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Chapter XXXVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 4


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The scene in Constantinople on the 21st of February was very different from that in Paris. In the capital of Turkey there had also been a conference - a conference whereat the English, French, and Austrian ministers had assisted the Turks in drawing up a grand charter for the Christians. At a solemn meeting in the room of the Grand Council this charter was read. There were present, among others, the Grand Vizier, the Sheik-ul-Islam, the Breek Patriarch, and the chief Moslem and non-Moslem notables of Stamboul. It was a striking, a solemn scene, this Council of Notables, with a crowd of the faithful looking on all eye and ear. And when the reading ceased, the Sheik-ul-Islam offered up a prayer, and printed copies of the precious document were given away to the crowd. This firman is a very amazing document, promising almost more than any Government could perform. It is a sweeping charter of civil and religious liberty, surprising to meet with in the latitude of the Bosphorus. Some extracts will show this. It confirmed the Christians in the possession of that self- government they had always enjoyed theoretically, and, to an extent larger than is commonly supposed, practically. It declared abolished " every distinction or appellation tending to render one class of the Sultan's subjects inferior to another, by reason of its religious creed, its language, or its race." The laws would punish the use of insulting expressions coming under this head. " As all creeds are and will be freely exercised in the Ottoman states, no subject of my empire shall be impeded in the exercise of his religion. No one can be compelled to change his religion.... All the subjects of my empire, without distinction of nationality, shall be eligible to public situations.... All subjects of my empire, without distinction, shall be admissible into the civil and military schools." There were to be mixed tribunals for all civil and criminal cases where the parties differed in religion, and open courts. Flogging and torture in prisons were abolished, and the use of them made penal. As all were liable to taxes, as all were placed on an equality of rights before the law, so there should be an equality of duties; and the duty of serving in the army, almost a patent of nobility in a Moslem state, became one of the duties of the Christians. In addition to these reforms, the firman provided for the improvement of the mode of collecting the taxes; for the publication of the budget; for annual assembling of a grand council of delegates; for free trade; for the right of all to hold land. In short, it declared the resolve of the Sultan to execute very sweeping reforms in all departments of the State, and on all the great lines of public policy. Clearly this was more than an executive so weak as that of the Sultan could effect; but it showed that the spirit of Western Europe had made a deep inroad into the councils of the great Oriental state. The Emperor of Russia did not fail to make use of this famous firman, and tell his subjects that one of the reasons that induced him to make peace was that the Sultan had granted that act of justice, the want of which led the father of the Czar to make war. But he did not tell his subjects that what the Czar desired was to be master in the Sultan's house, and that this desire had been frustrated by the Western Powers. The firman, indeed, was a heavy blow to Russia,, for it took away her common pretext for incessant interference in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire; and delivered the Christiana from a patronage more fatal to them than the capricious tyranny of the Turk - the selfish and hypocritical patronage of Russia.

These two documents - the Imperial speech and the Sultan's firman - mark, the first, the solid establishment of the personal power of Bonaparte; the second, the most considerable step ever taken towards the full emancipation and uplifting of the Christian races in the East, who are destined to be the successors of the Moslem, as rulers in the land.

The Congress of Paris sat seven weeks, opening its proceedings, as we have seen, on the 25th of February, and closing them on the 16th of April. The first five weeks were devoted to the discussion of the articles of the treaty - indeed, they were determined on in the first month; put into final shape during the last week in March, and signed on the 30th. When the work was substantially done - that is, on the 12th of March - Prussia was at length gratified by an invitation to send plenipotentiaries, and to accede to what had been already determined on. As she had abstained from taking part in the war, Prussia could have no place in a conference assembled to settle terms of peace. But as the articles to be negotiated trenched upon treaties relating to the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, to which Prussia was a party in 1840 and 1841, it was thought fit to invite her to accede to the conclusions adopted by the other powers. Prussia, of course, readily accepted such a pretext for putting the name of her ministers and her sovereign at the foot of an European treaty; and thus on the 18th of March, at the tenth sitting of the conference, Baron Manteuffel and Baron de Hatzfeldt took their seats at the round table in the Hall of Ambassadors. Thus there were seven powers represented around that green board at the closing scenes of a diplomatic conference which was so gratifying to the Emperor and all Frenchmen.

Nor was this the only piece of good fortune that befell his Majesty. On the 16th of March there came into the world a Prince Imperial, the sole issue up to this hour of the union between Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and Eugenie de Montijo, the bright Spanish beauty chosen by him when his overtures at imperial and royal courts went for nought. As in duty bound, the plenipotentiaries waited on the Emperor to congratulate him, and Paris, as in duty bound, covered itself with illuminations.

It was on a Sunday afternoon, a fortnight after this event, that the treaty of peace was signed by the plenipotentiaries. It was not signed with a common pen. Not the quill of a grey goose or even a swan was good enough for such a feat. The eagle of France must be associated with the first treaty of Paris signed under the revived empire. Wherefore M. Feuillet de Conches, a high Foreign-office clerk, went to the Jardin des Plantes, and there seizing, or causing to be seized, "the Imperial eagle, " plucked from his wing a fine feather, and made from it a pen. With this notable pen each of the plenipotentiaries signed the treaty. Then the eagle's quill was fastened to a sheet of pasteboard, bearing an affidavit of M. Feuillet de Conches, framed and glazed, and presented to the Empress Eugenie. The guns of the Invalides announced that the treaty was signed; the plenipotentiaries waited on the Emperor; the telegraph flashed the great news fast and far; and Paris broke into one of those "spontaneous " illuminations which characterise the subjects of a paternal Government. That same day the good people of London learned that a treaty of peace had been signed, and about ten o'clock at night the booming of guns from the esplanade behind the Horse Guards, and the crash of joy-bells from the church-steeples and towers, proclaimed the fact to Londoners. The next day there was a more formal proclamation in the City, and much cheering, but no spontaneous illumination of the British or the French fashion. And so on the anniversary of the capitulation of Paris in 1814, the treaty was signed which put an end to the Russo-Turkish war; and by a strange chance there was one present who had signed both documents - Count Orloff; in 1814, Colonel Orloff, aide-de-camp to Alexander I. of Russia. On the 27th of April the treaty and its subsidiary contracts were duly ratified, the ratifications being exchanged at Paris; so that the whole transaction was completed in that capital.

The treaty of Paris was not a very long or complicated document. It consisted of a preamble and thirty-four articles, and there were attached to it three conventions, each having the same force as the general treaty. In the preamble the six powers declared their intention to establish and consolidate a peace " by securing, through effectual and reciprocal guarantees, the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire," and further, they recorded that Prussia was invited to participate in the arrangements come to. Peace being established, Russia was to restore Kars and the country occupied by her troops in Turkish Armenia, and the allies were to restore the towns and ports of Sebastopol, Balaclava, Kamiesch, Kertch, Yenikale, and Kinburn, and all other Russian territory occupied by them. Each power was to grant an amnesty to those of their subjects who had been employed against them, or who had otherwise compromised themselves. This was done to meet the case of Poles who had taken service with the allies. All prisoners of war were to be given up. The whole of the seven powers declared formally that the Sublime Porte should be admitted to participate in the advantages of the public law and system of Europe. This was one of the things to which the late Czar would never have assented; perhaps, so far as sentiment went, one of the most bitter concessions made by Russia. "Their Majesties," the treaty went on (Article VII.), " engage, each on his part, to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman empire; guarantee in common the strict observance of that engagement, and will, in consequence, consider any act tending to its violation as a question of general interest." If a quarrel arose between the Porte and one of the powers, before force was resorted to, the other powers were to have an opportunity of preventing by mediation the outbreak of war. It was then recorded that the Sultan would communicate to each power the firman he had issued touching his Christian subjects; but it was expressly declared that this act of the Sultan did not confer on all, or any, of the powers any right to interfere in the internal affairs of his empire. The Black Sea was " neutralised; " that is, all ships of war, with recognised exceptions, were prohibited from entering its waters, while it was to be free to the mercantile marine of every nation. The exceptions were specified in a convention between Russia and Turkey, annexed to the general treaty, and equally valid with it. By this convention the two powers were each to maintain not more than six steam-ships of 800 tons, and four light vessels of 200 tons. It was also provided in the treaty that no military-maritime arsenal should be maintained by either power on the coasts of the Black Sea. Consuls were to be admitted to any port. The navigation of the Danube was declared to be free, and a commission was to be appointed to clear the mouths, improve and regulate the navigation, and pay the expenses out of a shipping rate. Thus the Black Sea was set apart for commerce, and the Danube opened to all the world. This was what, in the language of diplomacy, was called the neutralisation of the Black Sea. Russia would not admit that the terms of this treaty applied to the building-yards of Kherson and Nicolaieff,. or to the Sea of Azoff; but Count Orloff gave a promise, which was recorded in the protocols, that Russia would not build " anywhere on the shores of the Black Sea, or in its tributaries, or in the waters dependent on it," any ships other than those allowed by treaty. This was accepted as a binding engagement.

In order to show that the allies did not exchange the territories held by them in return for Kars, it was expressly stated that, in exchange for the ports in the Crimea held by the allies, and the better to secure the free navigation of the Danube, Russia consented to what \s absurdly called "the rectification of the frontier of Bessarabia." The new frontier was to start from the river Pruth, at a point where it was not navigable, and follow a line which would exclude Russia altogether from the Danube, and take from her the fortress of Ismail and Kilia Nova. A commission was to trace the new line, and of that we shall have to speak at a later stage, as it nearly gave rise to a renewal of the war. The remainder of the treaty provided for the future status of the Danubian Principalities. They were placed under the collective guarantee of the seven powers. Their rights and privileges were to be secured, their laws and statutes revised, and a commission was to report on their new organisation, after taking counsel of Divans called for the purpose of expressing the wants of the people. Finally, the Sultan was to give his sanction to the new arrangements, and then the Principalities passed under the protection of the seven powers. These were the principal stipulations of this remarkable treaty.

We have said that there were three conventions annexed to the general treaty. One we have described already. The second, signed by all the powers, recorded the declaration of the Sultan that he would continue to prohibit the entry of ships of war into the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, and would not admit any so long as he was at peace; and the other powers agreed to respect this determination of the Sultan. There were exceptions, as in the case of ships bearing ambassadors, admitted by permission of the Sultan, and of the ships the contracting powers might send to keep watch over the mouths of the Danube. The third convention was signed by the ministers of France, England, and Russia, and it recorded the undertaking of the Czar "that the Aland Islands shall not be fortified, and that no military or naval establishments shall be maintained or created there." We may here remark that the allies, after the capture of Bomarsund, offered these islands to Sweden, but that Sweden, fearing to offend Russia, and apprehensive of the burden they might prove, declined the gift. They lie at the mouth of the Gulf of Bothnia, off the Swedish capital. It was in the interest of Sweden that this convention was made.

By this treaty and these conventions it will be seen that the allies secured the object of the war, which really was the reduction of the power of Russia. They not only destroyed Sebastopol and the Black Sea fleet, they prohibited the revival of fleet or arsenal; they removed Russia from the Danube; they deprived her altogether of that exclusive protectorate over the Danubian Principalities which she had extorted from the Porte, and declared null and void that pretended protectorate over the Christian subjects of the Sultan to which Nicholas violently laid claim; they gave Turkey a collective guarantee, and they thus delivered her from the grinding pressure exerted by Russia, and struck out of the hands of the Czar those two most formidable weapons of coercion - a mighty arsenal and fleet. Without these an invasion of Turkey from the north becomes almost impossible, and the chances of working down upon Constantinople from the east - that is, from Kars - become very slight. Moreover, by newly organising the Principalities, the powers provided for the growth of a national Christian state, one of a group which, when the time comes, will take the place of the Turk on the Danube, the Bosphorus, and the European shores of the Levant. In the Baltic the allies reduced the power of the Czar, and delivered Sweden from a standing menace. So that, on the whole, the fruits of the war were considerable, though not so considerable as they might have been had the war gone on. That peace was then justly made, no rational man will deny; for, although all had not been accomplished, enough had been done to meet the exigencies of the period.

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Pictures for Chapter XXXVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 4

Count Orloff
Count Orloff >>>>
Count Walewski
Count Walewski >>>>
The Empress of the France
The Empress of the France >>>>
The Hall of ambassadors
The Hall of ambassadors >>>>

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