Sir H. Bulwer to Earl Russell.—(Received April 23)
Constantinople, April 12, 1864
THE continued advances of the Russians in Circassia, and the ill-treatment experienced by the natives from Russian troops, have led to an almost complete emigration from the country: 25,000 have already reached Trebizond, and others are endeavouring to escape in small boats at every risk. The conglomeration of vast quantities of these people, who have no industrial habits, threatens the health and peace of any one locality, and the loss of life which is occasioned by their hazardous attempts to escape from their conquerors is shocking to humanity. The Turkish Government is therefore about sending vessels to Trebizond to remove the emigrants thence, and place them in different parts of the Empire; and it is also in negotiation with the Russian Chargé d'Affaires here, in order to be able to adopt some measures by which those unfortunate people, who, after the most heroic attempts in defending the country where they were born, are at last obliged to abandon it, may be able to seek asylum with safety in the Ottoman dominions.
I understand that the Russian Chargé d'Affaires has shown no difficulty, as far as he is concerned, in entering into arrangements with the Porte, and has applied to his Government for further instructions.
I have, &c.
(Signed) HENRY L. BULWER
P.S.—I may take this opportunity of transmitting to your Lordship a Petition which has been addressed to Her Majesty the Queen by the Circassians, together with a translation of the same.
H. L. B.
Inc[l]osure in No. 3.
OUR most humble Petition to Her Magnificent Majesty the Queen and Emperor of England is to the effect that—
It is now more than eighty years since the Russian Government is unlawfully striving to subdue and annex to its dominions Circassia, which since the creation of the world has been our home and our country. It slaughters like sheep the children, helpless women and old men that fall into its hands. It rolls about their heads with the bayonet like melons, and there is no act of oppression or cruelty which is beyond the pale of civilization and humanity, and which defies description, that it has not committed. We have not, from father to son, at the cost of our lives and properties, refrained from opposing the tyrannical acts of that Government in defence of our country, which is dearer to us than our lives. But during the last year or two it has taken advantage of a famine caused by a drought with which the Almighty visited us, as well as by its own ravages, and it has occasioned us great distress by its severe attacks by sea and land. Many are the lives which have been lost in battle, from hunger in the mountains, from destitution on the sea-coast, and from want of skill at sea.
We therefore invoke the mediation and precious assistance of the British Government and people—the guardian of humanity and the centre of justice—in order to repel the brutal attack of the Russian Government on our country, and save our country and nation together.
But if it is not possible to afford this help for the preservation of our country, and race, then we pray to be afforded facilities for removing to a place of safety our helpless and miserable children and women that are perishing by the brutal attacks of the enemy as well as by the effects of famine; and if neither of these two requests are taken into consideration, and if in our helpless condition we are utterly annihilated notwithstanding our appeals to the mercy and grace of the Governments, then we shall not cease to invoke our right in the presence of the Lord of the Universe, of Him who has confided to Your Majesty sovereignty, strength, and power for the purpose of protecting the weak.
We beg Your Excellency [Sir Henry Bulwer] to be the medium of making known to the great British Government and to the glorious British nation our condition of helplessness and misery, and we have therefore ventured to present to Your Excellency our most humble petition. A copy of it has been submitted to the Sultan’s Government and to the Embassies of other Powers.
(Signed by the People of Circassia.)
29 Sheval, 1280 [April 9, 1864]
The above "Despatch and Inc[l]osure"—written by Henry Bulwer, H.M. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, to John Russell, H.M. Foreign Secretary—were published in Papers respecting the Settlement of Circassian Emigrants in Turkey—Presented to the House of Commons by Command of Her Majesty, in pursuance of their Address dated June 6, 1864.
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