Laurence Oliphant.

The land of Gilead, with excursions in the Lebanon; online

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dominant religion, and that they should take advan-
tage of the power which their financial resources give
them, to encompass the destruction of the Moslem,
either by corrupting or impoverishing him. Hence
it is that Moslems instinctively fear all schemes of
reform which shall increase the power of the Chris-
tians ; and the Christians who are officially em-
ployed by the Government are not anxious to see
reforms inaugurated, if the result is to improve the
administration generally, and so to consolidate the
Turkish empire by the prevention of abuses which
they now exploiter to their own profit. Our late
experience in Cyprus is an illustration of this. There
can be little doubt that Christians are to be found
in that island, who, if they were asked which rule

2 I


they preferred, British rule or Turkish, would un-
hesitatingly reply in favour of the latter.

The Maronites derive their name from a certain
heretical monk named Maron, who is said to have
lived about 400 years after Christ, and whose heresy
consisted in the dogma that Christ was animated by
one will only. As the Catholic Church knew to the
contrary, his followers, though otherwise Romanists,
were compelled to form a sect of their own, and were
only subjected to the authority of the Pope about the
year 1600, after a Collegium Maronitarum had been
founded at Rome, where a number of Maronite
scholars distinguished themselves. A thorough in-
vestigation as to the nature and composition of the
will of the Saviour appears to have enabled them
to arrive at a conclusion satisfactory to the Pope ;
and a reconciliation took place, from which they
have, ever since, derived great political benefit and
many substantial advantages.

The Maronite Church still possesses many special
privileges, including that of reading Mass in Syriac,
which answers quite as well as Latin, as nobody can
understand it, except at the village of M alula, as
I have already described. The inferior clergy also
retain the right to marry. The patriarch is elected
by the bishops, subject to the approval of Rome.
The monasteries in the district round Ghazir, and
in the district of Bsherreh, are, some of them, very
handsome, and contain about two thousand monks.


In some of them are printing-presses for their litur-
gies and other works.

Ghazir is beautifully situated at an elevation of
twelve hundred feet above the sea, and about four
miles distant from it by the road. There are an
abundance of churches and monasteries in the town
and its neighbourhood. The Italian Capuchin and
the Jesuit monasteries occupy the finest situations,
and from both magnificent views are to be obtained :
to the east, looking up the valley by which we had
descended the night before ; and to the west over
the Bay of Juneh, round which richly cultivated hills
teeming with population rise in a verdant amphi-
theatre, reminding one of the Bay of Naples, while
a village resembling Sorrento juts out on a pro-
montory at the other end of the bay. A zigzag
carriage-road has been constructed from Ghazir to
the beach, though it is difficult to see for what pur-
pose, as no wheeled vehicle, as yet, can approach
either end of it. We were very glad to find a mark
of civilisation affording such a contrast to the paths
over which we had been recently scrambling; and
still more pleased to be galloping over the hard
sea-beach, halting only at a too tempting spot to
take a plunge into the waves. We were now on
the highroad from Tripoli to Beyrout, and in a
couple of hours after leaving Ghazir reached Nahr-
el-Kelb. I was here on familiar ground, but I was
glad of the opportunity of visiting it again. The


river, which we had already seen at the wonderful
springs that form its source, here forces its way
through a picturesque ravine ; and high up on the
face of the cliff is an old aqueduct, its arches buried
in creepers, mosses, and damp vegetation, while the
river itself is spanned by a picturesque bridge ; and
the road, after crossing it, is hewn out of the rock,
and overhangs the sea as it winds its way round the
projecting promontory. Near the bridge there is an
Arabic inscription on a large slab of rock, announc-
ing that it was restored by Sultan Selim I. (son of
Bajasid II.), the conqueror of Syria, in 1520. There
is also, not far distant, on the other side of the stream,
a Latin inscription cut in the rock, informing us that
the pass was hewn by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Here, too, are those nine different rock - carved
sculptures which have furnished a fruitful theme of
speculation to antiquarians ; but there can be little
doubt that they record the progress of conquering
armies. Three have been recognised as Egyptian,
and six as Assyrian.

Sir H. Layard regards the Assyrian sculptures as
the work of Sennacherib, whose name he has deci-
phered in the nearly obliterated inscriptions. Not
being an antiquarian, I was only able, with positive
certainty, to recognise the one recounting the tri-
umphs of the French army in Syria under General
de Hautpol. In consequence of the length and
depth of this latter inscription, and the somewhat


submissive attitude of the Assyrian king, who looks
as if he was offering something to the French gen-
eral, that officer has succeeded in conveying to the
casual observer the impression that the achieve-
ments of his soldiers far surpassed those of a more
ancient period, and has thus left an imperishable
memorial of the present grandeur of his country.
On the day after my return to Beyrout I left it by
steamer for Constantinople, and arrived in that city
towards the end of May.




I CONFESS I arrived at Constantinople from Syria
sanguine that a project, the merits of which had
been cordially recognised by the Governor- General
of that province, to which it specially applied, would
commend itself to the Turkish Government, and
that they would at once perceive the political and
financial advantages which might be derived from
it. By initiating a measure of this character, the
Sultan would have manifested a desire to introduce
reforms in a part of his dominions in which he was
anxious to anticipate the exercise of any interference
on the part of England under the Cyprus Conven-
tion. While, in addition to increasing the pecuniary
resources of his empire at a time when the ex-
chequer stood sorely in need of replenishment, his
Majesty would, by taking the lead in a policy which
had for its object the restoration of the Jews to the
land of their ancestors, have secured their power-
ful influence in the journalism and finance of Europe
and America, and have acquired sympathy and sup-


port from a large section of the British pubHc who
are now bitterly hostile to his religion and adminis-
tration. And here I would remark that the advan-
tages of an alliance with the Jewish race, to any
Power likely to become involved in the impending
complications in the East, which may possibly in-
volve a general war, appear to have been altogether
overlooked by European statesmen. It is evident
that the policy which I proposed to the Turkish
Government might be adopted with equal advantage
by England, or any other European Power. The
nation that espoused the cause of the Jews and
their restoration to Palestine, would be able to rely
upon their support in financial operations on the
largest scale, upon the powerful influence which
they wield in the press of many countries, and on
their political co-operation in those countries which
would of necessity tend to paralyse the diplomatic
and even hostile action of Powers antagonistic to the
one with which they were allied. Owing to the finan-
cial, political, and commercial importance to which
the Jews have now attained, there is probably no one
Power in Europe that would prove so valuable an
ally to a nation likely to be engaged in a European
war, as this wealthy, powerful, and cosmopolitan race.
I was the more disposed to hope for a favourable
issue to my efforts, because at this time Khaireddin
. Pasha was Grand Vizier, than whom a more honest,
patriotic, and enlightened statesman has not for many


years filled that high office. Nor was I disappointed
with the liberal views and clear perception which
characterised his appreciation of the administrative
necessities of the empire and of the advantages to
Turkey of a Jewish alliance. He perceived at once
the merits of an experiment that might be made
susceptible of further application if its success should
be proved on a small scale ; and I had no difficulty
in framing a measure which, while it guaranteed the
sovereign rights of the Sultan, and met the require-
ments of Turkish susceptibilities, should at the same
time contain all the guarantees necessary for the
protection of the colonies from the existing abuses
o( Ottoman rule.^

1 The scheme was also favourably commented on in some of the
local papers. I annex a translation of an article from the ' Semaphore
d'Orient:' <

" The project of Mr Oliphant consists in detaching from the
' Mutessariflik ' of Nablous the province of Belka, upon the left hand
of the Jordan, there to found, with the aid of foreign capitalists, a
colony where, in the first instance, the Jewish subjects of H.M. the
Sultan would be invited to dwell, as well as any Jews who might de-
sire to establish themselves upon their ancestral soil. They would
bring their business intelligence, their industry and their wealth to
bear upon the new enterprise, and would give it an energetic and en-
lightened impulse. It is, above all, to those Mussulman refugees
whose fate is the source of constant uneasiness to the paternal gov-
ernment of the Sultan, that Mr Oliphant looks to furnish the popular
working element of the youthful colony. By transferring to the Belka
some thousands of these sober, enduring, hardy and experienced
agriculturists, the success of this great 'model farm' would be in-
sured, and the happiness of these unfortunates, most of whom wander
about homeless, hungry, and without occupation, would be secured,


Unfortunately the great qualities of Khaireddin
Pasha were precisely those that led to his down-
fall. No man in his position could hope successfully
to contend with the corruption which pervades the

and all the temptations arising from an idle state would be removed
from them.

"There is certainly no question of creating an independent pro-
vince still less Jewish principality. On the contrary, the colonists
would become Ottoman subjects, if they were not so already, and the
colony would be governed by an Ottoman governor, according to the
general laws of the empire, excepting in certain points wherein the
Sublime Porte would be good enough to make some slight conces-
sions necessitated by the enterprise.

" The principal objects of Mr Oliphant's project are to restore to
cultivation lands replete with fertile soil, well watered and richly
wooded, which are now abandoned to small nomadic tribes from
which the empire derives neither material, political, nor fiscal assist-
ance. The new project, on the other hand, would benefit the imperial
treasury by the payment of an important sum as the price of the pur-
chase of the land of the colony, as well as by the augmentation of the
revenues of the colonised province. The neighbouring lands, too,
would profit by the impulse given to agricultural interests, as well as
to industry and commerce, by the new enterprise, which would form
a ' model farm ' destined to serve as an agricultural example to the
whole empire, and to assure a refuge for the Moslem refugees. It
would also insure to Turkey European sympathies, by offering, under
the asgis of the Sultan, an asylum, secure from political and religious
passions, to a laborious and docile race which is still persecuted and
oppressed in certain European countries. Finally, it would permit
the Jews to acquire landed property in their historical fatherland, and
thus satisfy the longings which many of them feel for the drawing
closer of the ties which bind them to the cradle of their race.

" The works of public utility which belong to the scheme of this
project comprise a railway from Haifar to the Jordan near the Dead
Sea which might ultimately be prolonged to the Gulf of Akaba on
the Red Sea.

" Mr Oliphant's project, far from aiming at the constitution of a


administrative system of Turkey, and, above all, to
sweep out the Augean stable at Constantinople, with-
out the support of the Sultan ; all the worst elements
of the bureaucracy and the official class were arrayed
against him, and the most strenuous efforts were
made to prejudice him in the mind of his sovereign,
and to secure his overthrow. It became clear to
the " ring" oi backsheesh-vciOVi<g^xs, that if Khaireddin
succeeded in carrying out his programme of re-
establishing a popular representation by means of
chambers at Constantinople, and supporting them
by local medjlisses popularly elected in the pro-
vinces, to which he proposed to grant a larger
measure of administrative autonomy than they now
enjoy, the days of backsheesh would come to an
end, while the process of ending them would involve
exposures implicating the highest functionaries in the

As Khaireddin Pasha's political programme, if it

new State like Roumelia or Bulgaria, would tend to consolidate the
Ottoman power in Palestine, and to establish, on a solid basis, the
authority of the Sublime Porte in these deserted countries, where it
is frequently in conflict with the turbulent nomadic tribes of Bedouins.
"If political reasons, which do not concern us, have prevented the
Imperial Government from accepting, till now, a project which had
met with the sympathy of all the present Ministers of the Sultan
as well as other statesmen of influence towards which his Majesty
himself has evinced his interest by the kindly reception which he
gave to Mr Oliphant we are sure that the day will come when the
Sublime Porte will recognise at its true value the philanthropic and
essentially non-political idea which dominates this project for Otto-
man colonisation."


were put into operation, would have had the effect of
placing the authority of the Sultan upon a consti-
tutional instead of an autocratic basis, it was not
difficult for his powerful enemies to shake his
Majesty's confidence in the disinterestedness of his
Minister's intentions, and to exaggerate the dangers
that might result to the spiritual as well as tem*
poral prestige of the Father of the Faithful if he
adopted the progressive policy of his Grand Vizier.

Another very weighty influence opposed to Khair-
eddin Pasha was that of Russia, which has always
strongly supported the underlings in the Palace, and
the prejudices dominant there, in their resistance to
the introduction of institutions that would reflect
by their existence in Turkey, upon the political and
social condition of Russia herself, or carry reform
into districts which she still desires to annex. It
was only to be expected, therefore, that any attempt
to introduce a constitutional form of government
which should act as a check upon the bureaucratic
corruption that characterises the administration of
Turkey, should meet with the strongest opposition
from a Government based upon the same autocratic
system, and tainted by the same official corruption.

The European Powers that were anxious to see
these abuses reformed which are breaking the hearts
of the people of all races and religions in Turkey,
Moslem as well as Christian, and which must, before
long, destroy the empire itself never attempted


to insist upon the application of this one and only
remedy of popular representation, basing their re-
sistance to any proposal of this nature on the
purely gratuitous assumption, that institutions which
have almost invariably been found efficacious in
remedying the grievances of nations in struggling
and partially civilised conditions, were totally inap-
plicable in Turkey, and that that country is less
fit for them now than England was six hundred
years ago. The result was, that after a ministerial
crisis of six weeks, Khaireddin Pasha, attacked by
all the influences most hostile to the true welfare
of the empire, both from within and from without,
and supported only by a local public opinion unable
to find constitutional expression, and not strong or
united enough to resort to unconstitutional measures,
was overthrown, and, as a natural consequence, the
destinies of the country fell into the hands of " the
ring," composed of corrupt and unscrupulous ad-
venturers, some of whom became the leading mem-
bers of the new Cabinet, whilst others exercised
important functions in the Palace itself. The office
of Grand Vizier was practically abolished, as involv-
ing too much independent power; and the direct
arbitrary and irresponsible authority of the Sultan,
and the influence of his immediate personal advisers,
became intensified. The most trusted among the
latter were those who succeeded most effectually in
exciting his suspicions of any proposal emanating


from without, that had for its object the aboHtion
of the abuses upon which they fattened, or the intro-
duction of those admininistrative reforms that they
had good reason to dread. Fearful, however, of ex-
asperating those persons interested in maintaining
the existence and advancing the material prosperity
of the empire, and anxious to deprecate their just
indignation at a political change from which it was
notorious nothing could be hoped, the new Minis-
ters were profuse in promises and professions, and
exhibited an ingenuity in the arts of deception and
procrastination worthy of a better cause.

The policy underlying their professions was resist-
ance to the foreigner at all points. To the friendly
ambassador of the Power most anxious to preserve
Turkey, no less than to the humblest concession-
naire of the smallest nationality, everything was to
be promised ; but in both cases performance was
to be indefinitely postponed, and the delusion was
maintained until the means of prevarication and the
patience of the victim were alike exhausted.

The negotiations in my own case, which, as it
afterwards turned out, were uselessly protracted
over many months, would furnish a most curious
illustration of the system, if it were worth while to
go into details. The only consolation I derived
from my experience was, that it differed in no
respect from that of the representatives of the
European Powers, and of foreigners generally ; and


afforded no evidence that my demands were not
perfectly reasonable, or that, under more favourable
conditions, they were not of a nature to be appre-
ciated and complied with. Indeed, during the whole
period of my stay, out of seven Cabinet Ministers to
whom I submitted the project, I never met one who
did not profess the warmest approval of it, or who
did not offer me his support ; and in doing- so, many
of them were doubtless sincere. I would by no
means wish to be understood as putting all Turkish
officials in the same category ; indeed the worst I
have known has been a Christian. It has been
owing to an unfortunate combination of circum-
stances that the more patriotic and high-minded of
Ottoman statesmen, of whom many exist, have not
been for the last year in a position to exercise a
salutary influence upon public affairs ; and if the
empire is not first destroyed by European compli-
cations, I should not despair of a change taking
place that may restore them to the imperial favour,
and enable them to carry out those projects of re-
form which they perceive to be for the best interests
of the country. There is no greater mistake than to
suppose that the administrative system of Turkey is
hopeless, or that there are no able and enlightened
Turks willing to work in the direction of reform; but
they must be encouraged and supported by foreign
Powers who are just and impartial in their sym-
pathies for all races and religions In the empire.


As things are, it would be no solution of the prob-
lem, even if it be possible, to eject the governing
class from Europe ^ for the misgoverned Moslem and
Christian would still remain side by side in Asia,
and a discrimination of sympathy between the two
religions in Asia, on the part of foreign nations,
would reproduce the evils which have already led to
the extermination of more than a million of Christians
and Moslems in Europe. It is surely in accordance
with the highest dictates of morality that a misgov-
erned population, whether it be purely Christian or
purely Moslem, or mixed, or whether it be in Europe
or in Asia, has the same claim upon our common
humanity. If we have a responsibility in the matter
of Turkish rule at all, the narrow line of the Bos-
phorus cannot relieve us from it certainly less than
ever now that we have come under certain obliga-
tions towards the Asiatic population of Turkey by
the Cyprus Convention. Whatever changes may
be in store for Turkey, no matter where the seat of
its government may be, the central administration
will not the less need purification ; while the prin-
ciples of government must in every case be such
as shall apply equally to people of all races and
religions, for as much diversity of race and religion
exists in European as in Asiatic Turkey ; and the
reform which this implies can only be achieved by
the introduction of responsible government at the
capital, and the establishment of popular chambers


in which all interests and religions shall be fairly

The mistake which English Governments have
made in dealing with this question, and which Eng-
lish politicians have fallen into in discussing it, has
been to divide the population of Turkey roughly
into Christians and Turks, and to consider that the
antagonistic forces at work in the empire were op-
posed to each other upon the basis of this division.
Nothing can be more incorrect. There are three
main forces at work, more or less in antagonism ;
and from the days of the Crimean war, our Eastern
policy has been defective, whether under Conserva-
tive or Liberal guidance, in consequence of this fact
having never been clearly recognised. There are
the Christians, subdivided and weakened by inter-
nal dissensions on grounds of race and religion ; there
are the Moslems, of whom the majority are not
Turks, but who are united in religious sentiment,
and comparatively undisturbed by race jealousies ;
and there is the Government, which is of mixed
Moslem and Christian composition, the controlling
power in it being, of course, purely Turkish. It was
only to be expected that English politicians, known
as philo-Christian or anti-Turk, should espouse the
cause oif the conflicting Christian nationalities against
the Turkish Government ; but what has been unfor-
tunate is, that those known as pro-Turkish should
support the Turkish Government, which is notorious


for corruption and incapacity, instead of espousing
the cause of the Moslem population, and uniting it
with that of the Christian against the administra-
tive system. Of the three factors in the question
the Government, the Christians, and the Moslems
the Government and the Christians have both had
their champions in England ; but the most import-
ant, which is the Moslem population, has been ig-
nored. And yet they thoroughly sympathise with
those Christians who have not independent national
aspirations in desiring its radical reformation. In
fact, in its present phase, it is held in equal abhor-
rence and detestation both by Moslem and Christian;^
but by perpetually showing a discrimination in sym-
pathy and in measures of reform in favour of the
Christian as against the Moslem, we produce an
antagonism of religion that would not exist if our
efforts were characterised by greater justice. For
it is evident that a policy which favours the expa-
triation of Moslems from the soil of their fathers,
in order that Christians may enter in to it on the

^ The Constantinople correspondent of the 'Daily News,' who can-
not be suspected of pro-Moslem sympathies, writes, alluding more

Online LibraryLaurence OliphantThe land of Gilead, with excursions in the Lebanon; → online text (page 32 of 35)