OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Chapter XIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3


Pages: 1 2 <3> 4 5

Between the 1st and the 30th of July, while the Russians were settling down in the Principalities and acting like proprietors, projects of settlement grew and withered apace. The Four Powers were endeavouring to find out what each thought and what each would do. One of them had no doubts whatever. The French Emperor, always provided he could get English aid, was ready, and had been ready since the 22nd of March, to stand armed by the side of the Sultan. And although, like all the Powers, Prussia excepted, he too broached a project of reconciliation, less than any was he hopeful of success; and although the despatches forwarded from his Court did not lack the polished, but rather stilted, courtesies which varnish the surface of diplomatic intercourse, yet in substance they were more trenchant and harder to digest. the two Powers, England and France, were rapidly growing more and more intimate. No step, at this time, was taken by one without consultation with the other. They took counsel in speech and action; they plied Russia with the same remonstrances; they plied Austria and Prussia with similar arguments. Without being allies in form, they were allies in fact. If there was any secret treaty between them, it had been kept secret. But, in truth, there was no need of a treaty; for Russia, by successive outrages, had driven the Maritime Powers into each other's arms; their intimacy kept pace with the growth of the common danger. Instead of finding in England the accomplice he had the audacity to expect in the work of pulling Turkey in pieces, the Czar had the mortification to find his chosen confidant rapidly becoming the ally of the Power he had so scorned, and both intent on preserving the State whose independence he struck at, whose integrity he had infringed. France was proud of her position. She was not the arbiter or pacificator of Europe, but she was rising fast in the estimation of Europe, and regaining that position lost by the Revolution, the coup-d'état, and the revival of the empire. Her master saw how much he gained by appearing, Bonapartist though he was, as the upholder of a fundamental principle of European policy in company with Austria and Prussia, and in alliance with England.

There was, therefore, no swerving on the part of France; if anything, there was too much impatience to proceed. But it was far otherwise with Austria and Prussia. Count Buol, nurtured on time-tried and sound traditions of Austrian policy in the East, saw well enough the shameless and the dangerous character of the proceedings of Nicholas. But he served a master young in years and as young in mind, who could not rid himself of Russian influence; and hence it came to pass that there were doubt and vacillation in Vienna, and a tendency to patch up an insecure peace at the expense of Turkey. Austria, too, had been invoked as a sort of mediator by Russia - evidence that the Czar relied a good deal on his supposed ascendancy over the mind of Francis Joseph. This monarch was ill at ease between the politic Buol, preaching sound Austrian doctrine, and the agents of the imperious Czar prophesying smooth things. The maxims of State policy so far prevailed as to permit Count Buol to declare that he disapproved of the conduct of Russia, and that he would take no engagement not to oppose her by arms, as to permit him, in the name of his master, to entreat, to implore Nicholas not to send his legions over the Pruth, and to express his profound disappointment when those entreaties and painful prayers were disregarded by the impetuous Emperor. But there he stopped short. He would not join the Western Powers at this stage, he would act singly and alone. In June he deprecated a Conference at Vienna, lest Russia should take offence; he urged the Porte to give way as much as possible; he begged the Czar, if he would enter the Principalities, to send thither only a few troops; and he was especially anxious, and in this all the Powers concurred, that the Porte should not regard the invasion as an act of war. Lord Clarendon reminded him that the Porte had agreed to forbear, and only protest; but that " this forbearance on the part of the Porte must not be reckoned on for any length of time, as the occupation of the Principalities, without a declaration of war, meant nothing but that the Emperor of Russia intended to give himself all the benefits of a state of peace without incurring any of the risks of war; and that he desired to keep the treaty of 1841 m full vigour, and the Dardanelles closed against the fleet of England and France, while he gained time for preparing his armament, and for making fresh demands upon Turkey, whose resources would gradually become exhausted." This forcible argument did not suffice to bring Austria to act in concert with England and France. Count Buol urged the Porte to frame a note - by blending together the note of Prince Menschikoff and the note of Reschid Pasha, which set forth the lengths to which the Porte would go - and send it to St. Petersburg by an ambassador. This was not a hopeful project, but it was allowed to run its course, and end in failure. It is further illustrative of the Russian leanings of this Austrian mediation, that in the beginning of July Count Buol harshly declared the invasion of the Principalities to be a direct consequence of the " insufficient " answer sent by the Porte to Russia. This was making the Porte responsible for the invasion - a notion the British Government rejected; as it was likewise compelled to reject the attempt of Austria to make the evacuation of the Principalities contingent on the withdrawal of the Anglo-French fleet from Turkish waters. The invasion of the Principalities drew from Count Buol the declaration that it was impossible for Austria to identify herself with Russia, especially as the invasion was preceded by the publication of a manifesto at variance with the facts. Nevertheless, Austria was not moved out of her semi-isolated position. On the 5th of July Count Buol had arrived at the opinion that it was incumbent on the Powers to concert measures - for what? To ask Russia what she meant! and to press on Turkey the necessity of signing a note acceptable to Russia. At the end of July Austria had got no further than she was at the beginning of that month. Count Buol considered himself united in policy with England, but he positively declined to enter into any engagement to enforce it, except so far as to say that if" he were "called upon to carry out an armed intervention on the frontier, it would be in support of the authority and independence of the Sultan." Prussia occupied a similar position, except that Baron Manteuffel gave no promises at all. It has been necessary to dwell upon the position taken up by the German Powers, because it is important to show that they were not " in line " with the Western Powers. The former were engaged only to promote a peaceful settlement, and not to side with Russia; the latter were engaged to promote a peaceful settlement, and to take other measures if their efforts failed. " It is from England and France alone," wrote Lord Clarendon to Lord Stratford on the 28th of July, " that Turkey can look for active sympathy and support; in the event of a struggle, all the other Powers would be found neutral, or would become hostile." France and England, he continued, did not go to war at that moment because they had any doubt that the policy of Russia had been unjust and ungenerous, and was indefensible; but because war would be an additional danger to Turkey; and, he might have added, because neither England, France, nor Turkey were then prepared for war. But they were not the less determined to resist Russia. For the Foreign Secretary finished his despatch with words not only showing that determination, but showing that England and France were allies. "In the event," he said, "of any further aggression by Russia, or of undue delay on her part in accepting the terms of an amicable arrangement that may be proposed to her, Her Majesty's Government, in conjunction with that of France, will be prepared to take more active measures for the protection of Turkey against a Power of whose hostile designs there exists no reasonable doubt." Thus, at this middle stage of the business, England and France were committed to make good their policy by war. Nor were these views kept secret. A little later, Lord Palmerston, in reply to a pro-Russian speech from Mr. Cobden, expressed them in the House of Commons, with not less explicitness and with more energy than Lord Clarendon. And it was therefore with reason, and unhappily with reason, that in the Queen's speech the French Emperor was mentioned by name as in league with Her Majesty, while the other Powers were vaguely spoken of as allies. This distinction was strictly in accordance with facts, for although Austria and Prussia were allies of England in a general sense, in this special sense, and for this special purpose, they were not allies. England had no ally, not one, except the French Emperor. Thus much is due to truth. Louis Napoleon had his own peculiar motives, doubtless, for arraying himself on our side with such eagerness; but the theory of a distinguished historian, that he prevented others from doing so, and drew us away from them at this early stage, obtaining by some compact, "hidden in the folds of private notes," special mention, will not bear the test of facts.

In the meantime projects of conciliation had not been wanting. The idea of a Conference at Vienna occurred to several persons at once. Lord Clarendon started a scheme, based on the project of a Convention between Russia and Turkey, which he drew up. M. Drouyn de Lhuys framed a note to be signed by Turkey, and accepted by Russia. There was Count Buol's project of a fusion of Russian and Turkish ideas. Independently of all this, the representatives of the Four Powers at Constantinople got up a scheme of their own, which proved to be distasteful to everybody but the Turks. Peace projectors abounded, while Russia steadily went on with her design, occupied the Principalities in a military fashion, seized on the post-office, intercepted the Sultan's tribute, sent gunboats up the Danube, and when the Porte recalled the Hospodars, induced them to disobey the Sultan's mandate, and forced him to dismiss them. Nor did Russia stop here. She sent emissaries into Servia and Bulgaria; she scattered her manifesto broadcast; she strove to raise a spirit of disaffection; and she replied with haughtiness to the complaints of the Western Powers. In the dominions of the Sultan a corresponding spirit arose. The Czar's manifesto had been read in all his churches; the Ulemas answered by sermons calculated to raise a spirit of counter-fanaticism. It was manifest that Turkish ardour was not extinct. Lord Stratford began to fear more from the rashness than the timidity of the Divan. Military and naval preparations went on briskly, and by the middle of August the Sultan had the satisfaction of knowing that he could defend Shumla, the Balkan, and the Bosphorus, if pressed by the Czar. Lord Stratford did not fail to lay before his Government the real issues at stake, nor did he disguise his doubts of the possibility of coming to a settlement without a resort to war.

It was under these circumstances that Count Buol exerted himself at Vienna to frame a plan of conciliation. He took the draft of a note drawn up by M. Drouyn de Lhuys, and by the aid of the representatives of the Four Powers at Vienna, and after frequent communication with London and Paris, he constructed out of this draft a note which he hoped would prove acceptable alike to Russia and Turkey. The design was to ascertain whether the Czar would accept the note, and if he agreed to do so, to send it to Constantinople, accompanied by urgent recommendations from the Four Powers to the Porte advising its acceptance. In taking this course, Austria acted as mediator at the request, or at least with the assent, of Russia; but the Russian Ambassador at Vienna would not attend the Conference, and his master was only represented there by a sort of friend. After great labour the note was framed, and a copy sent to St. Petersburg. The Powers took steps immediately to ascertain whether the Czar would accept the note, and they found that, although it did not give him satisfaction, he was content to accept it in a spirit of conciliation, as an arrangement devised by a friendly Government; and he was willing to take it from the hands of a Turkish Ambassador, provided it were not altered in any way. This was the famous " Vienna Note " which attracted so much attention, and raised so many hopes in the summer of 1853. But while Austria and the other Powers had consulted Russia and learned her views, they had forgotten Turkey, for whose benefit the thing was supposed to be devised. They had not ascertained whether Turkey would or could sign it, and, indeed, in framing it, the Powers seemed more anxious to devise a form of words satisfactory to the Czar than safe in the eyes of the Sultan. And so, when it reached Constantinople, although backed by strong advices from all the Powers, and not least by England, the Porte declined to sign it, except in an amended form. The note, indeed, was found to confer rights on Russia almost as extensive as those she claimed through Prince Menschikoff. Lord Stratford, although he saw this, scrupulously executed the instructions of his Government, and pressed the note on the Porte. But the Sultan, the ministers, the Grand Council were firm. After much deliberation, the Grand Council, of sixty members, comprising the most distinguished statesmen of the capital, adopted a form of note embodying their views, but rather deferring to the plan suggested at Vienna. " If the decision," wrote Lord Stratford, on the 20th of August, "does not completely represent the feeling of this country, it only fails in being framed with too much forbearance and moderation."

The news that the Porte would not sign the note, except in a modified form, vexed both Austria and England. Count Buol was chagrined, Lord Clarendon was angry. What the Four Powers, most interested in pressing Turkish independence, they said, regarded as preserving that independence, was surely a form of words which the Sultan might accept. They did not object to the changes made in the note as unreasonable in themselves - M. Drouyn de Lhuys, indeed, thought they were decided improvements - but they objected to them as unnecessary. The Four Powers would have assented to the interpretation put upon the note by the Porte, and Lord Clarendon had no doubt that Russia would have agreed with the Four Powers. But the Porte seemed to desire war, and had certainly made peace more difficult by the course it had pursued. In short, the friends of the Sultan were very angry with him for exercising his undoubted right, and looking sharply after his own independence. But if the Powers were angry, the Czar was enraged. He was beside himself when he thought on the fact that the Porte had refused what he had accepted. He would not at first discuss the modifications themselves. He would not think about them. What he objected to was, " any alteration - to the principle of alteration, to the fact of the Porte having done that which, out of regard to the wishes of the allied Powers, his Imperial Majesty had refrained from doing." Count Nesselrode expressed his master's views with such asperity as polite diplomatists permit themselves to indulge in. If the Turks, he said, had had " the faintest perception of their own interests, they ought to have clutched at the note with both hands. That which the Emperor received without change or hesitation in the course of twenty-four hours, should unquestionably have been received by the Turks with the same expedition." The Emperor again saw in this defeat the hand of Lord Stratford, and felt sure that the Turks had not been "made sufficiently sensible" of the dangers they incurred. The Emperor would concede no more. " Concession had reached its term."

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 <3> 4 5

Pictures for Chapter XIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3

Constantinople
Constantinople >>>>
Abdul Medjid
Abdul Medjid >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About