HC Deb 30 May 1853 vol 127 cc787-8

Sir, I wish to put a question to Her Majesty's Ministers as to the present state of affairs in Turkey. The House will, I hope, permit me, not that I wish to contravene for a moment the regulations that apply to the asking of questions in this House, to preface the question I am about to put by a brief statement, in which I shall offer no opinion, but which it is necessary that I should make in order that the House may fully understand its bearing; and as the question mainly depends upon dates, I may be permitted respectfully to beg the attention of hon. Members to the statement I feel it my duty to submit. The House is aware that, since on Friday last I addressed a question to Her Majesty's Government on the subject of our relations with the Porte, the Russian Ambassador Extraordinary at the Porte, Prince Menschikoff—the ultimatum he had tendered to the Turkish Government having been refused—has quitted Constantinople. Now, it appears that Prince Menschikoff quitted Constantinople on the 22nd inst.—it would require, to communicate between St. Petersburgh and Constantinople, seven days; the news would, therefore, reach St. Petersburgh on the 29th of this month. Assuming for a moment that the Emperor of Russia might wish to act instantly and with decicision upon Constantinople, we must remember that there is a considerable fleet, and a not inconsiderable military force, at Sebastopol. It would take seven days to communicate between St. Petersburgh and Sebastopol, so that the order would arrive there on the 5th of June; and, supposing that two days were necessary for the fleet to put to sea, and four days for the passage between Sebastopol and the entrance of the Straits, that would bring the dates down to the 11th of June—so that the earliest period at which it would be possible for the Russian fleet and force to be at the entrance of the Straits would be the 11th of June. Assuming, moreover, that there was no very considerable opposition to their entering the Straits from the Black Sea, the Russian fleet might anchor opposite the Seraglio on the 11th, and twenty-four hours afterwards would be in possession of the entrance of the Dardanelles, and so prevent any fleet entering from that side of the Straits. Having stated these dates to the House, which are absolutely necessary, as the House will perceive, to the proper understanding of the question, I beg to promise, also, that if on Saturday last Her Majesty's Ministers had thought proper to give directions to our Admiral at Malta to proceed with the British fleet to the Dardanelles, he could, viâ Marseilles, and by the aid of a small steamer which was waiting at Marseilles for that special purpose, receive instructions on the 2nd of June. It would take seven days for Admiral Dundas to proceed with the British fleet from Malta to the Dardanelles, and he would arrive there on the 9th, exactly two days before the Russian armament could make its appearance. Now, the question I wish to put to Her Majesty's Government is this, whether, taking the contingency to which I have referred into consideration, Her Majesty's Government have issued instructions to the British Admiral at Malta to proceed with the British fleet to the waters of the Dardanelles?


Sir, in the present state of the relations between Russia and Turkey, I feel that, as anything said here must be considered of the utmost importance, I must decline answering the question which the right hon. Gentleman has just put. I can but leave him to give notice of any Motion which he may think proper to make on the subject, and I shall be ready, at any moment, to defend the course we are now taking.

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