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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 2

The Absence of the Three Requisites in the Management of Foreign Affairs by the Present Government Briefly Illustrated

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The Absence of the Three Requisites in the Management of Foreign Affairs by the Present Government Briefly Illustrated.

Having then laid down and explained what appear to me the requisites for the management of international affairs by a democracy, I will take the two great questions which have been before the public of late years, and point out by way of illustration one or two of the errors that have been committed from want of attention to these requisites.

The first requisite not fulfilled.

The first requisite, that a democracy, if it is to manage international affairs successfully, must be under the guidance of leaders in whom it confides, has never been fulfilled since Lord Salisbury succeeded in tripping up Lord Derby and installing himself in the Foreign Office.

Lord Derby's olicy.

It is from that event that the distinctive foreign policy of the present Government dates, for the policy of Lord Derby was in the main the policy of which Lord Aberdeen spoke—the foreign policy which belongs to no party or to both. Up to the rejection of the Berlin Memorandum, Lord Derby was supported by his Liberal predecessors in office. From that event to his resignation, the fault which most Liberals attributed to his action was, not that it departed from the old lines, but that it had not been equal to the "occasion sudden" which was page 35 brought about by the Bulgarian massacres and the effect produced by them in this country.
While respecting the spirit we should have broken

Letter of old traditional policy in the East.

with the letter of the old tradition, that the maintenance of the Turkish power on the Bosphorus was an European necessity.
The spirit of that tradition was that Constantinople

Spirit of traditional policy in the East.

and the narrow seas between Europe and Asia must not fall into the hands of Russia or of any other Great Power. Its letter only required the Crescent to remain on St. Sophia. It was the moment for a great decision, a decision as great and more wise than that which Canning announced when he said, "I resolved that if France had Spain it should not be Spain with the Indies. I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old."

Surely it was not beyond the resources of statesmanship to find some combination by which the legitimate aspirations of Russia might be satisfied, Greece, Italy, France and the Western Church might be left unalarmed, while England remained just as she was, with no necessity for undertaking new responsibilities in the present, and freed from the apprehensions about Constantinople which so often trouble the repose of her statesmen.

Surely it was not beyond the resources of statesmanship to find some combination by which all these good things could be accomplished, with great advantage to the populations of the Eastern page 36 Peninsula—Bulgarians, Turks, Servians, Albanians, Greeks, and all the rest of them of every creed and every degree of civilization ?

I can only say as I said before, Scribantur hæc in generatione alterá; but at least no such decision was taken, and our Foreign Office entered with the unhappy Conference of Constantinople into the region of half measures and resolute irresolutions. "England wills strongly in the East," said a sagacious looker-on, "but she knows not what she wills."

Lord Salisbury's policy.

In the spring of 1878, however, the scene changed. A new Foreign Minister seized the helm, and with a courage and an intelligent appreciation of what ought to be done, which his previous career had led all careful observers to expect, put the ship about and ran straight for the nearest reef.

No evidence that it has received the support of the nation at large.

There is, however, no evidence that this wild helms-man, or the foreign policy which he represents, ever had the slightest support from the nation at large. His being helmsman is the result of a mere accident.

The last election.

Nothing was further from the thoughts of the nation when it returned the Parliament of 1874, than that that Parliament would be mainly occupied with foreign affairs. The history of what occurred was given to perfection by the man who said, "The parsons and the publicans have let in the sinners." Petty questions and little spites possessed the minds of the men who were the active agents of the change, but it was caused much more page 37 by Liberal inaction in some places and electioneering blunders in others, than by those agents. The most superstitious incumbent, the most assiduous frequenter of the public-house, might well have thought twice about his vote, the most crotchet-mongering or apathetic Liberal might have raised his voice for united and vigorous action, if he could have foreseen that events of the greatest magnitude were preparing, and that the question before him was whether England was to be given up in dark and difficult times to the guidance of "audacity and pugnacity untempered by sagacity."

No one however foresaw this, and the majority voted under the joint influence of beer and fear as intelligently as the man who did his best to ostracise Aristides simply because he was bored by hearing him called "the Just," while too many Liberals pressed their crotchets to the bitter end.

It well known too that the majority of votes cast at the last election were cast in favour of the Liberals. Their defeat was owing to numerous small defeats, the result in more than twenty cases of running too many candidates, and which, while showing clearly that a trifling majority was against them in a variety of electoral colleges, said little or nothing as to the opinion of the country.

Even if this had been otherwise, to accuse the democracy of having sanctioned the

No inference as to the power of a democracy to manage foreign affairs can be drawn from it.

foreign policy of the Anglo-Turkish Convention, the appropriation of Cyprus, and the Afghan war, would have been page 38 grossly unjust. It has never been consulted about any one of these things, which have been the result of the perverse folly of a very small number of persons. No argument whatever, either for or against the power of a democratic society to manage well its international relations, can be drawn from the proceedings of the present Parliament.

The second requisite not fulfilled.

Our second requisite was that the chiefs who had the confidence of the democracy should act on a thoroughly well-considered system of policy.

Lord Derby's policy not that of Lord Salisbury.

It will hardly be maintained by the most enthusiastic supporter of the present Government that this has been the case with our rulers during the recent foreign complications. No one would for a moment maintain that the policy of Lord Derby was that of Lord Salisbury. If it had been so, Lord Derby would still be in the Government, and the admission that the policies are different is sufficient to enable us to say that our second requisite has not been fulfilled—that the men who have directed our foreign affairs since the beginning of 1874 have not acted on a well-considered system, but at the best upon two quite opposite systems.

Lord Salisbury's policy of 1876 not his policy of 1878.

Putting that however on one side, let us examine very briefly whether Lord Salisbury's own policy on the Eastern Question has been consistent with itself. And for this purpose, with a view to give every possible advantage to an opponent that the severest advocate of deciding all moot points against ourselves could require, let us forget the line page 39 which he took at the time of the Constantinople Conference, and speak only of what he has clone since the 1st of April, 1878.
The policy on which the present Foreign Secretary

Lord Salisbury's policy of 1878 not consistent with itself.

purposed to act was solemnly explained to the world in a despatch whose periods recalled the good teaching of the Saturday Review upon its promotion, in the years which immediately followed the Crimean war.
In that despatch Lord Salisbury, amidst the

The despatch of April 1st, 1878.

applause of all those Continental politicians who, loathing both England and Russia, ardently desired that we should shed each other's blood and waste each other's resources, placed himself between the Czar and the advantages which he and his people thought they had a fair right to claim in return for the sacrifices and sufferings of a terrible and exhausting struggle.
That policy might have been right or wrong,

The Salisbury-Schouvaloff agreement.

but at least it was intelligible. It might have been the commencement of a series of acts which showed that the Foreign Secretary knew what he was about, and was acting on a well-considered system. The events of the next few weeks made it clear, that unless Lord Salisbury had composed his Circular for the express purpose of deceiving his partizans and the world, he was acting upon no well-considered system; for if it was right to stand between Russia and her ends, it was clearly not right to make a secret agreement with her in page 40 virtue of which she obtained all the most important of those ends, in the forcible words of the Duke of Argyll when discussing the notorious Salisbury-Schouvaloff Agreement, "The whole scope and purport of the transaction was to represent England as bent on setting up again, as far as she could, some semblance of a real Turkish Empire in Europe; and yet at the same time as yielding up almost everything which was really substantial in the fatal demands which the military success of Russia had enabled her to enforce upon the Sultan. Let us take, for example, one sentence from the 'Salisbury Circular' of two months before—the sentence which perhaps, as much as any other, had inspirited the friends of Turkey—'The compulsory alienation of Bessarabia from Roumania, the extension of Bulgaria to the shores of the Black Sea, which are principally inhabited by Mussulmans and Greeks, and the acquisition of the important harbour of Batoum, will make the will of the Russian Government dominant over all the vicinity of the Black Sea. The acquisition of the strongholds of Armenia will place the population of that province under the immediate influence of the Power which holds them; whilst the extensive European trade which now passes from Trebizond to Persia will, in consequence of the cessions in Kurdistan, be liable to be arrested at the pleasure of the Russian Government by the prohibitory barriers of their commercial system.'
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Now to every one of these formidable results of the Treaty of San Stefano, except the very last, England virtually gave her assent in this secret Agreement. It made it all the worse and not the better that she reserved her right to keep up a show of remonstrance and of resistance in the Congress. She was not to push her objections to any decisive issue. The restoration to Russia of her old Bessarabian frontier was expressly acquiesced in. The Armenian fortresses were not to be rescued from the Muscovite. Batoum, although not taken by Russia, was to be surrendered to her demand. Well might those who had cheered the Circular be ashamed of their own credulity when they found themselves duped by the Agreement."

It would be a useless as well as a disagreeable task

If the Circular and the Agreement can be reconciled, two and two make four and also make five.

to go in detail through the policy of the Government in Eastern Europe, pointing out its inconsistencies. The instance which I have cited is quite sufficient for my purpose. It would be as easy to prove that two and two make four and also make five, as to prove a policy to be homogeneous in which the Circular and the Salisbury-Schouvaloff Agreement were nearly-related incidents.
I pass on to show that the same inconsistency,

The same inconsistency on the north-west frontier of India.

the same utter want of any consecutive and thought-out system, which made futile the efforts of the Government on the Bosphorus, was present with: even more disastrous results in their action upon the north-west frontier of India.
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The despatch of January 22nd, 1875.

There is no reason to suppose that when in January, 1875, Lord Salisbury first pressed upon Lord Northbrook the establishment of a British agent within the territories of the Ameer, he had any intention of re-commencing what had been called forty years before "the great game of Central Asia."

If he had, I should still have called him a rash and dangerous politician, but should not have been so much frightened as I am when I see the Foreign Office in charge of a man who has the haziest notions as to the direction in which his own acts are leading him.

The answer to Lord De Mauley of June 11th, 1877.

On June 11, 1877, in reply to Lord de Mauley, Lord Salisbury spoke as follow:—"The noble Lord appears to have left out of his calculation that there are deserts to be traversed, and that perhaps a fortnight or three weeks, but certainly not less than ten days, across these deserts, would be required for the journey between the nearest accessible points of the two territories. I can assure the noble Lord that any danger of a Russian inroad on the frontier of British India is not quite so far advanced as he seems to imagine. The nearest point on the Caspian at which supplies could be gathered by Russia is over a thousand miles from our Indian frontier. The consideration of the danger to which the noble Lord refers may possibly interest a future generation of statesmen, but that calamity is not of such imminence as to page 43 render necessary the motion by which the noble Lord seeks to avert it. I will not dwell longer on the geographical circumstances, except to protest against the statement of the noble Lord that the Empire of British India knows no bounds. My Lords, the bounds of that Empire are very minutely marked out, especially on the north-western side. Whatever the Empire of Russia may be, there is no doubt whatever as to what the frontier of British India is. It is perfectly well known, I cannot help thinking, that in discussions of this kind a great deal of misapprehension arises from the popular use of maps on a small scale. As with such maps you are able to put a thumb on India and a finger on Russia, some persons at once think that the political situation is alarming, and that India must be looked to. If the noble Lord would use a larger map—say one on the scale of the Ordnance Map of England—he would find that the distance between Russia and British India is not to be measured by the finger and thumb, but by a rule. There are between them deserts and mountainous chains measured by thousands of miles, and these are serious obstacles to any advance by Russia, however well planned such an advance might be."

Now is it humanly possible that the man who spoke these words knew that he was lending himself, and had been lending himself for more than two years, that is since January, 1875, to carrying page 44 into effect the most extravagant views of the school of which Lord de Mauley had made himself the spokesman—knew that in less than eighteen months he would have to rely on the Russophobic mania, and on that alone, for honest political support?

What Lord Salisbury had been doing from Jan. 1875, to June 11th, 1877.

Why, what had happened since the 21st January, 1875? The day after that Lord Salisbury had addressed his despatch to the Government of India, pressing Lord Northbrook to procure the assent of the Ameer to the establishment of a British agency at Herat. Lord Northbrook and his Council, thoroughly alarmed, had telegraphed to ask whether the orders were peremptory or whether a discretion would be allowed to the Government of India, pointing out at the same time that the despatch was based upon some quite erroneous assumptions as to the feelings of the Ameer. Lord Salisbury had replied, the Government of India had set forth their views as to the extreme danger of the course proposed, in their despatch of the 7th June, 1875. To that Lord Salisbury had sent as a rejoinder upon the 19th November, 1875, the despatch in which occurs the too famous passage which led straight to the murder of Sir Louis Cavagnari : "The first step, therefore, in establishing our relations with the Ameer upon a more satisfactory footing, will be to induce him to receive a temporary Embassy in his capital. It need not be publicly connected with the establishment of a permanent Mission within his dominions. There would be many page 45 advantages in ostensibly directing it to some object of smaller political interest, which it will not be difficult for your Excellency to find, or, if need be, to create."

To this ill-omened despatch Lord Northbrook and his Council had again replied. Lord Northbrook had resigned, and Lord Lytton had been appointed and instructed to do what Lord Northbrook had never been instructed to do, that is, to offer something to the Ameer in return for the sacrifice that was being demanded—every care being taken to ensure that we should give with one hand and take with the other, in the spirit of the remarkable paragraph which has just been quoted. In return for mere deceptive guarantees the largest demands had been made upon the Ameer in violation of treaties and of the pledges given by Lord Mayo. That these instructions were given we know, because they have been laid before Parliament; but they have been laid before Parliament only in extract, and we are left to fill up the outline of the unrevealed instructions from the ordinary sources of information and from the acts of the person instructed.

Armed with these instructions, Lord Lytton had gone to India, had selected Sir Lewis Pelly, of all men in the world—the one whose name was likely just at that moment to be most terrible to the Ameer—as a special envoy—had found an "opportunity and pretext" for sending a compli- page 46 mentary and special mission to Cabul, such as Lord Salisbury had desired Lord Northbrook to find or make—had been shown by the Ameer that the pretext was seen through, and that the assigned objects of the mission were merely ostensible. Coaxing having failed, threats had been resorted to. The letter of the 8th July, 1876, had been written, and the Ameer warned that the responsibility of refusing to receive the envoy would rest entirely upon his Government. The Ameer had replied in September. Lord Lytton had intimated to the Ameer that we could break him as a reed, that he was an earthen pipkin between two iron pots, that if he did not desire to come to a speedy understanding with us, Russia did, and desired it at his expense. Large bodies of men had been collected at Rawul Pindee; a bridge of boats—the same of which Lord Salisbury, astounding to relate, declared in June, 1877, that he had never heard—had been thrown over the Indus; officers had been sent forward to inspect the ground at a point on the Afghan border; the Peshawur Conference had taken place, and Sir Lewis Pelly had threatened the Ameer, that if he did not accept the offers made, we would "continue to strengthen the frontier of British India without further reference to him, in order to provide against probable contingencies." Our native agent had been withdrawn from Cabul, and the Peshawur Conference had come to an end without anything satisfactory having been page 47 arranged, while proceedings had been going on at Quetta which were quite enough to have forced on a war with Afghanistan, even if they had stood alone.

We were drifting into war when Lord Salisbury

We were drifting into war when Lord Salisbury made his reassuring speech of June 11th, 1877.

replied to Lord de Mauley, not in the sense in which Lord Clarendon used on a celebrated occasion that, as originally used, most accurate and picturesque expression, but in the sense in which it is ordinarily employed. We were drifting because neither Lord Beaconsfield nor Lord Salisbury, who have been the authors of the whole mischief, had taken the trouble seriously to reflect what they were about. The second had begun by wishing to have his own way about a dangerous crotchet, the establishment of a British agent at Herat; the first thought that a manifestation of "pluck" would have a good effect on the constituencies, and from one blunder to another they were being led on to the invasion of Afghanistan.
The far more notorious words which Lord Salisbury

The statements made by Lord Salisbury four days afterwards not incompatible with the theory that he understood his own policy, but the reply to Lord Do Mauley incompatible with it.

used in replying to the Duke of Argyll a few days later, may be defended by his friends, as they were in effect defended by Sir Stafford Northcote, on the ground that his policy, alas! required him to make statements inconsistent with accuracy; but the reply to Lord de Mauley is couched in language which is quite irreconcilable with the theory that he so far understood that policy as to know that in the years 1878-9, the only argument of any page 48 weight, even with his own party, in favour of his policy, would he the alleged necessity for improving our old frontier in ease of a Russian invasion.

The speeches of Lord G.Hamilton, and Sir S. North cote in August 1877, in-compatible with the theory that they understood what was being done.

A perusal of the debate of August 9th, 1877, on the subject of Quetta, and of August 14th, 1879, on the subject of the Treaty of Gandamak, will, I am convinced, leave on the mind of any conscientious man of either party who reads them through, an indelible impression that the Ministers who replied on both those occasions to the speeches of the Opposition, were absolutely blind to the consequences of what their colleagues were doing. They made statements which on that theory alone can be reconciled with what is permissible, and happily they were, unlike Lord Salisbury on June 15th, 1877, not necessarily acquainted with the exact state of facts about which they made startling statements.

On these, however, I will not dwell, for one illustration is quite enough to make clear what I mean, when I say, that the person mainly responsible for the recent disastrous policy on the north-western frontier had no consecutive well-thought- out system in his head when he took the initiatory steps of that policy. The natural result followed. "Everything may be left, in part, to the hazard of adventure, everything except the fate of nations."

The third requisite not fulfilled.

The third requisite, that the chiefs of the democracy must be fully informed themselves, must have the art of making the people see that they page 49 are so, and of taking it with them, has not been fulfilled, and could not by any possibility have been fulfilled, by the present Government, "Ex nihilo nihil fit." These gentlemen were not in possession of sufficient information, and had not taken the trouble necessary to enable them to manage properly our Foreign affairs, and they could not in the nature of things give to the people a confidence in their possessing what they manifestly did not and could not possess.
The office of Foreign Secretary is by no means, in

Qualities essential to a Foreign Secretary.

the opinion of some, the place in the Cabinet which requires the greatest amount of ability. Far more brain power is required, it is said, to enable a man to contrive and carry through Parliament such a measure as the Disestablishment of the Irish Church than would suffice to conduct well and wisely our international affairs for a long time. That may o[unclear: ff] may not be so, but pre-eminent amongst things indispensable for the successful conduct of these affairs are knowledge of facts, knowledge of men, the critical faculty, caution, and common sense.
You could never make a good manager of foreign

Defects fatal to a Foreign Secretary—the Emir Fakredeen.

affairs out of a man in whose brain the craziest fancies were always running races; you could not for example have made a good foreign secretary out of the Emir Fakredeen.1 "There is a combination," said that individual, "which would entirely change the whole face of the world, and bring back Empire to the East. . . . . . Nobody ever opened my mind page 50 like you; you will magnetise the Queen as you have magnetised me. Go back to England and arrange this. You see, gloss it over as they may, one thing is clear—it is finished with England. Now, see a coup d'état that saves all. You must perform the Portuguese scheme on a great scale, quit a petty and exhausted position for a great and prolific Empire. Let the Queen transfer the seat of her Empire from London to Delhi. There she will find an immense Empire ready made, a first-rate army, and a large revenue. I will take care of Syria and Asia Minor. The only way to manage the Afghans is by Persia and the Arabs. We will acknowledge the Empress of India as our Sovereign, and secure for her the Levantine coast. If she like, she shall have Alexandria as she now has Malta—it could be managed. Your Queen is young; she has an avenir. Aberdeen and Sir Peel will never give her this advice; their habits are formed. They are too old, too rusés. But, you see! the greatest Empire that ever existed; besides which she gets rid of the embarrassment of her chambers! And quite practicable, for the only difficult part, the conquest of India, which baffled Alexander, is all done."

The Emir Fakredeen Prime Minister.

But some one may say "Quid ad rem? " What has the Emir Fakredeen got to do with our Foreign Office? What has he got to do with it? Why, for the last two years the Emir Fakredeen has been Prime Minister and Director-general of all our affairs at home and abroad. Do we not see in the passage I have just quoted, at once Lord Beacons- page 51 field's astounding influence at Court? the disprotionate importance which India—in the hands of men, most of whom know nothing about India—has lately obtained? the Delhi pageant, the Imperial title, the design on Syria which was frustrated by Lord Derby's resignation? the protectorate of Asia Minor? the distrust and dislike of Parliament and of hum-drum statesmen like the late Sir Robert Peel? to say nothing of the war on the northwestern frontier of India, and perhaps some further development of insanity which may be concealed under the phrase, "the only way to manage the Afghans is by Persia and the Arabs."
No; you certainly could not make a good Foreign

The Emir Fakredeenas compared with Lord Salisbury.

Secretary out of the Emir Fakredeen; but I do not know that he would not have made quite as good a one as you could make out of a man like Lord Salisbury, with whom the fates seem to have a vendetta, and who has hardly ever espoused a cause during all his parliamentary life without the mocking voice of Destiny being immediately heard from behind the scenes of the political stage, crying, Lost! Lost! Lost!
Well, but Lords Beaconsfield and Salisbury,

The other members of the Cabinet in their relations to Foreign affairs.

although the most powerful, are not the only members of the Cabinet. Good and well, we know the names of its other members, and all of us, who care to do so, can with great ease find out their antecedents and judge for ourselves how far they are likely to mend matters. No fair critic would deny to some of them very considerable merit.
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Every one admits that Lord Cairns is a great English lawyer; that Mr. Cross has managed, to the general satisfaction, the administrative as distinguished from the legislative duties of his office, and that he made one good speech about Foreign affairs; we all know that Sir Stafford Northcote is a sufficiently good financier to shudder in secret at the statements which he makes in public—but all that has nothing to do with the matter in hand, and I maintain that no Conservative who knows what he is talking about and has the slightest self-respect can venture to say that these men, or any of them, have made a sufficient study of foreign affairs to be able to direct this country wisely and well in its international relations, for no one, I presume, will assert that the kind of knowledge necessary for that purpose comes by inspiration, or is transmitted on taking office through some magical power latent in the Sovereign, like that which was supposed to make the Royal touch effective for the cure of the Kings Evil.

But even it the present Cabinet had know ledge, would its members have tried to make their policy intelligible

But even if the members of the present Cabinet had possessed the requisite knowledge to frame a consecutive foreign policy, there is no evidence that they have at all realized the importance of enlightening the country as to what they were doing, or making their foreign policy intelligible. It has been throughout a policy of startling effects and surprises, arranged to dazzle the unthinking—not to convince the judgment of the thinking part of the community. I should like to know when in modern times a critic so kindly and so responsible as Lord Aberdare has page 53 ever brought against his opponents, with the approval of all well-informed and honest men, such a charge as the following : "Certain Ministers have not treated Parliament and the country with openness, candour, and sincerity; because they have concealed many things they ought to have revealed and have used language studiously calculated to mislead the people of England."
Years ago the Prime Minister boasted of his consistency; and consistent he has been in one thing,

The Prime Minister consistent in one thing.

in that view of his surroundings which was the key-note of his first work, "The world is mine oyster, which I with sword will open."
"Populus vult decipi et decipiatur" has been

"Populus vult decipi et decipiatur."

the motto of his Administration ever since Lord Derby left him, and will be its motto to the end.

1 For the history of this personage fee Tancred.