AFTER a hostility of over two hundred years, — a hostility which no peace has fully suspended and no war has fully expressed, — Russia has borne her flag within the defenses of the capital of Turkey.
Asia has never entered Europe to rest. From the time of Darius down to the present day she has never been able to hold a rood of ground west of the Bosphorus except arms in hand. There seems to be no possibility of good-will, or even tolerance, between the races of the two continents, when brought into a state of co-inhabitation. The Persians, the Huns, the Mongols, the Tartars, arrived, overran, and established themselves, only to struggle with the eternal hate of the autocthonous peoples, to fall at last under their assaults, and to vanish.
The Turks have toiled and are toiling through a like sanguinary history. It is five hundred and twenty-two years since they crossed the Hellespont and seized Gallipoli; five hundred and seventeen years since they took Adrianople and founded their European dominion; four hundred and twenty-five years since they trampled out the Byzantine empire in the breaches of Constantinople. This period of more than five centuries has been a tangle of wars which it would be fatiguing and almost impossible to number. The flow and ebb of the Ottoman tide is stained with the blood of Byzantines, Bulgarians, Roumanians, Servians, Bosnians, Albanians, Montenegrins, Croats, Transylvanians, Hospitalers, Venetians, Genoese, Spaniards, Hungarians, Poles, Russians, Germans, French, Greeks, and even English. There is not a race, nor hardly a nation, west of the Euxine which has not done battle with them. They are the one people whom all Aryan peoples have recognized as enemies, either to be destroyed or angrily tolerated. For more than three centuries it was a question whether Turkey should continue to trespass upon and perhaps conquer Europe. For nearly two centuries, now, it has been one of the greatest of European questions whether Turkey should be, or cease to be.
The most persistent, the most formidable, and the bitterest enemies of the Ottomans have been the Slaves. When Amurath I. entered Roumelia (1360) the Slavic tribes were slowly but steadily tending southward, seizing and filling the depopulated provinces of the Byzantine empire. But for this Asiatic invasion there would probably long since have been two great Slavonic states,— the one on the hanks of the Neva, and the other on the banks of the Bosphorus, — holding each other, perhaps, in equipoise, and tending to preserve the balance of Europe. The advent of the Ottomans was a challenge to mortal duel between them and the ancient, widespread valiant race whose march they interrupted and whose boundaries they invaded.
That duel has lasted, with incomputable waste of blood and indescribable flame of hatred, for more than five centuries. Half a million of Christian youth, mostly, no doubt, of Slavic breed, have been torn from their parents and their faith to die in the ranks of the Janissaries. It is but the beginning of the awful account of sacrifice. There is no imagining the number of Servians, Bulgarians, Herzegovinians, Bosnians, Arnaouts, Montenegrins, Croats, Cossacks, Poles, and Russians who have perished fighting for or against tin; Crescent. The story of Turkey, barren of all artistic or moral beauty, and loaded with slaughter, reminds one of those monstrous Druidic idols whose rude and worthless wicker-work was crammed full of tortured and dying men.
The conquest of the Slavic peoples of the Danubian region was by no means easy. Sometimes alone, sometimes allied with Rouman communities, sometimes assisted by Magyars, Poles, and volunteers from Western Europe, they made a long struggle for independence. From the Servian defeat of Marizza, in 1363. on through the astonishing victories of the Hungarian Hunniades, down to the triumph of Amurath H. at Varna in 1444, the fortune of war was very various. At times the Christian principalities were tributary, and at times they seemed on the point of driving the Moslems into Asia. It was not until 1451, after ninety years of war, of partial submission, of insurrection, of victory and defeat, that Servia and Bosnia were completely subjugated by Mohammed II. For many years later savage Albania1 remained in arms, now bowing its alpine head for a period, and now rising again. At last the wrestle was over, seemingly for all time. The Slavonia of the region called Turkey in Europe was all either lnoliatnmcdanized or tributary. Even heroic Montenegro for a brief while endured the turbaned tax-gatherer.
But the battle between Ottoman and Slave had only commenced. The invaders had but made their way through the skirmishers of the great autocthonous race of Eastern Europe. They had thrust down and trampled over Bulgaria, Servia, Bosnia, etc., only to come upon Poland. After that meeting every advance had its prompt recoil. Turkey indeed flowed into Hungary, and surged for a second time as far as Vienna, and repeatedly threatened to reach the Baltic. But the astonishing valor of the Polish nobility, led by such generals as Zolkiewski and his son-in-law James Sobieski, and the renowned son of this last, John Sobieski, ruined host after host of Asiatics and checked the flight of the Crescent. We have not space to dwell upon these wonderful feats, so like the fabled adventures of Orlando and his comrades. Nor can we do more than allude to the struggles of the Hospitalers, of Venice, and of Austria against the Sublime Porte in the height of its power. Our business is with the victors and the vanquished of the contest which has lately ended.
But before we open the subject of Russo-Turkish wars, let us glance at the martial institutions and methods of the Ottomans, partly for the purpose of knowing by what tactics and arms they won their footing in the most warlike continent of the world, and partly in order to estimate the military value of the enemy with which Russia had to measure herself.
The Turks gathered valuable lessons in warfare from their long struggle with the Byzantine emperors. From these inheritors of Roman science they learned to make vast use of earth-works, not only in siege operations, but also in fortifying camps and field positions. It was the same influence, probably, which led Sultan Orchan, about the year 1326 (more than a century before the establishment of Charles the Seventh’s fifteen permanent companies of men at arms), to organize a body of disciplined and paid infantry called Piadd. Not long subsequently the Janissary corps Avas founded, partly to check the power and insolence of the Piadé, and partly to utilize the numbers and valor of the conquered Christian populations. Thus, after the taking of Constantinople, the Turks stood alone in Europe as possessing a stable army. The strength which they derived from these two Roman ideas, field fortification and regular infantry, can hardly be overestimated.
There was also a body of paid cavalry called the Spahis, — at first, like the Janissaries, merely palace guards, but, like them, gradually increased in numbers and distributed over the empire. They were supported, in part at least, by revenues derived from fiefs, which were sometimes hereditary, but more commonly bestowed for conduct and courage. It is related that, during an assault upon a fort in Hungary, one fief was granted to seven successive troopers, an eighth being lucky enough to survive and keep the prize. The weapons of the Spahis were two short darts, a lance, and a scimitar; after the introduction of fire-arms, the darts and lance gradually gave way to pistols. They attacked in squadrons of about fifty, at furious speed, but in good order; and this succession of swift, sharp raps has often broken the solidest European infantry. As with the Janissaries, their stipend was high and their rations abundant and choice, while the soldier of Christendom was in general irregularly paid and ill provided. They were recruited from the better class of the Moslem population, and are described by old historians as a select body of men, well educated and of gentle fashion.
Regular services of artillery, engineers, road builders, and even water carriers were also attached to the early Turkish armies; it seems as if they alone of all the nations of four hundred years ago had inherited the military wisdom of classical antiquity. On the breaking out of war they added to their paid troops an immense levy of militia, irregular infantry and cavalry, drawn from all the races of the incongruous empire, whose business it was to open the battles, to mask the manœuvres and marches, to perform scouting duty, to collect provisions, to plunder, harass, and destroy. This rambling rabble often spread dismay by causing men vastly to overestimate the strength of Turkish invasions. On the other hand, it sometimes damaged or ruined its own side by rolling back upon and disorganizing the Spahis and Janissaries. Its all-devouring and unwieldy multitude was the unscientific and defective feature of early Ottoman warfare. It was the survival of the barbarous Asiatic notion that a vast levy is a great army. Probably this traditionary confidence in mere numbers has not been without its influence in preventing the Turks from keeping pace with European peoples in the art of war.
It was not only in the ranks of the Janissaries that the ancient Sultans made use of their conquered populations. Converts were heartily welcomed. A Christian who accepted Mohammed was at once an Osmanli; if he had courage and ability he might rise to the highest positions; the result was a multitude of recruits who did the Porte vast service. The chief of the army which besieged Rhodes, under Mohammed II., was a scion of the imperial house of Byzantium. Ibrahim, the favorite officer of the great Solyman, was a renegade. About a dozen of the best Turkish generals, and at least three of their noted admirals, came of Christian origin. Even the rank and file, at all events in Europe, must have been largely of Christian and especially of Slavonic descent. This military use of subjugated peoples has indeed been the chief spring of the conquests of the Ottomans.
In studying Ottoman fortunes one is continually reminded of Napoleon’s compendious phrase: “ The Turks are but encamped in Europe.” They have succeeded as a camp, and only as a camp. Their political prosperity began to decline the moment that the discipline of their troops began to decay. The moral history of the Janissaries includes the physical history of the empire. At first, the education and spirit of this famous corps were of almost unparalleled excellence. They were drafted young into military establishments, and trained, as only boys can be trained, to perfection in exercise and to absolute obedience. More docile, more devoted, more laborious, more valiant soldiers were hardly ever seen. They were the perfectly trustworthy guards of the Sultan, and the enthusiastic, heroic champions of the Crescent. While this lasted, and there was no other similar force in Europe, things went wonderfully well with Turkey.
But little by little too much power and too many privileges were accorded to the Janissaries. They were allowed to marry, to bring their children into the corps, to accumulate estates, to carry on business. In the course of time they became to Turkey what the prætorian bands became to Rome. They were a rich, greedy, insolent, mutinous military aristocracy rather than an army. They claimed and established the right of deposing and appointing, not only their own chiefs, but the chiefs of the state. Between 1512 and 1808 they dethroned four Sultans and procured the death of five, besides maltreating or destroying more aghas and viziers than one cares to count. At least as early as the opening of the seventeenth century they were practically the rulers and the robbers of Turkey. No wonder that Sir Thomas Roe, the envoy of James I. of England, described the country as exhausted by exactions, and the richest portions of it as reduced to deserts. No wonder that he anticipated Nicholas’s famous simile of “ the sick man ” by likening the misruled empire to “an old body crazed through many vices.”
During the reign of Mohammed IV. a great change took place in the constitution of the Janissary force. Up to that time it had been recruited, in theory, and for the most part in practice, by an annual levy of Christian youth; at first, one thousand per annum, and later, three thousand. But Turkey had measurably ceased to be a conquering state; there were no longer hosts of captives and of freshly subjugated peoples to draw upon; the ancient rayahs had long found this impost of children the most vexatious of all taxes; finally, the Mohammedans were envious of the honors and privileges of the Janissaries. In 1676, therefore, the recruitment of Christian boys ceased, and gave place to the voluntary enlistment of Ottomans. It was another step in the decline of the body and of the military power of the empire. Henceforward, the army was deprived of one considerable source of courage, talent, and numbers; henceforward, the Janissaries, no longer disciplined and drilled from infancy, were more disorderly and ignorant than ever.
Their insubordination, their inattention to duty, their defect of all soldierly virtues except sobriety and courage, rose at last to a height which was nothing less than ludicrous. In the latter days of the corps, if a Janissary wanted to join the field army, be did so; if not, he stayed at home and attended to his sinecure office, his investments, and his gardening. A popular war or a favorite vizier would bring out hosts of these gentlemen soldiers; a defeat, a scarcity of plunder, or a failure of pay would disperse them again. Of course, men so untrained during peace, and so irregular in campaign service, knew almost nothing of military business. They could intrench and they could form line, and that was about all. They were so incapable and even unsuspicious of manœuvres that an attack in flank was pretty sure to confound and scatter them; and it was one of their complaints that the cowardly infidels were always up to that sneaking game, instead of fighting an honorable front battle. As for their guard and scouting duty, it was performed in such a manner that their camps were frequently carried by surprise. When Prince Eugene, in the dusk of an August morning (1716), led fifty thousand Austrians to assault one hundred and fifty thousand Turks, he got into their position before he knew it. There were no videttes, and the sentries were asleep.
It was largely owing to the establishment of this insolent and conceited military corporation that the Turks came to learn nothing new in the arts of warfare, and even to forget much that they had known, including field movements and gunnery. Prince Eugene, in his curious memoirs, makes some instructive comments on their ignorance and stupidity. It appears that the Janissaries formed line in isolated platoons, without a second line to cover the intervals of the first, and usually without reserves. In the battle of Peterwardein he noticed, as an unusual circumstance, that large bodies were drawn up in the position of supports ; but he adds that they appeared to be forgotten during the combat, and were not brought into action. We may fairly infer that in many Turkish battles a great part of their force never fought at all, so that their superior numbers availed them nothing. The great prince, by the way, speaks respectfully of Ottoman courage, and especially of the dash and adroitness of the Spahis. Indeed, he gives it as his opinion that, if they would only learn to use supporting lines and properly to handle reserves, still keeping their mode of attacking violently in small bodies, “ with that devilish yell of Allah hu,”they would be invincible.
As for Turkish armament, it had always one serious defect, — the lack of a thrusting weapon. The Ottoman’s idea of arms was from the first limited to a sabre and a missile. In early times he had a sabre and a bow; in later periods, a sabre and a musket, or pistols. He never used the pike in the days of its predominance, nor for a long time would he adopt the bayonet, nor has he ever learned to handle it. In the sieges of Rhodes and Malta, the Hospitalers constantly cleared the slashing Janissaries out of the breaches with half-pikes. In 1664 Montecuculi, winner of the great victory of St. Gothard, noted the entire lack of the pike, which he considered “ the queen of weapons,” as a fatal defect in Turkish armament. It is a matter of common notoriety that to the bayonet the Russians owe many of their triumphs over the Crescent.
Such is a brief — far too brief — and perhaps altogether insufficient view of the military peculiarities of the Ottomans during their loftiest prosperity and during the commencement of their decline. Let us now return to their encounter with the mightiest member of that great Slavic group of peoples with whom they necessarily closed in mortal wrestle when they invaded the east of Europe.
In 1492, one hundred and thirty-six years after the crossing of the Hellespont, and thirty-nine years later than the fall of Constantinople, the fatal name of Russia makes its first appearance in Turkish chronicle. In that memorable year, while Columbus was on his way to a new world, the Grand Duke Ivan, father of the terrible Ivan who first assumed the title of Czar, sent a letter to Sultan Bajazet II., complaining of Turkish exactions upon Russian merchants, and proposing diplomatic intercourse between the two governments. Three years later, his ambassador, Michael Plettschieff, arrived in Constantinople, claiming precedence over the envoys of all other Christian monarchs, refusing to bend the knee to the chief of the faithful, and otherwise carrying himself so haughtily that Bajazet “ blushed at the thought of submitting to such rudeness.”
Russia was then a wild region of some seven hundred thousand square miles, inhabited by no one knows how many millions of semi-barbarians. Its famous Strelitsi (musketeers), or permanent soldiers, were not instituted until fiftythree years later, and its troops were still “ men without all order in the field,” who “ran hurling on heaps.” Its long battle to throw off the tribute imposed by the descendants of Genghis Khan was as yet undecided. But even at this time it seems to have cherished some vague claims upon the throne of Constantinople. Ivan III. had espoused the last surviving princess of the Byzantine house, and assumed as his cognizance the double-headed eagle of the Byzantine emperors, — the eagle which has lately entered in triumph the defenses of Stamboul.
After this first act of political intercourse there came long peace between two natural enemies who could not get at each other. The Muscovites delivered themselves from Tartar tribute, overcame and destroyed the Tartar khanates of Kasan and Astrakhan, and waged with the Tartars of the Crimea many wars, so various in fortune that as late as 1571 these last stormed and sacked Moscow. Little by little, however, they forced their laborious way to the Euxine and Caspian, and there fell into small scufflings with the Turks for the possession of harbors and sea-side fortresses. In 1646 there was fighting around Azof, in which the Ottoman garrison repulsed a Muscovite attack, taking eight hundred heads and four hundred prisoners. In 1670, not far from Astrakhan, Russians dislodged a detachment of Turks who were intrenching a position on the Volga with the intent of commanding the commerce of that mighty river.
It was not until 1674, in the days of Sobieski and of Mohammed IV., that the two-headed Eagle and the Crescent met each other in set combat. Poland, Turkey, and Russia all claimed dominion over the Ukraine. The Poles held it; the Turks were besieging them out of it; the Czar Alexis led a hundred thousand men to seize it. There was a battle, the first of hundreds, — the first, perhaps, of thousands. A considerable column of Ottomans was defeated and well-nigh destroyed by the Muscovites. The indignant Mohammed, gathering all his mingled multitudes, marched against the victors, and drove them back to their wilderness.
But the war continued. Year after year swarms of Russians descended into the Ukraine. In 1677 they gained a notable victory over the famous Vizier Kara Mustapha; in 1678 they were badly beaten, but still fought on. Even then, as an old traveler tells us, “ of all the princes of Christendom there was none whom the Turks so much dreaded as the Czar of Muscovy. ” They were perhaps impressed by his power of bringing into the field great numbers of men. He met them in their own grandiose fashion, the innumerable against the innumerable. Kara Mustapha eventually came to believe that it would be easier to capture Vienna than to hold the Ukraine; and in 1681 the Porte ceded that nest of Cossacks to Alexis, thus closing ingloriously its first war with Russia.
The next contest between the two powers took place in 1694, during the reign of Peter the Great. Peter had not yet taken his strange journey abroad, nor destroyed his unmanageable praeætorians, the Strelitsi. But he was already an innovator: he had raised a few regiments on the German model; he wanted civilization and commerce ; he wanted a sea-coast. It occurred to him that alien and infidel Turkey, at that time struggling desperately with Austria, Venice, and Poland, might easily he robbed of a few harbors. He marched with a great army against Azof; but the Ottoman artillery, directed by a German deserter, far overmatched the Russian; the Czar lost thirty thousand men, and had to break up the siege. Next year he reappeared, with civilized tactics throughout, with a respectable navy, with engineers and gunners borrowed from Holland and Germany, and with a German for commander. At the end of two months of intelligent besieging, Azof fell into his hands. Little more of note occurred during the war, and it ended in 1698 with the general peace of Carlowitz, the Czar retaining his coveted sea-port and the adjacent territory, and grumbling loudly because he could have no more. Already the Western powers were beginning to watch with anxiety the growth of Russia, and to say to each other that she must not be allowed to grasp overmuch of Ottoman dominion. Already the Porte, beaten by Peter, beaten by Venice, beaten dreadfully by Prince Eugene, began to be regarded in the light of a “ sick man.”
This, very briefly, is the history of Russo-Turkish affairs from 1492 to 1698. There had been various local skirmishings and two set struggles for territory, the Muscovites always taking the aggressive, always fighting with the aid of other nations, always gaining ground. During these two centuries, Christian Europe, not excepting Russia, had advanced immensely in population, wealth, civilization, and military skill. Meanwhile, there had fallen upon the Ottoman race and rulers one of those strange blights of intellectual and moral force which so often arrest and bring to decadence a formidable people. The valor of Poles and Germans, the genius of Sobieski and Prince Eugene, had checked their expansion, exposed the tactical feebleness of their armies, and prepared the way for the assaults of the great reserve column of Slavonia.
Every one knows the rest. We have not space even to sketch the great combatings of reformed and civilized Russia with decadent Turkey. The temporary check of the campaign of the Pruth in 1711; the sanguinary but ineffective war of Anne and her ferocious Münnich in 1736-39; the first war of Catherine, lasting from 1769 to 1774, and distinguished by the victories of Romanzow, Dolgoroucki, and Weissman; the second war of Catherine, opening in 1787 and closing in 1792, with vast glory to Repnin, Kutusoff, and marvelous Suwarrow; the minor struggle of 1806, renewed in 1809, and ending in 1812, with small profit for much cost of blood; the remarkable contest of 1828-29, in which for the first time Russia made Stamboul tremble for itself; the gigantic wrestle of 185355, disastrous to the Slave through the interference of the Teutonic and Latin races,—all these tramphngs and shocks of Muscovite and Ottoman are too well known and too vast to be treated here.
We cannot relate; we can only comment. What strikes one as most wonderful is that from so many victories so little should result. The clumsy generalship and miserably appointed armies of the Moslems continually went down before the military science, vast preparation, and disciplined solidity of the Christians. Yet rarely did it happen that at the end of many defeats Turkey ceded any considerable breadth of territory. The marvel is the greater because the Porte has had other enemies besides the Muscovites. In the time of Münnich, and again in the time of Suwarrow, Austria, to her bloody cost, combined with Russia in schemes for the partition of the Ottoman empire. In 1804—6 the Servians (with their own unaided hands) laid the foundations of their freedom. The successes of the Diebitsch war were prepared and furthered by the insurrection of Greece and the naval catastrophe of Navarino. It was not through Nicholas alone, but partly through the action of the Western powers, that Romnania gained her mediate independence. Russia can indeed claim that her arms have been the primal cause of every privilege secured by the Christian subjects of the Porte, and that but for her there might have been no emancipation for Moldavia and Wallachia, or even for Servia and Greece. But what she had won in bare conquest, up to a year ago, was little more than the Ukraine, and a desolate region on the north of the Euxine, and another wilderness at the southern base of the Caucasus.
One is reminded of Voltaire’s bright remark, that “it is easier to beat the Turks in the field than to take territory from them.” No doubt of it; but why? It is true that, while the Ottoman has declined in military art, he has retained abundantly not only that untutored courage which suffices to defend ramparts, but also a great stock of moral courage; it is true that, after disastrous, humiliating, and seemingly disheartening overthrows, he has been ready to send forth fresh armies and fight on with wearying perseverance. Yet this is not all that has saved him hitherto from serious spoliation, and perhaps from complete conquest. The proud boast that during five hundred years no enemy had ever seen his capital would long since have been silenced but for the jealousy of Western Europe against Russia. Over and over again, in the past, the Teutonic and Latin races have checked the march of the Slave toward the Bosphorus. To-day they have not interfered; and there, after a struggle of centuries, he stands triumphant; there he stands, with what purpose and ultimate result we know not.
What will happen in humiliated Turkey it is so impossible to foresee that it seems like folly to attempt the part of a prophet. What should happen, it appears to me, is precisely what would have happened if the Ottomans had never broken into the natural tendencies of Christian Europe. There should be a Slavo-Roumanian confederation or empire, perhaps inclusive of Greece, extending from the Euxine and the Archipelago to the Adriatic, and dividing with Russia the dominion of the eastern part of the continent. England ought not to object to such a result, and it is her interest to favor it. Of what consequence is this Eastern Question to her compared with its dire and solemn stress upon the Slave? Moreover, with a free, youthful nation in Constantinople, a nation which fifty years of peace and good government might increase to thirty millions of souls, her Indian possessions would be safer from Russian inroad than they are even now. Such a nation the Western states of Europe could willingly protect and upbuild. But what civilized, Christian people can give a hearty, and therefore really effective hand to the continuance of Tartar and Moslem ?
There is no hope of strength or of reform in the Sublime Porte. “ The Turks are but encamped in Europe.” It would almost seem that they had invented this phrase, and had been altogether guided by it in their state-craft.. They have held their domain as a commander holds a besieged city; they have sacrificed the welfare of the burgher to the success of the garrison; they have cared only for present safety, and nothing for future welfare. The government, the ruling class, the Ottomans, have been sustained at no matter what cost. The subjects, and especially the Christian subjects, have been neglected, thrust aside in scorn, stripped by the maddest taxation, and still farther stripped by official brigandage.
What Turkish intelligence and honesty in financial matters have amounted to may be judged by the fact that the piaster, which began life as a Spanish dollar, is now worth less than five cents. The prosperity of the commercial classes and the general wealth of the country have probably diminished in the same ratio with the depreciation of the currency. The government has lived on debased money, plunder, and corruption. Amurath IY.—and the ease was not singular — left three hundred and sixty millions in French gold, mainly obtained by the sale of offices. Imagine what must have been the extortion and thievery, what must have been the selling of justice and the doing of injustice, in a civil service thus managed! Long since would such a government have fallen to ruin had not Western Europe held it essential to its balance of power. Now that it no longer secures that equilibrium, shall it be suffered to continue its harassings and wastings?
I find it impossible to have patience with the idea that the Ottomans should remain where they are. They have been more than five centuries in Europe, and they have done it naught but evil. They have learned nothing from the Aryan race, and that race has learned nothing from them. It is difficult to comprehend how a people, even though armored in a hostile faith, could abide so long among European peoples and acquire so little of their ways of thinking, feeling, acting, and being. One is tempted to infer that ethnic differences reach deeper than the shape and color of man; that they must be ingrained for all time in his moral and intellectual nature. In this case of the Turk, conversion seems impossible. To expel him will be easier than to make him one of us, —far easier, surely, than to endure him as he has been, and is.
Let me insist upon this opposition of the Ottoman nature to the European. He shuts up and enslaves woman as no people of our kindred overdid, not even the men of remotest known antiquity. He is utterly incapable of discerning the nobleness of that classic literature which every Western race accepts as its perfect example of eloquence and beauty. He sees nothing worth preserving in Grecian sculpture, or in Grecian and Roman architecture, or in any fashion of painting. He held the Parthenon for ages, only to make it a mark for his bullets. Over the ruins of Ilium and a hundred other famed cities, illustrious in the story of humanity, he trampled for centuries, and would seemingly have trampled for an eternity, without knowing more of them than the beasts which pastured there. Of the brotherhood of man he has had no conception, or he has boorishly and inhumanly denied it. Ashe has felt no interest in the heroic past, so he has exhibited no care for the economic future. Upon the fairest lands of earth, upon the nursing places of the eldest civilizations, he has sat like an accursed Afreet, unsympathetic and noxious, making of them abodes of ignorance and sorrow, and failing little of turning them into deserts.
One manly virtue he has: he is brave, — as brave as a Sioux or a Maori; yes, and very nearly as savage. In former wars with Christians he cut off heads and ears as trophies. In this war he has butchered the wounded, tortured prisoners, violated women, executed unarmed populations, and refused to his victims the decorum of burial. Even his bravery has been in no manner a benefit to humanity, not even as a stimulus to valiant self - devotion for others. What European or American youth will ever die for a great cause with more willingness or more exaltation of soul because of the example of such courageous brute beasts as the defenders of Plevna, the murderers of captives? As well think of winning men to chivalry through the contemplation of a man-eating tiger, or a wolf at bay. It is true that centuries ago our own forefathers were needlessly ferocious. But it was centuries ago. And here, in our age of protean compassion, in the light of the gentlest civilization that earth has known, the Turk is Modoc enough to bury alive brave foes taken in battle.
He is too inconvertible. As a ruler, if not also as an abider, he will have to be got rid of. Sooner or later, — and the sooner the better for mankind, — Europe will decide that he must abdicate or perish. There is no hope of bettering him; he is a non-Aryan, a non-Christian, a barbarian in fibre of heart and brain; the longer he is kept among us, the more antagonistic and intolerable he will seem. For six hundred years he has dwelt in the gardens of the Lord and at the gates of the temple of knowledge, leaving all things the worse for his inhabitation, and himself the worse for it, also. His darkness of mind has actually increased in proportion to the spreading of light all about him. Early in the sixteenth century his viziers commanded and his admirals executed surveys of the Mediterranean and the Indian seas. Within the past hundred years they have been known to deny that Englishmen could sail from Madras to Suez, and that Russians could sail from Cronstadt to the Hellespont.
Yes, the Ottoman is a less instructed, less able, less admirable being than he was before Italy rediscovered art and literature, or Guttenberg made the education of peoples possible, or Columbus doubled the empire of knowledge and civilization. One cannot but come back upon this idea,—the hopeless inconvertibility and retrogression of the creature, the perverse tendency in him to grow worse instead of better. Surely, the careful upbuilding of a Slavo-Roumanian empire, of a Christian and cultured nation capable of order and political morality and self-supporting development, would be a labor worthy the extremest effort of the Germanic and Latin races, and worthy the magnanimous good-will of Russia.
It will be a day of jubilee for Europe when the only Asiatic horde remaining on her soil shall be driven forth from it, or at least deprived of all power therein. Her cunning hand will then be set free to repair the damage which has come upon one of her most fruitful regions through five centuries of desolating tyranny. No hope there of justice, and industry and prosperity, no hope for art and literature and science and the graces of life, no hope even of continental content and tranquillity, until this redemption is accomplished. One can almost imagine the waste places of that Orient land pleading for deliverance. It needs no imagination to hear the supplications of the peoples who inhabit its enforced sterility. It needs but small knowledge of history to hear the generations of the trampled past swelling the prayer with their imprecations. Let Europe avenge in one merciful blow the long waste of man’s industry and earth’s fertility; avenge the groans of countless captives, degraded, broken-hearted, worn to death in bondage; avenge all the Christian blood which has been poured out upon the track of the Crescent, — the blood of the Hospitalers who fell in the breaches of Rhodes and Tripoli and Malta; the blood of noble Venetians, which has stained unnumbered ramparts and many waters; the blood of Greek and Austrian and Servian and Montenegrin and Pole and Russian.
If it be really true, as one may surely hope, that we see the near coming of the end of Ottoman misrule in Europe, no man can overstate the importance and sublimity of the events now transacting there in field or in council. The noblest of continents freed at last from clownish invasion, and from the blighting influences of a hopelessly barbaric race; the illustrious mother of Aryan men, the chief light and strength and glory of the world, the parent of the highest culture and art and law, delivered altogether to her own incomparable children, — how can the most eloquent tongue or pen do justice to this magnificent hope and possibility? A few disjointed words, just enough merely to hint our longings and emotions, — a burst of thanks and praise, hardly stammered in any comprehensible fashion,— and perhaps the greatest soul could utter no more.
- The Albanians are but partially Slavonic; some are Illyric or Epirotic↩