Speeches on Questions of Public Policy by Richard Cobden
[On June 24, Mr. Roebuck made the following motion:—' That the principles which have hitherto regulated the Foreign Policy of Her Majesty's Government are such as were required to preserve untarnished the honour and dignity of this country, and at all times best calculated to maintain peace between this country and the various nations of the world.' The motion was carried by 46. (310 to 246.) The motion was in answer to a censure on Lord Palmerston's Administration carried on Lord Stanley's (the late Lord Derby's) motion in the House of Lords. The occasion of the censure was the support given by Lord Palmerston to one Pacifico, a Jew, who claimed to be a British subject, and pretended to have suffered great losses in a riot at Athens.]
It was my wish to have done to-night, what I have frequently done before—to have given a silent vote; finding, as I do, that nearly all the arguments on both sides have been stated by other Members much better than I could state them; but I have been referred to, in common with several other Gentlemen on this side of the House, as likely to take a course different from our neighbours on this occasion, and I therefore think it necessary to say a few words.
First, I am anxious that, so far as I am concerned, the question should be put on its legitimate issue, and that it may not be still suggested that I am here for the purpose of indulging in a personal opposition; I trust that, at all events, I may be exempted from any such charge. In the next place, I wish it to be understood, so far as I am concerned, that there is nothing in this case which involves any plot, conspiracy, or cabal of any kind whatever. The hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) is the author of this motion; do you accuse him of being in any plot, conspiracy, or cabal? He has taken the initiative in the matter, and those who participate in the discussion merely comment upon the resolution so submitted to them by the hon. and learned Member. Lastly, I hope I may be exempted, at all events, from the sweeping charge made against Members who do not support this motion—that they are in the interest of despotism all over the world.
I have heard from several Gentlemen around me, some of whom I do not think extremely democratic, whom I have by no means found always supporting extreme Liberalism, very considerable intolerance towards those who do not take the same view with themselves in relation to the Government on this occasion. I will ask those Gentlemen, do they think me an ally of Russia or of Austria? Do they think I have shown less sympathy for the Hungarians or Italians than they have,—that I have less cosmopolitan sympathies than they? If, then, they admit me to be as liberal as themselves, surely they may allow me the freedom of taking the view my conscience dictates in a matter which has nothing on earth to do with constitutionalism or despotism.
As I understand it, the first thing before us is the conduct of our Government in Greece, though the hon. Member for Sheffield has widened that question, by the wording of his resolution, so as to cover the whole foreign policy of our Government. But as to the conduct of our Government in Greece, why, if this subject had been set before us in February, or even in March, within a few weeks after we had heard that fifteen British vessels of war had assembled in the Bay of Salamis to blockade the coast of a friendly Power, there would scarcely have been any difficulty in approaching the subject in a calm and dispassionate way, apart from all the extraneous matter with which it has been now encumbered. Really, when those who oppose this motion are offhand charged with plot, conspiracy, and cabal, I am tempted to ask whether there has not been some little plot, conspiracy, and cabal to get up an artificial excitement in the country on the subject. Yes, I have seen placards and circulars; I am not speaking without knowledge. However, the question is, what was the conduct of our Government in relation to the affairs of Greece? I have not brought my blue books down with me, and I shall not read a single line to you; but as there is much mystification on the subject, and as I wish to deal fairly with all, I will state the case in a few words, so that no one may take exception to it.
In the first place, Mr. Finlay, a Scotch gentleman, settles in Greece twenty years ago, taking up his residence at Athens, not as a merchant, not to promote British commerce in that quarter of the world, but as a denizen of Greece. He purchases land in Athens and the neighbourhood; I have seen the land, and I saw the much-discussed palace, just as it was rising from this land. Land was bought on speculation, not only in Athens but in the neighbourhood. Mr. Finlay thus became interested in the prosperity of Athens. The court of Greece and its Government were at this time established at Nauplia; it was desired by the proprietors and inhabitants of Athens that the Government should resume its ancient and classic seat, by removing to Athens. The landed proprietors of Athens, deeply interested in again making it the metropolis of Greece, instead of allowing it to remain what it was, little better than a village of huts, all signed an engagement with the commune or municipality of Athens to furnish land for erecting public buildings upon, the price fixed being equivalent to about 3¼d. to 3½d. per square yard. I do not intend to go through all the correspondence on the subject of Mr. Finlay's claim; I merely want to bring the matter to the point on which you must all agree. Mr. Finlay was one of more than one hundred persons who thus sold land to the Greek Government; that is admitted by all parties in the correspondence. Among these proprietors who sold their land for palaces and public buildings were several foreigners, and among these foreigners were two whom Sir E. Lyons, in his first letter to Lord Aberdeen, speaks of as fellow-sufferers with Mr. Finlay—Mr. Hill, the agent of the Episcopalian Society of America, and the Russian Consul-General.
These are facts that nobody denies. I do not desire to go into any controversy, but simply to draw the attention of the House and of the country to the fact, that all the other proprietors of these lands, without exception, agreed to the terms, and accepted the terms, that were offered by the commissioners appointed by the municipality for that purpose. ['No.'] Does the hon. and learned Member for Southampton, with his blue-book before him, mean to say that the fact is not stated in that blue-book as I have given it? ['No,' from Mr. Cockburn.] Why, it is stated there expressly. ['No.'] Will the hon. and learned Member tell me that Mr. Hill and the Russian Consul-General accepted the money, or that they did not stand in the same position with Mr. Finlay? I know Mr. Hill; it is an honour to any one to be acquainted with him; for, as it is well stated by Sir E. Lyons, in that first letter of his to which I have referred, there is no one to whom the rising generation of Greeks is more indebted than to Mr. Hill and his family. Mr. Finlay refused to take the money which the bulk of the other proprietors accepted; a long controversy ensued, and the result was the approach of our ships of war to the Bay of Salamis. I have not stated anything so far that any one can deny.
Now we come to M. Pacifico. M. Pacifico had his house outrageously attacked; that no one can deny; he sends in his bill to the Government, and, with that bill in our hands, our ships of war enter the Piræus. I blushed with indignation when I read the inventory of M. Pacifico. It is no matter of surprise that hon. Members have deprecated any allusion to the details of that bill, as if the whole of this question was not a question of details. ['No, no.'] Why, with the exception of the apology required for the insult to Fantome, all the rest is a matter of money. ['No, no.'] I beg pardon; I say all the rest is a matter of money, and your exclamations only show how you are acting in this case upon blind passion and party spirit. M. Pacifico sends in his bill to the Government; he charges for a bedstead 150l., he charges for the sheets 30l., he charges for the pillow-case 10l., for two coverlids 25l. This inventory is so deeply disgraceful to all concerned in it, that, first, you tried to evade the question, by saying the case was not one for nisi prius details, and then you turned round, and said that Pacifico brought all this furniture to Athens, to sell it to the King of Greece. But if we go into the bill for the personal apparel, the every-day working apparel of M. Pacifico and his family, we find there just the same sort of thing; it is all in unison with the 150l. bedstead. Why, there is a gold watch with appendages put down at 50l. for one of the items. When I first read the account, I thought the whole thing was a mistake, and that in writing out the bill, pounds sterling had been put down instead of drachmas, for I am pretty sure that in every case drachmas instead of pounds would have much more nearly represented the real value of the articles.
Next comes the case of the six Ionian boats at Salcina, and their demand for 235l.—for I will not enter into details; then the case of the four Ionians, who charged the Greek authorities with having outraged them, and thumbscrewed them, and taken their boats, two to Patras, and two to Pyrgos. The Greek authorities controvert the statement of our Consul upon this subject, and the correspondence altogether puzzles us as to who is right and who wrong; but the noble Lord, nothing doubting, settles the matter in a few lines, by ordering that the four complainants shall be paid 20l. each by the Greek Government.
Then comes the Fantome case. A British ship of war is lying off Patras; a boat goes on shore at nine o'clock at night, when it is dark; the coxswain lands a midshipman, not at the usual place of disembarkation, but on the beach; the midshipman goes to see his father, a boy preceding him with a lantern; on his return he is taken into custody by two officials and conveyed to the station, in default of giving a satisfactory account of himself; the Greeks, bear you in mind, not speaking one word of English, nor the Englishman one word of Greek. Now, suppose a Frenchman landing in the same way from abroad, by night, near Brighton, not at the ordinary landing-place but on the beach, and observed by preventive officers, neither party understanding one word of the other's language, and mutual explanation being consequently impossible. Why, the blockademen would at once put the landing party down for a French smuggler, and would take him into custody and convey him to the station where, an interpreter being procured, the explanation deficient would be supplied, and the arrested person be dismissed with all proper apology. This was precisely what was done to the midshipman. As soon as an interpreter was found, and it was ascertained who the Englishman was, he was at once liberated, and respectfully conveyed to his ship.
There you have the statement of all our grievances against Greece. ['No, no.'] I will not go into the merits of them; say the Greeks were wrong, or we were wrong, just as you please; but admit they were wrong, and what I want to know is, whether the wrong was not one that might have been readily settled by other means than by sending fifteen ships of war into the Bay of Salamis? I know I take a very vulgar, mercenary view of the matter, but I repeat my question,—Was there no other way to settle the question than by this immense array of force? It is quite evident that the only reason why this entire matter was not settled before, was the bad spirit that existed between our representative and the Government of Greece. I do not speak disparagingly of Sir Edmund Lyons; any other functionary under the same circumstances could scarcely have been so long there, any more than at Madrid or elsewhere, without getting mixed up with the local politics in the same way that Sir E. Lyons was. That was the origin and reason why it was found that for six or nine months there were no letters addressed by the noble Lord to Sir E. Lyons, and why there had been no adjustment of these petty differences until it was necessary to send fifteen ships of war to Athens.
Now, is there not something wrong at the bottom of this? Is there not something that requires to be mended? Is it worth while to have an Ambassador there with 5,000l. a year embroiling you with the Government, and begetting bad blood and animosity? Why, I would rather have no one but a Consul there, whose duty it should be to look after your commerce, and who should be told, 'Never go to Athens at all, for, if you mix yourself up with political matters, somebody else shall be appointed in your place.' If you would do this, you would avoid the absurdity of having to employ fifteen vessels of war to collect a debt of 6,000l. But everybody said that something else was meant besides obtaining redress for injuries to British subjects in Greece. I believe there was something in the background that I have not heard. It is said that the noble Viscount intended this demonstration at Athens as a menace to Russia. But I say, how does this answer its purpose as a demonstration against Russia? The moment the Court of Russia hear of the demonstration, I find that they send a remonstrance against the Government of this country—a remonstrance couched in language I never expected to hear from a semi-barbarous country like Russia to this: read, I ask you, the extraordinary language used by Count Nesselrode to Lord Palmerston, and then read the answer of the latter, and see how different is the tone adopted by him to a country which is powerful compared with what he makes use of to one that is weak.
Well, then, I ask again, what was the advantage of this demonstration, when the only result of it is a hectoring epistle from Count Nesselrode, to which the noble Viscount sent a very meek and lamb-like reply? The reason why I abhor the policy of injustice and aggression—for I call it injustice and aggression to send ships of war against a weak country to enforce demands which might have been amicably settled—is, that you place yourselves in such a position that you are obliged to submit to language like this from the Russian Court. And why are you obliged to submit to it? Because you are weak, and weak only on account of committing an injustice, and of being conscious of having done so; for otherwise, so far from this country being in a condition to be bullied by Russia, such are the advantages you possess in the knowledge and use of mechanical science and in the advanced state of the arts over Russia, that if you behaved with dignity to small states, she would not venture even to look at you, far less to use such language towards you.
I have asked, why was not this affair settled by other means than by ships of war? I now come to a part of the policy and conduct of the Foreign Office altogether irreconcilable with the notions of those hon. Gentlemen who did me the honour, to the number of eighty, of voting for my motion in favour of international arbitration. It is quite clear, it is said, that the noble Viscount did not resort to arbitration. My charge against him is, that he did resort to arbitration after having made use, in the first place, of fifteen ships of war. No sooner was the demonstration known, than an envoy arrives from France with tenders of mediation. And now, I must say, I have read with feelings nearly akin to contempt for diplomacy, the accounts of what took place between the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office and M. Drouyn de Lhuys—I have read the French accounts and the accounts in the blue-books, and must confess I have felt the most sovereign contempt for diplomacy. M. Drouyn de Lhuys came over in the most loyal spirit, as I believe, to offer to settle this beggarly affair of a few thousand pounds with Greece. He told the noble Lord frankly, as a proof of his sincerity, and he has repeated it in a letter to Lord Normanby, that it would be useful to the French Government to be allowed to settle it, or, to use a common American phrase, that it would give them 'political capital' in France. How did the noble Lord receive the approaches of M. Drouyn de Lhuys? Was it in the way any man of business, accustomed to the management of affairs, would have done? Did he say, 'We are much obliged to you; this affair of a few thousands has been a long time standing over,—take it and settle it, and we shall be very much obliged to the Government of France?' Would not that have been the rational and reasonable way of meeting him? Instead of this, what does the noble Viscount say? He higgles with M. Drouyn de Lhuys over the different words to be used,—over 'good offices,' 'mediation,' and 'arbitration.' I declare that both in French and English it fairly puzzles one to make anything out of it; but it appears, by the accounts, that the noble Lord insists he won't take 'arbitration'—it must be 'good offices.' M. Drouyn de Lhuys, in the French account of what took place, given by him to General Lahitte, describes himself to have entreated the noble Lord to extend a little the powers of the negotiators—to yield to an arbitration, and not to go determinedly on in the affair. But no; the noble Viscount was determined to have what he demanded; and all he would require of France was to persuade Greece to give what he asked. Baron Gros went out to Athens crippled by these conditions, but he set to work at once with Mr. Wyse. I think it is evident Baron Gros had the most earnest desire to settle the matter. Indeed, his character as a diplomatist was largely involved in his success in arranging it, and he went to work evidently disposed to surmount every possible difficulty; but when he came to the case of Pacifico, and heard from all he conversed with in Athens the real facts of the case—when, to use a vulgar phrase, he found it out, and discovered it was an atrocious attempt at swindling, he could not swallow it. What was going on at the very same time in London? At this very same moment commence the 'good offices' between the noble Lord and M. Drouyn de Lhuys. So he has two negotiations going, one at Athens and the other at London, and all to settle this paltry affair of a few thousand pounds. It ended as might be expected—a little delay on the part of a courier, some mistake or delay in not putting a letter into the letter-bag in time for the night's post, and the whole affair was broken off in London before they in Athens could know what was doing. The negotiations were thrown aside—our ships were ordered to do their worst—Greece submitted—and you got your money. What follows? The French Government, irritated by your conduct, withdraws its Minister,—and now comes the quarrel I have with the noble Lord—now comes my case against him for not accepting arbitration in the first instance. Actually, after your ships of war had extorted the money from Greece, and a large part of it was already placed in bank, the noble Viscount consented, in the most humiliating way,—for I consider the communications received from Lord Normanby most humiliating,—to accept what he had before refused, and you have now returned to this state, that by France withdrawing its ambassador you are obliged to do away all you have done by means of your fifteen ships of war. And you have agreed to substitute the Convention of London for the terms you obtained by your fleet at Athens. Yes; have you not agreed to give up the money lodged in the Bank for payment? What do you call that? Your ships of war extort money from Greece; the French Government tells you, 'Give that money back; you must take the terms of the Convention of London.' We yield, and so the matter ends. But it is not yet ended.
And here is my complaint against the noble Lord. It seems as if the system at the Foreign Office is calculated to breed and perpetuate quarrels. First, you submit to rebuke from Russia, and next you are humiliated before France—the two countries, some of our very knowing people say, we intended to terrify by our demonstration against Greece; but the question is not yet settled. There are three arbitrators appointed to settle the question of Pacifico's claim against the Court of Athens. As my hon. Friends near me, who voted for my motion, will see, they have been obliged to resort to my plan of arbitration, and the matter, after all the display of force, is still left open, and requires three arbitrators to decide it. I cannot imagine a more complete triumph of the principle I advocated last year than the details of this proceeding. Why, here are hon. Gentlemen behind me groaning. I am not surprised at it, for they really must be groaning at the thought of their own inconsistency. For what are we called on to vote?—that this matter has been most ably, justly, and dexterously managed. But I do not think it is finished at all; for, independently of three arbitrators and of 'their good offices,' mind you, there is a very ominous little legacy left to us in the despatch of Lord Normanby in the probability of Greece quarrelling with us again. For my own part, seeing theu nfortunate result of 'good offices,' I should not wonder if we had another quarrel with France for the exercise of her 'good offices' also. But it is said that there is, beside, some cause of quarrel with Russia, on account of vessels seized in the Levant and in the Greek ports, and M. Brunow has fairly given us notice he may have reclamations to make for the value of the property which fell into our hands, and for the loss we occasioned, and I should not be surprised if you had another blue-book very soon, containing correspondence with respect to seizures by the Russians; and all this has arisen because the Foreign Office would not submit this pettifogging business to arbitration. France would have been proud to be your arbitrator; you refused her. Then came the Convention, and at last comes an arbitration on the whole matter; only you submit on the most humiliating terms to conditions you had before refused.
Now, let us take in two sums what the actual result has been, so far as we have gone, in obtaining what we demanded. Our whole claim on the Greek Government was 33,000l. The whole amount we have actually received is 6,400l.; so that, as we stand at present, we appear before the nations of the world as having made a demand for 33,000l., and as having, up to the present moment, received only 6,400l.; and that will show, in the face of the world, what the extent of your injustice was in comparison with the justice of your claims. And, looking to the claims of M. Pacifico, and to the opinions of Baron Gros respecting them, I declare to you most solemnly my firm belief is, that if the people of England understood the merits of this question, and if they had read, as I have done, the contents of the blue-books and of the inventory,—such is the opinion I have of the generosity and justice of my countrymen, that, in spite of the galvanic effort to make this a party question, they would be so disgusted, that they would raise a subscription to pay back the Greek Government the money it has given you. In the next place, beside a vote of approbation on account of this Greek affair, we are asked to identify ourselves with the general foreign policy of the Government since their accession to office.
Now, I say I should be the most inconsistent being on the face of the earth if I gave such a vote. Not many years ago, I had to denounce, at a public meeting I called in Manchester, the conduct of the noble Lord in the case of Syria; and I remember afterwards denouncing his proceedings in Portugal also. I moved in this House for a return of any vessels of war belonging to us, which were at the time lying in the Tagus, in reference to that business. I protested, too, at a public meeting, and before a most enthusiastic audience, on the noble Lord's conduct in the affairs of Sicily; and I am now called on to vote my approbation of the proceedings of the Foreign Office during the existence of the present Administration. Why, I say if I did so, and gave that vote, I think my mouth ought to be closed on any questions of economy, entrenchment, or possibility of reducing our establishments for ever, because I am quite sure, if this system is to continue, and if you are to send fifteen ships of war to collect debts of 6,400l., you not only cannot reduce your establishments, but you have not establishments, enough. There has been a great deal said during the debate about foreign intervention, but this is a principle which I thought was acknowleged and admitted by all parties. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House have never, since the time of the Reform Bill, thought of anything so absurd as obtaining popularity by the peculiar characteristic of being the interferers in the affairs of other countries. I cannot say there is as much wisdom on this side of the House, for there seems to me a disposition here to take merit to the party, because it has for its principle to interfere in the affairs of other nations. That was not the doctrine of Lord Grey. I remember the speech of the noble Lord in 1830. Nothing electrified the country more than that exposition of his principles. He spoke of the wars of Mr. Pitt and of his successors—of the 800,000,000l. of expenditure incurred in those wars; and he pledged himself to the country that peace, non-intervention, and retrenchment, should be the watchwords of the Whig party.
I ask the country fairly to decide whether the tone and language of the speakers on this side of the House, on this night, and in the course of this debate, have been in harmony and unison with that sentiment of Lord Grey? Why, what has been the language of the hon. and learned Member for Southampton (Mr. Cockburn), and for which he has been cheered to the echo? One-half of the Treasury benches were left empty, while hon. Members ran one after another, tumbling over each other in their haste to shake hands with the hon. and learned Member. Well, what did the hon. and learned Member say? I pass over his sneer against the men of peace and men of cotton, because we must allow gentlemen of the long robe some latitude, and allow them to forget the arena in which they are displaying their powers; but what would Lord Grey have said to the doctrine of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that we have no prospect of peace with the countries of Europe till they have adopted constitutional Governments? What sort of constitutional Governments? Is it our own? Why, even if they came so far as this, and suppose they adopt our form of Government, might not hon. Members in the Assembly at Washington get up and say, 'We will have no peace till we make the world republican?' The hon. and learned Gentleman seems to have set out with the doctrine, that we ought to interfere with the forms of Government of the nations of Europe, and, judging from the noble Lord's speech, I must say he appears to be no unwilling pupil in that school of policy. If the House of Commons votes its approbation of such sentiments, and the noble Lord acts on them, I think the Foreign Office will have undertaken the reform and constitutionalizing of every country on the face of the earth. But do you think the people of this country, when they get cool, will see the wisdom of carrying out such a course? I claim for myself as much sympathy for foreigners struggling for liberty as any one in this House; but it is not true, as the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) said, that I ever attended a public meeting, and said I was in favour of going to war, and that I made an exception from my general principles in favour of Hungary.
I am glad the hon. and learned Gentleman has stated this, and that I misunderstood him, as it may prevent my being misunderstood in future. I never in public advocated interference with the Government of foreign countries, even in cases where my feelings were most strongly interested in anything relating to their domestic affairs or concerns. When I see that principle violated by others, as in the case of the Russian invasion of Hungary, and when I see a portion of the press of this civilised nation hounding on that semi-barbarous empire, then, believing that this is almost the only country where there is a free platform, and where it cannot be corrupted, as a portion of the press may have been, I shall denounce it, as I denounced the Government of Russia, and, as I stated at the same time, I was ready to denounce our own Government also. But it is a matter of very small importance what my individual opinion may be, when you come to the question, whether the Government of this country shall become the propagandist of their opinions in foreign countries. I maintain this Government has no right to communicate except through the Government of other countries; and that, whether it be a republic, a despotism, or a monarchy, I hold it has no right to interfere with any other form of Government. Mark the effect of your own principle, if you take the opposite ground. If you recognise the principle of intervention in your Government, you must tolerate it in other nations also. With what face could you get up and denounce the Emperor of Russia for invading Hungary, after the doctrine advocated by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Cockburn) to-night had been adopted by this country? I say, if you want to benefit nations who are struggling for their freedom, establish as one of the maxims of international law the principle of non-intervention. If you want to give a guarantee for peace, and, as I believe, the surest guarantee for progress and freedom, lay down this principle, and act on it, that no foreign State has a right by force to interfere with the domestic concerns of another State, even to confer a benefit on it, with its own consent. What will you say respecting the conduct of the noble Lord in the case of Switzerland? He joined there in an intervention, though the great majority of the Protestant cantons protested against it, and does the very thing he is seeking to prevent.
But I come back to my principle. Do you want to benefit the Hungarians and Italians? I think I know more of them than most people in this country. I sympathised with them during their manly struggles for freedom, and I have admired and respected them not less in their hour of adversity. I will tell you the sentiments of the leading men of the Hungarians. I have seen them all, and I must say that, much as I admired them during their noble struggle, what I have seen of them in adversity has entitled them, in my belief, to still greater respect, for I never say men—except Englishmen, to whom they bear in many respects a close resemblance—bear adversity with such manly fortitude and dignified self-respect. They have avoided all expressions of sympathy from public meetings, and, loathing the idea of being dependent on the charity of others, have sought, by emigration to America and elsewhere, an opportunity of subsisting by the labour of their own hands. These men say,—'We don't ask you to help us, or to come to our assistance. Establish such a principle as shall provide we shall not be interfered with by others.' And what do the Italians say? They don't want the English to interfere with them, or to help them. 'Leave us to ourselves,' they say. 'Establish the principle that we shall not be interfered with by foreigners.'
I will answer the hon. and learned Gentleman's cheer. He seems to ask, How will you keep out Austria from Italy, and Russia from Hungary? I will give him an illustration of what I mean. Does he remember when Kossuth took refuge in Turkey, and that Austria and the Emperor of Russia demanded him back? I beg him to understand that this illustrious refugee was not saved by any intervention of the Foreign Secretary. Has it not been admitted that the Emperor of Russia gave up his claim before the courier arrived from England? What was it, then, that liberated them? It was the universal outbreak of public opinion and public indignation in Western Europe. And why had public opinion this power? Because this demand for the extradition of political offenders was a violation of the law of nations, which declares that persons who have committed political offences in one State shall find a sanctuary in another, and ought not to be delivered up. If our Government were always to act upon this principle of non-intervention, we should see the law of nations declaring itself as clearly against the invasion of a foreign country as it has spoken out against the extradition of political refugees. Let us begin, and set the example to other nations of this non-intervention. I have no doubt that our example and protest would exercise some influence upon the Governments of Austria and Russia; but what possible moral influence can this country have with those States when the Government goes abroad to interfere with the domestic affairs of other countries.
It is said, however, that the noble Lord (Palmerston) goes abroad as the champion of liberalism and constitutionalism. But I cannot fall into this delusion. I cannot trace the battle that we are taught to believe is going on under the noble Viscount's policy between liberalism and despotism abroad. I do not think that the noble Lord is more democratic than his colleagues, or than the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Peel). I believe the noble Lord is of an active turn of mind—that he likes these protocols and conventions, and that the smaller the subject, the better it suits his taste. I do not find that the noble Lord has taken up any great question of constitutional freedom abroad. Did he ever protest against the invasion of Hungary by Russia? He made a speech against Austria, I remember, on that occasion; but he did not breathe a syllable against Russia. The only allusion he made to Russia was in the nature of an apology, uttered in a sense that seemed to justify the part taken by Russia rather than otherwise. Then it is said, that in Italy the noble Lord endeavours to establish constitutional government and representative institutions. The noble Lord told Lord Minto to go to Italy, not, as he himself declared, to recommend Parliaments or representative assemblies, but merely to advise the Government to adopt administrative reforms. But that was not what the Italian people wanted. They wanted security for their liberties by constitutional reforms, and the adoption of a representative system; and that was what the noble Lord did not recommend should be given to them. I believe the progress of freedom depends more upon the maintenance of peace, the spread of commerce, and the diffusion of education, than upon the labours of Cabinets or Foreign-offices. And if you can prevent those perturbations which have recently taken place abroad in consequence of your foreign policy, and if you will leave other nations in greater tranquillity, those ideas of freedom will continue to progress, and you need not trouble yourselves about them.
On this side of the House, some persons have been menaced with very terrible consequences, and with the adverse opinion of the public, if they do not vote for this resolution. I can only say, that I, like many other hon. Members, sit commonly here and in committee-rooms of this House for twelve hours in the course of the day. Allow two or three hours a-day for the transaction of necessary business at home, and that is not play, but hard work. But why should we sit in this House and undergo this labour, unless to advocate those opinions and convictions which we believe to be true and just? If I have one conviction stronger than another, it is one upon which I made a first public exhibition of myself in print. The principle which I defend is assailed in this motion, and upon it, for fifteen years, my opinion has been again and again recorded. I have never seen reason to change that opinion, but, on the contrary, everything confirms me in my conviction of its truth. If I remain in this seat, I will try to promote the progress of these opinions; and I hope to see the day when the intercourse of nations will exhibit the same changes as those which have taken place in the intercourse of individuals. In private life, we no longer find it necessary to carry arms about us for our protection, as did our forefathers. We have discontinued the practice of duelling, and something should be done to carry the same spirit into the intercourse of nations. In domestic life, physical correction is giving way to moral influence. In schools and in lunatic asylums this principle is successfully adopted, and even the training of the lower animals is found to be better done by means of suasion. Cannot you adopt something of this in the intercourse of nations? Whoever brings forward such measures shall have my support; and if it should happen, as the hon. Member (Mr. Bernal Osborne) has threatened me, that the consequences of my vote will be the loss of my seat in this House, then I say that, next to the satisfaction of having contributed to the advance of one's convictions, is, in my opinion, the satisfaction of having sacrificed something for them.
Return to top