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SPECULATIONS ON THE FUTURE-OUR ALLIANCES.
THE war-clouds have sunk, and John Bull is settling again in his easy-chair. He has done so somewhat reluctantly. With considerable effort he had got roused and into action, his old pugilistic skill was coming back to him,-heated with the "row," he was beginning to face about in all directions with wonderful alacrity, and was preparing to deal a good English body-blow at his antagonist, when lo! his friends caught him by the arm, and declared all was over! John could not easily be brought to see this. Game to the backbone himself, he was slow to believe that his antagonist would slip down on his knees in mid-combat, to avoid punishment; and moreover, he is so old-fashioned in his notions that he could not perceive the propriety of letting off, when caught, a disturber of the peace without exacting the smallest compensation for the damage done, or ample security against a renewal of the disturbances. Accordingly John Bull grumbled a good deal, and a momentary sight of his brawny arms as he put on his coat only made him think what little use he had made of his strength, and what a great deal he meant to do in the next round. However, all that is over now. The fireworks and candle-lighting which he regarded with sturdy contempt when announced as rejoicings for the Peace, he accepts with tolerable grace when converted into a tribute of loyalty on the birthday of his Queen. And so, the war ended, and his feelings composed again, John Bull gets into his easy-chair, and threatens to sleep.
And sleep he will. Not, perhaps, in the ordinary sense of the word; for the common herd imagine that when a man sleeps he is doing nothing,-which is a great mistake, seeing that Life is always active; and psychologists have shown that it is quite possible to carry on two different threads of existence by turns, the alternation between trance and ordinary life being sometimes just a shunting-off from one line of ideas
into another. Therefore, though it be far from us to imagine that the manifold activities of John Bull will relapse into nothingness, even though he do take to his easy-chair and smoke the pipe of peace, yet it is only to be expected that he will soon become oblivious to most things connected with the war and foreign politics, and will slide away into very opposite trains of thought and action. No nation, or ordinary mass of humanity, can carry out two opposite sets of ideas equably and simultaneously; and John Bull in this respect does not rise above the frailty of his species. If he has to fight, he does so heartily and with all his mightthough he take long to get ready; but when he takes to money-making, to buying and selling and the various pursuits of peace, it must be allowed he becomes peculiarly absorbed in his occupation, and is little disposed to look at anything beyond the limits of his farm or counting-room. He has fine instincts, which generally push him into the right course when critical times come, and he has also a dogged long-winded power of fighting which baffles the calculations of his more astute adversaries. John Bull is in no sense providus futuri. Like most of his neighbours, he gets too absorbed in the affairs of the hour to keep an outlook on the future; and, unlike most of his neighbours, he has the power of compelling his rulers to look at things through his own speetacles, and act as shortsightedly as himself. The despotic Powers, whom John so cordially hates, beat him hollow in such matters. Untrammelled by the requirements of party, or the prejudices of popular election, they gather around the throne the ablest men in the country, filling with them the bureaus at home and the embassies abroad; from the masterly views and information thus laid before the throne, the true objects to be aimed at in the foreign policy of the State are determined; and the Government, using the people as mere automatons to
execute its will, adheres to its longsighted policy from year to year, it may be for generations. John Bull was never great in this line, and he has not been mending. He changes his leaders too often to permit of any fixed line of foreign policy being carried out; and, moreover, he is so fond of keeping his money, and so sceptical of all things future, that there is no getting him to assent to any changes which are not necessitated by the wants of the hour. In his State-policy at least, the future and the invisible have no influence upon him; and distant dangers, like ghosts-he does not believe in them! It must be confessed that, for the last thirty years or so, his leaders have been as shortsighted as he could desire. We have never steadily cultivated a friendship, or prepared for an hostility. Brother, cousin, or enemy-it was all the same with whom we were negotiating we wrangled as fiercely, frequently more so, with a natural friend as with an inevitable rival,-and have let everything come upon us haphazard. It is no easy matter to cast a political horoscope as a guide to our foreign policy; and it is needless to expect any British Government nowadays to do so, unless it finds its efforts sympathised in and supported by the nation at large. But the task, though difficult, is not impossible, for the germs of the Future lie before us in the Present; and we would gladly see our countrymen bestowing more thought on foreign affairs than they are in the habit of doing. Therefore, O John Bull! though the fizz of the fireworks and shouts of reviews the last echoes of the war
are dying away, and you have betaken yourself to your easy-chair, with the intention of smoking that yard-long pipe of peace, amidst the ruminations which precede your coming slumber, pray give a thought or two, a parting look, to the state of things abroad, that so you may have some ready-made notions what to do when the cannon wake you up again from your industrial repose.
Europe is ever changing. Its Coalitions vary from age to age. And no one was more surprised than
John Bull two years ago, to find himself in such new company, and to see all things changed on the Continent from his traditional memories of it in 1815. Such changes will continue,-Europe slowly passing from one phase into another-the grand current of National Development gradually dislocating and rearranging the alliances of its States; until, the polarity of the Continent reversing from what it was in 1790, a succession of grand alliances will be formed against Russia and despotism, as they were then against France and revolution. Have we not already entered upon that new epoch? Entered upon it--but that is all. The war just closed was the first brief skirmish,-the first overt sign that the Powers of Europe were becoming sensible of their altered position, and (some of them) were ready to accept it. Every parallelism in national affairs has some points of difference; and though the liberties of Europe appear destined to be attacked à l'outrance by Russia, as they were fifty years ago by France, it would be wrong to expect that the second attack will culminate and pass away as rapidly as the first. France leapt at the sovereignty of the Continent,-Russia is growing up to it. The former does everything by sudden bounds such is the genius of her people; the latter moves like the tortoise,-or rather with the mingled slowness, vastness, and force of the glacier.
Yes, John Bull will do well to keep an eye on the Continent. While he plods away in his manifold occupations, he should give a sharp look now and then at the seachannel with which Providence has kindly girt him in from so many misfortunes. If he will take the dust of fifty years out of his eyes, he will see that that Channel has shrunk up considerably from its older proportions, and that, if ever we lose the command of the seas, steam-navigation will greatly increase the exposure of our shores to attack. In truth, it will not do to judge of the future in any respect simply from the past. In this age of telegraphs and railways (with which latter even Russia is about to
equip herself), coalitions of states, with all their weight of naval and military strength, can come into play with unheard-of suddenness and precision; and the ever-increasing intercommunion of nations-upon which some philanthropists build so many millennial dreams-will only suffice, in times of war, to give to belligerent alliances a vaster amplitude and a dreader force. The future of Europe, then, is not exactly a thing to doze over. We do not affect to see farther into political millstones than most people, but we shall be right glad if we can set others a-thinking or watching,--and especially if John Bull, of whose practical good sense we have a high opinion, will open his honest eyes a little, and look and judge for himself.
In the years preceding the first French Revolution-on the eve of the red deluge of war which for a quarter-century submerged Europemen were not only marrying and giving in marriage, but in France itself an effusion of ultra-pacific ideas took place among the literary and courtly classes, as recently in the mercantile among ourselves. Mongolfier's balloon, which set all Paris a-rhapsodising about human and scientific perfectibility, did not go up more bravely than did those utopian dreams of peace and everlasting justice, sent forth by men standing on the already smoking crust of the volcano; and Condorcet, who speculated on the possibility of an indefinite extension of human life, lived to seek a refuge in the poison-cup from the ignominy of the scaffold. A parallel phenomenon, we need hardly say, has of late years been witnessed in our own Isles. Such dreams, indeed, appear to be ever-recurrent in human history, and are generally most rife on the very eve of a fresh outburst of war. Nor is this wonderful for it is a long continuance of tranquillity that makes men fancy that it will be eternal; and so the peace-dream goes on in creasing in strength until the actual moment of the dread awakening. It is a delusion, and sometimes to nations a fatal one; and the British nation may congratulate itself that
its dream of this kind has been broken so softly, and in time.
To any one who really sees Europe as it actually is at this hour, the spectacle is a sad one. To him who forgets that God rules all, from evil still evoking good, it is a hopeless one. Are we really at the close of a war, or only at the beginning of one still greater? Take up the newspapers-those Arguses, whose eyes travel to and fro on the face of the earth-and what do we read of? First come voices of trouble from the East. Troubles in Arabia,—fifty thousand rebels at Mecca swearing that the Sultan has forsworn the Prophet; troubles in Syria — wild men at Naplouse rising because there is no one to keep them down; troubles in Bagdad, smouldering; troubles at Smyrna and other places in Anatolia, where the Charter we wrung from the Porte is only setting Turk and Christian the faster by the ears; perfect anarchy in Greece,neither man nor goods safe beyond three miles from the coast, where French troops patrol-and the people fiercer than ever against the Ottomans, and more than ever frantic to kiss the feet of the Czar, and subject themselves to an iron despotism which is probably marked out by Providence as the sole effectual cure for Hellenic madness. So much for Turkey-which, our rulers tell us, we have rescued and made strong! Is there a single whole place in it from head to foot? But" we have checked the southward progress of Russia." For the moment. But why those cries for help from the Caucasus
that marshalling of Chruleff's host -those plans now preparing in the bureaus at St Petersburg for new forts on the east side of the Black Sea, and a war-navy on the Caspian?
Turkey disintegrating, and Russia adhering to her "hereditary policy,"
this is but one scene of the diorama. Take another phase of the troubles. Were there ever before so many "armies of occupation" in Europe? Austrians in the Principalities, British and French in Turkey and Greece, French and Austrians in Italy,-all most generously keeping the peace in other people's territories-the wrong men in the right
place! The sight of those various white, blue, and red coated soldiers in alien countries is a significant proof of the disjointed state of affairs. It is like the sight of dragoons in a mob, telling of troubles. Italy is specially the seat of troubles and the object of apprehensions. Geologically the most volcanic of European countries, she is so now also politically. The damp dungeons of Naples teem with victims, and King Bomba overawes his people by means of brigands and lazzaroni. French bayonets around the Vatican alone ward off a new Roman Republic and a second flight of the Pope to Gaeta. Austria, overpassing her own frontiers, has corps of occupation alike in Parma and the Legations, where they rule like demons; -and in her own Italian territories there prevails only a milder form of the same reign of terror. Radetzky writes to Vienna that either his master must say No at once to the remonstrances of the Western Powers and Sardinia, or he will resign! Indeed, in the present combustible state of the peninsula, can Austria recede without evoking the flames? It is a duel between Austria and Sardinia, contesting the supremacy of Italy. Sardinia mands publicly in the face of Europe demands, that the cords which bind Italy shall be slackened. If Austria yield, the star of Piedmont rises higher on the horizon, and all eyes turn to it. The light of hope will grow stronger all over the peninsula, and the slackening of her cords will only make galled Italy pant more furiously to be free. But what a spectacle for modern Europe! Italy and Greece-the heirs of the classic empires, the descendants of the ruling spirits of the ancient world-both mad and miserableraving and chafing with a fury unintelligible to northern races! Why, the very soldiers of our Italian Legion at Malta are grown delirious -have been shouting and stabbing "for liberty" in a place where there is nothing but batteries and oranges -and would doubtless throw themselves into the sea to swim for Sicily, if they could carry their arms with them.
Is this peace? Cross the Alps and look northwards. Poland groaning, and at times hoping, but securely manacled, and perhaps about to be offered by her master a politic sop. Hungary, bleeding at the heart, but with no hope on earth, save in the utter crumbling of the Hapsburg throne, which would only bring a Muscovite instead of an Austrian bondage. These we count not at present. They figure largely in the speculations of superficial observers, but it is not by them that the troubled sleep of Europe will first be broken; indeed it seems to us their day cannot come at all until Germany and Italy have first gone through the fire, and come out greatly changed. But Germany is troubled, and will probably be into the furnace sooner than most people imagine. Destitute of the mad impulses of the South, less demonstrative even than the French, the Germans do not give tongue much before they act, but there are symptoms that the tranquillity of Central Europe is anything but secure. The policy of the Governments towards the people has become most reactionary
in many respects there is less freedom now than there was before 1848 de--and even in the "free republic" of Hamburg, the most cruel measures of oppression are put in force against the Press. The Germans are a slow-moving race, and if they had even a promise of better things coming, they would wait on, smoking their pipes, and drinking their beer, with true Teutonic phlegm, for another generation. But at present they have.not even a promise of better things, the nobility, worse than the throne, seem only bent upon pushing things backwards towards feudalism; and the consequence is, that were revolution to recommence in serious form either at Paris or in Italy, Germany would speedily catch the flame. In France itself tranquillity is only secure so long as the firm hand of Napoleon III. holds the reins. While he lives, France will not throw its rider. But his death would resolve all into chaos; and Bourbonists, Republicans, and Socialists would be seen gling together in the dread
For such a convulsion
there can be but one issue. Order must be re-established,- but around whom is the nation to rally? Suppose Napoleon III. gone, what Saul is there overtopping all the rest by head and shoulders? What name is there, but one, that is known beyond the limits of Paris and a few leading towns?
Finally, look at Spain. There, revolution and change have been brooding and émeutes exploding for the last two years. The whole atmosphere of Spain at present is electric, and portentous of storms. The Queen is unrespected, and her power but a name; while two puissant dictators, Espartero and O'Donneli-the one a Liberal and the other a Royalist-each ready to trip up the other, rule precariously in her stead. And ever and anon plots and conspiracies explode in the provinces now Carlist, now republican in character, each failing, only that it may grow stronger and reappear; while powerful attempts to carry votes of censure against the Government, show that the discontent finds voice and sympathy in the Cortes. Thus these two opposite principles are slowly maturing and preparing for a trial of strength; and, looking at the essentially monarchic spirit of the Spanish nation, it seems to us that Royalism will ultimately carry the day. Liberalism will culminate in a democratic outbreak, and then the nation will react into Carlism.
Such, it appears to us, is the essential condition of the leading States of the Continent. Troubled they are, all of them. Never was the political state of Europe so full of quicksands. "Distress of nations, and perplexity" --such is the exact aspect of the times. One cannot take a bold step any way without plunging into abysses which the future only can fathom. Not to speak of the evidently transition-state of the Spanish peninsula, Turkey is disintegrating-Italy is on the eve of exploding,-even Germany is not safe; and a crisis in any one of these quarters may set Europe by the ears. Liberalism and Despotism are for the moment strangely interweaved. France threatens the press of Belgium,-Austria similarly threatens Sardinia, and crushes Italy. Sardinia menaces despotic Austria,
-England sympathises with freedom everywhere, but does not act,France dreads an outbreak in Italy, and stands balancing between Austria and Sardinia, yet at the same time is not disinclined to intervene to check Espartero and democracy in Spain. We believe the designs of Napoleon III. towards Italy are the best possible for that country. If he could get his wish, he would have Austria, Naples, and Rome to relax the severity of their rule, and reorganise their administrative system so as to insure at once more efficiency and more justice; the French and Austrian troops would then retire into their own territories, and the Italians, mollified by these concessions, would remain quiet for years to come, and would grow fitter for liberty when the hour of independence at last arrived. We say we believe that such are the desires of the French Emperor, for the belief tallies with his professions, and (what is of much more consequence) with his interests. A revolution in Italy would be most embarrassing to Napoleon III. At present he hovers undecided between the despotic regime and that of popular government. We think he would adopt the latter if he could,-we believe he would relax his rule, and take the bit out of the mouth of France, if the dreary turbulence of the fac tions permitted. He is "the Elect of eight millions"-that is at once his boast and his strength; and he has no desire to cast in his lot with princes to whom despotism is a principle, and the people a nullity. But a revolutionary outbreak in Italy would force him from his intermediate position, and compel him to take an extreme part on the side either of liberty or despotism. French troops garrison Rome,-were the Italians to rise against them as well as against the Austrians, Napoleon III. could hardly help playing the game of despotism by joining Austria in putting down the revolution. If, on the other hand, the outbreak were of such a character as to lead France to espouse the side of the Italians, Napoleon III. must identify himself with the cause of freedom and nationality,-in which case all Europe would at once be in a blaze. But an