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- History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 120/202 -

intercourse of his dominions gave place to a system of monopolies carried on by the Government itself. Rapidly as this system, which was introduced into the newly-conquered provinces, filled the coffers of Mehemet Ali, it offered to the Sultan, whose paramount authority was still acknowledged, the means of inflicting a deadly injury upon him by a series of commercial treaties with the European Powers, granting to western traders a free market throughout the Ottoman Empire. Resistance to such a measure would expose Mehemet to the hostility of the whole mercantile interest of Europe; submission to it would involve the loss of a great part of that revenue on which his military power depended. It was probably with this result in view, rather than from any more obvious motive, that in the year 1838 the Sultan concluded a new commercial Treaty with England, which was soon followed by similar agreements with other States.

[Campaign of Nissib, June, 1839.]

The import of the Sultan's commercial policy was not lost upon Mehemet, who had already determined to declare himself independent. He saw that war was inevitable, and bade Ibrahim collect his forces in the neighbourhood of Aleppo, while the generals of the Sultan massed on the upper Euphrates the troops that had been successfully employed in subduing the wild tribes of Kurdistan. The storm was seen to be gathering, and the representatives of foreign Powers urged the Sultan, but in vain, to refrain from an enterprise which might shatter his empire. Mahmud was now a dying man. Exhausted by physical excess and by the stress and passion of his long reign, he bore in his heart the same unquenchable hatreds as of old; and while assuring the ambassadors of his intention to maintain the peace, he despatched a letter to his commander-in-chief, without the knowledge of any single person, ordering him to commence hostilities. The Turkish army crossed the frontier on the 23rd of May, 1839. In the operations which followed, the advice and protests of Moltke and the other European officers at head-quarters were persistently disregarded. The Turks were outmanoeuvred and cut off from their communications, and on the 24th of June the onslaught of Ibrahim swept them from their position at Nissib in utter rout. The whole of their artillery and stores fell into the hands of the enemy: the army dispersed. Mahmud did not live to hear of the catastrophe. Six days after the battle of Nissib was fought, and while the messenger who bore the news was still in Anatolia, he expired, leaving the throne to his son, Abdul Medjid, a youth of sixteen. Scarcely had the new Sultan been proclaimed when it became known that the Admiral, Achmet Fewzi, who had been instructed to attack the Syrian coast, had sailed into the port of Alexandria, and handed over the Turkish fleet to Mehemet Ali himself.

[Relations of the Powers to Mehemet.]

[Quadruple Treaty without France. July, 1840.]

The very suddenness of these disasters, which left the Ottoman Empire rulerless and without defence by land or sea, contributed ultimately to its preservation, inasmuch as it impelled the Powers to combined action, which, under less urgent pressure, would probably not have been attainable. On the announcement of the exorbitant conditions of peace demanded by Mehemet, the ambassadors addressed a collective note to the Divan, requesting that no answer might be made until the Courts had arrived at some common resolution. Soon afterwards the French and English fleets appeared at the Dardanelles, nominally to protect Constantinople against the attack of the Viceroy, in reality to guard against any sudden movement on the part of Russia. This display of force was, however, not necessary, for the Czar, in spite of some expressions to the contrary, had already convinced himself that it was impossible to act upon the Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi and to make the protectorate of Turkey the affair of Russia alone. The tone which had been taken by the English Government during the last preceding years proved that any attempt to exercise exclusive power at Constantinople would have been followed by war with Great Britain, in which most, if not all, of the European Powers would have stood on the side of the latter. Abandoning therefore the hope of attaining sole control, the Russian Government addressed itself to the task of widening as far as possible the existing divergence between England and France. Nor was this difficult. The Cabinet of the Tuileries desired to see Mehemet Ali issue with increased strength from the conflict, or even to establish his dynasty at Constantinople in place of the House of Osman. Lord Palmerston, always jealous and suspicious of Louis Philippe, refused to believe that the growth of Russian power could be checked by dividing the Ottoman Empire, or that any system of Eastern policy could be safely based on the personal qualities of a ruler now past his seventieth year. [402] He had moreover his own causes of discontent with Mehemet. The possibility of establishing an overland route to India either by way of the Euphrates or of the Red Sea had lately been engaging the attention of the English Government, and Mehemet had not improved his position by raising obstacles to either line of passage. It was partly in consequence of the hostility of Mehemet, who was now master of a great part of Arabia, and of his known devotion to French interests, that the port of Aden in the Red Sea was at this time occupied by England. If, while Russia accepted the necessity of combined European action and drew nearer to its rival, France persisted in maintaining the claim of the Viceroy to extended dominion, the exclusion of France from the European concert was the only possible result. There was no doubt as to the attitude of the remaining Powers. Metternich, whether from genuine pedantry, or in order to avoid the expression of those fears of Russia which really governed his Eastern policy, repeated his threadbare platitudes on the necessity of supporting legitimate dynasties against rebels, and spoke of the victor of Konieh and Nissib as if he had been a Spanish constitutionalist or a recalcitrant German professor. The Court of Berlin followed in the same general course. In all Europe Mehemet Ali had not a single ally, with the exception of the Government of Louis Philippe. Under these circumstances it was of little avail to the Viceroy that his army stood on Turkish soil without a foe before it, and that the Sultan's fleet lay within his own harbour of Alexandria. The intrigues by which he hoped to snatch a hasty peace from the inexperience of the young Sultan failed, and he learnt in October that no arrangement which he might make with the Porte without the concurrence of the Powers would be recognised as valid. In the meantime Russia was suggesting to the English Government one project after another for joint military action with the object of driving Mehemet from Syria and restoring this province to the Porte; and at the beginning of the following year it was determined on Metternich's proposition that a Conference should forthwith be held in London for the settlement of Eastern affairs. The irreconcilable difference between the intentions of France and those of the other Powers at once became evident. France proposed that all Syria and Egypt should be given in hereditary dominion to Mehemet Ali, with no further obligation towards the Porte than the payment of a yearly tribute. The counter-proposal of England was that Mehemet, recognising the Sultan's authority, should have the hereditary government of Egypt alone, that he should entirely withdraw from all Northern Syria, and hold Palestine only as an ordinary governor appointed by the Porte for his lifetime. To this proposition all the Powers with the exception of France gave their assent. Continued negotiation only brought into stronger relief the obstinacy of Lord Palmerston, and proved the impossibility of attaining complete agreement. At length, when it had been discovered that the French Cabinet was attempting to conduct a separate mediation, the Four Powers, without going through the form of asking for French sanction, signed on the 15th of July a Treaty with the Sultan pledging themselves to enforce upon Mehemet Ali the terms arranged. The Sultan undertook in the first instance to offer Mehemet Egypt in perpetuity and southern Syria for his lifetime. If this offer was not accepted within ten days, Egypt alone was to be offered. If at the end of twenty days Mehemet still remained obstinate, that offer in its turn was to be withdrawn, and the Sultan and the Allies were to take such measures as the interests of the Ottoman Empire might require. [403]

[Warlike spirit in France, 1840.]

The publication of this Treaty, excluding France as it did from the concert of Europe, produced a storm of indignation at Paris. Thiers, who more than any man had by his writings stimulated the spirit of aggressive warfare among the French people and revived the worship of Napoleon, was now at the head of the Government. His jealousy for the prestige of France, his comparative indifference to other matters when once the national honour appeared to be committed, his sanguine estimate of the power of his country, rendered him a peculiarly dangerous Minister at the existing crisis. It was not the wrongs or the danger of Mehemet Ali, but the slight offered to France, and the revived League of the Powers which had humbled it in 1814, that excited the passion of the Minister and the nation. Syria was forgotten; the cry was for the recovery of the frontier of the Rhine, and for revenge for Waterloo. New regiments were enrolled, the fleet strengthened, and the long-delayed fortification of Paris begun. Thiers himself probably looked forward to a campaign in Italy, anticipating that successfully conducted by Napoleon III. in 1859, rather than to an attack upon Prussia; but the general opinion both in France itself and in other states was that, if war should break out, an invasion of Germany was inevitable. The prospect of this invasion roused in a manner little expected the spirit of the German people. Even in the smaller states, and in the Rhenish provinces themselves, which for twenty years had shared the fortunes of France, and in which the introduction of Prussian rule in 1814 had been decidedly unpopular, a strong national movement carried everything before it; and the year 1840 added to the patriotic minstrelsy of Germany a war-song, written by a Rhenish citizen, not less famous than those of 1813 and 1870. [404] That there were revolutionary forces smouldering throughout Europe, from which France might in a general war have gained some assistance, the events of 1848 sufficiently proved; but to no single Government would a revolutionary war have been fraught with more imminent peril than to that of France itself, and to no one was this conviction more habitually present than to King Louis Philippe. Relying upon his influence within the Chamber of Deputies, itself a body representing the wealth and the caution rather than the hot spirit of France, the King refused to read at the opening of the session in October the speech drawn up for him by Thiers, and accepted the consequent resignation of the Ministry. Guizot, who was ambassador in London, and an advocate for submission to the will of Europe, was called to office, and succeeded after long debate in gaining a vote of confidence from the Chamber. Though preparations for war continued, a policy of peace was now assured. Mehemet Ali was left to his fate; and the stubborn assurance of Lord Palmerston, which had caused so much annoyance to the English Ministry itself, received a striking justification in the face of all Europe.

[Ibrahim expelled from Syria, Sept.-Nov., 1840.]

[Final settlement, Feb., 1841.]

[The Dardanelles.]

The operations of the Allies against Mehemet Ali had now begun. While Prussia kept guard on the Rhine, and Russia undertook to protect Constantinople against any forward movement of Ibrahim, an Anglo-Austrian naval squadron combined with a Turkish land-force in attacking the Syrian coast-towns. The mountain-tribes of the interior were again in revolt. Arms supplied to them by the Allies, and the insurrection soon spread over the greater part of Syria. Ibrahim prepared for an obstinate defence, but his dispositions were frustrated by the extension of the area of conflict, and he was unable to prevent the coast-towns from falling one after another into the hands of the Allies. On the capture of Acre by Sir Charles Napier he abandoned all hope of maintaining himself any longer in Syria, and made his way with the wreck of his army towards the Egyptian frontier. Napier had already arrived before Alexandria, and there executed a convention with the Viceroy, by which the latter, abandoning all claim upon his other provinces, and undertaking to restore the Turkish fleet, was assured of the hereditary possession of Egypt. The convention was one which the English admiral had no authority to conclude, but it contained substantially the terms which the Allies intended to enforce; and after Mehemet had made a formal act of submission to the Sultan, the hereditary government of Egypt was conferred upon himself and his family by a decree published by the

History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 120/202

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