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CHAPTER XV.
Political state of Turkey—General observations.

HAVING now laid bare the weak points of the Turkish Government, it is but just that we should point out those that are deserving praise, and which have had their effect in holding together an empire that has already withstood so many shocks, internal and external.

At a very early epoch, the Princes of the house of Othman, aware of the tendencies of its Slavonian subjects towards a patriarchal form of government, with great foresight divided the provinces of European Turkey into several principalities, curtailing those that were extensive, and reviving the names of others which had by lapse of time become merged in the state of some powerful Kral. Each of these petty states was allowed to elect its own Kodji-Bachi, and to govern itself under the jurisdiction of Mahometan Beys, Spahis and a Pacha. The Beys and Spahis, a species of national guard, received for their pay a tenth of the produce of the soil, and the Pacha, as the Sultan's lieutenant, had also his allotted taxes, and was the principal chieftain of the district; the people were contented and prosperous; the taxes were punctually paid, without any expense of collecting to the government; at the same time, the empire, with such an immense military force at its command, was respected at home and feared abroad: to this succeeded religious persecution, the rapacity of Pachas, Beys and Spahis, and every abuse of power in the form of a military despotism, till the reign of the late Sultan Mahmoud. Notwithstanding this long series of misrule, the Rayah held possession of the soil, and though he is still excluded from all political rights, and exposed to many humiliations as a member of the despised creed, he enjoys a certain degree of freedom which places him in a position far superior to that of the peasants in some other countries of Europe. If his lands are not fertile, or he is discontented with the exactions of the authorities, or from any other cause, he is at liberty to dispose of his rights in the land, together with any improvements he may have introduced, and emigrate to some other province or district,

which opens a fairer prospect; besides, he enjoys a certain independence so long as he remains with his tribe. In fact the Government of the Sultan may be considered an anomaly—the complete antithesis of our governments of Western Europe—a pure despotism modified by republican institutions, as we see exemplified in the communal privileges of the people, both Rayah and Mussulman, and the absence of all hereditary rank and property. The laws, which are not burdened with those endless forms and technicalities so favourable to those who live by them, are framed with a strict regard to the principles of justice. The Government of the Sultan is also mild and paternal wherever we find it equitably administered. For instance, in collecting the taxes, moderation and justice are displayed towards the husbandman—if his crops are consumed by a flight of locusts, or destroyed by the elements, or any other cause which could not be controlled, neither the Pacha, the Spahi, nor the tax-collector can proceed to seize, in liquidation of their claims, his house, household furniture, or agricultural implements; the law expressly forbidding that any subject of the Ottoman empire should be made destitute, whether the debt is due to the Government or private individuals. The law is equally just with regard to the property of women, which can in no single instance be confiscated either for the debts or the crimes of her husband, even high treason does not form an exception—the Koran wisely enunciating it as a principle, that as woman cannot control the self-will of man, neither was it equitable she should suffer for his delinquencies. We have not space at present to go into more minute details respecting the Turkish laws, which appear to have been founded on the precepts of Mahomet, and on those of Ghengis-Khan. The Prophet seems to have entertained a great dislike for hired advocates, since his judicial code contains the following advice to his disciples. “My children, in every legal process, avoid, as you would the evil eye, employing the services of an advocate. He is a man of cunning, an adept in artifice and sophism; for the peace of social life, the paid counsellor must be banished from the land. Let the Cadi be your judge, and your advocates sworn witnesses, not less than two— the process is prompt and inexpensive, and with a righteous judge you will obtain the same justice as if you had employed a professional advocate.” The laws of Mahomet contain much of plain practical wisdom, and if the judges who enforced them were impartial, there would be little cause for dissatisfaction; but where the executive is feeble, as is the case with the Ottoman Porte, its laws are necessarily badly administered, which gives rise to many subjects of com

plaint—the venality of the judges—the rapacity of the authorities—the prejudice of castes—religious fanaticism —irregular taxation—all these causes, single and combined, concur to press heavily on the Rayah; as his labour must provide funds to meet every demand, at the same time they have created great discontent. In a country where the unlettered son of a cobbler is eligible to the office of a Pacha or Vizier, according to the caprice of the sovereign, or the influence of bribery; a change in the authorities only adds to the evil, by substituting a poor man for a rich one, who must have recourse to extortion to support his new dignity. If the Rayah has any just ground of complaint and appeals to the Divan, he will it is true, find speedy redress; and in cases of extreme violence, the offending dignitary is punished by the loss of his place, and degraded to his former rank; but woe to the Rayah and his tribe who may have caused the deposition of a Mahometan official, his successor is certain to avenge it in a thousand ways without offending against the laws. This state of things cannot endure, an aristocracy composed of hungry officials, is one of the greatest curses that can be inflicted upon a country, and most assuredly has principally contributed to the decadence of the Turkish empire, since it has given rise to every description of the most infamous bribery and corruption. If the power of the Sultan is ever to be placed upon a

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