Page images


prisoner in the hands of the Cortes. The great Powers, including France, were determined to restore him to liberty, and at the end of the year 1822 a French "army of observation" was already encamped on the Spanish frontier. It was certain that if nothing could be done towards improving the position of the king, and allow ing him the exercise of those functions which formed part even of the new constitution, would follow. If the Spanish Revolutionary party chose to set Europe at defiance, they must take the consequences. "If the Spaniards were not wrong-headed," said Mr Canning, "all might go well." But they behaved exactly as Greece has done: they were wrongg-headed. The Cortes turned a deaf ear to all Canning's suggestions, when a very slight concession would have prevented war. War followed; with the complete discomfiture of the Liberal Party, and the restoration of the old despotism: and who, in Mr Canning's opinion, were mainly answerable for this result, by encouraging the Spanish Radicals to resist? Why was it that the English advice tendered through Lord Fitzroy Somerset was summarily rejected? Hear Mr Canning's own words :

"Spain, then, I repeat, has never been misled by the British Government. But I fear, nevertheless, that a notion was some way or other created at Madrid, that if Spain would but hold out resolutely the Government of England would be forced by the popular voice in this country to take part in her favour."

Exactly the notion that was created at Athens. Mr Canning goes on—

"And I do firmly believe that such

a notion had great share in producing the peremptory refusal of any modifi

cation of the constitution of 1812."

Spain, when she discovered the truth, must have been bitterly disappointed :

"This disappointment, sir, was from the beginning certain, inevitable for the mistake of those who excited the hopes of Spain was not only as to the conduct of the British Government, but as to the sentiment of the British nation." 2

This mistake "thwarted the policy of the British Government, and aggravated the difficulties of Spain."

“For myself, I declare that even the responsibility of plunging this country into an unnecessary war would have weighed less heavily upon my conscience than that which, thank God, I have not incurred, of hopes of assistance which I had not instigating Spain to war by exciting the means of realising." 1

Are not the above passages every whit as applicable to the English Radicals and Greece at the present moment as they were to the English Whigs and Spain seventy-four years ago? Mutato nomine de te. Could the effects of that unwise Philhellenism spoken of by the 'Times,' and more recently rebuked with eloquent gravity by the Prime Minister,


be more accurately described? Sir William Harcourt has ferred us to Canning, and to Canning we refer him back. Mutato nomine de te. We say that Lord Salisbury's position before the war broke out was very much what Canning's was in 1822: that he has been "thwarted" in a similar manner, and with similar results and that the strongest condemnation of Sir W. Harcourt's

1 Hansard, April 30, 1823.

conduct comes from the lips of the very Minister whom he is always quoting in his own favour, and whose authority he places far above that of any living statesman. Undoubtedly the fact that before the delivery of Somerset's message the great Powers had withdrawn their Ambassadors from Madrid did something to harden the Cortes against all concession. But we see where Canning himself thought that the chief responsibility rested. The impression made upon the Cortes by the English Liberals was largely responsible for the peremptory rejection of the advice tendered by Great Britain-advice which would have prevented war and saved the Spanish constitution.

The impression made upon the Greeks by the words and actions of the English Radicals a few months ago was exactly similar in kind, and followed by similar consequences. But besides encouraging the Greeks, it had a bad effect upon the Powers, which was visible at once in the different position of England before the meeting of Parliament and afterwards. The influence of Lord Salisbury, which was predominant during the autumn and winter, has latterly been overruled; and who can question but that the change is due in great part to the mischievous behaviour of the Opposition, who, refusing pitched battle when the Government victory would have reassured the other Powers, have kept up a dropping fire, which leaves them still uncertain which way English public feeling is tending after all. They have deceived not only Greece, but Europe, and "not only as to the conduct of the Government, but as to the sentiments of the British nation."


To this very danger Lord Salisbury adverted in the impressive

speech which he delivered on the 20th of last month at a London political club. Now that the war is over, our difficulties perhaps are in one sense only just beginning; and it is, said the noble Marquis, "of great importance that neither the Sultan of Turkey and his supporters, nor the Government of Greece and their supporters, should be under any illusion as to the state of feeling in this country with respect to the present passing events." The Powers are all agreed that no Christian population must be replaced under the dominion of the Sultan. Turkey must understand that. But we must be careful to prevent any impression from getting abroad that public opinion in Great Britain is prepared to relieve Greece from the natural consequences of her own acts of folly and injustice. The penalties which she has incurred by them she will have to pay-if not by the cession of territory, by some other amercement only a little less agreeable to her. Greece must understand that. If English opinion is misrepresented on this point, as it was on the question of Crete by those who, without the smallest right to constitute themselves the spokesmen of this country, persuaded Greece at all events to regard them in that capacity, they will only bring on their unfortunate clients the repetition, in some other form, of the disasters which they have already endured. The hundred members who disgraced the House of Commons by an act which contributed so largely to mislead the Greeks, and so to lure them on to their ruin, are chargeable with the sin of blood-guiltiness; and this should be a warning to all politicians and all sympathisers with Greece at the present moment-of whom, indeed, Lord Salisbury is


to refrain from language which may produce a similar impression, and to remember that the policy of nations cannot be regulated by sympathy and sentiment alone. "The policy of nations must be guided by international law and justice, and by the obligations which nations have undertaken to each other, and by the high duty which is imposed on all of pursuing that course which may lead to the maintenance and security of the peace of the world." Here spoke the voice of Canning: the real voice, and not the sham one which issues from the lips of Sir William Harcourt.

[ocr errors]

But a still more flagrant example of the same mischievous propensity, which treats the highest imperial interests as so much food for party, and sticks at nothing so long as a blow can be delivered at the Government, is supplied by the debate of April 29 on the Chancellor of the Exchequer's financial statement. In commenting upon this, the leader of the Opposition took up the resolution which was passed by the Cape House of Assembly on the 26th of April, in favour of settling all difficulties with the Transvaal by peaceable means, at the same time deprecating the interference of any foreign Power. This, said our patriot, was the answer of the people of the Cape to Mr Chamberlain's " war policy." They would have none of it. The Colonial Secretary had done his best to kindle a hostile feeling between the Cape and the Transvaal.

"In every utterance of his during the last few months there is no doubt he has been endeavouring to exasperate sentiment in that country, and to produce what, thank God, he has failed in producing-a racial war. policy has been defeated. It has been defeated by the good sense and good

feeling of the people of Cape Colony, and the vote taken the other day was a vote of condemnation of this war

policy. That vote was in support of a peace policy, and by a majority, I am happy to say, the Cape Government rejected the policy which is represented by these additional estimates."

The absurdity of this description of Mr Du Toit's motion requires no exposure. But what was the real state of the case at that moment? The Transvaal Government had on more than one occasion violated the Convention of London, which they had sworn to observe: and they had been requested in friendly and conciliatory terms to give us satisfaction. This request was then under consideration: and this was the moment which the Liberal leader thought a fitting one for telling the Transvåal Government that the request was conceived "in a spirit of hostility and aggression"; that it had been condemned by the Cape Colony; and suggesting, not obscurely, that the Transvaal would be justified in refusing it. If this is not "exasperating" public sentiment, we don't know what is. But if such language has any effect, it can only have the same as the encouragement addressed to Greece. It can only precipitate a war, which the English Government is so anxious to avert-a war bringing ruin on Sir William's deluded protegees, and reducing thousands to poverty and misery. Mr Chamberlain had hoped that this South African question might not be made a party question. Had he, really? We should have thought he knew his man better.

It is not, perhaps, of much use to refer to Sir William Harcourt's conscience. But his At all events, it is one of those pleasant ones which never does its owner any harm."


He may not feel any qualms at the thought that he has been instigating President Kruger, as we may judge from his reply to Mr Chamberlain, to adopt an attitude towards this country which may end in war, by representations which have no foundation in fact, and can only entail on those who are deceived by them the most bitter disappointment. But his friend Mr Canning thought differently. He thought nothing could lie more heavily on the conscience of a public man than such a course as Sir William Harcourt has pursued. But Sir William loves a free hand. He is only to quote Mr Canning when it suits his purpose. He is to use him as he would have us use the Continental Powers. But why complain of this? What is Sir William's whole career but one long illustration of this great principle of freedom in his own person. He has been Conservative and Radical, Gladstonian and anti-Gladstonian, Parnellite and anti-Parnellite, Unionist and Home Ruler, all in less than forty years. He certainly stands quite at the head of the deciduous school of politicians.

We must now turn to his views of treaty obligations; and here we come in touch again with Mr Canning, and have once more the benefit of his testimony. Sir William declares, for himself and for the Liberal party generally, that they will hear no more of the integrity of the Ottoman empire. It has indeed been solemnly guaranteed by treaties to which all the great Governments are pledged. But what of that, says the honest fellow, to whom the honour and dignity of Great Britain are so dear. What is a treaty Take away the bauble. Let not such musty obligations control the action of "a great and

free people." We could almost fancy we were listening to Elijah Pogram or the brown Forester. In his speech at Norwich on the 17th of March, and again at the Eighty Club on the 13th of April, Sir William gave utterance to those sentiments which met with so sarcastic a reception from Lord Salisbury at the Albert Hall on the 6th of May. We-that is, the Liberals will be parties to no policy of which the integrity of the Ottoman empire is the basis. That is his dictum. But they are parties to it. They cannot help themselves. The treaties of 1856 and of 1878, the one concluded by a Liberal Government, the other by a Conservative, have made them so. When a man has backed a friend's bill, he cannot refuse to pay because he says he will be no party to the system of kite-flying. Let the bill be got rid of: let the treaty be repealed and he may then talk. We cannot escape from our contracts because we are tired of the responsibility. The introduction of the contrary doctrine into the realm of diplomacy would indeed be anarchy, and must end in chaos. It would break down all public law and every guarantee that we possess for the security and independence of nations. It would destroy destroy civilisation. Yet the language used by Sir William Harcourt, if it is pushed home, really comes to this. He will say of course that it is a gross exaggeration. But will he tell us how he proposes to get rid of the "integrity of the Ottoman empire" without either repealing or repudiating the treaties which confirm it? The Powers are not ready to repeal them; and if England chose to make a clean slate, and apply a wet sponge to all her most solemn engagements with the rest of

Europe, would not that practically be an act of moral bankruptcy, just as dishonourable as the repudiation of a national debt?

It was at the Eighty Club on the 13th of April that Sir William made his most vehement appeal to the memory and example of Canning, recommending the rising generation, almost with tears in his voice, to take that great man for their model. Now Sir William was quite right in saying that Canning refused to join the great Powers in forming a kind of committee of supervision for settling the affairs of Europe generally. This is a totally different thing from an agreement between the same Powers to act together for one particular purpose; to avert one special and practical danger which concerns them all; and to protect and uphold arrangements in which they have a common interest, and to which they are all pledged. The Concert which Canning recoiled from not the Holy Alliance, which was a harmless fadwas nothing of this kind. It was, as we have said, nothing less than a permanent Vigilance Committee or Mutual Insurance Society; and this would have been enough to make any English Minister, from Chatham to Salisbury, decline the honour of belonging to it.

But there is a still wider difference than this between the two alliances, which Sir William had apparently forgotten. No Power can be expected to join in a compact of which it disapproves the objects. This goes without saying: and it was less because he wished to stand aloof from such connections, than because he was hostile to the purposes for the sake of which he knew them to be established, that Canning acted as he did. The league between the great Continental monarchies from 1820 to

1830 meant a war upon opinion: the suppression of political principles to which the monarchies were opposed. It was not formed to resist breaches of international law, to prevent territorial aggression, and to keep other countries within their assigned limits. It was directed against domestic revolution, against forms of government, and national institutions, with which no Foreign Power has any right to interfere. This was the European Concert from which Canning stood aloof, and it had little more in common with that now existing than the Inquisitor who burns a heretic has with the magistrate who quells a riot.

This distinction was unfortunately overlooked by Sir William Harcourt. There is nothing in the career of Mr Canning to lead us to suppose that he would have refused to join any European coalition of which he thoroughly approved the object: which was directed to the maintenance of peace, and the settlement of a quarrel between two minor States, so as to prevent the risk of its leading to a general war.

But if Sir William's reference to Canning in regard to the European Concert is plausible at first sight, and until the analogy is pricked, he cannot get even this superficial and short-lived support from him on the question of treaties. As he is so fond of Mr Pitt's pupil, let him lay his case before him, and see what answer he will get. When Canning was appealed to by the Greeks to do something to help them against Turkey, he replied to their ambassador as follows:

"They forgot that there existed between England and Turkey treaties of very ancient date, and of uninterrupted obligation, which the Turks

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »