HC Deb 01 March 1833 vol 16 cc17-22
Mr. Hill

presented a Petition from the inhabitants of Kingston-upon-Hull, praying the House to present an humble Address to his Majesty, imploring him to enter into an immediate negotiation with France and the other Powers of Europe who were not parties to the dismemberment of Poland, with a view to restoring that unhappy country to her rights. The outrages which had been committed in Poland were so numerous, and so abhorrent to the feelings of all the civilized world, that it would be a waste of time at present to enter at any length upon it. It might appear, that this petition prayed the House to enter upon a hopeless subject; but when they considered the state of Poland, the enormity of the crime, the carrying away of a whole nation into captivity, treating them as the Jews of old were treated by the Babylonish kings, putting them in a state for which they must refer to very remote history to find a parallel, he did think it became the duty of all the civilized world, however hopeless the attempt might appear to be, to use every possible exertion to put an end to such dreadful atrocities. It was yet to be seen whether the emperor of Russia would be deaf to the entreaties of the whole civilized world. That experiment, at least, had not yet been tried. The present petitioners forbore to allude, in the most distant way, to force, to attain their object, and they did wisely; every thing should be previously tried, and perhaps, in the event of failure—even then, in the present state of the world, the experiment should be carried no further.

Mr. Cultar Fergusson

observed, that it was not his intention to occupy much time upon this most interesting subject on the present occasion, but he could not forbear to deliver a few observations, in addition to what he had said on a former day. The facts which he had then stated, and the atrocious acts which he had then recited, were asserted by some hon. Members to have been exaggerated. Instead, how- ever, of having been exaggerated, they had been infinitely understated. He had done nothing like justice to the wrongs of that great, honourable, and gallant nation. Since he had had the honour of addressing the House, an edict more barbarous than any that had ever issued, he believed, from the greatest of Roman tyrants, had been sent forth by the emperor of Russia, by which he had consigned 50,000 brave people to transportation. He had included in that edict the transportation of whole families who had never offended. He had likewise included those who had returned from transportation, and rejoined their families upon the faith of the promises of the emperor, that they should not be molested. In addition, he had likewise included those who had been merely suspected of the slightest offences. Surely it was quite sufficient to state this. But the outrages were not thus confined. The whole population of Poland, men and children, had been carried away, swept away, he might say, to the wilds of Siberia—and there left to forget their country. They were treated as slaves, and in that way, like beasts, were the unfortunate Poles driven into the most savage corner of the earth. He thought, that if Europe looked upon this conduct without feelings of the utmost horror, and without summoning up a determination to call for a redress of these wrongs, it ought to be despised and degraded in the eyes of all ages hereafter. He hoped his Majesty's Government had been interfering upon the subject. France had undoubtedly been doing so, and he believed had gone the utmost length she could go, short of hostilities, to prevent a continuance of this most outrageous and profligate conduct. The first time at which he had addressed the House would have been a proper period for the interference of this country, because that was the moment at which the nationality of Poland was undergoing destruction; and the independence of Poland was as much secured as that of any other nation by the Treaty entered into at Vienna. He trusted the House would not think it too late even now to bestir itself, and do something in favour of unhappy Poland. In his opinion", the country was greatly disgraced by not having done something, and done it effectually, long ere now. He believed the safety of Poland would have been preserved if there had been a due and vigorous interference on the part of England. If there had been anything like the interference that had been made in favour of Belgium, Poland would have been Poland still, and in the eye of a statesman, the independence of Poland was of infinitely greater importance than the independence of Belgium. But he would not venture himself to go into the subject at present. He believed, by giving way as regarded Poland, Europe was only encouraging Russia by one great struggle to invade and subdue every country throughout Europe. In the struggle he sincerely hoped she would fall. From what had taken place to his knowledge, he believed, that Russia had her eye upon the northern powers of India—that when she had made her way secure there, she meant to advance upon Turkey, then upon ourselves, and, if possible, to conquer the whole of the Continent. Sooner or later, we should be obliged to fight for our own independence, and the possession of our Asiatic dominions, and we should have to encounter the tyrant of the North, both in Asia and in Europe.

Mr. Fergus O'Connor

was delighted to hear hon. Members get up in that House, and plead the cause of the distressed, even though it were of Poland or Greece. At the same time, he certainly could not but express his wish that he could have succeeded in enlisting their sympathies in behalf of Ireland. The people of that country had grievances and complaints equally strong with the people of Poland; but was it not extraordinary that hon. Gentlemen should get up in that House and eloquently plead the cause of the oppressed Poles, and with equal eloquence call for measures of coercion and despotism for Ireland. Would it not be somewhat more in character for hon. Members to look nearer home? For himself, he should be ever ready to advocate the cause of the distressed, to whatever country they might belong; but he could not avoid again imploring hon. Members to remember that Ireland was oppressed, though their sister-country.

Mr. Cobbett

said, the petition that had been presented was equally creditable to the petitioners and to the hon. Members who had brought it forward and supported it. He fully concurred with them in lamenting the condition of the Poles; but at the same time he must observe, that it was folly to suppose that this country could render any practical assistance to that unfortunate country. But though he lamented equally with other hon. Members the transplantation as it was called, to Siberia, of 5,000 Polish families, he could not forget—not the transplantation, but the driving out and almost extermination, of nearly an entire county in Scotland. Oh, no! He could not forget that! And he wished that the cause of the poor and ill used people in that case, had fallen into the same able hands, as the cause of the Poles this morning. Did hon. Gentlemen forget that the inhabitants of almost an entire county had had their houses burnt down, and themselves driven at the point of the bayonet from the land upon which they were born? Let it not be supposed then that it was only in Poland that these monstrous crimes had been committed! The same thing had been done in Scotland; aye, and without the same motive too. Every body knew that [No, no.] He repeated every body knew that! [An Hon. Member: I do not know it.] "Then read it." If hon. Gentlemen would institute an inquiry into that transaction, it would be creditable to them. Aye, much more creditable than going to Poland or Siberia in search of such cases of oppression. He always distrusted those who went to a distance to find objects of compassion, when they might discover them so much nearer home.

Mr. Heathcote

deprecated the continuance of these lengthened and desultory discussions on the presentation of petitions. He was of opinion that hon. Members would not be able to justify themselves to their constituents for thus wasting the time of the House. One of the heaviest complaints against the former Parliament was, that there was infinitely too much talking, and very little done. He regretted exceedingly to see, however, that the Reformed House was no better, and he feared much worse, than the un-reformed House. It reminded him of the fable of the swallow—it had only brushed out the old inhabitants of the nest, to bring in a lot of more insatiable talkers. First, a petition was presented in favour of the Jews, which led to a long discussion as to who were and who were not Christians. Then came a petition in favour of the Poles, when his hon. friend, the member for Kirkcudbright, having promised to make a very short speech, made a very long one; and now the hon. member for Oldham was prepared to go into a discussion connected with emigration from Sutherland.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

did not think that he deserved the censure of the hon. Gentleman. He had not departed from the question which was before the House, yet the hon. Member had thought fit to blame him. He did not know what the hon. Gentleman meant by the remarks which he had made.

Mr. Heathcote

said, he had been misunderstood by the hon. Member. He did not complain of his departing from the question. All he had said was that the hon. Member as usual, began with saying that he would trouble the House but a very short time, and then made a very long speech.

Mr. Hutt

did not fear but that he could justify himself to his constituents and to the country, whenever he might think it necessary to address that House. He fully concurred in the prayer of the petition in favour of the unfortunate Poles; and he would assure his Majesty's Ministers that they could not possibly do an act more gracious in itself, and more important to the cause of civil and religious liberty, not merely in this country, but throughout the world, than to interfere in behalf of that gallant and brave nation, and endeavour to deliver them from all the horrors and miseries of their present condition.

Mr. M'Leod

declared that he could not sit silent after the most gross and unfounded attack which the hon. member for Oldham had made on the county which he (Mr. M'Leod) had the honour to represent. In doing so, he had to throw himself on the indulgence of the House, and of the people of England. He called upon them to suspend their judgments for the present, and not to give credit to the gross aspersions that had been cast on those whom he represented. Although he did not impute those calumnies to the hon. member for Oldham himself, never had more infamous calumnies been uttered by any hon. Member, and that without the slightest notice too to the parties interested, and with out the possibility of their coming forward to contradict them in that House. The county which he had the honour of representing belonged in a great part to certain noble individuals, who had always treated him with marks of favour and distinction, to which he individually had no title; and he should have been chargeable with a dereliction of positive duty, if he had not stood forward to give the most unqualified contradiction to the hon. Member's assertions. The transaction, instead of having produced any decrease among, or inconvenience to, the inhabitants of the county, had been productive of actual advantage and benefit. The noble individual at the head of the property had done much more than perhaps any other Gentleman in that House, for the advantage of any particular locality. He had actually made 500 or 600 miles of road at his own private expense. The population of the country, in place of being diminished, had been increased, and along the whole line of that road there were to be seen populous and flourishing villages and arable ground, in a state of as fine and rich cultivation as could anywhere be met with throughout England. He would not detain the House any longer, for he was not prepared to enter into a discussion of the subject, but he could not sit down without again giving a full and complete contradiction to the statement of the hon. Member.

An Hon. Member

expressed his conviction that, if the hon. member for Oldham were to investigate the subject, he would find, that what he had described as facts were entirely destitute of foundation.