Imagens das páginas

CHAP, in Turkey. He had gathered his troops upon the . Turkish frontier, and it seemed to him that he

could use their presence there as a means of extorting an engagement which would soothe the pride of the Orthodox Church, and tighten the rein by which he was always seeking to make the Turks feel his power. The vain concealments and misrepresentations by which this effort of violent diplomacy was accompanied, were hardly worthy to be ranked as acts of statecraft, and were rather the discord produced by the clashing impulses of a mind in conflict with itself.

Originally the Czar had no thought of going to war for the sake of obtaining this engagement, and least of all had he any thought of going to war with England. At first he thought to obtain it by surprise; and, when that attempt failed, he still hoped to obtain it by resolute pressure, because he reckoned that if the great Powers would compare the slenderness of the required concession with the evils of a great war, there could be no question how they would choose.

As soon as the diplomatic strife at Constantinople began to work, the Czar got heated by it; and when at length he found himself not only contending for his Church, but contending too with his ancient enemy, he so often lost all self-command, that what he did in his politic intervals was never enough to undo the evil which he wrought in his fits of pious zeal and of rage. And when, with a cruel grace, and before the eyes of all Europe, Lord Stratford disposed of Prince Mentschikoff, it must be owned CHAP.

XXVIII that it was hard for a proud man in the place of —,—'

the Czar to have to stand still and submit. Therefore, without taking counsel of any man, he resolved to occupy the Principalities; but he had no belief that even that grave step would involve him in war; for his dangerous faith in Lord Aberdeen and in the power of the English Peace Party was in full force, and grew to a joyful and ruinous certainty when he learned that the Queen's Prime Minister had insisted upon revoking the grave words which had been uttered to Baron Brunnow by the Secretary of State. This illusory faith in the peacefulness of England long continued to be his guide; and from time to time he was confirmed in his choice of the wrong path by the bearing of the persons who represented France, Austria, and Prussia at the Court of St Petersburg; for although in Paris, in London, in Vienna, in Berlin, and in Constantinople the four great Powers seemed strictly united in their desire to restrain the encroachments of the Czar, this wholesome concord was so masked at St Petersburg by the demeanour of Count Mensdorf, Colonel Bochow, and M. Castelbajac, that Sir Hamilton Seymour, though uttering the known opinion of the other three Powers as well as of his own Government, was left to stand alone.

After his acceptance of the Vienna Note, the Emperor Nicholas enjoyed for a few days the bliss of seeing all Europe united with him against the Turks, and he believed perhaps that Heaven was CHAP, favouring him once more, and that now at last'Can


. v 'ning' was vanquished; but in a little while the happy dream ceased, and he had the torment of hearing the four Powers confess that, if for a moment they had differed from Lord Stratford, it was because of their erring nature. Then, fired by the Turkish declaration of war, and stung to fury by the hostile use of the Western fleets which the French Emperor had forced upon the English Government, the Czar gave the fatal orders which brought about the disaster of Sinope. After his first exultation over the sinking of the ships and the slaughter, he apparently saw his error, and was become so moderate as to receive in a right spirit the announcement of the first decision that had been taken by the English Cabinet when the news of the catastrophe reached it. But only a few days later he had to hear of the grave and hostile change of view which had been forced upon Lord Aberdeen's Government by the French Emperor, and to learn that, by resolving to drive the Russian flag from the Euxine, the maritime Powers had brought their relations with his empire to a state barely short of war. After this rupture it was no longer possible for him to extricate himself decorously, unless by exerting some skill and a steady command of temper. He was unequal to the trial; and although, in politic and worldly moments, he must have been almost hopeless of a good result, he could not bear to let go his hold of the occupied provinces under the compulsion of a public threat laid upon him by England and France.


With the conduct of the Turkish Government CHAP,

XXVIII. little fault is to be found. It is true that, in the early •—,—>

stage of the dispute about the Sanctuaries, the vio- wh^ lence of the French and the Russian Governments j^jf^y tormented the Porte into contradictory engagements, causins '*• and that the anger kindled by these clashing promises was one of the provocatives of the war; but from the day of the delivery of the Bethlehem key and the replacement of the star, the Turkish Government was almost always moderate and politic—and after the second week of March 1853 it was firm; for the panic struck by Prince Mentschikoff in the early days of his mission was allayed by the prudent boldness of Colonel Pose, and the Czar with all his hovering forces was never able to create a second alarm.

It has been seen that, by their tenacity of all those sovereign rights which were of real worth—by the wisdom with which they yielded wherever they could yield with honour and safety—by their invincible courtesy and deference towards their mighty assailant— and at last, and above all, by their warlike ardour and their prowess in the field—the Turks had become an example to Christendom, and had won the heart of England. And although it has been acknowledged that some of the more gentle of these Turkish virtues were contrived and enforced by the English Ambassador, still no one can fairly refuse to the Ottoman people the merit of appreciating and enduring this painful discipline.

Besides, there was a period when it might be supposed that the immediate views of the Turkish CHAP, Government and of the English Ambassador were


•—,—- not exactly the same; for as soon as the Turkish

statesmen became aware that their appeal to the

people had kindled a spirit which was forcing them

into war, it of course became their duty to endeavour

to embroil the other Powers of Europe; and they

laboured in this direction with much sagacity and

skill. They saw that if they could contrive to bring

up the Admirals from Besica Bay, the "Western

Powers would soon get decoyed into war by their

own fleets; and in order to this, we saw Beshid Pasha

striving to affect the lofty mind of Lord Stratford by

shadowing out the ruin of the Ottoman dominion;

then mounting his horse, going off to the French

Ambassador, and so changing the elevation of his

soul, whilst he rode from one Embassy to the other,

that in the presence of M. de la Cour he no longer

spoke of a falling empire, but pictured to him a

crowd of Frenchmen of all ranks cruelly massacred,

on account of their well-known Christianity, by a host

of fanatical Moslems. And although the serenity of

Lord Stratford defeated the sagacious Turk for the

time, and disappointed him in his endeavour to bring

up more than a couple of vessels from each fleet, still

in the end the Turkish statesmanship prevailed; for

M. de la Cour, disturbed by the bloody prospect held

out to him, communicated his excitement to the

French Emperor, and the French Emperor, as we

have seen, then put so hard a pressure upon Lord

Aberdeen as to constrain him to join in breaking

through the treaty of 1841; and since this re

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