Page images
PDF
EPUB

good riders. But Mr. Buckle does not explain how or in what the people of Scotland are priest-ridden. We should rather be inclined to complain that, in the districts where that which we call Superstition chiefly prevails, the clergy, instead of holding their own place with a becoming confidence, are ridden by the ignorant laymen to whom they ascribe such mysterious powers. And the great secession of modern times (of which we need not here repeat that we wholly disapprove) turned upon the question whether the congregation-that is, the laity-should have the power of rejecting a minister without assigning reasons.

We can see no excuse for Mr. Buckle's rash generalizations, nor for his extreme discourtesy of language. How can he hope to be accepted as a scientific investigator of history, who shows himself so full of passion and prejudice as Mr. Buckle does throughout this work? But we despair of satisfying one who could write as follows:

'In the philosophy of ancient Greece we find a vast body of massive and original thought, and what is infinitely better, we find a boldness of inquiry and a passionate love of truth, such as no modern nation has surpassed, and few modern nations have equalled. But the method of that philosophy was an insuperable barrier to its propagation. The people were untouched, and went grovelling on in their old folly; a prey to superstitions, most of which the great thinkers despised and often attacked, but could by no means root out. Bad, however, as these superstitions were, we may confidently say that they were less noxious, that is, less detrimental to the happiness of man, than the repulsive and horrible notions advocated by the Scotch clergy and sanctioned by the Scotch people. And on those notions the Scotch philosophy could make no impression.'-vol. ii., p. 586.

We really think that the passage which we have given in italics may relieve us from further discussion with one who prefers the Paganism of Greece to the Christianity of Scotland, and we can only express our satisfaction that the educated classes in Scotland have found in the conclusions of philosophy nothing inconsistent with a sincere belief in the truths of Revelation.

To return to the national character. It has defects, of which the Scotch have the advantage of hearing pretty freely from their neighbours, by whose criticism they have often profited. It has also merits of its own. We have seen abundantly that the nation has not been nursed in prosperity nor softened by luxury. Its boast is that it has held its own against powerful and hostile neighbours; that it has made a harsh climate and soil yield better harvests than the warm plains of more favoured lands; and that its sons have contributed their share to science and literature, and have obtained distinction in the civil and

military

military service of their own and other countries, and success in honourable enterprise all over the world. They have had many obstacles to overcome :—

'Pater ipse colendi

Haud facilem esse viam voluit.'

And their whole character and temper are in accordance with this: frosty, but kindly;' in one aspect hard and forbidding, but to those who understand them warm and genial, capable both of enthusiasm and of self-sacrifice.

ART. VI.-1. The Russians on the Amur; History of Discovery, Conquest, and Colonisation up to the Treaty of Peking in 1860: with a detailed Description of the Country, its Inhabitants, Productions, and Commercial Capabilities, together with Personal Accounts of Russian Travellers. By E. G. Ravenstein, F.G.S., Corresp. F.G.S., Frankfurt. London, 1861.

2. Travels in the Regions of the Upper and Lower Amoor, and the Russian Acquisitions on the Confines of India and China. By Thomas Witlam Atkinson, F.R.G.S., and F.G.S., Author of 'Oriental and Western Siberia.' London, 1860.

3. Japan, the Amoor River, and the Pacific, with Notices of other Places: comprised in a Voyage of Circumnavigation in the Imperial Russian Corvette Rynda,' in 1858-1860. By Henry Arthur Tilley. London, 1861.

4. Les Nouvelles Acquisitions des Russes dans l'Asie Orientale. Le Fleuve Amoûr. Par V. A. Malte Brun. Paris, 1860.

5. The Progress and Present Position of Russia in the East: an Historical Summary. London, 1854.

6. Commentaries on the Productive Forces of Russia. By M. G. Tegoborski, Privy Councillor and Member of the Council of the Russian Empire. London, 1856.

7. The Chinese Empire. By. M. Huc, formerly Missionary Apostolic in China. London, 1859.

8. Correspondence respecting Affairs in China. Presented to both Houses of Parliament. 1859-1860.

W

THEN the Plenipotentiaries of the Western Powers were seated at the diplomatic table in 1856, arranging the terms of a treaty which was intended to restrain the ambition of Russia, and relieve Europe for some time at least from the necessity of incessant vigilance, it could scarcely have occurred even to a statesman sensitively alive to the dangers to be apprehended N 2

from

from the traditionary policy of the great empire of the North, that within a period of less than three years her passion for territorial aggrandizement would again break forth. Nevertheless, having given up, under the pressure of the Allies, a few square leagues of territory which once formed an integral part of the Turkish empire, the Imperial councillors seem to have suddenly turned their attention from the banks of the Danube to the eastern frontier of the vast Russian dominions. Compelled by an unexpected combination of two powerful States to recede a few steps in Europe, Russia has since made one of her gigantic strides in Asia, adding to her previously enormous empire a territory equal to the combined areas of France and Italy. She has obtained an extensive seaboard on the North Pacific, access by one of the noblest rivers in Asia to the centre of her dominions, a considerable increase of population, and a position in Central Asia in dangerous proximity to the weakened and distracted empire of China, from the capital of which her frontier is now distant less than 600 miles.

The region bordering on the great River Amoor has passed by treaty from the dominion of China to that of Russia. In the autumn of last year, when the combined French and British expedition was supposed to be approaching Pekin, and public expectation was excited by the hope of hearing through the ordinary channels of the occupation of that almost fabled capital, the nation was startled by the publication of a telegram from St. Petersburg, announcing that preliminaries of peace had been signed, and that negotiations were in progress which would speedily result in a treaty conceding to the Allied Powers all their demands. This intelligence was conveyed from Pekin to St. Petersburg in the unprecedentedly short period of five weeks. Gratifying as the announcement was, we were at a loss to account for such an unusual activity in Russian communications, and for the motives which could have induced a power that had no part in the quarrel to interest itself so greatly in the result. A few weeks after the conclusion of the peace the mystery was completely cleared up. The 'St. Petersburg Gazette' published the heads of a treaty between China and Russia, by which the former confirmed the possession, by Russia, of the whole of the left bank of the Amoor (which had practically become hers in 1858), and added to it an extensive region, bounded by the Usuri as far as the lakes of Khinka, by the Gulf of Tartary, and by a frontier line running between the lakes of Khinka and Passette Bay, or Napoleon's Bay, about the 42nd parallel of latitude; so that Russia is now legally possessed not only of the country north of

the

the Amoor and east of the Usuri, but of the entire coast of Manchouria down to the frontiers of Corea. The newly-acquired region has been formed into the maritime province of Eastern Siberia.

Russia has hitherto owed much more to diplomacy than to her arms. The last of her acquisitions will be found to be marked by that dexterous use of opportunities which has so often enabled her to accomplish important objects without provoking the opposition of other powers, or even eliciting from them a remonstrance or a protest.

Russia placed herself in an attitude of hostility to China in 1858, by moving a considerable Cossack force to the frontier, and thus paralysing the efforts of the Government to extinguish the Taeping rebellion. This demonstration had simply a political object. It was found expedient by the Court of Pekin to purchase the retreat of the irregular Russian force in order to release a large body of Chinese troops from their otherwise indispensable presence on the borders of the empire. The price paid for this Russian concession is believed to have been the surrender by treaty of the whole of the territory north of the Amoor (of which Russia had previously taken forcible possession by a series of encroachments, to be noticed below), together with the free navigation of the river. This treaty was not ratified by the Emperor at that time; but when the Chinese Government failed to carry out its engagements with England and France, and the war was renewed by those Powers, the arts of Russian diplomacy were once more called into requisition.

At the moment when the allied forces were present before the capital, when a popular insurrection was imminent, and the palace of the Emperor in flames, the Russian Ambassador, Count Ignatieff, presented himself to the mandarins assembled in council. The wily diplomatist tendered his good offices, and pressed upon the distracted statesmen his intervention, intimating doubtless that a cession of territory on the right bank of the Amoor would at once be highly acceptable and a becoming acknowledgment of the important assistance rendered to the Emperor of China. The Ministers eagerly accepted the offer, and General Ignatieff was able in a few days to transmit to his Government not only the ratification of the treaty of 1858, but a treaty ceding a part of the Chinese empire of the highest value to Russia, absolutely and without any consideration or equivalent whatever. The services rendered by the Russian envoy to the Court of Pekin were purely imaginary. The Earl of Elgin and Baron Gros were not ministers to be influenced by Russian mediation. Their terms never varied; the condi

tions on which they made peace were those originally proposed, with the necessary addition of an increased indemnity.*

The possession of the Amoor has been one of the most cherished projects of the Czars of Russia from the time it first became known in 1639. They first coveted it principally for the sake of its valuable furs. They took possession of a considerable portion of the left bank almost as soon as it was discovered; but after many sanguinary conflicts the Russian settlers were driven from the territory by the Chinese forces, and they were compelled to abandon it by a formal treaty in 1687. From that period the mouth and lower portion of the river were protected by armed boats, and its navigation has been rigidly interdicted.

One of the most important treaties entered into between the Russian and Chinese Governments was that of Nerchinsk in 1689. The fortresses built by the Russians were demolished, and strict rules were agreed to for regulating the intercourse between the population of the respective frontiers. This treaty grants a free access to the subjects of each power to the territories of the other, under certain passport-regulations, and permits them to sell and purchase at pleasure. The future boundaries of the two empires are described with much precision, and the great object of the Chinese Government was effectually attained, namely, the exclusion of the Russians from the navigation of the Amoor.

6

After the conclusion of the treaty of Nerchinsk the diplomatic relations of Russia and China assumed a more regular form, but in the course of the subsequent wars prisoners were frequently made by the Chinese, and, together with Russian deserters, were sent to Pekin, and formed into an Imperial body-guard. These Russian troops were permitted to erect a church of their own. A Russian House' in due time arose, and caravans from Europe were lodged there at the expense of the Chinese Government. An educational establishment followed, designed to teach Chinese to the young Russians, and Russian to the Chinese. The school or college expanded into a mission, to the support of which the Chinese Government was induced to contribute. At the entrance of the Russian House in Pekin stood, in 1857, a guard of Chinese soldiers. The establishment consisted then of only a few members, whose activity

*A treaty having reference to the Amoor is said to have been negotiated in the year 1860 at Aigunt, an ancient Chinese town near to Sagalien-Dla Choton, by the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia, and completed, Mr. Tilley says, in three days, in the business-like manner said to be peculiar to that statesman in his relations with Oriental powers.' It is probable that this treaty is not the most important one, but that further concessions of far greater value were made to Count Ignatieff at Pekin,

was

« PreviousContinue »