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- History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 150/202 -


its authors. The draft was sent to St. Petersburg, and was accepted by the Czar. At Constantinople its ambiguities were at once recognised; and though Lord Stratford in his official capacity urged its acceptance under a European guarantee against misconstruction, the Divan, now under the pressure of strong patriotic forces, refused to accept the note unless certain changes were made in its expressions. France, England, and Austria united in recommending to the Court of St. Petersburg the adoption of these amendments. The Czar, however, declined to admit them, and a Russian document, which obtained a publicity for which it was not intended, proved that the construction of the note which the amendments were expressly designed to exclude was precisely that which Russia meant to place upon it. The British Ministry now refused to recommend the note any longer to the Porte. [465] Austria, while it approved of the amendments, did not consider that their rejection by the Czar justified England in abandoning the note as the common award of the European Powers; and thus the concert of Europe was interrupted, England and France combining in a policy which Austria and Prussia were not willing to follow. In proportion as the chances of joint European action diminished, the ardour of the Turks themselves, and of those who were to be their allies, rose higher. Tumults, organised by the heads of the war-party, broke out at Constantinople; and although Stratford scorned the alarms of his French colleagues, who reported that a massacre of the Europeans in the capital was imminent, he thought it necessary to call up two vessels of war in order to provide for the security of the English residents and of the Sultan himself. In England Palmerston and the men of action in the Cabinet dragged Lord Aberdeen with them. The French Government pressed for vigorous measures, and in conformity with its desire instructions were sent from London to Lord Stratford to call the fleet to the Bosphorus, and to employ it in defending the territory of the Sultan against aggression. On the 22nd of October the British and French fleets passed the Dardanelles.

[The ultimatum of Omar Pasha rejected, Oct. 10.]

[Turkish squadron destroyed at Sinope, Nov. 30.]

The Turk, sure of the protection of the Western Powers, had for some weeks resolved upon war; and yet the possibilities of a diplomatic settlement were not yet exhausted. Stratford himself had forwarded to Vienna the draft of an independent note which the Sultan was prepared to accept. This had not yet been seen at St. Petersburg. Other projects of conciliation filled the desks of all the leading politicians of Europe. Yet, though the belief generally existed that some scheme could be framed by which the Sultan, without sacrifice of his dignity and interest, might induce the Czar to evacuate the Principalities, no serious attempt was made to prevent the Turks from coming into collision with their enemies both by land and sea. The commander of the Russian troops in the Principalities having, on the 10th of October, rejected an ultimatum requiring him to withdraw within fifteen days, this answer was taken as the signal for the commencement of hostilities. The Czar met the declaration of war with a statement that he would abstain from taking the offensive, and would continue merely to hold the Principalities as a material guarantee. Omar Pasha, the Ottoman commander in Bulgaria, was not permitted to observe the same passive attitude. Crossing the Danube, he attacked and defeated the Russians at Oltenitza. Thus assailed, the Czar considered that his engagement not to act on the offensive was at an end, and the Russian fleet, issuing from Sebastopol, attacked and destroyed a Turkish squadron in the harbour of Sinope on the southern coast of the Black Sea (November 30). The action was a piece of gross folly on the part of the Russian authorities if they still cherished the hopes of pacification which the Czar professed; but others also were at fault. Lord Stratford and the British Admiral, if they could not prevent the Turkish ships from remaining in the Euxine, where they were useless against the superior force of Russia, might at least in exercise of the powers given to them have sent a sufficient escort to prevent an encounter. But the same ill-fortune and incompleteness that had marked all the diplomacy of the previous months attended the counsels of the Admirals at the Bosphorus; and the disaster of Sinope rendered war between the Western Powers and Russia almost inevitable. [466]

[Effect of the action at Sinope.]

[Russian ships required to enter port, December.]

[England and France declare war, March 27, 1854.]

The Turks themselves had certainly not understood the declaration of the Emperor Nicholas as assuring their squadron at Sinope against attack; and so far was the Ottoman Admiral from being the victim of a surprise that he had warned his Government some days before of the probability of his own destruction. But to the English people, indignant with Russia since its destruction of Hungarian liberty and its tyrannous demand for the surrender of the Hungarian refugees, all that now passed heaped up the intolerable sum of autocratic violence and deceit. The cannonade which was continued against the Turkish crews at Sinope long after they had become defenceless gave to the battle the aspect of a massacre; the supposed promise of the Czar to act only on the defensive caused it to be denounced as an act of flagrant treachery; the circumstance that the Turkish fleet was lying within one of the Sultan's harbours, touching as it were the territory which the navy of England had undertaken to protect, imparted to the attack the character of a direct challenge and defiance to England. The cry rose loud for war. Napoleon, eager for the alliance with England, eager in conjunction with England to play a great part before Europe, even at the cost of a war from which France had nothing to gain, proposed that the combined fleets should pass the Bosphorus and require every Russian vessel sailing on the Black Sea to re-enter port. His proposal was adopted by the British Government. Nicholas learnt that the Russian flag was swept from the Euxine. It was in vain that a note upon which the representatives of the Powers at Vienna had once more agreed was accepted by the Porte and forwarded to St. Petersburg (December 31). The pride of the Czar was wounded beyond endurance, and at the beginning of February he recalled his ambassadors from London and Paris. A letter written to him by Napoleon III., demanding in the name of himself and the Queen of England the evacuation of the Principalities, was answered by a reference to the campaign of Moscow, Austria now informed the Western Powers that if they would fix a delay for the evacuation of the Principalities, the expiration of which should be the signal for hostilities, it would support the summons; and without waiting to learn whether Austria would also unite with them in hostilities in the event of the summons being rejected, the British and French Governments despatched their ultimatum to St. Petersburg. Austria and Prussia sought, but in vain, to reconcile the Court of St. Petersburg to the only measure by which peace could now be preserved. The ultimatum remained without an answer, and on the 27th of March England and France declared war.

[Policy of Austria.]

The Czar had at one time believed that in his Eastern schemes he was sure of the support of Austria; and he had strong reasons for supposing himself entitled to its aid. But his mode of thought was simpler than that of the Court of Vienna. Schwarzenberg, when it was remarked that the intervention of Russia in Hungary would bind the House of Hapsburg too closely to its protector, had made the memorable answer, "We will astonish the world by our ingratitude." It is possible that an instance of Austrian gratitude would have astonished the world most of all; but Schwarzenberg's successors were not the men to sacrifice a sound principle to romance. Two courses of Eastern policy have, under various modifications, had their advocates in rival schools of statesmen at Vienna. The one is that of expansion southward in concert with Russia; the other is that of resistance to the extension of Russian power, and the consequent maintenance of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. During Metternich's long rule, inspired as this was by a faith in the Treaties and the institutions of 1815, and by the dread of every living, disturbing force, the second of these systems had been consistently followed. In 1854 the determining motive of the Court of Vienna was not a decided political conviction, but the certainty that if it united with Russia it would be brought into war with the Western Powers. Had Russia and Turkey been likely to remain alone in the arena, an arrangement for territorial compensation would possibly, as on some other occasions, have won for the Czar an Austrian alliance. Combination against Turkey was, however, at the present time, too perilous an enterprise for the Austrian monarchy; and, as nothing was to be gained through the war, it remained for the Viennese diplomatists to see that nothing was lost and as little as possible wasted. The presence of Russian troops in the Principalities, where they controlled the Danube in its course between the Hungarian frontier and the Black Sea, was, in default of some definite understanding, a danger to Austria; and Count Buol, the Minister at Vienna, had therefore every reason to thank the Western Powers for insisting on the evacuation of this district. When France and England were burning to take up arms, it would have been a piece of superfluous brutality towards the Czar for Austria to attach to its own demand for the evacuation of the Principalities the threat of war. But this evacuation Austria was determined to enforce. It refused, as did Prussia, to give to the Czar the assurance of its neutrality; and, inasmuch as the free navigation of the Danube as far as the Black Sea had now become recognised as one of the commercial interests of Germany at large, Prussia and the German Federation undertook to protect the territory of Austria, if, in taking the measures necessary to free the Principalities, it should itself be attacked by Russia. [467]

[Prussia.]

The King of Prussia, clouded as his mind was by political and religious phantasms, had nevertheless at times a larger range of view than his neighbours; and his opinion as to the true solution of the difficulties between Nicholas and the Porte, at the time of Menschikoff's mission, deserved more attention than it received. Frederick William proposed that the rights of the Christian subjects of the Sultan should be placed by Treaty under the guarantee of all the Great Powers. This project was opposed by Lord Stratford and the Turkish Ministers as an encroachment on the Sultan's sovereignty, and its rejection led the King to write with some asperity to his ambassador in London that he should seek the welfare of Prussia in absolute neutrality. [468] At a later period the King demanded from England, as the condition of any assistance from himself, a guarantee for the maintenance of the frontiers of Germany and Prussia. He regarded Napoleon III. as the representative of a revolutionary system, and believed that under him French armies would soon endeavour to overthrow the order of Europe established in 1815. That England should enter into a close alliance with this man excited the King's astonishment and disgust; and unless the Cabinet of London were prepared to give a guarantee against any future attack on Germany by the French Emperor, who was believed to be ready for every political adventure, it was vain for England to seek Prussia's aid. Lord Aberdeen could give no such guarantee; still less could he gratify the King's strangely passionate demand for the restoration of his authority in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel, which before 1848 had belonged in name to the Hohenzollerns. Many influences were brought to bear upon the King from the side both of England and of Russia. The English Court and Ministers, strenuously supported by Bunsen, the Prussian ambassador, strove to enlist the King in an active concert of Europe against Russia by dwelling on the duties of Prussia as a Great Power and the dangers arising to it from isolation. On the other hand, the admiration felt by Frederick William for the Emperor Nicholas, and the old habitual friendship between Prussia and Russia, gave strength to the Czar's advocates at Berlin. Schemes for a reconstruction of Europe, which were devised by Napoleon, and supposed to receive some countenance from Palmerston, reached the King's ear. [469] He heard that Austria was to be offered the Danubian Provinces upon condition of giving up northern Italy; that Piedmont was to receive Lombardy, and in return to surrender Savoy to France; that, if Austria should decline to unite actively with the Western Powers, revolutionary movements were to be stirred up in Italy and in Hungary. Such reports kindled the King's rage. "Be under no illusion," he wrote to his ambassador; "tell the British Ministers in their private ear and on the housetops that I will not suffer Austria to be attacked by the revolution without drawing the sword in its


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