HL Deb 08 May 1863 vol 170 cc1369-94

presented a Petition from Macclesfield, for securing the Rights of the Poles. In many of the sentiments contained in the body of the Petition, expressing sympathy for Poland, he fully concurred; but there were certain measures recommended in the prayer which he could not advocate, because their adoption would inevitably lead to a general European war, and the direct violation of treaties.


then rose, according to notice, to present a Petition on behalf of the Poles, agreed to at a public meeting of merchants and others, held at the Guildhall, City of London. The noble Earl also presented a large number of Petitions from other places to the same effect. The noble Earl then proceeded as follows:—In moving that these Petitions do lie on the table, I shall venture to entreat the indulgence of your Lordships while I trespass for a short time on your attention, with the view of bringing under your consideration the existing state of things in the Kingdom of Poland. It is not to be wondered at that there should prevail among Englishmen so deep an interest in the affairs of Poland. It would, indeed, be surprising if it were otherwise—if a gallant nation like England, so proud of the liberty it enjoys, and so anxious to promote the freedom of all other countries—should be indifferent to the spectacle of Poland struggling for the liberty which is her hereditary right, but of which she has been so unjustly deprived. In spite of many acknowledged imperfections, it may still be said of Poland, that though for nearly a century she has been in bondage, she has never abandoned her rights, never recognised her servitude, never belied her honour, never ceased to proclaim her title to the freedom which has been so unwarrantably taken away by violent aggression. Nor can we wonder that there should be so much sympathy among the people of France for the Poles, associated as they were in deeds of arms for so many years, and so well acquainted as the French nation must be with the high qualities of the Polish people. There is no wonder, I say, that they should entertain for them the deepest sympathy—a sympathy which, perhaps, almost exceeds our own; but I do trust that sympathy is connected among the French people with some feeling of remorse when they think how often they have excited the Polish nation, and how often they have abandoned it. But, my Lords, let us consider, for a few minutes, the present position of the Polish people. The Poles are placed at this moment with a fierce and powerful enemy in their front, and behind them a kingdom professing neutrality, but I believe, in fact, a most active partisan, both in spirit and action, of their implacable foe. We have frequently endeavoured to obtain a sight of the famous Convention that is said to have been contracted between the Empire of Russia and the Kingdom of Prussia; but my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office has been unable to give us the text, because he has found it impossible to obtain it. Nothing could be more remarkable, indeed, in going through the papers on our table, than to observe the reluctance there is to exhibit the text of that Convention to any one. The parties will read it, they will talk about it, they will give explanations respecting it, but the text itself must not be submitted to any mortal eyes but those of the representatives of the two Powers. I confess I am under great apprehensions that this mysterious Convention, which so dreads the light, is of the same dark and ferocious character as its predecessors. As for the neutrality of Prussia, do we not constantly read in the newspapers of the numbers of Russian troops that have passed the Prussian frontier, or been driven across it by the insurgents? Lately we read of 500 Russian troops who were not only not disarmed, as according to international law they should have been, but who were fêted and treated, and then sent forward by railway with every comfort and convenience to a point from which they might easily re enter their own country. Not long ago I put a question to my noble Friend respecting the apprehension of two Polish students travelling from Paris through Prussia. The noble Earl replied, it was true they had been apprehended; but he said they had been claimed as Parisian residents by the Emperor of the French. We have never heard whether they have been surrendered to the Emperor of the French or not, or handed over to the Russian authorities; but we do know that four Poles were arrested at Thorn by the Prussian Government, and delivered by them into the hands of the Russians. The noble Earl, as I find from the papers, has written despatch upon despatch, and put question upon question, as to whether these refugees, having been go handed over to the Russian authorities, were put to death or not; but he can get no explicit answer, and, in truth, has met with nothing but the most monstrous evasion. I am inclined to think, that if they have not been put to death, they have, at any rate, been put to that which is worse than death. Judging from the character of former conventions, I should say there is a state of things existing between Russia and Prussia that is perfectly intolerable in the present age. I think we are bound to protest—I hope the Government of England will protest with the utmost force of language, and with a much-needed exposition of principles—that Prussia shall not be permitted, at this period of history, to establish on the Continent of Europe a fugitive slave law. I have referred to past conventions. Look at that which was concluded in 1834 between the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia. A more ferocious convention, or one more subver- sive of every human right, I never read. It is commented on with admirable force by Sir Andrew Buchanan in a despatch to the noble Earl. Sir Andrew says, that although it was not brought into operation, it has never been abrogated, and may some day or other be carried into effect. Take the later Convention of 1857, of which we have the text on our table. I ask your Lordships to read it, and say whether there could be anything more disgraceful to civilized Powers—whether it is not surprising that an independent State like Prussia should, for one moment, have descended to such servility to a neighbouring empire. It may be deemed a very happy thing that in this matter we can separate the people of Prussia from the Prussian Government. The people of Prussia have begun to protest against the conduct of their rulers, and to show something like the energy of free men; but at the same time I really must say, that if a people, having representative institutions, and such a Constitution as that which exists in Prussia, can submit to be told by a Minister of the Crown, that while their representatives are carrying on their debates, he shall read his letters in the vestibule, where he can hear quite as much as serves his purpose, and that, whether they will or not, he shall remain at peace or declare war just as he pleases, they do not deserve the name or privileges of a free people. We hear, my Lords, a great deal about the Treaties of 1815. Let those treaties be executed faithfully and truly for as much as they are worth; but although diplomacy does well to dwell upon the Treaties of 1815—although, perhaps, it may not be in the power of a minister of the Crown to go beyond the four quarters of those treaties—yet in our debates we are entitled to traverse other regions, and to look to the rights enjoyed by the Polish nation long anterior to the miserable portion of freedom allotted to them in 1815. Mark how even that wretched modicum of generosity and kindness has been wantonly torn from them. To say nothing of the period between 1815 and 1830, look at the period between 1830 and the present time. In 1832 the Constitution which Alexander I. bestowed upon Poland was formally abrogated by the Emperor Nicholas, who, instead of it, substituted what he called an Organic Statute, which was full certainly of large promises and boasts, but which was never brought into operation. In place, indeed, of the Organic Statute, the Poles were treated to a series of cruelties, out-rages, insults, and proscriptions; their language was prohibited, their religion, as far as possible, was abolished, their schools were closed, and every effort was made to Russianize their entire population. It was the manifestation of this spirit by the Emperor and the successive governors of Poland that determined the action of the Polish people, that took from them all confidence in their rulers, and that determined them henceforward to rely on no one but themselves. Again, to show the spirit of the Emperor, I may refer to the remarkable occurrence of the 11th of October 1835; for it is the conduct of the Emperor and of his various governors in Poland which has taken from the Polish people all confidence in their rulers, and determined them, hopelessly it may be, henceforth to rely on themselves alone. On the 11th of October 1835 the Emperor Nicholas paid a visit to Warsaw. A deputation waited upon him with a conciliatory address. The Emperor, when the deputation entered the room, stopped them suddenly, telling them he did not want to hear their address, but wished to spare them a falsehood, because he knew they were going to say what they did not think. After that polite and touching reception, he spoke to them as follows:— You have to choose, gentlemen, between two courses—either to persist in your illusion of an independent Poland, or to live tranquilly under my Government. If you persist in cherishing your dreams of distinct nationality, of Polish independence, and all such chimeras, you can only draw down great misfortunes upon yourselves. I have erected the citadel here, and I declare to you that at the slightest disturbance I will reduce the town to ashes; I will destroy Warsaw, and I am not likely to build it up again. Mark the arrogance and impiety of the Autocrat who thus Assumes the God, affects to nod, And seems to shake the spheres. In the history of mankind, were such arguments as these ever used to conciliate a people? The Emperor threatens, that if there be the slightest disturbance, no matter from what cause, he will open the guns of the terrible fortress on Warsaw, with its 150,000 inhabitants, its helpless women and children, and reduce it to ruins. Is this the way in which a people is to be won? Is this the way in which hopes are to be excited? Is this the way in which confidence is to be raised in breasts long dead to any feeling but distrust? And yet, to wards the close of that address, the Emperor, as if with a touch of cruel irony, said, "Trust me, gentlemen, it is really a happiness to belong to such a country as Russia and to enjoy its privileges." Then came the congress of 1856. My noble Friend opposite, when special ambassador to Paris, for the purpose of attending the Congress, sent home a number of important despatches, disclosing the intentions of the Emperor Alexander II. and Prince Gortschakoff towards this long-oppressed and downtrodden people. On the 15th of April 1856, my noble Friend Lord Clarendon, who went to Paris as special ambassador, wrote as follows:— I have not failed to bear in mind the deep interest which Her Majesty's Government have always taken in the condition of Poland. On the 9th inst., at the request of Count Walewski, I held a conversation with Count Orloff on this subject. I said that, to the best of my belief, the Poles would be tolerably well satisfied if national institutions were restored to them, if their religion were respected, if they were allowed to use the Polish language, and if all their children were educated at Polish schools, instead of, as now, a limited number of them only at Russian schools. I suggested, at the same time, to his Excellency that he should volunteer some assurance to this effect, or should be prepared to declare it in answer to a question put to him by the Congress. Count Orloff replied that the Emperor had determined to restore to his Polish subjects everything I had suggested, but that the announcement could not be made to the Congress, as that would be misrepresented in Russia, and His Imperial Majesty would be thought to have yielded to foreign pressure, which would deprive him of the grace of the spontaneous acts he meant to perform. Count Orloff said to me in a friendly manner, 'Do not, in the interest of the Poles, bring the subject forward in the Congress, for I can tell you nothing there, nor admit your right to interrogate me. My answer, therefore, must be disheartening to the Poles.'… His Excellency yesterday, in answer to my inquiry respecting the answer he had received from St. Petersburg, informed me that he must decline to make any declaration respecting Poland. He said, that the Emperor had determined to do everything that had been suggested, and that the amnesty would be comprehensive, but that he wished to signalize his coronation by these and other acts of grace, and that their good effect would be destroyed if His Majesty's intentions were declared beforehand. His Excellency repeated, that if I persisted in bringing the matter before the Congress, he should be compelled to give an unfavourable answer, and to say that foreign intervention would probably lead to a postponement or a diminution of the favours which His Majesty meant to bestow on his Polish subjects. Under these circumstances, my noble Friend determined not to press Count Orloff any further on the subject, and the Government at home approved his discretion in so doing. There can be no doubt that both the noble Earl and Her Majesty's Government were fully satisfied that the intentions announced by the Russian representative would be fulfilled. Russia certainly did concede several of the things which had been promised; they gave the restoration of the Polish language, they desisted from attacks upon the Polish religion, they introduced municipal institutions. But these things were accompanied by a series of outrages, by measures of intimidation, by ten thousand incarcerations, by Warsaw being declared in a state of siege. Year by year, almost day by day, there was some fresh violation of the Constitution under which the Poles were supposed to be living, until the whole thing was crowned—so little security did the Constitution give, it being a nominal thing and without a single guarantee—by that infamous conscription of which it is impossible to speak in terms sufficiently strong—to my mind the most refined piece of cruelty ever devised. It struck deep into the inmost recesses of the human heart, affecting especially the wives and mothers. Husbands and sons were seized by surprise, and in the dead of night dragged from their homes, cast naked into prison, taken from prison to remote regions of the Empire, and then carried to remote parts of the Empire, or even into the wilds of Siberia. Of all the outrages ever perpetrated by sinful man, there was not one more foul and horrible. But I do rejoice that, like other Satanic deeds, it was too strong, and brought about its own retribution. A devilish engine often recoils on the inventor, and so it happened here. This conscription drove the Poles into an insurrection such as they were never able to effect before, and obtained for them the full and unqualified sympathy of England, of France, of Europe—I may say, of the whole human race. And now, lastly, comes the despatch which has been laid on your Lordships' table—verbosa et grandis epistola. I never was more mystified in my life than when I read that document. It seems to me to be simply evasive, and to have no object whatever save to gain time. It commences by a sort of mystic discussion as to whether Russia shall or shall not assert rights of conquest over Poland, and next it goes into a number of petty contradictions of statements in the noble Earl's note. Then we have a studiously mysterious account of the Emperor's feelings, sympathies, desires, and intentions, and certain measures to be performed on certain conditions and on certain occasions are dimly shadowed forth. But the whole despatch is so dark and unintelligible, that although it might be quoted by Russia if she did anything for the amelioration of the Poles, it might equally be cited in support of her policy if she should refuse to make any concessions whatever. What hope does such a document as this inspire? And even if it were tenfold stronger in its assurances of good will, and in its promises of clemency, it would not have the slightest effect on the minds of the people of Poland when they recollect the language used by the Emperor and the present Minister of Foreign Affairs. Last October the Emperor Alexander II. sent for a gentleman of high station, in order to obtain some information from him in regard to Poland, and, having obtained what he wanted, despatched him into perpetual exile. To that gentleman the Emperor said, "I see that the only way of governing the Poles is by terror." The next day Prince Gortschakoff repeated the same words, adding, "If the Poles force us to it, we will make Poland a heap of ashes and corpses." Again, I ask, are such barbarous threats the way to gain the confidence of a people, to restore peace, or to tranquillize Europe? Can we look upon these men as fit to govern the destinies of so many millions of human beings? It is said that the present Emperor is a man of a kind disposition and good intentions. It may be so; but I can only say he has used language, according to the precept of a celebrated diplomatist, for the purpose of concealing his thoughts. There is a rule of Divine authority, that "by their fruits shall ye know men." If we look at the fruits of those men who conduct the Government of Russia—if we look at what they have done from 1856 down to the present time, at the long series of outrages deceits, and oppressions, at the distresses and disgraces for which they are responsible—can we say that these are the fruits of a tree the leaves of which shall be for the healing of the nations? Are they not rather the growth of the baneful upas-tree, which spreads desolation around it on every side, and is fatal to all who come within the circuit of its pestilential influence. One thing, I think, is clear as daylight, and it is that the issue of the present crisis must at last be the separation of Poland from Russia. It is perfectly impossible that these two countries can go on in harmony and union. A greater incompatibility be- tween two nations never existed. There is no parallel to it even in the records of Sir Cresswell Cresswell's Court. The inevitable result is that Poland must be divorced from Russia on account of its intolerable cruelty. This, my Lords, is no common cause of complaint—no ordinary insurrection. This is not the momentary rising caused by any sudden, unexpected wrong, but a long-continued, persistent assertion by a nation of its rights, privileges, and liberties. Within a very few years of the present time a century will have elapsed since the first partition of Poland, and during the whole of that period the Poles have never recognised the new dominion imposed on them, or ceased to assert their continual claim to nationality and independence. It cannot be supposed that this state of things could long continue. See, at the close of a century, what a spectacle is presented. The Poles are exhibiting ten times more patriotism, and receiving a hundredfold more of the sympathies of Europe than they did nearly one hundred years ago, at the time of the first partition. When your Lordships witness the feeling manifested on the part of this country, as well as by all the nations of the world—when you perceive that not a single nation except Prussia is to be found to say a single word in defence of Russian violence, or that does not come forward to obtain some just and necessary concessions in favour of the Poles—how long do you suppose it possible that this can go on without endangering the peace of Europe, and presenting a scene which will not fail sooner or later to stir to their utmost depths the sympathies, the energies, and the sense of right and justice which exist among all the nations of the earth? My Lords, a separation would be for the good of all parties. It could not he otherwise than preferable to a state of things, in which wide-spread discontent is continually seething and boiling over, and keeping all Europe, as it were, in a perpetual simmer. It would also be to the interest of Austria to have an independent kingdom thrown between her and her gigantic rival, and I believe that the Emperor of Austria knows this well. I have the best authority for saying, that both in times past and present, the Emperor of Austria, notwithstanding the language in these papers, would be ready to surrender his portion of the spoil—the Kingdom of Galicia—if he could thereby constitute in a firm condition the Kingdom of Poland, and thus have a strong barrier against the aggressions of the Russian Empire. That the separation of Poland and Russia would be of advantage to the people of Poland no one would question; and that it would be equally advantageous to Russia, I believe, is equally undeniable. What could be more injurious to the Empire of Russia than to have all her resources, instead of being expended for the benefit and improvement of the people of that extensive country, exhausted on enormous armies? It is said, that in place of the 100,000 troops Russia keeps in Poland, an endeavour is to be made to maintain there 200,000—a large proportion of her movable army—for the purpose of keeping down the Poles. All this proves that Poland is no source of strength to Russia, but is a cause of weakness. Is it to the advantage of Russia to be perpetually brought before Europe as on her trial from day to day and year to year, and to be condemned by the united suffrages and voices of all people? Consider the character of this insurrection. Never was there a rising so determined or more universal. The Russian Government have endeavoured, in a variety of ways, to quell it. They tried brute force, and failed; they tried confiscation, but that was equally disregarded. They tried an amnesty; but the Poles were united in rejecting it—not placing any confidence in the promises of the Russian Government. As to that amnesty, I feel I need not dwell on it, for the comment made on it in these Parliamentary papers by my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary has disposed of the whole of that matter. It is an amnesty only in name, and there is nothing in it to give hope or assurance. It is merely a delusion and subterfuge, and has been heartily rejected by the Poles and by the common conscience of all Europe. I have said that never was an insurrection more universal; but though it is probable that this insurrection may be put down, yet the feeling never will be quelled. It will break out again at different times and in different places, and Prince Gortschakoff spoke the truth when he said that nothing would put an end to insurrection in Poland but total and absolute extermination. The universality of the insurrection is shown by a most remarkable event. In 1830 the Jewish people, who are in great numbers in the Empire of Russia, being more that 3,000,000, and in Poland being more than 2,000,000, were on the side of the Emperor. The consequence was that the Russian Govern- ment then got the best and speediest intelligence. At present, however, the Jewish nation to a man sympathize with the insurgents and are directly opposed to the Russian Government. Here is a very curious statement— The Grand Duke Constantine sent for the Rabbi Meisel and asked him why the Jews sympathized with the insurgents? 'Do you not know,' said the Grand Duke, 'that the Emperor is your father?' ' The Emperor, no doubt, is our father,' said the Rabbi, 'but Poland is our mother; and when the husband beats the wife, the children always take part with the mother. That was as sound and as true and faithful an answer as was ever given. Any one who knows the activity, the intelligence, and fervid energy of the Israelitish character all over the world, and especially in Poland, knows that they are earnest and determined either as friends or enemies. Why is it that they sympathize with the insurgents? Because a unity of persecution and suffering has caused a community of feeling among them. About three weeks ago, a Hebrew gentleman, a friend of mine, who had passed many years in Poland, was walking along the streets, and he saw two men looking like Polish Jews. He asked them what brought them here, and they replied that they had escaped from the Russian army and had made their way to England, where alone true liberty was to be found. They added that when only five years of age they were forcibly taken from their mothers and carried into the interior, baptized in the Greek Church, and forced afterwards to enter the ranks of the Russian army. Thousands and tens of thousands of Jews have been torn from the bosom of their families, and subjected to a religion which they consider false, and compelled to enter a profession which, of all others, they abominate. The Jewish people have now taken part with the Poles, and supply them in every way with information. I believe that history will demonstrate that no man ever put his hand on the Jewish nation to injure or benefit them without receiving a smart for the one or a reward for the other. What, I may be asked, is it desired that this country should do under existing circumstances? I have the authority of one of the chief Polish agents in this country to declare that from England at least the Poles do not expect the co-operation of arms and military force; but they do ask for the strongest expressions of sympathy in both Houses of Parliament, in public meetings, in the public press, and in every way in which the public sentiment can be made known. The Poles say they that look with apprehension on armed intervention, because they desire to be independent, and they have before them the example of Savoy, Rome, and Nice. Therefore, they say to me that what they desire is the expression and constant exhibition of sympathy, which has the greatest effect in encouraging their own people, and in discouraging those who are opposed to them. As far as I can judge of the people of England, I should say that they do require that the strongest language of rebuke and indignation should be used in dealing with the Russian Government. However proper it may be for Ministers to be diplomatic in their language, the people of this country claim for themselves the right of expressing themselves in the strongest terms to the fullest extent of their feelings. I am inclined to believe that the force of public opinion in these days is ten thousand times greater than in the past history of this country, and that public opinion, perseveringly and powerfully directed, would be more effective in obtaining a remedy that the sudden apparition of a fleet in the Baltic. Consider now, my Lords, that public opinion is a very different thing from what it was in former days. Whole nations now can speak, and by newspapers and electric telegraphs a common feeling can be shot through millions and millions of people. And here, my Lords, I must protest against that doctrine so often laid down, that you may not make use of the language of strong feeling and indignation unless you are prepared to employ force, and to follow up your remonstrances with a blow and a heavy hand. Such a doctrine, I feel, is contrary to the first principles of Christianity, and wholly inconsistent with the character of the age. I believe that public opinion is now the most powerful engine that can be brought into action; and, that coming from such nations as England and France, more especially if founded upon such principles, conducted in such a manner, and directed to such issues as it is in the case of Poland, would be more than fifty Emperors could stand, enthroned though they might be in the regions of the North. There never was a time move favourable for the expression of this opinion than the present. And here I would say a word with respect to a class of persons who are not favourable to the establishment of Polish independence, urging as an objection that the Poles are a priest-ridden, Jesuitical race, that they are devout and bigoted followers of the Roman Catholic religion, and that if ever they should be restored to power, they would establish a persecuting and superstitions kingdom. My Lords, I protest against this whole argument from first to last. In the first place, I maintain that the best way to get rid of bigotry and priestcraft is to give freedom to the people, and to enable them to escape from the peculiar inspirations of their priests. But is there anything reprehensible or unnatural in the fact that the people of Poland, in their present condition, in the difficulties in which they are and have been placed for so long a time, should bind themselves to their priesthood and to the professors of the Roman Catholic religion? Where have they received encouragement and advice except from their own priesthood? Have you not seen that the Archbishop of Warsaw, so long considered as friendly to the oppressor, has resigned his civil post, and has come forward as an advocate of the rights of the people? And what have the Poles gained from Protestant Powers? They have had but little from Protestant England, and what have they had from Protestant Prussia? And if you consider that, of all the potentates of Europe, one only was found who, in the strongest manner his position would permit, came forward to mark his sense of abhorrence of the treatment which the Poles had received—that when the Emperor Nicholas went to Rome in 1845, Pope Gregory XVI. refused to see him, because his hand was stained with the blood of his Roman Catholic priests and people—when you consider that the Polish people know that, and compare it with the treatment which they had received from Protestant Powers, you must not be surprised that they lean to those who alone have shown their readiness to support them in their hour of trial. I bring this subject forward because I wish to disconnect myself from those who take that illiberal view, a view not in harmony with English feeling, nor founded upon any of the doctrines or precepts of Christianity. But to return to what I have just observed—never was a time so favourable for the expression of public opinion as the present moment. Never were the arguments so strong or the sympathies so powerful in favour of Poland as now. I really think Her Majesty's Government might address the Russian Cabinet, and say that neither they nor the people of England wish to weaken the Russian Empire—they only wish to see it well governed and brought within due limits, happy within itself, advancing the welfare of its people, and not constantly brought forward as a scandal and a cause of dispute in Europe. At the same time, I think they might remind the Emperor of the condition to which his empire is brought; that, his father having exhausted nearly the whole of its resources by his military operations, the present Emperor is exhausting the remainder; that there are no railways nor means of intercommunication throughout those vast territories, and that therefore, if he is anxious to concentrate his troops, and to place them on a war footing, more than a year must elapse before they can be brought where he wishes to collect them—and all because the money which ought to be expended upon railways has been spent upon his intolerable armies and his monstrous crusades against the peace of Europe. I think he might be reminded that the Russian Empire is threatened on the side of Circassia, and that the empire must be in a very insecure state when, in order to excite military zeal in the people, it is necessary to promise them a holy war. They were promised a holy war in the Crimea, they are promised a holy war now in Poland; but a people is surely not to be relied on when it is necessary to fill them with bigotry when they enlist, and with brandy when they fight. It is, my Lords, an undeniable fact, that the Russian troops are brought up to the fight drenched with brandy. But there is a still surer sign of decay, which has lately been manifested. The Government of Russia, fearful of the progress of liberal opinions among the officers of the army, published an announcement to the men not to pay attention to those officers. And hence the disorder and want of discipline of the Russian army—hence so many of the officers are almost daily assassinated by the Russian soldiers. In fact, want of discipline has been quoted by the Russian Government in extenuation of their own atrocities. Well, then, my Lords, if we persevere in this course of remonstrance, in those declarations of public opinion, in those appeals to the Emperor and his Ministers, not in secret, but before the whole world, it will, I am sure, however reluctant they may be, have a deep and lasting effect, and that speedily. My Lords, whatever may happen to the Poles, our obligations to them will still exist. The Poles at an early period of their history may have been haughty and arrogant; they may have been disorderly and troublesome to themselves and to the whole of Europe; but we owe to that nation a debt of gratitude, first for the chivalrous service which they rendered when all Europe was quailing before the face of the Turk, and the Poles and the Poles alone were able to drive them from the walls of Vienna. We also owe them a debt for the cold if not contemptuous indifference with which we treated them when, with the exception of the institution of the slave trade, the greatest public crime ever perpetrated against mankind was committed in the partition of Poland. Happen what may, the Poles will ever have all our hearts and all our sympathies; and, my Lords, I do hope, and I am sure it is the hope of this country—nay more, it is the earnest prayer of every true man within these realms, that we may yet live to see the time when this down-trodden and long-oppressed people shall enter again upon their ancient rights, and after so much experience and bitter sorrow shall inaugurate a noble career of civil and religious liberty, of humanity, and of justice. The noble Earl concluded by presenting the Petition


presented a Petition from inhabitants of Liverpool to the same effect, and said, that the realization of the hopes to which the noble Earl had given utterance would be the ultimate hopes of their Lordships also, could they see their way to that result; but he doubted whether at the present moment the views of their Lordships extended quite that length. They must have been convinced, by the experience of the last fifty years, that the attempts to reconcile the Polish nation to the condition in which it was, placed by the Congress of Vienna were utterly hopeless, and that it would be impossible to restore that confidence to the Poles in those who ruled them, which was essential to good government and to contentment among themselves. The experiment made at the time to which he alluded was a bold one; but it was the only way in which Europe could then express its opinion upon the rights of Poland. Under the peculiar circumstances which then existed, it was evidently impossible to go back upon the transactions of forty or fifty years, and to do that which the public conscience and public voice of Europe required. The statesmen of that day did the best by way of approximation, and they took every precaution compatible with the circumstances of the time, that if Poland could not be re-established as an independent Power, it might still be kept together as a nation. Every precaution was taken to provide that a distinct line of demarcation—that which existed previously to 1772—should be still maintained, and that however politically distributed the people of Poland might be under different Sovereigns, their nationality should be preserved, and the rights and privileges of intercommunication of the Poles of Austria, Russia, and Prussia, among themselves, such as their fellow-subjects did not possess towards them or the subjects of other States, were secured to them. This fact entirely disposed of the plea that had lately been put forward, that Russia in the earlier partition of Poland had not been guilty of spoliation, and that in annexing her Polish provinces she was, in fact, only recovering territories which Poland had formerly wrested from her. But this pretext had been formally excluded by the provisions of the Congress of all the great European Powers, which distinctly recognized as Poland all that had borne that name before 1772. Those provisions, however, were very soon neglected—above all by Russia, which obtained the largest share of spoliation. The Emperor of Russia, indeed, conferred the promised constitution upon the Poles of the Duchy of Warsaw; but however liberal that constitution was in appearance, for all practical purposes it was never really in action. It was, indeed, often pretended in certain quarters that until the year 1831 Russia had performed all her duties and engagements to Poland, and that she was entitled, by the unprovoked insurrection of that year, to dispense with the observance of the Polish constitution. That argument was without the slightest foundation. The great feature of that constitution was the Diet, and the provision that the Diet should enjoy the control which it was necessary for a representative Assembly to have over the expenditure of the country, and that it should be called together every three years at least. The Diet, however, instead of meeting according to the provisions of the constitution, had been only summoned three times in fifteen years, and during that period no budget was once submitted to it. Let them remember further what it was to be under the Government of the Grand Duke Constantine—concerning which it was not necessary to say one word—and it would be seen that if the Poles rose in insurrection in 1831, it was not owing to dema- gogic excitement, but was the natural result of Russian rule. Their Lordships were not called upon to engage this country in a war in which the risks and mischief were certain, while the advantages were doubtful. But they were called upon, not so much to give their sympathy to Poland, as to give their opinion on a matter of public right. They were called upon to declare to the world that it was their Lordships' opinion that the conditions on which Russia held the whole of the Polish territory—provinces and kingdom together—having been broken, her title to any part of Poland was forfeited, and she would hereafter hold it by the sword alone. He believed that a general expression of this opinion would have great weight in Europe, and that it was of the utmost importance that all Europe should know that any sanction which England had given in the Congress of Vienna to the continuance of Russian rule in Poland was entirely withdrawn, and that hereafter we recognized in her no other title but the sword.


My Lords, I have listened with the greatest attention to the speeches of my two noble Friends who have just addressed your Lordships. It is under a sense of great responsibility that I rise to offer some observations to your Lordships. That sense of responsibility arises more particularly from two considerations. The first is, lest I should give too sanguine a colour to the representations which are being made by the Powers of Europe to Russia, and lest I should say too much as to my expectations of the success of those efforts, and so induce your Lordships to think that a happy consummation is speedily to be expected. The other consideration that affects me is, lest I should induce your Lordships to think—and still more lest I should induce the Polish nation to think—that Her Majesty's Government are prepared in any way to take part in this contest, or to do more than address to the Government of Russia those representations which, in our opinion, it belongs to a country like this to make, and more especially when the same sentiments are shared and expressed by the two powerful Governments of France and Austria—representations which we make with a due regard to our own interests, to the interests of justice, and to the interests of the character of the Emperor of Russia—and which, in our opinion, cannot safely be neglected. My Lords, before I speak of that which has lately happened, and more especially with reference to the representations that have been made, I would ask your Lordships' attention for a few moments to that which was done in 1831. In the year 1831 my noble Friend who is now at the head of the Government, and who then held the situation of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, addressed these words to Lord Heytesbury— The Treaty of Vienna declared that the Kingdom of Poland should be attached to Russia by its constitution. A constitution the Emperor of Russia accordingly gave, and it surely is no forced construction of the meaning of that treaty to consider the constitution so given as existing thenceforth under the sanction of the treaty. It it not required that I should detain your Lordships by any lengthened argument with respect to the Treaty of Vienna, and the constitution necessarily connected with that treaty. That argument appeared in the despatches of 1831, and appears in the despatches of the present time. But there is one consideration which arises from reading the papers of 1831 which I think ought to be present to the mind of Parliament, and to the mind of those of the public who sometimes ask, "What is the use of diplomatic representations?" I would call the attention of those who advance such opinions to a despatch of Lord Heytesbury written in 1832. He tells Lord Palmerston that it was true our representations had not been attended with the effect which we ourselves wished, but that it would be a great mistake to suppose they had been altogether useless. Our representations, he says, were entirely confined to the Kingdom of Poland, and they had no bearing on those provinces of Russia—those nine Russo-Polish Governments, I believe they are called—which do not form part of the Polish Kingdom. Mark the difference in reference to these different provinces. Lord Heytesbury writes— It will be sufficient to cast our eyes towards the Russo-Polish provinces not included in the Kingdom of Poland, and consequently out of the reach of foreign Intervention, to be convinced to the contrary. In the Kingdom of Poland, setting out of the question those accused of assassination and the officers of the three corps, Kaminski, Rybinski, and Ramorin, who form a class apart, and who are now gradually returning to their homes upon consenting to renew their oaths of allegiance, there are not above twenty individuals excluded from the amnesty or who will suffer for their political conduct. But in the Russo-Polish provinces incorporated with the empire confiscation of property, exile, or deportation to Siberia, are the general lot. Not an individual has been suffered to escape who took any active part in the revolution. This different measure of punishment, though it speaks little in favour of the clemency of this Government, shows clearly the effect of foreign intervention. We may not have gained much, but we at least have the consolation of knowing that the course pursued would have been infinitely more severe had we not taken the line we did. This shows, at least, that some advantages may be derived from the influence of a great Power, using language founded on truth, calling attention to infractions of the spirit of treaties, and making representations which a great Power like Russia would not like to disregard. Now, in speaking of what has lately happened in Russia, I would, in the first place, endeavour to do justice to the character of the Emperor. In that respect I differ, perhaps, from my noble Friend who has presented Petitions this evening. I have an entire belief in the benevolence and sincerity of that Sovereign. I do not refer to mere professions on his part of sentiments which all monarchs are apt to profess; but I do say that there is hardly any Act which ennobles the reign of a Sovereign more extensive or grand in its effects, or more benevolent in its conception than the emancipation of the serfs of Russia. Every one who has attended to the circumstances under which that step was taken knows that the persons of most influence at the Court, the great aristocracy of Russia, were deeply interested in the maintenance of serfdom. To some the measure of emancipation has been attended with the loss of half their annual income, others have suffered to a far greater extent, in the loss of five-sixths or even nine-tenths of their property. But the Emperor of Russia, seeing that the interests of humanity were involved in the question, and that millions, not only of the present race, but of those yet unborn, would derive benefit from the proclamation of freedom, has not hesitated—with due deliberation, but at the same time with the utmost boldness—to declare the freedom of the serfs throughout the wide extent of his dominions. I say, then, we have no right to assume that a Sovereign who performed such an act from his own convictions of right, and who was not forced to adopt that course by anything like insurrection, will be animated with regard to another part of his dominions by intentions which are other than favourable to their welfare. But, having said this much—having declared what is my opinion—I am next obliged to say that in nothing that he has done with regard to Poland, and in nothing that I have hitherto seen, do I perceive the foundations of that prosperity, of that enjoyment of just rights, which the Poles are entitled to expect. I find in the last despatch of Prince Gortschakoff the views which are held out with regard to Poland. Prince Gortschakoff says— By the side of an act of clemency, to which it has been possible to give a large extension since the dispersion of the most important armed bands, the Emperor has maintained in force the institutions already granted; and has declared that he reserved to himself the power of giving to them the developments indicated by time and the requirements of the country. His Majesty can, then, refer to the past in the rectitude of his conscience; as to the future, it necessarily depends on the confidence with which these institutions will be met in the kingdom. Now, really, the whole gist of the present question as regards Poland lies in those last words. If we could believe the Poles would accept with confidence institutions recently given, or about to be given to them; if we could believe that they had reason to entertain confidence that those institutions would afterwards be developed into a complete system of freedom and of justice; then, indeed, we might look forward with some satisfaction to the future of Poland. But what is the case? Where are the grounds for that confidence? Institutions have been given, but from time to time there have been the most arbitrary arrests; men have been taken from their beds and sent to prison without accusation; in the churches of Warsaw—in one, I believe, the cathedral church especially—arrests were ordered, and the pavement was stained with the blood of men who went to worship God according to their own rites. Acts such as these must destroy all confidence in rulers. Beyond that, they cannot help reflecting that in 1832 and the following years attempts were made to deprive the Poles of their language, and to convert them by force to a religion which was not their own. The policy of the Emperor Nicholas, if it had been successful, might, indeed, have changed the whole face of Poland; but, not being successful, it leaves a lasting sense of resentment, and an enduring belief that the Poles never can rely on the promises of the Russian Government. My noble Friend has referred to what he calls—I think rightly calls—the act of proscription, which was the immediate cause of the outbreak; and asks, when such an outrage has taken place, can men possess confidence in the institutions about to be given to them? It has been observed by those who are well acquainted with the Government of Poland—and I have consulted those who have watched its course year by year—that there is one great vice of the Russian Government;—whatever good may be done, or whatever liberal institutions are given, it exhibits no perseverance and no consistency in carrying them out. At one time it was declared that all trials for political offences should be public. That system was carried into effect for a few weeks, but, some inconvenience being found to arise, it was at once put an end to. These are the things which prevent any feeling of confidence from arising in the breasts of subjects of such a Government—they cannot possibly rely that the institutions to be given will be permanent. That very act of conscription was directly in the teeth of the law of 1859, enacted in the reign of the present Emperor, upon which, if the Poles could rely upon anything, they ought to have been able to rely as a permanent law of the Kingdom of Poland. We are forced, then, to come to the conclusion that it is difficult, above all things, to inspire in the Poles that feeling of confidence with which these institutions to be successful must be viewed. It may be said that it is hard upon an Emperor whose intentions are so praiseworthy that he should be met with distrust and that all his benefits should be spurned. But such is the natural, such is the legitimate consequence of despotism—that its caprices destroy all confidence, and its promises for the future are spurned because its promises for the past have been falsified. If that be the case, had we not reason when we recommended that the constitution which was given by the Emperor Alexander I. in 1815 should be restored and scrupulously adhered to? In saying this, I do not suppose that the Powers of Europe assembled at Vienna accurately prescribed that constitution, framed its articles, or affirmed its nicer provisions; but I say this—that I know not how the Russian Government or any people having a national resentment and aversion to the Poles, can govern happily and securely but by giving these two securities—first, that the men employed in the Government shall have the confidence of the nation; and secondly, that the nation to be governed shall be governed according to known laws and rules. These are the foundations and elements of good government in every case; and unless they are present, I do not see how good government can be secured to Poland. One way of securing that the persons who govern shall have the confidence of the Poles is, that there shall be a National Assembly elected by the Poles themselves. I do not moan to be pedantic about this matter, as Prince Gortschakoff reproaches us with being. I do not mean to say that the institutions which suit England are exactly those which would suit Poland, or any other country which could be named; but what I say is essential is this—that the persons who govern, whether they are named by the municipal councils or by the Emperor himself, or are chosen by the suffrages of the electors, should be persons who have the confidence of the nation—they should be persons in the performance of whose promises the nation confides. When you place at the head of the Government a man who promulgates a law that the persons who are required for the service of the army shall be taken by lot and according to certain known rules, and who suddenly and in one night violates all those rules and kidnaps 2,000 young men—in such a man the people can have no confidence; and while such a Government is continued, it is idle to expect that peace should be maintained in Poland. Likewise, with regard to the law, there must be fixed and certain rules. It was for this reason that Her Majesty's Government advised a return to the institutions of Alexander I. as likely to secure peace to Poland; but, whether those institutions or any others are adopted, I say now, as we said then, that in any future diplomatic representations, in any of those negotiations which Prince Gortschakoff declares that the Russian Government is willing to entertain, in any discussions into which we may enter, we must always maintain, that unless the civil, political, and municipal government of Poland is placed in the hands of the Poles themselves, there is no chance of tranquillity in that country. I speak of tranquillity in the sense in which the three Powers have spoken. The French Government have asked to have durable peace; the Austrian Government have asked to have durable peace; the British Government have asked for peace on lasting foundations. I say that it is such a peace as that to which we ought to look, and that if we merely said "Here are certain benevolent institutions which have been given to the Poles, and they ought to be satisfied with them," we should be deceiving ourselves, deceiving the Poles, and deceiving Europe to expect any such result. To take the next point raised by my noble Friend, I know not that we can go beyond that which we have a right to do—namely, we have a right to speak of the Kingdom of Poland as constituted by the Treaty of Vienna, and we have a right to speak of its constitution. The Treaty of Vienna said, "The Duchy of Warsaw," as it was called, "shall be connected irrevocably with the Empire of Russia by its constitution." These words, we maintain, must have meant something. If no advantage of constitution was meant to be secured, it would be quite sufficient to have said, "The Duchy of Warsaw is henceforth irrevocably united with Russia." What was the meaning of the words—vague I admit, indefinite I admit, but still of vast signification—"united to the Empire of Russia by its constitution"? We can therefore only advise such institutions as would give to the people of Poland the government of Poland within that Kingdom of Poland constituted by the Treaty of Vienna. But my noble Friends have gone further—a good deal further—than that line of duty which I have thus traced out for Her Majesty's Government. My noble Friend, who presented the Petition from the City (the Earl of Shaftesbury) said that in his opinion we ought to declare that the Kingdom of Poland should hereafter be entirely severed from the Empire of Russia, and should form a separate State. My noble Friend who spoke last (the Earl of Harrowby) considers that Russia has forfeited all title under the Treaty of Vienna, and that we, in the name of the British nation, in the name of this Government, ought to declare that title forfeit. My Lords, I cannot tell you that Her Majesty's Government will take either the one course or the other. With regard to demanding the separation of the Kingdom of Poland from the Empire of Russia, I think there are grave questions which any Government, which any statesman, must ask himself before that deliberation can be concluded in the affirmative. What is to form this Kingdom of Poland? Supposing the Emperor of Russia were to declare, that in his opinion it was desirable to separate the kingdom of Poland from his empire, would the Poles be generally satisfied with those limits which the Treaty of Vienna has laid down? What was the object for which Count Andrew Czartory- ski went to St. Petersburg? He was summoned there in order to explain an address to the Emperor, which had been signed by many of the nobles and great proprietors of Poland. What was the purport of that address? Its purport was that all the provinces which formerly belonged to Poland ought to be re-united under one administration with the Kingdom of Poland. They professed, that if that request was complied with, they would display the utmost loyalty to the Emperor of Russia, that they would remain faithful to him and to his Crown; but that they did not profess that they would be satisfied with institutions given to the Kingdom of Poland alone. I am not now expressing an opinion whether or not they were justified in that address, or whether the happiness of the Polish subjects of the Emperor of Russia requires any such measure. I am merely pointing out that the question of the re-erection of a separate Kingdom of Poland is not at once resolved by merely saying that you will have a Kingdom of Poland, but that you would have other and serious questions immediately arising upon that declaration. But there are other questions still. What would be the condition of that kingdom? Is it to have Posen, the Prussian part of Poland? Is it to have Galicia, the Austrian part of Poland? If you insist upon those junctions, you may depend upon it that Austria and Prussia will be as much opposed to your request as Russia herself. If, on the contrary, they refused that request, or if you say that the new Kingdom of Poland shall consist only of the Polish provinces which are now under the sway of the Empire of Russia, only consider what attempts will be made at Warsaw, to reunite Galicia, Posen, and Dantsic to the Polish Kingdom—how much Austria and Prussia will be interested in defeating these attempts, and what foreign influences may be used to support Poland on the one hand and to repress it on the other, and what a new element of disturbance, instead of peace and happiness, you may cause to be established in Europe. Well, these things are not to be disregarded. Looking at them carefully—looking at them with a desire for the welfare of the Poles indeed, but not indifferent to the future peace and future welfare of Europe—I for one cannot put these considerations out of sight. But, besides these ultimate consequences, my belief is—it may be a mistaken one, as I have said; the events of to-morrow may overturn the foresight of to-day— but my belief is, that in the present temper of the Russian Government, and still more of the Russian people, there is no readiness to consent to that which would be considered the dismemberment of a great empire. There are glorious recollections—there are symbols of pride and power connected with Russia, which may be dissolved, which may be destroyed, but which would hardly be dissolved or destroyed without a long and sanguinary war. Into those hazards, into those dangers, I for one certainly should be very loath to enter; and I think that your Lordships and the other House of Parliament, representing the people of this country, would be unwilling to incur such hazards unless they were forced upon you by the most pressing necessity. Well, my Lords, while I speak of these things as reasons why we should proceed cautiously, why we should proceed slowly if necessary, and in conjunction with other Powers, in all that we attempt to do for Poland, I have as much confidence as my noble Friend who presented the City Petition in the ultimate power of the public opinion of Europe. Prince Gortschakoff has spoken of the elements of disturbance and the revolutionary cosmopolites of Europe, and has asked France and England and Austria to repress their activity. Well, my Lords, no doubt as carrion birds are drawn by instinct to the battle-field, so, wherever there is disturbance, the moral and political vultures of Europe will flock to take part in it. But it is not the mere disturbers and revolutionists of Europe who alone have espoused the cause of the Poles in this conflict—it is, I believe, supported by the real and conscientious opinion of Europe. That which has taken place in Poland has been carried by modes of conveyance unknown in former times to all parts of Europe, and the conscience of Europe has been roused by seeing the religion of a people trampled under foot—by seeing its nationality despised—by seeing arbitrary measures dispose of the lives and limbs of the brave youth of a brave and celebrated nation. Depend upon it, my Lords, that that public opinion will not be fruitless—depend upon it that that public opinion, expressed at the present time by three of the greatest and most powerful monarchies of Europe, will be backed and sustained by every minor State or nation, and wherever men can read, or think, or hear of the woes of Poland. That which took place in 1831 and 1832—the tyrannical attempts, which in those years passed almost unnoticed—could not now be repeated, even if the present Emperor of Russia were the man to repeat them. I ask your Lordships, therefore, to rely, first, upon the prudent course of the Government of this country, and that that which can be fairly and practicably done will be done by them. I ask you, in the next place, to rely upon that public opinion of Europe which you may depend the Emperor of Russia, autocrat as he may be, will not neglect. I ask you to rely also upon the general sense of justice which pervades the people of this and other countries. I ask you, above all, to rely upon that Heaven which will not allow oppression to pass unpunished, or permit such sufferings much longer to endure.


explained that he had said that the action of the Foreign Minister must be confined within the four corners of the Treaty of Vienna, but that the people of England might take much broader views.

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