HC Deb 15 July 1822 vol 7 cc1649-53
Sir J. Mackintosh

said, he held in his hand a petition which he considered to possess peculiar claims upon the attention of the House. The petition proceeded from certain inhabitants of Lees, in the parish of Ashton-under-Lyne, and referred to the sufferings of the Christian Greeks, and the oppressions of the Turkish government. The sentiments contained in the petition were those of all the inhabitants of Great Britain, who at all thought upon the subject. He was sure that the feelings of the people of this country would have been manifested at a more early period, and in a more general manner, if it had not been for the difficulties which opposed themselves to any measure calculated to give a practical effect to those feelings. A simultaneous effort of all the powers of Europe, and an immediate one, could alone be effectual to the cause of these unhappy sufferers. The only security that England or any other power could take from Turkey, as to any thing like forbearance from these excesses for the future, must be territorial security; for with an angry and barbarous government, with the sword in its hand, parchment, words, and promises, it would he idle to rely upon. In the mean time, any effort on the part of England, even if it should fail, would be honourable to her.

Mr. Hume

wished to ask whether it was true, that the Greeks, in their endeavours to escape from the persecution of their oppressors, by taking refuge in the Ionian islands, had been forcibly expelled from thence by the British government in that station? He would also call the attention of the noble marquis to the fact, that a Turkish frigate was now fitting out at Deptford, with all the stores, ammunition, and arms of a warlike description that could bring her crew and company within the operation of the Foreign Enlistment bill. He had seen a sailor that morning, who told him that he had entered himself on board this Turkish frigate. Now surely it was the duty of ministers, to exert the same activity in prohibiting the subjects of this kingdom from entering themselves aboard a Turkish frigate, which they had manifested in regard to those who had been desirous of enlisting in the service of Naples or of Spain.

Mr. Wilmot

was not aware of any measures which had been taken by the government of the Ionian islands that, could have had the effect of preventing the reception of Greeks in the situation alluded to. No official information of any such measures had been received by ministers. He was unable to satisfy the inquiry of the hon. gentleman in regard to the Turkish frigate, in consequence of the absence of an hon. baronet, by whom it would be more satisfactorily answered.

Mr. Hutchinson

said, that for their exertions to prevent a war between Russia and Turkey, he had felt disposed to give to ministers every credit. But if those exertions had been put forth only for the purpose of allowing the Turks to commit what havoc their barbarous ferocity might prompt them to, during the recess of the British parliament—if this had been done, in order to enable them with the more security and confidence to pursue The work of destroying the Greeks—if had been the object of his majesty's ministers in England and in. Constantinople, he proclaimed their conduct to be of the most abject, the most degraded, and the most unmanly character. He called upon the House to answer to themselves and to the country, whether they felt assured, that during the recess, the Greeks would be free from Turkish oppression. If no genuine measure had been taken by government on behalf of this gallant and unfortunate people; or if; on the contrary, what had been done, had been done only to give Turkey the better opportunity of sweeping off her Grecian subjects, this government had adopted a course of proceeding which would ensure to them the scorn and execrations of all posterity. Earnestly and loudly, therefore, he would call—not upon his majesty's ministers—for from their policy, linked as it, was with that of the continental powers, he could hope nothing; but he would call on such men as the hon. gentleman (Mr. Wilberforce) opposite, and from whom the cause of suffering humanity would always expect a consistent and vigorous support. He would call upon that hon. member, and on those other gentlemen who were accustomed to concur with him in their opinions, to declare whether a pledge ought not to be exacted from the ministers of the Crown, that such a course of proceeding had not been adopted. If it had, and parliament could permit it to pass unnoticed, he would appeal to that hon. gentleman whether they could expect the blessings of Providence on their future counsels and undertakings. Notwithstanding all the reverses which the cause of freedom and of happiness had hitherto sustained in Turkey, the success which had attended her exertions in Spain forbade him to despair of Greece.

Mr. Wilberforce,

having been appealed to by the hon. gentleman, begged to assure him, that for the cause of the unhappy reeks, it was impossible that any one could feel more warmly than himself Indeed he should hope that there could be but one feeling among generous and enlightened and Christian minds on their behalf. It was, in truth, a disgrace to all the powers of Europe, that long ere now they had not made a simultaneous effort, and driven back a nation of barbarians, the ancient and inveterate enemies of Christianity and freedom, into Asia He was at all times far indeed from advocating war, unless peace could only be acquired at the price of disgrace and infamy. At the same time, he must declare, that he knew of no case in which the power of a mighty country like England could be more nobly, more generously, or more justifiably exerted, than in rescuing the Greeks from bondage and destruction.

The Marquis of Londonderry

thought that the present was not a very fit occasion for the discussion of so wide a question as that into which gentlemen had been pleased to enter. It was really marvellous to see how the friends of peace could sometimes advocate the cause, and most unnecessarily, of war. His lima friend, at all times conscientiously supporting the doctrines of benevolence and peace, was now disclosing to the House a problem, which was to relegate and to throw back upon Asia a Turkish population of some 5,000,000 of souls. Now, whatever might be said about Turkish inhumanity, it did appear to him, that neither the crusade, which his hon. friend had proclaimed against the Turks, nor the sentence of transportation pronounced against them, were very likely to have the effect of expelling them from Europe. Gentlemen on the other side did his majesty's ministers great injustice, when they supposed that their exertions had been confined to mediating terms of peace between Russia and the Porte. The danger of Greece had not been lost sight of, and every thing which it was in the power of our government to effect, had been done. He could assure those gentlemen who appeared to possess a peculiar system for the better management of foreign affairs, that neither the government nor the country were so wild as to be prepared to, take up arms with a view to the more, effective and impartial administration of justice in the dominions of Turkey. But no effort had been neglected which it might have been hoped would either have prevented, or at least have softened, the horrors of a war, marked by atrocities that were equally disgraceful to. Greece and to the Porte. He could not suffer the hon. gentlemen to deceive either themselves or the House, however, by proceeding on a supposition that all the horrors and atrocities were on one; side of this contest, and that there was nothing in it for humanity to deplore, but the cruelty and barbarism of the Turks, and the sufferings and ill-fated amiability of the Greeks. The truth was, that, in this attempt to recover their liberties, as it had been called, the Greeks had done much which was to be regretted. The traits of ferocity and violence which had distinguished the whole of this struggle were equally remarkable in the Greek and in the Turkish combatants.

Sir R. Wilson

was of opinion, that if ministers would repeal their Foreign Enlistment bill, and give the spirit of honourable enterprize fair play, men would not be wanting to embark in such a cause. He would pledge himself that foreign aid would enable the Greeks to wrest their ancient territories from the Turks, and to take once more their station among the free nations of the world. He trusted that the noble lord would give directions to our government in the Ionian islands, at least to be impartial; for the fact was, that the hostile way in which our authority had been used against the Greeks, had rendered the name of England so odious among them, that not one Greek had yet ventured to solicit upon these shores assistance for his suffering countrymen.

Lord A. Hamilton

said, that we were at least bound to preserve a strict neutrality between the Greeks and the Turks, but the conduct which our government had pursued had been altogether partial and oppressive.

The Marquis of Londonderry

said, that the instructions of ministers to the government of the Ionian islands had been, that the strictest neutrality should be preserved in all transactions between the Greeks and the Turks.

Ordered to lie on the table.