PP/GC/PO/298 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning Russian policy in Turkey, 7 July 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] "I am deeply grieved by the accounts of the King's state. I think it hopeless and I expect to hear by the first arrival that he is no more. I have a strong personal attachment to the King and I think he has proved an excellent sovereign. I am sure he was a kind hearted man. I take it for granted this death will put an end to the existing administration, people here [f.2v] say so and supply its place in various ways. I do not see how you could have acted otherwise than you have done in the affair of the 'Vixen', knowing as you do that the Parl[iamen]t and the nation would not support you in a war and thinking that a war would have been the result of a different treatment of it. I am happy to say that I do not believe it difficult to make people here see that the compromise you have made with Russia, so far from being an evidence [f.2r] of your being afraid of Russia is, on the contrary, an evidence that Russia fears you. I myself fully entertain that opinion, viz., that it is a proof of the alarm felt by Russia. I have set forth this view of the case in the proper place and I believe it has been received as a correct one. I think your observations perfectly just as to the influence upon public opinion of the belief that the 'Vixen' business was got up by persons connected with the gover[nmen]t. You have, I hope, nothing more to fear of trouble about it, and I am satisfied that the [f.2v] result of the whole is beneficial to the cause - Turkish independence. I do not say that the projections of the enterprize anticipated any part of the result that has, I think, followed. What I have already sent home to you on the subject of Circassia will, I should think, suffice to place before you the whole of that which you may desire to know respecting my conduct, and I have taken the part not to read Urquhart's letter, enclosed in yours, till after I shall have despatched this messenger in order to avoid the temptation I might otherwise not be able to [?stand] [f.3r] of replying to it now, instead of waiting to examine with calmness what that gentleman may have written. [Palmerston has added, in pencil, "Never answered since"] I see from all that has taken place how very necessary it was for me to make the sacrifice of my private interests and of my pleasure and to remain at my post to answer by facts the charges that treachery might hope to establish against me. You were, I suspect, staggered respecting the appointment of British officers here. The whole [f.3v] world would have believed that I had neglected the tariff. Everybody might have been made to believe that I had intrigued in Circassia and that I endeavoured by all means as Ellice says to force England into a war. Here I am to disprove such things and when I go home, I shall know how to defend myself. I have been very much hurt. I have been extremely irritated. I hope and I believe you have made full allowance for the influences upon me of such feelings in [f.4r] coloring my expressions when I have written. I am much obliged to you for all you have done. I think you have acted in a kind manner towards me as you always have done. I have never for a moment wanted the strongest disposition to do everything in my power for the honor and advantages of the gover[nmen]t. I have strong opinions and I think it my duty to state them. I believe you know from me everything I have thought. I have not aimed at saying to you that alone which I imagined would tally with your [f.4v] opinions and be agreeable to you. I have endeavoured to shew what I think the truth whether palatable or not, and I am convinced that a man of your wisdom will have approved of such conduct on my part. I am satisfied that the question between Russia and England here is won for the present. I mean that Russia dares not execute now anyone of her mischevous projects. I think that the force of circumstances will continue to be in our favor and that we [f.5r] shall go on gaining ground and Russia losing it, unless some disturbances shall take place to alter the relative position of England and France. I cannot think, however, that we ought to confide implicitly in the non occurrence of any such alteration, however improbable it may appear to be that disturbances should arise, because if it should, I think Turkey will then be incorporated with Russia. I think such measures ought to be now taken [f.5v] as will create a security for the failure as well as give an absolute safety to the present, but measures that in their nature are exempt from everything that can give a right to Russia to complain of them and which will not be expensive to us nor difficult in the least degree of execution. You will see at once I allude to sending ships of war into the Black Sea. I think the termination you have [f.6r] given to the 'Vixen' affair affords a facility for carrying into execution that measure. You have proved by your acts to Russia that you anxiously desire to be able to preserve peace with her. You have thus proved your precise disposition and you can shew thereby that in taking necessary steps to protect your national commerce in the Black Sea in the same manner as you protect it in every other sea, you are not taxable with a hostile design against Russia. [f.6v] If you order me to demand from the Porte the free passage of a few frigates into the Black Sea I think it will be granted with joy, but the Porte ought, for our own ends, to be allowed to have to state to Russia that the demand has been strong. I think you could get France to join with you in the demand and then the Porte would be fortified in her excuses to Russia so as to leave her no hesitation about giving consent. Austria cannot dislike the measure, though she probably would affect to object to it [f.7r] but certainly Austria would not take the part of Russia, were the latter to attempt to make a quarrel with England the consequence of such a demand. No more would Prussia. What then could Russia do ? She must submit as soon as she shall have ?found her intrigues at the Porte unavailing in opposition to it. And for that, leave it to me to make her fail, if I have your orders to do it. [f.7v] I was extremely gratified to learn the tenour of your language to Reschid Bey in reply to his communication to you of the feeling of the Ottoman gover[nmen]t towards myself. I certainly have nothing to desire more than I enjoy of personal influence and the confidence of the Sultan and his only minister. I have won their goodwill by being honest. I trust that what I have sent from this home in my dispatches will shew that I do enjoy at least as [f.8r] much influence here as any other minister. I have been served with great activity and great effect by Vogorhides, Prince of Samos, and I wish you would authorize me to make him a very handsome present in money. He is poor rather than rich and it will comfort him. He has immense influence just now with Purtev Pasha, who is all powerful and is extremely well with the Sultan also. As to Purtev Pasha, I wrote to you to propose you sh[oul]d make him a present, but perhaps that had now better be [f.8v] let alone at least for a time, because the Russians have just sent him a snuff box containing the Emperor Nicolas's picture set in brilliants and worth 1,500 [pounds] and I presume our economy would be too severe a lover of the penny wise, pound foolish, policy to allow any minister to compete with Russia in magnificence. You might, however, send through me a handsome compliment in words to Purtev and also make one to Reschid Bey, but money, I pray you, for Vogorides, and a large sum too !! [f.9r] When Purtev received the diamond box he said, 'It must be taken to the Sultan; I will not accept it but from my master'. Old Husrev, the late Seraskier, when he heard of the present, said, 'They (the Russians) throw away their money, for if they were to give fifty such boxes to that old Tartar he would not be moved by them'. This is a valuable testimony from the mouth of a bitter enemy to the purity of Purtev Pasha as regards money, and Purtev is [f.9v] pure. I must not neglect to mention to you that Dr MacGuffog has been constantly employed in carrying on the communications between me and the Prince of Samos who is the confidant of Purtev Pasha and also has been received by by Purtev himself with messages from me and employed by Purtev, at the command of the Sultan, in bringing communications [f.10r] from Purtev to me. In a word, he has been a confidential agent and acquited himself of the delicate duty with perfect success. I must therefore strenuously recommend him to you. He is a very clever man and more esteemed by all nations here than any other individual." 7 Jul 1837 The letter is marked: "Private". Palmerston has written "To be ans[were]d. P." in pencil on the docket.
Five papers, punched for disinfection
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William IV, King of England
Edward Ellice, Member of Parliament for Coventry
Stefanaki Vogorides, or Vogorhides, Prince of Samos, known in Turkey as Istefanaki Bey
Pertev Mehmed Seid Pasha, alias Muhammad Said Pertew, or Purtev Pasha, Kiahaya Bey or Turkish Minister of the Interior
Mahmud II, Ottoman Sultan
Tsar Nicholas I, Emperor of Russia
Reschid Mustapha Bey, alias Reshid Mustafa Bey, later Reschid Mustapha Pasha, Turkish envoy extraordinary at Paris
Husrev Mehmed Pasha, alias Chossrew Muhammad Pasha, Seraskier, or Turkish Minister of War
Dr Samuel MacGuffog, physician at the British embassy at Constantinople
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