HC Deb 19 April 1842 vol 62 cc815-8
Dr. Bowring

said, last year a great number of irregular Arnaut troops were stationed in Syria, and were guilty of such gross outrages that representations were made to the Porte, which led to their withdrawal. It was now rumoured that it was the intention of the Turkish Government to send a body of these troops into Syria, to occupy the fortresses along the coast; and he wished to know if her Majesty's Government had received any information on the subject.

Sir R. Peel:

Besides the question which the hon. Gentleman who spoke last' has put to me, the gallant Commodore on the other side has given a notice; and perhaps those two hon. Members and the House will think it convenient that I should give an answer which may suffice to supply the information which both hon. Members require. The questions which have been put on this occasion are such as I should hot have thought it necessary or fitting to answer under ordinary circumstances; but I am sure the House will feel that I, as a Minister of the Crown, am placed in circumstances of rather an anomalous kind. It must be well known to every one present that Syria and the Porte stand in relation to each other in a very peculiar position; and I am sure the House will also agree with me that nothing could be more impolitic than for us to interfere in the domestic arrangements of any foreign state; but still it is not altogether inexpedient that I should say a few words in reply to the questions which have been put. One of them is this—Does the Porte employ a certain description of force in Syria? Does the Porte employ a certain officer in Syria? In the first place, I need hardly remind the House that it is utterly impossible for me to undertake the administration of affairs in Syria. And if it were practicable, I must be allowed to say, that it is a task above all others open to various and insuperable objections. To attempt any thing of the sort would be at once to paralyse the authority of the Porte, and to make us wholly responsible for the administration of public affairs in that part of the world. I am quite sure the House will agree with me that we are bound in a most especial degree to guard against the admission of the principle that we have anything to do with the domestic affairs of Turkey; but, nevertheless, I readily acknowledge that the hon. Member and the gallant Officer opposite were perfectly justified in putting the questions which they did. The information that the gallant Commodore requires relates to the employment of a certain officer, Omar Pacha, by the Porte as governor of Lebanon. The gallant Officer has asked whether the Turkish government have made that appointment and refused to cancel it. Now, I do not hesitate to state that the appointment of that officer was a most improper appointment. The ground upon which I answer the question of the gallant Commodore is this:—That during the Syrian campaign assurances were given by the Porte to the British authorities upon the subject of the government of Lebanon, which gave to those authorities a claim to the intervention of the British Government to see that the engagements of the Porte were fulfilled. The British Government has accordingly remonstrated with the Porte against the continuance in office of Omar Pacha. There are circumstances in the life of that officer which make his appointment a very unwarrantable one. Assurances had been received from the Porte that Omar Pacha should be removed, and that some other arrangement should be made for the administration of the affairs of Lebanon. As to the question put by the hon. Gentleman opposite, respecting the despatch of troops by the Porte to Syria, I have only to state, that on the 6th of April instructions were sent to Sir Stratford Canning, our Ambassador at the Porte, desiring him to represent to the Government at Constantinople our strong conviction that nothing but evil and confusion could result from the sending of Albanian troops to Syria; but, in anticipation of those instructions, Sir Stratford Canning, without waiting for authority from home, had earnestly deprecated the employment of those troops in Syria, and he received an assurance that they would not be employed in the interior of the country; that they should be confined to garrison duty, and not sent up into Lebanon; that their services would be limited as much as possible to St. Jean d'Acre, and other towns, and that the people of Lebanon would be protected from them. I am bound to say, it was stated to our Minister at the Porte that— It was with astonishment and deep concern we beard of the employment of Albanian troops by the Porte in Syria, and that it was thought by her Majesty's Government most essential that the Sultan's pleasure should be taken with as little delay as possible, and taken in connexion with our representation on this subject. Feeling as we did great alarm at the possibility of a repetition of the scenes which have occurred, we thought it our duty to lose no time in addressing a strong representation to the Porte, for we conceived that putting an end to such a state of things was essential to the tranquillity of Syria, and the welfare of Turkey.