In opening the discussion this afternoon I am very conscious of the difficulty and the delicacy of a discussion of the question which the House is approaching. There has been the keenest interest displayed throughout the country in the questions which have been asked and the answers which have been given in this House, and I think it is no exaggeration to say that the decision of the Peace Conference, which was announced by the Leader of the House, came as a shock to a very large section of the public of this country, and to a very large number of hon. Members of this House. The proceedings in connection with the giving of that information have been, in my humble opinion, sufficiently remarkable to justify me in asking the attention of the House by way of reminding hon. Members what exactly took place.
The first proposition which I am going to lay down is that I do not think that the House and the country has been fairly treated by the Government by the manner in which this announcement has been made. Everybody will agree, and no one more heartily than the Prime Minister, that if you are to differentiate between the claims of those Allies who brought the late War to a successful conclusion, no country has a greater right to be closely informed of what happens in the Near East than this country. Our sacrifices, and when I say that what I mean the sacrifices of the whole Commonwealth, were unapproached by any of the Allies who took part in that sanguinary contest. The first date to which I would direct the attention of the House was the question addressed by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) on the 16th instant to the Leader of the House, and at the concluding part of his question he put this point—
Whether it is true that the Allies have decided to leave the Turks in possession of Constantinople and a large part of Armenia including Cilicia?
The reply of the Leader of the House was:—
But there is a great difference between absolutely unauthorised statements, which may or may not be true, which appear in the press, and discussions in the House of Commons. As regards the last question, obviously till the whole of the Turkish Treaty is finished that is the last question I could possibly answer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th Feb., 1920, Cols. 519–20, Vol. 125.]
Of course that answer was given by the Leader of the House in complete good faith, but as he told us when he had the information in his possession at a later stage on that very day, indeed, at the time or nearly at the time while he was answering the question, the Peace Conference had decided what was to be done with Constantinople, and a message was sent to Admiral de Robeck at Constantinople, authorising him to inform the authorities that Constantinople was to be left under the rule of Turkey. On the 18th, that would be the day but one afterwards, the same information was given to the Viceroy of India, and with the assent, of course, of His Majesty's Government, it was officially circulated throughout India on the 23rd instant.
What has been the effect? Obviously it has greatly fettered the discussion which we are opening here to-day, and there can be no doubt about that. We all admit and gladly acclaim the noble and splendid part India played in the War, and you cannot measure the services and sacrifices in that contest by men or money. It is with a full sense of the deep obligation which the whole Empire owes to India that I and every hon. Member of this House will approach a discussion of this question, which has unfortunately developed into a religious issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] No body with any sense of responsibility can make criticisms on this subject in this House or on the platform without feeling that results which no man can measure might come from stirring up the smouldering embers of the fires of religious difference. No doubt the Prime Minister will give his answer to-day, but I think it would have been much better to have made a frank statement and taken this House into his confidence before that announcement was made in Constantinople, and before it was communicated to the Viceroy of India.
To put the matter exactly right and see whether I am wrong or not, I will read what the answer was. On the 23rd of this month my right hon. Friend replied as follows:
The Secretary of State for India cabled to the Viceroy the exact terms of the reply given in the House of Commons on the 18th February, and on the 21st a message was sent by the Government of India to the Secretary of State announcing that the following communique had been issued in India:—An official statement was made in the House of Commons that Admiral de Robeck, British High Commissioner at Constantinople, has been authorised to publish the news that it is proposed by Peace Conference to leave the Turks in Constantinople, but this decision might have to be modified if further massacres occurred.' "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Feb. 23rd, 1920, Col. 1279.]
My reading is that that was an official announcement.
The point put was that is was wrong of us to send the information to India before it had been communicated to the House of Commons. What the right hon. Gentleman has read shows clearly that the only information which we sent to India was a repetition of the statement made in the House of Commons.
That was on the 18th, and it was circulated in India, I believe, on the 21st. It is very necessary and it is much better to have these things out. The matter will be fully discussed, I am quite certain, by Members who take part in the proceedings later on. The next part of the subject with which I should like to deal very briefly is the question of Constantinople and its retention, as I understand the announcement, by the Turks. I am hoping that the Prime Minister when he replies will be able to tell us what that bald announcement really means in its amplification, but, of course, I know nothing about that. At present I must proceed upon the assumption, which I reluctantly draw, that it is the intention to leave the Turks in material possession of Constantinople as the capital of their country. I hope that I am wrong, but that is the assumption
upon which I am at present bound to proceed. We owe nothing to the Turks. They came into this War gladly with no provocation from us. On the contrary, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister certainly knows, because it was before the days of the Coalition, every effort wag made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and his colleagues to keep Turkey out of the War, but she fell a prize to the long developed strategy of Germany spread over ten years and became her willing and most useful ally. Probably it is no exaggeration to say that the alliance of the Turks with the Central Powers put a year or two on to the War. What happened, as a consequence, with regard to the alien races under Turkish domination? As soon as the Turks were reasonably certain that the menace of the British Fleet need not be feared, in 1916 Talaat and Enver started, with, as far as I can gather, the glad acquiescence of the Kaiser, to massacre the Armenians. In round figures, about one million of thorn were swept out of human existence. I say, again, that we are under no obligation of any sort or kind to the Turks. All throughout, and right up to the last moment, they showed how richly they have merited the scorching, the blistering words in which the Prime Minister described them. I would like to make it as clear as I possibly can, and to quote the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and of the ex-Prime Minister, when speaking about thorn and their part in the War. My right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley at the Guildhall, on November 9th, in the first year of the War, said:
It is the Ottoman Government that has drawn the sword, and. I venture to predict, will perish by the sword. With their disappearance will go, as I, at least, hope and believe, the blight which for generations past has withered some of the fairest regions of the earth. We have no quarrel with Mussulman subjects of the Sultan.…The Turkish Empire has committed suicide.
Then the Prime Minister himself, later on in the year, at the City Temple, said:
We were in the hands of Fate, and the hour has struck on the great clock of destiny for settling accounts with the Turk. The Turk is the greatest enemy of his own faith, because he has discredited it by misgovernment. What have the Turks contributed either to culture, to art, or to any aspect of human progress that you can think of? They are a human cancer, a
creeping agony in the flesh of the lands which they misgoverned, and rotting every fibre of life. And now that the great day of reckoning has come upon the nation, I am glad. I am glad that the Turk is to be called to a final account for his long record of infamy against humanity in this gigantic battle between right and wrong.
The Foreign Secretary, the Lord President of the Council, in a covering note to a despatch to the United States which will long be memorable in the annals of diplomatic communications, said:
A Turkish Government, controlled, subsidised and supported by Germany, has been guilty of massacres in Armenia and Syria more horrible than any recorded in the history of those unhappy countries. Evidently the interests of peace and the claims of nationality alike require that Turkish rule over alien races shall, if possible, be brought to an end—
I know that my right hon. Friend heartily agrees with what I am reading,
and we may hope that the expulsion of Turkey from Europe will contribute as much to the cause of pence as the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine to France, of Italian Irridenta to Italy, or any other of the territorial changes indicated in the Note.
After that, to take them in order of date, came the statement made to the Trade Union Congress by the Prime. Minister himself. That statement was made with the approval and agreement of the ex-Prime Minister and of Lord Grey. I agree that it was different in terms and in the then intention from what I have read; but that was in January, 1918, and, as the saying goes, much water has flowed under the bridges since that day, or it would be more true to' say that rivers of blood have flowed since that day. That offer was refused, and, whatever that declaration might have been, the sacrifices which this country endured subsequently left the question entirely open and fully free for re-discussion on its merits when the Peace Conference took it up. Then to bring the matter down, as far as I can, to the most recent position, in one clanging sentence, delivered in this House in December, 1919, we have those words from the Prime Minister:
Can we leave those gates which were shimmed in our face under the same gatekeeper? They were shut treacherously in our face. We cannot trust the same porter.
If the assumption upon which I am bound to proceed, but in which I hope that I am wrong, as to what the words uttered mean with regard to the Turk in Constantinople, what is likely to be the position?
Constantinople for a hundred years and more has been a cesspool of intrigue, a breeder of wars, the source of massacre and horrors, the playground of all the worst cunning which diplomacy ever devised for misgovernment, and if the Turks are to be left in Constantinople, that gateway of the world, that strategic centre, what is likely to happen? What, I venture to say, must happen? We shall have the Turks at his old game again. The sick man of Europe will be on his legs again. Who may be the suitor for his favour? Of course, whatever hope there is of a better world it is the duty of Governments, while hoping for the best, to prepare for all that experience of human nature through history has taught us. We have the unknown Russia, Germany, Greece, and France. In the years to come in all probability we shall have Constantinople once again the seed of world disturbance and the source of outbreak of world war. I hope that is not going to be the case. But I do lay down this, so far as I humbly can, that the Peace Conference and the Governments will not be fulfilling their duty to humanity and to its future unless they see to it that there is no reasonable possibility of these things happening again, not that there is no probability, but no reasonable possibility of that. I beg the Prime Minister in the statement which he is going to make to be true, and I believe he will—surely he must be true to what he has said, not only to audiences on public platforms in this country but elsewhere, when his ardent personality and zeal for humanity have made an impression in every quarter of the globe.
I pass to a question on which I shall not find myself on such very delicate ground, and that is the question of the Armenians and other alien races, and their lot under the rule of the Turks. This is a matter of agreement throughout the civilised world, the evils of Turkish rule over the Armenians. It is agreed that that rule should come to an end. I have not words, and I do not think it is any use for a Member of this House to attempt it, to stir the sense of humanity or of sympathy with the fate of these unhappy people in all that has befallen them. We should like to know, and the public opinion in this country and throughout the Empire is anxious to know from the Prime Minister to-day, if he can tell us what steps are being taken or what proposals, what practical proposals, are to be made to secure this end upon which there is such common agreement.
Yes. What I hope is that we shall take away the suffering races from under the heel of the Turk. That is what I mean. I do not know what is the position, and how he proposes to meet the religious question which most unhappily has been raised. It may be possible to have a Moslem enclave in Constantinople. That is a question which I hope and believe the Prime Minister will deal with But I do urge this. We must take things and deal with them as they are; we must deal with the facts as they are. It is now a religious question. It did not arise in 1915 when we agreed that Russia should be in Constantinople. But again I say we must deal with things as they are now. I have opened this discussion with a deep sense of responsibility, and I hope I have not said anything, or done anything, which might fetter or endanger the very difficult task which His Majesty's Government and the Peace Conference have in hand. It is a question of great complexity. There has never been one of greater complexity placed before a civilised government. Above all, I do hope that we shall not have to face the possibility which has often faced us before, and that is that we shall have to say "too late"—"too late," the evil which has damned so much of our work in the past. I hope we shall have a clear, moral, practical lead on this question, and that these horrid events of the past, these sad traditions, shall from now be broken down, at any rate commence to be broken down. I hope that after we have come out of this terrible War, such events will not be repeated through any failure on our part.
I do not intend to detain the House at any length in this very important debate. I feel, and I am sure many Members of the House also feel, that we are not in a position to discuss the question, and I rise rather to make an appeal to the Prime Minister that he should intervene at the earliest possible moment. It is an important question, and we are bound to discuss it; but at the same time I think these matters have a great, many more difficulties than have been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. It is all very well, and indeed it is easy when anyone raises this question, to talk of the horrors of the massacres of the Armenians. It touches everybody to the quick. It is all very well to talk of the misrule of the Turks. It has been admitted for I do not know how many years in this House and in the country. But do not imagine you have satisfied your reason as to a solution by putting forward the statement that these horrible things should not be retained after the War. The right hon. Gentleman has read some eloquent quotations from speeches and statements by the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and also the Prime Minister and the ex-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. But everybody must concede, who has followed the history of these matters, that at the time these speeches and statements were made they applied to an entirely different state of things. That is the reality of the situation. If my recollection is not in error, I think there was then a treaty with Russia providing that at the end of the War—I am not sure that it was approved by everybody—but at the end of the War Russia was to have Constantinople, and those great speeches were made by those right hon. Gentlemen at a time when they knew that that was the arrangement that was made. Does anyone say that the Member for Paisley did not know that that was the position? He knew perfectly well. It is true that the arrangement was made at a time when Russia was a great, and as we thought, a settled and organised nation. That has all now ceased to be the case, and really, what anybody coming forward here to reason out this question has to answer is, what are you going to do with the Turks in Constantinople?
You have to put forward an alternative. I did not hear any alternative put forward by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and I am not sure that he had got one to put forward. If he had, I am sure, if it were a good one, the Allies would be glad to consider it. But not only have you to put forward an alternative, but you have got at the same time to get an alternative that might be acceptable to the Allies. Do not imagine that we are dealing with this question alone; it is being dealt with by the whole of Europe—I do not know how far by America, what is her part. At all events, it is not a question that we can deal with all alone. The suggestion is made that we should drive the Turks out of Constantinople. Who is going to drive them out? I listened to debates the other day on the strength of our Army. I have listened to debates on the strength of our Navy. It was said, "Do not keep another man. Who are you going to fight? Reduce your Navy to the minimum, and reduce your Army." Then how are we going to drive the Turks out of Constantinople? That would then be impossible. If you want to drive the Turks out of Constantinople, if you really mean it, that is to the extent that they will be no longer in charge of these subject nations, such as the Armenians, you will have to commence another war, and it will not be a small war. You cannot go on talking about cutting down our Army and Navy, and hurrying the Government and blaming them for not cutting down the Army and Navy, and at the same time go on censuring the Government because they have not settled this question of driving the Turks out of Constantinople. Some hon. Member has said there would not be a war. I suppose he thinks that a requisition to the Turks would make them all quit. The hon. Member will find it a very difficult task. Then, how are you going to govern Turkey? That is one of the most difficult questions which you can conceive. Are you going to govern it by England? Of course not. By France? Of course not. By Italy? Of course not. Or by a Committee of all three? You could not do that. Running Constantinople by a Committee! The thing is ludicrous. [An HON. MEMBER: "What are you going to do?"] That is what I want to know from you. But this matter does not rest there. I believe we have set up a League of Nations.
Well, I wish we had. [An HON. MEMBER: "You sneered at it!"] You will never be able to set up an effective League of Nations at the rate you are going, with everybody saying—and this is really what we are doing day by day—" assume more and more responsibility in the interests of civilisation." Let the reduction of your Forces be in proportion to your responsibilities. You have not set up the League of Nations, because, at the present moment, all the nations are exhausted. None of them are prepared to face any larger or greater responsibility than they can help, and it is perfectly natural, until you have reconstructed society throughout the world. But, apart from all that, I read an article by, or interview with, the Secretary of State for India with reference to the effect of driving out the head of the Turkish Empire from Constantinople. [An HON. MEMBER: "Another Disraeli!"] All I can say is this, that anybody who rushes in from mere sympathy, which moves us all, from mere humanity, which is, no doubt, outraged by the Turk, who rushes in and treats lightly this Indian aspect of the case, is really raising a question which may, in the long run, be a most deadly one for this country in relation to its Indian Empire. But what does all that mean? I have only made these few observations because we are all burning for information on the subject. We want to hear the Prime Minister, and I really think until he speaks it is almost impossible to conduct the Debate. We are agreed on the essentials: we are agreed that everything ought to be done to protect the Armenians, and that everything ought to be done to curb the power for mischief of the Turk, and what we really want to know is this. Are the Allies at the Peace Conference simply giving a free hand to Turkey in Constantinople, or are they surrounding his power, limiting his power with such safeguards and such protection, not paper safeguards, but real safeguards, as will enable us to be able to say that, at all events, we did our best for these outraged peoples and for outraged civilisation. It is with that view that I have risen, and I hope my right hon. Friend will speak at the earliest possible moment.
I should have preferred to listen to the Debate for some time, and hear what arguments can be advanced against the decision of the Peace Conference to retain the Turks at Constantinople. This Debate was arranged, not in order to enable the Government to make a statement, but to enable the critics of its action to state their case and to elicit the views of Parliament on the subject. I should therefore have preferred in the first place to have heard more of those criticisms than I have heard up to the present. However, as there appears to be a desire that the Government should state its views before the Debate proceeds any further, I gladly respond to that call. My right hon. and learned Friend (Sir E. Carson) stated his case, as he states every case, with very great lucidity and power. He has asked several questions, which I hope to answer before I sit down.
My right hon. Friend (Sir P. Maclean), who opened the Debate with care as is right for a responsible leader when dealing with matters of such a delicate and complicated character, has also addressed a few questions to the Government, and I will do my best to answer those as well. This is not a decision, whichever way you go, which is free from difficulty and complexity. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is under the impression that, if we decided to expel the Turk from Constantinople, the course would be absolutely clear. As a matter of fact, it is a balancing of the advantages and the disadvantages. It is upon that balance, and after weighing very carefully and for some time all the arguments in favour and all the arguments against, all the difficulties in the way on the one path and all the difficulties you may encounter on the other, all the obstacles and all the perils on both sides, that the Allied Conference came to the conclusion that, on the whole, the better course—for achieving a common end—was to retain the Turk in Constantinople.
I am going to give the House of Commons some of the reasons which led us to that conclusion. But before I come to the merits I wish to discuss the pledges. My right hon. Friend referred to a statement made by the Lord President of the Council when we contemplated the expulsion of the Turks from Constantinople, or rather the substitution of Russian authority for Turkish authority. I am not going to discuss the merits of that arrangement—whether it was a wise one or whether it was not. It was entered into by a Government of which I was a member, and a Government of which the; ex-Prime Minister was the Chief. I was a member of that Government, and therefore I had my responsibility. But at any rate, after the Russian Revolution, after the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, there was an end of that agreement.
An end of the agreement so far as Russia was concerned. Apart altogether from the question whether you should hand Constantinople over to the Bolshevik Government, the Bolshevik Government was not prepared to undertake the responsibility, and, therefore, there was an end of that agreement. That was a totally different set of circumstances. That pledge has vanished by common consent of all parties, and that is one pledge gone. I will deal with two other pledges, which are important for reasons I will give to the House. My right hon. Friend referred to a pledge I gave to the House in December last, that there would not be the same gate-keeper, but that there would be a different porter of the gates. That will be fulfilled in the letter and in the spirit. It would have been the height of folly to trust the guardianship of these gates to the people who betrayed their trust. That will never be done. The gates will never be closed by the Turk in the face of a British ship again. I will deal with that later. I only want to get the pledge out of the way. It will be fulfilled. Now I come to the second pledge: that is the pledge quoted by my right hon. Friend, which was given in January, 1918. It was given, as my right hon. Friend fairly stated, after full consultation with all parties. The Member for Paisley and Lord Grey acquiesced. There was a real desire to give a national statement of war aims, that would carry all parties along with it, and they all agreed. I will read that statement. It was a carefully prepared statement. It was not a speech in the ordinary sense of the term. It was a declaration which I read out in these words:
Nor are we fighting to destroy Austria-Hungary or to deprive Turkey of its capital, or of the rich and renowned lands of Asia Minor and Thrace, which are predominantly Turkish in race. Outside Europe we believe that the same principle should be applied.…While we do not challenge the maintenance of the Turkish Empire in the homelands of the Turkish race with its capital at Constantinople—the passage between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea being internationalised and neutralised [as they will be]—Arabia, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine are in our judgment
entitled to a recognition of their separate national conditions."
That declaration was specific. It was unqualified and it was very deliberate. It was made with the consent of all parties in the community. It was not opposed by the Labour party. That party accepted it, and, as I pointed out, the Member for Paisley and Lord Grey accepted it in terms. It was drafted by the Cabinet with the assistance of my noble Friend the Member for Hitchin. It was based upon—
The Noble Lord himself referred to it in debate in 1918. I am referring to that. If he objects to my statement I will put it on the ground that at the time he was in charge of the Foreign Office. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) was not at the time available. I forget where he was.
January, 1918. That was a perfectly deliberate pledge. I am going to ask the House and the country to realise what it meant. This was not a speech delivered at a public meeting. There was a good deal of disquiet as to our war aims. There was a feeling amongst the workers—and this was brought to our notice—that we were fighting for some aggressive imperialistic purpose. This was interfering
with output for the purposes of the War, and we were informed that it was essential that we should reassure the workers of the community as to the purposes for which we were waging war. This was not an offer to the Turks. It was to reassure our own people as to what we were fighting for. There was another reason. The Mahomedan population of India were disturbed and they wanted a reassurance. We were making a special effort here to procure output for the War, and we were making a special effort in India to secure recruits. We needed all the men we could get for France, and what happened two or three months afterwards showed how important it was that we should secure all the support we could get in the East to do the fighting in Turkey. What is the effect of that statement? The effect of the statement in India was that recruiting went up appreciably from that very moment. They were not all Mahomedans, but there were Mahomedans amongst them. Now we are told "that was an offer you made to Turkey and they rejected it, and therefore you are absolutely free." It was more than that. It was a statement of our war aims for the workers of this country, and a statement of our war aims for India. It is too often forgotten that we are the greatest Mahomedan power in the world. One-fourth of the population of the British Empire is Mahomedan, There have been no more loyal adherents to the throne, there has been no more effective loyal support to the Empire in its hour of trial than came from the Mahomedans of India. We gave a solemn pledge, and they accepted it, and they are disturbed at the prospect of our not abiding by it. I can give you a statement made by the Viceroy. In May, 1919, we were considering this at the Peace Conference. He said:
Moslem feeling is already deeply stirred. Educated opinion is probably prepared for extensive territorial losses but not for the loss of Constantinople, especially in view of the recent announcements made by the Prime Minister and Lord Robert Cecil.
They depended on my Noble Friend's words just as much as they did on mine.
The words the Noble Lord used in the House of Commons in November, 1918, when he said exactly the opposite to what he said in a newspaper the other day. What he said the other day was that the Turks were not a majority of the population of Constantinople. Speaking here he said they were a majority. He took a different view.
This is what my Noble Friend said in November, 1918:
There were two or three interesting and important questions about the future Government of Armenia.
One hon. Member said—I am not sure it was not the hon. Member who is championing him now—that the root of the matter was the ejection of the Turkish Government from Constantinople.
Then it was someone just like him.
I quite admit that there is a great deal to be said for that, but at the same time ray hon. Friend will not forget that after all Constantinople is predominantly Turkish.
His statistics have changed since.
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman exactly what happened. It is quite true that I used some such phrase as that. Someone immediately said, "Will you undertake to say that 50 per cent. of the population is Turkish?" I was startled by the phrase and did not undertake to say so in consequence. I went back to the Foreign Office and made enquiries and I found my hon. Friends opposite were, according to the information of the Foreign Office, perfectly right, and according to the information of the Foreign Office at that 50 per cent. of the population was not Turkish.
As I was pointing out, the statement of fact is by no means clear that the majority is not predominantly Turkish. As a matter of fact, the most recent figures show that the population of Constantinople is overwhelmingly Turkish.
Now let me deal with the Indian problem. My Noble Friend rather borrowed here from other sources when he suggests that the influences which have determined some Members of the House to decide in favour of the retention of the Turks were financial influences in France and elsewhere. As a matter of fact the influences, as far as we are concerned, have been in the main influences which came direct from India. We had two delegates at the Peace Conference, both of them representative, able and very influential Indians. One was the Maharajah of Bikanir who helped us very greatly in the War, the other was Lord Sinha. Neither of them is a Mahomedan, but at every meeting of the British Delegation in Paris they were insistent that unless we retained the Turk at Constantinople it would be regarded as a gross breach of faith on the part of the British Empire. I have repeatedly heard the Aga Khan, who represents millions of Mahomedans, a singularly able man, on the same subject, and the idea which has been suggested that it is foolish finance by some egregious hebromaniacs is perfect folly. The, influences have been influences which were bound to make an impression in our councils. Just think what the conquest of Turkey meant. India voluntarily sent to our aid 1,160,000 men who enlisted during the War taking those who enlisted during the War and before it, very nearly a million and a half. We could not have conquered Turkey without their help. We had not the necessary troops. There were Mahomedan divisions that fought brilliantly throughout the whole of that Turkish campaign. Without their aid we should not have conquered Turkey at all. Were we to have broken faith with them in the hour of victory? That is what we were confronted with. We might go to them and say "the circumstances have changed. We gave you this promise in January, 1918. The Turk never gave in until November, 1918." You might have said so, but I will tell you what they would have said. Whenever the British word was given again in the Fast they would have said, "Yes, you mean to keep faith, but you will always, somehow or other, find an unanswerable reason when the time comes for breaking it." There is nothing which would damage British power in Asia more than the feeling that you could not trust the British word. That is the danger. Of course it would be a fatal reputation for us. My Noble Friend shared our views when he shared our responsibilities. When he not merely knew the difficulties but had a greater share of responsibility for facing them, he took exactly the same view as we did. Those are the pledges. What are the reasons for setting them on one side? I do not mean to say that there might not be imperative reasons which would justify us in taking a quite different course, but those reasons must be overwhelming. What are they? To gratify vengeance? A poor thing for a great country. I apply that without exception. To punish the Turk? When the peace terms are published there is no friend of the Turks, should there be any left, who will not realise that he has been terribly punished for his follies, his blunders, his crimes and his iniquities. Stripped of more than half his Empire. His country under the allied guns. Deprived of his army, his navy, his prestige. The punishment will be terrible enough to satisfy the bitterest foe of the Turkish Empire, drastic enough for the sternest judge. My right hon. Friend suggested that there was a religious issue involved. That would be the most dangerous thing of all, and the most fatal. I am afraid that underneath the agitation there is not only the movement for the expulsion of the Turk, but there is something of the old feeling of Christendom against the crescent. If it is believed in the Mahomedan world that our terms are dictated by the purpose of lowering the flag of the Prophet before that of Christendom it will be fatal to our government in India. It is an unworthy purpose to achieve by force. It is unworthy of Britain, and it is unworthy of our faith. It never conquered by force. To attempt to conquer by force is the very negation of its fundamental principles.
Let us, therefore, put aside those illegitimate, improper, undignified and very unjust war aims. Let us examine our legitimate peace aims in Turkey. On that I do not think there will be disagreement. There may be disagreement as to whether they could be achieved better by expelling the Turk from Constantinople than by retaining him there, but there will be no difference of opinion as to what those aims ought to be. I am referring now to the main purposes of the peace. There have been a good many subordinate questions, but I refer now to the principal peace aims. The first is the freedom of the Straits. I put that first for two reasons which I shall refer to later on. It was put first by my right hon. Friend, and I accept it. The second is the freeing of the non-Turkish communities from the Ottoman sway; and the third the preservation for the Turk of self-government in communities which are mainly Turkish, subject to two most important reservations. The first is that there must be adequate safeguards within our power for protecting the minorities that have been oppressed by the Turk in the past. The second is that the Turk must be deprived of his power of vetoing the development of the rich lands under his rule which were once the granary of the Mediterranean. Those are the main objects and purposes of the peace.
Let us examine these three or four objects in greater detail. The first is the freeing of the non-Turkish communities. In our statement of January, 1918, we made it perfectly clear that we were entitled to do so. Greeks, Armenians, Kurds, Arabs—wherever you have a majority of any race forming a separate community, there Turkish rule must cease.
I would rather not discuss that issue at the present moment. As a matter of fact, it is the subject of discussion at this moment, and I would rather not be drawn into a discussion upon it now. The second aim is the freedom of the Straits. My Noble Friend, in his speech in 1918 said that is the main point. He said:
My hon. Friend will recognise that if we can go straight through to the Black Sea, the actual technical sovereignity of Constantinople becomes of less importance. You can get the great power of Constantinople from its geographical situation. That is the main point.
I think that is the main point. Why is it the main point? It is the main point for two reasons. The first is seen when you consider the future possibilities of the Black Sea. You have there six or seven independent communities or nations to whom we want access. It is essential that we should have a free road, a right of
way to these countries, whatever the opinion of the Turk may be. His keeping of the gates prolonged the War, and we cannot have that again. Therefore, for that reason, it is coming to an end. The second reason why the guardianship of the gates is important is because of its effect upon the protection of minorities. How do we propose that that should be achieved? Turkey is to be deprived entirely of the guardianship of the gates. Her forts are to be dismantled. She is to have no troops anywhere within reach of these waters. More than that, the Allies mean to garrison those gates themselves.
With the assistance of the Navy. I was going to say that we have been advised that, with the assistance of the Navy, we shall be able to garrison the Dardanelles, and if necessary the Bosphorus, with a much smaller force, because of the assistance to be given by the Navy for that purpose.
Oh, not Turkey will not be allowed a navy. What does she want with a navy? It was never of the slightest use to her when she had it. She never could handle it. That is the position in regard to the Straits. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dun-cairn (Sir E. Carson) put a very pertinent question, and I am going to ask for an answer. I will ask it of the Noble Lord who, I believe, is going to speak in this Debate. What is the alternative to that proposal? We considered it. The alternative to that proposal is International Government of Constantinople and the whole of the lands surrounding the Straits. It would mean that a population of 1,500,000 would be governed by the Allies—a Committee representing France, Italy, Croat Britain, and, I suppose, some day Russia might come in, and it might be other countries; America, if she cared to come in. Can anyone imagine anything more calculated to lead to that kind of mischievous intriguing, rivalry, and trouble in Constantinople that my right hon. Friend deprecated and, rightly, feared. How would you govern it? Self-government could not be conferred under those conditions. It would have to be a military government. I do not know how the population is made up. Statistics vary. Some people say that the Turks are m a majority. There are others who say that if you count the Greeks, the Armenians, the Jews and everybody else, the Turk is in a minority. Hut if anybody imagines that Greeks, Armenians and Jews are more easily governed than Mahomedans they cannot have read history carefully.
That is the kind of government von would have. It would be very expensive. You would have the keys to a very turbulent city. It would require, according to every advice we have had, a very considerable force. It would add very considerably to the burdensome expenditure of these countries, and it would be the most unsatisfactory government that anyone could possibly imagine. That is the alternative. I cannot think of another. There was another that we had in out minds, and I might as well say so now. We had hoped that, two of the great countries of the world would have been able to help us in sharing the responsibility for the government of this troubled country, but for one reason or another they have fallen out. There was first of all Russia. She is out of the competition for a very unpleasant task. Then there was America. We bad hopes, and we had good reason for hoping, that America would have shared these responsibilities. She might probably have taken the guardianship of the Armenians, or she might have taken the guardianship of Constantinople. America is no claimant now. I am not going to express an opinion as to whether she ever will be, because it would be dangerous to do so, but for the moment we must reckon America as being entirely out of any arrangement which we can contemplate for the government of Turkey and for the protection of the Christian minorities in that land. Those are alternatives which we had to consider, and we were driven reluctantly to adopt the course we have adopted.
What will be the effect on the protection of minorities? I want those who are very specially interested, and very honourably interested, in these poor persecuted people under the Turk, to consider what this means, because it was one of the things that influenced our judgment in this decision. I ask them whether they imagine that the expulsion of the Turk from Constantinople would make the Armenians more secure. Let them read the history of the massacres.
My Noble Friend has written an article which I have only just had the pleasure of reading. Somebody gave it to me this minute. I wish that I had read it before. Talking about Armenian massacres, he said it was a great mistake to imagine that they were not fabricated at Constantinople, and then he goes on to say:
The truth is that every one of the Armenian massacres and other Turkish outrages has been carried out by direct orders from Constantinople.
So what does my Noble Friend propose to do? He proposes to take the Turks away from a place where they cannot organise massacres in safety and put them somewhere in a spot where they can do so without any interference by the Allies. What will happen now? Let him look at what happened in the days of his distinguished relative who was Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary during the great Armenian massacres in 1896. My information is that at that date there was no doubt at all that there were orders from Constantinople, and there were discussions in the Cabinet about sending the British Fleet up the Bosphorus to threaten Constantinople. They came to the conclusion that it was too dangerous an experiment. The Fleet might have gone up there and might not have been able to get back.
But suppose the British Fleet had been there, suppose Abdul Hamid had had to sign his decrees for the massacre of Armenians with British guns pointing at his palace. Suppose that British blue-jackets could have gone there and visited the various Ministries. Would they have dared to issue that Decree for the massacre of the Armenians? I ask my Noble Friend if he were an Armenian would ho feel more secure if he knew that the Sultan and his Ministers were overlooked by a British garrison, and that out in the Bosphorus the British ships were within reach of them, than if he were at Konia, hundreds of miles across the Taurus Mountains from the nearest Allied garrison and the sea with its great British ships and their guns out of sight and out of mind? I know which I would prefer if I were an Armenian, with a home to protect. I would rather know that the men who are responsible were within reach of Allied forces, that I had the protection of the British Fleet, and that if they ordered massacres and murders and outrages Constantinople could be laid in ashes. It would be a greater safety for the Armenians throughout the land to know that. Of that there can be no doubt.
There is another aspect of this matter, which is by no means without its importance. At Konia they are far aloof from any international or external influence. I remember a very ingenious friend of mine, who had a turn for ethnological inquiry, who always used to say that the British Empire had been extraordinarily fortunate in the location of its capital. Instead of having its capital somewhere where you had the fiery Celt all round, full of ideas, or the Scandinavian, full of adventure and daring, it was surrounded by the placid, phlegmatic, pure Anglo Saxon race, and this contributed to the steadiness and calm and the quietness of the country. There is something in it. Let my Noble Friend and those who think with him imagine the Sultan and his Ministers, and those who are trying to carry out this Treaty, living at Konia, with no external influences, no minorities, and just a fanatical population with one purpose and one faith, without any knowledge of the outside world. Would one not feel a little more secure to know that at any rate they were coming in some sort of contact with the great currents of the world as they would be at Constantinople? It is really worth thinking about. Those are some of the influences which have been brought to bear upon us in coming to that conclusion.
Do not let anyone imagine that we have done it without anxiety, or that we have done it without some hesitation, but we have done it because we are convinced that it is the best way to achieve the purpose that we all have in common. We mean to take away from the Turks the government of all the communities of non-Turkish race which they have oppressed, tyrannised and misgoverned. My right hon. Friend quoted passages from some statements which I made at the beginning of the War about Turkish misgovernment. Not a word of them do I wish to withdraw. I say more, that there is not a word of them which will not be interpreted in the Articles of the Treaty of Peace. You will take away from him sway over the races which he has misgoverned where they exist as separate communities. You will then deprive him altogether of the guardianship of the road of the Black Sea, which has enabled him to be such a power for mischief in the past, which has given him his real prestige, his real authority, his real weight, in the councils of the world; which has enabled him to be at certain moments of history the deciding factor. He will never be that again. Lastly, we have taken every precaution that is in our power to see that the Christian minorities who suffered so bitterly in the past will in the future have all the protection—not the protection of despatches from the Foreign Office, not the protection of the interchange of Notes, but the protection that will come from the knowledge that those who are persecuting them will issue their decrees under the menace of British, French and Italian guns.
Nothing that I say will, I trust, add to the bitterness of the Debate. The Prime Minister was asked by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson), to tell the House exactly as far as he could what the Peace Conference proposed in reference to Constantinople. My right hon. Friend said that as far as Celicia is concerned, it is a question which has a great effect on Armenia as there is a large Armenian population within Cilicia. So far as that is concerned he is not able at the moment to give the House any assurance as to what is or is not going to be done with Cilicia. I do not know whether any other Minister who may speak will be able to tell us anything more as to what is going to be done about Armenia and whether there is going to be an enlarged Armenia or not. Perhaps it might not be inconvenient for me to say this—I do not know—that in any settlement with regard to Armenia, I trust that there will not only be a considerable increase in the present area of the Armenian Re-public, but that Armenia will be given some access to the Black Sea in the North. Without that I am quite satisfied that the Armenian Republic will have the greatest difficulty in living. Then as to Cilicia my right hon. Friend has not been able to give us any assurance, and I earnestly hope and beg that every influence of the British Government will be used to secure that Celicia shall be definitely removed from Turkish sovereignty. That is as I read it, absolutely in accordance with every pledge given and every statement that has been made. I trust that may be secured as a protection for Armenia. With regard to the future government of Constantinople my right hon. Friend did not say anything very definite. As I understand him, it is to be left to the unrestricted rule of the Turk. At any rate, he did not suggest any restriction. It is to be handed back to the Turk without any restriction upon his enjoyment of it or any guarantees, so far as we are concerned. I hope that that is not finally fixed upon as a Government policy. As to the Straits, we are told that they are to be definitely put under international control. International control, we were told, was an impossible form of Government, but apparently it can be applied to the Straits, and I am very glad to hear that it can. I am sure that it will be so, but I hope that all fortifications will be removed and that the guns, which I am told are still there, will be taken away.
All the fortifications which can be used to bar the Straits. That, I understand, is the position.
There are one or two preliminary observations I want to make. My right hon. Friend suggested that underlying this very considerable feeling which has been aroused in the country on this subject there was a kind of Christendom versus Crescent feeling. I do not know whether that is so or not, but so far as I am personally concerned I have been most careful in anything I have said in public to avoid any possibility that that was the attitude I personally took up. I feel quite as anxious to free Arabians from the domination and misrule of the Turks as any other of the subject races. The Arabians, whatever their merits, cannot be described as Christians. It has been suggested, L do not think by my right hon. Friend, that what we, who are anxious to see Turkish rule in Constantinople ended, propose, is to drive the Turks out of Constantinople. That is not at all our proposal. That would be a fantastic proposal and one for which there is no reason. If the Turkish population likes to remain there, no one wishes to turn it out. In the article to which reference has been made I said so expressly, and I said also that if the Sultan wished to remain there no one would wish to turn him out. The essential thing, according to our view, is to get rid of the Sublime Porte as the governors of Constantinople. That does not mean turning anyone out. It means merely that we are not to hand back Constantinople to the Turkish Government. The place is now in Allied hands, and what we shall do if the Treaty is carried out will be to hand it back to the Turkish Government.
I will deal presently with the point that my views when in office are different from my views when I am not in office. I do not know whether that has ever happened to my right hon. Friend. In this particular case I shall show that my right hon. Friend has been misled by extracts from speeches which I made in 1918. I will come to that in a moment. Why is it that we are anxious to get rid of Turkish rule? I am anxious for two principal reasons. In the first place, it is associated with some of the gravest and most disgusting crimes in history. It is unnecessary for me to elaborate that. I could not put it as strongly or as eloquently as my right hon. Friend put it in 1914. He described it in words which only be at the present day is capable of using. It is true that the occupation of Constantinople by the Turks, the holding of their European Empire, has meant the complete stagnation of every country that they occupy. Their rule has been soiled and stained by atrocities and outrages and massacres during the whole course of their dominion. My memory goes back to the great agitations in the 'Seventies, and I do not believe that even in those days there was the slightest hesitation or doubt that if you could get rid of the Turks from Constantinople without a European war it would be the best thing that could be done for Europe. It is certainly very many years since I held that opinion myself. Whether or not it was held by everyone in the 'Seventies, I do not know. My right hon. Friend has re-referred to the statement made at the time of the Crimean War, that we had "put our money on the wrong horse." The view then was that we ought not to have helped the Turks as we did.
The other reason I urge is that Constantinople, by reason partly of its history, by reason partly of its strategical and commercial position and a number of other circumstances, has always been the theatre of every disreputable European intrigue that has taken place—financial and political intrigue—and as long as it exists under the control of the Turk I am convinced that it will continue to be so, and that it will be the breeding place of those international disputes and misunderstandings which have too often led to serious difficulties in Europe. At any rate it may be regarded as indirectly partly responsible for the great War which has just come to an end. That is the broad case for getting the Turk out of Constantinople. But it is said that there are certain objections to that course. By far the most important is that which is founded upon Indian opinion. I need not say that we do not desire to hurt the feelings or prejudices of our Indian fellow-subjects. We would treat them with the greatest possible respect in the world. I am bound to say, though I do not wish to go into an elaborate argument as to Mahomedan feeling in that matter, that I think it very surprising that so strong a feeling should exist, if it does exist, about the maintenance of the Sultan in Constantinople. As I understand the position, there is not the slightest ground for maintaining that the Sultan is the Caliph of the Mahomedan people. You cannot really maintain that for five minutes. He is not entitled to it in any way. That is the ease which I am assured is true. Better judges than I am will be able to deal with that. It has been urged that the Sultan is entitled to the unquestioned allegiance of all Mahomedans. He certainly is not. Even if he is Caliph there is nothing about his remaining in Constantinople. For centuries the Caliph, the real Caliph, the true and undisputed Caliph of the Mahomedan faith, was not in Constantinople; he was in various other places.
As far as the Turks are concerned, what is Constantinople? It is not a national capital. It is not one of those things which have grown up with the race. It was taken five centuries ago from an entirely different civilisation, and has been occupied by the Turks as their great trophy of victory since that date. I do not say that that is a reason for taking it from them, but when we are considering this question it is important to get the proper atmosphere and the facts about this place. Not only is it not the capital, but I maintain, in spite of my right hon. Friend, that at the present time the great mass, the majority of the population, is not Turkish. I quite agree there is a dispute about that, but the evidence, the most impartial evidence and the best evidence, is that the Turks form about two-fifths of the population. Therefore, there really is not this great national or religious feeling, speaking generally, with regard to the presence of the Sultan at Constantinople. I am told that as a matter of fact Mahomedan feeling is very much divided on the point.
When we consider this question of Indian feeling, let us remember this—that from early in the War up to 5th January, 1918, it was a settled part of British policy to turn the Turks out of Constantinople That was undoubtedly so. The phrases of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council (Mr. Balfour) have already been quoted. They were preceded by a distinct decision of the whole of the Allied forces. This was one of their main objects as stated in 1917:
The setting free of the population subject to the tyranny of the Turk, and the turning out of Europe of the Ottoman Empire, as decidedly foreign to western civilisation.
That was an avowed aim in 1917, and was defended by my right hon. Friend in a very remarkable dispatch which he issued in January in these words:
It has been argued indeed that the expulsion of the Turks from Europe forms no proper or logical part of this general scheme.
Then he goes on to argue that the Committee of Union and Progress have made it essential, and he concludes with the words:
Evidently the interests of peace and the claims of nationality alike require that Turkish rule over alien races shall, if possible, be brought to an end, and we may hope that the expulsion of Turkey from Europe will contribute as much to the cause of peace as the restoration of Alsace Lorraine to France.
It is said that that had reference only to handing over Constantinople to Russia. That is not true. It is very much wider than that. Whether the Russians have it, or anyone else has it, the great thing is that it is necessary for the peace of Europe to get rid of the Turks from Constantinople. I am surprised to hear my right hon. Friend treat that as only
part of the arrangement with Russia. That went on right through all through the critical year of 1917 right up to the beginning of 1918, and it was only when my right hon. Friend made his pronouncement in 1918 that any doubt was thrown upon the matter. My right hon. Friend makes a personal point—not very unusual—and he says:
Oh you were responsible for this declaration.
Yes, I certainly was responsible. I was a Member of the Government; I was in charge of the Foreign Office, and I was present at the Cabinet meeting when the matter was considered. I did not draw the actual phrases to which my right hon. Friend alludes. I think the phrase, "Rich and renowned lands," bears a Celtic origin. I do not wish to suggest for a moment that I was not entirely responsible for that statement. I entirely approved of it. In the same circumstances I should make that statement again.
What were the circumstances at the beginning of 1918? My right hon. Friend said it was necessary to conciliate labour opinion. That may have been partly the object; but there was another object, and my right hon. Friend will not. I am sure, object if I refer to it. There were two objects. It was thought that two of our opponents, Turkey and Austria, were weakening in the struggle and we were anxious to detach them. My right hon. Friend will not deny that. The whole of that statement bears the impress of that desire. It was making the greatest possible concessions both to Turkey and to Austria that we could make. It was an offer of peace to them.
Yes, it was an offer of peace to everybody, but particularly to Turkey and Austria. This is what he said, for instance, about Austria-Hungary:
The break-up of Austria Hungary is no part of our War aims.
He asked for genuine self-government on true democratic principles, including the claims of Italy and Rumania.
If those conditions are fulfilled, Austria Hungary would become a power whose strength would conduce to the permanent peace and freedom of Europe.
Does anyone say we have committed a breach of faith because we did not maintain Austria-Hungary; of course not. We had a perfect right when we went into a Peace Conference to say "these are the terms we offer on the 5th January, 1918, when we knew the critical period of the war was about to burst, "and when you did not accept them you cannot complain if they are not renewed." Take this very phrase of the "rich and renowned lands of Thrace." Are they going to be given back to Turkey? I should be very much surprised if they were given back by this Treaty. But of course not, and there is no reason why there should be. I find this reading of the document confirmed by a paragraph in the document itself. You find this at the end of the document—
Yes, mainly occupied by Turks. This is the sentence I want to read:
Apart from this, whatever settlement is made will he suitable only to the circumstances under which it is made, and as those circumstances change changes in the settlement will be called for.
I submit, anyone reading that document fairly will agree with me that it was intended as an offer of peace and cannot be hold to bind us as a settlement. My right hon. Friend was good enough to refer to some observations I made in November, 1918, which, according to him, went to support the view that this was a binding claim upon the Allies. As a matter of fact that is absolutely contrary to what is the case. It appears now I misunderstood my right hon. Friend, and I am very glad.
There were two points: the first point was the predominating character of the Turkish majority in Constantinople and the second point was as to the Straits.
I think if the right hon. Gentleman reads the report he will see that there were some other things. As a matter of fact, what happened was this. Just before the end of the last Parliament, a debate was raised on the future of Constantinople, and I was deputed by the Cabinet to speak on behalf of the Government in that debate. A great challenge was made by my hon.
Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. A. Williams) and two or three others who are no longer in the House. When I came to reply, I dealt with this question of Constantinople. It is quite true that I said that the most important part was the Straits. I went on to say, and my right hon. Friend did not read this:
I quite recognise once that is gone there is only the prestige, and no doubt that is very great, which is left to it as am important world port, I am far from denying that that is a very important matter.
There I recognise that there was great importance in the position of Constantinople. I impressed on the House, speaking for the Government, that this was an entirely open question and that we were not bound by our pledge of 1918. This is what I said:
My hon. Friend quoted the declaration made by the Prime Minister in January of this year… hut many things have occurred since then, and I do not at all think that this Government is bound by the letter of that declaration.
There was a long discussion, and I concluded by saying that
the Government would approach the question of the future rule of Constantinople with an absolutely open mind.
It seems to me perfectly fantastic to say that ever since 1918 we have held out as an absolute undertaking to our Indian fellow subjects, or anyone else, that Constantinople was to remain in the hands of the Turks. My right hon. Friend tacitly admitted that in the speech he made because he said we hoped that the Americans would have taken it over. He hoped that and negotiated for that in Paris and pressed it on the Americans. Where, then, was the pledge about Constantinople to our Indian fellow subjects?
It was never asked for. I do not wish to press this unduly, but it really is a little strong to tell me that I abandoned the views I held when in office now that I am no longer in office when that is absolutely untrue, and when the right hon. Gentleman himself was anxious for a settlement which would have satisfied us all, namely, an American mandate over Constantinople. I do not think it is reasonable to say that there would be the slightest suggestion of a breach of faith against this country if we decided not to retain Turkish government in Constantinople.
There is a great difference between expelling the Turks from Constantinople and having an American mandate. That may or may not be a wise thing to do, but at any rate there were obvious advantages in having someone at Constantinople. If there had been an American mandate it would have enabled them not merely to control Constantinople, but, to a certain extent, to protect the minorities of Asia Minor. That is not expelling the Turk. That would have been a settlement which I would have regarded as quite com patible with keeping faith with the Indians that we were not to turn the Caliph out of Constantinople.
Nobody has ever suggested turning the Caliph out of Constantinople. What we want is to put an end to Turkish ride in Constantinople, whether done by mandate or League of Nations or a Committee of Nations. Whatever is done in Constantinople, there is no reason in the world why the Sultan should not remain there. I think there was a good deal to be said, in view of the strong feeling which is said to exist in India, for the view that it would be desirable to risk that. But if we were going to take that course, we ought to have taken it immediately after the Armistice and not allow months and months to elapse when everyone knew that we were negotiating for some settlement which in fact would have put an end to Turkish rule in Constantinople, whether by the substitution of Americans or some other power, and when an agitation had grown up and when there was feeling said to be surging in India, and when the Secretary of State for India, not as a Minister, but more as the head of the Indian Delegation, in an interview in a newspaper, draws a lurid picture of the amount of feeling there is on the subject in India. Now to go back to that policy in face of that will not be, in my judgment, the best policy for securing the peace of India. To act from clemency is one thing and to act from a threat of agitation is entirely another. I deeply regret that this has been the policy of the Government. It would have been better if they had declared this on the morrow of the Turkish Armistice. They then would have had the full advantage of a great act of generosity and clemency to an important personage in the Mahomedan world. I believe, when dealing with these questions, you should not be guided by how your conduct or action may be misrepresented in various parts of the world. The proper maxim in these matters is, "Be just and fear not." If it is a proper solution of this question to put an end to Turkish rule in Constantinople, I do not think we should be deflected from it by fear of misunderstanding and apprehension about it in India.
Another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman was this. He asked me if the Armenians would not prefer to have the Caliph in Constantinople, where they could be bombarded by the British Fleet. I have taken what opportunities are open to me to find out what the Armenians think and what the Greeks think. They are all unanimous in favour of turning the Turkish Government out of Constantinople. I cannot say I have had much opportunity of finding out Greek opinion, but certain gentlemen, who apparently represent the Greek Committee in England, speak very strongly in that way. It is also said that if the Turkish Government is removed it will be taken away from Western influence. The Turks have been in Constantinople for five centuries, and for a large part of that time they have been in contact with Western influence, and the final result was the Armenian massacre of 1915. You send him to be educated in Western centres, you submit him to Western influence, and the result is that he adds all the Western vices to all the Eastern vices, and loses all the Eastern virtues as well. I remember very well, at the time of the Bulgarian atrocities in 1876, that they were carried out very largely by a certain Shefket Pasha, and I remember hearing the description of what Shefket Pasha was like. He was described to me as a Parisian dandy, full of Western influence, and ho was the man who ordered all the worst and most terrible atrocities in Bulgaria. I cannot say that I attach the slightest importance to the value of Western influence on the Turks in Constantinople. The strength of my right hon. Friend's argument was that if you left them there you would be able to threaten them with the guns of the British Fleet, and he said we were unable to do that at the time of the Armenian massacres because of the difficulty of getting up the Dardanelles. I daresay there is some truth in that, but there is another great difficulty. Constantinople has always been a city in which various nations have taken the most profound interest. Many of them wish to possess it, many others regard it with great, I will not say affection, but with great sympathy, and the result is that, whenever you wish to threaten Constantinople, you find yourselves always up against insuperable international difficulties. I am afraid that will be so in the future.
I do not regard the power of bombarding Constantinople as any security for the good government of the Armenians. When the time comes, you will find you will not be able to do it. Far better to get rid of the Turkish Government, to strike a blow at that centre of outrage and misgovernment, which has always existed, and which will exist as long as the Turkish Government is left there; you will produce far more effect on the Turkish mind and on the minds of all those whom you must leave more or less subject to Turkish control than by any distant threat of being able to bombard the Turks if they behave badly in the future. I can only repeat that that view, which seems to me to be sound, is that which is shared by the spokesmen in this country, at any rate, of the principal races which are concerned in the matter. My right hon. Friend drew a picture of the evils of international government in Constantinople. What does he propose, what is the settlement that is going to be proposed? The Turks are to be left there, And we understand, with no special guarantee and nothing to keep them in order specially; they are to be left there under the old conditions. What does that mean? It means a competition of foreign nations with their representatives at Constantinople, it means divided counsels, infirmity of purpose, quite as great as you would have in an international government, and it has the additional disadvantage that those who will be divided and competing with one another have not, when they have got to a conclusion, the power of seeing that it is enforced
I am convinced, though I admit there are great difficulties about the international government of Constantinople, that on the balance it would be far better than to maintain the Turkish Government there. After all, I know my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister docs not believe that this is going to be a permanent settlement. Everyone knows that the Turks are bound to go from Constantinople sooner or later. You can bolster them up under the influence of the old British traditions, and once again you can leave them there to do more mischief in the world, but in a year or two, in ten years, in twenty years, you will be faced with the same problem, and you will have to get rid of them sooner or later. Now you can do it without a war. You have got possession of Constantinople, and you have merely got to keep it, and I deeply regret if the decision is irrevocable not to carry out this urgent reform.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) has suggested that it would be absurd to employ the League of Nations for this purpose, because the League of Nations has not got an armed force behind it. I do not quite take the same view of the League of Nations as my right hon. and learned Friend. He thinks it depends for its existence and its power in the world on the possession of an armed force, but I do not think so. I do not believe that is the true way of looking at it. I do believe that this will be a great opportunity for the employment of the machinery of the League of Nations. I do believe that here, without any breach of your pledge, without any going back on what you have said in 1918, which the most sensitive Indian opinion could possibly resent, you might say, "No nation shall have Constantinople. We are not going to ask for it ourselves, we are not going to give it to any other country, we are going to hand it over to the guardianship of the League of Nations for the benefit of humanity at large." That is the purpose of the League, and why not? My right hon. Friend thinks that if the League had given a mandate to the Americans it would have been all right, but if that be so, why should not the League take it itself? I quite agree that the form of government is not perfect, but it would not be worse than the Turkish Government, however imperfect it might be, and it is, after all, the plan adopted at Dantzig and in the Saar Valley. I see no reason why it should not be done now. I believe it is still the light course to take, and I very earnestly appeal to my right hon. Friend—not, I assure him, merely from a factious desire to oppose the Government, but because I honestly do believe that to leave the Turks there is a disaster to Europe and a great failure of the purposes for which we went to war—I earnestly appeal to the Prime Minister even at this last hour, if it is not too late, to go to the Conference and ask that this decision be reversed and this blot on the Treaty removed.
I am in agreement with the Noble Lord who has just sat down. I do not know much about India, and I do not profess to be a deep student of Mahomedanism, but I know something about newspapers and agitations, and I must say I never saw a better organised, a more lavishly financed, or a more artificial agitation than the agitation with regard to Mahomedan feeling on this question. It has suddenly been discovered that Mahomedan feeling in India would be very much exasperated if we took Constantinople. Does anybody who knows anything of Mahomedan feeling contend that Constantinople has ever been a holy city to the Mahomedans in the sense in which Mecca and Medina and Jerusalem and Baghdad are sacred cities? Yet we are taking away from the Turks Mecca, and Medina, and Baghdad, and Jerusalem, and not a word is said as to the outraged feelings of the Mahomedans. With regard to this movement in India, I honestly must say that in my opinion it is largely artificial. I am bound to take the opinion of the great authorities in India; I am bound to think with very great respect of the opinions of these great officials in England; but, of course, this feeling would not have risen up if the Government of this country had settled this question very soon after the Armistice. That is the real difficulty. The other difficulty is this, that America did not take the mandate. I know one of the reasons why America did not take the mandate, and the Prime Minister knows it as well as I do. America is not at Constantinople, because you allowed American opinion to lose all confidence in you by your policy in regard to Ireland. [Laughter.] I do not know why the hon. and gallant Member (Viscountess Astor) laughs so. —[HON. MEMBERS: "Why gallant?"]
I will not say more than that that is my opinion, and it is my strong opinion, and if the Prime Minister knew as much about American opinion as I do I think he would share that opinion. But is it not an extraordinary thing that when you take Mecca, the home of the Prophet, the very tabernacle of the religion of Mahomedanism, when you take Medina, when you take Baghdad, which, as the Noble Lord very accurately said, was the only and last real city of the Caliphate. Mahomedan opinion in India is quite unperturbed, and according to the views given by the Prime Minister and others in this Debate the only time that Mahomedan opinion in India is excited against the policy of this country is when we try to keep Turkey from massacring Armenians.
The Noble Lord is a little too premature and excited. I am going, if the Noble Lord will allow me to proceed, to say that I could not imagine any greater insult against the Mahomedans of India than to say that they look with equanimity on the surrender of the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, and with sacrosanct feeling about this capital which has been the origin and the source of the massacres of so many millions of people. I say again that all this representation, this somewhat partisan representation, of Mahomedan opinion is unjust to Mahomedan opinion in India in another way. I take a document, of which I think the Prime Minister was one of the signatories, containing the Allies' reply to the Grand Vizier, in which it is said very properly that "the history of the Turks in Constantinople can be no source of pleasure or pride to thinking Moslems." I think that was the Allied Note, the reply of the Peace Conference to the document in defence of Turkey which was given by the Grand Vizier. That is my position. "Can be no source of pleasure or pride to thinking Moslems." Is that not so? Is not the government of the Turk in Constantinople a reproach and a shame, and not a pride to any honest, intelligent Mahomedan? Therefore, I cannot understand why so much should be said about the importance to Mahomcdan opinion of leaving these bloodstained Young Turks in Constantinople, and allowing all the sacred cities to be taken away. Who are in control at Constantinople? I challenge anyone to deny that the Young Turks are in control at Constantinople, and actually this Young Turkish Government is so inhuman, so hardened and so insane, that at the very moment when all the destinies of their own capital are trembling in the balance, they give orders for new massacres of the Armenians. I think that government is hopeless.
There was one statement of the Prime Minister which leads me to some misgivings. He spoke of the difficulties which would surround international control in Constantinople. Does that mean, as the Noble Lord asked, that there is to be no international control? Is the Sultan s Government there to be strictly separate, independent and autonomous, without any control except the control of the Straits? If that is what is going to take place, let me anticipate a little what I think the future of Constantinople will be. What is the explanation why the massacres of Armenians in 1896 were not prevented? The reason the British Government was not able to do more to aid the Armenians was not merely that it lay helpless from the native point of view, but it lay helpless before the reluctance of Russia and the hostility of Germany to any interference. Is not that the explanation? What has happened again? We know what the history of Germany is at Constantinople. Every single village of any importance where the Armenians were massacred had a German Consul. That German Consul was in telegraphic communication with the Central Government in Berlin, and telegrams from that German Consul with regard to those massacres to his Government at Berlin could not only have apprised the German Government of the massacres, but could have prevented the massacres by the influence of the German Government on Turkey, and I maintain that in this future of Constantinople, which the right hon. Gentleman has pictured to us, we shall have German intrigue again.
What does German intrigue in Constantinople mean? I do not think there is a dirtier page in the history of the Kaiser than his visits to Jerusalem and the Sultan immediately after the massacres, and I daresay the right hon. Gentleman joined in the vehement protests that were made in this country against that performance. I know I spoke of it without any particular restraint of language. The real fact was that, so long as a German got a contract for the tramways in Constantinople, and so long as the Kaiser could still cherish the dream, which has been falsified, of using Constantinople in the pursuit of that mad ambition of Eastern greatness for his Empire, and of successfully menacing our authority there, so long would every crime of the Turk be condoned by the German Government. Shall we not have that again? I maintain that if we had the League of Nations there, that would certainly be of greater value against the intrigues and jealousies of the Continental powers, of which the Turk in the future, as in the past, will be ready to take advantage, and I warn this generation that, as the generation before was unsuccessfully warned, again we are paving the way for new massacres with all Christian Europe looking on, silent, abashed and impotent to prevent it. This is the third great occasion on which this nation and other nations have come to the rescue of the Turks. They saved them by the Crimean War. And, I may add, when you talk about Mahomedan feeling in India, that although we preserved the Turk by the Crimean War, and preserved his power almost up to now, we had the Indian Mutiny a year or two afterwards, which, if I remember, was started by the Mahomedans of India. So that friendship with the Turk cannot be regarded from that fact as a complete guarantee of the friendship of the Mahomedans of India.
Some were loyal, no doubt, and borne disloyal. At any rate, there was a mutiny, whether it was by one race or the other. I cannot help taking notice, in a passing word, of the extraordinary fact, which was repeated by the Prime Minister in one of the most attractive sentences of his eloquent speech, as to the bravery and willingness with which the Mahomedan soldiers of India fought for our cause against Turkey. If they had had this extraordinary devotion to Constantinople for the Turks, I doubt whether we should have got so many, but we did get them, although making war on the Turks, and although the pronouncement of some of our Liberal leaders led us to expect we were going to drive the Turks from Constantinople. That did not keep them from coming. But I ask, were the Mahomedan soldiers the only soldiers that fought against Turkey? Did not some of our fellow-citizens from Australia fight them? Did not Englishmen, Welshmen and New Zealanders light them? Was not the gallant Irish 10th Division cut to pieces at Suvla Bay? I object to this line of argument, but if it be used, I must make this comment, that the fathers and mothers, the brothers and sisters of the Australian soldiers who died in Gallipoli will be inclined to think that their blood was shed in vain if the bloodstained Government of the Sultan remains in Constantinople. We saved the Turk after the Crimean war; we saved the Turk in 1878, and now we are saving him a third time. I cannot help thinking, in doing so, that we are taking a very grave responsibility upon ourselves.
I do not know whether the Government, after the pains they have taken to prejudge the question, can go back on their steps with regard to Constantinople, but this I want to impress upon the Prime Minister. I implore him, if this evil is done of leaving the Sultan at Constantinople, to minimise that evil so far as the can. I was relieved to find that he repeated the emphatic statement with regard to the guardianship of the Bosphorus which he made on a previous occasion, and that he did not recede by one inch from that declaration. I am sure the whole world will rejoice to find that the right hon. Gentleman remains in that position. I want to ask him two things beside. I want him to bring Greece as near as he can to the doors of Constantinople. The hon. and gallant Member (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) laughs. I am surprised at this manifestation of what is called neo-Radicalism. Turkophilism and Radicalism were not allies in the past. My hon. and gallant Friend, however, has brought many novelties into the House. That is the first thing I want to impress upon the Prime Minister. I would impress upon him the necessity of making a really powerful, independent and autonomous Armenia. I am not going to make any observations to-day about Silesia, but I do want to tell him, so far as I know the Armenian opinion upon that question—and, as a member of the Armenian Relief Committee who has spoken about it in England and America, I know something of their opinion—they regard the question of Silesia as more vital even than the retention or dismissal of the Sultan from Constantinople. But I do pray him to stand firm by his promises and pledges to secure the subject nations of Turkey from butcheries and horrors.
There is only one point in the speech to which we have just listened to which I wish to refer, because I think it is due to a very common confusion of thought which has appeared throughout this controversy The hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) said with regard to the 1896 Armenian massacres that the reason Great Britain was helpless to rescue the Armenians was the hostility of Russia and of Germany.
Anyhow, the hon. Gentleman attributed it to certain diplomatic obstacles. Does he think those diplomatic obstacles are going to be changed by shifting the geographical position of the Turkish capital? Does he think he is going to cut off all negotiations with Turkey, let them do whatever they like to the Armenians, and let them have no diplomatic representatives there at all? Because if he is going to have diplomatic representatives there, surely the best way to get rid of this tortuous diplomacy is to do it under the guns of the British Fleet. I do not want to follow the very elaborate discussion which has taken place as to the pledges of the Prime Minister, but I do want to deal with the broad issue which was raised by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord B. Cecil) as to whether, if he admitted he was bound by his pledge about Turkey, he was not equally bound to prevent the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? Of course the two cases have nothing whatever in common We did not break up the Austro-Hungarian Empire; it broke itself up, and the fact that the Prime Minister said that that was not one of our War aims did not mean we had to force the Austro-Hungarian Empire to hold together against its will, and the real point is that the pledge given by the Prime Minister at the beginning of 1918 was a pledge not given to the Turks, but it was a pledge given to our Moslem fellow-subjects.
The Noble Lord talked about the possibility at certain periods of the negotiations of the Americans going to Constantinople, It is quite true the Conference had, no doubt, considered the question of American control, but only in conjunction with, an American mandate for Asia. Minor. To turn out the Turks and to get a real grip of Asia Minor is a very different affair. To turn out the Turks and to let Asia Minor look after itself is the apparent wish of the promoters of the present agitation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, No!"]
I am glad to hear that that is not their wish. It possibly is not the wish of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, but it appears to be the wish of some of the people who have written letters to the newspapers. If America had been willing to undertake the task, if the initiative had come from her, I do not say that the speech of the Prime Minister would have been any reason why he should have opposed it. It is a very different matter for us to take the initiative; for us to say that the Turkish Government is to be driven from Constantinople; for us to take the lead in the matter. I have no means of judging Indian opinion, but one's general knowledge of human nature is surely enough to convince one that in view of our declared war aims, on British initiative to deprive the Caliph of his capital would have involved intense indignation, and, I may add, just indignation, amongst his followers from Ashantee to Shanghai. Surely, we have enough on hand not to lay up for ourselves trouble of this sort throughout the whole of Africa and Asia.
I do not want to discuss in any detail the position of the various races in Constantinople. I think we have heard rather too much about Constantinople, and rather too little about the question of the Turkish Dominions in Asia. We have not heard anything about the inevitable repercussions in Asia Minor if this agitation to deprive the Turk of his capital is successful. There have been some very curious productions in the public Press. There has been a manifesto signed by many eminent leaders of churches, professors, and writers, in which they say, "that there would be an outcry if the rule of the Turk is allowed to remain in any of the lands where he used to exterminate his innocent victims." Therefore, the Turk has to be deprived of the right of ruling anywhere in Asia Minor because, I suppose, these people would be able to make some case that he had been hostile to the Christians? What are they going to put in his place? Are they going to recommend this country again to go in for compulsory national service, and to raise the Army which may be necessary to eject the Turks from his control of Asia Minor? I really think that these eminent gentlemen, authorities that they may be on their own subject, cannot really know-very much about geography.
Therefore, for the moment I would venture just to outline the conditions in Asia Minor, especially with an eye to its natural features, Asia Miner is about 900 miles long from East to West, and about 300 miles from North to South. It is about the most difficult and tangled country in which I have ever travelled. It consists of two great plateaus, buttressed between the mountains which rise from the Black Sea on the North, and on the South the great Taurus range and its continuation stretching right across to the North of the plains of Mesopotamia and Syria round the plains of Cilicia, and finally ending up in the South-West corner of Asia Minor. These two plains are divided by a great block, 200 miles wide, of the most complicated and mountainous country that you will find in any country in the world. These tangled physical features of the country are pretty accurately reflected in the intricate mixture of the population. You will find remnants of many races which have been left behind in the successive conquests and migrations which have swept backwards and forwards along that great road between Asia and Europe. The great majority of the population is Moslem. Here again, however, owing to the innumerable barriers of mountain and valley, you will find the greatest diversity among the Moslem sects. Everywhere, too, you find Christians, but, though you find them everywhere, it is only in the Eastern part of Armenia that they ever in recent times outnumbered the Moslems. The Armenian plateau, with its civilisation, is to be united to Russian Armenia as the Republic of Erivan, so it need not really concern us in our picture of the conditions of Asia Minor, nor need we consider for the moment Cilicia. We hope France is going to take a mandate for the control of that area, and that she will take the largest possible powers for seeing after the interests of the religious minority.
I want rather to speak of the position of the Christians who live in the mountains South of the Armenian tableland in that great range which runs from the Persian frontier through Eastern Kurdestan, and also in the country which stretches from the west end of this Armenian plateau to the mountains, 700 miles down to the Ægean Sea. In the mountains of Kurdestan you will find Christian minorities living under conditions of terrible grinding slavery. You find these Christian communities, most of them of the Chaldean race and divided up into Chaldean Catholics, Nestorians, Jacobites, all living as slaves of these Kurdish villages. These people are heard of but very little. We hear a lot about the Armenians, but not about the other sects, which, as I have myself seen, are living under infinitely worse conditions. Before the War everywhere there were large numbers of Christians of the Armenian and the Greek race, but they lived in their separate villages and towns in the mountains of Cilicia, less miserable than the Christians of Kurdestan, but at the same time divorced from their neighbours both in race and in religion. When you come to the Western Plain you find that the Christians lived much more cheek-by-jowl with the Moslems, and you will find the Christian minority in pretty well every town of the plateau of Western Anatolia.
Why I desire to remind the House of the conditions under which these Christians live is to show that they are absolutely in the hands of the Moslem majority. We have never conquered the country. We cannot conquer the country short of a very difficult and costly expedition. It is a very serious matter to those people, especially because the control of the Central Turkish Government, owing to the delay in the announcement of the Peace terms, is very rapidly decreasing, and the whole of Asia Minor—this huge territory—is gradually relaxing into a state not unlike the state which was for some time existing in Russia. The mountains in the centre are at the present time, partly no doubt owing to this delay, in the hands of the insurgents under Mustafa Kemal—we have all heard about the recent massacres which his levies have committed in towns in the anti-Taurus, such as Marash, Haggin, and Zeitun. We have got no means of stopping that because the military force there is only one single regular battery stretching along a three hundred miles line. Working with that there are 400 Italians. These people can obviously do nothing by way of defending the Christians. All they can do is to keep an eye upon the railway and see that the Turks are not sending very large bodies of troops along. The regular Turkish Corps' headquarters has not any truck with the insurgents. Every single town along the railway has got its Christian minority. Many of them have more than their normal Christian population owing to the influx of refugees from the East. For instance, I am told in one town there are three orphanages which contain 600. The lives of these people depend upon the attitude of that regular Turkish Corps under Fahireddin Bey, who hold the Central plateau, and Fahireddin Bey is in a very difficult position. He is believed to be a man of Nationalist sympathies, but he takes his orders from the Turkish Government at Constantinople. We know, too, that the Turkish Government at Constantinople is very much under the influence of the Committee of the Union of Progress, and it is just in the balance now what is going to happen to that Turkish Army. It is between two hostile forces. If it is faithful to the Turkish Government, not only has it the forces of Mustafa Kemal on the East, but a large force of insurgents on the West facing the Allied Greek and Italian forces who hold the line around Smyrna. The effect of turning the Turks out of Constantinople and of sending them to Asia Minor would almost certainly be to put the Turkish Government completely in the power of the Nationalist Party. Mustafa Kemal would become dictator and the Government, already controlled by the Young Turks, would almost certainly change their attitude and allow the massacre of every Christian. There is reason, as I say, to believe that this Fahireddin Bey at the present time is only half-hearted in our support. There is suspicion that guns are going from the regular Turkish Army to the insurgents, and that, either from unwillingness or from fear, the Commander is not enforcing that authority which we want him to enforce against the Nationalists. The present position is some security for the Christians, whereas if the Turkish regular army went over to the national party you would only have there that Punjaub battalion, and you would not have any control over the fate of these Christian minorities in this tangled mass of mountains in that very large territory of Asia Minor. I know some hon. Members will feel that I am taking rather a short view. I have been told that it would be worth while to lose tens of thousands of Christian lives if we could secure the interests and liberties of these people in Asia Minor in the future. The only logical conclusion to draw from that is that we are to go in and fight, and turn the Turks out. No other country is willing to do that, and I do not think any of the people who are clamouring for vengeance on the Turk are really willing to go in with us to enable us to conquer Asia Minor. Many of their leaders were most prominent amongst the pacifists in the recent War.
I was told that a certain Noble Lord was amongst the signatories to that memorial, and perhaps they are not pacifists. I think my hon. Friend opposite signed the memorial, and now by his repudiation I may take it that he is prepared to go to the extent of an expensive and costly military expedition in order to conquer Asia Minor. That is a very frank and honest position, but I am afraid that a lot of those gentlemen who signed the manifesto which appeared in the "Times" last Monday are not in that position. Failing the conquest of Asia Minor these gentlemen are up against a choice between the chaos that would occur if we failed to have our position established in Asia Minor or having things pulled round under Turkish rule. Why should we not go in and control Turkey? We have missed precious opportunities in the past, and if we do not make haste we shall find things so far gone that it will be too late.
After the Armistice it would have been comparatively easy to ensure drastic reforms in Turkey. I have seen what is going on there myself. In a journey I made from the Cilician gates to the Antitaurus up to the Black Sea I was so impressed by the maladministration that I begged the Foreign Office in 1913 to accept the then Turkish offer to allow six British administrators to control this part of Armenia, but the Foreign Office said that this could not be done and they suggested that it was not an honest offer. The Turks were so keen upon it that a deputation came over here and approached certain gentlemen in this country who have wide experience of the administration of Moslems in all parts of the world, and they asked them whether they would go over to Asia Minor at the invitation of the Turkish Government. The Foreign Office, however, made it quite clear that if these people went out like that it would be impossible for them to work, such was the jealousy of Russia.
The following year I was out there again on the plateau of Armenia, and I had an opportunity of many heart-to-heart talks with the people who have lately come from the European provinces just taken away from Turkey. Many of them were very enlightened men, and they were absolutely frank as to the appalling condition of things, and their position was that they could not put it right. They said that this administration cannot be put right by anybody except a foreigner, and if they tried to do it themselves they would be replaced within a month, because there are so many people at Constantinople who would be ready to misrepresent their action. They said that if you had a European out there armed with adequate powers things would be different, and this is confirmed by the experience of the Turkish Customs administration, under which the Turk works very well because he knows that methods of procrastination, intrigue, and backstairs influence are no use against a European in that position. Let us stop this kind of jealousy between the Powers. Let us go in and try to help Turkey to rule itself.
Turkey has had an appallingly difficult task since the constitution. I offer no word of defence for the dreadful things which have been done by Turkey in the last War, but we must remember that Turkey was set upon almost immediately after the constitution by Italy, and had to wage an exhausting war in Tripoli. She was also set upon by the States of the Balkans, and fought two Balkan wars. Under these circumstances is it surprising that in such an exhausted state she is now suffering from the action of the Committee of Union and Progress? She needs strength ning to-day more than ever, and I suggest that it is absolutely disastrous to start this old prejudice against Turkey and make it difficult for Turkey being reformed with British help. We should put in an Allied staff to run the Turkish Army and the War Office, and then we could ensure some protection to the Christian minorities. We ought to encourage by all the means in our power the migration of Armenians and Greeks and other Christian minorities to join their fellow nationalists in the newly redeemed territories.
The arguments put forward in this House in favour of rejecting the appeal which has been put forward appears to be based on the desire for revenge and punishing Turkey. The first reason for this is the recent massacre of subject races. That apparently is only punishment, because there is not a single word in the appeal or in my Noble Friend's speech as to how the turning of the Turk out of Constantinople is going to help the Christians in Asia Minor. They say the Turk is our enemy, therefore let us punish him, and that is what it means. In the world to-day we want reconstruction and not revenge. You may get reform if you control the Turk; but you certainly will not if you allow the Turk to slip away from a position where you can keep him under British guns, and to take himself off to the mountain fastnesses of Asia Minor. In the Straits he is defenceless against our power. It is generally assumed that banished from Europe the Turkish capital could be moved to Brusa,
If, however, the Turk leaves Constantinople is it likely that he is going to remain with his capital under the control of Allied sea power? He will move to the most inaccessible district where he can laugh at the League of Nations. It is said that Constantinople for centuries has been a centre of unrest. But what has that to do with the position in Asia Minor? Constantinople was a centre of unrest when Turkey stretched from the Danube to the Ægean and from the Black Sea to the Adriatic, and this was because of the intrigue of European countries, and you can only stop that unrest by straight diplomacy. Has not Germany killed and massacred thousands of innocent people? Was not the German capital the centre of a far more dangerous form of militarist unrest than Constantinople? If you are so much concerned about punishment for massacres and unrest why not get up a movement to turn Germany out of Berlin? I should be much more confident as to the future peace of the world if the German capital could be placed on the sea coast, defenceless against our sea power and our naval guns.
Ill-advised as I consider the suggestions of the Parliamentary Memorial to the Prime Minister, the methods of the Press campaign which has accompanied it are a positive menace and a danger to a sound British foreign policy. If the Foreign Office are going to be controlled in this country by ready-made coupons cut out of the daily Press, put in by Heaven knows what irresponsible advertisers, then Heaven help the British Empire! I think these advertisements in the Press are particularly objectionable on account of the appeals they make to the alleged wishes of those who have died in Gallipoli. I happened to serve as a regimental officer in the Dardanelles with my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and my hon. Friend who sits for the Yeovil Division (Mr. A. Herbert), and I think they will agree with me when I say that we were in just as good a position to judge the thoughts and opinions of the men who lived in the gulleys of Anzac as these people who put these advertisements in the Press. I say it is nothing short of an insult to those who died there to invoke their memories in support of a policy which is based upon hate, intolerance, and blind revenge.
The hon. Gentleman who just spoken opened his remarks by accusing those who did not agree with him on this question of being entirely ignorant of geography, and reference was made in that particular connection that probably the most ignorant would be those who are associated with the party with which I am concerned.
H we are so ignorant of geography it is our misfortune and not our fault. Whether the hon. and gallant Member meant it or not, he left the impression on my mind that it was only pacifists who signed the manifesto.
The proposition he laid down was that those who advocate Constantinople being taken out of the control of the Turks must have conscription to enforce it. I reply by saying, "No, we do not want conscription." We do not believe conscription will be necessary to enforce it. On the contrary, if we are to judge by the remarks of the Prime Minister this afternoon, who painted the picture of the British Army, the Navy,
and the blue jackets all in readiness to jump on the Turk, the only conclusion we could draw from that is that military measures would be necessary to give effect even to the suggestions laid down by the Prime Minister. He himself believes that the only means by which effect can be given, even to the policy he laid down, is by armed force. The whole experience of the world proves that wherever you attempt to maintain rule by armed force it must inevitably in the end lead to an explosion. The Prime Minister said on 10th November, 1914:
We have been assailed by another national exponent of the higher culture—Turkey.… I cannot pretend that I am sorry. We did our best to avoid the quarrel. No one could have shown more patience in the face of insolence and injuries than I could retail to you by the hour than Great Britain did in the face of the treatment which was accorded her by this miserable, wretched, contemptible Empire on the Bosphorus. Ah! but the quarrel has been taken out of our hands. We were in the hands of fate, and the hour has struck on the great clock of destiny for settling accounts with the Turk. The Turks are a human cancer, a creeping agony of the flesh to the land which they occupy, raiding every fibre of life. The tread of his blood-stained sandels scorches and withers life and fertility out of whole territories—every blade shrivelled up in thousands of square miles. The people subjected to his rule have for centuries been the victims of his indolence, incompetence, and lust, and now that the great day of reckoning has conic upon nations I am glad. I am glad that the Turk is to be called to final account for his long record of infamy against humanity.
If I understand the argument my hon. Friend put, it was this—there are so many Christians to-day under Turkish rule that unless we are very careful their lives will be in danger. I answer that by saying that the Prime Minister meant what he said then or he did not. The same people were then under Turkish rule. As far as the Labour party is concerned, we are the last to desire revenge. It is not in a spirit of revenge that we approach the question, but we say from all our knowledge we are satisfied that the real solution of the Constantinople question would be by some control by the League of Nations. There is no desire to be vindictive or to punish the Turk. Then it was said that this was a Press agitation. Is it not true to say that the French Press within the last three months has been completely turned? Is it not true to say that three months
ago there was an entirely different opinion in France? It is no secret that the French Press, I will not say has been subsidised, but I do deliberately say that there is some reason for it, and we can only draw one conclusion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, Oh!"] No one who knows anything of the facts dare challenge that statement. There is at any rate a very strong suspicion that behind the whole of this question there is not so much regard for the Moslem religion or for the Turk, but there is a gang of international financiers who have always intrigued in Constantinople, have made that city the hot-bed of intrigue and have engineered wars in the past. It is because some of us believe that some sinister influence is behind this that we deeply regret the change of policy on the part of the Allies and, like the Noble Lord, I hope it is not the last word.
It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Liverpool both have pursued the same tactics as far as the Prime Minister is concerned, and I am bound to say—although I am not always an enthusiastic defender of the right hon. Gentleman—that those quotations were unfair to him. The suggestions have confused propaganda and pledges. We have all made speeches when we have not weighed our words very carefully, but that is a very different thing from a statement that had the whole of the Cabinet behind it and the whole Empire. It is said in some quarters that Indians are quite wrong in considering the Sultan the proper Caliph, but the Moslems of India do mainly think he is, and that is really the important thing. Somebody said the other day that the Pope was the true head of the Protestant Church. It may be true but Protestants do not believe it; and the Indian Mussulmans, rightly or wrongly, believe the Sultan to be Caliph in the same way. The Noble Lord contended that Constantinople was not the real home of the Turks, having only come to Europe some 500 years ago. It is possible, I believe, for a title to land to be acquired in England by possession for 12 years, and, if that is so, we should recognise an occupation for 500 years in Turkey. What is the present situation? We have had fourteen months without peace coming. The Peace Conference has been criticised for not making peace. Now at least one step is taken and we get a little nearer peace. Chaos is going to cease in Asia Minor and tranquillity return to Asia. We are going to get food from this country. Prices are going to fall. But what happens when at last we are approaching peace? There is a sudden hubbub and uproar. There is an extraordinary Press campaign. There are emotional advertisements, and the country is being deluged with sentimental post cards. All I can say is this, I am supporting the Government to-night, and if the Government were so weak as to be blown about by every wind of popular clamour, it would be high time for it to go, and give place to another Government which knew its own mind. There is only one observation I am going to make about this, and I make it humbly. I have noticed a curious thing. One can talk to right hon. Gentlemen and tell them about Italy or France, and they will listen to one, though they probably know as much or more than I do about those countries, but even if they have never been to the East, nothing that one can say about it makes an impression on them. They are deaf to all views but their own. They have their own ideas, and nothing else has any effect. Our policy of the last five years shows that, and now the Government has learned by experience. It has learned via mistakes. First, we had the landing at the Dardanelles. Then we had the landing at Smyrna, which every single expert was against, and now there is suggested there shall be a landing at Constantinople. It is simply as an act of good faith that the Government refuse the propositions which are now urged upon it. It appears to me to be one of the most curious positions for hon. Members who are now advocating this policy to have got into. I have never been very dazzled by the work of the Peace Conference. Neither am I an absolutely servile follower of the Government. But it is a very stiff proposition when the Peace Conference and our own Cabinet have agreed to a thing on the ground that their word is pledged, that it should be asked to upset its arrangements at the last moment. There has been criticism of the attitude of the Senate of the United States in refusing to ratify the Treaty, but can any one of these hon. Members advocating this policy feel himself in a position again to criticise the Senate of the United States?
After all, what really is the fact? It is said that the pledge was no pledge. That point has been fully discussed, but let me make two observations upon it. How can it not be a pledge when it was made by the Prime Minister speaking on behalf of and for the Empire to Trade Unionists. That is the first point. Secondly, there was a letter in the "Times" the other day—I did not happen to see it myself—in which the writer said that the pledge had been circulated by British officers to the people throughout India. Consequently, you had His Majesty's Viceroy, on the authorisation of the Government, repeating the pledge to the whole of India. How then is it possible to say that it is not a pledge. The only possible way out is to suggest—and it is not a very good way for Englishmen, and as an Englishman I do not like that way—that circumstances have altered, and that, therefore, the pledge we gave need not be kept. Would not that mean that we gave a pledge when we had not achieved victory, and now we have achieved it, we can go back on our word? If you are going thus to play with your good faith as between one part of the Empire and another part—as between this country and India—especially when you have given India its status on the League of Nations, your Empire is not going to last very long. In these demonstrations which we have had in favour of the new war, it seems to me that quite a number of things have been forgotten. Time and space appear to have been forgotten. Locomotion has been overlooked, promises have been forgotten. The necessity for conscription has been forgotten, and the fact that the Christian minorities will be imperilled has also been forgotten. But all these points have already been efficiently dealt with, and I only want to say this about them. During the last War we learned what war meant, and I suppose everyone will realise that if we are to have another big war it will be necessary to have conscription, in order to carry it through successfully. What Member of this House is prepared to go down to his constituency and to tell his constituents that ho wants to have conscription in order to alter the municipal system of Constantinople?
It is said that the people who are mainly protesting against this new proposal with regard to Constantinople, are Indians. But, as the Prime Minister said, a million and a half Indians came and fought for us in this war voluntarily and without conscription, and we are bound to remember that fact. I agree with the Prime Minister that somewhere at the back of this movement religion, or something which calls itself religion, is playing a part. I feel even in this House a sort of anæmic ghost—the ghost of the Crusaders—urging us on. The Crusaders fought for great ideals. They were for Christianity, but Christianity is one thing, Byzantine superstition is another. It is worth doing anything for Christianity but very little for Byzantine superstition. There is one Minister I should like to hear to-night. We are not going to hear him. It is the Minister for War. He is far and away in the best position to answer the arguments which have been put forward in the course of this Debate. My hon. and gallant Friend who spoke just now dealt very effectively with the military situation, and I would like just to add a few words on that point. First of all, you have to deal with greater Armenia. Much of it you cannot hope to protect now, and you will not be insuring the lives of the people by arousing the Kurds and by driving the Turks out of Constantinople. Outside Armenia there are Armenians in Asia Minor whom we will not be able to protect. The whole country is well armed and prepared to fight. At Sivas Mustafa Kernel has seventeen thousand irregular soldiers. At Konia Sabuddin Hey commands two thousand men, as against four hundred Italians, while at Afion Kara Hissar, 150 miles away, we have only two companies of Punjabis. Now, in all these places there are Armenian and other Christian minorities. Who, I would like to know, will go down and state these facts publicly to his constituents and ask them if they wish to endanger these great populations? I have only one last observation to make. A great deal is very often said about giving way to Moslem opinion. But, as far as I can see, there is here absolutely no question of giving way to Moslem opinion. It is simply a case of abiding by our given word to the Moslems, and if the Empire is to give up its word, which is its main asset, the war we have gone through will be as nothing compared with the difficulties which we shall have to face.
There are so many questions which arise out of this subject that it would trench too much on the conduct of this Debate, which can only last for a very few hours, if one attempted to go into them. But may I point out to my hon. Friend who last spoke that this is an earnest appeal to the Government, in dealing with the problem of Constantinople, to deal with it in a way which may lead to the most permanent peace, and that it is only caricatured by the phrases which have been used. It is not a mere newspaper agitation. It is not something which has sprung up suddenly. Who can deny that the overwhelming opinion of this country throughout the war was that if the conflict ended in the success of the Allies, it would also end the domination of the Turk in Constantinople and in Europe. Nor is it a question of the position of the Sultan as Caliph. Whether he be the genuine Caliph or a bogus Caliph, the fact remains that he is believed by most Mahomedans to be the Caliph. That, however, is not the real question. It is now common ground that there is no serious opposition to the suggestion of His Majesty's Government or of the Allies that the Sultan should continue to live at Constantinople as representative, in a sense, of the Moslems. Some may like that prospect and some may dislike it, but it is not within the realm of the present controversy. Those who are protecting the Turks will never be satisfied with what the Prime Minister has told us to-day is going to be done.
Then all I can say-is that the emotions of the hon. and gallant Gentlemen are very easily satisfied. The protests and appeals from Mahomedans, which have been courteously sent round to Members of the House, go to the extent of asking that the Turkish Empire shall not be dismembered at all, and above all things that the prestige of the Sultan should remain what it was. That is what is desired by those representatives of a section of Mahomedan opinion for whom the hon. and gallant Gentlemen are such dexterous mouthpieces.
The Noble Lords emotion carries him rather far. If they are not the mouthpieces, I condole with that section of Mahomedan opinion for not having such excellent mouthpieces. The object of that school of opinion, which is perfectly legitimate from their point of view, is to maintain the Sultan in full prestige. You cannot say he is being maintained in full prestige when his control is to be limited as the. Prime Minister has stated. The fact is that the area of difference of opinion is much more limited now than it was known to be a few weeks ago. I am most grateful to the Prime Minister for pointing out the most important restrictions which we understand are agreed to be put upon Turkey in Constantinople. If a man is to be deprived of the key of his front door and the key of his back door is in the hands of someone else, he can hardly be called the ruler of his habitation, and therefore what the controversy has got down to now is as to whether what the Prime Minister has told us is the extreme of control to which the Allies are prepared to go or whether they will not go even further, and if they are prepared to deprive the Sultan, as they are, of the power of enforcing his wishes by naval or military means, whether they will not recognise and make clear still further that his continuance in Constantinople is only as Caliph and not as the power of controlling the Empire which remains to him, not as the possible centre of anything like the evil which has come from Constantinople for centuries past. I, like other Members of the House, have had some little experience in agitation during the past 30 years, and I cannot remember any question on which, in the country if not there, so many persons having utterly different points of view in politics and other things are earnestly agreed in desiring that the real dominion of the Turk should come to an end in Europe. It is not the excitement of hysteria. It is not perverted romance. It does not rest in the least on these ingenious and imaginative statements we have heard from my hon. and gallant Friends about the shadow of the Crusades, and all the rest of it. It is the solemn, serious conviction of responsible English citizens that the effect of Turkey having real dominion in Europe is to perpetuate a moral pest in the international world, and that is a feeling which I know is most strongly felt. I am most grateful to the Prime Minister for having made clear how in many of the most important respects that sovereignty will be limited and that dominion will be broken, but if he and the Allies will go further, that, I am confident, will be welcomed by the great bulk of opinion in this country. If this is combined with leaving the Sultan there as Caliph, with which one can well understand the religious feelings of many thousands of our fellow-subjects may be concerned, there can never truthfully be any talk of broken pledges, and there will be combined their proper recognition of the religious feeling of these large bodies of our fellow-subjects with what is of equal, if not of even greater, importance, a recognition of the fact that the real dominance of the Turk in Europe is leaving open a place and an occasion for wars to come. Such wars are far less likely to come if the Government carries its policy even a step further than the Prime Minister has indicated.
I have some little right to speak because I have followed the Turk wherever he fought against us. I went from Gallipoli to Salonica and from Salonica to Palestine, and when fighting the Turk I always found him a most honourable foe. I do not quite realise why all this fuss has arisen. Turkey has had a very poor chance of governing itself. Since the days of Catherine II. of Russia until 1877, every 20 or 25 years she was attacked and was always during the whole time having her territories encroached upon and therefore she had very little chance of governing herself. What is all this fuss about? Who is causing it? The Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) in the first part of his speech seemed to me to be trying to prove that he was not making a volte face. No one ever has accused him or would accuse him of making a volte face. He has made a lot of very remarkable statements. He said the Greeks and the Armenians were all anxious to turn the Turk out of Constantinople. I could quite understand, and so can we all, why that is. They hope they will get his place. That is simple. The Noble Lord also said that when the Turk went to Constantinople he lost the virtues of the East and not only kept the vices but added to them the vices of the West. That is a very dangerous statement to make, and it is statements like those which make people say of us that we are a proud and insular race. Who else is it who wishes to bring this up to-day? Can it be the Independent Liberals? Surely they have just cause for jubilation in Paisley without wanting to bring up Constantinople now. The right hon Gentleman (Mr. Thomas) was present when the Prime Minister made his speech in this House, when he said we were not going into the War to take away Constantinople from the Turk, and when he talked of the lands of Thrace and Asia Minor. He is not the sort of man, if he did not believe in that, to sit down and not answer it at the time. I cannot believe it is for that reason. For what reason can it be that we have this Debate? It seems to me that it is altogether wrong. If you take away Constantinople from the Turk, to whom are you going to give it? Are you going to internationalise it? That has always been a failure. It was a failure in Egypt and it has been a failure everywhere it has been tried. Also the time is not propitious now to internationalise anything, because we are nearing the end of the pantomime season. I think the Debate has been answered, entirely and irrefutably, by the Prime Minister, and the rest of it is merely taking up the time of the House without any reason.
I am one of those who do not wish to see one single, individual Turk turned out of Constantinople. The limitation of the Turkish power in the Straits should be absolute and complete, and Turkey should not be able to claim to be an independent power in those Straits. The Allied control, military and naval, of the Hosphorus as well as the Dardanelles should be permanently maintained. The Turkish power in the world, which has been used, we all agree, to produce so much evil, lies in the fact that the Turk has used Constantinople and the Golden Horn as the key of the Straits, and if he has military forces in Constantinople, if he has the power to float mines down the Straits or anything of that kind, the key is not in our hands. In fact, it comes to this, that the Sultan can only be allowed to stay in Constantinople on the same terms that the Pope remains at the Vatican. You must vaticanise the Caliph. He may be there, but he must have no real effective dominion as regards the Straits. He must have no power to shut the gates, and no military power at all. If he once again has military power he can play his old game and can play off one nation and one interest against another. The Prime Minister did not deal with it very much, but he gave us some insight into proposals which I understand the Allies contemplate for some effective economic control in regard to the whole of the Sultan's dominions. In the past Turkey has been the great place to which all the concession hunters of the world have gone, where every kind of fraudulent financial transaction has been carried out, and if that is going on in future, Constantinople will attract financial scoundrels from all over the world. We want to put a stop to that, and I hope no concession may be granted by the Turkish Government for development, for railways and that sort of thing, without the control of the League of Nations. We must have some real effective power of seeing that any concession granted by Turkey is a bona fide concession and under proper control and proper auspices and not, as in the past, simply so much machinery for international and financial intrigue. I hope a firm stand will be taken upon that point. When those of us who are anxious to sec the Turkish wing absolutely clipped, as I think they are going to be clipped by the Allied Governments, are accused of getting up an agitation, I ask who started the agitation? There has been a sort pan-Islamic agitation going on for months. In the "Moslem Outlook," and papers of that sort printed in this country, we find representations from novelists like Mr. Marmaduke Pickthall and people of that kind, asking that Turkey should be let off. Væ Victis to Austria and Bulgaria, but not to Turkey.
Let there be no mistake about it, that Turkey deserves everything that Austria has got and Bulgaria has got, and a good deal more. We cannot forget the treatment of British prisoners at Kut. We cannot forget the crimes, not merely against Armenians, Arabs and Jews, but all the subject races of Turkey during and before the war. We cannot forget such things, and if Turkey is going to be let off lightly while Austria is punished then a great injustice will have been done. I do urge that the Allies will show the stiffest possible upper lip. Leave the Turks in Constantinople, but see that they have no power there. If the Turkish Government is under the guns of the Allies, I hope they will remain under the guns of the Allies for many years to come, that the temporal power of Turkey will be broken this time and broken for ever, and that the subject races of Turkey which have groaned too long under her misrule will have a chance of national development. All the great things that Islam has done have been due to the Arabs. Art, science, algebra, mathematics—progress in all these directions have been due to the Arabs. Give them a chance and they will achieve again great things or civilisation. Turkey has been a blight on the Arab lands, a blight in Armenia and elsewhere. Never again will those hordes which come out of Central Asia be able to hold up their heads and defy the world owing to their possession of a geographical and strategic position of unique importance to the world.
The speech of my hon. Friend who has just spoken and the speech of the hon. Member for Middleton (Sir E. Adkins), both of whom are supporting the Noble Lord, did not give us very convincing reasons why we should not support the Government, because there seems to be a kind of feeling of satisfaction running through both their speeches. Therefore, I hope that the controversy will not go on long. I have very great pleasure in supporting the Government on its policy, but I should like to say that I do not think the present agitation would ever have occurred if it had been possible that a more consistent line of action could have been adopted in regard to Turkey from the commencement of peace negotiations. There has been indecision, and that has caused people to wonder, and has given an opportunity to the advertisers to rush into the Press on the point. We have heard from the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) of the difficulties of German intrigue in the past, and we also heard something on this subject from the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor). If the League of Nations is going to control Constantinople completely, as has been suggested this evening, you would not get rid of these intrigues. The opportunity for intrigue would remain, and Germany would be able to set to work, as I understand it is the intention to permit Germany at an early date to enter the League. The Noble Lord has taken up the question strongly, and I know he is actuated by the highest motives, but I believe he is a bit of a crusader himself on this matter, although he might not declare it. I would ask him to remember what the Turkish Empire has suffered. The, punishment has been severe. All her outer provinces have been taken from her; she has suffered terribly, and her riches have gone. The Noble Lord is rather like a vulture hovering over the stricken body of the Turkish Empire, waiting to pluck out her eyes directly she has passed away.
The question of Turkey is not very dissimilar from that of other countries whose cause the Noble Lord championed so splendidly at the time of the Peace Conference. We heard then how the populations were to be allowed to recover, even the enemy. We want to see the principle of self-determination carried out. In Constantinople and the immediate surrounding country the largest block of inhabitants is undoubtedly Turkish. The Prime Minister has pointed out that we can absolutely dominate Constantinople and absolutely maintain order there and see that any Turkish Government acts on right lines. Therefore the danger of the treacherous porter at the gateway is no longer existent. That is one reason why we should not worry. The Noble Lord and his supporters have spoken rather lightly of Mahomedan opinion on this matter. That is a mistake. It is a mistake to speak about a section of Mahomedan opinion. Do they know of any section of Mahomedan opinion that has advocated a different policy from the one that has been adopted by the Allied Conference? It is not fair to talk about a section. I believe that every patriotic Mahomedan in the British Empire at the present moment would desire that we should not risk the dangers of conflagration which would be brought about by a different policy from the one which has been adopted. The Noble Lord is very much concerned about the Greeks, the Armenians and the Chaldeans. He had every right to be concerned; but the instrument that the Prime Minister proposes will make it possible to see that that terrorism shall not go on in future.
I am more concerned in regard to the British Empire and the safety of the Empire. I remember very well in the early days of the War, when an Indian Corps was rushed over to France and there was a great disaster to the Indian troops which was not generally known in this country. I did a forced march in order to go to the relief of the Indian troops and, in looking round that day, over the vast territory which many hon. Members know well, round Givenchy and Festubert, I saw a sight which I hope is the worst I shall ever see in my life. There, as far as the eye could see, I saw lines of dead men in extraordinary numbers. Those men were all dressed in khaki, men of the Indian Corps, who had come all those thousands of miles in order to fight for our common cause and defeat the German aggressors. Not one of them believed that they were taking part in a cause which might possibly strike a blow at their very religion in Constantinople. There was a thought at that time of Russia having Constantinople, but it was not generally understood in the Indian Corps. They were not thinking of the Turkish question at all. They came to fight for the British Empire. But an entirely different situation came about when you used these Indian troops to the number of a million in order to fight against Turkey. The Noble Lord would not suggest that these glorious soldiers who went to fight in Mesopotamia and Palestine had the smallest idea that what was going on in regard to Turkey would mean that their religion would be affronted. There is a very real danger in the Mahomedan world in regard to this question. If you can see that Turkey does no harm, if you can disarm her, and keep a watch upon her under the batteries of the League of Nations, I am sure that the Noble Lord and the right hon. Member for Derby would be ready to serve the Government if Turkey goes in the wrong direction. If you treat her in the way that has been suggested this afternoon it may have a disastrous effect throughout the whole length and breadth of the British Empire.
Unrest has never been worse in the Empire than it is to-day. It prevails in so many quarters. In India, Egypt, Afghanistan, and nearly every part of the British Empire we have this temporary unrest. Will the Prime Minister deny—if not, I hope he will assent—that the forces of the Bolsheviks have been doing everything in their power to stimulate unrest in the outer marches of the Empire by conveying the idea that the British Empire is out to destroy the power of the Kalifate? I hope the Noble Lord who has had a demonstration in force this afternoon will not press this matter to a division. The Government have given safeguards to a very large extent to meet the Noble Lord. I am very glad to see that the Noble Lord indicates that there will be no division. I hope there will be a unanimous voice on this question, and that we shall regard the thing as settled. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Then I hope the Noble Lord will reconsider the question in the light of what I have said, and that he will not continue to lend his influence and his authority to an agitation which can only have one effect and that is to weaken the unity of the British Empire at a time when it is imperative that we should do our utmost to make the native races feel that the word of the British Empire will stand; that we will not be influenced by any international considerations or any other considerations away from that pledge which, whatever construction may be put upon it in this House, was understood throughout the whole of the Indian Empire to mean that we were not going to finally crush Turkey, having won a great victory over and made her impotent, or to deliver a vital blow at the religion of the Mahomedan world.
I should like to make a personal explanation with respect to an incident which occurred earlier. Myself and hon. Members who sit beside me, who have fought as combatants in Gallipoli, feel strongly over this question and over the accusation in the Press that we are pro-Turks. I can assure the Prime Minister, whom we are supporting this evening, that those of us who were combatant soldiers in Gallipoli resent very strongly the accusation of being pro-Turks, because we are supporting the Government. That accusation is one of the least desirable factors of the Press campaign which is going on. I said something during the speech of the right hon. Member for Derby to which he raised objection. He referred to my interruption in his speech. I want to make it quite clear that I made no kind of allusion as to the competence of the knowledge of the Labour party on the subject of Turkey. What I did say was, Did the Labour party realise that in adopting the proposals which have been put forward by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the adjournment we should be running a risk of involving this country in another war? Do they realise that the old saying that diplomacy is useless without force to back it up is truer to-day than over it was? The dangerous position of the few Allied troops in Asia Minor would be rendered very much worse by the proposal which is being supported by the majority of the Labour party and the right hon. Member for Derby, and I asked whether they were prepared to shoulder the responsibility which would certainly be theirs if they were to get into office to-morrow, after having supported the policy that has been suggested this afternoon. But what has struck me as most remarkable this afternoon is that there has been no answer to the point put by the Prime Minister that not the life of a single Armenian will be saved by driving the Turks out of Constantinople. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin put forward no argument to show that the life of a single Armenian, or, what is just as important, the lives of any of the other Christian peoples of the Ottoman Empire, of whose existence some hon. Gentlemen appear to be ignorant—as my hon. and gallant Friend has pointed out, there is an enormous number of Christians in the Ottoman Empire besides the Armenians—will be saved by excluding the Turks from Constantinople.
I have met many Christians of the Ottoman Empire, and I have never met any who have made any point of the Turks being excluded from
Constantinople. I know a distinguished Christian who told me that when any settlement was proposed to the Turks great care must be taken not further to exasperate Moslem fanaticism. I have heard no argument put forward to show that the lives of those Christians would be any safer if the Turks were excluded from Constantinople. As one who knows something of the Moslem world, I was glad to hear the Prime Minister make the reference which he did to the religious aspect of this question. I am sure his speech will have a most reassuring effect in India, because there is no doubt that an appeal has been made to religious sympathies in this country. I challenge any hon. Gentleman to say who is responsible for this long advertisement in the "Times" and other newspapers, which was inserted at great expense. Everybody knows that a full page of the kind costs something like £250 per issue. If there be no appeal to religious sentiment in this country, why is the phrase used in it, "To Christians we say?" Is that not an appeal to religious sentiment? And how can we who are rulers of a great Mohamedan Empire say that we never make appeals on religion?, grounds in this country?
Christians are for your faith. Trade unionists, protest against diplomacy behind the closed door and the burden of militarism. Comrades of the Great War and all ex-service men, did your comrades suffer and die in grim Gallipoli in order to keep the Turk in Constantinople?
Who is responsible for this production?
It is clear that whoever was responsible introduced the religious question very largely into his appeal, and references of that kind must have most deplorable results in India. Surely the only way to look at this question is, not from he point of view of the Moslem or Christian religion, but from the point of view of right and justice. There is no more justice in turning the Turks bag and baggage out of Constantinople than there is in turning the Germans out of Berlin There may be grounds of expediency for doing so. Has my Noble Friend never heard of the atrocities at Louvain? Let one who has fought against both Turks and Germans say that the atrocities of the Turks are as nothing compared with the atrocities committed by the Germans. Ask any soldier who has fought in France and anyone who has seen what took place in Louvain. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am not speaking of the massacres of the Armenians, but of the War.
Then the Noble Lord should visit his displeasure on the Germans. I understand that he did not support the policy of hanging the Kaiser. If you are going to punish the real criminals, punish the Germans who were accessories to these crimes, and certainly in some cases in Asia you were largely responsible for them. But the attempt made in this Debate to pretend that the Sultan in Constantinople is not regarded as the Caliph by the great mass of Mahomedans cannot be justified. Reference has been made to the Arabs. I am as much entitled as anybody in this House to speak on the subject of the Arabs. It is quite true that a great number of Mahomedans do not accept the Sultan of Turkey as the Caliph. The fact remains that the vast majority do. Certainly the vast majority of Moslems in the British Empire accept him as the Caliph. A. great many Moslems outside the British Empire do not accept him. Not only were the most definite pledges made on this subject to our Indian fellow subjects, but I can conceive of nothing which would be more unfair, not merely to the Moslem soldiers who have been killed, but to the great number of Moslem soldiers still living who joined the Army in 1917 and 1918, not to fight for Christianity or Islam, but to fight for truth and justice against tyranny. It is grossly unfair to these men to-day to insist on the policy of turning the Sultan out of Constantinople and depriving him of his power there, because it is a question on which these Mahomedans feel just as strongly as Catholics feel on the subject of the Vatican and Home. I am not by any means convinced that the Turks are not the most numerous element in Constantinople to-day. There was a controversy between the Prime Minister and the Noble Lord, I think, on that point. Since the Noble Lord's speech was made I have had put into my hand a paper saying that Lord Bryce in his book on "Transcaucasia" admitted that the Turks were the most numerous race in Constantinople.
I have not the actual words here, but I believe it is a fact. The non-Turkish population of Constantinople, those who go under the generic name of the Levantines, are quite as undesirable as any Turk could be. They run the brothels, they manage the drink traffic, they control the dope traffic and the drug traffic, especially at Constantinople, and they are generally Greeks. Undesirable as are the Turks of Constantinople, the non-Turkish elements are almost equally undesirable. I think the League of Nations will have to be a very much stronger organisation than it is if it is to succeed in making the inhabitants of Constantinople anything but the most degraded riff-raff, which they are to-day and always have been. The League will have to be very strong indeed to change the spots of the Constantinople leopard, for the city has always been inhabited by the riff-raff of the East. Could not the city be con-trolled as well with a Turkish government there under the guidance of the British fleet, as by turning the Turks out and putting an international government in its place? The weakest argument of those who oppose the Government's policy is that Constantinople has always been the centre of intrigue. Does anyone suggest that under international control there would be less intrigue in Constantinople? When one hears remarks such as have been heard in the Debate to-day, one not only wonders whether hon. Members have ever been to the East, but whether they have ever read of the East. Does my Noble Friend know of the scandals of the Alexandria municipality and of the capitulations? The one thing that the international financier asks for is an international governor. He knows that he can get more of what the Americans call "dough" out of such a person than he can out of the most corrupt individual.
My Noble Friend asked whether it was intended to dismantle all the fortifications. Why should they? I do not know who is going to prevent Mustapha Pasha from attacking Constantinople unless there are fortifications there to be used against him. Practically everyone who has been in the East recently would regard the alteration of the Government's policy as disastrous. We regard the fulfilment of that policy as a pledge given and accepted in India at a critical time of the War. Did we change the policy we should be breaking faith with our Moslem fellow-countrymen and the position of Christians in the Turkish Empire would not be relieved in the least. We deprecate as strongly as we can any introduction into the controversy of anything except what is right and what is wrong. Accepting that as the testing point, we say that in the interests of right and justice the Turks should be left in the possession of their capital.
The Prime Minister has made a very eloquent defence of the policy regarding the future of Constantinople. Quite frankly he informed the House that the Allies had decided that the Turk was to be allowed to continue in possession of Constantinople, and in justification of this agreement he quoted from a statement made in the early days of 1918, I think by the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil), in which it was promised that the Turk would not be deprived of his capital, nor of the rich land of Thrace. I understand that subsequent to the speech of the Prime Minister the Noble Lord successfully disposed of that point. There are two aspects of that particular part of the Prime Minister's speech upon which I want to say a few words. I have been informed within the last few days that the "rich arid renowned lands of Thrace" have been promised to someone else. I regret the Prime Minister has left his place, because that is one of the points I wanted to put to him. If the information that I have received is correct, some of the arguments he was using in justification of the agreement come to by the Allies fall to the ground. The Prime Minister said also that the Labour party had not protested against the terms held out to the Turks. That may be true. But I would like again to point out to the Prime Minister that there is one thing against which the Labour party have always protested, and that is against treaties being entered into without being submitted to Parliament, and behind the backs of the people. I understand that that is one of the principal charges against the Government made by those responsible for this Debate.
The bloodshed that has taken place in the world is the result of secret treaties made behind the backs of the peoples. We believe if the terms of treaties were submitted to the people before being ratified, they would be of an entirely different character from many of the treaties of the past If the policy of submitting treaties to the peoples concerned before being ratified was followed, I am convinced it would go a long way in the direction of ensuring the future peace of the world. No Government need be afraid of putting the terms of a treaty before the people prior to its ratification unless there is some ulterior motive behind it. How often in the course of the last 30 years has Europe been on the verge of war as a result of secret treaties entered into for the purpose of individual and national aggrandisement? The history of Europe provides many striking instances of that. These treaties have always been the breeding ground of jealousies, animosities, and wars. I want to warn the Government, and the Prime Minister in particular, that we are rapidly approaching a time when the peoples of the world will no longer tolerate treaties of that kind being entered into behind the backs of the peoples, who are then expected to lay down their lives to fulfil the obligations contained therein, and obligations which, if they had known of their existence, they would have repudiated before they were the cause of doing the damage which such treaties have caused in many instances. The Labour party are of opinion that the question under discussion should be settled by the Turkish power over Constantinople and the Straits and the hinterland being ended. We believe that the city of Constantinople and the Straits and hinterland ought to be handed over to the League of Nations. Constantinople for centuries has been a bone of contention. The Turk would have been expelled from that territory many years ago if the Powers could have agreed among themselves as to who was to enter into possession. We desire that that disputed territory should be lifted beyond the influence of any of the claimants and put under the League of Nations.
The idea of a League of Nations is one that has taken hold of the imagination of the peoples of the world and, as a matter of fact, the whole world is anxiously awaiting the development of that idea. Here in the gateway between the eastern and the western world you have an ideal spot for its headquarters. Constantinople should be guarded and made a fitting home for the League of Nations. Too long has this city been a cesspool of intrigue and the centre through which the unspeakable horror of the Turk has been organised, and to simply internationalise the Straits, which has been pointed out by the Prime Minister as the policy of the Government, and to leave the city and hinterlands in the hands of the Turks, would only continue to give them the opportunity of upsetting the future peace of the world. The Prime Minister has made in the course of his defence much of the religious aspect of the case. He has pointed out that if we were to expel the Turk entirely from Constantinople it would cause much unrest and dissatisfaction among the Mahomedan subjects of the Empire. I readily grant that in the development of the British Empire it has always been a fundamental principle to respect the religious faith of the nations which have been incorporated therein. While Constantinople may not hold as high a place in the esteem of our Mahomedan subjects as Mecca, at the same time, I do not think there is any doubt that there is some dissatisfaction with the idea of the, Turk being entirely removed. I think that that dissatisfaction might be allayed and that difficulty overcome by the the Caliph being allowed to remain at Constantinople in the same way us you have the Vatican in Home, but with the temporal power taken entirely out of the hands of the Caliph. That possibly might be a way out of the difficulty. I hope that before a final decision is made by the Allies, and before; our Government give their final assent to this Treaty with Turkey, that all aspects of this question will receive very careful consideration, and, among other things, that the feelings of the overwhelming majority of the people of this country would have some consideration at the hands of His Majesty's Government.
I have rarely troubled the House, but I think I have some claim to do so on this occasion, inasmuch as I have fulfilled the somewhat unique position of having served with Turkish troops, and having command of them, and more recently having held an official appointment for five years at Constantinople. I claim to know more about the subject than the 50 or 60 amateur diplomatists who have, been so good as to inundate me with newspaper cuttings indicating to me what line of action I should pursue. I believe if there is anything calculated to defeat its object, and it is certainly so in my case, it is the tyranny of this sort of propaganda by daily receipt of numerous and similar cuttings prescribing to me what my action is to be. I certainly am not one of those to be influenced by that sort of thing into doing what I consider to be contrary to the best interests of this country and of the Empire. Those interests are, after all, our first consideration. I most certainly shall go into the Lobby and support the Government and vote for preserving Constantinople to the Ottomans, subject to the very far-reaching reservations indicated by the Prime Minister. I believe that we can rejoice and congratulate ourselves on having at the head of affairs now, a statesman who is determined not to be influenced by suspect propaganda, or by the risk of losing popularity amongst a crowd of weak-kneed sentimentalists.
We have heard a great deal this evening about the population of Constantinople. When I was there not so long ago, it was thoroughly understood that the population of Stamboul was at least two-thirds Turkish, but, of course, if you are going to include the population of the European quarters of Galata and Pera, then the proportion would differ considerably; The Armenian question, I submit, can be settled by creating an Armenia proper and sending back the Armenians out of Constantinople to their own country. I am convinced in my own mind that this proposal to take away Constantinople from the Turks would have the most disastrous effect upon India. I am absolutely opposed to making the capital of the Ottoman Empire at Brusa or Konia. I know both these places, and I cannot conceive any place more unsuitable than the latter. Incidentally, may I be allowed to remark that we have heard Konia described as beyond the Taurus, but I think everybody knows that it is this side of the Taurus. Possibly the detail of its geographical position is too small for a master mind, but the Primo Minister, I think, is not alone in his geographical errors, for to-night the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) seemed to imagine that Konia was a village somewhere in the south-west of France, for when Konia was mentioned I heard him say, in tones of mild correction or reproof, "Cognac." I know the Turk well, and I admire him for his many fine qualities, but am fully alive also to his bad ones. I believe we made a great mistake in not receiving with greater sympathy the very pathetic plea for his country at the Paris Conference made by the late Grand Vizier Damad Ferid Pasha, a great personal friend of mine and a man whom I conceive to be the most honourable and high-minded statesman Turkey possesses at the present time. If we had supported him, we might have kept him in power.
I agree that Constantinople can be dominated from various points, but we must not forget this, that if trouble happens in Constantinople the Turks always have said, "We came in with fire and sword, and we will go out with fire and sword." I submit that Constantinople, Armenia, and Anatolia should be dealt with as three separate units, also that to turn the Turks out bag and baggage will not save the life of a single Armenian, but will have exactly the opposite effect, I submit that with the scat of Government at Constantinople control can be effectual. We must not forget that to weaken the temporal power of the Sultan would affect his position as the Caliph and would probably have disastrous religious effects. The Turks preponderate in Stamboul, and the bulk of the land belongs to Turkish land owners. The ancient history of the attachment of non-Moslems to the Sultan is not relevant. We are concerned with its existence or non-existence actually. I think it would be unsatisfactory to a degree to hand over Constantinople or to apportion Thrace to the Greeks, and in regard to Western Asia Minor, I conceive that that should remain in the possession of the Turks, not only because they have a majority of the population, but because it would be very unsatisfactory and extremely unwise to place the Italians and Greeks in juxtaposition one to the other
I intervene with great diffidence because I find myself inexplicably opposed to all my friends, and apparently in league with all my enemies. It is very rarely in this House that I differ from the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord E. Cecil) and support the Prime Minister, and it is oven more extraordinary to find myself in league with the National party, but I think the worst part of the situation is that I find myself differing even from my own party. Of course, this Debate has shown that every party is torn on this great question of the bag and baggage, and it would ill-become the youngest party in the House not to be in the fashion, and I am not quite certain that the Labour party outside the House is so unanimous on this question as the party inside the House, for I notice that the Executive issued a declaration the day before yesterday on this Constantinople question, with which I found myself heartily in agreement. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Brigadier-General Croft) based his support of the Government policy, how-over, upon grounds entirely different from those which lead me in the same direction. He urged that the policy outlined by the Prime Minister, and apparently adopted by the Supreme Council, should be taken in the interests of the safety of the British Empire, an argument which would not move me on any occasion. The safety of the British Empire looks after itself. I support this policy on the ground of the honour of the British Empire, which is quite a sufficient argument for taking any line of policy in foreign affairs. The declaration of the Prime Minister in January, 1918, sealed the question so far as I am concerned. He there promised that the Turks should not be turned out of Constantinople. He promised it, not to the Turks and Austrians alone, not, as the Noble, Lord the Member for Hitchin suggests, as a matter which would depend upon the subsequent action of Turkey or Austria, but it was a pledge to our Moslem fellow-subjects in this Empire. It is true that I do not suppose that the passing of that pledge and the making of that speech affected one whit either the bravery of those men in the field eleven the numbers who enlisted in India to join the Service; but even if it affected one solitary individual, it is of the utmost importance that what we have said we should stick to, and though it may have had little effect in the past, it would have a terrific effect upon our reputation in the future if it began to be realised all over the Eastern parts of our Empire that a speech which has been interpreted as a solemn pledge should have been cast aside and overthrown at the instance of an agitation in this country.
Moreover, I think many of us, perhaps particularly those of us who fought in Gallipoli, resent most bitterly the agitation got up by the Church of England in the last few days charging all of us in this House to support the bag and baggage policy for the sake of those who were killed and wounded in Gallipoli. All of us who fought in Gallipoli were without any particular quarrel with the Turks. We were fighting with the Turks against our wishes, because behind the Turk stood the German. It was Germany we were lighting, and the Turks were unfortunate enough to be in the way. Moreover, we who fought there know perfectly well that the conduct of the Turks towards the wounded and towards the prisoners, even in Gallipoli, was infinitely better than the treatment meted out to the wounded by the Germans in the French fields of war. But this agitation which has been sprung upon us at the last moment, an agitation directed towards breaking the British word, has behind it also the peculiar religious animosity of the Middle Ages, which it should be our duty in the twentieth century to stamp out. I must say I am in a happier position than the hon. and gallant Gentleman who preceded me (Brigadier-General Surtees. He appears to have been bombarded with requests from his constituency to Vote against the Government and to clear the Turks out of Constantinople. My constituents know me much better. I have only had two requests to clear the Turks out, but what has had effect upon my mind has been a vast number of telegrams and letters from India asking me to see that the English word is not broken.
Now as to this feeling among the Moslems, I want to say this to the Moslems who are attempting a similar agitation to that carried out by the Church of England here. Most of these letters and telegrams I have received are based upon threats as to what will happen to the British Empire if they do not get their way, and I would warn them now that the worst possible way to secure their ends is by threatening what they will do to the British Empire. Really, what can they do? I would warn them than it is far better to suade an Englishman than to try and coerce him. I have seen a great deal of Indians over here during the last year dealing with a question which was vital to their interests from the most extreme, like Satyamurti, to the most moderate, like Sastri. Those Indians never used threats. They persuaded us. They showed us that their case was good, and it would be infinitely better from the Moslem point of view, both now and in future, if they, too, would appeal to instincts which are common to us both, instead of imagining that threats will ever get their way. An agitation carried on with reason is one thing; an agitation carried on with threats is a very different thing, and we in this House, and Englishmen generally, are much more likely to look after the interests of our Moslem fellow subjects in the Empire if we believe they share our view as to what is right, and not that we are nervous as to what their attitude may be in future. The agitation on both sides is an objectionable, a fanatical, religious squabble. To me it is a matter of utter indifference whether St. Sophia is a Moslem or a Chrisian church. What I see before me in this decision is simply this. The British Prime Minister laid down in a solemn declaration that the Turks should not be swept out of Constantinople. That ought to be enough not only for the Moslems but for every hon. Member in this House.
There is one further point I want to make, and that is connected with the cognate subject of Palestine, Armenia, Silesia. I have no shadow of doubt that the interests of the Armenians, both in Armenia and Silesia, are better looked after by having Constantinople under the guns of the British fleet than by having the sublime Porte in Konia. But apart from that, I know, too, that the Armenians in Silesia have as much right to be specially protected as the Armenians in Greater Armenia. Indeed, there are probably as many Armenians in Silesia as there are in Greater Armenia now under Turkish rule, and it would be shirking our responsibilities to that people if we conceived that by setting up an independent Armenia in the North and leaving Silesia under Turkish rule, we were thereby carrying out our duties to that people. Palestine, I understand, is to be under the mandate of the British Empire. As to Palestine, too, the British Government have passed their word of honour. They have said Palestine shall be a home for the Jews, not only the Jews who are there now, who are indeed a small minority, but the Jews who may go there, perhaps to the number of two or three millions in the years to come. I do urge that the government of that country under the mandate should not be absolute and should not be indefinite. I would respectfully urge that a period be set for the mandate beyond which the people of that country may look forward to independence if they choose to select it. Palestine now is surrounded both on the North and on the South by peoples who are agitating violently against Western rule. The Arabs of Damascus are up in arms against the French. The Moslems of Egypt are vigorously agitating to the best of their ability against the British.
You have the same feeling spreading in Palestine. You are bound to have it increasing in the years to come. It would be a tragedy if, after making Palestine safe for the Jews, and taking over the mandate for the country, we found Palestine also developing into a country where anti-English agitation was being carried on—agitation against the mandate. The Jews are our friends to-day. The Arabs living in that country are our friends to-day. We are bound to have the mandate at present in order to keep those two parallel races working harmoniously as far as possible together. But if you are going to get into that country a fresh nationalist agitation, combining together Arabs and Jews in hostility to the British Empire, then we shall get a source of weakness in that country instead of what we all hope for here, a source of strength to the British Empire. That can all be put right if the mandate is a temporary mandate, and if at the end of 25 years—if it be 25 years—the people are then told they may vote whether they will be independent or continue under the British mandate. I have no manner of doubt whatever, and I do not believe any sensible person doubts, that if they have that opportunity they would remain attached to this country. But if they feel they have no opportunity, if everything that goes on in that country is stored up against us, then we may be creating in the future, enemies, where we ought to be creating friends. Of course, the same principle applies to the other countries that are getting other mandates in those parts. We are not among them. That is a matter for France or Italy, or Greece to set about, but we ourselves ought to set an example and be in the van. These mandates over territories which are becoming civilised, are very ticklish subjects. I am quite certain the best way of perpetuating the connection with this country is by making it a free connection which the other side can break at any time. That, indeed, would have saved as a great many troubles in the past. Now as to the future. In respect to the special interest of the Turkish Empire, about which we will have taken up such a very strong line, it becomes us especially to see that the best British traditions are carried out, and that we do not continue to govern people because we do it so well; but that we are merely taking over the government till the people can govern themselves.
I have to protest, on behalf of those who signed the memorial with the right hon. Member who sits for Hitchin, against the plea made again and again in this House, that it was signed either in the cause of revenge or from fanaticism. We did not sign it from revenge. Punishments have at different times two aspects. Some people think of them as revenge, and some as preventive measures for the future. This is a case of prevention. Revenge has nothing to do with it. We have had to deal with a State which has been absolutely impossible from top to bottom; a State where the ministries were passed from hand to hand not merely by corruption, intrigue, and the work of secret societies, but by absolute personal murder as was shown when Enver Pasha murdered his predecessor. A State of that kind rooted down so deeply is an extremely desperate danger for the future. The right hon. Gentleman who presides over our destinies has shown us many points in which he is going to ask for guarantees and put pressure on the Turkish State. I doubt if they are enough, for these special reasons. You cannot control the Straits with your fleet. You speak of the Dardanelles being mined. What about the Bosphorus? You cannot prevent the Bosphorus being blocked by any insurrectionary force that may come up, and by any Minister who chooses to make war without permission of his Ministry or the Sultan, as did Enver Pasha when he, on the same day, attacked Sinai on the British side and Odessa on the Russian side, without the knowledge of his Sultan or the greater number of the members of his Cabinet. To leave that position in the hands of any "reformed" Turkish State seems to me to be a desperate danger for the future
You cannot have Constantinople dominated only from the water. To place an Allied force there is the only way in which, and condition under which, the Turkish Government should be left there. That Government does not, we know from its ancient traditions, intend internal reform, no whit more than in past years, whatever the control. The terror of a fleet bombardment from the sea is not enough to stop trouble. A desperate Turkish Government will risk bombardment and close the Straits. You cannot keep the Bosphorus open by a fleet. It is very narrow, and steep; there is a stiff current, and it can be mined, and mined, and mined. I do not see how in a potential war you can keep Constantinople safe unless you have either no Turkish Government, or a Turkish Government under the very strictest control, with an Allied garrison. None of these things have been spoken of. Nobody wants large Allied garrisons. I believe the safest thing is to have occupation, and no Turkish power at all. But I am not sure it might not be conceivably possible to leave a decorative Turkish Sultan there in the same way as the Pope remains in Rome, without any military power except a small guard. He might go to the Selamlie, and perform his ceremonies there. The Turkish population might be allowed to remain at Stamboul.
What we want is a thorough end to the old intriguing, unscrupulous series of Ministers who for centuries have worked ill for all Europe. It is useless to speak, as some hon. Members have done, of the Turk as an innocent victim, from the time of Catherine II. onwards. He is not an innocent victim. The Turks in old times sacked every seaport from the west end of the Mediterranean, where their Barbary corsairs were raiding from Tunis and Algiers, while their armies were at the gates of Vienna and Middle Russia; and to say that they are poor harmless people who have been the victims of Russian-Austrian aggression, and in modern times of Serbian and Bulgarian intrigue is wrong. That story can be told to others. Who were in Constantinople in 1452? The Turk was not there. I know we, cannot give back Constantinople to the Greek. He is in a minority there. That is hopeless. Nobody would urge that. But if you must leave the Turks there at all, if you must leave the Caliphate to the Sultan, he must be under strict military control. Strict pledges on that from those in authority would perhaps satisfy some of us. But we must have protection against danger in the future. In the second place we are not actuated by religious fanaticism. Indeed, all the evidence of religious fanaticism that I have seen comes from the opposite side. I have been pestered during the last few weeks with letters from India, and particularly from a paper called the "Moslem Outlook" to the effect that no precautions must be taken to prevent the Sultan exercising less power because he is the Caliph Everyone knows that the way in which Sultan Selim I. said he got the Caliphate was absurd. He found a descendant of the old Caliphs, a decayed and an unfortunate adventurer, living in Egypt under the protection of the Mameluke Sultan. He compelled the unfortunate last descendant of the Caliphs to concede him his claims on the Caliphate. That was an absurdity. No one outside the limits of the Turkish Empire for centuries acknowledged the Sultan as the Caliph. I went into the subject with the most learned Orientalist that I know, and we found that in India the Sultan's claim could not be traced before I860. In the last two or three years since the War this Turkish claim has been worked up very much by certain Mahomedan gentlemen in India, some of whose names I respect and some of whom I look upon with the greatest doubt. They tell us, for example, that the Aga Khan represents the Mahomedan people of India, but since he represents a very small dissident sect only, it would be just as reasonable to claim Dr. Clifford as the representative of the English Church. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or the Church of Rome."] All the religious acrimony I have seen on this subject has come from these people who are writing from India. We have not been actuated, as has been alleged, either by revenge on the one side or fanaticism on the other. As to "pledges" that is quite a different matter. We hear of pledges being given without the knowledge of Parliament, and as to how far those pledges bind the individual, I will leave to the individual himself.
I do not support the bag and baggage policy of the Noble Lord, but I entirely agree with everything that was said by the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore). It is all very well' to resort to special pleading on behalf of the Turk. Of late years the Sultan has been nothing but a figure head, and he has been set aside by Ministers, who have taken the reins in their own hands and organised a totally different aspect of Turkish rule with the Young Turks, and they have entirely relegated the nominal head of the State to obscurity. I think the time has come when the Government of Turkey should be told that they have been too often found guilty and have not been sentenced. She has broken her pledges time after time, and now the opportunity has arisen, which I had hoped would have been used to say that, as regards temporal power in Constantinople, Turkish rule should be a thing of the past, and that is the logical way to solve this difficulty. To-night we have been given a résumé of history which is most valuable to us to show that, after all, the Sultan should not be treated with every respect possible and allowed to remain as a sort of Pope of Rome. The Turks do not need to be removed, but the administration there should be put into the hands of an Allied Commission until the League of Nations can assume control. I thought it was ungenerous of the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) to say that this agitation had been the work of the Church, because it is a spontaneous agitation, and the Nonconformist Churches have been supporting this view. We recognise our liability, so far as government is concerned, to a large Moslem population, and we must do what we think is necessary in the interests of those who belong to that faith.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness) at the end of his speech suddenly waxed very warm and talked about those who take opposite views to his as being "animated by hate, intolerance, and blind revenge." I am sure that after careful thought he will not it and by that statement, but it is regrettable that that kind of thing should be introduced in our Debates. I am sorry that he is not in his place now, but I am sure he would feel offended if I retorted by saying that it would be just as reasonable to say that he was a friend of assassins, and that statement would be no more absurd than the phrase which he used at the end of his speech. Those who have been working for the protection of the subject races of Turkey for a great many years have been animated by a totally different spirit. I profess to know because I have been the Chairman of the British Armenia Committee ever since its formation, ten or twelve years ago, and, so far from being "animated by hate, intolerance, and blind revenge," we worked in such a way that practically the public did not know of our existence up to the time the War broke out. We got close into touch with the Armenians and the Foreign Office, and other powers here, and we tried our hardest to get the Turk to introduce reforms for the benefit of the subject races.
The Armenians did not want to be separated from Turkey for the simple reason that they know if they were separated they would be taken over by Ruasia, and they did not want that. They said, however, that they are prepared to be taken over by Russia if that was the only alternative to being massacred, although they preferred, under proper government, to remain Turkish subjects. Under these circumstances I think it is a little absurd that we should now be told that we are animated by feelings of hate, intolerance and blind revenge. The Noble Lord opposite said that this is a question of religious intolerance, but I would remind him that the work in this country is being done by people of all sorts of religious opinions, latitudinarian, orthodox, and all sorts. The Armenians themselves are the least fanatical people in the world from a religious point of view, although they are most determined in sticking to their religion. Soon after the great massacres had taken place, the Lord Mayor of London formed a fund for the relief of the Armenian refugees, and an appeal came to send some part of those funds for the relief of the Mahomedan lazis, who had also suffered during the War; and the Armenians, although in such dire need themselves, consented to the sending of some of this small sum of money for the relief of these Mahomedan people. Then we are told that this is a question of religious fanaticism. It is ridiculous to anyone who knows the facts. We are not going, however, to excuse a criminal because he belongs to this or to that religion. A man is not going to say, "I belong to a different religion from you, and therefore, if you punish me, it is an act of religious intolerance, and I shall claim that it is done out of religious intolerance." To excuse the Turkish Government because it is a Mahomedan power would be quite as ridiculous as the old proceedings of the Middle Ages, when they used to let off men who were guilty of crime because they were clerks in Holy Orders.
I propose to discuss this question from a thoroughly practical point of view, the point of view as to what is best to be done in order to secure the future of these peoples who have suffered so much in the past. For my part, I am just as anxious that there should be decent government and decent conditions for the mass of the Turkish people as for the people of any other race. The mass of the Turkish people suffered greatly at the hand of their rulers. They have often been the instrument in the hands of their rulers of most horrible deeds it is true, but I blame the rulers far more than I blame the ignorant people who have been excited to these acts. The Armenians in particular, have declared to me again and again that if only the Pasha class, the ruling class, among the Turks would let the mass of the Turks and the Kurds alone, the Armenians have no doubt that they could live peacefully with the Turks and the Kurds.
This subject naturally divides itself into two parts: One, what is to be the fate of Constantinople; and the other, what measures are to be taken for the protection of the subject races? I am not going at length into the question what is to be the fate of Constantinople, because that has been discussed again and again, but I did interrupt the Prime Minister—I hope that he has forgiven me for it—because he was dealing with a question of fact of which I felt that I had actual knowledge. He was charging the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) with inconsistency in saying at one time that the Turks were in a majority in Constantinople and at another time that they were in a minority. I was going to say exactly what happened. The Noble Lord did in Debate imply that the Turks were in a majority. I challenged him, and he at once admitted that he was not sure, and, as he told us, he went and made inquiry. It is very difficult to get exact statistics—in fact, there are none—but the best authorities that I have been able to get at say that the Christian inhabitants of Constantinople are, and always have been, the majority of the people. I refer to the city as a whole. The Prime Minister suggested to the House that on some occasion or other I had said that the expulsion of the Turkish Government from Constantinople was the root of the matter, and I was obliged to point out to him that he was evidently referring to somebody else. On the whole, I do believe that to put an end to the Turkish Government in Constantinople would be the best solution. The Turkish Government by its crimes has deserved that, not as vengeance, but as just punishment, in the same way as we punish any other criminal as a warning to other criminals and as a protection to society in the future. On the whole, I think that would be the better course to take. It is the strong course, and, as long as you are sure that you are doing justice, it is, as a rule, wiser to take the strong course. I quite admit, however, that there are considerations on both sides.
In my opinion, the way in which it was announced to the Turkish Government that they might remain in Constantinople was disastrous. On the very day after the massacres had occurred the announcement was made in Constantinople: "You may remain in Constantinople if you will stop the massacres." That is the way in which the Turks will understand it. It is a small thing to say that it was very undignified, but it is putting practically a premium upon the violence of the Turks at any future time. It is said that it would not help the subject races if an end were put to the Turkish Government in Constantinople. I am not so sure of that. I know that there are considerations on both sides, but if you have the Turkish Government in Constantinople, with a great deal of its prestige left, in touch with Europe, and the city full of financial and other conspirators, then I think you will always have greater danger to the subject races. I am not saying that the feelings of the Turkish Government would be worse, but there would be more plotting and rivalry among the European Powers there. As long as they are in Constantinople this fatal rivalry of European Powers will go on and be disastrous to the interests of the subject races, because the subject races will be given away at every moment like a flock of sheep in order that Russia, England, Germany, or some other Power may promote their interests with the Government of Constantinople. It seems, however, to have been decided that the Turkish Government are to stay there, at any rate, to a nominal extent, but the Government tell us that they are going to deprive them of their power of doing harm. In Heaven's name, I trust that will be carried out in the spirit and in the letter. I hope, if they are to remain there, that steps will be taken to deprive them of the power of doing wrong, and that we shall not merely take pledges from them that they will not do wrong. We have for sixty years and more taken these pledges from them. What has come of it? Nothing but misery to the people who have suffered.
I turn to the measures that may be taken for the protection of the subject race of which I have fullest knowledge, namely, the Armenians. It is well known that the Armenian people in Turkey live mainly in two parts of the country, one near Mount Ararat, where the old frontiers of Turkey, Russia, and Persia meet—that is, Greater Armenia—and then again in Cilicia, or Little Armenia, down where Asia Minor and Syria meet on the Mediterranean Sea. If the Government really are going to take precautions to enable these people to live their lives hereafter, then let me say, with regard to Cilicia or Little Armenia, where massacres have been taking place quite recently, that the massacres were apparently done to frighten the Powers, and to some extent, they seem to have had the desired effect. We heard at first that there were fifteen hundred killed near Marash. Then it was two thousand, and then, in another telegram, it was seven thousand. Since this Debate began a telegram from a very important quarter has been put into my hands, saying that the situation in Cilicia is alarming; the whole Armenian population is in danger of massacre; that 20,000 have already been slaughtered in the district of Marash, evacuated by the troops; and that important Turkish forces are menacing Mersina, Mersina is the port of the town of Adana, where the Lord Mayor of London's Fund has its agents. When these massacres were first reported, I asked the Government whether they had any reason to think that the British agents at Adana were in danger, and they said they had no information. If this telegram is correct—and I have every reason to think it is, it is a lamentable fact that the British and other agents of the Lord Mayor's Fund at Adana must evidently be in great danger.
Over Cilicia it is quite evident that the French mean to have the main control. I would say, let them have it. The Armenians are perfectly content that they should. Failing a mandate for America or some other Power over the whole of Armenia, they are perfectly content that the French should have the control which they seem to desire in Cilicia, provided that it is real French government and real French responsibility. What they will not tolerate is that the French or any other Power should be there simply for their own profit, and that Turkish government or administration should go on, and that the people should not have the security which would be given to them by the rule of a really civilised European Power. In regard to this district of Cilicia, I think I heard the Prime Minister express grave doubts as to what was going to be done, and he even doubted whether it was properly to be called a part of Armenia. I was very much alarmed, as I felt that he was apparently paving the way for a declaration that this was not one of the places where the subject races are in a majority, and that something much less than we have been given to hope would be done there. I believe the statistics that are available show that the Christians in Cilicia before the recent massacres—and I base myself upon the position before the recent massacres and not afterwards—were in the majority. We are not going to put a premium on clearing countries by means of massacre. The Christians in that part of the country, that is to say the subject races, were the great majority and the Turks themselves were only about 15 per cent. of the population, although the Moslems, as a whole, may have been about 30 per cent. Let me say that neither in Cilicia nor in the other part of Armenia do the Armenian people ask for any special privilege for men of their race. They ask for decent government to be established, and they ask that all civilised men shall be put on an equality, to whatever race and to whatever religion they may belong.
Then you come to the other part of Armenia, the northern part, and there they ask that the Turkish districts of Van and Erzerum, and others round about, should be attached to the Armenian Republic of Erivan, which is on what was formerly Russian territory. They ask that they should be given a sufficient area to concentrate there the Armenian population of the north. There must certainly be a certain exchange of population between one district and another, in order that the outlying peoples, whether Turkish on the one hand or Christian on the other, should be concentrated together with the people of their own race, and thereby get protection, instead of being in danger of attack from their enemies. They ask that an adequate territory should be given to them, and a port on the Black Sea, so that they may have access to the outer world. They ask, too, that the two great fortress of Erzerum and Erzingan, which are distinctly Armenian places, should be made part of the new Armenia, and they ask, also, that they should be helped. It is not to be expected that these people, who have lived under tyranny for hundreds of years, should at once understand the full art of government, and they ask that high British officers should be allowed to take service with their new country, in order that they may be put on the right way. The Armenians themselves, and the other civilised inhabitants of those regions, can provide enough men for soldiers and gendarmes, drawn from all sections of the people. They can live on good terms with their Turkish and Kurdish neighbours and the other races there, so long as they are not interfered with by the Turkish rulers; but they do ask that the British, or some other people, should help them by allowing a certain number of men of great experience and high position to take high posts in the new State, paid for by the new-Slate, in order to help them upon the way to a settled Government. What we are discussing is not so much a question of the fate of a few scattered hundreds of thousands of people of various races, in various backward states of civilisation, away in the mountains of Asia. What we are now discussing is the honour of our country and the honour of France. Are we going to keep our pledges to these people? Are we going to redeem the wrong we did them at the time of the Crimea? Are we going to redeem the wrong we did them in 1880, when we refused to allow Russia to liberate them after the war she had been waging? Is France going to remember that at one of the greatest crises of the war, she approached the Armenians and asked them to provide volunteers, and that they said, "If we provide you with volunteers, every Armenian within Turkish reach is in danger of his life. Nevertheless, we will do it if you will give us a pledge to liberate our country." The French gave that pledge, which I believe exists to-day still in writing. Are those pledges going to be carried out. I Are those duties going to be fulfilled? That is the real question. It is a question whether these two great nations, France and England, are going to acknowledge their duties or to degrade the standard of right and wrong in the face of the whole world.
I regret that the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme is not present at this moment, for I was anxious to congratulate him upon the fine display of detachment and of absence of theological bias which he showed when he credited the Church of England with the movement that we are considering to-day. The hon. and gallant Member may have special information of his own, but when I last heard of the Rev. Dr. Clifford and the Rev. Frederick Meyer, who are prominent amongst the signatories to the Memorial on this matter, they were both strong Nonconformists—shining lights amongst, the free churches. This movement is a genuine movement. It is not inspired by revenge or by theological bias, and it is a movement that claims respect in all parts of the House. As to the movement hi India, to which of course the greatest possible importance has to be attached, since the Prime Minister said that the direct influence in this matter came from India, some question has been raised as to the reality of the Moslem movement in India. Somebody questioned whether it was not somewhat artificial. My information from India is that it is not at all artificial. One would not expect it to be so. There is no need, really, to create movements of this kind in India. India, whether Mahomedan or Hindu India, is essentially a religious country, and, as soon as the cry of "Din, din," is raised in the streets of an Indian town, the feeling of the people is at once aroused. So far as the Mahomedan population of India is concerned this movement is a genuine one, but I speak with a certain amount of distrust as to an clement in that movement to which attention was drawn by a very distinguished Member of this House, in an interview published in the papers the other day—the association of a number of Hindus with Moslems in this protest against the suspected policy of the British Government. The Secretary of State said that all classes and creeds were joined together in their antagonism to the policy of the British Government. I accept that statement with reservations, knowing something of the character of the people who have engineered what I may call the Hindoo wing of this movement. For one thing I know that the Hindoos do take a serious view of wrong-doing. In the philosophy of their religion prominence is given to the law of Karma, as it is called, based upon the principle that every act has its inevitable consequences, and that those consequences cannot be diverted I am sure that Hindoos, if it were properly pointed out to them, would realise that the decay of Turkey, and the imminent peril in which Turkey stands, is merely a consequence of her own wrong-doing. As to the persons who are associated with this so-called Hindoo movement. At the head of them is a man whose name is well known—a Mr. Tilak—who, I believe, in London, started this so-called union between the Caliphate Committ e and certain extremist Hindoo politicians. Mr. Tilak was, within my recollection, the leader of a movement that found expression in musical processions through the streets of Poona, which, under his instructions, made a practice of banging their tom-toms loudly outside mosques when Mussulmans were at prayer. That is the gentleman who holds out the hand of pretended sympathy with the Mahomedans, and, knowing his antecedents, I entirely doubt the reality of the union which he has pretended to bring about. I think we may therefore set aside the claim that all races and creeds in India are associated in condemning the policy of the British Government towards Turkey.
I blame the Government of India, and I blame the representatives of the Government of India in this country, for having allowed judgment to go by default against England in this matter. We have had throughout a good case: we have never been otherwise than friendly to Turkey, and the Mahomedans in India have never pretended that we have shown anything but the most complete tolerance towards their religion. They have no reason to suspect that under any circumstances England would be deliberately hostile to the Turkish people, and, above all, to the Mahometan religion. As to the Turkish people, whatever they have suffered, it has been through their own action. But I complain that the Government of India have never tried to bring that aspect of the question before the Mahomedans. They have allowed most extraordinary statements to be made without contradiction They have allowed Mahomedan deputations to call upon them, but the Viceroy has done no more than assure them that their case is being put before the Peace Conference with all the weight that can be given to it. I take it that a much larger obligation than that rested on the Government of India, and that it ought to have satisfied the Mahomedans of India, as might easily have been done, that under no circumstances would their religion be imperilled by any act of the British Government. I have been very unfavourably impressed by the position that the Government have brought us into, mainly by the conditions under which they made the announcement of their policy in this country and in India. The Prime Minister's statement, which I regret I had not the pleasure of hearing, seems to have cleared up the situation somewhat. To my mind, however, the great thing is to know not what is to happen in Constantinople, but what is to happen in Armenia and Asia Minor. If things are all right there, it is a matter of secondary importance what is to happen in Constantinople itself. The account which the Prime Minister has given of the position to which the Sultan will be reduced shows that he will be merely the shadow of his greater personality in the past, and that he will be a mere shadow of a potentate will, of course, be realised by the people in India. I hope, however, that they will realise that, this need not reduce his religious prestige and authority. For generations the Caliphs were pensioners of the Sultan in Cairo. They were men without any political power, but it could not be said that their spiritual influence was diminished m the least degree. We hope that the Mahomedans will realise that the Sultan will still retain as much dignity as is necessary to give him his due position in the Moslem world ns a spiritual leader.
I hope to be as short and as uncontrovcrsial as-possible. I want to ask for some further definite information with reference to the statement we heard from the Prime Minister this afternoon. It seems to me that, even assuming that the decision of the Government is irrevocable, and that Turkish sovereignty will remain at Constantinople, there are certain very important questions on which the House has a right to demand some further knowledge. The first is with reference to Armenia. I very much hope that the Leader of the House, when he comes to reply, will be able to give us much more definite information with reference to the position of the new State of Armenia which it is intended to create. I hope very much he will be able to tell the House, without going into details as to the boundaries of this new State, that, at any rate, it will have an outlet into the Black Sea. Secondly, I hope he will also be able to reassure those of us who are very anxious as to the future of Armenia that Cilicia is definitely to be removed from Turkish sovereignty. Then I come to the question of Constantinople. There, again, I should like to ask for some definite information upon the following points. When the Prime Minister told us that Turkish sovereignty is to continue in Constantinople. I was left in some doubt as to what he meant by Constantinople. Docs the decision of the Allies refer only to Stamboul?
Then does it refer only to the urban district of Constantinople? The right hon. Gentleman gives no answer. Then does it apply to the vilayet of Constantinople? Those are very material points if we are to have safeguards against the recurrence of Turkish misgovernment, upon which the Prime Minister laid such emphasis.
Moreover, I was not quite clear, listening to the Prime Minister, what will be the actual state of affairs at the Bosphorus. The Prime Minister again used the metaphor of a change of the gate-keeper in the Straits. I should like to know definitely, and it will go a long way to reassure at any rate some of my anxiety, that not only are the Straits to be internationalised, but the Bosphorus as well. I very much hope the right hon. Gentleman will give a definite assurance that both the Straits and the Bosphorus will be left in international hands. Then, again, I am not quite clear as to the kind of sovereignty that is to be left to the Turkish Government. There, again, one would very much like some further details. I he object of leaving the Turk as sovereign in Constantinople is, apart from the question of satisfying Moslem sentiment, the need for protecting the Christian populations, and particularly the Armenians of Anatolia, Cilicia, and Armenia. I fail to see how, if Turkish sovereignty is to remain a reality in Constantinople, those safeguards can adequately be carried out. It seems to me that if Turkish sovereignty is to ho a reality, it will mean in practice; the sovereignty of the Committee of Union and Progress, and I regret to see that at any rate a section of public opinion in France has accepted this view, and is openly saying that it is better at once to enter into an alliance with the Turkish Nationalist party, in other words, the party of the Committee of Union and Progress, a party led by some of the worst war criminals—actually people who, we have only in the last few weeks been demanding, should be given up to the justice of the Allies. Moreover, it seems to me that by leaving Constantinople to the Porte for the purpose" of preventing massacres you are really encouraging the Committee of Union and Progress to extort further concessions by more massacres in Anatolia and Armenia. If Turkish sovereignty is to be a reality, it seems to me that we shall return to all the old scandals and conniption and cruelty which have made Constantinople a byword.
But take the other alternative. If Turkish sovereignty at Constantinople is to be a shadow, what is the good of pointing your guns at the Sultan when Enver and Mustapha Kliamil are at Sivas? Moreover, if it is to be a shadow, you are bolstering up an effete tyranny, and in my opinion you are preventing a safety valve in the East—a change of dynasty--being brought about. Moreover, if it is to be a shadow, how will you satisfy this Moslem sentiment of which we have heard so much? How, again, as long as this sham sovereignty is allowed to continue, will you prevent every kind of Balkan intrigue centreing around Constantinople, and in any case, what guarantee is there that the Allied guns, which to-day are pointing at the Sultan's palace, in five years' time will be similarly trained upon Constantinople? I foresee that inevitably, whatever may be the state of affairs now, there will come, for one reason or another, whether it be economy, sentiment or international convenience, a demand to withdraw the Allied troops from the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, with the result that Turkey will be left as uncontrolled to carry out its corrupt, criminal policy as ever it was in the past. It seems to me, then, that if this Turkish sovereignty in Constantinople is to be a reality, the Christian populations in Asia Minor will have no safeguard. If, on the other hand, it is a sham, it seems to me to be open to all the objections to which I have alluded. That being so, I am driven back to support the proposal urged by my Noble Friend (Lord R. Cecil), that we should do away with these false and temporary shams, and now and once for all put Constantinople under the control of the League of Nations. That would be an excellent thing for the League of Nations. Inevitably in the future we shall see international control extending to a great many spheres both in Europe and outside Europe. In the interests of the League, and as a means of establishing it in the position that I wish to see it bold, it would be a splendid thing that at once the League should take control of one of the greatest strategic and commercial centres of the world. This international control by the League would be much better than Allied control by naval and military guns. Constantinople is the gateway for a number of land-locked countries in the centre and the east of Europe, and I am convinced that those countries, such as the Russia of the future, Austria and Hungary, whose very existence depend upon the freedom of the Bosphorus and the Straits, should be directly represented upon the international control of the Straits.
As for the Moslem sentiment I should be the last person to under-rate either the value or the gravity of religious sentiment: but I would urge that it would satisfy Moslem sentiment much better to give the Moslem populations of India and Africa every opportunity of self-development, as I believe we are already doing, rather than to yield to an agitation prompted, I believe, originally by the anti-religious Committee of Union and Progress, and exploited by practically all our enemies in the whole of Europe. Real Moslem sentiment would be much better satisfied by making a success of so great a measure as the Government of India Bill, rather than by yielding to an agitation which to a very large extent is founded on misapprenhension. I would ask the Leader of the House, not in a fractious spirit, to give us the definite information that I have, asked for, and to believe me when I say that in my own small case there is no question upon which I feel more deeply or upon which I am more certain that the Government are making a great mistake in the decision they have taken.
It is not often that I am able to support the Government, but I am certainly going to do so on this occasion. I congratulate the Prime Minister on his courage in speaking the truth and standing to our pledges in face of a scandalous and disgraceful agitation. If this is the way that foreign policy is going to be run in the future, with newspaper advertisement"; and a sudden wave of pulpit propaganda. God help the League of Nations and the future of this country! We have had too much politics by way of atrocity propaganda. We need to look at both sides of" the question and take the long view. I can sec no difficulty in this question, and I cannot understand why it has kept the Conference all this time. May I remind the House that we have agreed, not with Germany, but with America, to 14 points, with one reservation and one modification, and the twelfth point ought to satisfy all shades of opinion. The twelfth point which we have agreed to with America is this:
That the Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured of their sovereignty, that the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule shall be assured of undoubted security of life and absolute unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and that the Dardanelles should be permanently open as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations, under international guarantees.
I should have thought that that would have satisfied even the hon. baronet (Sir S. Hoare). We have to realise that this is not only a religious question with the people of India, because the Hindu have joined with the Moslems on it. There is a racial pride which is actuating them in demanding, in perhaps rather sharp tones and there are undoubted rights on their side, after what we have said—that this great city of Islam should remain under the Turkish Sultan. That is a sentiment we cannot afford to ignore. There is a fear among Moslems all the world over of economic exploitation. Behind this religious and sentimental feeling there is an intensely practical one, that if a Moslem sovereign remains in this great city of Constantinople he will be able in some way to ensure the Moslem people not only in Turkey but elsewhere of economic freedom, and that is what these people want to-day. I hope, therefore, that hon. and gallant Members opposite, who have spoken up with great courage on this question, will also speak up when the time comes and sec that Turkish majorities are not put under Greek minorities, and that the events which occurred in Smyrna after the Armistice—information on which has been refused, but which I hope will be given to us shortly—will be taken into consideration before Asia Minor proper is carved into spheres of economic exploitation under the mandates of Greece, Italy or other severeignties. As regards Silesia, there are two policies possible. One is a complete mandate by the French Government, to which I think we will all agree, and the only one which will enable us to preserve law and order and to protect minorities. The other is complete freedom. If we are to have it as a sphere of economic exploitation under Turkish rule or mis-rule, you will have the worst of possible worlds. You will not protect minorities, but you will exploit, and therefore irritate the Turkish people, because there is always an economic move behind these political moves. Let us remember that that great strategic water way from the Dardanelles is of diminishing value daily. The routes to the Caucasus in the future or to Russia will not lie through water. The most important military routes, and eventually the passenger and goods carrying routes, will be by air, and the Dardanelles will become as obsolete as the Straits of Gibraltar. Finally, whatever arrangement is made now is only temporary, for this reason, if for no other. There will be, in fact some of us think that there is already, a regenerated Russia, and they must have a say in this matter. If there is simply international control by Britain, France and Italy, if there is not going to be that freedom of navigation which was promised in the twelfth point, there will be trouble with "Russia. Sooner or later the League of Nations will have to be enlarged by the entry of Russia, and she will have to have a preponderating voice for her commerce in the freedom of the Dardanelles. I support the Government. After what we have heard from hon. and gallant Members who fought at the Dardanelles, I hope we shall hear no more about the men who died there. British soldiers and Turkish soldiers fought on opposite sides and fought bravely, and I hope that their shades are now fraternising in that Valhalla to which all brave men go and that they are at peace.
As was pointed out by a previous speaker, this controversy cuts athwart all the party lines. As the Debate has proceeded two points have been cleared away. The first point that was made by some speakers was that this Debate was useless, that the Government had made a Treaty, that it was for them to make it, that the treaty-making power resided in the Government, and that to discuss it was a useless waste of time. That would be a dreadful doctrine to which few Members of the House of Commons would agree. Everyone knows that though the treaty-making power docs reside in the Crown, that is to say, nowadays in the Cabinet, ultimately it rests in the House of Commons as representing the people. Those who wish to pursue that subject can read every constitutional authority, Bagehot and the rest, which point out that the ultimate responsibility for our foreign policy rests here alone in the House of Commons as representing the people. It is summed up by saying that the prerogative of the Crown has become the privilege of the people. The Government would have acted very wrongly if they had not given an opportunity for this Debate on the ground that we ought not to debate these questions. That would have been contrary to every sound doctrine and the principles of liberty.
The second point of which much was made at the beginning of the Debate was that we cannot go back on what the Government were supposed to do in concert with the Allies, not because the House of Commons has no power or responsibility, but because we should be breaking the pledge given by the Prime Minister on behalf of this country in January, 1918, and endorsed, as he told us, by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin. I should have thought that the idea that there was a breach of faith was finally disposed of—I hope that the Leader of the House will affirm this when he speaks—when, in his reply to a challenge of my Noble Friend, the Prime Minister admitted that he had hoped to hand Constantinople as a mandatory of the League of Nations to the United States. If that is so, and I presume it is—I have no inside knowledge of the subject, so I can safely ask the question without any breach of confidence; it never came to my knowledge when I was in Paris at the Peace Conference—the whole argument for a breach of faith falls to the ground. If we do not break faith with our Moslem follow subjects in India by handing over Constantinople to America, as the mandatory of the League of Nations, how can it be said to be a breach of faith if we hand over Constantinople to the League of Nations itself? So far as it goes, there is less of a breach by adopting the proposal of my Noble Friend (Lord R. Cecil) than there would be in the other case, for the League, whatever may be the faults of international control, must clearly be more impartial than any single Power.
What was the Prime Minister's proposal? Next, what is the proposal we put forward; and then, what is the difference between us? If the Leader of the House would give an answer to some of these questions we should be grateful. The Prime Minister's proposal, as I understand it, is that the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus shall be handed oved to international control. It was clear that the Dardanelles was meant, and I think the Bosphorus also. The forts will be dismantled and all armament removed, except such guns as the Allied control may think it convenient to retain for ordinary police purposes or for preventing ships passing through contrary to the orders of the Board of Control. I think the Prime Minister gave us to understand, by two or three phrases, that in addition to these, no troops, naval or military or air, of the Turkish Empire, would be permitted within the zone of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, and presumably, therefore, of the vilayet of Constantinople itself. I presume that and that, as a consequence, an international force, great or small, of those who control the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, would occupy those forts in that city. That is what I understood from the Prime Minister. If the Leader of the House can tell us that that was so I know the House will be interested to hear it. If we do not have an international force occupying the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, everyone who knows Constantinople—it is years since I was there, but I did see something of the defences—knows that the danger of a rapid concentration would be such that any international control would be obliged to secure itself by an adequate police force both on the forts and in the neighbourhood of Constantinople itself.
That proposal, it appears, is to satisfy those Moslem fellow subjects of ours who wish to have the integrity of Turkey maintained, but the Debate, as it has proceeded, has shown everyone, I am sure, that the point of difference between us is not at all where we thought it was. No Turcophile can enter here. The Sultan is to be allowed to remain only under the circumstances I have described, deprived of all force and power, and able to perform any act of government only while looking down the muzzle of a French, Italian or other gun. Of course, of freedom there is none. What remains? I must say, I protest against the arrangement with all the force in my power, because I think that you have removed all that counts in the minds of people who care for Turkish sovereignity on its worthiest side, and you have left the one unworthy, hateful thing; you have taken away all the elements of that great fighting power which, after all, has been the glory of Turkey from the day of the Crusades until now. Hon. Members on the other side who fought at Gallipoli have told us how they admired the Turks as fine fighters. All that is gone. The sovereign is to sit there trembling under the guns of the Fleet. What do you leave? You leave the one hateful, detestable thing, a thing denounced in unmeasured terms, but well-merited terms, by the present Prime Minister, and denounced even more forcibly by the present Lord President of the Council. You leave that strange misnomer, that lucus a non lucendo, the Sublime Porte, with all opportunities for intrigue, with its long-drawn history of vice and crime and massacre and robbery, and everything that is bad—that you leave. This cannot be. The right decision, or so it seems to me, and our proposal, and we commend it to the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister and the Government, is this. When all men are agreed that the Turk has shown himself unworthy to rule subject races and when you yourselves admit that his Empire is going to be dismembered and a great part of it taken away from him under the terms of the Treaty, and when you have already decided that he shall only sit in the Capital under the guns of your Fleet, deprived of soldiers, sailors or airmen, why not take the bull by the horns? But as ho has no horns left, why not grasp the nettle and hand it over to the League of Nations, a body which has been set up with the good will of all parties, and for which we have a precedent in the case of Dantzig? I cannot see that this can possibly be regarded, as I said just now, as more a breach of faith than the other; in fact, it is less. Before I leave that I would like to say a word on this question of the breach of faith as viewed by our Indian fellow subjects. I cannot claim to have any of the knowledge which has been given to the House by the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Oman) and by the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Bennett), both of whom in different ways have a profound knowledge of Oriental religions, but it docs so happen that I am in the peculiar position of having been actually in command of Indian soldiers during the War, for all through that period of two years ago, when these pledges were given. Two years ago I was in command of more than a thousand of our Indian fellow-subjects in the front line near St. Quentin. It has been said that you learn more of a man in a week of war than in ten years of peace. During my normal duty of going round the outposts and lines, I had the opportunity of talking to the Indians night after night, and of talking to their officers and subalterns, and one did get to know what they were thinking about. I can assure the House, getting to know those men so well, that they had not the remotest idea that the Sultan of Turkey as a political ruler meant anything to them. I can prove this because the one thing that they wanted to do, and in fact I transmitted their wish to do so, was to go and fight this very Turk, and they went to fight this Turk, and these particular men of the 5th Indian Cavalry Division did have a decisive effect in the greatest victory in the East won by Lord Allenby, the victory of a year and three quarters ago. One would have supposed that, on January 5th, 191S, every Moslem in my command would have said, "What is this? Once again the Caliph is going to" reside in Constantinople." Letters arrived constantly for these Indians, they all knew what was happening, they knew that this had happened, but it did not interest them. All they said was, "The weather is very cold here, let us go and fight the Turk," and, as I said, they went and they fought.
I must say that, from having spent so many months, indeed years, in company with these brave Indian soldiers of ours, nothing shall ever fall from me, owing so much as I do to their valour and tenacity in a time which tried us all to the uttermost—nothing shall ever fall from me which could in any way make their task difficult in continuing their loyal support of the British Empire, but it is just because I am sure that this theory that they have a passionate devotion to the temporal power of the Sultan has no foundation whatever in fact, a belief which has been fortified by every well-informed speaker during the Debate to-day, that I would urge the Government to adopt our policy. Now is the time. Would anyone before the War, if he had been told where we were going to stand to-day, were he a Conservative like the late Lord Salisbury, were he a Liberal, or were he a Labour man, if he had been told the result of the War would have been that Turkey would go into the War against us, that to the long catalogue of her atrocities would be added a crime of the stupendous nature of the massacre of a million Armenians that in all the history of Turkey her crimes and atrocities were utterly overshadowed by the brutalities she displayed, and that, when we had the opportunity and the machinery ready at last to get rid of that hateful temporal power represented by the Sublime Porte at Constantinople, I am sure every man, irrespective of party, race or creed, would have said, "Now is the appointed day." With all the power at my command, I appeal to the Government, even at this, late hour, to right this old wrong, and to bring back, as we believe they will, happiness and prosperity to the unhappy subjects of Turkey.
I have listened to most of this Debate, and since it has taken so long we feel that some additional reply should be made from this Bench. I am sorry to say, however, that I find it very difficult to get any arguments which have not already been answered in advance by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend, who has just sat down, has given utterance to quite a number of views to which I am in entire agreement. He has told us, for instance, on the authority of Bagehot, which was unnecessary, for any authority would have told us the same thing, that the power and the control of treaties does rest, and must rest, with the House of Commons. None of us a doubt that, but I have myself come to the conclusion—and I shall be surprised if the great majority of the House do not share the same view—that though this discussion was inevitable, and though I think, so far as I could judge, great restraint has been shown in the way in which it has been conducted, yet when we realise that what is said here is said, not only to our own people but to all those who may be affected by the Treaty which is now being negotiated with Turkey, I am afraid that many of the things said to-day, with all their restraint, will make it more difficult to complete the arrangements which the Conference is now trying to carry out. I am sure of that, and in reality it comes to this—and not only this House of Commons, but I think any House of Commons, which has ever sat here or will sit here must come to the conclusion that you cannot discuss in an assembly like this bit by bit isolated parts of the Treaty, but the only intelligible way in which it can be discussed is to put the powers which the House of Commons has in the hands of delegates chosen by them, to trust them and, if they are not satisfied, to find others who will carry out their wishes. As regards another statement, made by my right hon. and gallant Friend, he said that, as a proof that our policy was all wrong, we were going to interfere with the one good thing. I was amazed to hear it.
I am sorry if I gave cause for any misapprehension, I said you are going to sweep away all but the bad things. You are going to sweep away the fine fighting qualities of the Turk. That was my point.
My right hon. Friend has quite misunderstood it. If he has studied the Treaty with Germany, he will have discovered that one of the parts of the Treaty to which we and the whole world, I think, attached the most importance was the destruction of the armies which had enabled Germany to inflict these evils on the world. Does he suppose that in dealing with Turkey we are not going to deal with it in the same way, and deal with the forces in the hands of Turkey? I have listened to this Debate, and one thing has surprised me. My right hon. Friend indicated that this is not a question on which it is quite plain what the right decision is. It has been discussed before we discussed it here, and not merely with the Allies. It has been discussed in our own Cabinet. There is room for two opinions. There were two opinions. But what surprises me to-day is to find that apparently there is only one view. In reality, I have heard no argument which, in my opinion, meets for a moment the case put up by the Prime Minister. I will tell the House why I think that is so. This agitation, on which this Debate is founded, was based on a complete misapprehension of the general nature of the Treaty with Turkey. I do not think there is in any quarter of this House any real difference of opinion as to the objects at which we ought to aim in framing the Treaty with Turkey. The only difference of opinion is as to the best method of carrying out those objects. Let me put to the House, if I can in a sentence, what seem to me the most important of those objects. A great deal has been* said about Constantinople as a focus of intrigue, as a cause of war in the past. It is true, but I think it is no injustice to suggest that, though that is largely the fault of Turkey, it is not entirely the fault of Turkey.
Constantinople, as everyone knows, is probably one of the very best centres for a capital in the world. It is no secret that the statesmen of Russia for a hundred years or more looked longingly to the possession of that capital. That was one of the dangers of the past: that Constantinople tended to create future wars. The other object at which we aim is quite different—that is to frame the Treaty, so far as foresight can arrange it, so that not only Constantinople shall cease to become a focus for future wars, but that the power of the Turk over the subject races whom he has abused in the past shall, so far as we can do it, be prevented for ever in the future. That is our object. Just contrast the two methods of attaining that. I am going to leave out of account for the moment—though I shall come to it later—the subject of our pledges. Look at this question as if we were perfectly free to consider what is the best policy for carrying out these objects, as if it were possible—and the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down and many other speakers have assumed that the thing is perfectly simple—that if you turn the Turk out of Constantinople you are taking away all the subject races from the Turk. There is no greater delusion than that. Constantinople, whatever else it may be, is largely and—as my Noble Friend said in the Debate referred to here—predominantly Turkish. There is a difference of opinion as to what the present population is. The figures I am now going to give are admittedly open to doubt. But for the purposes of the Allied consideration of the Treaty with Turkey, we asked the headquarters of our Army in Constantinople in November to send us the best estimate they could get of the present population of Turkey as a whole in the different parts of Turkey. They admit that their reply may very likely be wrong. The data is not sufficient, but the estimate is certainly given without any bias. The estimate is that far more than half of the present population of Constantinople is Turkish. I am speaking of the vilayet.
I have not got the figures for the city, but the proportion is the same. My hon. Friend knows something of the conditions there. I think he will agree—at all events I am given it as fact—that the further you go from Constantinople the bigger the proportion of Turks and the smaller the proportion of Greeks. Whether these figures are accurate or not, it is certain that the Turks in Constantinople are at least twice as numerous as the men of any other race. What in the world, then, is the good of talking of getting rid of the control of subject races by turning the Turks out of a city where they are twice as numerous as any others? It is obvious there is nothing in that argument. Now let us look at the two alternatives. If it were possible to make this arrangement, if, by turning the Turks out of Constantinople, we were free from all other obligations to Turkey, if the thing could be attained in that way, there is not a Member of our Cabinet who was a Member of the Peace Conference of the Allies, who would not have jumped at that solution. That is not what would happen.
Just think what it means to the British Government alone. If you carry out this proposal and internationalise Constantinople and the small districts surrounding, you get a new burden which will cause us endless trouble laid upon ourselves, and we are not saved any other burden. The difficulties in regard to the Armenians will remain as before. We should have all the trouble of trying to control Turkey away from Constantinople, and in addition we should have the new obligation of this international city in Constantinople. Surely that is not good business, to put it on the lowest basis. But look at it from the point of view of the best measure for carrying out what I believe is our main duty, namely, to do our best to secure that these communities are free from Turkish tyranny. The House knows that whenever there has been any change of view about that, that wherever those communities are homogeneous and non-Turkish, they are going to be free from Turkish rule, such as Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Palestine, but that does not get rid of the difficulty. There are in the Turkish Empire districts where the Turks are in a great majority, but where there are large minorities, and you have to try and protect them.
How is that to be done? My right hon. Friend pointed out, and I should have thought that it was obvious common-sense, that if the real seat of the Turkish Government is at Constantinople we shall have an easy method of exercising some control over that Government. It is quite true, as was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea, that there is no guarantee of that. Of course there is not. It is quite possible that someone like Mustapha Kemal may ignore altogether the instructions from Constantinople and massacres may take place. It is quite possible from the simple fact that the Government at Constantinople was under Allied control that it might lose its power. We do not profess to have found a method which makes it a certainty that there will be none of this trouble in the future; but is it not worth something? Are you going to make the position of the Armenians better by putting the Government which exercises a large measure of control, in a situation where it is almost impossible that the British Government at best can exercise any control whatever upon that Government. We have at this moment a very large fleet at Constantinople. In that fleet there is a visible emplem of power. The House knows why it has become necessary is that the Allies decided to inform the Government that we had decided to leave Constantinople to the Turks, and if the massacres did not stop, the Treaty would be different. Can you get a better proof that the Allies believe that the pressure which they exercise at Constantinople will have an effect throughout the Turkish Empire? What would happen if you sent it to Konia? It would be just as if you were trying to send an expedition from India to Cabul. You have to go over the mountains, and it means that, so far as the British Government is concerned, unless we make our Army larger, unless we adopt a new military system, the British people will be able to send requisitions and notes, but they will not be able to give that one emblem of authority which countries like Turkey respect.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that if he were an Armenian, looking at this question from the point of view of what would give him the greatest safety, he would say at once that this control over a future Turkish Government might not protect him, but certainly it was better than nothing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin has an answer. He has talked with some Armenians and some Greeks, and they say: "No, we would rather have the Turks out of Constantinople." But did not he talk with them at a time when they did not know what the conditions of the Treaty were? Let them consider the facts as they are. Lot them realise what I have put to the House and what has been put more strongly by the Prime Minister. Here at least is one method of control, and if these Greeks and Armenians still take that view, then they are not wise. That is one side of the question, the question of protecting the subject races.
I said that another object was to prevent wars in the future through Constantinople. What is the alternative? My right hon. Friend asked those who criticise to give us an alternative. He asked them also to tell us, since they do not like our method of trying to have some protection over these subject races, to say what was their method. The question was never answered, nor did they give any reply as to the substitute which they would have for the control which the freedom of the Straits would, give over the Government in Constantinople. I want to deal with the alternative. They say: "Make it an international State under the League of Nations." I was surprised to hear my right hon. Friend make that proposal. I know that no one in the House has a greater longing that the League of Nations should be a success. Personally, I share the longing, but can anyone imagine anything which is more likely at the outset to make the League of Nations an absolute failure than to hand over to it a burden of this kind? What could they do? They have no army. They could only at the best do what we regard as the alternative—set up an international State under three or four nations. Members talk about intrigues in Constantinople under the Sultan. What in the world do they think would happen in the Government of this State under three or four different nations? I can tell the House that when we tried to put it in black and white it was the contemplation of what such an international State would mean that made us decide that at least was impossible. It is not really commonsense. It has been tried in many cases. Can anyone point to a single instance where this kind of joint dominions has succeeded? And can one find a case less difficult than that of Egypt, in which this joint control nearly brought us to war?
I should like for a short time to dwell on another aspect of this question. I have looked at it so far quite apart from any pledges or anything of that kind, as a common-sense problem, as to what is the best method of securing what we all desire. We were told by one hon. Member that, if the Turks remained at Constantinople, Constantinople would be the happy hunting ground of all the financial scoundrels in the world. Why do these financial scoundrels go there? They go, in the main, not to exploit Constantinople, but to exploit the resources of the Turkish Empire. Will the world gain anything, even if you assume that the pure motives of the League of Nations will have such a deterrent effect that scoundrels will not come to Constantinople? Even if you assume that, what is the world going to gain if the scoundrels go to Konia instead of Constantinople? Now-let us look at it from the point of view of the facts. My right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), in referring to the statement of war aims made in January, 1918, said that a great deal of water had flowed under the bridges since then. That is quite true. But, curiously enough, almost every other speaker on his side dwelt at length on the statement made the year before by my right hon. Friend. Whatever water has flowed under the bridges since January, 1918, presumably a larger amount has flowed since January, 1917, so that we can leave that out of the reckoning altogether.
The explanation is simple. We are not face to face with the problem of whether Constantinople is a good capital for the Turks, or whether the Turkish nation is a good nation to hold Constantinople. That is not our problem. The problem is, what is the alternative? We had not that problem in 1917. In 1917 it was arranged that, if we were victorious in the War, Russia should become the possessor of Constantinople. That all fell to the ground by what happened in Russia. We were then faced with a new situation, and in January, 1918, a solemn, carefully considered document, not merely issued by the British Government, but submitted to our Allies, was put before the people of this country, in which it was stated in the most emphatic terms that it was not one of our war aims to turn the Turks out of Constantinople as their capital. I did not say, and the Prime Minister did not say, that circumstances must not so have changed that we would have been justified in altering that decision; but he did say, and the House, I think, is bound to agree with him, that to depart from it would require overwhelming reasons. My Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) considered that that was a pledge which we were no longer bound by, and on this ground. He said that that was put to the Turk more or less as an offer; if he did not accept it, we were relieved of that offer. And he gave an illustration. He said that we declared also that we had not as an object the breaking up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but we have broken it up. Therefore we were not bound by that statement. But that is not so. It was not we who broke up Austria-Hungary. It fell to pieces of its own initiative: it was due to a force of circumstances over which neither we nor our Allies had any control. Then we were told by my right hon. Friend who last spoke that the Prime Minister admitted that at one time we did contemplate a mandate by America, and that that showed we did not consider ourselves bound by the Declaration. My right hon. Friend, as representing the Government, did contemplate such a possiblity, he did take the view that it would be a good thing for the world if America did take a share in that of responsibility and did undertake the control not only of Constantinople but of the whole country. But remember that mandates are of many different characters and many different degrees, and what was hoped for was that America would exercise that kind of control which would have been necessary under any reasonable Treaty with Turkey. It was not a question of turning the Turks out of Constantinople: it might as well be suggested it was a question of turning them out of the world.
You may call them mandatory or not. If there is any Treaty at all there must be a certain measure of control, and what was proposed was that America should exercise that measure of control. Then said my Noble Friend "How easy it is to get rid of this plague spot now." It is not, as the Prime Minister put it, turning the Turks out of Constantinople; but, says the Noble Lord, it is a question of giving it back to them. My Noble Friend must know how absurd that is. We are not carrying on the government of Constantinople. We have only there the necessary military control to see that the Armistice is carried out. There is no more reason in saying that we are in Constantinople and are going to give it back to the Turks than there would be for saying that we are in Coblentz and are going to give it back to the Germans. Let us look at the matter not from the point of view of an offer to the Turks, or from the point of view whether the Turks would have a right to say that we have gone back on our words. Let us look at it from the point of view of the effect of the Declaration on Indian opinion. I was surprised to hear the way in which the Government spoke of that Declaration. He has many qualities which are not useful to a politician of which he has reason to be proud. But he has one quality which is supremely useful to a politician, and that is, whatever side he takes seems to be the only side for which there is a word to be said. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did not say, as my Noble Friend suggests, that he had taken this view out of faction. I am sure my right hon. Friend never thought that. He is the last Member of the House to do that. What he did say, and whether my Noble Friend agrees with him or not, I am sure he is right, was that when he was a Member of the Government he had not only emotions but a share of the responsibilities, but now he has only emotions and takes no responsibility.
I will ask the House to consider the way in which this question as it affects India has been treated in the Debate ft has been generally admitted by everyone except my right hon. Friend that Indian Moslem opinion is strongly against turning the Turks out of Constantinople. My right hon. Friend takes a different view.
I have not heard anyone who knows anything about India express a different view. And there is a reason for it. He commanded 1,000 Indian troops, many of them Moslems, and from his intercourse with them he is surely they have no such view. An initial difficulty suggests itself to me. As a rule these Indian soldiers do not talk English very well and I presume this intimate knowledge of feelings and hearts of these thousand men is received from conversations through interpreters. That is not very convincing. My learned Friend (Mr. Bennett), who has an intimate acquaintance with India and who deplores this agitation, recognises that it is one of the vital facts in the position of India to-day. The hon. Member (Mr. O'Connor) gave us an interesting illustration of his view. He said, "I know something about agitation." May I give him a reminiscence of my own? Ever since I have taken an interest in politics, I have been told over and over again by a section of the population in Ireland, the section with whom I most frequently communicate, that all this talk of the Nationalists about the feeling of the Irish for Home Rule and their agitation was all artificial, and there was no reality at the bottom of it. I did not agree with them, and I do not now, but is the hon. Member sure that his conviction is not as incorrect as my friends' were in regard to his attitude?
Now we come to our illustration. My Noble Friend (Lord R. Cecil) took a different and, I think, a more correct view. He said, "I must admit that the people who speak for India, those who have been most recently there, tell me there is this very strong feeling about the Caliph. I have looked into it very carefully. I have studied it as well as I can, and I cannot see any reason whatever why there should be such a feeling." What has that got to do with it? It is not what we think Indians ought to believe. It is what Indians do believe in practice Let me give an illustration. I can imagine my Noble Friend discussing a subject in which he is interested. I can imagine him saying in regard to a semi-religious question. I have studied all Fathers, I have studied the whole ancient Christian literature on this subject, and I know there is a certain proportion of Christians who think the Bishop of Rome is in a different position from other bishops, but I cannot see why in the world they hold that view. It is the same thing. It is not a question of what we think. As Shakespeare said "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." The vital fact for us is that there is this Indian feeling. I quite admit, as my Noble Friend said, that if this is a question of right or wrong we are entitled to go straight ahead in spite of this Indian agitation. That is quite true. But in a question which is so doubtful from every point of view, in my sincere view any British statesman would be a madman who, in the present unrest throughout the world, especially in India and in Egypt, took a decision which all our advisers tell us would add to the discontent in that part of the world. That is the whole case. I was asked to answer some question about Silesia. I am not going to answer. I have said to the House of Commons that in my belief you cannot discuss parts of a Treaty when you are engaged in making a Treaty. Therefore I cannot answer questions on certain points that have been raised, but there was one point which was put to me by one hon. Member. I was asked, in view of the Prime Minister's statement that we are going to take control of the gateway of Constantinople, what steps are we going to take to ensure effectiveness of that control? When the Prime Minister dealt with that point he meant that the Allies would take control not merely of the Straits, but whatever part of the Bosphorus was necessary to make sure that that gateway of the Black Sea would be open for ever. We are told that this international control of the Straits is going to be troublesome and the rest of it. Yes; but what about the alternative? Suppose we had given this control to the League of Nations or to a group of nations, are you going to entrust the protection of the gateway to the troops ranged in the area of Constantinople? Of course not. In that case we should still have to send sufficient Allied troops to make sure that the gate was really kept away. In addition probably we should need more troops to control what has always been one of the most turbulent cities in the world.
We have had this discussion, and I hope we shall have very few of them, while the Treaty is going on. I am convinced that there is no Member, with whatever prepossessions he began this discussion, who does not realise that it is not the simple question of right or wrong which he thought. We and our Allies have given to it the best and closest thought, and I think that the House will agree with me that in the difficult circumstances we have come to the right conclusion.