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The next day Prince Hamid sent to me a person in his service, an Englishman who possessed his entire confidence, to bespeak the support of Her Majesty's embassy, and to inform me of his views and opinions. The Prince declared that his first wish was to be guided by the advice of Her Majesty's Government. He had had translations made of our blue-books, and he fully understood that the friendly feelings of England towards Turkey must naturally be estranged by what had taken place in Bulgaria, and the hard words that had been used in Parliament were not stronger than was warranted, if applied to those who were responsible for what had occurred. The credit of the State must be restored by a rigid economy, so that justice could be done to the public creditors ; and a control must be established over the finances to put a stop to the corruption reigning in that department.
The professions of the Prince seemed fair enough; but I was anxious to learn something of his character which would enable me to judge of the course he was likely to follow better than from the mere words which he might think it desirable to employ; and upon that point the information I got from his envoy was not so satisfactory. It is true that, as was to be expected, he spoke in the highest terms of the Prince's capacity and disposition; but he added that he was determined not to put himself into the hands of any minister, and as soon as possible to get rid of those then in office.
It was evident, therefore, that he bore no good will to the reformers; and since he appeared to intend to continue the system of personal government, which it was their object to limit, it seemed probable that they would have difficulty in obtaining his consent to the measures by which the power of the Sovereign was to be restricted by a popular control, and which, if Murad had been able to reign, would have been at once secured.
So it proved. Abdul Hamid was proclaimed Sultan on the 31st of August, and six weeks later the increasing impatience of the people was quieted by the issue of a proclamation announcing a general scheme of reform for the whole Ottoman Empire, but the formal constitution that was to give effect to it was still withheld. It promised the establishment of a Senate and of a Representative Assembly to vote the budget and taxes; a revision of the system of taxation; the reorganisation of the provincial administration; the full execution of the law of the vilayets, with a large extension of the right of election, and other liberal measures, including most of those which the Porte had been urged to introduce into Bosnia and the Herzegovina. This proclamation was issued on the 12th of October, but, owing to the difficulties to be overcome at the palace, it was not till the 25th of January following that the long-expected instrument which was to be the charter of the freedom of the Turkish nation was officially proclaimed. Even then it was greatly modified in some essential particulars from Midhat's original project, and disfigured by the omission of a clause, for which he had struggled in vain, under which no Ottoman subject could be exiled by the authority of the Sultan, or otherwise than by the sentence of a competent court.
When the constitution was proclaimed, Midhat proposed to communicate it, formally and officially, to the Conference which was then sitting, as providing for most of the reforms that had been called for in the disturbed provinces.
Had this offer been accepted, the Powers would have obtained a solemn engagement, little less binding than a formal treaty, that its provisions were to be respected, and would have secured the right of authoritatively insisting upon their observation; and though the Sultan might perhaps endeavour to evade it, he could not have ventured, as he afterwards did, openly to repudiate it. He would have known, not only that the Powers would sternly remind him of the engagement he had taken towards them, but that they would be supported in their protest by the immense majority of his own subjects. But Midhat Pasha's offer was not accepted by the Conference. If the members of it had been at all aware of the serious nature of the reform movement that was in progress, and of the earnestness of the men who were striving to carry it through, I do not doubt for a moment that they would have acted very differently, and would gladly have seized the opportunity of forwarding it; but most of them, being entirely ignorant of all that had been going on in the country before their own arrival, imagined the constitution to have been invented merely as a means of providing the Porte with a pretext for refusing to accept some of the proposals on which they were insisting. In their comments upon it, what was good was passed over with ungenerous silence, while its shortcomings were greedily dwelt upon, and insinuations were allowed to reach the palace that the Sultan would do well to be on his guard against Midhat Pasha, who had taken an active part in dethroning his two predecessors, and who was bent upon making himself Dictator. The Liberal party in England, unaccountably and little to its credit, adopted much the same tone, and thus did its best to defeat the efforts of the struggling Turkish reformers.
But incomplete and imperfect in many respects as the new charter was, it contained much of immediate value, and enough to open the way for further development. The two sessions of the Parliament held under it were most encouraging, and showed the members to be fully determined that their control over the Government should be a real one.
There was no jealousy between the different classes of which the Assembly was composed; turbaned Mollahs and dignitaries or representatives of the Christian Churches being equally bent upon making the new institution work for the regeneration of their common
country; criticising the acts of the Government with perfect freedom, making known the abuses going on in the provinces, and refusing to vote the money asked for when they deemed the amount excessive or the object unnecessary. Nothing, in fact, could be more promising ; and many of those who, in their ignorance of Turkish character, had laughed at the notion of an Ottoman Parliament, prophesying that it would be wholly subservient to the Government and confine itself to approving and registering all the proposals submitted to it, now honestly expressed their surprise and their admiration of the fearless spirit that was exhibited.
I had then left Constantinople, and cannot speak of the proceedings from my own observation; but the Times correspondent (as well as those of other papers) bore testimony to the courage with which, at almost every sitting, the Chamber criticised the acts of the Government and called upon the different ministers to give explanations respecting their conduct of their departments; and he added that the House represented some of the best elements of the nation and that the present contest was one between the people and the pashas.' No doubt this was so. For two years the struggle of the people with the palace and pashas had been carried on, and the weight of England, unfortunately misled by those who ought to have been the first to welcome the dawn of freedom in another country, had been thrown into the scale of the pashas and against those who were labouring for the people.
How far they might have been successful if the support to which their gallant efforts were entitled had not been withheld, it is not possible now to say ; but it may, at least, be affirmed that, if there is ever to be an efficient reform of the deplorable Turkish administration, it must be by means of some such popular control as it was then proposed to establish over the palace and the official classes.
Absolute rulers and their dependants do not readily reconcile themselves to the loss of any of their power, and the reformers would in any case have needed all their resolution in defending what they
It was not, therefore, surprising that the aberration by which England was then possessed should have encouraged the Sultan quickly to set about the recovery of his authority, and he at once perceived that his first step should be to deprive the reformers of their leader. A blow might safely be struck at Midhat Pasha without the risk of a word of disapproval from either party in England. By the Liberals he had been mercilessly assailed and held up to execration; and he was scarcely better looked upon by the members of the Conference of Constantinople, who were irritated by his refusal to accept en bloc the whole of the proposals which, under the inspiration of the Russian Ambassador, had been submitted to him.
It is probably nearly forgotten by this time that there were only two points of any importance upon which Midhat had shown himself intractable, and that one of these was the proposal that the appointments of the governors of the provinces should be made subservient to the approval of the Powers; but after the experience we have had of the working of that much vaunted panacea in Bulgaria and East Roumelia, it would be difficult now to maintain that the objections to it were as unreasonable as was represented.
The Sultan eagerly seized the opportunity of getting rid of the only man whose presence would make it difficult for him to recall the reforms; and every one knows how Midhat Pasha was sent to perish in exile; how Abdul Hamid was enabled to recover despotic power, unchecked by Parliamentary or other control; how the hopes of an improved government vanished into thin air, and how the prospects of Turkey are now more gloomy than at any previous time in her history.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE
THE year that has lately closed has terminated the first century
But it is probable that very few even among the best instructed Englishmen have a clear or accurate conception of the Government of the United States, as it actually exists. Some features of it are conspicuous, and some qualities obvious. He who runs may read them. The real working of its institutions, the exact relations of its system of dual sovereignty, apparently complicated, in reality