§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, I rise to ask the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether there has been such progress in the negotiations as to afford a reasonable hope of a satisfactory settlement of the affairs of Poland? I do not think the question can be considered premature. The insurrection in Poland, which the Emperor ordered the authorities of the country to to put down in ten days, has existed for four months and a half; and, according to the last accounts, it was rapidly extending itself to various distant points in the ancient provinces that belonged to Poland before 1772. While diplomatists are writing and consulting, plunder, massacre, and incendiarism are extending through the whole country. My Lords, this is not an ordinary case of diplomacy. Generally, diplomacy originates with the Governments which conduct it; but, in this instance, I think it may be considered to have originated with the nations which those Governments represent; for in all parts of the world, except perhaps in Prussia, deep sympathy has been expressed for Poland. When, some years ago, the diplomatic intervention which preceded the Crimean war was undertaken, that diplomacy proceeded from statesmen who had in view not a distant but a coming danger, and endeavoured to avert that danger by diplomatic arrangement; but the evil with which diplomacy now deals is a present, existing evil, which has existed for more than thirty years, and has been increasing in intensity until it has arrived at a degree of enormity which has compelled the people of Poland to rise in arms, and makes it impossible for the people of Europe to view their condition with indifference. This is a question of humanity. From one end of the Kingdom of Poland to the other, war is carried on with a degree of atrocity unknown in ordinary warfare. It is a question of justice—because the Poles have never had the constitution which was promised to them. It is more than that, it is a question of policy affecting not only Russia, but affecting every state in Europe. It is impossible that insurrection can continue in Poland without exciting an insurrectionary feeling among the turbulent spirits of every State in Europe. For now 160 years Russia has been endeavouring to establish her power in Europe—to secure to herself an entrance into Europe. That entrance into Europe is, 480 at this moment, denied to her. While Po-land remains as she is, or even as she has been for several years, it will be impossible for Russia to move an army into Europe. She would require more than 100,000 men to protect her communications, and the longer this state of things remains in Po-land, the greater will become the difficulties of Russia. Depend upon it, that wherever any part of the Russian Empire presents a weakness, it will be discovered by those who are anxious to take advantage of any opportunity that may be afforded for acting against her. Circassia will be responsive to Poland, and everywhere there will be a material alteration in that position of strength which I confess, for my part, I am desirous that Russia should maintain. When the Powers assembled at the Congress of Vienna, they participated in the general feeling of distrust and apprehension of Russia. Things were then somewhat different from what they are now. In France, the ancient monarchy had been restored; France had suffered great losses; her frontiers had been thrown back to their ancient limits; she was deemed to be in a state of abeyance, and no injury or encroachment was apprehended from that quarter. In Belgium, and on the Rhine, and in Italy, what were then deemed securities had been taken against France. The great danger seemed to be on the side of Russia. Russia had performed great services for Europe, but she stood in her strength, and certainly evinced a disposition to use that strength in a manner that threatened the independence and security of other States. With those feelings, this country desired, in connection with Austria and Prussia, to establish in Poland a state of things which, unfortunately, they did not succeed in bringing about. They desired to establish in Poland an independent kingdom. Russia insisted on uniting the Kingdom of Poland to herself. I confess, that even at the present time, if I could see the map of Europe arranged as I should most desire, I should rejoice to see the re-establishment of the Kingdom of Poland in all its integrity, and within the ancient limits, but under a better Government and with an hereditary monarchy; but I know how visionary is my hope of seeing that great act of moral retribution accomplished. I cannot be insensible to the changes that have taken place in Europe. We have seen a change of dynasty in France; we have seen her great increase of strength, 481 and we have seen that strength used with great effect in Europe. We have seen other material changes in the distribution of power and of territory as established in 1815. Having regard to those events, I do not think it would be expedient to take any measures which would permanently deprive Russia of her power of interfering, and I hope usefully interfering, for the maintenance of a Conservative policy in Europe. We cannot now preserve the balance of power in Europe without the intervention of Russia. It is upon that account, that, as a friend of Russia as well as a friend of Poland, I do earnestly desire to see an end put to the state of things which now exists. When the Congress of Vienna imposed on Russia the duty of giving a representative national constitution to Poland, she imposed on her a condition which, in the political position of Russia, it was impossible for her to perform. I say impossible; because I hold it to be impossible to give a really good Government, of a constitutional form, to a country of which the sovereign is a foreign despot of enormous power, educated in the practice of despotism, and ready on all occasions to exercise his despotic authority, and throw the sword of Brennus into the scale to turn it in his favour. There was and still is that difficulty, which it is impossible to overcome, and which must at all times make it impossible to establish a really good Government in Poland under a despotic foreign Sovereign, capable of using on all occasions his arbitrary power. My Lords, a constitutional Government can only exist with benefit to the people where there is mutual confidence between the Sovereign and the people, and where there are mutual interests, where there is a mutual desire to support the constitution, and where, above all, the Sovereign is attached to his people, and depends on them for his position. All these circumstances are wanting in the case of Russia. Even were she so disposed, the difficulties which she has to encounter it would be impossible for her to overcome. But, my Lords, there never has been any attempt to overcome those difficulties. We are told in the papers which have been laid on the table of the House, that up to 1831 no attempt had been made to give that constitution to Poland which she had a right to, in accordance with the Treaty of Vienna. We know what has taken place since. We know that there has been no security either for property or for per- 482 son. Nothing could be more cruel and exhaustive than the conscription. Every man must have felt that his family, his life, and his property, depended on the will of a despot; and it was utterly impossible for the country to prosper or to be contented. That was the case before the last instance of violent despotism—which the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary properly called a "proscription"—was perpetrated by Russia. That proscription came on the people of Poland as one of the plagues of Egypt, destroying in one night the firstborn in every family. It created a deep chasm between the people and the Sovereign, which it was impossible ever to pass. It destroyed all confidence, all possibility of ever trusting the word of the Sovereign, who had violated his obligations. If the Emperor puts forth his hand, and offers it to the people of Poland, how can they take it? There is blood upon that hand. It is the blood of the people of Poland, of the families of those to whom he offers it—blood shed in the perpetration of an iniquity which has no parallel in Europe. My Lords, I can come to no other conclusion than this:—That to attempt to give good Government to the people of Poland while the Emperor of Russia directly exercises authority in that country is a thing impossible, and that there are no guarantees—of which the noble Earl spoke some time ago—which could secure it. It is a thing impossible, and therefore it is a thing which no prudent person would endeavour to obtain. But it is most desirable that Russia should endeavour to accomplish two objects—that she should give good Government to Poland, and, at the same time, preserve her own power of entering Europe by the Vistula. I know but one course of proceeding by which that double object can be accomplished. The wise course for Russia to pursue would be to propose to dissever the connection which was established at Vienna between the Russian Empire and Poland, then declared inseparable, and to place Poland, with such arrangements as to the political relations between her and Russia as might be deemed expedient, as an independent country with respect to internal Government, under the sovereignty of a Prince of her own family. I do trust that Her Majesty's Government and the other Powers of Europe which were parties to the Treaty of Vienna would willingly accept this compromise, and consider it as a sufficient performance of the 483 obligations which were imposed upon Russia at the Congress of Vienna. Further, I do hope that the Poles themselves would have the good sense to accept it, and that no visionary ideas of future grandeur, however gratifying they might be to their pride as a nation—great as their pride justly is—would induce them to decline to accept that which, for the present at least, would give security for the government of Poland and the permanent peace of that country. My Lords, I know not what value is to be attached to the statement I have seen in the foreign rather than the English papers; but I see it there stated that it has been suggested by the Government of this country, and has been at last acquiesced in by foreign Powers, that an armistice should be proposed to the Emperor of Russia and to the insurgents in Poland. I believe that measure to be utterly impracticable. There are wanting on the side of the Poles three things essential as it has always been supposed, to the making of an armistice—an ostensible, acknowledged Government With which to Contract it; an army for Which to contract; nor is there any possibility of making that demarcation of limits which is essential in all cases of armistice. The only force possessed by the Poles is one which is here and everywhere, which is here to-day and gone to-morrow; The Polish insurgents collect only to strike. They disappear when they have struck their blow. They have no regular, no acknowledged limits within which they act. In an armistice the two sides keep their arms. But what is required here is that one side should lay down its arms. There is no other mode by which the Poles can perform their part of the arrangement. And what is it to lay down their arms? You may maintain, and you may extend an insurrection, but you cannot renew it when you have once thrown down your arms. And what is to be the position of the insurgents in the interval during the time in which the diplomatists—who are proverbially not the most rapid in their movements—attempt to bring about a permanent arrangement? From the penalties of treason the Poles might be relieved, but they would be still subject to the criminal law. Russian officers now rule in every parish throughout Poland. They have at their beck what are called peasant guards. Every man who has property, who is supposed to have patriotic feelings, is denounced, and there is a general sequestration of the property of such persons. 484 Even in Lithuania, which is not a part of the Kingdom of Poland, no peasant is now permitted to pay rent to his landlord. He pays it to the State; and the State here-after, if satisfied of the good conduct of the proprietor, will give him the balance which is due to him. This is a state of things which we know not as having existed at any time in any part of the world, and all this machinery would remain to affict Poland during the long period of negotiation which must ensue if an armistice were agreed upon. Does the noble Earl, or does Her Majesty's Government, suppose that in diplomacy by itself there is any strength at all? Its strength is in the force by which it is supported—in the force behind. The strength of the Poles in diplomacy is the strength of the insurrection. It is no other. And, depend upon it, great as the sufferings of the Poles have been, they might have suffered for years longer, but if they had suffered in tranquillity and in silence, never would the sympathy of Europe have been extended to them. They have now the sympathy of Europe because they have had the courage and the spirit to rise against their oppressors. It is because they show themselves worthy of liberty that all Europe feels they ought to possess it. All I can say to the Poles is—"Persevere! Keep your arms! Strike down your enemies wherever you can reach them! You have embarked in a career of honour, of patriotism, and of glory. You may fall in the field; but it is better to fall there than to die in the ranks of your enemies. Persevere! And depend upon it, having adopted this course—adopted, perhaps, by despair, but sanctioned by reason and by justice—you will have the respect of all men, and, I trust, that Providence will bless your efforts."
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, the noble Earl commenced by asking me what is the state of the negotiations in regard to Poland, and then expressed, with his usual eloquence, the views which he entertains with regard to the contest now going on in Poland. I will answer in a few words the questions he has put to me, but I shall try at the present moment to avoid entering into a discussion of the opinions which the noble Earl has expressed. As a Member of the Government I cannot think that it would be my duty to enter upon such a discussion at this moment. The present state of affairs in regard to diplomacy is this:—The Russian Government, as your Lordships are aware, have given separate 485 answers to the three Powers—Austria, France, and Great Britain. To Great Britain they gave a longer and more detailed answer than to France, and a much more detailed answer than that which was given to Austria. But the result of what Russia stated to the three Powers was, that on the basis of the Treaties of 1815 they were willing and desirous of exchanging ideas, as it was termed, with these Governments. Now, to have said at once, in reply to the Russian Ambassador, that the three Governments had no proposition to make would have been to place ourselves in a very disadvantageous position as regarded Russia. I think it might fairly then have been said by Russia, "As the three Powers have no suggestion whatever to make, the Emperor of Russia is quite free to use his power as he pleases, and to make such arrangements as he thinks best fitted for his own interests in Poland." My Lords, the three Powers, thinking that such would be a disadvantageous position, entered into communications with regard to any proposition which should be made tending to the future welfare of Poland, and to that permanent peace which they all declared was the object of their individual endeavours. These confidential communications which have been going on between the three Powers have not hitherto resulted in any communication to Russia; but France and Great Britain are agreed upon certain propositions which they think would be properly made to Russia, which would be becoming their own character, and which, if adopted at once by the Emperor of Russia, would conduce to the welfare and the permanent peace of Poland. These propositions have been sent to Vienna. With the Court of Vienna we had had previous communications, but the terms upon which France and Great Britain have agreed have not hitherto been approved by Austria. Those communications only reached Vienna on Saturday last. Count Rechberg, the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, made various observations upon them, but he said he must take the pleasure of the Emperor, and he could not take the pleasure of the Emperor until Tuesday—that is, until tomorrow. We are therefore expecting the communication which the Austrian Government will make to the Governments of Great Britain and France. And in this state of affairs, having to consider—as we ought to consider—deliberately and carefully such communications as Austria shall make. I venture to say that it is not expedient 486 that your Lordships should now enter into a discussion upon this subject. With regard to the opinions which the noble Earl has expressed, I have already said I do not think it advisable to discuss them at present; but I will make a remark or two as to what he said both as to the Congress of Vienna, and as to the present state of things. When Lord Castlereagh arrived at the Congress of Vienna, the Emperor of Russia stated to him his views with regard to Poland—views which are well known, because they were afterwards adopted in the Treaty of Vienna. Lord Castleragh said at once, and I think with great sagacity, that in his opinion there would be considerable danger in adopting the propositions of the Emperor of Russia—dangers more especially affecting Austria and Prussia, who had shared in the partition of Poland. Lord Castlereagh said, that if a kingdom of Poland was erected which was to belong to the Emperor of Russia, who was to grant to it institutions of a liberal character, it was not to be expected that the Poles would consent, for the sake of that union, to renounce views which they had cherished since 1772—the restoration of Polish Nationality and the re-establishment of an independent kingdom: but, he said, such a kingdom would give rise to wishes on the part of the Polish subjects of Austria and Prussia for the enjoyment of similar privileges; and thus the Russian plan of establishing a kingdom of Poland would only nurture a spirit of discontent and disaffection among the Polish subjects of Austria and Prussia. Lord Castlereagh proposed, with the consent of Austria and Prussia, that there should be an independent kingdom of Poland; that it should be either an independent kingdom, comprising all the provinces of ancient Poland, or that it should be a kingdom confined to the Duchy of Warsaw, which at that time the Emperor claimed to be under his own jurisdiction. It became clear, in the course of the correspondence, and Lord Castlereagh admitted it to the Emperor of Russia, that although the earnest desire of Great Britain was to establish an independent kingdom of Poland, and however willing Austria and Prussia were to contribute to the reconstruction of such a kingdom, those two Powers were most averse to press anything upon the Emperor of Russia which might possibly lead to hostilities. Therefore, as that object of an independent kingdom could not be obtained, it was proposed that the provinces, instead of forming a king- 487 dom of Poland, should be divided in such a manner as to maintain the balance of power. Such were the general views of Lord Castlereagh at the Congress of Vienna. But the views of Austria and Prussia were affected by subsequent negotiations, and more especially were affected and disturbed by the return of Napoleon from Elba; and therefore a different arrangement was finally agreed upon by the Congress. Now, as to what the noble Earl has said about a suspension of arms, I do not deny that the objections which he has made to what he considers to have been proposed by the Government are of great force. I admit that it may be found totally impracticable to provide for any temporary suspension of arms. But, at the same time, both humanity and policy seem to demand some such measure; because, as the noble Earl has truly said, nothing can be more horrible than the present state of Poland—nothing can be more horrible than the conduct of the Russian soldiery, on one side, destroying villages, taking the lives of those who fall into their hands, killing their prisoners on the field of battle; and the conduct of the insurgents on the other hand, who, when they find the peasantry are opposed to them, hold secret courts, which end by hanging those against whom sentence of death is passed. More than that, we hear of orders of assassination going forth from a secret tribunal, with a declaration that no one opposed to them should be allowed to live. Surely humanity suggests that any step would be desirable that would put an end to such a state of things. We would consent to propose one plan after another—one scheme after another—if we had any hope that such a state of things might have even a temporary pause. But if diplomacy is to have any effect, only consider how difficult it would be—nay, how futile it would be—to be exchanging diplomatic notes or holding conferences, while events are taking place in Poland from day to day which may, on one side, embitter those whom we expect to accept terms, and may drive them into such a state of fury that they will accept no terms whatever; or, on the other hand, if the insurrection is suppressed, may place the Powers which had taken part in the negotiations in a position to be told, "You have been framing schemes of conciliation and devising plans for the future welfare of Poland, but in the mean time the armies of the Emperor of Russia have suppressed the outbreak, and now it depends upon his 488 good will and pleasure alone what terms he will grant to Poland." Therefore, the question whether it is possible to have an armistice or not is surrounded by immense difficulties. It is surrounded by such immense difficulties as makes me hesitate to give any assurance to the noble Earl that we can come to any satisfactory termination of these discussions. Our position, as I conceive, under the Treaties of 1815, is this—that being parties to the Treaties of 1815, and those Treaties not having been annulled, we are still bound by them. That being so, we have to propose terms which we think will be consistent with those treaties, and which we think will also tend to the welfare of Poland and lead to the establishment of durable peace in that portion of the world. Such is our task. It is not our task to propose the construction of a great kingdom of Poland, comprising all the ancient provinces of Poland, nor to propose such a plan to the acceptance of the different Powers who were parties to the Treaties of Vienna. It must always be our endeavour to conduct our communications with the different Powers of Europe in such a manner as to preserve the general peace. For my part I can see no advantage that could arise from armed intervention on behalf of Poland. I can see nothing but confusion and calamity likely to arise from an interruption of the peace of Europe. I cannot see what clear or definite object which a British Government could propose to itself, would justify them on entering into such hostilities, and I must enter my protest against engaging in any such contest. I ask with humility—because I feel how incapable I am of conducting an affair of such great difficulty; but as holding a grave and responsible office in the Government, and being responsible to the Crown and to Parliament for the conduct of these negotiations—I do venture to ask your Lordships to pause at this time, and to await the result of further communications. When these communications have been made, Her Majesty's Government will fearlessly produce to Parliament the results at which they have arrived whatever those results may be—whether, as I hope, these results will be such as shall be beneficial to the Poles, or that we are obliged to say that after all our efforts we have failed in obtaining those concessions to which the Poles look for freedom. Whatever course we may pursue, I shall be ready to state that course to the House 489 and to abide your Lordships' judgment upon it.
§ THE DUKE OF RUTLAND
said, he regretted that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had not made his appeal before the subject was introduced; because now the address of his noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough) would go forth to this country and to the world unanswered. That speech was couched in eloquent, but, as he considered, hasty language. The noble Earl said, that the sympathy of the people of this country was with Poland. No doubt, sympathy for poland had been shown by both sides of their Lordships' House, and that sympathy was also very general throughout the country. But they must take care, that in expressing that sympathy and giving vent to their natural feelings, they did not do a great injustice to a great and friendly Power. The noble Earl bad alluded to the dreadful conscription of the 14th of January, which every one must deplore. He was not going to apologize for that cruel and impolitic act. He thought it unworthy of the Emperor of Russia and of the people of that great country; but they should remember that the object of the Emperor was one of humanity. The Emperor, in giving a most reluctant consent to the carrying out of that conscription, did so in order to grant that constitution to Poland which had been referred to by both the noble Earls who had addressed the House; and when the noble Earl said that there was no parallel in the history of Europe to that act of cruelty and violence, he must be allowed to say that other nations, claiming to be even in the van of civilization, had, on occasions of emergency and danger, carried out measures quite as severe and unjustifiable and in a much more cruel manner, causing oceans of blood to be shed. He said again that the Emperor of Russia, in getting rid of the disaffected spirits in Warsaw, was desirous of giving liberal institutions and a better constitution to those who remained, who were the peaceful inhabitants. Their Lordships had listened to the eloquent language employed to depict the horrors of this war and the lamentable state of Poland—to his belief, no words could express the horror they must feel at what was taking place in Poland; but, he ventured to say, the best way of stopping the effusion of blood would be, not by lending their support to those who were engaged in insurrection and waging a war that could 490 ultimately be of no benefit to themselves, but, rather, to give their moral support to the cause of order and good Government; and then, when the insurrection was put down, it would be for the Governments of France, Austria, and England to step forward and recommend the granting of such a constitution and those institutions which might lead to the happiness of the Polish nation. It was not only the combatants but the non-combatants who were suffering most severely in Poland. He could not do better than read to their Lordships an extract from the correspondence of The Times upon this point—A Polish proprietor in the kingdom was summoned not long since before a Russian General, charged with having rendered assistance to the insurgents, and solemnly cautioned against doing so again. The proprietor explained his position. 'If,' he said, 'the insurgents come to my place and ask for horses, carts, and corn, I must give them what they want or they will hang me. If, on the other hand, I let them have anything more than I am actually forced to give, you will hang me. However, if they hang me, my son will never find a wife in Poland, or my daughter a husband, and fifty years after my death people will turn their backs upon my children; whereas, if you hang me, I shall have monuments erected to my memory. On the whole, then, as a mere matter of calculation, I cannot refuse assistance to the insurgents.' I believe that in this particular in-stance the General was satisfied with the explanation given by the proprietor, who, perhaps, might have added that before long all his class will be drawn into active co-operation with the national movement. Hitherto they, the actual owners of the estates, have left their sons to represent them in the field, though they have supported the insurrection indirectly in a variety of ways, and directly by means of money contributions.He believed that to be really a faithful picture of the horrible state of Poland at the present moment. The patriotism of the Polish ladies was well known. Dressed in the deepest mourning, they would tell you, if you asked the cause, that they were mourning for their country; but how many of them were now in mourning, not only for their country, but for some father, or husband, or brother, or son? He implored their Lordships, not by a morbid sentimentality and a feeble feeling towards the Poles, or by an uncertain and unmeaning diplomacy, to rivet those fetters which they all desired to see broken from the Poles, and by not countenancing with their support this dreadful insurrection, to give the opportunity to the Emperor of Russia of carrying out those reforms which he (the Duke of Rutland) believed in his heart he was anxious to do, and of granting a constitution to Poland that would enable 491 the Polish people to live happily and in peace.
agreed, that as to the conduct of the Emperor of Russia, they ought not to indulge unnecessarily in acrimonious invective. That sovereign had many great and good personal qualities. When he was in this country, every one who was brought into communication with him was impressed with his amiable and just disposition. But unhappily he succeeded to that which most short-sighted men thought the greatest blessing, but which was in reality the greatest curse both to others and to themselves—namely, to absolute despotic power. And, no doubt, they had seen him in his great and exalted vocation employ that great power most beneficially and most honestly to a great operation—the emancipation of 20,000,000 of his peasantry. But, unhappily, despotism had not only a corrupting tendency on those who exercised it, but it had this misfortune, that it communicated the caprices of despotism to all employed in carrying out its orders. He did not believe that the Emperor of Russia himself instigated these proceedings which had goaded the Poles to this insurrection; but he could not go along with his noble Friend (the Duke of Rutland), in thinking that the object of the conscription, which had most justly been called a proscription, and of all the cruelties exercised under it, was to enable the Emperor to give a constitution to Poland. He could not go so far as that: but this he would say, that it was the persons employed by the Emperor who were to blame for that proscription, and for the fraud and cruelty under which it was carried into effect—its real object being, under the pretext of a conscription, to get rid of a body of the people of the most important and worthy character. That was done by those who were employed by the Emperor; and no doubt he was bound, as soon as the fact was communicated to him, to put an end to it. Having, however, given his sanction to it, he must now bear the shame of that proceeding. He entirely agreed with the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) in the advice he had given to the Poles. He also agreed in considering that an armistice, from the nature of the case, was out of the question. He was grieved to hear the statement of his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, that he could not at present explain the progress of the negotiations—he hoped and trusted that in a few days he would find himself at 492 liberty to give a satisfactory account. He agreed with the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) that it was most important if, by good fortune—by the wisdom of Russia, and by the prudence of Prussia—for Prussia was deeply interested—it was possible to give a constitution to Poland—not at all the constitution which they claimed, and which had been taken from them for so many years, but a constitution forming a separate country of Poland; and though that country might be under a Russian sovereign, yet one independent of Russia, and having a Government of its own; he hoped and trusted the people would listen to the advice of his noble Friend the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) and accept it. It was now half a century since he espoused the cause of the Poles, in concert with his lamented friend Prince Czartoryski, who was then in this country. He had not at that time, from accidental circumstances, a seat in Parliament, and could not therefore address the House of Commons in their behalf; but he addressed to the public what was called an "Appeal for Poland;" and that appeal was, he believed, not wholly without effect in their favour. He trusted, therefore, they would receive from their ancient ally the advice which he now gave, in common with his noble Friend on the bench behind him—to be satisfied with any such arrangement as that to which he had referred—namely, the establishment of an independent Kingdom of Poland, although under a Russian and not under a Polish Sovereign. That would be true wisdom on the part of the Poles; and he hoped—he perhaps rather wished than expected—that such a result might be attained.
LORD STRATFORD DE REDCLIFFE
said, that having been absent unavoidably during the early part of the Session, he hoped to be excused if he took that opportunity of offering a few words on the important subject which the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough) had brought under the notice of the House with his usual felicity and effect. If any gentleman from Poland had been present at that discussion, it would doubtless have afforded him the greatest pleasure to observe that every one of their Lordships who had taken part in it, though differing on some points of opinion, had expressed a cordial sympathy with the unhappy condition of the Poles, and a desire to rescue them from the cruel treatment which they had so long expe- 493 rienced at the hands of Russia. More than one noble Lord had placed no small degree of reliance on the personal character of the reigning Emperor; and, in truth, there was reason to believe that his sentiments were those of humanity and his intentions benevolent. But he would ask if those sentiments were attended with any practical effect in favour of his Polish subjects—if those intentions were carried out to any degree commensurate with the wants of Poland and its just claims to redress? If, on the contrary, as they had heard that night, and not unfrequently before, the Emperor's humanity was counteracted by those who surrounded him, and that even his irresponsible position and absolute power did not secure him from the evil influences of those who substituted their own prejudices for his benevolent views, what was the value of such idle unproductive virtues, and how could the Poles be expected to fix their trust on such unstable foundations? They naturally looked elsewhere for guarantees—they could not lose sight of the bitter experience which they had found in so many years of illusion, disappointment and suffering—they gave way to feelings of despair—they appealed to the sympathies of Europe, and found no solace except in the idea of national independence and emancipation from an intolerable yoke. These hopes, however difficult to realize, seemed to be justified, not only by the necessities of the case, but more especially by the principles which were more or less adopted by the leading Powers at Vienna nearly half a century ago, and which were distinctly pressed on the consideration of Russia by the representative of the British Government. He purposely abstained from repeating arguments which had been so eloquently urged by the noble and learned Lord who had preceded him in that discussion. It was probable that the Session would not close without offering other opportunities of debating this momentous question, and the state of the pending negotiations, as described by the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Department, whatever might be the amount of hope which it held out, seem ed, he confessed, to recommend the suspension of any further discussion on the subject in their Lordships' House until a stronger light could be thrown by Her Majesty's Government on the prospects of a diplomatic result. The present cir- 494 cumstances of Europe, and indeed of the world at large, called loudly for the earliest practicable settlement of a question so vast in its range, so dangerous in its consequences. It would be difficult to find a period when so many elements of confusion had been let loose. On the Continent, as in this country, there was a prevailing anxiety as to what is to be the issue of such an extraordinary and menacing state of things. It was impossible to converse with any man of political observation without finding an echo to the anxious and painful thoughts engendered by so many causes of dispute and chances of collision. But a few days ago in Paris one of the ablest statesmen in France demanded of him whether he had ever known a more confused and disjointed state of things? It really looked as if we had lost sight of our old principles in matters of international concern, without supplying their place by others worthy of reliance. The sources of this confusion might be supposed to lie beyond the reach of individual policy, and it was far from his meaning to throw blame on any one invested with responsible power under such critical circumstances; but what he wished to inculate was the importance of not unnecessarily delaying any assistance that might be given to the settlement of the Polish question, and not leaving Europe exposed to the additional danger which could not but spring out of the prolonged continuance of a war so barbarous in its character as that which was now spreading slaughter and devastation over so extensive a theatre.
would not have addressed their Lordships if the noble Viscount (once an ambassador) had not spoken; but as the noble Duke on the bench above him had remarked that diplomacy was unavailing, and as a relative of his own had attended a meeting in the City of London in which it was resolved that all diplomatic intercourse with Russia should cease, he could not refrain from saying that he hoped that diplomacy and a congress might Yet lead to useful results. That it had hitherto been powerless, had been caused by the part taken in 1836 by the noble Lord now First Lord of the Treasury, and the noble Earl now Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It was on a subject which he would not name, as it had ended well for Poland; but the course taken by the late hon. Baronet, Sir Robert Inglis, was far better. That hon. Baronet, who so care- 495 fully guarded the constitution of this country, said, if you remonstrate, do not deprecate war in the first instance, but come down for a Vote of ten or twenty millions, for which he would vote to be ready to support diplomacy; and he (Lord Denman) really thought that the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, should respect and not unsettle the constitution of this country, and not dictate a constitution to Poland. His (Lord Denman's) noble and lamented Father had, on one occasion, described the Potentates of Europe as "miscreants," but then he believed that armed, unjustifiable aggression was intended in aid of tyranny at Naples; but now almost all the crowned heads of Europe were anxious for the happiness of all their subjects, and Englishment ought to re-establish confidence between them and their peoples.Superest componere fluctus.He was not addressing their Lordships for the sake of being reported in The Times, but wished to make an impression on their Lordships' minds, and he hoped that people abroad would not place implicit reliance on the reports of newspapers, nor on the opinions of those who made reconciliation almost impossible. He was sorry to observe that subscriptions were being raised to put arms into the hands of insurgents, instead of money being found for the relief of the wounded. He knew of certain foreign gentlemen who might be in the House of Lords to hear this debate, and he hoped that they would carry away the impression that there was a large party in the country who were anxious that strife should cease, and order and happiness prevail.
§ EARL GREY
said, that although he could not but concur in the general feeling of the House that this was a subject which they could not now discuss with advantage, still, after what had fallen from noble Lords who had preceded him, and particularly from the noble Viscount (Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe), he could not allow the debate to close without saying a few words. He must own that he had heard with some alarm that negotiations were still going on. The more they considered the lamentable condition of Poland—the more they heard of the dreadful contest there raging, the more doubtful it appeared to him that any diplomatic interference would be beneficial. His noble Friend the Foreign Secretary had told them—and he entirely agreed in that opinion.—that he thought this country ought not to take up arms on behalf of Poland. If, then, our 496 policy was to abstain from taking any part in the contest there raging, it seemed to him that diplomatic interference, however well meant, was far more likely to aggravate than to lessen all the evils which we deplored. He was sure that in the present state of both parties, and looking at the violence of feeling and action which prevailed on both sides, an accommodation between them was hardly to be anticipated; and he feared that the only effect of interference might be to postpone the time when one party or the other might think that the struggle had been carried far enough. The noble Duke (the Duke of Rutland) had spoken of what he called mischievous and unmeaning diplomacy. He confessed that he shared in the noble Duke's fears in regard to unmeaning diplomacy. He believed it was true, as their Lordships had been told, that Europe was now in a state of unexampled confusion, and he attributed that unfortunate condition of things to too much unmeaning diplomacy. We were too apt to interfere and give advice which could lead to nothing. But he would not further pursue the subject, and all he had to add was the expression of his strong opinion, that as we do not contemplate interference by arms, the less we interfered with advice the better we should stand with both parties.