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were ready to advance one step farther, and acknowledge Napoleon the Third. Nicholas, however, had one other re
Monarchs when they address one another are accustomed to style themselves, in the quaint language which has descended from mediæval times, brother and sister. To the surprise and sorrow of Nicholas, even the Conservative Courts of Austria and Prussia consented, in recognising the third Napoleon, to call him “Mon frère.” Nicholas alone declined to submit to this fresh indignity, and instead of addressing the new emperor as “Monsieur mon frère," adopted the puerile alternative of styling him “Mon cher ami.” 1
Thus it happened that, while a miserable dispute was occupying the attention of diplomatists at Constantinople, one party to the quarrel was annoyed at the accession of Napoleon to the throne, and the other party to it was angry at the slight which Nicholas had cast on him. Such feelings did not tend to smooth matters at the Porte. There the Russian agent was still demanding that the firman should be read in public, and the French agent was still insisting that it should not be so read.
The Porte, placed between two millstones, vainly strove to avoid being crushed by either of them. It sent Afif Afif Bey's
Bey on a special mission to Jerusalem, and instructed
him to carry out the compromise which it had decided
The mission only ended in fresh disturbances. The Russian Consul-General, unable to procure the reading of the firman, left the city in anger. The Latins, on hearing the decision of the Porte that they should be allowed to celebrate mass once a year in the Church of the Virgin, near Gethsemane, but that they should not be permitted to disturb the altar and its ornaments, declared that it was impossible to celebrate mass on a schismatic slab of marble, and before a crucifix whose feet were separated. The agent of France at Constantinople talked “of sending for the French fleet ;" 3 and, to pacify France, the Porte surrendered to it the key of
1 For the Russian view, see Diplomatic Study, vol. i. pp. 73-95. 2 Eastern Papers, Part i. p. 45; cf. Diplomatic Study, vol. i. f. 144. 3 Eastern Papers, Part i. p. 47.
Aberdeen and Nicholas.
the Great Church of Bethlehem, and suffered the Latins to place a star over the altar of the Nativity. But this concession to the Latins only inflamed the Greeks. The Russian Government placed a corps d'armée on active service, and sent one of Nicholas' aides-de-camp, Prince Menschikoff, on an extraordinary embassy to Constantinople. Thus, as the year 1853 commenced, the Turkish Government found itself simultaneously threatened by three great European Powers. Austria was demanding the withdrawal of Omar Pacha from Montenegro, and France and Russia were each threatening war if their contrary and irreconcilable demands were not complied with.
When this grave diplomatic quarrel had reached its crisis, the short-lived Derby Ministry fell, and Aberdeen succeeded to power. Such a change, at such a time, could not otherwise than influence Russian policy. Nearly nine years before, while Peel was minister and Aberdeen Foreign Secretary, the Russian Emperor had paid a memorable visit to England. He had charmed both the Court and its advisers by his presence, his manner, his honesty, and his views. With Aberdeen, in particular, he had formed an acquaintance which almost amounted to friendship. In the course of his visit, emperor and Foreign Minister had found opportunities of conversing on the state of Europe and of the East. Turkey—such was the gist of Nicholas' words to Aber. deen and Peel-is a dying man; he must die; we cannot now determine what shall be done on his death. But we may, at least, keep the eventual case of his collapse honestly before our eyes. Russia does not claim one inch of Turkish soil, but she will not suffer any other Power to have an inch of it; and the true method to prevent France from seizing territory either in Africa, or the Mediterranean, or the East, is for Russia and England to be agreed. The emperor had gone on to say that, if the catastrophe which he foresaw occurred, the danger attendant on it would be much diminished if Russia and England had previously arrived at a common understanding.
1 Eastern Papers, Part i. p. 55; Russian Diplomatic Study, vol. i. p. 143. 2 Ibid., p. 146 seq. ; Eastern Papers, Part i. pp. 56, 76.
conversations with Sir H.
Austria would necessarily adopt any policy which commended itself equally at St. Petersburg and London; and when Austria, Russia, and England were at one, peace was assured. 1
Thus the ministerial crisis of December 1852 had placed a Prime Minister in office who had talked over the whole Eastern question with Nicholas, and arrived at a virtual understanding with him upon it. It is not surprising, therefore, that immediately after the crisis Nicholas should have endeavoured to resume the communications which he had enjoyed in 1844. On the oth of January 1853 the Czar spoke to Sir Hamilton
Seymour, the English Ambassador at St. Petersburg, Nicholas'
using much the same language he had employed
nine years before. The Turk, so he said, is very Seymour.
sick; the country is falling to pieces; and it is very important that England and Russia should come to a perfectly good understanding on the subject. Five days afterwards he renewed the conversation Turkey, he said, may suddenly die upon our hands; we cannot resuscitate what is dead; if the Turkish Empire falls, it falls to rise no more. It is far better to provide beforehand for the contingency than to risk the consequences which would ensue if the catastrophe came upon us unprepared.2
This conversation, duly reported to the ministry, naturally created some sensation in Downing Street; and the Government, in its reply, frankly avowed the fundamental difference between its own views and those of Nicholas. The Czar insisted on regarding the Turk as a dying man; the British, on the contrary, believed him likely to recover. While, therefore, Nicholas desired to provide for a contingency which he considered unavoidable, the British Ministry declined to make provision for an eventuality which, it assumed, need not arise. It was in vain that Nicholas urged that, if Britain would not settle what should be done in the contingency of the Turk’s death, she might at least determine what should not be done; or that he suggested that the European possessions of the Porte might be formed into independent States in the position of the Principalities; and that England might assure her own road to the East by the occupation of Egypt,and, if she wished it, of Candia. The British Government, on the one hand, declared that the predetermination of what should not be tolerated did little towards the solution of real difficulties; it avowed, on the other hand, that it had no desire for territorial aggrandisement, and could be no party to any arrangement from which Britain was to derive any such benefit.2
1 For their conversation, see Stockmar, vol. ii. p. 106 seq.; Martin's Prince Consort, vol. i. p. 215 seq.; and Nesselrode's “Memorandum on the Communi. cation,” Eastern Papers, 1854, Part vi.
2 Ibid., Part v. pp. 2, 4.
In one sense the conversations between Nicholas and Seymour had no result; in another sense they had much influence. The British Ministry, pleased with the The British frankness of the emperor, took steps to arrange the atrempe tine dispute between Russia and France. It directed dispute. its agent at Constantinople to suggest that the Porte might extricate itself from an embarrassing position by offering to sanction any arrangement respecting the Holy Places which France and Russia conjointly adopted. It told its ambassador at Paris that the spectacle of rival Churches contending for mastery, in the very place where Christ died for mankind, was melancholy indeed; and that it could not avoid perceiving that France had been the first to disturb the status quo, and that France, if report were true, had been the first to speak of a resort to force. 4
Such, at the close of January 1853, was the opinion of the British Government. It had hitherto observed a strict neutrality, and it had now the courage to declare that France was in the wrong. The declaration had some effect in moderating the attitude of Napoleon. Lavalette, who had represented France at the Porte during the dispute, and whose
1 Eastern Papers, Part V., pp. 1o, II. So much abuse was afterwards showered on Nicholas for this offer, that it is right to point out that Peel, in 1844, in talking to Nicholas, had dwelt strongly on the importance of Egypt being open to England. See Stockmar, vol. ii. p. 108.
2 Eastern Papers, Part v, p. 19. 8 Ibid., Part i. p. 67.
4 Ibid., p. 68.
Redcliffe sent to Con
language had frequently imported heat into the discussion, was recalled, and De la Cour, the French Minister at Berlin, was appointed to succeed him. Russia, appeased by the conciliatory attitude of the French, and assured that the Porte had yielded to the Austrian demand for the evacuation of Montenegro, relaxed the preparations which she had made for the occupation of the Principalities; and Britain, pleased Stratford de at the better prospect of an arrangement, decided
on sending a man of influence as ambassador to stantinople. Constantinople, and entrusted Stratford de Redcliffe, the great diplomatist who had won his reputation at Constantinople, with the mission.1
Thus, at the end of February 1853, the crisis seemed a little less acute. The agents who were on their way to represent the Great Powers at Constantinople had hitherto taken no part in the fray, and might be expected to be cool. Vain expectation! In sending Menschikoff to Constantinople, Nicholas had made compromise difficult; in despatching Stratford to the Porte the British Ministry had drawn England into a quarrel with which she had no concern.?
Menschikoff reached Constantinople on the 28th of February. He paid at once a formal visit to Sultan and Grand Vizier, but
he declined to call on Fuad Effendi, the Foreign Menschikoff at Constanti
. Minister. Fuad, so the Russians thought, had acted nople.
with bad faith, and Menschikoff, as Russian Ambassador, declined to have anything to do with him. Menschikoff's refusal had the effect of inducing Fuad to resign, and Rifaat Pacha was appointed to succeed him. But the incident created a flutter of excitement at the Porte which was both ridiculous and irrational. The slight shown to Fuad was declared to be a slight to the Sultan. The Grand Vizier hurried to Colonel Rose, the British chargé d'affaires at the Porte, declared that
1 Eastern Papers, Part v. p. 89.
2 According to Lord Malmesbury, who writes on the authority of the late Lord Bath, Stratford afterwards openly boasted that he had “got his personal revenge against the Czar (for refusing to receive him as ambassador) by fomenting the war. He told Lord Bath so. Malmesbury's Memoirs of an ex-Minister, p. 326. For this refusal see ante, vol. iii. p. 387, note.