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- We read a short time ago among the town and country talk of a weekly paper, "An eminent housebreaker, having completed the term of his imprisonment, applied to the Grimsby magistrates to have his skeleton keys and other professional tools given up to him." After laughing at the title of eminence as applied to a burglar, being a character not famed for the possession of the cardinal virtues, the thought struck us that, comparing great things with small, the demand of Russia to keep up an undiminished force in the Black Sea after the conclusion of peace, which occasioned the breaking up of the Vienna conferences, was very much of the same description. Supposing a peace to have been patched up, Russia might have been said to have completed the term of her imprisonment, her ships of war and offensive stores at Sebastopol being considered as her professional tools, her cannon and mortars as the skeleton keys which she would use to pick the lock of the Ottoman Porte; and which, honest in a sense at last when brought to bay, she naively declares
her determination to use with greater precaution and better luck next time. The difference in the case is, and that not altogether an unimportant one, that the Grimsby magistrates had got possession of the tools of their eminent practitioner; while we have shut up ours, tools and all, and are even now employing efforts the most forcible, with some doubtfulness of issue, to get his tools from him; for he clings to them like grim Death, and will cling to them to all appearance until he is fairly caught by the throat and choked off.
Now, supposing that our Grimsby friend wanted to prove himself, in Jack Sheppard phrase, as innocent as the babe unborn after his false imprisonment, what do we suppose that he would say? He would probably say that he had been drinking with some friend, name unknown; had slightly exceeded, and in consequence lost his way; strayed upon a gentleman's lawn, and tumbled up against his library shutters, when he was caught by Lion and the butler; and he would account for the possession of the queer things found in his
SCHLOSSER'S Geschichte des 18ten und des 19ten Jahrhunderts.
Histoire de Russie. Bibliothèque de Lille.
VOLTAIRE. Pierre le Grand.
pocket, by supposing that the anonymous friend had put them there without his knowledge, finding their possession tended to compromise his own character. He would surely not claim them as his property, far less to have them restored, thus owning himself not only guilty in reference to the past, but impenitent in reference to the future.
And suppose that Russia had wished to prove herself innocent, through her mouthpiece Prince Gortchakoff, of burglarious intentions with respect to Turkey, what would she have said to the wiseacres of Vienna? She would have said something of this kind -Gentlemen, you do me cruel wrong by suspecting that I am actuated by any selfish motives of aggrandisement against Turkey, by imputing any other motive to me in recent transactions than a laudable desire to rescue oppressed Christianity from the delirious grip of the sick man-sick even unto death-who, notwithstanding his weakness, seems to possess some un accountable and probably supernatural power of wrong-doing; but notwithstanding that you do me cruel wrong in suspecting my motives, I am willing to prove the purity of my intentions, if not by quite allowing you to draw my teeth and cut off my claws, at all events by promising to keep the former to myself and not allowing the latter to grow any longer, abstaining at the same time from sharpening them as heretofore against the nearest tree. In plain terms, I will not build any more ships of war than are just enough to patrole the Black Sea as a protection against pirates, to keep up military communications with Caucasus and Georgia, and to defend Odessa against any sudden freak of the said sick man, who appears, notwithstanding his weakness, to be in a normal state of dangerous delirium. By refusing all concession to this just demand of the Allies to give up the tools of her burglarious trade, or even to abstain from increasing their number, she at once proclaims definitely and distinctly that her object is to have Constantinople by fair means or foul; and in pursuance of this object, with the spirit of Hamlet, to "make a ghost of him that lets" her. For what else
should Russia want with a great fleet in the Black Sea, or with the fortifications of Sebastopol? It is plain that, if she had not looked to enlarging her territory to the south, even when the first stone of Sebastopol was laid, she would have made of it not a military so much as a commercial port.
There would have been some sense in building an impregnable Gibraltar near the heart of her territory, or as, in the case of our own Mediterranean fortresses, on the high-road to outlying possessions; but there is only one evident purpose for which Sebastopol was built-namely, the shelter of an aggressive fleet. Its place on the map is enough to condemn it. It is just placed so that from it a blow could be struck most quickly and effectively on the vital parts of Turkey, and the fleet that had struck the blow most quickly and readily withdraw into shelter before the avenger came. Such a blow was struck at Sinopemight have been struck at Stamboul instead, if the allied fleet had lingered a little longer outside the Bosphorus. It was the recognition, on a large scale, of a principle applied on a small one in the art of self-defence, to spring quickly to the guard after having struck the punishing blow, and not to overbalance the body by the effort, so as to open it to the blow of the adversary in return. It is a wonder that there ever was any mistake about the meaning of Sebastopol. Russia might have found a better excuse for Bomarsund. She might have said that Bomarsund was an outwork of Cronstadt, and that she was strengthening it against some contingent coalition of the three nations of maritime Scandinavia; a coalition not altogether improbable at any time, and which we should think at present highly desirable.
But how could she be menaced through the Crimea? Any force invading her, and making for St. Petersburgh, would surely not begin there, nor would any nation build a firstclass fortification to protect a pretty little district of summer residence and sea-bathing. We should not think it worth while to build a Sebastopol at the Needles, even though Majesty herself honours the Isle of Wight by
making it a temporary residence. It was always plain enough that Sebastopol was built against Constantinople, just as much as Decelea was built against Athens in the Peloponnesian War. It is singular how little, for a long time-how little, in fact, till this war broke out-Europe seemed aware of this fact. That word, now in everybody's mouth, full of hope and fear, and anxiety to all, to some of triumph or of life-long sorrow, was a word hardly ever heard before, even among educated people. How many of us knew of the existence of Sebastopol at all? Probably some of us just knew so much about it, that, had they been asked where it was, they would have said it was a place somewhere in Southern Russia.
The Black Sea being sealed to our fleets in time of peace, it fell under the cognisance of none but chance travellers. Our fighting sailors-a thinking and reading set of men, who commit their observations on both hemispheres to paper in so interesting a manner-never went near it; and our commercial sailors went no nearer than Odessa; and when they went there, their time was probably too much taken up with business to allow of their feeling much curiosity about Sebastopol. So this place, being well out of the way, was generally forgotten, until, by the attack on Sinope, it reminded the world of its presence in a manner so peculiarly disagreeable.
The case of Corfu, or Corcyra, on the outskirts of Greece, growing in darkness into a power dangerous to its neighbours, and overlooked till its misdoings precipitated the Peloponnesian War, was precisely similar in ancient times. It was of this nest of pitates that the Corinthian envoy said in his speech before the Athenian assembly: "The independent position of their city, in case of their wronging any one, enables them to be the judges of their own case, and precludes fair arbitration, since they, least of any, sail out to visit their neighbours, and more than all others are made the unsought hosts of strangers, who are driven to them by stress of some kind. And this being their habit, they make a specious pretence of objecting to alliances, on the ground that they do not wish to join
others in wrong, but really object that they may have the wrong-doing all to themselves,-that they may carry matters with a high hand where they are strong enough; and where they are not, but can escape notice, take advantage of others in other ways; and also that they may the more easily brazen out the matter, when they have been successful in any annexation. And yet, if they had really been honest people, as they say they are, just in proportion as they were less subject to the attacks of their neighbours, had they an opportunity of displaying a more conspicuous example of virtue, by giving and taking what was just and right.' The sense of these words, if not the words themselves, would exactly apply in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the undermining and encroaching policy of Russia, and especially those encroachments carried on in that corner of the Black Sea which was always reputed by the ancients as one of the most out-ofthe-way places in the world. Now, although this encroaching policy of Russia has been evident all along to far-sighted men, she has endeavoured until now, by various means, to keep it out of sight. If, at the Vienna conferences, she had consented to the limitation of the number of her ships of war, this would have been scarcely a guarantee for her good behaviour, for she might have augmented them in secret at the first opportunity, and taken the chance of Europe finding it out or not. However, whether encouraged by the defence of Sebastopol, by the self-disparagement of the English press, or by the chance of the alliance being broken by the assassination of Louis Napoleon, the attempt at which certainly took place under circumstances of great mystery, she has chosen to throw off the mask, and, by refusing to keep her means of defence within bounds, she has declared, in a manner intelligible to the most obtuse, the nature of her intentions.
We propose in these papers to select certain points in Russian history which illustrate this now unconcealed policy of encroachment and aggression, at the same time endeavouring to fix the blame on the right party, by showing in what element of the constitution the spirit of aggrandisement may be
supposed chiefly to reside, which will naturally lead to our attempting, though we confess the task a bold one, to show what limits must be fixed, and what guarantees taken, to make any treaty sincere, and any peace durable. We have spoken of the Russian constitution, not unadvisedly. A constitution may exist in fact though not in theory. Though the theory of the Russian government is a pure autocracy, yet a French writer has said that it is limited by assassination; and if so, there must be a person or persons to assassinate, and he or they must be considered a fact in the constitution; and if a monarch be never so absolute, it must be remembered that he is relative to those he rules, and that he rules because they choose quietly to submit themselves; and in doing so they exercise an act of private judgment, as those Protestants who bow their necks to the Church of Rome, of the most emphatic description. Where the physical force of society is stronger than the individual slave, as in America, the slave cannot be taken as an element in the constitution; but where slaves possess the full power to be slaves or not as they please, as must be the case where they are sixty millions, and the master is only one, it would be treating them with great disrespect not to consider them as exercising one at least most powerful act of free will, and as being in fact, if not in theory, a most important element in the constitution of a country. We may thus then, in fact, consider the present constitution of Russia, quite as much as that of this country, as three-fold. We have the monarch who rules, the courtiers who assassinate, and the serfs who obey. But the constitution of Russia has been what it is for little more than a century and a half, since the time that Peter the Great effected his so-called reforms. Before that time, the nobles and landed proprietors were a strong body in the state, and the military organisation was in a great measure feudal. In many cases, certainly, the monarch was practically absolute, and occasionally able to exercise a tyranny of the worst description; but this state of things depended on the character of the individual monarch: there was not, as now, a fixed state-machinery
which perpetuated a pure despotism, and forced a rod of iron into the hands of every ruler, whatever his inclination to wield it. It is right, however, to state that the establishment of the autocracy in Russia is originally ascribed by Karamsin, a native historian, to the temporary subjugation of that country by the hordes of Genghis Khan and the Tartar princes—a visitation which was attended with every kind of calamity, the effects of which were permanently felt, and from which Russia rose again, indeed, but no longer with the same face or features as before. Her old civilisation was gone, her freedom and self-respect had passed away with it; her spirit was broken; her religion, indeed, adopted from Greek Constantinople, remained, but debased into bigotry, and ready for use as a corrupt instrument of dynastic corruption. She had ceased to be European, and had become Asiatic, which she had remained, in great part, in spite of Peter, ever since. If it was not yet true that autocracy was established as a principle, the people were at all events ready to receive it, and a nation of slaves called out with impatience for a tyrant to put his foot on their necks. Their prayer was granted to the full in that incarnation of superhuman evil, Ivan IV., or the Terrible. From him and his successors they were handed over into the abler hands of Peter, the son of Alexis, who, not satisfied, like Ivan, with reposing in simple wickedness, thought that he saw in the ultrasubmissive dispositions of his subjects the instruments of achieving worldwide dominion. On the other side of this dark cloud of Tartar dominion, we look back, according to the native historians, on peace, and wealth, and light, and a sunny distance of happiness-a Sclavonian golden agesuch as we read of in story and fable as existing when King Arthur ruled England, and Ireland was still the Isle of Saints. "There was a time," say they, "when Russia, formed and elevated by the singleness of the sovereign authority, yielded not in strength or civilisation to any of the first-rate powers formed by the Germanic tribes on the ruins of the Western Empire. Having the same character, the same laws, the same customs, the same