No. 310.
Mr. Maynard to Mr. Fish.

No. 89.]

Sir: Excepting a few incidental allusions, I have, up to this time, said nothing in my dispatches about the war in the northwestern provinces. Our Government has no agents there, and I had no means at command to procure trustworthy information. The struggle has now assumed proportions and arisen to prime importance in Turkish affairs.

During last summer disquiet appeared in the Herzegovina, confined at first, as it seemed, to a few score of uneasy spirits, whose movements, it was believed, could be checked by the police and stopped altogether by the personal appeals of influential men.

Essad Pacha, then grand vizier, was laboring to reduce the public expenditures and to equalize the budget, and, it is alleged, gave too little heed to the unwelcome reports from the disaffected district. Meantime the revolt spread; the disaffected peasants—for the movement originated with this class—were joined by many others, and their operations began to assume the character of war.

How far the insurrection was occasioned by a sense of intolerable oppression, and how far by a spirit of lawlessness and impatience of all governmental authority, is not quite clear. I am inclined to think it was set on foot by a few restless and daring spirits, who soon rallied an overburdened and discontented population. A belief has been entertained that it was the development of a scheme, in which many participated, fostered, if not instigated, by the intrigues of Russia, usually credited with any disaster to the Ottoman Empire. I am aware, however, of no evidence which either implicates Russia or sustains the theory of preconcert among the neighboring peoples.

There is no doubt the insurgents found much sympathy. From the last of June, the date of the small beginning, their operations steadily increased, and by the middle of August they had extended into Bosnia and assumed a more serious character. They were assisted with men and money, and joined by bands from Dalmatia and Montenegro. And the sympathy was not limited to the conterminous population of cognate [Page 579] race. Statesmen and philanthropists in countries remote thought they perceived an issue affecting the human family.

The Ottoman government early appreciated the gravity of the situation, and appealed to the great European powers, both through their embassies at foreign courts and the foreign embassies near the Sublime Porte.

The representatives of the great powers united in a plan of sending into the malcontent district an imperial commission, who should receive with kindness any legitimate demands and redress well-founded complaints, their own delegates meantime to seek out the insurgents and make them understand they could expect no help from any foreign power, nor from the neighboring principalities. Pursuant to this plan, the Sublime Porte sent his excellency Server Pacha in the capacity of imperial commissioner; Italy, France, Russia, Austria, Germany, and England severally sent their consuls, with instructions identical in character although differing in words.

It is proper to add that the Earl of Derby consented to this step with reluctance, and only at the urgent solicitation of the Porte. He doubted its expediency, as but offering an inducement to insurrection, and probably opening the way to further diplomatic interference in the internal affairs of the empire. In his opinion, it was better that the Turkish government should rely on their own resources to suppress the insurrection, and should deal with it as a local outbreak, and not give it international importance by appealing for support to other powers. The plan failed, because the insurgents had no faith in the Turks. They did not seek independence. They asked only to remain subjects of the Sultan, with reformed laws and a proper and just administration of them. But they were not content to lay down their arms upon mere promises of reform, for they said they had had the same promises before and had been deceived. What they demanded was an armistice for consultation, and a European intervention to guarantee the reforms which might be adopted. This the Turks would not grant. And the effort of the great powers came to naught.

Any benefit that might have resulted was defeated by an ill-advised attack of Turkish troops upon a body of the insurgents assembled to confer with the consuls. On the 26th of August, 1875, a change was made in the grand vizierate by the resignation of Essad Pacha. This change was followed by a very important financial policy, but no very marked difference was observed in the treatment of affairs in Bosnia and the Herzegovina. His excellency Server Pacha, the imperial commissioner, issued a conciliatory proclamation, and followed it with well-timed instructions to the civil authorities of the vilayet. Soon after the issuance of the proclamation, and evidently in consequence of it, the commissioner telegraphed to the grand vizier that the inhabitants of seventeen villages had come and made their submission, and, through the care of the authorities, had been installed in their respective houses. The return to their homes of these people who had taken an active part in the revolt he justly characterized as a happy beginning. But within ten days after this auspicious event the same people were attacked in their homes by Bashi bazouks; several of the Christians were killed, and the rest, including the whole population of the nahiyet, (district,) fled into Dalmatia. Of course after this the commissioner’s influence was a nullity, and the fatal distrust of all promises by the Turkish government intensified.

An imperial iradeh (decree) ordering certain much-desired reforms bears date October 2, 1875, and was followed on the next day by an [Page 580] official publication announcing the reforms so decreed. A copy of it in French, with an English translation, is inclosed. It illustrates the anxiety of the Sublime Porte to propitiate the so-called guaranteeing powers, parties to the treaty of Paris, that copies of this publication were telegraphed to the Ottoman embassadors to these several powers and by them communicated to the respective governments. Orders from the grand vizier were issued to the governors-general of the several provinces to make the reforms effective. Candor requires me to express my decided belief that these efforts at reform on the part of the government were sincere and made in good faith. I cannot doubt it for a moment. But they were defeated by a deep-seated popular distrust and by another hostile sentiment, hereafter to be noticed, before which they have been compelled to succumb.

Two months wore away. The condition of things in Bosnia and the Herzegovina being in nothing the better, but constantly growing worse, an imperial firman appeared, granting to all the subjects of the Sultan, without distinction, new immunities and new favors in addition to those previously conceded. * * * This high declaration excited more intensely the hostile sentiment just alluded to—the religious zeal of the fanatical Mussulmans, especially the olema or doctors of law and divinity. These important characters were neither moderate nor cautious in expressing dissatisfaction, and many were arrested and thrown into prison, with what subsequent fate I am unable to learn.

Persons familiar with the history of the Sublime Porte at once observed that these two instruments, the iradeh and the firman, added very little, if anything, to the hatlisherif of November 3, 1839, (Législation Ottoman, 2, part 7,) and the hatti-humayoum of February 18, 1856, (ib., 14,) by which were guaranteed to all Ottoman subjects alike: 1, equality before the law; 2, religious liberty; 3, justice without sale, denial, or delay; 4, local autonomy; 5, security from oppressive taxation. Those measures of reform had remained so nearly unaccomplished that many doubted the practicability of giving effect to the recent benevolent manifestoes, conspicuously, and unfortunately for the restoration of peace, the insurgents of Bosnia and the Herzegovina.

The continuing struggle could not be otherwise than annoying to the adjacent provinces of Servia and Montenegro and Bulgaria, and especially to Austria-Hungary. Count Andrassy, the Austro-Hungarian minister of foreign affairs, embodied the views of his government in a diplomatic note bearing date December 30, 1875.

* * * * * * *

Five measures were proposed for the pacification of the disaffected provinces:

Religious liberty, full and entire.
Abolition of the farming of taxes.
A law to guarantee that the direct taxation of Bosnia and the Herzogovina should be employed for the immediate interests of the provinces.
A special commission, composed of an equal number of Mussulmans and Christians, to superintend the execution of the reforms proclaimed and proposed.
The amelioration of the condition of the rural population.

After a correspondence of one month between the great powers, Count Zichy, the Austro-Hungarian ambassador, accompanied by Baron Werther, the German ambassador, and General Ignatiew, the Russian ambassador, formally communicated the note to his excellency Rachid Pasha, minister of foreign affairs. This was January 31, 1876. Very soon after, say within two or three days, the representatives of all the [Page 581] six powers, had, by order of their governments, spoken to the minister in support of Count Andrassy’s proposal.

As on the previous occasion, when the consuls were sent with the imperial commissioner on a mission of pacification, Her British Majesty’s government united with the other powers reluctantly and only after being requested by the Porte not to hold aloof from this concerted action. It was thought better that the Porte should deal with the insurgents without any kind of foreign intervention; otherwise insurrection would be encouraged and further diplomatic interference with the internal affairs of Turkey become probable.

Like the previous attempt through the mediation of the consuls, this also failed; not, I am persuaded, from bad faith or remissness on the part of the Sublime Porte. My belief is that the enlightened statesmen then in the imperial ministry saw clearly the evils out of which the insurrection had grown, and were sincere and determined in their efforts to reform them. But the same two insurmountable difficulties confronted them: the want of confidence in their promises, on the one hand, and the hostile Mussulman sentiment on the other. The same difficulties, I may remark just here, still remain, and will always remain, unless the temper and character of the people shall be radically changed. The Mussulmans regard themselves as the conquerors of the country, and so entitled to rule it. The Christians assert an earlier and superior title to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How to let the former exercise their saber-earned authority and the latter enjoy their heaven-descended rights is now, and is likely to be for a great while, the insolvable problem.

Of what follows I must speak, to some extent, historically and from common fame. Seeing the second failure, the Emperors of Russia and Austria-Hungary met in Berlin, and with the Emperor of Germany agreed upon a third measure for the pacification of Turkey. This consisted, it is understood, in a guarantee by the great powers of the several reforms already proclaimed but not reduced into practice. Her British Majesty’s government and that of France as well, seem to have hesitated. The Sublime Porte was said to be unwilling to make the concession implied in the new proposals. While the subject was under consideration occurred the massacre at Salonica, the 6th of May, of the French and German consuls. It was a crisis. The accidental spark kindled a conflagration. * * * *

Turkish affairs had now assumed an entirely new face. Russia was supposed, in popular estimation at least, to have sustained a humiliating defeat, and Great Britain to have achieved a corresponding triumph. The former was in various ways insulted by the Turkish populace and the latter applauded. Nothing came of the Berlin compromise, and this attempt of the foreign powers, like the former two, was a complete failure. At the time of the dethronement of the late Sultan, and for some weeks afterward, much was heard of reforms, and a constitution, and a national assembly. His excellency Midhat Pasha, president of the council of ministers, was understood to be laboring earnestly for their achievement, and the work was supposed to engage the assiduous attention of the Divan. Whatever efforts may have been made, and however sincere, they had the ineradicable defect of a hostile popular sentiment. This is embodied in a document of which what purports to be the substance has come into my hand. Being satisfied of its authenticity, I think proper to inclose a copy to illustrate, as it undoubtedly does, the Mussulman view of the situation. This is the substance of the diplomatic history of the insurrection.

[Page 582]

The military history has been an inconclusive struggle in which the Turks have constantly claimed the advantage; but which so far from coming to an end has gradually become more and more serious.

The hostilities in the Herzogovina, which a year ago seemed manageable by the police alone, extended, as I have shown, into Bosnia, and during the spring they reached Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Servia.

The operations in the field may be summarized as follows: In Bulgaria the insurrection which appeared the 1st of May was an inconsiderable affair, a local outbreak, and promptly suppressed, with circumstances of cruelty which have made it one of the most melancholy paragraphs in the annals of the world. A more specific narrative is reserved for a future dispatch. In Servia the advantage in arms has been with the Turks. In Bosnia and the Herzogovina the battle seems to hang in even scale, while in Montenegro the insurgents have had the best of it.

The Porte seems to have adopted the policy early suggested by the Earl of Derby, and is putting forth its energies unaided to extinguish the revolt, and has postponed the much talked of reforms until after the termination of armed hostilities, when affairs will probably be allowed to run in the old grooves, worn, it may be, a little deeper than before. Except an occasional word for humanity, I have remained an inactive looker-on.

I have, &c.,


Copy of a letter addressed to His Highness Midhat Pasha, in the beginning of the month of August, 1876.

Highness: At the council when the constitution and the national assembly were proposed, Zia Bey thought to support the proposition by quoting a passage from the Koran: “Do no evil, but always seek the good.”

It is but proper, we think, to substitute for that quotation the following passage: “Be brothers in the same race.” We will quote still another, which says: “He who sees one part only of the Koran, and not the other, deserves misery in this life and punishment in the other.”

We see no motive for requiring a constitution or a national assembly, and we shall not in any manner admit such an institution. We have subdued the Christians, and conquered their territory by the power of the sword, and we are unwilling to divide with them the administration of the country, and to let them participate in the direction of the affairs of the government.

The equality of the Christians with the Turks has been decreed. This is a decree of the Sultan, a decree the subject of which admits much discussion, into which we will not go; but as to dividing the empire with the Christians, this cannot be done. We must peremptorily declare it.

Other nations, as England, Russia, and France, do not permit their Mussulman, Tartar, Hindoo, and Arabic subjects to participate in the affairs of the government. What others do not do, and are not compelled to do, we should not do, and no person, nor any government in the world, can oblige us to do it.

If our affairs are in a bad condition, God, who has conducted us, will relieve us of our embarrassments, as he has done on other occasions, in his kindness and power.

And if the closing of the harbor of Kleck prevents us from giving aid to our troops in Herzegovina and Bosnia, we will find another route to furnish it to them.

We are like a ship on the waves during a storm; she must go toward her real harbor, and not, through fear, seek refuge in a port other than that to which she is bound.