to Mr. Fish.
Vienna, September 27, 1876. (Received October 25.)
Sir: Since my last we have had various, constant, and conflicting rumors in relation to the peace negotiations now in progress in settlement of the Turco-Servian war.
The Servian army has been so largely reinforced by Russian volunteers that it is again very formidable, and, with the two opposing forces within rifle-range of each other, it is doubtful whether the pacific intentions of both governments may not be frustrated by accidental collision or the design of those who would prefer to see the war prosecuted rather than peace established. The proclamation by the army of Prince Milan as King seems to have been an embarrassing event to that ruler, for if he declines it he may offend his army to a degree that would jeopardize his position, and if he accepts he will offend powers which have been his greatest friends. The army is now said to be beyond his control, and an ambitious and successful leader of it might so far endear himself to the people as to render a usurpation of the supreme authority [Page 18]no difficult matter. The peace negotiations seem to be a mere patch work of compromises, which, even if successful in bridging over the immediate difficulty, would leave the future full of anxiety and liable at any moment to set Europe in a blaze of war.
The more one looks at the Eastern question the more perplexing and intricate it becomes, and the greater the difficulty of reconciling conflicting claims and producing permanent tranquillity short of cutting the Gordian knot by a total termination of Turkish rule over the Christian provinces. Bosnia is a striking illustration of one of these difficulties. She is a sort of inland peninsula; that is to say, she is hemmed in by Montenegro, a virtually free province, bold, warlike and progressive, on one side, and Servia, occupying the same relation to Turkey as Montenegro, on the other, leaving Bosnia connected with the power to which she belongs politically only by a narrow neck of territory.
It is interesting to recall that in this country of Bosnia originated the first Protestant movement of Western Europe, and that even before the heresies (as the Catholic Church calls them) of John Huss, in Bohemia, she had sent out her missionaries to preach the gospel as she read it, and to disseminate her religious views over the rest of the world. When the persecutions of the church of Rome were at their worst, and de Montfort had desolated Provence, she offered, in this remote corner, a generous asylum to her co-religionists, many of whom found here what had been denied them at home, the right to worship God after thir own forms and belief.
Suddenly, in 1643, in a single week, the Turks overran the entire country, and from that date to the present, the bête noire of European politics has been the Eastern question.
The country abounds in undeveloped mineral wealth, which, if worked, would produce a revenue capable of sustaining a great state. The Romans took from its mountains vast treasure in the precious metals, besides which it is richly supplied with iron and coal, and the largest deposits of quicksilver have long been known to exist there.
To our countrymen it will be interesting to know that the Slavic races inhabiting these states seem always to have had a strong democratic tendency, and a dim but instinctive sentiment in favor of republican self-government.
An intelligent and cultivated gentleman writing of them in this present year, and speaking of their past as well as present condition, says:
The whole Illyrian triangle was divided into a great number of small states or independent districts, called Zupy. Zupa means a bond or confederation, and each Zupa was a confederation of small villages or communities, represented by a magistrate called a Zupan. The Zupans elected a Grand Zupan, who may be looked upon as the president of the federation.
The same author, in speaking of the Croats, another branch of the Slavic race, says:
It became a constitutional principle in Croatia, that when the king died a new king should be elected by the bans of the crown lands.
This was as early as the seventh century; and in speaking of them as they exist to-day, he says:
The Bosnians are of a temperament admirably fitted for parliamentary government, and, what is more, owing to their still preserving the relics of the free institutions of the primitive Sclavs, they are familiar with its machinery. In their family communities and in their villages the first principles of representative government are practiced every day.
This is high commendation from a most intelligent author, and gives hopes that the race which produced for ancient Rome a Justinian and a [Page 19]Belisarias, as well as in later times the earliest Protestants of the Christian Church, may yet, under the benign influence of good government and freedom from the oppressive exactions of Turkey, justify the universal sympathy which has of late been so freely offered by all Christendom.
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I have, &c.,