HL Deb 25 March 1862 vol 166 cc3-19

, having presented numerous petitions on the subject, rose to call attention to the present state of Poland; and to inquire of Her Majesty's Government whether Prince Gortschakoff's Circular Letter of the 20th March, 1861, has been communicated to them? The noble Earl said that the grave nature of recent events would be a sufficient justification for bringing this subject under the consideration of their Lordships—a question which he believed was one of the most difficult, and one of the most interesting that could possibly be brought under the notice of Parliament. In looking at the question two pictures presented themselves. On the one hand, their Lordships were historically familiar with the turbulence, the organized anarchy, that had marked the decline of Polish nationality; and at the present day they found the Poles too often acting as agents of democracy in the disturbances and revolutions in Europe, and participating in some of its worst excesses. But, on the other hand, he thought that man must be cold indeed who could not feel sympathy for a people so high-spirited and gallant, and who, in; spite of extraordinary afflictions and un- paralleled national trials, had manfully borne up against those afflictions and trials, and had never for one moment been shaken in their courage and their devotion to their country. He was, however, unwilling to treat this question as a matter of sympathy. He would rather put it as a matter of interest, not only to Poland, but to Europe generally. As he understood the appeal made by the Poles, it was founded on those treaty engagements into which Russia had entered with Europe. Their Lordships would remember that in 1806—thirty-three years after the first partition—Napoleon constituted the Duchy of Warsaw; but in 1814, when the Emperor was a prisoner at Elba, the Allies met together at Vienna to consider the territorial arrangements of Europe. At the congress the greatest prominence was given to the question of Poland. A scheme was put forward by the Emperor Alexander to constitute the Duchy of Warsaw a kingdom, and, annexing all the scattered fragments of the Polish nationality, to unite the whole as a separate kingdom, dependent on the Russian Crown. Lord Castlereagh, who represented Great Britain at the congress, objected to this proposition. He was not, indeed, unwilling to see an independent Poland in the centre of Europe; it was because he felt that Poland, under the proposed scheme, could not be really independent that he opposed it, believing that a Kingdom of Poland so constituted would be nothing more nor less than an accession of strength to Russia under the shadow of an independent country. The discussions, which at last verged upon an angry issue, were broken off by the return of Napoleon from Elba and the campaign which followed. When the storm had blown over, the question again came to be considered. But the circumstances were changed, for neither party was in a position to insist on the extreme views they had previously held. By the assent of all parties the Duchy of Warsaw was erected into a kingdom, attached to the Imperial Crown of Russia, but attached by virtue of a constitution, the scheme of which was then laid down. The constitution was given within the next twelve months by the Emperor Alexander. It provided for the maintenance of a national army, for the preservation of the national Church, the security of national customs; it guaranteed the liberty of individuals and the liberty of the press;—in short, it gave every security that a constitution could give to the integrity of the Polish nationality. The treaty by no means accomplished all that this country desired; but Lord Castlereagh felt it was the best arrangement he could obtain, and it was accepted as a compromise in which each party relaxed some portion of its extreme rights, and agreed to a definite, tangible common understanding. And, as if to mark the primary importance attached by the Allies to the subject, the articles relating to Poland took precedence of every other engagement in the Treaty of Vienna, and were the first and leading articles in that memorable treaty. Since that time there had been two insurrections, one in 1830, the other in 1849. The first was made a reason for withdrawing the constitution; the second a pretext for the gradual obliteration of every trace of Polish nationality. During the past year the city of Warsaw and kingdom of Poland were the scene of one long dismal and, he might almost say, unbroken tragedy. There had been no less than three collisions between the people and the military, two of them attended with loss of life, the other bloodshed. The first, which took place in February, was provoked by an ill-timed and injudicious procession by torch-light on the part of certain so-called Polish patriots, but including none of the respectable portion of the Polish nation. It was met by the gendarmerie and dispersed with comparatively little violence, and might have blown over. But the next day, in consequence of some trifling demonstration—whether it proceeded from misapprehension or hot-headedness of the officer in command he did not know—but the troops were induced to fire on the people, and a considerable loss of life ensued. Public feeling was excited, indignation swelled high, and the Government, unsupported by troops, or with a very scanty supply, felt itself placed in a position of great difficulty. It fortunately happened that at that time a body called the Agricultural Association—an association comprising 4,000 or 5,000 Poles, and representing the intelligence, the property, and the wealth of the country, and which had always conducted its deliberations with considerable propriety and order, and which had more than once been consulted by the Emperor—was holding its sittings. The leaders of that body offered their services to mediate between the Government and the people; the Government wisely and judiciously accepted their mediation, and Prince Gortschakoff expressed his regret for the collision which had taken place. So far, indeed, was this reconciliation carried, that; in the temporary absence of the troops, who had been to a great degree withdrawn, a civil police was organized under the agency of the Agricultural Society, and complete order maintained in the town. About that time a letter was issued by Prince Gortschakoff, containing very large and important constitutional concessions on the part of the Emperor. The best possible consequences followed. Confidence began to be restored, order revived, and it was hoped that the storm would pass over. But the Government, ill advised, recalled in considerable numbers the military forces, and suddenly and apparently with little reason, dissolved that Agricultural Association. The old distrust immediately returned; demonstrations of a public nature took place in front of the Viceroy's palace; and when this was repeated a second day, and the people having been three times; summoned by beat of drum to disperse, and refusing to do so, the fatal order was given to fire on the crowd. There was always much difficulty in viewing these matters from a Continental point of view; but obviously it would have been far wiser and better, if it had been necessary to disperse that mob by means of the soldiery, to have dispersed them without firing, which could have been easily accomplished, as the crowd were altogether unarmed. The result of the conflict—if it could be called by that name—was the death of some forty or fifty persons, and the wounding of a much greater number. From that moment all confidence vanished, and order was at an end. Martial law was proclaimed; troops were encamped in the streets; repressive measures were taken; all articles of mourning were forbidden; the national dress and the singing of national songs and anthems were prohibited. But just in proportion as the Government put forth its strength, the people used every weapon of annoyance that was left to a vanquished and crushed people. Taunts and every species of irritation were directed against; the representatives of Russia; the Government measures and the police regulations were turned into ridicule—indignities which were certain to lead to fresh collisions. Whole congregations went down on their knees in the churches to implore the intervention of Heaven on behalf of their country. This went on for several months, till about the middle of October, when the military force again intervened. Strict orders had been issued against the singing of national songs or anthems; but the people were equally resolute in their determination. At length, in October, the troops surrounded two of the principal churches. From one of these the congregation managed to escape. The other was surrounded, and the congregation confined within the walls for twenty hours, without sustenance of any kind—they are represented to have been from 4,000 to 6,000 in number. At eleven o'clock at night the doors were beaten in, and a picture worthy of the pencil of a Rembrandt might have been seen. For some time the troops stood but a few yards within the church, the congregation remaining all the time on their knees. Then they again advanced, and for more than an hour stood face to face with the praying and kneeling multitude. At length, having been reinforced, the troops were moved on into the chancel, and a conflict ensued, if that could be termed a conflict in which no life was lost, but many were wounded. The women were roughly separated from the men and driven out of the church, and the men, 2,000 in number, led to prison. From that time constant irritation prevailed. The late Archbishop of Warsaw ordered the closing of all the churches; and it was not till a few weeks ago, on the appointment of a new Archbishop, that they were re-opened. Thus for three months the people of Warsaw were absolutely deprived of all the rites and ceremonies and comforts of religion, just as completely as if, in the Middle Ages, they had been placed under interdict. But it might be asked what modifications, what concessions, were those to which he had alluded as contained in Prince Gortschakoff's letter? Those concessions were three. They provided, first of all, for the appointment of a Polish Council of State; it contained provisions also for the creation of district and municipal councils on a free and elective basis; it contained further provisions for a separate administrative commission for the superintendence of all ecclesiastical and educational matters. He should listen with great anxiety to what the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) would presently state as to the manner in which those concessions had been carried into effect. He hoped he would be able to state that they had not been wholly inoperative. As regarded the Polish Council of State, it was true that that Council was in operation, and that a certain portion of its members were Poles; but it had neither initiative power nor power of decision; its members were strictly nominees, and its deliberations were entirely secret. With regard to the district and municipal councils, he believed that the elections had been held, and that they had been conducted with singular moderation; but from the day of those elections to this the councils had never been called together. Lastly, as to the commission on ecclesiastical and educational matters; the schools were closed at once, and remained closed for six months; and since they had been re-opened they had been fettered by such restrictive regulations that the admission of scholars had been very scanty. The noble Earl would, perhaps, inform their Lordships what was the practical effect of the concessions thus made to the Poles? Strange as it might seem, he thought the present time was not wholly unpropitious for the making of concessions on the part of Russia, and for their acceptance on the part of the Poles. He held in his hand an extract from a charge delivered by the new Archbishop of Warsaw, in which he assured the people that the Emperor had given him every assurance of his desire to do all that was possible for the constitutional privileges of Poland; and he enjoined on the people to abstain from singing national songs and anthems. He (the Earl of Carnarvon) thought it told well for the moderation of the people that they had obeyed this, and that all national songs and anthems were at present silent in Warsaw. In the next place, there was a proclamation from the Military Commandant of Warsaw, in which he announced his intention to relax some points of the extreme military discipline which was now enforced in that city; and the reason which he gave for making these relaxations was that order was restored and tranquillity was maintained in Warsaw. In view of these two facts, he could not but think that the time was propitious for the making of some constitutional concessions. It must be borne in mind that the only alternative to the offer and acceptance of some such concessions was that the present state of affairs should become permanent. And what was the present state of affairs in Poland? Warsaw in a state of siege; Poland subject to martial law; the action of the ordinary tribunals suspended; the intercourse of private life restricted by severe regulations—three persons could not converse in the streets, four could not dine in a café without permission; the Agricultural Association, in fact the only national institution in Poland, dissolved; irritation and aversion against the Government existing through out the country. Before he went further let him state what he meant by the suspension of the action of the ordinary tribunals. Martial law was proclaimed in Poland. Their Lordships were aware that wherever martial law existed, it existed only in reference to the exceptional cases which called for the application of that law—that was to say, it applied exclusively to political offences. As regarded all offences relating to life and property, they remained under the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals. But this was not the case in Poland. Martial law had been proclaimed there; but instead of the old law, which was the Code Napoleon, remaining in operation in all cases not political, it had been abolished, and it had been replaced by the criminal code of Russia. Thus no Pole could know the nature or penalty of any offence under the criminal law, and no Polish advocate could defend him if accused. Martial law, on the other hand, as proclaimed in Poland, practically, though not nominally, gave to every officer, however subordinate his rank—to every colonel, captain, and lieutenant—the power to arrest and imprison, and even went so far as to enable them to inflict severe punishments on civilians. But if he was of opinion that the present time was one not unfit for the making of constitutional changes as far as Poland was concerned, still more did that observation apply to to Russia. Russia was engaged in vast constitutional reforms, amounting practically to a revolution. These changes must tax her energy and vitality to the utmost before society could be reconsolidated on its new basis. It was, then, the obvious policy of Russian statesmen to disentangle their country from every unnecessary burden, even at some sacrifice were it necessary, and to conciliate the affections of a numerous and high-spirited people, who were now a drain upon the strength and resources of Russia, and employed in Poland or on the Polish frontier, one half her armies. If Poland was to be governed, and governed beneficially in the interests of Russia, it must be by the selection of those men as governors who enjoyed the confidence of the people—it must be by a relaxation of the present severity of discipline under which she was held, and by the extension, to some extent, of local and even municipal self-government. It could not be by continuing to govern the country as a Russian province; by administering it through mere Russian officials; by officers brought up in the most strict and unbending military discipline Europe had ever seen. It was impossible to deny that in the gigantic task of imperial administration every kind of forbearance and sympathy was due to the Emperor of Russia. He was in circumstances of extreme difficulty. He might be influenced by the highest motives and the noblest principles; but he was surrounded by those whose interest it was to misrepresent facts, so that it became difficult for him to separate truth from falsehood, and by creatures who stood between the sunshine of his favour and the loyalty of his subjects. Yet, for all this, he believed that from the character of the present Emperor much might be expected. The question of Poland, as he had said, was not one merely of sympathy, it was one also in which we were directly interested. The constitution which had been given to Poland, and withdrawn in 1830, was so withdrawn in consequence of rebellion. He could understand the difficulty of Russia on the occasion; but he should be untruthful if he did not say that it was the part of English statesmen to protest against the revocation of that constitution. It was not the free gift of Russia; it was given under the obligations of the Treaty of Vienna; and Russia had no right to modify that constitution, far less to recall it. It was stated in one of the petitions which he had presented that evening that England had ever looked with indifference at the partition of Poland. That was false as a matter of history. England never did look on the partition of Poland with indifference. She had frequently protested against this partition; she had protested against the revocation of that constitution. England had never, by deed or word, acquiesced in either. All the partitions of Poland had been effected on the pretext that the country had become a dangerous neighbour. Even now we heard the same argument, the same reason alleged to justify the revocation of her constitution. But facts were stronger than arguments. The extraordinary fatality had happened, that whilst in the early days of her inde- pendence her turbulence made her the source of trouble and constant anxiety to her neighbours, now, since she had been destroyed and incorporated in other countries, she had become a source of still greater anxiety not only to her neighbours but to Europe. England was directly concerned in the question of Poland. She was interested in preserving the balance of power which at present existed among the various States of Europe; and he ventured to say that Poland's incorporation with other countries was as mischievous to Europe generally as to Russia herself. It was a mischief to Europe in this way. That country which was designed as a restraint against the aggressions of Russia on Europe had been thrown into the hands of Russia, and had become a sort of outpost to Russia, placed upon the frontiers of the Germanic Confederation, and held a position always embarrassing and sometimes threatening to Austria. He believed it would be a calamity to Europe if Russia were deprived of her due influence, yet such was the tendency of the present state of affairs. As his noble Friend near him (Lord Ellenborough) said last year, the paralysis of Russia was caused by the incorporation of Poland. Poland garrisoned the outworks of Russia, but with disaffected men. She was a thorn in her side, a blister on her strength. She was continually open to the seductions of every ambitious Power, and ready to become the catspaw of every selfish policy. She filled the courts of Europe with intrigues against Russia, and was in every way a source of weakness and danger instead of power. In dealing with this difficult and painful subject he hoped he had said nothing which could reasonably give cause of offence. It was generally of little use to attempt to forecast the future, or discuss the chances of hypothetical events. So far as he had been able to know and study the question, he did not believe that the Polish nation were at present ripe for entire independence; but he was of opinion that they had so far disciplined themselves by the great trials and calamities through which they had passed as to entitle themselves to some extension of constitutional freedom. He would be an imprudent man who would at this time predict that the restoration of the Polish kingdom was an impossibility; but he believed that at this time there was no well-grounded reason for believing that such a contingency would arise. But at the same time those who, with the best in- tention and with the worst judgment, had held different language, and encouraged the Polish people in illusory dreams, had done poor service indeed to the cause they desired to advocate. With the deepest admiration for a gallant people who had borne their sufferings with noble fortitude, and also with great respect for a Power which had been our ally for many years, and whose interests were in many respects intertwined with our own, he deplored the continuance of the present unsatisfactory state of affairs. He had no sympathy with those who stigmatized Russia as illiberal and tyrannical. Such charges were refuted by the wise and generous policy which had led the Emperor to undertake the entire emancipation of the serfs, and by the unselfish and enlightened co-operation which the nobles and great proprietors had given to that great work. During the last year the nobles had been permitted to assemble for the discussion of political questions, and the Emperor had even gone so far as to consult them on several matters of national importance. Reflecting on these signs of growing liberality on the part of Russia, he could not believe that the improvement would be confined to her own frontiers, and would not be allowed to penetrate to Poland. He gave credit to successive rulers of Russia for a desire to accord to Poland whatever constitutional privileges could be granted consistently with the safety of the empire. Three Emperors in succession had acknowledged their obligations to the treaty and their duties to Poland, had granted constitutions to that people, and had taken the oath of fidelity not only as Emperors of Russia, but as Kings of Poland. It was true, no doubt, that there was a party in Russia, as elsewhere, who clung to harsh and illiberal maxims of State policy, and who looked with disfavour on any relaxations in the government of Poland. But he felt it would be an injustice to the Emperor to believe that be would not listen to the voice of truth from whatever side it came, or that he was incapable of rising above the passions and prejudices of a narrow-minded party. He hoped that the same liberality which bad been shown towards the serfs would be extended to the Poles, and that Russia would adopt a policy which was dictated not less by prudence than by justice and generosity.


I must do the noble Earl opposite the justice to say that he has spoken on this painful and difficult subject, not only with great ability, but with great prudence. I rejoice at the measured judgment with which he has spoken of the Government of Poland. But, my Lords, however the noble Earl may be at liberty to speak, I feel that one who holds the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is more restricted than any one else in giving opinions on such a subject. Any Member of your Lordships' House, or any Member of the other House of Parliament, or any organ of public opinion in the press, may express sentiments with regard to the Government of Poland, may point out that which they deem oppressive, and may protest against the measures of the Russian Government, more easily than can be done by the Minister who holds the office of Minister for Foreign Affairs. I am sure your Lordships will remember that any official language which is used, unless, on the one hand, it is likely to be listened to as satisfactory and agreeable to the Court: of Russia, or, on the other, is to be maintained by material aid and assistance to the Poles, would detract from the dignity of this country, and be entirely futile. I have therefore been very cautious in my official communications with her Majesty's Ambassador at St. Petersburg or the Ambassador of His Imperial Majesty in this country. Let it be observed, that whilst, as the noble Earl has very justly said, Poland has from her first partition always met with the sympathy of this country, yet no statesman who has held the office which I have the honour to fill—no Prime Minister of this country—has at any time held out the prospect of material assistance to the Poles. Mr. Pitt, when he spoke on this subject after the last partition of Poland in 1791, spoke in terms of abhorrence nearly as strong us those used by Mr. Fox in respect of the treatment of that country; but neither he nor any other Minister thought it the duty of this country to interpose, unless by the expression of opinion. It is, therefore, with this feeling and impression on my mind that I shall make such observations as occur to me in answer to the speech of the noble Earl. The noble Earl has justly said that this matter occupied a prominent place in the deliberations of the Congress of Vienna—not so much, however, during the regular conferences in congress as in the conversations and correspondence between the Ministers of different States. It was a period, as we all know, when the interests of peoples were not so much thought of as those of the great Sovereigns of Austria, Russia, and Prussia, whose armies had produced such an effect upon the state of Europe. But I must say—and I do not understand the noble Earl to express a different sentiment, though some others have done so—I must say, that Lord Castlereagh fought the battle for the interests of Poland with as much energy and sincerity as possible, and obtained all that it was at that time possible to obtain for her; but, as the noble Earl rightly says, whatever efforts were then made—whatever success might have been expected—were interrupted by the return of Napoleon from Elba. Therefore the arrangements made in 1815 were, as I conceive, in this respect very imperfect. The noble Earl justly says, that after the Treaty of Vienna, Poland was united to Russia by a constitution. But there is a great vagueness in that expression. Poland was united to Russia by a constitution; but no part of the concessions which were made by the Emperor Alexander to Poland were enumerated or directly sanctioned by the Congress of Vienna; and therefore they cannot be held specifically to be within the terms of European obligation. In 1830 and 1831 that vast insurrection of Poland took place by which the Poles endeavoured to obtain their independence. Their resistance was overcome, the Russian arms prevailed, and the Emperor of Russia held that by that insurrection the claim of the Poles to a national representation and a national army, together with those concessions granted by the Emperor Alexander, were altogether forfeited. My noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston), who then held the office which I now fill, contended—and I think with sound and superior argument—against that position of the Russian Government. The papers relating to the matter were produced last year before Parliament, and Parliament had then an opportunity of seeing with how much ability and with how much perseverance my noble Friend endeavoured to impress on the Russian Government the sanctity of the obligations which Russia had entered into towards Poland. That controversy was, however, not pushed any further, and the constitutions given by the Emperor Alexander, and intended by the Emperor Nicholas, were never enjoyed by the people of Poland. At the commencement of the reign of the present Emperor a change took place affecting Russia—one of the greatest changes which have occured in modern times with respect to a great people—I mean the change made by the Emperor of Russia with reference to serfdom in his dominions. After that change was made various events and circumstances occurred, and the Ambassador at this Court, and, I believe, at the other Courts, were instructed to state to the different Governments what were the intentions of the Emperor of Russia. The noble Earl has stated most truly that those intentions were, that a Council of State should be formed, not composed of an official hierarchy, but of independent members, who should advise the Emperor. Another article was to secure to the Poles district and municipal councils, which were to be elective; the third provision was for a council to deal with ecclesiastical matters, and in this class was to be comprised the subject of education. Now, I must say that I think that those provisions were wise; and not only so, but were likely to lead the way to greater privileges for the Poles—to their having the benefit of a national administration when by education they were sufficiently raised in the scale of nations. That circular despatch was read to me by the Ambassador of the Emperor of Russia, but no copy was left. However, it soon after became public, and I will read a passage from it to show the spirit in which the propositions were made. It is a spirit, I think, highly honourable to the Emperor of Russia, and it shows the benevolent views by which he was actuated— The solemn act of emancipation, inaugurated by the manifesto of the 19th of February, attests the profound solicitude which our august master devotes to the well-being of the peoples whom Providence has confided to him. Russia and Europe have seen in it a proof that, far from evading or postponing reforms demanded by the progress of ideas and of interests, his Imperial Majesty takes the initiative and pursues it with perseverance. Our august master extends the same solicitude to his subjects of the kingdom of Poland, and has not wished that a painful impression should arrest the course of his generous intentions. Now, that was a voluntary declaration on the part of the Emperor of Russia, and showed in the first place that he did conceive himself bound by the general provisions of the Treaty of Vienna to Europe in general to give a liberal and generous government to Poland; and in the next that Poland was a country to which his especial care was to be directed. But I now come to that subject of painful interest to which the noble Earl has alluded. Unhappily Poland when exciting our sympathy almost always excites our sorrow also. There came those events arising from the Poles appearing in the streets in great crowds for the purpose of manifesting their attachment to their nationality, but which at the same time excited—and not unreasonably—the apprehension on the part of the Russian Government that the tranquillity of the city of Warsaw might be disturbed. I took occasion in the other House of Parliament to state that whilst I thought that those apprehensions were not unnatural, it was the duty of the Russian Government to have given due notice that no such crowds would be allowed to assemble; and that if armed soldiers were employed to disperse these crowds, no such notice having been given, it was an act of unnecessary rigour and cruelty. From that opinion I cannot certainly now depart. The Prince who then commanded at Warsaw, Prince Gortschakoff, immediately wrote a letter to a person in this country, who communicated it to me, in which he endeavoured to show that due notice had been given to the people by means of proclamations. I am convinced that Prince Gortschakoff, who felt a great interest—I believe almost an affection—for the Poles over whom he was placed, did not intend to act with harshness and cruelty; bat at the same time I do not depart from the opinion that the acts then committed conduced to results not unnatural nor unjustifiable under the circumstances. Great irritation succeeded; the people paraded the streets, national hymns were sung in the churches. As this was a matter on which the Russian Government seem so much to dwell, and about which it has showed so much susceptibility, I had a number of these hymns sent over to me and translated, and I find they are certainly hymns addressed to the national spirit, inciting the Poles to maintain their national character, and evidently looking forward to some period when they shall regain their independence as a nation. I cannot wonder that the Russian Government should wish to prevent such hymns from being sung; but the way in which the people were shut up in the churches, and then let out, as the noble Earl has described, appears to me to have been utterly unjustifiable; the singing of national hymns is not to be prevented in this way. All these circumstances have, no doubt, not only aroused the national spirit, but have excited a deep feeling of national irritation and national degradation. But, at the same time, we must not consider those circumstances only which are painful. There are circumstances which make us look on the present state of Poland with, compassion; we must also look to the original intention of the Russian Government, and what may be expected from it in the future. With regard to the state of siege, I do not think it possible for any foreign Government, or any individual living far from the scene, to say what measures a Government ought to take in order to preserve its own internal tranquillity, whether it be done at Warsaw, in Hungary, or in the United States at the other side of the Atlantic. I think the Government which says that certain measures are necessary for its own internal tranquillity, and that the people cannot be kept in obedience to the law without such measures, have a primâ facie case—at all events, other Governments have not a right to interfere with the steps they may deem necessary. But with regard to the state of siege, it is at all times considered as a temporary matter; and therefore I cannot but hope that before long some relaxations will be made. It is already stated by the Viceroy that four months' state of siege having existed, some mitigations have been made. I admit readily that those mitigations are trifling and hardly worth mentioning; but that declaration shows that there is a feeling on the part of the Russian Government that that mode of government cannot be kept up, and that they must look for some better system. At the same time there are other circumstances of a hopeful character. A very distinguished Pole, who has been separated from many of his countrymen by wishing at all times to maintain the connection with Russia (the Marquess Wielopolski) was lately summoned to St. Petersburg, in order to give advice to the Emperor of Russia with regard to the Government of Poland. I believe that the general rumours upon this subject are correct, and that the advice that he gave was, as I should conceive, very wise advice, and well befitting a man who took a great interest in his own country; while he still thought it hopeless to sever the connection with Russia. What he proposed was, that there should be a civil Government of Poland entirely separated from the military Government of Poland; that the civil governor should be a Pole, and that the offices of the administration should be filled by Poles; that the laws of Poland should have their full and free course under Polish administration; and that the people should enjoy as many privileges as are consistent with their position. On the other hand, that the troops should be under the command of persons who should never use them except in cases of disturbance of the public peace or against external violence. Though that proposition was not adopted by the Government of St. Petersburg, at the same time it was not wholly rejected or thrown aside. On the contrary, favour was shown to the distinguished man who had given that advice; his advice was received most graciously and courteously by the Emperor; and I see no reason to doubt—no reason to despair, at all events—that at some future time, and that not a remote time, advice of that kind will be taken, and that the Poles will have the benefit of a Government of their own nationality. No doubt a country that is subject to foreign sway may be reconciled to it by an administration of that kind. There is a great instance of that in the government of Italy under the first Napoleon. He had the supreme military command over Italy, but he did not place there a French administration and a complete system of French government; but, on the contrary, Italians distinguished for talent were placed in the government of Italy, and by that means the people of Italy were reconciled to that which was, in fact, a foreign Government, but not entirely conducted by foreigners. But there are other circumstances that justify us in looking for some mitigation of the grievances of the Poles. The Emperor of Russia, as I have already said, has, with advantage to his subjects, completed the emancipation of the serfs; and we may look to the period that has been fixed as one at which all these men will be free. No one can expect that the change will stop there. When the serfs have become free, when they can settle in the towns and cities of Russia freely, it is quite impossible that the monopoly of the nobles can be maintained. A great portion of the nobility have already declared their wish to share with those who were their serfs, but are now their fellow-subjects, all the advantages and all the privileges which can be attained under a constitutional Government. But when the Russian people have obtained a Government more in accordance with the general views and the general system of Europe, must not that have a great influence on the condition of Poland? If the noble Earl, who has paid so much attention to this subject, will refer back to 1831, and the opinions that were prevalent at that time, I think he will find that the Russians had a feeling, not only that the Poles were in rebellion and in insurrection against the Government of Russia, but also that it was unjust and unfair that the Poles should have been since 1815 in the enjoyment of greater privileges than the Russians themselves possessed. There was a sort of national envy in regard to the Poles and their privileges. But if the Russians once come into the enjoyment of greater privileges and greater freedom, so far from that feeling of hostility to the Poles existing, they will then be glad to see them also in the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty. In addressing your Lordships in answer to the noble Earl, I have given my observations, not only as to what has passed, but my speculations as to the future; but I must end as I began, by saying that while nothing would give me individually, or the Government collectively, greater satisfaction than to see happiness and peace prevail in Poland, I do not think that any immediate interference, still less any constant remonstrance with the Government of Russia, will tend at all to promote the object that we have in view. I am very glad that the noble Earl, who has spoken with so much discretion and ability, has called your Lordships' attention to this subject; and though I think that nothing immediate can be done by us, I do trust that as in other parts of the world oppression is gradually decreasing, so it will be in regard to Russia and Poland.


said, that after the able and statesmanlike words of the noble Earl, which he hoped would find an echo elsewhere, he would withdraw his Motion. He hoped, that while the Government pursued a policy of conciliation towards Russia, they would not cease to manifest consideration for the position of the Poles.

House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock, to Thursday next half-past Ten o'clock.