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back the Russian advance then was to lose England's last chance of postponing to a far future the dictatorship of a great rival Power. That was Disraeli's motive for his policy of twenty years ago, which is now described as blind, malign, and so complete a failure, as proved by recent events, that his chief colleague in the execution of it is compelled by its consequences to denounce it.

But there is a mistake here which is not Lord Beaconsfield's. A man cannot be said to have failed in what he was never permitted to attempt. Surely that is clear; and it was Lord Beaconsfield's case, to his Own profound regret at the time, and, as I may try to show, to no reasonable satisfaction now, when we are much nearer the upshot of what happened then. First, how ever, it is necessary to mark this particular point in Lord Beaconsfield's defence, for it is of capital importance. The policy which is accused of awful failure, if by his policy is meant his chosen line of conduct in the Eastern troubles of 1876-78, was never set in operation. More favourable to it when the Russo-Turkish war began, increasingly hostile to it or afraid of it month by month, his colleagues in the Cabinet forbade it at its last opportunities by all but one voice. Consequently, to say that it failed is no more true than it would be to boast that it succeeded. The nondescript course of action which came to an end at Berlin was not of his direction. It only marked at various stages the thwarting and suppression of the policy which Lord Beaconsfield is charged with imposing on the country, to the immeasurable discredit of his heart and intellect and to our everlasting humiliation. Lasting humiliation there may be,

perhaps, but of a sort not contemplated in the accusation.

Yet that Lord Beaconsfield would have carried out very thoroughly the traditional policy of our Foreign Office had he been allowed to do so is certain; and this we have acknowledged. Therefore it becomes us further to admit that his judgment, if not his action, must be condemned if it be true that the present state of things proves his policy wrong as a policy, and even abominably wicked. Very strangely, it is here that Disraeli's unfriends feel most secure, and here that they are most explicit in the denunciation they so much enjoy. His judgment is condemned and his policy proved wrong by the present state of things. The groundwork of that assertion-the present state of things-seems to prove the exact contrary. As we have seen, the aim of that inherited policy of his was to hinder the Russian design-or, if you prefer to have it so, put off the Russian destiny

of becoming the predominant Power over Europe and the East: in other words, the discrowning of the British empire. This was the ultimate purpose of the national Eastern policy as long as it was permitted to last; the supremacy of British influence at Constantinople being maintained as contributory to it, even as essential. Well, the policy with this end in view being first disallowed and then definitely abandoned (it is a complete mistake to suppose that it was not finally abandoned till the other day), the present state of things ensues. The least civilised Power in Europe, the most obnoxious to its system of government, the most sedulously repulsive of its ideas, dominates it altogether, and does so by admission and submis

sion of every nation in it. So as to the one part of what Disraeli would have fought to prevent. As to the other, even within the space of a few months Russia has employed her ascendancy with enormous success to undermine English authority throughout the whole of the East. The present state of things! Everything in it is dwarfed to nothing by these probably unalterable facts, the magnitude of which seems to be quite too much for ordinary comprehension. Vision narrows, or has become too tender to dwell upon unpleasant things long enough to take them in.

From these events, then, it appears that if Lord Beaconsfield's policy impugns his judgment, it is not because it was inspired by false readings of the books that statesmen have to go by. That was the error of his political opponents, and of his numerous political friends who preferred to take "short views." Accurate in prevision, and addressed to consequences of the last importance, Disraeli's policy must have been wrong, if wrong at all, for some reason not yet touched upon. Looking to the long-run of events, can it have been injudicious to fend off a universal reign of Russian autocracy? Was it bad to retard the subversion of our prosperity in the East and the shrinking of our sovereignty there? When Englishmen reply to these questions, a very large measure of justification is needed for an affirmative answer; for it means nothing less than their consent, on grounds of either expediency or morality or both, to the dethroning of Britain and her ruin by degrees more or less slow speedy. Why, then, was it wrong (we know that some spectral idea of this kind haunts the minds


of a "good few " Englishmen when those minds are otherwise empty)

why, then, was it wrong to think of opposing the march of Russian domination? The most natural answer is, I suppose, that war is a very dreadful thing, and that it, would have been worse than folly to incur its tremendous risk and cost for the sake of appeasing dubious apprehensions. It is so bad an answer that I wish I could make it a better one; but it is difficult to improve it in the presence of accomplished events. Answer to this effect was one thing in the mouths of Lord Beaconsfield's colleagues in 1877, quite another in the mouths of his accusers in 1897. Those others could say, as some of them did, "After all, may not these antique fears of a Cossack-ridden Europe, of a Russian repetition of Alexander's Eastern conquests, be really a bit of a bogey? Or if history is fated to record the spectacle, how long is it likely to be before the page is prepared for the scribe? Mayn't you be right too soon for action? Is there no danger of repeating the profitless excursions and alarums of the Crimean war? And may nothing be left to the course of events and the chapter of accidents?" This and a great deal more might have been urged with confidence twenty years ago, to put that complexion of fatuity and guilt upon Lord Beaconsfield's Eastern policy which some pretend to be affrighted at more than ever. But

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Then perhaps it is the fighting the wish to strike (in obedience to calculations of his own, such as a general makes in the field)—that procures his condemnation? But if so, does this mean that he would still have been bad man and Minister if he had excellent chances of waging a victorious war? Apparently that is the meaning; for the question of his chance of success is never raised. That he would have failed is no part of the objection. Indeed it would appear, in reading the Duke of Argyll and other hostile commentators, that success against Russia would have sunk Lord Beaconsfield to a lower deep of infamy than that to which he is at present consigned. It is clear, at any rate, that the terrible accusation of striving to plunge his country into war with small hope of success is not one that his defenders are expected to


Yet his fighting policy may be called wrong upon a wider consideration of a similar kind. Very conceivably the case is this. It is thought that a properly civilised Lord Beaconsfield would have known that it is wiser to accept with a quiet mind the consequences of Russian domination than to incur, with whatever results, the tremendous charges in blood and money of another Crimean war. "It is not worth it": to put into colloquial form a feeling which is at least comprehensible. Comprehensible, I say, believing all the time that it has a very effective though a very obscure existence. Observation has given me a suspicion, which is never long allowed the sleep in which it is most welcome to perish, that the Crimean war has made a deeper mark upon governing minds in England than is ever avowed or is ever likely to be. So far as our

history goes as yet, it was our last great European war; and whenever the prospect of another appears, on no matter what occasion or what provocation, the memory of that far from exhilarating conflict-the very glories of which are attended by reproach-parades its admonitions with more than due effect. Splendid for the display of patience, coolness, discipline, and valour amongst our fighting-men, the remembrance of it rises to official minds with so much warning that they take the lesson in a cold fright. With abounding cause of pride, there was a deal about the Crimean war that was unfortunate to ghastliness; yet it may be doubted, I think, whether the least of its misfortunes is that it sits to this day like an incubus upon Responsibility. That it should warn we might pray for, and must wish that it should withhold; but it terrorises.

Very conceivably, then, as we have said, it is thought wiser to accept with a quiet mind the consequences of Russian domination than to incur, with whatever result, the enormous charges in blood and money of another Crimean war; and Lord Beaconsfield's reproach is that he held a different opinion so firmly that he would have gone to war on the strength of it. But which of these two views is the sounder depends upon a just calculation of what the consequences would be, or will be, of Britain's deposition from the first place in the world, and the accession of Russia to that place. What, let us ask, is the usual cost to a great empire of being forced from the front rank? What usually happens to a State like ours after such a thrust? Though none so great, there have been other great empires before our own, and they all supply an answer to the question

more or less distinctly. We have even seen in recent times-for in this connection the time of England's Elizabeth and Philip of Spain is not long ago-what the usual thing is of which we ask the name. Averting our faces from the future, or from so much of it as immediately concerns ourselves, and looking only to the dead past of other nations, it may be possible to return a true and unembarrassed answer. It is downfall. To make a true word which is necessary for my argument more acceptable, I would add, if I could, that what seems to be an invariable sequitur in the past may not be repeated in the future; but reversal of experience in this matter is so unlikely that no reasonable calculation could be built upon the chance of it in Disraeli's time, or can now. What may be said, however, is, that the downfall of empires is not necessarily sudden. It may be a slow process, outlasting three lives or the long remnant of a ninety-nine years' lease. But-it is downfall. As the spendthrift, engaged for once in looking into his affairs, spies insolvency stalking in the figures before him and immediately shuts the book, so some bold Briton who reads these lines may start from the last word in resolute incredulity. Downfall, however, is the answer to the question, What is the cost to a great empire of being forced from the front rank? And, making that out, the oldschool statesmen of whom Lord Beaconsfield was the last thought it an intolerable cost as indeed it still appears, for it includes everything for which heroic nations strive - honour, pride, independence, riches, safety; and more besides which shall be considered presently. Intolerable to them and not to be thought of was this price of a troubled and unenduring peace.

Then what do the politicians of to-day think about it who call the abandoned policy wicked and insensate? With their vague fond notion that the foundations have been laid for a new heaven and a new earth, they may think that we have passed into conditions which have their own laws of cause and consequence, unlike those that governed the world in more barbarous times. Therefore they also think, perchance, that in these days and in our case, the old fate of a deposed empire need not be feared; so that it would have been mere blind waste to go to war for the purpose of avoiding it. But Disraeli's reputation for statesmanship still stands untouched if that be the idea. We have heard a good deal lately about outworn political superstitions - this is one that has had no wear at all. It is an untested fancy; yet even as such not unappreciable. For it is obviously akin to the theory of trade as war-extinguisher which some years ago confounded every rational view of international relations, and balked every just provision for the future course of events. And it was this sort of idea which decided that Russian ascendancy was a bogy, a bugbear, a dream-creation of what the Duke of Argyll superbly but erroneously called Mervousness. Well, here stands the dream, a full- grown fact; showing that Lord Beaconsfield was perfectly right in the premisses of his policy at any rate, while they who derided them were perfectly wrong. Nevertheless they now assume a right of judgment against him for an extravagant and incendiary belief that one consequence of the Russian triumph would be Britain's decadence. Is he condemnable for that, then? By authority of their keener prevision? Although all historic pre

cedent and all evidential likelihood bore him out? Or because, as a known and acknowledged matter of fact, England is already playing second fiddle in the orchestra where Russia wields the baton and calls the tunes? These questions answer themselves.

I suppose it may still be said, however (and here the Crimean ghost walks), that the war which Lord Beaconsfield would have waged in 1877 would most likely have been mere useless carnage; because, after all, there was no guarantee in fighting it that Russian domination would have been retarded for more than a dozen years. There would have been one more bloody war to our account, and, for aught that we know to the contrary, that would be about all the difference ten years hence. Perhaps. The would-have-beens of history are most uncertain matters of debate; and if you insist upon it, my would-have-been and your would-have-been must consent to make a drawn game of it. But grant me a successful war against Russia in 1878, and only that ten years of postponement of the recovery of her strength, and I will show you an altered state of things both in Europe and the East for the last twenty years, and especially for the last ten, that would throw Russian ascendancy far into the distance. Nations advance not by wisdom and courage alone, but also by opportunity. Now Russian opportunity at Constantinople, which we evacuated in 1878, in Continental Europe, in the Far East (an affair of the last three years), would all have been mightily changed or even lost by a ten years' drive backward; and an encouraged instead of a disheartened British diplomacy, at work meanwhile, would have enlarged the difference by much, we

may assume. It was just this difference (in character and scope, I mean-I don't mean that Disraeli's anticipations included the Japanese war and its opportunities)—it was just this difference that Lord Beaconsfield's fighting policy aimed at. This was to have been its justification; and I leave the candid reader to judge, after a step-by-step survey of affairs from the time of his retirement, whether that justification was well or ill calculated. One thing at any rate the candid reader sees already, and it is "the tottle of the whole." England's decline from the commanding place which she held in the world dates from about the time of Lord Beaconsfield's Cabinet defeats. Coincidence, perhaps, but it is permissible to doubt whether it is altogether that. Certainly he made no contribution, unless under constraint, to this momentous change in Britain's fortunes; and even if that were the most that could be said for him in relation to England's foreign affairs, that little would raise him to distinction.

However, I was about to remark upon the assumption that the defeat of Disraeli's Eastern policy in the seventies is to this extent at least a matter of rejoicing: it saves the country from the horrors and distresses of one great war, with no certain disadvantage to set off against that enormous gain. The question of the disadvantage we have left in the misty marches of the Might-havebeen; where, however, I fancy it figures very largely and very distinctly. But as to the saving of a war: it is quite true that, through the defeat of Lord Beaconsfield's vituperated policy, we have one war the less behind us; but it is by no means certain that through the same contrivance and

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