§ Viscount Palmerston moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee upon the Greek Loan Act.
§ House in Committee.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, the objects which I have in view have been pretty well explained by the papers which I have already laid before the House, which go to show the course of the communications which have taken place between the Government of England on the one hand, and those of Russia and France on the other, with regard to the further guarantee of the remainder of the loan, which, by the treaty of 1832, the three Powers undertook to secure to Greece. But perhaps I should state more specifically the grounds on which I think it the duty of the Government of Great Britain to ratify this measure. The House is aware, that after the termination of the contest between Greece and Turkey, and when the Porte consented to acknowledge the independence of Greece, the three Powers, in virtue of the authority delegated to them by the Greek nation, did proceed to exercise the right which had been vested in them, of nominating the person who should be King of Greece. The choice, it will be recollected, in the first instance, fell upon Leopold, Prince of Saxe Coburg. In the communications which were made between that Prince and the conference of the three Powers, an agreement was come to, by which the three Governments agreed to guarantee the amount of interest and sinking fund, by a loan of 60,000,000 of francs to be raised for the use of the Greeks. The House is aware of the circumstances which led Prince Leopold to refuse the offer of the throne of Greece, and of the subsequent nomination by the three Powers, about a year and a half afterwards, of the Prince Otho, of Bavaria, to be Sovereign of Greece. In the communications which passed on the occasion, he naturally asked, or rather the Government of Bavaria, on his behalf, asked, whether the same condi- 616 tions would be offered to him which had been offered and secured to his predecessor—and specifically whether the same accommodation of the guarantee of the loan would be given, in order to enable him (Prince Otho) to administer the Government of Greece. The three Powers considered that they were bound by their former engagements, and they accordingly consented to continue the engagement which they had made to Prince Leopold; judging it to be an engagement, not to this or that individual, but to the Greek nation, for the accomplishment of those purposes for which the three Powers had laboured to establish the independence of Greece. In consequence of this, an article was introduced in the treaty of 1832, between the three Powers and that of Bavaria, by which the guarantee was formally recorded in the treaty, with this difference—that whereas, in the year 1830, the engagement was without restriction as to the guarantee of the loan of 60,000,000 of francs; by the treaty of 1832, it was to be divided into three instalments of 20,000,000 of francs each, instead of the proposition by which the whole amount was to be raised at once; and the raising of the different instalments applicable to the wants of Greece, was to be made by the Government of Greece. In virtue of that treaty, two out of the three instalments have been already guaranteed; and the loan of 40,000,000 of francs has been already raised. The third instalment, the House is aware, has been postponed. I should state, with regard to the two first instalments, that when the original engagement was made to the Greek Government in 1830, it was supposed by both parties that the whole 60,000,000 of francs would go in aid of the general revenues of Greece; but, subsequent to the year 1830, a negotiation was entered into at Constantinople, which was brought to a very successful termination, by the zeal and ability of my right hon. Friend, the Member for Lynn (Sir Stratford Canning); by which negotiation a large and important district was added to the territory of Greece; in consideration of which the Greek state had to pay a sum of 40,000,000 of piastres. This sum has been paid out of the first and second instalment; and, therefore, when I say that the Greek Government has had the benefit of the first and second instalment, I ought to 617 mention that they have not had sufficient to cover the deficiency in the income of the Greek nation, because 40,000,000 of piastres, or 11,000,000 of francs, have been paid over to Turkey. In the course of the last year the Greek Government represented to the three contracting Powers that there was a deficiency in its revenue, which did not cover the expenditure, and it required further advances. We had never expected that within the present period the revenues of the kingdom of Greece would have risen to an extent sufficient to cover the whole of the expenditure, and, therefore, this application, on the part of Greece was not unexpected by us. Sir, a discussion arose between the parties to the conference as to the question of what portion of the 20,000,000 of francs it was absolutely necessary to advance to Greece; and it was obvious that the conference would require the strictest proof from the Greek Government as to the amount it might be requisite to advance to meet the expenses of the year. And in this, I think, the conference acted not only with judgment and due regard to the three Powers, but with a sound regard to the interests of the Greek nation itself, because it was not for the advantage of the Greek state to have a larger sum of money placed at the disposal of the government than was really required. The Greek Government having satisfied us, that, not only was there a deficiency, but that that deficiency amounted to a sum varying from 4,000,000 to 6,000,000 of francs, being a deficiency of 4,000,000 as between the income and expenditure, and a charge of more than 2,000,000 of francs, from the expenses and deficiencies of the former year, a doubt was raised on the part of France as to the amount to be advanced; but they concluded at length, with England, in thinking an advance of 6,000,000 of francs to be necessary for the service of the Greek nation. In the early part of this year disturbances broke out in the northern parts of Greece; these disturbances not being raised by the inhabitants against the government, but being the consequence of an inroad of robbers and banditti from Turkey, who came to pillage and plunder the country. This inroad, however, was repelled by a considerable body of troops who came from the south to the north, but who acted in co-operation with the population generally. This 618 circumstance, however, added also to the wants of the Greek nation, or rather to her pecuniary difficulties; because, in order to repel this incursion, it became necessary to add 2,000 men to the army. But when I state that these men were considered to be a lawless set of persons, in whose hands it had been deemed unsafe to place arms, and when I state that these persons, forgetting all their former habits, and all their former insubordination, supported the government in repelling these banditti, and thus restored tranquillity and order, I think I give the strongest and best proof that the Government of Greece is one which is founded on the affections of the people at large! Sir, the British Government and that of France think that 6,000,000 of francs are necessary and sufficient for the present exigencies of the Government; but Russia holds a different opinion, and having in the first place declined to concur in any advance, afterwards proposed to the conference that the three Powers should guarantee the whole remaining 20,000,000 francs; but that the money should only be issued by an annual sum of 2,500,000 francs every year, which would thus cover the interest and sinking fund. Now his Majesty's Government and that of France, felt that this proposal was not applicable to the present wants and emergencies of the Greek Government, and that, therefore, it was inconsistent with a due interpretation of the engagement made in the treaty referred to. The proposal of Russia would place at the disposal of the Greek Government only forty millions out of the 60,000,000 of francs, and would have the effect of leaving Greece actually in a state of insolvency, because, there being a deficiency of 6,000,000 of francs in the income of Greece, Greece would receive from the Powers only 2,500,000 francs, without the hope, and without the resources, to provide for the difference or deficiency of income as compared with that of the expenditure. We thought, therefore, that it was not consistent with the spirit of the treaty, and with those views which had actuated each Government in establishing the independence of Greece as a nation, to listen to this proposition. On looking at the Act of Parliament by which power was given for the execution of the treaty, it appeared doubtful, at least, whether the Crown could 619 guarantee any portion separately, or, acting only in conjunction with France, whether England could take one step forward towards guaranteeing any portion of the loan, unless Russia and France went in conjunction with her. The object I have in view is, to propose to the House a Bill, the purport of which is, not to authorise the Crown to go to any greater extent than the Crown was authorised to go by the former Act,—not to guarantee more than the third of 60,000,000 francs, which the Act of 1832 empowers it to do; but to release England from the necessity of being bound to go step by step with Russia, and to enable the English Government to guarantee a portion of the remainder of the loan, although Russia and France should not consent to guarantee each its respective portion. The effect of the Bill, therefore, will not be in any degree to increase the existing liability of this country, but only to enable the Crown to make that liability more really useful to Greece, and accomplish the purposes for which Parliament empowered the Crown to contract it. Two-thirds of the original loan of 60,000,000 francs have been raised and guaranteed, besides a small portion of the remaining third—namely, 1,200,000 francs; thus there remain to be guaranteed only about 19,000,000 of francs, one-third of which this country is liable to be called on to guarantee—or the total amount which this country could be called on to give a guarantee for, is a sum little exceeding 6,000,000 of francs. The question is not whether this country should stop short where it at present stands, or whether it should go on and complete its guarantee; that question we are not free to discuss. We are bound to guarantee to Greece our third of the loan of 60,000,000 francs, and if the Russian proposal were adopted, which requires no authority from Parliament for its acceptance by this country, but which I wish to avoid adopting, we should proceed, immediately, to charge this country, prospectively, with the guarantee for the whole of our third. The question really is not, therefore, as to what we should do, but as to the mode of doing it. The question is, whether we should hold ourselves bound to follow in the course pointed out to England and France by the Government of Russia, or whether we should take our own course, and, in conjunction with France, guarantee 620 a sufficient sum to relieve the present pressing wants of the State in Greece? It may be satisfactory to the Committee to hear what is the prospect that the engagements entered into in 1832 will not in the end bring any charge upon the finances of our own country; because, although I cannot admit that to be a consideration which ought to determine the course that Parliament should pursue in the fulfilment of a national engagement, yet at the same time it is right that the House should be informed upon such a matter, and I think that the information which I can give is of a satisfactory description. The revenue of Greece has progressively increased of late years, and the expenditure has progressively decreased, except in one instance, from accidental circumstances. But from the year 1834 the expenditure has continually decreased; it is lower this year than it was last, and the estimate for next year is lower than that of the present. The amount of the expenditure for 1832 was 13,000,000 of drachmas; in 1834, under particular circumstances, it had risen to 20,000,000. But in 1835 it had decreased to 16,000,000; and the estimate for the present year places it at 15,000,000. The revenue is as follows:—
It was natural to suppose, when Greece first started as an independent kingdom—when the Government was first organized—that the revenue would not be sufficient to meet the expenditure; and that was felt accordingly by the Government of 1830. It is evident, indeed, that a regular government could not be established until a police had been organized—until proper tribunals had been constituted—laws enacted and carried into execution—and until a regular government was established: until there was security for person and property, there could be no encouragement for industry. Commerce and agriculture must necessarily languish, and no considerable fund of revenue could arise. The statements which I have read are a sufficient commentary on this proposition, they show 621 how insignificant the revenue of Greece was in earlier years, and how rapidly and steadily it has increased since a regular government has been organized. One of the tests of revenue is the foreign commerce of a country; and if I can show that the commerce of Greece has increased of late years, I shall be justified in asserting that there is a fair and well-grounded probability of a continued increase of the income of that country. I have no means of ascertaining exactly what the commerce of Greece is; but the Returns furnished by our Consul at Patras may be considered as fair evidence on that subject, inasmuch as the geographical position of Patras necessarily indicates that goods imported into and exported from that place, are goods really imported into and exported from Greece, and not merely goods belonging to other countries, and only in transit through that port. The shipping which entered the port of Patras for the undermentioned years was as follows:—
1828 2,500,000 drachmas. 1829 4,800,000 1830 3,300,000 1831 4,900,000 1832 (no account) 1833 7,000,000 1834 9,400,000 1835 10,700,000 1836(as estimated) 11,300,000
The value of the imports into Greece by these ships has increased during that period from 535l. to 30,077l. The exports for similar periods were as follows:—
1831 8 ships 1,000 tons. 1832 20 3,000 1833 23 3,600 1834 28 4,000 1835 31 4,500
1831 £33,000 1832 38,000 1833 45,000 1834 73,000 1835 117,000
§ I think, then, that if the Government of Greece be enabled to carry on the administration with order and regularity—if it be able to pay the troops which it is obliged to maintain—if it be able to pay its civil servants, to establish and maintain its tribunals, and to cause its laws to be respected—I think that we are justified in assuming that, supposing peace external and peace internal to continue for Greece, the revenue will improve, and that there will be a sufficient surplus to pay the obligations of the loan, and relieve the three Powers from any charge on account of the interest and sinking fund. If any man entertain a doubt on that subject, I am sure that that doubt would not lead him, at the present moment, to refuse to the Government of Greece an advance absolutely necessary to cover the expen- 622 diture of the present year; for if there be one mode of proceeding more calculated than another to cut off all sources of future revenue, and make it absolutely impossible that the Government of Greece should relieve the three Powers from the engagements which they have entered into on behalf of that Government, it is that of bringing the machine of government in. Greece to a stand, by refusing to sanction such an advance of the loan, as would enable that Government to meet the indispensable wants of the present year. I cannot believe that the House of Commons has so changed as to the feelings which it entertained during the period of the Greek contest, as to think it a matter of absolute indifference, whether the Greek State should be able to endure or should fall into a state of anarchy and perdition. I am sure that, abstracting all feelings of national interest—all those feelings of pecuniary interest which would lead us to wish that our debtor should continue prosperous, and remain able to pay—I am sure, and will still believe, that the House of Commons does entertain that feeling concerning the establishment of a free and independent people, and the raising of a nation into civilization which has so long remained in the lowest state of political degradation,—that has led it, on former occasions, to sanction and approve the steps taken by the successive Governments of England for the furtherance of that noble purpose.—I am persuaded that those feelings are not so altered in the present day that the House of Commons would, by its deliberate act, condemn Greece, now on the point of being established in a state of prosperity and freedom, to relapse into anarchy and ruin, in order to fall, through such anarchy and ruin, into a state of slavery again. I cannot persuade myself but that the House will find it consistent with the views which it entertains of our foreign policy, and also with the strictest regard to our own pecuniary interests, to grant to the Crown that power which would be conferred by the Bill founded on the Resolution I now move:—"That his Majesty be authorised to guarantee a portion of the third and last instalment of the loan to be contracted for by the King of Greece, in pursuance of the Convention relating thereto; and that provision be made out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and 623 Ireland for the payment of any interest and Sinking Fund which may from time to time become payable thereon."W
§ Viscount Palmerston
replied, that the sums he had stated were those actually received by the Treasury of Greece, with the exception of that for the present year, which, as he had already stated, would form an estimate of the results of former years.
§ Viscount Palmerston,
in reply, remarked, that the accounts had been taken from accounts presented at the Conference by the Greek Minister in London. They had also been given to the British Minister in Greece, but whether they had been published there or not he did not know. Such had formerly been the practice.
§ The Resolution having been put,
§ Mr. Robinson
expressed his concurrence in the wish expressed by the noble Lord, that the independence of Greece should be fully established. But the real question before the Committee was, whether or not, under existing circumstances, the resolution proposed by the noble Lord was one which Parliament ought to be called upon to adopt. Those circumstances arose from the fact that Russia, one of the contracting parties to the original treaty, refused to give her concurrence to any further guarantee. He (Mr. Robinson) maintained, that with Greece in a state of anarchy, worse than that of the worse days of Turkish despotism, with its monarch refusing to return to the country unless he was secured the payment of the whole or part of the twenty millions now sought to be guaranteed, and with Russia, one of the original contracting parties, refusing to concur in that guarantee, this country was not called upon to pass this resolution. Let the House look to the state of the circumstances. When France, Russia, and England entered into the 624 original contract, the king of Bavaria most solemnly undertook that the revenues of Greece should be applied, before any other appropriation, to the payment of the interest on the loan. This had been assured to the noble Lord opposite by the Baron De Cetto, who had assured the noble Lord that Greece itself was quite equal to the responsibility. The House had received the assurance of the noble Lord opposite, and also of Lord Althorp, that this would be the case. But what had happened? So far from Greece having complied with the engagements entered into on her behalf by the king of Bavaria, the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) was unable to answer the hon. Member for Middlesex as to what way the resources of Greece had been applied. This he charged as neglect on the part of his Majesty's Government; for, by the treaty itself, it was agreed, that the ambassadors of the three contracting Powers, at the Court of Greece, should watch over the appropriation of the revenues of that country; and yet the noble Lord was unable to state the exact appropriation. He contended that the House was empowered to refuse any further contract, by the nonpayment by Greece of the interest on the two former instalments. The noble Lord was well aware that Count Pozzo di Borgo, the Russian Ambassador, had stated, that on the demand being made on Russia by Messrs. Rothschild for a further guarantee, Russia had expressed her determination to have nothing to do with any further advance, except the faithful application of the 20,000,000 was secured. He also believed that France herself had only given a partial consent to the proposition of the noble Lord. On this the noble Lord had been silent; and he thought it was desirable that Parliament should know positively, whether, by the adoption of this resolution, England was acting with the concurrence of either of the other contracting parties, or whether England, as on many other former occasions, was allowing other contracting parties to escape, and taking the whole liability on herself. In his judgment it was impossible for the noble Lord to deny, that by the default of Greece itself, all parties were, strictly speaking, absolved from the treaty of 1832; but even if otherwise, whether this country were bound or not, the noble Lord at least ought to satisfy the Committee that there was ample security that 625 Greece would fulfil her engagements for the future. The noble Lord had said that England would be liable for 6,000,000 francs only; he contended, however, that the liability would extend to the whole 20,000,000; and it was worse than idle to enter into a contract of that extent unless this country was prepared to give even further assistance. He did not believe that Greece would be ever able to pay the interest of the new debt, and the internal expenses of her Government. The noble Lord had stated that which he (Mr. Robinson) must confess was entirely new to him—that the Government of King Otho was popular in Greece; on the contrary, he believed that the Bavarian rule in Greece was unpopular, and never would be reconcileable with the active, the energetic character of the military chieftains of that country. It was impossible that a Government so entirely foreign to the feelings and habits of that active and enterprising people could be so, unless indeed King Otho could have brought with him the reputation of a great and commanding military chief. With respect to the resources of the country, notwithstanding what had fallen from the noble Lord, they were in a most dilapidated condition; and since the absence of King Otho, the country had been in a state of insubordination, and the King's Government only maintained by the assistance of Bavarian forces. He was the last man that would advocate a departure from national engagements; but with the view he had taken and expressed on this subject, with his recollection of what had taken place on the Russia Dutch Loan, of the advances made with reference to the fortifications on the Belgian frontiers, now destroyed, and of the grant of 400,000l. to Portugal, to put an end to the slave-trade, which was still continued by that country, he could not consent to the resolution. Desirous as he was not to negative the proposition of the noble Lord, or that Greece should be left without resources, but at the same time to show to the other contracting parties, that England was still willing to fulfil the engagements into which she had entered, he begged to move as an amendment the following resolution:—"That it is the opinion of the Committee, that the treaty of 1832, not having been fulfilled on the part of Greece, is virtually cancelled, and that it is not expedient to guarantee any portion of the third 626 instalment, without the concurrence of all the three contracting parties to that treaty."
objected to this motion, but upon grounds different from those which had been stated by the hon. Member for Worcester. At the time when Greece was engaged in her first struggles for liberty, a subscription was entered into in this country to aid them in their efforts—a subscription which was of course not adequate to her necessities, but which strongly marked the feelings of this country towards her. A loan of 800,000l. was then cheerfully contracted for in this country, and this being still found inadequate, another loan of 3,000,000l. was contracted by the de facto Government of Greece, for it was not then recognized by the Government of this country, though afterwards it was, when by the assistance of this country, in conjunction with its allies, the independence of Greece was established by treaty with Turkey. These loans were contracted under as solemn obligations by the existing Government of Greece as any loan was ever contracted. For a while some instalments of interest were paid; but it was found impossible to continue them for a time, and he (Mr. Pryme) believed this country acquiesced in the delay as any country would have done. After the independence of Greece was guaranteed, a change in her government took place; he entered into no invidious remarks; it mattered not for his argument whether it were a popular or unpopular government, it was the Government of Greece; and what was its first act? To declare that it would not adhere to the compact which had been entered into between that country and this. He (Mr. Pryme) would venture to call this one of the most flagrant breaches of good faith that any government ever committed. When Ferdinand of Spain acted in a similar manner with regard to the Cortes Bonds, what was the consequence? Why he tried in vain in almost every country in Europe to contract a new loan; the answer invariably was, "Sanction the Cortes Bonds!—then, and not till then, will we lend our money!" What did the Government of this country do in this case? They allowed the Government of Greece to contract a new loan, and guaranteed it conjointly with France and Russia, without any reference to the violation of good faith of which it had 627 been guilty, without any stipulation or contract for the future; and the Government of Greece had to this moment persevered in that shameful breach of solemn engagements. Now he (Mr. Pryme) could assure the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Foreign Department, that nobody could feel more anxious than himself for the resuscitation of Greece; it was one of his earliest school-boy aspirations; long had he expected, and even now he ardently desired it. But when they were asked to give Greece pecuniary guarantees, was it not fair to require that she should keep good faith? and if she would not, she ought to be treated as Ferdinand of Spain was till he sanctioned the Cortes Bonds. Had he (Mr. Pryme) been in Parliament at the time that the last loan was contracted, he should have stated his objections then. He did not now wish this country to imitate the example of Greece, and neglect or refuse to perform what she had stipulated to perform; but he contended, that when we are called upon to enter into fresh engagements, to contract new liabilities, it was incumbent upon the Government of this country to demand that the former violation of good faith be atoned for, or to refuse the additional favour required. For these reasons he (Mr. Pryme) could neither vote for the Bill of the Government, nor for the amendment of his hon. Friend, the Member for Worcester; indeed, any resolution which did not notice the past violations of good faith on the part of the Greek Government, would meet with his opposition.
§ Lord Dudley Stuart
was understood to say, that it was useless to argue this, if the issue of the money had been already made. [The Chancellor of the Exchequer: No issue has been made.] He was glad to hear the right, hon. Gentleman say so, for a very different impression had gone abroad. He contended, that the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs had not made out a case to show why we should take on ourselves this guarantee, or that it would be any advantage to Greece; for if the money were given, it would be used only to advance the purposes of the Russian faction in that country. On these grounds he should oppose the proposition of the noble Lord.
§ Mr. Hume
came to the same conclusion as the noble Lord (Dudley Stuart), but on wholly different grounds. He thought that the great moral power of this country 628 arose from the strictness with which she observed her engagements. We had entered into certain engagements, which were intended for the benefit of Greece, and which we were to fulfil on certain conditions. Our expectations in producing the good we intended were disappointed—the conditions on which our guarantee was given had not been complied with. The question then was, whether we should go any further? If we paid our guarantee, probably France would pay hers, but would that have the effect of establishing a staple Government in Greece? He thought not. The Bavarian Government now held its domination in Greece by military force, and the advancing of this money would have only the effect of keeping up that force in Greece for some twelve or eighteen months longer. Greece was too poor to support a monarchy—a cheap federative government would be more suited to her present circumstances, and more congenial to the feelings of the great mass of her inhabitants. Seeing this, and knowing the pressing calls made for relief by several classes of the community here, he could not consent to throw away so large a sum, and still less could he consent to vote it for the support of a despotic government.
§ Mr. Barlow Hoy
would not enter on the question of the preference which should be given to a federative or a kingly government, but he believed, that if the Greeks had been left to their own choice, they would have chosen the former. He was aware of the grounds on which the Government of Greece had made this application, but he thought that that Government, not having fulfilled its own part of the engagement, had no just claim to call on us to fulfil ours.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
did not think that the arguments—that Greece had not kept faith in some previous pecuniary engagements—that the other Powers, parties to the treaty, refused to make good their guarantees, or that the money might be applied to the reduction of the burdens of this country, or that it would increase Russian influence—had anything to do with the question. The proposition of his noble Friend did not go to increase the engagements we had entered into; it only went to make good those engagements, but in a different manner. He would put it to the House to consider what would be the situation of Greece, if we were thus to 629 throw it into a situation of great commercial embarrassment. We should be undoing all that we had done for that country, and at the same time be cutting off all chance of the repayment of the sums which had been advanced under our guarantee. He was sure, that, in the present state of the East of Europe, hon. Members would not wish to see the affairs of Greece thrown again into disorder and confusion.
§ Major Beauclerk
He knew from personal observation, that it would be impossible to force the Bavarian Government upon Greece. He had resided among the people of that country, and he knew that a feeling of hostility to the Bavarian rule was universal. He hoped, therefore, that this House would not sanction the appropriation of any more money for the purpose of bolstering up that rule. It would, he was persuaded, be throwing money into the ocean; not one farthing of it would ever be paid. The attempt to force a foreign government upon Greece, was nothing but a scheme of Russia to advance her own interests in that country. She acquiesced in the proposal, that Leopold should go over into that country, because she imagined that he would have been completely under the tutelage of Count Capo d'Istrias. When she found that her scheme failed in that respect, and that it was not for her interest to maintain a foreign government in Greece, she turned round upon her allies, and threw upon them the whole burthen of the stipulated aid. Now that she discovered Russian supremacy was no longer to be continued, she withdrew from the treaty, and left the other two parties to it to fulfil it as they could. Well, as it seemed to be admitted that we were not bound by treaty to guarantee the whole of this third part of the loan, the question was, was it good policy so to do? Now he (Major Beauclerk) did not think it was. He had great confidence in the present Government, and especially in the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department; but upon this occasion he was, in his (Major Beauclerk's) opinion, misled by Russia, and endeavouring to bolster up a system in Greece, which he would find it impossible to support. Let the people of Greece choose their own government; let them be defended against Russia and Turkey; but he could not give his consent to the Bill; for, in doing so, he believed he 630 should be voting against the liberties and happiness of Greece.
§ Mr. Thomas Baring
opposed the motion, and contended, that there was no chance whatever of Greece fulfilling its engagements with this country, in the event of the proposed sum being lent to it. He thought that the real policy of this country would have been, to act in conjunction with Russia, as he did not consider that sufficient grounds existed for entertaining any jealousy of that power.
§ Dr. Bowring
could not agree with the hon. Member for Yarmouth, that it was advisable that this country should adopt the same line of policy with Russia. Bavarian power was now paramount in Greece, and he maintained, that in that country there existed not the shadow of freedom, of independence, or of nationality. Greece had not yet fulfilled her contract by paying the interest on the sum of l,600,000l. already advanced, and this its Government was bound in common honesty to do before it received another farthing. The account furnished of the manner in which the amount previously lent had been expended, was so confused and unintelligible, as to afford no security for the due application of any further sum. He could not consent to any loan for the support of the present government, a more unpopular than which it never entered into the human imagination to conceive, and which, he had been assured by hundreds of Greeks, was utterly unsuited to the character and habits of the people. It was not the policy of Russia that Greece should be tranquillized, and certainly the proposed loan of 200,000l. would not aid in tranquillizing it, or in establishing its independence. If the noble Lord would modify his resolution in such a way as to allow time to examine and consider the question, he should be very happy to concur in it, as he thought that such a course would best support the interests both of this country and of Greece.
§ Viscount Sandon
was led to conclude, from communications made to him by a gentleman of considerable property in Greece, that the state of the country was not such as it was represented to be by the opponents of the measure, since its finances had gradually improved from the year 1828, up to the present time. In support of this view of the subject, the noble Lord proceeded to read an extract from a work written by the rev. Mr. Wordsworth, master of Harrow School, describing the improvements lately effected in the town of Athens 631 and its vicinity, and predicting the future prosperity of Greece. With regard to the government of the country, which had been attacked by the hon. Member who had spoken last, it could not be argued, that a constitution which was well fitted for this country, was equally well adapted to every other nation, and that another form might not be, under certain circumstances, expedient. He felt it to be his duty, looking at every part of the subject, to support the motion.
§ Mr. George F. Young
resisted the motion, on the ground that Greece had violated the stipulations into which it had entered with the three contracting Powers. With respect to the intentions of Russia, that Power did not object to pay the second instalment, but was not prepared to apply it to the same purposes as those contemplated by the noble Lord. If he consulted only his feelings as an Englishman, he should be inclined to accede to the noble Lord's proposition; but considering the matter fairly and impartially, he was bound to declare, that the arguments of the noble Lord had been completely refuted by those employed by the Russian Ambassador. The objects which ought to be aimed at in the decision to which the House would come, were the interests of the parties guaranteeing the loan, and the assistance of Greece in the financial and political difficulties with which she had at present to contend. He confessed, however, that while he could not refuse his assent to the reasoning contained in the documents to which he had referred, he was one of those who regarded with great jealousy the policy of Russia, not only towards Greece, but every other country with which that power had been brought into contact for a long series of years. When they found that 8,000,000f. of the second instalment, were not appropriated to the financial purposes of Greece, but to the payment of a sum to Turkey in return for cessions of territory made by the latter, and that, at the same time, Turkey was paying the stipulated indemnity to Russia for the expenses of the late war between them, they could not doubt that the 8,000,000 francs found their way into the Russian treasury. He deprecated the policy of separating ourselves from the interests of our allies in this matter, and could not but regard as suspicious, the eagerness with which Russia accepted the proposition made by the noble Lord.
agreed with the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool. He 632 would not now enter into the question, whether a monarchical or a republican form of government was to be preferred; but when the question was between a government and no government at all, he could have no hesitation in deciding, that any government which had a prospect of stability and duration was to be preferred. He thought, then, that the Government of Greece was entitled to support, since, if it were suffered to fall to pieces, the only alternative for the country was, to revert to its former state of turbulence and misrule. The separation of this country from her allies, on a point so important as the present, was much to be deprecated; and if the noble Lord had thought proper to adopt a different tone in his communications with Russia, that Power and Britain might have continued united for the attainment of one common end—the establishing the independence, and securing the interests of Greece. When the existing Government of that country must be dissolved, if a supply of money were not advanced to it, and the inhabitants plunged into the miseries of anarchy and civil broils, he could not think that that supply ought to be withheld. He should, therefore, support the proposition of the noble Lord.
§ Viscount Palmerston
No one who ever moved a proposition, can be placed in a more singular position than I am this evening with regard to my opponents, because the one-half of them have answered the objections which have been made by the other half. My noble Friend, who spoke on the opposite Bench, objects to the proposition, because, he says, we go hand-in-hand with Russia in matters of European policy; while others object to it, because they say, we ought to go hand-in-hand with Russia and not to depart from the association. If my noble Friend thinks that my proposal renders the policy of this country subservient to that of Russia, of which he disapproves—I apprehend, having listened to the objections of those who, having read the papers, oppose the motion on the contrary ground, that I have a right to claim his vote on the ground that I am not acting in a manner consistent with the wishes of the Russian Government. Hon. Gentlemen have argued as if we were proposing to increase the liability of Great Britain; or, as the hon. Member for Middlesex has actually said, as if we were going to issue money at this country's expense; but we are not proposing, in the slightest degree, to increase 633 the liability which was incurred by this nation in the treaty of 1832. Now, what will be our situation if we do, and what if we do not, adopt this proposition? This country, in either case, is engaged to the extent of 20,000,000 of franc being one-third of 60,000,000 of francs, which have been guaranteed by the three Powers; and this engagement will remain unaltered whether we adopt the proposition before us or that of Russia, with this difference only, that in the one case it would be immediate, and in the other more remote. My proposal is, that the English Government shall be empowered to go to the full extent, reserving to itself the discretion of determining whether they will do so immediately or at different periods of time. It places in the hands of the Government a larger discretion than the Russian proposal does, the adoption of which would compel the rejection of the present proposition. It has been said, that we are relieved from our engagement; but let us consider what that engagement is; to do which we must refer to the twelfth article of the treaty, whereby the three Powers engage that a loan shall be contracted, the principal of which shall not exceed a total amount of 60,000,000 of francs, to be raised by instalments of 20,000,000 each; the first instalment to be paid immediately, the others to be raised according to the necessities of the Greek State. The plain meaning of this article is, that it was not the intention of the three Powers to place the whole amount at once in the hands of Greece—no more than the first instalment of it; the others to depend upon the proof furnished to the three Powers of the necessity of the advance. And will any man pretend that Greece is not now in a state to require it? No one has said so in the course of the debate. The fact is, that, upon balancing the receipt and expenditure in the early part of the year, there was found to be a deficiency of 4,000,000 of francs; since which additional expenses have been incurred by the Greek Government, which have materially increased that deficiency. The necessity, then, of a further advance upon the loan appears to be so plain, that it is really an insult to the understanding of the House to attempt to argue upon it. There are two propositions made, with a view of meeting this deficiency: the one, by Russia, to advance 2,500,000 francs to meet a deficiency of between 4,000,000 and 6,000,000 of francs; and the other, the one now before us, to 634 advance 6,000,000 of francs; in order really to meet the deficiency. Now, let me ask hon. Members who oppose the motion, in what manner they propose that the difference between 2,500,000 francs, and 6,000,000 francs, is to be made good by the Greek Government? and, at the same time, if it be not made good, how the Greek Government is to be maintained? How is their army to be paid, their establishments to be upheld, and what will be the result if the Government be unable to maintain them? The best answer, perhaps, to give to such a question will be to quote the statement of Sir Edmund Lyons; but first, who is he? Is he a man recently acquainted with Greece, ignorant of its history, the manners of its people, and the proper sources for the acquisition of information; and, therefore, liable to be imposed upon? No; he served for six years in a distinguished capacity as a naval officer before he was appointed Minister there. He has mixed with men of all ranks, and has had the best means of obtaining information; and what does he say? He says that the advance is necessary, in order to preserve Greece from anarchy and confusion. He gives an account of the breaking out of an insurrection on the 29th of February; he speaks of the measures which were adopted to suppress it; he tells us that it arose from the incursion of a band of robbers not belonging to Greece, and we have reason to hope, says he, that a death-blow will be given to their predatory warfare, provided the Government receives a liberal portion of the third instalment in ten or twelve weeks, without which the Government must come to a stand. The troops sent out to suppress the insurrection will become lawless for want of pay. Again, on the 7th of March, he says:—A considerable body of troops have passed the barrier, in order to restore order and obedience to the laws; and to prevent the measures of Government from being cramped, immediate relief must be granted. The rebels say that the Government has no money, and can only obtain it by imposing taxes on the people, which will make them the more ready to join us.Here is a proof, then, that discontent does not exist among the people; but at the same time an assurance that, if we refuse that assistance to the Government which we are bound to afford them, we shall drive them to measures which may produce a state of things so much to be deplored. 635 As to the statement that Greece is in a condition of anarchy and disorder, I beg leave to assure those hon. Members from whom it has proceeded, that from whatever sources they have derived their information, it is completely erroneous. So far from its being in such a state, as they have alleged, "that the laws cannot be executed,"—the country is peaceable, tranquil, and orderly; the people are attached to their Government, and anxious to have it maintained. In a despatch from Sir Edward Lyons, not yet laid on the table, and dated the 3rd of January, 1836, there is a general account of the proceedings of Count Armansperg. He says:—I have the satisfaction to assure you that, with the exception of occasional irruptions, the whole of Otho's dominions are tranquil; there is not a country in which the people are so well fed, paid, and clothed; there is none in which a man is more sure of reaping the fruits of his capital and labour; there is scarcely a family in the kingdom which has not its weekly sales of sheep or of goats; houses are built even in the winter season; land is cultivated; and almost every individual is occupied in attending to his own affairs. There are Greeks from Moldavia, Constantia, and Asia Minor, assembled in the capital, in hopes of being employed by the Government, and those of them who do not succeed are discontented, which is the case, and must be the case, in a country like this, where the spirit of the people leads every man to put himself forward; and I am convinced, that the unfavourable accounts you hear must come from persons of that description, and not from impartial authorities who are competent to judge of the facts. Such is an impartial review of Count Armansperg's Administration; but I will not conceal from you that the expectations they have raised are likely to be disappointed, unless the third instalment of the loan is received.Now if confidence is not to be placed in honourable and intelligent men who are sent out to represent this country, and on the information they give with respect to the places in which they are posted, and if we are to withhold our support from those measures which are founded upon their statements, let it be made the ground of a specific resolution, to the effect that we refuse to vote, because we cannot place confidence in the reports which are made by the agents of the Government. I assure the Committee, that nothing can be more contrary to the truth than that the Government of Greece is arbitrary and tyrannical, conducted on tyrannizing, barbarous principles, and supported by barbarian 636 troops. The measures of Count Armansperg, during the regency, have been of a different nature. The press is free; and where there is a free press despotism cannot exist—or it must be the fault of the nation if it do. The tribunals of justice are independent of the Crown. Trial by jury is re-established; so that here are, at least, three of the elements of national liberty. It is true, that no national assembly has been yet convoked; but a man must be blind to the natural character of the Greeks, as well as to the geographical distribution of their country, if he think that Greece can be governed without a representative assembly—it is an indispensable addition to the kingly government. Although Greece has not now her national representation she has her municipalities, founded upon the principle of popular control, having the entire management of their own local concerns, the members of which are elected almost by universal suffrage; for it is extended to every father of a family who is the possessor of land, and to every man who has taken a share in the war. Now, where a nation like Greece has her municipal institutions suited to the genius of her people, it is unjust to give such a representation as we have heard of the condition of the country. The Government has appointed proper trustees to take charge of the national domains. Every Greek may possess them upon the most easy terms, merely by an annual payment in acknowledgment of his tenure of them from the state. Every Greek will thus become a freeholder of the lands, and the people themselves will be the trustees. It is not agreeable to me to detain the House, but this question has been much misconceived and misunderstood; and I feel it to be my duty to endeavour to set it in its true light, as I consider it to be one which involves both the national faith and the national interest. The grand objection to the motion appears to be founded upon erroneous impressions, which I am anxious to remove. It is a great mistake to suppose that Greece is not in possession of the basis of freedom. The only thing wanting, to place it in the same situation with England herself, is to put the finishing stroke to the work which has been already done—to add to the institutions which have been already formed, a general representation of the state; but this is a thing which must follow, and not precede other arrangements. Until we have completed our interior organization, it would 637 be premature to establish our general representation. I am convinced, however, that Greece will at length have one; it is as much the wish of his Majesty's Government as it is of Greece herself; but hon. Members are greatly deceived if they think that, in refusing this grant, they would be accelerating the establishment of such an institution. If there be anything which would render it almost impossible, it would be a refusal, on the part of this country, to advance to Greece the money she wants; because it must strike every hon. Member who considers the subject, that it would compel her to seek the money elsewhere, and perhaps to submit to conditions which would prevent the establishment of such an institution. Hon. Members have spoken of barbarian and of mercenary troops in the pay of the state, and of their employment in civil offices; but I have the satisfaction to state to the Committee, that since the King became of age last year, not a single barbarian has been retained, many of those who were there have quitted Greece, and it has been determined, that when the term of their service has expired, no fresh troops shall be brought over. In point of fact, the army now paid by the Greek Government consists of rather more than half native troops. The Greek Government, I admit, ought to be a national government; and that our labour would be in vain, if we had only established a government which must be supported by foreigners. The state must be Greek in its civil and in every other department; for it is evident, that should it not be capable of supporting itself by the free and spontaneous exertions of its own sons, there must be something rotten in the fabric, and our exertions thrown away. But I assure those hon. Members who have given us such a dismal picture of Greece, that her government is a national government, and that the efforts of those who are now at the head of it are steadily directed to make it more strictly and purely so—which dissensions among the ministers themselves have hitherto, in some measure, checked. These differences have hitherto much embarrassed the march of government, and prevented it from doing so much as it would otherwise have done for the benefit of the state. In the year which has elapsed since King Otho became of age, the measures adopted have been—trial by jury; the complete execution of the laws of municipalities; the formation of a veteran corps, consisting of Greeks who have 638 served in the war of independence; an assignment of pensions to the widows of those who fell during that war; and the distribution of the national lands among the people. The objections, therefore, to this measure, appear to me to rest upon no solid foundation. Some object to it because they say it separates us from Russia, which the papers on the table show that it does not, because Russia states that she acquiesces in our plan. Others object to it on the opposite ground—saying that it ties us to Russia and to her policy. That objection is answered by the fact, that the plans proposed by the two Governments are at variance with each other. I have answered the objections, that the measure will throw a fresh liability upon the Government, by showing that it does not, as we do not propose to go a step further than we are bound to do by the terms of the treaty. It is said also that we should not consent to this step, because we shall be imposing upon the Greeks a Government which is odious to them, and which can only be supported by foreign aid: but it appears that the Government is not odious to the nation, because it is supported by the nation; and that it is not maintained by foreign power, because the troops are native troops. The ground, therefore, on which this motion is resisted, appears to me to be founded upon error; and I trust that the House will adopt the resolution. It is merely preliminary to the introduction of a Bill which there will be full opportunity of discussing hereafter in every stage; and such further information as I can in the mean time obtain, I shall be happy to supply.
§ The Committee divided on the original question:—Ayes 81; Noes 40;—Majority 41.
§ Resolution agreed to. The House resumed.