HL Deb 10 March 1854 vol 131 cc591-615

* My Lords, a few days ago there appeared in the public papers a document purporting to be a Manifesto from the Emperor Nicholas, which contained this portentous statement: "England and France have sided with the enemies of Christianity against Russia combating for the orthodox faith."

My Lords, it is not surprising that all should feel such an imputation as this, nor out of place here that some notice should be taken of it. England and Europe demand an explanation; and those who have been called to bear a part in the administration of the religious societies of this country and the Continent, can give, and are prepared to give, a most direct contradiction to the assertions of the Czar; and dropping, in this case, the term "enemies" or "friends" of Christianity, and looking only to the results, we will undertake to prove that Turkey has of late done everything to advance, and Russia everything to retard, the progress of Christianity among the nations of mankind.

But first a word as to these famous negotiations. I do not believe that, from the very outset, there was on the Russian part a particle or an atom of sincerity. If my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had been an angel of light, he would not have been able to bring the negotiations to any other issue. The predominant desire in the mind of the Czar was the absolute, though virtual, rule over the Turkish empire. This is manifest in his arrogant assumption of a personal right of protection of the Christians in the East, and in his haughty rejection of the efficient protectorate offered by the four Powers; a most ample guarantee, if protection to the Christians had been his only object of solicitude. That this was evident to my noble Friend after the production of the Menschikoff note may be inferred from the tone and style of the despatches which followed it—documents which, I must say, have conferred no small honour on the Government, and have added not only to the dignity, but to the literature of the country.

Now, my Lords, the Emperor of Russia is not the first man who laid to our charge the imputation of an unholy alliance with infidels and Mussulmans. He took it at secondhand from an accomplished Member of the other House, merely adding, by way of a cordial to himself, that he was combating "in defence of the orthodox faith!" It is really astonishing that a gentlemen of the sagacity and knowledge of Mr. Cobden should have regarded this question as though an alliance of Mahomedans and Christians were a thing unprecedented in Christian annals. He talked as if the history of India had never been either written or read; as though we had never formed, as though we were not actually executing now, alliances, offensive and defensive, with heathen Powers in those countries; and as though we had not been allied, not very long ago, with these same Mahomedan Turks to recover possession of Egypt. My Lords, there is a wide difference between an alliance with any Power, heathen though it be, to maintain the cause of right, justice, and order, against the aggressions even of professing Christians, and an alliance for the development and aggrandisement of that Power. Law, order, and justice are things so sacred in the eye of God, that they must be respected, whoever be the recipients of them. It is not a question here, whether the Turks, as such, shall continue to reign at Constantinople; it is no question here, whether we shall uphold a Mussulman empire, as they say, "in its dotage:" Turkey is the battle-field, and the Turks the objects of these great principles. But the true question at issue is, whether we shall assert the rights of a weaker State, maintain the independence of nations, and endeavour to assign a limit to the encroachments of a Power that seems bent to darken all that is light, and subjugate all that is free, among the nations of mankind.

My Lords, I have no particular sympathies or antipathies for either of the parties engaged in this struggle. I wish that we were well rid of them both—that the Russians were driven to the north of Archangel, the Turks to the east of the Euphrates; but since we are compelled to make a choice, since we must declare for either one or the other, let us see whether there are no alleviating circumstances in the course we have adopted; whether we have not judged rightly to prefer, as I most heartily do, the Turkish to the Russian autocrat—the autocrat that has granted such great facilities to the advancement of Christianity and civilisation to the autocrat who denies them in his own dominions, and who would deny them still more fiercely, should he ever become, by our neglect, the master of those noble provinces that he so ardently covets.

My Lords, it is my deliberate conviction that this is a long-conceived and gigantic scheme, determined on years ago, and now to be executed, for the prevention of all religious freedom, and so ultimately of all civil freedom, among millions of mankind.

But first allow me, in a few words, to describe the gradual growth during the last twenty years, of wealth, intelligence, and civilisation among the Christians of Turkey. I do not deny that there have been occasional outbreaks of Mussulman bigotry, but they have been local, not general; the result of some momentary fanaticism, and not authorised, nay, controlled, by the Government. The truth is, that the great enemy of the Christian in these countries is not the Turk, but the Christian himself. A very large proportion of the torture, the spoliation, the imprisonment that has taken place, has been inflicted by Christians upon Christians, and principally stimulated by the Greek priesthood, with the view of retaining dominion over the laity of their flocks. But to proceed—I desire to show the progress of the last twenty years. First, the diffusion of the Scriptures, during that time, has been almost incredible. Now, whatever may be the private opinions of any one with regard to the Bible, no one will gainsay this assertion—that the diffusion of it has ever been the precursor of lasting civilisation and free institutions. Wherever the Bible has free course, and is freely admitted into the minds of men, there you will be sure to see the development of knowledge, of progress, and of wider and nobler aspirations.

It was stated last year, in a speech by Mr. Layard, in the House of Commons (and the statement has since been confirmed by the American missionaries), that there are more than forty towns and villages in Turkey (subsequent inquiry has raised them to fifty), in which there are distinct congregations of Protestant seceders from the Greek communion. I use the term "Protestant" because it is a term of their own choosing; I should have preferred their other designation, Gospel Readers, because we should thereby have avoided an apparent admixture of the Roman Catholic question—there is, however, here nothing of the sort.

There are, besides, among the Armenians, both in the capital and in the provinces, a large multitude heartily disposed to the new doctrines, and waiting only for opportunity or protection to stand openly among the seceders. Twenty-five years ago not a single Protestant could be found among all the natives; and now there are more than sixty-five regular Protestant teachers in Turkey, and fourteen Protestant schools in Constantinople alone! What then was the consequence of all this?—improvement in social and moral position; vigorous desire among the laity to emancipate themselves from the thraldom of the priesthood; much resistance by the hierarchy; and, thank God, much success with the people!

Now, to what is it all ascribable? I affirm, to the singular and unprecedented liberality of the Turkish system; free scope is there permitted to every religious movement; no hindrance is ever experienced except from the Greek or the Armenian superior clergy. Not only in Constantinople, but in all the provinces, associations for religious purposes are openly recognised and permitted. Printing-presses exist at Constantinople, at Bucharest, and other great towns, where we print the Scriptures in every Oriental tongue, including the Turkish, for circulation among the Turkish people. There are forty depots for the sale of the Bible in Turkey; and at this moment we have a host of colporteurs and native agents perambulating the provinces, reading the Word, and distributing the Scriptures, "no man forbidding them."

Now, contrast this with what is permitted or prohibited in Russia, and draw your inference as to what we have to expect should these awakening provinces fall under the dark and drowsy rule of the Czar. No associations for religious purposes are tolerated in Russia;—no printing-presses are permitted for printing the Bible in modern Russ, the only language understood by the people;—no versions of the Scriptures are allowed to cross the frontier except the German, French, Italian, and English. Not a single copy, I repeat, of the Bible in the modern Russ, in the vernacular tongue, can gain access into that vast empire; and it is believed, on the best evidence, that not a single copy has been printed, even in Russia, since 1823, in the tongue spoken by the people! No colporteurs, of course, nor native agents to enlighten the gloomy provinces; no depôts for the sale of the Scriptures; no possible access to the Word of God!

But here is a restriction which seems incomprehensible. The Emperor has within his dominions a concentrated population of Hebrews, amounting to nearly two millions:—not a single copy of the Scriptures in the Hebrew tongue is allowed to enter Poland for the benefit of this people. I am told that this is refused with even greater severity than the importation of the modern Russ. I called it incomprehensible, but on reflection it is not so; it springs from his fear of the smallest particle of light and life on the feelings and faculties of men, and especially this energetic and wonderful race. But if this be so, if this be the spirit that governs the Emperor in his own dominions, do you think that he would manifest a different spirit should he once, by right of conquest, get possession of these regions, in which he discerns the dawn of liberty and the rights of conscience? I cannot doubt, and no one can doubt, that so far as lies in man, the rising provinces of Turkey would be crushed to the level of the internal provinces of Russia!

But Russia and this "orthodox faith" are not more favourable to missions—not missions, be it remarked, to disturb the Greek Church—but missions to the wild and ignorant heathen of her own dominions, the outskirting provinces of her own empire, where the people are sunk in idolatry and the grossest darkness. Even thither no missionary is permitted to go; and to this hour we believe that no mission has been sent from the Greek Church to supply the places of the expelled foreigners. How methodical, how systematic is all this! The Moravian Brethren—(and your Lordships know well the order, decency, discipline, and vital Christianity of this admirable body)—the Moravian Brethren laboured for many years among the Calmuc Tartars between the Black and Caspian Seas. About 300 converts had been gathered together, but the missionaries were forbidden to baptize any one of them, on the ground of an old law of the Church that "no heathen under Russian sway shall be converted to Christianity and baptized but by the Russian Greek clergy." This mission was therefore abandoned.

The Scottish Missionary Society began a mission in Russian Tartary in 1802—their operations were widely extended. A Mahomedan convert of high standing was baptized by the missionaries, upon which the authorities commenced a series of vexatious restrictions and annoyances, which compelled the Society to relinquish its operations, and, after more than twenty years' labour, and a large expenditure, to withdraw just at the time they were beginning to reap some little fruit of their exertions.

The Basle Missionary Society opened a mission among the Tartars, on the confines of Persia, and laboured first in the Persian dominions. Meeting with opposition there, they removed into the Russian territory, about 1823, where they continued about ten years, until they received orders to quit the imperial domains, and the missionaries retired to other fields of labour.

The London Missionary Society undertook a mission in Siberia, on the frontiers of Chinese Tartary. They were countenanced by the Emperor Alexander (mark this, for we shall soon see a contrast between the Czars), and joined by several Russian missionaries. But in the year 1841, after twenty years' expense and toil, this mission was suppressed, by an order from the Russian synod; this mission, on the frontiers of China, at the extremities of the empire, to the veriest heathen in the midst of darkness, ignorance, and vice, was suppressed, on the liberal and Christian ground, that "the mission, in relation to that form of Christianity already established in the Russian empire, did not coincide with the views of the Church and the Government!"

Now, in contrast with all this, take the course and policy of the Turkish Government. It has given full liberty—and it has observed what it has given to Christian missionaries of Europe and America, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic—to carry on their operations to any extent, by preaching, by the circulation of the Scriptures, by printing establishments, by living agencies; it has issued edicts of toleration; it has announced its will to protect every one in the exercise of that religion which he may conscientiously profess. I say again, as I said at the outset, that we have nothing to do with the motives of these Powers: it may be bigotry on the part of the Russian; it may be indifference on the part of the Turk—I look only to the results; and there you have every facility on the one side, and every obstruction on the other, to the progress of all that is good, and worthy, and desirable, for the human race.

What then, my Lords, was the issue? A great development of knowledge and liberal sentiment, enlarged hopes and aspirations of the Christian population, but redoubled violence and persecutions by the clergy against the laity, backed by the Russian consuls. Here are samples of the character and conduct of the Greek priems:— In Turkey, the dignitaries of the Greek or orthodox Church" (the orthodox faith' of the Imperial Manifesto)" exercise, in some degree, the powers of civil magistrates. The abuses of the Greek hierarchy," said Lord Stratford," as well in the exercise of civil authority as in the management of temporalities, are notorious. This shows the character of the Greek Church in Turkey; and to understand it well, there is necessity to read more than the correspondence relating to the condition of Protestants or seceders in Turkey, from 1841 to 1851. The letters of 1844, from Consul Wood, himself, I believe, a Roman Catholic, speak, with indignation of the cruelty and intrigues of the Greek clergy; and he adds these significant words:— The Russian Consul General of Beyrout has sent his dragoman to the authorities of Damascus to persuade them to assist the Greek Patriarch in recovering his flock! Other instances follow. Mr. Wellesley wrote to Lord Palmerston in 1846:— The promises of the Armenian Patriarch, that the penalties should not affect the civil rights of the seceders, have been violated. They are falsely accused of crimes, charged with imaginary debts, turned out of their houses. The Patriarch possesses the right of banishing any Armenian from one part of the Sultan's dominions to the other. This is the state of things which the Emperor of Russia is determined, if it be possible, to perpetuate over the whole body of the laity in communion with the Greek Church. We trace, step by step, the efforts of Lord Stratford, then Sir Stratford Canning, to obtain for the Christians of the East liberty of conscience and independence of action; and we trace also, step by step, the interposition of the Russian Government to prevent such concessions. The records of the Foreign Office are full of such facts. I do not ask my noble Friend to rise and confirm what I say, but I defy him to contradict me.

Now the disposition of the Russian Go- vernment began principally to be manifested in 1844. In that year the Consul Wood wrote to Lord Aberdeen:— The menaces of the Russian Consul General, supported by the unreserved declaration that he would protest against every proceeding which tended to the encouragement of the professing Christian Protestants, coupled with the subtle intrigues of the Patriarch," &c. &c. On this Lord Aberdeen, writing to Sir Stratford Canning, says:— As the Russian Government have expressed an earnest desire that the English authorities should be instructed to abstain from taking any part in the conversion of members of the Greek Church to the Protestant faith,.… I have conveyed to the Russian Government an equally explicit desire that the Russian Consul General should be restrained in his over zealous exertions in favour of his co-religionists in Syria. This is very good: here we have the testimony of the noble Earl, then at the head of Foreign Affairs, to the vexatious, persecuting, intermeddling activity of the agents of the Czar to harass the Greek laity.

The papers then proceed to detail the efforts of successive British Ministers to procure the public recognition and protection of the Protestant seceders from the Armenian Church at Constantinople, and for all the Protestants. The first step is a single sentence in a general proclamation; "Metropolitans and Dignitaries shall not use force or injustice to their co-nationals." Then follow cases of oppression given in details in many of which the Patriarch is the chief agent. Lord Aberdeen again declares that "remonstrances must be made against religious persecution;" the Armenian Patriarch promises to protect the Protestants at Hasbeya from violence, and breaks his promise. Lord Palmerston then takes up the correspondence, and transmits to Constantinople a memorial from the Free Church of Scotland, and puts the question wholly on the rights of conscience. The hon. Mr. Wellesley writes to Lord Palmerston and recounts the violence still perpetrated against the Protestants—by whom? by the Turks?—no such thing: by the Christians, by the clergy, by the bishops and archbishops themselves. He says:— It is true, that Sir Stratford Canning, before his departure, obtained the promise of the Armenian Patriarch, that the penalties attending excommunication should be limited to the spiritual condemnation, and should not affect the civil rights of those who came under its ban. Yet not only is this promise constantly violated, but other means of annoyance have been found. Mr. Wellesley proceeds and suggests the "incorporation" of the Protestants for their protection. He points out, however, the difficulty which would inevitably arise in obtaining such a measure—and what is that?—why, these are his own words, "the fear of offending the Russian Government"—this ever-watchful defender of the "orthodox faith!" Lord Palmerston, nevertheless, continued to urge on the Minister at Constantinople a perseverance in the measures proposed.

Next comes a memorandum from the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs, affirming these principles; then Lord Cowley obtains a vizierial order of toleration. Lord Palmerston transmitted a copy to the late Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, who acknowledged it, as well they might, "with great satisfaction;" the Bishop of London terming it "a valuable concession to the rights of conscience!" To be sure it was; but when have we received such a boon from Russia? When has Christianity been thus set free in the Muscovite dominions?

But here is the climax; here is the final point of aggravation! Sir Stratford Canning obtains a charter of Protestant rights, under the signature of the Sultan, which he thus characterises:

Religious liberty, and exemption from civil vexations on account of religion, are now secured to all the Protestant community; and the example of its members may, with God's blessing, operate favourably on the relaxed morals of the Greek and Armenian clergy. Allow me, now, a few words to show what led to this happy issue—this charter of the liberties of the Eastern Christians.

In the latter part of January of the year 1846, the full vials of hierarchial vengeance were poured out upon the heads of the defenceless men and women in the Armenian Church who chose to obey God rather than man. They were summoned," says the narrator," before the Patriarch, one by one, and peremptorily ordered to subscribe their names to a creed, which had been prepared for the purpose, on pain of the terrible anathema, with all its barbarous consequences. In the course of a week or so they were ejected from their shops and their business; men, women, and children, without regard to circumstances, were compelled to leave their habitations, sometimes in the middle of the night, and go forth into the streets, not knowing whither they should go, or where they should find shelter. The bakers were prohibited from furnishing them with bread, and the water-carriers with water. Parents were forced by the Patriarch to cast out even their own children who adhered to the Gospel, and to disinherit them. What, I ask, could the fanatical Turks have done worse than this? But it proceeds:—"The Patriarch and his party resorted to every species of oppression:" they had, it appears, neither pity nor scruple; lack of power, but no lack of will, to decapitate their co-nationals. The brethren were reviled, spit upon, and stoned: some were cast into prison, and anathemas sounded against all for several Sundays throughout the churches.

The narrative continues:— It was at this crisis that the bitterness of persecution was arrested, from a quarter whence such an interference might have been least expected. The Turkish Government interposed to stay the tempest of ecclesiastical fury, and protected the incipient reformation. The Armenian Patriarch, summoned before Reshid Pasha, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, was charged by him to desist from his oppressive course. By whose influence was this? By the influence of Sir Stratford Canning, whose noble and persevering efforts, the writer affirms, to secure in Turkey liberty of conscience, are above all praise. Dr. Dwight, the American Missionary, says:— It matters not with him by what name the victim of persecution is called, or to what nation or denomination he belongs—whether he be Jew or Greek, Mahommedan, Armenian, or Roman Catholic. This noble philanthropist is always ready to fly to his relief, and his influence is very great. The Lord has used him," he justly continues, "as an instrument in bringing about as great changes in this land as we have ever seen in any part of the world; and the recognition of the principle by this Government, that Protestant Rayas can live in this country, and pursue their lawful callings, and at the same time worship God according to the dictates of their conscience, is not among the least of these changes. My Lords, I should be sorry to mention the American missionaries in the East without uttering a passing word of respect and admiration for their most noble exertions. Whatever may arise hereafter for the benefit of the Oriental Christians, a very large portion of the honour, and I trust, too, a very large portion of the happiness, will fall to the lot of those praiseworthy men, our missionary brethren from the United States. The narrative concludes:— From this period the principle of toleration in connection with the Turkish Government has been steadily advancing. The Sultan, in a speech delivered at Adrianople during the year 1846, openly declared that difference in religion is a matter that concerns only the consciences of men, and has nothing to do with their civil position. The exertions of Sir Stratford Canning were unceasing, and they reached at last their grand consummation. He obtained from the Sultan an imperial firman, whereby the Protestants were placed on the footing of the ancient established Christian communities. All previous documents had been vizierial, only local and temporary in their application; but this charter of Protestants is imperial, and stamped with the Sultan's cypher. Hear its important words:— To my Vizir, Mohammed Pasha, Prefect of the Police at Constantinople. When this sublime and august mandate reaches you, let it be known that hitherto those of my Christian subjects, who have embraced the Protestant faith, have suffered much inconvenience and distress. But in necessary accordance with my imperial compassion, which is the support of all, and which is manifested to all classes of my subjects, it is contrary to my imperial pleasure that any one class of them should be exposed to suffering. As, therefore, by reason of their faith, the above-mentioned are already a separate community, it is my royal compassionate will that, for the facilitating the conducting of their affairs, and that they may obtain ease and quiet and safety, a faithful and trustworthy person from among themselves, and by their own selection"(mark the words)" should be appointed, with the title of Agent of the Protestants,' and that he should be in relations with the Prefecture of the Police. My Lords, here is at once emancipation from the political power and tyranny of their priests! emancipation from the power and influence of Russia, whose instruments they are!—a recognised status, a recognised independence, a declaration and assurance of the rights of conscience! The grant was indeed of indescribable importance.

But it goes further, and adds practice to principle. The document says:— You will not permit anything to be required of them, in the name of fee, or on other pretences, for marriage licences or registration. You will see to it, that, like the other communities of the empire, in all their affairs, such as procuring cemeteries and places of worship, they should have every facility and every needed assistance. You will not permit that any of the other communities shall in any way interfere with their edifices, or with their worldly matters or concerns, or, in short, with any of their affairs, either secular or religious, that thus they may be free to exercise the usages of their faith. And it is enjoined upon you not to allow them to be molested an iota in these particulars, or in any others; and that all attention and perseverance be put in requisition to maintain them in quiet and security. And— Now, my Lords, attend to this, in case of necessity, they shall be free to make representations regarding their affairs through their agent to the Sublime Porte. They have, therefore, a distinct agent, an officer, a representative selected by themselves, to carry their grievances to the very fountain of authority. Thus the political power of the priest was crushed, and with it the hopes and machinations of Russia!

Here, then, is the whole truth; the secret of the whole movement; the origin and the object of the Emperor's fears! The danger had become imminent; the thing was creeping from under his hand. The circulation of the Scriptures, the growth of Christianity, the rights of conscience, are the resistless preliminaries to freedom of institutions; these provinces are conterminous to his own; no quarantine, no cordon sanitaire, was of any avail—and how, then, put out the light that had begun to burn so brightly? Nothing was left for him but the Menschikoff note, and the imperious proposal of the status quo ab antiquo. And why ab antiquo? why these simple words, apparently so natural and so harmless? Because, had the Sultan been entrapped by this demand, had he yielded but a hair's breadth to menace or persuasion, then at one fell swoop would have been cancelled every effort of the British Ambassador for twenty years; the decree of Reshid Pasha, the firman of the Sultan; the independent position of the seceders annulled, the rights of conscience subdued, and the whole mass of the Greek laity thrown back under the thraldom of the priestly tools of the Autocrat of Russia.

Do we wonder now, my Lords, at the Imperial hatred of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe? do we wonder at the Nesselrode calumnies? Has not that great and good man, year by year, and day by day, dogged the steps of Russian tyranny? Has he not detected their plans, and enabled us to expose this colossal conspiracy against the nascent civil and religious liberties of the fairest portions of the habitable globe, and of 14,000,000 of the human race?

That these are the sentiments of the reigning Emperor, and this his policy, may be gathered from a brief comparison of himself with his predecessor. The Emperor Alexander was a very different man; and those who read the history of the two will speedily perceive the difference. The Emperor Alexander did all in his power to repress the bigotry of the Greek Church; the Emperor Nicholas has done, and is doing, all in his power to stimulate it for political purposes and his own aggrandisement. In the reign of the Emperor Alexander, there was the most free, unfettered action for the labours of the Bible Society, as much as even in England itself. The Emperor gave his personal sanction and aid to it. He issued an order that all letters on the business of the Society, as well as the Bibles and Testaments, should be transmitted, free of charge, to every part of the empire.

He gave, moreover, a house; and added 15,000 roubles for the expenses of adaptation to the purposes of the Society.

He formed the Moscow Bible Society, and announced it in this most remarkable passage—remarkable for any man, but singularly so from one of his great power and station. He said:— I consider the establishment of Bible Societies in Russia, in most parts of Europe, and in other parts of the globe, and the very great progress these institutions have made in disseminating the Word of God, not merely among Christians, but also among heathens and Mahomedans, as a peculiar display of the mercy and grace of God to the human race. On this account I have taken on myself the denomination of a member of the Bible Society; and I will render it every possible assistance, in order that the beneficent light of revelation may be shed among all nations subject to my sceptre! These are great and glorious sentiments.

He died; and in 1826 the Emperor Nicholas ascended the throne; and what did he then do?—He suppressed, by an ukase, the Russian Bible Society with all its branches; suppressed every privilege granted to religious societies; and brought back that Cimmerian darkness of the human intellect and the human heart that he seems to prize so highly.

Has Turkey, I ask, done anything of the sort? Has she not, my Lords, in the last twenty years, allowed more to the progress of liberty and truth than Russia in the whole of the famous 900 years that the Emperor boasts as the present age of the alliance between the Sclavonic nations and the Greek communion? Undoubtedly she has; and this inference cannot be gainsaid—that, if the Sultan had been less liberal towards freedom of religion, less considerate of the rights of conscience, there would have been 110 Menschikoff note, and no invasion of the Principalities.

But now, my Lords, though these are not the matters for which we undertake the war, we may rejoice that we are not engaged in upholding a state of things adverse to all amelioration, and subversive of all liberty and truth. I trust that, out of our present policy, we may extract some good to be felt to the latest generation—I trust, nay, I am quite sure, that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will complete what in his despatches he has so admirably begun, and support Lord Stratford in the largest demands for the civil and religious rights of the Christians in the Ottoman empire. I trust that this country, looking to a prosperous issue of the conflict, will consider the basis of a lasting peace, how best it can restrain inordinate ambition, assist the independence of weaker States, and dam up the floods of barbarism. The forbearance and reluctance, my Lords, manifested by the allied Powers of France and England in all their strength, have conferred incalculable service on the present cause, and on the hopes of expanding civilisation. It has secured you the sympathies of the country, the sympathies of Europe, and the sympathies, too, of that people with whom, I trust, we shall ever be allied—our brethren in the United States! It has done much to prevent the recurrence of such an evil; it has shown that war is a solemn, fearful thing; and that, while permitted to us in our fallen state, it may be resorted to only in the last extremity—not in the gratification of passion or revenge—but as a deliberate act, to assert the rights and liberties of men and nations. Seeing, then, my Lords, that we have entered on this conflict in no spirit of ambition, covetousness, or pride, but for our own defence, and in the maintenance of great principles which concern alike all the races of mankind, let us have no fear for the issue; but, offering a humble and hearty prayer to Almighty God, let us devoutly trust that his aid will not be wanting to bless our arms with success, and a speedy peace, in this just and inevitable quarrel. The noble Earl concluded by moving

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, for Copies of Correspondence respecting the Condition of Protestants in Turkey (in continuation of Correspondence presented to this House in 1851)


I believe I shall not find it necessary to occupy your Lordships' time but for a few minutes. I rise, first of all, fur the purpose of assuring my noble Friend that I can have no objection to the production of the papers for which he has moved; and, in the next place, for the purpose of expressing to him my thanks for the interesting, the important, and the opportune statement which he has just made to your Lordships with even more than his accustomed ability. There is no man, my Lords, either within or without this House entitled to speak with the same authority upon this subject as my noble Friend, whose whole life has been devoted to diffusing a knowledge of Christianity and its attendant blessings, and who is not a mere subscriber to or a nominal patron of those religious and missionary societies to which he has this night referred, but who is their vivifying spirit—their practical and laborious superintendent. He is, therefore, necessarily acquainted with their proceedings, and the persons whom they send forth; the facts which he has stated to the House this evening are, therefore, necessarily unimpeachable, and are most opportune for the purpose of allaying the doubts and fears to which he has alluded, and for the purpose of stamping with its true character the contest in which this country is now about to engage. My Lords, I think my noble Friend described, in the proper terms, the manifesto to which he referred at the beginning of his speech. He said it was a portentous charge brought by the Emperor of Russia against the English and French Governments; and such a charge as this—that they are taking part with the enemies against the supporters of Christianity—is so, and is well calculated to raise those doubts and anxieties to which my noble Friend has alluded. Such a charge on the part of Russia is wholly consistent with the course that has been uniformly pursued in this case; for throughout the transactions of the last twelve months nothing to my mind has been more deplorable, nothing more culpable—but, on the other hand, I believe nothing less successful—than the attempt which has been made to give to this war which Russia has forced on Turkey a religious character. My Lords, war, under any circumstances, is a grievous and unmitigated calamity; but all history teaches us that a religious war, in which men fight for their faith—in which they bring themselves to believe that their deeds are peculiarly acceptable in the eyes of their Creator—in which they contend for the palm of martyrdom as well as for the palm of victory—all history teaches us that such a war evokes a spirit that imparts fresh energies to the worst passions of human nature, and finds a palliation for the blackest deeds of ferocity and vengeance. I say, then, my Lords, that it is wholly unjustifiable to have endeavoured to give to this war a religious character. In such an endeavour oppression is masked by religion, and the blessing of Heaven is invoked on acts the most unjustifiable. But, as I said before, I believe this endeavour has been attended with the fate which it deserves. There is no man out of Russia on whom it has imposed, or who has not already considered it as an unworthy artifice; and I believe that the result has not been very different in Russia itself. I believe that those exciting appeals have met with but a faint and feeble response even in that country—not certainly from any want of deference for the Imperial will, for there that deference is universal; not from any lack of religious zeal, for no nation possesses more of that zeal, or carries it to more superstitious lengths; but simply because in this manifesto there was an evident want of truth, and it was wholly unsupported by facts. The Russian people—and by the Russian people I mean the upper, the middle, and the educated classes; those who express, as far as is permissible, public opinion in Russia—well know that their religion was exposed to no danger; they had no reason either to think that the religion of the Greek subjects of the Porte was exposed to any danger, because it was notorious that the only point in dispute, and to which certainly great importance was attached—that of the Holy Places—had been satisfactorily settled. And it is remarkable that in none of those manifestoes, and in none of the despatches that have been published, is there any statement of facts, and still less is there any proof adduced, of complaints having been made by the Greek subjects of the Porte, either to their Patriarch, or to the Sultan, or to the Emperor of Russia, of their having suffered any religious oppression, of their having been denied the free exercise of their religion, or of their having been deprived of any right which had formerly been granted to them. I say, therefore, that it was manifest to the people of Russia that that was not the true state of the case. If a declaration had been made upon the part of the Emperor of Russia that the occupation of the Principalities was a necessary step, because the Danube would form a better boundary for his territories on that side than the Pruth; if he had announced that the time had at length come when he should take possession of Constantinople; or, better still, that the period had arrived when the authority of the Sultan in his own dominions should be undermined, and when he should be made the vassal and depen- dent of the Russian Emperor—to such declarations, my Lords, I believe there might have been a response; but to a sham cry of religion in danger, no response whatever could be found. Your Lordships will also remember what a remarkable absence of everything in the nature of a religious demonstration there has been throughout the last twelve months in Turkey. Mahomedan fanaticism and its melancholy consequence, in former days, are two well known to need recapitulation; but, in the present instance, I am glad to think that this fruitful source of internal dissension finds no place. No spirit upon the part of Turkey has been evoked in the contest in which she is now engaged, except a spirit which we can admire and with whose struggles we can sympathise; because it is a national spirit, and because it has impelled the Turks to form the brave determination to resist at the hazard of their lives the encroachments which have been made upon their rights by the invader of their liberties. But, my Lords, those manifestoes and those exciting appeals, which have been addressed rather to the Greek subjects of the Porte than to the subjects of the Emperor himself—those agents of Russia, who have been sent among the Greek subjects of the Sultan, urging them to revolt—the enrolment of 3,000 of the Sultan's subjects in Wallachia, for the purpose of bearing arms against their legitimate Sovereign—all these things are nothing but servile copies of the course which is pursued by all revolutionists and propagandists, whose acts the Emperor is always denouncing as the acts of the greatest political criminals, and to effect whose discomfiture all the energies of his mind seemed to be devoted. I say, my Lords, that it is utterly unjustifiable, and utterly without pretext or excuse, to endeavour to give this war the character of a religious contest. Still less is there any good reason for the charge—the portentous charge, as my noble Friend has termed it—made against the French and English Governments—that they are allying themselves with the enemies in opposition to the friends of Christianity. My noble Friend has truly stated what the cause of this war is. We are about to engage in a contest in support of the principles of justice and of sound policy; we are about to prevent the Emperor of Russia from furnishing the pernicious example by which it may be established that the independence of a weak State may be annihilated by her more powerful neighbour; and we are about to resist an aggression by which the territorial limits and the equilibrium of Europe, as established by treaty, are threatened to be disturbed. Would, as my noble Friend has observed, that we might be able to put a stop to that blighting influence which has deprived more than one country—indeed I may say so large a portion of Europe—of its free and unshackled right of action; that influence which has always been exerted to check that progress in civilisation which is so essential to the promotion of a nation's welfare; that influence moreover, which, by stigmatising them as tending to excite revolution, has checked all those improvements which Governments have been willing to make, and which a people deemed fit to be the objects of more enlarged privileges were entitled to expect. It is by pursuing such a course that disloyalty and discontent have been encouraged, and it is by acting upon that policy—a policy which with us has found no favour—that Russia, while she professes to do her utmost to repress it, has been in reality serving the cause of revolution. I agree with my noble Friend that the liberty which the Christians have in Turkey may be owing to the indifference of the Mahomedans. There is no reason why the Sultan, exercising a despotic power, should not foster the Mahomedan religion as the religion of the State, and that none other should be professed there, or why he should not say that the Koran contains the whole truth, and therefore prohibit the use of the Bible. But, as my noble Friend says, what we have to do with is not the motive, but the fact; and your Lordships will find evidence, even beyond that which my noble Friend has adduced in his speech this evening, in the papers which have been laid upon your table, evidence which demonstrates, by a decree of the Sultan which was issued last year, his ardent wish and firm intention that all classes of his subjects should be perfectly at ease with respect to matters of a religious and spiritual character. He has further stated that he is determined that the concessions which have been made to the Protestants should for ever remain inviolate. Those words, my Lords, afford the measure of the Sultan's liberality and toleration. My noble Friend has given you the measure of the liberality and toleration of His Majesty the Emperor of Russia. I may add still further, that it was only last year that the Sultan gave liberty for the use of certain lands as burial-grounds for the Christian community, with liberty to the Protestants to erect a chapel, and to have divine service performed in it. All this, too, took place at a time when your Lordships were informed by papers which were laid upon your table, and when the country was informed, that in another nation, whose inhabitants would probably consider themselves degraded by any comparison with the subjects of the Sultan, the exercise of the Protestant religion was strictly prohibited, and the Protestant dead were ignominiously smuggled into their graves. In further proof of the desire which has been manifested by the Sultan, not alone to secure to his Christian subjects the full and free exercise of their religion, but also to improve their civil condition, I shall take the liberty of furnishing you with a proof which has only very recently come under my own notice. About half an hour before I came down to the House I received a despatch from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, which I think in some measure confirms the views which my noble Friend takes upon this subject. It is dated "Constantinople, February 25." Lord Stratford de Redcliffe writes as follows:— I have much satisfaction in reporting to your Lordships that the firman for establishing Christian evidence on an equality with Mussulman throughout the Turkish empire is complete, and that it received the Sultan's sanction shortly before I had the honour to receive your Lordship's instructions relating to the question which it has now settled once for all on a broad and firm basis. I have received a copy of it from the Porte. No time will be lost in promulgating it, and I propose to send a translation of it by the Trieste steam-packet, which goes to sea the day after to-morrow. I have reason to hope that this great act of long-withheld justice will be followed by other proofs of the Sultan's comprehensive beneficence and of the improved spirit prevailing among his Mahomedan subjects. It is my ardent wish that the Christian and other non-Mussulman classes of the population of this empire may duly appreciate the benefit conferred upon them, and justify by their peaceful and loyal behaviour the increasing goodwill manifested towards them by the Sultan and his Government. The haratch is no longer levied in a manner vexatious to individuals, but it is an unjust and degrading tax, for the complete abolition of which I shall continue to employ my strenuous exertions. Now, my Lords, while speaking of what the Sultan has already done, and with respect to that which he has announced it to be his intention to do in future, in order to promote the welfare of his Christian subjects, I cannot pass over this opportu- nity of expressing my deep regret at the movements which have of late taken place on the part of the Greeks. I admit that great civil reforms are still necessary, and that the Greeks have much to complain of; but I am perfectly convinced that it is not by insurrection that anything good or substantially useful can be effected. I am perfectly sure that it is not by idle dreams of a Byzantine empire that Greece will ever be raised to a proud or a prosperous position; it is not by playing the game, while abhorring the dominion, of Russia, that reforms in her internal condition can be effected; it is not by thwarting the measures of the Four Powers, but by confiding in the honour and good faith of the Sultan, that those reforms can alone be accomplished. I shall take this opportunity to repeat what I said a few nights ago—namely, that the Four Powers who are now engaged in this question, and who are determined to uphold the independence of the Ottoman empire, would ill perform their duty—would but imperfectly understand the true character of their mission, and would be neglectful of what they owe to the best interests of the Sultan, if they did not use their best endeavours to secure the civil as well as the religious rights and privileges of his Christian subjects, and if they did not open the way to Christian civilisation, with all its progress and prosperity, which they are convinced must prove eventually the best shield for the independence of Turkey, which will best enable her to meet the attacks of the foreign invader, and to secure herself against the baneful consequences of internal revolutions.


said, that he must express his satisfaction at the despatch from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, which his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had just read. The noble Lord had, in a few significant words, explained some of the facts which had been referred to by the noble Earl who introduced that discussion. At the same time he (Earl Grey) must be permitted to observe that, while they were paying these compliments to Turkish toleration, there could be no room to doubt that the reason why the Turks treated the Christians of different denominations alike arose from total indifference to their sectarian distinctions; and it should be remembered that that toleration was confined to what took place between the various Christian sects. All these Christian sects were looked upon as dogs, and between one kind of dog and another the true Mussulman saw very little difference. But if he (Earl Grey) was correctly informed, a very different spirit than one of toleration was shown in Turkey towards any Mahomedan who turned from what was considered the true faith there, and he believed that converts to Christianity were exposed to very severe penalties. Whatever internal reforms had been going on in Turkey of late years, it was clear from the papers that had been laid before their Lordships that the Turks still continued to oppress their Christian fellow-subjects, and that the state of things which formerly existed still remained to a great degree. He would not now trouble their Lordships by quoting extracts to prove this proposition, but nobody who had read the blue books would dispute what he had just stated. He sincerely hoped that the improvements which it appeared were now taking place in the administration of Turkey would not be too late to effect their object. He fully concurred with the opinion expressed by his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon), that the Christians of the western provinces of Turkey were acting most unwisely in making themselves the tools and instruments of Russia. At the same time allowance should be made for the conduct of these people, and their Lordships should remember what must be the feelings created in the bosoms of men by four hundred years of unmitigated oppression and cruelty. The Turks were now only making tardy concessions, which for centuries their superior power had enabled them to withhold; and if an intestine war between the Mahomedans on the one side and the Greeks on the other should arise in those districts, and grow serious in its importance, he hoped in that case that the arms of England would not be employed in coercing the Christian subjects of Turkey to submit to Mahomedan rule. Having advanced so far as we had done, there was nothing for this country to do but to prosecute the war with Russia with the utmost determination and vigour; but it did not follow from that that we should engage in an internal war between the Turks and the Christian subjects of the Porte. However mistaken those Christians might be—however unwise we might think their conduct—he said, looking at the circumstances of the case, it was not fit that the arms of England should be employed against men in their position. A careful consideration of all the information which had been produced on this subject only served to convince him that it would have been desirable, at almost any hazard, that the status quo should have been maintained, and should not have been disturbed by a recourse to arms on the part of this country. He could not but still entertain the utmost fear, which he expressed the other night, that we had embarked in a course the difficulties of which were yet but little understood, and that we had placed ourselves in a situation in which we should be called upon to mediate between races which were bitterly and irreconcilably hostile to each other, and, in fact, that we might have to govern a large population without adequate means for doing so. He certainly earnestly hoped that such beneficial results might be attained in the end as his noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) seemed to anticipate from the contest; but, with the opinions which he entertained, he could not refrain from stating his belief that those results would have been better arrived at by a course of a different character.


said, he trusted that, whatever relaxations or alterations might be made in the laws of Turkey in behalf of the Christian subjects of that country, England would not take upon herself the obligation of guaranteeing the faithful observance of any concessions which might be made by Turkey to the Christians. He knew of nothing that would conduce more to create further complications in the future affairs of Europe than that we should, by binding ourselves to maintain alterations in the Turkish laws, place ourselves in the position which we had refused Russia permission to assume, namely, that of protectors of the Christian subjects of the Porte. Therefore, however much he might desire that the friendly representations which our Minister to the Porte had made under different circumstances and at different periods in favour of the Christians in Turkey should still be continued and be attended with success, he did most earnestly desire that we should not appear in any manner to acquire the right, or to incur the obligation, of enforcing the future observance of the new laws which might be passed in the Ottoman empire. He said this the more, because he agreed with the noble Earl who had just sat down, that the laws passed by the Turkish Government in favour of its Christian subjects, however well intended, and however sin- cere the desire on the part of the Government that they should be observed, had, nevertheless, in point of fact, not attained their complete observance, in consequence of that which would always practically alter the character of a law—namely, the continued predominance of the ruling nation—the greater energy of the Mahomedan population, who would refuse practically to their Christian fellow-subjects the enjoyment of the privileges which their more enlightened Government might grant. If the Greeks really desired to obtain equality under the law in practice as in right, it was not by opposition to the Turkish Government and by insurrection, under present circumstances, that they would succeed in their object; on the contrary, insurrection, under circumstances which it was impossible that any Mussulman could ever pardon, would create irreconcilable hatred between the two creeds, and only end in increasing a persecution from which the Greeks might otherwise be relieved. If the Greeks wished to be placed by the law upon the same footing as the Turks, let them come forward and unite with the Turks for the protection of their native land against the foreign invader; let them join the Turkish standard, and rally round the colours of their country. They might depend upon it the best friendships were those that were formed in the hour of mutual danger, and cemented in the field of glorious victory. If they showed themselves worthy of defending the country of which they were born the subjects—if in the day of battle they displayed courage such as had been evinced by the Turks—they might feel assured that they would acquire, first, that self-respect which was the best security for the observance of the law, and next, the respect of the Turks themselves, who, in peace, would be ready to concede equality to the men who had fought by their sides for their common country. They would thus become really equal with the Turkish subjects of the Porte, and might perfectly enjoy the benefits of those relaxations of the law which were now to be afforded them.


rose to express his entire concurrence in the commencement of the speech of his noble Friend who had just sat down, where he warned the Government of this country against becoming in any way the guarantee for the privileges which the Christians might enjoy in the Turkish empire. Indeed, if any thing, he (Earl Fitzwilliam) went beyond his noble Friend, and ventured to doubt whether the present moment was the suitable time at which it would be expedient for our Ambassador at Constantinople to exert himself to obtain any concessions for the Porte's Christian subjects, or any relaxation of obnoxious laws to which they might now be exposed. He believed it was not desirable that we should, even by such solicitations and representations, make ourselves, to a certain degree, parties to the engendering of that mischievous religious feeling which it seemed to be the endeavour of the Emperor of Russia to excite in the various nations of the east of Europe. Anxious as he (Earl Fitzwilliam) might be to see the Christians in Turkey released from the remnants of that severe code which the noble Earl (Earl Grey) told us they had been groaning under for the last four centuries, he did not wish that we should select this particular time fur pressing the Turkish Government to make such reforms. Having stated thus much, he must express the deep regret he felt at the speech of his noble Friend (Earl Grey), because, however that noble Lord might endeavour to guard himself, and to qualify the language he used, he might depend upon it that if a person of his authority in that House, and of his influence in the country, indulged in the same tone as he was sorry to see had been adopted in other places, he would produce a much more mischievous effect than it such sentiments were confined to the quarter to which he rejoiced that they had hitherto been chiefly confined. The expression of such opinions as those of the noble Earl in that House would tend to damp the ardour of the country in the contest in which it was about to be engaged—a struggle which he agreed with his noble Friend at the table (the Earl of Shaftesbury) in considering was not a contest between nation and nation, it was scarcely a contest between principle and principle, but was rather a contest between civilisation and barbarism. It was impossible for their Lordships to have listened to the powerful speech and interesting statements of his noble Friend at the table without perceiving that, if those statements were true (and they could not be denied), the contest in which the western nations of Europe were now about to be embarked, was a contest not even against Russia, but a contest between civilisation on the one hand and barbarism on the other—a contest (he would say it in spite of the declaration of the Emperor of Russia)—a contest between religion on the one side and practical infidelity on the other. It was not England or France that was siding with the enemies of Christianity, but he said that England and France were cordially uniting together in order to avert a state of things in which barbarism and infidelity might prevail over civilisation and religion.

On Question, agreed to.

House adjourned to Monday next.