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in full discussion of our further invasion of Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt.
At length “we wrung Bassanio's hand, and so we parted.” The order for muster was but languidly obeyed by our jaded men and beasts on the following morning, and high noon found us climbing a buttress of the Anti-Libanon, across which the road to Beirout “winds its devious way.” An abrupt turn plunged us in a deep and sheer gorge of the mountain, and suddenly closed the matchless landscape, over which our eyes had long ranged-gorgeous Damascus--the Shem of ancient days, with her snowy minarets, and kiosks, sparkling amid a forest of vegetation, and, far beyond, the dark expanse of that mysterious desert, whose wonders had been revealed to us.
THE BOKHARA VICTIMS.*
A STARTLING title, but a true index to a tragic tale. And it is by this title, Captain Grover, in an earnest and impassioned narrative, designates two English officers, who, in the peaceful discharge of functions which they believed to be not only legitimate, but recognised, were inhumanly butchered by the savage Ameer of Bokhara. Out of this appalling fact arises a simple question-Will the government of a great nation like England suffer its honour to be thus bearded and trampled upon with impunity—its power to be treated with mockery and contempt—and the traditions of its glory to be buried under the scorn of a barbarian sovereign, in that part of the world, where the influence of such traditions is so essential to the maintenance of our empire?
Had such a question arisen a hundred years ago or even some fifty years ago—the answer would have been the thunder of our cannon, shattering the mud walls and blind courts of Bokhara about the ears of its shrieking despot. But we have fallen upon calmer days. Our exquisite sensibility shrinks from angry collisions. We are for measuring our steps by the rules of cabinet etiquette; and even acts of the plainest justice must wait upon ministerial forms, to be ultimately balked in the execution by some verbal difficulty, some orthographical impediment to the assertion of national principles! All this would be very ludicrous, if it were not also indescribably disastrous.
The case of poor Stoddart and Conolly unfortunately comes within this description. It seems that there is some doubt whether these unfortunate men were invested with any direct diplomatic character; and over this doubt the Foreign Office wavers with a punctilious hesitation that marks the scrupulous delicacy of its feelings. There are souls, as lago says, which must be saved, and souls which must not be saved; but it is certain that the lieutenant must be saved before the ancient. The order of precedency singles out the diplomatic soul to be cared for with prompt and ample anxiety, while it leaves the uncommissioned soul to shift for itself as well as it can. And through all this finesse and equivocation, nobody in authority appears to have remembered, that whatever doubts
• The Bokhara Victims. By Captain Grover, Unatt., F.R.S.
there may be as to the precise official status of these forsaken victims, there is at least no doubt that they were Englishmen—which would have been title enough in all former periods of our history to full and complete retribution at the hands of the English government.
And, failing this retribution, what is the issue ? Not that Stoddart and Conolly alone have been murdered -- but that, with imperious passions rising in sanguinary impunity over the feebleness or cowardice of English policy, hundreds and hundreds of our countrymen, whose allegiance to their national standard may hereafter carry them into these wild and lawless regions, will, in their turn, be murdered in a like spirit of naked ferocity. By submitting to this cruel act of violence, we encourage into still worse atrocities the dastardly tyranny by which it was perpetrated. By allowing the murder of these gentlemen to pass without question or satisfaction, we, in effect, surrender up to the tender mercies of the Asiatic hordes, all our isolated fellow-subjects, who may
from this time forth happen to fall into their hands.
But let us hope for better things. Let us hope that there is some misunderstanding somewhere—that there is no disinclination on the part of the government to set themselves right before the civilised world in this melancholy business, and that they have merely avoided any open pledge on the subject for the sake of averting the more dangerous issues of public clamour and rash hostilities. We cannot create to ourselves the image of a pusillanimous or unfaithful English executive. We cannot believe -we will not believe it possible that any English governmentWhig or Tory-could be guilty of such suicidal perfidy; and we cling willingly and not unhopefully to the belief that Lord Aberdeen, who has been so careful in refusing to commit himself one way or the other, is al this time only planning some wiser measure of redress than could be procured through the horrors of a destructive campaign. We do not think that war is always the safest or the surest remedy; it not only sometimes fails, but it often developes new embarrassments, from which it is more difficult to escape with credit than the old one, especially in cireumstances so entangled and perplexing, as those which surround our relations with Central Asia. Let the government have the benefit of these suggestive excuses ; let it even be supposed that their inexplicable silence is charged with greater terrors than our ungovernable indignation ; but in the meantime let it be our duty, and the duty of the whole press of the country to warn them, that if the notion be once allowed to grow into an article of vulgar belief that English subjects, whether private individuals, or official functionaries, are to be abandoned to their fate amidst treacherous and remorseless tribes, there is an end to the moral influence and spotless integrity of the English name.
The story of this massacre is appalling, from the total absence of all apparent motive. The profoundest ingenuity cannot detect a shadow of pretext for a crime so wanton and malignant. All that can be said is, that the monster who sits on the throne of Bokhara, and who attained his guilty eminence through a series of atrocities, which would have, elsewhere, consigned him long ago to the scaffold or the galleys, was enraged to madness, like a baited bull, between the opposing powers who hung upon the confines of his territory, and that in an access of insanity, he wreaked his blind vengeance upon the only Englishmen who happened at the moment to be within his reach. This unreasoning, gasping Bokhara, powerful only in its desperate passions, and more desperate fears, was sore pressed on all sides—waging a desultory war with Khiva and Khokan-hunted by Russia into the siege of Herat, which it was compelled to relinquish by England—and hardly knowing in which direction to look for succour or counsel in its extremity: this Bokhara conscious of the blood-guilt that lay heavy at its heart, with the canker of secret slavery eating into its life-core, and growing hourly more and more distrustful, even of its own native population—this was the very spot of all the world where we might look for the most ignominious excesses, for deeds that should display the most daring aspect, masking the most craven conscience—the dismal region where we might expect to find in its worst form, the hideous despotism of the knife.
We had no business with Bokhara. It was like chaining a human being to the pestilent trunk of the Upas, to send an English officer, unprotected by troops or credentials, into this surging chaos. Yet in this way, and out of his own discretion, did Sir John M`Neill, our ambassador at the court of Persia, send Colonel Stoddart, in the year 1838, into the dominions of the Ameer. The alleged purposes for which he sent him there are neither clear nor satisfactory—the capacity in which he sent him is still less so. He was first to endeavour to dissuade a certain border chief from pillaging the frontier of Persia, and then pushing his way to Bokhara, he was to intercede with the king for the release of his Russian prisoners, and to conclude, if he could, a friendly treaty with that sovereign.
He failed totally, humiliatingly-in every one of these particulars. The border chief laughed at him-the king put him to death. How could it be otherwise ? What business had we to thrust ourselves into the councils of a marauding brigand, who was merely carrying out the free-trade principles he had inherited from his ancestors? What right had we to meddle with the prisoners of the King of Bokhara? Under what pretext could we reconcile with our knowledge of the power of Russia to obtain restitution for herself
, this extraordinary interference with one of the most sacred duties of a paternal government? Was ever any thing so monstrous ? Then, that this same officer, single-handed, without retinue, guards, or money, or one solitary proof of any kind that he really was that which he represented himself to be, that this naked, unaccredited envoy should be required to effect a friendly treaty with the impetuous, jealous, and implacable Ameer, was a thing to make any reflecting man shudder for the issue of this perilous adventure. We are well aware of the subtle reasons that
be urged for the whole of this dark proceeding; but we must, nevertheless, demand a categorical answer to a plain question. By what authority was the negotiation for this treaty put into motion? Sir John M`Neill possessed no such authority; he was our ambassador to Persia, not to Bokhara; he had no more right to carry his diplomatic functions into Bokhara, than he had to declare war upon Persia ; and certainly what he had no right to do himself, he could not rightfully delegate to be done by another.
Upon what authority then was this strange, hopeless mission undertaken? The government disclaim it. Sir John M`Neill clearly had no authority within himself to originate so grave a measure. But it is equally clear that he despatched Colonel Stoddart on this embassy-if embassy it can be called, which had not one shadow of an attribute of authority in its
train. Either Sir John M`Neill was authorised by the then administration to send a representative of the British government into Bokhara, for the purpose of entering into a treaty with the sovereign of that country, or he was not so authorised. To this miserable alternative we are driven by the shuffling which, from first to last, has disgraced the official correspondence on this subject. If Sir John M.Neill was not authorised to do this, let him answer for the consequences.
We grieve to be forced into this paltry view of so great a responsibility. But it is necessary to fix the responsibility somewhere. The government asserts that Colonel Stoddart was not an authorised envoy. The government ought to know. But it is certain that Sir John M`Neill ordered Colonel Stoddart to go into Bokhara for the purposes we have described ; and it is equally certain that Colonel Stoddart
, being so ordered by his superior officer, had no alternative but to go. Leaving Sir John M'Neill to settle his dilemma with the government, let us now see how far, under such exonerating circumstances, the government itself is committed by an act in which they declare they had no participation.
The ambassador is the representative of his sovereign. Discourtesies shown to ambassadors are resented as affronts to the sovereigns they represent. The acts of ambassadors are held as acts of their sovereigns. Through every practicable phase of their functions, ambassadors are sustained and protected by their sovereigns. This state of things is universally conceded. It is the key to the diplomacy of the whole world. By what argument, then, of policy, or usage, or justice, the government of England can refuse to recognise and abide by the act of Sir John M'Neill in this instance, we are utterly unable to conceive-unless, and it is the only loophole left, Sir John exceeded or violated his instructions in carrying it into effect. But even this pitiful evasion is not available ; for if he did exceed or violate his instructions, the government were bound to vindicate themselves by calling him to public account for so unwarrantable a stretch of authority. But the government have signified Do such intention, and never will.
The case then resolves itself into this simple result, that the government, by declining the obvious means of clearing themselves from this fearful responsibility, have taken it upon their shoulders.
It is right they should do so; and in doing so, they only anticipate the verdict of history. The true facts are these. When it was discovered that a large number of Russians were held in captivity by the Ameer, Lord Palmerston, who was then at the Foreign Office, saw that Russia might make this aggression an excuse for a military descent upon the Oxus, and he determined to out-manæuvre the Czar, by endeavouring to effect their liberation before he could take any measures to enforce it. With this view he directed our minister at Teheran to select an officer for this special and singular mission. Upon this point the whole question turns. Our minister selected Colonel Stoddart. Of course Colonel Stoddart was not sele
elmerston-he did not receive his appointment direct from Lord Palmerston :
upon this jesuitical plea the Foreign Secretary refuses to regard Colonel Stoddart as an authorised agent of the government! That the government should thus disown an act which they had themselves originated and directed, is hard to believe. But the melancholy evidence that they did do so is to be found in the letter of Lord Ellenborough to the Ameer, in which he
states that he has been informed that two Englishmen were detained prisoners in Bokhara, that they were merely innocent travellers, that he, therefore, hopes his majesty will release them, and that he will engage they shall never enter his dominions again! This communication from the Governor-General of India, flatly contradicting the repeated statements of poor Stoddart that he was an authorised agent of the government, confirmed the previous suspicions of the tyrant, that he and his friend were spies, and sealed their fate. Had Lord Ellenborough simply indicated the official character in which they were legitimately clothed under the sanction of the Foreign Office, the Ameer would not have dared to touch them.
Conolly's connexion with Stoddart was as official as Stoddart's own appointment. He was employed on a mission to Khiva and Khokan, and while thus engaged, it was intimated “ to Colonel Stoddart that Captain Conolly was at Khiva, and that if he thought he could be useful to him, he had authority to send to him to Khiva," which he did. These are the very words in which Sir Robert Peel explained the transaction in the House of Commons. Yet Sir Robert Peel allows both these officers to be sacrificed in silence !
Hitherto we have looked at the obligation of government to their official servants. But, granting that no such obligation exists-granting that Stoddart and Conolly were mere Englishmen and “innocent travellers," the country has a right to demand retribution for their murder. Sir Robert Peel has acknowledged this right over and over again, but always entreated not to be pressed to enforce redress. It is a very curious and remarkable feature in the case, that whenever the subject has been referred to, ministers have invariably described the execution of these gentlemen as an act of murder. This is the word always used-murder. Yet these same ministers always beg not to be pressed to take any notice of this murder.
With the mission of Dr. Wolff, the whole of the civilised universe is familiar; and it is impossible to express in adequate terms the glory of that humane and courageous achievement. To Captain Grover's noble conduct throughout this harrowing affair—to his generous self-devotion-his prodigal zeal, and untiring perseverance, it is no less difficult to render a fitting tribute. Some people find fault with the tone of his letters to Lord Aberdeen. We do not. We have only to lament that in thus trampling indignantly upon conventional forms and hollow official ceremonials, he failed to excite in the breast of his diplomatic correspondent, the same irrepressible enthusiasm which animated his own.
Dr. Wolff brings back intelligence of the execution of our two countrymen, on the authority of the Ameer himself. Captain Grover, doubting every statement that comes from that polluted atmosphere, is of opinion, notwithstanding, that they are still alive. The Committee of the Fund hold the same opinion. The conjectural grounds on which it rests are stated in the publication before us; but we confess they appear to us altogether illusory.
We detect in this ardent volume, one very surprising contradiction; but we can readily comprehend that it springs from an over-anxious desire to sift every possible aspect of the case by every possible means. In one place Captain Grover says, that the King of Bokhara is not to blame—that he discredited Stoddarts story, because Stoddart could not