§ Viscount Palmerston
I gave notice of my intention merely to make some observations upon the affairs of Syria, believing that there would be some Motion before the House to which my observations might be appended; but as I now find that there is no Motion before the House, it is necessary for me to make a specific Motion, for the purpose of enabling the right hon. Gentleman to make such statements as he may deem proper; and, therefore, with the permission of the House, although I have not given notice of my intention to do so, I shall move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for copies or extracts of correspondence relative to the affairs of Syria, in continuation of those already presented to the House. It is not my intention to occupy for any length of time the attention of the House; but, it is my wish, before Parliament separates, to draw the attention of the House and of the Government to two points which are embraced in the Papers that have been laid before us. The House is aware that when, in 1840 and 1841, the Allies thought it necessary to take steps to restore Syria to the direct authority of the Sultan, that part of Syria which is commonly called "The Mountain," which, in fact, consists of the highlands of Lebanon, was governed by the late Emir Beschir Shebab. He was 1523 then enlisted in the interests of Mehemet Ali. He was summoned to return to the allegiance of his proper Sovereign; and delays occurring in his compliance with that summons, a specific time was named, within which he was to return to his allegiance, or to be deposed, and have a successor appointed in his room. The late Emir Beschir did not comply with that summons made to him in the name and authority of his Sovereign. He was deposed—and deposed by British officers, acting under authority given to them by the Sultan; and in his stead was appointed a relative of his, the late Emir Beschir el Kassim, who was then holding no public situation, but living at the head of his clan and family. The Emir Beschir el Kassim continued to exercise the authority belonging to his appointment for, I think, something rather more than a twelvemonth; but in the beginning of 1842, or at the end of 1841, in consequence of the civil war that broke out between the Druses and the Maronites, the Emir Beschir el Kassim was besieged in his residence at Deir-el-Kamar. He was called down by the Governor of Sidon, was found to be incompetent from age and infirmities to carry on the difficult government of the Lebanon, was deposed, and was afterwards sent to Asia Minor. On his passage from Deir-el-Kamar to Beyrout, in obedience to the orders of the Turkish Governor, he was plundered by the Druses of all the property he had intended to carry with him, and his own house, with all that was in it, was afterwards burnt by the Druses. The Emir Beschir el Kassim claims from the Turkish Government payment of his salary for the period during which he administered the affairs of the Lebanon. He claimed also compensation for losses by the plunder to which he was exposed in his journey down to the coast, and for lands of which he had been deprived when the disturbances took place. These claims were admitted to be, to a certain extent, founded on fair and just grounds. In the firman given to him, it was declared that a grant should be made to the amount to which he is entitled. Although his claim is thus admitted, yet he has not been able to obtain any payment whatever. Now, I consider that the British Government is bound in honour to see that claim discharged, at least such part of it as can be properly substantiated. It was by officers of the British Government, acting under the authority of the Sultan, that he 1524 was induced to accept the appointment of Emir Bechir. In accepting it he certainly rendered an important service; in consequence of taking that appointment he suffered greatly; and, therefore, care ought to be taken that he should receive just compensation. If he had remained a private individual, in no commanding office, he might, in all probability, have retained possession of the property of which he was master at the time. I must say, that on the perusal of the last set of Papers which have been laid before Parliament on this subject, it does not appear to me that Her Majesty's Government have shown the energy which they ought to have displayed in obtaining for this individual the compensation to which he has just claims. After a long correspondence, an instruction has been given to our Ambassador at Constantinople by no means sufficient, considering the just influence that in this matter we are entitled to exercise. The instruction I refer to is dated January 29,1845:—With reference to my despatch of the 20th July last, I transmit to your Excellency herewith a copy of the letter which he has addressed to Sir Charles Napier, complaining that the firman for his indemnification, a translation of which was contained in your despatch of the 31st December, 1843, has not been carried into effect. I have to instruct your Excellency, should the statements contained in the Emir Beschir's letters prove to be correct, to take such measures as to you may seem most likely to induce the Porte to carry out the terms of the firman in question.In a matter in which the honour and good faith of the British Government are engaged, it is not enough to tell our Ambassador that which he is bid to do here; the British Government should have sent to Sir Stratford Canning a decided note to be presented in their name, calling upon the Porte to do that which they were justly entitled to expect the Porte would do. That, then, is the first point. It does not appear to me that the British Government have taken with sufficient energy measures to fulfil those engagements which it and the Porte are bound to fulfil. More efficient instructions ought to have been sent, or an urgent note might have been sent to the Ambassador; and not these vague and loose instructions which the British Government have been content with giving. The larger subject is the unfortunate condition in which Syria has of late been placed. I am quite aware that this is a matter attended with considerable 1525 difficulty. It is by no means a simple affair. On the one hand, the Government of England, and the Governments of Austria, Russia, and Prussia, who were parties with England to the operations in 1840 and 1841, entered into certain engagements with the people of Syria, which it is essential to their honour to see fulfilled; and, on the other hand, it must be admitted that the fulfilment of these engagements involves a departure from the ordinary rules which guide Governments in their relations with other Powers; because there is not any thing more at variance with international obligations, than that one Power should interfere with another in regard to the manner in which that Power treats its own subjects. It is only in consequence of special circumstances connected with the operations in Syria, that we have a right, or are obliged, to address ourselves to the Sultan with regard to the affairs of Syria. We did contract engagements there which we are bound to fulfil. The object of the Four Powers and of the Sultan, in 1840, was to induce the people of Syria to take up arms against the usurped authority of Mehemet Ali; to declare in favour of their legitimate Sovereign, the Sultan; and to return to that direct allegiance to him which was due to him as their supreme monarch. To effect this object, the Allied Powers had recourse to two methods. First, the Syrians were supplied with arms; and then inducements were held out to them to employ those arms in the service of the Sultan. These inducements consisted in certain promises made by the Sultan, and guaranteed by the Allied Powers. The Sultan's promises were not made through the Turks, but through British naval and diplomatic officers, specially authorized and empowered by the Porte to make these promises; which were, that if they returned to their lawful allegiance, and assisted in expelling the army of Mehemet Ali, they should be relieved from the oppressions they had for several years suffered, and their liberties and privileges should be restored to them. Now, as that has not been done, on that ground the British Government is entitled to take further steps, and, in my opinion, is bound to take those steps. The position of Syria is a very peculiar one. It is not a mere province—it is not inhabited by one race alone, nor by people of one religion alone. The people in the central part of Syria, commonly called the Mountain, the highlands 1526 of Lebanon, consist of two different races, professing different religions. First, there are the Maronites, who are a sort of Christians; and, on the other hand, there are the Druses, a sort of Mohammedans; not that they actually belong to the Mussulman faith, but having a faith peculiar to themselves, are yet considered by the Turks as nearly allied to the Mussulman belief. These two races are not separated by any distinct geographical distribution. It is not that in one part of the Lebanon Maronites are to be found, and that the Druses are inhabitants of another. They are not parted from each other as the people of Westmoreland are parted from the people of Cumberland; nor is there any well-defined local distinction in situation between them. The two races are intermixed, though in one part the Maronites predominate, and in another part the Druses. There are portions wherein the Maronites may be found as the proprietors of the soil, and the Druses as the serfs or peasants; and there are others in which the Maronites stand to the Druses in the position in which peasants stood to their lords under the feudal system. In fact, the whole of Syria is organized on the system of a feudal constitution. That system existed when the Emir Beschir was in authority, and the whole country was governed by an officer bearing that title. This created difficulty; for if one man governs the whole province, and if he be, as for a long time happened, not a Turk but a native chief, either Maronite or Druse, he must exercise authority over men of the other creed, as well as over those of his own race, and thus govern at once two populations, who are, moreover, animated with the greatest possible antipathy the one to the other. When, therefore, the late Emir Beschir el Kassim was removed from office, a question arose as to how the Lebanon was to be governed. The Emir Beschir el Kassim belonged to the family of Schehab, a Maronite family, that for a great number of years were princes of the Lebanon. He was an old man, between seventy and eighty years of age—he was infirm, he had a paralytic affection, he was deficient in energy and talent—and he had to perform a difficult task. It was evidently impossible, under him, to preserve the peace of the Lebanon. Where men divided in interest, or strongly opposed in feeling, are separated by position, or prevented by circumstances from coming in constant contact with each other, it 1527 is a matter of less difficulty to prevent those feuds which are naturally incident to their social condition and religious differences from assuming the character of religious war; but when such men are intermixed, as they are in the Lebanon, occupying the same village, dwelling on the same land, constantly meeting in the same town, it evidently requires a vigorous hand, a powerful head, a strong, determined will, together with a sound judgment, to repress that tendency to disorder which must exist in such a state of society. When the late Emir Beschir was removed, there appeared to be no member of his family in all respects fit for the government of the Lebanon. There was but one person who could be thought of—that was the Emir Haidar, a man who possessed more education than is generally to be met with in persons of that part of the country—for he was a native of the mountain districts—but at the same time he was not thought altogether fit for the very responsible situation of governor. Then the differences which had arisen between the Druses and the Maronites, and the bloody conflicts that had taken place between those two races, rendered it necessary for the Sultan and the Five Great Powers, who were in communication with him on the subject, to endeavour to make some arrangement that should provide for the better government of that part of Syria, without exposing either the Druses on the one hand, or the Maronites on the other, to the inconvenience of being subject to the dominion of a governor belonging to the rival race. After much communication between them, and after full consideration by, the parties, a plan was proposed in the year 1842, which, I think, was well calculated, had it been carried into effect, to attain the object in view. It was proposed that, instead of one governor, two governors should be appointed; that there should be a Druse governor for the Druses, and a Maronite governor for the Maronites; it was proposed that those two governors should be, of course, subordinate to the Turkish Government, but that each respectively should be the governor of that part of the population to which he by birth and religion belonged. This plan was sufficiently simple as far as it went, but it did not entirely remove the difficulty which arose from the mixed location of the population; and it became a matter of consideration and of some difficulty to decide what should be done as to those villages 1528 and districts which were inhabited by Druses and Maronites jointly. An arrangement, however, was proposed which appeared pretty well calculated to overcome even that difficulty; and it was further suggested, as a part of the plan, to guard against oppression and injustice, that permission should be given to the people, whether Druses or Maronites, in those mixed districts, to retire within that part of the province which was administered by a governor of their own race. That is to say, that in a mixed village in which the majority were Maronites and the minority were Druses, the Druses would be permitted to retire to the adjoining district where the government was under the control of a Druse governor. And in the same way, in those villages where the Maronites formed the minority of the population, they might retire and place themselves under the direct rule of a Maronite chief. And it was proposed further, that as this emigration would necessarily be attended with some sacrifices and losses to the people who might avail themselves of the permission, compensation should be made by the Porte for the value of their property, which upon being sold might not realize its proper amount. In favour of this plan the Five Powers appeared to have been unanimous; and when the Five Powers are unanimous in a matter of this kind, it is to be presumed that they are right; and it was natural to expect that their policy, if carried out, would be successful. I say, it may be presumed they are right, because when Five Powers, having such various and conflicting interests as England, France, Austria, Russia, and Prussia, agree to recommend any plan to the Sultan, it is evident it must be founded on a clear understanding of the interests of the Sultan; for no four of the Five Powers would ever concur in a plan adapted to promote the interests of any one of the five, whichsoever that one might be. This plan then, I say, was founded on a right understanding of the interests of the Sultan, and it was a plan which seemed to be easy of execution. It is clear, moreover, from the correspondence we have before us, that it would have accomplished its purpose. It is evident from the Papers on the Table, that if it had been earnestly and sincerely taken up by the Porte—if means had been taken to give the proper compensation to those who might desire to emigrate into a neighbouring 1529 district—if the two governors had been appointed, and had received from the Turkish authorities on the coast that support in money for their expenses, and in a small number of troops to maintain their authority, which the Porte ought to have given, that arrangement would have been carried into effect, and by that means the peace of Syria would have been maintained, and the inhabitants of that part of the Turkish Empire would have possessed greater comforts, advantages, and happiness, than the inhabitants of any other part of the dominions of the Porte at this moment enjoy. But although this plan—a plan promising so many and such great advantages—was proposed in the year 1842, it does not appear that up to the present time it has been carried out; but instead of it, we find that constant delays have been interposed by the Turkish authorities, and various pretences have been assigned for not carrying that arrangement into execution. Two very high Turkish officers were sent to Beyrout; but instead of appointing a Maronite governor and a Druse governor, and giving them the money necessary for their expenses, and furnishing them with troops—a small number would have been sufficient—to support their authority, these Turkish officers sent, time after time, to the inhabitants of the different districts to ask them whether the proposed arrangement was agreeable to them; and various objections being made by interested parties, they referred the matter back to Constantinople, and then every possible delay was interposed, every conceivable difficulty was started, and instead of showing an anxiety to carry out the arrangement, the authorities seem to have interposed every obstacle which it was in their power to bring against it; and the result was, that intrigues of all kinds had full scope. The members of the family of Schehab, to which the Emir Beschir belonged, were not so convinced as the Porte and the Five Great Powers were, that the continuance of their sway would not be advantageous to Syria; at all events, they were convinced that it would be advantageous to themselves; and no wonder, for the Emir Beschir had been guilty of every kind of corruption. There is no act of cruelty, oppression, extortion, and rapine that he was not—I believe justly—accused of. It appears that he caused on one occasion some individuals, members of his own family, to be seized and strapped down to a board, and their eyes to be put 1530 out with hot irons; and when one of them in his agony screamed louder than was altogether consistent with the Emir's repose, he directed his tongue to be slit in order to silence him. It was quite intelligible, therefore, that the Schehab family should not approve of this arrangement which had been agreed to by the Allies and the Porte, and that they should exert all the means their remaining wealth and influence in Syria gave them, for the purpose of bringing about their restoration to power. It is also easily to be understood that in a feudal country a great number of the chiefs who had profited under the dominion of that family should still retain a desire to have them restored to power. The power of the Emir had been profitable to those chiefs, and it was to be expected that a great outcry would be raised amongst the Maronites, with the view, if possible, to defeat the arrangement of 1842, and to restore to Syria the old system of government as carried on by the Emir Beschir. The Maronite clergy, too, had a similar interest; for their influence was likely to be greater while the whole country was under the rule of an Emir Beschir, than when the Druses had a chief of their own race and their own religion, and when the country was divided into two governments. All these parties, then, had a direct interest in defeating the arrangement of 1842. That arrangement being calculated to secure the well-being of Syria, and to render the people contented and happy, tended to render them obedient and loyal subjects, and to make them well-affected towards the Porte, and therefore it was conducive to the interests of the Turkish Government. It is not, however, to be expected that a Government like that of Turkey should always act in accordance with its own real interest. The important officers of the Turkish Government have personal interests of their own, separate from those of the State; and they felt that if neither of these two plans was to be adopted—if neither the Emir Beschir was to be restored, nor the two local governors were appointed, but if, on the other hand, a Turkish pacha were to be appointed to govern the whole of the district of the Lebanon, that government might become a source of profit to some of the officers of the Porte; and they took pains therefore, to represent it as likely to be more advantageous to the Porte itself, in point of revenue, than either of the other two courses. This was the calculation of corrupt 1531 and interested men—of ignorant men wholly blind or indifferent to the real interests of their country and their Sovereign: but it was the calculation of the Turkish officers; and therefore, in addition to the open resistance opposed to the intended arrangement by the Schehab family, and the Maronite clergy, came this under current of Turkish corruption and prejudice, and these together combined to create endless difficulties, delays, and obstacles to the arrangement proposed in 1842 by the Five Powers, and concurred in by the Porte. Well, Sir, unfortunately this resistance has prevailed—at the same time, I am bound to admit that the Turks do not appear to have done in these later times, for the purpose of defeating the arrangement, that which I fear it is proved they did in 1841—actually interfere to set one of these races in hostility against the other. In 1841, they instigated the Druses to attack the Maronites, with the view of weakening and disarming both parties—but especially with the view of reducing the power of the Maronites—intending, no doubt, when that object should have been accomplished, to turn upon the Druses, and disarm them in their turn. That, however, does not appear to have been the practice of the Turkish officers of late. On this occasion they have merely employed their influence as far as they could without glaring indecency exert it, to prevent the completion of that arrangement which the Porte promised the Allies to carry into effect. But, lately, the other influences I have spoken of appear to have produced an unfortunate effect. The Maronites, by the interest of the Schehabs and their friends, have obtained from some quarter or other large sums of money, and a fresh supply of arms and ammunition; possibly from the two Emirs Beschir, though they had been disarmed in their previous contest with the Druses. The Druses were armed also; a conflict of the most serious character took place, and for a time the whole of the country was a prey to all the horrors of civil war, This state of things appears to have been brought to an end for the moment, and a Convention has been concluded between the Druses and the Maronites under the mediation of the Turkish authorities; but still no effectual step has yet been taken to lay the foundation of any solid or permanent plan for securing the future peace of that unfortunate district. But what I contend is, that the Allied Powers, and especially 1532 the British Government, have not shown that energy they were entitled to display—and ought to have displayed—and which, if they had displayed, would, I think, have been attended with success. In saying this, however, I exempt from blame one officer of the British Government. There is one officer of that Government who has shown great activity, energy, and good sense, and has taken a just view of the state of things in the country where he is placed. I mean Colonel Rose, the British Consul General in Syria. I read with much satisfaction the despatches of that officer contained in the volume on the Table. I read them with much satisfaction, as I should naturally do any proof of the zeal and judgment of a British officer in the performance of his public duties; but the more so in this case, because Her Majesty was graciously pleased to appoint Colonel Rose during the period when I held the seals of the Foreign Office. I think the conduct of that officer throughout the whole affair is deserving of the greatest praise. On several occasions Colonel Rose was the means of preventing collision between the two contending parties. The advice he gave to the Turkish authorities has frequeutly prevented their doing very mischievous things, and taking steps that would necessarily have been attended with the most serious consequences; and, in one instance, by his own personal exertions — attended with great risk to himself—he had the good fortune and the happiness to save the lives of between 700 and 800 Maronites, whose dwellings had been burnt by the Druses, and who, if it had not been for his personal exertions, would have been victims of the cruelties of their enemies. But Colonel Rose, though displaying great ability and judgment himself, has not, I think, been well supported by such definite instructions from his Government as in his difficult position he was entitled to expect. It is true there are in the Papers on the Table several despatches approving of his conduct; but I see hardly any instructions to guide him. He seems, indeed, to have been left wholly to his own judgment and resources. No doubt the Government had entire confidence in that judgment; but Colonel Rose was entitled, in the peculiar circumstances in which he was placed, to receive not only approbation for what he had done, but some more especial and definite instructions as to the course which, in future, he was 1533 expected by his Government to pursue. Now, I do not see in any of these Papers, proofs that the British Government has shown that energy, acting in conjunction with its Four Allies, which, considering the nature of the Turkish character, it was necessary to display in order to put an end to this difficulty. Everybody who is at all acquainted with the habits of Turkish diplomatists, or has any knowledge of the dilatory character of the Turkish authorities in transacting affairs, must be aware that hints, inuendoes, suggestions, and side-wind propositions won't do. With such a people, if you wish to succeed, you must come at once to the point, and tell them what they are to do; and if you tell them also how they are to do it, and when they are to do it, they are still more likely to do it than if you leave the time and the mode to their own discretion. I say that the Allies were entitled to use different language to the Turkish Government, in this case, from that which they did use; they were entitled to press the matter as strongly as possible on the Turkish Government, and to tell them that they were trifling with the Allies, and were not sincerely acting upon their own promises and professions, and that something more distinct and effectual was expected from the Porte in carrying out the arrangements into which it had entered, than anything that had yet been done. Judging from former experience, I am justified in believing that if the Allies had adopted that course, many of the unfortunate events that have lately happened in Syria would have been prevented; and I say further, that unless some more energetic course be taken than has yet been had recourse to, Syria will continue to be a prey to those calamities with which it has of late been afflicted. I know there are some parties who think it is well to show, by the failure of all attempts to regulate the affairs of Syria, that the Turkish Government is not fitted to govern that country, and that it ought either to be given back to the rule of Mehemet Ali, or to be separated from the dominions of the Porte, and formed into an independent State. I am not for either of those courses. Neither of them would, in my opinion, conduce to the well-being of the Syrians themselves, or to the interests of the Turkish Empire. As an instance of what I have said as to the character of the instructions sent to Colonel Rose, I find that, on the 5th of June in the present year, a despatch was 1534 received at the Foreign Office from that officer, dated the 17th of May, 1845—an admirable despatch—giving the clearest and most perfectly developed view of the causes of the late insurrection. He states these causes to be, first, the misconduct of the Turkish Government—secondly, the intrigues of the Schehab family—thirdly, the difficulties arising out of the mixed location of the population—and, fourthly, the intrigues of the Maronite clergy. But he does not in this despatch state these things for the first time. These causes had been fully explained to the Government in previous despatches; but in this communication Colonel Rose sums up the whole at one view, and he gives shortly, but in the most clear and distinct manner, his reasons for charging to these four causes all the calamities that have befallen Syria. This despatch was received by the Government on the 5th of June; and what was the nature of the despatch which was written by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on the following day, to Sir Stratford Canning? On the 6th of June, Lord Aberdeen writes to Sir S. Canning to the following effect:—The present state of affairs in Syria has occasioned much concern to Her Majesty's Government"—It was scarcely necessary to tell him that—But they have been glad to perceive by the latest advices from Colonel Rose that measures were in progress for arresting the course of the hostilities which had broken out between the Druses and the Maronites.This could not help much either Sir S. Canning or Col. Rose. But we expect some particular result—the Government having felt so much concern, and having had explained to them by Colonel Rose the causes that had produced the state of affairs in Syria, it was natural to expect that the Government would have instructed their Ambassador what to do, either in connexion with the Four other Great Powers, or with the Turkish Government, to prevent the recurrence of similar calamities. But what is the conclusion to which the British Secretary of State arrives?Until the result of those measures is known, and a clearer insight obtained into the various circumstances which have led to and attended these distressing transactions, Her Majesty's Government are unable to arrive at any certain conclusion as to the course which it may be proper to follow, with the view of obviating, if possible, a renewal of civil war in the Lebanon districts.1535 Greatly must Sir S. Canning have been assisted by this despatch—a despatch following a detailed account of all that had passed in the Lebanon; and a full explanation of the causes that had produced it. When Her Majesty's Government are informed of all the causes that have led to certain events, which events are also made known to them, one would think that they should be capable of suggesting efficient remedies to prevent the recurrence of similar disasters, and more especially when it is recollected that these things were by no means new to them. This despatch, received on the 5th of June, sums up the whole of the causes, but they had been fully explained to the Government in the previous correspondence. I say, then, that the Government have shown throughout these transactions an indifference, a torpidity, and a want of that lively sense of the difficulties they had to deal with, and of the duties they had to perform, which warrant us in throwing upon them a part of the responsibility which attaches on account of those calamities which have occasioned them so much concern. This subject is one of great importance; it belongs not only to an English interest, but to a great European interest. It interests all Europe that the integrity of the Turkish Empire should be maintained. I will not undertake to discuss whether the magnificent countries now under the Turkish dominion might or might not be better governed by a more civilized Power. If you could put Constantinople and the Turkish Empire under the sway of an enlightened Sovereign, acquainted with all the wants and requirements of civilized life, no doubt that important part of the world would be in a different condition from that in which it now is. But we must deal with things as they are, and the question we have to consider is, whether it is not conducive to the interests of Europe, and not only conducive to its interests, but essential to its safety, that we should do our best to maintain the existing state of things, rather than pull down the present fabric, in order to set up something else in its stead? We are told that the Turkish Empire is a dead body, that it is a rotten tree—every kind of metaphor is used for the purpose of showing that the Turkish Empire is falling into decay, and that the Great Powers of Europe must proceed to divide the spoil even before the breath is out of the body. But the answer to this is, it will last our time if 1536 you will only let it alone. If the stronger Powers of Europe will only concur to assist the Turkish Government in improving its system of administration, and in maintaining its territorial integrity, I am sure that, as long as any man now living is likely to exist, the great danger to the peace of Europe, which must result from the falling to pieces of the Turkish Empire, may be successfully averted. If Turkey were likely to become what she was in past times—a great military and aggressive power, formidable to neighbouring nations—I could understand the policy of reducing its strength; but that is impossible; and those Powers who have interests in connexion with Turkey should deem it more to their advantage to have a quiet neighbour, which Turkey will always be, rather than to have an active and dangerous one. Those who say that the Turks are going backward in civilization, are in error. Compare the state of Turkey now with what it was half a century ago, and you will find, that in all that constitutes political and social civilization, Turkey is making, not rapid perhaps, but decided progress, in imitation of the Powers of Europe, Security to life and property is greater now than it ever was at any previous period in Turkey. The rule of the Turkish officers is now free from the arbitrary infliction of the penalty of death, which not many years ago was common. Schools are established; the army is organized upon the European model; instruction is given to the officers of the navy, and the hatti scheriff of Gulhanè, recently issued, gives guarantees to the life and property even of the Raya subjects. In fact, few countries have made so much progress in civilization within a given time as the Turkish Empire. Then, I say, give that progress fair play, and enable the Turkish Government to continue the course which it has entered upon. It is necessary that the Five Powers should in all respects be agreed; and I am glad to see, from those Papers, that in these affairs of Syria they are agreed. The Treaty of the Dardanelles, signed July 1841, between England, France, Austria, Russia, and Prussia, was, in effect, a record of the determination of those Powers to abandon all selfish views, and to unite together for the common purpose of preserving the Turkish Empire as it stands, and of assisting in securing the dominions of the Sultan. None of the Five Powers have any true interest in pursuing any other course. It may be 1537 looked upon as a moral certainty, that if any one of the Five Great Powers of Europe were to pursue a separate course with regard to any part of the Turkish dominions, under the expectation of gaining some selfish advantage thereby—in the first place, the advantage would be as nothing, if gained; and in the next, any such attempt would inevitably excite so much jealousy, so much ill-will and resistance on the part of the other Great Powers, that that one Power, would find itself vigorously opposed, and its endeavours successfully thwarted. But I am not afraid of any such event. I perceive here in these Papers, that all the Five Powers cordially, honestly, and sincerely concur in recommending to the Porte measures in regard to Syria which must tend to the advantage of the Sultan. Therefore, what is wanted is, not a correct understanding of what ought to be done, and not, perhaps, a good intention to do it, but that degree of energy in executing a purpose, without which the talents of the most able man can be but of little use, and the best intentions must be unprofitable. Therefore, feeling that those disturbances in Syria are of great moment, as bearing upon the tranquillity of Turkey, and that the tranquillity of Turkey is of high importance as connected with the preservation of the balance of power and with the maintenance of peace in Europe, I have felt it my duty on this, the last occasion on which during this Session I shall be able to do so, to state to the House that I think the Government have not shown in this matter that active energy which the nature of the case requires; and to express my hope, that when the House shall meet again, we shall have had no recurrence of these disasters and calamities in Syria, and that that arrangement which was recommended by the Five Powers, and acquiesced in by the Sultan, and which, I am persuaded, if carried into execution, would restore peace and tranquillity in Syria, will have been practically carried into effect; and by that means, we shall be relieved from the engagements by which we are now bound to the Syrian people, and from that perpetual interference with the affairs of another and a friendly State, which, is inconsistent with ordinary and just international usage, but which is in this case pressed upon us by the course of events, and by engagements which we are bound to fulfil. The noble Lord concluded by moving for the Papers he had described.
§ Sir R. Peel
Sir, I understand the noble Lord to admit that he finds in the Papers which have been lately presented to the House sufficient proof that the Five Great Powers of Europe, standing as they do in a peculiar relation with the Turkish Empire, have acted together in cordial concert, and that no one of them has been actuated by any desire to gain for itself any particular advantage; and that acting so in concert, they have offered advice to the Turkish Government, which, if adopted, would tend to promote the true interests of the Porte, and, at the same time, conduce to the restoration of tranquillity, and inspire a just confidence in the Government of the Porte. The noble Lord admits that he finds proof of this in the Papers on the Table of the House; but he says the Five Powers are not sufficiently energetic—they are not sufficiently decisive and determined in enforcing the advice they have so given. Now the relation in which the Allies stand to the Porte is a peculiar and a delicate one. You have to require from the Porte the fulfilment of certain engagements into which she has entered; but the sole end and object of your policy is to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire—and we have consequently imposed upon us this somewhat contradictory duty, we have to require the fulfilment on the part of the Porte of certain engagements into which it has entered relating to its own international affairs, and at the same time to promote the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire. The latter consideration—the wish to promote the independence, and maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire—may suggest itself as the reason why the Five Great European Powers, acting in concert, and giving to the Porte the best advice in their power, have been slow in adopting those measures which might be effectual in compelling obedience on the part of the Pone, but which might at the same time be fatal to its integrity and independence. When we delivered over Syria to the government of the Porte in 1839 and 1840, we could hardly have anticipated that the rule of the Porte over its Syrian subjects would be altogether satisfactory. I will not now call in question the policy which induced you to rescue Syria from the dominion of the Egyptians. I admit you had not merely to say whether the Egyptian rule of Syria was good or not, 1539 but whether you were prepared to rescue the Turkish Empire from the peril it was in from the advance of Mehemet All into its territories. You found the Egyptian troops under Ibrahim Pacha advancing into Syria in large force, which you thought the Porte had not sufficient means of resisting successfully; you found a conflict had actually taken place, in which the Egyptian troops had been victorious; and the question you had to decide was, whether, under the circumstances, the security of the Turkish Empire was not endangered, and whether the permanent interests of Europe, and the peace of Europe, did not require the immediate interposition of the European Powers, in order to arrest the advance of the Egyptian troops, and to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire? That, I apprehend, was the ground upon which, in 1839 and 1840, you determined to interpose, in favour of Turkey, first your good offices, and then your active interference. You may have been justified in doing this; danger might have arisen to Europe from the continued success of the Egyptians, and the imminent danger to the Turkish Empire may have justified you in delivering over the Syrians again to the Porte; but the main and pressing danger to Europe formed the ground on which you interposed to rescue the Porte from the danger in which it was placed. But you surely never anticipated that the domestic government of Syria by the Porte would be very easy or satisfactory. What have you done with respect to Greece? You found the Turkish Government so unfit to conduct the government of Greece, that this country, with France and Russia, interfered to establish Greece as an independent Power, and that on account of its misgovernment by Turkey — the continued anarchy in which the country was plunged, and the failure of the Turkish Government to put it down. Well, you determined to restore Turkish dominion in Syria; but immediately after the restoration of that dominion, when it might have been supposed that Turkey would have felt some gratitude to this country and the other Powers, did Turkey show any strong disposition to administer the affairs of Syria in the manner in which English statesmen might have wished them to be administered? The noble Lord has himself adverted to the state of Syria at that 1540 time, and to the disappointment of the assurances he had received from the Porte. After the rescue of the Porte from imminent peril, and the assurances which had been given by it that the government of Syria should be satisfactory—at that time, before the first bloom of gratitude was rubbed off, did the noble Lord find reason to congratulate himself on the conduct of the Porte, in reference to its promises to govern Syria properly? On the 25th of May, 1841, Lord Ponsonby wrote to Lord Palmerston in these terms:—
§ "Therapia, May 23, 1841.
§ "I have this evening (and fortunately in time for the messenger) extremely bad news from Syria. I must be as brief as possible. Reschid Pasha sent as governor to Damascus Hadji Nejid Pasha, a man who had been during many years Kapou Kiaja to Mehemet Ali (Pasha of Egypt). He has ordered the Christians not to enter Damascus on horseback, and prohibited the wearing any coloured clothes of a light and gay colour, and to dress in black, as in former days… … I entreat you to speak in the strongest terms to Chekib, for it is too bad that Nejib should be permitted to insult the Christians to whom his Sovereign is indebted for Syria, and be the cause of undoing all that we have done with so much trouble, for assuredly Syria will revolt if these men are allowed to act so as to irritate the whole Syrian nation." ….
That, then, was the result of what took place. On this point I am sure every one will agree with me, that though Mehemet Ali practised much cruelty, he still was able to maintain a sufficient army to prevent anarchy and to control rebellion. You handed over Syria to the Porte; but nothing was more difficult than to invest the Pone with the power of governing Syria, and to do that without interfering in the domestic affairs of Turkey greatly increased the difficulty. In almost the last despatch of Lord Ponsonby, I find a remarkable confirmation of this, contained in the following passage:—
I have further learned that the greatest dissatisfaction exists amongst the mountaineers and others in consequence of the non-execution of the promises generally of which Mr. Wood was the bearer. I have in consequence thought it right to detain here Mr. Wood, knowing that his return to Syria must be very mischievous in its effects under such circumstances; for the Syrians would demand from him why his promises are not performed, and Mr. Wood must either allow the Syrians to
hold him a liar and deceiver, and to charge the British Ambassador, and even Her Majesty's Government, with deceit and falsehood, or Mr. Wood must declare that the Porte is guilty of breaking its promises, and by so doing there would be an end put to the respite from mischief that has been obtained by the suspense in which the Syrians have been still held, and the hopes they have still nourished that we here should succeed in obtaining for them what had been promised to them. I thought it right to give the Ottoman Ministers credit for their repeated declarations, that Nejib Pasha and the other functionaries in Syria should be obliged to act in conformity with the spirit and letter of the promises of the Sublime Porte; but day after day, week after week, months have passed away, and nothing has been done. I have, therefore, given in to the Sublime Porte an official note, pointing out the evils that would ensue from the return of Mr. Wood to Syria, and further stating that not one of the arrangements agreed upon at the meeting held by the Internuncio and the Russian Minister and myself, and which were communicated to the Sublime Porte and accepted by the Porte, had as yet been acted upon, and terminating with the request that the Sublime Porte will give me a clear and satisfactory answer.
That was the state of things towards the close of Lord Ponsonby's embassy. This was followed by several promises, on which we relied, for the fulfilment of the engagements entered into with us; but those engagements have, unfortunately, not been fulfilled. I have no excuse to offer for their not being fulfilled; and I wish we had nothing else to lay to the charge of the Porte than a want of ability to fulfil those engagements. I do not know whether there is not even something worse than apathy in the case; there may be some worse motive, perhaps; but there can be no doubt of the fact that there have been a great many shabby evasions with respect to our pecuniary claims upon Turkey, and I do not see any grounds upon which I can vindicate the conduct of the Porte; at the same time, I cannot shut my eyes to the difficulty of enforcing compliance without endangering the independence of Turkey. Before I proceed to another topic, however, I must bear testimony to the zeal and ability which Sir Stratford Canning has shown in the conduct of those affairs; and, I think, the House ought also to be made aware of the great influence which he has acquired, and the resentments which he has disarmed by the candour he has always
shown, and the purity of motive which at all times seemed to govern his conduct. With respect to Colonel Rose, in reference to the affairs of the Lebanon, I am bound to do him the justice of saying that the manner in which he discharged the important duties entrusted to him merits the highest confidence. He performed those duties at great personal sacrifices and great personal risk. It was said, that Colonel Rose had not received sufficiently clear instructions; need Ire-mind the House of the extreme difficulty of giving instructions in such cases? The danger and vicissitudes which were hourly taking place, precluded the possibility of rendering those instructions precise or definite. To such places you must send men in whom you repose entire confidence, for it is impossible to give definite instructions to suit every contingency. Before the instructions could arrive, the state of things for which they were intended would be totally changed. The conduct of Colonel Rose and the state of affairs in Lebanon are, I think, clearly shown in the following passage from the Papers on the Table of the House. Sir S. Canning wrote on September 17, 1844, and his remarks may in addition tend to show how rapid are the changes both in Syria and at Constantinople:—
By the return of Omar Effendi from Beyrout, I received from Colonel Rose the gratifying intelligence that the deputies of the Maronites and Druses had aceepted the terms of arrangement communicated to them by the Capitan Pasha and the Pasha of Sidon in the name of the Porte, and that the long-pending question of Mount Lebanon might be considered as brought to a satisfactory termination. I observe with particular satisfaction that the Porte has redeemed its pledge; that the generosity of its conduct has removed the chief burden of the indemnities; that, in addition to the confirmation of all previous securities and concessions, the liberty of emigration has been granted to the Maronites in the mixed districts, and that the tranquillity of the country has been secured by the presence of an imposing force, without the slightest effusion of blood. The Ottoman Ministers are much pleased with the solution of the difficulty; and they have conveyed to me their acknowledgments for the share which Her Majesty's Government and its representatives, both here and in Syria, have taken in bringing it about. In answer to an inquiry from Rifaat Pasha, I have advised an early and complete execution of the promises made at Beyrout, especially as regards
the payment of the indemnities, and that large proportion of their amount which the Porte has undertaken to supply. I abstain for the present from entering more largely into this part of the question. It appears to me that while the Porte continues to pursue so reasonable and benevolent a course, the smallest measure of interference will be best on my part. I shall nevertheless endeavour to keep its proceedings in view, and I shall not hesitate on every proper occasion to offer those suggestions which I may think most conducive to the peace and welfare of Mount Lebanon.
Those are the sentiments which my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office has a right to entertain with respect to the conduct of the Porte; but it would appear that a total change has taken place since the period to which this despatch refers. The noble Lord seems to think, by some observations which fell from him, that Her Majesty's Ministers have not shown themselves sufficiently alive to Colonel Rose's merits, and have not acknowledged his services in terms adequate to their value. I am happy to be able to state, with reference to this particular topic, that my noble Friend has very recently received a letter from Colonel Rose, showing that, at all events, such was not the impression which prevailed in his mind on that subject. In justice to Colonel Rose, I hope the House will permit me to read a portion of this despatch, which I hold in my hand, and which is dated July 1, 1845:—
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Lordship's despatches No. 6 and 7, in which your Lordship is so good as to inform me that Her Majesty's Government are pleased to approve entirely the steps which I have taken, in conjunction with my Colleagues, to restore peace to the Lebanon, and also that Her Majesty's Government are pleased to bestow the same gracious approbation on the steps which I took for causing the safe passage to Beyrout of a large number of the Christian inhabitants of Abbaye. Such approbation, and conveyed in such terms, I venture to say, has caused me the sincerest satisfaction, and is a fresh proof of the support which Her Majesty's Government invariably have given to their servants, when they are engaged in the cases of unforeseen difficulty which arise from the state of this distracted country.
The next passage which I shall read will show what the result of Colonel Rose's interference was; an interference, be it observed, not exercised exclusively in favour
of the Druses, as has been asserted, but impartially, and in behalf of the Christian population in general:—
As regards the protection which I gave to the Christians of Abbaye, I have the more reason to rejoice that I did that which has procured me such most gratifying proofs of approbation, as I have since received information, which makes it certain that the Druse Sheikh Hamoud Abouneked, known for his cruelties and treacheries in the war of 1841, would have plundered and cut off the Christians, if I had not been with them. 400 Druses had been detached by him to the pass of Damoor, and 300 to that of Naame, to fall on the defenceless column.
Colonel Rose subsequently had an interview with the chief, Hamoud Abouneked, who, he thought, from previous occurrences, was likely to oppose his affording effectual protection to the Christians under his care; but he prevented that person from carrying his intentions into effect; and in concluding his despatch he thus proceeds:—
I not only act in the interests of justice and humanity as regards the Christians, but, by making the Druses feel the weight of a just authority when they act cruelly or unjustly, I act for their real interest, for I take the best means of preventing causes of present and future dissensions between the Christians and Druses; and moreover, I prevent their getting into that state of lawlessness and insubordination which afforded Mustapha Pasha a pretext for treacherously arresting them. But there is another advantage in my mode of proceeding. I give the Druses further proof of what I have so constantly inculcated on them, that, whilst Her Majesty's Government desire that they should be placed on a footing of just equality with the other inhabitants of the Lebanon, the best guarantee of peace, they will, in the same spirit of impartial justice and policy, use all their influence to repress the commission of all conduct of a cruel or oppressive nature by the Druses towards their Christian neighbours, and vice versâ as regards the Christians.
That is the manner in which this honourable and efficient officer carries into effect his mission. He does not give his protection to one party only. He affords it alike to all at the moment when it is needed. He impresses the Turkish authorities with the absolute necessity of not violating that shelter which he had thrown over these unhappy persons, and he even encounters very considerable personal risks in order to carry out his determination to
afford protection to these Maronite fugitives. His conduct is deserving of every praise, and it is a sufficient refutation of the charges brought against him of having afforded protection to one class only of the two contending factions in the Lebanon. I confess, Sir, that I am more than unwilling to enter into any further details with respect to the past conduct of the Porte. The unanimity of the Five Powers in the course of policy which it has been recommended to the Porte to pursue, is a decisive proof of their disinterestedness. The last accounts which have been received from Sir Stratford Canning by Her Majesty's Government, lead me to hope that some proposals will be very shortly made by the Porte for the settlement of the Lebanon; proposals which, unlike all those that have preceded them, may ultimately and effectually put an end to the differences which have so long prevailed there. This despatch, however, is of so recent a date, that I cannot speak of the subject of its contents with positive confidence; but the tenor of Sir Stratford Canning's letter, which is dated 31st of July last, dwells on the sincerity with which Chekib Effendi promised to enter into the desired measures for the tranquillization of the Lebanon; and these being the most recent advices from Her Majesty's Minister at Constantinople, and it being obviously the interests of the Porte to propose a plan which shall be equitable and effectual for the settlement of these long-existing differences, I consider it the most advisable course to abstain from entering any further into this subject at present. But, at the same time, I will say, that taking into consideration the political condition of Syria, it is manifestly to the interest of all the Five Powers who were instrumental in handing that country over to the Porte, that they should see an equitable and impartial Government established there; and it will be a most surprising circumstance if the remonstrances, and even the entreaties of the Five Powers, should be any longer neglected. I have no other observation to make on the Motion of the noble Lord, except to say that I have no objection to the production of the Papers which he asks for. At the same time, it will probably be better not to include the four or five despatches which have passed since the last accounts were received; and, if this exception be made,
I shall, at an early period of the ensuing Session, have no objection to produce the whole correspondence. As this is the last opportunity which I shall probably have of addressing the House, I cannot suffer the labours of this Session to close without saying a few words on the subject of those labours. I more particularly refer to the exertions made by those hon. Members who have taken part in the private business of this House since the Session began. We who occupy the Treasury Benches are, perhaps, equally engaged in our duties with other hon. Members; but then our situation in this House is more conspicuous; the subjects which occupy our attention are more popular, excite more interest in the public mind; their success is more gratifying, and insures a higher species of reward than do the cares and fatigues of attending private business. But I must, at the same time, say, that I doubt very much whether the services which we have rendered are of a more important or more engrossing character, than those which have been afforded so assiduously and continuously by the general body of hon. Members. I am now speaking, not only of the attendances at the Committees on Railway Bills, but of the general superintendence of the private business of the House. No one thinks, for instance, anything of the business transacted by the Standing Orders' Committee; the debates in this House on those Standing Orders possess no interest, and consequently convey no impression of labour; but only look at the general results of the Session, and the House will feel Convinced that I am not overrating the value of the labours to which I refer, when I characterize them as unequalled in duration and in importance. The Standing Orders' Committee sat 39 days, and had 185 cases referred (ordinary number referred 60). The Committee of Selection sat 41 days, and had 315 Bills (ordinary number 180). The Committee on Petitions sat more days than the other two. 45 Railway Group Committees have sat, which, with 5 Members in each, made a total of 225 Members. There were 163 Bills decided one way or the other, besides those withdrawn, those unsupported, and those thrown out on Standing Orders. Taking the 163 Bills only, and supposing they had not been grouped, the 163 Bills would have required, at the reduced number of five, 815
Members. Of the Committees, 22 sat under 6 days, 9 between 6 and 12 days, 6 between 12 and 18 days, 3 between 18 and 24 days, 5 sat above 24 days; and to the honour, be it said, of the Members who composed it, one of these Committees sat 83 days. I think, therefore, that the Standing Orders' Committee and the other Committees, the members of which, much to their credit, have attended regularly and without compulsion to those duties, and who have discharged them with such signal success, are entitled before the Session closes to an expression of gratitude for their labours; and I believe I may constitute myself the organ by means of which this sentiment is conveyed to them, and assure those hon. Members thus publicly that this House and the country at large do ample justice to their motives in thus sacrificing their time and energies to the despatch of the important business transacted by them; and I believe, if a comparison were to be instituted between the character of this House now in respect to these matters, and what it was when first elected, I think a very advantageous deduction would be drawn as to its increased capacity for the advancement of the business of the country. I believe it would be as impossible to impugn the character of this House on the ground of private business, as it would be injurious to do so with regard to the public affairs of the State: and I think the hon. Members who have taken their share in that private business are fully entitled to carry away with them the gratifying reflection that they have not only done their duty, but that they have contributed to raise the character of the House of Commons in the eyes of the whole nation.
§ A Member moved that the House be counted; and twenty-five Members only being present, the House adjourned at a quarter to eight o'clock.