PP/GC/PO/320 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning Reschid Pasha, the state of the Turkish administration, and relations between France and Turkey, 5 February 1838
Letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, later first Viscount Ponsonby, [ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Constantinople], to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: Palmerston's messenger has not yet arrived. He has had a long conversation alone with Reschid Pasha, who was extremely frank. Reschid told Ponsonby that he had procured his nomination as ambassador to France because as things were at present he was powerless to do anything at Constantinople. He added that he would not attempt anything until he arrived at Paris, where he could give advice in writing. Ponsonby interprets this to mean that Reschid Bey has been removed from Turkey by the jealousy of Akif Pasha and his party, but that Reschid Pasha is in the Sultan's favour and has therefore had honours heaped on him. Reschid is not strong enough to combat Akif, and does not have the means to make his opinions known to the Sultan without exposing himself to danger, but thinks he could do so by diplomatic correspondence. The Sultan is very jealous and suspicious of the intentions of the French, and Reschid Pasha spoke freely to Ponsonby on the subject. Pnsonby warned him against haste and imprudence, since the Sultan would be completely unable to support strong language by action, or to defend any act against France that he might be discovered to have instigated. The African question must be more clearly understood before the Sultan takes any measures. Reschid Pasha is fully aware of the disastrous state of the Turkish administration. He admits that there is in fact no ministry, but that everything is done or undone by some favourite in the Seraglio, the puppet or head of whatever party appears to be in power. Reschid admits that everyone, high and low, in the service of the state is corrupt, and the orders of the ministers are never more than partially obeyed. Turkey's very existence, he said, was due to the support of England. "I said, 'Why don't you exert yourselves to render available that strength which really is in your country ?' He said, 'What can we do under our present circumstances ?' He alluded, I have no doubt, to the action of the Serail upon all affairs. I replied, 'You rejected the efforts England made to ameliorate your army.' He said, 'You ought to know it was impossible to do otherwise.' I said, 'There may be found other means to improve and organize your military force.' 'What are they ?' I said, 'The time is not come for me to speak on the points, and I also know that nothing will be done that shall be proposed, nevertheless, when I am authorized to speak, I will do so.'" In saying this, Ponsonby intended to prepare for any plan which Palmerston might have for improving the Turkish military force. He hopes that Palmerston is thinking of sending out the Polish general, Chrzanowski, who could achieve much in Turkey if properly supported. Ponsonby is sure that more could be made of the Turkish army than people generally believe, "and that it can be done by Turkish instruments worked by a man who, like the little general, knows how to use them". Reschid promised to do all he could to support any plan for improving the national force that Ponsonby proposed which he thought feasible. Reschid said that Ponsonby should not communicate directly with him, for that would arose jealousy, but through his friend Stefanaki, the Prince of Samos. Anything not connected with French interests or affairs should be communicated through Monsieur Cor, an anti-Russian friend of Reschid's who was with him in England. He is a clever and pleasing man, but Ponsonby feels Reschid is right to limit the extent of the confidence to be placed in him. "There are appearances here as well as elsewhere that would make me very uneasy respecting the French policy, could I bring myself to believe that Louis Philippe is fool enough to attempt to play us false." Ponsonby's reason for "cultivating" Reschid Pasha is his belief that he will soon become the leading minister. Reschid has pleased the Sultan and nobody else is capable of conducting the affairs of government to the Sultan's satisfaction, except Akif Pasha, who has already had an apoplectic attack, which his physician says is likely to re-occur and is allied to palsy. "The fact is Akif has had recourse to provocatives and his bladder has suffered, though his new wife has enjoyed nothing in consequence. You must know that he turned his old wife and his son and others out of his harem and took a young wife, Lord help him ! Halil Pasha is such a blockhead and so incapable of doing business that he cannot go on without Akif." Ponsonby hopes that Reschid is a man who will not betray his country to Russia for money, although he is as afraid of her as the other ministers. He does not want to take the risk of offending Russia while there is no positive proof that England will protect Turkey against Russian attack. The Porte will not trust the British government until it proves that it is in earnest in declaring its intention to support Turkey's independence. Pertev Pasha might have believed Ponsonby had he promised him active support, and the Sultan too might be inclined to have confidence in Ponsonby if he were left to himself, but that will not happen. All this will be brought to the test by the projected manoeuvres in the Black Sea. "I hope I shall be able to carry the point if you think fit to act with vigour. I myself think it a wise and necessary measure and that Russia has no stateable ground to stand upon in opposing it. Purtev, I am sure, would have supported me in it and the thing would have been done. It ought to be done now, and I hope can be effected. You must, however, observe that I consider it to be a measure that will give checkmate to Russia, and therefore I am naturally of opinion that Russia will consider it as a matter of immense importance and will exert her whole power to oppose its execution. You therefore will make up your mind. We must not fail." Ponsonby believes the French are playing games with Mehemet Ali, as his colleague the Admiral "inadvertently used language not much in keeping with that he has always said to me". Ponsonby hopes Palmerston approves of the support he gives the French by his acts and advice to the Porte. "If there is to be any breach I think it proper that nothing should be subject to blame in our conduct, and that we should be able to shew that we have acted with undeviating good faith and manifest and real cordiality towards them." Palmerston has not answered Ponsonby's previous application about Vogorides and the doctor. He does not want to leave the matter much longer, and will act if he does not hear soon. He hopes he is right not to be alarmed about Canada, and is confident that the decision to resist will be a success. A large gang of about sixty robbers are "infesting" Galata, Pera and the villages of the Bosporus, including Therapia, where a house was broken into the previous night. The villains are mostly Ionians and Maltese, plus some Italians, and the "chief director, who is not an actor in person", is a Livornese Jew. Public opinion blames the British consul general and his vice consul for protecting the robbers, because of the jealousy and care with which accused persons have been guarded against illegal or defective processes of law. Nobody should blame the consul general for only doing his duty. It is not his fault if witnesses are not forthcoming, but the result is that neither property nor people are safe. Many murders have been committed and people dread the vengeance of the gang, so will not come forward to give evidence against those accused. The robbers are well known and hardly trouble to conceal their "vocation". They escape because of British privileges and protection. This is not just hearsay, for Ponsonby has examined the British dragoman on the subject. It is a delicate affair, which Ponsonby is only mentioning in a private letter, but it calls for action. It is a scandalous position to be in, since Ponsonby has no power to remedy the evil. He suggests the ambassador should be given the power to remove from Turkey, or to give up to Turkish justice, those villains "who live solely by crime". "He should also be empowered at his own discretion to make it a condition with any accused person, accused of high crimes, that if the ambassador chuses, on proper grounds, to withdraw him, the accused, from the Turkish jurisdiction, he accused shall consent, if he pleases it, to be sent out of Turkey and back to his own country there to be looked after by the police." "As things are, I do not know how an Ionian or a Maltese can be kept from the commission of crime by the fear of punishment, nor punished, nor removed, unless the ambassador or somebody shall risk doing what may be ultimately said to be illegal acts, and it is an everyday fact that we are all laughed at." 5 Feb 1838 The letter is marked: "Private".
Five papers punched for disinfection
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Reschid Mustapha Pasha, alias Reshid Mustafa Pasha, formerly Reschid Mustapha Bey, Reis Effendi or Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs
Akif Muhammad Effendi or Akiff Mehmed Pasha, Kiahaya Bey or Turkish Minister of the Interior
Mahmud II, Ottoman Sultan
General Adalbert Chrzanowski, alias Skranowsky, Polish officer formerly in English employ in Turkey
Stefanaki Vogorides, Prince of Samos, known in Turkey as Istefanaki Bey
Monsieur Cor
Louis Philippe, King of the French
Disease; infection; illness; medicine
Pertev Mehmed Seid Pasha, alias Muhammad Said Pertew, or Purtev Pasha, former Kiahaya Bey or Turkish Minister of the Interior, deceased
Muhammad Ali Pasha, alias Mehemet Ali, Viceroy or ruler of Egypt
Admiral Albin Reine Roussin, French ambassador at Constantinople
Dr Samuel MacGuffog, physician at the British embassy at Constantinople
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