HL Deb 15 March 1867 vol 185 cc1888-90

Seeing the noble Earl (Earl Russell) in his place who has given notice of his intention to move for papers on the subject of the Turkish Fortresses in Servia, I have a communication to make which may, perhaps, induce him to think it unnecessary to bring on the subject. My Lords, I hold in my hand papers connected with the discussion which has taken place between Servia and the Porte, and which I am prepared, by Her Majesty's command, to lay upon the table. I have the satisfaction of announcing at the same time that an arrangement has been come to between the Porte and the Prince of Servia, which is perfectly satisfactory to both parties. The Porte has consented not to demolish or destroy the fortress of Belgrade, which is no longer necessary for the defence of the frontiers of Turkey; but which, nevertheless, is connected most closely with the most glorious memories of the Turkish Empire, and has a very strong hold on the feelings and affections of the Turkish subjects of the Porte. It has consented, moreover, to make over the fortress to the Government of the Prince of Servia. The fortress of Belgrade will be hereafter garrisoned exclusively by Servian troops, subject only to the condition that the Turkish flag flies over the fortress. That is the latest information contained in the despatches which I have to lay on the table. But I may add that the Turkish Ambassador has been good enough to furnish me with a telegram received from Constantinople, dated yesterday, stating with respect to these arrangements that they have been received with great enthusiasm in Servia. I think I may take this opportunity of saying also, with reference to a question connected with Turkish affairs in general, and the discussion brought on the other evening by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll), that a despatch had been received at the Foreign Office to-day from Lord Lyons, dated the 6th of March, in which he says that he had a long and serious conversation with the Grand Vizier, Aali Pasha, upon the internal condition of the Empire, in which his Highness assured him that the Turkish Government were determined as soon as possible to introduce reforms, and that one of the main objects of those reforms would be to improve the condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte, to open to them a career in the public service, and to do away with those distinctions between the Christian and Mussulman subjects of the Porte which, though in a great measure abolished by law, are still practically kept up. The despatch also states that a Christian has been appointed Assistant Finance Minister and Governor of the Bank, and that this was the commencement of reforms in the selection of Christians for honourable posts in the public service. It was, moreover, intended to extend the system of uniting numerous Pashalics in large Provinces under one Governor General, and to provide for the future representation of Christians in these large districts. Although this despatch does not refer immediately to the affairs of Turkey, I thought that your Lordships would be glad to hear that the Porte is not indisposed to act on advice and friendly counsels, and to introduce, I hope faithfully and honestly, improvements in the condition of its Christian subjects.


As my only object was to elicit information, I certainly will not persevere in the Motion of which I have given notice, and am much gratified by the information the noble Earl has I given the House as to the intentions of the Porte. I would call the noble Earl's attention to a telegram which is dated Vienna, March 14, and which says— The Porte has consented to evacuate the Servian fortresses in consideration of the promises of the Great Powers that the sovereignty of Turkey over Servia shall be maintained. Is that telegram correct?


I have not seen the telegram to which the noble Earl refers; but the understanding clearly is that the suzerainty of the Porte over Servia will still be maintained; but with regard to its internal affairs Servia will be I practically independent.