George Carslake Thompson.

Public opinion and Lord Beaconsfield, 1875-1880 online

. (page 29 of 62)
Online LibraryGeorge Carslake ThompsonPublic opinion and Lord Beaconsfield, 1875-1880 → online text (page 29 of 62)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Russia's annexing Constantinople.] It is only, therefore, to prevent
a temporary occupation that we can go there, and the only object
of preventing a temporary occupation must be to protect the
Turks, [that is, to assure them that in any event] they will be
free and masters in the centre of their power. . . Our appear-
ance in Constantinople would and could have no other meaning,
unless, indeed, we are prepared to assist in terminating Turkish
rule. . . . But, says the newspaper which speaks most clearly the
mind of the Premier, we should go to Constantinople merely as
" the bailiffs of Europe," prepared to hand over the great capital
to any authority upon whom Europe may fix its choice. Very
good ; then let the Government say so clearly in Parliament. It
is certainly not we who should resist that righteous and statesman-

' Ants, p. 219.



1877. PLATFORM AND PRESS UTTERANCES. 251

like design. . . . But who believes for one moment that a Govern-
ment with Lord Beaconsfield at its head would pursue any policy
of the kind'! He wants to save the only Asiatic State left in
Europe, not to destroy it. His sympathy, we do not blame him
for it, and he has avowed it in a hundred chapters of his books —
is with the Semitic races, and not with the " snub-nosed Saxon "
or more snub-nosed Sclav. — Spec. July 28th.

[Commenting on a meeting of the Leeds Liberal Association
to choose a second Liberal candidate] . . . We are sorry to see
that questions of foreign policy seem to have been entirely
banished from this meeting. The speakers talked of every subject
under the sun except the one which has most interest for nice
Englishjnen out of ten at the present moment. . . . The Liberals
were beaten in 1874 because they had no longer anything to give
the country which the country cared to take. They had been
lavish of great reforms, and so long as the country wanted great
reforms it was glad to keep the Liberals in power. When it ceased
to desire great reforms, it looked about to see what else the
Liberals had to offer it, and it found nothing but small crotchets.
Since that time the Liberal party have been too often engaged
in trying to force these discredited wares uiDon a public which
will have none of them. The uprising of the Eastern Question
offers them a way of escape from this unworthy occupation, but at
Leeds, at all events, they seem very slow to take advantage of it.
... If the meeting at Leeds is any index, we will not say to the
feeling of the electors, but to the views of those who assume to
guide the electors, the Liberal oracles are obstinately dumb. In
the midst of a European crisis which may yet prove of almost
unparalleled importance, their responses only deal with questions
of home politics, and as often as not with the least important
even of these. ... It is necessary for all who have at heart the
regeneration of the Liberal party to say jslainly what they think
of those discreditable exhibitions of political flatulence. — /S^jeo.
Aug. 18th.

There was a small party in the House of Commons in favour of
the coercion of Turkey, but he did not believe that by letting slip
the dogs of war they could serve the cause of humanity. He
asserted that to defend Turkey would be to go to war with Russia,
and Russia had behaved well all the way through, and had
shown a disposition to follow in the lead of England. — Mr. Henry
liichard.^

There is always in this country — at least, so far as my recollec-
tion goes back — there is always a war party. It is found in the
press constantly. Unfortunately for the public interests, there is
hardly anything that tends so much to enhance the profits of the
proprietors of newspapers as a stirring and exciting conflict.

[The neutrality of the Government is not so perfect as it

' At the anniversary meeting of the Peace Society {JD. N. May 23rd).



252 COURSE OF OPINION AND EVENTS.

should be. There is the veto on touching Egypt ; further] many
people say — I am not quite sure whether the Government have said
it in express language, but people believe they mean it — that
Russia shall not approach Constantinople. [This is to deprive
Russia of ordinary belligerent rights.]

[While Lord Salisbury, at the Conference, was endeavouring
by all the means in his power to urge the Turks to make those
most moderate concessions which would have contented Russia, and
avoided the war] the war party in this country, the war press, the
war public men, and that portion of the public which I call the
rowdy war party (loud cheers) — there are rowdies among the
rich as well as among the jjoor — all that party were speaking with
another voice, and stimulating and encouraging the Turks to resist,
thus bringing Turkey to the catastrophe in which she now finds
herself (cheers). [The Government, no doubt, had had great
difficulties to contend with, but they] might certainly — at least I
believe they might — have tamed down what I call the rowdy
organs of their press (cheers).

I quote a passage from a recent speech of Lord Derby ^ with a
sentiment of the utmost admiration and the fullest concurrence.
He says, " We must always remember that the greatest of British
interests is the interest of peace " (hear, heal, and cheers). — Mr.
John Bright at Bradford, July 25th.

There has been a very active, a very noisy, a very determined,
and a very unscrupulous war party in the countrj'. They have
tried often to make themselves out to be a majority. I feel sure
they are not, but I know the danger. We are a very high-
spirited nation. For writers to make war in this country all that
has to be done is to insult other countries to the point that they
reply, and we feel ourselves insulted, and then there is danger of
war in England. . . . We know what a courageous battle the
Turks are fighting, displaying such bravery as we can hardly avoid
admiring, almost forgetting the cause of the struggle. There was
a time when concert was possible. . . . No effort on our own part
to stop the war would now be successful, and there is no other
course as the matter stands than that of neutrality. — Mr. Forster
at Bradford, Aug. 28th.

Mr. Cov/rtney spoke of past efforts to involve England in war
for Turkey. He thought all danger was over now. — At Liskeard,
about Sept. 20th.

Sir H. Giffard once more took up the position that England
was bound to maintain the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. — At
Launceston, Oct. 14th.

I am not satisfied, and I cannot pretend to be satisfied, with
the course that has been pursued. I am told that I am re-
sponsible for the present war (cries of shame, shame). [But he
would submit his Blackheath speech, made when the feeling of the

1 AnU, p. 214.



1877. PLATFOllM AND PEESS UTTERANCES. 253

nation was at the highest, to the judgment of any man. His
proposals were to maintain, if possible, the integrity of Turkey,
and to secure the local liberties of all subjects, without distinction
of religion, in the cruelly-oppressed provinces.] I did not propose
that we should go to war. I will tell you now my recommendation
and I abide by it. It was that the Powers of Europe should unite
together and send their fleets, or a combined portion of their fleets
into the Black Sea , and the Sea of Marmora, and the Archipelago,
and say to the Turk, " Not a man, not a horse, not a gun, not a
shilling, shall pass from Asia to Europe, or from Europe to Asia,
for the purpose of carrying on your wars." I said then, and I say
now, if that announcement had been made, as it might have been
made, to Turkey, not one drop of human blood would have been
shed (loud cheers). — Mr. Gladstmie at Nottingham, Sept. 27th.

Lord Salisbury did not deny there was a war party in the
country. There had been two war parties. The substance of
what was urged on the Government, by some eminent men early
in the year, though veiled in careful phraseology, was to take part
with Russia in the impending war against Turkey. — At Bradford,
Oct. nth.

[Mr. Leatham ^ made] one of those conventional peace speeches
which we know so well, and of which we are so thoroughly weary.
He was almost as bitter against Mr. Gladstone's resolutions, and
the " crusade," as he termed it, of last year, as a model Tory; [but
the motive was no doubt desire to counteract the effect of Liberal
sympathy with Russia, not to stimulate Tory sympathy with
Turkey.] — S-iJec. Nov. 17th.

[What would be the consequence to the dearest interests of
England if Germany and Russia in alliance should think fit to
parcel out the dominions of the Turkish Empire X] I am not one
of those who think that England need shrink from an encounter
with any number of enemies who may be banded against her. I
would say with our great dramatist, —

" Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them."

[Was this great war waged to effect some improvement in two or
tliree Turkish provinces, to confer some local or municipal institu-
tions upon them, or to partition the Turkish tei'ritories ? What-
ever its object, the means resorted to to carry it on were terrible in
the extreme.] We may well pray, that the great potentate waging
this war will pause, or be Jed to pause — I will not say made to
pause — in the career which has not only laid waste the country he
seeks to conquer, but, as it seems, has led to outrages and atrocities
without parallel in the history of the world. — Chief Baron Kelly,
Nov. 9th.2

1 At Huddersficld, Nov. 9tli.

" In his address to the Lord Mayor in the Court of Exchequer.



254 COURSE OF OPINION AND EVENTS.

Mr. Forster spoke of the misgovernment of fhe Christian sub-
jects as the real cause of the war, and said no peace would be
lasting unless that misgovernment ended. We were still in danger
of being dragged into war.

The Marquis of Lansdowne noted that the danger at home was
the feeling that because the Turkish soldiers had shown great
valour in battle therefore the Turks might be left alone and to
reform themselves. — Colston Dinner {Anchor), Nov. 1 3th.

Mr. Cave said, notwithstanding the storm of unprecedented
violence raised last year, the opinion of all independent men had
been that the policy of the Government was the only policy com-
patible with the true interests of the country.

Mr. Waite said, all that could be done had been done by wise
counsels and remonstrances to prevent the bloody and discreditable
conflict now raging in Eastern Europe. This was all he believed
that the nation, excepting only a few fanatics, desired should be
done. What the nation wished was not that Ministers should
pursue a Turkish or Russian policy, but an English policy, and he
emphatically said that was what the Ministers had done. They
had kept England out of the hideous fray, though their counsels
for peace had been disregarded. — Colston Dinner {^Dolj^hin),
Nov. 13th.

Mr. Henry Richard, believing that we should endeavour to
direct the Legislature to a policy of peace, would join any party
advocating peace, We had been between two fires ; one party
wanted to fight the Turks and the other wanted to fight for them.
— At Merihyr, Dec. 4th.

The desire to fight (I do not say that it does not exist else-
where) is almost universal amongst idlers and gossips, fashionable
aspirants, and the habitual frequenters of the London burlesques
and music halls. The determination to keep at peace is almost
universal among the great mass of the population which produces
the wealth of this country, and which makes us respected and
powerful among nations. My experience is that the division is
not, as is generally described, one of class, but of personal habits
and character. If you meet a man who does an honest stroke of
work on every week day, whether he be manufacturer, or artisan,
or tradesman, or barrister, it is ten to one that he wishes his
country to leave this quarrel to be fought out by those whom
it concerns. If you meet a man who amuses himself for fifteen
hours in the twenty-four and sleeps the rest, it is ninety-nine to
one but he thinks we should send an ultimatum to Russia as soon
as she crosses the Balkans, and that he regards Lord Beaconsfield
as a second Chatham, who is robbed of his opportunities by
his more timid colleagues. — Mr. G. 0. Trevelyan at Galashiels,
Dec. 14th.



1877. ESTIMATES OF PUBLIC OPINION. 255



§ 6. Confiiding Estimates of PuUic Opinion.

a. Attempts at Diagnosis. — In the great controversy at home,
which, as we have remarked, was in a sense speculative rather than
practical, so long as the issue of the campaign hung in doubt, each
side claimed for itself to constitute the preponderating opinion of
the nation.

Pubhc Opinion had become highly introspective, and was
anxious to diagnose itself. Those who held with the "violet"
opinions, could urge the consistency of their position with the
admitted feeling of the autumn before, the weight of their demon-
strations, and the widely representative character of the men who
supported them. But though for the most part they held fast to
the faith that the reasoned opinion of the country was the same as
ever, their confidence in the staunchness of the great mass of
opinion which had been roused in the autumn was less absolute,
perhaps, than it had been.

Twelve months ago the sentiments of this country were
declared so strongly and positively that all that I may call Turkism
was for the time silent ; the most chivalrous, ardent, and deter-
mined partisan did not venture to open his lips. But you cannot
keep up the feeling of a nation for a great length of time at the
same high level. The conditions of human nature do not permit
it, besides which, selfishness is a more permanently vital principle
than the nobler emotions of the human mind. Consequently, as
there seemed to be at any rate a partial silence, which was mistaken
for acquiescence, the professors of Turkism and the nursers and
worshippers of delusions acquired courage and declared that the
people of England had changed their minds, that they had been
deluded for a moment, but they had now retm^ned to good sense
and the cultivation of what was really the only matter at issue —
British interests. (Cheers). Now it remains as necessary as ever
that you should be on your guard agaiost these delusions. What-
ever the issue of the present war, and on that I have my own
opinion, rely upon it, that the state of things which existed in
Turkey two or three years ago, and which has been only aggra-
vated since, is too unnatural to continue. Peace never can be
known in the Turkish Empire until some great blow is struck at
oppression. How can you persuade thirteen or fourteen millions
of people living together in masses, and forming the population of
great districts of country, to submit their property, their domestic
peace, their lives — above all, the lives and honour of their wives
and daughters — to the licentiousness of every Turk, from the
I'asha down to the policeman 1 — Mr. Gladstone at Nottingham,
Sept. 27th.



256 COUESE OF OPINION AND EVENTS.

h. The " Daily Telegraph's" Diagnosis. — On the other hand, the
Daily Telegraph began to publish samples of a mass of corre-
spondence which it professed to be receiving, generally signed by
initials, or suggestive noms de plume. These were paraded as
evidence that the true opinion of the nation was setting strongly
in the direction of the " red " policy. Moreover the Daily Telegraph
now began to affirm that such was the case with the assurance of
one who has access to esoteric means of information.^

[A feeling of] extraordinary impatience is manifestly growing
np among the nation. Our public correspondence is rendered volu-
minous with letters calling aloud for plain speaking and resolute
action. The recent horrible atrocities perpetrated by the pretended
champions of the Gospel of peace and goodwill have utterly
sickened popular sentiment. — 1). T. July 25th.

For weeks past ever-increasing numbers of letters have been
addressed to us offering in various ways material assistance to the
Turkish cause in the present war. Their quantity was at last so
great and their urgency so pressing that we gave space to certain
representative examples of this correspondence, since it had become
clear that a genuine manifestation of public opinion was in course
of development. The effect of even this limited publicity was at
once to open a floodgate of national feeling, and since we first
began to print the substance of these communications an extra-
ordinary mass of similar letters has continued to reach us, all ex-
pressing in the main a strong sympathy for the invaded Turkish
nation so gallantly defending its existence ; and also a desire to
bear part either in aiding the destitute Mussulman families,
succouring the Turkish wounded, or directly and frankly assisting
his Majesty the Sultan with a gift of money or even a loan sub-
scribed at nominal interest. The general tenour of this enormous
correspondence has shown that the minds of the people are deeply
impressed, first, by the fully-revealed injustice and hypocritical
pretences of the present invasion of Turkey ; next by the valour
and devotion of her soldiers ; and lastly by the horrible cruelties
which the Russian troops have perpetrated on the women and chil-
dren of the Bulgarian Muslims. The majority of our correspon-
dents evidently regard the Muscovite crusade as stripped bare by
this time of all and any Christian sanction in consequence of the
conduct of the invaders ; while few of them seem to doubt that the
real object from the first was not to ameliorate Bulgaria, but to
reach Constantinople, and then and there dictate to the Sultan a
peace subversive of European treaties and of British interests.

'■ Compare the leading article on " Public Opinion," D. T. Dec. 7th, 1878, in
which the Daily Telegraph claimed something like plenary inspiration. It says its
position enables it to gange Public Opinion. It may not be amiss, it continues, to
inform statesmen that Public Opinion has pronounced with Lord Beaconsfield, and
that the speeches of the Opposition (on the Afghan war, in the debate on the address)
are discreditable.



1877. ESTIMATES OF PUBLIC OPINION. 257

Holding these views a large number of the writers have mingled
compassion for the innocent victims of Russian ambition and
intrigue with an ardent wish to carry substantial assistance to the
treasury of the Porte, and we may safely say that many hundreds
have besought us to become the almoner both of a charitable and
of a political subscription. — D. T. Aug. 16th.

From about the 9th to Ihe 23rd of August, the Daily
Telegraph published each day, under the heading "Public Opinion
on the War," three-quarters of a column or so of short extracts,
with comments of its own, like the following : — ^

From among the constantly-increasing mass of daily
correspondence on the subject of the Russo-Turkish war we
extract the pith of those letters which bear most weightily on the
Eastern Question and on those British interests which it involves.

" Bis dat qui cito dat " says : " Although a poor curate with
several children, I would readily offer a guinea in aid of the brave
people fighting for national existence against an unscrupulous and
hypocritical enemy. It is true that they are directly acting in
self-defence, but it is no less true that they are fighting indirectly
in aid of ' British interests,' and it does seem to me mean and
selfish in the extreme that we should allow them to do so unaided.
... In tho meantime, let the suggestion of ' B. A.' be at once
acted on. ..." Our correspondent's allusion to " B. A.'s" letter
needs but brief explanation, it being pi-obably within the memory
of most readers that the writer in question suggested the sub-
scription by 1,000,000 Englishmen of a guinea each, in aid of the
Turkish cause. ..." A Lover of Fair Play " will, he says, be
happy to contribute his share, as he feels convinced that the Turks
are bearing the brunt of what is really intended as an attack
upon us. "Anti-Humbug" feels it is almost time that real
Christians should find some other name, seeing what has been done
in that of Christianity itself by Russia, in the Crimea, in Poland,
in Khiva, and lastly in Turkey. "An English Mohammedan"
points out that superfluous medical aid has been sent out by
Germany and other powerful States to the stronger side, while
unfortunate Turkey has been left, in this as in every other par-
ticular, to shift for herself. ... On the subject of our own views,
" Semper Eadem " writes : " I trust you will keep on protesting
against the inactive and vacillating policy of our Government.
Oh for a few men of the old Palmerston stamp — men with English
hearts, long heads, and courage ! " — (Aug. 9th.)

With scarcely a word of dissent from the general feeling on
the topic of the Russo-Turkish war, letters continue to pour in
upon us in a daily increasing mass. To avoid repetition, as the
concurrence of opinion and of ideas is so frequently expressed in
language that varies but little, even verbally, we are compelled to

' Somewhat similar extracts were again published by the Daily Telegraph in
December. Post, chap. xvii. § 2.

VOL. II. S



258 COURSE OF OPINION AND EVENTS.

limit our citations; though in withholding from publication much
that is pertinent and suggestive, we call the attention of our
correspondents to this obvious reason for passing over very many
communications without even a few words of extract. We shall,
however, find an abundance of quotable matter in the heap of
selected letters now before us.

" Monitor " argues that, whether the Turks eventually win
or lose the day, one thing is clear — namely, that England is fast
losing her opportunity, and once gone it will be impossible to
recover it. . . . Continued offers of subscriptions are accompanied
by urgent desires for the formation of an authorised fund. . . .
The following is from " A Yorkshireman : " " It will be admitted,
I think, even by the calumniators of the Turk, that for a sick
man he fights'remarkably well — too well for the Russians. His
sickness must have been merely functional derangement, and not,
as was supposed, organic disease. ... It is melancholy to think
that there are men in high places who would subordinate the best
interests of the Empire and the best feelings of the heart to the
whimsicalities of sacerdotalism. What are we to think of the
self-righteous agitators of last autumn ? Why have there not
been public meetings, letters in the newspapers, ecclesiastical and
ex -Prime Ministerial orations in denunciation of the fearful
atrocities now being committed by the Russians ? What other
conclusion can we come to than that the philanthropical outburst
last year was as hollow and insincere as the professions of the
Russians themselves ? " . . " W. P." draws attention to the
expediency of supporting the Stafford House Fund ^ until a direct
war loan or subscription is started. Oue of the many correspon-
dents adopting the significant nom de pluvie, " A. Disgusted
Liberal," says: "Although one who has voted always in the
interest and for the policy of Mr. Gladstone up to the beginning
of the Eastern Question, I am delighted at the suggestion of your
correspondent 'B.A.' " . . A correspondent, signing himself " Late
Royal Navy," and inclosing his real name and address,^ offers to
send his cheque for five guineas. — (Aug. 11th.)

Letters continue to arrive in shoals on the subject of the war
between Russia and Turkey, and the following extracts from the
communications of our numerous correspondents will doubtless be
read with interest.

"A Real and Consistent Liberal," who forwards his " mite "
of £,\, asks : " What is to account for the tergiversation and
duplicity of a certain section of modern Liberals, falsely so-called 1
What mystery can explain their Czar-worship, their rampant
adulation of the mainstay of despotic rule." — (Aug. 16th.)

^ For the purpose of aiding sick and wounded TurMsli soldiers. The Duke of
Sutherland was chairman of the committee.

'^ Arc we to conclude that the other generous subscribers withheld their real names
and addresses !

Compare Punch's "Next Subscription List," headed by "One who hates the
Russians," 5s. ; and closed by " Anonymous, "ie20, 186 8s. id, — Punch, Oct. 6th, 1877.



1877. ESTIMATES OF PUBLIC OPINION. 259

We continue to receive vast numbers of letters -with regard to
the war which Russia is waging against Turkey.

" E. W." say.s : " I am a member of one of the London Liberal



Online LibraryGeorge Carslake ThompsonPublic opinion and Lord Beaconsfield, 1875-1880 → online text (page 29 of 62)