« AnteriorContinuar »
Gladstone was attacked in an absurd manner. He was accused not merely of having encouraged the pretentions of the Ionian Islanders, but been talked of as if he, and he alone, had been their inspiration. One might have imagined that there was something portentious and even unnatural in a population of Hellenic race feeling anxious to be united with a Greek kingdom instead of being ruled by a British protectorate imposed by the arbitrary decree of a congress of foreign powers. National complacency could hardly push sensible men to greater foolishness than it did when it set half England wondering and raging over the impertinence of a Greek population who preferred union with a Greek kingdom to dependence upon an English protectorate. English writers and speakers went on habitually as it the conduct of the islanders were on a par with that of some graceless daughter who forsakes her father's house for the companionship of strangers, or of some still more guilty wite who deserts her loving husband to associate herself with some strolling musician. There can be no doubt that in every material sense the people of the islands were much better governed under England's protectorate than they could be for generations, probably for centuries to come, under any Greek administration. They had admirable means of communication by land and sea, splendid harbors, regular lines of steamers, excellent roads everywhere, while the people of the kingdom of Greece were hardly better off for all these advantages under Otho than they might have been under Codrus. M. Edmond About declared that the inhabitants of the Ionian Islands were richer, happier, and a hundred times better governed than the subjects of King Otho. M. About detested Greece and all about it; but his testimony thus far is that of the most enthusiastic Philhellene. Indeed it seems a waste of words to say, that where Englishmen ruled they would take care to have good roads and efficient lines of steamers. But M. About was mistaken in assuming that the populations of the islands were happier under British rule than they would have been under that of a Greek kingdom. Such a remark only showed a want of the dramatic sympathy which understands the feelings of others, and which we especially look for in a writer of any sort of fiction. M. About would not have been so successful a romancist if he had always acted on the assumption that people are made happy by the ma. terial conditions which, in the opinion of other people, ought to confer happiness. He would not, we may presume, admit that the people of Alsace and Loraine are happier under the Germans than they were under the French, even though it were to be proved beyond dispute that the Germans made better roads and managed more satisfactorily the lines of railway.
The population of the islands persevered in the belief that they understood better what made them happy than M. About could do. The visit of Mr. Gladstone, whatever purpose it may have been intended to fulfil, had the effect of making them agitate more strenously than ever for annexation to the kingdom of Greece. Their wish, however, was not to be granted yet. A new lord high commissioner was sent out after Mr. Gladstone's return, doubtless with in. structions to satisfy what was supposed to be public opinion at home by a little additional stringency in maintaining the connexion between Great Britain and the protected popula. tions. Still, however, the idea held ground that sooner or later Great Britain would give up the charge of the Islands. A few years after an opportunity occurred for making the cession. The Greeks got rid quietly of their heavy German king Otho, and on the advice chiefly of England they elected as sovereign a brother of the Princess of Wales.
The Greeks themselves were not very eager for any other experiment in the matter of royalty. They seemed as if they thought they had had enough of it. But the great powers, and more especially England, pressed upon them that they could never be really respectable if they went without a king; and they submitted to the dictates of conventionality. They first asked for Prince Alfred of England, now Duke of Edinburgh ; but the arrangements of European diplomacy did not allow of a prince of any of the great reigning houses being set over Greece. In any case, nothing can be less likely then that an English prince would have accepted such a responsibility. The French Government made sume significant remark, to the effect that if it were possihle for any of the great powers to allow one of their princes to accept the Greek crown, France had a prince disengaged, who she thought might have at least as good a claim as another. This was understood to be Prince Napoleon, son of Jerome, the king of Westphalia, a prince of whom a good deal was heard after, as a good deal had been heard before, in the politics of Europe. The suggestion then about the prince of the House of Denmark was made either by or to the Greeks, and it was accepted. The second son of the King of Denmark was made either by or to the Greeks, and it was accepted. The second son of the King of Den. mark was made King of Greece; and Lord John Russell, on behalf of the English Government, then handed over to the kingdom of Greece the Islands of which Great Britain had had so long to bear the unwilling charge, and the reten. tion of which, according to some uneasy politicians, was absolutely necessary alike to the national safety and the im. perial glory of England. This is anticipating by a few years the movement of time; but the effects of Mr. Gladstone's visit so distinctly foreshadowed the inevitable result that it is not worth while dividing into two parts this little chapter of our history. Mr. Gladstone's visit, the mistaken interpretation put upon it by the islanders, and the reception which chiefly on account of that mistake he had among them, must have made it clear to every intelligent person in England that that this country could not long continue to force her
protectorate upon a reluctant population over whom it could not even claim the right of conquest. It ought to have been plain to all the world that England could not long consent, with any regard for her own protessions and principles, to play the part of Europe's jailer or man in possession. The cession of the Ionian Islands marked, however, the farthest point of progress attained for many years in that liberal principle of foreign policy which recognizes fairness and justice as motives of action more imperative than national vanity, or the imperial pride of extended possession. England had to suffer for some time under the influence of a reaction which the cession of the islands, all just and prudent though it was, unquestionably helped to bring about
war going on in Athens. Everybody was busy in arrangement of some kind to meet the needs of c ming battle. Diogenes had nothing in particular to do, bit was unwilling to appear absolutely idle when all else were so busy. He set to work, therefore, with immense clatter and energy to roll his tub up and down the streets of Athens. The Conservative Government, seeing Europe all in disturbance and having nothing very particular to do, began to roll a tub of their own, and to show a preternatı.ral and wholly unnecessary activity in doing so.
The year 1859 was one of storm and stress on the European continent. The war-drums throbed throughout the whole of it. The year began with the memorable declaration of the Emperor of the French to the Austrian Ambassador at the Tullieries that the relations between the two empires were not such as he could desire. This he said, according to the description given of the event in a dispatch from Lord Cowley, “with some severity of tone." In truth Count Cavour had had his way. He had prevailed upon Louis Napoleon, and the result was a determination to expel the Austrians from Italy. It seems clear enough that the emperor, after a while, grew anxiously inclined to draw back irom the position in which he placed himself. Great pres