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Art. 9.-TURKEY UNDER THE CONSTITUTION.
1. Turkey in Transition. By G. F. Abbott. London: Arnold, 1909.
2. Turkey and its People. By Sir Edwin Pears. London: Methuen, 1911.
L'Europe et la Jeune Paris: Perrin, 1908, 1911.
3. L'Europe et l'Empire Ottoman. Turquie. By René Pinon.
IN July 1908 the world was thrilled by the news that Turkish despotism had come to an end and that its place was to be taken by a form of government as liberal, beneficent and progressive as that of any Western state. The masterly ease with which so momentous a revolution was effected, the moderation displayed by the victorious revolutionaries, and the emphasis with which they proclaimed their intention to base the new order of things on the principles of constitutional freedom and equality, earned for their cause an amount of admiration and sympathy to which the Turk had long been a stranger.
As everyone knows, the decay of the Ottoman Empire was due partly to an administrative corruption, indolence and incompetence which enabled a few to prosper at the expense of the many, and partly to a political inequilibrium which, by placing the infidel permanently at the true believer's mercy, deepened among the subject races the discontent springing from material grievances, kept alive the desire for deliverance from subjection, and furnished sympathetic or self-interested neighbours with a perennial pretext for intervention on behalf of the down-trodden rayah. It followed that no attempt to arrest that decay could have any chance of success unless it was inspired by a twofold ideal-administrative reorganisation, on the one hand, and racial reconciliation, by a more equitable redistribution of power, on the other. The authors of the revolution appeared to understand the problem as clearly as could be desired. So much, at all events, it was permissible to infer from the motto which they had inscribed upon their banner : 'Union' and 'Progress.' These two words implied a conscious departure from the maxims of Old Turkish statecraft-laissez faire and divide et impera.
Three and a half years have passed, and the moment
has come to appraise the practical results of their efforts. As regards the first portion of this twofold task, it can hardly be said that the new régime, so far, presents a conspicuous improvement on the old. The overthrow of the old system could not but have in many respects a beneficial effect. The abolition of local passports, for example, now permits people to travel more freely about the country. The legions of spies who once dogged the footsteps of every resident and visitor have diminished in number and in activity. Private property is somewhat less frequently exposed to official rapacity. Trade by land and sea has received a certain impetus. The working of old mines and the exploration of new mineral deposits, in Asia Minor especially, is pushed on more vigorously than before. The greater freedom enjoyed by Ottoman subjects is also illustrated by the multitude of newspapers in various languages that have sprung up since the proclamation of the Constitution. To the credit of the new order of things may also be added the removal of many of the obstacles which formerly rendered the investment of foreign capital in the Ottoman dominions an undertaking of small profit and great peril. Abdul Hamid looked upon every concession-hunter as an enemy in disguise, and therefore allowed the vast natural wealth of his dominions to remain dormant. The present rulers of Turkey have perceived that a country in its industrial infancy cannot dispense with the aid of foreign capital, and have thrown the Empire open to the financiers of the world. Lastly, the revenue from the Customs has, under British direction, increased. All this, however, falls far short of the programme with which the Young Turks advertised their accession to power.
The new rulers promised the complete purification of the administration in all its branches; the establishment of more intimate relations between Law and Justice in the tribunals; the replacement of the petty tyrants who under the old régime called themselves guardians of public order by decent policemen and gendarmes, whose function should be to protect peaceful citizens instead of fleecing them, to pursue malefactors instead of shielding them, and to check crime instead of sharing in its fruits; the encouragement of agriculture by a fairer incidence of taxes and by the construction of roads and bridges;
the facilitation of commerce by a unification and simplification of the chaotic currency; the promotion of education by the establishment of new schools; the introduction of modern conditions into the municipalities; finally, along with this social regeneration, the invigoration of the military and naval forces of the Empire.
This grandiose programme still remains a programme and no more. The law-courts continue to be what they have always been-nurseries of procrastination and corruption, in which the infidel, when in litigation with a true believer, stands small chance of justice, and in which, when the litigants belong to the same creed, their prospects of success are strictly commensurate with the length of their respective purses. The police throughout the Empire continue to commit the same excesses and the same cruelties as in the past. Brigandage flourishes and agriculture languishes as much as ever. The promises of municipal reform have materialised themselves only in the vandalic destruction of historic monuments, carried on ostensibly in the interests of urban improvement, but really for the financial benefit of Government officials and enterprising contractors, and in the demolition of private dwellings without compensation to the owners. Other schemes of public utility, regarding roads and bridges for the open country, electric lighting and locomotion for the towns, the reform of the currency, and so forth, are still under discussion.' The same remark applies to the ambitious plans for railway development in Asia Minor and the Balkan Peninsula, the improvement of seaports, the erection of lighthouses, the extension of maritime means of communication.
The only items of the programme that are carried out with earnestness are those conducing to military and naval efficiency. While all the other wheels of the administrative machine remain sunk in the ancient ruts of sloth and venality for want of competent and well-paid servants, the army and the navy absorb all the energy and more than all the money at the disposal of the Government. Sums that are urgently needed for the pacific and economic revival of the country are squandered on warlike equipments. Fresh loans on usurious terms are contracted for this unproductive purpose. Budgets prepared with infinite ingenuity by the Minister of
Finance are torn up at the bidding of the Minister of War. Deficit, year after year, is added to deficit, more and more public revenues are mortgaged, and debt is piled on debt, all with a view to strengthening the martial, while starving the civil, sections of the public service. The only roads built in the provinces are military roads. The negotiations for railway developments are governed by strategic rather than by economic considerations. The very reorganisation of the National Maritime Transport Service, for which the Porte recently concluded a loan, is inspired primarily by a military purpose, the service in question being mainly employed in the transport of troops.
The significance of this disproportionate preponderance of the spending departments in the administration lies on the surface. The revolution was the work of soldiers, not of statesmen. Its immediate object was not to reform Turkey, but to put a stop to European interference with its domestic concerns-an interference which, by the beginning of 1908, threatened to detach Macedonia from the Empire, as it had in the past detached many other provinces. The patriotic young officers who coerced Abdul Hamid into the granting of a Constitution were actuated by martial rather than by political ideals. They dreamed of a Turkey of the future more formidable than the Turkey of the recent past, of a time to come when the Parliament would recover all the territories which the Palace had lost. Consolidation, in their eyes, was but a means to expansion; and that expansion would, naturally, be effected by the army. In other words, as seen by the light of subsequent developments, the revolution was not what its authors depicted it in order to gain support at home and sympathy abroad-a movement liberal in its motives and pacific in its aims; but a rigidly nationalist and crudely aggressive movement, an effort to revive the ancient Ottoman spirit of conquest under a modern mask.
The truth of this interpretation is proved not only by the excessive devotion of Young Turkey to matters military, but also by its overbearing attitude towards all its neighbours in Europe, Asia and Africa. During the three and a half years that have elapsed there has scarcely passed a month without a frontier incident.
The Bulgarian and Greek frontiers have been repeatedly the scenes of collisions, provoked by the encroachments of Turkish troops on Bulgarian or Greek territory and in some cases resulting in pitched battles. Turkish troops have also invaded Persian territory and territory under British protection on the Persian Gulf, while in Africa the frontier that separates what was Turkish Tripoli from French Tunis has witnessed similar acts of aggression on the part of the Ottoman authorities. Inside the Empire, too, there has been under the new régime a consistent disregard of the Capitulations which guarantee to foreign residents exemption from Turkish jurisdiction. The British Vice-Consulate at Monastir was violated in 1910, and simultaneously the British Consular dragoman at Aleppo was imprisoned. The other foreign colonies have had similar experiences of ancient Turkish arrogance revived, the worst example being the incarceration and torture by the Constantinople police of an employé of the Hellenic Consulate. These episodes taken by themselves may be trivial, but viewed collectively they become portentously illuminating.
Equally instructive evidence of the real spirit that animates Young Turkey is offered by the manner in which the Young Turks have approached the second part of their task. At first there was among the revolutionary leaders a party which advocated the conciliation of the various races of the Empire by a frank recognition of their diversity. The programme of that party was to try to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of all nationalities so far as was compatible with the solidarity of the Empire, remembering that every nationality had its peculiar traditions and idiosyncrasies, and that it should be governed with a strict regard for them. What was true of the national was also true of the geographical elements of the Empire. The conditions of many provinces were quite peculiar and required special treatment based upon intimate knowledge. Decentralisation, adaptation of administrative methods to local needs, and a scrupulous respect for racial susceptibilities were the watchwords of that party. Unfortunately these moderate counsels were soon overridden by the views of the more ardent spirits. Blinded by national chauvinism, political inexperience, and in