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THE GLOBE AND THE ISLAND.
LONDOX, December 18. It is impossible this month to take any comprehensive glance around the horizon of Foreign Affairs in order to judge how far these are moving parallel with the interests of one's own country, because most of that horizon is obscured by one huge cloud. The "eternal Eastern Question” persists in the acutest form it has ever assumed, to all the long-familia, diplomatic difficulties being now added a new and unique horror---the attempt of a man to exterminate a people. I cannot see that there is any ground for the charge of exaggeration in the use of this expression. We all know the Sultan's hatred of the Armenians and its cause; we all know enough of the history of Turkish Asia Minor during the past twelve months. More than this, however, we have the men who, *outside the group of Ambassadors, are the best-informed in Europe, holding this view. For instance, the Constantinople correspondent of The Standard has just written :-“The recent accounts of continued massacres in Asia, and the revolting details, prove that while the Sultan promises with his lips to the Powers, he is acting, pen in hand, in the provinces for the extermination of the Armenians.” The correspondent of The Daily News telegraphs : -“Every day news reaches the capital of the conversion to Mohammedanism of hundreds and even thousands of Armenians, who are offered the choice of Islam or death." Even more striking is the following message from the correspondent of The Times at Urumiah (not a correspondent, be it observed) :-." It is now certain that the Hamidieh Cavalry have destroyed 200 villages in the province of Van, and 50,000 homeless people are flocking
into the city of Van.
The Turkish Government is doing nothing to prevent outrages.” And, to add a piece of Continental testimony, the following is the opinion of a leading newspaper of Vienna :
“With the best intentions of the Sultan and the Porte, nothing can now. be done in the Armenian Highlands, which are already covered with snow, to save from death by starvation and exposure the thousands of Christian families who fled into the mountains to escape their Kurdish pursuers. Next summer Christianity will learn that, at least in the mountainous districts, nothing remains to be done for the Armenians, because none will be left." I am personally acquainted with the Constantinople correspondents of the four most influential London journals. One of these is a man whose sympathies, if biassed at all, might naturally be expected to be so on the side of the Sultan ; and, as for the other three, I know them to be men of honour, wholly incapable of despatching such news for the sake merely of its sensational value. The state of Constantinople itself is equally eloquent. Bad characters are flocking into the city -as if the slums of Galata did not contain enough already ; Armenians are being deported by thousands across the Bosphorus to die miserably in Asia ; once more the Constitutional party, which deals in so many brave words and apparently cannot produce the smallest specimen of a deed, has “placarded the mosques”-a euphemism which may mean hanging a piece of paper on a fence and running away; for the second time a British postal messenger, perfectly well known to the police, and distinguished by a large silver badge bearing an official inscription in Turkish, has been seized by the creatures of Nazim Pacha, and carried off struggling and calling upon the bystanders; while the hysterical state of the city has been shown by the fact that a couple of pistol shots in Stamboul caused an almost instantaneous panic in Galata and Pera---tramways stopped, crowded carriages galloping up the hill, “pale and panting ” crowds rushing along the steep and narrow streets, terror-stricken Armenians bolting wildly in all directions for the shelter of a roof like rabbits when a gun disturbs their evening meal, every shop hastily shut, foreign ladies packed off to their respective embassies, everybody believing that the long-expected massacre had come at
last in Constantinople,' as it came at Bitlis, at Erzeroum, at Trebizond; 'and: as it is surely coming at Zeitoun. To complete the picture, I may quote the following extract from a private letter I have just received from one of the correspondents I have mentioned above, a man of great experience and calm judgment, who has sometimes been charged with too great severity towards the Armenians and too great consideration for the Turkish Government, and who, I should add, represents a paper which supports Lord Salisbury's Government :
" They say that a Mollah in the Yildiz Mosque remonstrated with His Majesty, or rather tried to, but was instantly bashed on the head and carried out; and a day or two afterwards a military student, disguised as a priest, tried the same game, but felt very sorry for himself in a minute and a half. Drowning goes on merrily, but though I have testimony of eye-witnesses and of the officials themselves who took part in the noyades, I cannot bring them forward, for, in the first place, they would not hesitate to deny that they had ever seen or spoken to me or any of my friends, and to contradict the whole story, and secondly, it would probably cost them their lives all the same.”
On the other side what have we to show? The Concert of Europe is in full blast, and the result is-silence. Freeman once described Lord Derby during a similar crisis in the Eastern Question as "a man who is steadily purposed to employ himself with a vigorous doing of nothing,” and I have been wondering how long it would be before one of Lord Salisbury's many critics recollected the phrase. For more than a fortnight the Sultan succeeded in delaying the arrival of the second guardships in the Bosphorus, and even then he only gave way to a direct request--or was it a command ?-from the Tsar. This great victory having been achieved by six Powers controlling a vastly greater force than has ever been united for one object in the history of mankind, over a single individual surrounded by a mere handful of men absolutely demonstrated to be criminals of the worst class, it seems that the Ambassadors are about to rest upon their oars. So far as I can gather, the general opinion is that nothing else is to be attempted for the present. But for one fact, from my own insignificant acquaintance with the difficulties of the international situation I should believe this, and that fact is that Parliament meets on February II. It is out of the question
that Lord Salisbury, even with a majority of 150 behind him, should face Parliament with no better results or intentions than he has to show to-day. The truth is very painful, but there is no use in blinking it. England has been from the first on the wrong road with regard to Armenia. We have squeezed the Sultan, and the Armenians have been hurt. If we had done nothing, the Armenians would have been infinitely better off than they are to-day. While desiring to maintain, at any rate for the present, the integrity of Turkey, it is we who have undermined the authority of the Sultan, while we have not even attempted to put anything in its place. By our halfhearted interference on behalf of the Armenians we have infuriated Sultan and people alike against them ; we cannot protect them, and they are being exterminated as the direct consequence of English action. Never since the time of Edipus has the irony of the gods made more manifest the danger of the good intention.
What should be done? The question is childishly easy to put, but the answer is very far from my competence. It is hardly fair to say that anyone who criticises Lord Salisbury's course must be prepared to suggest an alternative, for nobody in England can approach either Lord Salisbury's experience or his knowledge of the relations between the Powers. But plenty of us know enough of the latter to extend to him a good deal of sympathy. For my own part, my investigations in Constantinople led me to the unhesitating conviction that no British statesman could have ventured to take the risk involved in isolated action last October. I agree with Freeman and Prince Nicholas of Montenegro in the belief that when nations sin nations are punished ; and the blood of the slaughtered Armenians lies nearest to our own door. But at the same time it is necessary to recognise the ugliest facts, and to declare callously that all the Armenians in existence are not worth the risk to the freedom of mankind of England being reduced to a second-rate Power. For this was the risk we should have run if, single-handed, we had launched our battleships and found too late that the universal jealousy of us had crystallised into an active league of united opposition. Something or other, however, we must do, and there are several courses open,
First, the simple deposition of the Sultan, a man whose mere existence pollutes humanity. Second--the course I have hitherto advocated, to avoid the dangers of a partition of Turkey--the deposition of the Sultan, the substitution of another, perhaps Murad, if he can be rescued from the bowstring at the last moment, and the demand for the restoration of Midhat's Constitution of 1876, which Abdul Hamid gave to Turkey as a solemn pledge to the European Powers. If it is only Russia that stands in the way of this, the fact ought to be known, that her responsibility may be public and may be weighed in the great scales against her colossal sacrifices on behalf of other oppressed Christians. Third, a union with the Triple Alliance; or fourth, an agreement with Russia, covering both empires and defying opposition. Upon Lord Salisbury rests the heaviest responsibility of any British statesman during this century, and it would be, in my opinion, an unpatriotic act to add one grain to the burden he must bear.
Two months ago a great and natural European sensation was caused by the publication in The Times of a telegram from a correspondent in Hong Kong stating that a private treaty between China and Russia had conceded the right of anchorage at Port Arthur to the Russian feet, and the building of Russian railways from Nertchinsk via Tsitsikar to Vladivostok, and from Tsitsikar to Port Arthur. This was on the face of it so probable, and at the same time so fraught with imminent danger to the peace of the world, that for many years no piece of intelligence has awakened such an instantaneous and loud echo on the Continent. I was in Sofia at the time, but even in that remote and self-centred little capital the statement was the subject of exclusive conversation. English opinion expressed itself, as might have been expected, in the clearest terms. In face of official and semi-official denials, a high standard of etiquette demanded that The Times should profess to disbelieve its own news. The matter has consequently dropped out of sight. I revive it now for the following reason. On my return to England I found letters informing me that the correspondent in question was an intimate friend of my own,