Lord Lyons: A Record of British Diplomacy, Vol. 2 of 2

Lord Lyons: A Record of British Diplomacy, Vol. 2 of 2

Baron Thomas Wodehouse Legh Newton
Baron Thomas Wodehouse Legh Newton

Author: Newton, Thomas Wodehouse Legh, Baron, 1857-1942
Europe — Politics and government — 1871-1918
Richard Bickerton Pemell Lyons
Diplomatic and consular service
Great Britain — Foreign relations — 1837-1901
Lord Lyons: A Record of British Diplomacy, Vol. 2 of 2
Lord Lyons,
at the age of 65.

london: edward arnold.




All rights reserved



The Third Republic

Thiers as Chief of the Executive—Negotiations respecting a new Anglo-French Commercial Treaty—Return of the Princes—Embarrassment caused by the Comte de Chambord—Question of voting in the House of Lords—Thiers elected President—State of parties in France—Irritation in Germany against Thiers—Diplomatic incident at Constantinople—Signature of Anglo-French Commercial Treaty—Death of the Emperor Napoleon—Lord Odo Russell on Bismarck’s policy—Fall of Thiers—Bismarck and Arnim


Marshal MacMahon’s Presidency

MacMahon as President of the Republic—Franco-German relations—Bismarck’s confidences to Lord Odo Russell—Political confusion in France—The war scare of 1875—Rumoured intention of Khedive to sell his Suez Canal shares—Lord Odo Russell on Bismarck’s Foreign Policy—Purchase of Khedive’s shares by H.M. Government


The Eastern Question

The Powers and Turkey: England and the Andrassy Note—Gambetta on French Politics—Simplicity of Marshal MacMahon—Political consequences of French military re-organisation—Struggle between the Marshal and Parliament—The Constantinople Conference: Determination of Lord Derby to do nothing—Intrigues of the Duc Décazes—Constitutional crisis in France—Defeat of Marshal MacMahon: new Radical Ministry formed under Dufaure with Waddington as Foreign Minister—Treaty of San Stefano; nervousness of French Government—Determination of H.M. Government to secure a Conference—Invitation to Lord Lyons to be the British representative at Berlin—Resignation of Lord Derby: appointment of Lord Salisbury—Lord Salisbury’s circular of April 1st, 1878—Inquiry of Lord Salisbury respecting French desire for Tunis—The Anglo-Turkish Convention—The Congress of Berlin—Reception in France of the Anglo-Turkish Convention—Waddington and Tunis—Sir H. Layard on the Treaty of Berlin


PAGE 161
M. Grévy’s Presidency

Paris Exhibition of 1878: desire of Queen Victoria to visit it incognito—Tunis—Resignation of MacMahon: Election of Grévy—Waddington Prime Minister: his difficulties—Anglo-French policy in Egypt—Question of deposing the Khedive Ismail—Differences between British and French Governments with regard to Egypt—Deposition of the Khedive by the Sultan—Death of the Prince Imperial: effect in France—Proposed visit of Gambetta to England: his bias in favour of English Conservatives—Resignation of Waddington: Freycinet Prime Minister—Coolness between France and Russia


PAGE 209
The Revival of France

Change of Government in England and reversal of Foreign Policy—The French Embassy in London: Freycinet’s model Ambassador—Personal characteristics of Lord Lyons: On ne lui connait pas de vice—The work at the Paris Embassy—The Eastern Question: Mr. Goschen at Constantinople—The Dulcigno Demonstration and the difficulties of the European Concert—Proposal to seize Smyrna—Opportune surrender of the Sultan—H.M. Government and the Pope: Mission of Mr. Errington, M.P.—Gambetta on the European situation—French expedition to Tunis—Ineffectual objections of H.M. Government—Establishment of French Protectorate over Tunis—Irritation in England and Italy—Distinction drawn between Tunis and Tripoli—Attempt to negotiate a new Anglo-French Commercial Treaty: Question of Retaliation


PAGE 258
Arabi’s Rebellion

Egypt: the coup d’état of the Colonels: joint Anglo-French action—Gambetta as Prime Minister—His desire to remain on good terms with England—Egypt: the Dual Note—Gambetta in favour of a more resolute joint policy—Fall of Gambetta after two months of office—Ministry formed by Freycinet—French vacillation with regard to Egypt—Decision of H.M. Government to employ force—Bombardment of Alexandria—Decision of French Government to take no part in expedition—Fall of Freycinet—Invitation to Italy to join in expedition declined—Effect produced in France by British military success in Egypt—French endeavour to re-establish the Control in Egypt—Madagascar and Tonquin


PAGE 305

Death of Gambetta—General discontent in France—Change of Government: Jules Ferry Prime Minister—Waddington appointed Ambassador in London—Insult to King of Spain in Paris—Growth of French ill-will towards English influence in Egypt—Baron de Billing and General Gordon—Establishment of French Protectorate over Tonquin—Egyptian Conference in London—Renewed request to Lord Lyons to vote in House of Lords—Anti-English combination with regard to Egypt—Jules Ferry on the necessity of delivering a coup foudroyant upon China—French reverse in Tonquin: resignation of Jules Ferry—New Government under Freycinet—Bismarck and the persons whom he disliked—Funeral of Victor Hugo—Return of Lord Salisbury to the Foreign Office—Anglophobia in Paris: scurrilities of Rochefort


PAGE 360
The Last Year’s Work

Lord Rosebery at the Foreign Office—His surprise at ill-feeling shown by French Government—Proceedings of General Boulanger—Princes’ Exclusion Bill—Boulanger at the Review of July 14th—Causes of his popularity—General Election in England: Lord Salisbury Prime Minister—The Foreign Office offered to Lord Lyons—Egyptian questions raised by French Government—Apprehension in France of a German attack—Embarrassment caused by Boulanger—Unofficial attempt on behalf of French Government to establish better relations with England—Application by Lord Lyons to be permitted to resign—Pressed by Lord Salisbury to remain until end of the year—Desire of French Government to get rid of Boulanger—Lord Salisbury’s complaints as to unfriendly action of the French Government in various parts of the world—Resignation of Lord Lyons—Created an Earl—His death


Lord Lyons in Private Life. By Mrs. Wilfrid Ward       415
Index 429


Lord Lyons at the Age of 65 Frontispiece
William Henry Waddington 169
General Boulanger 370
The British Embassy, Paris 420
(Photograph by F. Contet, Paris.)

[Pg x]
[Pg 1]




Strictly speaking, the existence of the National Assembly which had been summoned to ratify the Preliminaries of Peace, had now[1] come to an end, but under prevailing circumstances, it was more convenient to ignore Constitutional technicalities, and the Government proceeded to carry on the business of the country on the basis of a Republic. Thiers had been elected Chief of the Executive, and it was astonishing how rapidly his liking for a Republic increased since he had become the head of one. It was now part of his task to check the too reactionary tendencies of the Assembly and to preserve that form of government which was supposed to divide Frenchmen the least. The feeling against the Government of National Defence was as strong as ever, and the elections of some of the Orleans princes gave rise to inconvenient demonstrations on the part of their political supporters, who pressed for the repeal of the law disqualifying that family. Thiers realized plainly enough that the revival of this demand was premature, and would only add to the general confusion, and had therefore induced the princes to absent themselves from Bordeaux, but the question could no longer be avoided.

Lord Lyons to Lord Granville.

Paris, June 6, 1871.

Thiers has been hard at work ‘lobbying,’ as the Americans say, but could not come to any settlement with the Assembly, and so begged them to postpone the question of the elections of the Princes of Orleans till the day after to-morrow. One of the plans proposed was that the provisional state of things should be formally continued for two years, by conferring his present powers on Thiers for that period. This would, it was hoped, keep the Republicans quiet and allay the impatience of the monarchical parties, by giving them a fixed time to look forward to. But this, it seems, the majority in the Assembly would not promise to vote. On the other hand, Thiers is said to be afraid of having the Duc d’Aumale and perhaps Prince Napoleon also, speaking against him in the Assembly, and attacking him and each other outside. Then comes the doubt as to the extent to which the fusion between the Comte de Chambord and the other Princes, or rather that between their respective parties, really goes. Altogether nothing can be less encouraging than the prospect. The Duc d’Aumale, as Lieutenant Général du Royaume, to prepare the way for the Comte de Chambord, is, for the moment, the favourite combination. In the meantime Thiers has thrown a sop to the majority by putting an Orleanist into the Home Office. The idea at Versailles yesterday was that Thiers and the Assembly would come to a compromise on the basis that the Orleans elections should be confirmed, but with a preamble repeating that nothing done was to be held to prejudge the question of the definitive government of France.

When the question came up, Thiers yielded on the point of the admission of the Princes, and the majority were highly pleased at having extorted this concession. Lord Lyons, dining at Thiers’s house at Versailles, a few days after the debate in the Assembly, met there the German General von Fabrice, the Prince de Joinville, the Duc d’Aumale, and the Duc de Chartres, and mentions the significant fact that M. and Madame Thiers and the rest of the company treated these Princes with even more than the usual respect shown to Royal personages. In private conversation Thiers expressed great confidence in soon getting the Germans out of the Paris forts, but both he and Jules Favre complained that Bismarck was a very bad creditor, and insisted upon having his first half-milliard by the end of the month: in fact, the Germans were so clamorous for payment that they hardly seemed to realize how anxious the French were to get rid of them, and that if the money was not immediately forthcoming, it was only because it was impossible to produce it.
What was of more immediate concern to the British Government than either the payment of the indemnity or the future of the Orleans princes, was the prospect of a new Commercial Treaty. This was sufficiently unpromising. Lord Lyons had pointed out during the Empire period, that under a Constitutional régime in France, we were not likely to enjoy such favourable commercial conditions as under personal government, and the more liberal the composition of a French Government, the more Protectionist appeared to be its policy. Thiers himself was an ardent Protectionist, quite unamenable to the blandishments of British Free Traders, who always appear to hold that man was made for Free Trade, instead of Free Trade for man, and the Finance Minister, Pouyer Quertier, entertained the same views as his chief. But, even if the Emperor were to come back, it was more than doubtful whether he would venture to maintain the existing Commercial Treaty as it stood, and there was every probability that the Bordeaux wine people and other so-called French Free Traders would turn Protectionist as soon as they realized that there was no prospect of British retaliation. What cut Lord Lyons (an orthodox Free Trader) to the heart, was that, just as the French manufacturers had got over the shock of the sudden introduction of Free Trade under the Empire and had adapted themselves to the new system, everything should be thrown back again. It was likely, indeed, that there would be some opposition to Thiers’s Protectionist taxes, but he knew well enough that there were not a sufficient number of Free Traders in the Assembly, or in the country, to make any effective resistance to the Government. When approached on the subject, the French Ministers asserted that all they wanted was to increase the revenue, and that all they demanded from England was to be allowed to raise their tariff with this view only, whereas, in their hearts, they meant Protection pure and simple. Lord Lyons’s personal view was that England would be better off if the Treaty was reduced to little more than a most favoured nation clause. ‘The only element for negotiation with the school of political economy now predominant here,’ he sadly remarked, ‘would be a threat of retaliation, and this we cannot use.’ It will be found subsequently that this was the one predominant factor in all commercial negotiations between the two Governments.

A long conversation with Thiers, who was pressing for a definite reply from Her Majesty’s Government on the subject of a new Treaty showed that matters from the British point of view were as unsatisfactory as they well could be. Thiers, whose language respecting England was courteous and friendly, made it clear that Her Majesty’s Government must choose between the proposed modifications in the tariff and the unconditional denunciation of the whole Treaty, and that if the Treaty were denounced, England must not expect, after its expiration, to be placed upon the footing of the most favoured nation. He considered that he had a right to denounce the Treaty at once, but had no wish to act in an unfriendly spirit, and had therefore refrained from doing so, and although he and his colleagues considered that the existing Treaty was disadvantageous and even disastrous to France, they had never promoted any agitation against it, and had confined themselves to proposing modifications of the tariff, which their financial necessities and the state of the French manufacturing interests rendered indispensable. Coal and iron, which were articles of the greatest importance to England, were not touched, and all that had, in fact, been asked for was a moderate increase on the duties on textile fabrics. As for the French Free Traders, whatever misleading views they might put forward in London, their influence upon the Assembly would be imperceptible, and it remained therefore for Her Majesty’s Government to decide whether they would agree to the changes he had proposed to them, or would give up altogether the benefits which England derived from the Treaty.
Thiers’s real motive was disclosed later on, when, whilst asserting that he should always act in a friendly spirit towards England, he admitted that ‘England was a much more formidable competitor in commerce than any other nation.’ Concessions which might safely be made to other countries might very reasonably be withheld from her. For instance, privileges which might be safely granted to the Italian merchant navy might, if granted to Great Britain, produce a competition between English and French shipping very disadvantageous to France. It would also be certainly for the interest of France that she should furnish herself with colonial articles brought direct to her own ports rather than resort, as at present, to the depôts of such goods in Great Britain. Nothing could be further from his intentions than to be influenced by any spirit of retaliation, nor, if the Treaty should be denounced, would he, on that account, be less friendly to England in political matters; but it was evident that, in making his financial and commercial arrangements, the interests and necessities of France must be paramount. In conclusion he pressed for an immediate answer from Her Majesty’s Government in order that the French Government might complete their plans, which were of urgent importance.
To the impartial observer the opinions expressed by Thiers seem to be logical, natural, and reasonable, unless the principle of looking after one’s own interests is unreasonable; but to the ardent devotees of Free Trade, they must have appeared in the light of impiety. Lord Lyons, in reporting the interview, remarked that ‘nothing could have been more unsatisfactory than Thiers’s language,’ and added significantly that he himself had managed to keep his temper.

Thiers did not get his definite answer, and the wrangle continued until in February, 1872, the French Government, with the general approval of the nation, gave notice of the termination of the Commercial Treaty of 1860.
The Bill abrogating the proscription of the French Royal families had been passed by the Assembly, and the elections of the Duc d’Aumale and the Prince de Joinville consequently declared valid, but these princes having established their rights, wisely remained in the background. Not so another illustrious Royalist, the Comte de Chambord. This prince, who was also included in the reversal of the disqualifying law, returned to France and issued a proclamation from the Château of Chambord in July which spread consternation in the Royalist camp. After explaining that his presence was only temporary and that he desired to create no embarrassment, he declared that he was prepared to govern on a broad basis of administrative decentralization, but that there were certain conditions to which he could not submit. If he were summoned to the throne he would accept, but he should retain his principles, and above all the White Flag which had been handed down to him by his ancestors. This announcement seemed, to say the least, premature, and the supporters of a Republic must have warmly congratulated themselves upon having to encounter an enemy who played so completely into their hands.

Lord Lyons to Lord Granville.

Paris, July 11, 1871.

The Comte de Chambord seems to have upset the Legitimist coach. The Legitimist Deputies have been obliged to repudiate the White Flag, being sure that they could never be elected to a new Chamber under that Banner, and of course fusion between the Orleans Princes and their cousin is now out of the question.
Thiers said to me last night that he did not regard the Comte de Chambord’s declaration in favour of the White Flag as irrevocable—and that it looked as if it had been made in a moment of ill-temper. According to Thiers, both the Comte de Chambord and the Comte de Paris eagerly desire to be kings—most people doubt, however, whether the Comte de Chambord does really wish it. All that has occurred tends to strengthen and prolong Thiers’s hold on power, and he is rejoicing accordingly. Indeed, there i

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