HC Deb 01 February 1808 vol 10 cc195-7


No. I.—Dispatch from the right hon. lord Granville Leveson Gower to Mr. Secretary Canning, dated St. Petersburg, Sept. 2d, 1807.—Received Sept. 19th.

Sir: I have the honour to inform you, that on Saturday evening, 29th August, I received by sir Stephen Shairp, who left the fleet off Copenhagen upon the 24th of August, your dispatches, Nos. 32 and 33, and on Sunday the messenger Ruff delivered to me those from No. 26 to 31 inclusive.—Being thus completely put in possession of the sentiments of his majesty's government upon all the points which could come into discussion between this country and Great Britain, I lost no time in requesting a conference with general Budberg, who, though extremely unwell, invited me to call upon him last night.—I began the conference by observing that his excellency being already apprised by the answer given by his majesty's secretary of state, to M. Alopeus, of the conditional acceptance by the court of London, of the proferred mediation of Russia, I had to state to him, that I was instructed in the first instance to request the communication of the secret articles of the treaty of Tilsit, and a frank disclosure of the general views and intentions of the court of St. Petersburgh. That impartiality was the first requisite in the character of a mediator, and that before the British government agreed to avail itself of the mediation of this court, it was essentially necessary that England should be placed, with regard to the mediating power, on an equal footing with France; that the confidential intercourse which had taken place between the emperor and Bonaparte at Tilsit, and by which his imperial majesty became acquainted with the principles upon which the French government proposed negociating with the court of London, had naturally excited an uneasiness in England, which could only be removed by an unreserved communication; that I could nut conceal from him, that the period peremptorily prescribed to his majesty, for the acceptance of the Russian mediation, had created in London a very unfavourable impression against the intervention of his imperial majesty; that however, notwithstanding his majesty had just reason to be offended with the terms of the 13th article, such was his desire to embrace any opening which afforded the prospect of the conclusion of an honourable peace that he would not retract the conditional acceptance of the mediation, which had already been conveyed to the Russian government, in the note addressed by you to M. Alopeus; that his majesty at the same time, looked for some mark of the good will of the emperor of Russia towards great Britain; that M. Alopeus had before the late unfortunate events of Friedland and Tilsit, requested of you a project of a new treaty of commerce, and had given the assurance of the disposition of his court to proceed to the definitive conclusion of a commercial arrangement between the two countries; that a project had in compliance with his wish been communicated and transmitted to St. Petersburgh; and that if the good-will of his imperial majesty towards England continued unaltered, I trusted no delay would take place in proceeding to the negotiation of this treaty; that the existence of any stipulation in this project which. was not approved of by this government, was no obstacle to our entering into negociation upon it, because I should take upon myself to agree to any modifications which did not appear to change the basis and principles upon which it had been framed; that as France had, by the 27th article of the Tilsit Treaty, secured the re-establishment of her former commercial relations with Russia, a natural and obvious mode of proving the impartiality of the emperor. would be the renewal of the commercial treaty with Great Britain.—General Budberg began his reply by acknowledging the existence of secret articles belonging to the treaty of Tilsit. There were some, he said, which in no way concerned the interests of England; that he could assure me, and as an honest man, he would not say it if it were not truth, there existed no secret article whatever, which stipulated the shutting the Russian ports against the British commerce; that, with respect to the project to the treaty of commerce, he had to confess, that, from the press of other, business, and the had state of his health, he had not had tune to lay it before the emperor; that it must necessarily be considered by the minister of commerce, before he could confer with me upon it; and that, as to the 27th article of the Tilsit treaty, it only placed the commercial relations of the two countries upon the same footing that they had been before the commencement of hostilities; that the commercial treaty with France was not renewed, and would expire in two years; and that it by no means followed because Bonaparte had communicated to the emperor of Russia, the basis upon which he was ready to conclude peace with England, that his imperial majesty had made any communications at Tilsit of the future views and system of the court of Petersburg. The general appeared to wish that I should consider this answer as sufficiently satisfactory to authorize me to accept the mediation of his court. I observed in reply, that it was difficult to conceive any articles of a peace between Russia and France which did not directly or indirectly concern Great Britain; but that I asked the communication of the secret articles, not only as an object which might affect the interests of England, but as a mark of the continuance of that friendship and confidence on the part of this court, which could alone afford any prospect of good, from the acceptance of the mediation of the emperor of Russia; that with the same view, I had proposed continuing the negociations begun by Mons. Alopeus, and that if his excellency had no authority at present to say any thing more satisfactory than what I had as yet heard from him, I must request him to ask the permission of the emperor to communicate to me without reserve the secret articles of the treaty between Russia and France, and to empower him to continue the negociations, and conclude a treaty of commerce with Great Britain. General Budberg promised me, that he would lose no time in bringing these two requests under the consideration of his imperial majesty. I have the honour, &c.