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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 old school 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. 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.
may assume. It was just this
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 re- However, I was about to recovery of her strength, and I will mark upon the assumption that show you an altered state of things the defeat of Disraeli's Eastern both in Europe and the East for policy in the seventies is to this the last twenty years, and especi- extent at least a matter of rejoically for the last ten, that would ing: it saves the country from the throw Russian ascendancy far into horrors and distresses of one great the distance. Nations advance war, with no certain disadvantage not by wisdom and courage alone, to set off against that enormous but also by opportunity. Now gain. The question of the disRussian opportunity at Constan- advantage we have left in the tinople, which we evacuated in misty marches of the Might-have1878, in Continental Europe, in been; where, however, I fancy it the Far East (an affair of the last figures very largely and very disthree years), would all have been tinctly. But as to the saving of mightily changed or even lost by a war: it is quite true that, a ten years' drive backward; and through the defeat of Lord Beaan encouraged instead of a dis- consfield's vituperated policy, we heartened British diplomacy, at have one war the less behind us; work meanwhile, would have en- but it is by no means certain that larged the difference by much, we through the same contrivance and
its results we have not got a far more troublesome one before us. That remains to be seen. Meanwhile we are placed in this position, that whether we are or are not to go through the postponed conflict depends entirely on the will of others. The country being in isolation-splendid because unique - Lord Salisbury's colleagues have no contrivances with which they could further postpone a war which Disraeli never for a moment believed a war averted. The truth is that there is an oversight in that idea of one great war the less. It would be quite correct on the assumption (which seems to be present here) that when a nation, promptly obedient to the finger of Destiny, yields the cake to another without fighting for it, the transaction passes without bloodshed. It has its afflictions for the surrendering party, but war with its horrors is not one of them. But what, then, is the security for that? Nothing but Nothing but the convenience of the conquering party; which, if it happen to be a young empire newly risen from barbarism, is unlikely to sacrifice expediency to scruple. Growing nations are like growing lads, who do all sorts of hardy unfeeling things, which we who have come to the fulness of maturity shrink from. When such a Power is conscious of the upper hand, it uses the victorious member either to strike or to squeeze with no compunction whatever, and with no choice between the two modes of action except as expediency dictates. In brief, and to come to the point, willingness to submit and give place affords no security from war if it suits the rising Power to hasten and complete a rival's downfall. Whenever the convenience of that course appears, an opening is made for a
well-contrived attack (such as our land and sea-forces are being prepared for), which, being meant to finish off the declining Power, is naturally severe. The declining Power does not go to war now: the "averted" war which might have been fought upon far more favourable conditions comes to it, in the shape of an enforced and final struggle for existence.
Tried, then, by the test of bloodshed, there is no such ground for inveighing against Lord Beaconsfield's Eastern policy as the enemies of his reputation pretend. The above considerations were not peculiar to him, nor to the statesmen his predecessors in office who settled the British policy called anti-Russian. They have always and everywhere existed in the determination to maintain national safety and independence, and their correlatives are to be found in every great struggle for freedom. It is not as if, even in these new times, we could compound with a rival victorious for an exclusive application of the squeeze-immunity from the sword guaranteed. No doubt that also was understood by Lord Beaconsfield, though in his day the syndicate-and-squeeze system of enlarging the boundaries of empire had scarcely developed from the idea that it is the safest and cheapest use to which enormous armaments can be put. But the practice was known in principle, and, being known, was liked no better than brute conquest by the original designers of the policy which Disraeli did not invent. We can tell by their spirit, and by their dutiful habit of taking long views, that if the country had to give way they had no preference for its extinction by pressure, squeeze, peine forte et dur. The slowness and obscurity of the process (we
have had several touches of it lately, and nobody notices) is a great recommendation to many minds, no doubt. It is found soothing and reconciling; but what is the advantage if, as is very like ly, the squeeze will not be carried far before summary execution is attempted? In that case, impoverishment and humiliation first, and the fight after all.
These considerations being fairly weighed, and, above all, note being taken of those grave changes of recent development which put so much out of controversy, what reasonable ground remains for the vilification of Lord Beaconsfield's Eastern policy which has lately broken out in greater confidence than ever? The assertion is that what is now going on in Europe and the East is its final condemnation as vilely conceived and wickedly futile; that it was not carried out seeming to be considered no abatement of its harmfulness. The mildest expression of hostility or contempt that I have encountered puts it down as an antiquated policy, unsuited to modern requirements. Yet to me it seems that what is now going on in Europe and the East is its perfect vindication, speaking by facts of
Of course I understand that Maga's readers have not gone so far into this article without wondering whether it is to be taken as a defence of Disraeli with the main charge excluded from the argument. Again and again they have said to themselves, and in myself I have heard them-"This is all very well, but you do not meet, nor even state, the more particular objections to Lord Beaconsfield's policy. Besides the express assumption in what you say, that
the most profound and permanent significance; while as to the antiquation, it can only be understood as meaning that the direction, the action, which sends the machine to the top of the hill, must be abandoned when the time comes for letting it comfortably run down again. In Lord Beaconsfield's day that time was not supposed to have arrived. The difficulties which the Foreign Office had then to meet were no new delivery from a political box of Pandora, but of a common and a constant sort. With hardly a change of shape, they were the same which for ever arise from the contention of races and nations for commerce and empire; and Disraeli's way of dealing with those difficulties had no more of singularity than themselves, and is as little likely to become antiquated. It may drop or die out in places, as even the nations do; but that is another thing. The foresight, the unrelaxing grasp on essentials, the eye for occasion, the understanding that Government is an active force as well as a meditative function-these things which determined Disrael's policy must live in British statesmanship today; or if not, it must be because British statesmanship itself is dead.
the domination of Russia signifies the subjection of England, there appears to be an implied assumption that England's defensive policy against that event may be continued without regard to certain very dreadful consequences of upholding the Turkish empire, as that policy requires. Here, however, are the two great objections to it-the one political, the other moral. A newer, fresher, more cultured and generous discernment is unable to see that
'the discrowning of England' is to be feared from Russian ascendancy, and even doubts whether the discrowning would be a matter of much consequence if it happened. At the same time, a purer morality denies that England has a right to sustain her empire by means which indirectly but no less certainly lead to the oppression and wholesale massacre of Christian peoples. The two objections are seen more clearly when stated in combination. A doubtfully wise, doubt fully moral, and perhaps impossible opposition to Russian encroachment entails the bolstering of Turkey. The bolstering of Turkey for that purpose is, and was in Lord Beaconsfield's time, participation in the guilt of massacre, participation for selfish ends. And not that only. The Christian populations of Turkey are oppressed when they are not being murdered; and he repelling of the Russian advance is the exclusion of a saviour. Of all this your defence of Lord Beaconsfield takes no account whatever."
actly those of a trustee, with these differences: All trusts are sacred, but the trust which the Government of a great historic people undertakes is of higher sanctity than any known to the courts of law-as may be measured by the acknowledged duty of a man to sacrifice his life at need for his country's good. Therefore it is a trust that should be executed with unscrupulous fidelity; with no less of that, at any rate, than honest and careful men observe in the business of private life. This should be done because of another and far more notable difference-which is, that the Government of a country is trustee not only for an existing generation or two, but for all that may come hereafter; and looking forward, let us say, to the fourth or fifth generation yet unborn, the trust of a Government is as much for that as for the one which is on the road to extinction to-day.
If, as I contend, every British statesman should be bound by these rules of conduct, especially So far it does not; but, of course, in foreign affairs, then Lord with no intention of evading the Beaconsfield was bound by them. unevadeable. Nor is there the You might say, perhaps, that he least desire to do so. Intention, had no heart, and things of that however, there is, and I am in kind (most trustees are accounted good hope that it will be approved. inhuman), but I doubt the posNot merely for the purposes of sibility of condemning him for his this paper, I insist that the stand- foreign policy in 1876-78 should ing duty of every British Govern- it appear to have been governed ment to the country (which, of by those rules. At any rate, the course, includes the faithful ob- fairer course in judging him is servance of national engagements first to try his policy by the and treaty obligations) should be obligations of his trust-positive kept apart from whatever obli- and negative, active and passivegations of right and generous feel- and then to see what moral reing towards other countries may sponsibilities he would have thrown at any time arise. There should or did throw upon his country by be no mix-up of them; no risk allowing no sacrifice of England's should be run of confounding welfare at the demand of outraged them. The duties of a Govern- humanity. This is the course I ment-most certainly of a con- have taken; and having shown, I stitutional Government-are ex- think, that Lord Beaconsfield ac