- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

Edwin Munsell Bliss


Note from the administration of the page numbering is preserved, so the book can be used for quoting. Also we did our best to keep the layout as close to the original as possible.

[page 183]



First Intercourse — Alliance between Francis I and Suleiman the Magnificent — Intrigues between France and Austria — The First Treaty — Nature of Capitulations — Peculiar Favors Granted to the French — Their Recognition as the Protectors of Christians — Entrance of Other Powers — Louis XIV and His Ambassador — Influence of De Breves — Peace of Carlowitz — Turkey No Longer Dreaded in Europe.

INTERCOURSE between Turkey and the European powers commenced with the first invasion of the Balkan Peninsula, but there were no formal relations until a Russian ambassador entered Constantinople in 1495. That, however, was not followed by important consequences, and Turkey did not commence its career of European influence until the time of Francis I, of France, about 1525. The French monarch found himself in a very difficult situation. The house of Austria had surrounded him, excluding him from the Mediterranean; not only that, allied with Venice, she thus controlled the Adriatic, possessed Oran and theoretically the whole northern coast of Africa; while her relations with Spain made her mistress of Barcelona, Naples and Sicily. France seemed to be shut out entirely from Mediterranean power. It was absolutely necessary for her at any price to find some counterpoise; to oppose to Austria some other power, which should perhaps by its own force, perhaps in alliance, enable


her to regain her legitimate influence in the Mediterranean and her commercial relations to the countries of the Levant. It is scarcely surprising that France looked with longing eyes to the Turks. Suleiman the Magnificent was at the height of his power and the foundation of his kingdom seemed impregnable. His armies were attacking Hungary, his ships held the Adriatic and the Black Seas; he could by no possibility come into rivalry with France; each had the same enemies; both were united by the same needs of commerce, and both had a warlike reputation to sustain. True, Suleiman was a Moslem and Francis I a Christian, and when the alliance between them became known there arose a general clamor against the “impious union of the Lilies with the Crescent.” Whatever Francis thought, it is scarcely probable that he looked upon the Turkish power as likely to spread much farther west, and planned to use it as a weapon, which, after a time, he might lay aside. For some time messengers had been passing back and forth making full inquiry as to the condition of the Ottoman rule, and secret negotiations had been entered into with the Sultan for the protection of French commerce. It was therefore no matter of surprise that he sent an ambassador, who was, however, arrested and murdered on the way. A second was sent who carried a letter purporting to request the furtherance of the attack upon Hungary and proposing to use counter influence on the other side of the continent. This second envoy was received with great honors, and notwithstanding the fact that Francis was then in captivity, the Sultan expressed his royal determination to enter into alliance with the French king, the token of which was a letter written in 1526. This was the commencement of those alliances which for the succeeding 300 years,


with differing degrees of fidelity, were kept up, and proved of great value to France and of no little support to Turkey. Five years later came the reception of a special ambassador. Extraordinary honors were accorded to him such as have been given, it is said, to no Christian ambassador succeeding him. That these should be permitted by the Sultan’s subjects is attributed by Turkish historians to a report that made Mohammed II, the Conqueror of Constantinople, the child of a princess of the royal family of France; intended to be the bride of Emperor John IV, but who had been taken captive in 1428. Austria at the same time sent an ambassador, but he could by no means secure the same treatment as his French associate. He, however, succeeded in securing the first peace concluded between the two governments, in 1533. The check given by Charles V to the advance of the Ottoman power along the African coast made him appear to the world as the liberator of the Christians and the terror of the infidels, and gave him such prestige that Francis felt obliged to get all the advantage possible out of his alliance. Accordingly the official envoy met the Sultan and a treaty was signed at Constantinople, in 1536. This was in the form of what is known as a Hatti Sherif, or an order from the Sultan which was the basis of all the treaties that have been concluded since that period between Turkey and the European nations. While substantially a treaty, it took the form of a concession, and from this has arisen the word “ Capitulation ” which has become recognized in all Turkish history as governing the relations between the Turks and Christians. It has always been contrary to the idea of the Moslem that a treaty can be made with Christians; concessions (capitulations) can be granted, and this is what has


repeatedly been done in the diplomatic relations between the empires.

This first treaty is extremely interesting. In it Suleiman gives to Francis I the title of Padisha, looked upon as sacred by the Turks, and it is said only accredited to one other Christian monarch, the Czar Paul, of Russia. The first articles were as follows:

1. That as there is peace and concord between the Grand Seignior and the King of France, their respective subjects and tributaries may freely navigate and go into their different ports for their commerce, buy, sell, load, conduct, and transport, by water or by land, from one country to another, all kinds of merchandise not prohibited, in paying the ordinary dues, without being subjected to any imposition, tribute, or other charge.

2. That when the king shall send to Constantinople, or to any other part of the Ottoman Empire, a consul, in like manner as the one he keeps at Alexandria, that consul shall be accepted and sustained in his authority and shall judge according to his faith and law, without that any judge or cadi shall hear, judge, and pronounce, as well civilly as criminally, upon the causes, processes, or differences which may arise, between the subjects of the king only; and that the officers of the Grand Seignior shall lend assistance for the execution of the judgments of the consuls, any sentence passed by the cadis between French merchants to be necessarily null and void.

3. That in case of any civil contestation between the Turks and the French, the plaint of the first named shall not be received by the cadis unless they should bring proof in writing of the hand of the adversary or that of the consul, and


that in any case the subjects of the king shall not be judged without their dragoman being present.

4. That in criminal matters the subjects of the king may not be brought before the cadi or ordinary judge, nor be judged at once, but be conducted before the Sublime Porte, and in the absence of the Grand Vizier, before his substitute, in order that the testimony of the Turkish subject against the king’s subject may be discussed.

5. That no use shall be made of the merchant ships belonging to the king’s subjects, nor of their artillery, munitions and equipages against their will, even for the service of the Grand Seignior.

6. That if any subject of the king quits the States of the Grand Seignior without having satisfied his debts, neither the consul nor any other Frenchman shall be responsible for them; but the king shall make satisfaction to the plaintiff upon the goods or person of the debtor, should it be in his kingdom.

7. That the French merchants and subjects of the king shall freely make their wills, and that the goods of those who shall die intestate shall be remitted to the heir by the care and authority of the consul.

The importance of these articles is very evident. Theoretically there could be no cordial relations whatever between Christians and Moslems. The more enlightened judgment, however, that had already recognized the necessity of a modus vivendi with the Christian subjects of the Sultan, recognized now also a similar necessity in connection with the great states to the west with which the Sultan must come into relation, but which he could not hope to conquer, at least for some time to come. Thus there was introduced the

[page 188] TREATY RESULTS.

important innovation in the law of nations, since developed into the principle of extraterritoriality, and recognized in all treaties between Christian nations and Moslem or pagan governments, where the habits of life, the national customs and general laws are of necessity very different. This treaty gave to the French the advantage of their national laws and customs even under foreign rule; recognized that in certain respects they had more rights and liberties even than the Sultan’s subjects had, by acknowledging the protection of their national magistrates. As was inevitable, out of this came the development of small French colonies centered about the mercantile houses; consuls also lost largely their commercial character and became civil magistrates and even political agents. It is probably to this treaty that is due the fact that to-day all foreigners are classed under the general term of “Franks,” which has also been applied even to many of the Christian subjects of the Sultan.

But there were other articles of this famous treaty of great importance. The French were guaranteed the absolutely free exercise of worship. Their bishops and other priests of this “Frank” religion, of whatever nation, were to be left undisturbed wherever they dwelt, provided they kept within the bounds of their condition. Thus, by an easy extension, France secured the right of protection over all Catholics in the East, and thus over the holy places in Palestine, as well as over all the edifices of the Church. More than this, the French flag became the protection for European merchants of other governments not allied to the Porte by treaties, and, as a matter of fact, every Christian nation was obliged to seek the protection of the French king in its trade with Turkey. A third condition was the liberation of slaves, and the Sultan,

[page 189] A GREAT EVENT.

on his side, agreed not to enslave the French, while the King of France granted the same privilege with regard to Ottomans. The signing of this treaty was in many respects the most significant event in Turkish history. Probably without any realization of its ultimate results, the greatest Sultan that Turkey ever had voluntarily placed limits upon his relation with Christians, and laid down the principles which have governed Turkey in her foreign treaties ever since.

Previous to this time the only treaties between the Ottomans and European powers had been certain commercial treaties with Venice. These had dated from the first incursions of the Turks into Europe, and in them Venice was placed upon the footing of a vassal and tributary of the Sultan. This was done as early as 1408, and tribute varying from 1,600 to 10,000 ducats was paid at different times until the capture of Constantinople, when peace was purchased by an annual tribute of 36,000 ducats and the sending of a representative to Constantinople, whom the Turks regarded and treated as a hostage.

The alliance between Turkey and France went through various stages. At first Francis I seemed not quite to realize the whole bearing of his alliance with the Turk, and sought to come to terms with Charles V. The conditions, however, were not acceptable, and the result was a new alliance, notwithstanding the fact that the ambassador who was charged with the duty of securing the alliance was assassinated on the way. Undoubtedly at times the French king was very anxious, for his new allies seemed to have as much desire for the French coast as for that of Spain. Still, they were essential almost to his very existence, and he maintained terms of harmony. After the middle of the sixteenth century,

[page 190] NEW PRIVILEGES.

however, the alliance was merely political. It had been entered upon on the part of the French in order to limit the house of Austria; on the part of Turkey for the purpose of attacking more easily the countries of Europe. The end of the former was obtained by a treaty, which suspended the struggle with Austria for nearly a century; and the latter found itself barred by Hungary, Italy and Spain. The next was a renewal, on the part of Suleiman’s successor, of the capitulations already made, but with certain modifications rendered necessary by the developing hostility of Turks for Christians. New privileges were also added. Every Frenchman settled in the country was perpetually exempted from the capitation tax; French officers were allowed to search for French slaves seized by Mussulmans, and to demand punishment for those who stole or captured them; the Sultan also engaging to make restitution for such acts of piracy. French ships were treated kindly, and given assistance in case of running aground on the shores of Turkey, and the persons and effects of those who were ship-wrecked were to be respected. The most important of all, perhaps, was the fact that the French enjoyed to the full the privileges which the Venetians secured only through payment of tribute. The result was that France was mistress of the commerce of the Mediterranean, and she improved the opportunity, so as to establish Catholic missions with the consent of the Sultan, and convents were located even in Constantinople. At about this time (1569) Turkey and Russia first measured their military strength, and Turkey was driven back from the Don, and a scheme for a ship canal, which should connect the Black Sea and the Caspian by the Sea of Azof and the Don and Volga, was stopped.


A few years later, in 1577, these privileges were enlarged, so that France was acknowledged the protector of very nearly all Europeans who sought to reach the Levant. Her ambassadors had precedence of those of other Christian lands, and especially of Spain, while Englishmen, Portuguese and some others were dependant upon the French flag for protection. England, however, was unwilling to rest in this situation, and the first ambassador sent by Elizabeth to the Porte obtained capitulations analogous to those of France, but limited to commerce. He also sought Turkish aid against Spain, as France had against Austria, but with less of success, the Sultan caring less about the Spaniards, who were far away, than the Austrians, who were near at hand. Russia also in 1786 sent ambassadors with rich presents, and it was scarcely surprising that the Ottomans were greatly exalted by their victories. Poland solicited the arrangement of treaties; Venice congratulated the Sultan upon his success over the Germans; the English ambassador accompanied him in person in his campaign, and France reconfirmed her alliance. It was at the close of the sixteenth century that France was represented at Constantinople by Savary de Breves, who did for France what Lord Stratford de Redcliffe did later for England. By the shrewdest means he gained such influence that a Turkish historian says:

“ It very nearly happened that in the house of Islam a veritable enthusiasm was declared for France by the secret dealings of its accursed ambassador.”

That influence was powerful in many ways. It prevented the conversion of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre into a Mosque; turned aside the Sultan’s anger from the island of Scio; protected the Christian churches in Constantinople from


the attack of the Janissaries, but found even then that English influence was not easy to overcome. The British ambassador had succeeded in persuading the Porte that other nations, which had hitherto come under French auspices, might enjoy the same privileges under the English flag. Other powers also gained advantages: Poland secured capitulations, as also the Republic of Venice; and the United Provinces of the Low Countries obtained for the first time, in 1612, a treaty similar to those which France and England enjoyed. The use they made of this was characteristic. The Dutch introduced the use of tobacco into the empire. In vain did the priesthood try to oppose the innovation; the soldiers and common people rose against them and they were compelled to revoke their decision.

It is interesting to note the defense that De Breves made of the alliance between France and Turkey against the scruples of his own countrymen, and the declamations of others, who made this the basis of an accusation of treason against Christianity. Not only, he said, were the commercial advantages very great, and the political prestige most valuable, but Christianity itself was greatly advanced, inasmuch as it appropriated every sort of merchandise to be gathered from the East, and was enriched by the accruing wealth. He also dwelt upon the preservation of the Christian name and of the “ Catholic religion.” This is stated somewhat more fully in another chapter.

French influence, however, suffered after the time of De Breves considerable change. This was due primarily to the fact that the general policy of the Sublime Porte toward the European Governments was no longer that of war, but of peace, so that this alliance was open to all. The entrance of


other ambassadors brought other influences, and nations hostile to France used the ignorance of the Turks to further their own ends. So also France found Turkey of less use than formerly, finding surer and less dangerous allies in the Protestants of Germany. Other reasons were the weakness of the Ottoman Sultans, and also the weakness of the French ambassadors; the former paid no attention to the capitulations, claiming that they were under no obligations to keep their word with Christians; the latter, ignorant of the religion, laws and customs of the Ottomans, had no knowledge of when to waive their peculiar prejudices, and when to insist upon the preservation of their rights. This was especially noticeable during the first half of the seventeenth century, and had its results in serious losses to the Roman Catholic Church, and the general cause of Christians in the empire.

The reign of Louis XIV was a continued series of intrigues, demands for renewals of treaties, recriminations against the bad faith of the Ottomans, support now of the Venetians and then of the Turks; until, in 1670, a more skilful ambassador than France had sent at any time since De Breves, secured special favors. The customs duty was reduced, the King of France recognized as the unique protector of the Catholics of the East, and above all, French merchandise coming from India given the through passage by the Red Sea and across Egypt. The French ambassador regarded Egypt as the true route to India, and after much negotiation and many threats, in 1673 the new treaty was signed. True, the question of through passage to India was not mentioned, but private arrangements with the Pasha of Egypt secured that favor. The treaty, however, was not destined to have great results. Henceforward the policy of France was not to advance in


cordial relations with her Turkish ally. She laid down her arms when Turkey commenced war, and Turkey made peace as soon as France entered upon a campaign. The result was evident in the development of the house of Austria, and the establishment of the power of Russia. In marked contrast to the course of France was that taken by the Poles. Already reference has been made to the effort of Louis XIV to secure the alliance of Sobieski and allow the Turkish Government free course in its effort to overpower Austria, and to the Pole’s noble defense of Austria as the greatest Christian barrier to the spread of the Moslem power. One result of this action was the establishment of the Holy Alliance, when Austria, Poland, and Venice commenced the war against the Sultan, which ended only in the peace of Carlowitz, which had this chief result — that Turkey was no longer an isolated power, but closely bound to the interests of Europe.


Table of Contents | The Cover, Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright Notice, etc.
Introduction | Preface | Turkey in Asia (map) | Table of Contents (as in the book)
List of Illustrations | 1. The Turkish Empire | 2. Population and Languages | 3. Religions
4. The Turks | 5. The Kurds | 6. The Armenians | 7. The Greeks | 8. Other Oriental Churches
9. Rise and Decline of Ottoman Power | 10. Turkey and Europe | 11. Russia and Turkey
12. Mahmud II | 13. Reform and Progress | 14. Treaties of Paris and Berlin
15. Condition of the Christians | 16. The Turkish Government | 17. Protestant Missions in Turkey
18. The Armenian Question | 19. General Situation in 1894 | 20. The Sassun Massacre
21. Politics and Massacre at Constantinople | 22. Massacres at Trebizond and Erzrum
23. Massacres in Harput District | 24. Aintab, Marash and Urfa | 25. Character of the Massacres
26. Religious Persecution | 27. Relief Work | 28. Partition of Turkey | 29. America and Turkey
30. General Survey | Alphabetical Index


Source: Bliss, Rev. Edwin Munsell . Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities. Edgewood Publishing Company , 1896
Provided by: Aram Arkun, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
Scanned by: Karen Vrtanesyan
OCR: Irina Minasyan

See also:

J. Rendel Harris & B. Helen Harris, Letters from the Scenes of the Recent Massacres in Armenia
Helen Davenport Gibbons, The Red Rugs of Tarsus
Maj. General James G. Harbord Conditions in the Near East: Report of the American Military Mission to Armenia

Design & Content © Anna & Karen Vrtanesyan, unless otherwise stated.  Legal Notice