HL Deb 23 July 1855 vol 139 cc1275-6

asked the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if Her Majesty's Government had received any information with respect to the progress of the war in Asia? Most alarming accounts—whether true or false he could not say—had recently been received from that quarter. It was said that Kars had been invested by a large Russian force, and that another detachment of the enemy had been despatched to Erzeroum. On the fall of Kars during the last war, the Russians immediately advanced upon Erzeroum. The House was aware of the vast importance of this latter town, a subject which had lately been brought before the other House by an hon. Gentleman who was admitted to be a great authority on all matters connected with the East, the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard). It was said by those who were best acquainted with the country that whoever held Erzeroum would be masters of that part of Asia; and there was no doubt that if the Russians should obtain and keep possession of it, it would be fatal to the independence and integrity of Turkey. It had generally been supposed that the independence of Turkey was comparatively safe so long as she was not threatened by the Russian fleet. That might be very true as far as regarded the European possessions of the Porte, but that it was equally so with regard to the Ottoman territory in Asia was a conclusion not equally borne out by experience. He hoped the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Department would be able to contradict the alarming rumours in circulation; and he trusted that the result of the present campaign would show that the Government, in concert with our allies, had taken such steps as would check the further progress of the Russian army in Asia Minor.


said, he had no objection to give the noble Earl all the information he possessed on the subject to which he had drawn the attention of their Lordships. He could assure him that Her Majesty's Government were as fully alive as the noble Earl could be to the importance of repelling the aggressions of Russia on Kars. In the summer of last year Her Majesty's Government sent out to Kars a very distinguished officer, and by his unwearied zeal and perseverance he had succeeded in maintaining the spirit of the Turkish army, in reforming some of the worst abuses, and placing the army on a more satisfactory footing. They had news from that place to the 23rd of last month, which was that the Russians had made an advance on Kars, and had got within fire of the batteries, and were repulsed with loss. But so far from the Turkish army being in a dispirited and demoralised condition by the sufferings of last winter, they manifested a very excellent spirit. They knew also that the inhabitants displayed the best spirit. They had been supplied with arms at their own demand, and wherever there was an appearance of danger they presented themselves without being called upon. On the 23rd there was a very considerable Russian force between Kars and Erzeroum, which had destroyed some granaries and stores of corn; and after the failure at Kars it appeared that the Russians had sent for heavy guns; but that on their way a violent rain had taken place, the country was entirely broken up, and they were unable to bring the guns up. That was the latest information they had, and it was the opinion not only of the general officer he had referred to, but of the other officers with him, that there need be no fear whatever of Kars being taken by a coup de main. It would be of course the duty of the Turkish Government to take measures to succour Kars. Measures for that purpose would be taken, but of course the noble Earl would see that it would be injudicious for him to state what they were.

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