27 JUNE 1896, Page 23


TET no one who wishes to read the Duke of Argyll's I pamphlet on " Our Responsibilities for Turkey "—it is printed and bound like a book, but it is strictly a pamphlet—shrink from it out of any fancy that its subject is " too abstract " for discussion. It is unhappily only too concrete. There is every probability that within the next few weeks, it may even be within the next few days, the responsibility of England for Turkey may be brought home to us all in the ugliest and most convincing fashion. Unless we are greatly mistaken, events are shaping them- selves in Crete towards a massacre such as will stir the whole civilised world. The Powers are pressing the Sultan to appoint a Christian Governor in Crete, to re- establish the modified form of autonomy known as "the Pact of Halepa," and to summon the representative Assembly which still exists there, though in a condition, like all good institutions in Turkey, of suspended anima- tion. The Sultan as yet only replies that order has been restored within the island, and sends more troops • but it is possible that, as Russia objects to a slaughter of Orthodox Christians, he may bring himself to appear to give way, and to promise the demanded reforms. In that event the Mussulmans, furious at the resistance they have already experienced from the Christians, who when once armed fight well, will consider themselves humiliated—they have already forwarded a protest to Constantinople—and will undoubtedly, now that they have the means, read the Christians one last " terrible lesson" just to teach them what dogs Christians are. They cannot kill the insurgents, who usually beat them in battle, their own discipline having grown ruinously lax, but they can slaughter the citizens of the towns, and the old men, women, and children left in the villages, and they will. They have done it already in many villages, and done it with impunity, for their Pashas do not believe that the Palace is in earnest in its concessions, or if they do, are without the authority which can induce an excited Mussulman soldiery to protect Christians by firing on a maddened Mussulman mob. The Captains of the armed ships in the harbours will hesitate to fire on Turkish forts ; in the interior the sailors are as powerless as if they were at home ; and such of the civil population of Crete as have not fled to the hills, say two-thirds, may be deliberately slaughtered out, as their compatriots were slaughtered out in Scio and in Samos.

If they are, England, and indeed all Europe, will be responsible. The Duke of Argyll, who was himself one of the Ministers who sanctioned the Crimean War, declares that neither then nor at any subsequent time have the Turks been allowed to think of themselves as an independent Power. The war of 1854-56 was not waged to give the Sultan a free hand in treating his Christian subjects, but eto transfer the responsibility of protecting them, their protection being the essential object, from Russia alone to Russia in conjunction with Europe. The Treaty of Paris contains clauses on behalf of Christians which are as binding as any others. Lord Aberdeen was emphatic upon this subject ; Lord Clarendon in 1857 addressed to our Ambassador a despatch in which Turkey was dis- tinctly threatened with extinction if her rule continued to be " incompatible with civilisation and humanity," and " even Lord Derby, Foreign Minister in the Beaconsfield Administration, the coolest of all possible politicians, not only admitted this as a fact, but he admitted it as a necessary consequence of our action : 'The obligation to intervene for the protection of the Turkish Empire from external attack implies a corresponding duty of con- trol.' " Nor were these words of form. In 1860 the Turkish Government met a difficulty in the Lebanon by their regular expedient of massacre, and Europe at once intervened. The Lebanon was occupied by a French force, Lord Dufferin was sent as Commissioner, a peccant Pasha was hanged, a Christian Governor was appointed, and, in fact, everything was done which, had the Turkish Government been considered independent, it would have been impossible to do. It was not till 1876 that, going wild with jealousy of Russia, we refused to coerce the authors of the Bulgarian massacres, and even then Lord Salisbury in the Congress of Constantinople "repudiated the notion that Turkey was independent," while in the Berlin Treaty of 1878, though we limited the extent of Bulgaria under the fancy that it would be a Russian dependency, we engaged that the Armenians should be protected from Kurds and Circassians, and that the administration of Crete should be " reformed." These engagements were considered so serious that " in 1880 we had a special Envoy at the Porte, one of our most distinguished public men—Mr. Goschen ; and we had called together at Constantinople a meeting of all the Ambassadors of the six Powers of Europe who were signa- tories of the Treaty of Berlin. They drew up an Menthe Note, which they all signed and presented to the Porte. In that Note they declared that no reforms had been, or were even on the way to being, adopted, and that so desperate was the misgovernment of the country, that it would lead in all probability to the destruction of the Christian population of vast districts.' Could a more dreadful confession have been made in respect to the conduct and policy of any Christian Government ? This Identic Note commented severely on the calculated false- hoods of all kinds, and on the cunning procrastinations, which characterised the conduct and language of the Porte. It concluded by reminding that Government as an essential fact, that by treaty engagements Turkey was bound to introduce the reforms which had been often indicated,' and that these reforms were to be carried out under the supervision of the Powers.' We might as well have addressed our representations to a convict just released from a long sentence, and determined at once to renew his career of crime."

Unfortunately, though we asserted the right of Europe in this distinct way, we took no steps, that is, in fact, wi fired no shells, in order to impress the right on Turkish imagination. The Turkish Government cared nothing about Notes, and as we did not resort to force, pursued the policy which makes life intolerable to its Christian subjects, and which culminated in the horrible scenes of 1895-96, when some seventy thousand Armenians were murdered, under incitements from Constantinople, with every circum- stance of insult and outrage, without the smallest inter- ference from the Powers. Russia refused to intervene, fearing, it is understood, that we should set up " a Bulgaria in Asia," and we quietly accepted that refusal, and left the Turks a free hand over Christians who were only Turkish subjects because in 1855 we had made war on the Sultan's behalf, and in 1878 had threatened it. But for us the Armenians would all have been safe, even if the Ottoman Dominion, the greatest source of misery to human beings now existing in the civilised world, had not been finally swept away. It is in consequence of our action and in- action that the Sultan retains the power to sanction massacres, and yet we possess, by the consent of a succes- sion of statesmen, a full legal right of "control, by which, if we only exercised it successfully, we should liberate vast provinces far better as customers than the savage regions we are now penetrating in Africa, pro- vinces indeed which, though we have actually, as the Duke of Argyll says, "forgotten them," were once the seat of ancient and mighty civilisations. Turkey in Asia is probably the richest, and might be among the happiest, dominions on the globe. This is the Duke of Argyll's thesis, maintained with a force and a wealth of illustration, and we may add with a scorn for our vacillations, of which our summary COL. veys no idea, and it will, we have no doubt whatever, produce on the mind of every reader of the pamphlet a conviction that England is directly responsible for the atrocities in Turkey. Unfortunately the conviction is too complete, and ends not in any doubt or hesitation as to the strength of the argument, but in the melancholy inquiry, " In the face of those facts, all of which we admit, what are we to do ? " Our rights are clear both under treaty and from our position as a civilised Power, and our responsibility from our history is direct and urgent ; but then, what is the action to be taken ? Are we to enforce our rights and liberate our consciences by setting the world on fire ? The Duke of Argyll replies promptly, as might be expected from his long experience of affairs, " No." Every obligation to be real must include the power as. well as the will to enforce it. " That Armenia is not withih striking distance of our fleets and armies is a physical fact. That Constantinople itself cannot be struck at by us without the concurrence, if not the co- operation, of the other Powers of Europe, is another political fact which circumstances may also render cer- tain." But nevertheless we can do something. We can absolutely refuse to protect Turkey any longer against any enemies whatsoever, and whenever her crimes are com- mitted in regions which we can reach, we can intervene even if the intervention involves something of serious -risk. " Perhaps," says the Duke, " the best way of putting the matter would b3 to say that, if these massacres and outrages bad been perpetrated anywhere within striking distance of our fleets and armies, we shoald have been eternally disgraced if we had not acted, even alone, on the solemn obligations which we have undertaken." It follows that if our apprehensions and those of all Greeks are well founded, if the Turks are preparing to repeat in Crete the massacres which have in Armenia been " a stain on the nineteenth century," our clear duty is to in- form the Sultan that we shall resist by force, that we shall sink any ship conveying troops to the island, and that we shall lend serious material assistance to the Cretans in reconquering their ancient freedom. It is quite certain that our responsibility is complete ; it is quite certain that Crete is within striking distance ; and it ought to be quite certain therefore that our resulting duty of "controlling Turkey" will be performed. This ought to be done the more because it is quite certain that we shall reap no advantage from doing it. We have had quite enough of Greek islands, the trade of Crete is of no importance to us, and even a temporary occupation would be a positive embarrassment. We cannot be locking up small corps d'arinje all over the world. Our simple end will be to enfranchise Crete from the Turk, leaving her future fate to be decided as Europe, or the chances of war, or negotiation with France and Russia may decide. There is no conceivable fate for the island, .not even a period of anarchy, which would not be better for its inhabitants than a continuance of Turkish misrule, that " negation of God," as Mr. Gladstone wrote of the Bourbon tyranny in Naples, "erected into a system." The island ought to be Greek, but better, far better, it were French or Russian or Italian than that it should continue Turkish. Whether we shall have the nerve to do our duty is a different matter ; but that it is our duty we have no kind of doubt, nor, we should imagine, has the Duke of Argyll, who, we may add, throughout his pamphlet abstains from any recapitulation of horrors, not even referring to Vice-Consul Fitzmaurice's terrible Blue- book. He had not, of course, even seen the ghastly, the almost unendurable, penny pamphlet, in which Mr. Stead, with his love at once of sensation and of right, has re- capitulated the facts so far as they can as yet be ascer- tained. If that pamphlet were in every household in Great Britain, the Turkish sway over Christians would be extinguished if its extinction cost Great Britain a hundred millions and a hundred thousand lives.