Imágenes de páginas

If the arguments given so far should, on examination, be found to be unchallengeable, it would appear that the problem of Asiatic Turkey can be solved only by making that country another Switzerland—a strong, independent and well-governed neutral buffer State.

Can Turkey be regenerated and converted into another Switzerland ? At first sight the task seems hopeless. The experience of centuries certainly supports those who doubt it. The Turkish Government, both under the rule of the Sultans and under a nominally constitutional régime, has proved a continuous cause of oppression and revolt, of dissatisfaction and misery, of conspiracy and rebellion. In fact, the Turkish Government, in whatever hands, is, and always has been, a public nuisance, a scandal and a public danger, a danger not only to Europe, but to the Turks themselves. The experience of centuries has shown that the Turks cannot govern other peoples, that they cannot even govern themselves. This being the case, it follows that Turkey requires, for its own security and for that of the world, guardians, or a guardian, appointed by Europe. Only then can we hope for peace and order, happiness and prosperity, in that unfortunate land.

The problem of appointing European guardians, or a guardian, for Asiatic Turkey is complicated by the fact that various European Powers possess strong separate interests in that country. Before considering the way in which good government might be introduced in a neutralised Asiatic Turkey we must therefore consider the special interests of various nations which, of course, have to be safeguarded.

Russia has a twofold interest in that country—a sentimental and a practical one. In the Caucasian Provinces of Russia, close to the Turkish border, dwell about 2,000,000 Armenians. Their brothers in Turkey have suffered from outrageous persecution. The fearful massacres among them from 1894 to 1897 are still in everybody's memory. Not unnaturally, the Russian Armenians and the Russian people themselves desire that the Armenians in Asiatic Turkey should be humanely treated. With this object in view the Russian Press has demanded that Turkish Armenia should be ceded to Russia.

As I have shown in the chapter on 'The Future of Constantinople’ in considering the strategical question, the possession of Constantinople would be for Russia perhaps not so much an asset as a liability. Constantinople and the Straits cover a very large area. Its defence requires a very considerable military force and will by so much weaken the strength of the Russian Army. Furthermore, its defence entails considerable difficulty because Russia can reach Constantinople only by sea.

As Roumania and Bulgaria separate Russia from Constantinople on the European side of the Black Sea, Russia can secure an organic connection with that town only from the Asiatic side, by acquiring the whole of the Turkish south coast of the Black Sea. It would not be unnatural, and indeed quite understandable, if Russian patriots should wish, or at least hope, that Russia should not only acquire Constantinople and Turkish Armenia, but that she should in addition obtain easy access to that city by a secure overland route. A narrow strip of coast would, of course, suffice for constructing a railway from Southern Russia to the Bosphorus. However, as that route would be liable to be cut by the Turks at many points in case of war, an attempt to link the Bosphorus to Southern Russia would probably involve Russia against her will in an attempt to occupy a large part, or the whole, of Asia Minor, for thus only could the safety of the Black Sea coast railway be assured. That would be a very large and a very venturesome undertaking which might have incalculable consequences to Russia and to the world, for Russia would create, on a very much larger scale, a position similar to that which would arise if Germany should seize Switzerland.

Greece has, on the ground of nationality, a claim on Smyrna, the busiest harbour of Asia Minor, which is practically a Greek town, and on certain coastal districts, especially about Smyrna, which are largely inhabited by Greeks. Naturally she would like, with the strip of coastal territory which is primarily Greek, a proportionate sphere of the hinterland.

Italy retains the Island of Rhodes, which, by the way, is very largely peopled by Greeks, and she is supposed to be desirous of obtaining a piece of the mainland from the neighbourhood of that island to Syria to the French sphere. The sphere claimed on her behalf is rather extensive. It contains the excellent harbour of Adalia, in the neighbourhood of which she has secured concessions, and includes territories of considerable agricultural and mineral potentialities where large numbers of Italian emigrants may be able to find a home.

Great Britain has important claims upon Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf, and upon Arabia, as will be shown later on.

France has strong historic and economic claims upon Asiatic Turkey, especially upon Syria with the Holy Places of Christianity, and upon Cilicia, which adjoins it. Her historic claims are so very interesting and important that it is worth while to consider them somewhat closely.

From the earliest ages France has followed a twofold policy towards Islam. She has been the most determined defender of Christendom against conquering Mohammedanism when the latter was a danger to the world. At the same time, considering a strong Turkey a necessary factor in Europe, she has for centuries endeavoured to support that country. France concluded her first alliance with Turkey in 1535 and remained Turkey's ally up to the Peace of Versailles. Since then her place as Turkey's champion has been taken by Germany.

On October 18, 732, Charles Martel signally defeated the all-conquering Arabs near Tours and thus saved Europe to Christianity. In the year 800, Charlemagne sent an Embassy to the great Arab ruler, Haroun-al-Rashid, the Caliph of Baghdad, the hero of the ‘ Arabian Nights Tales,' and received from him the keys of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. Henceforward France became the guardian of the Holy Tomb, and the protectress of Christianity against Islam. In the Crusades, which were undertaken to rescue the Holy Sepulchre from the infidels, France played a leading part. Godefroy de Bouillon defeated Soliman, besieged and took the Holy City in 1099 and was elected King of Jerusalem. Owing to the prominent position occupied by the French as leaders of all Christianity, European Christians in general became known in the East as Franks and are still so called by the people. A Frankish Kingdom existed at Jerusalem till 1291. The power of Islam grew and King Louis the Ninth, St. Louis, one of the greatest Kings of France, spent many years of his life in the East, vainly trying to wrest the Holy Land from the Moslems. His attitude, and that of ancient France, towards the Eastern Christians may be seen from the following most interesting letter which he sent on May 21, 1250, from Saint-Jean-d'Acre to 'l'emir des Maronites du mont Liban, ainsi qu'au patriarche et aux évêques de cette nation':

Notre cœur s'est rempli de joie lorsque nous avons vu votre fils Simon, à la tête de vingt-cinq mille hommes, venir nous trouver de votre part pour nous apporter l'expression de vos sentiments et nous offrir de dons, outre les beaux chevaux que vous nous avez envoyés. En vérité la sincère amitié que nous avons commencé à ressentir avec tant d'ardeur pour les Maronites pendant notre séjour en Chypre où ils sont établis, s'est encore augmentée.

Nous sommes persuadés que cette nation, que nous trouvons établie sous le nom de Saint Maroun, est une partie de la nation française, car son amitié pour les Français ressemble à l'amitié que les Français se portent entre eux. En conséquence il est juste que vous et tous les Maronites jouissiez de la protection dont les Français jouissent près de nous, et que vous soyez admis dans les emplois comme ils le sont euxmêmes. Quant à nous et à ceux qui nous succéderont sur le trône de France nous promettons de vous donner, à vous et à votre peuple, protection comme aux Français eux-mêmes et de faire constamment ce qui sera nécessaire pour votre bonheur.

Donné près de Saint-Jean-d'Acre, etc.

Charles the Fifth, the great Habsburg Prince, who ruled over Germany, the Netherlands, the Franche Comté, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and their colonies, threatened to bring all Europe under Austria's sway. King Francis the First of France courageously opposed him and concluded in 1535 an alliance with Soliman the Magnificent, perhaps the greatest ruler of Turkey, who, in 1526, at the Battle of Mohacs, had destroyed the Hungarian armies, and who in 1529 had besieged Vienna. France discovered in Turkey a valuable counterpoise, first to the house of Austria and later on to Russia. In 1535, the same year in which she concluded the alliance with Turkey, France, who had great commercial interests in the East and who was then the leading Mediterranean Power, concluded a commercial and general treaty with Turkey, the so-called Capitulations, which were frequently renewed. These Treaties gave to France a preferential position within the Turkish dominions and made her the protectress of the Christians of all nationalities. Ever after it became a fundamental principle of French statesmanship to maintain an alliance with Turkey and with Switzerland, because both countries occupied very important strategical positions whence the central and eastern European Powers might be held in check. The celebrated Brantôme, who lived from 1527 till 1614, wrote in his 'Vie des Grands Capitains François':

J'ouys dire une fois à M. le Connétable (the highest dignitary of France]: que les roys de France avoient deux alliances et affinitez desquelles ne s'en devoient jamais distraire et despartir pour chose du monde ; l'une celle des Suysses, et l'autre celle du grand Turc.

France had allied herself to the Turks for a threefold reason: For protecting the Christians in the East ; for

« AnteriorContinuar »