No. 504.
Mr. Maynard to Mr. Evarts.

No. 224.]

Sir: For several days past there has been in the city much anxiety and public excitement. In a recent dispatch, No. 219, I mentioned the movement of the British fleet from Besika Bay to the entrance of the [Page 854] Dardanelles. On the 10th instant the fleet was announced once more, and its arrival expected that day. It did not come as anticipated, and it was derisively placarded as lost. This morning, however, four ironclads arrived off the Bosphorus and anchored at the Prince’s Islands. Five more ships are reported inside the Straits, making a fleet of nine vessels near at hand, and it is understood against the protest of the Sublime Porte.

It has been the current belief that the Russian army, but a few hours distant, would be allowed by the Turks, if not invited by them, to march upon the city, should the British fleet arrive, and it is now hourly expected, and rumors many are afloat of its near approach. Apprehension is alive. There seems to be no available Turkish force remaining, and it is supposed the Sultan will retire to Broossa or to some other point in Asia, if indeed he has not, as many think, already gone. The Sultan gone, the grand vizier no more, the general assembly dissolved, the army practically disbanded, a Russian force in the capital, a British fleet equally unwelcome in the harbor, altogether seemed an ill-boding concurrence of events. The papers this evening contain a carefully-prepared statement, evidently authorized, purporting to give the actual condition; and considerably modifying the popular estimate. A copy is inclosed. Even as here stated the situation is very critical, and gives food for serious thought. The inquiry is constantly heard, Is the war ended, or has it only just begun?

I have, & c.,

[Inclosure in No. 224.]

Statement of the political situation in Constantinople.

A special ministerial and national council was held on Wednesday last at the imperial villa of Yeldiz-kiosk, under the presidency of the Sultan. All the ministers, several senators, the president and vice-presidents of the chamber of deputies, four of the principal ulemas, and several general officers, in all some forty-three high Ottoman dignitaries, were present. At this council, Ahmet Veffyk Pasha, the prime minister, made a statement recapitulating the important events which have happened during the past few weeks. He pointed out that, at the extraordinary council of war which was held about a month ago, the conclusion was arrived at that Turkey had no longer sufficient forces to continue the armed contest with Russia with any chance of success. He reviewed the negotiations which had been entered upon relative to the armistice, as also those which had taken place between England and Russia, and he read to the council the general bases of peace, as also the terms of the convention of armistice. His highness the Turkish premier went on to say that ten days ago England asked permission of the Porte to allow her fleet, stationed in Besika Bay, to pass through the Straits of the Dardanelles and enter the Sea of Marmora, but that the Ottoman Government had declined to give this permission, basing its refusal upon the treaties now in force, whereupon the British fleet had withdrawn from the entrance of the Straits. Some three days ago, however, England had repeated her request, and, to complicate matters, the Russian Government had also apprised the Porte, by a direct telegraphic dispatch from St. Petersburg, that it would cause its troops to enter Constantinople as soon as the English fleet appeared before that capital. The Porte, thereupon, submitted to the English ambassador (Mr. Layard) the painful position in which it was placed by this determination of the English cabinet; but, notwithstanding such appeal, Her Majesty’s ambassador insisted, and the Porte, not wishing to oppose by force a power with which she was not at war, contented itself with recording a protest against the passage of the Straits. His Highness further said that, these being the circumstances, it behooved the extraordinary council then convoked to come to a decision on the subject of the occupation of Constantinople by the Russians. After deliberation, all the members of the council came to the conclusion that it was necessary to submit to the demand of an occupation of the capital put forward by Russia, and a council-minute was signed to that effect, three or four members only of those present [Page 855] refraining from affixing their signatures to this document. The council then further decided that a special commission of Turkish generals should come to an understanding with the Russian commanders, in order that the Russian troops should not be allowed to circulate in any considerable numbers in the bazaars and in the public thoroughfares, and with regard to other suitable measures advisable to be adopted, so as to obviate the danger of conflicts and to insure public order and security during the Russian occupation. A member of the council expressed his opinion that it would be desirable that, while such occupation lasted, the Sultan should proceed to some place of residence in his dominions other than Constantinople, but His Highness Ahmet Veffyk Pasha set aside this matter as not being within the province and competency of the council to deal with. Before the council separated, a telegraphic dispatch from St. Petersburg was received, addressed by the Emperor of Russia to the Sultan, in which the Czar stated that, having learned that the Sultan had communicated by telegraph direct with Queen Victoria, he (the Czar) consented to wait a few hours longer, not wishing to cause unpleasantness to His Majesty.