HL Deb 15 February 1875 vol 222 cc305-6

inquired of Her Majesty's Government, Whether it is intended to lay upon the Table any Correspondence with regard to the alleged demand of Austria, Russia, and the German Empire to form commercial treaties with Servia and Roumania independently of the Ottoman Government? He did not mean to trouble their Lordships with any extended statement on the subject—he would only mention what appeared to him to be a conclusive reason for the production of the Correspondence. We had heard a great deal lately of the controversy which had arisen with regard to the right of Servia and Roumania to negotiate commercial treaties independently of the Empire of which they formed a part; but in the absence of authentic documents it was still uncertain to us whether such a controversy really did exist, and if it did whether the demand for the commercial treaties in question had come from Servia and Roumania on the one hand, or from Austria, Russia, and the German Empire on the other. Should the demand have originated with Servia and Roumania it suggested a certain order of political considerations; should it have originated with the three Great Powers he had mentioned, it would suggest another and perfectly distinct order of political considerations. But whether the controversy existed or not, and on whichever side the demand had arisen, it had revived what was called the "Eastern Question," and created the impression, whether justly or otherwise, that the Treaty of 1856 was seriously menaced.


In answer to the appeal of my noble Friend, I am afraid I must say that I am not prepared at the present moment to lay on the Table any Papers relating to the subject to which his Question: refers. I shall be ready to do so at a later period; but negotiations upon the subject are still going on, and while they remain incomplete I think that the publication of the Correspondence would probably do more to obstruct than facilitate a satisfactory settlement such as we all wish for. I cannot appreciate the bearings of what has been said by my noble Friend as to whether the dispute now existing was originally raised by the Government of the Principalities or the Governments of the three Great Powers. I apprehend that with whichever party the claim originated, if it is supported by both parties, it makes very little difference by whom the idea was first started. I may further say, that I do not look on the question as one from which there is any reason to apprehend any disturbance of the peace in Europe or in the East. All the Great Powers are agreed that it is desirable that the Government of the Principalities should have power to negotiate and enter into commercial treaties; but the difference which has arisen is this—some of the leading Governments of Europe consider that the Principalities have that right under existing Treaty arrangements; while those Governments which take a different view, though they are quite willing that the right should be conceded, contend that it does not at present exist, and that it can only emanate from a concession of the Government of the Porte. That is the issue to which the question is now narrowed. It is not so much a question of what is desirable, or what shall be done, as of the manner in which it shall be done. I may add that those Powers who take a different view from that which we take, and who contend that the Government of the Principalities have the right which they claim, nevertheless have expressed in the strongest language their determination to adhere to the treaty engagements into which they have entered—the difference between them and us being merely this—that they construe those engagements in a different sense. House adjourned at half past Five o'clock, 'till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.