« AnteriorContinuar »
CHAP, how to give up the less for the sake of attainv_^-L_/ ing and keeping the greater. Governed by this principle, he gradually began to draw closer and closer towards England; and when the angry Czar imagined that he was advancing in the cause of his Church against a resolute champion of the Latins, his wily adversary was smiling perhaps with Lord Cowley about the 'key' and the 'cupola,' and preparing to form an alliance on strictly temporal grounds.
It would have been well for Europe if the exigencies of the persons then wielding the destinies of France would have permitted the State to rest content with that honest share of duty which fell to the lot of each of the four Powers when the intended occupation of the Principalities was announced. Neither the interest nor the honour of France required that in the Eastern Question she should stand more forward than any other of the remonstrant States; but the personal interest of the new Emperor and his December friends did not at all coincide with the interest of France; for what he and his associates wanted, and what in truth they really needed, was to thrust France into a conflict which might be either diplomatic or warlike, but which was at all events to be of a conspicuous sort, tending to ward off the peril of home politics, and give to the fabric of the 2d of December something like station and celebrity in Europe. In order to achieve this, it clearly would not suffice for France to be merely one of a conference of four great Powers quietly and temperately engaged in repressing the CHAP, encroachment of the Czar. Her part in such a busi- •—r^-> ness could not possibly be so prominent nor so animating as to draw away the attention of the French from the persons who had got into their palaces and their offices of State. On the other hand, a close, separate, and significant alliance with England, and with England alone, to the exclusion of the rest of the four Powers, would not only bring about the conflict which was needed for the safety and comfort of the Tuileries, but would seem in the eyes of the mistaken world to give the sanction of the Queen's pure name to the acts of the December night and the Thursday the day of blood. The unspeakable value of this moral shelter to persons in the condition of the new French Monarch, and St Arnaud, Morny, and Maupas, can never be understood except by those who look back and remember how exalted the moral station of England was, in the period which elapsed between the 10th of April 1848 and the time when she suffered herself to become entangled in engagements with the French Emperor.
It would have been right enough that France and England, as the two great maritime Powers, should have come to an understanding with each other in regard to the disposition of their fleets; but even if they had been concerting for only that limited purpose, it would have been right that the general tenor and object of their naval arrangements should have received the antecedent approval of the two CHAP, other Powers with whom they were in cordial agree-—v—s ment. The English Government, however, not only consented to engage in naval movements which affected—nay, actually governed—the question of peace or war, but fell into the error of concerting these movements with France alone, and doing this not because of any difference which had arisen between the four Powers, but simply because France and England were provided with ships; so that in truth the Western Powers, merely because they were possessed of the implement which enabled them to put a pressure upon the Czar, resolved to act as though they were the only judges of the question whether the pressure should be applied or not; and this at a time when, as Lord Clarendon declared in Parliament, the four Powers were 'all acting cor* dially together.' Of course, this wanton segregation tended to supersede or dissolve the concord which bound the four Powers, and, as a sure consequence, to endanger yet more than ever the cause of peace. Some strange blindness prevented Lord Aberdeen from seeing the path he trod, or rather prevented him from seeing it with a clearness conducive to action. But what the French Emperor wanted was even more than this, and what he wanted was done. It is true that neither admiration nor moral disapproval of the conduct of princes ought to have any exceeding sway over our relations with foreign States; and if we had had the misfortune to find that the Emperor of the French was the only potentate in Europe whose policy was in accord with our
own, it might have been right that closer relations of CHAP, alliance with France (however humiliating they might >—^—^ seem in the eyes of the moralist) should have followed our separation from the other States of Europe. But no such separation had occurred. What the French Emperor ventured to attempt, and what he actually succeeded in achieving, was to draw England into a distinct and separate alliance with himself, not at a time when she was isolated, but at a moment when she was in close accord with the rest of the four Powers.
Towards the close of the Parliamentary session of 1853, the determination on the part of Austria to rid the Principalities of their Russian invaders was growing in intensity. Prussia also was firm; and in principle the concord of the four Powers was so exact, that it extended, as was afterwards seen, not only to the terms on which the difference between Russia and Turkey should be settled, but to the ulterior arrangements which might be pressed upon Russia at the conclusion of the war which she was provoking. 'The four great Powers,' said Lord Aberdeen on the 12th of August, 'are now 'acting in concert.' * 'In all these transactions,' said Lord Clarendon,t 'Austria, England, Prussia, 'and France are all acting cordially together, in 'order to check designs which they consider incon* sistent with the balance of power, and with those 'territorial limits which have been established by 'various treaties.'
* 129 Hansard, p. 1650. t Ibid. p. 1423.
CHAP. Yet it cannot be doubted that in the midst of
—^—' this perfect concord of the four Powers, the English tureofthe Government was induced to enter into a separate "Pd^: understanding with the Emperor of the French.*
standing o r
of Mid- This was the fatal transaction which substituted a
1853 be- cruel war for the peaceful but irresistible pressure
tween *■ x
France which was exerted by the four Powers. The purport
and Eng- t J , r r
land. of this arrangement still lurks in private notes, and in recollections of private interviews; but it can be seen that (for reasons never yet explained) France and England were engaging to move in advance of the other Powers. The four Powers, being all of one mind, were still to remain in concert so far as concerned the discussion and adjudication of the questions pending between Russia and Turkey; but France and England were to volunteer to enforce their judgment. The four Powers were to be judges, and two of them—namely, France and England—were to be the executioners. What made this arrangement the more preposterous was, that the outrage of which Europe complained was the occupation of two provinces which abutted upon the Austrian dominions. Of all the great Powers, Austria was the chief sufferer. Austria was upon the spot. Austria was the one Power which instantly and in a summary way could force the Czar to quit his hold; and yet the charge of undertaking a duty which pressed upon her more than upon any other State in Europe, was voluntarily taken upon themselves by two States whose dominions were vastly distant
* 129 Hansard, pp. 1424, 1768, 1826.