I am indebted to the friendship of THE AUTHOR OF THE ANNALS OF COMMERCE, for one of the chief improvements of this new edition, the map of the Turkish empire, which was composed, with the strictest appropriation for the work, by his eldest son, MR. WILLIAM WALAYS MACPHERSON.
The extent, the minuteness, and the accuracy of research which have been employed in its composition, will be obvious on comparing the map with any of those which have been hitherto published in this country. Respect for the memory of the author, whose early promise of excellence in his profession I have frequently witnessed, and whose death I deplore as a public loss, induces me to enumerate the authorities for the principal alterations.
The latitudes and longitudes of places are corrected throughout the whole map from the best and latest observations. It includes the Turkish empire both in Europe and in Asia, together with Hungary, Lower Egypt, and the frontiers of Russia.
The provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia, the frontiers of Russia, with Circassia and Georgia, are taken from the large map of Russia, lately published at St. Petersburg in a hundred sheets, which was lent to me for the purpose by MR. VAUGHAN, of All-Souls College, Oxford. The coasts of Albania and Dalmatia are much improved from the large Venetian chart. The coasts and islands of the Archipelago are from the best modern charts, and those of the Black Sea from the French and Russian observations.
A plan of the city of Constantinople and its environs also accompanies the work.
1 THE great number of books which have already been written on the government and institutions of the Turkish empire, seems to render superfluous any further attempt to elucidate the subject. The accounts of different authors are, however, so various and discordant that it appears no less difficult to reconcile, than impossible to credit, their relations.
Some travellers have avowedly neglected any research into the peculiar customs, manners, and opinions of the Turks, while others, less ingenuous, have observed them superficially and even falsely, have guessed at what they have not understood, and have described rather what they have imagined than what they have beheld.
2 The European provinces of Turkey, interesting as they are from their past celebrity and their actual importance, are, however, scarcely better known, except in the mere geographical outline, than the forests of America or the deserts of Africa. The foreign traveller, unfamiliarized with the manners, and unacquainted with the language, of the people whom he studies, can have only a distant view, or a transient glance, even of the most prominent features of his subject: his descriptions are necessarily hasty and imperfect, and, when compared with the original model, resemble rather the dreams of a diseased brain than the ideas treasured up in the memory from intelligent and minute investigation.
"He who tells nothing exceeding the bounds of probability, has a right to demand, that they should believe him who cannot contradict him." But while the traveller is allowed the exercise of so extensive a privilege, he becomes responsible, in 3 an equal degree, for any abuse of the authority with which he is invested. As I claim for my labours, in common with my predecessors in this career, the same indulgence, I have consequently hazarded assertions which can derive support only from a reliance on the veracity of the author. The remoteness of my subject from general observation, leaves, however, the right of censure or contradiction in so few hands that the reader is justified in with-holding his assent, until I adduce proof, that the means which I have possessed, and the circumstances in which I have been placed, have qualified me for the task which I have undertaken.
A residence of fourteen years in the British factory at Constantinople, and about fifteen months at Odessa on the coast of the Black Sea; occasional excursions to the provinces of Asia Minor and the islands of the Archipelago; a familiar intimacy with the most respectable of the foreign ministers and their 4 interpreters; a long and not unemployed leisure; and a knowledge of the languages of the country sufficient for the purposes of ordinary communication; must have furnished opportunities for original observation, and have enabled me to discriminate, with greater accuracy than the inexperienced reader, between the imaginary and the real in the relations of former writers.
For the general confirmation of these facts I may refer to gentlemen of rank and respectability, not only in this country, but on the Continent, and may presume with confidence, that His Majesty's ambassadors at the Porte, as well as the representatives of the Continental powers, who honoured me with their friendship in Turkey, will justify my appeal to their testimony.
The state of society in the capital of the Turkish empire is such, that a mere personal acquaintance is the necessary effect of the relative position of all classes of Europeans. 5 But I may boast of having obtained, and preserved uninterruptedly, the friendship of His Excellency Mr. Liston, of Sir Sidney Smith, and his brother and colleague in the embassy, Mr. Spencer Smith, of the Imperial Internuncio Baron Herbert Rathkeal, M. Van Dedem the Batavian ambassador, M. de Knoblesdorff the Prussian envoy, and M. Descorches (formerly Marquis de Sainte Croix) ambassador from the French republic. I have had the satisfaction of being personally acquainted with the most distinguished of the modern travellers in Turkey, and have been gratified by having it in my power to assist their inquiries, and to point out to their observation objects connected with their different pursuits. Some gentlemen have done me the honour to acknowledge, that they derived advantage from my communications; and I hope it will not be imputed to vanity, that I record with a melancholy satisfaction the last grateful expressions of a scholar whose heart glowed with every virtue, and whose mind was both 6 enriched by literature and enlarged by philosophy.
The name of TWEDDELL is dear to many who knew his worth: he distinguished himself at the university of Cambridge by the elegance of his genius: he had visited the northern courts, and had travelled over some of the most interesting countries of Europe: if he had lived to complete his tour, his name would have descended with honour to posterity: and although the materials which he left were dispersed and unconnected, those which remained were still sufficient, if collected and arranged by the hand of friendship, to form a monument which might rescue his memory from unmerited oblivion. He died at Athens, and was buried in the temple of Theseus. Three days before his death he wrote me the following letter, which I value from my respect for its amiable author, and preserve the more carefully as it is the last which he ever wrote.
8 Placed by circumstances in a country where the general appearances of nature, and more especially the general manners of the inhabitants, are so exceedingly different from those to which I had been familiarized, I was consequently led to observe, though without having formed any fixed design, the occurrences that were daily passing before me. General manners more particularly attracted my notice, whether from natural taste and the bent of preceding studies, or because, from the means which were in my power, I judged myself qualified to prosecute my inquiries in this department with greater prospect of success. I read the works of preceding travellers, who, by pointing out what chiefly merits attention, shorten the labour of observation: I selected from their writings such remarks as I found corresponding with the original model; and having thus ascertained their accuracy, I treasured them up in my own mind, and considered them as a legitimate augmentation of the stock of my own knowledge. Attached to no system, 9 having no hypothesis to defend, and being influenced neither by affection nor animosity, I merely accumulated observations and amassed ideas. I studied effects in their different relations without hastily inquiring after causes. It required a long familiarity with the usages of the country, and experience in the manners of the inhabitants, to be able to discriminate between what is genuine and habitual, and what is adventitious and adulterated. It was necessary to observe the same conduct in different persons, to compare it in its various operations, and to identify it under dissimilar circumstances, before incorporating it with that distinguishing mass of peculiar habits which constitute the national character, and from which particularities and individual features are to be excluded. In the possession of means, adequate to the accomplishment of the task which I had set to myself, consisted the superior advantage of my position over that of the cursory traveller, who must derive his information almost entirely from inquiry. 10 He has previously arranged a series of questions, and he writes down in his tablets such information as he is able to obtain, which must frequently he vague, incorrect, or exaggerated. In his eagerness for information he cannot expect to penetrate beyond the surface: the folds of the human heart cannot be developed by a transient glance; nor are the distinguishing characteristics of mankind written in a language which he who runneth may read.
While I acknowledge my obligations to those whose labours have removed the difficulties which perhaps would have wholly impeded, and certainly would have considerably retarded, my progress, I must however declare, that in almost all the writers who have preceded me in the description of Turkish manners, I discover partiality or prejudice, a redundancy or a dearth of information. I have observed, in some instances, that accuracy is sacrificed to the beauties of style, 11 and even to trifling conceits and absurd comparisons.
The European, attached to the peculiar usages of his own country, condemns whatever is irreconcileable with them. On the other hand the Turkish national historian, whose conceptions have never been enlarged by general study, has neglected to mark the nice discriminating traits of the Oriental character, has overlooked defects with which he was familiarized, and has even mistaken deformity for beauty.
In order to learn with precision, it was necessary to return to the state of childhood wherein every object that presents itself is a lesson, to gather together a comprehensive mass of information, to examine it with patience, to review it with care, and, as experience advanced, to reject whatever had been hastily adopted or only superficially surveyed. I read the human character, not through a verbal translation, but as depicted 12 by its own unequivocal expressions when acting free from restraint, unguarded by suspicion, unconscious of exposing itself to examination, and exhibiting alternately its different features, as they were alternately put in motion by the predominance of different passions.
Such were my means of acquiring information, and such my mode of employing them. The result of my observations I now submit to the judgment of an enlightened public. In the course of my work I have obtruded myself as seldom as possible on the notice of the reader. If I appear, it is to support assertions which rest on my sole authority, or to give authenticity to facts by vindicating the correctness of my own statements.
In representing foreign manners I have divested myself of national prejudices: in describing foreign religions I have not confronted them with the opinions and practices 13 of other sects or persuasions. I have endeavoured to avoid those expressions of malevolence which sully the pages of preceding Christian writers. I am not, however, conscious, that I have glossed over any error, concealed any absurdity, or misrepresented any dogma, practice, or ceremony. The doctrines of Islamism, founded as they are on the religion of nature and the revelations of both our scriptures, must necessarily possess a considerable portion of intrinsic worth; but this acknowledgment by no means implies respect for the artificial and heterogeneous superstructure which peculiarly constitutes Mahometanism.
I have contemplated my subject under the guidance of my own reason; but I trust, that it has seduced me into no error which can corrupt the heart or mislead the judgment. I flatter myself, that the reader will perceive, throughout my work, zeal in the cause of virtue, morality pure though not morose, respect for order in human society, 14 reverence for religious and civil institutions, and, above all, a love of liberty, the characteristical virtue of the nation to which I esteem it an honour to belong.
I am aware, that it may be said I have forfeited my title to indulgence by the severity with which I have animadverted on the writings of preceding travellers. I have perused some works in which not a single fact is justly stated, nor a single conclusion fairly deduced. I have said so without reserve or equivocation; but the accuracy of each of my assertions may be judged by the proofs which accompany it. I have expressed without reserve the feelings which have been excited by studied misrepresentations, by falsifications of which the author himself was conscious, and by arguments rendered specious in order to mislead; but if in any instance I have censured unjustly, if I have presumed to decide where I was unqualified to judge, if I have been actuated by any other motive than the love of truth, the severity of my 15 own remarks may justly be retorted with ten fold exacerbation. In some instances I may appear to have cut the Gordian knot by too unmasked a blow; but the fallacy of its artifice did not seem deserving of a more elaborate process of disentanglement. I have not sought controversy, but I felt it my duty not to avoid it; and I shall acknowledge the propriety of reproof only when it is demonstrated, that any remark could be omitted without injury to truth. My personal acquaintance with several of the modern travellers has neither seduced me into undeserved praise, nor provoked me into bitterness. I have dismissed from my mind every consideration of private partiality or resentment, and having undertaken a work, whose only merit must be its intrinsic accuracy, I have sacrificed every inferior motive to the love of justice and of truth.
March 2, 1807.
16 THE events which took place about the period of the first publication of this work, having interrupted the usual intercourse with Turkey, it has hitherto been impossible to ascertain the veracity of its statements by confronting them with the institutions and manners which it describes. The book has however, been perused with minute attention by persons conversant with the subject both from study and experience, and however dubious may be its merit in other respects, it has been generally acknowledged to bear the character of truth. It has received commendation, certainly not inferior to its deserts, for accuracy and impartiality of observation, and it has been criticized, with no less justice than severity, for want of perspicuity in style and arrangement. The praise and the censure have equally prompted me to aspire after a less qualified approbation for the edition which I now offer to the world.
17 On comparing the present, with the former, edition, it will be evident, that I have studied to improve it by the fruits of my own reflection and reading, and by the suggestions of the most learned and judicious of the public writers. I have expunged whatever seemed objectionable, have endeavoured to supply what was deficient, to illustrate what was obscure, and to methodize what was confused. I should feel shame and regret at having published so imperfect a performance as the first copy, if I were not conscious, that its defects were not owing to negligence or precipitation, but solely to immaturity of judgment, and want of experience in the art of literary composition.
The introductory chapter of the present work, which is professedly an inquiry into the causes which led to the former aggrandizement and actual debility of the Ottoman power, incidentally deduces the history of the Turks from the remotest ages to the 18 commencement of the nineteenth century. The necessity of connecting the past with the present state of the nation, in order to a thorough comprehension of the subject, must be the excuse of my temerity in venturing to trace the recent footsteps of Voltaire and Gibbon in so difficult and intricate a path.
In the arrangement of the succeeding chapters, I have not implicitly followed the opinion of writers to whom the public looks with deference. A general view of the manners, arts, and government of the Turks, in which the whole subject is laid open, appeared to be a useful preliminary. I have therefore retained this chapter, and with the less hesitation, because its contents are perfectly intelligible without any acquaintance with the subsequent matter.
The Ottoman government has been generally supposed to be a theocracy; and on this hypothesis it has been pronounced, that 19 a previous attention to the religion of the prophet Mahomet is necessary in order to discuss the power of the sultan and the political establishments of the empire. I have, however, persisted in considering the subject of religion solely as it influences and modifies the opinions and manners of individuals, and have adhered, in this respect, to the arrangement which I had originally adopted.
The government of Mahomet and the Caliphs was indeed a theocracy: that of the Ottoman sultans is feudal; and is the same which existed among the Turks before their conversion to Islamism. This feudal government has since incorporated the theocratical powers of the successors of the prophet, which now form a branch of the Ottoman constitution. The sultan was already despotic: Mahometanism sanctified, but did not moderate, his absolute power. In this respect the political and religious constitutions 20 perfectly coincide; and therefore, though theocratical powers are superadded, they neither restrain, nor extend, the exercise of temporal authority.
The second chapter, therefore, treats of the Ottoman constitution, and the third, of the administration of justice; although I again expose myself to censure for thus separating subjects which some persons assert to be intimately and naturally connected. As, however, the religious code is the only rule observed in the administration of justice, it seems, so far from being impossible, to be even necessary, to distinguish from the exercise of authority which is independent and without controul, this simple application of paramount law, beyond which the sovereign or his delegates cannot constitutionally interfere.
It is admitted, that the military force, and the finances, of the Ottoman empire, occupy, 21 with sufficient precision and distinctness, the fourth and fifth chapters; and, as, together with the preceding part, they comprise the whole subject of the Ottoman constitution and government, I have placed immediately after them the chapter on the situation of the empire with respect to the neighbouring states. It has indeed been proposed to terminate the work with this discussion, but as the succeeding chapters relate only to religion, and the manners of private and domestic life, I have judged it no less proper to conclude whatever is connected with politics before a new and distinct subject engages the attention.
The manners and customs of the men, and the domestic economy of the women, are reserved for the seventh and eighth chapters: a separation which has already been pronounced to be singularly injudicious, because the subject of both is so nearly the same. I have, however, in compliance with 22 the general opinion of the East, been induced to consider the harem as wholly distinct from the male establishment of a Turkish family.
December 26, 1808.
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