HC Deb 16 May 1848 vol 98 cc1109-39

Sir, I feel how difficult it is to transfer attention from subjects of that character which we have just been discussing, to those remote, distant, and abstract ones, which I venture to submit. I regret, Sir, that no one powerful by talents, authority, and experience, is found to appear before you on so great an occasion. It is not in presumption that I venture to approach this subject, but because there is no one else, and I shall therefore present my case in the simplest form and in the shortest space. Since my notice was placed upon the books, events have happened to render my task somewhat less difficult. An incident in the west of Europe has brought before the mind of every reflecting being in this country the insecurity connected with the conduct of our foreign relations; and so recently as yesterday, a manifestation of public feeling in Paris, in respect to Poland points to the real source of Europe's danger, and proves the impossibility even of internal repose throughout the States of Europe, so long as that great secular crime, the extinction of Poland, is not avenged and redressed. Two propositions are involved in the statement I shall have to make. The first, that we have neglected that portion of our public affairs which alone is left to the Government, and therefore to this House, to manage. The second, that in consequence of that neglect, another Power more astute than ourselves has acquired an ascendancy, which, if unchecked, will ultimately bring on Europe the fate which has befallen that chivalrous State, so long and idly designated Europe's bulwark. The resolution of which I had given notice was an abstract one; but I propose to give to it a more substantive form, and I shall therefore conclude with a Motion for Papers, which I suppose there will be no difficulty in granting. My reason for doing so is, that I shall be following the example, and reviving the attempt or rather resuming the Motion which was made in the year 1834 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvon (Mr. Sheil), then Member for Tipperary, who at that time sought to obtain the papers connected with the Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi, by which the power of Russia was so enormously advanced in the east of Europe, and her domination in the Euxine secured. I shall further ask for the papers connected with recent transactions between Denmark and Prussia, by which her ascendancy is about to be established over the Baltic. When the Motion of 1834, which I propose to renew, was made, this House contained Members alive to the danger which it seems I am now left alone to warn you against. There were such men as the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary, who may perhaps by some process which I do not comprehend, be able to reconcile himself with the right hon. Member for Dungarvon, and whose genius, then embracing the world, had not confined itself to the exclusive culture of a vineyard at Chelsea—[Mr. SHEIL: Greenwich]—of a vineyard at Greenwich, or a farm on Tower Hill. There was Mr. Cutlar Fergusson, Mr. O'Connell, Mr. Patrick Stewart, and Mr. Gally Knight, now no more; there were others no longer Members of this House, Mr. Attwood, Sir S. Canning, and I may add even Mr. Bulwer: there were other hon. Gentlemen then, as now, Members of this House, whose voices are no longer heard—the gallant Member for Westminster, the noble Member for Marylebone, who in this Parliament, by what fascination I know not, has not as yet opened his mouth on the subject of Poland. These and many more then weighed upon the noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston) whether in private by entreaty, or in public by argument and denunciation, striving to arrest him in his course, and to recover the country from the delusions which associated it with its own enemy and the enemy of Europe. These hon. Members have all disappeared, or have been charmed into silence in this House, or into co-operation with the noble Lord. And in bringing forward such a cause, my first feeling is that of humiliation for my country at its falling into such hands as mine. Yet ant I strengthened rather than dismayed by the apostacy of this day, compared with fourteen years ago. Their words are of record, not refuted but confirmed by the results, and the misfortunes which their efforts and warnings have failed to avert. Now, when I look around this assembly, I see but indifference, or contempt, or hostility; and I confess that it is an arduous task to meet at once the authority of open foes and the prejudice of misdirected opinion. I cannot hope for favour, and dare not ask, however I may require, indulgence; but I must claim at least justice—the justice of a moment of your attention. This matter is not an abstract one, it is most practical. A just conclusion of this House expressed upon any one foreign question, turns the current of our public policy; a single vote may recover this country from being the ally of Russia, and thereby the enemy of every other State, and of itself; and if I fail in obtaining such a result, at all events it is something that there should be one protesting voice raised from time to time against evil in its pride, and some words of warning dropped in its progress. Sir, little is required. If this House would be content to give to these subjects the attention which it gives to a railway enterprise; if it would be content to give the same attention to the affairs of the whole State, that it refuses not to the minutest private enterprise, no possible injury could accrue from any of those causes which we are at present considering. My judgment deliberately formed on a branch of the public interests, to which I have devoted my time and my undivided attention, is, that if a small amount of attention were given to foreign matters, there could thence accrue neither danger nor embarrassment, and that the world would present to England only fields from which to reap glory, prosperity, and security. I must beg first to call the attention of the House to a most important and alarming change recently made in the public affairs of nations, and therefore in their judgments. The habit I refer to, is that of governing foreign States. What, Sir, can be more monstrous—what ought to be more incomprehensible—than that a Minister sitting upon the bench opposite, is to be enabled to exercise in Spain or in Greece, Portugal, or Sicily, or Turkey, powers which he could not pretend to here in England where he is Minister—that he should in those countries decide upon who is—and who is not to be Minister—nay, who is and who is not to be Sovereign? Are you aware that when you have made a Minister in England, you have given a dictator to Spain or some other country? Are you aware that one of your Ministers here, under constitutional control, is, abroad, relieved from all such control, and can do with foreign States what he likes?—that he is protected by the perfect ignorance, not merely of this country, but of his very Colleagues; and that this despotism in foreign countries is exercised with no rule but his own will, and no measure but his own caprice? This is the extraordinary position into which you have brought Europe. Over it you have established an extra-national Government deciding by conclaves, or rather conspiracies, adjudicating by despatches, arbitrating by protocols, and deciding upon the fate of nations without their will, and without power upon our part granted to exercise such authority over ourselves or others. Here I signalise to you, and to this House—I signalise to this great country an extraordinary change, and a fatal habit. I warn you of its consequences—inextricable confusion in all affairs: that result is now before you on a gigantic scale—universal hatred against this country as the prop of this system, the most opposite to its wishes, feelings, laws, and interests. I further warn you that this extra-national mode of governing is dangerous to internal liberty, by rendering us indifferent to what is right and wrong—to what is just and unjust. It was remarked by Akenside, that "no people ever suffered in its liberties at home until it had lent itself to violate the liberties of others abroad." For such acts retribution must come. Nor are they less heinous because England of all countries is that which is the most indifferent to foreign matters, and knows, in fact, nothing about what she herself does. The noble Lord, in Opposition, denounced the heedlessness by which he at present profits: his reproach to England was, that she "learnt the acts which she had performed only by vague rumours which reached her from distant lands." Now, Sir, the origin of all this is no other than that association of the most unparalleled usurpation over the rights of nations, and blasphemous perversion of the language of Scripture, called the Holy Alliance. In order that the character of this conspiracy of despots which England once denounced, and now imitates may be appreciated, I will read you an article in this compact:— Austria, Russia, and Prussia confess that the Christian nation (nation!) of which they and their people form part, has, in truth, no other Sovereign than Him to whom alone belongs power, because in Him alone are found the treasures of love, knowledge, and infinite wisdom, that is to say, God our Divine Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Word of the Most High, the Word of Life. These were the terms of the treaty under which the Three Sovereigns were to manage Europe—such the pretext put forward—at least equal to those now advanced by the noble Lord for interfering in the affairs of Spain. What was then the conduct of England? I beg to call the attention of the House to this point, because it is by contrasting it with what we now see that you will be able to discern whether I am right in asserting that England has been the foremost in doing those things which she herself was formerly the first to condemn and to repudiate. In a circular to the representatives of Great Britain abroad, Lord Castlereagh thus informed them of the views of the English Government in reference to the pretensions of its Allies:— The Government of Her Majesty does not believe that, according to existing treaties, the Allies have the right to assume any general powers of this kind; still less does it believe that they can assume such extraordinary powers in virtue of any new diplomatic transaction between the Allied Courts, assuming a supremacy incompatible with the rights of other States. The English nation, in 1815, was under no reforming mania; its sympathies were the other way—the Administration was high Tory; the Foreign Minister supposed to be somewhat too prone to listen to the whispers of foreign Cabinets, and more disposed than befitted an English statesman to pay his court to foreign potentates. The Prince Regent was so strongly biassed in the same sense, that he attempted to induce his Ministry to make England a party to the Holy Alliance. But these dispositions in these times failed before the law and the constitution. England, while the Powers were holding their conferences at Aix-la-Chapelle, Carltsbad, Troppan, Layback, and Verona, kept (excepting at the last) aloof, and protested against the measures suggested at this last, as she did against the measures taken, or the pretensions declared, at the former ones. France, though similarly situated in a constitutional point of view, followed not her example. She surrendered her constitutional existence into the hands of the conclave, and hence the present difference of the two countries at this hour. We, preserving then our laws, have now preserved our Crown: France, giving up her liberties, has known, and can know, henceforth, no repose. The historian of French diplomacy, Mr. Bignon calls that act—the accession of France to the Alliance—" the destruction of the basis of representative government, Ministerial responsibility." He, versed in affairs, knew that when a Minister could arrange matters with a foreign State, he escaped from all responsibility at home, and he knew the consequences which must ensue from such a state of things in a constitutional country: that result is before us. Of England he thus speaks, contrasting her with France:— The regret expressed by the Prince Regent that he could not become a party to the Alliance, in consequence of the principles of the British Constitution, which are opposed to it, together with the discussions in Parliament, are honourable monuments both of the vigilance of Parliament, and of the Prince's respect for the law. The existence of a representative Government in France appeared to render the position of the French monarch the same as that of the Prince Regent of England. And again, in reprobation of the declaration of Troppau, Bignon says:— It was necessary for the honour of the English Ministry to make their nation and Europe aware, that they had never recognised, as basis of the treaties in which they had taken part, maxims diametrically opposed to the fundamental laws of Great Britain. Now, what was it in the Holy Alliance which was so repugnant to the feelings of this nation, and so incompatible with its constitution? Simply the taking maxims of Government as the occasion of interference in Foreign States. England and its Administration were not opposed to legitimacy in itself; the Tory maxims prevailed. Reform was repudiated in Parliament; a Reformer among the people was an object of aversion. England was anti-liberal, anti-revolutionary; her feelings were in favour of the principles professed by the Holy Alliance; but her sense of justice and honour were against the use of unhallowed and unlawful means to attain such an end. She was then Christian enough to observe the first rule of Christian morals; and, not being prepared to endure interference in her own affairs, she would not inflict it on others. Now, then, let us come to our recent practice. I will content myself with the declaration recently made in another place by the President of the Council. We are informed that "the object of the Quadruple Treaty was to promote constitutional principles." What, then, is the difference between you and the Holy Alliance? Where do you stand as compared with the England of 1815? You have gone right round, and you are unconscious of it. Has the law of England been changed? Either then you are violating the law in 1848, or you entirely mistook it in 1815. If you were then misinformed of the law, repudiate that error. If not, repudiate your acts. Let the Minister of the Crown come down and tell us, we were all wrong about the Holy Alliance. It is our right and duty to interfere in the Governments of the other States of Europe; the principle of intervention is sound and sacred, and therefore is it that England is foremost to set the example of enforcing it. If not, is it not our part to enforce against him those maxims which he once so vigorously proclaimed? But who prompted the Holy Alliance? Russia. Has she principles to advance? No; she has ends to attain—the principles were then the cloak; they were a pretext only—gain, at the expense of her dupes, was her object, and their principles afforded her the means of securing it. We are the soul of the counter-Alliance, or rather of the counterpart of the Alliance. Have we ends? No; we have principles: therefore our principles serve just as much as the opposing principles to secure her ends. Do you doubt that the Holy Alliance was her work? It is matter of history that that Treaty came from St. Petersburg, just as much as the Treaty signed at Unkiar Skelessi in 1833, and the Treaties signed in London, July 15th, 1840, and July 13th, 1841. Her two Allies, Prussia and Austria, first adhered to the Holy Alliance, then France two months later, the Duke de Richelieu, her creature, being Minister. Afterwards, in June, 1816, Holland, and in December of the same year, Switzerland—the historian I have already quoted says of the first that it acceded "at the instigation of the Russian Minister;" and of the second, "in consequence of repeated notes from the Russian Minister." All these States have had their reward. Russia, therefore, was the source of this first extra-national Government. Then comes an association in which you and she combined for the affairs of the East. You appeared to be the soul of it; but the Treaty of the 6th of July, 1826, came like the rest from St. Petersburgh. Then came the Quadruple Treaty for Spain in 1834; apparently directed against her. Thus was every field drawn within the vortex of these extra-national systems; and each spot of Europe furnished the occasion of action, and thereby a source of crime and disunion. These conclaves being thus formed by your aid, what was the character of the Government which you have admitted in common with yourselves to dictate in Europe? It is one wholly unlike you in opinions, character, and purposes. I shall endeavour to show you how little you can comprehend that Government. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Wood) were a Frenchman; his neighbour (Mr. Sheil) a Greek; the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) a German; and the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) a Russian; would not England be truly alarming to France, Russia, and every other Power? If the leader of the people and the nobles of the land resigned the high distinction of power to confer them on strangers, renegades, traitors drawn from the four corners of the earth, with the sole condition of talent, and with the common character of unscrupulousness, banded to advance the objects of their adopted country at the expense of their own countries which they had betrayed—would not England justly excite the alarms of her neighbours, and the abhorrence of the human race? But also having assembled such an array of intellectual power, might she not, after a time, if not put down, overreach the penetration, and set to sleep the watchfulness of her compeers? How unlike to England is the picture I draw!—it is that of Russia. Such is the Power which at this present moment, alone with England, remains unshaken by the convulsions which have overthrown all the dynasties and the systems of Europe; and this then is the moment when, if ever such inquiry were requisite, it behoves us to consider the Government with which we have to deal, knowing that Europe now must be absolutely in her hands or in ours—in hers to secure it for herself, or in ours to rescue it from her. Before we can exaamine the acts of an antagonist, we must understand his character. Russia is pourtrayed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sheil) opposite as a —"Power which has gathered all the profligate nobility of Europe together, in order to compound a cabinet of Machiavelian mercenaries to maintain the cause of slavery throughout the world. The whole passage is as follows:— There must be a strange inconsistency in publishing all the enormous answers to protocols respecting Belgium, where the transaction is as yet incomplete, and in refusing to furnish anything but materials for surmise on this treaty (Unkiar Skelessi). Ponderous folios of fruitless negotiations on the affairs of Belgium have been given to the world. Let the Government act upon the principle adopted in that case, and give the English people the means of forming a judgment of the policy which His Majesty's Ministers have adopted in a question where the national honour and interest are so deeply involved. It may be said, 'Trust in the Minister. Be sure that he will not desert his duty, or acquiesce in any measure incompatible with the honour of England.' I should be disposed to do so when I take into account that the Secretary for Foreign Affairs was a political follower of Mr. Canning, who considered the interests and the honour of England as so closely blended; and although the noble Lord may have abandoned the opinions on domestic policy which were entertained by Mr. Canning, where he was in the wrong, it is to be presumed that he adheres with a closer tenacity to those opinions in foreign policy where Mr. Canning was in the right. But this ground of confidence in the noble Lord is modified, if not countervailed by the recollection, that in many recent transactions he has been baffled by that Power which has gathered all the profligate nobility of Europe together, in order to compound a cabinet of Machiavelian mercenaries to maintain the cause of slavery throughout the world. Look at Belgium—look at the Russian-Dutch loan. The noble Lord, although guided by the Prince of Benevento, has lost his way in the labyrinth which Russia has prepared for him and Poland. 'We shall,' he exclaimed, 'remonstrate.' He did remonstrate, and despatched Lord Durham to St. Petersburgh (why was not Sir Stratford Canning there?) and what has been the result? On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman was seconded by the present Ambassador at Madrid, Mr. Bulwer, who, following in the same strain, did not conceal his apprehensions, that the noble Lord was no match for the "diplomacy of the Russian Court." It is clear then, Sir, that the question of the component parts of the Cabinet of Russia is one of the deepest interest, and there is a host of high authorities for the supposition—in which I do not concur—that the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) is no match for that Cabinet. I may be permitted to quote in confirmation of the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the words of one who struggled most to resist the advance of this barbarian into Europe, I mean Gustavius III. of Sweden. I hold in my hand a little work, entitled Danger to the Political Balance of Europe, which he thus illustrates:— A kingdom almost unknown in Europe during the last century, and gradually aggrandised at the expense of all her neighbours, whose civilisation contributed only to make conquests, has menaced for forty years the political balance of power; Sweden, Poland, Turkey, Prussia, and Germany, have experienced the effects of her enterprising spirit. All the Courts of Europe had experienced her insolence before that tragedy to which Catherine II. owed her elevation to the throne. Since that period, from the Caspian Sea to the Straits of Gibraltar, there is no country of which Russia has not disturbed the tranquillity, or alarmed the precaution: every year has produced new designs, which arose evidently from one general plan; and their execution has found no other obstacle than than that which has arisen from the revenues of that empire, which were often stretched so far as to need a temporary repose from the abuse of power, and the prodigality of Government; but her exhausted revenues have not created the security of other States, for the hand of power, tired with the exertions of open violence, prepared for them a war not less dangerous—a war of negotiations. Ceasing to be come the prey of the sword, they had still to encounter her artifices, her intrigues, and negotiations. Europe presented a theatre of divisions, of troubles, and disorders, of which the springs and machines were fabricated at St. Petersburg; at length, after having excited Power against Power, and interest against interest, in the neighbouring States, the Empress of Russia predominated alone in that vast anarchy, dictated laws through her ambassadors, and prevented all combinations of resistance. This portrait is engraved from a faithful representation of the last twenty years' history of the North and of the Levant—Europe has seen at one time, the Ottoman Porte menaced with an invasion, of which, Asia herself might apprehend the consequences: her tributaries corrupted, her allies bribed or intimidated, the Crimea enslaved. Sweden under the yoke of a faction, subservient to Russia, a faction discomfited without being altogether subdued, and reviving by the same protection which has plunged that kingdom into a universal decline. Poland equally punished from the defects of her constitution, devoured by Russian troops, enslaved, dismembered—treated in every light as a Russian province—Courland reduced to the lowest state. The councils of Denmark governed by the same influence. Prussia insulted in the midst of two vast empires, whose masked batteries could play on the first alarm upon the great protector of the Germanic liberties—the rest of Europe tranquil and indifferent, acting the part of a spectator, but not that of an arbiter. Observe, that this is written for the purpose of awakening Poland, and Sweden, and Turkey, to a sense of their danger; and since then, what has happened? See if this danger, then visionary, has not now become real—see if events have falsified his words? He was a prophet, because he was treated as a visionary, and those who now announce to you similar consequences will find their words to be prophetic if you continue to deal with them as dreamers. He ends thus:— Such are the historical features of the present time of which all Europe is a witness. Her kings have viewed, perhaps, with too much indifference, the progress of this enterprising policy by which the laws of nations have been annulled, the faith of treaties has disappeared, and the abuse of power has countenanced usurpation. This vast empire, which for twenty years has spread terror, corruption, despotism, and war, embraces all varieties of climate, and comprehends every species of resource. Seas inaccessible to European fleets; deserts or enslaved countries are her frontiers; hitherto impressions upon her territory have been hastily deemed impracticable. While her adversaries remain upon the defensive, swarms of undisciplined savages emigrate from their habitations, and destroy extensive countries in a campaign. Prussia and Poland still bleed from those ravages, when troops which are mowed down without being subdued are animated by pillage, by fanaticism, or by the ambition of their sovereign, who in losing soldiers only loses slaves. Wo to those States which border upon this destructive Power! Peace must be purchased by sacrifices, or secured by preparations commensurate to the danger. Russia menaces at the same time Turkey, the North, and Germany: the reduction of the one, would accelerate the conquest of the others. Solitary resistance is vain against an empire which can produce soldiers like grains of sand, whose policy has no other principles than those of interest, and whose bold maxims correspond with that fortune which has so long favoured her projects. Sir, the projects of Russia have been successful through the means which are here described; they are not less so now. But there is the difference between that time and this—that then monarchs strove, and statesmen denounced—that nations cared, and public opinion, now absorbed in the minutest matters, and distracted by the plainest, did then exercise itself upon the gravest and most important: on the other hand, the evil which was not arrested, is now accelerated by an accumulating load of triumphs, and by the diminution of the means of resistance that Europe can command. I cannot allow the testimony of Gustavus III. to pass without adding to it one not less weighty, and nearer to our time. Napoleon thus speaks:— When Paul was so violent against you (meaning England) he sent to me for a plan to invade India. I sent him one, with instructions in detail. (Here Napoleon showed me on a map the routes, and the different points whence the army was to have proceeded.) From a port in the Caspian Sea, he was to have marched on India. 'Russia,' continued he, 'must either fall, or aggrandize herself; and it is natural to suppose that the latter will take place. The Cossacks, Calmucks, and other barbarians who have accompanied the Russians into France, and other parts of Europe, having once acquired a taste for the luxuries of the south, will carry back to their deserts the remembrance of places where they had such fine women, fine living, and not only will not themselves be able to endure their own barbarous and sterile regions, but will communicate to their neighbours a desire to conquer these delicious countries. What I say to you, is confirmed by the history of all ages, during which it has been invariably observed, that whenever those barbarians had once got a taste of the south of Europe, they always returned to attempt new conquests and ravages, and have finally succeeded in making themselves masters of the country. It is natural to man to desire to better his condition; and those canaille when they contrast their own deserts with the fine provinces they have left, will always have an itching after the latter, well knowing also that no nation will retaliate or attempt to take their deserts from them. Those canaille' (continued he) 'possess all the requisites for conquest. They are brave, active, patient of bad living and fatigue, poor,and desirous of enriching themselves. I think, however, that all depends upon Poland. If Alexander succeeds in incorporating Poland with Russia, that is to say, in perfectly reconciling the Poles to the Russian Government, and not merely subduing the country, he has gained the greatest step towards subduing India.' Sir, I think it will not be questioned that I am stating no proposition in the air, but a simple fact, when I say that Russia is a Power dangerous to England, and dangerous to Europe. Then comes the question—"Have you been, as best you could, striving to prevent her interfering in the affairs of Europe?" You have not. You have been leading her on by the hand, and you have been committing yourselves such acts as deprive you of all power of remonstrance against her, and in such a manner as to throw other States for protection into her arms. This Sir, is my case. It is that of misconduct in face of an enemy —proved at the critical moment of a campaign. It is, that your leaders have mistaken that enemy's strength, position, and manœuvres, and have been betrayed into aiding his designs. This has happened, because you did not know that you had an enemy. You did not know that a struggle was going on, or that you had forces engaged, or a stake in the engagement. What I have advanced you may disregard, but you cannot gainsay: considering these points as established, I now proceed to the application. Sir, a convulsion in Europe has brought us back at once to the two great epochs of cotemporaneous history, that is to say, to 1815 and 1830. The Treaty of Vienna is swept away, together with the dynasty of France. Poland then recurs, at one and the same time, under the aspect she presented at the close of the war, and that which she presented after the Revolution of July. Here then is the occasion for us to secure what we attempted to secure by her constitution in 1815, and to reverse the catastrophe we deplored in 1830—or it will be the occasion for Russia to complete the triumphs of 1815 and 1830; and to make Poland the sword with which to smite Europe, as she must be, if not the buckler for her defence. If the Treaty of Vienna was requisite—if it was our duty by that treaty to obtain a barrier against Russia—if in 1830 we suffered in the sacrifice of that barrier, yet professed that it would revive—in what position are we to-day, when on the one hand the Treaty of Vienna and all its consequences are swept away, and on the other hand, on the occasion of a revolution in France, and in Europe, Poland remains black and alone uninflammable amid the conflagration? If England remains passive—I will not say if she gives as usual her hand to Russia; but if she merely remains inert—this great convulsion, the product of Russia's past secret labours, will be the commencement of the era of her visible intervention and direct control over the dissolved and disordered States of Christendom. But, Sir, we will not remain inert: we will be busy—not to thwart, but to aid her. I appeal to the past: what did we do on the last revolution in Poland? We aided Russia: we alone destroyed Poland. If the Government of England had to the best of its ability supported Poland, and thereby endeavoured to rescue this Government from blame, and Europe from danger, we might confide, or at least remain as heretofore indifferent. Had we remained ignorant of our Government's acts, there might even then be some excuse for heedlessness; but we have learnt the fearful truth which I have just declared, by discussions which have occurred in this House, and by the quotation of documents, the authenticity of which was not before established. I must beg the indulgence of the House, whilst I quote documentary evidence of what I assert, when the fortunes of Poland and Russia were poising—when one word on the part of England or France would have brought the fall not of Poland, but of Russia—the Austrian Government was ready to concert with England and France to save Poland. France was not disinclined. The answer of the English Cabinet was widely different. This statement is from Louis Blanc: he says in the Histoire de Dix Ans:— The Consul of Austria had not quitted Warsaw. He gave the Polish Government to understand that Austria was not disinclined to assist in the re-establishment of Polish nationality, and even to contribute thereto by the abandonment of Galicia, but upon two conditions: the first, that Poland would accept for King an Austrian Prince; the second, 'that this proposition should be made conjointly by France and England.' M. Walewski was despatched to sound the disposition of the Cabinet of the Tuileries and that of St. James's. He arrived at Paris in the beginning of March, that is to say, at the moment when the ministry of M. Lafitte gave place to that of M. Casimir Perier. The Palais Royal did not reject the overtures of Austria, but simply declared that 'it was ready to join England, if England would consent to the project.' M. Walewski then proceeded to London; but the answer of the British Cabinet was 'widely different from that of the French.' Lord Palmerston avowed 'without reserve,' that France and 'no other Power' was the object of the 'distrust and fears of England'—that 'His Britannic Majesty entertained most friendly relations, which he was in nowise inclined to disturb, with St. Petersburgh'—that he 'would not consent' to unite his efforts with those of the King of France 'in an object hostile or disagreeable to Russia.' I give this passage for what it is worth: it is there with the names of the parties, these being official persons, one of them the Minister of the French Government; the others, men sufficiently well known. Shortly afterwards, upon expectations being held out of some concert on the part of this country with France to support Poland, overtures appear to have been made by the French Government to the noble Lord opposite; and the following is an extract from his reply:— That an amicable intermediation on the Polish question would be declined by Russia—that the Powers had just declined a similar offer on the part of France—that the intervention of the two Courts, France and England, could only be by force in case of a refusal on the part of Russia—and that the amicable and satisfactory relations between the Cabinet of St. James and the Cabinet of St. Petersburgh, would not allow His Britannic Majesty to undertake such an interference. The time was not yet come to undertake such a plan with success against the will of a Sovereign whose rights were indisputable. But in the meantime His Britannic Majesty has instructed his Minister at St. Petersburgh to insist upon the national existence of Poland according to the Treaty of Vienna, and the maintenance of her national institutions. Had it at that time been known in this House that the English Government was not desirous to maintain Poland—had it not been supposed that every effort would be made by the Government and the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department—had they not trusted in this belief, Poland would not have fallen? Would the noble Lord have dared to avow in this place in 1831, that the rights of the Emperor were just and indubitable? Many who hear me will recollect that "the noble Lord's morbid irritability was excited against Russia," and that his Colleagues could not keep him decently civil with the Russian Ambassador. If, in 1831, the English Government, professing the most direct hostility to Russia—professing the most ardent and zealous co-operation with France—did afford to Russia, for the purpose of completing and effectuating the subjugation of Poland, its secret support—if I say, that is the fact—and that it is the fact there can be no manner of question—is it not certain that whatever occasion is now presented for the British Minister either to crush Poland or any other State, and to aid Russia, will not be used as in 1830, and that he will prevent every chance of the recovery of that life in 1848, which he ex- tinguished in 1830? In Germany the first impulse was the restoration of Poland—the promise of the King of Prussia upon the barricades was the reconstruction of a Polish nationality: was it not in England's power to have directed this impulse to the accomplishment of the object? But, soon diverted from this object, the Germans have been set afloat upon a scheme of emancipation of their language and race, to lose thereby in the end their present institutions whatever these might be worth. How has this been effected? England bad guaranteed the duchies to Denmark: a word from England, either as pointing to the real danger and the mode of averting it, or as signifying the determination of England to prevent the piratical and absurd attempts on the duchies, must have stopped at once this sore. Here not a word is uttered, or only such words as to encourage Prussia, and to call forth the commendations of her Minister. Here our diplomacy in defiance of the most solemn treaties—in face of the most important interests compromised by the most violent act—is mute and motionless. It reserves its activity for Madrid: there, without occasion, and with everything in our hands, we can contrive an insult to throw that country into the arms of France. [Mr. COCKBURN: Question, question!] Are we not considering the conduct of the affairs of England abroad? and is a reference to a recent occurrence, in which England had offered an unmerited and ungenerous insult, and has been constrained to sit down under a bitter indignity—an indignity such as she or no nation ever endured before—not relevant to the question? Is a transaction which explains another not to the question, although the one happens in Poland, and the other in the Peninsula? The quarrel in Denmark is that which has carried the mind of Germany away from the restoration of Poland, which was the only safeguard for its own future independence; and it has in this House been admitted that the treaty of guarantee binds us to support Denmark in the possession of those duchies against any invasion; and we have upon one occasion exercised that power for the purpose of preventing an attack upon the part of Russia. On the present occasion we do nothing of the kind; and while in the same breath the noble Lord opposite, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, states in this House that it is desirable that England should know, and that the world should know, what England's engagements are, he says that no cases fœderis has arisen; he expresses himself in a way to encourage both the parties; he will first lead them on, and then open the way, as usual, to the intervention of Russia, as mediatrix—that is, as patron: supreme in the Baltic, she will have a handle for reaction in, or invasion, of Prussia. This diversion of the mind of Germany from that object to which it was directed—the restoration of Poland—has been chiefly owing to the Danish quarrel, which never could have arisen had that treaty been fulfilled by England. The inaction of the noble Lord is directed to the same end as his activity. We have received intelligence this day of a demonstration at Paris, in favour of Poland, which many may consider merely an extravagance of popular feeling, or a pretext of ambitious men, but which I, having long watched and duly appreciated the amount of attachment which exists throughout the whole of France to the Polish cause, am perfectly satisfied is real and sincere. The Governments of France have all fallen from the effects of foreign policy: they have fallen successively by the neglect of that which alone can give peace to Europe, namely, the salvation and restoration of Poland. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) has laboured, and with success, to overthrow the late dynasty in France. I had predicted what he has accomplished. Spain was the gulf which he had prepared for Louis Philippe, and into which he dragged him. The instant the deed was done, in exultation the words burst from his lips—"Pyreneos transiit." The words were not uttered by the noble Lord in this House, but they appeared in his organ. Having upset one system in France, will he spare the next? No. Already is his purpose laid bare in the correspondence with Spain which has recently been published. He will divert the French Government in like manner, from Poland, and tempt it into Spain by the irritation which he will have aroused in Spain against England. I repeat it from this spot. I warn the French Government, that if it does not labour for, and ensure the restoration of Poland, it will fall like its predecessors from the foreign embarrassments with which it is unwilling to cope, and the internal dissatisfaction which it wll be unable to subdue. England now stands in Europe alone, with Russia; supposing we had taken the course which our natural instinct would have suggested—which at all events the security of ourselves and of Europe required, namely, the restoration of Poland—what would have been the effect upon the new Government of France—what would have been the effect upon Germany? Would not France have been immediately bound to England to support in Poland, and elsewhere, her policy? Would not Germany have had its longings turned into a definite, and just, and useful purpose; and must not such a movement have impelled the Powers—sharers in the spoils of Poland—to disgorge those fragments? By the secret action of England in 1830, Poland was lost; she is so lost as to be unable now to seize a spark from the conflagration around her; but by the open action of England in 1848 she might have been restored. Poland is the link between England and France. If we suffer her to be destroyed, the possibility of any concert or friendship must utterly vanish. In this consists the difference in our policy in the East and in the West. Whatever dangers we may be menaced with in the East, the presence and the profits of Russia must always rally England and France, and make them conscious of their common interests by their common danger. Not so in the West. It is in Spain that the arena for the deadly feud will be opened; for there Russia, who has pushed them on, will not herself appear; and their jealousies, their rivalries, their ambition, and their hates will fasten on each other. When you have allowed Poland to be utterly trampled on and incorporated with Russia; when you have obtained that result from Poland's fall which Napoleon foresaw—danger to India, or its loss—you will also be prepared for that fatal and bootless struggle for which Spain presents the field. Poland is doubly the link and the safety of both; and the enemy of Europe has therefore the double purpose and the double means of diverting from the North your action, which would then be useful and conjoint, to the West, where it must inevitably become contest, collision, and destruction between yourselves. It is not in Poland alone, but in every other country, that the Foreign Minister declares England and Russia to be united. It was declared in 1836, by the British Ambassador at St. Petersburgh, that the union of England and Russia, was to maintain the peace of the world. We have been united with Russia in respect to Greece. In respect to Turkey, the head of the Foreign De- partment had declared that there was no possibility of any suspicion attaching to the motives of the Czar. We were united in respect to Persia, and by that union we have brought Persia into dependance upon Russia. The Foreign Department of this country is conducted upon the basis that the interests of Russia and England are alike; that they are one; that their conduct is one; and that the peace of the world depends upon their union. Now, Sir, if this be true, what is the value of those authorities which I have quoted? I imagine that the authorities I have quoted are not to be contradicted or controverted. I imagine that the fact is before us, that the ends of Russia are undoubted. The Minister of this country, after ten years of apparently continuous efforts to oppose her, now turns round and declares that he is united with her, and that England and she are one. I say that if this is so, let it be publicly proclaimed; if this is to be the rule of our conduct, let it be adopted openly and formally. If England and Russia are one, of course, then, I have nothing to say: the Motion of which I have given notice is perfectly absurd; but if the interests of England and Russia are not one, then is that Motion of the last importance. Let not this House take its own heedlessness as the measure of danger. Danger can accrue only from neglect. We have no territorial frontier—we have triumphed in the last war; therefore are we without the distinct sense of nationality and the alarms of other nations; but I do beg hon. Members to consider whether or not the occupying a great station in the world does not impose corresponding duties? Can you hold dominions, east, west, north, and south, and yet be occupied constantly and exclusively in home concerns? I ask whether you can safely exclude every consideration, in whatever form it be introduced, which bears on matters beyond the limits of our own domestic concerns? I ask whether you can pass from one class of doctrine to another—from one course of conduct to another—without the sense of insecurity remaining attached to all your judgments? If you find that while the country is indifferent and heedless of anything that is done abroad, those who manage for you are excessively busy, surely the time has come for you, if a free people, or a wise one, to exercise your judgment and your rights. The object which I have had at present is to draw the attention of the House to the vast increase which recent events have given to the facilities for the destruction or for the salvation of Europe: that England the preserver, and Russia the destroyer, alone of the old Governments stand erect, and that these facilities Russia will employ for her ends if England does not use them for her own: that the one or the other result wholly consists in the reversing or the maintaining of that great European crime, the suppression of the existence of Poland, which has inoculated on the parties and the assenters the necessity of a continuous perpetration of fresh crimes for its defence or its excuse; and I afford to the House the opportunity of determining whether under these altered circumstances it is content to see the Cabinet and the Ministers of England—to use the words of the late British Envoy in Persia—continuing to be the instruments for accomplishing the prophecy of Napoleon, and for rendering Europe, after it has become republican, Cossack.


Sir, I, of course, am quite aware that it is, strictly speaking, in the power, as it is the right, of any Member to make, without any notice, any Motion he may think fit to submit to the House; but at the same time, for the convenience of discussion, certain rules have been established, and it is customary for Gentlemen who wish to bring forward a discussion, to attend to those rules and observe them—a departure from them being in fact alike inconvenient to the interests of the public, and to the transaction of the business of the House. Now, the hon. Member opposite is very fond of departing from that rule of the House which requires Members to announce, by previous notice, what is the Motion which they intend to submit to the House; and I may almost say, that whereas there is a saying attributed to a certain celebrated diplomatist, that language was given to man to conceal his thoughts—that in like manner notices are used by the hon. Member for Stafford for the purpose of concealing the Motions which he intends to found on them. The hon. Member places with great formality on the Notice Paper of the House, that he intends to call the attention of the House to the relations of this country with Russia, in reference to the events now occurring in the north of Europe; but instead of confining himself to the execution of that announcement, he springs on me with two addresses, of which he had given no notice; and at the conclusion of his speech, he states the reasons why he thinks the House should agree to his demand. The hon. Gentleman moves for the production of correspondence connected with the Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi, and for the correspondence now going on with regard to the efforts of this country to mediate between Denmark and the Germanic Confederation in the Schleswig-Holstein affair. And he says that it is essential that Parliament should be in possession of this correspondence, in order to see how it is that Russia is to combine with Austria and Prussia to prevent the re-establishment of the nationality of Poland. Now, I assure the House that the correspondence in question will throw no light upon that subject. The Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi was a treaty between Russia and Turkey relative to the internal affairs of Turkey, and it lasted for eight years. Having been, however, thought objectionable by the Government of this country, as giving to Russia the power of interference in the internal concerns of Turkey, the treaty ceased to exist in 1841, and it was not renewed, as certain negotiations and treaties destined to replace it were then in progress. It is, in fact, a defunct transaction, and neither has nor can have anything to do with what may now take place with regard to Polish nationality. As regards the correspondence now going on with respect to the mediation in the Holstein and Schleswig affair, that can have no possible leaning upon the question alluded to by the hon. Baronet; and, beside, I should object to the production of any correspondence connected with a negotiation still pending, because it would be extremely prejudicial to the attainment of the object in view. The hon. Gentleman went into a great many topics, into which it is hardly necessary for me to follow him. The hon. Gentleman, for instance, expatiated at some length against the Treaty of the Holy Alliance; now I am the last man to stand up to contradict anything that may be said in disparagement of the Treaty of the Holy Alliance. All I presume to say is, that there is nothing in our policy which has any connexion with the principles of the Treaty of the Holy Alliance—which has any resemblance to those principles, or can be shown to be likely to produce any consequences similar to those which the Holy Alliance was intended to bring about. The hon. Gentleman is pleased to say that the Foreign Minister of this country exercises a power which the hon. Gentleman describes in very mysterious terms, but by which the Foreign Minister governs the destinies of every foreign country. Now, really, the hon. Gentleman does more credit to the influence of this country than I am afraid events would bear him out in ascribing to it. Sir, we have on occasions done our best to direct the course of events in the way which we thought most consistent with the honour and interest of this country and the general good of mankind. In some cases our efforts were attended with some success; in others we did not altogether accomplish all we wished. But I do not know what the cases of interference may be which the hon. Gentleman places upon a footing with the Treaty of the Holy Alliance. Perhaps he means the instance of Belgium—or the conferences held on the affairs of Belgium and Holland, as having most resemblance to what he deems to have been the purposes of the Treaty of the Holy Alliance? The Holy Alliance was a union of separate powers, intending to interfere authoritatively in the internal affairs of other countries, in order to prevent any progress being made in the adoption of the principles of the constitutional institutions of Europe. But what happened in the case of Belgium? The five Powers who united in the conferences were invited to take the parts they did by the Sovereign to whom Belgium by treaty belonged. Besides, that conference began under the Administration of the Duke of Wellington, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and the Earl of Aberdeen; and the first two protocols were signed, not by me, but by Lord Aberdeen. The invective of the hon. Gentleman, therefore, against the Treaty of the Holy Alliance, passes entirely over us. But the hon. Gentleman proceeded to say, that the whole policy of England had been directed for the purpose of promoting the objects of Russian policy. Now, I know that the hon. Gentleman has got a series of standing Motions upon that subject, which it would be in vain and useless for me to attempt to combat, with the view of attempting to alter the hon. Member's feelings and opinions. But all I say is, that our guiding rule is to promote and advance, as far as we can, the interests of the country to which we have the good fortune to belong, and which we have the honour to serve. We have no everlasting union with this or that country—no identification of policy with another. We have no natural enemies—no perpetual friends. When we find a Power pursuing that course of policy which we wish also to promote, that Power, for the time, becomes our ally; and when we find a country whose interests are at variance with our own, we are involved for a time with the Government of that country. We find no fault with other nations for pursuing their interests; and they ought not to find fault with us if, in pursuing our interests, our course may be different from theirs. The hon. Gentleman, however, attributes to me that, in 1830 or 1831, I stated that France was the great object of the jealousy and of the apprehension of England; and the hon. Gentleman quotes M. Ledru Rollin as the authority for my having said so. Now, I do not know what M. Ledru Rollin may have imagined I said; but if the hon. Gentleman will recollect the mutual confidence and co-operation in which England and France existed at that time, he will acknowledge that it is palpable that no Minister of England could have said that France was the great object of our jealousy. France and England were then co-operating for several great European purposes. The co-operation of France and England was successful in settling many questions then pending; and, so far from there then being a mutual jealousy between the countries, there never was a period at which the interests of the two countries were more identified, and their relations more calculated to inspire confidence in each other. The hon. Gentleman further said, that it was this alleged feeling of jealousy which England entertained towards France, although he also admitted that the feeling entertained by England towards Russia was a feeling rather of distrust than of confidence; that it was the then existing distrust of France which prevented England from taking steps for the restoration of the nationality of Poland. And the same Gentleman then complains of the English Government for having admitted that Russia had certain rights over the kingdom of Poland. Now we do not conceal—and we never have concealed—that the Treaty of Vienna did give certain rights to Russia over the kingdom of Poland. We thought that these rights and powers ought to be limited by the Treaty of Vienna; but we never imagined that we ought to pursue such a course as to attempt, by our single authority, to break down the arrangements of that treaty. Sir, as I said, there are many other topics in the speech of the hon. Gentleman; but, without going into these topics further, I can only say that I think it a bad precedent to give notice of one thing, and when the time comes to do another. On that ground alone, I shall object to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman; at the same time, however, assuring the House that the production of the first-mentioned papers could throw no light upon the particular point on which the hon. Gentleman wishes to bring the action of the House to bear; while, with respect to the after-mentioned papers, I shall object to their production, because they refer to a subject upon which negotiations are now pending.


said, that he had seconded the Motion because he considered that the hon. Member had on a former occasion been unfairly treated by the counting out of the House; but after the speech which had been made by the noble Lord, he would advise the hon. Member not to press his Motion for these papers.


was surprised 'that the hon. Member for Montrose, after seconding the Motion, should advise the hon. Member for Stafford to withdraw it. He hoped the House would not negative the application of the hon. Member.


*I quite agree with my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that it is better in general to observe closely the rules of the House; but I cannot help feeling surprised that my noble Friend should, on this occasion, have devoted so large a portion of the very short speech with which he has favoured the House, in opposition to the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, to the discussion of an objection founded on a point of form. My noble Friend must know perfectly well that the object of the Motion is, in point of fact, merely to bring the subject under the attention of the House, and that whether the terms of the Motion were to call the attention of the House to the policy of Russia, or to require the production of certain papers having reference to that policy, must be a matter of indifference to the Mover and to every one else. And I think that my hon. Friend has done good service by bringing forward this Motion, for it appears to me highly advisable that the attention of the House should occasionally be called to matters of foreign policy; and * From a pamphlet published by G. Detkens. no one has ever done so more frequently, or more efficiently, than my noble Friend, when not seated on the Treasury benches.

As it is now too late, being past eleven o'clock, to enter on the great question (the ballot), which stands next on the Paper to this Motion, I shall take the opportunity of making a few observations on a subject which must always enter largely into any discussion respecting the policy of Russia—viz., the state of Poland.

It may be perfectly true that Russia is the great enemy of liberty and enlightenment—that she menaces the security of our Indian empire—that she is the adversary of our commerce in Central Asia—that her tariff and all her commercial policy is highly injurious to our interests as a nation greatly depending on trade; but it is through Poland that Russia chiefly affects both this country and Europe at large. In fact, were Russia once deprived of Poland, she would scarcely continue to be an European Power. This she well knows, and that is the reason why her rulers have been so anxious, by any means, to get possession of Poland, and why they hold that unfortunate country with so tenacious a grasp. The public here receive but little correct information with regard to the Poles; and that unhappy people, who have long been known as the most ardent patriots and the most determined defenders of liberty, but who for a series of years have been subjected to every species of tyranny and oppression, have now incurred the additional misfortune of being made the victims of the most cruel calumny. Reports, the most injurious to them, but wholly destitute of foundation, circulated by the German press, are copied and repeated by the press of this country. The public in general, and, no doubt, many Members of this House also, have been led to believe that the Poles in the Grand Duchy of Posen have committed the most shameful cruelties, and perpetrated the most wanton barbarities on the German population of that province. There never was a more unfounded impression. The Poles, on the contrary, have been the victims of the cruelty and bad faith of the German bureaucracy; and if they have resorted to violence, they have done so only after they have been attacked. The state of things in Posen is certainly most deplorable; for the people are in arms, and a bloody war is raging. But how has this been brought about? I answer without hesitation, by the conduct of the Prussian Government.

I do not impute bad intentions to the King of Prussia. I am willing to believe that he is desirous of doing right; but he vacillates between opposite opinions: at one time adopting liberal counsels; at another time listening to the reactionary party. After the revolution at Berlin, the Poles in Posen were encouraged to believe that the time was come, not merely for improving the condition of their own province, but for the restoration of Poland at large. What was the language held at the Prussian embassy here, and by those connected with the Prussian Government? Was it not that the partition of Poland had been a great crime; and that the time for reparation had arrived, even though that reparation should occasion cost and sacrifice to Prussia? Was not the expediency of separating Posen from Prussia, and reuniting it to Poland restored to independence, openly canvassed by those in the service of Prussia in this country? I myself can give evidence on these points; and if language of a similar description was addressed, as no doubt it was, to the Poles of Posen, who can wonder that those men of excitable temperament, ardently and devotedly attached to their nationality as they are, should have been fired by the brightest hopes? They took up arms—such arms as they could obtain—scythes and fowling-pieces—and in a short time 20,000 men, chiefly peasants, were assembled. They took up arms, not against Prussia, but in the firm belief that war was about to be declared between Germany and their arch enemy the Czar; and that they were to form the vanguard of the German forces. Meantime, the King of Prussia looked on. There was scarcely any government in Posen after the revolution in Berlin till a national committee was formed by the Poles, which was allowed to be in regular, almost official communication with the King's Government. Afterwards General Willisen was sent from Berlin with orders to procure the disarmament of the patriots upon certain conditions. These conditions were, that a certain number of the Poles in arms should be formed into regular regiments of infantry and squadrons of cavalry, which should constitute a separate army for the Duchy of Posen, composed entirely of natives; that there should be a separate financial administration, and other provisions for governing the whole of the Grand Duchy, on the footing of a separate Polish province, subject to the Crown of Prussia. The patriots were unwilling to lay down their arms, but were persuaded to do so, by the national committee, comprising as it did many leading and influential individuals; but no sooner had the Poles laid down their arms, and piled them, according to stipulation, on waggons, than they were insulted and attacked by the German population, unrestrained, and in some instances assisted, by the Prussian soldiers and officers. General Willisen himself, although a Prussian, being considered by the German population too friendly to the Poles, was grossly outraged, and in so much danger from their fury as to be obliged, for the safety of his life, to seek refuge in the house of a Pole, where he was protected by the Polish National Guard. In the account of this affair given by the German, and on their authority by the English newspapers, this attack on General Willisen was stated to have been made by the Poles; and from this time every event which occurred in Posen appears to have been systematically misrepresented. On one occasion, a Prussian force meeting with a party of patriots who had some arms, a gentleman named Chlapowski, who was unarmed, threw himself between the two parties, in order to prevent a hostile collision: the Prussian soldiers instantly shot him. General Colomb, anxious to report a victory—which subsequent events have proved that he was not likely to gain easily—published a statement to the effect that Count Chlapowski had been shot at the head of a body of insurgents. A judicial inquiry afterwards taking place, General Colomb was obliged to recant, and to admit that his first statement had been incorrect, for that Count Chlapowski had been shot by mistake. It may be asked, why there should be this dislike between the Poles and the Germans? and I know it is often argued that the Poles must have acted exceedingly ill, since the Germans who appeared a short time ago to be the ardent friends of Poland have become their enemies. I believe that that feeling of enthusiasm in favour of Poland did exist throughout Germany at large, and that it has not materially diminished. But the reason why the Germans in Posen dislike the Poles is simple enough. The Germans there form a minority, which for a length of time has enjoyed the privileges, and much more than what ought to be the privileges, of a majority. Ever since Posen has been annexed to Prussia, almost all places of trust or emolument from the highest down to the most insignificant, have been given to Germans to the exclusion of the Poles; and when the Germans found that they were to enjoy this privilege no longer, but must submit to see those they had been accustomed to look down upon as inferiors acquire the ascendancy, they became, naturally—if you will—but not at all justly, exceedingly indignant. I am not contending that the Poles in Posen have acted throughout judiciously, or followed in all things the dictates of moderation and of wisdom. I think it might have been possible for them to have conciliated the German inhabitants; but for the reasons stated it could not be an easy task. The King has lately attempted to settle the difference, by granting not merely separate institutions to the districts of Posen chiefly inhabited by Germans, but by dissevering those districts for ever from the Duchy of Posen, and incorporating them with the Germanic Confederation: he has thus exasperated the Poles to a high pitch, and not without reason. It is in the first place a breach of faith, for he had promised Polish institutions to the whole Grand Duchy of Posen on certain conditions, which, as the proclamation of his own officer, General Willisen, declares, have been strictly fulfilled. It is also in itself unjust: for the Germans have, properly speaking, no business in Posen—they are not indigenous there, but have been imported or placed there as colonists, by the Prussian Government, for the express purpose of denationalising and Germanising the country. It is, moreever, in direct violation of the Treaty of Vienna, which stipulates the preservation of Polish nationality, by means of Polish institutions, for the whole of the Grand Duchy, and not for any one part more than another; and here I must say I should like to know from the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Treaty of Vienna is still to be considered binding on this country or not, as far as regards Prussia. By that treaty we have guaranteed a certain portion of Saxony to the King of Prussia; and it is possible that, in virtue of that stipulation, we may one day be called upon to give effective aid to Prussia, for the preservation of that territory. It is fitting, therefore, that we should know whether that treaty, which other States violate day after day, is still considered by our Government as binding upon England.

I must, too, take occasion to express my regret that the Government has not, in that part of the world where such events are passing, some agent who could watch and report upon them. If the noble Lord had listened to the advice given him long ago—if he had not, I will not say broken his promise, but departed from the intention he had positively announced, of sending an agent to Cracow—I am persuaded that that republic would not have been destroyed, and that he would have possessed the means of obtaining authentic information, which I do not believe he can now command. The intelligence supplied by the embassy at Berlin must principally be derived from German sources, and cannot therefore be implicitly relied upon. I have stated that I place no credit in the reports of the newspapers as to excesses and barbarities committed by the Poles. I deny them on the authority of correspondents of high character and undoubted veracity, either residing on the spot, or in the neighbourhood, and possessing ample means of obtaining direct intelligence from the country—persons, some of them, who, if named, would be admitted as good authority by a great part of the Members of this House. But there are also official documents to support what I state. There is the proclamation of the Prussian General, Willisen, declaring that the Poles had fulfilled all the conditions imposed on them. There is the order of the day of the Prussian commander-in-chief, Von Colomb, in which he reproaches his own soldiers with the excesses committed by them, and enjoins better conduct for the future, without saying one single word—as no doubt he would, had he been able—of provocations endured by them from the outrages of the Poles.

The disunion between different classes in Poland is always a favourite topic with the enemies of the Poles. We are constantly told that the insurrections of the Poles are for the benefit of the noble class alone, and that the peasants take no interest in them; and some persons—persons, too, who ought to know better—trusting to the unfounded theories of the newspapers, have asserted that the peasants in Posen were in arms against their landlords, and have described the state of things prevailing there as nothing but a jacquerie. There never was a supposition more remote from the truth. There has been no jacquerie in Posen; but, on the contrary, the attachment of the peasants to their landlords has been manifested in a remarkable degree. The peasants have felt that the interests of both classes were the same—nay, the peasants have shown themselves even more animated by patriotic sentiments than any other class. Mounted on their diminutive horses fresh from the plough, without saddles, and with halters for bridles, these gallant men have, in more than one encounter, routed and put to flight the cuirassiers and hussars of the regular Prussian army. Never has more determined bravery been displayed; men armed with scythes and a few fowling-pieces have foiled and beaten heavy battalions; facts which can only be accounted for by the enthusiasm of these irregular levies, and the lukewarmness of the disciplined troops to which they were opposed.

In Galicia, where two years ago a bad spirit having been carefully fomented by the Austrian Government, the peasants, at the instigation of the Austrian authorities, rose against their landlords, a better feeling now prevails; and in the little territory of Cracow the peasants are, and long have been, on the best terms with their nobles. Although I am extremely unwilling, at this late hour, to trespass longer on the patience of the House, I cannot sit down without referring to the cruel treatment which Cracow has again received from the Austrian Government. I took the liberty of putting a question on this subject a few nights ago to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he admitted the truth of the account I had heard; but I was sorry that he spoke of that horrid event with some apparent levity. I see my noble Friend repudiates any such intention; and I am quite sure that the levity was only apparent, and not real, and that my noble Friend would be the last man to feel lightly with regard to such a horrible event as the bombardment of a town. But as everybody is not so well acquainted with my noble Friend as I am, I regret that he should have expressed himself on the occasion I refer to in a manner to create an impression which I am sure he would not wish to produce. The facts were, that a number of Poles from different parts a Poland, not subject to Austria, having congregated in Cracow, the Austrian authorities, among whom was Baron Krieg, famous, or rather infamous, for the part he took in the massacres of Galicia, deter mined to drive them out, and gave order, that they should depart. The inhabitants thinking this order exceedingly harsh, first complained against, and then prepared to resist it. Some barricades were thrown up in the streets, whereupon, without the slightest notice, the castle commenced a bombardment of the city. This lasted several hours; and, at the end of that time, 400 of the refugees and inhabitants having been killed, the rest made submission. The bombardment of a town is always considered the very last mode of warfare to be resorted to—to be used in a case of extremity only, when all other means have failed; and even then it is never had recourse to by civilised Powers, until due warning has been given, in order to allow the enemy time to make a decision, and afford the unfortunate inhabitants an opportunity of saving their lives, if not their property. A bombardment destroys all alike—those who resist and those who submit—the young, the old, the infirm, the sick, women and children—all are alike exposed to the same danger, the same horrors. Yet the paternal Government of Austria did not scruple to exercise greater severity than would have been admissible against a hostile town, towards a city which, by a treaty entered into with this country, she had bound herself to protect.

Truly was it said by one of the greatest liberal statesmen of England, a noble Lord whose opinions I am fond of quoting in this House, the late Lord Holland—"In all times, and according to all history, if ever anything mean, oppressive, or treacherous was to be done, Austria was the party put forward to execute it;" and when taken to task for these words by Lord Liverpool, he would not retract them, but, on the contrary, repeated, "that there never was a Government that had uniformly displayed more meanness, more severity, and more injustice than the Austrian Government."

I really do think that transactions such as those which I have mentioned deserve the attention of Her Majesty's Government; and I do trust that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will employ that influence which he undoubtedly possesses, to prevent the repetition of such shocking occurrences, and to impress on foreign Powers the obligation of acting with a little good faith and some slight degree of humanity, towards the Poles who have been placed under the dominion of those Powers, by virtue of treaties to which we are parties. My noble Friend has talked of the rights of Russia over Poland. I never have, and never can admit, that Russia has any such rights; but even supposing her to have them, my noble Friend knows perfectly well, and has, indeed, to-night again admitted, that if they exist at all, they are dependent on certain conditions, and can therefore be then only legitimately claimed, when those conditions have been fulfilled. But those conditions never have been fulfilled, and any right consequent upon them has long since been forfeited.


said, that having been in Poland very recently, and having travelled all through it, he felt bound to say that the talk about the nationality of the Poles was utter trash. The great bulk of the population of Warsaw, Cracow, and the other large towns of Poland, were all Jews.


said, there were hon. Members who had been in Poland, as well as the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. He must say, that he did not think it becoming to speak of Poland and the Poles as that hon. Member had just done. He believed that Poland, so long forgotten, was destined to reappear, and that the wrongs and long sufferings of the people of that unfortunate country would ere long be redressed by the public opinion of Europe, in which England would take the lead.


I adopt the suggestion made to me, but I regret the reasons on which it is founded. I withdraw the Motion, but I do not conceive that I have any reason to be satisfied with this debate. I am, Sir, anything but satisfied; I am deeply humiliated; I, at all events, have endeavoured to do my duty.

Motion withdrawn.

House counted out and adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.