« PreviousContinue »
No. 157.-RUSSIAN ANSWER to British Protest against
Russian Proceedings in Poland. St. Petersburgh,
22nd December, 1831
3rd January, 1832
(Translation. *) Mon Prince,
In my despatch of the 5th December, I had the honour of explaining to your Highness the nature of the communication Lord Heytesbury had just made to us, in compliance with orders from his Government, on the subject of the affairs of Poland. Having since then submitted the matter to the Emperor, I am enabled, mon Prince, to state to you what are Ilis Majesty's views on the subject of their communication.
It consists of two distinct parts: the first contains friendly advice tendered to the Emperor as to the best means of conciliating the Poles, of inspiring them with confidence, and, in short, of effacing all traces of the sanguinary struggle which has just been put an end to by the victory of the Russian arms; whilst the second part contains scme observations on the interpretation of those Articles of the Treaty of Vienna to which the Kingdom of Poland owes its existence.
In offering their observations and their advice the British Cabinet has acknowledged the delicate nature of the task which they had thought it their duty to undertake, and their language on this occasion is full of all the consideration which friendship can suggest, and of that due deference which the Emperor had a right to expect. His Imperial Majesty is fully sensible of this, and has thought it a sufficient ground to authorise me to answer in detail the communications of Lord Ileytesbury, although our previous declarations ought to have left no doubt as to the sentiments and intentions of the Emperor with reference to the affairs of Poland. Your Highness has several times been in a position to assure the Ministers of His Britannic Majesty in the most formal manner that the Emperor has never entertained, and will never entertain, the thought of infringing the stipulations of the Treaty of Vienna, but that he is thoroughly determined to admit
* For French version, see “ State Papers," vol. xxxix, p. 1430.
no Foreign Intervention in questions which concern him exclusively. What we asked for at the same time was a straightforward and just interpretation of the Articles of the Treaty which define the manner in which the Kingdom of Poland is constituted. Now we see with regret that the very Article which stipulates that the Kingdom of Poland is to be bound to Russia by its Constitution has given rise, even in the British Cabinet, to conclusions relative to which we cannot share their opinion. Whoever examines this clause with real impartiality, will be convinced that it has been inserted in the Treaty with no other, view than to express that the Union of the Kingdom to Russia must be the fundamental principle and the condition of its new existence.
This clause, therefore, does not impose on Russia any obligation other than that of maintaining the Union which the Treaty has brought about. If it had been the intention of the Contracting Powers to stipulate in favour of the Kingdom a special Charter, and to guarantee it, there can be no doubt that such a stipulation would be expressed in a manner more explicit and formal. But far from this, they confined themselves in a subsequent paragraph to assuring to the Polish subjects respectively of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, national institutions, reserving to each of the 3 Governments the power of regulating them as they should deem fit and proper. The Constitution which the Emperor Alexander of glorious memory in his magnanimity granted to the Kingdom was not a necessary consequence of the Treaty of Vienna, but a spontaneous act of his sovereign power. Subsequent as it is by its date to the transactions of the Recès, it does not form part of them, and their guarantee does not extend to it. If the Constitution of Poland had been given in conformity with the Treaty of Vienna, the Contracting Powers would have had the right to take cognizance of it, and to examine whether it answered to the engagements entered into by Russia. None of them has claimed this right, nor could they legally do so. All of them, on the contrary, recognized, either expressly or by their silence on the subject, that in granting this Constitution to his new subjects the Emperor had followed the dictates of his free will.
If one looks at the question in this light, one must confess that since the Poles have themselves, by their rebellion and decree of forfeiture, annulled the Constitution of the Kingdom,
nothing can compel the Emperor to re-establish it; and that His Imperial Majesty finds himself, on the contrary, replaced in the same independent situation as his august predecessor, when, in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Vienna, he had still the power of choosing the sort of political existence which he might think fit and proper to grant to his new Polish subjects. In this particular, the engagements which Russia had entered into are the same for the 3 Powers, and it would be difficult to prove that the Emperor was bound to make concessions to the Kingdom of Poland which neither Gallicia nor the Grand Duchy of Posen have obtained.
We have stated above, mon Prince, that the Polish Constitution was annulled by the very fact of the rebellion. Will it be necessary for us to prove it? It is a recognised fact that between Government and Government, the Treaties and Conventions freely consented to by both Parties are put an end to by a state of war, and must be renewed, or at least expressly confirmed, on the conclusion of peace. All the more is it so with an act which is not two-sided, but a gift granted by a Sovereign to his subjects, and the first condition of which is, the obedience and faithfulness of the latter. All the more so, I say, is such an act annulled by a state of war, when the war is the necessary consequence of insurrrection and treason.
This answers, mon Prince, to the quotations that Lord Palmerston has thought proper to make from various Articles of the Polish Constitution, in order thence to deduce the obligation under which the Emperor is to re-establish it. Destroyed as it is in its entirety, it is so also in every one of its stipulations, and we cannot therefore attach the slightest value to the different clauses that it is still proposed to enforce.
In treating this question, the British Cabinet has separated, as we have observed above, the consideration of existing Treaties from those which seem to it to be founded on political expediency. We think we have shown that in the arrangements concerning Poland, the Emperor does not infringe Treaties, but that those Treaties do not contain any stipulation which can be invoked for the re-establishment of the Polish Constitution. The arguments we have used are not new. Austria and Prussia maintained them before we did; and the British Ministry may conclude from the language which those two Powers instructed their Representatives at Paria and London to use, that there exists an entire
conformity of opinions and principles relative to the interpretation and application of the Treaty of 21st April 1815 (No. 12),
3rd May' between the 3 Courts who may be said to be more especially concerned in it.
With regard to political expediency, nothing can, doubtless, be more judicious than the considerations which the English Ministers have thought proper to suggest ; nothing can be more friendly than the advice which emanates from them. The Emperor has much pleasure in thanking the British Cabinet, but he flatters himself that that Cabinet will not refuse to take into consideration the position of the Imperial Government, and the duties which it entails. The questions in point affect so closely the interests of the Crown, and those of the Empire, that the Emperor cannot but take into consideration those very interests in the resolutions which he has still to come to.
It is not with a view to inflicting on the Poles a punishment doubtless well deserved, that the Emperor has resolved not to renew a Constitution which they themselves trampled on, but because experience has proved that that Constitution was not the best means of insuring the peace, and, consequently, the welfare of the country ; that, far from having been able to prevent the disasters which have taken place in Poland, it is that very Constitution which has, during 15 years, kept alive among the Poles that discontented and turbulent spirit which the first spark kindled into open rebellion. Now we leave the English Ministers to judge themselves whether it would be wise or politic to let institutions subsist which have so little answered the benevolent intentions of their august founder, and of which a criminal use was made.
With regard to the appeal made by the British Cabinet to the feelings of mercy and humanity of our august Master, his Excellency has already replied to them by the Amnesty of the 20th October; all our Allies, mon Prince, applauded this act. France alone deemed it right to insist on a general Amnesty, without a single exception. But she seems since then to have arrived at a juster view of the subject. Perhaps the French Government will recognise in time that its own interest demands that revolution should not go unpunished, and that the Government itself gains strength and security in proportion as the Revolutionary Party in France and elsewhere is weakened.
Such are the arguments which we should oppose, mon Prince, to the suggestions contained in the communications of the British Ministry with reference to a complete and entire Amnesty. But we are happy to think that that Government will not persist any more than that of King Louis-Philippe did, and that they will even judge with greater impartiality the acts of the Imperial Government.
All the efforts and all the care of the Emperor tend towards the establishment of moral peace throughout the Kingdom, that is, to soothe and put an end to that irritation which is the necessary consequence of a sanguinary and calamitous struggle, and to bring about gradually a sincere reconciliation between two nations united under the same sceptre. His Imperial Majesty entertains the just hope that, with the assistance of Providence, he will fulfil this salutary task; but what must delay its accomplishment, keep up a certain agitation among the Poles, and encourage the guilty hopes of those who persist in opposing legitimate Government, is foreign intervention in the affairs of Poland, and the anxious surveillance exercised over all that passes in that country, the false interpretation one gives to Treaties, and the right of patronage that appears to be assumed towards those among the Poles who are excluded from the amnesty, or who reject benefits. This deplorable system, which the Propaganda has made France adopt, and which has been imitated in other countries, has already produced the most disastrous results in the Kingdom of Poland. This is in a great measure the cause of the dogged resistance of the Poles, wbich prolonged the struggle beyond all expectation. It can still do infinite mischief, if Governments do not seek, at least by their example, to paralyze the effects of a tendency which shows itself so generally, if they do not consent in good faith to trust the future fate of the Kingdom of Poland to the wisdom and good feeling of the Emperor, to the knowledge which he must possess of the real interests of his Government and of his subjects, to the respect which he has always professed for existing Treaties, and, lastly, to his anxiety for the welfare of his people, for their recovery from the sufferings which a period of calamity had entailed, and the necessity of for ever preventing its recurrence.
It is particularly from the British Government that our august Master thinks he has a right to expect this proof of confidence and consideration. The political course of his Cabinet, the