HC Deb 24 August 1860 vol 160 cc1800-11

said, that in rising to ask a Question relative to Persia, he would take the opportunity to observe that an answer of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) to a question he had asked respecting the Pasha of Egypt appeared to be inconsistent with one of the Articles of the Treaty of 1840. By that Article the Pashalic of Egypt was placed upon the same footing as all other Pashalics with respect to revenue, but no other Governor of a Turkish province had the power of borrowing upon the Customs' revenue. The noble Lord said the Pasha of Egypt had not exceeded his powers in raising a loan; but, if that doctrine were correct, there could be no reason why one Pasha should not mortgage the revenues for twenty years to come. The interests of the Pashas would naturally induce them to raise money, because the succession was not to the eldest son, but to the eldest male of the family, and consequently each Pasha made a purse for his family. At present the power of the Pasha of Egypt was absolute, and exceeded even that of the Sultan in Constantinople. It would be very desirable that the treaty should be revised in those portions which related to the succession and the powers of the Pashas.

With respect to Syria, he would only express a hope that the Government would take a decided course, for he anticipated that there would be a rising from Bagdad to Egypt if, from feelings of an ill-judged leniency, exemplary punishment were not dealt out to the offenders in the late events. A remarkable letter appeared in The Times a few days since, which showed that even in Egypt Christians and Europeans were exposed to the insults of the Turkish soldiers, and the same feeling pervaded all the countries in that part of the world. He was assured that the bombardment of Jeddah, so much condemned by some philanthropists at home, had prevented a rising at Damascus and other places. He wished to call the attention of the House to our relations with Persia — a subject of considerable importance at the present time. Sir Henry Rawlinson was sent out under the East India Company with a sufficient Staff, but when he arrived he found himself transferred to the rule of the Foreign Office, and his Staff was taken away. Unfortunately, there was no one attached to the Persian Embassy who was acquainted with the local affairs of that country, while persons who were well acquainted with them, and who had been educated with a view to such knowledge at the public expense, were wasting their time at home in compulsory idleness. Mr. Alison had to encounter in Persia the opposition of the Russian Minister—a man who had been twenty-two years in that country, had a thorough knowledge of its affairs, was extremely agreeable and insinuating in his manners, but at the same time very firm. He had also immense means at his disposal, and was able to give presents, which our Embassy was not allowed to I bestow. It would be seen, therefore, that the British Embassy at Teheran laboured under great disadvantages. At the present time there were important questions to he settled with Russia. The Russian Government had been for a long time anxious to obtain possession of the provinces to the south of the Caspian, where Persia maintained a military establishment for the purpose of chastising the turbulence of the Turcomans, who were Persian subjects. He had learnt from private information that the Russian Government purposed to withdraw their Embassy from Teheran, unless Persia consented to give up her control of these Turcomans. Every encroachment of Russia in that direction affected the interests of England in the East, and unless care was taken to check these encroachments we should rue our negligence, perhaps when it was too late. He trusted that the noble Lord would give the House the means, by the production of papers or otherwise, of obtaining authentic and official information on these subjects.


said, he quite agreed in what had been said as to the annexation of Savoy and Nice being an outrage on the part of France, and a blot on the hitherto unblemished escutcheon of the illustrious House of Savoy; but he wished to ask whether the annexation of Tuscany, Parma, and the other Duchies, and especially of a portion of the dominions of the Holy See, was not equally an outrage on the public law of Europe. It was the fashion to speak in terms of admiration of General Garibaldi: but he wanted to know whether the proceedings of Garibaldi were not wholly subversive of the public law of Europe? Garibaldi sailed from Genoa, with the full knowledge of the Sardinian Government, at the head of a body of filibusters, consisting of refugee Poles, and Hungarians, and Sardinians; many of them very desperate characters; and made an attack on Sicily. He had no authority from any Sovereign to do so; he was not, in any sense, a lawful belligerent; and by the law of nations, therefore, was a pirate. Indeed, a more daring act of piracy never was committed than that which he committed on the dominions of the King of Naples. He was successful in his attack on Sicily; and it was now stated that he meant to attack Naples in the same way. Would not this be also an outrage on the public law of Europe? He was convinced, from what he knew of Italy, that nothing could be more offensive to the Neapolitans than an attack from Sicily; as there was no friendly feeling between the Sicilians and Neapolitans. If the Neapolitans had grievances to complain of against their king—and he believed those were much exaggerated—let them be redressed by themselves. The King of Naples had granted a Constitution to his subjects. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh; but there was nothing to show that the Neapolitans were dissatisfied with that Constitution. He believed, indeed, it would not work; because what we called a Constitution, was not a thing in accordance with the genius of the people, or the history and requirements of the country. Nobody loved Constitutional Government more than he did in this country; but it did not follow that, because Constitutional Government was suited to this country, it should be set up everywhere else. But something else was wonted, and Garibaldi was going, it was said, to Naples to destroy the Constitution, and dethrone the King of Naples, and annex the country to that of Sardinia. Would not that be a gross violation of the public law of Europe? But, not stopping here, they were told that Garibaldi, after succeeding at Naples, was to attack the dominions of the Holy See. Would that be in accordance with the public law of Europe? What cause could be given for so gross an outrage, so unprincipled a proceeding? I He asked whether, with the knowledge of such an intention on the part of Garibaldi, General Lamoriciere would not be justified in marching against him before he left Naples? General Lamoriciere was not bound to wait for him in these circumstances. It was said Garibaldi was going to attack Venetia also. If so, Austria would be justified in attacking him before he reached Venetia. They were told that Austria did not intend to interfere with Garibaldi till Venetia was attacked; but that was only a matter of prudence. He was not present at a recent meeting of the friends of the noble Lord at the head of the Government; but he understood that the noble Viscount applauded the success of the foreign policy of his Government, and said it was one title to the confidence of Parliament and the country. The noble Viscount gave as one proof of this, that he was informed General Garibaldi had landed on the territory of the King of Naples. Now, the King of Naples had a Minister at this Court, and was at peace with this country. Was ever such a thing done as for the head of the Govern- ment to express his approbation of an act of piracy committed against a Sovereign with whom we were at peace? With regard to the sympathy of Her Majesty's Government for General Garibaldi, there could be no doubt of it; and whatever moral support that it was in their power to give, had been given to that expedition. Hon. Members opposite invoked the public law of Europe when it suited them; but when it was against them they did not care a halfpenny for it, and trampled it under foot. Suppose, for example, Garibaldi had turned his eyes upon the Ionian Islands. There was an oppressed nationality that had demanded to be united to Greece. Her Majesty's Government put down the natives of the Ionian Islands by-force; and flogged, hanged, and shot them to any extent, rather than admit their claim to say what Government they would belong to. Parliament was told that every country was to decide for itself how it was to be governed. Why, then, did the Government not convene an Assembly in the Ionian Islands to determine how they were to be governed? If Garibaldi went there the Government would say the public law of Europe was violated, and that Garibaldi was a pirate; but when he went to Naples they applauded him. There was a man lately in India somewhat like Garibaldi, though he was not a pirate. He was a brave, patriotic man, called Tantia Topee. He kept the British army at bay, and gave them a vast amount of trouble. He was, however, taken prisoner, and brought to a court-martial on a charge of rebellion against British authority. The Government of India hanged that man. He thought that an atrocious act. He knew it was said he was implicated in some outrages against the Europeans. But he was not charged on his trial with anything except treason and with having resisted the English Government. He died like a patriot. He had fought for his country. He wished to drive the British out of the country, and to preserve India for the Indians. If the King of Naples took General Garibaldi he would have as good a right, nay, a far better right, to hang him than the Government of India had to hang Tantia Topee. It was pretended that the Italian duchies had declared for annexation with Sardinia because they were badly governed. But it was acknowledged that Parma was ruled by a wise and excellent Princess, who governed her subjects well and justly. Parma, however, was treated like the rest, and therefore the badness of these Governments was proved to be not the cause of the annexation. The Government of Tuscany was a mild Government. It was a Government under which the punishment of death did not exist. It had, however, been overturned by a conspiracy, headed by the Sardinian Minister accredited to that very Court. The Minister of Sardinia at Rome had also conspired against the Papal Government, and it was by his intrigues that the overthrow of the power of the Holy Sec was attempted in the Legations. Hon. Members ought to blush to talk of the public law of Europe under such circumstances. He believed that the result of these annexations would be the ruin of that Italian freedom of which hon. Members were so fond. He, too, wished to see Italy great, glorious, and prosperous, but he believed that would be best attained by a federal system, which would unite the whole country without injuring the rights of its Sovereigns. That object would, however, certainly not be attained by the utter destruction of the principles on which the peace of Europe rested and upon which society itself was founded. He believed that if the King of Sardinia should succeed in all his schemes of annexation his monarchy would fall to pieces in our own time like a house of cards. He had before said that the annexations going on would be the ruin of the House of Savoy, and he was confirmed in this belief. At the present moment he knew, upon good authority, that the greatest discontent prevailed in the newly-annexed provinces of Sardinia. In Tuscany the people had to be kept down by the Fiedmontese troops, and, as for liberty, there was none. The people dared not read written communications, far less speak what they thought. The overthrow of the legitimate Sovereign was brought about by means of the coercion exercised by the secret societies who now held undisputed sway in Italy. He thought it, very probable that General Garibaldi would succeed in overthrowing the King of Naples, because the Neapolitans were not a warlike people and could not cope with the band of ferocious filibusters whom Garibaldi commanded. Suppose so much accomplished, what would follow? Garibaldi was pledged to attack the Roman States, but there he would meet the French army. Possibly he would have to abandon that part of his programme; hut he could hardly avoid fulfilling his pledge to attack Venetia. In that enterprise Sardinia would be obliged to join him. The people had been so excited by the dream of nationality—a dream for which torrents of blood had been shed, and which had been a source of misery rather than of happiness to the mass of the people—that dream had been so much encouraged by speeches made by the noble Viscount and his colleagues, that the people were mad on the subject, and Sardinia would be compelled to go against Austria. Whether France would support Sardinia in that attack was a matter of speculation. As the Emperor of France had got what he wanted, and as if France supported Sardinia Germany would support Austria, he thought it likely France would not interfere. He very much doubted whether the Italians by themselves and with an army from which desertion was going on by batallions, would be able to resist the powerful arms of Austria; and if they were defeated, then that would happen which had been hinted at by the Constitutionnel, and Italy would be overrun by Austria from Turin to the Southern Neapolitan State But should France he tempted to back Sardinia then there would be a general European war, in which Great Britain would, in all probability, be involved. For that result, if it arrived, we should have ourselves to thank. It was the natural consequence of a policy which set at nought all principles of right and wrong, and acknowledged that the end justified the means. A universal public profligacy seemed prevalent. No regard was paid to treaties or international law. He hoped hon. Gentlemen would be warned in time, and forbear to give any further encouragement to the revolutionists in Italy. Garibaldi, it was well known, had always been a Republican, and only took up the King of Sardinia because he was a tool fit for his purposes. Garibaldi would probably be seen before long at the head of a Red Republican movement that would throw everything into confusion and necessitate the interference of the Powers. The violent anarchy which the success of the revolutionary cause would produce would be inevitably succeeded by a despotism sterner and more powerful than that against which hon. Members exclaimed.


Sir, I am not going to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman into a discussion of past events in Italy during the year which has just elapsed; neither am I going to enter into any speculations as to future. The hon, and learned Gentleman asked, in the beginning of his speech, several questions as to the interpretation of international law, but as he was kind enough to give answers to them himself it is unnecessary that I should go into them. I wish, however, to set him right in regard to a misconception under which he labours as to what was said by me at a meeting which I am sorry he did not honour with his attendance. At that meeting I spoke in terms of the highest praise of the manner in which my noble Friend the Member for the City had conducted the foreign policy of the country. That expression of mine seemed to find an answer in the breasts of almost all who were present on that occasion; but I did not mention as a proof and result of that policy the landing of General Garibaldi in Italy. I stated that as a single fact, remarking that that landing would in all probability bring about events of grave importance, and that it was essential to enable the Government to deal with those events, when they might happen, that they should be known to possess the good will and confidence of those who had hitherto honoured them with support. I certainly did not state the fact as claiming any share in the expedition of General Garibaldi, but simply referred to it as an event pregnant with the most serious consequences, which it would require all the judgment and care of the Government to deal with. With regard to the course which the hon. and learned Gentleman indicated as about to be followed by General Garibaldi, I have to remind him that the King of Naples has an army of 60,000 or 70,000 men, and a fleet very large in comparison with any which General Garibaldi is able to scrape together. Therefore, if General Garibaldi should achieve the success which the hon. and learned Gentleman anticipates, it must be not by the force which he brings to bear against the Government of Naples, but by the assistance of the people of the country. It is quite impossible that the force with which General Garibaldi undertakes the expedition can obtain success unless he is joined by the inhabitants. Whether he will receive that support or not I leave it to the future to disclose.

As to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) it is well known that the Conferences referred to were sought by the Swiss Confederation, and were, more or less, agreed to by all the other Powers. At the same time various matters have arisen to delay the meeting of the Congress, and at present no period is fixed for its assembling. The Treaty of Turin has not received formal acknowledgment by any of the Powers— certainly not by this country, and cannot, at present, be said to form part of the public law of Europe. The cession of Savoy to France was a very peculiar transaction and does not come within the ordinary category of cessions of territory made by one Sovereign to another. The territory of Savoy was held by the King of Sardinia subject to very peculiar conditions attached to it by the Treaty of Vienna, to which all the eight Powers of Europe were parties. It was not competent for the King of Sardinia to cede, nor, as I bold, for France to accept that territory, thus emancipating it from the conditions under which it stood as part of the dominions of Sardinia. The conditions had mainly for their object the preservation of the neutrality and independence of Switzerland, and it is clear that Savoy, in the hands of France, stands in a very different position in regard to the maintenance of the neutrality of Switzerland than when in the hands of Sardinia. France being a much stronger Power and differently situate in many respects there is greater danger to Switzerland from it than from Sardinia. The cession was objectionable not only on that account but on account of the manner in which it was made. All the circumstances connected with it from first to last, the denials at one time and avowals at another, the promises made, as reported, by the President of Switzerland in his message of March, the promises made in January and February by the French Government to the Minister of Switzerland, that whenever the cession should be completed Faueigny and Chablais should be transferred to Switzerland, a promise afterwards retracted, and apparently never intended to be performed—all these circumstances, I say, must produce a most painful impression in the minds of every man in regard to all the parties who were concerned in the transaction. It had certainly produced a painful impression on the minds of all the other States of Europe—an impression showing that they considered that, for the future, forethought and precaution must be the duty of every Power. I should hope that the result will be that Franco will consider she is bound, by a regard to her honour and good faith, to close these trans- actions in a manner consistent with the due and complete security and independence of Switzerland. It is quite true, as my hon. Friend has stated, that the neutrality and independence of Switzerland are for the interests of all Europe. The Swiss are deserving of the sympathy and goodwill of all the Powers, from the manly character and spirited independence which they have always displayed; inoffensive to their neighbours, and ready to defend them" selves against all comers. But it was not simply and solely from a regard to the Swiss, that the arrangement was made. It was from a wise and well-considered regard for the general interests of Europe, and the maintenance, as far as possible, of the peace of Europe. I cannot but hope that the French Government will, on account of the engagements to which France was a party, on account of the promises which she held out to Switzerland, and for the sake of the general and future interests of Europe, make some arrangement which will satisfy the just expectations and guarantee the security of the Swiss Confederation. It is not necessary that I should enter further into that branch of the question.

But my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake), went at some length, not only into that Swiss question, but also into those other questions of great importance—the transactions in Syria and Italy. It is deeply to be lamented that these unfortunate events should have taken place in Syria. My hon. and learned Friend stated facts which have come to his knowledge with regard to whence, and through whom, and from what causes, these disturbances originated. I do not feel it necessary to follow him in those investigations. The duty of Her Majesty's Government is rather to endeavour to prevent the recurrence of these evils, than to scrutinise minutely the sources out of which they arose. We are acting in concert with the Governments of France, Austria, Russia, and Prussia; and I hope that steps will be taken which will be effectual for the purpose we have in view. We believe that the Turkish Government is sincerely desirous of taking every step necessary to punish the guilty, to make an example of the offenders, and to lay the foundation for future tranquillity between those hostile races; and I cannot but believe that if those measures are properly taken, they will accomplish the purpose for which they are intended. Commissioners, of whom Lord Dufferin on our part is one, will go to Syria, collect information, and suggest such measures as they think best calculated for the future peace and security of the country. The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Danby Seymour) went a little further east—to Persia. By the bye, he stopped in Egypt on the way, and referred to an answer which I gave last evening as to the power of the Pasha to raise a loan pledged on the Customs' duties of Egypt. The arrangement made in 1840 and 1841 was this—that the Pasha should pay a given amount of tribute to the Sultan, but that the remaining part of the revenue of Egypt should be at his disposal, to be employed by him as be pleased. In one sense the Pasha is limited in his power to mortgage; because the tribute to the Sultan is a prior claim to any engagement which he may make with regard to any part of the revenue. But supposing that the tribute is faithfully and fully paid, then I apprehend the remaining part is for him to spend as he pleases, or to mortgage for the interest of a loan. With regard to the tribute itself, it is well known that it was pledged by the Turkish Government as security for a loan which Turkey raised; but I believe the pledge does not go beyond that tribute.

With regard to Persia, I can assure my hon. Friend that we greatly regretted Sir Henry Rawlinson would not continue in the mission at Teheran; but his retirement was his own act, and in no degree arose from any wish or suggestion of Her Majesty's Government. He was of all men the one who I should say was best qualified to perform successfully the duties of British Minister at that Court; and he succeeded in acquiring the goodwill of the Shah in a manner in which no other British Minister has been able to acquire it. It is, therefore, a great misfortune that he should have felt it his duty to retire; hut his retirement, as far as is alleged in his communications to the Government, is founded on the circumstance that that mission is transferred from the Indian Government to the Foreign Office. We thought that, considering our relations with Persia are so mixed up with our relations with Russia, Turkey, and the other Powers of Europe, it was exceedingly inconvenient that communications from Persia should come through the India Office and not direct to the Department which alone has cognizance of our relations with other Powers. With regard to the interference of Russia, there has always been a great desire to establish in Persia a superior influence to that of any other power, and I believe that some communications, such as my hon. Friend implies, have passed between the two Governments with regard to the expedition of the Shah against the Turcoman territory. But I am bound to say that in our opinion the nature and extent of the expedition which the Shah was about to take was beyond what we thought was for his real interests. It is our opinion, and that of those by whom our judgment is guided, that the expedition proposed is beyond the range at which the Shah can usefully establish a permanent occupation, and that lie will do much better to content himself with operations of a more limited character. I may say that our relations with Persia are of a most satisfactory kind. The recollection of former differences has entirely been effaced. There is nothing now but the most cordial understanding, founded on the conviction on the part of the Shah that it is our wish and our policy that Persia should be independent and prosperous.


said, he thought the Government had been inactive for two months on the question of Savoy in the early part of the Session, but acquitted them of any further delinquency.

Notice taken, that Forty Members were not present; House counted; and Forty Members not being present,

House adjourned at a quarter after Six o'clock.