TOPICS OF THE DAY.
LORD BEACONSFIELD ON THE PROTECTORATE. THE splendid audience which assembled in the Lords to hear Lord Beaconsfield on Thursday must have gone away after listening to his speech singularly disappointed. They had ex- pected to hear an unanswerable defence of his policy, an eloquent exposition of his designs, and as the Premier himself mentioned, an explanation of the methods by which he intended to carry them out. Many among them even hoped for another thrilling surprise, an announcement of some " grand plan," or of some new Convention, under which England would be made mistress of some new route to India. Instead of these, they heard a speech far beneath Lord Beaconsfield's usual capacity, chiefly upon a subject which has been worn threadbare. There is literally nothing, so far as Europe is concerned, in the Pre- mier's elaborate account of the Treaty of Berlin which is not con- tained in Lord Salisbury's defensive despatch, described else- where, except the statement of Mehemet Ali's belief that the Pass of Ichtiman, south of Sofia, is an impregnable position— which, considering that in the next war the invader will be aided by Greece, is worth very little—a distinct avowal that Austria is to retain her new Provinces for ever, temporary occupation being injurious to everybody ; and a decidedly contemptuous reference to the Greeks, who imagined that England would help to partition Turkey, whereas the first object of England—as specially shown in the cession of Bosnia and the annexation of Cyprus—was to defend Turkey from ag- gression, and restore the Sultan to a great place in Europe. The Premier never mentioned Bessarabia, made no attempt to show how an autonomous Eastern Roumelia can be considered a direct possession of the Sultan, and gave no explanation of the pecu- niary resources from which Turkey is to provide for her garrisons in the Balkans,—Turkey, which is obliged to unship her supplies of cartridges gradually, because the Americans demand cash before unloading, and the Treasury at Constanti- nople, as an eye-witness declares, can only pay for a few thousands at a time. Well might Lord Granville, in his rather weak though clever speech, declare that he thought Lord Beacons- field must have signed the Treaty of Berlin with regret, even though he used a pen made from an eagle's feather. Even upon Asiatic Turkey and our policy there the Premier had but little to say, and that little was so confused, perhaps purposely, as to be nearly unintelligible. He sur- rendered Kars because Russia had conquered it three times, and we had three times given it back to Turkey ; and never- theless, in the next war Russia would conquer it again. He had also surrendered Batoum because, though people in " society " spoke of Batoum as if it were a Portsmouth, it was really only a Cowes, a harbour where three ships could lie, but if six were crowded into it, they would be in the greatest danger from the north wind,—a declaration which we com- mend to the " Jingo " newspapers, which have represented Batoum as invaluable, as well as to Lord Salisbury, who in his Circular so objected to the acquisition of the place by Russia. To listen to " society," England should have gone instantly to war to preserve the most valuable maritime station in Asia, a " possible Sebastopol," which the undaunted Premier would defend at any sacrifice or cost. And all this while the Premier, who knew that Batoum was worthless, had his tongue in his cheek at them all. Verily, we ask for no heavier punishment on the Telegraph than to read its dearly- loved leader's exposure of the extent of its information. At last, however, Lord Beaconsfield reached the Asiatic Protectorate, and then the audience, rather weary of all these details, held their breath to listen. They heard very little, however. The Premier was still almost apologetic, and had evidently two sets of ideas running parallel in his mind. One was that the Protectorate was equivalent to British sovereignty in Asiatic Turkey. In a passage of unusual interest he de- clared that Britain had " taken " in Asia necessary room :- " We see in the present state of affairs the Porte losing its in- fluence over its subjects ; we see a certainty, in our opinion, of increasing anarchy, of the dissolution of all those ties which, though feeble, yet still exist, and which have kept society together in those countries. We see the inevitable result of such a state of things, and we cannot blame Russia availing her- self of it. But, yielding to Russia what she has obtained, we say to her, Thus far, and no further.' Asia is large enough for both of us. There is no reason for these constant wars or fears of wars between Russia and England. Before the circum- stances which led to the recent disastrous war, when none of those events which we have seen agitating the world had occurred, and when we were speaking in another place of the conduct of Russia in Central Asia, I vindicated that conduct, which I thought was unjustly attacked ; and I said then, what I repeat now,—there is room enough for Russia and England in Asia. But the room that we require we must secure." He believed that the Convention would restore order and tran- quillity to Asiatic Turkey, so that European capital could be poured into it, and arrest the decay " of these most favoured portions of the globe,"—improvements which, of course,. cannot be made without direct British, or at all events, European interference. He even declared that the only alternatives, unless Britain interfered, were that the provinces of Asia Minor should drop into anarchy, or become Russian possessions. That points, of course, to the huge responsibility of which Lord Derby, Lord North- brook, and Lord Granville, in the subsequent debate, made so much, the establishment of the dual government, which even in India is almost unmanageable, and which, as Lord Derby, in the finest passage of his great speech, showed, would in Constantinople be complicated by conditions which do not exist in India. The Resident there is not opposed, as the Ambassador to the Porte will be, by the Envoys of first-class Powers, urging the Asiatic Sovereign to resist. In other parts of his speech, however, the Premier endeavoured to whittle away his programme until it came to nothing. He earnestly and even anxiously sought to assure France that he had done nothing at which she could reasonably take umbrage. We had not accepted Egypt, or interfered with Syria. He laughed at those who expected that he should explain his plan for the administration of Asiatic Turkey, saying that he had no plan to reveal, and that we must act with caution, deciding nothing " without the consent and sanction of an independent Power, the Sultan." That is as much as to say, that we guarantee Asiatic Turkey to the Sultan, but claim no right of inter• fering between him and his subjects, save such as he may accord, which will, of course, he being human, be no right at all. That also is the drift of Lord Salisbury's speech, who peremptorily declared that as this country would fight for Turkey, if attacked—which is wholly incorrect, unless the Government is first re-formed—we had better make that re- solve clear beyond the possibility of error. Which, then, is the policy that the Government intends to pursue,—the policy indicated in the Anglo-Turkish Treaty, explained by all the organs of the Government, and admitted in certain portions of the Premier's speech ; or the policy contained in the other portions we have quoted, and in the whole of Lord Salisbury's angry oration ? Is this country, in fact, going to insist on the good government of Asiatic Turkey, or only on so much good government as the Sultan is willing to allow to exist ? They are entirely different policies, and according to the Premier's speech, we are going to pursue one of the two, but no mortal can be certain which. It is true that Lord Beaconsfield, in his usual manner, deprecated premature announcements of arrangements still immature, and of course he has a right to use that argument for his discretion. But he does not mean to affirm, we presume, that his policy as well as his arrangements are still immature, and it is his policy that he is re- quired by his country to explain. As matters stand on the surface, according to Lord Salisbury's speech, and one part of Lord Beaconsfield's speech, the Sultan has hired the British Empire to be his soldier for ever at the price of Cyprus ; and though that cannot be true, and is not true— for the impossible is never true—there is no evidence produced to show that it is false, that Lord Beaconsfield intends some- thing utterly different. He only says that he intends that, and something utterly different from that, and that he will recon- cile his opinions by-and-by, when something undefined has taken place. There is no answer so much as suggested to Lord Derby's argument, that we have by guaranteeing Turkey given the Pashas our full permission to neglect all military defences, or to the argument of Lord Northbrook's over-compressed, but most weighty speech, every line of which deserves to be attentively studied, that we have either undertaken without adequate military strength to resist a great military empire by land, or to govern a second, and in the main for warlike purposes, a fanatically Mussulman India. The Premier accepts, in a sort of way, both alternatives, but does not say which he pursues, or indicate how either is to be followed with success. We never read a speech, and we question if there is a speech in our Parliamentary record, which admitted or boasted of such vast obligations, yet gave so few hints as to the means by which they are to be fulfilled.