HL Deb 29 July 1881 vol 264 cc113-5

LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL, in rising to ask the Government, Whether their influence at Constantinople is being exercised to arrest proceedings in the case of Midhat Pasha? said, he hoped that in the absence—which he regretted—of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, some Member of the Government would be able to give an answer to his Question. No doubt all the Members of the Government knew what answer to give, because the Prime Minister really decided these matters, and his Colleagues must be in possession of his views. The fate of Midhat Pasha was a question in which the people of this country took great interest. There was no doubt that he had not had a fair trial, and obstacles were put in the way of his defending himself. There was little doubt that Abdul Aziz had put an end to his own life; and he thought that the public law of Europe, about which so much had been said of late years, should be put in motion on his behalf. It might be said that public law would be an obstacle to exercising influence to arrest proceedings in the case; but if that were so, public law had been set at nought by every Ambassador whom the Queen had employed at Constantinople recently.


said, he regretted the course which the noble Lord had taken, as damaging to his consistency, since he usually respected the Law of Nations; but now he asked the Government to do something which was quite contrary to it. He was not only asking them to obtain a commutation of the sentence passed on Midhat Pasha, but to arrest proceedings. A month ago the noble Lord intimated that the Foreign Secretary had not the control of the Foreign Office, but that the Prime Minister had; and the Prime Minister had stated in "another place" that this was a case in which the Government had not the right to interfere. The noble Lord should have been satisfied with that answer. When Midhat Pasha was Grand Vizier he was responsible for what was going on at Constantinople; and after the time that Sultan Abdul Aziz Khan's death took place he did not institute any inquiry into any of the circumstances that had surrounded it. No doubt, it was unfortunate that in the recent trial the Ottoman Government had adopted European forms; and it would have been better if the Turkish Government had followed their own forms of trial in this case. However, he had no doubt that substantial justice had been done to Midhat Pasha. The present Question was, moreover, unnecessary, because the sentence had already been commuted, and Midhat Pasha was going into a healthy climate where there need be no fear on account of his health. Midhat Pasha was a good administrator in Bulgaria, but he had been too much praised for what he had done; and, on the whole, he was an ignorant rather than a learned man. However, in Midhat Pasha's present situation, he would rather not make further observations upon his administration of affairs. There was no ground for any alarm in regard to the country to which he was banished.


said, he was sorry that his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was not present to answer the Question of the noble Lord. As to the actual form of the Question, he agreed with his noble Friend opposite (Lord Stanley of Alderley) that it would be an extraordinary interference on the part of one Government to exercise its influence upon another in order to arrest proceedings which the latter had thought it necessary to take in regard to an accusation against a subject of that Government. But probably his noble Friend desired to know what course had been taken by Her Majesty's Government in the whole matter; and what he had to say was that in a question of so much delicacy, involving the internal government of the Porte, and touching the Sultan himself, Her Majesty's Government had not thought that it would be desirable to exercise any direct advice or interference; but feeling, as they did, an interest in this matter, they had been able, through Lord Dufferin, in a perfectly private and unofficial manner, to express their wish that it might be the pleasure of the Sultan to deal with this matter in a merciful spirit. He was not in a position to state that it had been officially notified that the sentence passed upon the incriminated Pashas had been commuted; but he had good reason to believe that the statement in the newspapers alluded to, that the sentence had been commuted to banishment to Arabia, was true.