Lord Aberdeen to Queen Victoria, 7 October 1853
“The [Cabinet] meeting was very long, and considerable difference of opinion prevailed in the course of the discussion. At length, however, … there was such an agreement as ensured a certain degree of unanimity. With this view, it was determined to adhere to a defensive principle of action in the East.
“The Fleets may perhaps be already at Constantinople; but, at all events, they are to be brought there forthwith, and to be stationed either there or in the Bosphorus, unless the Russians should cross the Danube, or make any attack upon the Turkish possessions on the coast of the Black Sea. In this case, the combined Fleets would enter the Black Sea, for the defence of the Turkish territory.
“Considering the position we have already assumed in this unfortunate affair, perhaps it was impossible to do less than this; and as there is very little chance of Russia undertaking any active hostilities of the nature apprehended, it may reasonably be hoped that no actual collision will take place. At the same time it must be recollected that Russia will regard the entrance of line of battleships into the Black Sea as a virtual declaration of war against herself.
“There is [as] yet no confirmation of the actual declaration of war by the Porte, and although there is no reason to suspect any serious impediment to the decision of the Divan being fulfilled, it is rather strange that intelligence to this effect has not been received.
“If Lord Stratford should see great cause for apprehension at the prospect of the Turks in the prosecution of hostilities, it is just possible that by his influence he may have arrested the progress of their warlike measures; but probably this is too much to hope. At all events, Lord Aberdeen trusts that the path of negotiation is not finally closed, and that, notwithstanding the equivocal position of Great Britain in this contest, it may still be possible to employ words of conciliation and peace.”