HL Deb 02 August 1853 vol 129 cc1137-9

My Lords, seeing my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in his place, I rise to put a question to him respecting some reports which have lately been received from the Danubian Provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia. According to the accounts in the newspapers, the Russian military authorities appear to have taken entire possession of those countries, and to have proceeded to adminster the government thereof. In the reports to which I have alluded, it is stated that the Commander in chief of the Russian forces has ordered the Hospodars not to transmit any tribute to Constantinople; and it has been stated in one report that he went so far as to say that any tribute paid to the Sultan would require to be paid over again to his imperial master. Moreover, it is stated that those persons to whom the local administration of the country was intrusted, had been required to hold no further communication with Turkey. Now, this is virtually and really an assumption of the sovereignty of the country by the Czar, and it is impossible that such an act as that can take place without leading very directly to war. It is therefore of the highest importance to this country, and to this House, that we should have whatever information can be afforded to us without inconvenience at the earliest moment—because this is a matter of the greatest and deepest importance. I hold that it is impossible for Europe, or France, or England to submit to such an extension of territory in that direction by Russia, or such a diminution of the Turkish empire, which must be attended with the greatest and most fearful consequences. The matter is of the utmost importance, not merely to the political balance of Europe, and not merely to the honour of this country, who are parties to treaties with Turkey, but also to the material interests affecting the welfare of all classes of persons, especially in Germany, in France, and, to a great extent, in this kingdom. It is a matter on which your Lordships must desire to have the fullest information that can with propriety be given; and therefore I trust my noble Friend will not think I am indiscreet if I ask him whether any such accounts or reports as those to which I have alluded, have reached him officially, and whether he can inform the House how far it is true or not that such an assumption of the sovereignty of these provinces by Russia has really taken place?


My Lords, so far from thinking that my noble Friend has committed any indiscretion in the question which he has put to me, I can assure him that I take so entirely the same view as he does as to what will be the result, not only to Turkey, but to Europe, and especially to this country, of any permanent alienation of the territory to which he has alluded from the Turkish Empire, that I am glad he has put the question, in order that I may satisfy the public mind, as far as I am able, by giving my noble Friend all the information I possess. By a despatch dated the 17th of last month, I learned from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe that a communication had been made by the Consul General of Russia to the Hos- podar of Moldavia, informing him that his relations with the Ottoman Government were to cease: and that the tribute usually transmitted to Constantinople was to be placed at the disposal of the Russian Government, upon the ground, as was stated, that although there existed no intention of modifying the internal institutions of Moldavia, or altering the existing order of things, yet that during the military occupation of the province the action of the sovereign power must necessarily, though temporarily, be suspended. I have to state also, that the Turkish Government expected to receive similar information from the Hospodar of Wallachia; but I have received a despatch this morning from Mr. Colquhoun, our Consul General at Bucharest, dated the 22nd of last month, in which he says that up to that time—though it may have been made the evening before—no such communication had been made to the Hospodar of the province of Wallachia. However, such a communication was naturally expected by the Porte to be made to the Hospodar of Wallachia as well as of Moldavia; and it was the intention of the Porte, so soon as it received that information, to order the Hospodars to withdraw and cease their functions. He further adds, that in that event he should consider it highly improper that the British Consuls in the principalities should continue to exercise their functions; and I lost no time in communicating to Lord Stratford de Recliffe the entire approval by Her Majesty's Government of that course. I can only further inform your Lordships, that I shall, by a messenger who leaves London this night, instruct Sir Hamilton Seymour to demand from the Russian Government the explanation to which we are entitled upon a matter which, as I have stated, I view in precisely the same light as my noble Friend.

Back to