England to Europe are different now from what they were at the Treaty of Utrecht, or even in the time of Lord Chatham, and that other than European elements, great in themselves and considerably affecting the balance of power, have grown up which could not have been taken into consideration by the statesmen of that day. But I cannot resist the conviction that this country is in a state of great peril, and that it will require the utmost prudence and courage to extricate her from the consequences of recent events. A distinguished man, long a Member of this House, an eminent statesman, whom I am sure even his opponents must always speak of with respect—Lord Russell—has called the attention of the public to the fact that there is in States a natural jealousy of any dominion that rises up chiefly by the influence of commerce. There is no doubt that there have been periods before this when a feeling—not, I think, a rational, but a general feeling—of hostility to the United Kingdom has existed which nothing but fortunate circumstances or the exertion of great energy on our side could have dispelled or baffled. I remember in a discussion in this House 20 years ago, when a feeling of this kind had grown up, reminding the House of what occurred at the Treaty of Cambrai. That was a treaty under which the Confederate Powers of Europe determined, without any cause whatever and from mere jealousy of Venice, of her mercantile spirit and great wealth, and from irritation at the reserve with which she had declined mixing herself up in their separate plans, 94 to cut the pinions of that great Republic. No doubt there is even considerable similarity between the condition of Great Britain and the Republic of Venice. Venice had all the commerce of the world, the finest navy, and a good army, commanded by strangers and foreigners it is true, but still by distinguished generals. She held Cyprus in fee; she possessed the Morea, the peninsula of the Ægean—the same to her that India is to us—the best islands of the Ionian and Ægean seas, and every province of the terra firma of Italy distinguished for civilization and culture, except the Grand Duchy of Milan. But there are also differences between the United Kingdom and Venice. Venice had not a numerous and warlike population. She had not a high-spirited middle-class, and she had a suspicious and tyrannical oligarchy instead of an open and real aristocracy. I understand, that some distinguished statesmen have been speaking of England as a country that is past as regards political power, and as one that has sacrificed all her reputation and her real power merely to the accumulation of wealth. Well, I am glad that during the 50 years of peace that more or less we have enjoyed—we have accumulated wealth, and it is a great consolation to me to know that if—which God forbid—we should have to defend ourselves and assert our position in the world, we could enter, as I am sure no other Power could, into a third campaign without finding the sinews of war fail us. It is a great source of strength to England to feel that if she enters into a quarrel which is necessary and just, she is not likely to find her resources exhausted; whereas, it would be very difficult to fix on any other Power, with all their boastfulness, that in the second or third year of hostilities would not be found upon the different Exchanges of Europe endeavouring to raise loans to an amount, moreover, not as large as we could raise by a single tax. But in the 50 years which have elapsed we have done something besides accumulating money, and it is well that this should be known by those who make such free comments upon England and the English people. The people of the United Kingdom enjoy at this moment complete personal and political liberty. Those two great subjects that used to disturb our predecessors, and were the foundation of half the 95 encumbering orders of this House—trade and religion—are no longer any source of difficulty to us since they have taken the shape of commercial freedom and religious equality. We passed last year a Primary Education Bill, not so various in its elements as I hope to live to see pass, but still a real Elementary Education Bill. The people of this country have had the opportunity of following their industry and enjoying their rights in a manner which cannot be equalled by the records of any modern or ancient nation; and I do not believe that a population thus circumstanced is going to give up such blessings without a struggle, or will yield so pre-eminent a position without at least proving that they are worthy of it. There are many observations that I could make upon details of the gracious Speech and of the Address which we are called upon to vote in answer. It is one of the longest Speeches that, I believe, was ever delivered to Parliament from the Throne. It touches on many subjects; there are expressions in it which might be criticized; and there are some points which might, under ordinary circumstances, warrant even a graver notice. But I think it of importance that we should show to Europe and to America, on the present occasion, when we re-assemble, an united Parliament; and though, no doubt, we shall have differences of opinion on minor points, I apprehend that on the vital question there is no difference of opinion among the great majority of the House. I believe we are resolved that the military and naval institutions of this country shall be adequate to the occasion. We hope—aye, more than hope, we believe—the Government are going to bring forward measures which will meet the exigencies of the case. In that case I shall give those measures my entire support; if there are points of detail of which I may not approve, I shall waive my opposition, if it will endanger the security of their passing. I would even make some sacrifice of principle to support their proposals, if they be adequate to the occasion, as I hope and believe they will be. But, although I am not prepared with any Amendment upon this occasion, or to ask the House to come to any declaration of opinion upon a state of affairs that I do not think devoid of peril, and which all, I 96 think, must admit to be most critical, still I could not be altogether silent, after the conversations which occurred in the last days of the late Session, and the events which have since taken so grave a form. The opinions which I have expressed I have teen emboldened to offer because I know they are shared by those who generally act with me in public life—and also because I know that a great body of persons throughout the country sympathize with us in our resolve, which is, as far as our power may enable us to effect that object, to uphold the greatness of our country, and to maintain the Empire of the Queen. “



Jean Vinatier

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