« EdellinenJatka »
considerations which are calculated to throw light on recent occurrences and on the prospects of the future. We propose, 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
with many similar problems. With all our reliance on Parliamentary government, it has never occurred to anyone that it could with advantage be applied to India. Even the expedient, now contemplated, of an Indian Privy Council, is one of doubtful policy; and we are naturally surprised and distrustful when we see Midhat Pasha apply to the evils of Turkey a remedy which we should hardly recommend or adopt in the Queen's Asiatic dominions.
These views are confirmed, in a striking manner, by Sir George Campbell, who has just given us the results of a visit to Turkey, in a very convenient and instructive form. He has brought his experience as an Indian civil servant, well acquainted with Asiatic races, to bear on the Ottoman Empire. He gives his testimony to the extreme-he calls it 'excessive' -toleration of the Turkish Government towards the various sects of Christians and the Jews. His second chapter on the Mahommedan religion and laws is a masterly exposition of the subject; he takes, upon the whole, a favourable view of the Turkish character; he attributes the present deplorable state of the Government to the influence of a small bureaucracy at Constantinople ; and he contends that far from having done too little in the way of change and reform, the Porte has in reality done too much; but what has been done he loudly condemns, because it has been done under the influence of French principles of administration. All this is highly instructive, and for the sake of these chapters we recommend this little volume to our readers. But when he comes to reason on these data, the writer is very wide of the mark indeed. He begins by stating that he has no knowledge
of the complications of European politics-quite the contrary;' and accordingly, he leaves the principal factor in the whole calculation—the power and designs of Russia--almost entirely out of the question, and he adopts, without, apparently, the least suspicion of the treacherous ashes beneath his feet, every suggestion that can promote the objects of that Power.
The recent disturbances in the Turkish provinces of Europe were not caused by any aggressive or arbitrary act of provocation on the part of the Turkish Government. The system, bad as it is in many respects, is old ; the two additional burdens thrown on the people of late years are importations from Europe—the military conscription, and the increase of the public debt, and of these the former falls only on the Mussulmans. We showed in our last Number that the insurrection in Bosnia and the Herzegovina was rather agrarian than political, and directed against the land owners and the tax farmers rather than against the Sultan. Sir George Campbell is of the same opinion, and says that the mistake committed by the Turkish Government in Bosnia resembles that committed by the British Government in Oude. The grievances of the people were administrative grievances, precisely of the nature of those which occur in Native States, and which a dozen experienced Bengal civilians and a landsettlement of the country would remove. But these elements of disaffection were skilfully worked upon by influences from without, and turned to purposes in which the improvement of the condition of the people had but a small part. In short, Turkish misrule would not have led to revolt, massacres, and a crisis in affairs, without the active intervention of Russian policy; and Russia would not have found means to advance her political designs, if it had not been for the vast and
neglected field of Turkish misrule.
The view we take cannot be better expressed than in the following passage from what we may term a prophetic despatch addressed by Count Beust, then Austro-Hungarian Chancellor, to the Internuncio at Constantinople, just ten years ago, on January 22, 1867:
• It cannot be concealed that the Ottoman Empire is on the brink of a crisis which may shake it to its foundations. [The Cretan insurrection was then going on.] It is possible, though that may be questioned, that the forces of Turkey will suffice to master the general impulse which seems about to seize upon her Christian population ; but even if she had the power, her material resources are deficient; she could only succeed by appealing to the religious fervour of her Mussulmen subjects. Thenceforward, the contest would assume a character which would render it impossible for the Powers not to interfere. Europe conld not remain passive in presence of massacres between fanatical Moslems and Christians fighting for their faith and their existence. No great Power could stand aloof from a conflict waged under those conditions. The Christian world would resound with the cry of war against the Crescent to protect the Rayah from the extermination that would threaten him, and the days of the Crusaders would return. It is therefore indisputable that an understanding between the Powers, with a view to prevent the danger of a general conflagration by diplomatic intervention, is highly necessary. All the Governments of Europe must be equally desirous to maintain the general peace; they are all interested in finding a pacific solution for the Eastern Question, without disturbing their mutual good relations. There is only one Power which may be supposed to take different views, and that is Russia. She may be suspected of pursuing another object than the common interest of Europe, by turning to her own purpose the multifarious relations she has established in South-Eastern Europe. The experience of the last ten years shows that her exertions are incessant to keep up the agitation of those countries.' *
Count Beust went on to argue that Russia could certainly not be excluded from the councils of the great Powers on that account, but that it was all the more urgent to take collective steps to urge on the Government of the Sultan proposals expressed in the most precise language and embracing the whole extent of the Eastern Question. It is greatly to be regretted that no such steps were taken at the time, and that Count Beust's recommendation did not prevail. But if the Conference he proposed in 1867 did not meet, a Conference for precisely these objects did meet at the close of 1876, and England and Russia are the leading Powers at it.
As far as we are acquainted with the proceedings of the Conference, they have been decorous and conciliatory, and governed by a desire to save the Porte from great dangers, as well as by the desire to ameliorate the condition of the Christian populations. Russia, especially, has displayed an unexpected degree of mo. deration, by adopting the proposals of England as her base, and by surrendering many of the points she had previously insisted on. The Emperor Alexander has shown a strong desire to avoid a war for which he is ill-prepared, and his able representatives have made large concessions for the purpose of throwing the responsibility of the rupture (if it should occur) on the Porte, and of obtaining for Russia the moral support of Europe. But these diplomatic maneuvres do not alter, and will not arrest, the permanent and traditional policy of the Russian Empire.
What, then, really are the views and intentions of Russia ? That is the nodus of the whole question. As Count Beust justly observed ten years ago, they alone are open to suspicion, and to an amount of suspicion, which no verbal assurances or declarations can remove, because what we know of the policy of Russia is based on a long series of political facts. It would be absurd to suppose that to Russia, or to any other State, an ardent desire to redress the wrongs of some oppressed nationality in another country can be, or ought to be, the paramount and guiding principle of her policy. We in England have often felt an ardent desire to redress the wrongs of the Poles, of the Circassians, of the Sicilians, of the Greeks: we have held sympathetic meet
* From The Austro-Hungarian Empire,' by Baron Heine de Worms, a volume containing an interesting collection of Count Beust's despatches.