PP/GC/PO/263 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning a gift for the Sultan and the lack of British influence in Turkey, 20 October 1836
Letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, later first Viscount Ponsonby, [ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Constantinople], to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: he has not delivered the ring to the Sultan, but will keep it until he receives orders from Palmerston. The Sultan would not esteem the ring at all, since its value in Turkey is stated to be under four hundred pounds. Ponsonby was offered a finer stone for three hundred and fifty pounds. The Sultan has bags full of such diamonds and Russians give better ones to the Pashas; the Sultan would hear other such references from every quarter. A ring was the worst thing that could have been sent. The Sultan does not wear rings and diamonds are a "drug" with him, except if they are extremely magnificent. A quarter of the price of the ring would have purchased objects that would have delighted the Sultan, "who, like other Turks, is somewhat childish in his tastes and would prefer much to have any curious nick nack of ingenious mechanism having the merit of novelty for such people as his are". Ponsonby hopes he has done right, and has saved the King some money which would otherwise have been spent quite uselessly. The Sultan will be delighted with the carriage. Ponsonby is certain the Sultan will sleep in it, and thank the King most cordially for it. Ponsonby wishes it would arrive. Ponsonby's despatches will show what he thinks of the state of affairs in Turkey. It is too painful to him to write unnecessarily about it. British influence is completely beaten down by the fear-inspiring Russians. "We could do everything, but as we do not chuse to do anything, we lose all." Ponsonby must be in England in February on business which cannot be neglected for any reason whatever. He will not leave Constantinople until late December, which gives Palmerston plenty of time to issue instructions. If he does not receive any instructions, the secretary of embassy will become charge d'affaires, and Ponsonby will issue him with positive instructions not to speak, write or act without specific instructions from Palmerston. The greatest prudence is needed. "We may still regain our place. We have the popular feeling entirely with us. We have the Sultan. Our enemies are the paid agents of Russia. Our weakness is the fear of Russian power." The Turkish ministers should be treated with great severity. The people hate only the Russians more than they do the ministers, who are believed to be in Russian pay, which is nearly true. The winter is the only time to take action. Britain would then have as much advantage over Russia as Russia would over Britain in the summer. "You will make a war by the measures your government adopts." 20 Oct 1836 The letter is marked 'private'. It was received on 11 November 1836.
Two papers, punched for disinfection
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Mahmud II, Ottoman Sultan
William IV, King of England
David Urquhart, Secretary to the British embassy at Constantinople
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