HC Deb 13 March 1857 vol 144 cc2296-8

rose to call the attention of the noble Lord at the head of the Government to that clause of the treaty concluded with Persia by which it was alleged that England was to abandon her right to protect Persian subjects. He dared say that benefits might arise from this stipulation which would counterbalance its disadvantages; but he understood that the only way in which we could obtain information from Persian subjects without compromising them with their own Government was to extend to them our protection. This country would be placed in a disadvantageous position if she made this concession, and other Powers did not do the same. It was rumoured that the Minister sent over to arrange the present difficulty, Ferukh Khan, was himself, though a near relative of the Shah, under the protection of Russia. Whether that was true or not, there could be no doubt that many Persian subjects were under the Russian protectorate, and likely, therefore, to act in the interest of Russia. He wished to know whether the noble Lord, in framing this treaty, had taken care that whatever was abandoned by England should be equally abandoned by other countries. The hon. Member said that to put himself in order he would conclude by moving, "That the House at its rising adjourn till Monday."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do. at the rising of the House this day, adjourn till Monday next."


I must object to the hon. Gentleman's Motion, because I think it would be convenient for the despatch of business that the House should meet at 1 o'clock to-morrow, and sit for a short time to pass some Bills. With regard to the question that he has started, perhaps, he will allow me to say that it would be very inconvenient that hon. Members should discuss in this House a treaty of which they are not in possession, and more especially a treaty which, although already concluded, has not yet been ratified by the contracting parties. It is obvious that discussions of the supposed objects of such a treaty are calculated to have an injurious bearing on the conduct of those by whom it is negotiated; therefore I will not follow the hon. Member's example by stating anything with regard to this particular treaty. With respect, however, to the point to which his observations were directed, I may say that great inconvenience has arisen, and is likely to arise, from the practice prevalent in Persia, under which foreign missions are entitled by prescription to exercise a protection over Persian subjects not employed in their service. For the permanence of friendly relations with the Government of Persia I think it is most desirable that that practice should be discontinued. At the same time, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it would not be becoming in one country to abstain from a practice that would continue to be pursued by other Governments. The abnegation should be general; and I can assure the hon. Member that Her Majesty's Government will be happy to renounce all protection in Persia over persons not actually employed in the service of our missions and our consulates, provided Russia and other Powers are ready to do the same.


said, he was very glad to hear what had fallen from the noble Lord, who had laid down a very just doctrine. The rule of granting British protection to persons who were not our subjects, and who used to be constantly getting us into trouble, had happily been withdrawn in the case of Turkey; and he rejoiced to find that the same right, which had been grossly abused, was to be relinquished in Persia. Individuals having no connection whatever with this country, and some of whom were actually members of the Royal family, often put themselves under British protection, and led our embassy into infinite difficulty and disgrace. Another important question, to, which, however, he was afraid he should receive no answer, was this—whether the terms which had been granted to us by the Persian Minister at Paris were not previously offered at Constantinople, and whether, in fact, the Persian Ambassador at the latter place had not been willing to give us even better terms than those which had been agreed to at Paris? He (Mr. Layard) believed that such really had been the case. The negotiations took place at Constantinople before active steps had been taken, and before it was known that our expedition had reached the Persian Gulf; and if the terms were then rejected which had lately been accepted the whole of the bloodshed that had ensued had been utterly in vain. The attack on Bushire would materially weaken our influence where it had hitherto been predominant. The chiefs of the tribes bordering on Affghanistan had, over and over again, taken sides with the British; but these tribes had lost many men in our attack on Bushire, and their chiefs, who never forgot such injuries, were consequently now converted into our blood enemies. This subject ought to have been discussed in that House long ago, because it affected the position of this country, and all other nations in Central Asia, and he thought that before England entered into a treaty binding her to certain guarantees in reference to Central Asia, that House ought to have an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon those guarantees. It might he inconvenient, pending the negotiation of this treaty, to debate its specific terms; but the question of policy as to our relations with Central Asia ought to have been discussed upon general grounds. He would not now trouble the House further, because he knew that other matters were under consideration, and that was not the time to bring about a discussion on such a subject; but he should like to know if what he had heard were true, that these terms were offered at Constantinople before the expedition sailed?


was understood to say, that it would be found that the treaty concluded at Paris was better than any likely to have been obtained at Constantinople. The negotiations at Constantinople were not broken off by the British Minister, but by the representative of the Persian Government.