« AnteriorContinuar »
clared that if he could not succeed in obtaining with the concert of Europe such guarantees as he thought necessary to require of Turkey, he was firmly determined to act independently, and was convinced that the whole of Russia would respond to his summons. The words of Lord Beaconsfield were spoken somewhat late on the evening of Thursday. The emperor addressed the nobles of Moscow the very next day. Still, there was ample time for the ordi. nary telegraphic report of Lord Beaconsfield's speech to be in Alexander's hands long before the hour at which he had to address the Moscow assembly. Most persons assumed that the speech of the Russian Emperor was undoubtedly an answer to that of the English Prime Minister. The prospects of a peaceful settlement of the European controversary seemed to become heavily overclouded Lord Beaconsfield appeared to be holding the dogs of war by the collar, and only waiting for the convenient moment to let them slip. Every eye was turned upon him. He must have felt that his ambition was fast reaching the very sea-mark of its utmost sail. The decision of peace or war seemed to be absolutely with him. He held the destines of millions in the hollow of his hand. Every one knew that some of his colleagues—Lord Derby, for example, and Lord Carnarvon -were opposed to any thought of war, and felt almost as strongly for the Christian provinces of Turkey as Mr. Gladston did. But people shook their heads doubtfully when it was asked whether Lord Derby or Lord Carnarvon, or both combined, could prevail in strength or will against Lord Beaconsfield.
The conterence at Constantinople came to nothing. The Turkish statesmen at first attempted to put off the diplomatists of the West by the announcement that the Sultan had granted a constitution to Turkey, and that there was to be a parliament at which representatives of all the provinces were to speak up for themselves. There was in fact a Turk
ish Parliament called together. The first meeting of the Conference was disturbed by the sound of salvos of cannon to celebrate the opening of the first Constitutional Assembly of Turkey. Of course the western statesmen could not be put off by an announcement of this kind. They knew well enough what a Turkish Parliament must mean. A parliament is not made by the decree of an autocrat calling a number of men into a room and bidding them debate and divide. To have a parliament there must, first of all, be something like a free people. Europe had seen a brand-new Egyptian Parliament created not long before, and had telt at first a sort of languid curiosity about it; and then after a while learned that it had sunk into the ground or faded away somehow without leaving any trace of its constitutional existence. It seems almost superfluous to say that the Turkish Parliament was ordered to disappear very soon after the occasion passed away for trying to deceive the great European Powers. Evidently Turkey had got it into her head that the English Government would at the last moment stand by her, and would not permit her to be coerced. It is not certain, perhaps cannot be known during this generation, whether there was any truth in the report so freely spread abroad in England, that private hints were given to Turkish statesmen by an English diplomatist encouraging them to resist the demands of the Great Powers, and directly or indirectly promising them the support of England. What is certain is, that Turkey held out in the end and refused to come to terms, and the Conference broke up without having accomplished any good. New attempts at arrangement were made between England, Russia, and others of the Great Powers, but they fell through. Some unfortunate cause seemed always to prevent any kind of cordial co-operation. Then at last Russia took the field against Turkey. On April 24th, 1877, Russia declared war, and on June 27th, a Russian arıny crossed the Danube and
moved toward the Balkans, meeting with comparatively little resistance, while at the same time another Russian force invaded Asia Minor.
For a while the Russians seemed likely to carry all before them. Suddenly, however, it appeared that they had made many mistakes in their arrangements. They had made the one great mistake of altogether undervaluing their enemies. Their preparations were hasty and imperfect. The Turks. to do them justice, have never wanted fighting power, They have at all time shown great strength and skill in the mere work of resistance. Long after they had ceased to be anything of a terror to Europe as an aggressive power, they again and again showed tremendous strength and energy in defence. In this instance they were quick to see the mistakes which the Russians had made. They turned upon them unexpectedly, and made a gallant and almost desperate resistance. One of their commanders, Osman Pasha, suddently threw up defensive works at Plevna, in Bulgaria, a point the Russians had neglected to secure, and maintained himself there, repulsing the Russians many times with great slaughter. For a time success seemed altogether on the side of the Turks, and many people in England were convinced that the Russian enterprise was already an entire failure; that nothing remained for the armies of the Czar but retreat, disaster, and disgrace. Cooler observers, however, still assumed that, where great superiority of strength and resources exist, military superiority must come in the end. It was evidently only a question of time to enable Russia to make good her mistakes and to recover her energies. Thus far the defeats of the Russians had really been inflicted by themselves. Their own blunders had given the battle into the hands of their enemies. Taught by experience, the Czar confided the direction of the campaign to the hands of General Todleben, the great soldier whose splendid defence of Sebastopol had made the one grand military re
putation of the Crimean War. Under his directing skill the fortunes of the campaign soon turned. Just at the very moment when English critics were proclaiming that the campaign in Asia Minor was over, and that Plevna never could be taken, there came a succession of crushing deseats inflicted by the Russians on the Turks both in Europe and Asia. Kars was taken by assault on November 18th, 1877; Plevna surrendered on December ioth. At the opening of 1878 the Turks were completely prostrate. The road to Constantinople was clear. Before the English public had time to recover their breath and to observe what was taking place, the victorious armies of Russia were almost within sight of the minarets of Stamboul.
Meanwhile the English Government were taking momentous action. In the first days of 1878, Sir Henry Elliott, who had been ambassador in Constantinople, was transferred to Vienna, and Mr. Layard, who had been minister at Madrid, was sent to the Turkish capital to represent Eng. land there. This step was doubtless meant as an evidence that the English Government were determined to give to the Sultan an energetic support, but at the same time to exert their influence more decisively than before in compelling him to listen to reason and to friendly remonstrance. Mr. Layard was known to be a strong believer in Turkey; more Turkish in some respects than the Turks themselves. But he was a man of superabundant energy ; of what might be described as boisterous energy. The Ottoman Government could not but accept his appointment as a new and stronger proof that the English Government were deterinined to stand their friend; but they ought to have accepted it, to, as evidence that the English Government were determined to use some pressue to make them amenable to reason. Untortunately it would appear that the Sultan's Government accepted Mr. Layard's appointment in the one sense only, and not in the other. Parliament was called
together at least a fortnight before the time usual during recent years. The speech from the throne announced that her Majesty could not conceal from herself that, should the hostilities between Russia and Turkey unfortunately be prolonged, “ some unexpected occurrence may render it incumbent on me to adopt measures of precaution.” This looked ominous to those who wished for peace, and it raised the spirits of the war party. There was a very large and a very noisy war party already in existence. It was particularly strong in London. It embraced some Liberals as well as nearly all Tories. It was popular in the music-halls and the public houses of London. The class whom Prince Bismarck once called the “gentlemen of the pavement” were in its favor, at least in the metropolis, almost to a gentleman of the pavement. The men of action got a nickname. They were dubbed the Jingo party. The term, applied as one of ridicule and reproach, was adopted by chivalrous Jingoes as a name of pride. The Jingoes of London, like the beggars of Flanders, accepted the word of contumely as a title of honor. In order to avoid the possibility of any historical misunderstanding or puzzlement hereafter about the meaning of Jingo, such as we have heard of concerning that of Whig and Tory, it is well to explain how the term came into existence. Some Tyrtæus of the tap-tub, some Korner of the music-halls, had composed a ballad which was sung at one of these caves of harmony every night amid the tumultuous applause of excited patriots. The retrain of this war-song contained the spirit-stirring words, "We don't want to fight, but by Jingo, if we do,
We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too." Some one, whose pulses this lyrical outburst of national pride failed to stir, called the party of its enthusiasts the Jingoes. The writer of this book is under the impression that the invention of the name belongs to Mr. George Jacob