Wallachia and Moldavia - Correspondence of D. Bratiano with Lord Dudley C. Stuart, M.P. on the Danubian Principalities
WALLACHIA AND MOLDAVIA.
LORD DUDLEY C. STUART, M.P.
A. IRELAND AND CO., PRINTERS, PALL MALL.
TO LORD DUDLEY COUTTS STUART, M.P.
My Lord,—Since my return to England, the line of conduct which I have considered it my duty to adopt, has forced me to remain in retirement, and has interdicted me from every relation with the politicians of this country. Notwithstanding the strong inducement I have had to act otherwise, in my remembrance of the gracious reception I met with at the commencement of the year 1849, from the noble viscount, who was then at the head of the foreign office, and from those members of the two houses with whom I had the honor to be in communication at that period, I do not now depart from the rule which I have laid down; and I take the liberty of writing to you, only in obedience to an almost imperative mandate, so pressing are the solicitations addressed to me by a great number of the most notable inhabitants of the Danubian Principalities, begging me, at the earliest opportunity, to call the attention of the English Parliament and Government, to the new misfortunes that threaten these unfortunate countries. The news from Constantinople, in the journals of yesterday, will not suffer me longer to delay the accomplishment of my duty.
Assuredly my constituents still have faith in the efficacy of English diplomacy. England, they tell me, is the only great European power capable of understanding the cry of liberty and right amongst other peoples, for she is the only great power in Europe that rests upon right and liberty; and her material strength, as well as the ascendancy of her diplomacy, which no rival now seeks to dispute, are great enough to allow her to speak boldly to the monarchs, and to make her voice everywhere respected.
In this state of things, if I prefer addressing myself to you, my lord, and if I believe that I fulfil my duty in writing to you these lines, it is because your courageous and incessant efforts on behalf of Poland, Italy, Roumania, and Hungary—in favor of all the oppressed peoples—have made you, so to speak, the official intermediary*between free England, and the peoples who aspire to become like her. Henceforth it is a right acquired for the peoples, when they desire to plead their cause before the tribunal of the public opinion of Great Britain, to come straight to you, and for you to receive their complaints in the name of your powerful country.
Permit me, my lord, in a few words, to recall to your memory the events which have taken place in the Principalities, during the last few years. The justice and moderation of the Roumanian Revolution of 1848, was such, that, Russia excepted, all the great powers, and Turkey first of all, officially recognised the new order of things. Some time after, Turkey, yielding to the threats and suggestions of Russia, seized by surprise the town of Bucharest, destroyed the work of the revolution, and put in force the old regime, in all its rigour. Notwithstanding, or rather justifying themselves by the presence of the Turks at Bucharest, the Russians, in their turn, invaded the Principalities.
Turks and Russians in their proclamations protested the excellence of their motives, declared that they religiously respected the institutions of the country, and that they had only come to do justice to the complaints which the Roumanians had more than once made to the Porte before their revolution. And then Russia forced from the Porte the convention of Balta Liman, in virtue of which, in contempt of the treaties between the Roumanians and the Turks, in contempt of those previously concluded between Turkey and Russia, the Principalities were deprived of all their constitutional guarantees—the liberty of the press, their national representation, and the right to elect their princes,—in fact all their rights and all their liberties. Even the children of the people were denied the means of learning to read and write, by the suppression of the primary schools, which had previously existed in almost every village.
It would take too long to detail here the train of evils which accompanied and followed the invasion of the Principalities. You may readily form an idea from what has passed since 1848 in almost all the states of continental Europe. The wisdom and gentleness of governments are almost everywhere the same.
Russia, not content with having forced the Principalities to support, during two years, an army of invasion, consisting of nearly 100,000 men, now claims from them, as an indemnity, the exhorbitant sum of forty-two millions of Roumanian piastres (about £625,000), to which, as usual, the Porte has been compelled to agree.
That is not all. The inhabitants of the Principalities, still occupied in repairing the considerable losses occasioned by the last invasion, see themselves threatened with a new Russian invasion. It is to prevent this scourge, the mere threat of which has paralysed everything, suspended the execution of works, arrested commercial transactions, depreciated the value of goods, and, in a word, disturbed every interest; and, at the same time, to escape the overwhelming and unjust demand of 42,000,000 piastres, that they invoke the aid of the Government of Great Britain. They confidently count upon its aid; the more so, since they remember, with gratitude, that in difficult circumstances England has never failed to come to their assistance, and that her intervention has always been crowned with success.
The fear of invasion, which has taken hold of every mind in the Principalities, appears to be not without foundation; in fact, a Russian army, more numerous than that of 1848, consisting of three corps, and bringing with it formidable munitions of war, is daily advancing its posts towards the frontiers of Moldavia ; while the concentration of Austrian troops on the Turkish frontiers, is sufficient to justify the belief that war is imminent; indeed, the Russian and Austrian commanders do not hesitate to say as much to all who choose to listen to them. But wherefore this war? For surely the motives they allege are not worthy of being seriously considered.
Must our poor Europe be condemned to become another South America of endless wars, continual revolutions, and counter revolutions ? and that, too, in this age of enlightenment and industry, when strength apparently should appertain to right, and conquest have become for ever the exclusive property of thought; when the numerous and wonderful applications of science to the arts and to industry; when steamboats, railways, electric telegraphs, the happy results of free trade, universal exhibitions, the spirit of tolerance, of association, of solidarity; when all these wonders, by bringing different countries into closer connection with each other, and breaking down the barriers which separated them, assimilating the ideas and interests of the peoples, and harmonising their tendencies and their effects, seem to have realised the most ardent wishes of all good men, and to have assured to us a peace, if not perpetual, at least fruitful and durable ?
Scarcely are the popular risings suppressed, thanks to the incompetency and treason of some of their chiefs, and to the lying promises made to the insurgents, before the princes themselves begin to. agitate in their turn. A fatality presses upon them. It might be said that the cruelties which have tortured the peoples for four long years having failed in driving them to take up arms anew, the princes have lost patience, and would arm themselves against each other.
It is said that nothing less has been contemplated than the division of the Ottoman Empire. Admitting that Russia may consummate this crime without the participation of England and France, or that these powers consent to become accomplices, do they not see that they can have no compensation equivalent to the seizure of Constantinople by the Russians; and besides that, whatever may be their share they will not long enjoy it, the Czar once master of the Bosphorus ? I do not speak of Austria, far henceforth, so long as she shall continue to exist, which will not be long, she is condemned to move fatally in the orbit of Russia. Admitting even all these inadmissible things, and consequently that the Ottoman Empire will be condemned, executed, cut up, and divided, the Danubian Principalities ought not to make part of her spoils; for they are a country apart, having its own nationality, its own constitution, its own sovereignly, recognized on more than one occasion by Russia itself, in virtue of which the Danubian Principalities have treated with Turkey, stipulating to pay her tribute, and that in exchange, Turkey shall protect them by the force of arms, against the aggressions of the neighbouring powers. Turkey then disappearing, the Principalities will remain what they are. Their condition will be in no way changed, unless it be that they will find themselves, in fact and in right, freed from their actual obligation to pay tribute, and that very probably by putting themselves under the united protection of the great powers, they will thereby replace with a protection much more efficacious, the Turkish protection which they lose.
This is the only true manner in which politicians can regard the question of the Principalities, under the hypothesis of the grave eventualities which many people expect. Let not the strength, the dangerous vicinity of Russia to the Danubian Principalities be objected ; for if an European public law be no longer recognized, if strength alone is for the future to regulate international relations, how many States in Europe could for ten days preserve their independence ? At that rate, it may doubtless be said that the Danubian Principalities will lose their independence, that they will necessarily disappear with the Ottoman Empire, and even before the fall of that empire; reasoning upon such maxims of strength and dangerous vicinities, may it not be said that English India may before long become Russian; that England herself may be invaded by Louis Napoleon ; and that France in her turn may be invaded by the Northern powers? And will there not be found inexorable logicians, who will say, if it has not been already said, that the prophecy of the Emperor Napoleon must be fulfilled, that “ In fifty years Europe will be Republican or Cossack,” and that period having expired without its becoming republican, it must be, and soon will be Cossack ?
But let them be re-assured ! The Emperor Nicholas and the Emperor Francis Joseph have no more wish to go to war with Turkey, than this last has to make war against Russia and Austria. Their majesties have been for some time aware—and had they forgotten it, the recent events at Milan would have recalled it to their remembrance—in what manner their faithful subjects would be ready to testily their devotion to the thrones which crash them, if they saw their majesties engaged in a foreign war. They are not ignorant that in hastening to divide the possessions of their brother, they would leave behind them domestic dividers, quite prepared to divide amongst themselves their majesties' own estates; and when the Poles began to cry, “Poland for us!” the Italians, “ Italy for us!” the Hungarians, “ Hungary for us!” the Roumanians, “ Roumania for us!” and so on—their majesties would doubtless esteem themselves happy, to have for a refuge that same Turkey which they now seek to divide between them; for they know that the infidel Turks have some honor and some faith, and that they never deliver up political refugees.
Those who believe in the approaching partition of Turkey, will not have their fears or their hopes fulfilled; for there will be no partition. Empires may be dismembered; sooner or later they will dismember themselves of their own accord, but the time of partitions is past.
And if the Ottoman Empire is of the number of the condemned, those who know what rents the earthquake of 1848 made in that scaffolding called the Austrian Empire, can have no doubt but that Austria will go first. Truly if Austria desires the partition of Turkey, the memory of the ungrateful is short. She has then forgotten that she would have ceased to exist four years ago if Omer Pacha, who was then in the principalities, had lent a helping hand to the heroic Bern. She has forgotten that she still exists, not in virtue of her own vital forces, but of those lent her by the Czar; and living only by the breath of the Czar, she is but a galvanized corpse.
Assuredly Russia -will not for an instant lose sight of Constantinople, she has promised herself that she will be there one day; but it is not by force of arms, and with a single bound, that she hopes to enter there. Russia is not, as is often said, a bomb which crushes everything before it, and goes straight to the end in view. If she may be compared to an instrument of war, it is rather to a rocket than a bomb. She only proceeds by ricochet. Her march is only the more sure for being tortuous and because it cannot be followed. She advances without seeming to take a single forward step; she never marches right ahead, but always sideling.
It is not the boldness of her resolutions, the suddenness of her enterprises, the bravery of her soldiers, that have given her Poland, Bessarabia on the shores of the Black Sea, and the greater part of her vast possessions. Perseverance and cunning are the true elements of Russian strength. To intimidate, or to promise protection according to circumstances; to corrupt and divide her neighbours; to incite them to civil war, so as to render necessary her intervention; to know how to wait, to take advantage of every occasion for the furtherance of designs; these are her arms, such is the whole secret of her power. And the present occasion was too good to be allowed to pass without an attempt on her part to fish in troubled waters, according to her wont The financial embarrassments of the Porte, the result of her perfidious councils ; the removal from power of Rechid Pacha and his colleagues, also accomplished by her intrigues; the risings amongst the Sclave peoples of the Ottoman Empire, excited by Russia; the question of the Holy Places, which it would perhaps have been wiser to defer, instead of creating more difficulties for the Porte at the present moment; the too long absence from Constantinople of the able and energetic representative of Great Britain—for advantage must be taken of every circumstance—above all, the preoccupation and inquietude that the proclamation of a French Empire has given rise to with all the governments; everything pointed out the present as a propitious moment; and she has set to work.
She mans a formidable fleet at Sebastopol and holds it ready to sail at a moment’s notice; she concentrates in the Southern Provinces three Corps d’Armee, with numerous artillery, provisions, and all the necessaries for a long campaign; and all this without a word spoken, only leaving it to be said that we are on the eve of a great war, and that the Ottoman Empire is to be dismembered. At the same time she induces Austria to make similar demonstrations on the Turkish frontiers, and has permitted, or rather enjoined, her to send to Constantinople the insolent ultimatum which is so well known, and which the Porte has not dared to reject.
The Porte once terrified, humiliated, demoralised, Russia has opened her mouth Prince Menschikoff has already arrived at Constantinople, as the alter ego of the Emperor Nicholas, with an imperial suite, consisting of generals, admirals, and aides-de-camp of the Czar. Nevertheless, Russia, not to give the lie to all the precedents of her policy, and, perhaps, give herself a terrible blow, will not declare war against Turkey; will not say to the Turks that they must retire to Asia and give place to her; for she knows that they are still in a position to offer a formidable resistance, and that very likely England and France will take their part. She will not make open war for many months. Russia is only warlike in obscurity ; she never strikes but in the dark,—the broad day ever finds her sword in the scabbard. Besides it is not through waves of blood that she can arrive at the domination of Turkey. Her plan of siege consists in creeping upon it nearer and nearer every day, in order to dismantle it little by little, to seize one by one the strongholds that serve Turkey as ramparts, and thus some day to take possession almost without a blow. For the present moment then, ready and determined as she is to seize Turkey, she will not even touch that country; she will content herself with demanding from her some traffic—some trifle—the cession for example of a portion of the territories of the Danubian Principalities, or the simple occupation of those territories by her troops. The other powers will not consider such a trifle worth notice; and the Porte, which had believed itself on the point of death, will, doubtless, felicitate itself on having escaped—as if by miracle—and be unable to withhold the expression of its gratitude for the generosity of its all-powerful friend and ally. This is Russia’s continual game. Knife in hand she demands of Turkey a debt, suppose £100. Not daring to say no, Turkey timidly complains that it is too much. Russia suffers herself to be softened, and declares that she will hold her neighbour quit for £50 ; and Turkey claps her hands, and declares that she has made an excellent bargain.
Yes ! the present danger is altogether in the Principalities, and not at Constantinople. It is their possession, or at least their occupation, that Russia at this moment desires to have at any price; for whatever enterprise she may make against either East or West, she well knows that it is of great importance that she should first obtain possession of that country, on account both of its geographical and topographical situation, and of the spirit which animates its inhabitants—the only people in the East, who, notwithstanding the promises that Russia has often made to them, notwithstanding the wrongs which they have more than, once suffered at the hands of Turkey, persist in regarding the Russians as their implacable enemies; and who reproach the Turks only for allowing themselves to be too readily intimidated or deceived by the Czar, and for having compromised the very existence of their empire by surrendering the liberties of Moldavia and Wallachia. •
Truly Russia lacks not a pretext for a new occupation. She will raise some pecuniary claim which the Porte will be unable to meet, and she will occupy the Principalities as security for payment; besides, has she not already in her possession a bond for 15,000,000 francs from the Principalities themselves, which the Porte has had the misfortune to sign ?
If care be not taken, if the English government shall not intervene in time, she will obtain all she desires; for in the question of the Principalities especially, the Porte has long lost the habit of resisting. In fact, on this question we have seen the Czar arguing for and against according to his good pleasure, yet being always in the right. When it is his interest to prevent Turkey exercising some right which she pretends to have on Moldavia and Wallachia, treaties in hand he opposes her with sovereignty and stops her short. When on the contrary he wishes to obtain some concession in the Principalities, he proclaims Turkey their sovereign and absolute mistress, who may dispose of them as she pleases; and Turkey, partly from vanity, but more from lack of faith in her own strength, easily lets herself be persuaded that she really is not only their suzeraine, but their veritable sovereign, and seems not to perceive that the sovereignty with which the Czar invests her tends only to her own destruction.
As to the part played by the young Austrian Emperor in the train of the Czar, it would be simply ridiculous, if it were not fatal to him and to his empire. Austria will pay dear for having wrapped herself in the mantle of Russia, in order to have the pleasure of shewing her teeth at Turkey. She will never more come out of that mantle—it will be her winding-sheet. The Sclavonian peoples, who. alone amongst her subjects have hitherto remained faithful to her, will daily become more persuaded that at Vienna there is but a little emperor, a viceemperor, and the great, the true emperor is at Saint Petersburg; and hence, if the Czar so orders, they will march on Vienna as readily as on Constantinople.
My letter, my lord, has become so lengthy that I must ask your attention anew to the two subjects on which I have taken the liberty to address you : The forty-two millions of Roumanian piastres demanded by Russia from the Principalities, and the threats of a new Russian invasion. The better to show the injustice of Russia’s demand for an indemnity, I will remark, 1st, That her troops entered the Principalities to establish what is termed order, not even to guarantee her own territories against the dangers of a revolutionary contagion, but merely to occupy a stratagetic position, to which, with great reason, the Cabinet of St. Petersburg attached much importance; for, on the arrival of the Russians the Turks were already there, and as I said at the commencement of this letter, the old state of things had been put in force in all its vigour, according to the will of the Czar, and at that moment the country was perfectly tranquil. 2nd, That, nevertheless, during the whole time the occupation continued, the Russian army was supported at the expense of the Principalities, whilst Turkey, who, after all, is the suzeraine of that country, and not the simple guarantee like Russia, supported her troops of occupation at her own expense. 3rd, That the treasury of the Principalities is empty, burthened with debt precisely in consequence of the last Russian invasion, st that to compel payment of her demand, in the present state of tilings, would be an act altogether unprecedented even on the part of Russia, and a breach of the most elementary principles of European public law, should England and France permit it; for hitherto Russia has never occupied the Principalities except on occasion of a war with Turkey, and through the necessities of war; her last occupation, in 1848, being only in some measure justified by the entry of the Turks into Bucharest, and by the revolutionary state of Europe at that time (which also was the reason why the other powers allowed it to be done); and England has, on every occasion, proclaimed the neutrality of the territories of Moldavia and Wallachia, has always protested against the presence of the Russians in the Principalities, and always urged them to quit that country at the earliest possible moment.
My lord, if your heart and reason determine you to make the question of the Danubian Principalities the subject of your approaching interpellations, allow me to say how desirous I am that you should impress the Parliament with a sense of the urgency of the question, for there is really peril in delay. You know the power of accomplished facts. I am persuaded that now, as always, your friends in the Government, as well as all your colleagues of the House of Commons, -will be glad to hear your voice, for they know that you never speak but upon questions of the highest importance to the interests and dignity of humanity. You never open your lips but to render homage to your dear England, by recalling to her remembrance that she is now the only safeguard of the liberties and rights of the peoples.
Supposing even that the apprehensions of the inhabitants of the Danubian Principalities may not be realised, as we hope they will not, still some assuring words from the British Government will produce an immense effect; they will revive confidence in the Principalities, and thus save them from an imminent catastrophe.
My lord, in concluding, permit me to take this occasion of expressing to you that deep and unalterable gratitude felt by all the Roumanians, for the sympathy and aid you extended to their representative four years since, and for your eloquent pleading in favour of the Danubian Principalities.
I propose, therefore, to make this letter public. I desire it. It is required of me, and must be, even at the risk of displeasing you, for I am not ignorant how little you like to hear yourself spoken of. How is it possible to express to you my personal sentiments? By avowing, perhaps, that my gratitude and admiration have always been mingled with a tinge of jealousy, because it seems to me that you have brought to the aid of a cause which is nevertheless so dear to me, more solicitude, more love, than I have been capable of devoting to it myself.
I have the honor to be,
Your very respectful and very devoted Servant,
London, March 20, 1853.
TO MR. D. BRATIANO.
Petersham, Saturday, March 26, 1853.
Dear Sir,—I have had the honor to receive the letter you have addressed to me, on the subject of the present condition and future prospects of the Danubian Principalities. There can be no doubt of the important part which these countries, and those adjacent to them, must take, before long, in the affairs of Europe.
Will they suffer themselves to be made instruments to swell the power of despots, or will they range themselves on the side of those who wish to see all peoples in the enjoyment of the nationality which belongs to them, and of rational liberty? Much will depend on the line of conduct which the inhabitants of the Principalities may pursue. I am happy to see confirmed by your letter, the impression that they are well aware how little of good they can expect from Russia, and that they are therefore not likely to become dupes to the artifices of that insidious power. It is, indeed, perfectly evident that they are much more likely to obtain the enjoyment and further extension of that autonomy to which they are so much attached, under the suzerainty of the Sultan, than if placed under the rule of the Czar. In 1848 the Porte began by sanctioning the constitution which the inhabitants had established, and was only driven by Russian influence to interfere with it. In many parts of the Turkish empire the inhabitants enjoy a great degree of self-government; but there is not one country under the sway of the Czar, which is allowed to preserve any national institutions. The most solemn treatises contracted with all the powers of Europe, in favour of the constitution and nationality of Poland, have not deterred the autocrat from reducing that country to the condition of a Russian province; and if you required anything besides your own experience, to acquaint you with the nature of Russian protection, you might learn it from the fate of Cracow. It is, therefore, to be hoped that the inhabitants of the Principalities, and the Christian population of the Turkish Empire generally, will continue deaf to the persuasions of the agents of Russia, who endeavour to seduce them from their fealty to the Sultan, by representing the advantage of being ruled by a sovereign of their own faith. That advantage they would soon find to be illusory—and they would bitterly lament the change, if, instead of being under the sceptre of the Mussulman sovereign, who allows them perfect liberty on all matters of religion, and respects their local rights, they were placed under the iron rule of the Christian autocrat with his conscription, his secret police, and all the rigours of his military despotism. On the other hand it is to be desired that the Porte should, by conceding to the Christian population of the empire every just demand, more and more conciliate their attachment and confirm their loyalty; and such must be the advice which every friend to the sultan, every one anxious to baffle the designs of Russia for the enslavement of mankind, should wish to offer to the Turkish Government.
I have been led to make these observations on the importance of a good understanding between the Principalities and the Porte by the consideration that a contrary state of things would materially aid the machinations of Russia against your country, which it is the object of your letter by exposing to counteract. Public- opinion is, after all, not wholly without weight in the world ; and if it cannot always check the ambition and schemes of princes and cabinets, it yet often stimulates governments to the discharge of their duty in opposing and preventing them. How much less would public opinion be outraged by any attempt on the part of Russia to occupy or get possession of the Principalities, if it were the prevailing idea that the inhabitants were dissatisfied with the Turkish government, and therefore not averse to such a change !
I consider it, therefore, of great consequence to make known to the world that the Principalities have no desire to sever their connexion with Turkey, and that they look on the idea of passing under the rule of Russia with abhorrence. Your letter, which brings out the. latter point, at least, so strongly is calculated to produce an excellent effect.
With regard to your desire that I should bring the subject of the Principalities, and of the conduct of Russia in regard to them, before Parliament, I need scarcely assure you, that I shall be glad to do so, if I can find a proper and fitting opportunity, and if, upon consultation with other members in whom I have confidence, I should see a prospect of being able to do so with success.
It is, I am sure, unnecessary to remind you that such a step ought not to be taken without due circumspection, as an inopportune move in such matters sometimes does harm to the cause it is meant to serve.
Should I determine on making any motion on the question in the House of Commons, I will do myself the honour of communicating with you, again, thereupon.
I cannot conclude without expressing to you my thanks for the many so flattering passages in regard to myself, which your letter contains. I can only admit as correct such parts of them as attribute to me the earnest desire to promote the happiness of the people of the Principalities, and that of all people struggling for their rights.
Happy should I be if my ability were commensurate with my good will.
I have the honour to remain, my dear Sir,
With regard and esteem,
DUDLEY COUTTS STUART.
TO LORD DUDLEY COUTTS STUART.
London, 27th May, 1853.
My Lord,—The letter with which you honoured me from Petersham has suggested to me some considerations on the affairs of the East, which I take the liberty of submitting to your appreciation, before you fix the attention of Parliament on the question of the Danubian Principalities.
In your excellent letter, my lord, you ask, with patriotic anxiety, whether the inhabitants of the Principalities will consent to become the instruments of aggrandising the power of despots ; or whether, as you hope, they will range themselves on the side of those who wish to see all the peoples in the enjoyment of the nationality which belongs to them, and of a reasonable liberty: for in the solution of the European question, say you, much will depend on the line of conduct they shall have adopted. Without doubt, my lord, the destiny of the peoples depends much, I might say solely, on their wisdom and their energy; and since we are speaking here of the Danubian Principalities, I esteem myself happy in being able, once more, to assure you that their inhabitants, far from letting themselves be caught by the perfidious advances of Russia, repel with horror whatever comes to them in the name of the Czar, and that they are firmly determined to resist his audacious enterprises, if need be, by force of arms. I may add, that several letters I have just received, agree in informing me that light is also beginning to dawn amongst their neighbours, the Christians of Turkey, properly so called. It appears that Russia has, of late, so worked and tormented them, in order to make them accept her protectorate, that she has ended by opening their eyes to her real intentions. For my own part, I have the firm hope that ere long all will understand that the administration of Turkey, however imperfect, irregular, and even arbitrary it may sometimes be, is infinitely preferable to that of Russia—constantly and systematically tyrannical, cruel, and rapacious ; and that, consequently, Christians are as much interested as the Mussulman in the preservation of the Turkish empire; if, on its ruin, the Muscovite domination must be extended. These happy dispositions the Porte cannot second better than by following your wise counsels, in giving satisfaction to every just demand of the Christian population of the empire. Will it do so? The doubt is at least permitted, if we refer to the precedents of the Turkish government. They indeed are such as might tempt one to believe that its constant maxim has been to treat the Christians of the empire, and the people who are its tributaries, with so much the less justice, as it had assurance of their devotedness. A high Turkish dignitary, to whom I observed that the Roumanian patriots were the natural friends, the real friends of the Turks, and how wrong the Porte was, in sacrificing them to the vengeance of the Czar, its eternal and implacable enemy, answered me with a touching naïvete: “ We are not careful to busy ourselves about our friends, for we know they will undertake nothing against us; but we must endeavour, by every means, to please our enemies, to prevent them from annoying us.” Yet, to be just, we must acknowledge that the Porte has not perhaps been always free to act otherwise than she has done, till now. Two recent examples are, it seems to me, calculated to prove this. We may recollect how, in the question of the Polish and Hungarian refugees—a matter in every way of secondary interest to the Porte—that government, feeling itself strongly supported by England, could resist at the same time both Austria and Russia; notwithstanding that in the intoxication of victory, both might have made it a casus belli; whereas in the question of the Danubian Principalities, which far differently concerned both her dignity and her interests, when Russia had not yet recovered from the terror caused by the European revolution of 1848, the Porte, meeting with no support either from France or England, yielded; and so compromised both the old reputation of Turkish good faith, by treacherously destroying the Roumanian constitution, which she had solemnly recognised some days before, and her own existence, by laying the Principalities at the mercy of the Czar. The language I hold will not, I hope, cause me to be accused of partiality for the Porte. None have criticised the acts of the Turkish government more unsparingly than I myself have done, every time that I have had to interest the people and cabinets of Europe in the question of the Danubian Principalities; and I have done so the more severely, since my criticisms, however painful they might be to the Porte, concerned the future welfare of Turkey, much more than that of the Roumanian people. For peoples do not perish; whereas nothing is so fragile as empires composed of heterogeneous elements. But it is not under present circumstances that I shall accuse the Porte. I shall not imitate some of the public acts of the periodical press of England and France, who have so unwisely chosen the time to place Turkey under the ban of civilization, that one may (perhaps not without reason), call into question then’ sincerity.
But what is of importance to state here, and that, notwithstanding the recent rejection of the ultimatum of Prince Menschikoff—which, at all events, can only be considered as an act of despair which will probably have no result—is, that the Porte, right or wrong, (wrong doubtless, for the only effectual means to prevent Russia from meddling in her affairs, to compel her respect, and at the same time to assure to herself, at need, the protection of friendly powers, would be to return frankly to legality; and thus strong in her right and the devotedness of the peoples of the East, to repel with vigour every unjust demand, from wherever it might come, without further care of what her aggressors or protectors might say or do,)—that which, I repeat, it is necessary to establish here is, that the Porte, whether right or wrong, no longer believes in its power of opposing the least resistance to the daily increasing requirements of Russia, without the previous support of England and France; a support which, unfortunately, (when it is not completely wanting), is almost always, as perhaps in the present instance, undecided, fearful, tardy, and inefficacious. In fact, if, at the first news of Prince Menschikoff’s mission, and of those immense preparations for war which Russia was making in her ports on the Black Sea and in the whole extent of her southern provinces, England and France had sent their fleets into the seas of the Levant,, and openly manifested their resolution to back the Porte, they would have saved themselves the difficulties against which they have now to struggle at Constantinople, Probably, Prince Menschikoff would not even have gone there. If, at least, when the insolence of the Russian envoy and the Sultan’s cry of distress determined them to act, the English squadron had left Malta and advanced with the French squadron, and if, on their tardy arrival at Constantinople, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and Mons. de Lacour had known how to agree in every way, even on the question of the Holy Places, void of interest as it was to Eng land, and trivial, if you will, absurd, as it was in itself (for it was necessary to make use of every thing in order to awe Russia and combat her influence in the East), the Muscovite ambassador would certainly have abated his pretensions, and perhaps have altogether renounced his ultimatum. The cabinets of London and Paris certainly will not say that time failed them, that they were surprised by the promptitude and temerities of Russia. On the contrary, Russia, to do justice to her, warned them by the noise of her armaments several months before; nor has she taken a single step without previously making sure of their intentions. Her ambassador waited patiently at Odessa, until he could have no doubt that at Constantinople he would have only to deal with the Sultan and his ministers; and, once at Constantinople, he did not decide upon presenting his ultimatum, until he knew that Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and Monsieur de Lacour agreed only in declaring to the Porte that they were without instructions to pledge the policy of their respective governments. Neither can the Anglo-French diplomacy excuse its long hesitation, and the feeble and stolen encouragement which, at last, it seemed to dare to give the Porte, by alleging a fear that too open manifestations in favour of Turkey might have on Russia the effect of a challenge, or a provocation. But it must well know that Russia is not so thin-skinned; that the susceptibility of Russia never goes so far as to make her play the fool; and that the wisdom which she ever obeys tells her that she may dare everything with those who dare nothing; and that she has only to recoil bravely, whenever they think of making head against her.
Now, at the point which things have reached, what is going to happen ? Assuredly nothing which the cabinets of England and France can desire. Their humiliation and abasement, and the servitude of Turkey—or war! If we may judge by what has always been done in like circumstances, France and England will themselves agree that Russia has advanced too far to bo able to beat a retreat without obtaining anything. Say probably then, without taking count of the rejection of the Russian ultimatum, the negociations will be resumed, and Lord Stratford and Monsieur de Lacour will engage the Porte to yield, and at the same time intreat Russia to abate somewhat of her pretensions ; then they will congratulate themselves on their cleverness and the conciliatory disposition of the Russian envoy. When he ceased to be insolent, was not his moderation ad mired ? Whereas, in reality, they will only have managed to compromise still more the existence of the Porte, by legitimatizing, to a certain extent, by their intervention, the usurpations of Russia.
In such a case, Russia might well close the account, by having all she desired to have: namely, a great increase of prestige for her power in the East, a stricter means of action on the Greek Christians of the Turkish Empire (that is to say, on a very great majority of the inhabitants of Turkey in Europe), and perhaps even the eventual occupation of the Danubian Principalities. For as to her project of renewing the Treaty of the Unkiar-Skelessi, a project of which there has also been question, and her relinquishment of which is so much applauded, she has never dreamed of it. What! had Russia any serious intention of demanding from the Sultan the privilege of bringing her fleets to protect him in the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, to the exclusion of every other power; and that at the very moment when the Sultan, pointing his finger at Russia, was crying out Help ! murder ! Truly, the trick is so gross, that it does little honour to the cabinet of St. Petersburgh. And yet, in France and England, many have allowed themselves to be caught by it. Such is the habit they have contracted in these countries of accepting, without examination, all that is said on the score of Russia ! Russia holds in her hands the destinies of the world ; it is she who everywhere agitates the nations; it is she who directs all the governments of Europe; she is mistress of the East; she has her hand everywhere. She is capable of undertaking anything; she can do anything—nothing can resist her ! So much is this the case, that I think I am not mistaken when I affirm that this exaggerated opinion, which in the West is held of Russia, has better served her for the accomplishment of her views than even her arms and skill. And what is to be most regretted in all this is, that the great reputation she here enjoys is naturally reflected on the nations of the East, who say in their simplicity : “ We have had to deal with the Russians in their wars with Turkey, and we have found them neither stronger nor more wily than ourselves; and in time of peace, we do not see that they have any advantage over us—we do not even notice their existence. Yet, it must be otherwise; since great countries, enlightened and powerful as France and England are, call them our masters, and proclaim, with terror, their all-mightiness ! ” And thus sad sorrow and discouragement takes possession of their souls.
Supposing that, with her usual prudence, Russia should con sent to leave the Porte quiet for awhile. If the English and French governments do not seriously espouse the cause of the latter, and hasten to establish order there, it will not be long before Russia will obtain, bit by bit, and without the least resistance, all which she has not been able this time to get in the lump. Yet again, if, in extreme cases, the Porte finds the courage of despair to repel a death-warrant, presented to her in the form of a diplomatic act, on ordinary occasions she receives daily the Czar’s blows in silence; happy if he does not always ask her to smite herself, as in the question of the Roumanian refugees In fact, the Porte looks upon the Roumanian refugees as friends, and treats them as such. In Turkey they are welcomed guests. If they ask her, she gives them lodgings, grants them pensions, and even pays them indemnities. They travel everywhere with her passports, are received in every country by her ambassadors, have their entrees to all her ministers; but when they would return into their country,—oh ! then all is different! The Porte, commissioned as she is to act as police for the sake of Russia in the Principalities, deems herself obliged to refuse them admission; for, being her friends, being Roumanians, they are very naturally the enemies of Russia.
If the Porte has not yet been able to shake off the crushing and humiliating yoke of the Czar, can one reasonably hope that abandoned to herself, she will know how to do so in the future ; especially after all the humiliation which she is suffering, stroke by stroke ? In less than half a year, indeed, she has been alternately forced and insulted by France, Austria, and by Russia. She observes to the French minister, that the firman which he asks of her relative to the holy places, will bring Russia on her back, and M. de Lavalette, to re-assure her, threatens her, and himself wrests the firman from her. The Montenegrins, at the instigation, of the Austrians and the Russians, rebel against the Porte; they even extend their depredations to the Turkish provinces bordering upon then-territory, and the Porte is not permitted to call them back to respect, she has not the right to defend herself against their aggression. She is compelled to recall her troops, and to make apology toward that same Austria which, four years ago, thought she had a right to call on the Russians to reduce the Hungarians, whose revolt was certainly at least as legitimate as that of the inhabitants of Montenegro. Lastly, Russia, likewise, must have her say to the Porte; Prince Menschikoff then arrives at Constantinople, and begins by failing in respect to the Sultan, by insulting the Porte, by carrying the resignation of the minister, with whom he was to negociate, and ends by plainly declaring in his ultimatum, that his master intends to be in future the master also of Turkey.
What must above all sadden and discourage the Porte, is to find herself forced and treated without consideration, even by those to whom she looked for aid and assistance. I would call to mind the proceedings of M. de Layalette, towards the Porte, and it would perhaps not be difficult to find more than one instance wherein the ministers of Great Britain have treated her with no more regard.
To judge by the haughty and imperious ways assumed in their dealings with the Turkish government, one would say that the ambassador of the great powers at Constantinople suppose themselves in a conquered country. For a mere nothing they turn the Porte upside down; they must have governors re-called; ministers dismissed; and extraordinary satisfactions, exorbitant and humiliating to the Sultan. The representatives of England and France, quite as much as their colleagues, seem occupied about only one thing; Which shall be the first at the Porte? Which shall speak the loudest ? They thus torment and demoralize the Porte, without any benefit to their governments; for in these sorts of steeple-chases, and strifes of arrogance, they will be always surpassed by the Russian enemy. Another crying abuse, with, which the ambassadors and consuls resident in Turkey may be reproached, and which should be made to disappear at once, is the right they arrogate of granting a sort of half-naturalization to the Rayahs or Christians of the Ottoman empire. These men, supported as they are by foreign power, under whose protection they have placed themselves, have almost always the advantage over their adversaries, in the disputes they have with the Rayas remaining faithful to the Turkish government. Thence a crowd of injustices to the prejudice of these last, and for the Sultan, disaffection and disrespect in his empire.
Those who still maintain that the quarrel now pending at Constantinople is, in the eyes of the English government, only a religious quarrel, which does not concern it, doubtless do a-wrong. I, on the contrary, am certain that at the present moment it comprehends all the gravity of the question, and that in putting itself in accord with the French government, whatever determination Russia may take, it will be easy for it to bring Turkey out victorious, from the crisis in which the bad faith and the vileness of the cabinet of St. Petersburgh have thrown her. It is even to be hoped that the scandalous and perilous struggles of which, of late, Constantinople has been the scene, will be a great lesson for all the world. Turkey will understand that she ought never to traffic with her honour and her right, and the great Western powers will also understand that to continue in the Eastern question the policy of expedients and adjournments, which they have hitherto adopted, would be to play the game of children, who in shutting their eyes, think they escape the danger which threatens them ; and that they ought to take advantage of this fine opportunity afforded them by the Czar, to inaugurate a more worthy policy, one capable of opposing a bar to the ambition which at every instant threatens the existence of the Ottoman empire, and the peace of Europe. This great result might perhaps be obtained; by establishing that, to prevent the return of complications which occasion anxiety to the whole of Europe, the Porte, henceforward, shall not be bound to answer demands which she may judge encroaching on her dignify and independence ; unless she has first submitted them to the examination of the powers of her friends and allies, and decided with them upon the answer she has to give, and that such answer shall be held mutually obligatory on all the powers concerned in framing it. No power would dare to refuse a proposal made in this sense, and presented collectively by France and England, and all would find in it a guarantee against their own attempts to renew abuses which they had accustomed themselves to exercise towards the Porte. Certainly there is not now a single sensible and sincere man who does not desire the preservation of the Ottoman empire; who does not wish that England and France would take such a resolution as should seriously ensure its perfect independence—its full sovereignty; and spare the civilized world the pain of constantly hearing these unjust and barbarous words.—The partition—the dismemberment of Turkey ! Dismember Turkey ! Why not rather Austria or Russia ? So long as the political system now predominant in Europe shall last, the Turkish empire will have as great a right to exist, and more elements of vitality than the other two empires, her neighbours. It has a wide and magnificent territory of riches and beauty; it has one of the best geographical positions; it has excellent national frontiers; it has a population intelligent, laborious, and full of youth; and a government which, contrary to those of Russia and Austria, appears only to ask for full liberty of action to enter seriously on the path of reform. As to the religious intolerance of the Mussulmans and the cruelties of the Turkish government, I will reply to those who are so much alarmed, that if the Mussulman clergy are less intriguing, they are in revenge much more tolerant than the Christian clergy of whatever sect or confession, and that the Turkish government, such as it is, can give many a lesson of humanity to most of the governments of our most Christian, most Catholic, and most orthodox Europe. Give to Turkey the liberty of action which she requires. Let her be placed in a position to look to herself, without provoking herself against Russia at every step, and then when she has her free will she will also have the weight of responsibility for her acts; then we may, and ought to require of her, that she shall faithfully fulfil all her engagements toward the nations tributary to her, and that she shall, without any distinction of religion or nationality, allow all her subjects to enjoy the benefits of a liberal and enlightened administration.
And now, my lord, permit me, for an instant, to speak with you on the subject of the Danubian Principalities, whose cause you have heretofore defended with so much ardour, and most probably will soon again have an opportunity of defending with no less vigour and sympathy. For, if the situation of Turkey is embarrassing, that of the Principalities is infinitely more so. Indeed, let Russia obtain what she desires of the Porte, let her declare war against her, or only let the relations between those two powers remain in suspense until negociations are resumed, in either of the three cases the Principalities are threatened with invasion by the Russian army, if they are not already invaded while I write these lines. I need not, therefore, add anything to show how they deserve the serious attention, the solicitude of the British government. All the treaties which may be made, all the measures which may be taken, to guarantee the independence and the integrity of the Ottoman empire will be illusory, so long as the neutrality of the territory of the Principalities, more than once recognised and proclaimed by England, shall remain a dead letter, and as it shall be allowed to Russia to occupy them, on any pretext, according to her pleasure; so long as they are not placed beyond the encroachments of the Czar, by having insured to them the enjoyment of those rights which they hold in virtue of their treaties with the Porte. To settle the question of the Principalities is to settle the question of the East; for it is well known that it is mostly on their account that Russia mixes itself with the affairs of Turkey, and finds means to make a quarrel with her, and that it is not by sea, but always through their territory that her armies march towards the conquest of Constantinople. The way to arrive at this is very simple: Russia interferes in the Principalities only to protect them, she says, against the encroachments of the Turks. It is under that title she has constituted herself their guardian. The protectorate with which she crushes them has no other foundation. Well, one has but to require of the Porte to reinstate them in the plentitude of their rights and prerogatives, and formally to pledge herself to the great powers, that henceforth she will observe the treaties of the Roumanians with the Turks, treaties in virtue of which she is the suzerain of these Principalities. Thus one will cut short the intrigues of Russia, and put an end to her protectorate; and the Principalities, as well as the Porte, will thus be under cover of the collective protection of all the great powers.
Then, in case of war, the Principalities will no longer be a storehouse—an intrenched camp for the Russian armies ; but will become the strongest rampart of the Ottoman empire. Let the Porte restore to the Roumanians their ancient rights, and she will find in them valiant and zealous defenders. In a few weeks, I dare answer for it, the Principalities will furnish the vanguard of the Turkish army, with a hundred thousand combatants well skilled in the management of arms, and animated with all the ardour and strength which they will draw from the wish to defend the liberties and independence of their country, and from the glorious memories of their history; for if Europe is ignorant of it, yet the Roumanians all know, that no other people has deserved more from humanity, or defended with more of heroism than they, the cause of Christianity and civilisation. That it is they who initiated the Eastern nations into the civilisation of the West; that this part of Roumania (the Principalities) is the only country of the East of Europe which has never submitted to foreign domination; that even at the time when the Turks made all Europe tremble, and when their empire spread from Constantinople to Vienna, these treated with them, but were never subjugated; that the eagle which is seen on their monuments and on their banners is the same Roman eagle which led their march when they quitted Rome for the land of the East, and which has never left them for a single day during eighteen hundred years.
Allow me, my lord, in concluding, to express my hope that the favourable opportunity which you desire to meet with, to bring the question of the Principalities before the House of Commons, will not fail to present itself to you; the more so as it is, I think, of less importance to call the government to account for what it has perhaps not done, than to fix its attention, and that of the house, on the important place which the Principalities occupy in the question of the East.
I have the honor to be,
Your very respectful and very devoted Servant,
Note.—In a later letter on the same subject, which has been mislaid, Lord Dudley Stuart repeated to M. Bratiano his expression of sympathy for the Danubian Principalities, and Informed him that the motion which he had intended to make on Eastern affairs in the House of Commons would be made by his distinguished colleague, Mr. Layard, instead of by himself.