[ocr errors]

princes, he tries to please every learned man, and possibly prevents him from backbiting and mischief by his munificence. But, as every ambassador to Turkey knows, these Sheikhs have very little influence with his Majesty, though every one of them believes that he alone is the favourite of the Caliph.

A glance at the document of the Powers, which advocates doubtless a well-meaning change, will convince every one who has the least acquaintance with Turkey that so elaborate a system as is therein urged is incapable, at any rate for the moment, of being put into execution. The country is too wild and unsettled to admit of so complicated an arrangement, which will appear to be compatible only with the inherited traditions and habits of a highly civilised community. Paper constitutions are notoriously deceptive works of art, and their value is solely proportionate to the fitness of the people on whom they are conferred to assimilate their provisions. As compared with Asiatic Turkey, India is in advance a hundred years; but I doubt very much whether it will be possible to carry out the system even in the most enlightened parts of India. The main objections to the system are very lucidly summarised by an M.P. in England. These are :

1. It interferes directly with the sovereign rights of the Sultan and sets up a dual control.

2. It interferes directly with the functions of the Sublime Porte, as it sets up a dual system of administration.

3. It establishes many new officers and sets of officials, whose cost is to be paid out of the slender resources of the poorest provinces and districts of Turkey.

4. It is unjust to the Moslems of Turkey in Asia, inasmuch as it proposes to establish a much larger proportion of Christian officials than is warranted by their numbers, the proportion of Moslems to Christians in Asiatic Turkey being at least five to one.

By a curious coincidence, on the very day when the Sultan sent his answer to the Powers, and at the very moment when all the newspapers of England were discussing the prospects of war, the followers of the Prophet from all parts of the world assembled at Mecca for the Hajj. This assemblage of the faithful in the birthplace of Islam at such a time is an event of great importance. The pilgrims to Mecca represent not only the orthodoxy, but also the aristocracy and intellect, of Islam. Moreover, many of them owe political allegiance to England, France, Russia. The recent tragic incident in Jedda, which necessitated the departure of the venerable Shareef of Mecca to the scene of the tragedy, must have caused great excitement and general confusion among the pilgrims. The attitude of the Christian Powers towards the protector of the Holy Shrines must have come under their discussion. The speeches and writings of European statesmen regarding the Caliph and his country find their

way into the mosques and cafés of Islam, much to the annoyance of the Turkish authorities. The pilgrims must bave seen with their own eyes the dangers to the prestige of the Caliph and to his authority in the very birthplace of Islam. They will go back to their respective countries filled with regret and indignation, and the tale of woe they will carry to their homes will naturally cause grief and pain to the entire Moslem community. At such a time the eyes of the Moslems are bent upon the Power that will extend a helping hand to the Caliph. Hitherto England has been recognised to be the best friend and Russia the worst enemy of Islam. Lately this traditional belief has been strengthened by the sympathetic answer which Mr. Fowler, the Secretary of State for India, made to me in connection with the grievances of the Indian pilgrims to Mecca, and the humane despatch which he sent to the Viceroy, practically removing all the complaints of the pilgrims which I had brought to his notice. I now hear that Russia is secretly trying to play the part of the friend of Turkey in order to win the affections of the Moslem populace in Asia Minor. Whether this be true or not, it is deplorable to see England grouped with Russia against her old friend and ally. Nothing would be more impolitic than a war with Turkey, and nothing more foolish than an empty demonstration of the feet in the Bosphorus. The Turks are used to threats from European Powers. England has already committed a great mistake in threatening the late Sultan of Morocco, which act destroyed her influence in that country altogether. If it is to be war, might ask, not the clergy, but the statesmen of England, For what are you going to war with your old friend and protégé ? The probable answer would be, 'Because the Sultan does not accept the scheme of reforms presented to him. But the scheme of reforms is not, by the admission of many Englishmen themselves, the most perfect or even the most practical scheme that can be offered. Is it impossible to make any change in, or to make any concession in regard to, the scheme? Is there nothing else but the pound of flesh'or the acceptance of the scheme? If it is humiliating for England to grant any concession at all, is it not equally so for the Sultan to swallow the bitter pill offered to him by the Powers ?

I do not mean to say that there is no misgovernment in Turkey. I have told Turkish statesmen themselves that the only possible reason for the maintenance of their rule in Europe would be a thorough change in the administration of the country. Nor do I think that England is wrong in giving advice to the Turks. I think (and many Turks agree with me) that the best friend of Turkey is England. I differ from English statesmen when they advocate reforms only for the sake of the Christians, while poor Moslem subjects of the Porte are left high and dry. The misgovernment in Turkey is injurious alike to the Christians and to the Turks, and all reforms Vol. XXXVIII-No. 221



must benefit the two races equally. If the British Government in India introduced reforms in that country exclusively for the Moslems, would not the Hindoos grow discontented and furious ? Englishmen are told that the Turk will do anything through fear and nothing through love. Now, the Turk, whatever else he may not be, is brave. He is not afraid of his life. Turkish history proves that the Turk prefers death to dishonour. But the Turk, along with other warlike and brave people, has his weakness. He is ridiculously selfsacrificing as a friend. If you ask him to do a thing for you as a friend, you stand a very good chance of obtaining what you want.

In order to understand clearly the political situation in the East, it is indispensable that my readers should know the real character, position, and influence of the Sultan Abdul Hamid. Apart from his political importance, the ruler of Turkey, as Caliph of Islam and protector of her Holy Shrines, exercises a moral influence over countless millions which is quite unrivalled in this age of scepticism and unbelief. European writers, as a rule, do not do him justice, though some there are who have praised him too much. He has his shortcomings as a statesman; but as Caliph of Islam he is the most popular prince that ever came to the throne. The question naturally arises whether a Moslem Caliph can render any service to England. Although the Turkish Sultans have no direct political influence among the Moslems beyond their own Empire (nor have they ever been desirous of extending their political influence outside their territory), they exercise great moral authority in the Islamic world. This authority was once used in favour of England at a very critical time. Upon that subject I will quote the views of the late Prime Minister of Hyderabad, son of the most distinguished Indian statesman of the century. Sir Salar Jung, in an article in this Review (December 1887), says:

England has in India some fifty millions of Moslem subjects, including in their mass the most warlike of the native races, the races upon whom England must chiefly rely to roll back the tide of Russian aggression ; and England is not likely to forget that it was these very races who, in 1857, at the bidding of their Caliph, the Sultan Abdul Medjid, gave their united support to the British connection at that supreme moment when their defection might have cost the life of every white man and woman in India. My late father frequently assured me that the whole influence of the Caliphate was used most unremittingly from Constantinople to check the spread of mutiny, to rally round the English standards the Mussulman races of India ; and that in this way the debt that Turkey owed to Great Britain for British support in the Crimea was paid in full. And the time may come again when the devotion of the Mussulmans to their Caliph and the shrine of St. Sophie may be not less necessary to Great Britain than in 1857.

European writers describe the Sultan as a very suspicious man. Granting that he is so, show me one man who would not become suspicious under similar circumstances. There are the ambassadors of the six Great Powers, each trying to play the game of his own country, and repeatedly misrepresenting the ideas of his rival. The Sultan believed, and suffered. Christian Europe has done little to abate his difficulties. When he knows a person he believes him; but, unfortunately, the person does not always deserve to be trusted. There is another popular error regarding the Sultan's character. It is believed that his Majesty yields only through fear; hence some people always advise the British ambassador to bully the Sultan. No greater mistake could ever be committed by diplomats. I asked a Turkish gentleman who is intimately connected with his Majesty how it was that French and Russian diplomacy succeeded better than British diplomacy, more especially when the English are known to be the best friends of Turkey. He assured me that somehow or other the French and the Russian ambassadors manage to become private friends of his Majesty. The Sultan hates official pressure of whatever kind. The French and the Russians get many things done in the name of friendship more than in the name of their Governments. His Majesty is an extremely kind-hearted man, and when an appeal is made to his friendship or to his generosity he cannot resist it.

On the other hand, he is a very sensitive monarch, and he resents any encroachments upon his dignity as an independent sovereign. I wish Englishmen would take a little more pains than they do to learn Oriental nature. The sooner the policy of bullying Oriental monarchs is abolished, the better it will be for this country.

It is believed by many people that it is useless to appeal to his Majesty for redress of any grievance. It is said that he turns a deaf ear to all the appeals, and even if he has the will to remedy a complaint, he has not the power to do so. The belief is groundless. I admit that, owing perhaps to too much centralisation, his Majesty has not always time enough to attend to important matters ; but when a matter is brought to his notice, he is ready to decide it in an impartial manner. I will relate my personal experience.

I had been trying for some years to bring to the notice of the Turkish authorities the grievances of the Indian pilgrims to Mecca in the Holy Land. I communicated with one or two Turkish officials without much success. Then I went to Constantinople. I saw the Sultan and told him of the complaints. He received me graciously, and listened attentively to what I told him. He assured me that he would do everything in his power to get all the reasonable grievances of the pilgrims removed; that he thought it his duty to listen to complaints from all persons, irrespectively of their nationality and religion. He was as good as his word. I am informed he has sent medical men and a large sum of money to Arabia to carry out the necessary reforms.

I advise Her Majesty's Ministers to adopt a conciliatory mood. There are persons in this country who are trying to put an end to the traditional alliance between England and Turkey. There is a desire in certain quarters to popularise the 'Divine Figure of the North.' Now, I cannot forget that the greatest rival of England in the East is Russia, and I have a belief in the common sense of English

The recurrence of danger to British interests in the southeast of Europe (as well as to the north-west of India) is more than possible. The steps of the multiplication table are no less beyond suspicion than is the fact that during a European war, in which Russia is involved, the Divine Figure of the North will become a diabolical figure in the South. In order to cripple her power in Europe, Russia will attack England on the borders of India. She has an enormous army, and can easily afford the diversion. England cannot do better than maintain her traditional alliance with Turkey. When we are establishing buffer States on all our frontiers abroad, are we to permit the disestablishment of the buffer State which lies between England's possessions in the East and the hordes of the myriad Sclavs ? Surely England will not suffer her Eastern Empire to be overrun by savagedom, the civilisation of centuries to be wrecked, and the achievements of her Imperial genius to be brought to ruin ?



« ElőzőTovább »