Frank Leward: Memorials
Bampton to Frank
Bampton to Frank.
Dear old Frank.—It is strange indeed to be hearing from you from that strip of land on which our thoughts are fixed and to which so much of our attention has for so long been turned.
When once upon a time I was excited about New Zealand I received forthwith an account of the place and its people not gathered through the cold medium of books as Lord Erskine once said, but from your own experience of the men and the scenes the actions and the sufferings. Then when we half incredulous were hearing strange tales of Western America and New South Wales, of magic wealth surpassing golden dreams of Alchemy's imagination, suddenly there came letters from no dreamer of dreams but from a hardy workman, a digger and a delver, on the very spot, and brought our flighty souls back from aerial nothings, to tell us only of hard facts.page 234
So now again when all the world seems gone war mad and we are bewildered with accounts of what has happened and is happening in the East, while we are still asking ourselves what made us go to war, knowing though only too well alas what the war has cost and what our brave actors have endured upon that theatre pending the answer to that previous question; while we are mystified by conflicting reports of battles and sieges, lo come again letters, written by one Frank friend of our earliest happiest days, telling us much travelling much enduring man, telling us of what is going on there under his very eyes.
It may be my conceit but I have thought from the first I could see my way through the darkness which for more than three years has been gathering round Europe. I admit the right which nations have to interfere in the management of other nations when that management becomes so bad that it molests the peace of others and threatens to become a nuisance. If a thing is dead and becoming rotten the kindest office the living can bestow is to bury it. Turkey has been politically dead for years is becoming rotten, let it be buried. From ten to fifteen million Christians have there for four centuries been living under a system so fundamentally different to their own that the ordinary followers of the once conquering system cannot understand the other. Christians have for all those years been suffering great wrongs. Now the Conqueror is no longer quick, and the Christians turn to the head of their faith and pray to him for bis protection. He is a man full of ardent sympathy and ecclesiastic page 235zeal, he determines to protect his children. He poses before the world as the champion of the old orthodox Eastern Church. A meddlesome evil genius in France seizes that very time to interfere and for a pretended zeal for the Church of the good old Franks, in which he does not believe, in monkey spite humiliates the Russian.
The Turk cares nothing about these things, but how he must secretly laugh at this unhappy split between east and west which enables him to trample on so many Christians so many million crosses. At the same time the upshot becomes no laughing matter for the Turk. He finds this quarrel places him in an awkward fix. Can he refuse the request the Frenchman makes to be allowed to put up a silver star, with the arms of France, observe, engraved upon it, over the manger where slept the Holy Child who was to bring peace to the earth and to men of good will. The Frenchman you here see well typified in his star, emblem of that one which appeared to light the Gentile kings to the King of Peace, to Light itself. It is not for the star of peace the Frenchman cares but for one graven with the arms of France to show who did it. This the star of murder and destruction. Can you not here read a lesson and see how changed an act becomes when instead of being pure it gets for its object the exaltation of self the glory of the Ego.
But the Turk dare not refuse the French, still supposed to be the great military power of the earth, and to whom he may some day have to look for protection against his overpowering Russian neighbour. Certainly too he must not offend that neighbour to whom fourteen million page 236Turkish subjects are daily on their knees praying him to come over and help them. He durst not offend him. So he vacillates and up goes the star with its French coat of arms, and some concessions are made to the Greeks.
But the head of the Greek Church fumes. He in his majestic pride on the shores of the white Baltic finds another champion of Christendom in the heart of France and concessions wrung from Islam not by the might of Russia's Czar, and the power of the head of the orthodox Church, but by an intriguing knave at Paris, nephew too of that Napolean who once defied a Czar and dared to pierce the side of Holy Russia. In his agony he appeals to England to Russia's old ally. He makes what appears to be a strange proposal. One at which all timid minds stand aghast, which future statesmen will see ought to have been accepted. He offers nothing less than the partition of Turkey. Should we have been justified in accepting it? I think we should. That statesman who can see furthest ahead of him is the greatest, and who ever looks ahead must see Turkey cannot stand. Her doom is fixed. Aided by a scheming Frenchman we may prop her up for a time we cannot prop her up for ever. A falling body must fall to the ground sooner or later. She deserves to be allowed to fall. Our interests in Turkey are only selfish interests, but if while acting patriotically, that is selfishly, we could also be doing good to the world so much the better.
Egypt and the mongrel inhabitants of Egypt call on us to come and save them. They say we have shown by our Government of India that we can govern an page 237Eastern people well. At any rate we have learnt such experience in India as to teach us not to repeat in any other Eastern country the errors and the crimes we committed there at first, and which would be committed again should any other power get Egypt. I say we are called upon by Providence to protect Egypt from her Turkish tyrants. If we could only look upon that protection as a sacred trust what an amount of happiness we might be causing what misery preventing, while at the same time we might be consolidating and strengthening a beneficent Empire in the East.
By no means let us touch it unless we are resolved to do right. Let right not self be the motive. Let all the fertile lands of that rich country be held by the state for the use of the peasantry, for the tillers of the soil. Let each one capable of ploughing sowing and reaping hold a portion inalienably, let him have the right to hand it down to his children after him with its improvements so long only as he or they pay some small rent to the state and make the land yield its due produce. Let a small but firm army be embodied, for protection not conquest. Let it be well paid and well disciplined, let it be officered at first by English, and we have plenty of men who have not been crammed up to the proper standard for our army who would be glad to serve there and are as capable of serving as many of those who have reached the standard of cram. Let us look to India at first for the higher civil servants and especially to our intelligent native civil servants there, who understand the Eastern character and are well versed in the language page 238and laws of the Arabs. What a new leaf it would be in a statesman's book, what a binding force it would have on our Eastern Empire if we offered our well informed able Mahometan civil servants in India high posts of rule over this new province of their co-religionists in the old land of Egypt, almost the cradle of their creed and race. Let there be no insular and insolent pride allowed, no British domineering, and above all let the people by degrees get a right to take part in their own government and in time really govern themselves. Keeping as of necessity only a connecting link with the great British Empire of which they would form a part, but making all their own internal laws, joining in all the greatness the glories and the strength of an Empire not great by force of pressure upon slaves but in the unity of a diverse but truly united commonwealth.
So would you found and encourage a flourishing country which with the rents of the public lands, and all lands must be public, and with the proceeds of an income tax, to be levied only on the rich, would more than pay the expenses of an economic government, and you might teach the old learned land of the Pharoahs the modern advantages of free trade.
Then the Czar demanded full protection over the children of his Church. Let him have it. Haters of Russia say he would soon have got Constantinople. If he did I agree with you it wouldn't matter much as far as India is concerned, as long as we were in Egypt. If it did matter strengthen Austria in the Principalities, let France and Austria have the joint protection of Turkey page 239proper and the Turks. So would the old disgrace of Christianity after four hundred years of servitude be wiped away, so would the wounded feelings of the Czar be assuaged, thus would the French Emperor keep his star with the arms of France, the Latins would be protected in the due worship of the faith at Bethlehem, Austria would be content and all the world be better governed.
But these proposals were not even listened to. Lord Aberdeen the most timid ruler who ever ventured to hold helm was horrified at the idea. Trembled all over with fear. Hid his face in his hands, wouldnt even look he was so shocked, and error No. I was committed.
A long interchange of diplomatic notes goes on. The Czar assures us, and we have no reason to doubt him, that he must and will protect his Church. He sends Prince Mentchikoff as his ambassador to the old city of Constantine to tell the usurping and degenerate Turks that if they still continue to do the Christians wrong they had better look out for themselves. For now mixed feelings rise within the breast of the Russian Autocrat. It is no longer the prime Head of the Greek Church who speaks, again the Ego intervenes and the man Nicholas appears, and we instead of assuming the splendid role, perhaps yet to be the great part to be played by our Church of mediator between East and West, when our Head at Canterbury shall become the true Pontifex, the bridge which shall span the chasm between Greek and Roman, instead of choosing the part of peacemakers, we deliberately do our best to lacerate the wounded vanity of the Czar and send to Constantinople to meet page 240Prince Mentchikoff and to bully the Turk, the man most hated by the Czar. A man whom the Czar personally dislikes so much on account of his bearish manners that he refused to receive him at St. Petersburg as ambassador from England.
Lord Stratford de Redcliffe is a man of strong will and considerable ability; but of an arrogant and contemptuous sort; one who prefers the pleasure that comes to small minds from getting their own way to that higher happiness of knowing he is promoting the public weal. He domineers in the East and accelerates the war.
Error No. III. is the most curious of all. Whatever interests we may have in the vexed question Austria has obviously more, and Prussia has as much as France. So the wise Germans seeing how the French Emperor was pushing us, for his own purposes, into war, and threatening the peace of Europe, propose a conference. The conference is held at Vienna. A proposal is made by the great powers, wise, calm, and sufficient. It is accepted by Russia, we are satisfied, Austria is satisfied. There the matter at least should have ended and would have ended, had not Lord Stratford been at the side of the Turks, and had not the French emperor wanted to fight. So the Turks secretly counselled refused the terms and the laborious councils at Vienna go for nothing. We deliberately throw away the immense moral support a consensus of opinion of two at least of the great powers would have given us, a support strong enough to have obtained for us all we wanted or ought to have demanded, and this most senseless most unintelligible war is made inevitable.page 241
Senseless indeed to all but the French emperor. He and the few who govern there were naturally anxious to keep the eyes of Europe from looking at the crimes which got them their power. They wanted no conciliatory councils) they did want England's respectable alliance, and a war, any war which would divert men's thoughts from their origin and their guilt. So the weak Aberdeen, well meaning and determined to avoid war in all events, adopts the very policy which lead to war, allows himself to be hurried by Louis Napoleon away from the just councils of Vienna, from the honest support of Prussia and Austria, into a separate premature alliance with France. Was there ever anything so absurd? Austria close to the scene of action, able to pour in her hundred thousand men any day, complete master of the situation, before whose order the Russian must at once retire and leave Turkey and the Principalities alone, we forsooth, separated by seas and continents must leave Austria wisely deliberating, and rush in to take the quarrel off her shoulders to put it on our own.
Nor are these all the errors we committed before the unjust war began. We had a Prime Minister whose one idea was peace and not war, his one achievement war and not peace. The Czar looked upon Lord Aberdeen as the spokesman of England. He heard him preaching peace. He saw he was making no preparations for war. He imagined England would not fight and so grew bold. Had we shown a firm front there would have been no war. The poor stand we made by which we misled the Czar into acts menacing Turkey was error No. IV.page 242
Then long before war was certain, but long after it was imminent, instead of getting our troops well together, dispatching couriers all over the parts likely to be attacked by us in the event of war, to discover by every possible means the strength of the probable enemy there, the resources of the country, its ability to afford means of transport and forage to an invading force, we do nothing but move some ships into the Hellespont and so break the treaty of 1841 put ourselves in the wrong and do the very thing to irritate most the already overstrained feelings of the Czar, and to precipitate a war we were not prepared for. Then we further bring up our fleet to Constantinople and leave it there idle while Russia declares war against Turkey destroys the Turkish ships at Sinope and four thousand of the subjects of our worthy good ally the Sultan. These were errors five and six.
After these six great errors before the war began had all been committed, we begin to show fight. What blunders have been committed since you know better than I for you have been the sad witness of them. Much as I was against the war still if it must be waged it should have been done well and have been promptly ended. Russia should have been attacked in her most vulnerable part, who can doubt where that is. Our sins are sure to find us out. That is as true of nations as of individuals. In this way Russia in the East is strong in her firm determination to uphold what she believes to be the faith, and the faithful who are under bondage. Poland is Russia's weak because her sinful point. If Russia believes in her old orthodox Christianity, so do page 243the Poles in theirs. Russia not only has waged long and race exterminating war against the faithful Poles amidst deeds of such gross cruelty as has no other example in the history of Europe with the exception of our own dark page, our own nation and creed exterminating war against Ireland. As we determined years ago to break Ireland as a nation and as a means to that end have attempted for centuries to stamp out her faith because we saw her faith was her one great strength as a nation, so has Russia done, so is Russia doing in Poland. As Ireland is our weak point so is Poland Russia's. Our sins will find us out, and as surely as a sinful nation refuses to repent and do justice so surely will it be punished. Had we attacked Russia through Poland we might really have seen in our arms the just judgment of Heaven. We might be freeing Poland while fighting our own battles. We might be restoring her to the free nations of Europe. While we were diminishing the overgrown size of Russia we might be restoring to Poland the right freely to worship according to the faith of her fathers. We might indeed be making Russia really more happy instead of as we are doing now merely helping to keep a few dishonest lazy profligate Turks revelling in the spoils of a ruined people.
As I took my morning ride last February I saw the Guards, starting for the East, march past Buckingham Palace and our good Queen came out and her ever thoughtful Consort came out and the young Princes all came out to wave a kind adieu to the strong brave men passing on to fight for us in a quarrel that was none of page 244theirs, nor none of ours, one I knew in my heart to be wrong, but I couldn't help a feeling of enthusiasm as the great cheer rose from a thousand defenders of our honour, those morituri who then saluted our kind-hearted Cæsarine as they went forth to leave their bones to whiten on that inhospitable chersonese, as I cannot now restrain a feeling of anger when I think of the way in which those lives have been sacrificed to stupidity and sloth.
I was indeed glad old man when I heard of my oldest friend distinguishing himself as he has done in saving lives at his own life's risk, and I know that recorded act is only one of a hundred others unrecorded by which our poor men have been comforted and saved by you. Go on with your good deeds and your letters unless you are getting tired of war and wish to come home at last to enjoy your well earned peace.—Farewell old man. I send you some supplies more soon. Yours
Charles Augustin Bampton.