§ MR. LIDDELL
said, as a number of vessels belonging to this country were at present detained in the Danube owing to the interruption of the navigation, he wished to put the two questions of which lie had given notice—whether any instructions have been sent out by Her Majesty's Government to inquire into the case of British vessels at present detained in the Danube owing to the imperfect state of the navigation of that river; and whether, in the event of hostilities with Russia before such ships can be liberated, a sufficient force will be sent out to that part to prevent their falling into the hands of hostile Powers?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, the recent obstruction of the navigation of the Sulina mouth of the Danube has been greatly increased owing to accidental circumstances of weather. The river has overflowed its banks and spread over a wider surface, which has had the effect of diminishing the force of the current and increasing the deposit of mud at the bar. The particular inconvenience to which the hon. Member alludes is temporary, and no doubt when the cause ceases the inconvenience will also Cease. But I am bound to say, for a great many years past, Her Majesty's Government have had great reason to complain of the neglect of the Government of Russia to perform those du- 1374 ties which belong to it as the possessor of the territory where the delta of the Danube is situate, to clear and maintain clear that particular branch. It was my duty, when Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to make frequent representations to the Russian Government upon this matter, and they always admitted it was their duty to do so. They admitted that which we assert, that as they had thought fit by the treaty of Adrianople to possess themselves of the mouths of the Danube—the great watercourse, the great highway of nations, leading to the centre of Germany—it was their duty to see that it was always maintained free and accessible, according to the terms of the Treaty of Vienna. The Government of Russia did not dispute that obligation, but asserted they were always employed in using means for remedying this inconvenience. The grievance is this; that while the mouths of the Danube formed part of the Turkish territory the depth of water was sixteen feet over the bar, it is now, by the neglect of the Russian authorities, decreased to eleven feet; and even that eleven feet is reduced to so narrow a channel in consequence of obstructions oil each side—from the quantity of vessels being wrecked and allowed to remain there, forming sandbanks and obstructions—that it is very difficult for ships to pass out, except in very ealm weather, and with a very skilful pilot. There were local interests of which we were cognisant, to thwart what we are bound to believe were the intentions of the Russian Government—the rivalship on the part of Odessa, which leads very likely to a desire to obstruct the exports of commerce by the Danube, to increase the exports of Odessa, and also that little local interest which arises from the profits which bargemen and lightermen make in unloading vessels which come down the Danube, and loading them afterwards when they are outside the bar. These local feelings and interests certainly must have been allowed to obstruct without, probably, their being aware of it, the good intentions of the Russian Government, for they promised to take all effectual means, and said they would send a steam dredge to clear all obstructions at the bar. That steam dredge came; that steam dredge in two hours was put out of gear from some accident or other, and that steam dredge had to go back to Odessa for repair. We recommended that the Russian Government should pursue the method by which the Turkish Government kept 1375 the channel clear. That method was a very simple one: to require every vessel that went out to drag astern a good iron rake. It kept the channel clear, and the depth of sixteen feet was constantly kept up. I understand that, in addition to the representations which it was my duty to make when in the Foreign Office, constant complaints and representations have been made to the Russian Government; and I hope that Government will at last break through the trammels which hitherto seem to have impeded its proper action, and see that it is a positive duty which it owes to Europe to maintain free that passage, which it obtained by force of arms, and which they believe themselves justified in retaining by the treaty of Adrianople.
§ MR. LIDDELL
hoped the noble Lord would give an answer to the second part of the question—whether, in the event of hostilities, a sufficient force would be sent to prevent British ships falling into the hands of hostile Powers?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I apprehend the question of the hon. Gentleman relates to vessels now confined within the Danube and within the Russian territory for want of water to get out. I think he will see, if by any misfortune, which I cannot at present anticipate, war should arise between this country and Russia, British ships of war cannot get them out without the water.