[Transcribed by Megan Stevens]
The Emperor of RUSSIA has thought proper to mark the close of a year which will ever be remembered as the most calamitous of his reign by a fresh appeal to the confidence of his subjects, who have made, it must be confessed, enormous sacrifices with a degree of patriotism worthy of a better cause. The Sovereign whose gross miscalculation of his position in Europe is the sole cause of these widespread evils exhorts his people to persevere with “the sword in their hands and the cross in their hearts” in defending the safety and honour of their country; but the language of the CZAR is certainly more temperate than on some former occasions; he no longer speaks of dispersing his enemies like chaff before the wind; he contents himself with boasting that on some points the empire has been defended with success; and he declares that he will not reject offers of peace if they are compatible with the dignity of the CROWN and the interest of his people. This manifesto is, however, less remarkable for what it says than for what it leaves unsaid. It asserts again that the causes of the war are not to be traced to any ambitious views or any unjustifiable demands, but it omits all mention of the direct threats addressed by Prince MENSCHIKOFF to the PORTE, of the seizure of the Principalities in violation of existing treaties, of the attack on the fleet at Sinope in violation of a positive engagement, and of the vast diplomatic and military preparations which subsequent events have brought to light, — all indicating that the Emperor NICHOLAS had accumulated immense materials for the destruction of the Ottoman empire, although it is probable that by the violence and indiscretion of Prince MENSCHIKOFF the mine was sprung sooner than had been intended by the Court of St. Petersburg. The Western Powers are denounced, on the contrary, for carrying the war beyond the limits of Turkey into the enemy’s territory, for the world is asked to believe in the moderation of the aggressor and in the violence of the champions of peace.
We are not, however, disinclined on our side to take a similar opportunity of reviewing the occurrences since the declaration of war, for the purpose of keeping clearly in view what are the real objects of our policy, how far they have already been accomplished, and what we are still contending for. At the moment when France and England concluded an offensive and defensive alliance with the PORTE two provinces of the Ottoman empire north of the Danube were occupied by Russian armies; the Turkish fleet had been partly destroyed, and even the convoys to Asia were intercepted; the whole line of the Danube and the Balkan was threatened upon the return of spring; Constantinople itself was imperfectly defended by the allied fleets, and Russia had withdrawn none of her pretensions to dictate to the PORTE a destructive interpretation of the former treaties. Within three months of the intervention of the Western Powers and of the treaty concluded between Austria and the PORTE every one of these dangers had been removed. The Russian fleet never dared to show itself in the Black Sea after the intimation conveyed to it in February. The whole line of forts on the Circassian coast were evacuated. The attempt to operate on the south bank of the Danube soon ended in a total failure, and was entirely abandoned. Not only was Constantinople secured, but not one of the fortresses of Bulgaria was taken. Soon afterwards the Principalities were evacuated, and Russia declared that she fell back exclusively on defensive operations. Nor was this all; before the end of the year the EMPEROR has declared his readiness to treat for peace by relinquishing that separate and special protectorate of the Christians in Turkey which was the main pretext of Prince MENSCHIKOFF’S mission, and by relinquishing all claim to interfere with the navigation of the Danube.
These are the results which the allied Powers have already obtained, and it will be seen that they embrace most of the original points in dispute. They have been the less thought of because they were obtained, for the most part, by diplomacy and by a military demonstration before a shot had been fired by the French or English armies, and because the important operations in the Crimea have since concentrated the whole interest of Europe on that portion of the theatre of war. But they are not the less real, substantial, and important advantages. Had the Russian armies forced the line of the Danube and attacked the Balkan; had they kept possession of the Principalities, and compelled Marshall ST. ARNAUD and Lord RAGLAN to undertake a campaign in the valley of the Danube or the plains of Wallachia; had we even driven them out of that territory after two or three pitched battles as bloody as those of the Alma and Inkermann, there can be no doubt that we should have hailed with just satisfaction this triumphant termination of the first campaign. We undervalue these results because they have been attained without bloodshed and apparently without effort; but their effect is not on that account the less decisively adverse to the policy of Russia, who has been foiled in all her pretensions, and compelled to desist from her attack.
All the primary and immediate objects of the alliance of the Western Powers with Turkey having been thus accomplished, there remains a secondary, but not less essential part of the alliance, which is to obtain securities for the future, and to take solid guarantees against the renewal of this outrage on the peace of Europe. This is what we are now fighting for, and hence arose the necessity for warlike operations of an offensive character to wrest from Russia the chief seat of her preponderance in the Black Sea, and to compel her to submit to such terms as the allied Powers feel bound in the interest of peace to require. The invasion of the Crimea and the siege of Sebastopol were undertaken, and rightly undertaken, for this and for no other object; and when that great enterprise has been crowned with success we shall have obtained by force the most important of the securities we demand. So much has already been done or conceded that the whole matter in dispute may now be stated in two lines — “the limitation of the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea.” The sense to be given to these words depends to some extent on the events of the war, for our diplomatists cannot stipulate for more than our armies have conquered; but, no doubt, it includes in the intentions of the Western Cabinets the reduction of Sebastopol and a restriction on the naval forces of all nations within the waters of the Euxine. To the other points recorded in the protocol of the Three Powers even Prince GORTSCHAKOFF expressed his willingness to submit, so that the difference between the belligerent Powers lies not so much in the substance of the new arrangements to be made for the protection of Eastern independence as in the extent of the guarantees to be taken for that purpose. Those guarantees are, moreover, the test of the sincerity of the declarations made and repeated by the Russian Government, and it is on that account that the rejection of the proposal is anticipated from St. Petersburg. The allied Powers, in considering the terms of peace, will look not to the force of any verbal concession or engagement, but to the establishment of more effectual barriers against aggression. They have bound themselves by treaty to seek no particular advantage or territorial acquisitions for themselves; they have announced that they do not contemplate at the present stage of the war any territorial dismemberment of Russia; they do not expect materially to reduce the internal power which that empire owes to its vast extent, its geographical position, and its population. But they are resolved to show that this power is not so extensive as to enable Russia to make incursions with impunity on its weaker neighbours. They will put an end to that pretended influence with Russia claimed by virtue of her treaties with the PORTE, and they will extend to the SULTAN the general protection of Europe. When these objects are definitively secured, if peace can be restored, this war will not have been made in vain. If would be equally culpable to stop short of the attainment of these results, or, when they are attained, to pursue other and more impracticable objects; and, although we entertain no expectation that the Emperor of RUSSIA will submit to the terms of peace until Sebastopol has fallen, the terms of his manifesto show that he has abandoned all hope of deriving advantage from this war, and that he may still terminate it by the acceptance of conditions which are not incompatible with his own declarations to Europe.