Page images

more, and settle the Eastern Question between them. That would be an appropriate outcome of the Gospel of National Selfishness which has been proclaimed upon our housetops by those who appear to think that man then only attains to the true dignity of his nature when he has succeeded in ridding himself of all the generous impulses of humanity, so as to be able to test all questions not on their intrinsic merits, but in their bearing on his own ease and comfort. This is the real meaning of British interests before all things. It is an ignoble and grovelling sentimen t, and thenation which yields itself up to it is already on that facilis descensus from which, according to the poet and to universal experience, the return, if made at all, is difficult and laborious. War is a great calamity ; but it has its nobler side too ; and a war in vindication of eternal justice and in defence of a suffering people is as noble a spectacle as the policy of exclusive regard to one's own interest is base. And the latter is not only base, but foolish. A frank resolve to act with Russia would have subdued the obstinacy of the Porte, and thus prevented a war which now seems inevitable.




The advocates of Turkey now admit—hesitatingly, grudgingly, and with various pleas of extenuating circumstances—that the administrative Government of the Porte is bad. But they urge that Turkey has at last turned over a new leaf, and ought therefore to have a trial of a year or two to enable her to work out her regeneration. The Treaty of Paris is still a sacro-sanct document in their eyes, and its signataries are bound to secure the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire. Russia must accordingly be warned off, and the new Sultan and his reforming Vizier be left in peace to carry out their philanthropic and liberal designs. They have no responsibility for the past, we are told, and may therefore initiate a new régime with a clear conscience, and with the good wishes and hopes of Europe.

I propose to examine this plea, and to prove that it rests on a foundation of sand.

It is true that the present Sultan was not on the throne when the Bulgarian atrocities took place, and equally true that Midhat Pasha was not then Grand Vizier. Nevertheless, I charge upon both of them the full responsibility of the atrocities : upon Midhat without any qualification whatever ; upon the Sultan as

[ocr errors]

an accomplice after the act, though I am willing to believe that he is but a passive tool in the hands of an unscrupulous minister.

Let us see how the facts really stand. In Panagurishta 3,000 human beings were massacred in cold blood, the most of them being women and children.' • From the numerous statements made to him,' Mr. Schuyler goes on to say, ' hardly a woman in the town escaped violation and brutal treatment. The ruffians attacked children of eight and old women of eighty, sparing neither age nor sex.

Old men had their eyes torn out and their limbs cut off, and were then left to die, unless some more charitably disposed man gave them the final thrust. Pregnant women were ripped open, and the unborn babes carried triumphantly on the points of bayonets and sabres, while little children were made to bear the dripping heads of their comrades. This scene of rapine, lust, and murder continued for three days, when the survivors were made to bury the bodies of the dead. The perpetrators of these atrocities were chiefly regular troops commanded by Hafiz Pasha.'

What happened at Batak is thus described by Mr. Schuyler :

“This village surrendered without firing a shot, after a promise of safety, to the Bashi-Bazouks, under the command of Ahmed Aga, of Burutina, a chief of the rural police. Despite his promise, the few arms once surrendered, Ahmed Aga ordered the destruction of the village and the indiscriminate slaughter of the inhabitants, about a hundred young girls being reserved to satisfy the lust of the conquerors before they too should be killed. I saw their bones, some with the flesh still clinging to them, in the hollow on the hillside, where the dogs were gnawing them. Not a house

[ocr errors]




is now standing in the midst of this lovely valley. The saw mills—for the town had a large trade in timber and sawn boards—which lined the rapid little river, are all burnt, and of the 8,000 inhabitants not 2,000 are known to survive. Fully 5,000 persons, a very large proportion of them women and children, perished here, and their bones whiten the ruins, or their putrid bodies infect the air. The sight of Batak is enough to verify all that has been said about the acts of the Turks in repressing the Bulgarian insurrection.

And yet I saw it three months after the massacre. On every side were human bones, skulls, ribs, and even complete skeletons, heads of girls still adorned with braids of long hair, bones of children, skeletons still encased in clothing.

These deeds of hell lose nothing of their horror in Mr. Baring's version of them. The inhabitants of Batak, he says, “had a parley with Achmet' (Agha), who solemnly swore that if they only gave up their arms, not a hair of their heads should be touched. A certain number of the inhabitants, luckily for them, took advantage of this parley to make their escape. The villagers believed Achmet's oath, and surrendered their arms; but this demand was followed by one for all the money in the village, which of course had also to be acceded to. No sooner was the money given up than the Bashi-Bazouks set upon the people and slaughtered them like sheep. A large number of people, probably about 1,000 or 1,200, took refuge in the church and churchyard, the latter being surrounded by a wall. The church itself is a solid building, and resisted all the attempts of the Bashi-Bazouks to burn it from the outside ; they consequently fired in through the windows, and getting upon the roof, tore off the tiles, and

"In quotations I adopt the orthography of the writers.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

threw burning pieces of wood and rags dipped in petroleum among the mass of human beings inside. At last the door was forced in, the massacre completed, and the inside of the church burnt.

Enough, I think, has been said to show that to Achmet Agha and his men belong the distinction of having committed perhaps the most heinous crime that has stained the history of the present century, Nana Sahib alone, I should say, having rivalled their deeds.' He estimates the number massacred in Batak alone at 5,000, and says the intention was to exterminate all except those few girls (probably about 80), whom they carried off to satisfy their lusts.

For this exploit Achmet Agha has received the Order of the Medjidié. He was also promoted to the rank of Yuz-bashi.'

At Boyadjiķeui Chefket Pasha rivalled the deeds of Achmet Agha at Batak. The remark that I made about Batak,' says Mr. Baring, applies equally here. What makes the act of Chefket Pasha so abominable is that there was not a semblance of revolt; the inhabitants were perfectly peaceable, and the attack on them was as cruel and wanton a deed as could well have been committed. . . . For this heroic exploit Chefket Pasha has received a high place at the palace.'

• The case is not improved,' adds Mr. Baring, 'by the fact that these deeds were committed not only by Bashi-Bazouks, but also by regulars ; the Arab soldiers, in particular, distinguishing themselves by their licentiousness and ferocity.' Among special acts of cruelty in this carnival of horrors Mr. Baring mentions the case of a child who is said to have been impaled on a standard and paraded in the streets,' and of some of the richer villagers' who were subjected to cruel tor

' tures before being put to death, in hopes that they



[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »