PP/GC/CA/281 Copy of a letter from Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, to Sir S.Canning, concerning the recall of the French squadron in the Dardanelles, and treatment of Polish and Hungarian refugees in Turkey, 16 November 1849: contemporary copy
Copy of a letter from Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, Broadlands, Hampshire, to Sir Stratford Canning, British ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Constantinople:<P> [Transcript]<P> "The French are in a monstrous hurry to get their fleet back from the neighbourhood of the Dardanelles. They pretend that it is on financial and economical grounds, and that it is important that they should be able to announce to the Assembly that the fleet is recalled. This of course is partly fudge, though of course everything that saves money and savours of peace must be useful to them for parliamentary purposes at the present moment. But as you know, they hesitated much about ordering their fleet up, and the cabinet was equally divided, and though the cabinet * has been * so divided, [f.1v] has been turned out on account of its internal differences of opinion, the present government may not be quite at ease on the subject. In fact, the French seem to be in the same condition in what I understand the Prussian minister at Constantinople described the Turkish government as being, that is to say, much frightened at their own courage, or at least at the notion of its possible consequences.<P> Brunnow read me ten days ago a despatch from Kissaleff to Nesselrode of which Kissaleff had sent him a copy, in which K[issaleff] says that Hautpoul had privately assured him that orders either had been sent, or would immediately be sent for the return of the fleet. I suspect that Hautpoul did unguardedly say something of the kind, but by the same post almost came [f.2r] a despatch from Normanby, saying that the French government wished to bring their fleet back but would not act separately on that matter, and desired to know what we were willing to do. We said in reply that we wished to wait, and not to decide till we heard from Constantinople. But yesterday I received from Normanby a proposal from the President that we should give you and Aupick discretionary powers to send away the squadron whenever and as soon as you should think their presence no longer necessary, and this was so reasonable a proposal that we at once closed with it.<P> Our own view is that it is desirable that our squadron should return towards Malta whenever its presence near the Dardanelles is no longer wanted; but it should stay where it is as long as its [f.2v] presence is of importance as a moral support for the Sultan. Whenever the Porte and the two imperial courts have come to an agreement upon the main points, the squadron might well come away, but it would not do for us to bring it away while any material point was unaltered, and that we should thus have the appearance of leaving the Sultan in the lurch.<P> Moreover, it would not do that the Russian agents at Constantinople should have a pretence for saying that Russia had ordered our fleets off and that, as we had thus yielded to the demands of Russia, the Porte had better do so too, because experience in this instance would shew her that though we might swagger at first, yet when it came to the point, we were sure to knock under, and that thus Turkey [f.3r] would always find us ready to urge her on to resistance, but backing out ourselves when Russia began to hold high language to us, and to show us a bold front.<P> They would represent us as a barking cur that runs off with its tail between its legs when faced and threatened. We should thus lose all we have gained, and much of what we had before.<P> You will, of course, not fail to bear all this in mind in using the discretionary authority now sent to you, and, though we shall be glad to find the presence of the fleet no longer necessary, it is better that it should stay there a week or a fortnight too long than that it should come away too soon. * As to the terms asked [f.3v] by Russia and Austria, the expulsion of the Poles lately come into Turkey is only what the Sultan offered and what those Poles wish for, and to that there can be no objection.<P> The expulsion of other Poles long settled and quietly living for years past in Turkey seems a harsh demand and scarcely within the spirit at all events, of the treaty, unless it can be shewn that they have been engaged, while in Turkey, in political communications for the purpose of disturbing the internal tranquillity of Russia. I suppose such persons must be few in number, but there may be among them some obnoxious persons, who may probably have made use of their residence in Turkey for [f.4r] purposes of hostility to Russia. If we are applied to on this question we must consider what answer we should give. As to sending the Mahometanized Poles to Diarbekir, I concluded that is only asked for as a temporary measure because there seems no ground of treaty upon which Russia can demand that such persons should be kept as prisoners (even at large) by the Turkish government; and on the contrary, the treaty seems to provide that converts either way are no longer to be considered as subjects of their former sovereign, but as subjects of the sovereign whose religion they have adopted, and the Sultan has clearly a right to claim perfect freedom as [f.4v] to the way in which such converts are to be dealt with.<P> As to the Austrian demand, that the Hungarians' leaders are to be shut up and kept prisoners by the Sultan, I do not see on what grounds of right that demand is made, or why the Sultan is to become keeper of a state prison for the benefit of the Emperor of Austria; but I rather fear, from what we hear from Vienna, that some such agreement has been made, and if so, of course it must be abided by, for the present at least, as I presume it can only be intended as a temporary arrangement.<P> With regard to the demand that the Sultan should obtain from other powers the permission to deal with their naturalised subjects in Turkey [f.5r] according to their natural born nationality, we should of course reserve our decision on such a proposal till we receive it in proper form, but my own opinion at present is, that to such a proposal we could not agree.<P> A foreigner naturalized in England acquires by law the rights of a British subject, and one of those rights is to enjoy in foreign countries the privilege which treaties between England and such foreign countries confer upon British subjects. However, this is a point on which grave and learned men would have to be consulted, and I only say this much that you may be prepared for a demur on our parts as a possible reply. *<P> [f.5r] If you should think the continuance of our fleet for a further time important and essential, and Aupick should under his instructions declare himself of opinion that the fleets are no longer necessary, and if he should make a great difficulty in coming round to your opinion, there would be no great harm done if you were to split the difference, and if the French fleet, which has between specially ordered to keep separate from ours, was to work its way towards Toulon, while ours [f.6r] remained a little while longer, cruizing or anchoring in the archipelago."<P> 16 Nov 1849: contemporary copy <P> The passages which have been crossed through in pencil were probably instructions to the printer when extracts of this letter were published in Evelyn Ashley THE LIFE AND CORRESPONDENCE OF LORD PALMERSTON, (London 1879), vol. 2, pp. 118-20.
Three papers, later marked "25", "26" and "27" in red pencil
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Sir Stratford Canning, later first Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, British ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Constantinople
Count Portales, Prussian minister at Constantinople
Philip, Baron Brunnow, alias Brunnov, Russian envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at London
Monsieur Kisseleff, alias Kissaleff, acting Russian ambassador at Paris
Karl Robert, Count Nesselrode, Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs
Alphonse Henri, Marquis Hautpoul, French Minister of War
Constantine Henry Phipps, first Marquis of Normanby, British ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Paris
Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, President of the French Republic
General Aupick, French ambassador at Constantinople
Ottoman empire, Sublime Porte, Turkey: reform, tanzimat
Abdul Mejid, alias Abd al-Majid, Ottoman Sultan
Hungary, Magyars, invasion by Russia; refugees, exiles
Poles, Poland, Polish uprising of 1830, Hungarian uprising of 1848
French relations with Britain
Religion, emancipation, conversion, discrimination, religious liberty, freedom
Mussulman, Muslim, Islam
Nationality, citizenship, naturalisation
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