William Batchelder Greene
Our Foreign Correspondence
Bayouk-Dere, (on the Bosphorus,), March 26th, 1854
The weather is bad enough, but the aspect of the political heavens is still more cloudy. To give you some idea of the weather I will state that the hills of Corsica, Southern Greece, and Asia Minor, are still covered with snow, and that it snows now, every other day, at Constantinople. Even in Smyrna, where we should have a right to expect better things, the gutters are often frozen over at 10 o’clock in the morning. The Tartars (government couriers, say, however, that the winter has been less severe in the northern provinces of Turkey and military men are confident that the country near the Danube is fit for immediate operations.
Political matters are in a most beautiful state of complication. There are many different interests in the field, and each with a tolerable chance of success. Each interest has its good and bad points, and enlists your sympathies or awakens your repugnance, according to the different points of view in which you look at it. Nothing, however, can be more hypocritical than the pretensions to extreme liberality, generosity, and disinterestedness, which are put forward by the English, and the most amusing of all, is the opinion which obtains that England and France control the war, and will be able to stop it at once whenever it threatens to pass safe limits. For the eyes of most Englishmen, the staving off of danger from the British aristocracy, is the climax of all righteousness: no matter whether Turkey is abandoned by her allies, no matter whether she is to be dismembered, no matter what becomes of the rest of the world, it is all right if the British aristocracy can but retain their seats in the saddle. Look in the English and French papers, and you will see that Turkey is to be dictated to by the allies. Turkey must do this, must do that, must make such and such laws for Christians, such laws for Turks! All very well, gentlemen, but if Turkey is to submit to dictation, why not to Russian dictation? Why should she prefer that of England and France? When Turkey is beaten by the Russians, she will submit of course to the law of her conqueror; and when she is saved by her friends, she will be obliged to do what her friends command; since the fact of her being saved, not by herself, but by another, shows that she is in the hand of the power that saves her. Omer Pacha is on the Danube with a very respectable army, and is aware that the French and English (English especially) are quite willing that he, and Turkey also, should go by the board; and it must be remembered that neither Turkey nor Omer Pacha desire to go by the board. Omer Pacha knows what he is about, and has taken into his calculations, not only his Russian enemies, but also his French and English friends; and he has, without doubt, prepared himself to strike a just blow before the arrival of the allies; for it is perfectly clear that if Turkey is ever to do anything for herself, she must do it now. Moreover (and mark this point, for it is important) the Russians will by no means be willing to wait patiently, before commencing operations, for the arrival of the western armies. Why should they delay until their enemies have doubled their numbers? Great and decisive battles will probably be fought in the course of the coming few weeks; for it is for the interest, as well of the Russians as of the Turks to do something at this juncture, while the decision of the result appears to rest mainly on the efforts of the armies now near the Danube.
Three results are possible: the Turks may be well beaten in the campaign now opening, the Russians may be beaten, or the two armies may make a draw game of it.
Suppose the Turks are beaten. What will the 100,000 French and English soldiers, who will arrive near the Danube sometime in July, that is to say, many days after the fair, do against the immense masses of human force that the Russian Emperor can roll into Turkey? How will they retake the strong positions that he will have had time to occupy in advance? 100,000 men form a magnificent army, but 100,000 men may be destroyed in a few battles, and where are the English and French troops to come from that are to replace those who are killed and those who die of disease? When France sends 400,000 men into the field, she will be exhausted, and the power of England to furnish troops is very small when compared with that of France. On the other hand, Russia can lose army after army and still remain strong. It is true that the fleet in the Black sea is competent to knock over a few small Russian forts, and to take a few Russian towns, but it is by no means competent to take Savastopol, or, what is of vastly more importance, to impede the Russian army in its march toward, and across, the Balkans. If the Turks are beaten—driven back—England and France have no other available means for restoring the chances of success than that which would be furnished by an insurrection of the nationalities. In case the Turks are beaten, therefore, the word of resurrection will of necessity will be spoken to Poland, Italy and Hungary, nations that are not dead but sleeping; and the crater of the revolutionary volcano will be re-opened, in order that the lava of democracy may inundate Europe.
We have not yet seen the last of the duplicity and treachery of the English government, which, it is does anything for the advance of democracy, will deserve no thanks, since it will act, not from good motives, but from utter selfishness, and in the hope to cheat the nations in the end by some subtle swindle. But can you wonder at the conduct of the British aristocracy when you reflect upon the prospect which this war unrolls before them? We may be permitted to hope that the morning twilight of the day of just retribution has begun to dawn on that double dealing oligarchy. The great contest of principles will soon commence, light is arrayed against darkness, democracy against absolutism and no hypothetical mixture of iron and clay, like the English aristocracy, can persist through the shock that is impending. The only hope of England, is to stave off the issue.
But suppose, on the other hand, that it is Russia which is to be well beaten, and the supposition is not unplausible. Kalefat is so strongly fortified that no serious attempt is likely to be made upon it. Shumla cannot easily be mastered, although English engineer officers say that it may be taken by Russians if they are willing to sacrifice 10,000 men to do it. If the Russians make an immediate and determined advance (and they cannot fail to do it) they will probably endeavor to turn Shumla, their most feasible route being the one between Shumla and Varna, passing by Pravadi. (The Russians can do nothing at Varsa on account of the fleets.) But if the Russians advance by the road just mentioned, their flanks will be attacked from Shumla on one side, and from Varna on the other: moreover, at Aidor, the road runs between high perpendicular rocks, which may be so blown up by gunpowder as to enable the Turks to obstruct the way of an advancing army by immense blocks of stone presenting almost insuperable obstacles. If the Russians, either by the fate of arms, or by disease, meet with some great calamity, which shall for a time prostrate their strength, the Hungarians will spring to their feet. So long as Russia is able to interfere efficaciously to keep the Austrian emperor upon his throne, there is no hope for Hungary, but when the strong man of Russia is once bound, the Hungarians will be able to drive the Austrians out of their house. Hungary is too strong for Austria in single combat. Hungary and Italy will be to Austria as the upper and nether millstones, and will grind her to powder; for Austria, by her perfidy, oppression and villainy, has placed herself in the position of Imachar, who is likened in scripture to a strong ass crouching between two burdens. Hungary will move first: as soon as Hungary gives adequate occupation to the Austrian army, Italy will have her destinies in her own hands. When Italy moves, the conflagration becomes general.
Suppose, finally, that the balance of arms remains equal, and that nothing decisive covers before the arrival of the French and English armies. This may very well happen, either in the natural course of events, for drawn battles are not impossible, or by consequence of orders from the Turkish government to Omer Pacha to refrain from serious operations until after the arrival of the allies—orders force from the Turkish government by French and English pressure. If Omer Pacha simply prevents the advance of the Russian army toward the Balkan, the Russians on their side may simply fortify themselves in the principalities, and await the course of events. The Russians would be very glad to have Constantinople, but if they cannot now have all they desire, they may well be contented, en attendant, with the principalities? The Turks cannot do it. The English and French will have some 25,000 men at Gallipolis in a few days, but the bulk of their army will not be there before June, and, consequently, it will not be on the line of the Danube before July (if then), and at that time it will have to contend, not only with the Russians, who will be immensely superior in numbers, but also with infinitely more dangerous enemies—dysentery and every species of fever that can be bred from the miasma of pestilential swamps. Where the English and French can afford to lose one soldier, the Russians can better afford to lose three; and the hop of fatiguing the Russians, so that they will abandon the war, is vain; since, without doubt (judging from his action) the emperor Nicholas counted the cost in the beginning, and determined, once for all, to put the war through—by daylight if possible.
Meanwhile, if the war is to be drawn out indefinitely—and such must evidently be the case if no decisive result is obtained in the coming few months—discontents will arise in England and France, Turkey will be exhausted, commerce throughout Europe will be seriously checked, capitalists will be frightened, national finances will be disordered, taxes will not be raised without difficulty, and a general feeling of uneasiness, if not distress, will impel all [places] in the west of Europe to call out for the application of immediate and decisive measures. But where is that crisis, are England and France to obtain the enormous masses of troops which will be necessary to enable them to meet the exigency? There is but one door of escape open. Do what you will, the crater of the revolutionary volcano is bound to be reopened. England must revolutionise Hungary, and put the nationalities of southern Europe once more upon their feet. The triumph of democracy is approaching. England and France have not two armies to lose, while Russia can have one army after another annihilated without feeling her energies exhausted. In Finland, Poland, Italy, Hungary, there and there only—with the assistance of certain populations of Asia—can the immense masses be found which are required for the adequate opposition of Russia.
Paris, May 15th, 1854.
Mr. Editor:—This seems to be the latest plot of the crowned Vultures who hold for a moment, or pretend to hold, the destinies of Europe in their grasp:—Austria is to give up Gallicia, and to receive in its stead the two provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia, which are not occupied by the Russians; and Poland (Gallicia of course included) is to be formed into a powerful kingdom, under a strong despotic government. Austria would gain by this transaction, first, because she would be enabled to pay off her debt to Russia by an act of supreme ingratitude, and, secondly, because the influence of Poland, being entirely catholic, would strengthen the bands of absolutism. The Jesuits would of course gain—and it was they who invented the affair—because they would be enabled to counterbalance, by means of the Polish kingdom, the influence of protestant Prussia on one side, and, on the other side, the influence of the self-styled Greek orthodoxy, which is represented by Russia. At present, the prospects of Catholicism are seriously threatened in northern Europe, and it is for that reason that the Jesuits are indefatigable, intriguing everywhere, and especially in Austria and France, endeavoring by all means, if possible, to push forward the scheme of a Polish kingdom, in order that a wedge may thus be created to separate between Prussia and Russia, and to break the line of the national antagonists of the catholic church. Austria is catholic, and for that reason inclines to the scheme; but the motive that weighs most strongly in the minds of Austrian statesmen in favor of the plan, is this, that Wallachia, with her population of 6,000,000, might be made to furnish an element of obedience and order that could be arrayed against the (so called) Hungarian turbulence. The English government, that is to say, the English aristocracy, see in that plan a means of checking the existing conflagration where it is, and of preventing it from setting all Europe in a blaze of democratic revolution. For the democratic revolution, if it once breaks out, will never stop till it has put an end to the English aristocracy; and this fact is well known on the other side of the channel. The plot is moreover favorably regarded by all democrats who are also imbeciles, and the number is not small; the words “reconstruction of the Polish nationality,” fill such men with an instinctive, foolish, and insane joy.
We must not forget, while thinking of these machinations, that Austria is with Russia in principle, that her domination over Italy and Hungary rests upon foundation identical with that of the Russian domination over the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. If it be established that the domination of Russia over the province of the Danube is wrong, and opposed to the rights of nations, then it is established also that the domination of Austria over five sixths of her territory is an outrage. Austria cannot hold Italy and Hungary for a day without foreign help; Russia is bound, by her own principles, and consequently by her own interest, to give that help. England and France may promise to maintain Austria in her present possessions, but what guarantee can they give that they will keep their promise after Russia is driven back, and they have nothing further to hope from Austrian assistance? Again what guarantee can Austria have that a democratic revolution will not break out in France? What guarantee that England and France will not have employment enough at home? This time, democratic contagion, if it spreads at all, will spread with unwonted virulence.
But the hard point is yet to come. If Austria sides with the western powers, if the kingdom of Poland is reconstituted in accordance with the ideas above mentioned, Russia will give arms and an imperial prince to the Hungarians, saying: Here are arms and a king of independent Hungary—do something! And the Hungarians would do something. In such a complication with the Slavic and Magyar elements united and both in the hand of Russia, Austria would be annihilated, and the emperor Nicolas would have his own way with England, France and Turkey. Then would be the day of vengeance of the Almighty upon England and France, and those nations would receive the punishment due to the egotism and perfidy that allowed the Russian intervention in Hungary in 1849. From all this, I conclude that the plot will fail; that the Polish nationality will not be reconstructed this year, and that Austria will not side with the western powers. Austria will talk of neutrality, will lie, negotiate, and play double; but mark my word! she will never separate her cause from that of Russia.
It is said that the Austrian flotilla, which has been for some time past at Smyrna—it is a pity Capt. Ingraham did not sink it—has gone to the Pireus, to watch over the Greek insurrection; and this fact is quoted to prove that Austria has sided with the western powers.—That the Austrian vessels have done to the Pyreus, is not improbable; but neither is it improbable that they have gone, not to overawe the insurgents, but to furnish king Otho, in case of need, with Austrian, that is to say, with neutral ships; for Otho, from present appearances may have occasion to take passage on board some neutral ship t escape from his kingdom.
Speaking of the Greek insurrection, leads me to reflect upon the changes which our opinions undergo as we look at the same matter in different lights. When we reflect upon the ill-treatment which the Turks have received, it is impossible not to sympathize with them, and not to regard with indignation the conduct of the Greeks, who, by their present movements, are playing right into the hands of Russia. Yet when we think of the wrongs that have been for ages inflicted upon the Greeks by the Turks, we feel that the Greeks are excusable. A young Greek, who seemed to be anxious to procure arms and ammunition for the insurrection, asked me, at Syra, what was the general feeling in the west of Europe as respected the war? I answered: Against the Russians, and therefore for the Turks. The Greek replied—and I give his answer at length—“That is natural, but it is also natural that the Greeks should take advantage of the present contingency, to strike a blow for themselves. The Greek kingdom has very little good soil, and its frontiers ought to be so stretched northward as to take in one or two of the Turkish Provinces, which, after all, are ours by right. You think the Greeks act from Russian instigation, but you are mistaken, the movement originates in natural causes. We have our wrongs as well as others, and we wish to see our wrongs righted; we have also some claim to compensation for what we have suffered in times past, if compensation, indeed, in our case, were possible; for example, I myself count two uncles who were hanged by the Turks, one brother killed in battle, and one sister sold as a slave in Constantinople!” Of course, I had nothing to say in reply, for the Greek was a young man full of honor and patriotism, but under other circumstances, I should have reflected that many Greeks would have made not hesitation in stating that their whole families had been hanged, if such a statement would have helped their argument; and also that many Greeks would have seen with dry eyes, and without indignation, their sister sold into Turkish harems, provided the purchasers were men tolerably well to do in the world. The Rev. Dr. Dewey expressed himself willing to send his mother into slavery, if, by that means, he could obviate danger to the American Union; but the equanimity of the Rev. Dr. is nothing to what would be manifested by many Greeks at seeing their female relations carried into slavery, provided the idea of such slavery should be complicated in their minds with the idea of ultimate pecuniary advantage to the females themselves. But we must remember that if the Greeks are, at this day, many of them, destitute of all moral dignity, they have at least two excuses; first, they are emerging from a long night of social and political degradation, the irons of slavery having been but quite recently struck from their wrists, and, secondly, they come from a wicked, treacherous, and profligate, though energetic and talented, stock.—The moral characters of Pericles and Themistocles will bear no close scrutiny. Do we not read that Philip of Macedon was always sure of a Greek city if he could but introduce into it one mule-load of gold coin? At what epoch of history was it that the leaders of public opinion in Greece were incapable of being corrupted? Private manners in ancient Greece seem to have been little better than public manner; you may mention Aristodes, Socrates, Zeno (who was, however, no Greek) &c., as exceptions; but we must remember that these were public personages, philosophers and statesmen, and that they themselves bear testimony against the manners of their countrymen. The reputation of Aristodes, the just, is doubtful. Cicero—who was, by the way, in his own person, a passably poor tool—expressed himself on one occasion as follows: “This, however, I say concerning all Greeks:—I grant them learning, the knowledge of many sciences; I do not deny that they have wit, fine genius and eloquence; nay, if they lay claim to many other excellencies, I shall not contest their title; but this I must say, that nation never paid a proper regard to the religious sanctity of public evidence, and are total strangers to the obligation, authority, and importance of truth.” You may rest assured that long ages of slavery have not improved the morals of the Greeks.
The Greeks are advancing rapidly in everything that relates to commercial supremacy in the Levant. No one can deny that they are an ingenious, clear-sighted and industrious people. They have every good quality except honor. One is astonished at the signs of prosperity visible in the Greek islands: the port of Syra is the entrepot of all the commerce of the neighborhood, and is full of shipping; all the great merchants of Constantinople, Smyrna, &c., have partners there. It is true that the Greek vessels are of a kind that an American captain would almost be ashamed to command; but it is by building cheap ships, and fitting them out economically, not to say meanly, that the Greeks propose to engross the carrying trade—perhaps of the Mediterranean.
The Turks are as noble as the Greeks are mean; but, unfortunately, they are also as shiftless and incapable as the Greeks are ingenious and enterprising. The Turks have a natural gift for being masters, and possess all the high qualities which belong to that capacity: the Greeks have a natural talent for making money. If the Turks could add to their moral advantages the ability to enrich themselves and their country; if they could shake off their intellectual lethargy, and open their minds to the reception of new ideas, they would rank among the first nations of the world.
If we (Americans and Europeans) are accustomed to do a think in any particular way, that particular way seems to be precisely the one in which the Turks never do that same thing. For example: we take off our hats as a mark of respect, the Turk will not remove his for fear of offending; with us, sentinels walk post, the Turkish sentinel stands always motionless; we whitewash our ceilings and paint our walls, the Turks paint their ceilings and whitewash their walls; with us, swords—sabers included—are almost always so constructed that you have give point to them; in Turkey, one seeks in vain, in all the bazaars, for a sword with which you may easily give point; even the daggers, on account of their short handles, are fitted only for giving side blows; with us, Friday is an unlucky day, with the Turks, Friday is the luckiest day in the week, and they keep it as we keep Sunday, or as the Jews do Saturday, &c., &c.
The gravity of the Turks, their motionless attitudes and prolonged taciturnity, are exceedingly imposing to strangers; but, unfortunately, these characteristics proceed as much from mental dullness, and from incapacity for quick motion, as from religious tranquility. The idea that “God is great,” accounts for half, but for half only. Look at the Turk when he is obliged to move quickly, or to take a sudden resolution! What bewilderment! What incapacity for decision! What ludicrous imbecility!
One word about the war, and I close this letter. I find by the Paris papers that the Russians are well beaten by the Turks near Silistria: now, don’t believe what the Paris papers say! The Russians have not advanced as yet, simply because the Doubradzia, in which they are entangled, is a miserable, swampy country, furnishing little or nothing that is eatable; they stay where they are, not because they are beaten, but because they find it hard work to march on an empty stomach. I will give you my opinion, and you may take it for what it is worth. In the course of a few weeks, the Russians will have reorganized their subsistence department, and then they will not only make a strong move in advance, but they will make a resolute (and possibly a successful) attempt to cross the Balkans. But all signs fail in dry weather, and, in war, everything is possible, and nothing is possible; it may very well happen, therefore, that the Russians will be able, neither to reorganize their subsistence department, nor to make a strong advance: but it is my opinion that the signs will not fail this time. The tide of fortune sets in favor of Russia.
Paris, May 24th, 1854
Mr. Editor:—I learn that some of my good friends in B—– are under the impression that your correspondent has taken a commission in the Turkish army, and is now on the banks of the Danube fighting the Russians. I will say for your correspondence that, although his desire for the triumph of the just cause is very strong, it is not strong enough to carry him to such extreme lengths. He went indeed to Turkey, not however to fight, but simply to inform himself, from actual observation, whether the war promises to result successfully for the cause of European liberty—an object perhaps more staid and proper, but certainly less meritorious and romantic than the one supposed: finding things to be as they should be, he returned to Paris, from which city he now has the honor and the pleasure to address you.
In Turkey, I say of course, the Sultan; and I propose, in this letter, to tell you, as well as I can, how he looked, the circumstances under which I say him, &c., &c.
I mentioned in my last letter that the Mohametans set apart Friday as the Jews do the Sabbath, or as we do Sunday, for a day of religious observance. Every Friday the Sultan—who is the religious as well as the political chief of his people—goes publicly, in great state, to some particular mosque, and there offers his prayers; afterwards he returns, in the same state, to his palace. This custom is said to have originated as follows:—A predecessor of the reigning Sultan was accosted publicly by one of the faithful, who told him that the people owed no obedience to the chief of the state. Why? asked the Sultan. The man replied, because you do not obey the precepts of religion, inasmuch as you do not present yourself at the mosque at least once in every week, and therefore you cannot rightfully claim the homage of true believers. Since that time, the Sultans have not failed to go regularly to the mosque on Fridays.
Having learned, on Friday evening, at which mosque the Sultan was to be present, (for he seldom patronises the same mosque two weeks running,) I sent for horses, and started early, in order to be on the spot before him. I passed first, on my way, through the main street of Pera, where I encountered a multitude of dogs. It may be mentioned that dogs form one of the principal features of Constantinople; it is said, indeed, that there are 80,000 of them in the city. These animals have no special owners, but are general vagabonds, claiming no home but the streets; they are the scavengers of the city, eating up whatever eatable matter is thrown from the houses, thus disposing of what might otherwise breed a pestilence. This much I must say in regard to the Constantinople dogs, that either they have been treated with great injustice in the accounts of European travelers, or they have improved wonderfully of late; for I certainly found them to be as quiet, well-behaved, and respectable a set of dogs as one would have a right to expect, taking into consideration their circumstances, and the limited education they have received. I was neither bitten, nor even snarled at by them, all the time I was in the city; on the contrary, many a dog has come to me, whining timidly, and with his tail between his legs, doing everything that an outcast, pariah dog could do, to make friends with me, or at least to leave a favorable impression of his character on my mind. Emerging from Pera, I galloped along the road that leads to the Sultan’s palace, and halted at a place where two streets meet, to wait for the procession. Along one of the streets, and on one side, a regiment of Turkish infantry was drawn up in line, and was resting with ordered arms; on the other side of the street in which the soldiers were, and in the streets adjacent, were assembled the spectators, among whom were many Franks, Turks of the city, Turks from the provinces and from Asia, women on foot, vailed and without vails, vailed women in carriages, negroes, &c., &c. After a due length of time, a fat colonel called the soldiers to attention, and ordered them to shoulder arms; upon which, the music also began to play; from these notes of preparation it became evident that the procession was approaching. Accordingly, in a few minutes, appeared Riza Pacha, the minister of war, riding on a splendid horse, and, thirty yards behind him, another Pacha, whose name I could not learn. Riza Pacha is a very intelligent and capable man, not overfond, it is true, of Christians, but in every way competent for high office, and very courteous and dignified in his manners. I rejoice that I have this opportunity of speaking of him to American readers, because of the favors he extended to my companions and myself, mainly on account of our being American citizens. About thirty yards behind the second Pacha, came a company of artillery-men, in side arms, marching by flank, one rank on one side of the street, and the other on the other, and between these two ranks, in the broad space, road a man with a long, pale face, slightly pocked-marked, to whom the infantry immediately presented arms—this man was Abdul-Madjid, the Sultan of Turkey. He is a little above the medium height, thin, with dark eyes and hair, appears very languid, and says, by the expression of his countenance, that being Sultan—and especially going as such to the mosque to say his prayers—is very tiresome business, and that he is doubtful whether, on the whole, it pays. As soon as he turned the corner of the street, he fixed his eyes on our group, which was made up of Franks, and regarded us all the time he was advancing, with a fixed, melancholy stare: as he came opposite to us, he turned his head, staring all the time, till his face was at right angles with the course his horse was pursuing; then he turned round upon the soldiers, staring in like manner at them. They, notwithstanding they had already presented arms, and had not yet returned their muskets to their shoulders, touched first their breasts and then their foreheads with their right hands, according to the fashion of Oriental politeness. After this, the Sultan fixed his eyes on a point in the distance, and stared at that till we lost sight of him. When the Sultan looked from one place to another, he did not turn his eyes as men ordinarily do, but moved his whole head, keeping his eyes motionless: that is the way that Oriental potentates have of saluting and of returning salutes. There is no sovereign for whom I would more willingly express respect than for Abdul-Madjid; and certainly I felt no sentiment other than one of respect while I was looking at him; but, do what I would, I could not help comparing him, all the time I saw him, to a great, large-eyed owl, dressed in a blue cloak and a red skull-cap, (fez,) and mounted on horseback. After all, this comparison is not disrespectful; for no dumb creature has a more sage, knowing look than the owl, and it was perhaps for this reason that it was consecrated, in the old times, as Minerva’s bird.
The Turks call the Sultan Padischah; as for the title Grand Signor, it is of Italian origin, and unknown in Turkey. It is singular how the names of royal office persist through changes of languages. I suppose the East Indian title, Rajah, is analogous to the occidental titles Ras, Raj, Roi. The words Shah, or Chah, which obtain in Persia, and the words Tsar or Czar which obtain in Russia, are, if I remember rightly, (I have no Hebrew bible by me,) to be found in the scripture names Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadrezzer, Nebuser-adan, Nebushasban, Shaphan, Nergal-sherezar, &c. The words kahn, koenig, king, are said to be derived from the same root that Cain, the name of the first murderer, and the English verb can, are derived from; and to designate one possessed of self-centering power—one who of himself can, or is able; a shah is a chief, and a tzar one who is responsible to himself only; at least, I am under the impression that all this is so, but I am not strong in these matters. I do not know the precise meaning of the word Padischah, but, to my ear, it has a most paternal and august sound.
The Turks form an aristocratic case in Turkey; in Europe there are but 4,550,000 Mahometans to 10,000,000 Christian subjects of the Porte, the Mahometans possessing great political privileges. It is evidently the interest of the sovereign to break down the privileges of the Mahometans, and to base the stability of his throne on the affections of the majority of his subjects. Accordingly the Padischah does all that he can to introduce equality, and complete religious toleration, into his dominions. The reforms that have been recently introduced, aim at nothing less than the entire subversion of the Mahometan power; for the Christians, being infinitely more active and enterprising than the Turks, and constituting moreover a majority of the population, will certainly take the lead in the empire as soon as they are admitted to equal privileges with the Turks; for the Turks cannot stand their hand against the Christians a single year, if the competition for supremacy is allowed to take place on equal terms. Mahometanism has done for Turkey all it can; its power is not exhausted; if the empire is to rise at all, it must rise by means of the new vigor that will be lent to it by the Christians. It is true, many obstacles stand in the way of reform: first of all, the Sultan is himself a Mahometan; but this fact will perhaps merely enable him with more ease to subvert the Mahometan supremacy. When the Christians obtain the political power, there will be nothing to prevent the Sultan from turning Christian, as Constantine did, from political motives. Many of the Turks of high station (and probably the Sultan himself) are no longer Mahometans at heart. The second difficulty is that the Turks will not willingly consent to such changes as will result in their own political overthrow: but this difficulty weighs little at the present time, on account of the assistance that may be lent to the Turkish government by the allied fleets and armies. It is of little consequence what the Turks like or do not like, so long as there are enough English and French soldiers on the spot to coerce them in case of necessity. It is evident that the Turkish empire must undergo a change; for a minority cannot long rule a majority that is more intelligent and enterprising than itself; and it is certainly to be hoped that the authority of the Sultan will survive the change, since otherwise the empire will go to pieces in the operation, leaving a very difficult task to any one who should attempt to reconstruct it. This matter of reform is no new thing in Turkey: Mahmoud, the father of the present Sultan, had for the object of his reign—I quote his own words—“to cause that between the Mahometan, the Jew, and the Christian, no difference should be reorganized except at the Mosques, at the Synagogues, and at the Churches.” The reigning Sultan has given a constitution to his people, and a very good constitution it is.
The great difficulties in the way of improvement, come, on one side, from Russia, who is afraid that Turkey will be too powerful after the reform, and, on the other side, from the allied powers, who are afraid that the Ottoman Empire will be no organized as to lend too much aid and comfort to the cause of European Democracy. It is to be hoped that Omar Pasha may gain some great victory before the allies arrive in force at his camps; for, in that case, the Sultan may escape English dictation. The Sultan intends to do well, but the English aristocracy has its eye upon him. I say English dictation, for it appears that the Emperor Napoleon comprehends his mission, knowing that he is the nephew of his uncle, who was characterized by Madame de Steal as “Robespierre on horseback.” At this moment, France means right.
There are no roads in the Turkish Empire, and there is not a single decent street in Constantinople, you must ride on horseback; for there are few carriages in the city, and those are heavy lumbering things, kept for women and high personages who ride in state. It is wonderful, indeed, how even these few carriages make their way in the steep, narrow streets. There are forests at no great distance from the city, at which fire-wood can be obtained at very little expense; yet fire-wood is dearer at Constantinople than at almost any other city in Europe, because the wood from the forests cannot be brought to Constantinople, on account of the want of roads. Fire-wood is carried about the city, to be delivered at the houses, not in carts, but on the backs of horses! The mud is so intolerable in the streets, that you have to defend yourself against it with a peculiar kind of high boots, which are made in Turkey, and are found no where else. The mud is bad for many reasons; among others, because if you turn it up a little you may find dead dogs in it in various stages of decomposition. It is common to see dead dogs in the middle of the streets; one defunct dog was allowed to remain in the same place, in the middle of a street, at Galata, all the time I was in Constantinople. [Galata is the part of Pera that is on the edge of the Golden Horn. Pera is the name of the Christian quarter, in contradistinction from Stamboul, the Turkish quarter, of Constantinople.] The reforms of the Sultan are political and military: he has done nothing, as far as I can learn, to improve the material conditions of the country. He builds great barracks, and magnificent palaces, and puts on foot large armies, but he stops there: perhaps he is right, for it is really more important, at this moment, that he should live in a fine palace, and be faithfully guarded by a powerful army, than that the people should have roads. For if the Sultan should be overthrown, or lose the reverence attached to his office, the unity of Turkey would be lost, and the empire would fall into anarchy. What harmony could there be between the 2,100,000 Ottomans, the 1,000,000 Greeks, the 400,000 Armenians, the 6,000,000 Slavonians, the 4,000,000 Roumelians, the 1,500,000 Albanians, &c., who compose the population of Turkey in Europe—to say nothing of Turkey in Asia? There would be nothing through the whole country but fighting and bloodshed. But if the Sultan retains his power and state, the reforms will ultimately have free course, political equality will be organized in the empire, enterprise will be awakened, prosperity will not fail to follow enterprise, and the people will build roads and lay out streets for themselves: the destinies of Turkey, and those of Abdul-Madjid, follow the rising and setting of the same sun.
Please tell my friend, Miss Lucy Stone, that I saw in the streets of Constantinople, in yellow slippers, and riding straddle on a horse, Kara-Fatma-Hanoum, a noble and rich lady of Marach, who solicited and obtained a command among the Turkish volunteer forces. She has under her orders a battalion of 600 wicked looking Asiatics, equipped by herself. She is about 50 years old, goes vailed in the ordinary manner, but shows her face freely in spite of her vail. You see by the expression of her countenance that she is made of the right stuff. She will do something.
I am aware that the English and French papers give an account of the position of things in the East, very different from the one I communicated to you in my last letters. I believe, nevertheless, that I am right, and that the papers are wrong. I still believe that Austria will aide with Russia—and that the emperor of France is subject to no delusions on that head. I might tell you of many things which confirm me in my opinion; but I will only mention the fact state in to-day’s papers, that Gen. Klapka (the celebrated defender of Komorn) has been formally presented to the Sultan by Prince Napoleon. This fact, if authentic, needs no comment. Why Russia holds back in her march towards the Balkans, I cannot divine; I suppose she is in want of provisions, and also actuated by some political motive which time only will disclose: but that she is deterred by the Turkish army, I cannot believe; because, first, the Russians have the superiority, not only in numerical force, but also in military position, and, secondly, because no great battle has been fought by which the Turks could have assumed the ascendency. It is said the Russians lie in their official reports. I believe it. but do the French and English always tell the truth? The Turks, even, a much more moral people than the French and English, have been known to prevaricate. For five or six days after the news of the disaster at Sinope had been communicated to the government at Constantinople, it was reported in the city that the Turks had gained a victory!—the government naturally not daring to publish the truth. Again, if the English and French met with no check at Odessa, why did they not deliver the neutral vessels that were held in durance in the port? Why did they not capture the Russian vessels? If they gained a great victory, why did they not bring away the material proofs? A man may be excused if he withholds full confidence from the report of the admirals. If the allied armies and fleets should meet with a serious disaster, do you think the papers would tell the truth about it at once? If such a disaster should occur, there are men in the west of Europe who would tremble in their shoes, and whose knees would smite together as smote together the knees of King Belshazar when he read the handwriting on the wall. No disaster has occurred as yet, but it is possible that one may occur. The chances are not all of them in favor of England and France.
One word more in regard to Austria. It is the evident interest of Austria to hold off as long as possible from taking decisive measures. If she has actually chosen her side, and is in secret understanding with one party, it is her policy to appear disposed to enter into an alliance with the opposite party; for, having nothing to fear from the ally with whom she is in private understanding, she can bend all the efforts of her diplomacy to the concealment of her hostility to the other party, thus warding off an attack. If Austria were really with France and England, she would be, at this moment, ostensibly Russian: but she is, at this moment, ostensibly English and French, taking care not to commit herself to the cause of the allies in the least possible particular. “Words, words, words.” I concluse from this, among 100 other reasons, that Austria is Russian, and will show herself such on some convenient occasion.
Champs Elysees, Paris, Nov. 23, 1854.
Mr. Knowlton:—Some weeks ago, the Paris journals affirmed that the Emperor Nicholas had exhausted his resources before the campaign in the Crimea commenced, that he had but 35,000 men in, and around Sebastopol, that he could send them no reinforcements, and that the allied army which originally landed in the peninsula, was abundantly competent to take Sebastopol by a coup de main. It appears, however, from the reports of the English and French commanders, that more than 35,000 Russians were present at the battle of the Alma, that reinforcements to the Russian army have, since that time, been continually pouring in, and that it is now necessary to send a new allied army, equally numerous with the first, to prevent that first army from being crushed by the overwhelming force of Russia!
The question seems now to be, whether the operations of the allies in the Crimea, should be designated as a siege or as a campaign: but certain it is, that if the allies are besieging Sebastopol, the Russians are besieging the camps of the allies. The allies propose to assault the place, but it is well to know—or, if one knows it, to remember—that the proposed assault is to take effect against an outwork only. After the present assault shall have fairly succeeded—and assaults sometimes fail—the allies will be under the necessity of making a breach in the main works, and of carrying by a new assault the place itself. After they have carried the walls, they will have to carry by assault the buildings and streets of the city; for the Russian deserters affirm that every street in Sebastopol is barricaded, and that every house, church, and public building left standing, is fortified. Grant, now, that the allies succeed in all they have attempted, or are attempting, what will be their real gain? The whole north side of Sebastopol neither is, nor has been, invested, as is evident from the fact that reinforcements and convoys of provisions, enter the place unmolested from that side every day: how will the allies take the north side, which is completely separated from the south side by the harbor, if they do not invest it, and make a regular attack upon it—that is, how can they take it if they will make no attempt to take it? The allies attack the south side, because it presents the weakest points, but the capture of the south side does not draw with it the capture of the north side, for the reason that—although guns on the south side may command the batteries on the north side which are at the edge of the water—there is still a powerful detached citadel crowning the hills on the north side, whose guns command the whole south side and the harbor. This citadel is said to be the strongest part of the place, which itself is now acknowledged to be (even on the land side) one of the strongest in Europe, and mark, time presses, for the rigorous winter is at hand.
And it does not follow that the allies may, because they take the south side, destroy the marine stores which were deposited there, or burn the ships of war that are in the harbor; for the store have been to a great extent, transported to the north side; and as for the ships, they may easily be put under water (4 have been sunk already by the Russians) where they would be effectively sheltered from the projectiles of the allies. It would be extremely difficult to approach the water to destroy the sunken ships by means of scientific appliances, for the reason that the harbor is commanded by the citadel already mentioned. It is true the Russians may be put to great inconvenience, for it will be a laborious task for them to raise these ships after the allies retire—nevertheless, it is supposed that a ship may remain six months under water without becoming seriously damaged.
You will notice that the Austrian policy remains unchanged, and that her conduct has been precisely as I foretold it would be. For she is Russian at heat, and, while pretending to neutrality, and even to friendship with the western powers, she protects, by her occupation of the Principalities, the left wing of the Russian army, preventing the advance of Omer Pachs, (who would be insane if he moved forward leaving so doubtful a power free to cut his rear) thus enabling the Emperor Nicholas to send thousands of soldiers, who would not otherwise have been available, to the Crimea. Is it not reasonable to suppose that a knowledge of Austria’s intentions, was one of the determining elements that induced Russia to select its own territories, rather than the neighborhood of Constantinople, for the theatre of the decisive campaign? For the supposition that Russia was really checked on the Danube by the Turkish army last spring, will hardly stand. The affair of Silistria admits of various interpretations.
Paris, March 1st, 1855.
Mr. Knowlton:—Nothing new has transpired before the walls of Sevastopol. Things remain in the Crimea, very much as I described them to be, in my last letter. Some great event is, however, in all probability, imminent; for it is natural to suppose that the Grand Dukes have made their winter journey to the Crimea, with a definite object in view. Their last visit meant Inkermann: their present visit may mean Eupatoria—or, more probably Balaclava.
I propose to inflict upon you, in this letter, my views on the origin and nature of this great war. I will endeavor to avoid obscurity, and, at the same time, to say what I have to say with all possible conciseness:—The Christian population of the East, is, as a general thing, in communion, not with the Roman Catholic, but with the Greek Church; and Roman Catholics stand to Greek Christians, very much in the relations that fire does to water. The Emperor Nicholas has become, by the force of circumstances, the natural chief of the Greek Church; and the Emperor Louis Napoleon, by a similar force of circumstances, has become the natural protector of the Jesuitical faction. Unfortunately, in the present condition of Christendom, the Jesuits hold in their hand all the living elements of the Catholic world: so completely is this the case, that, if we abstract from the Catholic influence, the entire element of Jesuitism, there remains—politically speaking—Zero. The French Republic, under the lead of Bastide, and M. De Fallous, who were themselves the mere exponents of Jesuitical instigation, intervened in Italy to overthrow the Roman Republic, and to replace the Pope on his temporal throne. At that time, the alliance between the reactionary party in France, and the Jesuitical party throughout Europe, became patent; and it is, perhaps, unnecessary for me to add here that Louis Napoleon was borne to the seat of power by the united efforts of the Jesuits and of men who organized the reaction against the French Republic.
Charlemagne and the great Napoleon, were crowned by the Pope of Rome, in consideration of services which the Papacy had received at their hands. Napoleon III, who endeavors, in all things, to tread in the footsteps of Charlemagne and of the great Napoleon, naturally desires to be also crowned by the Pope. He endeavors, therefore, to render to the Papacy some service equivalent to the one he had already rendered to the Jesuits and the reactionists by the coup d’état. Having let loose the army upon France, having overwhelmed Socialism by an irresistible display of physical force, having reorganized the principle of political authority, he endeavored to operate upon the opinions of men, and to restore its prestige to the Papal Power.
He proposed—according to his original plan which appears to have met with but limited success—to confer upon the Catholics the supremacy over the Greek Christians, in the so called Holy Places at, and near, Jerusalem. If he had succeeded in this undertaking, he would, on one side, have humbled the Emperor of Russia, who is the natural protector of the Christians in the Holy Land, and, on the other, he would have established himself in the minds of all true Catholics, as a chosen instrument, raised up expressly by Divine Providence, to avenge the Holy Church. What Louis Napoleon would have gained, Nicholas would have lost; for the Greek Christians stand to the Catholics in the East, perhaps in the numerical relation of four or five to one; and the Greek Christians regard the Emperor of Russia (the Greek Christians, not their ecclesiastical dignitaries) as the head of their church and as an agent commissioned by the Almighty. The benefits of success would have so full accrued to the Pope as to Louis Napoleon, for the success of Napoleon would have been nothing other than the success of the Papacy itself, and the intensification of its influence. The Pope, therefore, would have gratefully placed the crown on the head of the successor of Charlemagne, saying, Great is Napoleon III., the defender of the Holy Church!
But events seem not to have been predestined to take this turn, and the carrying out of the program must be postponed. Napoleon III., shortly after the coup d’état, instructed his minister, as you remember, to weigh on the councils of the Sultan, in favor of French influence and of Catholic supremacy. The Emperor of Russia took the alarm. All these imbecilities of religious supremacy seem childish enough to you and me, but the populations of the south of Europe and of the Orient, regard them from a peculiar point of view; and therefore it was that the affair started by NapoleonIII., became to the emperor Nicholas the question of Hamlet—“To be, or not to be.” Nicholas determined to fight till he lost his last man, rather than abandon his religious supremacy over the Oriental Christians; he therefore sent ministers to Constantinople with instructions to counterbalance by a counter pressure the weight which France had thrown upon the councils of the Sublime Porte. Things grew serious. Nicholas did not want to fight, but was determined to defend his position if forced to do so. Napoleon III., although not absolutely indisposed to war, desired no war of this magnitude: he merely desired to be crowned by the Pope. Turkey certainly did not wish to stand between while the fight was going on, and receive most of the blows which the combatants intended for each other. As was natural where the interest of all parties were clear, and every one had more to lose than to gain by the contest, this wind set decidedly in favor of a compromise, and it was expected that the affair would blow over. Here came the crisis. An Englishman, with true Britannic thick-headedness, stepped in and envenomed the quarrel—to his owner and his country’s confusion, but to the triumphant rejoicing of the revolutionary party throughout the world.
This matter of the Holy Places, is very complex. It was an old story when Napoleon III took it up; for the negotiations were going on actively before the Republic of 1848 came into being. We have various elements to consider: The superstitions and passions of the ignorant Greek and Catholic population, the interests and subtle schemes of the Jesuits, the ambition of Napoleon III, the ambition of autocrat of all the Russias, who desire to be the autocrat of many more things, etc., etc. But the element which caused the whole mixture to crystallize itself into a war, was the intervention of the British minister at Constantinople, Sir Stratford Canning.
The secret of the origin of the war is this: Russia by her operations in the countries between the Black Sea and the Caspian, threatened the English possessions in India. The movements in the neighborhood of the Sea of Aral, are more threatening yet. It is of vital necessity to England that the influences of Russia in Persia, in the Caucasus, and, in general along the whole route to India should be paralyzed. The English minister, finding the moment propitious, declared the Ottoman Empire to be in danger from the encroachments of Russia, declared the pretensions of the Emperor Nicholas to a protectorate over the Greek Christians—pretensions which Russia could never without war abandon—to be a subversion of the sovereignty of the Sultan. The English minister is right in point of fact; no one will deny the correctness of his declarations. Every one, abstraction being made of other elements, (as, for example, the oppression exercised by the Turks upon the Greeks,) must sympathize with Turkey in her quarrel with Russia. But very few persons will be innocent enough to suppose that the English minister would have discommoded himself through sympathy for Turkey, if he had had no axe of his own to grind. Russia has no right in Turkey—in fact, the Turks themselves have no right to be there—but, again, on the other hand, England cannot show the justice of her domination in India. In short, there is no right at all in the whole controversy between England and Russia, but the exact contrary, for Russia has no right in Constantinople, and England no right in Calcutta. It is simply a question of filibuster against filibuster. As a grand stroke policy, and for the protection of the English dominions in Asia, Sir Stratford Canning, by skillful management, willfully brought on the war between Russia and the allies.
The English government had no stomach for the work, and would have abandoned its ambassador if it had been able to do so. But Louis Napoleon found himself compromised, and declared that if the English government held back, he would go forward alone. Thus is was that the English government—more clear sighted than its minister at Constantinople, since it saw that the war would put the existence of the aristocracy in jeopardy—was dragged into hostilities. England went into this war as old England; it will perhaps come out of it as young England. Fair-minded men in England think it very proper that the British fleets and armies should defend Turkey against the unjust encroachments of Russia, but fair-minded men inquire also whether this is the first time that Russia has been detected in her wicked tricks? The partition of Poland and the recent Russian intervention in Hungary, are facts not unrecorded in history. Why did England hide her candle under a bushel, why did she keep her virtuous principles in abeyance, until she thought she had an opportunity to ward off danger from her Indian possessions? The plea that this war is, on the part of England, an attempt to maintain right against wrong, liberty against despotism, civilization against barbarism, does not go down, even in England. If any of your readers should ask, Which then, of all these contending powers, is fighting for the right? I should take the liberty to reply, Neither of them; they are all buccaneers together; they are all in the wrong; and it is to be hoped that their present conflict will result like to that famous one of old, which took place between the Kilkenny cats.
When war was found to be inevitable, the Turks were disposed to make common cause with the Hungarians, and to organize a Polish and Hungarian onslaught upon Russia. but, O no! that would never do. If the Turks had been left to fight out the war in accordance with their own views, they would before now, have dictated terms to the Czar in the city of Moscow. England and France knew, however, that the success of any such scheme, was but the sending of Austria to the same place where Assyria, Bactria, and ancient Egypt have been laid up dry for ages, and that the downfall of Austria would be equivalent to the resurrection of the European republic. The truth is hard, but it must be told: England and France could not have conducted themselves, otherwise than they did conduct themselves, if they had determined that Turkey should be beaten. The Sultan was prohibited from calling in Hungarian aid, and was forced to protect himself as he could on the line of the Danube. The defense of Silistria foiled all the calculations of the Western Powers; for, though England and France fired not a single gun in the cause of their ally, the Russians were beaten back, and victory crowned the efforts of the Turkish army. The Turkish cause being in the ascendent, it was found necessary to do something to prevent justice from following its due course. The Principalities were therefore occupied by the Austrians, and then the game was up. No communication was thenceforward possible between Turkey and Hungary, for the Austrian army was located between the two: no inroad could be made into Russian territory by Omer Pasha; because the Austrian army in the Principalities was always in a position to take him in the rear if he moved forward. Thus Turkey was sacrificed. finally, in obedience to the interest of England, and to satisfy the schemes of Napoleon and St. Arnaud, the expedition to the Crimea was undertaken; an expedition which, if successful, can result in no benefit to Turkey. The siege of Sevastopol can be justified, if at all, only by the consideration that it is necessary to destroy for the benefit of England, the prestige of Russia in the East. The army of Omer Pasha, which ought to be left to defend the line of the Danube, is sent to Eupatoria, where it stands a good chance to be annihilated. The interests of England and France are always consulted, the interests of Turkey always sacrificed.
Austria has been in luck. Russia has had no desire to attack her, for the Austrian and Russian empires are based on the same principle, and no man likes to fire on his friends. The English aristocracy and the governing powers of Austria, are natural allies. Louis Napoleon cannot damage Austria, without, by that act, playing into the hands of his own revolutionary enemies. The continuance of Austria in existence, has been necessary to all the enemies of the Democratic Revolution. But Austria has come to the end of her rope; she will be obliged to choose her part too, for the affair is getting too warm to admit of the existence of neutral powers upon the theater itself of action. Austria will side with the power which takes the initiative in putting the knife to her throat; probably with the allies; for France, by her recent arrangement with Piedmont, can throw an army into Austria whenever she pleases. Let it be, however, remembered, that though an Austrian army marched under the banners of the great Napoleon, it did it to betray him: what Austria showed herself to be, in respect to the Napoleon that once was, she is fully capable of showing herself to be as respects the Napoleon that now is. a regular alliance of Austria with France, may therefore, very possibly signify nothing. I make no reference to the treaty of the 2d of December; because that treaty, if it contain no secret article, is the ne plus ultra of insignificance.
The Pope threatened the rulers of Piedmont with excommunication on account of their proposed transformation of the Church property. Piedmont, therefore, consults her own interest, and makes herself useful to Louis Napoleon, who holds the Pope in the hollow of his hand. Piedmont and the kingdom of the two Sicilies! These are the allies that have rallied themselves to the cause of the Western Powers. Sweden and Denmark, Northern Powers, see fit to hold off. Switzerland remains silent. Greece is forced to dissemble her sympathies for Russia. Spain prohibits all recruiting for the allied armies within her borders. Italy cares neither for Russia, nor for the allies, and waits for the signal of [. ] the most important personage now on the stage of action, awaits, apparently with some incredulity, the course of events.
Prussia is a Protestant Power, and knows that it is a part of the Jesuitical programme, a programme that will be carried out by the allies if they are victorious, to sacrifice her, so far as influence in Germany is concerned, to Austria, to the great Catholic Germanic Power. She knows also that it is a part of the same programme to form a despotic and Catholic kingdom of Poland from territory taken from herself and Russia, a kingdom to be driven like a wedge between herself and Russia, for the purpose of breaking the line of the national antagonists of Catholic supremacy in Europe. Prussia will never—if not influenced by mortal fear—join the party of the allies.
There is to be a Congress at Vienna for the purpose of bringing about a peace. They can’t make a peace. “There is no peace for the wicked.” They may make an armistice, and call it a peace; but the armistice will never hold. There are too many occasions of conflict between the governments; the situation is too intense; besides, all the nations are now suffering from the cramp, and from other internal symptoms of the revolutionary colic. Princes propose, but the Almighty disposes. No mortal man, and no combination of mortal men, can control the events of the coming year. The wind has been sown, and somebody mUst reap the whirlwind. God alone is great!
Paris, April 18th, 1855.
Mr Knowlton:—The London Morning Post inquires “whether Russia will reduce her fleet in the Black Sea, and put an end to her aggressive predominance, or face the other alternative, that of an European war?”—I quote from a French version, as I never see any London journal, except the Leader.
I take pleasure in congratulating the English press upon its progress in common civility. What is now designated as “Russian aggressive predominance,” was formerly called—“the encroachment of Asiatic barbarians upon European civilization”—“the onslaught of Tartars upon the defenders of constitutional liberty”—“the predominance of the knout,” &c. Is is not in vain that “the meteor flag of England” has waned very pale before the walls of Sevastopol?
When the English captured Washington, they burned the White House; they burned also the Capitol, with the public library, and smashed the noses of the marble statues. This is as though they had, when they entered Paris, burned the Tuileries and the Palace of the Deputies. Napier tells us that the Peninsular English army, upon capturing some Spanish city occupied in the French interest, left in it not one woman unviolated: I forget the name of the city (I believe it is Vittoria), but I do not forget that the English and the Spaniards were, at the time, in alliance, The identical British regiments which had distinguished themselves in the sack of this Spanish city, were afterwards sent to exhibit their prowess at New Orleans. No American is ignorant that the password of the British army, on the day of the battle of New Orleans, was “booty,” and that the countersign was “beauty.” What a terrible disappointment it must have been to English soldiers on the look-out for “booty and beauty,” to have met with such tough and wiry customers as Old Hickory, and the Tennessee volunteers!
John Bull judged by himself, and John Bull judged by his neighbors, are two very different personages.
“Russian aggressive predominance” took its origin, partly from natural causes, and partly from the very questionable policy of England. Whoever looks upon the map, will see, at once, what those natural causes are, which have enabled shrewd native and adopted statement, acting in concurrence with the most favorable circumstances, to make Russia what she is. I shall speak, therefore, not of those causes, but of the conduct of England, which, for the last fifty years, has had a determining influence on the growth of Russia.
I do not know how England reconciles her [ ] with her past conduct, as respects the Bonaparte family. The English government persecuted the great Napoleon from the beginning to the end of his career. She made war upon him without just motive. She banded and subsidized all Europe against him. She chained him down, at the end, like a new Prometheus, to the rock of St. Helena. England loaded herself with a debt of fabulous magnitude in order to obtain means to strike down the mighty Titan, What peculiar merit does Napoleon III possess, that should make him more acceptable than his uncle in the eyes of immaculate England? Is Napoleon III the friend of constitutional liberty, of the freedom of the press, of the right of the people peaceably to assemble? In the days of the great Napoleon, England and Russia were friends; and England strengthened the hands of Russia, in order that the Cossacks might water their horses in the Seine. Times are changed. Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, has gone to England, to be received as an equal ally, by her gracious majesty, Queen Victoria; and to have conferred upon him the dignity, (or so much dignity as there may be in it) of the Order of the Garter!
In 1812, it was for the interest of Turkey to side with Napoleon I., in order to obtain in him an ally against Russia; for, by divergency of religion, and by geographical situation, Russia and Turkey are, as every one knows, not only actual, but also natural enemies. It was on the other hand, the interest of England, as enemy to Napoleon and France, to weaken everything that seemed naturally friendly to France, and to strengthen everything that seemed willing to do France harm. Therefore it was that England, by processes which she understands, forced Turkey, the friend of Napoleon, to cede to Russia, Napoleon’s enemy, both Bessarabia and the mouths of the Danube. As soon as the treaty was signed, the Russian army in Moldavia, which had been acting against the Turks, was, of course, rendered disposable for other service. That Russian army marched from Moldavia to the BEREDINA (I hope you have capitals large enough for this word) and there assisted in cutting off the great French army in its memorable and disastrous retreat from Moscow. If England strained every nerve, during the whole course of Napoleon’s career, to throw exorbitant power into the hands of Russia, what right has she now to complain, simply because Russia sees fit to show herself “aggressively predominant?”
The English are virtuously shocked by the abominable conduct of the Russians in massacring the Turks at Sinope. But Lord Aberdeen said, on the 14th of February, 1854, in the English house of Lords, “We also have had our Sinope. In 1837, we were blockading the Turkish ports; our ambassador had retired from Constantinople; we destroyed the Turkish fleet in the port; and we were neot at war!” I retranslate from a French translation.
Other examples, rich in instruction, may also be adduced. In 1807, England found it for her interest to paralyze any hostilities that Turkey might see fit to wage against Russia; for it was necessary to her plans, at that moment also, that the court of St Petersburg should be free to employ all the resources of the Russian empire against Napoleon. The English government ordered, therefore, admiral Dukworth to force the passage of the Dardanelles, and threaten Constantinople. The Admiral proceeded, without any declaration of war, to obey his orders! He found a Turkish fleet at the entrance of the sea of Marmora, composed of one 64 gun ship, four frigates, and two corvettes; the Admiral burned this fleet, and passed on to the Golden-Horn!
England complains of the Byzantine duplicity of Russia. Have neither Sicily, nor the insurgent population of the continent, ever had occasion to complain of the duplicity of England? The policy of England is famous throughout the world for its machiavellian character. At the time when the conflict between the English aristocracy and Napoleon was at its height, Denmark was a neutral power, England feared that Napoleon might either by intimidation or by persuasion, induce Denmark to side with France, and place her fleet at the disposal of its emperor. The English government sent, therefore, without any declaration of war, an English fleet to seize upon the Danish ships in Copenhagen! The English Admiral obeyed his orders! Is it becoming in a convicted brigand to preach morality?
Russia has as much right to keep up a military and naval force in Sevastopol, s fortified place in her own dominions, as England has to keep up a military and naval force in Portsmouth, which is a fortified place in England. It is to no purpose to say that Russia thus makes herself “aggressively preponderant;” for has England been anything other than “aggressively predominant” during these last two hundred years? And what object has England, in carrying on the present war, if it be not the vindication and preservation of her own “aggressive preponderance?” Let England dismantle Gibraltar, a fortress that is not exactly on her own soil, let her abandon Malta, and then we will listen to her moral lectures. If it be a crime for Russia to endeavor to obtain, by purchase or otherwise, Cattaro, or some other port on the Mediterranean—if it be a crime for Russia to endeavor to exercise influence on that sea—can it be altogether praiseworthy for England to hold on upon Gibraltar, and to retain control over the straits that are under its guns? It is true that Russia is a northern power, and possesses no harbors south of those that are in the Black Sea, but may I not be permitted to inquire which coast it is of the British Islands that is washed by the waters of the Mediterranean?
England began to change her policy, in regard to Russia, Turkey, and Greece, in 1829, at the time of the treaty of Adrianople. Before 1829, whoever took the side of Turkey against Greece and Russia, was, in the eyes of England, a vile supporter of despotism, a friend of Asiatic barbarism, an enemy, not only of all light and of all progress, but of the christian religion. Since 1829 the sentiments of the English government have undergone a total revolution. Why did this radical change take place? Men of undisciplined minds, who are incapable of following the vacillations of English policy—men who regard political events as they present themselves to the unbiased understandings of ordinary human creatures—have seen fit maliciously to remark that the Greeks, being excellent merchants and most skillful sailors, threatened to peaceably monopolize the trade of the Mediterranean, and thus to diminish the gains of English commerce. Other unprincipled observers took the liberty to point out the fact that Greece and Russia are natural allies, Greece being naturally dependent upon the military protection of Russia, and Russia being naturally dependent upon Greece for a supply of nautical skill—a quality in which her own population is somewhat deficient. Other profligate individuals drew attention to the fact that the religion of Greece and Russia, are, in all essential particulars, identical, and that Russia must naturally profit at the expense of England, by the prosperity of Greece.
England sees proper, at the present moment, to insist upon the independence of Turkey. Can anything be more absurd than for one nation to undertake to guarantee to another its political independence? Either Turkey is an independent power, of it is not. If it is independent, then it can guarantee its own independence; if it is not, then it is dependent, either on the power that makes it a vassal, or on the power that pretends to guarantee its independence. If it is necessary that England should guarantee the independence of Turkey as respects Russia, who shall guarantee the independence of Turkey as respects England? To be dependent on another for the continuance of one’s independence, is to be the subject of that other, a thing cannot at the same time be and not be. I trust that this reasoning is clear; is it my fault that it is slightly metaphysical?
It is in vain for England to talk about the restoration of the balance of power, after that balance has been definitely lost ; is it supposable that Russia will divest herself of a portion of her “aggressive preponderance,” simply to please England by a restoration of the balance of power? No one ever complains of a disturbance of the balance of power, provided that disturbance is in his own favor. And how is England to force Russia to divest herself of her “preponderance,” saving that, by the very fact of this “preponderance,” Russia is the stronger of the two.
England insists that the Mahometan rule in Turkey shall remain intact; at the same time, she insists that the Sultan shall establish equality between his Mahometan and his Christian subjects. Can England realise impossibilities? The Christians are the immense majority of the population ; they surpass the Mahometans in intelligence, in industry, and in everything that secures power and supremacy in modern times. Give the Greeks political equality with the Turks, and they will, in the course of the coming twenty years, impoverish, ruin, and subordinate the Turks, simply by lending them money at a high rate of interest. If the Turks are to retain their political supremacy, it is evident that the Greeks cannot have apolitical equality with the Turks; you can have either supremacy of one party, or the equality of the two; but you cannot have both supremacy and equality at once.
But who are these Turks, whose political supremacy England proposed to guarantee? It is painful for me to say anything against the Turks, who are in many respects a noble race. The Turks have an infinite veneration for the Supreme Being, they seldom lie, they drink no strong liquors; but they are on the other hand, cruel, revengeful, and brutal in the exercise of domination over subject races. Talk with a Greek, and he will tell you that he has some sister, come aunt, some cousin, who has been sold as a slave in Constantinople; nay, he will tell you of worse things that that!
Would England be willing to make peace, withdraw her troops, and abandon the Christian population of Turkey to the tender mercies of their Ottoman masters?
The emancipation of the Christians, who are an immense majority in the European Turkish dominions, is equivalent to the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire. If England forces the Sultan to bestow equality upon his Christian subjects, then England renders the government of the Turks impossible. But England will not listen to any project contemplating the formation of a Greek Empire! England fears the Sclaves, on account of their affinity to the Russians; and will resist to the death, any attempts of Russia to conquer Constantinople, If any man can see either rhyme or reason in the policy of England as regards the Eastern question, let him speak!
England can form, for the prosecution of this war, no Protestant alliance. Russia scorns to march at her side, Sweden, Belgium, and Switzerland, bold off, waiting for better times. The allies of England, are, Napoleon III, Emperor of France, Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria, and poor Piedmont, who shakes too much in her shoes to be able to choose her friends with any degree of freedom. King Bomba, though courted, sees fit to waver. Time was when England was “the bulwark of the protestant religion;” now it is Russia that is that “bulwark.” It is in vain to attempt to calumniate Russia on the head of her religion; if the religion of England is protestant, then also that of Russia is protestant. Has the Russian church an episcopalian organization, with its attendant hierarchy? so also has the church of England! Is the emperor Alexander the recognised chief of the Russian church? So also is Queen Victoria the recognised chief of the church of England! Jonathan Edwards, in his “History of Redemption,” recognises the Russian church as essentially protestant; who will undertake to be more particular in this matter, than Jonathan Edwards? The intrigue of the Jesuits to establish an absolutist and catholic kingdom of Poland that shall separate between Russia and Prussia, is one of the main determining elements of the existing war. It is also a part of the same intrigue to fortify catholic Austria in her unrighteous usurpation of direct political dominion over protestant Hungary. Listen to the language of Lord Palmerston in the house of commons; for it full of instruction! He says that England cannot countenance any effort to detach Hungary from the crown of Austria, but that it may become good policy to do something for the establishment of an independent Poland: independent, be it understood, like independent Turkey! If England is successful in this war, popery becomes rampant all over the continent; rampant in England also, where it will form an alliance with the High Church party, and indirectly control the government.
But not only has the English Church fallen from its high position as the exponent of militant protestantism in Europe, the temporal nobility has also lost its highest title to public esteem. The scandalous disclosures of the courts martial that tried Lieut. Perry, the worse than scandalous affair of Lord Clanricarde, the recent affair of the Hon. Francis Villiers, son of the Earl of Jersey, and half a dozen other cases mentioned in the last number of the Leader, all of the involving the reputation of persons in the highest social standing, lead the mind from a consideration of the English Aristocracy to a consideration of the French Aristocracy as it existed in the times of Louis XV; considerations, viz. with the idea of sudden, terrible, and just revolutions.
Paris, April 22d, 1855.
Mr Knowlton:—The American Revolution was positive, constructive, and conservative in its nature. It was a successful, and, at bottom, a legal resistance to a coup d’etat attempted by the British crown and parliament. It was, therefore, perfectly organizable, and full of fertility and life. The French Revolution of 1789, was, on the contrary, essentially illegal, negative, and destructive, in its character, incapable of being organized, but full of death to superstitions and tyrannies that were worn out, and whose time had come to die.
The French Revolution was already accomplished, before it manifested itself by a visible explosion, Though it was preceded by a thorough reorganization of philosophy, literature, and manners, it was made, neither by leading men nor by the people, but by the sole force of events, When it was at its height, no republican party existed as yet in France; it was Thomas Paine, then residing in Paris, who gave the first impression to the republican idea. Robespierre, resisted with great force, and with no little pertinacity, the project of a republic, when Paine first presented it! The march of the French Revolution was irresistible, because no one of the principles which had upheld the ancient order of things (except that of property), remained in operative existence. When the next order was proclaimed, it simply showed itself; it had already secretly conquered all that it afterwards openly seized. The foundations both of society and the state, in France, had become utterly rotten ; and the Revolution was nothing other than the crumbling and total downfall, which were the necessary consequence of that rottenness.
No constitution, no government, can stand in France; the Revolution, that is, the new order of things, has not, to this day, been organized; and the old order of things has been definitively rendered impossible. The result of this situation, no man can foretell!
It is a curious question, and one not devoid of actual and practical interest, whether (judging by history, and the inductions of philosophy) England is, or is not, at the present moment, on the edge of a terrible revolution?—a revolution not legal in its character, but horrible, unintelligent, bloody ; one determined by the utter decay of all those strong institutions which have guaranteed to England her hitherto exhuberant life!
The aristocracy of England is no longer, as it once was, powerful, and capable governing class in the world. The “ministry of all the talents,” under whose guidance the present war broke out, is a coalition ministry, formed by a union of the most illustrious men of all the ruling parties. England confessed, when she formed that ministry, that she had done her best, that she had exhausted herself, that she had nothing by which she could replace that cabinet if it should prove itself incapable of governing. That cabinet has proved itself incapable of governing—manifesting so sublime an incompetency, that it will be known to remote posterity as the historical incarnation of imbecility. The cabinet broke down; and it was in the order of things that it should be replaced by another; but no material existed out of which another could be constructed; the old cabinet was, therefore, altered in some unessential elements, shaken up, and put back again in its original position. Thus the old ministry that was a by- word among the nations, and that was hooted down by the English people, remains, changed indeed in form, but the same in substance, in the seat of authority. Mark the confession! The ministers ere notoriously incompetent to perform their functions; but the famous aristocracy of England can furnish no material out of which another better—nay, another equally good—cabinet, may be constructed! The root therefore, the essential foundation, of the prestige of England, has vanished into thin air. Formerly, the aristocracy of England, by its calm, cold, long-sighted, calculating, machiavellian, and almost uniformly successful policy, exercised a serpentlike fascination upon the world, which paralyzed the powers of its enemies, even before its hand was raised to strike. The dread of England weighs no longer with any secret terror upon the nations.
But the prestige of England depended, not only upon the head that planned, but also upon the sword that smote. The sword of England has not shone, in these latter days, with its wonted splendor. It is not necessary to speak of the worthlessness of the Commissariat and Quarter Master’s department of the British army. [After the experience of the Crimea, it is not probable that England will ever undertake to transport an army to the Gulf of Mexico.] But this thing may be remarked, that if England is incapable of transporting armies from one end of the earth to the other, it will be difficult for her to prevent the dismemberment of her empire. Everything has decayed in the British army, except the native and indomitable pluck of the British soldier. The officers have distinguished themselves, not by the intellectual superiority which ought to characterize rank and responsibility, but by that quality of animal courage which is most appropriate to simple soldiers. In its mere brute characteristics, the English army is what it always was. When we think of that peer of England, who is also a general of cavalry, and who is responsible for the insane and disastrous—though glorious—charge at Balaclava, we cannot do otherwise than think of the temperate, intelligent, and educated valor that characterizes the French officers—that characterizes also the American officers who commanded at Buena Vista, Vera Crus, Cerro Gordo, and at the city of Mexico.
The game laws of England are very severe. Whoever, in violation of the law, endeavors to take a hare, a bird, or a rabbit, endeavors, as a general thing, to do is by means of a trap, or snare. Hunting is an amusement prohibited to the English people, The English have no universal militia system ; their militia being in reality, a kind of regular troops, and not very respectable in point of numbers. It is not in England as it is in the United States, where every citizen is a soldier. The English people are unarmed. It was computed, two or three years before the war broke out—with how much accuracy I know not—that, counting the army, the militia, the aristocracy, the game-keepers, &c., England could not, by any possibility, muster one hundred and fifty thousand men in the country itself, who had ever fired off a gun! Since the war break out, the army has been almost annihilated in the Crimea; and he militia has been, for some time past, following in the places where the arm had preceded them. meanwhile, Louis Napoleon has a force of one hundred thousand of the best troops in the world, at Boulogne, within two hours sail of the coast of England. And it must be remembered that, since the time of Napoleon I, the introduction of steam has revolutionized naval affairs, and taken away from England her absolute control of the British channel. It is true that France has not, at this time, at Boulogne, the means for transporting troops across the channel; but such means may easily be provided. It is Prussia that is threatened by the army at Boulogne. Without doubt, if England should be invaded, the people would make a desperate resistance; but, after all, the English people cannot work miracles. Perhaps England will never be invaded, either by France or Russia; but who can tell what may not happen ten years hence?
With the prestige of England, must go, sooner or later, her credit; for her credit is but her prestige under another form. The prestige is the fascination by which she paralyzes her enemies; her credit is the result of the confidence with which she inspires her friends. It is impossible to say when events, which seem imminent, may occur; perhaps next year, perhaps in five years, perhaps in fifteen years, perhaps never—for it is not impossible that England may find opened before her some door of escape that we know not of. “Th present,” says Leibnitz, “is the child of the past, and is big with the future.” By a study of the course of events, we may divine, with more or less accuracy, what is laid up in the future; but no man can designate before hand the day, and the hour. In the calculation of historical events, the elements for computing time are seldom given.
The credit of England is not consequent upon her industry and commerce; on the contrary, her industry and commerce are consequent upon her credit. If the English government should fall into contempt, if her armies should be defeated in the four quarters of the globe, then the remains of her prestige would utterly vanish, her public credit would be destroyed, disasters would occur in her financial relations, her commerce would fade away before the competition of younger nations, private credit would become paralyzed, and her mills would stop running. The greatness of England is of unnatural—or, to say the least of artificial—growth. Northern Italy, Hungary, and a dozen other countries, have better soil, better natural advantages, than England; but they are none of them great like England. England owes her greatness to the capacity of her governing classes, who have known how to put the whole world under contribution, in order to increase the wealth and power of the British nation. The greatness of England must be maintained, if at all, at the point of the sword. France relies upon her own natural resources only: reduce England to her natural resources, and it is doubtful whether she could begin to feed her superabundant population. A successful democratic revolution in England, would, on one side, reduce the people to the brink of starvation and, on the other, it would sink England, in its relations with other European nations, to the rank of a mere third rate power. For a democratic revolution would be one in favor of the principles of JUSTICE; one, therefore, that would emancipate those nations whose subordination and misery, are a prior condition of England’s greatness. Think of Ireland and India, as being governed, oppressed and plundered, by a democratic England! the thing could not be. A democratic England, is a ruined England!
In Russia, the division of labor exists, if at all, only in its most rudimental form. The owner of the land produces all that is required for himself and for his serfs, on his own soil. He never borrows, seldom either sells or buys, and has little or no use, by consequence, for ready money. It is a matter of little import to him whether money is plenty, scarce, or absolutely unattainable. He finds all he wants without going beyond the limits of his own domain; the community over which he presides, is self dependent, and demands nothing from the rest of the world. France, if I remember right, once went through bankruptcy some sixty times in the course of a single century; but then this occurred when France was in the same social condition in which Russia finds herself today. The bankruptcy of Russia would have less effect upon its rural population, than any extraordinary change of the weather. If Russia becomes bankrupt, she will have to pay her troops in kind, instead of money; but she will be able to fight all the same. It is true that the present war brings great inconveniences and distress upon the commercial community of Russia; bit it must not be forgotten that that community is quite small in point of numbers, and that the portion of it which is injured by foreign war, is almost exclusively composed of foreigners (mainly English) doing business in Russia.
In England, everything is different. Labor is there infinitely divided, and that division gives rise to a most complex movement of exchange and circulation. Every merchant, every workman, every farmer even, does some special thing and produces some special article, and is dependent upon every other merchant, workman, and farmer. No man himself raises or creates, all that is required for his own wants; but every man is dependent upon facilities enabling him to exchange his product for the products of others. Thus the predominance of trade characterizes England, while Russia is characterized, on the contrary by a great absence of circulation. The failure of one man in England to meet his engagements, involves the destinies of a series of other men. Distress in one place determines distress in many other places. A panic in London carries ruin, not only to the remote provinces of England, but even to the remotest districts of the world that are dependent upon English trade.
Russia has lost two great battles, Alms and Inkermann, and she is none the worse for it; she may lose twenty great battles, and still be able to carry on the war. England has lost no great battle, but has merely failed to gain any decided advantage; and already she suffers many of the disadvantages of a decided defeat. What would be the result in London, and consequently throughout all England, if the British fleet were to meet with a great disaster? if the British army were to be overpowered and annihilated? England and Russia do not fight on equal terms; the wounds of Russia, close and heal readily; the wounds of England remain open. England placed her confidence in her superior civilization; but it is that same superior civilization which condemns her to inferiority when she meets Russia in the brutal contact of war. England has shown herself to be, in this war, a mere roaring sheep in wolf’s clothing ; and it is the London Times, not the English army, that does the roaring.
The Russians say that there exists a national Russian party, led by the most intelligent men of the country—professors in the university, learned men, and artiste. It is this party that supports the Russian throne, and lends a serious force to the Czar; and it is in this party that the patriotic instincts of the people are personified. This party has liberal tendencies, but it detests English and French ideas; it is convinced that “Holy Russia” is competent to do its own thinking, and to work out its own destinies. In the eyes of this party, it is neither England nor France that is the natural enemy of Russia, but /Austria, the oppressor of. Sclaves. Thus, while Russian Czarism and Austrian Imperialism, because identical in principle are natural allies. On the day that the Austrian cabinet entered ostensibly into alliance with the Western Powers, the existing war became popular in Russia.
Can England—with her internal weakness—with her national debt already amounting to between four and five thousand millions of dollars—with her complicated system of internal and external commerce—with her incompetent aristocracy—with her miserably, recruited army—with her inadequate commissariat—with the danger of revolutionary movements on the continent, movements that would, this time, spread like wild-fire within her own borders—with her alliance, not with France and Austria, but solely with the Emperors of those countries, men who may both die in the same night—with the loudly expressed indignation of her people at the manner in which affairs have been conducted—can England afford to carry on a long, harrassing, doubtful, and exhausting war with Russia?
P.S. April 24th, A correspondent of the Siecle, writing from Constantinople, under the date of April 12th, says:—
“The most singular reports are in circulation here, respecting the arrival of the Emperor, and the formation of a camp at Maslak for a reserve of 40,000 men. The idea that FRANCE IS COMING TO TAKE POSSESSION, ONCE FOR ALL, OF THE TURKISH TERRITORY, has become so rooted in the minds of the Greek population, that we are obliged to renounce all attempts to convince them that such an occupation would be incompatible with the nature of the alliance of the Western Powers, the laws of nations, and all the rules of common prudence.”
There is more of the same sort in the Siecle, but I confine my quotation to this one paragraph. I take the liberty to submit a few remarks for your consideration, The Greeks have been, from their first appearance in history, noted for their acuteness, and for their philosophical spirit; is it wonderful that a people so characterized, should endeavor to guess beforehand what events will be ultimately brought forth by the causes which are now put in operation? It is in vain to say that England and France mean this or mean that, will this or will that; it is hard to say what any man or any nation, may will or mean; the true question is much more simple, and much more within the limits of sober scientific investigation. Given the present condition of Turkey, given also the present policy and action of the Allies, what, judging by the science of historical cause and effect, must be the inevitable consequence of the present situation? Turkey might, possibly, have defended herself against Russia, but no man will suppose that Turkey can, after allowing herself to be occupied by the allied armies, defend herself against England and France, in case those two powers see fit to exercise an armed pressure upon her. In all controversies, therefore, which may hereafter arise between the Allies and the Porte, the Sultan must necessarily knuckle. It must be remembered that human nature is what it is. The Saxons went to England .to help the English drive out the Danes; the Saxons remained in England. The French go to Turkey to help the Turks drive out the Russians; who shall prevent the French from remaining in Turkey?
The origin and nature of every political institution, are correlatives; the one being given, the other may always be deduced from it. The origin of the: English aristocracy is not lost in the night of ages. The modern English lord is the mere legal transformation of the ancient Scandinavian pirate, and Norman political adventurer. The liberties of Englishmen, be they lords or peasants, are all of them privileges, that is to say, legalized facts; none of them rest on principle. The privilege of the lord is the fact of piratical supremacy, regulated, and rendered permanent, by law; the privilege of the peasant, is the fact, also regulated by law, of so much political power as the peasant has been able to conquer for himself. Individuals change, but the system remains; and it is the system that lends political character to the individual, not the individual that lends character to the system, Asa general rule, all nobilities originate, and continue in being, either by land piracy or by sea piracy more or less disguised. All Europe is dotted over with picturesque and ruined castles, whose owners, in the time of their high splendor, earned their living by robbing merchants on the highways, and by plundering their own peasantry. Robbery was no more moral in ancient days than it is now. The depraved sentiment with which the novels of Walter Scott varnish over the iniquities of former times, vitiates the true conception of history.
It is natural for man to investigate least, those political systems and organizations with which he is most familiar. It is for this reason that the English lords have been able, in the course of centuries, to make the people forget the origin and nature of aristocracy, But time does justice to all falsehood. Louis Napoleon is an aristocrat, and an emperor of the true stamp; only he is the original, not the derived, noble, and one who manifests to us in his history, what the nature and origin of nobilities really are. The English nobles are nearly the remote descendants, or the parvenu substitutes, of the true and original thing. They exist merely by force of the system, and are nothing in themselves. They are not Vikings; they merely continue to levy the old Viking tribute. Nevertheless, the instinct of the British aristocracy remains always true to itself, and capable of infallibly discerning, and sympathizing with, whatever is identical with the spirit of its own original. Therefore it is that the English government fraternizes at once with French Emperor, who is characterized by all the aristocratic elements, and is wanting in the democratic and leveling tendencies of his great uncle. Therefore it is that her gracious majesty, Queen Victoria, places the garter on the leg of his imperial majesty, Louis Napoleon, Therefore it is that England—and this is the most astonishingly logical fact of all—gives the command of her armies to the Emperor of France!
When the Queen of England placed the badge of the Order of the Garter upon the leg of the French Emperor, the star of England went down. Not because Louis Napoleon is unworthy of the honor; for the contrary is the case; if there be any honor in the thing at all, it is Napoleon, the real noble of the old Scandinavian stamp, who honors the English by fraternizing with them. The star of England went down, because the hypocritical lie by which the English aristocracy have deceived the world, was, in that act, pierced to the quick. The prestige of the Norman pirate, may still remain with the British aristocracy; the prestige of civilization, the only one that is of practical value in this epoch, has departed from it forever. The British Queen and nobility are now embarked in the same political boat with his Imperial Majesty, Napoleon III; they all swim or sink together.
Louis Napoleon raised to a preternatural height upon the shoulders of two great empires, is soon to blaze like a comet in the Eastern sky. ‘The glory of England is to be lost, incorporated, swallowed up, in his meteoric tail. Who can calculate the elements of his erratic path through space? This thing alone is clear, that the Revolution, if adjourned, is adjourned merely that it may be more effectually generalized, The English aristocracy, which has been hitherto the break-water against the rise of the revolutionary tide, is now itself involved in the centre of the revolutionary maelstrom !—The march of events is rapidly becoming irresistible and the destinies of the world are escaping from the control of mortals. A few months may possibly show us what there is at the bottom of the bag. The Emperor of France leaves Paris, for Constantinople and the Crimea, on the 6th of May.
Turin, Oct. 3d, 1855.
Mr Knowlton:—Once upon a time (you see my story begins with the genuine formula) as her gracious majesty, Queen Victoria, was walking in the Paris exhibition with her august ally, Napoleon the Phlegmatic, the attention of these two roost royal personages was attracted by a beautiful statue, M. Pereire, the owner of the statue, was standing near them at the time, and Bonaparte took occasion to compliment him on the taste and discrimination he had displayed in selecting and purchasing so remarkable a work of art. Queen Victoria, desiring not to be behindhand in the lavishing of praise, and not having clearly apprehended what Bonaparte had been saying, complimented Pereire on the genius he had shown in the conception of the work, and also on the skill he had manifested in its execution. The latter—indignant at being mistaken for « mere sculptor of genius—more indignant still at the discovery that he was unknown by name to the Queen of England—remained rooted to the spot, boiling with rage. This is the way they tell the story, so it may be all true; but don’t believe a word of it! Probably, some person noticed that Pereire was beginning to look coldly on the powers that be, and speculated on the causes of so wonderful a phenomenon. Speculation quickens the imagination. At Paris, everything is explained by an anecdote; and, if no authentic one can be obtained, a mythical one, though for that reason none the less instructive—always spontaneously presents itself,
But I forget that you also may be behind the time—that you also may be as ignorant as the Queen of England, of the very being of M. Pereire—and I therefore state for your information, that this distinguished individual is a banker by trade, a Hebrew by extraction, and a Saint Simonian by his antecedents. The words banker and Hebrew, require no explanation ; but the case may be different as respects the term Saint Simonian. Be it known to you, therefore, that Saint Simonian is (or rather was, for it is now pretty much defunct) a sort of new religion, which was born at Paris, somewhere about the year 1830. It derived its name from Saint Simon, a remarkable man, the author of several very profound political and industrial theories. This Saint Simon, served for a time as an officer in our revolutionary war, but died before his disciples became known to the world, and he would, probably, if he had lived, have been the first to repudiate the religion that was created in his name. The religion was founded on a double basis of doctrine, being, on one hand, a sort of philosophical Mormonism; and, on the other, a counterpart of that series of political, industrial, and financial theories, which was characterized, on our side of the water, by Mr Clay, as the American System. In short a Saint Simonian was what we should designate as a species of Mormon-Whig, or Whig-Mormon. By this I do not mean to imply that any of the Saint Simonian doctrines were borrowed from America; for they probably originated, all of them, on French soil. The Mormon part of the religion was repudiated from the beginning, by the more respectable men of the sect—Augustin Thierry, the historian, Compte, Leroux, Reynaud, Buchez, &c.—and finally blew up, on account of an interference of the police with the internal and domestic arrangemenys of the faithful. Pereire must be numbered with those who never accepted the Mormon element, Some of the Saint Simonians who are still extant, are honest and well-meaning men; others quite the contrary. It is from the latter class, that the corrupt and wicked governments that have recently followed each other in France, have selected many of their most able instruments. In the government, for example, of the existing Bonaparte, the Saint Simonian ingredient is very strong.
Pereire is the inventor, head, chief-governor, prophet and president of the bank of personal credit which is known in France as the “Credit Mobilier,” and localized in bodily substance in the Place Verdome. This bank was created by decree by the Napoleon that now is, with the intent that it should be a rival of the Bank of France, and an extinguisher to the Messrs, Rotheohild who have been guilty of looking upon rising Imperialism with a not altogether favorable eye. The Credit Mobilier is a joint stock banking company, organized to operate in a somewhat fanciful manner. It has a capital of 60,000,000 francs, represented by 120,000 shares. The idea of a gigantic joint-stock bank, is regarded by the Saint Simonians as not only original with themselves, but also as constituting France, where the idea burns and blazes, as the great light-house of the human race, By its charter, the Credit Mobilier performs all the functions that are performed by our old Massachusetts joint-stock banks, and also certain higher and more transcendent functions; for it is authorized to receive shares of railroad, canal, and, in general, of all joint-stock companies, also government stocks, &c., and to give, in exchange for them its own notes running to maturity at a distant date, and bearing interest. Those notes differ from our bank notes, inasmuch as the interest upon them must be paid, as well as the amount borne on their face, when they are redeemed. The bank can afford to pay this interest, since the stock it receives for its notes, itself yields a revenue, and since it naturally makes a profit in its original transactions, never operating except “for a consideration.” The Credit Mobilier is authorized by its charter to issue these notes to an amount equal to ten times its capital; that is, it is authorized to put in circulation the immense sum of 600,000,000 francs in paper money! When a new railroad is chartered, or when a government loan is contracted, this bank can operate by taking all the shares in a block, and selling them out again, at an advantage, in detail. When Bonaparte borrows money ostensibly in shares of 100 francs each, nothing prevents the Credit Mobilier from itself taking 1,000,000 shares under the rose, since Bonaparte created the institution to the express end (among others) that it should facilitate his financial operations, and extricate him before public opinion whenever he should get into a tight place. It must be remembered that it costs neither Bonaparte nor the Credit Mobilier anything to LIE about such transactions, since| the operations of the French imperial government are controlled by no one except Bonaparte himself. Its evident that this bank, by the issue of its notes, can make money scarce or plenty throughout France at its pleasure, and that it therefore possesses all the power formerly possessed among us by the bank of the United States. It is evident also that it can control the internal direction of all the railroad and industrial companies of France, through its power of obtaining possession of the greater part of their stock, by exchanging its paper money for it; and that it can moreover, to a great extent, determine the market price of each stock, by throwing upon the market, of withholding from it, the shares it holds in its own bands. But the operations of the Bank are not confined to France; its power makes itself felt in all the neighboring, European countries, and especially in Austria, where it has purchased of the government the greater part of the railroads, and many of the mines, including those of Hungary, which Austria has no legal right to sell, at such advantageous prices as were rendered necessary by the difficulty in which Austria found herself of not being able to give a valid deed. One of the members of the Credit Mobilier told me, in reply to inquiries, that the bank intended to introduce individualism as it is understood in France, into Austria, and to demoralize the Hungarians. An exiled Hungarian general remarked upon this saying, that it would probably become necessary for the Hungarians to come to Paris, in company with the Russians, to moralize the French. So much by way of preface. I now close this letter by translating for you such notices of the recent history of this remarkable institution, as I find in the correspondence of the Italian papers,
“Paris, Sept. 18th. The Credit Mobilier, directed by the brothers Pereire, has acquired, as you are aware, a power superior to that of the Rothschilds, and of the other financial companies. By means of able manoeuvres, it has succeeded in giving a monstrous commercial value to its stock. It has done the same for all the minor companies placed under its protection. It is therefore interested to prevent the capital, now in its hands, from escaping from its control by becoming invested in government funds. Hardly had the fall of Sevastopol become known, when it bogus to manifest a fear that men would forget to invest money in its stock, preferring the public debt. On the morning of the 10th, an enthusiastic disposition to purchase certificates of the public debt, manifested itself at the Paris Bourse: it was expected that the three per cents would experience a rise of from 4 to 6 francs; but the Credit Mobilier went suddenly its agents on the street, with their hands filled with offers of sale. The Credit Mobilier has in its portfolios more then 70,000,000 francs worth of the national loan, without counting other certificates of public debt, with which it had provided itself in order to be prepared for all contingencies; its agents were therefore able, in a short time, to inundate the Bourse with these values. The tendency towards a rise was thus immediately checked, and turned in the opposite direction.
It follows that a single company governs, at this moment, the financial situation; causing the thermometer of public confidence to ascend or descend at its pleasure. The government, comprehending the peril and scandal consequent upon the existence of such an uncontrolled power, immediately put itself in opposition to it. The Credit Mobilier wished to create 240,000 new shares, by means of which, through a dishonest combination, it intended to pay the dividends it owed to its old share holders, and, at the same time, to pat into its own pockets, at their expense, 20,000,000 francs. The government, the day before yesterday, prohibited the issue of more than 120,000 new shares; so that the dishonest company will be able to pay precisely what it owes, but will not obtain its desired supplement of 20,000,000 francs.
Paris, Sept, 22d. I wrote to you that the government was profoundly irritated by the measures taken by the Credit Mobilier to prevent a rise in the funds after the fall of Sevastopol, and that, using reprisal, it had prohibited the company from issuing more than one half of the new shares whose creation had been announced. This measure has produced the effect of a thunderbolt. The shares of the Credit Mobilier, which had attained the enormous figure of 1,660 francs, have fallen within a few days to 1,200 francs, and continue to fall. The government will stop at no half way measures. It will put this financial institution under the surveillance of a governor of its own choice. It will thus obtain control over the operations of a company which, by its habits of monopoly, has absorbed all great industrial and commercial enterprises, and has become altogether too strong.
It may happen that the panic terror occasioned by these governmental measures, will result in the total ruin of the Credit Mobilier; in which case, the affairs it has organized since its creation will fall with it, above all that of the Austrian railroads. There will be many victims, but, in the end, everybody will rejoice at the caving in of this rapacious Jew-hole which controls the Bourse.
Paris, Sept, 27th, Austria, not having a florin left, and having reached the end of its resources, calls French credit to its aid. The brothers Pereire, who have already contracted the affair of the Austrian railrosds, answer to the cry of the chivalrous Emperor. One of them has gene to Vienna, to offer to hie excellent German friend the treasures of the Credit Mobilier. He demands as the price of this assistance: 1st, The creation in Austria of a society of Personel Credit, similar to the one in Paris, and having with this latter a complete solidarity: 2dly, The abandonment of the lines of railroad that were not borne on the first contract: 3dly, Other advantages too numerous to specify. The Credit Mobilier is regarded here with indignation; for while it causes a fall of the public funds to coincide with the news of the taking of Sevastopol, it offers its capital to Austria, and puts her in a situation to make preparations for war in Italy, perhaps for a war against the Western Alliance.
Vienna, Sept, 27th. The projects of De Brock, to which Pereire was to have lent a hand, have all failed in consequence of the indirect opposition of the French government; Pereire has returned to Paris. It is said that our ministry (the Austrian). wishes to enter into treaty with the Rothschilds; but others say that the Rothschilds would have nothing to do with the operation.”
If Napoleon were firmly seated on his throne, he would be able to fight out this battle with Pereira and gain an easy victory; but the contrary is the case. The throne on which Bonaparte sits is a powder-magazine, celebrated for its liability to explosions. A smothered agitation prevails all over France, and nothing but the presence of armed soldiers prevents the Revolution from breaking out in a hundred different places. The affair at Angers (which was of infinitely more importance than would appear from the newspapers) and the repeated attempts to assassinate the Emperor, are signs of the times, indicating that the secret societies have been able to renew their organization. The ruin of the Credit Mobilier would produce such distress and commotion among the capitalists of France, that Napoleon would fall as before a tempest. He is a greater man than I think he is, if he succeeds in dissipating the perils which even now surround his power. ‘The grain crop is short in France, the wine crop is short, and the potato-rot has operated fatally in the northern provinces. The people are hungry; everything risen in price except labor. Strikes are manifesting themselves everywhere; and the general condition is so disastrous that liberty of the press for two days would suffice to overturn the government, The people see their children taken from them to be sacrificed in the Crimea, and wonder what all this fighting is for. The war has no definite object, and can awaken no enthusiasm. It is now four or five years in succession that the wine crop has failed, and it mast not be forgotten that wine to Frenchmen, like tobacco to sailors, counts among the necessaries of life. Besides, the Italian papers say that Bonaparte has been somehow mysteriously wounded in the right shoulder, and is obliged to salute with his left hand ; and also that he hides himself from the people, riding out not as formerly on horseback, but stealthily, and hidden in a close carriage. The first of these rumors is in all probability untrue; but, it appears to have originated in France, and to indicate the speculations that revolve in the minds of the French people. It will be no easy task for Napoleon to weather the storm that is gathering.
The taking of Sebastopol, was, without doubt, a most brilliant feat of arms. But every success must be weighed against the cost at which it is obtained, The long siege of Sebastopol, the immense expenditure of blood and treasure which it involved, is not profitably counterbalanced to the allies by the possession of a ruined city, and the destruction of an enemies’ fleet. The Russians will defend the northern forts if they find they can make it expensive to the allies to take them; if not, not. The allies have now the North side of Sevastopol before them; if they take that North side, they have the Crimea before them; they take the Crimea, then they have, for the first time, Russia herself before them. The allies will use every effort to negotiate a peace; but their efforts will be without result. The war is bound to go on, and the English and French must continue to face the music. The strength of Sampson lay in his hair; the strength of Russia resides, not exactly in her hair, but in her power of endurance. She is an anvil that will wear out any hammer that Aristocratic England and Imperial France can bring on. Yours truly,
 Both of the brothers Pereire are ancient Saint Simonians.