THE REGIME OF THE YOUNG TURK.*
SIB MARK SYKES'S work, The Caliphs' Last Heritage, is divided into two wholly distinct parts. The first deals with the history of the Ottoman Empire. The second is a narrative of travel undertaken during several successive years in various parts of the Ottoman dominions.
Sir Mark observes that no impartial or general study of the history of the Ottoman Empire in Asia has ever been under- taken. He dismisses Creasy's work as " useless." He speaks With somewhat greater respect of the work of the " periwigged Frenchman," De Guignes, whose 1-listoire des Huns still holds the field as a classic, albeit, it was published more than one hundred and fifty years ago. He makes no allusion to the ponderous work of the German Hammer, which has never been translated into English, and whose enormous bulk is in itself sufficient to repel all but the most ardent historical student. Neither does he allude to the Tarilch-i-Jevdet, a well written and very impartial work which brings Turkish history down to the middle of the nineteenth century. The author was Jevdet Pasha, at one time Minister of Justice at Constantinople.
In his own brief but interesting sketch of Turkish history, Sir Mark Sykes draws attention to a point the historical importance of which IS perhaps not always folly appreciated. It was in 1355 that Suleiman Pasha, the great-grandson of the celebrated Ertoglitul, established himself at Gallipoli. Although in subsequent years a large portion of the Balkan Peninsula was overrun by the Turkish hordes, it was not until 1453 that Mohammed II. the Conqueror, taking advan- tage of the dissensions between the Greek and Latin Churches, which were an insuperable obstacle to Western unity of action, was able to capture the city of Constantine Palaeologns and to offer Moslem prayers in the church of St. Sophia. The event was one of world-wide and far-reaching importance, "Modern history," Lord Acton said, " begins under the stress of Ottoman Conquest." Up to 1453, Byzantium had been a bulwark of Europe against Asia. Henceforth it was an out- post of Asia planted in Europe. Its capture appeared at the time to be, as Sir Mark Sykes puts it, a " crowning mercy" for the Turks. As a matter of fact, it ultimately proved their ruin. Mohammed II, was not only a Conqueror, he was a statesman. He did all in his power to associate Greek intelli- gence with Turkish force, His efforts proved unsuccessful. Byzantium ceased to be the principal seat of learning in Europe, or, indeed, a seat of learning at all. The representa- tives of Greek intellect fled from the uncongenial atmo- sphere which surrounded them. They were scattered over the face of Europe and became the heralds of the Renaissance. All that was good in Byzantinism departed. All that was evil—its cruelty, intrigue, and deceit—remained. The Turks, Sir Mark Sykes says, "in taking Stambul let slip a treasure and gained a pestilence." The humanizing element, which might perhaps in the end have brought the Turks within the comity of civilized nations, disappeared. The barbarian element gained the upper hand. Hence began a struggle which has lasted for four and a half centuries. The curtain has now apparently risen on the final act of the drama. Verily, as Homer says, Ate is slow of foot, but, in spite of her limping gait, she in the end generally reaches her goal.
The second part of Sir Mark Sykes's book, in which he gives a graphic account of the conditions of the districts through which he travelled, is, however, of greater interest than the first, which is wholly historical. In the East, comedy galls the kibe of tragedy. Like every thoughtful traveller, Sir Mark Sykes seems to have realized both the tragic and the comic sides of the scenes which he witnessed and the aflame. ters with whom be was brought into contact. Assuredly the former is more calculated to evoke tears than the latter Ths Caliphs' Last BeritaBs. By LiauteColonell Sir Mark Sykes, Bart., London ; Macmillan and Co, [20e. net.]
is to move to laughter. Everywhere the same tale is told. Everywhere misgovernment, corruption, cruelty, and folly reign supreme. Everywhere the gifts of Nature are spurned,
and the most rudimentary principles which should govern the relations between the rulers and the ruled are neglected:— "Formerly." a "mild-eyed " old Kurd said, " we lived with the Armenians like brothers. Religion was the only difference. Now we are always quarrelling, about I know not what. Are we in fault ? Are the Armenians in fault P I know not—by God, I know not. All of us suffer, Kurd and Armenian alike. Soldiers come in every day, eat our chickens, beat our men, and demand taxel twenty-five years in arrear. How will it end P The Hiunidieh rob us, the Vali robs us, the Mudir robe us. What are we to do? How are we to live ?"
The only halting and singularly mendacious apology which can be made for this state of things is that proffered by an ingenious Turkish police officer. "The people like being taxed. They don't want any money." Vast tracts of land, which might be brought under cultivation, remain undeveloped.
"Mount your horse," an old Mesopotamian Mollah said to Sir Mark Sykes, "and ride for eighteen hours, either north or south, and you will ride through a valley three hours broad, which might be full of villages, but the Government gains nothing from it." In this connexion it is worthy of note that the people themselves would welcome the adoption of a more enlightened policy. In Mesopotamia, they are anxiously awaiting the completion of the Baghdad Railway; neither, as might have been conjectured, do those who are interested in the caravan trade regard the execution of this project with any dislike or jealousy. They are sufficiently enlightened to see that, when the main artery is constructed, lateral traffics will increase.
Side by side with this tragedy of misrule in ecreeleis, there appear all the comic incidents which inevitably occur when the backward and unsymmetrical East is first brought in con- tact with the progressive and symmetrical West. Sir Mark Sykes inveighs against the evils which are the first results of attempts to Europeanize Orientals. Like most Englishmen who have resided in the East, his heart goes out to the old- fashioned Oriental who maintains a noble, if somewhat primitive, standard of self-respect and honour, and who often truly represents " the constant service of the antique world." His sympathy diminishes when the fez and the black frock- coat take the place of the turban and the flowing robe. It altogether evaporates when a felt hat supersedes the fez. He gives many typical instances of Eastern anomalies. The police sergeant who commanded his escort during one of his Mesopotamian journeys was himself " a brisk young murderer." He met a young Armenian who "wept over the punishment of his great nation," who expressed the greatest admiration for Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Henan, Kant, Herbert Spencer, Gladstone, Spurgeon, Nietzsche, and Shakespeare, but whose library turned out, on further inquiry and examina- tion, to consist solely of an advertisement of Eno's Fruit Salt from which he quoted freely. In the desert Sir Mark Sykes met a train from Damascus. He hailed it as a foot-passenger would hail an omnibus in Piccadilly. The engine-driver accordingly "stopped for a chat, salaaming just as he would have done had he been riding a donkey:" It is all very laughable, but, when one ponders over the lot of the people whose destinies in life are at stake, somewhat sad; and what makes it, in the eyes of an Englishman, still more sad is that in some quarters England, for reasons which are, of course, wholly inadequate, is held responsible for Turkish misrule. The political and social news which penetrates into Armenia and Mesopotamia is, however, not very accurate, and is certainly of a very miscel- laneous character. A ruling Pasha asked Sir Mark Sykes in the same breath whether the .Algeciras Conference had broken down, and whether it was true that Sarah Bernhardt's travelling theatrical tent was larger than his.
The most instructive portion of Sir Mark Sykes's book is that in which he tells us of the results which accrued from the downfall of the late Sultan. It is a commonplace of political science to assert that the most dangerous moment in the life of any nation is when a thoroughly had government falls with a crash, and when no elements are available to produce a better government in its place. The government of Abdul-Humid was execrable. It deserved to fall, At the flame time, even the worst government has some merits. So long as it exists, it is a refuge against complete anarchy. Abdul-Humid represented an idea, it may be a had idea, but still an idea which gave some sort of cohesion to the Turkish Empire. With his fall the mainspring was taken out of the whole machine. Practically it may be said that anarchy ensued. Sir Mark Sykes saw Huriyeh (Liberty) at work in the distant provinces of the Empire. " What, 0 father of Mahmud," he said to an old Arab acquaintance, " is this liurtiyeh 1" The " father of Mahmud" replied without hesita- tion "that there is no law and each one can do all he likes." Neither was this lawless interpretation of liberty confined to Moslems. The Greek Christians in the neighbourhood of Hebron were " armed to the teeth and glad of Huriyek, for they say they can now raid as well us other men," In Syria, " the people carried openly the revolvers they used to secrete about their persons ; murderers and thieves were not punished, yet on the other hand there was not a great increase in the number of the thieving and murderous fraternity ; taxes were neither paid nor asked for, public demonstrations had become a national amusement, the police were cheerfully impotent, and all except the Government officials were patiently waiting for something to turn up." In Anatolia, a muleteer who had been discharged from Sir Mark Sykes's service "spent all his time singing Liberty—Equality—Fraternity,' the reason being that the Committee at Smyrna released him from prison, where he was undergoing sentence for his third murder."
In a word, Sir Mark Sykes confirms the testimony of all other competent witnesses. The Young Turk has proved a complete failure ; neither can any great improvement be expected from the exercise of German influence. " The Germans have no instinct for developing a new country. Accustomed to State aid and to State management, to drill, discipline, and formality, they run their zealousness to seed in hosts of unnecessary official regulations, and in enormous expensive [railway] stations. At the same time they neglect every interest of the land they hope to make their own." Nevertheless, Germany's machine-made officers and her military system, albeit it is "inhuman, precise, bookish, and rigid," possess great attractions for many of the Young Turks. " There is so much that can be learnt by mere rote and mimicry, and a little German varnish can be made to go so far. A moustache improver, a ridiculous stiff swagger, a brusque, overbearing, staccato voice, can be mastered in a week, and, once mastered, can be assumed when required leaving twenty-three hours out of twenty-four to idling, intriguing, secret drinking, and any other illicit means of wasting time that Constantinople affords."
To those who sympathize with all that is best in the East, and who would be glad to see the reasonable national aspira- tions of Easterns realized, the picture drawn by Sir Mark Sykes is not, on the whole, calculated to mitigate their present despondency. "The old evils, it is true, have gone, but new evils have come, and the old virtues are dying. Go where you will in Constantinople, you will And no signs of hope or