Imágenes de página

might doubtless be raised on a fair assessment of the country. And, lastly, the Christians are not permitted to bear arms in the service of the Government. An army which cannot move a step without the aid of Christian officers or renegades bas not till now admitted a Christian soldier into its ranks, and the whole burden of war is thus thrown on the declining Mussulman population. These four causes constitute the primary grievances of the Christian races, and they are the key to endless injustice and oppression. Without those rights no people can advance beyond the limits of mere toleration ; yet with them the Greek and Slavonian races would in a few years become the possessors of the soil and the lords of the Empire. Much as we desire to witness the progress of these liberal measures, it is impossible to suppose that such concessions would contribute to prolong the existence of a power founded on the exclusive domination of an armed minority, inferior in every other faculty to the people they govern. The Turks themselves are not insensible to their true position, and they say, with some reason, in answer to the demand made on them for further acts of toleration, "Why

should we grant further privileges to the Christians ? Oppressed as they are, and excluded from a direct share in the

government, they alone find means to flourish amongst the • desolation and poverty of the land. They are our creditors; "we their debtors. The most luxurious palaces on the Bosphorus are those of the Greek and Armenian families, except where those splendid abodes have been wrested from them by confiscation, and transferred to Turkish functionaries; and, although the scorn of the true believer for the infidel has only decreased in proportion to the decline of his own faith, he feels every year the increasing influence of the Christian races over the empire, and is perpetually reminded of the dependence of the whole of society on those members of it whom it still proscribes. This state of things has been repeatedly described by all the recent writers who have observed the state of Turkey, and we may borrow the following extract from Mr. White's - Three Years in Constantinople' as a fair résumé of the case:

• The motives that led to the framing of the Gul Khana edict, and the project of thereby reforming the administrative system of the Turkish Empire, were doubtless most praiseworthy. They were the creation of a benevolent and liberal mind, but not of a political economist conversant with the counter prejudices and correlative position of the vast majority of his fellow-countrymen, or with the objects and restless ambition of the minority. Before changing the character of the connexion between rulers and people individually,

and, above all, before attempting to imitate foreign institutions, it was essential to have considered how far these changes and imitations were applicable to the subjects of the Sublime Porte collectively. When the administrative reforms, now found to be impracticable or subversive, were introduced by Reschid Pasha, and applauded by Europe, when the representatives of European states became sponsors to these reforms, this preliminary investigation and forecalculation seem to have been neglected. The sponsors, carried away by overliberal and philanthropic sentiments, looked upon the edict as a source of tranquillity and union between all classes of the Sultan's subjects, and its applauders reasoned as generous minds would naturally reason at a distance. Neither, however, appeared to have weighed the consequences with the consideration of men conversant with the elements of dissolution inherent in the projected reforms. Thence the necessity for modification and abandonment, and thence, in a great measure, the complaints of retrocession perceptible in the acts of the Ottoman Government within the last two years. Many of those best acquainted with the internal condition and component fractions of the Ottoman Empire have now modified their opinions. They are for the most part convinced that if it were considered useful and perhaps necessary to introduce some of the administrative principles in force in European states, it was impolitic and even dangerous to adopt the forms of these states, and above all, those of France.

"How different from that of France, or of any other European state, is the composition of the Turkish Empire! Its population consists of several distinct races utterly opposed to each other in religion, habits, descent, objects, and in every moral and even physical characteristic. The Turkomans, Kurds, Hurruks, Arabs, Egyptians, Druses, Mutawellys, Maronites, Albanians, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Jews, and Armenians are so many distinct nations, who inhabit the same or contiguous soils without having intermixed in the slightest degree from their earliest conquest, and without baving a single object in common. Indeed, in lieu of exhibiting the slightest signs of approachment or fraternisation, their mutual jealousies and distrusts daily increase.

Over these dissentient populations stands the pure Ottoman race, the paramount nation, charged with maintaining the equilibrium between all and with neutralising the ascendency of one fraction by the aid of others. Were this control not to exist - were the Turks, who represent their ancestors the conquerors of the land, to be reduced to a level with those beneath them, or were the preponderating influence of the former to be destroyed by the elevation and equalisation of the latter, perpetual revolts and civil war would not fail to ensue. The dependent populations now constituting so large a portion of the empire would continue the struggle until one of them obtained the supremacy at present exercised by the Turkish race, or until the territory were divided among themselves or parcelled out by foreign Powers. Province after province would be lopped off from the empire, as already exemplified in Wallachia, Moldavia, and Servia, and this, with the sanction and under the protectorate of powers the most clamorous for institutions replete with these elements of dissolution.

"The dangers that would menace the stability of the Sultan's authority present themselves under other forms than those above mentioned. Should the line of demarcation which now separates the different component parts be removed --should a closer connexion take place between the jealous and rival populations now subjected to the domination of the Porte-should the mutual aversions that now separate them be softened by equality of privileges-should all be raised to the same standard as their masters—it is to be feared that they would soon come to an understanding, and unite against the Turkish race, of which all are equally jealous, and against which all entertain the same sentiments of ill will and animosity. Many benevolent men argue that the surest means of tranquillising the tributaries of the Porte, and of attaching them to the Government, is by raising them in the social scale, and by granting to all the same rights and immunities as are enjoyed by the rulers. But it has been repeatedly proved, that concessions do but lead to fresh demands, and that partial enfranchisement conducts to total emancipation. Besides, when commerce, industry, intelligence, knowledge, activity, rapidly augmenting population,-in short, all the ingredients and incentives to progress and liberty are on one side, and when comparative ignorance, prejudice, apathy, aversion to speculation and foreign trade, with stationary population are the characteristics of the other, it is fair to argue that many years would not elapse before the progressing fractions would take the lead, and rulers and ruled would change places.'

In a word, the contest which is going on is that of civilisation and barbarism, of legislative rights and arbitrary power, of Christianity and Islamism, of the races of Europe and the races of Asia, and it is only by the maintenance of conditions the most onerous to the cause of numbers, of truth, of progress, and of freedom, that the balance can for a moment be maintained. Place the Christians and the Mahomedans of Turkey in Europe on terms approaching to equality, and the result would not be doubtful for a single year. Thus far the question may be said to have advanced, that few statesmen will now be found to advocate the justice of such a state of things in the abstract, though they still cling to the expediency of a system of government which can only be preserved by means that every free and civilised man must abhor.

But in reality the expression by which this state of things is diplomatically described has long ceased to have any true meaning. The integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire became little more than a conventional form of words from the moment it was used to describe, not the actual condition of Turkey, but the forbearance of Europe. Already province

penetratorld, we have been

after province had been torn from the Ottoman dominions. The Crimea was lost; Bessarabia is incorporated with Russia, and her frontier advanced to the Pruth; from Moldo-Wallachia the last remnant of the Mussulman race has been expelled by treaty; Servia has a government and constitution of her own; Greece has been made a kingdom; Algeria a French province; Syria has only been restored to the Sultan by a party of British marines; and the tenure of Egypt is that of all but independent alliance. In a word, the Porte has already lost what she could not defend; and her losses would have been greater but for the support she has received from Europe. But that support has compromised her independence, whilst it has saved a part of her dominions. The contest now going on at Constantinople is not 80 much a bonâ fide assertion of the independence of the Porte, as a struggle between the supremacy rashly claimed by Russia and the influence which the Western Powers are pledged not to relinquish. If it were possible to penetrate the secrets which diplomacy prudently conceals from the world, we should be curious to ask which of the Turkish state papers have been written by Mussulman plenipotentiaries, which of the important measures lately taken originated with the Divan, except, indeed, when they used their independence to defeat the pacific labours of Europe, and to draw the Christian Powers as nearly as possible to a state of war which threatens to engulph themselves? Much that has been said and done in the name of the Turkish Government has been exceedingly able, politic, and judicious; but we are surprised that any of the politicians who have warmly espoused their cause should have been deceived by so palpable'a 'contrivance. It is the old fable reversed, and the lion is hunting in the ass's skin. If these exotic and adventitious aids were withdrawn, we doubt not only whether Turkey would resist Russia for another campaign, but whether the Empire itself would hold together as long. The very facts which are now alleged in support of the independence of Turkey are proofs of her entire dependence on foreign counsels; and the only favourable solution of this problem which we can imagine, would be that these foreign counsels should gradually so transform the Empire that a Christian state, capable of self-government and of self-defence, should be formed on what we must now term its ruins.

We are thus led to consider the state of the Ottoman Empire as it is; and the story is not a new one. We see a once mighty and formidable state in great weakness, from the gradual but steady decline of that dominant race which founded its authority and alone defended its power. If the Government has recourse to its Christian subjects, by extending to them equal civil rights, and by including them in its armies, their superior numbers and intelligence would ere long overwhelm the Turks, and the Empire of Islam in Europe would be at an end. Depressed by the failure of its original powers, and not daring to throw itself upon the doubtful allegiance of the Christian population, its last resource is in foreign succour. And this succour is afforded it, not so much because we are interested in the preservation of Turkish despotism and Mussulman supremacy, as because Europe cannot permit that these institutions should be swept away only to make room for the despotism and the religious supremacy of Russian Czars and the Russo-Greek Church. On that point we are perfectly agreed with the most strenuous supporters of the Ottoman Empire ; but we agree with them because, behind the fallacious and questionable integrity and

independence of Turkey, there is a real interest of paramount importance to Europe, namely, the independence and future welfare of the territories and races over which the Turk still holds sway. They will remain long after the crescent has ceased to glitter on this side the Hellespont; they must form a state, under whatever name, which is every year more closely allied to the interests of Europe; and to determine the nature and form of that state now or hereafter is the greatest problem with which the statesmen of our age have to deal.

But here again the question is complicated by several irreconcilable elements. The Christian population of Turkey in Europe (for it is to that part of the empire that our remarks are chiefly addressed) is divided into the two great classes of the Slavonian and the Greek races, 'neither of which can govern the other; and the position of the Slavonian provinces is rendered still more perplexing by the fact that there are in Bosnia 700,000 or 800,000 European Mussulmans, originally converted to Islamism by Turkish conquest, but now justly reckoned amongst the most brave and fanatical of true believers. That province is, indeed, the only instance in which Mahomedanism seems to have engrafted itself with any firm hold on a European stock, and there the martial ardour of a people nearly connected with the Croats and Pandours is allied to the ferocity of that most intolerant creed. In a neighbouring principality, however, one experiment of self-government has been made with success. The condition of Servia is far superior to that of any other province still tributary to the Porte. With the exception of the investiture of the Prince, the annual tribute, and the garrison of six fortified places, Turkey is debarred by treaty from all interference in that country, and no Mussulman can inbabit its

re chiefly addressed the Greek races,

Slavonian prov

« AnteriorContinuar »