« PreviousContinue »
Chambers, and composed of men resolved to defend and maintain these institutions by the sincere exercise of the Constitutional laws. The interest of the country imperatively demands that the crisis through which we are passing shall be set at rest, and it demands Iwith no less force that it shall not be renewed. The exercise of the right of dissolution is in effect nothing but a method of supreme consultation before a judge from whom there is no appeal, and could not be established as a system of government. I believed it to be my duty to exercise this right, and I conform myself to the reply of the country. By the Constitution of 1875 a Parliamentary Republic was formed. While establishing my irresponsibility, it yet instituted the joint and individual responsibility of the Ministers; our respective rights and duties are thus determined. The independence of the Ministers is the condition of their responsibility. The principles drawn from the Constitution are those of my Government. The end of the crisis will be the starting-point of a new era of prosperity in promoting the development of which all the public powers will concur. Harmony having been established between the Senate and the Chamber, and the latter being henceforth assured of regularly reaching the term of its mandate, they will be enabled to achieve great legislative labours which the public interest demands. The International Exhibition is about to open, and commerce and industry will assume new life. We offer to the world a fresh testimony of the vitality of our country, which has ever raised itself by its labour and economy and by its profound attachment to the ideas of the preservation of order and liberty. (Signed) MACMAHON. (Countersigned) DE MARCÈRE,
Thus the period of uneasiness-the prolonged crisis-that began on May 16, was peacefully brought to a close on December 14. The Marshal saw at last that M. Gambetta's famous alternativeou se soumettre, ou se démettre must be acted upon. Humiliating as it might be to do so he would thereby avoid the dishonour (and greater humiliation) of openly violating the Constitution and overthrowing the Republican institutions he had sworn to protect. To resign would be to desert his post, to submit might be humiliating, but it was the honourable course, and so he hastened to retrace his steps into that Constitutional highway from which he had unintentionally wandered.
Turkey and the Political Physicians.
TURKEY AND THE RUSSO-TURKISH WAR.
The latter sittings of the Conference-Policy of the European Plenipotentiaries Policy of the Turkish Ministers-The Turkish Grand Council-Its rejection of the policy proposed by the Conference-Breaking up of the Conference -The Turkish Circular Note-Fall of Midhat Pasha-New Turkish Ministry-Opening of the Ottoman Parliament-New phase of the Eastern Question-Russian Circular Note -Final Protocol presented by the Powers to Turkey-Turkey's Refusal to accede to the Demands of Europe-Ottoman Circular Note.
Ar the opening of the year 1877, Turkey was going through a crisis fraught with momentous consequences; for on its issues depended, probably, not only the question of peace or war between herself and Russia-but, it might be, the peace of Europe generally.
In one way Turkey was showing more than usual vitality. Many remarkable internal changes had rapidly followed each other. Two Sultans had successively been deposed from sovereign power. Two Cabinet ministers had been removed by assassination. Persecution and oppression of the Christian population of Bulgaria, of the most flagrant kind, had roused Europe to indignant remonstrance; and in answer to her demands, a constitution of a very democratic nature had been proclaimed-a constitution which was to remedy all abuses, and to inaugurate an era of justice and equality for all the races and creeds of the Ottoman Empire.
The political physicians of Europe were sitting in consultation upon the evils of her administration-the diseases of her body politic-which threatened it with dissolution; but she proved the most intractable of patients; absolutely refusing the remedies proposed to her, and boasting of the excellence of her constitution, which, if allowed fair play, would of itself expel all diseases, and she promised to leave off those pernicious ways which had brought her to the brink of ruin.
But, to proceed with a concise register of facts, events, and opinions, we take up the story of the Conference with its first sitting of the year 1877; for an account of its previous three sittings, the reader is referred to the "Annual Register" for the year 1876.
The policy of the European delegates, the representatives of the six Powers-Russia, Germany, France, England, Austria, and Italy-had become one of concession and modification, until, indeed, it was thought in some quarters that their proposals were finally reduced to but a worthless shadow of their original demands; but the Turkish ministers still hesitated to accept them. Their policy continued to be a policy of evasion and procrastination. It was chiefly the bureaucratic oligarchy, the Pashas, remarked the Times' Pera correspondent, "menaced in their exclusive enjoyment of the highest State offices, who stood in the way of reform."
At the fourth sitting of the Plenary Conference, held January 1,
1877, the Ottoman counter-proposals (a long document in 38 main articles) were introduced. These differed but little from those advanced by the Powers, "but the Porte ignored the question of a gendarmerie, and an International Commission for one year to superintend the execution of the proposed reforms; it refused absolutely an amnesty to the Bulgarian prisoners, also the appointment of Governors for five years, subject to the approval of the Powers, the financial arrangements proposed, and a number of other important provisions." On being pressed by the Plenipoten- . tiaries as to whether this refusal was absolute, the Turkish Ministers said that they must refer this question to the Porte. The resolutions of the Foreign Powers were urged by Lord Salisbury, who, in a friendly spirit, begged the Turkish Government not to oppose the united will of Europe, and he was warmly supported by Count Corti, the special Envoy of Italy, while General Ignatieff, the Russian ambassador, preserved an attitude of studied moderation.
On January 4 the Turkish Ministers explained their objections to the proposals of the foreign delegates. They argued that these proposals were impracticable and unconstitutional, and that they exceeded the bases of the Conference, as laid down by the British Government. At the next sitting, on January 8, Count Corti, the Italian ambassador, answered the objections of the Turkish representatives, while Lord Salisbury endeavoured to show that the original bases had not been departed from. The question of guarantees, however, was the chief point in dispute. The Foreign Plenipotentiaries declared that a mere promise of reform was not enough to satisfy the European Powers, but the Turkish Ministers maintained that the Constitution just proclaimed was Turkey's guarantee to Europe that the desired reforms should be duly carried out.
On January 11 the Conference held its seventh sitting. Lord Salisbury reminded the Turkish representatives that the demand for local Commissions of Christians and Mussulmans to carry out the reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been agreed to by the Porte in the Circular of February 13, 1876, in answer to the Andrassy Note. In reply to this on the Turkish side, it was submitted that in the Commissions referred to the members were to be appointed by the Porte, and not by the Powers; and that between these two stipulations there was a vital distinction. The Turkish Ministers argued further that the English programme did not demand that such guarantees should be granted by the Turkish Government to the Powers; but only institutions that should give the people a control over their local affairs and protect them from arbitrary measures. The demands now made were at variance with the Treaty of Paris, the English programme, and the altered position of the populations created by the Constitution; and consequently the Turkish Government could not accede to them.
At the sitting of the Conference, on January 15, the European Plenipotentiaries, giving up seven points out of nine, had reduced
their proposals to two points, viz., an International Commission nominated by the Powers, without executive powers, and the appointment of Valis (Governors-General) for five years by the Sultan, with the approval of the Guaranteeing Powers.
The Grand Council of Ministers and dignitaries of the Ottoman Empire, representatives of religious communities, and public functionaries of various kinds and degree, was convened by the Imperial Government, on January 18, to take these modified demands of the Powers into consideration. The ruling spirit of this august assembly was the Grand Vizier, Midhat Pasha. He told the Council that if Turkey rejected the modified proposals of the European Powers, she would stand alone in the war with Russia that would probably result from their rejection; and he stated in the plainest terms the dangers and difficulties of her situation. But in face of this the Council decided, with only one dissentient voice (that of an Armenian Protestant delegate), to run the risk of war rather than permit any foreign interference with the internal affairs of the Empire. "No surrender!"" Death rather than dishonour!" were the mottoes that apparently animated this great national assembly. Its importance demands, perhaps, that its appearance and proceedings should be chronicled rather more in detail. In his speech, already briefly alluded to, Midhat Pasha spoke of the extreme gravity of the situation-of the possibility of war, the horrors that would attend it, the injury it would inflict upon the internal affairs of the country, the exhausted state of the exchequer, that they could reckon upon no support from any other power. "Austria," he said, " is now neutral, but it is to be feared that she will not be able to resist the demands of her Slavonic subjects. If, on the other hand, we accept the proposals of the European Powers, we must consider our independence sacrificed. Let each one, then, reflect, and give his opinion freely and without reserve." As a whole, his speech was said to have been, “a masterly composition, marked by as much moderation as ability and patriotism." Then the Armenian Patriarch made an eloquent oration, which had an immense effect upon the assembly. "The representatives of the Christians and Israelites spoke in their turn, all repelling the idea of accepting the programme of the Powers. The chief of the Protestant community alone spoke in favour of the Conference. The assembly then rejected the European proposals unanimously with the exception of one dissentient voice. A Protocol of the Council was drawn up and signed by all present amidst mutual congratulations and general enthusiasm. The Grand Vizier and ex-Grand Vizier then went to the Dolmabagtche Palace to submit the decision of the Council to the Sultan, and the result was immediately communicated to the dragomans of the different Embassies." The correspondent, however, of the Daily News, who also described the Council's proceedings, remarked "it was unanimous for war, as well it might be, for there was not one person present who had not the deepest interest in the continuation
of the status quo. All belong to the class who have directed the destinies of the Empire for the last twenty years in such a deplorable manner, and brought it to its present wretched condition. The only one dissentient voice was that of an Armenian Protestant bishop, who mildly suggested that the Government should be allowed to use its own discretion. He was answered by loud shouts of dissent."
The Conference met for the ninth and last time on January 20. After considerable preamble, Safvet Pasha announced the decision of the "extraordinary Grand Council." "This Council," he said, "which was convoked by virtue of an Imperial Irade, the 6th (18th) inst., at the Sublime Porte, was composed of about 200 persons, and brought together the heads of all classes of the subjects of his Majesty, as well as the representatives of the religious communities. The question was submitted to them in all its details, and it is my duty to inform your Excellencies that, after having maturely deliberated, the Council unanimously pronounced for the nonacceptance of the two points in question." Midhat Pasha then read a new counter-proposal. "The Porte," he said, "could not assent to an International Commission without abdicating its position as an independent Power. To allow foreign representatives to share in the exercise of its sovereign authority would make the Government the object of suspicion on the part of its subjects, and place Turkey in a situation unprecedented in the world, and inferior to that of her own vassals. It was inconsistent also with Article 1 of the English programme, which declared the independence of the Empire to be the basis of negotiation. The Grand Council, including members of all the higher ranks and of all creeds, had decided on the rejection of the proposal. Believing, however, in the possibility of an understanding, the Porte proposed that two Commissions, composed in equal moieties of Mussulmans and Christians, should be freely elected by the population for 12 months." General Ignatieff remarked that this was "a simple abridgment of the counter-proposals already rejected by the Powers; and that as the two principal points insisted on by the Conference-the nomination of the Valis with the consent of the Powers, and the institution of an International Commission of Control-had been refused by the Sublime Porte, it must be considered that there was no longer a field for discussion." The Marquis of Salisbury likewise (according to the Protocol of the Conference) expressed his opinion as follows: "I have already expressed my conviction that an elective assembly, if it was freely elected, would contain elements fatal to the authority of the Ottoman Government, while giving the opinion that under the circumstances in which Bulgaria is at present, a really free election of a Commission independent of the Government would be impossible. Now the independence of the Commission is the essential condition of its efficiency, without which it would afford no guarantee for the carrying out of the reforms which the Ottoman * See 'Foreign History,' p. 285, Annual Register, 1876.