HC Deb 17 March 1865 vol 177 cc1831-50

rose to move the Resolution of which he had given notice— Whereas the Russian Government shows its determination to set at nought the engagements it contracted in 1815 respecting Poland: Whereas the respect of those engagements was the condition on which the Powers of Europe consented to recognize as lawful the possession by the Russian Tsar of the greatest part of ancient Poland. This House cannot any longer abstain from proclaiming that the violation of those engagements implies the forfeiture by the Tsar of all right to such dominion, and also of all right to any further payment by this country of the annual sum conceded to Russia under the name of the Russo-Dutch Loan, that payment having been, in 1815, undertaken to be made during the space of one-hundred years, in consideration of Russia faithfully co-operating in the maintenance of the stipulations of the same Treaty of 1815. The hon. Member said, that when some years before the recent war in Poland he took the liberty of asking the attention of the House to the conduct of the Russian Government, the noble Earl, now the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, then Lord John Russell, stated that the subject was one to which it was desirable that attention should be called. Since then events of great importance had occurred in Poland—events so instructive that he thought it expedient that an early opportunity should be taken of reviewing what had happened, so that the House might understand the position in which this country was placed with regard to our engagements on behalf of Poland. Poland was a subject of interest to three classes of people—first of all, to the Poles themselves, and next, to a large class of intelligent persons who entertained what was called a sympathy for Poland. He did not represent either of those two classes. But the Polish question was of interest to a third class, to which all who heard him belonged—namely, to the subjects of a Sovereign bound by treaty engagements with Russia which implicated the future position of Poland. The Sovereign of England was bound by solemn engagements which, so far from being cancelled, had over and over again, and especially in the last Session-of Parliament, been reiterated by the noble Viscount at the head of the Government. Those engagements involved the honour and character of this country, and it was therefore desirable to ascertain from the Government and the House what their present opinion was with regard to them. The engagements to which he referred were mainly those which constituted the first fourteen Articles of the Treaty of Vienna. That treaty was the most important instrument to which England was a party. Its first fourteen Articles all related to Poland, and constituted the main class of engagements affecting that country with which England was concerned. But in 1832 England entered into a convention with Russia in which reference was made to those negotiations, and that convention regulated a certain money payment which was made every year to Russia by this country. The question now arose whether that money payment had any connection, and, if so, what connection, with the engagements contracted by Russia in 1815. He alluded to those payments, an account of which had been put into the hands of every hon. Member a few weeks ago, called Payments on account of the Russo-Dutch Loan, amounting on an average to the sum of about £70,000 per annum, and which began in 1815. It was arranged by Lord Castlereagh, to use his own words, as a security for the due observance of the other engagements of Russia, that these payments should run over a period of 100 years. They were, then, to be continued till 1915. That was a very remarkable system of payments. It was, as far as he was aware, unparalleled; and Lord Castlereagh advised it for the distinct purpose of having security for the fulfilment by Russia of the other engagements into which she had entered. Undoubtedly, when England first agreed to pay the Russo-Dutch Loan, it was upon another condition connected with the stipulations of the Treaty of Vienna. That condition was that Holland and Belgium should not be separated. But in 1830, when a separation of those two countries took place, a new convention was proposed by Russia; and in proposing it she suggested in a despatch to the noble Viscount, then at the head of our Foreign Office, the reasons on which it should be based. In that despatch, dated the 2nd of January, 1831, the Russian Minister wrote— Russia, Great Britain, Austria, and Prussia, the Allied Powers, who were parties to the Treaty of Chaumont, in consideration, therefore, not of the union of the Belgian provinces to Holland, but of arrangements concluded among themselves, renounced all claims to the repayment of the expenses incurred in the deliverance of the said provinces in favour of one of these Powers exclusively—namely, of Russia.…Now, what were the arrangements between the Powers who were parties to the Treaty of Chaumont, at the period at which the Convention of the 19th of May, 1815, was concluded at London? They were the general arrangements of the Congress of Vienna, which had just then terminated. In consideration of the facilities which Russia afforded to these arrangements, her allies ceded to her all the pecuniary pretensions to which the deliverance of the Belgian provinces had given rise. It necessarily followed that these facilities were real and important, as they were made the gound of her liberation from a considerable debt…The divers arrangements of the Congress of Vienna, by which Russia acquired the pretensions above-mentioned, remain in all their force, notwithstanding the present position of Belgium. Upon what ground, then, could Russia be deprived of the compensation at which these arrangements have been valued to her? Such were the grounds laid by Russia for the new convention. There were two lines in the preamble of the convention as laid on the table of the House in 1831 which carried out the views of Russia, and which were to the effect that the convention between England and Russia was made "in consideration of the general arrangements of the Congress of Vienna, to which she had given her adherence, arrangements which remained in full force." Now, the question was, were these arrangements in full force? That was the point for the House to decide. In 1831 the House was told of that convention; but the House was then under the impression that the British Government were of opinion that the Treaty of Vienna had been faithfully kept by Russia. The question now was, had the general arrangements of the treaty been violated in any material point by Russia? To that question he briefly invited attention. He would quote a few words from an eminent authority now on the Treasury Bench, the noble Viscount, who speaking a year or two ago in that House, thus expressed his opinion as to the conduct of Russia with respect to the Treaty of Vienna. The noble Viscount, on the 2nd July, 1861, said— The course which the Government of Russia adopted towards Poland was a complete and decided violation of the Treaties of Vienna. The stipulations of the Treaties of Vienna were broken almost as soon as concluded…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."—[3 Hansard, clxiv. 232–3–4.] He (Mr. Hennessy) would not add a word to that. It proved that Russia had violated the treaty upon the admission of the British Government. Now came the question as to the course of the Government with regard to the Russo-Dutch Loan. Russia herself acknowledged that she was bound by the treaty, and the British Government stated that she had violated it. Fifty years had passed during which this country had been paying this loan; half a century more remained for it to run; and were the Government to continue the payments in spite of their own declarations that the consideration on which they were made had been rendered null and void by the other party to the transaction? In addition to the engagements we had contracted with Russia, there were other grounds rendering the Polish question one worthy of discussion by the House. It was a question which had always affected, and which would in future affect, very closely the alliance between England and France. It also touched very nearly the general tranquillity of Europe. How did it affect our alliance with France? The French people entertained—and in that respect they resembled the people of this country—a unanimous feeling in favour of Poland; and the French Government, like the British Government, were likewise bound by a treaty which united them to the future interests of Poland. In 1831, when the Poles were up in arms, the French Government asked the British Government to join with them in an intervention on behalf of Poland. The British Government refused. Again, at the time of the Crimean war, the Emperor Napoleon asked the British Government to make the independence of Poland one of the conditions on which peace was to be concluded with Russia. And there he could not avoid remarking that, when he mentioned that fact in the House, it was denied for some years on the Treasury Bench; and when last year, in reiterating it, he was able to read to the House the actual despatches sent by the French Minister to the British Government during the Crimean war, and while peace was impending, he was then told from the Treasury Bench that they were only French despatches which had passed, but that the Government had no English despatches. But there was a despatch from Lord Cowley to the British Government, in which he stated that the French Emperor was about to make a most important proposition—namely, that peace should not be concluded except on the foundation of the independence of Poland. That despatch was on the table. The Government again declined to join with France. When the Polish insurrection commenced in 1863—an insurrection owing not to any foreign action whatever, but to the conduct of Russia herself—the Governments of England and France discountenanced it in every way in their power; but after it had continued for a short time, the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office proposed to the Government of France that they should interfere on the Polish question. The Government of the Emperor replied that they were willing to do so provided that England and France should act in concert, and that whatever notes should be addressed to Russia should be concerted notes. Austria joined us, and during the greater part of 1863 this diplomatic action took place. The moment at length came when the suggestions of Earl Russell, growing into demands, having been flatly refused by Russia, England had to determine, on the request of France, whether she should act on the letter of her engagements and enforce on Russia what she called her rights England refused to do so. He would utter no opinion on the policy of England beyond this—if, as Earl Russell and the noble Viscount over and over again said, England has any right to interfere on this question, was it, he asked, a right that enabled her merely to speak? What attached to a right? No one had a right without a corresponding obligation; and if England had a right on the Polish question, England had also a corresponding obligation. What that was it would be for the noble Viscount to say. This he would repeat, that no friend of Poland in this country had ever asked the noble Viscount to go to war for Poland; he disclaimed having ever done so; and if he found fault with the diplomatic action of England, it was because he believed that the British Government had it in its power, acting with France, to save Poland without going to war. But the diplomatic history of our relations with Poland presented one feature which he regarded as most satisfactory. During the recess the Fo- reign Minister, Earl Russell, speaking in Scotland, addressed himself to the Polish question and declared that, owing to the non-fulfilment of the Treaty of Vienna, Russia had forfeited her right of dominion in Poland. Subsequently the noble Lord put that declaration in a despatch which was sent to St. Petersburg, It was communicated also to the French Government. For some reason, which the House would probably understand, Earl Russell thought fit to recall that despatch, and the last sentence containing the declaration of forfeiture was struck out. However, the historial fact remained that Earl Russell made that declaration in Scotland and put it in a despatch, which was communicated to the Cabinet, approved by them, sanctioned by the Crown, and sent from England to Russia. Whether it was creditable to Earl Russell and the Cabinet that that declaration should have been withdrawn in consequence of a threat by M. Bismarck and Prince Gortschakoff he would not say. But not only was that solemn declaration made by the Foreign Minister in a speech and diplomatic note, it was also made in another speech. The noble Viscount in his place last year, referring to the fact, said— If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hennessy) asks me whether in my opinion Russia has, in point of fact, not forfeited the right which by the Treaty of Vienna she obtained to Poland, because she has not fulfilled the corresponding engagements imposed on her by that treaty, I should be very much disposed to agree with him; but I say it would be undignified for this House formally to pronounce an opinion unless this House was prepared to follow it up by an Address to the Crown to give effect to the declaration which they had made."—[3 Hansard, clxxv. 653.] If anything should occur to disturb the tranquillity of Europe, and lead to the restoration of Poland, these declarations of the noble Earl and the noble Viscount would be remembered as historical facts of vital importance. What Lord Castlereagh said in 1815 had been shown to be true—that this was a question of the utmost importance to all who took an interest in the affairs of Europe. Did any one believe that Russia had succeeded in settling the Polish question? What was the present position of Poland? Russia was now pursuing in Poland precisely the same policy she pursued in 1831. After the insurrection of that year had been put down, the noble Viscount described the conduct of Russia as exactly that she was now pursuing. There was the transportation week after week of hundreds of families to Siberia, and the confiscation of all property belonging to every man who took an interest in the independence of his country. Not only did the Emperor Nicholas convey week by week whole families to Siberia, and confiscate the property of the Polish landowners, but he went the length of issuing ukases by which the male children in Warsaw were transferred to Russia to he brought up as Russians and speak only the Russian language. Well, what took place in 1863? Those children, now grown to manhood, though speaking the Russian language, joined the insurrection the moment it commenced. That fact, and numerous others of a similar character, ought to teach Russia the impossibility of extinguishing the Polish nation. If Poland was thus of interest to us by our treaty engagements—if these engagements had not been fulfilled by Russia—if we as a contracting party had not enforced the treaty engagements, the question not only concerned most intimately our honour and character, but also the tranquillity of Europe. From what they all knew of the people of Poland, of the public opinion in Europe, and the whole civilized world, there could be no doubt that if any change occurred in Europe—and changes might occur any day—in the event, for instance, of a war between Austria and Russia—the first consequence would be an independent Poland. Suppose war took place between France and Prussia, or France and Austria, not confined to Italy—such a war as was possible last year—what would happen to Poland? If the conduct of the British Government in the case of Denmark had led, as at one time it very nearly led, to a European war, what would have been the consequence to Poland? The fact was, such was the position of Poland that any great war in Europe would be to Poland a deliverance. Poland was certainly under the weight of three great Powers; but being a partition between them, any great war occurring among them would doubtless lead to the independence of Poland. In bringing this subject under the notice of the House, he desired not only to vindicate the course he had himself pursued, but to read a few words—and with these he would conclude—from a speech of one of the most experienced statesmen the country had seen for many years, one who was an eminent authority on public law, who was for many years Lord Chancellor of England, a Member of the Conservative Cabi- net of Sir Robert Peel, and one of the chief Conservative advisers of Lord Derby—he meant the late Lord Lyndhurst. No one could accuse him of being a revolutionist; and when bringing forward this question, he believed in the last speech he ever made, he said— I am not speaking as the representative of any party. I am speaking my own opinion, and lam sure, in speaking that opinion, I am speaking the opinion of every wise and temperate man in this country and on the continent of Europe. I feel that it is a duty that every person who is placed in a position where his voice can be heard, should raise his voice in denouncing injustice, tyranny, and oppression. To commit injustice is a crime; to treat it with silence is to participate in the criminality; and that must be my justification for the course I have taken."—[3 Hansard, cxliii. 637.] Following Lord Lyndhurst at a very humble distance in defence of Poland, he (Mr. Hennessy) had taken that opportunity of entering his protest on behalf of the Polish people. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving the Resolution.


rose to second the Motion, and said he would repeat what he had often said in that House, that the Polish struggle was one of the darkest pages in the history of the world. Posterity would look back with shame upon this generation, because we had not marched from all parts of Europe eastward to prevent the consummation of the greatest modern crime which had been committed among civilized nations. It was a crime which had not only brought misfortune on all those countries which had participated in the spoils, but evil to the whole of Europe, and until Poland was restored and justice done to that gallant and noble nation there would be no hope of permanent peace and tranquillity in any European State. There would still be a body of men in Poland who would seize the first opportunity of any disturbance in Europe, and naturally endeavour to gain back that country which they had lost by spoliation. It was impossible to forget, when speaking of Poland, that Russia had followed a similar course with reference to Circassia. She had seized the inhabitants and landed them on the shores of Turkey, and introduced Russians in their place. In every direction Russia had proved herself an aggressive Power; but he believed the day would come when Russia herself would feel the consequence of her recent and present course of action, and when every Russian would feel it a matter of grief and misfortune to his country that such wrongs had been inflicted by her upon the Polish people.

Amendment proposed. To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "Whereas the Russian Government shows its determination to set at nought the engagements it contracted in 1815 respecting Poland: Whereas the respect of those engagements was the condition on which the Powers of Europe consented to recognize as lawful the possession by the Russian Tsar of the greatest part of ancient Poland: This House cannot any longer abstain from proclaiming that the violation of those engagements implies the forfeiture by the Tsar of all right to such dominion, and also of all right to any further payment by this country of the annual sum conceded to Russia under the name of Russo-Duteh Loan, that payment having been, in 1815, undertaken to be paid during the space of one hundred years in consideration of Russia faithfully co-operating in the maintenance of the stipulations of the same Treaty of 1815,"—(Mr. Hennessy.) —instead thereof.

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


regretted that the question of Poland was again brought forward for discussion in the House, and he should be still more sorry if such a Motion as this were carried. He remembered being in Italy in 1852, when an English, or rather Irish traveller, a Mr. Mather, was wounded in Florence by an Austrian officer. The affair caused a considerable sensation at the time, and the British Consul at Leghorn said to him (Mr. Cave), "I hope they won't ask for money; the impression is so general on the continent that any insult or injury to an Englishman may be atoned for by money." In that case they did ask for money and got it, though not quite so much as they demanded. He was sure the hon. Member's Motion was not meant in that sense, but that he wanted to punish Russia, rather than to relieve England of this payment; and no doubt there was abstract justice in his proposal. But, in like manner, Spain received a large sum from England on condition of putting an end to the slave trade, and it had frequently been proposed that she should be compelled to refund it. It had been always answered, however, and he thought justly, that this was a somewhat low view of the question, and, moreover, would deprive us of the right of future remonstrance or action. He had probably seen as much of Poland as the hon. Member, though he could believe he had not heard quite so much; for the hon. Member, as the champion of Poland, must be overwhelmed with communications of various value, and he entirely shared in the sympathy the hon. Member expressed. It could hardly be otherwise. There were instances of oppression all over the world, and our own hands were not quite clean. But there were, happily, not many instances of a nation of higher type, greater intelligence, and superior civilization trodden down by another inferior in all these respects. It was like Macedon quenching the liberties of Greece, or the Huns destroying the civilization of Imperial Rome. He did not relish the sight of Kosciusko's mound at Cracow, encircled by an Austrian fortress; and when he saw the palace of Willanow, near Warsaw (the cherished abode of the hero Sobieski, Europe's bulwark 'gainst the Ottomite, and still possessed by his descendants), garrisoned by Mahomedan Circassians, who shot the deer, trod down the flowerbeds laid out by the English Countess, wife of the present possessor, and even killed a white doe which used to eat bread out of the children's hands, the words of Virgi! forcibly recurred to his mind— Impius have tarn culta novalia miles habebit, Barbarus has segetes. He would not inquire whether the atrocities which had been so often commented upon were exaggerated or not. He believed they were. A book by Mr. O'Brien gave valuable information on this point. Assuming (and it was late to question this) that the Russians were to hold Poland, severity followed as a matter of course. He did not think Count Berg governed with more harshness than he deemed essential to this end; but, no doubt, his subordinates frequently exceeded their instructions. Still the rule of Russia was very severe. After the insurrection the inhabitants of Warsaw were practically confined to the gates, mourning was not allowed, and shortly before he was there a tragedy occurred which would give an idea of the misery which prevailed. The House knew that an Imperial ukase had been issued, converting every tenant into a freeholder, which was, of course, a measure of confiscation (since imitated by General Paine in Kentucky). There was at the University of Warsaw a Polish noble, professor of medicine, who had let every acre of his land to tenant-j farmers, living upon the rents and devoting the salary of his profession to the assistance of poor students. He was no politician, but a man of science who had taken no part in the insurrection. This ukase reduced him suddenly to beggary and threw him into a state of despondency, during a fit of which he threw himself out of a window and was killed. Enormous fines were levied on the Potocki and other noble families for things happening on their estates, but with which they had nothing to do. Va metis! Such, he supposed, were the natural results of civil war all over the world. We were not quite free from similar imputations in regard to India recently, and to Ireland a hundred years ago. But these were themes for the moralist and historian rather than the practical statesman, and he would ask what good would arise from discussing these transactions. What good had our former interference done? Let him go back a little way. It had often been asked why Poland did not rise during the Crimean war. The answer was that the people were advancing in material wealth, and that the moderate party, which included the best in the land, hoped more from making friends in Russia than from having all Russia as their enemy. At that time there was growing discontent in Russia. The Government by emancipating the serfs had made itself more absolute, and the nobles, that was the middle and upper classes, agitated for representative institutions, and hoped to gain their point from the weakness and fears of the Government. They, therefore, made common cause with Poland, and were prepared to consent even to the political independence of that country, provided they could gain their own ends. At that moment the unfortunate insurrection broke out in Poland, excited, possibly, by the Russians themselves, but it was in consequence of the existence of a revolutionary party in Poland. The men seized by the conscription, which was really a coup d' êtat, belonged to a secret society sworn to take up arms against Russia. The fault of Russia lay not in this, but in neglecting to protect the moderate and loyal party, which was thus placed in a most cruel position between two fires, liable to murder for not joining the insurrection on the one hand, and to confiscation and exile on the other for joining it. It might be that Russia was more afraid of the moderate than of the insurrectionary party, and gladly involved both in common ruin. If so, that was a Machiavellian policy worthy of the severest condemnation. However that might be, the insurrection went on; still there was no sign of sympathy from the reform party of Russia with the Government. They saw their desired opportunity, and remained unmoved, while the Government between discontent within and insurrection without were at their wit's end, till they were unexpectedly relieved by foreign interference. The debates in that Houseand in the French Senate, the speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and still more the despatches of the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department roused the Russian people. Throughout the country it was assiduously disseminated that England owed Russia a grudge for her interference in the East, and France did so for the defeat of 1812. A revulsion of feeling took place. It was felt that the question was no longer between two parties in Russia, but between Russia and a foreign enemy; and as the contests between patricians and plebeians in Rome were quieted by the news that the Volscian or Gaul was at the gates, so the Russian empire was again at unity with itself. The Moscow Reform journal changed its tactics and wrote in favour of the Government. Addresses of sympathy poured in from all sides; and on the other hand the Poles, counting on foreign aid, redoubled their efforts and prolonged their agony, till the Russian Government, relieved from internal dissensions, defied England and France, prepared for war, and, taking advantage of the winter, crushed Poland. At present there appeared to be no chance for Poland. Vast numbers of people from that unhappy country had been exiled, others were in despair. The late ukase had ranged the tenantry on the side of the Government, and those who had seen, as he had, the trophies in the arsenal of Tzarsko-Selo, composed of arms taken from the Poles—arms which might have been borne by the Jacquerie or the Covenanters, would be convinced that the Poles must eventually succumb to a well-armed force. If our past interference had done no good to the Poles, certainly it had not procured any credit to ourselves. Let them, therefore, abstain from idle words which did but miserably deceive, remembering that the vain hope of foreign aid had strewn with corpses the frozen forests of the north, and swollen the long line of exiles on their march to the still more frozen wastes of Siberia. He gave the hon. Member credit for persevering sym- pathy with. a gallant people, but for the reasons he had stated he should feel compelled to Vote against his Motion.


Sir, I entirely agree with the hon. Member 'who has just sat down (Mr. Cave) in regretting that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the King's County should have thought it his duty again to bring this subject under the disoussion of the House. I do ample justice to the honourable sentiments by which the hon. and learned Member is actuated in favour of Poland, and to the perseverance with which he has endeavoured to obtain from the House an expression of opinion favourable to the view which he has adopted. Still I cannot help thinking that on the present occasion he has not exhibited as much judgment as might have been expected from him. The subject of Poland has been repeatedly discussed in this House. Now, it appears to me that there is a rule which ought to be observed in bringing grave subjects forward for disoussion. A Motion of this nature ought only to be put upon the paper for the purpose of obtaining from the House once and for all a decisive expression of opinion which may have the effect of influencing events, or if the occasion should justify it, of obtaining from the Government some action with a view to giving effect to the opinion which such Motion at the same time endeavours to extract from the House. Now, with reference to the first point, this subject has been repeatedly discussed in this House. The hon. and learned Gentleman has himself this evening quoted opinions expressed on occasions similar to the present; so that as far as a deliberate expression of opinion as to the conduct of Russia towards Poland is concerned, nothing can be added to what is already contained in the records of Parliamentary proceedings, and any mere repetition of similar expressions following the others in less decided and more general terms tends rather to weaken instead of strengthening what has been done before, I think, therefore, that inasmuch as the object of the hon. Gentleman is to obtain from the House a condemnation of the conduct of Russia towards Poland, he would have better consulted the interests of the country whose wrongs he deplores by allowing the matter to rest upon the recorded debates and discussions of the House, instead of weakening his cause by affording opportunity to the unjust inference that by the way in which this debate is conducted, the interest excited in favour of the Poles has in any way subsided. Therefore, as far as eliciting an opinion from the House is concerned, I think that the hon. Gentleman has misjudged the course which he should have followed. Then with regard to the second point—a Resolution on this subject should have the object of inducing the Government of this country, acting upon the promptings of Parliament, to interfere in the affairs of Poland for the protection of the Poles. This could be done either diplomatically or by the employment of force. But the hon. Member disclaims any desire that this country should go to war for Poland, and, as he says to-night, he never urged such a course upon the Government. I willingly subscribe to that assertion. He especially always disclaimed any desire that anything falling from him should be construed into a wish on his part that there should be a war between England and Russia on behalf of Poland. But the hon. Member, and with him many other hon. Gentlemen in this House, earnestly recommended the employment by the Government of diplomatic exertions in favour of Poland. The Government was not only asked to undertake this duty by itself, but we were strongly urged to enlist the other Governments of Europe in our endeavour to persuade Russia faithfully to perform her engagements, and to adopt a different course towards the Poles. That action was adopted by us and failed; and because the result of those diplomatic exertions did not realize their anticipations, hon. Gentlemen have made that very failure a matter of reproach to us. The national feelings of the Russian people induced them to rally round their Government. They considered those representations by foreign Powers as implying an intention to coerce the independent action of a great nation; and so far from those representations producing any good result, I am afraid that they only tended to increase the irritation which already existed in Russia against the Polish nation. Here, then, Sir, the employment of force is disclaimed by the hon. Member after the failure of negotiations adopted by the advice and at the earnest entreaty of the hon. Gentleman, and after the failure of similar representations made by nearly all the non-Polish Governments of Europe, who had been induced to make these exertions by the influence of the English Government. But the hon. Gentleman, not de- terred by his own disclaimer and by the failure of what be recommended, now propounds a third method of inducing Russia to perform her engagements—namely, that this House should make a declaration of forfeiture of Russia's right to Poland, and should withhold payments to Russia which are stipulated by treaty. I would ask, however, what would be the value of a declaration made by this House that Russia had forfeited a right accruing to her by virtue of a European treaty? This House is not a treaty-making Power, and this House, I most respectfully submit, is not a treaty-breaking Power. If any treaty which the Crown of England has contracted had been broken by the Power with which the treaty was concluded, it rests with the Crown to represent its claims, and, if necessary, to make war in their vindication; but I maintain that neither the Crown or any one Power has the right by its own declaration, to emancipate itself from obligations contracted with another Power. Therefore, the first part of the hon. Member's Motion, declaring that the Emperor of Russia has forfeited his rights to Poland, in consequence of his non-compliance with the engagements of the Treaty of Vienna, would be a declaration unattended by any practical value, and inconsistent, as I think, with the dignity of the House and the respect which it owes itself. Then the hon. Member makes another proposal. He proposes, in consideration of the violation by Russia of the engagements of the Treaty of Vienna of June, 1815, the discontinuance of the payment on account of the Russo-Dutch Loan, which payment was stipulated to be made to Russia, not by the Treaty of June, 1815, but by the treaty of the May preceding, and therefore in no way connected with the Polish engagements. That engagement on our part had, I repeat, no connection with Poland. The engagement in connection with the Russo-Dutch Loan was undertaken on our part in consideration of Russia supporting the union of Holland and Belgium. The case of forfeiture was to be the failure of Russia to exert her force and means to maintain that union, if it should be endangered. Before the revolution in Belgium no question could arise; but when that revolution had taken place, and a conference of the five Powers assembled, the Governments of England and of France, under the circumstances, were of opinion that it was hopless to expect that the union, which had been broken by the insurrection, could be re-established with any advantage to Europe or any prospect of permanence. Russia, Austria, and Prussia were of a different opinion. They wished the union to be re-established by force, and one great object of the conference was to press upon those three Powers to acquiesce in what we considered to be a fact irreversible except at the risk of a general European war. Russia very reluctantly consented to do that which the English Government wished—to agree to the separation of Belgium from Holland; but then Russia said, "by the letter of the treaty, by the separation of Belgium from Holland, if not prevented by Russia, or if Russia has not used her best efforts to prevent it, she forfeits the payment to her of the amount insured to her on account of the Russo-Dutch Loan, and therefore, as it is at the request of England, at her earnest desire, that we consent to the abandonment of the union, it would be the height of injustice for England to deprive us of the annual payments which under the former treaty she undertook to make to us." That observation was so entirely just and equitable that the English Government had no answer to make, and a new treaty was signed agreeing that the payments should be continued upon Russia consenting to the separation of Belgium from Holland, and that in case at any future time a different arrangement should be contemplated, Russia should not concur in such arrangement without the consent of Great Britain; obviously pointing to some different position of Belgium which might be deemed inconsistent with the interests of Great Britain. But for us to turn round now and to say to Russia, "Because you, Russia, have misconducted yourself with regard to Poland—because you have broken the engagements in the Treaty of June, 1815, with regard to Poland—we are therefore to break our engagements founded upon a different treaty, and based upon wholly different considerations," would be to do that which I hope this House and the Government would ever be ashamed of even contemplating as possible. But see to what a lame and impotent conclusion the hon. and learned Gentleman comes. He is eloquent upon the wrongs of Poland, which nobody denies, declaring that great European rights have been violated, asserting moreover that in which I do not concur, that wherever there is a right there is an obligation to enforce that right. I deny that proposition altogether. Where there is a right there is also a discretion to enforce it or not according to circumstances—to the facility or the difficulty of the task. But see to what an impotent conclusion the hon. Gentleman comes. Here is an hon. Member who arraigns Russia before the tribunal of the world for breaking her engagements, for acting the tyrant towards a deservedly commiserated people, and for having committed cruelties which, in his first notice of his intended Motion he designated in terms which were not, as I thought, very proper for this House to adopt; but having arraigned Russia for one of the greatest crimes recorded in history, as my hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Sir Harry Verney) has said, the hon. Member thinks it would be consistent with the dignity of this great country to sconce Russia of a payment of some £70,000 a year as a punishment for her offence. If the breach of engagements on the part of Russia be such as the hon. Member thinks, and as the other hon. Members agree with him in thinking it to be, then that might be a cause of war; we might take up arms if we could do so with effect to vindicate the rights of Poland and the engagements of the violated treaties; but I must say it would be a thing altogether unworthy of this House, and unbecoming to the country, that we should show our sense of a great European wrong by putting into our pockets, instead of paying into the Russian Treasury, a sum which by a solemn treaty we had undertaken to pay to Russia for considerations which have not been broken. Whatever might be the feelings of the House, it would be a clear violation of an engagement—an engagement wholly distinct from the question of Poland—one not to be affected at all by the conduct of Russia towards Poland; and therefore I hope that this House will not agree to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, inasmuch as I think a record of its opinion upon the conduct of Russia has been sufficiently made in its former debates, and the means by which the hon. Gentleman proposes to give effect to that opinion is one that it is not fitting to the dignity of the House or the good faith of the country to adopt.


said, he could not join in the regret of the hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Cave) that the Motion had been brought forward, inasmuch as it afforded an opportunity of renewing the protest they had made on former occasions against the wrongs of Poland and the scandalous violation of treaties on the part of Russia, and he was glad that the noble Lord who had just spoken had not said one word in derogation of those strong opinions which he had expressed upon that subject. He agreed with the noble Lord in doubting whether there would be any great use in adopting the Resolution. If he were to vote for the Resolution it would be simply as a means of recording again his opinion that Russia had scandalously violated the rights of Poland and the Treaty of Vienna. He would be glad to vote for such a Resolution, because he felt that it would not be entirely thrown away, and that the gallant Poles valued very highly any expression of sympathy on the part of this country. He could not vote, however, for the last paragraph of the Resolution, because the noble Lord, who was too high an authority for him to contest with, had declared that the payment of this money was quite independent of the stipulations of the Treaty of Vienna. He should, upon the whole, advise the hon. Member for the King's County not to divide.


said, he quite agreed that it was not consistent with the dignity of Parliament to be continually expressing a useless sympathy with Poland. There appeared to him to be something humiliating in the spectacle when the struggle was over, during which England had refused to draw the sword on behalf of a gallant and suffering nation, that we should content ourselves with puting on record a fruitless expression of sympathy. For that reason he regretted that the subject had again been brought before the House, and he should have allowed the Motion to be withdrawn, as it probably would be, without taking any part in the discussion, had it not been that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had taken credit to himself and the Government for having acted in the way in which the sympathizers of Poland desired them to act—that they had used diplomatic action in favour of Poland, and that action had, unhappily, been unsuccessful. The noble Lord mistook the recommendations of the hon. Member for the King's County, and the other friends of Poland, who did not want that kind of sympathy. What they did want was, not that England should draw the sword, but, by diplomatic action, if possible, to induce Austria to allow her Gallicism provinces to go free. It was proposed that England and France, in return for the cession of the Gallician provinces, should agree to guarantee Austria the whole of her other dominions in case of attack on her by Russia. That diplomatic action, recommended by the friends of Poland in this country, might have been successful or it might not, but it was certainly not war. The Government, however, took a very different course, which only succeeded in exciting the feelings of the Russian people. France was in earnest, and was ready to go to war; England joined her in her protests and in the six points:—but when matters got to this length, and all the world thought that we were ready to go to war, when Lord Russell heard that the presentation of the six points would he taken by Prince Gort- schak-off as a casus belli, the presentation of the joint note at St. Petersburg was stopped by telegraph. This kind of diplomatic action was humiliating to England, and did no good to Poland. The Government, therefore, could certainly take no credit for having done anything which the friends of the Poles recommended them to do. The case of Poland was one to which Englishmen could not look back without some humiliation, for the Government had either gone too far or not far enough. Now that the struggle was over it certainly would be more consistent with the dignity of Parliament to let the matter pass in silence, and for these reasons he should not support the Motion.


said, he thought that this would probably be almost the last occasion upon which the cause of Poland would be brought forward in that House; because that cause had become so hopeless that our warm expression of sympathy for that country might, as had been truly said, do more harm than good to that unhappy nation, He begged to point out to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the King's County, that a fundamental fallacy had run through the whole of his arguments on this subject. He invokes the aid of this country in favour of the maintenance of the Treaty of Vienna; but, at the same time, he must be aware now that the Poles would be far from accepting the provisions of that treaty. When he visited the country himself some two or three years ago he happened to arrive just at the time when the Count De Lambert, a most intelligent and benevolent-minded gentleman, had been sent there charged with a mission by the Emperor conciliating the Poles. He was ready to do anything which could be done, consistently with the maintenance of his master's authority, to content them. At that time Warsaw was in a state of complete tranquillity, the national emblems were sold in the shops, the patriotic hymns were sung in the churches, and the ladies were allowed to walk in the public gardens in any costume they pleased. That is to say, they were allowed to wear the mourning which would now send them to Siberia. But without wishing to blame, or presuming to pass any judgment on the conduct of the Poles, it was clear that they were not inclined to accept any kind of good Government from Russia short of the concession of their ancient nationality and the cession of Lithuania. How that was to come about was not easy to see, as of course it was hopeless to expect the consent of Russia to such a proposition. Diplomatic negotiations, such as ours, which were not meant to be enforced, were futile. Both in this case and that of Denmark last year, our Government had discovered the absurdity of supposing that they could produce any effect by merely writing despatches which had no force behind them. It has often been said that the best English negotiator was a captain of a three-decker, and the ultimate resort to such an argument must be implied in all diplomacy that is to have any weight. Sympathizing as he did with the Poles, he could not consent to a Motion of this kind. We must endeavour to judge fairly of all, even of the Emperor of Russia. It must be remembered that the Poles were in rebellion against his authority, as according to the Treaty of Vienna; for even in this country rebellion would be put down by the strong arm of the law. If his hon. and learned Friend were to raise the green flag of rebellion in the middle of a cabbage garden in Ireland, as did Mr. Smith O'Brien, he was afraid that not even his prepossessing appearance, nor his commanding eloquence, nor his position in that House, as Member for an Irish county, would save him from a fate which he would shudder to contemplate, and which they would all deplore.


said, that after the debate which had taken place, he would not press the Motion to a division.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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