Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the Span of Empire, 1689-1971: A Documentary History - Vol. 3

By Joel H. Wiener | Go to book overview

THE EASTERN QUESTION

Official British Declaration on the Causes of
the Crimean War, 28 March 1854*

It is with deep regret that Her Majesty announces the failure of her anxious and protracted endeavours to preserve for her people and for Europe the blessings of peace.

The unprovoked aggression of the Emperor of Russia against the Sublime Porte has been persisted in with such disregard of consequences, that after the rejection by the Emperor of Russia of terms which the Emperor of Austria, the Emperor of the French, and the King of Prussia, as well as Her Majesty, considered just and equitable, Her Majesty is compelled, by a sense of what is due to the honour of her Crown, to the interests of her people, and to the independence of the States of Europe, to come forward in defence of an Ally whose territory is invaded and whose dignity and independence are assailed.

Her Majesty, in justification of the course she is bound to pursue, refers to the transactions in which Her Majesty has been engaged.

The Emperor of Russia had some cause of complaint against the Sultan with reference to the settlement, which His Highness had sanctioned, of the conflicting claims of the Greek and Latin Churches to a portion of the Holy Places of Jerusalem and its neighbourhood. To the complaint of the Emperor of Russia on this head, justice was done; and Her Majesty’s Ambassador at Constantinople had the satisfaction of promoting an arrangement to which no exception was taken by the Russian Government.

But while the Russian Government repeatedly assured the Government of Her Majesty that the mission of Prince Menchikoff to Constantinople was exclusively directed to the settlement of the question of the Holy Places at Jerusalem, Prince Menchikoff himself pressed upon the Porte other demands of a far more serious and important character, the nature of which he in the first instance endeavoured, as far as possible, to conceal from Her Majesty’s Ambassador. And these demands, thus studiously concealed, affected not the privileges of the Greek Church at Jerusalem, but the position of many millions of Turkish subjects in their relations to their Sovereign the Sultan.

These demands are rejected by the spontaneous decision of the Sublime Porte.

Two assurances had been given to Her Majesty; one, that the mission of Prince Menchikoff only regarded the Holy Places; the other, that his mission would be of a conciliatory character.

In both respects Her Majesty’s just expectations were disappointed.

* British and Foreign State Papers, XLVI, 33–36.

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