§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said, that he had the honour to present to their Lordships the information referred to in his Majesty's Speech at the commencement of the Session, relating to the pacification and final settlement of Greece. He could not lay those papers on the Table of the House without taking the opportunity of expressing the sense which he entertained of the forbearance which the House had shown throughout the whole of these transactions. Not only had very natural curiosity been repressed, but discussion 990 had been suspended, upon this important and extremely interesting subject. By acting in that manner, he thought the House had shown much sound discretion, and conformed to a just sense of the public interest, for undoubtedly, all premature discussion could only have tended to impede the progress of the negotiations, and, possibly, might have marred them. So far, however, from any desire having existed on the part of Ministers to take any advantage of their Lordships' forbearance, he could assure the House that they had always been most anxious to take the first opportunity of laying before the House all the information that could possibly be required. It had also been the wish of the Government to make the information as full and complete as possible. He knew it might be very easy to say that documents were imperfect and garbled—that mere extracts were given; but he could assure the House that the principle on which the Government had acted was that of furnishing the most complete and ample information, and he had only to add, that if, upon fair consideration, it should appear that further information was necessary upon any of the points in question, he had no desire to withhold it. It would manifestly be improper for him then to enter into any explanations respecting the contents of the papers, as other opportunities for doing that would arise after their Lordships had perused them; but perhaps he might be permitted to mention, in a few words, the principal transactions they referred to. The first class of papers consisted of the Protocols of the conferences of the plenipotentiaries subsequent to the treaty of the 6th of July. The papers commenced with the Treaty of the 6th of July, 1827, and he had great satisfaction in informing their Lordships that they concluded with the assent of the Porte, and of the Greek government, to the resolutions of the Allies. These papers were furnished entire, without abridgment or omission of any kind whatever. The next portion of papers consisted of Protocols of conferences of the Ambassadors of the three Powers with the Turkish government at Constantinople, subsequent to the Treaty of the 6th of July, 1827, and up to the period of the departure of the ambassadors from Constantinople. This was a very important part of the transaction, because the departure of the ambassadors, however necessary at the time, unquestionably gave 991 a new character to the relations of some of the Allies and the Turkish government, and materially influenced the subsequent negotiations. This class of papers was also communicated entire, and without any omissions. The next class consisted of papers explanatory of an event of great importance in the course of these transactions, as being the first great step made to the completion of the great object of the treaty,—he meant the evacuation of the Morea by the Egyptian troops. He felt it was only justice to the gallant Admiral by whom the negotiations at Alexandria, having for their object the evacuation of the Morea, were carried on, to say that they were conducted with great ability and the most complete success. The papers furnished a clear history of the whole of that transaction. The next portion of the papers was connected with an event which excited great sensation in this country at the time, and might possibly have led to consequences of a serious nature,—he meant the establishment of the blockade of the Dardanelles by the Russian fleet, after his Imperial Majesty had declared his intention not to carry on a maritime war in the Mediterranean. That transaction would, he trusted, be fully explained by the papers, and he hoped their Lordships would think that the Government had done all which could be demanded by the honour of the country and the interests of his Majesty's subjects, without losing sight of the respect due to a friendly Power. He would take that opportunity of saying, what was eminently due to the commander of the Russian fleet, that he believed there never was in the history of the world a blockade so strictly limited in its object, and exercised with so much courtesy and forbearance, especially towards his Majesty's subjects, as the blockade in question. It had given rise to no complaint, and as far as he had been able to ascertain, it had been attended with no abuse of authority. The last portion of the papers consisted of explanations concerning the raising of certain Greek blockades at the period when the Greek territory was taken under the guarantee of the Allied Powers, and the Ambassadors of his Majesty and the King of France repaired to Constantinople, for the purpose of opening negotiations, of which the first condition was the establishment of an armistice. A full account of the discussions upon that point would be found 992 in the papers. He had thus described the whole of the papers which he had laid upon the Table of the House. He had already stated that it would be improper for him to do more than merely describe the points to which they referred; but circumstances had occurred since he had last the honour of addressing their Lordships on this subject, and, indeed, since the adjournment of the House, which it was necessary for him to communicate. If he called their Lordships' attention to the contrast afforded by the object of the Treaty of the 6th of July, 1827, and the final decision of the Allies,—namely, the entire independence of Greece, coupled and compared with the limited and qualified independence, or rather the virtual dependence on the Porte, contemplated by the Treaty.—it was only for the purpose of observing, that when the progress of circumstances, of time, and events favoured the project of establishing the entire independence of Greece, it became obvious that the selection of a Prince to preside over that nation was a matter of great importance, difficulty, and delicacy. It would evidently require the exercise of much prudence and discretion to organize a state composed of such materials as Greece necessarily was. It would require also great prudence and discretion, after Greece had so long been in a state of hostility with the Porte, to maintain friendly relations in future with that Power. The Allies thought that they had found a Prince possessing such qualities in the person of his Royal Highness Prince Leopold. It was a choice honourable to his Royal Highness, and their Lordships would give him leave to add, honourable to Great Britain, for proceeding, as it did, entirely from our Allies, it gave evidence, on their part, of confidence and reliance in the upright and honourable policy of this country, which it might naturally be supposed would more or less influence the conduct of the new Prince. The choice was the more fortunate, because it was well understood that its object had long been the ambition of his Royal Highness, and had been solicited by him; and also because the Greeks had shown themselves desirous to have his Royal Highness for their Sovereign. The offer was made to his Royal Highness on the 3rd of February, and what might be called his Royal Highness's adhesion to the Protocol, although taken on the 11th, was only 993 finally received on the 20th. From that day up to a very short period from the present moment, the negotiations with his Royal Highness had turned exclusively on a single point, and that was this:—by the provisions of the last Protocol, the Allies engaged, in consideration of the deplorable condition to which Greece was reduced, and the necessity of aid, as urged in the strongest manner by his Royal High- ness, to furnish pecuniary succour to Greece, in order to enable his Royal High- ness to raise and maintain troops for his safety. This succour was to be given in the form of a guarantee for a loan to be raised by the Greek government. In the execution of this engagement, it certainly was the opinion of his Majesty's Ministers that the demands of his Royal Highness were unreasonable. They thought it their duty to resist those demands, because they considered that they were not authorised to incur new obligations which were not justified by the wants of the State. They felt it their duty at the present moment not to expose this country to even the chance of incurring any burthen beyond what was indispensably necessary to carry into effect the object of the Treaty. But his Royal Highness maintained those demands with so much pertinacity, and, indeed, gave the Government so plainly to understand that he was fully prepared to renounce the situation which he had accepted, unless those demands were agreed to to the uttermost farthing, that the Government, seeing also that the Allies expressed their willingness to acquiesce in those demands, felt that Great Britain would be incurring an odious responsibility by taking on herself the destruction of an arrangement made in favour of a British Prince, however reluctantly, acceded to his Royal Highness's demands. This was the situation in which affairs stood when he replied to a question proposed by a noble Marquis some time ago. He then stated that nothing but minor points remained to be settled; those points being, not the amount of the loan, but the mode of effecting it, and the manner of repayment. He thought he was justified in describing those as points of comparatively minor importance. This was the state of affairs when fresh grounds of hesitation occurred to his Royal Highness. Late on Friday night Government received from his Royal Highness a notice that he was determined to renounce the situation which 994 he had accepted, and he abdicated the place which had hitherto been the object of his ambition. He would not enter upon the reasons for that determination at present. Their Lordships should as speedily as possible have laid before them a communication of the whole of the correspondence which had passed upon this subject,—not only the final statement of his Royal Highness's reasons for this decision, but every paper necessary to explain the whole of the transaction up to its close. The papers should be prepared with all possible speed, to enable their Lordships to form an opinion on the subject. He certainly had hoped, in communicating to the House the papers he had laid upon the Table, that he should be called on to do no more than explain the course of the negotiation, and that it had been brought to a close. Unfortunately, it was clear that a supplement was necessary. Again he assured their Lordships, that that supplement should be produced as speedily as possible. He should be guilty of great dissimulation, if he said that he did not deeply lament the inconvenience and delay which must necessarily arise from the determination of his Royal Highness; but he had the satisfaction of assuring their Lordships that the most perfect union prevailed between the three Powers engaged in the transaction. They had all taken precisely the same view of the events which had led to this conclusion, and he confidently hoped, that by the continuance of the entire concord which prevailed, Government might be enabled, at no distant day, to bring the affair to a satisfactory issue.
§ Lord Durham
rose, to enter his earnest protest against the unfairness of the noble Earl's proceeding. So far as regarded the noble Earl's historical relation of the contents of the papers which he had presented, he was perfectly satisfied; but the noble Earl, had gone further, and entered into a statement which amounted to neither more nor less than an accusation against Prince Leopold, founded on papers which were in his possession alone. He wished to learn from the noble Earl whether the grounds of hesitation urged by Prince Leopold, were not derived from intelligence received from Greece. He would not then enter into more detail, but he called on the House and the public to pause before they pronounced an opinion unfavourable to his Royal Highness. He 995 had no doubt that, when the papers were presented, his Royal Highness would be found to have sustained the character which befitted his high and illustrious station, and advocated principles which would render him dear to the country which had adopted him.
The Earl of Darnley
thought, that, in justice to Prince Leopold, the additional papers should be produced as speedily as possible. He wished the noble Earl to name the day when he thought they would be ready.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, that when he proposed a question on a former night, upon the subject of Greece, the noble Earl seemed to think that he was not treating the Government with the forbearance which was called for. Had the noble Earl then treated Prince Leopold with the forbearance which was due to him? His Royal Highness agreed to accept the sovereignty of Greece on certain conditions: had those conditions been complied with? It was also essential to know whether Austria, who had been a party to the Treaties of Paris and Vienna, by which the balance of power was settled, had consented to the arrangement. He wished the papers should be communicated in an ungarbled form. The inference to be drawn from the noble Earl's statement was, that it was merely a question of money with Prince Leopold. His Royal Highness had conducted himself in a most honourable manner since his cennexion with this country, and had decided, he thought, correctly in refusing to accept the sovereignty of this new State. He was sure that his Majesty's Ministers could never establish any sort of kingdom there which would not, in the end, become the prey of Russia, and be divided or partitioned as Poland had been. The establishment of such a kingdom, he was convinced, would only lead to future wars, and he was very much deceived if he did not see those wars already in embryo. The consequences which would arise to this country, therefore, he apprehended would be of fearful moment. He should like to have the papers laid on the Table, in order to learn whether Russia, as he had stated upon a former evening, was the Power which had brought Turkey to agree to the arrangement, and whether she had not remitted a million of ducats out of the sum which Turkey was bound to pay her, in order to induce the Porte to consent to a settlement to which it was 996 not previously disposed to accede. He called upon the noble Earl opposite to deny that, if he could. It was, he would repeat, a notorious fact, and he trusted the noble Earl would be able to give them some explanation on that point. He requested that the noble Earl would say, whether his statement, that Russia had been the Power which induced the Turk to accede to this arrangement for her own advantage, were correct; and he requested to ask to what date the noble Earl would go back in the documents which he meant to submit to the House, in reference to the negotiation with Prince Leopold.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said, that the noble Marquis put so many questions, that he could not conveniently answer them at present. He would repeat what he had already stated,—that it was only late on Friday night that ho. received the information from his Royal Highness that he renounced the Sovereignty. Their Lordships might rest satisfied that they should have all the papers connected with this negotiation, from the commencement till the present period, laid before them; that not a syllable should be kept back, and that every atom of information that might be necessary should be afforded to them. But he would entreat their Lordships not to enter upon the discussion of this affair until all the documents were fully before them, and he trusted that no noble Lord would infer from any thing that had fallen from him, that he had pronounced any opinion upon the conduct of Prince Leopold. What he had stated, he had felt bound to state in justice to himself. It was only a short time ago that he had declared to their Lordships, that nothing prevented the final completion of this arrangement but matters of minor importance, and therefore lest their Lordships should suppose that he had been guilty of the grossest falsehood, and in order to set himself right with their Lordships, he felt bound to state that it was only within the last few days that a difference had arisen, and had been taken up on grounds with which he was not, of course, acquainted at the time he made that declaration. When the whole of the papers were in the hands of their Lordships, he should be able to give an explanation of the whole transaction, and until then he would entreat their Lordships to suspend their opinion on the subject.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, that 997 he was of opinion that some of the observations of the noble Earl were an unnecessary reflection on the Prince, and therefore that some further explanation was due to him.
The Marquis of Lansdown
was not willing to put any question that was not necessary, where the interest of an illustrious and excellent individual was concerned; but his noble friend having accompanied his presentation of these papers with a statement which might create prejudices, it became necessary that he should be clearly understood. He wished to inquire therefore whether the refusal of Prince Leopold was founded upon money transactions; or upon other circumstances arising out of the situation of Greece.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
replied, that before his Royal Highness had agreed to accept the dignity, a discussion had taken place, which terminated on the 20th of February, by his Royal Highness's acceptance of the offered Kingdom. Subsequent to that time, up to the last week, no question was agitated with his Highness but that of money; but in the last week new grounds of difference arose, and the resignation had reference to them, as the noble Marquis intimated.
The Earl of Darnley
thought this statement would cast reflections on a high personage, and he wished to know when the papers could be produced.
The Earl of Winchilsea
thought, that the fair course would have been, for the noble Earl to have abstained from all statements until the papers were before the House.
The Marquis of Bute
had clearly understood the noble Secretary of State to say, that the Prince's resignation was totally distinct from any question of a pecuniary nature.
§ Earl Grey
could not but regret that the noble Earl had not refrained from saying anything on the subject until he had all the papers ready. Ex-parte statements had been made, calculated to cast a heavy imputation on the Prince, from which he could not be relieved till the papers were produced. All papers prior to the 20th of February should be produced, and he wished to know whether, when the papers were produced, the noble Earl intended to found any motion upon them.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
had every disposition to give all the papers; but at present he had no intention of founding any motion upon them.
asked, if the noble Earl did not intend to found any motion, either upon the papers already produced, or that were to be produced?