« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
THE EMPEROR NICHOLAS WRITES TO THE QUEEN.
a time have influenced our government even against the clamour which was raised in the country. On the 1st of November the Emperor Nicholas issued a manifesto declaring war against Turkey, and referring to his former manifesto by which he had made known to his faithful and dearly beloved subjects the motives which had placed him under the obligation of demanding from the Ottoman Porte inviolable guarantees in favour of the sacred rights of the orthodox church. "We also," he went on to declare, "announced to them that all our efforts to recall the Porte by means of amicable persuasion to sentiments of equity and to the faithful observance of treaties had remained unfruitful, and that we had consequently deemed it indispensable to cause our troops to advance into the Danubian Principalities; but in taking this step we still entertained the hope that the Porte would acknowledge its wrong-doings and would decide on acceding to our just demands. Our expectation has been deceived. Even the chief powers of Europe have in vain sought by their exhortations to shake the blind obstinacy of the Ottoman government. It is by a declaration of war, by a proclamation filled with lying accusations against Russia, that it has responded to the pacific efforts of Europe as well as to our spirit of long-suffering. At last, enrolling in the ranks of its army revolutionary exiles from all countries, the Porte has just commenced hostilities on the Danube. Russia is challenged to the combat, and she has no other course left her than, putting her trust in God, to have recourse to force of arms, and so compel the Ottoman government to respect treaties and obtain reparation for the insults with which it has responded to our most moderate demands and to our most legitimate solicitude for the defence of the orthodox faith in the East, professed also by the people of Russia."
There is no need to quote more or to point out the monstrous falsehoods of this declaration which was distributed to the colonels of the Russian army. It was of course designed to stimulate the Russians themselves to a prosecution of the war, but to publish it to the world was little less than an insane defiance of the opinion of Europe. If anything had been
wanting to rouse the war fever in France and England this manifesto would have answered the purpose, and yet the czar seemed to imagine that he might still influence the English government, whose hesitation and reluctance to abandon the attempt to find a basis of agreement, he attributed either to timidity or to a lingering desire to support his claims. No other assumption seems capable of explaining an autograph letter which he at the same time addressed to the queen, expressing surprise that there should be any misunderstanding between her majesty's government and his own as to the affairs of Turkey, and appealing to her majesty's "good faith" and "wisdom" to decide between them. This letter was at once submitted by the queen to Lord Clarendon for his and Lord Aberdeen's perusal and opinion as to the answer to be returned. Her majesty replied on the 14th of November, and her letter, which was written in French, contained a direct and unmistakable answer, though it preserves the style of a formal private letter, and therefore gives the emperor rather more credit for good intentions than might be permissible if the language were to be judged otherwise than as that of the reserve which is understood to be ordained by etiquette.
"Being heartily anxious, sire, to discover what could have produced this painful misunderstanding, my attention has been naturally drawn to article 7 of the treaty of Kainardji; and I am bound to state to your majesty, that having consulted the persons here best qualified to form a judgment upon the meaning to be attached to this article, and after having read and re-read it myself, with the most sincere desire to be impartial, I have arrived at the conviction that this article is not susceptible of the extended meaning which it has been sought to attach to it. All your majesty's friends, like myself, feel assured that you would not have abused the power which would on such a construction have been accorded to you; but a demand of this kind could hardly be conceded by a sovereign who valued his own independence.
"Moreover, I will not conceal from your majesty the painful impression produced upon
me by the occupation of the principalities. | Argis, and the Danube; and though the
For the last four months this has caused a general commotion in Europe, and is calculated to lead to ulterior events, which I should deplore in common with your majesty. But as I know that your majesty's intentions towards the Porte are friendly and disinterested, I have every confidence that you will find means to give expression and effect to them, so as to avert those grave dangers which, I assure you, all my efforts will be directed to prevent. The impartial attention with which I have followed the causes that up to this time have led to the failure of all attempts at conciliation, leaves me with the firm conviction that there exists no real obstacle which cannot be removed or promptly surmounted with your majesty's assistance."
Before her majesty's letter was despatched it was of course submitted to Lords Aberdeen and Clarendon, and was much commended by them; so that it is after all to be regarded as a semi-diplomatic as well as a formally courteous communication. It was known in St. Petersburg that a letter had been written to the Queen of England, and our ambassador there soon heard how much the emperor had been mortified by the tenor of the reply, which he could easily interpret from the language of etiquette. He regretted "that he had not followed Nesselrode's advice and kept clear of politics in his letter, for the queen had in fact gone heart and soul with her ministry." Count Nesselrode was very anxious to learn from our ambassador if he knew the contents of the queen's reply. To him as well as to his other informant Sir Hamilton Seymour could only answer that he did not. "These correspondences," he added, "between sovereigns are not regular according to our constitutional notions; but all I can say is that if her majesty were called upon to write upon the Eastern affair she would not require her ministers' assistance. The queen understands all these questions as well as they do."
Hostilities, as we have seen, had actually commenced between the invading force of the Russians in the principalities. At Oltenitza 9000 Turks had taken up a position on a triangular space formed by the village, the
Russian troops endeavoured repeatedly to dislodge them the attempts were unsuccessful. On the last occasion the Turks repulsed the attack with such spirit, that 1200 of the enemy were killed or wounded. At Kalafat also the Turkish soldiers made good their position; but Omar Pacha did not intend to keep his whole army for the purpose of holding the left bank of the Danube, and he therefore retained Kalafat only as a position from which he could command that side of the river, blew up the works he had constructed at Oltenitza, and recrossed the stream.
It is easy to understand that after these events, the manifesto of the emperor and the reply to the letter which he sent to the queen, further efforts to avert war were not very promising, amidst growing excitement against Russia, and an impatient defiance and denunciation of the emperor's assumptions. After the defeat of Lord Derby's government the Aberdeen ministry had had enough to do to defend itself, not only for | being a "coalition," which was a title that had been converted into a term of reproach, but against being denominated a "factious combination," which was a still more formidable charge. Lord John Russell as secretary for foreign affairs had said one or two smart things, but one of the best was to a meeting of his constituents, the electors of the city of London,-"If an omnibus with some dozen passengers were seen going down Ludgate Hill at a furious pace, and breaking into the shop windows and injuring everybody that was going by, why, every man would concur,
the men that were going eastward and the men that were going westward-all would concur in stopping that omnibus and telling the coachman to get off his box. And how much surprised would all those passengers with the policeman at their head be, if the coachman were to say, 'Why, this is a factious combination. You gentlemen are going, some of you one way and some another, and yet you have all combined to prevent me driving my omnibus into the shops.""
It may be mentioned, also, that on the first intimation of probable war with Russia, Lord
LETTER OF NAPOLEON III. TO THE CZAR.
John Russell made use of a phrase which has since been heard a good deal of in its more recent form of "Peace with honour." In reply to a taunt from Mr. Disraeli of having joined the Aberdeen ministry "without a department," and of "condescending to accept subordinate office under an ancient and inveterate political opponent," he said, "Unless I were convinced that the present government was more likely than any government which could be formed to carry on the war successfully, and to conclude it by an honourable peace, I should cease to be one of its members." It
was pretty evident, however, that the war fever was reaching to a height which would defy the placid palliatives of Aberdeen, and would not be allayed by the declarations of the foreign secretary. The Russian attack upon the Turkish fleet at Sinope turned the scale, and pacification seemed to have become impossible, for there could no longer be any pretence that the movements of the czar were only defensive. The Turks had been sending reinforcements to the Asiatic coast of the Black Sea; and in the harbour of Sinope, about halfway between Trebizonde and Constantinople, they had anchored a fleet of seven frigates, three corvettes, and two smaller vessels. On the 30th of November a Russian fleet of six sail of the line, two frigates and three steamers, appeared suddenly in the harbour and immediately commenced action. The Turks were in an ill-chosen position, they handled their ships badly, and were far inferior in the number of guns and men; but they fought for two hours and a half, during which 4000 were killed, and all their ships were destroyed or crippled, except one steamer which escaped the Russian broadsides and carried the news to Constantinople. It has been contended that Russia had a right to give battle to the Turks when and how she pleased; but that certainly was not the opinion in England at the time. The destruction of the Turkish vessels while in anchor in a Turkish harbour, and almost during the time that the emperor was proclaiming his intention to be defensive and not aggressive, was held to be a fresh proof of the unscrupulous character of his claims. Lord VOL. III.
Clarendon wrote to the British minister at St. Petersburg:-"The object with which the combined fleets were sent to Constantinople was not to attack Russia but to defend Turkey; and the English and French ambassadors were informed that the fleets were not to assume an aggressive position, but that they were to protect the Turkish territory from attack;”—but the sultan's squadron was destroyed, where the English and French fleets, if they had been present, would have protected it, and would have repelled the attack; and on receiving intelligence of the engagement the allied fleet sent two frigates to watch the movements of the enemy. By that time the Russian vessels had hastily sheered off and taken shelter in Sebastopol. Few politicians had much expectation of war being averted after this. The immediate results were that the combined fleets were ordered to the Black Sea by the Earl of Clarendon, who had succeeded Lord John Russell in the Foreign Office, and that thus the opinions of Lord Palmerston were being justified. The queen was acute enough to see that though Palmerston's mode of proceeding was often objectionable, it might, if it had been adopted earlier, have prevented the outrageous conduct of Russia and so have led to a treaty of peace. Writing to Lord Clarendon on the 20th of December, 1853, she said, "Lord Palmerston's mode of proceeding always had that advantage that it threatened steps which it was hoped would not become necessary, whilst those hitherto taken, started on the principle of not needlessly offending Russia by threats, obliging us at the same time to take the very steps which we refused to threaten."
It has already been noticed that after the destruction of the Turkish fleet at Sinope, Napoleon III. addressed the Emperor of Russia in terms which, while they strongly urged the conclusion of negotiations which might secure peace, were little calculated to appease the rage of the czar when he heard that the allied fleet was ordered to the Black Sea. Yet the language he used was guarded and moderate. "The two maritime powers. had sent their squadrons to the Bosphorus. because Turkey, threatened in her indepen
dence, her provinces seized as a material guarantee for the fulfilment of a treaty which she had not broken, had claimed a support to which, by the justice of her cause, affirmed by the combined voice of Austria, Prussia, England, and France, she was entitled. The western powers had maintained a passive attitude up to the day when the Turkish fleet, riding quietly at anchor in a Turkish port, had been destroyed in spite of the assurance that there was no wish to commence an aggressive war. After that event it was no longer the policy of the allied powers which received a check, it was their military honour. The sound of the cannonshot at Sinope reverberated painfully in the hearts of all those who in England and in France respected national dignity. All shared in the sentiment that wherever our cannon could reach our allies ought to be respected. Out of this feeling arose the order given to our squadrons to enter the Black Sea, and to prevent by force, if necessary, the recurrence of a similar event." Probably the most distasteful part of the letter was its concluding representation that the allies also could secure "material guarantees" by prohibiting the navigation of the Black Sea by the Russian fleet, since it was "important during the war to preserve a guarantee equivalent in force to the occupation of the Turkish territory, and thus facilitate the conclusion of peace by having the power of making a desirable exchange." "I return with refusal," were the words telegraphed to Paris by the French representative at St. Petersburg. From the moment that the combined fleets of France and England entered the Black Sea with the avowed purpose of shutting up the Russian fleet in Sebastopol the hope of a peaceful adjustment was at an end. Count Nesselrode wrote to Baron Brunnow that it was "an act of flagrant hostility." It can scarcely be doubted that Lord Aberdeen and the ministry, with the exception of Lord Palmerston, were desirous to use every effort to convince the czar that they desired peace. One reason for this was, perhaps, that they knew we were not ready for war, but unfortunately that may have been regarded by the czar as their chief reason,
when he had reluctantly discovered that a desire covertly to support his claims had no influence in their decisions. He applied to Prussia and to Austria to obtain a promise of strict neutrality, but there also he was disappointed. Encouraged, perhaps, by the fact that they could safely assert their independence while France and England were immediately interested in maintaining it, they both objected to be dictated to. In answer to Count Orloff, who was at Vienna on this mission, the young Emperor of Austria asked whether the count could promise that the czar would not cross the Danube, would seek no acquisition of territory, and would evacuate the principalities when the war was over. The haughty reply was that the czar could come under no such engagement, and Count Orloff was then informed that Austria must be equally free to act as her interests and dignity might direct. Baron de Budberg had little more success in Prussia. The king was anxious enough to conciliate his brother-in-law the czar, and there was a strong Russian party at the court, but there was also a firm minister -Manteuffel-who for the moment influenced the king to refuse to commit himself to any course inconsistent with the principles he had maintained at the Vienna conference. Neither Austria nor Prussia would give any pledge of active interference, but Austria supported the ultimatum which was soon afterwards addressed to the czar by France and England. "It is impossible to make these people (Prussia) understand the duties and responsibilities of a great power," wrote our ambassador at Berlin; "their chief thought in this question appears to be the chance of playing a great card hereafter in Germany when the war shall have lasted a few years."
The Emperor of Russia had issued a ukase for a military levy of nine men in every thousand of the adult male population throughout his dominions, and this order was followed by a proclamation in which the blame for any future hostilities was thrown upon "those who were opposing the moderation and justice of demands in which Turkey, if left to herself, would have acquiesced." The manifesto having commenced with this declaration, which
THE "TIMES" AND PRINCE ALBERT ON PUBLIC FEELING.
was so worded as to appear to have been written more in sorrow than in anger, went on to say that the appearance of the English and French fleets at Constantinople had served as a further incentive to the obstinacy of the Porte, and that the two powers had now sent their fleets to the Black Sea, proclaiming their intention to protect the Turks, and to impede the free navigation of Russian vessels of war employed for the protection of the Russian coast. After a course of proceedings unheard of among civilized nations, the czar declared that he had recalled his embassies for England and France, and had broken off all political intercourse with these powers. The proclamation ended by appealing to the fanaticism of the people against those who had sided with the enemies of Christianity.
It may be easily understood that this manifesto increased the war feeling in France and England to a pitch which would have made the tenure of any government uncertain unless it was prepared to take immediate action. At the end of 1853 the Times upheld the general demand for hostilities by reminders that the suspicion that our fighting days were over was a mistake, whether it was held in Russia or in England:
"The combined governments of England and France have exhausted their diplomacy, their remonstrances, and their patience, and they now see themselves apparently reduced to the alternative of quitting for ever their high station among the nations of the earth, forfeiting their promises, and abandoning their allies, or having recourse to war,-the sport of barbarous sovereigns, but the dread of free and progressive governments. This is no alternative—it is a decision. With whatever reluctance, the western powers must accept the challenge so insultingly flung to them. It has been greatly to the credit of our people that, under circumstances of no small irritation, they have forborne from embarrassing the course of negotiation by an indiscreet exercise of their right of public meeting, and have thus left diplomacy every opportunity for averting the scourge with which we are threatened. Equally meritorious has been their forbearance from expressing a natural
anxiety for peace, and an impatience of further
Prince Albert afterwards in a letter to King Leopold said: "Another mistake which people abroad make, is to ascribe to England a policy based upon material interests and cold calculation. Her policy is one of pure feeling, and therefore often illogical. The government is a popular government, and the masses upon whom it rests only feel and do not think. In the present instance their feeling is something of this sort. The Emperor of Russia is a tyrant, the enemy of all liberty on the Continent, the oppressor of Poland. He wanted to coerce the poor Turk. The Turk is a fine fellow; he has braved the rascal, let us rush to his assistance. The emperor is no gentleman, as he has spoken a lie to our queen. Down with the Emperor of Russia! Napoleon for ever! He is the nephew of his uncle, whom we defeated at Waterloo. We were afraid of his invading us? Quite the contrary. He has forgotten all that is past,