HC Deb 04 July 1862 vol 167 cc1423-6

said, he rose to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, What progress had been made by Lord Hobart and the Turkish Loan Commission in extinguishing the paper money at Constantinople by the application of the capital of the loan to the purpose of paying it off? and to call attention to the Report of the Commission, and also to the events now occurring in Servia; and to move an Address for Copy of any Correspondence that had taken place on that subject. The Government had manifested a generous wish to assist Turkey; but in his opinion the dry-nursing system in reference to the affairs of that country had been carried too far, as it only led the Ottoman Government into a career of ambitious conquest. It was a proof of the partiality with which the Government had acted, that they were now obliged to admit that the Report of Lord Hobart and Mr. Foster had been communicated to the contractors of the loan before it had been given to the public at large. The ostensible design of the loan recently contracted was to enable the Government of Turkey to pay off certain paper money (the Caimê); but, according to the accounts which had been received, that design, however, had entirely failed, as it was proposed to pay off only 40 per cent of that money. The consequence was, that the paper money was vastly deprecated. In addition to that, it had been discovered that great forgeries had been committed, which tended still further to bring it into disrepute. He held in his hand a real and a spurious note, which he now exhibited to the House, and which were as like each other as two peas. It was difficult to ascertain which was the real and which was the false currency of that country. It was said that the present Sultan was a man of great energy, and that he was disposed to carry out a liberal and enlightened policy. He (Mr. Darby Griffith) heartily hoped that the anticipations that had been formed with respect to the Sultan would turn out to be well-founded, and that his efforts might be directed successfully to the rectification of the financial condition of the Turkish Empire. The House had received two Reports in reference to the debt of Turkey—the Turkish and the English—and they differed in every essential par- ticular. The Turkish Report stated that there existed only about £18,000,000 of debt, while the Report of Lord Hobart and Mr. Foster stated that it amounted to over £41,000,000; and, from advices he had received, he had reason to believe that a large amount of other obligations had been contracted. It was stated in the Turkish Report that the interest on the foreign debt was £954,000, and the interest on the internal debt was £571,000, together about £1,500,000 a year, or one-eighth of the expenditure of the country; and the Report went on to state, that the interest on the other denominations of debt was also about £1,500,000 a year. Then, with regard to the new taxes. The revenue of Turkey, by the last budget, was about nine millions, and the expenditure twelve millions; but it was expected that the new taxes would produce £3,268,000, and that they would be able to effect a reduction of £685,000 in the expenditure, making together nearly £4,000,000; and thus it was hoped that they would be able to show a surplus on the year. But according to the plan of the Hobart and Foster Report about one-half of the increase was to come from an alteration in the tenure of ecclesiastical property called Vakouf, and they all knew how difficult a thing it was to prevail upon even the mildest ecclesiastics to accept of the imposition of burdens upon church property; and therefore, considering the strength of the ecclesiastical power in Mohammedan countries and its intimate relations with the civil authority—considering that the consent of the Sheik el Islam was necessary to the legality of every edict issued by the Sultan, it was extremely doubtful whether the increased taxation would be obtainable. It was well known that the inherent weakness of Turkey was such that but for the support of the European Powers under treaty obligations, she could not maintain her position as a nation. He thought that too great a task was imposed upon Lord Hobart, because he was expected to set the finances of Turkey to rights, while the resources at his command were entirely inadequate. At the present time, also, there were more than usually heavy drains upon Turkey, owing to the Montenegrin and other wars. They themselves (the English Government) first taught Turkey to borrow, and she had shown herself an apt pupil. In 1854 she raised £3,000,000; in 1855, £5,000,000, guaranteed by England and France; in 1858, £5,000,000 more; then there was another operation of £2,000,000 by the Mirès loan; and now there was the new loan of £8,000,000—in all, £23,000,000. The result of these constant additions to the foreign debt was that the stock was continually falling in the market. The armed interference of the Porte in Montenegro was most unwise, and could only result in a useless expenditure of life and money. With regard to the events that had recently happened in Servia, he wished to ask whether, in firing on the town as he had done, faith had been broken with the English and European Consuls by the Pacha of Belgrade or not? The Porte had sent a pacha to Belgrade who was so ignorant that he knew no language but his own; and the consequence of his ignorance and bigotry was the troubles that had ensued. It was an anomaly unknown in any other part of the nominal dominions of the Sultan for the suzerain power to maintain a garrison in the capital city of the dependent State, and a fortress, the guns of which were actually within range of the prince's palace. He therefore desired to know from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether, as a member of a Liberal Government, he was going to justify the proceedings of the Governor of Belgrade. It was very important that Her Majesty's Government should direct their attention to the subject, because, as far as their own selfish interests alone were concerned, they must be aware, that if intestine war were to break out in that portion of the Continent, there was great danger of its spreading into the neighbouring countries, and there was no knowing how far the other countries of Europe might become involved in the strife. He thought that the question deserved the dispassionate consideration of the Government. He asked, therefore, if there was any objection on the part of the Government to produce the correspondence relating to Servia?

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, a Copy of any Correspondence which has taken place between Lord Hobart and the Turkish Loan Commission, relative to the extinction of paper money at Constantinople, —instead thereof.


said, he felt sure that the House would not expect him to follow the hon. Gentleman through his essay upon Turkish finance, for which, as he was not the Turkish Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was in no way responsible. So far as he was aware, there was no intention on the part of the Turkish Government to conquer new territory, or to reconquer any that she might have lost; and with regard to her proceedings in Servia and Montenegro, she had done nothing in infringement of any treaty or obligation by which she was bound to those states. As to the progress made by Lord Hobart and the Turkish Loan Commission, he (Mr. Layard) could not be expected to give information as to what might have occurred from day to day. The Foreign Office knew nothing of the matter; but when the operation was fully carried out, he supposed Lord Hobart's duties would cease, and that he would return to this country and give an account of his share in the transaction; but they were not kept informed from day to flay what the Commission was doing. The hon. Gentleman said that a scheme had been put forward for the redemption of the paper money. He was not there to criticise that scheme. All he knew was, that it had received due consideration at the hands of the Commissioners, and been accepted by them; and he was told that it was likely to effect the object for which it was introduced. That was all the information he was in a condition to give to the hon. Gentleman on the subject. He could not furnish the correspondence that had taken place in reference to Servia. When the events to which the hon. Member alluded took place at Belgrade, the Turkish Government immediately recalled the pacha who was alleged to have been the cause of them, and sent there one of the most distinguished statesmen in their service, who, in conjunction with the representatives of the other Powers, was engaged in carrying on a thorough investigation into the circumstances which led to those unhappy occurrences, upon which, when the facts were in the possession of the Government, they would be in a position to express an opinion; but while that investigation was going on, it was obvious that it would be most improper to lay upon the table statements which were merely ex parte.

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