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Mr. Stillman to Mr. Seuard.
[Extracts.] No. 25.
UNITED STATES CONSULATE,
Canca, August 18, 1866. Sir : The address which I have the honor to forward, accompanied by a literal translation, has been enclosed to me for transmission to the government, with a letter to me of which I enclose a copy. The circumstances demand and deserve a thorough explanation.
It is now four months since a congress of Cretan deputies of all the villages of the island, having, as I have previously advised you, met in a peaceful and legal manner, drew up a petition to the Sultan, in which they prayed for the fulfilment of the promises made from time to time both to them and for them to the protecting European powers. That the concessions demanded were needful and just will be testified to by all foreign residents. No country in the limits of European civilization can be worse or more oppressively governed than this. The taxes equal the full amount of the exports. The Turks have never made or repaired a road during their tenure of the island ; and yet the islanders are compelled to pay the regular import duties on their produce carried from one port of the island to another. Their harbors are filling up. They are unprovided with schools, which to the Greeks is a grưat deprivation ; justice is a mockery, and all the courts exist but to obey the mandates of the pacha.
Innocent people are exiled, fathers imprisoned for the offences of their sons, and men arrested are thrown into secret dungeons for offences unknown, and, judged, remain there for times unlimited.
Against all these things the Cretans petitioned respectfully and humbly, and the only reply of the Porte is to send 20,000 troops to repress agitation and arrest the deputies. Two of the signers of the petition who had separated themselves, immediately after, on the advice of the consuls, were arrested and are still confined in the most secret dungeons of the seraglio. The deputies themselves are obliged to take refuge in the inaccessible mountains of the island; and the whole population is in insurrection to defend them, and menaced on all points by the troops, who dare not make a direct attack.
This condition of things has been developing since the first of May, and during this time the consular corps has had occasion several times to express its opinion to the governor on the wicked and impolitic line of conduct he has followed.
It has need constantly to exercise a calming and reasoning influence on the ex. cited people, and has indeed in several cases prevented aggressive or armed defensive acts on one or the other part. Although deprived of the powerful influence of the consuls of England and France, the former of whom has been negative, the latter hostile to the Cretans, the consular body has presented an. insurmountable obstacle to the arbitrariness of the pacha, and compelled him from time to time to remit his hostile orders.
In these negotiations, partly because my American instincts have made me more uncompromisingly hostile to tyrauny, and less amenable to diplomatic reticence, and partly because our political position makes us free from suspicion of ulterior purposes in our action, I have been put forward by that portion of the corps, most hostile to the line of conduct of the pacha, in some measure as a spokesnian. . I have, however, carefully refrained from any act which could be called excess of my consular privileges, yet declaring freely and at all times my sympathy with the people.
The Cretans, on the other hand, mindful of our old friendship for their fellow Greeks, and from a certain republican sympathy which exists between their race and ours, as well as from the idea I find everywhere among the oppressed,
that free America must sympathize with the enslaved in whatever land, come to me more than to some of the other consuls for hope in their adversity, and look more to our nation than to any other for that moral encouragement without which they must despair.
They invoke the good offices of the United States with the European govern ments. I hope that their touching letter, every word of which is wrung from patriotic hearts by bitter and most unmerited oppression, may find grace in the sight of our President and his advisers, and that America will add in Crete one more to the many claims on the gratitude of mankind she now has, and make ber way one step further to the proud position of moral arbiter between mankind and oppression.
Could the people of America see what is passing under my eyes—all the noblest of a nation exiled, or driven to the mountain caves, their only refuge from the galleys, villages depopulated by the approach of a barbarous and licentious soldiery, men, women, and children driven roofless into the mountains, their possessions devastated in wantonness, churches sacked, and the whole industry paralyzed, and all without an act of hostility to the constituted authorities beyond a respectful prayer for justice and mercy-they would outdo the charity of the days of the Greek revolution, as much as their means exceed those of that time, and the united voice of the nation would be heard even to Constantinople, in tones not to be misunderstood.
Our minister near the Porte has won himself an honored position in the hearts of the Cretans by the warmth with which he has advocated their claims to justice, though without that authority with the Ottoman government which would have made the action of other legates decisive. It is to be hoped that when the opportunity permits, our government will not be less mindful of the claims of humanity. I remain, sir, yours respectfully,
W. J. STILLMAX,
United States Consul, Canca. Hon. William H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
PROSNERON, (APOCUNA,) August 1-13, 1866. Sir: We, the undersigned, representatives of the Christian population of the island of Crete, feel exceedingly gratified in publicly acknowledging the services you have rendered to our beloved country by evincing on every occasion your elevated sentiments on behalf of our sacred cause.
The undersigned venture to believe that the worthy representative of our best ally, the Christian United States government, would kindly accept the subjoined document, addressed by the brethren in bonds” of Crete to the generous and illustrious President of the American democracy, and cherish the hope that American intervention in Europe will be hailed as the harbinger of our national reunion with the kindred race, the Hellenes. We have the honor to be, sir, your sincere friends,
of the Christian Population of Crete. Mr. STILLMAN, United States Consul in Crete.
[Translation.] MR. PRESIDENT: The Greek island of Crete, the native country of Jupiter and Minos, glorious in the ancient times and happy, insignificant to-day and unhappy, sighs before the Christian world under the heavy yoke of the Mussulman. Taking up arms with the rest of Greece in the glorious struggle of 1821, in order to gain its liberty, it has suffered all the woes of the history of that epoch, which is only a series of tragedies. Our fathers had whitened the plains with their bones during that nine years' struggle, and thousands of women and children captured had been sold as slaves, even the eldest of whom had done their part in the pitiful drama.
We had by general good fortune gained all the country of the island, and one of the strongest fortresses, and we hoped that the time had come for us and for our Greek brothers, the happy hour of liberty, but we were disappointed. Our sacrifice not being considered sufficient, we must suffer new dispensatiops. Inexorable policy had delivered us anew to the Ottoman yoke, first under the Viceroy of Egypt, and then under the Sultan.
The three great powers, in order to soften the injustice, promised us, on the 10th of February and Sth of August, 1830, in the protocols of London, at least paternal government and assigned rights, but unfortunately even these little benefits the government would not grant us.
This action of diplomacy was unjust and against the nature of things, and showed how hunan work, and that of wise men, comes to naught; for from that time the island never has been quiet to enjoy the blessings of peace,
but it is always in convulsion, and sometimes struggles for its only desire, its freedom, and other times for the performance of the promises made in the protocols.
In 1833 there was a revolution which was drowned in blood. In 1841 another had the same fate. In 1858 we asked the restitution of our rights, and the putting in execution of the Hatti Humayoum, but nothing was given but promises. In 1861 part of the people, on account of the oppressions and injustice of the government, and by their ignorance, fell for a moment into the traps of the Catholic propaganda, believing that by that means they would gain their liberty.
A long task, Mr. President, would be the relating of our sufferings, in which every right-thinking observer must sympathize. Heavy taxes, and disproportionate to our poor gains, we pay in different ways, and none of the benefits which the subjects of every well-governed kingdom obtain do we have. Tribunals we have only by name, and justice is a thing unknown to us ; the government is the arbitrary will of the governor. Our children, from the lack of schools, are reared in the darkness of ignorance. In no public position are we accepted. Our evidence before the tribunals has not the same weight as that of the Ottomans. The evil that the Mussulmen do to us is seldom punished. Religious toleration, which is so often proclaimed, is perverted and made vain. We ourselves, from the little means we have, support our clergy, and with little exception our school. Our language, which is the language of the country for Christian and Ottoman, is not accepted at the tribunals. The government collects only the taxes, without rendering us any of the simplest benefits.
Such is, in a few words, our condition, the bettering of which we have asked many times from our government. This year, in the month of May, we asked of the Sultan, in the peaceful and respectful way which is fitting, relief from the heavy loads, equal justice, the execution of some governmental reforms of those promised us by the protocols, and the accomplishment of the published Hatti Humayoum, which many things have been promised to the Christians, nothing being given.
Unfortunately the Sublime Porte thought fit to throw contempt on our first petitions without examining them, but to insult us and threaten our chiefs that it would imprison them in the fortresses unless they gave written promises never again to make complaint to it, and sent many soldiers and ships in order to injure us.
Being in such a desperate condition we took up arms to sustain ourselves against violence, and to maintain with our blood the sacred rights which as reasonable creatures we have.
The struggle which we have entered on is great, as we are few and weak. We have before us the colossal power of one of the empires, but we have confidence in our right, and commend the unequal struggle to God, who is the strength of the powers of the Old and New Worlds, being ready to sacrifice ourselves all for this.
By origin and religion, by language and tradition, we belong to the Greek race, and our proper place is as a part of the kingdom of Greece. Such is the statement of the case. And what does the Ottoman empire gain by us? Being subject to it, we accomplish nothing except continual and periodical disturbances and collisions; while being united with our mother race, besides the bettering of ourselves, we will complete the fulness of that nation which, by the absence of its members, is made unsound.
Mr. President, if the injustice of your mother-land was set right by the sacred struggle which through the divine blessing was conducted to triumph by the ever-to-be-remembered Washington, how is ours justified! We should be happy if we had only the shadow of the benefits which your country gained in that epoch.
Being in such a condition, we, the respectfully undersigned, representatives of the Cretan Christian people, dare to ask, Mr. President, the intercession of the great democracy over which you happily preside, in order that our matters may obtain attention from the cabinets of the great European powers.
Blessing the Highest for the prosperity and strength of the glorious democracy of the United States of America, we take the liberty of undersigning ourselves the humble servants of your Excellency, the representatives of the Cretan people.
[Here follow sixty-three signatures.]
Mr. Morris to Mr. Scuard.
Constantinople, August 28, 1866. Sir: The United States consul at Crete has sent me a copy of the address of the inhabitants of Crete to the President of the United States, asking his intervention with the European powers against the Turkish government. It is an eloquent, and seems also a truthful, document. No part of the empire has suffered more from Turkish misrule than Crete. That island, with one of the most fertile soils and genial climates, is rapidly becoming a desert and a lair for wild beasts. Facts speak for themselves. In the classic ages its population exceeded a million ; under the Venetians it was 600,000; and when the Turks in 1669 entered into possession of it, it contained 450,000 inhabitants. It has now declined to 190,000. The people-nine-tenths of whom are Greeks—have never been satisfied with Turkish rule, and time and again they have risen against their oppressors, and bloody and savage has been the strife that has desolated its once blooming plains. In 1921 the Cretans took up arms in the general Greek rising against the Turks. For years they fought with a heroic desperation that has never been surpassed; and when all was lost in their native island, they repaired to the continent and entered the ranks of the liberating army of Greece, where their valor, under the walls of Athens and elsewhere, placed them in the foreground among the valiant contingents of that band of heroes. They, in fact, fairly conquered a right to independence for Crete, but were, by the decrees of a cold-blooded and selfish diplomacy, separated from their brethren on the continent and incorporated in the reconstituted empire of Turkey, under Mahmoud the Second. Since that time innumerable have been their woes and sufferings.
Like all the people of the interior, they suffer from the curse of provincial misgovernment. The plagues of Turkey-most flagrant, as everybody here knows-are the government of the provinces by pashas, appointed through bribery or favoritism from Constantinople, and the race of dragomans. The latter, as a body, are corrupt, sycophantic, mean, and truckling, and so intensely Turkish that they seriously embarrass the operation of Christian influence on the Porte. Some of the worst abuses of this, the worst of governments, owe their existence, in part, to the mischievous influence of the dragomanic fraternity, who, for gifts in houses, lands, and jewels, (and many of them are rich in such gifts from the Porte,) screen the greatest enormities and misrepresent and pervert the true state of things. Only when the abolition of these two of the most patent evils of Turkey-pashalic governments and dragomancy, shall be accomplished, can we hope for real reform and progress in this empire.
My heart bleeds at the tale of wrong and outrage I daily hear of Turkish misrule in the provinces, and it seems to me as if a righteous God would some day or other inflict a fearful retribution on those Christian powers whose selfish interests condemn this, one of the fairest regions of the globe, and its Christian populations, to a state of thraldom to a corrupt and fanatical race of rulers, who govern in these enlightened times as Ghengis and Tamerlane did in their ages. Why do not the great powers apply their favorite doctrine of non-intervention to the east, and allow its people to settle their destinies themselves ?
Strong as is my feeling of sympathy with the Cretans, and all such suffering populations of this empire, I have not deemed it consistent with the duties of my position to take any direct part in their behalf with the Porte. I have, however, exerted some influence for their benefit with Lord Lyons and the Russian minister, and I have reason to believe that it has had a tendency to persuade the Porte to a more prudent course of action than it first was disposed to adopt. At my instance in chief Lord Lyons despatched the 80-gun frigate Arethusa to Crete, whose presence there has had a most wholesome effect in restraining the violence of the Turkish troops. Whatever I can do indirectly in this way, consistent with the good relations that I am bound to entertain with the Porte, I shall most cheerfully do. I have counselled Mr. Stillman to a prudential course of conduct, and not to yield too strongly to his natural sympathies. The fact is, in this country one must forget, it seems, that he is a human being or a Christian ; for if he gives vent to his feelings as such, he will compromise himself personally and politically.
It makes me proud to know that the suffering masses here, as everywhere else, instinctively turn their eyes to the great republic of America as their truest and best friend. They know us to be disinterested and true friends of liberty, and that our sympathies are with all who aspire to freedom, and who suffer under oppression. With great respect, your obedient servant,
E. JOY MORRIS. Hon. William H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State.
Mr. Stillman to Mr. Scward. No. 27.]
UNITED STATES CONSULATE,
Canea, September 23, 1866. Sir: I regret to inform you that the insurrectionary movements of which I have advised you in their incipieney have, through the bad policy of the local