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an amnesty on the ground that the Greek constitution had heen so often violated, though he confessed that he had no thought at the time of Sir Roundell Palmer's "diplomatic " distinction between the different prisoners; whatever he did, he had done to save the lives of all four. He did not believe in any special inviolability attaching to travelling diplomatists; but declared that the complete suppression of that brigandage, which was demoralizing all classes in Greece, was "the tine qua non of that progress which the protecting powers had so long and so vainly looked for at the hands of her ruling men." Maintaining that Mr. Erskine had acted well and ably under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty, he declared in conclusion that no effort should be wanting on the part of Government to investigate the circumstances of the crime thoroughly, and in so doing to improve the condition of Greece.
The later debates upon the Greek murders failed to arouse the interest that had attended the earlier ones, owing to the absorbing interest of the war. And the difficulty of taking any definite course in the matter, after the first fever of grief and indignation had passed, was universally felt. The inquiry at Athens, however, was steadily- continued, and Lord Granville in this, as in other matters, showed himself well qualified to replace Lord Clarendon, to whose death the mental distress and anxiety caused by the tragedy in Greece probably contributed in no small degree. But by the end of the year the country seemed content to accept the execution of several brigands—the band immediately implicated, indeed, having Wn nearly extirpated—as atonement sufficient for the blood for which, in April, nothing short of the extermination of the Greek nation seemed likely to be accepted in expiation. The "political devilry and social corruption" of Greece were too deep to be easily removed; and one of the last events of the year was the arrest by the Greek Government, for supposed complicity in the Marathon murders, of the Englishman Mr. Noel, who had been, to all appearances and by universal belief, so active in attempting to rescue his countrymen. The motives for this arrest baffled comprehension at the time.
Pending the discussion upon this dark chapter in the story of the year, a great and important change was effected in our system at home. By an order in Council, dated the 4th of June, it was directed that, from the 31st of August next following, all entrance appointments to all situations in all Civil Departments of the State, except the Foreign Office, and posts requiring professional knowledge, should be filled by open competition; and thus the muchcanvassed system of competitive examination, so violently abused and so warmly defended, reached its perfect development. The Order in Council contained two new provisions. It vested in the Chiefs of Departments the power of dismissal, the candidate after his appointment continuing to hold his office at their pleasure; and it provided that the successful candidate in the examination must pas through a 'six months' probation, during which his actual efficiency was to be tested as his knowledge had already been. The effect of this great change was to throw open the whole Civil Service of Great Britain to competition as unlimited as that by which the Indian Services were already filled, and to deprive candidates for employment in it of every adventitious advantage. It was not to be expected that such a measure would be received with universal favour among the classes who would suffer most from its operation, but it met apparently with the full approval of the country, and depended upon a principle by this time accepted in England. Almost at the same time, little noted or commented upon at the moment by a country which was thinking of other things, another of our old exclusive traditions was silently done away. The tradition that the Army is governed by Royal prerogative was one of obstinate vitality—the General-in-Chief being the agent of the Crown; and it was very generally believed that there must be a collision between the Sovereign and the Parliament before that prerogative was surrendered. But the Queen never failed to show herself loyally in accordance with the wishes of her Parliament; and on this point, when the time came, she proved herself as ready to adopt concessions as she had been on others; and when Ministers felt themselves compelled to advise that the prerogative should be surrendered, and the General Commanding-in-Chief formally declared to be a subordinate of the Minister of War, her Majesty, with what must have been on her part a great sacrifice of feeling, signed the Order in Council which surrendered it. No doubt the time was ripe for the change, which must ultimately have come; but, while welcoming competitive examinations and rejoicing over the extinction of royal prerogatives, we may be allowed a passing word of regret for an old system, which produced Civil servants not all undistinguished, and armies not altogether contemptible.
The Declaration of War—Public Opinion in England—The effects of Neutrality— Efforts of England to avert the War—Proclamation of Neutrality—The Secret Treaty—Its History—Proceedings in Parliament—Steps taken by the Government to secure our Neutrality—Question of Mr. Disraeli—Mr. Gladstone's answer—Reserved tone of the Government—Vote of additional money and men —Debates on the War—Speeches of Mr. Disraeli, Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Bernal Osborne, Mr. CardweU, Mr. Childers, Earl Hussell, Lord Granville—Triple Treaty between England and the Belligerents—Criticisms of Mr. Osborne and Lord Cairns—Enthusiasm in Belgium—Speech of Mr. Gladstone—Prorogation of Parlament—Progress of the War—Sick and Wounded Fund and other Charities— —Their Use and Abuse—Unpopularity of England—Correspondence between Count Berostorff and Lord Granville—The Bussian Note—Excitement in England —Mr. Odo Russell sent to Versailles—Prussia proposes a Conference—Alarm about Luxembourg—Seizure of British Vessels at Duclair—The Signs of the Times—Change of Public Opinion in England in connexion with the War— Attitude of America—The betrothal of the Princess Louise to the Marquess of Lome.
On the 15th of July, a few days after Lord Granville had undertaken the duties of Foreign Minister, with the assurance of the Permanent Under-Secretary of the Department that the world had never been so profoundly at peace, or the diplomatic atmosphere more serene (a curious comment on the powers of observation possessed by some of our diplomatists abroad), broke out the terrible War of Surprises, in which lookers-on could scarcely believe until the first shot was actually fired. Into the rights and wrongs of the great struggle this is not the place to inquire, but it is certain that the momentous news was received in England with general and loudly-expressed disapprobation of the reckless precipitancy of France; how fatally reckless the future was to show. There were many amongst us even then who believed Prussia and Count Bismarck—the terrible Chancellor, as Mr. Carlyle called him—to be the real mover of the war, and, among military men especially, a chivalrous if not very logical feeling, founded on our former alliance, created a strong sympathy for the cause of the French. But the expressed feeling of the country at large was undoubtedly German, a feeling which subsequent events went far more than to modify. The direct interest and apprehensions of England in connexion with the war lay on the side of Belgium, whose neutrality and security must be seriously endangered by a war between France and Germany. But, Belgium apart, about the attitude to be assumed by England there could of course be no doubt from the first, and the policy of neutrality was instantly proclaimed and steadily adhered to, in the face of an amount of abuse from both the belligerents which has rarely been surpassed, even in the history of wars. Indeed, the persistent and unreasoning invectives directed by the Germans against England, while going far to make us feel that our importance in the world must be by no means so small as our detractors would have it, and that for a " third-rate power" much unnecessary breath was wasted upon us, did more, perhaps, than even the policy of annexation adopted by the victors, to produce a most unfortunate alienation between the countries. Nor, it is to be feared, did the generous and impartial, if not always wise or discriminating, benevolence of England to the sufferers by the war, meet with much more, from either party, than the proverbial reward of disinterested virtue. Alms, unhappily, rarely make friends, especially if accompanied by much admonition. But perhaps the saddest moral to be drawn from our part in the war was contained in the striking proof it gave that "neutrality" was still considered in itself, in our enlightened nineteenth century, a matter for the blame and ridicule of others, and for apologetic shame in ourselves. Mankind 'had not yet learned to think or to say that the shame lay not with those who had no thirst for territorial acquisition, and no stomach for fighting for fighting's sake, but with the powers that, whether under the pretext of "natural boundaries," of "military frontiers," and " righteous retribution," or of " rectification of treaties," looked on self-aggrandizement as first among the ends of the nations, and war as the grand means for its accomplishment.
All that diplomacy could do on our part to avoid the war was done, and done with the usual result of similar interference, which in this case, however, requires no justification. When France complained of the nomination of the Prince of Hohenzollern for the throne of Spain (the history of that transaction will be found elsewhere), the British Government intimated to Prussia that in their opinion that nomination should be withdrawn, and, aided by similar efforts from other quarters, the remonstrance was successful. Subsequently they suggested to France that she would not be justified in exacting from Prussia the engagement she demanded for the future, and to Prussia that King William should "responsibly and visibly" associate himself with the withdrawal of the nomination. Prussia again acceded: but France, acting under the influence of the reported insults to M. Benedetti at Ems, on her side refused. The next step on the part of England was to make an appeal to the Protocol of Paris, which was rejected by France as unsuitable to the case, and received by Prussia with the declaration that as France had taken the initiative in the war, Prussia could not take it in recommending mediation. Thus the hopelessness of negotiation became finally apparent, and on the 19th of July the British Government issued their formal proclamation of neutrality. On that same day the French declaration of war was delivered at Berlin, and the North German Parliament opened by King William in a speech received by those who heard it in a spirit which foreshadowed as clearly the iron determination of Germany in the eoming straggle, as did the "cceurs legers " of M. Ollivier and bis friends the unready weakness which was to bring such disaster upon France. On that same day, too, the war may be said to have found its first victim in the person of the celebrated M. Prevost Paradol, the French Minister at Washington, whose suicide was committed under alienation of mind, chiefly brought on, as seemed too clear, by his remorse at having taken service under an Emperor who had 80 suddenly and so soon belied the peaceful professions of his policy. The excitement in England at the outbreak of the war, and our apprehension for the safety of Belgium, seemed already great enough, when the publication in the Times of a draft treaty between Count Bismarck and M. Benedetti, the French Minister in Prussia, increased that excitement to a fever. The authenticity of this treaty, which took the Government by surprise as much as the country, was at first widely disbelieved, but afterwards clearly established. Its terms and its history belong more strictly to another portion of this work, but though in form a proposed compact between France and Prussia, it was in fact a direct menace to as by the former Power, relating as it did mainly to the proposed acquisition of Belgium by her. Kept secret as it had been up to this time by Count Bismarck, although rejected, it was indeed no sign of special friendship on his part towards England; but on the part of the Emperor Napoleon it revealed an almost matchless perfidy. And it would be difficult to point to a more remarkable sign in England's case either of a grand generosity or of an incredible blindness, than the rapidity with which the story of the secret treaty was consigned to oblivion, and its obvious lessons on imperial faith either ignored or misunderstood. The treaty, it afterwards appeared, was communicated to the Times by Count Bismarck himself, and he obviously anticipated that its publication would enlist both England and Belgium on the side of Germany, perhaps even as active allies. He certainly could scarcely have expected that many would be found in England, even then, who would discover in the treaty a revelation of design against this country on the part not of France, but of Prussia. The origin of this famous document, which appears among the State papers in the appendix to this volume, appeared, as far as history might judge upon the moment, to have been derived from the times succeeding the signature of the Luxembourg guarantee. In 1867 M. Benedetti, a Corsican by birth, and a devoted adherent of the French Emperor, was employed by him to demand from Count Bismarck the fulfilment of certain vague promises made at Biarritz. The Chancellor, who had made these promises under a belief that France would, at the end of the war, hold the balance of power between Berlin and Vienna, finding his country strong enough to stand alone, and aware that an attempt to concede any thing would undo the moral effect of Sadowa, peremptorily refused to give up an inch of Prussian »iL Upon this some "pourparlers" about indemnifying France by the coveted possession of Belgium seems to have followed, which