HC Deb 04 February 1850 vol 108 cc273-85

brought up the Report on the Address, which was read a first time.

On the Question that the Report be read a Second Time,


said, the question that had been asked a few minutes ago by the right hon. Member for Manchester, and the answer that had been given by the Secretary of State, reminded him that the assertion in the Speech from the Throne, that Her Majesty was in peace and amity with all foreign Powers, was at least premature. It appeared to him that that statement was one which ought not, under any circumstances, to have passed unnoticed by that House. This was the second year in which a very significant alteration had taken place in the terms in which the Sovereign had communicated to the representatives of the people the relations which subsisted between this country and foreign Powers. The language of the Royal Speech in 1845—language which he believed had been used on all recent occasions with the exception of last year—was that— Her Majesty continues to receive from all foreign Powers and States assurances of their friendly disposition. Now last year there was a singular omission, or alteration, in the Speech from the Throne; and they were not assured, as they had been previously, that Her Majesty received from foreign Powers the assurance of their friendly disposition. But the language of the Speech this year was still more meagre and suspicious than that of last year, for to inform Parliament that— Her Majesty happily continues in peace and amity with foreign Powers, was merely to inform them that Her Majesty was not at war. Although, to a certain extent, that was a satisfactory announcement, it was not an announcement so complete that the commercial classes of this country could be assured that there was not a prospect of the continuance of those blockades for the establishment of which the present Administration had been remarkable. He would have taken the opportunity of calling the attention of the House to this subject the other night, but for the anxiety which existed on both sides to come to a decision upon the Amendment; and if he had then introduced the question, it might have tended to retard the debate. He might probably have passed the sub- ject unnoticed on the report, had it not been for that remarkable circumstance which had been referred to, and which, he thought he might say without exaggeration, had occasioned a very considerable sensation in this country. He would, therefore, take the opportunity of adverting very briefly to one or two other subjects connected with the foreign policy of the Government, upon which, after what had occurred, he thought they might reasonably expect some information from the Secretary of State. As the Speech stated that Her Majesty continued in peace and amity with foreign Powers, the noble Lord might perhaps find it convenient to inform the House whether Her Majesty's representative had yet been received at the Court of Madrid, and also whether there was any prospect of the Court of Vienna sending an ambassador to the Court of St. James's? The noble Lord might also find it convenient to offer to the House some explanation with regard to certain passages of the Royal Speech which appeared to him (Mr. Disraeli) of a very ambiguous character. The Speech informed them that— In the course of the autumn differences of a serious character arose between the Governments of Austria and Russia on the one hand, and the Sublime Porte on the other, in regard to the treatment of a considerable number of persons who, after the termination of the civil war in Hungary, had taken refuge in the Turkish territory. Explanations which took place between the Turkish and Imperial Governments have fortunately removed any danger to the peace of Europe which might have arisen out of these differences. That seemed to him to be a complete statement; but a subsequent paragraph, which appeared to be introduced without any coherent or logical consequence, informed them that— Her Majesty, having been appealed to on this occasion by the Sultan, united Her efforts with those of the Government of France, to which a similar appeal had been made, in order to assist, by the employment of Her good offices, in effecting an amicable settlement of those differences in a manner consistent with the dignity and independence of the Porte. Perhaps the noble Lord would inform them how it was that after the explanations had taken place between the Turkish and Imperial Governments, which removed danger, and were so completely satisfactory, the mediation of England and France was asked to effect that which had been already accomplished. The only way in which he could account for this obscurity was by supposing that in the hurry of the printer the paragraphs might have been transposed. If the three paragraphs had been thus arranged, first, as to the statement of the difference; secondly, as to the mediation of England and France; and, thirdly, with reference to the fortunate termination of the negotiations, they would have been perfectly intelligible to the House and to the country, and would have been quite satisfactory. But why England and France should have interfered, when according to the Speech there was nothing to interfere about, when an amicable arrangement had already taken place between the Sublime Porte and the two Imperial Powers, was a matter, he confessed, beyond his comprehension, and one which he thought fairly required some elucidation from the Secretary of State. There was also another point on which he thought the noble Lord might perhaps find it convenient to give some information to the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had congratulated the House the other night on the revival of commerce which had been occasioned by the termination of the blockade in the north of Europe. The House, no doubt, well recollected the circumstances which led to that blockade. It was now about two years since he (Mr. Disraeli) called attention to those circumstances, anticipating that a blockade—which afterwards occurred—would take place. The noble Lord, on that occasion, although he recognised the importance of the circumstances, gave the House those sanguine and satisfactory assurances in which he dealt so liberally, that no inconvenience would result to the commercial interests of this country. Nevertheless, in due time a blockade did occur in the Baltic, which was found at the time extremely vexatious to British commerce. Now, he would like to know from the noble Lord whether the Danish question had yet been settled? Three or four times since he (Mr. Disraeli) first brought the subject under the consideration of the House, he had recalled it to the recollection of the Government, and on every occasion the House had received from the noble Lord the most satisfactory assurances that, though the question was not settled, it would probably be settled in the course of the next week or ten days. Two years had now elapsed; the blockade had certainly not been revived; but, as far as he could judge from the circumstances open to all Members of that House, there was no reason why a blockade in the north of Europe might not again be established, because the settlement the noble Lord had assured the House would take place, and which it was understood was to he brought about by the mediation of the noble Lord, had not been effected. Instead of hearing of the satisfactory settlement of this question, they learned to-day with the greatest surprise that our free-trade Government—which had occasioned so many blockades that they had gained a peculiar character for such measures—had established another blockade, which must be extremely vexatious to the commerce of this country. He hoped the noble Lord would take the present opportunity of giving the House some details upon these points. He hoped the noble Lord would assure them that the relations of this country with Spain and Austria were such as might be expressed in the language which had been customarily used by the Sovereign in communicating with Parliament—that the most friendly dispositions subsisted between Her Majesty and those Courts. He trusted that the noble Lord would throw some light upon those ambiguous paragraphs in the Speech which referred to the transactions in the Levant with reference to the Sublime Porte; that he would also assure the House that there was a prospect of an immediate settlement of the question between Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein; and that, without waiting for papers, he would give them a more popular and satisfactory account of our relations with Greece. He (Mr. Disraeli) would like to know what had been the immediate cause of this unhappy misunderstanding, because there had to-day appeared what professed to he a semi-official account of the transaction, and the great offence on the part of the Court of Athens appeared to be, that they had deprived a British subject of some land which he had purchased in Greece. In ordinary times, no doubt, that would be a sufficient cause for the interference of the Government of this country in vindication of the rights of one of its subjects; but they were now living in days when British subjects were deprived of their interest in the land, without any sympathy being expressed for them even in the Speech from the Throne. It appeared to him, therefore, hardly a sufficient cause that, because the interest a British subject had in the land might have been compromised by the conduct of the Greek Government, Her Majesty's Ministers should send a squadron of three-deckers and steam-ships to vindicate his rights. The measure, however, showed a sympathy with the territorial interest, which he (Mr. Disraeli) was very glad to see entertained by any Member of the Government.


said, that before the noble Lord answered the questions put by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, he (Mr. Roebuck) wished to add a complement to those questions. As he understood the matter, there were certain long outstanding claims made by persons either in the character of British subjects, or who actually were British subjects, which had not been satisfied by the Greek Government. But there was also, as he understood, another claim of a much more important character—namely, with respect to certain islands to which the Government of England laid claim, and which claim had not been satisfied by the Government of Greece. The question, therefore, really became one of national importance. He believed that the Governments of France and Russia were parties to the guarantee of the integrity of the monarchy of Greece, and, therefore, any claim on the part of England to any portion of the territory of Greece, was a matter in which France and Russia had a right to interfere; and every step taken by England with regard to the monarchy of Greece, must have been taken with the full understanding on the part of our Minister for Foreign Affairs that he was running the risk of calling in the intervention—perhaps the hostile intervention—of the Governments of France and Russia. Passing over, then, the case of the Portuguese Jew, and the outstanding claims so many years old, the question became one of national importance—of importance to the whole world. Had we sent a fleet to the Piræus for the purpose of enforcing the claims which he had mentioned, before there was an understanding with the Governments of France and Russia—sent a fleet in a hostile shape, with an intention to resist the Governments of France and Russia if they attempted to interfere? Passing from this to another question of the hon. Gentleman opposite, with respect to Spain, he (Mr. Roebuck) hoped the noble Lord would be able to tell the House that there was not the slightest chance of any arrangement with Spain. We had gone on so admirably while we had no arrangement with Spain, and we went on so exceedingly ill while we had anybody there, that he thought the most enviable condition in which we could pos- sibly be, in regard to the Court of Spain, was when we had no representative there. The thing that would give him most pain would be to see Spain sending a representative here, and an ambassador sent hence to Spain. He was very much inclined to believe that from this singular case we might arrive at a general proposition, and that the sooner we reduced our diplomatic establishments and expenditure, the better. He hoped Gentlemen opposite, who were casting about in every possible way to cut down the expenditure, would direct their attention to this matter. They said they were about to be most vigilant and ardent economical reformers, and he trusted their aid would not be lacking when the proper period came for cutting down what appeared to be an unnecessary expenditure.


following the example of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, wished also to call the noble Lord's attention to another point. In reference to the passage in the speech of the Lords Commissioners relative to the settlement of the differences that had arisen between Austria and Russia and the Porte, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs might be congratulated on the noble position his Government occupied in the solution of those differences, though he (Mr. Anstey) could have wished our interference had been better timed, and had secured the total emancipation of the Sultan from the evil influence which we, in concert with France, had enabled Russia so long to exercise over him. But the subject to which he rose to call the noble Lord's attention, was that of the state of affairs in the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. In the capacity of mediator between the Porte and Russia last year, Sir Stratford Canning, our Ambassador, was enabled to bring about an accommodation—which he (Mr. Anstey), for one, regretted, being more willing that the question should have been decided in another manner—an accommodation in virtue of which Russia, undertaking to withdraw her troops beyond a certain number (limited, he believed, to 10,000), was to be allowed to occupy those principalities to that extent only down to the end of last year. Now, it was asserted, and most authentic evidence had been laid before him to enable him to judge of the probability of the assertion, that not a single Russian soldierhad been withdrawn—that the number of troops occupying these principalities at the date of the accommodation in question had been very materi- ally increased—and that the Turkish Government had not ceased to arm its population and to strengthen itself on that frontier, in the anticipation, amounting almost to an absolute certainty, that when the approach of spring should open the passes of the Balken, that question, if not that of the extradition of the Hungarian refugees, would be reopened and become a pretext for an aggressive war. His question, then, was this—were our Ministers in possession of such satisfactory information on the subject of this occupation of the pricipalities of the Danube, as should justify them in calling upon the House not to append to their congratulation of Her Majesty in the reference to Russia, the expression of a hope that Her Majesty, having regard to the perfidy of that Power, as evinced in past transactions, and to the alarming attitude it continued to present on the side of the Danube, would, in entering into new treaties, or in maintaining correspondence with Russia, with regard to subsisting treaties, take care to exact real security for their performance.


Sir, adverting, in the first instance, to the questions put by the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Buckinghamshire, and referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield, relating to Greece (though not put first in order), I would state—giving that explanation which the hon. Member desires—that the grievances for which redress has been asked have been chiefly these: —In the first place, there is a Mr. Finlay, who has been long established in Greece, and who had lands there, part of which was taken forcibly from him several years ago for the purpose of forming a portion of the gardens of the palace which King Otho was building. Mr. Finlay has been, for a long course of time, supported by Her Majesty's representatives, endeavouring to obtain proper payment for the land so taken. That payment, however, has never been got. That is one of the wrongs for which redress has been demanded. The other case is that of a Gibraltar subject—not a Portuguese Jew, as stated by my hon. and learned Friend—of the name of Pacifico. His house, in Athens, was violently broken into at mid-day by a mob, of which part were soldiers, in the service of the King of Greece, some gendarmes; the son of the Minister of War heading and encouraging them. The demands for redress in respect of this have not yet been attended with success. There were, be- sides, Ionian subjects, who, upon different occasions, were victims either of plunder or of bodily ill-usage, for whom also compensation has been required. The other question about the possession of the two islands stands thus: —By the treaty between Russia and the Porte, signed in 1800, the Ionian State was constituted with the consent of the Sultan, and that State was to consist of certain islands therein named, and of all other islands and islets lying between those islands and the coast of Greece, up to a certain point. In pursuance of that treaty, the two islands in question, Elaphonisi and Sapienza—two very small islands, though, from circumstances, one of them is of importance—were by a decree of the Ionian Government in 1804, by name aggregated to two of the larger islands named in the treaty; and those islands have ever since been considered by the Porte, and have been considered by the Sovereign of Greece, as part of the Ionian States. When the protocol of February 1830 was signed, by which the Greek State was constituted, the territories of that State were specified as consisting of certain portions of the Continent, and of certain islands; those islands did not include the islands of Elaphonisi and Sapienza. There can, therefore, be no doubt whatever that those islands have been, ever since the treaty of 1800, confirmed by the treaty of 1815, portions of the Ionian States. With regard to our relations with Spain, which the hon. Gentleman opposite wishes to see renewed, but which my hon. and learned Friend wishes to remain suspended, I am not enabled to state that diplomatic relations have been renewed. Communications, not official, have taken place. After the discouragement the hon. Gentleman has given me with regard to anticipations of the future, I will confine myself at present to stating simply what is—not informing him what I may hope or not hope as to the future; that undoubtedly, up to the present moment, no arrangement has been made by which the diplomatic relations between the two countries have been renewed. With regard to our relations with Austria, those relations—I mean diplomatic relations—are such as are well known. The Austrian Government has not, at the present moment, a Minister at this Court, the Minister who was here having, for private and personal reasons, retired from that position; but, as an indication that the feelings of Her Majesty's Government towards the Court of Austria are of the most friendly nature, we have continued our Ambassador at the Court of Vienna, though, for the moment, there is no such representative of Austria appointed to the Court of St. James's. Of course, if that arrangement should become permanent, and the Austrian Government should continue to have here only a functionary of a lower rank than that of ambassador, it could not be expected that Her Majesty's Government should continue the appointment of an officer of that rank at the Court of Vienna. It is well known that differences of opinion have existed for the last few years between the Government of this country and the Government of Austria upon matters of great importance to Austria; those differences of opinion must often exist between Governments taking respectively their own view of affairs, but they have not led to any cessation of friendly relations between the two Courts. No person can be more sensible than Her Majesty's Government are of the importance to Europe that the two Governments should be upon friendly and intimate terms. We are sensible of the great importance of Austria as an element in the general balance of power in Europe; and we see with great pleasure any progress which the Government of Austria may make towards a friendly reconstruction of those elements which for a time were placed in jarring collision. With regard to Denmark, my memory is not so good as that of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire; I do not recollect ever having assured this House that in the course of a week or ten days from the time when I was speaking the question would be settled. I may have stated, that certain preliminary arrangements—that an armistice, forinstance, would be concluded; but I never so far shut my eyes to the difficulty of the questions involved, as to hold out to the House that in a week or ten days the whole of them were likely to be settled. The House will remember, that in the course of last summer a preliminary treaty was signed, and an armistice concluded. The hon. Member treats the Danish blockade as if it was our blockade. It was established by Denmark very much against our inclinations. The hon. Member, in dealing with the question, seems to consider the British Government as invested with some great power of settling these questions according to its desire, and within the period it may wish. [Mr. DISRAELI: You can interfere under the treaty.] Yes; but how are you to adjudicate upon points on which the parties may happen to differ? Those who have attended to this Danish question must know that it is, of all questions perhaps that ever arose in Europe of equal intrinsic importance, one of the most complicated, with regard to the number of parties interested in it, and the number of interests involved in it. You have the Danish nation, the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, each having its particular feeling; you have Germany, taking it up as a German question; you have the Prussian Government dealing with it; you have the Governments of Russia, of Sweden, of France, feeling it a matter in which they are more or less interested, although they may not join in the negotiation in the same manner as England. Therefore it is a question with regard to the settlement of which more separate feelings and wills must be brought into unanimity than perhaps in any question of equal importance ever submitted to the skill of negotiators. I cannot pretend to say, that hitherto there has been much progress, during the recess, in regard to the final settlement of this question. It is well known, that for a considerable time the central power in Germany was in a state of abeyance; it has only been recently reconstructed. Prussia had been the primary negotiator on behalf of Germany, not as Prussia, but as appointed by the central power in Germany. It was necessary that Prussia should be reauthorised by the new central Power; and that has been done, and the negotiation has been renewed. I should hope, from the assurances of a friendly nature which are given to Her Majesty's Government—even though those assurances have not been mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech—I should judge, from the tone of the parties concerned, that they are entering into that negotiation with a real and sincere desire to bring it to a friendly conclusion. I assure the House that no effort will be spared on the part of Her Majesty's Government to induce the parties to come to a final settlement. But there are grave questions to be determined. There is one relating to the succession to the Danish Crown; another, what should be the constitution of the duchy of Schleswig in relation to the other part of what we call the Danish monarchy. These are points in- volving national feelings and considerations; and however much we may wish to see them settled, and in a short time, yet when so many different parties are concerned, we must not expect that matters of that kind can be arranged so quickly as we should wish; and more especially considering that Her Majesty's Government is only acting as mediator, and that we have no power to exercise authority in regard to these questions. Now, with regard to the differences between Turkey and the Imperial Governments, the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire complains that the second paragraph relating to that subject in the Queen's Speech, states that explanations had been entered into; and a third paragraph comes afterwards announcing the employment of the good offices of Her Majesty's Government. It was impossible to put the two paragraphs side by side together; but it is not the less true that the good offices of Her Majesty's Government did accompany the explanations between the two parties concerned, and I think we may fairly assume that the exercise of those good offices, in concert with those of the Government of France, did materially contribute to render successful those explanations which took place between the parties concerned. The hon. and learned Member for Youghall wishes to know whether it is likely that the Russian Government will fulfil the engagements in regard to the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia which it entered into with the Porte in the course of last year. It is quite true, I believe, as he has stated, that at the present moment the Russian force in the principalities considerably exceeds the number stipulated by the arrangement of Balta-Liman concluded last year; but one must make some allowances for the various and difficult circumstances which have arisen since; and it is not fair to infer from the fact that that force has not yet been reduced to the stipulated amount that it will not be so reduced at an early period. I can assure the hon. and learned Member that I have no apprehension of that attack on Turkey which he seems to think intended by the Russian Government. I am persuaded—and my persuasion is founded on assurances given by the Russian Government—that that Government entertains none but friendly feelings towards the Turkish empire; and that as soon as local circumstances will permit, the Russian force now occupying the prin- cipalities will be reduced to the number stipulated by the arrangement of Balta-Liman. That number, as he stated, is to be 10,000 on behalf of each of the parties; the Turkish force has been reduced, I believe, to the number of 10,000, and I feel perfectly convinced that the Russian force will he reduced to the like number so soon as the season admits of the removal of troops. I will just add, with regard to blockades, that I am not aware that we have instituted a great number since we have come into office; the Government which preceded us instituted several during its existence. I remember three, at least, on the coast of South America. I must beg to disclaim any responsibility for the blockade established by Denmark. It was exceedingly injurious to the commercial interests of this country, and I assure the House that no effort shall be wanting on the part of Her Majesty's Government to persuade the parties to come to some final and satisfactory arrangement, which shall put out of question any renewal, either by land or by sea, of hostilities between the Danes and the Germans. They have the strongest inducements to be on the best terms with each other. If the Germans have an interest in regard to Denmark, it is that Denmark should be maintained as a separate and independent State; and if the Danes have an interest in regard to Germany, it is that the intercourse between Denmark and Germany should be as free as possible.


said, the noble Viscount had most successfully avoided the slightest reference to that question which, without disparagement to the others, he ventured to assert was by far the most important, namely, whether in that crisis of affairs now existing in Greece, the officers under the authority of Her Majesty's Government had or had not acted with the concurrence of France and Russia; the whole danger of the crisis (saying nothing of the credit or discredit of attacking a weak State, even in a just cause) being that of provoking a European war, if Her Majesty's servants had acted without that concurrence. The noble Lord had carefully evaded the point, satisfactory as his speech was on some others. He (Sir R. H. Inglis) trusted that he would state that whatever measures had been taken on the part of England had been taken, first, in accordance with existing treaties; and, secondly, with the concurrence of her allies in the treaties relating to Greece, namely, the Governments of France and Russia. Another question also he wished to ask was this. Whether M. Pacifico, whose wrongs were, he was sorry to say, in danger of being redressed at such risk to the peace of Europe, were or were not a British subject? And, lastly, whether Mr. Finlay were or were not a British subject? Because, he apprehended, no one would contend that England was bound to redress the wrongs of any and every man who chose to call for her protection in any part of the world. He regretted the loss of the services in Greece of a gentleman who was second but to one as a diplomatist—he meant Sir E. Lyons. And he regretted that a Minister of such special experience in the relations between Greece and England should have been displaced by one, who, whatever were his other merits, had no diplomatic experience in Greece or in any other country. He did not assert or insinuate that it was in consequence of this change; but it was a fact unanswerable, that, subsequently to the removal of Sir Edmund Lyons, and within a few months after the arrival of the present Minister, the actual danger had occurred; no such danger having arisen in the long period during which Sir E. Lyons had represented the name of England. He alleged nothing against the discretion of his successor; but the present state of things justified an additional regret that the affairs of this country, in Greece, were no longer conducted by the eminent diplomatist whom he had named. He awaited the reply of the noble Lord to the important question originally put to him by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield.


Sir, proceedings of this kind, which are directed to obtain from the subjects of one country compensation for injuries sustained by them, are carried on by the agents of that country, and it is not usual to make any appeal to the agents of any other Power. With regard to the hon. Baronet's allusion to Sir T. Wyse, I should say that those questions arose during the period when Sir E. Lyons was in Greece; they were pressed and urged by him without avail, and had been pressed and urged by Sir T. Wyse without avail. It is only in consequence of our experience that no efforts of either have obtained redress, that the interference of the Admiral Parker took place. With respect to the other question, the parties are both British subjects.