« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
The Suez Canal Shares. 375
constitutional relations of England to her Colonies and to India.
The first step which has to be noticed is the purchase by the British Government, in November, 1875, of the large bulk of the shares in the Suez Canal. As a financial measure, this subject will be alluded to later on. As a political measure, it is sufficient to say that the first mention of it in Parliament was on the 21st of February, 1876, when a Motion was made in the House of Commons by the Government, for a supply to the amount of four millions, the purchase-money of the shares. The bearing of the Suez Canal on the relations of England and India must not be left out of mind. It was four days before this, on the 17th of February, that Mr. Disraeli brought forward his motion for leave to bring in a Bill to alter the style and title of Her Majesty. As has been noticed before, it was his intention to avoid all communication to the House of the form of the new title, and it was only on the urgent and indeed rebellious remonstrances met with from all quarters, that he, on a later day, intimated that the title would be 'Empress of India.' The significance of the title notoriously was, that British India was no longer to be treated as a multiform and composite dependency, only a limited part of which was strictly annexed to the British soil, and large outlying portions of which were more or less tributary provinces enjoying various degrees of independence and even princely dignity; but that, by name now, and in fact hereafter, British India was to be converted into a homogeneous unit of the British dominions, all tokens of actual or historical independence being annihilated in the glaring lustre of the English Imperial Crown.
While these events were somewhat rapidly proceeding, both at home and abroad, other events, destined to converge to the same ends, were happening in the East of Europe. The year 1877 and the beginning of 1878 were occupied by the Servian, Montenegrin, and Russian wars against Turkey, terminating in the ratification of the Treaty of San Stefano on March 17, 1878. But the policy of the English Government was not to be defeated or defrauded by Russian successes and the termination of the war. As soon as Parliament met, some days before its usual time, in January 1878, the rumours of the newspapers were instantly confirmed; a vote of credit for six millions was demanded; it was announced that the British fleet had sailed for the Dardanelles; and, on both these grounds, Lord Carnarvon stated in the House of Lords that he had retired from office. On the 28th of March, Lord Derby, the Foreign Secretary, similarly retired from the Cabinet, on the grounds, as it afterwards appeared, that the Cabinet had determined to make some arrangement with Turkey for the annexation of Cyprus or some other like station, and that the British fleet was ordered to Constantinople.
On the 1st of April the Government produced in the two Houses a message from the Queen announcing that 'the present state of public affairs in the East, 'and the necessity in connection therewith of taking 'steps for the maintenance of peace and for the pro'tection of the interests of the Empire, having consti'tuted, in the opinion of Her Majesty, a case of great 'emergency within the meaning of the Acts of Parlia'ment in that behalf, Her Majesty deems it proper to 'provide additional means for her military service.' The Berlin Congress. 377
On the 17th of the same month of April, it was announced that the British Government had given orders 'foT the despatch of 7,000 native Indian soldiers to 'Malta, the troops selected comprising the 9th Bengal 'Cavalry, the 1st Bombay Light Cavalry, the 2nd and '13th G-hoorkhas, the 31st Bengal Regiment, and the '25th Madras Regiment.' This topic will have to be specially considered under a later head.
On the 3rd of June, the German Ambassador in London presented a note to the Marquis of Salisbury, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, containing an invitation to the Powers, Signatories of the Treaties of 1856 and 1871, from the German Emperor, to meet 'in Con'gress at Berlin, to discuss there the stipulations of the 'preliminary treaty of San Stefano concluded between 'Russia and Turkey.' The 13th of the same month was proposed as the day of meeting. Lord Salisbury immediately replied 'that Her Majesty's Government 'will be ready to take part in the Congress' at the date mentioned. On the next day, June the 4th, a 'Convention of defensive alliance between Great Britain 'and Turkey' was concluded at Constantinople. The first and principal article of the Convention stipulated that' if Batoum, Ardahan, Kars, or any of these places, 'shall be retained by Russia, and if any attempt shall 'be made at any future time by Russia to take posses'sion of any further territories of His Imperial Majesty 'the Sultan in Asia, as fixed by the Definitive Treaty 'of Peace, England engages to join His Imperial 'Majesty the Sultan in defending them by force of 'arms.' The article further stipulated that'in return 'the Sultan promises to England to introduce necessary 'reforms, to be agreed upon later between the two 'Powers, into the government, and for the protection, 'of the Christian and other subjects of the Porte in 'these territories; and in order to enable England to 'make necessary provision for executing her engage'ment, His Imperial Majesty the Sultan further consents 'to assign the Island of Cyprus to be occupied and 'administered by England.'
The Congress was opened at Berlin on the 13th of June; and on the 13th of July the Berlin Treaty of Peace was signed, the general result of it being to confirm Russia in the possession of some of the towns and territory acquired by the war, to liberate some of the provinces of Turkey from their dependence on that Power, and to increase the amount of independence of other provinces already nearly emancipated. Arrangements were also contained in the Treaty for a provisional occupation of such ill-governed provinces as were not yet adapted for independence; and, in outward form at least, the limits of the Turkish dominions were traced more favourably for Turkey than by the Treaty of San Stefano, and her dignity as one of the Powers of Europe was re-established. On the next day, the 14th, the Island of Cyprus was occupied by Great Britain, and the British flag hoisted in its principal towns.
The scene is now shifted from Europe to Asia; but it is the same drama, and there are the same actors, both in the front and behind the stage. The dates are significant. On the 22nd of July,—that is, within a fortnight of the signature of the Treaty of Berlin,—a Russian mission arrived at Cabul, Afghanistan. The mission was a small one, consisting of three superior European officers, with an escort; and the chief of the mission delivered to the Ameer a letter from the Emperor of The Mission to Afghanistan. 379
Russia. On the 21st of September, a British mission, under Sir Neville Chamberlain, started from Peshawur for Afghanistan. There were in the mission eleven British officers, four native gentlemen, two hundred and thirty-four armed soldiers, and, with the campfollowers, the whole amounted to nearly a thousand men. There were three hundred and fifteen camels, two hundred and fifty mules, and forty horses. It was reported that the cortege extended over a mile in length. This mission had its progress interrupted on the frontier of Afghanistan; and on the 1st of Novemberan ultimatum from the Viceroy of India was addressed to the Ameer, demanding the privilege of sending a British mission to his capital, and requesting a reply before November the 20th. The reply not being received by midnight on November the 20th, at three o'clock on the morning of the 21st, the British army crossed the frontier, and war was commenced. On the 22nd, the Viceroy issued a proclamation at Lahore, announcing the commencement of hostilities in Afghanistan, saying that 'the 'Government of India cannot tolerate that any other 'Power should interfere in the internal affairs of 'Afghanistan,' and concluding with the words,' Upon 'the Ameer Shere Ali alone rests the responsibility of 'having exchanged the friendship for the hostility of 'the Empress of India.' Parliament was summoned to meet on the 5th of December, and the Queen used the following language in opening Parliament:—' The 'hostility towards my Indian Government manifested 'by the Ameer of Afghanistan, and the manner in 'which he repulsed my friendly mission, left me no 'alternative but to make a peremptory demand for 'redress. This demand having been disregarded, I