PP/GC/PO/284 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning Pertev Pasha, and advising that British warships be sent to the Black Sea, 18 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: Pertev Pasha told Dr MacGuffog that he was very pleased with the news of British success in Spain, and the likely consequences of it. He paid attention to the information Ponsonby sent him about Circassia, and promised to look into the misconduct of Tahir Pasha immediately. He said that Reschid Bey had written to them on the subject, and that he was grateful to Ponsonby for his conduct. Pertev Pasha was delighted with Palmerston's compliments on his honesty, integrity and love of his country, which Reschid Bey had reported to him. "In truth, Purtev Pasha is the honestest man here, and the wisest too a la Turque. We shall have great advantage in dealing with a man who has fixed principles and he has. I know him and I think he knows me better than Christian and Turk commonly know each other and I believe we each confide in the other to a considerable extent. I believe him to be a true Turkish patriot. He believes me to be persuaded that the interest of England is closely engaged in the support of Ottoman independence. I think this confidence is very valuable and that it may enable us to do most things we ought to desire to do, provided we go about the business as we ought to do." It is necessary to have British warships in the Black Sea. Russia cannot find a good reason to object to this, although she will "strain every nerve" to do so. "I think we have her on the hip." Only a few small ships of war and one good frigate in the Black Sea would have many advantages. Preparations for an attack on Constantinople could not be made without the ships being aware of it, in time to parry any attempted blow. "The actual sight of our warlike flag would encourage all those now beaten down and prostrated by the iron rod of Nicolas, to look up with hope and to prepare for their own liberation from thraldom, and you will bear in mind that it is not by direct dominion the Princes and people of Moldavia and Wallachia are kept under, but by the terror that Russia may violate the existing law and siege upon them by their country. We therefore are not called upon to run counter to the lawful rights of Russia or to attack her. We have only to shew ourselves, that people may feel that they may claim their own without being hanged for robbery. Russian power is a spell and we have the talisman that can break it." The effects on the Circassians of the British appearing [in the Black Sea] cannot be doubted, and the British will innocently cause many ships, laden with powder and warlike stores, to make their way into the ?Abassia coast. The trade of the Danube will also need to be secured. A few years good commerce in the provinces along the river will put their inhabitants in a situation to mock Russia and perhaps form a nucleus around which other considerable benefits may accrue. The British trade with Persia will be secured, which promises to be "very gainful", although Cobden claims it is worth nothing. "What fools writers are and rogues too, generally." Reschid Pasha of Sivas, who has recently died, had the idea of getting possession of Baghdad and setting up for himself like Mehemet Ali. When the Sultan learned this, he expressed his joy at his death. As far as the Porte is aware, the Egyptian Pasha has not sent his tribute, but the merchants are said to know of bills of exchange. Colonel Campbell's report will show what Mehemet says. "I do suppose he was a little led astray by the French consul who no doubt had been written to by that old fool Roussin and acquainted with the absurdities he himself had concocted here, about reconciliation and so forth, and hereditary power." Ponsonby draws Palmerston's attention to Baghdad and its proper dependancy. Mehemet Ali has decided to have steamers on the Euphrates and the Tigris, which would give him immense power. This region could be immensely valuable to Britain as the means of counteracting Russia, should she carry out her plans against Constantinople more actively. If Britain should be at war with France when Russia makes her attacks, decisive action could be taken in these areas without interruption from the French. For the sake of India, it is also necessary to keep the Persian Gulf free from enemies. The abandonment of the Euphrates expedition is unfortunate, for if it had been completed and pushed to its natural consequences, it would have preserved the British from danger in these areas and given them a moral and physical authority over the people there. Pertev Pasha says the Sultan needs to be kept back rather than urged on against Russia. "You may depend upon me that H[is] Highness shall not move too fast, our game is a good one now and if well played must be won, I think. We need risk nothing and we ought not to allow the Sultan to give any even plausible ground to Russia for making any aggression on him. We can place Russia wholly in the wrong and oblige her to wait our time and our convenience." Ponsonby is sorry to have troubled Palmerston by asking for leave of absence, but he has important family business. He has, however, put it off for the time being, and has decided to stay at Constantinople for several months, as he said in his letter which went via the Vienna post. The political part of this letter gives enough reasons why he should not leave at present. "Nobody could do what I may be able to do because nobody can possess as I do the confidence of this gover[nmen]t until after he shall have earned it." He knows Sir Charles Vaughan and others could bring more ability to the work, but it is not ability so much as the aforesaid confidence which is needed at present. He would readily sacrifice his personal affairs to the chance of success at Constantinople, and he would also prefer to stay in order to beat Urquhart's plans to denounce him and to state in his newspaper that Ponsonby had been recalled because he displeased Urquhart. "A barefaced lie, and easy to be refuted I know, but a lie has power, greater perhaps than truth." Urquhart will stay in Turkey and may be able to cause great harm unless Ponsonby also stays "to oppose and unmask him", which a new man probably could not manage without difficulty. "I do not speak of his continuing here as sec[retar]y of embassy, for I take that to be an impossibility, but of his stay here, as Daoud Bey, as he calls himself, with his secretary Selesir Bey, alias Mr Stewart, correspondent with the MORNING POST. The Turks are easily imposed upon by mountibanks of all colors and Mr U[rquhart] is one of the highest water. It is a proof that he will stick at nothing." Ponsonby therefore will not leave before the autumn at the earliest, and only then if he is sure he can do so safely, both for the public cause and for himself. He hopes Palmerston will approve. He will keep Palmerston regularly informed of everything that happens, and of his own opinions. After receiving Ponsonby's letters and despatches about Urquhart, Palmerston may have changed his mind concerning Sir Charles Vaughan, and decided instead to move another secretary of embassy who could be trusted as charge d'affaires at Constantinople. If this is the case, Ponsonby would like him to be ordered to live in a house of his own. "You have no idea what it is to have an inmate who has a right to be so, and who has no one amusement of any sort or kind within in his reach, but must be ennui personified and must blame me for it and think me a bore. I prefer doing all the work myself, as I now do, except writing despatches fair, to being aided by anybody who shall be, as he must be, tired to death of us all. I am content to labour and if you knew what I do you w[oul]d believe what I say, but I cannot stand being unable to escape even for an hour from the presence of somebody or other as glad to get away from me as I can be to get from him." Ponsonby will soon know what Pertev Pasha said about Palmerston's successes in Spain; so far he only knows that Pertev felt Palmerston was fighting for Turkey in Spain. Ponsonby has always thought well of Esterhazy, "though he is idle". He saw Esterhazy's letters about the affair of Dona Maria's marriage to Don Miguel, and thought Esterhazy showed more good sense and judgement than Metternich or anyone else. Ponsonby thinks Esterhazy would make a good Austrian Prime Minister, and he has often been portrayed as destined for that post. Esterhazy would perhaps see the use to Austria of British warships in the Black Sea. Ponsonby will have to do something about a house, but will do nothing expensive. The presents will be given to the Sultan soon. Plague and other illnesses have caused the delay. 18 Feb 1837 The letter is marked: "Private".
Seven papers
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Pertev Mehmed Seid Pasha, alias Muhammad Said Pertew, or Purtev Pasha, Kiahaya Bey or Turkish Minister of the Interior
Dr Samuel MacGuffog, physician at the British embassy at Constantinople
Tahir Mehmed Pasha, former Kapudan Pasha or Turkish Grand Admiral
Reschid Mustapha Bey, alias Reshid Mustafa Bey, later Reschid Mustapha Pasha, Turkish envoy extraordinary at Paris
Danube, river: trade, commerce
Richard Cobden, later Member of Parliament for Stockport
Baghdad, or Bagdad, Ottoman Empire, later Iraq
Muhammad Ali Pasha, alias Mehemet Ali, Viceroy or ruler of Egypt
Reschid Pasha of Sivas
Sivas, Ottoman Empire, later Turkey
Mahmud II, Ottoman Sultan
Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Campbell, agent and consul general at Alexandria
Admiral Albin Reine Roussin, French ambassador to Constantinople
Sir Charles Richard Vaughan, designate ambassador extraordinary to Constantinople, former British envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Washington
David Urquhart, secretary of the British embassy at Constantinople
Mr Stewart, correspondent for the MORNING POST
Paul Anton, Prince Esterhazy of Galantha, Austrian ambassador at London
Maria II da Gloria, Queen of Portugal: proposed marriage to Don Miguel
Miguel Maria Evarist, son of John VI of Portugal, claimant to the Portuguese throne; proposed marriage to Maria II, Queen of Portugal
Clemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lother, Prince of Metternich-Winneburg
?Abassia: ?Bessarabia
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