THE POLICY OF FOREIGN POWERS IN TURKEY AND ITS EFFECTS.
Russian agents - Russian ecclesiastical intrigue - Mysteries of French
policy - No-policy of England - Religious equality - Attacks on the Ulema
- Save me from my friends - Colonel Bobrikoffs scientific mission - A thankless
task - French civilization - French intervention - The day of retribution
- Educate the Rayah - Considerations of expediency - England's true policy.
IF you have ever spent a day in a Bulgarian house when some Saint's Day or other Feast was celebrated - and according to the Greek calendar the chances are about ten thousand to one that any day you may choose will be a Feast or a Fast - you can hardly help having remarked amongst the assembled guests an individual whose costume is more that of the town than of the forest, who makes more signs of the cross than oven the Bulgarians themselves, and whose dialect smacks strongly of that Slavonic in which are written the canons of the orthodox and imperial religion. [In Russia the State religion is qualified as “orthodox and imperial," to distinguish it from the Greek at Constantinople, which is merely “orthodox."]
He by no means spares the wine, crosses himself twice before and twice after each draught, boasting continually that he is "an orthodox Christian of the only orthodox and imperial Church," and when his potations have loosened his tongue, he begins to sing the praises of Russia, and to dismember Turkey with the same facility with which he tears in pieces the over-boiled fowl he is eating.
This gentleman is the unaccredited Russian agent, the supplement to the still more influential Papas, and his mission is to warn the peasants that the time for raising the fiery cross of open insurrection is more or less near, and to keep them firm in the good resolutions implanted by their clergy.
In Turkey these emissaries have no need to conceal themselves, or to bridle their tongues with even the gentlest of snaffles, for there is no fear of their being meddled with by the authorities or denounced by the peasants.
The latter possibility causes them no anxiety, the influence of the friends of the Eastern Christians being so strong and so widely spread that the Rayah has learned to preserve nothing but an outward semblance of fear and respect as far as his Mussulman rulers are concerned, whilst he considers every one that is not an Eastern Christian as necessarily his enemy, and those of his own creed as his natural friends, so that even if denunciation of brigandage enters (which it by no means does) into the morals and habits of the country, any robber who entered a Rayah cottage and made the orthodox number of signs of the cross would be safe from betrayal and from pursuit.
Thanks to the action of that foreign policy of which we are about to treat, Christianity in the East is no longer merely a religion, it has degenerated into a secret society not less dangerous, and but little more scrupulous, than Fenianism.
The Christians of Turkey have this advantage over the Fenians that they are openly protected by foreign powers, and yet the aspirations of the Irish are certainly more legitimate than those of the Rayah, who has no history and therefore no fatherland. Englishmen as we are, we believe that Ireland, if separated from the British empire, would show something better than the abortions produced by those States which the coercive force of a "disinterested friendship" has severed from Turkey. The Servians were by far the best of the Rayahs; and yet Servia has not done much for the cause of civilization, or indeed for any cause but that of insurrection and Russia. We admire ambition in a giant, but we laugh at it in a dwarf; yet it is the ambition of the dwarf which has ruined certain little States which owe their existence to the tolerance or docility of Turkey, and which indulge in dreams of future greatness whilst they had much better be occupied with the organization of their country and their finances; it is this ambition which has upset the many weak brains which imagine themselves to be the leaders and originators of a patriotic movement, because more wily conspirators make use of them as tools.
The Russians have one weak point in common with the Chinese, that of being a little too cunning; their brain is Slavonic, that is, more fitted to imagine than to calculate, and they have in many instances injured themselves whilst fancying that they were overreaching their neighbours; of their many failures occasioned by this defect perhaps the most absurd, as it is the latest, is the "Bulgarian ecclesiastical schism."
The true Bulgarian - the peasant, not the Bulgarian in fancy dress as he is imagined in Europe - is able, though a poor arithmetician, to count up on his fingers that the Papas and the Greek clergy cost him about double what he pays to the Ottoman Government, so that when he was offered a chance of getting rid of his real oppressor by the simple method of signing (with his mark of course) a petition, and not by risking his person amongst rifle-bullets, he was only too glad to avail himself of the opportunity.
This petition was the first shot fired in the war between the Bulgarians and the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople, and the origin of this movement, like that of many others, can easily be traced to the influence of Russia, who, however, probably wished and expected a very different result from that which has taken place, and is now trying to undo all that she has done by effecting a reconciliation between the Bulgarians and the Phanar, [The seat of the Greek patriarch; the Phanar, outside the walls of Constantinople, was the first place granted by the Sultans as an ecclesiastical residence to the patriarchs of the orthodox Church.] which is the more difficult to bring about as her agents have preached but too truly and too well against the Greek hierarchy and in favour of a religious autonomy. The logic of the peasant, whose conclusions are drawn in pounds, shillings, and pence, is too much opposed to this reconciliation for the unaccredited agents to have an easy task before them.
We will endeavour to explain the motives of Russia in trying thus to counteract a scheme which she had herself suggested: she had hoped that when the schism between the Greek Church and the Bulgarians was complete, the Turkish Government with its ordinary good nature would grant to their Christian subjects a Bulgarian, that is, an orthodox and imperial patriarchate. But in this expectation she was deceived, as the Porte replied that the three existing patriarchs (Roman Catholic, Armenian, and Greek) were surely enough, and that the Bulgarians had perfect liberty to choose any one of the trio as their spiritual head; an answer which may probably have given rise to a report at one time circulated of an union between the Bulgarians and the Church of Rome. It is said that the Greek patriarch has offered as a mezzo termine to erect the Vilayet of the Danube (Bulgaria proper) into an Archiepiscopal See, dependent upon the Phanar, but of which the archbishop shall be a Bulgarian. This, however, is not what the people want, their great wish being to escape from the licensed pillage of the Greek clergy, and to avoid the imposts which the maintenance of the Greek patriarch and hierarchy annually imposes upon them.
We have thus sketched in a few lines the true history of the Bulgarian schism, one of the intrigues from which Russia hoped much and reaped nothing; but in spite of its failure she will still continue to use for her own purposes the Fenianism of Eastern Christianity - one of the most powerful levers of agitation in Turkey, since its action is but little seen outside this country, or, if seen, is attributed to the purest and most laudable motives.
Russian policy is at least comprehensible, for it has a reason for its existence, a definite end to be attained, and a coherent action; but who can understand the policy of France in Turkey? Why does she interfere in the affairs of the Sublime Porte in such a manner as always to force the Turkish Government into “Reforms" which are not only unreasonable, but dangerous to the very existence of the Ottoman empire as well as opposed to the true interests of the Rayahs?
It may be replied, that she is desifous of forming a party amongst the Christians, but with what object? Can it be that of obtaining a certain influence over the future cabinet of “Byzantium, the capital of a Christian empire?"
We can hardly believe the Tuileries to be so foolish as to build expectations upon such unstable foundations as the gratitude of the Rayah; and it seems possible to explain the action of French policy only by supposing a complete ignorance of the state of Turkey and the true character of its populations - an ignorance which must embrace the diplomatic and consular agents abroad as well as the Foreign Office at Paris.
But this uncomplimentary hypothesis does not satisfactorily account for a policy which, whilst meddling with everything, is always changing and vacillating, constant only in its deleterious effects upon the state of Turkey, political, economical, and financial: its mainspring is perhaps to be found in an ambition, but an ambition which is as yet but vaguely defined, for how otherwise can we attribute any motive to the action of France in favour of Servia and the Moldo-Wallachian Provinces; how explain the unceasing stream of Frenchmen, for the most part incapable, who are sent (not exactly officially, it is true, but with an understanding that they will be well received) from Paris to Stamboul to fill all sorts of posts and to graft the wall-fruit of French civilization upon the Turkish crab-apple? What can this motive be, and will it ever be revealed to us by the 'Livre Jaune'? We will presently describe the effects of this policy as pursued by France, and our readers will judge whether it has in any way aided the progress of Turkey or of Europe in the path of civilization.
Upon English policy in Turkey it is impossible to enlarge, as England has none; and since her ambassadors at Constantinople have taken to being afraid of shadows - their own or any one else's - the influence formerly possessed by England is now hardly even a tradition. Whilst new Russian ambassadors may be found ready to put on the “Paletot de Menchikoff," it seems as if there would be no inheritor of the mantle of Lord Stratford do Redeliffe. Lord Stratford, or a man of his stamp, would have prevented such an insurrection as that of Crete, or if he failed in preventing it, would have stopped it: a couple of gunboats would have blockaded the ports of Greece, and every Russian vessel of war would have been well watched by English ships; an Eden would not have been. changed into a desert, and a whole people would not have become mendicants. Such a policy might have cost a couple of firmly-worded notes to Prince Gortchakoff, and perhaps even a British garrison at the Piraeus, but it would have saved us the expenses of the second Eastern war.
Russia sows agitation and disorder in the country districts, but at present her harvest is reaped in the capital, and as it is there that France, leaving the provinces to the other speculator upon Ottoman weakness, casts her seed and cuts her grain, we will conduct our readers to Stamboul or rather to Pera, to estimate the profit made by each of the agriculturists.
The policy of France, though professedly friendly, is as we have said perhaps even more hurtful to Turkey than the hostile, almost avowedly hostile, action of Russia.
Article IX. of the Treaty of Paris begins by stipulating for liberty of conscience (a liberty which existed in Turkey long before its benefits were extended to certain countries of Europe, e. g., Ireland, Scotland, France, &c., and which even now does not flourish everywhere (witness Poland) very vigorously), and then notifies the intention of the Sultan to ameliorate the condition of his subjects “without distinction of religion or of race."
In commenting upon this Article, Russia might have said, with her habitual sophistry, that this amelioration could be carried out only by the cession of the European provinces of Turkey to her, when both Mussulman and Christian would gain by coming under the kindly sceptre of the Czar: the Treaty of Paris fortunately guaranteed the territorial integrity of the Ottoman empire, and therefore France is obliged to differ from Russia in such an interpretation of Article IX. The way in which it is understood by her is however just as prejudicial to Turkey: for since it is acknowledged by all those who know Turkey thoroughly, that if there are subjects of the Sultan who are oppressed, they are the Mussulmans (as may be seen from the chapter upon the Military Service of the Turk), why does France drive the Porte to oppress them still further, and why does she exact reforms which must have the effect of some day causing a revolution of Mussulmans, which will not only be excusable, but necessitated, by the virtual outlawry of the Turk?
It is possible to be the friend of the Eastern Christian, but it is scarcely fair to carry this friendship to the extent of wishing to ruin an entire nation of Mussulmans, especially when the Christian's friend is a party to the Treaty of Paris, and is not Russia, but France.
In our difficult search after an explanation for French policy we are then reduced to two hypotheses, one (already mentioned) that of complete ignorance of the real state of Turkey, the other that France intends to force the Mussulman populations into a revolt against the Sultan.
The ambition of being the protector of the Eastern Christians does not afford a sufficient motive; for though Russia may well “protect" them in the hope of one day becoming their sovereign, and transforming them, if not into useful members of the working community of the world, at least into handy tools for her own projects, what could France do with all these millions of Rayahs? And if she does not want them, the part she plays is not only deadly to the true interests of the country, but is a flagrant absurdity.
Without speaking of the autonomies which France has obtained for Servia, for the Principalities, &c., or of the course adopted by her in the affairs of Crete, a sufficient proof of the evils arising from her counsels will be found in the part she has taken against the Ulema, the great bond, moral and religious, of Mahommedanism in Turkey; than which nothing can be more calculated to exasperate the Mussulmans, who look upon the proposed change as a direct attack upon one of the most cherished articles of their faith.
Let us suppose for a moment that the French ambassador in London demanded an interview with the Premier, and expressed himself after the following manner: - "You must acknowledge that these Fenian troubles are weakening the prestige if not the power of the country, and that you have vainly tried to put an end to them in various ways; now let France, as a friend, strongly advise and counsel you to adopt the only remedy which will get you out of your difficulties, namely to secularize, or confiscate, all the remaining property of the Established Church, which will find a sufficient means of support in the contributions of its zealous members. By this means you will effectually cheek Fenianism, whose ranks are chiefly recruited from Roman Catholics, and England will again enjoy domestic peace, and regain her former position amongst the great powers of Europe."
Of course such language, and such advice from France to England, would be considered as an impertinence, whilst from France to Turkey it is disinterested friendship of the purest kind; yet such a proposition, per se, would find many supporters and approvers amongst Dissenters and even amongst nominal members of the Church of England: the present generation may perhaps even live to see a Bill to this effect brought before an ultra-Reformed House of Commons.
In Turkey, however, the case is not entirely a parallel one, for the proposal to annihilate the Ulema is most distasteful to all classes of the Turks, who are distinguished by attachment to their religion, and whose faith is not divided by such thousand-and-one schisms as agree to differ from the State religion of England. [In Persia there are, it is true, many Mussulman sectaries, but in the Asiatic dominions of the Sultan there are very few, whilst in European Turkey (of which we are writing) they are utterly unknown.]
Confessing ourselves foiled in our endeavour to find a solution to the enigma of French policy, we will again turn to its effects in conjunction with that of Russia, in the hope of thereby aiding the mental efforts of some diplomatic Oedipus.
The action of Russian policy is to be clearly traced in continual agitations amongst the Christian populations, and in bribes to some Kurd or Karamanian Beys, which, while serving to arm and excite them against their legitimate sovereign, explain in some measure the large sum of 3,200,000 l. which by the avowal of Prince Gortchakoff the Eastern Question costs Russia under the head of secret service money in the East.
At Constantinople the tactics of Russia consist in asking from Turkey what she knows it is impossible to grant, like a skilful fencer who endeavours to embrouffier le jeu of his adversary by almost impossible thrusts, profiting by the disorder into which the latter is thrown to inflict a wound deep enough to make him surrender at discretion, but not deep enough to cause death - for Russia is prevented from killing Turkey outright by the presence of the seconds and other lookers-on. France steps in as a friend, but she is, to say the least, very unskilful, and by no means shows the same cunning of fence which she has occasionally exhibited on her own account in one or two affairs of honour; she is constantly telling her principal, “Guard your head " when the chest is threatened, or "Parry in tierce " against a thrust in carte; sometimes she even says "Let me parry for you," and does it so adroitly that she inflicts a wound upon Turkey deeper than any from the adversary's sword.
The duel is enlivened by the attacks of two or three small cur dogs who are always to be found at the heels of Russia, and make frantic efforts to bite the legs of Turkey.
Formerly there was a big English policeman always standing by to see fair play, and occasionally his staff came down with a heavy rap upon the knuckles of Turkey's opponent, or even of the disinterested friend, whilst a kick from his heavy boot sent one of the cur dogs yelping away into a corner. Now, however, the policeman, though he is still present, is but an inactive if not an uninterested spectator, and the Turk is left to his own resources. As a professor of political small sword, one at least of the Sultan's Ministers is more than a match for any one that can be brought against him, little dogs included, but he is so encumbered by the advice and useless parries of his second that he occasionally lays himself terribly open.
The old saying, “Preserve me from my friends, I will take care of my enemies," has never had a more practical application than in the diplomatic duel which is going on in the political circles of Constantinople.
The consequences of these interventions, whether hostile or friendly, in the domestic affairs of Turkey are most deplorable, for they are the cause of the animosity existing between the Mussulman and Christian subjects of the Sultan, of the undeveloped state of the moral and material resources of the country, of the paralysis of its Government, of the ruin of its finances, in a word, of the ruin of the whole of Turkey. [Although other causes may have contributed to this ruin, such as Eastern commerce, the idleness of the Rayah, the Capitulations, the system of taxation, &c., yet all these wounds are, if not inflicted, at least kept open by the action of this policy.] Their worst effect is, however, one which will appear strange when we remember the apparently philanthropic intentions of French policy, since it is nothing less than checking civilization and hindering its taking root in this country: as we continue to study the action of French policy we shall see that this deplorable result does ensue from it.
The great question, nominally at least, for which foreign powers are struggling at Constantinople is “the amelioration of the condition of the Christians;" yet but little progress is made in this direction by intrigues, avowed or unavowed, of foreign diplomacy.
The Russian policy of urging the Christian population to covert resistance, if not to open revolt, by its official notes and constant demands for new concessions in their favour (whilst good care is taken that both the demands and results shall be reported throughout the country by its secret agents or by such scientific travellers as Colonel Bobrikov [“La mission que le Gouvernement Russe a envoyde on Bulgarie est composee comme il suit: le Colonel Bobrikoff, le Capitaine Karatassoff, le Capitaine Artamonoff, le Capitaine Escalon, le Capitaine Soltikoff.
“La Sublime Porte, dent la complaisance est extreme, a attache a cette mission trois officiers d’etat major, Haqqui Bey, Faig Bey, et Tefik Bey. En outre elle a donne ordre aux autorite's des provinces pour faciliter les travaux do la mission russe.
"Les officiers de cette mission ont parcouru la Bulgarie, la Thrace et une partie do la Macedoine, du Danube aux Dardanelles et a Salonique, de la Mer Noire a la frontibre do. Serbie; ils ont visite les gorges et les issues les moins connues du Rhodope et du Balkan; ils ont parcouru les vallees, so sont informes des ressources de chaque localite, et n’ont pas oublie de visiter les couvents grecs.
“Il parait qu'ils n’ont pas acheve leurs operations, car ils ont promis do revenir. Est-ce on qualite de mission savante ou do mission militaire - plus nombreuse?" - 'Courrier d'Orient,' Jan. 27, 1868.
In course of conversation with a Turkish official upon the subject of this mission, we were told, "Mithat Pasha n'est pas si bete, allez : l'escorte qu'il a donnee a ces Messieurs n’est tout bonnement que des espions;" but what is the use of spies upon people who are allowed to do as they like without cheek or hindrance? Of what use is a report "that Colonel Bobrikoff has taken plans of all the passes of the Balkans, and that Captain Karatassoff made a regular Russian propaganda in every Bulgarian village where the mission halted," when the plans go safely to Russia, when Captain Karatassoff is not arrested, and the seed he has been allowed to sow, is also allowed to germinate - to be reaped in good time, no doubt? 'Quem Deus vult perdere, prius dementat.']) has at least no great tendency to produce good feeling between Mussulmans and Christians, the latter having been promised such great benefits from the Protectorate of Russia that they consider the Czar as their best friend, and as subjects of the Sultan feel but little devotion or attachment to their sovereign.
How then is it possible, without real tranquillity and cordial good feeling between the rulers and the ruled, for civilization to spread in Turkey?
If Vassili harbours the orthodox brigand, and if he is but a lukewarm subject of Turkey, the fault lies with the policy of Russia; but if Turkey is too weak - we will not say to chastise her children when they are disobedient or noisy or idle, but - to distribute an even-handed justice, to eradicate the fraud which is ruining and the dishonesty which is killing all legitimate enterprise and draining all the available resources of the land, or to establish a logical system of government in the country; if Turkey is too weak to do all this, and if the Ministers of the Sultan occupy their time in imagining, impracticable Utopias, the fault is greatly if not exclusively with the French policy of intervention in Turkey; and this policy is direct or indirectly the cause that a whole country stagnates instead of flourishing; it is responsible for rivers of blood shed without the world's reaping any benefit from the sacrifice, it is the cause, in short, that though Sebastopol has disappeared, the Eastern Question still exists.
Whilst to France herself the consequences are sufficiently sensible - ten men per thousand in every conscription being the least that the Eastern Question costs her, and the actual state of the agriculture of the corn-producing provinces of Turkey keeping the price of the French workman's bread above what he would pay if the sublime Porte were well and honestly advised, instead of receiving such counsels as are every day forced upon it by the French ambassador - Turkey suffers still greater and more serious evils.
The advice of the friend of Turkey has always tended to promote changes advantageous only to the Christians, and most unfavourable to the Mussulmans; we will allow that the agents of France act from ignorance and not from any dishonest or interested motives, but the effect is the same whatever may be the cause of the policy which produces it. Its first result is, that France appears to be entirely subservient to Russia, whose influence in the country districts she can never hope to dominate, for the Rayahs (whom we have faithfully delineated in their true colours) are sufficiently ignorant to think and say, “If France helps our friend and master the Czar, it is because he has ordered France to do so," and of course such an opinion is not likely to be weakened by the ubiquitous agents of Russia.
Secondly, these concessions are demanded for a race which is in a position more than favourable for everything but work and civilization, [As may be seen in the Chapter upon Military Service, the Rayah, instead of paying an average exemption tax of 25 piastres which (counting one adult male in every family of five persons for the total of twelve millions) brings in sixty millions of piastres (about 540,000 l.) should be forced to pay a sum of from 500 to 800 piastres, which would be an increase to the Budget of from 1,200,000,000 (twelve hundred millions) to 1,920,000,000 (nineteen hundred and twenty millions) of piastres, or in round numbers, 11 to 17.1 millions of pounds sterling.
We shall be told that the Aman, or Quarter, granted to the Christians, forbids the imposition of such a tax. This we deny, but even supposing it to be so, the condition of the Turk has been so changed since that Aman was granted and his privileges have been so entirely taken from him, that if the Rayah were called upon for an annual exemption tax of a thousand piastres, he would still be in a better position than is the Mussulman.
How do Russia, Prussia, and even liberal Austria keep to the stipulations of the Aman by them granted to Poland? They are, however, stronger than Turkey, and have no foreign intervention to fear.] and the reason we have to make these exceptions is because the Turkish Government has rendered the life of the Rayahs too easy, and afforded them too many opportunities of indulging in their favourite luxuries of idleness and drunkenness, and because the Greek clergy, and the Greek religion as they preach and practise it, are incompatible with any degree of civilisation worthy of the name, serving merely to keep the peasantry in their present state of parasitism, and to make them the friends of Turkey's enemies as well as a germ of trouble and agitation which cheeks all material progress; while there is yet a worse feature of the Greek Church, its elasticity of doctrine in all matters of public morality, which is in a great measure the cause of the universal want of confidence prevailing in all transactions, mercantile or other, throughout the East.
And why should a never-ending war be waged against all the institutions of Islam? Is it because the Emperor of the French occupies the throne of the most Christian and most crusading kings of France? “Because," we shall be told, “Islamism is incompatible with the march of civilization."
In reply we refer our readers to previous chapters [Upon the Ulema, the Turks of the Country, &c.] of this book, and we say that our experience leads us to believe the Mussulman to be far more susceptible of civilization than the Christians of the East, and that as applied to Islamism it will produce results far better than the defective and warped “civilization" prevailing in those former provinces of Turkey which have been granted an autonomy, or even than that which is thinly spread over the surface of the “France of the North," [A self-attributed title, upon which Russia greatly prides herself. ] where it chiefly consists in embroidered uniforms, kepis after the latest French model, and the deepest and streakiest of mud, material and moral. [To see both kinds of mud in a superlative degree, travel in Wallachia. Passim during a wild rainy winter, for the material; passim at any season, for the moral.] Such a reform as this will not, however, be lightly accepted by the snowy beards and turbans of the Ulema.
It would almost appear as if the civilization of Prefets and Sous-Prefets, of the Code Napoleon, and of what Victor Hugo calls “la representation du garde champetre," were the only form possible in Turkey, since it is this which is so unceasingly advocated by the French Ambassador, who yet can scarcely be ignorant that at less than eleven hours' distance from Paris there lies a city called London, the capital of a country in which reigns a civilization far different from, but perhaps not inferior to, that of France.
Germany, too, is regarded as one of the civilized nations of Europe, although her civilization is no more based upon Christianity than would be that which Turkey, left to herself, might, or perhaps even would, adopt with complete success.
Continuing our supposition that France is actuated by sound, though inscrutable, reasons of State policy in her anxiety to bestow upon Turkey the blessings of a civilization not alla Franca but a la Francaise, her manner of paying the way to this result is at least open to criticism.
She urges the Turkish Government to grant autonomies to States who avail themselves of the gift only to intrigue against the giver and to turn their own countries into a chaos of disorder and misrule; she compels concessions to a population which is neither prepared to benefit by them, nor even fit to receive them; she seeks to destroy the Ulema by the abolition of the Vakouffs, she forces the Porte to fill an unlimited number of places created, ad hoe, with Frenchmen who are for the most part incapable, and she says to Turkey, “You must have railroads, forest rangers, professors of logic, of chemistry, of mathematics, a French official Turkish newspaper," and a hundred other instruments of civilization; the only effect of this last piece of advice being that some scores, or even hundreds, of Frenchmen receive enormously high salaries, which are drawn from the slender budget of the country, and spent in the cafes of Pera: but the railroads are still things of the future; the roads are not traced even on paper; the forests are still cut and burned down by the Rayah, or sold by him to the Greek merchant; the mathematician, who cannot solve a quadratic equation, and has not even heard of differential calculus, has not one pupil for every hundred pounds of his salary; the chemist occupies himself in the analysis of the ingredients which form a Constantinopolitan “Ponche a l'Anglaise;" and the logician wonders from what premises Turkey can have drawn the conclusion to be so yielding as she is.
We have already said that Turkey is distressed, that she is in a state of disorder almost impossible to imagine, and an this in spite of, or rather owing to, the mania which has seized upon France for urging her to “reforms” as absurd as they are ill-timed. Is the “sick man” any the better for the large doses of reform pills which he swallows with so much resignation?
A Turk arms himself with a thick stick, and administers a sound thrashing to a Rayah, or to a merchant whose primitive nationality is lost in the mists of many consulates, but who has finally obtained French protection. The story is published in the Constantinople newspapers, and the Russian Ambassador goes to the Forte; he adopts a tone a little too menacing and obtains no "redress," so he calls upon the French envoy, and with an ironical smile and a shrug of the shoulders suggests to his “cher collegue" a private intervention in the matter, adding “You see now what a nice set of fellows these Turks are that you are so bent upon civilizing." The French Ambassador feels that the credit of France is at stake, for he has just learnt that the Rayah is a Catholic, or the merchant an Armenian, so he hastens to the grand Vizier, says the rudest things to him in the politest manner possible, and throws in his face the old, old story of that Crimean campaign, in which England took a sufficiently prominent part, but which every Frenchman tries to prove to the world in general, and Turkey in particular, was carried on by France alone, who succeeded in beating the Russians, notwithstanding the chain tied to her feet by the presence of the British army, or rather contingent, which did nothing but impede the movements of her forces.
The result of this representation is that a Commission is sent to the spot from Constantinople with orders to punish the Turk in question, and all that is Turkish in the affair.
The Turkish Minister knows that he is committing an injustice; the Commission knows beforehand that it will be forced to act without regard to law or evidence; but the repose of the Cabinet is at stake, and so the Turk goes to Widin [Widin, on the Danube, is a sort of Turkish Spike Island] for seven years, and the Pasha of the district loses his place - a couple of sacrifices to French policy.
There is, however, a true version of the affair, which the Commission will not report; or if it does find courage to do so, no newspaper in Constantinople will publish it. The Turk has been robbed of his last pair of buffaloes by the Rayah, or cheated out of his poor savings by the merchant; he has complained to the Pasha, and been told that orders had come from Stamboul to treat the Rayahs with all possible lenity, and that political reasons forbid the punishment of the thief. The Turk who feels that this “policy" strips him every day of a right or a privilege, that it is abusing his nationality and attacking his religion, that it not only despoils but insults the Mussulman [Vide Chapters upon the Military Service of the Turk, the Real Position of the Rayah, &c. &c.] - thinks he has had enough of this patriotic policy, and says to a friend, “Look here. I suppose I shall go to Widin for it, but at any rate the Giaour shall have what he deserve,." and as he has failed in obtaining justice at its source he takes the law into his own hands.
In an English police court he would probably have been sentenced to pay a fine between five shillings and five pounds; but in Turkey foreign policy interferes, and he gets seven years' penal servitude; but by those of his own faith he is regarded as a martyr.
The Rayah rejoices, and prays still more fervently for his patron the Czar; the French Ambassador is delighted at the "victory" he has gained over the Russian, who smiles the smile of Russian diplomacy as he congratulates his colleague upon his “great influence with the Sublime Porte," and is secretly perfectly contented with the real advantage which he has obtained.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Minister is not quite so well pleased, and calculates how long this state of affairs can go on, consoling himself with the reflection that he is clever enough to make it last out his time, and quoting - for he is a good French scholar, and well up in the sayings of eminent Frenchmen -
"Apres moi le Deluge,"
and by the next time he meets his enemy and his “disinterested friend" at a grand dinner which he gives to the corps diplomatique on the anniversary of the accession of H.M. Abdul Aziz, he has quite recovered his usual equanimity, and greets both of them with the most charming cordiality.
At Stamboul the affair is finished, for the moment; in the country, however, it is not so, and the looks of the Turks are darker when they meet the Rayahs, who tremblingly hope that the day is near - that is, the day of retribution, which when it comes mill be far different front that expected by the Christian.
The Turkish cup of endurance will one day overflow, and it is the Ambassador of France who will pour in the last drops, and who, perhaps unknowingly, has cast a bullet whose shrill whistle will sooner or later mingle its voice with the debates upon the Eastern Question, since it is his influence which is rapidly tending to drive the Mussulmans into a war of retribution, such a war as they believe to be foretold in the Koran, “When blood shall flow higher than your knees, when the infidels shall unite against you and strive to crush you; but to every believer shall be given the strength of ten men." [This verse was quoted to us lately by a Turkish peasant, in speaking of such an eventuality as we have mentioned; the words are given from memory, and possibly are inexact, but the sense remains the same.]
We believe that Russian diplomatists are clever enough and sufficiently well informed as to the real state of the country districts to foresee, and even to wish for such an event. Poland has steeled the nerves of Alexander II, and he would not shudder at being called upon to reign over a desert, though that desert were still reeking with Christian as well as Mussulman blood; it is even possible that the scheme may be premeditated, for Turks who rose against their Christian oppressors could as little expect sympathy from Europe as the Turk who struck the Rayah could obtain justice from foreign intervention in his country.
As Russia numbers amongst her generals a Suvoroff and a Muravieff, it is not impossible that she should possess diplomatists who wish for nothing more than to see the road to Constantinople paved with corpses, whether Christian or Mussulman. provided that the Czar's entry into Stamboul would be facilitated thereby; but such an eventuality can hardly be contemplated in cold blood by France, who though she may blush for a Pelissier, can never boast of a Muravieff, and it is the conviction of this impossibility which throws us back upon our first hypothesis of utter ignorance as the reason of the policy pursued by the French Ambassador, which must finally result in one of two misfortunes, either an armed invasion by Russia, or a revolution of the Turks against their Government, preceded or followed by a massacre of the Christians.
Very many well-meaning people will say, that if the civilization of Turkey cannot be effected without causing a Christian massacre it would be much better to let Russia have her way, and even to assist her as much as possible; but those who may hold this opinion do not reflect that even in their alternative or pis aller a slaughter is involved, for Turkey will never succumb to Russia until hundreds of thousands of Turks have fallen "with their feet to the foe." It is a suggestion which may lay us open to the suspicion of being more Mussulman than Christian, but we nevertheless hazard the question, Which could the world spare best, the Rayah or the Turk?
An English navvy working on a railroad in this country once said to us, "As far as I can make out, the Turks are the only Christians here," and his experience amongst a certain class of both races had been pretty large. The Turk of the country is usually remarkable by his honesty, sobriety, and charity, three virtues which are supposed to be extensively cultivated by the genuine Christian; whilst the Rayah has only learnt from his clergy theft, drunkenness, idleness, and disloyalty to his sovereign. Which of the two to repeat the Bull of the English navvy, is in reality the best Christian? And if such a fearful calamity as an extermination of one race or the other is to take place, which of the two will be the greater loss?
The deplorable necessity for a choice between these antagonistic peoples is, however, not like to occur, for twenty millions of Turks, backed by one hundred millions of Mussulmans, cannot be got rid of with the same facility as the remonstrances of the Burgesses of the ex-free city of Frankfort; and if the standard of Mahomet be once raised, the armies of Europe would find themselves no over-match for the myriads who would assemble under its folds.
Even European discipline, and Dreyse, Snyder, or Chassepot rifles may fail before the faith or the valour of Mahommedans who are fighting for their homes, for their religion, for their very existence as a people, and who in the 19th century have still the same strength of belief which our forefathers had in the 12th, when the chain armour of the knights of Europe was found not to be proof against the Asiatic scimetar, and when the chivalry of the West was forced to recoil before the fanaticism of the East, a fanaticism which even now is not extinct, and needs but an appeal such as the sight of the Oriflamme of Islam to awaken it into undiminished vigour.
But, thank Heaven! the signal for such a shock of arms has not yet been given, and the Turkish peasant is anxious for even a greater amount of real civilization than it would be yet expedient to bestow upon the Rayah, who for his part does not wish for it at all; and if France really desires the civilization of the East she has but to aid in curing those diseases and maladies which are now slowly consuming the vitals of Turkey.
Injustice being incompatible with civilization, let the efforts of French policy tend to restore to the Turkish Government sufficient strength, moral and material, to enable it to redress the crying wrong of the present system of exempting the Rayahs from military service, either by forcing them to serve like the Mussulman, or by making the tax they pay for exemption proportionate to the loss of time and labour sustained by the soldier.
Let France prove, clearly and officially, to the Government of the Sultan the ruinous absurdity of the present system of taxation.
In spite of Russia let the clergy, Greek or Armenian, be forced to preach a moral doctrine which shall not be incompatible with the existence of a civilized society or with the incontestable rights of property, which is but another name for labour capitalized; although in Turkey, thanks to the Rayah clergy, that most absurd axiom of communism "La propriete c’est le vol." would be almost a desiderandum, since at present it is inverted, and here “La vol c’est la propriete.”.
Might not Turkey, with the aid of France, crush under her heel the hydra head of Eastern commerce, and even annul the Capitulations, or at least modify them in such a manner that they should not interfere with the very existence of justice?
Why not found Government schools for the Rayah - not at Constantinople, for would-be apothecaries or Dragomans to some foreign Consul, but in the country villages, for the Bulgarian peasant?
The Rayah is but a child - a naughty child it is true, but the fault is not so much with him as with his Russian guardian and his tutor the Greek Papas; educate him, and you may yet make a man of him, not without a good deal of trouble certainly, but when he is a man he may contribute greatly to the welfare of the East, and the experiment is worth its cost. But his education must not be after the system of the Russian agent, who teaches him to hate the Sultan; nor after that of the Papas, who tells him that "to rob or cheat a Mussulman is no sin;" [Fact. the Papas, if interrogated by one of his flock in such a case of conscience, almost always replies in the above words.] nor even after that of the good-natured Turkish Government, which allows him to waste his time in dancing, drinking, and idleness; he must be taught by the aid of the ferule of impartial justice that the duty of man is to be honest and to labour, and that he who offends against this law is punishable by society.
If the French Ambassador would take the pains to study Turkey and to learn its real condition (not such as it is described by some hostile powers), he would find questions enough to occupy him without taking up those which are already worn out, or which Russia has appropriated to herself,
Whilst in studying the Rayah, we have, alas! got no further than the A B C of civilization, with the Turks it is far different; for amongst them civilization will find a congenial soil in which to take root and flourish, provided that the noxious foreign weeds which choke its growth be removed once and for all. To civilize Turkey it is first necessary to establish justice, and to strengthen her hands so that she may no longer fear the culprit she is called upon to judge.
Our Standpunkt in criticizing the action of France has hitherto been more or less that of morality: let us now descend to that of expediency, and ceasing to reiterate that it is neither just nor honourable to force upon the Porte reforms whose consequences will be the dismemberment of the Ottoman empire and a massacre of the Christians, or a war whose disastrous effects will be felt throughout the world, let us affirm that the ruin of Turkey is against the interests of all civilized nations.
Who, or what is to replace the Mussulman dominion at Constantinople, is a point upon which it is unnecessary for us to enlarge, as it has already been discussed by the Duc de Valmy in a pamphlet, which, since it succeeded in penetrating even to our cottage in the Balkans, has doubtless found many readers in England: but there is another question which by right should precede this -
Who is able to drive the Turks from Europe?
We have already said that though the Turkish Government is feeble, the Turks themselves are a warlike and determined race, and that they will die sooner than surrender the country which has belonged to them for nearly five centuries; the struggle will be a hard one, but if a man of energy, for genius is not necessary, attain during this crisis to the Vizierate, he will summon the whole of Islam to the aid of Turkey, and such a reinforcement may do more than turn the scale in favour of the Padischah. But whatever may be the final issue of the conflict, the Christians of the East will assuredly be its first victims, and in what will these changes or troubles or massacres benefit Europe?
Surely the slight political advantage of having a little more influence than one's neighbour with the Turkish Cabinet, or the petty vanity of being considered as protector or civilizer, is not such as to counterbalance the real relief of awaking for good and all from that nightmare of Europe, the Eastern Question, or the real benefit of enabling a whole country to enjoy the blessings of a well-founded and permanent peace, and to produce its proper proportion of the raw products required by the industry of Europe, and of the food necessary for her support. Yet this end could be attained with less trouble than is required for one of the innumerable little "victories" which one ambassador gains over another by taking advantage of the intestine troubles and misfortunes of Turkey.
As, however, no steps are taken for the attainment of such a result, it would almost appear as if Europe considered that the Eastern Question is a seton necessary for the general health of the corps diplomatique, or as if her ambassadors acted like some unworthy physicians, who retard an easy cure that they may the longer profit by the fees which they daily extract from the pocket of their patient.
Assist Turkey to reform her defective organization, to heal her economical and social wounds, to burn out the cancer of parasitism, and whilst doing so keep Russia in her proper position, without threatening, but without suffering her to threaten.
Minor ambitions are more easily checked, though one or two of them might require a couple of English battalions at the Piraeus, a regiment or two of Austrians at Belgrade, and an envoy extraordinary at Bucharest. Such “intervention" would do more good f o the States in question by checking brigandage in the neighbourhood of their capitals, and by the inevitable expenditure of sovereigns, napoleons, and ducats, than has been effected by any one of their numerous cabinets upon which the changes have of late been so frequently rung: and the armies of occupation on their departure would be as cordially regretted by the people as are the former garrisons of Corfu and Zante by the inhabitants of the Seven Isles.
As for the Christian subjects of the Sultan, help their Government to make them into men, undeterred by the fear that, if Russia makes a demand for new concessions in their favour to which you do not adhere, they will become your enemies; for their hostility to you exists already and cannot easily be increased.
If General Ignatieff urges upon the Porte fresh concessions to the Rayah, if Fuad Pasha communicates these demands to the Ambassadors of England and France, if the former answers that he has telegraphed orders to Gibraltar that the day on which these demands are reiterated every Russian ship of war in the Mediterranean will be taken or sunk, if the latter adds that the corps d’armee now at Toulon and Lyons have received instructions to hold themselves in readiness; if the Russian Ambassador then seeks an interview with his two colleagues, and insists upon the necessity for these concessions, accusing England and France of acting against the interests of civilization, might not Fuad Pasha reply in the pithy phrase of Prince Gortchakoff about Poland, “Le charbonnier est maltre chez lui"?
Might not the Sultan have answered the collective note of the Four Powers relative to the insurrection in Crete, as Alexander II. replied to the notes addressed to Russia in 1863 relative to the affairs of Poland, by sending a Muravieff to desolate the island with famine, fire, and sword instead of an Ali Pasha to propose such terms as the following: - "Perpetual exemption from military service, and from the tax upon the salt and tobacco produced by the island; exemption for two years from the tax upon wine and from the tithe of produce; for the two subsequent years the tithe to be reduced from 10 to 5 per cent., and the revenue therefrom accruing to be applied to the indemnification of the losses caused by the insurrection"? And yet these terms are not considered by the island as sufficiently liberal! We would recommend some patriotic Irish Member of the House of Commons to propose an equally munificent donation as a sop to the Celtic Cerberus who, less greedy than his congener of Crete, would be only too glad to accept it.
The action of English policy in Turkey, of late years, cannot certainly be blamed;
“Fiorenza mia, ben puoi esser contenta
Di questa digression che non ti tocea” -
it is its inaction which is culpable, and if France hurries Turkey into an abyss of misery and blood, if Retribution is allowed to take the form of Massacre, surely the conscience of England will not be silent. Had our country the same influence in the East which she formerly possessed, and which was based upon the firm carrying out of a clearsighted and equitable policy, this chapter would not have been filled with protestations against the evil influences of the enemy and the disinterested friend of Turkey. If England stands by in apathy whilst a nation is being murdered, she is surely particeps criminis, and it will little avail her in the judgement of posterity that she may have turned informer, and that her voice is the loudest in the outcry against her accomplices.
Let her adopt at Constantinople not the policy of non-intervention fashionable in the West, but a policy of action, such action as, while it serves Turkey, will benefit the true interests of civilization throughout the world: she herself will be no loser by the change.
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