Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 2, 1878
Mr. Maynard to Mr. Evarts.
Constantinople , April 29, 1878. (Received June 3.)
Sir: Since the signing of the treaty of San Stefano, the 3d of March last (dispatch No. 229, of March 6, 1878), we have had no war, nor yet can we, in any proper sense of the term, be said to have had peace. The attitude of some of the other powers, of Great Britain and Austria especially, has been so equivocal, that an atmosphere of uncertainty has surrounded us and prevented a return of tranquillity. The Russian army to the number of some 90,000 remains in the neighborhood; and the Turks have been busy in collecting their scattered forces and in enlisting new recruits, until they claim to have nearly 150,000 men of all arms just around the city under constant drill, and commanded by Ghazi Osman Pasha, the chief pride of the Ottoman service. This alone would keep up a state of disquiet. For the last two months the city has been full of Russians, chiefly officers and men from the army, usually in full military costume. The Grand Duke Nicholas, in chief command, has come often to the city in the imperial yacht, the Livadia, and interchanged civilities with the Sultan and other Turkish officials. To-day he leaves for Russia, turning over the command to General Todleben. The dashing young Skobeleff has been a good deal in the city, keeping up social intercourse with Americans and Englishmen and other nationalities. “With the German embassy relations have been maintained which ordinarily would have a political significance. Rut it must be remembered that at the outbreak of the war Russian subjects in Turkey were placed under the protection of that embassy (dispatch No. 148, of April 28, 1877); that the ambassador, Prince Reuss, was for several years accredited to the court of St. Petersburg in the same exalted character, and that the Princess Reuss, his wife, is a near relative of the imperial family of Russia.
At one moment it seemed probable the relations between Turkey and Russia would amount to an alliance offensive and defensive. But I have reason to believe the Grand Duke ceases to have any such expectation, even if he ever entertained it. As the controversy between Great Britain and Russia takes shape, it becomes evident that Turkey, from political necessity, even if not from choice, will side with the former.
The change in Her Britannic Majesty’s ministry of foreign affairs was hailed at first as an indication of peace, recollecting the attitude of the Marquis of Salisbury during the conference (dispatch No. 126, of January 30, 1877). His lordship’s circular of the 1st instant, published here on the 9th, removed that impression effectually. It is hardly saying too much for that able state paper to declare that it for the first time presented the attitude of his government intelligently and respectably as the champion of public law and of the faith of treaties, and entitled to [Page 873] a voice in settling the affairs of Turkey whether she wished it or not. The effect of this declaration has been unquestionably very great upon the relative influence of Great Britain and Russia in the East; that of the former has rapidly and constantly increased, while that of the latter seems even more rapidly to have waned. To the treaty of San Stefano it was a deadly thrust. Even the reply of Prince Gortschakoff, which came ten days later, equally able, with the added power proverbial to a soft answer, has not countervailed. The two instalments have the common merit of setting forth in a clear light the issue between the great rival powers touching the affairs of the Ottoman Empire. Their bearing upon current events here is so important that they form a part of Turkish history. As such I transmit them, although they have probably been communicated already by my colleagues at London, and St. Petersburg.
The Turks are evidently preparing to take advantage of the turn of events. I understand they have not yet evacuated the strong posts of Batoum, Varna, and Shumla, included in the cessions by article 19 of the treaty of San Stefano, and are negotiating for the immediate release of their prisoners held by Russia, in numbers sufficient of themselves to form a considerable army.
Russia has not re-established her embassy near the Sublime Porte, giving an apparent advantage to Great Britain, whose diplomatic representative has remained here, and has been vigilant and energetic.
Meanwhile great uneasiness and anxiety prevail in the public mind.
I have, & c.,
The Marquis of Salisbury’s circular.
[From the Daily Levant Herald of April 9, 1878.]
The following circular dispatch, addressed by the Marquis of Salisbury to Her Majesty’s embassies, was issued from the foreign office on the 1st instant:
My Lord (Sir): I have received the Queen’s commands to request your excellency to explain to the government to which you are accredited the course which Her Majesty’s Government have thought it their duty to pursue in reference to the preliminaries of peace concluded between the Ottoman and Russian Governments, and to the European Congress which it has been proposed to hold for the examination of that treaty.
On the 14th of January, in view of the reports which had reached Her Majesty’s Government as to the negotiations for peace which were about to be opened between the Russian Government and the Porte, and in order to avoid any possible misconception, Her Majesty’s Government instructed Lord A. Loftus to state to Prince Gortschakoff that, in the opinion of Her Majesty’s Government, any treaty concluded between the Government of Russia and the Porte affecting the treaties of 1856 and 1871, must be an European treaty, and would not be valid without the assent of the powers who were parties to those treaties.
On the 25th of January, the Russian Government replied by the assurance that they did not intend to settle by themselves (“isolément”) European questions having reference to the peace which is to be made (“se rattachant à la paix”).
Her Majesty’s Government, having learned that the bases of peace had been arranged between the Turkish and Russian delegates at Kezanlik, instructed Lord A. Loftus, on the 29th of January, to state to the Russian Government that Her Majesty’s Government while recognizing any arrangements made by the Russian and Turkish delegates at Kezanlik for the conclusion of an armistice and for the settlement of bases of peace as binding between the two belligerents, declared that in so far as these arrangements were calculated to modify European treaties and to affect general and British interests, Her Majesty’s Government were unable to recognize in them any validity unless they were made the subject of a formal agreement among the parties to the treaty of Paris.[Page 874]
On the 30th of January, Lord A. Loftus communicated this declaration to Prince Gortschakoff, and His Highness replied, that to effect an armistice certain bases of peace were necessary, but they were only to be considered as preliminaries and not definitive as regarded Europe; and stated categorically that questions bearing on European interests could be concerted with European powers, and that he had given Her Majesty’s Government clear and positive assurances to this effect.
On the 4th of February, the Austrian ambassador communicated a telegram inviting Her Majesty’s Government to a conference at Vienna, and Her Majesty’s Government at once accepted the proposals.
On the 5th of February, his excellency addressed a formal invitation to Lord Derby, stating that:
“L’Autriche-Hongrie, en sa qualité de puissance signataire des actes internationaux qui ont eu pour objet de régler le système politique en Orient, a toujours réservé en présence de la guerre actuelle, sa part d’influence sur le règlement définitif des conditions de le paix future.
“Le gouvernement impérial de la Russie, auquel nous avons fait part de ce point de vue, l’a pleinement apprécié.
“Aujourd’hui que des préliminaires de paix vienuent d’être signés entre la Russie et la Turquie le moment nous semble venu d’établir l’accord de l’Europe sur les modifications qu’il deviendrait nécessaire d’apporter aux traités susmentionnés.
“Le mode le plus apte à amener cette entente nous parait être la réunion d’une conférence des puissances signataires du traité de Paris de 1856, et du protocole de Londres de 1871.”
On the 9th instant, the Austrian Government proposed that instead of the conference at Baden-Baden, as previously contemplated, a congress should be assembled at Berlin. Her Majesty’s Government replied that they had no objection to this change, but that they considered “that it would be desirable to have it understood, in the first place, that all questions dealt with in the treaty of peace between Russia and Turkey should be considered as subject to be discussed in the congress, and that no alteration in the condition of things previously established by treaty should be acknowledged as valid until it has received the assent of the powers.”
On the 12th of March, Count Beust was told that Her Majesty’s Government must be perfectly clear on the points mentioned in the letter to him of the 9th instant, before they could definitively agree to go into congress.
On the 13th, Her Majesty’s Government explained further the first condition:
“That they must distinctly understand, before they can enter into congress, that every article in the treaty between Russia and Turkey will be placed before the congress, not necessarily for acceptance, but in order that it may be considered what articles require acceptance or concurrence by the several powers, and what do not.”
On the 14th, the Russian ambassador communicated the following telegram from Prince Gortschakoff:
“Toutes les grandes puissances savent déjà que le texte complet du traité préliminaire de paix avec la Porte leur será communiqué dès que les ratifications auront été échangées, ce qui ne saurait tarder. Il sera simultanément public ici. Nous n’avons rien à cacher.”
On the 17th, Lord A. Loftus reported that he had received the following memorandum from Prince Gortschakoff:
“In reply to communication made by Lord A. Loftus of the dispatch by which Lord Derby has replied to the proposal of Count Beust relating to the meeting of the congress at Berlin, I have the honor to repeat the assurance which Count Schouvaloff has been already charged to give to Her Majesty’s Government, viz, that the preliminary treaty of peace, concluded between Russia and Turkey, shall be textually communicated to the great powers before the meeting of the congress, and that in the congress itself each power will have the full liberty of its appreciations and of its action.”
In a dispatch received on the 18th, Lord A. Loftus stated that Prince Gortschakoff had said to him that of course he could not impose silence on any member of the congress, but he could only accept a discussion on those portions of the treaty which affected European interests.
Lord Derby having asked Count Schouvaloff for a reply from Prince Gortschakoff his excellency informed him on the 19th that he was “charged to represent to Her Majesty’s Government that the treaty of peace concluded between Russia and Turkey, the only one which existed, for there was no secret engagement, would be communicated to the Government of the Queen in its entirety, and long before (“bien avant”) the assembling of the congress. The Government of the Queen, in like manner as the other great powers, reserved to themselves at the congress their full liberty of appreciation and action. This same liberty, which she did not dispute to others, Russia claimed for herself. Now, it would be to restrict her, if, alone among all the powers, Russia contracted a preliminary engagement.
On the 21st, Lord Derby replied that Her Majesty’s Government could not recede [Page 875] from the position already clearly defined by them; that they must distinctly understand, before they could enter into congress, that every article in the treaty between Russia and Turkey would be placed before the congress, not necessarily for acceptance, but in order that it might be considered what articles required acceptance or concurrence by the other powers and what did not.
Her Majesty’s Government were unable to accept the view now put forward by Prince Gortschakoff that the freedom of opinion and action in congress of Russia, more than of any other power, would be restricted by this preliminary understanding.
Her Majesty’s Government therefore desired to ask whether the Government of Russia were willing that the communication of the treaty en entier to the various powers should be treated as a placing of the treaty before the congress, in order that the whole treaty, in its relation to existing treaties, might be examined and considered by the congress.
On the 26th, Count Schouvaloff wrote to Lord Derby that the imperial cabinet deemed it its duty to adhere to the declaration which he was ordered to make to the Government of the Queen, and which was stated in the letter which he had the honor to address to him dated the 19th of March.
As different interpretations had been given to the “liberty of appreciation and action” which Russia thought it right to reserve to herself at the congress, the imperial cabinet defined the meaning of the term in the following manner:
“It leaves to the other powers the liberty of raising such questions at the congress as they might think it fit to discuss, and reserves to itself the liberty of accepting or not accepting the discussion of these questions.”
Her Majesty’s Government deeply regret the decision which the Russian Government have thus announced.
How far the stipulations of the treaty of San Stefano would commend themselves as expedient to the judgment of the European powers, it is not at present possible to decide. But even if a considerable portion of them were such as were likely to be approved, the reservation of a right, at discretion, to refuse to accept a discussion of them in a congress of the powers would not on that account be the less open to the most serious objection. An inspection of the treaty will sufficiently show that Her Majesty’s Government could not, in a European congress, accept any partial or fragmentary examination of its provisions. Every material stipulation which it contains involves a departure from the treaty of 1856.
By the declaration annexed to the first protocol of the conference held in London in 1871, the plenipotentiaries of the great powers, including Russia, recognized “that it is an essential principle of the law of nations that no power can liberate itself from the engagements of a treaty, nor modify the stipulations thereof, unless with the consent of the contracting powers by means of an amicable arrangement.”
It is impossible for Her Majesty’s Government, without violating the spirit of this declaration, to acquiesce in the withdrawal from the cognizance of the powers of articles in the new treaty which are modifications of existing treaty engagements, and inconsistent with them.
The general nature of the treaty and the combined effect of its several stipulations upon the interests of the signatory powers furnish another and a conclusive reason against the separate discussion of any one portion of those stipulations apart from the rest.
The most important consequences to which the treaty practically leads are those which result from its action, as a whole, upon the nations of Southeastern Europe. By the articles erecting the new Bulgaria, a strong Slav state will be created under the auspices and control of Russia, possessing important harbors upon the shores of the Black Sea and the Archipelago, and conferring upon that power a preponderating influence over both political and commercial relations in those seas. It will be so constituted as to merge in the dominant Slav majority a considerable mass of population which is Greek in race and sympathy, and which views with alarm the prospect of absorption in a community alien to it not only in nationality, but in political tendency and in religious allegiance. The provisions by which this new state is to be subjected to a ruler whom Russia will practically choose, its administration framed by a Russian commissary, and the first working of its institutions commenced under the control of a Russian army, sufficiently indicate the political system of which in future it is to form apart.
Stipulations are added which will extend this influence even beyond the boundaries of the new Bulgaria. The provision, in itself highly commendable, of improved institutions for the populations of Thessaly and Epirus, is accompanied by a condition that the law by which they are to be secured shall be framed under the supervision of the Russian Government. It is followed by engagements for the protection of members of the Russian Church, which are certainly not more limited in their scope than those articles of the treaty of Kainardji upon which the claims were founded which were abrogated in 1856. Such stipulations cannot be viewed with satisfaction either by the Government of Greece or by the powers to whom all parts of the Ottoman Empire are [Page 876] a matter of common interest. The general effect of this portion of the treaty will he to increase the power of the Russian Empire in the countries and on the shores where a Greek population dominates, not only to the prejudice of that nation, hut also of every country having interests on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.
The territorial severance from Constantinople of the Greek, Albanian, and Slavonic provinces which are still left under the Government of the Porte, will cause their administration to be attended with constant difficulty, and even embarrassment; and will not only deprive the Porte of the political strength which might have arisen from their possession, but will expose the inhabitants to a serious risk of anarchy.
By the other portions of the treaty analogous results are arrived at upon other frontiers of the Ottoman Empire. The compulsory alienation of Bessarabia from Roumania, the extension of Bulgaria to the shores of the Black Sea, which are principally inhabited by Mussulmans and Greeks, and the acquisition of the important harbor of Batoum, will make the will of the Russian Government dominant over all the vicinity of the Black Sea. The acquisition of the strongholds of Armenia will place the population of that province under the immediate influence of the power which holds them; while the extensive European trade which now passes from Trebizond to Persia will, in consequence of the cessions in Kurdistan, be liable to be arrested at the pleasure of the Russian Government by the prohibitory barriers of their commercial system.
Provision is made for an indemnity, of which the amount is obviously beyond the means of Turkey to discharge, even if the fact be left out of account that any surplus of its revenues is already hypothecated to other creditors. The mode of payment of this indemnity is left, in vague language, to ulterior negotiations between Russia and the Porte. Payment may be demanded immediately, or it may be left as an unredeemed and unredeemable obligation to weigh down the independence of the Porte for many years. Its discharge may be commuted into a yet larger cession of territory, or it may take the form of special engagements subordinating in all things the policy of Turkey to that of Russia. It is impossible not to recognize in this provision an instrument of formidable efficiency for the coercion of the Ottoman Government, if the necessity for employing it should arise.
Objections may be urged individually against these various stipulations; and arguments, on the other hand, may possibly be advanced to show that they are not individually inconsistent with the attainment of the lasting peace and stability which it is the highest object of all present negotiations to establish in the provinces of European and Asiatic Turkey. But their separate and individual operation, whether defensive or not, is not that which should engage the most earnest attention of the signatory powers. Their combined effect, in addition to the results upon the Greek population and upon the balance of maritime power which have been already pointed out, is to depress, almost to the point of entire subjection, the political independence of the Government of Constantinople. The formal jurisdiction of that government extends over geographical positions which must, under all circumstances, be of the deepest interest to Great Britain. It is in the power of the Ottoman Government to close or to open the straits which form the natural highway of nations between the Ægean Sea and the Euxine. Its dominion is recognized at the head of the Persian Gulf, on the shores of the Levant, and in the immediate neighborhood of the Suez Canal. It cannot be otherwise than a matter of extreme solicitude to this country that the government to which this jurisdiction belongs should be so closely pressed by the political outposts of a greatly superior power that its independent action, and even existence, is almost impossible. These results arise not so much from the language of any single article in the treaty as from the operation of the instrument as a whole. A discussion limited to articles selected by one power in the Congress would be an illusory remedy for the dangers to English interests and to the permanent peace of Europe, which would result from the state of things which the treaty proposes to establish.
The object of Her Majesty’s Government at the Constantinople conference was to give effect to the policy of reforming Turkey under the Ottoman Government, removing well-grounded grievances, and thus preserving the empire until the time when it might be able to dispense with protective guarantees. It was obvious that this could only be brought about by rendering the different populations so far contented with their position as to inspire them with a spirit of patriotism, and make them ready to defend the Ottoman Empire as loyal subjects of the Sultan.
The policy was frustrated by the unfortunate resistance of the Ottoman Government itself, and, under the altered circumstances of the present time, the same result cannot be attained to the same extent by the same means. Large changes may, and no doubt will, be requisite in the treaties by which Southeastern Europe has hitherto been ruled. But good government, assured peace, and freedom, for populations to whom those blessings have been strange, are still the objects which this country earnestly desires to secure.
In requiring a fall consideration of the general interests which the new arrangements threaten to affect, Her Majesty’s Government believe that they are taking the surest means of securing those objects. They would willingly have entered a Congress in [Page 877] which the stipulations in question could have been examined as a whole, in their relation to existing treaties, to the acknowledged rights of Great Britain and of other powers, and to the beneficent ends which the united action of Europe has always been directed to secure. But neither the interests which Her Majesty’s Government are specially bound to guard nor the well-being of the regions with which the treaty deals would be consulted by the assembling of a Congress whose deliberations were to be restricted by such reservations as those which have been laid down by Prince Gortschakoff in his most recent communication.
Your excellency will read this dispatch to the minister of foreign affairs, and give him a copy of it.
I am, & c.,
[From the Daily Levant Herald of April 20, 1878.]
The Russian reply to England.
The St. Petersburg official journals of the 11th instant publish Prince Gortschakoff’s circular in answer to that of Lord Salisbury and a long annexed pro memoriâ. The circular is as follows:
Circular of the Chancellor of the Empire to the Ambassadors of Russia at Berlin, Paris, London, Vienna, and Rome.
Lord A. Loftus has communicated to me the circular addressed by the Marquis of Salisbury to the great powers, under date April 1. It has been subjected to a careful examination, and we duly recognize the frankness with which it sets forth the views of the Government of Her Britannic Majesty on the preliminary treaty of peace of San Stefano. We therein find presented in long detail the objections of the English cabinet, bat we look in vain for any proposals it might be disposed to suggest toward a practical solution of the present crisis in the East. The Marquis of Salisbury tells us what the English Government does not wish, but tells us nothing as to what it does wish. We think it would be serviceable if his lordship would be good enough to make this latter point known in order to promote an understanding of the situation. As regards the declaration of the views of the Government of Her Britannic Majesty on the subject of the congress, I can only recall the course which on their side the imperial cabinet have followed in this question. It has officially communicated to the great powers the text of the preliminary treaty of San Stefano with an explanatory map. We added that at the congress, if it were to meet, each of the powers there represented would have full liberty of appreciation and action. In claiming the same right for Russia we can only reiterate the same declaration. Be pleased to communicate the present dispatch, with its annex, to the government to which you are accredited.
The annex to the circular is entitled “Pro Memoriâ,” and is as follows:
- It is not accurate to say that the treaty of San Stefano has created a new Bulgaria or a very strong Slav State under the control of Russia. Bulgaria existed, though in a state of oppression. Europe perceived this, and was desirous of providing a remedy. The Constantinople conference indicated the measures deemed necessary to attain this end. In suggesting these measures the plenipotentiaries assembled in the Constantinople conference certainly did not think of rendering them inefficacious. It should be admitted that they contemplated the endowment of Bulgaria with a national existence and a real administrative autonomy. In such case the Bulgarian State, though divided in two provinces, would have been constituted in germ, and this germ, developing itself under the œgis of Europe, would have achieved the result which the treaty of San Stefano is designed to bring to maturity. The refusal made by the Porte, and the war by which it was followed, did not permit, in the avowal of the Marquis of Salisbury himself, of a return pure and simple to the programme of the conference of Constantinople. The treaty of San Stefano only makes it obligatory on the Porte to consent to a programme of reforms more complete, more précis, and more practical; but even the fact that the treaty of San Stefano is a preliminary one indicates that in the mind of the imperial cabinet it is only a matter of principle, without prejudging definitely the application, which requires technical studies, an exact appreciation of geographical necessities, and the conciliation of numerous interests. It is [Page 878] because of this that many articles are expressed in vague terms, so as to leave room for ulterior under standings as to the modifications deemed indispensable.
- The treaty of San Stefano has not placed the new state under the control of Russia. The imperial cabinet has done only what it accomplished in 1830 for Moldo-Wallachia. Experience has demonstrated that the work of that period in these principalities was useful by contributing to the prosperity of these provinces. It was not perceived that the result would be such a preponderance of the influence of Russia as to disturb the European equilibrium. It may be added that if Moldo-Wallachia, which owes its existence to and borders upon Russia, has been able to make itself independent of her, with yet stronger reason should one count on the same result for Bulgaria, the territory of which would be separated from Russia in the foreseen event of a cession of the Dobrudja to Roumania.
- The maximum term of two years has been assigned to the provisional occupation of Bulgaria because this lapse of time has been thought necessary to maintain order and peace, to protect the Christian and Mussulman populations against reciprocal reprisals, to reorganize the country, and to introduce national institutions, the native militia, & c.; and also because, if the occupation had been indefinite, the fact might-have been regarded as a step towards a prise de possession, which the imperial cabinet has never contemplated. But it is unnecessary to say that, this term being approximate, the imperial cabinet is quite ready to shorten it as much as possible without endangering the success of the difficult work which it is proposed to carry out in the interests of general peace.
- The delimitation of Bulgaria has been indicated only in general terms. The sole principle which has been laid down is that of the majority of the population, and certainly anything more equitable and rational can hardly be imagined. It meets the objections suggested by the difference of the races of the minority, whose interests, moreover, have been guarded by express stipulations. But the application of this principle has been reserved for a mixed commission, whose local investigations can alone dissipate the doubt and uncertainty which still exist in respect of these vexed questions. The preliminary delimitation is opposed on the ground that it assigns to Bulgaria some ports on the Black Sea, but the Constantinople conference itself decided that unless these countries debouched on the sea they could not prosper. With regard to the ports of the Ægean Sea, the commercial development of Bulgaria has alone been in view. Certainly, Russia will not profit by this development so much as England and the powers whose Mediterranean commerce—much more active than that of Russia—has always been a powerful lever for the maintenance of their political influence.
- The preliminary treaty in no way places Bulgaria under the domination of a chief chosen by Russia. It is formally stipulated that the governor shall be elected by native administrative councils, with the confirmation of the Porte and the assent of Europe, and that members of the reigning dynasties shall not be eligible for the office. It is not seen what better guarantees could be given of the liberty of elections. As to the organization of the principality, that is left to an assembly of native notables. The Russian imperial commissary has only a right of surveillance to exercise in. concert with an Ottoman commissary. Moreover, an understanding between the great powers and the Porte is expressly reserved, in order that the Russian imperial commissary may be associated with special delegates. Meanwhile, the provisional measures taken by the Russian authorities for the administration of the country are far from being framed with the view, as has been affirmed, of making Bulgaria a part of the Russian political system. Almost no change has been made in institutions to which the country was accustomed. Care has only been taken with the execution, which was defective. The slight alterations which have been effected are the abolition of the redevance for redemption from the military service, the abolition of the tithes and their replacement by a more normal impost, the abolition of the rent of the imposts, which was the source of the principal abuses, and the right attributed to the Christian inhabitants in mixed localities to refuse at election time those Mussulmans who had distinguished themselves by acts of persecution towards the Christian population. The state of siege to which the country was reduced during the war rendering the nomination of Russian governors indispensable, Bulgarians have in all quarters been appointed vice-governors, in order that after the peace, according to the rapidity with which tranquillity is restored in the country, these vice-governors might be able to replace the Russian governors without causing any interruption to the administration of the country. The exclusive object of all these provisional measures has been to protect the national development and to render possible the reunion of the first Bulgarian assembly called to regulate the institutions of the principality.
- The assertion that the treaty of San Stefano has extended the influence of Russia beyond the limits of Bulgaria, while stipulating for ameliorated institutions for Epirus and Thessaly, affords room for surprise. If Russia had stipulated for nothing in favor of those provinces, she would have been accused of sacrificing the Greeks to the Slavs; if she had sought to obtain for them the vassal autonomy which is condemned in Bulgaria, she would have been accused of entirely destroying the Ottoman [Page 879] Empire and implanting Russian influence in its place. The imperial cabinet has always understood the mission which, in a Christian sense, history assigns to her in the East, without distinction of race or of creed. If she has stipulated for conditions’ more complete and more precise in favor of Bulgaria, it is because that country had been the principal cause and theater of the war, and that Russia had acquired positive belligerent rights. But in limiting itself to stipulating for ameliorated institutions for the Greek provinces it reserved to the great powers an extensive right of protest. It is equally inaccurate that the treaty of San Stefano stipulated that these institutions should be placed under the direction of Russia. The general type to which they have been assimilated by the treaty is that of the Cretan regulation, which has been octroyé by the Porte under the influence of the great powers. The treaty stipulates that the application should be made by a special commission, or that the native element should be largely represented. It obliges the Porte, it is true, to consult Russia before putting it in execution, but does not interdict the Porte from equally consulting the representatives of the friendly powers.
- The subsequent clause, concerning the protection of the members of the Russian Church, must have been ill understood to be compared to that of the treaty of, Kainardji, abolished in 1856. The clause of Kainardji concerned the Greek Orthodox body, and could embrace all the Christian subjects of the Sultan who professed the rite. The treaty of San Stefano mentions exclusively monks, ecclesiastics, and pilgrims who are Russian or of Russian origin, and stipulates for them only the rights, advantages, and privileges belonging to the ecclesiastics of other nationalities. From all this it is impossible to regard as just the assertion that the ensemble of these stipulations of San Stefano is of such a nature as to extend the power of the Russian Empire in countries where the Greek population predominates, to the prejudice of this nation and to all countries having interests in the East and in the Mediterranean.
- One may equally find exaggerations in the affirmation that the ensemble of the stipulations of San Stefano as to the retrocession of Roumanian Bessarabia, the extension of Bulgaria up to the Black Sea, and the acquisition of the port of Batoum render the will of Russia, predominant in the whole neighborhood of the Black Sea. Russia has powerfully contributed in the past to emancipate Greece and Roumania, but has not reaped so much benefit from it as have the other powers. The retrocession of Roumanian Bessarabia would be only a return of an order of things modified twenty-two years ago for reasons which have no longer a raison d’être, nor legal title, nor even pretext, since that the liberty of the navigation of the Danube has been placed under the control and guarantee of a commission internationale, and especially at the moment when Roumania proclaimed her independence and when Europe seemed disposed to recognize it. It must be added that this retrocession does not include all the part of Bessarabia ceded in 1856. The delta of the Danube is excluded from it, and the project of the Russian Government is to give it to Roumania, from which it had been taken in 1857. This circumstance reduces considerably the importance of the desired retrocession from the point of view of influence over the navigation of the mouths of the Danube.
- Batoum is the only good port in this district available for the commerce and the security of Russia drawn from a war which she has waged single-handed and which has cost her so much. It is not then by any means a gratuitous cession, it is far from being the equivalent of the pecuniary indemnity which it would represent.
- As to the acquisitions in Armenia, they only possess a defensive value. It is possible that England would rather see these strong positions in the hands of the Turks, but from the same motives Russia sets a value upon the possession of them for her own security, so as not to have to lay siege to them in each war, as in the case of the fortress of Kars, which she has been obliged to take three times within half a century. Territorial cessions are a natural consequence of war. If England had wished to spare them to Turkey, she had only to ally herself with Russia, as was proposed to her on two occasions, first, by the Berlin Memorandum and then by the mission of Count Elston Soumarokoff to Vienna, in order to put a united maritime pressure on the Porte, which would probably have sufficed to obtain the ends acquired to-day at the price of so much bloodshed. The English Government, having refused this, has now no ground for denying to Russia, who has shed her blood, the right of promoting the creation of a state of things which relieves her henceforward from such sacrifices or renders them less onerous, But what is impossible to understand are the consequences to the freedom of the European commerce of Trebizond, via Persia, which are drawn from these rectifications of frontier. These assertions are in contradiction to those uttered on more than one occasion by several members of the British Cabinet, according to whom the taking possession of Erzeroum and of Trebizond by Russia would not constitute a danger to British interests. The rectifications of frontier in Asia, stipulated by the treaty of San Stefano, are very far from touching this extension. It is carrying distrust to an extreme to affirm that they place Russia in the position of impeding by prohibitive obstacles the European commercial system.
- The objections taken to the treaty of San Stefano in regard to the indemnity claimed from Turkey are surely not better established. The amount of this indemnity [Page 880] is out of all proportion with the overwhelming charges which the war has entailed upon Russia. It may be that they exceed the actual resources of Turkey and increase her difficulty in satisfying the claims of her creditors. But it is to be noted that Turkey failed in her obligations towards her creditors long before the war, by reason of the disorder caused by her maladministration. There is reason to believe that if peace is established upon the rational bases which the treaty of San Stefano has in view, and to which the European sanction would give a solid and lasting character, it would result, as far as Turkey herself is concerned, in a diminution of her expenses, and an augmentation of her resources, which would enable her to respond to the exigencies of her foreign credit. It is in view of these possible results that the stipulations of San Stefano which relate to the indemnity have been maintained in the undefined state which has been made the subject of reproach. If the amount of the indemnity is criticised as being too high, the unreasonableness of an immediate payment has been criticised for a much stronger reason. If the precise manner of payment had been stipulated, it would have been necessary to encroach upon a region already mortgaged to the foreign creditors of the Porte. It is that which the treaty of San Stefano has sought to avoid, reserving the question for a future hearing. It is true that by this precaution Russia exposes herself to the suspicion of seeking to paralyze or to dominate over Turkey for several years, or of meditating new territorial acquisitions as a substitute for the indemnity. It would have been easier to have seen in this a design to care for Turkey as well as for the interests of Europe, and to maintain the Turkish Government in the fulfillment of its engagements and of pacific relationships which would be profitable to all. But against mistrust there is no remedy.
- From the conclusion of the Marquis of Salisbury’s dispatch it is gathered that the end and ardent desire of Her Majesty’s Government are always to insure good government, peace, and liberty to the populations to whom these benefits have been strange. With equal satisfaction has the frank avowal been noted that this policy has been frustrated by the unhappy resistance of the Ottoman Government; that in face of the modified circumstances of the present time the same result cannot be obtained in the same direction by the same means—that is to say, the programme of the conference of Constantinople—and that great changes may and without doubt will be necessary in the treaties by which the southeast of Europe has up to the present time been governed. If to these considerations be added the fact that the reiterated refusal of the English Government to join in exercising collective material pressure on the Porte has prevented Europe from obtaining pacifically the results desired by the Cabinet of London itself, it will be recognized that the war and the peace of San Stefano have answered to the exigencies of the situation which the Marquis of Salisbury has set forth with such great frankness and in such a high spirit. This situation resolves itself into this: The existing treaties have been successively infringed for 22 years—first by the Turkish Government, which has not fulfilled its obligations toward the Christians; then by the united principalities, by the French occupation of Syria, and by the conference of Constantinople itself, constituting an interference in the interior affairs of the Ottoman Empire.
- The Marquis of Salisbury himself recognizes that great changes must and ought to be made. In the present circumstances, it remains for us to learn how his lordship means to reconcile practically these treaties and the recognized rights of Great Britain and other powers with the benevolent wishes towards a realization of which the united action of Europe has always been directed for a good government, peace, and assured liberty to the populations to whom these benefits have been strange. It remains also to be learned how beyond the preliminary bases laid down by the treaty of San Stefano, his lordship means to reach the desired goal while bearing in mind the rights acquired by Russia, for the sacrifices which she has borne, and borne alone, in order to render the realization possible. The dispatch of the Marquis of Salisbury contains no response to these questions. For these reasons it appears that the considerations which it contains would have been more effective if accompanied by practical proposals of a nature to assure an understanding in the solution of present difficulties in the general interest of a solid and lasting pacification in the East.