HL Deb 15 June 1877 vol 234 cc1812-26

rose, pursuant to Notice, to call the attention of the House to the Correspondence respecting the treatment of the members of the United Greek Church in Russia; and to move for the omitted Despatch of Earl Granville in reply to Lieutenant - Colonel Mansfield's Despatches of the 29th of January and 18th of February, 1874. The noble Lord said: I do not know whether I ought to apologize for asking your Lordships to consider the Papers respecting the treatment of the United Greeks in Poland; but as complaint is so frequently made that Her Majesty's Ministers are chary of communicating Papers to Parliament, it would seem to be ungracious if notice is not taken of those which are communicated. Moreover, now that Russia is held up by some persons as an example, in connection with civil and religious liberty, it might be well to bestow some attention on the Russian view of civil and religious liberty, and to inquire into some of those good deeds of Russia which Mr. Gladstone has urged this country to emulate. The despatches of Colonel Mansfield and Mr. Webster contained in these Papers show that in consequence of measures taken by Russia to carry out a change of Ritual, and to bring the United Greeks into the orthodox or Russian Church, massacres of peasants by the Russian soldiery have taken place, the peasants have been driven into rivers in mid-winter, others have been kept during that season in the yards of prisons which were too full, others have been forced to take refuge in the woods, churches have been abandoned, and for marriages and other religious rites the peasants or the priests have had to travel distances of 60 or 70 miles; lastly, women and children have been flogged by the Cossacks. As the Papers are in your Lordships' hands, I need not go more into detail as to the persecution reported by Her Majesty's Consuls; but I leave on one side the Consular Reports chiefly for another reason: because, the Russians allege, that the Reports of Her Majesty's Consuls are exaggerated; and as the noble Duke the late Secretary of State for India (the Duke of Argyll) told your Lordships that be attached no credit to the state- ments of some of Her Majesty's Consuls in Turkey, which were favourable to the Turks, and as he may refuse to attach credit to these Reports because they are unfavourable to the Russians, I will not read to your Lordships any extracts from the Reports of Her Majesty's Consuls, but only ask your Lordships to consider that which is given in this Correspondence as the Russian official version of what took place, since it is sufficient for my case. One exception may be made with regard to a statement of Colonel Mansfield's at page 3—that one woman, more vehement than the rest, received as much as 100 lashes—because this statement has been published in the American Blue Book in a Report of the United States Consul, Mr. Jewel, to Mr. Fish, where it is said that some women received as many as 100 lashes. A history of the Catholic Church in Poland, and of the recent persecution, by Pere Lesceur, states that between 1863 and 1867 11 priests were shot or hung by the Russians, and during that time 14 convents and 126 churches or chapels were closed. The Messager Officiel, of February 26, 1876, states that the United Greek population in Poland belong to the Russian family, and were united to Rome at the end of the 16th century. After some historical details, it states— The alterations in the Greek Ritual had reached its extreme limit, and they could no longer be submitted to. This the Bishops of Chelm themselves acknowledged. At quite a recent period (1841) the Bishop Schoumborski undertook to re-establish the Greek Ritual; but this attempt excited to such a pitch the discontent of the Polish patrons, and of the nation, as stirred up by them, that the Bishop was obliged to give way. After that no further obstacle stayed the alteration of the Greek Ritual: the invasion of Latinism and Polonism assumed the largest proportions, and the high dignitaries of Chelm themselves allowed the introduction into the Uniat churches of the litanies, of the scapularies, and of all the Polish prayers, as well as of organs, canticles; &c. The Polish language held complete sway. The Uniats having gone over to Latinism, under these circumstances became ardent Latins and zealous Poles, strangers to their nationality, and ashamed of the name of Russians. The Messager Officiel goes on to mention the measures taken in October, 1873, by the Episcopal Consistory of Chelm for the re-establishment of Divine Service according to the canons of the Eastern Church, and makes the following admissions:— Unhappily, in the village of Drolew, district of Radin, when, by order of the military authorities, an unarmed party of soldiers proceeded to arrest the principal ringleaders of the disturbances, the crowd attacked them with sticks and stones, and wounded some officers, soldiers, and Cossacks. The remainder of the detachment was then forced to fire several times, and in consequence one person was killed and 10 were wounded. . . . In the village of Pratoulin a crowd of peasants rose in insurrection and indulged in disorders during several days. When the detachment of troops arrived on the spot it was attacked with sticks and stones, whereby the senior officer in command of the detachment, some officers, and many soldiers were wounded. The detachment was consequently forced to fire, with the result of nine peasants killed and 14 wounded. A pamphlet called Les Missionaires Moscovites, published last year at Paris, says that at Drelow 5 peasants were killed and 28 severely wounded. It is singular how the Russians are attached to the number one in their lists of killed, and it caused a German paper lately to observe that the Cossack who was to have been killed in a recent engagement, was not so, because he was on furlough. The next extract from the Messager Officiel of July, 1874, states— During the last sojourn of His Majesty the Emperor at Warsaw delegates from several United Greek parishes of the province of Siedlce arrived in that town with the object of presenting a petition begging for the revocation of the measures taken by the diocesan authority relative to certain ceremonies of the United Greek worship. When this was brought to the knowledge of the Sovereign, His Majesty deigned to order the Governor General of Warsaw, A.D.C. General Count Kotzebue, to declare again to the United Greek populations that requests of this kind cannot be received, and that His Majesty is persuaded that the United Greek population, Russian from time immemorial, and always faithful to the Throne, when released from the deplorable errors and the malicious instigations which are forcing them from the path of duty, will not delay the adoption of their ancient and regular religious ceremonies; and will show themselves, as formerly, submissive and quiet, as His Majesty the Emperor has been accustomed to see them hitherto. It is therefore established by the Russian official statements that the Uniats were ordered to change the Ritual which they had used for centuries—Page 15 of Blue Book; that they had objected and resisted, and that this resistance had to be overcome by the fire of the Russian troops; that the Emperor refused to receive any petitions from them to stay this persecution, and enjoined on them to return to the Russian Ritual. After this it is not surprising that the Messager Officiel of January, 1875, was able to announce that 45 parishes, and 50,000 souls, and 26 priests, had been re-admitted to orthodoxy and to the Ritual of their ancestors. It is to be observed that throughout these official papers the Russians are always harping upon the ancestors of these people. If the Russian Government had a right to require people to be of the religion of their ancestors, then we should be of the religion of our father Adam, and all mankind would be of one religion; but if we are not to go back so far, where is the line to be drawn; and if the United Greeks are to go back 200 years, why not 600 or 700 years, when their ancestors were idolators. In these districts conversion by military pressure has always been the custom. The Lithuanians were converted in that manner, and drawn up in platoons for baptism, and the name of Peter or Paul was given to each platoon for the whole of the men in it. The Messager Officiel goes on to say— These despatches having been submitted to His Majesty the Emperor, His Majesty deigned to order that the Uniats that have rejoined orthodoxy should be thanked for the sentiments of boundless devotion and happiness which they had expressed at being henceforward of one faith with their Sovereign. This is sufficiently significative; but it is rendered more so by the next Paper in the Correspondence, which is a despatch from Lord Augustus Loftus, forwarding an extract from the Journal de St. Pétersbourg, containing an address from the United Greeks of Chelm. Lord Augustus Loftus says— This address has apparently been published to correct the impression which may have been formed from the previous publications of the official organ, that the thanks of the Emperor had been expressed for the return of the United Greeks to orthodoxy, whereas they were only called forth by the loyal expression of the address. Now these are exactly the principles in respect to religious administration of Nebuchadnezzar, and not the principles of civil and religious liberty which are identified with Englishmen. It is remarked by the Poles that the name of the Assyrian King, when read and translated in the Slav language, is a concise epitome of his principles, for "Na Bog nada Tsar" means "There is no God but the Czar." The Russian official papers lay much stress upon these United Greeks belonging to the Russian family; but there is internal evidence that they do not belong to it, for throughout an expression is used which would not be used by Russians proper or Muscovites, they call the Emperor the White Czar. Now that expression, or Ak-Padishah, is one that is used naturally by the Kirghiz and other Tartars, and by races foreign to Russia. There is also the alternative supposition that these addresses were not drawn up by the United Greeks, but by an official from a part of the Russian Empire where this phrase is in vogue. The attempt to substitute Russian images or paintings for those of a Western pattern, referred to in this Blue Book, is traditional in Russia. For as long ago as the reign of the predecessor of Peter I., an account is given in the travels of Macarius, the patriarch of Antioch, of the preaching of the patriarch of Moscow, Nicon, to the Tsar Alexis, when he was at Viazma, near Smolensk, against paintings in the Frank fashion, and of his anathematizing and excommunicating all those who painted them or placed them in their houses. On this occasion Nicon threw the paintings on the pavement of the church, and ordered them to be burnt. But the Czar entreated the patriarch, saying—"No, father, do not burn them; rather bury them in the earth," and in such sort they were disposed of. The patriarch Nicon may have so acted from religious fanaticism; but now the Russian Government uses fanaticism as a pretext for civil tyranny, and for crushing the Polish race and language. Lord Augustus Loftus wrote on the 18th March, 1874, that M. Westmann said that these sad events, the disturbances in Poland, were in no way connected with any political questions, nor did they bear a Polish character. This hardly agrees with the fact that, a few years before, in 1868, an article had appeared in a newspaper of St. Petersburg, with the title— On the authorization, of the introduction of the Russian language into the Catholic services. This article says— We are of the opinion of those who maintain that the solution of the Polish question meets with difficulties, unless Catholicism is first separated from Polonism, by the help of the introduction of the Russian language into sermons, prayer-books, and those services which are now read in Polish, for the Latin employed in the mass is not dangerous to us. It is quite true that the so-called Kingdom of Poland has in Russia a powerful and national institution this is the Roman Catholic Church. The pamphlet named The Muscovite Missionaries, to which I have already referred, gives copious extracts from the minutes of a Conference held at St. Petersburg in June, 1872, of a Committee called the "Guardian of the United Greek Church." This Committee was presided over by Count Berg, Governor of Poland, while Count Tolstoy, the Minister of Instruction and Worship, and Count Schouvaloff, Director of the Secret Police of the Imperial Cabinet, were invited to it. Imagine Colonel Henderson or the Bow Street Magistrate being called to sit in the Jerusalem Chamber in a Committee of Convocation of the Province of Canterbury! There were also summoned from Poland the Governors of Siedlce, Podlachia, Lublin, and the Abbé Popiel. These minutes state that the Committee had unanimously decided that the Government, while not using violent measures to bring the United Greeks to orthodoxy, can in no wise permit the Catholicization of the Union, by the introduction of Latin ceremonies, and that, on the contrary, it must free the Union from all innovations recently introduced, and which are not compatible with the interests of the Empire. In conclusion, I would request your Lordships to observe how very dispassionate are the despatches of Colonel Mansfield; and I have endeavoured to treat the subject in the same spirit. The Press has recently announced that the Russian Government will shortly refute them. In order to do this, the Russians will first have to refute their own Official Gazettes, and they must be prepared to meet the still stronger despatches of the Consuls of other Powers, which will probably see the light before long. I move for the despatch in reply to Colonel Mansfield's despatches. It may not exist; there are many who say Mr. Gladstone did not care for the victims in this case because they were Roman Catholics—possibly they wrong the right hon. Gentleman. Others say that as the noble Earl (Earl Granville) wrote that Her Majesty's Government did not care to inquire too minutely how far the Russian Government had observed its engagements with regard to Khiva, where a British interest was involved, so it was hardly to be expected that he would minutely inquire into these events. But I believe the truth is that he had not time to do so, for it will be remembered that the late Government was engaged in a struggle for its existence at the date of these despatches; but if that is the case, I expected that the noble Earl the late Foreign Secretary, whom I regret not to see in the House, would be glad of an opportunity of stating to the House and to the country that these deeds of the Russian Government are not among those good deeds of that Government which Mr. Gladstone has so frequently described. Moved that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for the omitted despatch of the Earl Granville in reply to Lieut.-Colonel Mansfield's despatches of 29th January and 18th February 1874.—(The Lord Stanley of Alderley.)


said, that the production of Correspondence such as that from which his noble Friend had quoted was a proceeding of a somewhat unusual character. The Correspondence referred to matters of purely local and internal administration in the Empire of Russia, and its production in ordinary circumstances might have been interpreted as manifesting an unfriendly and discourteous feeling on the part of Her Majesty's Government towards the Government of Russia. Whatever our individual opinion might be, the English Government had no more right to interfere, politically or diplomatically, in a religious dispute between the Russian Government and Russian subjects, than the Russian Government would have to interfere in any religious dispute that might arise between the English Government and any of Her Majesty's subjects in any part of the British dominions. He did not deny that there was some validity in that objection. At any rate the events referred to in the Correspondence had taken place some years ago, and were not immediately connected with any of the late transactions between Her Majesty's Government and that of Russia. Therefore, he presumed that Her Majesty's Government would not have spontaneously laid on the Table the Correspondence now before their Lordships; but it was a different question whether they would have been justified in refusing its pro- duction when it was moved for by an independent Member of the other House. B yhaving done so, they would not, indeed, have taken upon themselves the justification of the acts of Russia, but they would have exposed themselves to the imputation of refusing information as to those acts; while As regarded the acts of another Power, they had laid on the Tables of both Houses details which had deeply agitated the feelings of the people of this country, and had seriously influenced the future destinies of England and, perhaps, of the world. That being the case, he thought Her Majesty's Government could not be accused of unfairness in having produced the Correspondence to which attention had been drawn by his noble Friend. If this country was to take up and be deeply agitated by the religious difficulties of another country, it was just that they should know the whole matter and be made fully acquainted with both sides of the question. He did not however, wish to attach an undue importance to the Correspondence. It told them nothing new, nothing exceptional. Through his connection with the Committee of the Polish Society, which now dated as far back as 35 years, he had had before him the series of persecutions of the Roman Catholics which had taken place in Russia—persecutions no doubt vindicated, by some minds, on grounds of high State policy, but still of such a nature as to be abhorrent to the feelings of the English people. The war now going on in that distant portion of the world was founded upon identically the same plea, principle, impulse, and passions which animated the conduct of the Russian Government in dealing with this question. He thought, however, that even in its worst times, the persecutions related in these despatches were not to be attributed entirely to the Sovereign or Government of Russia. One of the results of those persecutions was that, without concealment, the heads of the Roman Catholic Church had expressed their desire for the success of the Ottoman arms, and in Spain there was the astounding phenomenon —enough to make Ferdinand and Isabella rise from their graves—of prayers ascending from the churches of that country for the triumph of the Turks. He could not think that, in fairness to all parties, Her Majesty's Government could have done otherwise than lay these despatches on the Table of the House. It must be borne in mind that the present war, which seemed to us inexcusable, was justified in the minds of millions of men, who believed that by prosecuting it they were propagating a true religious doctrine, the consequence of which would be the complete dominion of the Greek Church in the Ottoman Empire; while, on the other hand, the hopes which the Roman Catholics entertained for the Christian populations of Turkey were very much modified by their fears of what their co-religionists might experience if, by the success of the Russian arms, they were to fall under the rule of the Russo-Greek Church.


said, he was not at all astonished that the noble Lord (Lord Stanley of Alderley), should have asked for further information than was contained in the Correspondence that had been laid upon the Table. The dates of the despatches, the answers to which were asked for by the noble Lord, showed that those despatches could not have reached this country till his noble Friend (Earl Granville) had left, or was on the point of leaving, the Foreign Office, and had been succeeded there by his noble Friend who now filled the post of Secretary for Foreign Affairs; but it was remarkable that there was not a single despatch from our Foreign Office in the whole Correspondence; and he feared that the reply of his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) would be, that there were no answers included in the Papers, because no answers were sent. It was possible that he himself, being of the same faith as those who had been persecuted by the Russian Government, might feel an even warmer and heartier admiration for the gallant struggles of the Roman Catholic subjects of Russia, and a stronger abhorrence of the persecutions to which they had been subject, than were entertained by some other persons; but he felt sure that in their Lordships' House there was no sympathy in those persecutions. He must, however, differ from those who would put the case of the Russian persecutions on a par with the Turkish outrages in Bulgaria, as regarded the manner in which each ought to be regarded by this country. The two cases were different not only in degree, but in kind. Could his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) have found an opportunity of expostulating with Russia on the receipt of the statements made to him in 1874 and 1875, in the same tone as he had expostulated with Turkey in his famous despatch of last Autumn? He asked whether his noble Friend would have been justified in addressing to Lord Augustus Loftus such a letter as that which he had addressed to Sir Henry Elliot? If he would not have been, the two cases were not parallel. Could his noble Friend the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) have described Russian independence as, in terse and decisive language, he described in January last the "independence" of the Ottoman Empire? He ventured to think not. In fact, there was no real parallel between the two cases. He trusted, however, that his noble Friend had found it possible by some means to expostulate with regard to those disgraceful proceedings —or, at any rate, to express sympathy with the sufferers.


said, that he had the honour of bringing this subject before their Lordships some two months ago, under a feeling that it was his duty to inquire under what circumstances these despatches were presented to Parliament. It did seem very strange to him when he heard in the explanation of the noble Earl that these despatches were called a "Correspondence," as correspondence there was none, there being no reply to any one of the despatches. Russia was now doing in the field that which diplomacy had an opportunity of doing six or eight months ago; but whatever credit Europe might be disposed to allow to Russia, the duty of this country would be to consider what power she had acquired, or was acquiring, and whether she would exercise it for the benefit of those races over whom she might claim Sovereignty. He thought that his noble Friend (Lord Stanley of Alderley) had done good service upon this occasion. Their object was not to exasperate, but to calm, the feelings of people both in the East and the West. This war was not so much one of the Russian Government, as of the Russian people on behalf of their co-religionists in European Turkey, and there were millions of people in this country who, though they had no interest in the Greek subjects of the Porte as co-religionists, yet as members of the Christian Church, and on grounds of humanity, which bound all men together as one people, deeply sympathized with them in their sufferings.


was understood to protest against any recognition—even by implication — of the righteousness of the absorption of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw by Russia in defiance of Treaty obligations. Notwithstanding the statement of the noble Lord (Lord Houghton) that the country had no right to interfere between the Russian Government and its subjects in religious disputes, he maintained that we had a right—the expediency of doing so was another question—to protest against the ill-treatment of a people who, though de facto, were not de jure, subjects of Russia.


My Lords, I do not think I need follow the noble Lords who have addressed you through all the details to which they have referred; and, therefore, I shall content myself with simply answering the Questions which have been addressed to me. They mainly resolve themselves into two: "Why do you lay these Papers upon the Table? and why have you not, or do you not also lay the answers to the despatches contained in the Blue Book?" Now, my Lords, I have already explained, and probably you will not require me to refer to it again, except in passing, what were the circumstances under which this Correspondence took place and under which it was laid on the Table. I do not think it would have been our duty to volunteer it. I do not think it would have been our duty to have laid upon the Table of the House, without the expression of a strong wish that we should do so, Papers relating to the local and internal administration of a foreign and independent Power. But those Papers were moved for by a Member of the other House of Parliament; and I believe it was a fact that a considerable degree of interest was felt in their production—and it was not unnatural that that interest should have been felt, as we all know the greatest possible excitement prevailed in the country as to the relative positions at that time of Russia and Turkey. There were some persons who said that the Russian Government were merely using the Eastern Question as a means to its own aggrandizement; while others said that Russia was the champion of religious freedom, and was defending an oppressed race against religious persecution. Well, that is a very fair controversy on both sides; and it was perfectly natural that those who do not take the view that Russia is the disinterested champion of religious freedom should inquire what has been her attitude, and what has been the action of the Russian Government, on questions of religious toleration where its own subjects were concerned. I do not think I should have been justified, nor would Her Majesty's Government have been justified, in withholding those Papers. I do not see how we could have justified the production on the one hand of the minutest details of every question which had arisen between the Turkish Government and its subjects, if we had said that in regard to matters which concerned Russia, we thought it our duty to keep back information on the ground that offence might be given to Russian feeling. My Lords, that is my answer why and how these Papers came to be produced. With regard to the other Question—"Why do you not lay the answers upon the Table?" my reply will be one of a very simple character. I believe these despatches were acknowledged in the usual official form; but I distinctly state —and I do not in the least wish to conceal the fact — that I have not thought it my duty in the past, and I do not think it my duty now, to address any representation to the Russian Government upon the subject of the acts narrated in the Papers. I have my own opinion as to the character of these acts —and I should not, if called upon to do so, shrink from expressing it. But before you address a representation to a foreign Government there are two circumstances which you are bound to consider. One is, what is your locus standi for making that representation; and the other is, what practical advantage will result from your so doing to those for whose benefit the representation is made. Now, my Lords, looking at the question of locus standi, I am bound to say that I really do not know upon what ground I should have been justified in taking this up as a matter of diplomatic controversy. It is purely and simply a question between the Russian Government and the subjects of that country—and I think it would introduce a very dangerous and very inconvenient precedent if we were to set an example in formal official despatches of one Government undertaking to lecture another Government as to the manner in which it conducts its internal affairs. We are told that the Polish war led to official remonstrances and representations on our part. Yes; but that was an entirely different matter. That was a question in which to a certain extent international arrangements and Treaty rights were concerned. The Treaty of Vienna constituted for the Kingdom of Poland a certain organization, and it was thereby made a matter of general European arrangement. Subsequently Russia caused that arrangement to be modified, the Kingdom of Poland as it then existed being destroyed and the administration of Poland being merged in the general administration of Russia. That was a change of an international character, and all those Powers which had been parties to the original settlement were undoubtedly entitled, if they thought fit, to take cognizance of subsequent changes introduced in that way. My Lords, the only other ground which may be alleged—and I do not think it is parallel—is the case of the Bulgarian atrocities, upon which so much has been said. But our position in regard to Turkey last year was wholly different from our position in regard to Russia. When these affairs were going on, Russia was not engaged in any controversy in which we could be called upon to act as mediators. We had never guaranteed the independence of Russia; we had guaranteed the independence of Turkey. In the case of the Bulgarian atrocities, we did not rest upon the general and, I think, rather weak ground of Turkey being a Power whose existence we had guaranteed —we rested upon the special ground that, at the very time when these outrages occurred, we were actually engaged in a mediation, the object of which was to extricate the Turkish Government from the difficulties into which it had fallen; and, as I have said more than once in this House, we had an obvious right to protest in our capacity of mediator against outrages of such a character which, if they had continued, would have made mediation on our part impossible. Nothing of that kind was the case as regarded Russia; and, therefore, unless we were to act simply on humanitarian motives and were to say—"We denounce in the face of Europe the manner in which you are treating your Polish subjects," we had no ground at all to stand upon. And as I said before, so I repeat now, that I think for any one great Power to set an example of interfering by official representations in the internal affairs of others would be a practice which—however it might commend itself in the first instance to our feelings of humanity—would in the long run tend to produce evils more grave than any which it might remove. My Lords, there is another consideration, and that is, what result would follow from any representations on our part? I am bound to say I do not think the result would have been one of a satisfactory character. It would be quite impossible for us, even if we attempted to do it, to exercise a general supervision over the provincial and internal administration of the Russian Government; and if we were on a single occasion to interfere on behalf of one single class of persons whom we might suppose to have been ill-used, the probability would be that, as soon as our backs were turned—that is to say, as soon as our attention was called to some other quarter—those who had complained, and those who had given us information, and those of the Native population who had solicited our interference, would only suffer the more for the foreign intervention which they had invoked. My Lords, on the ground, therefore, of general principle and on the grounds of practical expediency I have abstained from taking any further part in this matter than such part as I have been compelled to take when these Papers were called for, and when I laid them upon the Table of your Lordships' House. I have explained the principle upon which we have acted, and if it should be assailed in this House, or elsewhere, I shall be prepared to defend it.


said, in reply: I anticipated the possibility of the late Secretary of State not having had time to reply to these despatches, but it was to be expected that some of the late Government might take this opportunity of reprobating the action of the Russian Government. In any case the Catholics are not likely to feel any excessive gratitude for the rather lukewarm advocacy of the noble Marquess.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.