MR GLADSTONE AT GREENWICH. T HERE is a characteristic difference between
Mr. Gladstone's pamphlet on the Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria, and his speech at Greenwich on the same subject. The circumstance that the one was written and the other spoken may in itself be enough to account for this. Particular ideas are often asso- ,ciated with particular attitudes, and Mr. Gladstone, standing on a platform, may easily feel a present sense of responsibility which is wanting when he is sitting at a desk. It may be also that what he said at Greenwich was intended to be a kind of text-book of Liberal policy on the Eastern Question. Before the full truth about Bulgaria was known, he refused to address his -constituents without consultation with his political friends, and now that what he says to these same constituents has become of far greater importance, it would only be natural that he should have communicated the substance of his speech to Lord Granville and Lord Hartington who have-jointly succeeded him in the leadership of the Liberal party. Whether this be so or not, the moderation of the Greenwich speech has not been -denied, even by those who are angry that it should ever have been made. Mr. Gladstone is not preaching a crusade, he is suggesting and defending a policy. We should have been glad if it had not been necessary for him to do either. It would have been -far better for the country if, upon the con- firmation—the more than confirmation—of the worst rumours -of the Turkish atrocities, either Lord Beaconsfield or Lord Derby had stated, in unmistakable language, that great as the difficulties in the way of action might be, the English Government would for the future treat the effectual prevention of similar atroci- ties as an indispensable condition of maintaining the integrity of the Turkish Empire. Such a statement, made spontane- -ously, and in good time, would have rendered public meetings unnecessary. They became necessary, they continue to be mec,essary, because there is no such evidence of a changed pur- pose on the part of either Minister. There is evidence that the prevention of Turkish atrocities will be one of their aims, but there is nothing to show that the attainment of this aim will be the primary condition of English policy in the East, nor that this prevention shall rest on something more substantial than the good-will of the Turkish Govern- ment. It has been left to Mr. Gladstone to give statesman- like expression to the national demand, and the sense of this might well be sufficient to account for the air of reticence which belonged to almost all that he said on Saturday.
It will probably be said,—What is it that you call moderation? Is it moderation to talk of turning the Turk out of Bulgaria, Bosnia, and the Herzegovina ?. Is it moderation to talk of governing these provinces by a foreign Commission appointed to exercise a conclusive control over all Turkish operations and proceedings in them ? We answer, that moderation is relative, that men are moderate if they content themselves with doing -the least that will answer the purpose, and that it is not moderation, but weakness, to be content with anything short of what will answer the purpose. Mr. Gladstone's speech is moderate, because he insists that the measures taken to pre- vent the recurrence of these atrocities ought to be the mildest of which the case admits. If he had gone further, and said that they ought to be absolutely mild, he might as well have kept silent. The Government are prepared, we do not doubt, to take mild natasures with the Turks. But then, as Mr. Gladstone says, these measures must be effectual as well as mild, and if that which is mild will not be effectual, and that which is effectual cannot be mild, it is the effectual that must be taken and the mild that must be put aside. This is the difference down to this time between the nation and the Government. The nation is anxious that mild measures should be taken, but it adds, provided that they be effectual. The Government is anxious that effectual measures shall be taken, but it adds, provided that they are mild.
No doubt if moderation means that we are not to allow the repetition of Turkish atrocities unless the prevention of them involves risk to ourselves, and that then, as a practical people, we must stand aside and leave the Porte to settle matters with his own subjects after his own fashion, Mr. Gladstone is not moderate. Those who reason in this way seem to leave out of sight one highly important consideration. They say that it is not the business of England to head a crusade against brutality in other countries ; that her duties begin at home, and are owing, in the first instance, to her own people ; and that before inquiring whether the Turk is a fit person to govern Bulgaria, she must inquire whether he can be expelled from Bulgaria without grave danger to the fabric of English Empire. This would be perfectly true if the question were whether England should declare war against Turkey. Before one Power undertakes to repress or punish the wrong- doing of another Power, it is bound, in the interests alike of its own subjects and of Europe generally, to count the moral and material cost of interference. It must calculate the probabilities of success and the consequences of failure; and unless the former amount almost to certainty, or the latter are too trifling to be worth counting, it will, as a rule, be bound to leave the matter alone. European Powers do not ordinarily stand in the relation of policemen to one another. The evils that flow from the enfeebling of national independence are in the long- run greater than those which flow from the wrong-doing of particular Governments. But the position of England in the Eastern Question is not in the least that of a Power medi- tating whether it shall institute a crusade against the Turks in order to inflict on them the just punishment of their crimes. It is the very much simpler position of a Power considering whether it shall continue to employ for its own purposes an agent who has committed, or, at all events, has proved incapable of preventing the committal of indescribable crimes. Surely this is not a question which ought to take long to decide. Let us suppose that it were necessary for the maintenance of the English Empire that an English Minister should permit English troops to commit atrocities similar to those committed in Bulgaria, is there any of ,us who would not say that it would be better that England should perish, leaving behind her an honourable name, rather than that she should purchase safety at the cost of unspeakable degradation ? Qui facit per aleunz facit per se. We have been maintain- ing, and often perhaps rightly maintaining, the integrity of the Turkish Empire for our own purposes. We directly defended the Porte against Russia in the Crimean war ; we have been indirectly sustaining it against the three Northern Powers by our action with regard to the Berlin Memorandum. If the English Fleet were to return to the Channel, and the Porte were informed by Sir Henry Elliot that it must no longer look to England for support, it would probably not be long before Russian troops would be occupying Bulgaria, and the repetition of the recent atrocities be rendered for ever impossi- ble. We have a perfect right, in the interests of our safety and of European peace, to oppose this solution, and to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire as before. But we have no right to do evil that good may come. We have no right to perpetuate outrage and massacre in Bulgaria to gain our own ends, however excellent these ends may in themselves be. We are not bound to turn the Turk out of Europe, but we are bound not to keep him in Europe, unless while we do so we take care that he behaves himself decently.
It is paying, however, but a poor compliment to English statesmanship to assume that, after all the changes which Europe has witnessed during the last twenty years, the last word on the Eastern Question was said in 1856. There is not a single great Power which stands now in the position in which it stood at the time of the Crimean war. Russia is relatively weaker, because though France is no longer ready to fight her at a moment's notice, a new military nation has arisen stronger than France was when she was at her strongest, and pledged by more permanent interests than France ever had in the matter to put the curb on Russian ambition. Italy has taken the sixth place at the European Council-table, and has a claim to be listened to as a Mediterranean Power, which she is rapidly gaining strength to enforce. Austria has no individual interests to serve, or rather, she has neither the strength nor the resolution to serve them, but though weaker than she was, she is at the same time more isolated, and the solution which does least to disturb the existing distribution of power in Europe is the solution that will best suit her policy. There has never been a time, there- fore, when the conditions for approaching the question were so favourable as they are at this moment. We do not say that the difficulties in the way of a satisfactory settlement are not still very great. But they are difficulties arising out of the nature of the problem rather than out of the dispositions of those with whom the solution rests. This is in itself a change of very great importance, and the difficulty which usually stands in the way of the adoption of a really great policy by an English Minister, the habitual indifference of the English public to foreign affairs, has been removed at the same time. If the Government see their way to take advantage of this conjunction of events, it is their duty to speak out promptly. If they do not see their way, it is their duty to call Parliament together, and convince the country, if they can, that the status QUO in Turkey must still be maintained. By either means, a limit would be fixed to the process of shaping a foreign policy by public meetings, a process eminently perilous in itself, and yet one that cannot be stayed until one or other of these conditions has been satisfied.