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once alluded with telling sarcasm. Cobden during a debate had said that under certain conditions he would fight, or if he could not fight would work for the wounded in the hospitals. "Well," was Palmerston's retort, "there are many people in this country who think that the party to which he belongs should go immediately into a hospital of a different kind, and which I shall not mention."
This was no uncommon manner of treating the representations of Cobden among the war party outside the House of Commons. During the whole of the time during which the war was prosecuted with an enthusiasm that was afterwards followed by a demand for searching inquiry, he was spoken of with derision or dislike even among people who had once regarded him as their political leader. The newspapers were filled with abuse of "Cobden, Bright, & Co.," as Palmerston once designated them in a letter, and Mr. Bright was burned in effigy. At the best they were regarded as doctrinaires or fanatics. Neither of these men swerved from their first assertions, however. Cobden held precisely the same opinions when, four years later, Lord Palmerston invited him to become a member of the cabinet. His views on public questions had undergone little or no change. Both he and Mr. Bright had learned that though to offer what they deemed to be explanations, appeals, or exhortations during the time when the nation was urging or was urged in the direction of war might be followed by good results, such endeavours were useless amidst the tumult of the conflict. It increased their hatred of war to believe that it had the effect of making men reckless of such appeals. "It is no use to argue, said Cobden, when speaking some years afterwards of the war in America, "It is no use to argue as to what is the origin of the war, and no use whatever to advise the disputants. From the moment the first shot is fired or the first blow is struck in a dispute, then farewell to all reason and argument; you might as well reason with mad dogs as with men when they have begun to spill each other's blood in mortal combat. I was so convinced of the fact during the Crimean war, I was so convinced of the
utter uselessness of raising one's voice in opposition to war when it has once begun, that I made up my mind that so long as I was in political life, should a war again break out between England and a great power, I would never open my mouth upon the subject from the time the first gun was fired until the peace was made."
But by the time of the American war the principles which both Cobden and Bright had enunciated were much better understood. The peace party failed to make the Crimean invasion serve as an immediate illustration of their policy, but it is by no means certain that it did not assume to many minds the force of an example of the value of their principles. At any rate there began the development of a feeling that armed intervention, and even the threat of it, should no longer be regarded as the foremost British influence in relation to European quarrels and supposed "British interests."
The mention of "British interests" may well give us occasion to hear Mr. Gladstone on the subject of the origin and reasons of the Crimean war. His words are perhaps even more worthy of attention from the fact that they were written in 1878, twenty-four years after the period to which they relate. They occur in a review of that Life of the Prince Consort by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Theodore Martin, already quoted in these pages.
Mr. Gladstone says it would be curious to ascertain the precise date at which the idea was first broached that British interests required the maintenance of the Ottoman Empire, and states his belief that it is later than 1828, when we were engaged in a policy of coercion against Turkey, out of which, just before, had grown the battle of Navarino. In that debate Lord Holland delivered a speech which appeared to show that we had ancient alliances with Russia, that we had no treaty at all with Turkey before 1799, that the treaty concluded was only for seven years, that it was simply part and parcel of our military measures against France, and that it began with these words:-"His Britannic majesty, connected already with his majesty the Em
MR. BRIGHT DENOUNCES THE WAR IN PARLIAMENT.
made in terms so unseemly that the government were asked in the House of Commons a few nights afterwards (16th February) if they intended to take proceedings against the rebellious admiral. "He has proclaimed himself a hero,” was Sir James Graham's answer; "but it is not my intention to allow the gallant officer to dub himself a martyr as well as a hero; and therefore it is not my intention to advise the crown to take any further notice of the matter." Replying to a taunt about his speech at the Reform Club Sir James Graham remarked on the same occasion, “I underwent due correction in this house on the subject of that speech; since that correction was made I hope I have improved in prudence." The honour of Grand Cross of the Bath was offered a few months afterwards to Sir Charles Napier; but he declined it, stating in a letter to Prince Albert (6th July, 1855) as his reason for doing so, that having demanded a court-martial from the admiralty to investigate his conduct, and this having been refused, "he did not feel he could accept an honour till his character was cleared."
and the country afterwards acknowledged
But the country was in the midst of war by the time that Napier was disputing in London, and another Baltic fleet under Admiral Dundas, provided with the necessary gun-boats and mortars, went out and bombarded Sweaborg. Our troops were advancing towards Sebastopol. At home people were in a state of wild excitement about the want of preparation by the war-office and the alleged break-down of our commissariat and transport system.
The "peace at any price" party, as they had been dubbed, were unmoved. They abated nothing of their condemnation of the whole of the action, or rather the inaction, of the cabinet which had led to hostilities. What Mr. Bright had said at the meeting of the peace congress at Edinburgh he was ready to repeat, and to repeat with considerable additions, when he rose to speak in the House of Commons after the royal message announcing the declaration of war. Referring to one of the epigrammatic phrases used by Disraeli he said:—
Sir Charles had returned from the Baltic with his fleet, and though he received no warm welcome, he did not for any long time remain under the suspicion of not having done his duty. He had, as was written at the time by an admirer, caused the thirty sail composing the powerful Russian fleet to shrink like rats into their holes; he had taken Bomarsund, caused Hango to be blown up, interrupted the Russian commerce; and for six months had kept in a state of inaction certainly 80,000 or 90,000 good troops, namely, 20,000 at Helsingfors, 15,000 at Abo, and 40,000 at Cronstadt, besides smaller corps protecting Revel and other places. He had restored and enlarged the knowledge of the Finland Gulf to navigation; had ascertained what large vessels could do there and what they could not do, when they could act alone and when with troops, and when gun-boats could be used with effect. He had carried out an ill-manned and illdisciplined fleet, and had brought back unharmed a well-organized, well-disciplined one, with crews exercised in gunnery and seamanship. These encomiums were not undeserved, tirely on principles which are accepted by all the
"The right hon. gentleman the member for Buckinghamshire, on a recent occasion, made use of a term which differed considerably from what he said in a former debate; he spoke of this war as a 'just and unnecessary war.' I shall not discuss the justice of the war. It may be difficult to decide a point like this, seeing that every war undertaken since the days of Nimrod has been declared to be just by those in favour of it; but I may at least question whether any war that is unnecessary can be deemed to be just. I shall not discuss this question on the abstract principle of peace at any price, as it is termed, which is held by a small minority of persons in this country, founded on religious opinions which are not generally received, but I shall discuss it en
however, disavowing their policy either in act or word. It was Prussia which, at the critical moment, to speak in homely language, bolted; the very policy which she had recommended, she declined unconditionally to sustain, from the first moment when it began to assume the character of a solid and stern reality. In fact, she broke up the European concert, by which it was that France and England had hoped, and had had a right to hope, to put down the stubbornness of the czar, and to repel his attack upon the public law of Europe. The question that these allies had now to determine was whether, armed as they had been all along with the panoply of moral authority, they would, upon this unfortunate and discreditable desertion, allow all their demands, their reasonings, their professions, to melt into thin air.
Would such a retreat by two such powers have been for the permanent advantage of European honour, or legality, or peace?"
We must now turn to the occurrences of which both parliamentary proceedings and expressions of public opinion were indications, and we shall have to look back a little in order to measure the progress of events. Probably the departure of our fleet for the Baltic was in the public eye the most significant of the preparations for an arduous struggle, and at the time it was made much of, although it was afterwards found to be of little practical importance so far as naval operations were concerned. There had already been a grand naval review at Spithead. The Grenadier and the Coldstream Guards had been cheered by an enthusiastic concourse as they departed from Waterloo Station for Southampton, the Fusiliers had marched from Wellington Barracks, and as they passed had been cheered by the queen and the royal family from a balcony at Buckingham Palace. On the 11th of March (1854) the Baltic fleet, under Admiral Sir Charles Napier, had left Spithead, having been visited by her majesty and (so to speak) led out to sea by the royal yacht, which kept its place at the head for some distance and then stopped till the great armada had swept by.
The sailing of the Baltic fleet had been heralded by a banquet given to its commander Admiral Sir Charles Napier at the Reform Club; Lord Palmerston presided and made an after-dinner speech, which has since been characterized as the kind of oration in which a jocular elderly gentleman would propose the bride and bridegroom at a wedding-breakfast. This is not an exact description of it; but it was not in the best of taste, considering that the occasion was one which was sufficiently serious to make grave statesmen anxious, and it came to be singularly out of tune with the results of Napier's expedition, about which the gallant admiral had six months afterwards a bitter dispute with Sir James Graham, who, as first lord of the admiralty, called his judgment and energy in question. The immediate result of Lord Palmerston's vivacity was a grave remonstrance by Mr. Bright in the House of Commons. It may be interesting to give a passage or two of what the home secretary really did say, or at all events of the portion which displeased others who were perhaps neither so earnest nor so serious as Mr. Bright. As an after-dinner speech it was doubtless amusing enough, and Lord Palmerston was perhaps not altogether inexcusable in resenting any public comment upon such a matter in the House of Commons; but his retort on Mr. Bright was even in worse form than the speech itself.
"There was," said his lordship when he rose
propose the toast of the evening, "a very remarkable entertainer of dinner company called Sir R. Preston, who lived in the city, and who, when he gave dinners at Greenwich, after gorging his guests with turtle, used to turn round to the waiters and say, 'Now bring dinner.' Gentlemen, we have had the toasts which correspond with the turtle, and now let's go to dinner. Now let us drink the toast which belongs to the real occasion of our assembling here. I give you 'The health of my gallant friend Sir Charles Napier,' who sits beside me. If, gentlemen, I were addressing a Hampshire audience consisting of country. gentlemen residing in that county, to which my gallant friend and myself belong, I should introduce him to your notice as an eminent agri
ALLEGED INFLUENCE OF LORD STRATFORD DE REDCLIFFE.
proved to be present and actively at work in almost every province of the Turkish Empire. And the house should bear in mind when reading these despatches from the English consuls in Turkey to the English ambassador at Constantinople, that they give a very faint picture of what really exists, because what are submitted to us are but extracts of more extended and important communications. It may fairly be assumed that the parts which are not published are those which described the state of things to be so bad that the government has been unwilling to lay before the house and the country and the world, that which would be so offensive and so injurious to its ally the Sultan of Turkey.
"But if other evidence be wanting, is it not a fact that Constantinople is the seat of intrigues and factions to a degree not known in any other country or capital in the world? France demands one thing, Russia another, England a third, and Austria something else. For many years past our ambassador at Constantinople has been partly carrying on the government of that country and influencing its policy, and it is the city in which are fought the diplomatic contests of the great powers of Europe. And if I have accurately described the state of Turkey, what is the position of Russia? It is a powerful country under a strong executive government, it is adjacent to a weak and falling nation, it has in its history the evidences of a succession of triumphs over Turkey, it has religious affinities with a majority of the population of European Turkey which make it absolutely impossible that its government should not, more or less, interfere, or have a strong interest in the internal policy of the Ottoman Empire. Now if we were Russian-and I put the case to the members of this house-is it not likely, according to all the theories I have heard explained when we have been concerned in similar cases, that a large majority of the house and the country would be strongly in favour of such intervention as Russia has attempted? and if I opposed it, as I certainly should oppose it, I should be in a minority on that question more insignificant than that in which I have now the misfortune to find myself with regard to
the policy of the government on the grave question now before us."
Mr. Bright boldly asserted that if Russia made certain demands on Turkey this country insisted that Turkey should not consent to them; and defied any one to read the despatches of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe without coming to the conclusion that, from the beginning to the end of the negotiations the English ambassador had insisted in the strongest manner that Turkey should refuse to make the slightest concession on the real point at issue in the demands of the Russian government. In proof of that statement he referred to the account given by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe in his despatch of the 5th May, 1853, of the private interview he had with the sultan, the minister of the sultan having left him at the door that the interview might be strictly private. In describing that interview Lord Stratford had said, "I then endeavoured to give him a just idea of the degree of danger to which his empire was exposed." This Mr. Bright interpreted to mean, "The sultan was not sufficiently aware of his danger, and the English ambassador ‘endeavoured to give him a just idea of it;' and it was by means such as this that he urged upon the Turkish government the necessity of resistance to any of the demands of Russia, promising the armed assistance of England whatever consequences might ensue. From the moment that promise was made, or from the moment it was sanctioned by the cabinet at home, war was all but inevitable; they had entered into a partnership with the Turkish government (which, indeed, could scarcely be called a government at all) to assist it by military force; and Turkey, having old quarrels to settle with Russia, and old wrongs to avenge, was not slow to plunge into the war, having secured the cooperation of two powerful nations, England and France, in her qaarrel."
Speaking of the celebrated "Vienna note" Mr. Bright said, "I am bound here to say that nobody has yet been able clearly to explain the difference between the various notes Turkey has been advised to reject, and this and other notes she has been urged to accept. With respect to this particular note, nobody seems
to have understood it. There were four ambassadors at Vienna, representing England, France, Austria, and Prussia; and these four gentlemen drew up the Vienna note, and recommended it to the Porte as one which she might accept without injury to her independence or her honour. Louis.Napoleon is a man knowing the use of language, and able to comprehend the meaning of a document of this nature, and his minister of foreign affairs is a man of eminent ability; and Louis Napoleon and his minister agree with the ambassadors at Vienna as to the character of the Vienna note. We have a cabinet composed of men of great individual capacity; a cabinet, too, including no less than five gentlemen who have filled the office of secretary for foreign affairs, and who may therefore be presumed to understand even the sometimes concealed meaning of diplomatic phraseology. These five foreign secretaries, backed by the whole cabinet, concurred with the ambassadors at Vienna and with the Emperor of the French and his foreign secretary in recommending the Vienna note to the sultan as a document which he might accept consistently with his honour and with that integrity and that independence which our government is so anxious to secure for him. What was done with this note? Passing by the marvellous stupidity, or something worse, which caused that note not to be submitted to Turkey before it was sent to St. Petersburg, I would merely state that it was sent to St. Petersburg, and was accepted in its integrity by the Emperor of Russia in the most frank and unreserved manner. We were then told-I was told by members of the government-that the moment the note was accepted by Russia we might consider the affair to be settled, and that the dispute would never be heard of again. When, however, the note was sent to Constantinople after its acceptance by Russia, Turkey discovered, or thought or said she discovered, that it was as bad as the original or modified proposition of Prince Menschikoff, and she refused the note as it was, and proposed certain modifications. And what are we to think of these arbitrators or mediators-the four ambassadors at Vienna, and the governments of France and England-who,
after discussing the matter in three different cities and at three distinct and different periods, and after agreeing that the proposition was one which Turkey could assent to without detriment to her honour and independence, immediately afterwards turned round and declared that the note was one which Turkey could not be asked to accede to, and repudiated in the most formal and express manner that which they themselves had drawn up, and which only a few days before they had approved of as a combination of wisdom and diplomatic dexterity which had never been excelled?"
It might be said that in making these statements Mr. Bright either knew too much or not enough of the actual conditions which were influencing the cabinet, and there is no need to comment on them, as they are quoted to show what was his expressed opinion at that time-an opinion, as we have seen, which differed essentially from that of many others who yet deplored the war and the occasion of it, and would have made any sacrifice for the sake of restoring peace, except that which they deemed would involve the national honour and lead to a tacit abandonment of international obligations undertaken apart from any selfish motive or for the maintenance of "British interests" in any material sense. But Mr. Bright had at least "the courage of his convictions" when he went on to say he very much doubted whether Count Nesselrode placed any meaning upon the note which it did not fairly warrant, and that it was impossible to say whether he really differed at all from the actual intentions of the four ambassadors at Vienna. Mr. Bright's explanation of the course taken by the Russian minister was this:-"Seeing the note was rejected by the Turk, and considering that its previous acceptance by Russia was some concession from the original demand, he issued a circular, giving such an explanation or interpretation of the Vienna note as might enable him to get back to his original position, and might save Russia from being committed and damaged by the concession, which, for the sake of peace, she had made. This circular, however, could make no real difference in the note itself; and