« PoprzedniaDalej »
service to the public in the form of a pious homage to the memory of his grandfather, by sending to the press the observations of Sir James Porter, made during fifteen years' residence as British ambassador at Constantinople. Of all the forms assumed by the pride of family, or by piety for the memory of the dead, the most useful, worthy, and influential, is a biography, or the publication of the letters and writings of the deceased. The marble tablet, the lofty monument, and the gorgeous tomb, may gratify a vulgar pride, or assert a local importance, but a book containing the essence of the experience of a life is a monument doubly beneficial, both honouring the family which produces it, and instructing the persons who peruse it.
Sir James Porter was the son of a captain of a troop in the service of James II., who lost his property in Ireland on the defeat of the Stuart interest, and whose name was La Rogue or La Roche, which the family changed for the name of an uncle, who belonged to the successful party, called Porter. Of literary and theatrical tastes, James Porter, while in a house of business in London, studied the Latin, French, and Italian languages; belonged to a debating society called the "Robin Hood,' and frequented the theatres. At the theatre he made the acquaintance of a young lawyer of the name of Adams, who afterwards became a baron of the exchequer. Born in 1710, by the time he was six-and-twenty, he had become acquainted, through Mr. Adams, with Lord Carteret, afterwards Earl Granville, and was employed by him in confidential missions connected with continental commerce. In 1741 he was associated with Sir Thomas Robinson, the British minister at Vienna, in supporting Maria Theresa, and after nine years' employment on the continent, was appointed ambassador at the Ottoman Porte. His embassy lasted from 1746 to 1761, and he owed to the fees he received from aliens, Jews, and Armenians, for British protection, the independence which he acquired. He was afterward British minister at Brussels for two years, and spent the last twenty years of his life in a villa at Ham, in the enjoyment of a pension of £1200 a-year. His general information and jovial humour, made his society agreeable to many distinguished members of what has been called the three aristocracies of London—the aristocracies of rank, of wealth, and of intelligence.
The works before us are compilations which have been produced to gratify the curiosity and interest excited by the war respecting Turkey and the Turks. Some of the facts and opinions of Sir James Porter have been disproved by more recent information ; but no intelligent man can collect his observations on a nation during fifteen years without having to record facts of permanent value. The compilation which accompanies his observations
completes the picture up to the present time, and brings together many particulars which make the work one of useful reference for the wealthier readers of the newspapers. The financial and commercial information will be deemed valuable by those who wish to have a general view of the resources and capabilities of the Ottoman empire. Military and naval men are provided with an account of the organization and administration of the Turkish army and navy; and biographical sketches of Omar and Curschid Pachas, or Messieurs Lattas and Guyon, originally Greek and Anglican Christians, who have now attained high commands in the Turkish army.
M. de Lamartine's work is a brilliant narrative. In addition to a competent acquaintance with the modern works of greatest authority on his subject, by von Hammer, Caussin de Perceval, Mouradja d'Ohsson, and Sir John Malcolm, M. de Lamartine has the advantage of having travelled among the populations whose history he recites, and of having seen the localities of the picturesque events he describes. The style of the historical publications of M. de Lamartine, and especially of this work, is easy, elegant, various, harmonious, coloured, dramatic,-combining in short almost every charm of the magic of words. Style is the gift of his nation : Frenchmen excel in making what they call resumés or abridgments; and M. de Lamartine is in this art a master in a country of masters.
"The Sultan Mahmoud,' says M. de Lamartine, 'wept when he learnt the news of the battle of Navarino,' that contradiction and suicide of the western powers. “See,' said he, to a diplomatist, who was apologizing for the participation of his country in the cold blooded murder of Navarino, see Europe, which I alone defend against the irruptions of the Moscovites, joins these Moscovites to annihilate me. Europe wishes, then, to be inundated and subdued after me? It is true,' replied the diplomatist to the Sultan, 'but do not despair of Europe. The time will come when she will tardily recognise your efforts, and will burn in your seas the Russian vessels along with which they have burnt your ships at Navarino.' God is God,' said Mahmoud, covering his brow with his hands, and no doubt thinking of his son ; 'may His will be done.' M. de Lamartine's view of the Oriental question is
very simple and peremptory. "Shall Russia take the place of Turkey? The Ottoman empire must rest in its place, or France must lose her place. Thus says France; thus says England ; thus says Asia, Africa, Spain, and Italy; and thus will Austria herself say when she shall soon become, if she remains inactive, the victim of an ambition which caresses her to suffocate her in her turn. This war,' he says, 'is not war, but the defence of peace. The sacred
principle for which France, England, and Turkey rush to arms to-day is this :-Shall Russia be permitted arbitrarily and with impunity to make war on all the world in an age which wishes for peace?
Our business is not to discuss the question of peace or war, but to obtain some glimpses of the characteristics of the Turks, or some correct conceptions respecting the elements of the Oriental problem, which will remain for solution after the best they can do has been done, by the victories of the sword and the treaties of the pen. Possibly, indeed, the war may cease sooner than is expected by the intervention of the German powers, but the appearances and the probabilities indicate one of those wars which remodel the globe, and which one generation begins and another generation ends. Yet the questions will certainly recur again and again, what are to be the future relations between the Greek majority and the Turkish minority on the banks of the Bosphorus ? and what is the fate in store for Mahometanism in Europe?
Oriental scholarship and ethnological observation render it probable that the human family started, in their emigrations to people the globe from Tartary or Central Asia; and the three religions, it is certain, which have most powerfully swayed the destinies of mankind arose on the coasts of Syria and Arabia. The history of the Arabs commences with Hagar sitting weeping in the desert, a bowshot off from the boy she had laid under one of the shrubs, that she might not see him die of thirst, and God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.' The wild, sarcastic, aggressive, defiant, and conquering spirit of Ishmael, is apparent in all his celebrated descendants, in Mahomet and the caliphs, and in their Tartar successors Othman and Timor, hordes and hosts of conquerors, who have been the scourges of a third of the population of the earth, planting tyrants of their race in China, in India, and in Greece, over the vast regions which stretch from Spain to Japan, from the Pillars of Hercules to the Straits of Malacca. There have been no conquerors surpassing these conquerors. The houses of Hapsburg, Romanoff
, and Buonaparte dwarf when placed beside the tent of Ishmael. Every other imperial sovereignty, every other sword of terror, has been a petty thing compared with the symbols of the domination of the sons of the outcast from the household of Abraham. No other people have ever cast out so many nations. Conquest may be called Ishmaelism. However, a strange revolution is witnessed in their destinies in our day. The overturning hand of Providence which has laid low their power in India is simultaneously shaking it to its downfall in China and Turkey. Thoughtful men are asking each other with the same breath, - can the children of Timor hold their ground at Pekin ?-and is it possible the sons of Othman can preserve their despotism at Constantinople ?
A word in passing on the religion of conquerors. Deism was the religion of Mahomet, Timor, and Buonaparte. We have heard a fanatical follower of the first Napoleon unconsciously repeat the doctrine which Timor taught at Samarcanda, —. There is but one master in heaven, and there ought to be but one master on earth.' The idolatries, superstitions, absurdities, dreams, and impostures prospering on human credulity inspire the deist with a contempt for mankind. This vast contempt is opposed to humane and Christian pity, and is already in the minds which feel it a source of indifference for human life-a species of mental massacre. Mahomet rebuked himself for feeling emotion at the grave of his mother because she had lived and died an idolater. Timor told his cavalry to trample to death under the hoofs of their horses the children who had been sent to implore his mercy, and who were the offspring of worshippers of idols. In the Parisians who seek the cure of their diseases from the bones of Saint Genevieve, Buonaparte saw nothing better than food for cannon.
Ishmael worshipped the god of his father Abraham. According to the Arabic historians Abraham made two visits to his son Ishmael in the desert, with the permission of Sarah, which was granted on the jealous condition that he should not dismount from his horse at the residence of the son of Hagar. On the first occasion Ishmael was absent, and his wife Amara came to the door. Where is Ishmael ? asked the patriarch.
. He is at the chase,' answered his wife. 'Have you anything to give me to eat ?' asked Abraham, 'for I cannot come down from my
horse.' 'I have nothing,' answered Amara; 'this country is a desert.' Very well,' continued Abraham. · Describe me
to your husband, and tell him that I advise him to change the threshold of his door.' Ishmael, indignant at the refusal of hospitality to his father, put away Amara, and took another wife named Sayda, from a different tribe. When Abraham came again his son was again absent. A woman, young, slender, and graceful, answered this time the call of the stranger. * Have you any food to give me ? asked Abraham of his daughter-in-law, without making himself known or placing his foot upon the ground. , 'Yes, replied she instantly, and brought him some cooked kid, milk, and dates. Abraham tasted them and blessed them, saying, May God multiply these three kinds of food in this country!' After the repast Sayda said to Abraham,— Come down from your horse that I may wash your head and beard.' 'I cannot,' answered the patriarch; but placing one foot on a large stone beside the door, and keeping the other leg across the saddle, he
bent down his head to the hands of the young woman, who washed his eyes and beard.
• When your
husband comes back,' said Abraham, describe my face to him, and say from me that the threshold of his door is now equally brilliant and solid, and he ought never to change it.' When Ishmael beard these words he said, 'You have seen my father, and he commands me to keep you for ever.' 'Sayda became the mother of the race of Ishmael. Arabic traditions pretend that the first kaaba or square house at Mecca having been destroyed by the Deluge, Abraham and Ishmael erected the second. Ishmael hewed the stones, and Abraham built the temple, while the sacred black stone, probably an aerolithe, is said to have been contributed by an angel !
Long prior to the time of Mahomet the worship in the kaaba of Mecca had degenerated into an idolatrous medley addressed to three hundred and sixty idols, including probably effigies of Jesus and his mother
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord.' Mahomet re-established the worship of one immaterial God. The Arabian poets had, by their celebrations of the gods and heroes of the tribes by satires and songs, given them a common language, and Mahomet added the boon of unity of religion. Hardened and brutified by the misery of their deserts, the Arab tribes destroyed each other by feuds and wars. Destitute of industry and commerce, they were frequently reduced to live upon insects and serpents, and in their scorn for the female sex, and ravenous jealousy of a share of their scanty meals, buried their superfluous daughters alive. Unity of language combined, strengthened, and excited them to go forth in emigrations and invasions to conquer fertile lands for themselves, and followers for their faith. As grandson of Abdelmontaleb, the Pontiff of Mecca, and having himself risen to wealth and repute before he was forty, Mahomet would have become without an effort the greatest man in Mecca. But he was animated by the ambition of the reformer and the conqueror.
Arabian women had no protection against ill-treatment except the fear of the vengeance of their relatives. Mahomet restrained the unlimited licence he found by making legal and religious ceremonies of marriage and divorce necessary to the formation and dissolution of unions, while surrounding the persons and property of women with safeguards superior in some respects to those they enjoy in many Christian countries. Cleanliness he made an article of religion, as a symbol of the purity of the soul. Abstinence from fermented liquors secured to his followers the superiority of reason over their enemies, and protected them against crimes of passion