18 SEPTEMBER 1880, Page 5


THE crisis has evidently arrived, and the entire future of Eastern Europe now depends upon the firmness of Lord Granville and Mr. Gladstone during the next three weeks. If they are resolute to audacity, the Porte will be compelled to yield, and the accord of Europe will be preserved ; but if they falter, the Porte will refuse obedience, the Powers will shrink from action, and the Turks, elated with the success of a de- fiance congenial to their pride, will commit some act leading to their immediate ruin. It is clear that the Sultan has either determined not to yield except to force, or to push the appearance of resistance to the point at which it is in its effects indistinguishable from the reality. All trustworthy accounts con- cur in the statement that he is either inciting the Albanians to resist Europe, or allowing them to think that he is on their side ; and that even if Dulcigno is ceded quietly, he will resist to an extremity of danger the necessary cession to Greece. The European Fleet has assembled at Ragusa, with Sir F. Beauchamp Seymour as Commander-in-Chief, and orders which permit a bombardment ; the Montenegrin Army is marching on Dul- cigno, and on Monday blood may be shed. Still the Sultan gives no sign of readiness to order his troops to carry out his agreements. His army is conveniently placed for looking on, but not for coercing the Albanians. His counsellors plead that the Albanians, who are either his subjects or independent, will not permit the cession, that his own troops will not obey,and that he cannot be expected to shake his own throne ; but all this is common-form with a Government which has inherited the subtlety, though not the civilisation, of the Lower Empire. The Sultan surrendered Bulgaria, yet is more absolute than ever. He is resisting, and will carry the resistance still further when the Greek cession comes up ; and if he succeeds, Europe will lose its last chance of settling the Eastern Question with- out war, and on lines compatible with the development of free Christian States in the Balkan peninsula. Russia and Austria, as the great Slav Powers, must take up the baton, if it drops ineffectual frcm the hands of Europe, for no continuance of the present agony in Thessaly, Macedonia, and Armenia is possible, and they will insist on being paid in territory and in power.

Whether the baton shall so drop depends mainly, perhaps entirely, upon the nerve of Mr. Gladstone, whose strength in

foreign policy will now be put conclusively to the test. If be, at this supreme moment, shrinks back from what we admit to be considerable risk, and refuses, if necessary, to enforce the Treaty of Berlin alone, by blockading Constantinople, as be himself suggested, the Powers will recede, Turkey will be trium- phant, and the foreign policy of this Ministry will be hopelessly discredited. The half-hearted Liberals will say, and with au appearance of truth, that while they believe Mr. Gladstone's policy to be infinitely wiser and better in itself than that of Lord Beaconsfield, it is too much like a counsel of perfection, too difficult to carry out, to be considered statesmanlike, in this work-a-day world. Lord Beaconsfield would have done a bad thing,—that is, he would have assisted in the substitution of the House of Hapsburg for the House

of Othman, of a Christian and orderly tyranny, for a Mussul- man and anarchical one ; but at least he would have done it. Whether he was fully conscious of his end or not, had Lord Beaconsfield remained in power ten years, the Hapsburgs, possibly after a terrible war, would have been in one form or another as supreme in European Turkey as they once were in Italy, and probably as much hated. Mr. Gladstone, on the other hand, desires to do a good thing, a thing which, if the English people had only the imagination to understand its results, would stir them up to a crusade. He would replace the despotism of the Ottoman caste, which has crushed the finest division of Europe for six hundred years, by the freest and most varied life throughout the peninsula, each race or section of a race—Roumanian, Servian, Greek, Montene- grin, or Bulgarian—acquiring liberty to commence its own career; but then, as yet, this is only a desire. The means of carrying it out have been provided in the European Fleet, and action has begun, but it has not been carried out yet. The policy must be carried out, if it is either to succeed or to impress the English people, who never thoroughly sympathise with un- realised aspirations ; and it will be carried out in exact propor- tion to the determination of the British Government. Europe will not let England go forward alone, or with a single ally, but will prefer by keeping step to retain the control of future events, as far as may be possible, in its own hands. If we insist, for example, that Greece must not be defeated, that sooner than it shall be defeated, direct naval pressure shall be put, on the Sultan, Europe will not permit the defeat of Greece. If, on the contrary, Turkey is allowed to conquer, for the Greek Army cannot now be dismissed unused, Europe will patch up a compromise, and lose for ever, and most justly lose, all pretension to act in the East as a supreme and final tribunal. Turkey will then go on her way, until her subjects, in utter despair of release, accept Russian or Austrian guidance, at the price of freedom and nationality alike. We do not doubt these considerations are present to the Government, or that they will act, when the strain comes, with decision, and we only record the facts to help them in understanding how public opinion really stands. They can gather it in part from the tone of their avowed enemies. It is a sound party instinct which induces the journals hostile to Liberalism to deride the European accord, and declare common action impossible, and exult in the Turkish stubbornness they try to provoke, for they know well that the country expects success in this matter from Mr. Gladstone, that it desires success with its whole heart, and that if he fails, the disappointment will half destroy a pop' :ray which they naturally, but mistakenly, believe to be ess..Jtial to the Liberal cause. There are occasions, as the late ;overnment well understood, when audacity is success, and t:. :s is one of the greatest of them.

English Liberal opinion, as we believe, is unanimous against a second betrayal of Greece, or any concession to the Albanian cry, except of the right of the Albanians to be independent. If they desire to be subjects of Turkey, they must maintain the Sultan's agreements, otherwise the anarchy would be hopeless and intolerable. If, on the other hand, they declare for inde- pendence, they must accept the fiat of Europe upon the sub- ject of convenient boundaries. No one wants to deprive them of their liberties, or alienate territory indispensable to them, or break up the clan organisation which they prefer. Though a fierce race, they are a fine one, with more of individuality than any other Mussulman tribe, and they would be welcomed as one more among the free races of the peninsula ; but they must submit to political necessities in the matter of Monte- negro, and in the Greek provinces to the will of the majority, who would unquestionably transfer themselves to Athens by a heavy plebiscitary vote. It is greatly to be regretted that they should be in collision with a European determination, but they owe that, as Eastern Europe owes every other misfortune, to the sovereignty which they permit the wretched clique reigning at Constantinople to retain over their country. They can be free, if they please, with the approval of the whole world, and must allow Montenegro and Hellas to be free also.