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RESISTANCE OF THE SULTAN THE VIENNA NOTE.
but the existence of the Ottoman Empire. Now the seventh clause of the treaty, on which the whole controversy turned, recorded the agreement of the Sublime Porte "to protect constantly the Christian religion and its churches; and also to allow the minister of the imperial court of Russia to make, on all occasions, representations, as well in favour of the new church in Constantinople, of which mention will be made in the fourteenth article, as in favour of those who officiate therein, promising to take such representations into due consideration as being made by a confidential functionary of a neighbouring and sincerely friendly power." The "new church in Constantinople" evidently refers to some specific building; and in the "fourteenth article" this reference is explained to mean a permission to the Russian court to build in the Galata quarter of Constantinople a Greek church for public worship, in addition to the chapel built in the residence of the Russian minister; and it is further declared that this new church shall be always under the protection of the ministers of the Russian Empire, and shielded from all obstruction and all injury. The whole contention as to the logical claim of Russia turned on a distinction or a relation between the first line of the seventh clause and the entire clause along with the article relating to the new church, to which a reference is made by the clause itself.
There is no need, however, to dwell on these disputes, and practically they had no effect in averting the war, or in justifying the action which was taken by Russia to enforce claims which it was asserted were monstrous under any interpretation of the treaty, or, as many people would have said, in spite of the existence of any treaty whatever. In England the intentions rather than the claims of the Emperor Nicholas were estimated, and his attempts to make our government a party to his assumptions appeared to be resented more by the people of this country than they had been by the ministers to whom the sinister suggestions had been submitted.
It would have been comparatively easy to obtain from Turkey a reasonable recognition of the terms of the treaty. The sultan
was ready to admit the claims in respect to the holy places, and the protection to be afforded to Christian churches. But it soon became evident that the emperor had determined to make an end of "the sick man and administer his estate; and the refusal of England to become an accomplice seemed to increase his obstinacy, or rather to change its character to that of dogged fury. Prince Menschikoff either had orders to behave more like a bully than an envoy, or he naturally adopted that tone and manner which turned diplomatic proposals into threatening demands, and made of a so-called "convention" an ultimatum, the manner of presenting which was an insult to which no nation would be likely to submit unless it were in such extremity that it dare not refuse. The sultan did not think that Turkey was in that extremity, and it may be noted that Lord Palmerston thought so too, since he afterwards said he was by no means certain that the Turks might not have held their own for a long time against the bullying of Russia even after actual hostilities had commenced. The sultan had already issued firmans by which the claims for the confirmation and protection of the privileges of the Christian church had been met, and under the advice of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe the whole attitude of the Porte was one of a desire for conciliatory measures; but the demanded convention was refused, as perhaps Menschikoff expected that it would be, and then (on the 3d of July 1853) two Russian divisions under the command of Prince Gortschakoff crossed the Pruth and took possession of the Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. This the czar announced was not an act of war, but only the acquisition of material guarantees for the concession of the demands of Russia; but as these demands had already been emphatically refused as intolerable, war could not be very far off. Still, in accordance with the advice of the English representative and the concurrence of the other powers, the sultan refrained from a declaration of hostilities. The Vienna note, which was the result of the conference, was put forward as a charming example of diplo
macy; and Russia was ready to accept it, for it left the points in dispute unsettled, and its language was so vague that it was even more liable to misinterpretation than the treaty of Kutchuk-Kainardji itself. Lord Stratford, however, was not deceived by it. He saw that it could be distorted into a concession of Russian demands, since it would be interpreted into an admission of her immediate protectorate over the Greek Christians in Turkey. Prince Albert was among those who were at first caught by its smooth conciliatory admissions, but he afterwards characterized it as a trap laid by Russia through Austria. As we have already indicated, the demands of Prince Menschikoff had gone far beyond the questions in dispute about the holy places, and the Porte had closed that dispute by the issue of firmans at the beginning of May. The convention" afterwards proposed was really an ultimatum which Turkey could not for a moment admit. The crossing of the Pruth by Russian troops for the purpose of securing material guarantees was little less than a declaration of war: but Count Nesselrode's note declaring it to be only a measure of self-protection enabled the western powers again to endeavour to pacify the Porte while fresh negotiations were attempted. The temper of the Turkish government was such that it needed no more than a hint from Lord Stratford to lead it to reject the Vienna note unless considerable modifications were made in its terms. Not only the Moslem, but a large proportion of the Christian populations were averse to the domination of Russia, and the sultan felt that he had the moral support of the western powers against the outrageous demands of the czar. In rejecting the note it was necessary to guard against interpretations which might revive those demands, even if they were for the moment kept in abeyance, and the only direct way to do this was to alter the reference to the stipulations of the treaty of Kainardji so as to make it quite clear that there should be no direct protectorate by the Emperor of Russia over the Christian subjects of the czar. This alteration was just what the emperor did not want; the amendments were rejected, and though some
further attempts were made to patch up a diplomatic arrangement, war became inevitable, except from the point of view of the "Peace Party," who mostly thought that even the disappearance of the Turkish Empire from the map of the world would not be an overwhelming calamity.
The situation was the more critical because the subjects of the Porte were already in a state of great excitement, and were crying loudly against the demands of the Russian government; and indeed, public feeling in England was being aroused to a pitch which would soon have made a pacific government unpopular. England could not advise the ministry of the sultan to accept the Vienna note, the Russian interpretation of which had been distinctly declared to be at variance with the intention of the powers who drew up its provisions. One of two courses seemed to be unavoidable—either to induce the Turkish government to accept it by giving a guarantee to support them in any future attempt of Russia to act on its misinterpretation, or to prepare in conjunction with France to go to their aid to repel the Russian aggression.
To his great grief Lord Aberdeen saw that he was unable to stem the tide, and his difficulties were not diminished because he was already being "advised" by Palmerston, whose robust pugnacity would have taken decisive and emphatic measures to show Russia that he was not to be trifled with. The state of Constantinople had become very alarming. Lord Aberdeen wrote to the queen on the 23d of September, 1853, "The war frenzy and fanaticism of the Turks have passed all bounds, and threaten the safety of the sultan and of the Christian inhabitants of the capital. Under these circumstances authority has been given to call up the English and French fleets for their protection. The ambassadors have already agreed, each of them to summon two war steamers for this purpose. Unwilling as Lord Aberdeen has always been to agree to the gratuitous violation of the treaty of 1841, he could not hesitate a moment when British life and property were at stake, as well as the personal security of the sovereign."
The Queen and Prince Albert had by that
THE FIRST MOVE OF THE ALLIES.
time, however, begun pretty well to under- | conjunction with such as have either the
stand the true position of affairs, and her majesty was prompt and definite enough in her reply in a letter from Balmoral dated September 25th.
"Lord Aberdeen's explanation of the present state of affairs throws an entirely new light upon the position of the question in dispute. The queen has also just seen Count Nesselrode's despatch, stating his reasons for the objections to the modifications made in Vienna note. Hitherto Russia has generally objected to any modification of what had been already accepted by the emperor as an ultimatum.
"But since it appears, as Lord Aberdeen says, that the Russian interpretation of the Vienna note was directly at variance with that of the four powers, and in a great measure confirmed the Turkish objections,' Lord Aberdeen is perfectly right in calling it 'an act scarcely honest upon the part of England and France to ask the Porte to sign a note upon the strength of their interpretation, while they knew perfectly well that this interpretation was entirely different from that put upon it by the power to whom the note was to be addressed.'
"From this moment, however, it becomes also obvious that it will be fruitless further to attempt to settle the dispute by the 'rédaction' (compilation) of notes to be exchanged between Turkey and Russia, or the choice of particular words and expressions in public documents having for their object to avoid naming the real objects in dispute.
"It is evident that Russia has hitherto attempted to deceive us in pretending that she did not aim at the acquisition of any new right, but required only a satisfaction of honour and a reacknowledgment of the rights she already possessed by treaty; and that she does intend, and for the first time lays bare that intention, to acquire new rights of interference which the Porte does not wish to concede, and cannot concede, and which the European powers have repeatedly declared she ought not to concede.
"Ought not the points of difference to be now prominently laid before our allies, and in
honesty or the courage to avow the same opinion with ourselves ought we not to point this out to Russia, with a declaration that such demands are unsupported by existing treaties, inadmissible by Turkey if she has any regard for her independence, and inadmissible by the powers who have an interest and a duty to guard this independence, and that the continuance of the occupation of the principalities in order to extort these demands constitutes an unwarrantable aggression upon Turkey, and infraction of the public law of Europe?
"If the views of Russia, for instance, with regard to 'Modification III. of the Note' were to prevail, the extension of the advantages and privileges enjoyed by Christian communities, in their capacity as foreigners, to the Greeks generally, with the right granted to Russia to intercede for them to this effect, would simply make foreigners of ten millions of the subjects of the Porte, or depose the sultan as their sovereign, putting the Emperor of Russia in his place."
It is not difficult to trace in this plain declaration the hand of Prince Albert, but at the time or soon afterwards he was accused and suspected of being in effect adverse to England and of acting inimically to the national honour by his foreign sympathies. The "dead-set" made on the prince by a large part of the newspaper press was inexcusable, and for a time he was again the centre of abuse from all quarters, until a short declaration in parliament utterly exploded these scandalous accusations. Of this we shall have a word to say in another page. The line of argument indicated in the queen's reply to the Earl of Aberdeen was adopted and made the substance of a despatch by Lord Clarendon to Sir G. Hamilton Seymour at St. Petersburg, and then followed another move on the part of the Emperor Nicholas.
The French and British fleets had been sent to the Dardanelles for the protection of Turkey as soon as it was known that preparations were being made for the Russian occupation of the principalities. Lord Palmerston had strongly advised that when the occupation did take place the fleets should at once be sent up
to the Bosphorus, and that they should also be at liberty to go into the Black Sea if necessary or useful for the protection of Turkish territory. This he believed would be an encouragement to Turkey, a direct check to Russia, and a stimulus to Austria and Prussia to make increased exertions to bring the Russian government to reason, and that it would also "relieve England and France from the disagreeable and not very creditable position of waiting without venturing to enter the back door as friends while the Russians have taken possession of the front hall as enemies." Palmerston was then convinced that this country expected some such decisive course to be taken, and that it would meet with support from the opposition in parliament; but the Earl of Aberdeen persisted, as Prince Albert wrote in a letter to Stockmar, not only in treating our enemies as if they were honourable men, but in maintaining it was right to think that they were so in fact.
It must have been difficult to support this high opinion after the Emperor of Russia had declared that the occupation of the provinces was to be explained by the presence of the fleets in the Dardanelles, and would only cease when they retired. "It is the robber who declares that he will not leave the house until the policeman shall have first retired from the courtyard," said Palmerston in a memorandum sent round to the members of the cabinet. "The position of England and France was already sufficiently humiliating; but this insolent pretension, published to all Europe even before it was communicated to us, seems to me to make that position no longer tenable consistently with a due regard to the honour and character of this country." He still advised the despatch of the fleets to the Bosphorus, with an intimation that Count Nesselrode's note, dictating to us where we should send our fleet, left us no alternative but to station that fleet at the very heart of that empire whose integrity and independence had been unwarrantably threatened by a Russian invasion of its territory.
It will be seen that Palmerston was already playing a very prominent part as adviser in foreign affairs in addition to his duties as
home secretary, and it cannot be doubted that he was interpreting the feeling of the country; but he must seriously have embarrassed the patient and, as most people thought, the timid and hesitating policy of the Earl of Aberdeen, who clung to the opinion that negotiations for peace might be successful after all if we could only go on acting as though we gave Russia credit for honesty and good faith. But the Russian people as well as the Turkish people were regarding the impending struggle from a fanatical point of view; and though the emperor sometimes seemed ready to make another effort to set himself right with England, it was evidently only for the purpose of gaining his end, and without regard to the truth of his statements. He had declared at Olmutz that he sought no new right, privilege, or advantage, but solely the confirmation of the legal status quo. If he had been sincere in this there ought to have been no difficulty in concluding a peace. He was reported to be depressed and out of spirits at the position in which he found himself. The four great powers had declared him in the wrong; they all felt sore that the rash and unjustifiable invasion of the principalities had brought them to the verge of an European war. Prussia and Austria, moreover, had reason to dread a power so arbitrary in its demands and its manner of enforcing them by seizing what territory it pleased. If Moldavia, why not any other province under the pretext of some equally unfounded claim? Seeing the attitude adopted by England and France, the emperor had tried to engage Austria and Prussia in a league, offensive and defensive, against them. Austria would have yielded had Prussia done so; but Prussia, under the firm guidance of Baron Manteuffel, refused. Thus the emperor stood alone, with the public opinion of Europe arrayed against him, and two of its greatest powers virtually pledged to support the sultan by their whole combined strength. The prospect might well have made him pause; but by this time the religious fervour of the Russians was roused in favour of what they deemed a crusade in support of the true faith, and this element, with others, more than
PRINCE ALBERT ON "THE SITUATION."
outweighed the suggestions of policy and prudence.1
The Emperor of Russia felt himself impelled to a difficult war in which he would have to stand alone, and at the last moment he was still plotting and contriving how he might secure some kind of support. There are even evidences that he would have receded if he could have done so with substantial advantage in the direction of a protectorate which would make it appear that he was, as he professed to be, acting only in the interests of national honour. But the time had passed. He had gained nothing by his efforts to hoodwink Europe, and though he made overtures for a triple alliance with Austria and Prussia, the governments of these countries could neither of them venture to go to that extent of perfidy after they had ever so faintly protested against the assumptions of the czar. Either they had promoted a treaty by the clauses of which they had been deceived, or they were playing into the hands of Russia.
The old Asiatic party in Turkey, led by Redschid Pacha, who held by a prophecy that the Turks were to be driven out of Constantinople and would be confined to a territory in Asia, were anxious to secure peace by almost any concessions; but they were no longer tolerated when Russia commenced hostilities by crossing the Pruth, and the war party were called to power with Omar Pacha as commander-in-chief of the Turkish armies for the Danubian Principalities. Omar Pacha was an Austrian subject, a Croatian, who had entered the Turkish service in 1830 when he was twenty-nine years old, and whose reputation had been sustained by his great military ability and some brilliant exploits in Syria, Albania, Koordistan, and Bosnia. He had professedly embraced the Mohammedan tenets, but it needed all his great talents and repeated successes to enable him to hold his own against the jealousy of the Turkish officers, who looked upon him for some years with dislike and suspicion. The war on which he was about to enter gave him another opportunity of asserting his superiority as a general.
'Sir Theodore Martin, Life of the Prince Consort.
soon as the Russian troops entered the principalities Turkey issued a manifesto, and on the 5th of October declared war. The four western powers, desiring still to avert decided hostilities if possible, sent to the Turkish general desiring him not to cross the Danube or to commence an appeal to arms; but Omar Pacha was already in action:-his army had crossed the river and taken a firm position in spite of the resistance of the Russians.
At this time Prince Albert had sent a circular, or what may be called a series of notes on the situation, to the Earl of Aberdeen, in which he represented as his opinion that though we were most anxious for the preservation of the peace of Europe, which could not fail to be endangered by open hostilities between Turkey and Russia, by the order to our fleet to protect the Turkish territory, and by the declaration of war issued by the Turks, this the perhaps most important object of our policy had been decidedly placed in jeopardy. In acting as auxiliaries to the Turks we ought to be quite sure that they had no object in view foreign to our duty and interests; that they did not drive at war whilst we aimed at peace; that they did not, instead of merely resisting the attempt of Russia to obtain a protectorate over the Greek population incompatible with their own independence, seek to obtain themselves the power of imposing a more oppressive rule of two millions of fanatic Mussulmans over twelve millions of Christians; that they did not try to turn the tables upon the weaker power, now that, backed by England and France, they had themselves become the stronger.
If our forces were to be employed for any purpose, however defensive, as an auxiliary to Turkey, we must insist upon keeping not only the conduct of the negotiation, but also the power of peace and war, in our own hands, and that, Turkey refusing this, we could no longer take part for her.
It would be said that England and Europe had a strong interest, setting all Turkish considerations aside, that Constantinople and the Turkish territory should not fall into the hands of Russia, and that they should in the last extremity even go to war to prevent such an over