of the law, and especially in the security of life and property. Like Russia, Turkey is a despotism of the Asiatic type; but there is far more liberty here than there, even for the natives of the country, and the present Suitan is doing his best to develop the resources of the Empire. Whatever may be the final destiny of Constantinople, it is, beyond a doubt, for the present interest of English commerce that it continue to be the capital of the Turkish Empire, and it can never be an advantage to England to have it annexed to Russia, whatever the alternative may be.

There is still another view which we are bound to take of the advance of Russia to Constantinople. It is not a new one; Englishmen were once very familiar with it. At the time of the Crimean War it was presented fully as a moral justification of the action of England in defending Turkey. It was claimed that this war was really a conflict between Eastern and Western civilization, between despotism and liberty; that it was undertaken, not to defend Turkey or English interests, but the rights of man. Here is an extract from the Economist of Dec. 2, 1854:—

[ocr errors]

"What are we fighting for? It is not, as Mr. Bright has dared to represent, to uphold a filthy despotism.' It is not to maintain a decrepit Government, which may or may not be rapidly improving, which may or may not be able to recover its vitality and renew its strength, but with which we can have, per se, no very close or vivid sympathies. It is not to retain in the East of Europe that political and diplomatic influence which we began to fear might be overshadowed by the growing power of our rival. It is not, in a word, for any of those trifling or hollow purposes for which too many of our former wars were undertaken. We are fighting not for Turkey, but for Europe. We are fighting not for a Mohammedan despotism, but for European freedom and civilization. We are fighting not for Turkey but against Russia. We are doing what the very difficulties we encounter show us ought to have been done long ago. We are engaged in the task of controlling and beating back a Power which already overshadows half of Asia and three-fourths of Europe, which a few more years of supine inaction on our part, and of tolerated encroachment on hers, may make absolutely irresistible, and whom we know to be the resolute, instinctive, conscientious foe of all that we hold dearest and most sacred-of human rights, of civil liberty, of enlightened progress. A little more sleep and a little more folding of the hands to rest a little more pausing in apathy, as we


have been doing year after year, step after step, conquest after conquest--and Russia

would have been supreme at the Sound and on the Dardanelles, and the chance of saving civilization and assuring freedom have been lost forever." 'If we are not to stand forever aloof in cold indifference to the welfare

and existence of other States; if there be such things as social duties among nations; finally, if it be as right to draw the sword in defence of the highest interests of humanity as of our own material possessions, we in our hearts believe that history can rarely point to a war so

just, so holy, and so imperative as this.”

This is a fair specimen of hundreds of articles that were written during those years, and I find them not only interesting, but somewhat novel. I do not remember to have read much of late years on the duties that we owe to liberty and the rights of man, or the fundamental principles of Western civilization. Perhaps Louis Napoleon's idea of the rights of nationalities has taken the place of the idea of individual liberty; or possibly Bismarck has rendered despotism once more respectable. Perhaps we have half accepted the claim of Socialism, that civic liberty is worthless and our own civilization a failure; or possibly we have been fully occupied with the effort to rid ourselves of Christianity. Whatever may be the reason, there has not been much said on this subject of late; and even the French Republic seems to have inherited none of the propagandist spirit of the Revolution. It seems to be more utterly selfish than even the last Empire.

But are these things really less dear or less important to us than they were thirty years ago? Are they no longer worth fighting for? There was no difference of opinion on this subject in Great Britain at the time of the Crimean War. Those who opposed the war then, and those who have condemned it since, did so on the ground that no such interests were really at stake, and it must be confessed that appearances were somewhat in favor of this view, in spite of the honest conviction of the English people to the contrary. I have no wish to discuss the Crimean War. I wish only to call attention to the noble principles which inspired the people at that time. Whatever may have been true then or in other wars, there is no need of question or misapprehension now. Russia cannot claim that her advance is

[ocr errors]

now in the interests of any oppressed nationality. She is not called by any persecuted Christians to free them from the Turkish yoke. Bulgaria has no desire to be annexed to the Russian Empire. She has resisted the encroachments of Russia to the best of her ability, and what she demands is liberty to work out her own destiny. The aim of Russia is conquest; it is to fulfil her 'historic destiny, to capture Constan tinople and extend her frontiers to the Adriatic. From her point of view this is, no doubt, a perfectly natural and reasonable object. It is easy to understand that the Czar may honestly feel that he has reason to rage against the Bulgarians, who most unexpectedly stand in his way. He probably thinks that he has a divine right to capture Constantinople and restore it to Orthodoxy. He undoubtedly believes that it would be a blessing to Europe if he ruled the whole of it, and could reduce it to the condition of Russia. It is not necessary to attribute to him any unworthy motives, or to question his sincerity if he draws his sword in the name of the Holy Trinity. He represents an idea of civilization, of government, and of the rights of man, totally different from ours-an idea which we believe to be destructive of all human progress; an Asiatic rather than a European idea. It is not for us to force our idea upon him or his people. If they are satisfied, or if they are not yet ready to appreciate and accept our idea, it is their own affair. We may pity them, but we have no right to declare war against them. In fact, so far as I know, the AngloSaxon race has no race antipathy for the Russians. On the contrary, there is much in the Russian character with which we can sympathize better than any other race in the world. For my own part, there is no people in Europe which has interested me more than the Russians.

But when the Czar proposes to use his despotic power and the vast resources which are at the command of his single will, to force his idea upon Europe, to destroy the liberties of rising nationalities, and to threaten our civilization, it seems to me that if there is in England any of that spirit which was manifested thirty years ago, it will rise to resist the

advance of Russia. If England has more faith in democracy than she had then, so much the more reason is there for her to defend it.

That the advance of Russia will be the destruction of the liberties of southeastern Europe is plain enough. The Roumanians, Bulgarians, Servians, and Greeks have no sympathy with the Russian idea. However we may account for it, these races under Turkish rule learned to hate despotism and to value individual liberty. They grew into sympathy with Western rather than Eastern civilization. All their hopes and aspirations are in that direction, and have been ever since their emancipation. The Greeks, who have been free the longest, are more democratic than the French, and quite as much so as the English. There is no reason why these races, if left to themselves, should not be in full sympathy with the best ideas of Western Europe, and do their part in solving the great problems of human progress. There is no reason why they should not come into a friendly alliance between themselves, and secure peace, wealth, and prosperity to this part of the world. Up to the present time the chief obstacle to this alliance has been the constant intrigues of Russia. an end to this and give them time, and they will then come into harmony. It may seem hard to make this charge against Russia, when all these people owe more or less of their liberty to her efforts. But it is true, and the Bulgarians have been told often enough within the past year, by the Russians themselves, that Russia fought the last war for her own interests and not for theirs.


The advance of Russia to Constantinople will condemn these people to the fate of Poland. Their liberties will be abolished, their hopes crushed, and their spirit broken. South-eastern Europe will be lost to civilization and progress, and become the support of Russian despotism. Is there nothing here which is worth defending-nothing which the new English democracy thinks worth fighting for? Has the democracy discovered that all interests but selfish ones are exploded superstitions? I believe that those English politicians who think that this is the spirit of the democracy have made the great mistake of their lives.

They will find it more easily stirred by moral considerations than the old aristocracy.

But the liberties of South-eastern Europe are not the only ones that will be endangered by the advance of Russia. If she secures the vast increase of power involved in this conquest, her influence will be supreme in Europe, and one of two things must follow either the submission of Europe to the dictation of Russia and the gradual substitution of Russian for Western civilization, or a life-and-death struggle between the two, which would arrest the progress of Europe for fifty years, even if Russia were defeated. It is true that the Continental Powers, and Austria first of all, have a more immediate interest in this impending danger than England has. It is true that the Russian hates the German and the Bulgarian with a bitterness beyond our comprehension, and has no such hatred of the Englishman; but it is the dream of a fool's paradise to imagine, as one writer suggests, that England can allow Europe to go to destruction, and yet remain rich and prosperous as mistress of the seas and powerful in her colonies. England is not mistress of the seas now, and still less would she be so if Russia were at Constantinople. She is not so far from Europe as to be beyond the reach of Russia even now. How many allies did she find when a war was imminent in 1885? Every advance of Russia in Europe must weaken the power, diminish the commerce, increase the expenditure, and endanger the liberties of England. English civilization has its own peculiarities, but it is essentially the civilization of Europe, and it will stand or fall with this. It has its imperfections, and there is plenty of room for improvement; but it will not be improved by the Russification of Europe. True civilization is constantly aggressive, and it is not this feature of Russian civilization to which we object. If the Russians believe, as they say so openly, that the civilization of Europe is corrupt and dying, while theirs is pure and living, it is their duty to be aggressive. But if England values her civilization, she must defend it on the Continent as well as at home. It will be a poor consolation to know that south-eastern Europe and Austria have

[ocr errors]

been the first to suffer, when England herself comes to feel the weight of the Russian advance, and when it is too late to turn back the tide.

It may be true that England cannot defend Constantinople alone against an advance of Russia by way of Bulgaria, but it is equally true that Austria cannot do it alone. It has been supposed that Austria might compromise with Russia and save herself by becoming an accomplice, but this is an idea which could only have occurred to one who was imperfectly acquainted with the Balkan Peninsula. If Russia secures Bulgaria, she is just as certain to go to the Adriatic as she is to come to Constantinople. The nature of the country and the character of the people are such that no Power could share it with Russia, except, perhaps, as a temporary expedient. Austria and England together could save Bulgaria and defend Constantinople, even if Russia attacked India at the same time. For both it would be strictly a defensive war—a war in defence of life and liberty. I believe that for both it would be a war worth every sacrifice that it would cost.

It is said, with how much truth I do not know, that France, which has always claimed to be the founder and leader of our Western civilization, has allied herself with Russia and will support her advance-that she has sold herself to Russia in order to drive England out of Egypt. It is said that Germany, which has aspired to dominate Europe, fears a Franco-Russian alliance, and will not move to assist Austria, but on the contrary advises her to compromise with Russia. It is said that Austria and England distrust one another, and that Turkey will give up the Balkans to secure a precarious lease of Constantinople for a few more years. It is said that it is better to sacrifice Bulgaria than to have a European war. This all seems incredible to me. It is true that no Power in Europe can desire war, and that no Power can now say decidedly what disposition it would wish to make of Constantinople if the Turks were to leave it. But it does not follow from this that they will allow Russia to take advantage of their jealousies to secure its road to Constantinople and finally capture the city.

Still, history sometimes repeats itself, and it remains to be seen whether it will do so in this case.

Once before in the history of the world Europe has been summoned to defend Constantinople in the interests of civilization. It was then the bulwark of Christendom. It had long defended Europe against the ever-advancing Turk. But the Emperor was weak, his Court was feeble and corrupt, his people demoralized, his treasury empty, and his friends few. He had lost Bulgaria as well as Asia, and the Turks had gained it. He appealed to Europe, in the name of Christianity and civilization, to save itself in saving him. No one cared for him, which was not strange perhaps, and it was not the business of any one in particular to defend Europe. Perhaps they thought that the Turk was not so bad after all, and that when he had won Constantinople he would be content to let Europe alone, or that his character might change under these new circumstances. At any rate, the question whether Constantinople was worth fighting for was discussed all over Europe, and while they were still discussing the city was captured. The story is too familiar to be repeated here; but the fact is worth recalling, that when it was too late Europe recognized the importance of Constantinople, and suffered the consequences of her folly for

centuries. The Turk was not less aggressive than before. He was far more than ever the terror of the world. He did not adopt European civilization. He did his best to destroy it, as his conscience bound him to do. After 400 years he is still here.

And now Europe is once more discussing the same question. It cares as little, perhaps, for the Sultan as the old Europe did for the Emperor Constantine Palæologus, and is as much puzzled as to the future of the city. It is summoned, however, to defend it against the Czar of Russia, the present representative of Asiatic despotism and a new civilization which is to be forced upon Europe.

I do not mean any disrespect either to the Czar or to the memory of Mahomet II. in making this comparison. I do not attribute to the Czar any intentions that have not been proclaimed by his most intimate friends and advisers as a part of the "historic destiny" of Russia. She is to capture Constantinople, and from this vantage-ground she is to convert Europe to her own ideas of government, destroy Western civilization, and substitute a higher and better one of her own in its place. Such was also the plan of Mahomet II.

The question is, whether Europe will repeat the mistake which she made in 1453.—Contemporary Review.

[blocks in formation]

Why do I love her? First make clear

Whence steals through minster aisles the restful spell

That fills with mystic sense the atmosphere.

I then will tell.

Yes, love, to thee I turn from glare and crowd,
Tender as dales in spring, as summer's cloud,
Soothing as gentlest song, soft as perfume,
Purer than beads of dew, than snowdrop's bloom.
I in thy presence rest, where tumults cease,
The minster gate is closed, within is peace.

-Temple Bar.

[ocr errors]


"THERE is," wrote Lord Tennyson not long ago to an enterprising gentleman (of American extraction) who had addressed him on the question-so dear to some critics, so delicate to all poets -the great and still-vexed question of plagiarism, there is, I fear, a prosaic set growing up among us, editors of booklets, bookworms, index-hunters, or men of great memories and no imagination," and so forth. There was more in the indictment, but this is the gist of it for us just at present.

Other persons, less distinguished than Lord Tennyson, have found words for the same thought before him; and who does not remember how himself, when but plain Will Waterproof, one winter's evening many a long year ago was moved, by the relish of a vintage

"-whose father-grape grew fat
in Lusitanian summers,"

[ocr errors]

to grow somewhat maudlin-moral over the evil an age of little books was like to work on the vast heart of the poet ? Only the other day Mr. Goldwin Smith asked in these pages if the noticeable stagnation in our literature and art might not be something more than the mere accidental meeting of the man and the moment, might not rather be a sign that the world had passed forever out of its poetic youth into a maturity of science? Perhaps for the mere fact that the present is a time of small creative activity in literature we need not be so greatly alarmed, but rather, indeed, hug ourselves in anticipation-we happy few, who still dare shut our ears to the honey-sweet voice of Mr. Herbert Spencer, and will not accept all poetry as mere sensual caterwauling. If we consider, it was so before either of those splendid poetic outbursts that England has known. It was so before Marlowe built his mighty line to make

ready the way for Shakespeare; it was so before Burns and Cowper struck the first notes of that great jubilee of song of whose dying strains even our own times have caught some fitful echoes. And now that a generation has arisen which can buy nineteen editions of "The Epic of Hades," remembering what was in store for the children of the men who thought the author of The Triumphs of Temper" a great poet, we may take heart of grace and hope that the end cannot be far off, and that even our old ears may yet be destined to catch the first notes of another Shelley carolling like his own skylark in the dawn of a new golden age.

[ocr errors]

But our present purpose is not to dip into the future-an enchanting pastime for the poet, but for us poor dwellers in this work-day world of prose, who cannot stay our hungry stomachs with such stuff as dreams are made of, an unsubstantial toil-our purpose, we say, is not with the future but the present. us try to accept the present and all its works, not grudgingly nor querulously. but, like honest Dogberry, giving God thanks and making no boast of it.


There is,

There is no doubt of our activity in the production of printed matter. Whatever the quality be, the quantity at least is Gargantuan. Some unknown sin has dipped us all in ink. we believe, a statute of the realm which compels every publisher to send a copy of every book he publishes to the libraries of the British Museum and of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. But unless a second Omar comes erelong to our help, surely the world itself will not contain the books that shall be written. Sometimes one is tempted half to wish that one of our myriadminded Governments would ordain another statute to check this inky torrent, or that the famous invention of Johann

« VorigeDoorgaan »