PP/GC/PO/264 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning a misunderstanding over sending a steamer and Russian policy 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 wrote the previous day to ask Sir Josias Rowley whether he could send the steamer 'Medea' to Ponsonby about the end of October. "I very probably worded my letter ill, for the Admiral understood me to mean that I asked to have the steamer sent at the time mentioned, and with that extremely obliging attention he always shews to everything I can desire, he sent the steamer to the Dardanelles." Ponsonby learnt of Rowley's intention in the interim, and immediately sent a message to try to explain his real meaning before the 'Medea' sailed, but it was too late and unfortunately the vessels did not meet at sea. He has sent to Commander ?Austin to inform him that he could not leave the matter, asking him to return to Malta, "telling him it was not necessary to steam so that our darling economy will not be affected by this mistake". Ponsonby was sorely tempted to leave in the 'Medea', but thought it was his duty to stay "in the midst of plague and the triumphs of our enemies". Ponsonby has reported Mr Bell's intentions in a despatch. He will sail for the coast of Circassia. Ponsonby thinks the Russians are fully aware of his intentions and Palmerston will therefore face the question in the next session of Parliament whether or not British commerce should be excluded from the countries in question. Palmerston will have heard from Kerr, consul at Adrianople, that the Circassian chief Sefir Bey wished him to inform Ponsonby that he was sent away from Const[antino]ple at the demand of the Russian Minister. It is clear that the Sultan would yield to such a demand without denying the validity of the treaty of Unkiar Skelessi, or the interpretation given to it by Russia. The Porte certainly has no inducement to try to contradict anything Russia may say or do.p> Ponsonby has learnt from the Kiahaya Bey that the new arrangement of the pashaliks was proposed to him by Ahmed Pasha, and that he consented to it to please the Russian party. The Kiahaya was much disturbed by the Ponsonby's observations to him, and felt their force. Ponsonby owes them to General Chrzanowski. The Seraskier will continue to oppose the measures, but in an underhand manner. He is hoping that some opportunity will allow him to do this. "He knows from whence the blow comes and that it is aimed at him." Ahmed Pasha asked the Kiahaya Bey to support the new arrangements of the pashaliks on the grounds that he, Ahmed Pasha, must be promoted and honoured in consequence of the attack that had been made on him. If Palmerston reconsiders what has happened in Turkey, he will realise it is necessary for Britain to be feared in the country. "We can inspire fear without exciting hatred or even dislike. Fear is 'steam power' of this nation. We ought to be feared in one way as much as Russia. We have just lost the most beautiful occasion for making ourself dreaded exactly in the way we ought to be dreaded and (not to mince the matter) the British government is held in contempt which would be complete were it not that the Russians cannot conceal from the Turks that Russia fears England." The British government must abandon the idea that the Sultan is able to improve his army or any of his establishments in a substantial way. Every improvement he tries to make can be, and will be, spoiled. "The game of Russia is to flatter the passion and minister to the vices of all who approach the throne, and it easy to that which is easy in itself must become, when every individual who may be assailed by temptation can say to himself, 'Resistance to the power of Russia is useless, and I can do no harm by taking all I can get.'" Ponsonby fears that Turkey will rapidly approach the point where the government can no longer go on, and Russia will find her prophecies and desires fulfilled and gratified. He is curious to know what England will do then. By that time, England will probably have discovered the importance of Turkey to her own interest, and at the same time feel that she cannot do what she might previously have easily carried out. "I do assure you that saying these things to you has become at least as disagreeable to me as listening to them can be, and I only obey a strong sense of duty which tells me that as long as I hold this post I must continue to tell the truth as I understand it. I could suggest modes of acting, but I am not bound to do what must be useless because I know the government will not do anything whilst under the influence of those ideas that now rule." 30 Oct 1836 The letter is marked 'private'. It was received on 26 November 1836.
Four papers
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Sir Josias Rowley, Commander in Chief of the British Mediterranean fleet
Commander ?Horatio Thomas Austin, captain of the 'Medea'
James Stanislaus Bell, British merchant, in command of the 'Vixen'
'Vixen' affair
John Kerr, British consul at Adrianople
Sefir Bey, Circassian rebel leader: ?Safar Bey Sharvashidze, alias Giorgi Sharvashidze, Prince of Abkhazia
Adrianople, or Edirne, Turkey
Apollinariy Petrovich Buteniev, alias Butenev, Russian envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Constantinople
Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi, or Hunkar Iskelsi, between Russia and Turkey, signed on 8 July 1833
Pertev Mehmed Seid Pasha, alias Muhammad Said Pertew, Kiahaya Bey or Turkish Minister of the Interior
Ahmed Fevzi Pasha, or Achmed Pasha, Kapudan Pasha or Grand Admiral, former Turkish special envoy to St Petersburg
General Adalbert Chrzanowski, alias Skranowsky, Polish officer in English employ in Turkey
Husrev Mehmed Pasha, alias Chossrew Muhammad Pasha, Seraskier, or Turkish Minister of War
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