TOPICS OF THE DAY.
Mawr a Christmas dinner-table has this week been gladdened ty the presence of some father, son, or brother, who for the last two years has been sadly missed, and earnestly remem- bered in those pledges to absent friends to which the sacred asso- ciations of the season and the perils of the far-off Crimean heights have lent a more than usually solemn significance. The miseries of the last winter but one have added a heightened zest to the comforts of the present ; the danger escaped has sweetened the assurance of safety ; and round many a fes- tive board in hall, in cottage, and in barrack, the story of the Crimean campaign has been told as the actors alone can tell it, and thousands have felt the grandeur of scenes which raised men above the fear of death and the sense of pain, as something not alien to the spirit of the day, whether it be regarded as the annual gathering-together of the scattered members of a family, or in the more specific sense of a me- morial festival in honour of the Head of our religion. In truth, there is no greater enemy alike to family affection and to religious faith than sensuality and its concomitant cowardice; and whatever braces men up to active vigour and patient endur- ance may fairly claim to be in alliance with all ennobling insti- tutions and beliefs. And not only on this general ground may the heroisms of war not unfitly mingle with the gentler affections of social life and the sublime hopes of Christian revelation, but the English soldier who fought in that Crimean campaign may well re- call the cause in which his country sent him forth, which in so far as it was the cause ofpolitical freedom against political slavery, was also the cause of individual morality, of pure and high man- ners, of the sanctities and dignities of life, against the corruption, the degradation, and the debasement that never fail to follow close upon the footsteps of absolute arbitrary government and the loss of national independence. Few subjects could be found more intrinsically c al to Christmas in its double aspect than the story of a war which called forth the highest qualities of thou- sands of Englishmen, where they were before only half-believed in, -and which was undertaken in the most righteous of causes, in which political prudence and generous sympathy made their joint appeal to the heart and mind of the nation.
But the story of the war is past for us journalists. The con- temporary verdict has been declared, and it remains for history to accept or to correct it, according to the fuller evidence which time will bring forth. All that properly belongs to the retrospect of the past year is to note, that even now our knowledge Is full enough to enable us to correct the first general impression, and to repel those disparaging comparisons with our allies which seemed at one time 11 ely to settle into a persistent calumny. Error enough there was, though it was nobly redeemed ; blunders enough there were, though they finally served to bring into stronger light the noble qualities of the army that suffered through them ; but neither blunders nor errors were confined to the English commanders. If we have had a sharp lesson on the folly and improvidence of our falsely economical substitutes for genuine military education and a sound system of encouraging true soldierly merit, we must not rush into the other extreme of supposing that the adoption of any Continental system will be a panacea for the evils from which we suffered. Our practical danger does not indeed lie in that direction, but far away—in the direction of letting things drift back to their old state, and still leaving the army to be the appanage of the aris- tocracy. But in looking back to the war to read there the moral of military systems, historical candour obliges us to confess, that no military system a are to possess a patent for the production of great generals. " e presume that they must learn to make campaigns by making them ; and as history shows that English-
men have not been less apt at learning that lesson than men of other nations, when they had the oppottunity, so this war gives no reason for concluding that the faculty has departed from among us.
We are not lingering on topics connected with the war because
we shrink from the retrospect of the matters that fall more di- rectly within the past year. The Peace of Paris, whomever it dis- appointed, did not disappoint us; nor, after nine months' ex- perience of the frailty of that bond, can we take upon ourselves to say that it could have been more ably negotiated, or have more adequately expressed the results of the two years of the struggle. We do not think that English statesmen 'ought to be so trained as to be upon their guard against " dodges," that would, if they are correctly stated, cause an English at- torney to be struck off the rolls ; nor is the English Government responsible for the devious policy which seems to have recently inspired the Ministers of the French Emperor. Rather perhaps, seeing, as we now do, the kind of instruments with which Louis Napoleon is compelled to work out his will, the kind of coadjutors therefore with whom our negotiators had to act, we may congratu- late the country that the terms of the treaty of Paris were made as effective as they are, however certain details may yet be con- strued. But, in fact, the ground of whatever serious dissatisfac- tion exists with -respect to the terms of peaee, lies in a wilful and silly refusal to recognize the conditions and objects of the war. The direct and avowed objects of the war are attained by the treaty ; the terms being such as many English statesmen thought, a year before, that Russia could by no compulsion be brought to submit to. he panic fear of Russian power, from which Europe had suffered ever since the treaty of Vienna, was dispelled : Ger- many was freed from the spell which had paralyzed her—hence- forth her future was at least in her own hands : all simply exter- nal hinderances to the vitality of the Turkish empire were removed, the serpent that was strangling her was choked off. The Danube was freed from artificial and political obstruction ; the Black Sea with its ports was thrown open to European commerce, and the Rus- sian fleet forbidden to dominate those waters for the control of which wealth and science had been so lavishly expended. Sweden was freed from an incubus and a standing menace. Sardinia was raised in her own esteem and in the rank of nations, with a fine army and the memory of the .Tchernaya blotting out the disastrous day of Novara,--a fact full of significance under certain contingencies for the immediate future of Italy, and in no case without a beneficial infinenee on the cause of rational liberty in politics and religion throughout that distracted land. But all this, forsooth, must go for nothing, because something else, which the war was never in- tended-to effect, was left undone. Russia was mulcted of only an insignificant slice of her territory ; Poland was not re-created ; Austria was not driven into the arms of Russia by an attack upon her Italian possessions ; Kossuth is not governor of Hungary ; and Mazzini sitteth not in the Pope's chair at St. Peter's. This is at bottom what constitutes the grievance. A certain party with definite aims and a much larger number of persona with some- what indefinite sympathies, hoped or at least wished the war undertaken by the Governments of France, England, Turkey, and Sardinia, aided by the moral adhesion of both Austria and to a certain extent of Prussia, against Russia, utterly to change its character and become a war throughout Europe of Liberalism against Absolutism, of nationalities against foreign rulers. We are far from denying our extreme dissatisfaction with the political condition of Continental Europe as a whole, and especially with those arrangements of the treaty of Vienna which left the Grand Duchy of Warsaw to Russia, Gallicia and Lombardy with Venice to Austria, and seemed throughout to postpone the true interests and national sympathies of the peoples to the personal ambition and avarice of sovereigns, and to false calculations of diplomatists on the balance of power. But opportunities like that are not usually offered twice ; and certainly the late war did, in its ac- tual circumstances, present no chance of effecting either a general redistribution of European territory or a termination of foreign dominion in Italy or Poland, though it might well enough at the beginning have seemed likely sooner or later to assume dimensions and take a shape from which much greater changes would have resulted than those which the treaty of Paris embodied in the law of Europe. No person to whom politics are a sober reality, and -who can distinguish the functions of the responsible statesman from the dreams of the political enthusiast, will look upon the history of England during the past year as having been marked. by a cowardly evasion of .any duty this country, as a depository of great powers and the last refuge in Europe of constitutional government, owes to the nations of Europe and `to the interests of humanity at large. Aiming at a perfectly practicable object, she attained that object; and when it was attained, she laid aside her arms.
It may indeed be urged, that if the object to be attained was thus by the, necessities of the case limited, the end was not worth the expenditure lavished on it. And indeed, when it is re- membered how many much-needed improvements the money spent upon those two campaigns would have produced at home, one is inclined to sigh over the little palpable advantage obtained at so vast a east. What, indeed, is the free navigation of the Danube to us, compared with the drainage of London and the purification of the Thames ? We reply, that the foundation of the house is a necessary part of the construction, though it does not show as an ornament of the street or offer space for the stowage of goods. We as a nation professed to believe that the independence of Europe was at stake on the issues of that war ; that a Russianized Turkey in addition to a Russianized Germany meant that the foundations of our noblest European life were endangered. If the war has averted that danger,—if it has even thrown it back for sufficient time to give Turkey and Germany a fresh lease of independence, a fresh chance of finally expelling the disease which had eaten so
deeply into the system of each country, a fresh chance of de- velopmg into the organs of true national bodies the elements of vitality we still believe them to possess,—then the advantages of the victory gained at Sebastopol and formulized in the treaty of Paris not only are not to be estimated by any ma- terial changes immediately effected by the 'treaty, but are incommensurable by any material terms at 'all. And. if any thoughtful Englishman feels inclined to grumble that his Christ- mas festivities have been mulcted to pay for what does not at all concern him, his family, or his nation, he is not, in our opinion, indulging a more sensible spirit than a Hollander who should ob- ject to pay his share towards the 'dikes which keep off the sea, be- cause the fields closest to the shore belong to his neighbour, or a squire who grudges his mite for a county police, because it is his neighbour's house and not his own that was last broken into. The treaty of Paris is another dike against an inundation of lower civilization, lower morality, and political degradation—a more
effective police system for Europe. If only as a retribution -for our share of the treaty of Vienna, we aught to pay a portion of the cost : apart from the treaty of Vienna or any historical considera-
Lions, we are a member of the European community, and cannot shirk the responsibilities of our position—we cannot live in an an- archical community without paying the usual price of misgovern- ment and of no-government.
In regard to some of the minor and collateral results of the war we are unable to express the same satisfaction. The English and French forces continue to occupy Greece against the will equally of her court and people, without, so far as we know, any valid reason or even any plausible excuse. Even if we had conquered the country—as a leading newspaper insolently suggested—we were bound by our own declaration on beginning the war to eva- cuate it when peace was made. But no such outrageous plea has been put forward. Our interference in Naples, limited as it was prospectively to the cessation of diplomatic intercourse, was not likely to move the resolution of a self-willed obstinate Bourbon to govern his own subjects as he chose. The poliey of such in- terference must depend upon the circumstances in each case. If the withdrawal of our Ambassador was in this case accompanied by a decisive intimation to Austria, that, whatever happened be- tween the King of Naples and his oppressed subjects, she would not be allowed to lend the same sort of aid to King Ferdinand as she had herself received from the Emperor Nicholas against her Hungarian insurgents, all England with singular unanimity would welcome the news ; and if Parliament receive such as- surances from Lord Palmerston at its meeting a few weeks hence, he will have done much to efface a characteristic blot of English diplomacy and particularly of his own. We have too often re- versed the Roman policy, which was "Parcere subjectis, sed debellare superboe,"
while we bully the weak, and too often bend before the strong. Witness Greece, of which we have 'before spoken, both in the present occupation and in the Pacifico business. Witness the re- cent correspondence with Brazil, where our Ministers used lan- guage, in a case of very doubtful right to say the least of it, sin- gularly contrasted with the honied phrases and silken courtesy with which they veiled their opinions of the late Emperor of Rus- sia's fraud and perfidy.
- If we are cautious enough in using our force, or even asserting our full moral weight against the great Powers of Europe, we seem disposed to make up for it by carrying everything with a Mgh hand in Asia. Another war, twin-brother to the disastrous occupation of Cabul, has begun, the sole intelligible object of Which is to,guard an outpost of our Indian empire from falling into the hands of Russia. To discuss the policy of such a war effectually, demands more knowledge than probably any Cabinet Minister at this moment possesses. But it is obvious, that if the designs of Russia upon India are really formidable, the way to meet them is to have a defensible frontier, instead of a river which can be everywhere crossed. We are not among those who deny the physical possibility of the march of a Russian army to the Inaba; but the remote chance of such an event is not worth in- suring against at such an expense as that of wars with Persia about Herat. The insurance once for all would be, in a military sense, to occupy the mountain-passes to the West of the Indus, and in a Moral sense,, to govern India so as to bind the inhabitants to our rule by a sense of solid advantages,—a process which we trust is slowly going on, and will soon advance with moderated ratio, as railroads open up the internal resources of that rich country. From Herat to Neuchatel is a long stride. But our Affghan experience may warn the bellicose Sing of Prussia that moun- taineers are ugly customers. It is food for a cynic to hear Louis Napoleon talking of the " rights " consecrated by the treaty of Vienna, and sneering at the , facts". accomplished by violence in the revolution of 1848. Here is a case, if ever there was one, for the High Court of Equity of the "European nations. At bottom the quarrel is one of form, as to which party should snake the first concession. The Swiss Confederation -does not seem. at present disposed to imitate that characteristic of our diplomacy of which. we epoke just now, and give to a great Power what it would haughtily refuse to a small one. It has within a few years defied, France, and Austria in neither case, we believe, finally giving 14, its point. This looks like an habitual strong will and self- reliance. We have that faith in this habit of character, that we
think it likely in the end even the heroic Frederick William may find himself baffled by it.
Heartily do we rejoice that we can conclude this review of the leading, points of European history during the past year without. having to .note the :occurrence of a. calamity which would have. blotted out all subjects of congratulation—that on what was at bottom an idle question of form, England and America were _not engaged in .a struggle as ruinous as unnatural. That calamity the wisdom. and good sense of the people on both sides of the. Atlantic prevented. And, as some have called the late war a People's war, :because the People urged on the Government, and saw even more clearly than the Government from the beginning that war was inevitable, and on many accounts better at once than later, we may with equal reason assert that the People and not the dovernment preserved peace between America and Eng- land. A clear proof, if such were needed, being in both cases afforded of the conditions which enable the nation to control the foreign policy of the Government ; a strong conviction of the in- tercets involved, and an adequate knowledge of the facts of the case,.--conditions generally, we regret to add, wanting. May both instances he an example and a prophecy !