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of strong remedial propositions is not a mere return to the status ante, but worsens the general position. They are sure to have become known to the criminal who is unhappily also a sovereign: their collapse is like an assurance of impunity and that assurance of impunity becomes for the time absolute, when the Six Powers cast aside their weapons of offence, and descend to the prosecution of an illimitable diplomatic war, which has been based upon the method of stillborn remonstrance, and which, not from fault of execution, but from the law of its nature, was doomed, from the first to be, and to become with the lapse of time more and more, a thing pitiable and contemptible.
The last feature of strangeness, in this successful contumacy by the single hand, remains to be stated. When a particular sovereign defies the world, it is sometimes with the love and veneration, always at least with the assent and support, of his subjects. There is no evidence that the Sultan has any one of these props to sustain him. His people are not indeed permitted to express their sentiments; but all the evidence before us is to the effect that as a body they, the Mahommedans as well as the Christians, are thoroughly disaffected. The motive power, which has directed these atrocities, and is only watching the movement of the hand on the clock to direct more, consists in the Sultan himself, sitting in the Yildiz Kiosk, with his dishes tasted lest his cook should poison him, and surrounded by ten or, as some believe, twenty thousand troops in his capital, whom, contrary to his general practice, he regularly pays, feeds, and clothes, and on whom, rightly or wrongly, he thinks he can rely.
Such is the unexampled character of the Eastern controversy in its present phase. The interrogation, however, of the hour, to which the British nation is from day to day heaping mountain high the materials of an affirmative reply, is whether, besides being unexampled, it is also intolerable. I venture to add that we have already passed the point at which a doubt could be raised whether the Eastern Question had been really opened or not. Quite apart from the present national movement, or its immediate consequences, opened that question is by the weight of facts, and so effectually opened that unless by the application of effective remedies it never can again be closed.
Upon the humiliation, which Europe has been suffering for the last eighteen months through its diplomacy, the people of this country appear to be well agreed. They seem also to be of one mind in the belief that action is absolutely demanded by the intolerable character of the situation. Further they have no doubt as to the title of the Powers collectively, or it may be individually, to undertake such action; the ground or reason of it being found in the hideous character, and the vast extent, of the Armenian massacres, together with the certainty that nothing but
fear on the part of the Assassin will prevent their indefinite repetition. For, though the wonder be scarcely less than the crime, it really seems as if he had marked out for himself as an infernal mission, even the extirpation of the race whose blood, as we understand, he shares; and as if he would not consider his business was at an end until the last Armenian was at his last gasp.
Now, the action which is contemplated is humane; and it is also of the class which is called humanitarian. But, as between nations, the fact that a given course is agreeable to humanity does not of itself amount to a sufficient justification for entering upon it. Neither is it enough to say that we have made a careful examination of means and ends, and are well convinced that the undertaking is within our power. But there is still something more that we lack: for we have not had the sword of the Almighty entrusted to our keeping, and while we are bound to follow and require humanity in our own house, we may not have a title to enforce it in the house of our neighbour. We ought therefore to examine whether our case is complete, and whether we have the specific rights and obligations, which suffice, in the case that may be before us, to invest us with a jurisdiction that, apart from these specific rights, would not properly belong to us.
The specific right, then, which the Powers of Europe possess, and which entails a corresponding obligation, to prevent the recurrence of atrocious and wholesale crime in the Turkish Empire, is the right conferred, and the obligation imposed, by Treaty; let us say nominatim by the Treaty of Berlin. This right, and this obligation, attach to all the Powers. It is the shameless violation of it by Turkey which entails her liability as towards them all. There are two of them, however, from whom sound moral judgment would entitle us to expect a special forwardness. One of them is Russia, who by the Treaty of San Stefano had promised so much to the Christians. And the other is England, to whom unhappily were owing in a principal degree such shortcomings as attach to the Treaty of Berlin in comparison with the Treaty of San Stefano.
But while the argument for action as opposed to mere expostulation is under the Treaty of Berlin complete and even imperative for all the Powers, it cannot be too pointedly borne in mind that over and above everything which belongs to the five sister States, England is invested with an altogether separate right, and bound by an equally separate obligation, in which they have no share whatever. Were the Treaty of Berlin swept to the bottom of the sea, the Five Powers would have no rights in the matter save those of generalised humanity. But, in that same contingency, the rights and obligations of England would remain absolutely unaffected, as she draws them, distinctly but cumulatively, from another source.
It pleased us, in the year 1878, to conclude, without the intervention of the Powers, a separate Treaty with Turkey, which how
ever became known to them before the transactions at Berlin were completed. It was thus tacitly accepted or allowed by them; but, whatever their attitudes in regard to it may now have been, it is absolutely binding as between the contracting parties. This Treaty differs from most others in two important particulars, of which the joint effect is, if I mistake not, to give a great amount of additional point and force to the obligations we have spontaneously incurred.
The name of honour is one, which has often been abused in political discussion. It has been made a cover for miscarriage, for mistake, for crime. It has been profaned for evil purposes quite as much as the name of Liberty, even (perhaps) almost as much as the name of Order. But it is a great and a sacred name: and, where it can be invoked under a valid plea, the man who hesitates to make whatever sacrifices it may require, degrades both himself and the nature which he bears.
Under the Treaty or Convention of 1878, a great advantage was obtained by Turkey; for England became engaged to defend not Armenia only, but the whole Turkish Empire in Asia against Russian attack. On the other hand, the Sultan undertook to reform his government in concert with England. So that we actually made ourselves in honour partakers of the government of those widely extended countries, and such we should have been in act, had the Sultan fulfilled his promise. He not only did not fulfil it. In Armenia, he read Reform to mean Massacre.' The peculiarity of the Treaty was that his promise of reform was stipulated as being in return' for the truly valuable engagement he had already obtained. Not only was the pledge broken, but it was broken after he had received actual and weighty value in return.
The Armenians were no parties to the Convention. They have no treaty rights, no international existence. They are only men: for, though they happen to be also Christians, this does not affect the substance of the case. But who can deny with honour' that, when we made this Treaty over their heads, we undertook not only heavy juridical obligations as towards Turkey, but also real and profound moral obligations as towards them?
But there is another enhancing consideration, which has not I think as yet been sufficiently borne in mind. We too in this Treaty took' value received;' and we have it, so to speak, at this moment in our pockets. The Sultan made over to us, without limit of time, the occupation and administration, that is the virtual dominion, of the Island of Cyprus.
Perhaps it may be said, and I might concur in the opinion, that Cyprus is of no value to us. But that reply is wholly foreign to the purpose. If it did not add to our strength or resources, it added, as we were told, to our prestige. It was boasted of in Parliament at the time as a territorial acquisition, and was highly popular. We cannot
now turn round upon it and declare it valueless. value, and as value we have now to abide by it in the present argument.
The case then stands briefly thus.
We are entitled to demand of the Sultan the immediate fulfilment, under his treaty with us, of his engagements, and to treat his noncompliance as, under the law of nations, other breaches of treaty are, or may be, dealt with.
We have in the face of the world bound ourselves to secure good government for Armenia and for Asiatic Turkey.
And for thus binding ourselves we have received what we have declared to be valuable consideration in a virtual addition to the territory of the Empire.
And all this we have done, not in concert with Europe, but by our own sole action, on our own sole responsibility.
However we may desire and strive to obtain the co-operation of others, is it possible for us to lay down this doctrine: England may give for herself the most solemn pledges in the most binding shape, but she now claims the right of referring it to some other person or persons, State or States, not consulted or concerned in her act, to determine whether she shall endeavour to the utmost of her ability to fulfil them?
If this doctrine is really to be adopted, I would respectfully propose that the old word 'honour' should be effaced from our dictionaries, and dropped from our language.
W. E. GLADSTONE.
The Editor of THE NINETEENTH CENTURY cannot undertake
No. CCXXXVII-NOVEMBER 1896
THE CONTINENTAL ALLIANCES
I Do not intend to write here about the well-thrashed and hackneyed theme of the visit of the Tsar to France. This last stage of an historical tour has been studied under all its aspects and discussed perhaps even usque ad nauseam in its most immediate features. What I want is to take it, with its universally admitted consequences, as the departure for a short inquiry into the relations of the great Powers between themselves, with a special view to the case of England.
The public opinion of the outer world, as mirrored in its press, has gone through three different stages concerning the mutual understanding of which this visit is both the solemn affirmation and the tightening. There was first the phasis of unbelief pure and simple, though more or less affected. It was-not yet so very long ago—the fashion to jeer and scoff unmercifully at those poor credulous Frenchmen about their pretended friendship with the Russian autocrat. No article about the international condition of Europe was judged good without a jesting parallel between the solid, strong, silent mass of the Triple Alliance and the fanciful, noisy, blustering phantasm of the dual understanding.
When facts became decidedly too unmanageable for this comfort-` able scepticism, public men and public writers betook themselves to the second point of view. We entered upon the stage of compassion for poor gulled France. It was ironically asked what advantage the Government of the Republic flattered itself with the hope of gaining
VOL. XL-No. 287