“With all Marx’s faults and his extravagant abuse of high political personages, one cannot but admire the man’s strength of mind, the courage of his opinions, and his scorn and contempt for everything small, petty, and mean. Although many and great changes have taken place since these papers appeared, they are still valuable not only for the elucidation of the past, but also for throwing a clearer light upon the present as also upon the future.” — Westminster Review.
“All that Marx’s hand set itself to do, it did with all its might, and in this volume, as in the rest of his work, we see the indefatigable energy, the wonderful grasp of detail, and the keen and marvellous foresight of a master mind.” — Justice.
“A very masterly analysis of the condition, political, economic and social, of the Turkish Empire, which is as true to-day as when it was written.” — Daily Chronicle.
“The letters contain an enormous amount of well-digested information, and display great critical acumen, amounting in some cases almost to prevision. The biographical interest of the volume is also pronounced, for prominent men of that period are dissected and analysed with a vigour and freedom which are as refreshing to readers as they would be disconcerting to their subjects were they alive. A perusal of the book must greatly tend to a clearer perception of the later Eastern issues, which are now engaging the attention and testing the diplomatic talents of the ambassadors at Constantinople.” — Liverpool Post.
In the Preface to “The Eastern Question,” by Karl Marx, published in 1897, the Editors, Eleanor Marx Aveling and Edward Aveling, referred to two series of papers entitled “The Story of the Life of Lord Palmerston,” and “Secret Diplomatic History of the Eighteenth Century,” which they promised to publish at an early date.
Mrs. Aveling did not live long enough to see these papers through the press, but she left them in such a forward state, and we have had so many inquiries about them since, that we venture to issue them without Mrs. Aveling’s final revision in two shilling pamphlets.
“ … I heartily wish … that the Turks could be brought to condescend to make the first step, for this Court seems resolved to hearken to nothing till that is done, to mortify the Porte, that has on all occasions spoken of the Russians with the greatest contempt, which the Czarina and her present Ministers cannot bear. Instead of being obliged to Sir Everard Fawkner and Mr. Thalman (the former the British, the latter the Dutch Ambassador at Constantinople), for informing them of the good dispositions of the Turks, Count Oestermann will not be persuaded that the Porte is sincere, and seemed very much surprised that they had written to them (the Russian Cabinet) without order of the King and the States-General, or without being desired by the Grand Vizier, and that their letter had not been concerted with the Emperor’s Minister at Constantinople…. I have shown Count Biron and Count Oestermann the two letters the Grand Vizier has written to the King, and at the same time told these gentlemen that as there was in them several hard reflections on this Court, I should not have communicated them if they had not been so desirous to see them. Count Biron said that was nothing, for they were used to be treated in this manner by the Turks. I desired their Excellencies not to let the Porte know that they had seen these letters, which would sooner aggravate matters than contribute to make them up….”
“St. Petersburg, 1st (12th) March, 1765.
“ … Yesterday M. Panin and the Vice-Chancellor, together with M. Osten, the Danish Minister, signed a treaty of alliance between this Court and that of Copenhagen. By one of the articles, a war with Turkey is made a casus fœderis; and whenever that event happens, Denmark binds herself to pay Russia a subsidy of 500,000 roubles per annum, by quarterly payments. Denmark also, by a most secret article, promises to disengage herself from all French connections, demanding only a limited time to endeavour to obtain the arrears due to her by the Court of France. At all events, she is immediately to enter into all the views of Russia in Sweden, and to act entirely, though not openly, with her in that kingdom. Either I am deceived or M. Gross has misunderstood his instructions, when he told your lordship that Russia intended to stop short, and leave all the burden of Sweden upon England. However desirous this Court may be that we should pay a large proportion of every pecuniary engagement, yet, I am assured, she will always choose to take the lead at Stockholm. Her design, her ardent wish, is to make a common cause with England and Denmark, for the total annihilation of the French interest there. This certainly cannot be done without a considerable expense; but Russia, at present, does not seem unreasonable enough to expect that WE SHOULD PAY THE WHOLE. It has been hinted to me that £1,500 per annum, on our part, would be sufficient to support our interest, and absolutely prevent the French from ever getting at Stockholm again.
“The Swedes, highly sensible of, and very much mortified at, the dependent situation they have been in for many years, are extremely jealous of every Power that intermeddles in their affairs, and particularly so of their neighbours the Russians. This is the reason assigned to me for this Court’s desiring that we and they should act upon SEPARATE bottoms, still preserving between our respective Ministers a confidence without reserve. That our first care should be, not to establish a faction under the name of a Russian or of an English faction; but, as even the wisest men are imposed upon by a mere name, to endeavour to have OUR friends distinguished as the friends of liberty and independence. At present we have a superiority, and the generality of the nation is persuaded how very ruinous their French connections have been, and, if continued, how very destructive they will be of their true interests. M. Panin does by no means desire that the smallest change should be made in the constitution of Sweden. He wishes that the royal authority might be preserved without being augmented, and that the privileges of the people should be continued without violation. He was not, however, without his fears of the ambitious and intriguing spirit of the Queen, but the great ministerial vigilance of Count Oestermann has now entirely quieted his apprehensions on that head.
“By this new alliance with Denmark, and by the success in Sweden, which this Court has no doubt of, if properly seconded, M. Panin will, in some measure, have brought to bear his grand scheme of uniting the Powers of the North. Nothing, then, will be wanted to render it entirely perfect, but the conclusion of a treaty alliance with Great Britain. I am persuaded this Court desires it most ardently. The Empress has expressed herself more than once, in terms that marked it strongly. Her ambition is to form, by such an union, a certain counterpoise to the family compact, and to disappoint, as much as possible, all the views of the Courts of Vienna and Versailles, against which she is irritated with uncommon resentment. I am not, however, to conceal from your lordship that we can have no hope of any such alliance, unless we agree, by some secret article, to pay a subsidy in case of a Turkish war, for no money will be desired from us, except upon an emergency of that nature. I flatter myself I have persuaded this Court of the unreasonableness of expecting any subsidy in time of peace, and that an alliance upon an equal footing will be more safe and more honourable for both nations. I can assure your lordship that a Turkish war’s being a casus fœderis, inserted either in the body of the treaty or in a secret article, will be a sine quâ non in every negotiation we may have to open with this Court. The obstinacy of M. Panin upon that point is owing to the accident I am going to mention. When the treaty between the Emperor and the King of Prussia was in agitation, the Count Bestoucheff, who is a mortal enemy to the latter, proposed the Turkish clause, persuaded that the King of Prussia would never submit to it, and flattering himself with the hopes of blowing up that negotiation by his refusal. But this old politician, it seemed, was mistaken in his conjecture, for his Majesty immediately consented to the proposal on condition that Russia should make no alliance with any other Power but on the same terms. This is the real fact, and to confirm it, a few days since, Count Solme, the Prussian Minister, came to visit me, and told me that if this Court had any intention of concluding an alliance with ours without such a clause, he had orders to oppose it in the strongest manner. Hints have been given me that if Great Britain were less inflexible in that article, Russia will be less inflexible in the article of export duties in the Treaty of Commerce, which M. Gross told your lordship this Court would never depart from. I was assured at the same time, by a person in the highest degree of confidence with M. Panin, that if we entered upon the Treaty of Alliance the Treaty of Commerce would go on with it passibus æquis; that then the latter would be entirely taken out of the hands of the College of Trade, where so many cavils and altercations had been made, and would be settled only between the Minister and myself, and that he was sure it would be concluded to our satisfaction, provided the Turkish clause was admitted into the Treaty of Alliance. I was told, also, that in case the Spaniards attacked Portugal, we might have 15,000 Russians in our pay to send upon that service. I must entreat your lordship on no account to mention to M. Gross the secret article of the Danish Treaty…. That gentleman, I am afraid, is no well-wisher to England.
“Petersburg, 16 (27 August), 1782.
“ … On my arrival here I found the Court very different from what it had been described to me. So far from any partiality to England, its bearings were entirely French. The King of Prussia (then in possession of the Empress’ ear) was exerting his influence against us. Count Panin assisted him powerfully; Lacy and Corberon, the Bourbon Ministers, were artful and intriguing; Prince Potemkin had been wrought upon by them; and the whole tribe which surrounded the Empress — the Schuwaloffs, Stroganoffs, and Chernicheffs — were what they still are, garçons perruquiers de Paris. Events seconded their endeavours. The assistance the French affected to afford Russia in settling its disputes with the Porte, and the two Courts being immediately after united as mediators at the Peace of Teschen, contributed not a little to reconcile them to each other. I was, therefore, not surprised that all my negotiations with Count Panin, from February, 1778, to July, 1779, should be unsuccessful, as he meant to prevent, not to promote, an alliance. It was in vain we made concessions to obtain it. He ever started fresh difficulties; had ever fresh obstacles ready. A very serious evil resulted, in the meanwhile, from my apparent confidence in him. He availed himself of it to convey in his reports to the Empress, not the language I employed, and the sentiments I actually expressed, but the language and sentiments he wished I should employ and express. He was equally careful to conceal her opinions and feelings from me; and while he described England to her as obstinate, and overbearing, and reserved, he described the Empress to me as displeased, disgusted, and indifferent to our concerns; and he was so convinced that, by this double misrepresentation, he had shut up every avenue of success that, at the time when I presented to him the Spanish declaration, he ventured to say to me, ministerially, ‘That Great Britain had, by its own haughty conduct, brought down all its misfortunes on itself; that they were now at their height; that we must consent to any concession to obtain peace; and that we could expect neither assistance from our friends nor forbearance from our enemies.’ I had temper enough not to give way to my feelings on this occasion…. I applied, without loss of time, to Prince Potemkin, and, by his means, the Empress condescended to see me alone at Peterhoff. I was so fortunate in this interview, as not only to efface all bad impressions she had against us, but by stating in its true light, our situation, and THE INSEPARABLE INTERESTS OF GREAT BRITAIN AND RUSSIA, to raise in her mind a decided resolution to assist us. This resolution she declared to me in express words. When this transpired — and Count Panin was the first who knew it — he became my implacable and inveterate enemy. He not only thwarted by falsehoods and by a most undue exertion of his influence my public negotiations, but employed every means the lowest and most vindictive malice could suggest to depreciate and injure me personally; and from the very infamous accusations with which he charged me, had I been prone to fear, I might have apprehended the most infamous attacks at his hands. This relentless persecution still continues; it has outlived his Ministry. Notwithstanding the positive assurances I had received from the Empress herself, he found means, first to stagger, and afterwards to alter her resolutions. He was, indeed, very officiously assisted by his Prussian Majesty, who, at the time, was as much bent on oversetting our interest as he now seems eager to restore it. I was not, however, disheartened by this first disappointment, and, by redoubling my efforts, I have twice more, during the course of my mission, brought the Empress to the verge (!) of standing forth our professed friend, and, each time, my expectations were grounded on assurances from her own mouth. The first was when our enemies conjured up the armed neutrality; the other WHEN MINORCA WAS OFFERED HER. Although, on the first of these occasions, I found the same opposition from the same quarter I had experienced before, yet I am compelled to say that the principal cause of my failure was attributable to the very awkward manner in which we replied to the famous neutral declaration of February, 1780. As I well knew from what quarter the blow would come, I was prepared to parry it. My opinion was: ‘If England feels itself strong enough to do without Russia, let it reject at once these new-fangled doctrines; but if its situation is such as to want assistance, let it yield to the necessity of the hour, recognise them as far as they relate to RUSSIA ALONE, and by a well-timed act of complaisance insure itself a powerful friend.’ My opinion was not received; an ambiguous and trimming answer was given; we seemed equally afraid to accept or dismiss them. I was instructed secretly to oppose, but avowedly to acquiesce in them, and some unguarded expressions of one of its then confidential servants, made use of in speaking to Mr. Simolin, in direct contradiction to the temperate and cordial language that Minister had heard from Lord Stormont, irritated the Empress to the last degree, and completed the dislike and bad opinion she entertained of that Administration. Our enemies took advantage of these circumstances…. I SUGGESTED THE IDEA OF GIVING UP MINORICA TO THE EMPRESS, because, as it was evident to me we should at the peace be compelled to make sacrifices, it seemed to me wiser to make them to our friends than to our enemies. THE IDEA WAS ADOPTED AT HOME IN ITS WHOLE EXTENT, and nothing could be more perfectly calculated to the meridian of this Court than the judicious instructions I received on this occasion from Lord Stormont. Why this project failed I am still at a loss to learn. I never knew the Empress incline so strongly to any one measure as she did to this, before I had my full powers to treat, nor was I ever more astonished than when I found her shrink from her purpose when they arrived. I imputed it at the same time, in my own mind, to the rooted aversion she had for our Ministry, and her total want of confidence in them; but I since am more strongly disposed to believe that she consulted the Emperor (of Austria) on the subject, and that he not only prevailed on her to decline the offer, but betrayed the secret to France, and that it thus became public. I cannot otherwise account for this rapid change of sentiment in the Empress, particularly as Prince Potemkin (whatever he might be in other transactions) was certainly in this cordial and sincere in his support, and both from what I saw at the time, and from what has since come to my knowledge, had its success at heart as much as myself. You will observe, my lord, that the idea of bringing the Empress forward as a friendly mediatrix went hand-in-hand with the proposed cession of Minorca. As this idea has given rise to what has since followed, and involved us in all the dilemmas of the present mediation, it will be necessary for me to explain what my views then were, and to exculpate myself from the blame of having placed my Court in so embarrassing a situation, my wish and intention was that she should be sole mediatrix without an adjoint; if you have perused what passed between her and me, in December, 1780, your lordship will readily perceive how very potent reasons I had to imagine she would be a friendly and even a partial one. I knew, indeed, she was unequal to the task; but I knew, too, how greatly her vanity would be flattered by this distinction, and was well aware that when once engaged she would persist, and be inevitably involved in our quarrel, particularly when it should appear (and appear it would) that we had gratified her with Minorca. The annexing to the mediation the other (Austrian) Imperial Court entirely overthrew this plan. It not only afforded her a pretence for not keeping her word, but piqued and mortified her; and it was under this impression that she made over the whole business to the colleague we had given her, and ordered her Minister at Vienna to subscribe implicitly to whatever the Court proposed. Hence all the evils which have since arisen, and hence those we at this moment experience. I myself could never be brought to believe that the Court of Vienna, as long as Prince Kaunitz directs its measures, can mean England any good or France any harm. It was not with that view that I endeavoured to promote its influence here, but because I found that of Prussia in constant opposition to me; and because I thought that if I could by any means smite this, I should get rid of my greatest obstacle. I was mistaken, and, by a singular fatality, the Courts of Vienna and Berlin seem never to have agreed in anything but in the disposition to prejudice us here by turns. The proposal relative to Minorca was the last attempt I made to induce the Empress to stand forth. I had exhausted my strength and resources; the freedom with which I had spoken in my last interview with her, though respectful, had displeased; and from this period to the removal of the late Administration, I have been reduced to act on the defensive…. I have had more difficulty in preventing the Empress from doing harm than I ever had in attempting to engage her to do us good. It was to prevent evil, that I inclined strongly for the acceptation of her single mediation between us and Holland, when her Imperial Majesty first offered it. The extreme dissatisfaction she expressed at our refusal justified my opinion; and I TOOK UPON ME, when it was proposed a second time, to urge the necessity of its being agreed to (ALTHOUGH I KNEW IT TO BE IN CONTRADICTION OF THE SENTIMENTS OF MY PRINCIPAL), since I firmly believed, had we again declined it, the Empress would, in a moment of anger, have joined the Dutch against us. As it is, all has gone on well; our judicious conduct has transferred to them the ill-humour she originally was in with us, and she now is as partial to our cause as she was before partial to theirs. Since the new Ministry in England, my road has been made smoother; the great and new path struck out by your predecessor, and which you, my lord, pursue, has operated a most advantageous change in our favour upon the Continent. Nothing, indeed, but events which come home to her, will, I believe, ever induce her Imperial Majesty to take an active part; but there is now a strong glow of friendship in our favour; she approves our measures; she trusts our Ministry, and she gives way to that predilection she certainly has for our nation. Our enemies know and feel this; it keeps them in awe. This is a succinct but accurate sketch of what has passed at this Court from the day of my arrival at Petersburg to the present hour. Several inferences may be deduced from it. That the Empress is led by her passions, not by reason and argument; that her prejudices are very strong, easily acquired, and, when once fixed, irremovable; while, on the contrary, there is no sure road to her good opinion; that even when obtained, it is subject to perpetual fluctuation, and liable to be biassed by the most trifling incidents; that till she is fairly embarked in a plan, no assurances can be depended on; but that when once fairly embarked, she never retracts, and may be carried any length; that with very bright parts, an elevated mind, an uncommon sagacity, she wants judgment, precision of idea, reflection, and L’ESPRIT DE COMBINAISON(!!) That her Ministers are either ignorant of, or indifferent to, the welfare of the State, and act from a passive submission to her will, or from motives of party and private interests.
“There can scarcely exist a doubt concerning the real sentiments of the late Empress of Russia on the great points which have, within the last few years, convulsed the whole system of European politics. She certainly felt from the beginning the fatal tendency of the new principles, but was not, perhaps, displeased to see every European Power exhausting itself in a struggle which raised, in proportion to its violence, her own importance. It is more than probable that the state of the newly acquired provinces in Poland was likewise a point which had considerable influence over the political conduct of Catherine. The fatal effects resulting from an apprehension of revolt in the late seat of conquest seem to have been felt in a very great degree by the combined Powers, who in the early period of the Revolution were so near reinstating the regular Government in France. The same dread of revolt in Poland, which divided the attention of the combined Powers and hastened their retreat, deterred likewise the late Empress of Russia from entering on the great theatre of war, until a combination of circumstances rendered the progress of the French armies a more dangerous evil than any which could possibly result to the Russian Empire from active operations…. The last words which the Empress was known to utter were addressed to her Secretary when she dismissed him on the morning on which she was seized: ‘Tell Prince’ (Zuboff), she said, ‘to come to me at twelve, and to remind me of signing the Treaty of Alliance with England.’”
Having entered into ample considerations on the Emperor Paul’s acts and extravagances, the Rev. Mr. Pitt continues as follows:
“When these considerations are impressed on the mind, the nature of the late secession from the coalition, and of the incalculable indignities offered to the Government of Great Britain, can alone be fairly estimated…. BUT THE TIES WHICH BIND HER (GREAT BRITAIN) TO THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE ARE FORMED BY NATURE AND INVIOLABLE. United, these nations might almost brave the united world; divided, the strength and importance of each is FUNDAMENTALLY impaired. England has reason to regret with Russia that the imperial sceptre should be thus inconsistently wielded, but it is the sovereign of Russia alone who divides the Empires.”
The reverend gentleman concludes his account by the words:
“As far as human foresight can at this moment penetrate, the despair of an enraged individual seems a more probable means to terminate the present scene of oppression than any more systematic combination of measures to restore the throne of Russia to its dignity and importance.”
The documents published in the first chapter extend from the reign of the Empress Ann to the commencement of the reign of the Emperor Paul, thus encompassing the greater part of the 18th century. At the end of that century it had become, as stated by the Rev. Mr. Pitt, the openly professed and orthodox dogma of English diplomacy, “that the ties which bind Great Britain to the Russian Empire are formed by nature, and inviolable.”
In perusing these documents, there is something that startles us even more than their contents — viz., their form. All these letters are “confidential,” “private,” “secret,” “most secret”; but in spite of secrecy, privacy, and confidence, the English statesmen converse among each other about Russia and her rulers in a tone of awful reserve, abject servility, and cynical submission, which would strike us even in the public despatches of Russian statesmen. To conceal intrigues against foreign nations secrecy is recurred to by Russian diplomatists. The same method is adopted by English diplomatists freely to express their devotion to a foreign Court. The secret despatches of Russian diplomatists are fumigated with some equivocal perfume. It is one part the fumée de fausseté, as the Duke of St. Simon has it, and the other part that coquettish display of one’s own superiority and cunning which stamps upon the reports of the French Secret Police their indelible character. Even the master despatches of Pozzo di Borgo are tainted with this common blot of the litérature de mauvais lieu. In this point the English secret despatches prove much superior. They do not affect superiority but silliness. For instance, can there be anything more silly than Mr. Rondeau informing Horace Walpole that he has betrayed to the Russian Minister the letters addressed by the Turkish Grand Vizier to the King of England, but that he had told “at the same time those gentlemen that as there were several hard reflections on the Russian Court he should not have communicated them, if they had not been so anxious to see them,” and then told their excellencies not to tell the Porte that they had seen them (those letters)! At first view the infamy of the act is drowned in the silliness of the man. Or, take Sir George Macartney. Can there be anything more silly than his happiness that Russia seemed “reasonable” enough not to expect that England “should pay the WHOLE EXPENSES“ for Russia’s “choosing to take the lead at Stockholm”; or his “flattering himself” that he had “persuaded the Russian Court” not to be so “unreasonable” as to ask from England, in a time of peace, subsidies for a time of war against Turkey (then the ally of England); or his warning the Earl of Sandwich “not to mention” to the Russian Ambassador at London the secrets mentioned to himself by the Russian Chancellor at St. Petersburg? Or can there be anything more silly than Sir James Harris confidentially whispering into the ear of Lord Grantham that Catherine II. was devoid of “judgment, precision of idea, reflection, and l’esprit de combinaison”?
On the other hand, take the cool impudence with which Sir George Macartney informs his minister that because the Swedes were extremely jealous of, and mortified at, their dependence on Russia, England was directed by the Court of St. Petersburg to do its work at Stockholm, under the British colours of liberty and independence! Or Sir James Harris advising England to surrender to Russia Minorca and the right of search, and the monopoly of mediation in the affairs of the world — not in order to gain any material advantage, or even a formal engagement on the part of Russia, but only “a strong glow of friendship” from the Empress, and the transfer to France of her “ill humour.”
The secret Russian despatches proceed on the very plain line that Russia knows herself to have no common interests whatever with other nations, but that every nation must be persuaded separately to have common interests with Russia to the exclusion of every other nation. The English despatches, on the contrary, never dare so much as hint that Russia has common interests with England, but only endeavour to convince England that she has Russian interests. The English diplomatists themselves tell us that this was the single argument they pleaded, when placed face to face with Russian potentates.
If the English despatches we have laid before the public were addressed to private friends, they would only brand with infamy the ambassadors who wrote them. Secretly addressed as they are to the British Government itself, they nail it for ever to the pillory of history; and, instinctively, this seems to have been felt, even by Whig writers, because none has dared to publish them.
The question naturally arises from which epoch this Russian character of English diplomacy, become traditionary in the course of the 18th century, does date its origin. To clear up this point we must go back to the time of Peter the Great, which, consequently, will form the principal subject of our researches. We propose to enter upon this task by reprinting some English pamphlets, written at the time of Peter I, and which have either escaped the attention of modern historians, or appeared to them to merit none. However, they will suffice for refuting the prejudice common to Continental and English writers, that the designs of Russia were not understood or suspected in England until at a later, and too late, epoch; that the diplomatic relations between England and Russia were but the natural offspring of the mutual material interests of the two countries; and that, therefore, in accusing the British statesmen of the 18th century of Russianism we should commit an unpardonable hysteron-proteron. If we have shown by the English despatches that, at the time of the Empress Ann, England already betrayed her own allies to Russia, it will be seen from the pamphlets we are now about to reprint that, even before the epoch of Ann, at the very epoch of Russian ascendency in Europe, springing up at the time of Peter I, the plans of Russia were understood, and the connivance of British statesmen at these plans was denounced by English writers.
The first pamphlet we lay before the public is called The Northern Crisis. It was printed in London in 1716, and relates to the intended Dano-Anglo-Russian invasion of Skana (Schonen).
During the year 1715 a northern alliance for the partition, not of Sweden proper, but of what we may call the Swedish Empire, had been concluded between Russia, Denmark, Poland, Prussia, and Hanover. That partition forms the first grand act of modern diplomacy — the logical premiss to the partition of Poland. The partition treaties relating to Spain have engrossed the interest of posterity because they were the forerunners of the War of Succession, and the partition of Poland drew even a larger audience because its last act was played upon a contemporary stage. However, it cannot be denied that it was the partition of the Swedish Empire which inaugurated the modern era of international policy. The partition treaty not even pretended to have a pretext, save the misfortune of its intended victim. For the first time in Europe the violation of all treaties was not only made, but proclaimed the common basis of a new treaty. Poland herself, in the drag of Russia, and personated by that commonplace of immorality, Augustus II., Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, was pushed into the foreground of the conspiracy, thus signing her own death-warrant, and not even enjoying the privilege reserved by Polyphemus to Odysseus — to be last eaten. Charles XII predicted her fate in the manifesto flung against King Augustus and the Czar, from his voluntary exile at Bender. The manifesto is dated January 28, 1711.
The participation in this partition treaty threw England within the orbit of Russia, towards whom, since the days of the “Glorious Revolution,” she had more and more gravitated. George I, as King of England, was bound to a defensive alliance with Sweden by the treaty of 1700. Not only as King of England, but as Elector of Hanover, he was one of the guarantees, and even of the direct parties to the treaty of Travendal, which secured to Sweden what the partition treaty intended stripping her of. Even his German electoral dignity he partly owed to that treaty. However, as Elector of Hanover he declared war against Sweden, which he waged as King of England.
In 1715 the confederates had divested Sweden of her German provinces, and to effect that end introduced the Muscovite on the German soil. In 1716 they agreed to invade Sweden Proper — to attempt an armed descent upon Schonen — the southern extremity of Sweden now constituting the districts of Malmoe and Christianstadt. Consequently Peter of Russia brought with him from Germany a Muscovite army, which was scattered over Zealand, thence to be conveyed to Schonen, under the protection of the English and Dutch fleets sent into the Baltic, on the false pretext of protecting trade and navigation. Already in 1715, when Charles XII was besieged in Stralsund, eight English men-of-war, lent by England to Hanover, and by Hanover to Denmark, had openly reinforced the Danish navy, and even hoisted the Danish flag. In 1716 the British navy was commanded by his Czarish Majesty in person.
Everything being ready for the invasion of Schonen, there arose a difficulty from a side where it was least expected. Although the treaty stipulated only for 30,000 Muscovites, Peter, in his magnanimity, had landed 40,000 on Zealand; but now that he was to send them on the errand to Schonen, he all at once discovered that out of the 40,000 he could spare but 15,000. This declaration not only paralysed the military plan of the confederates, it seemed to threaten the security of Denmark and of Frederick IV., its king, as great part of the Muscovite army, supported by the Russian fleet, occupied Copenhagen. One of the generals of Frederick proposed suddenly to fall with the Danish cavalry upon the Muscovites and to exterminate them, while the English men-of-war should burn the Russian fleet. Averse to any perfidy which required some greatness of will, some force of character, and some contempt of personal danger, Frederick IV. rejected the bold proposal, and limited himself to assuming an attitude of defence. He then wrote a begging letter to the Czar, intimating that he had given up his Schonen fancy, and requested the Czar to do the same and find his way home: a request the latter could not but comply with. When Peter at last left Denmark with his army, the Danish Court thought fit to communicate to the Courts of Europe a public account of the incidents and transactions which had frustrated the intended descent upon Schonen — and this document forms the starting point of The Northern Crisis.
In a letter addressed to Baron Görtz, dated from London, January 23, 1717, by Count Gyllenborg, there occur some passages in which the latter, the then Swedish ambassador at the Court of St. James’s, seems to profess himself the author of The Northern Crisis, the title of which he does not, however, quote. Yet any idea of his having written that powerful pamphlet will disappear before the slightest perusal of the Count’s authenticated writings, such as his letters to Görtz.
“The Northern Crisis; or Impartial Reflections on the Policies of the Czar; occasioned by Mynheer Von Stocken’s Reasons for delaying the descent upon Schonen. A true copy of which is prefixed, verbally translated after the tenor of that in the German Secretary’s Office in Copenhagen, October 10, 1716. London, 1716.
1. — Preface—— ... ‘Tis (the present pamphlet) not fit for lawyers’ clerks, but it is highly convenient to be read by those who are proper students in the laws of nations; ‘twill be but lost time for any stock-jobbing, trifling dealer in Exchange-Alley to look beyond the preface won’t, but every merchant in England (more especially those who trade to the Baltic) will find his account in it. The Dutch (as the courants and postboys have more than once told us) are about to mend their hands, if they can, in several articles of trade with the Czar, and they have been a long time about it to little purpose. Inasmuch as they are such a frugal people, they are good examples for the imitation of our traders; but if we can outdo them for once, in the means of projecting a better and more expeditious footing to go upon, for the emolument of us both, let us, for once, be wise enough to set the example, and let them, for once, be our imitators. This little treatise will show a pretty plain way how we may do it, as to our trade in the Baltic, at this juncture. I desire no little coffee-house politician to meddle with it; but to give him even a disrelish for my company. I must let him know that he is not fit for mine. Those who are even proficients in state science, will find in it matter highly fit to employ all their powers of speculation, which they ever before past negligently by, and thought (too cursorily) were not worth the regarding. No outrageous party-man will find it at all for his purpose; but every honest Whig and every honest Tory may each of them read it, not only without either of their disgusts, but with the satisfaction of them both.... ‘Tis not fit, in fine, for a mad, hectoring, Presbyterian Whig, or a raving, fretful, dissatisfied, Jacobite Tory.”
2. — The reasons handed about by Mynheer Von Stocken for delaying the descent upon Schonen.
“There being no doubt, but most courts will be surprised that the descent upon Schonen has not been put into execution, notwithstanding the great preparations made for that purpose; and that all his Czarish Majesty’s troops, who were in Germany, were transported to Zealand, not without great trouble and danger, partly by his own gallies, and partly by his Danish Majesty’s and other vessels; and that the said descent is deferred till another time. His Danish Majesty hath therefore, in order to clear himself of all imputation and reproach, thought fit to order, that the following true account of this affair should be given to all impartial persons. Since the Swedes were entirely driven out of their German dominions, there was, according to all the rules of policy, and reasons of war, no other way left, than vigorously to attack the still obstinate King of Sweden, in the very heart of his country; thereby, with God’s assistance, to force him to a lasting, good and advantageous peace for the allies. The King of Denmark and his Czarish Majesty were both of this opinion, and did, in order to put so good a design in execution, agree upon an interview, which at last (notwithstanding his Danish Majesty’s presence, upon the account of Norway’s being invaded, was most necessary in his own capital, and that the Muscovite ambassador, M. Dolgorouky, had given quite other assurances) was held at Ham and Horn, near Hamburgh, after his Danish Majesty had stayed there six weeks for the Czar. In this conference it was, on the 3rd of June, agreed between both their Majesties, after several debates, that the descent upon Schonen should positively be undertaken this year, and everything relating to the forwarding the same was entirely consented to. Hereupon his Danish Majesty made all haste for his return to his dominions, and gave orders to work day and night to get his fleet ready to put to sea. The transport ships were also gathered from all parts of his dominions, both with inexpressible charges and great prejudice to his subjects’ trade. Thus, his Majesty (as the Czar himself upon his arrival at Copenhagen owned) did his utmost to provide all necessaries, and to forward the descent, upon whose success everything depended. It happened, however, in the meanwhile, and before the descent was agreed upon in the conference at Ham and Horn, that his Danish Majesty was obliged to secure his invaded and much oppressed kingdom of Norway, by sending thither a considerable squadron out of his fleet, under the command of Vice-Admiral Gabel, which squadron could not be recalled before the enemy had left that kingdom, without endangering a great part thereof; so that out of necessity the said Vice-Admiral was forced to tarry there till the 12th of July, when his Danish Majesty sent him express orders to return with all possible speed, wind and weather permitting; but this blowing for some time contrary, he was detained…. The Swedes were all the while powerful at sea, and his Czarish Majesty himself did not think it advisable that the remainder of the Danish, in conjunction with the men-of-war then at Copenhagen, should go to convoy the Russian troops from Rostock, before the above-mentioned squadron under Vice-Admiral Gabel was arrived. This happening at last in the month of August, the confederate fleet put to sea; and the transporting of the said troops hither to Zealand was put in execution, though with a great deal of trouble and danger, but it took up so much time that the descent could not be ready till September following. Now, when all these preparations, as well for the descent as the embarking the armies, were entirely ready, his Danish Majesty assured himself that the descent should be made within a few days, at farthest by the 21st of September. The Russian Generals and Ministers first raised some difficulties to those of Denmark, and afterwards, on the 17th September, declared in an appointed conference, that his Czarish Majesty, considering the present situation of affairs, was of opinion that neither forage nor provision could be had in Schonen, and that consequently the descent was not advisable to be attempted this year, but ought to be put off till next spring. It may easily be imagined how much his Danish Majesty was surprised at this; especially seeing the Czar, if he had altered his opinion, as to this design so solemnly concerted, might have declared it sooner, and thereby saved his Danish Majesty several tons of gold, spent upon the necessary preparations. His Danish Majesty did, however, in a letter dated the 20th of September, amply represent to the Czar, that although the season was very much advanced, the descent might, nevertheless, easily be undertaken with such a superior force, as to get a footing in Schonen, where being assured there had been a very plentiful harvest, he did not doubt but subsistence might be found; besides, that having an open communication with his own countries, it might easily be transported from thence. His Danish Majesty alleged also several weighty reasons why the descent was either to be made this year, or the thoughts of making it next spring entirely be laid aside. Nor did he alone make these moving remonstrances to the Czar; BUT HIS BRITISH MAJESTRY'S MINISTER RESIDING HERE AS WELL AS ADMIRAL NORRIS, seconded the same also in a very pressing manner; AND BY EXPRESS ORDER OF THE KING THEIR MASTER, endeavoured to bring the Czar into their opinion, and to persuade him to go on with the descent; but his Czarish Majesty declared by his answer, that he would adhere to the resolution that he had once taken concerning this delay of making the descent; but if his Danish Majesty was resolved to venture on the descent, that he then, according to the treaty made near Straelsund, would assist him only with the 15 battalions and 1,000 horse therein stipulated; that next spring he would comply with everything else, and neither could or would declare himself farther in this affair. Since then, his Danish Majesty could not, without running so great a hazard, undertake so great a work alone with his own army and the said 15 battalions; he desired, in another letter of the 23rd September, his Czarish Majesty would be pleased to add 13 battalions of his troops, in which case his Danish Majesty would still this year attempt the descent; but even this could not be obtained from his Czarish Majesty, who absolutely refused it by his ambassador on the 24th ditto: whereupon his Danish Majesty, in his letter of the 26th, declared to the Czar, that since things stood thus, he desired none of his troops, but that they might be all speedily transported out of his dominions; that so the transport, whose freight stood him in 40,000 rix dollars per month, might be discharged, and his subjects eased of the intolerable contributions they now underwent. This he could not do less than agree to; and accordingly, all the Russian troops are already embarked, and intend for certain to go from here with the first favourable wind. It must be left to Providence and time, to discover what may have induced the Czar to a resolution so prejudicial to the Northern Alliance, and most advantageous to the common enemy.
If we would take a true survey of men, and lay them open in a proper light to the eye of our intellects, we must first consider their natures and then their ends; and by this method of examination, though their conduct is, seemingly, full of intricate mazes and perplexities, and winding round with infinite meanders of state-craft, we shall be able to dive into the deepest recesses, make our way through the most puzzling labyrinths, and at length come to the most abstruse means of bringing about the master secrets of their minds, and to unriddle their utmost mysteries…. The Czar … is, by nature, of a great and enterprising spirit, and of a genius thoroughly politic; and as for his ends, the manner of his own Government, where he sways arbitrary lord over the estates and honours of his people, must make him, if all the policies in the world could by far-distant aims promise him accession and accumulation of empire and wealth, be everlastingly laying schemes for the achieving of both with the extremest cupidity and ambition. Whatever ends an insatiate desire of opulency, and a boundless thirst for dominion, can ever put him upon, to satisfy their craving and voracious appetites, those must, most undoubtedly, be his.
The next questions we are to put to ourselves are these three:
1. By what means can he gain these ends?
2. How far from him, and in what place, can these ends be best obtained?
3. And by what time, using all proper methods and succeeding in them, may he obtain these ends?
The possessions of the Czar were prodigious, vast in extent; the people all at his nod, all his downright arrant slaves, and all the wealth of the country his own at a word’s command. But then the country, though large in ground, was not quite so in produce. Every vassal had his gun, and was to be a soldier upon call; but there was never a soldier among them, nor a man that understood the calling; and though he had all their wealth, they had no commerce of consequence, and little ready money; and consequently his treasury, when he had amassed all he could, very bare and empty. He was then but in an indifferent condition to satisfy those two natural appetites, when he had neither wealth to support a soldiery, nor a soldiery trained in the art of war. The first token this Prince gave of an aspiring genius, and of an ambition that is noble and necessary in a monarch who has a mind to flourish, was to believe none of his subjects more wise than himself, or more fit to govern. He did so, and looked upon his own proper person as the most fit to travel out among the other realms of the world and study politics for the advancing of his dominions. He then seldom pretended to any warlike dispositions against those who were instructed in the science of arms; his military dealings lay mostly with the Turks and Tartars, who, as they had numbers as well as he, had them likewise composed, as well as his, of a rude, uncultivated mob, and they appeared in the field like a raw, undisciplined militia. In this his Christian neighbours liked him well, insomuch as he was a kind of stay or stopgap to the infidels. But when he came to look into the more polished parts of the Christian world, he set out towards it, from the very threshold, like a natural-born politician. He was not for learning the game by trying chances and venturing losses in the field so soon; no, he went upon the maxim that it was, at that time of day, expedient and necessary for him to carry, like Samson, his strength in his head, and not in his arms. He had then, he knew, but very few commodious places for commerce of his own, and those all situated in the White Sea, too remote, frozen up the most part of the year, and not at all fit for a fleet of men-of-war; but he knew of many more commodious ones of his neighbours in the Baltic, and within his reach whenever he could strengthen his hands to lay hold of them. He had a longing eye towards them; but with prudence seemingly turned his head another way, and secretly entertained the pleasant thought that he should come at them all in good time. Not to give any jealousy, he endeavours for no help from his neighbours to instruct his men in arms. That was like asking a skilful person, one intended to fight a duel with, to teach him first how to fence. He went over to Great Britain, where he knew that potent kingdom could, as yet, have no jealousies of his growth of power, and in the eye of which his vast extent of nation lay neglected and unconsidered and overlooked, as I am afraid it is to this very day. He was present at all our exercises, looked into all our laws, inspected our military, civil, and ecclesiastical regimen of affairs; yet this was the least he then wanted; this was the slightest part of his errand. But by degrees, when he grew familiar with our people, he visited our docks, pretending not to have any prospect of profit, but only to take a huge delight (the effect of curiosity only) to see our manner of building ships. He kept his court, as one may say, in our shipyard, so industrious was he in affording them his continual Czarish presence, and to his immortal glory for art and industry be it spoken, that the great Czar, by stooping often to the employ, could handle an axe with the best artificer of them all; and the monarch having a good mathematical head of his own, grew in some time a very expert royal shipwright. A ship or two for his diversion made and sent him, and then two or three more, and after that two or three more, would signify just nothing at all, if they were granted to be sold to him by the Maritime Powers, that could, at will, lord it over the sea. It would be a puny inconsiderable matter, and not worth the regarding. Well, but then, over and above this, he had artfully insinuated himself into the goodwill of many of our best workmen, and won their hearts by his good-natured familiarities and condescension among them. To turn this to his service, he offered many very large premiums and advantages to go and settle in his country, which they gladly accepted of. A little after he sends over some private ministers and officers to negotiate for more workmen, for land officers, and likewise for picked and chosen good seamen, who might be advanced and promoted to offices by going there. Nay, even to this day, any expert seaman that is upon our traffic to the port of Archangel, if he has the least spark of ambition and any ardent desire to be in office, he need but offer himself to the sea-service of the Czar, and he is a lieutenant immediately. Over and above this, that Prince has even found the way to take by force into his service out of our merchant ships as many of their ablest seamen as he pleased, giving the masters the same number of raw Muscovites in their place, whom they afterwards were forced in their own defence to make fit for their own use. Neither is this all; he had, during the last war, many hundreds of his subjects, both noblemen and common sailors, on board ours, the French and the Dutch fleets; and he has all along maintained, and still maintains numbers of them in ours and the Dutch yards.
But seeing he looked all along upon all these endeavours towards improving himself and his subjects as superfluous, whilst a seaport was wanting, where he might build a fleet of his own, and from whence he might himself export the products of his country, and import those of others; and finding the King of Sweden possessed of the most convenient ones, I mean Narva and Revel, which he knew that Prince never could nor would amicably part with, he at last resolved to wrest them out of his hands by force. His Swedish Majesty’s tender youth seemed the fittest time for this enterprise, but even then he would not run the hazard alone. He drew in other princes to divide the spoil with him. And the Kings of Denmark and Poland were weak enough to serve as instruments to forward the great and ambitious views of the Czar. It is true, he met with a mighty hard rub at his very first setting out; his whole army being entirely defeated by a handful of Swedes at Narva. But it was his good luck that his Swedish Majesty, instead of improving so great a victory against him, turned immediately his arms against the King of Poland, against whom he was personally piqued, and that so much the more, inasmuch as he had taken that Prince for one of his best friends, and was just upon the point of concluding with him the strictest alliance when he unexpectedly invaded the Swedish Livonia, and besieged Riga. This was, in all respects, what the Czar could most have wished for; and foreseeing that the longer the war in Poland lasted, the more time should he have both to retrieve his first loss, and to gain Narva, he took care it should be spun out to as great a length as possible; for which end he never sent the King of Poland succour enough to make him too strong for the King of Sweden; who, on the other hand, though he gained one signal victory after the other, yet never could subdue his enemy as long as he received continual reinforcements from his hereditary country. And had not his Swedish Majesty, contrary to most people’s expectations, marched directly into Saxony itself, and thereby forced the King of Poland to peace, the Czar would have had leisure enough in all conscience to bring his designs to greater maturity. This peace was one of the greatest disappointments the Czar ever met with, whereby he became singly engaged in the war. He had, however, the comfort of having beforehand taken Narva, and laid a foundation to his favourite town Petersburg, and to the seaport, the docks, and the vast magazines there; all which works, to what perfection they are now brought, let them tell who, with surprise, have seen them.
He (Peter) used all endeavours to bring matters to an accommodation. He proffered very advantageous conditions; Petersburg only, a trifle as he pretended, which he had set his heart upon, he would retain; and even for that he was willing some other way to give satisfaction. But the King of Sweden was too well acquainted with the importance of that place to leave it in the hands of an ambitious prince, and thereby to give him an inlet into the Baltic. This was the only time since the defeat at Narva that the Czar’s arms had no other end than that of self-defence. They might, perhaps, even have fallen short therein, had not the King of Sweden (through whose persuasion is still a mystery), instead of marching the shortest way to Novgorod and to Moscow, turned towards Ukrain, where his army, after great losses and sufferings, was at last entirely defeated at Pultowa. As this was a fatal period to the Swedish successes, so how great a deliverance it was to the Muscovites, may be gathered from the Czar’s celebrating every year, with great solemnity, the anniversary of that day, from which his ambitious thoughts began to soar still higher. The whole of Livonia, Estland, and the best and greatest part of Finland was now what he demanded, after which, though he might for the present condescend to give peace to the remaining part of Sweden, he knew he could easily even add that to his conquests whenever he pleased. The only obstacle he had to fear in these his projects was from his northern neighbours; but as the Maritime Powers, and even the neighbouring princes in Germany, were then so intent upon their war against France, that they seemed entirely neglectful of that of the North, so there remained only Denmark and Poland to be jealous of. The former of these kingdoms had, ever since King William, of glorious memory, compelled it to make peace with Holstein and, consequently, with Sweden, enjoyed an uninterrupted tranquillity, during which it had time, by a free trade and considerable subsidies from the maritime powers to enrich itself, and was in a condition, by joining itself to Sweden, as it was its interest to do, to stop the Czar’s progresses, and timely to prevent its own danger from them. The other, I mean Poland, was now quietly under the government of King Stanislaus, who, owing in a manner his crown to the King of Sweden, could not, out of gratitude, as well as real concern for the interest of his country, fail opposing the designs of a too aspiring neighbour. The Czar was too cunning not to find out a remedy for all this: he represented to the King of Denmark how low the King of Sweden was now brought, and how fair an opportunity he had, during that Prince’s long absence, to clip entirely his wings, and to aggrandize himself at his expense. In King Augustus he raised the long-hid resentment for the loss of the Polish Crown, which he told him he might now recover without the least difficulty. Thus both these Princes were immediately caught. The Danes declared war against Sweden without so much as a tolerable pretence, and made a descent upon Schonen, where they were soundly beaten for their pains. King Augustus re-entered Poland, where everything has ever since continued in the greatest disorder, and that in a great measure owing to Muscovite intrigues. It happened, indeed, that these new confederates, whom the Czar had only drawn in to serve his ambition, became at first more necessary to his preservation than he had thought; for the Turks having declared a war against him, they hindered the Swedish arms from joining with them to attack him; but that storm being soon over, through the Czar’s wise behaviour and the avarice and folly of the Grand Vizier, he then made the intended use both of these his friends, as well as of them he afterwards, through hopes of gain, persuaded into his alliance, which was to lay all the burthen and hazard of the war upon them, in order entirely to weaken them, together with Sweden, whilst he was preparing himself to swallow the one after the other. He has put them on one difficult attempt after the other; their armies have been considerably lessened by battles and long sieges, whilst his own were either employed in easier conquests, and more profitable to him, or kept at the vast expense of neutral princes — near enough at hand to come up to demand a share of the booty without having struck a blow in getting it. His behaviour has been as cunning at sea, where his fleet has always kept out of harm’s way and at a great distance whenever there was any likelihood of an engagement between the Danes and the Swedes. He hoped that when these two nations had ruined one another’s fleets, his might then ride master in the Baltic. All this while he had taken care to make his men improve, by the example of foreigners and under their command, in the art of war…. His fleets will soon considerably outnumber the Swedish and the Danish ones joined together. He need not fear their being a hindrance from his giving a finishing stroke to this great and glorious undertaking. Which done, let us look to ourselves; he will then most certainly become our rival, and as dangerous to us as he is now neglected. We then may, perhaps, though too late, call to mind what our own ministers and merchants have told us of his designs of carrying on alone all the northern trade, and of getting all that from Turkey and Persia into his hands through the rivers which he is joining and making navigable from the Caspian, or the Black Sea, to his Petersburg. We shall then wonder at our blindness that we did not suspect his designs when we heard the prodigious works he has done at Petersburg and Revel; of which last place, the Daily Courant, dated November 23, says: