§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
My Lords, I wish to call the attention of your 344 Lordships to a matter which I think is of some consequence at the present moment, and to ask a question relating to it, of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Some of your Lordships have already observed on the tenor and language of the two notes which have appeared from the Russian Government—the two circular notes addressed to their diplomatic agents throughout Europe. I will make no observation on the tenor and subject of those notes, except to say that I do not agree in the premises laid down in many parts of those documents, and therefore I cannot agree in the arguments which have been founded on what I consider to be erroneous premises. But, my Lords, I have been waiting with considerable impatience—and I think your Lordships must have joined in the same feeling—for the answer on the part of Her Majesty's Government to those two circular notes. I have been myself particularly anxious to avoid embarrassing Her Majesty's Government in any way, by any observations relating to the unfortunate occurrences which are now going on in the East; but I think it is now time, my Lords, for the dignity of this country, and I think it is fair on the part of the Opposition, to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have made a reply to those notes; or whether if they have not, they intend to make a reply, and whether they intend to publish it, in the same manner the Russian Government adopted when they circulated those documents? I think it is less objectionable for me to ask, and for the noble Earl to answer, the question to-day, because the French Government, which is now in alliance with us in carrying out the object which we have in common, has made a very able, a very firm, but yet a very calm answer to those circular notes. I think that if Her Majesty's Government delay their answer, they will run the risk of being misapprehended and misunderstood—for silence proverbially gives consent; and as we have been already told by the noble Earl that he does not agree in all the statements made in those documents, silence may here be the cause of further misapprehension. It may be supposed that the Government are unable to answer those notes; they may be accused even of fearing to answer them, under an alarm of further proceedings on the part of that powerful nation which is now exciting the attention of the whole of Europe. For these reasons, my Lords, I 345 rise to ask my noble Friend opposite, if he will, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, state to the House and to the country whether any answer has been made to those notes—one or both of them—and whether, if they have done so, they intend to make their rely public—however unusual that manner of treating diplomatic documents may be—whether they intend to make them public in the same way as Russia and France have done?
§ The EARL of CLARENDON
I certainly admit that my noble Friend has carefully abstained from embarrassing Her Majesty's Government in any way in the important question which now engages public attention. I think my noble Friend is perfectly aware of the reasons, and the only reasons, why we have wished to delay and postpone any discussion on this subject. We have done so in the interests of peace, and not to impair those chances, such as they are, of bringing this question to a peaceable conclusion. My noble Friend must be aware that the mode adopted by the Government of this country and by Parliament is very different, in obtaining or asking information on questions like the present from that which necessarily obtains in Russia and in France. It is consequently easy for the Russian Government and the French Government to give the public such information as they think necessary at the time when they may think it most convenient to do so. But it is the practice in his country to lay the papers bearing on my subject altogether and at one time before Parliament. This is the course that the Government have undertaken to adopt, and the whole of those papers relating to this subject will be laid together before your Lordships' House, and before the other House of Parliament. And with respect to the two notes to which my noble Friend has alluded, and the doubts that he has thrown out as to the capacity or courage of Her Majesty's Government to answer them on the first point, it certainly s not for me to pronounce an opinion; but as to any fear of answering them, I hope my noble Friend and your Lordships will rest perfectly satisfied that there has not my such apprehension at any time existed, either in my mind or on the part of any Member of the Government. To the first if these two notes, no regular answer has been sent, because the greater part of its contents alluded to the negotiations and the proceedings which were originated with the French Embassy at Constantinople, and the 346 negotiations to which they afterwards led; and the remainder was forestalled by the progress which the communications referring to the question had made. The note was, however, answered in substance, although nothing was sent in the form of a regular answer to it. The second circular note of Count Nesselrode was one of a very different character, and which certainly did require an answer. It was immediately answered, and that answer was forwarded to the Court of St. Petersburg. My Lords, I have only further to add that that answer was in entire conformity with the note of the French Government, as indeed, I may add, the whole of our proceedings connected with the question have been.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
My Lords, I certainly have no doubt that, as my noble Friend has chosen to answer those notes, he has done so in a way perfectly satisfactory to this country; but I think my noble Friend is mistaken in drawing an analogy between those circular notes and ordinary diplomatic correspondence between two Governments. The latter are naturally kept secret until the proper time arrives and they are laid upon your Lordships' table. But these circular notes are not of the same nature—they are not of the nature of private correspondence; they are an appeal to all Europe—to the whole public; they are published in the St. Petersburgh Gazette, and are addressed, in fact, and intended to be read by every creature who can read in Europe. I cannot help thinking, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government are taking an erroneous view of the case, and that they are bringing themselves into risk of considerable misapprehension and obloquy both abroad and at home, by not answering these particular notes in the same manner in which they have been delivered.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
I hope that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will not object to give an answer to a question which I wish to put to him, if his doing so will not be accompanied with inconvenience to the public service. I wish to ask my noble Friend when he expects to be able to lay the papers referring to this question before Parliament, and in how short a time he hopes to be enabled to put us in possession of what the Government have done. I am the more inclined to put this question in consequence of the extraordinary position in which Parliament and the country at large are placed with regard to any knowledge of what is actually going on in this 347 matter, because, while the utmost publicity is given to the policy, the actions, the intentions, and the opinions of Russia, the most complete mystery involves the opinions, the proceedings, and the policy of this country. It is true that we are told that the Governments of France and of this country are associated in the interest of the Porte, and in the interests of peace, and that there is reason to hope that Austria, and Prussia have taken a part with the Governments of France and England fur the maintenance of the independence of the Porte and of the peace of Europe. I hope this is the case:—but Russia is acting as if no negotiations were going on at all. While we are told that negotiations are being carried on with the view of preserving peace, Russia is actually making war. This is a most awkward position for countries like France and England to be placed in; and I think it is only reasonable that inquiry should be made as to how long Parliament and the country are to be kept in suspense, and how soon the country may know the views and intentions of the Government, and what steps they have taker to carry out the object of preserving peace or of—if necessary—checking the possible progress of Russia. I wish, therefore, to ask my noble Friend if he can state it how short a time he expects the negotiations to be so far advanced as to justify him in putting Parliament and the country in possession of some information as to what steps have been already taken?
§ The EARL of CLARENDON
I can assure my noble Friend that it is at in small sacrifice to Her Majesty's Government that we have asked for a postponement of ally discussion on this question or that we have delayed placing before the House the fullest information on the subject. We feel that Parliament and the public have a perfect right to be informed in the manner in which my noble Friend points out; and it has been our desire that there should be no unnecessary delay. I cannot go over again the reasons which have induced us to ask for this delay; but in answer to my noble Friend, a few days indeed I may say a very few days, will be sufficient to show whether the negotiation, on foot will succeed or not; but, whether they succeed or not, as soon as these fey days are over, I can promise your Lord ships that all the papers shall be laid on the table of your Lordships' House.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
I wish to know from my noble Friend if any 348 information has been received at the Foreign Office of the Russians having assumed the administration of the civil government of Moldavia, as well as the military occupation of that province?—because I have seen it stated in the newspapers that the post-office has been taken possession by the Russian authorities, and that the Russian troops have advanced to Danube? If that be so, it is not merely a military occupation for the purpose of carrying on negotiations afterwards; "for it appears that the capital of the province has been taken possession of—that the whole administration of the Government has been seized by the Russians—and that they make Moldavia, and not Bessarabia, the base of their operations in advancing to the Danube. It is necessary, I think, that we should know whether the troops of Russia are in advance towards the Danube, or whether they are, according to the latest accounts, simply in the occupation of Jassy and the adjacent parts?
§ The EARL of CLARENDON
We have no information of the kind to which my noble Friend has alluded. I see it stated in the newspapers that the post-office has been seized, and that the Russian authorities have taken on themselves other administrative functions: but no such information as that has reached Her Majesty's Government. On the contrary, we have reason to believe that no advance towards the Danube has been made, and that the Hospodar is still in the exercise of his functions. Your Lordships will recollect that the manifesto of Prince Gortschakoff, the Russian commander, on entering the principalities, enjoined the people to obey the existing authorities, and promised that there should be no disturbance of existing institutions; and I think, therefore, it is not probable that so shortly after the issue of that proclamation such a proceeding as that to which my noble Friend has alluded can have taken place.