« PreviousContinue »
and say that we have prolonged the war and the infinite calamities of which it is the cause.
I have said that I was anxious that the Government of the noble Lord should not be overthrown. Will the House allow me to say why I am so ? The noble Lord at the head of the Government has long been a great authority with many persons in this country upon foreign policy. His late colleague, and present envoy to Vienna, has long been a great authority with a large portion of the people of this country upon almost all political questions. With the exception of that unhappy selection of an Ambassador at Constantinople, I hold that there are no men in this country more truly responsible for our present position in this war than the noble Lord who now fills the highest office in the State and the noble Lord who is now, I trust, rapidly approaching the scene of his labours in Vienna. I do not say this now to throw blame upon these noble Lords, because their policy, which I hold to be wrong, they, without doubt, as firmly believe to be right; but I am only stating facts. It has been their policy that they have entered into war for certain objects, and I am sure that neither the noble Lord at the head of the Government nor his late colleague the noble Lord, the member for London, will shrink from the responsibility which attaches to them. Well, Sir, now we have these noble Lords in a position which is, in my humble opinion, favourable to the termination of the troubles which exist. I think that the noble Lord at the head of the Government himself would have more influence in stilling whatever may exist of clamour in this country than any other member of this House. I think, also, that the noble Lord, the Member for London, would not have undertaken the mission to Vienna if he had not entertained some strong belief that, by so doing, he might bring the war to an end. Nobody gains reputation by a failure in negotiation, and as that noble Lord is well acquainted with the whole question from the beginning to end, I entertain a hope I will not say a sanguine hope—that the result of that mission to Vienna will be to bring about a peace, to extricate this country from some of those difficulties inseparable from a state of war.
There is one subject upon which I should like to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I shall not say one word here about the state of the army in the
Crimea, or one word about its numbers or its condition. Every member of this House, every inhabitant of this country, has been sufficiently harrowed with details regarding it. To my solemn belief, thousands-nay, scores of thousands of persons -have retired to rest, night after night, whose slumbers have been disturbed or whose dreams have been based upon the sufferings and agonies of our soldiers in the Crimea. I should like to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Governmentalthough I am not sure that he will feel that he can or ought to answer the question—whether the noble Lord, the member for London, has power, after discussions have commenced, and as soon as there shall be established good grounds for believing that the negotiations for peace will prove successful, to enter into any armistice ? [No! no !]
I know not, Sir, who it is that says “No, no," but I should like to see any man get up and say that the destruction of 200,000 human lives lost on all sides during the course of this unhappy conflict is not a sufficient sacrifice. You are not pretending to conquer territory—you are not pretending to hold fortified or unfortified towns; you have offered terms of peace which, as I understand them, I do not say are not moderate ; and breathes there a man in this House or in this country whose appetite for blood is so insatiable that, even when terms of peace have been offered and accepted, he pines for that assault in which of Russian, Turk, French and English, as sure as one man dies, 20,000 corpses will strew the streets of Sebastopol ? I say I should like to ask the noble Lord—and I am sure that he will feel, and that this House will feel, that I am speaking in no unfriendly manner towards the Government of which he is at the head-I should like to know, and I venture to hope that it is so, if the noble Lord, the member for London, has power, at the earliest stage of these proceedings at Vienna, at which it can properly be done—and I should think that it might properly be done at a very early stage—to adopt a course by which all further waste of human life may be put an end to, and further animosity between three great nations be, as far as possible, prevented ?
I appeal to the noble Lord at the head of the Government and to this House ; I am not now complaining of the warI am not now complaining of the terms of peace, nor, indeed, of anything that has been done—but I wish to suggest to this
House what, I believe, thousands, and tens of thousands, of the most educated and of the most Christian portion of the people of this country are feeling upon this subject, although, indeed, in the midst of a certain clamour in the country, they do not give public expression to their feelings. Your country is not in an advantageous state at this moment; from one end of the kingdom to the other there is a general collapse of industry. Those members of this House not intimately acquainted with the trade and commerce of this country do not fully comprehend our position as to the diminution of employment and the lessening of wages. An increase in the cost of living is finding its way to the homes and hearts of a vast number of the labouring population.
At the same time there is growing up—and, notwithstanding what some members of this House may think of me, no man regrets it more than I do—a bitter and angry feeling against that class which has for a long period conducted the public affairs of this country. I like political changes when such changes are made as the result, not of passion, but of deliberation and reason. Changes so made are safe, but changes made under the influence of violent exaggeration, or the violent passions of public meetings, are not changes usually approved by this House or advantageous to the country. I cannot but notice, in speaking to gentlemen who sit on either side of this House, or in speaking to anyone I meet between this House and any of those localities we frequent when this House is up -I cannot, I say, but notice that an uneasy feeling exists as to the news which may arrive by the very next mail from the East. I do not suppose that your troops are to be beaten in actual conflict with the foe, or that they will be driven into the sea ; but I am certain that many homes in England in which there now exists a fond hope that the distant one may return -many such homes may be rendered desolate when the next mail shall arrive. The angel of death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings. There is no one, as when the first-born was slain of old, to sprinkle with blood the lintel and the two side-posts of our doors, that he may spare and pass on; he takes his victims from the castle of the noble, the mansion of the wealthy, and the cottage of the poor and the lowly, and it is on behalf of all these classes that I make this solemn appeal.
I tell the noble Lord, that if he be ready honestly and frankly to endeavour, by the negotiations about to be opened at Vienna, to put an end to this war, no word of mine, no vote of mine, will be given to shake his power for one single moment, or to change his position in this House. I am sure that the noble Lord is not inaccessible to appeals made to him from honest motives and with no unfriendly feeling. The noble Lord has been for more than forty years a member of this House. Before I was born, he sat upon the Treasury bench, and he has spent his life in the service of his country. He is no longer young, and his life has extended almost to the term allotted to man. I would ask, I would entreat the noble Lord to take a course which, when he looks back upon his whole political career—whatever he may therein find to be pleased with, whatever to regret-cannot but be a source of gratification to him. By adopting that course he would have the satisfaction of reflecting that, having obtained the object of his laudable ambition-having become the foremost subject of the Crown, the director of, it may be, the destinies of his country, and the presiding genius in her Councils—he had achieved a still higher and nobler ambition; that he had returned the sword to the scabbard—that at his word torrents of blood had ceased to flow-that he had restored tranquillity to Europe, and saved this country from the indescribable calamities of war.
Power of the House of Lords
House of Commons, July 6th, 1860 I CANNOT help being struck with an inconsistency in the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Horsman) who has just resumed his seat. I am surprised that he has not concluded by moving that certain words in the first Resolution should be omitted, and in point of fact that the declaration which the House is about to make should be reversed. That would be in accordance with the speech of the right hon, gentleman, and with the sentiments which many members opposite have most vociferously cheered. I confess I do not know what a number of hon. gentlemen opposite thought of the statements of the right hon. gentleman about the headlong, precipitate, and reckless
Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I think there were some fifty of them who were more enthusiastic supporters of that Budget than a great number of the members on this side of the House.
I shall not follow the right hon. gentleman in his endeavours to support his theories with regard to the extreme value of the House of Lords, nor shall I attempt to controvert them, because, in reality, that is not the question which is before the House. But, if the House will permit me, I will endeavour to keep as close to the question as I can, and I will state the grounds on which I am not satisfied with the course which this House is invited to take. I will not attack the Resolutions of the noble Lord, and I will not defend them, for I am not responsible for them. They appear to me unworthy of the occasion which is before us. I think they bear marks of having been prepared by more than one hand, and if they pass, and constitute the sole expression of our mind on this occasion, posterity will hardly fail to pronounce them the Resolutions of a somewhat degenerate House of Commons. The first Resolution is a very good one, but it is
old. It is none the worse for that, and I am glad the noble Viscount did not think it necessary to endeavour to amend it. The other two Resolutions are, to my mind, somewhat ambiguous and feeble, and are not in their expression of what I believe is constitutional usage, any more than as examples of composition in the English language, to be compared to the first and oldest.
Last night we had two speeches from that side of the House after long silence-speeches which, I confess, I heard with some surprise and with some pain. They appeared to me marked -to use a favourite phrase of the right hon. gentlemen below me—by great recklessness, and, if I may so speak, with great levity. Whatever may be the opinion of hon. members on this question, it is not one to be treated in that manner. It is a serious question-whether the powers of this House have been infringed or not, and whether the other House of Parliament shall hereafter exercise powers which it has not heretofore exercised. I confess I was compelled to think of the truth we learn from history, that there is no greater sign of the decadence of a people than when we find the leaders of parties and eminent statesmen treating great questions as if they were not great, and solemn realities as if they were not real at all.