13 JANUARY 1855, Page 10



WILL the negotiations which are now opened or proposed at Vi- enna on the basis of "the four conditions," lead to peace, or not ? Is the offer to discuss a peace sincere, or an artifice to gain time ? We have, in strict fact, no evidence to decide the question: Many reasons readily occur to the mind why Russia should be willing to arrest hostilities. She is hard pressea ; she has been losing ground in the actual conflict ; it would suit her purpose to facilitate the friendly neutrality of Prussia ; she may hope to withdraw Austria from an alliance with the West that might become permanent. Each or all of these reasons, or some of them, might account for the surrender of Imperial pride. The evidence of an opposite ten- dency, however, happens to be more positive. On the 26th of last

August, in a despatch to Prince Gortschakoff, Count Nesselrode de- clared that Russia could net accept the four conditions as they were framed on the supposition of Russia's being already "en- feebled by the exhaustion of a long war," and were not of a oha- racter really to settle peace. On the 281 December, the Emperor Nicholas issued a manifesto to his people which was a war-cry, urging them to carry on the battle " with the sword in their hand and. the cross in their heart." It would appear from this last Im- perial document, therefore, that the spirit which has animated Russia throughout, and which dictated Count Nesselrode's d spatch of August 26, had not sensibly abated down to the 28th December. On the same day, the representatives of the Three Powers met, and adopted that protocol which is called the interpretation of the four points, but which, we suspect, rather explains the purpose of the four points. Prince Gortschakoff had an interview with the representatives of the Three Powers, and it was understood that he -was allowed until the 13th of this month for returning the answer of his Imperial master. Long before the expiry of that time—on the 7th of January—the Russian Government announces its readi- ness to accept the conditions with the interpretation. Now, the course which Russia has pursued has been so consistent throughout the thirty years of the present Emperor's reign, and throughout the preceding reigns since the time of Peter the Great, that we must presume that course to remain consistent; and it is easier to-be- lieve that the step now taken by Russia is consistent with the conduct indicated by the treaty of Adrianople, the conversation in London of 1844, the conversation with Sir Hamilton Seymour about "the sick man," the Menschikoff notes, the despatch of August 26, and the manifesto of the 28th December, than to sup- pose that from the 7th of this present month Russia adopts a new course, distinct from the policy hitherto maintained, and, opposed to It in spirit. It is easier to suppose that the acceptance of pacific negotiations is deceptive than that it is sincere. It does not, how- ever, strictly follow from these data, that, in the letter, Russia does not now wish to conclude a peace, correct in form, and practically terminating present hostilities.

If we suppose the peace concluded, what will be our position ?

On this question we have indeed a formidable hint from the same Imperial documents to which we have already referred. In re- jecting the four points, which were unacceptable unless Russia had "already been enfeebled by the exhaustion of a long war," Count Nesselrode added, "and which, if the force of temporary circumstances forced us to submit to them, so far from assuring to Europe a solid, and especially a durable peace, such as the Aus- trian Government appears to expect, would only expose that peace to complications without end." There is more than one significant admission in this passage. It tells us that Russia might submit to the conditions from the farce of temporary circumstances, al- though she is obstinate in rejecting them unless so compelled. The compulsion upon her, therefore, is temporary, her acquiescence compulsory. The conditions will not insure a durable peaoe ; but, because the circumstances are temporary and compulsion is repug- nant to Russia, the conditions would only expose peace to com- plications without en& We do not know how this passage is to be construed, except as a positive admission that Russia will make peace if forced; that her pacific intention will only endure while the temporary circumstances last; that she reserves her purpose; and that she foresees, which is almost equivalent to intending, " com- plioations without end." From this passage we may not uncha- ritably surmise, that in assenting to peace in this present month, Russia seeks to withdraw her case out of court "without pre,

judice " ; retaining her claims, sparing herself the loss whichahe might undergo in prolonging a contest politically as well as mili- tarily a losing one, for the very purpose of advancing her claims at a later day, when she might be in a position and have the means to urge them with greater effect.

In the event of such an abrupt termination of hostilities by favour of a peace acceptable to Russia,. the position in which this country would be placed is one not difficult to calculate beforehand. Both, Russia and England have had their warning in the rupture. We used to be told, that gigantic as Russia was in dimensions, he had the feebleness of giants—a scattered power, and an inertia

which checked her action. We have discovered that this presump- tion was a mistake ; that wherever she is attacked, she can advance the means of obstruction, if not of victorious repulsion. We may not consider her action chivalrous; we may boast that she did not dare to bring forth her ships to meet ours. We may vaunt the capture of Bomaraund. But she kept us off at Sveaborg ; she defied us at Cronstadt; and we have not yet taken Sebastopol. In measuring our artillery—the great arm of modern war—against

hers, we find that she is not deficient in skill, and is greatly our superior in weight. Her exchequer may have been. put to w strain, but we have not yet seen any sign of exhaustion- in her power of bringing men to the field. She has not absolutely suc- ceeded this time, but Russia always bides her time ; and she has proved herself to be not less strong, much more unscrupulous, more terrible to encounter, more influential with subservient allies, than the most unfriendly view had painted her. On the other hand, we have need very great exertions ; we have sent an army. to the Crimea, a fleet to the Baltic : but we have exposed the fact, not. only that after the peace we are unprepared, but that we are very backward in military science, deficient in. military or naval leaders who can render a campaign as well as a battle summarily vie- torious ; and that we have our own impedimentatecontendagainst. The peace, of course, will not be concluded without taking the guarantees indicated by the four points ; and we are to suppose that the Russian armies afloat and ashore will be abridged in the Black Sea ; that the Czar will be placed under the bond of treaties, an& that the protectorate of the Christians in Turkey will be shared by other powers. Our own Government, however, has expressly disclaimed, by the mouth of Lord Jelin Russell at the late sitting of Parliament, any intention to deprive Russia. of territory. The ground upon which she stands—which oonstitutes.at least the half of Europe, and touches the territories that she covets or threatens —remains to her under new guarantees. Her respect for treaties we have ascertained. Although we may fairly presume a tempo- rary observance of any new stipulations, we can only, suppose that the observance will continue as long as the temporary oiroura. stances exist, which compel. Russia to- her present concession. Should this temporary peace, therefore, be concluded, it will still be incumbent upon us to maintain an armed watchfulness—pre- pared for those "complications without end" which are looming in the future; and it will, not be sufficient only to maintain the: forces which we have prepared for the Black Sea and the Baltic, but we must strengthen our means of maintaining a position in Europe and of defending ourselves at home. Forder such cir- cumstances will be a charter conveying to ruasesl under

the power of selecting her next opportunity for aggression, and of free* tra- versing those seas from which at present she is. shutontand beat the shores of Britain.

In this survey of the future as it is deduced without exaggent- tion or refinement from the past, we are only grouping, the factor from which the reader can draw his own inferences, not palming upon him any inferences of our own. Our position at the close of the year just past was one upon which we could have scarcely calculated beforehand. With great exertion; and great good for- tune, through the concurrence of circumstances, only partially under our control, we came to the encounter which Russia pro- voked, by the side of France, whose interest in the mutest pre- ceded ours ; we acquired' the alliance of Austria, under circum- stances which' threw the immense preponderance of strength on our side ; and incidentally we induced Austria to take such a position as would be conducive to the development of opinions andinstitutions favourable to the interests and influence of con- stitutional England. At no previous period, perhaps, had our influence been greater; and, by favour of the alliance as it stands, we are spared that abridgment of influence which. might naturally have resulted from, our exposure of military deficiencies if we had stood alone. The position is. one in which Russia finds it imprac- ticable to persevere with her schemes. She accepts the facility afforded to her for- backing out of the contest : she thus. saves- herself the exhaustion of a long war, and retains the means, the position, the unbroken spirit, for carrying on those projects which, originating in Peter the Great, were exposed in the attempt on Turkey,. and' upon which it is now proposed to place the restraint of a treaty bond. The opportunity has been signally favourable: to secure for ourselves such guarantees as would render it impos- sible for Russia to renew her pretensions or her aggressions. A peace concluded exactly at this juncture will enable her to reserve herself for another opportunity, and will leave to us tha. necessity of being prepared for that future (wagon, wafer anything that may happen in the interval.