TITF1 "DERBY " INCIDENT IN THE DEBATE.
TT will not be without pain, and not, we hope, without warn- ing, that Englishmen will read in Thursday's night's debate the story of the encounter between Lord Derby and Lord Salisbury. Lord Derby, in his speech, after comment- ing unfavourably on the acquisition of Cyprus, added, " I must readily admit that there is the widest possible difference be- tween the plan finally adopted, and what was originally agreed upon, three months ago. When I quitted the Cabinet in the last days of March, I did so mainly because it was said it was necessary to secure a Naval station in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean ; that for that purpose it was necessary to seize and occupy the island of Cyprus, together with a point upon the Syrian coast. That was to be done by means of a Syrian expedition, sent out from India, with or without the consent of the Sultan, although undoubtedly part of the arrangement was that full compensa- tion should be made to the Sultan for any loss lie might incur. Now I will not waste your Lordships' time by arguing in detail against the arrangements which have been come to. I will only now say, that I cannot reconcile it to my conscience, either as a matter of justice or of policy, to land troops in time of peace, and without the consent of the Sovereign, upon the territory of a friendly ruler. Only the necessity of self-de- fence could justify such a step, and no such necessity did or could be alleged to exist. Undoubtedly that move would have been fol- lowed by the countermove of theRussian army entering Constan- tinople. This was the state of affairs which I had in my mind, when speaking, more than three months ago, in this House, I expressed to your Lordships a fear which, in the light of subsequent events, may seem to have been unfounded. I need hardly say that my lips were closed on this subject as long as the negotiations were going on. I have heard the most improbable reasons assigned for my silence, but now that the matter is settled, no harm can be done by stating what has become historical fact, and by availing myself of that discretion which is allowed to an outgoing Minister, to state what has really happened." To this remarkable statement Lord Salisbury replied by one of the most elaborate literary insults which, so far as we know, has been launched by any orator of our time at the head of his opponent. " And now I go, my Lords, to the question of Cyprus. With respect to that question, my Lords, we have had an advantage, which we have frequently enjoyed in recent times, of revelations from the dark interior of the Cabinet. In fact, whenever my noble friend speaks, he has a stock of revelations to make. This is the third time my noble friend has spoken since he left the Cabinet, and on each of these occasions we have had an instalment of the fatal tale. The same objection occurs to me in regard to my noble friend as was made to Dr. Oates, when he brought for- ward successive fragments of his disclosure. When taunted with the fact, his answer was that he did not know how much the public would endure. But, my Lords, I venture to point out on this occasion that there is great inconvenience in revelations from the interior of the Cabinet. Of course, my noble friend must treat his obligations in the spirit which pleases himself. I do not know that I should like to pro- nounce as broadly and palpably as he has to the world, that every one who serves with him in a Cabinet must be prepared to have what passes introduced publicly, in spite of the rule which has heretofore been observed. But in the present case, I have only to deal with the statement my noble friend made, to the effect that a resolution was come to in the Cabinet to take the island of Cyprus and a point on the coast of Syria, by a secret expedition, and that that was the ground on which he left the Cabinet, and to say that that is a statement which, as far as my memory goes, is not true." Of course here Lord Salisbury was called to order, whereupon Lord Salisbury remarked that the statement he made " did not neces- sarily impugn the veracity of the speaker," and he substituted for the words he had used, "not correct." Further he declared, on behalf of the Prime Minister and all his colleagues, that that statement was " not correct." But he added, by way of explanation, that " it is obvious that these revelations as to conversations that passed, and of which no record was made, must in the nature of things be exposed to error, and more especially as to an assembly that very seldom comes to a definite or clear decision until the time for action has arrived. All possible suggestions are made, all possible policies are ex- amined, and it is possible that my noble friend may have mistaken some project put forward by this member of the Cabinet, or that. For my part, I am at a less to know what my noble that Cabinet which we supposed to be a safeguard against a friend alludes to, but certain it is that no such resolution as that which he describes was, within our memory, taken by the Cabinet." Later in the debate, Lord Derby, who had spoken of no "resolution," said that Lord Salisbury, though disavowing any imputation of untruth, yet "appeared to carry the mean- ing considerably further," adding, Every one knows that the business which is discussed at Cabinet Councils is not put on paper, and therefore there may be considerable confusion and doubt in one's recollection of what has been said in a Cabinet Council. But I am still of opinion that what I stated an hour and a half ago represented truly what occurred. That I have made a statement according to the best of my recollection, I am sure your Lordships will not doubt. Foreseeing the pos- sibility of having to give an explanation in connection with the subject, I made a memorandum of what I understood to be the effect of what had been said with reference to it."
Such was the scene between the late Foreign Secretary and the present Foreign Secretary which disfigured the debate of Thursday. No one can read it without pain, on more accounts than one. That it must, we should think, finally separate Lord Derby from his party, is hardly one of those accounts, for it is clear that Lord Derby's common-sense is at issue at all points with the bewildering and romantic policy of Lord Beaconsfield. But it is, no doubt, a matter for grave consideration when and how far these revelations of Cabinet dissensions are desirable and justifiable. We are quite aware that Lord Derby received the Queen's permission to make any statement of his reasons for leaving the Cabinet which might seem consistent with the public interest ; and it is clear, in spite of what Lord Salisbury says, that at the time of Lord Derby's resignation the grounds of it could not then have been told candidly, and that if told at all, it must have been disclosed, as it has been, in fragments. The elaborate insult which consisted in comparing Lord Derby to Titus Oates was, of course, the passage in Lord Salisbury's speech which made the House so unwilling to accept his with- drawal of the word " untrue," and his substitution of the more Parliamentary phrase " inaccurate." If his speech meant anything, it meant an insinuation that Lord Derby was like Titus Oates in the character, as well as in the manner, of his disclosures. And of course such an imputation as that is most injurious to the tone of debate, and to the reputa- tion of the great nobleman who made it. But such collisions as to the accuracy of Lord Derby's account of what had occurred in a Cabinet Council, obviously force upon us very strong reasons why private accounts of what occurs in Cabinets should be seldom or never given. The mere fact that they lead to such scurrilous insinuations, and are often incapable in the strictest sense of proof, as well as of disproof, is a serious reason against them. At the same time, we can well understand Lord Derby's deep conviction that the dan- gerous character of the present Government is not in the least appreciated by the English people, and that it is of the first importance to the country to understand that character ade- quately. If we appreciate at all the denial given by Lord' Salisbury and his colleagues,—whose denial of the Globe Treaty as " unauthenticated " shows them to be very willing to stretch a point of conscience in such matters, it comes to this,—that no absolute decision to seize Cyprus and a point on the Syrian coast, with or without the con- sent of the Sultan, though not without full compensa- tion, had ever been arrived at by the Cabinet. Lord Derby's memorandum, written at the time, shows us that in his opinion such a purpose had virtually been arrived at, in case the Sultan should be found,—what he was not found,—deter- mined to resist. But his colleagues deny this ; they think, and no doubt truly think, that all they had resolved on was to sound the Sultan on their project, and to do the best they could if the Sultan proved hostile. There was no occasion probably to decide absolutely beforehand what they would do under the emer- gency of a refusal from the Porte. But enough had probably been said to show Lord Derby that if this eventuality occurred, the Cabinet would not be at all likely to find in the Sultan's refusal any sufficient reason for abandoning their policy. Such, as we suppose, is the true inference to be drawn from this statement, and the character of the denial given to it by Lord Salisbury, after his ferocious comparison of Lord Derby's disclosures to the disclosures of Titus Oaths. We will not say—for it is now needless to consider—whether Lord Derby was justified or not in making the statements from which we have drawn these inferences. Perhaps it would have been better to let the English people find out gradually for themselves, by how flashy and unsound an imagination Prime Minister's caprice, is dominated. But as we do now know what was certainly discussed in the Cabinet, and what, to Lord Derby at least, seemed likely to be the inevitable decision of the Cabinet, if the Sultan had not fallen in with their policy, it is assuredly of the greatest moment that the English people should ponder the facts. Here we have a Cabinet which had been crying out for two years against the monstrous and iniquitous violence of Russian interference in Turkey on behalf of Bulgaria,—Bulgaria, half-ruined and half-maddened by Turkish outrages,—calmly considering a policy of violent annexation of Turkish territory on its own account, and considering it in such a spirit that the Minister ' who is driven to resign his office by the proposal, regards the conclusion as foregone ! Can anything illustrate more pain- fully the happy-go-lucky morality of this unprincipled Government ? We are treated for years to lectures on the iniquitous and spontaneous aggression of Russia, when she moves under the compulsion of a great national cry to a great deed of national vindication, and then the Ministers of Great Britain, without the excuse of any motive of the kind, and after preaching to others on the awful sin of such a course till their audience is almost sick of the preaching vein, fall into a panic about British interests, suddenly cast their eyes on Cyprus and a Syrian port, as good points for them to hold, and decide to carry out their policy in a spirit which convinced the most sober of them that if the Sultan should refuse their little request, for that little request would be sub- stituted an armed descent. Is it really to such Ministers as these,—Ministers whose purposes are turned about by one man, as the needle in a compass is turned by one whose hand contains a small magnet,—that the sober people of England can deliber- ately trust that great national future which has been pledged beforehand under the vague, rash, and showy Treaty of Guarantee ?