Page images



Art. X.--1. The Map of Europe by Treaty; showing the

various political and territorial Changes which have taken place since the General Peace of 1814. With numerous Maps and Plans. By EDWARD HERTSLET, Esq., of the Foreign

Office. 3 volumes 8vo. London : 1875. 2. A Handy Book of the Eastern Question. By Sir GEORGE

CAMPBELL, M.P. London: 1876. A MIDST the conflicting opinions and the fervent heat which

recent events in Eastern Europe have excited in this country, the wisest course for a statesman or a political writer would be to hold his tongue until this cyclone has passed by ; and this is the course taken by those leaders of the Whig party, who have all our respect and confidence, and with whom we desire, in our own humbler sphere, to act. But this liberty of silence is hardly conceded to a quarterly reviewer. It is our duty to give the best account we can of the political changes of the times, and to assist, as far as lies in our power, to the intelligence of past, present, and future events. We cannot pretend to discuss negotiations with which we are very imperfectly acquainted and which are still perhaps incompléte. "We cannot invent a scheme for the government of a vast empire, over which this country has no authority, and in which it is resolved not to interfere by force of arms. Before you can determine what the institutions of a province or a nation are to be, you must be master of it by cession or conquest. No doubt an Indian Lieutenant-Governor might govern Bulgaria much better than a Pasha; but until that district is our own, we have neither the right nor the duty to govern it at all. The plenipotentiaries of Europe have urged upon the acceptance of the Porte conditions for the amelioration of the condition of its Christian subjects in Europe which appear to us to be in themselves wise and moderate. The Porte, ill-disposed to accept any conditions imposed upon it by the dictation of the Christian Powers, but professing a sincere desire to place all classes of its subjects on the same basis of toleration and freedom, has met these demands by the promulgation of a scheme of constitutional government, for which, as far as we can judge, the vast and various populations of the Ottoman Empire are very illprepared. We do not contend that the conditions were inacceptable, or that the Constitution is impracticable, though we have not much faith in either; and we should hail with joy any changes which admitted and secured the rights of the people in a country hitherto ruled by an exclusive creed and


by arbitrary power. But behind and beyond these questions lies the more essential and important question of the right of sovereignty. It is upon his right as an independent sovereign that the Sultan has taken his stand; and we are not aware that anything short of conquest can deprive him of that right, as long as he is resolved to defend it. In the eyes of the Porte the question is not whether this or that reform is to be introduced, but whether the Sultan or the Christian Powers are to be supreme in the Turkish dominions. We should not, therefore, be surprised at the rejection by the Porte of the conditions proposed by the Conference, although those conditions have been reduced to a very moderate compass, and although the resistance of Turkey may appear to be rash as well as stubborn.

No doubt the excitement recently manifested throughout England was due in the main to generous and disinterested sentiments of humanity, and to that sympathy for the suffering and the oppressed which is one of the noblest characteristics of the British nation ; but humanity itself may sometimes lead to inhuman consequences by inflaming and prolonging fierce contests, until those whom it is our design to assist and relieve become the victims of our interference. Servia was two or three years back a tributary province of the Turkish Empire, absolutely free and self-governed, prosperous, and progressive, the Porte claiming nothing from it but a small tribute and the right of investiture. How heart-rending are the accounts we now read of that country! By rushing into an unprovoked war and by refusing to make peace in September, on very liberal terms, at the fatal instigation of foreign emissaries, this province, which was the type of what a Christian principality of European Turkey may become, has caused to itself an amount of ruin and suffering hardly to be described. Whatever may have been the motives for foreign interference in Servia, the Servians have been its dupes and its victims. The Vilayet of Bulgaria had recently enjoyed for five years under Midhat Pasha, the most enlightened and humane of Turkish statesmen, as good an administration as is possible under Oriental government. He had made roads, encouraged trade and education, and the progress of the Christians was so remarkable that it was said to have excited the jealousy of their Moslem neighbours. This progress has been interrupted by the attempt to incite Bulgaria to rise in insurrection in aid of the Servian war. The Bulgarians, as Mr. Baring reported, had no heart in the rising ; but the Moslems crushed the attempt (which also originated with foreign emissaries) with a degree of lawless ferocity that called forth the indignation and horror

of Europe. The sufferings of the Bulgarians are as great as they were undeserved. But if anything be wanting to complete their misery, it is that their fertile and industrious valleys should become the theatre of war between two great Powers, and that in the name of humanity the whole province should be depopulated and laid waste as it was by the Russian invasion of 1828 and 1829. We merely point to these facts as instances in which a generous and humane impulse may defeat its own ends, and cause evils far greater than those it seeks to avenge or to cure. It seems to us the strangest thing in the world that by way of giving to Mussulmans a lesson in the sacred duties of toleration and humanity, a fierce cry has been raised, which might be mistaken for the language of bigotry

and revenge.

Other motives, of a less generous character, contributed to swell this crusade. There are those whose sacerdotal zeal claims a morbid affinity with the most venal and illiterate Church in Christendom, by the common bond of ritualism. There are the enthusiasts of the Low Church and of Dissent, who believe that the Little Horn is about to be crushed and the prophecies of the book of Daniel fulfilled. There are those who are inflamed by the resentment of disappointed avarice, who lent their money by millions to support a bad government when it paid them seven per cent., but who discover all its iniquities when the rate of interest is reduced to three. There are those who see in these events a favourable opportunity for a mortal assault on the present Administration; and no doubt Lord Beaconsfield has laid himself open to severe attack by his cynical remarks in the House of Commons, by the mystery in which he has shrouded an equivocal policy, by the use of vague generalities when plain specific statements were wanted, and by the incredible imprudence of his speech on November 9, at Guildhall, which breathed defiance to Russia, when he had in his pocket and might have produced, to the great and general satisfaction of his hearers and of the nation, assurances of the most pacific characters given on November 2 by the Czar. But these are not the issues we shall endeavour to try. Questions of this nature must be left, some to the operation of time and reason, some to the constitutional test of parliamentary debate. That test will be applied in its proper place and at a time not now remote; and we regard as extremely unwise any attempt to anticipate its results.

It is our intention in the following pages, to deal with nothing but the hard facts of the case, as far as they are already known to us, and to fall back on those historical and military We propose,

considerations which are calculated to throw light on recent occurrences and on the prospects of the future. therefore, to take as our guide and companion in this modest attempt Mr. Hertslet's excellent and exhaustive compendium of the diplomatic engagements now in existence, which are supposed to regulate by what is called public law the territorial relations of the Powers of Europe. No work can be more useful to those who wish to rest their political opinions and conduct on some firmer basis than the prevailing sentiment of the day, for it contains in a commodious form all the results of the great transactions of the last sixty years, and these are arranged with great perspicuity and judgment by the accomplished librarian of the Foreign Office. We are compelled to speak of these stipulations as engagements now in existence, rather than in force. For one of the deplorable results of the enthusiastic mode of treating public affairs is that great doubt has been thrown on all existing treaties, and it would seem to be an accepted truth that they have no authority or binding obligation, except in so far as it may suit some great Power to support them by force. If this be the state of Europe, it nearly verges on complete anarchy, and military strength is at liberty to suspend or override all the provisions of international law. The disruption of treaties always precedes some great convulsion. For forty years the peace of Europe was maintained by a general adherence to the mutual engagements of 1815. In the last twenty years several wars have taken place-great changes have occurred, some of them beneficial to mankindbut the fabric has been rudely shaken, all confidence in written compacts is at an end, and the consequence is the enormous growth of armies, the destruction of mutual confidence, and a general apprehension of war which paralyses the pacific intercourse and

progress of the world. These evils are nowhere more felt than in Eastern Europe, and our first object is to point out the causes which have led to them. A conflagration in politics is seldom the result of spontaneous combustion, and it is sometimes the work of an incendiary. The causes of the present threatening state of affairs in the East are two in number—the misrule of the Porte, and the policy of Russia.

On the first of these topics not much remains for us to say. Tried by the standard of European administration and public economy, the Turkish Government is a bad Government, because it has most of the defects inherent in all Asiatic Governments-it is clumsy, unprogressive, capricious, and indigent; when attacked by foreign enemies or by internal insurrections it becomes fierce and cruel. But it is a mistake to suppose that it is oppressive or intolerant, as those absolute governments of Europe are which rule their subjects by an all-powerful police and by uniformity of creed. It leaves each of its numerous sections of religionists, Greeks, Jews, Bulgarians, Armenians, and Roman Catholics, to manage their own affairs. It encourages, more than any European State except ourselves, great freedom of trade, a fact which has of late been much forgotten in England; but nothing is more certain than that wherever Russia has annexed territory, whether in the Caucasus or in Central Asia, foreign trade, and especially our own trade, has been excluded and destroyed. The Government of Turkey has, we say, the defects of an Asiatic Government, but there are many worse Asiatic Governments. That of Persia is infinitely worse; even in India, under our own protection, there have been Native States quite as open to censure as Turkey ; sometimes, as in Oude, the abuses have been so great that Great Britain has thought herself justified in annihilating the State, but even this act has been much questioned, and we will venture to say will not soon be repeated. It appears to us hyperbolical to assert that England is responsible for acts of misrule in Turkey, when she does not hold herself responsible, and cannot be so, for acts of misrule in the Native States of India. But the peculiar difficulty of the Ottoman Empire is that the Porte rules several nations in one country -nations wholly differing in religion, laws, and manners which keep them totally apart—and that some of these nations profess the Christian religion and are inhabitants of Europe. Here, again, our own experience of India may suggest a reflection, We too, a Christian and remote State, govern two great nations in India, the Mussulmans and the Hindoos. The task is one of extreme difficulty, requiring all the highest faculties and qualities of our race. It does not always succeed; in spite of the most sincere and enlightened desire to rule India with justice and wisdom, we have had to encounter and subdue most formidable revolts. When the struggle, which we had not provoked, came, the insurrection was crushed by measures which nothing but the safety of the Empire would justify, and which were dictated by other sentiments than those of humanity and compassion : and in the last resort we are compelled to acknowledge, though with regret, that we hold India less by the loyalty and gratitude of its inhabitants than by the strength of our Empire and by the power of the sword. If this is our own case, how much more must it be the case of a Mussulman Government in Constantinople which has to deal

« PreviousContinue »