Studies in Literature and History
by Sir Alfred Comyn Lyall
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But the harsh measures taken by the Russians to bring the forest tribes under their authority were bitterly resented; and in 1824 two of their generals were fatally stabbed in Tchetchnia by one of several villagers whom they were disarming. This murder was avenged by Yermoloff, as usual, relentlessly, but it was his last campaign in the Caucasus. In 1826 the Persians, who had been incensed by Yermoloff's rough ways on their frontier and by his insolent diplomacy, invaded Russian territory with a strong army. The Russians were unprepared, and at first could only act on the defensive. The flames of insurrection at once broke out among the tribes; the whole country fell back into confusion, and the Emperor Nicholas, holding Yermoloff responsible for this disastrous state of affairs, reprimanded and recalled him. He lived in retirement until 1861, revered by the Russian nation as the type and model of a valiant soldier and a devoted patriot who won brilliant victories and conquered large territories for the empire. But on his system and its consequences Mr. Baddeley pronounces a judgment which in fact points the moral of his whole narrative, and explains the history of the events that followed Yermoloff's departure:

'He gained brilliant victories at slight cost; and brought for a time the greater part of Daghestan under Russian dominion.... He absorbed the Persian and Tartar khanates, and treated Persia with astonishing arrogance. But it was these very measures and successes that led, on the one hand, to the Persian War and the revolt of the newly-acquired provinces; on the other, to that great outburst of religious and racial fanaticism which, under the banner of Muridism, welded into one powerful whole so many weak and antagonistic elements in Daghestan and Tchetchnia, thereby initiating the bloody struggle waged unceasingly for the next forty years. Daghestan speedily threw off the Russian yoke, and defied the might of the mother empire until 1859. In Tchetchnia mere border forays conducted by independent partisan leaders ... developed into a war of national independence under a chieftain as cruel, capable, and indomitable as Yermoloff himself.'

The Persian War ended in 1828, but in the same year hostilities broke out with Turkey, involving the Russian troops on the Georgian frontier in hard and hazardous fighting, which lasted, with a great expenditure of men and money, until peace was concluded in 1829. From that year until 1854, when the Crimean War began, Russia had a free hand in the Caucasus, and applied her strength with inexorable energy to its subjugation. And it is to the rise and spread of the ferocious enthusiasm which Mr. Baddeley has called Muridism that he attributes the striking fact that the complete conquest of the country was only accomplished in 1864—that the tribes held out against the forces of the Russian empire for more than thirty years.

Muridism, in which this spirit of heroic and hopeless resistance by armed peasants against the Russian armies was, so to speak, incarnate, is a word employed by Mr. Baddeley with a special purpose and meaning, which he explains at some length. For our present purpose it may be sufficient to say that Murshid denotes a religious teacher who expounds the mystic Way of Salvation to his Murids, or disciples, who gather round him, adopt his doctrines, obey his commands, and cheerfully accept martyrdom in his service. Muridism, therefore, may be taken to signify the passionate fanaticism of religious devotees, of warriors who follow a spiritual leader and fight in the sacred cause of Islam against the infidel. It was this movement that united the Mohammedan tribes in a holy war against the Russians, who, as our author observes, had never gauged correctly the latent forces of the twin passions, religious fanaticism and the love of liberty—two elements which always form a very dangerous compound, and which became heated up to the point of explosion as the tribes found the iron framework of Russian administration steadily closing up around them. Any attempt to break out of this house of bondage was repulsed with inflexible severity. In this inflammable atmosphere, charged with ferocious suspicion, hatred, and superstition, one Kazi Mullah was elected to the rank of 'Imam'; and on his proclamation of holy war against the infidel oppressor the whole country rose and rallied to his standard. He was, if we may borrow Mr. Baddeley's description of the class, 'one of those strange beings, compounded of fanaticism, military ardour, and a nature prone to adventure, for whom only the dreaming, fighting, tumultuous, ignorant East, in its days of trouble and unrest, can supply a fitting field of action.' He came forward as a man sent by God to deliver the faithful from their servitude, holding in his hands the power of life or death, and those who refused to obey him or denied his authority were denounced and slain without mercy. Under such leadership the war spread again along the border, some Russian detachments were cut to pieces, and even when the insurgents were defeated the troops suffered terribly, for as no quarter was asked or expected none was given on either side. After some two years of incessant fighting Kazi Mullah made his last stand in a mountain stronghold, where he was surrounded by the Russian troops, who in their first assault were repulsed with heavy loss; but on a second attempt the place was stormed, and Kazi Mullah with a band of devoted Murids died sword in hand on the last breastwork.

Of the sixty men who stood by their chief to the end two only escaped; but one of these was Shamil, who became afterwards the most famous and formidable champion of the Mohammedan tribes in the Caucasus.

'His marvellous strength, agility, and swordsmanship served him in good stead. With an Alvarado's leap he landed behind the line of soldiers about to fire a volley through the raised doorway where he stood, and whirling his sword in his left hand he cut down three of them, but was bayoneted by the fourth clean through the breast. Undismayed, he grasped the weapon in one hand, cut down its owner, pulled it out of his own body, and escaped into the forest, though in addition to the bayonet wound he had a rib and shoulder broken by stones.'

Shamil had been born and bred in the same village with Kazi Mullah, whose disciple he became, and whose rules of rigid adherence to the strictest injunctions of Islam he adopted and enforced. He even attempted to put down, as a practice forbidden by the law of Mahomet, the inveterate blood feuds that divided and weakened the tribes, with the politic object of uniting them in the holy war against the infidels; and when the Kazi had been killed his mantle fell upon Shamil, who soon proved himself a far more able and terrible leader of fanatic insurrection. The Russians, who at first believed that the Kazi's death was a decisive and final blow to the cause of Muridism, soon found that they were grievously mistaken. Mr. Baddeley's narrative shows occasionally some disregard of orderly arrangement, so that the sequence in time and interconnection of incidents is not always clear. We gather from this part of it, however, that very soon after Shamil took command the whole country had risen against the Russians, that their posts were attacked and their detachments cut off, and that expeditions sent to seize the positions or disperse the gatherings of the tribes paid dearly for their victories, while they were more than once repulsed with defeat and disaster. Villages were burnt; the vineyards and orchards were destroyed; desperate fights, hand to hand, ended only with the extermination of the defenders by the exasperated Russian soldiers; and after one campaign, when the Russian Commander-in-Chief led a considerable force against Shamil's stronghold, he was content to conclude, in the emperor's name, a treaty of peace with the tribal chief, being 'compelled to retire by the total disorganisation of the expeditionary corps, the enormous loss in personnel, and the want of ammunition.' A treaty with the Russian emperor raised Shamil's reputation high among the tribes; while the slaughter and devastation inflamed his revengeful temper. When the Emperor Nicholas came next year to the Caucasus, General Klugenau met Shamil and tried to persuade him to tender submission in person, with the result that Klugenau narrowly escaped assassination at the interview. He was saved by Shamil's intervention. In 1839 almost all the tribes were united under Shamil's command; and the Russian Government, seriously alarmed, determined that he must be effectively crushed. In the story of this campaign we have a signal and striking example of the perils that beset regular troops who encounter fierce and fearless barbarians on their own ground. The Russians had a powerful artillery; they were led by experienced commanders; their officers and soldiers fought with astonishing courage and endurance. After several bloody actions Shamil was shut up in the hill fort of Akhlongo, and here the undaunted Murids turned to bay. It was a stronghold surrounded by ravines and sheer precipices, accessible only along narrow ridgeways. Mr. Baddeley has related in full detail the operations and incidents of this eventful siege. The first assault failed after a prolonged and desperate struggle. 'Only at nightfall,' writes an eye-witness, 'and at the word of command, did our troops retire from the bloodstained rock.' The bombardment went on 'until the castle was reduced to a heap of ruins, in which the heroic defenders seemed literally buried.' After a siege which lasted eighty days the place was at last taken with a total loss of 3000 Russians, including 116 officers, killed and wounded. The defenders were slaughtered almost to the last man; many women and children were killed; but Shamil again escaped miraculously.

'Vanquished, wounded, a homeless fugitive, without means, with hardly a follower, it might well seem that nothing was left to the indomitable chieftain but the life of a hunted outlaw ... yet within a year Shamil was again the leader of a people in arms; within three he had inflicted a bloody defeat on his present victor; yet another, and all northern Daghestan was reconquered, every Russian garrison there beleaguered or destroyed, and Muridism triumphant in the forest and on the mountain, from the Samour to the Terek river, from Vladikavkaz to the Caspian.'

By 1840 the Tchetchnia tribes of the wooded lowlands under the mountains had broken out into outrageous rebellion, for Shamil had established himself in the forests, and was harassing the whole Russian border. 'We have never,' wrote General Golovine, 'had in the Caucasus an enemy so savage and dangerous as Shamil'; and it was again decided to send an overwhelming army against him. The two first expeditions virtually failed. Between 1839 and 1842 the Russians had lost in killed or wounded 436 officers and 7930 men, and 'had accomplished little or nothing.' In 1844 the Emperor Nicholas had despatched large reinforcements to the Caucasus, with stringent orders to make an end of Shamil's 'terrible despotism' and to subdue the whole country. On his side Shamil mustered all his forces for an energetic defence. His mounted bands traversed the borderlands with amazing rapidity, rushing in suddenly upon the Russian outposts, waylaying detachments, and bewildering the commanders by the speed and secrecy of their movements. Count Vorontzoff marched against him with an army of about 18,000, horse, foot, and artillery. Shamil retreated gradually before him, drawing on the Russians, and abandoning his forward positions after a show of defending them. He had laid waste the country on the line of the Russian advance; so, as supplies were running very short, Vorontzoff pushed on hastily toward Shamil's headquarters at Dargo. This place, surrounded by forests,

'lay along the crest of a steep wooded spur of the Betchel ridge, nowhere very broad, narrowed here and there to a few feet, and consisting of a series of long descents with shorter intervening rises. Abattis of giant trunks with branches cunningly interlaced barred the way at short intervals, and the densely-wooded ravines on either side swarmed with hidden foes.'

Mr. Baddeley's vivid description of the hurried advance upon Dargo, and of the Russian retreat after capturing it, has all the tragic interest of a situation where heroic valour strives vainly against calamitous misfortune, and brave men, caught in a well-laid snare, tear their way out of it with the energy of despair. The six barriers of twisted branches were attacked and carried without serious loss, though at one point, where the path along the hill-top was narrowest, the troops fell into confusion, suffered heavily, and were rescued with some difficulty. Dargo was then occupied without resistance; but the army had only food for a few days, and Vorontzoff, instead of retiring immediately, resolved to wait for a convoy that was coming up from the rear and had reached the edge of the forest. But the force despatched to protect and bring it into camp had to pass again over the strait ridgeway, where all the barriers had been reconstructed; and the Russians again ran the gauntlet of incessant and murderous fire, losing one of their generals with many officers and men. There still remained the most arduous task of all, to force a way for the third time along the ridge with weakened and disheartened troops encumbered by the provision train that they were escorting to Dargo.

'The enemy were in greater numbers than before; the barriers had once more been renewed, and a heavy rain added greatly to the difficulties of the march.... On the narrow neck the advance guard found the breastwork of trees faced with the Russian dead of the previous day, stripped, mutilated, and piled up; it was enfiladed by four smaller breastworks on each side.'

Passek, a daring and fearless commander, was killed in leading the attack with other officers and many men. The foremost regiments fell back in disorder. Yet the main body, with their general, who charged at the head of companies like any captain, struggled along the ridge, fighting all the way, though the Mohammedans kept up an unceasing rifle-fire, and from time to time they dashed right into the Russian line. Nevertheless the predicament of the Russians was becoming hopeless, when a fresh regiment sent out to their rescue from Dargo threw itself between the exhausted troops and their assailants, and thus enabled them to reach the camp. But most of the convoy had been lost, the total list of casualties was frightful, and for Vorontzoff, with little to eat, surrounded by victorious hordes, encumbered with more than a thousand wounded men, the only prospect of saving the rest of his army lay in cutting his way homeward through many miles of forest. Mr. Baddeley's description of the retreat is intensely dramatic. After fighting every step of the road the starving and demoralised army was brought to a standstill, and was eventually saved from annihilation by fresh troops that arrived just in time under the Russian commander on the frontier, who had foreseen the emergency, and made forced marches to the rescue of his chief.

Thus the attempt to piece the heart of Shamil's country had been completely foiled; and Vorontzoff now confined himself to strengthening his fortified posts, linking up more effectively their connection, and improving his communications. But in this situation the Russians were acting upon the outer circle of Shamil's central position in the mountains, whereas their enemy held the interior lines, and could choose his point of attack. Shamil's strategy was directed toward keeping the whole Russian frontier in constant alarm, breaking in upon various and distant parts of the line by incessant raids and surprises, in order to prevent concentration of the Russian forces on either flank. He made a daring attempt to seize Kabarda, on the extreme west of the border, but was hunted out of it by the activity of Freytag, the general whose foresight and promptitude had extricated Vorontzoff from destruction. This desultory warfare went on until in 1847 Vorontzoff, having secured his base, again tried conclusions with Shamil, being resolved that it was necessary to reduce the fortified village (or aoul) of Ghergebil, which Shamil was no less determined to defend. On the morning of the assault the Russians, in their camps below the precipitous rocks, above which stood the aoul, 'heard the melancholy, long-drawn notes of the death-chant rising from behind its wall as from an open grave,' the sure prelude to a stubborn and sanguinary fight.

The forlorn hope rushed forward, but lost its way and suffered severely; the supports kept the right direction and made for the breach.

'A withering fire from hundreds of rifles mowed down the troops like grass. Their gallant commander, Yeodskeemoff, fell dead, pierced by a dozen bullets. The captain of the grenadier company strode over his body and gained the top of the breach, to fall in turn; the men were exasperated rather than daunted; a Danish officer, more fortunate and not less brave than his predecessors, led them forward, and the wall was won. In front was the first row of low saklias (stone houses) and, climbing their walls, the attackers rushed forward, when to their horror the ground gave way beneath their feet, and amid shouts of demoniac laughter they fell on to the swords and daggers of the Murids below. The flat roofs had been taken off the whole row of houses and replaced by layers of brushwood thinly covered with earth; every house, in fact, was a death-trap.'

Nevertheless the troops came on, and most of them got inside the village, but they were entangled in the labyrinth of narrow streets, and were obliged to retire. Another assault ended with another repulse, 'and the victorious Murids, driving the broken columns before them, followed until stopped by the bayonets of the reserve.'

Vorontzoff had now been twice beaten off by Shamil: he had been repulsed, and had nearly lost his army in the forests; his troops had been hurled back with slaughter from the mountain fort. Next year he despatched another large army, furnished with heavy artillery, against Ghergebil, which drove out the Murid garrison by a tremendous bombardment, but retired without occupying the place. During the next few years, though wild work went on as usual along the border, where a sharp guerilla warfare was kept up, neither Shamil nor Vorontzoff attempted to strike any decisive blow. But the lowlands were devastated by perpetual incursions and reprisals, and the forest tribes, placed between two fires, driven to choose between the Murids and the Russians, gradually transferred their allegiance to the side best able to protect them, and migrated northward across the Russian line. The uninhabited woodlands became a kind of neutral ground which neither side cared to occupy; and from this time Shamil's sphere of action was confined to the mountains of Daghestan. Then, in 1854, began the war in the Crimea, when according to Mr. Baddeley the Allies might have ruined Russia in the Caucasus by making common cause with Shamil and supporting him vigorously. But England and France were absorbed in besieging Sebastopol, and Omar Pasha's Transcaucasian campaign was undertaken too late for any effective result. Mr. Baddeley considers that in neglecting their opportunity of backing Shamil the Allies made a strategic blunder; yet we agree with him that this is not to be regretted. For the credit of civilisation it is well that they did not let loose the savage Mohammedan fanatics upon Christian Georgia and the peaceful Russian settlements beyond the frontier, to their own dishonour, and to the misery of the people whom Russia was protecting. Shamil did make one foray into Georgia, when a party of his men carried off two Georgian princesses, the wife and sister of the Viceroy, who were kept by Shamil in rigorous captivity and treated cruelly for eight months while negotiations went on for their release. His object was to exchange them for his son, who had been captured by the Russians some fourteen years earlier, had been brought up from childhood among them, and at this time was a lieutenant in a Russian lancer regiment. As Shamil demanded not only his son but a large ransom for the princesses, there was long haggling over the money, but this point was at last settled, and the exchange took place on the banks of the river. The princesses and Jamal-ud-deen crossed from opposite banks to the escorts appointed to deliver and receive them; the youth was then made to change his Russian uniform for a native dress and rode up the hill to his father, who welcomed him with tears and embraces.

The scene must have been strangely picturesque; and the whole story illustrates the accidents and incongruities of warfare between nations whose standard of morals and manners is entirely different. The abduction and brutal treatment of the princesses were altogether contrary to the rules and ideas of modern belligerents; but what would have been to the Russians a foul disgrace was to the rude Caucasian chief no more than a simple and justifiable method of extorting his son's release. On the other hand the Russians had bred up their captive at their capital; they had converted him to their own social habits and ways of life. And the sequel is instructive for those who have yet to learn how completely European education may incapacitate an Asiatic from returning to associate with his own people, how effectually it may obliterate the early influences of race and religion.

'The fate of Jamal-ud-deen was indeed a sad one. Brought up from the age of twelve years in St. Petersburg and entered in the Russian army, he was now a stranger to his own father, an alien in the land of his birth, and totally unfitted to resume his place among a semi-barbarous people. He had looked forward to his return with the gloomiest forebodings, which were fully justified by the event. As a matter of fact, there could be little real sympathy between his fellow-countrymen and himself; they soon began to look upon him with suspicion and distrust. Even Shamil was estranged when he found his son imbued with Russian ideas, and convinced of Russia's right to the extent of counselling surrender.' ... Nothing 'could reconcile him to the change from civilisation to barbarism; he grew melancholy, fell into a decline, and died within three years.'

After the end of the Crimean War the Russian Government could turn its undivided attention to the enterprise of finishing the conquest of the Caucasus. The preliminary work of cutting roads through the forests, throwing bridges over rivers and ravines, destroying the enemy's petty forts, and throwing forward detachments to occupy important points, was carried out actively during 1857; and in the next summer three separate columns, under one supreme command, drove back Shamil's bands, and took up strong positions in the heart of his country. The inhabitants, severely harried by the Murids, who maltreated ferociously all villages that would not join them, took refuge under Russian protection; and though Shamil made several bold attempts to break through the circle that was gradually encompassing him, he was compelled to abandon Veden, so long his home, which was taken in April 1859. The forest tracts were now entirely under Russian control, and the highland tribes were rapidly surrendering to the Russian commanders, whose strategy it was to avoid frontal attacks upon large bodies prepared to fight behind entrenchments, but to make resistance impossible by enveloping movements. In the mountains, which had so long defied the armies of the Czar, the local chiefs and their clansmen were now falling away from Shamil, who was forced to retreat hastily with a few hundred followers to his stronghold at Gooneeb, where he entrenched himself for a final stand, knowing well that defence was hopeless, yet resolved to die fighting. But his men were almost exterminated by the overpowering numbers which the Russians threw upon the fortifications in their assault. When the outworks had fallen, and the place was practically won, the Russian commander, who desired to capture Shamil alive, suspended the final rush upon the spot where he still held out, and sent him a message that his life would be spared on surrender. He yielded, and rode out to meet the Russian lines; but a burst of cheering from the Russian soldiers at sight of him so startled him that he went back. A Russian officer persuaded him to turn again.

'Followed by about fifty of his Murids, the sole remnant of his once mighty hosts, he rode towards where Bariatinsky, surrounded by his staff, sat waiting on a stone. Shamil dismounted and was led to the feet of his conqueror, who told him that he answered for his personal safety and that of his family; but he had refused terms when offered, and all else must now depend on the will of the emperor. The stern Imam bowed his head in silence and was led off captive. Next day he was sent to Shoura, and thence to Russia, where later on his family was allowed to join him.'

In the foregoing pages we have run rapidly over Mr. Baddeley's narrative of the long and laborious operations by which the Russians gradually made good their footing in the Caucasus, and at last consolidated their dominion. We have necessarily omitted many curious incidents and exploits characteristic of a deadly struggle between antagonists representing the collision of archaic with modern societies, the clash of two religions eternally irreconcilable, the deadly wrestle of assailants and defenders unlike in everything but their tenacious intrepidity. The story, until Mr. Baddeley wrote it, has hitherto been little known in England. Yet Englishmen should be interested in this singular and striking example of the obstinate resistance that can be opposed by free and warlike tribes to the organised military forces of a first-class European Government; for they are not without similar experiences of their own. And moreover the long contest for possession of the tracts lying between the Black Sea and the Caspian, on the borderland between Europe and Asia, had its effect in the wider sphere of Asiatic politics. If the Russians, in their wars with Turkey and Persia, had not been constantly distracted by the raids and revolts of the Caucasian highlanders, the consequences to these two Eastern kingdoms might have been much more serious. It will be remembered that at this period (1826-8) we were actively concerned in preserving Persia's independence insomuch that the Russians had accused us of fomenting hostilities against them. At a later time also Sir Henry Rawlinson, writing in 1849, when Shamil was still formidable and undefeated, observes that it would have been impossible for Russia, with her communications at the mercy of such an enemy, to carry her arms farther eastward into Asia, or to contemplate territorial extension in that direction. And in a subsequent Note, of 1873, he points out that not until after Shamil's surrender in 1859 did Russia begin to push her way continuously along the upper course of the Jaxartes river toward Tashkend and the Asiatic midlands. So long, indeed, as the mountains between the two seas were unsubdued, they formed an effectual barrier to the expansion of Russia into Central Asia; but when that frontier fortress of Islam had been captured, and when the Circassians had emigrated into Turkish territory, the onward march of Russia went on securely and speedily. Tashkend was taken and Kokand annexed in 1866; and soon afterward the communications between the Russian base in Georgia and the Russian garrisons in Turkestan were firmly established. Thereafter the flood of Russian conquest overflowed irresistibly the plains of Central Asia, until it was arrested by another breakwater, the kingdom of Afghanistan. It is true that the North-western Afghan borderlands were comparatively open and easily penetrable by an invading force; but beyond them lie lofty ranges with passes at high altitudes, guarded by a hard-fighting and intractable people, and on the farther side of these mountains stands the rival European Power whose policy it had been always to retard and obstruct the Russian advance across the Asiatic Continent. We may conjecture that if Afghanistan had been left, as the Caucasus was left after the Crimean War, isolated and obliged to rely on its own resources for defence, the drama of the Caucasian wars would have been repeated. The Russians would have besieged and reduced without great difficulty this second mountain fortress; and after another similar though less protracted struggle the Afghans would have undergone the same fate as the Daghestanis. The Czar's rulership, solidly established in the two natural strongholds that stand on either side of the great central plains, and command, east and west, the exits and entrances, would have been supreme throughout Mohammedan Asia.

That the Russian armies were forced to halt on the edge of Afghanistan is thus a point of cardinal importance, and it marks a turning-point in the career of her expansion. It also produced a situation that is the outcome of the different strategy adopted by England and Russia respectively, in circumstances not otherwise very dissimilar. For whereas the Russians had been compelled by imperative political and military exigencies to conquer and occupy the Caucasian highlands, the policy of the British Government has always been not to subjugate Afghanistan, but to preserve its independence and to fortify it as an outwork for the protection of the gates of India. It is due to this fundamental distinction of aim and object that the history of the relations of the British with Afghanistan during the nineteenth century, and of their management of the tribes on the Afghan border, differs widely from Mr. Baddeley's narrative of events and transactions in the Caucasus. Nevertheless in both instances the general situation presented a strong resemblance. The Russians, pushing their dominion down from the north to the Black Sea and the Caspian, were checked and baffled for many years by the woods and precipices that lay across the line of their march into Trans-Caspia. The British, moving up by long strides north-westward across India, came to a halt at the foot of the Afghan hills fifty years ago; and to this day they have scarcely moved farther. Here they were met by races almost identical in character and circumstances with the tribes of Daghestan, fanatically attached to the faith of Islam, profoundly influenced by religious preachers, prizing their liberty above their lives, and looking down from their rugged uplands upon a great military power that had swept away many principalities and subdued all the cities of the plain below. If the British had pressed onward and endeavoured to take possession of Afghanistan [which had indeed been occupied by the Moghul empire in its prime] they would certainly have been involved in a series of sanguinary conflicts, revolts, and costly expeditions not unlike those which put so severe a strain upon the Russian armies in the Caucasus. This, as we know, they did not do; they adopted the alternative of asserting an exclusive protectorate over the country; they were content to remain outside it so long as no rival power was allowed to set foot in it. Yet we know that even this much more prudent policy was carried out at a heavy cost. The British army suffered at least one grave disaster by the total destruction of a division in the retreat from Kabul in the winter of 1842-3. And the Afghan War of 1878-80, with the massacre of the British envoy and his escort at Kabul in 1879, showed us the perils and difficulties of even a temporary and partial occupation.

At the present moment, however, the objects of our policy have been satisfactorily fulfilled. The Russians have settled with us the frontier line between their dominion and Afghanistan, and have bound themselves to respect it. With the Afghan Amir we are on friendly terms, and we have taken up our permanent position on his Eastern border towards India, reserving to ourselves the control of the tribes within a broad belt of territory, otherwise independent, between the Afghan kingdom and British India. This tract is intersected by lofty ridges running parallel for the most part to our frontier, with precipitous slopes toward India, with a few practicable passes and numerous gorges formed by the drainage from the watershed, enclosing some fertile valleys along the courses of the rivers, inhabited by a hardy population that is broken up into manifold clans and sects by the configuration of their country. The Caucasus, as we learn from Mr. Baddeley, 'is peopled by a greater number of different tribes and races than any similar extent on the surface of the globe'; and it is precisely from the same causes, difficulty of intercourse between villages secluded in the valleys or perched on the heights, scarcity of sustenance, inbred jealousy of each other, feuds and factions, that the groups of the Afghan borderland dwell apart, become estranged or hostile, are at constant war with each other, and cannot unite against a common enemy. But while in the Caucasus this trituration of the people has produced a multiplicity of dialects, the Afghan borderers speak a language that is generally the same.

In Dr. Pennell's book, the title of which stands at the head of this article, we have a vivid description, drawn from life, of the names, habits, and peculiarities of these primitive communities, with many incidental examples of the relations existing between them and the British officers who are in touch with them on the frontier. Lord Roberts, in a short introduction that may be taken as a guarantee of the accuracy and authenticity of the volume's contents, tells us that it is a valuable record of sixteen years' good work by a medical missionary in charge of a mission station at Bannu, on the north-western frontier of India. And Dr. Pennell's experience, acquired in the prodigious enterprise of taming and converting to Christianity some of the most murderous ruffians and inveterate robbers in Asia, has provided him with a rare insight into their character, and furnished him with numerous anecdotes of their strange inconsistencies and wayward, impulsive nature. On the Afghan frontier, indeed, we may survey a situation that has frequently recurred in the history of organised governments, whenever they have found themselves in contact, and therefore in collision, with intractable barbarism. Immediately across the border line may be seen in the Afridi tribes a complete and living picture of man in his aboriginal condition of perpetual war, under no government at all, in daily peril of ending by a violent death a life that in the pithy words of Hobbes is 'poor, nasty, brutish, and short.' A few steps back into the British district brings us among men, often of the same breed and tribe, dwelling without arms in peace and security, pleading before regular law courts, learning in English schools, occupied in commerce and industry under the protection of magistrates and police. The contrast in morals and manners is as abrupt as the transition from the Afghan hills to the Indian plains. Such is the frontier along which British officers are charged with duties of watch and ward. Their business is to guard the Indian districts that march with the wild borderland, to prevent or punish incursions by the marauding tribes who have continued from time immemorial to live in practical anarchy. They obey no laws and acknowledge no ruler, though in emergencies they appeal alternately to the Afghan Amir for assistance against the British and to the British Government against any encroachments by the Amir.

The Afghan character, writes Dr. Pennell, is a strange medley of contradictory qualities, in which courage blends with stealth, the basest treachery with the most touching fidelity, intense religious fanaticism with an avarice that will even induce a man to play false with his faith, and a lavish hospitality with an irresistible propensity for thieving. It will be remembered how 'Muridism,' the spirit of religious enthusiasm inflaming political hostility, was stirred up by the Mullahs of the Caucasus against the Russians, and embittered the resistance of the tribes. The same elements of fiery hatred lie close below the surface on the Afghan borderland. Dr. Pennell tells us that there is no section of the Afghan people which has a greater influence on their life than the Mullahs, who sometimes use their power to rouse the tribes to join in warfare against the English infidels; and that a prelude to one of the little frontier wars has often been some ardent Mullah going up and down the frontier, like Peter the Hermit, inciting them to break out. The notorious Mullah Powindah, who is still a firebrand on the border, is reported to possess a magical charm that renders his followers invulnerable before English bullets. Whether he led them in person to battle is not mentioned; though he could hardly adopt the excuse of Friar John, who, as Rabelais tells us, made a liberal distribution of mirific amulets to his soldiers, assuring them that those who had firm faith in their efficacy would come to no harm. He added, however, that to himself the charm would be useless, because unfortunately he could not believe in it. Such an explanation would be coldly received among the Afghans.

Under the exhortations of these Mullahs their students often became Ghazis.

'The Ghazi is a man who has taken an oath to kill some non-Mohammedan, preferably a European, as representing the ruling race, but, failing this, a Hindu or a Sikh is a lawful object of his fanaticism.... When the disciple has been worked up to the requisite degree of religious excitement, he is usually further fortified by copious draughts of intoxicating drugs.... Not a year passes on the frontier but some young officer falls a victim to one of these Ghazis.'

It is manifest that this sporadic Muridism might become epidemic under serious and widespreading excitement, but the provocation that leads to petty frontier wars comes entirely from the tribes, who make predatory incursions upon the Indian villages and refuse all reparation. In every tribe, as Dr. Pennell tells us, the outlaws who live by raiding and robbery, and the Mullahs who detest the infidel and fear his rule, are the fomenters of crime and outrage.

The vendetta, or blood-feud, our author tells us, has eaten into the very core of Afghan life. At present some of the best and noblest families in Afghanistan are on the verge of extermination through this wretched system. Even the women are not exempt. In a village which the missionary visited he noticed that the houses communicated laterally by little doors all down one long street; and on inquiry he was told that some time before a great faction fight had been carried on between the two rows of houses. The villagers 'were always in ambush to fire at each other across the street. The only way to get to the supply of water was to go from house to house to the bottom, and in order to do this without exposure the doors had been made, while by common consent they had agreed not to shoot while getting their supplies from the stream.' Another anecdote relates how a British officer visited a petty chief in his tower, and would have opened a window to look at the country round. 'He was hurriedly and unceremoniously pulled back by the Afghan, who told him that his cousin had been watching that window for months in the hope of an opportunity of shooting him there.' In fact the chief was actually shot at this window a short time after the visit. From the universal enmity existing between cousins in Afghanistan the proverb 'as great an enemy as a cousin' has become a household word. 'The causes of 90 per cent. of these feuds are described by the Afghans as belonging to one of three heads—women, money, and land; and on such matters disputes are more likely to arise between cousins than strangers.' We may compare Mr. Baddeley's account of an almost identical state of things in Daghestan. It was split up (he says) 'into numerous khanates and free communities of many different races and languages, for the most part bitterly hostile one to another. Strife and bloodshed were chronic between village and village, between house and house ... and of many contributory causes none had operated so powerfully in originating and perpetuating this state of things as the elaborate system of blood-feud and vengeance.' And he gives one instance of a quarrel that arose from the theft of a hen from a villager, who retaliated by appropriating a cow. The retort was by taking a horse, upon which the murders began.

'The blood-feud was now in full swing, and was kept up for three centuries, during which some scores, some say hundreds, were sacrificed in the name of honour to this terrible custom; and all for a hen.'

But it may be more interesting to remind our readers that these feuds were 'in full swing' not so very long ago in our own island. A remarkable description of the state of the Border between England and Scotland in the sixteenth century and earlier has recently been published.[39] In a chapter headed 'The Deadly Feud' the author tells us that blood-feuds set family against family and clan against clan; and he quotes from a report submitted by Burghley to the English Government a passage in which the term is defined thus:

'Deadly Foed, the word of enmytie on the Borders, implacable without the blood and whole family destroyed.'

Feuds of the most bitter and hostile character, we are told, were an everyday occurrence, and were carried on with the most ferocious animosity on both sides. The feud was inherited along with the rest of the family property. It was handed down from generation to generation. The son and grandson maintained it with a bitterness which in some cases seemed year by year to grow more intense. It affected a man's whole social relationship, and gave rise to endless animosities and heart-burnings.

In fact the whole description in Mr. Borland's book of the feuds prevalent three centuries ago on our own Border might be applied to those now actually raging among the Afghans, with the simple alteration of time, places, and names. The comparison is worth making, if only to show that similar conditions and circumstances produce everywhere the same results; and that there is yet hope for the wild Afghan, if hereafter it should be his destiny to fall under a strong government that can enforce laws, though this is the fate which he most dreads. No axiom is more easily refuted by historic experience than the commonplace saying that men cannot be made moral by statutes; the truth is that respect for a neighbour's purse or person cannot be inculcated by any other method.

It was the political division along the Scottish Border that so long prevented the suppression of lawlessness, and when the two kingdoms were united it gradually ceased. On the frontier between Afghanistan and India the British Government keeps the peace within its own districts, but maintains only a fluctuating and ineffectual control over the tribal territory. Yet it is manifest that no permanent pacification can be accomplished until both sides of the line are brought under the same firm and civilised administration. For such a purpose it would be necessary, and would be practicable, to establish strong posts among the turbulent highlanders, to make roads, and probably to insist on a general disarmament, as the Russians did in the Caucasus. But the British Government has always been reluctant to undertake so arduous and so costly a task; though until some measure of that kind is found possible, the intestine strife and chronic disorder must continue; and in fact it is the natural and inevitable solution of the problem.

'No doubt,' Dr. Pennell observes, 'the Government desires not to make any further annexation of this barren, mountainous, and uninviting region, but it is not always easy to avoid doing so; and it is an universal experience of history that when there are a number of disorganised and ill-governed units on the borders of a great power, they become inevitably, though it may be gradually and piece by piece, absorbed into the latter.'

In short, to manage a country without occupying it is no less impossible than to steer a boat without taking a seat in it. The process of subordinating the Afghan tribes to effective control will probably go forward slowly and at intervals. It may be that when one part of the country is taken resolutely into hand, the rest will be overawed and quieted; but we doubt whether any other remedy can be found for the feuds and forays that from time immemorial have distracted this borderland, which has preserved the primitive conditions of life and habits that have long disappeared from the frontiers of all other civilised nations. Yet the objections to pushing forward our landmarks into these mountains are great and manifest, while the disadvantages of the present system are equally patent. The attempt to protect our subjects by a line of outposts, to adopt the tactics of stationary defence, varied by occasional sallies forth from our cantonments to pursue assassins or to punish depredators by destroying houses and crops, is to assume a somewhat impotent and undignified attitude, hardly creditable in the case of a mighty empire worried by mere highland caterans. The Indian Government, therefore, finds itself placed in a dilemma: to advance or to stand still is equally difficult; nor is any practicable issue out of this situation to be foreseen.

We are compelled, unwillingly, to pass over without the notice that it undoubtedly deserves Dr. Pennell's very impressive accounts of his intercourse, as medical missionary, with the strange folk whom he was trying to reclaim from savagery, of the risks which he faced with cool courage and self-command in his travels among them, and of his quaint theological disputations with arrogant Mullahs, whose invincible ignorance easily convinced a congenial audience of their argumentative superiority. His skill in surgery naturally invested him with a high reputation among people who were incessantly fighting—he had more success in healing their wounds than in curing their vices. His general 'Deductions' in regard to the present state and prospect of Christian missions in India are well worth attention, and with his survey of the existing conditions and tendencies of religious movements in India all who have studied the subject will generally agree. He lays stress on the delusion that to assault and overthrow the citadels of Islam and Hinduism, if such an achievement were possible, would be to lay open a clear field for the success of Christianity. 'Much more probably we should find an atheistic and materialistic India, in which Mammon, Wealth, Industrial Success, and Worldliness had become new gods.' Such attacks upon Eastern religion 'may for the moment win a Pyrrhic victory ... but they are at the same time undermining the religious spirit, the ardent faith, the unquestioning devotion which have been the crown and glory of India for ages.' The wisdom and enlightened morality of these warnings are incontestable. But at such questions we can only glance, although from one point of view they may be said to have an important bearing upon the main subject of this article.

In conclusion, we may observe that the frontiers of European dominion in Asia are the battleground upon which the forces of archaic and modern societies meet in arms for decisive conflict. In the ancient world the contest was only ethnical and political; the rude tribes were coerced into amalgamation with an expanding State, far superior in power and usually more humane. 'The nations of the empire[40] insensibly melted away into the Roman name and people.' But the antique polytheism had no fanatical element; the deities of the victorious Romans were often acknowledged and accepted by the conquered population. Whereas in these latter days the Russians in the Caucasus and the English on the Afghan border have discovered that in the passionate religious animosity between Islam and Christendom lies the mainspring of the stubborn energy and fierce hatred that so long held their armies in check, and that still prevents the establishment of even a pacific modus vivendi on the most important frontier of India.


[38] (1) The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus. By John F. Baddeley. London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1908. (2) Among the Wild Tribes of the Afghan Frontier. By J. L. Pennell, M.D., F.R.C.S. London, Seeley and Co., 1909.—Edinburgh Review, July 1909.

[39] Border Raids and Reivers, by Robert Borland, Minister of Yarrow (1898). This valuable work, founded entirely on the study of original documents, may be heartily commended to all who are interested in the political and social life, the customs and traditions, of the old Border.

[40] Gibbon.


The fourteenth volume of L'Empire Liberal, issued in 1909, carries M. Emile Ollivier's very interesting reminiscences of that eventful period up to the outbreak of the Franco-German War in July 1870. It contains many curious particulars of the incidents and transactions culminating in the rupture with Prussia that brought about the downfall of his ministry and the ruin of the Second Empire. Autobiographies by men who have taken a prominent part in the momentous scenes which they describe have often the powerful effect of a dramatic representation: the actors reappear on the stage; they plead for themselves; they give vivid impressions of the scenes; they repeat the very words that were spoken; they revive the intense emotion of the audience during the contest between those who are hurrying on toward some fatal catastrophe and those who are striving to prevent it. M. Ollivier's volume is the story of a great historic tragedy; the principal dramatis personae are celebrities of the first rank; on their speech and action depend the destinies of France, and the spectators are the nations of Europe. If we make due allowance for the fact that the author's main object is to explain and defend the part which he himself played in these important affairs, we may credit him with an honest desire to set a strange, complicated, and oft-told story in a clear light before the present generation.

M. Ollivier cites, in the first page of this volume, Machiavelli's observation that mankind at large judges those who give advice in affairs of state not by the wisdom of their counsels but by the results. He agrees that this method is not rational, looking to the haphazard course of human affairs, but he admits that the multitude can judge by no other standard; and he appeals to historians for an impartial revision of the popular verdict, founded on careful examination of the real facts and circumstances. Yet he fears lest in his own country the decline of patriotic enthusiasm, the cooling of military ardour, that he notices in France at the present time, may have rendered Frenchmen incapable of realising the hot resentment, the intense susceptibility to affronts, the element of heroism, which were dominant forty years ago in the national character. And he therefore has little or no expectation that the falsehood of legends which have been circulated regarding the events of 1870 will be proved, to his countrymen, even by the most irrefragable demonstration. All political parties in France, he says, have combined to hold their own ministry responsible for that calamitous war; he despairs of obtaining from them a hearing. He awaits with resignation the time when some inquisitive student of history may light upon a dusty copy of his book in the recesses of a library, and may set himself to explain how these things actually happened to readers of the future.

The story of the decline and fall of the second French empire has often been told; yet it may be worth while to remind English readers of the political situation in France just forty years ago. The Emperor Napoleon III., importuned by reformers and reactionaries, by those who pressed him to step forward into Liberalism, and by those who insisted that he must stand still, had at last decided upon making those changes in the form of his government that inaugurated the Liberal Empire; and on January 3, 1870, the new ministry took office, supported by the goodwill of the moderate party in the Chamber of Deputies and by the general approval of the country. M. Ollivier was recognised as its leader and spokesman, chosen by the emperor, and enjoying his particular confidence; though he was not prime minister in the English constitutional sense, for the power of issuing direct orders, and of overruling the Cabinet, was still reserved to the sovereign; nor was he always consulted in important military or foreign affairs. The complex and enigmatic character of Napoleon III. is becoming gradually intelligible to the world at large, and public opinion has lately been veering round to a less unfavourable conclusion upon it than heretofore. He had long been reviled as a truculent despot, artful and dangerous, powerful and perfidious; the genius of Victor Hugo had set on him a brand of infamy. In reality, if we may trust later French writers, there was much that was good in his nature, and they are disposed to regard him with compassion. M. de la Gorce says that throughout his life Napoleon had been a humane prince. From the entertaining memoirs of General du Barail, whose military services brought him into frequent relations with the emperor, we should draw the impression that the emperor was affable, considerate, and sincerely well-intentioned. Giuseppe Pasolini, the Italian statesman, found him simple and easy in conversation, naturally right-minded and kindly,[42] though weak and irresolute. He was equally capable of forming bold projects or adopting cautious decisions; but he was apt to hesitate and turn round at the moment for action; and it was just here that he was so unlike his uncle, Napoleon I., who would have classed him among the ideologues whom he despised. He invented the theory of nationalities to justify his polity of encouraging the unification of Italy, and of permitting the aggrandisement of Germany; in the former instance he alienated the Italians by refusing obstinately to allow them to occupy Rome; in the latter case his neutrality when Prussia attacked Austria in 1866 was the proximate cause of his ruin. He might have read in Machiavelli's Principe a warning of the danger of standing aside when the neighbouring potentates come to blows. The result, it is there said, is that the winner in such a contest becomes doubly formidable, while the loser resents your neutral attitude, and will not help you when the victor turns upon you with all his strength. Machiavelli declares that this policy has always been perniciosissimo; and so it proved to be in the case of the French Empire. In domestic affairs also the Liberal Empire took up a kind of half-way position, which was assailed by the extreme parties on both sides; for thorough-going Imperialists like Rouher asserted that a Napoleon could only rule by retaining absolute authority; while uncompromising Liberals demanded full parliamentary control. Ollivier's ministry took office with the avowed object of gradually extending constitutional administration; but he found that, as Tocqueville had said in his Ancien Regime, the most dangerous moment for an absolute government is when it endeavours to introduce reforms.

General du Barail, in the memoirs already quoted, gives M. Ollivier full credit for his honesty, ability, and sincere patriotism in undertaking his difficult task, which was begun in an evil hour, and failed through adverse circumstance. In May 1870, Ollivier, who was holding the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, transferred it to the Duc de Gramont, foreseeing no troubles abroad, and desiring to give his whole attention to politics at home. The external policy of the ministry was decidedly pacific; they relied on a quiet moment for developing the new constitutional system; they had no notion of changing horses in mid-stream, yet most unluckily they were caught by a sudden flood. At the end of June it was announced in Madrid that Leopold of Hohenzollern, son of the Roumanian prince, had accepted the crown of Spain that had been secretly offered to him by Marshal Prim; and the news, M. Ollivier says, startled all France like the bursting of a bomb. It had always, we must remember, been a cardinal maxim of French statesmanship that the maintenance of a preponderant influence in Spain was essential to the security of France; while, on the other hand, a complete subordination of Spanish to French interests has been held by other governments to be dangerous to the balance of power in Europe. The collision between these two principles had been the cause of great wars and diplomatic quarrels. Louis XIV. only succeeded in securing the Spanish throne for his grandson after a long war. When Napoleon I. made his nefarious attempt to impose his brother on the Spaniards as their king, his pretext was that under the Bourbon dynasty Spain had always been a dependency of France; and it had been the invariable aim of English policy to prevent a close association of the two kingdoms. The question had long been regarded on all sides as one of vital importance; and in 1869, when some information of secret negotiations between Bismarck and Marshal Prim had leaked out, the French ambassador at Berlin, Benedetti, had warned Bismarck that France would oppose the election of a Prussian prince to the vacant throne of Spain. Bismarck had treated the information as an improbable rumour, yet he had carefully abstained from a formal assurance that the king would forbid Prince Leopold to accept any such offer.[43] It was therefore quite certain that in 1870, when the relations between France and Prussia were in a very critical state, the announcement that Prince Leopold had been chosen for Spain would be treated as a most threatening move on the political chessboard. Italy was under deep obligation to Prussia for aid in expelling the Austrians from Venice; the St. Gothard railway had been openly promoted and subsidised by Germany for direct and secure communication with Italy in case of need; and now the family connection which was obviously contemplated would bring Spain into the circle of alliances that Bismarck was drawing round the French frontier. It was a strategical manoeuvre that the imperial government was bound to resist. Within France all factions were for once unanimous in demanding immediate and resolute protest; and the clerical party, very powerful in that country, were especially vehement in denouncing the project of placing the scion of a great Protestant dynasty on the 'throne of Charles V.' M. Ollivier tells us that when the news first reached him it brought upon him suddenly and painfully the presentiment of impending war, to the discomfiture of all his efforts for the preservation of peace until the Liberal Empire should have been consolidated in France.

The plot—for it was nothing less—had been skilfully concerted between Berlin and Madrid; and even the parts to be played in anticipation of French remonstrances had been rehearsed. When Benedetti went to the Berlin Foreign Office for explanations, he found that Bismarck was absent at his country house and the king at Ems; and Von Thiele, the Under-Secretary, cut short his interrogation by replying at once that the Prussian Government knew nothing of, and had no concern with, the Hohenzollern candidature, adding that the Spanish people had a right to choose their own king. At Madrid, notwithstanding the French ambassador's attempts to check Prim's jubilant activity, Leopold's acceptance of the crown was proclaimed to all the foreign courts as a matter for joyful congratulation; and the Cortes were summoned for July 20 to elect their new monarch. To demand satisfaction from Spain would have been to fall into Bismarck's net; for the Hohenzollern prince would have been elected nevertheless, and if French troops had then marched into Spain the Prussian army would have crossed the Rhine, whereby the French would have been placed between two fires. It was necessary to fix the responsibility for these proceedings upon Prussia, and to act promptly; but the precise line to be adopted was the subject of anxious deliberation in the emperor's council—that is, in a meeting of the Cabinet presided over by him. Finally, Ollivier proposed, as he has told us, to speak out so plainly that Prussia must understand France to be in earnest, and to say that the Hohenzollern could not be permitted to reign at Madrid. Marshal Le Boeuf had assured the council that the army was in the highest condition of efficiency and readiness; and when M. Ollivier inquired whether, in the event of war, any help from other governments could be relied upon, Napoleon produced certain letters from the Austrian emperor and the King of Italy, which he interpreted as distinct assurances of armed support in the case of a rupture with Prussia. The wording of a declaration to be made before the French Chamber of Deputies was carefully settled—it was delivered next day (July 6) by the Duc de Gramont, and received with immense enthusiasm. Some objection was taken, then and afterwards, to its menacing tone; but we may agree with M. Ollivier that this outspoken warning to Prussia was at the moment judicious and effective; and we may admit that up to this point no exception could be taken to the procedure of the French Government.

M. Ollivier dates from July 6 the first of five phases, or alternating changes (peripeties), which the diplomatic campaign, as he terms it, traversed in its headlong course. They are successively described and commented upon in the chapters of his volume; and they may be here set down in his own language, for the guidance of our readers through the complicated transactions that ensued:

'Le premier moment est la declaration ministerielle du 6 juillet; le second, la renonciation du Prince Antoine (11 juillet); le troisieme, la demande de garanties de la droite (12 juillet); le quatrieme, le soufflet de Bismarck et la fabrication de la depeche d'Ems; le cinquieme, notre reponse au soufflet de Bismarck par notre declaration de guerre du 15 juillet.'

These are, in fact, the five acts of a portentous drama, full of shifting scenes and striking situations, on the issues of which depended the fortunes of France and of Germany; it was played out with ill-omened rapidity in nine days. In regard to the train of causes and consequences that brought France to the tremendous disaster upon which the curtain fell, diverse accounts have been given to the world by the leading actors—by M. de Gramont, by Bismarck, Benedetti, and, the latest by many years, by M. Ollivier. His narrative does raise somewhat higher the veil which has hitherto kept in partial obscurity certain dark corners of the stage upon which these things went on. We know more now of the precise motives and considerations, the personal influences and impulses which diverted the Cabinet, after starting on the right path, into leaving it for rash and perilous adventures. On some points of interest he is, indeed, still reticent, and on others his evidence is in conflict with different narratives; but in regard to facts actually known to him we may accept his testimony, though in matters of opinion we may sometimes differ from him.

M. Ollivier insists that Gramont's declaration of July 6 was altogether irreprochable; he writes that he has read it again after so many years with satisfaction. He admits that it contained, substantially, an intimation to Prussia that she must choose between withdrawing the Hohenzollern candidate and accepting war with France; but he argues that this straightforward and peremptory warning was justified by its effects; that Bismarck was taken aback and discomfited by the resolute attitude of the French ministry, supported enthusiastically by the Chamber of Deputies; and that Prince Antoine was thereby so intimidated as to compel his son Leopold to retract his acceptance of the Spanish crown. On the other hand, this stern language alarmed cautious deputies, and though it stirred Paris to a pitch of wild excitement it was read with uneasiness in the cooler air of the French provinces, where the prospect of imminent war met with scanty welcome.[44] The foreign governments were startled. Bismarck, in his Reminiscences, says that it was an 'official international threat, uttered with the hand on the sword-hilt,' From the Austrian chancellor, Count Beust, came earnest advice against marching hastily into Prussia; while the British Cabinet, in particular, doubted the wisdom of taking up such high ground, from which it might be difficult to retreat, at the opening of a grave and complicated question. And our ambassador in Paris, Lord Lyons, whose calm judgment and friendly counsels M. Ollivier acknowledges unreservedly, exerted himself throughout this critical time to deprecate precipitate words and deeds.

Simultaneously Benedetti, the French ambassador at Berlin, had been ordered to seek an interview with the Prussian king, and to impress upon him the necessity of appeasing the just indignation of the French people by forbidding Leopold to accept the crown of Spain. The king replied, as is well known, that he had treated the candidature entirely as a family matter, quite apart from the sphere of international politics; that he had nevertheless communicated with Leopold, and could give Benedetti no positive answer until he should have heard from that prince. If, as has been asserted, the king had been cognisant of Bismarck's secret negotiations, this reply was more evasive than ingenuous; and we may note that he immediately directed his own ambassador, Werther, who was present at Ems, to return at once to Paris. M. Ollivier scores the king's order to the credit of Benedetti's diplomacy, since it amounted to an admission that the question in debate was much more than a mere family concern. And he adds that he immediately urged Gramont to allow no more equivocation upon this essential point, but to press Werther for a straightforward reply upon it. It will be seen that this pressure was carried rather too far at the French Foreign Office, with an important effect upon the course of negotiations.

But at this juncture supervened the coup de theatre, as M. Ollivier styles it, which opens the second act of the drama. Olozaga, the Spanish ambassador at Paris, had been left in complete ignorance of the privy correspondence between Prim and Bismarck for procuring the nomination of a king from the Hohenzollern family, and this sudden revelation of its result by no means pleased him. He proposed to the Emperor Napoleon to despatch to Prince Antoine at Sigmaringen (in Prussian territory) an agent of his own, who should use every effort to convince the prince that his son must be imperatively commanded to withdraw his acceptance of Prim's offer. The emperor, whose sincere wish was for peace, consented willingly, and the mission was entirely successful. By long and strenuous argument the envoy had finally persuaded the father that his son, Leopold, would find himself in a precarious position on the Spanish throne, with France alienated and openly hostile; and the result was that Prince Antoine not only laid on his son a positive command to withdraw, but also telegraphed the decision to the principal German newspapers, to Olozaga at Paris, and to Madrid. According to M. Ollivier, Bismarck felt the blow keenly; it shattered his carefully organised plans; he found himself baffled and humiliated; he has himself said that his first thought was to resign office.[45] To the king, on the other hand, the news brought welcome relief; he supposed that he had now only to await Prince Antoine's letter confirming the public telegram, when the dispute would naturally drop with the disappearance of its cause. This was, moreover, the expectation at that moment of the French emperor, who observed that, if France and England were preparing to fight for the possession of an island in the Channel, it would be absurd to go to war after discovering that the island had sunk to the bottom of the sea.

In those days, M. Ollivier explains, any telegram of political interest that passed over the Paris wires was communicated, by special arrangement, to the Ministere de l'Interieur; and accordingly he received a copy of Prince Antoine's message to Olozaga before it reached its address. The contents filled him with exultation—he could feel no doubt that peace had now been triumphantly secured, mainly by the unflinching tone of the Cabinet's declaration. He carried the paper with him to the Chamber, where Olozaga rushed up to him in the lobby, drew him into a corner, read to him with much obvious excitement the telegram which Ollivier had already in his pocket, and hurried on to the Foreign Office. Naturally the incident aroused general curiosity; the deputies surrounded the minister, and eagerly pressed him for information. M. Ollivier tells us that he hesitated for some time before divulging his secret; but that on the whole he found no good reason for withholding news that would certainly appear within a few hours in the evening papers, so he read out the telegram to all present. We believe that few men, who had not been trained by experience to the cautious habits of official life, would have done otherwise. But M. de la Gorce[46] has pointed out that the chief minister ought to have kept silence until the renunciation had been approved and confirmed by the King of Prussia, who was in hourly expectation of Prince Antoine's letter, and whose acquiescence, transmitted through Benedetti to the French Government, would have probably brought the whole affair to an honourable termination. It may be objected that this is to argue from consequences, since known, which could hardly be foreseen at the moment; yet one must admit that reticence would have been preferable, for we have to remember that M. Ollivier was disclosing a telegram intercepted, so to speak, on its passage to a foreign embassy, thereby forestalling not only the Spanish ambassador but also the French Foreign Office.

The news ran round the Palais Legislatif, inside and outside, and spread through Paris with electrical rapidity.

'En meme temps debouchait du Palais Legislatif une bande agitee; c'etait a qui envahirait les fiacres de la place, a qui les escaladerait, a qui les prendrait d'assaut. A la Bourse, criaient les hommes d'affaires; nous doublons le prix de la course, et au triple galop. Parmi les journalistes, meme empressement et concert de meme nature, et on voyait les haridelles de la place sortir l'une apres l'autre et s'elancer rapides comme des fleches.'

Apparently all this stir and hurry had already affected M. Ollivier with some misgivings; for when, on going into one of the committee-rooms, he met Gressier, formerly a minister, he assured him that he (Ollivier) had no intention of making the renunciation a stepping-stone toward further demands. 'To take up that ground,' replied Gressier, 'will be a proof of courage, but it will bring down your ministry, for the country will never be content with this degree of satisfaction.' M. Ollivier soon found that he was right; for a crowd of deputies began to protest against the faint-heartedness of a government that seemed willing to drop the whole affair, leaving Prussia to escape scot-free; and M. Ollivier had scarcely entered the Chamber when Clement Duvernois rose with an interpellation asking what guarantees the Cabinet proposed to require for the purpose of restraining Prussia from inventing more complications of this sort.

Olozaga had taken his telegram to M. de Gramont, who by no means shared M. Ollivier's joy over it. He observed that the effect was rather to embarrass his negotiations with Prussia, since that government could now make the renunciation a pretext for disowning the responsibility which he desired to fix upon the king with regard to the whole business; and, moreover, he added, public opinion in France will consider such a conclusion unsatisfactory. He was at that moment engaged in colloquy with Werther, the Prussian ambassador, who had presented himself at the Foreign Office, where presently M. Ollivier joined them, Olozaga having departed. What followed is treated by some French writers as the most ill-conceived of all the false moves made by the French players in this hazardous diplomatic game. Gramont had been urging Werther to advise the Prussian king to write a letter to the emperor, to the effect that in authorising the acceptance of the Spanish throne by Leopold he had no idea of giving umbrage to France; that the king associated himself with the prince's renunciation, and hoped that all causes of misunderstanding between the two governments were thereby removed. Gramont sketched out what he thought the king might say, and actually made over his note to the Prussian ambassador, by way of aide-memoire; precisely as in 1867 Benedetti had trusted Bismarck with his draft of the secret treaty proposed for the annexation of Belgium to France, which Bismarck afterwards published in the Times of July 1870. M. Ollivier, who agreed with and supported Gramont, now maintains that his arrival changed the character of the conference, that it ceased to be an official interview between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and an ambassador, and thenceforward became merely one of those free unofficial conversations in which politicians explain their views without compromising their respective governments. But we are obliged to remark that in our judgment this plea is inadmissible, for M. de Gramont has explicitly stated that the interview, so far as he was concerned, was official,[47] and Werther could not have been expected to appreciate this subtle yet important distinction—of which nothing seems to have been said to him—while M. Ollivier should have foreseen that Bismarck would certainly ignore it. The result was that Werther did transmit to his king the suggestion of the two French ministers; that the king was deeply offended at having been required to send what he called, not unreasonably, a letter of excuses; that Bismarck used Werther's despatch to kindle national indignation throughout Germany; and that Werther himself was reprimanded and recalled.

The scene now shifts to St. Cloud, where the poor emperor, who had supposed that Prince Antoine's telegram signified peace with honour, found a military party eager for war, and hotly asserting that the empire would be totally discredited unless satisfaction were demanded from Prussia for conniving at the Hohenzollern candidature. The interpellation of Duvernois in the Chamber was cited as a forcible expression of public opinion. M. Gramont now arrived at the palace with his report of the interview with Werther, in which the latter had persistently declared that the king had nothing whatever to do with Leopold's withdrawal. The emperor's unstable mind began to waver; he forgot or put aside his arrangement with M. Ollivier—that the ministers should meet him next morning for consultation over this new aspect of the affair—and he proceeded then and there to hold a Cabinet Council.

What passed at this Council has never been exactly known. The reproach of a ruinous blunder lies heavy on those who took part in it. Gramont says no more than that the deliberations were conscientious, and that every one, including the emperor, earnestly desired peace.[48] M. Ollivier tells us, in the volume now before us, that of all the Cabinet ministers the Duc de Gramont alone was summoned; whether he learnt subsequently who were also present, and what share they took in promoting the decision, he leaves his readers to guess. It is clear that the proceeding was irregular and totally unconstitutional, and other French writers hint that Gramont's silence is intended to shield une personne auguste from responsibility for a decision that was fatally wrong. When the Council broke up at 7 P. M. (July 12) Gramont immediately despatched from the Foreign Office his famous telegram to Benedetti at Ems, instructing him to require from the Prussian king a positive assurance that he would not authorise the renewal of Leopold's candidature—a demand, in short, for guarantees. At his office he met Lord Lyons, to whom he expounded his reasons for treating the single renunciation as inadequate, to the great surprise of our ambassador, who objected so strenuously to Gramont's views and intentions that the minister, somewhat shaken, merely said that the formal decision would be made public next morning. While the emperor and two councillors were then taking irrevocable steps toward a collision, and were unconsciously playing into the hands of their arch-enemy, the leaders of the warlike faction in the Chamber and the Parisian press were clamouring with fury and vitriolic sarcasm against a faint-hearted and contemptible ministry that shrank from seizing the opportunity of humbling Prussia.

Again the scene changes, this time to the Foreign Office, where M. Ollivier, in total ignorance of that evening's Council at St. Cloud, sought and found the Duc de Gramont about midnight. He had come to ask whether any fresh news had been received from Benedetti at Ems; and Gramont answered by showing him the telegram just despatched by the Council's order to Benedetti, with a letter to himself from the emperor desiring that its language should be stiffened. Naturally M. Ollivier could hardly control his resentment at discovering that an extremely grave resolution had been adopted and acted upon without consulting or even warning him beforehand; that the emperor, in spite of his promises to govern constitutionally, had reverted to such an extreme use of autocratic power; and that Gramont had made no attempt to check it, had even abetted the irregularity. However, the telegram had gone to Ems—it was too late to remedy that mischief—but the Cabinet would have to answer before the Chamber for its despatch. He said to Gramont:

'On va vous accuser d'avoir premedite la guerre et de n'avoir vu dans l'incident Hohenzollern qu'un pretexte de la provocation. N'accentuez pas votre premiere depeche comme vous le prescrit l'Empereur, attenuez la. Benedetti aura deja accompli sa mission lorsque cette attenuation lui parviendra, mais devant la Chambre vous y trouverez un argument pour etablir vos intentions pacifiques.'[49]

And he at once drafted a telegram instructing Benedetti to require from the king no more than that he should agree not to permit Leopold to retract the particular renunciation which his father had obtained from him; instead of requiring a general assurance against any future retractation. Gramont telegraphed accordingly, but in continuation, not in correction, of his earlier message, so that the latter part of the instructions to Benedetti was inconsistent with the former part. But this second telegram reached Ems, as M. Ollivier had foreseen, too late, for Benedetti had already seen the king, and had been urging him persistently to satisfy the French Government by conceding the general assurance.

M. Ollivier's description of the distress and perplexity that kept him without sleep during the rest of that eventful night will be read with a feeling of sincere commiseration. This, then, he reflected, was the first fruit of imperial liberalism, that the chief minister was slighted by his sovereign, ill-served and even betrayed by his colleagues, and committed, behind his back, to a most hazardous policy. He had been too soft-hearted to insist on making a clean sweep of the old official class in forming his Cabinet; he had thought to replace the decrepit absolutism by a young and liberal empire; and here was the personal power reappearing at the first crisis. The idea of having given the signal for war was abhorrent to him; he felt violently tempted to resign and retire. Yet, on reflection, to tender his resignation at such a moment would be, he felt, an act of culpable egoism, it would inevitably bring on the war; for the government would pass into the hands of a rash and impetuous war-party, manifestly bent on marching against Prussia if the king persisted in refusing, as on hearing of Ollivier's resignation he would assuredly refuse, the guarantees that had been demanded by the Council held at St. Cloud. On the other hand, by remaining in the ministry he might still command a majority in the Cabinet; nor did he despair of a majority in the Chamber to support him in cancelling, at some future stage of the negotiations, this demand for guarantees if he could recover the emperor's confidence. He might fail, but then he would fall honourably, having subordinated personal susceptibilities to considerations of his country's interest; so he finally determined not to resign office.

Our sympathies are unquestionably due to a minister who, finding himself placed, by no act of his own, in a situation of the utmost perplexity, resolves to take no account of his political reputation and personal interests, and to choose the course that he believes to be necessary, in arduous circumstances, for the honour and safety of his country. To a British prime minister his duty would have been clear, he would have tendered his resignation immediately; but under the Liberal Empire the ultimate decision upon questions before the Cabinet still lay with the sovereign, and thus the responsibilities of his principal minister remained ambiguous and indefinite. Nevertheless, though it is easy to be wise after the event, our opinion must be that M. Ollivier would have done his country better service by resigning office; for though it is very probable that war could not have been thereby averted, yet unqualified disapproval of the demand for guarantees might have rallied to his side all those who, in the Cabinet, the Chamber, and the country, were undoubtedly opposed to incurring terrible risks in order to obtain pledges against future contingencies. Among the late Lord Acton's Historical Essays there is a remarkable paper on 'The Causes of the Franco-Prussian War,' in which the considerations that may justify Gramont's demand for guarantees are fairly stated. It is there argued that the Prussian king, who had first 'sanctioned' Prince Leopold's candidature, and afterwards its withdrawal, had left the initiative in both cases to Prince Leopold. He had thus kept himself quite free to sanction a second acceptance as he had done the first—'he held in his hands a convenient casus belli, to be used or dropped at pleasure'; remembering that the Hohenzollern candidature had been 'a meditated offence, long and carefully prepared, insolently denied, which demanded reparation.'[50] But one might reply that the best way of foiling these deep and deliberate designs, manifestly contrived to provoke war, was to give the adversary no such plausible pretext for driving France into hostilities as was furnished to Bismarck by Gramont's demand. It is evident, however, that in July 1870 all Paris was in a state of irrepressible agitation, that the Imperialists in the Chamber were determined to push the Government into a defiant and warlike policy, and that they were acting in the foolhardy conviction that the French army could beat the Prussians, and that a victorious campaign would consolidate the Napoleonic dynasty.

The next day, July 13, is an evil date in the history of France, when she was hurried into war by a swift succession and very unlucky conjunction of incidents. The Council met early, and decided by a majority not to call out the army reserves, although Marshal Le Boeuf energetically declared that if there were any prospect of war, not an hour should be lost in preparation. M. de la Gorce relates that four of the councillors passed grave censure on the irregular proceedings of the previous evening, and condemned Gramont's telegram. M. Ollivier says that it was resolved not to insist further if the guarantees were refused by the king, and for the moment to keep the demand for them secret, merely informing the Chamber that negotiations with Prussia were in progress. Ollivier took his dejeuner at the palace, where the household staff greeted him very coldly, and the empress, by whom he sat, turned her back on him. In the Chamber Duvernois asked in a surly tone when the debate on his interpellation would come on, and July 15 was fixed for it. Everything now depended on the issue of Benedetti's interview with the king at Ems, which took place early on the morning of the 13th, when they met as the king was returning by the public promenade from taking the waters. What followed is well known. The king was surprised and disappointed at learning from the ambassador that Prince Leopold's resignation had not settled everything; Benedetti pressed on him Gramont's new demand for ulterior guarantees; the king positively refused to give them, and parted from him coldly though courteously, promising, however, to see him again after receiving the letter expected from Prince Antoine. But in the course of that day came Werther's report of his conversation with the two French ministers, which the king's private secretary opened and carried, in some trepidation, to his majesty. The king was grievously offended; he wrote to Queen Augusta that to require him to stand before the world as a repentant sinner was nothing less than impertinence, and he sent his aide-de-camp, Prince Radziwill (one of the highest Prussian nobles), to inform Benedetti that Leopold's letter of resignation had arrived, and that, as the affair was thus completely ended, no further audience was necessary. The ambassador replied that he was particularly instructed to obtain the king's specific approbation of Leopold's action, and was therefore obliged to solicit another interview. The king replied by his aide-de-camp that so far as he had approved Leopold's acceptance of the crown he approved the retractation; but the request for another interview, though it was twice repeated during the day, was civilly and firmly refused.

M. Ollivier argues that Werther's report in no way affected the king's behaviour to Benedetti; he affirms that it made no difference at all, and that the king's determination to hold no further intercourse with him was entirely due to Benedetti's indiscreet importunity at the morning's meeting, which was witnessed, it may be noted, by a crowd of observant bystanders. We may assume that the king had at no time the slightest intention of acceding to the demand for guarantees; but it seems to us impossible to maintain that Werther's report, which was put into his majesty's hand at such a critical moment, and which undeniably gave serious offence, did not exacerbate relations which had already been strained, or induce the king to break off abruptly the personal negotiations with the French minister. And we may add that if Benedetti had been cognisant of this report, he might have understood the king's sudden change of temper, and might have spared himself some rebuffs. When the matter came afterwards to his knowledge, he declared that the effect on the king of Werther's report had been deplorable.

Bismarck had been telegraphing from Berlin to Ems that if the king accorded to Benedetti any more interviews he must resign office; and the news of Prince Leopold's renunciation seemed to cut away the ground upon which he had been manoeuvring for a quarrel with France. But his spirits revived on receiving by telegraph from the king a brief summary of the Ems incidents, stating that Benedetti's importunate requisition for guarantees had been rejected by his majesty, who had subsequently resolved

'de ne plus recevoir le comte Benedetti a cause de sa pretention, et de lui faire dire simplement par un aide de camp ... que sa Majeste avait recu du prince Leopold confirmation de la nouvelle mandee de Paris, et qu'elle n'avait plus rien a dire a l'ambassadeur.'

The telegram also authorised Bismarck to communicate this statement to the foreign courts and to the press, whereupon Bismarck gave it immediate publication, having made (to use his own phrase) 'some suppressions'; having, in fact, maliciously tampered with the text and falsified the tone, according to M. Ollivier and other French writers. His official organ, the North German Gazette, was directed to print off a supplement and to paste it up all over Berlin, and copies of this supplement were distributed gratis in the streets. A thrill of patriotic enthusiasm electrified the nation, who were unanimous in applauding the king in defying the French, and mocking at their ambassador's humiliation.

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