PP/GC/PO/279 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, enclosing correspondence with the secretary of the French embassy at Constantinople about the behaviour and actions of David Urquhart, the secretary of the British embassy, 18 January 1837
Letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, later first Viscount Ponsonby, [ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Constantinople], to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: [Transcript] "In my last letter I endeavoured to induce you to spare Mr Urquhart a mortification. I have now to say that I have had, since I wrote, strong reason to regret that I did so, and that I feel myself obliged to tell you that I cannot carry on the business of this embassy if Mr Urquhart be left here. I have had such evidence [f.1v] of his intrigues as to destroy all my confidence in him, and to overcome those feelings of partiality that governed me so much as to make me too blind to things obvious to all others. The Marquis d'Eyragues spoke to me some weeks ago on the subject of Mr Urquhart. He said he though Mr Urquhart's conduct reflected, by a rebound, discredit on the French embassy because the intimate union between the governments of France [f.2r] and England with respect to the affairs here made the embassies of the two countries solidaires and, therefore, that it was his duty to speak freely to me on the subject. I made light as I could, of the charges against Mr Urquhart, but since that time, and very lately, I have had representations made to me by other diplomatick ministers against Mr U[rquhart] to which I could not be deaf, and in consequence I wrote to Mr d'Eyragues to ask him for an answer to the question, whether or not Hooloussi [f.2v] Pasha had said the things he is reported to have spoken. I told Mon[sieu]r d'Eyragues that he must not say anything to me in his answer that he did not like should be known to my government. And he sent me the reply I now enclose. I do not like to forward my letter to Mon[sieu]r d'Eyragues by post, but I will send it by the next messenger. It contains matter allusive to things which are the causes of my personal alienation from Mr Urquhart and of the opinion I entertain of the gentleman now that I know what he is, [f.3r] but those things do not directly touch the public question except so far as they shew the absurdity of Mr Urquhart's conduct, and therefore I do not think it absolutely necessary to forward my letter at this moment, and in addition to which I have to say that I will not assert that there is strict legal proof to be given at present for all that is contained therein." [Postscript] "I ought to say that I concur absolutely with [f.3v] Mons[ieu]r d'Eyragues in all he has said in his letter." "I am afraid you will disapprove of my leaving you to guess at any part of this affair and therefore I have determined to send you my letter to d'Eyragues." 18 Jan 1837 The letter is marked "Private" and it is noted on the docket that it was received on 16 February 1837. Enclosed are: Copy of a letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, later first Viscount Ponsonby, to the Marquis d'Eyragues, [first secretary of the French embassy at Constantinople]: [Transcript] "What you said to me about Mr Urquhart made a very deep impression on me, and I have been attentive to his proceedings ever since. I felt the full force of your observation that, considering the strict union of the gov[ernmen]ts and people of France and England in the interests and views by which we are and ought to be governed with relation to this country, any disgrace that fell upon the British embassy would, in its rebound, affect the embassy of France, and therefore you thought yourself called upon by public duty, as well as [f.1v] by regard for myself, to direct my attention to the absurdities committed by the British secretary of embassy. You will reccollect that I endeavo[*]red to make light of the proceedings of Mr Urquhart, though I could not deny or excuse the absurdity of them, nor the justness of your observations of their tendency to discredit not only the British embassy, but the whole corps diplomatique. I regret to have now to acquaint you that, according to the information I have received from very many sources, from persons who are not in the least degree connected, one with the other, nor even acquainted, from persons also belonging to the diplomatic body, from others who frequent \ and hear / the Turks themselves: I am forced to believe that Mr Urquhart's deviations from the right course have not been confinced to the absured affectation [f.2r] by which he makes himself ridiculous but that they extend to multiplied intrigues against me. It is said that by his agents he has entered into an intrigue with Ahmed Pasha, who has more or less drawn into the same course Halil Pasha and Sayed Pasha, to work upon the mind of the Porte and to persuade it that I cease to enjoy the confidence of my own government; that Mr Urquhart alone enjoys it; that it is to my misconduct every thing the Turks have to complain of or have failed to obtain from the British gov[ernmen]t is due. That in the wisdom and power of Mr Urquhart can Turkey \ alone / hope to find safety and success. That I am actually ordered by my govern[men]t to go home, and remain here now, contrary to those orders. There are a hundred other palpable absurdities of the sort, with which I will not trouble you, but proceed to state the result, [f.2v] which is, that poor Hoolousi Pasha has said to more than one person that he was in great difficulty, for he really did not know who is the ambassador, Mr Urquhart or Lord Ponsonby. And it is said that many persons who are not Turks, but who are well informed and sensible Europeans and even members of the corps diplomatique, entertain the notion that in fact the British minister Lord Palmerston may have given powers to Mr Urquhart to act. I must in the first moment tell you that a suspicion of any sort against Lord Palmerston is wholly and absolutely unfounded. Lord Palmerston is a man of honor, and incapable of such conduct; but I have proofs that he has no feelings for Mr Urquhart that would lead him to repose the least confidence in the judgement of that [f.3r] gentleman. I hear that Mr Urquhart has extended his intrigues to Paris, and expects to be supported by a part of the Parisian press, where I am to be attacked and vilified. It is not doubted by anybody here, that the infamous calumnies in THE TIMES newspaper of Nov[embe]r 21, 1836, contained in a letter dated Constantinople Oct[obe]r 26th, and signed 'O', was written by its known author, Dr Millingen, at the suggestion of Mr Urquhart. I alone have doubted of his complicity, and under that doubt, I even in my last letters written and sent the 8th of this month to London, continued to support Mr Urquhart, and to endeavour to save him from being placed in a position that would humble and mortify him; but I confess that I have since that period heard so much from so many different quarters to shew the disposition and the actions of Mr Urquhart to me, in a light that [f.3v] marks deep hostility against me, or the wildest and most extravagant ambition and vanity, as the springs of his conduct, that I cannot be longer turned away by my natural disbelief of the possibility of such treachery and baseness, from the cogent circumstantial proofs inherent in the affair itself that fix upon Mr Urquhart that fact of being an accomplice in the deed. You have not seen the charges brought against me. They were, I believe, only partially stated in the JOURNAL DES DEBATS, and if so you cannot * fully * judge of their malice, nor fully of their falsity and even absurdity. I am told that many more articles, that is, letters from Constantinople, have been sent to London, and I believe to Paris, accusing me of all sort of misconduct, and all sent by the same clique. I am told that a French officer, who came here to obtain employment in [f.4r] the Ottoman army as instructor, has been advised to make observations in print that will tend to prove that the removal of these French officers who did serve as instructors in the Turkish army, was the consequence of my conduct. I will not overwhelm you with the detail of more of the intrigues carrying on against me, thinking that I have already done enough to excuse me for asking you to give me an answer to one question, namely, have you heard it reported by anybody worthy of credit, that Turks, I mean governmental Turks, have, any of them, expressed themselves so as to shew that they entertain any suspicion that I am not the person confided in by the British gover[nmen]t fully and entirely confided in, but that Mr Urquhart does enjoy some power, or any degree or confidence vested in him by that government. If any part even, of what is said against Mr Urquhart be true, I think my cause is the cause of the diplomatic [f.4v] corps, and that a man capable of so acting ought to be expelled from it as a poisoner would be. Let me not lead you into any error on this subject, and thereby induce you to answer me in terms you may not like to have seen by my government. I ask you a specific question, and to that alone I desire an answer. All the other parts of my letter have for their object to justify the asking that question, and to shew you the situation of things. I will add that it is a relief to me to speak freely to you. I have the pleasure to know that you are acquainted with all my conduct and with the motives that have guided it for a long time past, and I am proud of saying that the better you have been informed of both, the greater has been the confidence with which you have treated me." 15 Jan 1837: contemporary copy The letter is marked: "Private". Enclosed is a copy of a letter, in French, from the Marquis d'Eyragues, [first secretary to the French embassy at Constantinople] to John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, later first Viscount Ponsonby, Pera: he replies to Ponsonby's letter of 15 January with his customary frankness. Ponsonby is aware of his opinion on the position Mr Urquhart has taken at Constantinople, which is inconsistent with the dignity of the English embassy and the English government, fatal for their affairs, and damaging for all the diplomatic corps. For some time, d'Eyragues has been hearing rumours of the intrigues of Mr Urquhart, from all sides and from the best sources, such as Ponsonby has himself heard. Urquhart is said to have declared to all the influential Turks with whom he is on good terms that Ponsonby no longer had the confidence of the English government, and that he alone expressed true sentiments. He claimed that Ponsonby had been recalled, but had refused to obey. The Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs has asked the first French dragoman several times whether the English embassy is at Therapia or at Bebek, Urquhart's residence. These facts have convinced d'Eyragues that Urquhart is also behind the attacks in various newspapers against Ponsonby. Even before Urquhart pushed things so far, d'Eyragues had already alerted his government to the dangers which the alliance would face if the English ambassador were absent and management of affairs was entrusted to Urquhart. D'Eyragues' despatch to General Sebastiani authorised him to speak confidentially with Lord Palmerston on the subject. D'Eyragues hopes that the state of affairs at the English embassy will change promptly. They seem intolerable and scandalous to d'Eyragues, and it seems to him that Ponsonby should put an end to them. 16 Jan 1837: contemporary copy
Six papers
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David Urquhart, secretary of the British embassy at Constantinople: dismissal over the 'Vixen' affair
Marquis d'Eyragues, first secretary to the French embassy at Constantinople
Hulusi Ahmed Pasha, alias Hoolousi Pasha, Reis Effendi or Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ahmed Fevzi Pasha, alias Achmed Pasha, Kapudan Pasha or Grand Admiral, former Turkish special envoy to St Petersburg
Halil Mehmed Rifat Pasha, Seraskier or Turkish Minister of War
Seid Mehmed Pasha, alias Sayed Muhammad Pasha, later Seraskier or Turkish Minister of War
Newspapers; the press; journalism
Dr Julius Michael Millingen, correspondent for THE TIMES at Constantinople
Francois Horace Bastien, Comte Sebastiani, French ambassador extraordinary at London
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