Mr. Clay to Mr. Seward

No. 135.]

Sir: Your despatches to 235 inclusive are received. Though I have not written you anything as yet upon the Greek or “Oriental question,” I have not. been an inattentive or indifferent observer of events. The published “blue books” of England and France, and the despatches of Prince Gortchacow in the St. Petersburg Journal, you have no doubt seen.

It only remains for me to give you my ideas of Russian policy. That there are some persons in Russia who would desire the possession of Constantinople and the straits, I doubt not. But I think the ruling minds look upon that project not as a thing to be contended for, or bought at a great price of money and blood, but acceptable, if good fortune should throw it into their power. Russia does not now desire war; neither her transition state of labor, nor her rail-walls, nor finances generally, make it now desirable. She does not desire, however, nor would she permit in my opinion, any great power to take Constantinople without a great war. She can carry on a great war even with all her backsets if the nation was much in earnest with it, and such a war would be that, ostensibly at least, for the protection of the Sclave and the Greek Christian. What Russia now attempts is to secure the permanent good will of the Greeks and Sclaves, to make herself their patron and protector; and if a Greek empire should have the good fortune once more to be established on the Hellespont and Black sea, Russia hopes to find in it a permanent and grateful ally, and not a jealous enemy. And this may be the ultimate and peaceable solution of the [Page 385] eastern problem. First the gradual autonomy of the Sclave and Greek provinces, till the Turkish rule ceases; and then the straits in the hands of a petty power, protected by all the great rivals, or ultimately a respectable Greek empire or kingdom, absorbing all the Greek and Sclave subjects now belonging to Turkey. Such a power would give protection and peace to the Greek peoples, and not be a menace or danger to any one. Such I think are the events to which Russia is looking and shaping her policy. In the mean time she advances in Asia; and should her Teyars ever court the direct possession of the Sultan’s capital, they will “flank” it by a march from Asia, and not through Europe, I think.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.