Imatges de pÓgina

Euphrates Valley. No doubt it would be agreeable if all the possible routes to India were in the hands of ourselves or of friends who were not doubtful; but the thing is absurd, and as long as we command the sea and defend the Egyptian transit against any one who may threaten it, we may remain in the abundance of peace about the Euphrates Valley. I confess to having a certain dislike of the talk about the Persian Gulf routes, as tending to distract attention from the vital importance of Egypt. One or other of these routes may be useful and convenient some day for Indian commerce and Indian passengers, but the advantages to be gained are of so moderate a character that they are not worth making any considerable sacrifice for. We should give our whole care to Egypt, avoiding, so far as may be, all sensational proceedings, but taking good care that in one way or other we shall be paramount in the valley of the Nile. Happily our interests exactly coincide with those at once of the Khedive and of his people. Our interests amount simply to this:-1st. That the Egyptian routes to India should be absolutely secure and as well arranged as possible. 2nd. That Egypt should send us as much cotton and other produce as she is able to raise, which she can only do if the clumsy and oppressive fiscal arrangements which now torment her cultivators are put on a better footing. 3rd. That the great Nile valley and the countries beyond should be opened to our enterprise and commerce, so that a large part of Africa hitherto useless and miserable may be made a valuable and happy portion of the world.


The Home Secretary closed the evening in a speech which raised his position at home, but raised it much more on the other side of the Channel. Up to the 7th of May last Mr. Cross had devoted nearly all his activity to subjects which have little interest beyond the limits of this island. Then he took for the first time a prominent part in the discussion of a great European question, and discussed it with much force and full information. To us,' observed to me a very eminent foreign politician of the strongest Liberal opinions, it was a revelation.' Not that there was anything very startling in the speech. Mr. Cross revealed himself, not a new doctrine; but what he said was the utterance of a man of sense who knew what he was talking about-and utterances upon the Eastern Question of that character have not of late been too abundant in England. Speaking of the meetings about the Bulgarian atrocities, he remarked :


Now, as to those which were held in the autumn, I can only say that I, for one, should have been ashamed of my countrymen if public expression had not been given from one end of the land to the other to their utter detestation of the horrors which had been committed in Turkey. Do you think that because we, happening to be Ministers of the Crown, pursue a line of policy which you do not like, we have not the feelings of Englishmen? Do you suppose that we twelve men are the only persons in the country who have not been alive to the horrors which have been going on in Turkey?

Of course that is merely common sense; but so much common nonsense had been talked about the hard-heartedness of every one whs did not go publicly into hysteries last autumn, that it was, strange to say, highly desirable that it should be publicly stated that Her Majesty's Ministers did not approve of the wholesale murder of men, women, and children. I am persuaded that many worthy persons fully believed they did.

The point in which Mr. Cross wholly failed was when he tried to show that the press which supported his Government was not largely to blame for the erroneous ideas about the policy of that Government which were, and are, held bona fide by many persons on our side of politics. Mr. Cross is quite shrewd enough to know that his friends cannot have it both ways.' They would not have been in power now if it had not been for the statements persistently cir culated by a portion of that press to the disadvantage of their opponents during the days of the late Administration. They took the beneft of these statements then, although they well knew their character, and they must not be surprised that they are now held responsible for sentiments which they do not share, especially when Lord Beaconsfield's language has, on several occasions, given so much colour to injurious suppositions. Those who have watched that ́eminent hand' night after night from the benches behind or opposite to him-those who heard him by a happy lapsus lingua describe his colleagues and himself as Her Majesty's Company-those who know how thoroughly he believes that there is nothing new and nothing true, and it don't signify,' can afford to smile at the notion of his being vehemently Turkish or vehemently anything; but a Home Secretary must not be surprised if innocent persons, who have not enjoyed his opportunities, take the Prime Minister seriously.

I should like, if space were no consideration, to notice all the principal speeches that were delivered in the debate, but I find that this is quite impossible within the limits of a review article. Much ought to have been said of Mr. Childers's and Lord Sandon's very valuable observations, of Mr. Lowe, Mr. Baxter, Lord Eslington. and others; but I must pass on to Mr. Laing, who spoke on the third night.

Mr. Laing's lines can hardly have been cast of late in pleasant places, for he said that one could scarcely go to a club or a dinnerparty without finding people so blinded by antipathy to Russia that they wished to see a repetition of the Crimean war. Surely, for a very sensible man, Mr. Laing must have an exceptionally large acquaintance amongst lunatics! However, to these unfortunate experiences of his we owed a good speech. Did Lord Hardinge, however, really say that India could only be approached by Russia through Afghanistan and the Khyber pass? If he did, he said a very foolish thing, since the natural road for a Russian invader of India

would not be through the Khyber, but through the Bolan. That would be the easy route, and a precious kind of easy route it would be, as I have shown elsewhere, and as the invader would soon find out, to say nothing of the pleasant country it leads to; but the Khyber would be wildly out of the question, seeing that the first thing that we should do if a revived Alexander the Great, with an empire twice as strong as Russia is at present, threatened us through Afghanistan, would be, at the urgent desire, I doubt not, of the Afghans themselves, to take into our keeping Cabul, Ghuznee, and Jellalabad. Depend upon it, the Afghans will hate very cordially whoever first enters their territory, whether he is of Slavonic or Anglo-Saxon blood.

Mr. Laing did very good service by ridiculing the Indian invasion panic, though I think he laid himself open to criticism in the details to which I have alluded, and in some others; but the introduction of an argument against the Russian scare in Central Asia into a debate on Mr. Gladstone's resolutions was a little beside the



mark. One may be very easy in one's mind about Central Asia, and yet look with a good deal of uneasiness upon Russian progress in Eastern Europe. In the happy phrase of a Russian statesman to myself, the first is 'L'Orient de fantaisie,' the second is L'Orient sérieux.' Russia will advance in Asia until she arrives at her natural boundary-that is, at the point where our interest begins to conflict with hers-as things stand at present, the frontiers of Afghanistan. But the instant that our interests, not as interpreted by hair-brained persons, but by grave and responsible statesmen, are touched, she will be met by a seawall which will say in the most emphatic manner, Thus far and no further.' In the Eastern Peninsula the mischief is that there is no ready-made seawall-that no two European Powers have come to a distinct understanding as to what their interests are in that part of the world. The Turkish Empire is crumbling to pieces. Whether it resists the present shock or not, it must go down before very long. I do not believe that Russia has, up to this moment, had any very great expectations from the present war. She wishes to advance towards her ultimate end, not to reach it. An utterly weak Turkey is the best neighbour she can have for the present. But the interest of Europe is adverse to Russia in this matter. The interest of Europe is to have a strong well-governed State in the Eastern Peninsula, and if she makes up her mind that the Turk is hopeless, she should try some other combination. To infer that, because the English are strong enough to keep Russia within bounds in Asia, a divided Europe can keep her within bounds in the Balkan Peninsula, is to make a great mistake.

What is everybody's business is nobody's business. We English say, and say truly, that we can at any time reply to a Russian occu

pation of Constantinople by an English occupation of Lower Egypt, and so make ourselves safe. Some other Powers, again, look to us to do their work, while Germany begs, but begs in vain, Lord Derby to come to some understanding with her, knowing full well that the force of circumstances will ultimately make such an understanding a political necessity, but being wisely anxious to get it now; and get it she would if Lord Derby's very commendable prudence were tempered by a little courage, or if he were served in the upper regions of the Foreign Office by men familiar and sympathetic with Germany and Germans. But there, alas! has been one of the weakest points in the armour of recent English Governments on both sides of politics.

The fourth evening's debate was commenced by Mr. Bourke, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who cleared up a number of points. He showed how rash it would have been for the British Government to have agreed to the Berlin memorandum, and cited the opinion of Lord Granville and another member of the late Cabinet in support of that view. He explained how averse both France and Italy were to any general armed intervention in the affairs of the Turkish Empire. He pointed out that so far from the declaration, signed at the same time as the protocol, having been hostile to Russia, it was actually suggested by that Power. He made it clear that the massing of the Russian army on the frontier of Turkey had been the chief cause of her having neglected to comply with the demands made in Lord Derby's despatch of the 21st of September, and urged, with very considerable force, that, in the present emergency, it was important, not only for the sake of Great Britain, but of the world, that we should show ourselves a united people.

With regard to the attempt made to draw a distinction between the policy of Lord Salisbury and his colleagues Mr. Bourke made some observations which those who imagine themselves the special friends of that nobleman should lay to heart.

The Conference had failed. The right hon. member for Greenwich gave as a reason for its failure that Lord Salisbury had been powerfully counterworked by Sir H. Elliot and some of his own colleagues from beginning to end. There was not a single syllable in the protocols of the Conference to justify any such assertion. The blue books showed, on the contrary, that Lord Salisbury had been supported throughout by the Government. The right hon. gentleman and many hon. members opposite had thought it proper to bestow the most lavish praise on Lord Salisbury; but when they said that somebody was counterworking against him, and that that was the reason why the Conference failed, he could not but think that they threw the greatest aspersion on Lord Salisbury's character. That alleged counterworking could not have occurred without Lord Salisbury knowing it. Therefore the assertion came to this, that Lord Salisbury allowed himself to go to Constantinople to be the mere stalking-horse of a policy before Europe, when he knew that that policy was to receive its death-blow from his colleagues. How those who recognised Lord Salisbury's high character as much as he did could believe that he would have consented to play the part of a puppet in such an extraordinary way, he could not understand.

Obviously, if one-tenth part of what has been said about the thwarting of Lord Salisbury were true, Lord Salisbury would long ere this have resigned.

Altogether, Mr. Bourke's speech was full of valuable matter very clearly put, and I was extremely pleased to find that he, with all the resources of the Foreign Office at his command, was able to confirm an impression which I have arrived at from unofficial intercourse with Frenchmen of many shades of opinion-that, namely, the hatred entertained towards Germany in France is far from being so deep as is generally supposed. The truth is that France has learned more by the calamities of 1870 than any one could have expected. There never has been a time since I have known her when one has heard so much good sense talked about her foreign relations by people of the most opposite politics; and if Lord Derby were a bolder man than he is, I verily believe that he might take advantage of the European negotiations that must follow the present war to do something very effective towards the diminution of armaments in Europe generally, and in France and Germany in particular.

Not the least weighty words uttered in the debate were those of Mr. Walter, who followed after one or two other speakers had expressed their opinions.

Years hence (he said) the historian of those events might have very great reason to say how blindly and impotently the whole subject had been treated. For his own part, he devoutly hoped that it might be simply the threshold of the Eastern Question, a question which had been the terror and bugbear of statesmen from the beginning of this century. What was that question? Surely it did not mean a continuance and maintenance of the Turkish Empire, nor did it mean a substitution of Russian for Turkish rule. Neither of these was the problem which statesmen had in their minds when they talked of the Eastern Question. The real question was the true mode of dealing with the dismembered elements of what now constituted the Turkish Empire. In his view, speaking under clouds of uncertainty, the problem was one that must sooner or later be solved, but it could not be solved by statesmen who said, 'Don't mention it in my time; let it be reserved for those to deal with who will come after me.' He should not be surprised if he lived to witness a solution of this question.

No one knows better than Mr. Walter how enormous are the difficulties under which a Secretary for Foreign Affairs acts in a country where a few wholly irresponsible persons can bring so enormous a pressure of public opinion to bear upon the possessors of what is termed power; and no one has less a right to be surprised at statesmen doing their very best to prevent great questions being raised. 'Give peace in our time, O Lord,' must be the favourite petition of every Cabinet Minister, and above all of every Foreign Secretary. Nevertheless, it may any day become the safest as well as the wisest policy of the British Cabinet to grasp the nettle and face the Eastern Question. And if it is really to be settled, so settled that it may not

« AnteriorContinua »