PP/GC/CA/102 Letter from S.Canning to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, regarding negotiations with the Sublime Porte, together with instructions to the dragoman for his meeting with the Seraskier, 30 April 1832
Letter from Sir Stratford Canning, [British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary on a special mission to Constantinople], Therapia, to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: he is trying hard to get the best possible agreement on the borders of Greece. There are many difficulties but Canning has hopes of overcoming them. The biggest problem is that the whole Greek question is hateful to the Sublime Porte, so Canning's exertions in the matter are diminished in effect. His main aim is to present the British government's motives clearly and positively and show the advantages of settling the Greek question. Canning has tried to do this delicately, without actually committing himself to too much. These discussions with the Porte have taken place secretly "to prevent the necessity of making explanations to my colleagues". The Porte is immovable in its impressions that Britain is taking the lead in these negotiations: "my only chance of doing good is by acting consistently with them". Vogorides, who is thought of as being Greek though actually a Bulgarian, is Canning's main channel of private communication to the Porte, including the Sultan, the ministers and the Seraskier. They have managed negotiations without any risk of detection by frequent meetings as Canning has used an agent "whose habits and professional pursuits exempt him from suspicion, to carry on the requisite intercourse between us". Vogorides acted as an interpreter at a secret interview between Canning and the late Reis Effendi not long after Canning's last message to Palmerston. At this meeting, Canning reiterated the main points of the Greek question and learned of the Sublime Porte's problems on this issue. He had hoped that other deeper discussions would lead to a closer relationship between Turkey and Britain but the strength of the Reis Effendi failed and Egypt was the only other subject on which they talked apart from Greece. As Palmerston knows, the Seraskier Pasha is the minister with the most influence over the Sultan, so it seemed most important that Canning should try to contact him. The more so, as, after the Turkish commissioners came back from Egypt with promises and presents from the Viceroy, some Turkish ministers had formed a party to bring about a truce between the Viceroy and the Sultan and to reject the British proposals concerning the Greek frontier question. This party is made up of "good staunch Mussulmen of the old school" and was headed by the Minister of the Interior, Pertev Effendi. Canning, however, judges that the time is right for him to "counteract the intrigue" by "opening myself fully to the Seraskier Pasha in terms most likely to please and interest him". Canning wrote a letter to one of the interpreters [dragomen], who already had dealings with the Seraskier and had a Turkish translation of the letter handed to the Seraskier. Canning encloses a copy of this letter, in which he has tried to be secret, and hopes that Palmerston will agree that he has "said no more than was necessary to create a strong interest in the Seraskier's mind" and has not committed the British government in any way. The result of this letter seems positive, although the Seraskier cannot always be trusted. The Porte seems to be secretly urging Canning to encourage the British government to help Turkey against Egypt and to raise a loan for Turkey in England but Canning has not discussed these matters with the Turkish government. 30 Apr 1832 This letter is marked: "Private" and arrived on 23 May 1832. Enclosed are: (i) a copy, in the hand of a secretary, of a letter from Sir Stratford Canning, [British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary on a special mission to Constantinople], to Frederick Pisani, dragoman to the British embassy at Constantinople: [Transcript] [f.7r] "On receipt of this letter you will present yourself to the Seraskier Pasha with my compliments, and after telling him that you are charged with a friendly and most confidential communication on my part, you will read to him what follows. You remember the conversation which I had with His Highness, when you attended me to Eski Serai. In describing my visit as `a first interview with an old friend', I was flattered by observing that His Highness seemed pleased with the expression. He did [f.7v] me the honour to reply that he dated the commencement of his publick career, which has indeed been most brilliant, from the period of our expedition to Egypt, and that his first opportunity of serving his sovereign with distinction occurred when the British and Turkish armies formed one common camp against a common enemy. The reference thus made by His Highness to circumstances which show so strongly the advantage and efficacy of a thorough understanding and close friendship between the two empires has given me, I confess, a lively impression of the sound and enlightened judgement of His Highness, no less than of the kind recollections which he has preserved of a nation, from whose alliance his country has, [f.8r] in truth, derived many important benefits. It is not surprizing, therefore, that I look with confidence to His Highness, and feel disposed to open myself without reserve to one, who is equally capable of appreciating, the power and inclination of Great Britain to serve this empire, and fitted by his talents, zeal and experience to carry into execution with fresh glory the wise and beneficent reforms of his august sovereign. His Highness will not fail to discern in this step a new proof as well of my sentiments towards his person, as of my desire to consult the true and permanent interests of this country. I venture, then, without further preface to avow [f.8v] my apprehension that among the members of the Ottoman council there are some who, unhappily for their sovereign and his empire, have not yet fully opened their eyes to the force of publick opinion in Europe. That power, nevertheless, exerts the most commanding influence over the principal cabinets, and the Greek intervention, is in fact, little more than a consequence of its operation. The events of 1821 roused the feelings of the people throughout Europe; a cry arose, against which no government, constitutional or despotick, could entirely close its ears, in one case a religious, in others a [f.9r] political sympathy was the cause of this excitement; the most urgent solicitations were addressed to the ministers of the Porte, but, unfortunately, those solicitations remained without effect, and the treaty of 1827 was concluded. The Seraskier is too sagacious not to know that, if the Porte has since been exposed to the most imminent perils without a friend to counsel, without an ally to assist her, and under the necessity of submitting to many painful sacrifices, she owes her misfortunes to that blind and headstrong disregard of the intreaties of British government, which occasioned and rendered indispensable the alliance of the three powers. The torrent of public opinion [f.9v] which then burst forth and which, without producing war on the on the part, at least, of two of those powers, displaced the old habitual relations of confidence and mutual affection between the Porte and her natural allies, will never thoroughly subside, until the affairs of Greece are completely settled, until the quiet and welfare of that part of the world, for which so much has been sacrificed, are effectively secured. The course of human affairs is not always to be directed by the views or wishes of those who nominally govern. The greatest monarchs, the ablest statesmen must sometimes give way to those movements of the national will which [f.10r] it is destruction to withstand. By making concessions, which prudence rather than inclination suggests, they are alone able to retain the power of preventing worse, and of returning to a more regular line of policy, as soon as the impulse, which necessitated a departure from it, is satisfied. His Highness will see in these remarks the true state of the case, as relates to Greece, and to the negotiation which I am charged, in concert with the French and Russian ministers, to carry through, and which we hope to terminate in a manner satisfactory to all parties concerned. If any doubt could be entertained on the on the subject, the terms employed by M. Perier [f.10v] in his recent address to the French Chamber of Deputies would be sufficient to remove it. An extract of that speech is inclosed for the Seraskier's information. It is, in fact, the voice of the French nation, speaking through the minister. The question of Greece is, therefore, of sufficient urgency to account for the anxiety, which I feel, to give it, with His Highness's assistance, a full and impartial examination. If it has its inconveniences, it has also its advantages, and, to deal fairly by the question, both should be brought simultaneously into view. [f.11r] But before I enter upon this statement, I must be allowed to say a word, which, though it be not unattended with pain to myself, I cannot without prejudice to the subject omit in this place. His Highness will have no difficulty in calling to mind the convention of Ackermann. It fell to my lot, both before and after that event, to offer to the ministers of the Porte the friendly advice and services of my government. Those offers were made with a clear foresight of the evils then impending, and I am bold to say that, if they had been accepted, a considerable part of the sacrifices made at Ackermann, and all those disasters which have since befallen the Porte, [f.11v] would have been spared. The remembrance of these disappointments may well discourage me now, but His Highness's character, the enlightened magnanimity of the great monarch, whom he so ably serves, and the flattering reception which I have experienced on my return to this capital, concur to revive my zeal and to authorize a hope that, in urging the Porte once more to consult her true interests, my exertions will not be treated with indifference or suspicion. In proportion as my former representations were justified by the event, I feel the more entitled, and in duty the more bound, to make this friendly and confidential appeal in my own separate capacity before I [f.12r] proceed in concert with my colleagues to the adoption of such steps as are eventually prescribed to us by the joint instructions of our courts. The question of Greece is eminently an European question. It is so, not only on account of the prevailing sentiments of the people in many parts of Europe, but because it interests the commerce of the maritime nations, and affects the credit of the administration in more than one of them, and the pacifick relations of all. Although the revolution at Paris and other extraordinary incidents turned public attention for a season to other matters, the motives, which I have just enumerated, have never entirely ceased [f.12v] to operate, and they have now produced a determination on the part of the allied cabinets to put an end to the disorders arising out of a provisional state of government in Greece, and to complete, once for all, that task to the accomplishment of which they engaged their honour by the treaty of July 1827. The nomination of Prince Otho of Bavaria as sovereign of Greece, the acceptance of that offer by the King, his father, the intention of furnishing the necessary means for the establishment and maintenance of the new throne, are so many steps already taken in execution of that purpose. It remains to trace the line of frontier between Turkey and [f.13r] the Greek state in such a manner as may best serve, in conformity with the principles of the treaty of London accepted by the Porte, to separate the two populations, to prevent future quarrels, which will otherwise be frequent, and to render the police of the frontier on both sides easy and economical. Without this rectification of the limits, His Highness will easily understand that such results are not to be obtained; and it is indispensable that the line should be fixed without further delay, as the season for delimitation is close at hand, and the officers appointed to that service are waiting to perform their duty. With all the earnestness of a sincere friendship, [f.13v] I implore His Highness to pause a moment here, and to ask dispassionately of himself what good the Porte can possibly hope to derive from thwarting the allied powers in this proposal and expectation of theirs. The question is one of deep, of vital, importance. It is worthy of being weighed with all that power of thought and clear discernment for which His Highness is eminently distinguished. His penetration will at once perceive that a friendly acquiesence in this conclusive arrangement of a question, which the Porte declares herself to be no less anxious than the allies to terminate, would not only have the effect of placing an ample pecuniary indemnity at the immediate disposal [f.14r] of the Porte, but would also lend to this government a degree of moral support, which it could not otherwise enjoy, in the event of its being involved in a struggle with Egypt, and hasten that period when, the positive engagements of the triple alliance being fulfilled, the powers, favourable to the integrity of the Ottoman empire, will be released from those ties which now restrain them in a great measure from following the bent of their own wishes, and the line of their antient policy. In touching upon the subject of Egypt, I can have no reserve with His Highness, the Seraskier. He will not misunderstand me when I say that, however just the Sultan's resentment may be, [f.14v] and whatever wishes I may form, whatever opinion I may entertain as to the final triumph of His Imperial Majesty's arms, and I should be no true friend to the Porte if mine were not favourable to their success, the contest cannot be conducted in so distant a quarter without an immense expenditure and great additional waste of the resources of the empire. The wise and comprehensive mind of the Sultan has no doubt conceived combinations calculated to limit these sacrifices as far as the nature of the case allows; but it is, nevertheless, unquestionable that the war, if maintained at all, must be maintained between [f.15r] forces of the same nation, and that they who will bear the brunt of it, are equally subjects of the same monarch. To those who, like myself, wish well to the present system of improvement, and who would be glad to see a full treasury and a large, efficient army of regulars at the Sultan's disposal, the prospect of such a contest cannot be otherwise than painful at a time when repose, not agitation, a diminished not an increased expenditure, is wanted to revive the powers of the Empire, and to heal the wounds inflicted by preceding calamities. I should be better pleased, I confess, if the Porte were engaged in giving effect to the wise [f.15v] and creative conceptions of a monarch, born for the restoration of his empire, instead of exhausting the strength of the country by the prosecution of a domestick quarrel; in preparing herself for those opportunities of recovery, which time, sooner or later, never fails to offer, instead of plunging deeper into embarrassment by premature and enfeebling exertions. To my mind, the happiest solution of this affair would be the submission of the Pasha of Egypt to the commands of his sovereign without effusion of blood between the respective armies; and I feel that no stronger evidence of a sincere attachment could be given to the Porte, than by assisting to prevail upon Mehemet Ali to retire [f.16r] within the limits of his authority, and to show a grateful sense of his sovereign's generosity, which is still no doubt reserved for him, by contributing on a proper scale to the supplies of His Imperial Majesty's treasury and arsenal. I am far from meaning to presume that the Porte stands in need of any assistance from abroad with respect either to her domestic or to her foreign concerns. The more she can prosper by her own independent means, the better. At the same time it may be satisfaction to His Highness to obtain this insight into my personal dispositions. The power, which I represent, is [f.16v] certainly the most able to render effective service in the event of any exigency, \ whether / arising out of the affairs of Egypt, or from the necessity of meeting those burthensome engagements which the deplorable issue of the last war has unhappily entailed upon the Porte. But while I open myself in this confidential and unreserved manner, His Highness will forgive me if I think it a solemn indispensable duty to remind him, in the same spirit of frankness, that, called as I am by the confidence of my sovereign and of His Majesty's allies to the present negotiation respecting Greece, I am bound in honour, as well as duty, carry into [f.17r] complete execution the instructions of the London Conference. Under such circumstances, I am not at liberty to follow my private inclinations, and I can only confide to His Highness the expression of my ardent hope that the Porte by a rash and unavailing rejection of the determination of the allies, may not exclude herself from the benefits of that restored intimacy, which it would be my happiness and pride to promote between her and my government, and at the same time lose, without a prospect of any adequate advantage, the fruit of an arrangement made on the principle of compensation, as now offered. The communication, which I thus authorize [f.17v] you to make to the Seraskier Pasha, I trust His Highness will receive as a proof and part of the friendly conduct which I have ever pursued in my intercourse with this country and also as a consequence (I repeat it) of the reliance which I place personally upon him, and the eminent merits by which he has been raised to his present splendid elevation. It is for him, the depositary of his master's confidence and the promoter, in obedience to supreme authority, of all that is honourable and advantageous to the empire, to make that use of it which his own sagacity may [f.12r] suggest as most conducive to the dignity of his sovereign, and to the prosperity of His Imperial Majesty's dominions." 11 Apr 1832: contemporary copy (ii) Copy, in the hand of Sir Stratford Canning, of a report, in French, from ?Sir Stratford Canning to an unidentified recipient: he has been overwhelmed by the approaches made to him by the Reis Effendi. The Ottoman government can count on British support. The Reis Effendi can be sure that the Sultan's armies will triumph over Mehemet Ali: a vizier who betrays his sovereign deserves punishment. Syria, however, is so easily defended that Ibrahim's armies could hold out for a long time with an appearance of success. The Sultan would like to bring the campaign to a satisfactory conclusion and every power concerned with humanity and good order must have an interest in his success. That is the writer's personal view, although he does not have specific instructions relating to Egypt. That province has already been restored to the Porte with the help of British arms and it would be a pity if it were lost now, just when the Sultan is trying his utmost to improve the condition of his states. The writer has just rushed off letters to Persia, as the Reis Effendi wished, and he intends writing to Baghdad in the same way. He could do anything else when he crosses through the archipelago. Only the British government can resolve the main question. All he can himself do is to submit to it the Porte's propositions and stress their importance. It must be done in a way which will trouble the London Court [of St James] as little as possible. Every measure of state has conditions to which its supporters cannot entirely subscribe. No cabinet would wish to engage itself in a political system without knowing the circumstances attached to it and without calculating in advance just how it would work. These precautions are indispensable given the present state of Europe and, unless the writer obtains the necessary information, he will not get a hearing for his views in London. He asks whether the Porte wants the moral influence of England, or more concrete assistance. Consuls can be recalled and commercial communications suspended without risking damage to foreign relations, as would be the case in full scale war. He must also know whether the doors are completely closed against Mehemet Ali. A decision to wage war against him is very different from a decision to bring him back into line with the Sultan and to extract from him a pledge of loyalty for the future. In both these, it is important to know the full extent of the forces which the Porte intends to use to carry out its decisions against Syria and Egypt. In short, the British government would support anything which would strengthen and improve the [Ottoman] empire's internal administration and finances, as that would be to its own advantage. In this way, the sovereign of these states would increase his resources and have the satisfaction of helping his people and of acquiring new titles and Europe's admiration. Nothing would make a better impression on the British government than the Sultan's direct assurance of friendly intentions in this matter. n.d. ?Apr 1832: contemporary copy
Eleven 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
London Conference of the three powers: France, Britain and Russia
Greek protocol
Poros settlement of Great Britain, Russia and France, recommending the border of Greece from Arta to Volos or Zeitun, originally including Candia or Crete and Samos, as a basis of negotiation, 1828
Turkey; Ottoman empire; Sublime Porte; Constantinople, army, economy, finance
Stephen Vogorides, Prince of Samos
Sulieman Neschib Effendi, alias Suleyman Necib Bey, Reis Effendi or Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs
Husrev Mehmed Pasha, alias Chossrew Muhammad Pasha, Seraskier or Turkish Minister of War
Mahmud II, Ottoman Sultan
Frederick Pisani, dragoman to the British embassy in Constantinople
Greek war of independence
Treaty of London between France, Great Britain and Russia
Apollinariy Petrovich Boutenieff, alias Buteniev or Butenev, Russian envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Constantinople
M. de Varrenes, French charge d'affaires at Constantinople
Casimir Perier, French Prime Minister
Convention of Ackermann between Russia and Turkey, giving Russia control over Serbia and Danubian lands
Prince Otto, alias Otho, of Bavaria, later Otto I, or Otho I, King of Greece
Ottoman Egyptian war, invasion of Syria led by Muhammad Ali, alias Mehemet Ali, Pasha of Egypt
Ibrahim Pasha
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