§ Mr. Hume
rose to move, pursuant to his notice—An Address to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to lay before this House such parts of the correspondence between Lord Ponsonby, the British Minister at Constantinople, and Lord Viscount Palmerston, Her Majesty's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as relate to the negotiations in the years 1839 and 1840, between the Sultan of the Sublime Porte and Mehemet Ali, for the hereditary possession of Egypt and other provinces claimed by Mehemet Ali, and for the settlement of peace between him and the Sultan; and for the delivery by Mehemet Ali of the Turkish fleet to the Sultan.The hon. Member said, the papers already laid before the House by the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Affairs, were very deficient in information, and he had hoped, that, after what had passed in July last, the noble Lord would have, before this time, given the House the fullest explanation on the state of affairs in the east of Europe. It was announced in her Majesty's speech from the throne, on opening the present Session on the 16th of January last, that—The affairs of the Levant have continued to occupy my most anxious attention. The 182 concord which has prevailed amongst the Five Powers has prevented a renewal of hostilities in that quarter; and I hope that the same unanimity will brine: those important and difficult matters to a final settlement in such a manner as to uphold the integrity and independence of the Ottoman empire, and to give additional security to the peace of Europe.Now, he (Mr. Hume) wished the House to have from the noble Lord some explanation of the nature of that concord, which was stated in the speech from the throne, to exist between these Five Powers. He believed, as far as he could learn, that out of these transactions instead of concord, the greatest discord had grown up, and he was sorry to find that, as regarded France in particular, the policy and conduct of the noble Lord had produced so great indifference of opinion, as to risk the good feeling and cordial co-operation which before had existed, and which it was so highly desirable should continue to exist between that country and ourselves on all questions affecting the peace of Europe. If it were true, as stated in her Majesty's speech, that the utmost concord and unanimity existed between the Five Powers, how did it happen that the question of peace or war between Turkey and Egypt, after a lapse of eight months, still remained unsettled? Independent of other disadvantages arising to the trade of this country, and to that of the Ottoman Empire, from the present unsettled state of things, the expense of maintaining our large naval armament in the Mediterranean had already cost this country an annual amount of upwards of half a million sterling. He did not think the Government, in the present state of financial difficulty, had acted fairly and candidly in the information they had given the House in her Majesty's Speech upon this subject. The whole proceedings of these Five Great Powers were involved in a mystery which required to be speedily explained. As the matter at present was understood, he must say, that the noble Lord had departed from the course of policy he formerly pretended to follow:—instead of promoting peace between the Sultan and Mohamed Ali, and thereby supporting the integrity of the Ottoman empire, he had been the chief cause of increasing discord when peace was about to be concluded; and of keeping up hostilities, and all those evils which invariably resulted to every country from a state of civil war. For his own part, he (Mr. Hume) believed, and should be able to prove to the House, if the correspondence he asked for was pro- 183 duced, that, had it not been for the improper interference of Great Britain; and of the other four powers with the Divan at Constantinople, peace would have been established between Turkey and Egypt eight months ago. The erroneous policy of the noble Lord had, in fact, put the people of England to an annual expense of between 500,000l. and 600,000l.; and, at the same time had kept the Turkish empire in a state of civil war. This required to be explained and he asked for the information. It was not his purpose at this time to discuss the character of Mohamed Ali; but this, at least, he might observe, that Egypt and Syria and Arabia were now much better governed under him than they had been for many years before. The noble Lord judging from his conduct, seemed to be quite ignorant of what the condition of those countries was in former times as compared with their present state: but he (Mr. Hume) could speak of it from his own knowledge, having been a traveller in several parts of Turkey and Egypt thirty years ago, and experienced how dangerous it was, at that time, to travel without a strong military escort: but now since these provinces had been some years under the government of Mohamed Ali, the European traveller could move from one extremity of that country to the other without personal danger or pecuniary extortion. It was said by the noble Lord and the other four powers that the integrity of the Ottoman empire must be maintained; and he (Mr. Hume) was anxious that such should be the case: but when he looked back to the proceedings of four of these five powers, against the Turkish empire, there were good grounds to doubt their sincerity. He found that Austria now held many districts formerly Turkish; and that England had separated Greece, and lately taken Aden from Turkey: — that France had seized Algiers; and that Russia had been a spoliator on a grand scale, and he was, therefore, desirous to have the word integrity defined by the noble Lord. But let the House consider for one moment, who the parties were who thus united and acted with such concord to preserve its integrity? Russia was one of them; but surely France, England, and Austria were more interested in securing that object; and yet the noble Lord appeared, in all the negotiations, to lend himself to the policy of Russia. He would ask, could any man, knowing her general conduct, say that the object, the real desire of Russia, was to preserve the 184 integrity of the Turkish empire? For many years past, had not the undeviating policy of Russia been to encroach upon the provinces of her weaker neighbours; and, year after year, to proceed on a general system of aggression,—the ultimate object of which was to render the dismemberment of Turkey as complete as that of Poland? Was the House aware of the spoliations of that power from her neighbours? He would state some of them. At the death of Catherine in 1796, the population of the Russian empire was about 36,000,000; at the death of Alexander it was 58,000,000. The acquisition of territory by Russia from Sweden, was greater than what remains of that kingdom. The spoliations of Poland are nearly equal to the whole of the Austrian empire; and the acquisitions from Turkey in Europe are of greater extent than the Prussian dominions, exclusive of the Rhemish provinces; her acquisitions from Turkey in Asia are nearly equal in dimensions to the whole of the smaller states of Germany: the spoliations from Persia are equal in extent to England— whilst her acquisitions in Tartary have an area, not less than that of Turkey in Europe, of Greece, Italy and Spain. In fact, Russia has, within sixty-four years, doubled the size and population of the whole empire. She has advanced her frontier 700 miles towards Berlin, Venice, and Paris—500 miles towards Constantinople—630 towards Stockholm, and 1,000 towards the capital of Persia; and yet the noble Lord, with these facts staring him in the face, had chosen to make himself the ally of Russia; —had submitted to become, apparently, the subservient tool of the crafty statesmen of that country; and his present policy seemed very materially to hasten the dismemberment of an empire which he professed his anxiety to preserve entire, as completely as if he had been one of the council of that Autocrat. He should be glad to hear from the noble Lord upon what grounds he risked the abandonment of the French alliance by joining in preference his policy with that of Russia. He should be glad, also, to know upon what ground or pretence it was that Mohamed Ali was now to be stripped of the hereditary government of Egypt, and of the possession of Syria, which was understood to have been guaranteed to him in 1833 by Mr. Mandeville, the representative of the British Government, after the defeat of the Sultan's troops at Koniah. From the papers laid before this House last year, it was quite evident 185 that the representatives of the British Government used their influence to settle peace with Mohamed Ali in that year; and that they in reality, afterwards, also guaranteed all the possessions which the Sultan had given to him. If there was no specific treaty for that object to which Great Britain became a signing party, there was a printed correspondence between Mohamed Ali and the five powers which he had in his hands, which ought to preclude* the noble Lord from denying, that a clear and decided sanction was given by Great Britain to the treaty between the Porte and the Pacha, if it was not a guarantee in strictly diplomatic language. The noble Lord had admitted that there was a convention at Kutaya; but he had, at the same time, denied that England was a party to it. He was sorry to differ from the noble Lord, being quite confident, if the correspondence of Lord Ponsonby was produced, that the proof of that guarantee would appear to the House to be complete.—On the 29th March, 1833, Mr. Mandeville writes, from Constantinople, to Ibrahim Pacha, that as the Baron de Varenne had been commissioned by the French ambassador to proceed to Ibrahim's camp with the Sultan's messenger to aid him in settling peace, "to inform him that the Sultan had conceded to Mohamed Ali, in addition to Egypt which he held, the government of the whole of Syria, with the towns of Aleppo and Damascus." And, in the name of the British Government, Mr. Mandeville requests him to accept the terms and to agree to peace. And, again, on the 4th of May, Mr. Mandeville informs Lord Palmerston, that the Sultan had conceded the administration of the Pashalic of Adana to Ibrahim, in addition to the government of Syria, which completed the requests of Mohamed Ali. I also hold in my hand the annual official list published by the Sultan, on the 15th April in that year, of the governors of the several provinces of the Turkish Empire, and in that list Egypt, Aleppo, Damascus, Safad and Beyrout, Tripoli in Syria, Crete with the military command of the fortress of Candia, and also Jerusalem, are all entered in the name of Mohamed Ali; and Abyssinia is given to Ibrahim Pasha. On these conditions being agreed to and settled, Ibrahim Pasha informed Monsieur de Varenne, in answer to a question, whether he had any answer to the letter which he* See Parliamentary paper, 1833.186 had brought from Mr. Mandeville, that his retreat from Kutaya with his army was the best answer to the English Minister's letter, requesting him to agree to the conditions of which Monsieur de Varenne was the bearer. He held in his hand Admiral Roussin's letter to Mohamed Ali, afterwards stating these facts in a manner not to be misunderstood. The Sultan had in 1833 refused, for some time, to grant Adana to Mohamed Ali, and it is also well known, that when Orloff the Russian ambassador heard that the Sultan had conceded the Pashalic of Adana, by which peace was concluded with the Pasha, he exerted all his influence with the Sultan to have that grant recalled: but, it is equally well known that Lord Ponsonby's interference prevented the Sultan from doing so; and thus gave the sanction of the British Government to these concessions to Mohamed Ali: and the noble Lord must know from the correspondence at that time and now in his office, that what I state is correct; and that Lord Ponsonby claimed and deserved from his Lordship joint credit for that part of his conduct. After these proceedings, on which Mohamed Ali placed perfect confidence, and by which the British Government was bound, why should it now refuse its sanction a second time? He should also be glad to know why, in the interval between 1833 and 1838, if we were really desirous to see peace in Turkey, the conduct of the British Government, and of her ambassador at Constantinople, had been such as to promote rather than allay the animosity and disposition to hostilities that remained on the part of the Sultan towards Mohamed Ali. It is generally stated that our ambassador at Constantinople, instead of exerting himself to lessen the unpleasant differences that existed between the Porte and the Pacha of Egypt, had acted in such a manner as, in the opinion of many well-informed persons, was calculated to bring on open hostilities; and Lord Ponsonby was considered to have been, by his personal hostility to the Pacha, the cause of that state of affairs which brought on the defeat of the Sultan's troops at Nezib, on the 25th of June 1839; and which had produced the present disastrous state of things in the East. Acting, as is believed, mainly upon the advice of the British ambassador, the Sultan had become the aggressor—had, contrary to the existing Convention of 1833, passed beyond the bounds of his own frontier, and invaded the territory of Mohamed Ali. If the corre- 187 spondence he now called for were produced, he (Mr. Hume) could satisfy the House from documents, extracts of which he held in his hand, that whilst Mohamed Ali was absent in Soudon from Nov. 1838 to March 1839, the Sultan sent a large army into Asia Minor, under the command of Hafiz Pacha, who, in April 1839, passed the Euphrates at Beer with his army; whilst. Ibrahim Pacha did not advance his army until that event: —that on the 28th of May, Hafiz Pacha took possession of fourteen villages in the province of Aintab, belonging to Mohamed Ali, urging the inhabitants to take arms against the Pacha, and thus commenced hostilities, which terminated so disastrously for the Sultan's troops. It would also clearly appear that the English minister had urged on and excited the animosity of the Sultan against the Pacha, until, at length, the lamentable catastrophe he has stated took place. He (Mr. Hume) regretted to say, that Lord Ponsonby appeared to have been acting really in accordance with the policy of Russia, which was well known to be hostile to, and against the integrity of the Turkish empire, which we had been avowedly anxious to maintain: and for which we had kept up a large and costly naval armament. In short, what he (Mr. Hume) complained of was, that the Government of this country had all along been, by their erroneous policy, keeping up a state of civil war between the Sultan and the Pacha, and lending itself, most injuriously for the Ottoman empire, to the policy of Russia. It was reported in Constantinople within the last month, that a stipulation had been lately entered into in England between M. Brunow and the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) that Russia should advance 30 or 40,000 troops into Asia Minor, and that England should send a powerful fleet to Alexandria, for the purpose of coercing Mohamed Ali to submit to the stipulations proposed by England; but as he (Mr. Hume) feared, only to produce a second "untoward event" as at Navarino. This line of conduct was in strict accordance with the policy of Russia, which, acting on a spirit of aggression, desired, beyond everything else, to obtain a footing, by fair means or foul upon the soil of Turkey; and nothing could favour the ultimate views of Russia so effectually as the keeping the Sultan and Mohamed Ali in a state of civil war, in which both their resources of men and money would, as they had been, be completely exhausted, when that country must fall, without a struggle, into 188 the power of Russia. How could the noble Lord blind himself to the real designs of a power which, for the last fifty years, had been unceasingly engaged in extending its own territory at the cost of its weaker neighbours? Yet the noble Lord, abandoning the alliance and friendly co-operation of France, which was valuable in so many respects, chose to unite himself with Russia, the whole of whose policy ran counter to the interests of this country, and of the representative governments of Europe. France had been charged with duplicity in her conduct towards the other four Powers and towards the Porte; but as far as he (Mr. Hume) could learn from the documents published in France and in Egypt, the charge was wholly without foundation. France was sincerely anxious to maintain the integrity of Turkey, and had taken the best means of securing it, by exerting her influence with the Sultan in 1838–9 to prevent his attacking Mohamed Ali, as can clearly be proved; and, then after the defeat of the Sultan's army, France had acted the friendly part, by preventing the destruction of the fleet at Alexandria, which might have been the case, but for the firmness of France in resisting the policy and the orders of the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston). He believed that the noble Viscount, instead of exerting the British influence to diminish the personal hostility that had unfortunately existed for some years past between the Porte and Egypt, had materially aggravated it: and his (Mr. Hume's) principal complaint against the noble Lord was this —that after in 1833, having recommended peace, he had interfered to prevent the mutual adjustment of differences between the young Sultan and Mohamed Ali, which would certainly have taken place after the battle of Nezib, if the five powers of Europe had not interfered in a most extraordinary manner to prevent it. It is now notorious, that amongst the first acts of the young Sultan was a proposition sent to Egypt of peace and friendship between himself and Mohamed Ali, to which the latter willingly assented. Mohamed Ali agreed to continue the vassal of the Sultan provided he was secured in the hereditary possession of Egypt, and Syria, provinces which he had held before the battle of Nezib; and he agreed also to pay a greater amount of tribute for those districts than had ever before been paid by any former Pacha when nominally subject to the Porte. Could it be 189 expected that Mohamed AH after the second victory at Nezib, would relinquish the provinces he had had granted to him after the first battle of Koniah? The Divan acceded to these propositions, and an officer was appointed to proceed from Constantinople on the 29th of July in a steamer to Alexandria to settle a treaty; and in a few days peace would have been restored between the Sultan and the Pacha. But, unhappily, on the 27th of July, a note was presented to the Divan by the representatives of the five great European powers, stating that the Sultan and the Pacha must not presume to settle their own affairs, but that the adjustment of the terms, upon which peace was to be re-established, must be left to the five great powers. He had, in his hand, a letter from a public functionary at Constantinople, which explained what followed the delivery of the note on the 27th of July. The Divan objected to the interference of Christian powers in the affairs of the Porte with her vassal; but as the representatives of the European Governments had interfered and insisted that no peace should be agreed to with Mohamed Ali, except through their mediation, the Divan had very reluctantly stopped their messenger to, and the negotiation with, the Pasha. What was the result? Why, that, from that moment, up to the present time, a period of eight months, everything had remained in the same state. Both parties had been thus kept in a state of suspended war, with all the expenses and great uncertainty arising from that state of affairs—nothing had been done. Under these circumstances, it became a matter of great importance to this House to know what the policy of the Five Powers really was, in which they were in concord and unanimity; and when it was probable that a state of things which entailed so much expense upon England, and imposed so many difficulties upon Turkey and Egypt, was likely to terminate. What hopes could the noble Lord have of making any impression on Egypt by force? Mohamed Ali was thus forced most unwillingly, as he (Mr. Hume) believed, to look to an alliance with France, and to protection from that country; and consequently, of becoming an enemy to this country;—events necessarily to arise from the mistaken policy pursued towards Mohamed Ali by the noble Lord. He was told, indeed, that there was no dependence to be placed on the declarations of, or on any treaty with, 190 Mohamed Ali. Now, for his part, from all experience of the past, he knew of nothing that secured the good faith of one state on another, but that which States considered to be for their mutual interest. Did history ever show any country that felt more for the interests of other states than for its own? Upon this principle they must judge of, and depend upon, Mohamed Ali. He (Mr. Hume) would ask the House to consider what was it his obvious interest to do? Looking at the situation of Syria, Arabia, and of Egypt, it must at once be seen that it was most essential to the interests of Mohamed Ali to have a friendly alliance with England. Looking to the interests of Great Britain in India, as well as in Europe, was it not equally our interest to be in friendly alliance with Mohamed Ali? Instead, therefore, of regarding him with suspicion, he ought to be considered as having a strong interest to be the friend of England, and the faithful vassal, as he was disposed to be, of the Sultan: and, there was every reason to believe, if the treaty between him and the Sultan were guaranteed by England and France, which the Pasha only required to be certain of not being attacked again, in a similar manner to the attack upon him of last year, that Mohamed Ali would observe the stipulated terms. He (Mr. Hume) should be glad to know whether the course which England was now taking to irritate and oppose the Pasha was not calculated to throw him and Egypt into the hands of France? France had evinced a sincere desire to co-oporate with England and to be the friend of Mohamed Ali. She had indeed been his friend, and had declared that England should not burn the Egyptian fleet, nor attack Mohamed Ali, as report states to have been the intention of the noble Lord. France had very wisely prevented this additional calamity to the Ottoman empire, as she was fully justified in doing, in the view she took of strengthening the Ottoman empire by uniting all Mussulmen. Was it, he would ask, a wise or a just policy, that British means should be applied to keep up the civil war with all its evils, which existed between Turkey and Egypt? It was said that Mohamed Ali was treacherous, and had been especially so in the case of the Turkish fleet. Now, in his (Mr. Hume's) opinion, formed on documents believed to be correct and published to Europe, Mohamed Ali knew no more of the treachery of the Turkish fleet or of the intention of its going to Alexandria than 191 he or any other person in the House did until the determination had been come to by the admiral and officers commanding. The fleet was lying at the Dardanelles when the account of the death of the Sultan was received. Thereupon the chief officers of the fleet met and determined to communicate with and to proceed to Mohamed Ali, as they could not go back to Constantinople, where they feared there was treachery; that they would not, in fact, trust the fleet into the hands of those who were believed to be in alliance with, and favoured the interests of Russia. A council, consisting of five of the leading officers of the fleet, are reported to have come to the determination that the only way to save the fleet for the future protection of Turkey, was to go down and deliver it over to Mohamed Ali, the man to whom the Ottomans look as the future saviour of their empire. That course they considered was the only one by which they would be able to assist the new Sultan to regain that power which the Turkish Empire ought to possess. After the council had so resolved, a steamer was despatched to Alexandria to announce the determination of the officers, and the approach of the fleet— and that it is well known was the first notice which Mohamed Ali had of the disaffection of the fleet! But what had Mohamed Ali since done? He had offered to restore the fleet, and to proceed himself in a steamer and do homage to the Sultan at Constantinople, provided he could obtain the settlement of the hereditary possession of Egypt and Syria in his family as was requested by him, and the guarantee of Great Britain and France thereto. For the statements he had ventured to make, he had the authority of public and private documents, which he held in his hand, and his object in now moving for the production of the official documents was, that hon. Members might be able to ascertain how far those statements were correct, and how far the policy of England towards Egypt and Turkey was wise. If the statements made by him were correct, as he (Mr. Hume) believed them to be, then there was great culpability attached to the noble Lord, or to the agents of the British Government in the whole of this affair—there was a courting of Russia and a support of her well-known policy in all our proceedings that was not creditable to this country. Before he sat down, he again called upon the noble Lord seriously to consider what were the probable consequences to be ex- 192 pected to follow from his present hostile policy towards Egypt. What was the situation of English interests in Egypt and in the Red Sea. There England had recently taken possession of the fort of Aden. Now, if Mohamed Ali should become the enemy of this country, and be allied with France, he might take Aden from England, and interfere very prejudiciously with the communications with India, with Persia, and Afghanistan. How, he asked, would it be possible that the fort of Aden could be retained, if we made Mohamed Ali our enemy, unless at an expense to this country, too great to be justified? On the whole, there appeared to him to be a natural alliance between France, England, and Egypt, which it would be equally the interest of all three countries to cultivate. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving an address to her Majesty,That she will be graciously pleased to lay before this House such parts of the correspondence between Lord Ponsonby, the British minister at Constantinople, and Lord Viscount Palmerston, her Majesty's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as relate to the negotiations in the years 1839 and 1840, between the Sultan of the Sublime Porte and Mehemet Ali, for the hereditary possession of Egypt and other provinces claimed by Mehemet Ali, and for the settlement of peace between him and the Sultan; and for the delivery by Mehemet Ali of the Turkish fleet to the Sultan.
§ Viscount Palmerston
felt, in the first place, persuaded that his hon. Friend and the House could not suppose that it was possible for him to agree to the motion for the production of these papers, because, if there was any one point more settled than another in the practice of that House, it was, not to call for papers of this kind pending the negotiations to which those papers related. For the same reason, he also presumed that the House would not expect that he should follow his hon. Friend through the long disquisition into which he had entered, with respect to the policy of this country and the other powers of Europe, with regard to the question to which his observations related. His hon. Friend had stated, that he entertained the opinions he had expressed honestly, and from a sincere conviction that they were for the good and the interest of this country. He was the last man in the world to dispute that fact, though most certainly he thought his hon. Friend was entirely mistaken in his views, and was altogether misled in the greater part of the information he had received, 193 while he was sure that his hon. Friend was mistaken in many of his facts. He was also convinced that if his hon. Friend could see things as they were, and if he were in possession of all the various information which was to be obtained upon the subject, his opinions would be entirely different. With regard to the paragraph in the Queen's Speech, that, he thought, required no explanation whatever. It was in that paragraph stated, that the concord of the five great powers had maintained the peace of Europe with regard to the affairs of the East, and it expressed a hope that the same concord would bring those difficult negotiations to a satisfactory and peaceful issue. But his hon. Friend had stated one or two matters which he could not pass without observation. He had again stated that after the battle of Koniah, a convention took place between Ibrahim Pacha and Khosrew Pacha, in which the British representative guaranteed the cession of Syria to Mehemet Ali. No convention was made at Koniah between the two parties, neither was any guarantee given by the British Government on that occasion; but there was a negotiation, which ended, not in the cession of any part of Turkey to Mehemet Ali, but in the appointment of his son Ibrahim to the government of certain provinces in that country. But England was no guarantee to that transaction. His hon. Friend, indeed, seemed to hare no objection to using the word guarantee, nor did he object to the British Government becoming a guarantee; but he had asserted that England had given a guarantee where she had not, while he wanted her to become a guarantee, but on the other side of the question. His hon. Friend thought that the British Government and Lord Ponsonby, the British Ambassador at Constantinople, had stimulated the Sultan to renew hostilities against the Pacha of Egypt. He (Lord Palmerston) could assure him that he was entirely mistaken. In the first place, it was the Pacha who was the aggressor, and not the Sultan, inasmuch as it was the Pacha who, in the first instance, publicly declared his determination to throw off his allegiance, and make himself the independent sovereign of the provinces over which he was appointed to govern. In the next place, the Pacha of Egypt was the first who last year sent an army into Syria, and the battle which was fought between the two parties was fought at Nezib, beyond the limits of the territory of which the Pacha was governor, which 194 limits ended near the river Sadjour. The force under Ibrahim Pacha was the attacking party; the soldiers of the Sultan having at that moment been ordered to stand upon the defensive, and retire if they were attacked. Therefore, the Sultan was the attacked instead of being the attacking party. His hon. Friend had said, that if Russia could have had a person who was exclusively devoted to her interests in the British cabinet, he could not have served her more sincerely than he (Viscount Palmerston) had unconsciously done; that he had been labouring to destroy the Turkish empire, and put an end to its integrity, and subject such portion of it as would remain under the nominal sway of the Sultan entirely to the views of Russia. Now, he was bound to say, in justice and in candour, that it was impossible for any government to have acted with more honour and good faith in any matter than the Russian government had acted with the other powers in respect to Turkey. He was bound to say this, from a thorough knowledge of all the facts of the case. They could only judge of the intention from the conduct; and, speaking of Russia at the present time he must say that it was not just to impute to that power that her present conduct had any tendency whatever inimical to the integrity of the Turkish Empire. But if Russia really did entertain any such views, it appeared to him that the course which his hon. Friend had taken was the readiest course to further that policy; because the policy which he would pursue led immediately to the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire, and would lay all that remained to the Sultan, prostrate at the foot of Russia, or any other power that might wish to overcome him. With the best intentions, his hon. Friend would pursue a course that, if adopted, must inevitably end in a manner the most opposite to his wishes. What would any man say, supposing he were to argue that the best way for maintaining the integrity of the British Empire would be to make the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland a separate hereditary sovereign over Ireland and Scotland; and then were to tell the House that by that means they would more firmly unite the population of the British islands: and that the best friends of the British Empire therefore could do nothing better to maintain the integrity of Great Britain than to divide it between two independent sovereigns? And yet that was the policy which his hon. Friend wished to pursue. His hon. Friend had stated that 195 in former days, when he happened to be in Egypt, great perils existed in travelling there;—that travelling was very insecure; —that in fact the whole of the Turkish Empire was in a state of comparative anarchy: whereas, at the present day there was every security afforded to travellers throughout that part of the world. It was perfectly true, that in Egypt, and indeed in every other part of the Turkish Empire, things in that respect were greatly changed. Now, persons might travel, not only through Egypt, but through Syria, Asia Minor, and Turkey in Europe with perfect safety, without risking any of those dangers to which, in former times, every person was exposed. At the same time he could not see how the internal improvement of the police in Egypt told either one way or the other on a great political question, namely, whether it was for the interest of this country or not to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire- His hon. Friend had further stated, that there were papers published in this country which he imagined to be influenced by considerations proceeding from Russia. He did not know what the papers might be which his hon. Friend alluded to, but he would ask his hon. Friend whether he thought there were any papers or individuals in this country who were swayed in their opinions upon this question by considerations coming from Mehemet Ali? If it were found that there were opinions coming from Egypt similar to those entertained by his hon. Friend, might it not be suggested whether they were not dictated by personal feelings towards the individual, and not by general principles of public policy? His hon. Friend had likewise stated, that he had been informed of certain circumstances with regard to the going over of the Turkish fleet to Mehemet Ali. Now, he also had received an authentic account of that transaction, but a very different statement from that which had been mentioned by his hon. Friend. His hon. Friend had stated that all the officers of the fleet concurred in going over to the Pacha of Egypt. Now the account he had received was from a person on board the fleet, and his statement was that none of the officers of the fleet knew of the intention of the admiral to go to Alexandria; nor any one on board, except one or two who were about his person; that the admiral sent a steamer as soon as the fleet got out of the Dardanelles to communicate with Mehemet Ali 196 and make arrangements with him; that when the fleet came in sight of the Egyptian fleet at Alexandria, so little did the captains of the ships know of the purpose for which they were taken there, that many of the ships actually prepared for action, thinking they were in sight of an enemy instead of going to join a friend. In point of fact, the whole fleet thought they were, throughout, going to meet an enemy. That account he had from a person who was an eye witness, and upon whose accuracy he could place an entire reliance. He thought, as this account was so very different from the statement made by his noble Friend, that it would be well if in future he were to receive with some distrust statements from others of so opposite a character. His noble Friend was equally mistaken in what he had stated respecting Col. Hodges, our resident consul at Alexandria, having been denied and barred access to the Pacha. So far from this being the fact, on the contrary, accounts had been received very lately from Colonel Hodges, in which he stated that he had recently transacted business with the Pacha and his minister (Boghos Bey), and which was carried on by him personally with the Pacha. He was sure the House would feel that nothing could be so inconvenient as for a person holding the responsible office which he had the honour to hold, to be called upon in this incidental way to discuss matters of the highest importance, and which were matters of negotiation not only on the part of this country with Egypt, but with all the other powers of Europe. Therefore, if he did not enter into this matter, or explain the policy of her Majesty's Government, farther than to say that they still adhered to those opinions which were stated in the speech from the throne; and that it was, in their opinion, for the interests of this country that the independence of the Turkish empire should be maintained—an opinion in which his hon. Friend concurred, though he went to work in a very different manner to give it effect. If he resumed his seat without entering into a detailed statement of the present position of those negotiations, either with France or with Russia, or with Austria, or with Turkey, or with the Pacha of Egypt, he trusted the House would feel that he was only following what he considered to be an imperious duty, and acting from a deep sense of the great public inconvenience that would result from a premature discussion 197 of important matters still in negotiation, and under the responsibility of one acting on the part of her Majesty's Government. But he should be perfectly prepared, when these matters should be brought to a close, let the result be what it might, to defend the course which her Majesty's Government were pursuing. He was convinced that when that time arrived he should be able to state grounds for the course which had been so pursued, which would be satisfactory both to the House and to the country.
§ Mr. Fector
Sir, I cannot allow this discussion to come to a conclusion without offering my thanks to the hon. Member for Kilkenny, for having brought this important subject under the consideration of the House. I have listened attentively to the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and I must confess that I am by no means satisfied with the explanation which he has given. It appears to me that the noble Lord has introduced into the discussion of his foreign policy a principle of very doubtful expediency. The noble Lord says, whilst negotiations are pending that it is detrimental to the public service to give any information concerning them, and when they are concluded, then he tells us, if we object to their results, that the public faith is pledged that our objections should have been urged before, and he thus takes a very unfair advantage of our forbearance. I should ill discharge a duty, which I owe to a country in which I have received kindness and hospitality from all classes, if f did not express to the House my sense of the weakness of the basis on which the policy of the noble Lord is founded. If the Turkish empire were now in the same state as before the battle of Navarino, then it might be possible to talk of the independence and integrity of the Turkish empire. But now we must look to Alexandria rather than to Constantinople, if we wish to maintain the independence of that empire. When I was in Egypt, I found all the most intelligent persons residing there, both natives and foreigners, agreeing as to the great improvements introduced into the country by Mohammed Ali. Thirty years ago it was impossible to travel in Egypt with any security either to life or to property; but at present, owing to the active and enlightened exertions of the Pacha, travelling in Egypt is as secure as travelling in England. At that period it was unsafe to go from Cairo to Boulac, 198 a distance of not more than two miles; now that road is as safe as any street in London. Formerly the Bedouins were in the habit of making descents upon and pillaging the villages, now Mohammed Ali has converted them into the peaceful guides and carriers of the desert—and had he done nothing else for Egypt, his success in effecting an object which each succeeding government had attempted in vain, would have entitled him to the gratitude of the people of Egypt, and to the admiration of posterity. It has been asserted that Mohammed Ali is the oppressor of his subjects. [Here Lord Palmerston nodded assent] I will tell the noble Lord that the main cause of any distress which may exist in Egypt arises from his own policy. So long as the noble Lord leaves Egypt in its present uncertain condition, the only security of the people of that country for their lives and property depends on the maintenance of a force sufficient to repel invasion. I have it from the lips of his highness the Pacha himself, that no person can be more anxious than he is to diminish the number of his army and navy, and to reduce the burdens which now press heavily on the industry of the country, but that he cannot do so as long as he is exposed to the invasions of an enemy, upon whom the European powers will not allow him to retaliate. The noble Lord has said, that in the late contest the Pacha was the aggressor, but the very reverse was the fact. The Turkish army entered the Egyptian territory, took possession of fourteen villages, whose municipal authorities were changed by the Turkish general before the Pacha resorted to hostilities. I consider that justice and humanity, as well as sound policy, call for an early settlement of this question, on a basis calculated at once to secure our political and commercial interests and the education and permanent improvement of the Egyptian people.
Lord C. Hamilton
had certainly entertained a hope, that the noble Lord (Palmerston), would have felt it to be incumbent on him to afford the House some information on the important topics touched upon by the hon. Member for Kilkenny, but that hope had been entirely superseded by the manner in which the noble Lord had met the motion of the hon. Member. Nor was even the very slender information which the noble Lord had ventured to offer to the House, at all in accordance with the knowledge of the facts which he (Lord C. Hamilton) had obtained on the 199 spot. It was on record, as far as the diplomatic documents had been made public, that the Sultan, after the disastrous campaign of Hafiz Pacha, had expressed his willingness to concede the claims of Mehemet Ali, and to confirm him in his independent government of Egypt and Syria, when at the very moment that this mode of settlement was being negotiated, the five powers stepped in, and said "No— nothing shall be settled until we are satisfied that it is right and proper;" and up to the hour at which he addressed the House, nothing more, had been done in the matter, notwithstanding the noble Lord had professed his satisfaction -with the present aspect of affairs at Constantinople. The noble Lord in the very short speech which he had addressed to the House, had taken occasion to deny several of the facts and assertions put forward by the hon. Member for Kilkenny. It was greatly to be desired, and indeed it was very reasonable to expect, that the noble Lord would have specified more particularly what the facts really were, in contradiction to the statement of the hon. Member; for he (Lord C. Hamilton) must really say, that he having been cognizant of many of the occurrences which took place in Egypt during the last year, could vouch for the accuracy of several of the facts advanced by the hon. Member for Kilkenny. He was present, on one occasion, when Mehemet Ali entered upon the topic of the advance of the Turkish army beyond the Euphrates; and he was, upon inquiry, informed by the Viceroy that he had sent the most positive instructions to his son (Ibrahim Pacha), by no means to advance beyond his own territory to meet the Turkish general, nor even to approach the frontier, but, on the contrary, in case Hafiz Pacha should advance into Syria, to withdraw gradually within his own boundaries, until the whole of the Turkish army should be on Syrian ground, and then, and not till then, to repel any attempt at aggression by the most determined resistance. Now it ought to be shown by something more stringent and conclusive, than the vague denial of the noble Viscount opposite, that the facts were not as he had stated; and it was information elucidating this and other disputed points in the proceedings of Mehemet Ali and the Sultan, that the country wanted. The noble Viscount had also alluded to the declaration of independence which Mehemet Ali had expressed it to be his inten- 200 tion to put forth in the course of the last spring, and had cited that as an evidence of the restless and ambitious spirit which animated the Viceroy in all his proceedings towards the Porte. Now, as far as he (Lord C. Hamilton) could understand the motives and intentions of Mehemet Ali, he must assert, that the intimation of the Pacha afforded no such indications as those drawn from it by the noble Viscount; on the contrary, it was pro tanto an evidence of the earnest desire entertained by the Viceroy to relieve himself and the countries under his rule from the evils attendant upon the continual state of irritation and exhaustion into which they were thrown, and in which they were kept by the menaces and intrigues of Mahmoud, the late Sultan. Mehemet Ali could not witness the daily increase of the army in Karamania (near his own frontier city of Aleppo), the constant transmission of supplies and of warlike stores to that army, and the ill-disguised preparations in the arsenal at Constantinople, without great irritation and inquietude, and without feeling that his very existence was menaced by these displays. His commerce was also, by these means, kept in a state of feverish weakness; his expenses for the maintenance of a standing army and fleet, to enable him to repel his adversary, were enormous, and were felt as a drain upon the resources of his kingdom, and it was, therefore, in order to put an end to this ruinous state of things, that he had expressed his determination to the consuls at Alexandria, openly to declare his independence of the enemy by whom he was threatened. The proof that his designs extended no further than to secure his own safety, might be found in his extreme moderation after the decisive victory over the Turkish army at Nezib; for though there was not a single soldier to oppose the march of his troops between the spot where the action was fought and Kutaya, still he sent the most positive orders to his son not to advance one foot into the Turkish territory, which order was punctually obeyed; nor had he altered or advanced his pretensions one step beyond the mark at which they stood previous to the encounter of the two armies.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that, the noble Viscount opposite had urged in excuse for his unwillingness to produce the information asked for by the hon. Member for Middlesex, that it was quite unusual for any 201 Government to bring forward any documents during the period that the negotiation to which those documents referred was pending. Now, he certainly did not feel himself authorized to press for the production of papers or information which he was formally assured by a Cabinet Minister could not be laid before Parliament without great inconvenience to the public service; but, he must also observe, that the noble Viscount had not given the House to understand, that such was the case in this instance, nor did he so comprehend the terms in which the noble Viscount had refused to accede to the motion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny. If the noble Viscount would ground his refusal upon that reason he (Sir R. Peel) was convinced, that no House of Commons would, for one instant, contemplate forcing a Minister to produce papers under such circumstances. But now, with all due consideration to the prudent reserve which must necessarily envelope the proceedings of a Government under the circumstances of such a negotiation as that now pending with the five powers, he really did think there was a limit to which such reserve ought to be confined, and that it ought not to be a perennial reserve, but should terminate within some reasonable period of the occurrences to which it related. The negotiation in question might be pending during a very long time, and the House of Commons was, according to this view of ministerial decorum and of expediency, to be precluded from obtaining any official information on the subject, and consequently debarred from exercising any discretion or control over the actions of the Government. Now, he really did think the noble Viscount ought to afford some answer to the inquiries of the hon. Member for Kilkenny. What did the Speech from the Throne, at the commencement of the present Session, say? Why, it says: —The concord which has prevailed amongst the five powers has prevented a renewal of hostilities in the Levant, and I hope, that the same unanimity will bring these important and difficult matters to a final settlement in such a manner as to uphold the integrity and independence of the Ottoman empire, and to give additional security to the peace of Europe.It was the duty, he thought, of the noble Lord to state now whether there was an approximation towards a settlement of that important matter thus treated in the paragraph which he had read, The inter- 202 vention of the European powers had prevented war; but had it produced any results approaching towards an approximate termination to the difficulties between the Porte and the Viceroy? If there was, as had been broadly asserted, a difference between three of the negotiating powers and France, upon some important points under discussion, then he must candidly state his fears, that the next Session of Parliament would still find the parties negociating, and, according to the noble Lord's doctrine of ministerial reserve and secrecy, the country would, in the interval, be wholly deprived" of all information to be relied on in the matter. The noble Viscount had in his observations referred to the position of Ireland and Scotland towards the British throne, and had attempted to draw a sort of parallel between the state of Turkey, with Egypt and Syria independent of her, and that of Great Britain. Did the noble Viscount, he must ask, mean by that comparison to insinuate that there was in his opinion any similarity between the relation of the Porte and Mehemet Ali, and those of Ireland and Scotland towards the throne? The Lord-lieutenant of Ireland differed in his position from that of Mehemet Ali, in not being an hereditary and independent governor, but, on the contrary, an officer removable at the slightest turn of the balance of power in the Ministry. The noble Viscount had expressed his hopes that the congress of the five powers would be able to maintain the integrity of the Turkish empire; but did the noble Viscount mean to treat Mehemet Ali during the negotiations that were going on, as if he were in the same relative position towards the Porte that the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland held towards her Majesty? He (Sir R. Peel) recollected during his official life many changes of Lord-lieutenants, and some fifteen or sixteen changes of the Irish Secretary since he held that post, whereas the Viceroy of Egypt had maintained himself in his kingdom in direct and open opposition to the efforts and orders of the Sultan, his less than nominal sovereign; and if the noble Viscount persisted in treating with the Viceroy upon that footing, and had given directions to the British Minister at Constantinople to put Mehemet Ali upon the same category with a Lord lieutenant of Ireland, then he (Sir R. Peel) must confess he was not at all surprised at the differences which were said to exist between France and the other negociating powers. 203 Now there were four great points of foreign policy which had been pending for some very considerable period, and upon which it was really of importance that the House should possess some information. He considered; those four points to be the Levant; Persia, which also was alluded to in the speech from the Throne, and which was in the same position with respect to this country as the Levant; the third point was the north-western boundary question in America, on which the whole of the relations of Great Britain with the United States partly depended; though the negotiations were, and had been for a long time, pending, still in this particular case there was this difference from the other negotiations to which he had referred, that England was indebted to the Americans for all the information she possessed as to its progress. The noble Lord had entered into a sort of pledge that, as the American papers brought the news of what was doing in this matter, he would dole it out to the House; but he was afraid the noble Lord had forgotten his pledge; for since he had last touched on the subject, a fresh batch of newspapers arrived from America, and he hoped the noble Lord would be prepared to afford shortly some further scraps of information. The fourth point to which he referred, was the present state of the relations with China, and in this case he did think, that if the noble Lord's rule with respect to withholding information, pending the settlement of a misunderstanding or of a negotiation had been departed from, and that some intelligence on the state of things had been given to the house in the Session of 1838–9, respecting the condition of trade and the opium question— he must repeat, had this course been pursued, the House would have been enabled to have offered the Government some advice upon the matter, and the situation of affairs in that quarter would have been materially improved. There were instances in which the rule of the noble Lord, that whilst negotiations were pending, no communication ought to pass between the Crown and the House, might with great advantage and safety be departed from, and the instances he had referred to proved his assertion. But if the whole of the correspondence asked for could not be produced, did the noble Viscount mean that no part of it, not even any extracts from it, could be made public. If so, he would adhere to the rule he had laid down, not to press 204 for the production of papers which, in the opinion of Ministers, would be attended with danger or inconvenience; but he must express a hope, that the noble Viscount would think proper to afford some answer to his inquiry, whether there was, any approximation towards a final and satisfactory settlement of the dissensions which had recently agitated the Ottoman empire.
§ Viscount Palmerston
was understood to decline pledging his official responsibility to the assertion that the production of the papers asked for, would be attended with danger; but the inconvenience and risk which would be consequent upon such a course, were sufficient to induce him to persist in his desire to maintain a cautious reserve upon their contents; nor could any extracts from them, calculated to convey any useful information, be with safety made known. With respect to the approximation of a definitive and satisfactory settlement of the Turco-Egyptian question, that consideration involved points which he was precluded from discussing; but as far as he could answer the inquiry of the right hon. Baronet, he was happy to be able to say, that the negotiations, as far as they had hitherto gone, had been such as to afford satisfaction.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
wished to show one inference from the doctrine which the noble Lord had laid down, that whilst he was doing anything the House of Commons should never know what he was about, that it would lead to this inconvenience, that whether the noble Lord was doing anything or nothing, the House would never know what he was about. He would take as an instance the question of the north western boundary. The House and the English public hardly knew anything about it, whilst year after year reports were published by the Senates of the United States upon the subject. The public there might be misinformed, or even partially informed, still they were much excited from all the publications, which were urging the public mind there on one side, whilst the English had no information except the driblets of despatches that were published after a fresh arrival from America. Again, on this eastern question, when they found that we had twelve ships of-the line in the Mediterranean, when they were told that there was likely to be an attack, and that one power (France) would take one side, and other powers another, he, for one, wanted to know what 205 was going on, and. what they were going to quarrel about. His impression was, that they were going to war against the only civilized Ottoman Prince in the world, and with the man who holds the key of our Indian possessions, to bring him to the condition of a kind of Lord-lieutenant of Ireland to the Sublime Porte. The noble Lord might be all right in what he was doing, but the House ought to know something about it. He did not say, that he should differ from the noble Lord when he had done, but he would be glad if, from any information he could obtain, he should be able to come to the same conclusion as soon as possible.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that there had been so much discussion on the general principle adopted by the House, in respect to information to be sought on foreign affairs, and on the reports which ought to be laid before Parliament and the country, that he must make a few remarks, because, differing little from the right hon. Gentleman as to the general rule, and disagreeing in his assertion that there should be a limit to that rule, he could not agree in this particular instance with that right hon. Gentleman, and still less with the hon. Member for Liskeard. He took the general rule to be, that the House of Commons was not accustomed to press for information, when the Secretary of State for that department said that public inconvenience or danger would arise from the disclosure, and he thought that the determination of the House of Commons in that respect was founded on a wise and enlarged view of public policy. If it were said that negotiations should go on, not between government and government, but between popular assembly and popular assembly, he could only say that no principle could be worse; and he thought that it was the duty of the Secretary of State to ask the House to place that limit for which he had contended. With regard to the production of papers relating to public affairs, he thought that there was not much reason to complain of the noble Lord. Had there been no documents produced with regard to Persia, with regard to China, or with regard to North America? There had been many papers laid before the House relating to those subjects, but they were produced at a time when no inconvenience could result from their publication. But supposing he took another matter, which related to Russia. There was at one time a strong feeling in exist- 206 ence against the proceedings of that power in the East. The British Government received information with regard to those proceedings, or with regard to the proceedings of some persons who were supposed to be the agents of Russia, which it felt itself bound to notice, and it was determined that some steps should be taken in the matter. The manner in which it was deemed most prudent that it should be brought to issue was, that the noble Viscount, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, should state all that he had heard upon the subject to the Russian authorities, and should ask for a candid and honourable explanation of the circumstances alleged. The despatch was drawn up, but it contained a great deal that, if it had been produced in the House of Commons on the first day of the session, before an answer was obtained, would have been productive of much indignant and angry feeling. The noble Viscount did not bring forward the despatch, but when the papers were compared, when on the one hand the statement of the explanation required appeared, and on the other hand the full and complete explanation appeared, which had been given on the part of Russia, and which consisted of a positive disavowal of the acts which were supposed to have been its agent's, peace was found to have been placed on a more sound basis than that on which it before rested, and no objection any longer existed to the production of the papers. This was one instance; but he would give another, to which his noble Friend had alluded—he meant the question of the eastern boundary in America. Papers were produced two years ago before the senate of America. Their production led to a great deal of discussion and angry declamation against England: but when the accounts reached this country, no discussion was raised in the House of Commons. He had been told that when intelligence was carried back to America that there had been no discussion complaining of the conduct of the United States, it relieved the minds of many, who thought that what had taken place might have led to some recrimination on the part of this House; and he was sure that if, instead of sending despatches, such matters were made the subject of speeches, the danger of disturbing the harmony of countries would be greatly increased. Now, having spoken as to the general rule to be observed, he must say that he had no objection to produce those documents, which were produced 207 before the senate of the United States, though he might find it necessary to add some papers to them, in order to explain some transactions which had been alluded to in them. He would mention an instance, which was not of great consequence, but which would serve to illustrate his observations. Mr. Fox complained, on the part of Great Britain, of certain incursions on the state of Maine, and the answer which the Secretary of State of the United States gave was, that it was very astonishing that that complaint should be made, because an attack had been made on one of the block-houses, in which were some citizens of the United States, which had been led by an officer of militia. The fact was, that one night a sort of a mob of persons went to attack this block-house, and among them was an officer of militia. The Governor, Sir John Harvey, disapproved of the conduct of this person, but the militia officer having expressed his deep regret that he had done anything so contrary to orders, Sir John Harvey wrote a despatch to the Colonial Secretary, saying that he thought it would be sufficient to give him a strong reprimand. He however, thought that that would not be enough, and that the adoption of such a course as that suggested would be to give encouragement either to the American side or to our side to continue the system of warfare which had prevailed; and being of opinion that the dismissal of the officer was necessary, he conveyed the Queen's commands that he should be accordingly dismissed. Now, this would not appear upon the face of the papers which would be, under ordinary circumstances, produced; and perfect justice, therefore, would not be done unless he produced some others besides those asked for. There were two questions; the one was that of the boundary, with respect to which a proposition had been made in the course of the last year. The other was as to the effect of the violation of the agreement which had been made. He did not think that, either on the general question, or on the particular question as to certain transactions, that that union and peace which now prevailed was likely to be interrupted; on the contrary, the governments of the two countries were both too much impressed with the advantages arising from peace to these two great and enlightened countries, and were too well convinced that there was no question with respect to the boundary of the Maine, which might not be satisfactorily settled, 208 if they were both determined, as he believed they both were, to abide by the principles of justice, not to feel that these discussions on the subject, though they might be interrupted at times by the wild and unsettled state of the country, would end in an amicable arrangement. After what had passed in the course of the debate, he did not wish to enter into a discussion on the Eastern question; but he thought that all our acts and negotiations on this subject proceeded, first, on the great principle of wishing to preserve the integrity of the Turkish empire; and secondly, on the representations made by the five powers to the Sultan last summer. On those two points, the five powers were agreed; and if the House thought that the integrity of the Turkish empire should not be an object with England, and that the other four powers, as well as ourselves, were wrong in saying that it was, then we must not interfere, but at present the opinion was the other way. In the case of France the words were strong, that they wished to preserve the integrity of the Turkish empire, and all the powers agreed to the same principle, and signed the declaration to that effect last year. The matter itself was a matter of great difficulty; but so long as the policy of this country remained unchanged, we were bound to maintain the integrity of that empire. Quite sure he was, that the course proposed by the hon. Member for Kilkenny, that we should abandon the Sultan altogether, would be at once saying to Russia, "We do not mean to abide by our policy," or declaring that she remained as the sole protector of Turkey; that Turkey should have no defence from the whole of the powers, but only such as Russia might give her. He was speaking now upon general views of our policy; there were differences of opinion on certain points, but he trusted that no difference existed upon the subject of giving a greater security to the integrity of the Turkish empire.
§ Mr. H. G. Knight
spoke to the following effect:—I am not surprised that the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, should have wrapped himself up in his diplomatic mantle; but I regret that the little information which he has condescended to afford, should not be of a nature to remove the anxiety with which the public are beginning to watch the progress of the Eastern question. The only point upon which any great stress appears 209 to be laid, is the complete integrity of the Turkish empire. But how is that integrity to be maintained? Not by the Turkish force, for it is confessedly incompetent to measure its strength with the Egyptian. Unfortunately that problem was solved, in the sight of the world, in 1832, at the battle of Koniah. How then is this integrity to be enforced? Are we to believe the accounts which we read in the newspapers? Is it true that a Russian army is to be permitted to descend in Asia Minor? By no other means, I admit, can the object be achieved; but the remedy is worse than the disease. Nothing, in my mind, should be more pertinaciously resisted by those who wish to keep the Sultan on his throne. The presence of a Russian army in Asia Minor would be seen with the greatest anxiety by all who really wish well to our ancient ally, and who desire that Europe should remain at peace. Such an army, once admitted, would not be easily dislodged; and, perhaps, would not return home by the same way that it came. At any rate it would be the beginning of a bad habit. It would familiarise the public mind with a dangerous thing. It might lead hereafter to events which would set all Europe in a flame. The very means to which the Sultan, in his alarm and his helplessness, seems to be willing to fly for protection, might, eventually, lead to the subversion of his throne. And what is it that Mehemet Ali asks? Nothing more than, in fact, he possesses already. Nothing which the Sultan, at least, can now take from him—all he asks is a change of name. Of what importance would it be to this country if the authority which Mehemet Ali possesses for life over Syria and Egypt should be transmitted to his posterity? Would British interests be, in that case, less secure than if those countries reverted to a distant, a feeble, and, perhaps, disputed sway? But it would be of great importance were we to allow Mehemet Ali to feel himself under great obligations, not to England, but to France. I should have thought the noble Lord had had enough of such mistakes. By a similar error, on a former occasion, we gave the advantage to Russia. Are we now going to give the advantage to France? Are we to be outwitted by all the world? The only point upon which it is necessary for this country to insist, is the restoration of the Turkish fleet—that is indispensable—for never did the world behold a more disgraceful transaction. An officer, high in command, de- 210 serting the son of his Sovereign, to whom he owed his elevation, deserting him at his utmost need, depriving him of his means of defence, and putting his most powerful armament in the hands of his enemy ! It would be unworthy of this country to permit so black an act of treason to be crowned with success. The restoration of the fleet should be insisted upon as a sine qua non. With this single exception, I trust that British interference in the affairs of the East, will not go beyond mediation, that we shall show ourselves in that quarter only in the character of a friend, and not as an enemy to either party. The alarming hints which dropped from the noble Lord, have induced me to make these few observations; but, as the noble Lord says, that the production of the papers moved for by the hon. Member for Kilkenny, would be of detriment to the public service, I shall not think of pressing him further on that subject; and, for the present, content myself with expressing the hope, that the noble Lord may be able to steer his bark in safety through the perilous and intricate straits into which he has been drawn, by a current which is now the more irresistible, because it was not resisted at an earlier period.
§ Mr. Hume
, in reply, said, that he had refrained from reading the documents which were in his hand, and on which he relied for the statements he had made, lest he should take up too much time of the House. But as the noble Viscount had denied some of the assertions, he (Mr. Hume) had made, and as the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had also made some statements which could be refuted, he must be allowed to notice some of them. The noble Lord (Palmerston) had said, that England was no guarantee to the convention of Kutayah, which could not be reconciled with the printed correspondence of the British Minister at Constantinople. He would now read a letter of Admiral Roussin of the 8th of May, 1833, to prove that France was also a party and a guarantee to that convention.LETTER ADDRESSED TO HIS HIGHNESS MOHAMED ALI PACHA, BY ADMIRAL ROUSSIN, FRENCH AMBASSADOR, DATEDTherapia, May 8th, 1833.Illustrious, magnificent, and magnanimous Prince.I feel satisfaction in being one of the first to announce to you the happy conclusion of peace, between the Grand Seignior and your Highness, on conditions equally advantageous and honourable to Egypt,211Your. Highness had already learned that all the Pachalics of Syria had been conceded to you, in consequence of the mission with which I charged M. le Baron Varenne to your illustrious son. The point of Adana remained in dispute, and I will not dissimulate that the abandonment of that position by the Ottoman empire has experienced much resistance; the munificence of the Grand Seignior has made it disappear, and Adana is a gift of his goodness.The peace so much desired by the friends of Egypt, and the Ottoman empire, is therefore concluded, to the regret of their enemies who wished to profit by the war in order to gratify their ambition.Your Highness will be just enough to recognise to which side France has constantly been inclined; attentive to the events of the East, she has felt that the immediate termination of war between the Mussulmans was the condition of their safety. She has desired this peace, sincerely and ardently. Such was the object of the steps taken by me on the 23rd of February, in proposing terms, which circumstances rendered at that time suitable; and which your Highness from principle might have adopted, fully persuaded that France would not have withheld her endeavours to ameliorate them.Your adhesion, at that time, would have prevented the aggravation of actual events. May Heaven dispel the danger with which they menace.Notwithstanding the just dissatisfaction felt by France, she has followed the enlightened and generous views that direct her.What is passing* in the Bosphorus, has convinced her of the necessity of strengthening Egypt still more, she has obtained for Egypt the whole of Syria, and can say that in that, she has done for your Highness more than any other power.Such have been the fruits of three months' uninterrupted efforts, the results of which will testify whether the interest of France has been wanting to your Highness, and if the unfavourable impressions attributed to her ambassador, have been justified.You could not have believed it, magnificent Seignior; but I am happy to be able to prove to you that they had no foundation, and that in all that has passed, general interests alone have regulated my conduct.I beg your Highness to accept, &c.ROUSSIN.To shew that Colonel Campbell, the British Consul at Alexandria, considered that England was a guarantee, he (Mr. Hume) would read one paragraph from a letter † dated Alexandria, the 12th of July, 1838, addressed to Viscount Palmerston.—* The Russian fleet and army were there.†See Parliamentary Papers on the Table, 1839,
212 In a conference with Mohamed Ali, Colonel Campbell says,I replied to him, that I thought he ought to remain contented with the status quo, as settled at Kutayah, and trust to the great powers for any arrangement for the future.And it appears by other parts of Colonel Campbell's correspondence, that the status quo was what had been agreed to in 1833, and which Lord Ponsonby not only used his influence to have settled, but pledged the British Government to support; and it will be proved, if the papers be produced, that his Lordship claimed and obtained as I have before stated, great credit for what he had done at that time. The noble Lord had also charged the Pacha with having commenced hostilities, although the facts and dates stated by him (Mr. Hume) had not been contradicted. He (Mr. Hume) repeated that the Sultan, urged on, as generally believed, by Lord Ponsonby, collected troops and attacked Syria, whilst Mohamed Ali was in Upper Egypt. That Hafiz Pacha, at the head of the Sultan's army, on the 28th of May 1839 entered the province of Aintab, took fourteen villages belonging to Mohamed Ali, and put arms into the hands of the inhabitants to urge them to rise against the Egyptians. That Ibrahim Pacha, at the head of Mohamed Ali's army, demanded an explanation from Hafiz Pacha, who refused—that, in fact, Hafiz Pacha began on the 23rd of June, the warfare which ended so ruinously to the Sultan's troops on the 25th. The noble Lord was, therefore, in error in the assertion he had made. It is well-known, that Ibrahim Pacha had received orders to stand on the defensive, which he did. The noble Lord also accused Mohamed Ali of treachery in obtaining possession of the Sultan's fleet; but he (Mr. Hume) would read a letter from Alexandria, which explains the cause of the defection of the Turkish fleet, and the reasons why Mohamed Ali demanded the dismissal of Housroff Pacha.Whilst the Ottoman fleet was at anchor at the Dardanelles, the Capitan Pacha learnt the death of Sultan Mahmoud the 2nd, the elevation to the throne of his son Abdel Medjit, and the nomination of Housroff Pacha to the post of Grand Vizir with unlimited authority. Immediately after the receipt of this last intelligence at the fleet, the chief officers presented themselves in a body to the admiral and addressed him in the following terms:—' We know well Housroff Pacha, and are not ignorant of all his past intrigues. Now that he is placed at the head of the government, and invested with full powers, we shall see the 213 Ottoman empire go from bad to worse—we will not return to Constantinople to make over the fleet to such an intriguer as Housroff Pacha, being persuaded that it will be employed to the greatest possible prejudice of the Sublime Porte. We entreat you to direct your course towards him who is an old and devoted servant of our magnificent Sovereign. Let us proceed to Mohamed Ali, and entreat him to deliver the Mussulman nation from ' the yoke of this minister so fatal to the empire.—The Capitan Pacha seeing little chance of altering the determination of his officers, and being moreover persuaded of the truth of their statements, gave orders for the fleet to make sail towards Alexandria.Before Housroff Pacha had taken up his abode at Constantinople, and had occupied different public situations there, Mohamed Ali lived uninterruptedly in good harmony with his Sovereign, and sought for every opportunity of giving him proofs of his entire devotion, having on many occasions rendered very eminent services to the Sublime Porte. These facts are known to all the world; but from the moment that Housroff Pacha arrived at Constantinople, misunderstandings arose between the Sultan and the Pacha—and it is, in fact, from that period that their enmity commenced —the consequences which have been so disastrous for the Mussulman nation are generally known. In this state of things, Housroff Pacha, availing himself of the great power vested in him by the high functions to which he has been promoted, is proceeding to involve the empire in new dangers, and thus to accomplish its ruin, In order to put an end to his intrigues, and to render his evil propensities less detrimental to the empire, Mohamed Ali determined to adhere to the wishes expressed by the officers of the fleet.In soliciting the removal of Housroff Pacha from the direction of public affairs, Mohamed AH feels convinced that he is working for the adoption of a measure that will be productive of the greatest national utility. This result being once obtained, Constantinopolitans and Egyptians will, thenceforward, form but one body, and will unite their efforts for the consolidation of the Ottoman throne, and for the advancement of its prosperity. It will then be seen, whether Mohamed Ali will or will not give convincing proofs of what has now been advanced.With respect to the noble Lord's praises of the conduct of Russia, he (Mr. Hume) must leave the House and the public to judge from the general policy and encroachments of that power for the last fifty years without intermission, rather than rely on the noble Lord's opinion. The comparison made by the noble Lord that Mohamed Ali, the conqueror of the Sultan in two great battles, and the possessor of several provinces by the sword, was to be compared with the viceroy of Ireland, was too ridi 214 culous to require further notice than had been taken of it by the right hon. Baronet. The noble Lord, the Secretary to the Colonies, had said, that the policy of the fire great powers WHS to preserve the integrity of Turkey, as they had stated in their joint note of the 27th of July, 1839; and that the policy of England in that respect remained unchanged. He (Mr. Hume) desired to say, that there was no such principle or policy stated in that note to which the noble Lord alluded, and which he would now read—Constantinople, 27th July, 1839.The undersigned have received from their respective Governments, instructions in virtue of which they have the honour to inform the Sublime Porte, that the accord upon the Eastern Question is confirmed among the great powers, and to invite her to suspend all definitive determination without their concurrence, in anticipation of the effect of the interest they feel towards her.(Signed) "PONSONBY,Ambassador of England.BARON STüMER,Internuncio of Austria.ROUSSIN,Ambassador of France.A. BONTENIEFF,The Minister of Russia.COUNT KöNIGSMAECK,The Minister of Prussia.The House would see, that the only thing in that note was a request to the Sultan to suspend settling with Mohamed Ali; and, from that day to this, the suspension of hostilities continued, and no progress to peace, so anxiously desired by both the Sultan and by Mohamed Ali had been made. He (Mr. Hume) was called upon to prove what he had asserted to the House, that peace might have been settled in August 1839, if the British Government and the other powers had not interfered by the presentation of that note, to prevent it; and the British people were burthened to support a large fleet which had been the means of doing all the mischief which had arisen from protracted war, and preparations for new war, for eight months. He (Mr. Hume) would read three letters—the first to show that Mohamed Ali had on the 17th of July, received, in a friendly manner, the proposition sent by the Divan for peace—Reply given by Mohamed Ali on 17th July, 1839, to the Representatives of the Five Great Powers on the subject of the communications received from Constantinople, to be by them transmitted to their respective Ambassadors at Constantinople.In two days hence, Akiff Effendi will set 215 out on his return to Constantinople. He will be the bearer of a letter of congratulation and submission on my part to the new Sultan Abdel Medjid. I shall write a letter also to Housroff Pacha, in which I shall represent to him.1st. That the late Sultan Mahmoud had some time ago, through Sari in Effendi made to me more advantageous proposals than those which his Highness, now addressed to me; the hereditary succession of Egypt having at that time been offered me, as well as of the Ayalet of Seida, and of the Sandjakat of Tripoli.2nd. That under present circumstances, I solicit the hereditary succession of Egypt with that of Syria and Candia, that is to say, of all the territory I now possess, as before notified by me.3rd. That on that condition, and by observing good faith towards me, I will be the most faithful of the servants and vassals of his Highness, and will defend him when and against whomsoever he may desire.It is in this sense that I propose writing to Constantinople. I shall refrain from any allusion to the fleet in my letter to the Grand Vizir out of delicacy; but I beg you will have the kindness to assure the representatives of the great courts at Constantinople, that I never had any intention to retain it, or to make use of it with any hostile design against the Sultan; on the contrary, I engage finally to restore it as soon as my proposals have been accepted; In that case, all the vessels composing the fleet of the Sultan, to the last, will be sent back to Constantinople; as to the Ottoman Admirals, those who are afraid of returning to Turkey may remain in Egypt, which forms a portion of the same monarchy. As soon as the Sultan shall have acceded to ray prayer, and Housroff Pacha shall have been removed from the direction of affairs, I shall without hesitation, at the first invitation of his Highness repair in person to Constantinople; and it will not be with the fleet that I shall proceed thither, but alone on board a steam vessel, and with the sole object of presenting my personal homage to my Sovereign, and for the purpose of tendering my services to him.I declare to you, finally, that if my proposals are not accepted, I shall not make war, but maintain my present position and wait.The letter from Housroff Pacha to Mohamed Ali of the 30th of July 1839, sent by Mouffet Bey, the envoy of Mohamed Ali, proves that the Divan had agreed to the demands of Mohamed Ali; and that a special messenger would have been dispatched on the 29th of July to Egypt, to conclude a treaty, if the note of the five great powers had not been presented."Letter of Housroff Pacha to Mohamed Ali, by Mouffet Bey, about 30th July, 1839.By the return of Akiff Effendi, I received the reply to the letter which I had the honour 216 to address to your Excellency by that envoy, and have understood its contents, as well as the report of Akiff Effendi, and in particular what passed between your Excellency and him. I have deposed both at the feet of his Highness our august master, who took cognizance of their contents, and I communicated them subsequently to the principal dignitaries of the Sublime Porte assembled in council.We are rejoiced to learn that your Excellency, who is an ancient feudatory of the empire, who has rendered more real services to the state than all the others, and who on that account, is become one of the greatest of our colleagues, had evinced the noble determination to make common cause with the most influential and most devoted members of the Mussulman nation, and we pray to God that our mutual prayers for union may be accomplished for the prosperity of the empire.In the letter which I had the houour to address to your Excellency by Akiff Effendi, I spoke of the transmission by hereditary succession of the Egyptian provinces only, but that was merely a form adopted for announcing your pardon to your Excellency. Akiff Effendi, moreover, was not charged to treat of any such matters. He was only entrusted with the communication of the most desirable of all intelligence, your restoration to favour; and for that reason, I omitted to give more ample explanations to your Excellency. All the great dignitaries of the Sublime Porte, however, being equally desirous with myself that you should have all the security and all the necessary guarantees, and being ready to unite their efforts with yours for the prosperity of the empire, I had, after obtaining the sanction of his Highness, our august master, given orders to his Excellency Saib Effendi, one of the ministers of the Sublime Porte, to proceed to Egypt for the purpose of concerting with your Excellency respecting the demands which you had presented, the services which you intended to render, and the measures to be adopted under present circumstances.This envoy was about to depart on board the steam vessel, when the ambassadors of the five great powers presented to the Sublime Porte a note signed by them of which a translation is enclosed, and the purport of which was to make known that the five great powers had come to an understanding for the discussion and adjustment of the affairs of the East. Immediately after the presentation of that note, the high dignitaries of the Porte again assembled in Council and expressed their opinion that the interference of strangers in a question between Suzerain and Vassal was by no means proper; but, considering that the five great powers had already come to an understanding upon the subject, the refusal of their mediation being contrary to European custom, might cause offence to them and occasion disturbances and difficulties to the Mussulman nation. Looking, therefore, to the general state of things, and reflecting that in 217 Consequence of your pardon being granted and plans for a reunion being in progress, the guarantees of foreign concurrence become superfluous, and the intervention or non-intervention of the powers in the settlement of the question of no importance, the great dignitaries assembled at the same time that they put up their prayers that we may never have occasion to appeal to strangers, did not think it advisable under present circumstances to reject the unforeseen demand of the five ambassadors and accordingly gave their consent to it.We are desirous, and it is the will of his Highness that you should, in the first instance be informed of what has just taken place; the departure of the envoy has been in consequence suspended. I have taken the liberty to address the present letter to your Excellency by the steam vessel. As soon as your Excellency shall have been made acquainted with its contents as well as with the communication from the ambassadors to the consuls general, I beg you will be pleased to convey to me your sentiments thereon.(Signed) "HOUSROFF PACHA.P.S. "It has been arranged that your Chargé d'Affaires at Constantinople, Mouffit Bey, should himself be the bearer of this letter to your Excellency in order to elucidate its contents by viva voce explanations. Your Excellency will thus know more fully the real state of things.The answer of Mohamed AH, of the 9th of August, to Housroff Pacha, would, he believed, be conclusive with every considerate person, that the five great powers had at that time prevented peace—England taking the lead."Translation from the Turkish Language of the Reply of Mohamed Ali to Housroff Pacha, dated 9th Aug. 1839.I have received the letter which your Excellency was pleased to address to me by Mouffit Bey, my Chargé d'Affaires at Constantinople.Your excellency informs me that you had perused the despatch which I had the honour to address to you by the return of Akiff Effendi, together with the report made by that envoy; and that the high dignitaries of the Sublime Porte assembled in council, after receiving communications of my letter and of the report of Akiff Effendi, and in order to give course to my demand as well as to ascertain the nature of the services which I could render to the empire, and to determine what measures it was proper to adopt under present circumstances, had agreed to send to me the minister Saib Effendi by the steam-boat. Meanwhile the ambassadors of the five great powers presented a note to your excellency of which a translation is stated to accompany your despatch, and on the subject of which you add that the consuls general of the five great powers residing at Alexandria would make the 218 necessary communications, which with the verbal reports of my Chargé d'Affaires would assist me in understanding the matters now in agitation.The Consuls General have communicated to me the instructions received by them from their respective Ambassadors, and Mouffit Bey has explained to me what he was charged to state.My sole desire and object is to make my submission, and to devote all any services to our magnanimous and all powerful Lord and Master. But I have very humbly supplicated his Highness, that in consideration of my quality as an old servant of the empire and out of regard for my past services, he would generously be pleased to grant two prayers which I ventured to address to him. I pray to God that he may continue on the throne till the end of the World, the august person of our Lord and Master.When my Chargé d'Affaires received the order to come to me, he was admitted to the distinguished honour of doing homage at the feet of his Highness, who was pleased to say to him, ' Mouffet Bey, make my compliments to the Pacha. Tell him that I have acceded to the prayer he has addressed to my throne for the hereditary government of Egypt and its dependencies, and that I have given orders to arrange that affair.'These benevolent expressions of his Highness have rejoiced my heart inasmuch as they accomplish my most ardent prayer for the hereditary succession, and rank me among the grandees of the empire.The high dignitaries of the Sublime Porte, assembled in Council subsequently stated to Mouffet Bey, 'Our august Lord and Master has just granted the object of the prayer presented by Mohamed Ali Pacha at the foot of the throne, for the hereditary succession to Egypt and its dependencies; but in the ' meantime the Ambassadors of the five great powers have presented this note of which it is necessary that Mohamed Ali should take cognizance.'In consequence of what has been said and done, I rejoice that one of my prayers has been accomplished, and I perceive that for the moment the other has been neglected. Nevertheless, I trust, that that also will be conceded to me by the high benevolence of his Highness. In this case, I conclude, that it would not be necessary to have recourse to the mediation of the five great powers.Your Excellency will further learn my opinion on these affairs from the communications of the Ambassadors after the receipt of the dispatch as addressed to them by their respective Consuls General at Alexandria.This is the purport of the letter which I have now the honour to address to your Excellency by my Chargé d'Affaires Mouffit Bey.The proofs might be multiplied in support of the view he (Mr. Hume) had given to the House of the policy and conduct of 219 England, and of the other four powers towards Egypt; but he had stated enough to satisfy the House as to the statements he had made, as the grounds for his motion. He was confident that the reports of the Consuls of the five powers at Alexandria, published to all Europe, would bear out all he had stated: and he would only add that, in agreeing to withdraw his motion, in consequence of the declaration of the noble Lord, that it would be injurious to the public service to produce those papers now, he would give notice that in one month or so from this time, he (Mr. Hume) would renew his motion; and then he hoped the House would support him in demanding a full explanation of the policy of the noble Lord (Palmerston) which was maintained at so heavy an expense to England at this time of financial distress.
§ The motion was then withdrawn.