Mr. Speaker—Some of the longest and most disastrous wars of modern Europe have been wars of succession. The Thirty Years War was a war of succession. It arose from a dispute respecting the inheritance of a duchy in the north of Europe, not very distant from that Duchy of Holstein which now engages general attention. Sir, there are two causes why wars originating in disputed succession become usually of a prolonged and obstinate character. The first is internal discord, and the second foreign ambition. Sometimes a domestic party, under such circumstances, has an understanding with a foreign Potentate; and, again, the ambition of that foreign Potentate excites the distrust, perhaps the envy, of other Powers; and the consequence is, generally speaking, that the dissensions thus created lead to prolonged and complicated struggles. Sir, I apprehend—indeed, I entertain no doubt—that it was the contemplation of such circumstances possibly occurring in our time that the statesmen of Europe, some thirteen years ago, knowing that it was probable that the Royal line of Denmark would cease, and that upon the death of the then King his dominions would be divided, and in all probability disputed, gave their best consideration to obviate the recurrence of such calamities to Europe. Sir, in these days fortunately it is not possible for the Powers of Europe to act under such circumstances as they would have done a hundred years ago. Then they would probably have met in secret conclave and have decided the arrangement for the internal government of an independent kingdom. In our time they said to the King of Denmark, "If you and your people among yourselves can make an arrangement in the case of the contingency of your death without issue, which may put an end to all internal discord, we at least will do this for you and Denmark—we will in your lifetime recognize the settlement thus made, and, so far as the influence of the great Powers can be exercised, we will at least relieve you from the other great cause which, in the case of disputed successions, leads to prolonged wars. We will save you from foreign interference, foreign ambition, and foreign aggression." That, Sir, I believe, is an accurate account and true description of that celebrated Treaty of May, 1852, of which we have heard so much, and of which some characters are given which in my opinion are unauthorized and unfounded. There can be no doubt that the purpose of that treaty was one which entitled it to the respect of the communities of Europe. Its language is simple and expresses its purpose. The Powers who concluded that treaty announced that they concluded it, not from their own will or arbitrary impulse, but at the invitation of the Danish Government, in order to give to the arrangements relative to the succession an additional pledge of stability by an act of European recognition. If hon. Gentlemen look to that treaty—and I doubt not they are familiar with it—they will find the first Article entirely occupied with the recitals of the efforts of the King of Denmark—and, in his mind, successful efforts — to make the necessary arrangements with the principal Estates and personages of his kingdom, in order to effect the requisite alterations in the lex regia regulating the order of succession; and the Article concludes by an invitation and appeal to the Towers of Europe, by a recognition of that settlement, to preserve his kingdom from the risk of external danger. Sir, under that treaty England incurred no legal responsibility which was not equally entered into by France and by Russia. If, indeed, I were to dwell on moral obligations—which I think constitute too dangerous a theme to introduce into a debate of this kind—but if I were to dwell upon that topic, I might say that the moral obligations which France, for example, had incurred to Denmark were of no ordinary character. Denmark had been the ally of France in that severe struggle which forms the most considerable portion of modern history, and had proved a most faithful ally. Even at St. Helena, when contemplating his marvellous career and moralizing over the past, the first Emperor of the dynasty which now governs France rendered justice to the complete devotion of the Kings of Denmark and Saxony—the only Sovereigns, he said, who were faithful under all proof and the extreme of adversity. On the oilier hand, if we look to our relations with Denmark, in her we found a persevering, though a gallant fee. Therefore, so far as moral obligations are concerned, while there are none which should influence England, there is a great sense of gratitude which might have influenced the counsels of France. But, looking to the treaty, there is no legal obligation incurred by England towards Denmark which is not equally shared by Russia and by France. Now, the question which I would first ask the House is this—How is it that, under these circumstances, the position of France relative to Denmark is one so free from embarrassment—I might say so dignified—that she recently received a tribute to her demeanour and unimpeachable conduct in this respect from Her Majesty's Secretary of State; while the position of England under the same obligation, contained in the same treaty, with relation to Denmark is one, all will admit, of infinite perplexity and, I am afraid I must add, terrible mortification? That, Sir, is the first question which I will put to the House, and which, I think, ought to receive a satisfactory answer, among other questions, to-night. And I think that the answer that must first occur to everyone—the logical inference—is that the affairs of this country with respect to our obligations under the Treaty of 1852 must have been very much mismanaged to have produced consequences so contrary to the position occupied by another Power equally bound with ourselves by that treaty. Sir, this is not the first time, as the House is aware, that the dominions of the King of Denmark have been occupied by Austrian and Prussian armies. In the year 1848, when a great European insurrection occurred—I call it insurrection to distinguish it from revolution, for, though its action was very violent, its ultimate effect was almost nothing—but when the great European insurrection took place, there was no portion of Europe more influenced by it than Germany. There is scarcely a political constitution in Germany that was not changed at that period, and scarcely a throne that was not subverted. The King of Denmark, in his character of a Sovereign Prince of Germany, was affected by that great movement. The population of Germany, under the influence of peculiar excitement at that time, were impelled to redress the grievances, as they alleged them to be, of their fellow-countrymen in the dominions of the King of Denmark, who were his subjects. The Duchy of Holstein and the Duchy of Schleswig were invaded, a civil war was excited by ambitious Princes, and that territory was ultimately subjected to a decree of that Diet with which now we have become familiar. The office was delegated to the Austrian and Prussian armies to execute that decree, and they occupied, I believe, at one time the whole continental possessions of the King of Denmark. In 1851 tranquillity had been restored to Europe, and especially to Germany, and the troops of Austria and Prussia ultimately quitted the dominions of the King of Denmark. That they quitted them in consequence of the military prowess of the Danes—though that was far from inconsiderable—I do not pretend to say. They quitted the territory, I believe the truth to be, in consequence of the influence of Russia, at that time irresistible in Germany, and deservedly so, because she had interfered and established tranquillity; and Russia had expressed her opinion that the German forces should quit the dominions of the King of Denmark. They quitted the country, however, under certain conditions. A diplomatic correspondence had taken place between the King of Denmark and the Courts of Berlin and Vienna, and the King of Denmark in that correspondence entered into certain engagements, and those engagements undoubtedly were recommended to a certain degree by the wish, if possible, to remedy the abuses complained of, and also by the desire to find an honourable excuse for the relinquishment of his provinces by the German forces. The King of Denmark never fulfilled the engagements into which he then entered. Partly, I have no doubt, from negligence. We know that it is not the habit of mankind to perform disagreeable duties when pressure is withdrawn. But I have no doubt, and I believe the candid statement to be, that it arose in a great degree from the impracticable character of the engagements into which he had entered. That was in the year 1851. In 1852, tranquillity then being entirely restored, the treaty of May, which regulated the succession, was negotiated. And I may remind hon. Members that in that treaty there is not the slightest reference to these engagements which the King of Denmark had entered into with the Diet of Germany, or with German Powers who were members of the Diet. Nevertheless, the consequence of that state of affairs was this—that though there was no international question respecting Denmark, and although the possible difficulties which might occur of an international character had been anticipated by the Treaty of 1852, still in respect to the King of Denmark's capacity as Duke of Holstein and a Sovereign German prince, a controversy arose between him and the Diet of German) in consequence of those engagements, ex pressed in hitherto private and secret diplomatic correspondence carried on between him and certain German Courts. The House will understand that this was not an international question—it did not affect the public law of Europe; but it was a municipal, local, or, as we now call it, a Federal question. Notwithstanding that in reality it related only to the King of Denmark and the Diet of Germany, in time it attracted the attention of the Government of England and of tin-Ministers of the great Powers, signatories of the Treaty of 1852. For some period after the Treaty of 1852, very little was heard of this Federal question and the controversy between the Diet and the King of Denmark. After the exertions and exhaustion of the revolutionary years the question slept; but it did not die. Occasionally it gave signs of vitality; and as time proceeded, shortly—at least not very long after—the accession of the present Government to office, the controversy between the Diet and the King of Denmark assumed an appearance of very great life and acrimony. Now, Her Majesty's Ministers thought it their duty to interfere in that controversy between the German Diet and the King of Denmark—a controversy strictly Federal and not international. Whether they were wise in taking that course appears very doubtful. My own impression is, and always has been, that it would have been much better to have left the Federal question between the Diet and the King to work itself out Her Majesty's Ministers, however, were of opinion—and no doubt there is something to be said in favour of that opinion—that as the question, although Federal, was one which would probably lead to events which would make it international, it was wiser and better to interfere by anticipation, and prevent, if possible, the Federal execution ever taking place. The consequence of that extreme activity on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers is a mass of correspondence which has been placed on the table, and with which, I doubt not, many Gentlemen have some acquaintance, though they may have been more attracted and absorbed by the interest of the more modern correspondence which has, within the year, been presented to the House. Sir, I should not be doing justice to the Secretary of State if I did not bear testimony to the perseverance and extreme ingenuity with which he conducted that correspondence. The noble Lord the Secretary of State found in that business, no doubt, a subject genial to his nature — namely, drawing up Constitutions for the government, of communities. The noble Lord, we know, is almost as celebrated as a statesman who flourished at the end of the last century for this peculiar talent. I will not criticize any of the lucubrations of the noble Lord at that time. I think his labours are well described in a passage in one of the despatches of a distinguished Swedish statesman — the present Prime Minister, if I am not mistaken—who, when he was called upon to consider a scheme of the English Government for the administration of Schleswig, which entered into minute details with a power and prolixity which could have been acquired only by a constitutional Minister, who had long served an apprenticeship in the House of Commons, said—
The only remark I shall make on this folio volume of between 300 and 400 pages relating to the affairs of Schleswig and Holstein is this—I observe that the other Powers of Europe, who were equally interested in the matter, and equally bound to interfere—if being signataries to the Treaty of 1852 justified interference—did not interpose as the English. Government did. That they disapproved the course taken by us I by no means assert. When we make a suggestion on the subject, tiny receive it with cold politeness; they have no objection to the course we announce we are going to follow, but confine themselves, with scarcely an exception, to this conduct on their part. The noble Lord acted differently. But it is really unnecessary for me to dwell on this part of the question—we may dismiss it from our minds, and I have touched on it only to complete the picture which I am bound to place be- fore the House—in consequence of events which very speedily occurred. All this elaborate and, I may venture to say, not using the word offensively but accurately, pragmatical correspondence of the noble Lord on the affairs of Schleswig and Holstein was carried on in perfect ignorance on the part of the people of this country, who found very little interest in the subject; and even in Europe where affairs of diplomacy always attract more attention, little notice was taken of it. This correspondence, however, culminated in a celebrated despatch which appeared in the autumn of 1862, and then, for the first time, a very great effect was produced in Europe generally—certainly in Germany and France—and some interest began to be excited in England. Sir, the effect of the Secretary of State's management of those transactions had been this, that he had encouraged—I will not now stop to inquire whether intentionally or not, but it is a fact that he had encouraged—the views of what is called the German party in this controversy. That had been the effect of the noble Lord's general interference, but especially it was the result of the despatch which appeared in the autumn of 1862. But, Sir, something shortly and in consequence occurred which removed that impression. Germany being agitated on the subject, England at last, in 1863, having had her attention called to the case, which began to produce some disquietude, and Gentlemen in this House beginning to direct their attention to it, shortly before the prorogation of Parliament the state of affairs caused such a degree of public anxiety, that it was deemed necessary that an inquiry should be addressed to Her Majesty's Government on the subject, and that some means should be taken to settle the uneasiness which prevailed by obtaining from the Ministers a declaration of their policy generally with regard to Denmark. Sir, that appeal was not made, as I need hardly assure or even remind the House—for many were witnesses to it—in any party spirit, or in any way animated, I will say, by that disciplined arrangement with which public questions are by both sides of the House in general very properly brought before us. It was at the end of the Session, when few were left, and when the answer of Her Majesty's Ministers could not at all affect the position of parties, though it might be of inestimable interest and importance in its effect on the opinion of Europe, and on the course of events. That question was brought forward by an hon. Friend of mine (Mr. Seymour FitzGerald), who always speaks on these subjects with the authority of one who knows what he is talking about. Well, Sir, a communication was made to the noble Lord the First Minister on the subject, and it was understood on this side of the House, from the previous declarations of the noble Lord, and our experience of his career generally, that it was not an appeal which would be disagreeable to him, or one which he would have any desire to avoid. The noble Lord was not taken by surprise. He was communicated with privately, and he himself fixed the day—it was a morning sitting—when he would come down and explain the views of the Government in regard to our relations with Denmark. I am bound to say that the noble Lord spoke with all that perspicuity and complete detail with which he always treats diplomatic subjects, and in which we acknowledge him to be a master. The noble Lord entered into particulars, and gave to the House—who, with few exceptions, knew little about the matter— not only a popular, but generally an accurate account of the whole question. He described the constitution of the Diet itself. He explained, for the first time, in Parliament, what Federal Execution meant. The noble Lord was a little unhappy in his prophecy as to what was going to happen with regard to Federal Execution; but we are all liable to error when we prophesy, and it was the only mistake he made. The noble Lord said he did not think there would be a Federal Execution, and that if there were we might be perfectly easy in our minds, for it would not lead to any disturbance in Europe. The noble Lord also described the position of Holstein as a German Duchy, in which the King of Denmark was a Sovereign German Prince, and in that capacity a member of the Diet, and subject to the laws of the Diet. The Duchy of Schleswig, the noble Lord said, was not a German Duchy, and the moment it was interfered with, international considerations would arise. But the noble Lord informed us in the most re-assuring spirit that his views on our relations with Denmark were such as they had always been. I will quote the exact passage from the noble Lord's speech, not because it will not be familiar to the majority of those whom I am addressing, but because on an occasion like the present, one should refer to documents so that it may not be said afterwards that statements have been garbled or misrepresented. The noble Lord concluded his general observations in this manner—"Generally speaking, the monarchs of Europe have found it difficult to manage one Parliament, but I observe, to my surprise, that Lord Russell is of opinion that the King of Denmark will be able to manage four."
I say that is a clear, statesmanlike, and manly declaration of policy. It was not a hurried or hasty expression of opinion, because on a subject of that importance and that character the noble Lord never; makes a hasty expression of opinion. He was master of the subject and could not be taken by surprise. But on that occasion there was no chance of his being taken by surprise. The occasion was arranged. The noble Lord was perfectly informed of what our object on this side was. The noble Lord sympathized with it. He wanted the disquietude of the public mind in England, and on the Continent especially, to be soothed and satisfied, and he knew that he could not arrive at such a desirable result more happily and more completely than by a frank exposition of the policy of the Government. Sir, it is my business to-night to vindicate the noble Lord from those who have treated this declaration of policy as one used only to amuse the House of Commons. I am here to prove the sincerity of that declaration. It is long since the speech of the noble Lord was delivered, and we have now upon our table the diplomatic correspondence which was then carrying on by Her Majesty's Government on the subject. It was then secret—it is now known to us all; and I will show you what at that very time was the tone of the Secretary of State in addressing the Courts of Germany mainly interested in the question. I will show how entirely and how heartily the secret efforts of the Government were exercised in order to carry into effect the policy which was publicly in the House of Commons announced by the noble Lord. I think it must have been very late in July that the noble Lord spoke—upon the 23rd, I believe—and I have here the despatches which, nearly at the same period, were sending by the Secretary of State to the German Courts. For example, hear how, on the 31st of July, the Secretary of State writes to Lord Bloomfield at Vienna—"We are asked what is the policy and the course of Her Majesty's Government respecting that dispute. We concur entirely with the hon. Gentleman (the Member for Horsham), and I am satisfied with all reasonable men in Europe, including those in France and Russia, in desiring that the independence, the integrity, and the rights of Denmark may be maintained. We are convinced—I am convinced at least—that if any violent attempt were made to overthrow those rights and interfere with that independence, those who made the attempt would find in the result that it would not be Denmark alone with which they would have to contend." — [3 Hansard, clxxii. 1252.]
And what is the answer of Lord Bloom-field? On the 6th of August, after having communicated with Count Rechberg, he writes —"You will tell Count Rechberg that if Germany persists in confounding Schleswig with Holstein, other Powers of Europe may confound Holstein with Schleswig, and deny the right of Germany to interfere with the one any more than she has with the other, except as a European Power. Such a pretension might be as dangerous to the independence and integrity of Germany as the invasion of Schleswig might be to the independence and integrity of Denmark"—Denmark and Germany, No. 2, 115.
I am showing how sincere the policy of the noble Lord was, and that the speech which we have been told was mainly for the House of Commons was really the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Well, that was to Austria. Let us now see what was the despatch to Prussia. In the next month Earl Russell writes to our Minister at the Prussian Court:—"Before leaving his Excellency I informed him that the Swedish Government would not remain indifferent to a Federal Execution in Holstein, and that this measure of the Diet, if persisted in, might have serious consequences in Europe."— p. 117.
I have now shown the House what was the real policy of the Government with respect to our relations with Denmark when Parliament was prorogued, and I have also shown that the speech of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown was echoed by the Secretary of State to Austria and Prussia. I have shown, therefore, that it was a sincere policy, as announced by the noble Lord. I will now show that it was a wise and a judicious policy. Sir, the noble Lord having made this statement to the House of Commons, the House was disbanded, the Members went into the country with perfect tranquillity of mind respecting these affairs of Denmark and Germany. The speech of the noble Lord re-assured the country, and gave them confidence that the noble Lord knew what he was about. And the noble Lord knew that we had a right to be confident in the policy he had announced, because at that period the noble Lord was aware that France was perfectly ready to co-operate with Her Majesty's Government in any measure which they thought proper to adopt with respect to the vexed transactions between Denmark and Germany. Nay, France was not only ready to co-operate, but she spontaneously offered to act with us in any way we desired. The noble Lord made his speech at the end of July—I think the 23rd of July—and it is very important to know what at that moment were our relations with France in reference to this subject. I find in the Correspondence on the table a despatch from Lord Cowley, dated July the 31st. The speech of the noble Lord having been made on the 23 rd, this is a despatch written upon the same subject on the 31st. Speaking of the affairs of Germany and Denmark, Lord Cowley writes—"I have caused the Prussian Chargé ď Affaires to be informed that if Austria and Prussia persist in advising the Confederation to make a Federal Execution now, they will do so against the advice already given by Her Majesty's Government, and must be responsible for the consequences, whatever they may be. The Diet should bear in mind that there is a material difference between the political bearing of a military occupation of a territory which is purely and solely a portion of the Confederation, and the invasion of a territory which, although part of the German Confederation, is also portion of the territory of an independent Sovereign, whose dominions are counted as an element in the balance of power in Europe."
I have now placed before the House the real policy of the Government at the time Parliament was prorogued last year. I have shown you that it was a sincere policy when expressed by the noble Lord. I have shown that it was a sound and judicious policy, because Her Majesty's Government was then conscious that France was ready to co-operate with this country, France having expressed its desire to aid us in the settlement of this question. Well, Sir, at the end of the summer of last year, and at the commencement of the autumn, after the speeches and despatches of the First Minister and the Secretary of State, and after, at the end of July, that re-assuring announcement from the French Government, there was great excitement in Germany. The German people have been for some time painfully conscious that they do not exercise that influence in Europe which they believe is due to the merits, moral, intellectual and physical, of forty millions of population, homogeneous and speaking the same language. During the summer of last year this feeling was displayed in a remarkable manner, and it led to the meeting at Frankfort, which has not been hitherto mentioned in reference to these negotiations, but which was in reality a very significant affair. The German people at that moment found the old question of Denmark—the relations between Denmark and the Diet—to be the only practical question upon which they could exhibit their love of a United Fatherland and their sympathy with a kindred race who were subjects of a Foreign Prince. Therefore there was very great excitement in Germany on the subject; and to those who are not completely acquainted with the German character, and who take for granted that the theories they put forth are all to be carried into action, there were no doubt many symptoms which were calculated to alarm the Cabinet. Her Majesty's Government, firm in their policy, firm in their ally, knowing that the moderate counsels, urged by France and England in a spirit which was sincere and which could not be mistaken, must ultimately lead to some conciliatory arrangements between the King of Denmark and the Diet, I suppose did not much disquiet themselves respecting the agitation in Germany. But towards the end of the summer and the commencement of the autumn—in the month of September—after the meeting at Frankfort and after other circumstances, the noble Lord the Secretary of State, as a prudent man—a wise, cautious, and prudent Minister—thought it would be just as well to take time by the forelock, to prepare for emergencies, and to remind his allies at Paris of the kind and spontaneous expression on their part of their desire to co-operate with him in arranging this business—I think it was on the 16th of September that Lord Russell, the Secretary of State, applied in this language to our Minister at Paris—our Ambassador (Lord Cowley) being at that time absent—"M. Drouyn de Lhuys expressed himself as desirous of acting in concert with Her Majesty's Government in this matter."
Sir, I think that was a very prudent step on the part of the Secretary of State. It was virtually a reminder of the offer which France had made some months before. Yet, to the surprise, and entirely to the discomfiture of Her Majesty's Government, this application was received at first with coldness, and afterwards with absolute refusal. Well, Sir, I pause now to inquire what had occasioned this change in the relations between the two Courts. Why was France, which at the end of the Session of Parliament was so heartily with England and so approving the policy of the noble Lord with respect to Denmark and Germany that she voluntarily offered to act with us in endeavouring to settle the question—why was France two or three months afterwards so entirely changed? Why was she so cold, and ultimately in I the painful position of declining to act with us? I stop for a moment my ex-animation of this Correspondence to look for the causes of this change of feeling, and I believe they may be easily discerned. Sir, at the commencement of last year an insurrection broke out in Poland, Unhappily, insurrection in Poland is not an unprecedented event. This insurrection was extensive and menacing; but there had been insurrections in Poland before quite as extensive and far more menacing—the insurrection of 1831, for example, for at that time Poland possessed a national army second to none for valour and discipline. Well, Sir, the Question of the Polish Insurrection in 1831 was a subject of deep consideration with the English Government of that day. They j went thoroughly into the matter; they took the soundings of that question; it was investigated maturely, and the Government of King William the Fourth arrived at these two conclusions—first, that it was not expedient for England to go to war for the restoration of Poland; and second, that if England was not prepared to go to war, any interference of another kind on her part would only aggravate the calamities of that fated people. These were the conclusions at which the Government of Lord Grey arrived, and they were announced to Parliament. This is a question which the English Government has had more than one opportunity of considering—and in every instance they considered it fully and completely. It recurred again in the year 1855, when a Conference was sitting at Vienna in the midst of the Russian war, and again the English Government—the Government of the Queen—had to deal with the subject of Poland. It was considered by them under the most favourable circumstances for Poland, for we were at war then, and at war with Russia. But after performing all the duties of a responsible Ministry on that occasion, Her Majesty's Government arrived at these conclusions—first, that it was not only not expedient for England to go to war to restore Poland, but that it was not expedient even to prolong a war for that object; and, in the next place, that any interference with a view to provoke a war in Poland without action on our part, was not just to the Poles, and must only tend to bring upon them increased disasters. I say, therefore, that this question of Poland in the present century, and within the last thirty-four years, has been twice considered by different Governments; and when I remind the House that on its consideration by the Cabinet of Lord Grey in 1831 the individual who filled the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and who, of course, greatly guided the opinion of his Colleagues on such a question, was the noble Lord the present First Minister of the Crown, and when I also remind the House that the British Plenipotentiary at the Conference of Vienna in 1855, on whose responsibility in a great degree the decision then come to was arrived at, is the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I think that England, when the great difficulties of last year with respect to Poland occurred, had a right to congratulate herself that, in a situation of such gravity, and at an emergency when a mistake might produce incalculable evils, her fortunes were regulated not only by two statesmen of such great ability and experience, but by statesmen who, on this subject, possessed peculiar advantages, who had thoroughly entered into the question, who knew all its issues, all the contingencies that might possibly arise in its management, and who on the two previous occasions on which it had been submitted to the consideration of England, had been the guiding Ministers to determine her to a wise course of action. Now, I must observe that what is called the Polish question occupies a different position in France from that which it occupies in England. I will not admit that, in deep sympathy with the Poles, the French are superior to the English people. I believe I am only stating accurately the feelings of this country when I say that among men of all classes there is no modern event which is looked back to with more regret than the partition of Poland. It is universally acknowledged by them to be one of the darkest pages of the history of the Eighteenth century. But in France the Polish question is not a question which merely interests the sentiments of the millions. It is a political question, and a political question of the very highest importance—a question which interests Ministers, and Cabinets, and Princes. There is a belief in France which has made the restoration of Poland a traditionary policy of that country—a belief that its restoration would add to the power and glory of Prance. In France it is also a practical question, because there are men even now alive in France who remember that the French eagles have floated over the ancient capitals of Poland; if they remember it with some degree of pride I should think they must likewise remember it with some degree of remorse, when they recollect the opportunity they let pass. The House must therefore bear in mind that when an insurrection occurs in Poland it is a very different affair in France from what it is in England. It is not an affair which merely interests the frequenters of cafés and casinos—it at once comes home to Ministers, Cabinets, and Princes. Well, the ruler of France, a sagacious Prince and a lover of peace, as the Secretary of State has just informed us, was of course perfectly alive to the grave issues involved in what is called the Polish question. But the Emperor knew perfectly well that England had already had opportunities of considering it in the completest manner, and had arrived at a settled conclusion with regard to it. Therefore, with characteristic caution, he exercised great reserve, and held out little encouragement to the representatives of the Polish people. He knew well that in 1855 he himself, our ally—and with us a conquering ally—had urged this question on the English Government, and that, under the most favourable circumstances for the restoration of Poland, we had adhered to our traditionary policy, neither to go to war nor to interfere. Therefore, the French Government exhibited a wise reserve on the subject. But after a short time, what must have been the astonishment of the Emperor of the French when he found the English Government embracing the cause of Poland with extraordinary ardour! The noble Lord the Secretary of State and the noble Lord the First Minister, but especially the former, announced this policy as if it were a policy new to the consideration of statesmen and likely to lead to immense results. He absolutely served a notice to quit on the Emperor of Russia. He sent a copy of this despatch to all the Courts of Europe which were signataries of the Treaty of Vienna and invited them to follow his example. From the King of Portugal down to the King of Sweden, there was not a signatary of that treaty who was not, as it were, clattering at the palace gates of St. Petersburg, and calling the Czar to account respecting the affairs of Poland. For three months Europe generally believed that there was to be a war on a great scale, of which the restoration of Poland was to be one of the main objects. Is it at all remarkable that the French Government and the French people, cautious as they were before, should have responded to such invitations and such stimulating proposals? We know how the noble Lord fooled them to the top of their bent. The House recollects the six propositions to which the attention of the Emperor of Russia was called in the most peremptory manner. The House recollects the closing scene, when it was arranged that the Ambassadors of France, Austria, and England, should on the very same day appear at the hotel of the Minister of Russia and present Notes ending with three identical paragraphs to show the agreement of the Powers. An impression pervaded Europe that there was to be a general war, and that England, France, and Austria were united to restore Poland. The House remembers the end of all this—it remembers the reply of the Russian Minister, couched in a tone of haughty sarcasm and of indignation that deigned to be ironical. There was then but one step to take according to the views of the French Government, and that was action. They appealed to that England which had itself thus set the example of agitation on the subject; and England, wisely as I think, recurred to her tradi- tionary policy, the Government confessing that it was a momentary indiscretion which had animated her councils for three or four months; that they never meant anything more than words; and a month afterwards, I believe, they sent to St. Petersburg an obscure despatch, which may be described as an apology. But this did not alter the position of the French Government and the French Emperor. The Emperor had been induced by us to hold out promises which he could not fulfil. He was placed in a false position towards both the people of Poland and the people of France; and, therefore, Sir, I am not surprised that when the noble Lord the Secretary of State, a little alarmed by the progress of affairs in Germany, thought it discreet to reconnoitre his position on the 17th of September, he should have been received at Paris with coldness, and, ultimately, that his despatch should have been answered in this manner. I fear that I may weary the House with my narrative, but I will not abuse the privilege of reading extracts, which is generally very foreign to my desire. Yet, on a question of this kind it is better to have the documents, and not lay oneself open to the charge of garbling. Mr. Grey, writing to Lord Russell on the 18th of September, 1863, says—"As it might produce some danger to the balance of power especially if the integrity and independence of Denmark were in any way impaired by the demands of Germany and the measures consequent thereupon if the Government of the Emperor of the French are of opinion that any benefit would be likely to follow from an offer of good services on the part of Great Britain and France, Her Majesty's Government would be ready to take that course. If, however, the Government of France would consider such a step as likely to be unavailing, the two Powers might remind Austria, Prussia, and the Diet that any act on their part tending to weaken the integrity and independence of Denmark would be at variance with the Treaty of the 8th of May, 1852."—No. 2, 130.
Well, Sir, that was an intimation to the noble Lord with respect to the change in the relations between England and France that was significant—I think it was one that the noble Lord should have duly weighed—and when he remembered the position which this country occupied with regard to Denmark—that it was a position under the treaty which did not bind us to interfere more than France itself—conscious, at the same time, that any co-operation from Russia in the same cause could hardly be counted upon—I should have said that a prudent Government would have well considered that position, and that they would not have taken any course which committed them too strongly to any decided line of action. But so far as I can judge from the Correspondence before us, that was not the tone taken by Her Majesty's Government—because here we have extracts from the Correspondence of the Secretary of State to the Swedish Minister, to the Diet at Frankfort, and a most important despatch to Lord Bloomfield, all in the fortnight that elapsed after the receipt of the despatch of Mr. Grey that notified the change in the feeling of the French Government. It is highly instructive that we should know what effect that produced in the system and policy of Her Majesty's Government. Immediately—almost the day after the receipt of that despatch—the Secretary of State wrote to the Swedish Minister—"The second mode of proceeding suggested by your Lordship—namely, 'To remind Austria, Prussia, and the German Diet that any acts on their part tending to weaken the integrity and independence of Denmark, would be at variance with the Treaty of the 8th of May, 1852,' would be in a great measure analogous to the course pursued by Great Britain and France in the Polish question. He had no inclination (and he frankly avowed that he should so speak to the Emperor) to place France in the same position with reference to Germany as she had been placed with regard to Russia. The formal notes addressed by the three Powers to Russia had received an answer which literally meant nothing, and the position in which those three great Powers were now placed was anything but dignified; and if England and France were to address such a reminder as that proposed to Austria, Prussia, and the German Confederation, they must be prepared to go further, and to adopt a course of action more in accordance with the dignity of two great Powers than they were now doing in the Polish question. … Unless Her Majesty's Government was prepared to go further, if necessary, than the mere presentation of a note, and the receipt of an evasive reply, he was sure the Emperor would not consent to adopt your Lordship's suggestion."—No. 2, 131.
Then on the 29th of September—that is, only nine or ten days after the receipt of the French despatch—we have this most important despatch, which I shall read at some little length. It is at page 136, and is really addressed to the Diet. The Secretary of State says—"Her Majesty's Government set the highest value on the independence and integrity of Denmark. ….Her Majesty's Government will be ready to remind Austria and Prussia of their treaty obligations to respect the integrity and independence of Denmark."—No. 2, 137–8.
My object in reading this despatch is to show that, after the indication of the change of feeling on the part of France, the policy—the sincere policy—of the Government was not modified. The Secretary of State writes thus on the 30th of September to Lord Bloomfield at Vienna—"Her Majesty's Government by the Treaty of London, of May 8, 1852, is bound to respect the integrity and independence of Denmark. The Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia have taken the same engagement. Her Majesty could not see with indifference a military occupation of Holstein, which is only to cease on terms injuriously affecting the constitution of the whole Danish Monarchy. Her Majesty's Government could not recognize this military occupation as a legitimate exercise of the powers of the Confederation, or admit that it could properly be called a Federal Execution. Her Majesty's Government could not be indifferent to the bearing of such an act upon Denmark and upon European interests. Her Majesty's Government therefore earnestly entreat the German Diet to pause and to submit the questions in dispute between Germany and Denmark to the mediation of other Powers unconcerned in the controversy, but deeply concerned in the maintenance of the peace of Europe and the independence of Denmark."—No. 2, 145.
Now, this takes us to the end of September; and I think the House up to this time tolerably clearly understands the course of the Correspondence. Nothing of any importance happened in October that requires me to pause and consider it. We arrive, then, at the month of November, and now approach very important and critical affairs. The month of November was remarkable for the occurrence of two great events which completely changed the character and immensely affected the aspect of the whole relations between Denmark and Germany, and which produced consequences which none of us may see the end of. Early in November the Emperor of the French proposed a European Congress. His position was such—as he himself has described it there can be no indelicacy in saying so—his position had become painful from various causes, but mainly from the manner in which he had misapprehended the conduct of the English Government with regard to Poland. He saw great troubles about to occur in Europe; he wished to anticipate their settlement; he felt himself in a false position with respect to his own subjects, because he had experienced a great diplomatic discomfiture; but he was desirous—and there is no doubt of the sincerity of the declaration—he was desirous of still taking a course which should restore and retain the cordial understanding with this country. He proposed then a general Congress. Well—when Parliament met on the 4th of February I had to make certain observations on the general condition of affairs, and I gave my opinion as to the propriety of Her Majesty's Government refusing to be a party to that Congress. Generally speaking, I think that a Congress should not precede action. If you wish any happy and permanent results from a Congress, it should rather follow the great efforts of nations; and, when they are somewhat exhausted, give them the opportunity of an honourable settlement. Sir, I did not think it my duty to conceal my opinion, Her Majesty's Government having admitted that they had felt it their duty to refuse a proposition of that character. I should have felt that I was wanting in that ingenuousness and fair play in politics which I hope, whoever sits on that bench or this, we shall always pursue; if, when the true interests of the country are concerned, agreeing as I did with the Government, I did not express frankly that opinion. But, Sir, I am bound to say that had I been aware of what has been communicated to us by the papers on the table—had I been aware, when I spoke on the 4th of February, that only a week before Parliament met—that only a week before we were assured by a Speech from the Throne that Her Majesty was continuing to carry on negotiations in the interest of peace—that Her Majesty's Government had made a proposition to France which must inevitably have produced, if accepted, a great European war, I should have given my approbation in terms much more qualified. But, Sir, whatever difference of opinion there might be as to the propriety or impropriety of Her Majesty's Government acceding to the Congress, I think there were not then—I am sure there are not now—two opinions as to the mode and manner in which that refusal was conveyed. Sir, when the noble Lord vindicated that curt and, as I conceive, most offensive reply, he dilated the other night on the straightforwardness of British Ministers, and said, that by whatever else their language might be characterized, it was distinguished by candour and clearness, and that even where it might be charged with being coarse it at least conveyed a determinate meaning. Well, Sir, I wish that if our diplomatic language is characterized by clearness and straightforwardness, some of that spirit had distinguished the despatches and declarations addressed by the noble Lord to the Court of Denmark. It is a great pity that we did not have a little of that rude frankness when the fortunes of that ancient kingdom were at stake. But, Sir, another event of which I must now remind the House happened about that time. In November the King of Denmark died. The death of the King of Denmark entirely changed the character of the question between Germany and Denmark, The question was a Federal question before, as the noble Lord, from the despatches I have read, was perfectly aware; but by the death of the King of Denmark it became an international question, because the controversy of the King of Denmark was with the Diet of Germany, which had not recognized the change in the Lex Regia, or the changes in the succession to the various dominions of the King. It was, therefore, an international question of magnitude and of a menacing character. Under these circumstances, when the question became European, when the difficulties were immensely magnified and multiplied—the offer of a Congress having been made on the 5th of November, and not refused until the 27th—the King of Denmark having died on the 16th—it was, I say, with a complete knowledge of the increased risk and of the increased dimensions of the interests at stake, that the noble Lord sent that answer to the invitation of the Emperor of the French—I say, Sir, that at this moment it became the Government of England seriously to consider their position. With the offer of the Congress, and with the death of the King of Denmark—with these two remarkable events before the noble Lord's eyes, it is my duty to remind the House of the manner in which the noble Lord the Secretary of State addressed the European Powers. Neither of these great events seems to have induced the noble Lord to modify his tone. On the 19th of November, the King having just died, the Secretary of State writes to Sir Alexander Malet, our Minister to the Diet, to remind him that all the Powers of Europe had agreed to the Treaty of 1852. On the 20th, he writes a letter of menace to the German Powers saying that Her Majesty's Government expect, as a matter of course, that all the Powers will recognize the succession of the King of Denmark as heir of all the States which, according to the Treaty of London, were united under the sceptre of the late King. And on the 23rd, four days before he refused the invitation to the Congress, he writes to Lord Bloomfield—"Her Majesty's Government trust that no act of Federal Execution to which Austria may be a party, and no act of war against Denmark on the ground of the affairs of Schleswig, will be allowed to clash with this primary and essential treaty obligation. Her Majesty's Government indeed entertain a full confidence that the Government of Austria is as deeply impressed as Her Majesty's Government with the conviction that the independence and integrity of Denmark form an essential element in the balance of power in Europe."—No. 3, 147.
To Sir Augustus Paget, our Minister at Copenhagen, on November 30—the House will recollect that this was after he had refused the Congress, after the King had died, and after the question had become an international one—he writes announcing his refusal of the Congress, and proposes the sole mediation of England. Then he writes to Sir Alexander Malet in the same month, that Her Majesty's Government can only leave to Germany the sole responsibility of raising a war in Europe, which the Diet seemed bent on making. That is the tone which the Government adopted, after the consideration, as we are bound to believe, which the question demanded—after having incurred the responsibility of refusing the Congress offered by the Emperor of the French, after the death of the King of Denmark, after the question had been changed from a Federal into an international one, such, I repeat, is the tone they took up, and in which they sent their menacing messages to every Court in Germany—I say that at the death of the King of Denmark it behoved Her Majesty's Ministers, instead of adopting such a course, maturely to consider their position in relation to the events which had occurred. There were two courses open to Her Majesty's Government—both intelligible, both honourable. It was open to them, after the death of the King of Denmark to have acted, as France had resolved under the same circumstances to act—France, who occupies, we are told, a position in reference to these matters so dignified and satisfactory that it has received the compliments even of a baffled Minister. That course was frankly announced shortly afterwards to the English Minister by the Minister of France in Denmark. On the 19th November, General Floury said to Lord Wodehouse at Copenhagen—"Her Majesty's Government would have no right to interfere on behalf of Denmark if the troops of the Confederation should enter Holstein on Federal grounds. But if Execution were enforced on international grounds, the Powers who signed the Treaty of 1852 would have a right to interfere."—No. 3, 230.
If England had adopted that course, it would have been intelligible and honourable. We were not bound by the Treaty of 1852, to go to the assistance of Denmark if she became involved in a war with Germany. No one pretends that we were. As a matter of high policy—much as we may regret any disturbance in the territorial limits of Europe—being a country the policy of which is a policy of tranquillity and peace—there were no adequate considerations which could have justified England in entering into an extensive European war, without allies to prevent a war between Denmark and Germany. That was, I say, an honourable and intelligible course. There was another course equally intelligible and equally honourable. Though I am bound to say that the course which I should have recommended the country to take would have been to adopt the same position as that of France, yet, if the Government really entertained the views with respect to the balance of power which have been expressed occasionally in this House by the noble Lord, and in a literary form by the Secretary of State—from which I may say I disagree, because they appear to me to be founded on the obsolete tradition of an antiquated system, and because I think that the elements from which we ought to form an opinion as to the distribution of the power of the world must he collected from a much more extensive area, and must be formed of larger and more varied elements—but let that pass—yet I say, if Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that the balance of power was endangered by a quarrel between Germany and Denmark, they were justified in giving their advice to Denmark, in threatening Germany, and in taking the general management of the affairs of Denmark; but they were bound, if a war did take place between Germany and Denmark, to support Denmark. Instead of that, they invented a process of conduct which I hope is not easily exampled in the history of this country, and which I can only describe in one sentence—it consisted of menaces never accomplished and promises never fulfilled. With all these difficulties they never hesitate in their tone. At least, let us do them this justice—there never were, in semblance, more determined Ministers. They seemed at least to rejoice in the phantom of a proud courage. But what do they do? They send a special envoy to Denmark who was to enforce their policy and arrange everything. Formally the special Envoy was sent to congratulate the King on his accession to the Throne of Denmark—and all the other Powers did the same—but in reality the mission of Lord Wodehouse was for greater objects than that, and his instructions are before us in full. Without wearying the House by reading the whole of those instructions, I will read one paragraph, which is the last, and which is as it were a summary of the whole. They were written at the end of December. Recollect, this is the policy of the Government after refusing the Congress, and after the death of the King of Denmark—which had, therefore, incurred a still deeper responsibility, and which one must suppose had deeply considered all the issues involved. This is the cream of the instructions given by the Government to Lord Wodehouse—"That his own instructions from the Emperor were not to take part in any negotiations here, but to tell the Danish Government explicitly that, if Denmark became involved in a war with Germany, France would not come to her assistance."
Lord Wodehouse could not possibly be at fault as to what he was to do when he arrived at his destination. His was, no doubt, a significant appointment. He was a statesman of some experience; he had held a subordinate but important position in the administration of our foreign affairs; he had been a Minister at a Northern Court; he had recently distinguished himself in Parliament by a speech on the question of Germany and Denmark, in which he took a decidedly Danish view. Lord Wodehouse received clear instructions as to what he was to do. But, sit the same time, what was the conduct of the Secretary of State r While Lord Wodehouse was repairing to his post did the Secretary of State in the least falter in his tone? It was about this time that the great diplomatic reprimand was sent to Sir Alexander Malet for having talked of the "Protocol" of 1852 instead of the "Treaty." This was the time that instructions were sent out that if anybody had the hardihood to mention the "Protocol" of '52 they were immediately to be stopped. However elevated their position might be, even if it were M. Bismark himself, they were to be pulled up directly, in the full flow of their eloquence; note was to be taken of this great diplomatic lapsus, and the Minister was to telegraph instantly home to his Government how he had carried out his instructions in this respect. On the 17th of December the noble Lord thus wrote to Sir Andrew Buchanan, our Ambassador at Berlin—"The result to be arrived at is the fulfilment of the Treaty of May 8, 1852, and of the engagements entered into by Prussia and Austria and Denmark in 1851–2."—No. 3, 353.
Similar despatches were sent to Wurtemberg, Hanover, and Saxony. On the 23rd of December the noble Earl wrote to Sir Andrew Buchanan—"Let it suffice at present for Her Majesty's Government to declare that they would consider any departure from the Treaty of Succession of 1852, by Powers who signed or acceded to that treaty, as entirely inconsistent with good faith," No. 3, 383.
[Cheers.] I want to know what hon. Members mean by cheering the words I have just quoted. If you wish to convey even to a little Power that if it does a certain thing you will go to war with it, you take care not to announce your intention in an offensive manner; because, were you to do so, probably, even the smallest Power in Europe would not yield. And certainly if you wish to tell a great Power in Europe what may be eventually the consequences if it should adopt a different line from that which you desire, you would not abruptly declare that if it declined to accede to your wish you would declare war. Why, there are no despatches on record in the world—there is no record in any Foreign Office of language of this kind. The question is, what interpretation can be put on these threats. The Secretary of State writes again on the 25th of December to Sir Andrew Buchanan, stating that—"If the overthrow of the dynasty now reigning in Denmark is sought by Germany the most serious consequences may ensue."—No. 3, 411.
On the 26th of December the Secretary of State writes to Sir Alexander Malet and sends him a copy of the Treaty of 1852, in order that he may communicate it to the Diet. Now, that is the state of affairs after the King of Denmark's death—after he had been perfectly acquainted with the policy of France; after he had been frankly told that the French Emperor had explicitly informed Denmark that if she got involved in war with Germany France would not come to her assistance. Now, the words "if she went to war" might have been interpreted in two ways; because she might get into war without any fault of her own, and Germany might be the aggressor; but there could be no mistake in regard to the words "if she became involved in war." Neither Denmark nor England could make any mis- take in regard to the policy of France, which the Secretary of State now says was a magnanimous policy. Notwithstanding these threats, notwithstanding these repeated menaces, and notwithstanding every effort made by Her Majesty's Government to prevent it, Federal Execution took place, as it was intended to take place. One day after the most menacing epistle which I have ever read—the day after the copy of the Treaty of 1852 had been solemnly placed before the Diet by Sir Alexander Malet—on the 27th of December, Federal Execution took place. At any rate, I do not think that is evidence of the just influence of England in the counsels of Germany. What was the course of Her Majesty's Government at this critical conjuncture? Why, Sir, they went again to France. After all that had happened their only expedient was to go and supplicate France. I will read the letter. [Mr. LAYARD: Hear, hear!] The hon. Gentleman seems to triumph in the recollection of mistakes and disappointments. I will give him the date, but I should think it must really be seared upon his conscience. The 27th of December is the date of the Federal execution; and Her Majesty's Government must have been in a state of complete panic, because on the 28th they make application to France, which is answered in a few hours by Lord Cowley:—"I said Her Majesty's Government were most sincerely anxious to—"[Laughter] I wish really to be candid, not to misrepresent anything, and to put the case before the House without garbling any of the despatches—"I said that Her Majesty's Government were most sincerely anxious to act with the Imperial Government in this question." No doubt they were. I am vindicating your conduct. I believe in your sincerity throughout. It is only your intense incapacity that I denounce. The passage in the Despatch is Shaksperean; it is one of those dramatic descriptions which only a masterly pen could accomplish. Lord Cowley went on—"Any precipitate action on the part of the German Confederation may lead to consequences fatal to the peace of Europe, and may involve Germany, in particular, in difficulties of a most serious nature."—No. 4, 414.
Well, Sir, this received a curt and unsatisfactory reply. Nothing could be obtained from that plaintive appeal of Lord Cowley. Well, what did Her Majesty's Government do? Having received information that the threat of Federal execution had been fulfilled, having appealed to France, and been treated in the manner I have described, what did the Government do? Why, the Secretary of State within twenty-four hours afterwards, penned the fiercest despatch he had ever yet written. It is dated December 31, 1863, and it is addressed to Sir Andrew Buchanan—"Her Majesty's Government felt that if the two Powers could agree war might be avoided, otherwise the danger of war was imminent. M. Drouyn de Lhuys said he partook this opinion; but as his Excellency made no further observation I remarked it would be a grievous thing if the difference of opinion which had arisen upon the merits of a general Congress were to produce an estrangement which would leave each Government to pursue its own course. I hoped that this would not be the case. Her Majesty's Government would do all in their power to avoid it. I presumed I might give them the assurance that the Imperial Government were not decided to reject the notion of a Conference?"—No. 4, 444.
[Ministerial cheers.] You cheer as if it were a surprising thing that the Secretary of State should have written a single sentence of common sense. These are important State documents, and I hope Her Majesty's Government are not so fallen that there is not a Minister among them who is able to write a despatch—I do not say a bad despatch, but a very important one. I wish to call attention to its importance—"Her Majesty's Government do not hold that war would relieve Prussia from the obligations of the Treaty of 1852. The King of Denmark would by that treaty be entitled still to be acknowledged as the Sovereign of all the dominions of the late King of Denmark. He has been so entitled from the time of the death of the late King. A war of conquest undertaken by Germany avowedly for the purpose of adding some parts of the Danish dominions to the territory of the German Confederation might, if successful, alter the state of possession contemplated by the Treaty of London, and give to Germany a title by conquest to parts of the dominions of the King of Denmark. The prospect of such an accession may no doubt be a temptation to those who think it can be accomplished; but Her Majesty's Government cannot believe that Prussia will depart from the straight line of good faith in order to assist in carrying such a project into effect."—No. 4, 445.
Well, Sir, that, I think, was a bold despatch to write after the rejection, for the second or third time, of our overtures to France. That brings us up to the last day of the year. But before I proceed to more recent transactions it is necessary to call the attention of the House to the remarkable contrast between the menaces lavished on Germany and the expectations—to use the mildest term—that were held out to Denmark. The first great object of Her Majesty's Government when the difficulties began to be very serious was to induce Denmark to revoke the Patent of Holstein—that is, to terminate its constitution. The constitution of Holstein had been granted very recently before the death of the King, with a violent desire on the part of the monarch to fulfil his promises. It was a wise and excellent constitution, by which Holstein became virtually independent. It enjoyed the fulness of self-government, and was held only by a sovereign tie to Denmark, as Norway is held to Sweden. The Danish Government were not at all willing to revoke the constitution in Holstein. It was one that did them credit, and was naturally popular in Holstein. Still, the Diet was very anxious that the Patent should be revoked, because if Holstein continued satisfied it was impossible to trade on the intimate connection between Schleswig and Holstein, the lever by which the Kingdom of Denmark was to be destroyed. The Diet, therefore, insisted that the Patent should be revoked. Her Majesty's Government, I believe, approved the Patent of Holstein, as the Danish Government had done, but as a means of obtaining peace and saving Denmark, they made use of all the means in their power to induce Denmark to revoke that constitution. Sir Augustus Paget, writing to the Foreign Secretary on the 14th of October, and describing an interview with M. Hall, the Prime Minister of Denmark, says—"If German nationality in Holstein, and partially in Schleswig, were made the ground of the dismemberment of Denmark, Polish nationality in the Duchy of Posen would be a ground equally strong for the dismemberment of Prussia. It appears to Her Majesty's Government that the safest course for Prussia to pursue is to act with good faith and honour, and to stand by and fulfil her treaty engagements. By such a course she will command the sympathy and approval of Europe; by a contrary course she will draw down upon herself the universal condemnation of all disinterested men. By this course alone war in Europe can be with certainty prevented."—No. 4,445.
M. Hall promises to withdraw the Patent. What interpretation could M. Hall place on that interview? He was called upon to do what he knew to be distasteful, and believed to be impolitic. He is warned of the danger of rejecting those friendly counsels, and in consequence of that warning he gives way and surrenders his opinion. I would candidly ask what is the interpretation which in private life would be put on such language as I have quoted, and which had been acted upon by those to whom it was addressed? Well, we come now to the Federal Execution in Holstein. Speaking literally, the Federal Execution was a legal act, and Denmark could not resist it. But from the manner in which it was about to be carried into effect, and in consequence of the pretensions connected with it, the Danes were of opinion that it would have been better at once to resist the execution which aimed a fatal blow at the independence of Schleswig, and upon this point they felt strongly. Well, Her Majesty's Government—and I give them full credit for being actuated by the best motives—thought otherwise and wished the Danish Government to submit to this execution. And what was the sort of language used by them in order to bring about that result? Sir Augustus Paget replied in this way to the objections of the Danish Minister—"After much further conversation, in which I made use of every argument to induce his Excellency to adopt a conciliatory course, and in which I warned him of the danger of rejecting the friendly counsels now offered by Her Majesty's Government,—"—No, 3, 162.
I ask any candid man to put his own interpretation upon this language. And on the 12th of the same month Lord Russell himself tells M. Bille, the Danish Minister in London, that there is no connection between the engagements of Denmark to Germany and the engagement of the German Powers under the Treaty of 1852. After such a declaration from the English Minister in the metropolis—a declaration which must have had the greatest effect upon the policy of the Danish Government—of course they submitted to the execution. But, having revoked the Patent and submitted to the execution, as neither the one nor the other was the real object of the German Powers, a new demand was made which was of the greatest consequence. Now, listen to this. The new demand was to repeal the whole Constitution. I want to put clearly before the House the position of the Danish Government with respect to this much talked of Constitution. There had been in the preceding year a Parliamentary Reform Bill carried in Denmark. The King died before having given his assent to it, though he was most willing to have done so. The instant the new King succeeded, the new-Parliamentary Reform Bill was brought to him. Of course great excitement prevailed in Denmark, just as it did in England at the time of the Reform Bill under similar circumstances, and the King was placed in a most difficult position. Now, observe this; England, who was so obtrusive mid pragmatical in the counsels which she gave, who was always offering advice and suggestions, hung buck when the question arose whether the new King should give his assent to the Reform Bill or not. England was selfishly silent, and would incur no responsibility. The excitement in Copenhagen was great, and the King gave his assent to the Bill. But mark! At that moment it is not at all impossible that if Her Majesty's Government had written a despatch to Copenhagen asking the King not to give his assent to the Bill for the space of six weeks, in order to assist England in the negotiations she was carrying on in behalf of Denmark; and if the King had convened his Council and laid before them the expressed wish of an ally who was then looked upon by Denmark with confidence and hope, especially from the time that France had declared she would not assist her, I cannot doubt that the King would have complied with a request that was so important to his fortunes. But the instant the King had sanctioned the new Constitution, the English Government began writing despatches calling upon him to revoke it. [Cheers from the Ministerial Benches.] Ay, but what was his position then? How could he revoke it? The King was a constitutional King; he could have put an end to this Constitution only by a coup d'état; and he was not in a position, nor I believe if he were had he the inclination, to do such an act. The only constitutional course open to him was to call the new Parliament together, with the view of their revoking the Constitution. But see what would have been the position of affairs then. In England the Reform Act was passed in 1832, new elections took place under it, and the House assembled under Lord Althorp, as the leader of the Government. Now, suppose Lord Althorp had come down to that House with a King's speech recommending them to revoke the Reform Act, and have asked leave to introduce another Bill for the purpose of reforming the Constitution, would it not have been asking an utter impossibility? But how did Her Majesty's Government act towards Denmark in similar circumstances? First of all, the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office wrote to Lord Wodehouse on the 20th of December giving formal advice to the Danish Government to repeal the Constitution, and Lord Wodehouse, who had been sent upon this painful and, I must say, impossible office to the Danish Minister, thus speaks of the way in which he had performed his task—"I replied that Denmark would at all events have a better chance of securing the assistance of the Powers if the execution were not resisted."
And Sir Augustus Paget, who appears to have performed his duty with great temper and talent, writing on the 22nd of December, says—"I pointed out to M. Hall also that if, on the one hand, Her Majesty's Government would never counsel the Danish Government to yield anything inconsistent with the honour and independence of the Danish Crown, and the integrity of the King's dominions; so, on the other hand, we had a right to expect that the Danish Government would not, by putting forward extreme pretensions, drive matters to extremities."
Now, I ask, what are the conclusions which any Gentleman—I do not care on what side of the House he may sit—would have drawn from such language as that? But before that a special interview took place between Lord Wodehouse and the Danish Minister, of which Lord Wodehouse writes—"I asked M. Hall to reflect what would be the position of Denmark if the advice of the Powers were refused, and what it would be if accepted, and to draw his own conclusions."—No. 4, 420.
Well, Sir, I ask again whether there are two interpretations to be put upon such observations as these? And what happened? It was impossible for M. Hall, who was the author of the Constitution, to put an end to it; so he resigned—a new Government is formed, and under the new Constitution Parliament is absolutely called together to pass an Act to terminate its own existence. And in January, Sir Augustus Paget tells the Danish Government with some naïveté"It was my duty to declare to M. Hall that if the Danish Government rejected our advice, Her Majesty's Government must leave Denmark to encounter Germany on her own responsibility."
Well, then, these were three great subjects on which the representation of England induced Denmark to adopt a course against her will, and, as the Danes believed, against their policy. The plot begins to thicken. Notwithstanding the revocation of the Patent, the Federal execution, and the repeal of the Constitution, one thing more is wanted, and Schleswig is about to be invaded. Affairs now become most critical. No sooner is this known than a very haughty menace is sent to Austria. From a despatch of Lord Bloomfield, dated December 31, it will be seen that Austria was threatened, if Schleswig was invaded, that—"If they would summon the Rigsraad, and propose the repeal of the Constitution, they would act wisely, in accordance with the advice of their friends, and the responsibility of the war would not be laid at their door."
On the 4th of January, Earl Russell writes to Mr. Murray, at the Court of Saxony—"The consequences would be serious. The question would cease to be a purely German one, and would become one of European importance."
On the 9th again he writes to Dresden—"The most serious consequences are to be apprehended if the Germans invade Schleswig."—No. 4, 481.
On the 18th of January, he writes to Lord Bloomfield—"The line taken by Saxony destroys confidence in diplomatic relations with that state."—No. 4, 502.
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 despatch goes on to say—"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.
Well, the invasion of Schleswig is impending and then an identic note is sent to Vienna and Berlin in these terms—"Such a practice is most injurious to the independence and integrity of the States 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.
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—"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 those Governments that they adhere to the principle of the integrity of the Danish monarchy."—No. 4, 565.
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 cooperation 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 questions between Germany and Denmark? I will read the reply—"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.
Well, Sir, I should think that, after the reception of that despatch, 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 hon. 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 the 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, nevertheless, 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 hon. 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 mismanagement 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, that 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 contradistinguished 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 a 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 its asperity may be lessened. That 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 the 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 I with the exuberant fertility of abortive projects. After the termination of a 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 [Cheers]—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 despatches—"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 their 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 despatch 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 despatch 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 hon. 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 the possession of all the information on such subjects that is necessary or can be obtained. Parliament is as competent to come to a judgment 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 despatches 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 may light up a general European war. It is for Parliament to inquire, to criticise, to support, or to 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 the 4th of February—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 discrete 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 Grown. 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 endangered, 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 notice."M. Drouyn de Lhuys, after recapitulating the substance of my despatch of the 24th of January 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 connection 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 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 in 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 could 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.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to thank Her Majesty for directing the Correspondence on Denmark and Germany, and the protocols of the Conference recently held in London, to be laid before Parliament.
"To assure Her Majesty that we have heard with deep concern that the sittings of that Conference have been brought to a close without accomplishing the important purposes for which it was convened.
"To express to Her Majesty our great regret that, while the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government has failed to maintain their avowed policy of upholding the integrity and independence of Denmark, it has lowered the just influence of this country in the counsels of Europe, and thereby diminished the securities for peace."—(Mr. Disraeli.)
Sir, I will venture to assure the right hon. Gentleman that he shall have no ground to complain of any attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Government to disguise or to escape from their responsibility. Whether, indeed, he has rightly measured the duties of an Opposition—whether he has successfully vindicated the terms of the Motion he submits to the House, is a matter fairly open, I think, to inquiry by the House; but I admit fully and freely that his charges against the Government are bold and palpable, and that the first demand to satisfy is that we should offer our defence. Therefore, I make no apology to hon. Gentlemen who have placed Amendments on the paper. I can well understand why the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) or the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), should have thought it right in the interests of England to substitute Motions which really do involve a policy for a Motion which involves none. At the same time it is our duty, while wholly refraining from any attempt to question the exercise of their discretion, to step in by the kind indulgence of the House, upon the delivery of the charge by the right hon. Gentleman, and to meet the accusations which he has lavished upon the conduct of the Secretary of State and of the Government. Now, Sir, it is well to have something to agree in, and I am glad to think that this is a starting point, if I may so describe it, which the right hon. Gentleman and the Government may consider that they possess in common—I mean the starting point defined by the period of the last summer and early autumn, and by the declarations of that winter. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the declaration which my noble Friend at the head of the Government made in the month of July, and he has construed that declaration, if I understood him rightly—I do not attempt to repeat his words—as an authoritative announcement by my noble Friend of his own opinion that the Treaty of 1852, entered into for the purpose of maintaining the independence and integrity of Denmark, would receive that support of united Europe under which it had originally been framed; and I think, likewise, that he has fairly judged that my noble Friend in giving that opinion with respect to the anticipated conduct of the other Powers who were parties to that treaty also implied the readiness of the Administration of which he was the head to take their part in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman has stated, and stated truly—for the evidence in the papers is clear and conclusive—that at that period France and Russia were of the same mind. It is not necessary to trouble the House by referring to their language. I think, perhaps, as it is desirable not to lengthen statements necessarily long upon a complicated subject of this kind, I may stand for the present on what I take to be the frank avowal of the right hon. Gentleman that at that period France and Russia were prepared to act in support of the declaration of the noble Lord. Well, then, Sir, from that one single point of agreement I now set out into the long and dreary journey of difference and contrast. The right hon. Gentleman says that in the month of September there was a total change in the policy of France; and having assumed that to be the case, he gives as a reason the dissatisfaction of France with the policy of England in regard to the Polish question. I do not know that it is necessary—I do not know that it is expedient—that we should enter at this period upon a discussion of the course taken by Her Majesty's Government in regard to the Polish question. So far as I know, the Parliament of this country did not in either House act with respect to Poland on those principles of extreme reserve which have been professed by the right hon. Gentleman. On the contrary, both in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords, Her Majesty's Government were urged again and again to lift up their voice on behalf of suffering Poland.
I never said that Parliament had shown extreme reserve.
I was not using the right hon. Gentleman's words, but my own, and I take the liberty of making tins further observation on the same point, that the only charge, or at any rate the prominent objection, which was made to the conduct or supposed conduct of Her Majesty's Government with regard to Poland was that the declaration of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs during the discussions on the subject—that he would not take up arms for Poland—had entirely dashed and destroyed the hopes of the Poles. But, says the right hon. Gentleman, there was a total change in the policy and position of France in respect to Denmark in the month of September; and no doubt if there was such a change of policy the right hon. Gentleman would be justified in drawing a fair inference from it. But was there really such a change? The right hon. Gentleman, indeed, quoted the despatch of Mr. Grey, which he thinks supports the statement he has made; and the right hon. Gentleman graceful apologizes to the House for troubling it with reference to documents. Sir, I, for my part, am much more disposed to complain in this respect of his sins of omission than of his sins of commission. For the right hon. Gentleman, professing to pass over the immaterial and irrelevant portions of this despatch, referred to the mortification which France had felt on account of the refusal of the joint application of the three-Powers by Russia; and he fairly quoted the resolution of France—a resolution at which none can wonder and none can complain—to avoid repeating any diplomatic measure the same in form as that which had exposed her to that refusal But the right hon. Gentleman gave the House to understand that at this period—in September—France had clearly signified to us that we were not to look for any more co-operation from her on behalf of Denmark. I put it to the House whether the right hon. Gentleman did not lead it to infer that the Emperor of the French had in substance intimated this to us:—"My policy is changed. If you had stood by me in the case of Poland, I would now have stood by you in the case of Denmark You abandoned me in the case of Poland, and I will leave you to conduct the case of Denmark by yourselves." But was this the fact? Was this the conduct of France at that very period? Was this the language or the sense of the very despatch which the right hon. Gentleman quoted? Sir, I will read the words of Mr. Grey, not taken from a remote part of the despatch, but from the very gap and interval between the two parts of the right hon. Gentleman's quotation. At the very time when the right hon. Gentleman says that France was adopting a policy of her own on the affairs of Denmark, what was it that M. Drouyn de Lhuys stated to Mr. Grey? Here is the passage—
The very strongest of all those expressions which, when they come from the pen of my noble Friend the Secretary of State, are treated as menaces which bound us to go to war, proceeded from the mouth of the French Minister for Foreign Affairs at the very moment when the right hon. Gentleman would have us believe that France was renouncing all co-operation with us in regard to the Danish question. But the right hon. Gentleman went on from the September stage to the November; stage of this complicated history, and he I referred to the "discourteous terms" in which he says the noble Lord the Secretary of State had treated the proposal of the Emperor of the French for assembling a European Congress. Well, Sir, my noble Friend the Secretary of State is a man of truth and honour, apt and given to speak out his mind with as little of circumlocution as circumstances will allow. But if Her Majesty's Government—for this is a question of the Government, and not of the Secretary of State—if Her Majesty's Government are to blame for having, as the right hon. Gentleman says, curtly and succinctly declined the proposition of the Congress, did the right hon. Gentleman himself pursue a course that was calculated to mend our bad manners? How did he describe the proposal made by the Emperor of the French? On the 4th of February, 1864, this master of diplomatic courtesy, this statesman so careful of the fine feelings of our neighbours, so sensible of the value of the alliance between the two countries, somewhat "curtly" and somewhat "succinctly" disposed of the subject with the words, "I look upon the proposition for the Congress to have been an adroit manœuvre." I refer to that matter that I may go on to meet the inferences which the right hon. Gentleman sought to found on the refusal of the Congress, just as he had previously founded totally baseless inferences on the proceedings in regard to Poland. Having stated that we had refused the Congress in a manner which he could not but exceedingly disapprove, he said that Prance, on the death of the late King of Denmark, resolved to take no part in the dispute; and he quoted a despatch of the 19th of December, from, I think, Lord Wodehouse, in which that noble Lord says that General Fleury, the Envoy of the French Government at Copenhagen, had received instructions from the Emperor"France was not, his Excellency said, by any means indifferent to the maintenance of the integrity and independence of Denmark, and it was not from any indifference that he disapproved of your Lordship's suggestion. He had already represented to the German Powers that if they invaded Holstein for the purpose of effecting a revolt in Schleswig, or if they went further and invaded Sehleswig itself, they would be infringing on the rights of an independent Sovereign, and entering upon a grave question affecting the balance of power in Europe, to which France could not remain indifferent."—No. 2, 131.
Again, Sir, I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman, bewildered and overpowered with the study of these 1,500 pages, most anxious—because his candour is known to the world—most anxious if he can to convey the fairest and fullest representation of the papers—yet by some unlucky fate, some illnatured star that crossed his good intentions, hardly in any instance—and I will make good what I am stating—has represented the real effect and bearing even of the very passages which he quotes—why, Sir, is that the whole of what Lord Wodehouse wrote in respect to General Fleury? It is quite true that we received this statement from Copenhagen, and that on receiving it my noble Friend sought to have it verified by a reference to Paris. He referred the matter to Lord Cowley, who returned an answer from M. Drouyn de Lhuys with an important addition, because, it should be remembered, the right hon. Gentleman's doctrine is that France had now definitively renounced all intention of taking part in the Danish question. Well, but the right hon. Gentleman omitted to quote this passage:—"Not to take part in any negotiations here, but to tell the Danish Government explicitly that, if Denmark became involved in a war with Germany, France would not come to her assistance, and to advise in general terms moderation and concessions to Germany."
Do hon. Gentlemen opposite really think that is not a material part of the statement? Is that a policy of absolute renunciation? I think it was a very wise course for the Emperor of the French, with the sentiments he entertained, to give Denmark frank intimation that it must not look for material support from him; but, at the same time, Lord Cowley had it distinctly from the French Minister for Foreign Affairs himself that in this declaration the Emperor expressly reserved to himself the right to interfere in the Danish question as far as, how, and when he might think fit. Well, we now come a step farther in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, which I will endeavour to follow point by point. The right hon. Gentleman will have it that in all cases when the Government found themselves strong they were moderate in their language, and that when they found themselves weak they became violent; and on that principle he accounts for a letter written, as he says, on the 25th of December, to menace the Diet in case they proceeded to Federal Execution. Here, again, I am sorry to say the right hon. Gentleman has not quoted the document fairly or truthfully. I am in the recollection of the House, and I speak in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman. He stated that in this letter of the 25th of December, which he described, I think, as one of great violence—but he was so lavish of these descriptions that I may perhaps make some mistake as to how they were applied in a particular case—he said that in this letter my noble Friend menaced the Diet in the event of their proceeding to Federal Execution, and he read words of a general nature to bear out the comment he made. Those words are—"He(M. Drouyn de Lhuys) was positive that no declaration had been made by the General (Fleury) which did not leave the Emperor free to take any course which events might render expedient."
But, what is the preamble of that letter? It is very short. It does not mention Federal Execution—Federal Execution is not mentioned in it—it has no reference whatever to Federal Execution. The opening words are—"Any precipitate action on the part of the German Confederation at the present moment may lead to consequences fatal to the peace of Europe, and may involve Germany in particular in difficulties of a most serious nature."—No. 4, 414.
Therefore the charge of the right hon. Gentleman, I do not hesitate to state, had not one jot or tittle of foundation. The question of Federal Execution had no reference to the subject of succession. The claim to determine succession has more or less been made at different periods by the German Diet, but it is not acknowledged to be part of its regular attributes and jurisdiction. With regard to that claim, who supposes that the Diet would be allowed to determine the succession to Austria or the succession to Prussia? But the rights of all the States, great and small, are alike. It was in relation to this extravagant and exorbitant claim of the German Diet to determine the succession, and not to Federal Execution, that the letter was written which the right hon. Gentleman has quoted in a manner entirely to falsify its purport and effect. It is granted, I think, that he quoted it for the purpose of illustrating his assertions relative to "menaces against Federal Execution." But that letter never mentions Federal Execution—the matter it does mention is a claim, or supposed claim, of the Diet to determine the question of succession. Well, I come to another despatch, and I am sorry I can speak of the right hon. Gentleman's quotation of it in no other terms than those I have used in speaking of his former quotations. It is the despatch of the 29th of December, I may call it the lugubrious despatch; because the House will remember very well how the right hon. Gentleman resorted to the fullest use of his comic powers in describing by voice and manner the plaintive tones in which Her Majesty's Government addressed itself to the Government of France. The right hon. Gentleman quoted this passage from Earl Cowley's despatch, dated December 29—"The Diet sitting at Frankfort appears to claim a right to decide on questions of succession in the several States composing the Confederation, and to be bent on asserting such right in the present case of the succession in the Duchy of Holstcin."
That refers to the proposal made by the British Government for a Conference on the affairs of Denmark. But the right hon. Gentleman read on and said—"I said, [to M. Drouyn de Lhuys,] that Her Majesty's Government were most seriously desirous to act with the Imperial Government on this question."
The right hon. Gentleman observed that no reply was made; that we made an application to France to join with us in a European Conference on the affairs of Denmark; that Lord Cowley could get no answer from M, Drouyn de Lhuys, and failing to get any reply he was obliged to wind up the conversation with the expression of a hope that the difference of opinion which had arisen upon the merits of a General Congress would not prevent co-operation upon the affairs of Denmark. There the right hon. Gentleman stopped, and every one who heard him took it as a distinct allegation that M. Drouyn de Lhuys had refused to give any reply to Lord Cowley. If that was not the object of his statement, it could have no other. It was the whole strain and drift of his argument to show that long after France had resolved, we went to Franco dunning and pestering her with proposal after proposal which she rejected. If the citation had been a fair one the inference would have been just. Again, I say, the right hon. Gentleman misled the House. Here are the next words following those quoted by the right hon. Gentleman. Lord Cowley said—"They felt that if the two could agree war might be avoided; otherwise the danger of war was imminent. M. Drouyn de Lhuys said that he partook this opinion; but as his Excellency made no further observation I remarked that it would be a grievous thing if the difference of opinion which had arisen upon the merits of a General Congress were to produce an estrangement which would leave each Government to pursue its own course."—No. 4, 444.
Did then the Emperor of the French discourage action? Did he profess the policy of renunciation? Lord Cowley added—"I presume that I might give them [Her Majesty's Government] the assurance that the Imperial Government were not decided to reject the notion of a Conference. M. Drouyn de Lhuys replied that the Imperial Government were anxious to prevent a war, and if they saw their way to its prevention through a Conference they would not refuse to take part in one."
That is what the right hon. Gentleman thought fit to describe as the policy of abstinence, refusal, and renunciation. We come next to the revocation of the constitution of Denmark. The right hon. Gentleman said the Danes revoked the Patent—the Danes withdrew the new constitution, and abandoned resistance in Holstein on our recommendation. Now, I am not here to bring an indictment against the Danes. When we recollect that the throne of Denmark is occupied by a Sovereign who acceded to it under circumstances of difficulty unparalleled, and who is the inheritor of embarrassments caused by the conduct of his predecessor and the policy of the Minister he found in power, I am not able to say with, confidence that it was within the strength and means of the King of Denmark to unravel the difficulties with which he was surrounded. But, at the same time, I beg to say that this, like other allegations of the right hon. Gentleman, is void of foundation. He says the Danes did these things upon our instance. My answer is that they did them on the joint instance of the Powers. He said they did these things when we requested them; my answer is that, unhappily, they were not done until the concession was so late it was valueless for the purpose. Now, let us see how the truth stands upon these matters. First, says the right hon. Gentleman—because his object is, for the sake of wounding the Government, to saddle on his country responsibilities which she does not bear ["Oh!"]; yes, if the proceedings quoted by the right hon. Gentleman were engagements in the sense in which he would have us to believe they were, they are not to be settled between party and party in the House of Commons—the bond of England is good by whomsoever given. The engagements continue, and he on his accession to power would be bound to fulfil them in the sense he would attach to them. First, says the right hon. Gentleman, Denmark revoked the Patent on our recommendation, and revoking it on our recommendation that constituted a quasi engagement on our part. Now, I think it will be found that on the 8th of October the British Government remonstrated against the Patent, and advised its revocation. When was the Patent revoked? On the 7th of December, two months after the advice was given that it should be revoked. And was this period of two months a period to be measured merely by time? No, it was a period filled with events of the greatest and gravest consequence. Because in the meantime the New Constitution had been passed, and the revocation of the Patent, as M. Hall said to Lord Wodehouse, was a thing of the smallest possible importance. So much for the revocation of the Patent. I think, by the bye, I heard the right hon. Gentleman say, that M. Hall offered to recall the Patent in the month of October. All I can say is, that as far as I am aware that was a conditional offer, "that England and France would give to the Danish Government a formal promise to support them against any further demands of Germany;" to which Sir Augustus Paget replied, "I did not think much would be obtained by my forwarding this message." The revocation of the Patent was withheld during the time it would have been of use; it was yielded when it was a question of the smallest possible importance. But what is the next allegation of the right hon. Gentleman? He quoted the responsibility of our advice with reference to the question of resistance to the Federal Execution. He said that Denmark upon three great subjects, in deference to our advice, acted contrary to her will and contrary to her policy. But does he mean to say Denmark acted on our advice alone? If he means to say that, I will show there is not the slightest foundation for the statement. But if he means to say she acted on our advice in common with that of the other Powers, then there is not the slightest force or value in his statement, because the coercion of Denmark by the recommendation of all can entail only a joint responsibility, and cannot possibly fasten a separate exclusive responsibility on each. What is the case of resistance to the Federal Execution? On the 27th of October, long after France had entirely renounced meddling with the Danish Question, Lord Cowley writes to Earl Russell—"I have detailed, as far as time will admit of, the general tenour of my conversation with M. Drouyn de Lhuys. I should add that His Excellency expressed the opinion that if your Lordship would also insist on knowing the intentions of the two great German Powers, it would aid in bringing this question to an earlier solution."—No. 4, 445.
So much for that. Sweden was by far the most nearly associated with Denmark in the whole of its policy. And what did Sweden say?"M. Drouyn de Lhuys assures me that his advice to the Danish Cabinet has been of a most pacific nature, and that he has recommended acquiescence in the Federal Execution, should the Diet persist in ordering it, rather than risk hostilities."—No. 3, 179.
And Mr. Ward informed the Syndic of Hamburg of the objection entertained by Her Majesty's Government to the Federal Execution being carried out in Holstein. The Syndic said that, as he had been informed, Russia and France had already advised Denmark not to offer any resistance to the Federal decree. Lord Wodehouse also wrote on December 21—"Upon M. Hall pressing Count Manderstrom on this point, his Excellency distinctly told M. Hall that, although the Swedish Government might agree with that of Denmark in the view they took of the possible entry of Federal troops into Holstein, they could not commit themselves to a commencement of hostilities with the Confederation on Federal territory, and he strongly advised the Danish Government to avoid doing so."
So, Sir, I think it is pretty clear that, in the first place, the advice upon which the Danish Government acted was common I advice—advice in which England was involved only in common with France and Russia; and, in the second place, that it was advice with regard to which they were distinctly informed that Her Majesty's Government could not be responsible for the consequences of the decision that the Danish Government might take in respect of the Federal Execution. It is just the same also with regard to the new Constitution. The right hon. Gentleman says that England was selfishly silent with regard to the new Constitution. He gave the House to understand that when good might have been done by remonstrance, England left Denmark to take her own course; but that subsequently, when it had become difficult for Denmark to recede, then England came with her inopportune and inauspicious advice, and desired that the new Constitution might be revoked—remaining selfishly silent, however, at the critical moment. That critical moment was the moment when the new King had just come into his too burdensome heritage, and found this unhappy Bill awaiting his decision. I think it was on the 15th or 16th of November that he came to the throne; and on the 17th of November—such is the correctness and accuracy with which the right hon. Gentleman cites the vital documents of this case—Earl Russell wrote to Sir Augustus Paget, fearing to force advice upon the King at that critical moment, but indicating that his advice would be that the Royal assent to the new Constitution should be suspended. The words are these—"Sir Augustus Paget having communicated to me a letter addressed to him on the 19th instant by M. Hall, announcing the decision of the Danish Government not to offer resistance in Holstein to the forces of the Confederation, and stating that this decision has been taken especially in conse- quenee of the representations of Her Majesty's Government, I think it right to observe that, while I pointed out to M. Hall, at my first interview with him, the danger of opposing the Federal troops, and expressed my opinion that it would be most imprudent for Denmark to precipitate a war by resistance to the Execution, I was careful to explain that Her Majesty's Government could not I take upon themselves the responsibility of the de-termination which might be arrived at by the Danish Cabinet."—No. 4, 416.
Unhappily, that advice was not acted upon. Unhappily, the position of the King in the face of the populace of Copenhagen appears to have been such as to make it impossible for him to take a course which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, and in the opinion, I think, of the other neutral Governments, international obligations strictly interpreted required. Consequently the complications that existed underwent great further aggravation; and, unhappily, the revocation of this Constitution, like the other concessions, although made, was made too late. On the 17th of November my noble Friend had suggested a suspension of the Royal assent. Shortly after that time it became clear to Her Majesty's Government that the Constitution ought to be revoked. The Danish Parliament was still sitting, and would have had power to revoke it; but, unhappily, that Minister, who, I fear, has been in act though not in intention, one of the worst enemies of Denmark, permitted the Parliament to be dissolved without touching the constitution, and so left the King in a state of hopeless embarrassment. At last, on the 19th of January, when Federal Execution was far advanced in Holstein, and when the Prussian and Austrian forces were about to enter Schleswig, it was then for the first time that the offer was made by the Danish Minister Bishop Monrad to call together the Rigsraad, and propose to recall the new Constitution. Therefore, the statement of the right hon. Gentleman is wholly fallacious if it be not directly the reverse of true, because he knows perfectly well that time in political events is an essential condition, and that what to-day may be a highly satisfactory concession will not to-morrow be received as a concession at all. We see that, Sir, in domestic as well as in foreign polities. How often in domestic politics Gentlemen and parties have been found unwilling to concede anything so long as concession would be gracious, and only ready to give when the gift had lost all value. Such has unhappily been the case with regard to the course of these negotiations. These are the specific charges made by the right hon. Gentleman upon the documents, and I will now endeavour, though with some diffidence and apprehension, to explain what I take to have been the principles of policy adopted by Her Majesty's Government in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman stated—and although I think he overstated that portion of the case, I confess I think it was a point that ought to have attracted much more notice than it has done—he stated, and stated with truth, that a considerable change was effected in the position of this question at the death of the King of Denmark. The death of King Frederic VII. altered the position of the parties with respect to the Treaty of 1852. It immediately laid the whole strain upon that treaty and the construction of that treaty. As long as King Frederic VII. was living there was nothing but a question of internation engagement, and the matter in dispute was whether international covenants had been fulfilled or not. There was no question of disputed title then. But when Frederic VII. deceased and King Christian IX came to the throne, then the questions of succession connected with the various constructions of the treaty immensely aggravated the matters at issue. The policy of Her Majesty's Government under Frederic VII., as was stated over and over again in the despatches, was to endeavour to bring the Danish Government to fulfil the engagements of 1852, and to bring the German Governments to be moderate in their view of those engagements. But the right hon. Gentleman appears to think, and to make it a charge against the Government, that they have taken, as it were gratuitously and needlessly, a prominent part in the settlement of those matters. He says, with truth, that England has no special interest in these questions. Well, it has been stated by my noble Friend the Secretary of State more than once in these despatches that the interests of England in the Dano-German question are the interests of Europe. We can conceive that France, from tradition and association, and likewise from her peculiar relations with Germany, may have a special and direct interest in any question which may involve the disruption of Denmark and its partial absorption into the German Confederation. We can conceive that Russia, principally dependent upon the Baltic for her access to the broad ocean waters of the world, may feel a strong and peculiar interest in the question whether Denmark and Sweden are to be united in one great Scandinavian kingdom. But England has no special interests there. Why, then, did she take a part, which was certainly a prominent part, in these discussions? She took it for an object which I hope will ever be dearer to England than her interest—namely, what she conceives to be her honour and duty. Gentlemen must look back to the previous stages of this Question in order properly to appreciate the position of England during the recent complications. At the period of the war of 1849 the mediation of England was invoked by the contending parties. That was originally the suggestion of Prussia, adopted by Denmark, forwarded from Denmark to my noble Friend then Secretary of State (Viscount Palmerston) and by him undertaken. It was a grave responsibility. But was it a barren work? On the contrary, it ended in putting a stop to the shedding of human blood; it ended in terms of pacification and in a treaty which was deemed by both parties to be honourable and satisfactory. These are the words in which the Danish Minister of that day spoke of the part taken by England with regard to the peace of 1850—"Her Majesty's Government are very reluctant to interfere with regard to the Danish Constitution, and therefore I cannot instruct you to urge the King to take a course which may be very unpalatable to his subjects. At the same time, if you are questioned, you may say that, as his Majesty desires, doubtless, that the proposed mediation should lead to a good result, the probability of its doing so might be greatly increased if his assent to the Constitution were to be suspended, until a settlement of the international question was effected, or, at least, had made some progress."—No. 3, 206.
After a proceeding of that kind so beneficial to the parties, so honourable to this county, it was not possible for the representative of England to recede from the prominent post in which he had been placed by no act of his own, but by the obligations resulting from former transactions of the most satisfactory and beneficial kind. And there, I think, is a full and ample explanation of the conduct and general position assumed by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in regard to the Danish negotiations. By the way, I really wish that the right hon. Gentleman in attacking his opponents, would remember his country. My hon. Friend (Mr. Layard) reminds me that the right hon. Gentleman said it was to Russia that the whole honour of that settlement and of that peace was due. Now, I have quoted the authentic words to show that my noble Friend was regarded by Denmark as the chief agent in that pacification. Well, Sir, upon the accession of the new King the duty and endeavour of Her Majesty's Government were to maintain the Treaty of 1852. Was that right, or was it wrong? Is it honourable to Parliament that the right hon. Gentleman should come down here, and in mimic tones should hold up to ridicule the conduct of the Administration because they instruct their agents abroad to apply to France and to Russia, the co-signatary Powers, for assistance in endeavouring to give effect to the treaty? Did not the right hon. Gentleman in one of the declamatory bursts towards the close of his speech, totally forget the argumentative part of it? In the argumentative part he had exhibited it as preposterous meanness on the part of England to apply to Paris and St. Petersburg; but in the declamatory part of his speech he came round to a much better sense than he attained when he was merely logical and argumentative. "Get England and France to unite," he said, "and war is difficult; get England, France, and Russia to unite, and war is impossible." Now the steps taken by Her Majesty's Government—almost without exception—what were they but endeavours to bind together the Powers of Europe for the fulfilment and maintenance of an important European engagement? The right hon. Gentleman then brings us on to another stage of these proceedings. For a short time—I think only for a few days—after the death of the late King of Denmark there was no great reason, that I am aware of, to suppose that the Treaty of 1852 was in serious danger. It was only in the end of November that a new doctrine was coined by Austria and Prussia—that the Treaty of 1852 was nothing more than a part of the same transactions and special covenants of 1851–2 between Germany and Denmark, and that unless those covenants were fulfilled the Treaty of 1852 was at an end. That was the formidable doctrine which at that time came into view. It was about the 28th of November—it may have been a little later—that language began to be held by the German Powers which materially altered the position of the case. So long as the German Powers frankly recognized their obligations under the Treaty of 1852 there was comparatively little danger, but when they held themselves free to make the Treaty of 1852 dependent on conditions, the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of which they were competent themselves to decide, because they were settled between themselves and Denmark, then it became obvious that the dangers were thickening around us. It became a ques- tion whether the treaty would bear out what was considered to be its loyal and undoubted meaning. There was undoubtedly a recognition on the part of the German Powers of the succession of King Christian; but it was a recognition de bene esse, which they gave themselves a title to revoke at any moment upon the allegation that the separate engagements of 1851–2 had not been fulfilled by Denmark, and that, therefore, the Treaty of 1852 was annulled. Undoubtedly it was at that period that the Government undertook the greatest responsibility which has laid upon them at any stage of this difficult question. Undoubtedly on the 5th, 10th, and 18th of January they did make applications to Franco and Russia which contemplated the formation of a combination for the purpose of upholding the Treaty of 1852—upholding it, as I apprehend, not against the will of the people of the Duchies, but against foreign force or intrigue. The right hon. Gentleman, who felt it necessary to censure everything done by the Government, felt it necessary to censure this. He said that on the 18th of January the Government wrote a letter which would have put all Europe in a blaze. What! a letter which would have brought France and Russia into a combination with England put all Europe in a blaze! and that from the right hon. Gentleman, too, who fifteen minutes later declared that France, England, and Russia being combined a war in Europe was altogether impossible! Considering the disproportionate weight laid by the right hon. Gentleman on points of minor importance, I was surprised that when he came to the great passages of European policy he should satisfy himself with flinging an isolated reproach against Her Majesty's Government. We wrote this letter contemplating concert and co-operation. We did believe that it was for the interest of Europe that the Treaty of 1852 should be supported with adequate means—with that adequacy of means which diminishes or annihilates risk—and we stand here responsible for having acted with that belief. Has the right hon. Gentleman an opinion on that point, or has he not? I wish I could dive into the recesses of his mind. I complain of the parsimonious reserve of the right hon. Gentleman; he is as bad as a miser with his money—one cannot get from him the smallest inkling, glance, or glimpse of the future policy of this country. He arraigns the conduct of the Government, and where the conduct of the Government touches policy he will not give an opinion. He brings forward a Motion which aims a deadly blow at the Government—he asks the House of Commons to condemn the Government—and yet over this by far the most important part of their proceedings—over this cardinal article of their conduct—the right hon. Gentleman, in asking the House of Commons to condemn the Government, passes in silence, because he could not have intimated an opinion without giving an opinion as to the policy of the Government. The Government did think it was their duty to make those efforts to effect a combination for the support of the Treaty of 1852, and for the purpose of preventing that treaty being set aside by foreign force. I am not here to blame the Governments which declined to concur in that overture. I think that in the case of an engagement like the Treaty of 1852 the persons really responsible for its failure, and for all the consequences of failure, are those who first recede from their plighted faith. When some of the Powers had shown an inclination to shelter themselves under reserves which would have enabled them at the first moment that suited their convenience to abandon the treaty and tear it to rags, it was not to be expected but that each of the other Powers should say, "We must re-consider our position; we must assume that this is a new starting point." The Emperor of the French was entitled to say, "I must look to the position and interests of France." He did look to those interests, and we do not blame him for the resolution at which he arrived. But though we do not presume to blame the conduct of France, or what some people might call the mysterious conduct of Russia—though we may have felt that the unhappy position of Russia with regard to Poland somewhat impairs the independence, dignity, and strength of her position on other European questions where the German Powers are principally concerned—although I frankly and freely admit that—yet I do not accept it as a ground for assuming that her efforts were not sincere and earnest in concert with the great Powers of Europe—nor do we accept it as a matter of blame imputable to us that we made an effort to rally the Powers of Europe in support of that treaty. It appears to me that the single-handed intervention of England in European questions is a course of proceeding which can rarely be justified—of course I am speaking of cases other than those in which our honour and interests are directly involved—a system has grown up of late—and the Treaty of 1852 is a notable example of it—under which the Powers of Europe have formed themselves into a sort of police for the purpose of maintaining general peace and off putting down the wrongdoer, whoever he may be, without reference to any selfish object. That is the sense of the Treaty of 1852. I think it is an honourable course, and I think that the community of interest in nations is beginning to be recognized. That the collective forces of the civilized world should be organized for such a purpose is one of the best guarantees of peace; and if the right hon. Gentleman means to challenge the conduct of the Government in their endeavours to enlist the active aid of France and Russia in the preservation of European peace, let him say so. We are ready to abide by the decision of the House and the country on that point. Well, then, says the right hon. Gentleman, you got into the Conference, and, having got into Conference, you provided for the integrity of Denmark by cutting off Holstein and a part of Schleswig; and you provided for her independence by putting her under the tutelage of all the Powers of Europe. No doubt there is a good deal of wit in that description; but we have never disguised that, after the failure of our application to France and Russia, our tone was altered. If you find fault with the Secretary of State for having said that this course or the other "will lead to an intervention," or that "England cannot view with indifference" such and such a policy, you must recollect that that language was in conformity with the language of France and Russia at the same period; and it was held in contemplation of a contingency which afterwards was not realized, that the neutral Powers would find themselves in a position to co-operate for the maintenance of the treaty. Where does the right hon. Gentleman find language of menace used after the time when we became aware that menace could not practically be carried into effect? It is difficult to assert a negative in any case, and particularly so in the case of a correspondence extending over 1,500 pages—but I am not aware of a single word having been said by my noble Friend by way of menace to the German Powers after we had become aware that European combina- tion in support of the treaty was no longer obtainable. I think the right hon. Gentleman said that we were right in not going to war single-handed on behalf of Denmark; but when we found that it was impossible to give full effect to the Treaty of 1852, we did the best we could for Denmark. [Laughter.] No doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite think they could have done better; but we did as well as we could, as well as France could, as well as Russia could, or as well as Sweden could. They had nothing better to suggest. The right hon. Gentleman describes us all as being smitten with hopeless incapacity; but as long as we can show that our proceedings were the proceedings of the neutral Powers representing Europe, and the impartial judgment of the world, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will succeed in driving home the deadly weapon he is aiming at our breasts. This view of the subject appears not to have occurred to the right hon. Gentleman. The Treaty of 1852, though it did not effect, contemplated and aimed at securing a combination under the Crown of Denmark, on a new accession to the throne, of all the territories attached to the throne under Frederick VII. Now the Treaty of 1852 would have been perfectly satisfied by what has been called a "personal union." Suppose this proposal had been made to Germany—we will guarantee the Treaty of 1852, and all the possessions that were ruled by Frederick VII. shall pass to Christian IX.; but there shall be neither administrative nor legislative connection between Denmark Proper and the three Duchies. The Treaty would undoubtedly in the latter have been fulfilled, and it would have been impossible to bring a charge of bad faith against Germany, however much we might have complained, lamented, and deplored her conduct. It is quite plain that if we had advised Denmark to pursue the phantom of a material compliance with the Treaty of 1852, we should have very greatly erred; because we should have advised Denmark to do what she has evidently been determined to avoid—for if there is any one thing plainer than another, it is the resolution on her part not to submit to what has been called a "personal union." Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman charges us with proposing the reduction of the Danish territory, I say that that proposal was agreeable both to the interests and the wishes of the people of Denmark. Denmark would have been much better pleased to have made a partial surrender of territory, if by that course she could virtually have secured to herself all real power over the remainder. I cannot help saying that I think the case of the right hon. Gentleman is, in this part, as well as in many others, if I may say so without offence, extremely weak, because this proposal—I mean the line of the Schlei—was first of all made by us in concert with, and under the full approbation and concurrence of the neutral Powers, and consequently was more agreeable to Denmark than the only other proposition made to her. I think the House and the country are aware that there were ample reasons why England should not have undertaken what might aptly be termed the Quixotic enterprise of waging single-handed a war which offered itself to us under such circumstances. The tax upon English energies would have been totally disproportioned to the objects for which they were called into action. The want of separate and special interests in the absence of positive engagements was a matter which it was the absolute duty of the Government to take into consideration. But, Sir, if England was to make that war, and to make it with effect, it was not a war which could be waged in Denmark only. Its limits must have been vastly extended. It must at once have gone to the Adriatic. A general European war would have been kindled; and though among the possible results of that war there might have been some, the attainment of which Her Majesty's Government might have regarded as exceedingly valuable, yet the considerations involved in such a war, the fearful uncertainty with which it was surrounded. attached to such a course a responsibility from which the boldest mind would shrink. Besides, England could not enter upon that war single-handed on account of the Treaty of 1852. She must have gone to war to seek some practical arrangement with regard to Denmark—that was an arrangement on which it was impossible that she could have that clear judgment which alone could justify such an issue. England might have found herself in what to her, above all others, would have been a most terrible position; she might have found that her judgment of the justice of the case might have ultimately proved different from that of the population of the Duchies themselves. I hardly know what British House of Commons would have sustained a Government in endea- vouring to crush by force the liberties of a people. I think that these reasons have not been challenged by the right hon. Gentleman;—and, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has, as I have said, with a marvellous adroitness, contrived to avoid in the course of his speech of two and a half or three hours—not at all too long for the interest of the subject—in every possible way expressing an opinion as to what ought or ought not to have been done. And now, Sir, I think I have gone through the charges which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman, and I have shown how far he has been correct in his quotations. I also must apologize for not refraining from burdening the House with a multitude of references, without a full study of which it is impossible to arrive at a thorough comprehension of this involved and complicated question. But, having met these charges, I hold it to be my right to take my turn as critic and judge, and see what we can make of the Motion submitted to the House by the right hon. Gentleman. It is in many respects a remarkable Motion. Its birth, like that of Julius Cæsar and other great men of olden time, was heralded by omens and prophecies. At an early period of the Session the right hon. Gentleman came out as a prophet, and told us that our policy would be questioned, and another day the hon. Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) took up the parable and assured us that we should have a Motion on the foreign policy of the Government. Then the ball returned into the hand of the right hon. Gentleman, and for the third time the solemn announcement was made. This Motion, then, has been in course of incubation for about five months, and its terms have had the advantage of being revolved over and over again in all the brains of all the wisest Gentlemen in the country—namely, those whom we see sitting opposite. The right hon. Gentleman makes a Motion, of which we all understand the intention and purport, but which I will show by-and-by to be by no means so plain spoken as it pretends to be. It is intended to aim at the existence of the Government; and I must say that in one sense we ought to be greatly indebted to the right hon. Gentleman. I will explain my meaning by a short anecdote. There is in a beautiful churchyard in Kent an epitaph which commemorates the death of a lady and gentleman who were murdered by their domestic servant, and the writer of the epitaph, in his anxiety to give to the matter a pious and Christian turn, has endeavoured to point out to the reader that it was a very great advantage to this lady and gentleman to be rid by this summary method of the inconvenience and discomfort which so frequently attend dissolution in its natural course. It was only very recently that I saw this epitaph, and it now strongly occurs to me that the right hon. Gentleman was desirous of performing the same kind office for the Government which the domestic servant performed for the lady and gentleman; and that, as the dissolution of a Government in the natural course of events is often attended with inconvenience and discomfort, and must occur at some time or another, we ought to consider the right hon. Gentleman, in hastening our dissolution, is doing us a very kind office. The question which the right hon. Gentleman has raised is a purely personal one. We have heard the tone adopted by the right hon. Gentleman this evening. He looks across the table to a number of Gentlemen, of whom my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) is the one conspicuous figure, and says, "It is your miserable incapacity I complain of. I am astonished when you write a sentence of common sense." I quote the words of the right hon. Gentleman, and again I find that his memory is short. He afterwards proceeded to describe the foreign policy of this country since 1815, and that policy he characterized as being generally a wise and successful policy. Did he recollect when he so described it that the man whom he had just accused of "miserable incapacity" was the responsible and main agent in conducting our foreign affairs for more than half the time since the Peace of 1815. Now, Sir, what is the meaning of this Motion? It means, in reality, "Get out of your places and let us come into them." That is a perfectly fair issue to raise; but, if it is unaccompanied with any reference to policy, it is a very disagreeable Motion to discuss for those who have still hanging about them the faintest remains of the modesty of their youth. How are we to appreciate it? When the right hon. Gentleman accuses us of "miserable incapacity," he shows himself superior to considerations of this kind."I approve entirely the terms of the document, I find it in all points agreeable to our interests; and I invite you to make use of the first occasion which may present itself, to become the medium of conveying to Lord Palmerston our cordial gratitude for this new proof of the interest and friendship of that illustrious statesman for Denmark, and of his sincere desire to procure for us the necessary guarantees."
I did not use those words. [Several MEMBERS: "Utter incapacity," "Intense incapacity."]
The right hon. Gentleman says that he did not use those words. I am willing to take it either way—"utter," "intense," or "miserable,"—he says, "utter incapacity," and I am quite willing to accept the correction. He says, "By your gross mismanagement you have offended all our allies. You have made yourselves contemptible to those who supported you." These are the charges which form the matter of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He seems to think that he has proved his case because we have failed in averting war. My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at any rate has contrived to stave off this war for the best part of five years after he came into office. But the right hon. Gentleman should have extended to us his compassionate recollection, for when he was a Minister of the Crown, and when Lord Malmesbury was Secretary of State, he did not succeed in staving off a war for five days. The right hon. Gentleman came down to the House of Commons on the 18th of April, 1859, and told us that he was well satisfied peace could be preserved; and yet on the 22nd of April an Austrian summons was sent to Piedmont to disarm, which was the commencement of the war in Italy. Surely some allowance should be made for human infirmity. Let us have some mercy shown towards us. I appeal to your humane, your generous feelings. If they give me no answer, I appeal to your own experience for our justification. The language of the Motion is this:—"Let the noble Lord go out; let the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs go out; let all their Colleagues go out of the way, and let the figures of myself and Lord Malmesbury appear upon the stage, when everyone will be well behaved, and all misdoers, all public criminals, all public offenders against the peace of Europe will be affrighted," as were the Greeks of old by the appearance of Æneas in the shades below—
It appears to me that that is an expectation barely justified by the experience we have had. I see none of these exemptions from the ordinary weaknesses of humanity, and I do not believe they will be avoided by a change of Government. The right hon. Gentleman then got on what I may call his "high horse," and he would not give us the slightest opinion upon any matter of substantive policy, because that, he said, would be accepting office upon conditions. He has contrived a Motion intended to animate an Opposition to put an end to the life of the Government, but which, looked at as a declaration bearing upon public interests, is pale and colourless as a ghost. The allegation is that "our just influence in Europe is lowered"—that is the single allegation it contains—and that thereby "the chances of peace are diminished." Let us deal with that. In the first place, I deny its justice. In the second place, I hold that if it were true it is not a seemly declaration to be recorded by a Motion in this House. Why is the just influence of the country lowered? Because we have failed in averting war. ["No!"] Then, nothing can succeed but success, and there can be no fault but failure. There may have been a failure—failure for the moment, but if that failure has been a failure of honest, upright, generous efforts to prevent great masses of mankind from injuring and destroying one another, then the dispassionate Minister and Government which, being in office at the moment, endeavour to calm the troubled waters, may reap on one side—perhaps on both sides—nay even from a part, although, I believe, a very small part of their own countrymen, no other reward than disapproval and resentment; yet the recollection of these efforts in after years will present themselves, and it will be borne in mind that the voice of England had been raised, as it has been raised in other European crises, for moderation and for justice. The efforts of Her Majesty's Government have been to teach wisdom to one party and mercy and forbearance to those who are sometimes said to have been tyrannous as well as strong. But is this a case really without parallel? Let me go back to the great case of Mr. Canning. Never was there a more conspicuous instance of failure, if our judgment is to be founded on the visible results of the moment, than the failure of Mr. Canning in respect of the invasion of Spain by France, but, measured by the justice and wisdom of the course pursued by our Government, there is no more honourable chapter to be found in the whole history of our foreign policy. What said Mr. Canning when the charge was put to him? It would, he said, be disingenuous not to admit that the entry of the French armies was in a certain sense, a disparagement, an affront, and a blow to the sensibilities of England; but subsequent events afforded an ample justification of the wisdom and humanity of the remonstrances which we addressed to the invading Power. In reviewing the measures referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, the long list of proposals, almost of petitions, which we have made in the interest of peace, and the failure of these petitions, either by their being refused at a time when alone concessions would have been useful, or by being declined in a spirit of what some may call the insolence of power, let us go a little beyond the present moment. Let us discard if we can that Epicurean temper which is so sharp in its vision for things near at hand, but which is blind as a bat or a beetle for all that appertains to the future. I do not believe that the just influence of England is lowered. That is not the language which is held by allied and friendly Governments. By whom is it held? It may be held by a certain portion of the Parliament of England; but it seems to me that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman has for its key nothing but the almost ribald language of a few obscure journals of the Continent. It is from them that this intending Minister derives his inspiration. It is from such sources that our lessons of English policy are to be learnt. For them that may be excusable enough. We know that in this country there are, unfortunately, still narrow sects of people who delight in and even revel in a depreciation of foreign countries. So, too, absurd as it is, there are still in France sects of people who retain what was once the national antipathy to us, but which, thank God, has of late been almost entirely removed. There are readers of such trash, and as long as there are readers there will be writers. The right hon. Gentleman has imported a little of that trash, and I commends it in the shape of a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government to the acceptance of the House of Commons. I have said that it is untrue. I have denied that the just influence of England has been lowered; and I deny also the consequence that the chances of peace have been diminished by the failure—even if it be a failure—of our honest efforts for the maintenance of peace, and for urging mercy, justice, and moderation upon disputing parties. I deny the proposition. But even were it true, I say that, as far as my knowledge extends, this is the very first occasion upon which the British House of Commons has been called upon to record, for the sake of displacing a Government, the degradation of the country. Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman speak plainly? Why cannot he adopt the language of our forefathers, who, when they objected to the conduct of the Government of the time, addressed the Crown, saying that the Government had lost their confidence, and praying that they might be removed from the councils of the Sovereign. Why cannot he say, "We think the conduct of the Government is open to these charges—we withdraw our confidence from them, and we pray the Crown to put others in their places." But he was afraid to raise that issue. The right hon. Gentleman did not dare to say that: he could screw up his courage to a certain point, but he could not venture to assert the old constitutional form of a Vote of Want of Confidence, and because he was not bold he thought he was wise. The right hon. Gentleman is an innovator in party warfare. He has adopted a form for which there is no precedent; for I believe at no time has party spirit led any combination of Englishmen to place upon the records of this House a Motion which can be regarded only as dishonourable to their country. Go back to the times of Sir Robert Walpole, of Lord North, and of Mr. Fox. Never will you find in them such a sterile, jejeune affair as this proposed to this House of Commons. You will find that what was then to be said by the Opposition was spoken out in the good old English manner. Their charges were written legibly in the face of the world, that all who ran might read. But have we have a Motion not referring in express terms to the conduct of the Government, but substituting for the ancient and regular method of proceeding loose language, which may indeed be sufficient for the purpose of making it impossible for the Government to retain office, but which at the same time cannot transfix them without piercing the honour of the country. Under these circumstances, I look forward with cheerfulness and confidence to the issue of this debate. I have now detained the House a long time. I have endeavoured to avoid leading them into the many, almost the innumerable pages of this long Correspondence. I have followed the right hon. Gentleman into every point which he chose to suggest; and I am bound to say that I do not know any other points to which he might have condescended into which it would not have been practicable to follow and to confute him. I am convinced that, whatever his arguments may be, the House will not be led astray by the right hon. Gentleman, Let him, if he pleases, shelter himself under the irresponsibility of Opposition; but that is a doctrine which will not bear to be pushed to extremes, and never, I believe, has it been pushed to such an I extreme as it has been to-night. In vain is it for the right hon. Gentleman to say, "Wait! Place me upon those benches, and then let me tell you what I mean to do." I do not think the country will consent to proposals based upon such conditions. Nay, more, I feel a most confident conviction that this House and the country will approve the course taken in these most difficult negotiations by Her Majesty's Government, and that they will reject a Motion which both prudence and patriotism must alike emphatically condemn.Ut vidêre virum fulgentiaque arma per umbras Ingenti trepidare metu."
rose to move the insertion, in lieu of the second paragraph of Mr. Disraeli's Motion, of the following words:—
After listening to the two most able speeches with which this debate had been opened, he could not help thinking that there was great force in the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said that the terms of the Motion of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire announced a degradation of this country in the eyes of the world, which he (Mr. Newdegate) did feel that it was almost indecent to admit. No doubt England at this moment stood in a position of isolation in one sense from her usual allies with reference to the case of Denmark and in the maintenance of the independence of that kingdom, which constituted an important element of the balance of power, needful to secure the peace of Europe. He could not admit the doctrine of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire that, when papers relating to the foreign policy of the country were submitted to that House by command of Her Majesty, the only question that any Member was entitled to entertain was, "Whether the Government, which had conducted the policy to which those papers referred, deserved the continuance of the confidence of the country, or whether they should be succeeded by the occupants of the front bench on that side of the House?" Such an assumption was contrary to the every-day practice of the House, and was contrary to the practice of the right hon. Gentleman himself, who during the present Session had constantly put questions and expressed opinions on foreign policy, though he had not pledged himself to any definite course of policy. That was one reason in favour of this Amendment. He understood the right hon. Gentleman, in one part of his speech—that which related to the conversation between Lord Wodehouse and General Fleury—distinctly to disavow any intention on his part, if he had been in office, to have interfered in favour of Denmark; as far as he (Mr. Newdegate) could understand, the right hon. Gentleman, if he had been in power, would have left Denmark to combat single-handed with Germany. If that would have been the policy of the right hon. Gentleman he (Mr. Newdegate) should have disapproved of it, and he thought the House had done rightly in continuing to the present Government their tenure of office, because he understood that the public feeling was, that England ought to have exerted herself to a greater extent than she had done to prevent; the gross injustice which had been and was being inflicted upon our Ally. The circumstances which had induced him to give notice of this Amendment were comprised in the concluding sentences of the speech of the Prime Minister, delivered by him on Monday last, when the noble Lord said—"To submit to Her Majesty the opinion of this House, that the independence of Denmark and the possessions of that kingdom, on the terms proposed by the representatives of the neutral Powers in the recent Conference, ought to be guaranteed."
It seemed as if the result and the alternative referred to by the noble Lord were not at all impossible, according to the news that continued to arrive, and that it might behove England to interfere. It had been said that the Conference was a failure, that it had met without a basis. But he asked, did it separate without a basis? They had it in the protocols before them that all the neutral Powers represented at the Conference concurred with the representatives of England in recommending that the future limits of the Danish Monarchy should be those of the territory north of the Schlei and of the line of the Dannewerke. And as there was a prospect, as the circumstances of Denmark might force this country to take an active part in the settlement of this question, he asked whether it would not be more politic and more respectful to our Allies, instead of treating their labours at the Conference as futile, declaring, in fact, that their labours had proved no less futile than our own, to adopt the terms of this Amendment, which conveyed that this House concurred with the neutral Powers in the view they had adopted for the termination of the war, for the independence of Denmark, and for the future security of the peace of Europe. But he might be told that he was speaking of the proceedings of a Conference and not of a Congress. Well, he thought whether it were a Conference only to consult and to advise, or a Congress, the direct function of which was to decide, in the present case it was wholly immaterial. The House had this fact before them, a general concurrence of the neutral Powers as to the terms on which this contest between Denmark and Germany ought to be concluded. He did not think that the House of Commons could adopt a course more conciliatory or more prudent than that of declaring its concurrence in the decision arrived at in the Conference by the representatives of the neutral Powers. He was far from blaming the Government for convening the Conference. On the contrary, he thought there was better hope in such an assembly for the restoration of peace than in any other measure that was at all likely to be adopted. There was, no doubt, a failure in its objects—namely, that although the representatives of the neutral Powers came to a unanimous opinion, their decision was practically futile, because no Power in the Conference had manifested a disposition to carry out the decision of the majority of the Powers therein represented. It might be urged that after the German Powers refused to accede to the proposal of the neutral powers that different schemes of accommodation and conciliation were hinted at, in which the neutral Powers refused to concur, and they ought to be considered the real arbiters in the matter. But Denmark herself refused to accept any of those schemes, and Russia refused her assent to them. It appeared to him that if this House were to express an opinion upon the evidence of the papers before them, it would be to the purpose if the House were to declare with the view to the permanent establishment of peace and the independence of Denmark, its concurrence in the one opinion, expressed unanimously by the representatives of the neutral Powers in the recent Conference. He agreed with the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) that it was desirable that the Great Powers should meet to settle such matters by arbitration, instead of by bloodshed; but he put it to the hon. Member whether there was any use in those Powers coming to a decision if they lacked the means to carry it into effect. He thought that the hon. Member must by this time have come to the conclusion that a mere resort to arbitration in affairs of this kind was totally useless, if there were no means available for enforcing the judgment arrived at. It was, in fact, almost an insult to ask the Great Powers to meet in Conference unless the Power that convened them was prepared to act on their advice, not by the mere acceptance of it, but by using the necessary means to carry it into effect. He wished further to remind the hon. Member for Rochdale that the Danish people were a free people, and that the cause of Denmark was the cause of freedom, civil and religious, the cause of constitutional government. Such were the views which actuated him in proposing his Amendment. He was sorry that the order of debate forced him to interpose so early upon the consideration of the House. It appeared to him, however, that the House might well adopt his Amendment in vindication of its own privileges, thus expressing an opinion on a matter, which had been formerly referred to their consideration by Her Majesty's Ministers. Let him advert for a moment to past circumstances. He agreed with the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), when that right hon. Gentleman attributed the present difficulty to the devious and uncertain course of Her Majesty's Government on the question of Poland. He (Mr. Newdegate) believed that that was the origin of the difficulties in which this country was now placed; and he feared, unless England manifested a disposition to lead the way in the cause of justice for Denmark, that Franco might shrink from the task, and that Russia would think the menaces which the noble Lord conveyed in his speech of Monday last as little likely to be realized, as those were which Earl Russell had before directed against herself when urging the cause of Poland. He (Mr. Newdegate) feared that England had lost some of her influence with the Powers of Europe. He did not, however, think that the nation was disgraced. He considered that it was of the deepest importance, in the interest of free institutions, and of religious and of civil freedom, as well as in that of the peace of the world, that England should take some steps to regain that influence which he believed she had lost. He did not wish to see England, if it could be avoided, take this step alone; but even if she were left alone in the matter, he thought that she should take that step. Surely neither the spirit of the country nor her resources were sunk so low that she was to be told by her Majesty's Government, at whose disposal she placed £30,000,000 annually for the support of her naval and military services, that when an Ally, to whom she was deeply bound, was trampled upon by a combination of powerful German States, England was so weak, so enervated by luxury, so selfish in her wealth, so impotent in her armaments, and so lost to what she had once proved herself capable of, that she must quietly submit to be a silent spectator of a grievous wrong being done to a weak but friendly State, because Russia or France declined to assist her in a matter which, after all, concerned England as a maritime nation far more deeply than either of the other Powers to which he had referred. In saying this he did not wish it to be understood that he was advocating inevitable and immediate war. The meaning of his Amendment was simply that the House should declare its readiness to co-operate with the Allies of England before those evils ensued, which the noble Earl foreshadowed as possible, and which seemed both probable and imminent from the violence with which the German Powers were acting. He did not desire that we should undertake war single handed; nevertheless, he would never admit, that if the necessity should arise, England could not make war single handed, that because she was alone that therefore she must submit to dishonour or humiliation before the nations of the world, that she should for a moment cower beneath insult or aggression on the part of any Power however formidable. It was his belief, if the House should think fit to concur in his Amendment, and should show to the world that the Power that convened the Conference was ready to lead the way in carrying the measures, recommended by her representative and adopted by the majority of the Conference, into effect, that it was probable that the other Powers would concur in doing justice to the manifestation of the ancient courage of their Ally, and would give their adherence to the undertaking. Germany would then be made to see the probability of her being excelled in arms by those Powers whose advice she had rejected, and would be driven to re-consider that course of violence and wrong-doing which she was pursuing. Prudence would then dictate to even 40,000,000 of people, always supposing them to be unanimous in the course they adopted, the folly of encountering the hostility of mighty millions of people united and represented by their combined navies and armies, called to avenge a grave outrage inflicted upon a weak but gallant nation. He was not prepared to vote with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire for a Resolution which implied that his country was disgraced. If the right hon. Gentleman really thought so, then he asked him to join in supporting his Amendment, that it might be proved to the world that if England were disgraced, she was prepared to wipe out the stain as effectually and with as little delay as possible. He advocated that course in no spirit of rashness, or from any desire to give an offence to any of the Powers of Europe. He proposed his Amendment in deference to the judgment of, and out of respect to, those Powers whose advice we sought. It was hardly respectful to convene the Powers of Europe at a Conference, and then to tell the neutral Powers, whose function it was to arbitrate, and whose opinion was unanimous, that though their advice might be very good, they might return back to their respective countries, as England declined to give them any assurance that she was prepared to carry out the advice which they had so kindly tendered. Under the name of the independence of Denmark there were two meanings, one merely the independent Government of Denmark Proper, the other the independence of the kingdom, as contemplated under the terms of the Treaty of 1852 The Great Powers concurred in the treaty of that year in order that they might so strengthen Denmark as to enable her to maintain her independence by herself. Well, that arrangement had in this respect failed. The Powers did not foresee the combination of the German Powers which had since taken place under the auspices of the Diet of Frankfort. They thought that by a combination of several elements within the Danish monarchy they had furnished her with strength to enable her to maintain her independence. That anticipation had been defeated by the intrigues and the combination of the German Powers; when the Diet was created or empowered in 1815 the view was this, that this Diet should be a Federal Power to secure the independence of various small States in Germany. But the statesmen of that day did not anticipate that this Federal Power should become an aggressive Power in Europe, and that there should be a contest between Austria and Prussia as to which should lead in the Assembly of the Diet, and that certain elements in that Assembly, by making use of this rivalry, should command both Austria and Prussia. It was never intended that, in the centre of Europe, there should by these means be established an aggressive Power which should act for the aggrandisement of itself, overwhelming its weaker neighbours, so that it might be enabled to establish a German fleet which should be at its command, it might be for purposes not less aggressive than the course now pursued by the Diet, in its proceedings towards Denmark. That was a combination which had not been foreseen, and therefore he should be glad to see the House adopt the proposal made by England in the Conference. If Denmark, while she yet retained Holstein, her most wealthy province, and the south of Schleswig, had been unable to resist Germany, no one would imagine that if Denmark were reduced, as suggested by the majority of the Conference, she could maintain her independence unless she were guaranteed by the other Powers. It seemed to him that it would be enough if England and Sweden were alone to guarantee the independence of Denmark, and that under that guarantee Denmark could resume her position of an independent Power, as an item in the balance of power in Europe, and as an element for the security of a permanent European peace. But he believed that if it were once known that England and Sweden would guarantee Denmark, Russia would also join in the guarantee, and then they would see Denmark re-established, and with this state of things, that the demand of Germany for access to the sea would be conceded on the part of the neutral Powers by the cession of Holstein and the southern part of Schleswig, whilst at the same time there would be securities for the maintenance of peace, which was the object of the Powers which concurred in the Treaty of 1852. In conclusion, he would say that, believing, as he did, that the noble Lord would not have told them that a contingency might arise which would require that England should go to war with Germany, unless there were good grounds for that anticipation; and thinking that it would be better that England, by adopting the decision of the neutral Powers in the Conference, should manifest her intention to interfere—believing this, he hoped that that House would concur in the conclusion to which he had arrived, that it was wise to act decisively now rather than later; because the deferring our action whilst war continued was only to entail a greater sacrifice of life, and still further to degrade Denmark, who was already sufficiently oppressed. If Denmark was to be satisfied with such a mitigated independence as was accorded to a State dependent upon the Federal Diet of Germany—and that was the prospect they had before them, for to that position Denmark must fall if England did not interfere—it would be better to say at once to Denmark, "England will not aid you to maintain your real independence; England will not exert herself in the sense of her traditional policy as embodied in the Treaty of 1852; England dare not go to war alone." If the House rejected this Amendment, then the people of Denmark would know that the only occasion on which England would interfere would be when the capital of Denmark was taken and her King was a prisoner. If she could obtain no available resource from the friendship of England, then Denmark should be made to understand at once that it would be wise in her to become a dependency of the German Powers, rather than to rely one hour longer upon England; but he must say that it would be an act of cruelty to allow this war to continue without a declaration on the part of the House, either that it was proper to act in the sense of the decision given in the Conference by the neutral Powers, or that Denmark should be emphatically recommended either to make terms with Germany as best she might; if not, that she should seek elsewhere some more trustworthy ally."Still, the contest is, as regards Schleswig, and not as regards the independence of Denmark, or the safety of the capital of the Danish monarchy. I do not mean to say, therefore—I think it right, indeed, to put in this reservation—that if the war should assume a different character; if the existence of Denmark as an independent Power in Europe should be at stake; if we had reason to expect to see at Copenhagen the horrors of a town taken by assault—the destruction of property, the sacrifice of lives, not only of its defenders, but of the peaceful inhabitants, the confiscations which would ensue, the capture of the Sovereign, as a prisoner of war, and other humiliations of that kind—I do not mean to say that if any of those events were likely to happen the position of this country might not be a subject for re-consideration. We might then think it our duty to adopt another course; but this I say, tin the part of the Government, that if any change of policy be thought advisable such change shall be communicated to Parliament, if Parliament is sitting, and in any case the earliest opportunity of taking the sense of Parliament upon the matter shall be taken."
seconded the Amendment.
To leave out the second paragraph of the proposed Question, in order to insert the words "To submit to Her Majesty the opinion of this House, that the independence of Denmark and the possessions of that Cingdom, on the terms proposed by the Representatives of the Neutral Powers in the recent Conference, ought to be guaranteed."—(Mr. Newdegate,)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, that since it was obvious that the Amendment proposed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire, would be altogether inconsistent with that which he had the honour to place on the notice book, it might, perhaps, be convenient to the House to regard the two as one, and to permit him, at that early period of the debate, to state the purpose for which he had introduced his Amendment to the House. But before doing so, it would be right to offer this one remark upon the Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman proposed that the Government should guarantee to the King of Denmark all that portion of Schleswig which lay north of the dividing line of the Schlei. But this disputed territory was at present in the hands of the German Powers, and, therefore, to propose to guarantee to Denmark territories which were in possession of the German armies was simply to propose war, and something more—war at this moment, and liability to war through all time to come. Because, if we were to guarantee these mixed districts to the King of Denmark he could not imagine that any one would live to see a period when the Government of this country might not be called upon to act on that guarantee. Although they were now engaged in a great party conflict, he asked the House to remember that the transactions forming the subject of the present discussion had also been the subject of debate on several occasions between the first night of the Session and the time when the lips of Members were; sealed by the opening of the Conference. He had had the honour of taking part in those debates from time to time, and the speeches he had made showed plainly enough that in many respects he could not and did not agree with the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Many other Gentlemen took a similar view. This disapproval or difference from the policy of Her Majesty's Government continued until the period when the Conference closed. But on Monday last the noble Lord at the head of the Government came down and made one of the most important announcements that the House had ever been called upon to hear. He announced to the House that it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government in the present conjuncture to advise Her Majesty to take up arms. In that decision of Her Majesty's Government he (Mr. Kinglake) entirely concurred; and the House would therefore understand the dilemma in which he and those who had taken a similar part with him were placed. If he were to vote a direct negative to the censure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) he should apparently be departing insome degree from that course of remonstrance which he had maintained during the earlier part of the Session; on the other hand, if he voted for the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he should be censuring Her Majesty's Government at the very moment when they had come to a decision with which he and others so cordially concurred. That was a dilemma in which no one ought to be placed if the forms of the House would allow him to evade it, and for that reason he had put upon the notice-book the Amendment standing in his name. He would remind the House that in the policy of Her Majesty's Government, speaking merely from the votes of the House of Commons, there had been a long acquiescence. ["No!"] He was speaking not of the opinions of hon. Members, but of votes of the House; and that acquiescence lasting for years—for some of the early papers had been delivered years ago—continued down to the day when the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman was announced. He himself, and those with whom he acted, were not responsible for that acquiescence. It was due entirely to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), who, when his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. B. Osborne) made one of the most able statements he had ever heard on this intricate subject—a statement, by-the-by, in which was put before the House in a forcible manner a great deal of what they had heard again that evening from the right hon. Gentleman—confined himself to moving the Previous Question. ["Hear, Hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen cheered as if they supposed that the determination to move the Previous Question on that occasion was a very wise and sagacious decision. They seemed to suppose that Her Majesty's Government having a pitfall before it, it was very clever on their part to keep the House quiet, and to allow the Government to encounter the catastrophe. He did not himself think that an honest way of dealing with questions of foreign policy in that House. The period in question was one, as far as he could judge, when the House had an admirable opportunity of coming to some decision, of indicating a policy, and if not of guiding the Government, at any rate of warning them from some of the dangers by which they were surrounded. The right hon. Gentleman determined not to take advantage of the opportunity, and he moved the Previous Question. He not only moved, but he brought about the Previous Question in a sense sometimes attributed to persons not familiar with the forms of the House, who believed this Motion to imply that the House on its being carried reverted to the last subject of debate. That was exactly what the right hon. Gentleman did; for he went back to the subject of Poland, and the result was that the Previous Question was carried in a double sense of the term. These transactions were followed by the declaration of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) on Monday last. He had now to call the attention of the House to the very singular reservation of opinions on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and of those with whom he acted on the present occasion. On Monday last the noble Lord announced that the Government had come to the determination not to advise the Queen to take up arms; and that was coincident with the close of the deliberations of the Conference. He (Mr. Kinglake) acknowledged that there was here a general conjunction of circumstances, and that the period was quite ripe for the hon. Gentleman opposite to address the Crown on the present state of affairs. Accordingly the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) moved an Address to the Queen. The first sentence of the Address informed Her Majesty of that which they all knew already, and it concluded with a complaint that the just influence of England in the councils of Europe had been lowered. Was that a complaint with which it was worthy for hon. Gentlemen to approach the Throne at a moment when a declaration of the greatest importance had been conveyed from it to Parliament? He could quite understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite might be in favour of peace or they might be in favour of war; but that they should address the Crown after a decision had been announced by the Government on that Question and reserve their own opinion on it was, to him, altogether unintelligible. If any private Member endeavoured to obtain a Vote of Censure on the Government for any portion of their foreign policy, would it not be thought strange indeed if he were to withhold any statement of his opinion on the question of peace or war? Yet that was just what the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman did. There was not a word in it indicating whether or not the Opposition approved the determination announced by the noble Lord. In fact, the question seemed to be forgotten altogether by the right hon. Gentleman in the stress of party politics. The word "peace," however, did creep into the Resolution, but it was mentioned merely as one of the advantages which would result from what the right hon. Gentleman was pleased to call "influence." In distant Asiatic ports a traveller often met with a Consul or Vice Consul who had been lately cheeked in some of his proceedings by the Government at home, and who was therefore full of complaints to every one who dined with him about the influence of England having been lowered. That was just the sort of complaint with which the right hon. Gentleman at this grave juncture thought fit to approach the Throne. If by influence the right hon. Gentleman meant the might of England, then he entirely denied that it had been lessened. The influence of England in the Councils of Europe depended on the belief that England was strong, and if she kept up her real strength her influence would not be lowered by a number of hasty despatches. The influence of England depended on her actual strength, and the best way to maintain her influence was to hoard her resources, and at such a time as this to avoid so preposterous a war as that into which they would have been plunged had the decision of the Government been other than it had been. The Resolution, as it seemed to him, was directed rather against the effects alleged to have been produced by the conduct of the Government than against any actual shortcoming on their part. It was be worded, however, that he could suppose that it was intended to disclose something else;—it was so framed that one interpretation might be that the credit of England had been lowered by the course taken by Her Majesty's Government. ["Hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen by that cheer showed their adhesion to that view. He should have thought they might have acted more prudently; because it was quite plain that exactly as the charge succeeded against Her Majesty's Government it succeeded, so to speak, against England. He did not wish to be misunderstood on that point. He would not presume to say that because the credit of the country had been mixed up with the misconduct of the Government, the Government should seek shelter in any way under the supposition that criticism of their behaviour would endanger the credit of the country. But what he said was that where the criticism of the Government assumed such a form that if carried it would do injury to the reputation of the nation, then it was the duty of all of them at least to take care that the criticism was fair, to scrutinize it deliberately, and to see that an unjust stigma of this kind was not wrongfully fastened upon England by her own House of Commons. He could not admit that they were driven to so painful a conclusion as that which the Motion suggested. He had from time to time expressed disapproval of much that Her Majesty's Government had done; but he should refuse to go to the length of saying that the mismanagement had been carried so far that the honour of England was affected as alleged. The object he believed was to show that by addressing encouragement and advice to Denmark and threats to the other Powers, England had placed herself in a situation which made it difficult, if not impossible, for her to recede with honour. A single observation disposed of much that had been said with regard to the alleged threats. But he believed that the greater part of that charge would be disposed of by the observation that in almost every portion of the correspondence from which it was possible to evolve anything like a threat it would be found that England was acting in her European character, and common sense would tell them that when such was the case it should be understood that she was speaking to those she was addressing not as a single nation, but as one of the parties to the Treaty of 1852, and in conjunction with her co-signatories. That undertaking was fulfilled when England endeavoured to form a league against the German Powers—a league which through the prudence of the Emperor of the French failed. She did her part when she tried to obtain the co-operation of the other Powers in checking the aggression of Germany, and nothing would have been so quixotic as for England to go to war for Denmark single-handed. England was not the sole policeman of Europe. As to the encouragement said to have been given to Denmark by the noble Lord in July last year, those words had already been adverted to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he (Mr. Kinglake) thought that there; was one view of the case arising out of these words which had not been adverted I to by the right hon. Gentleman. It should be borne in mind that the words were spoken in a totally different state of circumstances from that which now existed. The words were spoken in July last, but the present cause of war did not arise until after the death of the King, in the November following; and another existing cause of the war was the proclamation of the constitution by the present King a few days afterwards, and the coercion which, if it bad taken place in July, would have been under totally different circumstances. With regard to giving advice to a weaker Power, he had always entertained the strongest opinion as to the danger which such a course involved. He knew of nothing more dangerous for a great State to do than to engage in a system of advising a weaker Power when it was in danger of being oppressed by stronger ones. But there was a great distinction between advising a weaker Power to make concessions and recommending it to offer resistance. England did advise Denmark to make con- cessions, and as far as he knew that advice had in every instance proved to be good. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen cried "No, no;" but he believed it was so, because in every instance it had the effect of putting Denmark more and more in the right. In no instance, as far as he knew, did our Government address to Denmark any erroneous advice. The tendency of every word addressed to Denmark was to strengthen her by increasing her moral claim upon the assistance of Europe. When, for instance, our Government recommended Denmark to withdraw the Patent of March that was advising her to avoid a continuance in what every one who had read the papers acknowledged to have been an offence against Germany, and so with reference to the Constitution of November. It was, he believed, admitted by all that that Constitution was a breach of the engagements of 1851 and 1852, and, therefore, the Government did well in advising the Danes to place themselves right with regard to those matters. But he did not find that in any instance Her Majesty's Government had advised them to resist. On the contrary, he well remembered that with reference to the invasion of Schleswig they observed a strict silence as to whether Denmark should make any resistance. There was another matter which had not been referred to in the course of this debate, but which appeared to him to be of great importance, not only to the honour of the Government, but to that of England. When a great Power was supporting or encouraging a weaker one under the stress or threat of pressure there always arose this condition of things—that the greater Power dictated to the lesser one the manner in which she should conduct herself in the quarrel. The greater Power, in consideration of the assistance which the weaker one hoped to obtain from her, placed her under obligation to be moderate and to accede to her suggestions; and if the minor Power declined to do so, then, of course, the responsibility of the greater Power ceased. For instance, at the time of the Crimean war, when England was giving, or likely to give, assistance to Turkey, the Porte was kept, so to speak, in a state of subjugation to England. During the whole of that period Lord Stratford De Redcliffe would never allow Turkey to take a course of her own. If that illustration was applied to the case of Denmark, it would be found that Denmark had, he would not say placed herself in the wrong, but had to a great extent discharged England from her responsibility. In the year 1862 Lord Russell proposed terms for the acceptance of Denmark, and procured their acceptance by Austria, Prussia, Germany, Russia, and France. Denmark rejected them. She had a perfect right to reject them, but by doing so she for the time forfeited her right to expect that she would have the support of England. Again, what happened in the Conference? Why, twice over Denmark resisted the counsels of England, and her very last act was to reject the terms proposed to her by France. France and England proposed that the decision of the boundary should be left to the populations. Denmark rejected that counsel, and so lost the claim she had before to the assistance of France. If it was true, as he thought it was, that the honour of England was not at stake, it was still more easily made apparent that no policy could require England to take part in a war of this kind. He believed that Lord Derby said that a war against Germany for this purpose would be madness. He would, therefore, address himself to those who took a more warlike view of the question. But, supposing for the sake of argument that there was a time when war would have been right, that time was gone by. He could enter into the view of the Gentlemen who said that when the German Powers crossed the frontiers of Schleswig there was a cause of war; or of those who said that when the Treaty of London was broken England ought to have gone to war. Those were positions which he should disapprove, but still they were tenable positions, and in the eyes of many men would be right; but to say that after having given up the Treaty of London in the Conference and assented to the invasion of Schleswig we were at the eleventh hour to make up our minds to go to war for a narrow strip of territory in that Dnchy, was a proposal which must revolt the common sense of all who heard it. It would be a violation of the principle of non-intervention on which we had been accustomed to lay stress, and a violation of it in its best sense, that it was our duty to abstain from interference in the internal affairs of another State. He trusted that he had made it plain that such a war would be impolitic, that it would be too late, and that it would violate the principle to which he had just referred; but he admitted that to show this would be to show nothing, unless he had also shown, as he trusted he had, that our continued enjoyment of the blessings of peace was consistent with our national honour.
At last that opportunity, which at an earlier period of the Session I ventured to predict would be afforded to the Government to explain and, if possible, to defend their foreign policy, has arrived; and, at last, we are able to give expression to those feelings which the events that have occurred around us must have created in the breasts of all. I think the House of Commons has only done its duty by refraining, while the Conference was sitting, from entering into any discussion upon this subject. It is not the province of the House of Commons to carry on negotiations with foreign Powers, or to interfere with those upon whom the duty and responsibility of doing so rests; but it is the duty of the House of Commons, which I look upon as the guardian, not only of the interests, but of the honour of the country, to demand the strictest account of the manner in which those duties have been performed, and it is in the execution of that duty that 1, or any other Member, have a right to call upon the Government for an account of their stewardship, and to judge by the manner in which it has been executed whether it is right that the honour of the country should be any longer intrusted to their charge Although, Sir, I address you from this bench, and although I entirely agree in the address which my right hon. friend has moved, and take upon myself the full responsibility of my share in its proposal, it is not my intention to make a party speech, or for any party purpose. No man in this House feels more strongly, or is more actuated by those party feelings than I am; but there is a greater party than any in this House to which we all belong, and that is our country; and it is as an Englishman, or rather as a citizen of the United Kingdom—for I am perfectly certain that, when the honour of this country is concerned, there will be no distinction between Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotchmen—that I express those feelings of deep humiliation which I, in common, I believe, with a large majority of my countrymen, have felt for the position this country has been placed in. I have thus distinctly stated the capacity in which I address you, because I always say what I think myself, and not what others think; and no man, far less any party, is responsible for the opinions I am about to express, as to the manner in which the foreign policy of this country ought to be conducted. Now, nothing has created, in my mind, greater astonishment than the admiration which has always been expressed by the party opposite for the foreign policy of the Government. It is matter of notoriety that after they had thrown over their Reform Bill they existed entirely on the credit of their foreign policy. They were extravagant beyond precedent. There was nothing in the measures which they brought forward to recommend them, or rather there were none; neither was there anything in the administration of the various offices, except, perhaps, that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—for I wish to do justice to everybody—which could entitle them to any large share of public approbation. As I said before, they existed entirely on the credit of their foreign policy, and the personal popularity of the noble Lord the First Minister, that popularity being derived from the feeling which prevailed throughout the country that, at all events, the national honour would be duly guarded as long as the noble Lord was a Member of the Government. How far that feeling has been justified by subsequent events I leave the House to judge. There is not a Member on the opposite side of the House who has not in speeches or addresses to his constituents—and the observation applies to more than one Member on this side—thought it necessary to express his approval of the foreign policy of the Government. To all these the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has a right to say—My policy has ever been the same. From the first moment I entered office, I have constantly and systematically interfered in the affairs of other nations. Notwithstanding all the rebuffs which I have received, and the humiliations to which I have been subjected, I have persevered in that course of moral interference. I do not suppose the noble Lord would like to enter into a detail of all these rebuffs, and if will be sufficient to refer to a few of them. He might say—I remonstrated against the annexation of Savoy and Nice in the strongest language I dare make use of; but recollect it was only a remonstrance and not a protest, and was treated with the greatest possible contempt, no notice whatever being taken of it. Again he might say, I interfered in the affairs of Poland, until it was absolutely necessary for me to do something, or to submit to the humiliation of being told to hold my tongue, and mind my own business—an alternative I gladly availed myself of—assuring the Russian Government, that it was with great pleasure that I heard they continued to maintain the same favourable feelings towards Poland that I had been all along remonstrating and protesting against. With regard to the German States, the noble Lord might tell the admirers of his foreign policy, I endeavoured to intimidate them, by telling them that I could not look with indifference at the course which they were pursuing; but they told me by acts, if not by words, that they were perfectly indifferent how I looked. You will therefore perceive that my system of moral interference has been a complete failure. The noble Lord would be fully justified in addressing this language to the admirers of his foreign policy; but I have never been one of them, and have the satisfaction of knowing that I have been as consistent in the condemnation of that policy, as the noble Lord has been in carrying it out. It is not always that one would wish to be tied down to opinions given, and prophecies made on the subject of foreign policy, some two years and a half ago, in an after-dinner speech to our constituents; but looking back to a speech which I made at Huntingdon on the last day of October, 1861, I see nothing to alter in it, and it is as applicable to the present time as it was to that; and I am about to refer to it for two reasons, first to show that I am not tonight adopting a policy merely to suit the present circumstances, and secondly, and above all, as an answer to that question, which has been so often put, but never answered—What would you have done? On the occasion to which I allude, I had been consoling my constituents for the change of Government which had taken place, by assuring them that, on all the great questions of the day, the good sense of the country had so explicitly and unmistakably declared itself, that it mattered little what men happened to be in power, as the wishes of the country must be carried out. I said, that by the Volunteer movement and the great scheme of fortifications proposed by the noble Lord opposite, the country had expressed its determination to be defended against any attack that could possibly be made upon it; but it was equally determined not to be drawn into a war on account of others, or for the purpose of carrying out an idea. I said then, as I say now, that I was perfectly astonished at the praises lavished by the liberal party on the foreign policy of the Government, and at the proud position which they said we held, and the moral influence which we exercised, in the affairs of Europe, and that I believed our position was, to be disliked and detested by every nation under the sun. True it was we had that amount of respect paid to us which our wealth and power must always command, but it was respect accompanied by dislike and distrust, and not by regard. I said that at that time we were told we were not to rely upon the Emperor of the French, but were to look elsewhere for allies, and I asked then, as I ask now, where was there a single country that would not prefer an alliance with France to one with England, and wherefore all this distrust? Depend upon it, I said, no man is hated by everybody without some cause. I then told them an anecdote of a gentleman who was notorious for constant meddling and interfering with other people's affairs, who got involved in a quarrel in consequence of doing so, and applied to a distinguished nobleman and judge of the world to act as his friend. The nobleman said to him, Will you fight? because, if you will not, depend upon it the less you interfere with other people's affairs the better it will be for you; and I said then, two years and a half ago, that if we followed the admirable advice given upon that occasion we should have far less chance of drifting into another war; and I ask now, if we have not been on the point of drifting into another war; and if we have escaped, if it has not been solely owing to our having thrown our honour overboard? I said then, as I say now, that I am as anxious to maintain the honour and to promote the interests of the country as any man can be; but I have to learn that honour is maintained, or interest promoted, by interfering with everybody on every occasion and making use of overbearing language. On the contrary, I observed that man walks safest and most respected through a crowd who avoids interfering with others; and that if there ever was an occasion in which the suaviter in modo and fortiter in re were to be practised, it was in dealing with nations as proud as ourselves. The noble Lord's method of practising the suaviter in modo may be ascertained by his treatment of the German Powers; and what his ideas of fortiter in re are, I leave unfortunate Den- I mark to decide. The noble Lord persevered in his course of moral interference; and, at the commencement of the present year, it had produced the following effects. In the speech from the Throne, on the opening of Parliament, Her Majesty was I obliged to omit, for the first time, I believe, the paragraph that informed the country that Her Majesty continued to receive friendly assurances from all Foreign Powers. And no wonder it was omitted, for I read at the time the following account of our relations with other countries, which I believe to have been perfectly correct. It said—
Now, I would ask, What is it that has reduced us to this state? How has it come I to pass that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—who in private life is an example of every virtue and every quality which Englishmen honour and respect, and who, during the course of a long public life, has earned for himself a name which even his political opponents—and I have ever been one of them—respect and are proud of; how is it, I say, that this amiable man, who is so much loved and esteemed here, should make himself, or rather his country, so unpopular and so much disliked abroad? How is it that the instant he dips his pen into official ink—and it appears never to be out of it—his whole nature seems to be changed, and instead of conciliating, he contrives to offend everybody, and that not so much by the thing done as by the manner of doing it. It may be said that he has maintained peace, and that we have no enemies; but we have no friends, and are looked upon with suspicion and distrust by other nations. There is a general feeling abroad, founded, I fear, upon too much truth, that we have one policy for the weak and another for the strong; and that, although we interfere with all alike, we treat very differently any breach of treaty on the part of an Emperor of China or Japan, a King of the Ashantees, or a New Zealand Chief, than we do a similar infraction by any of the Powers of Europe. The noble Lord opposite gave as an excuse the other day for not telling us what everybody else knew, that there was a great difference between the declaration of a Prime Minister to Parliament and a statement in a newspaper. I perfectly agree that the time has been when the declaration of the Prime Minister of this country, delivered to the House of Commons, would have been looked upon by all Foreign Powers as binding, and as certain to be carried into effect as that of the most absolute monarch in the world; but is that so now? I need not remind the noble Lord of that of which he has been reminded so often—namely, his declaration that if any body entered the Duchies, Denmark would not be left alone. Again, we have hoard him declare that the entrance of Austria and Prussia into Jutland was an aggravation of their already outrageous and infamous conduct. What is the meaning of such language? What is the use of it, unless it is to be acted up to? Is it come to this, that the words of the Prime Minister of England, uttered in the Parliament of England, are to be regarded as mere idle menaces, to be laughed at and despised by Foreign Powers? Why, Sir, it is said—"Our policy has led us to a point where we must either engage single-handed in a war with Germany, or justly be branded as big-mouthed; bullies, who sneak off at the first show of danger, leaving our friends at the mercy of their enemies. Despised in Germany, and laughed at as the manufacturers of bruta fulmina launched weekly at the Diet, which simply takes no notice of them, except to publish them for newspaper critics to amuse themselves with picking out all the absurdities and fallacies they contain; execrated in Denmark as perfidious allies; thoroughly estranged from France; laughed at but distrusted by Russia; cursed in their dying agony by the Poles; disliked equally by the Confederates and Unionists in America, we stand alone in the wide world. Our policy, based on no conceivable principle, says one thing in the North, another in the South; advocates one set of principles in Italy, the very opposite principle in Germany. Such is Whig foreign policy.
"That women fight with words,
Now, I have not the slightest wish to see this country engaged in a war of the latter description; but the only way to prevent it with honour, is to avoid having recourse to those two other methods of warfare, in the exercise of which the noble Lords the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have become such adepts, that neither woman or monk would have the slightest chance with them. But, Sir, this war of words is neither safe or honourable. There are only two principles on which the foreign policy of this country can be carried out. If you choose to set yourselves up as the champions of the world, and to constitute yourselves the arbiters of other people's affairs, you must be prepared to fight for your position. Other countries as proud as yourselves will not tamely submit to your dictation. If, on the other hand, you are determined not to fight under any circumstances, if peace at any price is to be maintained, why, then, silence and non-intervention must be part of that price. I heard, with astonishment, an announcement of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary in another place, that the country is so prosperous, that nothing in the world must be permitted to interfere with that prosperity. But what would be said in private life of a man who refused to defend his honour on the ground that he was too rich to be shot at? It would almost appear that the commercial interests of the country had dictated to the Government, that they must shut their eyes to everything that passes abroad; and that if a case should arise similar, according to your own account, to that of the man who fell among thieves, you are not to act the part of the good Samaritan, but, like the Levite, pass on the opposite side of the way, and leave him to his fate, although that fate may have been caused by following your advice and trusting to your promises of support. If you are not prepared to keep your word to your neighbours—if it be to your own hindrance—you had better not only shut your eyes, but your mouths also. Again, if you are prepared to violate your own laws by the seizure of vessels without proof of any infraction of the law—if you say, let justice perish but peace be preserved; and if you do all this at the dictation of a foreign country, conveyed to you in terms so insulting that it appears matter of doubt whether the Minister of this country is to pocket the affront, or the Minister who presents it to pocket the despatch containing it—to be, however, published and proclaimed abroad as having been presented; if these be the terms on which the foreign policy of the country is to be conducted, we are indeed what the first Napoleon described us to be—a nation of shopkeepers; but the shopkeepers that existed in his day—from one of whom I am proud of being descended—were of a different race from these, for they preferred their country's honour to their own gains; and, instead of peace at any price being their motto, they preferred honour at any price, and what is more they paid for it. Now, I would preserve both the peace and the honour of the country; but you (the Government) have imperilled the one and tarnished the other. I say emphatically that you have tarnished the honour of the country, for I appeal to every Englishman, let his poli- tics be what they may, whether he has not felt a sense of the deepest humiliation at seeing a small country whom we were bound by treaty to acknowledge, and by promises to defend, overwhelmed by odds, which, if a similar event had occurred in private life, the greatest coward in the world would have rushed forward to rescue the weak from the strong, without inquiring into the cause of the quarrel, but which in this case you have described to be an outrageous and infamous attack of the strong upon the weak. There was a discussion in this House last week as to whether the breed of English horses had deteriorated. I trust that there can be no question as to the breed of Englishmen; at all events, we may derive one consolation from what has passed, but one I trust so remote that not the youngest of you will live to witness it—but you may tell your children, or your children's children, that they will be ruled hereafter by monarchs in whose veins flow the blood of that heroic race, who have proved themselves worthy of reigning over a free and brave people. Sir, I have said that I would maintain both the peace and honour of the country, and I do not see why the Foreign Minister of this country, who, I trust, will always be an English gentleman, should not be guided in the conduct of the affairs of his office by exactly the same principles that would govern his private life. I would have him jealous alike of his country's honour, and his own—if either were really insulted—I would have himMonks with curses, men with swords."
"Right the wrong where it is given,
But I would not have him easily offended, or imagine people intended to insult him, who had not the least wish to do so. I would have him live on terms of peace and friendship with everybody; a friendship founded on mutual good will, on mutual respect, mutual forbearance when any cause of difference arose, but, above all, a mutual reliance on each other's honour and good intentions. And I would not wish to see any closer bond of union between them. I am opposed to all treaties and guarantees that render it necessary to interfere with the affairs of others; and you may depend upon it, that a country that is guided by these principles will not only live in peace with her neighbours, but will be respected and looked up to by the whole world. Such I believe would be the effect of the policy I have laid down. The effect of the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government may be summed up in one short sentence—You have made us the open shame of our enemies, the very scorn and derision of all that are round about us.If it were in the court of heaven."
said, that whatever might be the merits of the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, (General Peel) there could be no doubt that it was very fittingly delivered in support of the Resolution moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks; for unquestionably that Resolution was not of an explicit character. At a time when it was most desirable to speak plainly on a subject which was capable of plain and intelligible exposition, the Resolution left it in doubt whether it was for peace or war. ["Oh!"] Did the Resolution censure the Government for having abstained from warlike operations, or did it censure the mode in which the negotiations had been conducted? If it meant the last, it would have been very easy to have said so, and, without leaving the question in any doubt, it might have made it quite distinct that, in the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the Government had done quite right in abstaining from hostilities and in not going to war. It was very easy to perceive what the real object of the Resolution was. As he had said the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had been very fittingly delivered in support of the Motion. The first part of it led him to think that the policy of the right hon. Gentleman would have chalked out for the country during last year was that of abstaining altogether from interfering in the affairs of our neighbours, of taking no part in the struggle in Germany, of attending to our own domestic concerns, and not running the risk of entangling ourselves in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman would have made no treaties and given no guarantees. But who was it who made the treaty of 1852? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's friends were in office at the time, and he (the Lord Advocate) thought he was entitled to ask who it was who made the Treaty of 1852? In asking that question he was obliged also to ask why it was that they made it, and why they at that time put themselves forward to interfere in the affairs of their neighbours? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said England was disgraced and degraded because they had sat still and seen a weak Power oppressed by a strong one. Would the right hon. Gentleman, then, not have sat still and witnessed such a sight? If not, would he have endeavoured to prevent it by negotiation; and if negotiation failed, would he have had recourse to war? Let them say what the liked—let them wrap it up in what rhetorical artifice they pleased—the Resolution before the House was a war Resolution. ["Oh, oh!"] Were it not so would anything have been easier or more appropriate than that now, when the people, through their representatives, were to give an opinion on the policy of the country, hon. Gentlemen should declare in plain terms whether they thought a policy of peace or a policy of war was right for this country? He did not ask the hon. Gentleman opposite to say what their own policy was, but he was entitled to ask them to say what the policy of the Government ought to have been. The hon. Gentlemen opposite, in moving this Resolution, were not speaking, and did not intend to speak, to this country only. They were speaking to Europe, and especially to the belligerents, who would not stop to scan their nicely weighed periods, but would take that Resolution to mean war. He accepted the Motion as a Vote of Censure, and as such it was perfectly reasonable that the sense of the House and the country should be taken upon it. He (the Lord Advocate) was prepared to deal with the Resolution in that sense. There were only two questions involved in the discussion—first, whether they ought to have taken an active part in the war between Germany and Denmark; and secondly, whether, supposing they were right in not doing so, the negotiations had been so conducted as to render them fairly liable to the censure implied in that Motion. He would maintain with confidence that there was no ground whatever for the censure now sought to be cast upon the Government. In the first place, he said it was not true that they had held out delusive promises to Denmark, but that, on the contrary, from first to last their language had been of a totally different character; that they had neither held out, nor did Denmark believe that they had held out, to her hopes which had been falsified. In the next place, as regarded Germany, he said it was not true that they had used the language of menace, but that their language had been suited to the occasion, and had been rightly and properly employed. In the third place, he said that, whatever expectations they had held out on the one hand, or whatever warnings they had given on the other, they had shown that they were ready to act up to them; and, in the fourth place, he said they were perfectly right not to go to war. He would endeavour not only to enunciate but to prove these propositions—but when they were all proved there was something behind; and if they stopped with those propositions they would do but scanty justice to the protracted diplomatic struggle which formed the subject matter of the Conference. He had read the Correspondence, and it had not produced on his mind the sense of humiliation which seemed to exist on the other side. So far from thinking the position of this country had been lowered or its honour tarnished, he did not know of one European Power among all those which had signed the Treaty of 1852 which was so well entitled as England to look back with the feeling that it had done its duty. In order properly to test the truth of the allegation that delusive encouragement had been given to Denmark they must separate the representations made to that State from those made to the German Powers. The Treaty of 1852 did not originate in any officious meddling with the concerns of other people, but was notoriously concluded in the interests of Europe with the active concurrence of both parties in the State. Although it contained no guarantee, the considerations which induced the British Government, in conjunction with their co-signataries, to bind themselves by it in 1852 fairly claimed some attention at their hands ten years later. In September, 1862, the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary addressed a letter to the Danish Cabinet, who resented it as an interference with their internal affairs; and at home there was also a good deal of discussion on the matter. Had the advice of Earl Russell then been listened to by Denmark, probably the present complications might have been long deferred; if not wholly averted, In March, 1863, the storm began to gather, and the Danish Government took up the subject, which in 1862 they declined to entertain. In the following June came the threat of Federal Execution; and a month later the speech of his noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston), who expressed his belief that as things then stood, if there was an interference with the Danish monarchy, Denmark would not find herself alone in resist- ing it. The meaning of the noble Lord plainly was to express his belief, which he was well entitled to entertain, that the Powers who were parties to the Treaty of 1852 would not allow her to stand alone. But this implied no pledge of material assistance on the part of this country single-handed, nor was it understood in that sense. On the 31st of August a despatch was addressed by Lord Russell to our Minister at Berlin, stating that he had informed the Prussian Chargé d'Affaires that it was not his intention to make any communication to the Danish Government after the reception which was given to his suggestion of September, 1862; but that if I Prussia and Austria persisted in advising the Confederation to make a Federal Execution then, they would do so against the advice already given by Her Majesty's Government, and must be responsible for the consequences, whatever they might be. Thus far there was no encouragement of Denmark; and nothing more took place till October 13, when Lord Russell wrote to Sir Augustus Paget at Copenhagen to suggest the way in which the Federal Execution might be met by the Danish Cabinet. It was only by examining the Correspondence that they could test the allegation that false hopes were held out to Denmark. On the 14th of October an interesting communication was made to Earl Russell by Sir Augustus Paget reporting conversations which the latter had had with the Danish Minister, M. Hall. That despatch showed that Denmark had not then the least reason to suppose she would receive material assistance from this country, although our Minister at Copenhagen ventured to assure her of our "good offices," and that the Danish Government then thought the time was most favourable for her to go to war with Germany, relying, not on any representations made to her by the British Government, but on the "public feeling of England, France, and Europe." In the latter part of the conversation between them, M. Hall directly put it to Sir Augustus Paget whether Denmark would have a guarantee from the Powers to support her in certain contingencies; and Sir Augustus Paget stated that there was no use in forwarding such a proposition to his Government. On the 17th of November Earl Russell wrote to Sir Augustus Paget in these terms—
The correspondence went on till Lord Wodehouse was sent to Copenhagen, and he wished to direct the attention of the House to a letter of the 21st of December, 1863. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), in proposing his Resolution, alluded to that letter with great emphasis, with the view of giving certain passages of it as much effect as possible in the eyes of the House. But there was a passage in it to which the right hon. Gentleman had not directed attention, but which was of no little importance. Lord Wodehouse, in narrating to Earl Russell the particulars of an interview which he had with M. Hall on the 20th of December, said—"Her Majesty's Government are very reluctant to interfere with regard to the Danish Constitution, and therefore I cannot instruct you to urge the King to take a course which may be very unpalatable to his subjects. At the same time, if you are questioned, you may say that as His Majesty desires, doubtless, that the proposed mediation should lead to a good result, the probability of its doing so might be greatly increased if his assent to the Constitution were to be suspended until a settlement of the international question was effected, or at least had made some progress"—Danish Papers, No. 3, 206.
The House would remember that the advice given by Lord Wodehouse to M. Hall was a joint one, for he had been in direct communication with the representatives of France, Russia and Sweden. The correspondence, from first to last, showed that, so far from a promise of active assistance having been given by this country to Denmark if she resisted, there was n direct statement that if Denmark did not do away with the Patent of March and abolish the Constitution of November 18, the British Government would not be able to in any way interfere in the affair; and Sir Augustus Paget expressly stated to M. Hall—"I entreated his Excellency to weigh well the gravity of the dangers which threatened Denmark, General Fleury had informed M. d'Ewers and me that he was instructed to tell the Danish Government that France would not go to war to support Denmark against Germany. It was my duty to declare to him that if the Danish Government rejected our advice, Her Majesty's Government must leave Denmark to encounter Germany on her own responsibility. Surely there was nothing inconsistent with the honour of Denmark in yielding to the united counsels of England, France, and Russia."—No. 4, 418.
It was quite true that at a later period after M. Hall had resigned and Bishop Monrad had become Minister, there was a direct appeal from Denmark for the active assistance of the friendly Powers, on the ground of the measures which she had taken in order to procure a peaceful solution. But there was a paragraph in the letter of Earl Russell to Sir Augustus Paget, dated February 19th, which showed that this country had not undertaken to take up arms for Denmark irrespectively of the circumstance whether the other neutral Powers might take the same step. Referring to a note to the Danish Minister, dated February the 11th, Earl Russell in his letter of the 19th stated—"I replied by stating as clearly and as forcibly as I could the immense advantage it would be to Denmark if negotiation could be substituted for war; the support she might expect in the one case, and her entire isolation in the other."
In fact it had never been in the contemplation of England that she would come forward to contend single-handed against the German Powers, and she had never given Denmark occasion to think so, and Denmark, in point of fact, did not think so. Then came the charge against Her Majesty's Government that they had used menaces to the Germans. It appeared to him that that was very easily disposed of. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had first spoken had charged England with a readiness to menace, but not to fight. There might be some difference between the great Powers as to their readiness to fight—but in the communications of our Government with France and Russia, material assistance to Denmark had been one subject which we had pressed on their consideration. He did not know why it should be supposed that when England directed a remonstrance to the German Powers that was a menace, but when Franco directed a remonstrance to them that was only a reasonable expostulation. The words used by Earl Russell by way of expostulation were identical with those employed by the French Government; and the truth was there had been the greatest reason for Earl Russell's remonstrances. It was impossible to over-estimate the elements of difficulty which the Government of this country had had to contend with in the negotiations on this question. There had come over Germany a spirit of quite a different character from that which had been supposed to prevail with the great Powers. Whether in the first instance Prussia and Austria were at the head of the new movement—whether they were voluntary or involuntary leaders of it when this Schleswig-Holstein question became one in which the neutral Powers had to negotiate—he was not prepared to say; but this was certain, that all over Germany a spirit had sprung up which formed a new and most difficult element in the Schleswig-Holstein question. The House were now aware of the view which Austria and Prussia took of the treaty of 1852; but certainly he could not see how those Powers could be absolved from the obligations which they had incurred as parties to that treaty, no matter what might be the obligations which they owed to the German Confederation. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the loss of our influence in Germany, he would remind the House of Sir Alexander Malet's observation, that it was no wonder England no longer had influence with the German Diet when neither Prussia nor Austria had been able to preserve her influence with the Diet any longer. He asked whether the right hon. Gentleman who had brought forward these Resolutions was of opinion that England should at once have declared the Treaty of 1852 to be at an end. The Government had not taken that course. They had advised Denmark; they had remonstrated with the German Powers; and he did not think there was one word in any of Earl Russell's despatches which could be considered extravagant. The difficulty which the Government had had to encounter, and the responsibility which they had had to bear were both great. He thought that so far from meriting the condemnation implied in the right hon. Gentleman's Resolutions, the country owed the Government a debt of gratitude. [Ironical cries of "Hear, hear!" and Cheers.] On the one hand they had had to contend with a public feeling in Germany which even Austria and Prussia could not oppose; on the other they were met by the natural sensitiveness of a gallant nation, conscious of their own inferiority in point of numbers and resources, but also firm in the assertion of their rights and their independence. Those conflicting elements had been encountered with, as he thought, great moderation and great prudence; and though we might not have been successful in bringing about a settlement between the German Powers and Denmark, we had, nevertheless, unquestionably given the contending parties and Europe the only chance they had of a pacific solution. He believed the country had suffered no loss of influence—no loss of reputation. It was quite true that there were always parties in the several continental nations who were ready to cavil at the principles which regulated the diplomacy of this country, and to represent that the acts of our Government were to the disadvantage of the reputation of England. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had spoken last (General Peel) said we were always unpopular abroad, and he thought we were so because we were always meddling in other people's affairs. But might it not be possible that there was another reason for the unpopularity to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman alluded? Were our free institutions so popular abroad? Be that as it might, he had no doubt there were those abroad who were ever ready to represent that this country was losing her influence. He did not wonder at it; but he did wonder that any sympathy or any feelings in common with those people should be found among any portion of the politicians of this country. There was no real loss of influence. The great Powers knew well how unwearied, how constant, how single-hearted the efforts of England had been. We had no interest in the matter but as connected with the general peace of Europe—the general cause of right and of humanity; and, whatever the result of this debate might be, he was perfectly certain England would stand high as ever among the nations of the world."With regard to the request that friendly Powers should come to the assistance of Denmark, Her Majesty's Government can only say that every step they may think it right to take in the further progress of this unhappy contest can only he taken after full consideration and communication with France and Russia. These Powers are as much interested in the maintenance of the integrity of the Danish Monarchy as Great Britain; and tier Majesty's Government may fairly have recourse to their advice and concert in any measures to be taken for the preservation of that integrity."—No. 5, 704.
Sir, I seldom trouble the House, nor shall I do so at length upon the present occasion; but there are some remarks of the learned Lord which I cannot allow to go forth to the public without comment. The learned Lord may be, and I believe is, a very able and successful advocate, but I do not think he has been particularly happy in his criticism to-night. He began by taunting my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (General Peel) with inconsistency in opposing all treaties of guarantee, whereas he had something to do with the Treaty of 1852. Now, in the first place, my right hon. Friend had nothing whatever to do with that treaty—he was not a member of either of the Governments that held office during that year. In the next place, the Treaty of 1852 was not a treaty of guarantee. In the third place, though I do not intend on behalf of Lord Malmesbury and those who sit near me to disclaim any responsibility that can fairly attach to them, still it is a historical fact that the negotiations that led to that treaty were practically concluded at the time when the Government of Lord Derby came into office; the matter was placed on that footing that it would have been hardly possible for England to draw back; and, therefore, whatever responsibility rests upon those who concluded that treaty, a very small portion of it devolves on those who sit on this side of the House. The learned Lord says, if this Resolution is anything it is a war Resolution, and what the Resolution condemns is abstaining from warlike operations. When I heard that, it seemed to me that the learned Lord had been arranging his defence before he heard the attack, and that he had taken great pains in fortifying that part of his case which was never destined to be assailed. To that assertion the answer is simple. My right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire told the House distinctly in the course of his speech—I am speaking in his presence, and if in the slightest degree I am inaccurate he will set me right—that if he had to deal with the matter, speaking on his present knowledge, he would have adopted the policy which has been followed by the Emperor of the French—namely, to declare to Denmark, in the first instance, that though we should mediate in a friendly manner, we should not interfere by force. Well, I confess I do not understand how, after that distinct statement from the leader of Opposition, it can be said this is a war Resolution. I pass, then, from the speech of the learned Lord. I listened with great interest to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is the only real defence of the Ministerial policy we have heard to-night. Everybody listens with interest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on great questions; but it seemed to me—whether it arose from natural temperament or the peculiarities of the case with which he had to deal—he seemed more at home, and infinitely more happy, when attacking us on this side of the House than when attempting to vindicate the policy of the Government. Sir, he expended a great deal of pleasant sarcasm on the form of this Vote of Censure. It is always easy to criticise the form of a Vote of Censure. I am afraid it is not within the scope of Parliamentary ingenuity to make a Vote of Censure agreeable to those against whom it is directed. The right hon. Gentleman was very anxious that, instead of the Address moved by my right hon. Friend, we should have proceeded by a Vote of Want of Confidence—and no doubt as a Parliamentary tactician he was quite right. No doubt a Vote of Want of Confidence would have been more convenient to right hon. Gentlemen opposite. In a Vote of Want of Confidence, when pressed hard on one subject you can always escape to another. You may thus get rid of unpleasant details and embarrassing inquiries. The right hon. Gentleman, I do not doubt, would have had a right, for instance, to call in aid those measures of finance which I, for one, admire. Perhaps he would have called in aid that remarkable speech on the amendment of the Constitution, which if he had known this debate was coming he would have allowed to stand without a preface; and, as a last resort, if this had been a Vote of Want of Confidence, he would have dwelt on the fact, which none of us dispute, of the great personal popularity of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. But if we think that these foreign affairs have been badly managed, I see no reason why we should not prefer saying so in plain and intelligible words. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "Your Resolution is colourless—nobody knows what it means. You talk a great deal of frankness and candour. I wish you would practise that old English mode of speaking." Now, I will adopt that advice. I will tell you what I think this Resolution means. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not consider me discourteous when I tell him that it means that we think you have blundered these foreign negotiations from beginning to end; and that we intend to call upon the House to say so. Then there was another point made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and he did not use the phrase, but there could be no doubt about the sentiment—he denounced us indignantly for what he called trading on the humiliation of the country. I am glad that is responded to, because I wanted to deal with the argument. Is it really meant that if we think the Foreign Office by its mode of conducting business has diminished the influence, power, and honour of England, we are not to say so because somebody may say that is trading on the humiliation of the country? Why, that doctrine would simply amount to this, that in foreign affairs no matter can be dealt with frankly, no error of the Government is to be exposed, but the opinion of the Foreign Office must be held to be the opinion of England without dispute; and if we think that the Foreign Office has mistaken the temper and feeling of the people of England, we are not to say so, for fear of the remarks that may be made abroad. According to that doctrine, there cannot be the least chance of setting matters right. The Foreign Office alone is authorized to represent the nation, and the interference of Parliament in foreign affairs becomes altogether nugatory. The Chancellor of the Exchequer went on to contend that the language used in this Resolution was unprecedented. Certainly I did not come down to the House with a bundle of precedents. I did not come prepared to show what was the exact strength of the language used on former occasions of a similar kind. But I have some recollection of Resolutions proposed on former occasions, and the language used in former debates; and I confidently affirm that the language of my right hon. Friend's Resolution and speech are mild and moderate compared with that used in former days—on such occasions, for instance, as the Treaty of 1763 and the Treaty of 1782. One memorable instance I recollect, in 1795–6, in the days of the French Directory, the first Lord Malmesbury was sent on an embassy to Paris. Mr. Burke was very strongly opposed to that step; he looked on it as incompatible with the honour of the country, and when some information was asked, and an apology was made for delay in supplying it on the ground that Lord Malmeshury's journey had occupied a long time, Mr. Burke said it was no wonder he had taken a long time to reach Paris, because he travelled the whole road on his knees. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "You are only attacking us for the past; you don't say what ought to be done now." Now I remember the saying of a very celebrated statesman, for whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer professes the greatest veneration; Sir Robert Peel declined (the words were his own) to prescribe till he was called in; and that is, in such cases, a reasonable refusal. We are not simple enough to suppose that, however ample may be the information laid on the table, these blue-books contain the whole state of matters. I do not charge the Government with unjustifiable suppression—all I say is, that there must be in diplomatic affairs a great deal that is never made public. All that relates to the workings and feelings, the private designs and intentions of Cabinets—many things that are talked about freely, and written about in private letters, are not seen in print, and are only known to the parties actually engaged in negotiations. We have not the means of judging what it may or may not be possible to effect now, and to ask us in the absence of such materials to decide, is simply unreasonable. But I repeat that whatever this Resolution may be, it is not a Resolution in favour of a policy of war. If it were, I can only say that, for myself, and I believe for many others on this side of the House, no consideration would induce me to give it my support. If the Question before us were only this, is it or is it not right to fight for Denmark—if you could narrow the Question to that simple issue, then I will not merely say I should agree with the Government in the tardy and hesitating decision to which they have come—if it is a final decision, upon which the noble Lord's speech last week throws some doubt—but I should declare that to engage in a European war for the sake of these Duchies would be an act, not of impolicy, but of insanity. The noble Lord last week threatened us conditionally with a war. I try to look at the best side of things, and am willing to believe that he did not mean it. I believe it was not the announcement of a future policy, but the indulgence of an inveterate habit. One can imagine that the noble Lord may have been in favour of fighting at a time when fighting, however impolitic, would have led to substantial results; but to say that now, after Holstein is gone, Schleswig taken, and Jutland itself in German hands, you will fight for Copenhagen, is very much as though some ally of ours were to say, "Ireland may be invaded, and we won't help you; Scotland may be invaded, and we won't help you; England even may be invaded, and we won't help you; but let them touch the Isle of Wight, and then see with what eagerness we shall come forward in your defence." But I do not want to dwell upon this. I am ready to assume that the policy of the noble Lord is intended to be a policy of peace. But when I am asked to fix my eyes upon that one aspect of the question, and overlook everything else—when I am asked to overlook all the errors which have been committed on account of that one error which has not been committed—I say that that is too great a claim upon the indulgence of an independent Member. I take it that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) is now accepted as substantially the Amendment of the Government, and, as far as the words of it go, it contains nothing which in my opinion is not just and correct. But though it does not say in words anything which I do not believe, it implies much that I cannot assent to. It really seems to say this:—"You, the House, have only one Question before you—namely, whether you desire to fight or don't. The Government have chosen not to fight. In that decision they are right, and as for any unpleasant results you may experience at the present time, any humiliation to which you may have been subjected, any hard words you may be receiving all over the Continent, that is nothing; it is the price you are paying for a policy of peace." Now, that latter proposition I distinctly deny. I deny that there is any connection, however slight, between what I must call the humiliating position in which England is placed and the adoption of a policy of peace by the Government. I believe that a policy of neutrality and non-intervention may be not only a safe but a respected and an honourable position. France in this very quarrel has remained neutral. She said openly and aboveboard what she intended to do, and she has kept her word; and no man now, even of those who are most bitterly hostile to the Emperor of the French, pretends that her position is lowered by the part she has taken. So we have ourselves been neutral, and not long ago, on a great question. The Italian war was a great war, affecting the distribution of political power. It was a war which keenly excited the sympathies of the country, but we remained neutral, and nobody thought the worse of us. All the world except an infinitesimal minority, thinks we are right in the neutral position we have maintained during the great American contest. Going further back, in the Crimean War, Austria and Prussia chose to maintain a position of neutrality. We abused them, and Russia abused them also, as belligerents are apt to abuse neutrals. Russia said they were ungrateful, and we said they were selfish, but they thought they knew their own business best; and now, looking calmly back, I do not think that either Power has lost credit with Europe for the part which it then took. So in this instance I say that not only might you have remained neutral with honour, but you might have offered advice and mediation, and having offered that advice and mediation, and having failed, you still need not have been discredited, provided you had taken the one precaution of saying at first, at, least to Denmark, "So far we mean to go, and no farther,' This is the point at which, in my mind, the failure of the whole policy of the Government begins. I do not suppose that any man will contend seriously that the estimation in which England is held just now can be considered as gratifying to English feeling. The learned Lord said our position in this respect was satisfactory, avid he gave a curious proof. We had only, he said, to look to the record of what had passed in the Conference to see how much we were respected, because the diplomatists were very civil. Now, it is not the habit of diplomatists to use uncourteous language, and therefore I think we may pass by this evidence. I rather prefer the evidence which the Chancellor of the Exchequer—rather oddly, as I thought, for a Liberal Minister—spoke of as the trash of Continental newspapers, meaning those newspapers that were attacking England; but the difficulty is to find those that are not attacking England. He spoke of the absolutist party, but the democratic press of Germany has been just as loud in our condemnation. I know much allowance must be made in these matters. We are a great European Power, we have enjoyed great prosperity, we are not either individually or as a Government the most conciliatory of mankind, and no doubt we do create abroad a good deal of envy, jealousy, and ill-will. We must make allowances for all this; but I do not think there has ever been a period when the policy and the position of England have been spoken of all over the Continent, as they are spoken of now. That is not merely a question of newspapers. Every Englishman who resides abroad will tell you so, and it is only too easy, if it were not an invidious and odious task, to collect witnesses upon that point. Now what is the explanation of this feeling? Does it exist because we were bound to help Den- mark and failed to do it? No—nobody will say that. In strict justice we were not bound to help Denmark, and if we had abstained from doing so, and said we had intended so to abstain, not one word would have been uttered against us. All those attacks upon us came because, not meaning to help Denmark by arms, we omitted the obvious duty not to excite hope and rouse expectations which we knew, or ought to have known, it was not in our power to fulfil. I am not going to quote from the blue-books. I do not care to refer to sentences here and there out of despatches which will bear out what I say. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) did that most carefully, and, having heard the comments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon his quotations, it did not seem to me that his reply very much affected the result. I do not care to dwell even upon that famous statement of the noble Lord at the head of the Government how, in certain contingencies, Denmark would not stand alone, because I fully allow that those words were uttered under circumstances somewhat different from those which exist now. But what I say is, that when you take a man's or a nation's affairs out of their own hands—when you assume the duty of advising, managing, directing, and when that is done by a very strong Power to a very feeble one—you incur a moral responsibility towards those who take your advice, you are giving an implied guarantee that they shall not suffer by taking your advice—unless you have given them fair warning beforehand—as France did, and as you might have done—that you meant to interfere by mediation and advice alone, and meant to go no further. If you had done that, Denmark would have shown less of that temper, which one cannot help admiring, because it is almost heroic, but which is not prudent or politic; Germany would not have been exasperated to her present state of frenzy; and it is possible, and not improbable, that this quarrel might then have admitted of an amicable arrangement. Now, I do not accuse the Ministry of any intention to mislead the Danes in this matter. That is a charge which I will make against no one; and, in this case, there would not have been any possible motive for misleading. So far from being indifferent to Denmark, I conceive that the Ministry took up the Danish cause with a sympathy which was strong, but which was not founded on very accurate knowledge, and that they were not a little perplexed when they found how strong a case in point of reason and of law the Germans really had. I remember that one energetic Member of the Government, in addressing his constituents, rather prided himself on knowing nothing about the cause of dispute, and, what is more, he said he doubted whether anybody else was better informed. I dare say that was a very accurate representation; but I do not think that ought to have been the state of mind existing among a Ministry on the verge of a European war. What I complain of in the Government is the want of a policy. I do not believe there has been at any time on their part a deliberate determination to adopt a policy either of war or of peace; and the House will, no doubt, remember that the same thing went on upon a larger scale eleven years ago. At that time a phrase was used which has become historical—that England was drifting into war. I believe no more correct description could have been given of our course. If a decided line, either warlike or peaceful, had then been taken from the first—if Russia had been warned in the first instance that England would make the entry into the Principalities a casus belli, she never would have gone there; and if, on the other hand, Turkey had been informed that she must not look to us for material assistance, she would have made terms, not perhaps favourable, but still terms compatible with her independence, and by which war would have been avoided. But in 1853, the Ministers of this country at one moment threatened Russia, and at another encouraged Turkey, and at the same time they were profuse in their protestations that they wished only for peace, and that nothing but peace would follow. And so it came about that both parties were duped. Russia was sure that we should not fight, Turkey that we should; and Europe was surprised into a war. I will not profess to say that I feel any great apprehension that the same thing will take place now. The country is more wide awake now on these questions than it was then, and public feeling will be too strong for diplomacy. I do not think that we are drifting into war; but it is possible for a nation to get into such a position that it has before it the alternative of war on the one hand, and on the other—I will not say of dishonour—but discredit. That is the state of things which I believe exists now, and with which this Resolution professes to deal. It is a state of things which justifies a protest being made by this House, and on which the opinion of this House ought to be given. If, as we have been told, there is from the decision of this House a still further appeal, we shall face that appeal without fear. What have hon. Gentlemen opposite to appeal to? Their home policy? Except in finance they have none. Their foreign policy? Can even partizanship describe it as successful? Can you go the country with this for jour watchword—"France alienated, Germany insulted, Denmark abandoned, Poland encouraged and left to perish."
MR. COBDEN moved the adjournment of the debate.
Debate adjourned till To-morrow.