Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

Recent disclosures, which have shown that Lord Aberdeen's Ministry was not rightly reproached with
"drifting" idly and recklessly into this disastrous contest, have also helped to clear the English

commander's memory from the slur of inefficiency so liberally flung on him at the time, while it has been

shown that his action was seriously hampered by the French generals with whom he had to co-operate.

From whatever cause, such glory as was gained in the Crimea belongs more to the rank and file of the

allied armies than to those highest in command. The first success won on the heights of the Alma was not

followed up; the Charge of the Six Hundred, which has made memorable for ever the Russian repulse at

Balaklava, was a splendid mistake, valuable chiefly for the spirit-stirring example it has bequeathed to

future generations of English soldiers, for its illustration of death-defying, disciplined courage; the great

fight at Inkerman was only converted from a calamitous surprise into a victory by sheer obstinate valour,

not by able strategy; and the operations that after Lord Raglan's death brought the unreasonably

protracted siege of Sebastopol to a close did but evince afresh how grand were the soldierly qualities of

both French and English, and how indifferently they were generalled.

If the allies came out of the conflict with no great glory, they had such satisfaction as could be derived
from the severer losses and the discomfiture at all points of the foe. The disasters of the war had been

fatal to the Czar Nicholas, who died on March 2nd, 1855, from pulmonary apoplexy - an attack to which

he had laid himself open, it was said, in melancholy recklessness of his health. His was a striking

personality, which had much more impressed English imaginations than that of Czar or Czarina since the

time of Peter the Great; and the Queen herself had regarded the autocrat, whose great power made him so

lonely, with an interest not untouched with compassion at the remote period when he had visited her

Court and had talked with her statesmen about the imminent decay of Turkey. At that time the austere

majesty of his aspect, seen amid the finer and softer lineaments of British courtiers, had been likened to

the half-savage grandeur of an emperor of old Rome who should have been born a Thracian peasant. It

proved that the contrast had gone much deeper than outward appearance, and that his views and

principles had been as opposed to those of the English leaders, and as impossible of participation by such

men as though he had been an imperfectly civilised contemporary of Constantine the Great. Since then

he had succeeded in making himself more heartily hated, by the bulk of the English nation, than any

sovereign since Napoleon I; for the war, into which the Government had entered reluctantly, was

regarded by the people with great enthusiasm, and the foe was proportionately detested.

Many anticipated that the death of the Czar would herald in a triumphant peace; but in point of fact,
peace was not signed until the March of 1856. Its terms satisfied the diplomatists both of France and

England; they would probably have been less complacent could they have foreseen the day when this

hard-won treaty would be torn up by the Power they seemed to be binding hand and foot with sworn

obligations of perdurable toughness; least of all would that foresight have been agreeable to Lord

Palmerston, Premier of England when the peace was signed, and quite at one with the mass of the people

of England in their deep dislike and distrust of Russia and its rulers.

The political advantages which can be clearly traced to this war are not many. Privateers are no longer
allowed to prey on the commerce of belligerent nations, and neutral commerce in all articles not

contraband of war must be respected, while no blockade must be regarded unless efficiently and

thoroughly maintained. Such were the principles with which the plenipotentiaries who signed the Treaty

of Paris in 1856 enriched the code of international law; and these principles, which are in force still,

alone remain of the advantages supposed to have been secured by all the misery and all the expenditure

of the Crimean enterprise.

 

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