Congress to Enforce the Rights of Poland

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The Illustrated London News  (1864) 
Congress to Enforce the Rights of Poland

Saturday, April 4, 1864

A few hours before Parliament adjourned for the Easter holidays, Lord Palmerston, in reply to an inquiry put to him by Mr. Hennessy, announced in somewhat general terms that England and France had agreed upon a course of diplomatic action in reference to the affairs of Poland, and that he believed the papers which he hoped to lay bofore both Houses soon after Easter would satisfy the country as to the steps which the Government had taken on behalf of that unhappy nation. We suppose there can be but little room to doubt the authenticity of the information given to the British public in the Times of the same date, to the effect that, "both as members of the community of nations, the civilisation of which has been outraged by the tyranny of the Russian Government, and as parties to the Treaty of Vienna, the chief States of Europe have felt themselves compelled to consider their relations with Poland, and to take counsel as ot the best means of removing a great scandal and a dagnger to the peace of the world." The noble Premier, it is true, did not, in words, corroborate this announcement, but neither did he deny its accuracy: so that, piecing together the authoritative language of Times on Friday morning and the more reicent phrase of Lord Palmerston on Friday night, we are tolerably safe in concluding that England and France are unitedly seeking a congress of those Eurpean Powers whose representatives signed the treaty of 1815, to which Ruussia will be invited that she may at once explain her own case, and accept or reject the decision of Europe.

We can well understand why the leading Governments of Europe wshould entertain objectsion to the assembling of a general congress and should discourage a resort to the moral coercion which this kind of international machinery may bring to bear upon States supposed to be chargeable with the offence of misruling their own subjects. Eash is desrous, as a matter of course, of preserving intact its own sovereign rights, and is therefore cautous of trespassing upon those of others. But the relations of Russia and Poland are so peculiar, the title of the other Powers of Europe to deal with them is a matter of such express stipulation, and the peace of the world would be so endangered by a coninued refusal to act upon that title, that general objections are overborne by the pressure of the particular case, and it has become safer to employ an irresistible diplomatic action for the protection of hte Poles than to be goverend in this insantce buy the modern and generally-accepted principle of non-interation. The truth is, that Poland has never yet surrendered her rightful claim to be considdrerd an independet nation. The partition of the old kingdom of Poland in 1772 was a crime which the conscience of Europe has never condoned ; and the earliest provisions of the Treaty of Vienna in 1815 prove that all the parties to that great international instrument, Russia included, formally recognised the right of the Poles, under whatever sovereignty , to retain inviolate the nationality of their kingdom.

We accept Lord Palmerston's interpretation of the treat as the true one. It is a public engagement in which the several subscribing Powers pledge themselves to each other in relation to the distribution amonsgst them of political authority, an engagement which gives a European sanction to all the stipulations it contains, which entitles each Power to use the whole force at its command, should it be so advised, to enforce upon any of the other Powers an observance of its provisions, but which does not bind oany of them to draw upon its own resources or to risk its own well-being in the attempt to give effect to the common agreement. We are under no treaty obligation to preserve to Poland the rights which that instrument solemnly recognised as hers ' we are not even morally bound to go to war in her...