THERE is no country in Europe which at the present time possesses greater interest for Englishmen than does the Kingdom of Roumania, and there is none with whose present state and past history, nay, with whose very geographical position, they are less familiar.
Only about nine years since Consul-General Green, the British representative there, reported to his Government as follows : ' Ignorance seems to extend even to the geographical position of Bucharest. It is not surprising that letters directed to the Roumanian capital should sometimes travel to India in search. of Bokhara, but there can be no excuse for the issue of a writ of summons by one of the superior law courts of the British metropolis, directed to Bucharest in the Kingdom of Egypt, as I have known to happen.' The reader may perhaps attribute such mistakes as these to our insular ignorance of geography, or to the fact that the proverbial blindness of justice prevented her from consulting the map before issuing her process; but the fact remains, that notwithstanding the occurrence of a great war subsequent to the date above specified, which completely changed the map of Europe, wherein Roumania took a very prominent part and England assisted at the settlement, there are few intelligent readers in this country who could say oft=hand where precisely Roumania is situated.
And yet, as already remarked, the country possesses an absorbing interest for us as a nation. Placed, to a large extent through English instrumentality, as an independent kingdom, of daily increasing influence, between Russia and Turkey, for whom she served for centuries as a bone of contention, she is now a formidable barrier against the aggressions of the stronger power upon her weaker neighbour, and it is satisfactory to reflect that, so far, the blood and money of England have not flowed in vain. Then, again, the question of the free -navigation of the great stream that serves as her southern boundary is at present occupying the serious consideration of many leading European statesmen, and the ` solution of the Danubian difficulty will materially affect our trade with the whole of Eastern Europe ; whilst the peaceable creation of a peasant proprietary in Roumania about sixteen years since, and the advantages which have accrued to her from this social and political reform, present features of peculiar interest for those who favour the establishment of a similar class of landholders in Ireland.
In treating of these two questions, I have laboured under the great disadvantage of not being able to follow current events. It is understood that the Danubian difficulty will be settled on the plan, referred to in the text, suggested by Austria for her own advantage, with certain modifications, having for their object the limitation of her preponderance. My readers will be able to judge for themselves, after reading the brief review of the question, and the references to our own commercial relations with the countries bordering on the Danube in the third and fifth chapters, whether such I a settlement is likely to be final. For myself I cannot believe that any solution will be permanently satisfactory which interferes with the jurisdiction of Roumania in her own waters.
As to the land question, it calls up some awkward reflections when its history is contrasted with recent and passing events in Ireland. So long as the conquerors in Roumania endeavoured to solve the problem, their efforts were unavailing. At the Convention of Balta-Liman between Russia and Turkey, where 'coercion' was coupled with 'remedial measures,' an ineffectual attempt was made to ameliorate the wretched condition of the peasantry on the old lines of feudalism; but it was not until the country became autonomous and the legitimate representatives of the people took the matter in hand, that an efficient remedy was applied. Then, as the reader will find detailed in the following pages,1 more than four hundred thousand heads of families amongst the peasantry came into peaceful possession of a large proportion of the land on equitable terms ; and whilst the industrious agriculturist is now daily acquiring a more considerable interest in the soil, the landlords, who were merely drawing a revenue from the labour expended upon it by others, are gradually disappearing. That the prosperity and stability of the country have increased through the change is shown in many ways, but more especially by the enhanced value of Roumanian. Government securities, of which I have been able to append a, short statement in contrast with those of Russia and Turkey.2 What has occurred and is passing in Ireland the reader not be told here. Possibly the consideration of the Roumanian land question may have given a bias to my views the whole subject, and the excited state of the public causes me to hesitate in the expression of an opinion which may appear to be dogmatic. Still, looking at all the circumstances-at the partial resemblance between the former condition of Roumania and the present state of Ireland, at the past history of Irish reforms (such as the abolition of the Irish Church), at the rising land agitation on this side of the Channel, and at the recent recommendation of the Canadian Parliament that autonomy should be extended to Ireland -I have been able to arrive at no other conclusion than that the measures at present before Parliament may bring temporary relief to the peasantry, and temporary, nay let us hope permanent pacification, but that the question will be reopened, coupled probably with that of `Home Rule,' and that at no distant period.
There are many other circumstances which warrant us in seeking to obtain a better knowledge of Roumania, but these were the chief considerations which induced me last year to visit the country and some of its leading institutions, and to collect the materials which I now venture in the following pages to lay before my readers.
No one knows so well as I do how imperfectly my task has been performed, nor the difficulties with which it has been surrounded, and there are one or two matters of which I should like to unburden myself to the reader. He will probably enquire why I have put the cart before the horse giving a sketch of the present condition of the country before treating of its past history. The answer is that it was not originally my intention to deal with the latter at any length but when I came to read and study the works which have appeared on the subject in French and German (of which a tolerably full list is appended to this treatise), so many topics of interest presented themselves for the historical student that I determined to publish a connected history of the country however imperfect it might be, from the earliest times down to the present day. And in this I was farther encouraged by the fact that the attempt has not yet been made in English, excepting in a very perfunctory manner in Consul Wilkinson's work, published by Longmans in 1820, which is now quite out of date. That such a review of Roumanian history condensed as it necessarily is, was sure to be considered very dry by many readers, seemed to be certain ; I therefore placed it after the description of the country as it exists to-day, and for those readers the perusal of the last chapter of that part of the work, dealing with the notabilities of the day, will probably suffice. But I believe that some matters relating to the Roman conquest of Dacia, the character and movements of the barbarians (of which I have prepared and appended a tabular statement), the subsequent history of the country, its struggles for freedom, and the condition of the inhabitants at various periods, will be new to the general student of history and sociology, and if my share has been badly done, it need not prevent him from prosecuting enquiries, for which he will find ample materials in the works of the continental writers to whom I have referred. As regards the controverter questions of the descent of the modern Roumanians and the Foundation of the Principalities, I would direct his attention more especially to the recent publications of Roesler and Pic, the first an Austrian and the second a Slav writer, where he will find those subjects fully and warmly debated.
The only other matter on which I desire to give an explanation is my reason for not entering more minutely into what is palled ` the Eastern Question,' nor attempting, other authors have done, to predict the future relations of Roumania in regard to it. An American humourist has said, `Never prophesy unless you know,' and many a writer on Roumania must wish that he had refrained from dealing with probabilities, or from prognosticating the coming events of history. The future of the East depends upon a variety of divergent considerations : upon the relations of the Government of Russia with its people; the course of events in the newly acquired provinces of Austria, and the delicate relations between Austria and Hungary; the future action of the Prince and people of Bulgaria, the former of whom is at present under Russian influence; upon the growing power and influence of Greece; and, lastly, upon the possible, but not probable, regeneration of Turkey. And without speaking for others, I should feel it presumptuous, under the circumstances, to deal in prophecies.
As to the best policy for Great Britain, however, that is perfectly clear, and may be summed up in a short sentence. It is to facilitate, by pacific means, the solution of every difficulty and problem as it arises, and wherever it is possible, through our influence, to support and encourage constitutional government against autocracy and despotism. This we can do with great advantage in our relations with Roumania, and it will be a source of much gratification to me if the information which I have here attempted to disseminate should have the slightest tendency in that direction.1 Chapter vi. and Appendix IV.
2 P. 270, note.
JAMES SAMUELSON, CLAUGHTON, BIRKENHEAD: April 20, 1882.
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