TOPICS OF THE DAY.
GENERAL IGNATIEFF'S MISSION.
" TF war must be in the spring, then let it be. Have every-
1 thing ready ; mobilise the whole Army, except the corps in Finland ; but meanwhile, let Ignatieff go about, and see how our neighbours stand, and whether we cannot make Turkey yield without running all that risk." That sentence would, we believe, very nearly express in informal English the de- cision at which Czar Alexander has arrived, and define the object of the " Mission " about which everybody is specu- lating so freely. Fresh rumours are spread from day to day, and morsels of gossip, some of them of the most rancid kind, are swallowed with a greediness we have never seen equalled ; but meanwhile, the broad facts of the situation remain precisely the same. The Court of St. Petersburg, while desir- ing peace on conditions, has given no sign whatever that it will make peace without them. Southern Russia remains locked up with frost and snow, and the Russian Government utilises the time thus conceded by nature, to increase its material at Kischenef, to encourage the occupation of Bosnia by Austria—which is palpably anticipated by the Pashas, who have warned the Mussulman militia to get under arms, and have authorised a forced loan in the province, to be levied from the Christian peasants alone—to officer eight more corps d'arme'e, or 240,000 men, who will relieve the reserves, if they are wanted, of garrison duty ; and to carry on negotiations which involve, among other things, a conversation of six hours between General Ignatieff and the Chancellor of Germany. The character of these negotiations is still unknown to the world, the journalists describing them mainly by the light of their own prepossessions; but through all the reports, " officious " or conjectural, three points reappear with a persistence which almost carries convic- tion. The first of these is that the Russian Government agreed to the amazing English proposition to allow Turkey time for her reforms, on condition that the Powers should bind themselves to enforce or allow coercion when the period of grace had expired, but that this condition was rejected by Great Britain. If that is accurate, and nothing else will explain the language of the inspired Press, the English Government has probably acted wisely in rejecting a proposal which nevertheless was the natural sequence of its own imbecile suggestion. No British Government can safely pledge itself to armed action a year or three years hence, and Lord Derby's usual course of giving a guarantee, and explaining a week after that it has no meaning, was not applic- able to this particular emergency. On the contrary, the regular explanation, by taking all hope from the Christians, would have precipitated another insurrection. The second is that the Russian Government is constantly informing the Powers that unless they will use the right of interference vested in them collectively by European precedent, and coerce Turkey into decent treatment of the Christians, she must consider the Treaty of Paris at an end, and take her own separate course un- restricted by its provisions. That is a declaration which she has a clear right to make, and which, though it does not neces- sarily presuppose war, would necessarily precede separate military action. And thirdly, Russia insists, in the interest of the Turkish Christians, and out of regard for her own dignity, that the Porte shall accept and carry out the irre- ducible minimum proposed to her by the Plenipoten- tiaries assembled at Constantinople,—that, in particu- lar, Bosnia and Bulgaria shall have Christian Governors, irremovable without European consent. This, as we un- derstand her position, is her sine qud non ; and it is this which, from different quarters and in various ways, is being pressed upon the Porte. It is, of course assumed, and very rightly assumed, that the statements made in different capitals by General Ignatieff's Secretaries are " diplomatic,"— that is, are statements which he wishes to see circulated, but the fact that he wishes it is no proof that they are pure inven- tions. It is much more probable that they are partially true, and that the Russian Government considers itself to be merely admitting a self-evident fact when it states that without Turkish concessions a retreat is absolutely impossible. The statements now rapidly arriving in London of irreconcilable divergencies between the ideas of the Montenegrins and of the Turkish Foreign Office are in exact accordance with this view, as Russia, though willing that Servia should disarm, would be reluctant to advise Prince Nicholas to make peace until the broader question of peace or war had been finally arranged. The Prince can act just in the district which neither Russia nor Greece can reach, and is the only man wielding great influence over the Albanians.
The only hope or fear of peace lies, therefore, in Constanti- nople, and as yet nothing in Constantinople indicates any intention of making adequate concessions. Edhem Pasha is still Grand Vizier, but instead of yielding anything he is urging forward troops into Armenia, which is becoming flooded with men, whom it will shortly be difficult to feed or to control ; is hinting to the Powers that they ought to- call upon Russia to disarm, and is making splenetic complaints of the concentration of Austrian troops in Dalmatia, a concentration intended partly for action in the event of war being declared, and partly to provide against a further development of the civil war now raging in Bosnia, where the Christians, maddened by the oppressions described by the moderate and experienced correspondent of the Manchester Guardian—whose quiet narratives reveal misery such as has not existed in Europe since the invasions of the Barbarians—declare that if all foreign help fails, they will make of their mountains a second Montenegro. All accounts from Constantinople represent the ruling caste as confident that the retreat of Servia implies the impunity of Turkey, still reliant on the ultimate aid of England, and still possessed with the amazing theory—which we begin to believe is kept up by deliberate efforts—that Russia has neither troops nor money to resist the Osmanli forces. In Constantinople now, as at any time during the last four hundred years, there exists a great unknown quantity, the view which the Sultan's favourites take of their own interest in war or peace ; but if we were to judge by the intelligence received, we should say that the Grand Vizier and the Palace were inclined to repeat the policy of 1854, which proved so successful,—to force the hand of Europe by declaring war, and thus to obtain a perfect pre- text for hanging up the Constitution to dry a little. That would not strike the Pashas,—who remember the Crimean war, and who cannot get rid of the impression produced by the num- bers of their volunteers,—as an extreme measure ; while it is advised by men who, like the Shereef of Mecca, have vast influence even with those Mussulmans who profess to believe nothing, and perhaps do believe nothing, but like the Vol- tairian Legitimists of France and our own Premier, are "on the side of the angels" all the same. This step as yet is only one of the possibilities, but of any intention to give way, to disarm the militia of Bosnia, to improve administra- tion in Bulgaria, or to reduce the floods of irregulars now living on European Turkey, there is not a sign. To judge by all appearances, advice from all Europe to con- ciliate Russia would be scornfully rejected by the Divan, as advice "inconsistent with the honour of the Sultan, the in- terests of Islam, and the sacred principles of the (non- existent) Constitution." The single chance of peace on the Turkish side is some sudden impulse in the Sultan, and his impulses do not lead him to defy the mob, which, as Lord Salisbury pointed out, knows absolutely nothing of the European position, or of the interests involved.