CHAPTER IV. TEN YEARS OF THE REIGN OF THE CITIZEN KING.
"Eighty-three years have rolled away! How many cares, how many anxieties! How many hatreds have I inspired, how many exasperating complications have I known! And all this with no other result than great moral and physical exhaustion, and a deep feeling of discouragement as to what may happen in the future, - disgust, too, as I think over the past."
A writer in "Temple Bar" (probably Dr. Jevons) speaks of Prince Talleyrand thus: -
"On his private life it would be unfair to pass judgment without taking into consideration the turbulence and lawlessness, the immorality and corruption both social and political, which characterized the stormy epoch in which he was called to play a very prominent part. If he did not pass through it blameless, he was less guilty than many others; if his hands were not pure, at least they were not blood-stained; and it is possible that, as Bourienne, who knew him well, says: 'History will speak as favorably of him as his contemporaries have spoken ill.'"
The summer of 1840 seemed peaceful and serene, when a storm burst suddenly out of a cloudless sky. It was a new phase of that Eastern Question which unhappily was not settled in the days of the Crusades, but has survived to be a disturbing element in the nineteenth century. Two men were engaged in a fierce struggle in the East, and, as usual, they drew the Powers of the West and North into their quarrel.
Sultan Mahmoud, who had come to the throne in 1808, had done his best to destroy the power of his pashas. He hated such powerful and insubordinate nobles, and after the destruction of the Mamelukes in 1811, he placed Egypt under the rule of the bold Macedonian soldier, Mehemet Ali, not as a pasha, but as viceroy. In course of time, as the dominions of Sultan Mahmoud became more and more disorganized by misgovernment and insurrection, Mehemet Ali sent his adopted son, Ibrahim Pasha, with an army into Syria. Ibrahim conquered that province and governed it far better than the Turks had done, when he was stopped by a Russian army (1832), which, under pretence of assisting the sultan, interfered in the quarrel. An arrangement was effected by what is called the treaty of Unkiar-Thelessi. Ibrahim was to retain the pashalik of Syria for his life, and Russia stipulated that no vessels of war should be allowed to pass the Dardanelles or Hellespont without the consent of the sultan.
Mehemet Ali, who was anxious above all things to have his viceroyalty in Egypt made hereditary, that he might transmit his honors to his brave son, cast about in every direction to find friends among European diplomatists. Six years before, he had proposed to England, France, and Austria a partition of the sultan's empire. "Russia," he said, "is half mistress of Turkey already. She has established a protectorate over half its subjects, who are Greek Christians, and where she professes to protect, she oppresses instead. If she seizes Constantinople, there is the end of your European civilization. I am a Turk, but I propose to you to inaugurate a crusade which will save Turkey and save Europe. I will raise my standard against the czar; I will put at your disposal my army, fleet, and treasure; I will lead the van; and in return I ask only my independence of the Porte and an acknowledgment of me as an hereditary sovereign." This proposition was promptly declined. It was renewed, in 1838, in a modified form, but again England, France, and Austria would not listen to the viceroy's reasoning. Mehemet Ali became a prey to despair.
Sultan Mahmoud meantime was no less a victim to resentment and anxiety. He hated his enforced subservience to Russia, and above all he hated his great subject and rival, Mehemet Ali. With fury in his heart he watched how, shred by shred, his great empire was wrenched away from him, - Greece, Syria, Servia, Algiers, Moldavia, and Wallachia. Little remained to him but Constantinople and its surrounding provinces. Russia, all-powerful in the Black Sea, could at any moment force him to give up to her the key of the Dardanelles. Among the Turks (the only part of his subjects on whom he could rely) were many malcontents. Fanatic dervishes predicted his overthrow, and called him the Giaour Sultan. He had destroyed Turkish customs, outraged Turkish feelings, and by the massacre o the Janissaries, in 1826, he had sapped Turkish strength. He now began in his own person to set at nought the precepts of the Koran. All day he worked with frenzy, and at night he indulged himself in frightful orgies, till, dead drunk, he desisted from his madness, and was carried by his slaves to his bed.
[Footnote 1: Louis Blanc, Dix Ans.]
In the early months of 1839 Mahmoud made quiet preparations to thrust Ibrahim Pasha out of Syria; and in June a great battle was fought between the Egyptians and the Turks on the banks of the Euphrates, in which Ibrahim Pasha, by superior generalship, wholly defeated the Turkish commander, Hafiz Pasha.
Sultan Mahmoud never heard of this disaster. He died of delirium tremens the very week that it took place, and his son, Abdul Medjid, mounted his throne. Ibrahim Pasha immediately after his victory had made ready to threaten Constantinople, when despatches from his father arrested him. Mehemet wrote that France had promised to take the part of Egypt, and to settle all her difficulties by diplomacy.
Meantime the new sultan, or his vizier, having offended the Capitan Pasha (or Admiral of the Fleet), that officer thought proper to carry the ships under his command over to Mehemet Ali.