Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 1, 1879
to Mr. Evarts.
London , October 18, 1879. (Received October 30.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith copies of an extract from to-day’s Times, containing a report of the speeches delivered by Lord Salisbury at Manchester yesterday in defense of the government.
I have, &c.,
Lord Salisbury at Manchester.
The visit of the Marquis of. Salisbury to Manchester yesterday to attend the conservative banquet gave an opportunity to the chamber of commerce to thank his lordship for the services he had rendered to the public in commercial matters and to address him upon the subject of tariff negotiations with foreign countries. A memorial, in which these and other matters were briefly referred to, was presented to Lord Salisbury by the secretary of the chamber, Mr. Browning, in the presence of a large meeting. Mr. Benjamin Armitage, president of the chamber, occupied the chair.
The president, in his opening remarks, said the Manchester Chamber of Commerce did not in any way serve the purpose of party politics. It had been conspicuous in its past history for complete impartiality in this respect, and desired only to enter into the discussion of questions which directly affected the commercial interests of the community. The character and tone of the address presented to his lordship would, therefore, be of a purely business kind, avoiding such topics as at other times formed the subject of debate and controversy. It was not the habit of commercial associations like this to address Her Majesty’s ministers, except for purposes of placing before them the complaints and wants of members. They were altogether a trading people in these parts, and, knowing how dependent we were for the life of our commerce on that security and confidence which were the fruits of peace and quiet, they regarded with grave anxiety the necessity, whenever it arose, for government to discontinue their friendly relations with other countries, upon which our commercial prosperity was based. [Loud cries of “Hear, hear.”]
Lord Salisbury, in reply to the memorial, said: Mr. President and Gentlemen: I have before this had the honor of receiving a kindly-worded memorial, such as that; for which I now thank you, at the hands of this chamber; but on former occasions when I had the pleasure of meeting you and addressing you I was officially connected with only one branch of those political matters in which, as a commercial community, you take especial interest. The office I at present hold brings me into a more close connection with your interests and your aims upon a great variety of subjects, and the duty of doing—I am afraid it is little enough—what is in the power of government to forward those interests and to secure the accomplishment of your wishes is the most interesting and agreeable part of the duties I have to perform. [Cheers.] In one sense I may say that it is the whole of the duties I have to perform, for the foreign office and the diplomatic service of this country exist for the purpose, either directly or as an ultimate result, of securing the peace of the world, which is essential to the conduct of your industry and commerce, and of which the prosperity of that industry is the fairest fruit; and this connection, which extends through all the branches of the foreign office in one sense, and which is constantly present to our minds in the discharge of all our duties, I will venture to say must continue in whosesoever hands the discharge of the functions of the foreign office rests. I do not desire to speak in detail with reference to the question of the appointment of a minister of commerce, to which your memorial alludes. It is a matter which is occupying the deep attention of Her Majesty’s Government. [Cheers.] But until the determination of the government shall be formed in detail, it is obvious that I cannot enter more clearly into the matter. I will only say that without attempting to pass an opinion upon the arguments which were used in commending that proposition to the House of Commons, or the arguments referred to in your address to-day, I believe that ultimately there is more to be done by the action of voluntary associations such as this than by the action of any government department whatever. Constantly in the course of our business we feel the necessity of the assistance of the chambers of commerce and the knowledge which they alone can furnish in order to guide our action intelligently. We have always received a [Page 469] sympathetic response when we have appealed for that assistance. But yet I would take this opportunity of pressing upon this chamber, and upon any other chambers of commerce whom my remarks may reach, the extreme importance of giving to the foreign office freely, even if it be at the cost of some little labor, that minute information with respect to the particular interests of particular trades and their bearing upon the tariffs of foreign nations which only can be possessed by those who pursue those avocations, and without which it is perfectly impossible that the foreign office can do its duty. But, in any case, supposing your minister of commerce appointed and all his functions marked out, the foreign office must still retain a close connection with the industries and prosperity of communities such as this, because all the communications which Her Majesty’s Government make, whatever instrumentality is used for framing them, must be addressed through the foreign office to foreign powers, and foreign powers will not listen to more than one voice proceeding from the government of this country; and the duty we have to perform in these days assuredly is difficult enough. Everywhere our business is, if we can, to keep open the avenues of commerce, and everywhere we see rising round us a thick wall of protection cutting those avenues off. I ventured, in answer to a deputation which came partly from this chamber in the early part of the year, to express the opinion that this increase of the system of protection is not merely due to the prevalence of faulty theories. If that were the case, we might hope that the spread of sounder doctrines and the increase of communication would induce peoples and governments to give up theories the hollowness of which has been proved. [Hear, hear.] The real cause of the increase of protective duties is the establishment of those gigantic military forces which are increasing every year in every one of the larger countries of this hemisphere, which constitute a permanent drain on the forces of industry, a permanent danger to the interests of commerce, and which impose upon the governments which feel themselves bound—and if one government does it all governments have to do it—in order to maintain these forces the necessity of finding money in some way that shall not too heavily gall the interests and susceptibilities of their people. Indirect taxation, it is well known, is more readily paid than direct taxation, because its amount is not so easily recognized; and it is the necessity of finding the sustenance of those vast armaments that forces governments to have recourse to indirect taxation, and they naturally avail themselves of the political support which is to be obtained from those trades that wish for protection in order to carry their policy into effect. I do not, therefore, look for a very early remedy of the present state of things from the mere spread of more enlightened doctrines. In one or two countries I confess I am surprised that more enlightened doctrines have not hitherto had some effect on legislation. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for instance, whatever tendency there is towards free trade comes from Hungary, which is a large agricultural country, and which, therefore, naturally feels the necessity of free trade; but it is always to me a matter of extreme surprise that that other far greater agricultural country of the world, the United States, consents to submit for the sake of a small portion of its citizens to so heavy a species of voluntary taxation. I cannot help thinking that the time will come when the farmers of the United States will prefer cheap cotton to dear, and cheap iron to dear, and when that time comes none of these obstacles to which I have referred will prevent the United States from entering upon a sound policy of fiscal and commercial legislation. [Hear, hear.] But with respect to other countries of the world, I have no such immediate hope. In the address which has been placed before me we are recommended to try and foster the interests of commerce by the conclusion of treaties which shall remove fiscal obstacles which now arrest the now of commerce. Undoubtedly it is our duty to do so, and undoubtedly we shall make the utmost efforts we can so to do wherever we have the material in our hands; but we are in the position—the well-known position—of being asked to make bricks without straw. We have to open the doors to the access of trade when the keys have unfortunately been thrown away by the mistakes of our predecessors. [No, no.] By our predecessors, do not understand that I am talking party politics—I mean our predecessors of a generation ago. [Hear, hear.] Now the doctrine of free trade, which has obtained so complete a victory in this country, has passed through two phases; there have been two different versions of it. There was the theoretical version of it, when there was no practice to guide us, which was sanctioned by Sir Robert Peel; and there is the more practical version of it which was sanctioned by Mr. Gladstone. [Hear, hear.] In the days of Sir Robert Peel it seems to have been generally believed that free trade was so axiomatic, so evidently true, that no sooner should it have been proclaimed by this country than all the other nations of the world would, hasten to adopt it. An experience of some 15 years convinced Mr. Cob den and Mr. Gladstone that the assumption had been too hastily made, and the subsequent experience of some 20 years has shown us that it was entirely groundless. But under the influence of that belief treaties of commerce were looked upon as a species of economical heresy, and vast numbers of duties were thrown away, were repealed, which would have boon repealed all the same, but which might have been made conditional on reciprocal repeals in other countries [Hear, hear, and No, no]; [Page 470] and, of course, steps of that kind once taken obviously never can be retraced. But the result is that the materials which are in our hands for the conclusion of treaties of commerce are exceedingly meager. If you have a heavily burdened tariff and a great number of reductions to make, obviously you have the opportunity of bargaining for a great number of corresponding reductions elsewhere. If you have very few such articles to deal with, the reductions that you can hope to make are correspondingly few. Something was said with reference to the state of the trade with Spain. That is a matter which has been under the consideration of the House of Commons, and must come under, the very careful consideration of the government. [Hear, hear.] There is no doubt that those duties are not in a satisfactory position; but I will say in passing that they are duties to be handled carefully. You must remember that our treaty with France is under denunciation also, and you must be very careful that you do not handle your wine duties in respect of Spain in such a manner as to make France less disposed to follow the liberal policy which up to this moment she has pursued. [Hear, hear.] I will not say more on that point, except, in illustration of my general argument, to warn you that the wine duties, though I trust they may be the means of obtaining some relaxation in the extravagantly protective character of the Spanish tariff, are yet not in themselves large enough to place that or any other negotiation upon the footing which we should absolutely desire. The president was good enough to say that the attitude of this chamber towards a minister must be that of presenting grievances; the attitude of a minister towards the chamber must be that of showing why he cannot redress those grievances. [Laughter.] But do not imagine because I use that tone, as it is my duty to do, that we shall be the less earnest in seeking every means and taking every opportunity that lies in our power of carrying out the wishes which you have expressed. [Applause.]
But there are one or two reflections which arise from the present state of the world. I am touching dangerously near upon party politics, but I will touch it lightly. In the first place, we must all remember that, whereas with the great and powerful countries of the world you have no motive that you can bring to bear upon them to induce them to alter their tariff, except that of offering reciprocal reductions, which in very few instances you have the power to do, yet, in respect of the very large portion of the world with which your trade is constantly growing, and which may be called semi-civilized, your commercial facilities must depend very much upon the influence or the consideration which the power of England retains. [Hear.] Do not, therefore, run away with the idea that the lower of England is a matter which merely concerns politicians and emotional feelings. It is a matter which, in respect to all those regions, concerns the commercial interests of this country as closely as anything can do. But when you look at the map of the world, you see that all we trade with is not foreign country, that an enormous tract of it owns the sovereignty of Her Most Gracious Majesty, and we naturally ask, are there there these same insuperable obstacles, this same dead wall of protection, this same hopelessness of the spread of sound economic doctrine? I speak in a moment of deep discouragement, because one of the most important dependencies of the Crown—Canada—has adopted a policy which we all must deeply regret. [Hear, hear, and a voice “Lend her no money.”] The opinion has been expressed by a distinguished statesman, with whom I do not ordinarily agree, that this action of the people of Canada will make a deep impression on the minds of the people of this country, and from that judgment I cannot dissent. [Hear.] I think it will make a deep impression upon their minds, and I think it will modify their feelings. But, passing from this, and hoping that our brethren beyond the sea will take a wiser and more liberal view of the tie that unites us and the commercial advantages which a wider estimate of our relations may secure for both, I pass on to a dependency over whose action we have a direct and predominant influence, which has been alluded to in the memorial that has been placed in my hands. When last I had the pleasure of meeting you we discussed a good deal the question of the Indian cotton duties. I then expressed the opinion, which I have long entertained, that those duties were in principle wrong, and ought not to be allowed to continue; but that, of course, like all other things politic, is subject to such qualifications as the imperial circumstances of the day may apply. Since that time there has been a gigantic famine—a famine such as has not been known in 100 years in the experience of India, and the action of the Indian Government has necessarily been modified by that consideration. But, though it has been hitherto impossible entirely to give effect to your just demands, I would urge you on the one hand to exercise all the consideration and patience which men of the world will necessarily apply to subjects so large and communities so extensive, and also I would urge you not to give up pressing the demand which you so righteously made. That the demand will be answered immediately, of course, I cannot promise. It is for the people to lay down general principles; it is necessary for the government to apply them in particular details, according to the necessities of the moment; but that the demand will be ultimately successful I have no doubt whatever, and it is the more necessary you should urge it, because from time to time unexpected voices have been raised defending the maintenance of these duties on one ground or another. The [Page 471] outcry has not had the slightest influence on either house of Parliament, and overwhelming majorities would have affirmed the principle for the justice of which you contend; but the result of such representations has been that they have acted as a banner round which the protectionists of Bombay can muster. Manchester has been accused, it seems to me most gratuitously, of selfishness in urging this claim. You might as well accuse any interest in this country, which presses its demands upon the government, of selfishness. The wise conduct of our policy results from the pressure, the outspoken pressure, of individual interests laying their claims and the reasons for these claims before the community. Manchester, of course, feels the evils of these duties, and therefore it is the duty of Manchester to bring them home to the conscience and feelings of the government of the country. I cannot help thinking that those who use the term “selfishness” have entirely forgotten all the arguments and all the doctrines which were urged and were accepted on the subject of corn in the year 1846. [Cheers.] The necessities of the people of India are mainly two, for they have few luxuries, and their climate makes few demands on them. They want food and they want clothing. Will anybody tell me that if you could really consult the 250,00,000 of the population of India, really put before them all the facts which economic science teaches us, really bring home to them that those duties had a possible effect in raising the price or deteriorating the quality of the half of their necessities—will anybody tell me that they would accuse those who seek to relieve them of selfishness? [Cheers.] The truth, of course, is that the public opinion of India means a very different thing from the public opinion here. You see newspapers written in denunciation of these claims, and you hear that, meetings are assembled; but these newspapers and meetings do not represent, as they would here, the feelings of a large proportion of the population, but the veriest fraction. We may be quite sure that in pursuing this work of freeing from taxation one of the first necessities of the Indian people we are doing that which is not only best for the trade of this country, but the kindest and most generous act to the multitudinous inhabitants of our Indian Empire. [Hear, hear.] However, gentlemen, I have wandered away rather into matters which concerned my old office than those falling within the range of my duties now. I will only conclude by assuring you that, difficult as is our task in smoothing the paths of commerce between this and other countries in these days of exaggerated expenditure and consequent protective tariffs, and difficult as our task is to work against the interests which foreign countries have, who have to keep up these large establishments and maintain these vast military forces, you may be quite sure that we shall give to it the utmost attention we can. We shall always consider that the first duty of our foreign office and our diplomacy is to subserve the interests of the industry and commerce of this country. [Cheers.]
Lord Salisbury and the Lancashire members of the Ministry were last night entertained at a banquet in the Manchester Free Trade-hall.
The Chairman proposed the toast of “Her Majesty’s Government,” coupled with the health of the Marquis of Salisbury. The toast was drunk with great enthusiasm.
Lord Salisbury rose amid continued cheering and said: Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I can hardly find words to express the gratification which I feel at the splendid reception which you have given to the toast, and if I am allowed to claim any personal part in the cordial greeting which you have given us, it is an additional pleasure to feel that this hearty reception comes from the countrymen of my mother. [Hear, hear.] Though on ordinary occasions I should say that the foreign secretary was, perhaps, not the best person to answer to this toast, it is impossible to deny that in the present feeling of the country foreign affairs occupy the greatest amount of attention. The selection may, therefore, not be inappropriate. I conclude that foreign affairs occupy the greatest attention by studying the evolutions of our opponents. [Hear, hear.] They have worked very hard to get up a domestic question; they have tried to make a land cry; they have tried to make a church cry, but at last they have given the matter up-in despair, and all their speeches are directed to foreign affairs. Therefore it is on foreign affairs that I must request your attention to-night. [Cheers.] There is no doubt a considerable difficulty in knowing precisely what charge to answer, because the political views of Her Majesty’s opposition upon foreign affairs differ as you go from month to month, or from speaker to speaker. [Cheers.] At the beginning of last year the key-note of the opposition was to defend all that Russia did, and to denounce every measure that Her Majesty’s Government might take to restrain anticipated aggression. [Cheers.] Now I see the tune has changed, and that Lord Hartington and Sir William Hare our blame us not because we have resisted Russia, but because we have not resisted her enough. [Hear.] They have suddenly been taken with a great affection for a document in which I have a paternal interest—the circular which it was my duty to issue on the day I assumed the office I at present hold. I find that Lord Hartington and Sir William Harcourt were unknown but enthusiastic admirers of the composition [cries of “Bravo”]; but they carefully concealed their love at the time [laughter], and they allowed Mr. Gladstone to expend upon it the limitless resources of his sophistry, they allowed Mr. Bright to call it infamous [hisses [Page 472] and cheers], and they never hinted for a moment that it was the one thing they ad mired. [Laughter.] However, now at last their affection, though late, is declared. They come forward to blame us, because, as they express it, we have abandoned the sound doctrines which the circular contained. [Cheers.] Although that is a matter somewhat of detail to deal with before such an assembly as this, it is a challenge which, on account of my paternal relation to the said document, I cannot disregard. I am quite sure that neither Lord Hartington nor Sir William Harcourt would willingly misquote anything, but I feel convinced, from their entire and blank ignorance of what that document contained, that they had entirely omitted to read it before their recent speeches. [Laughter.] That circular, which was a good deal commented upon at the time, may be briefly described in this way: It enumerated a considerable number of points, nineteen or twenty circumstances, of which the tendency was, according to the provisions of the treaty of San Stefano, to place Russia in a dominant position over Constantinople and the Ægean Sea. It further pointed out that government over the Turkish Empire and over parts of the Turkish Empire in which England was especially interested would be attended in three ways by the effect of the Russian conquests and arrangements—upon the position of Constantinople on land, by its effect in placing the Black Sea at the disposal of Russia, by the influence which the conquest of certain Armenian strongholds might have upon the populations of Mesopotamia and Syria, and what it especially said was—and this is a matter which it is unnecessary I should read to you, and which it is more simple to paraphrase—that it was not one point or two points of the treaty of San Stefano to which we objected; what we objected to was the result of the combined operation upon the inhabit ants of the Turkish Empire. [Cheers.] With respect to the Armenian conquests, of which so much has been made, they may be briefly dismissed. The objection taken was not that the conquests in Armenia would give a strategical position dangerous to Constantinople, but that they would, by their notoriety and by the position and power in which they left the Government of Russia, give Russia an overwhelming influence and power over the Asiatic portion of the Turkish Empire. The people who inhabit Mesopotamia and Syria are undoubtedly and naturally opposed to the advance of Russia; but they are waiters upon Providence. They belong to the class who are partisans of the inevitable [laughter], and if they were once persuaded that there is no alternative in the future except to assure an unresisted advance of Russia, they would have made up their minds to have accepted her dominion and would have become her partisans. [Cheers.] Our business there should be that which should convince them that her advance would not be unresisted. [Hear, hear.] We did that by renewing the engagement which we had already taken to Austria and France—by renewing to Turkey the engagement that we would resist any further intrusion of Russia upon the dominions of the Sultan. [Cheers.] Men are much more readily persuaded by acts than by words, and therefore we occupied the island of Cyprus to show our intention of maintaining our hold in those parts. There has been a very great deal of absurd criticism upon the occupation of Cyprus. Some ingenious people think that they have entirely disposed of the policy of the Queen by finding out that, in a very rainy year, fever prevailed upon its coasts. [Laughter.] Fever prevailed in Malta, on the coasts of Greece and Africa, and it prevailed throughout the Mediterranean in that year; but the occupation of Cyprus was merely following out the traditional policy of the English Government for a long time past. [Cheers.] When the interest of Europe was centered in the conflicts that were waged in Spain, England occupied Gibraltar. [Hear, hear.] When the interest of Europe was centered in the conflicts that were being waged in Italy, England occupied Malta; and now that there is a chance that the interest of Europe will be centered in Asia Minor or in Egypt, England has occupied Cyprus. [Great cheering.] There is nothing new in the policy; we do not claim to have anything new in our policy. Our claim is that we follow the tradition that has be 311 handed down to us, with but one very disastrous interruption, for along succession of governments. [Cheers.] Well, so much for the question of Asia Minor. Now, with respect to the Black Sea; it was in the Black Sea, I think, occurred the only one instance in which any point mentioned in the circular was not complied with, and that was the question of the cession of Bessarabia by Roumania; but when we had satisfied ourselves that no other power was inclined to take up the cudgels in that matter, and Roumania was not very much in earnest on the subject, we did not think the matter was one of first-rate importance. [Hear, hear.] With respect to the Black Sea generally, we have carried out entirely the views which were expressed in the circular. Two great dangers were indicated, one, that the Greek coast of the Black Sea would be absorbed in the new Bulgaria; the other, that the harbor of Batoum would be created a dangerous arsenal. By the treaty of Berlin the greatest amount of the Greek coast, including the important harbor of Bourgas, was handed back to Turkey, and the harbor of Batoum was declared to be only a commercial harbor. [Hear, hear.] An arsenal, therefore, could not be created there without a breach of the treaty. But, after all, these were secondary points. The head and front of the offending of the treaty of San Stefano was what was called “the big Bulgaria,” a vast Slav province extending to Salonica on one side and to Adrianople, and, at the time [Page 473] of the arrangements as to Servia and Montenegro, stretching a Slav principality across from the Black Sea to the Adriatic. It was absurd to suppose that if such an arrangement had lasted Constantinople could have been independent. [Hear, hear.] It was absurd to suppose that if, as this treaty of San Stefano provided, Russia would have dominant influence in the modeling and starting of the principality, that Russia would not have been the dominant power at Adrianople and at Salonica. Well, if you tell me the circular has been abandoned, I ask you, what have we done? We have pushed this Bulgaria back from Salonica; we have pushed it back from Adrianople; we have pushed it behind the Balkans and left the Balkans in the military possession of Turkey as a bulwark for the protection of Constantinople. [Cheers.] I know that there are some people who say that because Turkey has not already occupied four or five practicable passes of the Balkans there is no reality in the provision of the treaty of Berlin. People only go to great expense for the purpose of defense when they have a reasonable prospect of aggression to resist. [Hear, hear.]
In the present circumstances of the Russian Empire I do not think that Turkey has any reasonable prospect of having to resist Russian aggression. [Cheers.] England for a great many years—for twenty years—had the right to place her garrisons all over the principality of Beloochistan. She never did it, but nobody ever doubted her right to do it; nobody ever doubted the value of the provision; and when the twenty years were over and causes arose which made it necessary to occupy the town of Quettah, then the value of the treaty provision sprang into activity and the town of Quettah was occupied. But I see and hear a good deal of criticism is expended because the Turkish Empire is not reforming as rapidly as we could wish. Now, in the first place, it is fair to say that, after as exhaustive a war as any country ever suffered under, when revenue has been all but destroyed, the introduction of reforms and the introduction of a gendarmerie, which necessarily costs money, may very probably be delayed for a short time without casting doubt upon the good faith of the sovereign who delays it. But I do not wish for a moment to deny that there is in the internal condition of Turkey much that we must regret. I fear that in high places there is feebleness and fanaticism allowed an influence which ought to be denied to it, and that Turkey may be entering upon a path of resolute resistance to reform which can only ultimately end in her ruin. [Applause.] But what I think should be carefully considered by the English people is, that however important it is that Turkey should be reformed, and though they will rightly require of their government that every exertion should be made in order to carry out these reforms, yet the question of a reformed or unreformed Turkey does not affect the necessity of keeping Russia from Constantinople and from the Ægean. In past time we have not inquired what the government of a country was in deciding to protect great strategic positions which it was necessary for the interests of England and Europe should be kept from an overwhelming power. The constitution of Poland was about as detestable as any constitution could be imagined to be, yet Poland was followed by the sympathy and exertions of liberal Europe for half a century, not for her own merits, but because she was a bulwark against the advance of a power that was feared. Spain, again—when Napoleon invaded Spain, the Government of Spain was the most detestable of all the governments which the corruption of the last century left to us; yet we never hesitated for a moment to spend the blood and treasure of this country in defending Spain against Napoleon, and we were never hindered by the thought that her government was bad. The merits of governments are a matter of transitory existence which any influence may change or modify. The sympathy or repulsion which we may feel for any particular system does not justify us in handing over to any power whose aggression threatens the happiness or the interests of the world strategic positions which it can use in furtherance of that aggression. But pushing Bulgaria behind the Balkans was not the only thing that was done by the treaty and protocols of Berlin and the Anglo-Turkish convention. There was another evil to be corrected, and that was the stretching of a Slav principality practically from sea to sea, and for that purpose was employed a power of very different stamp from the Turk. Europe delegated to Austria the duty of putting an end to that arrangement. [Cheers.] If you do not trust the Turk, who is on the rampart of the fortress, at least you must trust the Austrian sentinel who is at the door. [Cheers.] I know that in speeches which have recently been made and in many speeches in Parliament we have been blamed because we have not used homogeneous nationalities in order to resist the advance of Russia. My reply to the recommendation to use homogeneous nationalities to prevent the advance of Russia south of the Balkans is similar to the reply which the mayor of Ivry gave to Henry IV, when he apologized to him for not giving up the keys of the town. The first apology was that there were no keys. There are no homogeneous nationalities to set up. [Cheers.] They are mixed inextricably together—Mussulmans, Greeks, and Slavs—and no ingenuity could set up a homogeneous nationality in order to impede invasion from the north. But even if the homogeneous nationality existed, it is a mere chimera to imagine that such an instrument could serve your purpose. I do not wish to speak in any but kindly language of the struggling nationalities of the [Page 474] Balkan peninsula. For many reasons they appeal to our sympathies and they excite our admiration. We have with them associations of classical learning and sympathies of religion. But those things do not alter the broad, hard fact that they are mere unorganized populations, totally unequal to contend with the resources of a military empire. You may admire a horse very much, but if you are going to ride it what you would ask is, not whether the horse is beautiful, but whether it will carry you. [Laughter.] And if the weight which you have to put on is considerable, no amount of beauty will compensate for its weakness. [Cheers.] That is the state of the case with respect to the nationalities of the Balkan peninsula; with all they had to appeal to our sympathies they had no organization, no administrative traditions, no tried cohesion; they were mere infants or embryos, they had not grown into a state. Until they have grown into a state it is idle to suppose that they could resist the advance of a monarchy now in its fourth century of conquest. [Cheers.] But if you wish not for theories but for facts, look at the case of Roumania. In Roumania there was every motive to resist the passage of the Russian armies. The Roumanians had no Slavonic sympathies, they had an independent guarantee by Europe; and yet we know that they not only—I do not blame them, their weakness left them no other choice—did not resist the passage of the Russian armies, but in the most difficult moment of war they came to the assistance of Russia. [Hear, hear.] In judging of the conduct of the government with regard to this great Eastern question, you must ask yourselves what was the danger and what were the materials which were in the hands of the government in order to apply a remedy. The danger was that Russia should threaten the independence of Constantinople or of the shores of the Black Sea or that a Slav state should stretch across from the Black Sea to the Adriatic. The remedy that we have applied depends in the first instance upon the Turk, and, whatever other demerits may be cited against the Turks, no one can say that, badly led and badly officered as they may have been, they have not fought like heroes. [Cheers.] They have a military power to which no other race on the Balkans can attain, and as long as their existence lasts—and if they will only consent to reform their administration their existence may be of long duration—their military strength will remain, and they will be far the most powerful barrier of all the populations we could set up against the advance of Russia. If the Turk falls, remember that Austria is now at Novi Bazar and has advanced to the latitude of the Balkans, and that no advance of Russia beyond the Balkans or beyond the Danube can now be made unless the resistance of Austria is conquered. [Cheers.] Austria herself is powerful. I believe that in the strength and independence of Austria lie the best hopes of European stability and peace. [Cheers.] What has happened within the last few weeks justifies us in hoping that Austria, if attacked, would not be alone. [Continued cheering.] The newspapers say—I know not whether they say rightly—that a defensive alliance has been established between Germany and Austria. [Loud cheers.] I will not pronounce any opinion as to the accuracy of that information, but I will only say this to you and all who value the peace of Europe and the independence of nations—I may say without profanity—that it is “good tidings of great joy” [loud cheers]; and if you ask us how we have discharged our stewardship, I will ask you in return to compare the state of affairs with what it was on the morning that the San Stefano treaty was signed. Look at the military position of Russia then and now; look at the territorial position of Turkey then and now; look at the sympathies expressed by Austria and still more by Germany, and I think you will acknowledge that, as far as Her Majesty’s Government have had any share in the shaping of these events, an adequate guard has been provided for the interests and for the position which it was their duty to protect. Now, let us turn to another part of the same great subject; let us turn to Afghanistan. [Cheers.] On the subject of Afghanistan, when first the recent news came to this country, the extraordinary language used against me almost appalled me, and I began to think that so many excellent and omniscient persons could not possibly have used all this language of me unless in some way I deserved it; but I will submit as briefly as I can the real state of the case with respect to Afghanistan, and I think you will see that Her Majesty’s Government had no choice but to pursue the course into which they were led. How stands Afghanistan with regard to India? Some people talk of our splendid mountain frontier, as presented by the Suliman Mountains. A mountain frontier is a splendid thing I quite admit, but on one condition, and that is that the mountain belongs to you [laughter and cheers], or at least, that the crest of the mountain belongs to you. But if the mountain from the top to the bottom, where it melts into the valley, belongs to some one else, and that some one else happens to be the person against whom you wish to protect yourself, I say, even in the presence of the distinguished military authorities you see assembled here this evening, that mountain position in that sense is the worst frontier you can possibly have. That was the state of things with respect to Afghanistan. As long as Afghanistan was in the possession of endless fighting tribes, with no particular connection with any power outside their borders, no doubt such a frontier was quite sufficient; but as time went on a great European power advanced to Khiva and to [Page 475] the base of the Caspian Sea, and that to a very great extent modified the problem. And when we came into office we found this state of things in existence all over the world that wherever the enormous territories that own Her Majesty’s rule bordered on the territories of any other power, and, in fact, wherever they did not, the powers cheerfully received the representatives of Her Majesty at their courts, and there was not one exception, barbarian or semi-civilized, wherever the English Government desired that its representatives should be received, with the solitary objection of Afghanistan, no objection was made throughout the world. Well, in that exception from the practice of all nations there was no doubt something startling in itself; but if Afghanistan had been simply isolated it would have merely been an exhibition of churlishness, and we might have left the ruler of Afghanistan to sulk as much as he liked. But it was also obviously capable of another interpretation. It was possible that all the time he refused to receive our emissaries he was receiving the emissaries of others. It was possible that all the time intrigues were going on, and the result would ultimately have been to place Afghanistan practically in the power of a foreign potentate, and those mountains, constituting an adverse and hostile frontier, and frowning down upon the plains of India, would have been practically in the power of at least a rival and possibly a hostile empire. We very early came across indications which convinced us that the unfavorable view of where Ali’s character was the correct one, and we were also sure that if it was not correct we should easily ascertain the truth by asking him to do as every other potentate in the world, civilized and uncivilized, does, and to receive an officer at his court. Unfortunately, our orders were delayed. The Government of India was in the hands of a very able man, but a man not wholly sympathetic with ourselves [hear, hear], and the result was that a year and a half passed away before our orders could be executed, and during that time a great change came upon the political horizon. When our orders were issued everything spoke peace; when at last they were executed the Servian invasion by Russia had commenced, and a strong probability of the Russo-Turkish war was patent to the world.
I cannot help believing that if what we recommended had been done at once, the Ameer would have accepted our embassy, and alb the evils which subsequently followed would have been averted; but that unfortunate delay destroyed and ruined everything. The opportunity was passed, but the Ameer thought he saw a prospect of Russia and England going to blows, and he thought it was possible to defy us. Well, what reason did he give for refusing to receive an embassy from England? The reason, if you read it in the light of his subsequent conduct, is almost comical, especially when people ask you to believe in his sincerity. He objected to receiving the English embassy because it might force him to receive a Russian embassy. The very next year he received a Russian embassy and declined to receive an English one. We have since ascertained that he was in constant communication with the Russian authorities, and that the unfavorable view of his character was the right one. And was it to be wondered at? What sort of man was it whom we are blamed for not trusting? It was a man who had by solemn oaths allured his own son to come and pay him a visit, and who then, breaking all those oaths, threw him into prison, and but for the interposition of the Indian Government would have put him to a cruel death. [Hear, hear.] That, however, was the man with whom we had to deal. We recommended to him strongly that he should receive an embassy, not at Cabul, because he said, and rightly said, that was a dangerous place, but at some other part of his dominions, and when he refused it we did not attempt to press it upon him by force. There was no threat or exercise of force. But a year after that negotiation was held a Russian embassy presented itself at his doors, was received with enthusiasm, was admitted to his court, and remained there till our troops entered his country. I cannot conceive of any English authority who imagines that it would have been our duty to have allowed this chief, possessing a strategic position so dangerous for India, to have received the embassy of an empire at that time hostile to, or at least in diplomatic conflict with, our own, and to refuse to receive ours altogether. If we had done so, Afghanistan would have been at the disposal of the embassy which he had received, and we, in the sight of Asia, should have acknowledged that our power was unable to cope with either that of Afghanistan or of Russia. [Cheers.] Well, you know what happened—the war occurred, the Afghans were conquered; and when we came to negotiate terms of peace, we were disposed, as we had been before, rather to prefer Candahar or some other place, as the position which our embassy should take. Yakoob Khan insisted that we should send it to Cabul, for at Cabul he could fully protect himself. Whether that assurance has been belied simply by his incapacity or by some other worse quality, it is too early for me to decide. [Hear, hear.] Everybody has joined in a tribute to the great merits of the unhappy envoy who was destroyed by the mutinous troops, and has lamented the loss of his services to the Indian Empire. [Hear, hear.] For the future it is too early for me to speak; we have not yet received full information from General Roberts or from the Viceroy of India, and we cannot at present indicate the precise policy in all its details which it would be our duty to pursue; [Page 476] but the policy in its main lines bas not altered. It is defense, not dominion, that we seek. [Cheers.] We wish to defend the borders of our Indian Empire, and with that view alone every measure that we take will be devised. [Hear, hear.] There is no doubt, as my friend Mr. Cross has told you, that the present Parliament is hastening on to an inevitable term. Whenever that term may arrive, the interval cannot be very long, and, therefore, it is natural that you should scrutinize carefully the acts of those who hold the reins of power, and that you should examine what their title is to the renewal of your confidence. You will doubtless have observed the remarkable circumstance which I think has been alluded to to-night—that almost alone among all former ministers we have retained to the end of a long term unabated confidence [loud cheers]; but, strangely enough, it is made a matter of blame to us. [Laughter.] Mr. Goschen is angry with us because we have not spent our majority. [Laughter.] Now, spending a majority means carrying matters so far that you not only trample down all the objections of the minority, but you even disgust your own friends. [Laughter.] I shall not apologize to Mr. Goschen for not spending our majority, but I wish rather to inquire curiously upon what measures he proposes, if he is successful in the ensuing election, to spend any majority he may obtain. [Laughter.] Upon this subject there is a wonderful dearth of information. The brilliant orators who adorn the opposition are fertile in criticism, but when it comes to positive suggestion they are singularly dull. I am not surprised that it should be so. When the Liberal party select a policy they have to do it on much the same ground as some neighboring nations select a government. They have to select not a policy which unites them most, but the policy which divides them least [laughter], and consequently there are a great many subjects which are forbidden ground for their orators to tread upon. But even upon the few subjects which they have ventured to discuss you will notice in successive speakers a variation of treatment which indicates an extreme uncertainty as to the way in which the majority of the party may ultimately go. [Laughter.] When Mr. Chaplin’s motion was before the House of Commons Lord Hartington used some very mysterious and ambiguous language, indicating that he was prepared to enter upon some great reconstruction of the present division of landed property. I do not know whether he intended the interpretation which was universally put upon his words. His more extreme and enthusiastic followers said, “Now, at least, the declaration is made. There is a new departure in English politics. The words have been spoken and cannot be retracted. Lord Hartington is for land reform.” But when Lord Hartington came to speak on that subject he found it necessary entirely to withdraw all the magnificent prospects which he had held out [laughter], and it turned out that his whole contribution to the reform of the land laws, which is to entirely remedy the terrible sufferings under which the farmers have groaned, is confined to a commission that was to ascertain whether there are any laws which specially prevent the creation of peasant proprietors. [Laughter.] Of course there are no such proprietors, but if there were I do not see why we should be afraid. Peasant proprietors, if they can be got, are a great support to conservative statesmen. But, as far as I can understand Lord Hartington and Mr. Childers, all they propose in the way of reform of the land laws, and their only remedy for farmers’ evils, is that if a man should die without making a will—which in the case of a sane man happens very seldom [laughter]—then his property should be divided differently from what it is now, and when a man is settling on the marriage of his eldest son, instead of settling property on the marriage he must wait until the first child is born. [Laughter.] That is the whole, as far as I can understand, of the projected reform of the land laws, and the only result will be—I hope it will be a good solution for the farmers to look forward to—that some three years hence in some particular instance the farmer will have to pay his rent to two squireens instead of one squire. I doubt whether that will be a solution for whatever mishaps he may be suffering from at the time. [Laughter.] Then there is the church, which requires very delicate handling. It is not safe to attack the Church of England, but you may attack the Church of Scotland [laughter], because, perhaps, the dissenters from it are more numerous. You may say that you were misunderstood and never meant to attack the principle of establishment. Then you have on the other side those who ask you whether you have deserted the good old plan. [Laughter.] There is a general embarrassment, in which we cannot sympathize, with our friends the Liberal party, that when they try to put forward a programme they are bound to satisfy the feelings of two sets of people whose objects are diametrically opposed. [Laughter.] There is no more curious literature in the world than the various speeches in which Liberal members addressing Scotch constituencies have contrived to evade the question of Scotch disestablishment. Sometimes they say they will not press it, but at other times they say they will not put it off; at other times they say they wait for the united voice of the Scottish people; but they cannot be got to say in plump words whether they like disestablishment or disendowment. But there is one form of words which they use which has a historical interest. Mr. Adam, who speaks on behalf of Mr. Gladstone in this matter, being pressed upon the subject of disestablishment, said he did not look upon it as coming within the range of practical [Page 477] politics. [Laughter and cheers.] Fourteen years ago Mr. Gladstone, being pressed upon the subject of Irish disestablishment, said he did not look upon it as coming within the range of practical politics. [Laughter.] Mr. Gladstone made that statement at a time when, unable to retain his seat in the south of England, he was seeking the suffrages of South Lancashire. Whether in consequence of that statement or not I do not know, but South Lancashire elected Mr. Gladstone, and three years later, when he had declared for Irish disestablishment, found it necessary to part with him. [Loud cheers.] I wish our friends in Midlothian to lay this matter to heart. The same formula has been used with respect to the Scotch Church. Again Mr. Gladstone, unable to retain a seat in a southern constituency, is seeking the suffrages of Midlothian; and it may be that the parallel will be carried out to the end—that if Mr. Gladstone should be returned for Midlothian and should possess political power, in three years the subject which is now outside the pale of practical politics will become the burning subject of the hour; a new up as tree will be cut down and the Scotch Church disestablished. Forewarned is forearmed. [“Hear, hear,” and cheers.] Is shrewd Lancashire misled? Midlothian boasts that it is more canny than Lancashire. Let us see whether Midlothian will also be misled. [“Hear, hear,” and laughter.] There is a more burning subject, perhaps, than any of these, though it is not a very easy subject to speak upon, but in respect to which I cannot help admiring the ability and sympathizing with the distresses of the Liberal leader—I mean the question of Ireland. In regard to Ireland, if any Liberal leader said that he was prepared to concede what the Irish agitators demands, the Liberal party would have small chance in any English constituencies. But what Liberal leaders may not do Liberal followers may very expediently do [laughter]; and there may be constituencies where the members of the Liberal party, following Lord Hartington, no doubt guided by the authorized organs of the Liberal union, will yet, for the purpose of obtaining the Irish vote, make a compromise which is equivalent to surrendering the question of Home Rule. I cannot help feeling that on that point it is desirable we should have more distinct statements than we have yet received from the Liberal leaders At least, this will be an unsatisfactory result. Supposing the Liberal leaders were to go back to power warmly denouncing Home Rule, but supported by a large number of their followers who, in order to obtain Irish votes, had accepted Home Rule. When the matter came on for division in the House of Commons, which do you think of those two influences would prevail? If you are in any doubt, I would ask you to consult the records of the last session with respect to the army bill. [Cheers.] Precisely the same state of things occurred. The Liberal leaders intrenched themselves in one position, and their Liberal followers took up another; but when the division bell rang the Liberal leaders disposed of their objections and voted in the same lobby as their Liberal followers. With respect to this Irish question you cannot but feel the gravity of the occasion on which you will be called upon to vote at the next election. It is now eleven years ago that there were the same phenomena to deal with. There was a great excitement of Irish opinion, there was no great danger of irreligious education, and then the Liberal party professed that they had a panacea, professed that they had a remedy, and on that profession they were intrusted with power. They had a majority which carried everything before it. They dealt with the Irish Church and with the Irish land according to their will. The laws which they then passed have been allowed uninterrupted operation. I need not say that what was then done cannot be reversed, but we must study the results of their policy for our future guidance. [Cheers.] Have their promises been fulfilled? Is Ireland more contented than she was? [No, no.] Is it not rather the case that the separatist movement has obtained proportions to which it never reached before, and that, encouraged by the principles which were sanctioned in the Irish land acts, doctrines which have never before been seriously raised in any civilized states are propounded from Irish platforms. [Cheers.] Again I ask you to take warning by the past. [Cheers.] If you trust the same hand to deal with the same complaints you will see in a worse form the evils which now stand before you. [Cheers.] But the election which is impending, deeply as it will affect certain interesting questions of home politics, is more important still in respect of foreign politics. It is their doing that it is so. They have so framed the issue that if a Liberal ministry, returns to power every state in Europe will understand that, in Lord Hartington’s language, the policy of the present government is to be undone. Every state in Europe will understand that England retires from the position which she occupies, and accepts the abdication of power to which she submitted in 1871 and 1873. When we are blamed for what has been done, or when the results of our foreign policy are questioned, it is fair to ask what our opponents would have done. We know something from their professions in the present and something from their performances in the past. Then we may judge of the way in which they would have dealt with the Eastern question by the way in which they dealt with the sudden claim of Russia to abrogate the Black Sea clauses of the Treaty of Paris in 1871. We may conclude that they would have allowed Russia to occupy Constantinople, that they would have then exacted [Page 478] from her an abstract statement that it is very wrong for a power to occupy a town without being allowed to do so by the other powers, and then they would have confirmed her in the possession of what she had gained. [Laughter and cheers.] That is precisely what they did in 1871, and I see no reason for believing they would not have done it in 1878. With respect to Afghanistan, what policy do they propose? Lord Hartington tells us that we must retire behind our frontier—go back to this adverse mountain frontier which I have described to you. If General Roberts went out by the Khyber Pass, evacuating all that British valor during the past year has gained, I venture to predict that somebody else would walk in by the passes of Hindoo Koosh, and that Afghanistan would become in peace a difficulty, in war a danger of the first, magnitude, to the Indian Empire. [Cheers.] We have had other remedies. Sir William Harcourt tells us that we should have relied on a friendly Afghanistan—we should have relied for the dearest interests of our Indian Empire on the proposed friendship of the most perfidious nation that has ever existed on the earth. [Cheers.] I have heard, though I have not seen it, that a very venerable organ of Whig opinion, has recently announced that the proper defense of English interests in Afghanistan is to be confined to the action of the English fleet. [Laughter.] Well, gentlemen, I feel sure that the electors of this country will not be blind to the gravity of the issue which events have placed before them. If they neglect the teaching of the past they may have more exasperating legislation, separating class from class, and encouraging new enterprises against property and order. They may have more abdication of the proper position of England, and more trusting to isolation, and to the friendship or to good-will of the powers before whom they kneel. All over the world we shall have masterly inactivity [laughter], except only if there should be some ancient institution to overthrow at home. [Renewed laughter.] I feel sure that the electors of this country will prefer the legislation which combines classes rather than that which separates them [hear, hear]; that they will prefer to hold high the standard of English traditions and English honor, and that they will prefer to maintain a firm front at home in order that, with the co operation of worthy allies, we may be able to maintain peace and right abroad. [Great cheering.]