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The Times, 7.8.1854 p 6

LEADING ARTICLE — 1st leader


Some time must elapse before the suspense of the public can be relieved by any definite intelligence from the new scene of war. All that we can do in the interval is to consider the nature and prospects of the enterprise now announced, and we are confident that in both these respects the expedition to the Crimea will approve itself to the judgment of the country. We have repeatedly expressed our opinion that the capture of Sebastopol would effect more than any other achievement towards accomplishing the object of the war. Such an exploit, indeed, would carry with it nothing less than the destruction of Russian power in the East, and the emancipation of Turkey from that aggressive dominion which perpetually menaced her existence. When Sebastopol has been demolished and the fleets of the Czar destroyed or taken in its harbours, the Black Sea will cease at once to be a Russian lake, Constantinople will be relieved from danger, the mouths of the Danube will be secure, and all the apprehensions entertained of Russian encroachment in the Mediterranean — that is to say, in the direction most alarming to Europe — will vanish at once and altogether. It is scarcely too much to say that if Sebastopol had not existed this war would never have occurred, and it follows as an immediate consequence that, if we can destroy it, the best possible security will have been obtained against a recurrence of the contest.

But can Sebastopol be destroyed? We can only say that, if it cannot, it must resemble no other fortress under the sun. It can be attacked at once by sea and land, by two powerful fleets and by an army of enormous strength. Every gun in the British and French arsenals, every machine of destruction that modern science has invented, can be brought to bear against its bastions, and, though the scene of operations is certainly distant, the communication is perfectly uninterrupted, and the road is our own. The besieged, on the other hand, will be confined to the walls of their own stronghold and to those necessarily limited resources which such confinement implies. Their supplies, however abundant, must eventually be exhausted, and their strength, however great, must fail in the end. We have been here assuming as a matter of course that the besiegers can effect a lodgment at some point or other of the Crimea; nor is the assumption, we think, at all unwarrantable. We hear, it is true, extraordinary reports of the Russian forces in these quarters, and it is certainly probable that a position of such consequence would be strengthened in every practicable way; but the extent of the Crimea is very considerable, its coasts offer numerous favourable landing-places, and the assailants are absolute masters of the sea. The French and English fleets can throw an army of 80,000 admirable soldiers on any point of the Crimea which may be selected for the operation, and nothing that we have yet experienced of Russian power should induce us to believe that such a descent could be successfully resisted.

Although, indeed, we are aware that the military resources of Russia are not to be measured by the force which she has employed in the Principalities, we are much disposed to doubt whether the prodigious armies spoken of for the forthcoming operations can ever be brought into the field. It is obvious that this expedition against Sebastopol, taken in conjunction with the recent events in Wallachia, must bring about an entire change in the position of the belligerents. Assuming the success of the Turks in the Principalities to be continued, the Russians can no longer retain any views upon the Danube, still less upon the Balkan or Constantinople, and no Anglo-French troops therefore would be required any longer in Bulgaria. The allies would then be able to commence offensive operations, not only against the Crimea, but along the whole Russian coasts of the Black Sea — that is to say, against the mouths of the Danube, against Odessa, and against Anapa, while the front of the Russians would be changed and extended accordingly. If the line of the Sereth is to be defended, as our reports anticipate, the Russian troops in Moldavia would form the right wing of their army, the centre of which would be at Odessa and Cherson, and the left in the Crimea. These dispositions will be carried out, it is said, by a total force of 300,000 men in the south alone. Fewer, indeed, would not suffice for the purposes detailed; but, if we consider the hosts which will be required at the same moment in the Polish and Baltic provinces to make head against the advance of Austria and the assaults of the allies, we may very reasonably doubt whether this grand army of the south will ever be forthcoming.

This attack upon the centre and seat of Russian power in the Black Sea may be expected to operate in an infinite variety of ways to the discomfiture of the Russians, the encouragement of the Turks, and the general advancement of the campaign. As yet we have derived no efficient assistance from the co-operation of the Circassians, and those martial tribes who alone, and unaided, have so long defied the attempts of Russia, are at present contributing little or nothing to the objects of the war. Indeed, as we observed the other day, the whole course of the campaign in the Asiatic provinces has been more or less favourable to the Russians, although it was in this very country that the success of the Turks was most confidently anticipated. Our latest intelligence announced a defeat of the Turks near Kars, with the additional report that Kars itself was besieged by a Russian army. It would be unsafe to attach implicit credit to this information; but, if the alleged facts are true, the Russians must have made considerable progress in this direction. The letter of our correspondent at Erzeroum recently described the Turkish commander as projecting the siege of Gumri, a fort within the Russian border, nearly opposite to that of Kars, so that, if Kars is invested, the table have been turned, and the Russians, instead of standing on the defensive, have themselves become the assailants. Even supposing, however, that these reports are correct, the actual appearance of the allies in the Crimea, followed, as it would be, by the enfranchisement of the Circassians, must exert a prodigious influence upon the course of affairs in Asia.

Finally, we may observe that this expedition will deprive Austria of the most plausible reason she has hitherto alleged for her own inaction — viz, the inaction of the allies themselves. When 80,000 Anglo-French troops have actually landed on Russian territory and invested the redoubtable stronghold of the Czar, it will no longer be possible to accuse us of hesitation, and a similar amount of decision on the part of Austria would go far towards bringing affairs to a conclusive issue. These and other advantages may fairly be anticipated from the simple fact of the movement against Sebastopol, and most sincerely do we trust that this, the first operation of British and French soldiers in a common cause, may be crowned with a success symbolical of their future prowess as comrades in arms.


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