HC Deb 14 August 1857 vol 147 cc1687-90

I do not think the example of this night's discussion will tend very much to the regularity of our debates; but I wish to address a few words to the House on a subject which has been lost sight of for nearly an hour. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone)' having asked certain questions respecting Wallachia and Moldavia, I cannot but observe upon what appeared to me to be an omission on the part of my noble Friend at the head of the Government in making his explanation. My noble Friend stated very truly that the Four Powers went to the Porte and asked that the elections should be annulled, and that the Sultan naturally replied that a representation of that kind ought to have come, not from four, but from the whole of the Six Powers; and that there was therefore some demur in agreeing to the proposal. I have understood, and I see it in the newspapers, that there was a previous step on the part of the Ambassador of England and the Internuncio of Austria. The elections having been delayed by a general agreement, I have been led to believe—indeed it is stated in a letter, though I don't know whether it is a genuine letter or not—but the letter states that there was a representation from them to the effect that the Sultan should not delay the elections any longer, but that he should send orders to have them immediately carried into effect. The letter even says, the Ambassador of England and the Internuncio of Austria stated that they were ready to be responsible for all the consequences that might flow from their interference. The consequence was, that the Sultan, not thinking that the intervention of the Six Powers was necessary, complied with the request of the English and Austrian representatives. The elections took place; and hence the irregularities, and the interference of the Four Powers. The interference of those Four Powers was thus not a spontaneous action on their part, but it arose from the previous interference of England and Austria. Now if these latter did interfere in that way it was an ill-advised step, and a step ill calculated to maintain that agreement between all the Powers, and that good understanding at Constantinople which is so necessary to the general tranquillity of Europe. With regard to the other question to which my right hon. Friend alluded, namely, the union of the Principalities—the Divan being assembled—if it should express a strong wish that the Principalities should be united, I do not see that it would be right or practicable for the Powers of Europe to advise the Sultan to do otherwise than to concur in that opinion. At the same time it would be a step to which I shall look with no very great confidence; because I am afraid that if the Sultan is to have the kingdom of Greece on the one side and the kingdom of Moldo-Wallachia on the other side of his dominions, it may tend to weaken his power—which power we entered into the late war with Russia for the purpose of maintaining. That, however, is entirely a question for speculation, and one that must be left to the decision of Her Majesty's Government. Whether it was wise to convene the Divans may be a matter for debate; but having convened them, I think it would not be practicable to oppose any well-considered wish which may be expressed by the representatives of the people. As to a free Government—surrounded by Russia, by Turkey, and by Austria, which are all inimical to free Government—that will be a great difficulty; and as we have guaranteed such a free Government it may lead to complications. There has been much desultory discussion to-night; but there is still one subject with regard to which, seeing that the Session is drawing so near to its close, I cannot help expressing some regret and some disappointment. Last year the Ministers of Great Britain and France expressed at Paris their earnest hope that the occupation of the Roman teritory by France and Austria should cease; and the Earl of Clarendon pointed out that if certain improvements and reforms took place in the Roman Government, the foreign occupation need no longer continue. The French and English Governments both pointed out that the present was an abnormal state of things, and one by which the tranquillity of Europe might be endangered. Now, we have been lately told that the Pope has been to Bologna; and we are informed that to all the requests that were made to him to effect a reform in the Government of his territories, he expressed a fear that any reform would lead to anarchy; and he at once refused. The consequence must thus be that the foreign occupation must continue—an occupation by Austria on the one hand, because she has long had great influence in Italy, and an occupation by France on the other hand, in order to show that she is not disposed to leave this foreign occupation to Austria alone. I must say that such a state of things is totally inconsistent with the treaty of Vienna and with the independence of a foreign power. A Sovereign who for eight years has had foreign troops in his dominions, and is now obliged to confess that he cannot maintain their internal tranquillity without the aid of two allied Powers, and without foreign troops within his dominions to suppress disturbances—such a Sovereign cannot be held to be an independent one; and we must therefore lament that such a state of things should; continue. Of course it is not a question for a quarrel with those Powers; but we may hope that such a state of things will speedily cease, and that those Powers will hasten as much as possible to evacuate the Roman territories. With regard to Naples, nothing can be said. If the King of Naples can maintain internal tranquillity in his dominions without foreign assistance, we have, of course, no right to interfere; but we have some right to interfere when foreign troops are allowed to occupy the territory of another power.


I have no right to interpose, or to say one word; but perhaps the House will permit me to correct my noble Friend with regard to a matter of fact which is of some importance. My noble Friend conceives that the two Representatives at Constantinople—namely, those of England and Austria—separated themselves from the other four. Now, the fact is just the reverse—it was the four who took the first step, and separated from the two; and the subsequent advice given by the two was advice given in answer to an application from the Porte, with a view to obtain their opinion. The matter has, however, now gone by. It relates to misunderstandings which were not intentional either on the part of the four or of the two. It is now a mere matter of past history, and I trust will have no bearing upon the future.


said, he must remark that the noble Lord, the Member for the City of London, had taken a most inconvenient course by bringing on such a subject without any notice. It was a very delicate subject, and ought to be lightly handled. He did not, however, suppose that anybody wished to follow the noble Lord in discussing the subject; but he thought that both the Government and the House had been placed at a disadvantage in discussing incidentally the affairs of Europe. The only result of the interruption had been that they had heard the opinions of the noble Lord himself on the question.