PP/GC/PO/359 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning Palmerston's refusal of a Turkish decoration, 2 December 1838
Letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, later first Viscount Ponsonby, [British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Constantinople], to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: he followed the directions on the excuses to be given to the Sultan for Palmerston's refusal of the decoration sent by Reschid Pasha. He had heard nothing from the ministers in reply, but has recently received requests from them to try to persuade Palmerston to change his mind. Palmerston's refusal has been taken very badly, by both the Sultan and the ministers, in fact, by the entire Ottoman government. It is felt little short of an affront to the country to have the proffered favours of the Sultan refused. "I have already used that freedom with you which I am sure my good intentions will justify, and urged strongly what I consider to be the impropriety of judging of what is to be done with respect to this country by what may be done with respect to those of Europe. Your explanations would have been understood and admitted in any of the latter, and no king would have cared a farthing whether or not you accepted his offered decoration, but here the Sultan is considered as being little less than superhuman in point of dignity, and he has been taught to hold himself to be entitled to the gratitude of every creature he thinks proper to regard with favor and, animated by such sentiments, he is as much offended by the refusal of honors offered by him, as your tiptop philosophers and liberals at home are incensed by the rejection of their demands of such things, and your ministers may well know that is not a little. It is to be recollected also that the Sultan is a man who by the indulgence of a caprice, however that may end in his own detriment, can, in your despite produce a situation of things by which you will be forced to have a war. Circumstances might be thus created that would force you to act in direct opposition to your most cherished intentions and designs, and do it with as much ease and certainty as a corporal's guard would be subdued by an army; I do not say this will happen, but I say it may happen, and that it is not wise to incur any sort of risk of mischief for the sake of that which is of no earthly importance in itself to England or to the world. Your fine reasoners in London and elsewhere will no doubt prove by a scientific calculation of probabilities that no mischief can ensue, but I, and all there who have ?hardly affairs will continue to laugh at such calculators and reasoners until they shew us that they can number and class caprices, and make folly consistent with itself. Extracting sunbeams from cucumbers is an easy work in comparison. I intend to make this subject the matter of a despatch because in common with others who know this country of which you are nearly absolutely ignorant at home, I think it one of considerable importance and which ought not to be left unexplained to Her Majesty's government." 2 Dec 1838 It is noted that the letter was received on 1 January 1839.
Two papers, punched for disinfection
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Mahmud II, Ottoman Sultan
Reschid Mustapha Pasha, alias Reshid Mustafa Pasha, Reis Effendi or Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Turkish ambassador at London
Turkey: nishans; decorations
Diplomatic protocol
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