31 AUGUST 1878, Page 8


OUR philo-Turk critics are hard to please. They have been lecturing the Spectator for the last three years for the alleged offence of excessive "humanitarianism." Now they accuse us, with equal vehemence—and we must add, with equal logic—of a criminal lack of this very "humanitarianism."

In matter of fact, however, it is not the Spectator which. has been inconsistent, but its accusers. In our judgment, humanity is not a question of race, or creed, or of political geography. Outrages upon it are deplorable and to be execrated, by whom- soever committed or endured. We weigh Bulgarian or Russian atrocities in the same scales in which we are accustomed to weigh Turkish or any other atrocities. We denounced the misdeeds of the Turks in Bulgaria, but not before those misdeeds had been established by the evidence of witnesses whose trustworthiness commanded the respect and confidence of those who are now our accusers. Mr. Baring was the chosen agent of Sir Henry Elliot, whose opinions on the Eastern Question he was known to share ; and Mr. Baring had for interpreter in Bulgaria a Levantine, who was notorious as a partisan of the Turks against the Bulgarians. Mr. Schuyler had been American Charge d'Affaires in St. Petersburg, where he had made himself so unpopular by his despatches on the doings of Russia in Turkestan, that he was transferred to Constantinople. His book on Turkestan, moreover, was published in the autumn of 1876—in the heat, that is, of the agitation on the Bulgarian atrocities—and was most favourably reviewed in the Pall Mall Gazette, the Morning Post, the Daily Telegraph, and the Standard. For some weeks it was almost impossible to take up any of these papers without finding the name of Mr. Schuyler introduced, to point a moral or adorn a tale against Russia. In accepting the evidence of Messrs. Baring and Schuyler therefore, we were accepting the evidence of our opponents' select witnesses. Now, what was the nature of that evidence ? Both Mr. Baring and Mr. Schuyler declare that the Bulgarian atrocities were, in the main, unprovoked. "What makes the act of Chefket Pasha so abominable," says Mr. Baring, "is that there was not a semblance of revolt ; the inhabitants were perfectly peaceable, and the attack on them was as cruel and wanton a deed as could well have been committed For this heroic exploit Chefket Pasha has received a high place in the Palace." "It is certain," says Mr. Schuyler, " that nearly all those who particularly distinguished themselves for their cruelty and barbarity were rewarded, decorated, or promoted by the Porte, or have since held high positions in the Army." Moreover, when Chefket Pasha and his fellow-assassins were denounced by Lord Derby, Chefket published a letter in the newspapers of Constantinople in which he declared that himself and the other leaders of the atrocities "had in their pockets the Minis- ters injunctions to slay, to burn, to terrorise, and would pro- duce them, if challenged." Sir Henry Elliot failed to extract a contradiction of this serious indictment from the Turkish Government (see Times of November 6th, 1876, and" Turkey," No. L [1877], p. 729). Another witness now in high favour with our philo-Turk censors is Mr. Consul Reade, because he has reported against Bulgarians and Russians. But what did Consul Reade report at the commencement of the atrocities in the summer of 1876? After giving an account of one of the very worst of the atrocities, on the other authority of a Prussian engineer who was on the spot, and of a Turk who had taken part in them, he says, "From what I can make out, I am really inclined to think that the object at this moment, in the lately disturbed district of Tirnova, is to diminish the number of Bulgarians as much as possible." When this despatch was quoted in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister de- nounced it as "coffee-house babble." But the Pall Mall Gazette of last Monday has recommended Vice-Consul Calvert in particular, as a witness in whose thorough trustworthiness the Spectator may place implicit confidence. To Vice-Consul Calvert, therefore, let us go. Mr. Calvert was sent by Lord Salisbury from Constantinople in January, 1877, to collect the evidence of the leading Mussulmans of the Sandjak of Philippopolis, and here it is :—" I have now seen all the local Begs, or Turkish landholders. They every one comment strongly on the wretched state to which the population at large has been reduced through Ottoman misgovernment, and which has caused the discontent that has brought the country to its present pass The Bulgarian Notables whom I have questioned here agree in laying all the blame of the late excesses in these parts on Alcif Pasha, whom they believe to have acted with the approval, if not at the instigation, of the central Government."

Captain Ardagh was sent at the same time by Lord Salis- bury to other districts of Bulgaria, and his report agrees with that of Mr. Calvert.

We have now given a sample of the evidence on which we denounced the Bulgarian atrocities. It is the evidence of the witnesses summoned by our opponents themselves,— the evidence of philo-Turks, anti-Bulgarians, denunciators of Russia, fanatical Mussulmans. Yet even so, if the Bulgarian atrocities had been only an ugly exception to the ordinary rule of the Turk, we should not have thought it necessary to dwell upon them. We should have "looked at them, and passed on." What made it necessary to dwell on them and rouse the public conscience against them was that they were symptomatic of an organic disease,—exhibitions on a conspicuous arena of the ordinary administration of the Porte. Let the reader observe the character of the evidence to which we have appealed on the recommendation of the Pall Mall Gazette. Mr. Calvert quotes the Mussulman landowners of Bulgaria as declaring that the massacres were unprovoked, that the ringleader was the Turkish Pasha in command, and that he "acted with the approval, if not at the instigation, of the central Government." This is the essence of our charge against the Porte,—that the Bulgarian massacres were not the result of a local outbreak, begotten of panic or fanaticism, but a regular and recognised part of the administrative system of the central Government.

Let us now look at the counter-charge against the Bulgarians. And first, as to the evidence. The Pall Mall Gazette has re- commended the Spectator to "refresh its memory," "by read- ing once more the narrative of the young Turkish woman, Nazik." We have taken our contemporary's advice, and we must say that if we adopted his method of criticism, we should throw the evidence of Nazik aside as utterly untrustworthy. Our contemporary has acted on the principle of refusing to accept the unsupported testimony of a Bulgarian against a Turk. This is the unsupported testimony of a Turk against Bulgarians, and we know by an overwhelming number of instances that testimony of that kind is open to the gravest suspicion. Our readers will remember the pathetic story of the Kaimakam of Kezanlik, whose teeth were drawn and eyes put out by the Russians, and who was paraded, "in this sad plight," through the streets of Kezanlik for three days. The story went the round of Europe, in a circular despatch from Saf vet Pasha, and Mr. Layard reported it to his own Govern- ment. A number of eye-witnesses bore witness to it. Yet the whole story was a myth, as Colonel Brackenbury, who was at Kezanlik at the time, and saw the Kaimakam, proved. Another story quite as pathetic as that of Nazik was related to the British Consul at Adrianople. The miscreants this time were Cossacks, and their dress was described in detail by their Mussulman victims. Colonel Brackenbury again came forward and declared, on his personal knowledge, that the whole story was an invention, an additional proof of this being the fact that the Cossacks wore no such dress as the one described. The dress in question was the one worn by the Cossacks in the campaign of 1829, and was known to the Turks in Roumelia through the medium of pictures. In short, the outraged women, according to Colonel Brackenbury, simply repeated, under the influence of threats and bribes, a story in which they had "been coached" by the Turkish authorities. Clearly, therefore, Nazik's story belongs to a totally different class of evidence from that on the strength of which we denounced the Bulgarian atrocities ; and most of the charges against the Bulgarians and Russians rest on similar evidence. Nevertheless, we do not affirm that these charges are untrue. We are willing to believe, on weak evidence or even on no evidence at all, that the Bul- garians have been guilty of atrocities. In cases like this, probabilities must be taken into consideration, and human nature being what it is, it is next to impossible that the Bul- garians, even if they were much nobler specimens of humanity than their most ardent admirers would contend, should have resisted, when they got the chance, the temptation to avenge the unspeakable wrongs which they had been enduring at the hands of the Turks during the previous eighteen months. The atrocities committed on them were, for the most part, unpro- voked. The atrocities committed by them have been in the nature of reprisals. Again, we summon our opponents into the witness-box. Blue-book No. 26 (1877) is full of evidence on this head, but we must content ourselves with one extract from a Memorandum (p. 139) from Mr. Layard to the Porte :— " Mr. Layard desires to call the earnest attention of Safvet Pasha to the reports which he receives from all parts of Turkey in Europe and Asia Minor of the terrible outrages and excesses committed by Circassians and other marauders, appar- ently with the most complete impunity. A number of official reports to Mr. Layard on this subject have been submitted to his Excellency by Mr. Sandison. As to the general truthful- ness of these, there cannot be a doubt. Indeed, his Excellency has frequently admitted it, and has promised that measures shall be taken without delay for the security of life and property in the districts infested by these robbers and murderers Many villages in the Dobrudcha have been almost deserted, in consequence of these shocking outrages. Even the German colonies in that district have suffered most severely from them. Appeal is made in vain for protection and justice to the Turk- ish authorities, who are either unable or unwilling to interfere. Mr. Layard is informed that small parties of Circassians are now in the habit of murdering every man, woman, and child that they meet. They return in the morning, covered with blood, and boasting of their achievements."

The story of these "terrible outrages and excesses" in "all parts of Turkey in Europe and Asia Minor" bears the date of June 15th, 1877; and they were all committed on populations who were accused of no crime, and were completely defence- less ; and "appeal," says Mr. Layard, "is made in vain for pro- tection and justice to the Turkish authorities." Let us now examine the last batch of Parliamentary Papers which have furnished texts for humanitarian appeals to writers who, till now, have been in the habit of putting the word " humani- tarian " within marks of quotation, as a term of reproach. They have quoted Vice-Consul Brophy against Russians and Bul- garians; why have they not quoted his testimony against the Turks ? Mr. Brophy travelled through a large part of Bulgaria immediately after the retreat of the Turks before the Russians, and in two long despatches he gives a harrowing account of the horrors inflicted on the Christian population by their re- treating oppressors. Weary at last of the monotonous tale of rape and murder, burning and robbery, he says :— "I should mention once for all, that wherever these fugitives passed through a Rayah village they invariably carried off all the carts and working beasts, every portable article of value (such as clothes, copper vessels, rugs, &c.), and as much grain as they had conveyance for. Except in the case of some villages whose inhabitants fled to Kirk Kilissia, the Rayahs took shelter in the mountains, but as there was snow on the ground, they were hunted down by Turks and Circassians (generally the latter), and if not murdered, compelled by torture (sear- ing with hot irons on the head or breast, pricking with daggers, &c.) to come back with their captors to the village, and give up their concealed hoards of money."

In one village alone the Mussulmans, whose sufferings are now wringing the hearts of our philo-Turk friends, committed the following atrocities :— "Twenty-eight men and 8 women and children were killed, 4 men maimed for life, 3 houses burnt, the church plundered, 6,500 sheep, 180 pairs of working cattle, 1,600 oxen, cows, and calves, 150 brood mares, 50,000 bushels of grain, and everything in the way of copper vessels, bedding, household utensils, &c., were carried off. In the first place, 16 Circassians rode in and began to shoot down everybody they saw ; and afterwards, 3,800 waggons of fugitives [Turks] stationed themselves in the village, and daily battues were made for the Bulgarians, who had all taken to the mountains. The result of these 'drives ' was the extor- tion by torture and threats of death of more than £5,000 in money, and the violation of 16 girls, and a much greater number of married women."

Is it so very surprising, that when the survivors of these out- rages got the upper hand, they made their oppressors taste some of the cup of anguish which themselves had previously been made to dram? But there was one exception to the general carnage. "When the Mussulman fugitives had begun to devastate the Rayah villages," says Vice-Consul Brophy, "the [Turkish] inhabitants of Tckendje carried with their own carts and cattle 3,000 bushels of corn from Modlesh to their own granaries, in order to prevent its being plundered, and afterwards restored it to its Christian owners." And what was the result ? When the Bulgarians began to retaliate, the Christians of Modlesh befriended the Turks of Tckendje, and saved their village from pillage. We will conclude with the evidence of Vice-Consul Calvert, the special authority of the Pall Mall Gazette. The outrages which he reports by the Bulgarians happened in Philippe- polls and the neighbourhood. But what had happened there previously ? "A band of Circassians and Turks" "massacred sixty people, of both sexes and all ages." The Turks had im- prisoned more than 100 of the principal inhabitants of the district, their only offence being that they were rich and in- fluential. When the advance of the Russians compelled the Turks to evacuate Philippopolis, they let out all the Mussul- man prisoners to prey on the Christians. The Christian prisoners, "to the number of over 100," were taken outside the town "and bayoneted." Mr. Calvert visited the spot, "and saw a number of arms, heads, and legs protruding from the earth." "The clothing scattered about" convinced him that "the corpses were all those of Bulgarians." "Between the scene of this barbarous execution and the railway station I found also in one spot the bodies of twelve Bulgarian waggoners, cut and slashed almost beyond recognition." Is it fair, is it quite honest, to omit all this, while declaiming against the reprisals, related in the same despatch, which the Bulgarians took when they got the chance, and their wounds were still bleeding ? For our part, we loathe outrages, by whomsoever committed, but we can see a difference between outrages committed on their oppressors by a previously innocent population, smarting with the fresh pain of unutterable wrongs, and those inflicted, without provocation, by a ruling caste, partly in the wanton- ness of uncontrolled power, partly as a recognised system of administrative policy. The outrages committed by the Bulgarians, all circumstances considered, do not prove the Bulgarians absolutely unfit to rule. In the War of Inde- pendence, the Greeks committed atrocities more heinous in kind and in degree than those imputed to the Bulgarians. Yet under Greek rule, the Mussulman is now in the full enjoyment of freedom and justice. Turkish atrocities, on the other hand, are rooted in the political system of the Porte as firmly as a matured cancer in the human frame. Reform is consequently possible, in the one case ; the history of six centuries bars all hope of it, in the other.