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

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It was on the 13th of February that Count Nesselrode notified to the Ambassadors of France and England, at St. Petersburg, that Baron Brunnow and M. de Kisseleff had quitted London and Paris, and that diplomatic relations were suspended between Russia and the Western Powers; and the two Ministers shortly afterwards took their departure. It was now the policy of Russia to watch the moves of the Western Powers. She would not declare war, flattering herself she would thereby escape the responsibility of that momentous decision. Accordingly she held her peace. But, on the same day on which the Russian Government offered passports to the French and English Ministers, an order came out to levy nine men in every thousand in the western part of the empire. That " fiery prelate," the Metropolitan of Moscow, had dismissed the 16th division of Infantry on their southward march, presenting them with the image of the most holy father Sergius, telling them to remember that they went forth to fight "for the most pious Czar," for their country, for "holy Church against infidels, against persecutors of the Christian faith," and insulters of the Holy Places; and reminding them that " by faith kingdoms are conquered." This fervid appeal was printed officially, but it needed not that to show how grimly in earnest was the most pious Czar. Russia had exhausted her efforts in trying to detach Austria and Prussia, and now she determined to trust to herself alone, confident in her military might.

Before declaring war, the Western Powers had recourse to one more step - a step which can be hardly termed peaceful, but one which placed them in the right, and showed Russia in the wrong. They determined to summon Russia to evacuate the Principalities within a given time, and they spared no pains to induce Austria and Prussia to support the summons. These two Powers agreed to support the summons at St. Petersburg, but Prussia expressly declined to undertake to enforce it if refused, and Austria reserved her liberty of action. The summons was entrusted to a special messenger, who was to pass through Vienna and Berlin, and take with him the despatches of those courts, backing up the summons. This document declared, in effect, that unless Russia ordered Prince Gortschakoff to retire from the Principalities at once, and to complete the evacuation by the 30th of April, England and France would consider that equivalent to a declaration of war. The bearer of the missive was to wait at St. Petersburg six days for an answer, and no longer. Captain Blackwood carried this stringent demand. He arrived at Vienna just as fresh proposals for peace reached Count Buol from St. Petersburg, the last effort to detach Austria. Captain Blackwood was detained a few hours while the Conference at Vienna examined these proposals, and while the Ambassadors informed their Governments, by telegraph, of this new incident, and requested instructions. These Russian proposals were found to be as objectionable as ever. Except that Russia ceased to require that a Turkish Minister should be sent to St. Petersburg, " it was that same old story," of which even diplomatists had become thoroughly weary. So the Conference, having duly examined the document, and having found it utterly inadmissible, recorded the fact after the solemn fashions of diplomacy; and messenger Blackwood, with his summons and its supporting despatches, jumped into the train and started for the North. He arrived at St. Petersburg on the morning of the 13th of March, and Consul Michele, in charge of English interests, at once sent to the French consul and the Austrian legate. the packets brought for them. On the 14th Mr. Michele and M. de Castillon waited on Count Nesselrode, who, however, declined to see them together, and called for the English consul. The interview was short. The summons was duly delivered, and the positive instructions to the messenger to return in six days were made known. The Emperor was then in Finland, whence he did not arrive until the 17th; and it was not until the 19th, the last day of grace, that Count Nesselrode requested Mr. Michele to wait on him for an answer. " On entering the room," writes the consul, " his Excellency's greeting was of the most friendly description. He said, 'I have taken His Majesty's commands with reference to Lord Clarendon's note, and the Emperor does not think it becoming to make any reply to it.' I replied, ' M. le Comte, in a matter of so much importance I am sure I shall be excused for desiring to convey to my Government the exact words employed by your Excellency.' The Count at first used the words, ' His Majesty does not think it becoming in him to give any answer to Lord Clarendon's letter ' (ne le croit pas convenable de donner aucune réponse à la lettre de Lord Clarendon). Upon my repeating this phrase after Count Nesselrode, his Excellency said, ' L'Empereur ne juge pas convenable,' &c.; and I again repeated after him the entire sentence. After I had done so the Count said, ' Yes, that is the answer I wish you to convey to your Government. L'Empereur ne juge pas convenable de donner aucune réponse à la lettre de Lord Clarendon.' " Nothing could well be more contemptuous in substance, or more polite in form; and so, with this singular scene at the Russian Foreign Office, exit Peace and enter War.

The Western Powers having had no misgivings respecting the nature of the reply their summons would receive, had accelerated their preparations for war. Before the summons was in the hands of Count Nesselrode, the British fleet intended for the Baltic had steamed out from Portsmouth, in the presence of Queen Victoria. This took place on the 11th of March, when Her Majesty witnessed the departure of sixteen steamers, subsequently augmented to forty-four ships, of which only six were sailers. The whole, under the command of Sir Charles Napier, mounted 2,200 guns, and were manned by 22,000 men. Three battalions of the Guards and several regiments of the line had already embarked for Malta, and cavalry and infantry were in course of rapid preparation. The public spirit rose still higher as actual war drew near, and it was manifested emphatically on every occasion. At the same time, the French Government began to collect troops at Toulon and Marseilles, and in Algeria. The commanders-in-chief of both armies were appointed - Lord Raglan for England, and Marshal St. Arnaud for France. The first had been the comrade and friend of Lord Wellington, the second was a soldier of Algerian growth, and Minister of War on the 2nd of December, 1851.

While the English courier was on his way from St. Petersburg with the contemptuous message of Nicholas to the British Government, two incidents occurred, both of which helped to stimulate the indignation of England. The Journal of St. Petersbourg thought fit to reply to some sharp language about disturbers of the peace, used by Lord John Russell in the House of Commons, by charging the English Government with having stated what was not true, when they said Russia had deceived Europe, and, with incredible audacity, referring, for proof of its statement, to the secret communications which took place between the Czar and the Queen's Government in 1853. Lord Derby at once seized the occasion to assail the Government and demand the production of the correspondence; and Lord Aberdeen remarked that since Russia had shown no reluctance to disclose its character, Her Majesty's Government had none, and the whole should come out. And come out accordingly it did, producing effects quite different from those expected by Russia. The reader has already seen what this correspondence was, and he can well conceive how, when published just on the outbreak of war, it served as fuel to feed the national indignation at the double-dealing of the Czar. Instead of blowing the Ministers out of their offices and branding them with discredit, the mine, sprung by the Czar himself, spent its force upon him, and the very means he took to support the English peace party not only recruited the war party, but filled all men with a righteous anger. Ministers, whose apparently vacillating conduct had called forth bitter criticisms, regained the confidence of the country, and the whole peace party was completely submerged in the storm. The scope of Russian policy was laid bare to the gaze of Europe, and from that moment, let who might be in office, it was terribly manifest that the British nation would insist on an earnest and deliberate war policy.

The other incident was the publication of a somewhat haughty and not over-courteous reply from the Emperor Nicholas to the Emperor Napoleon, retorting upon the latter the charge of provoking war; and the publication also of a new manifesto from the Emperor Nicholas to his people, dated February 21. In this he charged England and France with conduct unheard of among civilised nations, declared that they had sided with " the enemies of Christianity against Russia, combating for the orthodox faith;" asking, "Are we not the same Russian nation of whose exploits the memorable events of 1812 bear witness? " and concluding with a sacred text from the well-stored memory of the Pontiff-Emperor. The allusion to 1812 aroused the French, who were not at this time at all zealous for a war which did not promise laurels of glory plucked in neighbouring states. For the French people did not penetrate the profound design of Napoleon, to establish French influence on the base of a successful war for a European object.

Thus the flames kindled by the ambition of the Czar and the ambition of his Western rival, grew fiercer, and began to burn with astonishing power and intensity. Nothing was wanting to war but the formal declaration: and this was not wanting long. Captain Blackwood had landed with the Czar's negative defiance. On the 27th of March, the Queen sent down a royal message to Parliament, stating that all the endeavours of her Government to preserve the peace had failed, and that she relied on the zeal of her Parliament to support her in protecting the dominions of the Sultan from Russian encroachments. On the 28th war was declared, and on the 31st both Houses agreed to an address, recording the aggressions of Russia, and expressing a firm determination to resist them. On the 3rd of April, a very large body of peers of all parties, and three hundred members of the House of Commons, headed by the Speaker, presented the addresses in answer to the royal message, to Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace, who, seated on her throne, with Prince Albert on the one hand, and the Prince of Wales on the other, received these genuine representatives of the spirit and determination of her whole people. On the day that war was declared, the British fleet anchored in the bay of Kiel. On the 11th of April, the Czar published his declaration of war, in which he again, in a strain of semi-religious exaltation, declared that Russia took up arms for no worldly interests, but for "the Christian faith, for the defence of her co-religionists oppressed by implacable enemies." "It is for the Faith and for Christendom that we combat! God with us - who against us? "

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