HC Deb 09 May 1856 vol 142 cc269-73

, in rising to submit some observations to the House relative to the state of Greece, said, he wished to remind the House that on the 3rd April, the noble Lord (Visct. Palmerston) in answer to a question put to him, said, that such was the administrative talent of the Government of Greece that in no part of the kingdom were life and property safe except in the three miles of road between Athens and the Piræus. The accuracy of that statement had been assented to by the whole population of Greece, but their pride had been somewhat hurt that the road in question was stated to be only three miles in length when it was as much as five; and therefore there were five miles of direct communication in Greece where life and property were safe by day and by night. There had not been any assurance on the part of the protecting Powers that measures would be taken for acting upon the Government of Greece, and much despondency had therefore been felt by Her Majesty's subjects in that country that nothing had been done. The present condition of Greece had been brought before the recent Conferences in Paris, for he found in the protocol of the 22nd of April the following important reference to it:— Count Walewski says that it is desirable that the Plenipotentiaries, before they separate, should interchange their ideas on different subjects which require to be settled, and which it might be advantageous to take up, in order to prevent fresh complications. Although specially assembled for settling the Eastern question, the Congress, according to the first Plenipotentiary of France, might reproach itself for not having taken advantage of the circumstance which brings together the representatives of the principal Powers of Europe, to clear up certain questions, to lay down certain principles, to express intentions—in fine, to make certain declarations, always and solely with the view of ensuring the future tranquillity of the world, by dispelling the clouds which are still seen looming on the political horizon before they become menacing. It cannot be denied, he says, that Greece is in an abnormal state. The anarchy to which that country was a prey has compelled France and England to send troops to the Piræus at a time when their armies, nevertheless, did not want occupation. The Congress knows in what state Greece was; neither is it ignorant that that in which it now is, is far from being satisfactory. Would it not, therefore, be advantageous that the Powers represented in the Congress should manifest the wish to see the three protecting Courts take into serious consideration the deplorable situation of the kingdom which they have created, and devise means to make provision for it? Count Walewski does not doubt that the Earl of Clarendon will join with him in declaring that the two Governments await with impatience the time when they shall be at liberty to terminate an occupation to which nevertheless they are unable without the most serious inconvenience to put an end, so long as real modifications shall not be introduced into the state of things in Greece. It should be remembered that the protecting Powers had created the kingdom of Greece. In 1845, Lord Aberdeen stated that the position of Greece was, that the kingdom had been created by the three protecting Powers, who were bound to protect her independence; and, moreover, a loan of money had been secured, the interest of which was guaranteed by them. The result of this, however, had been, that the Consolidated Fund of this country had been burdened to the extent of £376,000 already on that account, and was charged to the extent of £47,000 per annum. This would be less unsatisfactory if the money thus retained by Greece was devoted to proper purposes. But what was the state of the country and the conduct of the monarch? Why, his civil list absorbed one-twelfth of the entire revenue, and the country was without local improvements, everything being in the hands of the Court, and all parties who were interested in the country naturally looked to the protecting Powers to bring about some alteration of this state of things. The last speech made by the late Sir Robert Peel enunciated the principle, repeated the other night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wilts, of non-interference in the affairs of friendly countries. But could Greece be looked upon as a friendly Power when she had been base enough at a moment of exigency to raise troops to annoy and invade the territory of our Ally the Porte? But the occupation by the allied forces of the Piræus marked the present as a period when this country should interfere. The country was one scene of brigandage and outrage. In one month not less than eighteen persons had been executed in Athens alone for murder; and thirty-five persons were known to have been murdered or tortured by the brigands. Under these circumstances, surely the subjects of this country resident or interested in Greece were entitled to expect from the Government, not only a declaration of its policy and of its sympathy with the inhabitants of that country, but some intention to interfere in order to bring about a better state of things, and relieve the wretched inhabitants from their present unhappy position. The occupation of the Piræus by the Allies had failed to produce any effect in quelling the disturbances which existed, because the Government of Greece had given no assistance to those who were endeavouring to effect that result. The question was whether we, who have joined in setting a Sovereign upon the throne of Greece, not the fittest for the post, were not now called upon to interfere in a state of misgovernment under which our own subjects resident in that country suffered severely, and our commerce had fallen off one-fourth. As a matter of form, and to enable the noble Lord at the head of the Government to answer him, he would move the adjournment.


however, did not rise to reply.


said, the adjournment could not be moved.

MR. M'MAHON rose, and said, he wished to know from the noble Lord whether the recent amnesty would extend to those gentlemen who had fled to America without trial, and to the poor men who had been transported to Bermuda for an attack on the police-barrack at Portland?


could not help calling the attention of the House to the situation in which they were likely to be placed by what might be called a licentious use of the privileges of Members. Between a question whether a certain judge of a court of justice had kept a jury waiting while attending to his private practice, and a question with respect to the persons to whom the amnesty was to extend, an hon. Gentleman had introduced one of the most grave and difficult questions of European policy which could be brought under the consideration of the House. He proposed that the three protecting Powers should interfere for the purpose of solving the great problem connected with the state of Greece, and took the opportunity of the Motion for adjournment to make that proposition. It was far too grave a question to be introduced in such a manner. The hon. Gentleman read a passage from a protocol from which, he said, it would seem that the Conference had met for the government of the world; but if the hon. Gentleman was making a legitimate use of the Motion for adjournment, might it not be remarked that the Motion for adjournment was made to give him an opportunity to discuss the government of the world? The kingdom of Greece was limited in extent, but the questions connected with it were of the utmost importance, and it was not creditable to the dignity of the House that such questions should be discussed in this haphazard manner. Weighty words might be dropped, and conclusions of portentous magnitude pointed out, in mere inadvertence. The noble Lord did not, indeed, appear inclined to reply; and he hoped his noble Friend would refuse to do so. He took a great interest in the affairs of Greece, and he demurred to the accuracy of the picture drawn by the hon. Gentleman; but he certainly would not follow his example by entering into any detailed statement.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had been very hard upon his hon. Friend, who had taken a very usual course; to which, however the right hon. Gentleman in this instance might object, he had no reason to single out his hon. Friend's question as an exception to it. His hon. Friend had stated the information he had received, and he (Mr. Spooner) knew that the information which his hon. Friend received was accurate. His hon. Friend had truly stated that great sympathy had been excited by what appeared to be the state of Greece, and that many persons in that country felt deeply what had fallen from the noble Lord with reference to what had passed at the Conferences. His hon. Friend had been naturally anxious to know whether the noble Lord had directed his attention to the condition, not only of the people of Greece, but of our own subjects there, with a view to their protection and security; and wanted to know whether they were to remain without protection in their present state. His hon. Friend had a right to make such inquiries, considering that we paid £47,000 a year for the interest on the Greek loan. The noble Lord ought to be prepared to give some assurance that something would be done to remedy such a state of things.


made no reply.