13 MARCH 1897, Page 8


IT is forty-two years since the Crimean War began, and opinions have greatly changed, but they have not changed universally or with anything like completeness. We have been greatly struck with the number of men who in the newspapers, and still more in society, continue to believe that the Turk is a hopeful person, and the Greek a wretched cad, and who at heart, while admitting that the Sultan is an oppressor, rather hope, as well as believe, that the Turk will at last prevail. They generally admit that Pashas as a class are corrupt murderers, but maintain that the "simple Ottomans" who carry out those Pashas' worst orders with zeal and delight are very good fellows, much better than the same class of Greeks, and perhaps equal to the peasants of any country, certainly equal to Sikhs, Raj poots, or any of the better Asiatic soldiers and agriculturists. We believe that opinion to be wholly wrong, and do not found our belief upon any sentimentality whatever, but on a long chain of facts. That Europe owes all it possesses except law to Jews and Greeks is certain, but is, we freely admit, no reason for present admiration of those races. The Jews produce no Isaiah any more, nor any Saul of Tarsus, and if we were looking for a Homer or a Plato we should search Iceland and the Orkneys before we dreamed of turning the microscope on to the Greek islands. Qur plea both for Jews and Greeks is not their past history, magnificent as it has been, but the present proof they give that they have in them the making of good citizens.

The Greeks have established, in the teeth of terrible difficulties, a civilised and Christian State. They were few in number when enfranchised, and were not allowed sufficient territory to be able to raise a fair revenue ; but with half the population, and probably a sixth of the wealth, of Belgium, being themselves only freshly emanci- pated slaves, they were expected to keep up an army, to build a fleet, to organise a civil administration, to put down crimes like brigandage, which had lasted centuries, and generally to perform the complicated duties and incur the heavy expenditure by which Western civilisation is now supported. Western Europe has no idea of a cheap civilisation such as exists in Texas, and would regard a State without " regulars," without a standing police, and with a habit of lynching bad offenders, as a collection of houses and families, but not a State at all. The Greeks were ordered, too, being by nature democratic Re- publicans, to do all these things under German Princes, with whom they had no relation, who did not quite like them, and who in particular never took kindly to their men of genius. Naturally, under the circumstances, the Greek Army was not either numerous or efficient, the Greek police was confined to the towns, the Greek mobs were very noisy, Greek politics were very personal, and Greek bonds were distrusted by the majority of serious investors. Still the Greeks did form a very fair Army, the re- servists of which turn out readily, and in guerilla war extort the respect of Turks; they did collect a Fleet which would dis- pose of the Turkish Fleet in half an hour; they did put down brigandage ; and they did establish a community as orderly as the Italian, singularly free, and entirely without the Anarchist jealousy of property. Mr. Belt might live in Athens without having his throat cut as the typical bourgeois. They have shown a high respect, even perhaps an over-respect, for culture, they endeavour to advance in civism with all their might, and though they belong to the Greek Church, they have proved themselves excep- tionally tolerant. Their compatriots in Crete, maddened by centuries of oppression, seem willing to kill Mussul- mans at sight as our soldiers in the Mutiny were inclined to kill Sepoys ; but the Greeks of the Kingdom are so little inclined to persecute, that the Mussulmans of Thessaly, who are entirely in their power, have advised the Mussulmans of Crete to submit, because they are sure, from their own experience, that they will be justly treated. No doubt in the effort Greece has somewhat over-spent herself, and, like Pennsylvania and Virginia under the same circumstances, has sympathised with her taxpayers rather than her bondholders ; but there is no evidence that, with larger territory and more revenues, Greece would not be at least as honest as the rest of the Southern world. We should say, on the whole, writing without prejudice, the career of Greece had been a creditable one, and one to create a hope for the future, which is not diminished by the fact that, whatever her Government may do, her people have unanimously shown willingness to incur personal sacrifices in order that other men of their race and faith may become free. Greece, in fact, with all her foibles and failures, is at least as hopeful a kingdom as Scotland was before the Union.

Now what have the Turks done P They left their deserts on the frontiers of China, and invaded Europe for pur- poses of plunder. They reached the end of their resources, and would probably have been driven back, when, as Dean Church in his wonderful paper on the subject has described, their leader hit upon the infernal device of demanding a tribute of children instead of certain imposts. Out of those children, none of them Turks by blood, he formed the " New Soldiers," the Janissaries, perhaps the most formidable standing army which ever existed, and with them his successors conquered Constantinople and the whole of the Eastern Empire of Rome, and nearly conquered Hungary, but were beaten back by the Polish cavalry. From that day to this they have governed that magnificent Empire in the spirit of Tartars, which is the spirit of destruction. They have founded nothing, im- proved nothing, built nothing, have produced no literature, advanced no art, sent out no new idea among mankind. They have shown no conception of government except despotism, supported, whenever resistance was made, by massacres which included both sexes, and destruction which extended even to the animals and the trees. Of their endless subject-races they have not conciliated one. Greek and Slav alike, by almost unheard-of sacrifices, have at last cast off their yoke. There is no people in the world so submissive as the Armenian, who obeyed the Roman cheer- fully for centuries, but even he cannot tolerate the Turk. The Greek loathes him, and even in a little island like Crete fights him hand to hand. The Arab, who is of his own faith, holds him to be the worst of barbarians, and rises against him in armed insurrection at least once in every five years. The detestation of him is in fact not European but universal, and is kept down in every province only by sheer terror of the Ottoman, the boldest and the most merciless of all Asiatic fighting men. Nor is there the slightest hope of improvement. On the contrary, in Turkey everything, including public virtue, is rapidly decaying. There never was a Sultan so bad as the present, or one so secure ; the Pashas are universally corrupt, and are given up even by the admirers of the Turk ; and as for the soldiery, let Batuk and Armenia answer for their character. Nothing survives in the Ottoman except his magnificent courage, his habit of obedience to his officers, and his readiness to the rather than surrender the ascendency of his caste, an ascendency which with him means the right to kill all Christians who will not submit. The Treasury is bankrupt, the pro- vinces are ruined, the capital rises and retires trembling, while all reformers are hunted down, and ;even the religious students who appeal to the Koran as con- demning the present regime are ordered back to their homes to starve there in quiet. After four hundred years of unbroken rule this is the condition of Turkey, and then because the Levantines of the ports are an unworthy people, we are told that we ought to sympathise with the "masculine Ottoman," and not the civilised Greek. Let us admit that the Turk is masculine, and then ask his admirers if they can point to another race in which if a man rises to the top he becomes, by those admirers' acknowledgment, instantly and hopelessly bad,—is trans- formed, in fact, from a fine, if brutal, soldier or peasant into a Pasha.

It is not in the least with Greeks qua Greeks that we ask Englishmen to sympathise, but with all Christian and Arab subjects of what appears to us the most hopeless of Asiatic despotisms,—a despotism which has no future, which is kept up by naked violence alone, and which when it disappears will leave behind it no memorials except a hundred ruined cities, as many desolated pro- vinces, and the deadly hatred of all over whom its spirit- paralysing role has ever extended. We know quite well that the " Great Idea " of the Greeks is a hopeless illusion, that the Prussian power of organisation, which could alone give them a chance, is no more with them than any family like the Hohenzollerns is ; but if they can clear the way for the Hapsburgs, or even for the Romanoffs, they will have done a grand service to humanity and to the world. Better any rule whatever, or even the anarchy which would follow self-government, than the rule of the Turk, which Lord Salisbury at this moment, against his own convictions and his own con- science, is, under German pressure, helping to keep up.