§ On the Motion that the House should resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means,
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he rose, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the House to the circumstances of the Greek insurrection in Turkey, and to move that the circular-despatch of Sir Henry Ward to the residents in the Ionian Islands be laid on the table. The House had read the singular manifesto issued by the Emperor of Russia with reference to the war which was now imminent, declaring that the two Christian Powers of France and England were about to take up the cause of the Infidel against Christian Powers and the cause of Christianity. That assertion had already been discussed in another place—discussed very ably, and, he thought, very sufficiently. It was not his intention, therefore, to call the attention of the House to that part of the subject, because he did not believe there was any body of persons in this country who were inclined to attach much importance to the Christianity of the Emperor of Russia, He did not believe there was any 705 portion of the inhabitants of this country who thought the injury done at all affected by the question that one of the two Powers originally engaged in this dispute was Christian, and the other a Mahomedan Power, except that it might have occurred to some that the profession of Christianity generally carried along with it certain duties and responsibilities, and that the Power which neglected those duties and responsibilities sacrilegiously profaned the religion which it pretended to represent. But when the question arose of the relation of the Turkish Government with their own Christian subjects, he felt that we were called upon to solve a very different and far more difficult problem. It was very natural to expect that, when the Emperor of Russia made a religious basis the foundation of the hostilities with which we were unhappily threatened, when he stated that he occupied the Principalities as a material guarantee for the rights and the freedom of the Christian subjects of the Porte—it was, he said, natural to expect that, under these circumstances, that cause would command considerable sympathy among those Turkish subjects; and, aided, as such a cause was sure to be, by money and arms, it might have been expected that the Christian subjects of the Porte would in many places have risen and supported the claims of the Emperor of Russia. He (Mr. M. Milnes) owned it was very much his opinion that such would have been the case, but it seemed not to be so. These anticipations had not been verified, for it appeared that the greater portion of the Christian subjects of the Porte had reasonably judged that they would not do well to exchange the yoke of their present masters, with all its abuses and ill effects, for the sake of imposing upon themselves a distant and alien authority, which combined all the principles of the most stringent and ancient despotism with all the appliances and ingenuity of modern civilisation—a Power which, in the very act of professing to liberate the Greek religion, desired to establish itself in an autocratic popedom, exercising an infallible authority over a religion which might at present be considered independent. Unfortunately, however, in some portions of the territory of the Ottoman Porte an insurrection had broken out, which, though at the present moment, perhaps, not very important, yet threatened to become of a very dangerous character. This insurrec- 706 tion was at present confined to the portion of the Ottoman territory which almost adjoined the kingdom of Greece. The cause of that insurrection did not lie very much below the surface. The House had nothing to do but to consult certain despatches which had been laid upon the table, to find quite sufficient cause for such an insurrection, even without the occurrences of the present moment which might seem to encourage it. It was some months ago that the English Consul at Janina, under date June 10, wrote to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe in these terms:—After orders had been issued for the withdrawal of the troops, the Porte thought it requisite to submit to the Council the representations made by the inhabitants, concerning the danger which they considered themselves exposed to by the withdrawal of the regular troops. Taking into consideration the circumstances of the country and the character of the Albanians, who would most likely fall back into their old habits, the measure of not leaving the country altogether unfurnished with regular troops is a very desirable one.To those hon. Members who had not been in the East, it might be necessary to explain what these Albanian troops were. Imagine our English militia to consist of every ruffian and dare-devil scoundrel who chose to enrol himself in the ranks, and let these men be let loose, with letters of marque, over the country; and the House would see then how dangerous it was that the regular troops should be altogether withdrawn, and that these Albanian soldiers should be allowed to perpetrate acts of cruelty and injustice unrestrained over the country. In a letter from our Consul at Prevesa, dated June 2, 1853, it was stated that—The frontier districts of Thessaly and Epirus appear likely to raise considerable embarrassment to the Government, in the event of pending negotiations assuming a less pacific character. The rural population, oppressed by fiscal exactions, and subjected to intolerable acts of violence and injustice, cannot be expected to entertain any but the most rancorous feelings towards their persecutors. The inhabitants of the greater part of these villages being, moreover, exclusively Christians, and seeing no other prospects of relief open to them, are continually thronging the foreign consulates with the view of seeking some friendly intervention. After thus depicting to your Lordship the disastrous condition of these frontier districts, from various causes, it may be readily conceived that for some time past the emigration of whole families to Greece, which can only be accomplished by stealth, has been practised to a considerable extent, and that parties so circumstanced, together with the whole body of Suliots 707 and other Epirotes domiciled in Greece, will be eager to avail themselves of the first favourable occasion of promoting disturbance in this province.To that letter Lord Clarendon replied:—It is with extreme disappointment and pain that I observe the continuance of evils which affect so deeply the welfare of the empire, and which assume a deeper character of importance in the present critical state of the Porte's relations with Russia.Again, Lord Stratford, on the 4th of July, wrote:—I have frequently had occasion of late, and indeed for some years back, to bring to the knowledge of the Porte such atrocious instances of cruelty, rapine, and murder, as I have found, with extreme concern, in the Consular Reports, exhibiting generally the disturbed and misgoverned condition of many parts of Roumelia, and calling loudly for redress from the Imperial Government. I will not say that my friendly and earnest representations have been entirely disregarded; but the evil has not been permanently removed, and the effect of every partial check has been of short duration. … Such is the magnitude of the evil, and such the danger of its extension under present circumstances, that the necessity of checking its progress and restoring some degree of confidence among the tributary classes is scarcely subordinate to the duty of preparing the means of resistance against an invading foreign army.He would just read to the House one extract more from a despatch of Lord Clarendon, dated July 28, 1853. That despatch stated that—The Turkish Government is so little mindful of its interest not to offend Christian Powers at this moment, or so powerless to enforce its own orders, that your Excellency was compelled, on the 22nd ultimo, and again on the 4th, to address to the Porte an energetic remonstrance against the rapine, the exactions, and the cruelties to which its Christian subjects were exposed.He had not read those despatches with the view of exaggerating the effects of their contents, but because he felt bound to admit that the general conduct of the Christian subjects of the Porte had been more loyal, and had evinced a more just appreciation of the efforts which had been made in their behalf, and of the circumstances of the moment, than could have been expected. He thought that the documents to which he had referred showed that the insurrection among the Christian subjects of the Porte was by no means a mere casual outbreak, but that, on the contrary, it had its real basis in injustice which had been perpetrated, a point which, in considering the insurrection and the mode of dealing with it, must be kept in view. Again, the particular locality in which the 708 insurrection has broken out made it doubly interesting to us. Not only was it in Greece, but it was within a short distance of the Ionian Islands, the people of which deeply sympathised with those of Greece; and by their sympathy it was likely, if this insurrection made much progress, we should ourselves be considerably inconvenienced. He was very well aware of what small importance the name of Greece was in this country, and that not only was owing to the inefficiency of the Government of that country, and to the fact of their having derived small advantage from their independence, but also to the fact that they had appeared in a character which the British people find it difficult to forgive, for they had not only, like Spain and some of the United States, not paid their debts, but we had been compelled in part to pay those debts ourselves. The information with regard to the progress of the insurrection he could only obtain from one source—from the communications of the correspondents of the daily newspaper press, and from one of those communications it appeared that the insurrection was assuming a dangerous character, and was extending to the northern ports. It was also stated that—The coast of Albania is declared in a state of blockade, and the Viceroy of Egypt has been requested to send into the Adriatic the squadron which he intended for Constantinople. A council was held at Janina, at the express request of the French Consul, M. Bertrand. He mentioned that the Greeks had been driven to insurrection by the Albanian mercenaries, in the pay of Suleyman Bey. No attention had been paid to the representations of the vicious system of the Dervend Aga, the Turkish military chief of the frontier. The council determined that the inhabitants of Radowitzi and Lacca should be invited to send commissioners to Janina, and that their safety should be guaranteed by the council and the French Consul; that Suleyman Bey should be instantly dismissed, or, at least, prevented from making any fresh aggression. The Deftendar Effendi, the next day, refused to sign this till intelligence was received from Arta, and the arrival of the nephew of Suleyman. A French dragoman has been sent out to the spot, to make inquiries and report.It appeared, therefore, that the agent of the French Government had exhibited a degree of vigilance deserving of the highest credit. In his opinion, the position which this country held with regard to the Ionian Islands rendered it of the utmost importance that mediation or some other means should be found for limiting, and, if possible, of putting an end to this great evil. He had read in the public prints that 709 the Egyptian fleet had been ordered to the coast of Albania. Now, perhaps, some hon. Members might remember what was the behaviour of an Egyptian army in the Morea—what scenes of savage cruelty were enacted; and, in his belief, similar scenes would occur if that array were allowed to enter Albania at the present moment. He earnestly hoped that Her Majesty's Government would interfere imperatively to prevent such an occurrence. He thought that it would be very advisable that a British Commissioner should be sent, either from here or from the Ionian Islands, with authority from Her Majesty's Government to communicate with the insurgents upon the real state of their present position. The people of this country and Parliament were thankful for the assurances of the Earl of Clarendon in another place, and of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) in that House, that it was the intention of the Government to do all in their power to protect and improve the condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte; but those intentions were not known to the Greek subjects of the Sultan themselves, and a British Commissioner might effect very considerable advantage, and, at the same time, might point out the unfitness of the present moment for commencing a rebellion. Such a Commissioner, pointing, on the side, to the present condition of Poland and of Circassia, and, on the other side, to the former condition of the Danubian Principalities, might hold out to the insurgent subjects of the Porte good reasons for them to abandon their present position of hostility, in the hope that, under the protection of the Western Powers, they might ere long obtain a position of comparative independence. He might be told that on these matters we ought to trust to the independent action of the Turkish Government, but he thought that this was a fair case for the interference of the four great Powers. He believed that the point which brought the question so fully home to the minds of the people of this country, and which prepared them to undergo the sacrifices of war, was the belief that the result of these transactions would be the improvement of the condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte. The maintenance of power in Turkey was only possible under the condition of the social and political advancement of the Christian races. He felt extremely anxious on this subject, not 710 only on account of the Greeks themselves, but because the possible complication of circumstances might place this country in the painful position of appearing to insist upon checking the liberties of the Christian subjects of the Porte. He could not erase from his mind, even at a moment when he wished to regard France with the utmost favour, and to look upon that country as a loyal and firm ally, an event in the history of that country which still darkened the French name throughout the Italian peninsula, and to which no pretence of the enthusiasm of a religious spirit could reconcile the minds of the English people—he alluded to the siege and capture of Rome under a pretence of political necessity. He could not believe that any English Government would ever commit a similar act; but he foresaw that, in the complication of these hostilities, it was possible that they might appear as accomplices in assisting, by forcible means, in the suppression of an attempt to obtain what was only just and right. He had read that the Governments of France and England had come to an understanding for the forcible suppression of the popular movement in Turkey; but he trusted that there was no foundation for such a statement. He trusted that there was no foundation for saying that England would be an accomplice in such interference. If the equilibrium of Europe demanded this sacrifice, he believed that the people of England would not make it. He believed that the people of England thought that the task which they had committed to the hands of the Government was not only that of checking the impulses of unruly ambition, preserving the balance of power, and restoring the peace of Europe, but was also that of making war the instrument of civilisation, and of defending—even by arms—the moral and intellectual welfare of the world. He implored the Government to meet this insurrection in a spirit of kindness and mediation; and he could assure them that, if they permitted it to be surrounded with circumstances of great cruelty and unrestrained violence, if they permitted the Egyptian fleet to land its army upon these shores, the cause which they had most at heart would be seriously injured. He hoped that the Government would not forget that, however important might be the exigencies of the political situation of Europe, there were also principles, duties, and rights, which could not be violated without dis- 711 turbing the foundation on which the law of nations rested, and a due regard to which was essential to the establishment of any permanent peace.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I have no difficulty, Sir, in saying, that I agree very much in the opinions of my hon. Friend who has addressed the House. I agree with him in thinking that it is our duty to do all that is in our power to improve the condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte, and influencing its conduct as far as we can; for it is impossible not to assent to what my hon. Friend stated in the early part of his speech, that, notwithstanding the most liberal edicts on the part of the Sultan, and the greatest anxiety on the part of his Ministers to carry into effect the laws with equal justice to all his subjects, there are, by means sometimes of ignorant and corrupt persons, but more frequently by means of a licentious soldiery, great evils inflicted upon the subjects of the Sultan, of which neither he nor his Ministers could approve. The advice that has been at all times given to the Sultan by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe has tended very much to mitigate the evil; and only very lately he advised the Sultan, upon the breaking out of this insurrection, that none but regular and well-disciplined troops should be employed for its suppression. My hon. Friend is also quite right in saying that part of this insurrection—I believe the greater part—was owing to the conduct of the soldiery who were sent to put down insurrectionary movements; but, Sir, at the same time we think it our duty to discourage as much as possible these movements. We cannot believe that an insurrection among the Christian subjects of the Porte would tend to improve their condition, or lead to any other result than to place them in a far worse and more helpless state of slavery than any to which they have hitherto been reduced. It has been so fully stated by a noble Friend of mine (Lord Shaftesbury) in another place, that I have no need to prove what would be the effect of these persons, owing to their insurrection, becoming subject to Russia, and I certainly shall not go into that part of the question. Every one is aware that the light of the Gospel, which I believe is permitted by the Sultan and his Ministers to penetrate through all classes of Christians who are under his sway, is entirely opposed to insurrections. This insurrection can tend to no advantage 712 to these tribes; but, on the contrary, can only divert the forces of the Porte when it is in jeopardy from a foreign antagonist. My hon. Friend may rest assured that every effort will be made by Her Majesty's Government to induce the Sultan to improve the condition of all his Christian subjects, and to allow the maxims of justice and equality full force throughout his dominions; but, on the other hand, we shall show the disapprobation of the Government of this country of any insurrectionary movements against the Sultan. With respect to the papers for which my hon. Friend has moved, I believe they are not yet ready at the Colonial Office; but there will be no difficulty in producing them before long. I have nothing further to say, except that there was an allusion in the hon. Gentleman's speech which perhaps I ought to notice; namely, that we ought not to be a party to any agreement or arrangement for suppressing political movements in Italy. I say distinctly with regard to Italy what I have just said with regard to Greece, that, feeling as I do, with the people of Italy, I do not believe they could take a course more obstructive of the attainment of the very result which they desire, than that of rising at the present moment against the Austrian Government. I believe, on the contrary, that if they remain tranquil, the time will come when that Government will be not only more humane, but will concede many more popular privileges than would be the case if Italy were to rise in insurrection against the military forces of Austria.
§ Mr. RICH
said, he begged to offer his thanks to the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes) for having brought this subject forward, but, at the same time, he must regret that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London had not given more distinct assurances with respect to the conduct of Government in relation to the Christian population of Turkey. The anomalous position in which those populations now stood was the result of the grinding, exclusive, and tyrannical system under which they had been governed. For the last 400 years, he believed, no people in the world had suffered such continuous and unmitigated persecution and tyranny as the Christian portion of the Turkish empire. In European Turkey the Christians were as three to one to the Turks, the habits of the latter and their addiction to war having prevented any great increase of their num- 713 bers. The consequence was, that the Turks, knowing that they stood in the face of an oppressed majority ready to rise against them whenever an opportunity were afforded, were led by the vicious circle of tyranny and wrong into further acts of oppression and tyranny in order to keep them down. An enlightened nation would have prevented the continuance of such a state of things by removing the causes which produced them. He was ready to admit that all the rulers of Turkey had not acted with equal injustice and oppression. The late Sultan Mahmoud, one of the most ferocious tyrants who had ever disgraced the throne, saturated the country with blood, but he (Mr. Rich) was willing to believe that the present Sultan was animated by a different spirit. The hon. Member for Pontefract had described insurrections springing up wherever the pressure of the irregular forces was withdrawn; and though he (Mr. Rich) agreed that such insurrections were to be deplored at the present moment, and that Her Majesty's Government should use every persuasion to induce the population to refrain from them, yet in that House the sympathies of hon. Members would ever be with the oppressed, whose struggles for freedom and equal laws must meet with a response in this country. Whatever the chances or exigencies of war might be, it was a duty of this country never to forget the claims of justice. He would grant that measures of reform had been attempted by the Porte, under the advice of the English and French Ministers, but how little credit was as yet given to them might be discerned in the insurrectionary movements which were daily taking place. He attached great value to the suggestion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Milnes) that some experienced Commissioner should be sent to those disturbed districts to allay disaffection by explaining the views and intentions of the British and of the Turkish Governments. He believed the adoption of such a course would have a most beneficial effect, and counteract many misconceptions which Russian or other agencies might foment. He was not at all desirous of drawing up a bill of indictment against the Turks, but when this country and the rest of Europe were about to be involved in a war, the end of which no man could foresee—when our best troops were away in the East, and our fleets occupying the Baltic and the Euxine, it became the right 714 of the people of this country to know upon what terms and in what manner they were about to be engaged. If the forces of England and France were necessary to aid the Turks in their struggle against a most unjust aggression of Russia, he contended that England and France had a reciprocal right to demand an undertaking from Turkey with regard to the amelioration of the condition of her own Christian subjects, not from a spirit of interference, but from a wise precaution for the successful issue of this war, and to prevent future wars. The question was, whether there was to be a hostile or a favourable population in the seat of war? Unless stipulations were made that the Christian subjects of Turkey should receive full justice, it was quite clear, for it was both natural and just, that those subjects would be discontented and ripe for revolt, and that, in the war upon which we were about to enter, our forces would be in the midst of a hostile people, by whom our communications and supplies would be intercepted or checked, and our movements revealed to the enemy. But, independently of these considerations, supposing we drove the Russians across the Pruth, from the Crimea, and from the Caucasus—supposing the cannon in the Baltic were re-echoed to by the cannon from Sebastopol, no permanent good would be effected unless an amelioration of the condition of the Christian population of Turkey were secured. On the contrary, the Turks would only have become still more arrogant and inspirited by success, while the Christians would be still more disheartened and embittered against their rulers. Possibly the power of Russia might be paralysed, but some new Power would be found to step in, and the whole work would have to be repeated again. For these reasons he felt most anxious that Her Majesty's Ministers should declare distinctly that our interference in defence of Turkey necessarily involved also considerations for the whole mass of its populations. The only possible means by which Turkey could be placed in a satisfactory condition was by putting her Government upon a broad and comprehensive basis, by enlisting the good-will of all classes of her subjects, and by converting their uncertain claims into well-secured rights. When those rights were ascertained, arms might be safely put into hands to defend them, and the common dangers and triumphs of national defence would rapidly do 715 the work of years in annealing together the Turk and the Christian. With these views, he wished to elicit from Her Majesty's Ministers a declaration that they would keep a steady and watchful eye on the claims and rights of the Christian population of Turkey, and not allow British soldiers in any way to be employed in coercing these races, who were seeking to escape from thraldom, but who, from misguided impulse, were not resorting to the wisest means of achieving their object. The Sultan himself, no doubt, sincerely desired to treat his Christian subjects in an equitable spirit, and would view with approbation rather than otherwise any prudent measures for curbing the fanatical intolerance of his Mahomedan subjects.
§ LORD LOVAINE
said, he thought some distinct understanding should be come to as to the policy to be pursued with regard to the Greek insurrection. He had heard much said about the battle, or, as some called it, the massacre of Sinope, and, though he did not doubt that great cruelty might have been committed, he thought some considerable portion of it might have been caused by the zeal of a national fanaticism. But, at the same time, it must be remembered that when the Russians attacked the Turkish fleet in the bay of Sinope they were in a far better position, according to the usages of war, than we were when we sunk at their anchors, at Navarino, the whole of the Turkish fleet at a time of profound peace, and when we called ourselves the allies of Turkey. With respect to the insurrectionary movements now taking place against the Government of the Turks, he confessed he could not but feel astonished when he heard Gentlemen in that House talking of the possibility of the Greeks looking upon the Turks as anything but their natural enemies. He wished the House to recollect the massacre at Scio and the excesses that had broken out wherever the Turkish Government had been weak; and upon this part of the subject he considered that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) had forestalled them all in the clear and able manner in which he had laid before the House the position of the Christians in the Turkish empire. The hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard), had been good enough to warn the House not to look upon any of the statements contained in the books of which he was the author as show- 716 ing the state of things that sometimes occurred under the Turkish rule. But, in referring to the condition of the Christians shortly after an invasion upon the part of the Kurds, the hon. Gentleman thus described it:—Their church was in ruins—around were the charred remains of the burnt cottages, and the neglected orchards overgrown with weeds. A body of Turkish troops had lately visited the village, and had destroyed the little that had been restored since the Kurdish invasion. The same taxes had been collected three times, and even four times over. The relations of those who had run away to escape from these exactions had been compelled to pay for the fugitives. The chief had been thrown, with his arms tied behind his back, on a heap of burning straw, and compelled to disclose where a little money that had been saved by the villagers had been buried. The priest had been torn from the altar, and beaten before his congregation. Men showed me the marks of torture on their body, and of iron fetters round their limbs. For the sake of wringing a few piastres from this poverty-stricken people, all these deeds of violence had been committed by officers sent by the Porte to protect the Christian subjects of the Sultan, whom they pretended to have released from the misrule of the Kurdish chiefs.There was hardly a passage in the work from which he quoted which did not clearly lay down that these were the natural and usual consequences of the Turkish rule over the Christian subjects of the Sultan. In another passage the hon. Gentleman said:—The Nestorian community had greater wrongs to complain of than their patriarch. The Turkish Government, so far from fulfilling the pledges given to the British embassy, had sent officers to the mountains, who had grievously ill-treated and oppressed the Christian inhabitants. The taxes which the Porte had promised to remit for three years, in consideration of the losses sustained by the unfortunate Nestorians during the massacres, had not been, it is true, levied for that time, but had now been collected altogether, whole districts being thus reduced to the greatest misery and want. Every manner of cruelty and torture had been used to compel the suffering Christians to yield up the little property they had concealed from the rapacity of the Turkish authorities. The pasture and arable lands around their villages had been taken away from them and given to their Kurdish tyrants.Now, he would ask the House whether it was really extraordinary or remarkable that, under circumstances of this nature, detailed by a Gentleman of the greatest powers of description and real knowledge of the facts, insurrections should break out, and whether it was not utterly impossible that there could be any amalgamation whatever between the Christians and the Turks? In one case the hon. Gentleman himself stated that he had known people who had 717 complained to the Porte of the treatment they had been subjected to, and the manner in which their property had been taken from them; but they were imprisoned instead of obtaining redress. Nothing had ever been done either to improve the state of the country or the condition of the population. On the contrary, he thought the hon. Gentleman opposite would be at a loss to point out fifty miles of new road in any part of Turkey, to instance a bridge which had either been built or repaired, or, in short, to state anything by way of improvement that had been effected. He believed the only road existing that had been made within the last fifty years, or, indeed, for the last 200 years, in the Turkish empire, was the road between the embassy at Constantinople and the summer residence of the Sultan. Throughout the country the grossest misrule prevailed, and fifty miles from the capital every pasha could do as he pleased, and no effectual check was placed upon him by the central authority. The Christians of Turkey were told to imitate the patriotism of the Turks; that was, they were invited to come forward, and shed their blood in maintaining the rule of 2,000,000 Turks, who tortured and oppressed them, in order that they might escape from the tyranny of Russia. To talk of the patriotism of the Turk was absurd. The Turk was hated wherever he ruled; from Morocco to Bagdad, from the sources of the Nile to the Balkan, it was a proverb, that where his horse had trod, the grass would not grow. What then made the hordes of Arabia, the Kurd and the Egyptian, flock to whiten with their bones the plains of Bulgaria? It was not patriotism, it was the fanatical resolve to maintain the domination and ascendancy of the followers of the Prophet. On the other hand, we were sending our troops to put down the insurrection at Arta and elsewhere, which was warranted by a thousand acts of cruelty, and by 400 years of the most galling oppression. He wished to know in what the real equality of the Christians with the Turks consisted. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) said that the evidence of Christians was taken in civil cases equally with that of the Turks, but the noble Lord was not quite sure whether their evidence was also taken in criminal cases. If so, the Christians were not much better off than before. It was reported that very day, in the lobbies, that the Porte had refused to grant 718 any protectorate over the Christians in her dominions, either to England or any of the allies, any more than to Russia. How, then, could the Government come down to that House, and say that they had insured the liberties of the Christian population of the Turkish empire? It was worse than a farce to make any such pretence. To talk of the toleration of the Turk was most absurd folly. When a Christian was converted from one Christian sect to another, the Turk, despising them all, gave himself no concern whatever. In his own polite phraseology, it was nothing to him whether the dog eat the hog, or the hog the dog. But when a Mahomedan turned Christian, where was the Turk's toleration then? He cut off the head of the convert for his so-called apostacy. But it was said that they were strengthening Protestant influence by interfering on behalf of Turkey; but when it was remembered that 100,000 French troops were to be landed, it would seem that the result would be to strengthen Roman Catholic rather than Protestant influence in Turkey. The dispute began with the quarrel between the Greek and Latin Churches, and he believed the Jesuits were at the root of the whole matter, and that their intrigues at Jerusalem were the real cause of all that had happened; and what Protestantism would gain by it, he could not conceive. It might be suspected whether, in future even, it would be possible to secure our interest in Egypt; whether Malta could remain in future half garrisoned; and whether our fleet in the Mediterranean could be reduced to a few seventy-fours. There was another element in the question. The French had, at the present moment, a fleet ready to join our fleet in the Baltic. That fleet would hereafter remain at Cherbourg on a war footing, and the coasts of England would by no means then remain in a secure position. He had never been one of those who blamed the Government for not rushing into a war; on the contrary, he thought they deserved credit for having preserved peace so long; but now that we were to go to war in behalf of the Sultan, he did trust that some sort of guarantee would be obtained that the rights and liberties said to have been granted to the Christian population by the Sultan would not become waste paper, and that they would not forget, in a short-sighted anxiety about the balance of power, the triumph of our common Christianity.
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
said, that the suggestion made by his hon. Friend (Mr. Milnes), that a British Commissioner should be sent to Turkey to use his influence in the name of the Government to induce the Turks to act with moderation in quelling the insurrection, and to mitigate the severities which might be practised by the employment of irregular forces, was well worthy the attention of the Ministry. The House had heard a great deal of the cruelties alleged to be practised by the Turkish Government upon their Christian subjects. It was said that the Sultan had no influence over his fanatical subjects, and his reforms were undervalued. But when noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen dwelt so much upon the defects of the Turkish Government, they either spoke beside the question or forgot it. We were not taking up arms for Turkey because we approved the Government of that country or thought it perfect. We took up arms in its defence, not for the sake of Turkey so much as for the sake of Europe at large, and to prevent that important country from falling under the rule of Russia, for, if Russia once got possession of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, she would become so powerful as to exercise an undue influence over the rest of Europe, and establish a universal dominion. Every one in that House must desire to see the Christian subjects of Turkey treated as well as possible, but just at the moment when Turkey had commenced her reforms and had entered upon a better system of government, Russia interfered, and put forth pretensions incompatible with the independence of Turkey. This was the exact course which had been pursued by Russia with regard to Poland. When Russia saw that the reforms being made in Poland were destroying her influence and preventing her from making a tool of that country, she interfered, and then the last and final partition of Poland was effected. He would not say that the Christian population of Turkey were animated by a warm attachment to Turkish rule. They, no doubt, had grievances to complain of, which he hoped would be redressed, and the Turks were proceeding to redress them. But, he firmly believed, that the great mass of the Christian subjects of Turkey would not willingly see the Sultan's rule exchanged for that of the Czar. As to the present insurrection of Greek Christians, he believed it had been fomented, if not produced, if not by the 720 Government of Greece, which he suspected, at least by persons belonging to the Greek kingdom. The absurd notion of a Byzantine kingdom was not entertained by the 15,500,000 of Christian subjects in Turkey, but only by about 1,000,000 Greeks. He had seen Christian troops willingly marching out of Constantinople side by side with Mahomedan soldiers, and the crescent carried side by side with the cross. Would this have been the case if there were that general detestation of the Sultan by the Christian population which was said to exist? Some allusion had been made to a speech of Lord Shaftesbury. Now, he believed that that noble Lord had understated his case when he said that there were forty Protestant congregations in the Turkish dominions. When he was at Constantinople, he had made the acquaintance of a distinguished American missionary, of whom he inquired the number of Protestant congregations in Turkey. He said there were forty, but, doubts having been expressed whether there were so many, this missionary and his brother missionaries took pains to examine the question, and they found that, instead of forty, there were sixty of these congregations, many of them having among their members converts from the Greek and Armenian Churches, and even Mussulman converts. He had been given to understand only that day that the Sultan had given land for a Protestant church and schools in his own capital. He believed that the evidence of Christians was formerly received equally with that of Turks in the commercial tribunals, but that, until recently, the Turks were in the habit of removing these cases into another court, where the evidence of Christians was not taken. The Sultan, however, had determined that in all the courts the evidence of Christians should be taken. [Lord LOVAINE: In criminal as well as civil?] Yes, in the criminal as well as the civil courts. He believed that within the last twenty or thirty years the Turks had made great progress in civilisation and humanity, and he knew that during the recent war the prisoners taken by them on the Danube had been treated with the utmost kindness. Some of the prisoners were allowed to return to Russia, and those who were retained were sent into the interior of Turkey and were furnished with the means of subsistence. In travelling through Turkey, and particularly in the Christian pro- 721 vinces, he had not observed any symptoms of disaffection or discontent; and in Bulgaria, through a great portion of which he had passed, the peasants, although living in houses of rude construction, were well fed; they had abundance of poultry, sheep, oxen, and horses, and they presented the appearance of a happy and contented population. How would they be placed if they exchanged the rule of the Sultan for that of the Czar? What had been the effect of the first proceedings of the Czar, who professed to be the friend of the Christians of Turkey, but to plunge a large territory, with 4,000,000 of Christian inhabitants, into all the miseries of war and invasion? He did in the Principalities now as he had done on a former occasion—that is, forced them to maintain his troops now in Moldavia and Wallachia; and those who refused to serve with his armies, or those who ran away to escape it, were seized and put to death. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Lovaine) had quoted some passages from a book; and he (Lord D. Stuart) would now read an extract from Admiral Slade's Travels in Turkey in 1829. Marshal Diebitsch, in his instructions to the Russian army, said:—'If cattle cannot be found to draw the peasants' carts, you will harness men; if there are not men enough, you will harness women.' Some one rose to reply, 'Hold' said Diebitsch, 'Does any one dare to reply to me—the Emperor's representative? To hear and to obey is all that I require.' Forage being wanted for the heavy artillery, and none to be had for sixty miles, this same barbarian gave the following order to the officer of that district, who had proposed a milder measure, 'You will take as many men and as many women as are sufficient, and load them each with as many pounds as they can bear, and employ them in conveying forage to the cantonments of the heavy artillery.' My narrator, who was present, and whose brother put the order in execution, said that half of them died on the road! The people of this province (Bulgaria) were, till the coming of this savage commander, happy, rich, well-clad, and they became worse than hewers of wood and drawers of water! Another inroad of the same kind now hangs over them, after a respite of fifteen years. Now they have aided the Russians, thereby incurring the anger of the Sultan, who yet forbore to punish them, but they could not believe that he would be so lenient, and numbers emigrated with the army at the peace, and were reduced to the lowest condition, in a word—Russian soldiers.He (Lord D. Stuart) might perhaps take that opportunity of alluding to the subject which had been brought forward at an early period of the evening by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright). The proceedings which had taken place at the 722 dinner given by the Reform Club to Sir Charles Napier had been somewhat accrimoniously assailed. (He Lord D. Stuart) regretted the course which had been taken by the hon. Member for Manchester, and which he thought was wholly unnecessary, but he also regretted the tone in which that hon. Member had been met by the noble Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston). At the same time he (Lord D. Stuart) considered that the tone adopted by the hon. Member for Manchester in bringing the question forward had, unfortunately, excited the asperity which had been manifested. He could not help saying that he thought the hon. Member for Manchester would have shown better taste if he had abstained from attacking the proceedings which took place at the convivial meeting of a club of which he was himself a member. That hon. Gentleman did not confine his attacks to Cabinet Ministers, for he seemed disposed not only to assail everybody connected with the club, but anybody who had any connection with any dinner whatever. The hon. Gentleman did not even pass by the Lord Mayor, who, he (Mr. Bright) thought, had done something exceedingly wrong in proposing to entertain the officers of the Army and Navy who were about to proceed upon foreign service. He (Lord D. Stuart) would have been glad if the intention of the Lord Mayor had been carried out, and he regretted that the Government had discouraged the proposition. His hon. Friend the Member for Manchester disliked war and convivial meetings, and might, for aught he (Lord D. Stuart) knew, even be a member of the Temperance Society; but at the same time he believed that there was no one who was not imbued with a sense of the useful consequences of war; and he believed that not one of those who dined at the Reform Club the other day, and heard the speeches and cheered them, but entered into those feelings. He believed the country felt this too; but they also felt that we were not entering on this war but from the conviction that it was essential for the good of Europe and this country. But there was no reason that some gentlemen should not assemble to cheer on their friends who were going on an honourable service because they lamented that a war should take place. If his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester thought such dinners were reprehensible, he had a right to state his opinion, but he would 723 tell his hon. Friend, if he were present, that in the opinions he expressed he stood alone, or at least with a very small minority. The whole country regretted the going to war, but they felt the necessity for it. He (Lord D. Stuart) had had that opinion expressed to him by a gentleman in large business in the City of London that day, who had added, that there was but one voice in the City on the question; and that as to the additional burden of the income tax, there was not a man who would not cheerfully submit to it in order to preserve the honour of the country and the security of Europe. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester with regard to the picture he had drawn of the horrors and sufferings attendant on war, but he wished that his hon. Friend would direct his censures towards the true cause of the war, the Czar, and his reckless and unprincipled ambition. He (Lord D. Stuart) hoped that we should enter on this war in the right spirit, and that the Government would use means for carrying it on vigorously, and bringing it to a successful issue. It had been said that by the course which the Government had hitherto taken, we had obtained the concurrence of the country, and of the whole of Europe in the war. He wanted to know a little more on that point; he wanted to know whether Austria and Prussia were ready to support us and on what terms. He hoped that we were not about to lend ourselves in return for the assistance of those Powers against Russia to a Holy Alliance for the purpose of putting down liberty all over the world. If England and France acted vigorously, they might be sure that Austria and Prussia would come over to them, for there was more danger to them in being against us than for us; but let us not purchase their alliance by an unworthy sacrifice of the liberty of nations which was always so dear to the people of this country.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
observed, that the noble Lord who had just sat down had favoured the House with his impressions of the state of Turkey, derived from a residence of three weeks in that country; but he would appeal to the candour of the noble Lord, whether he had gone to Turkey with a mind totally unprejudiced, or with the strong feelings of a partisan? He would not follow the noble Lord through his speech, but he trusted that before the discussion terminated, the House would hear from some one in authority an 724 answer more definite and satisfactory than had yet been vouchsafed to the remarks of the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes), and that they would hear something more explicit about the insurrection that was spreading in many parts of the Turkish dominions. There the people were fighting on the same classic soil where their fathers centuries ago struggled for their freedom. It was necessary to know what position our soldiers would occupy in relation to those people. Surely the noble banner of England was not going to be carried against a brave people struggling to free themselves from the oppression under which they laboured. Was it to be displayed on the part of a tottering tyranny that was no longer able to support itself against the indignation of its victims? Was it to be unfurled in behalf of such cruelties as those that were perpetrated by the Janissaries, or to prevent the well-deserved doom of Eastern despotism? He trembled when he contemplated the position in which our soldiers would be placed, if it were expected that their arms were to be directed against the glorious people who aimed at achieving their just rights. As they were sending out armaments in support of Turkey, they ought to get an assurance that their weapons would not be used in quelling any insurrectionary movement. The Greeks had been long trying to throw off the galling yoke; but it had been said that the present attempt was unseasonable. He could not understand this assertion; for he held that the most seasonable time for a movement of this kind was, when it was most feasible and most likely to be successful, and positive assurance should be given that in no case they should be forced to act as the executioners of a tottering despot. Some reply was the more requisite, as it had been stated in the public journals that a portion of the French squadron, which had been acting in such perfect union and cordiality with our own, had recently escorted a body of Turkish troops to the Gulf of Volo, in order to put down the gallant people who were endeavouring to free themselves from the fetters of a degrading tyranny. He (Lord C. Hamilton) wished to know whether our troops and ships were liable to be employed upon such a service, and, if not, whether there was a difference between the orders given to the French and English squadrons and troops. He hoped, however, that the Government 725 would be able to give a peremptory contradiction to the statement that any portion of the French squadron bad been employed for the purpose he had mentioned. For once, be was perfectly prepared to incur the unpopularity described by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Dudley Stuart), as attaching to all who did not approve of the war—not that he wished to charge the Government with having wilfully brought about the result which necessarily led to war, but because he could not see anything to justify us, from the documents before the House, in inflicting on humanity the horrors of a conflict. He considered, too, that Parliament ought to be informed of the objects for which we were going to war. If there was any urgent necessity for it, why was it not plainly stated? He feared he must say that the blue books bore evidence of having been "cooked," and he had even heard, out of the House, that the beautiful way in which they were prepared had been made the subject of congratulation. He, however, could not find in the blue books any justification for entering upon the horrors and evils of war. He considered war the greatest curse that could afflict mankind, not only for its carnage, but also on account of the degrading effects and retrograde tendencies that always accompanied it. Considering that the contest may be disastrous and protracted, that it may involve a generation in its horrors, and deluge half Europe with blood, he thought it the duty of every one calmly and conscientiously to scrutinise its causes and effects. Each person should remember that he is responsible for his share in promoting it, not only to his country and to posterity, but also to that dread tribunal before which all must appear. Therefore, to justify war, the excuses must be clear and imperative, and it must be remembered that history will judge of these events according to the documents now produced. In these blue books the real question is evaded, and the true cause of the war is not disclosed. The lengthened cajolery of diplomacy is substituted for a plain disclosure of truth. The noble Lord (Lord D. Stuart) had asserted that the Czar was the cause of the war, but the Czar had been the noble Lord's hobgoblin, tormenting him by night and by day for many a long year, and the noble Lord did not perceive that he was placing himself in an awkward dilemma by at one time repre- 726 senting the Russian Government as the most degraded in the world, and at another as so seductive that no people could withstand its arts. He could not allow that there was no alternative between the Russian and the Turk; and he thought it was a great delusion to say, that the Greek population of Turkey, if they could get rid of their present masters, would at once throw themselves into the arms of Russia. It was also stated that identity of religion would cause this result; but the Russians and Greeks had a sufficient difference of religion to make them hate each other cordially. It has even been remarked that the intensity of religious animosity is in exact proportion to the minuteness of the difference between the rival sects. The real cause of this war, as well as of all the Eastern questions which had so often recurred in the course of the century, was the weak, miserable, and degraded Government of Turkey. No one could have perused the eloquent description given by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) of the scenes of lawless violence and rapine carried on in Turkish provinces, and by order of Turkish governors, without coming to the opinion expressed by the hon. Gentleman of the merits and results of the Turkish rule, when he said, "Wherever the Osmanli has placed his foot he has bred fear and distrust. His visit has ever been one of oppression and rapine." And again, after describing the high taxes and universal corruption,—"Such is the history of almost every tribe in Turkey, such the causes that have spread desolation over her finest provinces." It was, indeed, to this cause, and this alone, he maintained, that the present crisis must be attributed. It is to this cause that we must ascribe the desolation and misery that prevail over the glorious regions now blighted by the withering effect of Turkish misrule. It was idle to attribute everything to Russia. Was this the first time we had had Eastern questions? Has not the peace of Europe been before menaced by Eastern questions? Is not that empire a constant source of uneasiness, and replete with causes of disturbance, to the rest of the world? Is Russia always the cause as asserted? The real cause is ever the same—the degraded corrupt nature of the Turkish government. In 1827, was it Russian intrigue that aroused all Europe to protect the Greeks from their cruel oppressors? Did not one of the noblest of our poets arouse the zeal 727 of all England by his stirring verses, descriptive of the horrors committed on a gallant people, the sons of the classic land in which the interests and affection of all educated persons were warmly engaged? Outraged Europe interposed, and saved and emancipated Greece; the same struggle is now going on in Albania, and we propose to take part with the sanguinary oppressor. Again, was it Russia, in 1833, that overthrew the Ottoman Porte and brought a conquering army upon the capital? No such thing; it was an ambitious and powerful Pasha who threw off his allegiance, and it was Russia that protected Constantinople by an army. Again, in 1840, was it Russian intrigue or arms that destroyed the Turkish armies? No, it was a powerful and able satrap that profited by the weakness of the Sultan, and once more Russia joined with other Powers to put the tottering despot again upon his legs. Why is it, then, that every ten years this Government is prostrate and requires foreign aid? It is the natural collapse that ensues from internal corruption. We must, if we insist on interfering, look for the real origin of this constantly recurring Eastern question. He had no wish to justify in the least the conduct of the Emperor of Russia, but he believed that the first orign of this affair must be sought in the proceedings of France, who, at a time of profound peace, had put forward claims for peculiar privileges wholly incompatible with the honour and independence of the Sultan. The whole of the present difficulty had arisen from what had been called the impropriety of humiliating the Sultan, and of coercing him into granting demands incompatible with his dignity. But the real origin of it was France; the real cause of it the conduct of the present ruler of France some years ago; for we found from the blue books, that in a time of profound peace, and for a purpose peculiarly French, a demand was made upon the Turkish Government with respect to the Holy Places, entirely incompatible with its independence. France even threatened to occupy Jerusalem, a much more severe blow to the dignity of the Sultan than the Russian occupation of the Principalities. This led to retaliation on the part of Russia, which caused the assembling of the fleets at the Dardanelles, and the mustering of troops in Bessarabia, and once such combustible materials are brought into contact, war is certain to ensue. He 728 would venture to point across the Black Sea to the eastern shore, and call attention to what is and has been going on there. In Circassia, a handful of gallant men have bid defiance to the legions of Russia, have scared her marshals, and set her diplomacy at nought, and why? because those gallant men were fighting for freedom on the soil of their forefathers. Their arms were raised with the sense that they were combating for their own liberty, and they have heroically preserved their country from the taint of the oppressor's foot. This is the way to meet Russian aggression. Inspire the Christian population within sense of freedom, and give them an opportunity of securing their own liberties, and they will keep out all aggressors. Certainly, he for one should look upon it as a shame and disgrace to this country that we should, for the first time, enter the Black Sea for the purpose of assisting the Sultan, instead of having, long ago, entered it on behalf of the brave Circassians. In conclusion, he wished once more to state that he desired to free himself from the responsibility of promoting this war, as he could not persuade himself that it was justifiable—popular he knew it was, but he would remind the House how fickle is such popularity. It is but three years ago that all the world had a peace mania, all nations were invited to the Exhibition as to a great peace congress—war was to be no more heard of. The notes of peace and civilisation were to supersede all warlike ambition and glory—nothing would be more universal and popular than the peace cry—the first crop of grass is now growing where the splendid fane stood, in which peace was so solemnly inaugurated, and behold a war mania has seized this very people who had so recently pledged themselves to perpetual peace. They rush into the streets to cheer our soldiers as they march to embarkation, and flock to the seaports to see them sail on their mission of war and destruction. He therefore thought that little weight should attach to temporary popularity.
§ MR. LAYARD
I owe an apology to the House for venturing, at this late hour, when business of importance has still to come on, to rise for the purpose of addressing it. I did not intend to do so; but, as various references have been made to me by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and as statements have been made which require explanation, if not contradic- 729 tion, I should be wanting in my duty if I did not, with this view, trespass for a few minutes on its attention. I promise to endeavour to bring back this rather discursive debate to the original Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract. I believe his intention was to obtain from the Government some promise that the Turkish Government should be restrained from sending part of its fleet—for I consider the Egyptian fleet part of the Turkish fleet—to put down the insurrection which has broken out on the frontiers of Turkey and Greece, and that a British commander should be sent to mediate between the parties with the view of bringing about a satisfactory termination of this unfortunate outbreak. It is necessary, I think, that we should inquire into the origin of this outbreak. If I might refer to the blue books, without again incurring a reprimand from the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty, I would call the attention of the house to what took place at the beginning of last year, when Prince Menchikoff went to Constantinople. One of his first attempts was to send to Athens an admiral of the Russian Navy who accompanied him upon his mission, Admiral Korniloff. The Government was officially informed that the visit of that gentleman to Greece was accompanied by peculiar excitement, and that it was intended for the purpose of a defiance to the Turkish Government. Early in the year, on the 5th of April, we have a despatch, which, like many other despatches, shows that degree of confidence which the right hon. Baronet described as the legitimate sentiment of a generous mind, in which the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Office, after stating his full reliance upon the assurances given by the Russian Government, and his unabated confidence in the intentions of the Russian Government, points to certain warlike preparations upon the Turkish frontier, and then alludes to this mission of Admiral Korniloff to Athens, which had caused great excitement, not only in Greece, but in the Turkish border provinces. In answer to that despatch, very contradictory statements were made both at St. Petersburg and Athens—by Count Nesselrode and by the Greek Minister. These statements were so confused that, for no other reason, as far as I can make out, were they admitted at once as satisfactory by the British Government. I say, however, that this was the time to have taken some step to check the growing 730 movement in the Greek States. If we had sent a couple of vessels to the Piræus—we were ready enough to send a fleet when we had a small bill to settle with the Greek Government—to insist upon the observance of treaties and on due respect being paid to our allies, what has happened would never have taken place. As it is, the evil has been going on from day to day. These intrigues by Russia have proceeded unchecked to such an extent that they have now ended in a general outbreak. I speak almost from experience when I say there is scarcely a convent inhabited by one or two monks on Mount Pindus, or on Mount Olympus, which has not of late received presents of plate, of books, or other church property from the Emperor of Russia, and has not been in constant communication with the Russian Embassy at Constantinople or with Russian agents. I understand that in Greece matters have gone to such an extent that the King will very soon be reduced to the state of a certain governor of a district bordering on some of the gold regions, who was compelled to clean his own clothes; for not only his generals and officers, but the Ministers themselves, are going off to join the insurrection. It is very well to say, "send a British commissioner," but I think the time is almost passed for such a proceeding. My hon. Friend says, "You must not employ the Egyptian fleet, and you must not employ the Albanians, to put down this outbreak." There is no one who has a greater horror than I have of the Albanians, for I have had the misfortune of seeing an Albanian campaign. But who is responsible for the atrocities of these Albanians? It surely cannot be said that the Turkish Government is responsible, because it has withdrawn its troops. Of course it has withdrawn its troops, because there was not a single disposable man in his dominions whom the Sultan was not bound to bring to the banks of the Danube to encounter a foe which threatened the very existence of his empire. If we had been ready to assist the Porte, when the Russians entered the Principalities, she would not have been compelled now to leave these Albanians to put down this insurrection. Then, I am told, she is not to send her Egyptian fleet. But who, I ask, caused the loss of half her own fleet [loud Opposition cheers]? What do I hear from Gentlemen on the other side, and from the hon. Member for the West Riding? That they will never allow Eng- 731 land to assist in putting down this insurrection. They have told us they will not allow the Porte to do it, and they go on and say, "We must not do it." Is this rebellion to be allowed to go on, and how will it finish? The hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding says that he, as the representative of the democratic principle in this House, never will consent that the majority shall be put down by the minority. I will take him at his word. Let them fight it out, and then we shall see which is the minority, and which is the majority. Let us consider for a moment the attitude assumed by Austria at present. It may be said that this is no part of this question; but I contend that it is a part—and a very important part—of this question. We heard, some time ago, that the Government, by its vacillation, had gained a great end, that we had thereby secured the alliance of Austria. I pointed out on a previous evening that as early as June we were promised by Austria an armed interference. What more has Austria done now? All that Austria has promised is a kind of armed neutrality, and we are told she is going to occupy two Turkish provinces. Is it Servia? No. It is Bosnia and Herzgovina. Why, it is clear enough Austria wishes to hold aloof, and not compromise herself until she is ready to take that part most fitting for her own interests. If she had occupied Servia, she would have been brought into direct contact with the Russian forces, and would have been in the occupation of a semi-independent State to a certain extent under the guarantees of Russia, in which there was no Christian population to excite to rebellion against Mussulman rulers; but in Bosnia and Herzgovina the case is different. She will not be compelled to take any decided step against Russia, and she will prevent insurrection amongst the Christian population against the Turks only as long as she deems it convenient to her own views to do so. Remember, too, there are other populations besides the Christian populations of the Porte who may rise. There are populations on the other side of the Adriatic ready to rise, and we are under no pledge to Austria to put down such an insurrection; and if Austria asked, and we refused, would she not be justified in taking what course she thought best? But this is not now the immediate question under discussion, which is chiefly the position of the Greek races. It appears to me the Greek cause is much misunderstood. What is the 732 position of the Greek race under Turkish domination? Sultan Mahomet on the capture of Constantinople at once confirmed all the privileges, immunities, and rights the Greek patriarchs had enjoyed under the Byzantine Emperors. Such was the spontaneous concession of the Turkish Emperor; and we have the high authority of Montesquieu for believing that the Greeks in Turkey were subsequently far more prosperous and far better protected than they were under the Byzantine Emperors; and although those privileges have from time to time been invaded, yet to a certain extent the Greeks have enjoyed great liberty and great prosperity. We know that the Hospodars of Wallachia and Moldavia were Turkish subjects of the Greek Christian religion. We know that the highest offices of the Porte—those offices to which the whole of the foreign relations are confided—have been held by Greeks. We know that at this moment in this country, as lately in France, the Minister of Turkey is a Greek gentleman. I need only refer to three celebrated Greek colonies in Turkey, Aivali, Ambelakia, and Zagoria, to prove the general moderation of the Government under which they flourished. In Aivali, the Greek Cydonia, there were Greek colleges and Greek schools, and education was carried to a high pitch of excellence. In Ambelakia there were great trading communities, under Turkish protection. And to what did those colonies owe their fall, but chiefly to the last Greek revolution? I am told of the atrocities that were committed at that time. Now, although I would never wish to justify one act of cruelty by another, yet, in justice to the Turks, I am bound to declare that the massacres which most unfortunately took place during the Greek revolution commenced with the Greeks. When Ypsilanti entered Wallachia, the first step taken by the insurgents was to murder a number of Turkish merchants and captains of trading vessels who chanced to be at Galatz. The next act of atrocity was committed upon a person of great sanctity in the estimation of the Turks, who, with all his family, on their return from Mecca, was seized by the Greeks on the high seas, and barbarously murdered. The outbreak and murder of the Patriarch at Constantinople followed, but as soon as the Government could control the popular feeling, so strongly—I might almost say naturally—excited, it gave the fullest proof of its moderation in 733 preventing any popular act of vengeance after the news of the massacre of Navarino. What happened after that terrible massacre of Navarino, when three nations, nominally the allies and friends of Turkey, butchered her subjects and sunk her vessels? When the news reached Constantinople, was there any rising? Why, the noble Lord who was then, as now, our Ambassador at Constantinople, did not even think it necessary to put his family on board a British ship of war for protection. There are very few countries in the world, I think, where such an event could occur without exciting popular commotion. The other day there was the affair of Sinope, a greater massacre than even Navarino. What was the state of things then? That massacre took place almost in the hearing of the British and French fleet, and less ignorant people than the Turks are inclined to believe that the conduct of their allies was, to say the least of it, not very straightforward. I myself believe no event has more tarnished the British arms than that affair of Sinope, or requires more explanation. What followed? Was there any rising of the Turkish population? We are informed that, when the news arrived, perfect order prevailed, and, shortly afterwards, the Turkish Government expressed their readiness to negotiate afresh. Indeed, I might refer to the documents published in those blue books to prove the consideration the Turkish Government has shown even to the commerce of Russia, upon which they were fairly entitled to take reprisals. There was a dictum of Sultan Mahmoud that he wished only to know the Mussulman in his mosque, the Christian in his church, the Jew in his synagogue, and the results of the reforms he contemplated have been since embodied in those Turkish ordinances known as the Tanzimat. I cannot cite a more complete proof of the advances Turkey has made than from the statements of Russia itself. I will read a paragraph from that remarkable document which the Emperor Nicholas has recently put forth as a justification of his conduct:—Since 1829 His Majesty has followed with great attention the march of events in Turkey. The Emperor cannot shut his eyes to the consequence of the changes which, one after another, have been introduced into that State. Ancient Turkey disappeared from the time it was sought to establish institutions directly opposed to the character of the Mussulman people—institutions more or less borrowed from modern Liberalism, and entirely opposed to the spirit of the Ottoman Government.734 I cannot read any extract, any admission of the Russian Government, which more confirms the view I ventured to take last year than this, where we have the Emperor himself declaring the spirit of reform in Turkey to be the reason of his interference. I do not deny the despotism of Turkey; but I ask what is the difference between the despotism of Turkey and the despotism of Russia, aye, and even of Austria? Turkey, at least, admits principles of liberty and reform to be the basis of its Government, and there is a certain amount of liberty and justice; and those who live under its Government enjoy great personal freedom and can always hope to rise and become prosperous; but those who live under Russian, and even Austrian rule, are crushed with a leaden, grinding despotism; there is no hope; the Government itself does not profess to respect any principles of liberty or of rational freedom; as its subjects are born, so they must live, and so they must die. We have heard a great deal about the state of Greece. But what is the condition of that country? Within a very recent period I know the British Minister at Athens could not go outside the town without a strong guard to protect either his life or his property, or both. You talk about the cruelties of the Turkish Government, but remember the cold-blooded cruelties of the agents of the Greek Government during the time of the recent elections. There was not a torture which has unfortunately been used in Turkey which was not used in Greece to compel people to give their votes for the Government candidates. And whilst in Turkey women are unmolested, in Greece I have heard of acts of great atrocity being committed upon women to compel them to induce their sons and husbands to vote for the Government candidate. I hear of the liberties of Greece, of the progress of Greece. I cannot help contrasting the state of Greece with the state of Turkey. It must be borne in mind that the accounts which are given of the sufferings of the Greek population in Turkey, and of oppression on the part of the Turkish authorities, are very often much exaggerated. If you look at the despatches in these blue books, you will see that the vice-consuls of the British Government are frequently Ionian Greeks. I have a great repugnance to employing Ionians in that service, and I think they ought not to be employed as agents of the British Government. They are always more or less connected with the people 735 round them, and they are inclined to, and do very much exaggerate the events which occur. The same is sometimes even the case with British-born Consuls. I do not wish to be understood to include them all in this observation; but I speak generally, and I say their reports are often untrustworthy. How are these reports got up? A new pasha comes to a pashalic. As soon as he arrives, the English consul calls upon him, complains to him of the misgovernment of his predecessor, points out a particular class as worthy of his protection, and proposes to him an entirely new system of taxation and local administration. He is bound to thank him as a friend for all this attention. But no sooner is the English consul gone, than the French consul comes and suggests some very different ideas of local administration and taxation. Of course the pasha receives him with the same courtesy, but the French consul goes and the Austrian consul arrives, and endeavours to impress him with notions of taxation and administration totally opposed to those recommended by the French and English officials. The pasha receives him with the same civility. But, unfortunately, he cannot carry out the three systems, and if he carries out one he offends the authors of the other two. Reports soon begin to find their way to the ambassador—perhaps they are to this effect: the pasha hates the Franks, will not listen to advice, and oppresses the Christians; and the ambassadorial influences being set in motion, the pasha gets dismissed at the end of a very few months, and another succeeds, to go through precisely the same ordeal. Such are the cases which are occurring from day to day. I could state thousands of instances to this House, and I do not know whether they would more excite laughter for their utter absurdity, or indignation for their gross injustice. I have had to press ***demands which, as an Englishman, I have been ashamed of. I will merely quote one example. An Ionian, under our protection, bought a fishery on the Albanian coast for some thousand dollars, to try some new method of catching fish. The scheme failed, and he brought a large bill against the Turkish Government, declaring he was ready to swear the Turks had poisoned the fish; that other witnesses were ready to swear they had counted so many million of fish dead upon the shore, and so many million fish dead in the sea, all of which had so many million of eggs, which, if they had not been destroyed, would have 736 produced so many millions of fish, and he sent in a bill of some 20,000l. or 30,000l. upon the Turkish Government. We compelled the Turkish Government to appoint a commission, and although the fellow did not get all he asked, he got a large sum, and I have no doubt exhibits at this moment a most cheerful picture of oppression suffered under the Turkish Government. Another English subject, a Mr. Churchill, who is now dead, whilst living at Constantinople, went out shooting, and by accident wounded a Turkish boy. He was bastinadoed—that is, he received one or two stripes, and when a friend waited on him in prison to condole with him, instead of finding him overpowered, although he had a chain round his neck, he was in great glee, and said, "Don't you see what a capital thing it will be for my family." He got from the Turkish Government 5,000l., and he assured me he should be delighted to be bastinadoed again upon the same terms. I have just been reading in a book the account of a gentleman who was in Albania when it was stated that a tremendous massacre of the Christians took place, the town of Vrania having been sacked, and the surviving inhabitants sold into slavery. This gentleman was actually at Vrania at the time, and contradicts the whole story; the only persons who suffered were some Turks who had endeavoured to suppress an insurrection amongst the Albanians, who had risen, and amongst other acts of violence had destroyed a Greek church, The noble Lord opposite (Lord Lovaine) has done me the honour of quoting from a work which I have published, and has particularly dwelt upon several acts of cruelty and oppression which I relate. I feel bound to explain what I have said in that work. It must be always borne in mind, with regard to oppression in Turkey, that it is either committed by Turks who are opposed to the Porte, who are in rebellion against the Porte, or by Turkish subjects who profess their allegiance. In the first case, it may be said, that the Turkish Government ought earlier to adopt precautionary measures; but there were great and powerful tribes over which the Porte until recently had very little control. Within a very recent period the Porte has had three wars—in Bosnia, in Albania, and Koordistan—to put down these very tribes; and it has only been after a considerable loss of men and treasure that it has succeeded. The atrocities committed by Turkish authorities described 737 in my work, are substantially correct; but if the noble Lord had read a little further, he would have found, in an adjoining district, a pasha who had established Christian schools, and, during a short administration, had raised the Christians to an unexampled state of prosperity. He showed me those schools, I passed some time with him, and I was quite satisfied of the good he has done during the short period of his rule. I stated in my book that, although I sent representations to Constantinople of the cruelties practised by the other pasha, they were not attended to. I was deceived. In consequence of those remonstrances, although coming from a mere traveller, our Ambassador at Constantinople succeeded in having the pasha turned out of his pashalic, and the pasha whose good conduct I also brought to the notice of the Porte, was promoted by having the very government that had been so mal-administered by his neighbour added to his own. There is only one way of preventing these oppressions being practised: appoint good consuls. Make the consular system a proper one. Have no jobbery. Appoint men worthy of the office. Appoint men who have distinguished themselves by their former good conduct and long service, and who are fairly entitled to promotion, and it is astonishing the influence those men will gain, without incurring the suspicion or mistrust of the Turkish Government. It is astonishing what good they do, not only to the Christians, but, what interests my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Cobden) more, to British trade and commerce. Moreover, let the ambassadorial influence be properly and moderately exercised, without pressing too hard and too publicly upon the Porte, and in any just cause we shall never fail to obtain redress. Let us remember these reforms in Turkey have only been entered on during the last ten or twelve years. There has been no time to reform a generation. The Turkish Government have fifteen or twenty men who, when sent to pashalics, will do honour to the country. There are men not of the same character, and those men are sent to the more remote pashalics, and it is to the more remote pashalics that the remarks I have made apply. In those remote parts the pashas are beyond the control of the Government, there is very rarely any consul, and they do give way to acts of oppression. We must do away with our capitulations also. They are a source of immense evil. They place under our immediate control, and 738 take out of the jurisdiction of the local authorities, a number of individuals, Ionians and Maltese, who are a disgrace to England, and who swarm in the Levant. There is not a murder in Constantinople or in the ports of the Levant which cannot almost invariably be traced to a British subject or to a Greek, but generally to a British subject. If you send the criminals to Malta or the Ionian Islands, you cannot get any native court or jury to convict them. If the Ambassador sends witnesses, the chances are he is personally saddled with the expense. The French and Russian Governments have the power of seizing any subjects who are liable to fair suspicion and have no ostensible means of employment, putting them in a vessel, and sending them away. But the English Ambassador has no such power, and if he were to attempt it, would indisputably have an action for false imprisonment. I will ask any one acquainted with the East whether he would venture to sleep with his door open in a Christian quarter, and whether he would not venture to sleep with all the doors open in a Mussulman quarter? These men are a disgrace to the protection we are called on to afford them. And now that I am on that subject, I wish to say a few words in answer to remarks which have fallen from Gentlemen on both sides of the House. They have expressed their wish that Her Majesty's Government will enter into a distinct understanding with Turkey with regard to its Christian subjects; and, as I understand, some such convention has been proposed to the Porte, and objected to on account of certain articles in it. I say, if you have entered into such a convention, you have done a most dangerous thing. You will justify all those very acts of the Russian Government which you are now condemning. But I say, also, such an article in the convention is unnecessary. What more do you want? You have obtained from the Sultan a firman granting Christians one of the most important rights they can enjoy, placing them almost on an equality with Turkish subjects. Since Lord Stratford has been at Constantinople he has been engaged in a series of negotiations for the better government of the Christian subjects of the Porte, and great benefit has accrued in consequence of his interference. Therefore, I say, you do exercise all the rights which any article of a convention can give you. Mark our danger! I do not say we shall take ad- 739 vantage of such an article; but may not Austria take advantage of it, to put in the same claim for the Catholics of Bosnia which Russia has put in for all persons of the Greek religion in Turkey? I do not wish to say anything against neighbours, but it is not long since there was a great struggle in Turkey for pre-eminence between the Greek and Latin Churches, and France may take advantage of it to push her claims on behalf of the Roman Catholics. If the Government have entered into such an article they have committed a dangerous mistake. They will have provided a cause of speedy quarrel with Austria, if not with France. And if the Porte does consent to such an article, it will, to a great extent, forfeit its independence. The other day I came across a curious definition of the Turkish form of government:—"The Turkish form of government is a despotic monarchy, only limited by the just influence now exercised by the Western Powers." That is an entirely new form of government, and a very anomalous one. No man is more opposed than I am to acts of aggression and cruelty. Unfortunately, I have witnessed such acts in Turkey, and I have not confined myself to speaking against them, but I have turned what little influence and knowledge I possessed to the best account I could in order to prevent those acts of cruelty being committed. A right hon. Gentleman upon the Treasury bench apologised to me for making remarks against the Mussulman religion, which he thought would be painful to my feelings. Now, no man can be more aware of the disastrous effects of the Mussulman religion than I am. No man can be more opposed to the wickedness of Islamism; but I hope always to stand up as the advocate, humble as I may be, of truth. Great rights and great interests are at stake—the rights of this country—the interests of this country—as well as broken international law. I advocate this cause not only because I believe that the Turkish Government is anxious to make what improvements it can, but also because I believe, as a Christian and politician, that a continuance of the present state of things will be most likely to place the Christians of Turkey in that position, ultimately, which Providence destines them to hold.
§ MR. E. BALL
was very glad that the noble Lord (Lord C. Hamilton) who had addressed the House that evening had spoken out on the subject of this war, and 740 that he had the courage to give expression to opinions, when those opinions were not responded to by the people at large—he was glad at the discussion which had taken place respecting the proceedings at the Reform dinner. Let the Reformers have the entire credit of this war—it was all in harmony. A Reform Ministry originated this war—the celebration of the war was at a dinner at the Reform Club—and the naval conductors of the war rejoiced in the name of Reformers. He was glad that the party of which he was a humble member had nothing to do with the war—only adopting the noble sentiment of Lord Derby, expressed in the other House, that the country once at war, all party considerations would be sacrificed, and he would give every support to the Ministry, to conduct it as became a great nation, and to bring it to a triumphant close. He had always understood that the conduct of the Turks towards Christians had been distinguished by great cruelty; he had read some score of opinions of travellers, in letters from Constantinople; others, who had published their travels; all agreeing in the horrible treatment the Greeks received from the Turks; and he asked how was it, if the Turkish Government was so humane, that our Government, in conjunction with that of France, had undertaken to remedy that evil, and give a guarantee that that persecution should no longer exist? He must consider this a religious war, the Crescent against the Cross. He entered his protest against this war, which, he said, might have been stopped, and he expressed his surprise that the hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side, composing, as was said, all the talents in the country, and so much intellectual power, should not have been able to bring peace and goodwill, instead of discord and war. He believed, when the whole case was fully known to the country, the country would form a very different opinion of the case to what it now held. By the reports brought to this country from those who had an opportunity of judging, the Emperor Nicholas was a very different man from what he had been represented; and he did not like to see odium thrown upon any one unjustly. He remembered that the late Earl of Durham, when he returned from a visit of diplomacy to Russia, represented the Czar as a man of high honourable character, strong in his attachment to this country, and possessing all the kindlier feelings of human nature, manifested in his conduct as fa- 741 ther and husband. He further recollected another nobleman, one who had just passed away from us, Lord Londonderry, who also engaged in a mission of diplomacy to Russia, did, on his return to England, represent the Czar as a man possessing the very highest attributes of humanity. He also found Sir Archibald Alison, the most truthful historian, in his History of Europe, giving a character of the Czar very different from what the Ministry now imputed to him. It was only a short time ago that odium was attempted to be cast on one of the most exalted of Princes, and not more exalted by his position than by the moral worth and integrity which adorned that position; and yet that distinguished personage was represented as having been engaged in transactions of the most discreditable character. Therefore, when they found odium directed against so much worth and integrity, it did not become that House to fall in at once with the clamour, but they ought to examine and proclaim the truth. There could be no doubt but this was a war originating solely in religious differences, and it could not be said that Russia was the first to raise the question. The first arrangement was violated by France, who infringed on the status quo, and threatened a fleet to enforce her new conditions. Again, the question was settled by Austria, in the Vienna note, which had been accepted by England, France, and Russia, and Turkey herself was the first to reject it. He was told that this was a popular war, but he did not believe it was so popular that the nation did not object to the increase of the income tax, and he must take the liberty of telling the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the mode he had devised of paying the expense of the war was, in his opinion, most unfair. Why should one tax bear the burden? That was not fair or equitable, especially as the income tax pressed with peculiar weight upon a large number of poor clerks, earning from 100l. to 150l. per annum, and also upon a large number of professional men. He was very much afraid that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, at the end of the half-year, make a similar proposition for the increase of the income tax that he had done this, unless the House expressed a strong opinion against such a course. This was a national war, and the whole nation ought to assist in paying the cost; and he repeated, it was most unfair to place the whole burden on the shoulders of those who paid 742 income tax. They said the war was popular, but this country was too civilised and too religious to delight in war, and he believed the time would soon come when the people of this country would give a stronger expression to their abhorrence of war than they had yet done of approval. He agreed with what had been said by the hon. Member for West Surrey, that nothing was more injurious to a country than to be involved in war, and that it ought never to be engaged in one, excepting for the maintenance of the nationality of a country, the welfare of its people, or its honour. He should be happy if the last efforts to procure peace should succeed, and if, through a merciful Providence, they were yet enabled to prevent their going to war.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I hope, Sir, that we may be now allowed to proceed with the business which is before us. I can assure the House, however, as well as my hon. Friend (Mr. M. Milnes), that nothing can be more at heart with the Government than to use every effort in our power to improve the condition of the Christian subjects of the Sultan, and to endeavour to have them placed upon a footing of equality with the Mussulman population. But I am sure, Sir, that this House will feel that it would be very unfitting in us to fall into the same course as that which has been so decidedly condemned in the case of the Emperor of Russia, and that the endeavours of Her Majesty's Government must be tempered with the consideration of that which is due to the independence of another Sovereign and of another country. Now these changes and reforms have been the object of the anxious endeavours of the British Government for many years past; and, as stated by my hon. Friend (Mr. Layard), whose personal knowledge and experience enable him to guarantee the fact—great improvements have been already made. Indeed, it is only a few days ago that Her Majesty's Government received a copy of a firman issued by the Sultan, by which, for the future, a Christian's testimony is to be received in all cases, civil as well as criminal, in all the Courts throughout the Ottoman empire. So that a most important and valuable privilege is thus conferred upon the Christians; and there is this remarkable circumstance, which ought not to be entirely lost sight of, that the Christian's evidence is not received upon oath; for no such custom as that of taking evi- 743 dence upon oath prevails in that country; so that the testimony of the Christian and the Mussulman will be upon precisely the same footing. Now, Sir, we have been told that the Turks have inflicted a great number of acts of cruelty and oppression towards the Christian subjects of the Sultan. No doubt they have, and in times gone by many excesses were committed by officers acting under the authority of the Government. Of late years, however, the practices of the Government itself and of those officers have been entirely different. I do not for one moment wish to deny that there have been acts committed by governors certainly deserving of the greatest reprobation; but great military enterprises have been undertaken by the Sultan, and oftentimes at the instigation of the British Government, to punish and put down such persons as have abused their authority. The noble Lord (Lord Lovaine) referred to the cruelty practised by the Kurdish chieftains on the Nestorians; but so far as the Turkish Government is concerned, we have no reason to complain against that Government for tyrannical or cruel proceedings against the Christian population of that country. With regard to the Greek insurrection, I confess I do not myself share in the apprehensions of those who consider that it will spread itself to a very great extent; while, at the same time, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that its origin has not been wholly domestic. It is fomented as much from without as from within the confines of the territory. But, Sir, I can assure the House that the troops which have been sent from this country are sent to uphold that great cause in which she has engaged—a cause not such as it appears to some gentlemen, for our objects in this undertaking are not to enter upon a religious war in Greece—the object which the British Government has in view, and the object which the country will bear out the Government in endeavouring to attain, is the maintenance of those great principles of national independence which concern not Turkey alone, not merely the Governments of Russia and Turkey, but all the great nations of Europe, and apply to all the countries of the civilised world. Sir, we are going into this war, not upon the narrow grounds upon which some hon. Gentlemen have based the question, but in defence of the rights and interests which belong to Turkey in common with every other country of Europe; and I, 744 therefore, hope that this House and the country will see that that cause will require to be supported by a great effort, and I trust to Heaven that that effort will be successful.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he wished to make a few observations on the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball)—who had intimated that the increase of the income tax would make the war unpopular—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in bringing forward his Budget, had expressly pointed out as one of the advantages of raising the means of paying the expenses of the war within the year, that it would operate as a moral check upon our martial enthusiasm, and make us consider well what steps we took, when every step was to involve a large increase of taxation. He was one of those who approached this question of the war with much hesitation, and for the simple reason that he had not sufficient information to form a correct opinion as to the policy of the Government. He was still more perplexed when he tried to found himself upon authority, there being such extraordinary differences from hour to hour in the statements of the Minister of the Crown as to what were the objects of the war. They were told by a noble Lord in the other House, that the sole object the Ministers had in view was to resist the aggression of Russia; then, they were told, it was to secure the privileges and civil rights of the Christian population in Turkey, and now they heard the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department informing them, that there was no reason to complain much of the conduct of the Turkish Government towards its Christian population, and that it would be very strange for the Government to pursue the same course as Russia, and endeavour to have a protectorate over the Christian population of Turkey. To a person like himself, seeking for information and anxious to bow to authority, it must be admitted such differences of opinion and such varieties of declaration on the part of the Ministers of the Crown were very perplexing. Again, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, in a recent despatch stated that no steps ought to be taken to admit Turkey into the European family of nations until positive guarantees were obtained for the civil rights of the Christian population. That was a much larger demand upon the Turkish Government than were religious privileges. If England and France were to 745 demand that the Christian population of Turkey should enjoy political and civil rights, and share in the administration of the affairs of the country, they would make demands much more inconsistent with what was called the independence and integrity of the Sublime Porte than any demand for freedom of religious worship. The demand of equal civil rights for the Christians would in fact be to put aside the Turkish rule. The question then came to be, were they in a condition, consistently with their duty to the people of this country, to take upon themselves the heavy responsibility of governing the Christian population in Turkey, and to govern them, moreover, through a Turkish medium? Perhaps the avowal of an intention of taking care of the privileges of the Christians was one intended merely to quiet the misgivings of some tender consciences. Previous to the French occupation of Rome, it was said that occupation should not be sanctioned because the Pope was to be restored, but then it was to be a Pope with a constitution, and all the violent Protestants were at once satisfied. Now they were told they were going to support the independence and integrity of Turkey, but then it was to be Turkey with reforms and civil rights to the Christian population. He believed, when the war was over, they would hear no more of these guarantees and securities, because he could not conceive how it was possible for the English Government to enforce them. Were they to be satisfied with a mere promise? Supposing the promise to be broken, or supposing the firman to be totally ignored in the remoter provinces, were England and France to enforce the guarantees upon the Turkish Government? It appeared to him the question was involved in the greatest difficulties; for we could only do so by taking on ourselves the actual government of the Christian population in that country. It appeared to him, from the speech of his hon. Friend below him (Mr. Layard) that the Turkish Government, as it now stood, was no Government at all, because it required all kinds of independent jurisdictions, consuls, and ambassadors, and other functionaries to uphold it. Sometimes our policy was one of interference, sometimes one of defence and integrity; and, for the life of him, he could not comprehend what it was that the Government were about to do with regard to this question of the civil rights of the Christians in Turkey. Would any 746 Member of the Government inform them if anything in writing relating to it had passed between the English and French Governments, whether there was to be a convention; and, if so, whether it would be placed before the House, so that it might judge of the responsibilities which it was about to undertake? The description given by an eminent French statesman of the present state of the Turkish empire entirely tallied with that which had been given by his hon. Friend (Mr. Layard). M. Lamartine said that the Ottoman empire was no empire at all, but a misshapen agglomeration of different races, without cohesion between them, with different interests, without a language, without a religion, without union or stability of power; that religious fanaticism was extinct; that the fatal system of administration had devoured a race of conquerors, and that, in short, Turkey was perishing for want of Turks. He believed there was a great deal of truth in that description, and that it would be impossible to maintain the integrity and independence of the Turkish people in Europe; and, if it could, it was a question whether it ought to be maintained? Were we, the English people, in order to satisfy some political theory with regard to the balance of power, to rivet on the Greek population a Government which they detested? For no one could deny that there was not a Greek subject who did not retain within his breast the greatest hatred and detestation of the Ottoman empire. He could be no party to such a doctrine, for it appeared to him to be a most tyrannical doctrine. The attempt on the part of Europe to impose for all time the Turkish rule upon the Greeks was an attempt to tie the living to the dead. The remarks he had made had reference to the welfare of this country, for he wanted to guard against our being dragged into an indefinite responsibility, and he protested against the doctrine that we were entitled to rivet any form of Government upon any population contrary to the declared wishes of that population.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, though he agreed with much of what had been advanced by the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke, yet when he said that opinions had been expressed in another place, and repeated in that House, which he could neither define nor understand, he (Sir R. Peel) could not agree with him. He had followed from its earliest commencement the policy of the Government throughout 747 the whole of the protracted negotiations upon this question, and he thought it would not only bear the closest scrutiny, but would not fail to carry with it the favourable expression of public opinion. He was glad that the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes) had brought forward this subject of the Greek population, because it appeared to him that now—most essentially before any serious engagement took place, either of a maritime or a military character, between the Western powers and Russia—that Parliament should have an opportunity of deliberating on the state of the Greek Christian subjects of Turkey, to consider their present welfare, their future hopes, their interests, he would not say their independence. The Greek insurrectionary movement began on the coast of Albania, and had now, he found from the papers, spread over the classical plains of Thessaly. This was not the result of any new-made crisis in Eastern affairs, nor did it originate from the dispute of 1852, but long before. That dispute, as they all knew, began in some contest between the Greek and Latin Churches, in reference to certain prerogatives at the Holy Places in Bethlehem; but that was settled. He looked upon the insurrectionary movement which had occurred, as a consequence of the state of things which had so long existed; a state of things which had so long attracted the attention and engaged the solicitude of all the Cabinets of Europe. He believed he could appeal to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) and the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) if such were not the case? The latter noble Lord had said, most justly, that the present state of the Greek population did not arise immediately from the dispute of 1852. He had found, the other day, a remarkable expression of M. Guizot, in the Chamber of Peers, so far back as 1842, that a movement was going on among the Greek population, and had been going on for the last forty years, which must terminate in insurrection and separation. There was talk about the support of Turkey being necessary for the preservation of the balance of power in Europe; but it was the jealousy of half the European Powers, and the fears of the other half, which really maintained the independence of the Ottoman empire. They might adjourn the day of reckoning, but that day was evidently and steadily advancing, and the very spirit of the Greeks would prevent a long postponement. The 748 safety and firmness of every State depended on the vigour and the intelligence of its Government, and when a Government was destitute of means to repress insurrectionary movements, its weakness was evident. He placed no reliance on the fanaticism of the Turks, for it was morally impossible for them to maintain their present position. The nations of Europe had derived their civilisation from the East; but while they had been strengthened by the cultivation of the arts and sciences, and the development of the human mind, the condition of Turkey, from the most brilliant period of her military splendour down to the present day, had been unstable, because it had failed to cultivate the same arts which had caused in the other nations of Europe the advances of civilisation, and the best site in Europe had continued to be contaminated by what was called a "moral pestilence." As for Turkish industry there was no such thing. In whose hands was the trade of Turkey? In the hands of aliens, of Armenians, of Greeks—those very Greeks who now burned with recollections of bygone glories, and who possibly anticipated future fame. Was not that feeling natural to them? Twenty-four centuries ago Athens was a proud city, and Pericles was a proud ruler over her. Her inhabitants were the rulers of the world, and was it not natural for such a people to hope for national greatness? He (Sir R. Peel) was in favour of the development of Greek independence, He opposed every attempt to keep down crushed nationalities—he hoped to see Poland once again unfolding her limits on the face of the map of Europe, as he hoped also to see Greece; but, at the same time, he hoped the Greeks would be guided by the advice and the spirit of public opinion in this country, and feel that the present was not the moment for insurrection on their part. Insurrection might check the Western Powers, and therefore injure the interests of the Greeks, for the task which the Western Powers had undertaken was to resist the aggressions of Russia, and drive her back within her proper limits. The next thing after that which they would have to do would be to enter into some arrangement which would put a stop to Turkish rule in Europe. They must do away with Turkish rule, and drive it, if not so far as Lord Shaftesbury wished, beyond the Euphrates, but certainly beyond Europe. He perceived that the Emperor of Russia had declared that he undertook war against the enemies of Chris- 749 tianity. The Emperor pretended that we were the enemies of Christianity, of which he was the advocate, and he appealed to his people on that ground: it was therefore necessary for us to wipe away that miserable slander, and to show that the charge was nothing but a blasphemous attempt to sanctify his crime on the part of the utterer. They should, however, see what they were going to do now they were about to be engaged in a war, the consequences of which it was impossible to foresee. Many persons said if the Government would tell their intentions they would know how to proceed. He (Sir R. Peel) was not a Member of the Government, but he thought he could tell the House something they were going to do. They were about to engage in a war, not for the purpose of upholding an effete system of Government in Turkey, but for the purpose of resisting the dangerous aggressions of Russia. We did not undertake the war from personal or selfish motives, but in the interests of civilisation and humanity, because, as he believed, the liberties of Europe were imperilled by the odious tyranny of a despot who knew no limitation of his power but what his own ambitious lust might suggest. We were about to embark upon a war after temperate and wise negotiations, and those negotiations having failed to convince the Czar we were about to enforce our opinions in another way. In conjunction with France, we had been mainly instrumental in inducing Turkey to resist the idea of handing over to Russia the material and spiritual government of 11,000,000 of slaves. What were we going to do? As soon as the advances of spring relaxed the harshness of winter, we were going to enforce at the mouth of the cannon that which we had failed to do by negotiation. Having exhausted all arguments, we were compelled to adopt the ultima ratio of nations. He remembered a remarkable expression of the noble Lord the member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell), who, when we were talked about as being enemies of Christianity, showed that it was Russia that was so, because she did not hesitate to make the tomb of Christ the occasion of quarrel among Christians. He was ready to accept the responsibility of the war, and so, he believed, were the great body of the people; and he also believed that the policy adopted by the Government, instead of being weak and vacillating, had been straightforward, conducive to the honour of the country, 750 and the best interests of civilisation. He hoped and believed that our arms would maintain our ancient fame, and that our fleet, which had just sailed—which had not declared war, but which had orders to declare war as soon as it could—he hoped it would have an opportunity soon, and that Napier would prove he had to avenge the blood of thousands of Christians, of the blood of Sinope—and that he (Sir R. Peel) believed he would do, under the permission of Providence, and make Russia feel not only the enormity of her demands, but the utter disregard she had shown to every principle of law, interest, or character in Europe.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, he had not risen till this late hour in the hope that some hon. Gentleman would have saved him the trouble of alluding to the subject to which he briefly wished to call attention. It was with great regret that he had read that an attempt had been made, he must not say more, to engage the religious enthusiasm of the country on this side of the war, and to involve her Majesty's Ministers, as far as very indiscreet council could involve them, in questions which he thought they would do much better to avoid, not only because they were themselves improper, but because, if they had attempted negotiations on such a subject, their negotiations must utterly have failed, He alluded to the expression which had been used that this was not only a religious war, but that we were to enter into treaties to insure the religious toleration of the Christians in Turkey, and he would beg the House to call to mind for a moment how it was that one of Her Majesty's Ministers was to make that attempt. He was to enter into negotiations and to conclude a treaty with the Turks; but how was he to enforce it? Every nation that signed a treaty was bound to enforce it by proclaiming war against the Power that broke it; but had they been able to make Austria and Prussia enforce the treaties which Russia had violated? Certainly not. And did they suppose that the Greeks would believe in, or would act in consequence of any treaty which they might enter into with Turkey? The Greeks would have a just claim to say, "We do not trust your treaties; we cannot believe in them." But, further, if they entered into any treaty with the Greeks, with what sect would it be? They had no head, and there was no responsible body with which they could treat, and it would therefore be 751 impossible to do so. But, still more, had they forgotten that they were going hand in hand with the French? The Emperor of the French had drawn them into this quarrel in order to support his own claim and that of the Latin Church. Was it hand in hand with him that they were going to enter into a treaty of toleration? Did he understand toleration in the sense in which we used that word? Was it possible that we and he could agree what toleration was; or that the Pope, who instigated him, could have toleration at all? If we instigated him to toleration, would not the end of his toleration be that he would be obliged to fly in the course of a week? and the only place in Europe that would tolerate him would be Great Britain. But they were told, in the course of this extraordinary debate, that we were going to establish Protestantism. Now, he should like very much to know, and it was a pity that the great theologian who had spoken in another place had not favoured them with a definition of Protestantism. Did he mean that they were to establish the Church of England? He supposed he did, because we had sent a bishop there—why or wherefore nobody seemed to know. But then the census had shown that one-half of the population of this country did not agree with the Church of England. How, then, was the Minister to enter into a war, or to make treaties to set up a Church that was only supported by half of the population? Nor was that all. When they got the consent of those people, they came to the fact that a great part of those cruelties that they laid to the charge of the Turks had been instigated by one Christian sect against another—that repeatedly it was a pasha instigated by the Greek Church against the Latin, and often a pasha instigated by the Latin Church against the Greek. He should like to know how it was possible to compose, or even to deal with these differences. But then, if it was to establish Protestantism, how could they ask France to assist them? And then might not the Sultan fairly say, "Show me an example of what you mean by Protestantism? Of course it would be easy to say in reply, "See what a harmonious people we are here—what a delightful spectacle our civilised nation presents!" But there were other Protestant countries to which he might look. There was Prussia—that faithless country, that had ever deserted us in our hour of need, and which ever since it was a kingdom had deserted 752 every Power that supported it; that had always gone over to the strongest, and taken advantage of the weak in their hour of greatest weakness—a country that had been ever ruled by philosophers and schoolmasters, whose religion was a sort of neology, that turned everything sacred into a myth—which had no morality, except that of despising the institution of marriage—for he had lately read of a man playing a rubber of whist at Berlin with three ladies, each of whom had once the happiness of being his wife. They might, indeed, fairly point to Prussia as an instance of the civilisation produced by that kind of Nothingarianism called Protestantism. His counsel would be for the Ministers to avoid all questions of that sort, and not to encourage one sect to be crying down the other, but to rest assured that if they attempted to meddle with the dispute they would be more likely to kindle a religious civil war throughout all Europe than by any other measure they could take.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he only rose to ask whether there would be any objection to lay on the table a copy of the convention that was to be proposed to Turkey by France and England with reference to religion.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, that when any treaties were concluded they were laid before Parliament; that projects of treaties were not so laid before Parliament; and that the convention asked for could not be.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.