20 JULY 1878, Page 13


[TO THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR"] Sin,—In a series of letters to the Times, a well-known writer, under the signature of " A Traveller," had propounded a solution of the Eastern Question, one of the essential features of which was " the complete, uncompromising abolition of the distinction between Mussulman and non-Mussulmau." This tempted me to ask " A Traveller" the following questions :—Does he " know of a single instance, from Mahommed's day to our own, of a Mussulman Power granting equality of rights to its non-Mussul- man subjects ? If he does not, what ground has be for believing that the Ottoman l'ower will now abolish the rule and traditions of twelve centuries ? Let the Supreme Power cease to be Mussulman, and then Mussulmans and Christians may enjoy equal rights, and live in peace and harmony side by side in the same village, as they now do in British India and in the Russian Empire. What ground is there, in reason or history, for hoping that this can be the case under the rule of a Mussulman Power wielding independent sway ?"

I propounded no " panacea ;" on the contrary, I tested the panacea of " A Traveller " by two pertinent questions, which I illustrated by two examples. Those questions and examples Mr. Bosworth Smith, after some scornful expressions towards myself, epitomised as follows :—" Give Turkey in Asia a Christian rule, and all will go right." He has now apologised for having attributed to me words which he admits I never used,—an apology which I accept in the same frank spirit in which it has

been offered. But he " cannot go further, and admit that he has in any degree misrepresented what I did say." On the contrary, he "leaves it to your readers," and even " to Mr. MacColl him- self, to determine wbether the most perverse ingenuity' can ex- tract any other meaning from these words than that which " Mr. Bosworth Smith "drew from them." In other words, Mr. Bosworth Smith maintains that the two following propositions are absolutely identical :—" Abolish the supremacy of Mussul- man rule in Asiatic Turkey, and good government is possible." " Give Turkey in Asia a Christian rule, and good government is certain."

Well, all I can say is that I am much surprised at Mr. Bosworth Smith's inability to see a distinction which seems to me so patent

and fundamental. Christian Governments have, no doubt, at various times persecuted and refused equality of rights to dissidents from the dominant creed. But this has not been in virtue of any fundamental and universally recognised dogma of Christianity. Under a Christian Government, therefore, per- fect civil and religious liberty is possible, and has been realised in practice. On the other hand, inequality of rights to the non- Mussulman is a fundamental and universally recognised dogma of Islam, and as a consequence, civil and religious liberty to the Nonconformist has never been realised in any independent Mussulman State known to history. To expect that it will be different in the future is to expect a miracle, and miracles are outside the domain of political reasoning.

As a matter of fact, however, I was careful to say nothing about " a Christian rule," because, superior as I consider Christian rule to all others, I still believe that equality before the law is possible under Pagan or Agnostic rule. The one sole rule under which it is not possible is that of Islam. I submit, therefore, that "the fundamental misconception" has been, and still is, in the minds of Mr. Bosworth Smith and those who agree with him. They were jubilant at the " pluck " shown by the Porte in the rejection of the mild proposals of the Conference of Con- stantinople, and strenuously opposed the policy of coercion by all the Great Powers,—a policy which would have avoided war, and given no provinces or fortresses to Russia. When the paeans of the party with whom Mr. Bosworth Smith has acted were loudest, I wrote as follows :— -

"It is not a question of Turkey being coerced. The only question is, who shall coerce her ? Europe united, or Russia single-handed ? The former policy will secure peace, and with peace, a scheme of re- forms which will give practical autonomy to the disturbed provinces, and save the Turkish Government from dissolution. The policy which seems to have prevailed necessitates war within a few, probably a very few, weeks; and with war, the total collapse of the Turkish Empire, and the precipitation of several political problems which are hardly ripe for solution, and which a wise statesmanship should have striven to mature gradually."

This I wrote, two months before the Russo-Turkish war, in a volume entitled, " The Eastern Question : its Facts and Fallacies." I am quite content to let the soundness of Mr. Bosworth Smith's opinions and mine respectively be tested by the Treaty of Berlin.—I am, Sir, &c.,