Demetrius Charles de Kavanagh Boulger.

The life of Gordon, major-general, R. E. C. B.; Turkish field-marshal, Grand cordon Medjidieh, and pasha; Chinese titv (field-marshal) yellow jacket order online

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acquiesced, provided that her own interests were not interfered with. The
Russo-Turkish War occurred, during which time England, in various wa\ s,
gave the Turks reason to believe that she would eventually come to their
assistance. This may be disputed, but I refer to the authorities in Con-
stantinople whether the Turks were not under the impression during the
war that England would help them, and also save them, from any serious
loss eventually. England, therefore, provided this is true, did encourage
Turkey in her resistance.

"Then came the Treaty of San Stephano. It was drawn up with the
intention of finishing off the rule of Turkey in Europe — there was no dis-
guise about it; but I think that, looking at that treaty from a Russian point
of view, it was a very bad one for Russia. Russia, by her own act, had
trapped herself

" By it (the Treaty of Sari Stephano) Russia had created a huge kingdom,
or State, south of the Danube, with a port. This new Bulgarian State, being
fully satisfied, would have nothing more to desire from Russia, but would
have sought, by alliance with other Powers, to keep what she (Bulgaria)
possessed, and would have feared Russia more than any other Power.
Having a seaport, she would have leant on England and France. Being
independent of Turkey, she would wish to be on good terms with her.

''Therefore I maintain, that once the Russo-Turkish War had been
permitted, no greater obstacle could have been presented to Russia than
the maintenance of this united Bulgarian State, and I believe that the
Russians felt this as well.

" I do not go into the question of the Asia Minor acquisitions by Russia,
for, to all intents and purposes, the two treaties are alike. By both treaties
Russia possesses the strategical points of the country, and though by the
Berlin Treaty Russia gave up the strip south of Ararat, and thus does not
hold the road to Persia, yet she stretches along this strip, and is only
distant two days' march from the road, the value of which is merely com-

" By both treaties Russia obtained Batoum and the war-like tribes
around it. Though the only port on the Black Sea between Kertch and
Sinope, a distance of 1000 miles, its acquisition by Russia was never con-
tested. It was said to be a worthless possession — 'grapes were sour.'

" I now come to the changes made in the San Stephano Treaty (which
was undoubtedly, and was intended to be, the coup de grace to Turkish rule
in Europe) by the Treaty of Berlin.

" By the division of the two Bulgarias we prolonged, without alleviating,
the agony of Turkey in Europe; we repaired the great mistake of Russia,
from a Russian point of view, in making one great State of Bulgaria. We
stipulated that Turkish troops, with a hostile Bulgaria to the north, and a
hostile Roumelia to the south, should occupy the Balkans. I leave military
men, or any men of sense, to consider this step. We restored Russia to
her place, as the protector of these lands, which she had by the Treaty of
San Stephano given up. We have left the wishes of Bulgarians unsatisfied,
and the countries unquiet. We have forced them to look to Russia more
than to us and France, and we have lost their sympathies. And for what ?
It is not doubted that ere long the two States will be united. If Moldavia
and Wallachia laughed at the Congress of Paris, and united while it (the
Congress) was in session at Paris, is it likely Bulgaria will wait long, or
hesitate to unite with Roumelia, because Europe does not wish it ?

" Therefore the union of the two States is certain, only it is to be

2o6 The Life of Gordon.

regretted that this union will give just the chance Russia wants to interfere
again; and though, when the union takes place, I believe Russia will repent
it, still it will always be to Russia that they will look till the union is

" I suppose the Turks are capable of appreciating what they gained
by the Treaty of Berlin. They were fully aware that the Treaty uf San
Stephana was their coup de grace. But the Treaty of Berlin was supposed
to be beneficial to them. Why? By it Turkey lost 7iot o?tly Bulgaria and
Roumelia (for she has virtually lost it), but Bosnia and Herzegovina, while
she gained the utterly impossible advantage of occupying the Balkans,
with a hostile nation to north and south.

" I therefore maintain thai the Treaty of Berlin did no good to Turkey,
but infinite harm to Europe.

" I will now go on to the Cyprus convention, and say a few words on the
bag-and-baggage policy. Turkey and Egypt are governed by a ring of
Pashas, most of them Circassians, and who are perfect foreigners in Turkey.
They are, for the greater part, men who, when boys, have been bought
at prices varying from ^50 to £70, and who, brought up in the harems,
have been pushed on by their purchasers from one grade to another.
Some have been dancing boys and drummers, like Riaz and Ismail Eyoub
of Egypt. I understand by bag-and-baggage policy the getting rid of, say,
two hundred Pashas of this sort in Turkey, and sixty Pashas in Egypt.
These men have not the least interest in the welfare of the countries ; they
are aliens and adventurers, they are hated by the respectable inhabitants
of Turkey and Egypt, and they must be got rid of

"Armenia is lost ; it is no use thinking of reforms in it. The Russians
virtually possess it ; the sooner we recognise this fact the better. Why
undertake the impossible ?

" What should be done ? Study existing facts, and decide on a definite
line of policy, and follow it through. Russia, having a definite line of
policy, is strong ; we have not one, and are weak and vacillating. ' A
double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.'

" Supposing such a line of policy as follows was decided upon and
followed up, it would be better than the worries of the last four years : —

" I. The complete purchase of Cyprus.

"2. The abandonment of the Asia Minor reforms.

"3. The union of Bulgaria and Roumelia, with a port.

"4. The increase of Greece.

" 5. Constantinople, a State, under European guarantees.

"6. Increase of Montenegro, and Italy, on that coast.

"7. Annexation of Egypt by England, either directly or by having
paramount and eiitire authority.

"8. Annexation of Syria by France — ditto — ditto — ditto. (By this
means France would be as interested in stopping Russian progress as
England is.)

" 9. Italy to be allowed to extend towards Abyssinia.

" 10. Re-establishmcnt of the Turkish Constitution, and the establishment
of a similar one in Egypt (these Constitutions, if not interfered with, would
soon rid Turkey and Egypt of their parasite Pashas).

" I daresay this programme could be improved, but it has the advantage
of being dcfmite, and a definite policy, however imperfect, is better than an
unstable or hand-to-mouth policy.

" I would not press these points at once ; I would keep them in view,
and let events work themselves out.

Minor Missions — India and China. 207

"* I believe, in time, this programme could be worked out without a shot
being fired.

" I believe it would be quite possible to come to terms with Russia on
these questions ; I do not think she has sailed under false colours when
her acts and words are generally considered. She is the avowed enemy
of Turkey, she has not disguised it. Have tve been the friend of Turkey ?
How many years have elapsed between the Crimean war and the Russo-
Turkish war.^ What did we do to press Turkey to carry out reforms (as
promised by the Treaty of 1S56) in those years ? Absolutely nothing.

"What has to be done to prevent the inevitable crash of the Turkish
Empire which is impending, imperilling the peace of the world, is the
re-estadlishjiietit of the Constitutioii of MidJiat, attd its maintenance, i?t spite
of the Sultan. By this means, when the Sultan and the ring of Pashas fall,
there would still exist the chambers of representatives of the provinces,
who would carry on the Government for a time, and at any rate prevent
the foreign occupation of Constantinople, or any disorders there, incident on
the exit of the Sultan and his Pashas."

Having partially explained how General Gordon declined one
post for which he appeared to be well suited, I have to describe how
it was that he accepted another for which neither by training nor by
character was he in the least degree fitted. The exact train of trifling
circumstances that led up to the proposal that Gordon should accom-
pany the newly-appointed Viceroy, the Marquis of Ripon, to India
cannot be traced, because it is impossible to assign to each its correct
importance. But it may be said generally, that the prevalent idea
was that Lord Ripon was going out to the East on a great mission
of reform, and some one suggested that the character of that mission
would be raised in the eyes of the public if so well known a philan-
thropist as Gordon, whose views on all subjects were free from
official bias, could be associated with it. I do not know whether the
idea originated with Sir Bruce Seton, Lord Ripon's secretary, while
at the War Office, but in any case that gentleman first broached the
proposition to -Sir Henry Gordon, the eldest brother of General
Gordon. Sir Henry not merely did not repel the suggestion, but he
consented to put it before his brother and to support it. For his
responsibility in this affair Sir Henry afterwards took the fullest and
frankest blame on himself for his "bad advice." When the matter
was put before General Gordon he did not reject it, as might have
been expected, but whether from his desire to return to active employ-
ment, or biassed by his brother's views in favour of the project, or
merely from coming to a decision without reflection, he made up his
mind at once to accept the offer, and the official announcement of
the appointment was made on ist May, with the additional statement
that his departure would take place without delay, as he was to sail with
Lord Ripon on the 14th of that month.

2o8 The Life of Goi'don.

It was after his acceptance of this post, and not some months before,
as has been erroneously stated, that General Gordon had an interview
with the Prince of Wales under circumstances that may be described.
The Prince gave a large dinner-party to Lord Ripon before his departure
for India, and Gordon was invited. He declined the invitation, and
also declined to give any reason for doing so. The Prince of Wales,
with his unfailing tact and the genuine kindness with which he always
makes allowance for such little breaches of what ought to be done, at
least in the cases of exceptional persons like Gordon, sent him a
message : " If you won't dine with me, will you come and see me next
Sunday afternoon ? " Gordon went, and had a very interesting conver-
sation with the Prince, and in the middle of it the Princess came into
the room, and then the Princesses, her daughters, who said they would
"like to shake hands with Colonel Gordon."

Before even the departure Gordon realised he had made a mistake,
and if there had been any way out of the dilemma he would not have
been slow to take it. As there was not, he fell back on the hope
that he might be able to discharge his uncongenial duties for a brief
period, and then seek some convenient opportunity of retiring. But
as to his own real views of his mistake, and of his unfitness for the
post, there never was any doubt, and they found expression when,
in the midst of a family gathering, he exclaimed : " Up to this I have
been an independent comet, now I shall be a chained satellite."

The same opinion found expression in a letter he wrote to Sir
Halliday Macartney an hour before he went to Charing Cross : —

" My Dear Macartney, — You will be surprised to hear that I have
accepted the Private Secretaryship to Lord Ripon, and that I am just
off to Charing Cross. I am afraid that I have decided in haste, to
repent at leisure. Good-bye. — Yours, C. G. Gordon."

His own views on this affair were set forth in the following words : —

" Men at times, owing to the mysteries of Providence, form judg-
ments which they afterwards repent of. This is my case. Nothing
could have exceeded the kindness and consideration with which Lord
Ripon has treated me. I have never met anyone with whom I could
have felt greater sympathy in the arduous task he has undertaken."

And again, writing at greater length to his brother, he explains what
took place in the following letter : —

" In a moment of weakness I took the appointment of Private
Secretary to Lord Ripon, the new Governor-General of India. No
sooner had I landed at Bombay than I saw that in my irresponsible
position I could not hope to do anything really to the purpose in the

Minor Missions — India and China. 209

face of the vested interests out there. Seeing this, and seeing, moreover,
that my views were so diametrically opposed to those of the official
classes, I resigned. Lord Ripon's position was certainly a great con-
sideration with me. It was assumed by some that my views of the state
of affairs were the Viceroy's, and thus I felt that I should do him harm
by staying with him. We parted perfect friends. The brusqueness of
my leaving was unavoidable, inasmuch as my stay would have put me
into the possession of secrets of State that — considering my decision
eventually to leave — I ought not to know. Certainly I might have stayed
a month or two, had a pain in the hand, and gone quietly ; but the
whole duties were so distasteful that I felt, being pretty callous as to what
the world says, that it was better to go at once."

If a full explanation is sought of the reasons why Gordon repented
of his decision, and determined to leave an uncongenial position without
delay, it may be found in a consideration of the two following circum-
stances. His views as to what he held to be the excessive payment
of English and other European servants in Asiatic countries were not
new, and had been often expressed. They were crystallised in the
phrase, " Why pay a man more at Simla than at Hongkong?" and had
formed the basis of his projected financial reform in Egypt in 1878, and
they often found expression in his correspondence. For instance, in a
letter to the present writer, he proposed that the loss accruing from the
abolition of the opium trade might be made good by reducing officers'
pay from Indian to Colonial allowances. With Gordon's contempt for
money, and the special circumstances that led to his not wanting any
considerable sum for his own moderate requirements and few responsi-
biHties, it is not surprising that he held these views ; but no practical
statesman could have attempted to carry them out. During the voyage
to India the perception that it would be impossible for Lord Ripon to
institute any special reorganisation on these lines led him to decide that
it would be best to give up a post he did not like, and he wrote to his
sister to this effect while at sea, with the statement that it was arranged
that he should leave in the following September or October.

He reached Bombay on the 28th of May, and his resignation was
received and accepted on the night of the 2nd June. What had
happened in that brief interval of a few days to make him precipitate
matters ? There is absolutely no doubt, quite apart from the personal
explanation given by General Gordon, both verbally and in writing, to
myself, that the determining cause was the incident relating to Yakoob

That Afghan chief had been proclaimed and accepted as Ameer
after the death of his father, the Ameer Shere Ali. In that capacity

2IO The Life of Gordon.

he had signed the Treaty of Gandamak, and received Sir Louis
Cavagnari as British agent at his capital. When the outbreak occurred
at Cabul, on ist September, and Cavagnari and the whole of the mission
were murdered, it was generally believed that the most guilty person was
Yakoob Khan. On the advance of General Roberts, Yakoob Khan
took the first opportunity of making his escape from his compatriots
and joining the English camp. This voluntary act seemed to justify a
doubt as to his guilt, but a Court of Inquiry was appointed to ascertain
the facts. The bias of the leading members of that Court was
unquestionably hostile to Yakoob, or rather it would be more accurate
to say that they were bent on finding the highest possible personage
guilty. They were appointed to inquire, not to sentence. Yet they
found Yakoob guilty, and they sent a vast mass of evidence to the
Foreign Department then at Calcutta. The experts of the Foreign
Department examined that evidence. They pronounced it " rubbish,"
and Lord Lytton was obliged to send Mr (afterwards Sir) Lepel Griffin,
an able member of the Indian Civil Service, specially versed in frontier
politics, to act as Political Officer with the force in Afghanistan, so that
no blunders of this kind might be re-enacted.

But nothing was done either to rehabilitate Yakoob's character or
to negotiate with him for the restoration of a central authority in
Afghanistan. Any other suitable candidate for the Ameership failing to
present himself, the present ruler, Abdurrahman, being then, and indeed
until the eve of the catastrophe at Maiwand, on 27th July 1880, an
adventurous pretender without any strong following, Lord Lytton had
been negotiating on the lines of a division of Afghanistan into three or
more provinces. That policy, of which the inner history has still to be
written, had a great deal more to be said in its favour than would now
be admitted, and only the unexpected genius and success of Abdurrah-
man has made the contrary policy that was pursued appear the acme of
sound sense and high statesmanship. When Lord Ripon reached
Bombay at the end of May, the fate of Afghanistan was still in the
crucible. Even Abdurrahman, who had received kind treatment in the
persons of his imprisoned family at Candahar from the English, was not
regarded as a factor of any great importance ; while Ayoob, the least
known of all the chiefs, was deemed harmless only a few weeks before
he crossed the Helmund and defeated our troops in the only battle lost
during the war. But if none of the candidates inspired our authorities
with any confidence, they were resolute in excluding Yakoob Khan.
Having been relieved from the heavier charge of murdering Cavagnari,
he was silently cast on the not less fatal one of being a madman.

Such was the position of the question when Lord Ripon and his

Minor Missions — India and China. 2 1 1

secretary landed at Bombay. It was known that they would alter the
Afghan policy of the Conservative Government, and that, as far as
possible, they would revert to the Lawrentian policy of ignoring the
region beyond the passes. But it was not known that they had any
designs about Yakoob Khan, and this was the bomb they fired on
arrival into the camp of Indian officialdom.

The first despatch written by the new secretary was to the Foreign
Department, to the effect that Lord Ripon intended to commence
negotiations with the captive Yakoob, and Mr (now Sir) Mortimer
Durand, then assistant secretary in that branch of the service, was at
once sent from Simla to remonstrate against a proceeding which
"would stagger everyone in India." Lord Ripon was influenced by
these representations, and agreed to at least suspend his overtures to
Yakoob Khan, but his secretary was not convinced by either the
arguments or the facts of the Indian Foreign Department. He still
considered that Afghan prince the victim of political injustice, and
also that he was the best candidate for the throne of Cabul. But he
also saw very clearly from this passage of arms with the official classes
that he would never be able to work in harmony with men who were
above and before all bureaucrats, and with commendable promptness he
seized the opportunity to resign a post which he thoroughly detested.
What he thought on the subject of Yakoob Khan is fully set forth in
the following memorandum drawn up as a note to my biography of
that interesting and ill-starred prince in "Central Asian Portraits."
Whether Gordon was right or wrong in his views about Yakoob
Khan is a matter of no very great importance. The incident is only
noteworthy as marking the conclusion of his brief secretarial experience,
and as showing the hopefulness of a man who thought that he could
make the all-powerful administrative system of India decide a political
question on principles of abstract justice. The practical comment on
such sanguine theories was furnished by Mr Durand being appointed
acting private secretary on Gordon's resignation.

General Gordon's memorandum read as follows : —

"Yacoob was accused of concealing letters from the Russian
Government, and of entering into an alliance with the Rajah of
Cashmere to form a Triple Alliance. Where are these letters or
proof of this intention ? They do not exist.

" Yacoob came out to Roberts of his own free will. He was im-
prisoned. It was nothing remarkable that he was visited by an Afghan
leader, although it was deemed evidence of a treacherous intention.
Roberts and Cavagnari made the Treaty of Gandamak. It is absurd
to say Yacoob wanted an hluropean Resident. It is against all reason

2 12 The Life of Gordon.

to say he did. He was coerced into taking one. He was imprisoned,
and a Court of Enquiry was held on him, composed of the President
Macgregor, who was chief of the staff to the man who made the Treaty,
by which Cavagnari went to Cabul, and who had imprisoned Yacoob.
This Court of Enquiry asked for evidence concerning a man in prison,
which is in eyes of Asiatics equivalent to being already condemned.
This Court accumulated evidence, utterly worthless in any court of
justice, as will be seen if ever published. This Court of Enquiry
found him guilty and sentenced him to exile. Was that their function ?
If the secret papers are published, it would be seen that the despatches
from the Cabulese chiefs were couched in fair terms. They did not
want to fight the English. They wanted their Ameer. Yacoob's
defence is splendid. He says in it : 'If I had been guilty, would I not
have escaped to Herat, whereas I put myself in your hands?' The
following questions arise from this Court of Enquiry. Who fired first
shot from the Residency? Was the conduct of Cavagnari and his
people discreet in a fanatical city ? Were not those who forced
Cavagnari on Yacoob against his protest equally responsible with
him ? Yacoob was weak and timid in a critical moment, and he failed,
but he did not incite this revolt. It was altogether against his interests
to do so. What was the consequence of his unjust exile? Why, all
the trouble which happened since that date. Afghanistan was quiet
till we took her ruler away. It was an united Afghanistan. This
mistake has cost ^10,000,000, all from efforts to go on with an in-
justice. The Romans before their wars invoked all misery on them-
selves before the Goddess Nemesis if their war was unjust. We did
not invoke her, but she followed us. Between the time that the Tory
Government went out, and the new Viceroy Ripon had landed at
Bombay, Lytton forced the hand of the Liberal Government by
entering into negotiations with Abdurrahman, and appointing the Vali
at Candahar, so endeavouring to prevent justice to Yacoob. Stokes,
Arbuthnot, and another member of Supreme Council all protested
against the deposition of Yacoob, also Sir Neville Chamberlaine."

Lest it should be thought that Gordon was alone in these
opinions, I append this statement, drawn up at the time by Sir
Neville Chamberlaine : —

"An unprejudiced review of the circumstances surrounding the
tmetite of September 1879 clearly indicates that the spontaneous and
unpremeditated action of a discontented, undisciplined, and unpaid
soldiery had not been planned, directed, or countenanced by the
Ameer, his ministers, or his advisers. There is no evidence to prove
or even to suspect that the mutiny of his soldiers was in any way not

Mino7'- Missions — India and China. 2 1 3

deplored by the Ameer, but was regarded by him with regret, dismay,
and even terror. Fully conscious of the very grave misapprehensions
and possible accusation of timidity and weakness on our part, I
entertain, myself, very strong convictions that we should have first
permitted and encouraged the Ameer to punish the mutinous soldiers
and rioters implicated in the outrage before we ourselves interfered.
The omission to adopt this course inevitably led to the action forced
on the Ameer, which culminated in the forced resignation of his

Online LibraryDemetrius Charles de Kavanagh BoulgerThe life of Gordon, major-general, R. E. C. B.; Turkish field-marshal, Grand cordon Medjidieh, and pasha; Chinese titv (field-marshal) yellow jacket order → online text (page 24 of 40)