Mr. Maynard to Mr. Evarls.
Constantinople , February 28, 1878. (Received April 1.)
Sir: This month has witnessed the close of the Turko-Russian war, at least between the two belligerent parties hitherto engaged. Should hostilities continue, it will be because other powers are drawn into the controversy.
I mentioned in my dispatch of the 11th instant, No. 222, that an armistice had been concluded at Adrianople the 31st of January. In my dispatch, No. 219, of that date I inclosed what had been published as the terms likely to be agreed upon. The full text of the articles I have not seen, if indeed it has ever been published. A summary of them was read in the British House of Commons, during the debate of the 8th instant upon the six million bill, by the chancellor of the exchequer, on the authority of Her Britannic Majesty’s ambassador in Constantinople. The same has been published in this city and is herewith inclosed.
It will be found entirely different from the terms previously reported as the basis of the negotiations, so different indeed as to suggest a purpose in the previous publication. As agreed upon, the armistice might have been terminated and hostilities renewed by either party after three days’ notice. To do so neither party has shown the slightest inclination. On the contrary, the lines of demarkation limiting the neutral territory were promptly established, the blockade of the Black Sea was raised, and the other conditions observed.
Arrangements were at once made to negotiate a treaty of peace. On the part of Russia, General Ignatiew, for many years ambassador near the government of the Sultan and personally very acceptable, was designated as plenipotentiary; on the part of Turkey, his excellency Safort Pasha, imperial minister of foreign affairs, and his excellency Sadonllah Bey, the Ottoman ambassador at Berlin.
The latter named of the two arrived here five days ago by the way of Trieste.
The place selected for the meeting of the plenipotentiaries was San Stefano, a small town on the Sea of Marmora, half way to Tchekmedjé, the line of the neutral ground, associated with the history of this legation by having been for many years the official residence of Commodore Porter, the first United States minister near the Sublime Porte. Of late years it has become principally a summer resort for wealthy persons, who have built large houses, which, at this season unoccupied by the owners, furnish commodious lodgings for the extraordinary visitors.[Page 856]
The Grand Duke Nicholas lends his presence, with some fifteen thousand of his soldiers.
Last Monday, during my usual weekly call on the minister of foreign affairs, his excellency Assym Pasha, who, in the absence of his excellency Safvet Pasha, has charge of the foreign office, informed me that it was expected the treaty would be signed that day. It appears not to have been, and though we have had similar reports every day since, I have reason to believe the instrument is still unsigned and incomplete. Inclosed is what appeared in the press last evening as the chief conditions.
In my dispatch No. 219, of January 31, 1878, I mentioned that Sulieman Pasha had been criticised for failing to concentrate the troops under his command against the Russian approach south of the Balkans. In a subsequent dispatch, No. 226, of February 21, 1878, was inclosed a paragraph from the press, bringing him into the same condemnation with Server Pasha, late minister of foreign affairs. Undoubtedly he has been guilty of what in Turkish estimation is a grave military offense—want of success. * * * * Between him and the minister of war there is understood to have long existed an unfriendly rivalry, of which he will very likely experience the ill consequences. Now, I learn, he is under arrest and in prison. Mehemet Ali Pasha, who was twice superseded by him, has been restored to favor.
On the 15th instant [dispatch No. 224] I reported the arrival of the British fleet and its anchorage at the Princes’ Islands; also the consequent anxiety and public excitement. The next day, at the personal request of the Sultan, Her Britannic Majesty’s ambassador instructed Admiral Hornby, in command of the fleet, to take it to the gulf of Ishmeed (Niconudia). The fleet accordingly left the Princes’ Islands for the remoter locality and anchored at Touzla Point, near the entrance of the gulf, distant possibly twenty miles and out of sight of the city, where it remains. This movement of Her Majesty’s fleet is assigned by both Turk and Russian as the reason for selecting San Stefano instead of Adrianople as the place for the negotiations, it being just opposite the Princes’ Islands and in full view.
It is beyond my province, no doubt, to take note of affairs outside the limits of the Ottoman Empire, except to report their influence upon Turkey. Those will be observed and communicated more accurately and intelligently by my colleagues near at hand. And although the other European powers have shown a profound interest in the so-called Eastern question, they do not seem just now to be important factors in its solution. The recent speech of Prince Bismarck in the German Parliament; the language of Prince Auersperg, the Austrian prime minister in the Austrian Chamber of Deputies; the debates in the British Parliament; the unopposed vote of the six millions; the mobilization of the British army and the activity of the navy, all full of meaning, if not of menace, have not swerved the Sublime Porte from its resolution to have peace on the best attainable terms. How far they may affect the conditions of the treaty, by modifying demands on the one hand and limiting concessions on the other, is yet to be seen.
I have, & c.,