PP/GC/PO/343 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning the commercial convention between Turkey and Britain, and General Chrzanowski's employment in Turkey, 24 August 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: Reschid Pasha told Ponsonby that the Sultan had told him to present the Queen with a very fine diamond necklace. The Sultan's ?toura is connected with it, although Ponsonby does not know how. Reschid will also take a fine decoration for Palmerston, and a decoration for Mr Backhouse. "I hope that none of the foolish (excuse me !) regulations established of late years will make you refuse what the Sultan sends, for, be assured, he will consider it as an affront if you do so and it is very important to gain and keep a Prince who can do you such infinite mischief and involve the world in war whether you like it or not." Ponsonby expects the commercial convention will be highly criticised, but trusts that Palmerston will see its immense political benefit, and the power gained. Even though it leaves some loopholes for "chicanery" on the part of the Turkish custom houses, it still gives Britain more and better commercial benefits than any treaty with any other country. He hopes Palmerston will not try to alter it at present, but will receive it gladly. It it is meddled with, it is unlikely another arrangement could be obtained in its place of even a hundreth part its value. "I do not wish to say anything of myself yet it is necessary I sh[oul]d tell you that I have helped this question by the exertion of personal influence over the mind of the Sultan derived from my political conduct, and that in fact all the fine views of commercial advantages and public good which are, or may be paraded in words, are vox et preterea nihil." Mr Bulwer has worked very hard on making the treaty fit for its purposes, and without him it is almost certain it would have been full of inaccuracies and blunders like the draft sent out by the Board of Trade. "I could have forced anything down the throats of the Ottoman commissioners had it been absolutely necessary, but it was much better to have that done which will bear the examination of enemies if not that of friends and the convention is highly approved of here." Ponsonby is very grateful for Bulwer's zeal and industry. He is agreeable to everybody and seems to be everything that could be desired. The old consul general has been very earnest and diligent, and useful, in concocting this treaty, and Palmerston ought to thank him. Ponsonby's negotiations with the Porte were made conclusive by Palmerston's despatch which he was ordered to communicate to the Porte, for it proved that Ponsonby was not urging things purely of his own invention. The Russians pretend to be pleased with the convention, although their chief dragoman, Prince Haudgerle, speaks of Reschid Pasha "with virulence". The French ambassador is foolish enough to be annoyed by the treaty because he was not the author of it, and he is expected to object to it strongly, although he fully approved of it before it was signed. It is best just to ignore his vexation. Ponsonby will state officially in a despatch what passed between Reschid and himself concerning bringing a British squadron to Constantinople. Ponsonby mentioned before Reschid's request that he persuade the Sultan to send him as ambassador to England. Reschid repaid Ponsonby in his efforts to carry through the Convention, and he is honestly attached to England as being the only country from which his sovereign and nation can hope for honest aid. His influence and future fate depend on his success in England: he will fall at Constantinople if he fails in England, and rise to the top if he succeeds. He is intelligent and understands British policy, and lacks "that firmness of character that might render him independent of the support of some more resolute mind than his own". If Britain acts as Ponsonby believes is necessary to avoid war, they will be able to direct Reschid as they wish, and British influence will be enough to uphold him against intrigues. Husrev has recently tried to destroy Reschid. The day before Reschid left Constantinople, Husrev said to the Sultan that it was wrong to believe in Reschid's success. The Sultan replied that Reschid was right and declared that he would succeed. Husrev claimed it was not safe to show such preference for the English ambassador and to risk offending the Russians. "The Sultan got angry and rising from his seat and advancing close to Husrev said, 'Old man, mind your own affairs and talk about things you understand - go'. Husrev was alarmed at least as much as offended and got out of the way." Husrev has been taking the side of Russia recently, probably because he distrusts the English, but he may have "sordid" reasons for it. The Russian agent, Aristarchi, said to an acquaintance recently, who repeated it, that the English could do anything in Turkey if they were only aware of their power. Russian influence in Turkey is currently nil, and could be completely wiped out if Palmerston chose. He will see in a despatch Ponsonby's reply to Prince Haudgerle, who has been attacking the Porte about the little General [Chrzanowski]. Ponsonby thinks it is best to meet such attacks with firmness. "Besides, I am not a man to submit to be questioned by anybody except by my own government." The Prussian minister, Count Koeningsmark, expressed to Nouri his surprise that the Porte had sent anyone to the Ottoman army as counsellor, seeing that the Porte had just applied to the King of Prussia for officers. He was especially surprised that a Polish officer, who had been ordered out of Turkey at the demand of Russia, should be the person in question. Ponsonby has recommended that Nouri reply to such attacks by saying that the General is not in the service of the Sultan, and that the Porte cannot meddle with a man who is under the protection of the British ambassador. Ponsonby knows what to do if the Russians return to the charge. He is grateful that the General is not in the service of the Sultan, and that he foresaw the difficulties that might arise had the General been so employed. Ponsonby will not yield an inch on this point to Russian demands. Baron Finke, a very good man, spoke to Ponsonby on this matter. He had heard that the General was counsellor to Hafiz Pasha, and thought that the Emperor of Russia would call on the King of Prussia to refuse to send officers to Turkey because of the employment of the Pole by the Sultan. Ponsonby told him that the Pole was not employed by the Sultan, although had that been a suitable course to take in the circumstances, it would have been requested. Ponsonby had wanted to see Prussian officers employed by the Sultan and had recommended the Porte to ask for them, so there was no reason why he would object to the employment of more officers. He added that he saw the condition of the army under Hafiz Pasha as being a matter of primary importance, and wanted to be accurately informed about it. The General had therefore been sent there on purpose to learn all about it, and if Hafiz Pasha consulted him, Ponsonby hoped the General would give him good advice. He could not understand what right Russia, or anybody else, had to complain, and he intended ignore all such complaints. Russia pretends to want the Sultan to be able to resist Mehemet Ali's attacks, and recently offered her own army to protect the Sultan, if necessary. Ponsonby saw it as his duty to assist the Sultan to put himself in a secure position against attack, and would do so "according to my own understanding as to the best mode of effecting the purpose". He hopes the Baron will repeat what he said, and he himself will say the same to anyone else who raises the subject. Count Koeningsmark's dragomen are said to have been plotting in the mabeyin against England and in favour of Russia, by circulating reports unfavourable to Britain which even the Russian agents dislike to repeat. This can only have been done with the authority of the Prussian minister and if it is true, Ponsonby does not think it suitable behaviour for the minister of a supposedly neutral court in amity with Britain. "But Koeningsmark is a noodle and devoted to Russia. I hope he will hear that I know of his conduct." The Sultan sent to ask Ponsonby the previous night how many ships were under the command of Admiral Stopford, and he asked Nouri Effendi that day to tell Ponsonby he was glad that Captain Townshend had been sent to tell the Admiral what the Sultan had asked to be passed on to him. The army under Hafiz Pasha has suffered dreadfully from sickness and is in a very bad condition. This may encourage Ibrahim to advance if he is not checked by Palmerston's movement of the fleet. It is also said that the insurrection amongst the Druses has been put down, which may be another encouragement, if true. Ponsonby believes the Druses will renew their hostilities, in a more formidable manner, the moment Ibrahim moves, as long as it is known that England is against his attack on the Sultan. Reschid Pasha wants to obtain marks of distinction. The French have given him the cordon of the Legion of Honour, and Belgium their Great Cross. "We have nothing of the sort to give him, but it might be possible to get the Queen to give him a handsome medalion set in diamonds to wear suspended by a ribbon. He will think he has a claim to something for having signed the treaty." Ponsonby has not mentioned in his despatch two men who played a vital part in the proceedings surrounding the convention: Vogorides, Prince of Samos, who has been extremely useful and deserves Palmerston's thanks at least, and MacGuffog, who is constantly employed by the minister whenever he or the Sultan have confidential communications to make to Ponsonby. The Turks all respect him and Mustapha Bey has that day asked for MacGuffog to be sent to him. Mustapha Kaeni Bey is at that moment with the men who the Sultan uses to conduct his secret and personal business. Ponsonby has often mentioned the services of the doctor, and he is well known to Ponsonby's predecessors for his sound good sense and discretion. Reschid Pasha will be accompanied to London by a Frenchman, Monsieur Cor, who has a well deserved and substantial influence over him. Ponsonby is sure Monsieur Cor is honest, and he has a good understanding of Turkish and British interests. It might be advantageous to be civil to him. Ponsonby likes him very much, and he has been very useful to him in communications with Reschid. "It is true he is a Frenchman, but there are exceptions to all general rules." "I have said that the Sultan can hurry you into a war. I mean that if he throws himself into the arms of Russia, war must be the consequence and I will add that he will do so, that he must do so, if you refuse to unite with him now. Do not imagine that I am not as eager as any man in England to prevent a war, because I urge measures that are displeasing to the Russian court. I urge them because I know they are absolutely necessary to prevent war, which I know must ensue unless they or some such be followed. My object is to see such things done as shall defeat the ends of Russia, but at the same time shall give her no statable or just cause of complaint unless she shall admit her object to be the subjection of Turkey and at her right to pursue it. We have a right to ask and to do all that we need ask for or do. I have proofs satisfactory to me that old Hosrev has betrayed the Sultan's secrets to the Russians and to others." 24 Aug 1838 The letter is marked: "Private" and it is noted that it was received on 12 September 1838.
Eight papers, punched for disinfection
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Reschid Mustapha Pasha, alias Reshid Mustafa Bey, Reis Effendi or Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs, appointed as Ottoman ambassador at London
Victoria, Queen of England
John Backhouse, Permanent Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Turkey: nishans; decorations
Mahmud II, Ottoman Sultan
William Henry Lytton Earle Bulwer, known as Sir Henry Bulwer, later Baron Dalling and Bulwer, nominated as secretary of the British embassy at Constantinople
Prince Haudgerle or Hauchery, dragoman to the Russian embassy at Constantinople
Admiral Albin Reine Roussin, French ambassador at Constantinople
?Nikolaos Aristarchis, alias Aristarchi, known in Turkey as Logotheli, agent in Constantinople for the Prince of Walachia
General Adalbert Chrzanowski, alias Skranowsky, Polish General in English employ in Turkey
Count Koeningsmark, Prussian envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Constantinople
Muhammad Nouri Effendi, alias Mehmed Nuri Pasha, Turkish Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Frederick William III, King of Prussia
Baron Finke
Hafiz Pasha, commander of the Turkish Asiatic army
Tsar Nicholas I, Emperor of Russia
Muhammad Ali Pasha, alias Mehemet Ali, Viceroy or ruler of Egypt
Mabeyin: in the Ottoman Imperial Palace, the area between the private apartments of the Sultan and his harem, and the outer areas where state business was conducted
Admiral Sir Robert Stopford of the Royal Navy, commander in chief of the Mediterranean fleet
Captain John Townshend of the Royal Navy
Ibrahim Pasha, son of Muhammad Ali Pasha, alias Mehemet Ali, Viceroy or ruler of Eygpt
Stefanaki Vogorides, Prince of Samos, known in Turkey as Istefanaki Bey
Dr Samuel MacGuffog, physician at the British embassy at Constantinople
Mustapha Kiani Bey, alias Kaeni Bey, member of the Ottoman Great Council
Monsieur Cor
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