Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

declining condition, and bad so com- ing the most favourable aspect under pletely exhausted every resource of which this mode of taxation can exist. fiscal tyranny, that the sultans were The land-tax is voted every year by unable to feed their armies in many a chamber elected by universal sufprovinces except by receiving pay- frage, in a kingdom where every adult ment of the land-tax in kind. As is armed. The judicial administration long as able sultans controlled the at Athens is respectable, and the city collection and employment of that is filled with professors and statesmen, portion of the produce of the soil who are always talking of their suwhich the government received, the periority in political knowledge, and natural abuses of this wretched sys- of the great advantages they derive tem of taxation were restrained. The from the liberty of the press. Yet, in early government of the Othoman spite of universal suffrage, liberty of Empire was a vigorous and intelligent the press, Albanian perseverance, and despotism, and the habits of the sul Greek vanity, the condition of the tan's officers were then extremely agricultural population- that is, of simple. None but slaves and tribute about three-fourths of the inhabitants children for some time occupied the of King Otho's dominions—is one of highest offices in the empire; and as medieval barbarism. The soil yields the sultan was the heir of all his the minimum of produce, the labour of officers, there was no great induce the husbandman is wasted, fiscal rement to avarice. Accordingly, we gulations to guard against fraud prefind that for more than a century after vent all agricultural improvements, the conquest of Constantinople, even and cause a waste of the gross produce the Greeks boasted of the fiscal mo- of the land, and a loss of the labour deration of the Porte. But the whole of the cultivator. The whole grain nature of the Othoman government crops, as in Turkey, remain exposed was changed when the corps of janis- in the open air, where they may be saries became a hereditary militia. seen by travellers near the temple of The amount of the sultan's money. Theseus, and under the columns of revenue then became the measure of Olympian Jupiter, for many weeks, the imperial power. All agricultural with the families of the peasantry taxes were farmed, and every kind of encamped round the threshing-floors; monopoly and extortion was pardoned and the King and Queen of Greece to those who brought ready money to may very often also be seen riding past the Porte. No words can describe the with their suite, without a feeling of cruelties which were perpetrated by shame that their kingdom is in such a the pashas, wbo were partners of the state of barbarism. A proprietor has farmers of the revenue, and who mo- been refused permission to house his nopolised the sale of various articles crop, and use a tbreshing-machine of produce. Men have been impaled in his own yard, on the plea that by the road-side for selling the re- the tax collectors could not prevent mainder of their crop after they had frauds should the practice become gepaid the tenths; and we have known neral. From this it is evident that a a man killed in full divan with a great loss is inflicted on society by the battle-axe, for refusing to sell bis crop ignorance of the Greek statesmen who to the governor of the town in which perpetuate this wretched system. The we were residing at the time.

whole agricultural population of an We will not attempt to describe the agricultural country is kept in a state fiscal oppression that takes place daily of forced idleness, and their labour is in Turkey, because we might be sus- withdrawn from the cultivation of pected of exaggeration ; for we are summer crops at the very period when aware that in some districts the public that labour could be most profitably revenues are collected with modera- employed. The increased stringency tion, and liberal concessions are made of the fiscal regulations in Greece has to the tax-payers. The system, how- already compelled the peasantry to ever, operates universally to keep abandon the cultivation of several agriculture in a stationary condition, articles of produce which they foreven under the mildest rulers. We merly exported. But it is needless to may take the Greek kingdom as offer- adduce examples of the ruinous consequences of the financial incapacity three great Powers for more than of the liberated Greeks. The small twenty

years—though she possesses a amount of agricultural produce raised German king, a luxuriant crop of in the kingdom, the miserable quality courtiers, court balls, and court carof the greater part of this produce, riages, a constitutional government, the failure of all attempts to improve and an orthodox church-still agriculcultivation, the impossibility of em- ture is not more advanced in the ploying capital profitably on the land, plains of Attica than in the most seand the great accumulation of arrears cluded districts of Asiatic Turkey. of the land-tax due to the government There is, however, one vice of the —all testify that no improvement in Othoman administration from which the condition of the agricultural classes liberated Greece is exempt. The can take place under the present rapid depreciation of the metallic system.

currency which has taken place in Another great evil of this system Turkey, at intervals, since the comof taxation, both in Turkey and mencement of the present century, Greece, is, that it leads the govern- has undoubtedly aided in accelerating ment to neglect the rights of property, the decline of the agricultural populaand thus increases the aversion of tion. Indeed, they have ultimately capitalists to employ their money in orne the whole amount of the loss the purchase of land, or in the culti- inflicted on society. Whenever the vation of the soil. The proprietor of specie in the Sultan's treasury has the soil who neglected its tillage, been found inadequate to meet the was, even by the Roman law, viewed immediate payments, the deficiency with less favour than the squatter who has been supplied by the addition of occupied it. The hope of increasing the quantity of base metal necessary the revenue of the State by extended to augment the bulk of the precious cultivation was supposed to be of metals in hand; and in this way, a more advantage to the government debt of three ounces of silver has than the tolerated invasion of the often been paid with two ounces of rights of property could be injurious silver and one ounce of copper or to the public. The Othoman legisla- tin. This depreciation of the Turkish tion, and the laws of the Greek king, coinage is an evil of old standing, and dom, have adopted this provision of has been going on ever since the conthe Roman emperors; and any person quest of Constantinople. In the reign who can contrive to till the land of. of Suleiman the Magnificent, a Veneanother for a year without molesta- tian sequin was worth sixty aspers. tion, obtains a right of possession At the death of the late Sultan Mahwhich leaves the lawful proprietor to moud II., it was worth six thousand establish bis right of property before aspers. The asper, which was origihe can eject the intruder. This is nally a silver coin of the value of notoriously a very imperfect remedy sixpence, has long been an imaginary for a great injury, for, all the world piece of money. Perhaps no measure over, possession is nine-tenths of the of the Turkish government has tended law. It would be waste of time to more to annihilate capital and impodescribe all the evil results of the in- verish the landed interest in the Sulsecurity of property caused by this tan's dominions than this mode of law. In our age, capital is the symbol defrauding his subjects. of civilisation and progress; and what- The first step towards the social ever prevents capital from vesting it improvement of the population of self in the soil, tends to retain the Turkey, must be to commute the agricultural classes fixed in a bar- tenths, and devise some other system barous and indigent state. The con- of taxing the land which shall leave dition of liberated Greece affords an the agriculturist at full liberty to conadmirable illustration of the evil duct his farming operations and emeffects of the Eastern system of taxing ploy his time at every season in the land, and of the Roman law, which way most conducive to his own proprefers the right of cultivation to the fit. The change can at present only right of property. Though Greece be introduced in the vicinity of large has enjoyed the protection of the towns, which afford an immediate and

[graphic]

constant market for all kinds of agri- the people acquire the national or pocultural produce. Unfortunately no litical consistency necessary to arrest change can be introduced in the dis- the progress of any foreign invader, tant provinces until roads and bridges until their interests become connected are constructed, and all kinds of tran- into masses by the formation of roads, sport both by land and water greatly the construction of bridges, and the facilitated. The peasant can neither establishment of water-carriage. But pay a money tax, nor become a con- if these things were done as accessosumer of taxable commodities, until ries of an improved system of collect, he can command a sure and profitable ing the land-tax, the proprietors and market for his produce ; and no such cultivators of the soil would soon be market is likely to exist, where even enabled to better their condition, and the heaviest articles must be trans- to increase in numbers and wealth. ported by pack-horses. In all civil- A single year would be sufficient to ised countries, a very great diminution enable the Christians of Thrace, and has been made in the expense of trans- the Mohammedans of Anatolia, to export since the conclusion of the last port large quantities of grain. Twenty war in 1815. But in Turkey, the ex- millions of the Sultan's subjects would pense of transport has of late years be placed in an improving condition, been increasing, and hence the culti- and their interests would induce them vation and export of several articles to support his government. On the peculiarly adapted to the soil and cli- other hand, as long as the present sysmate have diminished. There are also tem prevails, it is futile to expect any many moral and political evils con- real union or true community of feelnected with the prevalence of the ing and action between the agriculpack-horse system, both in Turkey tural population of Turkey and the and Greece, which must not be over. Othoman government. Every year looked, when measures for the im- sees an army of tax-gatherers, or farprovement of the agricultural classes mers of the revenue, issuing forth, are under discussion. Small as the and treating the whole agricultural amount of transport may be supposed population as a race of thieves. Every to be in these countries, it neverthe- agent of the fisc is known to make use less occupies a considerable part of the of the suspicion with which the law rural population. A numerous class views the cultivator, as a means of inof semi-nomades is formed along every creased extortion ; and consequently great road, and the constant exposure the government is hated by the people. of a considerable amount of property But even should the Sultan succeed on the wild mule-tracks that run in reforming the mode of levying the through uninhabited districts invites taxes now paid by his subjects who and perpetuates brigandage. A part are engaged in cultivating the soil, of the agricultural population acquires something more would be required in the unsettled habits and the careless- order to secure the integrity of his ness of life and property which char- empire, and something which depends acterises nomade and border races. entirely on the central administration. When any person at home feels in- Equal justice must be administered to clined to talk of the comparative secu. all his subjects, whatever may be their rity of life and property in Turkey or religion or their race. Until this be Greece, let bim procure a list of the secured to every inhabitant of his dorobberies and murders which have minions, any increase in the numbers taken place within ten miles of the and wealth of the Turkish population great mercantile city of Smyrna, or would only increase their bigotry, and within twenty miles of King Otho's excite them to measures of oppression palace at Athens, and he will see con- against the Christians; and, on the vincing proofs that in no other portion other hand, any increase in the numof the habitable globe bave life and bers and wealth of the Christians in property been so insecure during the Europe, whether Sclavonians, Bulgalast ten years. There cannot be any rians, Albanians, or Greeks, would permanent improvement in the condi- only increase their discontent and intion of the agricultural population, solence, and add to the embarrasseither in Turkey or Greece, nor can ments of the central government. Fortunately for the Sultan, the absolute catch the sound, to our amazement necessity of adopting measures for the clock struck one. We found the dispensing equal justice, and securing patient talking learnedly of his sympan equality of legal rights to Moham- toms, his friends confident of his remedan, Christian, and Jew, is gener- covery; and we saw the Russian and ally recognised even by the bigoted Greek attorneys, who had met to Mussulmans. The landed interest, forge his will, compelled to escape in without any reference to race or reli- a pelting shower. Nevertheless, we gion, makes common cause in de- could not avoid perceiving that some manding justice against the agents of time would be required to reinvigothe fisc. This must have struck every rate his constitution, and that there traveller in Crete, Macedonia, and was much to be done in order to reAlbania. The Seljouk Turk, the Tur- establish order in his household. coman, the Arab, the Curd, as well as At present, the Mohammedan prothe Greek, the Albanian, the Bulga- prietors are quite as well aware as the rian, and the Vallachian, all unite in Christian of the necessity of an equidemanding the same reforms from the table administration of justice to seOsmanlee. The time has arrived cure the existence of the empire. when these reforms must be made They see and complain of the defects without any reference to religion. If and corruptions of the existing sysno reform takes place in a short time, tem, from which, they assert, with a convulsion is to be feared that, in some appearance of reason, that they all probability, will dismember the are greater sufferers than the ChrisOtboman Empire; for the Seljouk tians, as being more constantly comTurk of Asia Minor, the Curd, or the pelled to submit to its abuses. They Arab of Syria, is as likely to make proclaim that it has infected the the attempt as the Greek of Thessaly, whole fabric of society, and underor the Sclavopian of Macedonia and mined the moral strength of the SulThrace.

tan's authority, and on these grounds The Court of St Petersburg has they demand its reform. But they acted on the conviction that it is be- despair of a change, for they know that yond the Sultan's power to establish it will be opposed by the Ulema, and tribunals in which equal justice shall by all the Othoman officials at Conbe awarded to Christian and Mussul- stantinople. man. Many persons conversant with It is not our province to venture the East share the conviction of the an opinion on the details of any meaRussian Emperor. Nevertheless, there sure of judicial reform. The subject are some who are well acquainted must be discussed at Constantinople, with Mohammedan society in Asia

and the Christians best acquainted Minor who entertain a different opin- with the language and laws of Turion. We own candidly that we can- key are by no means safe guides on not venture to decide the question. In all the complications of interest which our intercourse with the landed inte- the question presents. There are rest in Asia Minor, we felt as if we many reasons for believing the reform had awakened from a dream. Long- practicable. Common interests bind cherished delusions passed away. We all the agricultural classes together in found a society which had perpetu- one body, without distinction of race ated its existence in an unceasing or religion. The despotism of the combat with the Othoman adminis- central government bas annihilated tration; and we found that we had all the ancient privileges of the Musarrived in time to catch the last echoes sulmans. And the attempt now of the Seljouk feudal chivalry which making by the present Sultan to exhad perished in the contest. We tend the rights of the Christians is by found that the Mohammedan aga in no means the first attempt of the Asia called as loudly for justice as kind. The necessity of giving equal the Christian farmer in Europe. Like legal rights to the Christians was acthe Emperor Nicholas, we had be- knowledged as early as the year 1691, lieved the prophesy that the sick man when the Grand Vizier Mustapha was to die when the clock struck Koeprili, called by the Turks " The twelve, and, as we were listening to Virtuous," issued ordinances for securing legal protection to the Chris- a decision of the tribunals, for he can tian cultivators of the soil, against the remove any judge at pleasure, and oppression of the fiscal agents of the send him into a dreary exile ; and we treasury. All pashas and local gover- know that political corruption of nors were then ordered to treat the every kind is rife in Greece; but, rayahs with equity, and were strictly nevertheless, an independent body of prohibited from exacting any addi- lawyers exists, and by their learning tion to the haratch or capitation-tax, and character they exert so great a as fixed by the Sultan, under any control over the courts of law as to pretext on account of local objects. enforce the voice of public opinion, This reform, like the subsequent at- and arraign the judges before that tempt of Sultan Selim III. to reform great tribunal. This is the proud disthe janissaries, was called the Nizam tinction which at present exists beDjedid, or New System. It proved tween the Greek kingdom and the abortive, on account of the inherent Othoman empire. corruption in the whole organisation The equal administration of justice of judicial affairs in the Othoman Em- marks the line of separation between pire. The social difference between Christian and Mohammedan society; the true believer and the infidel was and the solution of the Eastern Questhen too great to be effaced by a feel- tion will most probably be settled by ing of equity. The pride of a domi. the success of the Sultan's measures nant and conquering race then aided to make all the inhabitants of his emthe corruption of the Ulema ; but that pire equal in the eye of the law. If day has long passed, and the Moham- he cannot succeed in doing this effecmedan in Asia is now as eager for a tually, it will be almost impossible for Magna Charta of the empire to defend his allies to uphold the integrity of his him against fiscal tyranny and cor- empire for any length of time. Unless rupt judges as the Christian in Europe. an empire so extensive as the Otho

The great social distinction which man can support itself, there is no at present exists between the Otho- chance of its finding permanent assistman Empire and the Greek kingdom ance from strangers. The Arab, the Jies in the administration of justice. Syrian, and the Curd, are just as likeThough the monarchical government ly to raise the standard of rebellion of a Bavarian prince, with its central- as the Greek, the Albanian, and the ised and bureaucratic administration, Sclavonian. Unity, if preserved at has done nothing to improve the all, can only be so by crushing every social condition of the agricultural attempt at change into submission by classes, whether Greeks or Albanians; an overwhelming military power. though the university of Athens is Fortunately for the Sultan, the richer in political quacks than learned foundations are laid for the introducprofessors; and though morality and tion of an equitable code of civil proreligion have made no great progress cedure in his empire. Hitherto the in liberated Greece,-still, the popula- Othoman administration has treated tion of King Otho's dominions may the Mohammedan landed proprietors appeal with pride to their judicial with as much injustice as the Chrissystem, and assert, without fear of tian. The Seljouk Turks in Asia Minor contradiction, that it separates them have been quite as much oppressed by an immeasurable distance from the as the Greeks of Thessaly. The whole social degradation of all other East- agricultural population of his empireern nations. The code of civil pro- that is, about twenty millions of his cedure which M. Maurer introduced subjects—are, consequently, as we into Greece, immediately brought its have already said, eager to support motley Albanian and Greek popula- any measures which promise to secure tion within the pale of modern civili- an equitable dispensation of justice in sation, which is struggling to make all civil and fiscal causes, without disthe law more powerful than the cen- tinction of race or religion. That tralised executive. We know that some difficulty may be found, at first, many and great defects exist in the in procuring the deposition of witadministration of justice at Athens. nesses, or in weighing the value of We know that the King can command their testimony, is not improbable ;

« AnteriorContinuar »