« AnteriorContinuar »
CHAP. Russia might afterwards take would place her more IX.
and more in the wrong. Endeavour,' said Lord Stratford, in charging the Turkish Ministers, to keep “the affair of the Holy Places separate from the ulte‘rior proposals (whatever they may be) of Russia. The
course which you appear to have taken under the ' former head was probably the best, and I am glad
to find that there is a fair prospect of its success. • Whenever Prince Mentschikoff comes forward with * further propositions, you are at perfect liberty to 'decline entering into negotiation without a full
statement of their nature, extent, and reasons. • Should they be found on examination to carry with ' them that degree of influence over the Christian subjects of the Porte in favour of a foreign Power which might eventually prove dangerous or seri'ously inconvenient to the exercise of the Sultan's • legitimate authority, His Majesty's Ministers cannot “ be doing wrong in declining them.'* But then, added the Ambassador—and his words portended some counsels hard to follow—this will not prevent
the removal by direct sovereign authority of any * existing abuse.'*
Gradually the Turkish Ministers told more, and on the 9th of April Lord Stratford knew that Russia was demanding a treaty engagement, giving her the protectorate of the Greek Church in Turkey; and being now in communication with Prince Mentschikoff, he succeeded, as he believed, in penetrating the real object which Russia had in view. That object,' he
* Eastern Papers,' part i. p. 125.
said, 'was to reinstate Russian influence in Turkey CHAP.
'on an exclusive basis, and in a commanding and <—^—> 'stringent form.' In other words, Prince Mentschikoff, with horse and foot and artillery and the whole Sebastopol fleet at his back, was come to depose the man whom they called in St Petersburg 'the English 'Sultan.' On the other hand, Lord Stratford was not willing to be deposed. The struggle began.
The severance of the question of the Holy Places Comfrom the ulterior demands of the Czar was not an mentof object to be pursued for the sake of order and conve- giebeTMg nience only. On the contrary, it bade fair to govern pTM the result of the diplomatic conflict; for the Monte- koff and1' negro question having disappeared, and Russia having Stafford, committed herself to the avowal that she had no complaints against the Sultan except in regard to the Holy Places, a settlement of that solitary grievance would leave the ulterior demand so baseless that any attempt to enforce it by arms would be a naked outrage upon the opinion of Europe. If Prince Mentschikoff had been a man accustomed to negotiate, he would have taken care to preserve the question of the Holy Places, and keep it blended with the ulterior demand until he saw his way to a successful issue; for he was in the position of having to found two demands upon one grievance,7 and it was clear, therefore, that he would be stranded if he allowed his one grievance to be disposed of without having good reason for knowing that his further demand would be granted; but he was vain and confident, and perhaps his sagacity was blunted by the
CHAP, thought that he was able to threaten an appeal to •—^l—> force. Moreover, Prince Mentschikoff was in the hands of a practised adversary.
Lord Stratford, knowing the full import of the decision towards which he was leading his opponent, did not fail to deal with him tenderly; and for several days the Prince had the satisfaction of imagining that the imperious and overbearing Englishman of whom they were always talking at St Petersburg was become very gentle in his presence. The two Ambassadors, without being yet in negotiation, began to talk with one another of the matters which were bringing the peace of the world into danger. They spoke of the Holy Places. Far from seeming to be hard or scornful in regard to that matter, Lord Stratford was full of deference to a cause which, whether it were founded on error or on truth, was still the honest heart's desire of fifty millions of pious men. He showed by his language that if by chance he should be called upon to use his good offices in this matter, or to mediate between Russia and France, he would form his judgment with gravity and with care. Where he could do so with justice, he admitted the fairness of the Russian claims.
Prince Mentschikoff's tone became 'considerably 'softened.'* Then the Ambassadors ventured upon the subject still more pregnant with danger, for Lord Stratford now disclosed his knowledge of Prince Mentschikoff's 'ulterior propositions relative to the 'protectorate of the whole Greek Church and the 'priesthood in Turkey, and his conviction that they CHAP. 'would meet with serious opposition from the Porte, -—*-—' 'and be regarded with little favour by Powers even 'the most friendly to Russia.' * Prince Mentschikoff tried to 'attenuate the extent and effect' t of his demands; and, on the other hand, Lord Stratford 'drew a clear line of distinction between the 'confirmation of special points already stipulated by 'treaty, and an extension of influence having the 'virtual force of a protectorate, to be exercised ex'clusively by a single foreign Power, over the most 'important and numerous class of the Sultan's tri'butary subjects ;'t but by common consent the two Ambassadors 'avoided entering into a discussion 'which might have proved irritating upon this ques'tion.'t Prince Mentschikoff, however, committed the diplomatic error of intimating 'that, notwith'standing the great importance attached to it by 'his Government, there was no danger of any hostile 'aggression as the result of its failure, but at most 'an estrangement between the two Courts, and per'haps, though it was not so said, an interruption of 1 diplomatic relations.' t
* 'Eastern Papers,' part i. p. 134.
That in these circumstances, and until he had succeeded in separating the question of the Holy Places, it was right for the English Ambassador to deal very temperately with the ulterior demands of the Czar, no diplomatist would doubt; and Lord Stratford acknowledges \ that he carefully refrained
* 'Eastern Papers,' part L p. 151. t Ibid. p. 139.
X Ibid. p. 134.
CHAP. from discussing the subject in a way tending to
irritate, but the Russians imagine that he did more than abstain. They say that having been supplied with a copy of Prince Mentschikoff's draft of the convention, embodying his demands in respect to the Greek Church and Clergy, Lord Stratford struck out as inadmissible the clauses relating to the Greek Patriarch's tenure of office, and sending back the draft with that and with no other alteration, induced the Turkish Ministers (and through them induced the Russian Embassy) to suppose that he entertained no objection to the proposed convention except that which he had indicated by his erasure ; and that Prince Mentschikoff, being in this belief, and being prepared to give way upon the question of the Greek Patriarch, had a right to expect Lord Stratford's acquiescence in that dangerous part of the Czar's demand which sought to establish a Protectorate over the Greek Church in Turkey. Nothing is more likely than that, in the process of endeavouring to penetrate Lord Stratford's intentions through the medium of the Turkish Ministers, Prince Mentschikoff may have received a wrong impression, and it is very likely that Lord Stratford in reading the draft may have at once struck out clauses which he regarded as totally inadmissible, reserving for separate discussion and for oral explanation the consideration of an ambiguous clause which, dangerous as it was, might easily be so altered as to become entirely harmless; but it is certain that there was never a moment in which Lord Stratford was