[TO THZ EDITOR Or TRH "SPECTATOR."]
Sin,—Your correspondent, "K.," bids you ask "the men of the world" what they think of the impartiality of the Spectator. Much is, no doubt, said in the world which does not reach a country parsonage. But they who read the Spectator, whether in town or country, must be equally competent to speak on this -question, and I would say that I subscribe to your paper not because I concur in your political views, but because, in addition to your admirable literary criticism, I nowhere else find such general fairness of statement, nor so generous a readiness to admit a contrary argument. I cannot go so far as to say, with a brother- clergyman, that you never pen an unfair word, but I quite believe that you never mean to, and I am about to appeal to you in that Conviction.
I confine myself to one point in the present exciting contro- versy, one of which you have made as much as any one, as im- plicating our Government in the responsibility for the Bulgarian atrocities,—I mean the despatch of our Fleet to Besika Bay. I do not possess the Parliamentary papers, but I have Mr. Glad- stone's pamphlet before me, and I quote from his statements. He says :—" The insurrection broke out in Bulgaria on April 20, and the horrors of the repression had reached their climax in the beginning of May." I rather suspect he has overlooked the difference of "style," and that for April 20 we should read May 2. At all events, the massacre at Batak is dated in the Daily News on the 3rd May. No information, however, had reached Sir Henry Elliot on the 9th May, on which day he telegraphed to the admiral in the Mediterranean to bring the fleet to Besika Bay. Clearly, then, that movement (ordered by the Foreign Office on the 15th) could in no way have conduced to the Bulgarian horrors. Had it any bearing, and what, on subsequent events? Its immediate object was to prevent any Mussulman outbreak in Constantinople or its neighbourhood, such as had occurred at Salonica on the 6th, and in this it appears to have been successful. Mr. Gladstone says, "The measure was substantially wise and purely pacific. If rightly understood, it had no political aspect, or if any, one rather anti-Turkish than 'Turkish." But it was not " rightly understood ;" it was taken as a demonstration against Russian intervention, and an assurance to Turkey that England would back her through thick and thin. This was stated in all the papers of Europe, and the Government enjoyed the popularity of a determined policy in consequence. Such is the charge. Well, as regards Russian intervention, I see that Sir H. D. Wolfe, speaking at Christ Church, told his constituents that an expedition of 25,000 Russian troops was actually prepared to embark at Nicolaieff for Constantinople, and was arrested by the movement of the British fleet to Besika Bay. So far, then, the " demonstration " was not without effect. But how about Turkey and the European Powers? Mr. Gladstone says that a similar movement in 1853 was the immediate precursor of the Crimean war, and that "in the absence of information," the British nation could not avoid supposing that it had the same meaning in 1876. The British nation, however, did not slaughter the Bulgarians, or any one else, and if I mistake not, the Prime Minister did inform Par-
liament that no umbrage was given or taken at St. Petersburg. The question is cot what was known or thought in England, but what information was possessed by the Powers and by Turkey.
Now, it appears that the other Ambassadors at Constantinople united with Sir H. Elliot in the request for the fleet to be sent to Besika Bay. Lord Derby, Mr. Gladstone says, was "sagaciously alive" to the danger of a misconstruction, and to avoid it, actually ordered the fleet to Smyrna instead. He yielded, and Mr.
Gladstone believes "he was quite right in yielding to the renewed_ and just instances of the Ambassador." Here, then, there could be no misunderstanding on the part of the Powers represented at Constantinople. We come, in the last place, to Turkey, with whom it was of the most importance to prevent a misconception of the measure. Are we to believe that Sir H.
Elliot, having sent for the fleet to repress any outburst of Moslem ferocity, having been expressly warned by Lord Derby of the danger of a misunderstanding, was yet so weak, or rather so wicked, as to allow his own "anti-Turkish" movement to be regarded by the Ottoman Government as an assurance of support through thick and thin ? It is a manifest absurdity. There can be no question that he did remonstrate, as he says he did, and his re- monstrances were the more weighty, as he meant them to be, from the presence of our ironclads at the mouth of the Darda- nelles. His life and the lives of all the Europeans in Constanti- nople depended on his making his meaning clear. Why, then, were the atrocities permitted to occur in Bulgaria or elsewhere ? Why, in the first place, the scene was beyond the reach of the fleet, and of our Ambassador's information. It is but too certain that his Intelligence Department was lamentably ineffective, whether from his own want of vigilance, or the reduc- tion of our consular staff, we do not know:; but for neither is the Conservative Government responsible, any more than for the policy which brought about the Crimean war, or the treaties which have since determined our relations with Turkey.
In the next place, there was really no Government in Con- stantinople that could give effect to Sir H. Elliot's remonstrances, had they been ever so well disposed. In April and May the Sultan was demented or inaccessible ; in June he was deposed ; and the Porte has been ever since in the agonies of conspiracy and assassination. This was precisely the time for the Pashas in the provinces, who purchase their governments, and as you acutely observed,, fight better without a Sultan than with one, to recoup themselves after their own fashion. Their ferocious instincts glutted themselves all the more savagely from being released from the fear of superior authority. The Government was broken up, and the horde returned to its nature. Perhaps one reason for the reluctance of the Cabinet at Constantinople to accept a truce may be a fear of the Pashas coming back from the field, and playing their own part in the struggle for power. If this be so, it is the strongest of all arguments for an immediate abandon- ment of the policy so long pursued by successive Administrations, and at once excluding this ruined and detestable mockery of a Government from the family of European States, to which it was admitted by the Crimean war. It is an urgent call to unite with Russia in clearing the Turks out of the Danube and the north of the Balkan. But I submit, with some confidence, that it forms no ground of censure on the present Administration, and least of all upon Lord Beaconsfield, who (unlesa my memory is greatly in fault) has more than any other statesman of our day withstood the Russophobia which has so often excited the British public.—
[On the 26th June, Lord Hammond, Lord Napier and Ettrick, and Lord Stratheden and Campbell all praised the Government for adhering to the old policy of the Crimean war, and sending the fleet to Besika Bay. Lord Derby accepted the praise without any disclaimer. It was not till the public excitement about the atrocities began, that in answering the deputation which went to him on the 14th July, he suddenly astonished the world with the true reason for the despatch of that fleet—Eo. Spectator.]