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Nobody is more convinced than I am of the greatness and of the legitimacy of the future of Hellenism. I see in it the heir-apparent to a great part of the succession of the Sick Man. I am happy to think a time will come when these fair lands of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, now blighted by the despotism or anarchy of the Ottoman system, will once more prosper under the enlightened and liberal government of the offspring of Solon and Perikles. What is more, I am perfectly disposed to admit, not only the justice of the hopes and dreams of Hellenes, of that Great Idea which their statesmen and simple citizens so passionately entertain, but the perfect right of an enfranchised nation to go to the assistance of enslaved and suffering brethren and to strike a blow for their salvation. The memories of the War of Independence, of the heroic achievements of Canaris, Botzari, and their fellows, of Missolonghi and Chios, of the Philhellenism of our fathers, of Byron and Chateaubriand, of the romanticism and of the Orientales, are not so very far from us that we can wholly shake them off. Only let us try to look facts in the face and not to be taken in by catchwords and phrases and mere humbug.
Is it or is it not certain that, Crete once occupied by the marines of the European navies, the Powers will never give it back to the tender mercies of immediate Turkish administration ? Is it or is it not true that, though the Cretans have a perfect right to what has been justly called the irreducible minimum of necessary liberties, it would be a monstrous madness to put the peace of the world in peril in order to gratify, I do not even say their own aspirations, but the pretensions of a neighbouring people, to that luxury, incorporation with the kingdom of Greece? Is it or is it not true that Greece at the present time does not furnish any perfect guarantee of being able to govern as it ought to be governed this Ireland of the Ægean Sea, with fierce racial and religious conflicts, and with a Mahometan minority exposed to the hate and vengeance of a Christian majority ? Is the bankruptcy of Greece a favourable indication of its ability to administer the embarrassed finances of Crete ? And, finally, is it not a fact that the recent massacres in Crete have been not of but by Christians, not by but of Mahometans? Let us purge our minds of cant. The Powers have a perfect right to forbid Greece the annexation manu militari of Crete. They have a perfect right to insist on the recall of Prince George and the flotilla. They have a perfect right, in case of obstinate contumacy, to have recourse to coercion and to blockade the Piræus. Nothing, in fact, would be worse, not only for Europe itself, but for the happy and peaceful solution of the Eastern crisis, than for the Powers to be defied and fooled by a small State, their ward and their spoiled child.
Therefore we cannot feel or express any anger against the Courts who have initiated a policy of stern and severe reprehension against the Hellenic Government. Of course we understand perfectly well the secret motives which have taken off their feet, not only a statesman like M. Delyannis, whom his experience of 1886, when he burnt his fingers in trying to light a great conflagration, ought, perhaps, to have made more prudent, but even a man so wise, so loyally devoted to the highest duties of his station as King George. Dynastic considerations, the fear of revolution, are all very well ; but it is, after all, a little too much to ask the whole of Europe to endanger its most sacred interests in order to preserve either Greece or the Greek royal family from such perils.
There is something highly significant in seeing the family Courts—I mean the sovereigns most nearly related or allied to the Greek dynasty-display the sternest, or rather the harshest, severity in their proposals against King George and his policy. Russia and Germany have proposed, if Greece proves obdurate, to blockade the Pireus. Such a proposal comes best, if it is to come at all, from the high and mighty personages who have it rightly at heart to repudiate any solidarity with the freaks of a near relation. However, the Powers are not at all obliged to go immediately to such extremities. Their policy has two faces, two correlative parts. If it forbids Greece to annex Crete, it promises Crete freedom and Home Rule. It is difficult to see why they should not use the liberal and generous part of their policy in order to expedite the prohibitive and austere part. Everybody must grant it is much better to convince than to constrain, and to get the free assent of Greece to the European liberation of Crete than to impose by threats and measures of coercion a sulky abstention on the kingdom.
Lord Salisbury, in asking the Cabinets to declare their intentions relatively to the formation in Crete of a new Samos or a new Cretan Roumelia, before proceeding to threaten or coerce Greece, has only put into words what was in the mind of three at least of the allied Powers. Europe does not at all wish to humiliate or to exasperate Greece. On the contrary, she wants to do all that is possible to spare the susceptibilities of Hellenism, without compromising the preservation of peace. Let us hope the Powers will soon agree on their basis of action, and that Greece will not by a mad obstinacy frustrate the well-meaning efforts of her well-wishers.
At the present moment it is impossible not to understand that it is the fate, not only of Crete, not only of Greece, not even only of the whole East, but of Europe and of the peace of the world, which trembles in the balance. A mistake, a false step, a wrong-headed leap in the dark would be perfectly sufficient to precipitate on the head of our devoted generation the dreadful war mankind fears, tries to prevent, and has prepared against for twenty-five years. Everybody waits for the coming spring as for the time of the inevitable crisis.
Once more, according to a celebrated saying, everybody is on tiptoe expecting something unexpected. Macedonia is by universal consent the most probable arena of the great fray. The immense danger of a Greco-Turkish conflict is not so much on sea, where the fleets of Europe are probably able to hinder or to stop hostile meetings, but on the Thessalo-Macedonian frontier, where the vanguards of the two armies have been long since facing each other, and waiting only for the word of command. The Powers would be strangely, below the right use of their opportunities if they did not try, in making the freedom of Crete a trump in their hand, to get Greece tied not only to inaction in the Ægean Sea, but to peace on the Northern frontier.
Yet I should be very sorry, for my part, to entertain too simple and too robust an optimism. The Eastern question is always with us, and I do not see—though I devoutly pray for it-how it is to be peacefully solved. It seems to me that we are in a most strange and parlous state. There was a time when the Eastern problem was simply the perpetual threat of a barbarous and conquering race against Christendom. A second phasis opened when the Turk, no longer too strong, became suddenly too weak, and offered a too tempting prey to the rival covetousnesses of his neighbours. Europe then exhausted itself in trying, at first to put the Sick Man on his feet again, then to prepare for his dissolution and to arrange for his succession.
Perhaps we may recognise' a third period when the physicians themselves are nearly as badly off as their patient, and dare not have recourse to surgical operations because they fear for themselves the rebound of those heroic remedies. To-day it seems verily as if the morbid fancy of Edgar Poe had anticipated the present state of things in the East. In one of the most gruesome of his stories, The Case of Mr. Valdemar, the American poet paints a dreadful experience. A dying man has been put to sleep by magnetism. He remains for whole weeks in this kind of trance between death and life. Suddenly the experimenter is minded to recall him to his normal waking condition. For what occurred, it is impossible that any human being could have been prepared. As I rapidly made the passes among ejaculations of “Dead! Dead !” absolutely bursting from the tongue and not from the lips of the sufferer, his whole frame at once, within the space of a single minute, or even less, shrunk, crumbled, absolutely rotted away beneath my hands. Upon the bed, before the whole company, there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome-of detestable putrescence.'
Di meliora piis! Let us hope we may be good Europeans without experiencing such dreadful consequences of our own diplomacy!
FRANCIS DE PRESSENSÉ.
AND THE QUEEN'S LONG REIGN
If the annals of Her Gracious Majesty's long reign were to be tested by the mitigation of human misery and the saving of human life that have distinguished it, the most notable events of the period would probably be considered the adoption of the use of anæsthetics and the practice of antiseptic surgery. When, as a step further, we inquire what has most conduced to the happiness of the Queen's subjects, we shall find several rival claims. Much may be urged on behalf of the extension of liberty of self-government and of education. Again, the railways, the steamers, the telegraph, and the improvement in the modes and methods of manufacture may reasonably find ardent advocates. But there is still another offspring of the extended reign that may undeniably claim to have been the means of bestowing a vast amount of human happiness, and that is the extraordinary development of the colonies and other possessions of the Empire. There are thousands of human beings who have found in the colonies happy careers of honourable industry open to them, accompanied in many instances by great distinction, instead of the colourless joyless lives they otherwise seemed destined to lead. Without carrying the inquiry further, it is certain that Her Majesty's prolonged reign would be inadequately celebrated if Greater Britain did not take a part in the celebration.
A happier thought could not have occurred to any mind than the invitation which Mr. Chamberlain has extended on Her Majesty's behalf to the Prime Ministers of the self-governing colonies and to representatives of other parts of the Empire to become the guests of the nation in June next. It will gratify the colonies, India, and the other possessions; it will bring home to the people of the United Kingdom a sense of the immense territories throughout the world with which they are associated. Without going narrowly into details, the following tabular statement will convey a comprehensive impression of the enormous progress the Queen's dominions have made within the period of her beneficent sway.
Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the table is that it shows. that, although the population has largely increased, the yearly contribution to the revenue has risen from 3s. 10d. per head in 1840 to 98. 4d. at the end of 1895.
If one considers what has been effected within a past comparatively so short in the life of a nation, he must find it difficult to form an. adequate conception of what the future may have in store for the great countries which, together with the United Kingdom, constitute the British Empire. During the last few years a growing feeling has shown itself in favour of strengthening the union between the mother-country and her possessions and between the possessions themselves. Important and influential combinations have been organised to disseminate this policy, and the opinion has gained ground that it is most desirable something should be done. What that something is cannot be readily determined, though its object is clearly enough an intimate federation with regard to defence, to commerce, and to other national purposes. At least it must be allowed that the unparalleled celebration about to take place would be incomplete as a national movement if all parts of the Empire were not associated in it.
The leagues and associations, whilst discussing various means to the end, felt themselves without authority to do more than generalise. The broad conclusion they arrived at was that it would be desirable to bring the representatives of Greater Britain and of the United Kingdom into conclave, and some time ago they made recommendations to that effect. But Her Majesty's Government pointed out that in the absence of a competent request from the colonies they had no right to convene a congress unless they were prepared to make definite proposals. They convened a congress ten years ago, but they submitted the subjects with which it should deal, and federation was not one of them. The colonial governments could