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learn that his wife, having first become blind from unceasing weeping, had died practically in a starving condition, and that his children were living on charity. It ought not to be forgotten by Englishmen that when we were engaged in our last war with the Boers, and all Europe was reviling us, the Turks alone—and notably those of the educated classes who now rule the country as the Young Turk party—were in sympathy with us, and some of them suffered in consequence. A number of young officers of the army and navy, and others, put their names to a document in which they expressed their hope that the British arms would prove successful in South Africa, and this they carried to the British Embassy to present to our then Ambassador. The Palace heard of this ; the spies were set to work to ascertain what names appeared upon the incriminating document, and one by one every one of these men disappeared, being snatched up to be put into prison, or, to be sent into exile. One of these young officers, Sirret Bey, escaped from those who arrested him, hid himself for some time in the guise of a cook in the British Consulate, and is now one of the leading members of the Committee of Union and Progress in Salonika. This dreadful system of espionage and the suppression of all intellectual liberty fell harder
on the educated Mussulmans than on the Christian
subjects of the Sultan, for despotism had no such fear of the Greek or Armenian as it had of the patriotic Turk, and the Christians therefore were not so closely watched and had more chance of public appointment. The Christians also had one important advantage over the Mussulman Turks in so much as their privileges allowed them to establish schools uncontrolled by the State, which provided a more liberal education than was possible in the Moslem schools. It can be readily understood, therefore, how patriotic Turks of the upper and middle classes, ground down under this tyranny that gave them no voice in the administration and placed over them mean men who were hurrying the country to its destruction, were prepared to join in any movement that promised a fair chance of overthrowing the Hamidian régime.
It is also easy to understand that the Christians, who during this reign were deprived of some of their ancient rights, who were treated with a more galling contumely than ever before, as a subject and despised people, and lived in perpetual dread of massacre and outrage, welcomed the revolution that placed them on an equality with the Mussulmans; but how it came to pass that the despotism became so intolerable to the masses of the Turkish people as to excite to rebellion even the patient, religious Moslem peasants, who had hitherto revered the Sultan as their spiritual ruler as well as their monarch, and had been blindly and fanatically obedient to his will, requires some explanation. The thrifty, hard-working Turkish peasants suffered as much as the Christians from the evils of the administration; they paid the same heavy taxes, and, like their Christian neighbours, they were cheated by the tax-collectors, being often illegally mulcted and most harshly treated by petty tyrants. The provincial officials did not receive their pay regularly, and so recouped themselves by corrupt practices. Thus the rich, by paying bribes, succeeded in many cases in avoiding taxation altogether, and many unfair exemptions were allowed; with the result that in some places nearly all the burden of taxation fell upon the poor. The peasants were shrewd enough to perceive that the money thus wrung from them did not produce any good for themselves or their country, but went to enrich the ruling clique, and that Constantinople swallowed up the huge sums that were collected in every part of the Empire. They knew that there were Ministries established in costly palaces and maintaining a large number of well-paid officials, while the result of this extravagant expenditure was not anywhere to be seen. Thus there was a Ministry of Public Works, but there were no roads or irrigation works; a Ministry of Police, but no protection of life and property; a Ministry of Justice, and no justice; a Ministry of War, and a starved army.
But the stoical Mussulman peasants, whose faithfulness is as that of a dog, were loth to think ill of their Sultan, and they put the blame upon his ministers as doing wrong without his knowledge. Oppression and unjust taxation by themselves would not have driven these people into revolt, and the Young Turk movement would have had small chance of success, had not Abdul Hamid neglected to secure—what would have been so easy to secure—the continued fidelity and affection of his army, of which the splendid peasantry of the country form the backbone. I have explained that the Sultan was careful to pamper the Albanian and other regiments that were stationed in Constantinople to protect his person, overawe the city, and preserve the Despotism; and he saw to it that these men duly received their pay, were well fed and properly clothed. But with this exception the military administration of the Empire was left wholly in the hands of the Palace favourites, who, with their characteristic greed and total lack of patriotic sentiment, enriched themselves at the expense of the national defence, and with a callous indifference to the sufferings of the men, practically starved the army.
In Turkey, the burden of obligatory service is placed exclusively on the Mussulman population, the Christians up till now having enjoyed complete exemption, in return for which they have paid a small poll-tax. The Turkish soldier is among the toughest as well as the bravest in the world, and he will undergo great hardships uncomplainingly; but there are limits even to his endurance. It would be difficult to exaggerate the pitiable condition of these fine troops, as I have often seen them in provincial garrisons and posts in the days of the old régime. They never received their full rations; sometimes they were in a starving condition; they were ill-clothed even when guarding the frontier through the hard Balkan winters; often in rags and tatters, with what remained of their uniforms supplemented with such native garments as they could pick up; their small pay was always in arrears; they were untrained and undisciplined—a pitiful waste of the finest military material in Europe; and the officers themselves irregularly paid, slovenly, because they had no means to procure the decencies of life, and estranged one from the other by the hateful spy system, were in no condition to inspire their men with the high spirit and esprit de corps that used to distinguish the Turkish army. But despite all this, when fighting had to be done these men remembered that they were Turkish soldiers, and fought well. The Turkish soldier might even have put up with all this during his four years of service with the colours, for it takes much to rouse him to mutiny; but his oppression took one form that