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this period, and the enormous development of trade consequent on the abolition of protection of corn are prominent,—combined to give currency to a doctrine which was hitherto unknown in English political phraseology,—that of non-intervention. The doctrine, indeed, did not suffice to prevent the Crimean War in 1853; but at the close of that war the doctrine, reinforced rather than otherwise by the vicissitudes of the war and by its uncertain results, assumed fresh sway, and in fact had a dominant effect on English politics during the whole period of nearly twenty years which covered events of the utmost magnitude and lasting importance on the Continent of Europe and in the United States. From 1856 to the accession of Mr. Disraeli's Ministry in 1874, it is not saying too much to assert that the one desire of England and the House of Commons was to vindicate its neutrality. At the time, indeed, of the war for the liberation and unification of Italy in 1859, there was many an Englishman whose heart burned within him because his country seemed only to look on and pass by on the other side. In the Sleswig-Holstein war of 1864 there were those, in and out of the House of Commons, who charged the country and the Government with culpable laxity in the observance of treaties for not coming to the active aid of Denmark. During the Franco-German war of 18701871 there were influential and articulate-speaking parties in favour of coming to the help either of Germany, from a supposed spirit of hereditary alliance, or of France, because of the alleged destiny of England to be the champion of the weak, if not because of obligations to her most recent allies. It was, however, during the civil strife in the United States that the doctrine of English neutrality was most severely tried;— during the earlier part of the struggle the general right of revolution, anywhere and by anyone, seeming to claim recognition at the hands of England, and in the latter part of the struggle the prospect of emancipating four millions of slaves seeming to command English sympathy irresistibly in favour of the Federal armies.
It is a remarkable fact, however, that, in spite of all these occasional sympathies and antipathies, there was hardly, at any moment, a thought of England's doing more than keeping free from entanglements with the wars and tumults of other States. This is usually attributed to the influence of Lord Palmerston, and sometimes also to an ignoble and unpatriotic spirit of indifference, supposed to belong to a rather fictitious assemblage of persons ignominiously styled either 'the Peace-at-any-Price Party,' or 'the Manchester School.' Whatever were the real cause, there is no doubt that down to the time at which the great legislative efforts for the disestablishment of the English Church in Ireland, the provisional settlement of the Land Question in that country, and the institution of a system of national education in England, were finally completed, and Mr. Gladstone retired from office at the commencement of 1874, only the coldest and most superficial interest in foreign affairs could ever be excited in the House of Commons. In 1857, indeed, the iniquitous war with China arising out of the ' Arrow' controversy, and in the same year the resentment of the country against the proposal to amend the Law of Conspiracy for the purpose, presumedly, of better protecting the Emperor of the French, stirred the House of Commons from its lethargy, and for the moment made foreign
The Eastern Question. 367
affairs take precedence of every other interest. But even in these cases it was, it is to be feared, rather the party question which was the intrinsic centre of interest; and the show of cosmopolitan zeal, if real, was certainly fleeting. The country and the House of Commons determined to have peace and neutrality, and they supported Lord Palmerston mainly because he contrived to secure them. Thus the tale of foreign policy in the House of Commons from 1815 to 1874 is first that of exhaustion or patience, then that of distraction or of absorption in home affairs, and lastly that of deliberate non-intervention or insulation.
It is not necessary to attribute to the Government of Lord Beaconsfield, which came into office in 1874, the extraordinary revival of concern in foreign policy which has of late been witnessed in the House of Commons. Events had long been preparing in the East of Europe, and could not but be immediately precipitated. The question must have been in any case shortly propounded to England, as to whether the policy of the Crimean War, and of the Treaty of Paris, was to be actively persisted in and maintained, or whether it was to be definitively abandoned. Even if England or Russia could have waited, the misgoverned and outrageously oppressed provinces of European Turkey could not wait. The Herzegovina led the way in active revolution. Servia lost little time in declaring war. Montenegro armed, with too well-accustomed zeal, to defend itself and its Slavonic neighbours; Bulgaria was being tortured to death upon the mere suspicion of insurrection; and the Russian armies were being propelled to the frontier by an irresistible weight of Slavonic sympathy. By the Treaty of Paris of 1856, England was one of a number of Great Powers which had succeeded in substituting themselves for one of them (Russia) as the guardians of the Christian provinces of Turkey against the maladministration which had been the real occasion of the Crimean War. The question for the British House of Commons was, whether England was to support the policy of the Treaty to which she was a party, by forming a combination with the other parties to it for the purpose of re-constituting an arrangement which in its earlier form had signally and confessedly failed; or whether she was to leave the reconstruction of Eastern Europe to any Power which would undertake it, whatever might be its ulterior or secondary motives in addressing itself to the task. It unfortunately happened, however, that another set of considerations crossed the path of English politics, which may be compendiously expressed by the words 'British interests.' The policy of the Crimean War and of its main advocates, such as Lord Palmerston, was not one merely of philanthropic zeal for the good government of other countries, but had also been, directed to the re-establishment of Turkey and the weakening of Russia. It was believed that Turkey was the best or only available barrier against an amount of Russian aggression which might ultimately terminate in a competition between England and Russia in the region of the Indian frontier. This faith soon grew into a passion, and has long survived as a lasting enthusiasm. Whatever its value, it has done more to re-awaken the interest of the British Parliament in foreign policy than any other problematical speculation extending over the future of politics. There were at least three distinct views, all tenable, and each in fact '>old in some quarter or other:—either that England, Three Views of the Question. 369
as one of the leading States of Europe, owed a duty of humanity to the distressed provinces of Turkey, of the same kind that it had previously recognised and conformed to in the case of Greece and of Syria; or that England was bound by the traditions of the Crimean War to form an entente, cordials with the other parties to the Treaty of Paris, for the protection of the oppressed provinces equally against the ascendency of Russia and the crushing tyranny of Turkey;—or that it appertained to the vital interests of England that she should intervene to support, at any cost, and to the neglect of every other consideration, whether of philanthropy or of obligatory duty as defined by treaties, the tottering fabric of Turkish rule. Whichever of these views commended itself, there was one firm position held by every statesman, and almost every Englij-h citizen who was worthy of the name,—that is, that England could no longer adhere to the policy of standing on one side and leaving things to take their chance or merely settle themselves according to the chapter of accidents. The usual signs of a really inflamed state of public interest and of divided opinion manifested themselves throughout the country; and the duty was instantly cast on the Government of interpreting as best they might the popular sentiment, or at any rate of promoting a policy which, with all their opportunities of knowledge and deliberate counsel, they could conscientiously adopt, as being that most likely to reconcile a due regard to British interests with a firm resolution to discharge British duties. Naturally, the House of Commons became the main arena in which the struggle between opposite views of policy was ultimately fought out. The general result is known to all, though the