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No. 155.BRITISH PROTEST against Russian Proceed

ings in Poland. London, 23rd November, 1831.*

Viscount Palmerston to Lord Heytesbury. My Lord,

Foreign Office, 23rd November, 1831. I have received your Excellency's despatches reporting the opinion which prevails in St. Petersburgh that some considerable change is intended to be made in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Poland, explaining the arguments by which that supposed intention is defended, and asking for further instructions as to the course which your Excellency is to pursue with respect to the affairs of Poland in general.

His Majesty's Government have watched with unceasing interest and anxiety the progress of the contest in Poland. These feelings have been made known to your Excellency by the several communications which you have received from me, while they have not been concealed from the representative of His Majesty the Emperor of Russia at the Court of London. You have also been apprised of the grounds upon which His Majesty's Govern. ment considered it not to be advisable to interfere directly in the contest between the Emperor of Russia and his Polish subjects.

The War being now over, and the authority of the Emperor as King being completely re-established in Poland, the time is come when IIis Majesty feels himself justified, both by his friendship for the Emperor of Russia and by the duty resulting from the obligations which he had contracted under the Treaty of Vienna (No. 27), in addressing to His Imperial Majesty, in the most amicable tone, and with the deference which is due to his rights as an independent Sovereign, some observations as to the best mode of re-settling the Kingdom of Poland under the dominion of the Emperor, on principles accordant with those on which its Union with the Imperial Crown of Russia was originally formed, and in such a manner as may be most conducive to its future good government and tranquillity.

Your Excellency has already been instructed, by my despatch of the 22nd March last, to express the confidence of His Majesty's * See further Protest of 3rd July, 1832.


Government that Ilis Imperial Majesty would use his victory, when it should be obtained, with the moderation and mercy congenial with the high-minded and generous sentiments which are well known to animate the mind of His Imperial Majesty. It is, therefore, without any the slighiest doubt of Iris Imperial Majesty's benevolent and merciful disposition, that I am commanded to instruct you to urge, whenever you may find a fit opportunity to do so, those considerations, both of humanity and policy, which cannot fail to find advocates in His Imperial Majesty's own feelings, and which would recommend the greatest forbearance and lenity in the treatment of his Polish subjects, who, by the success of His Majesty's arms, have been again reduced to obedience.

Above all, your Excellency is instructed to represent to the Russian Government how much severities of any kind, not authorized by the laws and Constitution of Poland, are to be avoided. If it should appear, therefore, that there is any intention of proceeding to measures of proscription and confiscation, as has been reported, you are instructed to represent to His Imperial Majesty's Government the impolicy and injustice of proceedings that would violate the Constitution, which, according to the stipulation of the Treaty of Vienna (No. 27), was granted by the Emperor Alexander to Poland, and by which it is provided that no man shall be punished except by virtue of existing laws, and no criminal banished except by process of law, and by which the penalty of confiscation is for ever abolished.

His Majesty's Government, indeed, under all the circumstances of the case, would earnestly recommend a full and complete Amnesty, from which those persons only should be excepted who have been guilty of the crime of assassination, and whose punishment would be effected by the ordinary course of justice.

This measure would appear to be one of the soundest policy. It could not in any degree weaken His Imperial Majesty's authority nor detract from his honour, being adopted at a moment when his power could no longer be resisted, and when such a measure could appear to be dictated only by the purest motives of benevolence and mercy. It could not fail to soothe the irritated feelings of the Poles, and to give them confidence in the Government, by preventing them from being exposed individually to vengeance; and it would do infinitely more than any harsh display of severity to reproduce among them those feelings of obedi


ence to the Government which are necessary to its security and peace, and which cannot be expected under a system which might keep them in a state of continued insecurity and apprehension.

In this case, therefore, generosity and sound policy appear to go hand in hand, in suggesting that in order to make the possession of Poland conducive to the strength and prosperity of Russia, it is necessary for the Russian Government to conciliate the affections of the Poles, and to obliterate, instead of perpetuating, the traces of the recent contest.

The Poles have displayed, during the late war, qualities both of intellect and courage, which prove them capable of being either useful or dangerous subjects, according to the manner in which they may be governed. It is needless to point out the resources which may be drawn from 4,000,000 of people, full of activity, enterprise, and intelligence, provided they are attached to their Sovereign, and contented with their political condition. But such a people must necessarily become a source of embarrassment and weakness if they are kept in a state of exasperation and discontent, which will only be controlled so long as no favourable opportunity shall occur to excite them into action.

Is it on the very frontier of an empire, and in contact with military neighbours, that a wise Government would wish to place such elements of danger? Is it in the very outworks of defence that a prudent administration would incur the risk of having a population disaffected to its Government, and ready to join any invader who might promise them a milder rule and a better fate?

It is, then, not more upon principles of humanity than upon a friendly regard for the interests and the honour of Russia that His Majesty's Government instruct you earnestly to press upon the Russian Government a general and complete Amnesty; an act which is understood to have been spontaneously offered by the Emperor on more than one occasion during the war, and which His Majesty's Government have reason to believe is also recommended by other allies of His Imperial Majesty.

Your Excellency was instructed in a former despatch to state that His Majesty's Government could not see with indifference the Poles deprived of the advantages which had been secured to them by the Treaty of Vienna. These advantages consisted in the stipulation that a Constitution should be granted to them, and


in the Constitution which, in consequence of that stipulation, they afterwards received from the Emperor Alexander.

His Majesty's Government is not unmindful of the arguments which you state to have been adduced to prove that the Polish Constitution is in no degree identified with the Treaty of Vienna ; but the validity of this reasoning cannot, as it appears to them, be maintained.

The Treaty of Vienna (No. 27) declared that the Kingdom of Poland should be attached to Russia by its Constitution. A Constitution the Emperor of Russia accordingly gave [27th November, 1815]; and it surely is no forced construction of the meaning of that Treaty to consider the Constitution so given as existing thenceforth under the sanction of the Treaty. But it is , argued, that the same Power which gave may modify or take away. This, however, is an assertion for which no proof is afforded. The Constitution once given, became the link which, under the Treaty, binds the Kingdom of Poland to the Empire of Russia ; and can that link remain unimpaired, if the Constitution should not be maintained ?

Had the Constitution reserved to the Sovereign a right to change or modify, no objection could then have been made to the exercise of a power which would legally have been his. But the Constitution carefully guards against any such acts of executive authority. It declares (Article XXXI) that the Polish nation shall for ever possess a national representation, consisting of a Diet, composed of a King and Two Chambers; it declares (Article CLXIII) that the Organic Statutes and the Codes of Laws camot be modified or changed, except by the King and the TwoChambers ; it requires (Article XLV) that every King of Poland shall swear before God, and upon the Scriptures, to maintain the Constitution, and cause it to be executed to the best of his power; and the Emperor Alexander, on the 27th November, 1815, formally gave this Constitution, and declared that he adopted it for himself and for his successors.

Such are the provisions of the Constitution, which points out the authority by which any change or modification is to be made; and changes arbitrarily effected by the executive authority alone would obviously be violations of the Constitution.

It appears that some persons suppose the intention of the Russian Government to be to abolish the present form of Government in Poland, consisting of a Diet composed of a King and Two


Chambers, and to substitute for the Chambers Provincial States such as those which have been established in Gallicia and in some of the provinces of Prussia ; and it is argued that such a change would still leave to Poland a Constitution sufficient to satisfy the stipulations of the Treaty of Vienna. But could such a form of government fairly, and according either to the letter or the spirit of the Treaty of Vienna, be considered as placing Poland in the situation which was thereby contemplated? That Treaty clearly appears to draw a marked distinction between the system of government to be established in those parts of Poland which had been annexed as provinces to Austria, Prussia, and Russia, and had been incorporated in their respective dominions, and that part which was to form the separate Kingdom of Poland, and which was to be placed, as such, under the same Sovereign as Russia, and secured in the enjoyment of its distinct rights and privileges.

In the former provinces, accordingly, the grant of Provincial States was perfectly in accordance with the rights to be exercised by the Sovereign over provinces that were incorporated with his other dominions; while the Constitution given to the Kingdom of Poland was suited to the separate and distinct position in which it was placed in its relation to the Russian Empire.

But in the separate Kingdom of Poland, united according to the Treaty of Vienna by its Constitution with the Crown of Russia, to abrogate that Constitution, and to substitute Provincial States, expressly modelled after those which had been granted to the incorporated provinces of Austria and Prussia, would be, in effect, to reduce that Kingdom, though still nominally possessing a separate existence, to the state and condition of a province, deprived of all the rights, and excluded from all the advantages which had been secured to it.

It cannot be admitted that the revolt of the Poles, and their violation of the Constitution by voting the separation of Poland from the Crown of Russia can absolve the Emperor, after his authority has been re-established, from his obligation to adhere to that Constitution. Wrongs committed by one side are not to be punished by the commission of wrongs on the other. From the submission of the Poles to the arms of llis Imperial Majesty, Europe looks for the re-establishment of law and justice, and not for acts of retaliation and vengeance; since whatever excuse such acts may find in the troubles of an intestine war, they could

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