PP/GC/PO/233 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning Colonel Chesney, the prospect of the Sultan going to war with Mehemet Ali, using the Turkish envoy to London to encourage British influence on the Sultan, Monsieur Blaque's secret mission to France and England, Russian manoeuvres in the Black Sea, the evacuation of Silestria, the case for British squadron being sent to the Dardanelles, recommending a knighthood for his agent Dr McGuffog, the necessity of having dragomen attached to the embassy, and an outbreak of the plague at Constantinople, 8 April 1836
Letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, later first Viscount Ponsonby, British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Constantinople, to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: [Transcript] "I hope that you will pay particular attention to Colonel Chesney's letter. It affords a sufficient answer to all the nonsense set abroad by pretenders to information respecting this country. I have prevented the Sultan carrying his resolution to make war on the Pasha [Mehemet Ali] at the time he proposed to himself to do so in effect [f.1v]. I am confident he will not move before he knows the result of the message he has now sent to the British government. Let me entreat you to ponder well the consequences of disappointing him. I am confident that you [word underlined twice in ink on the manuscript] feel the force of the necessity that will impel England to act with decision and vigour. I am convinced that if H. M. Government loses this opportunity for binding the Sultan to England they will have long [f.2r] and serious reasons to lament their conduct. In this question, the possession [word underlined in ink on the manuscript] of the Sultan [word underlined in ink on the manuscript] is the main spring. If we have him, our voluntary and real friend, we can so arrange matters as to obtain against [word in ink underlined on the manuscript] Russia whatever we may think necessary, without giving to Russia the least stateable or just cause of complaint and to oppose us Russia will be forced to manifest her ambitious intentions against the independence of Turkey. [f.2v] It is wholly impossible for H. M. Government to prevent a war between the Sultan and Mehemet Ali and I think it folly (excuse the word) to attempt it, for in the attempt the sacrifice will be made of the greatest strength we have for the preservation of a general peace and this will be made clear, by events to all the world, and the government be answerable for being in that war which they may easily avoid by acting so as to keep the Sultan their fast friend. I have placed you in the [f.3r] situation to obtain this great good. If you do not chuse to avail yourself of it. I cannot be to blame. The person who has been selected by the Sultan to go to London with full powers [last three words underlined in ink on the manuscript] is Monsieur Blacque, a man bred to the bar, the son of a Procureur du Roi. He left France many years ago, and has since been continually occupied in Turkish affairs. He knows the country well. He is personally [word underlined on manuscript] esteemed by the Sultan and is the [f.3v] confidential friend of the Kiahaya Bey, who is the only real [word underlined on manuscript] adviser of the Sultan. Monsieur Blaque is devoted by interest [word underlined on manuscript] as well as by inclination to the cause of Turkish independence and the side of the Sultan. He is zealous and able, and his talents have been sufficiently displayed in his editorial capacity, first in Smyrna where he perhaps wrote down that rogue Capodistria, and since in Constantinople [f.4r] where he is at the head of the printing establishment of the Sultan, and where he is also employed in writing numbers of the official notes of the Porte. Monsieur Blaque's mission is absolutely a secret [last three words underlined in ink on the manuscript] except for the Sultan himself, and the Kiahaya Bey, the Sultan's private secretary and myself, the Prince of Samos and MacGuffog. The Sultan is all [word underlined twice in ink on the manuscript], nobody dares to offer one word in opposition to his opinion. His will is law. The Reis Effendi is carefully excluded from the secret [f.4v]. The supposed favourites of the Sultan are equally excluded from it. Monsieur Blaque has orders to speak to the French minister \ of F. [Foreign] affairs / after having spoken to you [last five words underlined in ink on the manuscript]: in order to corroborate anything you may say of the communications he has made in the Sultan's name. He will try the ground in Paris [the previous five words are underlined in ink on the manuscript] before he goes to London and he has some sort of relation with Thiers. The French ambassador here [underlined in ink on the manuscript] is wholly ignorant of Blaque's mission. The Sultan would not permit of its [f.5r] being communicated to him. Chesney's letter details facts which are known to the Sultan, and you may guess if you can have any chance of directing the Sultan from his purpose. I am very certain you ought not to have any. I consider Russia to be actually beaten here, and I think the government of St Petersburg know it. Your government alone can give Russia fresh strengths and means to destroy the balance of power [f.5v] in Europe and etc. I am sincerely attached to my party and to your government and very anxious for your personal success. I therefore write with entire freedom and do not hesitate a moment because of my reasonable apprehension of giving you offence by my freedom and I have proved by my acts and by what I have affected here both my zeal and my assiduity and that I have judged [word underlined in ink on the manuscript] this question rightly. [f.6r] I think it will be very advantageous that the name of Blacque should not be mentioned to anybody lest it should transpire that the Russians know everything [last two words underlined in ink on the manuscript]. Mr Blaque takes a letter from me which identifies him [word underlined in ink on the manuscript], but he will be represented by the Turkish ambassador, who knows nothing at all of B's business and is in no degree in the secret. Reschid Bey has orders to give Monsieur Blaque introduction and credentials in such form as he pleases to give effect to the orders [f.6v] of the Sultan himself and [start of passage underlined in ink on the manuscript] Reschid Bey will be informed of the instructions given to Monsieur Blaque [end of passage underlined in ink on the manuscript]. I have had long communications with Monsieur Blaque on this subject and he is authorized by me to state to you that I cannot dispute the fact that Mehemet Ali must be put down or Sultan Mahmoud will be overthrown. I will not enter at ? large into the arguments that would, I think, prove the policy, the justice, the facility and the necessity concurring to [f.7r] induce His Majesty's Government to take such measures as shall satisfy the Sultan. I have said something of them in my despatches but Monsieur Blaque can and will, with your permission clearly exhibit their nature and necessary effect. I entreat you to come quickly to a decision but things should occur that may take from you the merit and advantage of any policy you may adopt but leave you the blame and [f.7v] loss that may attend any sinister event. I send accounts of the preparations of the Russians in the Black Sea and its neighbourhood. Many people may imagine Russia will try a coup de main. I think not. Unless indeed Russia should believe, His Majesty's Government are afraid to act, if such be the case I have hardly any doubt of her risking one and as little doubt of its success. Nobody here is humbugged by the restoration of Silestria. It is in [f.8r] England and in France that Russia hopes to fend her ? dager. I must recal [recall] to your mind my suggestion of the propriety of having the British squadron within easy reach of the Dardanelles. [start of passage underlined in ink on the manuscript] If you intend to grant the Sultan the protection of it against Russia when he shall solicit your aid [end of passage underlined in ink on the manuscript]. Russia would never dare to move if the squadron was within reach so as to prevent the occupation of the Dardanelles by a Russian force and the Sultan would certainly call on His Majesty's Government when he should be sure [f.8v] that the fleet could come to his aid in time. Peace may certainly be preserved by measures that prove England to be able to defend the Sultan and I am of opinion that such a position will enable His Majesty's Government and the Sultan to provide with certainty for the future safety of the Ottoman empire without the necessity for any active and expensive protection [word underlined in ink on the manuscript] on the part of England, but this effect as well as every other possible measure that you make takes [f.9r] can only be effectual if Mehemet Ali is put down and I will not conceal from you that on your conduct with respect to Mehemet will depend on the belief of every man (Christian or Turk who is acquainted with these countries and \ with / this question) in the sincerity of His Majesty's Government. I cannot conclude this letter without speaking of the services of Dr McGuffog. They have been very meritorious and he is able to render more in consequence of the esteemed confidence the [f.9v] Sultan has for his character and in his fidelity to the party he adopts. I have long ago mentioned to you the favor [favour] which would be the most grateful to the Dr if His Majesty's Government would grant it, which I am sure he has well earned and I think you might add that which costs nothing and is of no value to the receiver except it has been earned, I mean title. I think he would be pleased if he were knighted. His name is Samuel [word underlined in ink on the manuscript], but I must not lead you to imagine that he would [f.10r] prefer the empty honor to the pecuniary reward of his 20 years of service. I have much to say in reply to you on the subject of dragomans. I think the subject has been harshly handled by many and that it deserves a better and more serious consideration. I will only here say, that in my opinion they are absolutely necessary to the service though they cannot perform all the service that much be done. I conceive the possibility of altering their present constitution for the better, but I am not confident on that point. I will report upon the subject. The situation of affairs at this extraordinary crisis will oblige me to move near * a * or into the town which will be extremely disagreeable as the plague has already manifested itself and threatens to be again this year very violent. I must hire a house which I hope I may be able to get as people will at this season go into the country. Pera is the most detestable place in Europe. I am happy to see the great success and strength you have in the House of Commons." 8 Apr 1836 This letter is marked: "Private". It arrived on 28 April 1836.
Six papers, punched for disinfection
All images are copyright. Please contact Archives@soton.ac.uk if you wish to reproduce this material
Ottoman Empire, Sublime Porte, Turkey
Captain Francis Rawdon Chesney, later General Chesney, artillery officer, explorer, the leader of the Euphrates navigational expedition
Mahmud II, Ottoman Sultan
Muhammad Ali Pasha, alias Mehemet Ali, Viceroy or ruler of Egypt
Alexander Blaque or Blacque, editor of the late COURIER DE SMRYNE and the LE MONITEUR OTTOMAN [an official French language newspaper which provided news to European residents in the Ottoman empire, sister paper to the Turkish language TAKVIM-I VEKAYI (Calendar of Events)]
Pertev Mehmed Seid Pasha, alias Muhammad Said Pertew, Kiahaya Bey or Turkish Minister of the Interior
Count Agostino Capodistrias or Kapodistrias or Cap d'Istria, former head of Greek provisional government
Stephen Vogorides or Vogoridi, Prince of Samos, known in Turkey as Istefanaki Bey
Dr Samuel MacGuffog or McGuffog, physician at the British embassy at Constantinople
Akif Muhammad Effendi, alias Akiff Mehmed Pasha, Reis Effendi or Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs
Louis Adolphe Thiers, French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Admiral Albin Reine, Baron Roussin, French ambassador at Constantinople
Muhammad Nouri Effendi, alias Mehmed Nuri Pasha, Turkish envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at London
Reschid Bey, later Reschid Mustapha Pasha, alias Reshid Mustafa Pasha, Turkish envoy extraordinary at Paris
Silestria or Silistria: Bulgaria
Agreement between Russia and the Porte as to the amount of indemnity to be paid to Russia by Turkey, the money to be transferred after the Russians have withdrawn from Silistria
Quarantine, infection, plague, disease, epidemic
Pera: Turkey
Facebook Twitter Stumbleupon Delicious Digg RSS