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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.
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.
But his 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. 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. 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
faithfully observed, and to the protection of which British interests, to a vast amount, were confided within the domains of the Sultan; and that
all these interests must at once
be put in jeopardy, and the obligation of the treaties which protect them be at once advisedly broken, by the first blow which Great Britain should strike, as the ally of Greece, in hostility to Turkey."
Mr Canning then suggested the idea of compromise with the Porte, but the deputies declared that the Greeks must be either "entirely independent or perish."
"Mr Canning, then, having thus explained to the deputies all that the Greeks had to expect from the British Government, endeavoured to impress upon their minds that the efforts to induce Great Britain to take part in their favour had not only no favourable result, but were always attended by consequences prejudicial to their
This is the language of Lord Salisbury and the language of Mr Chamberlain. "We observe treaties ourselves, and don't intend that others shall break them to our prejudice." Our difficulties in South Africa only arise from what is our bounden duty, our demand, namely, that treaty engagements shall be faithfully observed. Sir William Harcourt thinks that this
is unnecessary. But how he can reconcile such a theory with the advice which he gave to the youth of England at the Eighty Clubnamely, that all who looked forward to political life should make Canning their study night and daywe are not in a position to explain.
We next come to Sir William Harcourt's mode of speaking as to the motives and characters of the European Governments: and we hope that on this subject young
England will follow his advice, and read for themselves what Mr Canning said on this very point. The words used by Sir William Harcourt on the 12th of April would be quite sufficient for our purpose; but they are not the most abusive ones that he has thought proper to employ :—
"The cause of humanity and the claims of freedom are sacrificed to the jealousies and selfish interests of the Powers, who declare that they will go to war if they are called upon to listen to these claims of humanity for which they appear to care little, and to these claims of freedom for which they certainly care a little less."
Elsewhere he has accused the great Powers, graciously excepting England, of supporting Turkey now, that she may cut up all the better hereafter, when their turn comes for dividing the spoil. Speaking in Monmouthshire a fortnight later, he stated that the great Powers looked on the Ottoman empire with the eye of a gamekeeper:
"They used the integrity of the Ottoman empire as an excuse in Armenia, they use it as a pretext in Crete. It is not because they really respect this integrity; they regard it just as a gamekeeper regards a covey of pheasants. One of these days they mean themselves to have a great shooting, when they can agree upon the terms of the battue."
Mr Balfour told the leader of the Opposition what he thought of him, in words reminding us very much of the rebuke addressed by Canning to the Opposition of his own day for their abuse of the Continental Governments.
"The right hon. gentleman," said Mr Balfour, 66 openly said that the Powers of Europe for their own selfish
1 Stapleton's Life of Canning, vol. ii. p. 444.
ends wanted to keep the peace, but cared nothing at all for freedom and good government. I do not know whether it is consistent with the position of the leader of a great party to fling these accusations wholesale against Powers friendly to this country-Powers with whom he has had to deal in a responsible position, and with whom he may again have to deal in an equally responsible position."
These are almost the very words of Mr Canning, in commenting on the disgraceful epithets bestowed on the great Powers by the Whig Opposition.
"I doubt," he said, "whether it is wise even in this House to indulge in such a strain of rhetoric: to call by a hundred hard names Powers with whom, after all, if the map of
Europe cannot be altogether cancelled, we must, according to the admission of the most anti-Continental politicians, maintain some international intercourse."
It is pretty clear what Sir William Harcourt would have had to expect had Mr Canning been sitting opposite to him in the House of Commons. To be a friend to freedom is a totally different thing from deriding treaty obligations, from insulting in the coarsest terms the allies with whom we are engaged, and from endeavouring to thwart all the efforts of a Government directed to the attainment of confessedly desirable objects, by declaring that it does not possess the confidence of the country, and that the national sympathies are all with those who refuse to listen to our advice. Mr Canning is Sir William Harcourt's ideal of a Foreign Secretary. He was an enemy of absolutism, and a friend to popular institutions, yet no one has protested more strongly against that very course of conduct which
we have just described, and which the leader of the Opposition considers it his duty to pursue, than the very statesman of whom he has the consummate assurance to call himself a disciple.
Mr Canning knew, as every man of sense does, that we must take things as we find them: that being compelled at times to have communication with the absolute
Powers, to consult with them, negotiate with them, and sometimes to act with them, it was idle to expect to have everything our own way or to think ourselves justified in breaking off any connection with them formed for a specific purpose, because on some particular points they did not see through English spectacles. The business of the world could not be con
ducted on such a principle as this. And if we not only thought our
selves entitled to insist on their ways being our ways, but also fell foul of them at once, and set to reviling them like pickpockets, because they refused to. abandon their own traditionary methods, we could only expect of course that they would cast us adrift, and that the whole influence we had a right to exercise in the affairs of Europe would at once be lost. Canning knew this, and pursued a very different line of policy. He was particularly cautious of doing anything to wound the susceptibilities of friendly Powers, and was firmly resolved to maintain the comity of diplomacy.
How does any one suppose that the Emperors like being called by such names as Liberal statesmen now apply to them, especially when they hear that these are the men who represent the public sentiment of England? Is that the way to smooth matters and render it easier to transact business with them; or is it the way to