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Chapter XIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 5

Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5>

For another incident had occurred during those momentous five days. It was about the time when the conferences at Olmütz began, and when, at the urgent request of the French Government, England agreed to issue orders for the fleets to enter the Dardanelles - that is, about the 23rd of September - that the Porto learned the refusal of Russia to accept the modifications of the Vienna Note. The Sultan could bear the suspense no longer. He was, no doubt, in fear of an outbreak of Moslem fanaticism, as well as unable to endure the affront put upon him by Russia. He had put his capital in a respectable state of defence; he had fortified Varna, and thrown a force into Shumla; he had collected an army. This gave him confidence. The Czar had shown a determination to extort concessions. That design admitted of no doubt. The Sultan, therefore, notwithstanding the advice of the envoys of the Four Powers, summoned his Grand Council to meet on the 25 th and 26th, and determine the question of peace or war. Hearing this, Lord Stratford made a last effort to prevent war. He begged Reschid Pasha to prevail on the Council, whatever might be its decision, to allow time for one more appeal to the Four Powers, on the basis of their concurring in the Porte's interpretation of the note. It was in vain. The Porte saw no safety but in war. The Council met. One hundred and seventy-two distinguished Turks obeyed the summons of the Sultan, and unanimously agreed, on their first meeting, that the Vienna Note could be by no means accepted without modifications; and at their second they adopted a report to the Sultan, recommending that Omer Pasha should be directed to summon Prince Gortschakoff to quit the Principalities within fifteen days from the receipt of the summons, that a refusal should be regarded as a declaration of war, and that thereupon war should be declared. "Within three days the Sultan assented to the report, and the necessary instruments for executing the measures resolved on were prepared by the 4th of October. A form of summons was forwarded the next day to Omer Pasha, a manifesto to the Empire was issued, and a formal appeal for aid was sent to the Western Powers. Thus the irrevocable step was taken, and war was certain.

There was now scant time for further negotiations. Nevertheless, although Lord Stratford regarded the chance of averting war as hopeless, so desirous was he of preserving peace, that he proposed another mode of extricating all parties from their difficulties. It embraced the alternative of a new note or arbitration. But although looked upon favourably in England, the Austrian Government would not take it into consideration. As the Cabinets of London and Paris, said Count Buol, had not thought proper to support the Austrian plan - that is, the Czar's astute scheme - the Austrian Government could not support Lord Stratford's plan, especially at a moment when the Porte was declaring war against Russia. Here was, for the time, an apparent break down of the whole diplomatic machinery; but nevertheless the British Cabinet still persevered in the work of framing notes, and Austria and Prussia did not fail to give advice which could not be accepted, while Russia and Turkey prepared for war.

At this period the conduct of the Turks made a favourable impression on Europe. The manifesto of the Sultan was sensible and temperate, and still left open a door to negotiations. A spirit of self-devotion, unaccompanied by fanatical demonstrations, showed itself among the highest functionaries of the state. The Ulemas offered a large sum of money, and the Sultan, with reluctance, gave consent to the raising of a loan. The Egyptian Viceroy prepared to send ships and troops; the Grand Vizier and the leading ministers gave many horses for the service of the artillery; men were forthcoming, and troops were constantly on the march for the Danube and the Georgian frontier. Lord Stratford, taking a very comprehensive view of the merits of the quarrel, and of the interests at stake, justified the Turks in having recourse to arms. " Having," he wrote on the 28th of September, " witnessed the whole course of pretension and intimidation to which the Sultan and his ministers have been subjected, and the conciliatory though' firm consistency with which so many vexatious proceedings have been met, I may be allowed, while lamenting the necessity for war, to admire the gallant and orderly spirit which has prevailed, with slight exceptions, in all the proceedings of this Government." On the 9th of October the summons of Omer Pasha reached Prince Gortschakoff at Bucharest; and on the 10th he answered that he was not empowered to treat of peace or war, or the evacuation of the Principalities. This reply the Porte considered as constituting a state of war. The Anglo-French fleet was in the Dardanelles, and the admirals had instructions to defend the territory of the Sultan, but their power to operate in the Black Sea was limited. The Western Powers were as yet committed only to a policy of resisting any aggression of Russia. The German Powers declared themselves neutral, and Austria, deeply interested in the issue, assumed for herself the character of mediator.

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