nations of the east with aversion and contempt. Greek of the lower empire' had been held up to scorn, as the type of everything that was degraded, and the modern Greek was regarded as a little more vile, if anything, than his Byzantine forefathers, while of the great mass of the Christian subjects of the Turk, the Slaves, and the Bulgarians, many people seemed to be absolutely ignorant. Hence, while the western nations could sympathize with the struggles of the Pole, the Hungarian, and the Lombard, against Russian or Austrian oppression, the struggles of Christian nations east of the Hadriatic to escape from the far worse tyranny of the Turk, were regarded with indifference if not with suspicion. Twenty years ago he had protested against a war into which we had been enticed by a crafty despot, with a people who had never wronged us, on behalf of the foulest fabric of tyranny upon earth. The names of Alma and Inkerman were to his ears memorials of national humiliation, records of blood shed by English hands in the cause of oppression1. By the Treaty of Paris, which was the conclusion of the Crimean War, the right of Russia to protect the Christian subjects of the Porte was cancelled, and the Powers which signed it pledged themselves to maintain the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire. It was true that the Turk had on his side promised amendment and reform in his administration of the subject provinces, but those who had studied the history of the Turk knew

1 Sir G. W. Cox, referring to the time of the Crimean War, says, 'he confessed, not without some pride, that apart from ourselves he hardly knew of any whose judgement was not warped or perverted in this matter, except Sir Arthur Elton and John Bright. I remember the delight with which he welcomed John Bright's frank avowal that although every one was then agog for the war, yet within a quarter of a century the English people would be heartily sick and ashamed of it.'

that his promises were made only to be broken, and that his Hatti sheriffs and Hatti humayoms were only so many grand names for waste paper. For more than twenty years the ambassadors of various nations had been remonstrating and reproving, advising and exhorting the Turk to redeem his promises, but all to no purpose. England, nevertheless, had steadily continued to uphold him, she had lent him money and men, and in 1867, when an insurrection in Crete was put down with hideous cruelty, the English Secretary for Foreign Affairs had forbidden English consuls and the commanders of English ships of war to give shelter to the fugitives for fear of offending our esteemed ally. And not only had England refused help to the oppressed, but she had flattered and caressed the oppressor.

very moment that the Sultan's victims in Crete were shedding their blood to cast off his detested yoke, the Sultan himself was being honoured with a grand reception in this country, and the cheers with which the London populace had once greeted Garibaldi, the champion of Italian freedom, were bestowed upon Abdul Aziz, the representative of the vilest tyranny on earth. He was feasted by the Lord Mayor, he was made a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and the badge of St. George was dishonoured by being placed round the neck of the Mahometan oppressor of Christian nations. As a climax of absurdity, a ball was given in his honour, and the expenses of this costly folly were charged upon the over-taxed people of India. The grand Turk went home loaded with honours, India paid the bill, and his unhappy victims in Crete remained under the yoke. For the sake of her supposed interests and on no other pretext, England had doomed struggling

nations to abide in their bondage. We had, therefore, a national sin to redress and to atone for. We were 'verily guilty concerning our brother in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us and we would not hear.'

The revolt of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina against their oppressors afforded England an opportunity to redeem her character. The wrongs of the West had been redressed, France had been humbled, Germany was united, Italy was set free, Austria had been reformed; and should not the far bitterer wrongs of the enslaved nations in south-eastern Europe be redressed also? If Lombardy and Venetia had been delivered from the Austrian whip, should not Greek and Slave, Albanian and Bulgarian lands be delivered from the Turkish scorpion? Sympathy with the Turk was due in great measure to ignorance or forgetfulness of past history, and of the essential nature of the Mahometan religion. Freeman disclaimed any animosity against the Mahometan religion or its professors. In the Arabian prophet who founded it, he acknowledged one of the greatest reformers in his own age and country. He freely admitted that there were large parts of the world where the preaching of Islam had carried with it a wonderful advance, moral, social, and political. Towards a Mahometan people living in a country which they had made their own he entertained no ill-feeling whatever. But the case of European Turkey differed entirely from the case of a large part of the Ottoman dominion in Asia. In European Turkey the Turks were in no sense the people of the land. They were now what they always had been, an army of occupation upon conquered soil.

Turkey was not the land of the Turk, it was the land in which the Turk held other nations in bondage. The Turk in Europe answered to Lord Palmerston's definition of dirt, he was 'matter in the wrong place.' The welding together of conquerors and conquered, as of the Franks with the Gauls and of the Normans with the English, which in these and many other instances legalized conquest, had never taken place in European Turkey, and in truth never could take place if the conquerors were Mahometans and the conquered clung to their national faith; for it was one of the first principles of Islam, that wherever its votaries had dominion, they should hold the disciples of all other religions in servile subjection. The Christian, the fire worshipper, the Hindu, who had been conquered by a Mahometan power, was politically, civilly, and socially, the inferior of all his Mahometan fellow subjects. The utmost for which he could hope was contemptuous toleration. The reforms, therefore, which statesmen and diplomatists were continually recommending to the Turk, and which simple-minded and credulous people imagined would be effected, were hopeless impossibilities as long as the Turk remained a Turk and a Mahometan. The Eastern Question which diplomatists with a solemn and mysterious air said must not be reopened, was in truth always open. The Christian subjects of the Turk were always suffering, always unhappy, and as the Turk could not reform, the only release from their misery was to be found in the removal of his presence. When the revolt broke out, diplomatists spoke grandly about the necessity of using 'moral pressure to pacify the insurgent districts, and to prevent the complications which might arise by the continuance of disturbances.' Freeman made short

work of such pompous phraseology. The only complication was the presence of the Turk, and as long as he remained there would be complications and disturbances which no amount of moral pressure could pacify. There were no complications in Montenegro, there were no complications in Dalmatia, simply because there was no Turk there. He had departed from Hungary, Servia, and from other lands, and no country from which he had gone ever wished to have him back again.

It was commonly said that the Christian nations now under the Turkish yoke ought to remain under it, lest the Eastern Question, as it was called, should be reopened, and the whole of south-eastern Europe should be plunged into a state of disorder. To this argument he replied that it was unreasonable to expect that men who saw their neighbours and kinsmen in Montenegro absolutely free, and others within the Austrian territories dwelling under a government which at least protected life, property, and family honour, would be persuaded that it was for the good of mankind, or for their own good, that they themselves should be held down under a government which was mere organized brigandage. Again, it was commonly said that the insurrection was instigated from outside. This statement was partly false and partly true. The movement was, indeed, a genuine native movement provoked by very real wrongs, but no doubt the ranks of the insurgents had been swelled by sympathizers from kindred and happier lands; and were these men to be blamed for going to the aid of their suffering brethren? Supposing that the people of Hampshire were free, and the people of Berkshire enslaved, would it be thought a great crime in the men of Hampshire if they helped their brethren

« ForrigeFortsett »