LORD BEACONSFIELD IN ASIA MINOR. T HE Government scheme for "
regenerating " Asia Minor is at last becoming clear, and we do not remember to have received a feebler one, even at their feeble hands. The steady and very natural refusal of that " Sovereign who has only good impulses," Abdul Hamid, to part with any of his authority, has obviously baffled Sir Austen Layard ; and the " irreducible minimum" of reform now arrived at will make no difference at all except this, that the presence of a few English, French, Italian, and Greek officials will slightly increase the facilities for observing how oppressive the administration of Asia Minor is. The Pashas are not to be superseded by Englishmen, nor are Englishmen to govern, or to watch Turks governing; but "Euro- peans," who may, of course, be Greeks or Mussulmans, are to have some control over the collection of the taxes. How that con- trol is to be exercised is not known, but practically it cannot be exercised yet awhile. If the farmers-general are to con- tinue in office, they must retain their powers, and will use them to plunder, as at present ; while if they are not to continue in office, there must be a " settlement " with the peasantry, which will take years, and a " collectorate " organised, for which there are no honest subordinates. The Sultan, moreover, must and will press for money, ready-cash, and as his authority "remains unim- paired," will remove any European who does not furnish it, until the system crumbles down into its old position. Palace favourites who may be displaced to-morrow are not going without cash for the sake of peasants in Asia Minor; nor until a working substitute is found will Pashas give up the system of requisitions, which is so essential to their soldiery, and which even in India has been partially maintained. The landlords there are bound to send in supplies for cantonments, and being fairly paid, do it with- out resistance ; but imagine such a power in the hands of Turks ? If responsible to Constantinople, the " European " Superintendents will be able to do nothing, except perhaps stop peculation at the Ports, and when they have done that, the customs receipts will be mortgaged to obtain ready-money for the Palace, which always wants more than it receives, and the European collectors will gradually be reduced to the position of Reporters, who, if honest men, will expose the sham, and if dishonest men, will draw their pay, mention their difficulties, but express for a quarter of a century their convic- tion that the dominant caste being Turk, all will go right at last.
Finance being thus righted, capital is to be attracted to the country, and to do this it is necessary that there should be security of person and property, and to security there are cer- tain obstacles, all of which are reducible to one. This is simply that if you make money in Asia Minor, somebody takes it away. If the district is very bad, a band of Circassians, or Kurds, or Irregulars, or " fanatics," " loots " the capitalist, plunders his house, burns his factory, and carries off his crops ; and there is no redress, the plunderers having an agree- ment with the police, or the Pasha wanting forces to maintain Ottoman ascendancy. If it is a very good district, a Pasha must be paid half profits at least, as otherwise the following kind of thing will go on. The Times' correspondent at Broussa says :— " The French Consul at Broussa—a man thoroughly conversant with the East—tells me that no foreigner can feel sure of retaining a pro- perty bought and conveyed according to the strictest Turkish rules. No lapse of time is a bar to a claim being set up by any one who chooses to say that the property once belonged to his ancestors, and that they were wrongfully dispossessed of it. The local Courts will act with a strong bias in favour of the claimant, and nearly always give him a favourable verdict. As an instance, ho told me the following story of a case still pending :—Sixteen years ago a Frenchman bought a mill of an Armenian, the transfer having been made by the Kadhi- Asker at Constantinople. He remained in peaceful possession for many years, till the Armenian reclaimed the mill, brought an action against the Frenchman, got a judgment in his favour, and execution not being delayed for a day, ejected the Frenchman's tenant. The Consul, and subsequently the French Embassy, interfered, and after some years the Frenchman was again put in possession. Once more the Armenian got a judgment from the local Court, and the tenant was a second time ejected ; and again the Frenchman obtained an order from the highest Court in Constantinople that he should be reinstated. On one pretext or another, this order has been evaded by the local authorities, and now, three years after the order was made, the French- man remains dispossessed of his property. I have heard of many similar cases, and among them one relating to a mine in which an Englishman is interested. It is difficult to get a favourable judgment, however clear the case may be, but ten times more difficult to get the judgment executed."
To prevent both forms of attack on property, European Judges and European gendarmerie are to be introduced, when the Sultan has given permission, which may take time, and per- mission has become fact, which will take years, Colonel Baker, appointed head of the gendarmerie of Constantinople two years ago, not having a gendarme yet, the old Zaptiehs, or armed police, still doing the duty in this way. " Descending the mountain towards Bazardjik, where we slept, we saw the Angora goats for the first time. They are beautiful animals, with the long hair looking exactly like white floss-silk with a wave in it. The shepherd's dogs barked at and around our horses, whereupon our Zaptiehs rode up to the shepherd, an old Turk with a beard as white as the hair of his goats, and beat him over the head and face with their whips, which are just like little flails. The next day, when some shepherds' dogs again barked at us, one of the Zaptiehs tried to shoot them with his Winchester repeater, but failed." Good Judges must do good, but these Judges are to be " Europeans "—not Englishmen—are to carry out Turkish laws, including the Cheriat, or Sacred Law, which disqualifies Christians from giving evidence, and are only to be Judges in Appeal. That is to say, if a man robbed by a local decision, which is always in the native's favour, will risk murder by appealing to a judge a few hundreds of miles away, he will get a just decree, as the Frenchman did, and will take it back to be treated as the Frenchman was,—that is, to have the false action begun again, with the same result of dispossession. The Judges in Appeal being Europeans, will not and cannot appoint the Cadis, who will go on their way as independent of Orders in Appeal as they now are, neither more nor less. The French- man got his decree by an appeal to the Judge at Constanti- nople, who did not want injustice done any more than the European will ; but the local Cadi, supported by opinion in the only fighting caste, disregarded the decree in appeal, and nothing happened to him, or will happen under Lord Beacons- field's " reform." Why should anything happen ? He is protecting subjects of the Sultan against foreigners who, as the Times says, make the Turks miserable by showing that there is gain to be made in their country which they do not make :- a Many of the evils that Turkey suffers from arise from jealousy. The governing Turks cannot bear the idea that foreigners, or even their own subjects, should make gain out of their country. They them- selves, consequently, often attempt enterprises that they cannot con- duct successfully. They do not consider whether they understand a business, but plunge into it recklessly, and pay dearly for the game. A railway or road contractor, or mill-owner, by constant care, and keeping all under him steadily at work, gains a few hundreds or thou- sands of pounds. The Government determines to save these thousands in future, the carrying off of which makes it miserable. The result of such an attempt cannot be doubtful. The work costs much more than it would have done under a contractor, the subordinate, who is held responsible, is disgraced, the work is suspended before it is finished, and a long interregnum supervenes, during which the capital expended lies dormant, and the works go to rack and ruin. This is, or has been, the fate of the road between Gemlik and Broussa, the railway from Mondanieh to Browse, and the silk-spinning mills at Bronssa. French- men, Armenians, and Greeks were making money at silk-spinning, so that the Government built a factory and sent an Effendi from Con- stantinople to manage it. This poor man did his best, lost many thou- sands of pounds, cut his throat, and the factory was shut up. It has now become the property of a Sultan's mother, and is let to an Armenian for a small annual rent. I once heard an official Turk of eminence— he is now a Pasha—propound the doctrine that a Government could not be too rich, but the people should be kept poor. An ill-defined and modified feeling of the kind thus bluntly expressed underlies many an official act which is generally considered inexplicable."
Let us do the Turks no injustice. It is not mere greed which makes them act thus. They really consider that their country is injured by wealth being taken out of it, and feel when Infidels make money as Californians feel when Chinamen monopolise a trade, that they are being unjustly beaten out of the economic field by a lower and wickeder race than their own. Turkey is for the children of Islam, not for money- getting Christians, who export their gold, and actually fine labourers for unpunctuality. The Roumanians feel just the same about the Jews, and oppress them nearly as much, though of course by regular Disability Laws, and not mere violence.
But at least the new gendarmerie will protect foreigners from positive wrong, insult, or attack Certainly, if by gendarmerie we are to understand armed police on the Indian system, trained and controlled by English officers, regularly paid, and not amenable to orders from Pashas. The material for such a corps exists, the discharged Turkish Regulars being as good men for the purpose as could be found in Asia,—better probably than our own police recruits in Bengal. But our contention is that there is no chance whatever of any such body being established. The Turks do not want an independent Sepoy army in the heart of their own dominions, and are already raising objec- tions. They cannot find the money to pay the men. They must retain the right of appointing and dismissing officers• All Europeans must be eligible, and not only Englishmen The gendarmerie must be Imperial, and not local. The meaning of all that is, that if the force ever comes into existence, which we doubt, and proves efficacious, the Turks not unnaturally will grow jealous of it, will say it costs too much, and will gradually remove all foreigners in favour of their own subjects, till the gendarmerie becomes a widely diffused corps of Bashi-Bazouks, no more to be relied on for the protection of foreigners than the existing Zaptiehs, who could maintain order well enough if their chiefs chose. The essential condition of good government, in short, is willingness in the Government to govern well ; and the Government of Constantinople is not willing, at least, if " good " government is to be interpreted in the Western sense. The men who com- pose it want their own way, not a regime of Law, do not like to see their subjects grow rich, and will not endure to see their country's wealth pass into foreign hands. Those prejudices are not confined to them, nor are they altogether unreasonable ; but the condition precedent of reform being foreign control, they will be fatal to reform.