THE NEAR EASTERN CRISIS, 1839-1841
UNDERLYING the naval rivalry of Russia and England, and indubitably responsible in some measure for Palmerston's apprehension of the Russian fleets, particularly that of the Black Sea, was the Turko-Egyptian problem. In May 1838 Mehemet Ali's declaration of his intention to effect his independence of the Porte had made acute once more the tension which had been dormant since the Anglo-Franco-Russian exchange of acerbities over the Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi. Palmerston promptly instructed his agent at Alexandria to explain clearly England's determination to prevent a dismemberment of the Ottoman empire. Since the other great powers made similar representations, Mehemet Ali, who had been plumbing the international situation, did not pursue his ambition overtly in the face of such united opposition. Nevertheless his trial balloon set the diplomatic machine to work. Proposals and counter proposals, conversations and intrigues kept the foreign offices and embassies of the powers busy during the ensuing twelve months. Palmerston tried unsuccessfully to establish in London a focus for discussions which might make possible the formulation of a concerted policy. When at length in the spring of 1839 the crisis was precipitated by the Turkish invasion of Syria, Metternich seemed to have succeeded in making Vienna, rather than London, the center of negotiations. This ephemeral union of the powers permitted their ambassadors in Constantinople to deliver to the Porte on July 27 a collective note which inaugurated a new phase of the Eastern question.1
While the diplomatic transactions of the year which preceded____________________
C. K. Webster, palmerston, Metternich and the European System ( London, 1935), pp. 28-30;
P. E. Mosely, Russian Diplomacy and the Opening of the Eastern Question in 1838 and 1839( Cambridge, 1934), chap. v.