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rapidly becoming masters of Armenia. We have no sign that Lord Beaconsfield discerns the all-important truth that, whether England likes it or not, the Ottoman Empire can never again be put back to the place in which the Crimean War left her. No other power dreams of a pacification on that basis, and consequently the English government stands at this moment isolated, mute, sullen, nullhated by Russia, not loved and not listened to by Turkey, not trusted by Austria, and no longer seriously regarded by Germany, the one power with whom, supposing that it was our business to act at all, we might have acted cordially from the beginning. That is where we are left, and considering the temper of Lord Beaconsfield's speech at the Guildhall, and the temper of the people who cheered him as they had cheered Sanger's circus-horses and the two sham Nubians and the other buffooneries of the day, we can only be glad that England under its present rulers is no dictator in Europe. Denounce Russia, if you must, and as much as you please, but is dislike and denunciation of Russia a sufficient programme with which to enter a Congress for settling the Eastern Question, the day after Russia has won her final victory in the field ? Will a dogged blindness to the collapse of the Porte help your plenipotentiary to a policy ? If we think of the enormous practical difficulties that must attend any possible pacification–difficulties not arising from Russian hypocrisy or German craft, but from the radical conditions of the problem itself—there is surely something pitiable in barren jeers against the Czar's philanthropy and in all the childish rancour of Turcophil and Russophobe, and the persistent fanning of a flame of useless and meaningless animosities. What is it that they want? Turkish independence and integrity? But that is impossible. Turkey must come out of the struggle shorn both of strength and territory. The struggle, long or short, will not end until that result, greater or smaller, is assured. England cannot prevent it. Would it not then be more self-respecting, more worthy of those who seek to lead and represent a great nation, to discuss soberly what solutions are possible under the circumstances, instead of fuming and raging on behalf of a cause which is not only the wrong, but the beaten cause ? Assume, for a change, that the British Empire does not hang upon Erzeroum. Look at the Eastern Question for a day or two, as a huge and intricate European difficulty, not merely as a black conspiracy for the destruction of England. Sympathise as ardently as you choose with
. the fine fellows who light fires under the stomachs of wounded enemies, only remember that what awaits us is a piece of hard diplomatic business, in which if England refuses to open her eyes to the work that is to be done, she will simply be left out of account, either for good or for evil, and this will be the doing of Lord Beaconsfield, who having taken the wrong side has stuck to it with barren obstinacy
after it has become clear that he can do nothing for it, and that it leads nowhere.
We have spoken of Germany. The German panic that we ventured to predict last month seems likely to be upon us sooner than might have been expected. The busy journalists who have hitherto failed egregiously in rousing a public opinion that might have embroiled us with Russia, are now blowing hard upon the embers of suspicion that were first kindled against Germany seven years ago. Some of them indeed, with a frenzy that is truly heroic, seem to be inviting us immediately to declare war against Russia, Germany, and Italy, all at once and without an ally! This, with our trade getting worse every day! The foolish and inappropriate utterances of Sir Fitzroy Kelly to a Lord Mayor who seems a very proper person to be the recipient of such sagacious confidences, were a fair type of the nonsense that will pass
muster in a country where every reader of a fiery penny paper thinks himself a match in diplomatic penetration and knowledge for Bismarck and Gortschakoff. The theory at the base of a German panic is that Prince Bismarck is inspired by the vast ambition of the first Bonaparte, and is at the head of a nation as little scrupulous and as ambitious as himself; that Germany is not only the greatest military power in Europe, but intends to be one of the great naval powers also; that in order to reach this nefarious end, as well as for other reasons of a more immediate kind connected with the possibility of a war with France, she designs to make herself, more or less directly, mistress of the two small countries that lie opposite to our eastern ports. Now nobody denies that this looks plausible enough on paper; nobody denies that it is possible, like so many other things that will never be. But then the readiness to mistake every plausible possibility for an actuality is one of the best known infirmities of the human mind, and it is at the root of the most mischievous errors in the political and intellectual history of the race. It is true that German diplomacy has been the most restless in Europe since the close of the French war. It is perhaps true that Germany did little to prevent Russia from crippling herself by a war with Turkey. Who knows for certain ? Foreign statesmen are not in the habit of taking interviewers into their confidence, and the real business of the relations between Russia, Austria, and Germany has been transacted privately among the three Emperors and the three Chancellors themselves. The Russians, no doubt, believe that Bismarck has been a secret mischief-maker, but then Russians do not love the new Empire which replaces the petty states over whom Nicholas had for so many years played dictator. Whatever may be the rest of the truth about German action in Eastern affairs, the least probable thing is that Prince Bismarck has acted with ill-will towards England. On this point Mr. Grant Duff spoke some time
with excellent sense:“I have not been one of those,” he said, “who have taken the harshest view of the doings of the Government in all this matter. But there is one thing in their proceedings which I cannot understand, and that is their distrust of Germany. Now it seems to me that, in this Eastern imbroglio the policy of Germany has not only been to act if possible with England, but that it could not have been otherwise. I feel confident that, if the English Government had made up its mind to almost any course whatever in the East, Germany would have backed her with all her strength, but, the English Government not having made up its mind to anything, how could Germany have done aught but preserve towards Russia a benevolent neutrality ? Both the past and the future absolutely commanded this policy. A firm calculation of the conditions under which he is acting ought to convince the most cautious of the probability of that being the fact, which most certainly is the fact, that Prince Bismark has now nothing more at heart than to act with England. But some one may ask, Why, if you are right in thinking that Bismarck is more than willing to hold with England, do we hear so much of the alliance of the three Emperors—which looks as if he were holding with Russia ? I ask in reply, How, in the
, name of wonder, can you support the policy of those who do not know their own minds? What policy has the English Government had in all this Eastern Question that could be put into an intelligible sentence, until, at length, last May, they got to the formula of absolute neutrality? Well, but Prince Bismarck has supported the policy of absolute neutrality. As to what next' and next, has. the Government ever given the smallest hint of what it wished or hoped, and how, in the absence of any such hint, could the ablest or most willing friend do more than he has done?”
The only explanation of the distrust of Germany imputed to such a man as Lord Salisbury is perhaps of this kind. Lord Salisbury had probably given as little close, accurate, and personal attention to the affairs of foreign nations, as most of our other politicians are in the habit of giving. He is believed to have had no relations of any kind with leading or well-informed men in other countries. If he had been compelled off-hand to write papers about Russia, or Germany, or even France, his papers would have been as ingenuous as those of the editor of the Figaro when he is telling Parisians what England is like. We do not mean that this was specially discreditable to Lord Salisbury. For we will undertake to say, for example, that the dispatches from the great English hotel in the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré since the suppression of the Commune have exhibited as absolute an ignorance of the drift of the real forces and the real men in
France, as if they had been written from the Vatican. Our embassics, with one notable exception, are a great deal too genteel to study social forces and real leaders as distinguished from the chatter of chanceries; and it is notorious that the foreign office, whether under Lord Hammond, Lord Tenterden, or anybody else, positively hugs its own ignorance, improvidence, and airy self-sufficiency. Well, then Lord Salisbury, neither better nor worse than the rest, when he went on his pilgrimage found Europe haunted by what would strike the mind of an English country gentleman as a company of brigands and bandits. East of the Rhine he found Governments who know what it is to feel the grinding terrors of a crisis of life and death. Perhaps the Viceroy of India at the height of a Mutiny might be able to realise the experiences through which Bismarck and Francis Joseph and Andrassy have gone, and through which they and the Czar and Prince Gortschakoff are going at this moment. Theirs are not the easy agitations of Public Worship Acts and Duties on Cotton Imports—but how to keep body and soul together, how to prevent themselves from being rent in pieces, how to prepare against the very ground under their feet opening and swallowing them up. To a plain-dealer of Quarter Sessions all this must have been as the red and lurid air of the bottomless pit. It is little wonder if the greatest genius in the band figured as the
personage most to be dreaded. But what has England to dread from Germany ? If Germany makes a position for herself in Belgium, will that make her a danger to England ? No, because in the first place she has no navy to speak of ; second, she is not likely to have one in a hurry; and third, she will have France to deal with. Ah, we are warned, but there may be an alliance between France and Germany. Not impossible, though prodigiously improbable. But let us imagine with what countenance would M. Gambetta get up and announce the friendly relations which he was glad to recognise as having sprung up between two countries which ought to be good neighbours, had common interests, etc., etc.—friendly relations based on what? On the semi-annexation of Belgium by Germany! Never has the insanity of panic-mongering ingenuity been more brilliant. Nay, we will make our restless friends a present of a better scare than that. If there is ever an alliance between the French Republic and the German Empire in Prince Bismarck's life-time, it will be an unholy alliance based on the seizure of Holland by Germany, and of Belgium by France.
Let us turn to our own affairs for a while. The fierce struggle in France—which is dealt with by an able hand elsewhere in these pages—does not blind provident politicians to the approach within a moderately near time of a modest struggle of our own at home. During the month the representatives of different sections of Liberalism have taken various opportunities of showing what improvements in legislation they expect more or less closely to follow the next general election. Mr. Bright not many months ago in a splenetic moment discouraged all political programmes, and urged us to be content with one measure at once. That measure was to be the equalisation of the county with the borough franchise. But at Rochdale the other day (Nov. 7) Mr. Bright had come round to a better mind. He may have seen in the interval that the popular interest in the extension of the franchise is moderate. The Liberal portion of the constituencies have made up their minds that the admission of the labourers, of the miners, and above all of the population of the counties and the surburban fringe of the great urban boroughs, on the same terms as the inhabitants of boroughs, is right, wise, and inevitable. There is unanimity, but not enthusiasm. When the immense interests that are involved in some possible schemes of redistribution are fully understood, we shall expect to see the great boroughs almost as keenly excited as they have ever been in any previous march in the long campaign of parliamentary reform. There are obvious dangers ahead in the next settlement. For one thing, the Conservatives may take it in hand, and make our last state worse than the first. For another thing, if Liberals take it in hand, there are enemies in the camp,—not only honest and outspoken men like Mr. Lowe or Mr. Goschen, who object to any change at all—but men like Mr. Forster, who by his timidity of temperament, and his morbid eagerness to be more conciliatory to his adversaries than to his friends, will favour some scheme of redistribution that by various devices of check and balance will take away from the great towns with one hand what is given to them with the other. Everybody knows another difficulty that awaits a Liberal ministry on the question. Supposing the tide to turn at the next election-as sharp-sighted observers expect—and to give a smallish majority to Lord Hartington, this majority would became smaller to an inconvenient degree by the subtraction from it of the representatives of boroughs that appeared in the unwelcome schedule of extinction or absorption.
Whatever may be done in this way, it is becoming daily more clear that the political public is not to be stirred by parliamentary reform alone, but is curious to see what lies behind parliamentary reform. If people are not deterred by Mr. Lowe's apprehensions, neither are they fired by Mr. Gladstone's metaphysical and abstract hopes. They are not afraid, nor are they excitedly sanguine. For once, parliamentary reform takes its place by the side of other political improvements, and no longer as a condition precedent. But it is hardly possible for anyone with a spark of the spirit of political improvement in his composition not to see that there is