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for present purposes to adduce the proposition in harmless generality. We have only to do with Disraeli's Eastern policy in the seventies, which is accused as the plan of a general might be by his own captains; though, for that matter, no one has the execution of it on his conscience.
The next thing to recall and bear in mind is yet more to the purpose, perhaps. As Lord Salisbury has said, Disraeli's Eastern policy was not the contrivance of his own mind. He did not invent it, as the millions of a new reading public are invited or allowed to believe by their newspapers. Indeed, it was no invented policy at all, but a spontaneous product: hardly more so is the common desire to remain on the inside of a boat at sea, or the preference of a tiled to an untiled roof. For many years before Disraeli had any responsibility for public affairs it was the national policy, firmly held as a national necessity. The statesmen of the one political party were no less convinced than the statesmen of the other that it had become an imperative policy; and the affairs of the country were carried on in those days by men who, by any test or by any measure, equalled the statesmanship of later generations. might even be said that, less cultured, they lived nearer to the heart and root of things than their successors in Downing Street. There is certainly no reason to think them less capable of tracing out necessary lines of conduct.
This policy, then, which Lord Beaconsfield is condemned for, was really no invention of his, but sprang from the natural suggestions of self-defence against the encroachments of a dangerous rivalry; and coming that way into existence, had the sanction of all British statesmanship for generations, backed by the consenting instinct of the whole British people. It may have been wrong, of course, for all that; but not because it was Disraelian in the first place.
Nor was it a pro-Turkish policy, which is the second charge. In truth, there has always been an anti - Turkish feeling in British statesmanship, of exactly the kind which, later, was aroused in the country; though for official or politic reasons more often hidden than publicly displayed. Yet it was allowed to come out pretty strongly at times, and, contrary to current teaching on the subject, it had no particular association with Liberal officials or the Liberal idea.1 Lord Stratford de Redcliffe may be said with little exaggeration to have had command at the Porte for many years; and who would call the Great Eltchi a proTurk? Yet what more willing or effective Minister of the Beacons
1 On these points a quotation from a very good authority may be interesting. Writing about the Cretan insurrection of 1866, and his endeavours to arouse a sympathetic interest in it, the Duke of Argyll says: "I found Liberalism as dead in conscience and as apathetic on our duties in the East as the most fossil Toryism. It was not till eight years later, when an outbreak of Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria awoke for the first time a strong wave of public sentiment -and not till this was found of value in opposing Lord Beaconsfield's Government that the Liberal leaders took up a cause which- -" &c., &c.
field policy (so called) ever lived? Neither was it an anti-Russian policy, as they say who wish to prove it foolish, any more than it was the pro-Turkish policy which they denounce it for who would make it out inhuman. Both descriptions are wrong, and only useful for self-deception or to deceive. We had here a national policy in every sense, in every article, and at every point: a proTurkish or an anti-Russian policy only as it became so in being proBritish. That is to say, it was so in being what it ought to be. So I submit on behalf of the last English Minister, who, being challenged to carry on this policy, was not afraid of the attempt.
Disraeli needs more than this to absolve him, no doubt. Courage is as much a statesman's quality as the soldier's a quality indispensable, without which all the rest is in effect a snare and an imposture. But it should not be unrighteous, and it should be justified by wisdom or necessity at all times-certainly when war on the grand scale is contemplated. That being said, we may go on to ask if it was for a small matter that the traditional Eastern policy was established, or if it was wrongly imagined, falsely weighed, badly calculated. It does not appear so. As a policy, it was suggested by solicitude for England's greatness and safety, which was the righteousness of it; and it was upheld by an accurate comprehension of what was in train for her very great damage, which completes its justification. The statesman by whom it was established saw in Russia a power which, unless firm ly kept within bounds, would dominate Europe; and more particularly that it would undermine and supersede British authority in the East. And without nicely con
VOL. CLXI.-NO. DCCCCLXXVII.
sidering the desire of Russia to expand to the Mediterranean, the Pacific, and the other seas (so much must be confessed), these guardians and trustees of England refused the prospect. They thought it a matter of the first importance to maintain our Eastern empire; or, to put it another way, that we should be subject to Russian ascendancy (if ever) at the remotest period allowed by Destiny. Such were their ideas, and thus were they grounded; and though, as we all know, a rising breed of Britons has adopted the Moslem's fatalism without his pluck, no one has ventured to utter an open word of dissent from them to this day.
So far, then, it does not seem that Lord Beaconsfield was much to blame in taking up the traditional policy which, on these grounds and for these reasons he did adopt. His acceptance of it is beyond denial; and it is true that he did his utmost, from 1876 onward when a great and last occasion arose-to maintain it in the spirit and by the means which his predecessors considered the only effective ones when hard comes to hard. That is to say, being challenged by the Russian invasion of Turkey, he would have sustained England's Eastern policy in the field and on the seas. to bolster up the Turkish empire, but to bolster up the British empire, he would have fought the Russians in alliance with the Turks. There were occasions during that war when unisolated England's soldiers and ships, her wealth and her leadership, added to the valour of the Turkish rank and file, could have been counted on to bring the invasion to ruin: and the public will learn some day, I have no doubt, that, in Lord Beaconsfield's belief, not to throw
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 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 judg ment 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
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 meet.
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