26 SEPTEMBER 1863, Page 7


WEARILY, though without despair, we once more call the attention of our readers to that strange series of battles, manifestoes, intrigues, diplomatic struggles, and poli- tical failures which is called shortly "the Polish affair." Events have occurred during the week, some of which may prove of importance, and all of which, tending as they do to a single definite end, deserve something more than a passing comment. For the past six months this journal, which on American affairs has the ill fortune to find itself wholly opposed to the sympathies of the class to whom it appeals, has on the Polish question been as widely at variance with that class's conviction. The educated million, wishing always the independence of Poland, believe that it cannot be secured without intervention, and that intervention is hopeless. We believe, on the contrary, that apart from contingencies like the death of Lord Palmerston or the Emperor of the French, intervention is, to say no more, the most probable of many improbabilities. In spite of the growing lassitude of the English public mind, of the dispersion of the half-dozen men who really govern Europe in search of recreation, of the slow but visible decline in the military power of the rebellion—a decline confirmed by pronounced Liberals who have quitted Warsaw within the week—and of the advanced season, that opinion still seems to us the only one which thought- ful men are justified in accepting. It is based on two leading ideas—that Russia prefers battle to any concession in the matter, and that Louis Napoleon will accept battle rather than a final diplomatic defeat on a subject which his people, partly from noble and partly from selfish motives, have taken so deeply to heart. The events of the week, whatever their ultimate meaning, at least tend in a high degree to confirm both those impressions. The Russian answers to the three Powers have been pub- lished at length, and amount in the aggregate to a polite refusal to tolerate further discussion. Curt to the last degree, and full of the formal suavity one sees in its full perfection only in a lawyer's letter, they are to the full as menacing as• the most truculent American despatch or the haughtiest Eng lish ultimatum. Prince Gortschakoff plays to all the part of Medea, and insists on cutting up the living body before applying the elixir of youth. Pacification, he says, must precede the concession of the intended reforms. In other words, the Czar intends to subjugate Poland utterly before he discusses treaties, and, as Le Nord triumphantly boasts, he has withdrawn his brother as representative of those clement ideas which are but " illusions," and which it is necessary " to terminate by a vigorous military action, which may re-assure the peaceable population, and re-establish in the country order, safety, and calm." A nation is to be put to death, and then the executioner will discuss, if it be his pleasure, the justice of the sentence and the dignified mercy of the judge. This is addressed to all Europe, but to France Prince Gortschakoff adds something more. If. Drouyn de Lhuys, in language which, when a Bonaparte utters it, has force, had claimed for France full liberty, and left to Russia the responsibility of her actions. Prince Gortschakoff calmly accepts the covert menace, and in language which, if full of arrogance, is not devoid of dignity, throws it back upon France. " Toleration of the plans of the Revolution," says the Russian Minister, " is only to be feared from those Powers which may be determined to pursue, under an appearance of diplomatic action within the limits of international engage- ments, the realization of the most extreme desires of the Polish Revolution and the subversion of the European equili- brium."

The notion of equilibrium is explained by a memorandum in which Prince Gortschakoff re-asserts that Russia in 1812 held. Poland by right of conquest, and that the treaties of 1815 cou:d give to the Western Powers no right of interference in her in- ternal affairs. In short, 1815 notwithstanding, the kingdom of Poland is an integral part of Russia, and as much beyond ex- ternal criticism as the courts of justice in Moscow or the admi- nistration of the mines in Siberia. Language like this would never have been employed had not the Russian Government finally made up its mind. Apparent concessions are so easy and great States so placable, when placability will avoid war, that Prince Gortschakoff under other circumstances would, at least, have argued. Ho now only announces that argument is at an end. It is with the same resolution that the Government, with its finances still in disorder, hurries on works which defend nobody against the Poles, but will protect the coast against any sudden descent, and that the Czar has sanctioned an extraordinary innovation. Under any menace from France, the weak point of Russia is not so much Warsaw as Finland, for France must always seek to use Sweden as her base, and Finland is and must be the Bernadotte's price. Were the province certainly loyal, a descent made even by a power like France might not ba a very formidable affair ; but there is discontent in Finland. The Finns regret the old connection, the freedom and cheerful life which they see across the Baltic, their old rights of self-government, and their exemption from exceptional or heavy taxation. It is necessary to soothe them, and accordingly the Czar, whose family for forty-five years have broken all the stipulations framed when the Grand Duchy was ceded to protect the Finns, has suddenly bethought himself of the historic rights of the province. He has called together the Diet, and on the 18th inst. he opened it in person, in a speech which reads in parts like that of a constitutional monarch. The Estates, of course, are invested with no power whatever, as the initiative and the veto are both reserved to the Sovereign, and loans will continue to be raised without sanction should " an unexpected invasion of the enemy, or any other unlooked-for misfortune," make more money necessary. But still the Diet is assembled, and if it is "very dignified, very moderate, and very calm in discussion," if, in short, it obeys orders, why that pleasing course of conduct "will furnish a new motive for re- assembling it" three years hence. For, says the Czar, with that grandly impressive vagueness which the despots of Europe have caught from the one competent man among them, under such circumstances, " liberal institutions, so far from being a danger, become guarantees of order and prosperity." The Diet is not a Parliament evidently, and its acts will pro- bably be confined to a new vote of taxes ; but words like these do not chill the aspirations of the few who aspire, and the meeting of notables -with some right of speech however restricted, some claim however theoretical to refuse their Sovereign's requests, would never have been sanctioned by the Government had not the external danger been extreme. Conciliation is so opposed to the first principles of the Russian regime, a Diet of any sort at Helsingfors establishes so impressive a precedent for Moscow, that they are• of themselves sufficient proof that the Government antici- pates dangers which mere force may not be sufficient to repel. Those dangers are clearly intimated in the allusion to the contingencies under which loans will be raised for Finland without asking Finnish consent.

That those dangers are real seems evident from the events of the week in France. It is not in French nature to sit down calmly under a defeat so complete as that which Prince Gortschakoff has inflicted. It was, therefore, at first an- nounced that M. Drouyn de Lhuys would reply in a note having the force of an ultimatum. The spring, however, is still distant, French armies cannot move over ice, and the cool brain which rules France has devised ad interim a much more effectual reply. The National Government has just published and circulated a despatch intended to express its own views on the diplomatic situation. In this docu- ment, worded with careful attention to the pride and the prejudices of the West, the National Government defends its policy, asks, with a dignity strangely impressive when manifested by an unknown body, for foreign aid and sympathy, subjects the Russian despatches to a merciless criticism, denounces the war declared by Russia on social order in Poland, and hints most unmistakeably that by Poland it means Poland before the partition. That document was on Monday republished in e:ctenso on the first page of the Moniteur, in the largest type which that journal ever employs. We do not desire to exaggerate the importance of this incident, pregnant as it will appear both in Warsaw and St. Petersburg, but, explain it how we may, it can have but one general meaning. The Emperor of the French is irritated out of the ordinary international courtesy by the final Russian reply, is not unwill- ing to give Poland new hope, and does not fear to add fuel to the excitement already prevailing in France, by an act for which there is but one very memorable precedent. That one is the republication, in a precisely similar fashion, of Orsini's will—an act which warned the Austrian Court that the hour of negotiations was nearly over. The republication may mean no more than this, and probably does mean no more; but then this is much. For in France, on this Polish question, the Emperor is the restraining, and not, as in the Italian war, the great im- pelling force. The mass of the people, and more especially the classes through whom the Emperor rules, are eager for active operations on behalf of a race in whom they instinc- tively recognize themselves in semi-Oriental costume. If he gives way the dyke is cut, and the republication is proof that he is more and more inclined-to believe in the expediency of giving way. The events of the winter must, if we are rightly informed, greatly increase this inclination. The insurrection will not, it is true, wholly cease, for life in Poland just now is so little worth having, that mere personal misery will furnish to the insurgents recruits. -When a mourning dress involves Siberia and every man is liable to blows, when the best and ablest are deported in thousands and the right to landed property has virtually ceased to exist, when a foreign soldier is posted as a spy in every concierge and every house- hold is infested with Cossacks covered with lice, there will be no lack of men who prefer a picnic ending in death, but rendered pleasant at least by vengeance. But it is nearly certain that the Russian military position is daily becoming stronger, that she can, if she will, commence the course which ends in extermination, and that she has withdrawn the one man whose name might be " compromised " by an over- lavishness of murder. France may be once more called on to listen to the death-knell of a people who elected her sovereign King, who fought by her side in her epoch of victory, and for whom she has tried, with humiliating persistence; to obtain some moderate terms, may be required to bear with an execution which is for her at once an insult and a defeat. Napoleon signed no conditions when he seized in a night upon the throne of France ; but there is one which, as he well knows, he can never fail to observe. Even he, with all his privileges, must not trail the flag of France. English coldness and Austrian delays may serve as excuses for a time ; but if Poland finally perish in the teeth of French remonstrance, the dynasty will have lost in French eyes its only raison cr etre. It is not in order to fail abroad. that France has surrendered her right of speech at home.