Littell's Living Age/Volume 131/Issue 1692/Present Aspects of the Eastern Question
From The Fortnightly Review.
PRESENT ASPECTS OF THE EASTERN QUESTION.
Years instead of months seem to have passed since, in last December, I wrote in this review under the heading, "The True Eastern Question." A revolt against Turkish oppression was then going on in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a revolt which showed to all who kept their eyes open that the long-oppressed Slavonic subjects of the Turk had fully made up their minds to throw off his yoke once and forever. To those who had eyes to see, the insurrection which began last summer marked the beginning of an era in the history of the world. It marked that the wicked power of the Turk was doomed. From the stern determination with which the insurgents drew the sword, from the deep and universal sympathy with their cause among their free neighbors of the same blood and speech, it was plain that this revolt was no mere local or casual disturbance, but the beginning of a great uprising of a mighty people. It was plain that a ball had been sent rolling which would grow as it rolled; it was plain that a storm had burst which must in the end sweep away before it the foul fabric of oppression which European diplomatists had been so long vainly and wickedly striving to prop up. When I wrote in December last, as when I wrote on these matters twenty years back, I wrote, as one of a small band, maintaining an unpopular, view. We looked for no general approval; we were rejoiced if we could find so much as a stray listener here and there. The cause which I had then in hand was one which governments pooh-poohed and about which the world in general was careless. I then set forth, as I had often set forth before, as I do not doubt that I shall often have to set forth again, the true nature of Ottoman rule, the causes which make it hopeless to look for any reform in Ottoman rule, the one remedy by which only the evils of Ottoman rule can be got rid of — by getting rid of the Ottoman rule itself. In that article, I pleaded for the oppressed Christian; but I also bore in mind the danger lest, in delivering the oppressed Christian, a way might be opened for the oppression of the Mussulman. I said then that the direct rule of the Turk must cease in every land whose inhabitants had risen against his rule. I said that, as Bosnia and Herzegovina had risen, his rule must at once cease in Bosnia and Herzegovina; that when Albania and Bulgaria should rise, his rule must cease in Albania and Bulgaria also. I said that the least that could be accepted was the practical setting free of the revolted lands by making them tributary states like Servia and Roumania. But I also proposed, in the special interest of the large Mahometan minority in Bosnia, that that particular province should be annexed to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, as a power strong enough to hinder the professors of either religion from doing any wrong to the professors of the other. When I said this, there was still only a local warfare in two provinces, a warfare waged by the people of those provinces, goaded to revolt by intolerable wrongs, and strengthened only by private volunteers from the lands immediately around them. It was not till several months later that there was any Bulgarian insurrection, any national war on the part of Servia and Montenegro. Meanwhile the Turk was engaged in his usual work of putting forth lying promises, promises in which the men who had arisen against him were far too wise to put trust for a moment. Meanwhile diplomatists were engaged in their usual work of pooh-poohing the great events whose greatness they could not understand. They were busy with their usual nostrums, their petty palliatives, their Andrassy notes and their Berlin memorandums. Feeble attempts indeed to stop the torrent were their proposals for this and that reform, for this and that guaranty. Such were the sops which they thought might be swallowed either by the tyrant whose one object was to get back his victims into his clutches, or by the men who had sworn to die rather than again bow their heads under his yoke. While diplomatists were wondering and pottering, men were acting. Servia and Montenegro at last came openly to the help of their brethren, and helpless ambassadors and foreign secretaries found themselves face to face with a national war and no longer with a local insurrection. And meanwhile, if men had been acting, fiends had been acting also. Bulgaria rose; how its rising was put down the world knows, in spite of the self-made Earl of Beaconsfield. And, when the world knew, the world shuddered and the world spoke. It had been hard to call public attention to what seemed to many merely a petty strife in lands whose names they had hardly heard. The old traditions also had to be struggled with. Englishmen had to be taught what their dear ally the Turk was, what he had ever been, what he ever must be. The "Russian hobgoblin" had to be laid, and with many minds it was hard work to lay it. For months and months the few who had their eyes open were still preaching in the wilderness. At last the Turk did our work for us. He told a shuddering world what he really was in words stronger than any that we could put together. He painted his own picture on the bloody fields of Bulgaria in clearer colors than we could have painted it. The common heart of mankind was stirred. We who had before been preaching in the wilderness found a hearing in market-places and in council-chambers. What we had whispered in the ear in closets was now preached on the housetops by a mighty company of preachers. Great statesmen put forth with voice and pen the same facts, the same arguments, for which, nine months before, it was hard to get a hearing. All England spoke with one voice, a voice which spoke in the same tones in every corner of the land save two. It was only from the beer-shops of Oxford and the Foreign Office at Westminster that discordant notes came up. While the rest of England was speaking the words of truth and righteousness, Lord Derby was still putting forth fallacies, while his Oxford admirers raised an inarticulate howl which was not more unreasonable than the fallacies of their chief. Those who, in season and out of season, have fought this battle for twenty years and more, may perhaps be indulged in a little feeling of triumph when they see that the world has at last come round to their side. England, so long the abettor of the Turk, has at last found out what the Turk is. The nation has awakened from its slumber; it has cast away its fetters; it has dared to open its eyes and to use its reason; it has declared as one man that England will no longer have a share in maintaining that foul fabric of wrong, that Englishmen will put up with nothing short of the deliverance of the brethren against whom they have, as a nation, so deeply sinned.
The people of England have spoken; but it is not enough that the people should speak. Their rulers must be made to act; and just now we have rulers whom it is very hard to goad to action — at all events to action on behalf of right. The Times says that Lord Derby must be "educated," and it even implies that the work of his "education" has already begun. The process seems likely to be a slow one. When the proposal was laid before him that the revolted lands should be set free from the rule of the Turk, he said that he had no objection to such an arrangement, but that there were "difficulties." Of course there are difficulties in the way of so doing, as in the way of everything else. The world is full of difficulties. Human life chiefly consists in meeting with difficulties, and in yielding to them or overcoming them as the case may happen. Only with men the existence of difficulties is something which stirs them up to grapple with the difficulties, and to overcome them; with diplomatists the existence of difficulties is thought reason enough for drawing back and doing nothing. And there is one difficulty above all difficulties in the way of vigorous and righteous action on the part of England in this matter. That difficulty is the existence of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Derby. Lord Beaconsfield we all know; Lord Derby most of us are beginning to know. A few zealous county members still express their confidence in him: but they express it in that peculiar tone which men put on when they are trying to persuade themselves that they still put confidence in something in which they have really ceased to put confidence. But with the world in general the strange superstition that Lord Derby is a great and wise statesmen is swiftly and openly crumbling away. It is wonderful indeed to see the change of public opinion on this head. Two or three months back it was the acknowledged creed of Liberals as well as of Conservatives that Lord Derby was to be treated with a degree of respect with which there was no need to treat any of his colleagues. Things are indeed changed now that the Times talks of "educating" him, now that the comic papers jeer at him, now that his name is spoken of, certainly not with any great respect, in writing and in speech throughout the whole land. The sagacious minister, respected on both sides, trusted on both sides, is no longer spoken of with the bated breath which was held to be the right thing even when the present year was a good deal advanced. When the English people are driven really to look into any matter, their sight is sharp enough, and they can see that a man whose one object is to do nothing is not the right man to be at the helm when there is a great work to be done. For my own part, if my own opinion of Lord Derby has changed, it has rather changed for the better. I am beginning to think that a man whom I had for ten years looked on as wicked may perhaps after all have been only stupid. It is a fact, and a very ugly fact, that we have to look to the betrayer of Crete for the redress of the wrongs of Bulgaria. A good deal of education will certainly be needed before we make such an instrument serve our purpose. But as regards the man himself, his treatment of the whole matter since the summer of the last year suggests the thought that, even in the Cretan business, Lord Derby may have been simply frightened and puzzled, and may not have meant any active mischief. But the mischief was done all the same; it may have been only in fright and puzzledom that he gave the order; but the order was given none the less; the women and children of Crete were none the less left, and left by his bidding, to the mercy of their Turkish destroyers. Lord Derby, in the face of one of the great epochs of the world's history, reminds one of nothing so much as the lord mayor before whom Jeffreys was brought after the flight of James the Second. "The mayor," says Lord Macaulay, "was a simple man who had spent his whole life in obscurity, and was bewildered by finding himself an important actor in a mighty revolution." Lord Derby had not passed his whole life in obscurity; but he seemed just as much bewildered at finding that he had to play a part in a great European crisis as ever the simple mayor could have been. The result in the two cases is indeed different The lord mayor, being doubtless an impulsive man, "fell into fits and was carried to his bed, whence he never rose." Lord Derby is not impulsive; so he bore up, and made speeches for Mr. Gladstone to tear into shreds.
From the first to the last utterance of Lord Derby on these matters, from his despatch of August 12, 1875, to his speech of September 11, 1876, the same characteristic reigns throughout. That characteristic is blindness. In the first despatch and in the last speech there is the same incapacity to understand what it is that is going on. On August 12, 1875, the insurrection had been at work for more than a month, and Consul Holms and Sir Henry Elliot had been sending home accounts, not of course of what really had happened, but of what this and that Turk told them had happened. The Turks were of course busy lying, and Safvet Pasha was lying with greater vigor than all the rest; for he was saying that some Turk — who was sent for the purpose of bamboozling men who would not be bamboozled — would "redress well-founded complaints." But this Turk had clearer notions of what was going on than Lord Derby had. He writes to say that the insurrection is daily assuming more serious proportions, that Dalmatia sympathizes and helps, that Dalmatians and Montenegrins join the patriot ranks, that the position of the Servian army looks awkward, that neither Austria nor Montenegro is acting exactly as the interests of Turkish tyranny would have them act. That is to say, the die had been cast; eastern Europe had risen; warning had been given to the foul despot at the New Rome that the hour of vengeance was come. The Turk saw and trembled; Lord Derby shut his eyes and pottered. All that he could see was a local disturbance in Herzegovina. So when the first little band of the followers of Mahomet drew the sword, the rulers of Rome and Persia saw nothing but disturbances in a distant corner or Arabia. In Lord Derby's eyes all that was to be done was to stop disturbances, to hinder Servians, Montenegrins, and Dalmatians from joining in the disturbances. Then come the memorable words: —
- Her Majesty's government are of opinion that the Turkish government should rely on their own resources to suppress the insurrection, and should deal with it as a local outbreak of disorder, rather than give international importance to it by appealing for support to other powers.
Poor, blind diplomatist! So Leo the Tenth looked calmly on the theological disorder which began with the teaching of a despised monk called Martin Luther. So Antiochos of Syria and Philip of Spain thought for a moment that not much could come of the local disorders which were stirred up by the Maccabees and the Silent Prince. In Lord Derby's eyes the glorious uprising of oppressed nations was simply a thing to be "suppressed." He wished it to be suppressed; he thought that it could be suppressed, he would fain have seen the tyrant again press his yoke upon his victims, without seeking the support of other powers. The very phrase showed that Lord Derby did not shrink from the possibility that the tyrant might be aided by other powers in his work of evil. What is meant by a Turkish government "suppressing a revolt by its own resources" we know full well now. Lord Derby himself, in spite of manful efforts to remain in ignorance, must himself know by this time. I will not believe that Lord Derby really wished Herzegovina to be dealt with then as Bulgaria has been dealt with since. But that is the literal meaning of his words, when he hopes that the revolt may be put down by the resources of the Turkish government. Lord Derby could not tell then what was to happen in Bulgaria months afterwards; but, if he ever turned a page of modern history, if the man who talks thus calmly of Turkish suppression of insurrections had read the annals of the Turk even in our own century, he might have known what Turks have done in suppressing insurrections, and even in dealing with lands where there had been no insurrections. He had the same chance as other men of reading the bloody annals of Chios and Cyprus and Kassandra. Whether Lord Derby knew it or not, it was to the doom which had fallen on Chios and Cyprus and Kassandra, to the doom which was to fall on Bulgaria, that Lord Derby calmly sentenced the patriots of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Let the insurrection be suppressed — that is, in plain words, let every foul deed of malignant fiends be wrought through the length and breadth of the revolted lands; then there would be no difficulties, no complications, no openings of the Eastern question; the Turk would have his way; the Foreign Office need not be troubled, and the foreign secretary of England might safely slumber at his post.
But so it was not to be. The hopes of Lord Derby were doomed to be disappointed. To suppress the insurrection was not quite so easy a matter as he had deemed and hoped. The mighty outburst of freedom was soon to put on "international importance," even in the eyes of diplomatists. The resources of the Turkish government failed to put out the fire which had been kindled. The men who had drawn the sword for right and freedom were not to be overthrown in a moment, even though their overthrow was needed to save the English Foreign Office from difficulties and complications. Deeper and deeper grew the resolve of the champions of right to listen to none of the lying promises of their tyrant, to listen to none of the feeble suggestions of diplomatists, but to fight on in the face of heaven and earth, in the cause of heaven and earth. They have fought on; even before their independent brethren came to their help, they had beaten back every assault of the barbarian invader. For months and months the boasted resources of the Turkish government were unable to suppress the insurrection, unable to overcome the resistance of that little band of warriors, warriors worthy to rank with the men who gathered round Alfred at Athelney, or round Hereward at Ely. Down to this moment the insurrection has not been suppressed; Herzegovina has not been won back by the barbarian. The native heroes of the land, strengthened by their brethren from the Black Mountain, still stand victorious on the soil which they have won from the barbarian, and which the barbarian has failed to win back from them. The suppression of the insurrection which Lord Derby wished for is still, in September, 1876, as it was in August, 1875, a thing which diplomatists may long for, but which freedom has but little reason to fear.
But meanwhile another insurrection has been suppressed; and now the world knows what Turkish suppression of insurrections means. The tale of Bulgarian wrongs need not be told again. Lord Beaconsfield himself perhaps knows by this time how "an oriental people" have done what all the world, except Lord Beaconsfield, knows to be the manner of "an oriental people." They have done as the barbarians of the East have ever done, since the Hebrew put his Ammonite captives under saws and under axes of iron, and made them to pass through the brick-kiln. The Turk has done after his kind; and the voice of England, the voice of mankind, has pronounced sentence on him and his abettors. Servia, which for a moment seemed to have been overthrown in her glorious struggle, still holds her own, and every moment that she holds her own makes it more certain that she will not long be left without a helper. The mightiest people of her race will soon be on the march for her deliverance. Lord Derby, who, thirteen months back, was thinking of suppressing insurrections, will soon have to think what he will do when the myriads of Russia come to the help of their brethren in blood and faith. They have come already; despotism itself has its bounds, and the peace-loving czar either cannot or will not keep back his people from what in their eyes is the holiest of crusades. It has come to this, that Englishmen are prepared to see Russia step in and do the work that England should have done. If the Russians ever occupy Constantinople, it will be Lord Derby who has placed them there.
It is hardly worth while to go again through the whole tale of ministerial incapacity, to use the mildest words. Lord Beaconsfield is true to his creed of Asian mysteries. He seeks his models among the ancient worthies of his own people. Truly he looks to Abraham his father and unto Sarah that bare him. Like his great ancestress, he takes such pains to assure us that he did not laugh as to provoke the retort, "Nay, but thou didst laugh." He recalls too at least one exploit of his great ancestor in the zeal with which he flies to the help of the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is hardly needful again to refute the base slanders of the tongue which spoke of the doings of the tyrant and of the patriot as equal in guilt, and which affected to see nothing but hankering after "provinces" in the high resolve of the Servian people to do or die for right. Over and over again has Lord Derby told us that he did not, and could not, have directly instigated the Turkish doings in Bulgaria. Over and over again has it been explained to him that nobody ever thought that he had directly instigated them, that he is the last man whom anybody would suspect of directly instigating anything. But over and over again has it also been explained to him that he has none the less made himself an abettor and an accomplice after the fact, by keeping the English fleet in a position which all mankind but himself believed to be meant as a demonstration in favor of the evil cause. There is no need again to answer such fallacies as the memorable argument that, because Christians, Mahometans, and Hindoos could live peaceably together under the English government of India, therefore Christians and Mahometans can peacefully live together under the Turkish government of south-eastern Europe. Lord Derby's earlier talk has become a thing of the past. In the process of his education he may already have got beyond it; he may be educating himself backward to the days when his words on Turkish matters were somewhat different from his recent acts. But Lord Derby himself is unhappily a thing of the present, and some of his later sayings are still matters of practical importance. At the moment when I write Servian and Turk are resting on their arms. An effort is being made to bring about peace between them, a peace in the negotiation of which a representative of England cannot fail to take a leading part. It is a matter for anxious and painful thought that the representative of England at such a moment should be a man who, with whatever motives, through whatever causes, whether through sheer indifference or sheer incapacity has, as a matter of fact, made himself guilty of the blood of Crete and Bulgaria.
First of all, there was something very ominous, though perhaps from one side a little reasoning, in one of the latest sayings of Lord Derby. He told his hearers that one of the great principles on which he acted was "strict neutrality while the war lasts." Taken in itself, this last saying of Lord Derby's is of a piece with his first saying about the suppression of the insurrection. According to Lord Derby, England, which, in common with the other great powers, is bound to be the protector of the Christian subjects of the Turk, England, which is morally bound, above all the other great powers, to undo the wrongs which she has herself done to them, is to be strictly neutral while the war lasts — that is, under no circumstances is she to go beyond remonstrance, be the doings of the barbarians towards their victims what they may. On no account, in no state of things, is the arm of England to be stretched out to give real help to the oppressed. Come what may, let victorious savages change the whole of south-eastern Europe into a howling wilderness, England must not lift a weapon to hinder them. Come what may, we must never do again the good work which we ourselves did at Algiers, which France did in Peloponnesos, which England, France, and Russia joined to do on the great day of Navarino. While Lord Derby has his way, England is never again to strike another blow for right. Such is the frame of mind in which the representative of England approaches the negotiations for peace. Still there is another side, even to his blank and chilling words. Who does not remember how Lord Derby, not so very long ago, comforted himself and others by saying the war was not likely to spread? Perhaps the world has by this time learned that Lord Derby's auguries as to probability and improbability in such matters are not quite worth so much as they were once thought to be. In defiance of his infallible powers of divination, the war has spread, the war is spreading, and he that has eyes to see must see that, if it be not stopped by a real and not a sham peace, it will soon spread further still. The last reserve of Servia, as the Times called it not long back, will soon be drawn out. Russia will have come to her deliverance. We wish for no such thing — at least it is only Lord Derby who has driven us to wish for it. We had rather see the south-eastern lands free themselves, or be freed by English help, than see them either the subjects, the dependents, or even the grateful clients, of a power which has hitherto promised them so much and done for them so little. But unless Western diplomacy, Western arms, Western something, is quicker than it has been hitherto, that will be the upshot of all. And here we can draw some comfort even from Lord Derby's talk about neutrality. Strict neutrality while the war lasts must, in the common use of language, imply strict neutrality when the war, which was once confined to Herzegovina, which has spread from Herzegovina to Servia, shall have spread from Servia to Russia. Lord Derby has at least promised us that there shall not be another Russian war. If he has bound himself to do nothing for the oppressed, he has equally bound himself to do nothing against their avengers.
From Lord Derby indeed this is something. Still this elaborate ostentation of neutrality is not exactly the frame of mind in which we should wish to see our representative going forth to the negotiations by which it is hoped that the peace of south-eastern Europe may be secured. But Lord Derby, we are told, is capable of education; he has himself talked of listening to the will of his "employers." Now his employers have told him one thing very plainly. They have told him that they will not put up with any sham peace, that they will not put up with any patched-up peace, designed simply to stave off any serious settlement, and to let the diplomatists slumber for a few years longer. His employers, his teachers, have broken with the rotten traditions of the last two or three generations; and, if he wishes to be looked on as their servant or their pupil, he must break with them, too. The people of England sees, whether Lord Derby sees it or not, that negotiations on the basis of the status quo, negotiations on the basis of merely communal freedom for the revolted lands, negotiations on any terms which imply the direct rule of the Turk, are not only wicked, but foolish. Negotiation on any of these terms is a crime, because it is an attempt to prolong a state of things which is contrary to the first principles of right. But it is more than a crime: it is a blunder; because it is an attempt to prolong a state of things which cannot be prolonged. To prolong the status quo, to grant a merely communal freedom, means to prolong the domination of the Turk. The domination of the Turk means that the nations of south- eastern Europe are to remain bondmen in their own land, denied, not merely the political rights of freemen, but the common rights of human beings. It means that the vast mass of the people of the land shall remain in a condition of permanent subjection to a handful of barbarian invaders; it means that at any moment the caprice of these invaders may turn that permanent subjection into a reign of terror, a reign of every excess of insult and outrage and fortune that the perverse wit of an "oriental people" can devise. This state of things Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Derby, if left to themselves, will prolong. If they are left to settle matters in their own way, the owls of Bulgaria and Herzegovina will never complain of a lack of ruined villages. Mark that the best thing that Lord Derby has ever said, his nearest approach that he has made to an acknowledgment of the existence of such things as justice and freedom, is when he said that he had "no objection" to exchange this state of things for a better. He has no objection to the change; but he clearly will not do anything actively to bring it about. But Lord Derby's employers and educators are of a different mind; they not only have no objection to a change, but they have the strongest objection to the continuance of the status quo. Sir Stafford Northcote lately took on himself to say that the people do not understand questions of foreign policy. They have shown that they understand them a great deal better than Sir Stafford Northcote or Lord Derby. They see that, if the status quo be maintained, if anything short of practical independence be given to the revolted lands, the whole tragedy will soon be played over again. There will be more insurrections, more wars, more massacres, and, more awful still, more diplomatic "difficulties" and "complications." The people of England demand that, now that the Eastern question is "opened," it shall be settled; they know that settlements of this kind are no settlements at all, but simply wretched shifts to stave off a settlement. The people of England have, with one voice, declared that, however much Mr. Baring may satisfy Sir Henry Elliot, however much Sir Henry Elliot may satisfy Lord Beaconsfield, none of them will satisfy the common employers of all, if they attempt to make a settlement on any terms short of the practical independence of the revolted lands. Those lands must be separated from the direct rule of the Turks. Last December I pleaded for the separation of Bosnia and Herzegovina; to this demand the universal voice of England has added the separation of Bulgaria, while not a few voices have added the separation of Crete. If Lord Derby enters on any legislation with the faintest purpose of accepting any terms short of these, he will show that his education has not yet been carried at all near to the point at which his progress will satisfy his employers.
At this time of day it is perhaps hardly needful to answer objections about forsaking the traditional policy of England, or to reason against stupid fear of the Russian bugbear. To the former objection the simple answer is that the policy of England has for a long time been a wrong policy, and that England has made up her mind to exchange it for a right policy. England will no more acknowledge, if it ever did acknowledge, the base doctrine of Lord Derby that we are never to interfere in any matter but where our interest demands it. The people, generous in its sentiments, even when it is mistaken as to facts, will never stoop to such teaching as this. The people approved the Russian war, because they were taught to believe that the Russian war was undertaken in a generous cause. We must repeat again for the thousandth time that the duty of England comes before her interest. We must, at any risk, undo the wrong that we have done. If to undo that wrong should bring the Russians to Constantinople, if it should weaken our empire in India, let the Russians come to Constantinople, let our empire in India be weakened. Lord Beaconsfield said that the fleet was sent to Besika Bay in pursuit of honor and glory. The kind of honor and glory of which he spoke may perhaps demand that the nations of south-eastern Europe be again pressed down under the yoke. But the people of England have had enough of that kind of honor and glory. They have learned that true honor and glory can be won only by doing right at all hazards.
As for the Russian hobgoblin, no friend of south-eastern Europe wishes to see Constantinople Russian. All that we say is that, if we are driven to choose between Turk and Russian, we will take the Russian. But we say this, not in the interest of England, but in the interest of south-eastern Europe. We wish to see the now enslaved nations grow up for themselves, developing their own energies, striking out paths of freedom and progress for themselves. Therefore we do not wish to see them subjects of Russia. But, if this cannot be, if the only choice lies between a civilized and a barbarous despotism, between a despotism which at least secures to its subjects the common rights of human beings and a despotism which makes no attempt to secure them, we have no doubt as to which despotism we ought to choose. And we feel that, if things come to such a choice, the fault will not be ours, but the fault of those who have allowed Russia to take the championship of right out of the hands of England. Even if it could be shown that the interest of England lay on the side of the worse choice, we should still again say, Let the interest of England give way to her duty. But the notion that England has any interest in the matter is simply a worn-out superstition. I saw the other day an argument that it was not for the interest of England to allow any strong power to hold the Bosporos. Here is the wicked old doctrine that the strength of one nation must be the weakness of another. The stronger the power that holds the Bosporos the better, provided it be a native power. But if the folly and weakness of our diplomatists have decreed that it should be held, not by a native but by a Russian power, we shall lament the result, but we shall fail to see how the interest of England is involved. The only ground on which it has ever been pretended that our interest is touched in the matter, has been because it is said that the presence of Russia on the Bosporos would block our path to India. But our path to India does not lie by the Bosporos, but by Suez; and if Egypt could be transferred from its present merciless tyrant to the rule of England or of any other civilized power, it would be the greatest of boons for all the inhabitants, Mahometan and Christian, of that unhappy land.
When I am asked what is to be done, I say again what I said in December, with such changes as have been made needful by the events of the last nine months. Bosnia, Turkish Croatia, Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and Crete must be delivered from the immediate rule of the sultan. This is the least that outraged Europe can accept. This is the commission which Lord Derby has received in the plainest terms from his employers and educators. And the word Bulgaria must not be limited to the land north of Hæmus, which alone bears that name in our maps. The Bulgarian folk and speech, the remains of the kingdom of Samuel, reach far to the south of the mountains, and a large part of the worst deeds of the Turk have been done south of the mountains. This is the minimum, the least which can be demanded in the name of outraged humanity. All those lands must be put in a position not worse than the position of Roumania now, not worse than the position of Servia before the war. It is in no way hampering or embarrassing the government to quote a favorite party cry of the moment, to give them, in answer to Lord Derby's own request, these plain instructions. The exact bonudaries of the new states to be formed, the exact form of government to be set up in each, the princes, if they are to have princes, who are to be chosen for each, these are points Of detail which we leave to the assembled wisdom of Europe. We may criticise any definite proposal when it is made; it is not our business to make definite proposals beforehand. Let Turkish rule cease, and though one change may be better than another, any change will be better than Turkish rule. As for Servia, no one will stop to discuss the insolent paper which was put forth by the baffled barbarian who tries to win by fraud what he has found that he cannot win by arms. The Turk has wrought his evil deeds in Servia, but he has not conquered Servia; the impudent demands which go on the assumption that he has conquered Servia must be thrust down his own barbarian throat. Let Servia be not worse off than she was before the war; let the revolted lands be not worse off than Servia; this is the programme of the people of England. Details they leave to those whose business it is to settle them; but their minds are made up as to the root of the matter. Less than I have just said they will not have.
Events do indeed pass quickly. Between the writing of the last paragraph and its revision, the insolence of the barbarian himself has been outshone. The lowest bellower in the Oxford mob could not depart farther from the truth, farther from reason, farther from decency, than Lord Beaconsfield did in his notorious speech at Aylesbury. When the new earl told the world that to speak the truth about Turkish "atrocities" was a greater a "atrocity" than to do them, it was hard not to remember that there is but one living statesmen of whom it has been said that he says the first thing that comes into his head, and takes his chance of its being true. When we go on and read the monstrous misstatements which Lord Beaconsfield was not ashamed to make with regard to the affairs of Servia, it is hard not to reflect on that curious rule of conventional good breeding by which to call such misstatements by their plain English name is deemed a greater, offence than to make them. But the Psalmist's phrase of "them that speak leasing," Gulliver's phrase about saying "the thing that is not," may perhaps be allowed even in those serene regions where the new earl tells us that he walks. And truly Lord Beaconsfield's babble about Servia — not "coffee-house babble," but babble doubtless over some stronger liquor — was, if any human utterance ever was, "the thing that is not." Lord Beaconsfield, by his own account, should have talked about barley; he perhaps meant, instead of talking about barley, to sow the wild oats of his new state of being. The one thing of importance in this strange harangue is Lord Beaconsfield's distinct assertion that the revolted lands shall not be free. The people of England have distinctly said that they shall be free. Whose voice is to be followed? To which of the two will Lord Derby listen as his educator? To which of the two will he yield obedience as his employer?
After Lord Beaconsfield's display at Aylesbury all earlier displays, as we come back to them, seem tame. There is, for instance, the paltry cavil, the last straw at which the despairing advocates of evil clutch, the slander that the revolted lands are unworthy, incapable of freedom. Will they become more worthy, more capable, by remaining in bondage? In diplomatic circles it would seem that men learn the art of swimming without ever going into the water, that they learn the art of riding without ever mounting a horse. The lesson of freedom can be learned only in the practice of freedom. There may be risks, there may be difficulties; some men have been drowned in learning the art of swimming; still, that art cannot be learned on dry land. We appeal to reason; we appeal to experience; diplomatic cavillers shut their eyes to both. Go to Servia; go to Montenegro; see what free Servia, what freer Montenegro, has done, and be sure that free Bulgaria will do as much. Last of all, the programme which I have just sketched, the programme which the people of England have accepted, the programme which Lord Beaconsfield scoffs at, is only a minimum. It is the least that can be taken; if more can be had, so much the better. Such a programme is in its own nature temporary any programme must be temporary which endures the rule of the Turk in any corner of Europe. But such a programme is not temporary in the sense in which the makeshifts of diplomatists, the maintenance of the status quo and the like, are temporary. Restore the status quo, grant anything short of practical independence, and all that has been done, all that has been suffered, during the last year will have to be done and suffered over again. If we free the revolted lands, even if we leave the lands which are not revolted still in bondage, we leave nothing to be done over again; we only leave something in front of us still to be done. We make a vast step in advance; we enlarge the area of freedom, even if we do not wholly wipe out the area of bondage. To maintain, or rather to restore, the status quo is to make the greatest of all steps backwards; it is to enlarge the area of bondage at the expense of the area of freedom. The programme of the status quo, the programme of Lord Beaconsfield, points nowhere; the programme of the people of England points distinctly in front. We will have New Rome some day; if Mr. Grant Duff can give it us at once, so much the better. The conversion of Mr. Grant Duff — for a conversion it may surely be called — is one of the most remarkable phases of the whole business: Mr. Grant Duff has never been held to be rash or sentimental; he has never been thought likely to say or do anything windy or gusty or frothy, to quote some of the epithets to which those who set facts, past and present, before the traditions of diplomatists have got pretty well seasoned. Only a few weeks ago, some of us were tempted to look on Mr. Grant Duff as almost as cold-blooded as Lord Derby himself. All is now changed. Mr. Grant Duff undertakes to lead us to the walls of Constantinople; and, where he undertakes to lead, no one can be called foolhardy for following. There is no need even to dispute about such a detail as the particular ruler whom Mr. Grant Duff has chosen to place on the throne of the Leos and the Basils. Mr. Grant Duff has perhaps had better opportunities than most of us for judging of the Duke of Edinburgh's qualifications for government. At any rate we may be certain of one thing; his rule would be better than the rule of any sultan. The examples of Servia and Montenegro, the example of Sweden — even the example of France — might, one would have thought, done something to get rid of the queer superstition that none can reign whose fathers have not reigned before them. A man who had had some practice in ruling, an experienced colonial governor for instance, might perhaps seem better fitted for the post than one who is a prince, and, as far as we know, only a prince. But here again it would be foolish to dispute about details. Any civilized ruler would be better than any barbarian. And Mr. Grant Duff's proposal for the employment of Indian officials is at all events wise and practical. Our platform then is simple. The more impetuous fervor of Mr. Gladstone leads us to a certain point, which is the least with which we can put up. The colder reason of Mr. Grant Duff leads us to a further point, to which we shall be delighted to follow him thither if we can, and, if he assures us that we can, no one can have any reason to doubt his assurance. Lord Derby then has his lesson; he has his commission. His teachers, his employers, have spoken their mind. The least we ask is the freedom of the revolted lands; but we take this only as a step to the day when the New Rome shall be cleansed from barbarian rule. There may be risks, there may be difficulties; but the Turk would hardly be so mad as to stand up against six great powers. Three such powers have in past times been enough to bring him to reason. If the trembling despot dares to dispute the will of his masters, he must again be taught a yet more vigorous form of the same lesson which was taught him when France cleansed Peloponnesus of the destroying Egyptian, when England, France, and Russia joined to crush the power of the Turk in the harbor of Pylos. The blinded ministers of that day could see in the good work nothing but an "untoward event." England now is wiser. Her people will have quite another name in their mouths, if the obstinacy of the barbarian should again draw upon him such another stroke of righteous vengeance.Edward A. Freeman.