TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE NEW CRISIS.
PROVIDENCE would almost seem to arrange political crises to spite the weekly journals. They always happen or culminate late on Friday evening. In the present instance we must write without hearing the Ministerial explanations, before Sir Stafford Northcote has detailed his demands— though he announced on Thursday that he should make a de- mand—and before the rumours afloat that the Ministry is still undecided can be tested or disproved. One broad fact is, however, certain and patent to all who watch politics with any attention or intelligence at all. The Govern- ment has come very suddenly to some resolution which involves, if not war with Russia, at least a possibility that war may be immediately -upon us. Sir Stafford North- cote, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced from his place in Parliament that he must demand a supplementary credit for the Naval and Military Services, which it is clearly understood is intended to equip an expedition ; and the announcement is accentuated by the pacific character of his speech on the Address, which involved a statement that unless some wholly unexpected event occurred, no Supple- mentary Estimate would be required. Lord Derby, who, though by no means interested in the Christians of Turkey qua Christians, has throughout been opposed to the policy of assisting Turkey, who has, we pointed out last week, consistently warned the Turks that they had no military aid to expect, and who feels, from his temperament and his cool reasoning power, a determined repugnance to waste British resources in prop- ping up a rotten despotism, has, it is broadly asserted, re- signed, and has, it may be certainly assumed, seen reason to doubt if a peaceful policy will any longer be maintained. And above all, Lord Carnarvon has resigned. The truth about this event is not known as we write, and will not be known till this journal is in its readers' hands, even if explanations should be given before Monday ; but it is safe to assume at least this much,—Lord Carnarvon has consistently resisted any policy the effect of which would be to replace an evil Mahommedan despotism in power over the Christians of Eastern Europe. That is clear from every speech he has made, and especially from his deliverances to the people of Dulverton and the Deputation of Cape Colonists, and it is certain from his character that this resistance has been of a most determined kind. It has been supposed hitherto that in resisting he followed Lord Salisbury, but whatever the truth which readers of memoirs in the next century may discover, it is evident that there has been some error in the popular judgment upon this point, for Lord Salisbury has not resigned. A man like Lord Carnarvon, therefore, so evidently sincere in his opposition to a renewal of the Crimean policy, so foremost in opposing it, and so resolute in character, could not have remained in the Cabinet unless its policy had been peaceful, and in resigning the Colonial Minister indicates unmistakably that that policy has been changed. There is war, war for Turkey, ahead, or a policy leading to war, and the country cannot place too grave an interpretation on the situation. Whether the Ministry has decided, as the Daily News says, to occupy Gallipoli, or as is rumoured, to defend Constantinople, or as is most probable of all, only to say that it wishes to do these things ; whether orders have been transmitted to the Fleet, or whether the vote on Sir Stafford Northcote's motion will be awaited ; whether the sudden summons to the Duke of Cambridge means the despatch of an army, or is only "a measure of precaution," there can be no doubt whatever that the majority of the Ministry, including men who ought to have been wiser, intend measures which, in the judgment of the coolest head and the most upright character among their colleagues, involve a departure from the policy which has hitherto kept the Cabinet together. The line of that departure does not signify, for the moment. The fact remains that it must have been departed from.
Now what has occurred to justify such a departure ? Abso- lutely nothing. The official newspapers affirm with painful reiteration that the reticence of the Russian diplomatists in concealing the terms of peace is an insult to Great Britain, but the charge, although repeated in his most mystical manner by Lord Beaconsfield, is almost too absurd for serious discussion. Russia, or any other victorious Power, has a right to be reticent, if it pleases, until it knows that its terms of peace will be ac- cepted by its enemy. It is not bound to show its hand, and cannot prevent its opponent from showing it at will. If the terms do not concern Europe, it is not bound to reveal them, except at. its own discretion, and if they do concern Europe, it is only bound to ask the Powers interested for their consent in the regular diplomatic way. England is not an ally of Russia in the war, and has no claim whatever to any special courtesy other than that which all nations not actually at war with each other find it expedient to preserve. She had in fact stated that, except in certain contingencies, she did not especially want to know the terms ; for that, unless those terms threatened the safety of Egypt, or involved the permanent fate of Constantinople, or altered the status of the Dardanelles, she had no intereste involved, and until the terms had been accepted it could not be said that any one of her three interests had been so much as touched. The theory, however, that we are to go to war, or to do anything leading to war, because Lord Beaconsfield had been kept in the dark for forty-eight hours longer than he liked, is too absurd for discussion, and we are driven back upon more serious considerations. It has been said all through the week that England was threatened because General Gourko was marching on Gallipoli, and Gallipoli could only be occupied with the intention of prohibiting England from entering the Dardanelles to assist Turkey,. or from intervening in any way in the negotiations. But the report was entirely untrue, a mere invention in Con- stantinople for the purpose of exciting English passion, and was formally denied by Russian statesmen, on the very ground that they knew England to be susceptible, and would not, therefore, touch Gallipoli unless a great concentration of Turkish troops there made it possible that their own. armies might be attacked in flank—a reservation which is a mere matter of course, as no army will en- dure great risks incurred for political reasons. What, then, was the new danger ? It has been affirmed that the Russians were marching on Constantinople ; but in what way, except so far as they are friends of the Turks, did that concern. Englishmen Every Power which cannot obtain its terms marches on the enemy's capital to enforce them. Prussia has marched on Paris within the last eight years, and marched on Vienna in 1866. That Russia should keep Constantinople may concern England, but what probability or possibility of that exists which did not exist a week ago ? Neither Germany nor Austria would endure such a change in Europe, and with a Russian Army south of the Balkans, and liable to have its communications cut off from the West,. either could prevent it by a word. Is it, then, the military occupation of Constantinople that we are to resist? We cannot believe it, cannot believe that Eng- land is to rush into a great war, expend incalculable trea- sure, and let loose every dangerous ambition in Europe,. solely for the pleasure of baulking the only method Russia could adopt of securing terms which half, perhaps much more than half, our people wish to see secured. To. assist the Turks in defending Constantinople is to enable them to reject all terms, and bribe them to prosecute the war, at our expense, indefinitely, until Russia, wearied out, gives up even those objects upon which Englishmen, equally with herself, are intent. The thing is inconceivable, and we should believe that the Government knew of some condition of peace which they supposed would be unendurable. to the nation, but that such a condition, whatever it might be, would also have been unendurable to the seceding Ministers. Lord Carnarvon is no peacemonger, but a man who, on cause,. shows fight and annexes, who has for good cause risked two wars, and who, on good excuse, has added two provinces to her Majesty's broad dominions. Lord Derby, though perhaps more peaceful, is one of the proudest men alive, and at least as unlikely to put up with unendurable terms as any remaining member of the Cabinet. Yet both these men resign positions which must be pleasant to them rather than endure to assist in the altered line of the Ministerial policy. We are driven, as we calculate the possibilities, from point to point, till at last we find the only explanation in the growing irritation of the Tory rank and file, who on Tuesday besieged Sir Stafford Northeote, who are eager for a spirited foreign policy, and who have overborne the counsels of cooler heads and more piti- ful hearts, and compelled the willing Premier and the un- willing Government to show that, whether cause exists or not, they are ready to defy Russia and take the consequences. We have no objection to defy Russia, but it must be in a cause a little better than the reputation of a Ministry which, when at peace, threatens war, and heralds a war by violating its own voluntary pledge that until unexpected cause arose it would maintain the peace.