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MR. GLADSTONE AND OXFORD THE FROME-BENNETT CASE.
cal Brougham jumps up and denounces as the first step towards the destruction of a great social edifice which will not bear the touch of a finger.
Lord Brougham had been quiet for some time in relation to English politics, and had devoted considerable attention to French affairs during his repeated sojourns at Cannes, where he had a small estate and a winter residence, but probably some readers may be surprised to hear that during the troublous times of 1848 he had contemplated gaining a seat in the French legislature and offering himself for election as president. He had applied to Lamartine for letters of naturalization, which had not been granted, or rather Brougham was informed that the granting them would deprive him of his English privileges, and so he abandoned the application. Little is known of the real intention of the restless ex-chancellor, who would still, as it was said of him in a much earlier period, have undertaken any position, even that of commanding the British fleet. It is on the authority of Lord Palmerston that the fact is stated, for in a letter to Lord Normanby in 1848 the humorous and acute foreign minister wrote:—“Lamartine is really a wonderful fellow, and is endowed with great qualities. It is much to be desired that he should swim through the breakers and carry his country safe into port. I conclude that he has escaped one danger by the refusal to naturalize Brougham; for it is evident that our ex-chancellor meant, if he had got himself elected, to have put up for president of the republic. It is woful to see a man who is so near being a great man make himself so small."
Frome-Bennett case. It may just be mentioned in passing that Mr. Gladstone's antagonist in parliament in this matter was Mr. Horsman (now dead). Mr. Horsman made no mark on any one subject, and he was usually, though a Liberal, a self-isolated politician like the present Earl Grey. He was, however, a brilliant debater, and was pretty sure to be listened to and to produce an effect. Those were days in which quasi-Romanist practices in the Church of England excited much stronger general antagonism than they do now, and there had already been a series of storms out of doors, and some interpellations in the House of Commons. Mr. Horsman recited all the charges against the bishop and Mr. Bennett, and moved for a committee to inquire into the circumstances. It was alleged against this clergyman that he had, while at Kissingen, attended mass, but had never attended the Protestant service at the embassy, while he had carried about with him a small altar for his own use. He was also accused of not holding the doctrine of the supremacy of the crown. He had resigned the incumbency of St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, upon a remonstrance from the Bishop of London (the "anti-popery" scenes which led to this are now but little remembered), and the point now was that the Bishop of Bath and Wells had admitted him from another diocese into his own without due care. It would be tedious to go into the legal niceties of the story; but Mr. Gladstone, in a masterly speech, maintaining incidentally that the people of Frome were satisfied with their vicar, argued that his bishop had acted in due course of law, and could not be brought
But Brougham too did good work in 1852 before the house as a culprit. If any honourin company with other law lords.
It was remarked by a very acute young lady that Mr. Gladstone would never make a perfectly willing politician, except in connection with church matters. It was a little strange that the man should be criticised as unfit for the post of representative of Oxford University, who displayed so much eloquence and acumen ecclesiastico-forensic acumenas Mr. Gladstone showed in the celebrated
able member would move for a committee to inquire into the state of the law in these matters, "which seemed to have been studiously framed to discourage bishops," he would himself vote for such a committee. Mr. Horsman he indicated as a sort of professional "public accuser." In the debate which followed, Mr. Disraeli of course opposed the motion, and no less sturdily Protestant an authority than Sir W. Page Wood supported Mr. Gladstone's contention that the bishop
was within the law. Mr. Horsman carried his motion, however; but when the committee had been nominated, Mr. Gladstone, Sir W. Page Wood, and some others refused to serve, Mr. Gladstone declaring that nothing less than a peremptory order of the house should compel him to sit! This was a collapse indeed. The discouragement of bishops was not a subject which troubled the house much, but the revival of convocation this year was a sign of the times (pointing to ecclesiastical controversy) which is entitled to this brief mention.
The attitude of the Czar Nicholas of Russia towards England in regard to "the sick man," as he had long nicknamed Turkey, had been made clear enough during his visit to this country in 1844, and we have already had a glimpse of what manner of man he was and of his efforts to draw English statesmen into a confidential understanding which would enable him to claim them as allies without the formality of a treaty. It may be doubted whether those confidential suggestions were treated by Lord Aberdeen with sufficient decision. That amiable nobleman, who sought peace, was naturally reluctant to speak with marked emphasis to a potentate who was a guest of the queen, and the czar appears to have come to the conclusion-or he pretended to have come to the conclusion-that his proposals were at least to be considered and were not unacceptable. Had it happened that Palmerston had been the recipient of the emperor's confidence (an unlikely supposition of course) there would probably have been no war in the Crimea, though Palmerston would have been ready (some people said willing) for war. As it was, the statesman who hated war and did not dislike the czar, found himself-perhaps in consequence of his pacific and conciliating reticence-at the head of an administration from which immediate hostilities were demanded.
It is very difficult to understand the position assumed by Nicholas except on the ground that he was a semi-barbarian with an almost
1 See vol. ii. p. 130.
insane sense of his vast authority, who, seeking to assert his personal influence, chose to flatter English statesmen by a proposal for a tacit mutual understanding with which the rest of the world had no concern. His will was despotic at home, and he may have calculated that his concessions would be irresistible when he chose to come here as a visitor and to be familiar with the English aristocracy. He was intensely interesting to those who met him; but, as we have seen, the kind of interest he excited was often that which people take in the temporary docility of a magnificent tiger. He had the grand physique of a semisavage despot;-the almost childish desire to attract regard and admiration, the sudden generosity, the capability for noble impulses, the anxiety to be accepted as the equal if not the superior of men of high intellectual culture and refined habits, and on the other hand he possessed the cunning of the savage not much tempered by the diplomatic wiles of which he was usually suspected. When he discovered that his appeals had been received only with polite attention, and that they were not regarded as sacred confidences which would bind the English government from interposing to prevent the dismemberment of Turkey, he was (or assumed to be) as indignant as though the obligations of a definite treaty had been abandoned and disclaimed. It is likely that he had really come to think the conversations in which he had made known his views would be accepted as the basis of tacit agreements. In his own country they would have been no less than absolute commands. He had laid aside his imperative character during his visit here and had professed to desire no other agreement than such as might be implied by an understanding "between English gentlemen." This may have been part of a secret design to obtain an assurance which could never have been made part of a regular treaty, but probably he imagined that the mere fact of his having imparted his views in friendly confidence would so touch English notions of honour that he might be able to count upon the neutrality if not the co-operation of our government. The conversations in which he endeavoured to press his policy on
THE CZAR NICHOLAS SHOWS HIS HAND.
Lord Aberdeen and Sir Robert Peel, only indicated the proportions to which his intentions grew nine years afterwards when in January, 1853, he met the English ambassador (Sir Hamilton Seymour) at the palace of the Archduchess Helen in St. Petersburg, and commenced another series of confidential communications which showed that according to the usual temper of his mind the former tentative propositions had relation to a fixed purpose which he would obstinately carry out even in spite of refusal. The affairs of Turkey, the czar intimated, were in a very disorganized condition, the country itself seeming to be falling to pieces. That fall would be a very great misfortune, and it was very important that England and Russia should come to a perfectly good understanding upon these affairs, and that neither should take any decisive step of which the other was not apprised. A month afterwards the emperor again met our ambassador and returned to the subject. "I tell you,” he said, "that if your government has been led to believe that Turkey retains any element of existence, your government must have received incorrect information. I repeat to you that the sick man is dying, and we can never allow such an event to take us by surprise. We must come to some understanding, and this we should do, I am convinced, if I could hold but ten minutes' conversation with your ministers-with Lord Aberdeen, for instance, who knows me so well, who has full confidence in me as I have in him. And remember, I do not ask for a treaty or a protocol; a general understanding is all I require that between gentlemen is sufficient; and in this case I am certain that the confidence would be as great on the side of the queen's ministers as on mine." Pursuing the conversation on the following day, he said, "There are certain things which I will never tolerate. I will begin with ourselves. I will not tolerate the permanent occupation of Constantinople by the Russians. Having said this I will say that it never shall be occupied by the English or French or any other great
In 1844 the czar had said, "Il y a dans mon cabinet deux opinions sur la Turquie : l'une, qu'elle est mourante; l'autre, qu'elle est morte la dernière est la mienne."
nation. Again, I never will permit an attempt at the reconstruction of a Byzantine empire, or such an extension of Greece as would render her a powerful state; still less will I permit the breaking up of Turkey into little republics asylums for the Kossuths and Mazzinis, and other revolutionists of Europe. Rather than submit to any of these arrangements I would go to war, and as long as I had a man or a musket left I would carry it on.” It was still left to the speculation of the listener what was to be the future of Constantinople and the Turkish Empire, but it was more than hinted that in the case of the dissolution of the latter there might be a satisfactory arrangement. "The principalities," said the czar, "are in fact an independent state under my protection. This might so continue. Servia might receive the same form of government. So again with Bulgaria. There seems to be no reason why this province should not form an independent state." Then came the temptation-or what he conceived to be the temptation to an alliance-"As to Egypt, I quite understand the importance to England of that territory. I can, then, only say that if, in the event of a distribution of the Ottoman succession upon the fall of the empire, you should take possession of Egypt, I shall have no objection to offer. I would say the same thing of Candia; that island might suit you, and I do not know why it should not become an English possession." The monstrous arrogance added to the unscrupulous assumption of these propositions would only have been possible to a sovereign, himself a semi-barbarian, ruling with a personal despotism not only millions of people but even the nobles and officials by whom he was surrounded. When we attentively consider the terms and meaning of his efforts to form a tacit alliance with England to dismember the Ottoman Empire, divide the territory, and defy the rest of Europe, it is difficult to see how war could have been avoided unless the Earl of Aberdeen and our government had spoken in unmistakable denunciation of the suggestions instead of listening and saying little or nothing. Had a rough-and-ready or an emphatic and decided negative been given at
once, accompanied by an intimation that England would not stand by and see the mischief done, we might have been saved the Crimean war; but the answer was not given in time. When it was given, and given so late that it seemed as though we were half reluctant to refuse or were only endeavouring to save appearances, Nicholas would not believe that we were in earnest until we had proceeded to extremities, when he lied without hesitation, and as promptly flung himself into a war in which, as he probably knew, Prussia and Austria would render us no aid, while our alliance with France goaded him to a condition not far short of frenzy.
It must not be understood that the Emperor of Russia was destitute of intellectual attainments; on the contrary, he was in many respects accomplished. His favourite studies were military architecture, mathematics, and music. He was passionately fond of dramatic performances, and is said to have assisted the Russian poet Nestor Koukoluik in the composition of some of his pieces, and to have repeatedly aided in the construction of ballets. He was frequently behind the scenes at the theatre. It may be said indeed that he had a decided taste for theatrical display, and that although in private he lived plainly and simply, his vanity was strong enough to be pleased with the trappings and ornaments that belong to state occasions and set off the person. An amusing story is told by the Comte de Villemar illustrating the czar's consciousness of his own superb appearance.
At the Vaudeville at Paris, when it was in the Rue de Chartres, there was an actress remarkable for her corpulency, her animation, and her piquancy-Madame Bras, who left Paris to seek her fortune in Russia, where she was well received, particularly by the royal family. The Emperor Nicholas was fond of visiting the actors in the green-room during the play, and used to thee and thou the women. On entering one evening the women's green-room, he found Madame Bras alone. A slight malicious smile, as he entered, played over her lips. The emperor remarked it, and said, "Bras, what made thee laugh on my coming in?" "A feminine folly, sire," she replied,
"which passed through my mind, and which I beseech your majesty to excuse me from communicating, though I protest there was nothing in it to offend your majesty, whom I respect as I ought." "I believe it,” replied the emperor with his usual dignity, "which is the reason why I want to know the cause of your laugh." "Sire," answered Madame Bras, "since you order it I will confess that, as I saw your majesty come in, I could not help saying to myself that your person is devilishly well adapted to your line of characters" (qu'elle a diablement le physique de son emploi). Though the compliment savoured a little of the vulgar player, it infinitely flattered the emperor, who laughed at it with the affability which was habitual to him when conversing with the French actresses; and on the following day he sent a beautiful pair of diamond bracelets to the vivacious truant from the theatre of the Rue de Chartres.
His regard for pomp and display in public may be partly explained by his fine physical proportions and by the necessity for his always appearing with effect upon state occasions, and this may have been the reason why he constantly wore a military uniform; but he possessed a vast self-consciousness, and was continually anxious to know what was said of him. It was declared that he had formed a collection of all the books and pamphlets and even of the numberless newspaper articles published in various languages in every quarter of the globe, in which he was spoken of either favourably or the reverse, and that this curious collection consisted, at the time of his death, of several hundred volumes and portfolios.
Nicholas of Russia, it must be remembered, was not the heir of a long line of imperial culture. Until Peter the Great, who had no pretentions whatever to culture, opened up empire, Russia was a barbarous state. Catherine II., who did pretend to all kinds of intellectual progress, was the sovereign who really developed and extended the national boundary and created for it a prestige which placed it on an equality with the older states of Europe, but this was done not by culture but by governing capacity, unsparing despotism, and ex
GOVERNMENT AND CHARACTER OF THE CZAR.
traordinary ability aided by political intrigue. | and means of communication through the
Nicholas himself when he succeeded to the throne of his brother Alexander I., became the sovereign of neither a completely civilized nor a free people. Half the nation was still in a condition of semi-barbarism; and it had been the policy of its rulers vigorously to suppress liberty of thought and speech. The government was Asiatic in its prevention of what we call freedom, and Nicholas entered upon his enormous responsibilities with an intention to make himself personally regarded not only as the head but as the sole authority of the state. The aggrandisement of Russia was the tradition which he followed, and to that everything must give way. His capacity for work, his great strength and stature, his power of directing state affairs and giving almost unremitting care to minor details of civil and military organization, were all remarkable. There never was a sovereign who was so constantly employed as the Czar Nicholas, and this may have prevented the development of that insanity which had more than once shown itself in the imperial family, and of which outbursts of violence and obduracy were perhaps the occasional symptoms in Nicholas himself. He made himself not only dictator but responsible agent, and so he was never at rest. He was constantly travelling to various parts of his vast dominion, and ordering military, naval, or public works. He prompted the codification of the laws, or to speak more correctly the institution of a regular code of laws instead of the few enactments promulgated by Catherine, who adopted a preamble with the aid of Voltaire, Diderot, and d'Alembert. In 1832 the code inaugurated by the czar was contained in fifteen quarto volumes, and in 1851 sixteen volumes were added as a supplement. Russia had become a great and threatening military power, and the necessity for conciliating or counteracting her policy had long been a prominent factor in European diplomacy; but she was also making vast strides in material progress, and here again the emperor was compelled to exert himself to the utmost to enlarge his fleets, increase the number of his ports and his mercantile marine, to establish railroads
great territory over which he ruled, and to provide for the rapid transmission of intelligence, which he did so effectually that news from the Crimea came to England more quickly by way of St. Petersburg than by the direct route. The conclusion of commercial treaties with China, Asiatic states, Germany, and America, gave him occupation in another direction, and yet the man's activity was so untiring that he constantly attended reviews- -was first on the spot where there was a fire, directing the men how to work the engines, and even superintended the breaking of the long icicles which in winter hung from the eaves and copings of public buildings to the danger of the pas
It will be seen that Nicholas was in a position where submissive adulation, or at the most a kind of deferential temerity on the part of those who surrounded him, inflated his already overweening pride, and the homage which he received, added to some genuine admiration for his person and the extraordinary energy of his character, gratified his vanity to an excess that injured the real strength of his character. But he was also credited with holding the traditional dream of becoming, if not the conqueror of the world for the Slavonic race, at least of preparing the way for the Muscovite rule in Asia. Whether he held this expectation or not, he was eminently unfitted for promoting it outside Russian dominion. He had, as we have said, many of the higher qualities that distinguish half-civilized rulers who are despotic because they know no other form of government which would be applicable to their people-but he had no high moral qualities. As a ruler he had inherited and held almost unchanged the policy of the more powerful of his predecessors. Without going so far as to endorse the saying that his was in its bare elementary principles a government of force and fraud, we may quote the words of a writer who in 1855, when reviewing his career, said:
"As to the liberty and dignity of man, as to those elevated sentiments of heart and mind which ennoble human nature, he not