HL Deb 25 March 1828 vol 18 cc1333-4
Earl Grey

, seeing the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs in his place, would ask him a question on a subject of the greatest importance. He had hitherto abstained from saying one word on the present situation of affairs in the east of Europe, not because he did not feel the utmost anxiety with respect to the determination of ministers relative to the state of affairs in that quarter of the globe, and the possible results which might issue from that state of things, but because he had been fearful of adding, by any thing he might say, to the difficulties in which he was too sensible ministers were placed on that subject;—difficulties of such a nature, that one false step might risk our being involved in a general war; and he was not prepared to pronounce with any confidence, even now, that with the most cautious policy, we should be secured from that calamity. Under the influence of that feeling, he had hitherto abstained from saying one word on that important subject, wishing that ministers should be allowed time deliberately to examine the situation they were placed in. The same feeling would have induced him to pursue on the present occasion, the same conduct, if there had not been made very recently, under the highest authority, a statement, which, if correctly reported, could not be too speedily confirmed; but which, if otherwise, ought, in order to obviate the inconveniences which might follow, to be as speedily corrected. The statement he alluded to was to the following effect,—"That ministers had received no information of any change having taken place in the relations existing between Russia and the Ottoman Porte, or any declaration of war between those parties." That there had been no actual declaration of war, either communicated to his majesty's ministers, or in fact issued, he certainly believed; but he could easily understand, that short of a declaration of war there might be a change in the relations existing between two powers not less material than if war had actually taken place. If measures had been entered into—if treaties had been broken—if troops had been assembled and placed in hostile positions, from which they might act—and if a declaration had been made to ministers of a determination to act immediately in enforcing demands with which the Porte had not hitherto been disposed to comply, no one would contend that a most material change had not taken place in the situation of affairs between Russia and the Porte, since the commencement of the present session; when the Speech from the Throne stated, after speaking of the occurrence at Navarino, that notwithstanding that action, his majesty "still entertains a confident hope that this untoward event will not be followed by further hostilities." Now, that hope could not be said to exist, if there was a declaration, though short of a declaration of war, authoritatively and officially made, expressing any intention which would make a speedy termination of the state of peace inevitable. He therefore wished ministers to state, as far as they could consistently with their duty, whether he was to understand by those words, that there had been no change in the relations subsisting between Russia and the Porte, to diminish that hope of the continuance of peace.

The Earl of Dudley

said, he was extremely anxious to give their lordships and the public all the satisfaction that he could consistently with his duty, on that most important subject to which the noble lord had alluded; but he trusted the noble earl would be satisfied when he told him, for the present, that certain intentions had been announced on the part of Russia, which very much diminished the chance of maintaining the existing peace between Russia and the Porte. Government, however, had as yet received no accounts of those intentions having been carried into effect. That the hope of maintaining peace between Russia and the Porte had much diminished since his Majesty's communication was made to their lordships on the first day of the session, there was no doubt; but no account had yet been received of peace having been actually violated.