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Edwin Munsell Bliss

TURKEY AND THE ARMENIAN ATROCITIES


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[page 210]

CHAPTER XII.

MAHMUD II.

A Disintegrating Empire — An Energetic Sultan — Napoleon and Alexander — Lord Stratford de Redcliffe — Greek War for Independence — Russia’s Perfidy — Destruction of the Janissaries — Reforms Attempted — Mehemet Ali of Egypt — Accession of Abd-ul-Medjid.

The general situation at the commencement of the reign of Mahmud II is thus clearly described by Sir Stratford Canning:

“ The state of Turkey itself was anything but satisfactory in view of those powers who did not wish the Porte to become the prey either of Russia or of France. Both morally and materially the empire was bordering on decrepitude. The old political system of Turkey had worn itself out. The population was not yet prepared for the new order of things. A depreciated currency, a disordered revenue, a mutinous militia, dilapidated fortresses, a decreasing population, a stagnant industry, and general misrule, were the monuments which time had left of Ottoman domination in the second capital of the Roman Empire, and throughout those extensive regions which had been the successive seats of civilization, ever varying, generally advancing, from the earliest periods of social settlement and historical tradition. A continual and often a sanguinary antagonism of creeds, of races, of districts and

[page 211] A DECREPIT EMPIRE.

authorities within the frontier, and frequent wars of little glory and much loss with the neighboring powers, had formed of late the normal condition of the Porte’s dominions.

“ Russia, France, Austria, and even Persia, had by turns contracted the area and drained the resources of the empire. From the corrupt monotony of his seraglio, the Sultan had to send forth his firmans, his emissaries, his bands of irregular soldiery, or, it might be, his naval armaments, against an invading enemy, a rebellious chief, or an armed insurrection. Several great families, several unsubdued tribes, and here and there an overpowerful pasha, had succeeded in braving and circumscribing the imperial authority. The Mamelukes still prevailed in Egypt. The most important part of Syria was under the sway of a Christian Emir. Ali Pasha of Janina exercised royal power in the provinces bordering on Greece, and Greece itself, excited by Russia, was preparing to burst the fetters which had so long bound her to the Ottoman throne. Servia, Montenegro, and the Danubian Principalities were all more or less in league with Russia, and the Porte, at war with that formidable power, had everything to apprehend from the Russian forces concentrated upon her northern frontier. The Sultan’s fleet was manned with Christian Greeks from the island population of the Archipelago; the Barbary Powers were scarcely even in nominal dependence on the Porte; and a sect of Mohammedans, called the Wahhabis, and having a kind of analogy with our Puritans, had hoisted a separate standard of religious belief in parts of Egypt and Arabia.”

Mahmud II was unquestionably the greatest monarch of the Osmanli dynasty from Suleiman the Magnificent, 1566, to his enthronement. He escaped assassination at the dethrone-

[page 212] NAPOLEON AND ALEXANDER.

ment of Mustapha IV by concealment in an old oven, and was called from dust and ashes to be girded with the sword of Osman. He was then, by the death of Selim III and Mustapha IV, the only heir of the throne. The Janissaries killed his faithful and able grand vizier, who was bent upon reforming them, but Mahmud was sacred even to them. He then resolved upon their destruction, for sixteen years was slowly working towards it, and then the stroke fell upon them like a thunderbolt, and they were no more.

He saw his empire going to ruin in every possible direction, and enemies multiplying on every hand.

Napoleon and Alexander studied many schemes of dividing up the Turkish Empire, but in every scheme Russia was to have Constantinople and the Dardanelles, and to this France would never agree, and the whole scheme of division fell through. In a few years Moscow was in flames to drive out Napoleon, and France had twice been occupied by foreign armies, while Constantinople remained intact.

Mahmud had plans of reform in all departments of government, and he, first of all the Sultans of his dynasty, saw not merely the political necessity of friendly relations with the Christian nations, but the advantage to his own government of modeling his army and navy after them. In 1809 he made a treaty with England to the disgust of the other powers. In 1810 he had many bloody battles with the Russians on the Danube, in which he lost Silistria and other valuable positions. But the plans of Napoleon troubled Russia, and she was glad to make peace with Turkey and withdraw her forces for other uses, giving up Silistria and other places.

By the treaty of Bucharest, 1812, Moldavia and Wallachia were given back to the Sultan. Servia, also, after a most de-

[page 213] SIR STRATFORD CANNING.

voted struggle for freedom, was coldly surrendered to the Turks, who occupied the fortresses and renewed their tyranny. A Servian historian accuses Russia of this base abandonment for the purpose of finding, at some future time, an occasion for intervention.

In the treaty of Bucharest, Sir Stratford Canning (quoted above), a young man of twenty-three, first displayed that remarkable insight and skill which made him during his long career the greatest diplomat England has produced. France was earnestly seeking an alliance with Turkey. Russia was disposed to peace because she had 22,000 of her choicest troops on the Danube, which a favorable peace would enable her to withdraw. Canning showed the Turks clearly the dangers they would incur by mingling in the contests of France and Russia. All parties acknowledged the consummate skill with which he cleared away objections and effected a treaty useful to Turkey, Russia and England.

The embarrassment of the Sultan increased on every side, and his reign became a struggle for existence rather than for reform. The rebellious Janissaries were always a thorn in his side, but in Egypt the Mamelukes were far worse than the Janissaries. The Wahabites had raised a powerful insurrection in Arabia and would dominate the sacred cities. Greece was also threatening rebellion, but, worst of all, England, France, Austria and Russia were pressing upon him conflicting claims which might result in war. The Ulema, the whole power of the Mosques, were against all reforms, all innovations, and they backed up the Janissaries in their rebellions. He faced all his enemies with unflinching resolution. He committed to Mehemet Ali of Egypt the work of subduing the Mamelukes and Wahabites. He performed his work with an

[page 214] UPRISING OF THE GREEKS.

energy and success that amazed the world. The Sultan soon understood that if two enemies had been destroyed, one had come forward more powerful and dangerous than the two, one who was destined to wreck the empire but for the intervention of Europe.

It was about this time that the famous hetria arose, an association destined to have great influence among the Greeks, and to play an important part in Greek independence. The Greeks, like most of the Christians under Turkish rule, accepted that authority so long as it did not affect their religion and general customs. Certain ones, however, proved recalcitrant. Some mountaineers took refuge in the rough country back from the coast of the Archipelago, and rivaled the bandits of Macedonia, Servia and Sicily. Others turning to commerce, sought to get the better of their Moslem rulers by shrewdness of intellect. They profited by the struggle in the Mediterranean between France and England, and under cover of the Turkish flag acquired great commercial strength, owning, in 1815, 600 vessels. They sent their children abroad, and established schools everywhere on the Islands of the Archipelago, in Asia Minor and even in Constantinople. A few of these men joined in a company called the hetria, or association, founded for the purpose of propagating religious instruction and the publication of religious books. They claimed to have the support of the Prime Minister of Russia, and secured the alliance of the chief brigands of the Pindus, the head men of the interior Greek communities, the merchants of the Archipelago and the heads of the Mainotes of the Morea who had proved impervious to Russian advances. Their one object was the independence of Greece, and they

[page 215] THE LION OF JANINA.

seized the opportunity offered by the revolt of the famous Ali Pasha of Janina to make a strike for that independence.

Ali Pasha, who had long had more or less intimate relations with these Greeks, summoned them to his aid and proclaimed himself their protector. They hesitated, but influenced by the report that the Turkish Government had decided upon the extermination of the Christians, joined hands with the Albanians, and Marco Bozzaris became the ally of the “ Lion of Janina.” In 1826 came the outrages at Patras and Seres, and soon there was insurrection from the Danube to the Gulf of Corinth. Russia again failed the very people who relied upon her, the Sultan’s Government decreed the disarmament and massacre of the Greeks, hung the Patriarch at the door of his palace in Constantinople, and on Easter Day three archbishops, and eighty bishops, exarchs and archimandrites shared his fate. Through Thrace, Macedonia and Thessaly the massacre spread, peaceable and defenseless Greeks were pillaged or slain, churches were destroyed, and women and children were dragged into slavery. In Greece, however, and in Albania, Ali Pasha and Ypsilanti held the Turks in check, captured several places, and retorted upon the Moslems the terrors of massacre. Then came treason, and Ali Pasha fell, but Greece refused to yield. The Turks in fury avenged themselves on Scio, which had taken no part in the insurrection, and out of 100,000 inhabitants scarcely 900 were left. It was scarcely surprising that reprisals followed such a massacre, but the utmost done by them was little in comparison with the atrocities which the Christians of the whole empire had endured.

The insurrection went on. Appeals were made to the Christian nations of Europe, and delegates sent to a Congress

[page 216] PHIL-HELLENISM.

which met at Verona. The great purpose of that Congress being, however, to stifle the insurrections of Italy and Spain, it could hardly be expected to help Greece. They even invited the Sultan to membership in the Congress. Everywhere, however, there was popular enthusiasm. In France, England, and Germany, societies of Phil-hellenes were formed, and America lifted her voice in support of this effort for freedom. Many arms and munitions were sent to the aid of the Greeks, and many men came to share their fortunes, Lord Byron, Colonel Fabvier, Count Rosa and others. The Greeks, however, could not agree among themselves, and internal dissensions, including even war, prevented their securing the results of their victories. The Turks profited by their misfortunes, and weakened the power of the Greeks till Missolonghi fell and Athens and Nauplia alone remained. The Greeks were almost disheartened, and turned to England for help. What Sir Stratford Canning felt is evident from the following extract from his Memoirs.

“ In the port of Ipsera we gathered cruel evidence of what war is when kindled by the antipathies of race and creed. It was little more than dawn when we anchored before the town. The houses had every appearance of undisturbed repose, and the early hour sufficed to account for the want of movement in the streets. The admiral’s steward went ashore with the full expectation of finding a market well stocked with all the objects he required. Imagine his surprise when the truth broke upon him. A death-silence indoors as well as without, not a voice, not a footstep, not an inhabitant; the town was a mere shell, plausible to the eye, but utterly void of life. Later in the day a party of us landed with our guns and strayed among the vineyards in search of game. At

[page 217] SUFFERINGS OF THE GREEKS.

one spot near the coast we came upon a piteous sight, the bones of many who had preferred a voluntary death to captivity, when their homes became the prey of a Turkish squadron. Mothers in horror and despair had slaughtered their children on the cliff, and thrown themselves over on their bodies which had already found a resting-place below. Scarcely less horrible than this scene of death was the apparition of two survivors from the interior of the island. Worn nearly to skeletons by fear and anguish and famine, the very types of hopeless misery, with haggard eyes and loathsome beards, and tattered rags by way of clothing, they told without language the history of their sufferings. Heavens ! how I longed to be the instrument of repairing such calamities by carrying my mission of peace and deliverance to a successful issue !”

He, however, could not do much, as Russia refused to join heartily. Mahmud persisted in forcing subjugation. Athens fell and at last a sort of agreement was reached by which the Greeks gained somewhat. Then came the battle of Navarino, when the Allied fleets under the lead of the British Admiral repelled an attack by the Turks which resulted in the destruction of the Turkish fleet. The responsibility perhaps rested with the turbulent Ibrahim Pasha, but the inevitable result was war with Russia which ended in the Treaty of Adrianople, by which the independence of Greece was assured, although the completely organized kingdom was not established for a few years. During the negotiations between the five powers, which resulted in the coronation of King Otho, Russian influence was predominant, but had to submit to much of hostility from the people, who could not forget the way in which they had been now encouraged, then left in the lurch

[page 218] DESTRUCTION OF THE JANISSARIES.

by the Monarch of the North. In the meantime the Sultan -was training under European drill-masters a body of 14,000 artillery for the destruction of the Janissaries. When his arrangements were complete and he felt he could trust the commander of the artillery, “ Black Hell,” he obtained from the Grand Council of State an order sanctioned by a fetva of the Sheik-ul-Islam, requiring each company of the Janissaries to furnish so many of their number to the artillery. It was rejected with scorn. They turned their soup kettles upside down and beat upon them in sign of rebellion. The palace gates were shut and they could not get at the Sultan. The batteries were ready in barges on the Asiatic side and soon to the consternation of the Janissaries every street leading from the barracks was swept by shot and shell as soon as they appeared. They made desperate rallies, but grape cut them down. The remnant retired to their barracks to defend themselves to the last. “ Black Hell ” had no intention to give them any chance to fight. He shelled the barracks till he set them on fire and not a man escaped. The joy of the people was unbounded. The Janissaries had become a terror to Moslems as well as Christians. Their robberies and murders knew no law. The smaller bodies scattered through the cities were hunted down like wild beasts, the corps abolished and all its standards and emblems destroyed.

Mahmud was now, 1826, free to institute reforms. He resolved to have a cabinet of prominent ministers, each of whom should be responsible for his department, and to model his government after that of England. He felt keenly the loss of Greece and the destruction of his fleet, but did not abate one jot of his eagerness for reform. He had

[page 219] WAR WITH RUSSIA.

40,000 soldiers under the discipline of the young Moltke, afterwards so distinguished in German history. Russia caring little for Greece, but never losing sight of Constantinople, saw her opportunity, came down upon him with demands that stirred his wrath, but he was powerless and she forced upon him the treaty of Akkerman with many stipulations injurious to Turkey, such as increased privileges for the Danubian Principalities and free passage of the straits.

After the destruction of the Janissaries and of the Turkish fleet and the loss of Greece, Russia regarded Turkey as an easy prey, and the next step by the Czar was to send into Bulgaria in 1828 an army which he believed would march triumphantly across the Balkans, through Eastern Rumelia to Constantinople. But the Turks fought with such enthusiasm that the campaign of 1828 was a failure.

In 1829 Diebitsch crossed the Balkan with some hard fighting and came down upon Adrianople, which he took with ease. A most destructive cholera or plague was decimating his army, and if the Turks had only maintained their positions two weeks longer Diebitsch would have had no force left. He played a high game of bluff, declared he had 50,000 men and that he would march immediately upon the city. The ambassadors all joined in beseeching the Sultan to save his capital, which he did by an indemnity of £5,000,-000. When he found out the deception, and that the Russian army was chiefly beneath the soil, his chagrin was so bitter that he shut himself up, and for a whole week his officers could not see him. The result was the Treaty of Adrianople, which added to the previous agreements the demand for a heavy war indemnity to Russia.

The indemnity, which was manfully paid, swept off the

[page 220] REFORMS.

gold and silver of the empire, and Mahmud substituted a base coin of the same numerical value, a kind of “fiat money ” which was thought at first to be a grand invention, but which played the mischief with commerce and with the finances generally.

Undaunted by all these reverses he rebuilt his navy, employing one American, Mr. Eckford, and his foreman, Mr. Rhodes, who produced some of the most noble vessels of war then afloat.

He introduced reforms in the civil administration which were welcomed by the people; the rajahs were treated with a justice and consideration that was new to them. Many Armenians were introduced into offices never before given to rajahs. One Armenian was at the head of the mint, another was the Sultan’s architect and another chief of his powder works and most of the construction of arms, and another was collector of the port. The latter was a man of remarkable capacity, a friend of learning and a good friend of the first American missionaries. Could Mahmud have had a decade of peace after the destruction of the Janissaries and the peace with Greece, with his iron will and wonderful energy he might have brought up the old empire into some degree of health and vigor. England had begun to favor his reforms; France was friendly; but Russia and Austria were bent upon his ruin.

Another danger threatened the Sultan. Among the men sent to join the Turkish contingent in Egypt in their contest with the French in 1801 was a young Albanian named Mehemet Ali. During the two years that followed he gained increasing influence among the Albanians and when soon there came a conflict between them and the Turks he took the

[page 221] RUSSIA IN THE BOSPORUS.

position of leader, and at last succeeded in securing a firman of investiture as Pasha of Egypt. He was ambitious and successful, advancing his arms until he secured the west coast of Arabia, and although acknowledging the Sultan as Suzerain became, with his son Ibrahim, a cause of much anxiety. It was Ibrahim who brought on the battle of Navarino, and once feeling his power he did not hesitate to use it, and the next step was to claim independence. The Egyptian forces conquered Syria, Mahmud’s forces were defeated at Konieh and there seemed nothing to prevent his march to Constantinople. Mahmud sought in vain the intervention of England. He had next to turn to his great enemy, Russia, who immediately landed an army on the Asiatic shore of the Bosporus. England bit her lips too late. Russia had eagerly seized the opportunity which England had slighted.

Thus Ibrahim’s course was stopped and he had to turn back. The treaty of Hunkiar Iskelessi, July 8, 1833, was an offensive and defensive alliance between Turkey and Russia, which closed the Dardanelles to other powers and gave the right of intervening against the interior and exterior enemies of the Porte. Some places of importance were yielded to Mehemet Ali, who became an increasingly important factor even in European politics. He had his eye on Bagdad and an arrangement by which he should at least be Grand Vizier, perhaps Sultan.

With all these difficulties, Mahmud, unsubdued, continued his reforms, and began to lean more upon England as opposed to Russia. He had again a fleet and a disciplined army when again the great Viceroy of Egypt rebelled. Mahmud was dying of consumption. One who saw him two weeks before his death said that he had the looks of a caged eagle,

[page 222] ABD-UL-MEDJID.

his spirit unsubdued. He sent his fleet against Alexandria, and his army against Ibrahim. The fleet was basely betrayed into the hands of Mehemet Ali, and the army was badly beaten at Nezib, near the Euphrates. Mahmud died before the terrible news reached the capital.

Abd-ul-Medjid was girded with the sword of Osman, July, 1839. A convention between Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and Turkey settled the affairs of Egypt and the Porte; in 1840 Mehemet Ali became the hereditary viceroy, and was compelled to give up all the places he had won. Indeed, the English navy had driven him out of all the ports on the Syrian coast. He was to pay one-fourth of his revenue to the Porte and acknowledge the suzerainty of the Sultan.

The young Sultan was inducted into his high office with unexampled splendor. He had fully imbibed from his father the spirit of reform, and a set of young men of marked ability had been educated in England and France to co-operate with him. He had nothing of the lion-like character of his father, but he had what his father never had, able and faithful coadjutors. Fuad, Aali, Midhat, Ahmed Vefyk Pashas did honor to his reign, and in part to his successors. His commander-in-chief, Omar Pasha, was a man of great military skill and genius, and of sound judgment. He kept European Turkey quiet in spite of Russian revolutionists. But from 1842 to 1856 the controlling power was unquestionably the English Ambassador, Sir Stratford Canning, better known as Lord Stratford De Redcliffe.

Russia was having her own way, and the English Ambassador, Ponsonby, was merely a nobleman of vast wealth. He could make a splendid show. He had the finest “ turn out” of any ambassador; beyond that he had nothing. Canning

[page 223] INFLUENCE OF LORD STRATFORD.

had been three times at the Ottoman court, and he knew the ropes when he came in 1842. The Czar hated and feared him, and he feared if he did not hate the Czar. There were now to be fourteen years of the most indefatigable labor to regenerate the Turkish Empire, and equal effort on the Russian side to prevent and upset all Canning’s plans. But the Czar had no man of such mighty personality to match him. He recalled De Boutineff and sent Litoff.

Lord Stratford interested himself in everything that pertained to the general welfare of the empire, especially in the betterment of the situation of the Christians. He was greatly pleased with the promulgation of the Hatti Sherif of Gulhane (described in the chapter on the condition of the Christians), and was a cordial friend to the missionaries. He also was interested in archaeology. He obtained for young Layard (Sir Austen Henry Layard) a firman for those researches in Nineveh which gave him the name of Nineveh Layard. This was done at Canning’s personal expense. He obtained from the Sultan the personal gift of the frieze of the Mausoleum of Artemisia, at Budrum, and presented the seventeen slabs, weighing twenty tons, to the British Museum. One of his great diplomatic triumphs was obtained against the united power of Austria and Russia, when the Hungarian Revolution failed, and Kossuth and his three hundred companions fled to Turkey. Every house, native and foreign, was opened to them. Russia and Austria demanded that they be surrendered. It was an anxious time until the Sultan’s reply came, that he would sooner surrender his throne than give up any one who had fled to him for shelter. Both embassies declared this equivalent to a declaration of war, pulled down their flags, covered with black the national signs and monograms on the

[page 224] KOSSUTH.

ambassadorial buildings, and departed in a rout of warlike pomp. England and France assured the Sultan of their support, and the proud ambassadors had to come back and be laughed at. Russia and Austria would not meet England, France and Turkey in a new war for the pleasure and privilege of housing those few refugees.

The returned ambassadors tried every means to persecute the brave men, but Canning met them at every point and baffled them. It is not strange that Russian newspapers lavished ink upon Sir Stratford Canning, or that they regarded him as the Arch Fiend of diplomacy.

 


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

Acknowledgements:

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

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