§ On the Order of the Day being read for the House resolving itself into a Committee of Supply.
§ Mr. Roebuck
rose and spoke to the following effect: I hope for the indulgence of the House on account of the hoarseness under which I labour, and, on that account, I shall make a very short speech. I wish to call the attention of the House and the Government to a subject of no ordinary importance, a subject interesting, not because it refers to individuals who have lost their produce and merchandise, but because it involves a question on the principles of international law, and also a question of peace or war. Some time ago, a vessel was fitted out, and before she proceeded to her destination, application was made in the regular quarter—to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—to ascertain whether there was any impropriety or danger to be apprehended if a vessel landed goods in any ports on the Circassian coast. The application was made because fears of danger were entertained from the interference of Russia. The answer returned by the Government, through the noble Lord, to the merchants who applied was, to look to The Gazette; and finding no indications whatever in The Gazette of any acknowledgment of blockade, and thereby concluding that the blockade was not recognised by the British Government, and that they were not precluded by authority from landing goods and merchandise in a Circassian port belonging to an independent nation, they dispatched a vessel; and when at the port it was seized by a Russian ship-of-war, and the master and crew were imprisoned. Here, then, is this extraordinary circumstance. In the first place, an English merchant-vessel is prevented from entering the port of a country with which England is on terms of amity by an armed force—a Russian man-of-war. In the next place, English subjects, carrying on a legal trade, a trade of which they had obtained no information from their own Government calculated to discourage them, are coerced by Russia, captured, and thrown into prison. Sir, I have entered in the order-book a notice that I would move for certain papers elucidatory of this singular transaction. The reason why I ask for these papers is, that I understand the defence by Russia of this aggression is 622 twofold. The first, that she had placed the coast of Circassia in a state of blockade; the second, that she had framed certain custom-house regulations, to which it was necessary that the ships of all nations should conform. I want trig papers for which I am about to move, for three reasons. First to ascertain if this country has ever acknowledged the right of Russia to blockade the coast in question; secondly, to ascertain if Russia actually possesses the right of blockade; thirdly, to ascertain if Russia has the right to make the custom-house regulations to which I have adverted. On all those points the papers for which I am about to move, if they be produced, will probably afford us satisfactory information. The defence of Russia is, that, by the treaty of Adrianople, Circassia was ceded to Russia by Turkey; and, consequently, that. Russia had a right to establish a blockade of the coast of Circassia, and to establish whatever custom-house regulations she might think proper in relation to her ports. Now, in the first place, I deny that the territory of Circassia is in the possession of Russia; secondly, I assert that, not being in the possession of Russia, Russia has no right, according to the law of nations, to make any custom-house regulations in relation to the ports of Circassia; and, thirdly, I maintain that Russia has no right to blockade the coast of the territory of a free people against the entrance into its ports of an English vessel with English goods. I know, Sir, that I shall be met by a reference to the conduct of the British nation itself on. former occasions. I shall be told, that we then claimed the right to lay an embargo on the ports of a nation with which we were at war, against the whole world. I acknowledge that this was formerly the rule laid down by the British people. But I ask, whether at this time of day we are disposed to place any part of the system of international law on a footing so flagrantly unjust? It is my earnest desire to maintain the peace of the world. But, Sir, the peace of the world is not to be maintained by any shuffling, unjust, or timid course; it can be maintained, only, by a straightforward, bold, open, and manly line of conduct. The rule must be the rule of right the rule which alone is sanctioned by the principles of international law—the rule which must be observed and upheld under all circumstances of 623 difficulty and danger. I care not what conduct the English Government may have pursued in former times. If unjust, it deserved to be stigmatised, as it was stigmatised, by the whole world. But there is a power rising up which will put an end to all such oppressive and iniquitous proceedings. The United States of America will presently lay down the just law of nations with reference to the commerce of neutral nations, and that law her naval power will enable her to support. I come now, Sir, to inquire in what way the commerce of this country has been attacked by Russia in the case in question. The Circassians are in possession of almost the whole of their coast, Russia possessing only three points—mere forts. On a coast extending many hundreds of miles, Russia possesses only these three isolated forts. All the rest of Circassia is in the hands of the Circassians themselves. They cultivate the soil—they reap the harvest; and on their coast our merchants have a right to stop, and to negociate their trade, independent of, and unobstructed by, the interference of Russia. I may be told by some persons that Russia is a great power, and that we ought to be careful how we offend her. Sir, that is not my policy. If Russia were the most insignificant power on the face of the earth, we ought to yield to her claim, if it be one of justice; if Russia were the greatest power on the face of the earth, we ought to resist her claim, if it be one of injustice. But I maintain that the claim of Russia is unjust, and that the power of Russia is contemptible. If Russia were to go to war with England to-morrow, in six months there would not be a Russian flag flying on the high seas, or on the Black Sea. And further, I maintain that a war with England would soon make the Emperor of all the Russias tremble on his throne; for there would then be no British merchants to whom the Russian people might sell their goods. The time has been when Russia was subjected to the coercion of a mightier power than any which now exists in the world. When Napoleon was in the plenitude of his strength, with Austria as his ally, and almost all the rest of continental Europe at his feet, he was unable to prevail on Russia to renounce her alliance with England, because in that event the Russian nobles would have been deprived of the outlet which we afforded them for 624 the sale of their goods. If that was the case when all the power and influence of Napoleon was exerted to produce an opposite result, is it not more likely that such would be the case in the present condition of the world? Depend upon it that whatever may be the weakness, whatever may be the madness of the emperor of Russia, he would at once yield to the representations of the English Government, and would not dare to brave the resentment of a power which could crush him in a month. Sir, it is contended that Circassia was ceded to Russia by the treaty of Adrianople. But the Circassians are in possession of their own country. I deny that Turkey had any right to cede Circassia to Russia. But even if Turkey had a right to cede Circassia to Russia, yet, seeing that Russia is not in possession of Circassia, I maintain that Russia has no right to proclaim a blockade of the coast of Circassia. I will suppose an analogous case, Spain has not yet yielded her authority over and her right to her South American colonies. Suppose Spain were to cede the province of Mexico to the United States of America, and suppose America were to declare the port of Tampico in a state of blockade, would the right of America to do so be recognised. But the cases are strictly analogous. Turkey was not in actual possession of Circassia, nor is Spain in actual possession of Mexico. Turkey, nevertheless, cedes Circassia to Russia. But would Spain cede Mexico to America? I ask the noble Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he should consider America entitled to preclude English vessels from entering the ports of Mexico because Mexico had been ceded by Spain to America? If the noble Lord would not allow this, and if the cases which I have described are perfectly similar, what ought the noble Lord to do with reference to Russia? The case of the Vixen is an individual case, it is true; but the noble Lord should at once make his stand upon it. It may be said that it is not a just case to go to war upon. I say it is a just case to go to war upon. I am always against going to war upon abstract political principles. I care nothing for what is termed the balance of power. Russia may endeavour to obtain possession of all the world, and I regard her efforts with indifference; but the moment she interferes with our commerce I call upon the Go- 625 vernment of this country to punish the aggression. It would be a just punishment, and a punishment which, in the plenitude of our power, might be inflicted without difficulty. For my own part, I look upon Russia merely as a barbarous country; or as a country connected as slightly as may be with civilisation and its advantages. The power of Russia exists in the imagination of those who have dwelt upon it, rather than in real and substantial strength. I am prepared to declare, therefore, that if the facts of the case be such as I have described them to be, I would call Russia to a severe account for her conduct. I would do so, not because I wish for war, but, on the contrary, because I wish for peace. I would not go to war with Russia on account of any territorial aggression on her part; but I consider it the bounden duty of the English Government to protect English commerce from attack and injury. Of this I am convinced, Sir, that if we really wish and intend to maintain the peace of the world, we must not evade meeting such a case as this—we must not shrink, as the noble Lord seems to shrink, from at once declaring ourselves with respect to it. I cannot acquit the noble Lord of blame in the whole of this affair. Why were not the people who asked the noble Lord whether they might safely undertake this commercial expedition prevented by him from doing so? They had a right to make the inquiry whether the coast of Circassia was really in a state of blockade; and it was the bounden duty of the noble Lord to give them information upon the point. Sir, it is beneath the dignity of Great Britain to tamper with, or hesitate upon subjects like these. If we are a great people, let us act like a great people. The noble Lord is bound to assert the principle of the freedom of our trade, and to enforce that principle by our power. The noble Lord ought to declare that we will trade with any nation not at war with us, with whatever other nation that nation may be at war. Unless some distinct principle of that kind be asserted—unless we specify what we mean by interference or non-interference—unless we state what, as a commercial people, we are entitled to, and will defend—we may keep going on upon isolated cases, and never have any certain or established rule of action. If the noble Lord will tell us what is the principle of international law by which he has been guided on this occasion, I will 626 endeavour to understand him. I want to know what the British Government has done to protect the British subject. I want to know if the British Government has acknowledged the treaty of Adrianople? I want to know if the British Government has acknowledged the right of Turkey to cede Circassia to Russia? I want to know if the British Government has acknowledged the right of Russia to blockade the coast of Circassia? As to treaties, Sir, all experience shows us how insignificant and unavailing are the stipulations of treaties when it ceases to be the interest of the parties to observe them. By the treaty of London it was stipulated that Russia should not, in any way whatever acquire territory from Turkey. In the treaty of Adrianople, in spite of the treaty of London, there is a distinct article stipulating that Circassia should be ceded to Russia by Turkey. Why do I say this? Not that I care whether Russia is in possession of Circassia or not; but I want to point out the utter fallacy of any treaty, the stipulations of which it ceases to be the interest of any of the parties concluding the treaty to fulfil. The principle of our policy ought to be, to trade with all nations; to enter into political treaties with none. That is the wise policy pursued by the United States of America. The first thing they do when the trade of America is attacked is to send a ship-of-warto protect it. They do not content themselves with firing off a battery of protocols. They do not talk about their rights; they enforce them. They do not meddle with other people's concerns; but they take care of their own. Now, if I travel with the noble Lord all round the world, what do I find? That the noble Lord has interfered where he should not have interfered? that he has not interfered where he should have interfered. The noble Lord "has done the things that he ought not to have done; and he has not done the things that he ought to have done." If anybody ask me why I introduce the discussion of this subject on the motion for going into the consideration of the navy estimates, I will tell him. In the Mediterranean a great portion of our naval establishment is at present stationed. Most of our men-of-war are in that sea enjoying a very agreeable pastime. The "scions of a noble stock," who are there in command, are sailing about from port 627 to port in their aimed yachts, taking their pleasure at the expense of their country. The hon. and gallant Admiral opposite seems much struck and amused with this view of the case. He is an experienced officer; but in his time the case was different. Now, what is the state of our trade in the Mediterranean? Why, that it is less secure there than in any other part of the world! In its immediate neighbourhood, in the Black Sea, an English merchant-vessel is taken, her crew are made prisoners, and her captain is barely permitted, by the supreme and super-eminent mercy of the emperor of all the Russias, to keep his head upon his shoulders. Sir, that is not treatment to which British subjects ought to be exposed. At least we ought to understand where our people may go and where they may not go. It is not surprising that an event of this nature should occasion considerable excitement and sympathy among the countrymen of those who have been so treated. I lay at the door of the noble Secretary of State all the sufferings which these British sailors have endured. The noble Lord ought to have been more explicit when he was asked by them what they should do. When they inquired whether Circassia was a place to which they might legally go, the noble Lord ought to have told them, and not to have wantonly exposed them to all the evils which they have suffered. Russia, as I have already said, is hardly to be considered a civilised power. Unless, therefore, we make a signal declaration in this House that we will no longer suffer her aggressions on our commerce, that our relations with her and the rest of the world are founded on a spirit of justice, and that, being so founded, we will never fail steadily to observe and promptly to enforce them, we may assuredly expect further encroachments. Russia must be told that we will not allow her, from any freak, or at her own pleasure, to say to our merchants, "Here you may trade, and there you may not;" but that we will pursue that undeviating course in which by the law of nations we are justified. And if the noble Lord desires to do something that may benefit mankind, I recommend him to inquire what the international law is on this subject, and, having ascertained it, to insist upon its observance by all nations. By such means and by such means alone, can the peace of the globe be preserved. 628 It is useless to talk; let the noble Lord act, and he will have the co-operation of every civilised state. These papers, Sir, will show whether the noble Lord has been sufficiently alive to the importance of the subject; and they will also show whether he has taken the right means of protecting the interests—I mean the trading interests—of this country. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving for "a copy of all correspondence between the Government of this country and the Governments of Russia and Turkey, together with a copy of all correspondence between the two last-mentioned Governments communicated to our own, relating to the treaty of Adrianople, as well as to all transactions or negotiations connected with the occupation of the ports and territories on the shores of the Black Sea by Russia since the above-named treaty of Adrianople."
§ Mr. Ewart
said, that he, like the hon. Member for Bath, was an advocate for peace, but there were two ways of maintaining it; and the real and proper way was to adhere to the rules which we had laid down as those by which we should be guided. To acquiesce in any demands that might be made by Russia was not the way to maintain peace. This country should neither commit nor submit to aggression. Turkey had no right to make any cession to Russia; nor did Russia before the treaty of Adrianople recognise any right in Turkey to the possession of Circassia. The papers of that night had brought an account of the condemnation of the Vixen, which was the final act on the part of the Russian government. In the treaty of London, a reserve was made, to the effect that Russia should not in any war with Turkey gain any acquisition of territory, and we further reserved to ourselves the right of resisting any such acquisition if we deemed it necessary. The course pursued by Russia was extremely dangerous to our trade with Trebizond, and to our general commerce in that quarter. Was it to be permitted that the Autocrat should close up the Black Sea against us? Ought we not to have a fleet of British men-of-war there? The trade with Trebizond, which amounted to a million annually, required at least that protection, and a British fleet there would at once put an end to such audacious interference. If Russia were allowed to proceed as she had proceeded, the Black Sea would soon 629 become a mare clausum to British commerce.
§ Sir Edward Codrington
maintained that that House had a right to know precisely the situation in which the country was placed in respect to Russia. He had expressed the opinion before, and he was still of the same opinion, that the difficulty in which we were placed was owing to the uncertain way in which this country decided in matters of this sort, owing, perhaps, to a change of Government and politics. He thought he could show that Russia, not only on paper, but with sincerity, was formerly determined to execute the treaty of London. Now, would any man say, looking to that treaty that it was not in the power of England and France to force Russia to abide by the terms of the treaties she had entered into? If this were not the case, then indeed he must agree with the hon. and learned Member for Bath that all treaties were mere nonsense. With reference to the Greek question, he had no doubt of the sincerity of Russia; but it was in consequence of the Government showing a disposition to break faith, that Turkey forced Russia into a war; and then we left the Turks in the lurch, as we always did, and as we had done in the case of Spain. With regard to the present case, he had said two years ago that it was our duty to stretch out a hand to Turkey; and after the restoration of Greece, if we had done so, we should have prevented the war with Russia, and left Turkey in a much more favourable position. It was our duty to protect our trade with Turkey at any price, and to support that which was of more importance—the honour and integrity of the country. It was our duty to show that when we felt we were treated unjustly we had the power and the will to resent any insult put upon British subjects. He hoped the noble Lord would produce the papers for which the hon. and learned Member for Bath had moved.
§ Mr. Barlow Hoy
said, that if the hon. and learned Member for Bath intended to lay down a new system or code of maritime and international law, he would go with him; but, at the same time, he did not see that England was in a position to proclaim the law propounded by the hon. and learned Member for Bath. Whatever might be done in the matter to which the motion referred, would be done in the spirit of fairness.
§ Viscount Palmerston
The hon. and learned Member for Bath, when he rose, promised the House that he would condense what he had to say into the narrowest compass; and never did an hon. Member more correctly keep his word than he did. But I never yet heard a speech of the same length which contained more extraordinary and new matter, or more astounding propositions, than the hon. Gentleman has promulgated. He has laid down opinions upon public law which I confess (though I may be ignorant on these matters) appear to me to be calculated to raise the shades of Puffendorff, of Grotius, and of Bynker-shoek—men who devoted their lives to the study of international law. But not only did the hon. and learned Gentleman broach the most extraordinary doctrines when he adverted to what he maintained to be the proper law for nations to act upon, but, having afterwards complained of my interfering too much in the affairs of other countries, he has had the goodness to set me a task which, whatever expectations he may have formed, I certainly could not achieve. Sir, the hon. and learned Member gravely proposed, that I should occupy myself by devising and putting together a code of international law to entitle any country to trade with another, in spite of the contingency of wars which may rage in foreign lands. We are to get rid of this difficulty at the same time that this new code comes into operation. But there should be a perpetual peace, I presume; and, armed with this single parchment, I am to address myself to the nations of the world. Now, I confess, that whatever may be the talents of persuasion of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, I have too humble a notion of my own capacities to think the task which he has set me is one that I could fulfil. The hon. and learned Gentleman asks me to state precisely what is the principle of international law on which his Majesty's Government intend to proceed; and he says, do you mean to maintain the antiquated doctrine, that the belligerent has the right to blockade—are you prepared to maintain that principle? I think, first, that the hon. and learned Member is mistaken in supposing it to be the doctrine in the United States that every country has a right to trade. Sir, it is not necessary that I should agree to the production of the papers connected with the treaty of Adrianople, because I 631 assure the hon. and learned Gentleman, that his Majesty's Government are prepared to exercise themselves, and they admit the right on the part of others to exercise the right of blockade according to the undoubted law of nations, which is, that the belligerents have the right to blockade, if that blockade be effective and consistent with usage. It must not be a matter of paper, but there must be the presence of force; and I say, that, as a maritime nation, our power depending on our fleet, we are satisfied that not only our commercial, but our political existence is connected with this principle of maritime law: and I say, that any man who would persuade England to renounce this principle, on the adherence to which the welfare of the country depends, must be the greatest enemy the country ever had. I agree, indeed, with the hon. Gentleman, in the observation he made, that the question which is now brought before the House is one not merely involving the important question of international law, but, by possibility, the question of peace or war between this country and Russia; and such being the true definition of the question before the House, I am persuaded that the House will see that, fortunately for us, it is not a part of its policy, that in a case which may lead to the issue of peace or war it can be properly treated in Parliament under circumstances like the present; but that the matter should be left to the executive Government until it shall have arrived at that point when it becomes their duty to communicate the facts to Parliament itself. Such being the constitutional practice, I am sure this House will feel, that I only discharge an imperative duty if I do not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman into any discussion of the practical question of the Vixen, to which he has referred. At the same time, in my own justification, I beg to say one word as to the charge which has been brought against me. The hon. and learned Gentleman has said, that I gave an evasive answer to the owner of the Vixen, by which he was misled; and as the hon. and learned Member has directed his observations to that point, I will read the letters which passed between Mr. Bell and myself. But I beg to point out a distinction which has not been sufficiently adverted to by the hon. and learned Member, with reference to belligerents 632 blockading. There is a distinction to be drawn between measures which may be applied by one power to the ports and coasts of another power with which she may be at war, and a blockade maintained to enforce municipal regulations to which a system of quarantine applies. I will now, with the permission of the House, refer to the correspondence. On the 25th of May last year I received a letter stating that the writers, Messrs. Bell and Co., "were about to undertake the working of certain salt mines belonging to the Prince Hospodar of Wallachia; and having heard that certain ports on the coast of Circassia were in a state of blockade, wished to be informed if any blockade existed which was recognised by the British Government,"—the writers adding,—"that although they had not entered into the speculation, they intended to do so if the answer to their application were favourable." The answer returned by the Under Secretary to that application was,—"that his Majesty's Government did not undertake to advise individuals upon any private speculations they might wish to enter into; it was for individuals to judge for themselves on those matters, and determine upon such information as was open to all persons." On the 30th of May, Messrs. Bell again wrote to say,—"that no opinion was required as to whether they should or should not enter into the proposed speculation; the only inquiry was, whether his Majesty's Government recognised the blockade on that coast:" and adding "that they thought the inquiry important, inasmuch as no notice had been given to this country of the existence of any such blockade." On the 2nd of June an answer was returned to this communication, stating, "that in answer to Messrs. Bell's application, requesting to be informed if his Majesty's Government recognised any blockade on the coast of Circassia,—if the inquiry was retrospective, as to whether the British Government had notified any blockade on the Black Sea, the letter itself was an answer; but if the inquiry was prospective, and related to an hypothetical case, it was the duty of the Government to listen to complaints of injuries received by his Majesty's subjects, and to assist them in obtaining redress for real grievances; but that it was no part of their duty to answer speculative inquiries,—British merchants must watch their own interests, and not 633 expect the Government to prejudge questions of international rights." On the 4th of June Messrs. Bell again wrote, stating, "that they did not make inquiries of a retrospective or speculative nature; but merely as to the fact, of whether a blockade of the coast of the Black Sea, south of the river Kouban, which had existed up to the date of the last intelligence, still continued?" and also stating, "that lest they might not understand the reply of his Majesty's Government, their conviction was—that, as there was no notification of it, such blockade was not recognised by his Majesty's Government, and if they received no contradiction they should proceed to act accordingly." A letter in reply was forwarded, on the 7th of June, "referring the parties again to the Gazette, in which they would find all such notifications as those alluded to, for the information of all concerned." This constituted the whole of the correspondence that took place between the Government and the commercial house of which Mr. Bell was a member; the fact at the time being, as appeared in the Gazette, that no blockade had been declared by the Russian Government—at least, none communicated to the Government of this country, and, therefore none had been acknowledged. I have already stated, that I wished to draw the attention of the House to the distinction that exists between a blockade, and the establishment of certain municipal regulations. Acting according to what I conceived to be my duty, I declined to give to Mr. Bell any communication as to what the bearing of the municipal regulations, established by Russia on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, might be upon the particular voyage he was about to undertake; but I referred him to the Gazette, where he would find that no blockade had been declared or communicated to this country by the Russian Government, consequently none was acknowledged. This closed the correspondence. Therefore, when the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Roebuck) says, that the voyage of the "Vixen" was encouraged, that she was allowed to go out by the Government as a sort of feeler to try a particular question of international law, I think, from the correspondence I have read, the House will see, that all the replies of the Government were of a discouraging rather than of an encouraging nature. I quite agree with the hon. and learned 634 Member in his maxim, that we ought to do justice to all countries, however small or weak they may be; and that we ought not to submit to injustice from any country, however strong; because undoubtedly this country is sufficiently powerful to make her rights respected by any nation that may be disposed to violate them. But the hon. and learned Member complains that we do not put in practice this maxim; and he says that we have a fleet in the Mediterranean for no other purpose, as he conceives, than to furnish yachts of pleasure to a certain number of captains descended from high families in the land. As a proof of the uselessness of the Mediterranean fleet, the hon. and learned Member cites a case which took place, not in the Mediterranean, but in the Black Sea, and in which therefore the Mediterranean fleet could not interpose. But I take upon myself to deny the assertion made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and to declare that the Mediterranean fleet has been most useful in protecting our commerce, which is the chief and main object to which the policy of this country should be directed. But the hon. and learned Member made a very singular proposition—he said, "I care not for the balance of power, I care only for the commerce of England; I care not if one power gain possession of the whole world, as long as the commerce of England is maintained." But what would be the position of our commerce if the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposition were established? What would be the position of England, if her commerce with all the rest of the world happened to depend on one single will by which the whole of the rest of the world was governed and directed? I am sure he would see that his indifference on one side, and his anxiety on the other, were incompatible in their results; and that the only mode of continuing a free commerce is to keep a watchful eye upon that balance of power which he thinks should not be a matter to occupy so much attention as the Government he thinks is disposed to lavish upon it. The hon. and learned Member states that Russia has broken faith with regard to the arrangements entered into in the treaty of London, by which she engaged not to acquire any territory at the expense of Turkey. I do not consider that that particular engagement applied to a case of war between Russia and 635 Turkey. I am of opinion with the gallant Admiral (Codrington) that it was limited to transactions connected with the settlement of the affairs of Greece. At the same time I must say, that Russia, though she was not bound by that particular stipulation, did, nevertheless, at the time she was commencing her war with Turkey, voluntarily enter into an engagement, by a declaration to the whole of Europe, by which she did bind herself, as far as a voluntary declaration can be considered binding on any power, that let the result of the war with Turkey be what it would, in no case would she look to any acquisition of territory. I am bound, therefore, to say that the criticism of the hon. and learned Gentleman, although the reasons upon which he founds it are not correct, yet holds good as far as the extension of the Russian frontier is concerned on the mouth of the Danube, the south of the Caucasus, and the shores of the Black Sea, and which certainly is not consistent with the solemn declaration made by Russia in the face of Europe previous to the commencement of the Turkish war. It would be entirely inconsistent with my public duty to enter further into a discussion of the merits of the particular case of the Vixen; but I can assure the House that his Majesty's Government feel quite as strongly as the hon. and learned Member for Bath, or any other Gentleman in the House can do, the great importance of the question itself, as well as the consequences that, in one way or the other, may result from it. I assure the House that the question occupies the serious attention of the Government; and I trust that those who feel any degree of confidence in the Government will act consistently with the usual practice of Parliament; will permit the Government to deal with the question in the manner which it deems most in accordance with the rights, interests, and honour of the country; and will not peremptorily call upon it to enter into explanations which can have no other effect than to mar the very object which the hon. and learned Member for Bath professes to have in view. With regard to the papers for which the hon. and learned Gentleman has moved, to the production of such of them as relate to the case of the Vixen I must object, upon the same grounds as those that induce me to abstain from entering into^ a discussion of the merits of that 636 particular case. As regards those which have reference to the communications which have taken place between England and Russia, the hon. and learned Gentleman has laid no ground for their production, except as connected with the case of the Vixen. Therefore, upon the same ground as I have already stated, I must object to their production also. If they bear upon a question now under consideration, their production would be dangerous: if they refer to questions that are gone by, they can obviously be of no use to the hon. and learned Gentleman who moves for them.
§ Mr. Maclean
did not mean to say, that he went to the full extent of the motion of the hon. Member for Bath, who asked for the production of all the correspondence between the British and Russian Governments; but, he could not see, that because it was the duty of the Executive to take certain steps which were deemed to be of consequence to the dignity of England as a nation, that therefore the House was to be refused access to all papers, however useful or important they might be in the assisting them to come to a proper understanding of the state of the question to which they related. He thought it would have been very satisfactory to the House if they could have obtained from the noble Lord some declaration of his sentiments respecting the treaty of Adrianople; for it was important to consider, that when that treaty was made it was protested against by the Duke of Wellington. As soon as a copy of it was transmitted to that noble Duke, he protested against acceding to any of the propositions made by Russia. It would, therefore, be of importance for the noble Lord to tell the House whether he assented to or dissented from those propositions; for the whole question respecting the commerce of the Black Sea depended upon whether by that treaty of Adrianople was or was not guaranteed to her the possession of the coast which she had blockaded. In all the antecedent treaties it would be found that the possession of Circassia by Turkey was recognised; at least there was such a guarantee given by Russia as would not allow the conclusion that she had acquired possession of Circassia by any of the former treaties. But if they would look into the fourth section of the treaty of Adrianople, they would find that there 637 was not one word mentioned about the coast of Circassia. In the published correspondence respecting the case of the Vixen it was treated as a case of smuggling only. In the manifesto published by Russia, declaring what she had done or would do, no mention was made of a blockade or any municipal regulations, but it was expressly stated, that the Vixen was seized because she was guilty of smuggling. But taking the correspondence published on the part of Mr. Bell, The Gazette, and other documents in which any mention was made of the case, what evidence was there at present to show that there was any act of smuggling? None. Yet the Vixen had been seized, and British subjects had been deprived of their property, though certainly through the clemency of the Emperor, they had not been deprived of their lives. It was somewhat extraordinary, therefore, to him, that those papers should be refused which might afford any information on the subject; and he must say, that he thought it would have been more satisfactory if they had been at once ordered to be laid on the table, although he gave credit to the noble Lord for a due consideration of the honour of the country.
was rather anxious to address a few words to the House in consequence of the remarks which some hon. Gentlemen had made upon the principle of blockade, and also in consequence of some observations which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and who had not accurately described the grounds on which Russia had proceeded. In the first place, he must say that he entirely concurred in what had fallen from his noble Friend, that it would be extremely inconvenient to make public any fact or circumstance connected with the question in dispute with Russia at present. Ever since he had had the honour of being in that House, he would venture to say, that whatever Ministers had done, or might do, he never had given, nor ever would he give, his voice for the production of papers during the time important negotiations were going on, which the production of those papers might seriously affect, and he was satisfied, that if they were produced in the present case, the effect would be mischievous to the nation, and calculated to disturb the peace, of the world. Therefore, relying upon his noble Friend, who relied upon the confidence of 638 the House, he must oppose the motion. He differed entirely from the hon. Member who had just sat down in his opinion on the nature of the blockade which Russia had established. What Russia had said was, that she had made certain regulations to prevent smuggling upon the Circassian coast down to the river Kouban, and that she had taken the Vixen in the act of smuggling in violation of those rules. The hon. Gentleman was quite mistaken if he thought that it was necessary that the ship should unload her cargo to be guilty of smuggling. If the vessel came within three miles of the coast where smuggling was prohibited, it would be just as much a violation of the laws against smuggling as if she had actually entered a port; therefore Russia was entitled to seize a vessel under such circumstances. It had been asked in the course of the debate on what principle Russia established a blockade of those coasts. It was highly desirable that no doubt should prevail in the House of Commons of Great Britain for one moment on so important a question. Nothing could be more dangerous to the peace and prosperity of the nation than a doubt as to the principle upon which the right to blockade existed. The right to establish a blockade existed by the ac-acknowledged law of all nations, and that of the United States as well as others. If one country was at war with another, it had a perfect right to blockade, if it maintained a sufficient force, and gave sufficient notice. As in the case of Spain and South America, which was formerly part of her dominions, a nation would have a right de jure et de facto to declare that part of the country with which it was at war to be in a state of blockade, provided it maintained a sufficient and adequate force for that purpose. A nation could have a right de jure and by possession de facto to declare a territory in a state of blockade; or a right de jure and not by possession de facto, but by claim for possession. But then came another case which was not a case of blockade. It was where a country said, "I have a right to this territory—I am in possession here—I may establish here such municipal regulations as I please." There was no such thing as the blockade of a country of which you were yourself in actual possession. That was the case of Russia and Circassia. Russia being in possession of Circassia, had power to 639 make such municipal regulations as she pleased; and those regulations must of course be observed by all who sought to trade with the province or the port to which they applied. His noble Friend had said that there was no blockade. A British merchant had a right to ask that question of the Foreign-office; he had a right to know whether there were any such impediments in the way of British commerce with foreign nations. But the letter of Mr. Bell went a great deal further. He had asked the noble Lord whether there was any prohibition of British commerce with foreign countries arising out of their own municipal regulations. To that his noble Friend had most properly replied, "I will not say a word upon that subject; it is a matter which does not come within my department." The distinction taken by his noble Friend was a true and accurate distinction. His noble Friend told Mr. Bell, "If you choose to enter into a speculation with a foreign country you must engage in it at your peril: you cannot expect the government of this country to do that for you which the government of this country has never yet done for any British merchant—that of declaring to you the state of the municipal law of foreign nations. You have a right to ask at the foreign department what is the state of the public law, but you have no right to ask what is the state of the municipal law, and particularly what are the regulations appertaining to the trade of any or every country in the world." In making this statement to Mr. Bell, he conceived that his noble Friend had done all that his official duty required of him, and indeed all that it was in his power to do. The answer of his noble Friend was, "I know of no blockade," and in giving that answer he was of opinion that his noble Friend had followed the precedent and example of every man, uniformly and without exception, who had preceded him in the office of Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He (Dr. Lushington) could not conceive any thing more injurious or more destructive to the character and public efficiency of that office itself, and of the responsibility which belonged to it, than any attempt to fix upon it, as a matter of necessity, the obligation of making itself acquainted with all the regulations which any other country might think proper to establish, with regard to trading on its own 640 shores, or which it might think right to impose on its own commerce. He was a sincere and ardent lover of peace, and he was most anxious that the transaction of the Vixen should be wound up with honour to the British government and peace to the world. Feeling that deep anxiety, and believing that no man who had seen any of the documents which had been made public could avoid foreseeing many difficult and embarrassing questions involved in them, he would not endanger in the slightest degree, by a premature expression of any opinion of his own, the eventual success of the negotiation now pending between Great Britain and Russia, he hoped the permanent preservation of peace between the two countries. He would rather avoid even pretending to say what questions might or might not arise upon the treaty of Adrianople. He would prefer waiting with patience the arrival of that period when the present Government or any other Government of this country, should have had full and ample opportunity, by all the means in their power, to bring this question—a question of most grave and serious importance—to a just, peaceful, and amicable conclusion. Let it not, however, be supposed that from his anxiety for this result he was one of those who would for a moment countenance an insult against the British flag, or against British honour. That was neither consistent with his feelings, nor he trusted, with any portion of his conduct; but he might be excused for saying that he would not take any step whatsoever—that he would not utter one single word—that might diminish or render in the slightest degree less probable an amicable consummation of this question, or that might hazard the commencement of those evils which, if once commenced, no one now living might see the termination.
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had so well expressed the reasons upon which he should give his vote in support of the noble Lord resisting the production of these papers, that he did not think it necessary to repeat them; but he could not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman in the construction which he had put upon the letters that had been read by the noble Lord. He hoped, when the whole of the letters should appear before the public, the matter would assume a much more 641 explicit character than that which had been given to it by the letters produced by the noble Lord.
§ Mr. Hume
thought, from the argument of the noble Lord, that he could not have read or heard the terms of the motion. The object of that motion was one of vast importance to the merchants of this country. It was to ascertain whether the coast which was alleged to belong to Russia had really been ceded to that country by the treaty of Adrianople. Undoubtedly Russia had the right to make her own regulations with regard to trading on her own coast; but the question was, whether the portion of the coast in question really belonged to her? He would admit the doctrine which had long been maintained in this country, that one hostile power had a right to blockade, provided it had sufficient force. But the question as to the origin of that blockade was, whether it was a hostile country or not? The noble Lord had given the House no information on this point; he thought there could be no secrecy about it. There ought not to be any. The terms of the treaty of Adrianople ought to be explicit, and thoroughly understood. He would ask the noble Lord what was the object of the office which he filled? Why was a Secretary for Foreign Affairs appointed? Was it not, that he should carry on a diplomatic correspondence with foreign powers, in order to ascertain what were the relations of commerce and of friendship which existed or could be established between those powers and the British nation? When the merchants of England, then, were desirous of legally extending the trade of this country with foreign nations, they very naturally applied to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to ascertain what was the state of that particular country or coast with which they wished to trade. With reference to the point now under consideration the question was a very simple and obvious one—was the Circassian coast in a state of blockade or not? In whose possession was it? and did any blockade exist there? He contended it was perfectly open to any British merchant to make those inquiries of the noble Lord; but, instead of frankly giving the information required, it appeared to him, if it was possible for language to disguise a plain and simple question, undoubtedly the noble Lord's correspondence had effected that object; and although 642 Mr. Bell, in repeating the question, pushed him very hard, still the noble Lord had ingenuity enough to evade it. But the noble Lord had not only evaded Mr. Bell, he had sat down without telling the House of Commons who was in actual possession of the Circassian coast at the present moment—he had not told them whether it really belonged to Russia, and whether it was by right of a violation of fiscal regulations, or in consequence of an existing blockade, that the Vixen had been seized. With all deference to the noble Lord, he conceived it to be his duty to give an unequivocal answer to a British, merchant making inquiries on that subject, and he was quite surprised at the language of the learned Civilian that the Foreign-office was not bound, and could not be expected, to communicate such information. If that were not the duty, he should like to know what was the use of the Foreign-office at all? The noble Lord had seemed to feel himself rather in an awkward situation; for if it should turn out that the conduct of Russia had been inconsistent with the public professions she had voluntarily made at the time, he feared, from the silence of the noble Lord, the British Government was culpable in not having taken the proper steps to remonstrate and prevent her violation of the engagements she had undertaken. Otherwise, why hesitate now to make a public declaration on the subject? But, even after the discussion which had taken place enforcing the question of Mr. Bell, they were precisely in the same situation as before; they had no more information than Mr. Bell had, and any British merchant pursuing the same course would still be liable to the same losses and annoyance which he had suffered. Such a state of things, he maintained, was neither creditable to the noble Lord nor to the British House of Commons, and if ever they were called upon to enforce an explanation, it was upon the present occasion. A most important and valuable accession to British commerce might take place with the Circassians, if protection were afforded to the British merchant, and if they could obtain satisfactory information as to the terms on which the trade could safely be conducted. He hoped the noble Lord would give some explanation to the House upon this subject, and tell the country whether the Circassian coast had really been ceded to Russia; whether it was now 643 in the possession of that country, and whether the British Government had agreed to the cession; whether the Vixen had been seized according to the official announcement in the St. Petersburgh Gazette, as a smuggling vessel, or in consequence of the blockade. The noble Lord had answered none of those questions; and if he could not, he must be allowed to say he inefficiently discharged the duties of his office. There was strong-ground of complaint against him, and it was quite inexcusable that British merchants, wishing to know whether commerce might be carried on in a particular quarter, and applying to the Foreign-office for authentic information should be put off and referred to the Gazelle, without specifying any particular number of it, and which might have been published half a century ago, when it was doubtless in the noble Lord's power to afford all the requisite explanations. He hoped the noble Lord would not allow this opportunity to pass without giving those explanations to the House.
§ Mr. Robinson
did not wish to press the Government to make any premature disclosures. He agreed with the hon. Member for Middlesex that the present discussion had not been satisfactory on the part of the noble Lord; and he thought that in the correspondence between Mr. Bell and the noble Lord, Mr. Bell had by far the advantage. He thought also that it was rather an extraordinary thing that the noble Lord, who was not only at the head of the Foreign Department, but was one of the Ministers of State, and therefore cognisant of all the Cabinet secrets, should not be able to answer the plain and simple question put to him by Mr. Bell—and that at a time some years after the treaty of Adrianople—whether a British merchant had or had not the right to trade with the coast in question. If the noble Lord meant to say—as he understood the noble Lord to state—that it was a doubtful point—that Russia had asserted her right to the coast in question, but that the British Government was neither prepared to admit it on the one, nor perhaps altogether in a condition to controvert it on the other,—then he would ask the noble Lord how long the merchants of this country were to be prevented carrying on trade with the eastern shores of the Black Sea? How long was this discussion to be continued with the Russian government? And when 644 they were speaking of the Russian government it should be recollected that they were speaking of a government with which this country had been on the most friendly relations since the treaty of Adrianople. He did not mean to say, that the noble Lord had a right to put his construction on the claims of Russia, or that those claims were not founded on the principle of justice and the right of nations; but the noble Lord had a right to say to Russia that our merchants claimed a right to trade with the coast in question, and that that claim therefore must be decided. He did not think that any question of a blockade arose in this case. There was in fact no blockade. There was no maritime force employed. If Russia had a right to deal with the Vixen in the manner she had done, that right could only have arisen out of what the noble Lord had called municipal, but what Russia called sanatory, regulations. But he must say, that he had never heard of any sanatory regulations which subjected a vessel and cargo to be seized, and persons on board to be imprisoned, unless that seizure had been in consequence of a wilful violation of rules which had been previously promulgated. Speaking as a British merchant, he thought the noble Lord ought to have put Mr. Bell on his guard. The noble Lord was perhaps right, so far as informing Mr. Bell that no official notice of a blockade had been received at the Foreign-office; but, surely, if Russia had intended to exclude all British commerce from the coast of Circassia, it ought to have been known to the British Government that such a right was pretended to, and that Russia was determined to maintain that right; and the noble Lord ought to have informed Mr. Bell that he would be trading with that country at his own peril. He was not aware that it was intended to press the present motion against the wish of the noble Lord; he rather thought it had been brought forward with a view to operate as a stimulus to the noble Lord, and from an impression that had been made in the mind of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, that this question had remained much too long in a state of suspense, and that it ought to be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. If Russia had a right to interdict the commerce of this country with those shores, whether from the treaty of Adrianople, or whether, as Russia contended, by 645 right of prior occupation, the Government ought to ascertain what the right of Russia was, and ought to inform the subjects of this country of its nature, in order that they might know precisely what was the real state of the case. He trusted that the noble Lord would not consider the subject as merely relating to the treaty of Adrianople; for although it might appear hereafter that Russia had the right to exclude vessels from trading with Circassia, it certainly had no right to seize vessels without a proper notification of a blockade. He also trusted, that the noble Lord would take care that the honour and character of the country were not compromised in the case of the Vixen, but that the encroaching character of the Russian Government would be restrained in this as well as other matters. If the result of the matter should appear to be, that Russia had been guilty of unjust aggressions, he trusted that the noble Lord would come down to the House and place the whole correspondence on this subject on the Table, and take the sen9e of Parliament as to future steps which it might be considered necessary to resort to. He did not pretend to give a decided opinion on the subject, but it appeared to him that the settlement of the question had been too long delayed; it was of the utmost importance that it should be brought to a satisfactory issue, so that British merchants might know what they had to expect, and also, how they were to act.
really did not know what conclusion the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had arrived at, from the tenor of his speech and from the observations in which he had indulged. Of this, however, he was satisfied, that the hon. Gentleman was looking merely to the proceedings now pending respecting the treaty of Adrianople. It had been stated, that Russia did not maintain a force to keep up a blockade; but this was not the fact, for the Vixen was seized by a ship of war. He was sure that no person in that House understood the subject better than the hon. and learned Civilian, nor was there any one who could make it more clear and intelligible; and, therefore, if he had not understood his learned Friend, it was not his learned Friend's fault. He understood his hon. and learned Friend to say, that there were two species of blockade—the one against a hostile 646 power, and the other of a power against its revolted subjects. When he heard the noble Lord read the letters respecting the seizure of the Vixen, he could not help calling to mind the expression of Talleyrand, that language had been invented to conceal thoughts. He admitted, however, that the noble Lord had sufficiently answered the question put to him by Mr. Bell, but not in a manner that would be sufficiently intelligible to a plain sailor. The noble Lord referred Mr. Bell to The Gazette, to learn whether the coast of Circassia was or was not blockaded; now, according to the learned civilian, it would be unnecessary to place a notification of the blockade in The Gazette if this territory belonged to Russia. Thus, if Russia instituted a blockade of the ports of Norway, to render it effective it would be necessary that a notification should appear in The Gazette; but if that power chose to blockade the port of Archangel, it would not be necessary to notify the matter in The Gazette, because it would be merely a subject of municipal regulation. In this case, he thought that Mr. Bell was perfectly justified in sending out his vessel, for he had been told to refer to The Gazette to see whether there was a blockade or not. It was clear, therefore, from this observation of the noble Lord, that he did not at that time consider the coast of Circassia as any part of the Russian territory. Again, in 1826, notwithstanding the subject matter of quarrel between Russia and the Porte, it was agreed that no sort of commercial advantage should be gained on this coast by either party. He contended that Russia could not gain possession of this country by the treaty of Adrianople. This country could not be touched by Russia by any municipal regulations, and, therefore, no seizure of a British vessel could be justified on the part of Russia, on the ground that it was engaged in illicit trading. The hon. and learned Civilian had satisfactorily settled that part of the question. He believed that the only safe mode of settling this matter, was by taking such steps as to let Russia know that England was determined to enforce the protection of British subjects. Let the Russian Government say what it pleased, and make what regulations it chose regarding its own subjects at St. Petersburgh or elsewhere, but let them also know that it could not deal with British subjects as it pleased, 647 but that House and the country were determined to protect them. In conclusion, as the noble Lord had been the means of sending Mr. Bell to the coast of Circassia, he was bound to take care to protect the interests of Mr. Bell in that country, and that if his property had been wrongfully seized that indemnity should be given to him.
§ Lord Dudley Stuart
observed, that this was a question of great and vital importance to the commercial interests of this country. It was not merely as to whether an individual had been robbed of his property, but as to whether we should be allowed to extend our commercial relations to other countries, or whether we should be restrained from doing so at the whim and caprice of Russia. That power had put forward a justification of the blockade, in the first place; on the ground that Circassia was a hostile country, and afterwards on the plea that it was merely for the purpose of enforcing municipal regulations, and had resorted from the one plea to the other at her will and pleasure. But what were the facts of the case? A British subject applied at the Foreign-office to know whether he could send his vessel to a foreign port for the purpose of commerce, and he was told by the noble Lord to look into The Gazette to see whether there was any notification of a blockade. Now the learned Civilian said that the blockade was effective because the vessel was captured by a man of war; but what were the facts of the case? The vessel laid in the port where it was seized for thirty-six hours before it was interfered with at all; it would therefore appear that this was only an apparent blockade, and not a real one. A good deal had been said as to this vessel having been laden with munitions of war, but he was authorised to say that it did not contain any thing of the kind, but was laden with salt and some patterns of English manufactures. When the Russian officer seized the vessel, he asked the captain whether he did not know that there was a blockade on the coast; this was also stated by the Russian admiral when the vessel was taken into Sebastopol. The Russian authorities afterwards went from the assertion of the blockade, and stated that the vessel had been seized for the violation of municipal regulations in attempting to smuggle, and for a violation of the quarantine regulations. He would refer to the authority of 648 the learned Civilian on the latter point. He would ask—admitting for argument sake that it was not necessary to notify a municipal regulation before enforcing it—whether it was not necessary to notify the establishment of quarantine on a coast? Although he felt much obliged to the hon. and learned Member for Bath for bringing forward the subject, he felt that it would have a bad result, as the noble Lord would not lay the papers before the House, and thus the matter would drop; and he could not help observing, that the noble Lord had never laid a word of the correspondence about Russia on the table of the House since he had been at the Foreign-office, notwithstanding the aggressive conduct of that power. If they admitted the plea of Russia, in the case of the Vixen, they would enable that power to make what regulations it pleased under the pretence of a quarantine. He contended that Russia had no right whatever to Circassia. He was prepared to maintain this on several grounds. He denied that Turkey ever had possession of that country. Whenever Turkey had possession of a country it sent a Pacha there, and also enforced the payment of tribute; but nothing of the kind had ever been enforced by Turkey in Circassia. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State, apparently wished the House to infer that Russia had possession of the country. But the fact was that she had only possession of two or three forts, and this was not sufficient to allow them to exercise the rights of sovereignty. He would read an authority, to which he thought the noble Lord would attach great weight, as to the possession of two or three forts giving any thing like a legal occupation to a country. In 1806 Prussia had put forward a claim to the kingdom of Hanover, on the ground that that country had been ceded to her by France. On that occasion Lord Castlereagh observed,—As to the arguments used by Prussia, after taking possession of Hanover as a permanent dominion, they appeared to him to be obviously untenable upon any principle of justice. Prussia stated France held Hanover by right of conquest, and under that right assumed to dispose of it. But, without any reference to the forcible and outrageous manner in which France originally took possession of Hanover, it was clear that, at the time they undertook to transfer it to Prussia, they did not hold it at all, for they were not in possession of that country, having evacuated the whole of it, with the ex- 649 ception of a single point. And unless the retention of that point (the fortress of Hameln) could be argued to imply a possession of the whole country, it would be absurd to attempt the maintaining upon any principle of public justice, that the French held Hanover as a conquest at the time of the transfer so justly complained of. Therefore, the main ground of justification upon which Prussia seemed to rely for the validity of this transfer must fall to the ground. Indeed, the declaration of Prussia herself, in January, when she occupied Hanover, professedly, until the conclusion of peace, distinctly supported this argument, and recognised the principle she had asserted. And upon no pretence whatever could the unqualified way in which she afterwards acted towards that ill-fated country be warranted.On the same principle that the claim made by Prussia was held to be void, so the claim of Russia to Circassia must fall to the ground. But they had also the authority of the Circassians as to the claims of Russia. Audi alteram parlem had always been held to be a good maxim, and on this point he would refer to the manifesto sent to the Government of this country, as well as to other countries, from Circassia. That stated,'It is therefore with the profoundest humiliation that we have learnt that our country is marked on all the maps printed in Europe, as a portion of Russia; that treaties, of which we know nothing, should have been signed between Russia and Turkey, pretending to hand over to the Russians these warriors that made Russia tremble, and these mountains where her footsteps have never come; that Russia tells in the west that the Circassians are her slaves, or wild bandits and savages, whom no kindness can soften, and no laws can restrain. We most solemnly protest in the face of Heaven against such womanish arts and falsehood. We answer words with words, but it is truth against falsehood. For forty years we have protested triumphantly against accusations with our arms; this ink, as the blood we have spilt, declares our independence; and these are the seals of men who have known no superior save the decision of their country—men who understand no subtle arguments—but who know how to use their weapons when the Russians come within their reach. Who has the power to give us away? Our allegiance is offered to the Sultan, but, if he is at peace with Russia he cannot accept it, for Circassia is at war. Our allegiance is a free offering; he cannot sell it, because he has not bought it. It is by arms, not by words, that a country can be conquered. If Russia conquers us, it will not be by arms but by cutting off our communications, and making use of Turkey and Persia as if they were already hers—by rendering the sea impassable, as if it were her own—by blockading our coast—by des- 650 troying not only our vessels but those of other states which approach us—by depriving us of a market for our produce—by preventing us from obtaining salt, gunpowder, and other necessaries of war, which to us are necessaries of life—by depriving us of hope. But we are independent; we are at war; we are victors. The representative of the Emperor, who numbers us in Europe as his slaves, who marks this country as his own on the map, has lately opened communications with the Circassians, not to offer pardon for rebellion, but to bargain for the retreat of 20,000 men enveloped by our people, and to make arrangements for exchange of prisoners.'Let not the House suppose that this document was something got up in this country, and of no authenticity. There was not the slightest doubt of its authenticity, and he would appeal to the noble Lord himself whether the original was not in this country. He (Lord D. Stuart) was well acquainted with a gentleman of the highest character who was present when this document was signed by nineteen Circassian chiefs. Was it not disgraceful, he would ask, that at this time of day, after the lapse of two months from the period when the British flag had been so grossly insulted, the liberty of a British subject had been so flagrantly violated, the British House of Commons was still deliberating on the subject—still endeavouring unsuccessfully to extract from the British Minister for Foreign Affairs some information as to what he had done, or what he intended to do? How different had been the conduct pursued by the British Government in former times when similar outrages to these had been offered to British subjects. He would illustrate this by a story quite in point, which had been told to the House of Commons upon a similar occasion, by Mr. Pulteney, so long ago as the year 1738. At that period British vessels had been interfered with by a foreign power, and great dissatisfaction was very properly expressed by Members of the House of Commons. In the course of the debate which then occurred Mr. Pulteney stated, with great effect, what had been done in a similar case which occurred during the Commonwealth, and stated in these terms:—This was what Oliver Cromwell did in a like case that happened during his government, and in a case where a more powerful nation was concerned than ever Spain could pretend to. In the histories of his time we are told, that an English merchant ship was taken in the chops of the Channel, carried into St. 651 Maloe's, and there confiscated upon some groundless pretence. As soon as the master of the ship, who, we are told, was an honest Quaker, got home, he presented a petition to the Protector in council, setting forth his case, and praying for redress. Upon hearing the petition the Protector told his council he would take that affair upon himself, and ordered the man to attend him the next morning. He examined him strictly as to all the circumstances of his case; and finding by his answers that he was a plain, honest man, and that he had been concerned in no unlawful trade, he asked him if he could go to Paris with a letter? the man answered, he could. 'Well, then,' says the Protector, 'prepare for your journey, and come to me to-morrow morning.' Next morning he gave him a letter to Cardinal Mazarine, and told him he must stay but three days for an answer. 'The answer I mean, Sir,' says he, 'is the full value of what you might have made of your ship and cargo; and tell the Cardinal that if it is not paid you in three days you have express orders from me to return home. The honest, blunt Quaker, we may suppose, followed his instructions to a tittle; but the Cardinal, according to the manner of Ministers when they are any way pressed, began to shuffle: therefore the Quaker returned as he was bid. As soon as the Protector saw him, he asked, ' Well, friend, have you got your money?' and upon the man answering he had not, the Protector told him, 'Then leave your direction with my secretary, and you shall soon hear from me.' Upon this occasion that great man did not stay to negociate, or to explain, by long tedious memorials, the reasonableness of his demand. No, sir, though there was a French Minister residing here, he did not so much as acquaint him with the story, but immediately sent a man-of-war or two to the Channel, with orders to seize every French ship they could meet with. Accordingly, they returned in a few days with two or three French prizes, which the Protector ordered to be immediately sold, and out of the produce he paid the Quaker what he demanded for the ship and cargo: then he sent for the French Minister, gave him an account of what had happened, and told him there was a balance, which if he pleased should be paid in to him, to the end that he might deliver it to those of his countrymen who were the owners of the French ships that had been so taken and sold.This, Sir, was Oliver Cromwell's manner of negotiating; this was the method he look for obtaining reparation; and what was the consequence? It produced no war between the two nations; no, Sir, it made the French government terribly afraid of giving him the least offence; and while he lived, they took special care that no injury should be done to any subjects of Great Britain.He did not wish it to be understood, that it was exactly this mode of proceeding which 652 he should advise the noble Minister for Foreign Affairs to pursue on the present occasion; but he must state his opinion, that the want of vigour and alacrity to defend the honour of the country which the noble Lord had displayed, was most culpable. He would mention another instance occurring in more recent times, during the administration of Mr. Pitt, to show that the conduct of no former Minister had ever been so vacillating, so hesitating, so uncertain, so cowardly, when an insult had been offered to British subjects. In 1790, the Spaniards had presumed to capture two British vessels which went out to Nootka Sound for the purpose of trading. Let the House attend to what happened on that occasion, for the parallel between that case and the present was so close, that put Russia for Spain, one vessel instead of two, and Abascia instead of Nootka Sound, and the circumstances were almost identically the same in other respects. No sooner was the British Government informed of this outrage, than the most determined steps were taken by Ministers; the British minister at Madrid was directed to demand adequate satisfaction and the restitution of the vessels previous to any discussion; and the following message was sent to both Houses of Parliament:—George R.—His Majesty has received information, that two vessels belonging to his Majesty's subjects, and navigated under the British flag, and two others, of which the description is not hitherto sufficiently ascertained, have been captured at Nootka Sound, on the north-western coast of America, by an officer commanding two Spanish ships of war; that the cargoes of the British vessels have been seized, and that their officers and crews have been sent as prisoners to a Spanish port. The capture of one of these vessels had before been notified by the ambassador of his Catholic Majesty, by order of his court, who at the same time desired that measures might be taken for preventing his Majesty's subjects from frequenting those coasts, which were alleged to have been previously occupied and frequented by the subjects of Spain. Complaints were also made of the fisheries carried on by his Majesty's subjects in the seas adjoining to the Spanish continent, as being contrary to the rights of the crown of Spain. In consequence of this communication, a demand was immediately made, by his Majesty's order, for adequate satisfaction, and for the restitution of the vessel, previous to any other discussion. By the answer from the court of Spain, it appears that this vessel and her crew had been set at liberty by the viceroy of 653 Mexico; but this is represented to have been done by him on the supposition, that nothing but the ignorance of the rights of Spain encouraged the individuals of other nations to come to those coasts, for the purpose of making establishments or carrying on trade; and, in conformity to his previous instructions, requiring him to show all possible regard to the British nation. No satisfaction is made, or offered; and a direct claim is asserted by the court of Spain to the exclusive rights of sovereignty, navigation, and commerce, in the territories, coasts, and seas, in that part of the world. His Majesty has now directed his minister at Madrid to make a fresh representation on this subject, and to claim such full and adequate satisfaction as the nature of the case evidently requires. And, under these circumstances, his Majesty, having also received information that considerable armaments are carrying on in the ports of Spain, has judged it indispensably necessary to give orders for making such preparations as may put it in his Majesty's power to act with vigour and effect in support of the honour of his Crown and the interests of his people. And his Majesty recommends it to his faithful Commons (on whose zeal and public spirit he has the most perfect reliance) to enable him to take such measures, and to make such augmentation of his forces, as may be eventually necessary for this purpose.Such was the vigorous line of conduct pursued by Mr. Pitt; and to satisfy those hon. Gentlemen who might be disposed to cavil at the proceeding because it emanated from a Tory, he (Lord Dudley Stuart) would add that the address of the House in answer to the King's message, and declaring the determination of the House "to afford his Majesty the most zealous and effectual support in such measures as may become requisite for maintaining the dignity of his Majesty's Crown, and the essential interests of his Majesty's dominions," was seconded by Mr. Grenville, and warmly supported by Mr. Fox, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Grey; and when Mr. Fox moved for an account of the amount and value of the trade to Nootka Sound, Mr. Pitt suggested the withdrawal of the motion, declaring that the real question was, pot the value of the trade to Nootka Sound, but an insult offered to the British flag; and Mr. Fox, concurring in this view of the question, withdrew his motion. The pretension of Russia now brought forward, was not a new one. It was not the first time that that power had outraged and insulted us, by stopping our vessels in the Black Sea. Not more than two years ago had a vessel, the Charles Spencer, belonging to a British subject, been seized 654 by Russia in the Black Sea, under circumstances equally objectionable with those in the present case. How much longer, he would ask, did the noble Lord propose to allow Russia thus to insult Great Britain, and thus to injure British commerce? In his opinion, nothing effectual would be done towards putting an end to these outrages till a British fleet was posted in the Black Sea. What was the use of increasing our naval force, what the use of our navy at all, if not to protect our commerce? The noble Lord not only utterly neglected the grand principle in this as in every other matter, principiis obsta, but now, when an injury had been done, he took no steps for remedying it. For his part, he considered that unless the cure of the hurt we had here received was rapid and radical, the consequences would be fatal to this country. In the year 1825, Russia set up another pretension against this country, in her claim to a part of the coast of America, and she set up the same claim against the United States, but the United States laughed at her pretensions, and we, by negotiations, also succeeded in asserting our right. This was accomplished through the exertions of Sir Stratford Canning, whose absence he greatly lamented, particularly as the cause was indisposition. We defeated the attempts of Russia then, and why should we not do the same now? Why should the flag of England be less respected now than at that time? We are not less able to assert our rights now than we were then. Accounts had been received in town that day that the Vixen had been condemned, and that in the most revolting way to this country. The British flag was hoisted, then hauled down, and the Russian flag hoisted in its stead; and the captain and. crew were sent, not to London, but to Constantinople. In fact, everything had been done that could humble and insult this country. He complained of the noble Lord for the course he had pursued. The noble Lord was degrading England by holding her out in the character of a bully—haughty and tyrannical to the weak, humble and abject to the strong. How, he asked, had the county acted under the present Government? He thought, not in the most creditable manner. Let them look to the different manner upon different occasions in which it had afforded protection to 655 British subjects. In Turkey, which was a weak power, they found a British subject, who certainly was not quite free from guilt. Mr. Churchill, the person referred to, had, in Constantinople, been punished in a way that was not right. Immediately a complaint was made, and redress insisted upon. Why? Because Turkey was a weak power. On that account the Government insisted upon redress; and it was required that the Reis Effendi should be dismissed. Would the English Government demand the dismissal of Nessel-rode—would they demand the punishment of the commander of the man-of-war by whom the Vixen had been seized? No; the persons concerned in that outrage were rewarded with decorations; they received marks of honour because they had insulted this country. This country, too, had shewn its vigour in sending a fleet to Carthagena; but with Russia they were humble, they were crouching, they were vacillating, and there was a consultation of law-officers of the Crown; there was doubt and there was hesitation as to the course to be pursued, and, in the meantime, the merchants were sacrificed, and the flag was insulted. He thought it would have been much better if the noble Lord had granted the motion. The noble Lord could not say that negotiations were still pending. They all knew that it was no such thing. They knew, too, the pretension of Russia to stop the right of entrance to the Danube. When his noble Friend was so vigorous with an inferior state, why not make Russia desist From pretensions by which English commerce suffered greatly? The pretensions of Russia in this respect were, in his opinion, another instance of the manner in which the commercial interests of England were sacrificed, and this, too, from the fear of offending a country which was falsely supposed to be strong, but which, in his opinion, was no more able to oppose England than the small state which had submitted the instant her vessels of war made their appearance off its ports. He wanted to know whether or not they recognised the treaty of Adrianople. He believed that the Duke of Wellington did not recognise that treaty. In conclusion, the noble Lord said, that he thought the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs ought not to refuse granting the papers sought for although he was ready to admit, he might do so if he thought proper.
§ Mr. Cressett Pelham
did not think the observations of the last speaker either apposite or useful. They were likely to do harm. Mr. Pulteney had succeeded by his speeches in turning out a political opponent, and then he involved the country in a bloody and protracted war.