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numerous cases by overwhelming expressions of it in the country generally, which legitimately conveyed the wishes of the people to that body which is their Constitutional representative. When questions of foreign policy, however, have to be considered, the case is entirely different. It is the right, as it may be the duty, of every member of the Commonwealth, in a free country like ours, to express openly and fearlessly his views on what he conceives should be the policy of the government of the day as regards internal questions affecting the rights and liberties of the people at large. But between such an open expression of opinion on internal questions, and agitations of a nature to mislead foreign States as to the real feeling of the country towards them, there is a vast and most material distinction.
The reason of this is clear. In questions of home politics the views and conduct of the Government, and the general objects to be attained, with the means of attaining them, are patent to all concerned; whereas in matters affecting the relations of this country with other Powers, none but those whose duty it is to conduct the negotiations on the subject can possibly be aware either of their scope or their bearings. It is of the very essence of diplomacy that the details of a pending negotiation should not be made public; how then is it possible that the Opposition, which has no part in conducting the negotiation, can criticise and draw inferences from acts of which it can have no knowledge ?
As to the conduct of a Government in the past, it is, of course, open to the Opposition to take exception to what has been done, and to urge arguments against a repetition of what they believe to be errors; but they have no right to assume, while negotiations are still pending, and must of necessity be kept secret, that the reluctance of the Ministry to imperil the success of its policy by disclosing it to the public, proves that it has no policy at all, or one opposed to the general wishes of the country. Such conduct as this can only be in the highest degree prejudicial to the national interests. There is, however, another fruitful source of divided counsels which proceeds from a want of sufficient
information as to the facts which bear on our
may, in its
political relations with foreign States; and, in attempting to supply such information, I trust to be able to furnish some clear data for forming a judgment as to what should be our future policy in the present crisis.
The first point which it seems necessary to What is the make clear is, what is the Eastern Question, and Question ? how does it affect the interests of the various European States, and especially of England ? The term “ Eastern Question " broadest sense, be taken to mean, is the preservation of the Turkish dominion in Europe possible; and if not, who is to rule in the territories now under the government of the Sultan ? But it is usually restricted to the narrower issue of excluding those territories from the grasp of Russia. Much confusion has arisen in the course of recent discussions from the fact that one class of politicians in England have adopted the former of these definitions, while another class have looked to the latter, as representing the view of the question which is at present the only practical one. It must, indeed, be obvious, on a
calm consideration of this matter, that it cannot be the vocation of England, or of any other Power, to undertake the Quixotic task of carrying out an ideal re-organisation of Turkey; the inhabitants of the western shores of the Black Sea have no more claim to have their political condition improved at the expense of Europe than any other population which is dissatisfied with its existing rulers.
What each European power has to consider in this, as in every other case, is its own interest, ,
, so far as it may be consistent with the general good of the world. Now, the existence of the Sultan's rule, weak and incapable as it is, does not interfere with the interests of any European power; it is only an obstacle to the aggressive designs of Russia. The practical issue, therefore, is reduced to this: Are the interests of any European Power affected by the ambitious policy pursued by Russia in Turkey ?
Let us first consider this question so far as it concerns our own country.
It is admitted on all hands that it is of vital importance for England to maintain unimperilled her
munications with India. While Russia remains on the northern side of the Danube, our communications are tolerably secure; there is the whole of European Turkey and Asia Minor between her and the route to India, and she has no basis of operations in that quarter for her fleet. If, however, her political supremacy were extended to either the Asiatic or the European side of the Dardanelles, she would not only be able to send a fleet to the Suez Canal, but, supposing that it were intercepted by our ironclads, she could with her army march into Egypt through Syria, and thus both block the canal and possess herself of the nearest route to India through the Euphrates Valley. We could hardly hope to prevent such an operation, against so huge a Power as Russia, by the small military forces at our disposal, even if we had previously adopted the costly and somewhat immoral, if not dangerous, expedient of occupying Egypt; and if we allowed Russia to close up the Black Sea, we should render the great naval force we could otherwise use against her practically harmless.