LORD SALISBURY'S DEFENCE.
LORD SALISBURY has apparently felt the charge that the Treaty of Berlin is inconsistent with his famous Circular, and has replied to it in an elaborate despatch, addressed in form to her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State, but in reality to the country. It must seem to Tories an unsatisfactory perform- ance. As they read the Circular, it was a bold declaration that Russia had gone too far ; that her claims must be resisted, that Greeks as well as Turks had been sacrificed to Slays, that the Treaty of San Stefano was from beginning to end bad. It constituted, for example, far too strong a Bulgaria, and this, Lord Salisbury affirms, British diplomacy has remedied. " The Treaty of Berlin has radically changed the disposition of the vast region to which in the Treaty of San Stefano the name of ' Bulgaria' is given. Nearly two-thirds of it have been re- placed under the direct political and military rule of the Sultan, and in this retransfer are included Thrace and Mace- donia, in which the Greek populations affected by that instru- ment are almost exclusively to be found. Bulgaria, speaking generally, is now confined to the river barrier of the Danube, and consequently has not only ceased to possess any harbour on the Archipelago, but is removed by more than a hundred miles from the neighbourhood of that sea. On the Euxine, the important port of Burgas has been restored to the Govern- ment of Turkey ; and Bulgaria retains less than half the sea- board originally assigned to it, and possesses no other port except the roadstead of Varna, which can hardly be used for any but commercial purposes." Yet the very treaty enclosed in this despatch declares that the " two-thirds " are not given back to the direct political and military rule of the Sultan, but are formed, with the exception of a thin coast-line, into a State called " Eastern Roumelia," which must be governed by a Christian Governor-General, named with the assent of the Powers, and irremovable for his term of five years ; which is to be autonomous, that is, freed from the Pashas ; which will have a militia of its own—though their officers will hold the Sultan's commission—into which Bashi-Bazouks cannot enter, and in which Ottoman regulars cannot remain. " The regular troops," says the Treaty, " des- tined to garrison the frontiers must not in any case be billeted on the inhabitants. When they pass through the province, they will not be allowed to sojourn there." The laws are to be prepared by a European Commission, which will also, until the organisation is complete, administer the finances, while the country for nine months will be occupied by a Russian army. And yet Roumelia is " under the direct political and military authority of the Sultan." Lord Salisbury might as well say that Egypt was under his direct political and military authority, and indeed better, for Turkish regiments might be cantoned in Egypt ; and the Governor-General there is a Turk. No doubt the words are used in the Treaty, bnt they are no more true than they were true of Servia under its old constitution, when a Turkish garrison occu- ' pied Belgrade. The gain to Turkey, in this arrangement for dividing Bulgaria, is merely nominal, or rather is a loss, for Roumelia, if as independent as Bulgaria, might have been an ally, but being " autonomous " will always be striving to destroy the last shreds of the unreal authority of the Sultan. That the authority of Russia will no longer be " special " in Bulgaria, as Lord Salisbury alleges, may turn out true, and probably will turn out so, we anticipating a great extension of both Austrian and Greek influence ; but no thanks will be due to the Treaty of Berlin, which has so organised both Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia that they will be compelled to rely on foreign protection, and are of no good to the Sultan, for any foreign protector is sure to be hostile to him. Austria cares no more for the Sultan than Russia does, and Greece hates him harder than either. The Committee of Ambassadors in Constantinople, which under the Treaty is to be the final authority in both States, is no Turkish agency, and will probably be as anti-Turk as Ignatieff himself. Then, says Lord Salisbury, it was objected to the Treaty of San Stefano that it " impaired the continuity of the Sultan's dominion," and that has been remedied. How so ? By cutting Bosnia and Herzegovina right out of that dominion. Lord Salisbury evidently feels that there is a weak point here, for he says that this cession, which was not made by the Treaty of San Stefano, but is a direct addition to Turkish losses, interposes " the Austrian Power between the two independent Slav States, and while it withdraws from [the Sultan] no territory of strategi- cal or financial value, offers him a security against renewed aggression on their part which no other possible arrangement could have furnished." This means that Servia might have invaded Bosnia, and therefore it was ceded to Austria,—which is as much as to say that Switzerland might have invaded Savoy, and therefore it was ceded to France. Even supposing, what is not true, that Servia could have taken Bosnia, what is the gain to the Sultan in giving it to Austria instead of Servia, except indeed this,—that as Austria never gives up anything except under coercion, and as Turkey cannot coerce Austria, the Sultan is spared the annoyance of indulging useless hopes of recovering his possessions ?
But, says some resolute critic, the Circular objected to the arrangements in Armenia, and they are all carried oat. Yes, replies Lord Salisbury, but " her Majesty's Government have already provided by arrangements, external to the action of the Congress, suitable precautions against the dangers threatened by those annexations." How can arrangements not mentioned in the Treaty be quoted on behalf of the Treaty ? or if that is hypercritical, how are these arrangements to prevent the suggested dangers ? Those dangers will arise in Armenia, and to prevent them her Majesty's Govern- ment have taken a Syrian island away from Turkey I It is true they have promised to fight for Turkey in Asia, but then the promise is made conditional on the execution of re- forms which, if the matter is left to the Ottomans, will never be executed, or if it is not so left, will be executed at the cost of the destruction of the Sultan's authority. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, prevent the dangers to Turkey expected to arise in Asia, either by a meaningless promise and the re- duction of the Turkish Empire by one more province, or by measures amidst which that authority must immediately come to an end. They either do not protect the Sultan, or they protect him as they protected the Great Mogul, till they were i compelled to sentence him to transportation for life in Burmah. It is true that Lord Salisbury affects to believe that the Pashas have " another chance," but he knows better than any man in the Cabinet, except Lord Beaconsfield, that they will not, and indeed cannot use it. And finally, there was the Indemnity. In the Circular this Indemnity was pro- nounced monstrous, and in the Despatch it is stated that it will never be paid. But mark the astounding words in which this intimation is conveyed. Lord Salisbury says :—" The English Plenipotentiaries declared that they could not recognise in the indemnity any claim of priority over the debts of any kind which were anterior to it in date. It results from these declarations that Turkey is not internation- ally bound, and cannot be compelled to pay any portion of the indemnity until the claims of all the creditors of loans anterior to the war have been paid in full." In other words, our diplo- matists have provided by Treaty that the creditors of Turkey shall never be paid a penny. They have supplied the Porte gratuitously with a high patriotic argument for total repudia- tion. Pay their debts, indeed !—how can you ask it ? Why, if they paid their debts, they would have to pay the monstrous ransom exacted from them by the invading Power. English- men cannot be so lost in selfishness as to desire to be paid, when payment is to Russian advantage. If the Pashas, with their Greek and American Secretaries, are not astute enough to use that argument, and keep all tributes, assignments, and revenues for themselves, they have indeed lost their cunning. The speculators are congratulating themselves that Bulgaria is to pay, and East Roumelia is to pay, and Servia is to pay, and they will get all that ; but why should they get any, when every penny they get brings their debtors nearer to the period when they are to suffer, in their own opinion, from a huge, unjust exaction ? Just imagine if the German Indemnity had been postponed by Treaty so long as France did not pay her debts ! Would even the financial probity of Frenchmen, which is unimpeachable, have stood against such a strain ? And these are Turks, who repudiated before the war, who consider themselves hardly used in the terms of the loans, and who have derived from them no benefit whatever, except an army which has been defeated and a fleet which was not called upon to do anything serious. We venture to say there never was a Treaty before in which repudiation was so splendidly justified beforehand on the ground of morals. Well may Karatheodori exult, as ho is said to have done, that under the Treaty neither creditors nor invaders would deprive Turkey of a sixpence. Her Majesty's Government has, in fact, betrayed Greece, enriched Austria, dismembered Turkey, and consented that no creditor of Turkey should ever be paid at all. If these were the intentions of the Circular, then, no doubt, the Circular and the Treaty are entirely in accord. But then we all mistook the meaning of the Circular. We all thought, Tories and Liberals alike, that the objects of the Circular were to resist Russian expansion, to rehabilitate Turkey, to raise up the Greek in opposition to the Slav, to save Armenia from Russia, and to make of England the protectress of the law of nations, as understood by Turkophiles. Which of those objects, on Lord Salisbury's own showing, has the Treaty of Berlin accomplished ? It may have secured peace for an hour, but with Russia humiliated but uninjured, Greece deceived, Austria excited with hope of gain, and Turkey bewildered, the peace must depend upon accidents which no mortal can foresee.