« AnteriorContinuar »
is known to all the world. Some of the Germans
whom I met in Constantinople expressed their
conviction and their hope that the days of the
new régime were numbered. It was interest
ing to hear these men, who represented the
political commercialism of their country, frankly
state, as if it were an incontrovertible axiom, that all European peoples, whether German, British or any other, had for their one aim in Turkey the
exploitation of a helpless country. The Germans are perfectly sincere when they assert that the Balkan Committee is the paid agent of a cunning British Government, that the expression of British sympathy for oppressed nationalities is organised hypocrisy with the attainment of selfish ends as its one motive. As they look with their cold, blue eyes into yours you realise that they quite believe these things. The materialism of modern Germany has so sunk into the souls of her sons—including some of the most illustrious of them—that it has become inconceivable to them that a nation, or a group of the citizens of that nation, can take a disinterested interest in the affairs of other nations and sympathise unselfishly with its misfortunes or triumphs. To the Germans the enthusiasm with which the success of the Young Turk cause was welcomed in England was all humbug—a cleverly engineered manifestation of friendship whose object it was to secure
for Great Britain the influence in Turkey which Germany had lost by the revolution but confidently looked forward to recovering at an early date by more straightforward if more brutal methods. The thirty years of despotism, by its deliberate encouragement of corruption, had demoralised a great part of the Turkish nation. The cure cannot come in a day, and those well provided with money can still buy power in Constantinople. It was amid very corrupt surroundings that the Young Turks, pure themselves, set to work to undertake the regeneration of Turkey and to make the Empire strong. To begin with, Constantinople is full of men who have lived by corrupt practices all their lives—the men who were blackmailing spies under the old régime, or had belonged to that huge tribe of useless functionaries who used to crowd every public department and had to be bribed by those whom business brought into contact with them. All these people, their occupation now gone, are wandering about the capital in very disconsolate mood, hard up, regretting “the good old days,” and hating the purifying influence that has brought this change about. These men are all reactionaries; many of them know well how to poison the minds of ignorant people against the Committee with cunning inventions. They are largely responsible for the growing popular dislike of the Committee. It is very difficult for the people in the capital to arrive at the truth, and they are largely at the mercy of paid agitators and schemers. Even foreign Governments are able to influence public opinion in Turkey. The Germans and Austrians possess a useful piece of machinery for the dissemination of news to serve their own interests in the shape of a telegraphic agency which supplies Constantinople with practically all its foreign information, and sells its despatches by the column to the newspapers of that city at a low rate that cannot possibly pay the expenses of the service. The news which purports to come from London is often of an astonishing character. I understand that the Committee of Union and Progress is now about to reorganise its constitution and convert itself into what we should call a Parliamentary party; but under whatever name it continues its existence it is to be hoped that this body of men, which has done such great and noble work for Turkey, which contains so many men of single-minded, self-sacrificing patriotism, will remain the dominating party in the country. But it will have to be as the strong man armed and ever watchful, for its enemies are many and have the money wherewith, alas ! the consciences of both men and newspapers can still be purchased in Turkey.
The counter-revolution—The demands of the mutinous troops —Murder of Young Turks—The Sultan grants an amnesty —A new Ministry—The Young Turks prepare to crush the reactionaries—The Macedonian army marches upon the capital—Defeat of the garrison and capture of Constantinople—The deposition of Abdul Hamid—The new Sultan.
THE greater part of this book was in the press, and the preceding chapter, which was to have been the final one, lacked but a few concluding paragraphs to bring my work to a close, when the news reached London that a revolution had broken out in Constantinople. On that eventful thirteenth of April I was lunching in a literary club off the Strand with two well-known members of the Young Turk party. The information conveyed by an early issue of a so-called evening paper was scanty, and we hoped that nothing worse had occurred than one of those mutinous demonstrations on the part of the Sultan's pampered Bodyguard which the Young Turks have already proved themselves capable of suppressing with promptitude and vigour. But later and fuller information brought anger and sorrow to the friends of Turkey: nearly the whole garrison of the capital had risen against the Government; the soldiers were killing their young officers; fanatical mobs were hunting out the members of the Young Turk party to murder them; the Committee of Union and Progress, in Constantinople at any rate, was at the feet of its enemies. The members of the Committee were flying for their lives from their fellow-countrymen, whom they had saved from a hated despotism. A few months ago I heard these same Constantinople mobs shouting themselves hoarse with cries of “Long live the Committee of Union and Progress " and all seemed grateful to this band of men who, animated by single-minded patriotism and a spirit of self-sacrifice, had organised the revolution. But a large portion of the population of Constantinople is a very vile thing; it is made up of everything that is worst of the various races of the Levant and of regions further east. The fanatical Kurds are ever ready to join in any rising that gives them the opportunity of pillage and murder; the greater part of the Christian population is too cowardly to defend itself; here, too, are collected all the ex-spies and other corrupt products of the old régime. One is inclined to think that one of the chief lessons to be learnt by the Young Turks from the counter-revolution is that the seat of Government might with advantage be removed from Constantinople to some place at a consider