« AnteriorContinuar »
Are the reforms declared to be introduced into the Turkish government by the Hati-Humáyún, or Imperial Rescript of 1856, bona fide measures, originally intended to be carried out, and now actually in operation, the results being such as to justify the expectation that the Turkish empire can continue an integral power, able to repel foreign aggression, and controlled by a government willing to act for the interests of the numerous nations, tribes, and sects over which it declares itself supreme, and are there signs of the satisfactory fusing of these discordant elements into one homogeneous mass? Secondly, on the supposition that the preceding question be answered in the negative, and should it be admitted that there have been no genuine reforms in Turkey, and no real consolidation of the empire, are there, nevertheless, reasonable grounds for believing that a better day may dawn, and the improvement and continuance of the Ottoman government being not essentially impossible, is it allowable to hope that the circumstances which have hitherto retarded progress in Turkey may pass away, and is it, therefore, politic to labor for their removal?
These questions are, no doubt, of the very highest interest and importance, especially to England, who has spent so much blood and treasure in aiding her "sick "ally. But in proportion to their gravity is the difficulty of replying to them, as a reference to the contradictory opinions collected by Mr. Senior* on the subject, and to the antithetical sentences in Lord Strangford's amusing chapter Chaos will show. Facts, of course, are facts, but the light of them comes to us through various mediums and assumes various colors in the transit. How this occurs is well shown by the last-named author. "The diplomatist," writes Lord Strangford,"resides entirely at the capital; the provinces are to him a mere abstraction, except in recent and rare instances; and in the ordinary exercise of his profession he sees nothing but Turkey as a victim; Turkey bullied, encroached upon, and brow-beaten; Turkey with short measure and false weights dealt out to her in the first moral principles of Christianity, by those whose lips are always wet with the watchwords of Chris
* A Journal kept in Turkey and Greece in 1857 and 1858.
tianity. Interest apart, his feelings thus come naturally to be enlisted in favor of Turkey, and many travelers and writers are found to reflect his lights for the public at home. The Englishman who holds no office, the merchant, the railway or telegraph superintendent, the man set in authority over Turks, the lawyer, and many other classes, see nothing of the diplomatic encroachments and foul play themselves; but they are face to face with venality and rascality every day of their lives; in the provinces they see countless instances of unequal justice, and unfair, often contumelious or oppressive treatment, toward the subject races; by profession, interest, or antipathy, they are often actually opposed to Turks, and their mind becomes tinged, at least on the surface, with the color of vehement hostility. This in Turkey is rarely accompanied with any corresponding feelings of active sympathy toward the said subject races, whose qualities are not such as to endear them to Englishmen on the spot and away from home. The consuls, living wholly in the ill-governed provinces, are politicians one day, and merchants, advocates, or judges the next; they come under both of these influences, and these fluctuations of opinion may easily be traced in their reports. Yet no diplomatist would wish to support Turkish rule otherwise than as a provisional rule.” *
These remarks point out abundant reasons for the difference of opinion which exists as to the condition of Turkey, but there is yet another source of discrepancy to which they do not refer, and that is religious bias. A sincere Christian, be he layman or priest, missionary or merchant, can not believe in the tendency of the Turkish government, influenced as it is by Mohammedanism, to improvement. To him a religion, not only false in itself, but inculcating systematic hostility to Christianity, must appear an insurmount able bar to progress and civilization. If no knowledge but that contained in the Koran be allowable, what becomes of mental culture and the discoveries of science? How are the rights of the community to be protected and equal justice administered to all, when the creed of the dominant sect finds expression in such sentences as the following: "O true be
* Eastern Shores of the Adriatic, p. 344.
lievers! take not the Jews or Christians
On the other hand, the diplomatist, who has resided long in the lax society of Constantinople, becomes too often imbued with prejudices of quite an opposite tendency, and ends in being more Turkish than the Turks. Between such extremes
appearance rather in the actual stir of such events as the massacres in the Lebanon and at Damascus, than in theoretical discussions.
Let us see, then, what light this writer throws on the reforms which are said to have been initiated after the Crimean war, and whether he affirms that these are to be considered bona fide measures, originally intended to be carried out. His testimony on this head is explicit:
"I believe in little or no change in the inward feelings of the Mussulmans toward the and they talk of pillage and massacre as being Christians, who themselves believe in none, imminent on every occasion when the ancient spirit of Islam is fired by the excitement of religious festivals. Hence their state of dread.
there is room for every shade of opinion, and in the conflict of testimony thus engendered by so much opposition in theory, it is requisite to walk with careful steps under the guidance of some one whose "The Mussulmans of the interior of Turkey local knowledge, acquaintance with the are a different people from those of the capital languages, and habits of intercourse with and the great seaports. There, a contact with the people of Turkey, entitle him to conEuropean ideas exists, which is unfelt here. fidence. But it would be, of course, ab- The dominant race is still in the provinces of the Ottoman empire what it was four centuries surd to expect from any one man an en-ago-proud, bigoted, and indolent. It is not cyclopedic knowledge of a country so here as at Constantinople, Smyrna, and Alexvast as Turkey. A lifetime would not andria, a mongrel transformed by the inroads suffice to make even the most diligent of Frank trade. Commerce flourishes more or collector of facts acquainted with the act- less in the inland towns, no doubt, but it is an ual state of more than two or three element apart, which has not exercised any provinces. But, perhaps, on the principle great influence on the thoughts and habits of of Ex pede Herculem, it may be allowable to reason from what is known to be true provincially, to what is desired to be known of the empire generally. Acting on this idea, and preferring to agree with a recent critic, in considering Syria as an important and almost typical Asiatic province of the empire," rather than with Lord Strangford, in regarding it as most utterly confused and disorganized of all Turkish provinces ;" we shall extract from the Rambles in the Deserts of Syria such passages as throw light on the political problems connected with the great Mohammedan power, and support the views thus derived with testimony from
Of the qualifications which entitle the Syrian rambler to be regarded as an authority in the Turkish question, mention has already been made. They are such as Lord Strangford himself admits give the greatest weight to evidence on the subject, and that weight does not appear to be diminished by the manifestation of Christian sympathies, which make their
*Sale's Koran, edit. 1764, pp. 141, 243. Saturday Review, No. 445.
the Mussulman. The descendant of the Arab unconscious of the gradual encroachment of grandee, as of his Turkish conqueror, remains foreign enterprise, and blind to the rise of Christian ascendency. The traditions of the two great factions which have always divided Mohammedan society, the green-turbaned Shereefs claiming kindred with the prophet, and the fierce Janissaries trusting only to the favor of sultans, though forgotten on the coasts, are still fresh inland. In vain one talks to a Mussulman here of the altered circumstances of Turkey, which appear incredible to him, and he continues to live on in his narrow circle of contemptuous exclusiveness, animated only by personal and party rivalries. His religion, essentially a religion of pride, forbids his admitting the possibility of Christianity, which he knows to be a religion of humility, ever becoming compatible with power abroad or prosperity at home. The condition of this northern capital of Syria is thus a remnant of what Turkey has been, rather than a production of any new system or influence. The sultan's authority is represented by a governor-general, who puts his seal to all acts of the administration, which tables of the town. These latter are always is practically in the hands of the ayans or nosquabbling amongst themselves for a predominance of power. Few pashas have the energy or patriotism to resist their usurpation. They might oppose it successfully were they so inclined. In 1815, when Chapanoglu, the de
posed prince of Yuzkat, was sent to govern | ficers must be, in the nature of things, Northern Syria, thirty of the Ayans were sum- intensely bigoted Mohammedans, for they moned to his presence, and summarily behead- are drawn from the priesthood, a class ed. In 1819, the different local parties united nurtured from boyhood in the study of against his successor, whom they murdered for levying a house-tax; and the town was be- the Koran and in the service of the sieged for four months by the sultan's troops mosque. They are ill paid, and can hardbefore order could be restored. The vigor of ly purchase the necessaries of life if they the Egyptian government kept the Ayans in remain honest, while they may easily and subjection from 1832 to 1841, but when Syria safely enrich themselves by taking bribes. again fell under Turkish rule their rebellious There is no check upon their decision, and overbearing spirit was unchecked, and in and no escape from it, for while the mufti 1850 it went so far as to produce bloodshed. declares the law, the kází finds as to the That spirit is fed by the weakness of Turkish governors, and by the encouragement found in guilt or innocence of the accused, and the non-realization of the various reforms passes sentence, on oral evidence, and which have been decreed. The Mussulman without recording the proceedings. On here has thus seen nothing to corroborate the the subject of the Mehkemeh the author statements made of Turkey having entered a of Rambles in Syria pronounces as folnew era of her existence as an empire. He falls lows: back on his old traditional sturdiness, and remains what he was in her period of barbaric power." *
The most important change announced by the Hati Sherif of November 3d, 1839, and confirmed and supplemented by the Háti-Humáyún, was that no penal sentence could thenceforth be carried into execution without trial before a criminal court. But the institution of courts of justice is of little avail if the courts themselves be corrupt. Now it requires very little examination to discern that the Turkish courts of law must in the very nature of things be corrupt. The two lowest courts are entirely under the influence of the provincial governor, who, at his pleasure, can render them inoperative or turn them into engines of oppression. The first of these, the Mejlis el Tahkik, or Court of Inquiry, consisting of a president and four members, has no power of pronouncing sentence without the command of the governor, under whose influence it is originally appointed. The provincial council, which consists of from thirteen to twenty of the chief functionaries and leading men of the neighborhood, is simply a court of appeal from the Mejlis el Tahkik. It may be said to have none but Mohammedan members, for those of other sects are mere nonentities, and never venture to give an opinion, or even to sit in the presence of their colleagues. The Mehkemeh, the next court, which is the true law court, is conducted by a judge; the kází, who is annually changed, and an interpreter of the law, the muftí, who is a local, resident officer. Both these of
Rambles in the Deserts of Syria, p. 55.
"The cadi seeks only to enrich himself during his short stay, and the last month of his year generally sees a great number of causes settled at a cheap rate to leave no gleanings for his successor. The mufti sells his fetwa, or written opinion, to the highest bidder. The proceedings are not recorded, testimony is merely oral, the witnesses are often bribed, the judges almost always, and the heaviest purse gains every cause. The entrance to the different courts on days of hearing is crowded by persons making a livelihood by giving false evidence. Witnesses are wanted, they are found at the door, ready to swear to any thing for a couple of dollars.
ed by any court, notwithstanding all that has "The evidence of Christians is not yet receivbeen said, written, and proclaimed on the subject."
To this, his description of the provincial councils forms an apt pendant:
"The working of the provincial councils, as I have already explained in part, is very defective. As a first step in the career of reform, much was expected from their organization. But it is now abundantly demonstrated by its mode of action that, however beneficial it may be in other countries and under different circumstances, it was adopted prematurely here, being incompatible with the stage of political education at which the population had arrived, and not in the least in harmony with their social condition. I allude, of course, only to the provincial population of Turkey, for that of the capital is in a widely different state, and seems to belong to another age. Those who judge the former by the latter, and write on the shores ed by the more advanced and intelligent memof the Bosphorus sanguine disquisitions, inspirbers of the patriotic party amongst Ottoman statesmen, on the prosperity of the rural class, the safety of life, honor, and property, and on the great and favorable changes which have taken place within the last twenty years, de
ceive themselves and others in so far as the for some pay which had been withheld by provinces of the empire are concerned. I used the government. Throwing himself sudto be one of those myself, but a deeper insight denly upon the inhabitants of a village into the state of the interior of Turkey has since that was placed under his protection, he then forced me to give up some of the bright killed sixteen of them, and stripped the theories I indulged in. I now see that the great change to the agricultural population, which unfortunate survivors of every thing they was often oppressed by a pasha cruel and rapa- possessed. He then joined the wandering cious, is the substitution of fifteen or twenty tribe of Anezi, and did not return till the counselors, always greedy of gain, full of enmi- government, with a morality similar to ties, and more skilled by local knowledge to op- his own, condoned the offense and settled press whenever oppression is safe and profita- his accounts. "He then resumed his preble. It is idle to talk of the influence of Chris-vious functions, as if they had never been
interrupted." The whole province of Syria is intrusted to the safe-keeping of a body of two thousand mounted police, similar to Hájí Batrán and his myrmidons. Their pay is always in arrear, and, as if the temptations to plunder a defenseless population them to do so by the prospect of starvation were not sufficient, the government urges if they remain honest.
tian members of provincial councils, for they hardly presume even to sit in the presence of their Mussulman colleagues, and never venture to express dissent, calculated though the decision may be to fall heavily on their own constituents. These councils, in point of fact, hamper a good governor without acting as a check on a bad one. They are, in addition to this, a new source of evil in themselves. Men of public spirit and integrity are not to be found in the class of notables in the interior. The councils are consequently composed of unscrupulous speculators. They do not give themselves the trouble to attend their sittings unless they have some personal interests to further. Collusion supplies the means of serving such interests, and pashas are powerless, when willing, to cope with their deep collective chicanery. Possessed of great experience, wielding a dangerous ascendency over the people, and well versed in all the trick ery of the East, they rarely fail to reduce the best-intentioned governor to the condition of anlages, where no traveler's life would be instrument in their hands. He is soon made to safe for a moment without an escort. But feel the weight of their displeasure, and the on the high-road itself caravans are convalue of their support, by the unwise credit tinually plundered, and even the carriers given at Constantinople to their censure or ap of government are robbed and maltreated. probation, and he then resigns himself to let them govern the province in his stead. The At most of the stations an escort of from same familiar phases of such struggles, with the five to ten horsemen is required, and same results, have come under my notice in though what befalls a native traveler is the provinces of European Turkey and Asia never brought to light, we know from Minor, as now in Syria." Europeans what the dangers of the journey are.
The condition of the other Asiatic provinces, as regards the police, is as bad as that of Syria, if not worse. Take, for example, the high-road between Trebizonde and the Persian frontier, a distance of four hundred miles. This, as being one of the chief commercial lines in the empire, ought to be the most secure, and secure indeed it is, as compared with the outlying vil
While this is the state of the reformed law courts in Turkey, that of the police is if possible worse. These pretended guardians of the peace are, in fact, a horde of licensed robbers and murderers. Indeed, their infamy is such that it in a certain sense obtains for them all the immunity of innocence, for the acts they perpetrate seem incredible to Europeans who are not resident in the country, and atrocities thus, too often, escape denunciation. As a specimen of their acts, let us take what is recorded in these Syrian rambles of Háji Batrán, the chief of the mounted police in the district between Aleppo and the Salt Lake. This wretch himself related to the author the manner in which he had indemnified himself and his horsemen
Again, the whole line of frontier between Persia and Turkey, from Khoi to the southern districts of the pashalik of Baghdad, is one incessant scene of bloodshed and violence. The nomade tribes are here continually on the move in search of pasturage, descending to the Arabian plains in winter, and ascending to the Kurdish mountains in summer. Each tribe has a long register of blood-feuds, only to be wiped out by creating others in greater number. The traveler is the common prey of all. On the great road that leads from Khanikain to Baghdad it is impossible to pass without seeing men firing on one another from the hill-tops, and encountering the inhabitants of villages turning out to protect their flocks from robbers. About
of obtaining support amongst the members of
eight miles to the south of Khanikain is a long range of low hills infamous for the attacks of brigands. At this spot a European merchant, resident at Baghdad, beat off a few years ago a party of Arabs, not without loss on both sides. Here, too, three years since, some property belonging to the English government was plunder-viding into two bands; one to meet the assault, ed. There are many graves by the wayside, each of which is a record of some bloody deed. As this locality is but three stages from Baghdad, the seat of the viceroy of the second highest rank in the whole empire, and the headquarters of one of the five provincial armies, it may be imagined what insecurity prevails in more distant and unfrequented regions! To the south of Baghdad again is the land of the wandering Arabs. Here the Anezi pitches his tent, and hence to the shores of the Mediterranean is one vast track, where anarchy has prevailed from time immemorial. In fact, the obedience which the Arab yields to the Turk is merely nominal, and the intercourse between the two races may be best described as plunder and oppression on one side, and retaliation on the other. With the simple substitution of plains for mountains, what is described in the "Syrian Rambles" as taking place in the hills of the Ansairi, would apply mutatis mutandis to the des erts of the Bedaween.
"The actual condition of this part of the country may be estimated by recent incidents, showing that little change has here taken place from the old times of rapine and bloodshed in Turkey. A village of worshipers of the sun refused to pay its taxes. A member of the provincial council of Tripoli was sent there to remonstrate a few days ago. Having failed in his mission, and not having ventured to proceed to extremities with so violent a people, he was returning home, when he passed through a Christian village. Village for village mattered little; he set fire to it. The panic-stricken inhabitants hurriedly conveyed their movable property into their church, in the hope that it would be respected. The church was broken open and plundered by the followers of the functionary. Another village had been totally abandoned a few months ago on account of the unchecked depredations of a band of malefactors under a leader of infamous character named Issa. The villagers with their families took refuge at Antioch, where they remained in a state of the utmost destitution, while their crops were being publicly sold by Issa at the neighboring small town of Jisr-Shogl. Efforts were made by the poor people to obtain protection from the Turkish authorities, but Issa found means
the other to destroy the villages of their assailants. The second detachment burnt six villages of the Beni-Ali, killed several persons, burnt two villages of the Mohelbeh, and carried off all the cattle they found, while the first detachment was driven in, and the villages of WadyBeit-Hassar, situated on the high hills of the Cardaha, were destroyed. The people of BeitTashoot, a portion of the Semet-Cobli district, hastened to defend the villages of the Beni-Ali and Boodi against the Cardaha, but the Crahleh tribe, from another part of the Cardaha mountshoot. Taking advantage of this opportunity, ain, called Carem - Ibalieh, attacked Beit - TaAhmed-Aga-el-Mohammed-Adra, an enemy of the Crahleh, advanced from his castle of Merkab with a large party of his followers, attacked and burnt several of the Crahleh villages, and carried off a great many of their cattle. The tribes of Darins, the two Amamrehs, and Benibeen opened, hostilities ceased, and have not Ali, united, and, negotiations for peace having been renewed as yet, but they will be as soon as a good opportunity offers. The Turkish authorities were fully cognizant of all that passed, but did not interfere further than by sending orders to preserve tranquillity. MohammedAga-Haznadar, a chief of irregular cavalry, however, casually met several parties of armed men belonging to both sides, with whom he exchanged a few shots; three of his horsemen were wounded, and he reported having killed four of the Ansairi. The inhabitants of Beit-el-Shelf, who are moon-worshipers, attacked lately El Harf, a part of the Bahluli district, burnt two villages, and carried off all their live stock. Three lives were lost on each side. The assailants were subsequently routed in their turn by the villagers of El Harf, who killed three more of their number. The Scoobin worship the sun, and are therefore immemorial foes of the Beitel-Shelf. A mere squabble among some children led to a whole day's desultory fighting between the two tribes, during which five men of the Beit-el-Shelf and one of the Scoobin were killed, while another of the latter was taken prisoner and burnt to death, after having his hands and feet cut off. On this occasion twenty mounted irregulars were sent to the spot, but they did not interfere between the combatants, and returned home with the head of an Ansairi, in no way connected with the affair, whom they had met on the road, and decapitated unquestioned. This brutal act was justified by the statement that at the same place where the man was met by his executioners, a Turkish officer had been put to death by the Ansairi