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If, in this respect, we are better on the whole than those who went before us, what securities have we against the dangers of a relapse? The answer is obvious. We are less exposed to temp tation, and we act under the control of public opinion. The servants of the State, whatever their rank or denomination, are regularly if not abundantly paid, and an act of peculation brought home to the delinquent would at least be stamped with ignominy and hopeless dismissal from office. Appointments also are made in the public service on sounder principles and under a stricter responsibility. The Turks, it is true, have no parliament, and still less a parliament composed of individuals responsible to a popular constituency. But they have a sovereign whose power is absolute, whose interest it is that the empire should be honestly served, and who has no aristocratic, municipal, or party combinations to manage. In fact, without the immediate sanction of the Sultan, no issue of money, no official appointment is made; no act of administration, no decision of council, no sentence of criminal justice, is carried into effect. The laws against malversation, bribery, and corruption are stringent, and to every breach of them a penalty more or less severe is attached.
In aid of the Sultan there is a Privy Council, a Cabinet for Affairs of State, whether internal or foreign. There is also a more comprehensive council, having judicial as well as deliberative powers, and comprising, together with the Grand Mufti and others of the Ulemah, most of the principal functionaries. To these may be added a Board of Reform, whose president is a member of the administration; and occasionally, under urgent circumstances, a Council of Notables, convened by supreme authority from the provinces, and in part elected there. Moreover, in each province there is a separate council for local affairs under the presidency of the respective pashas. In these assemblies the elective principle is in some degree employed, and a representative of each non-Mussulman community sits among the members.
The pashas are no longer invested, as of old, with plenary powers. They are now little more than civil commissioners. The troops are placed under a military commander, and the provincial revenue is administered by a separate authority. No capital sentence can be carried into effect without a special order from Constantinople. This new distribution of power, though doubtless in some respects useful, has the draw back of leaving too much in the hands of the council, whose leading members are men of influence in their neighbourhood, swayed by local interests, indifferent, if not hostile, to the imperial policy, and capable at times of giving law to the pasha. A surer and stronger link is wanted between the supreme
Government and the provincial authorities, and such a link might perhaps be found without disturbing the present divisions of the empire. The existing pashaliks might be grouped into clusters determined by territorial conformation or by local convenience, and each of the clusters might be superintended by a governorgeneral or lord high commissioner, representing the Sultan, and enjoying the full confidence of his Government. Examples of this kind of delegation are to be found in Turkish history. One of them has lately been given in the person of Fuad Pasha, who, under peculiar circumstances, was invested with extraordinary powers for the restoration of order in Syria. Another took place a few years before, when the two adjacent provinces of Thessaly and Epirus were united for a time under the administration of a single pasha, who in earlier days would probably have received the appropriate and well-known title of Bey-ler-bey, or Lord of Lords. There would be little difficulty in arranging a sufficient control for the exercise of so high a trust, and the body of Turkish statesmen would not be required to supply more than twelve or fifteen individuals capable of fulfilling its duties, and giving thereby a general and uniform effect to the Sultan's beneficent intentions.
The execution of such a plan might in time be greatly assisted by opening a wider field of instruction to candidates for public employment. The first step has been taken in this direction. A college, founded by the Government, exists in the principal suburb of Constantinople. The students are partly Christian and partly Mussulman. They are brought up together on equal terms. The institution was originally a School of Medicine. It has been expanded into larger proportions, and may now be said to contain the rudiments of an university. No principle stands in the way of its further extension. As a model for similar foundations in the chief provincial cities, its importance can hardly be overrated.
We have already intimated that in our opinion the Turkish army, far from being too large for the wants of the country, stands in need of a considerable increase, with reference at least to the numbers actually enrolled. The objections are not entirely of a financial character. The conscription operates on the Turkish population alone, and the supply from that quarter is not equal to the demand. This deficiency has been felt for some years, and it is to all appearance a growing evil. How is it to be supplied from within the empire if not by recruiting among those portions of the people who, on religious grounds, have hitherto been exempted from military service? This idea has been adopted by the Porte, and made acceptable to the
Christians by substituting a war-tax for the degrading Haratsch, and levying it on all religious classes alike. But the egg has been somewhat addled in the hatching. The Christians complain of the new tax as pressing unfairly on them; and, as no arrangements have yet been made for placing them, as soldiers, on a proper footing, the army is still dependent on its one declining source of recruitment.
Whatever may be hereafter the composition of the army, its numbers cannot be increased without a corresponding increase of expense. On this account, as well as on others, it is evident that measures calculated to remove financial abuses and to render taxation more productive stand foremost in the line of reform. Retrenchment and economy are the best, and indeed indispensable starting-points. They alone can at present obtain, for any security the Porte could offer in raising money on loan, that confidence which might re-open the money-markets of Europe to her proposals. The pump must have water to make it work. The first remedial operations in finance would be attended with a partial abandonment of the customary expedients, and it is difficult therefore to imagine how the curative process could be effected without a temporary accommodation by loans. Ten years ago this harbour of refuge was closed to the Porte by traditional scruples, which subsequently gave way to pressure, as other mistaken notions will also give way to a similar force of circumstances.
On this, as on other points, much, no doubt, is wanted. But the resources, be it observed, are natural, the obstacles conventional. Opinion works in such manner as to bring out the former, and to test the latter by their actual utility. Things deemed impracticable have come into preparation for every-day use. The progress of improvement is scarcely less rapid than extensive.
It was during the Crimean war that strangers commissioned by foreign governments were first allowed to take part in the Porte's financial deliberations. They had to contend with much jealousy and many prejudices. They were often baffled in their researches; and if they succeeded in doing any good, it was all but limited to the prevention of evil.
The Porte has now accepted the services of two gentlemen who are actually clerks in the British Treasury, and to them, in honourable reliance on a friendly government, the mysteries of Turkish finance are said to be fairly unfolded. Even to those who have watched at home the course of events in Turkey, such changes appear little short of miraculous. They are earnests of further advancement, and scem to forbid the surrender of a single hope.
It would be a great mistake to suppose that nothing has yet been done except on paper. In every department some practical steps have been taken, more or less, in the right direction. Progression languishes rather from moral than from material causes, less from want of will in the Government than from the temperament of individuals. The "hawl-of-all, so well known in our navy, the strong pull, long pull, and pull altogether,' so potent in a British rowing-match, have still to be impressed on our Ottoman friends. In every great enterprise, energy, method, system, concurrence are needed for success. In Turkey, as now circumstanced, and more perhaps than elsewhere, these qualities of every great national movement have to be sustained, if not inspired, from without. Happily for the Turkish Empire sufficient means and motives for giving, in a friendly spirit, the requisite impulsion to its endeavours are no longer out of reach. The principal States of Christendom are solemnly pledged to support the integrity of that empire, and to regard it as a member of what is rather affectedly called the great European family.' When acting together under mutual self-restricting engagements they are capable of urging their joint counsels on the Porte without that danger to its independence which might accompany the single interference of any neighbouring Power. Supposing their views to be honest, and their recommendations to agree with the Porte's declared principles, the pressure thus exerted would be no less safe than useful. Were interested motives to prevail in secret with one or more of them, the vigilance of England would not go to sleep, and the Porte's position would not be worse than if it were one of political estrangement and insincere profession. The union, moreover, of its advisers, though perhaps a mere show, might be reasonably expected to repress any tendency to foul play by making the exposure of intrigue more discreditable and offensive. The advice of our own Government, in particular, would be tendered with the twofold advantage of inspiring confidence as British, and commanding attention as European. The treaty of peace, which guards the Porte expressly against foreign interference as between the Sultan and his subjects, would be anything but satisfactory if it were held to preclude the Sultan's allies from insisting on the enforcement of those reforms which have been adopted freely by him as of vital importance to his empire. Who will deny that the continued neglect of that duty exposes them more and more to the perils and sacrifices attendant, under their existing engagements, on the empire's dissolution, whether it were brought about by force or by intrigue ? Granted that the prospect of a diplomatic conference autho
rized only for definite purposes at Constantinople is by no means attractive. Still, the advantage, or, it may be, the necessity of resorting to such an expedient, when weighed against its inconvenience, will be found to preponderate. Meanwhile such conferences as are intended merely to patch up a local or passing disturbance abound. We are but lately relieved from one, the prolific parent of numberless protocols in Syria. The affairs of Montenegro, those of the Danubian Principalities, and even the mysteries of Turkish finance at headquarters, have likewise in turn been subjects of European deliberation. We know not how soon, or where, a fresh massacre or an insurrection
may necessitate further interference,
It were well to bear in mind that such occasional meetings have also their portion of inconvenience and risk. Their failure is discreditable; the effect of their success at best transient and partial. The evils they are meant to correct are themselves the offspring of one pervading evil, the source of which is Constantinople. In cases of sickness, consultations are not of good omen: but at times they cannot be avoided, and then it is usually thought best to call them where the patient resides, and not on the spot where his fever was caught, or his leg fractured.
In these high matters, to which the principal Powers of Europe habitually and necessarily direct their attention, although the interest, the legitimate interest, is common, and the right equal
, our own Government occupies a peculiar position, comparatively advantageous, but also in proportion to the advantage responsible
. The causes of this are evident. Of all the Powers, Great Britain has most to lose by the inertness and decay of the Ottoman Empire, and least to gain by its dismemberment. Though her course of policy may at times give umbrage to the Porte, the circumstances in which she is placed, and the character of our institutions, exempt her from mistrust. Others may be more feared, and consequently more favoured, by the Turkish authorities; but confidence and goodwill depend in reality less on fear than on hopes and sympathies.
The subject in hand is so large, its bearings so multiples, and the questions it embraces so momentous, that, even in this rapid sketch of its principal bearings, there may be enough to weary, if not to bewilder, the most patient of readers. tended to bring the totality of its elements within so narrow a compass; and at this stage we aim at nothing more than a very light notice of two or three outstanding points which ought not to be entirely overlooked.
Authors, in seeking to explain the decline of Turkish power, have noticed two practices, in particular, as helping greatly to
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