PP/GC/PO/282 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, stating that he will stay at Constantinople until the Urquhart affair is sorted out, 9 February 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: the messenger has not arrived, but the French charge d'affaires has offered the services of his messenger. He thinks it is necessary to remain at Constantinople for a few more months to avoid problems which could occur if changes happened whilst circumstances are so critical. He hopes he can be of service. It must be made known that Mr Urquhart has failed, and has been punished for his conduct, before Ponsonby goes away, otherwise it will be difficult for the acting ambassador to do anything. He does want to go home at some point during the summer, and will write further on this point. He is quite satisfied with his position with the Porte, and is anxious to write via the British messenger. He has been assured of the impropriety and risks of leaving his post by a person well acquainted with Turkey, who said that whatever was to be done about the secretary of embassy, Ponsonby's departure would still be attributed to the displeasure of the English government, especially by Urquhart in his communications to the press. It will be said that the government has compromised and withdrawn both parties, and Ponsonby cannot voluntarily submit to this. "I am sure it is quite necessary I should guard against appearances, as well as take care of realities." He had already deferred his private business in order to avoid inconveniencing Palmerston, but now the interest of his own character is concerned. He is sure that unless the government really does disapprove of his conduct, Palmerston will approve of his decision to stay at Constantinople. He hopes to get away in July, and by that time it should be possible to see clearly how things stand. Much will depend on what is done with regard to Urquhart. "Of this person I have not stated as charges against him, considered as a public man, his attacks against me. I do consider them on account of what he professed for me and the way in which I have treated him, as proofs of a treacherous and dishonorable nature and things that I never can pardon; I have mentioned them as evidences of the nature of his honesty such as to oblige me to give credit to much that is alledged against him as to his design and his efforts to bring H.M. ambassador into disrepute with the Porte and to injure thereby the public service. I beg you to bear in mind the distinction I make. I think it a just one. The evidence I have sent you of a purely public character to shew that Mr Urquhart ought not to be secretary of embassy is, I conceive, abundantly sufficient to satisfy any man's mind." [Palmerston has added, in pencil, "Lord P. has sent no evidence at all"] "I am confident that his conduct has been such here as to make it impossible to employ him and you may be certain that his conduct will be fully exposed." "I have myself much to answer for on the score of having supported Mr Urquhart, who I did not know except as a casual acquaintance. My zeal, too strong perhaps in the cause I espoused, viz., of England against the artful policy of Russia, led me to look more at the faculties of a man as an instrument and an aid than at the signs of his moral constitution and I am not apt to suspect any body of being a rogue. I found Mr Urquhart animated by a strong interest in the cause of Turkey and possessed, as I then thought, of considerable knowledge of the internal state of the country. He spoke freely and positively on that subject of which I was necessarily ignorant and desirous to obtain information, the discussion of it led me to speak of the political opinions I entertained, and I knew I was speaking to a man already employed by you and therefore I presumed enjoying some portion of your confidence. I found Mr Urquhart quick in comprehending me and that after a few conversations he had formed an accurate conception of them and it was then I furnished him with much of the argument and the bones of the pamphlet I desired him to write and which appeared under the title I gave it of 'England, France, Russia and Turkey'. I had good reason, as you well know, to be certain that you felt the importance of arresting the advance of Russia. I knew that others had the same impression, but I knew the English publick were wholly ignorant of the true situation of affairs and everybody knew that the British government could not act in support of the true interests of England whilst the English people continued under erroneous conceptions of the situations of Turkey and of Russia and of Europe. It was to give you the support of public opinion that I desire to have public opinion formed on true grounds and it was to endeavour to shew true grounds to the public that I caused the pamphlet to be written. The whole merit of what the French call redaction is Mr Urquhart's and so are the faults of it. The illustrations are most of them his. The bones I made, as I before said. The success of the work was great, the vivacity of its style and perhaps the faults that tarnished it were great auxiliaries to the interest belonging to the novelty of its views; novelty at least for the mass of Englishmen, though I presume sound thinkers had always held the same opinions. This success encouraged the prosecution of attempts to draw over the public mind to just views and I conceive it was a legitimate exercise of the powers of the press to endeavour to desseminate wholesome knowledge of this vital question. The admirable article in the QUARTERLY REVIEW was the effect of the same spirit working upon another and infinitely superior intellect and you without doubt know the writer of it, and you may know that he and I were united in opinion." Ponsonby did not have a direct part in any of Urquhart's writings, although certain parts of the argument in the pamphlet 'Sultan Mahmoud and Mehemet Ali' may justly be attributed to him: they were parts which had Ponsonby cut out of 'England, France, Russia and Turkey' because of its "personalities". 9 Feb 1837 The letter is marked: "Private".
Five papers
All images are copyright. Please contact Archives@soton.ac.uk if you wish to reproduce this material
?Marquis d'Eyragues, first secretary to the French embassy at Constantinople
David Urquhart, secretary of the British embassy at Constantinople
Diplomatic affairs
Newspapers; the press; journalism
Mahmud II, alias Mahmoud, Ottoman Sultan
Muhammad Ali Pasha, alias Mehemet Ali, Viceroy or ruler of Egypt
Facebook Twitter Stumbleupon Delicious Digg RSS