HC Deb 21 June 1839 vol 48 cc702-5
Mr. Mackinnon

wished to put a question to the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, relative to the Persian Mission. Her Majesty, in her Speech from the Throne, stated, that circumstances had caused the withdrawal of the British Envoy from Persia. It appeared, that Sir John M'Neill had been a resident in this country for some time, and had also bad an audience of her Majesty, and he begged, therefore, to ask whether the mission had not concluded? It appeared, that the Secretary to the Embassy, together with an attaché, was still in Turkey, in Erzeroum, within eleven days' journey of Teheran, though there was a difference between this country and the Court of Persia, and the British Government had refused to receive the Ambassador of the Schah of Persia. The sum of 12,000l. a-year had been allowed by the East India Company for the purposes of defraying the expenses of the diplomatic mission; but though the money was paid by that company, it was under the control of that House, because the mission was under the control of the Government. He wished to ask them in what manner that sum of 12,000l. a-year was expended, and did the individuals of which that embassy had been composed, continue to receive their salaries?

Viscount Palmerston

said, the hon. Gentleman had made rather a long exordium to a short question, which he might answer at once, but that he was anxious to set the hon. Gentleman right in reference to some statements he had made. Everybody knew, that when a difference arose between Governments, it frequently happened that an envoy might be withdrawn without a cessation of amicable communications, though there might be extensive differences, very little short of an absolute rupture, causing the temporary retirement of the ambassador. That was the state in which this country now stood with regard to Persia. Sir John M'Neill was at home on leave of absence, which was given to him before the differences between the two Governments took place. It was true that he had had an audience of her Majesty—not, as the hon. Gentleman supposed, because of the conclusion of his mission, but on leave of absence from his post. The Chargé d'Affaires and another member of the mission had withdrawn from Persia on account of the disputes with the Schah of Persia, and they had intended to return, but they were ordered to remain at the nearest frontier point, Erzeroum, for the purpose of receiving communications. In reference to another point adverted to by the hon. Gentleman, he would state that the Persian Government had sent an ambassador to this country, who, although he had been told before, that he could not be received in his official character until the differences between the countries were arranged, had, nevertheless, considered it his duty to come to this country in a private capacity, and was now in London, and he (Viscount Palmerston) had had some private communications with him. In reply to the question of the hon. Gentleman, he had to state that it had happened, as it had in all similar cases wherein the mission was not at an end, Sir J. M'Neill was at home, but he had returned only for a time, and he was still subject to all the customary regulations like all other ambassadors. Colonel Shiel, the Chargé d'Affaires, who was on duty abroad, was receiving his emoluments, and the mission went on just as it would go on if Sir J. M'Neill were still in Persia.

Mr. Maclean

said, perhaps the noble Lord would allow him to ask, if we were not at war with Persia, whether any reparation had been made by the Schah for the insult offered to the servant or messenger of Sir J. M'Neill? And he begged to put another question to the noble Lord at the same time, in relation to the explanation of Count Nesselrode respecting the conduct of Counts Simonitch and Viscovitch? He begged also to ask him whether any accounts had reached this country of an outrage on Sir Frederick Maitland and the crew of the Wellesley, at Bushire? It had been announced that Admiral Maitland was about to land at the place of honour, when he was told that he would not be allowed to do so, but that he must go to the Custom-house, which he would not do, and the consequence was, that the soldiers of the Schah fired on the boats, and bullets passed through the hats and clothes of some of the crew of the Wellesley, who returned the fire, and some of the individuals who perpetrated the outrage were wounded. That was the rumour, and he wished to ask the noble Lord if he had received any intelligence of the affair.

Viscount Palmerston

said, in reply to the first question of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he had to state, that no sufficient reparation had been made by the Schah of Persia for the outrage committed on the messenger of Sir J. M'Neill. With regard to the explanation of the Russian Government with regard to the conduct of Counts Simonitch and Viscovitch, he could only refer the hon. and learned Gentleman to the papers already laid on the table of the House, which contained the answer of the Russian Government to the applications made on the subject. Then with regard to the other question, we were certainly not at war with Persia, though there was a very serious interruption of our communications. He had received accounts of the circumstance to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred, but they were not exactly as he had stated them. There had been no difficulty about the landing of Admiral Maitland at Bushire, for he had landed without interruption, and friendly communications afterwards took place between him and the Governor, but the dispute arose on his embarcation. The Governor insisted that he should embark from the Custom-house quay, instead of the usual place near his residence; and he being informed by those in the service that such a course was not usual, and that in fact it was an indignity to which he ought not to submit, he refused to comply with the regulation, and insisted upon embarking from the quay opposite his residence. He took the necessary precautions; the boats of the Wellesley were got ready, and during the embarcation shots were exchanged between the parties. This circumstance and subsequent differences led to the departure of those in the service of the East India Company, who settled at the island of Karak. From the last accounts it appeared that Admiral Maitland was returning to Bushire to have some communication with the Governor on the subject.

Subject dropped.

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