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Turkey, if left to the unaided ignorance of government after the old system, will be a running sore, weakening the entire body of the civilised world. Something must be done in the early future; and to do it well requires thought in the present. Action without knowledge is the evil; and the knowledge must be collected and arranged in a useful form now in order to be available at the earliest moment, when the application of it is needed.
I am well aware how little claim I have to speak on the subject. It lies out of the line of my proper studies, but the general facts of the situation have been deeply impressed upon me in casual experience during thirtyfive years of wandering in the country. It is, however, difficult to find trustworthy and detailed information about the growth of the evils that afflict the ordinary peasantry in Asiatic Turkey; and this difficulty prevents one from being able to speak with full knowledge. The facts are not recorded in any collected and useful form. Many persons of long experience in Turkey, whom I have consulted, have emphatically confirmed the views here stated about the Moslem agricultural population, but all declare that no documentary evidence bearing on the subject is known to them.
Every traveller and almost every European resident in Turkey has acquired a strong liking for the Anatolian peasant. Many who hate the Turkish rule will readily confess their love for the villager, their gratitude for his hospitality and kindliness, their admiration for his simplicity and courage. It is to me a duty to make some practical return for the hospitality of many villages and individuals; but, to do any good, knowledge of the facts and the causes is needed; and where are we to look for knowledge? The histories are mainly filled with the great events, battles and treaties, assassinations and massacres, the fate of sultans and viziers; but I have looked in vain for any study of the facts regarding the fate of the cultivators of the soil and the keepers of the sheep and goats. I do not fancy that I am able to illuminate the subject, but at least I can write a plea on behalf of the common people, the humble, hardworking peasantry, whose lot even at the best would
appear intolerable in Great Britain; for it would be regarded as an outrage on society if the idlest and least deserving workman in our country were permitted to spend a week in circumstances such as the mass of the ordinary Moslem population of Asiatic Turkey experience throughout their whole life. I write on their behalf, and attempt to bespeak for them some consideration in the coming settlement of Western Asia. They have never attracted the attention or weighed for a moment in the consideration of diplomatists and ambassadors. These are interested mainly or solely in sultans and ministers and the wealthier classes. They never come in contact with the peasantry; they seem to be hardly aware of their existence; they are concerned with supporting the established system of government and the ruling dynasty.
The self-righting power of the East, which has effected the salvation of Asia in former time by sweeping away every effete dynasty after it has ceased to possess vigour enough to thrive, has been interfered with by European diplomatists and ambassadors, who seek for some recognised authority to deal with. Diplomatic attention is inevitably and necessarily directed towards the continuous web of wiles and guile and stratagem and conspiracies and intrigues which make up the life of an Oriental government; and the ambassadors accredited to it usually find it so difficult to get hold of the truth under the false appearances which float on the surface of affairs that they gladly acquiesce in the one continuing fact amid the flux and change, namely, the permanence of the dynasty. Enemies and friends of Turkey alike among the diplomatists-if there are any real friends of Turkey where all are in duty bound to forward the interests of their own countries-agree in supporting the established ruler. A change of dynasty in Asia is always accompanied with disorder, battle and bloodshed; and in the trouble some innocent outsiders frequently suffer. Diplomatists are confined to the walls of the embassy for a time, and look out only at some personal risk. It is all very unpleasant and disturbing, and therefore they avoid it. They rarely consider the fact that the happiness and the very life of the humbler population may depend on the success of a revolution
when a dynasty has become effete; and the best of them recognise, after long years of service in Constantinople, that their interest in the people as human beings and their powers of discovering and viewing sanely the needs of the people have become atrophied. In truth, if they had the impertinence to attempt to direct the attention of their own Foreign Offices to such considerations, they would be censured as meddling with affairs outside of their own province, and would be recalled to their proper sphere of duty or requested to leave the Service. To discover what is going on from day to day in Constantinople is very difficult; and the man whose business it is to find out must attend to that alone.
The state of the Turkish peasants has deteriorated steadily during the last century. The Moslems of Anatolia, who once probably numbered more than ten millions, were in a much better economic condition before Mahmud II (1808-1839) began to reorganise the Turkish Empire. He found the Empire, a loosely knit Oriental despotism, far advanced on the usual Asiatic path to dissolution, as the weakening fibre of successive monarchs was proving unfit to hold the dominions together, and no other bond of unification existed but the will and strong hand of the Sultan. The soldiers had become the arbiters of Turkish destiny. The provinces were drifting towards home rule (or independence, as it was called). There was no proper bureaucratic system, and administration depended largely on the personality of the chief minister (Grand Vizier). Mahmud set himself, as Shelley makes him say, 'to stem the torrent of descending time.' He massacred the Janissaries and broke the overgrown military power; he attempted to modernise Turkish administration by introducing European ways and a better articulated official system, which might be able to carry out more efficiently the will of the central authority; he fought hard to prevent Greece from achieving independence, and to hold Egypt in obedience; but he missed success in every enterprise, because the tide of history was strong and the moral quality of Turkey weak. Both he and his weaker successors, who continued the same policy, failed to make the natural Turk into a capable or trustworthy official. The Turks
illustrate the reason for the failure in a story which Sir William Whittall relates, and which I quote in order to exemplify the fashion whereby in Turkish society all explanations of political and social phenomena tend to take the form of anecdote. In story and fable the Anatolian popular mind has always expressed itself.
'In the reign of Sultan Selim a dispute arose between Russia and Turkey; and a certain Emin Effendi, reputed very clever, was chosen by the Sultan as his special envoy to settle the difficulty. He went to Petersburg, and was received there with great distinction by the Russians. Prince Orloff, the Foreign Minister, gave a banquet in his honour, and at its finish informed his guest that a Tatar had just arrived from Odessa bringing despatches, some of which were for His Excellency, and which he would have much pleasure in delivering to him with his own hands. The Prince summoned one of his aides-de-camp and instructed him: "Go to the Foreign Office, and in my private cabinet, in the left-hand drawer of my desk, of which this is the key, you will find a bundle of despatches, which bring me forthwith." After the aide-de-camp had saluted, Prince Orloff, looking at his watch and turning to Emin Effendi, said, "To show Your Excellency what regularity we are accustomed to in Europe, my aide-de-camp is now going down the staircase of my palace; he is now in the street; he has reached the Foreign Office; he is in my cabinet; he is now opening my drawer; he is now down the stairs, crossing the street, coming up my stairs; he is now at the door;" and just as he said this the aide-de-camp knocked at the door and presented the despatches. Emin Effendi was struck by this, and said to himself, "Why can't we Turks be as good as the giaours? Now, there is my kehaya (attendant), Hassan Aga. Why shouldn't I teach him to do as well?" And he at once set to work to teach him the punctual execution of orders. Meanwhile Emin Effendi's mission was satisfactorily concluded, and he was made Foreign Minister at Constantinople.
'Prince Orloff, having got into disgrace, was shipped off
I refer to the Turkish Stories and Reminiscences' printed at the end of his book 'Frederick the Great on Kingcraft' translated from the original manuscript in the possession of his family (Longmans, 1901). The authen ticity of the 'Matinées' is contested by the Germans, though the principles stated in them are strikingly illustrated in modern time, and the manuscript has a proved existence of more than a century: at any rate the value and interest of the Turkish stories is incontestable.
as Ambassador to Constantinople, so that the former host became now the guest. Emin Effendi, grateful for the attentions received from the Prince, gave a grand banquet in his honour, and after the banquet he thus addressed him: "Prince! His Imperial Majesty, my august master, has deigned to confer on you a snuff-box in brilliants. I shall have the honour of presenting it to you with my own hands"; and, clapping his hands, he called out, "Hassan Aga!" His attendant at once presented himself, "Buyuroum, I await your orders." Emin Effendi instructed him, "Go to the Foreign Office, into my cabinet, open the right-hand drawer of my desk with this key. In it you will find a red velvet box, which bring to me at once; and mind you, Hassan Aga, you are on your trial. Don't forget my year's drudgery in giving you lessons." "On my head be it," says Hassan Aga, and disappears. Emin Effendi then smilingly turns to the Prince, after taking his watch out, and says, "And to show you, Prince, that we, too, in this country have habits of regularity, my attendant is now going down the stairs, up the street, into the Foreign Office and my cabinet; he is now opening my drawer, taking the case out, returning, etc., and now he is at the door; " and he calls out "Hassan Aga!" and Hassan Aga jauntily steps in, which makes the Minister say to him, "Well done, my faithful son; you have learned my lessons." But suddenly he perceived that the velvet case was not in Hassan Aga's hand, and asked impatiently, " And where is the case?" Hassan Aga, as if it were a matter of course, replied, "Effendim, I couldn't find my papoutches (outer shoes)"-the fact being that he had not gone out at all, but was looking for his papoutches all the time.'
Mahmud, quite in the spirit of Emin Effendi, attempted to create a bureaucracy after the European fashion; and a certain small degree of success was attained very slowly during a century. Gradually there was created, mainly through the help of European teachers and sometimes of renegade Europeans, a poor imitation of the European system of control from a governing centre, which was imposed by slow stages on Asia Minor in place of the old system. The result was bad for the peasantry. Before the time of Mahmud and for decades afterwards, there were many powerful territorial families, known for the most part as the Dere-Beys ('Lords of the Valley'), who exercised real government over the Anatolian people. Their sway was generally easy, kind and slack. They