Turkey and Russia. Connivance of the Aberdeen Ministry with Russia. The Budget. Tax on Newspaper Supplements. Parliamentary Corruption

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London, Tuesday, June 21, 1853

In the year 1828, when Russia was permitted to overrun Turkey with war, and to terminate that war by the Treaty of Adrianople, which surrendered to her the whole of the Eastern coast of the Black Sea, from Anapa in the North to Poti in the South (except Circassia), and delivered into her possession the islands at the mouth of the Danube, virtually separated Moldavia and Wallachia from Turkey, and placed them under Russian supremacy at that epoch Lord Aberdeen happened to be Minister of Foreign Affairs in Great Britain. In 1853 we find the very same Aberdeen as the chief of the "composite ministry" in the same country. This simple fact goes far to explain the overbearing attitude assumed by Russia in her present conflict with Turkey and with Europe. I told you in my last letter that the storm aroused by the revelations of The Press respecting the secret transactions between Aberdeen, Clarendon and Baron Brunnow[1], was not likely to subside under the hair-splitting, tortuous and disingenuous pleading of Thursday's[2] Times. The Times was even then forced to admit in a semi-official article, that Lord Clarendon had indeed given his assent to the demands about to be made by Russia on the Porte, but said that the demands as represented in London, and those actually proposed at Constantinople, had turned out to be of quite a different tenor, although the papers communicated by Baron Brunnow to the British Minister purported to be "literal extracts" from the instructions forwarded to Prince Menchikoff. On the following Saturday, however, The Times[3] retracted its assertions—undoubtedly in consequence of remonstrances made on the part of the Russian Embassy and gave Baron Brunnow a testimonial of perfect "candor and faith." The Morning Herald of yesterday puts the question "whether Russia had not perhaps given false instructions to Baron Brunnow himself, in order to deceive the British Minister?"[4] In the meantime, fresh disclosures, studiously concealed from the public by a corrupt daily press, have been made, which exclude any such interpretation, throwing the whole blame on the shoulders of the "composite ministry," and quite sufficient to warrant the impeachment of Lords Aberdeen and Clarendon before any other Parliament than the present, which is but a paralytic produce of dead constituencies artificially stimulated into life by unexampled bribery and intimidation.

It is stated that a communication was made to Lord Clarendon, wherein he was informed that the affair of the Shrines was not the sole object of the Russian Prince[5]. In that communication the general question was entered into, the question of the Greek Christians of Turkey, and of the position of the Emperor of Russia with respect to them under certain treaties. All these points were canvassed, and the course about to be adopted by Russia explicitly stated the same as detailed in the projected convention of the 6th of May[6]. Lord Clarendon, with the assent of Lord Aberdeen, in no wise either disapproved or discouraged that course. While matters stood thus in London, Bonaparte sent his fleet to Salamis, public opinion pressed from without, Ministers were interpellated in both Houses, Russell pledged himself to the maintenance of the integrity and independence of Turkey, and Prince Menchikoff threw off the mask at Constantinople. It now became necessary for Lords Aberdeen and Clarendon to initiate the other Ministers in what had been done, and the Coalition was on the eve of being broken up, as Lord Palmerston, forced by his antecedents, urged a directly opposite line of policy. In order to prevent the dissolution of his Cabinet, Lord Aberdeen finally yielded to Lord Palmerston, and consented to the combined action of the English and French fleets in the Dardanelles. But at the same time, in order to fulfill his engagements toward Russia, Lord Aberdeen intimated through a private dispatch to St. Petersburg that he would not look upon the occupation of the Danubian Principalities by the Russians as a casus belli, and The Times received orders to prepare public opinion for this new interpretation of international treaties. It would be unjust to withhold the testimonial that it has labored hard enough to prove that black is white. This same journal, which had all along contended that the Russian protectorate over the Greek Christians of Turkey would not be of any political consequence at all, asserted at once that Moldavia and Wallachia were placed under a divided allegiance, and formed in reality no integral portions of the Turkish Empire: that their occupation would not be an invasion of the Turkish Empire in the "strict sense of the word," inasmuch as the treaties of Bucharest and Adrianople had given to the Czar a Protectorate over his co-religionists in the Danubian Provinces[7]." The Convention of Balta-Liman, concluded on May 1, 1849[8], distinctly stipulates:

"1. That the occupation of those provinces, if it occurs, shall only be by a joint one of Russian and Turkish forces.
"2. That the sole plea for it shall be in grave events taking place in the principalities."

Now as no events at all have taken place in those Principalities, and moreover, as Russia has no intention to enter them in common with the Turks, but precisely against Turkey, The Times is of opinion, that Turkey ought to suffer quietly the occupation by Russia alone, and afterward enter into negotiations with her. But if Turkey should be of a less sedate temper and consider the occupation as a casus belli, The Times argues that England and France must not do so; and if, nevertheless, England [and] France should do so, The Times recommends that it should be done in a gentle manner, by no means as belligerents against Russia, but only as defensive allies of Turkey.

This cowardly and tortuous system of The Times, I cannot more appropriately stigmatise than by quoting the following passage from its leading article of to-day. It is an incredible combination of all the contradictions, subterfuges, false pretences, anxieties and lâchetés[9] of Lord Aberdeen's policy:

"Before proceeding to the last extremities the Porte may, if it think fit, protest against the occupation of the principalities, and with the support of all the Powers of Europe, may still negotiate. It will remain with the Turkish government, acting in concert with the ambassadors of the four Powers, to determine this momentous point, and especially to decide whether the state of hostilities is such as to cause the Dardanelles to be opened to foreign ships of war, under the Convention of 1841.117 Should that question be decided in the affirmative, and the fleets be ordered to enter the Straits, it will then remain to be seen whether we come there as mediating Powers or as belligerents; for supposing Turkey and Russia to be at war, and foreign vessels of war to be admitted, casus foederis (!) they do not necessarily acquire a belligerent character, and they have a far greater interest in maintaining that of mediating Powers, inasmuch as they are sent not to make war but to prevent it. Such a measure does not of necessity make us principals in the contest."

All the leaders of The Times have been to no purpose. No other paper would follow in its track none would bite at its bait, and even the Ministerial papers, The Morning Chronicle, Morning Post, Globe, and Observer take an entirely different stand, finding a loud echo on the other side of the channel, where only the legitimist Assemblée nationale presumes to see no casus belli in the occupation of the Danubian Principalities.

The dissension in the camp of the Coalition Ministry has thus been betrayed to the public by the clamorous dissension in their organs. Palmerston urged upon the Cabinet to hold the occupation of Moldavia and Wallachia as a declaration of war, and he was backed up by the Whig and Sham-Radical members of the composite ministry. Lord Aberdeen, having only consented to the common action of the French and English fleets upon the understanding that Russia would not act at the Dardanelles but in the Danubian Provinces, was now quite "outwinded." The existence of the Government was again at stake. At last, at the pressing instances of Lord Aberdeen, Palmerston was prepared to give a sullen assent to the unchallenged occupation of the Principalities by Russia, when suddenly a dispatch arrived from Paris announcing that Bonaparte had resolved to view the same act as a casus belli. The confusion has now reached its highest point.

Now, if this statement be correct, and from our knowledge of Lord Aberdeen's past, there is every reason to consider it as such the whole mystery of that Russo-Turkish tragi-comedy that has occupied Europe for months together, is laid bare. We understand at once, why Lord Aberdeen would not move the British fleet from Malta. We understand the rebuke given to Colonel Rose for his resolute conduct at Constantinople[10], the bullying behavior of Prince Menchikoff, and the heroic firmness of the Czar who, conceiving the warlike movements of England as a mere farce, would have been glad to be allowed, by the uncontroverted occupation of Moldavia and Wallachia, not only to withdraw from the stage as the "master," but to hold his annual grand maneuvers at the cost and expense of the subjects of the Sultan. We believe that, if war should break out, it will be because Russia had gone too far to withdraw with impunity to her honor; and above all, we believe her courage to be up to this notch simply because she has all the while counted on England's connivance.

On this head the following passage is in point from the last letter from The Englishman[11] on the Coalition Ministry:

"The coalition is shaking at every breeze that flows from the Dardanelles. The fears of the good Aberdeen and the miserable incompetence of Clarendon, encouraged Russia, and have produced the crisis."

The latest news from Turkey is as follows: The Turkish Ambassador at Paris has received by telegraph, via Semlin, a dispatch from Constantinople, informing him that the Porte has rejected the last ultimatum of Russia[12], taking its stand on the memorandum forwarded to the Great Powers. The Sémaphore, of Marseilles, states that news had been received at Smyrna of the capture of two Turkish trading vessels on the Black Sea by the Russians; but that, on the other hand, the Caucasian tribes had opened a general campaign against the Russians, in which Shamyl had achieved a most brilliant victory, taking no less than 23 cannons.

Mr. Gladstone has now announced his altered proposals, with regard to the Advertisement Duty. He had proposed, in order to secure the support of The Times, to strike the duty off supplements containing advertisements only. He now proposes, intimidated by public opinion, to let all single supplements go free, and to tax each double supplement ½d. Imagine the fury of The Times, which, by this altered proposition, will only gain £20,000, instead of £40,000 a year, besides seeing the market thrown open to its competitors. This consistent journal which defends to the utmost the taxes upon knowledge, and the duty on advertisements, now opposes any tax on supplements. But it may console itself. If the Ministry, after having carried the greater part of the budget, feels no longer any necessity for cajoling The Times, the Manchester men, as soon as they have secured their share of the budget, will no longer want the Ministry. This is what the latter apprehend, and that very apprehension accounts for the fact of the budget discussion extending over the whole period of the session. It is characteristic of the compensating justice of Mr. Gladstone, that while he reduces the newspaper advertisement duty from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 3d., he proposes to tax the literary advertisements inserted at the end of most books and reviews, 6 pence each.

To-night the House of Commons will be occupied on two cases of bribery. During the present session 47 Election-Committees have been sitting, out of which, 4 are yet sitting, 43 having concluded their investigations, by finding the majority of the unseated members guilty of bribery. To show the respect in which this Parliament, the offspring of corruption and the parent of Coalitions, is held by public opinion, it is sufficient to quote the following words of to-day's Morning Herald:

"If want of clear aim and object, and still more, the tottering and quavering attack, be symptomatic of imbecility, then it must be confessed that this Parliament, the child of six months, has fallen already into second childishness. [...] It is already subsiding and curdling away into small knots of spiritless and purposeless coteries."

  1. See English Prosperity. Strikes. The Turkish Question. India. —Ed.
  2. June 16, 1853.—Ed.
  3. Clauses of the Balta-Liman Convention and the Times commentaries to them are quoted from Issue No. 21458, June 18, 1853.—Ed.
  4. The Morning Herald, No. 22189, June 20, 1853.—Ed.
  5. A. S. Menshikov.—Ed.
  6. A reference to the draft convention between Russia and Turkey which Menshikov laid as an ultimatum before the Porte after the settlement of the question of the Holy Places on May 4, 1853 (see Note 90). The draft provided not only for freedom of religion for Orthodox believers in the Turkish Empire but also for the Russian Tsar's protectorate over them and was rejected by the Sultan (see Affairs in Holland. Denmark. Conversion of the British Debt. India, Turkey and Russia. and Mazzini. Switzerland and Austria. The Turkish Question.).
  7. The Bucharest Treaty, concluded between Russia and Turkey in 1812, confirmed certain autonomous rights of Moldavia and Wallachia and the right of Russia, laid down in the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji in 1774, to defend the interests of the Orthodox Christians in the Danubian Principalities against the Porte. Under the Adrianople Treaty of 1829 Moldavia and Wallachia were granted autonomy in domestic affairs and were actually placed under the protectorate of Russia.
  8. The Balta-Liman Convention was concluded between Russia and Turkey on May 1, 1849, following the occupation of Moldavia and Wallachia by Russian and Turkish troops for the purpose of suppressing the revolutionary movement. According to the Convention the occupation was to continue until the danger of revolution was completely removed (the occupation troops were withdrawn in 1851), the Hospodars were to be appointed temporarily by the Sultan in agreement with the Tsar, and a number of measures, including an occupation, to be taken by Russia and Turkey in the event of a new revolution were laid down.
  9. Baseness.—Ed.
  10. An allusion to the recall of Colonel Rose from Constantinople in February 1853, and the appointment of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe in his place as British Ambassador to Turkey.
  11. The pen-name of A. Richards.—Ed.
  12. A reference to Chancellor Nesselrode's letter to the Turkish Foreign Minister Reshid Pasha of May 31, 1853. The letter was written in the form of ultimatum. It laid the responsibility for Menshikov's unsuccessful mission on the Turkish Government and called for acceptance of Russian demands to guarantee the privileges of the Orthodox Christian subjects of the Sultan, which actually meant the establishment of the Tsar's protectorate over them. Nesselrode threatened to resort to military action, i.e., the occupation of Moldavia and Wallachia, if the ultimatum was rejected. Turkey, supported by Britain and France, rejected the demands of the Tsarist Government in Reshid Pasha's letter of June 16, 1853.