Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

THE UNHOLY ALLIANCE.*

(From Brownson's Quarterly Review for July, 1856.)

A TREATY of peace between Russia and the allies was signed at Paris on the 30th of March last, and the eastern war, which has raged for the last two years, may be regarded as over for the present. The precise provisions of the treaty have not at the moment we write transpired; but its general provisions are sufficiently known, and we may, therefore, without any impropriety, offer our reflections on the war, the policy of the allies, and the probable results of the peace.

Our readers know that we have always regarded the eastern war as unnecessary, impolitic, and unjust, at least on the part of the western powers. We have not and never have had any Russian sympathies, but we have some regard to justice, and all the official documents published by the western powers in their own justification prove to us that they had no plausible pretext even for declaring war against Russia, and we cannot find it in our heart to approve of injustice even to a power we dislike, and from which we apprehend more or less evil to our religion. Russia violated no treaty obligations with the western powers, she invaded none of their rights, and gave them no cause of offence. She even invaded no right of the Ottoman porte, and gave even Turkey no justifiable cause of war. The occupation of the Danubian principalities by Russian troops was no violation of Turkish territory, for those principalities are not, and never were, any portion of the Turkish empire. Wallachia --and the same inay be said of Moldavia—was in the thirteenth, and down to the end of the fourteenth century, an independent state, governed by its own laws, under its own princes elected by the clergy and the boyards from natives of the country. It was not conquered by the Turks, but by a free act of the prince and the people, either fearing subjection, or wishing to avoid a calamitous war, placed itself under the protection of the sultan, by a treaty with Bajazet I., signed at Nicopolis in 1393; a treaty renewed in 1460. By this treaty the sultan binds himself and his successors for ever, in consideration of a tribute, the amount of which is fixed by the treaty, to protect Wallachia in the full possession of all its rights as a sovereign state. The padishah was bound to leave the state its own internal constitution, its own religion, its own customs, usages, laws, and administration, under princes, or hospodars, freely chosen by the people from natives of the country. Its territory was to be maintained inviolate; no Turkish army could enter it ; no Mahometan could reside in it; no Turkish fortresses could be erected, and no Turkish authority of any kind conld be exercised within it, or over it. The state parted with none of its rights as a sovereign state. It became a protected but not a dependent state; and all the rights acquired by the padishahs were simply the right to the stipulated tribute, in return for the promised protection. They acquired no right of suzeraineté, and in no sense whatever was Wallachia incorporated with the Ottoinan empire.

* The Unholy Allinice; An American View of the War in the East. By W. G. Dix, New York : 1856.

The sublime porte, so late as 1826, acknowledged that the treaties of 1393 and 1460 are the sources of all its rights with regard to the Danubian principalities, and confesses that their stipulations have still the vigor of law. The sultans had violated these treaties in every possible sense, and in order to prevent their further violation, they were placed nnder the protection of Russia by treaty between Russia and Turkey. Whether their occupation by Russian troops in 1853 was an offence against them or not depends on the fact, whether it was with or against their consent; but be that as it may, it certainly was no violation of the Ottoman territory, and none that the sultan had the right to resent, unless at the request of the principalities themselves. He owed them protection, but if they chose to forego his protection, the most he could claim was the payment of the stipulated tribute. Omar Pacha committed an offence against them by crossing the Danube, and even against Russia, to whom the padishah had transferred the protectorate. We deny that the Russians by crossing the Pruth violated Ottoman territory, or gave to Turkey a justifiable cause of war.

Some of our Catholic friends have been favorable to the war, because they have supposed that it was undertaken by France in defence of the holy places which had been usurped by the schismatic Greeks, under the protection of Russia. But this is a mistake. The dispute about the holy places was settled before the dispute which led to the war was opened, and settled by the withdrawal by France of the treaty negotiated by Lavallette, and by her disclaiming all pretension to the protectorate of the Catholic Christians in the East, and yielding, with hardly a diplomatic struggle, all that the emperor of Russia demanded, giving the schismatic Greeks access to nine or ten holy places from which they were previously excluded. The question of the holy places had been settled to the satisfaction of Russia and Great Britain, at that time her ally and bosom friend. The notion entertained by some persons

that France is, has been, or claims to be, the protector of the Catholics in the East, is a great mistake, and to look to her for any protection of this sort is to forget that France, since Francis I., has no longer been the France of St. Louis.

The only complaint that the western powers had to make of Russia was that she was too powerful in the East, and could make her diplomacy at Constantiņople triumph over theirs; and from her taking part in favor of the Christian subjects of the porte, she secured a preponderating influence over them. We do not deny these facts, nor dissemble the danger to their policy it involved; but we have as yet seen no reason for supposing that Russia nised any illegitimate means to gain her preponderating influence either over the Christian population of Turkey, or over western diplomacy at Constantinople. The Christian population of Turkey has been abandoned for three hundred years by the Christian powers of the West, especially by France and England, and there has been no one of them on which they could rely. Francis I., of France, in his insane rivalry with Charles V., departed from the Christian policy of the West, allied himself with Solyman the Magnificent, and called in the Turk against the emperor. From that time to this the policy of France has been to bring Turkey within the pale of the international law of Christendom, and to use her against Austria or Russia, as the case might be. She has never hesitated a moment to sacrifice the interests of religion to state policy. Why, then, should the Christians of the East, especially those not united with the Roman church, turn with any affection or hope to France France has never rendered them any service, and for more than three hundred years, except at brief intervals, has prided herself on being the friend and ally of their conquerors and oppressors.

The eastern Christians have received nothing from Great Britain except insult and injury. By an “untoward event” she aided in destroying the Turkish fleet at Navarino, but she used all her influence to prevent Hellas from becoming an independent state, and succeeded in restricting her to the smallest possible dimensions, for fear of having in her a rival commercial state. The worst enemy the Christians of the Greek schismatic communion have had has been the English resident minister at the Ottoman court, who used his influence with the sublime porte to strip their bishops and priests of important civil and political rights which they had held and exercised from the time of the conquest, because he found them in the way of the Exeter Hall policy of protestantizing, or rather rationalizing the East.

Austria had done something occasionally for the Catholics of Bosnia, Albania, and the bordering provinces, but nothing for the mass of the Christians of the empire. Since rolling back the Mussulman hordes from Vienna in 1683, she has had as much as she could do to defend herself against France, Prussia, and her own revolted subjects, and has done little to meliorate the condition of the Christian populations of the East. Our own country, at an early day in its national existence, chastised the Barbary powers on the coast of Africa, and refused to pay tribute to be protected from the Algerine corsairs, but it has done nothing for the Christians of the East, save to annoy and vex them with a few Protestant missionaries.

It is not the fault of Russia, then, if the Christians of the East regard her with more affection than they do the western powers, and hope more from her than from them. She has been their only friend among Christian powers, and it has been owing to her continuation of the war of the crusades against Turkey that their condition has of late years been much ameliorated. Nobody can deny that her protection of the Danubian principalities has greatly served their material condition and promoted their social prosperity, and, if she had not been interfered with, the whole of ancient Greece—Thessaly, Macedonia, Epirus—would be now independent of the Ottoman despotism. It is with an ill grace that the western powers complain of Russia because the Christians of the East love her better than they do them; and to go to war with her on that account is hardly just or magnanimous. If they had done their duty, treated them as brethren, and used their influence for their emancipation, they might have gained their affections, and prevented them from throwing themselves into the arms of Russia, or hoping their deliverance from Russian intervention.

These, and other considerations, have made us look upon the war from the first as a war of aggression on the part of the western powers. The pretence set up, in the first instance, that it was a war for the maintenance and integrity of the Ottoman empire, was futile, and could deceive no one of ordinary information on the subject. How could France honestly contend for the independence and integrity of the Ottoman empire, while she held Algeria ; or England, while she held possession of Aden? Still more futile was the

cry of the English press, that it was a war on behalf of civilization against barbarism. None but Englishmen,we should say English editors,—we should suppose, could have the face to assert that a war to sustain the Ottoman rule over the fairest region of the globe is a war on behalf of civilization, and we doubt if many Englishmen even could be found to believe it. Russia may include barbarians within her vast dominions, as does England, but she is not a barbarous power; and, probably, there is no existing nation that has made such rapid advances in civilization during the last two hundred years as this same Muscovite nation; no sovereign ever labored more diligently and indefatigably for the civilization of his subjects than the late Emperor Nicholas; and, if we may judge from the conduct of each in the late war, the Russians are far more civilized than the English, who seemed at times to have retained all the barbarism of their old Norse ancestors, and to have been no unfit comrades of the Turks.

The purpose of the war, we suppose, was that of repressing Russia, and bringing Turkey within the pale of the European system of international law, as avowed by the French writers. Russia was too powerful, and seemed to threaten, not by her aggressive spirit, but by her natural expansion, the liberty and independence of western and southern Europe. She had already obtained the protectorate of the Danubian principalities, and could easily obtain their consent to incorporate them into her empire any day she chose. These principalities are the key of eastern and central Europe, and, possessing them, she could hold Austria in check, and advance on Constantinople, and absorb, by the aid of the Christian population, all European Turkey, almost without the necessity of striking a blow.

« AnteriorContinuar »