Littell's Living Age/Volume 131/Issue 1698/The Christian Subjects of the Porte
From The Contemporary Review.
THE CHRISTIAN SUBJECTS OF THE PORTE.
The Eastern question has taken one of those strides in advance which, in the evolution of political events, cannot be retraced. Whatever else may issue out of the present political imbroglio, it is as certain as anything future can be that the yoke of the Turk can never again be imposed on the Christians of the revolted provinces in European Turkey. Autonomy, real, practical autonomy, they must have in some shape or another. It need not follow from this that there should be a single Turk the fewer in the provinces in question. But the Turk must no longer have the upper hand, and the instruments of his oppression must "clear out, bag and baggage." Nothing short of this will satisfy either the exigencies of the case, or the forces which are arrayed against the Sublime Porte, and whose action will no longer be arrested by futile programmes of paper reforms.
But what part is England to play in the drama? The nation has answered that question in tones which cannot be mistaken, and which the prime minister himself does not affect to misunderstand. It is impossible to doubt that if England were polled to-morrow it would pronounce in favor of autonomy for Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Bulgaria. Lord Derby, on the other hand, has declared that the policy on which the nation has set its heart "is outside the range of practical politics;" and it is evident that if he do not actively oppose it, he will do nothing to help it forward. His face is in one direction; that of the nation in another. He sticks to the old policy, while the nation has pronounced unmistakably in favor of a new. He still believes in the possibility of reforms initiated by the Turkish government and executed by Turkish officials. The nation regards all such plans as "outside the range of practical politics." And the nation is right, as I shall now endeavor to show.
Six months ago the mass of Englishmen and Englishwomen had the vaguest possible idea of the real condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte. They now know that they are grievously oppressed, and exposed occasionally to unspeakable atrocities. But very few people in England even now have any idea of the nature of the oppression under which the Christian rayah groans, or of the absolute hopelessness of any remedy short of autonomy. I am no apologist for Russian atrocities, or any other atrocities. But to compare the doings of Russia in Turkistan, granting the absolute truth of every detail, to the doings of Turkey in her Christian provinces, is to misunderstand the whole question at issue.
- Is it right or wise [asks a vigorous writer in the new number of the Quarterly Review to cut off a whole family of mankind from our sympathy in order to sympathize the more with the victims of their crimes? Shall we apply the rule, only on the slopes of the Balkan, and not to the wilds of Circassia and Glencoe? to the valley of the Hebrus, and not to the Ganges, nor to the plains of Poland, or Hungary, or Turkestan? to Scio, and not to Jamaica? The terrible name even of Batak has a suspicious likeness to Badajoz.
Let us grant, for the sake of argument, that the crimes heaped together in this passage are all of the same moral hue, and that there is not much to choose between them; still the fact would be nothing to the purpose. What the Turkish atrocities have revealed and brought home to multitudes who never realized the fact before, is not that human nature, be it Turkish, Russian, or English, is capable in certain emergencies of doing frightful things, but that there is in the midst of us an organized political power of such a character that crimes against human nature are a necessary and a normal outcome of its existence. Russian troops may commit atrocities on the plains of Poland or the wilds of Turkistan. British troops may massacre men, women, and children in the streets of Badajoz or in the village and pass of Glencoe. But these crimes are violations of the moral code professed and ordinarily acted on by Russia and Great Britain. They are things which have to be explained, apologized for, and excused on the plea of extenuating circumstances, such as accident, misunderstanding, or dire necessity. They are never defended as right in themselves, never acknowledged as other than evil. The very doers of them would admit that they were ugly blots on a system to which they were essentially foreign. But the atrocities of Batak are not foreign to the Turkish code of morals; they are part of it. They grow out of it as naturally as thorns out of a bramble-bush. The Turk does not think them morally wrong, and when he condemns them it is not because they are wicked, but because they have been found ont. The atrocities in Bulgaria are not one of those abnormal outbreaks of human nature which all nations have to lament; they are, on the contrary, nothing more than a grand representation en tableau of what goes on all the year round in detail over the whole area of the non-Mussulman population of Turkey. To say of any civilized State that its normal policy is Machiavellian is to say that its normal policy is thoroughly bad and immoral. Yet there would be some hope of regeneration for Turkey if its political morality were only Machiavellian.
- Cruelty [says Machiavelli] may be well or ill applied. It may be called well applied (if indeed we may use the term "well" of that which is essentially evil) when it is only exercised once in a way under the necessity of self-preservation, and afterwards converted as much as possible to the benefit of the class who have suffered from it. It is ill applied when it shows a tendency to repeat itself, and to increase rather than diminish with time. The proceedings of the former class are of the nature of a remedy, and have been suffered to prosper both by God and man. A state which practises the latter cannot continue to live. ("Il Principe" c. viii.)
To quote then, if it were possible, from the history of England or of Russia examples of atrocities as great and hideous as those of Batak would be nothing to the purpose of the present argument. Those who indulge in that style of reasoning are but beating the air; they do not touch the essence of the question even with the tips of their fingers. The case against Turkey is not simply that its administration is bad, but that it cannot be good; not merely that it errs, but that it errs on principle; not merely that it practises iniquity, but that it makes of iniquity a virtue and an article of faith. This is the indictment which I bring against the government of the Porte, and now I shall endeavor to prove it.
In the middle of September last year the insurgents in the Herzegovina drew up a list of their grievances in a long document which they presented to the representatives of the great powers, with a most pathetic appeal which, as it is short, may be reprinted here: —
- In order to get out of this misery [they say], to put an end to such sufferings, to free the Christians from the rule of the Turks and from continual oppression, to remove the fuel of the raging insurrection, and to ensure a durable peace, we find no other means than one of the following resolutions: —
- 1. The Christians are resolved to die rather than suffer such slavery; therefore they should be left to seek their liberation by arms, and if they are not assisted they have at least a right to have no obstacles put in the way of their enterprise, and to expect that no aid should be given to the oppressor.
- 2. Or we are forced to beg some Christian power to grant us a corner of land, so that we may all emigrate to it, and abandon this unhappy country so cursed with misfortunes.
- 3. Or if the powers should prevail on the sultan to let an autonomous state be formed of Bosnia and Herzegovina, tributary to the sultan, with some Christian prince from elsewhere, but never from here.
- 4. Or finally (the minimum), let the powers agree at once to put a strong body of troops from some neighboring state into the principal cities of the province, and let the representatives of the powers enter the principal Midjlis as judges until things are put in order, and the lives, honor, and property of the Christians are rendered secure, with equality of civil and religious rights. ("Parliamentary Papers," No ii., pp. 30-40.)
The list of grievances in this document would occupy more space than I can reasonably claim for the whole of this article. I must therefore content myself with specifying some of them; premising that they can all be substantially proved by the evidence of consular reports, and many of them by the subsequent admissions of the Porte itself.
Let us, first, take the case of the various imposts which are levied by the Porte, and let us begin with the tithes. This is an old tax, and is chargeable on all the produce of the ground, such as cereals of all kinds, tobacco, vegetables, fruit, grapes, and hay. The method of collecting tithes is as follows. They are sold by government to the highest bidder, and so keen is the competition, in ordinary times, that the successful bidder not seldom pays more than the tithes will yield. In England this of course would mean that he would be a loser to the extent of the difference between the price he gave and the tithe of the year's produce. Unfortunately for the poor rayah, however, Turkey is not England, and the Turkish tithe-farmers manage matters in a different way. Having bought the tithes, these speculators visit the villages, which are thus legally delivered over to their rapacity, in order to assess the year's tithes. They bring with them a retinue of followers and horses, and live on the villagers at free quarters during their pleasure. They take whatever they have a fancy to, and they pay for nothing; and so expensive are these visits that the poor villagers are often obliged to borrow, at a ruinous interest, from these unwelcome guests the very means with which to provide for their luxurious requirements. Unfortunately it sometimes happens that their requirements include the wife, or daughter, or sister of the host, as the case may be; and then, like the monarch of old, he has his choice of three alternatives, but all from the hand of man: resistance, a bribe, submission. As to the first, he has no arms, and is quite helpless in the presence of the tithe-farmer and his armed retainers. Resistance is therefore out of the question, unless he flies to the mountains and joins or gets up a band of brigands or insurgents. Submission is abhorrent to him, and he gives the bribe — possibly borrowed at exorbitant interest from his oppressor. But is there no remedy? Are there no tribunals of justice to appeal to? Oh yes, certainly — on paper. But of that anon.
By law the spahi or tithe-farmers ought to see the thrashing of the grain, and when it is measured to fix the proper tithes. But this legal obligation they rarely fulfil. Too indolent to discharge the duty themselves, and too suspicious to trust subordinates, they assess the tithes at an arbitrary valuation, which of course is very much in excess of the real value. Again, the poor rayah has no redress. Theoretically he may appeal to government officials; but these officials are in league with the tithe-farmer, who is frequently nothing but the dummy, behind which some influential member of the government robs and harasses the Christian peasant. Again, it may not suit the convenience or dolce far niente disposition of the farmer to carry away his grain after it has been duly assessed; so he leaves it in the field or under cover of some shed, and if any damage ensues the village has to make it good; or the grain is left in expectation of a rise in price, or in the hope that the peasant, in his need, may be tempted to consume it, in which case he is liable to be charged double price. Hay, potatoes, and all sorts of garden produce are not taken in kind. The price is arbitrarily fixed, and ready money must be paid down. An appeal to the government authorities is quite useless, for they invariably decide in favor of the tithe-farmer.
But suppose the poor villager has not money enough at hand to meet these exactions. In that case "misery upon misery," to quote the pathetic language of the poor Herzegovina insurgents: —
- His house will be occupied at his expense until he has paid the whole. He is bound to maintain and serve those who are quartered upon him at their imperious pleasure, and his expenses in so doing go for nothing in the account. By way of example: if a person owes twenty piastres and spends one hundred in the maintenance of these people, it is not taken into consideration. At last an arrangement is made; the peasant acknowledges his debt with double interest; or an animal is taken for fifty piastres, though it may be worth one hundred or more. Many cause the poor people of the villages to be put in prison, where they suffer from hunger, cold, flogging, and other ill-treatments. Sometimes false receipts are given, and the amount of the debt has to be paid again.
I have been using the conventional designation of "tithe-farmer;" but in point of fact there are no longer any tithe-farmers in Turkey. The men are there, but it is not of tithes that they are any longer the farmers. When Sultan Abdul Aziz travelled in Europe in state, an extraordinary impost was laid upon all the produce previously named, to bear the cost of his journey. This tax raised the tithe to an eighth part of the produce, and though it was imposed as an extraordinary charge for a temporary purpose, it has never been removed, and is now an ordinary tax. It is an eighth, therefore, and not a tithe, that the rayah pays; and when all the extortions are taken into account it may be put down as a sixth or seventh.
I have mentioned, however, but a fraction of the imposts which crush the spirit and paralyze the energies of these subjects of the Porte. Turkey is a great tobacco-grower, and the so-called tithes of this also are farmed out by government. Before the farmers go their rounds, with a goodly company, to value the tobacco crop, some of their agents are sent to examine the quantity of tobacco still growing on the stalk. These "go in procession from house to house and from plantation to plantation, and prolong the time as they please, in order to feed gratuitously." On the pretext of having possibly put down too little, this inquisitorial visit is repeated generally three times, and, after all, the farmers themselves go their rounds, the poor rayah being obliged to provide for them all, however long they may choose to stay. They act, in fact, as masters on his property. They order what they like, and there is nothing for him but humbly to obey.
The oppression involved in all this may be imagined when it is remembered that everything which the peasant can call his own is subject to taxation. All spirits are taxed; herbs used for dyeing are taxed; there is a land-tax, and a house-tax, and a grass-tax; there is a tax of fifteen to twenty piastres on every head of large cattle, and a tax of two piastres on every head of small cattle. This latter tax affords peculiar opportunities and temptations for extortion. The animals are numbered in the month of March, a short time before the greatest mortality in the flocks takes place; and the peasant has to pay, not on the average number of the animals which remain to him, but on the maximum which are alive at any one time.
From two to four piastres have to be paid annually for every beehive. Then there is the horse-service, by which the rayah is obliged to act as the drudge of the military, and is sometimes taken several days' journey from home; and all this without the slightest remuneration, and without any compensation for the horses, which may perish, as many do, in this service.
Another grinding tax from which the Christian subject of the Porte suffers grievously, is the duty of working on the public roads. No member of the family who can work — and there are sometimes as many as ten in a family who are thus liable — is exempted from this duty. The place where the work has to be done may be miles away from the rayah's home, and it may be at a critical season of the year, when all hands are required at home. That matters not; he must obey the summons, and leave his fields and flocks to take their chance. This happens about a fortnight in each year, and though it costs the peasant not less than one hundred piasters a day, he does not get so much as a morsel of bread in return; he gets kicks and insults instead.
Another monstrous tax is the rad or labor-tax. We have seen how thoroughly the rajah's time is taken up in looking after his flocks and fields, and rendering compulsory service to the government. But the Turk thinks that he has still leisure enough on his hands to earn, by daily labor, from five hundred to one thousand five hundred piastres, and on the presumption of these imaginary earnings every Christian is made to pay the fortieth piastre to the government, that is, twenty-five piastres in the thousand. The Christian's word is not taken for the amount of his earnings, it is fixed for him; and though he may be laid on a bed of sickness, or otherwise disabled, the tax must be paid.
The last tax that I shall mention is the poll-tax. Every male Christian, from birth to death, must pay the poll-tax for exemption from the military conscription. It amounts to thirty piastres a head, and every male Christian is bound to pay it, from the new-born babe to the decrepit beggar. It is supposed to be a fine paid for exemption from military service. But, in the first place, the Christians do not wish to be exempt from military service; on the contrary, they object to any such exemption, and the Hatt-i-Humayoun, of 1856, promised the abolition of the exemption — a promise which, it need not be said, has never been fulfilled. But, in the second place, children, and the old and feeble, are not liable to military service under any government, even that of Turkey. How then can they be liable to the fine which is supposed to free them? But it is absurd to appeal to the elementary rules of equity in the case of such a government as Turkey. The result is that, children and beggars not being able to pay for themselves, their respective villages have to pay for them. In this way a rayah of average means pays in taxation somewhat less than three thousand piastres annually.
But his grievances do not end here. In Herzegovina or Bosnia he rents his land from the aga, or Turkish proprietor. In many cases the land was originally his own, but he has been dispossessed of it under the operation of "the good old rule, the simple plan." Let that pass, however, and let us see how it fares with him in the relation of tenant and landlord. It is a feudal relationship in theory; in practice it is nothing but a cruel and degrading serfdom. The following are exactions which the landlord extorts from his Christian tenant: a fourth part of the various produce obtained from the ground; one animal yearly, as well as a certain quantity of butter and cheese; to carry a certain number of loads of wood, and materials for any house which the landlord may chance to be building; to work for the landlordwhenever he may require it; to make a plantation of tobacco, and cultivate it until it is lodged in the master's house; to plough and sow so many acres of land, and look after the crop till it is safely lodged in the landlord's barn — and all this gratuitously. As a rule, the produce thus cultivated for the landlord exceeds the produce of the land farmed by the tenant for himself.
All this, be it remembered, is in addition to the fleecing which the rayah has undergone at the hands of the government and the tithe-farmers. Yet here is the way in which his condition is described in a book which has lately been commended as supplying trustworthy information on the condition of the Christian population of Bulgaria: —
- To those who have studied the rayah question deeply, seriously, and impartially, a very grave social question presents itself. Is it right to give too much to a man? — too much time, too much liberty, too much land, too much of everything? And especially is this right when such a man abuses the gift and employs the resources confided to him merely to keep himself in idleness?
And this is said of a people oppressed in the way I have described, and who are admitted by all who know anything of the subject to be about the most industrious population in Europe.
But the reader may ask, are there no courts of justice in Turkey? Yes; but as far as the Christian is concerned these courts are literally legalized instruments of oppression and torture. Theoretically the Turkish courts of justice are divided into civil and criminal; but, in point of fact, the government of Turkey is theocratic; the law of the Koran, with its multitudinous developments, dominates all the tribunals. The civil and criminal courts have each two of their members Christian — one to represent the Orthodox, the other the Catholics. But these are always a minority, and are invariably intimidated into agreement with the majority. Their only use, in fact, is to enable the "Turkish government to parade its pseudo-liberality and religious tolerance before a credulous Christendom. Theoretically the evidence of a Christian is admissible, except before the sheri or religious tribunals; practically it is inadmissible in any court. If the Christian is so foolhardy as to insist on his legal right to give or produce evidence, it is easily got rid of in some such way as this. The judge browbeats him, and makes him repeat his evidence. If he alters a word in the repetition, his testimony is rejected as untrustworthy. Or if other means fail, the case is adjourned, and the Christian witness goes home. He is followed and denounced on some trumpery charge, and the next time he appears in court he is contemptuously put aside as a person of notoriously bad character. Another device is to get him imprisoned — it may be only for an hour — on some false charge. This is enough; for a Christian once imprisoned, however innocently, is rejected as a witness. On the other hand, the Mussulman prosecutor or defendant has no difficulty at all to get any amount of evidence against a Christian. The only chance the latter has is that, if he happens to be sufficiently rich, he may bribe the judge. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that there is not a judge in Turkey who will not sell justice for a bribe. The only conscience he has in the matter is that he is likely to sell his award to the follower of the Prophet for a smaller bribe than he will receive from the hated and despised Giaour. This universal corruption of justice in Turkey is admitted even by those who are ordinarily the most strenuous to defend the Turk against his western critics: —
- The absence of all effective control [says Mr. Gifford Palgrave], in a country where not only orderly and official superintendence, but even the restraint of public opinion, so powerful in Europe by means of the newspapers and intercommunication, is wanting, facilitates any amount of corruption; and if opportunity makes thieves, few Mahometan kadees are likely long to remain honest. . . . A judge dependent on favor and independent of reputation is much more likely, as human nature goes, to prove a Kirke than a "Daniel." ("Essays on Eastern Questions," p. 85.)
The Christian, moreover, is shut out from the possibility of buying land. A Christian now and then, more simple and confiding than his fellows, has within the last twenty years bought land in Turkey, presuming on the explicit guarantee of the Hatt-i-Humayoun; but the result has almost invariably been that he has been robbed of his purchase. Either the man of whom he purchased it, or some neighboring Ahab, covets and quietly takes possession of the poor man's dearly-bought field or vineyard. The Christian appeals to the law, but no evidence that he can produce is admissible. He loses his land without getting back his purchase-money, and he may thank his stars if he does not get the bastinado into the bargain for bringing a false accusation against a true believer.
I have already mentioned the most cruel torture of all to which the rayah of Turkey is exposed — I mean the peril to which the chastity of his female relations is daily exposed. It is stated in the Daily News of October 23, that Mr. Baring and Mr. Calvert, who were then in Bulgaria, had compelled the arrest of "a Turk who demanded a Christian girl from her father for his harem. When the latter refused he cut at him with a sabre, wounding his hand." In a debate on the Cretan insurrection in the House of Lords on March 8, 1867, the late Lord Derby bestowed high praise on Colonel Longworth, then consul-general at Belgrade; and certainly Colonel Longworth was a vigorous philo-Turk. His evidence therefore is above suspicion when he says that "the forcible abduction of Christian girls is an abuse which calls urgently for correction." But to talk of a remedy for the Christian while the Turk rules over him is, in plain language, to talk nonsense. "A custom prevails here," says Mr. Consul Abbott, "to exempt from military conscription a Mussulman young man who elopes with a Christian girl, and whom he converts to his faith. This being a meritorious act for his religion, it entitles him, as a reward, to be freed from military service."Now let the reader consider what this means. It means that the Turkish government puts a premium on the violation of Christian female chastity. That government to which Christian States accredit Christian ambassadors tempts the Mussulman ravisher of Christian maidens with a substantial reward in the life that now is, and with the promise of paradise hereafter. And every rayah family in Turkey is exposed to this outrage. And they are helpless, for they are not allowed to possess arms, and they have no other arbitrament to appeal to but the God who hears in secret, and gathers up the tears of the afflicted.
When we reflect on these things we can appreciate the touching pathos of the appeal of the Herzegovina insurgents to the great powers: —
- Surely the poor people here are entitled to compassion from those who have feelings of humanity, and to some effort to assist them in their deplorable state — in their opprobrious servitude; where the cry is continually heard, "O Lord, send us our death!" ("Parliamentary Papers," No. ii., p. 34.)
Now let it be remembered that all the charges which I have made thus far against the Turkish government can be established by the evidence of Parliamentary papers, and of independent testimony like that of Mr. Nassau Senior's "Journal kept in Turkey and Greece." But more than that, the Turkish government admits that the insurrection is traceable "to the unseemly conduct" of its own "functionaries," and that the insurgents have substantial causes of complaint.
Moreover, the Andrassy Note asserts that the rayahs of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bulgaria was not then on the tapis) are "oppressed under the yoke of a real servitude," which reduces them in fact to the condition of "slaves;" that the Porte has habitually broken its most solemn promises, so that it can no longer be trusted; and therefore that "it is absolutely necessary that the powers should be in a position to appeal to acts, . . . in one word, that their action may be grounded on facts and not on programmes." Yet with all these facts before him Lord Beaconsfield finds a full and satisfactory explanation of insurrections in European Turkey in the dark machinations of secret societies! For my part, I wish God speed to all societies, be they secret or open, who will help to break the yoke of the most cruel and debasing tyranny that has ever been allowed by an inscrutable Providence to make millions of human beings unspeakably wretched. Mr. Forster's speech has been much praised for its moderation and fairness. But Mr. Forster confirms in substance all that I have said.
- We want no Russian intrigues [he says], no Servian ambition, to account for the attempted insurrection in Bulgaria or for the insurrections in Bosnia or Herzegovina. Such is the Turkish rule, that these insurrections must be expected. They have happened time after time, and so long as that rule lasts they will happen again. Nine years ago I was a short time in Turkey — in Asia Minor — and the impression I got there was that such was the government of Turks by Turks in the most Turkish part of their dominions in Asia Minor, that I felt that the people looked upon the government as their natural enemies, and did so on good grounds. Such is the oppression with which the taxes are gathered, the mode in which they are farmed, the amount that is demanded for the government itself, the far larger amounts taken by the officials, the utter corruption that exists among all the officials with regard to either the giving of justice or the exacting of taxes. That is an oppression which weighs upon Moslem and upon Christian alike; but when you come to those provinces in which there is a large number of Christians you have that aggravated by this fact — that not merely is the central government unjust, but that the Christian population is ill-treated by their Moslem neighbors, and is not protected by the government from that ill-treatment. Their evidence, as you know, is not fairly admitted in courts of justice. They are not allowed to arm, the Moslems are allowed to arm; the Moslems have their friends at Constantinople, the officials are Moslems, and what is the result? It is that property is not safe. The industrious Bulgarians have excited the envy of their neighbors by their industry, and the fruits of their industry are not safe; and, what is far more important, life is not safe, nor is the honor of women safe from constant outrages. I have known in this hall the people of Bradford collected together to sympathize with men who have risen as patriots to win liberty and freedom for themselves. We have sympathized with the Italians in their efforts to free themselves from the dominion of Austria, but you cannot for a moment compare the cases. We do not talk of political rights in this matter. It is a question of personal security from day to day, of being able to walk about in peace and safety, for a woman to be able to return to her house without being carried away and subjected to insult or worse than insult. It is a question of property being despoiled without the slightest chance of redress, and it does surprise me that when we know these things are constantly happening, when even the Turkish government does not deny them, but only says that it hopes at some future time to crush them, I am somewhat surprised to see Mr. Baring vent so much wrath on the "foreign instigators" or to be so much convinced that they were the instigators of this insurrection.
It is commonly supposed that the members of the Orthodox church are the only victims of Mussulman misrule. Russian intrigue and Slavonic societies are believed to be always brewing mischief and stirring up insurrection among the Orthodox population. All this tends to rouse the fanaticism of their Mussulman neighbors, and hence the injustice and cruelty of which we read. The members of the Roman Church, on the other hand, are loyal and peaceable, and are consequently not molested by the Mussulman authorities or populace.
This account of the matter is purely ideal. Intrigue and chronic outbursts of insurrection are the necessary concomitants of Turkish misrule; and if the Roman Catholics do not so often revolt, it is because, being fewer in number, and having no great power to sympathize with them, their spirits are crushed, and they have not the courage to rise against their oppressors. To this must be added the important fact, which I deeply lament, that jealousy of the Russo-Greek Church has induced the Vatican to sacrifice the cause of humanity to the supposed interest of the Roman Curia. Cardinal Manning is just now a vehement preacher of peace, and an indignant censor of those who would imperil its reign; and he and Sir George Bowyer consider it a flagrant breach of international law that Russian volunteers should be allowed to fight in Servia, and a monstrous iniquity that Russia should mediate a possible intervention on behalf of its co-religionists and kindred who are groaning under the yoke of a worse than Egyptian bondage. But I never heard that either Cardinal Manning or Sir George Bowyer objected to the enrolment of Irish and Canadian volunteers in the papal army, or that either of them protested against the intervention of a French army to protect the territory of the pope against the invasion of an Italian army; and I do not suppose that the League of St. Sebastian would be laid under the ban of the Church if it took up arms, on a fitting occasion, to restore the temporal power.
But, however that may be, the result of the Vatican policy is undoubtedly that the Roman Catholics in European Turkey are less prone to take part in insurrections than the Orthodox Christians. Many of their teachers and leaders are Italians, who prefer the rule of the Turk, with all its cruelties and abominations, to the rule of any power professing the Orthodox religion. This, however, is not the feeling of the Roman Catholic population of south-eastern Europe, except in so far as it has been instilled into them by Italian emissaries. In Bosnia the Roman Catholics would rejoice as sincerely as their Orthodox neighbors at the substitution of any rule, Orthodox or otherwise, for that of the Turk. A sham address to the Porte from the Catholics of Bosnia was got up some time ago by the Turkish authorities, in the way and by the methods usually employed on such occasions. Bishop Strossmayer, in whose diocese Bosnia is, told Dr. Liddon and myself all about this address, which was paraded at the time in the English newspapers; and the truth is that the Roman Catholics of Bosnia were no more represented by it than were the Orthodox Christians of Constantinople by that famous band of warriors, swept from the slums of Stamboul, who marched out of Constantinople under "a flag on which the Crescent and the Cross were displayed side by side" to fight "against the Servian aggression." We all remember the lively emotion which this union of the Crescent and the Cross against Christian freedom excited in the breasts of Sir Henry Elliot and Mr. Disraeli. But alas, for the vanity of human hopes and the frustration of potential achievements! The ragamuffins who bore the "banner with a strange device," did not live to drive back "the Servian aggression." The Bashi-Bazouks, more simple and logical than Sir Henry Elliot and Mr. Disraeli, could not understand this union of the Crescent and the Cross at all. It was a scandal and an offence in the eyes of a true believer; and so the Bashi-Bazouks fell upon the "Christian volunteers," and having slaughtered most of them, dispersed the rest and captured the "banner with a device."
On the occasion of the so-called Roman Catholic address from Bosina the real representatives of the Roman Catholics acted as they are said by the correspondent of the Daily News to have acted the other day: —
- Vali Pacha Effendi, the civil governor of the province, gathered the Greek and Catholic notables of Serajevo together, and requested them to sign a petition to the Porte protesting against any autonomy or other change in the government of the province. They replied that, being rayahs, they had no right to meddle in politics, and therefore refused their signatures to the petition. The insurrection continues spreading in Bosnia.
And no class of men more ardently desire the spread and final success of the insurrection than the Roman Catholics of Bosina. They would be delighted at the idea of passing under the political rule of Orthodox Servia; for they know, as their bishop assured us, that Servia would secure to them not only justice, but perfect religious freedom — a blessing which they certainly do not enjoy under the Ottoman government. The massacres of the Lebanon are a specimen of the toleration granted to the Roman Catholics in the Turkish empire. The simple truth is that the Mussulman has no idea of what toleration means in the case of non-Mussulmans; and if he sometimes oppresses one class of non-Mussulmans somewhat less than another, it is because his hatred and scorn are not so much whetted by cupidity, or jealousy, or fear. The Temps is a paper which has taken the side of Turkey throughout this business, and its testimony may therefore be accepted as unprejudiced. It has a correspondent travelling in the provinces of Turkey, and reporting on the condition of the population, and the relations of the various races and creeds to each other; and what he says is that the Mussulmans draw no distinction, but treat Orthodox and Catholic alike with impartial and indiscriminate barbarity.
Nor is it the Christian subjects of the Porte alone who are thus dealt with. The Jews fare but slightly better; and this slight amelioration in their condition they owe to their comparative paucity and political unimportance. They are not cultivators of the soil. They are engaged for the most part in trade, and that fact alone relieves them from numberless cruelties and hardships to which the rayah is daily exposed. Mr. Glückstein, himself a Jew, resident in England, has lately published a pamphlet, in which he proves that the Turkish authorities, when the occasion offers, treat the Jews in much the same way in which they are accustomed to treat the Christians. Mr. Glückstein is therefore naturally surprised at the "Judaic sympathies" which the Turkish cause has evoked both here and on the Continent; yet all sort of insinuations have been made against Mr. Gladstone because, in courteously acknowledging a letter from Mr. Glückstein, he ventured to say that he shared Mr. Glückstein's regret.
But surely, it may be urged, the Hatt-i-Humayoun which the sultan published at the close of the Crimean war changed all this. Yes, as many other hatts had done before it — on paper. But the Hatt-i-Humayoun has never been proclaimed to this day through the Turkish empire. Within a certain narrow radius from Constantinople some of its provisions are feebly and fitfully carried out. But in the provinces it has remained a dead letter. It is probable that most of the judges have never heard of it; but certainly there never has been any attempt to enforce any one of its provisions. And, next to the incurable perfidy of the Ottoman government, the person, no longer amenable to human praise or censure, who must be held chiefly responsible for this lame and impotent conclusion to the Crimean war, is the late Lord Palmerston. It was proposed in the Congress of Paris that the provisions of the Hatt-i-Humayoun of 1856 should be incorporated into the treaty. The Turkish minister, however, objected, and pleaded that the Congress should spare the dignity of the Porte and trust to the honor of the sultan. The government of Lord Palmerston supported the Turkish minister, and the eight millions of Christians in Turkey, to say nothing of the blood and treasure spent in the Crimean war, were sacrificed by a stroke of the pen in order not to wound the delicate susceptibilities of the sultan and his ministers. The latter, however, were thinking of something more substantial than honor, and all the relief the poor Christians of Turkey reaped from the war was some magniloquent compliments to the generosity, benevolence, and "constant solicitude for the welfare of his subjects," for which the sultan of Turkey was so conspicuously distinguished! This is the cant in which the diplomatists of Europe thought it decent to indulge. They sowed the wind, and they are now reaping the whirlwind. Russia was then beaten and humbled. The purblind policy of her conquerors has now given her a magnificent revenge. The Christian populations, who might have been gradually erected into a sure barrier against Russian aggression, but whom a cynical and short-sighted diplomacy delivered over to their old oppressor, are now the lever-power of Russian intervention in south-eastern Europe.
And now let me give my reasons for the distinction which I have drawn between Turkish and other atrocities. The distinction is this: that other governments may forsake their evil ways, and "rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things," but that the Turkish government cannot. And for the following reason.
It has already been stated that the government of Turkey is strictly theocratic, and its Magna Charta is the Koran. Certainly the precepts of the Koran are, many of them, immoral and cruel enough. A conquered people, for example, cease to have any rights whatever. The women and children become slaves in the most absolute sense, and all the male adult population incur the penalty of death, and may be disposed of in any manner which the capricious will of the victor may dictate. This means that if the Turks could conquer Servia they could reduce all the women and children to slavery, and kill all the men, or deal with them in any other way they pleased. Of course they would not act in this manner, for they know that Europe would not allow it. But no feeling of conscience would restrain them, for they would simply be obeying one of the fundamental precepts of their religion.
It is idle to compare, as Sale and others have done, these brutal and ferocious doctrines to the rules imposed on the Israelites for the conquest of Canaan. These were provisional and for a limited purpose, and were never intended, as precepts of the Koran are intended, to govern the relation of the Jews to all the Gentile world. Besides, to say nothing of the supersession of Judaic morality by the gospel, it must not be forgotten that alongside of the Pentateuch there grew up a school of teachers sent by the God of Israel to proclaim and inculcate truth, and justice, and mercy, not as between Jew and Jew merely, but as between man and man. The essential unity of those whom the common father of all had "made of one flesh" was a truth preached by a long line of prophets, mitigating the severity of the old. law, and growing in brightness till it received its highest expression in him in whom law and prophets were fulfilled.
Alongside of the Koran, too, there has grown up a multitudinous array of expositors whose dicta are held sacred. There are four great schools, but each of these has thrown off a swarm of traditional precepts and maxims which are law to the true believer. Of these four schools the Arabs and other Semitic and African races have adopted three among them. The Turks, on their conversion to Islam, adopted the fourth, or Hanefee school, whose precepts and principles happen to be the most cruel and immoral. The result has been to develop in the Turk a character of exceptional sensuality and cruelty. It is Mr. Palgrave, I think, who on this account characterizes the Turk as the "Cameronian of Mahometans" — a compliment which the Cameronian would decline.
It is not, then, on the Koran simply that the character of the Turk is moulded and his administration of justice based, but on text-books founded on the Koran, but compared with which the Koran itself, bad as it is, is a code of purity and mercy. Mr. Palgrave, speaking of the occasional attempts of the Western powers to modify the rampant iniquity of the Turkish courts of justice, says, —
- To use a technical phrase, the establishment of non-denominational tribunals seemed no less inevitable than that of non-denominational schools; and it was precisely the having recourse to such that the Moslims could not stomach. In Islam, and Islam alone, they lived, and moved, and had their being; and Islam, and no other, should or could be, they hold, their arbiter and judge. ("Essays on Eastern Questions," p. 137.)
Now the received and most authoritative text-book of Mahometan law in Turkey, that from which no judge or advocate ever dreams of appealing, contains, among others, the following precepts: —
- And the tributary is to be distinguished in
the beast he rides, and in his saddle; and he is not to ride a horse; he is not to work at his work with arms on; he shall not ride on a saddle like a pillion; nor shall he ride even on a saddle except as a matter of necessity, and even then he shall dismount in places of public resort; he shall not wear clothes worn by men of learning, piety, and nobility. His women shall be distinguished in the street and at the baths, and he shall place in his house a sign and mark so that people may not pray for him or salute him. And the street shall be narrowed for him, and he shall pay his tribute standing, the receiver being seated, and he shall be seized by the collar and shall be shaken, and it shall be said to him, "Pay the tribute, O tributary! O thou enemy of God."
This is the moral atmosphere in which, according to Mr. Palgrave, the Turk "lives, and moves, and has his being." This is the teaching which the softa, before he is fit to be a full-blown teacher or a judge, is, according to Mr. Palgrave, obliged to digest for fifteen laborious years. Need we wonder that the Mussulman is what he is — brutal, sensual, savage, deceitful at the core of his nature, though possibly with an outward varnish of Parisian polish? Need we wonder that he cannot recognize in his non-Mussulman fellow-subject a being who has any rights at all — not even that of life except at the discretion of his Mahometan neighbor? The following extracts illustrate in a vivid manner the Mussulman's habitual frame of mind towards the rayah. The first is from an occasional correspondent of the Times in Bosnia, the second is from the correspondent of the Daily Telegraph at the headquarters of the Turkish army in Servia: —
- What Dr. Kohut, with whom, and a cavalry escort, I travelled along this road from Belina to Ratcha and back, told me he had himself seen will illustrate the feelings of the Bashi-Bazouks of these parts towards all with whom they cannot exchange the brotherly "Salaam aleiboum." On this road one day lately Dr. Kohut saw a Bashi-Bazouk fire on a Christian. The fellow missed, and the Christian, though armed, did not return the fire, but came forward and on his knees begged his life. Scarcely deigning to listen to him, the Bashi-Bazouk took him by the throat, and stabbed him to the heart. The doctor coming up remonstrated. "But why," said the Bashi-Bazouk, "should I have spared him! He is one of those who have brought all this disturbance and misery on the country. After this, when I had him in my power, he begs his life; and, think you, I should have granted it? No, by Allah!"
- It may perhaps be asked why, if little or no animosity exists between Moslem and Giaour, the country of the Turk is in such perpetual disorder? The answer is a simple one. All the troubles of the nation are the result not of the mixture of different peoples of different religions, but of the perpetual system of misrule which has diligently and persistently proclaimed that the Moslem is a superior being to the Christian, and that if he treat him on the principle of equality it is an immense condescension. The idea is inbred even in the best of the lower orders. I will take as an instance a zaptieh who accompanied me in many of my wanderings. Here was a man whose nature was kind and gentle beyond a doubt. My daily experience of him extended over some months, and I constantly had evidence of his goodness of heart. I watched him closely and frequently, and saw many a kindly act of his while he was with me; yet it never appeared to occur to him that it was wrong to plunder a Bulgarian when an opportunity offered. The bare idea of a Christian peasant having a right to property never seemed to possess him for a moment. Had the Chelleby Effendi (meaning myself) expressed a wish for a melon? When presently we chanced to meet a Bulgarian who happened to have one, the zaptieh would cheerfully ride up and demand the fruit as a matter of course. In vain I endeavored, by invariably making him pay for the article in question, to show him that it was as much a theft to take the Christian's goods as it would have been to plunder a Mussulman. He would hand the piastres to the Giaour, smile pityingly, as though moved to compassion at my innocence, and ride on in silence for a mile or so, wondering what manner of man I could be to have any regard for the feelings of a Bulgar. One hot day particularly, after a long and dusty ride, we found ourselves on the top or a hill in Turkey, the sides of which were vineyards full of fruit. I had not observed the vines, and was sitting on the ground resting for a while when I found that my zaptieh and both our horses had disappeared. In vain I called; there was no response for some minutes. At length he returned and beckoned me to follow him. To my amazement, he had turned the horses loose among the little vines, had picked thirty or forty great bunches of grapes, which he was carefully stowing away in his saddle-bags, having reserved the most tempting for me, and was now preparing to ascend a peach-tree with a view to stripping that also. My dragoman being absent, I had considerable difficulty in speaking, but at last contrived to ask whether he knew to whom the vineyard belonged. He did. The owner was a Bulgarian. Upon which I refused to eat the grapes, and told him I should pay for the damage he had done. With a look of amazement which I never shall forget, he held up the raisins I had refused, gazed at them for a minute, then calmly putting them in his saddle-bag, mounted in silence and rode down the hill. It was nearly an hour before he spoke again, and when at length he did open his mouth, it was to express his conviction that the Chelleby Effendi's fever had affected his head. "For," added he, "if the Chelleby Effendi would hire a cart to-morrow, we might go to that vineyard and take away as many grapes as would sell for £2." And he sighed as he thought of the loss which my strange infatuation had caused. He could not understand such a Chelleby Effendi at all. Now, this man was one of the best of his class. I never once saw him lift his hand to strike any one; he was as gentle as he was brave, but his education, such as it was, had taught him that what belonged to the Bulgarian was his as a Moslem, while what belonged to him was strictly his own. And this idea had been assiduously fostered in him by all that he had seen around him. As a Turk, he knew well that no Bulgarian could meet him on equal terms in a court of justice, and that alone conveyed to his mind a powerful moral.
A zaptieh, be it remembered, is a Turkish policeman, a man therefore whose duty it was to protect the property of the man whom he coolly proposed to rob of all the fruit of his hard toil. But the instructive part of the story is that the zaptieh, "one of the best of his class," did not think that he was doing anything wrong, but thought that the Englishman must be crazy for thinking differently. Had the Bulgarian rayah resisted the plunder of his goods, this "kind and gentle" policeman would have slain him without compunction, and would consider any man a fool or a madman who suggested that he had committed a crime.
Nor is it in life alone that the intolerance of the Turk is shown; it pursues the rayah into the grave. Dr. Humphrey Sandwith has published the form of burial certificate which is given when a Christian dies, and here it is: —
- We certify to the priest of the Church of Mary that the impure, putrefied, stinking carcase of Sardeh, damned this day, may be concealed underground.
- (Sealed)El Said Mehemed Faizi. A.H. 1271, Rejib 11 (March 29, 1855).
So much as to the principles which are instilled into the mind of the Turk, and woven into the very texture of his being, with regard to the life and property of his non-Mussulman neighbor. As to the teaching which he receives in respect to the relation of the sexes, there is no space to discuss it, and it would be scarcely possible to do so if there were. The softa revels through many volumes of what Sir W. Muir calls "a mass of corruption, poisoning the mind and the morals of every Mahometan student." The result is that the Mahometan Turks, smitten by the withering poison of unspeakable vices, are dying out at a rate which, if nothing intervene to arrest the decay, will clear them out of Europe in about fifty years.
Am I not right, then, in saying that there is a generic difference between Turkish atrocities and atrocities committed by other nations, whether Russian or English? What constituted the peculiar horror of the abominations of the Canaanites of old was that they "did them unto their gods;" so that there was no hope of amendment, morality being corrupt at the fountain-head, without a pure stream anywhere in reserve to draw from. And what made the case of the tribes of Canaan hopeless makes the case of the Turks hopeless too. What is the use of programmes which, however excellent on paper, have to be executed by human beings whose minds and souls are saturated with principles of morals such as I have described? When men can gather grapes of thorns, and figs of thistles, then, and not before, may we expect the Ottoman government to do justice to its non-Mussulman population. Politicians may say, as indeed Lord Derby has said, that the right and truly British policy is to turn a deaf ear to the cries of the oppressed in Turkey, and advise the Turkish government "that they had better follow the policy which they thought most consistent with their own interests." "The policy which they thought most consistent with their own interests" in Bulgaria this year was to outrage and massacre some thousands of innocent human beings. Achmed Agha and the rest, infamous as they are, are not quite so bad as the government which first sent them on their errand of slaughter, and then decorated them for their various achievements. It is hardly fair that Achmed Agha should be even tardily arrested, while his employer Midhat Pasha goes free. Let us support this policy if England wills it so; but let us do it honestly, and in the face of day. It will be quite as beneficial to the Christians of Turkey as any scheme of reform short of real autonomy, and it will not add the additional sting of mockery to their disappointment. Malcolm Maccoll.
- "Residence in Bulgaria," p. 159. I have read a good many books in the course of my life, but I do not remember to have ever come across so audacious an experiment on the credulity of reasoning beings as this volume. I am sorry to observe that a periodical of the weight and reputation of the Quarterly Review, has been misled to recommend it as "full of matter most instructive at the present crisis," and I regret especially that it has given its imprimatur to a story of "more than two thousand old men, women, and children," "burned alive in the village of Akdere alone by the Bulgarians; whilst a Russian corps d'armée looked on." This is said to have happened in 1827, some years, I believe, before either of the two authors of the book was born. They give no authority and no reference of any kind, and my confidence in their accuracy is not such as to induce me to place implicit faith in statements of this sort. It is curious how some people estimate the value of evidence according as their prejudices are for or against the conclusion sought to be established. An influential portion of the London press has sought to discredit Dr. Liddon's and my own account of impalements in Bosnia, by denouncing it as "gossip" and "hearsay evidence." Yet these very papers accept without inquiry Mr. Schuyler's report of a Russian massacre in Turkistan, though it is based on "hearsay evidence" of a much feebler description than that which we have adduced. Ours is hearsay evidence of the strongest possible character, corroborated by the evidence of our own eyesight. I do not say that Mr. Schuyler's story ought to be rejected because it is founded on hearsay; but I do say that those who accept it, while rejecting much stronger evidence for impalements in Bosnia, demonstrate the strength of their prejudices rather than of their logic or fairness.
- "Consular Reports on Condition of Christians in Turkey in 1860," p. 121. My first introduction to the consular reports of 1860 I owe to Mr. Denton's able and instructive pamphlet on "The Christians in Turkey." Though the pamphlet was published in 1863, I am sorry to say I never read it till after my return from Servia this year. The Parliamentary papers of 1867 and 1876 have been published some years after the publication of Mr. Denton's pamphlet, and they certainly throw a lurid light on his arguments and conclusions.
- "Consular Reports on Condition of Christians in Turkey in 1860," p. 7. Let no one be deceived by such terms as "elopes" or "converts to his faith." Elopement means what Mr. Consul Longworth calls "forcible abduction;" and as to conversion to the Mahometan faith, the victim of Turkish lust has no choice. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred she has no means to bring her case before the tribunals; and if she does, her evidence as a Christian is not received. If, in the frenzy of her despair, she proclaims herself a Mahometan, in order to get a hearing, her ravisher is praised and rewarded for having converted her, and she remains his lawful prey.
- Parliamentary Papers, No. ii,, pp. 17, 55, 64.
- Ibid., pp. 80-83.
- Parliamentary Papers, No. iii, p. 573. Mr. Disraeli's speech in the House of Commons, July 17.
- July 23.
- The following extract is a specimen. It is from a letter written from Albania on the 20th of last September: —
"Un des premiers actes des bachi-bouzouks qui arrivent ici et qu'anime, il faut bien s'en rendre compte, le véritable esprit des populations musulmanes, est d'insulter et de piller les églises chrétiennes. Ils l'ont fait et à différentes reprises: à Dulcigno, à Antivari, à Scutari et à Podgoritza; puis les troupes régulières se sont mises de la partie et un bataillon d'infanterie, débarqué à l'embouchure de la Boiana, à San Nicolo, a debute par s'attaquer à l'église catholique de ce petit bourg, par y briser les croix et y voler tout ce qu'elle contenait. Tout y a passé, depuis un calice et un ostensoir en vermeil, présents de feu l'archiduc, plus tard empereur du Mexique, jusqu'aux vases, aux flambeaux et à tous les vêtements ecclésiastiques du pauvre curé qui, n'ayant pu obtenir protection ni justice de la part du chef de la troupe, est accouru a Scutari implorer son archevèque et la consul general d'Autriche, cette puissance étant ici chargée, comme la France l'est dans presque tout le reste de l'empire ottoman, de la protection du culte catholique.
"A Podgoritza, les fameux zeybeks de Smyrne n'ont laissé que les murs nus de l'église grecque. C'étaient les memes gens qui avaient, peu de jours auparavant, brisé les croix et souillé les murs des églises grecques et catholiques d'un faubourg de Scutari. . . . Et savez-vous comment la généralité de la population musulmane accueille ces excès? Elle les admire et les trouve coniormes à la tradition de l'islam.
"'Ces Chretiens,' disent-ils, 'devraient-ils avoir le droit d'elever de si belles églises (celle de Scutari est fort grande et se voit de loin), et de sonner les cloches!' Cette sonnerie des cloches est particulièrement odieuse aux bons musulmans. Vous le voyez, le vieil esprit d'hostilité, de domination, se réveille à la première circonstance, aussi entier, aussi vivace qu'aux jours mêmes de la conquête."
- Tributaries are people who accept the yoke of Islam without fighting. If they offer any resistance they lose all the rights of human beings, as described above.
- See Times, October 12.
- Daily Telegraphy, October 9.
- Siege of Kars, p. 173.
- Sir W. Muir's "Life of Mahomet," iii., p. 302.
- Parliamentary Papers, No. iii., p. 192; cf. p. 236.