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ministry had taken. If war were to be continued, there was, at any rate, some consolation in reflecting that measures were in progress calculated to prevent the waste of life from avoidable disease. It so happened, however, that, at the moment when the ministry was changed, some prospect was
Prospects afforded of a return to peace. A new minister, the vigorous advocate of the war, had more chance of concluding it than the old minister, to whom the war had always been distasteful.
When war had been declared in the previous April, the representatives of the Western as well as of the German Powers had agreed on a protocol declaring that they remained united in the double object of maintaining the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and of consolidating, by every means compatible with the Sultan's sovereignty and independence, the civil and religious rights of his Christian subjects; they had further declared that they would endeavour in common to discover the guarantees most likely to attach the existence of that Empire to the general equilibrium of Europe. But the four Powers which signed this vague protocol on the gth of April 1854 were animated by very different views. Two of them, France and England, had practically taken upon themselves the burden of carrying out the programme. The other two, Austria and Prussia, followed up the protocol by concluding a defensive alliance one with the other.
Russian statesmen naturally thought that, if Austria and Prussia drifted from neutrality into activity, the task of their country would be hopeless. They endeavoured, therefore, to yield as far as possible to the views the German of the German Powers. To conciliate Austria, Nicholas offered to evacuate the Principalities and to accept the protocol of April as the basis of peace. This overture, however, led to only a cold reception. The Western Powers, instead of proceeding to negotiate, at once defined the meaning
1 Eastern Papers, Part viii. p. i. The language of the text is taken almost verbatim from the protocol.
which they attached to the protocol. (1) The protectorate
which Russia had hitherto exercised over the Principoints.
palities was to be replaced by a collective guarantee; (2) the navigation of the mouths of the Danube was to be freed from all impediments; (3) the treaty of 1841 was to be revised in the interests of the European equilibrium; and (4) Russia was to renounce all official protectorate over the Sultan's subjects, of whatever religion they might be. These new conditions, which became subsequently famous as the four points, were to some extent vague.
The Moniteur gave shape to the more important of them by declaring that the revision of the treaty of 1841 must involve the limitation of Russia's naval power in the Black Sea; and the Czar could not bring himself, while his fleets and armies were still unconquered, to agree to a proposal which seemed equivalent a defeat.1
The war consequently went on. But towards the close of 1854 Prussian statesmen discovered that their policy was almost everywhere producing distrust and isolation. In these circumstances, they used the influence which neutrality had naturally secured for them at St. Petersburg, to urge the Czar frankly to accept the four points as the basis of peace. Nicholas thought such a course, though it had seemed dishonourable in the spring, compatible with his honour in the autumn; the “Baltic campaign had produced no result; the bombardment of Sebastopol had failed; there were as yet neither victors nor vanquished.” An overture from himself, moreover, would be likely to detach Austria from the alliance, or at any
rate would prevent her from joining in the war.2 Animated by these considerations, he authorised
Gortschakoff, his minister at Vienna, to express his readiness to conclude peace on the basis of the four points ; and Gortschakoff fulfilled this duty on the 16th of November.3
The Czar's new move was not entirely successful. It did not prevent Austria from concluding a close arrangement with
The Czar offers to
1 Diplomatic Study, vol. ii. pp. 18-44, 132 seq. 2 Ibid., pp. 52, 53, and 167 seq.
3 Ibid., p. 53.
the Western Powers,' and it induced her, in concert with France and England, to define more strictly the precise meaning attached to the four points. With some disappointment, Russia was doomed to find that every successive explanation of these points involved some fresh sacrifice on her own part. The freedom of the lower Danube, she was now told, could not be secured unless she surrendered the territory between that river and the Pruth which she had acquired at the treaty of Adrianople; the revision of the treaty of 1841, she was assured, must put an end to her preponderance in the Black Sea.2 These new exactions, however, did not deter the Czar from his desire to treat. By no other means was it possible to prevent Austria from taking part against him; and a conference, even if it ultimately proved abortive, would in the interim confine her to neutrality. In these circumstances, Nicholas consented to negotiate. Unhappily, however, for mankind, while men of war delight in rapid movements, the diplomatists who arrange the terms of peace seem ignorant of the vexation of delay. The Conference which it
The Conwas decided to hold in December did not assemble ference of till the following March. The negotiation which had been agreed to by Aberdeen was carried out under Palmerston ; and Palmerston entrusted its conduct to Russell.
While Russell was on his way to Vienna, an event occurred of momentous importance. Sore troubled at the events of the war, alarmed at the growing strength of his enemies, the Emperor of Russia had neither heart nor strength to struggle against a slight illness. His sudden death naturally The death made a profound impression on the mind of Europe. an charFor nearly thirty years he had filled a larger position Nicholas. and exercised a wider influence than any other living man. His ideas were, indeed, opposed to the general conclusions of the wisest and most successful statesmen of the age. Imbued with a reverence for the “ills we have,” he was profoundly distrustful of the others that “we know not of;" and hè thus
i This was the treaty of the 2nd of December. Ibid., and Martin's Prince Consort, vol. iii. p. 166.
2 Eastern Papers, Part xiii. p. I.
lived an ideal Conservative at a time when Conservatism was everywhere assailed by new and powerful forces. The novel ideas which were influencing Europe were probably unintelligible to the Czar. He had no more doubt of the divine right of autocracy than of the existence of God; he was as certain that it was the duty of people to obey as of himself to command. To assert that he occasionally blundered, and that he sometimes sinned, is only to say, what perhaps he would have reluctantly admitted, that he was of the same dust as other men. Yet, when his life is fairly written, it will perhaps be found that he did not make more mistakes or commit more sins than other persons. His treatment of Poland -the darkest blot on his career—was not in any sense worse than the conduct of Cromwell to Ireland; and are there not Englishmen, whose lives are as pure as their pens are dexterous, who have a good word even now to offer for the Irish policy of Cromwell? The Czar's policy in 1853-4, which throws a deep shadow on his capacity, was no doubt adopted through an erroneous conception of the character of Aberdeen and of the feelings of England, and persisted in from an almost insane irritation at the influence of Stratford at the Porte. Perhaps, however, fair critics will some day see that the mistake which Nicholas made in 1853 was similar in kind to that which England made in 1854 and 1855. Nicholas was not content with obtaining a solution of the existing difficulty, he went on to seize the Principalities as a guarantee for fresh concessions. In precisely the same way, England was not content with obtaining the evacuation of the Principalities and the virtual surrender of all that she demanded. She went on to seize Sebastopol in order to obtain fresh concessions from the Czar. And the policy of England produced a catastrophe as great as the policy of the Czar. The one cost the autocrat Sebastopol ; the other, attended by a slower vengeance, resulted in the humiliating treaty of 1870.
Fair critics will also remember that, while Nicholas inspired the Englishman who knew him not with nothing but distrust, every prominent Englishman who was thrown into his company wrong.” 1
left him with confidence in his integrity. Weilington had set out in 1826, sharing the conviction of his colleagues that Russia was in the wrong and the Porte in the right on the question then at issue between them. He had not been long at St. Petersburg before he “was under the necessity of admitting that the emperor was in the right and the Porte in the
“Years ago," the Czar said of himself to Peel, "Lord Durham was sent to me—a man full of prejudices against me. By merely coming to close quarters with me, all his prejudices were driven out of him.” 2 No British minister was ever more opposed to the emperor's policy than Aberdeen in 1828. The sincere confidence which Aberdeen reposed in the emperor after he had once known him was one of the many causes of the war of 1853. But, perhaps, one of the most striking proofs of the sense which every one who came near him entertained of the emperor's integrity may be drawn from the concluding passage of Lord Heytesbury's unpublished diary. “Lord Heytesbury,” so it runs, “then took leave of a sovereign who had honoured him with unceasing marks of confidence and favour—a sovereign
probably the ablest and best, who ever sat on the Russian throne,
great qualities whose viitues all sprang from his own noble and chivalrous
in great measure nature, whose faults (if faults they were) from the necessities
but of his position. The ruler of so vast, and still sa half-civilised an Empire, cannot fairly be judged by an English standard." 3
Alexander, his successor, a monarch whose reign commenced 1 Wellington's Supplemental Despatches, vol. vii. p. 340. ? Martin's Prince Consort, vol. i. p. 416.
3 The interlineations were added after the Crimean war, and this note was added by Lord Heytesbury: "This, it must be recollected, was written in 1840. Subsequent events would assuredly have induced the writer to modify the high characier here given of the emperor's ability and conduct." Lord Heytesbury does not seem to have observed that in 1840 he spoke with the authority of a witness. In 1856 his opinion was of no greater value than that of any other equally intelligent Englishman. Witnesses are not allowed to correct their evidence on a defendant's character, by the gossip which they may have col. lected after their intercourse with the prisoner at the bar bas terminated.