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The Cabinet adopted the first part of this advice. They decided on supporting the Porte, though they declined to allow the fleet to enter the Dardanelles.
DownING STREET, October 2, 1849. MY DEAR LORD MINTO,— . . . The Cabinet were unanimous in their opinion that the Porte must be supported; that remonstrances should go to Vienna and Petersburg; and that Parker should be desired to approach the Dardanelles to help the Sultan in case of need. This is right, and the determination would have done your
heart good. I fear the business with the Czar will be stormy.—Yours affectionately, J. RUSSELL.
The policy of the Cabinet was successful. Russia and Austria withdrew a demand which they found was not merely resisted at Constantinople, but withstood by Western Europe; and the Ministers had the satisfaction of knowing that they had maintained the independence of an ally, and defeated an unjustifiable demand made by two strong powers on a weak nation.
In this country most persons approved what the Ministers had thus done. Even those who in secret sympathised with the autocratic powers of Eastern Europe were disposed to think with Lord Clarendon that it was more dignified to be “squaring at Russia, than sticking pins into Naples;” and Lord Palmerston gained more in public estimation from this single action than from his whole previous policy. Unfortunately the presence of the fleet in the neighbourhood of the Dardanelles suggested to him a much more questionable proceeding. Some British subjects, among whom were Mr Finlay, who is famous from his history, and Don Pacifico, who is famous from his claims, had long complained that they had been unable to obtain redress from the Greek Government. Lord Palmerston thought that Sir W. Parker might be instructed on his return from the Dardanelles to call with the squadron at Athens and demand reparation. ‘If the Greek Government does not strike’—so he expressed himself in a
private letter to Mr. Wyse, the British Minister at Athens‘Parker must do so. The claim at the outset attracted very little attention either in the Cabinet or among the public, though Lord John apparently doubted the expediency of strong measures. WoBURN ABBEY, January 12, 1850. MY DEAR PALMERSTON,—I send you back this correspondence, as I think the complaint is hardly worth the interposition of the British Lion. Baring somewhat remonstrates against the constant employment of our ships to support our diplomatic agents, and I was lately told by one of these last that he wished his interference was only ordered on large occasions and not on every case of a debt of £20. I think that this is a case in point—Yours truly, J. RUSSELL.
Lord Palmerston, however, clung to a policy to which, in fact, he had already committed himself in private to Mr. Wyse; and when Lord John compelled him to alter his public despatch he protested against the alteration in the following note:— C[ARLTON] G[ARDENs], January 26, 1850. MY DEAR JOHN RUSSELL,-I have altered the draft to which your note relates, to meet your objection. But, upon the general principle in question, I would beg to ask –First, what is to be done in cases in which all diplomatic persuasion has been exhausted in vain to obtain from one of these small States just redress for a wrong done to a British subject : are we to sit down contented and tell the complainant that he must bear the injury as well as he can * Secondly, I would ask, if that is to be our course, what is the purpose for which in time of peace we keep ships of war in foreign stations, and why we should not agree to Cobden's motions for reducing a useless force, and thus save an unnecessary expense ? If these cases have multiplied during the last two or three years beyond all former example, it is in consequence of the prevalence of the notion that British subjects may be wronged with impunity, and that the British Government will not stir hand or foot to help them. It is not so with French or North American citizens, and no State ventures to ill-use a Russian.—Yours sincerely, PALMERSTON.
In the meanwhile Sir W. Parker, acting on Lord Palmer. ston's private instructions, had commenced to strike, and had already seized various vessels, the property not only of the Greek Government but of Greek citizens. When the news of these reprisals reached London they excited considerable consternation. The Russian Ambassador called at the Foreign Office to remonstrate; the French Minister tendered the good offices of France; and the Cabinet, for the first time fully aware of the policy to which Lord Palmerston had committed it, readily grasped, though against Lord Palmerston's opinion, at the offer of French mediation. The Cabinet intended that Mr. Wyse should be instructed to lend every assistance to Baron Gros, the French mediator. But Lord Palmerston, in his despatch, carefully told Mr. Wyse to take no part in the negotiation unless expressly invited to do so, and then only if it should appear expedient. The Cabinet intended that Mr. Wyse should have some discretion in compromising the claim of Don Pacifico. No power of compromising it was inserted in Lord Palmerston's despatch. The Queen was the first to observe what Lord Palmerston had done, or rather had omitted
to do. - Pebruary 18, 1850. MY DEAR PALMERSTON,-The Queen asked me yesterday about the despatch to Wyse, and said she had not seen it again. I told her what had happened, and she expressed great displeasure that the despatch had been sent off without inserting the discretionary power to Wyse and Parker which I had recommended. You saw that the Cabinet all approved of such discretion being left to our Minister and Admiral. Here, then, is a despatch gone on an important subject which is not in conformity with the Queen's opinion, or mine, or that of the Cabinet. This is a serious deviation from the usual and right course on such subjects. It can only be, in part, repaired, by your preparing a draft immediately to go by the earliest opportunity.—I remain, yours truly, - J. RUSSELL.
It is due to Lord Palmerston to add his answer:—
C. G., February 18, 1850. MY DEAR JOHN RUSSELL-I have received your letter of to: day, and I send you a memorandum which I received from the Queen yesterday, in which she says that you had told her that I had sent off, unaltered, the despatch of which, on Friday, she sent me the draft, accompanied by a memorandum from you suggesting two alterations, in which she said that she herself also concurred. I have sent the Queen the draft itself with the alteration which I did make in it, and I also sent her your note stating that such alteration was ‘very good, and I leave it to you to explain to the Queen how you can reconcile with the facts of the case your assertion to her that I had sent off that draft unaltered. The second point to which your Memorandum related was a discretionary power to Wyse as to entertaining any proposition that might be made to him. That point was discussed in the Cabinet on Saturday. The only claim to which that question could possibly apply is that of Pacifico; and, in deference to the opinion of the Cabinet, I sent off a despatch to Wyse by the overland Mediterranean mail of Saturday, giving him a discretionary authority to entertain any reasonable proposition as to the detailed amount of Pacifico's claim. The despatch of Friday was sent off by the messenger, whom it was very important not to delay longer than that day. I should have sent you the draft of Saturday before I sent it off; but, when I went back to my room from the Cabinet, I found Drouyn de Lhuys waiting to see me, and he kept me so long that I had barely time to write my despatch and have it copied out for signature before the moment when the messenger who was to take it had to start by the railway train to Dover. I was not made aware on Friday that there would be an opportunity of writing to Greece on the next day, or the Friday's despatch might have been kept for Saturday. I think, however, that you will see, from what I have stated, that you have, according to a colloquial phrase, “picked me up before I
was down.’—Yours sincerely, PALMERSTON.
The excuse which Lord Palmerston thus made was, however plausible, unsound. Lord John had not complained that the despatch had been sent unaltered, but that it had been sent without the addition which he had required, and which the Cabinet had approved. And the fact that Lord Palmerston himself found it necessary to make the addition on the Saturday proves that Lord John was right in saying that the despatch of Friday should not have left England without this addition to it." Hardly a month, moreover, elapsed before a similar difficulty arose. M. Drouyn de Lhuys, the French Minister at London, finding that the negotiations at Athens made no progress, suggested to Lord Palmerston that the matter should be arranged between them. Lord Palmerston closed with the offer, and M. Drouyn de Lhuys and he agreed on a basis of compromise. Instructions were at once sent by France to Baron Gros at Athens to announce the conclusion of the arrangement. Lord Palmerston neglected to make a similar notification to Mr. Wyse, and it was not until the omission was noticed that he was compelled to send a special courier vià Trieste with the necessary instructions. The courier arrived too late; Mr. Wyse, before he came, had ordered the renewal of reprisals, and the Greeks had at last yielded. The French Government, deeply mortified at the whole proceeding, at once recalled M. Drouyn de Lhuys. Lord John, of course, at once announced the fact to the Queen, and received the following answer, which has already been published by Sir T. Martin:— BUCKINGHAM PALACE, May 15, 1850. MY DEAR LORD JOHN,—Both the Queen and myself are exceedingly sorry at the news your letter conveyed to us. We are not surprised, however, that Lord Palmerston’s mode of doing business should not be borne by a susceptible French Government with the same good humour and forbearance as by his colleagues. The Queen hopes to be well enough to see you on Sunday at one o'clock.—Ever yours truly, ALBERT.
But this was not all. Though the Cabinet met on the 16th to consider M. Drouyn de Lhuys's recall, Lord Palmerston, speaking in the House of Commons in the evening, said that M. Drouyn de Lhuys had gone to Paris ‘in order personally to be the medium of communication between the two Governments as to these matters. He persuaded Lord Lansdowne to make a similar statement in the Lords. And the next day, when the truth was known, he absented himself from the House, and left Lord John in the humiliating position of
* For these despatches see Parliamentary Papers, 1850, pp. 91, 93.