§ Viscount Palmerston
I rise, pursuant to notice, to move for the 809 production of papers connected with Servia. Events have lately occurred in that country of no little importance to the rest of Europe. In the negotiations connected with those events, the British Government has taken a part, and the part taken in them by so great a power cannot fail to exercise a material influence on the result. The British constitution vests in the advisers of the Crown the fullest and most discretionary power in their diplomatic transactions with foreign powers. That discretionary power, however, is exercised, subject to the revision of Parliament; but in order that this revision may take place, it is necessary that Parliament should be informed of the course which the Government may have adopted, or of the grounds on which that course has been pursued. In the present instance, Parliament is very much in the dark as to the course which her Majesty's Government have pursued, so far as the events of Servia are concerned, and therefore we can have no knowledge of the grounds on which that course has been pursued. I did, at a former period of the Session, endeavour to obtain the production of papers, calculated to throw some light upon those transactions—not indeed papers containing that full information which those I now intend to move for would afford, but still papers which would supply the ground work for further inquiry. Some of those papers were granted—the rest were withheld—and those which were granted proved the propriety or necessity for the production of those which were withheld. Those papers which were granted were treaties made between Russia and the Porte, and firmans, which were declared an integral part of those treaties. The papers withheld were documents calculated partially to show what had been the course of events, and in what respect those events had been conformable with the stipulations contained in those treaties. I should, on several accounts, have preferred that her Majesty's Government should of their own accord have given those papers rather than it should have become my duty to move for them in this House. Her Majesty's Government in other matters have justified themselves for what they have refused to do by the example of their predecessors. I wish that on the present occasion they had followed that example. Whatever may be said for or against our foreign policy, it must be ad- 810 mitted that there have been few Governments that have afforded more full information respecting all important transactions in which we were concerned. We did so on the occasion of our negotiations with Belgium, with Greece, with the United States, with Naples, with those which we carried on with Russia respecting the affairs of Persia and Affghanistan, and with China, we afforded Parliament the fullest information as to the course we pursued in all those important transactions. The papers connected with the negotiations with Russia on the affairs of Persia and Affghanistan were a case very much in point with the present, and I wish the production of them had formed a precedent on this question. Before those papers were produced an intimation had been made in that House of an intention to bring the matter to which they had reference under discussion; but after they had been produced they were found so full, and I am happy to say so satisfactory, that no Member of Parliament felt it his duty, either in that or in the other House, to moot the subject by motion. Now it is quite impossible (though from what I have heard I do not think it probable) that if her Majesty's Government had, with regard to the affairs of Servia, followed the example which the late Administration had set them with regard to the affairs of Russia with Persia and Affghanistan, a result similar might have followed, and it might not have become my duty, or that of any other Member, to have said anything in Parliament on this subject. If that result had followed, it would have been more satisfactory to me. In the first place, as a British subject and as one of the representatives of the British people, I should have been glad to have found that in a transaction of some importance to Europe the conduct of the British Government had been such as to deserve the approbation of the country. Again, as a Member of the late Administration, I should have been better pleased not to have had to originate the discussion; because it is a discussion in which he should be compelled to criticise and find fault with the conduct of a friendly ally—I mean the government of Russia. I wish to think and to speak well of that Government. In a crisis of great European difficulty, at a time when the peace of Europe was threatened by the state of things that arose out of the conflict be- 811 tween the Sultan and Mehemet Ali, Russia addressed herself to Great Britain, and sent a minister of great ability over to this country, charged to offer to England the unreserved confidence of Russia, and to ask for the confidence of England in return. Many circumstances connected with that overture were calculated to command the confidence which the minister of Russia was charged to ask for. There had been a misunderstanding between the two governments, and many things had happened that might have led the Russian government to doubt whether a full concordance was likely to take place between England and Russia. We accepted the overture as frankly and unreservedly as it was made, and I believe I can say that the whole of our conduct fully bore out the confidence that Russia placed in us, while, on the other hand, the steadiness and good faith of Russia fully merited the confidence which we placed in her. It is, therefore, with great regret that I originate a discussion which may impose on me the duty of criticising the recent conduct of Russia. The circumstances to which my motion relates are shortly these: Servia, as everybody knows, is a Christian province belonging to the Turkish empire. The Servians are as completely subjects of the Sultan as any other people living under the Turkish rule. But the Servians enjoy some peculiar privileges, partly obtained by occasional resistance to the Turkish governors, and partly by treaties concluded between Russia and the Porte. Among other privileges, the Servians enjoy that of choosing their own prince, besides which, the Sultan pledges himself not to intefere in the internal administration of the country. The history of Servia is marked with serious insurrections and revolts, not differing much from those presented to us by the history of the other provinces of the Turkish empire. It is not that the Government of Constantinople has exercised a tyrannical control over the remote provinces. It is not the distant Emperor they have feared so much as his officers, who were ever near to them. The Pacha's first object after his appointment to the command of a province, is to extort from the people the money by which he had purchased his promotion. The unruly Janizaries carried outrage and violence into every house, and the collectors of the revenue in enforcing the con- 812 tributions of the people, often cut off the nose and ears of their victims in mere wantonness. It was things like these that led to the revolts of the Servians, and in the course of those revolts the Servians applied to Russia. for assistance. When she was at peace with Turkey, Russia advised the Servians to go to Constantinople, and promised the friendly intercession of her ambassadors; and when at war, Russia made the grievances of the Servians, the subject of treaties at the close of the war. It was thus, that the treaty of Bucharest was made to stipulate for the privileges of the Servians. The engagements thus entered into, were broken, and again renewed by a subsequent treaty; were again broken and again renewed by the treaty of Adrianople. According to the stipulations of these treaties, the Servians were to have the free choice of their own prince, and the Sultan bound himself not to interfere with the internal administration of the province. Czerney George, the first chief of the Servians, was never acknowledged by the Porte. Prince Milosch followed, and not only was he invested with the chief authority, but the right was conceded to him of transmitting his authority to his descendants. His authority, moreover, was fully acknowledged by the Sultan. Prince Milosch, in 1835, gave to the Servians a very full constitution. It was a voluminous document, consisting of 120 articles, and was drawn up by "Davidovitch," under the promptings of young Servia, Prince Milosch, I believe, had not much to do with it; for all the early years of his life had been spent in scenes of turbulence and civil war; his education had been neglected, and at the time when he was raised to the rank of a prince, he had not, as he himself acknowledged, fully mastered the art of writing. When this constitution, however, came into operation, he found it extremely inconvenient, and soon put it aside. As might have been expected under such circumstances, the Servians became discontented, and complained, and in 1839 the Porte gave the Servians a modified constitution, contained in one of the firmans now on the Table of the House. Milosch was very much discontented with this, and abdicated his authority as prince. The Servians, in virtue of the principle of hereditary succession, called his son to power. This son soon afterwards died, and the Servians then conferred the au- 813 thority on Prince Michael, the second son of Milosch. During the reign of Prince Michael the Servians were still discontented, and in the month of September they at last broke out into open insurrection, whereupon Michael followed the example of his father, and likewise abdicated and retired from the country. No other Member of the family could now be called on to succeed, and the Servians elected as their prince one Cara George-witch, a son of Czerny George. The Sultan sanctioned the choice, and sent the proper instrument for the confirmation of Cara George witch. Everything seemed settled. The Servians were satisfied, and the Sultan had confirmed the election of the new prince. But Russia was not satisfied: she objected to what she considered the revolutionary proceedings by which the abdication of Prince Michael had been brought about, and she objected to the election on the ground that it had been brought about by proceedings of the same violent character. Russia urged these objections on the Sultan, and demanded, first, that the election of Prince George witch should be annulled as the result of violence; secondly, that a new election should take place by an assembly of the Servian nation; and, thirdly, that Wutschitch and Petroniewich, two popular leaders, who had long held a prominent position in the country, and had figured in the events connected with the abdication and election, should he recalled from Servia and punished for the part they had taken in the revolutionary proceedings there. As the public has been informed, the Turkish government demurred, and contended that these demands were not founded on any right that Russia enjoyed by virtue of any treaty. Turkey contended that all Russia had a right to demand was, that the Servians should exercise a free choice in the election of their prince. This right Turkey further contended the Servians had exercised, and moreover, Turkey said that she had bound herself by treaty not to interfere in the internal affairs of Servia, which she would be doing if she were to act in conformity with the demands now made. These representations of the Sultan were of no avail. Russia persisted in her demand, and left the Porte only one alternative, submission, or an immediate rupture of all friendly relations. The Sultan knew, by bitter experience, that in any 814 single handed struggle, Russia was by far the stronger. But he knew also that in July, 1840, there had been concluded between the five great powers of Europe a treaty, in the preamble of which it was said, that they had no other object in signing it than a desire to manifest their respect for the inviolate rights of the Sultan. The Sultan, therefore, thinking these demands of Russia a violation of his rights, naturally thought of addressing himself to the other four powers, parties to that treaty. What did those four powers do? And first, of the British Government. I speak only from general report; but the papers I move for, if granted, will show how these matters stand. The public and the world have been led to believe, that the British ambassador at Constantinople was of opinion, that the Sultan was right, and that the Government of England ought to afford him its countenance and support in the view he took of his rights. It is believed, also, that such was the advice the British ambassador gave to his Government; but if he did, in what condition did that advice find the Government? Why, it found them, on this matter, in the same condition in which they have too often been found with respect to many other matters, both foreign and domestic. It found the British Government without any opinion of its own on the subject. Now, this at least I am not stating on public report, because I have heard it with my own ears, not indeed in this House, but in another place, from a person justly considered to speak on that subject with the authority of the Government. I heard it myself stated, that the British Government did on that occasion, on being applied to by the Porte on those Servian affairs, that which in the opinion of the person to whom I allude was the only thing which a British Government endowed with common sense and prudence would have done on such an occasion—they inquired what the Government of Austria had done, and determined that whatever that might be, they would do the same. Now I venture humbly to think, that that was a course not wise, and not worthy of the Government of this country. I think that on every matter on which Great Britain has an interest, be it great or small, Great Britain is entitled to have an opinion, and I think that a British Government, which on any matter in which British interests 815 are more or less involved, chooses to delegate its right of opinion to other Governments, and pledges itself to follow the line of action selected by other governments, any Ministry which does that abdicates its functions, and does not do its duty to the country. On such a matter, supposing even that the interests of England were precisely the same as those of any other foreign power, neither more nor less, and precisely in the same direction, still, I say, that to subject yourselves to the guidance of another state is not wise and not becoming. But we may be told that this foreign government, whatever it may be, must be the best judge of its own interests, and if they think such a course consistent with their interests, these being the same as ours, it must be consistent with ours also. But what is more common, whether with individuals, Governments, or nations, than that mankind should mistake their own interests? And, therefore, by placing our decision in the hands of another party, we forego that right which we are entitled to exercise, to judge of our own interests. Moreover, a Government responsible to Parliament and the public for their administration of national affairs, is not, I think, entitled to decline deciding for itself, or to place itself at the command of any other Government. Though Austria has an interest as well as we in the maintenance of the independence of the Turkish empire, and though I admit, as was stated by the person whom I heard on that occasion, that her interest is even greater and more direct than ours, from the geographical position of that empire, yet she has other interests which may come into contact with ours, and point out a policy entirely different from our own. She is one of the greatest powers of Europe, greater, perhaps, than those who have seen her act on several occasions may believe her to be, and would be greater still if her energies and resources were fully developed. But she is all frontier, and we know that in states bordering each other much inconvenience may be inflicted and annoyance produced, by influences and causes to which remote countries would be entirely strangers. And therefore, though it be true that Austria may have as 'great or a greater interest than we have in maintaining the inviolability of the authority of the Sultan, yet it may so happen that Russia, in her communications with Austria, may be able to 816 appeal to other nearer and more valued interests of Austria, for the sake of which that power may (and rightly, too, with a view to its own general advantage), be inclined to sacrifice that more remote interest of Turkey. But that is the interest which she has in common with us; and therefore, by placing ourselves at her disposal, we run the risk of sacrificing British interests for the sake of one with which we have no direct concern. I say that course was not fair or useful even towards Austria herself. I will first state what the course was which the Government took. Austria, I am informed, in the outset, took the same view as was taken by the British ambassador at Constantinople—that the Sultan had pursued a wise and proper course, and ought to be supported in that course. But there speedily came a very strong and urgent representation from Petersburgh to Vienna, and soon after that representation arrived, the Austrian Government changed its view, and instead of being disposed to support the Sultan against the demands of Russia, determined to advise that sovereign to yield to the demands of Russia. Now, I say, that we weakened the Austrian Government on that occasion, because if the English Government had adopted the view taken by its ambassador at Constantinople—I assume him to have taken that view which it is generally said he took, and which was also at first adopted by Austria—when the Russian Government endeavoured to make Austria change her views, she would have replied, "Surely the views we have taken cannot be unreasonable; it was assumed by the British Government, which we know from declarations in the British Parliament to be an intimate alliance and friendship with the Government of Russia, and which from community of interests would not take a view at variance with ours. Go to London and try to persuade the British Cabinet to take a different view of the matter, and if you do, we will not say we shall not be persuaded to reconsider our views." In that case that would have given powerful support to the Austrian Government, but we are told that we had given Austria full power to act for us. I am quite sure that will not be denied, because if it were not so, it is quite impossible that the Austrian ambassador could have had an interview with the Secretary of State here, without discovering what was the course which 817 the British Government proposed to take. Russia, then, had cause for doubly increased urgency of remonstrance with Austria, for she said, "By holding this course you do us double injury. You give to the Sultan that support which your own influence at Constantinople enables you to lend, while that which arises from the influence of England is exercised in the same manner as yours; therefore, you are doubly responsible for the mischievous policy to which you at present adhere." The course we pursued, then, so far from being any support to Austria, was, in effect, the same as that of a man who should give to a traveller liable to attack the whole of his property in addition to that which belonged to himself, and thereby invite a double portion of vehemence in the attack. Austria, having changed her opinion, instructed her Minister at Constantinople to advise the Sultan to yield to the demands of Russia. The English ambassador, having no other instructions except to do what his Austrian colleague might do, backed that advice; and Prussia, of course, backed the representations of these three Powers. There remained the Government of France. I have been informed that the French Government, in the beginning of the affair, took the same view of the matter as was taken by the British ambassador at Constantinople, and, in the first instance, by the Austrian Government at Vienna. France thought that those demands of Russia were unreasonable, and that she ought not to insist on their being complied with. But when she found England, Austria, and Prussia advising compliance with the demands of Russia, what was it likely that she would do? France, only two years before, at great inconvenience, and at much sacrifice of her own feelings, had separated herself from those four powers, specifically on the Turkish question, because she did not choose to join in the measures these powers thought necessary for the maintenance of the Turkish empire. Was it likely that she on this occasion should change places with those powers, and having one year separated herself from them because she would not join in the measures calculated to support the independence of the Sultan, she should now again separate herself from them, because she would not allow of measures calculated to impair that independence? Of course that was not 818 to be expected, and France accordingly consented to join her advice to the other three, or she remained passive and gave no advice at all. I believe it is generally supposed that she did join with the other three in recommending submission. In that state of things, the Sultan being on the one hand urged by the demands of a great and powerful neighbour, and on the other hand abandoned by all those allies from whom he might have expected at least friendly offices and diplomatic assistance, had no alternative except unconditional submission. He therefore consented to annul the election of Prince George, and order another election by a General Assembly of the Servians to he convened for that purpose, and to recall the two popular leaders, Wutschitch and Petroniewich, to Constantinople, to answer for their conduct. He went even a step further, and possibly, in compliance with a fresh demand addressed to him, appointed a Russian general, Baron Lieven, to be his commissioner, conjointly with a Turkish officer, to the Servians, and see that the terms of the arrangement he had prescribed were faithfully carried out, which was exceedingly humiliating. They went to Servia, and what happened? First, Prince George declined to abdicate, and gave very good reasons for not doing so. If he abdicated, there would probably have been no Government at all, but a period of anarchy; and it was especially necessary he should carry on the administration of affairs, at least until the General Assembly met. They met, and protested against the recall of Wutschitch and Petroniewich. They said these men were popular leaders, in whom they had confidence, and it was intimated that if they were sent away, the Assembly would do nothing. They declared they would not consider the election of Prince George as null and void, and that, in their opinion, it had been duly and properly made, representing the will of the Servian nation; and they refused to do anything but confirm it. I have been led to believe that this result was, on the whole, considered satisfactory by Baron Lieven and the Turkish commissioners. It showed that which, under the circumstances, was all the Turkish Government could require, that Prince George was the free choice of the Servian nation. We have been publicly informed that the Russian Govern- 819 ment was not contented with the result. They were at first dissatisfied by this process of election, but they have at length agreed to make no further objections on that point, although they still insisted on this, that the two popular leaders should be recalled to Constantinople, and undergo some censure or punishment for their proceedings; and it was stated only two days ago in the newspapers, that by some arrangement or other those two men had left Servia, and even on that point, the wishes of the Russian Government had been fully met. I want papers to show what has really been the course of these transactions, and what have been the language and the conduct held by the British Government in reference to these affairs. I want to know, and I think Parliament has a right to know, whether the British Government has acted up to the words of the preamble to the treaty, I have just quoted, and maintained to their best the inviolability of the sovereign rights of the Porte; or whether, for any reason or motive they have consented to become a party to proceedings utterly at variance with that inviolability. I hope I shall not be told that Russia has a treaty with the Porte, and that she has a right to put what construction she pleases on its terms. I know that assertion has been made; I hope we shall not hear it tonight, for I must say, an assertion more preposterous, or more contrary to common sense and justice, it would be difficult to conceive. I say at variance with common sense, because it leads to no conclusion. If Russia be at liberty to put her own construction on a treaty into which she has entered, the same must hold good as a general maxim; what is good for one power, must be good for all; if one state can do that, another is equally entitled to exercise the same right. If that be so, the matter ends exactly where it began; the two parties have equal and conflicting rights, which must be decided either by an appeal to arms, or by the interposition of mediating powers. When I am told then that Russia has a right to put its own construction on its own treaty, I reply that the sentence has no practical meaning whatever, unless it is meant to be asserted that she has some right to put a construction on a treaty, which must be acquiesced in and adopted by every other nation. That is a sort of doctrine which no Ministers will 820 venture to propose in this House with respect to any country in the world, and therefore that cannot be the meaning. Do not tell me of a treaty between Russia and the Porte. These treaties are now on the Table, and we have as perfect a right as any other power to judge of them, and decide as to what will be a fair interpretation of them; and I, for my part, must declare that there is not a word in any of them which gives Russia the shadow of a ground for the demands she has set up. Neither, I hope, shall we be told, that these Servian affairs were attended with revolutionary proceedings, and that Russia had a right to require that such proceedings in a neighbouring state should be put down and punished. That, we know, is a doctrine held by the great powers of the continent, who contend that if there are disturbances in any province of a neighbouring state adjoining their own frontier, they have a right, as a matter of self-defence, and to prevent the disaffection from spreading, to call on the Government of the country to put it down, or failing in that, to enter and suppress it themselves. But Servia is not conterminous with any portion of Russia. The distance between the nearest point of Servia and the frontiers of the Russian empire is not less than 300 miles; as great a distance as from the frontiers of Poland to the capitals of Berlin and Vienna, or from the extreme frontier of Russian Poland to the frontier of the western German states—Hanover and Bavaria. There can be, therefore, no pretence set up on this ground. I trust I shall not be told that Russia had a right to require these transactions to be set aside on the ground that they were invalid, as having been of an insurrectionary nature. The Sultan had acquiesced in them; he was alone the judge how far it was proper and fit for him to acquiesce in a proceeding more or less revolutionary; and the Sovereign of the country having acquiesced, no other power, I contend, had a right to interfere. Perhaps I may told that this result was obtained by improper means, and that large sums of money were sent by the new Servian government to be distributed among persons of influence, on condition of their obtaining the sanction of the Sultan. Perhaps that may have been the case, and what then? That 821 would be a very grave offence in England; but is it the first time that influence has been purchased in Turkey by means of this kind? I think that till a very late day, even if the practice do not still exist, all great appointments and provincial commands have been conferred by the Turkish government from motives of that kind, and that the payments made a part of the acknowledged and legitimate emoluments of persons in authority. But be that as it may, it appears to me that the Russian government, having no right to interfere in the affairs of Servia by treaty, had no more right to complain of the election of Cara George witsch, because he was elected by pecuniary means, than it would have to complain of any election being carried here by the same means. I say that Russia is not in Servia, that which she is in Moldavia and Wallachia—a protecting power. The only rights she has granted to her in respect of Servia are, to see that the Sultan fulfils towards the Servians the engagements into which he has entered with Russia, to leave to the Servians the free choice of their chief, and not to interfere in their internal administration. If that be the case, I say that the Sultan, having been compelled to submit to her demands, has sustained a material violation of his independent rights as a sovereign; and I maintain that the sovereign of the Turkish empire cannot sustain a violation of his independent rights, without the balance of power in Europe being affected thereby. Perhaps I shall be told that his doctrine about the balance of power in Europe is an exploded and antiquated doctrine; and that the way in which I insist upon it is only part and parcel of the restless and meddling system of interference with affairs beyond seas, which, according to some Gentlemen opposite, was the prevailing fault of her Majesty's late Government. If any man holds that opinion, I can only assure him, he may be very fit—Fidenarum, Gabiorumque esse potestas, Et de mensurâ jus dicere, vasa minora Frangere—but I think he is unfit to hold high office in a great nation. If the preservation of the balance of power in Europe be not an object deserving the attention of a great statesman, I should like to know why Parliament annually records its opinion to that effect, by granting to the Crown the power of keeping a standing 822 army; one of the purposes of which is declared to be the preservation of the balance of power in Europe—a declaration, not of to-day or yesterday, but one which has come down to us since the time of William 3rd. Shall I be told by her Majesty's Ministers that since Parliament gives an army for this among other objects, they think they would be ill requiting the bounty of Parliament if they employed any other means than force for this purpose? Shall I be told that Government have a noble disdain of those measures of diplomacy, a timely employment of which may prevent any impairment of the balance of power, and thus render an appeal to arms unnecessary. Shall I be told that Government prefer to let things take their course, waiting till the evil has grown to a respectable magnitude, and then preparing to meet the shock on our own shores? Those who have not had sagacity to foresee dangers at a distance, are not likely to have courage enough to meet them when they are near; and those who have not possessed energy to make the efforts necessary to avert dangers when remote, cannot be supposed to be gifted with the boldness to face those dangers when they are at hand. If you want to conduct the vessel of the State safely to its haven, you must be looking constantly to the landmarks, always working at the wheel, perpetually meeting and resisting those thwarting impulses which are continually tending to drive you from your course; and the pilot who would lash the helm fast amidship, and set with his bands before him, determined to do nothing until he had brought his ship in the midst of breakers, would be an unsafe guide. The same principle, the do-nothing, think-nothing principle, on which Government seem determined to proceed with respect to all our affairs, seems to me not less fatal. I think that the sovereign of the Turkish empire has been obliged to submit to an infringement of his national power: that the independent power of the Sultan is essential to the balance of power in Europe; and I think it is a most narrow and mistaken policy which leads a Government, for the sake of temporary and momentary convenience, to submit to things which in their inevitable tendency are calculated to bring it into greater difficulties for the future. I think, therefore, that on the present subject the conduct of her Majesty's Government has not 823 been such as it became them, as responsible advisers of the Crown to pursue. I call for those papers to show what that conduct has really been, and no one will have greater satisfaction than myself, if the papers, when produced, shall refute the charges I have brought, or if the right hon. Baronet, by detailed explanation, should prove to the House, that there is no just ground for impugning the conduct of the Government. The noble Lord concluded by moving forCopies or extracts of all communications which have passed between the British Government and the British ambassadors at Vienna, Paris, Petersburg, and Constantinople, and the British consul-general in Servia, in regard to the transactions connected with the late changes in the government of Servia.
§ Sir Robert Peel
I cannot help expressing great regret that the noble Lord should have considered it his duty to call the attention of the House to the particular subject, on which he has now addressed them. The noble Lord must be aware, from his long experience in diplomatic affairs, that as these transactions are not yet brought to a close, and as communications in respect to them are still pending, it would be utterly incompatible with my duty as a Minister of the Crown to undertake at the present time to detail the communications which have passed between the British Government and the British ambassadors at Vienna, Paris, Petersburg, and Constatinople, and the consul-general at Servia, connected with the late changes in the government of Servia. The noble Lord has stated that the four great powers of Europe are parties to a treaty which recites that it is necessary for the peace of Europe that the independence of Turkey shall be maintained. So far as that treaty is concerned, the four powers are in common accordance, and have common relations. But with respect to Servia, the four powers do not stand in the same relation. This country has contracted no special obligations, and stands in no peculiar relations to Servia. That is not the case with Russia, which, with respect to Servia and the Porte, has special engagements. Events in Servia which may be indifferent to us, are not indiffent to Russia. The Servian people have claims on Russia which they have not on us. There exists between the Porte and Russia certain treaties stipulating for the fulfilment of certain engagements, under 824 which the parties come to each other. The noble Lord said the right of Russia in Servia was not the same as in Moldavia and Wallachia. That is perfectly true; but still it is impossible to argue that Russia has not special and peculiar rights with respect to the relations between Servia and Turkey. There have been laid on the Table of the House treaties which gave to Russia the right of qualified interference in the affairs of Servia. The first of these is that of Bucharest, in which the Porte undertakes to grant a pardon and general amnesty to the Servians, and they shall not be disquieted on account of past transactions. At a subsequent period, the engagements which the Porte had contracted with respect to the Servian nation not having been fulfilled, and Turkey being required by Russia to fulfil them, she entered into new engagements for that purpose. In 1826 the Porte concluded with Russia the treaty of Akerman, admitting that the conditions stipulated for in the treaty of Bucharest had not been fulfilled, and entering into new obligations that the engagements respecting the Servian peoshould be fulfilled. The Porte, in that new treaty, engaged to Russia that it would settle with the Servian deputies the measures necessary to secure those advantages which were at once the due reward and the pledge of a continuance of that fidelity of which the nation had given proofs to the Ottoman throne. Here, then, is a second proof that the relation in which Turkey stood to Russia and to the Servian nation was an exclusive and peculiar one. By a document which was called a separate instrument, but which had all the force and validity of a treaty, the Servians were guaranteed the choice of their chiefs, freedom in their religion, and independence in the administration of their internal affairs. And, observe, this was a treaty, not between Servia and Turkey, but between Turkey and Russia, acting for the protection of Servia, and requiring of the Porte a certain line of policy with respect to the Servian people. In that treaty the Porte stipulated that the Servians should have the free choice of their chiefs, and independence in their internal administration. These engagements were not fulfilled, and subsequent ones were entered into, under the treaty of Adrianople, Russia having only interfered and required the fulfilment of the engagements of the Porte with respect to 825 the Servian nation. Again Turkey stipulated that the Servians should elect their chiefs themselves, and administer their internal affairs by their own authority. Here was for the third time a stipulation entered into, not with Servia, but with Russia, in favour of Servia. That, then, I consider a conclusive proof that Russia, one of the four powers, stands in a peculiar relation to the Porte and to Servia—relations in which none of the other powers, parties to the general treaty, stood to either of them. It cannot be denied that the stipulations were not strictly adhered to by the Porte. It has been said that the Servian people conferred upon the family of Prince Milosch the right of hereditary succession. I apprehend that was done, not by the Serivans, but by the Porte, and that it was inconsistent with the engagement of the three treaties of Bucharest, of Akerman, and of Adrianople. It stipulated that the Servians should have the free choice of their chiefs, because to stipulate that they should have the choice of their chiefs, and then for another party to make the succession hereditary in one family, is manifestly a violation of the stipulation by which freedom of choice was guaranteed. In the month of August, 1842, the chief of the family in respect of whom the hereditary succession was guaranteed by Turkey, was deposed, and the election of a new chief proceeded with, conducted upon no regular form, and, possibly, as the noble Lord has said, influenced by corruption. The noble Lord says that Russia had no more right to interfere with respect to the corrupt election of a Servian chief than with respect to a corrupt election to the House of Commons. Sir, I must protest against that doctrine. Can it be maintained, when Russia, acting on behalf of the Servian people, stipulates with Turkey that their choice shall be free, and that the Porte shall not interfere in their internal affairs, if a chief is deposed in consequence of the corrupt application of money, or the prostitution of power, if there is an interference in the internal affairs of Servia, can it be maintained that Russia has no right to protest against such abuse of money and such interference in the domestic administration of her affairs? And yet that is the broad principle which the noble Lord maintains. I think it also impossible to 826 maintain the principle which the noble Lord considers some may be disposed to contend for—that Russia or any other nation can have the absolute and unlimited power to construe treaties as she pleases. No nation can absolutely, and subject to no qualification, construe treaties in a sense opposed to equity and justice; but, I apprehend that when great powers have treaties with foreign states they do claim the right—subject to the control of public opinion and subject to the interposition of others, if the propositions they advance are against the law of nations or the principles of equity—they do claim the right, in the first instance, of declaring the view which they take of the provisions of such treaties. In the case of our own treaty with Brazil, we did claim the right of deciding whether the treaty expired in 1842 or 1844. We consulted no other power; and I apprehend we should have resisted it as an unwarrantable interference on the part of other powers, if they had told us that we should construe the treaty, and that they had the right to interfere to define the period at which it expired? Russia, then, having her treaties, considered it her right to protest against what had taken place in Servia. She alleged that the Servians, having a right to the free choice of their chiefs, the election ought to be determined according to certain principles and certain forms, that the election in November, 1842, was not in conformity with the stipulations of the treaty into which Russia had entered with Turkey in favour of Servia, and that she had a right to protest against it; and she did require from the Porte that the election of 1842 should be set aside, and certain parties to that election compelled to resign. The noble Lord says it was treachery of England to defer to Russia as to the construction of the treaty, and not to encourage the Porte in resisting the demands of Russia. The noble Lord assumes that all that England did was to place her discretion under the control of Austria. I consider that the noble Lord is totally misinformed on the subject; but this I think no man will deny; that before England undertook to lend her countenance and support to Turkey in resisting the construction put by Russia on the three treaties, it was the right and it was the duty of England to consider well the course taken by other powers which had as direct an interest in Servia as England 827 had. The noble Lord says, that Austria is one of the most powerful military countries in Europe: that her energies are greater than they are supposed to be; that she appears to remain passive, relying upon her strength; but that if that force should be called forth in a just cause, it would be found to be greater than it is thought. Well, here is this great military power, having an interest in maintaining peace on her own frontiers and in the adjacent provinces, and whose course must have a material weight and influence upon the decision of other countries. When England undertakes to inform the Porte that Russia is wrong and Turkey right—that Russia has no right to place a construction upon the treaties, and undertakes to encourage Turkey to resist Russia, she ought first to well weigh the consequences of such resistance. What the noble Lord means by the moral countenance and support to be given to Turkey, is neither more nor less than this, resist the demand, and in that resistance you shall have the support of England. To tell Turkey that Russia is guilty of an infraction of the treaties, to tell her to resist in the cause of Servia, means nothing more nor less than this, "If in your resistance you should not succeed, and you are threatened by Russia with hostilities, you may rely not merely upon the moral, but the physical support of England, and that support we promise you." Before entering into such engagements you should consider well the extent of the support upon which you could rely. You should consider well—for you are at perfect liberty to do so—whether the object to be gained is one which so closely and intimately affects the interest of England, that war upon such a ground is justifiable. If we are to act upon the principles for which the noble Lord appears to contend, I venture to say that opportunities for war will present themselves more frequently than the noble Lord probably anticipates. If you undertake to promise moral countenance and support in every direction, one of two things must necessarily happen—either, having made these promises of support, you will, in case of necessity, recede from them; or, if you act upon higher and more chivalrous principles, and fulfil your implied engagements, there will be no end to the hostilities with which the country will have to contend, and in which she will still be involved. But I apprehend that 828 the noble Lord has not himself always acted upon this principle. I apprehend that, retaining the opinions he has avowed as to moral right, he did on many occasions consider whether he had the physical power to sustain his views. The noble Lord has said this evening that Greece, in consequence of engagements entered into with us, has a right to demand from her government free institutions—that in consequence of engagements to which England was a party, Greece has a right to expect a constitutional form of government. In his opinion that was an engagement which this country is bound to fulfil; but he said that two other powers, France and Russia were parties to the engagement, and as he could not procure their co-operation and assistance, he was unwilling that England should singly fulfil the engagement for which she was responsible. I think I have heard the noble Lord declare in this House that the free town of Cracow had a right to expect the residence of an English consul. In the face of this House and of Europe the noble Lord declared, not only that we had a right to send a consul, but that that right ought to be and should be exercised, and a consul should be sent. There was not only the conviction of the right, but a declaration that it should be exercised. The noble Lord did not however, adhere to that determination. He subsequently stated, and I think not unwisely nor imprudently, that finding on the part of Austria and Prussia objections to the recognition of a consul, which he had not anticipated, he had weighed the consequences of exposing the right against the necessity of departing from his public declaration; yet painful as it was to him to recede from his professed intention, he was not prepared to risk all the consequences of enforcing what he had declared to be right. The noble Lord stated, I think correctly, that there are limits to the exercise of what we may abstractedly consider to be right. Every prudent man will compare the consequences of different courses of action. He will compare the probability of success with the disadvantage that must arise from want of general concert and co-operation, and he will maturely and calmly weigh these considerations before he enters into engagements that are to be binding upon the honour of the country. At least, in not encouraging Turkey to resist the demands of Russia, we have taken a course 829 in unison with that of other great powers. Not making our decision dependent upon that of Austria, but acknowledging Austria to be, of all the great powers, the most intimately concerned in the affairs of Servia, her views, although not binding upon this country, did enter as an important element in the ground of our decision; for to encourage Turkey in respect to Servia, in opposition to Russia and Austria, would be an act of imprudence, for the consequences of which a Government would, I think, be justly responsible. And were the views of other countries at variance with ours? What was the view taken by France? The noble Lord accounts for the conduct of France, with regard to Servia, on the ground of France having acted apart from the other powers in the case of Syria. I think France would claim a right of independent action. I do not think she would be influenced by the consideration supposed by the noble Lord. I think the recollection of what has passed would lead her to take her own course with regard to Servia, if she thought her honour or her essential interests required it. So far from past events inducing France to abstain from maintaining Turkish independence, I apprehend they would have formed an incentive to France to engage in separate mode of action in the affairs of Servia. But I think the noble Lord is misinformed as to France having ever been inclined to tender different advice to Turkey from that which was given by England. The course taken by the two countries was governed by the same principles, and was practically in all respects the same; and from the commencement of these proceedings to the close, the cooperation of France and this country has been intimate and complete. I am now speaking on the supposition that the construction put by Russia on the treaties was at variance with the true and just one. I have shown that she had these treaties, that she had not the power to construe them according to her own tyrannical will, and subject to no responsibility; but, like other powers, she had a right, in the first instance, to state what her construction was, and that construction being placed upon them, it was the duty of England, being referred to by Turkey, before she gave advice to resist it, well to consider the consequence of that advice, and the degree of concert and 830 co-operation that was to be expected in case Turkey should fail to prevail upon Russia to withdraw her pretensions. I am saying this on the supposition of Russia putting forward a claim that was not justified; but before England undertook to vindicate the rights of Turkey in the province of Servia, it became her well to consider the nature of the transactions that had recently taken place there—it was right she should consider whether or no the deposition of one prince and the election of another was the universal act of a free people, intolerant of despotism, seeking for liberty, and proclaiming with one voice, their wish to govern themselves by their own authority. I cannot agree with the noble Lord that if corruption took place, if bribery were practised in the deposition of the ruling prince, that was an immaterial consideration when we were considering whether we should ally ourselves with the Servian people; and therefore I hold that we were bound, not only to consider our ability to support Turkey, but also to consider the character of the cause to which we should thus ally ourselves. As to the character of the events which occurred in Servia, our information of course was derived from the diplomatic agent who represented this country in that province. That gentleman was not appointed by the present Government. The diplomatic agent or consul, a gentleman of considerable ability, of strong prepossessions in favour of popular institutions, was selected by the noble Lord and received, I believe, special marks of his confidence, and immediately before the noble Lord's departure from office, the gentleman in question received the appointment of consul resident at Semlin. From that gentleman the information of the British Government was derived, as to the character of the events that took place in Servia. I told the noble Lord, that I had no objection to present the information which we had received on facts and occurrences in Servia, and I afterwards hesitated simply from a fear of prejudicing the interests of some who had taken a prominent part in those transactions, whose names were freely mentioned, and who appeared to be objects of suspicion, and to whom I thought it would be hardly fair to expose them to the consequences of personally referring to them. As I before said, I am sorry the noble Lord forces me to make reference to this 831 general information, but the charges which he has made against the Government, leave me no alternative but to refer to it, but of course I shall studiously avoid any reference to names or particular cases. I shall only state the general information we received with respect to the change of government which took place in Servia at the latter end of the last year. Observe, the Servian people had a right to the choice of their own chiefs, and to expect from Turkey no interference in that selection. The change of Government took place in 1842. Speaking of the state of Servia, immediately after the deposition of the family of Prince Milosch, and the substitution of the present prince, who was then re-elected, the diplomatic agent, in a letter dated the 9th of September, said—It is quite a reign of terror: the prisons of Belgrade are crowded with political prisoners, and Semlin is filled with refugees in consequence of the late change.On the 15th of September we were told, that—The recent election of a Prince was a mock election by the suffrages of successful rebels; that the treachery and corruption which had influenced the election were equally flagrant.On the 2nd of November we were informed of that to which I have adverted already, namely—The frightful condition of Servia under the new rulers; and I can assure your Excellency (this letter was addressed to Sir Stratford Canning) that the system of terror is hardly within Christian imagination. I now owe it to truth to make a further emphatic declaration, that the late changes in Servia were not brought about by the wishes of the nation; that the wealth, worth, and intelligence of Servia are against the present condition of affairs, and that the districts are almost to a man in favour of Prince Ghika. The better description of people, and even the laborious, labour under well-founded apprehension of torture and death.I will not refer to the distinct cases of torture here alluded to, as I hope there has been some mistake. I only wish to show, from the Consul's letters, what is the general state of the country. This gentleman, with full opportunity of personal inquiry, four months after, on the 4th of February in the present year, not under the first excitement, or subject to error from, misinformation, or shocked by the excesses, perhaps, inseparable from 832 great revolutions in Government, but writing, in February, 1843, from Semlin states—That the number of fugitives is still increasing. Within the last week more than 100 have escaped to Austria. They represent that the oppression in Servia is so unsupportable, that they preferred abandoning home and property to suffering under such a system any longer.This was the information which we received with respect to the mode in which the change of Government was, by a system of bribery and corruption; and the consequences have been such as I have mentioned. That is the information we have received from a channel upon which we can depend—the official agent selected by the noble Lord, whom we found in charge of British interests in that quarter. With respect to the events that occurred in Servia, combine these facts with what I before stated—that Austria was at least indisposed to interfere—that we were disposed to counsel Turkey to acquiesce in the demands of Russia—that Prussia did not take a different view from that of England—and that France was disposed to counsel concurrence—combining these facts with the information which we received as to the sort of interference which led to the change of Government, and the consequences of that change, in promoting contentment and happiness amongst the Servian people, have I not vindicated the Government against the charge that this country ought, on its own single responsibility, to have encouraged Turkey to resist the demands of Russia, and to have promised that moral countenance and support which implies physical countenance and support in case the moral influence should prove inefficient? What was the demand of Russia? I am not here to vindicate Russia, I am not the representative of Russia in this House; but the demand of Russia upon Turkey was to this effect:—"This election has been irregular, it has not been conducted in proper form, it has been brought about by Turkish authority, by means of corruption. I have a right to interfere for the rights of the Servian people. I have a right to demand that the election of their chiefs shall be conducted according to certain forms. What I require is, that there shall be a free election." Russia did not demand that Prince Milosch should be reinstated—she did not demand that the 833 prince who has been recently, and, as she said, irregularly elected should be excluded. Russia only required a new election by the Servian people, and Russia was prepared to abide by the result of that fresh appeal to the Servian people. That appeal has been made; the decision made at the first election has been confirmed, and I trust that Russia will abide by her own declaration; and the new election being in favour of the prince who was said to have been irregularly elected in the first instance, I trust that Russia will be prepared to respect the decision of properly constituted Servian authorities. There cannot be a question but the second decision corresponded with the first, and it is only a fair inference that the choice now made is in conformity with the general wishes of the Servian people. I understood that Turkey did assure Russia that other conditions of the treaties should be fulfilled. I do not understand whether those conditions have been complied with. The transaction is incomplete, the communications are pending. I have laboured under great disadvantage in consequence of the communications and accounts of the events being incomplete. I cannot consider myself justified, consistently with my duty to the Crown and the public, in laying on the Table the various communications with foreign powers which the noble Lord has called for; but I trust I have given such an explanation as will be considered to entitle me to call for the confidence of the House to that extent that the Government shall not be compelled to disclose communications, the disclosure of which would be prejudicial to the public interests.
§ Mr. Disraeli
said, that he was somewhat surprised that the right hon. Gentleman had laid so much stress on the information contained in the despatches of our consul at Serulin, since the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had in another place announced that this very consul must not be looked upon in any way as an authority. Nor was that very surprising This same consul had informed her Majesty's Government, that the Prince of Servia was an infatuated youth—placed on the throne by the intrigues and corruption of other persons, not by his own energy, but by the influence of his own character and in spite of the wishes of the people. It turned out that the infatuated youth was a man of mature 834 years, more than forty years of age, one who had received a finished education at the Military College at Odessa, and who possessed abilities that could avail themselves of this advantage. The re-election of this Prince was a complete answer to the consul's charges of corruption and undue means. He was the free choice of a free people whom that consul had stigmatised in his despatches as barbarous, but who might more justly be characterised as heroic. It might, indeed, be an answer to the noble Lord for the right hon. Gentleman to urge, that the statements on which the right hon. Gentleman relied, came from a consul of that noble Lord's appointing; but it was no answer to the House, and, certainly, of all Members, it was least an answer to him (Mr. Disraeli). For it might be in the recollection of the House, that on a recent occasion he had felt it his duty to call the attention of the House to the character of our consular establishment. On that occasion it had not been his object to enter into any personal details, his objection to the establishment being against the principle on which it was founded, which assumed a difference which he maintained did not exist between commercial and political interests. In illustration, however, of the fallacy of that principle, he had thought it necessary to refer to one or two recent appointments in this department, and, among others, he had particularly called the attention of the House to the appointment of the consul in question. He had mentioned, then, that this Gentleman had been recalled by the late Government from the post he then occupied for alleged misconduct; that he had not succeeded in clearing himself, to the satisfaction of the Government, from those charges; that the noble Lord opposite had refused to again employ him; and that, finally, in the very agonies of the expiring administration, he had by some influence which it was not then necessary to analyse, succeeded in being appointed to a post which he (Mr. Disraeli) then warned the House would before long become a place of great importance to this country. He asked the House whether what had since occurred had not justified his apprehensions. This consul had been called upon to act, and his conduct has been of a very ambiguous, not to say suspicious, character. He furnished information to his chief which has since been discovered to have been of a very deceptive nature, and that chief has publicly dis- 835 owned him as an authority. And yet they find the right hon. Gentleman to-night, vindicating his Government by some miserable extracts from the malicious correspondence of this very functionary! Why were they to believe on the authority of this consul, that the Servian chiefs were bribed, when on every other point he is acknowledged to be mistaken and to have misled? And if bribed in the first instance, how comes it that on the second, they confirm their choice? But were they to believe that the conduct of these transactions had been left entirely to this consul? Is that the answer of the right hon. Gentleman to the motion of the noble Lord? Were there no other despatches from no other persons? On this head the right hon. Gentleman was silent. The only extracts he read were from the despatches of the functionary who had been discredited. He confessed he could scarcely credit his ears when he heard the right hon. Gentleman to-night with regard to these strange proceedings, again referring for vindication to the treaties of Bucharest, and Akerman, and Adrianople. He remembered, some time since, to have made an enquiry of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to this interference of Russia in Servia, an enquiry couched, he believed, in Parliamentary language, and made with all that respect which he felt for the right hon. Gentleman, and to which the right hon. Gentleman replied, with all that explicitness of which he was a master, and all that courtesy which he reserved only for his supporters. The right hon. Gentleman had, then, also, referred them to the treaties of Bucharest, Akerman, and Adrianople, as offering the ground on which this interference was justifiable—and considering that there was not a single clause, nay, not a single expression, in any of those treaties on the subject,—the reference was remarkable. The right hon. Gentleman, however, to-night had laid down another principle for the conduct of England on this head and it was this: that it is our policy in these respects to pursue the same line adopted by the cabinet of Vienna. It was the cabinet of Vienna to which they were to look as to an oracle. Yet, in 1828, when an English Government, of which the right hon. Baronet, not the chief, was, at least, an eminent Member, in which the office of Foreign Secretary was filled by the same individual who now occupied the post, when that Government in 1828 was ap- 836 pealed to by Austria to interfere under similar circumstances, and for a similar purpose, was there the same superstitious following of the Cabinet of Vienna? Did they adopt the same line as the Cabinet of Vienna then? And yet the necessity of acting with Austria, and the authority of our Servian Consul, formed the only answer which the right hon. Gentleman had made to the comprehensive speech of the noble Lord! But the real question at issue was not to be disposed of by quotations from a consular despatch or intimation of the policy of a foreign Cabinet. What was that question? The real question was this, whether England would maintain the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire, and whether that independence and integrity were endangered by the late conduct of the British Ministry? That was the question as it was understood out of doors; as it was understood throughout Europe; and as some day it would be understood in that House. If ever the crisis arrived that had been so long threatened, he hoped the policy of the Government would be vindicated in a different manner to that which they had witnessed that night. If the existence of that ancient empire were at stake, he trusted they might be favoured with opinions more worthy of a statesman in a public assembly than such as could be called out of a consular despatch. He hoped, too, that their policy might prove somewhat more profound than the mere following of the councils of Austria, when she advised them to do nothing, and of not following Austria when she advised them to do something; for that seemed the policy now laid down by her Majesty's Government. But then it seemed that the right hon. Gentleman had a precedent for his vindication; an instance to justify a submission to events which might nevertheless be politically injurious and diplomatically unjust. There was, according to the right hon. Gentleman, the case of the Consul at Cracow. Always a Consul! And it was by such miserable instances that they were to regulate their policy when the fate of a great empire was at stake. The question now before them, involved a great country in the Danube, and affecting the various empires contiguous to the Danube, it involved the independence of Turkey, and we are not hound to interfere or to interest ourselves according to the right hon. Gentleman, because we had once declined to enforce the ap- 837 pointment of a Consul, which we had a right by treaties to insist upon. He believed, that the independence of Turkey never could be maintained by considerations so limited, and views so minute as they had been favored with that night. Now he (Mr. D'Israeli) wished to guard himself from being supposed to entertain those fanatical opinions respecting designs of Russia which were said to be prevalent in some quarters. He believed the designs of Russia to be none other than those that were perfectly legitimate, and pursued by means equally unimpeachable. He saw much to respect in Russia and in her conduct. He respected her nationality, he respected her intelligence, he respected her power. We, too, had nationality and power, but we were deficient in that intelligence, and especially with respect to the east, for which Russia was eminent. That intelligence was founded on an absolute knowledge of the subject. He thought that the great question of foreign policy was more simple than statesmen were inclined to admit it to be. To understand it, they must look at the map. There they might observe, that the two strongest positions were in the possession of the two weakest powers. Geographically they are almost the same. A straight of the ocean enters into an inland sea surrounded by illimitable forests; at once an emporium and an arsenal. Such were the Sound and the Dardanelles. As long as then the two strongest positions in the world were in the position of the two weakest powers, the present disposition of power might be maintained. But when one of them came into the possession of a first-rate state, then the balance of power would be disturbed to its centre, and if both fell under the same authority, then universal empire would be threatened. The noble Lord opposite knew full well that in expressing this opinion, he was not indulging in the mere speculations of political visionaries. The secret records of our Foreign Office, if he were not mistaken, would afford ample evidence, that there were views entertained by the greatest of practical statesmen. This then was the real position in which England with respect to this question found herself. Was it possible that there could be a weaker power than Sweden? Yes, there was Turkey. Was it possible that there could be a weaker power than Turkey? Yes, there was Sweden. With the Sound and the Dardanelles in the possession of these two powers, they were safe. 838 Yet they could not deny that Russia was approaching these two points, gradually, but regularly; sometimes even rapidly. In one year she had advanced nearer than three hundred miles to one of these positions. What then ought to be their policy? To maintain Turkey in that state by their diplomatic action, that she might be able to hold independently the Dardanelles. That however could never be the case, if the policy of her Majesty's Government with respect to Servia, (but he hoped in no other case,) was to be pursued. It was useless for them to pretend to disguise from themselves the state of Turkey. Turkey was prostrate; but not so much from natural decline, as from having been, as it were, stabbed in the back. It was the diplomacy of Europe during the last twenty years that had reduced Turkey to her present fallen state—not the decline of her resources. They were still unequalled. She had still the finest climate and the most fertile soil, and she was free from that evil which oppressed this and all other countries; she had no national debt. On what ground was the widely diffused assumption raised, that the regeneration of Turkey was hopeless? She had lost, according to some, her finest provinces? Be it so. So had England, little more than half a century back; more disgracefully, more disastrously. In 1780, it was thought, that the sun of England too, was set, because her American provinces had achieved their independence. Was Greece more indispensable to Turkey, than America to England? He did not think so. Turkey before this had been a very powerful state without Greece. Was the state of Turkey hopeless, because her armies had been defeated and her fleets destroyed? What state in Christendom would lay that down as an indisputable inference? or because her capital had been occupied by a foreign foe? Would that principle pass current at Paris, or Berlin, or Vienna, or even in the metropolis of Russia? Why this was a calamity that had befallen every state in Europe except England? But some there were, perhaps, who might reply; all this may be true as far as it goes, but the hopelessness of which regeneration exists in the fact of the inferior numbers of its Moslemin population. Why, the Moslemin population of the Turkish empire bore a greater proportion to its general population, than the German population of the Austrian empire bore to its general population. Austria, he main- 839 tained, must have fallen long ago, if Austria had been treated like Turkey. He imputed no blame to Russia for this conduct; in the situation of. Russia their conduct would probably be the same. It was a fixed, deep policy, founded on ample knowledge; it was opposed by an uncertain, superficial policy, founded in ignorance. The House had now been sitting seven months, and this was almost the only debate that had occurred on their foreign policy. He must confess that it had elicited declarations from the right hon. Gentleman which filled him with sorrow, and he could not but hope that some Member of the Cabinet would rise and give them more joyful tidings. He could not but remind the House how often they were told that it would be better for them not to interfere in the foreign policy of the empire; and especially that since the House had been reformed, it would be much better for them to confine themselves to the consideration of their domestic interests. Now, what he asked, had been the result of this devotion to the consideration of internal affairs? Had the condition of the people been improved? Had the country prospered? Had the Treasury been more abundantly supplied? At this time last year, on the eve of prorogation, one county was in insurrection; now they heard of several. A principality, at least, was in outbreak, and a kingdom was menaced by a rebellion. Were they then to say, "Let Russia act as she likes. What is Servia to us? Let us disregard the wars it may entail, the ultimate waste of treasure and of blood it may occasion. We have devoted our energies to trade. See how it is flourishing! We have secured the civil rights and material progress of the people. Lancashire is content; Wales in profound peace; Ireland loyal. "Was this the language they were to use." He repeated that their policy with respect to the East, made them at this moment the laughing-stock of Europe; and as to their domestic situation, was there any one who could deny, that, in returning to their counties, they would not meet dissatisfaction and distress? This was the thirteenth session of their reformed Parliament; and again he asked them, what had they achieved by their devotion to domestic politics, from which they had promised themselves so much?
§ Mr. M. Milnes
was perfectly willing to rest the question on the ground it was placed on by the hon. Member for Shrews- 840 bury—viz., the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire. He had heard with great regret, that the right hon. Baronet had not seized the opportunity of that motion to condemn the assumption of power over Servia by the Russian government. When the right hon. Gentleman drew an analogy between the protectorate exercised over Servia and other provinces by the Ottoman empire, he might have remembered that there were other cases of protectorateship beyond those which he had cited. France asserted a supremacy over the Christian populations of the East, as Russia did over Servia, and yet they never heard of the French government interfering in the domestic policy of the populations for which she was interested. The doctrine of qualified interference, to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred, he considered as exceedingly dangerous. He was glad to think that a check was to be put upon the policy of Russia, and that that check would come powerfully from England, when the noble Lord, the Foreign Secretary, understood that he had been misinformed as to the election of Prince Alexander George, and what were the real feelings of the Servians; but perhaps it was too late to set about asserting the rights of the Servian people. In this respect he considered they were indebted to the interference of the Foreign Secretary.
§ Dr. Bowring
believed, that both the late and the present Government had been exceedingly ill-informed as to the state of affairs in Servia, and it was not, therefore astonishing that mistakes had been committed. Russia took advantage of our want of information, and allied herself with the popular side in Servia. Until our consular establishments were altogether reformed, Government would always be liable to be misled, and sometimes betrayed, by the imperfect information they received with regard to foreign affairs.
§ Viscount Sandon
was glad to hear the explanation that had been given by her Majesty's Government. He could not expect expressions of a very bold character from the Government, considering the negotiations they had to carry on with foreign powers; nor until the transactions commented on have been finally concluded. There were some points which he had heard from them with particular satisfaction. He 841 did not consider that the attacks made by Gentlemen sitting behind, on her Majesty's Government in that House were becoming. He did not think that it was seemly on the part of younger Members of that House, to rise up behind her Majesty's Ministers whom they pretended to support, and not only express a difference of opinion, but to heap the grossest terms of contumely and opprobrium on those whom they affected to support. He entertained not only this opinion himself, but he knew that it was also entertained by a large number of Members of that House, who agreed with him in thinking that such language as had been used that night by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, and on other occasions by other hon. Members, was not seemly coming from gentlemen who pretended to support her Majesty's Government. With respect to the taunts that fell from the noble Viscount, as to not furnishing information, or showing more activity with respect to Servia, he must say that he wished the noble Lord had done as much with regard to Poland as the present Government had indirectly done with regard to Servia. For the ten years he was in office as Foreign Secretary, no one could have acted with more caution in giving explanations, or could abstain with more care than the noble Lord from giving information on all points connected with foreign matters then under attention. The noble Lord certainly talked of Belgium and China, and of other places; but he never would, until matters were closed, place the papers connected with the negotiations in these quarters on the Table of the House. He had often also been asked for explanations with regard to what was going on in Poland, but the noble Lord constantly refused to furnish any information. He wished that he could have seen some of that moral support given to Poland which the noble Lord complained had not been given to Servia, for if they had, he believed Poland would have been in a very different situation from what it now was.
was not aware of having used any gross terms of contumely to the right hon. Baronet or any of his colleagues. Certainly he had not intended to have used any personal terms of reproach, nor did he believe that he had. Perhaps the noble Viscount would mention the expressions he alluded to.
§ Viscount Sandon
could not at the mo- 842 ment refer to the exact words to which he alluded, but he would appeal to the House whether the hon. Member had not resorted to a string of the grossest terms and stigmas against the right hon. Baronet and the present Government. Perhaps the expression grossest contumely was too strong, but still he thought he was justified at the moment in using it.
observed, that the remarkable circumstance of the case was, that the noble Lord could not repeat one of these gross terms of contumely which he stated had been used. He trusted that at any rate the noble Lord would state what he alluded to.
§ Viscount Sandon
said, that the expression to which he more particularly referred was the term disgraceful conduct, as applied to her Majesty's Ministers, which he considered to be a term of gross contumely as coming from one who affected to support the Government.
§ Mr. Hume
thought that the speech of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury was character by sound sense, and that the hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in condemning that constant meddling foreign policy which had so long been suffered to go on. As for the censure which the noble Lord had passed on young Members expressing their opinions in that House in an independent manner, he must say that it was altogether uncalled for and unjustifiable. He conceived the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, or any other, was as fully entitled to express their opinions as the noble Lord. He thought also, that thanks were due to that hon. Gentleman for haying brought under the notice of the House, on more than one occasion, the lamentable defects of our consular department, and that it would have been well if many of his suggestions had been previously attended to. He thought that the attack of the noble Lord on the hon. Gentleman was most undeserving, and the right bon. Gentleman, so far from censuring him, ought to thank him for the information which he had given to the House. He could not agree with the noble Lord in censuring the right hon. Baronet for his conduct in this matter, for he had long thought that this country had too long interfered with the affairs of foreign countries, and had left home matters untouched. He conceived that it rather behoved the noble Lord to vindicate his own character, for constant interference with the affairs of foreign countries, which he hoped that he would 843 do at some time or other, instead of indulging there in censuring the present Government for not following his example.
§ Mr. Smythe
did not rise to discuss this subject, but rather in consequence of the charge which had been made by the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, against certain young Members, sitting on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. [Viscount Sandon had only referred to the speech of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury.] He willingly admitted that he knew nothing of this subject except by hearsay, unless he had some hereditary information. But he thought, although he was only acquainted with the rudiments of the question, he had no difficulty in convicting the noble Lord of the most gross ignorance; but, perhaps, that was not a Parliamentary expression, although gross contumely might be; and the gross ignorance of which he accused the noble Lord, in speaking of this question was with reference to the protection of Russia. The noble Lord spoke as if that protection were acknowledged, and as if it had not been continually and often protested against by the noble Lord opposite. He would appeal upon that question to any Gentleman who knew anything of the relations of the Ottoman Porte, and Austria, Russia, and France. He would merely add, that if he had ventured to attack on many occasions the do-nothing policy of this Government, which had been so signally exposed by the noble Lord, his attacks had been directed against that policy, and not against the Ministers.
§ Mr. Curteis
said, that as an independent Member of that House he thought the attack of the noble Lord very unfair and unjust towards the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, for undoubtedly the noble Lord had no right to read that kind of lesson to the hon. Gentleman, for he had listened most attentively to the speech of the hon. Gentleman, and he had not heard anything to sanction the words used by the noble Lord as to the hon. Gentleman having said anything that could be construed into gross contumely and insult towards the right hon. baronet. He was sure, that if the hon. Gentleman had done so, the Speaker would have felt it his duty to have interposed. If hon. Gentlemen on the other (the Ministerial) side of the House would not speak out—if they were to be chained by the Treasury Benches—he could only say that he for one was very sorry for it. He was not shackled by party, and he 844 could not help thinking that the hon. Gentlemen the Member for Shrewsbury had been perfectly right in speaking independently, and delivering his sentiments to the House and the country. Upon the motion itself he would only say, he believed that Russia was acting most arbitrarily towards Servia, and he should give his independent vote—not pledged as a party man—to the motion now before the House.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that as an impartial spectator, if he were allowed to express an opinion, he must say that there was nothing in the speech of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, that, in his opinion, was calculated to call forth the very great warmth of remark that fell from the noble Lord. It did not appear to him that there was anything un-parliamentary in what the hon. Gentleman said; and he had, before then, heard parties who generally supported the Government, but sometimes differing in opinion from the Government, express their opinions as strongly as the hon. Gentleman had done without any indication on the part of the Government that those attacks were un-parliamentary. The right hon. Gentleman began by stating that Russia had treated with the Porte, and appeared to think that he had omitted to take that circumstance into consideration. His argument, however, was that she had treated with the Porte, undoubtedly as to Servia, and therefore, stood in reference to Turkey and its provincial powers in a different manner front the other powers who signed the treaty of the Dardanelles, the stipulations of which appeared to confer the rights she claimed to exercise. The right hon. Baronet said that very considerable Powers did claim of themselves to put their own interpretation upon treaties with other Powers, without previous consultation with any other Powers. He never meant to say the contrary of that. He was quite ready to admit that very great Powers would interpret their own treaties; but his argument was, that if Powers did in exercise of that right put upon a treaty with another Power a construction which that treaty did not justly bear out, other Powers were equally entitled to come with a friendly representation to that Power, and state their reasons why they thought her interpretation wrong, and to push their reasoning as far as the importance of the case would lead them to think expedient. Undoubtedly the British Government, 845 when the late Government had the conduct of affairs, would not have considered it showed any want of respect to them, or any interference with their just independence, if, as for instance in the case of the treaty of Brazil, Russia and France had said, "We think you put an overstrained construction upon that treaty, and allow us to state our reasons for that opinion." They would have been perfectly ready to enter with any other Power which they had thought was entitled so to do into the consideration of the matter, and if they showed to the satisfaction of the Government that their construction was not borne out, they would have been prepared to admit what they should then have thought the justice of the case. With regard to the hereditary right, the right hon. Gentleman fancied that the hereditary right did not exist in Prince Milosch until the grant by firman, in 1830. But on enquiry, he would find that it was confirmed by the Servians before that, in 1817, afterwards in 1826, and again in 1827; and even after the war was terminated by the peace of Adrianople, the Sultan gave a confirmation of that hereditary right. The right hon Gentleman had also mistaken the drift of another argument which he had used, which was, not that this Government ought nakedly and simply to have advised the Porte to resist, but that this country ought to have united herself with Austria, and that if Austria was in the first place convinced that the demands of Russia were not justified, and France was prepared to support that, England ought to have united herself with those two Powers; and his argument was further, that if those three Powers had gone, not to Turkey, but to Russia, and stated, fairly and fully their reasons, and endeavoured to convince Russia that her demands were not founded upon a just interpretation of the treaty, he could not help thinking that those representations must have had a very material effect upon the demands of the Russian Government. But he must firmly protest against the argument used upon that occasion, not for the first time, but often resorted to in that House, namely, that the Government was never to express an opinion to any other Power in the world in dissent of the course that Power was about to pursue, unless the Government were prepared immediately to go to war it, support of their opinion. But it had been justly 846 observed, what was the meaning of diplomatic relations if there were no medium between amicable representations and war? War was a great evil, no doubt, but it was as great, if not a greater, evil to all the other countries of Europe; and if England were indisposed to go to war without an overruling necessity, it should not be supposed that continental states were of so fiery a character as to be ready to plunge into all the horrors of war on behalf of pretensions which had no foundation. It was by timely representations that war was to be prevented: and if from a foolish and unfounded feat of the immediate approach of that which could only be the ultimate result, we were to allow wrongs to be multiplied, and our rights to be trampled on, our apathy would only raise up for us greater difficulties than those from which we shrank; while by timely and friendly interposition we might have prevented great evils, we should find ourselves insensibly involved in the gulf whence we were desirous of preserving ourselves. Russia was too great a power to be affronted by a representation, if ever she was indisposed to regard it; and if our representation were founded in reason and justice, it would be sure to have the greatest weight. The right hon. Baronet was right in saying that the late Government had given due weight to prudential considerations; as was the case of the Cracow consulship—of which, the risk appearing greater than the benefit, it was relinquished. But in the case of Servia, great was the object to be accomplished, and the House had yet to learn that which had been avoided. The same considerations of prudence had undoubtedly occurred in the cases of Greece and of Poland, as to which latter case the Government of Lord Grey had certainly felt that Russia was acting in violation of the treaty of Vienna, but Austria, Prussia, and Russia were agreed on the question; and what means had we of enforcing our demands except by a war, in which we might or might not have had the co-operation of France—a course which no man could think would have been expedient? However, the late Government had enforced its views by representations and remonstrances, which had not been attended to; and, under those circumstances it was, that further interference had been relinquished. If the right hon. Baronet had said that the Government had taken a 847 similar course in Servia, his case would have beeen stronger; but it did not appear that the Government had used their influence with Russia on the question, but that they had been deterred by apprehensions of war. He could not avoid saying a word on what had been represented of the means of information possessed by Governments in this country. He knew not what might be in the power of the present Government; but he could say as to the preceding Administration, that no Government in Europe was better informed of what was passing in every part of the world; and he had the means of comparing the information thus acquired with that possessed by other Governments; and though he could conceive that the Consul-general of Servia, when recently arrived at his post, might have been misled, the Government at home should have made allowances for inexperience, and have availed themselves of the means they had in their power of correcting possible errors, by comparing the information they received with that received by foreign friendly Governments. Of course, when the right hon. Baronet declared that the transactions in question were not yet closed, and that it would be inconvenient to the public interests to produce the papers asked for, he should not divide the House, although he could not help observing that the Government to which he belonged had produced papers on some occasions before the transactions to which they related had closed; as in the case of Belgium. But he would never deny to a servant of the Crown the right of refusing papers on his own responsibility; and, though, perhaps, he might demand the production of those of which the right hon. Baronet had read extracts, he would wave the privilege, as they had not put the case fairly before the House. He would not, therefore, press his motion; but at the same time he would not withdraw it.
§ Motion negatived.