TOPICS OF THE DAY.
MR. CROSS AT LIVERPOOL.
ONE of the most interesting features in the Ministerial speeches at the Liverpool banquet on Wednesday, was the unconscious sort of way in which Mr. Cross betrayed the strategy and tenacity of purpose with which Lord Beaconsfield had managed his Cabinet during the anxious year and a half of which Mr. Cross spoke with so much pathos. At first evidently, in Mr. Cross's own mind at least, the danger ahead was Turkish obstinacy. He speaks of the pertinacity with which Turkey declined to accept the final decision of Europe in a tone which marks clearly his own genuine alarm and vexation. "From the time that we failed in inducing Turkey to yield to the remonstrances of Europe, without having recourse to arms, the difficulties increased almost day by day. Owing to the obstinacy of Turkey, unfortunately, she would not yield." Mr. Cross forgets to say why,—forgets that the Prime Minister's published speeches were the most open encouragement to Turkey not to yield ; that Lord Salisbury went with instructions, which were openly communicated to the Turkish Minister in England, declaring that in no case would England use force to compel her to yield ; and that whatever vexation he himself may have felt at her obstinacy, the Turks had the best right to conjecture that that vexation was not shared by Lord Beaconsfield. But Mr. Cross puts it in the mildest fashion :—" We thought at that time that it was our duty to uphold the right of Treaties, and to show Europe that we at all events were determined not to break them." One can see Lord Beaconsfield, having encouraged Turkey to resist by the tone of his own speeches and the emphatic instructions against using force with which Lord Salisbury went to Con- stantinople, listening to the chafing of his colleagues at the obstinacy of Turkey with a good deal of amusement and good- nature, but just interposing the remark that annoying as it was, still we must not set the example of breaking treaties by lending the slightest encouragement to the policy of menace. That having been safely settled, and his colleagues being bound over to neutrality for the time, the next phase of the discus- sion came. Russia, of course, proceeded to use force, as she was bound to do,—bound by the pressure of Russian feeling, bound by the duty which she had assumed of putting an end to the foul oppression which had caused her intervention. But now it was Russia who appeared as the breaker of Treaties, and Lord Beaconsfield got the consent of his whole Cabinet to the strong censure passed by Lord Derby on that most just proceeding. And from that moment, it is evident that Russia became more and more, under Lord Beaconsfield's spell, the only source of difficulty, the only foe, the only danger, in the eyes of the British Cabinet, till at last the two Members of it who still saw that Turkey was the origin and root of the evil, were weeded out, and the Cabinet became quite united in the conviction that their only national mission was to thwart the designs of Russia, even at the cost of saving and protecting the most active sources of evil in Turkey. It is amusing to note how Mr. Cross, in his history, slides away from his indignation against the obstinacy of Turkey, into his sense of the duty of strict neutrality, and then round to a neutrality most hostile in spirit to Russia, till he lands himself in exultation at the Government's having determined "to strengthen the bonds with Turkey," — Turkey the obstinate and infatuated, who would not listen to Europe in 1876, and is not listening to us now, for all these bonds,—" in order to prevent her being further attacked." The very man who had seen so thoroughly that Turkey was attacked because she refused to mend her ways in anything, is now eager to ally us with her, though she shows not a sign of repentance or reform. Well, but Mr. Cross went on to urge, "We thought it right to take the strongest security we could get, in order that, as the voice of England had been heard in the Councils of Europe, and heard with effect, so for the future, for the first time, the voice of England might be heard in the Council-chamber of the Sultan, not as a matter of form, but as a matter of treaty-right, in order that we might bring about, if we could, by that means, that which I am quite sure you will join with me in thinking is an enterprise worthy of a great, high-spirited, free, and ennobled people,—namely, to improve the government of these Turkish provinces, some of the fairest pro- vinces of the earth ; and that this should be done by means of England is, at all events in my opinion, a matter worthy of rejoicing." No doubt, if it is to be done. But just consider Mr. Cross's reasoning. He congratulates his audience that England's voice had been "heard in the Councils of Europe, and heard with effect." Yes, but in the first place, the Council-chamber of Europe is not the Council-chamber of the Sultan, as the Congress had the best reason to know ; and reasonable ideas have a much better chance in the Council-chamber of Europe than they have in the Council- chamber of the Sultan, as the Conference of Constantinople sufficiently proves. And in the next place, according to all the three Lancashire Ministers, speaking with one accord, how was the influence attaching to "the voice of England in the Councils of Europe" won ? It was won, they say, by preparing for war. It was won by the vote of the six millions, and the spending of the six millions on Army and Navy, and the evidence of willingness to spend much more than six millions. Well, if that be so, we suppose Mr. Cross looks to the gaining of influence "for the first time" in the Council-chamber of the Sultan by the same means. The atmosphere of that Council-chamber is certainly much more of a "resisting medium" than the atmosphere of the Council-chamber at Berlin. The Powers, when united, are reason itself, compared with Turkey. Even when they speak with one voice, and commission Austria to execute their will with her arm, Turkey does not count the cost of resistance. She resists just as if there had been no agreement at Berlin at all, and pours forth torrents of Mahommedan blood to prevent the will of Europe, accepted by herself, from being obeyed. Clearly, then, if we are to get the same influence in the Council-chamber of the Sultan as we had in the Council-chamber of Europe, it must be by a still more vigorous use of the same means,—the strengthening of the Army, the strengthening of the Navy, and the exhibition of a firm will to use both, if needful, rather than be foiled. Is that what Mr. Cross wishes As far as possible from it. He talks of putting off our armour almost before we have put it on. He talks of the peace as durable, and of a peace expenditure as our next aim. He wants to reduce taxation not only to the level at which it stood when the Government came into office, but "below it." After this cheap achievement of glory by virtue of a Treaty which cost promises only, and which gained us Cyprus, he is proposing to rest on our laurels and court commercial prosperity. He is reckless of the thousand miles of impracticable frontier we have engaged to defend against Russia ; still more reck- less of the cost of the gigantic reforms into which nothing but the steady pressure of an iron hand would ever force Turkey. He wants to have all the glory of a grandiose policy, and none of the burdens of it. He wants to combine the attractions of menace with the attractions of gain, and so to turn the menace into brag. We had always given Mr. Cross credit for at least a serious purpose as a Minister. But we confess that his speech at Liverpool makes us very doubtful whether he is not as completely under the glamour of the wizard's spell, as any of his brother Ministers. It is not creditable to a Minister who has just advised such a convention as our Convention with Turkey, to be turning his mind at 011C8 towards those ends which, by a very different policy, the Government might have had within its grasp, but which are as inconsistent with our new engagements as ease and gain were inconsistent with the labours of Hercules. The present Ministry, not satisfied with a policy of glory, appears to desire also all the fruits of a policy of non - interference. It cannot have both. It might have said, if it pleased, "How happy could I be with either !" but now that it has chosen its partner, it should stick to her, and not try to play the political bigamist, and associate at once with both.