HC Deb 19 May 1826 vol 15 cc1271-5
Sir R. H. Inglis

rose to present a petition from White Roothing, in Essex, on behalf of the Greeks. It was numerously, and, as he understood, respectably signed. It was not, however, on account of the numbers, or of the respectability of those who signed this petition, that he called the attention of the House to it, but chiefly from the fact, that, with one solitary exception, and that four years ago, the present was the only expression of pubic feeling in this cause which the House had heard, since the commencement of the great struggle in which the Greeks are engaged. He therefore felt that he should hardly do his duty to the petitioners and to the cause, if he did not ask the indulgence of the House for a few moments, while he stated the case which had been intrusted to him. The petitioners, feeling as men and as Christians, for the calamities of the Greeks, still did not ask the House to interfere in their behalf by war, or by the threat of war. They asked only, and he asked only, for firm expostulation and remonstrance. As to threats of war, he would only say that, in the case of nations as of individuals, it was unworthy to use a threat which was not ready to be executed; As to negotiations, he felt the delicacy and difficulty of the duty which the circumstances of the Greek revolution had imposed upon government. Bound we were by treaties to respect the independence of Turkey. He felt that, if there be any difference in the degree in which obligations voluntarily contracted between nations or between individuals, can be binding upon the parties, it is when one is strong, and the other is weak; when one is Christian, and the other is infidel. It is in these cases; that we are more especially bound to show the superiority of our principles, and the generosity of our strength. He trusted, however, that in perfect consistency with this rule of Conduct, government had used, and would continue to use, not only with Turkey, but with Austria, and every other state, every legitimate means in their power to obtain for the Greeks, not merely protection and security, but, he trusted he might still add, the revival and independence of their nation.

Mr. W. Smith

envied the feelings of his hon. friend in presenting such a petition. He heartily wished that there could be an expression of public sentiment throughout the country upon this Subject, which might convince the world that we were not indifferent to the great and holy war which the Greeks were now waging for the recovery of their liberty and independence.

Sir R. Wilson

said, that the time was now come when some step ought to be taken by England, in order to save a Christian people from extermination. The cruel and inhuman manner in which the Turks carried on the war against the Greeks was evident from this circumstance—that the Greeks preferred sacrificing themselves along with their wives and children to submitting to the degrading captivity which they must suffer if they fell into the hands of the Turks. He was sorry to say, that notwithstanding the heroic resolution with which many Greeks had freed themselves by death from the degrading brutalities of their captors, some of them had been exposed for sale ac the price of 50 and 100 dollars a head in the market at Alexandria. He lamented that French officers should have degraded themselves and their country by entering into the service of the Pacha of Egypt, and by fighting against the Greeks; but he lamented still more the impolitic law which prevented British subjects from embarking in the cause of Greece, and from showing their attachment to the sacred cause of freedom. He condemned the policy of the foreign enlistment bill, but praised the liberality with which ministers had exercised the powers it gave them.

Mr. Hobhouse

said, that the same delicacy which had hitherto closed the mouths of his hon. friends upon the subject of Greece, had also influenced him not to make any public appeal to ministers, the reply to which might embarrass the march of their policy towards that country. Judging from some words which had dropped from a noble lord, in another place, as well as from other circumstances, he had reason to believe that some measures on behalf of the Greeks were in the contemplation of government, and he was aware that any public declaration of their policy might be prejudicial to that sacred cause. With respect to the great blow which had been lately struck against the Greeks, it was to him, as it must be to every Englishman, a subject of the deepest regret; but he could not say that he despaired from that circumstance, of the fortunes of that heroic people. Missolonghi had certainly fallen; but it was not the last hold of the Greeks, for he was informed, by good judges, that if they defended Napoli di Romania, the present seat of their government, with only half the heroic perseverance which they displayed in defence of Missolonghi, they need not despair of holding the place out long enough to baffle the efforts of Ibrahim, or any other force which might be brought against it. Had he been disposed to bring this matter formally before the House, he could have proved in-contestably that the French government had not acted with fair play, either towards the Greeks, or towards this country. This country, on the contrary, bad, so far as its declarations to France were concerned, acted a loyal, just, and fair part, and had adhered to the letter of its proclamation of impartiality. He was not aware of the private understanding which existed between our government and that of France; but it was certain that, whilst the latter publicly professed a determination not to assist the Greeks, they were openly aiding the Turks in the unnatural contest. He could produce a list of officers receiving pay of the Pacha of Egypt, who were still upon the half-pay list of the French army, and also, that Austrian ships were regularly in the pay of the Pacha. He could prove that a French ship of war had been known to convey treasure from Alexandria to the ports of the Morea, and several other facts, which would clearly demonstrate an intention, in one part of the French government, openly to give assistance to the Turks against the Greeks. He could not, of course, undertake to say what course our government would pursue under these circumstances, nor was he anxious, for the reasons stated, that any official statement should be made on the subject. On the contrary he deprecated further discussion upon it; but he was anxious to repeat his conviction, that the downfall of the Greek cause was not to be necessarily inferred from the fall of Missolonghi. On the contrary, the best results ought to be anticipated from the courage and desperate valour with which the Greeks defended that fortress.

The Petition was then read; setting forth; "That the petitioners beg to recommend to the compassionate regard of the House the deplorable condition of out-fellow christians, the Greeks, now suffering under the merciless rage of Mahomedan tyranny; it is with lively sorrow that the petitioners have heard of the unsparing cruelty which characterizes the protracted struggle in the east of Europe; and when the petitioners couple with the fearful devastation of the Greeks, now daily threatened, the almost complete depopulation of unhappy Scio, the fears of the petitioners seem to be justified in anticipating the most afflictive results, even the entire extermination of the Greeks as a people, both soldier and citizen, infant and aged, male and female, in one indiscriminate slaughter; while the petitioners deeply lament our supineness hitherto, which has permitted the distresses of our Greek fellow christians to. arrive at this extremity, without resorting to the invaluable privilege which they enjoy as British subjects, of petitioning the House in their favour, both regret for the past and hope of the future stimulate the petitioners thus to interest the House in their behalf, and to entreat the House to adopt such means as their wisdom shall seem fit, to avert a mischief at once so overwhelming for the Greeks to suffer, and so disgraceful to Christendom to permit; the petitioners deprecate all thoughts of resorting to the ultimate appeal of nations, but they earnestly solicit the House to advise the use of those means of protecting the oppressed with which a gracious Providence has at this moment favoured this happy land, even those of firm expostulation, and prudent negotiation, which, under God, may derive effect from the influence of our extended empire, our acknowledged eminence among christian kingdoms, the known liberality of our inter-national policy, and, above all, the just expectations of the civilized world, that this land will be the first to interfere in the protection of suffering christians, which is the most signally blessed with Christian privileges itself, and the most actively engaged in imparting them to others."

Ordered to lie on the table.