HL Deb 03 August 1860 vol 160 cc603-27

—My Lords, I rise for the purpose of drawing your Lordships' attention to the question of the disturbances in Syria, which has occupied so large a portion of the public attention for some time. It will be in the recollection of the House that a few weeks ago, when I asked a question of the Government respecting their information on this subject, a noble and learned Friend of mine (Lord Brougham), in saying a few words in support of my request, expressed a hope that at some future time I would enter at large on the question. I should have acted on the suggestion of my noble and learned Friend at an earlier period, but I was in hopes that some one more able to deal with a question of such importance would take it up, and bring it under the attention of the House. There were likewise other reasons which rendered it difficult for me to fix a day on which I could bring the question before the House. Your Lordships will remember that a few-days ago I expressed the deep regret I experienced at not being able to bring it forward at an hour which, however early it might appear to some, was too late to admit of the proper consideration of an important subject of this sort. The question is indeed one the importance of which cannot be exaggerated, and I cannot express with what diffidence I now enter upon it; I trust, however, that your Lordships, with your characteristic generosity, will accord to me the indulgence of which I have witnessed so many notable examples since I have had the honour of a seat in your House. I trust that your Lordships will believe that I bring forward this question under a sense of the importance of its being considered by both Houses before Parliament breaks up—of the desirableness of its receiving your Lordships' attention as well as that of the other House, where it seems likely that it will undergo discussion; it is also to be wished that the public should have an opportunity of becoming better acquainted with the nature of a subject which is attended with so many painful circumstances and involves so many serious considerations. It shall be my endeavour, if your Lordships' indulgence is granted me, to address myself to the question with as much brevity as my inexperience of Parliamentary discussions may enable me to employ.

My Lords, I do not think it necessary to enter into any details of the atrocious incidents which have taken place in Syria. They are but too vividly impressed upon every page of the papers which have been laid on our table; they have been so commented upon in every form by the public press, and they are of themselves of so I distressing a nature, that I should with difficulty persuade myself to dwell upon them now. From a similar feeling I am unwilling to enter into any inquiry as to the origin of these disturbances, and the sanguinary tumults and massacres by which they have been accompanied. I know there are many painful reports in circulation, that there are some reasons for perhaps, attaching a political importance of no ordinary kind to these occurrences; but I confess that I conceive them to be more fit for a judicial inquiry and the sober deliberation of the Government than to be brought at the present moment under the consideration of this House. It is impossible, however, entirely to overlook some of the circumstances that have taken place, and there are some leading points which the House ought to take into consideration as bearing upon the question. Nor can I refrain from remarking upon the necessity which it appears to me, and I believe to every one who has reflected upon it, exists for taking prompt and efficient measures to put an end to a state of things in Syria which is attended with so much loss of life, and which gives so great a shock to all the best feelings of humanity. Measures of that kind should be adopted with the least possible delay. I am, my Lords, by no means disinclined to give every credit to Her Majesty's Government for having taken up this subject and done what depends upon them to produce that desirable result. The circumstance of a Commissioner having—as I understand from the public newspapers—been appointed to proceed to Syria, is a proof that they hare exercised an active discretion on this question; and I can only trust that that appointment may prove of advantage. But, my Lords, it is not merely the despatch of a Commissioner, it is not merely communications with other Powers that will have the effect of putting a stop to the atrocities which have been enacted in Syria. I believe, as far as the present state of the ease is concerned, that there is much reason to hope that, as a probable consequence of the exhaustion of the two contending parties, some kind of arrangement has been made so as to arrest the immediate effusion of blood. But it is impossible to lose sight of what has already taken place—of the enormous sacrifice of human life and the dreadful incidents connected with it. And after all, even it be true that there is a cessation of actual hostilities, I fear it is more attributable to the triumph of one party over the other than to any other cause.

My Lords, I really feel myself embarrassed in attempting first to state the most prominent circumstances which give importance to the affairs of that part of the world. It may become necessary—and I understand that some arrangements for that object are in progress—to exercise interference on the part of the European Powers, or some of those Powers; and it appears that the landing of a considerable force in Syria may be expected, if it has not already occurred. If there be a necessity of that kind—if the Turkish Government is of itself too weak to suppress these disturbances and to give that security to Europe which Europe has a right to look for against their renewal, I, for one, should not object to see, under proper safeguards, and when the necessity for it is well and clearly established, measures of an active nature adopted on the part of Europe, or even on the part of any particular Power, under the sanction of treaty. But there is no doubt that considerable danger would arise on that point. We never can forget of what importance Syria is. That, above all, it is the key to Egypt, and is a country in regard to which, if any mistake were to take place, if any extension of the interference beyond what was strictly required were to occur, it might be difficult for the maritime powers of Europe to interfere without involving themselves in hostilities and all the consequences of a long and hazardous war. There are other points of the greatest interest and importance appertaining to this subject. There is no question but that the Turkish Government have always lamented that that part of their empire which is well known to us under the name of the Lebanon has never yet been brought fully under subjection. There have been many indications at a period anterior to these recent occurrences, of a constant desire on the part of the Turkish Government to obtain a more complete authority over this portion of their territory. It is well known that from the earliest times the principal tribes of the Lebanon have enjoyed an independent administration; that the Ottoman armies, in their attempts to reduce them, were always foiled; that it was not until the Egyptians entered the country that these races tasted the effects of dependence upon a distant authority; and that on that occasion they were rescued from this dependence mainly by the assistance of British arms, employed at sea in concurrence with the Turkish forces on land. And, if I am rightly informed—and, indeed, I believe there is no doubt upon the subject-promises were given to these tribes that their independence should be secured, and that a Turkish military force should not lie established within the confines of their territories. These circumstances have of course rendered it difficult to deal with the affairs of the Lebanon. On the one hand you have to provide for the fulfilment of the promises so made, and also to display a just distrust with regard to the entrance of foreign troops into the country; but at the same time there is a paramount consideration, and one which it is difficult to set aside, namely, that such atrocities as have lately been perpetrated there should not be liable to repetition. I wish, my Lords, that it were in my power, from the experience I have had of that country, to say that we can entirely rely upon the Turkish Government and authorities for giving us that security. It is impossible to read the Correspondence now on your Lordships' table without perceiving that there are strong reasons to suspect at least the officers called upon to execute the commands of the Porte of an unpardonable remissness, and sometimes of even more than that—and in some cases even of an appearance of connivance at these atrocities. And on more than one occasion—if we are to believe the reports of the Consuls, which there is no reason to doubt—even when those officers had the force necessary to check the contending parties, they exhibited the most marked partiality towards one of them, persuading those who were exposed to danger to give up their arms, and, when those arms had been given up, opening the gates of their town and delivering up those unfortunate persons to indiscriminate massacre. I do hope, my Lords, that among the measures which will be taken there will be one of a judicial character, one that will carry with it that spirit of punishment which, more than anything else, is calculated to repress the tendency to forget what is due to humanity, and due to the engagements of the Porte with foreign Powers. I see that one officer in particular is mentioned—Osman Bey—who seems to have not merely connived at what took place, but to have himself led the way to the massacre, not only of persons who had a short time before been in arms, but also of their wives and children. For Europe to stand still and witness such atrocities without endeavouring to put them down, without seeking to obtain some guarantee against their recurrence, without calling upon the Turkish Government to control its officers, and give to Europe that security which we have a right to expect is, my Lords, a state of things which cannot he contemplated. It is impossible to imagine for one moment that such a state of things can be permitted to continue, or that this country will be slow to take its part in suppressing proceedings so contrary to every sentiment of justice, good faith, and common humanity.

My Lords, among the other difficulties incident to this question, not the least, perhaps, is that of ascertaining the exact cause of these calamities. It may be said that one of those causes—if we are to give credit in any degree to the Sultan for not willingly conniving at the perpetration of crimes of this kind—is the weakness of his power. But I take the liberty, my Lords, of asking whence does that weakness arise? Is it a mere excuse or a state of things that might have been prevented? It appears that the number of troops in the disturbed parts of Syria was very small; and we likewise find that the Turkish Government were not prepared with the means of sending a large force to that country at the time when they first heard of these disturbances. It would, moreover, seem that their attention had been called to a distant portion of their empire on the other side of the water—to that part of their territory in the more immediate vicinity of which there exist Russian interests. Every one knows that the Turkish Government is always exposed to dangers of that kind, if not on one side on another—that the state of the country is such, in consequence of the inefficient administration of the Porte, as to be exposed at every moment to insurrection; and that, though the Porte has generally the good fortune and sufficient authority to put it down, yet every exercise of its authority is accompanied by an increased degree of weakness and danger of bringing about that catastrophe which it has been the object of statesmen for so many years to avoid. But true it is, from my own knowledge, that this weakness is by no means necessary. It arises from particular circumstances; and among others from the state of the finances of Turkey being so reduced that the Court finds difficulty in keeping up the army to its usual strength; and the troops, I understand, are so much in arrear with their pay that their spirit may have been affected by the hard position in which they have thus been placed. But my own belief is that this state of things at the Porte is by no means a necessary one. The Porte has for many years been warned of the consequences of allowing the old system of financial administration to go on to its natural result; it has been so warned by many friendly Powers, and more particularly by Her Majesty's Government; but I am sorry to say, from my own experience, that no attention—no fixed or followed-up attention—has been paid to hat advice; and the consequence is that the Turkish Governments have gone on step by step into a state of still greater difficulty; and thus it is their own fault that they have been unable to keep up the force that may be necessary to prevent the occurrence of such atrocities as humanity itself must deplore. When such is the case how can we look back with any degree of satisfaction to the exertions we made in favour of the Porte some few years ago, when menaced by Russia. Great sacrifices were made by this country in its behalf, and made also, I am bound to add, by our powerful neighbour—and with a degree of success which ought to have left a permanent feeling of gratitude on the Turkish Government. It is true the Sultan has accepted, and has even proclaimed to his people, a system of reform which, if it had been properly carried out, might have prevented these disasters, and probably would have done so, and placed the Empire on a totally different footing from what it is now on. Indeed, I may say with confidence that, had this been so, the empire would have been in a much better condition than at the present moment, and have placed at a proportionate distance those dangers, massacres, and insurrections, of which the events which have occurred in Syria exhibit so prominent and striking an example.

My Lords, it must occur to your Lordships as well as to myself that a heavy responsibility rests upon Parliament in consequence of this state of things. If we look into the question of Syria it is impossible not to observe in immediate connec- tion with it that the great Eastern Question—the great Question of the Russian and the Ottoman Empires—is involved, and I do not hesitate to say that that question is at this moment absolutely brought home to our doors by what has occurred in Syria, You will in vain put down what has taken place there; in vain you will staunch the blood which has flowed; in vain you will take measures to prevent the renewal of those atrocities, unless you find the means of engaging the Turkish Government to redeem their pledges, and give effectual execution to those reforms which have been so often urged upon them. Unless that is done, it is my firm conviction that you will only patch up the difficulty for the moment, and you will leave the seeds of fresh disturbances and fresh difficulties of a still more disastrous and dangerous character. If the question wore now for the first time to be considered what should be done in order to give a greater degree of strength and stability to the Turkish Government, so as to enable it to cope with the difficulties presented by parts of the Empire circumstanced like Syria, we might consider the subject on a much narrower ground, and accept the assurances of the Turkish Government that measures will be taken, with or without the concurrence of Europe, in order to prevent the recurrence of such atrocities. But there are many circumstances that must occur to your minds to show that this is only part and parcel of the weakness of the Turkish Empire, and, unless more be done—unless the Turkish Government be made to redeem the pledges it has given—we shall be every moment liable to be involved in a new European complexity which it has been so much the object of European policy to avoid, or at least to place at a distance.

I should be sorry to take up your Lordships' time at any unnecessary length, but, after having made these general observations with regard to the Turkish Empire at large, I cannot leave the subject without offering some further explanations of the reasons which I have for the Motion of which I gave notice. I must confess the impression which is on my mind is, that the papers presented by Her Majesty's Government to Parliament on this subject are not of a very comprehensive nature. I have read them with the impression that more might have been produced for the satisfaction of Parliament and the very natural interest which the public at large have taken in this subject. There are some points on which I would offer a few words of comment. In the first place, the Correspondence laid on the table is nothing more than a statement from the different Consuls since these disasters arose. It appears from a memorial presented by the merchants to the Consuls on the 20th of May, that apprehensions had been entertained for a long time previously, and that there were antecedents to the disturbances that have taken place that called for a close attention to them. This warning one might have supposed would have arrested attention. I see no trace however of such attention having been paid to the subject. I observe that the Consul General at Beyrout describes himself as having been called upon to make a representation to Kurschid Pasha on the subject, in conjunction with the Consuls of France, Austria, and Prussia—that he accepted the request and arranged the meeting, notwithstanding that the Pasha had already proceeded to the mountain with an armed force, I observe, also, that Consul General Moore intimates that in assenting to the proposition of the other Consuls he rather sought to limit the declaration they were inclined to make to the local Turkish Government. I therefore feel a very natural curiosity to know under what instructions the Consul General was then acting. Were they of a general character, which restrained the action of the Consuls? Was he in that respect carrying out the views of his Government and of the Embassy at Constantinople? I think it right that Parliament should have some information on that subject. Among the circumstances that are mentioned is one of a transaction, the first that had taken place, no less than a year before on a part of the mountain not far from Beyrout—an affray of very considerable consequence, one of the first effects of the long-established animosity between the hostile parties, broke out, and there was a considerable loss of life. Surely here was time, as it would certainly be she duty of the Consul General, to report such a fact both at home and at Constantinople. It was only natural that those having interest in the maintenance of tranquillity should have sought some instructions or directions on the subject. It is to be presumed that they did so. I want to know whether that was so, and in what terms these instructions were conveyed. This is a matter that Parliament ought to know. There are other points in these papers well worthy of attention, but on which I should he unwilling to press, from respect to your Lordships' time, not wishing to enter more deeply into the subject than necessity requires. The Foreign Office is totally silent on the subject. We have no information in the papers communicated that any notice has been taken of these transactions. It is possible there may be diplomatic delicacies which prevent such a communication being made; but I must say I think it desirable that Parliament should be informed of the motives which caused that silence—whether it is a real silence towards the objects of official correspondence, or whether it is silence of another character. I think upon these points we are entitled to information.

My Lords, these subjects to my mind assume even a still greater importance than as they affect the Turkish Empire. I think it impossible to have followed the course of events for some years past without perceiving that there has been a strong-tendency towards the exhaustion of those palliatives that have been employed on all sides to avoid an open rupture on matters of principle which might bring on a serious conflict between one Government and another. We have not entirely escaped these conflicts; but hitherto a great war of principle, so much apprehended for many causes, has upon the whole been kept at a distance. I must say, however, that the present seems bordering on a different state of things, which it will require all the judgment and all the vigour of those w-ho are officially responsible properly to deal with. In proof of what I say, let your Lordships look at various parts of Europe and judge whether the indications of what I have asserted are not sufficiently strong? If we look to France we see there principles advanced, on which the Government of that country is based, which from their very nature are totally opposed to that which has hitherto been regarded as constituting the foundation of European institutions. If we look to Austria we find that she also is exposed to the action of principles which tend to shake her empire to its very foundations. If we cast our regard still further we may, I think, find evidence of the same thing in our own Indian possessions, as well as in that country against which the combined forces of England and France have been lately directed. I am not, indeed, sure that we have not some indications of a similar nature at home. I therefore come hack to my first assertion, that the period for pal- liatives is passing away, and that, in spite of all that we may have done, we are being brought rapidly in presence of that tremendous war which to many has seemed to be for so long a time impending. Now, for my part, I see, I must confess, in such a state of affairs, additional reasons for paying due attention to those measures which may be required for the purpose of keeping too-other the remains of the Turkish Empire, and, above all—to narrow the point—of putting a stop to these disputes in Syria in a manner that may furnish us with a guarantee against their recurrence in future. It is not, of course, for me to take upon myself to dictate to Her Majesty's Government the course of policy which, in order to secure these objects, they ought to pursue. My own personal inclination leads me to trust, that they will adopt adequate and judicious measures with that end; but I nevertheless deem it to be of the utmost consequence that under all the circumstances of the case the attention of Parliament should be directed to this important subject. It is in my opinion extremely desirable that we should not confine our whole attention to the consideration of homo affairs, or to the adoption of merely temporary expedients, but that we should be awake to the position of public affairs in their most comprehensive aspect, and that we should prepare—as I am happy to perceive we are already to some extent doing—for that which may prove a great European crisis. Entertaining these views, it was, I must confess, with great satisfaction that I became aware of the result of the debate which took place last night in the other House of Parliament on the subject of our fortifications, and of the fact that, notwithstanding the honest common sense of the nation may for a time have been misled by circumstances, and notwithstanding the eloquent delusions presented to its view to increase the effect of those circumstances, the measure under discussion was passed through one of its principle stages by so large a majority. But the same circumstances which explain, justify and render necessary the decision at which the other branch of the Legislature arrived on this important question—a decision which, I trust, will receive the support of your Lordships' House—likewise recommended that a policy in close connection with it should not be lost sight of, and that, if it should appear in the midst of many apprehensions and many objections that we do recognize the exist- ence of a state of things with which our interests arc intimately bound up, and which is of a character at once most serious and comprehensive, we should prepare ourselves for the adoption of a course by means of which we might be able to use our influence in a way which would be as little as possible dangerous to Europe, while, at the same time, it would lead to adequate and satisfactory results.

In making these observations I bear in mind, my Lords, what took place in the case of the Treaty of Paris, when arrangements were made to bring under the cognizance of the great Powers questions by which at the time the public mind of Europe was agitated, and I should, I confess, be glad to see something of the same kind carried out at the present day on a more extensive scale, and with the view more especially, if possible, to procuring a considerable diminution of the forces of the great Powers of Europe, so that we may be enabled to follow in the same path, and thus render unnecessary those heavy expenses which the policy of the great continental nations and the general state of the world—partly in connection with the principles to which I have adverted—oblige us to incur.

My Lords, I have already said I could in no better way show my sense of your Lordships' indulgence than by confining my remarks on this occasion within as narrow a compass as my sense of public duty would permit. I have referred in the course of these observations to points of detail as well as to matters of a more extensive nature. My object in doing so was not to endeavour to impose my own impressions on the House, or to ask you to ascribe to them an importance which I do not attach to them myself. But I have felt that it was desirable this subject should, before the close of the Session, be brought under your notice, and that, whether you should be pleased to take the narrower or the more comprehensive view of it, your Lordships authority, and that of the other House of Parliament, should accompany the action of the Government—supposing their measures to be judicious, as I trust they may, and that by that means we might be enabled to produce a salutary effect on other countries, showing our readiness to concur with them, and to co-operate whenever we can do so with consistency and honour; while we give them to understand that we are at the same time prepared to maintain in every way in our power our own principles and our own great position in the midst of these conflicting: elements of which I have been speaking. I can, my Lords, conceive no greater calamity which could happen to the world than that England, which has I hitherto held the foremost place in the I career of civilization and humanity, should find her efforts in that direction neutralized or diminished by the want of the power necessary to give effect to her councils and I her policy, or by a degree of weakness which must prove not only injurious to the world at large, but dishonourable to ourselves; out of which we are, I trust, now gradually emerging, and our emancipation from which I should be sorry to give expression to a single syllable to check. The noble Lord concluded by moving— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for, Copies or Extracts of any Despatches addressed by Her Majesty's Ambassador at the Porte to Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, or to Her Majesty's Consul General at Beyrout, or to the British Consuls at Damascus, Aleppo, and Jerusalem, respecting the Apprehension of Disturbances in Syria, during the Three Months which preceded the 9th of June this Year, being the Date of Sir Henry Bulwer's telegraphic Message to Lord John Russell, No. 2. in the Papers lately presented to Parliament by Her Majesty's Command; together with those of any Reports addressed during the same Period by the above-mentioned Consuls to their respective superior Authorities on the same subject; and also Copies or Extracts of any Instructions relative to the same Matters addressed by the Foreign Department to His Excellency Sir Henry Bulwer, or to Mr. Consul-General Moore, or to the other above-named Consuls between the 6th of June last and the present Time.


My Lords, there certainly is no reason why the noble Lord should apologize to the House for addressing it upon this subject, for whether we regard the experience which he has had of those affairs to which his Motion more immediately relates—an experience probably greater than that which any other Member of your Lordships' House possesses—or the extreme importance of the subject itself, we must feel glad that my noble Friend has thought proper to bring it under our notice. My noble Friend has moved for certain papers; but, before I go into the various topics to which he has alluded in doing so, I must state the reasons why Her Majesty's Government find it impossible to assent to the production of those documents. The papers which have already been laid upon the table with respect to the disturbances in Syria, consist of mere despatches setting forth the actual events which have recently there taken place, the object of the Government in producing them having been to afford Parliament and the public the most accurate narration of the facts of the case of which they happened to be in possession. Papers have also been moved for in the other House, embracing the Correspondence with our Consul in Syria during the years 1857-8-9; that Correspondence is in the course of preparation; it will be laid before both Houses, and will, I believe, show very fully what has been the progress of events in Syria for the last few years. The Correspondence, however, for which my noble Friend now moves is one of a very recent date, which relates to matters of the utmost consequence and delicacy, at the present moment being treated of between the various powers of Europe and the Porte, and the effect of producing which would be so to embarrass the Government as to render it in some degree impossible that they could conduct negotiations with that advantage which would otherwise be the case. I am therefore confident that my noble Friend with his experience will at once perceive that the Government, in declining to accede to his Motion, are actuated only by a desire to pay due regard to the requirements of the public service, which I have the authority of my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Department for saying would be injuriously affected by the publication of these despatches at the present moment. Despatches on the subject there are, however, not few in number, whether written to or by Sir Henry Bulwer, with whom it was but natural that the Government should correspond in relation to events by which the present were preceded, and which attracted our attention to Syria. With respect to Sir Henry Bulwer himself I will simply say that he has shown in connection with these transactions—as he has done on all former occasions—the utmost energy and activity, and has not failed to impress upon the Porte the expediency of providing a remedy for the existing state of things. My noble Friend who made the present Motion alluded in the course of his observations to the peculiar position of the population of the Lebanon; and he, who has taken so leading a part in the affairs of that part of the world for the last ten years, may detect some inaccuracy of detail in the remarks which I am about to offer on the subject to the House; but I cannot help saying that the peculiar posi- tion of the population in Lebanon appears to me to be, to a great extent, independent of Turkish authority. And after the events of 1840 which led to the retirement or expulsion of the Egyptian troops it became necessary for the European nations to consider with the Porte the most desirable mode of effecting a settlement of the inhabitants of that country. My noble Friend from the part which he took in them must well remember these negotiations, which resulted in 1845 in an agreement between the Druses and the Maronites, under which the two populations were to be governed by separate Kaimakans, who were in no way Turkish officers, except in so far as they represented the Turkish Government with those populations.


The agreement was not between the Druses and the Maronites, but between the representatives of the European Governments and the Porte.


My noble Friend is quite right. The arrangement was accepted by the Druses and Maronites, but it was conducted under the mediation of the European Powers with the Porte. That agreement, more or less strictly acted upon, has endured to the present time. It is not easy to say what has led to the present disturbances; but the more one reads of the atrocities to which my noble Friend alluded the more one's mind is struck with horror. We have this very day received recent despatches giving an account of what took place at Damascus. At the time the Consul wrote the massacres were going on, and nothing can be more calamitous than the description of the state of the town. A fact having a very serious bearing on these transactions has come under the notice of the Government in these despatches, as well as from other evidence, and it appears more especially from the events which have taken place at Damascus, namely, that the bad feeling is unfortunately not confined to the quarrel between the Druses and the Maronites. The origin of the outbreak at Damascus is distinctly stated by Mr. Brant to have been the insults offered to the Christian population by the Mahomedans in the streets. The authors of these insults were punished by being ordered to sweep the streets in chains—a measure which was certainly imprudent, though well meant on the part of the authorities. When this took place the Mahomedan population became furious, and the occurrence resulted in the dread- ful scene of which we have received information by telegraph and otherwise. Thus it is perfectly clear that, although these events commenced in a strife such as has before been carried on between the Druses and he Maronites, they have unfortunately been accompanied by a display of feeling between the Christian and Mahomedan population which cannot be too much regretted, and which is unquestionably fraught with danger to the Turkish Empire greater and more serious than any arising solely from feuds between the Druses and Maronites. My noble Friend has said we ought, for a time, to turn our eyes from these atrocities, and look at the superior political considerations which this question involves. But my noble Friend, when he came to speak of that part of the subject, admitted that it was impossible for the Christian Powers to stand by and sec these atrocities committed without making any attempt to redress such a state of things. I entirely agree with him that these superior and very serious considerations are very necessary to be looked to, because, whilst on the one band no one who sees these events passing, or who is called on to take any active part in reference to them, can fail to he influenced, almost in spite of himself, by a feeling of! sympathy with the population which has suffered such dreadful horrors, and which we must desire to rescue from the repetition of them on the other hand, as my noble Friend has justly said the position of the Turkish empire requires the utmost caution and the utmost delicacy in dealing with all questions that relate to it. That has been felt by the different Powers of Europe on the present occasion, and they have acted, not separately, but in conjunction, in the determination at which they have arrived with respect to the measures to be taken to pacify Syria. The result of the consultations which have taken place at Paris has been, as I am informed, that a protocol has been actually signed, defining the conditions under which the intervention of an European force ought to take place. I We have not received the protocol in its final state; and therefore it is possible that I may not be exactly correct in the account which I am about to give your Lordships of its contents; but in all its leading features I am certain that it will be found to be accurate. This instrument has taken the form of a protocol, and not of a convention, because had a convention been resorted to it would have been necessary for full powers to be sent to the different Ambassadors, which would have caused a considerable delay. There were precedents for the signature of a protocol—one very recent one in 1840, and also at the time of the Conference on the Belgian Question—which were sufficient to authorize the adoption of such a form of instrument on this occasion. The protocol is signed by the Ambassadors of the five Great Powers and by the representative of the Porte, and it states that the Great Powers of Europe having offered the Sultan their assistance to put an end to these disturbances in Syria, and the Sultan having accepted their assistance, an agreement was made to this effect—namely, that a force of European troops shall be sent to Syria not exceeding in number ultimately 12,000; that of this force the Emperor of the French agrees to furnish immediately 6,000 men, who are to proceed to the scene of the disturbances without delay; that the other 6,000 men, in case they arc required, shall be furnished by such one of the Powers as on further consultation shall appear to be expedient. It also provides that the continuance of the European troops in Syria shall be limited to a period of six months. There are other provisions as to matters of detail; and an additional protocol has been signed in which the Great Powers, after expressing their anxious desire that the assurances given by the Sultan in 1856 as to the improvement of the condition of all his subjects shall be carried out, declare, as they did in 1840, their entire disinterestedness in concluding the arrangement for intervention in Syria, and they pledge their determination nut to seek for any exclusive advantages, exclusive influence, or territorial additions for themselves, or for any stipulations peculiarly favourable in reference to commerce. My Lords, that is the instrument which, as I state, has been actually signed. The measures which the Porte has taken are as follows:—Troops were immediately sent in considerable numbers to Syria, and a special Commissioner of the Porte has been despatched with very full powers. The assurances which the Sultan himself and all the Ministers of the Porte at Constantinople have given of their determination to inflict immediate and condign punishment on the guilty parties are all that can be wished; and if these assurances are fully carried out the result cannot fail to be most salutary. The different Powers have determined to send a Commission to Syria, and my noble Friend (Lord Dufferin) has been selected by the Government to represent this country. It will be the duty of the Commission to inquire into the occurrences which have taken place, and to see, as I cannot doubt will be the case, that the offenders are brought to justice. At the head of these must unquestionably be placed the Pasha of Damascus; and I am glad to inform your Lordships that this officer is already in custody, and the Turkish authorities are determined that he shall be put upon his trial without delay. If it be conducted, as there is no doubt it will, with impartiality, it cannot fail to produce a good effect. We have received intelligence by telegraph that tranquillity has been restored in Damascus, that the new governor has arrived, and that the manner in which he has entered on his new duties is calculated to inspire confidence, and to fill us with the hope that we have heard the end of the massacres in that quarter. The state of things in Syria, however, is such as requires the strong hand; and it cannot be denied that the Porte, with good intentions, is feeble and unable to carry out to the full extent the intentions and wishes of the Sultan and his Ministers. My noble Friend has alluded to the reasons why there were not more troops in Syria at the time when these disturbances broke out. These reasons show at once the difficulties the Porte has to contend with, and the delicacy with which it is necessary to treat all matters concerning the Turkish Empire. It was known that a great ferment existed among the inhabitants of a considerable portion of Northern Turkey, and the Porte was requested by the European Powers to lose no time in sending troops to maintain order in that portion of the Sultan's dominions. A great force was despatched, and the Grand Vizier also set off to inquire into the state of things existing in that part of the country. The reasons are therefore obvious for having to so great an extent denuded the other portions of the Empire of troops. My noble Friend has stated that former events in Syria necessitated on the part of Her Majesty's Government the greatest caution in dealing with this question. Her Majesty's Government felt that the greatest caution was required; but at the same time they could not conceal from themselves that immediate, effective, and vigorous measures on the part of the great Powers of Europe should be taken. We cannot tell, if such disturbances continued, how far they might ex- tend; and my noble Friend most justly said that, when once the grave questions which agitate the Turkish Empire have reached such a point as to bring about a forcible solution of what is called the great Eastern Question, a state of things must arise which will task the energies and skill of the wisest heads. My noble Friend said the time had passed for half measures. But at the same time he justly added that it was necessary to take every means to prevent the Turkish empire from falling to pieces; and that can only be accomplished by palliatives such as have constantly been applied by the policy of this country for many years. I have omitted to refer to an allusion of my noble Friend to the want of intimation of any steps having been taken by Sir Henry Bulwer when the outbreak took place, or to his having given any intimation to the Consuls. If I were not unwilling to occupy more of your Lordships' time I could point out to him the despatch which will be found in these papers, showing that the moment Sir Henry Bulwer received intelligence by telegraph that the conflict had broken out, he forwarded a despatch to the Consul General at Beyrout, enjoining him to take the most active measures for the restoration of tranquillity and confidence. I do not think it necessary that I should enter into the general question to which my noble Friend at the conclusion of his speech alluded. It is sufficient that I should, on the present occasion, deal with this particular question, in itself one of the most difficult kind. Her Majesty's Government have had their attention most earnestly directed to it. There has been among the different Powers of Europe a general concurrence of opinion as to the steps which ought to be taken. The Porte has admitted the necessity of this intervention; and I cannot but hope that the disinterestedness shown by the great Powers, the prudence with which they have treated this difficulty without evincing the slightest desire to neglect it or to avoid looking it fairly in the face, will enable us to bring to a satisfactory conclusion a question which all who are acquainted with Eastern affairs must admit is one of the most dangerous which have lately arisen with regard to the Turkish Empire; and dangerous as it may be to the stability of that Empire, still more dangerous as my noble Friend has said, in its possible effects to the peace of Europe and the good understanding of the different Powers; for so close is the con- nection between what is called the Eastern Question and the general policy of Europe, that it is impossible that any great catastrophe could occur in the Turkish Empire without involving us in calamities of which no man can see the end.


I do not wish to say one word with reference to the question so ably introduced by the noble Lord opposite, because I feel that it is one of such enormous difficulty and such immense delicacy that I am quite certain it is the duty of all persons in this country who feel an interest in Eastern affairs to abstain as far as possible from any discussions which may have the tendency of embarrassing Her Majesty's Government. In the great uncertainty which surrounds the matter, it is quite impossible that we can be of any use in assisting them to arrive at a decision, and we shall best perform our duty by leaving to them the discretion and responsibility of dealing with it. I merely rise now for the purpose of asking the Government whether there is any truth in the statement which I have seen in the newspapers, and which, if true, reflects the greatest credit on the gentleman concerned—that, on the port of Tyre being threatened by a body of armed men, the inhabitants of the town implored the assistance of an English gentleman—named Harvey, I think—who happened to be accidentally present in his yacht (which was taken on shore for a man-of-war), and he, without the smallest hesitation, landed his men and some small pieces, which he had on board merely to fire salutes:—the effect of which vigour and energy was that the town was rescued from the threatened danger. I am quite sure your Lordships will concur with me that, if that statement be true, it reflects the greatest credit on that gentleman; and I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have transmitted to him the expression of their approval of his conduct?


The facts are as the noble Earl has stated, and they will be found stated in these papers. Nothing could be more creditable to Mr. Harvey than his conduct on this occasion; nothing could be more timely for the inhabitants of the threatened town; nothing could show more decisively what respect is felt for the English name in that quarter of the world. I believe he did not land his men and guns, as the noble Earl has stated; but he placed his vessel and her guns in such a position that she was supposed ashore to be a British man-of-war; and the bare supposition was sufficient for the purpose. I cannot state to the noble Earl that we have sent to Mr. Harvey any intimation of our approval of his conduct; but I am sure that if my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office has an opportunity of expressing to him his high admiration of his conduct he will not fail to do so. I cannot forbear mentioning that in the midst of these horrible events there has been a bright example of humanity on the part of a Mahomedan lady which deserves the highest praise. We are informed that this lady, whose name I do not now remember, the sister of a Mahomedan of great influence near Hasbeya, took into her house some 300 Christian women at the time of the massacre there; and when the armed crowd tried to force its way into the harem she told them she had taken the women under her protection, and threatened them with the consequences of violating the sanctity of a Mussulman's house.


said, there was another Mahomedan whose conduct in this affair—as reported in the newspapers—deserved to be mentioned with praise—Abd-el-Kader, who had no particular reason to be fond of Christians or of the European Powers. He fully acknowledged the delicacy of this question, but he did not think that delicacy ought to be carried to such an extent as to become insincerity. If anything was really to be done in the matter, some stronger remedy must be applied than the mere palliatives which had been resorted to hitherto. He found no fault with the action which the Government had taken so far. The noble Lord the Under Secretary had not told them much, however. He could not believe that the protocol spoke the truth when it recited that this intervention was to take place with the consent and "at the desire" of the Porte, for the Turkish Agents in all the different Courts of Europe were going about stating that the Turkish Government had force enough to put down the disturbances, and that the massacre was at an end. If it was at an end, it was because there was no one left to murder. It was not to be tolerated that this feeble, effete Government was to have a right to hold in a state of barbarism some of the finest districts in the world. All diplomatic conventionalities were broken through in the case of Greece; the Governments of that day interfered on the ground of the broad rights of humanity; and in this case we must do a good deal more than merely sign protocols and send Commissioners and a body of troops to remain there six months. What security had we that after those troops were withdrawn the same scenes would not occur again? The question must be met by an union among the Great Powers, to take upon themselves to Bee that the country was better governed in future. Whether that would be best done by giving certain powers to resident European Agents, or by still stronger measures, it was not his duty now to determine. The crisis, however, could only be avoided by dealing with the danger boldly. He rejoiced that we were acting in this matter in sincere concord with the French Government, who, he believed, had acted with the utmost sincerity in this matter. He believed the French Government was anxious to keep close the alliance with England, and also to keep the peace of Europe and of the world. He thought that Parliament should know what the Commissioners were to do. His noble Friend said that he hoped the interference of Europe would lead to salutary results, and there was no doubt that it would prevent a great loss of life. Many persons were to lose their lives judicially; but was that sufficient to ensure safety? The French Government had lost not a moment in acting with that vigour which every Christian man must think so necessary. He believed also that our Foreign Office lost no time in seconding the efforts of the French Government. He should be glad if there was an expression of the feeling on the part of this country that the time had come when the Christian Powers would not allow the recurrence of these scenes. The great danger which had been alluded to would not be lessened by postponement. They had much better make up their minds to discuss and deal with the case, because palliatives would not suffice, and it did not become this country to withdraw her hand from the work until some security for the future had been obtained.


My Lords, I rather regret that the discussion was not left where it was when the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) finished his speech, because it certainly is a very difficult and a very delicate question. On the one hand, horror is inspired by the accounts of the atrocities which have been perpetrated, and indignation at the weakness which the Turkish Government has shown. On the other hand, I think we should not allow those feelings to carry us away to declare a total change of policy with regard to the desirability of maintaining the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Up to the present moment that has been the policy of England and the policy of Europe. If it were not a worthy object of policy those who supported the war with Russia would have very little excuse to give for the money and blood which were expended. It was not from mere love of the Turks or of the Mussulman religion that the Turkish Government was supported at that crisis; but on the broad principle that it was difficult otherwise to maintain the Turkish Empire as it at present exists. When noble Lords talk of palliatives being no longer of any use, is it meant to proceed at once to break up the territories of the Turkish Empire? If so, then there comes the grave consideration in whose hands those territories shall be placed. No doubt, with regard to the expedition now being planned on the part of France in conjunction with the other Powers of Europe it is an exceptional measure; but if it will put an end to these occurrences and resettle Syria in a more satisfactory manner I shall greatly rejoice; for I cannot concur with the noble Marquess that all danger of further massacre is at an end, because all the Christians that could be massacred have been killed. I feel that an awful responsibility rests with the Powers who were parties to the Treaty of Paris to prevent the spread of that fanatical spirit in Turkey which may be excited still further against the Christians. The whole House must agree with what fell from the noble Earl opposite, that there are two sides to this question. It is one of the greatest importance, and of the most delicate and difficult nature, and we should not, because our feelings are roused by what has occurred, rashly and entirely change the policy which has hitherto been considered to contribute to the peace of Europe and to the balance of power in the world.


said, that he wished before the debate closed to offer a few words in explanation. His noble Friend who had just sat down seemed very naturally apprehensive that if they took a strong view of the question it would lead to a departure from the policy which had hitherto been pursued. What he meant to say was this—that we had pursued a course of palliatives for the last twenty-five or thirty years, that the Turks had not shown any practical attention to the advice of their best friends, that the Sultan had not taken—or at least had not seen that his servants had taken—the measures which were necessary to carry into execution the Proclamation which comprised all the Reforms necessary for the salvation of the empire; and that the Turkish Government had shown remissness and apathy, which had tended to continue its weakness, and had led in a great measure to the fatal occurrences which had taken place. What he maintained was, that what had occurred in Syria should be a warning to Her Majesty's Government to exert the right and to perform the paramount duty which belonged to them, after the positive compromising guarantee of the integrity of the Turkish Empire which was, for the first time, given by the Treaty of 1856—to insist that the Turkish Government should carry into execution the scheme of Reform which had been proclaimed, without creating any disturbance from one end of the Turkish Empire to the other. It might have been supposed that the Proclamation would have caused serious opposition; but it did not, and one reason was that care was taken to provide a better administration of the law in favour of the Mussulman as well as in favour of the Christian population. What he maintained was this,—that Her Majesty's Government ought to take advantage of the present occasion in order to prevent future complications, to press upon the Porte, and not only to press upon the Porte, but to secure its acquiescence in carrying into immediate though gradual effect, the reforms to which it was pledged. He had with his own ears heard the Grand Vizier, who was one of the most effective of the Turkish officers and honoured with the confidence of the Sovereign, state that he considered the reforms which were subsequently introduced into the Imperial proclamation absolutely indispensable to the existence of the Turkish Empire. With the pledges of the Sovereign, the opinion of the Minister, the Proclamation recorded in the treaty of peace and accompanied by a solemn guarantee which might one day involve this country in most serious sacrifices, he thought it was not only the true policy but the indispensable duty of the European Powers, and particularly of Her Majesty's Government, to make the Turkish Government understand that to carry out those reforms was the only chance—for, so help him God, he believed it was—of keeping the empire together and staving off the great catastrophe which all wished to avoid. The case of Greece had been referred to. He knew that the effort to give independence to Greece was considered by some to he a fatal blow to the Turkish Empire; but no view was more utterly unfounded. Greece would have been a continual sore to Turkey, and the cause of constant interference on the part of Russia. There was another consideration likewise—that it was impossible to establish the independence of Greece without forcing upon Turkey a better civil administration for those Greeks who remained under the Sultan's sceptre, and it was impossible to introduce a more humane system for the Greeks without benefiting the Mussulman subjects of Turkey. Nothing was further from his intention than to encourage a violation of the law of nations. He never recommended that they should go with an armed force and insist upon the Sultan giving up the administration of his country to Foreign Powers. But he did say that, while a system of comprehensive amendment was accepted by the Turkish Government and recorded in a great public treaty, and since many times confirmed, they should look to the Turkish Government to take the measures which were necessary to give it effect; and among those measures, in his humble opinion, however inconvenient, should be a conference established at Stamboul to see that the proclamation was carried into effect. He was glad to receive the assurance of his noble Friend that the Foreign Office and their agents were paying so much attention to this subject. At the same time he did not quite understand why there should be any objection to produce the evidence of the activity of their Minister at Constantinople in regard to those events which happened more than a year ago, and of the attention which was paid to the warnings of what was coming on in Syria. The noble Under Secretary for War had urged reasons for not acceding to the Motion; but he (Lord Stratford) thought a distinction might be made between one part of a Correspondence proceeding from the Foreign Office and another. He presumed there might be correspondence referring to this particular question and not to anything else; and he hoped his noble Friend would consent to modify the refusal he had given to his request, and in that case would be happy to alter the Motion so as to meet his views.


was sorry he could not make any other answer to the noble Lord than that he had already given. Their Lordships might rest assured that they would receive full information on the subject as soon as possible; but it would be highly inconvenient to produce the papers asked for at the present moment.


was unwilling to press his Motion to the embarrassment of the Government, and would therefore withdraw it.

Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.