BISHOP OF THE PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN AMERICA.
JAMES MADDEN, 8, LEADENHALL STREET.
THE following review of the present dispute between Russia and Turkey, and of the policy of England and France in interfering, is from the pen of Bishop Southgate, of the American Protestant Episcopal Church. It appeared in parts, in the columns of three consecutive numbers of the CHURCHMAN, an American newspaper published in New York in the months of March and April last, and was stated to be the substance of a lecture on the Oriental Question, which the Right Rev. Prelate was prevented, by a domestic affliction, from delivering.
Bishop Southgate, as an American, cannot at least be charged with allowing himself to be swayed in the matter by national prejudice or partiality. For many years a resident in Turkey, he had singular opportunities of observing the mode of its government and the condition of its diversified populations; and, on the other hand, himself a citizen of a republican state, he can hardly be suspected of preference for a despotic rule like that of Russia. If his preposessions could have biassed his judgment, they surely would naturally have led him to take the side of England. The Bishop's views, therefore, of this unhappy quarrel, and his fears for its probable consequences to mankind, may be well worth the perusal of Englishmen, who, as a nation, are perhaps more deeply interested in the present struggle and its issue, than any other people in the world.
Approaching the question in regard to both sides, apart from political or national bias, the Bishop could have no object in view but the setting forth of the truth--the burden of his Heavenly Master's message--when he publicly delivered to his fellow-citizens in the United States the following statement of his views.
London, Nov. 16th, 1854,
IN order to understand the question at issue between the Empires of Russia and Turkey, we must go back through a period of 300 years. It was originally a question, not between a Christian and a Mohammedan power, but between the two great branches of the Christian Church, the Oriental and the Western, or rather the Greek and the Latin. I will not go into a full sketch of the history of the controversy respecting the Holy Places, as the scenes of our SAVIOUR'S life and sufferings in and about Jerusalem are called. It will be enough for my present purpose, to indicate that from the time when HELENA and her son, CONSTANTINE the Great, built the church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, and that of the Nativity at Bethlehem, until now, the guardianship of those sacred shrines, and of others that have since risen in hardly less memorable localities, has been, at different periods, harshly, not to say fiercely, contested between the Greeks and Latins. At one time the Latins held possession of them for a long interval. At another, by treaty between FRANCIS I. and SULEIMAN the Magnificent, they were placed under the protection of France; and at another, by capitulations between the Sultan and Louis XIV., they were restored to that protection. This seems to have been in 1673 In 1757, they were brought back to the Greeks; and I cannot discover that any change has been made from that time till the year 1850. There can be no reasonable question that they belong of right to the Eastern Church, both because their original foundation was Oriental, and because they fall within the Dioceses of Oriental Bishops. But the question has never ceased to be a bone of contention between the Greeks and the Latins, even when treaties and conventions had clearly, for the time being, vested the guardianship in one or the other. In Louis PHILIPPE'S reign, an attempt was made to settle these disputed claims; but it was interrupted by the Syrian war of 1840, and was not resumed till 1850. Then, by commission from Louis NAPOLEON, at that time President of France, the Marquis de LAVALETTTE proceeded to Constantinople, via Rome, with instructions to demand the definite restoration of the guardianship of several of the most important of the Holy Places to the Latin Church. I cannot explain the extraordinary conduct of the Porte under those circumstances, without letting my reader into the secret of its habitual policy towards the European Powers; and this I will do in the words of an eminent official of the Ottoman Government, himself a Christian, which he once used to me on an occasion, when a matter of great importance to the interests of our Church in the East was under discussion. 'If you would have,' he said, 'a thread to guide you through all the labyrinth of Turkish policy, you must take this single fact: The invariable rule of the Porte, in all its dealings with the European Powers, and even in its professed reforms at home, is to stand well with Europe. It has no other principle of action. Dependent as it is on these powers for its preservation, for its very life, it sacrifices everything to its European reputation. Hence those unmeasured efforts, paid for by the Porte itself, to give it a good name in the European Press. You have no true statement of things in your newspapers. The facts are created, or at least put into shape, here, according to the pleasure of the Turkish Government. Here they are poured into the French and English Gazettes, and hence they percolate into your American Journals. It is all made up for the Western market, and in this way you seldom learn the real condition of things.' I believe this statement to be a true one; because it entirely accords with my own experience and observation, during a residence of fourteen years in Turkey.
It follows, from this view, that the system of the Turkish Government is a system of patchwork. There are no homogeneous principles running through it. At one time a rent occurs in some vexatious question which has arisen between it and some European Power. On such an occasion, the Porte does not go back to any first principle. It covers up the rent with the first convenient patch that is at hand. It accommodates itself to the necessities of the case, and gets over the difficulties as it best may, trusting to its good luck to meet the future contingencies by future expedients. At another time it has to retract what it has done. Then it throws the odium upon the ministers, turns them out of office, puts in a new set, and gracefully retraces its steps.
Thus, in the question of the Holy Places, its policy has been vacillating from the beginning, sometimes yielding to one European influence, sometimes to another. SULEIMAN yielded to FRANCIS I the Protectorate of the Holy Places. The Greeks succeeded in reversing the decree. Louis XIV. demanded a restoration. After a period, the Greeks regained possession. While minor contests have been going on from time to time, in which Turkey has always succumbed to the Power that was pressing the hardest at the moment: and when that ceased and the other retaliated, she has abandoned the first, and yielded to the second. Thus, in 1850,--she had first granted to Russia a firman establishing the status in quo, that is, she had determined and decreed that the Greeks should remain in possession of the Holy Places which they then held. In 1850, the Marquis de LAVALETTE came, and he came with threatening orders from the Court of the Imperial President, who was then rapidly expanding the form of his despotic power. For a moment, I go from fact to probable conjecture. The Marquis visited Rome on his way, and had an interview with the Pope. Louis NAPOLEON had need of the Pope's assistance in some of his designs. He has need of it still. The Marquis de LAVALETTE was instructed (this is my conjecture) to negotiate with the Pope the terms upon which his master should have the countenance of His Holiness in his political projects. The Pope bargained for the Protectorate of the Holy Places. Here ends conjecture, and facts again begin. The Marquis did come to Constantinople. He did put in a claim for the restoration of the Holy Places to the Latins. He did enforce that claim by certain severe threats. He did assert for France an ancient Protectorate of the Holy Land. He carried all before him. His violence and denunciation succeeded in obtaining from the Porte a firman transferring to the Latins the guardianship of the most important of the Holy Places. It is here that Russia first appears upon the field,, and she appears as the champion of the Eastern Church. She interposed her powerful veto. She insisted upon the execution of the firman previously granted to her. She, too, threatened; and in the eyes of Turkey her threats are bigger than those of France. She, too, succeeded; and the Porte, following its usual policy, sent secret orders to Syria that the firman granted to France should not be executed. It was not executed; and the Marquis de LAVALETTE, who had gone home to report his victory and to reap his reward, was obliged to hasten back to Constantinople to re-adjust the disturbed balance, and to resuscitate his dishonoured firman. This he succeeded in doing, and Russia found herself again baulked by the Imperial President.
At this point comes in the mission of MENSCHIKOFF. He was a special envoy on the part of Russia, as LAVALETTE had been on the part of France. Undoubtedly, his first instructions were to adjust the question of the guardianship of the Holy Places. I think there is reason to believe, that at the first these were his only instructions. At least, if he had others, they were held in reserve. He carne to Constantinople with a great display of power and pride. The Czar knows well how to deal with the Sultan. The noise of navies reviewed, and camps visited, of deadly preparations for war, of armaments gathering in the Crimea, was a fitting preliminary to the message which he had to bear, he entered Constantinople as it were in triumph, as the Ambassador of Louis XIV. did, when he came armed with the same demand. He was escorted by the Greek clergy--a sufficient indication of the esteem in which the Greek Church held this mission of MENSCHIKOFF--a sufficient answer, let me add, to the idle and improbable reports that the Greeks are unfavourable to the demands of Russia. He refused to recognize the Reiss Effendi, or Minister for Foreign Affairs, who, as he alleged, had deceived his master the Emperor, in the matter of the firmans. He demanded a full restoration. Here France yielded. Louis NAPOLEON doubtless saw that a contest with Russia would cost more than the Protectorate of the Holy Places and the friendship of the Pope would gain for him. He renounced the acts of his Ambassador, replaced him by a man of milder qualities, and yielded to the re-establishment of the status in quo ante bellum, the condition of things which prevailed before this war of diplomatic papers began.
Thus far the mission of MENSCHIKOFF was successful. He gained that which apparently he came for. But he did not return. He remained at Constantinople; and the rumour soon arose that he was pressing other and more important demands. Amidst the smoke of surmise and doubt and conjecture, we could not for a time see the truth. At last it came out, distinctly and in bold relief, that he had asked of Turkey the Protectorate of the Greek Christians, and that the Sultan refused thus to sign away his sovereignty. Now, it is a matter of no importance that I know of, to my readers, individually and personally, whether MENSCHIKOFF made this precise demand or not; and, if he did make it, whether It was a just demand or not. This, I say, is of no importance to us personally. But it is of some importance, if we wish to interest ourselves in the question, and to learn the truth respecting it, that we should free ourselves from every undue bias; and be prepared to look at the right in the case steadily and with unjaundiced eye. I think that the demand of Russia was a just one, and ought to have been granted; and if my readers will have patience with me, I will endeavour to make this position as clear to their minds as it is to my own.
We have little information of the grounds upon which Prince MENSCHIKOFF urged his demand. But we do know two things; first, what was the precise character of the demand; and secondly, what was the nature of the stipulation which he required concerning it. He did not demand formally that Russia should be acknowledged as the Protector of the Greek Christians, subjects of the Sultan. He did demand that Turkey should pledge herself, by convention with Russia, that the ancient immunities and privileges of the Greek Church should be secured to it for all time to come. This was the demand precisely. It did not make Russia in form the Protector of the Greek Church; but it made her so virtually and in reality; since the convention, being made with Russia as a treaty stipulation, she could at all times call for the fulfilment of it, and any violation of the ancient privileges of the Greek Church would be a violation of a compact with Russia. Still, the want of a formal recognition of Russia as Protector, and under that name, is a fact of importance, us I will presently endeavour to show.
Of the second point,--the nature of the contract which Russia required of Turkey,--it is enough to say, that Prince MENSCHIKOFF repeatedly lowered his demand, first, requiring a convention, the highest form of diplomatic contract; next, if I rightly remember (but the point is of no importance), a Vizerial Letter, in which the Grand Vizier becomes the contracting party in behalf of the Sultan; and, finally, a note from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the lowest form of engagement into which Turkey ever enters. Each of these was an important concession, as each one brought down the solemnity and momentous character of the stipulation to a lower order of engagement; as, for example, the honour of the Empire would be less seriously damaged by a future violation of a compact which stood only in the name of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, than of one, like the first proposed, which bore the royal cypher, and was issued in the name of Majesty. If it be urged that, after all, it is a distinction without a difference, that Russia would compel Turkey, as she certainly would, to abide by her contract, whether it were in the Minister's name or in the Sultan's, it is enough to reply, that Turkey herself places a high estimate of difference upon these different forms of political compact, and that her whole history shows that she has very different senses of obligation respecting them. A note from the Foreign Department is, in fact, one of her most ordinary and approved modes of temporary expedients; and it generally remains in force as long as the minister who gave it remains in office. Having had much experience in observing the courses of Turkish policy, I should say that the note last demanded by Prince MENSCHIKOFF was an utterly useless paper, excepting so far as Russia might have it in her power, from time to time, to enforce the fulfilment of it. The reader will see presently why I have attached so much importance to this matter of form.
I have said that but little is known to us of the grounds upon which Prince MENSCHIKOFF enforced his claims. But the veil of diplomatic secrecy has been raised in one or two places, and gives us an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the workings within. The first argument (which also sets forth the immediate occasion of making the demand), was, that whereas the Porte had deceived Russia repeatedly in the firmans relating to the Holy Places, the Emperor could no longer rely upon so insufficient a guarantee of the rights of the Greek Church, but would require a stipulation by treaty that these rights should not hereafter be invaded. Here comes in the gist of the question, flow could Russia demand any such compact from the Sultan with reference to the government of his own subjects? Was it not an arbitrary stretch of power, a violation of international law, an impertinence, and an insult, thus to require a weaker nation to promise that it would rule any portion of its people after a certain rule or mode? It certainly appears so--it certainly is so, viewing the question as now arising for the first time between Russia and Turkey, and viewing the sovereignty of Turkey as standing till now unimpaired towards all foreign nations. But if it shall appear that that sovereignty, of which so much has been said in a tone as of deep sympathy for the oppressed, be a thing of unreality, which Turkey does not pretend to sustain towards other Powers, if it be proved that Russia demands no more of her than she has voluntarily granted, and still grants, to others, the question, it seems to me, comes to wear a different aspect, especially if it can be shown that the Russian demand is intended to counterbalance a specific grant made by the Sultan in the opposite direction.
There is no Christian Government, not even our own, which treats Turkey as sovereign and independent. Since the battle of Navarino, she has not only existed by European sufferance, but has been governed by European dictation. Each one of the five Great Powers is free to exercise its dictatorship not only in matters affecting its own interests, but in affairs purely Turkish, and in the interior administration of the Government. Hardly a day passes that the Porte does not receive from some one or other of these Powers, in some shape or other, opinions and representations with regard to its conduct, which it dares not neglect; and these opinions and representations oft-times conveyed in language which one friend would hardly venture to use to another. This has especially been true since the compact of 1841, when, after the Syrian war, after the united Powers of Europe had prevented MOHAMMED ALI from reaching the throne of Turkey, when nought else than their opposition stood in his way, they agreed that the integrity of Turkey should be preserved, and that she should be taken under their united tutelage.
From that time to this, Turkey has been under tutors and governors; and a nation under tutors and governors is neither sovereign nor independent. This is a very important view in our present discussion, because it serves to put the conduct of Russia in its true light, whether that light be a more or less amiable one.
I have said that even our own Government does not recognise the sovereignty of Turkey. I will give an illustration of my meaning. I suppose that there is no prerogative of sovereignty more clear and undoubted than the right of a nation to execute its laws over all and on all who reside within its territory. This does not Turkey. No European nation, nor the American Government, allows the Government of Turkey to administer justice to any one of its citizens found in any district in the Ottoman Empire. If an American robs or burns or murders, though it be against one of the Sultan's own subjects, he is not subjected to the execution of the laws of Turkey. He is delivered up to the minister of the United States. Or rather, he is ordinarily allowed to go at large; for the Porte will seldom trouble itself to catch culprits whom it is not at liberty to punish. Hence it arises, that there is probably no capital on the face of the earth where crime is committed with so great impunity as in Constantinople. It is the sewer of Europe, into which the offscourings of the European cities, refugees from justice, blackguards, gamblers and murderers are found in reeking profusion. They rob, they murder, they burn houses, either with perfect impunity, or, at least, beyond the power of the Turkish Government to interfere. Any one who has lived in the Frank quarter of Constantinople, and has felt the necessity of guarding his house against the inroads of thieves whom he cannot punish if he catches them; who knows not but that it may be burnt down over his head, by fellows who can afford to do it for sport or plunder, because they are almost sure to do it with impunity, so difficult is it for a Foreign Minister to adjudicate the case, even if the Turks seize the offender, unless he has from his government, as I believe our Minister now has, a special grant of judicial power; who fears to walk in the street at night unattended, since, in the most public places, he is liable to be robbed without redress; such a one, I say, is little likely to feel any over-degree of respect for a sovereignty which allows these things to pass uncensured, because it has resigned the right of punishing crime in its own dominions, if so be that the crime is committed by a foreigner.
I might illustrate this subject very much at length, arid adduce other instances in which our own Government, perhaps almost from necessity, has followed the example of European Governments in not treating Turkey as a sovereign and independent power; while to those Governments it has been, at least for the last twelve years, by its own voluntary concessions, a very vassal and bond-slave. This may not altogether excuse Russia, in her late attempt upon Turkish sovereignty; but it is something for her to be able to shew that she is doing no worse than her neighbours are doing; and it is still more for her to shew that she asks for herself no more than is granted to others. This latter point I will now proceed to prove.
In the year 1844 (subsequent to the European compact of 1841), the Governments of England and France united in a demand upon the Sultan, that he should abrogate the Mohammedan law, which requires that a man apostatising from Mohammedanism shall be put to death. I will not carry you through the long controversy that ensued. It will suffice to say that the Porte evaded, by every device in its power, the execution of the demand. It represented to these great powers that the law in question was a fundamental law of the Empire; that it was a law of their religion, with which the Government could not interfere; that it was based upon a decree of MOHAMMED, whom they believed to be an inspired prophet; that it was, therefore, in their estimation, a revealed law of deity; that if they should attempt to abrogate it, the religious orders would rise in rebellion and incite the common people, over whom they had unbounded sway, to tumult and insurrection. But in vain. England and France were inexorable; and the result was, that on the 21st of March, 1844, the Sultan himself, in his own hand-writing, promised that the law should no more be executed. Compare this now with the present conduct of Russia. She does not ask that any law be abrogated, but only that the ancient and acknowledged immunities and rights of the Greek Church be secured to it in the future, by a written pledge. She does not ask that the royal word be given. She will be satisfied with a simple note from the Minister for Foreign Affairs. If she is thereby bringing attaint to the sovereignty of Turkey, what have England and France been doing? They are the acknowledged Protectors of all who choose to abandon Islamism. In like manner, and still more recently, England has demanded that the Porte recognise as a separate sect that portion of its subjects who have chosen to leave the Mother Churches of the East and call themselves 'Protestants,' and she has succeeded in the demand. The fact has been proclaimed, with much of congratulation, in this country, and the thanks of the principal Missionary Board in the United States have been rendered to the British Ambassador for his efforts. These are but illustrations, specimens by the way, of the sovereignty of Turkey, as exercised in matters cognate with that which is now in question. They may shew, at least, with how much of grace, England and France can talk of sustaining the independence of the Sultan against the encroachments of his Northern neighbour, and with how much of consistency wise men among ourselves are ready to excite a crusade, with the cross reversed, for the support of the Great Mohammedan Power of the East.
But we have not yet reached the true strength of Russia's argument. I will introduce it by an illustration. In the year 1841, I was the guest, for a few weeks, of the Syrian Patriarch, in his Monastery, in the confines of Mesopotamia. He treated me with great courtesy, and commended to my attention a question which had arisen between him and a sect of seceders, who had left his Church and joined the Romish communion. A large amount of valuable Church property near Damascus had been seized by them, and he had commenced a suit at the Porte for the purpose of recovering possession of it. The property was an endowment of the Syrian Church, and the titles by which it was held were as clear and as strong as any titles to property can be imagined to be. The seceders had got possession of it, and were using it for their own purposes, and especially for the purpose of extending their own sect in Syria. I promised him such assistance as I might be able to render at Constantinople; and, on my return, I took the matter in hand. There was then there a Syrian Bishop, who represented the Patriarch in the controversy, and urged the claims of the Syrian Church before the Porte. The question lingered in a manner altogether unexpected. The Porte acknowledged the justice of the Syrian cause. The documents laid before it were too clear to admit a reasonable doubt. But still it hesitated to accord justice. We were convinced that some hostile influence was in operation. Upon inquiry, it was found that the French Ambassador was opposed to a settlement, and was using his influence at the Porte to prevent it. I advised the Bishop to protest against this interference of a foreign power, in a question which concerned only two parties of the Sultan's subjects. He did so, and the reply was, that France was the acknowledged Protector of the Eastern Christians who owned spiritual allegiance to the Pope, or, as the French Ambassador was pleased to express it, "the hereditary Protector of the Oriental Catholics." In this character, he had interfered in behalf of the Papal seceders from the Syrian Church. In this character he was acknowledged by the Porte through the whole of a controversy which lasted nearly two years. And in this character he finally succeeded, against the plainest dictates of justice and equity, in intimidating the Porte so far as to prevent it from restoring the property. It is still in the hands of the Syrian Papists, and is likely, unless Russia succeeds in her present demand to remain there for ever.
I was at the time impressed with the conviction, that this Protectorate of France had no foundation in any formal concession made by the Porte, but that it had grown up unawares and by degrees from the old habit the Catholic Majesties of France had had of interfering in behalf of Oriental Papists. I had known that it was a pretence of long standing, that the Latin missions in the East had found shelter under the protection of it, and that it had now come to be practically and fully acknowledged by the Porte. It was an established and undisputed Protectorate. The British Ambassador, with whom I conferred upon the subject, and who aided the Syrians in their suit, but without any of the advantage which his French colleague derived from the right of protection, was of the same opinion with myself, that France could show no documentary basis for such a claim. The plea was, therefore, put in, at one period of the suit, that France was exercising this Protectorate without any just title. But, on the one hand, the Porte was not at all disposed to listen to the plea, because France certainly had what is a final and unanswerable argument with an Oriental, the argument of custom,--she had always been doing it, and that was enough,--and, on the other, the French Ambassador did deign to send to the Porte some document in which such a grant was made. The poor Bishop, when he came home, thoroughly disheartened, from this interview, told me that the document presented was some 150 years old, but he could not understand the exact tenor of it. I afterwards discovered its meaning. It was, I presume, a copy of the treaty, or code of capitulations, granted by the Sultan to Louis XIV. of France, in 1673, in which I find these several concessions, first, 'that the King of France be recognised the sole Protector of the Catholics,' (that is, of the Oriental Romanists, subjects of the Sultan,) 'in the East;' secondly, that Churches be erected or repaired [by them] without the previous authorisation of the Porte;' and thirdly, 'that the Holy Shrines shall be restored to the possession of the Latins, because they were conquered by Frenchmen in the Crusades.'
Here we have, at full length, an acknowledged Protectorate of the Latin schismatics in the East, a Protectorate tot verbis; a change in the fundamental law of the Empire and of Mohammedanism which forbids the increase of Christian Churches; this law abrogated in behalf of the Papal seceders from the Oriental Communions, while it remained, and has ever since remained, and, unless Russia succeeds in her present demand, is likely to remain, so long as the Turkish Empire stands, in full force against those communions themselves; and, finally, the possession of the Holy Places, the undoubted patrimony of the Greek Church, which, if it were seized by Frenchmen at the Crusades, was afterwards lost by them. These stipulations were embodied, with others hardly less important, but not bearing so directly upon the question now before us, in a convention of the highest character, as grants from the Sultan himself to the King of France. These stipulations have never since been annulled. They are still in force; and it is under them that France is acting at this day as the acknowledged Protector of the Oriental Roman Catholics, representing their interests freely and constantly at the Porte, and extending, by the whole weight of her powerful influence, the domain of Popery in the East.
Notwithstanding the last of these important concessions, the Greeks, about the middle of the last century, re-obtained possession of the Holy Places, and have held them, with various struggles, until this time. When, in 1850, France re-advanced her claim, doubtless in concert with the Pope, and to gain, as I have supposed, the favour which Louis NAPOLEON needed from him, that claim was put forward distinctly in her character as Protector of the Eastern Romanists; and when it was finally withdrawn, on account of the threatening attitude of Russia, at a moment when the newly created Emperor of France could ill afford to lose the friendship of the European Monarchies, it was declared by France, in express terms, that, while she was entitled by capitulations to a supremacy in the Churches of the Shrines of the Holy Land, she would not, from a spirit of moderation, adhere, for the present, to the letter of these instruments;' thus making her concession one of grace, and not of duty.
We now begin to see the real foundation of the difference between Russia and Turkey, and the true nature of the question at issue. Russia has been acknowledged, for more than a century, as the nearest friend of the Greek Church. She has been empowered, by treaties with Turkey, one of which, that of Kainarji, bears date 1774, to represent the interests of the Greek Church to the Porte, and to appear in defence of its rights; that is, she has been allowed to make representations to the Porte of whatever she thought might concern the welfare of the Greek Church, and the Porte promised by that treaty, to lend a friendly ear to her representations. This is the whole extent of the concession hitherto made to her. Under this concession, she has always,--at least since my own acquaintance with Turkey began, she has always been forward to do all in her power to defend the interests of the Greek Church, to represent them to the Porte, and to urge them upon the Sultan's attention. She has done this informally, as the nature of her contract with Turkey allowed, as a friend of the Greek Church, and as an ally of the Sultan. But she has never assumed, as she had no acknowledged right to assume, the character of 'Protector of the Greek Church.' That title has never been accorded to her by the Porte; and when her representations have succeeded, it has been by the influence which, at the moment, she happened to have with the Ottoman Government. Her stipulated right has been no more than has been, and is constantly, fully exercised by other Governments, (and, among others, by our own Government,) which have not the same terms of treaty with Turkey. England, Austria, Prussia, and the United States, all within my own knowledge, some of them many times within my own knowledge, have used the same privilege. Their representatives at the Porte have advised the Turkish Government with regard to the religious interests of some portion or other of the Sultan's subjects. The only difference is, that Russia has done it systematically and constantly in behalf of the Greek Church, with an eye ever open to its welfare, and under the sanction of a treaty. England, Austria, Prussia, and the United States have done it occasionally and without treaty, yet in practice quite as fully as Russia herself. Her only advantage has been that she had an acknowledged right to make representations, and they had none; but in reality the time has long gone by when any respectable Power stood in such awe of Turkey, or had such respect for her sovereignty, that it would hesitate to advise her on any subject of her internal Government on which it might please to proffer an opinion. One does it, and all do it; the frequency varying according to the occasions which they may severally have; while Turkey bears it with the exemplary patience of a Nation that cannot help itself, thanks them for their advice, makes fair promises of following it, and shirks them, when they are distasteful, in the best way that she can.
It has been said, and much importance has been attached to the alleged fact, that the Greeks themselves are opposed to this intervention of Eussia in their behalf. "We hear it reported, that the Greek Patriarch and other Greek Bishops have requested the honour of accompanying the Sultan to the camp in the spring. The present Greek Patriarch, ANTHIMOS, has held the office before, and I presume he is the same with whom, during that incumbency, it was my lot to form an intimate acquaintance. If so, he is a venerable, aged man, of easy temper, of mild manners, of inoffensive conversation. He is such a man as the Porte uniformly puts into the Patriarchate when it wishes a man to its mind: for, although the Greek Patriarch is elected by the Metropolitical Synod, its action is subject to the dictation of the Government, when the Government chooses to express an opinion on the subject; and its opinion, I hardly need say, is never disregarded. In the present instance, the Patriarch was put in evidently for the present emergency. He will yield to every request of the Sultan, he will issue documents declaring his aversion to the Russian Protectorate, he will accompany His Majesty to the camp; but, through all, he and every member of the Greek Church will see, and know, that their only hope of rescue from the domination of Mohammedanism (which they hate universally with the intense hatred that a thousand years of wrongs have accumulated), lies in the advancing power of Russia. I have not a doubt that the Patriarch ANTHIMOS, if it be he whom I have formerly seen exercising his office in full understanding with the Russian Ambassador at Constantinople, preserves an understanding with Russia still; and that though he may seem, from the necessity of the case, as he believes, to keep on good terms with the Porte, lest his people suffer from some outbreak of Mohammedan bigotry; though he may issue letters in the interest of the Sultan, which he regards as mere involuntary acts of office dictated by his Turkish masters; and though he may proceed with His Majesty to the field of battle, of his own accord, as the newspapers say, yet of an accord preceded by a private intimation from the Porte which he dare not disregard;--notwithstanding all this, he and his whole Church are as much friends of Russia as they were a few years ago; they feel their dependence upon her as much now as they did then; and they know that if Russia fails, in this contest, the failure is their own, the Oriental Church will be left without protection to the mercies of the Mohammedan, the tenderest of which are cruel. The contest began in rescuing their rights, which had been violated in the matter of the Holy Places. This was a great, an inestimable favour to them. The present demand is that those and all other ancient rights of the Greek Church be secured by written compact; and to suppose, for a moment, that the Greek Patriarch and his co-religionists are opposed to an agency that proposes to accomplish this for them; an agency which has given them all the protection which they have had the last fifty years, and which gives them all that they can hope for in the time to come; that they are willing, nay, desirous, to see Russia defeated in a matter which is life and death to them, a matter in which defeat would leave them without a single remaining safeguard against the encroachments of the Church of Rome, sustained, as she is, in the East, by the Protectorate of one of the most powerful governments of Europe; is, one would think, too great an absurdity even to be transmitted by telegraph.
To return. The true question at issue is purely a Christian question; and by this aspect of it our sympathies respecting it should be mainly regulated. However, as men, we might be conscious of a certain kindliness of feeling towards the Nation which is the weaker in the contest; however natural and spontaneous this feeling may be, yet, as Christians and Churchmen, we cannot avoid, if we would view it aright, the entrance of a higher principle into the consideration. It is really a question between the Oriental and the Latin Church. Divested of all collateral issues, it is simply a question whether Eastern Christianity shall have the same kind and degree of foreign protection that is accorded to the comparatively insignificant body of those who, remaining as before subjects of the Sultan, have seceded, or are the descendants of those who have seceded, from the Oriental Church to the Papal Communion. I fearlessly avow, that I do represent the true American and Protestant feeling and principle, when I say, that equal political advantages and guarantees should be granted to the two hostile Communions. If either is to have a privilege above the other, it should be in favour of the old established Christianity of the country. But even this is not asked. The demand is simply that the Greek Church be placed upon the same footing with the Papal Schism. France is the acknowledged Protector of the latter. Russia demands a similar guarantee for the former. Nay, though nearer to the Greek Church than France can pretend to be to the Latin, her demand is less than that which has been accorded to France. She does not ask to be recognised as Protector of the Greek Church, which France is acknowledged to be to the Latin sect. This is a title that covers a right to interfere, in any manner or degree, and on any subject that may have a bearing, however remote, upon the real or pretended welfare of the Papal Communion. She asks only that the ancient and acknowledged rights of the Greek Church be secured by written guarantee. She does not ask that this writing be in the highest form of diplomatic contract, as has been granted to France; but is willing that it be of the lowest and least formal kind that is known in international negotiation. She asks the very least that can be supposed sufficient to secure the Greek Church against the encroachments of its great enemy. Is there any injustice in all this? I confess that I cannot see it. My every feeling of truth and equity convinces me that the claim of Russia is just and moderate, and that it ought to be sustained. The Four Powers have virtually acknowledged as much in their Vienna Note? which accorded to Russia substantially what she had desired. How can they or any of them, go to war with her upon any possible pretext, unless it be that they cannot afford to see her extend her conquests in Turkey by the acquisition of territory? This, if there be a European war, will be the only ground of it. But it presents an issue entirely aside from the right and wrong of the question in debate between Russia and Turkey. And it is well worth while to remember, in case such a war should break out, (which may GOD, in His mercy to the Nations, forfend!) that upon the real point in dispute, the enemies of Russia in that war have acknowledged the rectitude of her cause, in the Note which they recommended to the Porte to adopt, and with which Russia declared herself satisfied, as answering sufficiently her demands.
But it is impossible not to foresee, that a European war will, in its results, greatly affect the question upon which I have now treated. It is impossible, I suppose, that such a war should not leave Russia crippled and defeated; for, however successful she might be when opposed singly to so weak an antagonist as Turkey, there is no chance, humanly speaking, of her competing with the navy of England and the legions of France. She will be defeated; and what thus becomes of the real questions at issue? Turkey declares that even her former treaty with Russia, conferring, as it did, very imperfect advantages upon her as the friend of the Greek Church at the Porte, is annulled by the war. To what, then, are the Eastern Christians left? On the one hand, to the powerful enmity of France, waging a religious war upon them through the ever-active agency of the Church of Rome, and, on the other, to the uncovenanted mercies of the Mohammedan. What a dire prospect does this present for the ancient Christianity of the East!
What a dire prospect for the cause of the Anglican Church in that quarter, which is, I believe, the cause of the purest Catholicity!* What a dire prospect for our common Protestantism! What a dire prospect for our whole Christianity, excepting for the Church of Rome, which will alone gain by a European war! And if there is a thought which comes over the mind, as we contemplate this possible future, with a more melancholy interest than any other, it is the thought that our dear mother-land, Old England, the Bulwark of Protestantism, will be found fighting the battles of Rome. For France it is consistent, it is to be expected. But for England! alas, alas! if the Cross of St. George is to be borne over the waters of the Mediterranean, not alone to carry aid and comfort to the powers of darkness which rally under the banner of the Crescent, but to inflict a wound upon the ancient Christianity of the East, from which it may never recover! Alas, alas! if in the judgment that shall come upon the nations, it be found that England, with the faith that she has purified through fire and blood, with the memory of martyrs clustering like a crown of glory round her head, with her primitive and Apostolic Church, derived from the pure fountain of the East, when that fountain sent abroad its clearest and most refreshing waters over other lands, England, Protestant England, the truest friend of the Reformation, shall have borne a part, and that the principal part, in sending back, upon the East the curse from which she is so happily delivered, in aiding the most aggressive Church on earth in propagating, unopposed, and with every vantage for success, the corrupt faith and worship which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear!
* It is a matter well worthy of note, that England, by taking side with the party that represents the Latin interests in this strife, incurs for herself, and, by necessary consequence, for the English Communion, the deep and probably perpetual hostility of the Greek Church. Indeed, every religious consideration seems to be merged in her political jealousy of Russia.