TOPICS OF THE DAY.
ENGLISH RESPONSIBILITY IN BULGARIA. public meetings held to protest against the conduct of 7[1the Government in sheltering the Turks have become numerous and excited, but most of the speakers seem a little at sea upon one main point. They express their abhorrence of Turkish crimes in Bulgaria with the vehemence natural to Englishmen. They declare formally that the Government ought to cease to afford any countenance to the Turks, and they sometimes advocate in vague terms a policy best described as that of a league of the Powers for the expulsion of the Turks from Europe. But they, nevertheless, appear in many instances not to perceive how deep is the responsibility of the English people for these outrages ; how completely their con- tinuance depends upon English action ; how indispensable it is that if they are to cease, or to be punished, or to be prevented, Lord Beaconsfield must previously be removed from power. These crimes have been going on for three months, and are going on now, not only throughout the greater part of Bul- garia, which is as large as Ireland, but throughout certain districts of Bosnia, whence information nearly as frightful will shortly be made public. During the whole of this time one stern sentence from the British Premier, one despatch from Lord Derby offering the Pashas the alternatives of the punishment of the outrages—the real punishment, and not the profession of the wish to punish—or the withdrawal of the British Ambassador and Fleet, would have sufficed to put a stop to them. Not only was that word not spoken, but the Head of her Majesty's Government, the statesman whose order had moved the strongest fleet ever seen afloat to Besika Bay, jested openly in Parliament at the stories of outrage, declared that Turks had more summary means of dealing with insurgents, and refused absolutely to modify his policy in consequence of " coffee-house babble." Up to the moment of the prorogation he made no apology for his language, uttered no threat against the Turks, and denied with cool effrontery and callousness the story of the burning of the school-children,—a story already proved by eye-witnesses, and now detailed with sickening cir- cumstantiality. He did not withdraw the Fleet, he did not re- call the Ambassador who ignored the outrages, he did nothing but protest that he should act in the interests of the British Empire,—a well-known sentence, always understood to mean in a debate on the Eastern Question that Turkey must be defended at all hazards. What were the Turks to believe They know nothing of opinion, but everything of Governments, and they understood, quite correctly, that when the Head of a Government talked as Mr. Disraeli talked and acted as Mr. Disraeli acted, that Government was on their side, that they were free at least from any danger of the kind of pressure to which alone they are amenable. They accordingly ordered the out- rages to cease, but took no steps to enforce their orders, suffered the most guilty officials to remain in power and promoted them, and increased the levies of barbarians who, as they knew perfectly well, would reproduce the scenes of Batok wherever they had the opportunity. They understood that with England friendly no other Power could interfere, and that England being friendly, they were at liberty to follow their own policy, which policy was to pnt down insurrection by terrorism after their ancient fashion,—the ras1.-10. adopted in Selo, in Crete, and in Syria, always with more or less or 811,6,xor. land deserted them, they must have yielded either to menace or to force, for no other Power knowing the truth about their treatment of the Christians would have prevented the Russian people from protecting their co-religionists. The sole responsibility, therefore, rested on England, which was not bound by any treaties to protect Turkey, the Turks having torn up the treaties by refusing protection to the Christians, and it rests there still. There is no doubt whatever that in any Conference for the settlement of affairs, the Government of St. Petersburg will propose that Bulgaria, as well as Bosnia, Old Servia, and the Herzegovina, should be placed under an Administration wkich can protect the Christians, and there is as little that this proposal will be resisted by Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Derby with more or less ti menace. Their repre- sentative will insist that Bulgaria shall remain under the direct rule of the Pashas,—that is, that the outrages shall not be punished, that their authors shall not be executed, that eTery person who gave evidence to the British or American T.3ommissioners shall be hunted down by men furious at the stir the testimony has raised. Nothing can protect these unhappy people except the autonomy of Bulgaria, and this autonomy will be steadfastly resisted by the British Govern- ment, or rather by those members of it who are responsible for foreign affairs. They have only to signify in Conference or by a communication to Count Schouvaloff that they approve this. settlement, and its adoption is certain,—as certain as that they will do nothing of the kind. It is, therefore, they, and they only in Europe, who are responsible for the horrors which, in a healthier state of the public mind, would have pro- duced immediate action, and which even now are slowly filter- ing down into the popular heart ; and they therefore who, if Englishmen are serious in their resolution to cause these bar- barities to cease, must first be driven from power. There is no necessity that their party should be driven also. We can trust the majority of Tories, when once fully aware of the truth, to do justice upon Turkey almost as fully as the majority of Liberals ; but it is impossible to feel that confidence in a man who meets such narratives as were placed before him with a jeer, who has made no serious attempt to arrest them, and who still remains fixed in his hostility to the majority of the population of European/ Turkey ; and Lord Derby is entirely in his hands. Neither the- Premier nor the Foreign Secretary has given any evidence that he is prepared to protect the Christians of Turkey by any means other than those which have been employed for twenty years without success,—that is, by representations which are always met by the Pashas with civil words, generous and high-- flown promises, and entire neglect. To this hour they rely on words,—words which they know all the while there is no inten- tion whatever at Constantinople of reducing to action. They ask for punishment, knowing that a few subordinates will be sentenced to illusory periods of imprisonment ; for investigations, knowing that they will be made by the guilty or by persona like Edib Pasha ; and for the dismissal of Bashi-Bazonks, knowing that they will be at once rechristened as soldiers of the Turkish Line.
It is this point, first of all, that we wish to bring home tcr the consciences of our countrymen. It is their strength which the Premier is lending in their name to the perpetrators of these crimes, which amount, as Victor Hugo has put it in his poetic language, to the assassinations of entire peoples. It is their prestige, built up by centuries of endeavour in the cause of freedom, which is being wasted to support one of the foulest tyrannies ever permitted by Providence to disgrace the world., They, and they only, are keeping up the system which makes such scenes as those Mr. Schuyler has reported parts of the administrative system, in any province of Turkey where a Christian majority seem to weary of being treated as slaves- without human rights by a Mussulman minority. They are as responsible at this moment for the acts of the Turks as if they were now fighting in the Crimea, as if their ironclads were defending Constantinople, or as if they were advancing a loan part of which they knew would be used in hiring Bashi- Bazouks to " stamp out" insurrection in Bulgaria. If they- doubt this statement, they have only to ask themselves what would follow the withdrawal of the British Ambassador, and the official statement that he never again would be accredited to a Turkish Sultan. In a month Bulgaria would be occupied by a Russian force, which would place Eyoub Pasha between two fires ; a Russian fleet would be off Constantinople, and the• Sultan, with his Pashas, would be seeking a preaarious refuge in Broussa, leaving the Christian W.I.. as organise themselves ranee. They might not approve that result, but the undoubted fact that it would occur may show them the extent of their responsibility for a Power which, as Sir William Harcourt justly said, is only " maintained by massacre ;" and their power, if they please, to enforce terms of peace which shall leave Bulgaria free, though nominally subject to Constantinople. They can, if they please, compel their agents to insist on the enfranchisement of the four provinces ; and if they decline, they leave their Ministers to support the Power which commits and will go on committing the atrocities they condemn. It rests with the British people at this moment to decide whether the Christians of Turkey shall be free, and in refusing to give the decision in their favour they accept the responsibility of their fate,