BRITISH CONSULS AND THE CONSULAR REPORTS.
Gammoning a Consul - Harrowing tale - The truth discovered - Consular
entourage - Consular dignity - Bullying a Pasha - The reports - Pre-liminary
statements by the authors - Consular complaints from Rustchuk, Smyrna,
Kustendje, Salonica, and Prevesa (South Albania) - Trial of Greek autonomy
in the Sporades - Vice-Consul Dupuis (Salonica) - Reports from Aleppo,
West and East Macedonia, Adrianople, Scutari, Beyrout, Jerusalem, Cyprus,
and Janina - Consul-General Longworth (Belgrade) - Reports from Brussa
IT is not without a certain degree of wonder at our own temerity that we approach this subject, with the knowledge of the general impression prevailing in England, that nobody can be better qualified to speak upon the Eastern Question in all its branches than those gentlemen who have spent years in Turkey, with the advantage of an official position, and with the two objects of protecting the interests of British subjects and of reporting from the store of their vast and varied experience upon the true condition of the Christian subjects of the Sultan; the latter being the one point which possesses any interest for the general public, who, except as a matter of balance of power, do not much care whether Russia swallows up the Ottoman empire this year or a hundred years hence.
A British Consul home on leave from his Turkish consulate is, naturally enough, regarded everywhere (outside the Foreign Office) as an infallible oracle upon Eastern affairs, and his dicta are listened to by his friends with admiring acquiescence and without a thought of contradiction, except perhaps from some gentleman, whom a month's stay at Misseri's Hotel, or a winter on the Nile, has endowed with an individual opinion on the vexata quoestio.
“Mr. Consul Blank must know all about these things, he has spent ten years in the East."Very true, so he has; but let us see how he has spent them, and whether he is likely to have amassed any very reliable information during these ten years.
The British Consul in Turkey, [We must remind our readers that we only pretend to speak authoritatively of Bulgaria, but at the same time we fancy that our remarks will not be much less applicable to the Consuls of Anatolia and other parts of the Sultan's dominions.] although officially resident in a town, reigns over a very large extent of country: on his appointment to a new post he is generally animated by a laudable desire to see something of “the interior," and “to judge for himself," of the real state of affairs.
In most cases he is unfortunately ignorant of Turkish or Bulgarian, though he may perhaps have a sufficient knowledge of the former to order tobacco and coffee at a country Khan, and therefore convenience, as well as consular precedents, requires that he should be accompanied by his dragoman or interpreter, invariably a Greek or Armenian; the roads are not very safe, and for this reason as much as for that of keeping up the consular dignity in the eyes of the natives he thinks it better to be escorted by his two Cavasses, Greeks or Arnaouts.
Of course the dragoman advises him not to put up at Mussulman villages, “the inhabitants are all more or less brigands," or "it's better to avoid any possibility of being rudely received;" so the Consul consequently passes every night of his tour amongst Rayahs, who are sufficiently humble to satisfy even his own notion of his own importance and to impress him in favour of a people who show such a proper and becoming respect for their superiors. [He has not yet learned the truth, that the obsequiousness of his hosts is due less to himself than to the ornamented pistols and overbeting demeanour of his Cavasses.]
Mr. Consul Blank is naturally and officially anxious to learn whether the Rayahs have any well founded complaints to make of tyrannous acts committed by Mussulmans, and intimates this wish to his dragoman Spiro, who goes out, and after a short absence returns in company with an old man, who kisses the feet and hands of the "Consular Effendi," and pours forth his tale of woe in Turkish, which, as translated by Spiro, runs as follows: -
Some months previously a few soldiers, commanded by a sub-lieutenant. Osman Agha, were quartered in the village: Osman Agha fell in love with the fair face of old Dimitri's daughter Frushi, the belle of the village; the Christian maiden rejected all the advances of her Mussulman admirer, who, despairing of success in any other manner, carried her off by force, after murdering her father and mother who had endeavoured to oppose the abduction.
These facts, adds Spiro, are already known to the other foreign Consuls of Mr. Blank's residence, and will be reported to the Turkish authorities.
Mr. Blank thinks it is a very dreadful case, and makes a note of it in his pocket-book, as learnt from the uncle of the unhappy girl.
Thus he proceeds from one village of Christians to another, gleaning everywhere the most harrowing details of Turkish oppression (always through the medium of Spiro), and flattering himself that his first despatch to the British Embassy or the Foreign Office will prove that his salary has been well earned by his tour in the country, during which he has been a horrified ear-witness of so many painful facts proving the reality of Turkish license and oppression.
A few days after his return to town, Mr. Consul Blank is invited by the rest of his colleagues to join in a collective despatch to the Porte relating and complaining of the murders and abduction committed by Osman Agha.
But in spite of the notes taken in the pocket-book, and much to the surprise of his official brethren, he refuses to do so: by a fortunate chance he happens to have received ulterior and more reliable information from a relative of his own who is travelling in the country, and the collective despatch is therefore sent without his signature.
The British Embassy hears of the affair, and telegraphs to Mr. Consul Blank for information: his answer is a telegram to the effect that the whole thing is a mare's nest, and next day he writes a despatch relating the true version: Osman Agha was a very handsome fellow, and Miss Frushi fell violently in love with him, her passion being moderately reciprocated by the gallant officer; finally, the young lady carried off her prize, and landed him safely at Constantinople; these particulars were learned from the murdered father and mother, who were only anxious (just as if they had been parties to a civil action in England) to obtain some pecuniary compensation for the loss of their daughter's services.
Osman Agha is, however, accused by so many Consuls that he is arrested, and, the British Embassy not interfering, is punished for the murders he had never tried to commit by several years' imprisonment. [This story, like most of the apparently fanciful instances we cite, is perfectly true; the scene was a village in the Dobrudsha, the time between two and three years since.]
The whole business was got up by the Greek dragomans of the various foreign consulates, who, if their masters required hoodwinking, were able to blind them by judicious mistranslations and garbling of evidence; here Mr. Blank was saved by a fortunate accident from aiding a gross act of injustice - but how many Consular Mr. Blanks hear similar stories, do not find out their falsehood, and report what is simply a lie invented by Greek ingenuity to injure Turkey?
In the town Mr. Consul Blank is by his official rank placed amongst the heads of society, and is therefore still more open to the influences which have already abused his credulity in the country, for in the provincial towns of Turkey society is composed of Greek (and perhaps a few Armenian) merchants and the foreign Consuls, who are also (the English representative of course being excepted) traders: from these, many tales of Turkish oppression are poured into the unsuspecting consular ear, for of the Greeks any one would almost sooner lend money to his best friend under 60 per cent. than say anything but evil of the Turks; and of the other Consuls it is the duty of one or two to use all means in their power to injure the Ottoman Government in the eyes of Europe; whilst the rest, who may be really very well-meaning persons, are quite as liable to be imposed upon as their British colleague.
Lord Lyons in his despatch to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, dated Constantinople, May 6, 1867, fully recognizes the fact of the over-credulity to be found amongst foreign Consuls: “The Christians constantly bring complaints to him (the foreign agent), whilst the Mussulman is not equally in the habit of seeking foreign aid and sympathy."
It is no small credit to his Excellency to have discovered a circumstance which, if borne in mind, will materially aid a truer appreciation of the foreign official statements concerning the Christians in Turkey, and we are especially glad to have on our side the opinion of an ambassador, since it may perhaps relieve us [Instances could be easily given by the-half-dozen, but a short residence in Turkey soon exhausts one's stock of good paper and good pens, and as an extra copy of one's MS. is indispensable, thanks to the insecurity of all the postal services, any saying of the manual labour of transcription is a decided boon.] from dilating on the important point, which we should otherwise have to prove by other instances than the one (of Mr. Consul. Blank) already given, that foreign Consuls usually hear but one side of the question; this common error is, however, so chronic that it vitiates the testimony of a great part of the Consular Reports of 1867, and in criticizing them it is essential to remember it.
Another little weakness, though of a different kind, which is very often to be discovered in Mr. Consul Blank, is that he is not contented with being the protector of oppressed Christians as well as of travelling Cives Romani: he likewise fancies that his own dignity requires to be asserted at the expense of that of the Turkish Pasha, and he occasionally takes rather questionable means, which he calls "upholding his position" to accomplish this desirable end. As an instance, we will give an episode in the jurisdiction of a gentleman, whom we will call Mr. English to distinguish him from the generic Consul Blank.
Young Mr. English was appointed to the consulate of the town of Triantaphyl in European Turkey, and, having previously served in the army and the diplomatic corps, naturally thought himself at least a couple of pegs higher than ordinary consuls. At first he was very good friends with the Turkish Pasha of Triantaphyl; but wishing to show that the power of a British Consul knew no limits, he demolished the windows of the Quarantine Establishment by means of a gun and constant discharges of small shot. The Pasha thereupon revolted against the Consul, and for some months a war of notes was kept up between the conac and the consulate, without marked advantage to either army.
Finding that official penmanship was too slow a way of reducing the Pasha to bondage, young Mr. English hit upon an expedient which was fortunately crowned with complete success, and which is well worthy the imitation of all other able-bodied Consuls in Turkey.
The town of Triantaphyl is fortified, and one of the standing orders of the garrison is to the effect that no person is to be allowed to walk the streets after dark without a lantern. an order which may perhaps be dictated by a feeling of humanity, the streets being infinitely more dangerous to the pedestrian by their precipices than the “Mauvais Pas" of Chamouni can have possibly been before it was cut into steps and furnished with a guiding rope; the Zaptiehs (police, or rather gens d'armes), have strict instructions to arrest any person found infringing this edict and no exceptions are recognized.
Whilst Mr. Consul English was on amicable terms with the Pasha, he was always accompanied in his nocturnal excursions by a servant or cavass bearing a lantern, whose many mould candles gave out an infinitely brighter light than any one of the misty lighthouses erected by a foreign company on the Turkish shores of the Euxine; when war was declared he made a rule of economizing the lantern and risking his neck and his varnished boots amongst ravines of mud and stones.
One evening as he was passing a post of Zaptiehs the sentry stopped him, saying: -
"You have no lantern; come this way.”
“I am the Ingeliz Consulus," replied Mr. English.
"No matter, you must come to the guard room till we see if you really are the English Consul or not."
“Go to the devil!" replied the Consul.
The sentry of course collared Mr. English, but was immediately knocked down by a well-delivered left-hander; the rest of the guard turned out to assist their comrade, and a regular fight ensued. The Consul, being armed with a stout stick, and knowing how to use it, made good his retreat towards his own house, where he was rescued by a sortie of the inhabitants, amongst them another Consul of maturer age than Mr. English, with revolver in hand. The Zaptiehs consulted the better part of valour and ran away, thus avoiding probable bloodshed.
Next morning the young Consul consulted the old Consul and both agreed that the Zaptiehs, in the execution of their duty, had acted like highway robbers, and that the Pasha was responsible. So in a very short time the Pasha was coerced into ordering a parade of all the force of the Zaptiehs of Triantaphyl before the British Consulate, that the chief offenders might be identified and then severely punished by order of Her Majesty's Consul. The Pasha was moreover compelled to call upon Mr. English in full uniform and offer a humble apology for the conduct of the guardians of public safety; it is needless to remark that from that time forward he was completely enslaved to Mr. English, without even a thought of breaking his fetters.
The whole affair was referred to the British Embassy, which strongly approved of Mr. English's energetic and truly consular conduct, from which approval it may be gathered that a British Consul is quite right to bully the Turkish authorities into submission, even if in the process he should be forced into a breach of the local laws, followed by a breach of the peace. Another deduction which might possibly be made is that any act committed by a British Consul in Turkey is legal, so long as it does not infringe any English law. Poor Turkey!
In justice to Mr. Consul English we must state that he is essentially a gentleman, and had he not been a Consul would certainly not have committed such acts as we have mentioned. There is, however, an inherent property of the consular rank in Turkey which inspires its members with the proud consciousness that they own no superiors but the British Embassy and the Foreign Office.
It is not our intention to remark upon the occasionally hazy grammar to be found in the Consular Reports [Reports received from Her Majesty's Ambassador and Consuls relating to the condition of Christians in Turkey, 1867. Presented to the House of Commons by command of Her Majesty.] - more especially since the Civil Service examinations are yearly assuming a higher standard, whence it is to be presumed that the next generation of Consuls will indite despatches, whose style may unite the vigour of Macaulay with the charm of De Quincey - and therefore we shall confine ourselves to criticizing the matter of these Reports, begging our readers to bear in mind one or two preliminary statements :
1st. That we are personally acquainted (and that but slightly) with
only one of the gentlemen who have furnished the Reports.
2nd. That (teste Lord Lyons) Consuls, usually hear only one side, and that invariably from Christians; even if they endeavour to get al, the truth they are prevented by their interpreters - "grattez le Consul, vous trouverez le dragoman." might unfortunately be too often predicted of the consular body.
3rd. That we by no means pretend to assert that grievances, even very gross grievances, do not exist in Turkey; we contend that these grievances press upon the Mussulman always as much as, often more than, they do upon the Christian.
4th. That whilst omitting many passages which confirm our opinions as we have given them in this work, we have not to our knowledge left untouched any statement which is contrary to them, except in cases where such a statement, constantly recurring, has previously been commented upon. [As the friend who forwarded the Consular Reports to the Authors, I think it right to state that they have not received the four additional Reports of Part II. 1n these we find the same general complaints of the non-reception of Christian evidence; but while the report from Diarbekir describes the situation of the Christians in the Eastern extremity of the empire as more unfavourable, Consul Holme's account of the Christians of Bosnia entirely coincides with the Authors' experience. He says of them. “They remain in the most benighted ignorance, and destitute of any qualities calculated to excite respect; and it seems to me clear that no edict of the Sultan, however well intentioned, can possibly induce the Mahometans to regard the mass of the Christians of the empire as their equals, until the latter, by advance in education, industry, and honesty, do something to raise themselves." - L.]
It may be as well to notice that the very title of these Reports, as printed on the cover, might be altered with advantage; if Reports upon the condition of Christians in Turkey were desired, why do not the British Consuls give a few particulars concerning the status of their Prussian, French, Austrian, Russian, and Greek colleagues? If the Reports are only upon the condition of Christian subjects of the Sultan in Turkey, it might have been as well to have stated it clearly.
No. 1 - Sir R. DALYELL. Rustchuk.
“On a short journey I have lately made on consular business to Kustendji and Varna, I stayed at some Bulgarian houses, and thus had occasion to hear something of the principal grievances at present complained of,
“They seem to be (as I have before mentioned to your lordship):
1. The brigandage which prevails in many parts of the Vilayet. The nature of the country renders it difficult to repress this thoroughly; but a great deal more might be done, and ought to be done, than is done.
2. The insufficiency and, in many instances, bad and oppressive conduct of the Zaptiehs (police). Something has been done to remedy this; but a great deal is still required.
3. The non-admission of Christian evidence. Notwithstanding repeated assurances given to me by Mithat Pasha (who may perhaps, however, if he omits to make sufficient enquiry, be himself deceived in this, as in many other matters, by his subordinates), the reception of Christian testimony when the complainant is a Rayah still meets with great obstacles in the province everywhere, I suspect, but at Rustchuk."
Brigandage is certainly an evil which is not felt by the Rayahs alone, nor, as we have stated in the chapter upon that subject, are the brigands exclusively, or even generally, recruited from amongst Mussulmans.
That the police might be better organized is an undoubted fact, but in a quotation which we shall give from Report No. 12 it will be seen that they are not always influenced by considerations of creed; we have always found that the Turks complain of them quite as much as the Rayahs.
As to the non-admission of Christian evidence, a sufficiently plausible
reason has been already given [In the Chapter upon Eastern
Commerce.] by an extract from Report No. 22, and which may be found
in the first paragraph of page 61 of the official collection. Sir Robert
Dalyell, with the sense of justice inherent in an English gentleman, himself
neutralizes a good deal of the effect of the complaint No. 3 by a note
which, like a lady's postscript, contains some of the most important matter
“It may be said, 'What are the Christian members of the Medjliss about?' The Tchorbadjis (head men) and Bishops are frequently mixed up in speculations with the Turkish authorities, and put their seals to anything; from long habits of subserviency they are likewise, in many instances, afraid to do otherwise. There is still a great deal too much oppression of Christians by the Turkish authorities; but it has diminished sensibly, and is every year, at least in this part of Turkey, diminishing. What does not diminish is the oppression of the poor Christians by their Tchorbadjis. Every one of my colleagues here would confirm my opinion. I saw the same state of things at Erzeroum with an Armenian population, as here with a Bulgarian. Whenever a gross case of briber can be traced, some Tchorbadji will generally be found to have received two-thirds of the bribe, the Turkish authority the remainder. I could cite instances."
No. 2. - Consul CUMBERBATCH, Smyrna
“Some cases of secret persecution and assault have taken place against Protestant Armenians; but the Chiefs of the Armenian Communities were found to be the instigators of them.
“With regard to the social position of the Christian population, no Christians have yet been accepted in the army; in lieu of serving they are obliged to pay a conscription tax (bedelish), which becomes even more onerous than the haratch or poll tax."
Mr. Cumberbatch does not inform us whether any Christians have as yet volunteered to serve in the army nor does he state the amount paid as conscription tax, which must be very heavy to counterbalance the 8000 piastres which the Mussulman is forced to pay if he chooses not to serve.
"The schools are solely open to the Mussulman population.”What schools? If they are those supported by the contributions of Mussulmans, the doctrine of the Koran naturally pervades all that is taught, and Christians would be unwilling to send their children to them. As out of Constantinople there are hardly any schools for mixed creeds supported by the Government, it would be almost an equally fair reproach against the Christians to say that their schools are not open to Mussulmans,
"To conclude my observations, I must add that I consider the stipulations referred to have been carried out to a certain extent in the large towns; but that in the districts the Hatti-Scheriff and Hatti-Houmayoun have remained a dead letter."The Turkish Government is, alas! very weak, and if it has not been able properly to carry out its undeniably good intentions, the fault is with those foreign powers who have paralyzed its force and degraded its influence even with its own subjects.
"I must also add, my lord, that the Turkish population is infinitely more harshly used than the Christians as regards exaction."
No. 3. - Vice-Consul SANKEY. Kustendje.
“A rule exists that no subject of the Sultan can be imprisoned without a masbala or sentence. This rule is respected as regards Mussulmans; but Rayahs are arrested and thrown into prison without any form of interrogatory or trial, at the caprice of the local authorities, for any period they may choose."
We regret to say that in other parts of the Vilayet this rule is not even so well observed as at Kustendje, for Turks and Rayahs are treated as only the latter are in Mr. Sankey's Vice-Consulate; the latter can, however, usually bribe their way out sooner than the former.
“The Governor gives a list of persons chosen by himself; [For election to the Medjliss or Municipal Council.] this list is sent the round of the district, the electors having the option of objecting to any of the persons named in the list, but not that of substituting other names; whatever their decision, makes no difference in the result. The Governor reports to his superior that certain persons have obtained a certain number of votes, and they are declared duly elected. The members of the Medjliss receive pay, and are chosen by the Governor, they therefore, without cavil or remark, append their signatures to any document presented to them; most of them are illiterate, and the fashion of seals in lieu of signatures, in general use in Turkey, renders the knowledge of reading and writing unnecessary.
" The Turks have always the majority in these councils, which consist in the Medjliss of a Governor, of three Turkish members besides the Governor, Cadi, and Mufti, and two Christians.
"In the Medjliss of a Mudir, or Deputy- Governor, there are five Turks to one Christian."
The Medjliss is one of the many defective attempts at organization in Turkey, but even in places where the Christian members have a numerical preponderance the ends of justice are not much furthered by the fact; and, as may be seen in Report No. 7, when these members are freely elected by the people the result is no better.
"An ordinary police sergeant, who stands cringing and trembling in the presence of a Mudir, when sent on service to a Christian village becomes a tyrannical satrap, takes up his quarters in the best house, lives at rack and manger and levies contributions al pleasure."
Very likely, but he is not a bit less of a "satrap" amongst the Turks than amongst the Rayahs.
"In their daily relations the Rayah is made to feel the small estimation in which he is held by his masters. A Turk will not rise to receive him; he will be kept waiting for hours, although the master of the house is unoccupied."
Something of the same de haut en bas treatment of a supposed inferior by a fancied superior may occasionally be witnessed even in Europe.
No. 4. - Consul WILKINSON. - Salonica.
"The clause in the Hatti-Humayoum having reference to the participation of the Christian element in the Government appointments has likewise remained a dead letter in so far, at least, as it relates to appointments to which salaries are attached, for the few Christian members of the mixed tribunals receive no emoluments. Still, had the stipulations of the Hatti-Humayoum in this respect been carried into effect, no benefit whatever would have accrued to the Christians, or to the public service in general, from the acquisition of such an element; for the Bulgarians, who constitute the great majority of the Christian population of this province, are, both in intellect and education, far below their rulers; and even the, few more or less educated Greeks who live in the towns, though perhaps naturally more intelligent than their Mussulman fellow countrymen, are inferior to them in administrative capacity, and are, besides, so as a rule, venal and addicted to intrigue that their participation in the public administration of the provinces would perhaps promote their own private interests, but would surely confer no benefit on their co-religionists. The Christians are not likewise admitted to serve in the army. Of this however they do not complain, and would rather pay double the amount of the tax to which they are now subjected for exemption from military service, than be compelled to enter that service.
"A few elementary Turkish schools have been established in this province within the last three years, into which, however, no Christians are admitted, and yet there is a very strong desire on the part of the latter to educate their children. There is scarcely a Christian village, however small, which does not possess a school entirely supported by the villagers."
If every Christian village has its own Christian school surely it is no great grievance that the Christians are not admitted into the Turkish schools; unless, indeed, the, former consider that they ought to have education without paying for it, a thing not always to be obtained at the same price even in England.
"Two important lines of road have been in course of construction in this province since 1865. The works have made but very slow progress, and the system of 'corvees,' or compulsory labour, by means of which they are carried on, gives rise to many abuses, and is a source of constant complaint on the part of the rural population."
The corvee is one of the great abuses in this country, since its exercise throws almost unlimited power of abuse into the hands of the Pasha and of his subordinates, the latter, at least, seldom failing to profit by their opportunity.
The sooner this evil remnant of feudalism is abolished, the better will it be for Christian and Turkish peasants.
No. 5. - Vice-Consul BARKER. Prevesa.
“The Archbishop of Arta . . . at the same time observed to me that he, too, is one of the members of the Medjlisses or councils here and in Arta; but when the decrees are passed to the different members of the court for their signatures, he, the Archbishop, is not allowed to attach his signature but under that of the meanest Turk member amongst them. In the Arta Court his Eminence's name comes after that of a Turkish barber of a disreputable character."
It is hardly surprising that members of the State religion take precedence in their signatures over those of a heterodox creed, or that the conquerors should, in their own opinion at least, be entitled to rank before the conquered.
"My reply to his Eminence was that he cannot be astonished at this, since the Ministers at the Porte seem to have lost in their Turkish vocabulary a term to denominate the sect of whom his Eminence is a spiritual chief; for in an official Turkish document received here last week his Eminence is designated as 'the President of the non-Mussulman religion!'“
FUAD PASHA to the Governor-General of Janina
"We have received, inclosed in your despatch of 11 Ramazan, 1283, the copy of the proclamation respecting the counsels given for suppressing Hellenic evil-doers, executed by the President of the non-Mussulman religion; those counsels proving the fidelity and attachment of the President of the non-Mussulman religion, which are recognized.
“You are therefore invited to state our contentment, and at the same time inform him that walking in this road of policy will occasion great progress; this conduct of his has much satisfied us, for which we have written the present reply."
What Monsignor Serafim said to Mr. Barker's insinuation that he was gratuitously insulted by the Turkish Government, we have no means of learning; but even the term “non-Mussulman religion" as applied to the Greek Church is at least as complimentary as that used by Mr. Barker, who qualifies it as “a sect."
The letter of Fuad Pasha is in itself sufficiently gracious, and his Eminence will undoubtedly make greater progress by walking in the ways of loyalty to his Sovereign, than by being induced to cavil at words, or to take offence where none is meant.
The quotation which we give next is such as to make us doubt whether Monsignor Serafim does not occasionally deviate a little from this path:
"The Christians, too, have prayers daily, in which they implore our Creator to deliver them from the children of Agar, in the belief that the Mussulmans are the descendants of the illegitimate scion of Abraham."
If prayers were put up in Roman Catholic chapels and churches of Ireland, and authorized by Archbishop Cullen, praying for deliverance from the children of Strongbow, of Queen Elizabeth, or of Cromwell, would the English Government consider that the Archbishop was likely to make “great progress” by “walking in this road of policy”?
Mr. Barker further gives an elaborate calculation of the average yearly income of the Christian peasants in his districts, and discovers it to be, after making all deductions, 1028 piastres 22 paras, or about 8 l. 15 s. But there is one tax which has been entirely omitted, that paid to Monsignor Serafim and the Greek Papasses; it amounts at least to half the amount paid to Government - say 4 l. - and its payment leaves only a sum of 4 l. 15 s. per annum. for the support of five persons (for of course "a peasant" must be taken as meaning a head of a family), or about three farthings each per diem. Mr. Barker does not mention how life can be supported on this.
But he adds:
“From which (the income arrived at by Mr. Barker's calculation), after deducting expenses of labour in raising the produce and conveying it to town for his landlord, little or nothing remains for the maintenance of his family and himself; and from year to year many sell off stock to pay the debt and taxes, most of them possessing in clothes only the ragged suit they wear daily," &c. &c.
Neither Mr. Barker nor even the worst enemies of Turkey assert that the Christian is more oppressed now than he was a few years since; how then has he amassed stock to sell in order to pay off the debt and taxes? Can it be by some such system of exchange as we have mentioned in the chapter upon brigandage, where Vassili, having been robbed of one horse, helps himself to three others to make up his loss?
No. 6. - Vice-Consul A. BILIOTTI. Rhodes.
“There is no restraint as regards the exercise of the Christian religion and I may add that the Mussulmans here could not be more tolerant in that respect.
“With respect to their ecclesiastical dues, the inhabitants of the town refused to pay a fixed revenue to the Greek Archbishop; and though he managed to obtain an annual sum of 300 l., I am told, from the 15,000 souls forming the population of the villages, he nevertheless exacts, at the same time, the dues which used to be paid to bishops before the establishment of this fixed annuity.
"The inhabitants of these islands (the Sporades), who are all Christians, enjoy privileges which are quite unknown not only in Turkey but in any other part of the world. They have autonomous administrations; the authority of the Porte is but nominal.
“In conclusion, it is difficult for me to say which of the different Greek populations are suffering more, whether that of Rhodes where there is a defective administration, or those of the smaller islands in which there is no government whatever."
Mr. Biliotti's statements by no means give a flourishing account of what the Greek Christians, left entirely to themselves, have been enabled to effect in the way of order and civilization.
No. VII. - Vice-Consul DUPUIS, Soulina.
“By the laws of Turkey, no Christian, unless a Rayah, can hold property in the soil, and it would appear that once a house is burnt down the land reverts to Government. During the time of my predecessor a row of houses in the upper part of this town, was secretly set on fire, and, as is alleged, by order of the local authorities, or with their connivance, to dispossess Greeks and others of land acquired during the Russian and Austrian occupation of Soulina. A respectable Greek inhabitant assures me that his house and ground, for which only a short time previous to the fire he paid about 280 l. to the then Pasha, was especially marked out for destruction, in order thus fraudulently, to re-acquire the ground which by existing law could not be held by a Christian, notwithstanding the money payment which had been effected; fortunately through his own exertions, the house escaped the conflagration, and knowing by this dishonest action, the insecurity of his tenure he was compelled to bribe the Cadi or Judge to grant him Turkish title deeds or 'hoget' made out in the name of a Mussulman. As has already been stated many of the Greek and Christian inhabitants acquired their little property in houses and enclosures, during the occupation of the place by the Russians and Austrians, but no sooner did the Turks become masters of the soil than, unless a 'hoget' of ownership could be produced, they were ordered in several instances to pull thorn down, or to give up a portion or an enclosure appertaining to them, and if a Mussulman desired any particular locality to build upon, and the hut of a Christian stood in the way, means were always at hand to remove the latter either by fire or the hatchet."
In spite of our intention to avoid criticizing the grammar of the Consular Reports, we are obliged to relax our rule in favour of Mr. Dupuis, in consideration of the various lapses to be found in No. 7. “Fortunately through his own exertions, the house escaped the conflagration, and knowing by this dishonest action, the insecurity of his tenure he was compelled," &c.; we will make no comments upon the rather novel system of punctuation adopted throughout this Report, but content ourselves with enquiring which is supposed, according to the sentence thus quoted, to be the dishonest action - that the house escaped conflagration, or that the Greek inhabitant's own exertions saved it?
Reverting to more serious criticism, if the laws of Turkey are as Mr. Dupuis says (and they still are so in most places), what injustice can be found in their being strictly carried out? It is scarcely fair to accuse the local Government of an act of arson upon no more serious evidence than the easily used phrase “it is alleged." The respectable Greek is simply a party to a legal fraud, and by no means the least guilty one. It is by no means improbable that the land possessed by Greeks and others was originally the property of Mussulmans, a supposition which is strengthened by the fact that some only of them were evicted; in any case the Turkish authorities acted within the strict letter of Turkish law.
“Permission was requested several years apro of the Central Government at Constantinople by the Greek and Christian subjects to rebuild their church, which had fallen into a state of dilapidation, and the Firman granting their prayer was forwarded last September, urged to do so, perhaps, in consequences of disturbance in other parts of Turkey."
What was “urged to do so," was it dilapidation, the firman, or last September?
"I should be tiring your Lordship were I to enumerate the many acts of spoliation committed by the Turkish authorities on the Christians; I cannot, however, omit mentioning, that so late as last summer an order was issued from the Konak to throw down a row of shops belonging to Greeks and other Christians, which they had acquired previous to the arrival of the Turks, abutting on the river, forming the market-place; the Greek Consul remonstrated against so harsh an edict, but, as it was alleged, their removal was necessary to improve the streets; they were all, to the number of thirty, demolished by the hatchet, and up to this day, I am sorry to say, the poor proprietors have not received the slightest remuneration for their losses!”
If Greeks and other Christians, not Rayahs, occupied these houses, the authorities had an undoubted right to evict them according to Turkish law. If they were Rayahs, what business had the Greek Consul to interfere in their behalf? If they were foreigners, why should the law (whether bad or good in itself) be over-ridden by Hellenic intervention?
“The subordinate Turkish authorities never neglect an opportunity to oppress or annoy poor Christians; a few weeks since the Greek messenger of the Telegraph station in this town was insulted by the officers of the Turkish guard ship, and on his attempting to expostulate with them was thrown into prison, and there beaten by 'cavasses;' he complained to the Mudir, but the officers having denied the charge, no further notice was taken of the matter, and he was consequently removed from his post and sent to Toultcha."
Bearing in mind Lord Lyons' already quoted remark about the complaints made by Christians to foreign agents, it would he more satisfactory to know if Mr. Dupuis has sifted this case thoroughly, or whether “it is alleged” by the Greek messenger alone; and, if "no further notice was taken of the matter," why was he (a pronoun which after some reflection we decide to mean the Greek, not the Mudir) "consequently” sent to Toultcha? Is “consequently” a lapsus calami for subsequently?
"Instances of oppression and violence were matters of daily occurrence previous to the Ionians being handed over to the Greek authorities, and I had fewer opportunities since of observing the conduct of Turkish authorities towards Christians; nevertheless, I venture the opinion they are worse treated now that they are no longer under British protection; and if Ionians and other Christians were treated by the Turks as described in those times, and in places where Consuls reside, I submit to your Lordship whether they fare worse or not in the interior of the country, where, perhaps, no consular establishments are maintained."
After expressing a considerate fear of tiring Lord Stanley, it is rather cruel of Mr. Dupuis to inflict upon his Lordship the gratuitous mental labour of answering a question in the aid of whose solution nothing but allegations of the vaguest kind are given, and which is moreover expressed in the vaguest of English.
“The Government of Soulina is composed of a Legislative Council or 'Medjliss,' of which the Cadi is the President, with eight members to assist him, four of whom are Christians, and the other four Mussulmans, chosen by the people, but the former dare not differ, much less oppose any resolution or proposition of the Cadi. Knowing this, they often fall asleep in their chairs, and give their decision or concurrence with the usual 'Pekie, Efendi' (Very well, Sir)."
Abstaining from comment on the again questionable grammar, we submit that it is by no means creditable to the people that they choose from amongst themselves four members of the Medjliss who have neither the head nor the heart to do anything but talk in their sleep, and (as must necessarily be supposed) place their seals to legal documents without awaking.
“I beg leave to remark in conclusion to your Lordship, that in justice to the present Mudir of Soulina, his mild character and kindness of disposition have won for him the esteem and respect of all the inhabitants of Soulina, without distinction."
The sentence by which Mr. Dupuis “concludes Lord Stanley" is either rather at variance with his preceding statements, or is consoling as regards the future: if the Governor of Soulina had not been chanced between the time of the outrage on the telegraph messenger and the date of the Vice-Consul's despatch, a period of a few weeks, it seems curious that the aggrieved person in question should have departed to Toultcha with a feeling of esteem and respect for the supreme authority of his former residence; if the amiable Mudir had arrived only shortly before Mr. Dupuis wrote his Report, his good qualities must be something beyond the average to have gained so speedy an appreciation, and we may hope that during his reign Soulina will not again be the scene of "acts of cruelty and injustice, oppressions, and hardships."
No. VIII - Consul SKENE. Aleppo.
As this Report contains only matter which strongly confirms our repeated statements that the Christians are not worse treated than the Mussulmans, we will make but one quotation, which shows that Mr. Skene does not thoroughly understand the question of military service, or at least that it has never struck him in its true light, that of a great boon to the Rayahs and a curse to the Turks: -
"The Christians naturally complain, but I do not perceive more reason for complaint on their part than on that of the Mussulmans, excepting as regards the tax in lieu of military service,"
No. IX. - Consul CALVERT. Monastir.
"Latterly, churches have been built in a more becoming style and with a superior aspect, not, however, without exciting the animosity of Mahomedan fellow-villagers, which on a recent occasion at Lazjetz (three hours from Monastir) finally vented itself in the burning down of the church at that village, after it had been robbed of its valuables twice; and, at other intervals, the windows and doors had been broken and part of the stone wall inclosure pulled down. The offence failed to be brought home to the perpetrators of this outrage for want of sufficient evidence, the Grand Medjliss of Roumeli having required ocular testimony of the act, and the case was dismissed on the presumption that the fire might have originated through neglect in the church itself on account of the Greek practice of keeping lights burning in their churches. Scarcely a fortnight ago the robber of a village church near Perlepe has been reported. No other than Mahomedans can have committed the crime, as no Christian would ever dare to commit so gross a sacrilege; but no one has been brought to justice for it."
The sacking of Roman Catholic chapels is a thing not unknown in England in the year 1868. We must add that unfortunately our acquaintance amongst the Greek and Bulgarian Rayahs includes many who would rob a church almost as readily as steal a horse, and the certainty that the sacrilege will be attributed to their Turkish neighbours is in itself a promise of impunity which may strongly tempt a dishonest person. In the absence of direct evidence, which does not seem to have been forthcoming, it is a little hazardous to saddle the Mussulmans with a crime which has possibly, though perhaps not probably, been committed by Christians.
The greater part of this Report, which is long, interesting, and evidently
written with great conscientiousness, contains matter proving that the
provincial government in his consulate is quite as defective as the average
in Turkey: but no instances of oppression of Christians in particular (unless
those which we have already quoted can be considered as such) are given.
We quote an opinion of Mr. Calvert's which, as coming from a gentleman
who does not appear to be a professed Turcophile, ought to carry some weight
with it: -
“I am bound to add that a low standard of rectitude exists among the Christian races, for whilst they are most ardently and superstitiously attached to their Church, the religion they profess seems to have been incapable hitherto of inculcating on them the principles of truth and honesty. Lying and deceit are as habitual to them as eating and drinking."
No. XI. - Vice-Consul MALING. Cavalla.
"The use of church bells to which the Christians particularly cling is never allowed where mixed creeds congregate."
How long is it since Roman Catholic churches and Dissenting chapels in England have been permitted a peal of bells ?
“The public schools and charitable foundations are without exception closed to the Christian."
These public schools and charitable foundations are supported almost entirely by the Ulema, and the doctrine of the Koran taught in them is of course only adapted for Mussulmans: it would be expecting too much from the Ulema to ask that their revenues should be charged with the support of Christian professors. How long is it since Roman Catholics were admitted at Oxford?
"It is only to honorary posts in the Administrative Councils, and in certain law tribunals that Christians are admitted on the footing of an insignificant and powerless minority."
For this state of things, Mr. Maling himself gives a pretty good reason, as follows: -
"On the one hand every well-to-do intelligent Christian, who can, obtains some foreign protection and thus makes himself ineligible for office. On the other hand, pushed by fear of persecution or by love of trade the Christian is a very migratory being. He may thus acquire wealth and eminence as a settler in another locality, but is only qualified to hold office in the particular district which gave him birth. In this state of the law a numerous class amongst he Christians is shut out from taking any share in public life; and it is worthy of remark that the classes eligible to office, the stay-at-home and less adventurous, are also the least intelligent, worst educated, and most subservient members of the community."
So it is perhaps as well that there are not too many of them entrusted with the administration of the province.
"Before the chief district Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, two Christians were, in 1864, indicted for and convicted of, the murder of a Mussulman, Christian witnesses in disproof of the charge being rejected, while a near relation of the alleged murdered person sat as a member of the Court. The iniquitous proceedings took their course: a judicial murder was effected in respect of one of the victims, a felon's prison opened on the other, the members of the Court officiate to this day, and the chief administrative officer, who packed the Court and approved the proceedings, was shortly after promoted to a higher post in the Christian province of the Lebanon."
The above paragraph seems very like an anticipation of certain comments upon the "judicial murders" at Manchester, which appeared in the 'Irishman' and 'Freeman' newspapers: we forget whether they formed a part of the articles upon which these journals were indicted.
"The sectarian principles by which the law's administration is guided further appear in the fact that no conviction for any grave offence has for many years been recorded against a Mussulman, and that in several notorious cases of murder by persons of that creed no proceedings have ever been set on foot."
The first part of this sentence might lead people to form a very favourable idea of Mussulman morality and freedom from crime, were it not for the sweeping condemnation of its close, for which, however, no evidence is adduced.
“The indulgence, however, which, even under prison regime is shown to the Mussulman, but never to the Christian, marks the practical inequality of the races."
But, since “no conviction for any grave offence has for many years been recorded against a Mussulman," either the system of indulgence finds no scope for its exercise, or Turkish justice is a little more vigilant than Mr. Maling would have us believe, and Turks are imprisoned for slight offences.
“Centuries of subjection and estrangement from the profession of arms has (sic) not destroyed the Christian's liking and aptitude for that career. On the contrary shows a decided hankering after the 'pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war,' and it is instructive to witness on those occasions when the Christian is called out to assist the civil power against brigands with what alacrity he obeys the summons, and how favourably the raw recruit of a few days in his military bearing contrasts with the trained and veteran, but ever unsoldierlike, Turkish trooper.”
This testimony is strangely at variance with that given upon the same subject by other Consuls: if the Turkish Government ever enforces military service upon the Christians it is to be hoped that besides looking twice as well, they will fight even half as well, as the "unsoldierlike" Turks. Why does Mr. Maling single out the cavalry soldier (trooper) for contempt? Does he make an exception in favour of regiments of foot ?
“Taxation is supported equally by all classes in theory only. Passing over the military capitation tax, the excessive duties levied on pigs, native wines, and spirits, are burdens falling substantially on Christians only and have proved ruinous to native production."
Pigs, wine, and spirits being all articles interdicted by the law of the Koran. which is that of Turkey, a duty upon these productions, even if almost prohibitive, cannot be wondered at: if Christians throughout Turkey abstained a little more from the consumption of wine and spirits, they would soon be able to pay even a quadrupled tax upon pigs.
“The excessively high licensing system on taverns is considered by Christians a grievance peculiar to them; but it is only fair to say that Mussulmans come fairly under its operation, for they are perhaps the greatest consumers. In fact, inordinate drunkenness is fast becoming a decidedly Turkish vice. It. spreads to all ranks, renders any intercourse with their public men a very unpleasant duty, and creates a new barrier to the social fusion of the races for the Christians as a body partake of the characteristic abstemiousness of the Southern races, and disgust and contempt are now added to the other unfavourable feelings with which they regard their oppressors."
We beg most sincerely to congratulate Mr. Maling upon the fact of his residence amongst a population of warlike and sober Eastern Christians: in our provinces the Rayah has not the least hankering after war, glorious or otherwise, and drunkenness is the vice which is most prevalent amongst the Christians, whilst we have never seen a Turkish peasant drunk; and a Mussulman who thus disgraces himself is always spoken of by his co-religionists of the Balkan as “a bad man - one who gets tipsy."
No. XII. - Vice-Consul BLUNT. Adrianople.
Mr. Blunt's well written and exhaustive Report, after giving a very detailed and interesting account of the exports, produce, taxes, and general prospects of the district of Adrianople, proceeds to touch upon many of the evils caused by the want of a properly organized administration; whilst he has evidently avoided hearsay evidence, as may be seen from the manner in which he takes care to verify events before committing himself to their report, it will be noticed that he does not consider the Christians to be the only, or even the chief, sufferers by governmental mal-administration.
"The Government states the gross amount it requires from each community, leaving to the notables the method of its assessment and the responsibility of its collection. These notables, be they Turks, Christians, or Jews, are, generally speaking very despotic, and they take care to force the poorer class to pay much more than the richer, or to exact more than the legal amount."
“The Greek Primates in this city levy a great deal more than the legal quota; the surplus falling exclusively on the poorer class. What they do with this surplus is a secret. They pretend that they employ it in support of the schools in this place. If this is true, Adrianople should have a greater number of schools and pupils than the other cities in the Vilayet, which is not the case."
“Shortly after I wrote the above, I learnt that gross defalcations had been detected in the accounts of the community, and that some of the Primates had misemployed large sums of money belonging to the public. Kibrisli Mehmed Pasha was fully determined to bring the offenders to justice, but he was soon after recalled, and his successors have not had the will or the courage to deal with the matter. The fact is, a hue and cry was raised against the local Government by the Greek Primates and their partizans for wishing to revise their accounts; and the Greek Consul who at the time attributed to himself a large share in the direction of the affairs of the Greek community, was very incensed at the Ottoman authorities for their proceedings against the Primates, and pretended that the grossly violated the rights of the Christians, enjoyed by them, ab antiquo, of regulating by themselves the affairs of their community."
“When a village, Christian or Turkish, is very slow in paying the taxes, the Tchorbadjies and Muhtars call in the police to enforce the payment of the amount due, and something more besides. The police generally perform this duty with little lenity, and frequently with unjustifiable severity. This is done at the instigation and with the sanction of the Tchorbadjies or Muhtars.
"Last year, Ali Pehlivan, a Lieutenant or Captain of Police, was placed under arrest, and ultimately in irons, for having ill treated Christian and Mahomedan peasants, and during his investigation it appeared that the Mahometans suffered more from his misdeeds than the Christians."
"The Christians are not more oppressed by taxation than the Turks. Both pay the same taxes; both suffer alike by the unequal assessment of these taxes. If the condition of both elements be fairly measured, it will be found, I think, that the position of the Christians is better than that of the Turks.
"The Christians are not subjected to the military service (in lieu of it they pay the 'askeriye' tax), while the Turks are. The sufferings constantly inflicted on the latter by the exigencies of this service are inconceivable. I have seen during my journeys in the interior, ripe corn rotting on the ground, and on inquiring the cause, was informed that the owners of it were enrolled in the Rediffs ('militia'). Villages are in the course of time stripped of their Mahomedan inhabitants by the frequent calling out of this militia, and the abandoned fields are quietly occupied by the Christians. The Mahomedans now begin to complain that they only are forced into the military service, and would wish to relieve themselves of some of its burdens by including in it other elements of the population."
“The evidence of Christians is admitted against Mahomedans in criminal and, generally, in commercial cases before these Courts; but it is not in cases chiefly regarding real and intestate property brought before the Mehkemed, where the only law, 'Sheri-Sheri' (holy law), administered by the judge ignores the evidence of non-Mahomedans in cases in which they are the plaintiffs or defendants: it only admits this evidence in cases in which Mahomedans are not concerned."
"The Christians and Jews are not in the least molested by the Mahomedans in the exercise of their private and public religious observances, nor, I am happy to say, can I furnish any evidence that, since the Crimean war, the conduct of the Ottoman authorities towards the Christians has been marked with the stamp of religious intolerance or persecution. If there is a spirit of intolerance and persecution in the districts of this Vilayet, it will, unfortunately, be found among the different denominations of the Christians who dislike each other with all the virulence of Sectarians."
"Before the Crimean war the education of the Christian inhabitants was generally under the control and patronage of the Greek clergy. This clergy is very ignorant, and it had a great interest in trying to keep the people ignorant. They, therefore, instead of patronizing and encouraging intellectual culture, did all they could to keep it down to the lowest possible level, particularly among the Bulgarians, whose language they banished from the few schools that then existed in the country. But since then, and more especially from the time the Bulgarians, owing to the misconduct of this clergy, have broken their connection with the Greek Patriarchate, the extension of public education has, comparatively speaking, become very general throughout the provinces."
"The Ottoman authorities do nothing to arrest this educational movement; on the contrary, they endeavour to assist it."
The letter of Monsignor Kivillos, from which we give extracts below, is curious only as a specimen of Dragoman's French, and as showing the lenity of the Turkish Government in allowing subscriptions to be collected for the sufferers in the Cretan insurrection, and to be received by a Greek banker, without apparently taking any means to prevent the sums thus bestowed being devoted to the only too probable purpose of buying rifles instead of lint, and gunpowder instead of grain.
“En outre, comme le Gouvernement de Sa Hautesse de notre ville a su d’apres les journaux que dans plusieurs endroits des contributions ont ete faites pour subvenir aux souffrances des Cretois; de meme il y aurait ici des personnes charitables pour ouvrir une contribution spontanee, en faveur de ceux de nos Compatriotes qui ont souffert et souffrent des troubles extraordinaires de Candie, il a ete juge convenable que la maison du Banquier Simonatzi recevra les contributions contre des recus qu’elle delivera."
"Le nombre et le nom des contribuants sera publie dans le journal Turc, 'Mouhoir,' pour que le public en prenne connaissance."
We cannot take leave of this Report without calling attention to the clearness of Mr. Blunt's statements, the evident pains taken by him to learn the truth about any matter on which he touches (no easy task in Turkey) and the completeness of his sketch of the economical and political state of his vice-consulate, a sketch which has no rival in the Consular Reports.
No. XV. - Consul READE. Scutari.
"Taking therefore into consideration the difficulties in the way of the authorities, created generally by foreign interference and local peculiarities, with the exception of what I have said respecting the system of administration of justice, I cannot find that the Porte has in any way worthy of notice failed in its engagements respecting the treatment of its Christian subjects."
From this passage it will be seen that Mr. Reade recognizes (very justly) foreign interference as preventing the execution by Turkey of the promises contained in the Hatti Humayoum.
No. XVIII. - Acting Consul-General ROGERS. Beyrout.
“Christians do not serve in the army; but I doubt whether they would be willing to serve, even if the highest ranks were open to them."
"In mixed councils, Mahometans always take precedence of other sects, both in their seats and their signatures. Mahometanism being the religion of the Government and of the majority of the inhabitants, this fact can hardly be criticised."
"But on the whole, making distinct exception of those cases, and times and places in which circumstances have arisen to cause a general outburst of Mahometan fanaticism, I think that the Christian sects in Syria in their reciprocal jealousy and hatred, are more persecuted by each other than by the Mahometans, and often by Mahometans at the instigation of other Christians."
"The subordinate officers are often fanatical and generally oppressive and exacting, but they are selected from a host of place-hunters who have received little or no education and who are not actuated by right principles."
"I cannot believe that any decree of the Turkish Government can remedy the evil as it exists in Syria. Any further political change must destroy the principles of Mahometanism, and a subject of discontent amongst the larger class of Turkish subjects is raised, which sooner or later will break out in revenue upon the unfortunate recipients of a chimerical boon."
This passage is well worthy of consideration, for it shows that so-called Reforms carried to excess may cause a massacre of Christians in Asia: we have, in another chapter, already stated our fear of a similar catastrophe in European Turkey, arising from the same causes.
" In my humble opinion there can be but one effectual remedy, and this may be hoped for in the increase of liberal, sound, and secular education in the Ottoman dominions.”
No. XIX. - Consul MOORE. Jerusalem.
Mr. Moore's laconic Report contains one observation which in general might be made everywhere in Turkey: -
"The precise nature of the stipulations referred to in the Address not being stated I can only reply that here the Greek and other Christian subjects of the Sultan receive practically the same general treatment as their Mahometan fellow-subjects, and that there is vast room for improvement in the treatment of both."
No. XX. - Vice-Consul SANDWITH. Larnaca, Cyprus.
“It is to the composition of the Courts of Justice, indeed, that almost all the grievances of which the Christians have to complain may be traced, with the exception of those which they suffer in common with Mussulmans from the incapacity of the Government."
The question of the Medjliss has been so often discussed, and so many excuses, or at least palliatives, for its undeniably defective construction have been given, that it is useless to repeat more than the assertion, that the venality of the Christians themselves is one of the principal causes rendering null the benefits which might arise to the Rayahs from the system of mixed tribunals. The Rayah has also the advantage of being able to bribe higher than his Mussulman opponent. This fact Mr. Sandwith recognizes, as may be seen from the following: -
“But it must not be forgotten that all their members are open to bribery, and the rich Christian suitor is often more than a match for his poor Mussulman adversary.”
No. XXI. - Consul STUART. Janina.
"The administration of justice is extremely defective in this country. ...
"All these Courts are characterized by the deepest corruption and venality. Judgements are sold with but little attempt at concealment, so that in suits between Ottoman subjects, and sometimes, too, when others are concerned, the verdict is commonly in flavour of the party which pays best. Judgement is too often suspended for no other reason than to give time for underhand solicitations, and to see which of the litigants will bid highest for the verdict."
This being almost exactly the complaint made by Mr. Sandwith, and indeed. Only too justly, by almost every Consul, we need not recapitulate our former comments.
“There are about 220,000 Christians in Epirus, and about 130,000 Mussulmans. The ordinary Government revenue may be stated at 300,000 l., of which 240,000 l. is paid by the Christians, and 60,000 l. by the Mussulmans. The latter are the chief landowners, but the former have almost the monopoly of the trade, industry, &c., of the country, the duties of which they consequently have to pay. They are moreover charged with the military exemption tax, which figures for about 26,000 l. Nevertheless, largely as the Christians contribute to the Government revenues, they derive scarcely any benefit from the Government expenditure; while of the Mussulmans several thousand, indeed at present nearly the whole of them, are receiving Government pay."
Mr. Stuart gives a reason for the apparently large disproportion between the amount of taxes pain by Christians and Mussulmans, but there is an easy and just calculation to be made which turns the scales much in favour of the former; allowing that only one-fifth, or 26,000 of the Mussulman population are called upon to serve in the army, and that each man therefrom loses only 10 l. per annum (which is far understating the case), they pay to Government an indirect tax of 260,000 l. by their military service, which sum, added to the 60.000 l., forms a total of 320,000 l. paid by 130,000 agricultural Mussulmans as against 240,000 l. paid by 220,000 Christians engaged in the more lucrative occupations of trade.
It is a little startling to hear that nearly every Mussulman in the Epirus is a Government employe, or at least pensioner, and very much so when we reflect that of course the women and children (or nearly the whole of them) must be included in this long list. Speaking seriously, it is a little too bad to insinuate, that there is unjust favouritism shown to the Mussulman, and a “benefit" conferred upon him, because he receives some sort of pay in return for a burden of military service, past or present, which his Christian fellow-subject, if the privilege of a like bargain were offered to him, would refuse to touch with the tip of his finger.
No. 22. - Consul-General LONGWORTH. Belgrade.
On reading Mr. Longworth's Report we were almost tempted to give it in extenso, without further comment from ourselves, as a refutation to all the unfounded charges brought by others against the Turks; as, however, the Consular Reports probably lie upon few library tables but those of members of either House, it is perhaps better to have given passages from them both pro and con. Whilst we regret that the space already occupied by this chapter prevents us giving such extensive extracts as we should wish, we feel that there are many passages in Report No. 22 which it would be wrong to omit, and we recommend the careful perusal of the whole to those who are really interested in the condition of the Rayah, and who are open to conviction. Mr. Longworth's reputation for knowledge of Turkey gives a value to his Report, and will not permit even those who most differ from him to regard it as unworthy of notice; as for ourselves we have been encouraged in our relation of what we know to be the truth by the conviction that should this book ever fall into the hands of Mr. Longworth, there will be at least one man who agrees with us in our estimation of the genuine Turkish peasant, and who does not believe that the Rayah is the most deserving or the most unfortunate being on the face of the earth.
"Whatever the distance left between the promises of the Hatti-Humayoum. and the Porte's performances, anybody who fairly and soberly takes into account all it has to contend with, must feel far less surprise at its shortcomings than at what has been actually done by it.”
“Ten years later the Rayah had begun to take his seat in the Medjlis; but his abject spirit and obsequious dependent habits, quite as much as his want of experience in affairs, made him unfit for such functions; he usually sat crouching in a corner and gave a silent vote on all occasions. As years went by his position improved; what the Christians wanted in rank and dignity they made up for by wealth and intelligence. They now claim equal representation, and, in some places, even a majority of votes in the Mixed Assemblies. In those of Rustchuk and Widdin, when I visited those places in 1865, I was surprised to see the independent Burgesses (Tchorbadjees) in European costume, fairly educated and freely discussing the interests of the community with the Pasha and other administrative and legal authorities. Such changes it may be supposed could not have been effected in the Rayah without a corresponding transformation of the Turk, the contrast of whose present demeanour to the Christian with that which I once remember it to have been is indeed remarkable; the only parallel I can think of, for that which it used to be, is in conduct perhaps equally unjust, unreasonable, and arrogant, which has been recently exhibited by Orthodox and Catholic Europeans to the Turks.
"The rapid transformation I have alluded to, and about which I feel little doubt, would not be fairly and satisfactorily explained were we not also to take into account the action and influence of the Consular Body. I have naturally no wish to detract from the merits of these gentlemen, but there are circumstances which must unavoidably contribute to mould their opinions and colour their reports. They have, in the first place, though aliens, been constituted into tribunes of the native Christians, indirectly, if not directly, standing between them and their Government. How is it possible that, invested with this character, they should not favour their clients extenuate their misdeeds, or exagerate those of their real imagined oppressors? And who, it may be asked, are almost invariably their informers, prompters, and agents? Are they Turks or Christians? Is it fair to put any man in a position which he is so liable and under such strong temptation to abuse? For the Corps includes men of all ages, characters, and nations; from the circumspect and self-controlled veteran to the rash subaltern, self-sufficient and rarely reflecting how little things are advanced, if he have succeeded in changing, now and then, measures only, and not men, who, whether Christians or Mussulmans, are not easily changed and with a change of functionaries even seldom improved. As a general rule, and as regards themselves, the tendency of this Consular interference is clear. We see them all at first flushed with, but soon forgetting past achievements, all intent on future triumphs, all bearing down on the Turk with the whole of Christendom at high pressure behind them. It would be surprising indeed if the progress were not precipitate, or even if madness did not eventually fire the wheels."
“Paradoxical as it may appear, I am more than ever convinced that the too eager pursuit of justice may involve much injustice, as it does now in this country to both governed and governing classes of the Turks, but more particularly to the former, who, as all who know anything of them must likewise know, are by far the most upright and truthful of the two. And even the governing class, I should say, however depraved by the traditions of Byzantine venality and intrigue, are, from their innate respect for order and authority, better qualified to bear sway, and make even misrule more tolerable, than the Christians."
"The treatment of the Christians in Turkey with reference to the pledges of the Hatti-Humayoum opens an interminable field of inquiry; even as the document itself confers on those invested with this inquisitorial power the unlimited right of interference. At least this is the construction put upon it; and the most complete conquest ever made of a nation, that which entitles the conqueror to say 'woe to the vanquished' has never conferred a right more sweeping, vexatious, and intolerable than this. And yet Turkey I need scarcely say, was not among the vanquished. And if, as we continually hear, we and others fought her battles for her, we did so not, more. it may be answered, than she ours for us."
"The Greeks, on the other hand, to whom I see the address of the House of Commons especially alludes, are a highly sensitive race, in whose minds this secular humiliation has been so deeply branded that they can far less easily afford to forget and forgive, even if a keen sense of self-interest and lust of dominion, acting as provocatives to their thirst of vengeance, would allow them. Their purpose is not to kill the Turk merely, but plunder him also if they can; there is not only the glory, but the profit of the achievement."
“The only tax borne exclusively by the Christians is that of commutation for military service, 'Bedel Askerieh,' of which much has been said as harsh and invidious, confounding it with the old capitation impost, or 'Kharatch.'
“Between this, however, and military service, the free choice was given them, and as I well remember, they unanimously preferred paying the tax, and no wonder when we come to know (what might, perhaps, have forestalled much indignant criticism had it been previously ascertained), that it amounted to something less than the annual contribution of 4 s. for each male adult.
“Exemption from service would, but for a sense of duty, be gladly purchased at this price, told ten times over, by the Turks; their population is being gradually exhausted by the military ballot."
“There is another sort of benevolence which displays itself in the desire of relieving them by arming to the teeth the Christians whether they will or not; but these kind intentions are fully appreciated, and on that account are not likely to meet with much favour from the Porte.
“Other taxes, by their application to articles consumed more generally, if not entirely, by Christians, have been thought unfair to them as a body.
“The pig tax, for instance, would undoubtedly be contributed to by them alone, and having been at first imposed on sucking pigs, even caused, with a view to escape it, wholesale slaughter and a great outcry in the Christian provinces. The Porte, however, subsequently fixed the liability of the pig at a reasonable age; but though it reduced the tax, it would not wholly take it off, nor do I think it could be fairly expected to do so. Sheep are taxed as well as pigs, and the consumers of pork cannot be expected to consume mutton to the same extent as those who eat no other description of animal food, to say nothing of the sacrificial purposes to which it is periodically applied by Mussulmans.
“Similar objections have been raised with reference to spirits and wine; but raki, or wine either, as I have always understood, and, indeed, can bear witness, is not entirely rejected by the Turks, who, moreover, if the inquiry be pursued exhaustively, may, by way of compensation and from their peculiar habits, be found to be larger consumers of certain taxed articles than others; if, for example, the Christians make a less stinted use of wine, the Mussulman induleres certainly more unsparingly in soap."
"On the subject, in like manner, of the claims, as allowed by the Hatti-Humayoum, of Christians to a fair participation in the employments, offices, and dignities offered by the service of the State, I have nothing in the shape of statistical information to impart. But I have every reason to believe that careers of a description for which they discover a peculiar aptitude - those, for instance, connected with the Diplomatic and Consular services, or the Medical Service of the Government, or the Finance Department, or important political functions expressly created for them in the vilayets, where they are attached to the Governor-General and transact business with the Foreign Consular Agents - I have reason to believe, I repeat, that all such careers have been liberally opened to them."
“If, in the Executive Department of the State, the Christians have hitherto been admitted but to few of the highest offices of trust and dignity, and that, too, where the population is exclusively Christian, the Porte says, and I believe truly says, that, were such absolute power confided to them, no Mussulman, as a general rule, would feel secure as to either life or property. I have myself been told by Greeks in the employment of the Porte that where the interests of the Hellenic cause are at stake, they would not hesitate a moment at promoting them to the Porte's detriment; and yet these men have bitterly complained that they were not advanced with sufficient rapidity."
“The consequence has been that, while the Christians have thriven (and their prosperity is proved by their personal appearance and their having possessed themselves of the best houses and most eligible sites in the great towns I have of late years re-visited) such as Varna, Tournova, Rustchuk, and Kustendje) the Turks seem to be gradually shrinking from public view into the obscure and unfrequented suburbs. Still, their demeanour is that of stoical endurance; poorly clad, badly housed, and indifferently fed; if they still look the masters it is merely because neither they nor the Christians can help themselves in the matter. Still it must be with a gloomy and bitter feeling that they contrast their present with their past. condition; that they ask themselves or others what further hardship and humiliation fate can have in store for them. They hear no doubt what all the world is constantly repeating, that they are sick and dying out of the land, to which, indeed, they never had a just title, being merely encamped upon it. They know better than that, however; they know the price their forefathers paid for it, and that their title deeds are just as good as those of the bravest people on the face of the earth. What is worse, if driven to it, they would willingly pay the same price over again. Why, therefore, should they not once more have recourse to the means which their Maker has peculiarly gifted them with - bold hearts and strong hands. Why not revert to- 'The good old plan, that those shall take who have the power, and those shall keep who can.' Would not this be better than the lingering death to which the world so confidently dooms them, or to a life even spent in unavailing efforts to unlearn the most cherished traditions of the past. Why, then, are they prevented from doing this? Simply because, as I in my conscience believe, they are not only a brave but a docile and religious people; and they have been taught to think that the honour and good faith of their Sovereign, their Padischah, is engaged to the Governments of Europe, and cost them what it may, as assuredly it has cost them much, his word must be kept to them."
No. 23. - Consul SANDISON. Brussa.
“Her Majesty's Government has taken a constant interest in the result on the condition of the Christian populations in the provinces, and in the general working of the edict. I am not aware that any other power has evinced the same solicitude on that head. And I regret to state that Russian protected subjects here, with the sanction of their authorities, have been enabled to profit by judicial decisions, and maintain claims of the same sort, in manifest contravention of the text and spirit of the Hatti-Sheriff, but which in one case have not been successful."
No. 24. - Consul PALGRAVE. Trebizond,
“In this tribunal, sufficiently impartial from its very organization, no legal difference is made between Turk and Christian, and the witness of either is equally admitted in every case.
“Indeed, whatever occasional injustices may here occur weigh, for the most heavier on a Turk than on a Christian, because the former has, in matter of fact, no ulterior appeal, while the latter habitually interposes the authority of some Consulate, especially the Greek or the Russian.
“The free exercise of religion. - In this respect also the Christian subjects of the Sultan have no cause for complaint. A Firman is, indeed, required for the erection of a new church, but so it is also for that of a new mosque; and it is granted, perhaps, with too much facility in either case. Bells are put up and rung, crosses and pictures carried about, and ecclesiastical dresses worn everywhere and openly.
"The general bearing of Mahometans towards Christians in these parts is in a word one of absolute and unequivocal toleration.
"The only approach to a grievance, and that, too, of a strictly local character, within the last ten years, has been that of the 'Kroomleyahs,' or the inhabitants of Kroom, a village about half-way between Trebizond and Erzeroom, somewhat eastward. Here a considerable population of 2000 hearths, or 10,000 souls in all, and it would appear, of Byzantine origin had for a long time past been Mahometans in public, and Christians in private.
“During the extension of Russian influence in these parts, which followed hard on the Crimean war, these families declared themselves altogether Christian and many of them took besides a sort of Russian naturalization. This done, they declined to furnish any longer the customary military contingent because they were Christians, or to pay the compensatory 'Indadeeyah,' because they had been Mahometans, and for better security each man signed himself in the village registers by a double name, one of Christian signification, one Mahometan.
“The Government of Constantinople decided, with the agreement, I understand, of the European representatives then residing, that these Kroomleyahs should continue to furnish the military contingent as before, but should be in return exempt from the Indadeeyah. The reasons of this decision are obvious, and perfectly just. But the arrangement did not suit the Kroomleyahs, who, like most of their kind in the East, were not fighting men; and they attempted again and again to evade it. Considerable irregularities were the result; and sometimes, in virtue of their double names on the register, the Kroomleyahs had not only to furnish the military contingent, but to pay the Indadeeyah also. This was unfair; the local Governor or 'Mudir' of Kroom is said to have pocketed the money. Recently the matter was carried before the Pasha of Trebizond himself, and the vexation was put an end to. But the Kroomleyahs, not content with this, now demand exemption from military service, offering pecuniary compensation."
The latter part of the history of the Kroomleyahs is amusing as showing how people may be a little too clever; it was a rather sharp thing of the Mudir to take advantage of the double registration, but the Kroomleyahs seem to have been rather sharp customers, and it was only diamond cut diamond.
"It is precisely in these same quarters (Trebizond and its environs), and among the Greek and Armenian populations, that foreign influence and intrigue are most real and active, rendering the Christians hereabouts habitually restless, and exciting the suspicions of the Mahometans. And should at any time some general manifestation of Turkish ill-will or out break (though of that there is at present no sign) occur, such influence and intrigue, and no other, will be the real cause.[Previous] [Next]
"The complaints of the Christians, here at least, and especially of the Greeks, are unjust. They do not aim at equality, which they have got already, but at mastery."