Imagini ale paginilor
[blocks in formation]

THE philosophical inquiry into the origin and progress of the political institutions of Europe, presents no phenomenon more striking than that of the Turkish establishment in the provinces west of the Propontis and the Hellespont. From the moment of the dismemberment of the mighty empire of antiquity, if to any given era can be assigned that prodigious catastrophe, the system of European civilization had been progressive; and, as it were, in a straight line, without remarkable deviations, and certainly, it may be said, without retrocession. In the age of Louis XIV. it had perhaps attained the utmost which it was calculated to attain in the order of its progress, and becoming, as it were, a new point of departure at that period for a still more exalted system, it preceded but by a moment the great convulsion of the French Revolution, out of the chaos of which was destined to arise the germ of a new system but now in the infancy of its development. To this regular progression we find, with one exception, the whole continent of Europe submitting, and the more magnificent world of America owing to it the very theory of its civilization; it gave to the industry of the patient Hollander a country rescued or conquered from the dominion of the ocean, and built upon the frozen waters of the Arctic sea a home for the enterprise and activity of the merchant and the mariner.

And which is this single and remarkable exception? As far as the eye of the observer traces the march of the Mohammedan power, so far does he find this germ of civilization inert-so far does he find the very nature of man unchanged; which, however it be proclaimed alike in every age, is, at least in its outward manifestations, less stable than any of the physical phenomena to which change is incident, by the very constitution of their existence.

Unaffected by the incessant changes surrounding them, the Turkish provinces have remained such as the policy of their first conquerors rendered them; and the peculiar principles by which their degree of civilization has been produced, appear to terminate abruptly on the borders of the adjacent countries, without having modified in any particular their very different systems, and in contradiction, it would seem, of that

fundamental law, in conformity with which it is declared that not a billow of the ocean heaves without producing its correspondent vibration in the universal system of created things.

It may well then be inquired, by what means the Turkish establishment in Europe, destitute of the principle of adaptation by which nations have in all other instances alone been able to perpetuate and extend themselves for such a length of time, succeeded in retaining the limits acquired by its most fortunate chiefs; and how it has resisted the universal tendency to change, whether of progression or retrogression, which we remark in all the ages of the world, as incident to all of its manifold populations. This question we propose to investigate in a series of essays, which, as the subject will render them in a great measure speculative, we shall be careful to render as brief as may be compatible with the nature of the inquiry; while at the same time it is hoped that the historical details will be found to possess much interest for the general reader.

In this investigation, however striking the early history of the Ottomans may be, and however pregnant with interest and instruction, we are at liberty, for the sake of brevity, to pass it over in silence till the moment of the occupation of Adrianople by the arms of Orchan the first, in succession to the founder of the race. The sons of Orchan, Oma, Solyman, and Amurath, were the leaders of this fortunate expedition; and to the latter was reserved the boast of filling a Mohammedan throne in the midst of the princes of Christian Europe.

Beneath the hoof of the horse upon which Attila had ridden, the grass, he boasted, never grew again; and the devastating progress of the new wanderers from the deserts of Asia, seemed to bring the same curse of sterility on the devoted fields of their triumphs. The fairest portion of Europe in their possession, produce not the quantity of food required for the sustenance of a scant population. Villages, towns, and cities, disappeared before their march; and the panic-stricken Greeks, at the name of the Turkish leaders, not waiting their approach, abandoned their property and their homes, to find in other countries an escape from the extirpating ferocity of these new savages. Among all the cities of the Eastern empire, and now the second of European Turkey in importance and in population, was Adrianople, situated in the plains between the range of hills to which the ancients gave the names of Rhodope and Hæmus, or the Despotic Dog and Balkins of the Turks. A single glance upon a common map will serve to show the importance of this situation to a power, whose ulterior views were directed towards the city of Constantinople, leaving it dependent solely upon such aid as might be afforded from the northern powers through the Black Sea, and from the south by means of the Dardanelles and Sea of Marmora. In the last war between the Russians and the Turks, the occupation of Adrianople terminated the war, and left to the Sultan nothing but the name of having saved his capital. After a resistance of nine months, Adrianople fell into the hands of Solyman and Amurath, and, receiving on its subjugation a Mohammedan population, it became, A. D. 1360, the seat of the Turkish empire in Europe.

It is not uncommon to behold the founding of empire through the influence of an individual; to mark it assume, in the life-time of the founder, a consistency upon which to depend in the event of his death, and, organized by his exertions, to fit itself for lasting command. The history of England, in its passage from the Anglo-Saxon to the Norman rule, affords a striking example. More frequently we discover the dissipation or overthrow of empires, established by the energies of a single conqueror, when that energy is lost to the new institutions by his death; but history presents, with all its wonders, scarce a parallel to the progress of the Ottomans, continued through a succession of reigns by a series of victories, and sending out in every conquest the roots of permanent empire and extended rule. In the case of the Turks, it is not difficult to trace out and follow the causes that led to the brilliant result of their influence in Europe.

When an individual, in an age and with a people whose active principle has been exhausted, arises by the influences of a boundless ambition and resistless will, to give a temporary impulse to effete institutions, his loss is an inevitable forerunner of the dissolution of the fabric reared by his exertion and supported by his strength; but when the principle of action is in a whole population, the individual appearing and acting as its organ, leads only in obedience to its impulse and its will; so long, therefore, as these remain, it is impossible that any degeneracy shall be found in its apparent leaders, even in the longest succession; to interfere with the advancement of such a people, there must be a diminution in the exercise of their own active impulse, or the opposition of a will more powerful from without. In the case of the Turks, while we can discover no principle of conservation in their political institutions, we find the active spirit of a conquering people not led by conquering princes to dominion, but forcing their sovereigns into the paths of conquest and making them conquerors. We shall cease to wonder, therefore, at the long line of heroes which preceded the father of the Ottoman race till the establishment of his posterity in the seat of the Byzantine Cæsars. But we shall find it certainly more difficult to account for the means by which the nation has been able to sustain itself in the inertness which succeeded so suddenly to the spirit of conquest, with its vast and heterogeneous population.

The character of Amurath stands foremost among the Ottoman princes for all the virtues that could adorn a hero of those times. His ferocity of disposition displayed against the enemies of his religion alone, was no obstruction in the way of the praises which his subjects bestowed on him; and the justice and tenderness with which he administered his power among them, have rendered his memory sacred and dear.* The

* Upon a certain occasion Amurath appeared to offer his testimony before the Mufti, who then acted as judge. "If," said the impartial officer, "your majesty come here to offer the testimony of a prince and leader of the faithful, I cannot refuse to admit the evidence; if you offer that merely of an individual, I reject you as unqualified. He who mingles not in the prayers of the people has no common bond of faith with them, and no concern in their courts." It is said that Amurath, impressed with this rebuke, retired, and that thenceforward he regularly mingled in the devotions of his soldiers and subjects.

wise policy of his father had instituted a body of infantry, which afterwards, by the prudence of Amurath, invested with a new character, became the terror of his Christian enemies and the support of his throne and dynasty; but his own more extended dominions required the institution of a military for the protection of the soil. The corps of Spahis and Timariots were created by Amurath to answer this necessary end.

In the Timariots, and in the manner of their origin, are observable the principles of the feuds and feudal tenures of the middle ages, in the Christian countries of Europe. The sovereignty of the prince extended over all the country which had descended to him, or the possession of which had passed by conquest into his hands. The right of property was also originally vested, or presumed to be vested, in the sovereign. At the period of Amurath's accession to the throne, his inherited dominion was principally in the government of subordinate chiefs; but his extensive schemes of conquest contemplated the subjugation of vast additional territory, and the danger and frequency of revolt in the halfsubdued states that owned his authority, taught him the inexpediency of introducing in his new possessions a similar system. At the same time, the reward which he could have offered to valor and ability, in the erection of new principalities, would have been limited in number, and could have had but a limited influence upon the courage and ambitious hopes of his soldiery. He divided, therefore, his smallest and his largest conquests into portions, to which the name of Timar was attached; and the property in each of these was vested in any individual who had deserved the reward by his conduct and service in effecting its occupation. The sole condition by which these Timars were held was that of military service and aid; and every Timariot was required to attend in person, well armed and mounted, in the Sultan's wars, with a number of horsemen, in proportion to the value of his Timar. No plea, whether of sickness or age, was received from the Timariot; his presence was always required in the field; and often on a litter the veteran of this order was borne to the scene of conflict, or the infant inheritor from his mother's breast, to sustain the chivalric purpose of the Timariot troop.

The soldier, thus brought to the war, had a more than common interest in the battle which he fought; and the wise provisions of Amurath, carried out by his successors to the present day, have furnished the Turkish Sultan with a body of cavalry unsurpassed, if not unequalled, for courage and activity; and amounting to the prodigious number, frequently, of one hundred and fifty thousand, well armed and mounted for the defence of their property and of the realm. From their organization it has resulted, that while the Janizaries have been the most insubordinate body of soldiers in Europe, the Timariots have scarcely been known to rebel against the legitimate authority of their princes.

In the meanwhile the Turkish conquests in Bulgaria and Servia enabled Amurath to increase his infantry, by augmenting the powerful corps of Janizaries, whose installation by this prince has sometimes given rise to the mistaken opinion that to him they owed their origin. The many wars of the predecessors of Amurath, and the many captives which fell into their hands, had rendered this already a numerous body, that called


for its special organization. Dividing them into companies, Amurath placed over each its proper officer, and over all an Âga, who should rank among the highest dignitaries of the government. To confirm their ferocious devotion, he resolved to add to their installation the sanctity of religion; and sending them to the celebrated Bektach, founder of the Dervishes, and the most venerable of that order, he implored for them an ensign and a name. Instructed in the Sultan's designs, the old man placed upon the head of one of these soldiers his hand, and allowed the ample sleeve of his garment to fall around it in folds. In this situation he ejaculated, with all the enthusiasm and fervor of prophecy, the words which were to be to them the epitome and law of their duty. "Let their name," said he, “be Janizaries; let their visage be terrible, and invincible their arms; may their swords be ever sharp, and ever pointed against an enemy their spears; may their valor secure to them a neverfailing success.' With this benediction and this augury were they installed, and with the whole sum of virtue comprised in the law of the sword and the right of the strong, these ungovernable troops appear to have almost accomplished their destiny, and to have fulfilled the prediction of military fanaticism and religious zeal. From that moment the name of Janizaries remained to this formidable band, and the turban which the Janizary wears in the form of a Dervish's sleeve, bears witness to the religious sanctity of the inauguration of the order to which he belongs. The number of this corps was limited to ten thousand at first, and it was only after a painful noviciate that the captives destined for this honorable body were permitted to assume the name of Janizaries. When Mahomet II. conceived his vast projects against the West, he felt the powerful influence of the courage, intrepidity, and enthusiastic ferocity of a soldiery so constituted and so trained; and when he undertook at last the final subversion of the throne of the Greek emperors, he had augmented the force of the Janizaries to the number in all of forty thousand men. To keep this number perfect, he ordered that the deficiencies occasioned by his constant wars should be supplied by a levy among the Christians of his European provinces once in every seven years, when the eldest son of every Christian family should be removed to multiply the Asamaglans, or preparatory corps of Janizaries. Such appear to have been the earliest provisions for the establishment of empire by the Turks, in the provinces which they first occupied in Europe; and it is not easy to discover in them any thing to mark the founding of a permanent dominion. The government had always to encounter the difficulties which are inseparable from a military appointment, and accordingly it offers us more frequent instances of revolt against the person of the sovereign than any other European establishment. The reign of Amurath, the third in succession of his race, affords an early example.

John Paleologus, the emperor of Constantinople and its few remaining dependencies, had courted the alliance of the Turks against the despot of Bulgaria; and the conduct of the confederate forces was entrusted to the young princes, Andronicus and Contuz, sons of Paleologus and Amurath. Under these youthful commanders, the allied arms

« ÎnapoiContinuați »