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took him apart, saying he desired to speak to him. CHAP. 'If your Government/ said the Emperor, 'has been -—.—'led to believe that Turkey retains any elements of 'existence, your Government must have received in'correct information. I repeat to you that the sick 'man is dying, and we can never allow such an event 'to take us by surprise. We must come to some 'understanding.'
Then Sir Hamilton Seymour felt himself able to infer that the Czar had settled in his own mind that the hour for bringing about the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire must be at hand.
The next day the Emperor again sent for Sir Hamilton Seymour, and after combating the determination of the English Government to persist in regarding Turkey as a Power which might, and which probably would, remain as she was, he at length spoke out his long-reserved words of temptation. He thought, he said, that in the event of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, it might be less difficult to arrive at a satisfactory territorial arrangement than was commonly believed, and then he proceeded: 'The Prin'cipalities are, in fact, an independent State under 'my protection: this might so continue. Servia 'might receive the same form of government. So 'again with Bulgaria: there seems to be no reason 'why this province should not form an independent 'State. As to Egypt, I quite understand the import'ance to England of that territory. I can then only 'say, that if, in the event of a distribution of the 'Ottoman succession upon the fall of the Empire, CHAP, 'you should take possession of Egypt, I shall have
•—^—> 'no objection to offer. I would say the same thing
'of Candia: that island might suit you, and I do
'not know why it should not become an English
'As I did not wish,' writes Sir Hamilton Seymour, 'that the Emperor should imagine that an English 'public servant was caught by this sort of overture, 'I simply answered that I had always understood 'that the English views upon Egypt did not go be'yond the point of securing a safe and ready com'munication between British India and the mother 'country. Well, said the Emperor, induce your 'Government to write again upon these subjects— 'to write more fully, and to do so without hesitation. 'I have confidence in the English Government. It 'is not an engagement, a convention, which I ask of 'them; it is a free interchange of ideas, and, in case 'of need, the word of a "gentleman;" that is enough 'between us.' * Reception In answer to these overtures, the Government of czar's the Queen disclaimed all notion of aiming at the by6the"* possession of either Constantinople or any other of (i^TOrn- the Sultan's possessions, and accepted the assurances to the like effect which were given by the Czar. It combated the opinion that the extinction of the Ottoman Empire was near at hand, and deprecated the discussions based on that supposition as tending directly to produce the very result against which they were meant to provide. Finally, our Government, with abundance of courtesy, but in terms very CHAP, stringent and clear, peremptorily refused to enter v—^—.> into any kind of secret engagement with Russia for the settlement of the Eastern Question.
* 'Eastern Papers,' part v.
These communications of January and February 1853 were carried on between the Emperor of Russia and the English Government upon the understanding that they were to be held strictly secret; and for more than a year this concealment was maintained. It will be for a later page to show the ground on which the engagement for secrecy was broken, and the effect which the disclosure wrought upon the opinion of Europe, and upon the feelings of the people in England.
The Czar was baffled by the failure of his somewhat shallow plan for playing the tempter with the English Government; and an event which occurred at this same time still further conduced to the abandonment of his half-formed designs against the Sultan.
When Nicholas came to the singular resolution of declaring war against the Sultan in the event of his rejecting Austria's demand respecting Montenegro, he imagined, perhaps, that his counsels were kept strictly secret; but it seems probable that a knowledge or suspicion of the truth may have reached the Turkish Government, and helped to govern its decision. What is certain is, that the demand made Result of by Austria was carried by Count Leiningen to Con- Leininstantinople, and that, having been put forward mission. in terms offensively peremptory, it was suddenly
acceded to by the sagacious advisers of the Sultan, its effect This contingency seems to have been unforeseen
plans of by the Emperor Nicholas; at first the tidings of it kindled in his mind strong feelings of joy, for he looked upon the deliverance of Montenegro as a triumph of his Church over the Moslem. But he soon perceived that this sudden attainment of the object to be sought would disconcert his plans. He found himself all at once deprived of the basis on which his scheme of action had rested; and except in respect of the question of the key and the silver star, there was nothing that he had to charge against the Sultan. On the other hand, he had failed in his endeavour to win over England to his views. He therefore relapsed into the use of the conservative language which he had been accustomed to apply to the treatment of the Eastern Question; professed his willingness to labour with England to prolong the existence of the Turkish Empire; and even went so far as to join with our Government in declaring that the way to achieve this result was to abstain ' from 'harassing the Porte by imperious demands, put for'ward in a manner humiliating to its independence He aban- 'and its dignity. ' * He abandoned the intention of idea of going to war, and even deprived himself of the ^TMg ° means of taking such a step with effect; for immediately upon hearing the result of Count Leiningen's mission, he stopped the purchase of horses required for enabling him to take the field.
* ' Eastern Papers,' part v. p. 25.
But when a man's mind has been once thrown for- c H A P. ward towards action, it gains so great a momentum - V*L . that the ceasing of the motive which first disturbed his repose does not instantly bring him to a stand. The Czar had found himself suddenly deprived of his The pain ground of war against the Porte by the embarrass- tion!ac ing success of Count Leiningen's mission, and in the same week he was robbed of his last hope of the alliance which he most desired by the failure of his overtures to England. He gave up the idea of going to war, and policy commanded that for a while he should rest; but already he had so acted that rest was pain to him. He could not but be tortured with the thought that the furtive words which he had uttered to Sir Hamilton Seymour on the 21st of February were known to the Queen of England and to several of her foremost statesmen. Moreover, in a thousand forms, the bitter fruits of the delivery of the key and the star of Bethlehem, and the tidings of the triumph which the Latins had gained over his Church, and of the agony which this discomfiture had inflicted upon pious zealots, were coming