§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I rise to put a question to the noble Earl opposite the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with reference to some rumours which have created considerable anxiety in the public mind, and which have been confirmed by private letters—some of which I have myself seen—from Odessa and Constantinople. These letters state that a considerable force of Russian ships had left Sebastopol, and had made a descent upon the coast of Circassia; but they do not appear to agree as to the object of the movement, some saying that it was to carry Russian troops to reinforce the garrisons along the coast of Circassia, while others think the object was to bring away the garrisons from the isolated forts upon that coast. Your Lordships will be aware that the line of fortresses along the coast of Circassia is, virtually, all that Russia possesses in that country, and it is supposed to be one of her most vulnerable points, and the most open to successful attack. Whatever, therefore, the object may have been—whether it was to strengthen these garrisons or to withdraw them from the strait in which they might be supposed to stand—it was of considerable importance that that object should have been prevented by Her Majesty's ships. On the contrary, however, if these rumours be true, the Russian force has not only been unimpeded in any way, but Her Majesty's fleet and the French fleet are still lying at anchor in Beicos Bay. I have now two questions to ask my noble Friend—the first is, whether he can say that the rumours of a Russian force having left Sebastopol for the coast of Circassia are true or false? and, in the second place, whether he has any objection to state to the House the position now held by the combined fleets—whether they are lying, as I understand they are, in Beicos Bay? in which, it appears to me, they would be very nearly useless in the way of preventing any of those sudden operations which may have taken place on the part of Russia.
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
My Lords, the only answer I can give my noble Friend is, that I have read in the public journals the reports which he has referred to, but that the Government has received no official communication upon the subject. Such information as they have received is rather of a contrary character, so far as Circassia is concerned. A recent telegraphic despatch from Constantinople stated that it was reported that several—I think ten—Russian ships of war had left Sebastapol and were between that place and Perekof, which is upon the northern coast of the Crimea, and not at all near the coast of Circassia. That is the only information we have had. With respect to the position of the combined fleets, I may say that, according to the last accounts, they were at Beicos Bay, and that Sir Edmund Lyons had just returned from a cruise in the Black Sea, having been with the steam portion of the fleets, in the course of which he passed along the fronts of the forts to which my noble Friend has alluded, and in front of Sebastapol; and after having cruised a month in the northern parts of the Black Sea, returned without having seen a single Russian vessel.