chapter  VIII
57 Pages

VIII. GREAT BRITAIN AND TURKEY: THE ASIATIC CLAUSES

SALISBURY's PLANS for the security and regeneration of Turkey had, as we have seen, been outlined before the Congress; they were based on three essentials, namely, a satisfactory military frontier for Turkey in Europe, a military guarantee of the Sultan's dominions by England and Austria, and internal reforms which would increase the efficiency, internal order, and prosperity of the empire, and so remove the chief incentive to Russian attack. By April 1879 some progress had been made in each direction. A military frontier running along various ranges of the Balkan mountains had been secured for Turkey by the Berlin treaty; but this would remain a paper concession until the Russians had retired, and Turkish troops had been pushed forward to occupy the mountains. By the Cyprus convention the Sultan had secured a British guarantee of his Asiatic dominions, but Austria had still not given the military guarantee of Turkey in Europe for which England and the Porte hoped. Finally, schemes of internal reform had been drawn up by the British government and elaborated by Layard; they had been received with a very convincing show of interest and gratitude by the Porte, but hitherto virtually nothing had been done to execute them, and Salisbury could not profess to have discovered any solution of the difficulties which the Porte put forward to explain the delay. Article LXI of the Berlin treaty provided that the Porte would carry out reforms in the Armenian provinces, and would ' periodically make known the steps taken to this effect to the Powers, who will superintend their application.' 1 In practice none of the powers except Britain was prepared to

take any active steps to execute this clause; Russia could hardly be expected to look with any enthusiasm on the regeneration of Turkey, while Germany and Austria felt little direct concern for the conditions of the Porte's Asiatic subjects; the French and Italian governments were also prepared to regard the matter as a special interest ofEngland.2 Fournier and Corti, the French and Italian ambassadors at Constantinople, took a rather more active interest in the Near Eastern settlement than their governments, but in Fournier's case this led to the pursuit of schemes for the restoration of French prestige which even led him into opposition to Layard on many occasions. The pessimistic, and occasionally ironical, tone of much of Salisbury's private correspondence, and his apparent unwillingness to press his points very far, suggest even in his case a certain lack of confidence in the value or practicability of the whole programme, and he was certainly influenced in part by the knowledge that party tactics at home and British prestige in India demanded some display of solicitude for the welfare of the Sultan's oppressed and suffering people.3