§ MR. COBDEN
said, that previous to putting the question of which he had given notice, he would beg to remind the House that some Reports had been received from their Consular Agents in Turkey, dated in June last, referring to the state of the Christian population in Turkey. Those Reports led them to expect disturbances amongst that population; those disturbances had taken place, and part of the Turkish empire bordering upon the kingdom of Greece was at the present time in a state of insurrection. He consequently thought that these were grounds for questioning the noble Lord the Member for the City of London on the subject, for had they not reason to know that their diplomacy and their ships of war were mixed up in those disturbances? He perceived that an English captain—Captain Peel, he believed—had landed from his ship at Prevesa, and had had something to do with these disturbances, and Lord Stratford had also interfered in those troubles. He read last month that that noble Lord had sent Mr. Blount into Thessaly, and that he visited part of the disturbed districts. In fact, he was the Governor of those districts whilst he was there, for both Christians and Turks fled to him for protection against those irregular troops the Bashi-Bazouks, who seemed to be a brutal force, and to be committing unheard-of atrocities among the population. In alluding to the relations of this country with the kingdom of Greece, or rather with the Court of Athens, the noble Lord, on the 1004 last night before the recess, spoke in emphatic and unmeasured language, and said that the King and Queen of Greece were the whole cause of the insurrection in Turkey; and he (Mr. Cobden) wished to ask the noble Lord whether he was prepared to lay before Parliament any papers relating to the insurrection of the Greek Christians in Turkey, and explanatory of the present relations of England with the Court of Athens. This question was now much more important than it had been before, because the Turkish Government had expelled the Greek population residing in Turkey. That was very like the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, when the French Government expelled the most useful part of their population, who were engaged in carrying on the silk trade in that country. [Cries of "Order, order!"] The way it affected the interests of this country was this—[Cries of "Order!"] He thought the question so important, and that these facts should be brought out, that he should put himself in order by concluding with a Motion. Almost the whole of the trade of Turkey with this country was carried on by Greeks. There were fifty-five Greek houses in Manchester, who purchased almost all the goods for Turkey and the Levant, and he had been informed that the purchases of Greek houses in Manchester and Glasgow amounted to from 2,800,000l. to 3,000,000l. per annum. They were generally naturalised subjects of the Greek kingdom, but almost invariably born subjects of the Porte. The facts connected with the subject were so illustrative of the state of government that existed in Turkey that he would mention one to the House. He had asked one of his friends, a Greek merchant, to inform him how many Greeks in the City of London who carried on trade operations in the City were subjects of the Porte, and the information he got, after two days of inquiry, was this—and no doubt it was perfectly correct—that there were fifty to fifty-five Greek houses; that they were all born subjects of the Porte, but he could not find now more than two that remained subjects of the Porte; they had all become naturalised subjects of the King of Greece, or were naturalised Russians or Austrians, because no Greek merchant, a subject of the Porte, felt himself secure in carrying on extensive operations in commerce, except he had a protection from some other naturalisation besides that of Turkey. What a dreadful fact it was, when they 1005 considered its bearing upon the government and the state of society in Turkey, that those who carried on all the foreign trade of Turkey must seek a foreign naturalisation to enable them to carry on their commerce with safety! Then came the important question—if the Turkish Government banish a great part of these Greek houses from Turkey, who was to carry on the trade; and the question he had to ask the noble Lord was, whether there was any information to show that the decree of the Turkish Government was to be carried out in all its rigour, and if the English Government were a willing and assenting party to it. The question, therefore, that he had to ask the noble Lord was, whether the Government contemplates laying before Parliament any papers relating to the insurrection of the Greek Christians in Turkey, and explanatory of our present relations with the Court of Athens? and he would conclude by moving, that the House at its rising should adjourn to Monday.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
; Sir, in answering the question of the hon. Gentleman, I will say at once that the Government hope shortly to be able to lay before Parliament papers relating to the insurrection of the Greek Christians in Turkey, and explanatory of our present relations with the Court of Athens; but to one or two statements that have been made by the hon. Gentleman I wish to refer. The hon. Gentleman refers to the statement that has been made on my part, that the insurrection in Turkey of the Christians had been fomented, and in fact very much owed its origin to the conduct of the Greek Government. Every paper I have seen from persons who have authority from Her Majesty in that quarter, whether it be from our Minister at Athens or the Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, or whether it be from Consuls Saunders or Blount, every one of those statements shows that the Greek Government have been most active in fomenting that insurrection. In the last despatch I read front Mr. Wyse, he says that the Foreign Minister of the King of Greece did complain of some phrase that had been used by the French Minister at the Court of Athens, and that he stated it was no use to complain of particular terms, because, in fact, it was notorious that the Court of Greece had done its utmost to foment the insurrection; that the persons who were employed high in the service of the King of Greece, whether in his household or in the 1006 military service, had been the most active persons in crossing the frontier, and in endeavouring to raise the Christian population of Turkey against the Sultan. The French Minister mentioned various other facts to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the King of Greece, and it does not appear that they were at all denied, but there was a general statement of the sympathy that must be naturally felt for the Greeks in Turkey. I do not mean to deny that of the Christians in Turkey many of them are averse to the Mahometan rule; but what I state is, that in a great many of the villages that have risen in insurrection there was perfect tranquillity. Although they were not content with Mahometan rule, there was no desire to rise in insurrection, or to take up arms against the authority of the Sultan, until persons in fact authorised by the King of Greece, who lately held his commission and came from Greece, were active in raising and fomenting that insurrection. With respect to the part our ships abroad have taken on this subject, I own at once that some of Her Majesty's ships have prevented vessels carrying arms and ammunition going from Greece in order to assist the insurgents, and such vessels have been stopped. The hon. Gentleman next refers to the order that all the subjects of the Kingdom of Greece in the Turkish territory should leave that territory. That was a decision the Sultan's Government was perfectly competent, to make, and the comparison of that order to the revocation of the edict of Nantes is, I must say, an unhappy one. The persons to whom that revocation of the edict of Nantes applied were subjects of the King of France, and they were ordered to leave France for the reason history gives us. But these Greeks were not the subjects of the Sultan, merely differing from him in religion; but they were persons who were the subjects of a foreign Power, and of a foreign Sovereign, who was doing his utmost to raise an insurrection and rebellion in the provinces of Turkey. Whether that measure taken by the Sultan be expedient or not is quite another question. The reason for taking that step has not been communicated to Her Majesty's Government. We have been informed that the measure has been taken, and all that Her Majesty's Government have said on the subject is, that we doubt the wisdom of the policy that dictated it. But no one can deny that it is a step that the Sultan was perfectly competent to take, and there 1007 may be reasons, of which we are not aware, that dictated this step; but at all events the historical parallel which the hon. Gentleman used is one that is not very applicable, and is, in my opinion, a most signal failure. With respect to the papers to which the hon. Gentleman alludes, we shall be ready to produce them. I am very sorry to say that these papers will show, whenever they are produced, that great atrocities are committed, both by the irregular troops in the service of the Sultan, and by the insurgents who have risen against the Mahometan rule. While on the one side we have those irregular troops destroying Christian villages and leading the women and children into slavery; on the other hand, we have Christians going against the Mahometan inhabitants of a perfectly tranquil village—persons not in arms, and not employed otherwise than in the pursuits of peace, and destroying those Mahometan villages, and rooting out and extirpating the inhabitants. This is one of the most melancholy spectacles—this is one of the consequences that was to be expected from the attempt of the Emperor of Russia. It was obvious that when he pretended to be the protector of the Christians in Turkey, he would raise up on the one side and excite the fanaticism of the Mahometan population, and on the other side would arouse the desire for independence which exists amongst the Christian population the subjects of the Sultan. The creation of that civil war was one of the consequences of that most unjustifiable aggression of which there is scarcely an apologist to be found anywhere, except perhaps the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, the noble Lord appeared inclined to make merry with what he had called the signal failure of the historical parallel pointed out by his hon. Friend (Mr. Cobden); but if the noble Lord had been disposed to treat the matter fairly, he would have known, what everybody else must have known, that his hon. Friend merely referred to the Edict of Nantes for the purpose of showing that the banishment of the Greek population from Turkey must have the effect of banishing a large portion of the industry and foreign trade of that country. His hon. Friend said nothing about the right of the French monarch to banish those who were his subjects, or about the right of the Sultan to banish from his country persons living there who were not his subjects. But the 1008 real fact in relation to this question was, that there was a large body of persons in this country whose interests were deeply concerned in it. There were many persons living in England who were parties in mercantile establishments in Turkey. He had just received a letter from one who had been living in England since he was twelve or thirteen years of age, who had married an English lady, and who never intended to go back to the East, but he had a brother in Constantinople carrying on business there. That brother was a subject of the King of Greece, but who had never interfered in any degree with the political matters now pending, yet he was to be banished within fifteen days, his business must be wound up, and his debts collected by somebody else. This must inevitably tend to a great loss on the part of that individual, and might be the ruin of many. The question, then, which that House had to consider was, whether it was not the duty of Her Majesty's Government, acting for the interests of this country, and for the protection of Turkey, to protest against that measure—whether it was not the business of our Ambassador at Constantinople, not, indeed, to say that he doubted as to its being a wise policy on the part of the Sultan—for there was not a man above an idiot who did not know that it was a very unwise policy, and that it must occasion a great loss to the industry of this country, and a still greater loss to the industrial and commercial interests of Turkey—but to interfere and, if possible, prevent such a step being taken by the Sultan. If we had had an Ambassador at Constantinople who was not plunged chindeep in the disturbance which had been brought about, in all probability he would have protested against this proceeding, as some other Ambassadors had protested. But those vast interests which this country had in the question, far above all others in the world except those subjects of the King of Greece, had been entirely neglected by the English Ambassador at Constantinople. The noble Lord had brought charges against the Court of Athens; but what was one of the demands which had been made by the Sultan of the King of Greece? It was, that the press in Greece should be suppressed; that that press, which had been hitherto free, should be no longer free. What was said by this country, a year and a half ago, when the Emperor of the French was understood to have made representations to the King of the 1009 Belgians complaining of the freedom with which the press of Belgium commented upon the events that were taking place in France, and desiring that such comments should not be continued? Did not the press of England denounce that interference on the part of the Emperor of the French? And yet an exactly similar demand had been made upon the King of Greece by the Government of Turkey, with the sanction of the English Government, for it was idle to say that the Government of Turkey was any other than in the hands of the Ambassadors of France and England. The noble Lord brought charges also against the Emperor of Russia. He must here observe that the noble Lord had never heard him or his hon. Friend (Mr. Cobden) say a syllable in behalf of the Emperor of Russia. Their object in all their discussions had been to keep in view the character of the English Government and of the English people; and if the noble Lord had foreseen, as he might have foreseen, the enormous dilemma into which he would be plunged in connection with this single element—the Greek population—he (Mr. Bright) was not at all certain that the noble Lord would have ventured upon the course which he had pursued. He had heard the noble Lord in that House denounce the conduct of the Emperor of Russia as fraudulent. [Lord J. RUSSELL: The Government of Russia.] Well, the Government of the Emperor of Russia, then; but he had always been told that the Government of Russia was in the hands of one man, and that that man was the Emperor, therefore he did not exactly see the difference. For the noble Lord, when speaking on behalf and in the place of his Sovereign, to use language of that character with regard to a great potentate with whom this country was at the very time carrying on negotiations, was neither statesmanlike nor prudent; but the noble Lord's Colleague the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) followed the noble Lord in language of a still more indefensible and reprehensible character. He wished to know how they were at some future time to approach the Sovereign of Russia, or how that Sovereign could approach them, except with feelings of great exasperation, if language of that kind was to be used by the Members of the Government, who no doubt had an object to serve in stimulating the feelings of that House and of the country in favour of the policy 1010 which they were pursuing? The noble Lord had to-night spoken in strong language of the course taken by the Court of Athens. What was that Court? It was established mainly by this country. It was established in its present form by the special recommendation of the noble Earl who was now at the head of the present Government, and the Government of Greece had been carried on to the present time under the joint supervision of three or four of the great Powers of Europe. And now the noble Lord—for he must identify the noble Lord with everything that was done by our Ambassador at Constantinople—was going to treat the Court of Athens in a very different manner from that in which he treated another nation across the Atlantic under very similar circumstances. When an insurrection in Canada occurred, and when that disturbance was attempted to be stimulated and heightened by a certain number of unsettled and vagrant people from the United States, the Government of this country did not tell the United States what had been told to the Court of Athens; it did not threaten the United States with effecting the occupation by British forces of Washington or New York. No; what you said to the United States was this:—"You will understand that if any of your subjects are caught beyond your northern frontier, we shall treat them as pirates, and we shall expect to do that without any protection being extended to them by the United States." That language was well understood by the United States, and that was all they were called upon or required to observe. The noble Lord was as well read in history as any man, and he (Mr. Bright) could conceive circumstances under which the noble Lord could tell the House more of it than he was disposed to tell just then. The noble Lord knew perfectly well that in the Ionian Islands, in those blessed regions which had been so many years under the government of Lord High Commissioners sent from this country, that in those islands, where the people were not under the Turks at all, nor under the Court of Athens, but under your own Sovereign, Sir Henry Ward could not meet the Senate, a Senate elected by a wide suffrage and by the ballot. ["Hear," and laughter.] Yes, a Senate which really and notoriously represented the feelings of the entire population of the islands. Sir Henry Ward called them together as usual, he made a speech to them; they prepared an ad- 1011 dress, a draught of which was seen by him before it was proposed; he perceived what were the feelings of the population of those islands, and what did he say to the Senate? He said that he could not go into the questions which they had raised; that his duty to his Sovereign would not permit him to give any kind of sanction to the opinions expressed in the address. And what did he then do? He prorogued the Senate and adjourned it to September next. Thus it was clear that the population of the Ionian Islands, over whom the Court of Athens could have no control whatever, were as much in favour of the movement now spreading throughout the whole of the Turkish provinces, as the Greek people. The feeling of the Greeks for freedom was one so strong that Sir Henry Ward could not repose upon the fact which had been urged by the noble Lord as an argument, namely, that the main portion of the Greek insurrection had been stimulated by the Court of Greece. With respect to the papers that were to be laid before the House, he hoped the whole would be produced, and not the head of one, the middle of another, and the tail of a third. He saw the other day, in a window in Fleet Street, an English newspaper which had been returned from St. Petersburg with large paragraphs and passages cut out of it. That was just the way in which the House was served by the Government. Let the noble Lord give them the whole blue book—let all papers and all letters be produced. Don't let there be merely those portions furnished which suited the object of the Government, but which would present nothing but a most unfair and a most untruthful statement of the case. The noble Lord had said that the Emperor of Russia was responsible for all the disturbances that had occurred in Greece. He would not contest that question for a moment, but he only warned the noble Lord of this—that, if he thought he was going to maintain the independence of any country by going to war against the united and unanimous wishes of the population, the noble Lord must be in possession of a theory of success which he (Mr. Bright) was not able to understand. Nobody doubted the fact that 10,000,000 out of 12,000,000 of the population of European Turkey were altogether adverse to the course which this country was pursuing. The Government had been drifted into a war by the impolicy of their own conduct. They were now in it, but they were de- 1012 cidedly carrying on a war against the feelings of the population of that country which they were pretending to protect. No sneers at his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding would get them out of those great difficulties in which they had involved themselves. The Greek element was the insuperable difficulty they had to meet, and, the sooner the noble Lord made up his mind on that point, and endeavoured to accommodate and arrange it, the better would it be for this country. What the Government was now doing was to hand over the Greeks in Turkey to Russia. Those Greeks were always anti-Turk, but were never in favour of Russia. The present policy of this country would make them more anti-Turk, but would, at the same time, make them rather the friends than the enemies of Russia; and thus a population which, if rightfully treated, would have formed a true barrier against any aggression on the part of Russia, were, by your absurd and unstatesmanlike conduct, handed over to Russia, and induced to espouse that line of policy which all your actions were intended to prevent.
§ MR. LAYARD
said, he wished to make one observation in regard to what had fallen from the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cobden). The hon. Member had told the House that a large number, indeed almost the whole of the Greek merchants in their country, were native born Turkish subjects, but were trading as the naturalised subjects of other Powers. That was undoubtedly true, and the same was the case with the Greek merchants in Constantinople; but what was the explanation? Those men were born in Turkey, and were Turkish subjects; but, by a gross abuse of the privileges allowed to the representatives of other nations by the Sultan, they had been able to obtain the protection of the Ambassadors and Consuls of other countries, as if they were the subjects of those countries. It was managed thus:—these Turco-Greeks would go, for instance, to Odessa, and while performing quarantine without even landing would obtain a Russian passport; they would then return to Constantinople, and by virtue of that passport they would obtain the protection of the Russian Ambassador or Consul as subjects of Russia, and be thus enabled to enjoy privileges which the Turks themselves did not possess. It was notorious that passports were sold for a few piastres by the Greek Consulates in Turkey. 1013 And what were the privileges they conferred? Those who possessed them refused to pay the ordinary taxes of the State; they actually refused to contribute to the common charge for lighting and cleansing the streets of Pera. And he would invite the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) to ask any British merchant resident at Constantinople whether this gross abuse of privileges claimed by Greeks enjoying this protection was not most injurious to British trade, and had not ended by almost ruining every British house at Constantinople? Having enjoyed these advantages, was it extraordinary that they should also be exposed to the disadvantages that resulted from their position; or that when the Sultan found them engaged in raising rebellions within his dominions, he should compel them to be what they claimed to be—foreign subjects, and should compel them to leave his territory? The hon. Gentleman said that this measure would be attended with loss to the trade; but the principal sufferers by it would be the Turkish Government; and this fact showed that they must have been compelled almost, by a necessity of their existence, to expel from the country those from whom they derived their chief revenue. He was surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman make some remarks upon the conduct of Mr. Blount, our Consul at Salonica, who, he stated, had almost taken upon himself the government of Thessaly. The fact, however, was, that no man in Turkey was better acquainted with the true state of the population than Mr. Blount; that no man had done more to protect the Greeks; and that no man held a higher position in the esteem both of Greeks and Turks than Mr. Blount. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) then blamed the Turkish Government for interfering with the Greek press, which, he said, was as free as that of Belgium. But the fact was, that the Greek press was not free. Petitions falsely purporting to come from villages in Thessaly, and to be signed by the primates and chief men, were inserted by the Greek Government in the Greek papers, containing statements calculated to cause great irritation amongst the Turkish population, and which were thus likely to lead to the massacre of the Christians. Fortunately, Mr. Blount had sometime previously forwarded to our Ambassador at Constantinople petitions from the same villages, containing statements of a directly contrary 1014 character and begging the Ambassador to convey their thanks to the Porte for the protection they had received; they were thus saved from the vengeance of the Turks. The fact was that the insurrection in the Turkish provinces was carried on by troops in the pay of Greece, and who were actually reviewed by the King and Queen before they started from Athens on their insurrectionary expedition. Mr. Blount went into Thessaly to show the inhabitants the dangers they ran, if they took part with them, of being treated as rebels by Turkey, while they were sure to he the first victims of the men who crossed over the frontiers with the professed object of assisting them. To a certain extent Mr. Blount had succeeded in restoring tranquillity in that province; and for that he deserved not blame, but praise. The hon. Member for Manchester still talked as if he shared in the old error that 10,000,000 of the subjects of Turkey were Greeks and had no sympathy with her; and in order to support his views on this point, he alluded to the feelings of the population of the Ionian Islands. No doubt the Senate of the Ionian Islands were very anxious for the success of the Greek insurrection, in order that they might gain their own ends. The condition and character of the Greeks of the Ionian Islands were not very encouraging for those who advocated the Greek cause. Did the hon. Gentleman know what was the first step taken by this Senate elected by the ballot? The first thing they did was to pass a law that no man should be liable to pay his debts for four years. He remembered last year meeting a gentleman of considerable rank in Greece; and while talking about the Ionian Islands, the gentleman said, "You do not know how to treat them; let them be added to Greece, and we should show you how to deal with them." In answer to the question as to what would be the course taken by the Greek Government, his friend added, "We should turn three or four regiments of irregulars amongst them, and you would soon see the result." No doubt there was great danger that portions of the Christian population in Turkey would rise; but that population, generally, had no sympathy with either Greece or Russia, nor had they any very strong feeling against Turkey. When he (Mr. Layard) had the honour to address the House on the 30th of March last, he stated, on the authority of a private letter from Constantinople, dated on the 20th of that month, that a 1015 large Russian force, consisting of seven steamers and four transports, had appeared on the coast of Circassia, and had carried off a large body of troops from the garrisons there in the presence of Her Majesty's steamer Sampson. That statement—which was sent to him by a person who, he might say, was almost personally engaged in the matter—corresponded completely with a statement which had since appeared in a Russian paper, and therefore there could be no doubt that the account which had been furnished to him was true. But what was his surprise to find, after his having stated the fact in the House of Commons on the 30th of March, that the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, on the 6th of April, denied the thing in the House of Lords? ["Order, order!"] He meant in another place. The noble Lord distinctly denied the statement. It appeared from the statement in the Russian paper that three distinct proceedings took place. On the first occasion a number of forts was destroyed; on the second, troops were carried off; and on the third, some more troops, who had been left on the former occasion in consequence of bad weather, were removed. The article in the Russian paper concluded in these words:—From all these posts, besides the garrisons, which make up an effective force of 5,000 men, they embarked all the families of the soldiers, the workmen, and a great part of the stores of the Crown. The rest, as well as the buildings, were burnt, and the fortifications were blown up. Our military resources have thus been augmented by an important body of picked troops accustomed to war by long service in the centre of an unsubdued country.The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty said that the Russian vessels were only postal steamers which were employed in carrying the mails. He (Mr. Layard), however, had seen them, and he could tell the right hon. Gentleman that they were steamers built in this country, and that, although they were called postal steamers, they were really vessels of war carring the same armament as Her Majesty's ships Devastation and Stromboli. He might indeed be told that our vessels could not interfere with the proceedings of the Russians on the occasion referred to because there was at that time no declaration of war. But he wanted to know what was the meaning of the instructions which they found in the blue books as early as October last? By an order dated the 8th of October, the Admi- 1016 rals were directed not to allow any ship to issue from Sebastopol, and were told to send her back if she did. This operation on the coast of Circassia, as described by the Journal of St. Petersburg, was evidently a directly warlike step, for if these troops had not been removed they must have fallen into the enemy's hands. And he contended that the English and French fleets were bound to prevent any such step being taken by the Russian Admiral. This affair and that of Sinope might cost this country an inconceivable amount of treasure and blood, for not only had 5,000 men been by this means added to the garrison of Sebastopol, but our moral influence over the population of these provinces had been much diminished by showing them that the Russian fleet could, if they pleased, come out of Sebastopol. He was surprised that the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Office should have denied the statement which he made on a former occasion, and he certainly thought that some explanation on this subject was required, for it was evident either that the noble Earl did not wish the statement to go forth to the public, or that the Government had not received information which had reached the hands of private individuals. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Herbert) had denied the correctness of the statements with respect to the Commissariat Department which had appeared in the Times. He (Mr. Layard) could easily believe that those statements were correct, but lie was the last man who would wish to throw blame on the officers of the Commissariat and transport service. He was informed that Mr. Commissary General Smith did not go out till March. Now, as far back as January last, he (Mr. Layard) warned the Government that Turkey was not a country like England, and that preparations for the reception and support of an army should be commenced some months before its arrival. Every letter he received from the East confirmed him in the opinion that in a very short time we should find ourselves involved in far greater difficulties than we had at first any reason to expect. He was afraid that the country would find that preparations which should have been undertaken months ago, and which would have been if the Government had listened to the warnings of those who knew the country, had been far too long deferred. If due attention had been paid to those warnings, our troops would not now have 1017 been wanting the common necessaries for the sick, or the means of covering. The blame of this, however, rested not with the officers concerned in the management of our affairs in the East, but with the Government at home. He perfectly agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, that at no period had the country sent forth such a fleet and such an army, at so short a notice, as those which we had recently despatched to the seat of war; but he must say that if the Government had taken the precautions which they ought to have done last year, they would not now be exposed to complaints which he feared were too well justified.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, that the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) had reverted to a subject which was raised by a question put to him by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone, and which had reference to the conduct of the officer commanding the Sampson, on the coast of Circassia. The hon. Member confidently relied on the accuracy of the statement which he had made on a former occasion, although he (Sir J. Graham) had asked the House to suspend its judgment until they had received the report of the British officer as to what took place, and had, on the part of Government, declared their willingness to lay on the table a copy of the instructions which were given to the commander of the Sampson by Admiral Dundas, and also a full report of what passed on the occasion referred to. The hon. Member doubtless believed what he stated when he said that 5,000 men were withdrawn from the forts on the coast of Circassia and sent to Sebastopol. Now, the only information which the Government had yet received, and which they were ready to lay before the House, was, that there were two transports, one of which was boarded, and that the two contained not more than 300 or 400 troops. The statement of Captain Jones is express, that the steamers were not vessels of war, but simply five small steamers employed as mail packets between Sebastopol and Odessa. The hon. Gentleman said that he had had the advantage of seeing them, but Captain Jones also had seen them. He had only one ship of war with him, and yet these five powerful steamers, as they were represented to be, crept as close to the coast as they could, and in the most careful manner avoided an encounter with one English and one French steamer. So much for the statement in the St. Peters- 1018 burg Journal, which the hon. Gentleman believed. He must, therefore, entreat the House to suspend their judgment until they had seen the official report on the subject from a British officer of undoubted honour. Then with regard to the orders that were given to the fleets. The order of the 8th October, to which the hon. Member had referred, was one of a very modified description, and only declared that the coasts of Turkey should be protected. After the affair of Sinope—which he regretted as much as the hon. Member did, and which he declared, in his humble judgment, to be an eternal dishonour to the Emperor of Russia, inasmuch as it was a violation of assurances which had been given by his Government—a much more stringent order was issued by the British Admiral on the 24th of December. By it protection was extended from the Turkish coast to the Turkish flag, and it was directed that every Russian ship of war, as contradistinguished from merchant ships, which should be met by the English or French cruisers, should be warned to return to Sebastopol, and that if she refused force should be used. The affair in question took place on the 16th of March, and as war was not declared here until the 29th, and the news of it did not reach Varna until the 16th of April, the transaction must be viewed with regard to the orders of December, which were then in force. Now, in the first place, it was to be observed that whatever might be the character of the Russian steamers, they were not met on the sea—they crept close to the shore; and as they were proceeding from one Russian port to another, they could not be overhauled by the British steamers without an infraction of the law of nations. The transports could be overhauled. A question might here have arisen whether the order applied to transports. Captain Jones decided that transports should be treated as men-of-war, and he treated them accordingly. He (Sir J. Graham) should be prepared to contend that the orders issued by the Admiral were defensible, and that the manner in which Captain Jones executed them was quite correct. But he would not then trespass on the House further in regard to a case which could not be satisfactorily discussed until the papers were before them. In the meantime he entreated the House to suspend its judgment, and not to believe a Russian account in preference to the report of a British officer.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he wished 1019 to put questions to the Government on two points. The first question related to the case of certain Russian merchant ships captured on the high seas, and supposed to be lawful prizes. In the Times of yesterday he observed an announcement, dated "Paris, Wednesday," of an Imperial decree, allowing Russian ships which left ports in the Baltic and the White Sea before the 15th instant to discharge and return to any Russian open port or neutral harbour without hindrance. The announcement proceeded to state, "The English Government, it is said, have come to a similar determination." He, therefore, wished to know whether such a decree had really appeared, and whether our Government concurred in it. It was certainly clear that if these ships could be brought into the English ports, some great omission must have been made in our Orders in Council. Orders had been given that all Russian vessels leaving our ports before May 10 should not be interfered with on the high seas by the French or English cruisers. Now, he certainly thought that, on the same principle, similar orders should be given with respect to Russian vessels leaving a neutral port before that date. It would be still more singular if we could take vessels leaving a French port before that date, because, if the French orders were similar to ours, the effect would be that the French cruisers could seize vessels leaving our ports, and we could seize vessels leaving French ports, and thus the professed effect of our Orders in Council would be entirely lost. He wished, in the second place, to call the attention of the Government to the case of a British ship, the Ann Mac Lester now lying at Cronstadt. She sailed thence in October, 1853, but was obliged to put back in consequence of stress of weather; and the repairs which were thus rendered necessary detained her in the Russian port until the frost had set in. In the meantime war broke out. The Emperor of Russia had now issued an order permitting the Ann Mac Lester to sail from Cronstadt as soon as the water is open. But it was certain that if she sailed after the 10th May, the British cruisers would seize and condemn her for breaking blockade. So that having on board a cargo the property of British merchants, and purchased in 1853, the ship was placed in this position—that the Russian Government would seize her if she did not sail, and the British cruisers if she did. He must add that within half an hour before he rose to 1020 address them information had been received that an order had been given that the ship should be allowed to leave Cronstadt, but that for military reasons she must be manned by neutral sailors, in consequence of her crew having been so long within a Russian fortress. Now, it so happened that this was the ship which Sir Hamilton Seymour had selected to bring over the effects which he had left at St. Petersburg, so that if those effects were really placed on board her, the only danger of confiscation which they would incur would arise under the British Orders in Council, for he could not see how any distinction could be made between them and the rest of the cargo. The legal advisers of the merchants who owned the Ann Mac Lester had, under these circumstances, advised them to apply to the Government for a licence, which had been refused, although it was clear that this was a special case, and could have no bearing on the general question of whether licences should or should not be granted to trade with the enemy's ports in time of war. It was right, therefore, it should be known that if the property of Sir Hamilton Seymour should be confiscated the British Government, and not the Emperor of Russia, would be responsible for the proceeding. He consequently wished to ask the Government if they could point out any mode by which this British ship, with Sir Hamilton Seymour's effects on board, could be allowed to leave Cronstadt unmolested by our cruisers. He might, in conclusion, state his belief, from information which had been supplied to him, that there was no foundation whatever for the statement that Sir Hamilton Seymour's effects had been detained at St. Petersburg by an order of the Emperor of Russia because they were Sir Hamilton Seymour's effects. He believed that if they were detained at all, they were detained for some formal matter arising out of the necessity for making out fresh papers. It was clear that, as the ship originally cleared in October, 1853, and as the shipment of Sir Hamilton Seymour's effects would therefore be a fresh taking in of cargo, it would be requisite that she should make a fresh clearance at the custom-house, and should be furnished with new papers. In the event of the Ann Mac Lester being captured by one of our cruisers, she would be condemned and confiscated, and, of course, Sir Hamilton Seymour's effects would share the same fate as the tallow, iron, and stearin with which the 1021 vessel was laden. He wished to know, therefore, whether the Government would not issue orders for allowing a British ship with Sir Hamilton Seymour's property on board to return home unmolested?
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, the first question put by the right hon. Gentleman referred to an order stated to have been issued by the French Government, conformably to which an order had likewise been issued by Her Majesty's Government, to the following effect:—That Russian vessels leaving the Russian ports of the Baltic and the White Sea before the 15th of May next, bound for a port of France or Algeria, may freely accomplish their voyage, discharge their cargoes, and afterwards return to a Russian port not blockaded, or to a neutral port.There was no doubt as to the fact of such an order having been issued by the French Government, and he need hardly say it was also true that a corresponding order had been issued by the British Government. The French order contemplated a further extension of time with respect to the Colonies; but the British Government had not issued any such instructions. He did not think it would be expedient on the present occasion, and he did not know that the right hon. Gentleman would wish him to argue the question, whether there should be a further extension of the Order in Council, so that ships not leaving the ports of belligerents, but leaving the ports of neutrals, should be entitled to correspondingly lenient treatment with ships leaving the ports of belligerents. But he must observe to the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to the policy that dictated the order of France and England regarding ships leaving the ports of belligerents, that it was intended to be in favour of their own subjects who had entered into contracts with belligerents before the declaration of war. Though they might not go the whole length which the right hon. Gentleman would desire, yet it was quite apparent that the Orders in Council which had been issued were framed in a spirit of the utmost attention to the interests of trade and commerce, with an honest and rational desire to mitigate to the utmost extent the evils of war as affecting the communities of the belligerents; and the only doubt which might be entertained was, whether they had not carried this beneficent spirit so far as, to some extent, to affect the power of the belligerents to prosecute hostilities with effect. He did not think it would be expedient to dis- 1022 cuss this question now incidentally, but he would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the concessions which we had made in that beneficent spirit had already been met by our antagonists, for a corresponding order, in substance, had been issued by the Emperor of Russia,By which the Minister of Finance allows English and French vessels six weeks from the 19th of April to clear out of Russian ports in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azoff, and six weeks from the 7th of May to clear out of Russian ports in the Baltic. Enemies' property in neutral bottoms will be regarded as inviolable, and may be imported into Russia. The subjects of neutral Powers on board enemies' ships will be unmolested.This was an order, on the part of the Russian Government, corresponding in spirit with those which had been issued by the English and French Governments, and he must say that he thought a great triumph had already been achieved by a mitigation of the evils of war, as they affected trade and commerce in the time of war. He was also happy to be able to impart some consolation to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the unhappy Ann Mac Lester. The Ann Mac Lester obtained a clearance from Cronstadt in November last, but from stress of weather, and the frost setting in, she was unable to proceed to sea. Her cargo was put in, and was completely on board before the declaration of war. His right hon. Friend appeared to anticipate that this unfortunate ship, on account of a blockade which either was instituted or was about to be instituted, must either be seized by the Emperor of Russia, and not allowed to quit the port, or that, if she attempted to put to sea without a licence, she must be captured by the blockading squadron. He must be allowed to tell his right hon. Friend, that by the law of nations—though it was inexpedient to discuss these questions in a cursory manner, and still more inexpedient for him to give any positive opinion upon them—but according to the law of nations, when a clearance was effected, and the cargo embarked before the declaration of war, then, notwithstanding any blockade, and without any licence, the ship was entitled to pass freely. Therefore, so far as the public declaration of the Russian Government went, the vessel to which his right hon. Friend's question referred had nothing to fear; whilst the proceedings of the British and French blockading squadrons would be regulated by strict conformity with the requirements of the law of nations. What 1023 the Emperor of Russia might have decided specially in this case they did not know; but he believed the right hon. Gentleman's remark to be quite correct, that if no change had been made in the vessel's cargo, and if the crew of the vessel had been changed, as was said to have been required by the minute to which allusion had been made as having been issued on military grounds, then, even so far as Russia was concerned, no difficulty would be interposed in regard to the departure of the Ann Mac Lester. As to the other question put—what was to become of the effects of Sir Hamilton Seymour—he believed the right hon. Gentleman was misinformed, and that those effects were not on board the Ann Mac Lester, but were on shore. He hoped and believed that his eminent friend Her Majesty's late Ambassador to St. Petersburg, would be treated according to the strictest usages of diplomacy, and would not be deprived of his property, whether that property were on board the Ann Mac Lester or not. The facts of the case were that this British ship, so far as the law of nations and the enforcement of the blockade was concerned, had nothing to apprehend in putting to sea without a licence. He, for one, considering the great latitude given under the Orders in Council with reference to neutrals, was of opinion, first of all, that the blockade must be enforced in the most stringent manner, so that articles contraband of war might not be allowed to pass, and the strictest search must be made for them. These rights being in force, he was further of opinion that there was the greatest danger in granting licences; and he hoped that neither France nor England would be induced to grant licences. He was happy to think, therefore, that in the first case which had arisen, that of the Ann Mac Lester, according to the law of nations, the vessel had nothing to apprehend from the blockade.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he must beg to explain that he had not stated that he had received information that the Russian Government had issued an order to allow the Ann Mac Lester to pass, if no change had been made in her cargo, with a neutral crew; but he had said that she was to be allowed to go with her cargo wherever there was open water, but she must have a neutral crew. The right hon. Gentleman had also misapprehended his statement with regard to Sir Hamilton Seymour's goods, by the embarcation of 1024 which the clearance of the ship would date after the declaration of war.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, that the owners of the vessel were not so satisfied with regard to her safety as the right hon. Baronet appeared to be, and he held in his hand a statement of their legal advisers upon the subject. They had received information from their correspondent that the Russian Government had stated that it would waive all right to the vessel if she was not able to leave, owing to the ice, until after the time fixed by the Emperor, and would give orders that she should be permitted to leave Cronstadt. The agent of the vessel then forwarded a statement of the case to the Foreign Office, in which he said that her cargo had been put on board in October, that she had cleared out at the end of that month, that she had put back from stress of weather, and had since been detained in port; but that she had never broken bulk; and he asked for a licence. The matter had been referred to the legal advisers of the Government, and an answer was ultimately returned, to the effect that no licences were to be granted. The owners had, thereupon, taken the soundest legal opinion in London upon the case, and the professional men who were consulted thought that, if the vessel attempted to pass through the blockading squadron, she would be boarded by a prize agent and sent in his charge to London, and it was obvious that there would be great difficulty in proving before an Admiralty Court that her cargo consisted of bonâ fide British property. With respect to another topic to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) had adverted, he should wish to be informed whether there was the slightest foundation for an extraordinary rumour which had been circulated through the town to the effect that the goods of Sir Hamilton Seymour had been confiscated by the Russian Government. Much indignation had been expressed in the papers with regard to this outrage, as it was called, but if the whole story from beginning to end was without foundation, and there were no circumstances which would justify the circulation of this rumour, some one must have acted most culpably. He had constantly expressed his belief that the story could not be true, but he hoped, for the credit of the British name, that some statement would be made 1025 upon the subject. He had made inquiries of the agents of this vessel, and they had informed him that the rumour had excited great indignation among the British merchants and residents at St. Petersburg, and by its circulation at a time like this had done them great injury; that they did not believe such a thing could be possible, and that, although there had been a question about putting the goods on board the Ann Mac Lester, some objection of a technical nature had been raised against doing so. If the rumour was a total calumny, its truth ought to be publicly denied, and, if it were true, let the proper odium of such a transaction rest upon the Emperor of Russia. The rumour had been repeated in an article in the Times newspaper of a most extraordinary nature, and it was well known that that newspaper was looked upon abroad as a great authority with regard to the views of the Government, as apparently nothing that took place was unknown to it, for that newspaper had even obtained information of the ultimatum which had been sent to Russia before the arrival of the messenger who conveyed it at St. Petersburg. The effect of this article on the rumoured seizure of Sir Hamilton Seymour's property had been very prejudicial to British interests, and he therefore asked the Government to state distinctly whether they had any information which would justify the statement that Sir Hamilton Seymour's goods had been seized and confiscated? Sir Hamilton Seymour, although he had denied that the statement with regard to the confiscation of his goods was correct, had unfortunately kept up the delusion that he had been robbed and plundered, by his concluding remarks in a speech which he had since made at Manchester. If the delay in the removal of the goods to England had been occasioned, not by the Russian Government, but by the ice, we ought not, because the Emperor of Russia had offended us, to circulate disgraceful calumnies against him for which there was no foundation.
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
said, he did not rise to speak about the effects of Sir Hamilton Seymour, or to offer any opinion whether they had been detained by order of the Emperor of Russia or not. That was a matter of minor importance. He would not wish to circulate any unjust reports against the Emperor of Russia, who had, he thought, committed enormities enough—acts of perfidy and cruelty, of 1026 faithlessness, and ambitious aggression sufficient to render it quite unnecessary to go to rumours, or mere idle stories, to stamp his character as a prince without faith and without honour, who had proved himself to be dangerous to the welfare of the world—and that character would not be whitewashed even were it proved that he had not confiscated Sir Hamilton Seymour's carpet bags. He had given notice that he would to-night take an opportunity of calling attention to the measures taken by the Government in reference to the war. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell), he hoped, would forgive him for entering into this subject, seeing how deep was the anxiety in the House and throughout the country upon it. And that anxiety was not unnatural, seeing how the Government had hesitated and vacilated—how they had submitted to insult, before they declared war. Seeing the extraordinary reluctance they had evinced to enter into it, it was not suprising that the public should doubt whether, in the hands of those by whom that war was now conducted, it would be carried on with the necessary vigour to ensure success. Before entering into the measures which had been taken by the Government since the declaration of war, he would revert for a moment to a subject which had been under discussion that evening—the proceedings of the fleet in the Black Sea. The right hon. Baronet, the First Lord of the Admiralty, had expressed a desire that the House would suspend its judgment until it had the opportunity of examining the papers he promised to lay upon the table. That was a fair request, and it was impossible not to accede to it; and the right hon. Baronet also begged his hon. Friend (Mr. Layard) to take the accounts from British officers, and not rely upon accounts given by the enemy. He (Lord D. Stuart) was content to do so; but taking the account of the right hon. Gentleman himself, as founded on the statements of those British officers, it did not appear that the allied fleet had carried out the instructions which, with so much apparent hesitation, had been given to them. He found in the Blue-books constant repetitions of grandiloquent phrases as to what the Government expected the fleet to perform in the Black Sea. He found it stated, amongst other things, that the Russian flag must be swept from the Black Sea, and that it was necessary that the British and French fleets should have the complete command 1027 of its waters; and an order was actually given to the fleets not to permit any Russian ship of war to come out from Sebastopol or any other Russian harbour; and if they did, they were to be compelled to return. One reason for this order was to prevent the repetition of such occurrences as that at Sinope; but the Blue-book showed also other reasons, and he could point out passages indicating that the maritime communication of Russia was to be interrupted between the different parts of the coast. They had, however, been told now that our ships fell in with certain Russian vessels sailing between the Crimea and the Circassian coasts, and did not interfere with them, but allowed them to pass. Something had been said about those vessels being only Post Office packets, proceeding from one part of the Russian territory to another, and not regular vessels of war; but that was a mere subterfuge. If anything was meant by the order that Russian ships were not to be allowed to come out of Sebastopol, it applied, of course, to all ships in the service of the Russian Government. It was then said, "But these ships were doing what we wanted them to do—they were returning to Sebastopol;" but if the naval commanders had exercised proper vigilance, they would have met them on their passage to the Circassian coast instead of on their return, and in that case they would have been compelled to return to Sebastopol. He must express a doubt that the coast of Circassia was, as had been stated, Russian territory. Russia claimed it, it was true, but he was not aware that that claim had ever been recognised. It had also been stated by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) that upon another occasion certain Russian ships of war had proceeded to the coast of Circassia, and bombarded the fort of St. Nicholas while in possession of the Turks. What, then, became of the grandiloquent order to our ships to go into the Black Sea, sweep the Russian flag from it, and take the complete command of it? To give out an order of that character, and not carry it into effect, was to make us appear ridiculous in the eyes of our antagonist and of the world. He did not presume to censure our naval commanders, it was possible they might not have been able to keep such a watch as to prevent the Russian ships sailing in and out of their harbours, but if they could not, such an order ought never to have been given. Although we were now at 1028 war, he did not hear that operations had been effected. It was, he submitted, the duty of the Government, war being imminent long before it was formally declared, to have made preparations, so that the moment the declaration issued, they should be ready to act at once. Why had they not a body of troops at Malta, the Ionian islands, or even at Turkey itself, ready to be sent simultaneously with the declaration of war to some place where they might have rendered the Turks effective assistance? Why was it that while Omar Pacha had been fighting gallantly against a superior force on the Danube, our infantry were eating oranges at Malta, and our cavalry remaining idle at home, while the authorities made up their minds whether they should be sent by way of Gibraltar or through France? Why, he asked, had the commander in chief of the expedition, with His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, been engaged in receiving entertainments in the French capital? And why was the Duke of Cambridge at this moment offering incense at Imperial nuptials at Vienna, instead of being at his post with the army? And when at length we tardily sent this force to Turkey, why were they stationed at Gallipoli instead of being sent to the Danube, or to Varna? Suppose Russia had invaded Scotland, and France had undertaken to help us, what should we say if she sent an army to Torbay instead of to Scotland? There had been a general desire in this country to remain at peace so long as it was possible; but directly that war was declared, the opinion became universal that it ought to be carried on with vigour and determination. He bad already adverted to the dilatory proceedings of the commanders of our troops, and he could not help thinking that it would have been much better if the commander in chief had been earlier in the field. It could not be said that his services were not yet wanted there, because there was great danger of the Turks being overwhelmed by the superior forces of the Russians; but in making these remarks upon the commanders, and their delays at Paris and Vienna, he did not mean to censure them in the least degree, as he had no doubt in the world that they had acted according to orders. He knew that while the Duke of Cambridge was very popular with the Army, his Royal Highness was exceedingly anxious to enter upon active operations, and he did not mean his remarks to apply to him personally. He 1029 merely made them for the sake of getting some information from the Government which should satisfy the country that they were going to carry on this just and necessary war with all the vigour and appliances at their command. It should be remembered that it was not a common war; it was, in the words of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), a war of civilisation against barbarism—it was a war for the maintenance of the independence of Europe, and a war for such purposes ought to be carried on with earnestness and with vigour; no means should be omitted that could possibly be employed with any chance of carrying it to a successful conclusion. When such great interests were at stake, not only to Europe but to the world at large, this was no time for slow or hesitating measures. We saw Omar Pacha left to struggle as best he might against the superior forces of the Russians, whilst we heard of English and French troops being landed and entrenched at Gallipoli. We heard, too, of noble and gallant officers sleeping under tents with their ladies. Those were circumstances which showed that the war was not to be carried on in earnest, and that we were doing nothing more than playing at "the game of brag." After the battle of Oltenitza, Omar Pacha might easily have marched to Bucharest. The Russians had but a small force to oppose him; they expected that he would do so; and there was undoubted testimony to show that Gortschakoff so completely expected a forward movement on the part of Omar Pacha, which he would then have been unable to withstand, that he was ready at his door to be conveyed away. The country inquired what was the reason of this hesitation and delay in carrying on the war, this absence of vigorous measures? Was it that the Government were in hopes that Austria would at last make a forward movement? That would be a policy unwise and pusillanimous in the highest degree on the part of the Government; and they might be sure that it was not by any compliments addressed to the Government of Austria, for the purpose of conciliating that power, that they would induce her to range herself on our side. Austria would be sure to go with the strongest; and he had no doubt her sympathies were with Russia, from the proximity of territory, and remembering the partition of Poland and the generally despotic nature of the Government of Russia. If we wanted to have the aid of Austria we must first show 1030 some vigour and obtain some success, and act on a bold and masculine policy. It was only under such a state of circumstances that we might expect Austria to range herself on our side. He therefore called on the House to carry on this war with vigour, in order that it might the sooner be terminated. He had felt it his duty to make these observations on this occasion; but he did not make them from any hostile feeling towards the Government. He was anxious, on the contrary, to see them act in a manner worthy of the country and of this great occasion; and if he should induce them either to give explanations which might go towards satisfying the public as to their intentions in prosecuting the war, or to feel the necessity of carrying it on with vigour, he should have done that which was not unbecoming an independent Member of Parliament to do.
said, he begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, whether any English ship, as well as any Russian ship, which, prior to the 15th day of May next, may have sailed from any port of Russia, situated either in or upon the shores or coasts of the Baltic Sea, or of the White Sea, bound for any port or place in Her Majesty's dominions, will be considered to be free from molestation by Her Majesty's cruisers, under the Order in Council of the 15th instant; and whether, as the ports in the Baltic are rarely open, and the ports of the White Sea are never open so early as the 15th May, such Order in Council will be extended in point of time to the actual opening of the navigation in those seas respectively?
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, in answer to the question of his hon. Friend, he could only state, what had been already stated in the course of the evening, that no licences are granted to any person at all to change the operation of the maritime law. With regard to the Order of the 15th of April extending the time to Russian vessels to the 15th of May, that was intended only to apply to Russian ships for the purpose of enabling them to return home. With reference to English vessels, it was not intended to make any change in the general operation of the law. His hon. Friend would excuse him giving any legal opinion on this subject. He would only refer to a particular case, that of the Ann Mac Lester, the facts being known. By the general law of nations a ship so situated was entitled to come home at such 1031 time as the state of the ice enabled her to do so. Therefore, there was no occasion whatever to make any change with regard to English vessels; but this change was made with reference to Russian vessels up to a limited time, to enable them to carry home their cargoes.
§ MR. BAILLIE
said, the noble Lord opposite (Lord D. Stuart) seemed to think it was a matter of no importance whether or not a grave calumny against the Emperor of Russia should be contradicted in that House. He entirely differed from the noble Lord.
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
said, he must explain that what he said was, that it was a matter of much less importance than many others; not that it was a matter of no importance.
§ MR. BAILLIE
said, he thought the conduct of the press, in seizing on every idle rumour for the purpose of villifying the Emperor of Russia, was most discreditable. With respect to the idle rumour in reference to Sir Hamilton Seymour's property and the Emperor of Russia, he presumed, as Her Majesty's Government had not expressed any opinion on the subject, they were prepared to admit the statement of his noble Friend (Lord C. Hamilton), which he made on good authority, that there was not the slightest pretext for that idle rumour.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he wished to make an observation in reference to the removal of the troops from the forts of the Russians in their own territory, which bordered upon Circassia. He apprehended the clear and distinct answer to the reflections made on the British Admiral in regard to that subject was that it was impossible at that time for the British Admiral to act in any other way than he did. Until there was a clear declaration of war, no such hostile operations on his part could have been entered upon as had been suggested. The question might arise whether the declaration of war was not too long delayed; but until that declaration was made, it must be manifest that the British Admiral could not in any way molest the Russians in transporting their troops from one portion of their territory to another. He would take that opportunity of saying, as the country was now at war, he trusted some attention would be paid by the Government to the water communication on the Danube, as bearing on the mode of supplying the Russian Army with provisions and stores during the war.
1032 It would be remembered that in the campaigns of 1828–29, although Russia was in possession of the Black Sea, she had the greatest difficulty in maintaining her Army, small as it was, comparatively; and he was firmly persuaded that the utter impossibility of furnishing the necessary provisions to a large army of Russians, which would result by interrupting their water communications, would be enough to paralyse any efforts they might make to take possession of Constantinople. It would be of the greatest importance if some mode were devised of getting possession of the various mouths of the Danube by means of an effective flotilla. It was quite clear, for example, that the mode of interrupting Russian communications, particularly if they advanced upon Schumla, would be very easy; and they might be cheek-mated with equal ease at other points. That appeared to him to be a suggestion well worthy the attention of those who had the direction of those matters.
§ MR. FRENCH
said, he wished to know what despatches had been sent from this country to our Minister at Constantinople since the passage of the Danube by the Russians, and since the complaint made by Omar Pacha, of not having received proper reinforcement from the Allies? He wished to know also whether it was true that a statement had been made by Omar Pacha, that if he was not reinforced by the Turkish power, and sustained by the English and French allies, it would be necessary for him to withdraw his troops from the Balkan and concentrate them around Adrianople?
MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, he believed, from the accounts he hail heard, that all through the Greek provinces there was very great oppression of the Greeks by the Turks. He might state that recently, in passing from Alexandria to Trieste, in a steamer, he met a considerable number of Dalmatians on board, who indignantly complained of the treatment they had received at the hands of the Turks, and expressed the strong sympathy they felt in consequence with the Russians. One among many of the instances he had heard of the oppression on the part of the Turks was, that a young girl was walking with her mother to church, in the course of the last winter, when a Turk came and seized the daughter and carried her off. Her mother applied to the Austrian and English Consuls, who applied in turn to the Pasha; 1033 but his answer was, that she could not be taken out of the harem in which she was placed, because she had become a Moslem, and being a Turkish subject it was impossible for the European authorities to interfere. If those things were allowed to continue, it could not be otherwise than that a strong feeling of exasperation must exist against the Turks. The right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty had, in the course of the evening, spoke of Circassia as being a Russian country. He (Mr. Danby Seymour) was not before aware that it was so; and he was desirous of knowing whether he had correctly understood the right hon. Baronet on that point. For the last fifty years the Circassian people had nobly combined in defence of their independence, and up to this moment Russia only possessed the land in Circassia which was within the range of their cannon.
§ Motion agreed to; House at its rising to adjourn till Monday.