HC Deb 04 April 1862 vol 166 cc554-80

said, he rose to call attention to the condition of Poland, and to move for certain papers relating thereto. Those who might be prepossessed against the discussion of the question to which his Motion referred at that time would, he thought, if they only patiently listened to the facts which he had collected, be convinced that it was a fitting occasion for the British House of Commons to entertain it. Indeed, if he wanted any justification for the course he was about to take, it would be found in the numerous petitions from different parts of the kingdom which had been presented to the House that very day, signed by persons of all classes in society, and anxiously entreating that the subject of Poland should be brought under its notice, and that the Russian Government might be reminded of its duties and obligations towards that country. He wished to approach the question in the spirit breathed by that memorable declaration of Lord Lyndhurst, who, when speaking on the same subject some years ago, said, that it was the duty of every person placed in a position where his voice could be heard to raise that voice in denouncing injustice, tyranny, and oppression; that if to commit injustice was a crime, to treat it with silence was to participate in its criminality. He did not intend to enter upon the early history of Poland, but he wished to call attention to the basis of our relations with the Government of Russia and with other Powers of Europe, which gave this country the right on any occasion to raise its voice on behalf of the kingdom of Poland. All our great statesmen and great writers had been of opinion that the partition of Poland was the origin of all the mischief that had since existed in that country, and that it was a standing reproach to Europe. Lord Macaulay had described it as that kind of partition which consisted in tearing a living man limb from limb. The Treaty of Vienna provided that Poland should remain in possession of its nationality, and should have given to it, by the countries among whom it had been partitioned, institutions which should be national in their character. They were not to be deprived of their language, their education, their religion, or their nationality. The Treaty of Vienna offered a certain latitude of construction, which had been taken advantage of by the Powers who were parties to it—except England and France—to place a construction upon that treaty which had been repudiated by our greatest statesmen, and especially by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The spirit of the Treaty of Vienna was best expressed by the words of Alexander I., who in 1815 promised a constitution appropriate to the wants of Poland, preservation of the language and institutions of that country, the restriction of public appointments to Poles, freedom of commerce and navigation, and free communication with other portions of the ancient kingdom which were under the government of other Powers. There was, however, another and a peculiar feature in the Treaty of Vienna to which reference had been made in many of the petitions that had been presented that evening, and to which he wished to call the attention of the House. By that treaty England bound herself to pay a certain sum, which at this time was £75,000 a year, to Russia, on account of the Russo-Dutch Loan, and Russia bound herself to observe the stipulations of the Treaty; and some of the petitions suggested that it was the duty of this Government to withhold payment of that money until Russia had complied with her obligations under the treaty. And it was for the House to consider how long they ought to continue to pay Russia for stipulations which had never been fulfilled. In 1815 a sort of constitution was granted to Poland, which from that time to 1830 was systematically violated. In 1830 the insurrection of Warsaw occurred; and when the outbreak was finally extinguished, the constitution was completely abolished, and. another so-called constitution given by an organic statute, creating a Council of State under the influence of the bureaucracy of Russia, and making Poland a mere province under the despotic sway of the conquering Power. In 1833 the state of Poland was brought under the notice of the British Government, and a correspondence took place, in the course of which Russia contended that the insurrection of 1830 had relieved her of all previous obligations to grant a constitution. The noble Lord now at the head of Her Majesty's Government opposed that view, contending, with all other English statesmen, and proving conclusively, that this was not a fair or statesmanlike way of dealing with the case, but that it was a shirking by Russia of its treaty obligation. And it was important to state, that the Earl of Derby, then Lord Stanley, emphatically concurred in the view taken by the noble Lord. If, however, the treaty was violated in 1833, it was still more violated in 1842, when the Supreme Court of Justice was transferred to St. Petersburg, the Russian language became the authorized language, and the Catholic clergy were deprived of their property. From that time to 1860 the condition of Poland had been as bad as it could be. The country was practically in a state of siege, and the people were subject to be transported, without trial, to Siberia. But none of these violent proceedings had succeeded in destroying the national feeling in Poland, which now burned more ardently in the public mind than even in the days of the greatest prosperity of that kingdom. From 1848 to 1856 the events which occurred in other parts of Europe had their natural effect upon the Poles. They could not witness the recovery of liberty by the Italians without hoping that a good time was coming for Poland to recover her liberty, and her institutions. There was a growing love of liberty in Poland, encouraging hopes which he trusted the turn of events would realize, by making Poland, as it once before was, one of the great nations of Europe. In 1856, at the close of the Russian war, the relations of Russia towards the other nations of Europe, as laid down in the Treaty of Vienna, were considered. The discussion turned on what should be done with Poland. And how did it come to an end? The Earl of Clarendon was assured by Russia that certain things would be done for Poland; and we had it upon Lord Clarendon's own authority, that upon this assurance only the English and French Governments abstained from pressing the matter further. Her Majesty's Government were probably in possession of some correspondence which took place then on the subject; and, if so, he thought they would do well to publish it as an act of justice not only towards Poland, but also to this country, as showing that they had not been slack, when opportunity arose, in endeavouring to bring other countries to an acknowledgment of their duties under the Treaty of Vienna. He therefore should be disposed to move that the despatches relating to Poland, which passed in 1856, should be laid on the table. In 1860 it became more apparent than ever that the Poles still cherished a national feeling; and Russia then, for the first time, seemed to apprehend with some thing like uneasiness the real condition of the public mind of Poland. Then followed those demonstrations and subsequent collisions with which the House was familiar. In November, 1860, the anniversary of the revolution was celebrated, and the Russian authorities made no objection to the assembly of the people. There was, in fact, no intimation that the proceeding was at all offensive. In February, 1861, the people of Warsaw announced their intention of celebrating the anniversary of the battle of Grochow, in which the people of Warsaw had held their own so bravely against the whole Russian army. But the Russian soldiers were ordered to meet and celebrate the event on the same spot, and the intention of the Poles was therefore frustrated. After that, there being few troops in Warsaw, the Agricultural Society, which had been encouraged by the Russian Government, and consulted by them as to the best mode of putting an end to the soccage tenure which prevailed throughout Poland, took part in trying to prevent disturbances. At the head of that Society was Count Andre Zamoyski, and it was chiefly to his influence that the prevention of a collision on the occasion to which he had alluded was owing. On the 27th of February, 1861, one or two funerals took place, and happened to be numerously attended, though there was no pretence for saying that they were got up for the purpose of political disturbances. The troops, however, regarded these funerals as a political movement, and fired on the people, several of whom were killed. The affair was magnified to an insurrection. It was telegraphed all over Europe, with the usual addition, that order had been restored. The leading Poles attempted then to show that the friends of order and of liberty in Warsaw were one; and they sent to the Viceroy a petition to be presented to the Emperor, in the name of the people of Warsaw, in which they referred to the deep expression of the unsatisfied wants of the country, and declared the attachment of the Poles to the principles of nationality. Permission was obtained to forward the petition to the Emperor. It was idle to say that that was contrary to Russian law. It was the right of every people to make their grievances known to their governors. Prince Gortschakoff, the Russian Governor, having but few troops, took a wise course on the occasion. He made an arrangement with Count Zamoyski for the preservation of order. That arrangement was that the people themselves should be intrusted to keep order. And the people kept order. Before the Emperor replied, it was announced throughout Europe that concessions would be made, that there would be a Council of State, that public instruction should be given in the Polish language, and that the municipality should be elected by the citizens—reforms which, if carried out, would have been of some importance and would have been gladly accepted by the people. Afterwards came the Emperor's answer, which spoke contemptuously of the petition—a most moderate, earnest, and constitutional document—designating it as the act of a few individuals, as an act of entraînment; expressing no regret for the loss of life which had taken place through the misapprehension of the troops, and saying nothing calculated to allay irritation throughout Poland. This description of the petition, as the act of a few individuals, was not calculated to gain a favourable reception for the Emperor's answer, as the petition had been signed by the President of the Agricultural Society, the Roman Catholic Archbishop, the Chief Rabbi, and other persons of the highest character in Warsaw. Between February, 1861, and April, the garrison was greatly increased; troops were brought into the city in such numbers that by the beginning of April there were from 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers in Warsaw, a city containing only 160,000 inhabitants. On the 6th of April the Agricultural Society was suddenly dissolved. That measure naturally excited great discontent; and on the following day, the 7th, there was a popular demonstration, the inhabitants merely marching about the streets. But on the 8th the people wished to enter the courtyard of the Viceroy's palace, to ask him to present another petition to the Emperor. What was the result? The people assembled were charged by the military, and by the Russian account 10—by the Polish accounts, from 30 to 100 of the citizens were killed. This was the state of things at Warsaw on the 8th of April last year. Had matters improved since that time? In 1861, on April 1, a circular was issued by Prince Gortschakoff announcing the improvements that would be made. But the people, when they learned what the council of state was to be, found that it gave them nothing more than they had had fifteen years before; and which had been of no use to them: it gave them no representative power. Then the provincial and municipal councils were supposed to be more satisfactory, because it was hoped they would be representative in their constitution. The House knew what those councils had turned out to be. He could find no indication on the part of the Russian Government to give the Poles anything like representative institutions. Then the most childish orders had been issued by the Russian Government; for instance, the people were not allowed to be out after nine o'clock; no person was permitted to carry a stick, or to wear boots of a particular description; and other orders of a similarly puerile character were made, and were carried out with remarkable and absurd, if it were not cruel, severity. For instance, a man who could not walk without a crutch was on that account imprisoned for waking in the streets with a stick. A doctor, while visiting his patient, was imprisoned because his visit necessitated his being out after nine o'clock. Another man was imprisoned fur the same reason, while going to fetch a midwife; and while he was hurried off to prison his wife, and the child to whom she gave birth, both died for want of attendance. While these things were going on, the Russian Government took umbrage at the singing of a national hymn, which had become a universal practice. The practice was forbidden. These demonstrations of national feeling in such matters as costume and singing had sometimes been called childish. But were they so? If the Poles were to be condemned for thus showing their feeling of nationality when no other mode of expressing it was left to them, some of the noblest passages in history must be regarded as childish. Then, there were certain hymns the people used to sing in the churches. The Archbishop, when he was called on to prohibit them, refused to do so, as the hymns were those which had been sung in the churches for many years and had no exclusively political bearing. It was then said that the Pope had condemned the conduct of the Archbishop in thus refusing to forbid the hymns the people had been accustomed to sing. But the statement as to the Pope's interference was utterly unfounded. The Pope never disapproved what the Archbishop, as a good Churchman, was bound to do—to resist the dictation of the Viceroy as to the services in the Church. In May, 1861, Prince Gortschakoff died. His successor adopted the practice of riding about Warsaw with a guard of cavalry, and making an ostentatious and offensive display of the military power. In July, 1861, the Council of State was appointed, and no unwillingness was shown on the part of the Poles who were asked to serve upon it to take part in the proceedings, but nothing resulted from the institution of that body. On the 28th of August General Lambert was appointed Governor, and seemed to be instructed to act upon the policy of conciliation. The troops were withdrawn, arrests were diminished, and the people again began to wear the national boots and the national costume, such as had been previously allowed. That was a wise policy, for it was impossible to keep a kingdom in a state of siege when no acts of violence were committed by the people. On the 25th of September the elections for the great Municipal Council which was to constitute such a mighty improvement in the state of the Polish people took place, and the electors chose respectable, worthy, well-conducted citizens, and not firebrands or revolutionists. It seemed as if the Russian Government were disappointed at the order with which the elections were conducted and at the class of persons elected, for without further notice the state of siege was proclaimed in Warsaw. The reasons for that proceeding, as given by General Lambert, were, that at the funeral of the late Archbishop a banner with the arms of Poland had been displayed, that the Municipal Elections had resulted in the election of persons hostile to the Government, and that persons had signed a petition to the Czar in reference to the elections, which was characterized as an act tending to the overthrow of lawful authority. The state of siege had been continued, allowing the Cossacks, though there might be no disturbance, to arrest and drag to prison whom they pleased, and then, without form of trial, the unfortunate persons were liable to be sent to Siberia On the 15th of October it was intended to keep the festival of the birth of Kosciusko by closing the shops and having funeral services in the churches; but the Russian troops assembled, and the people as they left the churches were attacked, many received fatal wounds, and a great number were arrested. Taking the lowest estimate, the number of persons arrested amounted to 1,657, and among them were many highly-respected members of the Municipal Council. An incident then occurred which gave great umbrage to the Russian Government. The head of the Church at Warsaw, feeling discouraged by what had taken place on the 15th of October, and deeming it to be only a useless proceeding to keep the churches open if the people were not allowed to worship according to their consciences, caused them to be closed; and consequently they remained closed for a considerable time. He knew that that had been regarded by some as an act of Popish pride, but the same thing occurred at the synagogues and Lutheran churches, for one and all felt that the Russian soldiery might take advantage of their meeting in church and singing their national hymns, and might attack them and drag them to prison. What did the Russian Government then proceed to do? When he spoke of the Government, he did not mean to say that the Russian Emperor was aware of all that took place; he was not attacking any individual, but only the system, which was in contravention of the Treaty of Vienna, and on which this country ought to keep its eyes. The head of the Catholic Church, a man 78 years old, infirm and sick, was condemned to death by court-martial, and then credit was claimed for the Russian Government, because that sentence was commuted to imprisonment in a fortress for one year. The churches remained closed during Christmas, and the people were deprived of the rites of religion during that holy season. In February, 1862, a new Archbishop was appointed; who had since fortunately turned out to be a man who had the heart of a Pole, and had not acted so subserviently to the subordinate Russian authorities as it at first appeared likely he would. He began by re-opening the churches, and issued a conciliatory address, in which he spoke of rendering to Caesar the things that were Caesar's, and to God the things that were God's; and he implored the people to give up singing the national hymn. They obeyed, and he believed it had not been sung since. He further said that he had a positive assurance that the promises of the Emperor in behalf of the people would be fulfilled. He would fain believe that the Emperor of Russia was humane and sincere, and wished to fulfil his promises; but if so, there must be between him and the Polish people advisers who prevented him from giving effect to his wishes. What was the actual state of things at that moment in Warsaw? In illustration of that, he might refer to two letters which he had received, giving an account of the oppressive conduct of the Russian authorities. One day two gentlemen were brought before the judges—who were Russian Generals— and sentenced to pay a fine of 150 silver roubles and to be imprisoned two days for singing in the churches. They paid the fine and were imprisoned, but the day after their release they were seized again and banished for life. Ladies were arrested because they wore black or white on some portion of their dress, as those colours were considered to be the symbols of mourning for their country, or for fallen; victims of Russian tyranny. The schools were closed, and persons were not permitted to dine together even in groups of three. As many as twenty-five persons have been sent from Warsaw to Siberia in one day, and thousands were victims to the conscription. The pay of the army was increased so long as the state of siege lasted, so that the military authorities had a positive interest in prolonging the present state of things. He had received also a variety of proclamations which showed the arbitrary spirit of the Government in an equally strong light. The proprietors of all inns and hotels were obliged to give notice to the police of all strangers who visited them; they were compelled to act as spies upon them, and were made responsible for them. The heads of families were ordered not to allow any of the female members of their families to wear any portion of mourning, under pain of being arrested themselves and brought before the military authorities. He contended that no real and serious attempt had been made through such means as would alone be effectual to give the Poles that national Government to which they had a right under the: Treaty of Vienna. If it was only by statements in the British parliament that the Emperor could be made acquainted with what was really going on there, then it was more than ever incumbent to protest on behalf of a suffering people who were deprived of rights which England had guaranteed. It was perfectly plain that the bureaucracy of St. Petersburg governed at Warsaw, and would continue to do so until the Emperor saw fit to put a stop to it; and that until it was put a stop to, there could be no real remedy for the state of things which he had described. It was said that the Polish people were discontented, and would not be satisfied with the constitution which the Treaty of Vienna guaranteed them. But it was a great injustice to make that charge against men who had never been tried, and who never had the institutions which had been guaranteed to them. It was next said that imprisonment and deportation were incident to a state of siege. But the state of siege had been most wantonly imposed at a time when the Poles were behaving in an orderly manner, and had just completed the elections to municipal offices which the Government had conceded. It was not fairly to be called a state of siege, considering that the people were totally unarmed; and things were done under it he hoped without the knowledge of the Emperor; because, if not, as a humane man he would punish the delinquents for their misuse of his name. The last act of this cruel and despotic Government was stated in correspondence from Warsaw under date of March 17, and it had not been officially contradicted. M. Alexander Zamoyski, the editor of a newspaper at Warsaw, called the Pilot, wherein articles on the proposed constitution had been published distasteful to the authorities, was arrested, and, having refused to name any accomplices, declaring that he had none, was subjected to the question. The meaning of that was that he was flogged so that the flesh was cut from his bones, and his spine was seriously affected, and it was reported that he had since died. Unless the public opinion of this country reacted upon Russia, such events would be of constant occurrence. He believed that, so far from having exaggerated, he had understated the condition of things in Poland. He hoped he might hear some contradiction of these statements, although he believed they rested upon good authority. At all events, he trusted the noble Lord at the head of the Government would say that he still adhered to the opinion which had been often expressed, that the Treaty of Vienna had been violated. It might not be wise or right to involve Europe in war because the Treaty of Vienna had been violated; but he thought the fact should be stated over and over again in the face of Europe as long as they received such melancholy and deplorable accounts from the people of Poland.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copy of any Correspondence relating to the Affairs of Poland, —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


Sir, I wish, in the first place, to set my hon. and learned Friend right upon on historical point, as to which he has, I think, been misinformed. My hon. and learned Friend stated that the engagement contracted with Russia, with regard to the Russo-Dutch loan, had reference to the Treaty of Vienna generally, and specifically to the state of Poland. The condition of the Russo-Dutch loan was this—that Great Britain engaged to pay that interest so long as Belgium remained united to Holland. And when, by the action of a conference, Belgium separated from Holland we might, according to the strict letter of the treaty, have refused to continue to pay the interest. But Her Majesty's Government thought—and Parliament, after an animated discussion, which those who were in the House at the time must remember, agreed—that, as the separation of Belgium from Holland was brought about in a great degree by the diplomatic exertions of Great Britain, and had been forced on Russia, it would be a great injustice to visit Russia with punishment for an event induced by England and France jointly, and against the wishes of Austria, Prussia, and Russia. No transactions in Poland can give us the right to refuse payment which was sanctioned by a subsequent convention and an Act of Parliament passed in consequence of the change of circumstances.

My hon. and learned Friend has brought under the attention of the House the state of Poland and the condition of the Polish people. It is not necessary to say that every body who has turned his mind—and who has not done so?—to the history of Poland must feel towards the Poles great admiration for their high qualities and great sympathy for their misfortunes. The qualities which we admire are the highest qualities which belong to nations—great intelligence, great energy, but above all, an unconquerable, inextinguishable, and unquenchable love of country. Their feelings of nationality, indeed, remind us of the fable of the traveller and his cloak. The more the piercing blast from the north endeavoured to blow that cloak away, the more they have clung to it. There was one occasion when they may have thought a summer's sun was coming to their aid — when the First Napoleon occupied then-country. But "that pale sun in distance rolled away," and faded behind the clouds which obscured it. It did not suit the policy of France at that time to render them the aid they required; and then reverses came upon France, and the condition of Poland remained to be settled by the Treaty of Vienna. The interest which the Powers of Europe felt with regard to Poland was manifested in the very first article of the great European settlement to which my hon. and learned Friend has referred, which provided that Poland was to be erected into a kingdom irrevocably attached to Russia by its constitution, and that the Polish subjects of Austria, Russia, and Prussia should enjoy a national representation, and institutions regulated in accordance with the mode which each Government might find to be applicable to the case. There can be no doubt that that article required that the link between Poland and Russia should be a constitutional link; and a constitution was given to the kingdom of Poland, not altogether had in its details, but, as my hon. and learned Friend has truly said, it became almost from the first practically a dead letter, and from that period down to the events of 1830–1 the Poles did not certainly enjoy the full benefit of the constitution which had been accorded them. In 1830 came the French Revolution. The flame which it kindled spread, and the Poles thought a good opportunity presented itself to emancipate themselves from what they considered the intolerable condition to which they had been reduced. They then started under great advantages. They had an army numerous and well appointed. They had magazines, and, indeed, all the resources of war; but, after two campaigns, they were subdued, and the authority of Russia was re-established. The Russian Government, having quelled the insurrection, thought they were entitled to abolish the constitution, which had been given to Poland by the Emperor Alexander; and if the question had been simply one between that Government and the Poles, no other Government—whatever might be said as to the equity of the matter— would be entitled to expostulate with Russia on the fact that the constitution had been arbitrarily superseded. The engagements between that country and Poland were, however, engagements also contracted between Russia and the other Powers of Europe; and we, the English Government, thought therefore that we were fairly entitled, as parties to that European arrangement, to remonstrate against the abolition of a constitution which we held was, under the stipulations of the treaty, to form the link between those two nations. Our representations on the subject, as the House well knows—for the papers relating to it were laid on the table—were in vain; and as my hon. and learned Friend justly observed, it was not thought expedient, however deplorable the circumstances of the case might be, that we should make them a ground on which the friendly relations between this country and Russia should be disturbed or war between the two nations entered upon. The grievance inflicted upon them was, nevertheless, one of which the Poles might justly complain. Then came those events to which my hon. and learned Friend has alluded. An organic statute came into operation, far different from the constitution of which I have just spoken, and not, in my humble opinion, at all corresponding with the engagements of the Treaty of Vienna. If, however, that organic statute had been fairly and fully carried out, it might have made the internal condition of Poland tolerable, and might have been found compatible with a good deal of internal contentment and prosperity. But, unfortunately, that was not the case. There is, I may add, one circumstance connected with the relations subsisting between Poland and Russia, which ought not to be forgotten, which is, that there exists, I am afraid, a great national—I will not say antipathy, but antagonism between the two nations; and that there is a tendency on the part of Russian officials to regard the Poles with a feeling which probably prevents them from being animated by a disposition to put the best interpretation on any regulations which they may have to carry into effect. Then we must not lose sight of the fact of the absorption of the Republic of Cracow by Austria, which, although it may not exactly apply to the kingdom of Poland, yet is connected with the Polish nationality and cause. Republics, it is true, are rather at a discount at present, but still that little Republic was a respectable State; and I took the liberty of saying at the time when we remonstrated against the manner in which it was dealt with, that if the Treaty of Vienna was set at naught on the Vistula, it might possibly at some future day not be very much respected on the banks of the Po. Events have proved that my anticipations were not wholly without foundation.

I now come to those recent events to which my hon. and learned Friend has called our attention, and which are greatly to be lamented. It does not, perhaps, become any one in this House to assume the character of a judge between the Poles and the Russian Government. But when, at the same time, my hon. and learned Friend calls on the House to express an opinion on this question, it is difficult to refrain from giving utterance to those sentiments with respect to it which one may entertain as an individual Member of Parliament; and I therefore feel myself at liberty to answer the appeal which my hon. and learned Friend has made. I must admit that the Poles have, as he says, great cause of complaint; that they have been deprived of constitutional rights, which, by European treaties, they were entitled to retain; and that they have not even been allowed the enjoyment of those institutions of a limited character which their Sovereign granted them. It seems to me, however, that a nation under the circumstances in which Poland is placed ought well to weigh the consequences of the adoption of any line of conduct which it might be advised to pursue The revolt of 1830 was intelligible. They thought at the time they were strong enough to break the bonds under which they suffered. They fought gallantly. They fought with great means. They failed, and had to submit to their fate. But in the case of those transactions to which my hon. and learned Friend adverts they did not feel—they could not feel—there existed a fair prospect that by means of any popular movement or any military insurrection they could obtain that which they desired—either better institutions or national independence. Was it wise, then, on their part, I ask, to adopt that line of offensive demonstration which my hon. and learned Friend has described? It may be said, to be sure, that there can be no great harm in a multitude of people following a funeral. We had an instance of the sort not long ago in Ireland. Great numbers of persons there followed the funeral of a gentleman who had not been particularly distinguished by a regard for the laws of the land, but no notice was taken of the fact. Those who attended the funeral, in all probability, might have seized the opportunity to add to the revenue of my right horn Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer by libations of whisky; but the whole thing passed off quietly, and it would have been an act of folly on the part of the Government to have interfered in the matter. In the same way the funeral at Warsaw might have been permitted to pass over quietly. But then there were emblems displayed, and hymns were sung. Now, these were acts which could produce no effect on the condition of Poland, but which were calculated to irritate and provoke the Russian authorities. My hon. and learned Friend says the hymns sung were of a national character, such as an Englishman might like to sing in memory of his country, if he happened to be in any other part of the world. They were not, however, exactly of that description. They had something of a religious character, and implied an earnest application to Divine Providence to emancipate Poland from Russian rule. They might, therefore, not unnaturally be considered offensive to the Russian Government. That being so, I cannot help thinking, with great deference, that the Poles would have better consulted their own interests if they had applied their energies to the improvement of agriculture, and the endeavour to promote the general prosperity of their country, and if they had borne as well as they could the evils which, unhappily, they endure, instead of going out of their way to do things which were calculated to irritate and provoke the Russian authorities, without being likely to produce any good result. I must, however, on the other hand say—feeling, as I do, the full force of that which my hon. and learned Friend has stated—that I think it was totally unworthy of the Russian authorities to have recourse to those acts of severity with which they visited this in itself harmless demonstration of the people of Warsaw. Nothing can justify the cruelty and the persecutions to which they have resorted. It is not, at the same time, for us to interfere between the two nations, except so far as we are warranted in so doing by those common principles of humanity which apply to all countries, and which, I think, have been greatly violated by the proceedings of the Russian Government.

As I said before, a feeling of strong antagonism exists between Russia and Poland, and I therefore hope and believe that the acts of the Russian authorities in Warsaw, and in other parts of the kingdom of Poland, have not been sanctioned by—probably they have not even been known to—the Emperor. I had the honour some years ago of seeing His Imperial Majesty when in this country, where he remained some weeks, and I must say he appeared to me to be a most kind-hearted and benevolent man. Now, we all know that men's natures — whatever may be the case with their opinions—do not, generally speaking, much alter with the advance of years, and that those who at an early age possess kind hearts are not likely to become different in character when they have grown older. I feel, therefore, persuaded that the Emperor of Russia personally would prefer the adoption of a kind and liberal policy towards the Polish nation. But, as I said before, there are parties around a monarch who represent things their own way, and who, from love of authority and other feelings, are frequently disposed to abuse the powers intrusted them for good, and to apply them for evil. With respect to the future, if one felt called upon or had any right to give advice to the Poles, one would recommend them to trust to the future, and not to go out of their way to draw upon themselves inflictions which they could not prevent if they came upon them, and which are intolerable to bear. Recollect that which is now passing in Russia. A great political and social change is taking place in Russia, and a change which cannot be single. There is a great operation in progress—one of the greatest, perhaps, ever performed in a short space of time in any country—the emancipation of the serfs. Does any man believe that the emancipation of the serfs must not, sooner or later, lead to some extension of political privileges, and power, and authority to the Russian nation? I should advise the Poles, then, to wait for that, remembering, that though the Russians may not wish them to obtain or keep political liberty beyond that which they themselves enjoy, yet they will be disposed to extend to the Polish people everything which may be granted to themselves. The Poles will best consult their own interests by endeavouring to conciliate, and by taking advantage of what I must believe to be the kind and humane feelings of the Emperor of Russia. At all events, the matter is not one in which the Government of this country could wisely or usefully interfere. No doubt the recital here of facts which may not have come to the knowledge of the Russian Emperor may be useful, by bringing to his cognizance things which have been done in his name, but to which he has not been a party. On the other hand, an expression of sympathy for Poland must be grateful to the feelings of the Poles. It is quite unnecessary for them to make any demonstration in order to satisfy Europe that their aspirations for nationality continue undiminished. Nobody who knows anything of them could believe that their patriotic feelings are in the least degree quenched by time. Therefore, in that point of view, nothing further is required. But, as far as an expression of sympathy on the part of this House may tend to conciliation, to induce the Russian Government to mitigate the system of rule which now prevails at Warsaw, and to persuade the Poles to abstain from drawing down upon themselves any more inflictions by demonstrations which cannot do any good, but which may do a great deal of harm, I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that his Motion may not be without a useful result. I cannot, off hand, say whether there are any papers which could be produced; but I will inquire into that matter, and on some future day will let my hon. and learned Friend know how it stands.


said, that in rising to support the Motion, he wished to say a few words—first, as to how far England was really concerned in the Polish question; and then, as to how far that question was in truth a practical one. What hold, he would ask, had Poland upon England, and why should England mix herself up in the Polish question? The answer to that, he thought, was contained in the papers laid before Parliament at the close of the last Session. Those papers were far and away the most important that had ever been published in this country relating to Poland. He had no doubt that such hon. Gentlemen as had not read them would be surprised to learn that the important despatch communicated by Prince Talleyrand to the noble Viscount, though laid on the table in 1861, bore the date of 1831. For thirty long years a State Paper, which furnished the key to English policy with respect to Poland, had remained in the archives of the Foreign Office. The despatch submitted by Prince Talleyrand, demanding, in language not usually found in diplomatic documents, the co-operation of England on behalf of Poland, and the reply of the noble Viscount had been moved for over and over again, long before he was born; but until the close of last Session they had always been refused, on the ground, among others, that their production would tend to embroil this country with the other Powers of Europe. In 1831 the Poles were up in arms, and war was actually raging between Poland and Russia. The despatch communicated to the noble Viscount by Prince Talleyrand was written by Count Sebastiani, and dated Paris, July 7, 1831. It was as follows:— The King, touched by the evils which the Polish war has already caused to two nations in which he takes so lively an interest, eager to ensure the maintenance of peace, compromised daily by so prolonged a contest, and no less engaged in preserving the West of Europe from the fearful sufferings which this war entails, has addressed himself confidentially to the Emperor of Russia in order to put an end to so many disasters, and to bring to an end blood-shedding over which humanity has only too long groaned. The King's intention was also to preserve the political existence of a people which has shown itself so worthy of it by so great courage and patriotism, and which has the guarantee of the Treaties of Vienna for its nationality. Up to the present time the King's efforts have not achieved the results which he had the right to expect. Notwithstanding their small success, His Majesty does not consider it his duty to renounce the generous and pacific mediation which his personal feelings recommend and which the condition of Europe prescribes to him. He believes, especially, that were England to act in agreement with France for giving to this salutary intervention all the force of which it is susceptible, the effect might be made certain by the combination of these two Powers The King is sufficiently acquainted with the feelings which animate His Britannic Majesty to entertain the hope that he will not refuse to give his frank and complete adhesion to our advances, and to join his powerful action to our efforts, at a time when the question of the welfare of humanity and of the general interest of Europe transcends all others. The desire of His Majesty, mon Prince, is that you should make immediate and pressing overtures to the English Government with reference to this subject. We are awaiting their result with much impatience. The latter part of the despatch contained language not often found in diplomatic documents. The reply of the noble Viscount, who was then at the Foreign Office, was dated July 22nd, 1831. It first recapitulated the demands made in the despatch from Paris, referred to the friendly feelings of England towards Poland, and then, after describing the state of things, went on to say— Can it, then, be expedient to make a proposal which there is no ground to hope would be accepted; and which, if refused, would leave to the two Governments the embarrassing alternative of either aquiescing in a determined rejection of their proposal, or of taking measures to enforce it by means of a more direct and effectual interference? The British Government certainly is not prepared to adopt the latter course. The effects and bearing of the contest upon the security of other States have not hitherto been such as to warrant measures of such a description; nor has the conduct of Russia towards England been calculated to excite any unfriendly feeling; she has, on the contrary, performed towards this country all the offices of a good and faithful ally, and, in the late difficult negotiations for the purpose of effecting a settlement between Belgium and Holland, she has acted with perfect fairness in her co-operation with the other four Powers. Under these circumstances His Majesty, deeply lamenting the calamities of a disastrous and desolating contest, does not think the time has yet arrived when he could be justified in adopting a proceeding which, however conciliatory in form, could not fail to alarm an independent Power, naturally jealous of its rights, and sensibly alive to everything which might appear to affect its national honour. For these reasons His Majesty feels himself under the necessity of declining the proposal which the Prince de Talleyrand has been instructed to convey. In that despatch the noble Viscount spoke of Russia being jealous of her rights, but he had admitted to-night that the rights in question were in reality Polish rights, "guaranted," to use his own words, "by European treaties." The Emperor of Austria suggested to France the course which the French Government took; France and Austria were willing to support Poland; the despatch he had read was written to the noble Lord; the noble Lord replied; and from that hour the fate of Poland was sealed. England, at that critical moment, refused her co-operation; she must therefore be considered a party, and he thought the chief party, to the present position of Poland; and the British House of Commons, therefore, was the most fitting assembly in the world in which to advocate the rights of Poland, and put forward a claim to more than sympathy with her in her wrongs. The question was a practical one. In France there was one European question on which no diversity of opinion existed, and that was Poland. On that subject it might be said that statesmen of every party and at every time— from the partition to the Treaty of Vienna, and within the last few weeks—had uniformly expressed the same opinion. It was Louis Philippe who awaited with impatience the answer of England in favour of Poland, and in his Government, from which emanated the despatch inviting the co-operation of England, were Casimir Perier and Guizot. Then, again, MM. Odillon Barrot, Villemain, Montalembert, and recently Count d'Ornano, Chamberlain to the Emperor, Count Segur de Aguesseau, and Count Latour, were all advocates of Poland In fact, the feeling in France was universal. But it was not confined to France. In high quarters in Austria there was a strong feeling of friendship for Poland. Prince Metternich was an advocate for Poland. Could Austria have had her way at the time of the Treaty of Vienna, Poland would have been restored to complete independence, and the same course would have been followed in 1831. Since then an event had occurred which threw much light on the attitude Austria might assume towards Poland in the event of an European convulsion. At the time of the Crimean war the allies endeavoured to gain the assistance of Austria; Austria agreed, on one condition, that the war should be made continental, and that 100,000 men should be sent into Poland. Prussia entertained feelings of an equally friendly nature to-wards Poland. During the Conferences at Vienna in 1815, the Prussian General von den Knesebeck exposed in the most forcible terms the danger threatening Europe, and above all Prussia, so long as Russia was permitted to aim at making Poland an instrument of aggression. Even in Russia the people entertained very friendly feelings towards Poland, and would not be unwilling to see her restored to a state of inde- pendence. In proof of this he would read to the House a translation of some remarks which had recently appeared in a journal published at St. Petersburg. The hon. Gentleman then read the following extract from the Russian journal Wielikorus:— All the Russians, partisans of legality, ought to demand the liberation of Poland. It is now become evident to every one that our domination in Poland is only maintained by armed force; and as long as the authority shall be maintained by the system of a military despotism in one part of the State, the Government cannot give up this system in the rest of the empire. Let us bear in mind the words which Chatham uttered at the time of the revolution of the American colonies—'Should England subdue America to despotism, she would not fail to subject herself to the same rule;' consequently, he wished, in concert with all the friends of liberty in England, the recall of the British troops from the dissatisfied colonies. In like manner the interest of Russian liberty calls for the liberation of Poland. Our national pride, our love of the country, our financial situation, demand the same. Our dominion in Poland rests solely upon violations of all the conditions by which the Congress of Vienna had consented to the union of that kingdom with Russia. That feelings such as those should be expressed in Russia, the House would understand, was of the greatest practical importance. The question was, then, in this position. Nobody denied that the desire to be restored to their ancient independence was universal among the Poles. It was evident that France would be willing to see the independence of Poland accomplished, that Austria tit the very least would offer no opposition, and no opposition would come from Prussia. The Russian people were not enemies of the Poles—the only obstacle to their progress towards independence was to be found in the Russian Government. He would not therefore hold two kinds of language to the Poles; he would not tell them to pray for reform and concession from the Czar; he would tell them simply to wait, and they would get that without which they ought not to be satisfied—their total independence. Until Poland was restored, until the ancient laws, the ancient constitution, the ancient throne of Poland were restored, the question would not be set at rest. Without using the term in a party, but in a European sense, he believed it would be an eminently conservative policy to restore the ancient Kingdom of Poland, which had been placed in its present position in consequence of European treaties. To give the alternative of maintaining those treaties or of restoring the ancient Kingdom of Poland—whichever course was taken—would, to his mind, be a conservative course, and would tend to promote the peace and Security of Europe.


said, that the speeches of the noble Viscount and the two hon. Members were so satisfactory to the friends of Poland, that he should not have uttered a word did he not think that sufficient justice had not been done to the Poles for their remarkable forbearance, under the very exasperating circumstances in which they had been placed, the self-control, moderation and wise abstinence from. provocation they had shown entitled them, not only to look for the sympathy of Europe, but to expect that at no distant time their anticipations would be fulfilled. It was not merely among the Poles in their own country, but also among those who resided in foreign countries, that the opinion prevailed that it would be for the advantage of Poland, and would tend to diminish the sufferings under which she laboured, to put before the public a calm and unexaggerated statement of her position and of the feelings of the English people in consequence. It had been well remarked that they ought not to allow any interference with the Treaty of Vienna without noticing it in that House. It was for the interest of England, and of the whole of Europe, that the Treaty of Vienna should be abided by. Whenever an attempt to infringe that treaty was made, they appealed to it; and when, in the words of the noble Lord, "the most flagrant Violation of any treaty in modern days" took place, it was incumbent on them to give expression to the feelings of horror and detestation which they entertained at the state of things existing in Poland, which obliged 200,000 Russian soldiers to be kept there. He denied that there was any conspiracy in Poland which could be legally dealt with, and he maintained that it was of the utmost importance, not only to Austria, but to the whole of Germany, that a barrier should be raised up between them and Russia. According to treaty, the kingdom of Poland was to be garrisoned by Polish soldiers, and Russian soldiers were not to be admitted. But treaty engagements had been violated, and therefore not only had they a right to speak, but they lay under a responsibility to do so. At the same time, it would be cruel to the Poles themselves, if they were to hold out to them the hope that there was in this country any party who would desire to plunge the nation into a war for the purpose of effecting the liberation of Poland. Such was not the case. The best policy the Poles could adopt under present circumstances was to continue to pursue that course of moderation and forbearance which they had hitherto practised.


said, he wished to correct a remark made by his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Hennessy), which, if allowed to pass unnoticed, might lead to a wrong interpretation of a very important point in the diplomatic history of this country. His hon. Friend would induce the House to believe that it was owing to the action of the British Government that the great Revolt of Poland, which followed the days of July, had not come to a successful termination. But if his hon. Friend would look back to the history of that period, he would find there were many circumstances which ought to have made the English Government unwilling to make any demonstration against Russia at a time when any hostile proceedings might have assumed the dimensions of a European war. There was at that time a change of dynasty in France, and the French Government were anxious to preserve their popularity with the people of that country. It was quite true that there was no question which touched the imagination of the French people so much as the question of Poland. If, however, the Government of France had offered the active interposition of that country in behalf of Poland, the result must have been a European war. He could not concur in the opinion that the great Powers of Germany would have acceded to the independence of Poland at that time, and the result would probably have been that France and England would have taken one side, and Germany and Russia the other, the issue of the conflict being that France might have got the Rhine, and Poland would have been left in the lurch. All such speculations, however, were useless. All that could be said was that Poland had preserved that permanent interest in the European mind which, so far as it was permitted to look into futurity, led to the belief that there must come, at some time or other, a solution of the question favourable to the liberties of Poland. Russia, it might be seen, was undergoing a great transformation. Not only did the liberation of the serfs agitate that country in all its territory, but questions of political freedom were slowly making their way. The very fact that such sentiments as had been quoted by the hon. Gentleman were printed at St. Petersburg was a singular proof of the progress of public opinion in Russia. It had been truly shadowed forth by the Prime Minister that the political freedom of Russia was the best guarantee for the Liberty of Poland. A desire was being expressed by the people of Russia to participate in the government of that country, and it was impossible for Russia to advance materially and morally side by side with a continually subjected and degraded Poland. The great difficulty in assisting the Poles had always been a geographical one. It was the difficulty on the part of the nations that sympathized with Poland, of getting at her. If Poland had a seaboard, the whole condition of the question would have been changed. As it was, the nations inclined to assist her could not reach her territory without either traversing in a hostile spirit the circumjacent countries, or persuading them to join in the undertaking. Every person of humanity must commiserate the destinies of Poland. But let the House also commiserate the state of Russia in regard to Poland, which obliged her to play the part of her gaoler and executioner. Vain, however, would be the attempt of Russia to govern Poland by a system of force and repression. Russia would before long see, that although her government of Poland was nominally kind and generous, yet that when she intrusted the execution of measures of policy to a body of ferocious soldiery, events of individual cruelty and scenes of riot would occur such as had lately excited the horror of Europe. If certain unwise demonstrations of the Polish people had been put down by the ordinary police, he could not say that the Russian Government had not been in the right. But scenes of such terrible dramatic interest as the twenty-seven hours' siege of the Cathedral of Warsaw by an indignant and ferocious soldiery—the people inside praying, and singing, and working themselves into a state to resist the soldiery, and the latter ultimately forcing their way into the Cathedral to the indiscriminate injury of the people—were not worthy of Russia as a great civilized empire, and Europe, he trusted, would not hear of their recurrence. Such Debates as the present were only of use in acquainting the Government of Russia of the general and, indeed, unanimous feeling of the Parliament and people of this country. Englishmen were not an imaginative people, and, as a rule, cared little for the liberties of other nations; yet the Government of Russia could not fail to see, that although the people of this country might not express the same enthusiasm for the independence of Poland as the people of France, yet that all parties in Parliament were unanimous in their sympathy with Poland. No one rose to vindicate the conduct of the Russian Government. Hon. Members on all sides lamented that so great and noble a nation, with such mighty prospects before it, and living under the sceptre of a Czar whose generosity and humanity were admitted by all, should perpetrate such lamentable scenes. He trusted that the Government of Russia would perceive that acts of repression, stained by such violence as had recently been witnessed in Poland, could do no good, and could end only in the exacerbation of one party and the degradation of the other.


said, that he entirely agreed with the observations which had been addressed to the House by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and he could not but express his gratification at the conciliatory tone which had characterized the debate. It was a great advantage that nothing had been said which could justly give offence to the authorities concerned. After the House had expressed its feelings of humanity in regard to recent events in Poland, the question arose, what was the ground of quarrel between that unfortunate country and her rulers, and what was the leading object she desired. Did she complain of the non-execution of the Treaty of Vienna, or did she demand complete independence? It was only in the former of these two cases, that this House or Government would have the right to express any opinion on the subject. Did any hon. Gentleman believe that it was possible to reverse the course of events which had so extensively altered the map of Europe during the last century, and to bring back the Poland which existed before the first partition? Lord Castlereagh did his utmost on behalf of the Poles at the Congress of Vienna, but his efforts were far from obtaining the effect for which he contended. The answer of the Czar to Prince Metternich on the subject of Poland simply was, "I am in possession of the country, and have 300,000 men there; if you do not like my retaining it, come and take it from me if you can." The Treaty of Vienna had been often referred to, but its terms were very ambiguous, and contained no trace of a specific constitution for Poland. It only said that Poland should be united to Russia "by its constitution," but it in no way laid down what the nature of that constitution was to be, Napoleon I., with all his alleged sympathies for the Poles, had never seriously proposed to restore their independence; but what he did was to unite their country to his quasi kingdom of Saxony, under the name of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. The noble Viscount now at the head of Her Majesty's Government, as was shown by the papers which had recently been published for the first time, warmly pleaded the cause of Poland some thirty years ago; but the difficulties in the way of the success of his endeavours proved insuperable. He (Mr. Griffith) should not have sought to address the House upon that occasion had it not been that he was able to speak from personal knowledge and experience—from his having lately paid a visit to Warsaw, and having witnessed some of the occurrences that have been referred to. He had been present at the head-quarters of Comte de Lambert, soon after his appointment by the Emperor of Russia. Horrified at the massacres which had taken place there, the Emperor Alexander II. sent the Comte de Lambert thither with the view of carrying out a healing and conciliatory policy. He had himself the honour or holding personal conversations on these subjects about that period with the Comte de Lambert, and be could state that that Viceroy had evinced every desire to correct abuses and remedy the reasonable complaints of the Poles. He expressed, indeed, a hope that they would abstain from political demonstrations, but he assured them that they should be allowed to elect their local assemblies freely, and without interference from the soldiery. In fact, it was impossible to exhibit greater humanity or more perfect candour than he had done in conversing on these subjects with him (Mr. Darby Griffith); but, unfortunately, he did not meet with a corresponding spirit on the part of the people. The old antagonism between the different races surged up on every occasion. However liberal the disposition might be with which the Comte de Lambert went to Warsaw, it could not be expected that he would consent to sacrifice the rights of the Government that employed him. But he did not receive fair play in this matter, and was not enabled to realize his good wishes towards the Poles. The desire of the union of Poland and Lithuania was at the bottom of the whole question; and if the Poles insisted, on every occasion, on raising that question of the union between the two, that would raise a savage controversy between Poland and Russia. Russia would, he feared, resort to every barbarity rather than entertain a proposition for such a union. In conclusion he would express a hope that the painful influences that had been awakened by the recent unhappy collisions would speedily cease to be manifested, and that a hopeful future was in store for the people of Poland.


said, that as the noble Lord at the head of the Government had said he would inquire as to what papers there were, and consider as to what papers he could lay on the table, he should not press his Motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.