British Foreign Policy 1815-65

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Debates of the House of Lords, 23 May 1870 vol 201 columns 1162-90


My Lords, I have undertaken a task extremely difficult to anyone under the circumstances, and peculiarly difficult to me. It is always painful to repeat a tale of suffering occasioned by violence and treachery; but it is doubly painful when private affections and personal feelings are concerned. But though my words may fail altogether to carry out the sentiments I desire to express, I will at least promise the House this — that I will appeal to no argument which I do not believe to be strictly fair, and I will press no fair argument to an unfair conclusion. It is the privilege — the highest privilege — of this House to be a High Court of Appeal, to which many have appealed, and not in vain, and I venture this evening to ask your Lordships to allow me to appeal to you — to this House — aye, and to appeal beyond you to that country on which, after all, this House depends, and without which you — this House — are nothing. I appeal, I hope, in no spirit of passionate or indiscriminate vengeance, but, at the same time, in a temper of resentment which is not unreasonable — a temper of just and righteous indignation which I believe neither an individual nor a nation can afford to disregard. My Lords, when I read the letters — the last touching letters — in this correspondence from those who are no more, it seems to me that they are a charge which presses on Parliament and the country, and about which Parliament cannot be indifferent. Their blood seems to be now crying out of the ground to us — because even of those who were the mere blind, brutal agents in the murder, a very small part indeed have expiated their crime; the larger proportion are still at large, with little prospect of being brought to justice. The facts are so fresh, in your Lordships' recollection that I need not go with any great detail into the circumstances of the case. It will be sufficient for me to recapitulate as clearly and briefly as I can the different events in their order, that your Lordships may understand the comments which I shall make upon them.

On Monday, the 11th of last month, the party, whose names are well known, started from Athens on an excursion to Marathon. On their return they were captured by a band of Greek brigands. One of the party was released and sent back to Athens with a demand, first of all, for a ransom of £32,000, which was subsequently reduced to one of £25,000. At the same time distinct threats were held out that in the event of pursuit being attempted or any military operations being undertaken against them the lives of the prisoners would be forfeited. On Thursday, the 14th, the news had reached England, and even before the evening of the 14th the necessary ransom had been provided in London. But meanwhile the brigands had somewhat changed their terms. It was no longer the mere ransom which they demanded, but the ransom and an amnesty. The Greek Government said they could not give that amnesty. I do not stop at present to discuss that point. They simply refused the amnesty; but at the same time, on the urgent application of Mr. Erskine and the Italian Minister, they gave a solemn and distinct promise that no military operations should be undertaken, and that no troops should be sent in pursuit of the brigands. The English Minister, moreover, addressed a direct communication to the brigands not only assuring them of this solemn engagement, but also informing them that if they would treat the prisoners well — if they would descend from their vantage ground in the mountains to a place whore the prisoners might be kept in comparative comfort but in security — they should not be molested. My Lords, this was on Thursday; on Saturday, the 16th, two days afterwards, the brigands had altogether complied with the entreaties of the foreign Ministers. The prisoners were brought down to the village of Oropos, in the plain close by the seaboard, and we have every reason to believe that they were made as comfortable as circumstances would allow. Then ensued negotiations — negotiations in which various persons played various parts. On the one hand, there was Colonel Théagénis — of whom I shall have to speak presently — who was sent by the Greek Government with words of peace on his lips, but, if actions are any interpreters, with war at his heart. He conducted those negotiations for several days on behalf of the Government. An Englishman resident in Euboea — Mr. Noel — of whose judgment, courage, and ability it is impossible to speak too highly, volunteered his services on behalf of the prisoners, and all but successfully accomplished the object in view. Lastly, Mr. Erskine, departing rightly and courageously, as I think, from the reserve which he supposed to be imposed upon him, went so far as to offer a ship of war to transport the brigands from Greece if they insisted upon it. Those negotiations lasted from Saturday the 16th to Wednesday the 20th. On the 20th an ominous change occurred. For one or two days previously, it is clear from the correspondence before us, troops had been silently moved up. At all events, on Wednesday, the 20th, the brigands became aware that military operations were threatened. They remonstrated against this as a breach of solemn faith, and again repeated in the most unmistakeable terms the threat that if an attack by the military were made they would massacre every one of the prisoners. This threat apparently did not produce its effect on the mind of Colonel Théagénis, or, if he saw clearly what the result would be, it did not deter him from the military operations. The cordon of troops was drawn tighter; and on the following day the brigands became exasperated at the prospect of troops appearing on the scene. Still, if only prudence and discretion had been used, no life would have been sacrificed, for we have the distinct statement of Mr. Noel that if one day more had been allowed him for negotiations — if this fatal step had not been recklessly pressed on — all would have been well. We have in these Papers a telegram from him, dated Thursday, half-past 1 o'clock — two or three hours before the frightful tragedy — in which he said the detachments must not pursue, and that the brigands would accept the terms offered them. It was a question of a very few hours. But the troops pressed on. The brigands took alarm. They crossed the river; they advanced northward. They found themselves suddenly confronted by, or at any rate, in the sight of, troops. They took to flight. At this critical conjuncture there appeared on the right, on the seaboard, a Greek man-of-war; and then at the same fatal moment there is every reason to believe the troops fired upon the brigands. Not even then — for they seem to have had a marvellous forbearance — even then they did not murder the prisoners immediately, but after retreating some distance further they effected the horrible massacre. These, my Lords, are the facts of the case. It would be unbecoming in me to attempt to portray the high character of those who fell. Though one may lament them, though one may regret them, though there may be wounds which no time can heal, so far as personal feeling goes, I cannot utter a lament over those who fell without a murmur, without one unmanly word — with that English courage which refused to say a single syllable which could compromise anybody — but with the sympathy of a great country with them. Nor will I say anything as to the official character which two of those gentlemen possessed. I will not pause to argue what amount of political sanctity is thrown around the person of one who is attached to a Legation or Embassy. I will not draw distinctions here. They all, Englishmen and Italian, fell together, united in death, and I will not separate them in argument. The question I have to ask is, who was responsible for this act? My Lords, I wish to proceed as dispassionately as possible. Everyone will admit that there were three certain causes which led to their death; and that but for those three causes they would unquestionably be living at this moment. There was first of all the assurance of safety given to them before they left Athens; secondly, there was the refusal of the Greek Government to grant the amnesty; thirdly, there was the movement of troops. Now, whatever may be thought as to the right or wrong of those causes, there can be no doubt that if the Greek Government had not given these assurances of safety, or if they had granted the amnesty, or if they had not moved troops, the catastrophe would not have occured. With regard to the first cause — at the end of March or beginning of April there appeared in the newspapers — and in the Government newspapers if I mistake not — a formal announcement that brigandage was suppressed in Greece, and credit was taken by them that that evil had been rooted out by the exertions of the Government. But that was not all. Inquiry was made to the proper accredited channel. Through the Legation inquiry was twice made to the Greek authorities whether or not the road to Marathon was safe. They were assured it was safe — that the idea of danger was almost ridiculous; but an escort was given as a matter of form, consisting only of four mounted troopers; and though it is true a large body was subsequently in the day sent, there is nothing to show even in these Papers that these troops were sent for the special purpose of watching over the safety of the travellers. Even if it was so, there is still less to show that they communicated with the prisoners. One of the soldiers, indeed, says that such a communication was made; but it is denied by the dragoman, and two of the party, who spoke Greek fluently, certainly would have understood such a communication if it had boon made. It will hardly be believed that, while these assurances of safety wore given, the acting Minister of the Interior on this very same day, the 11th, reports to his sub-ordinate officer that brigands were supposed to be on this very Marathon road, which had a very few hours before been declared to be safe by the authorities. Was there ever a more extraordinary proceeding? But after the capture had taken place what was the conduct of the Greek Government? After the capture the terms required wore an amnesty. Now, my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) has most effectually disposed of the frivolity of the objections entertained to granting an amnesty. They were entertained, it is said, forsooth, on constitutional grounds. Why, a constitutional Ministry surely, has the power of taking to itself such an act of authority, and then of going to the Legislature for an indemnity, if necessary; and if they feared to ask for an indemnity it only shows that they preferred their places and their salaries to the lives of the prisoners. In other countries where law is settled, where the Constitution has been faithfully observed for generation after generation, these arguments might, no doubt, be of force. It might be all very well in those cases to plead the principles of abstract law; but where you have, as in Greece, a Government which notoriously treats with brigands — which has, even in this case, agents and emissaries passing between them; when successive Ministers have been notoriously concerned in brigandage, and have been accused of sharing the plunder; when the whole public life of constitutional Greece for many years has been the negation of law, are you then to tell me that abstract law is to be observed, and that they who have violated it in every conceivable instance are to have the impudence of straining at a gnat after swallowing a camel, and to declare that they abide by the letter of the law, though the lives of Englishmen are at stake? My Lords, if even the amnesty had been ultimately declined, was it right to cut all negotiations short by a peremptory refusal, and to put the lives of the prisoners to imminent hazard? But the whole argument is utterly frivolous. If that amnesty had been granted no man can doubt that the lives of the prisoners were safe. The Greek Government, however, refused it; and not only did they refuse that, but they refused every other means that would have saved the lives of the prisoners; they refused a pardon, they refused a formal trial, they refused a special commission: — and what was the alternative which they chose? Why, the movement of troops. Now, if there be one thing more absolutely certain than another, it is that the movement of troops in such circumstances as these was fatal to the prisoners. There was not a Greek in Athens who was not perfectly aware of this. This is not an isolated case, for it had happened over and over again. There was the case of Lord John Hervey and Mr. Strutt, two years ago. Their safety consisted in their distance from Athens, out of reach of negotiations by the Government; and the solitary danger to which they were exposed was the movement of troops. There was a Greek Minister two years ago (M. Soteropoulos), who was carried off by brigands, and who published a very remarkable account of his captivity. That work has been translated into English, and it records the whole transaction. The one danger he underwent was when troops were moved up. The brigands, like many other guilds and corporations, have certain fixed laws to which they are inflexibly bound, and from which they cannot swerve without holding themselves disgraced in the eyes of the fraternity and destroying their vocation; and amongst those laws is the rule to allow no rescue of prisoners by armed force. It is, in truth, founded on the plain common sense of the matter that if a rescue were possible their hideous trade would be at an end. They were therefore bound; and you have, moreover, the statement of every one of the prisoners that the very day they were captured came a solemn warning that the first movement of troops would be followed by the sacrifice of their lives. Mr. Erskine felt this, too, so keenly that he obtained from the Minister of War and President of the Council a solemn engagement that troops should not be moved. The brigands accepted that assurance, and on the faith of it they descended from their vantage ground in the mountains, and placed themselves at a disadvantage, with the open plain on the south, with the Negropont on the right, and, as it afterwards turned out, with troops on the north. The movement of troops, therefore, was certain death; and yet that step was taken. Even the agent of the Government, Colonel Théagénis, before he had adopted the fatal step, was quite aware that any movement of troops would be fatal, for, writing on the 20th, the day previous, he said — It appears that the brigands intend to move towards Bœmotia, and an attack directed against them must expose the lives of the captives to inevitable danger. Again, later on, after the transaction, he says his object was to surround the village and to prevent the brigands making a sortie, after killing the captives, according to their custom. … The customs of brigands in these cases with regard to their prisoners are well known.

Mr. Noel, moreover, writing to Mr. Erskine on the 22nd, says — The death of the captives was certain, as I previously wrote, the moment the troops came into collision with the brigands. Such being the case, there must either have been the grossest mismanagement, or — though I almost shrink from saying it — there must have been criminal intention. Now, gross mismanagement there no doubt was. Will it be believed that when Colonel Théagénis tried to surround the village he absolutely refused the offer of 300 French Marines, who probably would, at all events, have made the attempt successful, and so far might have given a chance to the prisoners? He failed to surround them, and the flight took place. Even then, when the brigands found themselves confronted by the troops, they sent a messenger with a warning to Colonel Théagénis that if they were pursued further the lives of the prisoners would be forfeited; yet, still the pursuit was continued. The brigands were attacked, the prisoners were murdered, and then, as if in irony, two-thirds of the band were allowed to escape. It may be said, indeed, that Mr. Erskine, our Minister, consented to the movement of those troops. Now, I regret that he should ever have given any consent, however qualified. I hope that that consent was guarded by many restrictions which were subsequently set at naught by the Government, and I do not doubt that it was wrung from him by a multitude of considerations, and by urgent entreaty. I am bound also to admit that Mr. Erskine's position seems to me to have been one of peculiar difficulty. He was left alone and single-handed in the midst of a semi-barbarous people, to deal as he could with the emergency; and I should be ungenerous and unjust if I failed to make the utmost allowance for a man who, I believe, to the very best of his power, exerted every effort, mental and physical, to secure the release of the captives. I must, however, put a question to my noble Friend on this point. It is said, and upon good authority, that while Mr. Erskine was thus contending single-handed he telegraphed to Constantinople, to Mr. Barron, our Chargé d'Affaires there, to obtain the assistance of a Secretary of Legation, who was already under orders to sail to Athens; that that telegram reached this gentleman in time; that Mr. Watson was ready to start by the steamer the very next day; and that he was prevented by Mr. Barron, the Chargé d' Affaires. Now, I do not know what the justifying circumstances may have been, I can only say that they ought to have been circumstances of the highest moment — which, as far as I know, had no existence — to have justified Mr. Barron in refusing his co-operation.

Having shown that there were certain causes which led to this massacre; that those were causes for which the responsibility unquestionably attaches to the Greek Government; and that that Government took the wrong course, I have now to ask whether there was a motive which could possibly determine them to pursue that course. On the first blush there is a great mystery. Here are Englishmen and an Italian taken by brigands. An enormous ransom is asked — £25,000 — enough to make this small band of 21, rich men for the rest of their lives. The cash is absolutely there, all told out ready for their acceptance. The conditions offered to them are most reasonable, and, on the other hand, brigand law is perfectly well understood. The result of an attack upon the brigands is certain, as Colonel Théagénis himself acknowledged — and yet two days afterwards he makes that attack. Now, I say, on the first blush, there is a mystery, and we are not altogether unjustified in asking what motives can be assigned for the course pursued by the Greek Government? Can you say that it was an error of judgment on their part? I wish I could reasonably think so. My belief is that whatever other merits or defects an Eastern people may have, stupidity is not generally one of them. They generally know pretty well what they are doing and what they mean to effect. Consider what the position of the Greek Government locally was. At the beginning of the month they had formally announced that brigandage through their exertions had been suppressed. They had staked their credit on this fact. A fortnight afterwards their statements are falsified by the capture of these unfortunate persons. We see by the Papers that they were already being attacked on all sides. The Opposition threatened a violent attack. The English and Italian Ministers told them in so many words that they would be held responsible for all the consequences; and what did they see before them? They saw as the only probable solution of their difficulties that an English ship of war would transport the brigands elsewhere, and that they would ultimately be called upon to pay the ransom. They must have felt that they would be discredited; that the moment the Legislature met they would lose their places; but, on the other hand, that they would recover their reputation if by a sudden stroke they succeeded in restoring the prisoners to liberty, while they would avoid the payment of money under any circumstances, even if they failed and even if the prisoners fell victims to the brigands. These are strong inducements to men who are actuated by no high principle. But it is not sufficient to look merely at these motives. It is only fair and just in making such an indirect charge, to ask whether the whole character and conduct of the Government give colour to such, an explanation? Now, was there any one step taken by the Greek Government which was not really calculated to bring about the tragedy which ensued? Was there any one step which they might have taken to prevent it which they did not refuse to take? They refused an amnesty; they refused a formal trial; they refused a special commission; and, though I have seen it otherwise stated in the newspapers, I say, on the authority of the official papers, and without fear of contradiction, that they never offered to provide a halfpenny of the ransom. That was provided by merchants at Athens. Again, it is a subject of ceaseless blame in the letters of the prisoners that the agents sent by the Greek Government were men of no weight with the brigands. It appears, too — and it is an extraordinary picture — that there were emissaries and agents passing from the brigands to the Government and vice versâ that they were in Athens, walking about, apparently in full relation to both parties, in the town and outside the town; that when the brigands met troops with officers at their head they fraternized, and even sat down to dine with them, although they were apparently in numbers equal, or very nearly equal, to them. There is, moreover, a circumstance which, I trust, has not escaped the eye of my noble Friend — the very unsatisfactory manner in which, at the most critical moment of the transaction, telegrams were delayed. The Italian Minister complains of it, and says it is absolutely inconceivable how it occurred. There is, further, the statement of the correspondent of The Times — a gentleman who has lived so long at Athens that no man is more conversant with the state of things there, and whose statements are worthy of great consideration — that at the commencement of this transaction the Prefect of Eubœa delayed a telegram to Mr. Noel which was of the most vital consequence, requesting him to send as negotiator to the brigands one of their own brothers, who would have had special weight and consideration with them. What has become of that Prefect? Have the Greek Government called him to account? Again, Mr. Noel tells you that there was a subordinate official who, at the very crisis of the matter, when time was counted by minutes not by hours, absolutely prevented his having a boat to bring him on to the scene of action. What has been done to him? I do not say this in any fault-finding spirit with regard to my noble Friend opposite. He has done everything in his power, and exerted himself to the utmost in the earlier part of the transaction, most courteously entertaining any suggestion that I ventured to make to him. Concealment is part of the policy of the Greek Government. General Soutzos' intimacy with Greek brigands is notorious. He has resigned; but is his resignation to hush up whatever may have occurred of a questionable nature? Colonel Théagénis, even, who distinctly foresaw the result and yet precipitated it, is he not to be called to some account? He remains in office, apparently honoured and trusted by the Greek Government. There is not a word in the correspondence in which he does not appear as their trusted and confidential servant. And what is the conduct of the Government themselves? Where the Government has placed itself in so suspicious a position, what ought you to expect? Why, clearly this — that they should come forward and say — "We will be the first to make clear every part of the transaction as far as we are concerned. We court every inquiry, and investigation of the most rigid nature." But what is actually their conduct? I have read in the last issue of Papers, with an astonishment which I cannot express, that the Greek Government have absolutely been raising obstacles in the way of the English lawyers sent out to Athens by my noble Friend to watch the proceedings and cross-examine the witnesses. Not content with that, the Council of Ministers have absolutely refused Mr. Erskine and the Italian Minister permission to be present at the examination of witnesses, because, forsooth, it is to be carried on in secresy. My Lords, I do not so trust the Greek Government, as to be willing to confide to their secresy in this matter, and I trust the English Parliament and the English people will not be content to accept that excuse any more than my noble Friend opposite has done. There is something else, moreover. When the Greek gunboat appeared on the coast, at the time of this frightful murder, there was in her rigging a Scotch engineer with a field glass at his eye. He had watched all the transactions for a long time, and he was probably within a few hundred yards of the scene of the actual murder; but he had also seen what occurred before the murder, and in two passages in this correspondence he states that he would willingly toll what he saw if he dared; but he does not dare, for fear of displeasing his employers, the Greek Government. Now, what ought to be the conduct of any Government or individual under such circumstances? Why, not only to release Mr. Yates from any obligation to secresy, but oven to insist on Ids tolling what he saw. I am glad my noble Friend is not disposed to accept the explanation of the Greek Government. It is not difficult for us to guess what Mr. Yates saw. He saw that which it is the object of Colonel Théagénis to conceal. He saw that the troops attacked the brigands before the brigands murdered the prisoners. You have this significant fact, that not one soldier was killed — I believe not one even wounded — while six or seven of the brigands were shot down. The brigands felt themselves in an extremity; the strength of their unfortunate captives was exhausted, and not till then — not till some of their own comrades had fallen — did they murder them. In one case the captive was carried several miles before he was murdered. Lastly, you have the unimpeachable evidence — evidence of a witness who tells you that the soldiers themselves told him that the bodies of the brigands who had been shot down were lying between Oropos and Dilessi, where the murder occurred; that they were, therefore, lying some half-hour back on the road before the time when the first murder occurred. He himself the next morning saw the birds of prey hovering over the corpses of the brigands. I say, then, this is a ease against the Greek Government which, at all events, justifies the terms of my question. It justifies me in saying that the gravest suspicion attaches to them. I wish I could say that no suspicion attached to the Opposition; but there is the distinct statement of the Greek Prime Minister that these matters wore stirred up and fomented by loading members of the Opposition. I know that M. Zaïms, the Greek Minister, has since formerly contradicted this statement, and has attempted to explain it away — but the attempted contradiction has signally failed, and the fact remains. You have it stated by the brigands themselves — stated in different forms — that great personages in the background at Athens were in active correspondence with them; there is also the deposition of the captured brigands that men came out to them to negotiate. It is, indeed, certain that confabulations on more than one occasion occurred between strangers, apparently from Athens, with the brigand chief; and, last of all, letters are found on the person of that chief purporting to be written by a person in authority, in which the brigands are entreated to insist on the amnesty which the Government had refused as impracticable. From all those facts, I say neither the Greek Opposition nor the Greek Government themselves can claim to be free from all suspicion of complicity. Amid all this wretched scene of political devilry and social corruption there is but one figure which commands my respect or sympathy. The Greek King, at least, was worthy of his position as a Danish gentleman, and knew how to conduct himself, even in the midst of the corruption by which he was surrounded, and to express the horror he felt at these acts of blood and treachery. This, then, is the state of the case. The Opposition, as I believe, encouraged the brigands in demands which they knew were not to be granted; the subordinates of the Government thwarted the negotiations as they arose; and, lastly, the Government themselves jeopardized and, as it turned out, sacrificed the lives of the prisoners, from an affected punctilio of respect to the Constitution. It was a faction fight, a political game, the counters of which were the lives of the unfortunate prisoners, and the prize of which was some paltry office at Athens.

What, under all these circumstances, remains to be done? My noble Friend opposite has done much. I am sure his sympathy is true. I am sure he is anxious to do all he can. But let me remind the House what this country has done for Greece. We established her independence. We have assumed the position of a Protecting Power. We have given her money; we have given her credit; we have given her territory, and in order to do that we have stripped ourselves of one of our fairest possessions; and finally, at the last change of dynasty, we guaranteed £4,000 a year to the reigning Sovereign. What, on the other hand, has Greece done for us — or, I may say, for the whole world? She has accepted our money, she has received our benefits, not hesitating to abuse them afterwards; she has taken the Ionian Islands; and if there is any truth in the Parliamentary Papers issued some years ago, she has already succeeded in breaking up their prosperity. She has lastly dishonoured our Protectorate. In 1854, as my noble Friend will well remember — for no despatches could be keener or sharper than his on that point — she stirred up insurrection in Thessaly and Epirus, and made herself the hotbed of insurrection and intrigue in the East. More recently, in Crete, she very nearly lit up the flames of a European war. And now, lastly, she suffers English and Italian subjects, who had every sanction that could attach to peaceable subjects of friendly Governments, to be foully murdered a few miles from Athens; while the members of the Government have placed themselves in a position of such suspicion that they may justly be called upon to say whether or not they are guilty of complicity. Under these circumstances they take refuge in a secret investigation, and refuse us a full and open inquiry. My Lords, the English people are a very forbearing people. Our enemies sometimes tell us that the old fire of the English character has burnt out like straw, and that a nation whose acts and words has now passed into mere wind and tongue, and counts for absolutely nothing but a second-rate Power. We have talked so much of non-intervention that we have deceived ourselves and a good many other nations; and allow me to say — very sorrowfully, and not by way of complaint against any Administration — that by our system we so tie the hands of our Ministers abroad that it is impossible for them to act; while we, nevertheless, expect them to show vigour when the emergency arises. If Mr. Erskine, as soon as he heard of the capture, had ordered our fleet to Athens — if, as perhaps a French Minister would have done, he had said to the Government — "We hold you individually and collectively responsible for the release of the prisoners" — does anybody doubt that the catastrophe would have been averted? If, however, it had been thus averted, there are a good many persons in England who would have found fault with Mr. Erskine, and many who have blamed my noble Friend for having gone so far beyond the ordinary sphere of conventional English diplomacy as to offer a ship-of-war for the conveyance of the brigands to another country. Now, if England chooses to proclaim herself to the world as a second-rate Power she must take the consequences. She must understand that all over the globe she will be taken at her word, and set down at the value at which she estimates herself. I will not embarrass my noble Friend by suggesting courses of action to him, for it might put him in a difficult position to reply to me. One thing only I will say — that this is not a case where the mere execution of the brigands is sufficient. I see by the last Papers that several persons who are said to be brigands have been executed. My noble Friend will do well to consider whether there is any proof that they are really brigands, or whether, according to a fashion so common in the East, peasants and other innocent or quasi innocent persons are not sacrificed. In the next place, no mere diplomatic apology will, I hope, be accepted as sufficient; nor any mere retirement of Ministers, on whose character I do not care to dwell. What we want — what I believe the English people desire and claim — is that there should be a full, clear, perfectly just trial of every single person, no matter what his rank or class, against whom there can be any fair suspicion of complicity with these foul murders. It may be said that the Courts are in a very unsettled state, and that an appeal to a bad, corrupt, or incompetent tribunal is equivalent to no appeal at all. I can only say that this complaint is not new — that we have been in that position before with other countries — it is no new case to my noble Friend; and I do not pretend to tell him how to deal with it; but what the English people will require is a perfectly just trial of every person who may be suspected of complicity in this transaction. In the next place, I think we have an ultimate duty to discharge to the world at large. We undertook the protection of Greece — we undertook certain duties; and this occurrence is enough to show how signally we have failed in discharging them. If the victims had not been English subjects — had they been Austrians or Prussians — what answer could we have made had those Governments required the lives of their subjects at our hands? Could we have replied that for years and years past, while we were nominally discharging the duties of a Protecting Power, we allowed a state of iniquitous lawlessness to grow up, such as exists, probably, in no other part of Europe? My Lords, the facts that have been lately transacted in the face of the world show how insufficient, how inadequate, how worse than useless our protection has been.

My Lords, I have now accomplished the task I have undertaken — how insufficiently, no one can be more sensible than myself: I commit the matter to the House. I commit it also to that which is greater and beyond the House — to the sense of justice of the English people. I trust I have said nothing to embarrass my noble Friend, or to prejudice the action Her Majesty's Government may see fit to take. I admit the difficulties of the case; but what I wish is that the world should know that English life-blood is not to be poured out like dirty water into the kennel; and that my noble Friend opposite should also know that he has Parliament and the country at his back, in any demands which he may make for the maintenance of English honour and in justice to the dead. The noble Earl concluded by asking Her Majesty's Government, What measures they are prepared to adopt to obtain redress from the Greek Government for the recent seizure in the immediate neighbourhood of Athens and the barbarous murder of English subjects under circumstances of grave suspicion attaching to the Greek Government and certain other persons, both in and out of Office, in that country.


My Lords, I am sure I shall only be representing the feelings of your Lordships' House when I say with what deep interest and attention we have listened to the speech of my noble Friend. It is impossible that this question could have been brought forward in a more discreet and temperate spirit than has been shown by my noble Friend. I cannot wonder that he should have desired to take the earliest opportunity of bringing this lamentable subject before this House, and, as he has said, before the country — of publicly sifting the causes that have led to this terrible catastrophe, and of invoking exemplary punishment on the heads of all, whatever may be their rank or position, who have been in any way connected with it. I am so far from blaming him that I do not even wonder that my noble Friend has pursued this course as most satisfactory to his own feelings, and which I am sure he conscientiously believes will be most conducive to the cause of justice. But, in my opinion, a discussion of this question at the present moment is not likely to lead to any practical result. If there had been any shortcoming on the part of the Government, if it had displayed any lack of vigour, of ardour, or of earnestness in this great calamity — if Papers had been withheld, or if any information were shown to have been obtained, and were not forthcoming, then indeed I should have thought a discussion not only necessary, but imperatively called for. But such is not the case. My noble Friend attributes no blame to the Government: on the contrary, I must express my thanks to him for the manner in which he has approved the course taken by the Government; and I can assure him that it is no small comfort and consolation to us to think that the relatives of these unfortunate men do not consider that any single practicable measure for their safety was neglected at our hands. But, my Lords, no information has been asked for because none has been withheld. We have, from the first, been most anxious that every information connected with this tragical event, which, more than any other in my recollection, has stirred up the hearts and minds of the people of this country — my most anxious desire has been that every information should, at the earliest moment, be laid upon the Table. I believe I can say that every despatch and every telegram of importance has been quickly printed, distributed, and laid before the country. Your Lordships, therefore, and the public are just as well able as the Government to judge of the precise state of things. You know that the trial of the brigand prisoners was to commence the day before yesterday; but, perhaps, you do not know that a telegram has been received this afternoon which states that — Seven of the Arvanitaioi brigands, of whom, however, three were captured previous to the affair at Delissi, were condemned to death this morning, after a trial which lasted 13 hours. Whether these seven were among the brigands who actually committed the murders I do not know; but I have no doubt that evidence, which tends to throw great light upon the transaction, must have been elicited in the course of this 13 hours inquiry. We know that investigations of a very important character are now being conducted, at Athens; and I must say of these that Mr. Erskine considers they are conducted with as much speed as possible. The evidence is constantly varying, it is contradictory, and it is imperfect. For instance, your Lordships will have in your hands tomorrow a despatch from Sir Augustus Paget, giving an account of the examination, lasting several hours, of Count Boyl's servant, who was said to have expressed some strong opinions as to the complicity of the courier-guide, Alexander. The result of this examination, in which Sir Augustus Paget and the Secretary of Legation took an active part, appears to be that the subsequent examination was of a different tenor, and that the had been led into error. Again, it was only yesterday that we heard of the very important letter — to which my noble Friend has alluded — written by some person of importance, which was found on the body of the brigand chief, and the writer of which was supposed to have been discovered; as yet, however, we have not got the information. We know, again, that several persons in public and political positions are supposed to be connected generally with brigandage, and, possibly, with this late outbreak and horrible crime; but as yet no proof has been brought home to them. I say, then, that the evidence is incomplete — the case has not been made up — we are not yet in a position to decide upon the the relative and collective accountability of anybody in Greece, and therefore we are not in a position to arrive at any decision with respect to what we ought to do; and even if we were — even if we had that information, even if we were aware of all the circumstances on which we ought to found a decision — I am sure your Lordships will admit that it would be imprudent, and that it would tend to frustrate the object which we have in view, if I were to make a communication prematurely to this House. I can heartily sympathize with my noble Friend in his wishes. He cannot possibly desire more than I do that the necessary representations on the part of this country should promptly and properly be made. But he will understand the reticence which I must feel, and the responsibility under which I speak not only as to what we may do, but as to what we may not do. I shall not even refer to those various measures, whether of retribution or of intervention, which the public horror and indignation have suggested. I do not think it would serve any practical purpose if I were to follow my noble Friend through the history of what has happened — first, because he has himself referred to the circumstances at length, and with the utmost perspicuity and clearness; and, secondly, because they are known to your Lordships, all of whom, I doubt not, have read the minutest details of harrowing interest which have been laid before you. Nor do I think it would be useful to comment upon them. But I wish to say one or two words as to questions that have been touched upon by my noble Friend — first, as to the amnesty; and, secondly, as to the diplomatic character of two of the victims. I am glad to allude to the question of amnesty, because some strictures have been passed upon me for having disregarded the claim of the Greek Government to make the Constitution of Greece a bar to the grant of an amnesty at the moment when the lives of my countrymen were in jeopardy. My Lords, I did disregard that plea, because I knew how often the Greek Constitution had been violated. I especially bore in mind, when writing upon that subject, that only three years ago, in the year 1867, a large number of notorious brigands were released, in violation of the Constitution, and sent to Crete to play the rôle of so-called patriots, and to raise the flame of insurrection in a neighbouring and friendly country; and I did think that a similar course might be taken when the lives of my fellow-countrymen were at stake — I did expect that an equally indulgent view might be taken of what the Constitution of Greece would permit. I believe I am not mistaken in supposing that an hon. and learned Friend of mine, in "another place," (Sir Roundell Palmer) justified my disregarding the Constitution of Greece in this particular, as far as two of the prisoners wore concerned, on the ground that they were invested with the diplomatic character. Truth compels me to state that whatever I did, I did it to save the lives of all the four prisoners, and with no other view. Whether rightly or wrongly, I should have acted precisely in the same manner on behalf of Mr. Vyner and Mr. Lloyd as on behalf of any person connected with the Embassy. I know well the great privileges of Ambassadors, and of all that belongs to them. I know that their persons are inviolate, that their residences may not be entered, and that their households are protected. They are protected not only by International Law, but in this country by statute law; for by a most remarkable statute of Queen Anne, passed on the occasion of the Russian Ambassador having been arrested, immunities and privileges are secured to the diplomatic body which they scarcely enjoy in any other country. But I cannot think that a sacred halo attends the Minister, his secretaries, and attachés wherever they travel about the country. I admit that ancient writers — and, indeed, modern writers — lay down distinctly the International Law, when they say of the representative of the Sovereign that his person must be sacred eundo, morando, et redeundo; but I think that doctrine applied to different times and to a different state of things, when the passage of the Ambassador to or from the frontier was sometimes a pageant and sometimes a danger; and, without saying that International Law has been changed, I think that forms and practices under the International Law may change, and do change, according to times and customs, and particularly with reference to the freedom of action and great facility of communication that now prevails. Now, no Minister or Secretary would take the trouble of informing the Government of his intended movements in order that he should have any special protection in a country where there is no real apprehension of danger. In Greece there was this apprehension of danger, and such protection was afforded when it was asked for. Supposing it possible, therefore, that we were to make a scale of reparation for the gentlemen who have been murdered, I doubt very much whether we should be justified in claiming a higher reparation in the case of Mr. Herbert than in that of Mr. Vyner. In the case of the murder of Mr. Herbert, which was an offence against International Law, which overrides municipal law, we certainly might — aswould certainly have been done in olden times — we might have claimed the surrender of the assassin, either from distrust of the tribunals of the country, or because we chose to have the execution of justice in our own hands. But I may be allowed to point out that in this, as in all similar cases, the assertion of special rights and privileges is often accompanied, by special difficulties. A case in point will occur to many of your Lordships. I refer to the case of Mr. Sullivan, who, in 1857, was our Consul General at Lima, and who, while at dinner in his own house, was shot by a man who entered the room with a blunderbuss, and was wounded so badly that he died a few days afterwards. The Peruvian Government, full of indignation and horror, offered us every reparation in their power — all we might choose to demand, or to accept, if it were offered — the surrender of the assassin. The answer of our Law Officers was, that it could not be done. The application was made to them specially on this ground — that our Chargé d' Affaires was shot in the British Legation House, which was, for all purposes, British territory. But the opinion of our Law Officers was, that we could not accept the surrender of the criminal if the offer should be made; because, being a foreigner, and not a subject of the Queen, he was not amenable to English law; and that the fact of the murder having been committed in what might be called British territory, did not confer upon the English tribunals the power or privilege of trying the assassin. The consequence was that the murderer was tried by the tribunals of his own country — as the assassins of Mr. Herbert and his countrymen will be — and that the Government contented itself in that case, as it will in this, with watching the proceedings, and examining, if necessary, the witnesses. It is quite true that — as my noble Friend has said — the Greek Government has manifested an unwillingness to admit of this intervention on our part, which we regard to be absolutely necessary. Your Lordships will have seen by the Papers that have been laid before you that the refusal, on the part of the Greek Government, is absolute, and that it is founded upon the provisions of the 2nd and 3rd Articles of the Code. I lost no time in submitting these Articles to my hon. and learned Friend on the Woolsack, and I have his high authority for stating that — The clauses of the Code quoted by M. Valaority, in his letter of the 12th of May, do not prohibit the Judges from relaxing the rule as to an injured party not being allowed to claim as of right to be present during preliminary proceedings if the Judges think proper to do so; and in every country the tribunal can control its own procedure so as best to secure justice. In the present case, where England has such a right as she now has of demanding the fullest information from Greece, it is clear that the Greek Government is bound to permit your presence, supported by your advocates, and that it is in no way impeded by the Code from doing so. To give up such a right would be to surrender justice when England is entitled to demand the fullest information from Greece, while it is satisfactory to find it is in no way impeded by the Articles of the Code. I think, therefore, your Lordships will be of opinion that Her Majesty's Government have taken every possible precaution against a failure of justice. I must add there is no appearance of any avoidable delay on the part of the Greek Government in following up this matter, and we must as best we can restrain our impatience till the investigation now in progress is completed. We shall then know where complicity exists, and to whom culpability attaches; we shall then be better informed than we now are of the extent of those social and political ramifications underground which are the curse and scourge of the country. We shall then, also, be able to form a more accurate idea of the extent to which these deplorable murders maybe made the occasion of a better future for Greece. And I do not think that that is impossible — because during the last month the Government, having been honestly active, have done more to assist and disperse the brigands than has been done in whole years before. I hold in my hand a telegram dated Constantinople, May 22, 4.20 p.m., stating that — The Governor General of Janina informs the Porte that a band of 15 Greek brigands captured three shepherds near Trikala, in Thessaly, and took them to Cataro, at two leagues from the frontier, where they put them to death. Turkish frontier guard pursued them across the boundary, gave information to the Greek troops, who have not been able to capture them. It is quite a mistake to suppose that the Greek peasantry sympathize with brigandage — the brigands do nothing but oppress and plunder them, and they never receive any share of the plunder. The people of Greece are peaceable and industrious, and if they lived under a Government which attended to their welfare, they would thrive and prosper. But we must not only remember in this case what is due to the Government and people of Greece, but we must also remember what is due to the King of Greece, to whom my noble Friend referred in very just terms. We must remember that the King of Greece is there not of his own seeking, but that he had been placed there by the three Protecting Powers; and it must be said for him that, young as he is, he has well justified his selection. We all know how prominently he came forward, and with what excellent feelings, as soon as the news of the capture of the travellers reached him; and how warmly he afterwards expressed his sense of humiliation that such a catastrophe should have happened in a kingdom over which he was ruler. My Lords, he has had other humiliations to bear, and of a kind hard to be borne; but he has never swerved from the strictest constitutional principles — he has never consented to govern otherwise than within the limits fixed by the law — and on those occasions in which it was possible for him to make his personal influence immediately felt, he had always shown the greatest courage and prudence. It is not the fault of his Majesty, but of the weakness and corruption of successive Administrations, that brigandage, which is demoralizing all classes in that country, yet remains to be put down. Its complete suppression is, my Lords, the sine quâ non of that progress in Greece which the Protecting Powers have so long and so vainly looked for at the hands of her ruling men, who neglect the substance of national prosperity in clutching at the shadow of their own idle and visionary dreams. When and how far this good work is to be accomplished — how far it may have the support of the Greek Government — how far the public men of the country may awake to a sense of her true national interests — how far the advice of foreign Powers may be regarded — these are all points on which no solution has yet been arrived at. I need not remind your Lordships that the position is one of peculiar embarrassment, seeing that Greece is under the protection of three independent Powers; but I do not doubt — on the contrary, I do certainly trust — that France and Russia will be found to concur with us in anything that we can show to be conducive to sound and honest government in Greece. My Lords, I know it is not regular to allude to what passed the other night in "another place;" but I cannot doubt that your Lordships have all read and approved the opinions expressed on this subject by my right hon. Friend who is at the head of the Government with reference to the conduct of Mr. Erskine. My Lords, holding the Office I have the honour to fill, I feel I should be wanting in my duty if I did not express my opinion of the ability with which Mr. Erskine has acted under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty — particularly having regard to the fact stated by the noble Earl with reference to the Secretary of Legation at Constantinople — a matter on which I have called for an explanation, which I have not yet received. Considering that Mr. Erskine had to communicate single-handed with the Foreign Minister, with his colleagues, with the brigands, with the captives, and with his own Government, it is not easy to realize the difficulties of conducting such a correspondence. Indeed, several of the enclosures received from him were written so irregularly and in so unintelligible a manner that they took some of the best men in the Foreign Office four hours to decipher them. If it were possible for us to put ourselves in the position of Mr. Erskine, we should feel that he did his best. My Lords, I cannot sit down without saying one word more. I had not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with Mr. Herbert, but, from all the chiefs under whom he served, I have had the highest testimonies to his worth and ability; and surely no one can have read his touching diary — so full of composure, such total abnegation of himself, such entire unselfishness, such filial affection and thoughtfulness, such resignation to the terrible fate but too clearly foreseen — no one can have read that diary without a deep sense of his worth, and of the untimely end of so promising a career. I will detain your Lordships no longer, for I feel that nothing that I can now say — nothing that has been said "elsewhere" — is adequate to the sadness of the event, and also because I feel that no practical advantage can arise from further discussion at the present moment. Seeing that the investigation as to the murders is still pending, my noble Friend will be conscious that I can give no distinct answer to his question as to the course the Government may hereafter think it proper to take. I have already written, on the 7th of May, to Mr. Brailas-Armeni, stating — I must take this opportunity of repeating that which I verbally stated to you yesterday, that the best proof of the sorrow of the Greek Government will be found in the investigation of this atrocious crime being thorough, complete, and sincere in its disregard of persons of whatever category, whom it may reach, and having for its sole object the truth. In demanding this Her Majesty's Government do not go beyond the strictest requirements of justice; and if the Greek Government neglects this opportunity of purging the country from the scandal of general brigandage, when the nation is roused to a sense of its final consequences, it may never again recur; but it will be some satisfaction to Her Majesty's Government if the fate of their murdered countrymen should servo to improve the condition of Greece, in which England has always taken a lively interest. I can assure your Lordships that no efforts shall be wanting on our part to secure these two ends; and it may not, perhaps, be altogether presumptuous to I express the hope that from this deed of blood we may date the commencement of a day of more real regeneration for Greece.


My Lords, I rise with no intention of continuing the debate, but I feel it necessary to follow up what the noble Earl has said in reference to the position of Mr. Erskine at Athens when this deplorable occurrence took place. I trust that the noble Earl will inform himself how it happened that Mr. Erskine was alone in Athens. We must all of us know how comfortable and useful it is, in any difficulty that may overtake us in foreign countries, to find near us some Englishman, on whom we can rely for advice and personal assistance. It appears, however, that Mr. Erskine was, by some unfortunate chance, without the assistance which officially he ought to have had at the time of the capture. At the moment of this transaction the Legation at Athens was shorthanded, Mr. Erskine and the Secretary, Mr. Herbert, being the only members of the Legation there; so that when Mr. Herbert was taken by the brigands Mr. Erskine had the whole business of the Embassy thrown on him. The noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) has spoken of the time consumed in deciphering Mr. Erskine's despatches, owing to the evident marks of haste shown in the cipher writing — from this your Lordships may perceive that Mr. Erskine had to endure a vast amount of physical labour, in addition to the great weight on his mind in consequence of having to bear the whole responsibility of the position in which he found himself placed. I should, therefore, like to know why Mr. Erskine was left so short-handed, and also why it was that assistance was prevented from being afforded to him from Constantinople, even when Mr. Erskine sent for it?

VISCOUNT STRATFORD DE REDCLIFFE said, he trusted that his long acquaintance with the affairs of the East, and with the circumstances which led to the establishment of the kingdom of Greece, would excuse him for offering a few words to their Lordships on this most sad and painful subject. He thought their Lordships must feel much indebted to the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) who had brought this matter to their notice, in a manner so honourable to any individual placed under such afflicting circumstances; and, although the Government must feel some natural difficulty in speaking out on such an occasion, he thought the sentiments expressed by his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would be echoed back from every part of the kingdom. He conceived, too, that the opinions expressed on the part of Her Majesty's Government must have a salutary effect, not merely in exciting horror and indignation in respect to this unparalleled atrocity, but in affording an assurance that Her Majesty's Government would contend with every difficulty in order to obtain a thorough investigation of the whole case. He thought, too, that what had occurred would strengthen the hands of Her Majesty's Government in redressing many of the grounds of complaint against the Government of Greece, especially he thought it would be well if Her Majesty's Government took advantage of this opportunity to secure that an end should be put not only to the system of brigandage, but to the circumstances in which it originated, and which tended to disappoint all the benevolent expectations entertained by the three Protecting Powers when the kingdom of Greece was called into existence. Allusion had been made to the generosity exhibited by the unfortunate victims of this atrocity, and certainly everyone who had read the Papers presented to Parliament must feel that the unfortunate victims of this unparalleled outrage had, by their patience, their courage, and the elevation of character they displayed, done honour to the country that gave them birth, and had made an impression that would endure in the memory of those who came after them. He concurred in thinking that the British representative at Athens was placed in circumstances which might fairly have been appealed to in his favour, even if he had happened to commit any noticeable error. He did not say that everything was done precisely as he might have himself advised; but it was clear that Mr. Erskine had striven to the best of his judgment to effect the rescue of the prisoners. Greece having shown on the several occasions to which his noble Friend had alluded that she was habitually at variance with those obligations of International Law the observance of which was necessary for the preservation of peace, we should be exposed to little danger of provoking an European war if we now discharged our duty to the full; but the recognition of that danger did seem to call upon us to view this subject, when the proper time should arrive, not only with reference to the well-known system of brigandage, but still more with reference to those circumstances of Greece and that condition of its government out of which brigandage springs, and with the continuance of which it was impossible that Greece should ever fulfil her international duties, or realize that degree of order and security which it was the object of the Protecting Powers to establish. He had intended to say more on the present occasion, but as it appeared to be the feeling of their Lordships that this was not a time for discussing the details of the question, and as he presumed that the Government would afford their Lordships an opportunity of discussing it on some future day, he would abstain for the moment from any further pursuit of the matter. It had been suggested that the present condition of Greece was largely attributable to the introduction of the monarchical form of government into that country, and he had even seen it stated that brigandage would never have existed if Greece had been governed by a number of republics. But he dismissed that view as an absurdity; and he pronounced it to be an equally mistaken notion that a great many of the evils of Greece arose from the want of more extended territory. He asked whether there was any reason to believe that the social relations of the Greek people had been at all improved by the addition of territory made to Greece when that very questionable measure, the transfer of the Ionian Islands, had taken place. In conclusion, he urged that whatever the Government thought proper to do they should keep in view the destruction of that system of brigandage out of which the late melancholy occurrence had arisen.

THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY said, he could not allow the conversation to close without expressing the hope that the Government would not suppose there was any indifference on the part of that side of the House on this subject, or that they were showing any inclination towards a tame or spiritless course because they had listened to the appeal of the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon), and had not continued a discussion which he declared to be useless. He believed there was in the House a general feeling of gratitude to the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) for the manner in which he had brought forward this most important subject, and he believed, also, that there was a general feeling of confidence in the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Office — and that it was encouraged by the manly and English sentiments he had expressed. He earnestly entreated the noble Earl not to attribute to indifference any apparent quiet or tranquillity on their Lordships' part.

THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY said, he must express his thanks to the noble Earl who introduced the question for the manner in which he had done so. He would add that he believed the House and the country had entire confidence in the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Office. He had shown in the past independence and judgment which there was every reason to trust he would exhibit in the further conduct of the negotiations.

House adjourned at a quarter past Seven o'clock, 'till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.



House of Lords Debates, 11 July 1870 vol 203 cc5-28.


My Lords, it is with much sincere reluctance that I come forward to redeem the pledge which I gave in laying on your Lordships' Table the Notice of my present Motion. At this late period of the Session, when several important Bills remain to be discussed, I feel extremely unwilling to solicit your Lordships' attention even for a brief space on a question of foreign interest. But if I venture, nevertheless, to do so, I hope your Lordships will appreciate the sense of duty which makes me overstep every other consideration. Had those outrageous murders, which have raised so loud a cry of horror and indignation throughout the length and breadth of the land, been perpetrated in any country but Greece, I should not, my Lords, have troubled you with the Motion, which I am now prepared to submit to your Lordships. I have no complaint to make, no mistrust to express of Her Majesty's Government. They and their agents abroad appear to have exerted their best energies to obtain the punishment of the murderers and the discovery of their secret accomplices. This just acknowledgment is more particularly due to the memory of that distinguished Minister who has been called away so suddenly from among us, whose loss is indeed supplied by a hopeful reliance on his noble successor, but over whom we must still throw back our regrets in the recollection of those efficient and attractive qualities by which he refreshed the lustre of an historic title and justified the sorrow of his numerous friends.

There is happily no reason for me to distress your Lordships by going again in detail over the scene of crime and blood. The particulars of the outrage and its attendant complications were fully, ably, and impressively stated on a former occasion by the noble Earl on the Bench behind me, and ample justice has been done to the exemplary conduct of its victims under so awful a visitation. I cannot, however, disguise the impressions left upon my mind by a perusal of the official documents laid upon your Lordships' Table. To use the mildest language, there is no denying that the Greek Ministers exhibited a culpable degree of carelessness in the outset, that secret intrigues were employed to render the brigands intractable, and, finally, that gross mismanagement, however unintended, brought to its fatal point the impending catastrophe.

What we have now to deal with is that system of organized crime but too well known under the name of Brigandage. I need not remind your Lordships that wherever that evil exists, the country, in proportion to its prevalence there, suffers more or less in all the main sources of national prosperity. The land is neglected; industry is checked; and the people are degraded in their habits and moral temperament. Italy, Spain, Hungary, and Turkey, as well as Greece, continue to give evidence of this truth, and great would be the benefit accruing to those countries if their respective Governments could be induced to combine their measures by mutual agreement for the extirpation of a canker at once so vile and so destructive. In Greece the baneful practice has long taken root, and spread its branches to a frightful extent. The late disgusting murders were its legitimate offspring. It has a character peculiar to itself, and dates from the earliest period of Grecian life. The poets and historians of Greece bear witness to its antiquity, and to the evil effects it produced, whether as piracy at sea, or as banded robbery on shore. Unfortunately the geographical configuration of Greece, whether insular or continental, comes in aid of the traditional habits of its people. Long mountainous ridges in the one case, and rocky islands separated by narrow seas in the other, nourish the spirit of adventure, and while they supply motives for a life of spoliation, oppose a barrier to the pursuit of avenging justice. The northern highlands of Greece are, moreover, connected with similar mountains in Turkey. The inhabitants on both sides of the frontier are generally few and scattered. For the most part they are shepherds, and whether the flocks they tend are their own, or only consigned to their care, they lead a wandering life, directed in their movements by the seasons, or by their access to localities abounding in pasture. Would that they were as innocent as their flocks! Unhappily, they not only supply the brigands with intelligence, and occasionally with food, but also from time to time they serve them selves to recruit the plundering bands, as appeared to demonstration from the late trials at Athens. It is their practice to send milk for sale to the towns, and the carriers, whom they employ for that purpose, are the channels of communication between the brigands and their secret accomplices. The owners of the pasture lands have also a motive for being on friendly terms with the robbers. Their farms not unfrequently lie in exposed situations, and in order to save their property from dangerous visits they connive at acts of depredation, and sometimes go so far as to play into the hands of those who commit them.

Worse, my Lords, even than this fellowship of crime is the political corruption which arises from the same source. The return of a candidate for election as a Deputy is rendered uncertain by the progress of some opponent in obtaining promises. The case is urgent. What is to be done? The frightened candidate happens to have means of communication with some band of freebooters quartered in the neighbourhood. He applies for their assistance; they assail his rival and his rival's supporters with threatening letters, and sometimes proceed even to a partial execution of their menace. The candidate, converted by their agency into an elected Deputy, is bound to treat them with gratitude. He gives his support to some Minister, and that Minister is bound in turn to listen to the suggestions of his friend, who employs his influence, as the case may be, to save or to serve the brigands at a pinch. The Deputy may also be a magistrate, and in that case the current of justice is more immediately distorted on behalf of crime. The disastrous consequences of this vast network of plunder, bloodshed, corruption, and political intrigue may be easily conceived, at the same time that the practice in its full extent reflects a strong light on those suspicious inadvertencies which, as your Lordships may remember, formed the worst part of the late transactions in Greece. The development of the natural resources of the country is neglected; the mass of its inhabitants, perverted by evil examples, discouraged by a sense of insecurity, and enervated by terror, recede from every wholesome exertion; and the administration of the Government is tainted to its very core with false ideas which re-act with paralyzing force alike on the land and on its population.

When the late King Otho, on the termination of his minority, mounted the Throne of Greece, he found himself in front of two parties, each pretending, on grounds of its own, to an ascendancy in the conduct of public affairs. The one was composed, with few exceptions, of Greeks from Constantinople and the Ionian Islands, intermingled with Native proprietors from the Morea and Archipelago Islands, who had taken a lead in the insurrectionary Administrations and Legislatures during their struggle for independence; the other, of those who pretended to be descendants of the real offspring of the soil, mountaineers of Northern Greece, men of those regions which had contributed the largest amount of muscle and hardihood to the war with Turkey, belonging by nature to the military class, fond of action, and sympathizing with freebooters, even when they were not members themselves of some pillaging, cut-throat band. The young Sovereign, whatever may have been his motive, favoured this latter division of his people. It may be that he shrank from the restraints of a constitutional form of government, to which the former party were inclined, or sought to flatter the national vanity by taking up the Grande Ideè, as it was called, and together with it the class which adopted it as their watch-word and party cry. He were the fustanelle himself; he showed a greater preference for Colletti, the Albanian, than for Mauvocordato, the constitutional leader, and treated the freebooters with a degree of leniency which at once encouraged both their criminal trade, and the lawless policy of which they were thought by many to be the eventual instruments. From this mistaken policy, my Lords, as from a fountain head came forth a stream of evils affecting both the internal condition and the foreign relations of Greece. From the very beginning there was a signal want of economy little suited to the financial means of the country. Too large a portion of the revenue was laid out upon troops and diplomacy. At a later period fruitless expeditions, and the pay of Deputies and Senators weighed heavily on the revenue. Agriculture was left to take care of itself. The national lands were allowed to remain unproductive. No public works were undertaken. Roads, drainage, mines, manufactures, one and all were neglected. When the King's hands were forced, and a representative form of Government was established, place-hunting, party intrigues, and corruption in various shapes became the order of the day. Your Lordships need hardly be told that the foreign policy of Greece corresponded to this state of things at home. International Law commanded no respect. Hostility to the Turkish Empire was a constant principle of action. The interest of foreign loans was paid irregularly, or not at all. The employment of foreign capital, so much needed in Greece, became an impossibility. Such were the results of the Grande Ideè and its ally, Brigandage, under the protection, though certainly not with the approval, of the Protecting Powers.

Everyone knows that Greece owed its existence as a separate kingdom to the united efforts of England, France, and Russia, who took the new State into their protection, and who continue even now to be the acknowledged guardians of its independence. The Greeks are indebted to them not only for national existence, but also for the extent of territory they possess, the security they enjoy, and even for a portion of their annual expenditure. More than 40 years have elapsed since the three Protecting Powers agreed, by a formal Convention, to interfere between the Sultan and his insurgent Christian subjects. Be assured, my Lords, that their motives for this alliance were pure and laudable. Humanity called upon them to put limits to a struggle which threatened the utter destruction of the weaker party. A wise policy suggested their joint interference, even for the interests of Turkey. A danger, which hung over the peace of Europe, could only be averted by their united efforts. The trade of the Levant stood greatly in need of shelter from the disturbances of war and the assaults of piracy. Your Lordships may remember that the settlement, which was proposed at first in a friendly form and on moderate terms, assumed in the end a coercive character and a more extended range. The battle of Navarino, the withdrawal of the Ambassadors and Consuls from Turkey, the declaration of war by Russia, and the appearance of a French army in the Morea overcame, as well they might, the objections of the Porte. Turkey was forced into compliance, and left without defence from the annoyances of a petty but vexatious neighbour. Greece was established at the expense of Turkey and guaranteed, in effect even to misconduct, by the Allied Powers. The consequences, which were to be expected, soon became apparent. The Porte, in its intercourse with the Greek Government, was frequently treated with insult and provocation; its complaints were met with chicanery; its efforts to establish a better understanding with its former subjects were generally evaded; its provinces bordering on Greece were disquieted, and sometimes even assailed; and, finally, when the Cretan insurrection broke out, the Greeks did everything short of open war to assist the insurgents and prevent an amicable arrangement. The Allies themselves, my Lords, had much to endure. Their counsels were disregarded, the interest of their loans unpaid, their protection abused, their very names brought into discredit. Twice was England obliged to send a squadron to the Piræus in order to obtain redress. Such was the conduct of Greece during the Crimean War that it became necessary for French and English troops to occupy a part of Attica. The lawless operations of Greece respecting Crete threatened to re-open the Eastern Question, and a Conference of European Powers could alone extinguish the nascent flames.

These circumstances are more than sufficient to show that the Protecting Powers have other duties to perform as well as that of guarding the independence and territory of Greece. Turkey is entitled to require that their protection should not be used to shelter the Greeks, and secure their impunity, when they violate the Law of Nations, and stir and throw fresh fuel on the fire which consumes her Empire. Europe, also, has reason to expect that the principal members of her family should not allow their benevolence to be turned into an instrument of general alarm, embarrassment, and injustice. Your Lordships will perceive that, at least in this instance, the existence of a duty carries with it a distinct right of action. The Protecting Powers, when they gave their guaranty to Greece could only have meant to defend the territorial independence of that State against any unjust and unprovoked encroachment. It is nothing less than monstrous to suppose that Greece could ever be at liberty to assail or injure other countries, without provocation on their part, and with an exemption from consequences on her own supplied by the power of her Protectors. It is evident that, in every view of justice, the latter have no alternative but that of either leaving their ward to the responsibilities of international usage, or enforcing the necessary restraints by their own authority. If they were to decide on withdrawing their protection entirely from Greece, they would only exercise a legitimate discretion. The conduct of Greece has been such as fully to justify a decision to that effect, and even in making it the Allies would have to put up with some disadvantages, and to incur expenses fairly attributable to the same cause. In order to act with consistency, they would be obliged to withdraw their diplomatic representatives from Athens, and the apprehension of increased disorder in the waters of Greece, as well as in Greece itself, would probably require an increase of their naval forces in that region. But if they saw reason to prefer the severer branch of the alternative, their interference would not of necessity take an unfriendly form, and they might abstain from acting otherwise so long as the requisite efficiency of their measures would permit. Supposing even that their method of proceeding should, from necessity, become decidedly imperative, it cannot be doubted that their ultimate purpose would, nevertheless, continue to have a friendly and benevolent character. Your Lordships may presume that the three Powers would, of course, invest their agreement, as at first with the formality of a regular Convention. If the Greeks themselves should consent to be parties to it, so much the better; at all events, it would probably be thought desirable to make them the offer.

Greece is by no means incapable of much progressive improvement; but her misfortune is, that the elements of progress have been thrown systematically into the shade. The business of a friendly Power, when interfering authoritatively, would be to bring those elements into life, and to employ them in the right direction. Proprietors, farmers, and labourers would surely, for the most part, hail with joy the suppression of a system which casts a gloom over their natural pursuits, and lays them open to frequent alarms, to occasional pillage, and to a constant sense of insecurity. Among the more educated classes, who figure in public life and are candidates for office either at the seat of Government or in the provinces, there must be many individuals susceptible of moral improvement, and capable of appreciating its advantages in the conduct of public affairs. But they have need of example, support, and encouragement, the inspirations of which must come for a time from without, and suggest, if not prescribe, to those in authority ideas of steadiness, impartiality, and moral principle. The youthful King has recently displayed such noble and generous qualities that the Allies might reasonably look to his concurrence for introducing a better state of things among his subjects, with due consideration for the future independence and welfare of the country. England, entitled by her position as chief mourner in the late calamity, would naturally take the lead, and I know not why she should mistrust the sympathies of France and Russia, her associates in the Protection. France, on former occasions, has acted with much generosity and perfect good-faith. Russia, though liable, in some respects, to being swayed by special views, would hardly like to abandon the field to the two Western Powers, acting conjointly and apart from her. Italy having had its share in the late calamity cannot but take an interest in our remedial measures. From Austria and Prussia, we could only desire a moral countenance, and that would hardly be refused.

With respect to the mode of proceeding, and the means of giving it effect, your Lordships are aware that they lie entirely in the domain of Government. It would be mere presumption for me to do more than shadow out the most obvious suggestions. The presence of a naval force is the first to occur. It need not be large. As a similar occupation to that which took place at the Piræus during the Crimean War might become necessary, the Powers would, no doubt, provide in time for such a contingency. To insure what may be termed indispensable — namely, a firm adherence to certain principles of government on the part of the Ministry, the Protecting Powers would probably require the admission of a foreign element into its counsels. Portugal affords a precedent for this expedient. During our Peninsular campaigns the British Ambassador for the time being was received as a member of the administration at Lisbon. The permanent suppression of Brigandage would naturally head the list of reforms. Roads, military stations, movable detachments of the army, indispensable for that purpose, would require the application of considerable funds. Might it not be worth while for the Allies to further these operations by a moderate aid in money? Would it not also be desirable to make the Turkish Government a party to the scheme, in so far as measures of police and military force are concerned? Interference of this kind, however friendly in manner and intention, would, no doubt, jar upon the national feeling in Greece; and for this reason, to say nothing of other considerations, it would be well to limit its duration. Much might be effected in five or ten years, and nothing short of absolute necessity should be allowed to extend the provisional state beyond that term. I venture to think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would meet his share of the expense without alarm or difficulty. In short, there is little doubt that the trouble would be greater than the cost under any presumable circumstances.

My Lords, I have strained your indulgence more than I intended in the outset; but I hope your Lordships will excuse me if I add a few more words — a very few — before I sit down. I feel that although I have tried to preserve a tone and spirit of moderation, I have, in substance, arraigned a Government; I have brought the Government of Greece before the bar of public opinion. This, my Lords, is no light matter; and Greece being the country concerned, it has cost me much to perform so painful a duty. It is, indeed, a duty to me, because I took so large a part in those transactions which led to the establishment of Hellenic independence. The discharge of that duty is painful to my feelings on more than one account. I have contracted a deep and abiding reverence for the literature of ancient Greece from the nature of my education and its place, the Royal and truly national seminary of Eton. I would not disguise the strong and cordial sympathies which I entertain for that people, degenerate as they may be, who claim descent from the most illustrious race of antiquity, who continue to breathe the pure atmosphere which inspired the best of that race, and who, after centuries of Turkish bondage, rose bravely from their degradation, and dashed their fetters at every risk against the teeth of their fanatical oppressors. Even to this hour I retain a large portion of my early affection for them; nor have I yet ceased to hope that they may in time justify the partiality of their friends, and, together with the names, retain some traces of their ancestral worth. I submit, in conclusion, to your Lordships, with becoming deference, that I have presented a fair title to your acceptance of the Motion which I have now the honour to propose. That Motion consists of four parts. The first two are simple matters of course, or nearly so, grounded on positive facts. The third I conceive to be more than warranted by official documents and other respectable authorities. With regard to the fourth, I feel assured that your Lordships will go with me in desiring to remove those causes which lie at the root of Hellenic Brigandage, with all its attendant miseries, and in recognizing those paramount obligations which virtually rest on the Protecting Powers. I have endeavoured to show the nature of the mischief and the duty of redressing it. I have, moreover, pointed to the means of accomplishing that object, and to the right of employing those means, and also to the hazardous consequences of neglecting an opportunity which ought never to recur. The final decision must, indeed, remain with Her Majesty's Government; but the proposed declaration of your Lordships' sentiments could hardly fail to strengthen their hands, and to give additional weight to those very urgent considerations which cannot be overlooked with prudence or consistency. I repeat that there is but one alternative: we must either interfere effectively, or withdraw altogether. I would ask whether the Greeks can possibly, can safely be left, as heretofore, to pursue their wild notions, dishonest and pernicious as they often are, under the shadow and shelter of the Protecting Powers?

In pressing this matter on your Lordships' attention, I have performed most reluctantly, and, I fear, most imperfectly, a delicate and onerous task. Supported by your Lordships, I may look with some degree of confidence to the eventual result; and if I should have the misfortune to come from a Division with scanty following, or even with none at all, I shall at least carry with me the humble consolation of having done my best, as an unworthy Member of this noble House, to extract enduring good from a passing calamity. I pretend to no exceptional merit for this endeavour. We must all have at heart to preserve our country from discreditable indifference, the peace of Europe from continual alarms, and Greece itself, which we have undertaken to protect, from the effects of a perverse and ruinous misgovernment. Allow me to add that, in thus appealing to your Lordships' judgment, I speak to the nation — nay, even to the world at large.

Moved, "That an humble address be presented to Her Majesty to assure Her Majesty that the House continues to regard with the deepest grief and horror the late atrocious murders perpetrated near Athens by a band of organized brigands on the persons of several of Her Majesty's subjects, including the Secretary of Her Majesty's Legation; to thank Her Majesty for the ample and early accounts thereof which it has pleased Her Majesty to communicate to the House; to submit whether there be not grounds for apprehending that the lives of the lamented victims were mainly sacrificed to parties acting more or less in secret understanding with the brigands; and to express an earnest hope that such further steps as Her Majesty may please to take with reference to these matters will be directed not only to the immediate suppression of brigandage in Greece but more especially to the removal of its real causes, be they what they may, in discharge of the obligations virtually contracted by Her Majesty and Her Majesty's Allies as the constituted protectors of that kingdom." — (The Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe.)


My Lords, I venture to think it was hardly necessary for the noble Viscount to remind me of the conduct of the late Lord Clarendon, for I cannot but feel that I am standing on the very spot whence a few weeks ago he spoke to your Lordships in so straightforward, so sagacious, and so earnest a manner that I believe he commanded the assent of every Peer in this House. My Lords, there are two points in regard to this subject which are closely connected, but which, in my opinion, it is necessary to keep distinct from each other. First of all there is the question into which the noble Viscount has chiefly gone — namely, as to the general state of Greece and the duties of the Protecting Powers towards that country; and, secondly, there is the sad outrage which affected public opinion in this country and throughout Europe more deeply, I think, than any incident that has happened of late years. Now it would, in my judgment, be a very great mistake on the part of the Government and of the country to mix up these two questions. With regard to the first — the Government of Greece — it is clearly a question which must be considered in concert with the Protecting Powers, for it is one in which all the Powers of Europe must take a deep interest. With regard, however, to the second question — although we have the sympathy of all the countries of Europe, and the active co-operation of some, yet we are the parties primarily interested in it. I think it is not desirable to go into the first question at the present time, and therefore I shall only allude to one casual remark made by the noble Viscount, who, at one point of his speech, stated that he saw by the faces of the occupants of the Treasury Bench, that they had made up their minds to do nothing. I cannot conceive how that idea came into the noble Viscount's head, unless it was in consequence of my mentioning to him at that stage of his speech that I was sorry he had not arrived at more definite suggestions; and I am bound to say that afterwards four or five suggestions were made by the noble Viscount. With regard to the sad outrage so eloquently described by the noble Viscount there is very, very little for me to add to the speech made by the late Lord Clarendon. The principal facts are these — First of all the Greek Government yielded the opposition they originally made to the presence of legal agents on the part of Lord Clarendon — and I have every reason to believe that everyone must have been struck with the determination, sagacity, and ability which those agents have shown up to the present time. The other point is the conviction and execution of those wretched brigands who were actually concerned in the outrage. One has been reprieved for a time, possibly with a view to further the ends of justice in a larger way — the others have been executed. Lastly there remains that most important part of the inquiry — with regard to the possible participation of more highly educated and more powerful persons than those immediately connected with the brigands. As your Lordships will readily imagine, I can have taken very little part during the few days I have been in Office with regard to this affair. The only thing I have done is this — A rumour having reached us that the present Prime Minister of Greece was about to resign, I instructed Mr. Erskine that it was not our policy to interfere with regard to persons, but that we had a fixed determination that it was our right and our duty to insist upon the fullest and most complete inquiry that could be brought to bear upon the incidents I have already alluded to; and that, whatever Ministry or persons the King might think fit to maintain in Office or to summon to his counsels, who should be determined bonâ fide to meet that requirement on our part, that Ministry should receive the warmest sympathy on the part of Her Majesty's Government. I believe that language of an almost identical character has been used by the Italian and French Governments on this point. The Resolution of the noble Viscount (Viscount Stratford do Redcliffe) contains some expressions which it would have been desirable not to have introduced. I do not think it is a desirable thing for the House to address the Crown in several sentences of this kind unless there is a practical object to which such Address relates. Notice of this Motion was given without any previous communication with Lord Clarendon, who was of opinion that it was not a desirable Motion for the House to adopt. I entirely agree with him; but I am bound to say that the matter stands now in a different position to that which it occupied when the Notice was first placed on the Paper. I believe I may now say, without fear of contradiction, that your Lordships all had confidence in the experience and ability of the man who then presided over the Foreign Office. My position is a very different one, and your Lordships may, perhaps, think you would give me strength by conveying some preliminary reproof to me in order to keep me up to the duty I owe to the Crown and the country. Still, I think that Her Majesty's Government are acquainted with the feeling of the country, that they know what their duty is, and that they are sufficiently imbued with the views of Lord Clarendon on this matter. Here I must state that my lamented Friend's end was accelerated by the indignation he felt at this outrage, the sympathy he entertained for the victims who had fallen, and for the friends and families who mourn their loss; and that his appreciation of the just resentment of the country, and his anxiety to carry on the inquiry to a proper end and to demand whatever might be a just and due reparation, with a firmness and in a manner becoming a great nation like ours, was one cause which hastened the loss which we all so much deplore. Being under such inspiration, I trust that, although I may carry out his work most imperfectly, your Lordships will not, until I am found wanting, impose on me a Motion like the present, which, I think, would in some degree weaken instead of strengthening me in the eyes of Europe.


As your Lordships were so good as to hear me speak on this subject at great length on a former occasion, I shall not travel over any of the ground which I went over then. At the same time, I can hardly allow the Motion which my noble Friend (Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe) has made on this important subject to be put without making a few remarks. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs very rightly divided the question into two parts — namely, that which concerns the massacre of the captives, and that which relates in a more abstract sense to the Motion which had been made by my noble Friend. As I have already said, I will not travel over the grounds of the previous discussion; and yet I do think it right to state on my own part that, after a careful study of all the Papers since issued, and after mastering as far as I could all the criticisms which have appeared elsewhere on the subject, I do unhesitatingly reaffirm the conclusions I expressed in the previous debate. These I have seen nothing to shake. Those who suffered at the hands of the brigands were betrayed by false assertions of the Greek Government as to their safety; and I do affim still that the movement of the troops, in violation of the solemn promise and engagement of the Greek Government, to which promise was added the word of the English Minister, was the immediate cause of these murders. Nay I go further, and say again that there is not a word in the published correspondence which in any degree removes the suspicion attaching to the conduct and motives of the Greek Government. They still have to give every explanation which was demanded of them two months ago. More than that, I must express my dissent from my noble Friend when he stated his belief in unqualified terms, that whatever could be done had been done — my own estimate, taken from a somewhat different point of view, is that nothing has been done. There have been the executions of a few brigands or peasants, but they were a mere fraction of the band, which, according to the last details, had doubled or trebled in numbers since the murders, and are now extending themselves over other parts of Greece. It is true there was a trial, and I am glad to hear that the English agents employed at that trial were sagacious; but certainly if you study the details of the trial, as printed in the Parliamentary Paper, you will find no record of any action on the part of the British agents; while, as far as the Greek Judges and Court were concerned, I venture to express my opinion that the trial reads almost like a farce. There is nothing in these statements which in any degree removes the suspicions previously entertained — nothing that goes to the bottom of the matter and sifts out the guilty individuals. Lastly, the gentleman who showed more courage, decision, energy, and sagacity than any other was Mr. Noel, whose life at this moment can hardly be said to be quite secure. I have no interest in him whatever except what arises from the gratitude I feel for all that he did to save the lives of the prisoners, and I call with confidence on my noble Friend (Earl Granville) not to relax in any degree the pressure which Lord Clarendon thought it his duty to put upon the Greek Government. Let me now say a few words upon the second part of the Motion. It seems to me a misfortune that there should have been such a slight discussion on this subject. My noble Friend (Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe) represents very much of the enthusiasm which existed 40 years ago, when Greece was formed into a kingdom. We can recall the enthusiasm, the expenditure of money, and the sacrifice of our traditional policy which were readily offered to secure the emancipation of the Greek nation. I agree with him that the expenditure of money and the sacrifices we made, in accordance with the policy of that day, was not too great a price for the object in view; England was quite justified in the course she took upon that occasion. It is time now to reconsider the results of the policy then laid down. It would be impossible, without trespassing at too great a length, to draw anything like an adequate picture of the present state of Greece; but I should like to call attention to one or two main points connected with the financial and commercial condition of the country. At this moment Greece has no less than three National Debts. There is the debt guaranteed by the Protecting Powers at the time the independence of Greece was established, on account of which only one payment for interest has been made since 1843; there is the Bavarian Debt, contracted somewhere about the same time, and since 1837 no interest has been paid upon that; and the third debt is represented by the Greek Bonds. Upon these all payment has been suspended for some time, and arguments in favour of repudiation most questionable in character have been adduced to the utter destruction of Greek credit. In 1857, at the close of the Crimean War, a Commission was appointed by the Protecting Powers, really for the purpose of inquiring into the social condition of the country. That Commission made a most searching investigation, and I would ask my noble Friend to see whether, considering the grave matters now pending, it would not be desirable to lay some of the Papers arising out of that inquiry before the House. One or two of them have been printed, and through them we know that the Commission made some allegations to the effect that it was stated there was ample money in the Treasury to pay the interest on the debt, and that one year afterwards, as a matter of fact, the Greeks did find the money to pay the debt. Since then the country has been in a state of insolvency. All the recommendations of that Commission were most admirably adapted for the improvement of the country, but they have all been alike treated with neglect. As regards trade it languishes within the limits of Greece, and no less than two-thirds of the population are self-constituted exiles, and have sought refuge in those Turkish towns which have been the occasion of so much contempt on the part of the Greeks. Agriculture is very much what it was; and all speculative schemes have to contend against the vacillating policy of the Government. I remember the case of a French company who, two years ago, were working a silver mine. Every attempt was made to disgust and frighten them away, until at last they were suddenly called upon to pay an export duty, which amounted to 60 per cent of the total cost of production. Another company engaged in sinking for pitch had their wells filled up with stones, and could get no redress. Every sort of speculation is looked upon as injurious to the native population, and enterprise is therefore driven out of the country. It is perfectly certain that Brigandage is in a great degree the cause of this; it is time, also, that both the geography and history of the country have fostered Brigandage; but it must be remembered that Brigandage has grown of late in dimensions and atrocity. In former years it was supported by the Court, and certainly in the present day by the governing classes. It is undesirable to mention names; but I believe the account given of Brigandage by a very able French writer, though veiled under the form of romance, is strictly true as regards Greece. One special evil of Brigandage is this — that for many years past political persons and parties in Greece have made use of brigands as agents; as instruments to carry out their own selfish and personal ends. Even within the last few months the brigands have been employed in determining the municipal elections. The Minister looks to the Deputy, the Deputy looks to the local major, and the local mayor has recourse to the brigands to turn the votes and secure the election. The police are perfectly helpless in such a case, and the burden really falls on the peasant, who is exposed on one side to the oppression of the brigands, and on the other to the action of the troops when, in times of panic, they are sent in pursuit of the brigands. No class suffered more severely under the present state of things than the Greek peasant. I will now call the attention of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) to a subject which, from what I hear, calls for attention. I cannot say whether it be true or not; but it has been repeatedly stated of late by the Greek newspapers that torture is freely used by the police on the peasants to procure evidence. Two or three weeks since I saw an article in one of the chief papers on this subject, stating that, even with regard to these massacres, some witnesses who could have given unfavourable testimony were exposed to torture. These statements thus publicly made and practically remaining uncontradicted, form a subject of the gravest importance. I fear that matters have grown worse rather than better; and I am afraid that the Constitution given to it, of which my noble Friend (Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe) has spoken, made a great mistake in sweeping away the native aristocracy, which, although it may have been oppressive in some cases, at all events contained within it elements of security which any wise Government would have retained; the next Constitution, as your Lordships know, came to nothing; and the last has established in Greece what may be regarded as pure democracy. Greece is the very Utopia of democracies. She enjoys universal suffrage, vote by ballot, and every institution that the purest democrat can desire. Nevertheless, upon the authority of every person qualified to speak upon the subject, we are told that the inhabitants possess no constitutional liberty whatever. There are no roads to facilitate communication for purposes of trade; there is no justice which can be administered equally between persons of all classes; there is no coinage, there is no money in the Treasury — in fact, there is nothing which constitutes civilized government. There is one thing for which we must give the Greek nation credit, and that is their strong love for education. That is the one redeeming feature of the picture. But even education, instead of being a blessing to the country, takes the form of a vicious circle in that country, and for this reason — because most of the young men being educated to pass the necessary competitive examination before they could obtain public appointments, these public appointments, by being kept constantly before their eyes, become the first and sole object of every Greek mind; and the result is that the candidates, most of whom are brought up upon insufficient means, in the form of a hungry army of paupers, flock to Athens in order to gain there public places, which they obtain frequently by corrupt means. It has been said, upon the testimony of Sir Thomas Wyse, that the law of Greece is made for the strong and the rich, and not for the weak and the poor. It is perfectly true that the profession of the law is well represented in that country, for by a recent Return I see that the proportion of lawyers is one to every 3,000 of the population. Then, again, there is a superabundance of Government officials, the proportion being one to every 50 of the population. These are conclusions to which we are driven by the sheer logic of facts. The noble Lord who introduced the subject (Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe) alluded to the Ionian Islands. I am not going to say one I word as to whether we were right or wrong in handing over those Islands to he Greek Government, but one thing is quite certain — namely, that we gave up those islands in a state of good government and good order. If your Lord-ships will turn to a Parliamentary Paper upon the subject, published about two years ago, you will find that such was the state of misgovernment that succeeded that transfer that the Judges had resigned in a body, the roads were overgrown with grass, from want of traffic occasioned by the stagnation of trade, and a general state of chaos prevailed. This is but a very faint picture of the internal affairs of Greece. If we look abroad as regards the country, we shall find the state of things described by the noble Lord. These unfortunate people are so absorbed in the hope of reviving the Byzantine Empire, that they starve the present for the purpose of endeavouring to secure the grandeur of the future. All attempts which have been made to convince them how utterly futile such a hope is have been ineffectual. The Emperor Nicholas, just before the commencement of the Crimean War, emphatically declared that he would not be a party to the restoration of the Byzantine Empire, but that declaration failed to open the eyes of the Greeks to the folly of keeping this object perpetually before them. The truth is, they are consumed by this idea, and they are misled by the mischievous notion that nothing they can do will induce Europe to check or to interfere with them; and it is this unfortunate idea which lies at the root of all the breaches of International Law that have been laid to their charge. It is the prevalence of this idea which accounts for the outbreaks which occurred in 1854, when we were compelled to send troops to the country to restrain them. The noble Viscount made various suggestions for our future conduct with respect to that country to which the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs has objected. Upon this point I will merely say that it is always easy to object to proposals of such a nature, because they are only put forward under exceptional circumstances; but the question before us now is, whether we are not contributing by our influence to support what I may say is the most immoral Government in Europe. It may be impossible that we should interfere in the manner suggested by the noble Viscount, and it is equally impossible that we should withdraw our Minister from Greece. If, however, we cannot enforce the obligations which that country owes to Europe, I say in Heaven's name lot us no longer submit to the responsibility under which we now rest — let us withdraw from the Protectorate we are now supposed to exercise — let us wash our hands of the whole matter, let us be altogether free from any connection with these acts of infamy, which are continually occurring, and over which we can exercise no control. I know very well that it has been said that Her Majesty's Government ought not to take any action in the matter, lest by so doing they may precipitate what is termed "the Eastern Question." I think that we should have no fear of such a result. I do not think it would be to the credit of the Government of this country, if after all that has been said and done recently the matter were permitted to end here — some practical result ought to follow. I regret that no action has been taken with reference to this subject. I do not say that in reproach to those who now hold the reins of Office, because I believe that had Lord Clarendon's life been spared, his sympathies were so deeply interested, that he would not have permitted the matter to end without some practical result being achieved. I understand the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary to accept fully the responsibility that attaches to his official position, and to pledge himself and the Government that no efforts shall be wanting on their part to bring about a solution of this difficulty, honourable to this country, and to exact retribution for the blood of our countrymen, and for the indignities that have been passed upon this country.


My Lords, there is no one who at this crisis does not lament with deep seriousness the removal of the distinguished Minister who so lately directed our foreign affairs — whose knowledge upon these questions, and in particular of that now before your Lordships, was so wide and accurate: and I may say that there is a general feeling in the public mind that the Seals of the Foreign Office could not have been placed in better hands than in the hands of my noble Friend. To say nothing of generosity, taking into consideration the short time my noble Friend has been in Office, I do not think it would be wise to impose any restraint upon a Minister who is charged with such responsibilities, and who personally commands so much confidence in your Lordships' House and with the public. The subject all will admit is full of difficulties and intricacies, and I think it most undesirable that we should, at such a time, fetter the discretion of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. It seems to me most prudent to leave the noble Earl full power to use his own discretion in the matter, and complete liberty of action in reference to it. Now, as to the subject itself, it appears to me that my noble Friend (Earl Granville) has done all that could be expected at this moment in insisting, as he has insisted, that there should be a full, complete, and thorough inquiry in respect of those murders. For my part, having heard the speech made on a former occasion by the noble Earl who has just sat down (the Earl of Carnarvon), I must say I thought he made good his assertions, and that they are borne out by what was said on the part of Her Majesty's Government. I have recently road an anonymous pamphlet which professes to give the cause of these murders; but I think a more lame defence of the Greek Government and a more total failure to make good the allegations of the writer I have never known. It seems to me very clear that if the Greek Government had earnestly intended to save those English gentlemen from being the victims of the brigands, they should have pursued one of two courses — they should either have given orders that the soldiers were not to fire on the brigands, or they should have surrounded them with a force so considerable as would have made it impossible for them to escape. As there were, I believe, 13,000 troops at Athens then, the latter course would have been quite practicable. But it is obvious that the course taken by the Greek Government was quite as sure to bring about the murder of these English gentlemen as if the troops themselves had been directed to fire on the captives. This is amply proved. But there is something further to consider — namely, to what points my noble Friend should direct the attention of those who are to conduct the inquiry which is to take place. I remember that after the last debate I told my noble Friend Lord Clarendon that the charge which had been made against the Greek Government was a still more heavy charge than any that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Carnarvon) has attempted to make good. It was said then, and has since been repeated, that the charge made against the Greek Government is this — that while they said they could not think of violating the Constitution of Greece by taking the course they were asked to take in respect of those brigands who held the captives, so far from observing all the articles of that Constitution, they allowed brigands of the worst character — men who had committed murder over and over again, and who ought to have been regarded as infamous criminals — to go to Crete, when they ought either to have been executed or kept in prison. That charge has been made by a captain of the British Navy who is now in the service of Turkey (Captain Hobart), and it was repeated by my noble Friend. I cannot conceive a graver charge being made against a Government. I think, therefore, my noble Friend should direct the attention of those who are to conduct the inquiry to an investigation of this question — whether any persons who had been convicted in former years were allowed to swell the ranks of the insurgents in Crete. I can quite understand that a strong sympathy with the insurgents in Crete should be felt in Greece; but it is one thing that the Cretans should rise to vindicate their independence of Turkey, and quite another that brigands and felons should be sent to make war on Turkey in Crete on pretence of their being Cretan patriots. If the accusation to which I have just alluded be well founded, there can be no other conclusion drawn from the facts themselves than this — that the Greek Government are ready to violate the Constitution of their country when there is a question of raising an insurrection against a friendly State, but that they are not willing to infringe on the articles of that Constitution with the view of saving the lives of English gentlemen, captives in the hands of Greek brigands, even if their lives are only to be saved by that means. Captain Hobart alleges a number of cases in which criminals such as those to whom I have referred were allowed to go to Crete to join in the insurrection. Now, if this allegation be proved, after impartial inquiry, I cannot imagine how it would be consistent with the dignity of Her Majesty's Government to retain a representative of this country at the Court of Athens, and that in the end you would be obliged to withdraw from the guarantee you have given with respect to Greece. If the inquiry be full and impartial, and if it result in proof of that allegation, matters cannot remain as they are; but whether my noble Friend (Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe) ought to press his Motion is another question. As to the latter part of his Motion, I think it calls on Her Majesty's Government to do what it may not be in their power to accomplish. I remember talking to the representative of a foreign Power who had had some experience in Greece. He told me he admired the talent of the Greeks; but a people more low in point of morality he had never been acquainted with. It is, perhaps, asking too much of Her Majesty's Government to bring about a change in the morals of a whole people, and were my noble Friend to attempt it I think he would find it beyond his powers. Even if things be as bad in this regard as is stated, it should be remembered that a future time may witness a different state of things. It must be remembered that the Highlands of Scotland in 1690 and 1756 were very different from the Highlands of Scotland in the present day. I do not know that in 1690 any English Secretary of State could have been expected to remove the causes of the discontent which then existed in the Highlands. I wish to put it to my noble Friend whether, after the statement of my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he really wishes to press his Motion. My noble Friend (Earl Granville) has pledged himself that an inquiry shall be instituted. The honour of the country is deeply involved in this matter; but I think it would be much better if my Friend the noble Viscount would leave the conduct of this business in the hands of my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, reserving the right to avail himself of a future opportunity for adopting any course which circumstances may appear to him to render necessary.

VISCOUNT STRATFORD DE REDCLIFFE in reply to a request that he would not press his Motion to a Division, said, if he was to understand from the language held by his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary that he (Earl Granville) would not exclude from his consideration any mode of action which might be called for by the result of the inquiry, he would not be disposed to press his Motion. He trusted that if the result of inquiry should be such as to justify and call for the interference indicated in his Motion, that mode of action would not be excluded from the consideration of the Government. He should be glad to obtain an assurance on that point from the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary.


What I stated was, that we meant to insist upon a full and complete inquiry into the circumstances of the particular outrage on the English prisoners; and that, with regard to the other and larger questions, we were prepared to consider them in concert with the European Powers.

VISCOUNT STRATFORD DE REDCLIFFE said, that, in consequence of that explanation, he should withdraw his Motion.

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