Sunday, January 16, 2011

30Apr1877, War Between Russia and Turkey

LONDON, Monday, April 30th–May 6th, 1877.
—Dined with Bob at Meriel's and went with him to a Philharmonic, where the music was soothingly easy. Overture to "Midsummer Night's Dream" the chief delight.

War is declared between Russia and Turkey; the beginning, I should hope, of a great and decisive drama. It is a blessing that dread of war has reached to such a height as it has in England nowadays; but I do think people ought to see how there are deep-rooted iniquities which can only be got rid of through suffering and struggle and sacrifice, in which the innocent must bear their part as well as the guilty. It seems as if the divine words "Without shedding of blood there is no remission" had a wide human application, along with their more sacred meaning.
Tuesday, May Day. A frightful crisis in politics is gathering up. Hitherto the Liberal leaders, though they have from time to time made speeches more or less hostile to the Government's Eastern policy, have never come to a direct vote upon it. The outbreak of war, coupled with the increased and ever-increasing pro-Turkism of Government utterances, has poked up Uncle W. to a conviction that it is the duty of the Opposition to protest distinctly against Turkey's utter disregard of all Ld. Derby's threats and expostulations, to declare that she has forfeited all claim upon English support, either material or moral, and to pronounce in favour of European concert to coerce her. He justifies this by the serious danger we are in of Ld. Beaconsfield entangling us, or letting some diplomatic turn of the wheel entangle us, in war on behalf of Turkey. Dizzy's real heart (for once!) seems to be in the matter; at all events for months past the Government tone has been steadily growing milder towards Turkey, while their organs in the press are diligent in fanning the panic-distrust and hatred of Russia to the utmost. One knows that neutrality is always a position full of anxiety, at a time of war about which one's country is deeply excited, and though there is a strong desire in this country to keep out of it, it hardly wants all Dizzy's great gifts of craft and party-management to get us involved, with his big and most submissive majority at his back. On the other hand, Hartington and the rest of the ex-Cabinet do not consider it right at this time to tie the hands of the Government, or embarrass them by an attack. Their view is that as long as strict neutrality is observed we have no business to take so serious a responsibility at such a moment, on mere vague grounds of possible machinations in favour of Turkey; that to do so would split the Liberal party and thereby directly strengthen Dizzy's hands and encourage the Porte; whereas if we waited until a real proposal of going to war for Turkey was before the House, the party would unite as one man against it, with far greater effect. The upshot is that Uncle W., after much discussion with Lord Granville, and finding that Hartington can't conscientiously support him, is going to move certain Resolutions conveying all he wished, independent of the front Opposition Bench; Sir John Lubbock will move the "previous question," and dreadful confusion and ruin of the party accordingly stares us in the face....

To Harley St. after dinner; poor Auntie P. looked worried to death, and F. is nearly wild. How can he leave Cavendish in the lurch, and yet to be driven to vote against Uncle W. seems almost inconceivable to him.

Thursday, 3rd. Agnes went to the drawing-room with Auntie P. and they looked a beautiful couple.

Friday, May 4th. Went to see Alice Egerton and Gertrude Pennant. Gertrude and I talked politics, my only wish about her in that line being to keep up her faith in Uncle W. being an honest man, for the Toryissimus Toryism in the midst of which she now lives has a bitter hatred of him and disbelief in his public, and private ! ! morality, as its centre. Dined with Mr. Balfour, Ly. Rayleigh entertaining.

Saturday, 5th. Poor distracted F. has taken up a notion (of Mr. Dodson's) as to altering the Resolutions, which gives a ray of hope. He was busy scribbling down an amended 2nd Resolution all breakfast time, being off afterwards to breakfast at Grillion's, whence he went on to Harley St. I augured well from his not turning up again till luncheon time, and sure enough Uncle W. was very willing to do all in his power, short of giving up his attack, to keep the party together: influenced by loyal feeling to Hartington, and the horror of giving Turkey the triumph of seeing the party split by an anti-Turkey motion. The main principle is clearly laid down in the 2nd Resolution as it is to be amended, viz., "that the Porte has sacrificed all claim to either moral or material support from England." This amended form is to be proposed by Mr. Trevelyan, and Uncle W. will not press the remaining Resolutions. F. was busy all the morning between Harley Street and Devonshire House, and Ld. Granville and others confabulated also with Hartington. All was arranged, and Charles and I went off to Wellington College immensely relieved ; F. settling not to come till Sunday morning in case he might be wanted.

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