rose for the purpose of calling the attention of their Lordships to a matter which appeared to him of sufficient importance to warrant its being brought under their consideration for such explanations as Her Majesty's Government might be able to afford. When he took occasion the other night to comment upon the terms in which Her Majesty was advised to address Parliament in respect to her foreign relations, he certainly did not anticipate that within a period of four-and-twenty hours a very extraordinary light would be thrown upon the state of the peace and amity in which Her Majesty continued in her foreign relations. It was with considerable surprise, and with no less regret, that, either on Friday or Saturday morning, he found through the ordinary channels of information an event had occurred of no inconsiderable importance, in which, as it appeared to him, we had proceeded to acts of injustice and violence against a friendly foreign Power, or rather, he should say, a weak friendly foreign State, the very weakness of which State should have been the strongest inducement upon our part to exercise the greatest forbearance, whose peculiar position rendered any misunderstanding with regard to the affairs of Greece a matter of more importance than it might be from the importance of the State itself. If he were correctly informed, it appeared that the British squadron upon its return from what he could not but consider an ill-advised expedition to the Dardanelles—upon which he would not now say a word—landed upon the coast of Greece. Immediately upon the arrival of the fleet, the British Minister at Athens, Sir Thomas Wyse, called upon the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, accompanied by Admiral Parker, and in the presence of the Admiral informed him he was there for the purpose of requiring a categorical answer and assent to the demands which had been for some time subsisting on the part of certain British subjects, within the period of four-and-twenty hours. And if he (Lord Stanley) were not misinformed, the Minister was told that the British fleet was there for the purpose of enforcing submission. The demand was addressed to a Minister who had held the seals of office for only a very short period. It had reference not to great international questions, not even to the question which had occasioned so much discussion and difficulty, the repayment by 259 Greece of the loans she had received from this country, but to transactions which appeared to him of a very immaterial and insignificant character, involving claims of redress for personal injuries alleged to have been committed upon individuals claiming to be under the protection of the British sovereignty, some of which he believed had actually been settled, whilst others were in course of settlement, waiting for decision by the legal tribunals. At all events he hoped the details given of these facts in some of the newspapers would be found to have been grossly exaggerated. He hoped it was impossible that any British Minister could use such expressions as those in answer to an objection as to the injustice of the course pursued, that, "just or not, the demand must be complied with;" and in answer to a requisition for further delay, until time could be afforded to the Minister for communication with his colleagues, and informing himself more perfectly as to the details of the claims, the answer given was, as he understood, that there was no occasion for any delay whatever; that the instructions he (Sir T. Wyse) had received were absolute and positive, and that, unless the demands put forward were complied with in the short space of four-and-twenty hours, the British Minister would withdraw on board a British man-of-war, and that reprisals would be taken by the British squadron which were then lying in the waters of Greece for that purpose. But whether this was the mode of proceeding, whether such terms were used by the British Minister or not, he was afraid the fact was beyond doubt that the demand for immediate compliance was peremptorily pressed upon the Greek Minister by the British Minister, with an intimation that the British fleet was there to enforce the demand; that practically immediate compliance with the demand was not granted by the Greek Government, and, in consequence, the Piraeus was, at this moment, in a state of blockade by the British squadron, with an intimation that Greek vessels, at all events vessels of war, would be seized as an act of reprisals and hostility. It was stated further, that, on this occasion, the mediation of two other Powers, whether appealed to or not by the Greek Government he could not say, had been offered and had been refused. The two Powers, he need hardly say, were Russia and Franco. Considering the peculiar position of affairs in Greece, he hardly knew whether English interests—those interests which arose out 260 of friendly feelings between the inhabitants and Governments of the two countries, which it appeared to have been the great object to maintain—had been most seriously injured by the offered mediation on the part of Russia and France having been tendered and refused, or having been tendered and accepted. But he believed the fact to be, that that mediation had been tendered and refused by the British Minister, on the ground that his instructions being absolute and positive, left him no alternative. He had no wish to enter into further argument upon the question. He had stated the facts as they appeared in the newspapers of the day, and he was anxious to give Her Majesty's Ministers the earliest opportunity of disabusing the public mind of any erroneous impression produced by the information which had been received. He was, therefore, desirous of asking the noble Marquess, in the first place, whether Her Majesty's Government had received any information of the events to which he had referred, and what was the latest intelligence of which they were in possession? He supposed he need hardly ask the question if Sir Thomas Wyse and Admiral Parker had taken upon themselves to act upon their own discretion in a matter of this great importance? But he would put this further question, whether Her Majesty's Ministers were, in point of fact, at the time they informed Parliament that we were at peace and amity with all foreign nations, aware that orders had actually been sent out from this country, leaving no discretion either with the British Minister or with the Admiral, but to commit an act of hostility, if not upon a friendly, at least upon an inferior Power in point of military strength? He wished also to know whether Her Majesty's Government were prepared to lay before Parliament the instructions which they had given to the British Minister.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
stated, that, substantially, the information on this subject communicated by the public press was correct. No information, however, respecting it had reached Her Majesty's Government at the time when the Speech from the Throne was under consideration. He certainly hoped that the present was only a temporary interruption of those relations of peace and amity which he trusted that the Government would continue to maintain with all the States of Europe. As to this proceeding, his noble Friend seemed not to be aware, that although it 261 had assumed something of a hostile character from the share which Admiral Parker had taken in it, it was founded upon the previous proceedings of many years, and that recourse had not been had to it, until every other mode of proceeding had been exhausted. He admitted to his noble Friend that it had not been adopted for the purpose of procuring the repayment of the loan so long due from Greece to this country, but for the purpose of procuring redress of grievances founded on facts which were indisputable; and he could assure him that our claim for redress was declared to be well founded by the best and highest legal authorities to which it had been referred. Her Majesty's Ministers—having failed in procuring the redress to which this country was entitled—having been put off, time after time, by one evasion or another on the part of the Greek Government—having had promises made to them by that Government which were never fulfilled, or intended to be fulfilled—and having, at last, received a flat denial of that which, on behalf of British property and British subjects, they were entitled to ask—had certainly, in failure of every other measure which they tried, empowered their representative at Athens to solicit the presence of Admiral Parker in the waters of Greece under circumstances in no way derogatory to the Government of that country, had it been disposed to do of its own accord an act of justice. Admiral Parker was returning, as he would prove on another occasion, from no ill-advised expedition to the Dardanelles. On his arrival at Athens, he acted in the most respectful manner towards the Government of Greece. When he went on shore he tendered his respects to the King of Greece, and afterwards to his Minister; and it was not until the Greek Minister had tendered verbally a most unsatisfactory explanation respecting these claims to our Minister, and had afterwards, when he was told that he must give a written explanation next day, delivered, on that day, a denial of those claims, that Admiral Parker had recourse to the mildest course which could be adopted under such circumstances; for it was not true that he had instituted a blockade of the Piræus; he had only served a notice on a Greek vessel of war, then in that port, that it would not be allowed to leave that port until our demands were complied with. The information received by Her Majesty's Government only came down to 262 that time. He fully agreed with his noble Friend opposite that no proceeding could be more unworthy of the Government of a great country than to exact from a weaker State that satisfaction which it would not require from a stronger. He ventured, however, to tell their Lordships, that when they had read the papers which he had promised, they would find that in every case in which the British Government had demanded compensation from the Government of Greece for acts of oppression committed under its authority, it would have been disgraceful to the British character to have failed to insist upon the reparation required. There was at present, he would repeat once more, no blockade instituted of the Piræus; but if it should be deemed necessary to institute a blockade hereafter, he would only say, that it was a proceeding which the Government with which his noble Friend had been connected had adopted, not in one, or two, or three, but in far more numerous instances, when similar demands upon independent States were enforced by blockades on its part. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would only just allude, in passing, to the offer of the French and Russian Ministers at Athens to mediate on this occasion between us and Greece. He would only state that they made that offer without any authority on the part of their respective Courts; that they did not even know whether their respective Courts would have supported them in that offer of mediation; and that it seemed to be only made for the purpose of creating inconvenient delay. Such offers of mediation have been often made to other countries, and refused by other Courts; and even one such offer of ours was refused by the French Government without any interruption of the relations of amity between us and France. He thought that our Minister at Athens had acted with great discretion and good sense in refusing the mediation so tendered to him. In conclusion, he stated that he had no objection to produce all the papers connected with this subject, as they would afford a complete justification of the course adopted by the British Government.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
said, that his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had very naturally called the attention of their Lordships to this extraordinary specimen of the peace and amity in which Her Majesty's Government was carrying on its relations with foreign Powers; and if his noble Friend had thought proper to extend his 263 view all over the nations of Europe, instead of confining it to Greece, he would have found, with very few exceptions, in all of them, if not equally, striking proofs of our friendship; he would have seen that which had produced in return among them feelings towards us very different from those by which they were formerly animated. He admitted most readily that the Government of Greece was liable to great censure for the non-fulfilment of its engagements towards England and its other allies, particularly as regarded the non-payment of the interest on the loan formerly made to it, in one-third of which we were deeply interested. He had himself had occasion to make remonstrances of the strongest kind against that non-payment; indeed his remonstrances had been so strong that he should have thought that he had exceeded the bounds of propriety had he not seen that our demands had been subsequently followed up in a manner still more imperious and peremptory. But those demands were perfectly just. There could be no doubt as to the legality of the debt which the Greek Government had contracted towards us; and he firmly believed that, if its finances had been properly managed and carefully husbanded, that Government could have repaid the interest on the debt, and provided for the proper administration of the country confided to its charge. He believed, that about two years ago, Greece was threatened with violent proceedings like the present, owing to the non-payment of its debts. Fortunately, at that period a Swiss banker stepped in and defrayed from his own resources the debt due from the Greek Government. Our claim up to that time was then paid. It might not be very high-minded to have a debt due to a great country like our own thus extinguished; but at any rate the debt was just, and no Power whatsoever—neither France on the one hand, nor Russia on the other—had any right to object to the course which we pursued. So, too, the claims, which we were now making, might all be just; but he could not concur with the noble Marquess opposite in thinking that they were indisputable. They were, as it appeared, liable to examination and to legal discussion, to which there were always two parties. Ministers might think them just; but these claims were not of the same class with those which were founded on a treaty contracted and signed between the two Governments. He was not going to say that the refusal of 264 the Greek Government to satisfy claims of this nature was not sufficient to call, under any circumstances, for the exercise of coercive measures; but the notification which, after refusing all offers of mediation, the British Government had made to that of Greece, that it would have recourse to such severe and peremptory measures against a State which it had itself created, whose independence it was pledged to maintain, and which at any rate it ought not to humiliate in the eyes of its own subjects, was, to say the least of it, a most extraordinary measure. That was a subject for other Governments to judge; and although other Powers would and might take such steps as their interests and the interests of their subjects required, they were nevertheless not necessarily called upon to take any part in this dispute; for it was a case entirely between Greece and this country. There was another point connected with this question, to which his noble Friend had not alluded, but which he thought of very great importance. We have demanded a cession of territory—that Greece should make to us the cession of two islands on the coast of the Morea. In that case Great Britain stood to Greece exactly in the same relation as France and Russia. Great Britain had guaranteed the integrity of the territory of the kingdom of Greece. So had France, and so had Russia; and, therefore, in asking the Ministers of the King of Greece to make a cession of part of his territories to Great Britain. Her Majesty's Government had done that which required an appeal to be made to those Powers before they could acquiesce in the course which Great Britain was pursuing. For his own part, he did not know—he had no idea of the grounds on which these two islands were claimed by us. He presumed some grounds must exist, but he was not aware of the nature of the right which we put forward. All he saw was this—that Greece was called on to surrender these two islands within twenty-four hours, upon terror of having the British fleet employed against against it. The noble Marquess had alleged that our claims were of long standing, that the Greek Government had long evaded them, that we had required a special answer to our demand, and that to that demand no answer had been given. Now, our claims might be true according to the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, but not only Greece, but also France and Russia, might entertain a very different opinion respecting them; and Greece might also 265 think that she ought not to place these islands in our possession without the consent of France and Russia, as guaranteeing Powers. He was, therefore, at a loss to understand how, under such circumstances, we could have recourse to such an alternative as hostilities in case our complaints were not redressed within twenty-four hours. One of the islands which we claimed was in front of the port of Modon, within a short distance from the coast. The other was about seven miles from the little island of Cerigo, and within 200 or 300 yards of the mainland. He did not know whether it was inhabited or not; but if it was inhabited, it was very thinly. But the defective nature of our claim was this—that we could hardly make out any grounds for it, without the consent both of France and Russia. It was now exactly twenty years since the kingdom of Greece was first established as an independent State. On the 3rd of February, 1830, the independence of that kingdom was declared, and its limits were strictly defined. They were defined on a map, which was made an "annex" to the convention. That convention was signed by himself, as Minister for England; by the Duc de Laval, as Minister for France; and by the Count Lieven, as Minister of Russia. It defined, as he had before stated, the limits of the Greek State. The northern boundary of Greece was afterwards extended and advanced by the purchase of a portion of territory from the Turkish Government; but all the other boundaries remain unaltered. On referring to that map, he found that the line then drawn officially gave the island of Cervi to the new State of Greece. Consequently, we could not deny a fact which we had actually signed and constituted by our own hands. Besides, neither France nor Russia could agree to the cession of that island to us without an explanation from us showing that we were wrong in assenting to its original cession to Greece, as, according to our present claim, it belonged at the time, not to Turkey, but to the republic of the Ionian Islands. If we could show that, then the Governments of France and Russia could have no difficulty in assenting to this transfer of the island back to the Ionian republic. Making even this supposition, however, was it a sufficient justification for our threat of instituting a blockade within twenty-four hours? This argument applied only to one of the islands which we demanded, as the limitation of 266 the kingdom of Greece was not carried further in that direction, for the object of the treaty was to separate Greece from the possessions of Turkey, and not from those of the Ionian republic. There were, therefore, no means for deciding positively to whom the island of Sapienza belonged. He could entertain no doubt whatsoever that if it had been the intention of the convention to define the limits of the kingdom of Greece in that direction, the island of Sapienza would have been included within their definition. Possibly he might be wrong—there might be grounds for asserting our claim to this island—but, if so, we were bound to show them distinctly both to Russia and to France. He did not mean to deny that it might be better for our Government to be in possession of Sapienza; but even wisdom ought only to be obtained by legitimate means. Ministers had been proceeding in a rash, precipitate, and unadvised manner, and had brought themselves into a serious position with two of the great Powers. They would have to come to an explanation with those Powers upon this question before they could escape from the difficulty into which they had recklessly plunged themselves. The noble Marquess opposite had told the House that no blockade had been declared by the British admiral. The French Minister announced, however, that a blockade had been instituted; at any rate, he considered that what we had been doing was equivalent to a blockade. Our operations, however, appeared at present to have had reference only to vessels of war; but let that be as it might, our measures were measures of extreme violence, and could not be persevered in for any time consistently with the continuance of amity and friendship between the two States. Now, although Ministers had conceived it expedient to take advantage of the presence of the fleet in the Mediterranean to make this demonstration against Greece, he considered it to be most unwise to enforce the demands of private individuals on the Government of that country in such a manner. To compel it, however, to make a cession of its territory for the same object, without any concert with the other parties to our guarantee of its integrity and independence, was, in his opinion, the most rash and unadvised policy which could be imagined.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, that the observations which had fallen from the noble Earl who had just sat down, 267 made it incumbent on him to add something to the speech which he had already made to their Lordships, for the noble Earl had adverted to a subject which his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had purposely omitted, and on which he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had therefore no occasion to say a word—he alluded to what the noble Earl had called our claim, or more properly speaking our right, to the cession of certain portions of territory. The noble Earl had dealt hardly with him on that subject, for he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had limited his answer entirely to his noble Friend's question; and when he used the expression that our demands were indisputable, he merely meant to apply it to the demauds to which his noble Friend had referred. The noble Earl had taken hold of the words in which he had replied to his noble Friend's observations, and had assumed that they were applicable to a question which his noble Friend had not raised, but which the noble Earl had. He begged to inform the noble Earl that our claim to these two islands formed no part of the claim which the British Minister and the British admiral were now enforcing, and that the whole of his (the Earl of Aberdeen's) observations fell, in consequence, to the ground. He admitted that that question must be the subject of further explanation. The noble Earl might have seen good reason to come to a conclusion upon it differing from that at which he had formerly arrived; and he might have discovered that Ministers were not justified in claiming this island of Sapienza—which he had introduced into the debate for the sake of making a joke upon it—although they were making it in pursuance of demands which had often been urged before their accession to office. The claims to these two islands stood upon a footing different from that on which we had made those claims that admitted of no delay, and required a categorical answer. The latter claims were as much beyond dispute as any ascertained fact could be. One of our claims was for the seizure of property which the Greek Government admitted to have been improperly taken from a British subject. If such demands for redress and compensation were not to be enforced by the British Government, he did not know what demands ought to be.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
admitted that if Sir T. Wyse had not preferred his demand for the cession of these two islands in the peremptory manner which had been 268 stated, the observations which he had made respecting that demand, had no application. But in the accounts which had been published of these transactions, it was stated that the demand for the cession of these two islands was made at the same time with the other demands, which were presented to the Greek Minister, when, with a pistol pointed to his head, he was called upon to surrender them within twenty-four hours. He had never said that the noble Marquess had represented the claim to these islands as indisputable; but he had asserted, and he again asserted, that the noble Marquess used such language respecting the other claims. As to the seizure of property which the noble Marquess had referred to, he recollected the case well. It was taken from a British subject to erect some building in the king's garden—the matter in dispute was the value of the land—not the land itself. It is likely the Greek Government estimated its value too low; and the proprietor, he had as little doubt, estimated it too high. All that was indisputable was that some compensation was necessary, but the amount of that compensation was questionable. The noble Marquess had insinuated that he (the Earl of Aberdeen) now entertained a different opinion as to our right to these islands from that which he entertained formerly. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) was not aware that he had ever expressed any opinion bearing a different construction to those he had just avowed. He had said that we might have claims to these islands, but he did not know what they were. He repeated that we had precluded ourselves from making a claim to these islands, by having already assigned them to Greece.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
begged that he might not be misunderstood. He admitted that Sir T. Wyse had made a demand for these islands, but it was not included in the peremptory demand to which he had demanded a categorical answer. He did not know whether the noble Earl had himself preferred a claim to these islands, but he found that in 1843 the Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, acting, as he supposed, under the noble Earl's authority, had preferred a demand for them to the Government of Greece.
said, that although he knew that we had instituted a summary Court of Chancery in Ireland, he not aware that we had been about to establish a summary court of common law in the Mediterranean to try actions of ejectment in 269 twenty-four hours by the process of presenting a pistol at the head of the tenant in possession. He should like to know the value—the money value—of the two islands in dispute. He had been told that one of those islands supported two or three goats, and the other a few hares. He did not suppose that together they were worth the powder which would be spent in the blockade, but still it was desirable to know their money value. He agreed with the noble Marquess that nothing was more to be deprecated, and nothing was more to be eschewed by a great country like our own, than a system acting more vigorously and peremptorily, or of proceeding more actively, energetically, and vindictively against a weak Power, than against a strong one. It was revolting to the feelings of Englishmen to see any such course pursued. Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos, might, on the whole, be wrong; but the first part of the maxim was unobjectionable. He should, therefore, like to know whether the threat held over the head of the Minister of Greece was accompanied with an intimation that the payment of the debts due to individual subjects of Great Britain, was one of the terms to which an instantaneous compliance must be given. A Government ought to draw a line between the claims to compensation which it advanced for injuries done to the property, and for those done to the persons, of its subjects. In the latter case you were bound to give protection to individuals, and to demand reparation and compensation for any oppression or outrage to which they were exposed; but in respect to debts, he should be loth to interfere—he would leave the party to his remedy at law, and it would only be in extreme cases that he would invoke the vengeance of the country; for if you acted otherwise, what would become of you in the case of the Spanish bondholders or the American repudiators? To the influence and weight of the Government exercised in his favour, the subject, in all such cases, would have a claim; but it would be monstrous to have recourse to hostilities to recover for him his private debts. Such a system would lead to continual infractions of the peace, and to perpetual interruptions of our amicable relations with neighbouring nations.
Before my noble Friend proceeds to his answer, will he allow me to ask him to assign some limited time within which these papers are to be produced? I did not understand my noble 270 Friend to say, whether the proceedings of our Minister at Athens were authorised by his instructions from home, or whether those instructions would form part of the papers which he intended to lay upon the table?
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE,
in reply, said that the papers to be laid before the House would afford a complete view of the whole case, and would give every information necessary to understand it. He informed the House, that our Minister at Athens had undoubtedly acted under instructions, general instructions, from home. He perfectly acquiesced in the line of distinction which his noble and learned Friend had drawn between cases of outrage committed on the persons of British subjects by foreign Powers, and cases of mere debt due to them by the same parties; and when he saw the papers, his noble and learned Friend would have the satisfaction of finding that that line had been strictly observed on the present occasion.
§ Subject at an end.