PP/GC/CA/100 Letter from Sir S.Canning to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning the state of negotiations with the Sublime Porte about Greece and her relations with Russia, 14 February 1832
Letter from Sir Stratford Canning, [British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary on a special mission to Constantinople], Pera, [Turkey], to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: he regrets that he can report no positive news of what the Sublime Porte means to do respecting the Greek negotiations, although appearances are favorable. Canning would not have written at this point but the traveller [carrying this letter] is about to leave. The Russians are on very good terms with the Sublime Porte and there are rumours of a secret alliance between them. "Here, as in Greece I find that the Russians are strongly suspected of insincerity." It is possible that a agreement between the Russians and the Turks does exist although the facts that a Russian brig is undergoing repairs in the arsenal there and that the Russians are not pressing for their indemnity money [under the treaty of Adrianople] which was due to be paid back in May, do not render this conclusive. The Russians have already acquired an immense advantage in Turkey from the late wars and may well be content to wait a while before making a move. "The game must be bagged before they fire again. In the meantime, spies and bribes and agents, much palavering and an active correspondence keep up and extend their influence." Buteniev, the Russian ambassador, "is the most gentle and insinuating of the tribe. If he is instructed to deceive us, I must say that he does it inimitably well." Monsieur de Varrenes, the French charge d'affaires, also thinks that Buteniev is suspicious but can find no word or action to justify any doubts. Both Canning and Varrenes were surprised "at the facility with which [Buteniev] allowed himself to be persuaded that a few words from me to the Reis Efendi on the occasion of my visit of ceremony were sufficient to serve for the initiative pointed out by the protocols. The effect of this step, followed up by the immediate presentation of our collective note, unless he counteracted it by a secret message to the Reis Efendi, must have blinded the Porte as to the existence of difference of opinion between the three powers respecting the present proposals in favour of Greece." However, those who are well acquainted with Constantinople's intrigues insist that Russia is playing false, in spite of the fact that Buteniev also agreed with Canning and Varrenes in writing to the residents at Nauplia about conciliatory measures for the Greek civil war. "I repeat that if [Buteniev] is a rogue, he is a deep one." Canning has decided "after much reflection" to employ Chabert, [as first dragoman], even though he is a rogue, as any change would alarm the Sublime Porte. "[Chabert] knows that he must deserve a pardon by real services and that I have power to punish, if necessary. Time will shew how far I have judged right in this delicate matter." The Turkish costume has "undergone a complete metamorphosis" since Canning last visited and is now in a halfway stage between turbans and hats; and between petticoats and breeches. Canning is not sure whether this implies a deeper change than in just clothes. One of the Turkish ministers, who was Reis Effendi in 1829, told him that the Turks were changed only in their dress. Another, however, the Caimacam, said that the Sultan had always had that same plan but had been stopped by "wicked men" from executing it and so has temporarily paused, but he can hardly stop where he is. "The old strength of the nation is gone, and he must find a substitute for it or follow. I know no conceivable substitute but civilisation in the sense of Christendom. Can he attain it ? I have my doubts. At all counts it must be an arduous and a slow process, if not an impracticable one. The chance would have been better, if it had been fairly taken before Navarin and the treaty of London and the Russian war. This was our daily intreaty to the Sultan, but he would not hear." It is difficult to change the Ottoman administration so that it can develop the country's natural resources and then use them towards national defence. "Can the Koran stretch to this point ? Will the ever watchful eagle of the north allow it ? I should say 'Yes' to the former question more readily than to the latter. Meanwhile, taxes, poverty and discontent." Mr Blutter writes from Bucharest that the troops stationed there are to be reduced from twelve or fifteen thousand men to a single regiment. Canning doubts the truth of this although dispatches from Odessa talk of new insurrections and "massacres" taking place in the military colonies at Novogorod. The tribes from the Circassian mountains "are making desperate incursions on places near the Caspian Sea possessed by Russia, whose forces there are supposed to be neither strong or well commanded". On the subject of Russian intrigues, Canning asks Palmerston to read an extract of a letter he encloses [not present] from an English officer at Tabriz, [Persia] to Sir Robert Gordon. Mandeville, [British charge d'affaires at Constantinople], has informed Palmerston how well the abolition of the practice of presenting gifts to the Sultan and officials was taken by the Reis Effendi. Canning has, with "a trifling exception or two", given none himself, proposing an "audience without parade". Canning will write again on this matter after his audience with the Sultan. After talking to his dragomans, Canning has taken over the "full plenitude of His Majesty's letters" instead of the work and honours being divided between himself and Mandeville, "but you need not fear my growing enamoured of the dignity". Canning is living in half a summer house at Therapia and has a floor in the consul's house in town; this is the best arrangement, both to consult with his colleagues in the country and to negotiate with the Porte in town. The frigate and the steamer could help him move from place to place but the weather is so bad it is equally inconvenient to go either by land or by sea. Canning fears Palmerston is concerned that it has taken such a long time for him to get to Turkey: the visit to Negroport on the way was very valuable and informative, and the letters Canning brought from there made a useful impression on the Porte. In ten days or a fortnight's time, Canning hopes to be able to write to Palmerston about the progress of his negotiation with the Porte. The Porte's initial discussions are likely to be secret. Canning hopes that Palmerston will approve their not keeping a regular protocol. His French colleague proposed it but Canning saw no reason to adopt one without specific instructions for "so cumbrous a formality." The only significant paper that they have drawn up is a letter to the residents in Greece, which is itself only the same as Canning had already written to them before he left Greece. This letter will be appended to the formal collective report on the negotiations. Disturbances and even civil war seem to have broken out in Greece again and in the letter to the residents Canning has encouraged them to do whatever they can to keep the peace and bring together the warring parties. "I cannot help feeling that the Russian Admiral [Ricord] is a most unfortunate instrument for producing quiet and reconciliation." The brig, which Canning sent from Nauplia to Egypt and Syria, has not returned although he hears it is on the coast. Canning expects the Porte to speak to him on the subject of Mehemet Ali and so will be grateful to have good information on the subject within reach. The Greeks say that Acre has fallen but the [Turkish] ministers deny the rumour. Damascus, however, is again in the possession of one of the Sultan's governors. Canning apologies for having written at such length. 14 Feb 1832 This letter is marked: "Private". The docket notes that it arrived on the 9 March 1832. Tied to this letter with blue ribbon is a note: "I have retained Captain Chesney's letter enclosed in Canning's. C[harles] G[rey, Prime Minister], 16 March [1832]." PP/GC/MA/218, PP/GC/MA/219, PP/GC/MA/220, PP/GC/MA/221 and PP/GC/MA/215 also refer to these subjects.
Four papers
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Sir Stratford Canning, later first Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary on a special mission to Constantinople
Charles Grey, second Earl Grey, Prime Minister
Francis Chabert, dragoman at the British embassy in Constantinople
Ottoman Egyptian war; invasion of Syria led by Muhammad Ali, alias Mehemet Ali, Pasha of Egypt
Ibrahim Pasha
John Henry Mandeville, British charge d'affaires at Constantinople
Navorogod, Russia
Sir Robert Gordon, British ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Constantinople: absence from post due to ill health
Pertev Mehmed Seid Pasha, alias Muhammad Said Pertew
Caimacam, alias Kaimakam or Qaimaqam, deputy of the Grand Vizier and Governor of Constantinople
Mahmud II, Ottoman Sultan
Present giving to the Sultan or Sublime Porte; gifts
Greek borders settlement; Greek protocol
Greek war of independence
Turkey; Ottoman empire; Sublime Porte: organisation, administration
Apollinariy Petrovich Boutenieff, alias Buteniev or Butenev, Russian envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Constantinople
Sulieman Neschib Effendi, alias Suleyman Necib Bey, Reis Effendi or Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs
London Conference of the three powers: France, Great Britain and Russia
Edward James Dawkins, British resident and consular agent in Greece
Baron de Rouen, French resident in Greece
Admiral Ricord, Russian resident and leader of convoy at Poros
Treaty of London between France, Great Britain and Russia
Battle of Navarino
Poros settlement of France, Great Britain and Russia, recommending the border of Greece from Arta to Volos or Zeitun, originally including Candia or Crete and Samos, as a basis of negotiation, 1828
Treaty of Adrianople
Relations between Turkey and Russia
Orientalism, westernisation of the Ottoman empire; empiricism
Captain Francis R.Chesney
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