The farthest removed from us in political ideals, Russia has in the various crises in our national life always been America’s truest friend. When others apparently nearer have failed us, she has stood steadfastly by us. We can never forget it. Owning a large portion of the earth’s surface, rich beyond calculation in all that makes for national wealth and prosperity, with a peasantry the most confiding, the most loyal, the most industrious in the world, with intellectual power and genius in abundant measure, and with pride of race and a patriotism profound and intense, what more does Russia need? Only three things—that cruelty be abandoned; that she be made a homogeneous nation; and that she be permitted to live under a government capable of administering justice to her people. These she must have and do. In the coming century there will be no place for barbarism. There will be something in the air which will make it impossible that a great part of a frozen continent shall be dedicated to the use of suffering human beings, kept there by the will of one man. There will be something in the air which will forbid cruelty and compel mercy and justice, and which will make men or nations feign those virtues if they have them not.
The antagonism between England and Russia has a deeper significance than appears on the surface. It is not the Eastern question, not the control of Constantinople, not the obtaining of concessions from China which is at stake. It is the question which of two principles shall prevail. The one represented by a despotism in which the people have no part, or the one represented by a system of government through which the will of the people freely acts. There can be but one result in such a conflict, one answer to such a question. The eternal purposes are writ too large in the past to mistake them. And it is the ardent hope of America that Russia—that Empire which has so generously accorded us her friendship in our times of peril—may not by cataclysm from within, but of her own volition, place herself fully in line with the ideals of an advanced civilization.
From Rurik to Nicholas III. the policy of Russia has been determined by its thirst for the sea. Every great struggle in the life of this colossal land-locked empire has had for its ultimate object the opening of a door to the ocean, from which nature has ingeniously excluded it. In the first centuries of its existence Rurik and his descendants were incessantly hurling themselves against the door leading to the Mediterranean. But the door would not yield. Then Ivan IV. and his descendants, with no greater success, hammered at the door leading to the West. The thirst growing with defeat became a national instinct. When Peter the Great first looked out upon the sea, at Archangel, and when he created that miniature navy upon the Black Sea, and when he dragged his capital from “Holy Moscow” to the banks of the Neva, planting it upon that submerged tract, he was impelled by the same instinct which is to-day making history in the Far East.