Spencer Walpole.

A history of England from the conclusion of the great war in 1815; online

. (page 10 of 46)
Online LibrarySpencer WalpoleA history of England from the conclusion of the great war in 1815; → online text (page 10 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


demands upon Russia. The Russian Government, in its
reply, entered into a detailed statement of its commercial
grievances; demanded that a still further reduction should
be made in the number of Turkish troops remaining in the
Principalities ; and declared that a new source of complaint
had arisen in the arrest, without any trial and without any
right, of one Vellara or Villaru, a Wallachian Boyard, who
had been seized, in the spring of the year, in the middle of
Bucharest by a Turkish officer.^

The Turkish letter to the Porte was despatched on the 28th

1 The protocols will be found in Wellington Despatches, vol I pp. 598-
604; Lord Strangford's own account in ibid., vol. ii. p. 470.

* The Turkish demands were twofold : — i. The surrender by Russia of
some insurgent chieftains who had taken refuge on Russian territory. 3. The
cession by Russia of some fortresses on the Asiatic frontier, in accordance with
the stipulations of the Treaty of Bucharest (See, for Lord Strangford's difficulty
in persuading the Porte to yield, Stapleton's Canning, voL ii. pp. 378, 387.)
Count Nesselrode's reply will be found in State Papers, vol. x. p. 851.



Digitized by



Google



i823 HISTORY OF ENGLAND. 91

of February. The. Russian reply did not reach the British
minister at Constantinople till the 4th of July.^ It Hisdiffi-
must have excited in Strangford's heart the feeling *^"*"***
of despair which every pedestrian has experienced in scaling
a hill. At each round of the road the summit apparently
stands out clear before him on the horizon, and only one
more rising upland has to be scaled, and the end will be
won. When, however, the wished-for point has been gained,
the pedestrian discovers that the swelling eminence has con-
cealed from him another height still higher than that on
which he stands, to be attained with the same struggle, and
to furnish the same disappointment as the last. So was it
with Strangford and the negotiation with the Porte. Every
successive diflSculty which was removed was succeeded by
some fresh complaint. Every ray of light on the horizon was
obscured by some fresh and unexpected obstacle. Strangford,
however, did not abandon the task which he had undertaken
to perform. He had succeeded in gaining one of the three
ends which had been placed before him at Verona. He pro-
ceeded to induce the Porte to give way on the commercial
question. His success here was again complete. The Porte
consented to the appointment of a mixed commission, charged
with the duty of examining and redressing the various griev-
ances to which Russian trade was exposed. It signed a treaty
with Sardinia allowing the flag of that power a passage through
the Bosphorus, and permitting the vessels of other nations to
pass under its protection. Strangford had the satisfaction
of announcing these concessions to the Russian Government
on the 22nd of September 1823, and the Russian Govern-
ment, pleased at the announcement, promised to send M.
de Minciacky to Constantinople as its chargS d'afaires, to
superintend the interests of Russian trade and navigation in
Turkey.^

1 So dbtinctly says Lord Strangford (Wellington Dispatches^ vol. ii. p. 474),
and he is corroborated by Mr. Stapleton in Cannings vol. iu p. 382. The
reply was dated ^ May 1823. State Papers^ vol. x. p. 851.

» Wellington Despatches, vol ii. p. 475. Canning, vol. ii. p. 363. The
treaty with Sardinia will be found in State Papers, vol xii. p. 915.



Digitized by



Google



92 HISTORY OF ENGLAND. 1823

Strangford had thus succeeded in reaching a fresh eminence

in the road he was ascending. He had attained two of the

objects which he had set out from Verona to obtain.

IS success. ^^^ Russian Government was full of acknowledg-
ments for the services which he had rendered ; but amidst
all his successes the summit of the road seemed as distant as
ever. Nesselrode, in thanking him for his services, besought
him to complete his good work by effecting the perfect evacua-
tion of the Principalities, and by procuring the release of the
Boyard Vellara. The second of these requests Strangford
immediately undertook to attend to; and in this point, too,
his exertions were rewarded with success. Vellara was not
only released, but received a free pardon. Strangford, how-
ever, declined to urge the Porte to comply with the first request
for the evacuation of the Principalities unless he should receive
a distinct assurance that " this was to be positively the last of
the Russian pretensions." The assurance which he expected
was duly given to hincL In December 1823 the British minister
at St. Petersburg, Sir C. Bagot, received the authority of the
Czar to say that, so soon as the Principalities should be fiairly
restored to that state, in so much as regarded their occupation
by Turkish troops, in which they were previously to the break-
ing out of the late troubles, his Imperial Majesty would engage
to send his minister to the Porte, and to renew his ancient
diplomatic relations with the Ottoman Government." This
promise encouraged Strangford to make one more appeal to
the Porte. The Porte undertook to reduce by one-half the
small number of troops which it still retained in the Provinces ;
and, as all the authorities agreed in stating that '* such a re-
duction would render the number to remain in the Provinces
even less than that of the troops cantoned there in ordinary
times," Strangford closed with the Turkish offer, and acquainted
the Russian Government with his success in the negotiation
entrusted to him. In redemption of its promise, the Russian
Government issued an ukase appointing M. de Ribeaupierre
Plenipotentiary at the Porte. The summit of the hill was thus
apparently attained at last, and Strangford retired from Con-



Digitized by



Google



i823 HISTORY OF ENGLAND. 93

stantinople on leave amidst the congratulations of his friends,
and was rewarded for his labours by being raised to the
English Peerage.*

Strangford had reason to congratulate himself on the success-
ful issue of his protracted labours ; but the British Government
and the Porte were already inclined to suspect the Enthusiasm
good faith of the Czar. So long as the Greeks were fSr^he^**
able to continue their struggle with the Porte on ^^"*«*^
equal terms, the Czar could afford to stand by and watch the
progress of the contest But the deep sympathy which the
Greek cause excited among his own people was almost certain
to force him to interfere on the first symptoms of Greek
exhaustion. During the whole of 1822 and 1823 the Greek
cause prospered. The Greeks at sea maintained an undoubted
superiority over the Turks. They compelled the Turks to
withdraw from the Morea, to raise the siege of Missolonghi,
and to surrender the town of Napoli di Romania. The cause
of the Greeks was promoted by other dangers which threatened
the Porte. The Persians were invading its Asiatic dominions.
The Janissaries, its most trusted troops, were in open mutiny.
The very forces of Nature seemed in league with the enemies
of the House of Othman, and whole streets in Aleppo and
Antioch were swallowed up by a dreadful earthquake. Encou-
raged by their own successes and their enemy's misfortunes, the
Greeks persevered in their gallant struggle for independence.
Their perseverance and gallantry awakened an enthusiastic
sympathy with their cause among other nations. The British
Government, especially, was induced to recognise the bon&fide
blockade of Turkish harbours by Greek vessels; a subscription
for the Greeks was raised in London; and British subjects,
roused into enthusiasm by the incidents of the struggle, volun-
tarily enlisted in the ranks of the insurgents.

It was natural that the sympathy which the Greek cause
excited in England should be shared by the Russian people.
Russia and Greece had long been drawn together by the ties

1 Wellington Despatches, vol ii. pp. 309, 476. Stapleton's Canning, vol. it
pp. 396-404.



Digitized by



Google



94 HISTORY OP ENGLAND. 1823

of a common faith and a common hatred of a common enemy.
Russia, moreover, had acquired a treaty right to consider
herself the protector of the Grecian people. The Russian
nation, therefore, thought that both its interests and its honour
demanded its interference in the Grecian cause. Nothing
but the attitude of the Czar restrained it from interfering.
Alexander, bent on suppressing revolution in Spain and
Italy, hesitated to commit himself to a support of rebellion in
Greece, and stubbornly refused to draw the sword. The
strong feeling of his people, however, compelled him to do
something; and, in the autumn of 1823, he met the Emperor
of Austria at Czemowitz, for the purpose of determining some
common course of action. Alexander was accompanied by
Nesselrode, Francis by Mettemich, and the two autocrats
agreed on attempting to mediate between Greek and Turk.
Russian Nesselrode, on his return to Petersburg, drew up
r°^!S!f^/-' a memorandum on the subject. The memoran-

an arrange* ^ ^ •»

mcnt dum, which was confidentially communicated to the

ministers of the allied powers at Petersburg, suggested the
division of Greece into three Principalities, paying a tribute
to the Porte, as its nominal sovereign ; governed by natives ;
enjoying free trade ; entitled to the use of their own flag ; and
represented at the Poirte by the Patriarch of Constantinople.
The Porte, on its side — so the Russian memorandum suggested
— might be permitted to retain a garrison in a certain number of
fortresses ; but the troops should be bound to provide them-
selves with their supplies without moving beyond a certain
distance from the forts.

The memorandum was forwarded by the British ambassador
at St. Petersburg to the Foreign Office. Canning thought that
there was nothing in what he termed '*the practical part" of
it which might not be made the subject " of fair and useful
deliberation ; " but its preliminary sentences excited his sur-
prise. Nesselrode alluded in them to the promise of the
Russian Government to send a minister to Constantinople
so soon as the Black Sea question was finally decided and
the Danubian Principalities were completely evacuated. The



Digitized by



Google



l823 HISTORY OF ENGLAND. 95

Czar, so Nesselrode went on, still adhered to his promise ; but
he thought it his duty to observe that a Russian minister
would renew his relations with the Porte under unhappy
auguries for the future if, at the time of his arrival, the affairs
of Greece were still undecided. Canning saw in this sentence
a clear avowal of the wish, which he had previously suspected
to exist, " to interpose the discussion upon Greece before the
establishment of the Russian mission." Wellington, to whom
he disclosed his suspicions, could not bring himself to believe
that the Czar intended to break his word. The canning's
possibility of such a result, however, was not lost conditional

sight of by the Cabinet : and Canning accordingly conference

,•;. ..T.- upon it-

expressed his concurrence m the Russian memoran-
dum, and his readiness to enter into conference with t|»e
allies upon it so soon as the Russian Government should have
announced its readiness to interpose, in the spirit of its treaty
rights and in the character of a friendly power, by sending a
minister to Constantinople.^

The Russian Government, after receiving Canning's reply,
was extremely anxious for the assembly of the Conference.
The Russian minister at London continually called on Canning,
and urged him at once to enter upon it Canning consistently
refused to do so till the Russian mission at Constantinople had
been re-established. In the course of June, however, the long
negotiation between the Porte and Strangford was finally con-
cluded ; and Bagot, the British minister at St Petersburg, per-
suaded himself that the Czar was earnest in his intention to
despatch a minister without delay to the Porte. In these
circumstances, he satisfied himself that Canning's condition
was practically fulfilled, and accordingly consented to take
part in the preliminary sittings of the Conference. Bagot, in
doing so, disobeyed the letter and mistook the spirit of his
instructions. Canning, intensely annoyed at the mistake, dis-
avowed the proceedings of the minister, and gave him a good

^ The Russian Mimoire will be found in full in State Papers, vol. xi. p. 819 ;
Staplcton's Canning, vol. ii. pp. 395-419 ; and Wellington Despatches, vol ii.
pp. 197. 203.



Digitized by VjOOQIC -^



96 HISTORY OF ENGLAND. 1823

snubbing.^ Bagot*s mistake was the more embarrassing from
the circumstance that the Russian memorandum,
catfon of' which had hitherto been kept private, was suddenly
memolfaS?" published in the columns of the ConstUutionruL
**""*• Greek and Turk became, in consequence, acquainted

with the terms of the pacification which was preparing for them.
The Greeks, who had not yet sustained any serious reverses,
declared that death itself was preferable to the Russian terms.
The Turks, violently opposed to intervention, considered that
they were betrayed, and that Russia had no intention of ful-
filling her promise of sending an ambassador to Constantinople.
Impressed with these fears, they postponed the completion of
their own portion of the arrangement, and delayed the with-
drawal of their troops from the Principalities.*

The end of the long journey which Strangford had been
painfully pursuing was now farther off than ever. At the
moment at which the summit of the hill had apparently been
definitely gained, a new obstacle, higher and more difficult than
the last, rose on the horizon. The St. Petersburg Conference,
^ from which the British Government withdrew, col-

CoUapsc of , . , -I . , , . . .

the Confer- lapscd without decidmg anything ; and Russia still
delayed sending an ambassador to the Porte, deny-
ing, on the one hand, her positive engagement to do so, and
pleading, on the other, the neglect of the Porte to fulfil its
own promises.

In the meanwhile the cause of Greece was gradually exciting
a deeper anxiety among its friends. Up to the close of 1823,
i-hcsuc- Greece, alone and unaided, had proved able to
«»8ofthe maintain herself against the Porte. But towards
the close of 1823 the confidence which had resulted
from success dissolved the bonds which had previously united
every Greek in a common cause. Dissensions, with difficulty
allayed, paralysed the exertions of the nation at the moment
at which the Porte resolved on making fresh efforts to crush

1 Mr. Stapleton is very tender to Sir C. Bagot See his account, Cannings
vol. ii. pp. 419-433. For Canning's snubbing see Wellington Despatches, vol
ii. p. 34a * Stapleton's Canning, vol. ii. pp. 419-424.



Digitized by



Google



i825 HISTORY OF ENGLAND. 97

the rebellion. Mehemet Ali, Pacha of Egypt, had succeeded
in modelling an army on the European model, and the Porte
decided on applying to him for assistance in its difficulty. The
Sultan promised, if Mehemet would suppress the rebellion, to
add Greece to his Pachalate. Thus tempted, Mehemet Ali
placed a force at the disposal of the Turks, and allowed his own
stepson, Ibrahim Pacha, to take the command of it During
the whole of 1824 the assistance of the Egyptians proved of
little consequence. The island of Ipsara, in the immediate
neighbourhood of Scio, was, indeed, taken from the Greeks
after a memorable struggle ; but in other quarters the Turks
sustained serious reverses. Their finest vessels were destroyed
by Greek fire-ships ; their most comprehensive plans were dis-
concerted by the bravery and skill of the Greek sailors ; and
the world saw with surprise that a little country, without any
settled government, with few internal resources, and with little
external assistance, was able to contend on equal terms with
the mighty power of the Mohammedan Empire.

The Porte, however, did not despair of ultimate success.
It decided in 1825 on making greater efforts than ever for
the subjection of the insurgents. With this view the xiic itniggie
Sultan's own army was directed to invade Greece JJ^^i
from the north, while Ibrahim Pacha simultaneously »» «8as-
attempted a descent on the south-west of the Morea. Evading
the Greek fleet, Ibrahim successfully landed at Modon, where
the Turks still retamed a garrison. He at once pushed on
to the summit of the range of hills which look down upon
Navarino. The adjacent island of Sphacteria was taken by
him in May. A few days afterwards Navarino capitulated to
the Egyptian commander. Ibrahim, marching into the heart
of the Morea, proved the superiority of his own troops to
the half-trained battalions opposed to them; and, free from
all danger to his own arms, was enabled to lend a helping
hand to the Turkish army, which, in the north-west of Greece,
was engaged in besieging Missolonghi.

The town of Missolonghi lies at the north-west of Greece,
near the entrance to the Gulf of Lepanto. Buiit on a marshy

VOL. III. o



Digitized by



Google



98 HISTORY OF ENGLAND. 1825

plain, it is capable of considerable defence, and it had already
successfully resisted a Turkish siege. Its import-
"^ ** ance to the Greek cause had been recognised from
the earliest period of the struggle. It was to Missolonghi
that Byron repaired when he devoted himself to Greece. It
was at Missolonghi that he caught the fatal fever of which
he died. In April 1825 Redschid Pacha, who commanded
the Turkish army of the north, appeared before the town.
In the following month the memorable siege began which
arrested the attention and excited the sympathy of all Europe.
By sea and by land both sides made the greatest efforts to
ensure the success of their cause. The Turkish soldiers
pushed their parallels with unceasing energy towards the town,
and threw themselves at their commander's bidding with
admirable gallantry on the Grecian ramparts. But the Greeks
met the assault with equal valour. Redschid Pacha, his army
dwindled by repeated losses into impotence, was compelled
to refrain from further efforts. The Greek fire-ships, throwing
themselves on the Tqrkish squadron, forced the Ottoman fleet
to withdraw from its position ; and the bravery of the garrison
seemed on the eve of its reward. The successes which Ibra-
him Pacha had, however, achieved in the Morea placed a
new and more powerful force at the disposal of the besiegers.
Ibrahim Pacha, reinforced from Egypt, appeared before Misso-
its sieee loughi in the course of November. The siege, which
and fan. j^g^^ already lasted for more than half a year, was
renewed with redoubled vigour. Once more the Greek fleet
threw itself on the Turkish squadron, and endeavoured to
drive it from its position before the town. Once more the
devoted garrison repulsed the assaults which Ibrahim made
on the defences. The Turkish ships, however, momentarily
driven from their posts, returned again in overwhelming force.
The Egyptian commander, disconcerted in his direct attacks,
drew his approaches closer than ever round the town. The
besiegers, secure in their communications, waited patiently
within their lines; the besieged, worn out with famine and
toil, saw the inevitable end coming nearer and nearer. A



Digitized by



Google



i825 HISTORY OF ENGLAND. 99

final sortie of the entire garrison, suggested by despair, failed
in its object The Turkish troops rushed into the defenceless
town, and made themselves masters of it Three or four
thousand women and children, the survivors of the siege, were
swept into slavery. The men who had not perished in actual
fighting were massacred in the streets.

The Greek cause had now passed through all the phases
which were calculated to excite the sympathy of the world.
The unexpected success, which had attended their earlier
operations, had won for the Greeks the respect of Europe.
Men who could contend on equal terms with the whole power
of Mohammed seemed entitled to independence. But if
their earlier successes excited admiration, their later reverses
awakened unbounded sympathy. The brave Christian nation,
which had been on the eve of acquiring its independence,
was being crushed by an irresistible force of Asiatic and
African soldiers. The sympathy of England had sympathy
always been given to brave men struggling for SSlksIn
freedom; and neither a traditional alliance with ^"**'n-
Turkey, nor jealousy of Russian influence in Greece, could
subdue the admiration which was everywhere expressed for
the Greeks.^ The British Government, to a certain extent,
shared the feelings of the nation ; and Canning, in particular,
excited the anxiety of his colleagues by his evident desire
**to take a part for the Greeks."^ Whatever Canning's feeling
may have been, however, he observed a strict neutrality. The
Greeks were recognised as belligerents, but as belligerents
only; and strict orders were issued to the British fleet to

1 It is humiliating to an Englishnnan to be compelled to add that the
Pbilhellenes in this country had a keen eye for the main chance. Lord
Cochrane, who had returned from South America, was willing to place his
services at the disposal of the Greeks, on being assured a very large sum of
money and an adequate armament. The Greek Committee undertook to
raise the necessary amount, but the sum raised as a loan was grossly mis-
applied. Those who are curious to read an account of the discreditable
conduct of English gentlemen will find the particulars in the Annual Register,
1826, Hist, pp. 374-376. Cf. Moore's attack on Hume, one of the trustees
of the loan, in '• The Two Bondsmen."

* See a letter from Lord Bathurst to Duke of Wellington (Wellington
Despatches, vol iii. pp. 402, 408).



Digitized by



Google



loo HISTORY OF ENGLAND. 1825

abstain from any act of interference in the war, and to confine
itself to the protection of British interests and British vessels.*

The Cabinet had good cause for anxiety. Canning hardly
attempted to conceal his sympathy with Greece. The Greeks
themselves, painfully conscious of theu: own approaching sub-
jection, decided in their distress to appeal to the only power
who seemed competent to help them. Russia was paralysed
by divided and irreconcilable feelings — its distrust of rebellion
on the one hand, its hatred of Turkey on the other. Austria
was applying to Greece the principles which she had enunciated
at Laybach, and denying that insurrection "by any duration
or any successes could ever grow into legitimate war." * One
nation alone had throughout the contest maintained an im-
partial neutrality; and, in that country, public opinion and
private aid had been freely given to the Greeks. The Greeks,
Th© Greeks 1" dcspair of defeating Ibrahim's trained battalions,
SSin^for passed an Act placing themselves under the pro-
assistance. tcctiou of England. Before the Act was officially
communicated to the Foreign Office some Greek deputies
called upon Canning to state that the Greeks thought it desir-
able to reconcile their divisions by placing some supreme
chief at their head, and were desirous of ascertaining the
views of the British Government on the subject of the choice.
The Greek deputies hinted that they would prefer some person
connected with the British royal family, and they suggested
the names of the Duke of Sussex, the most liberal of the king's
brothers, and of Prince Leopold, the king's son-in-law.

Canning gladly took the opportunity which this conference
afforded him of explaining the views of England on the
subject. He showed that it was impossible for England to
accept the offer of the Greeks; that its acceptance would
be considered as an act of territorial aggrandisement on the

1 Stapleton's Canning, vol. il p. 39a

* For the Austrian policy see Canning's vigorous despatch to Sir H.
Wellesley, Wellington Despatches, vol. il p. 503. Mettemich's opinion, quoted
in the text, suggests the answer in the old couplet —

*• Treason does never prosper. What's the reason ?
Why when it prospers, it's no longer treason."



Digitized by



Google



i825 HISTORY OP ENGLAND. loi

part of Britain, and would, in all probability, lead to a general
war. He doubted the possibility of Prince Leopold's assum-
ing the position which the Greek nation was willing to con-
fer upon him; he begged the Greek deputies to remember
that every step which Greece took to secure the assistance of
Great Britain compelled the British Government to make
some new declaration of its neutrality ; and he expressed a
hope that the Greeks would not consider it ''an act of



Online LibrarySpencer WalpoleA history of England from the conclusion of the great war in 1815; → online text (page 10 of 46)