TOPICS OF TRE DAY.
UTITRE COURSE OF ENGLAND IN THE EAST.
HATING ascertained the truth without further disguise to our- selves, that Europe is no longer at peace, but at war, the imme- diate practical question is, what is England going to do P There are not wanting those who, on specious grounds, would regard this second stage of the Eastern question as an opportunity for England to revise her position ; who would say, that having now seriously confronted the necessity of taking a decided course or drawing back, we have the choice still remaining, to draw back. It is not too late, they would say, although we have incited the Turk to hostilities, anti have made so great a show of aiding him that we have actually sent our war-ships to his support. Notwith- standing we are thus far committed—notwithstanding that re- tractation would now be infamous according to all known standards —it is never too late, such advisers would suggest, to draw back from a wrong course ; and the best thing that we can do now is, to leave those two barbarian states to fight it out between themselves. Theoretically extravagant as this line of argument appears, it has perhaps been not altogether without its influence in high quarters; influence at least sufficient to give pause, and to delay the decision which is now peremptorily necessary. And it is sustained with some show of argument, in the representation that the six months have sufficed so far for the collection of Turkish strength, that the forces of the Sultan could, now maintain the boundary of the Da- nube, 'without foreign aid, at least for one campaign. But it is not a question of one campaign. The termination of forty years' peace, involving the deposition of that authority which last arranged the peace and settled the nations upon their present tenure, is not to be dismissed as the affair of a season. Questions of much longer periods and broader interests are now at stake;
and it is time that those statesmen who by their office, be recorded in history as responsible before posterity for sustaining or betraying the dignity of their country, should review the consider- ations upon which their course must be determined. Their incon- testable and primary objects must be, to defend English interests, to sustain justice, and to restore, as they have so long succeeded in preserving, peace, but to restore it on a sounder basis. In speaking of English interests, we do not of course mean merely money interests ; there are other interests besides those of trade, not less real or material. If an upright life is better than a money success—if honour is more precious than even peace—then a state cannot be dishonoured 'without lowering the standard of morality by which its society is regulated; reducing the law of its daily life to a baser level, and entailing upon itself, if not the open lawlessness of barbarous states, the fraudulent vice of civilized decay. But let us for the moment, although deeply impressed with the paramount importance of sustaining national honour and a generous morality, regard the present question as one entirely of English interests, without discussing our responsibility to other states or our duty to a higher dignity. If it were possible to let matters take their course—to stand apart altogether, and meddle neither with the Russian nor the Turk—there is one reason that would be sufficient against such a position, on grounds lower than those even of duty and public morality : we should lose by it. Even on this ground, we recognize the necessity of standing up for minor
states, and preserving their identity in the comity of na- tions, rather than suffering them to be merged by overruling powers. In the first place, friendly intercourse promotes com- merce, dear to this trading country ; and we may point to Belgium, Turkey, and Sardinia, as being more profitable neighbours, on ac- count of the friendly intercourse which promotes commerce, than those great allies who are at the present moment occasioning to us so much trouble and uneasiness.
Secondly, the absorption of those smaller states would totally upset the balance of power. Leave Russia alone in her course of grasping aggression, and you would remove the barrier from that course which would not terminate until " Russia "and " Eu- rope " should be two expressions for the same thing. Still to ad- here to the lowest test of morality for the wisdom of such a course on our part, let us note that English intercourse and commerce would then be regulated by that power which has peculiarly dis- tinguished its sway by arbitrary exclusions and prohibitory ta- riffs. This is not a matter of speculation, it is strictly a matter of knowledge. Russia has exemplified her spirit in action ; and, lest
we might mistake either spirit or action, has formally declared both the principles and the purpose of her course. She has de- clared that she recognizes no law but her own. She claims to de- fine the boundaries of states, to determine their sovereign rights, and to settle their political and commercial relations.
Supposing we abandoned all the old ideas about the balance of power—that we should abandon the idea of any intervention in the affairs of Europe, disclaim our place at the council, and make up our minds henceforward to spin cotton and placidly await our destiny,—we should still ultimately realize the folly of that course in an immense amount of commercial loss. This inevitable result is but too tangible. Russia has by her acts and her declaration proclaimed that there is one thing superior to the public law of
Europe, and that is Russian law. We should negatively admit
that assertion ; we should abandon justice; we should give up the comity of nations. Henceforward there would be in Europe nothing sovereign but Will and Power. Under such a rule for the civilized world, there would be, for a state so rich as England, but
two alternative courses—placid annexation to Russia, or such measures as would make the power of England alone equal to counterbalance the power of Russia. England would have to make herself as powerful in all available means and machinery-as Russian Europe, with all the sacrifice of time, of money, and of political freedom, for such an immense military organization. Will this stand the test of commercial policy ?
But in a such a state of the world, we should indeed have con- nived at the establishment of a rule incompatible with commerce, as we understand it now. In the present state of the world, to bring about which England has made so great sacrifices we have learned to send forth commerce on its countless paths by sea and land, without guard or convoy. Suffer Russia to be the lord para- mount of Europe Will and Power the only sovereign on the Con- tinent, and that slate of things would be reversed. We could sus- tain our commerce, as well as our independence or our liberty, only by the direct exhibition of main force ; and then not a vessel could leave our shores for the innumerable markets of the world without its convoy. Thus our ships would have to be collected in fleets; our commerce would have to be hampered by military organizations, in order that it might safely be carried from shore to shore. We are not here indulging in any vain imagining ; it is but carrying out to the inevitable conclusion the process by which Russia has already been suffered to advance too far.
Resistance, therefore, is only a question of time ; and pro- crastination, as usual, only brings loss to that side which has the larger share of power and justice to itself. It implies a con- stant and an increasing accumulation of the wrongs to be re- sisted; an accumulation, therefore, of resisting power, and an ac- cumulation of expenditure for the purpose. Every month lost in bringing this matter to a decisive test is an increase to the .future national debt of England—a national debt incurred with tarnished credit.
As we thus come to the conclusion that the course of positive submission is impracticable, and the course of positive counter- action unavoidable, the next practical question is, what can Eng- land do ?—Quite enough, without departing from her own pro- vince. In the first place, she can, in word and act, make a deter- mined protest against the further growth of one lawless power. A juncture has arrived at which it belongs to the statesmen respon- sible for the conduct of English affairs to utter before the world a manifesto, declaring that England, strong in her own strength, dis- claims and resists the Russian infraction of the public law of Europe—will not make or meddle with it save to resist. It would not be necessary for any English statesman, conscious of his real power, to ask any King, or Emperor, or Grand Duke, whether the form of this manifesto was such as pleased him. It is time to break away from these entangling alliances, and to separate England for ever from these new and base ideas-- these lawless laws—these sophistries, by which Emperors and Chancellors can induce their accomplices on thrones or in cabinets to aid them in defrauding Europe of its great statutes. If the faith in those statutes be destroyed, no new treaties can ever re- store a public Jaw abandoned by every power. It is the mission of England to make the last stand for that public law, and to pre- vent its being recorded in history that these subversive principles, these lawless acts, have been adopted by the acclamation of poten- tates without solemn protest. Russia has forced England to this contest ; and, as we have al- ready said, the consequences will not be upon England, either materially or morally. If England utter this protest against the new political Pope, the consequences will be upon him. England can support her protest by active and decisive measures, still on her own ground. England is still without a rival in Europe at sea. When it comes to a question of will, it lies with her will to sweep the Russian navy from the surface of the seas, brushing away every stick or board before the storm of her indignation, or shutting the shipping up in Russian ports, useless because closed. Standing alone, meddling not with Russia by land, keeping to her own element, England could strike so fatal a blow upon the Im- perial pretender as would shake his power to the very heart of his own dominions. It is needless to follow out the consequences of such a course, if England rouse her spirit and choose to declare that decisive action should no longer be solely on the side of law- lessness and oppression.