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ENGLAND AND THE PARIS EXHIBITION., Issue 7984, 13 August 1889
ENGLAND AND THE PARIS EXHIBITION.
An interesting debate took place in the House of Commons on May 28, when Mr Robertson, member for Dundee, proposed a reduction in the salary of the Foreign Secretary, with the object of asking the judgment of the House upon the line of conduct pursued by the Government in regard to the opening of the Paris Exhibition. The history of the matter seems to be this: At the beginning of 1886, during Mr Gladstone's third tenure of office, Lord Rosebery (then Foreign Secretary) was asked by the French Ambassador in London what course Her Majesty's Government intended to follow in regard to the coming Exhibition. Lord Rosebery replied with another question: What was the exact object of the Exhibition 1 } Lord Rosebery's motive in asking this question is thus explained by Mr Gladstone :—" Lord Rosebery was " proceeding on the principle, which " appears to me to have been the right " principle—namely, that, if we are to " look at the close of the French Re- " volution and the terrible events of its ' later stages ... we must re> " gard these later events with different "feelings from those with which we "regard the earlier stages of that great "movement. . . . Considering "the Revolution closed in a war be"tween France and this country, it " would have been indecent on the " part of this country to take part in " the celebration of the events which " immediately brought about that war." Before any understanding was reached, the Liberal Administration went out of office, and in 1887 Lord Salisbury, in reply to a formal inquiry from the French Government, stated that it was " not the intention of Her " Majesty's Government to take an "official part in the International " Exhibition which is to be held "in Paris in 1889." At a more recent date, Lord Lytton was informed by Lord Salisbury shortly before the date fixed for the opening of the Exhibition that (we quote the words of the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs) " if, as appeared provable, most of the Ambassadors would "be absent from the opening of the " Exhibition, it would be difficult for tho " English Ambassador to take part in a "matterofinternalpolitical controversy, " and therefore that it would be desir"able that he should not be present." It may be observed, by the way, that the reference to other Ambassadors shows that the Government were not so devoted to the principle upon which they professed to act as they were anxious to do the same thing as the Governments of Berlin and Vienna. As a result, of course Lord Lytton was absent from Paris on May 6. Mr Robertson, in introducing the question in the House, took the radical ground that from the very first Her Majesty's Government ought to have heartily co-operated with the Exhibition. The gist of the Ministerial defence, as given by the UnderSecretary for Foreign Affairs and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, lay in the argument that the French people to-day were not unanimous in their opinion as- to the nature and results of the Exhibition, and that in the absence of such unanimity the co-operation of the English Government would have been undesirable. It was, however, asserted that the French Government never really expected such co-operation, and that the refusal had not given rise to any really unpleasant feeling. Mr Gladstone, in the course of a very interesting speech, declined to censure the Government for refusing active cooperation ; but, nevertheless, thought that Lord Lytton should have been present at the opening ceremony. "This "Exhibition was an InternationalExhi"bition, and should have had from " us, I do not say official intervention—- " I leave that entirely to the discretion "of the Government —but all respect "and all sympathy." This seems, on the whole, to indicate what would have been a reasonable solution of the difficulty, and the adoption of such a course would have been facilitated by the fact that the opening ceremony took place on a different date from the centennial celebration. Lord Lytton might well have been directed to attend the former, even if it were thought advisable that he should absent himself from the latter. Such a course would have been tantamount to the expression of cordial andsympatheticinterestinthe Exhibition itself, without prejudice to the holding of doubtful opinions in regard to the event which the Exhibition commemorates. We are inclined to think that active cooperation on the part of England would have been more liable to misconstruction than the absence of such co-operation has proved, and it seems more than probable that a Gladstonian Government would have followed a similar course. No doubt the Ministerial contention as to the nonunanimity of the French on the subject of the Revolution is worthless. In the first place, as Mr John Moeley pointed out, the French Government is the representative of the nation, not of a faction; and, secondly, complete unanimity would not justify English co-operation if the object in view were deemed really undesirable. The important consideration is not what the French think, but what the English think ; and it may certainly be doubted that the English people in the bulk are ready to share in a rejoicing commemoration of the Revolution viewed as a historical event. Of such unreadiness the French Government and
people do not complain; but it was quite unnecessary to push the adopted course to a pitch which suggests stupidity and discourtesy rather than tenacity of principle. It should he observed that no blame seems to attach to Lord Lytton personally. Mr Gladstone said : " Lord Lytton is a man " with whom I have had the misfor- " tune to cliitVr years ago upon matters "of tho most serious kind, but I will "do him the justice of believing that "he never advised this stop. I think "his knowledge of the world and his "position v/ere quite sufficient to save "him from any error oi : the kind."
ENGLAND AND THE PARIS EXHIBITION., Issue 7984, 13 August 1889
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