Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

element at work in them; and, among others, to the committee at Saloniki some extraordinary power has been attributed. All these surmises, however, have been very exaggerated. The repatriated exiles and the patriots at home thus far hold closely together. Reactionary attempts like that of the half-demented Kor Ali (blind Ali), or of the Bond of the Extremists Fedakiaran (i.e. Ready for Sacrifice), under the leadership of Prince Sabah-ed-din, are not to be taken seriously, and will do no harm.

As long as the before-mentioned two sections of the Turkish patriots will work together in harmony and good understanding, there is no danger in store for a happy development of the nation. But as soon as the much-needed unity gives place to personal dissensions all hopes of a revival of Turkey will vanish at once. It is for this reason that the recent fall of Kiamil Pasha is to be highly regretted. I have enjoyed the favour of his personal acquaintance for many years, and I am sure there is no second to him in statesmanship, patriotism and purity of character. The Young Turks ought not to forget that the success of their revolution is greatly due to the co-operation of those liberal compatriots who remained at home, and that the young men who returned from exile uninitiated in the administration, in diplomacy and in nearly all the branches of public life could have hardly formed a government without the assistance of the leading liberal statesmen at home. The Young Turks, by forcing their way to the front, have already given cause for complaint on the part of many of the old civil servants, who say 'Patriotism alone does not qualify anybody for the post of a minister or ambassador.' This kind of bickering is as yet going on behind the scenes, but it might increase and endanger the situation.

The recollection of the terrible time of the reign of Absolutism is as yet too vivid, and the danger which threatens the life of the Ottoman Empire is too imminent, to allow of any party quarrels or private interests to be talked of. Young Turkdom and the Osman nation in general, realising their patriotic duties, ought yet for many years to come to work side by side for the accomplishment of their object. The question now is : Is the power of the constitutional Turks equal to their desire, and have they at their disposal the strength necessary for the realisation of their project? To this question I can reply with a most emphatic ‘Yes.' With the exception of a few foreign leading personalities—as, for instance, in the departments of Finance and Customs, in the Post Office, and the Marine-the Turkish State can have at its disposal the services of able, well-informed, and zealous officials, on the understanding that they are suitably and regularly paid, which has not been the case so far; and it is in consequence of this latter evil that officials have had to resort to extortion and distraint. The present-day Turk differs vastly from his ancestor in the first half of the past century, for of all his co-religionists in Asia and Africa he is by far the most accomplished and the most advanced in our culture.

The modernisation of the schools dates back thirty years; the present generation gives distinct proofs of a modern turn of mind, and now, since the régime of liberty and patriotism has been gradually transforming the Oriental character, we are justified in expecting that the canker which undermined the Turkish administration will soon be removed, and with the rejuvenescence of the factors of the administrative body the State itself will also become young again. It certainly seems too bold an undertaking if we persist that the familiar dark side of Asiatic nature, the outcome of many centuries of despotic rule, is suddenly to be transformed with the commencement of the reign of liberty and progress. Negligence, laziness, and weak morality cannot all at once give place to conscientiousness, zeal, and integrity. The leaders of the present movement are comparatively few in number, and great is the company of those who need enlightenment and culture. But if our rulers really desire to show Young Turkey the sympathy which they profess to feel for them, they must before all things show patience, indulgence, forbearance. The conditions in Turkey cannot be changed in a moment. An entire nation can only by slow degrees pass from one form of culture into another, and, however gifted and desirous they may be, they can only go over the road step by step. All extravagant expectations are vain and unprofitable. Turkey will need at least two decades to accomplish the transformation which Europe looks for at the hand of Young Turkdom. Absolute peace and quietness are, of course, a first necessity for bringing the work of reform to a satisfactory conclusion, and since the peace and quietness of the Near East depend mainly on the attitude of the European Powers, the success or the failure of the constitutional movement in Turkey rests in reality with our European Cabinets. If the Near East is to continue to be what it has been for the last three hundred years—the wrestling-ground for the intrigues of the diplomatic West; if by continuous and useless interferonce disorder is caused in the still loose joints of the constitutional structure ; or if by forwarding individual interests the seed of discord is sown afresh and the work of reformation impeded—then all our hope for better things will end in delusion.

If to-day all Western Europe rejoices with the Turks and congratulates them on the successes achieved by them, it must be remembered that what has been attained can only be profitably applied if we help the brave Turkish people in their struggle by every means at out disposal, instead of taking from under their feet the very basis of true progress and development by our everlasting fight for precedence. It has now to be proved in good earnest whether it is our intention to keep alive in the Near East the constant fear of a universal conflagration, or whether we mean to banish from our political horizon the dreaded phantom which already has caused so much trouble and harm. Now is the decisive moment, and now it will be shown whether Europe is for peace or for war.

As matters stand to-day, any inimical bearing against Turkey is almost everywhere excluded. Even Russia, the historical enemy of the Ottoman Empire, betrays friendly feelings and is ready to support the new constitutional era. How long this favourable situation will last, nobody knows. It is, however, necessary to prevent any too sanguine expectations concerning the present period of transition in Turkey. We have but to remember the high-going tide of sympathy for Turkey before and during the Crimean War, when David Urquhart published his Spirit of the East, and to bear in mind the utter disappointment which resulted from finding that Turkey did not become at once civilised. Public opinion fell from one extremity into another, and it is in order to forestall any unjust criticism that the foregoing lines have been written.

A. VAMBÉRY. The University, Budapest,

1909

INDIA REVISITED

HAVING within the last few months revisited the scenes of my labours in India, after a lapse of some years, I am perhaps in a fair position to note the political changes which have happened quite recently.

On the whole, I am surprised that the present unrest, which has only lately taken active shape, has not so far succeeded in touching the masses. Surprised, because at its head (especially in Bengal) are undoubtedly clever men, some of whom—but only a few—are genuinely working for the upsetting of the existing Government. And it might be assumed, in these circumstances, that the first step of the Irreconcilables would have been to wound us deeply in our pockets and in our means of resistance. To touch our pockets the milch cow must be persuaded to refuse supplies. In other words, the payer of land revenue must adopt a no-rent programme. Were this to happen on a large scale in any one province, our difficulties would indeed be great. It was attempted last year in one of the northern districts of the Punjab, but was stopped in time by the energetic action of the local magistrate, who promptly put the ringleaders into gaol. And if, at the same time, our sepoys were made to believe in unfair dealing on the part of the Government, and that they were going against the interest of their own class in serving us, then indeed our position would be precarious. The sepoy has been preached to by the extremists, but so far without result. He is usually a small landowner, or has some interest in the soil, and rarely (as in our British Army) is he the product of the towns. So we must rest our peaceful occupation of India upon the peasant who pays the taxes and upon his brother or son who shoulders the musket. When these fail us we have to fall back upon Thomas Atkins for the restoration of order ; and blood is shed in the accomplishment of this.

I may at the outset record my belief that neither the peasant nor the sepoy has so far been 'got at’ by the Irreconcilables on any scale worth discussing. One reason is that the leaders are not men of such social position as would tempt the agriculturist to risk the substance in following them. They have nothing to offer which would improve the lot of the zamindars. These latter (when they give themselves the trouble to think the matter over) know that whether it is SelfGovernment or British Government the land must be taxed, and it would be hard to convince them that a lowering of their taxes would follow the lowering of the British Flag. They are astute enough to perceive this, in spite of the poison poured into their ears from the mouths of the village schoolmasters, interpreters of the farthing newspapers which circulate everywhere at specially reduced postage rates. My belief is that the land masses will only listen to a cry which affects their religion, be it Hindu or Mohammedan. They have dotted everywhere in their midst little tracts of foreign territory in the form of native States, and in these the land is taxed far more heavily than in neighbouring British possessions. And it will take much to persuade them that the Bengali editor or Punjab barrister-atlaw, proclaimed Badsha, would take less freely than even the existing Indian rajah. I remember a few years back an instance in point. The British revenue assessor had decreed an increase in the taxation of a certain rich tract, and the people demurred. “Well,' said the assessor, ‘ it so happens that the Rajah of —- is prepared to take over

“ your villages in exchange for some lands of his which it will suit us to acquire. So, if you are not satisfied with my assessment, I will recommend Government to sanction this exchange.' To which the villagers replied : 'We will pay anything you please, but, for God's sake, don't make us subjects of the Rajah.' Now, in this particular case the native State in question was admirably administered, and there was no apparent reason why the people concerned should have objected to a transfer of masters, except that the land tax was lighter under British rule and the administration of justice a trifle more efficient. I give the incident in support of my belief that on general grounds the peasants are not anxious to see the British at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. We have our faults and we commit mistakes, but on the whole our efforts for their improvement are appreciated by the people, and I feel certain they prefer us as rulers to the rule of their own educated classes. It was one of my daily duties for many years to receive petitions and distribute them among a subordinate staff for inquiry. And a week seldom passed without the cry : 'Let my petition go to any sahib you please, but not to a native magistrate.' In recording this I merely wish to state a fact which every official in India is cognisant of, namely that the Indian as a rule has great faith in the impartiality of the Englishman. I have no desire to belittle the services of the Indian judges and magistrates, the great majority of whom are to-day upright, honourable, intelligent and laborious. That I fully believe this, will be shown by proposals for the advancement of Indian officials I shall have to make later on. I must repeat, there is a halo surrounding the 'sahib' which secures for his decisions-even when wrong--a higher respect, which does

— well-deserved credit to the members of the Civil Service generallyone of the purest and most devoted services in the world.

And yet,

a

« VorigeDoorgaan »