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him in London would lead those not acquainted with the premisses to believe possible.” Sir William Harcourt denied the common assertion of a division in the Liberal party, and avowed his confidence in Lord Hartington, as did, speaking on the same evening at Hackney, no less doubtful a partisan than Mr. Fawcett, who saw little in Eastern Europe that promised better government to the unhappy Christian provinces of Turkey.
Mr. Raikes spoke the sentiments of many in pointing out to his Chester constituents that during the past 150 years Russia had nearly doubled her size, and talked about “a watch on Russian policy ;” while Sir Charles Dilke, who thought the Government weak and vacillating, and Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Bright very inconsistent, deprecated leaving to Russia the dealing with the power which, ever since she was admitted into the European family, had been the permanent and the principal opponent of Liberal ideas. But however inconsistent with the less advanced views of his Crimean days, Mr. Gladstone's trumpet gave forth no uncertain sound. In book and pamphlet, in letter and speech, he maintained in substance the position of his “bag and baggage declaration, that the Turk must be coerced into good government. He was armed at all points. If the Saturday Review attacked him, he was ready, in the Times and Daily News, to encounter the Saturday Review, and at Hawarden was “ at home" to all who would listen to him, till it became, as one of the papers laughingly said, a sort of Mecca for the Liberals of the North. His first recorded utterance this year was in a "reading" which he gave there, in which he confessed the inefficiency of his own information, incessantly as for six months he had laboured to enlarge it, upon the subject of the true condition of Turkey, and urged the necessity of more general knowledge about it. God forbid, he said, “that we should judge the Turks; but it was this wretched system under which they lived, which put into their hands a power which human beings ought not to possess, and the consequences of which were corruption to themselves and misery to those under them. God in His mercy grant that the wisdom, patience, and courage of Christendom might apply an effectual remedy to this state of things !"
This remedy, unhappily, was not to be found in the proceedings of the Conference at Constantinople, whose doings we record in another place. Before the end of January it was known that it had failed, and that the Turkish Grand Council, under the guidance of its founder, Midhat Pacha, rejected even the modified proposals of the European Powers, in a form which indicated a determination to put an end to the discussion. The failure of the Conference was followed by a note of Prince Gortschakoff, calling upon the Powers to say what, under the circumstances, they proposed to do; and by the unexpected and dramatic catastrophe of the fall of Midhat Pacha. Lord Salisbury came quietly home, unattended by any of the “ éclat” which marked his outward
journey; and his colleague, Sir Henry Elliot, was recalled and replaced by Mr. Layard. Sir Henry's supposed conduct in thwarting Lord Salisbury at the Conference was made the subject of a strong attack by Mr. Gladstone and others, who practically charged him with perverting facts about the Bulgarian massacres; but he was chivalrously defended by the Government, who effectually vindicated him as an upright and honourable public servant, though his marked Turkish sympathies, at a time when it was felt necessary to express strong disapproval of Turkish policy, formed sufficient ground for his recall, which showed that the Ministry recognised Lord Salisbury's policy, and the demand for reforms which he pressed upon the Porte, as the expression of their own policy and that of England. In appointing Mr. Layard Sir Henry's successor, the Government showed themselves creditably superior to party motives.
While Sir William Harcourt led the Opposition charge of change of policy, Sir Stafford Northcote, at Liverpool, anticipated the Government answer by an explicit denial that war with Russia had at any time been contemplated, and an indignant disclaimer of any unworthy jealousy of that great Power, by which their enemies had charged them with being actuated in the heated excitement of the autumn. But, on the other hand, he considered the rejection of the proposals of the Conference a ground neither of quarrel nor of complaint against Turkey. England had the right of interference, but not of coercion, and would draw the sword on neither side, though she was not afraid of war.
It was not easy for Government speakers to say much in active defence of a step which failed so signally as the Conference, and the policy of advice and interference which it embodied, but it had at least the good effect, as the Saturday Review pointed out, of removing all doubt as to any claim of Turkey to protection from a Russian attack, showing as it did that the Turks "preferred their own opinions to the favour of their oldest ally." Sir Stafford committed himself to no details either as to the secrets of the Conference or as to meditated measures, and Mr. Gladstone, though he spoke of the “great transaction and woeful failure," threw the responsibility of the situation on the Government, and declined to intimate any policy to them or to the nation, on whom, however, he sought to impress in an address to the electors of Frome, a sense of their immense responsibility, while in an eloquent speech delivered at the Taunton Railway Station, during an eventfuljourney through the West of England, he entered into fuller details about it.
“Great efforts [he said] will be made to induce you to relax your vigilance, and to accept the half-hearted conclusion that the question is for the present at an end. We have been told, gentlemen, to do that which Englishmen, I hope, are commonly inclined to do. We have been told to mind our own business. (Laughter.) With a wrong application of that most sensible and practical
phrase, we have to mind our own business, and the reason we are to mind the Eastern Question is that we have chosen to make it sur own business; and it is our own business at this moment—(cheers)with such an amount of clearness and honourable obligation as, I think, no true-hearted Englishman will wish to disown. It is our own business upon the grounds of humanity, it is our own business upon the grounds of the steps which we have already taken with regard to it, and the obligation which the previous measures have involved. . ... It is you who, acting upon the suggestion of your Government, of which I was a member at the time, in the hope that Turkey was not so debased as to be incapable of reformit is you whose resources and action has maintained the Government of Turkey in the possession of the power which she has so abominably misused. The Powers of Europe at that time proceeded, and perhaps they were wise—at any rate their motives were intelligible-to try the great experiment of trusting the honour and capacity of Turkey, and of trusting it fully and generously, and with that view they abolished the power of Russia ; and not only so, but they took the engagement of Turkey that she would do this, and under the Treaty of Paris they declared that they would not individually or collectively interfere with her in the fulfilment of that engagement. It was impossible to carry generosity further; and the result is that the Treaty of Kainardji, which was signed about a century since, and which gave Russia a right to interfere for the protection of those subject races, has been destroyed by us in connection with France. Can anything be more plain, more elementary, than this? . . . . Are the treaties of 1856, entered into at the time of the Crimean War, in force, or are they not?
Not as to the honourable obligations they might entail upon the Powers that had observed them, but are they in force between us and Turkey ? My opinion is given in a sentence. Turkey has entirely broken those treaties, and trampled them under foot. If these treaties are in force, then we are bound towards Turkey, not only to the general recognition of its independence and integrity, but likewise to that which is much more importantnamely, to a several as well as to a joint guarantee. What I wish to impress upon your minds is that this is a vital question. If the treaties are in force you are bound hand and foot. I hold it to be ridiculous, monstrous,” he added, “ to say that they are in force as between Turkey and ourselves.” The Whigs and advanced Liberals were at one in this opinion thus expressed by their old Premier, and the false policy of England in attempting to maintain Turkey and its system of misrule and inhumanity was the text of more than one speech. At more than one great Liberal meeting, the Turks and their supporters were very severely handled, some speakers, as, for instance, Mr. Jacob Bright, of Manchester, being more vehement and combative, others contenting themselves with censuring the past policy of the Government and congratulating the country that it had been abandoned. On other points the oracles were
dumb, for on other points the country had for the time lost interest. Sir Stafford Northcote could raise nothing but languid inattention when he spoke at Liverpool on matters of taxation and revenue ; and the contrast between the present aspect of politics and that which our pages recorded a few years ago, when stirring problems of home-policy rapidly succeeded each other, was thrown into clear relief. The “ ringing grooves of change" had spun the great world again into another of those phases of affairs which make the Foreign Office the centre of interest. The attitude of the commercial world was anxious if not uneasy ; but though but slight signs of a revival of trade were to be detected, it was hoped that as England only shared in a general depression, the apparent stagnation of business would not, in the end, seriously affect the comfort and well-being of the majority of the people. The condition of our export trade, however, which showed in the returns for January a total value less than half that of the imports, demanded great confidence in the resources of the British manufacturer and merchant; and the apparent failure of the doctrines of Free Trade to make good the advance which had been so confidently anticipated as the necessary result of our treaties and negotiations, began to lead to much serious thought at home, and to much anxious speculation upon our commercial future;“ short hours ” and “ full wages at home being dangerous enemies to the development of trade, when allied with political uncertainty in Europe, and domestic difficulties in America.
On February 8 the Queen, accompanied by her family, opened in person the fourth session of the ninth Parliament of her reign, this being the fifth occasion on which she has herself been present since the Prince Consort's death. The day was bright and the streets thronged; and circumstances invested the event with more than common interest. The crowd filled every corner of the way before one o'clock. The people interested themselves much in the carriage of the Chinese Embassy, gave a good reception to Mr. Gladstone, and cheered to the echo
the real hero of the day-the statesman whose career has been like one of his own romances who had begun by telling the impatient Commons that the day should come when they would listen to him; and who now, for the first time, took his place among the Lords, as the fitting climax of a great career, the head of a party half-unwillingly identified with his name. The Times pointed out that the transfer of a Premier in possession of his office from one House to the other was an unusual thing; and the interest of the day in the doings of the Upper House was further enhanced by the fact that in that Chamber sate the chiefs from whose utterances on the Eastern Question the most was expected, whether from the possible revelations of Lord Salisbury, the explanations of Lord Derby, or the criticisms of Lord Granville and the Duke of Argyll. And the rumours of the recess about the condition of parties, whispers of supposed differences between the Premier and his colleagues, and
of a coming division between Whigs and Radicals which was to bring the former forward as avowed supporters of the Government policy, were rife within doors. They were to lead, however, to very little beyond words. The Royal Speech reflected faithfully enough the state of public opinion. The rarity of the remarks on domestic legislation rightly foreshadowed a barren Session ; and more than half the paragraphs of the Address referred to the Eastern Question.
“ My Lords and Gentlemen (read the Lord Chancellor),
“ It is with much satisfaction that I again resort to the advice and assistance of my Parliament.
“ The hostilities which, before the close of last Session, had broken out between Turkey on the one hand and Servia and Montenegro on the other, engaged my most serious attention, and I anxiously waited for an opportunity when my good offices, together with those of my allies, might be usefully interposed.
“ This opportunity presented itself by the solicitation of Servia for our mediation, the offer of which was ultimately entertained by the Porte.
“In the course of the negotiations I deemed it expedient to lay down and, in concert with the other Powers, to submit to the Porte certain bases upon which I held that not only peace might be brought about with the Principalities, but the permanent pacification of the disturbed provinces, including Bulgaria, and the amelioration of their condition, might be effected.
“ Agreed to by the Powers, they required to be expanded and worked out by negotiation or by Conference, accompanied by an armistice. The Porte, though not accepting the bases and proposing other terms, was willing to submit them to the equitable consideration of the Powers.
“While proceeding to act in this mediation, I thought it right, after inquiry into the facts, to denounce to the Porte the excesses ascertained to have been committed in Bulgaria, and to express my reprobation of their perpetrators.
“ An armistice having been arranged, a Conference met at Constantinople for the consideration of extended terms in accordance with the original bases, in which Conference I was represented by a Special Envoy, as well as by my Ambassador.
“In taking these steps, my object has throughout been to maintain the peace of Europe, and to bring about the better government of the disturbed provinces, without infringing upon the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire.
“ The proposals recommended by myself and my allies have not, I regret to say, been accepted by the Porte; but the result of the Conference has been to show the existence of a general agreement among the European Powers, which cannot fail to have a material effect upon the condition and government of Turkey.
“In the meantime, the armistice between Turkey and the