PP/GC/CA/276 Copy of a letter from Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, to Sir S.Canning, concerning Turkey's dispute with Russia and Austria over the Hungarian and Polish refugees, and the condition of the Turkish army, 11 October 1849: contemporary copy
Copy, in the hand of a secretary, of a letter from Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, Foreign Office, [London], to Sir Stratford Canning, [British ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Constantinople]: he has delayed sending this despatch until he had heard that the French government had decided to support British policy and would also send its squadron into the Mediterranean to support Turkey. The previous day, Palmerston heard from Normanby that France was agreeable to following Britain's lead and a messenger from France is being sent along with the British messenger. It is likely that, even before this despatch arrives, that the Porte will have heard from Russia and Austria that they are backing down from aggression [on the refugee question]. Russia is thought to have only got involved in this dispute, as it did in the war with Hungary, more as "an auxiliary" to Austria than on her own account, "and therefore if Austria is content to drop the demand, which we have every reason to believe she is, Russian will of course not be more Austrian that Austria herself.<P> Palmerston has had positive discussion with Brunnow and Colloredo, the ambassadors from Austria and Russia. Under the treaty of Kainarji, which the Russians are invoking to justify their extradition of the Poles, the Sultan can actually expel the refugees rather than hand them over to Russia. The treaties of Belgrade and Passarowitz between Austria and Turkey have no provision for extradition or expulsion at all. Sturmer and Titov, the Russian and Austrian ambassadors at Constantinople, seem to have exceeded their instructions by demanding the extradition of the refugees, "fancying they could carry their point by a coup de main and bully the Turks into acquiescence; and they would evidently have succeeded if it had not been for you and Aupick". Austria will probably post Sturmer elsewhere.<P> The British and French offer of arms, to support the courageous stand of the Porte, will be helping the Porte to stand up to Austria and Russia in the future. It is very important that the squadrons do not violate the treaty of July 1841 by sailing too far up the Dardanelles in time of peace, unless war seems imminent, as Russia might see it as a precedent to be allowed to do the same without such peaceful intentions. This is, however, hypothetical, as the news defusing the dispute will have arrived from Austria and Russia before the squadrons have time to sail up the Dardanelles. The squadrons may stay in the general vicinity until the matter is finally settled.<P> "It is a great pity that the Porte did not take your advice and send out of Turkey at once all the chief refugees whom the two governments wanted to have; that done, the dispute would have ceased to have a practical object, and I hope that the Sultan will not have taken any engagement which shall prevent him from letting them all go, at least as many as can and chuse to do so. In fact, he can have no right to keep them prisoners in Turkey. I am sorry that Bem and the other 14 or 15 have declared themselves Mussulmen: it puts an end to Bem's European reputation which stood high, and he will, I trust, not have an opportunity of fighting the Russians under Turkish standards. As a general in a campaign, he has proved himself able, whether he will be equally so as an organizer of an army remains to be seen; but I conclude that he and Stein and the other mean to enter the Turkish service."<P> Colquhoun reports on the Turkish army in Bucharest: "their cavalry is excellent, their artillery admirable, and their infantry very serviceable; their commissariat arrangements and medical departments much better than those of the Russians". The Prussians have taught the Turks well. The Turks should take the opportunity to improve their defence forces as much as possible. Advice from foreign officers to their Turkish counterparts will be the most beneficial and if the Porte wishes for British naval officers to be sent out, it can be done. Captain Slade, who is on his way out, has already been in Turkish service. Admiral Parker has sent some lieutenants but if commanding officers are wanted, Palmerston will ask Sir Francis Baring to send some. Palmerston realises that this is a reversal of earlier policy of not encouraging the Turks to ask for British military help. This is, however, the right time for Turkey to strengthen the defences of the Bosporus with heavy guns secured on the sea and land sides, in order to prevent a small force "sweeping through the batteries one after the other" and as a protection from ships firing on the town.<P> The Russian minister at London, Brunnow, has informed Palmerston of the possibility of difficulties arising out of an uprising of the Greek subjects of the Sultan; this would lead to harsh action by the Porte and remonstrances from the Russian government. The Turkish government should lose no time in removing all civil and political distinctions between Muslim and Rayah, and Palmerston had urged the importance of this on the Turkish ambassador in London. The current situation means that "the Sultan not only deprives himself of the use of his left arm, but runs constantly the risk of being himself belaboured by it".<P> Canning can use the Secret Service fund to help any refugees' who wish to leave Turkey.<P> Palmerston has always tried, when discussing the refugee problems with Russia and Austria, to be civil and non-inflammatory, "in order that they might not have the slightest pretext for saying that our manner of applying them to them prevented them as a point of honor from doing that which their own moderation would otherwise have led them to do".<P> The whole country, "men of all parties and opinions, soldiers, politicians, sailors, clergymen and Quakers, all newspapers, Tory, Whig, and Radical" agree that Austria and Russia should back down [on their extradition claims]. This must have a salutary effect on the countries involved and indeed, heighten the world opinion of the British national character: "we are not quite so incapable of being roused to manly action as some speeches in Parliament and at our peace meetings and congresses might have led people to suppose". Just the previous year, a Quaker shopkeeper at a meeting said that it would not be so bad for the English if the French did conquer them: "the French are no such savages as to put us to death in cold blood", to the admiration of a French national guard present at the time.<P> The French President has been very supportive and their joint stand [on the refugee question] has put down opposition, although it has delayed these despatches a little.<P> He encloses a copy of the treaty relating to [war ships in the] Dardanelles [not present].<P> 11 Oct 1849: contemporary copy <P> "Insert !" had been written in pencil on the docket, possibly by Palmerston.
Four papers
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Sir Stratford Canning, later first Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, British ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Constantinople
Ottoman empire, Sublime Porte, defence, navy, army
Hungary, Magyars: invasion by Russia
Refugees, exiles, fugitives from Hungary in Turkey
Poles, Poland: Polish uprising of 1830; Hungarian uprising of 1848
Tsar Nicholas I, Emperor of Russia
Abdul Mejid, alias Abd al-Majid, Ottoman Sultan
Admiral Sir William Parker, Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean
Philip, Baron Brunnow or Brunnov, Russian envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at London
Franz, Count von Colloredo Waldsee, Austrian minister at London
Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji of 1774: cession by Turkey to Russia of the Crimea and south Ukraine; extradition of Russians from Turkish territory
Treaty of Belgrade of 1739: rights of extradition contained in article 18
Treaty of Passarowitz of 1718: rights of extradition contained in article 14
General Aupick, French ambassador at Constantinople
Bartholomeus, Baron von Sturmer, internuncio, Austrian ambassador at Constantinople
Vladimir Pavlovich Titov, alias Titoff, Russian ambassador at Constantinople
General Josef Bem, Polish nationalist, participant in Hungarian uprising, Muslim convert
Colonel Maximilian Stein, supporter of Hungarian nationalists
Robert Gilmour Colquhoun, British consul general at Bucharest
Prussian relations with Turkey
Europeanisation of Turkey
Adolphus Slade later Vice Admiral Sir Adolphus Slade, attached to the Turkish navy as Mushaver Pasha
Sir Francis Thornhill Baring, later first Baron Northbrook, First Lord of the Admiralty, formerly Chancellor of the Exchequer
Roum, alias Rayahs: Greek population in Turkey
Reform, civil rights, racial discrimination, racism, religion
Mehemed Pasha, alias Mehemet Pasha, Turkish ambassador at London
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