TOPICS OF THE DAY.
IF it be possible for this country to do otherwise than " drift " in its foreign policy, it would seem high time that the most thought- ful attention should be given to the questions of action that are likely to grow out of the present position of the Turkish empire. A great mass of difficulty and danger is accumulating with fear- ful rapidity in this direction, and unless far more of vigilance and forethought, as well as of determination, is applied to this first of modern diplomatic problems, this country and Europe may not improbably be involved in a protracted and purposeless warfare, involving sacrifices of life and capital, without any use- ful end either possible or in view. It is no small scandal to our statesmanship that after a sharp war, and the expenditure of nearly one hundred millions sterling, we find ourselves only at the threshold of the difficulties of the Eastern question. The dilemma in which the Mussulman power at Constantinople in- volves Western politicians has never been fairly, fully, and com- prehensively considered. It is felt to be impossible to permit the aggrandizement of Russia. It is felt to be equally impossible for any length of time, to leave the Christian populations who inhabit some of the choicest, though neglected, districts of the earth, to the unmitigated sovereignty, in any substantial sense, of Turks, however varnished by European civilization. It has been attempted to evade the dilemma by regulating the des- tinies of this perplexing empire at a council board of Euro- pean representatives, in the presence alike of Turkey and Russia. But no sane person can believe, for a moment, that the real question can be solved by any such agency. All that is really difficult in the relations of Christian and Mohammedan populations in the whole moral and material constitution of Turkey must be, from the nature of the case, either passed by, or aggravated by an assembly like the Paris Congress. While, on the other hand, the disposition to negligence in dealing with any question that bears a speculative stamp, which distinguishes Englishmen whether they be grocers, or Cabinet-Ministers tempts our ifinisters, whatever be their party badge, to rely witli infantile confidence upon the deliberations of these ineffectual Congresses. The most serious consequence is, that when any emergency requires coolness of deliberation, and clear intelligible ready action as in the case of the massacre of Jeddah, a great flurry suddenly seizes upon Cabinet Ministers, and some net result of action is arrived at, which wears the look either of recklessness, stupidity, or perfidy. But there is little likelihood of any change for the better in our practical policy until our statesmen and our people resolve that they will have a policy of their own, the result of their reflection and deliberation, instead of having only a fractional and undistinguishable part in a mock European policy. For it is quite clear that this country must, ythen occasion arises, act alone in the vindication of its rights. And it is excessively inconvenient that some fancied obligation to alliances or congresses should deprive our statesmen of inde- pendence and presence of mind alike, when there is any necessity for making use of a British ship of war. The case of the Jeddah massacre illustrates in a manner both ludicrous and painful the equivocal and hypocritical position, in which this country has placed itself, in reference to the received doctrine concerning the Turkish empire. In obedience to the formula of the " independence and integrity" we make a demand upon the Sublime Porte for redress and punishment. But not be- lieving, with any very firm belief, in the willingness or capacity of the central power to punish adequately the atrocities which had been committed, we take the precaution simultaneously of de- siring the captain of a frigate to proceed to Jeddah, and, according to the euphemism, "do everything in his power" to obtain satis- faction. It is quite possible that Lord Malmesbury may not have perceived the full drift of his phrase : that, indeed, he may have conceived that it was equivalent to that "taking into considera- tion," which, in Ministerial slang, signifies indefinite adjournment. But the British navy is not yet broken in to the ambling pace of Downing Street, and when Captain Pullen was referred to his " power " he very naturally thought of his cannon. However possible the interpretation of the doubts that hung over this case, which we suggest, may be, it is one which Lord Malmesbury cannot adopt, or be even suffered to hint at. Both he, and the country of which he is, for the time, the accredited agent, must be content to abide by the bombardment of Jedda-o as deliberately sanctioned, and deliberately executed. And, in this point of view, how glaringly absurd becomes the position we have taken up with reference to this huge mass of Mussulman decay. After having made the most heavy sacrifices for the sake of the "independence and in- tegrity," we take the first opportunity of declaring most emphati- cally that we do not look upon the sovereignty of the Sultan as of any value for purposes of international justice and reparation. In fact, so far as our later proceedings since the peace of Paris are susceptible of any consistent interpretation, they look as though we were prepared to maintain the doctrine that against Russia and the different subject Christian populations we mean to stand by the sovereignty and supremacy of the Turk ; but that, as regards the subjects of western powers, in all their contracts and injuries, we do not intend to rely upon that sovereignty, or admit its practical power one whit. There is here enough of anomaly, and contradiction to cripple, degrade, and confound our policy in the East twenty times over. For it is impossible that there can be success or dignity in any course, which being go ne defined to our own minds, is in the appearance it bears to others so tortuous, and insincere.
It is high time therefore, that a radical consideration shonk be given to the Whole of this ease of Turkey, so that at least there may be something like order and coherence in the direr_ cut steps we take in the successive stages, or incidents of the question. If we really mean to maintain the sovereignty of the Sultan, we must maintain it, and defer to it for all pm._ poses, and not undermine it covertly, or assault it overtly, If, upon a full investigation of the principles of Mussulmen dominion, and the facts of the case we conclude that the peae of the world, and the prosperous future of those important eonn. tries which the Turks hold are not compatible with the indefinite prolongation of the Turkish power, let us boldly adopt that as our policy, and fairly take up the weighty task of forming new polities and states out of the decaying Mussulman empire. We do not presume to dogmatize upon questions of such grave im- portance as these. What we do affirm and with conviction is that they ought to receive cool, dispassionate, scientific inquiry and that what seems, as the result of such inquiry, best to done should be done, cosite qu'il coate. For we are satisfied that the policy of adjournment, of irritating treatpaent of fragments of the question, in totally opposed senses from time to time is only accumulating arrears of difficulty and danger, which will one day have to be discharged in full in a terrible manner. Nor will it be any excuse in mitigation if we say that we have left to Pro- vidence what, as is abundantly clear, Providence has left to ram As we are here pleading only for a fuller consideration of the responsibilities and action of England on this question than has been given we would prefer not to dwell upon circumstances the mere mention of which almost forces the mind to conclude that the Bus- sulman power in Turkey is irrevocably doomed. Insurrection in every quarter of the empire, chronic deficit in the finance, and a system of revenue, barbarous, unproductive, and, with Turkish ad- ministrators, we fear unreformable ; a great antagonism of religion, which is susceptible of no compromise ; a social system incompa- tible with civilization in its modern sense ; all these things put to- gether seem to imply political chaos. Not in the least as an echo to any religious cry, which is quite out of date as a help in difficul- ties such as these but as definitelyrnpiolitical doctrine we are all but constrained these, say that the ad ssion of the Turkish empire into the family of European states logically and inevitably involves the destruction of the Mussulman power. A species of compact has been entered into between the powers of Europe on the one hand and the Sultan on the other, that the dominions of the latter shall be preserved to him, in consideration of his introducing into them fiscal and legislative principles, such as civilized Europe adopts at least as its standard, if it does not universally realize them. We do not in the least see how the Sultan is to fulfil his part of the contract. He has neither moral nor material power to do so. If we lend him either we must not deceive ourselves into the supposition that the loan can be repaid. If we enter, as we are partially doing through our bondholders, into the administra- tion of his revenues or as we have lately done by the Cyclops, into the administration Of his justice, we enter upon apath from which there can be 114 deviation, and which leads straight to the disso- lution and dismemberment of his empire. It is high time, there- fore, that we made up our minds as to what we are doing, what we mean to do, and how, as well as with whom, we are going to do it.