PROGRESS AND DECLINE OF THE OTTOMAN POWER.
Greatness and extent of the Turkish dominion.- Alarm of Christendom.- Consequences of the invention of gunpowder.- System of Turkish government over the tributary subjects,-and over Mussulmans.- Partition of lands to the conquerors.- Sources of revenue.- Inefficiency of the military system.- Considerations on the probable destinies of the Turks;-on the justice or policy of expelling them from Europe;-on the emancipation of the Greeks.- The modern compared with the ancient Greeks;- the Athenians, and the Spartans.- Causes of the superiority of the ancient Greeks,-and of the decline of the national spirit.- Character of the modern Greeks.- Apprehensions of the Turks from the power of Russia.- History of the first war with the czar of Muscovy.- Consequences of the conquest of Turkey to Russia,-to the other states of Europe, and to the Ottoman subjects.- Russian church.- Russian government.- Examination of the arguments for dispossessing the Turks.- Remoteness of amelioration.Greatness and extent of the Turkish dominion.
51 ABOUT two centuries ago the historian Knolles contemplated the mighty power of the Ottomans sovereigns, when they united under their sceptre the empires of the Saracens 52 and Greeks, and had subjected part of Hungary and Persia. "If you consider," says he, "its beginning, progress and uninterrupted success, there is nothing in the world more admirable and strange; if the greatness and lustre thereof, nothing more magnificent and glorious; if the power and strength thereof, nothing more dreadful or dangerous; which, wondering at nothing but the beauty of itself, and drunk with the pleasant wine of perpetual felicity, holdeth all the rest of the world in scorn1."
1Knolles's preface to the history of the Turks.Alarm of Christendom.
Busbequius, ambassador from the emperor Ferdinand the First, had before been aware of the danger which threatened Germany and all Christendom, and, in the true spirit of patriotism, had endeavoured to rouse his countrymen to sense of their situation. "We are not called upon to resist enemies of the same stamp with ourselves: the blind may contend with the blind, and their common errors may pass unobserved: but we have now to oppose the Turks, a vigilant, industrious, sober, and disciplined enemy, inured to military labour, skilful in tactics, and obedient to the rigours of service. Led on by these virtues, and forcing their way through desolated empires, 53 they have subdued every thing from the frontiers of Persia, and, trampling over the mangled bodies of hostile sovereigns and their subjects, have reached the frontiers of Austria, and threaten Vienna itself.2" Sandys, who travelled through Turkey and Egypt during the reign of Ahmed the First, expresses less apprehension; "for surely," says he, "it is to be hoped, that their greatness is not only at the height, but near an extreme precipitation: the body being grown too monstrous for the head; the sultans unwarlike; the soldiers corrupted with case, wine, and women; their valour now meeting opposition; and empire so got, when it ceaseth to increase, doth begin to diminish.3." It would be rash, at this distance of time, to controvert the opinion of a traveller so respectable, and who was an eye-witness of the facts from which he has drawn his conclusions; but the Turkish power, at the commencement of the seventeenth century, had not reached its highest pitch of elevation. Ahmed, himself a warrior, was succeeded by other warlike sultans; and the Ottoman armies continued to bear down the 54 opposition of European valour, till the gallant Sobieski forced them to abandon their ill-omened siege of Vienna, and changed the destinies of the world4. The latent cause of the failure of their extensive plans of conquest are to be traced in the history of remote nations and preceding ages: these were silently maturing in the sequestered cells and studious labours of Christian monks, even during the full blaze of their meridian splendour, and amidst their triumphs over the worship of Christ5.
2Busbeq. de re militari contra Turcam instituenda consilium.
3Sandys's Travels, p.51. ed.1627.
4Cantemir's Ottoman history, p.310.
5Bartholomew Schwartz, a German monk, is commonly said to have invented gunpowder in the year 1320, though it is certainly known, that this composition is described in a treatise written by Roger Bacon about the year 1280.Consequences of the invention of gunpowder.
Mahomet the Second, during the siege which terminated in the conquest of Constantinople, employed modern artillery, the secret of which had been revealed to him by a Dane, or Hungarian, of the name of Urban6. But, whatever fugitive advantages the Turks may have derived from this auxiliary, the invention of gunpowder may be considered as the principal obstacle to the progress of the Turkish power, and the chief cause of its decline.
6Gibbon, v.xii, p.197.
55 From the heroic ages to the days of chivalry, bodily strength and skill in the use of arms had constituted the perfect soldier. But, though art and tactics gave a disciplined army a prodigious advantage over multitudes without order, and courage without skill, and though experience, even then, had shown, that the event of a battle depended more on intellectual sagacity than on corporeal exertions, yet war was less a science: it could neither be studied in privacy and retirement, nor could a nation long maintain its martial vigour under the debilitating influence of repose, nor retain a familiarity with military exercises sufficient for any perilous emergency. The interval of peace between the first and second Punic wars rendered the Romans inferior to the Carthaginians, and the luxuries of Italy in a short time enervated the victorious armies of Hannibal. But, on the discovery of gunpowder and the introduction of fire-arms, the boiling courage, whether the effect of physical or moral causes, whether from strong nerves and high spirits, from the heat of patriotism, or the effervescence of fanaticism, which before had given to one soldier a superiority over another; the excess of bodily strength, which alone, in 56 some instances, had constituted the hero; lost their advantages: and a steady and obedient courage on the part of the men, coolness and deliberation on the part of the officers, became the virtues of the soldier. The efforts of individual heroism and the thirst for personal distinction, which were formerly encouraged and had produced such great and surprising effects, were now to be moderated and restrained; and it became erroneous or criminal to overstep the line which was traced out for the general conduct. The impetuosity of the Turkish soldiers could ill brook such restraints; and the feeling of individual worth concurred with the memory of their illustrious ancestors to endear their ancient habits and modes of warfare. They possessed the adventurous, though not the gallant, spirit of chivalry, and, like the knights-errant, regretted, that personal prowess was made subservient to an invention which gave to artifice and cowardice an advantage over bravery and skill7. Busbequius noticed the 57 aversion of the Turks from the use of fire-arms, and their preference of ancient weapons, but when he wrote, he could not foresee the evils which their prejudices have occasioned.
7Ariosto has transmitted to us their sentiments in his beautiful poem of Orlando Furioso. He represents his hero as having rescued the dominions of Olimpia, a princess of Friza, from the usurpation of Cymosco, who had baffled the efforts of former adventures by the superiority of his newly invented weapons. Orlando however defeated him, and bore away his musquet as a trophy; not to use it, but to bury it in the sea, and to remove it from human research.L'intenzion, non già, perchè lo tolle, Fu per voglia d'usarlo in sua difesa, Che sempre atto stimò d'animo molle Gir con vantaggio in qual si voglia impresa; Ma per gittarlo in parte, onde non volle Che mai potesse as uom più fare offesa. E la polve, e le palle, e tutto il resto Seco portò, che apparteneva à questo. (Canto nono.)His execrations against the invention, which were repeated by Don Quixote in terms equally bitter, are characteristic of the spirit of chivalry.O maladetto, o abbominoso ordigno; Che fabbricato nel tartareo fordo Fosti per man di Belzebù maligno, Che ruinar per te disegnò il mondo. All' inferno, onde uscisti, ti rassegno. (Stanza 91.)
A Dalmatian horseman (one of those called by the Turks delhi, from their intemperate courage or rashness) rode express to Constantinople, and reported to the divan the unfortunate result of an incursion into Croatia, where two thousand five hundred Turks had been surprised by a party of five hundred musqueteers, and routed with great slaughter. 58 The Ottoman pride was more affected by the dishonour which the arms of Soliman had sustained than by the loss of troops, who, the divan supposed, had acted in a manner unworthy of the Turkish name. "Have I failed in making myself understood?" the delhi, unmoved at the reproach. "Do not you hear, that we were overpowered by musquetry? We were routed by the force of fire, and not by the bravery of the enemy. The event of the battle would have been very different if it had been really a contest courage: but they took fire to their aid, and we acknowledge ourselves to have been conquered by its violence. Fire is one of the elements, and indeed the most powerful; and what is the strength of man, that it should resist the shock of the elements?" "Hence," says Busbequius, "I learned, that the small arms used by our cavalry are peculiarly formidable to the Turks8."
8"Idem usu venire audio Persis. Ex quo fuit non nemo, qui suaderet Rustano, ad bellum adversus Persas cum suo rege proficiscenti, ut turmam ducentorum equitum ex suis domesticis institutam sclopetis armaret, magno terrori futuram hostibus, et stragem magnam facturam. Nec consilium aspernatus Rustanus eam turmam instituit, sclopetis instruit, curat exercendam. Sed nondum dimidiam partem itineris confecerant, cum aliud ad sclopeti usum necessarium deficere cœpit. Amittebatur qoutidie aliquid aut frangebatur, raris qui possent reficere. Sic bona sclopetorum pars jam inutilis reddita erat: et cum ea de causa pœnitebat ejus teli, tum quod munditiei, cui valde student Turcæ, adversabatur, conspiciebantur manibus fuligine infectis, vestitu maculoso, informibus thecis et pyxidibus undique pendulis, ut risui essent commilitonibus, et ab eis per ludibrium medicamentarii vocitarentur, ita cum nec sibi nec aliis cum hoc habitu placerent, Rustanum circumsistunt: mancos et inutiles sclopetos proferunt: quemnam ex his fructum speret, ubi ad hostes ventum sit: rogant ut se illis deoneret, arma reddat usitata. Re diligenter considerata, non putavit causam esse Rustanus ut refragaretur. Sic cum bona ejus venia sagittas et arcus resumpserunt." (Busbeq. Epist. iii, p.132.)
59 While discipline and attention to the military exercises could insure success in war, the Turks were the first of military nations. When the whole art of war was changed, and victory or defeat became matter of calculation, the rude and illiterate Turkish warriors experienced the fatal consequences of ignorance, without suspecting the cause. Accustomed to employ no other means than force, they sunk into despondency when force could no longer avail; and, having now almost abandoned the hope of recovery, they present to their own astonishment, and to the mockery of Europe, "the mighty shadow of unreal power."System of Turkish government over the tributary subjects,
Their system of government was still less scientific than that of their warfare. To constitute a community, interested in the 60 preservation of the empire, from the various and discordant classes of people comprehended in its vast extent, was a task which called for a genius of the highest order, for the most profound acquaintance with human affairs, and the most extensive knowledge of mankind. To harmonize them was not, however, the wish of the Ottoman legislators. "The bended head," according to a maxim of Turkish justice, "is not to be struck off9." But, though submission to their power averted the stroke of death, nothing short of embracing the religion of their prophet could exonerate the vanquished from fines and personal subjection. The conquered people, if they obstinately refused the offer of conversion, became, together with their possessions, their industry, and their posterity, virtually the property of their masters. "Their substance," says the law, "is as our substance; their eye as our eye; their life as our life10." 61 In such a state of subjection their claim to justice and security was precarious, and their lives and fortunes were made subservient to the necessities of the state, and the interests of the superior and privileged class, who strove by every means, however injurious and insulting to their feelings, to suppress, instead of exciting their energies, to debilitate their minds to the level of slavery, and to insure their submission to the forms of government established by themselves. The state haughtily rejected their active services; as, at best, they must be languid in its defence, or more probably hostile to its cause11
10Cantemir, p.276. It was asked of the mufti, "if eleven Mussulmans, without just cause, kill an infidel who is a subject of the emperor and pays tribute, what is to be done?" The mufti subscribed with his own hand, "though the Mussulmans should be a thousand and one, let them all die." (Cant. p.183.) But it may truly be said, "quid leges, sine moribus?" for the protection of the law avails nothing to the oppressed infidel.
11In judging of the exercise of government in Turkey, it is necessary to bear in mind this great political distinction of Turks and rayahs. It is evident, that the government should be considered as it is exercised over the natural subjects or Turks, and not over the aliens or rayahs. It would be unjust to characterize the Spartan government only from its treatment of the Helotea.and over Mussulmans.
The Turks, on the contrary, were attached to the constitution by every motive which fanaticism or self-interest could urge: favourites of heaven, and lords of the earth; the infidel tributary subjects were sacrificed without scruple to the interest, the convenience, or the caprice of the faithful. The precepts 62 of the koran, and the decrees of the sultan secured to the Turkish subjects equal right to all posts of trust or dignity, equal justice, and the undisturbed enjoyment of the fruits of rapine or of industry. The public force was lodged in the bands of the Mussulman people; and frequent examples occur in history of their having directed it against the heads of the state or the church, when they apprehended injustice, or felt oppression. Party rage has led them to acts of violence, and even rebellion, against their legal sovereign; but to change or new-model the system of government, could never have entered into the minds of men who acknowledge no superiority but that of official rank, to which all may hope to attain, and who lord it over the subjected rayahs, every one in his own sphere, with undisputed, and almost uncontrolled authority.Partition of lands to the conquerors. The empire, like one great manor, was parcelled out according to feudal usages; and all the natural and improvable advantages of soil, climate, and productions, were held out as incitements to their warriors, from their captains of thousands and captains of hundreds to the private volunteers, as a foretaste of the sweets of paradise to those who 63 had not obtained martyrdom in the propagation of their faith and the extension of their power. These military tenures, on the death of the incumbents, lapsed to the crown; and, as under no circumstances, except in the possessions of the church, the grants were hereditary, there could be no thought of a distant futurity, no care for the posterity of a stranger; the hope of preserving, or the desire of improving estates was confined to the term of a single life; and all ate and drank, to exhaustion and impoverishment, for on the morrow they were to die12.
12See Rycaut, p.78. Mignot, t.i, p.394. Pouqueville, however (t.i, p.358), seems to draw a different conclusion from the institution of timars: though the fact may be, that, as property of this kind is still less precarious than that which is not so assigned, the only ameliorations, if they can deserve the name, which are observable throughout the Turkish empire, may be on the estates of the feudal proprietors. "The Turks," says Olivier, "enjoy every where with the indifference of tenants." Busbequius too observed, on passing through Buda, the capital of Hungary, that the Turks suffered the palaces which they inhabited to fall into decay, without troubling themselves about even necessary repairs. "Ils bâtissent le moins qu'ils peuvent; ils ne réparent jamais rien: un mur menace ruine, ils l'étaient; il s'éboule, ce sont quelques chambres de moins dans la maison; ils s'arrangent à côté des décombres: l'édifice tombe enfin, ils en abandonnent le sol, ou, s'ils sont obligés d'en déblayer l'emplacement, ils n'emportent les plâtras que le moins loin qu'ils peuvent." (Denon, t.i, p.198.)Sources of revenue.
64 The spoils of war, the contributions from the natural riches of the country and from the industry of the rayahs, which, however, was much repressed by the uncertain enjoyment of their acquisitions, furnished government with the means of supporting all its establishments, whether of utility, of luxury, or splendour: but the financial operations were as rudely conducted as they were, in the same period, in western Europe. The direct extortions of government were practised only upon the great and powerful. The means of raising revenue from the provinces were left almost to the discretion of the governors; and they, and their inferior agents, restrained in their tyranny over the Turks, exerted their unlimited authority over the rayahs, in employing the endless inventions of oppression to force the proprietors of money, the husbandman, the artisan, and the merchant, to disclose and surrender their concealed property.Inefficiency of the military system.
The force of the Turkish empire is a militia composed of the total mass of the Mussulman subjects; but uninformed, undisciplined, and intractable: if compared to an European army, they are merely a disorderly crowd. The finances, in the calculation of which 65 violence and extortion always formed a principal part, are incapable of being improved, so as to be sufficient for the support of a regular standing army, by any constitutional means, or by any means which the people, instigated by turbulent and ambitious leaders, would not efficaciously oppose: so that, notwithstanding the efforts of the porte towards ameliorating their military system and introducing European improvements, there is little ground for expecting, that they will ever again bring their armies into the field, on this side of the Bosphorus, against a foreign enemy, unless impelled by despair or aided by a powerful ally. To oppose a rebel in a distant province, a neighbouring pasha must be stimulated by the allurement of conquest and plunder, or incited by rewards and the promise of new dignities13. The governor of an insignificant fortress, at no very great distance from the capital, not long ago insulted the government, almost at the gates of the seraglio, and baffled the utmost efforts of the porte: the 66 late capudan pasha, Hussein, was compelled to sacrifice his own honour, together with the dignity of the sultan, to the humiliation of treating with a revolted subject; and, at this time, there is no province in Romelia, where troops of licentious banditti do not annually intercept the caravans, interrupt communication, plunder the husbandman, and desolate the country14.
13Mr. Eton, however, gives too degrading an idea of the weakness of the porte, when he asserts (p.290), " that in the country about Smyrna, there are great agas, who are independent lords, and maintain armies, and often lay that city under contribution."
14I have travelled through several provinces of European Turkey, and cannot convey an idea of the state of desolation in which that beautiful country is left. For the space of seventy miles, between Kirk Kilisé and Carnabat, there is not an inhabitant, though the country is an earthly paradise. The extensive and pleasant village of Faki, with its houses deserted, its gardens over-run with weeds and grass, its lands waste and uncultivated, and now the resort of robbers, affects the traveller with the most painful sensations.Considerations on the probable destinies of the Turks;
At a period like the present, when the fate of Turkey is fluctuating in uncertainty, when its inferiority to the nations of Europe is become so evident, and when it is surrounded by neighbours whose power it great as their ambition, it seems to require no supernatural foresight to announce an approaching revolution. But is Turkey no longer to exist as a nation, or is the most numerous part of the people to resign the sovereignty into the hands of their emancipated subject, and in 67 their turn to submit their necks to the yoke?on the justice or policy of expelling them from Europe;
Are we to admit, with Mr. Eton, that the expulsion of the Turks from Europe, and the re-establishment of the Greek empire, are what sound policy and even justice require; for, "according to the laws of nations, the Turks have not, by length of possession, acquired a right to the dominion of the countries they conquered15." This, I apprehend, is carrying up the question too high; for, on such principles, every people must first examine the ground on which they themselves stand, and it would then be difficult to determine what nation has a right to attack and dispossess the Turks.
15Survey of the Turkish empire, preface, p.9. Denon, I think, reasons better. "Si la terre que nous foulions leur étoit mal acquise, ce n'étoit pas à nous à le trouver mauvais; et au moins plusieurs siécles de possession établissoient leurs droits." (Voyage en Egypt, t.i, p.284.)on the emancipation of the Greeks.
Mr. Eton is positive, "that the Greeks will emancipate themselves from the yoke of Turkey16." "They are then," says Volney, " to recall the arts and sciences into their native land, to open a new career to legislation, to commerce, to industry, and to efface the glory 68 of the ancient East, by the brighter glory of its regeneration17."
16Survey of the Turkish empire, preface, p.10.
17Volney, considérations sur la guerre actuelle des Turcs.The modern compared with the ancient Greeks;
But can men who, "in the revolution of ten centuries, made not a single discovery to exalt the dignity, or promote the happiness of mankind, who held in their lifeless hands the riches of their fathers, without inheriting the spirit which had created and improved that sacred patrimony18," and have since lain, "vanquished and weltering," through the long space of three hundred and fifty years, lost even to the love of liberty or the faculty of employing it; can such men suddenly recover from the stupor of so tremendous a fall, and emulate the virtues of their remote and illustrious ancestors? If indeed they be the descendants of the ancient Greeks; for how fallen, how changed from those who, alone in the whole history of man, have left one bright page, have illustrated one short period, and have held up to the insatiable admiration of posterity the only models of human nature which approach to perfection! Who are the modern Greeks? 69 and whence did Constantine collect the mixed population of his capital; the herd of dogmatists, and hypocrites, whom ambition had converted to the new religion of the court? Certainly not from the families which have immortalized Attica and Laconia.
18Gibbon, v.x, p.161.the Athenians,
They never sprang from those Athenians whose patriotic ardour could not wait the tardy approach of the Persian army, but impelled them over the plains of Marathon to an instantaneous charge, which forced the superior numbers of the invader to seek refuge in the sea. The lofty and independent spirit of the Athenians could not brook the mild yoke of Persian despotism: they refused to dishonour the soil of Attica by offering the smallest particle of it as a tribute to a foreign sovereign; though their enlightened patriotism could, upon a great emergency, rise superior even to the natural attachment which so powerfully binds men to their native soil: they abandoned their city, with the temples of their deities and the tombs of their ancestors, to the fury of the barbarians, and embarked on hoard their navy, what really constituted the Athenian common-wealth, the whole of the Athenian citizens.
The invitation of Constantine attracted no 70 philosopher from the banks of the Ilissus, where literature and science flourished, even when the use of arms was prohibited to the citizens of Athens. The capital, with all its allurements of splendour and of luxury, excited no interest in comparison with the more enchanting scene of groves and gardens which had been consecrated to philosophy: and, until finally expelled by Theodosius, they continued to study the doctrines of the Academy, the Lyceum, the Porch, and the Garden, in the same shades in which they were first taught.and the Spartans.
Still less can the modern Greeks be supposed the descendants of those Spartan citizens to whom a state of actual warfare was repose, when compared with the intervals of peace, which were spent in gymnastic exercises and the most toilsome duties of a military life. Formed by the rigid observance of the laws of Lycurgus, and animated with the most exalted enthusiasm which the love of liberty can inspire, Leonidas and his little band of ever-memorable patriots made a generous sacrifice of their lives at the defiles of Thermopylæ for the independence of Greece. But the Spartans were the terror of all the neighbouring states, except those who 71 were their dependent allies. At length the devouring fire of their valour consumed itself: and long before the seat of government was removed from Rome to Constantinople, the Spartan families, if not wholly extinct, could no longer be distinguished among the mass of submissive subjects of the Roman empire.Causes of the superiority of the ancient Greeks,
The climate of Greece has been supposed to be peculiarly favourable to the birth and expansion of talents: but it seems unreasonable to ascribe to climate or to physical constitution effects which cannot be the result of any organization. The Athenians indeed were peculiarly characterized by a quick and accurate perception of beauty or deformity, by a delicate and distinguishing taste. But taste is less the gift of nature than the effect of study. Demosthenes addressed his eloquent discourses to the general assembly, composed of the Athenian populace; the poets enriched the Athenian stage with the sublimest and most pathetic tragedies; the labours of the statuary and architect were submitted to the judgment of the people; and they presided over the public exhibitions of strength, of skill, and agility. They were early formed in the gymnasia and 72 public schools to the contemplation of beauty and grace; each citizen was ambitious to excel in athletic vigour at the public games, in oratory at the general assemblies, and in music and dancing on the public festivals. Drawing and the arts of design formed essential parts of the public education; and sculpture furnished the objects of their public and private devotion, the ornaments of their houses, and the history of their families. What was so generally useful, was necessarily attended to: and judgment, if not skill, in the liberal arts was indispensable to the comforts, the pleasures, and the respectability of every citizen.and of the decline of the national spirit.
National character is entirely modified by circumstances. The loss of liberty and political independence had, even in the time of the early Roman emperors, sullied this beautiful portrait; and the Greek had already dwindled into the Græculus esuriens, the hungry parasite, fawning, intriguing, subtle, argumentative, and loquacious. For the display of such talents the imperial court was the proper sphere: the degenerate Greeks crowded to the new capital in Thrace, in numbers sufficient to fix the language and stamp the national character: under weak and superstitious 73 monarchs they exercised their licentiousness in morals, and their intolerance in religion; and from degradation to degradation, they fell at length under subjection to the turban, which they had deliberately preferred to an union with the western Christians.
That the same spirit is preserved among the modern Greeks, may be demonstrated from several passages in the journals of travellers; among whom I shall quote, in confirmation of my own assertion, only the last and most impartial observer of the Greeks, Dr. Pouqueville, who says, that their hatred of the Turks is less than that which they bear towards those Christians who acknowledge the supremacy of the pope19. A passage in the history of Cantemir strongly corroborates this assertion, and shows, that passion and prejudice are the only guides of the Greeks whenever their religion is concerned. "I am apt to believe," he says, "that Phranza was impaired in his memory by age, cares, and calamities, when he began to write his history20;" and he takes every occasion to 74 reject his testimony and to controvert his statement of facts. The grounds of this illiberality, towards an historian who, in the opinion of the judicious Gibbon, has recorded contemporary events, of which, from his high situation, he was a competent judge, in a manner deserving of credit and esteem21, are not to be sought in the writings, but the biography, of Phranza. He was one of the conforming Greeks, who, from patriotic motives, joined with the Latins in the church of Sancta Sophia in the communion of prayer and praise; and though Phranza acknowledges his own insincerity, and almost expresses contrition for having consented to the union of the churches22, the lapse of two centuries and a half had not in any degree extenuated the deep stain of his apostacy; and Cantemir, though more enlightened than the mass of his countrymen, execrates his memory, and abjures communion with the Azymites, with all the zeal and fury of the senseless 75 populace, whose bigotry and intolerance precipitated the downfal of their country23.
19See Voyages en Morée, &c. t.i, p.246.
20See Ottoman history, p, 83, note 11.
21See Decline and fall of the Roman empire, v.xii, p.177, note 48. p.204, note 31. Phranza was protovestiare, or great chamberlain of the emperor Constantine.
22Phranza (l.iii, c.20) acknowledges, that the measure was adopted only propter spem auxilii.
23The Greeks, according to Leonardus Chiensis (de captiv. Constant. ad calcem Chalcondylæ, p.318, 314), persisted, after the loss of Constantinople, in ascribing their misfortunes to the union: the good bishop discovers equal ingenuity in unfolding the secrets of Providence. "Non unio facta, sed unio ficta, ad fatale urbem detrahebat excidium, quo divinam iram maturatam in hosce dies venisse cognovimus."
Long before the final conquest of the Roman empire, the co-operation of various causes had suspended or corrupted the arts, and had perverted the very sources of science. The study of natural causes had given place to theological subtleties; the science of government had sunk under tyranny; and the arts administered only to effeminacy. The few remains of ancient learning were tinctured and connected with dogmas and superstitions which the Turks held in contempt or abhorrence, as being contradictory to the precepts of their own religion. They therefore, like the unlettered warriors who overspread the western countries of Europe, established, in their new conquests, the feudal system of government, with which they were familiarized, without deigning to modify it by institutions previously existing 76 among the ancient inhabitants. Depriving their conquered subjects of their political existence, they allowed them a limited and imperfect exercise of their civil rights on the payment of an annual tribute, and tolerated their peculiar modes of worship in a restrained and private manner. The sense of present degradation, overwhelming the recollection of past independence, humbled the minds of the Greeks to the level of their abject situation; and the vices, peculiar to a state of domestic slavery, were superadded to those which luxury and superstition had before generated.Character of the modern Greeks.
Mr. Eton, in his chapter on the political state of Greece, gives the history of some skirmishes between the pasha of Yanina, and the Greek inhabitants of the mountains of Sulli. The particulars were communicated to him by a Greek interpreter, of the name of Amaxaris, who served on board the Tigre under Sir Sidney Smith, during the Syrian and Egyptian campaigns. These, and the piracies, of a Greek of the name of Lambro, are "the struggles which," according to Mr. Eton24, "show, that Greece is about to 77 awake to the assertion of her native rights." But the details present a disgusting picture of the warfare of the modern Greeks, which is in fact, in a political point of view, only the devastation of banditti, and wholly undeserving the notice of history. I blush, while I quote Mr. Eton's eulogium of the gallant Lambro, who pillaged and ransacked the Greek islands of the Archipelago, and molested the trading ships of all nations, even after the peace of Yassy was signed, when he was disavowed by Russia, and declared a pirate25. The account of his defeat by two French frigates is given by Olivier. Mr. Eton says, "the Greeks proved on this occasion their love of liberty, their passion for glory, and a perseverance in toils, obedience to discipline, and a contempt of danger and death, worthy of the brightest pages of their history: they fought with, and conquered, very superior numbers, and when at 78 last they were attacked with an inequality of force, as great as Leonidas had to encounter (Leonidas! great, injured name), "they fought till their whole fleet was sunk, and a few only saved themselves in boats26."
24Survey of the Turkish empire, p.334.
25Mr. Eton, in a recent publication (see Letter to the Earl of D***, p.93), says, that this man "was received by the empress in the most honourable manner - the rank of a full colonel and large estates were given him; he is now a Russian nobleman, and decorated with the military order of St. George." If this account be true, the Russian government is, I think, safe from calumny.
26See Survey of the Turkish empire, p.368.
That I may not be accused of calumniating the modern Greeks, it will, perhaps, not be improper to review the opinions of former writers on the subject. Sandys says, "but now their knowledge is converted, as I may say, into affected ignorance (for they have no schools of learning among them), their liberty into contented slavery, having lost their minds with their empire. For so base are they, as thought it is, they had rather remain as they be, than endure a temporary trouble by prevailing succours; and would with the Israelites repine at their deliverers27."
27See Sandys's travels, p.77."I thought it," says De Tott, "a well-grounded observation which Manoly Serdar, himself a Greek, made, 'that his nation in nothing resembled the ancient empire of the Greeks, except in the pride and fanaticism which caused its ruin28.'"
28See De Tott's memoirs, p.91. "C'est une belle idée s(?) le papier, " says a very intelligent observer, "que de voir les Russes à Constantinople y rétablir l'empire Grec. Mais ceux qui forment de si beaux plans ignorent que les Grecs modernes sont comme ces vins, dont il ne reste que la lie; qu'ils n'ont conservé des Grecs anciens que les vices, sur lesquels ils ont encheri; qu'ils sont deux fois plus fanatiques que les Turcs, s'il est possible, et qu'ils seroient, par cette raison, mille fois plus cruels, s'ils devenoient, je ne dis pas mâitres, mais plus libres." (Voyage à Constantinople, p.162.)
79 Mr. Eton may be considered as the champion of the Greeks. He asserts, that "a Grecian state will quickly attain a proud preeminence among nations." "Strengthened by such an alliance, we should maintain that ascendancy in the Mediterranean, of which the union of France and Spain threatens to deprive us"-"which if Great Britain does not embrace, her influence and weight in the Mediterranean, and perhaps in the scale of Europe, must speedily sink29."
29See Survey of the Turkish empire, p.437, 440, 441. In the letter to the Earl of D***, p.12, (London, 1807) is the following curious passage. "In 1798, I published my survey of the Turkish empire, and I therein foretold, if the measures I had proposed were not adopted, a state of things would be produced which I distinctly described, and that prophecy has been in a great part most minutely fulfilled, and the little that remains, there is, I fear, too much reason to apprehend is fast accomplishing."
Mr. Eton proceeds to analyze the Greeks, and arranges them in distinct classes, beginning 80 with the Greeks of the Fanal, from whom are appointed the dragomans of the porte, and the vaivodas of Wallachia and Moldavia. "They are continually intriguing to get those in office removed, and obtain their places; even children cabal against their fathers, and brothers against brothers. They are all people of very good education, and are polite, but haughty, vain, ambitious to a most ridiculous degree. As to their noble extraction it is a matter of great uncertainty. They have in general all the vices of the Turks of the seraglio; treachery, ingratitude, cruelty, and intrigue which stops at no means. When they become vaivodas, they are in nothing different from Turkish pashas in tyranny. In such a situation the mind must lose its vigour, the heart its generosity. They do not weep over the ruins which they cannot restore, nor sigh to rear others of equal magnificence." "But," adds Mr. Eton, "they are the only part of their nation, who have totally relinquished the ancient Grecian spirit." In the second class are the merchants and lower orders of Constantinopolitan Greeks, who indeed have no very marked character; "they are much the same as the trading Christians in all 81 parts of the empire, that is to say, as crafty and fraudulent as the Jews." Of course, neither of these classes are meant by Mr. Eton when he says, "the Greeks retain so much energy of character, and are so little abased, for like noble coursers they champ the bit, and spurn indignantly the yoke; when once freed from these, they will enter the course of glory30." We must not therefore be discouraged, but follow Mr. Eton in his characteristic descriptions, and we shall find, that, in the third class, "the Greeks of Macedonia are robust, courageous, and somewhat ferocious. " "Those of Athens and Attica are still remarkably witty and sharp. All the islanders are lively and gay, fond of singing and dancing to an excess, affable, hospitable, and goodnatured; in short they are the best31."
30Mr. Eton's idea of the Olympic games is as incorrect as his idea of Grecian liberty. What opinion can we form of either from his metaphor of wild horses running about without yoke or bit?
31See Survey of the Turkish empire, p.340, 342, 344, 345.
I must here be permitted to observe, that the travellers who have visited Athens and the Greek islands, do not give unqualified 82 praise to their inconsiderable population. Tournefort, Spon, and Wheler, made the complete tour of these islands, and faithfully describe the inhabitants, as a low, plodding, persecuted, and miserable race. - But to return to Mr. Eton.
"The Greeks of the Morea are much given to piracy." "Those of Albania and Epirus, and the mountaineers in general are a very warlike, brave people, but very savage, and make little scruple of killing and robbing travellers32."
32See Survey of the Turkish empire, p.346.
Such is Mr. Eton's picture of the Greeks from whose future alliance Great Britain is to promise herself such certain advantages. "Allies who long ago would have enabled his Majesty and the Emperor, in all human probability, to have humbled a foe which now threatens all Europe with total subversion33."
33See Survey of the Turkish empire, p.371.Apprehensions of the Turks from the power of Russia.
Spon, who published his travels in 1679, has observed, that "of all the princes of Christendom, there was none whom the Turks so much feared as the czar of Muscovy34." But, were it not for the testimony 83 of a contemporary writer, it would have been difficult to imagine, that the want of success in one short campaign could have struck the Turkish troops with such a panic, or have excited apprehensions, which, at that time, must to all others have appeared imaginary and vain.
34Voyage fait aux années 1675 et 1676 par Jacob Spon, (?) teur médecin, agrégé à Lyons, et George Wheler, gean(?) komme Anglois, p.270, ed.1679.History of the first war with the czar of Muscovy.
The revolt of the Cossaks from the dominion of the porte was the cause of the first war between the Russians and Turks: and a review of the few events of that war will serve, in some degree, to explain the motives of that well-founded apprehension of the growing power of Russia which was then first suggested.
The following passage from Voltaire describes the state of the Cossaks, at the period now alluded to.
"The Cossaks inhabit the Ukraine, a country situate between Little Tartary, Poland, and Russia. It extends from north to south about a hundred leagues, and as many from east to west. The Borysthenes, or Dnieper, which runs through it from north-west to south-east, divides it into two equal parts. The northern provinces of the Ukraine are rich and cultivated. Its southern part, which lies in the forty-eighth degree of latitude, 84 is the most fertile, but the most desert, country in the world. A bad government counteracts the bounties of nature. The few inhabitants on the borders of Little Tartary neither plant nor sow, because their country is open to the ravages of the Tartars and the Moldavians, nations of robbers, who would destroy their harvests, and pillage their houses. The Cossaks have always aspired after independence, hut the situation in their country, surrounded by the dominions of Russia, Turkey, and Poland, reduces them to the condition of dependent allies of one or other of these great states35."
35Histoire de Charles XII, roi de Suède, liv. iv. See also in Peyssonnel (Observations historiques et géographiques sur (?) peuples barbares qui ont habité les bords du Danube et du P(?) Euxin, p.126), an account of the four principal branches in which the family of the Cossaks is divided. The Romans, as it appears probable from the epitaph of Tiberius Plautius given for Montfaucon (l'Antiquité expliquée, t.v, part.i, p.1(?), planche 114), drew contributions of wheat from the Ukraine. (?) marble fragment with an inscription was discovered in Little Tartary, in the year 1804, near the lazaretto of Dubazar, on the left bank of the Tyras or Dniester, which mentions the reconstruction of magazines in the reign of the emperor Traj(?) by the solders of the fifth Macedonian legion under Q. P(?)peius Falco, the proprætor of Dacia, "apothecas cum porti(?) vetustate conlapsas a solo restituit superposito secundo statu."
The Cossaks, though a nation of Christians 85 resembled the Tartars in their modes of life and habits of war. Their hetman, Doroshenskoi, had revolted from Poland and sought the protection of the Ottoman porte; but, piqued at the refusal of Mahomet the Fourth to employ him in his expedition against the Poles, he had subjected his nation to Russia, with an army of sixty thousand men of approved valour. The czar, who, besides gaining over such powerful auxiliaries and obtaining an extension of territory beyond the Dnieper, secured his own frontiers from their incursions, willingly accepted their allegiance, and promised to protect them against their enemies. The honour of the sultan, and the safety of his empire (for the Cossaks had sometimes extended their depredations even into the suburbs of Constantinople36), compelled him to revenge this breach of faith. But, though the Russian power at that time was depised by the Turks, a war in an unknown and inhospitable country, where cold and hunger would impede the progress, and waste the strength, of an invading army, was reluctantly 86 resolved upon, and not actually begun until all means of reconciliation with the Cossaks had been tried in vain. Sixty thousand Russians and Cossaks, entrenched near the capital of the Ukraine, prevented the junction of the Tartars with the Turks. The Turks, alarmed at the defeat and slaughter of their confederates, and not daring to risk an engagement, fled with precipitation and repassed the Bogh. Turkish perseverance was soon exhausted by difficulties; and the vizir was eager to conclude a war, in which success could he procured only by the endurance of hardships which he thought too severe for mortals37. Fortune was now 87 beginning to abandon the Ottoman arms in other quarters; and the despondency of the Turks, which Spon had observed, might be founded on the remark, that the first formal renunciation of territory which had been consecrated to Islamism by khutbé and ezann, was made to an hitherto-unknown enemy, against whom attack could not, in any age, avail38, and whose means of overpowering resistance must have been exaggerated in their minds, if computed, according to the Tartar reports, by the extent of his dominions. The sense of their danger must, however, have been confused and inaccurate, or the heroic wife of Peter the Great could not so easily have rescued the Russian empire from the 88 imminent danger which threatened it at the battle of the Pruth39. The genius of the Ottoman empire slumbered at the signing of the treaty, and seems still desirous of perpetuating his lethargy till the consummation of its destiny. Every event has since 89 confirmed the forebodings of the Turks, and increased their apprehensions: and it seems now to be a popular opinion, that the city, now abounding in faith40, will shortly be contaminated by the presence, and polluted by the supremacy of the emperor of Russia41.
36Chardin's Travels, p.48,64,65.- The fortress of Oczacow, at the entrance of the liman formed by the confluence of the Dnieper and the Bogh, was built to prevent the piracies and incursions of the Cossaks on the Euxine sea.
37Cantemir's Ottoman history, p.291.- Voltaire describes the country to the east, between Grodno and the Borysthenes, all(?) covered with marshes, deserts, and immense forests. It was here, that Charles the Twelfth and the czar carried on war, in the middle of the winter of 1709. The Swedes and the Russians each led on by their warlike sovereign, accounted all seasons alike. The importance and the difficulties of the campaign were expressed by Charles on a medal, prematurely struck after the battle in(?) Hollosin, "silvæ, paludes, aggeres, hostes, victi;" for the vi(?)gours of the season were so great that, in one march, the king lost two thousand men by the severity of the cold, and his army was so much reduced, during the winter, that he was forced to yield his laurels to the czar, at the battle of Pultowa. I travelled through the Ukraine in the summer of 1805, and witnessed the general truth of Voltaire's description of its physical geography, and its exuberant fertility.
38Darius Hystaspes boldly invaded the Scythian wilds 513 years before Christ, with 700,000 men. His army, exposed during five months to hunger and thirst and the darts of a flying enemy, lost the greatest part of its strength, and would have been wholly destroyed, if the advice of Miltiades, to destroy the bridge of boats on the Danube, had not been rejected. While Darius was regretting the temerity of his undertaking, an ambassador from the kings of Scythia arrived, who, being introduced to the Persian monarch, delivered, in solemn silence, the gifts of his masters, which consisted of a bird, a frog, a mouse, and five arrows. The situation of Darius, and his experience of unavailing hardships, made verbal explanation unnecessary: he hastily withdrew his troops, and abandoned his schemes of Scythian conquest. (Herodot,l.iv.)
39The czar, relying on the succours promised him by Cantemir, the rebel-prince of Moldavia, had penetrated far into that country, when he found himself on the banks of the Pruth, surrounded by an army of 200,000 Turks and Tartars: his own troops, which at first had consisted only of 80,000 men, were reduced by desertions to less than 30,000, exhausted by fatigue and in absolute want of provisions and forage. In this situation, after giving orders for a general attack at daybreak, the czar had retired to his tent, anticipating in an agony of despair the event of so unequal a battle. The czarina alone dared to disobey his orders and break in upon his retirement: she had summoned a council of the general officers, and had prepared a letter for the grand vizir with proposals for peace: this letter she prevailed upon Peter to sign, and collecting all her money and jewels, she immediately despatched an officer to the Turkish camp. Her negotiations were so successful that, in spite of the remonstrances of the Swedish king and the intrigues of his agent Poniatowsky, the treaty was begun, concluded, and signed, on the 21st of July 1711. The czar stipulated to surrender the fortresses on the sea of Azoff, which had been ceded to him at the peace of Carlovitz in 1700, but he never performed his engagements. In the ukaze, or imperial proclamation, by which he afterwards solemnly admitted Catherine to a participation in the sovereignty and the honours of the coronation, he acknowledges with gratitude the important services which she had rendered to the Russian nation on this memorable occasion. (Voltaire, histoire de Charles XII, roi de Suède, liv.v.)
40Islambol, one of the names of Constantinople.
41Mr. Eton says (p.200), "they have among them a prophecy, that the sons of yellowness, which they interpret to be the Russians, are to take Constantinople." The expression of the sons of yellowness certainly gives this assertion somewhat of an oriental tinge: but the truth is, that the Turks, ever since their defeats by the emperor Leopold (see Cantemir, p.244), have among them a persuasion, that their footing in Europe is unstable, and that Asia is the country in which the true faith will longest flourish. It is much to be regretted, that Dr. Wittman should have sullied his interesting journal by the insertions of the idle curiosity of their masters. I do not deny, that a Turk, in a moment of despondency, may have believed the existence of the tradition mentioned in page 233; but I doubt, that any Turk invented it. There is nothing Turkish in the composition, except the ignorance which does not discover, in the extent of the intervening country, a single point of resistance between the right bank of the Dnieper and the walls of Constantinople.Consequences of the conquest of Turkey to Russia,
Though such an accession of territory might gratify the ambition of the sovereign, the interest of the Russian nobility strongly militates against it. The imagination can scarcely contemplate a power which, from the frozen marshes of the Neva, shall extend 90 its icy sceptre over the savages of Tchouski(?) Noss, and the glowing inhabitants of the Arabian deserts. Nevertheless, the establishment of such a power, if the idea can be realized, would follow from the annexation of Thrace to Russia: for what boundary could then be placed to its ambition? The Black Sea would furnish a navy which would command the Mediterranean; and the resistance of Asiatic troops would scarcely retard the march of a hardy and strictly disciplined soldiery. The consequence of such extension of dominion would be, either that the Russian empire would be divided into northern and southern, or, the seat of government being removed to a more genial climate, the north would again be neglected and relapse into its former barbarism. Sweden might then discover, that conquest, except it be founded in justice, cannot he legally retained, and might demand the restitution of its ceded provinces. Civilization, which all the cares of a vigilant government cannot naturalize in Russia, and which, among the people, has made almost no progress, would again wither under the benumbing influence of the climate; and an eternal separation, except for the purposes of a limited commerce, 91 would be established between the northern and southern worlds. Mr. Eton, from his situation at St. Petersburgh, must have possessed superior advantages in studying the politics of the Russian cabinet: and the colossus of power, which the utmost stretch of an ordinary imagination can scarcely comprehend, shrinks to a diminutive size when compared with the gigantic proportions of that which Mr. Eton assures us was actually designed. "The empress's vast views of aggrandizement extended to the conquest of all European Turkey; the re-establishment of the Greek empire, and placing her grandson Constantine on the throne of Constantinople; of making Egypt an independent state; of incorporating Poland into her own empire; of making a conquest of Japan and a part of China, and establishing a naval power in those seas42."
42Survey of the Turkish empire, preface, p.xi.- And what next? was the sensible, though natural question of Pyrrhus's secretary, when his master had unfolded to him a similar scheme of conquest. Certainly, if the enjoyment or the communication of happiness be the ultimate end and highest gratification of life, the epicurean philanthropist, instead of feeling himself circumscribed by the line of the Russian frontiers, might find ample space for exhibiting his good-will towards men, without even descending from the heights of the little republic of St. Marino.to the other states of Europe, and to the Ottoman subjects.
92 Volney and other speculative political writers, considering the events, which they themselves had predicted, as inevitable, have felicitated mankind on the augmentation of happiness which must necessarily ensue on the accomplishment of their prophecies. Our fancy is dazzled, and our reason is subjugated by the fascination of their eloquence, and the subtlety of their arguments. The dislike of other Christian states to so dangerous an innovation is soothed by the suggestion, that nothing is to be apprehended from triumphant Christianity; and opposition is silenced by representing resistance as vain. "Russia," we are told, "is now possessed of all the means, so long and so perseveringly pursued from the time Peter the First took Azoff to this day, of annihilating the monstrous and unwieldy despotism of the Ottoman sceptre in Europe. The empress has also conceived the vast and generous design of delivering Greece from its bondage, and of establishing it under a prince of its own religion, as a free and independent nation."-"Another war must totally extinguish the Turkish power in Europe; an event desirable to most Christian nations, and particularly to Great Britain." Poussielgue, who accompanied the 93 French expedition to Egypt, and whose talents are confessed, as well by the commander in chief as by the English editor of the intercepted correspondence, professes a contrary opinion. "It must eternally be the interest of France, of England, of Prussia, and even of the Emperor, to oppose the downfal of the Ottoman empire43." I will not undertake to determine the degree of respect which may be due to these different authorities, nor will I examine how far the circumstances which have arisen since the publication of these opinions, may have diminished the means, affected the interests, or changed the dispositions, of the states of Europe. But I question whether either religion or humanity would feel much cause for triumph, in the extension of the secular power of Russia, or in the enlargement of her ecclesiastical pale.
43See Volney, considérations sur la guerre actuelle des Turcs. Survey of the Turkish empire, p.193,397. Intercepted correspondence from Egypt, part 3d. London, 1800.Russian church.
I have observed the Greek religion in Russia and in Turkey. I am indeed unlearned in its peculiar doctrines, but, judging of it from its practice, I confess it to be justly characterized, as a leprous composition of 94 ignorance, superstition, and fanaticism44. Voltaire describes, as antiquated superstitions, which the reformation, introduced by Peter the Great, had abolished, some customs and opinions so extraordinary that human reason can hardly be believed to be so degraded as to submit to their influence and to acknowledge their authority45. I have met with Russians among whom intoxication seems a precept of religion, but who would suffer martyrdom rather than smoke tobacco, because the holy scripture declares, that that which enters into the mouth of man does not defile him, but that only which comes out of his mouth. These are men of the old uncorrupted sect, who break the uniformity of a street rather than perform their devotions in a temple which is not built due east and west; who wear their beards in spite of Peter the Great; and who drink brandy with as much devotion as that monarch himself. Many, even of the reformed Russian church, abstain from eating pigeons, because the holy 95 spirit is represented under the form of a dove. Their confession is a mockery, if not even an encouragement to iniquity. The priest recites a catalogue of sins, the penitent roundly confesses himself guilty of the whole, and removes the whole load from his conscience by obtaining one general absolution. The priests are ignorant and base beyond what can be imagined. I have more than once turned away with contempt and disgust from the clergy of a parish staggering from house to house to confer their Easter benediction on their flock, and to congratulate them on the return of the festival in repeated draughts of brandy46. These reproaches cannot indeed be applied to the Greeks of Turkey. Their superstitions are somewhat less gross and offensive, though scarcely less absurd. Both the Russian and Turkish divisions of the Greek church unite in refusing even the name of Christian to men of other communions.
44See Voyage à Constantinople, p.217.- Such an assertion may be thought too general and too severe. The truth of it may even be doubted by those who have not seen Russia, as the state of religion in no country in Christendom can prepare a traveller for what he will there observe.
45See Histoire de Charles XII, liv.1.
46The patriarch of Georgia, a prelate of the Greek communion, is reported by Chardin (p.191) to have declared, "that he who was not absolutely drunk at great festivals, such as Easter and Christmas, could not be a good Christian, and deserved to be excommunicated."Russian government.
I assent to the opinion of Mr. Eton, that the court of Russia is sufficiently justified in 96 taking possession of both Tartaries, and reducing the inhabitants to something a state of social subordination. The safety of Russia required it. The Tartars were constantly making incursions into Russia, Poland, and Moldavia, to carry off the inhabitants, and plunder and burn the villages.
The ramparts of the Tartars were their deserts: their retreats were in the boundless expanse of their naked plains. It was difficult to conquer, or to check them: the idleness and the independence of their mode of life were insuperable difficulties to their settling and becoming cultivators: want and privations were accounted slight inconveniences, compared to peaceable, laborious, and unagitated, life: nothing could be offered to them equivalent to the pleasures and advantages of rapine and of freedom. Wherever there was booty, there they discovered enemies; and their enemies themselves constituted their most valuable booty: but, though a change of life might be a severe punishment to their captives, they never treated them with intentional severity; they either sold them, or employed them, under the care of their women, in menial services, in keeping their flocks, or in pitching and 97 removing their tents: the slaves, however, shared only the same hard fare which satisfied their masters, and experienced from them neither haughtiness, nor ill usage.
The conquests over the Tartars were in some degree necessitated by the geographical position of Russia, and it is probable, that the sum of human happiness is increased by their subjugation. It may, however, admit of a doubt, whether the same beneficial consequences would attend the further conquests of Russia, and the establishment of its government over the wide and various countries which have already been enumerated. In the opinion of Mr. Eton, there are two kinds of good government, placed, it is true, at opposite extremes of the scale, but both equally conducive to happiness, and between which there is no medium. "A nation must be perfectly free, or perfectly passive." "Liberty," he says, "has been no where understood, no, not in Athens, but in this happy island." And if in this respect he be in an error, at least the motive is commendable. But though Mr. Eton does not mean to recommend for imitation the other state of perfect government, as established in Russia, since 98 unfortunately those who have once removed from it cannot go back again, yet he affirmed that the whole mass of the people is more happy in Russia than any which he has seen in three parts of the globe; "because there the peasantry look upon the monarch as a divinity, styling him God of the earth ZEMNOI BOG; ignorant of any government but a despotic sceptre, and of any condition but vassalage; happily deprived of all means (?)of evil information. The soldiery, content with rye-biscuit and water; the nobility unable to offer the least opposition to the crown, depending on it for every honourable distinction of rank, civil or military, conferred, but not inherited, and which he who bestow can take away, while they who suffer more bless his name. There is no law but the express command of the monarch, who can debase the highest subject to the condition of a slave, or raise the lowest to the first dignity of the empire. But this autocratic sceptre exercises no despotism over the subject insulting to mankind. The Russian monarch is not, like the stupid Ottoman, seated on throne involved in black clouds of ignorance, supported by cruelty on one 99 hand, and by superstition on the other, at whose feet sits terror, and below terror, death47."
47Survey of the Turkish empire, p.433.- This happy system of government was, in part, formerly enjoyed by Poland. "Là le paysan ne seme point pour lui, mais pour des seigneurs, à qui lui, son champ, et le travail de ses mains, appartiennent, et qui peuvent le vendre et l'égorger avec le bétail de la terre." (Hist. de Charles XII, liv.2.)
Such is Mr. Eton's picture of a real, not an imaginary, Utopia. Fortunately, he does not descend to the minutiæ of the blessings which we, equally happy Britons, enjoy: but let us endeavour to suppress envy, and while we rejoice in the consummate happiness of thirty millions of people, let us rejoice no less in Mr. Eton's assurance, "that other nations, being once removed from such comforts, need never expect to enjoy them48."
48Two years after writing this eulogium on the Russian government, Mr. Eton wrote his postscript, though both were published together. The Empress Catherine was then dead; and we are now told, "that it is time the voice of truth shall be heard. It is only in foreign politics that she appears great: as to the internal government of the empire, it was left to the great officers, and they inordinately abused their power with impunity. Hence a most scandalous negligence, and corruption in the management of affairs in every department, and a general relaxation of government from St. Petersburgh to Kamschatka."(p.450.) "She knew their conduct; but was deaf, and almost inaccessible, to complaint."(p.451.) "The institution of general governments was a new burthen on the people of fifty millions of roubles, more than the ancient simple regulations, a sum equal to three fourths of the whole revenue of the empire. The increase of vexation was still greater."(p.451.) Utrium honum(?)mavis, accipe.Examination of the arguments for dispossessing the Turks.
100 As the Ottoman porte has long since abandoned all schemes of ambition, and religiously observes its treaties with the neighbouring states, the expulsion of the Turks from Europe must be founded only on some of the following ostensible reasons: either because they are not Christians; or, because the title by which they hold the dominion of their vast empire, though acknowledged by every potentate in the world, must now be submitted to judicial examination; or, because their government is despotic, and a great proportion of their subjects are deprived of the exercise and enjoyment of civil liberty, on account of their dissenting from the established creed49. Upon the same principles the invasion of a regenerating army may be 101 justified in any other country, in which the reins of government are as loosely held, and as unskilfully managed. I do not, indeed, believe, that any European power would publish a manifesto grounded on such puerile arguments. If the invasion of Turkey be commanded, the ratio ultima regum will silence argument, and enforce conviction on those who cannot immediately comprehend, that the conqueror is acting for their benefit. Besides, if the Turkish title to dominion in Europe be ill-founded, I do not see how the case is altered by the interposition of the Bosphorus and the Hellespont. Asia Minor formed, no less than Thrace, a part of the Roman empire, subjected to Rome by unprovoked invasion, by forced or forged concession, and all the arts to which the most civilized nations resort for the extension of territory. The reasoning against the Turkish power applies no less to Asia than to Europe. And must we recur to mouldy records, to ascertain in what corner of the world the Turks are to be consigned to peace and to oblivion50? Must they 102 ramble about in search of Eden, the first seat of the common ancestors of mankind? or retrace their steps to Selinginskoy, whence M. Bailly deduces the origin of learning? or must the summary Roman method be resorted to, and peace be proclaimed only when then country is reduced to a solitude51?
49Busbequius indeed gives another reason, which, whether it be so openly avowed or not, will be the chief inducement for carrying into execution "the vast and generous design" of conquering Turkey. "Sed si nec laudis nec honesti pulchritude animos torpentes inflammativ; certe utilitas, cujus hodie primo ratio ducitur, movere potuit, ut loca tam præclara, tantisque commoditatibus et opportunitatibus plena, barbaris erepta, a nob(?) petius, quam ab aliis vellemus possideri." (Epist.i, p.43.)
50"We wished," says Olivier (p.192), "that the Turks might be forced to return to the wild and distant countries whence they issued."
51"Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant." (Galg(?) Orat. in Taciti Vit. Agric. c.30.)Remoteness of amelioration.
The Chevalier D'Ohsson is of opinion, that a revolution of principle, and a change in the system of government, may easily be introduced into Turkey. It requires only a sultan free from prejudices, superior to the institutions of his country and the influence of education, assisted by a mufti animated with the same zeal for the public good, and seconded in his views by a vizir of prudence, courage and probity52. He ought to have known, that the revolution of many ages cannot be expected to produce such an assemblage of virtuous and vigorous minds, endowed with knowledge so diametrically opposite to the principles of their education. The example of Peter the Great, who for a time divested himself of the pomp and the 103 power of sovereignty, in order to study the sciences and the art of government in countries more advanced in civilization than his own, is a singular phenomenon in the history of mankind; and a similar instance must not be expected to recur in every thousand years. Conjectures are not to be as assumed as facts: neither can I presume to venture any opinion on the probability of either event; though I sincerely wish, that the punishment which Volney denounces against the empire of the Ottomans may be averted, either by their own prudence or by providence. According to this author, "the sultan equally affected with the same ignorance as his people, will continue to vegetate in his palace; women and eunuchs will continue to appoint to offices and places; and governments will be publicly offered to sale. The pashas will pillage the subjects, and impoverish the provinces. The divan will follow its maxims of haughtiness and intolerance. The people will be instigated by fanaticism. The generals will carry on war without intelligence, and continue to lose battles, until this incoherent edifice of power, shaken to its basis, deprived of its support, and losing 104 its equilibrium, shall fall, and astonish the world with another instance of mighty ruin53."
52Tableau Général, Discours préliminaire, p.xxxiii.
53Considérations sur la guerre actuelle des Turcs.
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