HC Deb 20 May 1870 vol 201 cc1123-60

The House will understand at what a disadvantage I am placed in bringing forward at this very late hour the Motion of which I have given Notice, and yet I believe it to be the general wish of the House that I should avail myself of the opportunity. In consequence of the lateness of the hour, however, I propose to condense some portion of the observations which otherwise I might have made. But, before I refer to the very lamentable facts which form the occasion for introducing the subject, it may be desirable that I should say something as to my view of the principles which we are to bear in mind in considering the public importance of these facts. There are two classes of persons, it will be seen by the House, mentioned in my Notice of Motion, who have been the subject of the dreadful outrage to which it refers, two of them filling diplomatic positions—those of Secretary of Her Majesty's Legation at Athens, and Secretary of the Legation of another friendly Court, and the other two private English gentlemen travelling in their company. To both these classes of persons principles of no small importance apply with reference to this subject. With regard to all Englishmen travelling in a friendly State pretending to civilization, we have a right to look for the observance and the enforcement by that State of the principle which is briefly stated by Chancellor Kent in his Commentaries on Public Law, when he says— That when foreigners are admitted into a State upon free and liberal terms, the public faith is pledged for their protection. That does not, of course, mean that an exceptional protection greater than that which well-constituted Governments ordinarily extend, and ought to extend, to their own citizens, is pledged to the citizens of foreign States; but it does mean that those foreigners who come within their limits have the public faith pledged to them for the protection of a bonâ fide settled Government, capable of repressing violence, outrage, and crime in that manner, and in that degree, in which human Governments in civilized countries ordinarily are capable of discharging those functions; and it is manifest that, if foreigners were not entitled to look for that protection, all possibility of respecting the independent territorial sovereignty of foreign States would be at an end, and every nation would be compelled to apply its own power for the protection of its own citizens in foreign countries. There is, then, an undertaking given by all States pretending to civilization to all other countries that the principles of civilized government shall be bonâ fide and effectively acted on for the protection of foreign travellers, and more especially that foreigners shall be protected from being the subjects of exceptional outrage because they are foreigners, and because they are persons travelling in the enjoyment or expected enjoyment of the hospitality of a friendly State. But, Sir, the second class of persons to whom I have referred is a class with respect to whom principles of even more universal importance apply; and I must say that I have seen with surprise in some quarters a disposition to suggest that it is not easy to perceive the application to the circumstances of this case of those principles of public International Law which relate to the sacred character of Ambassador. I think there will be needed, on my part, very little reference to either authority or principle, to make it perfectly clear to the House not only that the principles on which that part of the public law is founded are so sacred and so important for all the communications of nations, that no nation can have a higher duty, either to itself or to other nations, than to vindicate them upon every proper occasion, but also that their application in this particular case is exceeding plain. Now, of course, I need not inform anyone here present that the doctrine of the inviolability of Ambassadors applies to all those who are members of the Legation of which Ambassadors and Ministers are at the head, and, therefore, that the two gentlemen who filled the office of secretaries to whom I refer in this case were persons partaking in the fullest degree of the right of protection which belongs to that character. I do not say the principle, but the application of the principle to a case like this, has been called into controversy; and I may therefore, be excused, even at this hour, for mentioning from one or two great public authorities passages which will illustrate what I have to say upon the subject. There is no better known or more popular writer upon International Law than Vattel, and what does he say? He says— The necessity and right of embassies being established, the perfect security and inviolability of Ambassadors and other Ministers is a certain consequence of it. Whoever offers violence to an Ambassador or other public Minister not only injures the Sovereign whom that Minister represents, but also attacks the common safety and well-being of nations; he becomes guilty of an atrocious crime against mankind in general. To admit a Minister—to acknowledge him in such a character, is engaging to grant him the most particular protection, and that he shall enjoy all possible safety. It is true, indeed, that the Sovereign is bound to protect every person within his dominions, whether native or foreigner, and to shelter him from violence; but this attention is in a higher degree due to a foreign Minister. An act of violence done to a private person is an ordinary transgression, which, according to circumstances, the Prince may pardon; but, if done to a public Minister, it is a crime of State, an offence against the Law of Nations, and the power of pardoning in such case does not rest with the Prince in whose dominions the crime has been committed, but with him who has been offended in the person of his representative. That the House will see relates to crimes perpetrated against a Minister by the subjects of the country to which that Minister is sent. Another eminent writer, Wolff, has said that Ambassadors are entitled not only to the same security to which all foreigners are entitled, but to a peculiar and special protection by virtue of the character in which they are received. These principles immediately conduct us to these conclusions—first, that if from a failure in the performance of the general obligation of protecting foreigners a blow falls on those for whom the public faith—the faith not of the Sovereign merely, but of the whole nation—is specially pledged, that is an aggravation, involving a difference in kind as well as in degree, of the crime, which would under any circumstances have been committed, and a great aggravation of the default on the part of the State that neglects those precautions and those duties of government which ought to have been sufficient to shield even the meanest subject of a foreign State from such an outrage. But it is also clear that if any subject of a State to which the Ambassador is credited has offered any violence, indignity, or wrong to that Ambassador, from which his deliverance is possible, it becomes the imperative duty of the State to use all its resources, and not to abstain from any means whatever which can possibly be used to deliver the person to whom the public faith is so solemnly pledged from the condition of jeopardy in which by such outrage he is placed. This doctrine does not mean that the State to which the Ambassador comes guarantees him against all the ordinary casualties of life; it does not mean that anything impossible or unreasonable can be required, or that if a person who does not know him to be an Ambassador does him some casual wrong, that is a special offence on the part of the nation; but what is meant is, that the faith of the nation is pledged, to him to give him every possible protection against wrong or outrage, and to give him redress, and to deliver him, if possible, when wrong has been done. Therefore I say that, in the circumstances of this case, the House has to deal not only with an outrage of a most extraordinary and shocking kind upon British subjects entitled to the protection of a friendly State, and not having received in due measure that protection, but also with an outrage which has been perpetrated, under circumstances much more unprecedented, upon those to whom the public faith of the Greek nation was absolutely pledged, and to assist whom they should not have omitted to do anything that could by any reasonable possibility have been done on the part of that nation, and the people and Government of that country. The House will see, when we go further into this matter, that these principles justify demands which have been made on the part of our Government, which nothing loss probably would have justified, because there can be no doubt that the claims of an ordinary citizen, a man who submits himself to the law of a foreign country, must receive their measure from its laws; but when the faith of a whole nation is pledged to secure the inviolability of particular persons, no municipal law of that nation, no special institution of that nation, can be set up as an excuse against the performance of that obligation. There is an absolute right in the nation which has been wronged to claim the deliverance of that person—if deliverance be possible—without the smallest regard whatever to any impediment arising from any municipal institution which that country may have. Having said so much with regard to the principle of the matter, let me now come to the facts. The short facts of this case we all, unhappily, too well know. These gentlemen went on the 11th of April on a peaceful excursion to a celebrated place, the name of which one would think ought to arouse enthusiasm for everything honourable among the Greeks, and 10 days afterwards they were shockingly and barbarously murdered. How was that done? We find from the Papers that there are at present in Greece two notorious bands of brigands—one called the band of Arvanitaioi, who perpetrated this outrage, and another, a distinct band, under a different leader. Whether there are more I do not know; but I cannot mention the existence of these bands without referring to what is, unhappily, too notorious to all who have paid attention to the affairs of Greece and of the East, to the fact that the system of brigandage in Greece is no ordinary crime arising from those common causes which lead to crime in all countries of the world. It has, I fear, if not a political origin, a great deal too much of political connection, and it has been so for a long time. There are in Greece industrious people who, if the Government would rely upon them, would look to their influence and their interests chiefly, most probably would be as capable of raising their own country to prosperity as they are of raising themselves to wealth in other lands. There is another class of Greeks, a class of military ruffians, who are always ready to invade the territory of their neighbours. They are always ready to stir up turbulence abroad, and inflame the public appetite for lawless extensions? of territory, or something of that kind; and there is only too much reason to fear that these people, and the banditti of whom I speak, are, and have been for many years, too intimately connected, and that persons who are at one time banditti are at other times politicians, taking an active part in such disturbances' abroad as those which only too recently this country has been obliged to repress. However that may be, in the present case this is certain—there was this large and notorious band, whose existence in the country or the neighbouring districts was known, and who were lying in wait for foreign tourists, American and English. They might not know of these particular travellers. Whether that be true or not, on their own showing they were for a week before lying in wait in the neighbouring mountains for foreign tourists, who at that season of the year are in the habit of visiting places celebrated throughout the world. It appears that many people about Athens knew very well that these persons were in the country, although the Government of the country at that time were supposed not to have known it. But I see among the Papers a letter written by the Minister of the Interior to the captain of the flying column on that very day, the 11th of April, in which he says that portions of the band are supposed to be concealed in certain positions he names near Marathon, and orders the head of the horse patrol to make strict search and report the result. In that state of things we come to see what was done in regard to the protection of these English and Italian gentlemen and the ladies who were with them. It appears that every precaution was taken, on their part, to be informed of any danger which might be apprehended, and to get a proper protection against danger. The Chancellor of the British Legation went twice on each of the two preceding days to the office of the police to arrange for a military escort. Orders were given for an escort of four mounted gendarmes, an ordinary escort; but not the least hint of danger was given to them. Not only was this fact stated by Mr. Erskine, in his letter to M. Valaority on the 12th of April; but I find in The Courier of Athens, the Government newspaper, on the 16th of April—this is put forward as part of their case—the four gendarmes were given in conformity to ordinary usage, though no fear was entertained as to the safety of the travellers; it being supposed that there was perfect security in Attica, and that nobody had the least risk in going through it from one end to the other; and yet, it is now clear, that on the very day of the excursion, four days before this newspaper appeared, the Minister of the Interior knew that there was great reason to fear that the banditti were in the neighbourhood of Marathon. Now, it is said that, besides these four gendarmes, orders were sent to a detachment of foot soldiers, who were upon or near the spot, to look for the travellers and give them protection, and it has been stated that the protection intended to be given to the travellers by this additional escort was unfortunately rendered nugatory by the travellers paying no attention to the communication from these foot soldiers that the carriages should go slowly to let the foot soldiers keep up with them, that they might have the benefit of their escort. I am not prepared to say that the statement of the head of that military detachment, who says that such were his orders, and that he did make the communication to one of the gendarmes, and to a suspicious person named Alexander, who, unhappily, was the guide of the travellers, and who denies that statement—I am not prepared to say that that statement may not be true; but I do find, from a communication of Lord Muncaster to Lord Clarendon, that no such intimation ever reached the travellers, and it is clear, even from the statement of the soldiers, that no hint of any extraordinary danger was attempted to be given to them. That was certainly not a mode of managing an extraordinary escort—without any communication to put the travellers on their guard—which would be consistent with the performance of the duty of the Government if there was knowledge of danger, as surely knowledge there must have been. But now I wish to say a little more as to the character of these brigands and their relations with Athens before we go on to consider the question of the responsibility of the Government in this matter. When these unhappy prisoners had fallen into the hands of the brigands, immediately there began a system of communication backwards and forwards with Athens. Mr. Herbert writes to Mr. Erskine stating that the brigands say that they could be heard of in town, having correspondents at head-quarters; and they request that a proper person may be sent to treat with them. They actually themselves sent to the Prime Minister a letter, requesting that he would, without delay, send to them the ransom demanded, threatening to take the lives of the prisoners if it were not sent. The message, the Prime Minister stated to Mr. Erskine, was sent by one of the gen- darmes. It is quite evident that the brigands had easy means of communication with Athens, consulted their own lawyers, and conducted their matters on a footing of independent negotiators in a way inconceivable to persons living under the ordinary laws of civilization. At one time the brigands seemed disposed to accept the ransom of £22,000 on condition that they should be allowed to reach the frontier in safety; but in the course of the night they were visited by persons from Athens, who were believed by M. Zaïmis to be despatched by some of the leading members of the Opposition. There was afterwards some explanation on that subject between M. Zaïmis and Mr. Erskine, the former saying he did not mean to allude to the leaders of the Opposition. True, it was not the leaders of the Opposition in the same sense as the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire is Leader of the Opposition here that were alluded to, but some leading members of the Opposition. But, whatever might be the precise character of the persons, there is no dispute that M. Zaïmis, the Prime Minister, stated his belief that political persons in Athens engaged in political opposition to the Government had put themselves in communication with these brigands, and had given them advice which led to those demands which the Government considered it impossible to comply with. The supposed object of that proceeding was to compel the Government to convoke an extraordinary meeting of the Assembly, and thus afford the Opposition a fresh opportunity of defeating the Ministry and driving them from Office. The brigands also told the agents of M. Zaïmis that, though they had reason to trust their present advisers, yet they sent to Athens to consult three advocates of standing, and that they would come to no decision until they received the advice of those advocates; and it appears, in a subsequent part of the Papers, that M. Zaïmis received the names of these lawyers, but expressed a doubt whether they were the real names of the persons. It is quite certain that the Government and the bandits were engaged backwards and forwards in communications, and that the bandits had their agents in Athens, and persons with whom they were to share the booty. The effect of those communications was shown in the printed Papers before the House. Mr. Herbert wrote to Mr. Erskine—"We know that the chief of the band has communications with Athens, on which he acts," and Mr. Herbert proceeds to say that the brigand chief is a hard man after communicating with Athens. Mr. Vyner writes, on the 16th of April, to Lord Muncaster— There is some one in the background at Athens who fills his head with extravagant ideas; says you are the twelfth richest Lord in England, and first cousin of the Queen. One of the brigands, who was afterwards taken, says— On the evening of the day on which the band was taken by the troops, Takos, in reply to the reproaches of his comrades, said it was not his fault, but that of the high personages who had advised him to insist on the amnesty. I will mention one fact more of the same kind. Upon the body of one of the brigands, who was killed, was found a letter, signed, as is believed, in a feigned name, and dated a month or two before the event, upon the 27th of February, in which he speaks of himself as holding an office in the public service at Athens; and he is so spoken of in a letter from Colonel Théagénis to M. ZaÏimis, the Prime Minister. He says—"It evidently comes from some one in the public service." The man speaks of himself as having been prevented from going to see the brigands by being called back to Athens, where MM. CousseÎ have nominated him to another post. This, as it appears to me, is an extraordinary state of things. The Minister is continually putting it forward that he finds there are two sets of people in Athens communicating with the brigands, the Government and their agents, and other people and their agents. All this is going on and nothing whatever is done, as far as I can see, to find it out and prevent it, or to get hold of the people who do it and punish them; and all this ends, as the House will see, in the destruction of those unhappy Englishmen. At this stage of the matter I will ask the House to consider whether it is not plain that there was, so far, a failure in the performance of those public duties which devolve upon a country like Greece? I put aside our being one of the protecting Powers, and all political obligations; I put aside for the present the diplomatic aspect of the question entirely; but I cannot help thinking that the representative of this country in Greece did well, when, upon the 12th of April, the earliest date he could, he wrote to M. Valaority— You must permit me to say that the facts of the case imply a want of vigilance on the part of the authorities which is altogether inexcusable.…. I cannot refrain from observing that it appears to me that great negligence has been shown by the authorities who are intrusted with the maintenance of order, and, consequently, that the Hellenic Government may be held answerable for what has occurred. That was for the mere event of the capture; and everything which happened afterwards, to my apprehension, aggravates that, even in the gravest degree. I think the House will also agree with me that Lord Clarendon, who, in my humble judgment, appears in no respect wanting in a proper tone in his communications upon this subject with the Greek Government, was right when he said— It is a scandal to civilization, and an offence to the Powers who called Greece into existence as an independent State, and, as such, have protected her, that, after the lapse of 40 years, such things should occur. On this subject I may quote not only Mr. Erskine and Lord Clarendon, but also the Greek journal The [...] I suppose Mr. Erskine would not have sent it unless he thought it a fair representative of independent Greek opinion. The journal of the 14th of April said— Everyone has felt that the blow affects not the Government, but the State. …. Both the place where this act of brigandage was committed—the neighbourhood of the very capital, and the hour (in full daylight), and the number of the brigands—above all, the position of the captives, render this act of brigandage that which was required to wound the reputation of our State, and re-open wounds which had hardly been healed from a series of long past events. … If the Government ignored what was known to private persons as to the presence of bands of brigands in Attica, or, knowing it, failed to take measures against them and left the public in unfounded confidence, no logic or argument can exonerate them from the responsibility. We have, therefore, the concurrent judgment of our own Minister in Greece, of our own Minister at home, and of public opinion in Greece itself, all tending to fix the responsibility for this calamity upon the Government of Greece. I had put aside for a moment all considerations of a diplomatic character; and I now return to them to show the House—and I do not stand alone in taking that view—that it is of the utmost importance that this country should vindicate the rights of the diplomatic body to protection from the Governments to whom they are accredited, that this is a case which manifestly calls for the assertion of that principle; and, further, that the diplomatic character of these two gentlemen had a vast deal to do with all which followed, and with the miserable deaths which were so cruelly inflicted upon them. I shall first appeal to one of the most amiable of witnesses, Mr. Vyner. It is impossible not to speak without some feeling in reading his words. He, writing to Lord Muncaster on the 19th of April, says— Telegraph to De Grey to ask Lord Clarendon to urge on the Greek Government to get us released, as they can do it and will, if sufficient pressure is put upon them, and write to him, or send on this letter, explaining that this is no ordinary act of brigandage, but to a certain amount political, and that we went to Marathon on the War Minister's word. Did not Mr. Erskine take the same view of the matter? He, on the 12th of April, writes thus to Lord Clarendon— I do trust that, as this is a case of two persons belonging to the diplomatic body, who had apprised the authorities of their intention to visit Marathon, who had obtained an escort which they had a right to consider sufficient, and who received no intimation whatever of danger, your Lordship may see fit to hold the Greek Government answerable for what has occurred. Lord Clarendon must have been acting upon the same most just and proper view of his duty when he wrote to Mr. Erskine on the 21st of April—unhappily too late, for the telegraph failed us as well as other things in this case— I authorize you to insist on the discredit that attaches to Greece from the prevalence of brigandage, which no effectual means are taken to suppress, and to declare that the British Government would not accept, as an excuse for the sacrifice of life, the plea that even for its preservation pardon could not be extended to the brigands. In that and other despatches Lord Clarendon says that he could not for a moment admit the putting forward by the Greeks of the letter of the Constitution as making it impossible to grant this amnesty, and Lord Clarendon is right. It is possible that if these had been mere ordinary travellers he would not have been right; but these were men for whose safety the public faith of Greece had been pledged, and no law could stand in the way of the sacred obligation of the people to redeem these gentlemen from their captivity and preserve their lives. No legal and technical obstacles should have been put in the way of the fulfilment of one of the first and most sacred duties of a civilized country. That view was also taken by the foreign Ministers at Athens. The representative of Italy wrote to his Government on the 14th of April, stating that the Ministers of France, Austria, and Prussia had simultaneously made a verbal communication to the Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs, expressing to him their conviction that the Hellenic Government was bound to pay the ransom; basing it on the violation of the security due to diplomatic employés, and in order not to prejudice future rights." All the other foreign Ministers at Athens afterwards expressed their concurrence in this representation. That was at a time at which it appeared possible by a ransom to save these invaluable lives. What was the result? Plainly this—The Greek Government virtually admitted their responsibility, and accepted the whole control and management of the measures for the release of the prisoners, undertaking, practically, to be answerable for the result; and the fact that two of these gentlemen were the representatives of two foreign Governments gave a peculiar character to the situation of things, bringing in its train all the consequences which followed. Count Delia Minerva writes on the 14th of April— The brigands retained the five travellers and the interpreters, and they no sooner learnt that there were two Secretaries of Foreign Legations than they commenced dancing and jumping with frantic joy. It was a fact that these gentlemen filled this sacred character which led to the enormous demands of the brigands. Then followed, perhaps, one of the most remarkable events which has happened in the communications of civilized nations. The brigands wrote a letter, addressed to the two Ministers of the insulted Powers. On the 14th of April they put themselves in direct communication with the representatives of England and Italy, throwing upon them the responsibility of doing that which they required. That obliged the Ministers of England and Italy to send them an answer, which is not without a material bearing upon some parts of the case. I said that the whole behaviour of the brigands was founded on this. Mr. Herbert writes to Mr. Erskine on the 17th of April, and says that the chief brigand talked to him like a lawyer, just as you might imagine a man to talk who has just received advice from his counsel at Athens— He says that the representatives of England and Italy should say to the Greek Government that they do not care at all how the thing is done, whether by amnesty or no, whether an amnesty be legal or not; but that all they require is the return of their people, faute de quoi, the fleets of England and Italy will destroy Greece. On such a representation, he says, the Greeks would find a way quickly, as, he says, they do not care for laws. I do not adopt the language of the brigands; but it rests upon a perception of the fact that they had got into their power two persons, for whose protection the honour of three nations was pledged. Then Mr. Herbert adds— I have no doubt the Government of the King will do what it can; but of course they see that, having taken the matter up themselves, they have made it almost impossible for us to treat separately, because the interest shown by the Government, thoroughly kindly and sincere as it is, of course has a tendency to make them think that protection will be extended to us under all circumstances. Pray do not suppose we wish to lose that interest and protection, for it seems now to be our only chance. I might make other citations to the same effect; but it is clear that the diplomatic character of these gentlemen, while it aggravated the crime, aggravated the danger and led eventually to the death which they suffered. I have already said I think that Lord Clarendon was abundantly justified in his opinion that, under the circumstances no legal or technical objection should have stood in the way of the deliverance of these prisoners, for whom the public faith of Greece had been pledged. The Greek Government were willing to do everything except that which was a mere matter of form; they were willing to let the brigands receive the ransom, and even to give hostages for their safe passage over the frontier, or embarkation on board a British vessel. It was not, therefore, that they held themselves bound in duty to punish these people, but that they refused to be guilty of a technical breach of law—in a case in which it only became necessary because they had failed to prevent the systematic defiance of law—even to save the lives of those gentlemen, though they were practically willing that the brigands should be made safe. Under these circumstances, I think no one can have any serious sympathy with the difficulty which was made upon the point of amnesty; or hesitate to draw the conclusion that the Greek Government, having declined to save the lives of the captives in that way, which would undoubtedly have been effectual, took upon themselves the responsibility of using means, which should be proper and effectual for saving them in some other way. One broad fact is clear—that these precious lives might have been, and were not, saved. I must add some further observations, without unnecessarily entering into details, to show how utterly the Greek Government failed in the management of that mode which they deliberately chose to resort to as the best mode of delivering the captives. It is perfectly plain that, even without granting an amnesty, by the exercise of a little sound judgment and common sense, the lives of those gentlemen might have been saved. The enormous ransom demanded—£25,000—would have been paid—and I wish the Greek Government had at once intimated their readiness to pay the money, for that they would have had to pay it in the end is a matter beyond all doubt. It would have been more grateful if they had enabled me to say that they at once accepted the responsibility and furnished the ransom. But be that as it may, the means were forthcoming from other sources, an English ship was in readiness, and nothing else was required to secure the safety of the captives except a little more time for parleying and the abstinence of the troops employed by the Greek Government from anything like hostile action. I am bound to state that there is but one circumstance in the whole case which in the least degree tends to palliate—but which, rightly understood, does not remove the responsibility of the Greek Government—I allude to the fact that the measures they took were to a certain extent communicated to Mr. Erskine, and to a certain extent received his sanction. It is, however, only just to that gentleman to say that the construction which he manifestly put on the communications made to him contemplated an entirely different course of proceeding from that which was eventually adopted; a course intended to guard against the contingency of the prisoners being withdrawn to an indefinite distance after all bonâ fide treaty for their liberation should have come to an end. The brigands themselves throughout held the same tone. They said to their prisoners—"We cannot allow you a long delay; we must have our terms and have them soon; if the troops molest us, we shall kill you." On the 14th of April Mr. Herbert wrote to Mr. Erskine to this effect—"Do what you can to stop the troops from pursuing us." Mr. Erskine saw the Minister for War, M. Soutzos, and he, not appearing to think the threats of the brigands would be seriously executed, admitted that he had received a letter from the chief of the band with a similar threat, and promised, at Mr. Erskine's request, to issue orders against any further pursuit of the brigands by the troops. Then comes the letter which the English and Italian Ministers wrote to the brigands on April 14th. The words are these, and I look upon the document as of great importance when taken in connection with subsequent events— The English and Italian Ministers have received your communication. There will be no difficulty as to the payment of the money, but you must not insist on an amnesty, which Government have not the power to grant. Persons will be sent to treat with you, but in the meantime both the King and the President of the Council have assured the English Minister that you shall not be molested. That, of course, implies an absolute and indefinite guarantee of non-molestation as long as any real treaty was going on. Well, Mr. Erskine at first felt almost at his ease, for writing on the 16th of April, when the band had gone to Oropos, he says that he felt no apprehension for the safety of the prisoners— As the brigands are now aware that they can, when they choose, obtain an exorbitant ransom, with liberty to convey it beyond the reach of the Greek authorities. But on the next day more urgent letters came from Mr. Herbert, Mr. Lloyd, and Mr. Vyner, stating that they were pressed by the brigands, that they were in danger, and that the threats which had been held, out would be carried into execution, and representing that, above all, there must be no pursuit and no molestation. They suggest, moreover, that some more responsible and trustworthy person should be sent to treat than the persons—and who they were we do not know—hitherto employed by the Government, and Mr. Erskine suggested that Colonel Théagénis should be sent. He was aide-de-camp to General Church, an English officer long resident at Athens, who had been in the public service of Greece, and a man of very high character. I am willing to believe that Colonel Théagénis may have been everything that Mr. Erskine represents, as far as character and integrity were concerned; but I wish I could say that his discretion equally justified the choice. I cannot but think there was a great deficiency in this respect upon his part. However, he was sent to negotiate; and the instructions he received stated that the Ministers of England and Italy had demanded that all pursuit should cease against the Arvanitaioi, and that the Government had been obliged to consent to this demand as long as the captives remained near Athens; but that the band instead of remaining at Keramidi had gone towards Oropos, carrying the prisoners with them. Then, after referring to the demands of the brigands, Colonel Théagénis is instructed to convey to the band—first, the assurance that the ransom is ready to be paid to them whenever they are ready to receive it, and that they will be permitted to leave the territory either by land or by sea, embarking if they please on board an English vessel; secondly, that it is impossible the amnesty can be granted; thirdly, that no harm is to be done to the prisoners; fourthly, that on no pretext are they to remove from Oropos, so that the prisoners may be able easily to communicate with their respective Ministers; warning them that if the band quitted Oropos the Government would consider themselves relieved from the undertaking they had given to the foreign Ministers to suspend all pursued against the Arvanitaioi. These instructions were followed up two days afterwards by another supplementary instruction from the Prime Minister of Greece. It seems that some letter had been written by Colonel Théagénis to the captain of some troops in the neighbourhood of Oropos, mentioning his suspicion that the brigands were about to leave Oropos— We hasten to transmit you an order in case of a refusal on the part of the Arvanitaioi to deliver up the captives on receiving the ransom. You are to order the military detachments to make a blockade of Oropos, and to prevent them with all your power from leaving with their captives. They are to be strictly shut up in Oropos, and then you may renew the proposals. Now, I must confess I think that was a perilous order to give; but it was given on the responsibility of the Greek Government, who undertook that it should be executed in the spirit and for the purpose for which the negotiation was going on. Mr. Erskine, I am satisfied, would never have assented to it but for the understanding established with him as to the caution to be exercised and the abstinence from any attack upon or molestation of the brigands; because I find Mr. Erskine, in his despatch of the 21st of April, says— Colonel Théagénis received his instructions from the whole Cabinet in my presence, and I am bound to say that complete latitude was left him as to the terms to be granted, except on the two points to which I have already adverted, and on which the Government cannot give way. In all other respects he is to be most conciliatory, and he was good enough to promise that he would himself accompany the brigands as a hostage in case they could be induced to liberate the captives. Count Delia Minerva, in his last despatch, speaking on the same subject, said— In order to prevent the brigands from carrying out the plan they had formed of taking their prisoners into Thessaly, the troops moved up on all sides, and were so placed as to be two or three hours' distance from Oropos, where the brigands were. The soldiers received strict orders not to fire if the lives of the prisoners were in any way endangered. The first and most important question was how to save the lives of the prisoners. I confess that applying my judgment as a civilian to the matter, it appears to me that it would have been a wiser course not to have moved the troops into the neighbourhood at all; but if the troops were moved with these instructions, that the safety of the captives was to be their first object, and that they were not to fire or use their arms if any possible injury could arise to the captives, then I cannot but think Mr. Erskine might well have said—"This is the course which, on their own responsibility—a responsibility which naturally lies with them—the Greek Government think maybe adopted so as to secure the deliverance of the captives. They refuse to take the course of granting an amnesty. They think this is the necessary course. I myself see that if the brigands were to propose to go away altogether out of reach, it might be necessary to take some course to prevent their doing so; and therefore, assuming that the instructions will be acted upon in good faith and according to their spirit, I see no objection to them." This, I think, was the view taken by Mr. Erskine, and it is shown to be so, because when he received the information which afterwards came, he expressed his opinion that the conduct of Colonel Théagénis had been much less conciliatory than he expected. Not to prolong a sad and painful story, I will remind the House that on the 20th of April—probably too late for any good—there came a report from Colonel Théagénis and a series of letters from Mr. Herbert, Mr. Lloyd, and Mr. Vyner, all showing the imminence of the danger and the certainty of their death if the soldiers were put into operation against them. Mr. Noel, a gentleman who is entitled to the highest praise, here comes forward and is active. He writes with full knowledge of the country, and assures Mr. Erskine that if a collision occurs between the soldiers and the brigands the death of the captives is certain. He telegraphs to say they are going to Sykamenos, and he adds that they will accept the terms. He had actually brought things to such a point that he felt assured the terms would be accepted, and he received for answer that they should not be molested at Sykamenos, and thereupon he prepared to go immediately from Chalcis to Oropos; but was obstructed by some pettifogging objection as to the use of the Government boat, because it is required for some petty purpose of the collection of taxes, and he could not go in his own boat because he is delayed and intercepted, and so precious time is lost and he is not able to give the safe conduct. In the meantime, the brigands have crossed from Sykamenos and the troops are brought to bear against them. Alexander, the courier, is sent with Mr. Erskine's and the Italian Minister's promise of safety in his hand to beg and entreat that the pledge may be respected. He does not come back in time. The firing occurs—it is impossible to say who begins it—but the troops were put into action against the brigands, and that was the direct and immediate cause of the disaster. And so the Greek Government being under the most sacred obligations to save these gentlemen, and having been able to save them, either by waiving technical points of form, or by conducting with all the discretion, forbearance, and common sense which it demanded, the operation, which they undertook to conduct in their own way, failed in both these points, and the re- suit has been the death of these most unfortunate gentlemen. It has been a painful duty to me to bring this matter to the notice of the House. It has been painful, first of all, for the Motion relates to the loss of four, as far as I can judge, very unusually precious lives. I will first speak of the Italian gentleman, who is described in touching terms by the Minister who employed him, and the Minister under whom he served, as a young man of pure character and brilliant promise, beloved by every one who knew him. I myself had the honour of some acquaintance with the gentleman who was connected with our own Embassy, Mr. Herbert. The words which are used of Count de Boyl are eminently applicable to Mr. Herbert, a gentleman of no ordinary intellectual gifts, and of the most absolute purity, simplicity, and nobleness of life—a man the loss of whom to this country, under any circumstances, would have been a very serious and grave misfortune. The other two gentlemen I can say less of from personal knowledge, though one of them was the son of an old friend of mine at the Bar with whom I have frequently sat side by side, and the son was not entirely unknown to me. He was a gentleman of promise and of character, and if we may judge from the exhibition of his character made by himself and his companions in misfortune, as they appear in these Papers, he was a man of a brave as well as a generous spirit, thinking of his wife and child and others much more than himself, and having an eye to the beauties of nature even when all those perils and miseries were upon them. As to Mr. Vyner, I can only say that, though a stranger to him personally, I think one almost learns to feel affection for him in reading the memorials which in this book have been left behind. Never did anyone leave memorials of a more gentle or gallant spirit; he was not willing to be saved at the expense of his courier, his servant, his friend, or of any other person. He exhibited a natural desire for life; but if that was not possible, he, in the simplest and most unaffected manner, asked for nothing but an English Bible and the prayers of his friends. The loss of such men would, under any circumstances, be a cause of great public sorrow, and that is one reason why bringing forward such a matter is a difficult and painful duty. I frankly confess there is another thing which makes it painful to me. I have been obliged to speak as I have thought just and necessary of the public responsibility of the Government of Greece, and there is no doubt that for the purpose of public responsibility a Government is represented by its Sovereign. But, in this case, the pain I have felt in dealing with the matter is increased by my sense of the generosity of the individual Sovereign who presides over that nation, himself evidently a man of kindly, generous, and noble spirit, who, in the first impulse of sorrow and indignation of this violation of the public faith of the country over which he presides, could even think of a thing so impossible indeed as putting himself personally in the place of the prisoners, and every opportunity he could use he did use to show his sense of this calamity. Of course, that does not alter the public responsibility of the nation; but it is consistent with the expression of what is due to the faith of nations in respect of the wrong which this country has suffered from the Greek Government—it is consistent with that to acknowledge what is due personally to the Sovereign of that land. I will, before I conclude, say this also of the Greek nation—that it is to mo a matter of sincere pain to be obliged to bring against their State such a charge of public wrong as I have felt it necessary in this case to do. I was one of those who, in the earliest dreams of youth, looked forward with hope to the realization of those bright visions of a new Greece, which might emulate the virtue and the greatness and the freedom of that Greece to which we are all so much indebted for the literature which has been the ornament and inspiration of mankind for ages. I rejoiced in her success and her emancipation as a youth, and I could not bring myself to believe that those were untoward events which the wise politicians of that day lamented as disturbing the balance of power in Europe. Of course, a boy's politics are of very little importance; but throughout life I have continued to hope that the day would come when those visions which grown-up and wise men as well as boys in those days entertained of the future civilization and glory of Greece might be realized. I do not yet utterly despair. I see that Mr. Erskine says, in a passage of one of his despatches, that it would be quite possible to put down these things which we lament. He says— I feel persuaded that were it to be well understood that the nation would have to make good any loss inflicted upon foreigners owing to the neglect or mismanagement of the Government, the latter would soon discover the means of putting a stop to a state of things which is mainly due to the supposed exigencies of party warfare, and which is a disgrace to any community calling itself civilized. If this terrible calamity which we to-day deplore should have the effect of producing a better state of things in Greece, we shall not be without consolation. I cannot but express my opinion that this is an opportunity which this country may most legitimately use—this country which, even as one of the protecting Powers, might well interpose—to urge on Greece the necessity of putting an end to this anarchy. And the rights which this opportunity gives us of remonstrance, and more than remonstrance, are such that I own that to me it will be a disappointment if, in the result, it should not happen that, in addition to those strict inquiries after the guilty, and the punishment of the guilty if they are detected, which have been already demanded—in addition to that reparation which the Greek Government has offered to the only persons connected with this misfortune to whom, probably, any pecuniary reparation would be useful or acceptable—if our Government does not embrace this opportunity to impress on the Greek Government, in a manner that shall be effectual, the necessity and the duty of making the lives of British subjects and those in the employment of the British Crown safe hereafter in that country. Sure I am, from what I read in these Papers, that the other Governments of Europe will concur in any measures that may be necessary to enforce that duty upon the Greek Government. But surer still I am that, if that course should be taken, it will of all other States in the world most redound to the benefit and the credit of Greece itself, and make the day when these calamities happened, and when this Government required due reparation for them, a day for ever to be remembered among the brightest in the annals of Greece, not, indeed, for this crime and the shame that accompanied the crime, but for those consequences of a happier and a better future which the reparation of this crime may afterwards and in the end produce. Before I conclude, by putting the Question of which I have given Notice to the Government, I beg to say for myself that I see nothing in these Papers on the part of the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office which in any degree whatever has led me to doubt that he and the Government of which he is a Member will do their duty on this occasion. It was not, in the smallest degree, from any such doubt that I was induced to bring forward this matter. On the contrary, I acknowledge most cheerfully that the tone which pervades every one of that noble Lord's despatches is in every way worthy of himself and of this country. But I trust that Her Majesty's Government will not think it amiss that the Question should be publicly put to them which I now venture to ask—namely, Whether they are able to state to the House what measures have been or will be taken to obtain from the Greek Government such satisfaction for this unprecedented outrage as Her Majesty is entitled to claim according to the Law of Nations, and to ensure the due protection, for the future, of the lives of the Diplomatic servants and other subjects of the British Crown within the Kingdom of Greece?


* Sir, nothing but the cruel death of my dear and intimate friend Mr. Herbert would induce me to take any part in this debate; and before I do so, let me fulfil my first duty in bearing my sad but willing testimony to the gentle disposition, to the high and chivalrous character, and to the excellent abilities of a gentleman who, if he had been spared, would have added to the list of eminent men who already illustrate the noble family to which he belonged. Sir, in the sad history of the tragedy with which his name is connected, we have but this one consolation, that it records the humane disposition of our Minister at Athens, the noble language of our Minister for Foreign Affairs in England, and the gallant spirit of our unfortunate countrymen, who died as heroically as any of those whose fame incited them to visit the plain of Marathon. I will now shortly explain the nature of the Motion which I propose to submit to the House. It will be asked, when I condemn so strongly as I do the conduct of the Government of Greece, whether I should not prescribe a course to be pursued in consequence of that conduct. I am a Member of Parliament; Papers on this subject have been laid before Parliament, which I have examined; they force upon me a certain conviction, and it is my duty, as a Member of Parliament, to express that conviction; but I am not a Member of the Government; I have full confidence in the Government, and having done my duty, I wish to leave it to do its duty freely. It would be superfluous to follow my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Roundell Palmer) through all the details of this case—details which he has explained so fully and so clearly. I will simply say that, whilst I think we have no right to demand satisfaction from a foreign Government, because British subjects travelling in the country of that Government meet in an ordinary way with accidents, we have here persons not travelling through a country and meeting with accidents there in an ordinary way, but persons going to a particular spot under a particular guarantee, arrested by bandits dwelling habitually on the lands of the Minister who gave these unfortunate gentlemen their escort. Nor are all these gentlemen mere travellers—amongst them are the Secretaries of two Legations, one of those Legations being that of a State to which Greece owes her independence, and of which the safety of the meanest citizen ought to be a sacred trust to every Greek who remembers the cession of the Ionian Islands and the battle of Navarino. Negligence and supineness, however, are passive faults for which excuses may be offered; but when I blame the Greek Government, it is not only for negligence, but also for mischievous activity, which was the especial cause of the calamity we are deploring. I cannot deny that I participate in the regret expressed by my hon. and learned Friend that our Minister lost any time in listening to the disquisitions of Athenian lawyers. I wish he had said to the Government of Greece—I am here speaking of the question of an amnesty—"There is an International Law more powerful than any law of Greece, which tells you to protect as inviolable those who have been accredited to your Court upon the implied pledge that you would provide for their security." There is also a law of hospitality, a law of gene- rosity, if I do not say one of gratitude, each of which is 100 times more powerful than the law of the Greek Constitution, framed without an idea of its being applied to such a case as this. But it is easier to criticize after events have taken place than to act in them. The position of Mr. Erskine, moreover, was most difficult; his willingness to take personal responsibility is proved by the offer of a British vessel of war, when he could not but feel uncertain as to whether so extraordinary a step would be sanctioned at home; and knowing him personally, I can answer that it was from no selfish, fear as to the exercise of his own rights, but from an over-scrupulous regard for what he thought might be the rights of others, that he did not overrule with a higher hand and a more determined authority the punctilious conscience of those gentlemen who were more alarmed at infringing legal technicalities than the principles of humanity, honour, and justice. But, Sir, the question as to an amnesty is of less importance, since it so happened that the safety of the prisoners was not finally dependent on that question. The safety of the prisoners depended practically from first to last on the brigands not being pursued. From first to last, as my hon. and learned Friend has well explained, this was urged as the primary necessity for the captives' security. Mr. Herbert and Mr. Lloyd both said—"If the brigands are not pursued by the troops we shall be in safety." Mr. Erskine, in a letter to the Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs, claims a promise, which is granted, that the troops shall not be ordered to pursue the brigands, and our Minister actually sends to the brigands and informs them that they will not be pursued, and that they may resort to the villages and thus afford shelter to their captives without fear. The brigands act on this promise; and though the negotiation, on account of the denial of an amnesty, is prolonged, the captives feel no alarm as to their ultimate deliverance. All of a sudden everything changes. The Greek Government has been told it will have to pay the ransom, and from that moment feels peculiar regret for its past inertness, and determines to adopt a line of energy and action. What is the first step it takes?—It orders the troops to march on the brigands. This measure which it had been universally admitted hitherto would be our countrymen's destruction, is taken—as it is said—in zeal for their safety; and it is accompanied by sending a confidential agent to the brigands, a gentleman called Colonel Théagénis. The avowed mission of this gentleman is to calm the brigands' minds, to assure them that if they will allow themselves to be surrounded they will get their ransom, and, on delivering the captives, be allowed to escape; but to insist on the condition that they must allow themselves to be surrounded! With these orders Colonel Théagénis appears on the scene, and by way of calming the brigands' minds, says the promise for their not being molested is withdrawn—that if they attempt to move from the village where they are they will be shot; and, in fact, whilst telling the bandits they are to keep still, instills into them the conviction that their only chance for life is to run away. The captives see their danger; they write to Mr. Erskine. They tell him that their captors think they have been deceived and betrayed; they do not disguise that they themselves think that the word plighted to the robbers is being broken; they beg that the troops may be withdrawn, that more time may be given for negotiation; it is evident that they write in distress and with the conviction of extreme danger. At this dark moment, however, a ray of light appears. A Mr. Noel, an English gentleman, residing in the country, negotiates with the brigand band, and succeeds in obtaining a promise that if the troops will not molest or pursue them further they will release the captives, take the ransom, and depart in the British ship that has been offered. Mr. Erskine hears this and is delighted; M. Zaïmis also hears it. It is clear, I think, that M. Théagénis, who is on the spot, cannot be ignorant of it. What does M. Théagénis do? Does he withdraw his troops and allow the negotiation to continue; the prisoners to be saved; the ransom to be given; the brigands to escape? No. He has but a few hours to prevent this; he does prevent it. He presses on his troops; he still further irritates and alarms the men who have the fate of our countrymen in their hands, and he thus resumes an account of his success— It appears that they—the brigands—have the intention or rather the resolution to advance towards Bœotia, and even further, and an attack against them can only expose to inevitable peril the lives of the prisoners, a peril which these gentlemen perfectly foresee. To-morrow, with the troopers under my orders, I go to Salessi, to communicate to Captains Apostolidis and Liacopoulo, who are there, the determination of the Government to prevent, even by force, the advance of the band of the brigands towards Bœotia. So this confidential agent of the Greek Government, Colonel Théagénis, who had been especially sent, as it was said, to save the captives, states coolly that he is going to do the thing which he knows will cost them their lives, and reports that he has done this, with the utmost indifference, and without the least apparent forethought that he shall displease the authorities he is acting under. There are other details; but I want no other details to show that Colonel Théagénis, the confidential agent of the Greek Government, was as much the murderer of the unhappy captives, as if he had shot them dead with his own hand, which would have been a less cruel destiny. It may be said that this officer had instructions with which Mr. Erskine was acquainted, and that if he did not act in the spirit of those instructions the Greek Government is not responsible. Nothing was easier than to give instructions to be shown to Mr. Erskine; but I am accustomed to look for the real instructions given to an agent in that agent's conduct. Besides, Colonel Théagénis has neither been disgraced nor reproved. There is nothing to disconnect him with those who employed him, and therefore I am justified in saying, that the real murderers of Mr. Herbert, Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Vyner, and the Italian Secretary of Legation, were—the Greek Ministers. In fact, it appears to me that, from first to last, two parties have been playing their small game of ambition with the lives of our countrymen. Those who were out of Office have been endeavouring to compromise those in power by instructing the brigands to make demands which, if granted, might lead to a Parliamentary attack; those who were in Office have been determined to avoid giving their opponents this advantage, while they were at the same time anxious to gain some increase of their own authority and prestige by a victory over the outlaws who had been consulting with their rivals, without caring that that victory could only be purchased by the lives of a few foreigners, whether Italians or English. Mark!—The safety of the captives was combined with the escape of the brigands and the payment of £25,000; their death was likely to destroy the brigands and save the ransom. I say, with a tremulous voice, that I fear the last alternative was deliberately chosen. I wish to heaven I were mistaken; but, with the fear I have not scrupled to declare, it is intolerable to me that we should be honouring the individuals who form the present Cabinet of the King of Greece with the title of "Excellency," and treating them with all the deference due to the representatives of a friendly and civilized State. But while I speak thus in respect to these men who fill at this moment official situations in Greece, I have no wish to confound with them the Greek nation. I have known that nation from my boyhood; I have resided in its towns; I have visited its almost inaccessible fastnesses; and I believe honestly and truly that, excepting a small clique of politicians in Athens, there is not one single man in Greece—whether amongst the commercial residents of the seaports, or the rural population of the mountains—who will not hear with horror the tale of treachery and blood which is to be found in the Papers before us. Let me continue to say, that no one admires more than I do the brilliant qualities for which the Greek race is remarkable; and I ask Gentlemen who have known Greeks out of their own country and not under their own Government, whether they have not found them cultivated, intelligent and honourable men? Nor is it the fact of crime being committed in that country and under that Government, but the fact that in that country and under that Government, crime raises no barrier, creates no distinction, which confuses my ideas and paralyzes my hopes. You see the assassin, his hands dripping with the blood of his innocent victim, in constant and cordial intercourse with the priest who directs his conscience; while the robber, who is lurking in ambush for the unwary traveller, lives on terms of the most friendly fraternity with the police, and has the satisfaction of having a Minister of State for the godfather of his children. This state of things brings me to the other question to which my Motion is especially directed. A friend of mine, better acquainted with the mysteries of Greek politics than I am, said to me—"Are you aware of what you are doing? Why, you may drive Zaïmis out of power; but if you drive Zaïmis out of power you will bring in Bulgaris, and Bulgaris is more connected with brigandage than Zaïmis." I cannot condescend, with the mangled bodies of my friends and countrymen before my eyes, to turn them down on the miserable arena of Greek politics, and to speculate on who may next misrule that unfortunate country which is under our protection. But if the men in power, who have justly incurred our indignation, can only, under the present system of Government prevalent in Greece, be succeeded by others less worthy than they—a fact on which I do not pronounce an opinion—that is not a reason for saying—"Let M. Zaïmis and his colleagues escape reprobation!" but it would be a reason for putting an end to a system under which either M. Zaïmis or M. Bulgaris must misgovern, and from which no good can be expected. I shall be told—"You want a strong Government in Greece; that is what the Russians want." If the Russians wish to have a Government in Greece which would preserve order and life, and we wish to have a Government there under which life and property are insecure—then, I say, all honour to the Russians. I do not fear to make that declaration, because during all my life I have given sufficient guarantees for the liberality of my opinions. I am for free institutions, wherever free institutions are practicable; but I do not pretend to say that the same institutions should be given to all nations. I do not know whether any Gentleman here has read a remarkable work by an American statesman—Mr. Calhoun—on Free Government, the greatest work written on this subject probably since the Decades of Macchiavelli. He says— I hold it to be a disgrace to the noble character and nature of free institutions to maintain that every race or every state of society is fit to enjoy them. When there was a question of giving a Sovereign to the Greeks, I confess I should have said to them—"You, who are so proud of your own intelligence and independence, make use of these qualities, and form a Government out of your own resources." Had that been done, Greece would, no doubt, have undergone an interregnum of strife and confusion, but would probably then have settled down into a series of small Re- publics, which, I believe, is the form of government best suited to the development of the Greek character. This was one line of policy to pursue; on the other hand, if we were determined to make a kingdom of Greece, I would not have placed the noble-minded Prince who is now there in the false position of a King, weighted with responsibility, but without an atom of power. I wish to see liberal government, I repeat, established in Greece; but, above all forms of government, whether liberal or despotic, I wish to have the reality of government. If we had left Greece alone, or could leave Greece alone, I should not be hasty in advising us again to meddle with it. But we created it, we undertook its guardianship, and the result of our management of one of the most intelligent people on the face of the earth is, after 40 years experience, a complicated machinery of intrigue and plunder, in which the place-hunter and the bandit live alternately on the State and the traveller, and into which we are compelled to inquire by a massacre which the conscience of the Greek Ministers did not permit it to prevent, and a shortsighted view of their interests led them, I apprehend and believe, to connive at. It is under these circumstances that I say—let us not suppose it a duty as the friends of constitutional government to support a Government which is a mockery on Constitutions, but rather let us endeavour, with the sanction of European opinion, to found some system which may not destroy the germs of liberty, but leave them under the shelter of order and law, without the protection of which they can never develop themselves. Such, Sir, are the arguments and reasons, imperfectly set forth at this late hour of the night, with which I propose my Resolution.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, upon an examination of the Papers that have been laid before it concerning the recent massacres in Greece, feels itself called upon to express an opinion that the conduct of the Greek Ministers has been highly unsatisfactory, and that this House invites Her Majesty's Government to act as it thinks best on this opinion, and also to concert with its Allies as to the best means of establishing in Greece a Government capable of satisfying the ordinary requirements of a civilised state,"—(Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer,) —instead thereof.

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


Sir, I think the House, which has listened, with great interest to the speeches delivered upon this painful and harrowing question, has been, unless I am much mistaken, under the apprehension that no practical question was to be submitted to it upon which it could be called upon to vote. Moreover, I think that impression must have been encouraged and confirmed by the form in which the Notice of my right hon. Friend (Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer) was placed upon the Paper, for it was not an Amendment to the Motion for your leaving the Chair, but it was an Amendment to the Motion of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), in the event of that becoming a substantive proposition. I hope, therefore, I am right in assuming that my right hon. Friend does not intend to call upon the House at the present moment for the expression of an opinion which I think it is plain would be premature, and, possibly inconvenient. In that case I have only to say I rise for the purpose of answering, as well as I am able, the Question put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, and noticing one or two statements made in the course of this debate. As regards the general statement of principles with which my hon. and learned Friend prefaced his narrative, I apprehend that there is no very great likelihood of a difference of opinion between us, although the mode in which those principles are to be applied must necessarily depend upon a more full and connected statement of the facts than any we have yet received. That a special sanctity attaches to the person of an Ambassador or a Minister accredited to a foreign Court, and not only to him, but likewise extends to those engaged under him in a diplomatic capacity—that when such persons are received by a State, the State which receives them is bound to use every effort and to exhaust all its resources, if need be, for their security, and that it cannot plead its own municipal laws for its failure in discharging any obligation towards them which grow out of the principles and rules of International Law—these, I presume, are propositions about which there is no doubt in any portion of this House. When we come to matters of fact I am sure my hon. and learned Friend, as well as my right hon. Friend who followed him, will feel that it is no merely formal or technical appeal which I make to the indulgence of the House—indeed, I am sure they will not only excuse but approve my conduct—if I ask to be permitted to speak at this moment on this painful subject with great reserve. It is one thing for an independent Member of this House to use his liberty, and to express freely and frankly the presumptions, however unfavourable to a foreign Government, that may appear to him to arise out of a statement of facts as laid before us; but they stand in a different position who are responsible in connection with the Executive, and who have not merely to discharge the duty of laying before the country the impressions which they may have received, but who have an important part to play in vindicating the rights of this country within the limits fixed by justice and International Law, and who likewise, in this particular instance, find their character of parties in the case complicated by that other character which we bear as one of the Protecting Powers towards Greece, in which we may be said to be her guardians and even her champions. With respect to the facts of this case taken in the first stage, this question arises, whether the Hellenic Government extended towards the persons travelling, considered as travellers or as diplomatic agents of this country and of Italy, that protection to which they were entitled? I speak on that subject conditionally, not because I wish to contest the proposition which has been laid down by my hon. and learned Friend with regard to it, but because the time has not yet arrived when it becomes the duty of Her Majesty's Government to fortify themselves with the best legal advice which they can command in respect of that particular question. Even on this point of preliminary protection before the capture, I do not think we are in a position absolutely to pronounce an opinion. It is quite evident that the organization of the Greek Government and the relations of its Departments one to another are such as to present us with the facts in a state of disconnectedness, which renders it very difficult to comprehend them when we apply to the examination of them those rules which are applicable to the action of every regularly organized Government having its Departments in proper and due relation one to the other. My hon. and learned Friend has referred to the part taken by the Minister of the Interior, and no one can give even a cursory examination to these Papers without noticing the singularity of the relations between the proceedings of that Minister and the proceedings of the Minister of War. Then with regard to what occurred after the capture of our countrymen, as we proceed further in the narrative we get into deeper and deeper complications. This, in truth, is the darkest portion of the whole; because these secret clandestine relations which appear to have prevailed between the brigands and parties in Athens are, perhaps, the most important and critical part of the whole subject. It is at this point that we seem to touch on what connects this melancholy tragedy with defects of political and social organization that lift it altogether out of the category of a common and isolated occurrence, and make it a question entailing the necessity of a deeper insight—if we can attain to it—than we have ever yet possessed into the true interior condition of Greek society and Greek statesmanship. I ought to say that there is one portion of these relations which does not appear to me to be so obscure, or to raise questions of so much difficulty as belongs to another portion of them. I mean that which describes the communications which seem to have passed familiarly between the brigands and the villagers and local authorities of Greece. These communications I think are, after all, not very hard to understand, and do not of necessity imply anything discreditable to the parties who carried them on, because I apprehend that, in a country with a feeble and ill-organized Executive, a local magistrate sitting in his own residence and receiving a visit from a party of brigands of this description is absolutely under duress, and in no respect compromises or commits himself by receiving the communications they may make to him. But whatever may be the value of this remark, it is perfectly plain that it has no relation whatever to the communications and the connections which were probably estab- lished between, these lawless persons and their agents in Athens, who, whether they belong to the category of Parliamentary leaders in Greece, or whether it was only professional assistance which they rendered, yet whose figures are so darkly shadowed forth to us in these Papers that they must be considered as presenting to us one of the most important elements of this case, and one which requires most thoroughly to be examined before we can arrive at a final judgment on the subject. Then, with regard to the third stage of this deplorable proceeding—the execution of the measures taken for the deliverance of the captives. It will be necessary to consider were these measures taken in good faith, were they judiciously conceived, were they defeated through the impetuosity or the fault of the bandits, or were they defeated either through error or through fraud on the part of the agents of the Greek Government? I cannot for a moment think of questioning the propositions of my hon. and learned Friend or of my right hon. Friend as far as they amount to this—that the appearances upon this part of the case are at present most unsatisfactory, and leave much requiring to be explained. At the same time there is another question which we must also take into view—a question which covers all those that have gone before—and it is, how far did the proceedings taken by the Greek Government correspond with or fall short of the demands made on the part of the Government of England? For it is quite plain that there might be principles tenable in the abstract, good in law, and good in sense, and yet which we may not be in a condition to urge in their full breadth, and to take the benefit of for our own purposes, unless we had urged them in the course of these proceedings. And here I must say one word with respect to a gentleman whose conduct has not been specially canvassed in this discussion. My hon. and learned Friend has taken the opportunity of paying a just tribute to the noble conduct of the King of the Hellenes, and my right hon. Friend has paid a tribute—which I, for one, believe to be no less just—to the general character of the Greek population; but there is another person whose part in this matter has been most arduous—I mean Mr. Erskine. His position was one of difficulty such as it is hardly possible for us to conceive. He had unfortunately been deprived, through accidental circumstances, of a most useful and valuable assistant, and thus a great deduction was made from the force, necessarily slender, of his Legation. He was compelled to carry on communications the most irregular, the most anxious, at all hours of the day and night, with all persons, under all the difficulties of language—and these are so great that hardly any Englishman can acquire entire and absolute familiarity with them as far as verbal communication is concerned. In his communications with the Government at home he had to contend with extraordinary difficulties, from the necessity, on the one hand, of guarding those communications against intrusion by the use of cipher; and, on the other hand, from a degree of feebleness and error in the telegraphic department, such as to increase his embarrassments and anxieties to a degree hardly to be conceived. And I think it is the feeling of the country, as it is the feeling of my noble Friend, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and of the Government, that we have much reason to acknowledge the zeal, the ability, the high principle and right feeling with which Mr. Erskine has laboured in the discharge of his duties. But we must not be surprised even if we find at an ulterior stage of this investigation that there were principles, or rather rules, of International Law, arising out of the peculiar relations of diplomatic persons to the Courts at which they are received, to which it was impossible for him, acting on the exigencies of the moment, to give that full and dispassionate consideration by which alone it would have been possible for him to arrive at those comprehensive views which are naturally entertained by my hon. and learned Friend in his place in this House. Now, Sir, this matter has presented itself in the first instance to the minds of the people of this country as a grievous and dire calamity. It would have been, under any circumstances, an event filling us with grief and horror, and that grief and horror have been quickened in the minds of the Government and the people of this country by those circumstances of deep and touching interest connected with the persons and characters of the victims of this outrage to which justice has been so well done by my hon. and learned Friend and my right hon. Friend behind me. But while to us it is a grievous and shocking tragedy, it appears likely to be a great event in the history of Greece. It must tend to an opening up of circumstances connected with the condition of that country such as probably former times have never afforded an adequate occasion for bringing up. The nature and the root of brigandage in Greece is of itself a subject of the utmost interest, because it connects itself with the political position of that country and with the unfortunate and, as it appears on occasions, the almost irresistible temptation, arising, perhaps, from the prevalence of national sympathies, to mix itself in quarrels in which it has no title to interfere that can be recognized by any principles of International Law. Then, again, comes the question, as to what are the institutions of Greece, and I hope my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I venture still to cherish a desire that we may be able to discover some other remedy for these mischiefs, and other guarantees against their recurrence in the future than that most unsatisfactory one, which I can only regard as a rough and ready proceeding to which many may be tempted who are friends of constitutional principles, and to which the enemies of constitutional principles will have the strongest predisposition—namely, that of charging these faults upon the popular institutions of the country. I do not pretend to give any opinion as to the nature of the measures to be taken; but this I must say—that, so far as I have ever been able to consider, the difficulty of Greece lies in the fact that the Turkish domination, which so long subsisted there, erased and effaced from Greek society all the natural influences of superior intelligence, education, rank, descent, and property, and left little but poverty on the face of the land. The consequence is that it is the class called upon to govern that is defective in Greece, far more than the class which is to be governed, and, consequently, the problem is a most difficult one, and will require the most grave consideration from the representatives of this country, which has peculiar obligations in respect of freedom in the face of Europe and the world, before they arrive at the conclusion that it is to popular institutions that this internal disorganization is to be ascribed. Well, the condi- tion of the Government, as I have said, is one that places them under different and almost conflicting liabilities. Our first duty is to ascertain absolutely the facts of the case. My hon. and learned Friend very naturally asks— What measures have been, or will be taken to obtain from the Greek Government such satisfaction for this unprecedented outrage as Her Majesty is entitled to claim according to the Law of Nations, and to insure the duo protection, for the future, of the lives of the Diplomatic servants, and other subjects of the British Crown, within the Kingdom of Greece? To a certain extent my hon. and learned Friend approaches this question in a spirit of perfect candour, and so far as the Government is concerned, has supplied the answer to his own Question, so far—that is to say, as any steps are concerned which it has been in the power of the Government to take. I gladly gather from his speech and the speech of my right hon. Friend that they do not think that these steps have been neglected. To demand the fullest examination of the facts; to suggest all the heads to which that examination should be addressed, as far as we could undertake the office of suggestion; to require on our part the means of a full participation, or at least a full cognizance of every step connected with the inquiry; and, likewise, to make the reasonable claim that at the proper time, and yet not before the proper time—a point of no small importance—condign punishment should be inflicted upon the guilty—these were duties for which I do not say that my noble Friend deserves special credit, because they were the obvious duties of the moment; but I am glad to think that in the view of the House they have been fulfilled with alacrity, temper, and zeal. I hope the House will appreciate the consideration to which I have just adverted—namely, that the punishment of the immediately guilty agents in these transactions should not come too soon; because there are many passages of history in many countries from which we well know that these immediately guilty agents are but the tools and instruments of others, and that their too ready and too rapid removal from the scene is, in fact, one of the best and most effectual moans of suppressing essential portions of the truth. As to the future, when we are in the full possession of the facts of the case—and some weeks may possible elapse before we may hope to be in that position—it will then be our duty most carefully and comprehensively to consider what obligations arise out of a clear view of the facts. We have to discharge our duty as an independent State, and to consider what we ought to ask from Greece in that capacity. But we have also to consider a very difficult and delicate question as to the limits which mark off our province as an independent State from that other province in which we have to act in combination with other Powers, whose honour and credit are pledged to the successful handling of the work which was achieved 40 years ago, and with regard to the result of which the best we can say is that, up to the present time, it has met with but a qualified success. My hon. and learned Friend speaks of satisfaction to be obtained for this unprecedented outrage, and I am glad to see that the phrase obtains from him the generous and wise construction which I fully hoped it would obtain. When he asks for satisfaction to us he desires not that which would be injurious but beneficial to Greece. There are two lines of action—that which is to heal the wounded feelings and possibly stay the rising resentment of the British nation; and that line of action is parallel with and immediately neighbouring to another line of action which would result in the measures required for the safety, honour, and happiness of Greece. Whatever attains this latter end will also attain the former. It is a consolation in these circumstances to think that there are no selfish purposes to pursue, and no vengeful purposes, because the condition of Greece is such as to make it impossible that she should be, in the body of her people, a fitting object of punishment for the miscarriages or misconduct of her Government, provided we find ourselves in a condition to be able to obtain that best reparation which would consist in securities against the recurrence of similar evils. Among the portions of the available evidence respecting this unhappy case which are not yet examined, there is the evidence of Yates, who served on board the steamer, and who appears to have said at the time of the catastrophe that he did not dare, for fear of the Greek Government, to state what he had seen, though he had seen the final catastrophe. It is possible that his evidence may be of the greatest importance in its bearing upon the final details of the catastrophe. I refer to it for the purpose of saying that, though it was perfectly natural that he, as an isolated individual in the service of the Greek Government, should be afraid of offending his masters, yet, from the moment that this question has assumed its present international dimensions, the people of this country cannot have the smallest reason to apprehend that any obstacle can or will be placed between them and the most thorough and searching examination of the truth. The power we possess is more than ample for such a purpose, and I am bound to say I have a sufficient belief in the public sentiment of Greece, imperfect as may be the form in which that sentiment is expressed, to feel a strong conviction that when my hon. and learned Friend referred to the free expression of opinion in a certain journal of that country, he referred not to an isolated fact but to an indication that these transactions will be properly viewed and appreciated, and that the sentiment of the Greek nation and of the Greek Government in regard to them will in all substantial respects correspond with our own. Sir, I do not know that I need, especially at this hour of the night, go further into detail with the necessarily meagre communication which I could undertake to make to the House. But adverting to the tone of the comments of my right hon. Friend and of my hon. and learned Friend upon the conduct thus far of the Government, upon the steps which they have taken, and the spirit in which they have proceeded, I beg them to believe that such as that conduct has been in the past it will be in the future—that we are sensible of the gravity of the question which has arisen out of these deplorable events, and that we shall endeavour to act throughout the course of the transactions in such a manner as may befit the dignity and the duty of this country.


said, he would beg leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment and Original Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.