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ART. IX.-1. Despatches, Correspondence, and Memoranda
of Field Marshal Arthur Duke of Wellington, K.G. Edited by his Son the Duke of WELLINGTON, K.G. (in continuation of the former series), Volume the Sixth
(July 1829 to April 1830). 8vo. London : 1877. 2. Depêches inédites du Chevalier de Gentz aux Hospodars de
Valachie, pour servir à l'histoire de la politique Européenne (1813–1828). Publiés par le Comte PROKESCH-OSTEN fils.
Trois tomes. 8vo. Paris : 1876. IN n the course of last autumn we had occasion to point out
the striking similarity which exists between the political and diplomatic transactions that preceded and led to the war between Russia and Turkey in 1828 and the occurrences of the present day. Since the publication of those remarks, much more copious and authentic information has been supplied to us, especially by the interesting publications that stand at the head of this article, on the relations of the Great Powers to the Ottoman Empire and to each other at the earlier period referred to. We are enabled to follow day by day every step in the negotiations of 1826 and 1827; and it is not without astonishment that we trace in these parallel passages of history, at an interval of half a century, a resemblance amounting to identity, the same efforts on the part of the Christian Powers to obtain from the Porte the recognition of the rights of its Christian subjects—the same claims to interference on their behalf-the same indignant remonstrances against acts of cruelty and oppression—the same attempt to combine the action of Russia and England on the basis of a common Protocol—and on the side of Turkey the same unbending resistance, expressed in the same language, and defended with the same diplomatic ingenuity and resolute indifference to the most formidable consequences. These volumes, therefore, afford us an excellent and instructive commentary on the present state of affairs, the more valuable as they place before us the views of statesmen of a very high order—Mr. Canning, Prince Metternich, Count Nesselrode, Lord Aberdeen, and above all the Duke of Wellington, whose correspondence is the bond connecting them together. The dangers which now threaten, or have recently threatened, the peace of Europe are the very same which they sought to avoid. Although the immediate cause of the disturbance is different, for then it was Greek and now it is Slavonic, yet the main features of the Eastern Question are unchanged, for they consist in the growing weakness and misrule of Turkey and the invariable objects of Russian policy. We can only hope that the efforts of the present generation to avert the catastrophe of war will be more successful than they were under the reign of Nicholas. Even the Duke of Wellington exclaimed after the Treaty of Adrianople, that the Ottoman Empire was at an end ; and that it might become necessary to consider what was to be put in its place. Fifty years have elapsed, and the Sick Man is still alive—not indeed in vigorous health, but possibly not much nearer the term of his existence than he seemed to be half a century ago.
Eastern affairs, however, occupy but a small portion of his Grace's most interesting correspondence. It embraces all the subjects which came in rapid succession under the eye of the Prime Minister—the state of Ireland, at the period immediately succeeding the great measure of Catholic Emancipation—the cabal of the Duke of Cumberland and the intrigues of the Russian Embassy in London, openly allied to overthrow the King's Government—the captious and semi-hostile attitude of George IV. towards a Minister whom he feared and yet feared to part with—the portentous change effected by Charles X. in the government of France, and the signs of approaching revolution in that country—the unsettled state of Spain and Portugal—the distress prevailing in England and the growing weakness of the administration. All these topics are laid bare, in the vivid language of contemporary correspondence; we seem to live over again in the political life of a past generation. And through them all we mark the grand sagacity, courage, and common sense of the Duke of Wellington. There have been many statesmen more subtle, more accomplished, more eloquent, more liberal, more enlightened: but in honesty, patriotism, plain-dealing and plain-speaking he stands without a rival.
By way of contrast to this manly volume, we have placed beside it the curious collection of the Reports on the current affairs of Europe from 1813 to 1828, which were addressed to the Hospodars of Wallachia by Chevalier Gentz, during that period, with the knowledge and consent of the Austrian Government, in whose service he occupied a high and most confidential position. He was at the same time the paid agent of these Hospodars, and he appears to have communicated to them all he knew. We have on former occasions done justice to M. Gentz, as the man who during the domination of Napoleon I. did not despair of the independence of Europe. At the Congress of Vienna he took an active part. We now learn from himself that he was the actual, and the sole, draftsman of the treaties which regulated the affairs of Europe for nearly half a century, and he became the right-hand man, almost the alter ego,
of Prince Metternich, then at the height of his power and influence. The details he gives us of the Austrian policy after the peace are therefore of the most authentic character. But what a picture of selfishness, timidity, false views, false predictions, and reactionary fanaticism, he has left behind him!
The advance made by the world is greater than we had supposed, since this is the language of great continental statesmen, fifty years ago; and though they were continually predicting the ruin of nations, it is, happily, only their own system and their reputation that have perished. Yet there are Cabinets which are at the same dirty work still. It would be easy to extract from these volumes passages of the most striking resemblance, amounting to identity, with the despatches and Protocols that emanate to this day from Petersburg. The Reis Effendi was then, as now, returning the same answers to the same demands.
Coercive measures were then as much discussed as they were last winter, and with much the same result, until Russia declared war on her own account; and the Austrian statesmen, alternately screaming with terror or sunk in inaction, watched the steady but temperate resistance of England to the aggression of their northern neighbour.
We regret that it is impossible for us to give an adequate idea of the multiplicity of details, which are illustrated by this Gentz correspondence, which would deserve a far more extended examination than we can bestow on it. But it is a most important contribution to the secret history of the times, and we shall use it, here and there, when it throws light on the transactions in which the Duke of Wellington was engaged.
By way of illustrating the extraordinary applicability of Gentz's remarks to the present state of affairs, we will quote a page from a Report of November 2, 1824. It might have been written yesterday :
“We are constantly reminded of the insurmountable difficulties opposed to the pacific intervention of the Powers at Constantinople. Yet I am persuaded, notwithstanding all that is said of the inflexible character of the Sultan and some of his advisers, that these difficulties would perhaps entirely vanish if the Porte could be persuaded of the perfect disinterestedness of those who offer this intervention. Let us suppose for an instant that Russia (and even France) were put aside in this matter, and that England and Austria, acting alone, offered their aid and advice to put an end, in the interest of the Porte, to a state of things from which her own resources fail to relieve her. Would
such a proposal be obstinately rejected ? I cannot admit it. The history of the last century is full of instances in which the Divan has not only accepted but invited the friendly intervention of foreigners, in circumstances less critical than the present. If I am told that the case is different that they are asked to make concessions and sacrifices contrary to the fundamental laws of their religion and their empireI reply that everything must yield to necessity; and that no laws, either religious or political, can oblige a Government to perish rather than to capitulate.
"No, I shall ever declare, this is not the real difficulty. That proceeds entirely from the share taken by Russia in these transactions, from the distrust, from the extreme repugnance, from the horror (to express it in one word) which that Power inspires to the Porte. And who would be clever enough to persuade even the least prejudiced Turk, that Russia only desires the preservation of the Ottoman Empire, the peace of Eastern Europe, and a little more liberty for her fellow Christians--that none of her measures, none of her declarations, are dictated by hostile sentiments, by ambitious views, by schemes of dismemberment, of conquest, and of dominion ? Even if all these suspicions were false and fanciful (and they would be so if the Emperor Alexander were himself all Russia), no one could eradicate them in a country which has suffered so much in the last half century from the preponderance of so formidable a neighbour. That is what casts an irremediable shade over all the efforts of the Powers to bring the Porte to pacific and conciliatory terms. The Porte will listen to everybody else; but nothing but the last extremity of danger will induce it to listen to Russia.' (Gentz, vol. ii. p. 405.)
How pertinent are these remarks ! Russia is foremost amongst the Powers in pressing upon Turkey measures of toleration to the Christians; but it is precisely because this advice, however good it may be, comes from a tainted and a hostile source—that is from Russia—that the Porte strains every nerve to resist it. As long as Great Britain cultivated the most amicable relations with Turkey, her voice and her representations had great power at Constantinople; but from the moment that an English Minister was supposed to have allied himself with Russia, and to have borrowed the tones of General Ignatieff, he had no weapon left in his hand.
It is necessary to go back to the year 1824 to take up the threads of these negotiations. In that year Lord Strangford, then British Ambassador at Constantinople, had succeeded in terminating a dispute between Russia and the Porte, about the military occupation of the Danubian Principalities; and for these good offices he received the emphatic thanks of the Czar. M. Minciacki was at that time acting the part since played by General Ignatieff at Pera. Russia then proposed a Conference to be held at Petersburg on the affairs of Greece (December 1824). Mr. Canning sent his cousin, Mr. Stratford Canning, to that court, but with the singular injunction that he should not take part in the Conference, on the ground that Great Britain could not share in proceedings which in the opinion of his Majesty's Government could lead to no satisfactory result; that the aversion of the Porte to foreign interference was well known; that Ministers could not defend in Parliament their participation in so bootless a negotiation; and that the wisest course, in the opinion of the British Cabinet, was to suspend all interference for the present. Mr. Stratford Canning found himself in an awkward position at Petersburg, as the Conference went on without him. It is true that it led to no result except the maintenance of harmony and united action between the Powers. The Porte steadily rejected its proposals. All this resembles extremely the attitude of the British Ca. binet last summer when the Berlin Note was presented for our acceptance.
It has been said, with more confidence than truth, that Mr. Canning took up the cause of the independence of Greece with great eagerness. Mr. Canning saw, like every man of sense and humanity, that the Porte must concede at least autonomy to the Greeks, and he negotiated in that sense at Constantinople. But his real object in sending the Duke of Wellington to St. Petersburg was, as he expressly states in the Duke's instructions, 'to prevent Russia from going to war’-a contingency the more to be feared as Mr. Canning believed that Alexander was on the point of making war at the time of his death; that Nicholas had expressed his firm resolution' to carry out his • lamented brother's intentions ;' and that the sinister events which had attended his own accession to the throne might increase his desire to find employment for the army. Mr. Canning's argument was that no casus belli or right of war existed between Russia and Turkey—just as it would be hard to say what right of war exists at the present moment, and from this fact he deduced the conclusion that a war by Russia against the • Porte, on any other account than that of the Greeks, would • be a war of ambition and conquest, and it is not with respect
to a war of that nature that England could take counsel with * Russia, or could do otherwise than dissuade and deprecate it, • and point out, in frank though friendly language, the wide • and disastrous consequences to which it must inevitably lead." As for direct intervention in favour of the Greeks, Mr. Canning thus defined in another despatch (quoted by M. Gentz)
* Canning's Instructions to Duke of Wellington, Feb. 10, 1862.