« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
although weighty it is true, are few in comparison with the matter obviously borrowed from the Old and New Testaments. The Jewish and Christian religions are the foundation-stones of Mahometanism, and they are solid, however small and weak the edifice may be which the impostor raised upon
them. There exist already divisions and a class of sceptics in the very
heart of Islam, and the Mahometan faith, as it descended from its Ishmaelitish institutors, and as it was propagated by the Prophet's sword, now meets with many a doubtful consent. For besides the number of recusants which must exist in every faith from the profligate attempts to adapt religion to inclination, another and somewhat more respectable scepticism has arisen, as many serious thinkers among them begin to ask the question, how a future sensual recompence can be awarded to spiritual virtue in this life, and how the purity, which deserves reward hereafter, shall only obtain there what it was considered a duty to shun here, and what the very success of self-denial renders tasteless. Here we have a step to a great reformation, especially in a belief which admits the immortality of the soul, and the benevolent character of the Divinity, as axioms. But the misfortune is that the Church of Christ should not be represented in these countries by a worthier branch than the Eastern Church is.
The superstition of the ignorant classes, the worship of saints, and adoration of the Panagia, or Virgin Mary, are so repulsive to the Turk, and so discordant with his ideas of the dead, and his contempt for the weaker sex, that the Greek Church, with her processions, relics, and other mummeries, disgusts him with these ostensible features of Christianity. With the Greek, as with the Romanist, it is not the Almighty or the Saviour so much as the Virgin that occupies the chief place in their devotions, and it is not in the nature of the Turk to feel any sympathy with the worshippers of a woman, but rather will he despise both the adorer and the adored. The state of the clergy also, whose corruption, vices, ignorance, and venality are well known to him, makes the true faith disreputable in the eyes of the Turk. Nevertheless, the reformation of Mahometanism may not be so remote a consummation as is usually supposed ; but the frequent diplomatic notes and political manifestoes, which have inundated the East in the negotiations of the present century, are little likely to forward religious conversion. Let these rather insist upon the social equalisation of the Ottoman subjects, and upon the adoption of complete religious tolerance to be strictly enforced, and then the fall of the Prophet may be reasonably contemplated; but, as matters now stand, the Turks will not change, and the Greeks cannot. Their present relative position, however, is beyond the power of diplomacy much longer to protract; England may strive to prop up the crumbling fabric of Ottoman despotism, and she may lengthen the agony of the dying monster, but she cannot restore it to health and vigour. The absolute sway of the sultan must and will fall ; his ejection from Europe is a vision ; let his stay, therefore, be made beneficial to the population which he governs, and at the same time advantageous to his allies in a higher degree than it now is. If the latter persist in attempting to uphold his present system of government, some untoward and unexpected abruption will sooner or later ensue ; limb after limb will be severed from the feeble and diseased carcase, and the only effect which the
friendly hand of England will be found to have produced will be but to have added convulsions to the pain of each amputation.
According to the cant of political speculators, “ the balance of power and equilibrium of European states” will be sustained at the expense of much suffering in the mean time on the part of the unhappy population, and then will come the storm of rebellion and bloodshed, the violence of general disorganisation, and absolute uncertainty of the final result, which will thus make the scale kick the beam.
The Koran, besides prescribing the religious faith, lays down also a political constitution, a code of laws, and even a system of administration to be observed, while the unity of the whole gives to each of the several component principles thus blended together a degree of extrinsic weight above the real strength of any civil organisation which is not so intimately connected with a religious doctrine. Traditions also, which descend from generation to generation among the Turks, with inviolable consistency, invest their customs with the sanction of long duration and tried expediency, in their own eyes at least, if not in those of others; and to this peculiar trait of the people is the stability of their internal administration much indebted. Though not by any means the less respected, most of their institutions are now notoriously behind the state of the motley population; and though their manners and ideas seem to differ so little from what they are represented to have been in the time of Besbequius and other early writers, those of the Christian population have altered so much as to produce an absolute incongruity.
The system of taxation, for instance, in Turkey, derives its origin from the practice of the Arabs. It consists in a gross contribution imposed on the municipalities, who have the power of apportioning the amount among themselves, thus essentially forming a direct assessment; and each community, whatever be its sect, tribe, or social position, collects this aggregate sum fixed upon them by the general administration in the manner which it may prefer. The oppression here is in the amount, and the system could not be complained of, did it never exceed the just proportion.
Mr. Urquhart, who is the advocate of the Ottoman principles of government, and seems to be thoroughly versed in all its details, considers this to be the secret link which holds the heterogeneous mass together ; he thinks, also, that the contrary system is the source of all the evils which are occasioned by the taxation of so-called civilised nations. But the fiscal scheme of the Turks has the disadvantage of taxing improvement, by increasing in proportion as the power of contributing angments; and it is also too arbitrary for an unsettled state of affairs, such as generally exists in Turkey.
The administration of justice is likewise intrusted to the different communities of which the population consists, the Osmanlis being judged by their Cadis, the Greeks by their Patriarch, the Armenians by their Synode, foreigners or Franks by their Consuls, and the Jews by their Rabbis. At the same time, all litigants, of whatever nation or religion they may be, have the right of appeal to the Turkish judicial authorities. This, however, is rarely practised except by the rich, who may have been outsuited by a poor antagonist, for then the venality of the judge turns the scale ; whereas, justice being in the market, the competition excludes the needy appellant from this last resource of the law. It is also easy to produce evidence before a Turkish judge to convince him either way, if
it should happen that his opinion is not to be bought ; and as the pecuniary means are rarely on the side of the Greek, he generally prefers abiding by the decision of his own tribunal.
Moreover, it is a matter of religious duty with the Christian in Turkey to suffer wrong rather than refer to the arbitration of the “ Unbelievers," as St. Paul himself enjoins in his first Epistle to the Corinthians; and the Greeks so interpret the rule as to make it obligatory on their church. In this manner the contact between the various constituent parts of the population is avoided, and the proof of its working is, that, however unjust and imperfect may be the social relations of the different races here enjoined, they are not the less preserved even without the aid and support of a common system of police.
These are, without doubt, remarkable peculiarities; and were the other institutions of European Turkey similar to the system of assessment and administration of civil justice, the problem might be nearly solved. Their criminal jurisprudence, however, is far from being fit to be held up for imitation, for here the benevolent principle of giving to the accused the benefit of
may arise in the trial as to his culpability is reversed. The Turks laugh at this scrupulous practice; and although guilt cannot be proved, if the prisoner's innocence is not beyond a doubt, he is at once executed-upon the principle that it is better that any number of men should be put to death, than that a real culprit should ever escape punishment. The practice of the pashas in the provinces, however, seems widely to differ from that of the law-courts in the metropolis, where proceedings appear now to be more reasonably conducted.
The mode of leasehold tenure of land between the Greeks and the Turks is generally on the basis of partnership ; the former being invariably the tenants, and the latter the landlords. In some points it resembles the feudal practice of the middle ages--the oxen, seed, and implements belonging to the landlord, and a proportion of the produce, generally equivalent to one-third, is the share of the cultivator, in lieu of his labour. But it has to be borne in mind, in considering this state of the agricultural classes of European Turkey, that the Greek peasant, who thus tills the land of a Mahometan proprietor, may still be working in the fields that belonged to his own family; for, in many instances, the cultivators have remained as tenants on the soil which they formerly farmed as owners, and that without having ever received any price or compensation for the loss of their property. The appropriation by the Turks was rarely effected by any other means than that of usurpation; sometimes glossed over by the semblance of a confiscation, on account of some pretended act of felony, or of a seizure of a mortgage on debt, of which no account is given ; but a fair bonâ fide purchase of land by Turks from Greeks is almost unprecedented. Much property had been obtained possession of by the pasha, by imposing assessments on the villages which they had not the means of defraying; and the alternative left to the inhabitants possessing property was imprisonment and torture, or a declaration that their lands were “ Tchiftliks," which constitutes a voluntary renunciation of their right to the soil
, and the acceptance of a moiety of the produce in payment for cultivation.
Ali Pasha of Jannina had taken possession in this manner of immense tracts of property, which, at his death, fell to the crown; and the pro
duce of these lands now forms the principal revenue of the Turkish government in Albania. On one occasion Ali wished to send a pilgrim to Mecca, and the conscientious scruples of a common cadi prevented the execution of his design, which is considered by Mahometans to be an act of devotion little inferior to that of going in person, but Ali was moved to it by the additional incitement of his mother having enjoined it in her will. The law prescribes that the expense proxy
shall be met by the sale of a portion of the lands of the sender, in order that a positive sacrifice may be made in accomplishing such a vow. Now the tenure of all the property which was virtually owned by Ali Pasha was so bad, that the cadi declared he did not possess sufficient lands with a legitimate title to cover with their price the outlay required. So that the powerful and wealthy pasha was obliged to give up his holy intention for want of the pecuniary means, although his excessive avarice devised, and had recourse to, every lawful and unlawful expedient for extortion and confiscation.
He was even prompted by his insatiable thirst of gold to enter into engagements with astrologers, and to fit up a laboratory, for the purpose of labouring in search of the philosopher's stone and of the elixir vitæ ; as he aimed at the attainment of immortality as well as great wealth. They did not satisfy his wish on either point; but he was, nevertheless, immensely wealthy, and lived to the age of eighty-two, when his head was sent to Constantinople by desire of Sultan Machmoud. These alchemists, however, were kept at work during five years, and, as they had not succeeded, he had their heads cut off, and their utensils thrown away.
The cruelty of Ali Pasha gives a sufficient demonstration of the evils the people are exposed to in Turkey, where the character of their immediate governor
is prone to such excesses. This noted Tissaphernes of Albania was in the habit of saying that his mind and genius resembled those of Napoleon Bonaparte; but the accounts of him which have been authenticated would rather suggest a comparison with Nero. He certainly was, like both of those emperors, one of the most remarkable characters of his aye ; and, according to his own assertion, he was the second of his race who had raised himself to power, as he traced his descent from the great Albanian conqueror, George Castriot, better known by the name of Scanderbeg, and styled by himself Prince of Epirus. The atrocities and enormities which Ali Pasha committed baffle all description; for, not satisfied with the power of arbitrarily disposing of human life, without further trial and judgment than the report of the accuser, he was in the habit of adding to the pains of death the most excruciating tortures. And, indeed, most of the pashas still regulate the grade of suffering which is inflicted at the execution of the condemned. One public proof of this still existed at Jannina, not many years since, in an elevated log of wood covered with sharp iron hooks, which occupied a conspicuous position in the town.
On this most barbarous instrument of torture, criminals, real or supposed, were Aung naked, to suffer a lingering death ; enduring often to the second or third day before a period was put to their agony. This infamous scaffold was removed by the worthy Mustapha Pasha, who subsequently governed the province; and, to his infinite credit also, he much modified the previous practice in Albania in respect to executions and tor
tures. Mustapha was a man of a mild and humane disposition, and the pashalik, which was fortunate enough to be intrusted to his charge, was, for the time, relieved from the general pressure of the barbarous tyranny of the Turks ; but such are rare exceptions.
An instance of the atrocious ferocity displayed by Turkish authorities, in the torturing of unhappy victims against whom little, if any, cause of guilt can be shown, took place at Salonika. Such cases have now ceased to be so frequent in the capital, and travellers thence infer that they have become obsolete in Turkey; but in the provinces it is different, for events like the following are there of not unfrequent occurrence, and they speak for themselves. The wife of a Moslem officer had been murdered, with her two children and her niece, during the night, but no trace was found to lead to the discovery of the assassins.
The pasha recurred, without hesitation, to the unwarrantable expedient of putting to torture the whole of the Greek inhabitants of the street where the crime had been committed. These unfortunate wretches, as little cognisant of the murder as the pasha himself, were chained by the neck in an upright posture, so as to prevent their changing their attitude without hanging themselves. For twelve days, under this infliction, they persisted in denying any guilt, and a new torture was resorted to. Heated iron collars were put round their necks, although, unfortunately for them, neither hot enough nor tight enough to produce death by burning the arteries of the neck ; they were then laid on their backs, and charcoal fires lit on their bare chests; their temples were compressed with_screws; and they were pricked with red-hot needles. At length the English consul, having been apprised of these detestable barbarities, remonstrated with Mustapha Pasha, then Vizier of Jannina, and the superior of the brutal pasha who had ordered these horrors ; his interference prevailed, and the wretched sufferers were released. But this result was entirely owing to the fortunate circumstance of the governor being such a man as Mustapha, whose philanthropic character and kind disposition are almost unique in Turkey.
Captain Best, in his tour, illustrates the terror which the Turks inspire among the Greek rayahs, by an anecdote quite in accordance with the state of feeling in the provinces, and the hardships which occasion it. A poor woman in the village of Kidros had with some reluctance admitted him into her cottage, and, on discovering that he was not a Turk, exclaimed, “ We should not have been afraid of
had we known who you were : you are Christians and friends; but, fearing you might be Turks, we were cautious ; for when they come to our village, they take forcible possession of our houses, turn us out, eat up all our food, kill our poultry, seize upon whatever we possess, and then pay us by beating our men and illtreating our females.” Another English tourist, Mr. Jones, notices the fact of a woman dangerously ill of fever being thus turned out of her cottage in the night by his Turkish guide, in spite of his remonstrances in her favour,—and this took place at Petzali, near Jannina.
Such treatment as this must rouse the spirit of the most pacific nation; and in the breast of the Greek the desire of revenge burns like a volcano. Even the love of their native land, in them so peculiarly strong, as in most mountain races, is counterbalanced by their aversion to the Turkish domination; and the conterminous countries, such as Greece