"Peace With Honor"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Lord John Russell, long a prominent Whig and from 1846 to 1852 Britain's Prime Minister, became Foreign Secretary in a new ministry of Whigs and moderate Tories under Lord Aberdeen early in 1853. Within two months he resigned the secretaryship but agreed to remain in the cabinet without office. When Russia, under Tsar Nicholas I, occupied Moldavia and Wallachia, two Balkan provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France sent fleets into the Aegean. Attempting to avert war, the major European powers drafted a compromise known as the "Vienna Note." The Turks insisted on an amendment designating the Sultan rather than the Tsar as principal protector of the Turkish Christians. Aberdeen's ministry endorsed the amendment, but when it was rejected by the Tsar, the British cabinet, in Russell's absence, decided to press the Turks to accept the original terms. Irate over what seemed to him an abandonment of Britain's earlier commitment to the Turks, Russell wrote Aberdeen on September 17, 1853, of his intention to resign from the ministry. That same evening before a public meeting at Greenock, Scotland, he spoke on the subject of the crisis. The "Vienna Note" failed, and by the end of October, 1853, the Turks' efforts to recover the provinces north of the Danube had marked the beginning of the Crimean War. In his Greenock speech, Russell said:

While we endeavour to maintain peace, I certainly should be the last to forget that, if peace cannot be maintained with honour it is no longer peace.