HC Deb 02 July 1861 vol 164 cc210-35

* Mr. Speaker, I have no doubt, Sir, that many Members of this House have read with interest two remarkable documents which appeared this morning in the principal organs of the daily press. I allude to an address from certain noblemen and gentlemen of this country to Prince Czartoryski, and to the reply of that venerable representative of the Polish nation. In this reply the Prince says— It has given me pleasure to perceive that you have so thoroughly grasped the character of the movement which at this moment agitates Poland. You have appreciated fully the spirit of order and moderation which marks it. Clam and strong in its justice, it had remained clear of all violence; destructive notions and revolutionary passions cannot be discovered in it, nor external influences. The contest is entirely on the field of right, and entirely pacific and moral. What Poland demands, what she expects, is support of the same character. The morality of Europe is now the point in question. The dignity, the honour, and the interest of England are bound up in this question of support; the right that she will vindicate is not only the right of Poland, but that of civilized Europe. In the midst of the grave modifications which international interests are undergoing, before the incessant complications of the Eastern question, there is an interest of vital importance to the civilized world, above all to England, of aiding in the reconstitution of a people whose ruin, a flagrant outrage of all laws, divine and human, has produced a profound perturbation in the moral and material condition of Europe. Sir, these words of Prince Czartoryski explain and vindicate the course I now presume to take. I have endeavoured to comprehend the Continental policy of Her Majesty's Government; I have endeavoured to trace the origin of "these grave modifications which international interests are undergoing;" and I have sought for some clue to "the incessant complications of the Eastern question;" but I find it impossible to touch upon any branch of foreign affairs, more particularly upon anything relating to the Eastern question, without feeling that our ignorance of English policy in relation to Poland is a barrier in the way of our arriving at the truth. These reasons, therefore, in addition to the immediate interests of that heroic people whose patriotism burns so brightly and steadily to-day, furnish, I venture to hope, a fair excuse for calling the attention of the House of Commons to the affairs of Poland. In dealing with this subject there are two principal points to be considered—the partition and the incorporation of Poland—and it is to the incorporation chiefly that I wish to direct attention. The people of England seem to be under the impression that in showing sympathy for the Poles we have to encounter the combined hostility of the three great Powers—Russia, Austria, and Prussia—among whom Poland was originally divided; but that is not the case. Indeed, so far is this from being the fact, that, at various times, one or more of these great Powers expressed genuine sympathy and tendered active support to Poland, whilst England was either silent, or, if active, active as an agent of oppression. When Poland was partitioned, England was silent. Two European Powers only protested against that crime: the Sovereign Pontiff protested against it, and the Head of the Ottoman Empire protested against it. These were public protests of Sovereigns representing two powerful and opposite interests. Second only in importance to these, and, in some respects, even more significant, was the private protest of the Empress of Austria. She was forced to bend under the influence of the Russian Court and the authority of her own servants. Monarchs have often yielded to the dictation of their Ministers; but there is no more painful instance of Ministerial power in the history of Europe than that which compelled Maria Theresa to sanction the partition of Poland. On the instrument announcing the complicity of Austria she wrote with her own hand these words— Placeat, because so many great and learned men will have it so; but long after I am dead and gone, people will see what will happen for breaking through everything holy and just. (Singed) "MARIA THERESA. In a letter to her Minister, Kaunitz, she asked what they would gain by receiving a piece of Poland or Wallachia in return for their lost honour? On another occasion she said that she had brought a great stain upon herself; but that she would be pardoned if her extreme repugnance to the measure had been generally known. As far as the Poles themselves were concerned, the Protocols of partition were but pieces of waste paper. What the pen of the diplomatist failed to do, the sword of the Cossack failed to do. Treaties had been signed, and blood had been shed, but the spirit of Poland was still living; and, when the termination of the great wars of Bonaparte involved a settlement of Europe, the Polish question rose at once to the surface. In 1814 one of the first subjects discussed by the Allies was Poland. Russia was then desirous of making a Russian provice of Poland; but Lord Castlereagh not only recognized the justice of the claims of the Poles, but was also fully alive to the importance of making Poland a strong barrier to Russia. This Conservative statesman, writing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Vansittart, from Vienna, on the 11th of November, 1814, said— If His Imperial Majesty (of Russia) shall change his tone, and make a reasonable arrangement of frontier on the site of Poland; if he shall allow the other European arrangements to be equitably settled, including those of Holland, and alter his tariff besides, then I must come upon you for my pound of flesh (meaning the Russo-Dutch loan, that is, England taking on herself part of a debt due by Russia to certain Dutch merchants represented by Messrs. Hope and Co., of Amsterdam). The engagement with Holland shall be no obstacle to this, as I had rather give the Prince of Orange something more to defend and fortify the Low Countries than assist the credit of a Calmuck Prince to overturn Europe. Again, in Lord Castlereagh's circular note inserted in the Protocol of the Vienna Congress, dated 21st of February, 1815, we find the same policy announced— In the course of these discussions the undersigned has many times been obliged, in the name of his Court, to oppose with energy the re-establishment of a Polish Kingdom in union with Russia, and as making a part of that Empire. The wish constantly manifested by his Government was to see in Poland an Independent State, more or less considerable in extent, over which should reign a distinct dynasty, and which should form an intermediary Power between the three great Monarchies. Talleyrand energetically supported Lord Castlereagh's policy. But of all the friends of Poland at the Congress Austria was the foremost. Austria insisted on the re-establishment of the Independent Kingdom of Poland. For the very reason that Austria desired the political and national existence of Poland Russia desired its destruction. One of the most sagacious of Russian diplomatists, Pozzo di Borgo, in a despatch to the Emperor Alexander, dated October 20th, 1814, thus expounds the Muscovite scheme— The destruction of the political existence of Poland forms the entire modern history of Russia. The system of aggrandizement on the side of Turkey has been merely territorial—I might say secondary—compared with that which has been carried out on the western frontier. The conquest of Poland has been made principally for the sake of multiplying the relations of Russia with the other nations of Europe, and to open to her a vaster field and a more noble stage for the exercise of her power and her talents, and for the satisfaction of her pride, her passions, and her interests. From this design, crowned as it has been by the most complete success, habits have resulted which it is impossible to efface by a mere proclamation, without injuring the empire in its most essential and most delicate element, that of unity of Government. If there existed between Russia and the rest of Europe a civilized mass of nine millions, constituting one nation, the reciprocal influence and communication of Russia and Europe would insensibly diminish. The Russians, restrained within their ancient frontier, or merely passing it as travellers, would become almost unknown to the other nations. To withdraw Poland from under the Imperial sceptre would be to compel the Russians to receive everything at second hand. The hindrance which this separation would be to the development of their moral faculties, to their education, to their participation in enlightenment, arts, and liberal ideas, is incalculable. It was for the purpose of plunging Russia for ever in barbarism, and of rendering it an exclusively Asiatic power, that Napoleon imagined the restoration of Poland, as it was for the purpose of gaining for Russia a distinguished place amongst the most civilized nations of Europe that your Majesty's predecessors desired conquests which must necessarily lead to contact with them. The escape of Napoleon from Elba led to a new disposition of the Great Powers in respect of Poland. The Due de Richelieu, on the part of France, did not maintain the same ground as that taken by Talleyrand. England also yielded. Austria alone still held firmly to the cause of Poland; and, when she was forced to give way, she did so under a grave protest, which is, to this day, a record of the wisdom of her statesmen, as well as a solemn assertion of Polish nationality.

Sir, it was under such circumstances that the Treaties of Vienna and the subsequent charters were signed. These instruments imposed conditions upon the great Powers, and reciprocal conditions of allegiance upon the Poles. Be it remembered, however, that the latter were not willing parties to these engagements. But, putting that aside, whether the Poles were parties to the conditions of 1815, or whether they were not, I am bound distinctly to declare that, in my opinion, it was not the Poles who violated the conditions. What were the conditions under which Russia obtained her share of Poland? The Treaty of Vienna stipulated that the civil rights of Poland should be maintained, that the nationality of Poland should be preserved, that the commercial system of Poland should be continued, that the Diet should be summoned every two years, and a Budget laid before them every four years, that no Russian official should hold office in the administration of Poland, and that the rights of the Catholic and the United Greek Church should be preserved. It was alleged by Russia that these conditions were broken by the Poles when they rose in insurrection in 1831. This is totally false. The Treaty of Vienna was the title-deed by which Russia held Poland, and I defy any friend of Russia to maintain that the trusts of that deed had been broken by the Poles. No, they were broken by Russia. The Poles rose in insurrection to defend their rights from the flagrant breaches of the treaty committed by Russia. The statement of the Poles to that effect has never been openly denied by any Minister in this House. We are, however, in almost total ignorance of what the conduct of England has been in regard to the events of 1831 and 1832. Many hon. Members have asked over and over again for copies of the despatches which passed between the Courts of St. James's and St. Petersburg, but no one has succeeded in getting them. I hope the Foreign Secretary will not now refuse to produce them. Russia then incorporated Poland, and the Emperor addressed the Poles in a speech at Warsaw, telling them that he did so as King of Poland no longer, but as Czar of Russia. Austria at that time was friendly to the Poles, and even during the insurrection assured them of her support if the other great Powers would join her. In 1831, the Envoy of the Polish National Government, whilst engaged in conferences with Prince Metternich, received from the Emperor Francis, through his Minister of Interior, Count Kolovratz, the following confidential message:— The Emperor feels that the time is drawing near when he shall have to appear before the great Judge; the possession of Gallicia weighs on his consciences as crime; and he would be ready to restore that province to Poland, provided it were not annexed to Russia. The French Government, at the suggestion of Austria, not only took up the case of Poland, as Austria had done, but addressed a despatch on the subject to the British Government. I hope this despatch will now be published by the noble Lord. M. Louis Blanc, in his Ten Years, gave the reply of the then Foreign Secretary of England (Lord Palmerston) to Prince Talleyrand. In this despatch his Lordship stated that the object of the note presented to him by the French Ambassador was "to induce the British Government to interfere in concert with France in the affairs of Poland, for the purpose of stopping the effusion of blood, and of procuring for the country a political and national existence." This course, the noble Lord said, His Majesty refused to take on account of "the frank and amicable relations existing between the Courts of St. Petersburg and of St. James's," being also of opinion that the time had not arrived for adopting the proposals then made "against the will of a Sovereign whose rights are incontestable." I hope for the credit of this country that this despatch is not genuine. What! Talk of the rights of the Czar over Poland as being incontestable, those rights resting upon a treaty every important part of which had been violated in the face of Europe! I call on the Secretary of State to publish this despatch. If it be a forgery, let the noble Lord tell us that it is a forgery; he has the honour of the English Foreign Office in his keeping, and it is now in his power to dispose one way or another of this great scandal. The proposal of France must have been to establish Poland as an independent and a self-existing Power, but the noble Lord's despatch, if correctly set forth by M. Louis Blanc, appeared only to recognize and to advocate the Treaty of Vienna, for it declared "that His Majesty will insist upon the maintenance of the political existence of Poland as established in 1815, and of here national institutions." But even this wretched compromise was not carried out by England. So far with regard to the years 1831–2. The Poles were on the high road to independence. Austria and France were preparing to assist them. The Belgian Catholics, at the instigation of M. de Merode, voted eighteen articles in Congress in favour of the Poles. The distant governments of Turkey and of Sweden preferred aid to the Poles. The sympathy of Europe was on their side. Russia, for a moment, stood alone, and seemed about to give way; when suddenly the influence of England is manifested; the rights of the Czar are called incontestable, and a hypocritical appeal is made to the hollow and useless Protocol of 1815. Thus Poland, through English diplomatic treachery, is lost.

Since that time the Polish question has undergone some phases. The religious persecution prevailing in Poland since then has not escaped the attention of Europe. The Count de Montalembert, with a voice that rang throughout the civilized world, denounced the tyranny and intolerance of Russia. The French press still re-echoes his eloquent appeal. Even the press of England seems now to be sensible of the truth. In a recent number of Fraser's Monthly Magazine I find the following passage, and I quote it the more readily because it appears in a magazine of strongly marked Protestant principles:— The feeling of antipathy against the Russian invader is fostered also by the difference in religion. The great mass of Poles are Roman Catholic; a great number of whom are of the sect known as 'United Greeks,' especially in the Lithuanian provinces; these, being in communion with Rome, and acknowledging the Pope as their spiritual chief, from a powerful sect, between which and the orthodox Greek Church—the Church of the State—there is an antipathy great in proportion to the slight difference of their creeds. The Roman Catholics have been aggrieved by suspension for years in the nomination of Bishops, but the United Greeks are positively oppressed by violent efforts to make them conform to the national Church. Scenes have occurred since the accession of the present Emperor, and with his personal approbation in which peasants have been flogged and imprisoned for refusing to communicate in the 'orthodox communion.' Within the last few weeks, the Chief Rabbi and the Jewish consistory at Warsaw, addressed a circular to their co-religionists, in which they thus refer to their oppression— Thirty years have elapsed since 1831, during which more than 100 enactments respecting the Jews have been published by the Government, not one of which contained any alleviations of our sufferings, but rather tended to increase our oppression. Of all who profess our religion throughout Europe, we are the only ones who groan under the barbarism of the Middle Ages. The number of Jewish taxes are innumerable, and our means of gaining a livelihood are more and more limited daily. In 1841, the Russian Government issued ukases still further pressing on Poland. But the event of the greatest interest to the country since 1831 was the Crimean war. Now, I am informed by the highest authority, by an authority the value of whose testimony every European diplomatist would recognize, that the Austrian Government told us at that time that they were prepared, and were most anxious, to re-establish Poland, and actually asked the allies for a contingent of 100,000 men for the purpose. France approved of the Austrian proposals; but what did England do?

Who can answer that question? It is said—and the numerous petitions I had the honour of laying on the table to-night furnish us with some evidence of the fact—that the people of this country are deeply interested in the fate of Poland. Now, it is well known that negotiations on this subject took place during the late war, but these negotiations have been studiously concealed from the people and from Parliament. As far as official papers, blue books, or despatches are concerned, we are totally destitute of information as to the language held by the English Government at the time of the Crimean war with regard to Poland. But some time ago Mr. Nassau, senior, made known a report of some remarkable conversations, one of which took place in May, 1854, with General Sharnofski, who said— I have reason to believe that Austria is thinking seriously of reconstructing Poland. Ever since she joined with Russia in the partition of Poland she has felt Russia pressing more and more heavily on her. I have lately seen a letter from Bourqueney to a friend of mine in Paris, in which he says that the Cabinet of Vienna proposed to join England and France, on condition of their lending themselves to restore Poland. It is to be hoped that Her Majesty's Government will to-night give us some information with reference to this subject. The intimate alliance existing between England and Russia before the Crimean war might to some extent account for the treacherous conduct of England. In 1850 the Marquess of Lansdowne said— The most intimate communications with respect to everything that occurs affecting the Powers of the North, and more particularly affecting them at this moment, are constantly taking place between the Russian and the English Governments—we availing ourselves of the suggestions of Russia, and Russia expressing her confidence and reliance in our views, and advising other Powers to follow the course and adopt the sentiments suggested by us."—Hansard, 17th June, 1850. The present Foreign Secretary made similar remarks. He said— There is no week passes that my noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) is not in communication with Russia with respect to points of policy on most important subjects, on which the two Powers are fully agreed. And when he (Lord John Russell) held the seals of the Foreign Office in 1853, he availed himself of his brief tenure of power to insult the cause of Poland and violate historic truth by thus writing in a despatch to St. Petersburg, on the 9th February— Upon the whole, then, Her Majesty's Government is persuaded that no course of policy can be adopted more wise, more disinterested, more beneficent to Europe, than that which His Imperial Majesty has so long followed, and which will render his name more illustrious than that of the most famous sovereigns who have sought immortality by unprovoked conquest and ephemeral glory. I say that the present Secretary of State, who professes to be such a champion of liberty, insulted the cause of Poland and ignored the most striking events in modern history when he addressed such language to the Court of St. Petersburg. Lost, indeed, and doubly degraded would be the cause of Poland, if the noble Lord was justified in describing the Imperial policy, which had been "so long followed," as "wise, disinterested, and beneficent to Europe." No, the old and consistently continued policy of Russia is the very reverse of all this. But, puffed up and lauded by the Secretary of State, and steadily supported by the noble Viscount, that policy has flourished. No, wonder, under such circumstances, when the Crimean war gave England such an opportunity that England neglected it. Thus, again, through the action of the same Minister the occasion is lost, and Poland once more sacrificed to Russia.

But it has been said, by the school of "economists and calculators," is it an English question at all? Does it touch our pockets, does it affect British finance? Has it anything to do with our Estimates? Now, in one sense, all this is a very narrow ground to take; but I am not indifference to its importance, and would respectfully ask the attention of this economic school to the increase of the military expenditure of the Powers of Europe, and more particularly of England, consequent on the destruction of Poland. Even in the half and half condition in which Poland was left by Lord Castlereagh and the Treaty of Vienna she was intended to be a barrier to Russia. The truth of what the first Napoleon said was remembered, that if Russia destroyed Poland England would lose India. The action of Poland in the West would check Russian encroachments in the East. That was the opinion of Lord Castlereagh and all the statesmen of his day. Succeeding events justified that opinion, for, form the time Poland was destroyed an extraordinary increase took place in the military armaments of Europe and England. The Committees that from 1818 to 1828 inquired into the expenditure in their Reports laid down the principle that, as a rule, the expenses of the military armament of England should not exceed £5,000,000 a year; and up to the period when Poland was incorporated into Russia a reduction of the military Estimates took place year by year. After that incorporation, the Estimates, military and naval, began to increase, not merely in England, but on the continent of Europe also. An increase in one country led to an increase in others. The lesson that has been taught by this rivalry of the European Powers is one this House ought to take to heart; any they could trace it to the effect of the incorporation of Poland with Russia, and the removal of the great Western barrier to that Power. Again, how has that measure affected the commerce of England?

A few years after the incorporation, in September, 1842, The Times thus wrote— One of the fundamental conditions on which the kingdom of Poland was constituted and handed over to Russia was the freedom of commercial intercourse by land and by water throughout all the provinces which had formed a part of that unfortunate State before the first partition. Cartel treaties, commercial prohibitions, frontiers hermetically sealed against the ingress of merchandise and the egress of men, and all the machinery by which jealous States protect what they call their interests, formed no part of the system of government which was promised to the several portions of Poland. But in defiance of stipulations Russia has now advanced the strict cordon of her prohibitive system to the furthest western limits of the Emperor's dominions. English goods were once admitted into Poland with a duty of 5 per cent; now they are, in many cases, practically prohibited. What has been the loss to the commerce of England by the prohibitory laws of Russia in Poland? I have calculated it at £1,000,000 per annum. But this calculation does not take into account what what would have been the effect of the free trade policy England adopted fifteen years ago. Poland was one of the great corn growing countries of Europe; and our free trade policy would have enabled us to extend out Polish commerce; so that, taking all things into consideration, our annual loss at present is much more that £1,000,000. But this is not all. Russia prohibited the export of corn from Poland so strictly that the production has diminished. In many places it is no longer grown, because it is not allowed to be sent out of the country. Russia did this to develop the resources of other portions of her corn growing dominions. These facts, I hope, may interest the "economists and calculators."

But this is, in truth, a far greater question than the preservation of British commerce. The interest of England goes beyond the preservation of commerce. She has had several opportunities of supporting Austria and France in procuring the independence of Poland; but England has purposely evaded those opportunities, and we now behold the state of Poland. I do not wish to encourage revolution. Nor do I regard this as a revolutionary question in the slightest degree; it is eminently Conservative. If the preservation of the faith of public treaties be Conservative so is the question of Poland; if the preservation of the ancient traditions of a kingdom, and, above all, if the preservation of right against despotic force and truth as opposed to fraudulent diplomacy, be Conservative, then I say the principles involved in this question are Conservative principles. Lord Castlereagh and Prince Metternich were not revolutionists: they laboured to restore the Polish kingdom. Austria is not a revolutionary power, and Austria, but for English intervention, would have gone to war to secure the nationality of Poland. One the other hand Russia is at the head of that revolutionary movement which, bewildering Europe, gives power to Russian intrigues; and, in oppressing Poland, Russia is mainly aided by the leaders of English liberalism.

I have said that England has been to blame throughout the whole of this business. When Lord Clarendon touched the Polish question he did it damage. Lord Aberdeen and other British statesmen of his day injured it. The present Secretary of State has contributed his share to the armoury of Russian arguments. But the Minister who has from the beginning to this hour done the most against Poland is the present Premier. It may surprise some hon. Members to be told that when other great Powers were anxious to assist Poland, the noble Lord, on behalf of England, stepped in and prevented them. Had I myself heard such a statement some time ago, and had I heard it unsupported by the facts I have submitted to the House, I should probably have been surprised also. But this Session I have been many things which must lessen the confidence of the country in the noble Lord. I have observed him rise in his place and lose his temper when accused by one of his own supporters of falsifying Sir Alexander Burnes's despatches. I have watched influential Members of the Liberal party recording their votes against the noble Lord when that grave charge was denied but not disproved. I have heard another supporter of the Government, when he brought forward the case of the Baron de Bode, taunted by the noble Lord with bringing forward a case involving fraud, and I have then seen, on that issue, the Minister defeated by a majority of this House, and the charge of fraud flung back upon the noble Lord. And, not the least disgraceful, I have seen the House counted out by the Government when charges equally serious were made against the noble Viscount by the noble Lord near me (Lord Robert Montagu).

Proofs of the Prime Minister's policy in regard to the Polish question are thickening; I ask the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to supply the links that are still required. I particularly ask him to give the correspondence between France and England in 1831 and 1832; and any between France, England, and Austria relating to Poland at the time of the Crimean war. I also wish to ask whether a circular letter addressed to the Cabinets of Europe, in April last, by Prince Gortschakoff, is authentic? I do not ask the noble Lord to produce the papers relating to that circular; I know the answer would be the stereotyped one, that they refer to still pending events in Warsaw, and that it would be inconvenient to give them. I only ask, therefore, whether the circular is authentic?

Having said so much of the past history of the question, I now ask the House whether the recent events in Poland and the present attitude of the people, even if there were no other interest at stake, do not justify some consideration of the subject? But, above all, if England, as I have shown, was a party to the oppression of Poland—if England did not avail herself of the opportunities there had been for giving Poland its independence, do not these facts justify the House in showing that country some consideration now?

Sir, in this story of English connivance at Polish oppression there is an instructing moral. I commend it to the consideration of what is called the Liberal party. Hon. Members who have comprehended the guilty action of England may fairly ask what pretension have British statesmen to style themselves the champions of freedom? If the noble Lords opposite (Lord Polmerston and Lord John Russell) have done so much to maintain Russia against Poland, and, in doing this have deluded Europe, and mystified their country with all the specious cant of Liberalism; surely their foreign policy to-day should not be exempt from scrutiny; and, when they call the loyal peasants of South Italy "brigands," and when they publicly approve of the barbarous conduct of Cialdini and Rivelli, we may be pardoned for remembering that the English statesmen who now support Piedmontese oppression in Italy, are the same English statesmen who supported Russian tyranny in Poland.

Probably, on another occasion, some Member of greater influence and position than I have the honour to hold, will make a more important Motion on this subject.

If, however, no one else will be prepared to do so, I shall certainly not shrink from taking that course. At present, with the double object of endeavouring to obtain information and of calling attention to a subject so disgraceful to British diplomacy in the past, and so full of European interests in the future, I content myself with moving that an Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her to direct that certain Correspondence which took place in the years 1831 and 1832 with reference to Poland, be laid on the table of the House.


I rise to second the Motion of my hon. Friend opposite. I need hardly say that there was much in his speech with which I by no means agree; but in the substantial part of it—namely, as to the importance of from time to time directing the attention of this House to the condition of Poland, I entirely concur. No one feels more than I do the impolicy of interfering captiously with the administration of foreign countries, even if it be wrong; but if treaty rights are to be respected we have certain responsibilities with reference to the condition of Poland which we cannot altogether set aside, and certain duties to perform which we cannot altogether neglect. That the independence of Poland formed a substantial part of the Treaties of Vienna, and that if those treaties are to be appealed to at all that independence must be respected, are facts upon which it is not necessary to expatiate; but at this moment I think it would be well if the great Powers of Europe who rest so much upon the Treaties of Vienna would remember that if this question of the independence of Poland is to remain unsolved, and if such an outrage as the destruction of the Republic of Cracow is to continue unremedied, it is impossible for those Powers with an unfaltering voice to ask France or any other Power to respect those treaties. If we are, as it is said, upon the eve of great changes; if French ambition, not, perhaps, so much that of the Emperor as of the nation, is likely to lead that country to endeavour to recover its natural frontiers, I cannot see how England could be called upon to assist those Powers in protecting what they consider their legitimate rights, unless they each do what they can to remedy the infractions of the treaties which have taken place. I cannot agree with my hon. Friend that the conduct of England towards Poland has been such as he has described. The question of the nationality of Poland has always excited deep and permanent interest in the minds of the people of this country—a singularly permanent interest, considering how little intercourse there has been between the two countries, and how little material interest we have in the fortunes of Poland. There was, however, about the disruption of Poland in the last century a cold-blooded immorality which shocked the conscience of Europe, and the feeling of which, despite the great events which have since occurred, the shock of the French Revolution, the wars of the Empire, and other important and stirring movements, remains now as strong, and, perhaps, stronger, than it was when that act of spoliation was committed. The interest which is taken in the affairs of Poland is entirely disproportioned either to the political importance of that country or to the political contingencies which might occur upon its disruption, because it rests upon a deeper basis than anything connected with political circumstances. The events which have lately occurred at Warsaw have greatly shocked the people of England, because we thought we had reason to believe that the Government of Russia under the new Sovereign would do nothing to shock the opinions of the nations of Europe. We saw the Emperor of Russia engaged in one of the most noble, and at the same time, one of the most difficult operations that have ever been undertaken by a Sovereign—determining, almost in the face of a hostile aristocracy, to liberate his people from serfdom. I only wish that that Sovereign could be made sensible of the feeling of deep disappointment which spread over this country when we saw that while with one hand he was labouring in this great and glorious work, with the other he was striking cruel blows of physical force upon the unarmed and defenceless population of Poland. All that we can do is to implore the Sovereign and rulers of Russia to remember that the great social questions which they are agitating do in a certain degree require for their settlement the moral confidence and the moral assent of the people of Europe. Russia is no longer separated as she used to be from the rest of Europe. Every day by railways and other means she is brought into closer physical contact with other European nations, and it will be impossible for her to maintain much longer the sort of almost Chinese exclusion which at one time se- parated her from the rest of the world. The Russian Government, enlightened and well informed as it is, cannot fail to perceive that the one question which is now agitating the public mind of Europe is that of the orderly direction of the national spirit of peoples. They must see what an effect the feeling of nationality produced in Italy, and what results it is slowly working out in Germany. In the face of that feeling of nationality, rising even in places where it was supposed to be extinguished or overlaid by other intellectual processes or moral feelings, can the Russian Government suppose that any good is to be done with Poland, which has maintained that feeling unbroken and unshatered through such a series of years, except by in some degree recognizing and regulating it? If there is one country which owes more than another to national feeling it is Russia. When the events of our time become the history of the world, the defence of Sebastopol by the Russian nation and the Russian army against the combined forces of three great Powers will be recorded as one of the most glorious instances of national feeling and national sacrifice which have ever been witnessed. Let not, therefore, the Russian Government, which owes so much to that feeling, believe that it can, with the approbation and assent of Europe, continue to keep down and utterly destroy the national feeling of Poland. There is no reason why these nationalities should be antagonistic or repulsive, or why one should lead to the destruction of the other. On the contrary, if they are to be properly recognized, and duly regulated, they may be advantageously united and prove a source of strength where now there is only weakness.


I cannot say that I am at all surprised that the hon. Gentleman should have brought forward the question of Poland. It is a country which, after all its vicissitudes, has preserved its national spirit, which must cause every one to respect it. At the same time, by some unhappy fate, it seems impossible—almost impossible—that she should be able to unite her scattered provinces under one Government, and with a national Government, of their own. The hon. Gentleman has alluded to various points in the history of Poland. It seems, as I have said, that there has been always something which has prevented the recognition of an established Government—of the independence of Poland. One might have thought that the first Napoleon who disturbed so many countries, who gave away provinces and crowns, that be might have thought it an object of ambition worthy of his great power and extended fame to restore the national existence of Poland. We know well that his opinion was that although he might raise a legion of Poles yet that as Russia, Austria, and Prussia were all possessors of Polish provinces, it was beyond even his power to hope to establish permanently an independent Government of Poland. The hon. Gentleman has alluded to the period of the Congress of Vienna. I must say I think that everything that could be effected by British diplomacy was done by Lord Castlereagh at the time. It is evident that Lord Castlereagh wished, when Europe was to be reconstructed, that Poland should rise from her ashes, and should again posses an independent Government. We may observe in the correspondence of the time, that when the Emperor Alexander I. expressed a wish that there should be a kingdom of Poland, and that he should be the possessor of it, Lord Castlereagh always said he desired the independence of Poland, but that he could not conceive that that independence was consistent with Poland being placed under the dominion of so powerful a Sovereign as the Emperor of Russia. Whatever Lord Castlereagh, with the assistance of France and Austria might have done, was completely thwarted and set aside by the event of the landing of Napoleon from Elba. From that time all the Powers of the Continent began again that work which they thought they had carried to a completion the year before. Their whole attention and their most mighty efforts were devoted to checking the ambition of Napoleon, and to confining within due limits the power of France. At that time, therefore, the independence of Poland was not thought of, and I must say that although there was a wish, as was shown by the Articles of the Treaty of Vienna, that the Polish people should have certain liberties, and certain privileges, that wish has been very imperfectly accomplished by the terms of the treaty which was agreed to. It was agreed that Poland should be united to Russia by a constitution—that she should have national institutions and national representation, but it was said in a subsequent part of the article that those national institutions and that national representation should be given by Russia, by Austria, and by Prussia in the manner which those Governments should think most suitable to their own institutions. That, of course, left a very wide scope for interpretation, but beyond that there was a feeling which acted from that time, and which is acting at the present time, namely, that while the Emperor Alexander I. wished to retain his power over Poland, at the same time he wished to grant to Poland large privileges and to make it, at all events, a flourishing province under the name of the Kingdom of Poland, but the general feeling at St. Petersburg, the seat of power, was that Poland ought not to be indulged with privileges more large and more liberal than were granted to Russia. The consequence of those opposite feelings was that to which the hon. Gentleman has alluded. The hon. Gentleman has said that the Treaty of Vienna was violated. I do not wish to enter upon that question. We are certain of this, that dissensions between the Government of Russia and the people of Poland broke out into insurrection and civil war, and a conflict was for some time carried on. At the termination of that contest the Emperor of Russia set about, not to utterly incorporate Poland with Russia so as to abolish the name of Poland, but he did deprive the Poles of the privileges which they had hitherto enjoyed. He deprived them of a national representation —of anything like representative institutions, and of a national army, which had hitherto been their greatest pride. Russian institutions were imposed upon them, and many grievous wrongs were suffered by them. During the administration of Earl Grey my noble Friend, who was then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, addressed several despatches to the Russian Government. The hon. Gentleman asks for those despatches. The time is distant—they were written thirty years ago—and I do not think there can be any public injury arise from giving those despatches. The House will then see that my noble Friend contended that the Treaty of Vienna was still to be carried out in its true spirit; that by its spirit Poland ought to have a separate constitution, and the House will see how it has arrived that the Government of Russia has put forward a species of right of conquest, and assumed the right of abolishing all the privileges of Poland under the treaty. The hon. Gentleman, alluding to a subsequent period, has said—and I think he gave more than one reason for his allegation—that England had de- clined the task of reconstructing Poland, and that, therefore, she was guilty of contributing to the evils which Poland has suffered. I do not think that charge is justified by anything that has occurred. The hon. Gentleman will see that to the partition of Poland Great Britain was a stranger, and my belief is that if, at the time of the Crimean war, it had been proposed to restore Poland with all her former provinces, both Austria and Prussia would, in all probability, have joined Russia to prevent the accomplishment of such a plan. Now, as to this question, I must say I hope the House will consider what is becoming the dignity of this nation, and what is the duty of the British Minister who is to represent it. There are Powers with whom you may hold most friendly communication, even with respect to their own internal arrangements, but with regard to Russia, as I have said on former occasions, I cannot believe that any representation we could make upon the subject of the Russian government in Poland would be met in any other way than by a declaration that the government was conducted in the best manner, and that the advice of England respecting it was quite out of place. If that be the case would it become us to make useless representations? Is there any one who will say that we ought to interfere further—that we ought either by ourselves, or by endeavouring to form alliances with other Powers to break with Russia—to make war, in fact, with Russia with the view and hope of establishing the independence of Poland? I will not go into general principles, nor will I enter upon a consideration of the evils that would be caused to the world at large by a principle of constant interference; but I will only say that I think, with regard to Russia, that it would lead to a disastrous war, and, in the present situation of Poland, I do not believe that her independence can be achieved by such means. And, therefore, whatever may be our sympathies for Poland, I believe her interest points to tranquillity, and to petitions and requests for a more liberal form of Government, and for institutions similar to those which were granted at Vienna, and not to any hardened insurrection against the power of Russia. I believe, moreover, that the confidence of Poland would be entirely misplaced if she expected that any of the Powers of Europe would join her in such an attempt. Still, looking to a distant period, one cannot but think that for a people endowed with so much courage and with so much intellect, and which has so long kept alive the holy flame of national existence, a time is reserved when she may recover her ancient glory, and take her place again among the nations of Europe. I do not, however, say that this is that time, or that anything the British Government can do would hasten its arrival. A matter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Monckton Milnes) has alluded gives us encouragement with regard to this subject. Within a very few years we have seen great changes in several of the nations of Europe in the direction of representative Constitutions, of greater freedom of person, greater freedom of the press, and greater encouragement of those powers which bad Governments take away, and which good Governments take away, and which good Governments are delighted to see their subjects enjoy. Russia has made a step in that direction. The Emperor of Russia, with great boldness, as well as with great liberality, has declared that within a period of two years the institution of serfdom shall be completely abolished. One cannot but think that modifications will be consequent on this great organic change; and that if, as seems to be case, constitutional and representative Governments are to prevail in France, in Italy, and in Germany, in Russia also the germs of representative Government will at length take root, and finally grow up into a healthy plant. One cannot but think that in Russia also these advantages of free communication of thought, and of guarantees for personal liberty will be acquired by the improved and enlightened condition of her nobles, and by the popular spirit which will grow up when nobles and by the popular spirit which will grow up when noble and serfs will no longer be placed in antagonism. Whenever a change of that kind takes place in Russia the feeling will no longer prevail which is now entertained by nearly every Russian—a feeling of jealously towards Poland, and a desire that she should not have privileges and liberties which are totally denied to the empire to which he belongs. But while I look forward hopefully to the future history of Poland, I am convinced that any hasty, premature intervention on the part of this country would be neither justifiable nor wise. I cannot say that I wish to maintain any relations with Russia but those of a friendly nature, and, from the extended relations of commerce between the two countries, I believe it is for the interest of both that they should remain on amicable terms. It is not, as I conceive, either for our own interests, or for the interests of Poland, that we should continually be making representations to Russia with regard to her mode of government. I offer no opinion with regard to the institutions that have been lately given to Poland; but they are institutions which seem to me to derive all their authority, and to depend for the spirit in which they are to be administered upon the will of the Emperor, as they are all to depend for their existence upon his pleasure. Still, it is impossible that district and provincial councils and municipal bodies can continue to act and be elected without effecting improvements in the condition of the people; and, indeed, the most patriotic Poles have of late years turned their attention to national objects under the guise—I will not say under the disguise, because I believe their efforts in that direction are genuine—but under the guise of agricultural improvement. The amendments which must thus be accomplished in the condition of the people by the promotion of knowledge and of education will all tend to the progress of the nation, and, therefore, while I do not think any active co-operation on our part would be wise, I believe Poland, so far from being destined to political extinction, will, by a gradual and peaceful course of enlightenment, at length resume her place among the nations of Europe.


said, the speech to which the House had just listened was the most hopeful sign for Poland which he remembered in the course of a long Parliamentary experience. The statement of the noble Lord would give hope to the Polish nation without exciting them to forcible attempts to obtain their rights. He was most anxious that nothing should be said in that House which would give rise to the expectation that England was likely to interfere by force of arms for the restoration to the Polish nation of their rights; but it was at the same time of great importance that they should state calmly and dispassionately their opinion that those rights had been violated, and that the events which had recently occurred were the consequence of that violation. He was confident, that although no active measures were pressed upon the Government, that there was in this country a feeling of the deepest sympathy with the Poles, and admiration for their conduct as shown in the late events at Warsaw, when, instead of flying to arms, the population tranquilly ex- posed themselves to be shot down, desiring no more glorious fate than to suffer for the independence of their country, and, by their martyrdom, to attract the sympathy of the nations of Europe. The Poles had, indeed, shown themselves worthy of institutions which they did not at present possess, but which in course of time they might possibly obtain. The noble Lord had given a sufficient reason why the Russian Government should be unwilling to confer liberal institutions upon Poland, when he said that it would produce jealousy on the part of Russian people, who did not possess the same advantages. But the Poles were not without friends in Western Europe, and whenever the time came when free institutions could be secured for them without involving us in war, he believed that the British nation would come forward most willingly and most anxiously to obtain for them such institutions. And if there was a strong manifestation of public opinion in this country on behalf of the Polish nation, he believed that the manifestation in France was no less strong, and that the Emperor Napoleon would be ready to go hand in hand in hand with our Government in any steps that might be taken to obtain for them more freedom and more liberal institutions.


said, he could not join the hon. Member for Buckingham (Sir Harry Verney) in his exuberant eulogy of the noble Lord's speech, which he must say abounded in the feeblest platitudes that could be uttered on a great question. From that speech one moral was to be gathered—namely, that if a great Power were guilty of any enormity or atrocity its conduct would not provoke a protest from this country. Despatches were freely written respecting the late King of Naples, respecting Greece, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, and Portugal; but when a great Power was concerned a remarkable reticence was observed, which induced people out of doors to think that our Government was prepared to interfere in the wrong cause and at the wrong time, and very reluctant to do it for the right cause and at the right time. He thought it became the dignity of England, upon the occurrence of an event like that which had recently taken place in Poland, to put on record a deliberate protest against such acts as disgraced our common nature. He, therefore, hoped to hear a stronger expression of feeling from the Ministerial bench than had fallen from the lips of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary.


said, that while concurring in all the generous sentiments which that debate had elicited, he wished that those who gave utterance to them on behalf of a distant country would not refuse to practice them nearer home. He trusted the Poles would not be induced, in consequence of that discussion, to place themselves in collision with the great Powers which now ruled over them, because if they did so they would find that they would receive no support from England beyond a few spirited speeches. It was true, as the noble Lord said, that the Czar was acting nobly in liberating many millions of serfs, but that act of enfranchisement extended to Russians, not to Poles. In this country we had a most liberal Government, which did everything liberal for England, but which did not assist in removing the oppressions under which the sister island laboured. Ireland was an exact parallel to Poland, with this only difference, that it was a very much worse case. When he had been requested to advocate the cause of Poland in that House, he had asked those who made the request to come down there and see the reception he would meet with in attempting to bring forward the wrongs of Ireland, and they would find that the grievances of any country in the world would awaken a better response than those of Ireland. When 250 destitute human beings were turned out upon a bleak mountain side, and their characters blasted, an inquiry into their case was denied. If hon. Genmen were sincere in the generous sentiments they enunciated on behalf of foreign nations, they would surely place a country which was under their own rule upon an equality with the rest of the kingdom.


As the despatches now moved for are those which I myself wrote when at the Foreign Office, I wish merely to take the opportunity of saying that I entirely agree with my noble Friend in respect to their production. I then entertained the opinion which the British Government of that time entertained and expressed as to the course which the Government of Russia adopted towards Poland; and that opinion, couched in those friendly terms befitting the relations then subsisting between England and Russia, was that the course so taken was a complete and decided violation of the stipulations of the Treaty of Vienna. I agree with my noble Friend that it is impossible for anybody who has any admiration for high national qualities, for patriotism, endurance, love of liberty, not to admire the Polish character. And it is equally impossible for anybody who has any sense of wrong not to lament those misfortunes which have befallen the Poles from the time of the first partition of Poland down to the present moment. That partition was a gross violation of national right. The stipulations of the Treaty of Vienna were broken almost as soon as concluded. The British Government, upon every occasion on which it was called on to pronounce an opinion, or on which it thought it could pronounce an opinion usefully, declared that to be its view. And when the hon. Gentleman (Mr. White) says that the English Government interferes in some cases by opinion and advice, and does not interfere in others, I must tell him that the English Government interferes in proportion as it thinks it can do so usefully; that when it thinks its opinion may prevail it expresses it in the form which it believes the most likely to prevail. But when the Government feels that its opinions will not be attended to, and that the result will be that it will either have to submit to a refusal or to ask the country to take up arms —an appeal which the Government knows full well the country would not answer—why, prudence, and even the interest of the parties concerned, would lead it not to exasperate where it is unable to convince. The hon. Member who made this Motion thinks the British Government has neglected several opportunities when it might, in conjunction with other Powers, have restored Poland to independence. Why, the occasions to which he alludes were occasions on which war must have been made; and I ask any hon. Gentleman I am now addressing whether, in the course of his memory, any period ever arose in which he believes this country would have been induced to enter into an European war for the emancipation of Poland, however much we may have sympathized with her wrongs and desired to see her independence re-established? Take the Crimean war. During that war we were engaged in operations which had the security of Turkey for their object, and all the military and naval resources which England and France could command were directed to the Crimea and the Black Sea. Had we sent any of the forces which were engaged in those operations to the Baltic to act on behalf of Poland we might have failed in accomplishing that for which we had undertaken the war, for a most important consideration in naval and military operations is the concentration of your forces to one point. Therefore, it is manifest that it would have been extreme folly to attempt warlike enterprises in two such distant quarters, even if we had the means of doing so. The hon. Gentleman thinks that Austria would have been a willing and powerful ally at that time for the emancipation of Poland. Does the hon. Gentleman remember that Austria, supported and encouraged by Russia, committed the greatest violation of the Treaty of Vienna perpetrated by any of those three countries? I will take the liberty of saying that perhaps the greatest violation of a treaty that has ever taken place in the history of the world was that which occurred in the case of Poland, because here were three Powers who undertook by treaty to support and defend the independence of the republic of Cracow, which had been established under their auspices, and yet those trustees and guardians of that republic combined to destroy that independence, and to incorporate the republic itself with the Empire of Austria. I do not think the case was a hopeful one for our getting the assistance of Austria to achieve the independence of Poland; but, be that as it may, we were engaged in another country, and we had not the means, even if this country had the will, to embark in such an operation. I concur with my noble Friend in thinking that a nation which, under such a long course of oppression, has resisted all attempts to destroy its national spirit must be destined, some day or other, for a better fate; but if the object of the hon. Gentleman was to induce the Government to take more active steps than are involved in the expression of opinion, I would say, in the first place, that I do not think we should be supported in such a proceeding by the people of this country; and, secondly, that the Government are prepared to ask the country to make those sacrifices and engage in those arduous operations by which alone active measures for such a purpose could be brought to a successful issue.


said, his object had merely been to obtain information. He would not presume to give the Government advice, but did he venture to do so, the last advice he should think of giving them was to interfere in the manner they had done in continental affairs.

Motion agreed to.

Address for "Copies or Extracts of any Correspondence on the subject of Poland, which passed in 1831 and 1832 between the Governments of Great Britain and Russia."