William B. Greene, Foreign Correspondence (1854–1855)

“A Paris correspondent of the New York Tribune says, that upon the proposal of a medical student, twenty young American medical students volunteered in ten minutes to aid the Turks with their unpractised skill. The same writer states that Americans were leaving every day for the Turkish camp. Among those who had gone, were Col. Macgruder, of Mexican War celebrity; Mr. Quincy Shaw, of Boston, and Rev. William B. Greene, late Unitarian clergyman at Brookfield.” — Massachusetts Spy 83 no. 12 (March 29, 1854): 5.

  • Omega, “Letter from Turkey,” The Worcester Palladium 21 no. 19 (May 10, 1854): 2.
  • Omega, “Our Foreign Correspondence,” The Worcester Palladium 21 no. 23 (June 7, 1854): 2. [Paris]
  • Omega, “Our Foreign Correspondence,” The Worcester Palladium 21 no. 24 (June 14, 1854): 2–3. [Paris]
  • W. B. G., “Our Foreign Correspondence,” The Worcester Palladium 21 no. 51 (December 20, 1854): 2. [Paris]
  • Omega, “Our Foreign Correspondence,” The Worcester Palladium 22 no. 12 (March 21, 1855): 2.
  • Omega, “Our Foreign Correspondence,” The Worcester Palladium 22 no. 19 (May 9, 1855): 2.
  • Omega, “Our Foreign Correspondence,” The Worcester Palladium 22 no. 20 (May 16, 1855)
  • [unsigned “Letter from France”], The Worcester Palladium 22 no. 21 (May 23, 1855): 2. [probably not Greene]
  • [unsigned “Letter from Switzerland”], The Worcester Palladium 22 no. 37 (September 12, 1855): 2. [probably not Greene]
  • Omega, “Our Foreign Correspondence,” The Worcester Palladium 22 no. 44 (October 31, 1855): 2-3. [Turin]

Letter from Turkey.

Correspondence of the Worcester Palladium.

Bayouk-Dere, (on the Bosphorus,), March 26th, 1854

The weather is bad enough, but the aspect of the political heavens is still more cloudy. To give you some idea of the weather I will state that the hills of Corsica, Southern Greece, and Asia Minor, are still covered with snow, and that it snows now, every other day, at Constantinople. Even in Smyrna, where we should have a right to expect better things, the gutters are often frozen over at 10 o’clock in the morning. The Tartars (government couriers, say, however, that the winter has been less severe in the northern provinces of Turkey and military men are confident that the country near the Danube is fit for immediate operations.

Political matters are in a most beautiful state of complication. There are many different interests in the field, and each with a tolerable chance of success. Each interest has its good and bad points, and enlists your sympathies or awakens your repugnance, according to the different points of view in which you look at it. Nothing, however, can be more hypocritical than the pretensions to extreme liberality, generosity, and disinterestedness, which are put forward by the English, and the most amusing of all, is the opinion which obtains that England and France control the war, and will be able to stop it at once whenever it threatens to pass safe limits. For the eyes of most Englishmen, the staving off of danger from the British aristocracy, is the climax of all righteousness: no matter whether Turkey is abandoned by her allies, no matter whether she is to be dismembered, no matter what becomes of the rest of the world, it is all right if the British aristocracy can but retain their seats in the saddle. Look in the English and French papers, and you will see that Turkey is to be dictated to by the allies. Turkey must do this, must do that, must make such and such laws for Christians, such laws for Turks! All very well, gentlemen, but if Turkey is to submit to dictation, why not to Russian dictation? Why should she prefer that of England and France? When Turkey is beaten by the Russians, she will submit of course to the law of her conqueror; and when she is saved by her friends, she will be obliged to do what her friends command; since the fact of her being saved, not by herself, but by another, shows that she is in the hand of the power that saves her. Omer Pacha is on the Danube with a very respectable army, and is aware that the French and English (English especially) are quite willing that he, and Turkey also, should go by the board; and it must be remembered that neither Turkey nor Omer Pacha desire to go by the board. Omer Pacha knows what he is about, and has taken into his calculations, not only his Russian enemies, but also his French and English friends; and he has, without doubt, prepared himself to strike a just blow before the arrival of the allies; for it is perfectly clear that if Turkey is ever to do anything for herself, she must do it now. Moreover (and mark this point, for it is important) the Russians will by no means be willing to wait patiently, before commencing operations, for the arrival of the western armies. Why should they delay until their enemies have doubled their numbers? Great and decisive battles will probably be fought in the course of the coming few weeks; for it is for the interest, as well of the Russians as of the Turks to do something at this juncture, while the decision of the result appears to rest mainly on the efforts of the armies now near the Danube.

Three results are possible: the Turks may be well beaten in the campaign now opening, the Russians may be beaten, or the two armies may make a draw game of it.

Suppose the Turks are beaten. What will the 100,000 French and English soldiers, who will arrive near the Danube sometime in July, that is to say, many days after the fair, do against the immense masses of human force that the Russian Emperor can roll into Turkey? How will they retake the strong positions that he will have had time to occupy in advance? 100,000 men form a magnificent army, but 100,000 men may be destroyed in a few battles, and where are the English and French troops to come from that are to replace those who are killed and those who die of disease? When France sends 400,000 men into the field, she will be exhausted, and the power of England to furnish troops is very small when compared with that of France. On the other hand, Russia can lose army after army and still remain strong. It is true that the fleet in the Black sea is competent to knock over a few small Russian forts, and to take a few Russian towns, but it is by no means competent to take Savastopol, or, what is of vastly more importance, to impede the Russian army in its march toward, and across, the Balkans. If the Turks are beaten—driven back—England and France have no other available means for restoring the chances of success than that which would be furnished by an insurrection of the nationalities. In case the Turks are beaten, therefore, the word of resurrection will of necessity will be spoken to Poland, Italy and Hungary, nations that are not dead but sleeping; and the crater of the revolutionary volcano will be re-opened, in order that the lava of democracy may inundate Europe.

We have not yet seen the last of the duplicity and treachery of the English government, which, it is does anything for the advance of democracy, will deserve no thanks, since it will act, not from good motives, but from utter selfishness, and in the hope to cheat the nations in the end by some subtle swindle. But can you wonder at the conduct of the British aristocracy when you reflect upon the prospect which this war unrolls before them? We may be permitted to hope that the morning twilight of the day of just retribution has begun to dawn on that double dealing oligarchy. The great contest of principles will soon commence, light is arrayed against darkness, democracy against absolutism and no hypothetical mixture of iron and clay, like the English aristocracy, can persist through the shock that is impending. The only hope of England, is to stave off the issue.

But suppose, on the other hand, that it is Russia which is to be well beaten, and the supposition is not unplausible. Kalefat is so strongly fortified that no serious attempt is likely to be made upon it. Shumla cannot easily be mastered, although English engineer officers say that it may be taken by Russians if they are willing to sacrifice 10,000 men to do it. If the Russians make an immediate and determined advance (and they cannot fail to do it) they will probably endeavor to turn Shumla, their most feasible route being the one between Shumla and Varna, passing by Pravadi. (The Russians can do nothing at Varsa on account of the fleets.) But if the Russians advance by the road just mentioned, their flanks will be attacked from Shumla on one side, and from Varna on the other: moreover, at Aidor, the road runs between high perpendicular rocks, which may be so blown up by gunpowder as to enable the Turks to obstruct the way of an advancing army by immense blocks of stone presenting almost insuperable obstacles. If the Russians, either by the fate of arms, or by disease, meet with some great calamity, which shall for a time prostrate their strength, the Hungarians will spring to their feet. So long as Russia is able to interfere efficaciously to keep the Austrian emperor upon his throne, there is no hope for Hungary, but when the strong man of Russia is once bound, the Hungarians will be able to drive the Austrians out of their house. Hungary is too strong for Austria in single combat. Hungary and Italy will be to Austria as the upper and nether millstones, and will grind her to powder; for Austria, by her perfidy, oppression and villainy, has placed herself in the position of Imachar, who is likened in scripture to a strong ass crouching between two burdens. Hungary will move first: as soon as Hungary gives adequate occupation to the Austrian army, Italy will have her destinies in her own hands. When Italy moves, the conflagration becomes general.

Suppose, finally, that the balance of arms remains equal, and that nothing decisive covers before the arrival of the French and English armies. This may very well happen, either in the natural course of events, for drawn battles are not impossible, or by consequence of orders from the Turkish government to Omer Pacha to refrain from serious operations until after the arrival of the allies—orders force from the Turkish government by French and English pressure. If Omer Pacha simply prevents the advance of the Russian army toward the Balkan, the Russians on their side may simply fortify themselves in the principalities, and await the course of events. The Russians would be very glad to have Constantinople, but if they cannot now have all they desire, they may well be contented, en attendant, with the principalities? The Turks cannot do it. The English and French will have some 25,000 men at Gallipolis in a few days, but the bulk of their army will not be there before June, and, consequently, it will not be on the line of the Danube before July (if then), and at that time it will have to contend, not only with the Russians, who will be immensely superior in numbers, but also with infinitely more dangerous enemies—dysentery and every species of fever that can be bred from the miasma of pestilential swamps. Where the English and French can afford to lose one soldier, the Russians can better afford to lose three; and the hop of fatiguing the Russians, so that they will abandon the war, is vain; since, without doubt (judging from his action) the emperor Nicholas counted the cost in the beginning, and determined, once for all, to put the war through—by daylight if possible.

Meanwhile, if the war is to be drawn out indefinitely—and such must evidently be the case if no decisive result is obtained in the coming few months—discontents will arise in England and France, Turkey will be exhausted, commerce throughout Europe will be seriously checked, capitalists will be frightened, national finances will be disordered, taxes will not be raised without difficulty, and a general feeling of uneasiness, if not distress, will impel all [places] in the west of Europe to call out for the application of immediate and decisive measures. But where is that crisis, are England and France to obtain the enormous masses of troops which will be necessary to enable them to meet the exigency? There is but one door of escape open. Do what you will, the crater of the revolutionary volcano is bound to be reopened. England must revolutionise Hungary, and put the nationalities of southern Europe once more upon their feet. The triumph of democracy is approaching. England and France have not two armies to lose, while Russia can have one army after another annihilated without feeling her energies exhausted. In Finland, Poland, Italy, Hungary, there and there only—with the assistance of certain populations of Asia—can the immense masses be found which are required for the adequate opposition of Russia.


Letter from Europe.

Correspondence of the Worcester Palladium.

Paris, May 15th, 1854.

Mr. Editor:—This seems to be the latest plot of the crowned Vultures who hold for a moment, or pretend to hold, the destinies of Europe in their grasp:—Austria is to give up Gallicia, and to receive in its stead the two provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia, which are not occupied by the Russians; and Poland (Gallicia of course included) is to be formed into a powerful kingdom, under a strong despotic government. Austria would gain by this transaction, first, because she would be enabled to pay off her debt to Russia by an act of supreme ingratitude, and, secondly, because the influence of Poland, being entirely catholic, would strengthen the bands of absolutism. The Jesuits would of course gain—and it was they who invented the affair—because they would be enabled to counterbalance, by means of the Polish kingdom, the influence of protestant Prussia on one side, and, on the other side, the influence of the self-styled Greek orthodoxy, which is represented by Russia. At present, the prospects of Catholicism are seriously threatened in northern Europe, and it is for that reason that the Jesuits are indefatigable, intriguing everywhere, and especially in Austria and France, endeavoring by all means, if possible, to push forward the scheme of a Polish kingdom, in order that a wedge may thus be created to separate between Prussia and Russia, and to break the line of the national antagonists of the catholic church. Austria is catholic, and for that reason inclines to the scheme; but the motive that weighs most strongly in the minds of Austrian statesmen in favor of the plan, is this, that Wallachia, with her population of 6,000,000, might be made to furnish an element of obedience and order that could be arrayed against the (so called) Hungarian turbulence. The English government, that is to say, the English aristocracy, see in that plan a means of checking the existing conflagration where it is, and of preventing it from setting all Europe in a blaze of democratic revolution. For the democratic revolution, if it once breaks out, will never stop till it has put an end to the English aristocracy; and this fact is well known on the other side of the channel. The plot is moreover favorably regarded by all democrats who are also imbeciles, and the number is not small; the words “reconstruction of the Polish nationality,” fill such men with an instinctive, foolish, and insane joy.

We must not forget, while thinking of these machinations, that Austria is with Russia in principle, that her domination over Italy and Hungary rests upon foundation identical with that of the Russian domination over the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. If it be established that the domination of Russia over the province of the Danube is wrong, and opposed to the rights of nations, then it is established also that the domination of Austria over five sixths of her territory is an outrage. Austria cannot hold Italy and Hungary for a day without foreign help; Russia is bound, by her own principles, and consequently by her own interest, to give that help. England and France may promise to maintain Austria in her present possessions, but what guarantee can they give that they will keep their promise after Russia is driven back, and they have nothing further to hope from Austrian assistance? Again what guarantee can Austria have that a democratic revolution will not break out in France? What guarantee that England and France will not have employment enough at home? This time, democratic contagion, if it spreads at all, will spread with unwonted virulence.

But the hard point is yet to come. If Austria sides with the western powers, if the kingdom of Poland is reconstituted in accordance with the ideas above mentioned, Russia will give arms and an imperial prince to the Hungarians, saying: Here are arms and a king of independent Hungary—do something! And the Hungarians would do something. In such a complication with the Slavic and Magyar elements united and both in the hand of Russia, Austria would be annihilated, and the emperor Nicolas would have his own way with England, France and Turkey. Then would be the day of vengeance of the Almighty upon England and France, and those nations would receive the punishment due to the egotism and perfidy that allowed the Russian intervention in Hungary in 1849. From all this, I conclude that the plot will fail; that the Polish nationality will not be reconstructed this year, and that Austria will not side with the western powers. Austria will talk of neutrality, will lie, negotiate, and play double; but mark my word! she will never separate her cause from that of Russia.

It is said that the Austrian flotilla, which has been for some time past at Smyrna—it is a pity Capt. Ingraham did not sink it—has gone to the Pireus, to watch over the Greek insurrection; and this fact is quoted to prove that Austria has sided with the western powers.—That the Austrian vessels have done to the Pyreus, is not improbable; but neither is it improbable that they have gone, not to overawe the insurgents, but to furnish king Otho, in case of need, with Austrian, that is to say, with neutral ships; for Otho, from present appearances may have occasion to take passage on board some neutral ship t escape from his kingdom.

Speaking of the Greek insurrection, leads me to reflect upon the changes which our opinions undergo as we look at the same matter in different lights. When we reflect upon the ill-treatment which the Turks have received, it is impossible not to sympathize with them, and not to regard with indignation the conduct of the Greeks, who, by their present movements, are playing right into the hands of Russia. Yet when we think of the wrongs that have been for ages inflicted upon the Greeks by the Turks, we feel that the Greeks are excusable. A young Greek, who seemed to be anxious to procure arms and ammunition for the insurrection, asked me, at Syra, what was the general feeling in the west of Europe as respected the war? I answered: Against the Russians, and therefore for the Turks. The Greek replied—and I give his answer at length—“That is natural, but it is also natural that the Greeks should take advantage of the present contingency, to strike a blow for themselves. The Greek kingdom has very little good soil, and its frontiers ought to be so stretched northward as to take in one or two of the Turkish Provinces, which, after all, are ours by right. You think the Greeks act from Russian instigation, but you are mistaken, the movement originates in natural causes. We have our wrongs as well as others, and we wish to see our wrongs righted; we have also some claim to compensation for what we have suffered in times past, if compensation, indeed, in our case, were possible; for example, I myself count two uncles who were hanged by the Turks, one brother killed in battle, and one sister sold as a slave in Constantinople!” Of course, I had nothing to say in reply, for the Greek was a young man full of honor and patriotism, but under other circumstances, I should have reflected that many Greeks would have made not hesitation in stating that their whole families had been hanged, if such a statement would have helped their argument; and also that many Greeks would have seen with dry eyes, and without indignation, their sister sold into Turkish harems, provided the purchasers were men tolerably well to do in the world. The Rev. Dr. Dewey expressed himself willing to send his mother into slavery, if, by that means, he could obviate danger to the American Union; but the equanimity of the Rev. Dr. is nothing to what would be manifested by many Greeks at seeing their female relations carried into slavery, provided the idea of such slavery should be complicated in their minds with the idea of ultimate pecuniary advantage to the females themselves. But we must remember that if the Greeks are, at this day, many of them, destitute of all moral dignity, they have at least two excuses; first, they are emerging from a long night of social and political degradation, the irons of slavery having been but quite recently struck from their wrists, and, secondly, they come from a wicked, treacherous, and profligate, though energetic and talented, stock.—The moral characters of Pericles and Themistocles will bear no close scrutiny. Do we not read that Philip of Macedon was always sure of a Greek city if he could but introduce into it one mule-load of gold coin? At what epoch of history was it that the leaders of public opinion in Greece were incapable of being corrupted? Private manners in ancient Greece seem to have been little better than public manner; you may mention Aristodes, Socrates, Zeno (who was, however, no Greek) &c., as exceptions; but we must remember that these were public personages, philosophers and statesmen, and that they themselves bear testimony against the manners of their countrymen. The reputation of Aristodes, the just, is doubtful. Cicero—who was, by the way, in his own person, a passably poor tool—expressed himself on one occasion as follows: “This, however, I say concerning all Greeks:—I grant them learning, the knowledge of many sciences; I do not deny that they have wit, fine genius and eloquence; nay, if they lay claim to many other excellencies, I shall not contest their title; but this I must say, that nation never paid a proper regard to the religious sanctity of public evidence, and are total strangers to the obligation, authority, and importance of truth.” You may rest assured that long ages of slavery have not improved the morals of the Greeks.

The Greeks are advancing rapidly in everything that relates to commercial supremacy in the Levant. No one can deny that they are an ingenious, clear-sighted and industrious people. They have every good quality except honor. One is astonished at the signs of prosperity visible in the Greek islands: the port of Syra is the entrepot of all the commerce of the neighborhood, and is full of shipping; all the great merchants of Constantinople, Smyrna, &c., have partners there. It is true that the Greek vessels are of a kind that an American captain would almost be ashamed to command; but it is by building cheap ships, and fitting them out economically, not to say meanly, that the Greeks propose to engross the carrying trade—perhaps of the Mediterranean.

The Turks are as noble as the Greeks are mean; but, unfortunately, they are also as shiftless and incapable as the Greeks are ingenious and enterprising. The Turks have a natural gift for being masters, and possess all the high qualities which belong to that capacity: the Greeks have a natural talent for making money. If the Turks could add to their moral advantages the ability to enrich themselves and their country; if they could shake off their intellectual lethargy, and open their minds to the reception of new ideas, they would rank among the first nations of the world.

If we (Americans and Europeans) are accustomed to do a think in any particular way, that particular way seems to be precisely the one in which the Turks never do that same thing. For example: we take off our hats as a mark of respect, the Turk will not remove his for fear of offending; with us, sentinels walk post, the Turkish sentinel stands always motionless; we whitewash our ceilings and paint our walls, the Turks paint their ceilings and whitewash their walls; with us, swords—sabers included—are almost always so constructed that you have give point to them; in Turkey, one seeks in vain, in all the bazaars, for a sword with which you may easily give point; even the daggers, on account of their short handles, are fitted only for giving side blows; with us, Friday is an unlucky day, with the Turks, Friday is the luckiest day in the week, and they keep it as we keep Sunday, or as the Jews do Saturday, &c., &c.

The gravity of the Turks, their motionless attitudes and prolonged taciturnity, are exceedingly imposing to strangers; but, unfortunately, these characteristics proceed as much from mental dullness, and from incapacity for quick motion, as from religious tranquility. The idea that “God is great,” accounts for half, but for half only. Look at the Turk when he is obliged to move quickly, or to take a sudden resolution! What bewilderment! What incapacity for decision! What ludicrous imbecility!

One word about the war, and I close this letter. I find by the Paris papers that the Russians are well beaten by the Turks near Silistria: now, don’t believe what the Paris papers say! The Russians have not advanced as yet, simply because the Doubradzia, in which they are entangled, is a miserable, swampy country, furnishing little or nothing that is eatable; they stay where they are, not because they are beaten, but because they find it hard work to march on an empty stomach. I will give you my opinion, and you may take it for what it is worth. In the course of a few weeks, the Russians will have reorganized their subsistence department, and then they will not only make a strong move in advance, but they will make a resolute (and possibly a successful) attempt to cross the Balkans. But all signs fail in dry weather, and, in war, everything is possible, and nothing is possible; it may very well happen, therefore, that the Russians will be able, neither to reorganize their subsistence department, nor to make a strong advance: but it is my opinion that the signs will not fail this time. The tide of fortune sets in favor of Russia.


Our Foreign Correspondence.

Paris, May 24th, 1854

Mr. Editor:—I learn that some of my good friends in B—– are under the impression that your correspondent has taken a commission in the Turkish army, and is now on the banks of the Danube fighting the Russians. I will say for your correspondence that, although his desire for the triumph of the just cause is very strong, it is not strong enough to carry him to such extreme lengths. He went indeed to Turkey, not however to fight, but simply to inform himself, from actual observation, whether the war promises to result successfully for the cause of European liberty—an object perhaps more staid and proper, but certainly less meritorious and romantic than the one supposed: finding things to be as they should be, he returned to Paris, from which city he now has the honor and the pleasure to address you.

In Turkey, I say of course, the Sultan; and I propose, in this letter, to tell you, as well as I can, how he looked, the circumstances under which I say him, &c., &c.

I mentioned in my last letter that the Mohametans set apart Friday as the Jews do the Sabbath, or as we do Sunday, for a day of religious observance. Every Friday the Sultan—who is the religious as well as the political chief of his people—goes publicly, in great state, to some particular mosque, and there offers his prayers; afterwards he returns, in the same state, to his palace. This custom is said to have originated as follows:—A predecessor of the reigning Sultan was accosted publicly by one of the faithful, who told him that the people owed no obedience to the chief of the state. Why? asked the Sultan. The man replied, because you do not obey the precepts of religion, inasmuch as you do not present yourself at the mosque at least once in every week, and therefore you cannot rightfully claim the homage of true believers. Since that time, the Sultans have not failed to go regularly to the mosque on Fridays.

Having learned, on Friday evening, at which mosque the Sultan was to be present, (for he seldom patronises the same mosque two weeks running,) I sent for horses, and started early, in order to be on the spot before him. I passed first, on my way, through the main street of Pera, where I encountered a multitude of dogs. It may be mentioned that dogs form one of the principal features of Constantinople; it is said, indeed, that there are 80,000 of them in the city. These animals have no special owners, but are general vagabonds, claiming no home but the streets; they are the scavengers of the city, eating up whatever eatable matter is thrown from the houses, thus disposing of what might otherwise breed a pestilence. This much I must say in regard to the Constantinople dogs, that either they have been treated with great injustice in the accounts of European travelers, or they have improved wonderfully of late; for I certainly found them to be as quiet, well-behaved, and respectable a set of dogs as one would have a right to expect, taking into consideration their circumstances, and the limited education they have received. I was neither bitten, nor even snarled at by them, all the time I was in the city; on the contrary, many a dog has come to me, whining timidly, and with his tail between his legs, doing everything that an outcast, pariah dog could do, to make friends with me, or at least to leave a favorable impression of his character on my mind. Emerging from Pera, I galloped along the road that leads to the Sultan’s palace, and halted at a place where two streets meet, to wait for the procession. Along one of the streets, and on one side, a regiment of Turkish infantry was drawn up in line, and was resting with ordered arms; on the other side of the street in which the soldiers were, and in the streets adjacent, were assembled the spectators, among whom were many Franks, Turks of the city, Turks from the provinces and from Asia, women on foot, vailed and without vails, vailed women in carriages, negroes, &c., &c. After a due length of time, a fat colonel called the soldiers to attention, and ordered them to shoulder arms; upon which, the music also began to play; from these notes of preparation it became evident that the procession was approaching. Accordingly, in a few minutes, appeared Riza Pacha, the minister of war, riding on a splendid horse, and, thirty yards behind him, another Pacha, whose name I could not learn. Riza Pacha is a very intelligent and capable man, not overfond, it is true, of Christians, but in every way competent for high office, and very courteous and dignified in his manners. I rejoice that I have this opportunity of speaking of him to American readers, because of the favors he extended to my companions and myself, mainly on account of our being American citizens. About thirty yards behind the second Pacha, came a company of artillery-men, in side arms, marching by flank, one rank on one side of the street, and the other on the other, and between these two ranks, in the broad space, road a man with a long, pale face, slightly pocked-marked, to whom the infantry immediately presented arms—this man was Abdul-Madjid, the Sultan of Turkey. He is a little above the medium height, thin, with dark eyes and hair, appears very languid, and says, by the expression of his countenance, that being Sultan—and especially going as such to the mosque to say his prayers—is very tiresome business, and that he is doubtful whether, on the whole, it pays. As soon as he turned the corner of the street, he fixed his eyes on our group, which was made up of Franks, and regarded us all the time he was advancing, with a fixed, melancholy stare: as he came opposite to us, he turned his head, staring all the time, till his face was at right angles with the course his horse was pursuing; then he turned round upon the soldiers, staring in like manner at them. They, notwithstanding they had already presented arms, and had not yet returned their muskets to their shoulders, touched first their breasts and then their foreheads with their right hands, according to the fashion of Oriental politeness. After this, the Sultan fixed his eyes on a point in the distance, and stared at that till we lost sight of him. When the Sultan looked from one place to another, he did not turn his eyes as men ordinarily do, but moved his whole head, keeping his eyes motionless: that is the way that Oriental potentates have of saluting and of returning salutes. There is no sovereign for whom I would more willingly express respect than for Abdul-Madjid; and certainly I felt no sentiment other than one of respect while I was looking at him; but, do what I would, I could not help comparing him, all the time I saw him, to a great, large-eyed owl, dressed in a blue cloak and a red skull-cap, (fez,) and mounted on horseback. After all, this comparison is not disrespectful; for no dumb creature has a more sage, knowing look than the owl, and it was perhaps for this reason that it was consecrated, in the old times, as Minerva’s bird.

The Turks call the Sultan Padischah; as for the title Grand Signor, it is of Italian origin, and unknown in Turkey. It is singular how the names of royal office persist through changes of languages. I suppose the East Indian title, Rajah, is analogous to the occidental titles Ras, Raj, Roi. The words Shah, or Chah, which obtain in Persia, and the words Tsar or Czar which obtain in Russia, are, if I remember rightly, (I have no Hebrew bible by me,) to be found in the scripture names Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadrezzer, Nebuser-adan, Nebushasban, Shaphan, Nergal-sherezar, &c. The words kahn, koenig, king, are said to be derived from the same root that Cain, the name of the first murderer, and the English verb can, are derived from; and to designate one possessed of self-centering power—one who of himself can, or is able; a shah is a chief, and a tzar one who is responsible to himself only; at least, I am under the impression that all this is so, but I am not strong in these matters. I do not know the precise meaning of the word Padischah, but, to my ear, it has a most paternal and august sound.

The Turks form an aristocratic case in Turkey; in Europe there are but 4,550,000 Mahometans to 10,000,000 Christian subjects of the Porte, the Mahometans possessing great political privileges. It is evidently the interest of the sovereign to break down the privileges of the Mahometans, and to base the stability of his throne on the affections of the majority of his subjects. Accordingly the Padischah does all that he can to introduce equality, and complete religious toleration, into his dominions. The reforms that have been recently introduced, aim at nothing less than the entire subversion of the Mahometan power; for the Christians, being infinitely more active and enterprising than the Turks, and constituting moreover a majority of the population, will certainly take the lead in the empire as soon as they are admitted to equal privileges with the Turks; for the Turks cannot stand their hand against the Christians a single year, if the competition for supremacy is allowed to take place on equal terms. Mahometanism has done for Turkey all it can; its power is not exhausted; if the empire is to rise at all, it must rise by means of the new vigor that will be lent to it by the Christians. It is true, many obstacles stand in the way of reform: first of all, the Sultan is himself a Mahometan; but this fact will perhaps merely enable him with more ease to subvert the Mahometan supremacy. When the Christians obtain the political power, there will be nothing to prevent the Sultan from turning Christian, as Constantine did, from political motives. Many of the Turks of high station (and probably the Sultan himself) are no longer Mahometans at heart. The second difficulty is that the Turks will not willingly consent to such changes as will result in their own political overthrow: but this difficulty weighs little at the present time, on account of the assistance that may be lent to the Turkish government by the allied fleets and armies. It is of little consequence what the Turks like or do not like, so long as there are enough English and French soldiers on the spot to coerce them in case of necessity. It is evident that the Turkish empire must undergo a change; for a minority cannot long rule a majority that is more intelligent and enterprising than itself; and it is certainly to be hoped that the authority of the Sultan will survive the change, since otherwise the empire will go to pieces in the operation, leaving a very difficult task to any one who should attempt to reconstruct it. This matter of reform is no new thing in Turkey: Mahmoud, the father of the present Sultan, had for the object of his reign—I quote his own words—“to cause that between the Mahometan, the Jew, and the Christian, no difference should be reorganized except at the Mosques, at the Synagogues, and at the Churches.” The reigning Sultan has given a constitution to his people, and a very good constitution it is.

The great difficulties in the way of improvement, come, on one side, from Russia, who is afraid that Turkey will be too powerful after the reform, and, on the other side, from the allied powers, who are afraid that the Ottoman Empire will be no organized as to lend too much aid and comfort to the cause of European Democracy. It is to be hoped that Omar Pasha may gain some great victory before the allies arrive in force at his camps; for, in that case, the Sultan may escape English dictation. The Sultan intends to do well, but the English aristocracy has its eye upon him. I say English dictation, for it appears that the Emperor Napoleon comprehends his mission, knowing that he is the nephew of his uncle, who was characterized by Madame de Steal as “Robespierre on horseback.” At this moment, France means right.

There are no roads in the Turkish Empire, and there is not a single decent street in Constantinople, you must ride on horseback; for there are few carriages in the city, and those are heavy lumbering things, kept for women and high personages who ride in state. It is wonderful, indeed, how even these few carriages make their way in the steep, narrow streets. There are forests at no great distance from the city, at which fire-wood can be obtained at very little expense; yet fire-wood is dearer at Constantinople than at almost any other city in Europe, because the wood from the forests cannot be brought to Constantinople, on account of the want of roads. Fire-wood is carried about the city, to be delivered at the houses, not in carts, but on the backs of horses! The mud is so intolerable in the streets, that you have to defend yourself against it with a peculiar kind of high boots, which are made in Turkey, and are found no where else. The mud is bad for many reasons; among others, because if you turn it up a little you may find dead dogs in it in various stages of decomposition. It is common to see dead dogs in the middle of the streets; one defunct dog was allowed to remain in the same place, in the middle of a street, at Galata, all the time I was in Constantinople. [Galata is the part of Pera that is on the edge of the Golden Horn. Pera is the name of the Christian quarter, in contradistinction from Stamboul, the Turkish quarter, of Constantinople.] The reforms of the Sultan are political and military: he has done nothing, as far as I can learn, to improve the material conditions of the country. He builds great barracks, and magnificent palaces, and puts on foot large armies, but he stops there: perhaps he is right, for it is really more important, at this moment, that he should live in a fine palace, and be faithfully guarded by a powerful army, than that the people should have roads. For if the Sultan should be overthrown, or lose the reverence attached to his office, the unity of Turkey would be lost, and the empire would fall into anarchy. What harmony could there be between the 2,100,000 Ottomans, the 1,000,000 Greeks, the 400,000 Armenians, the 6,000,000 Slavonians, the 4,000,000 Roumelians, the 1,500,000 Albanians, &c., who compose the population of Turkey in Europe—to say nothing of Turkey in Asia? There would be nothing through the whole country but fighting and bloodshed. But if the Sultan retains his power and state, the reforms will ultimately have free course, political equality will be organized in the empire, enterprise will be awakened, prosperity will not fail to follow enterprise, and the people will build roads and lay out streets for themselves: the destinies of Turkey, and those of Abdul-Madjid, follow the rising and setting of the same sun.

Please tell my friend, Miss Lucy Stone, that I saw in the streets of Constantinople, in yellow slippers, and riding straddle on a horse, Kara-Fatma-Hanoum, a noble and rich lady of Marach, who solicited and obtained a command among the Turkish volunteer forces. She has under her orders a battalion of 600 wicked looking Asiatics, equipped by herself. She is about 50 years old, goes vailed in the ordinary manner, but shows her face freely in spite of her vail. You see by the expression of her countenance that she is made of the right stuff. She will do something.

I am aware that the English and French papers give an account of the position of things in the East, very different from the one I communicated to you in my last letters. I believe, nevertheless, that I am right, and that the papers are wrong. I still believe that Austria will aide with Russia—and that the emperor of France is subject to no delusions on that head. I might tell you of many things which confirm me in my opinion; but I will only mention the fact state in to-day’s papers, that Gen. Klapka (the celebrated defender of Komorn) has been formally presented to the Sultan by Prince Napoleon. This fact, if authentic, needs no comment. Why Russia holds back in her march towards the Balkans, I cannot divine; I suppose she is in want of provisions, and also actuated by some political motive which time only will disclose: but that she is deterred by the Turkish army, I cannot believe; because, first, the Russians have the superiority, not only in numerical force, but also in military position, and, secondly, because no great battle has been fought by which the Turks could have assumed the ascendency. It is said the Russians lie in their official reports. I believe it. but do the French and English always tell the truth? The Turks, even, a much more moral people than the French and English, have been known to prevaricate. For five or six days after the news of the disaster at Sinope had been communicated to the government at Constantinople, it was reported in the city that the Turks had gained a victory!—the government naturally not daring to publish the truth. Again, if the English and French met with no check at Odessa, why did they not deliver the neutral vessels that were held in durance in the port? Why did they not capture the Russian vessels? If they gained a great victory, why did they not bring away the material proofs? A man may be excused if he withholds full confidence from the report of the admirals. If the allied armies and fleets should meet with a serious disaster, do you think the papers would tell the truth about it at once? If such a disaster should occur, there are men in the west of Europe who would tremble in their shoes, and whose knees would smite together as smote together the knees of King Belshazar when he read the handwriting on the wall. No disaster has occurred as yet, but it is possible that one may occur. The chances are not all of them in favor of England and France.

One word more in regard to Austria. It is the evident interest of Austria to hold off as long as possible from taking decisive measures. If she has actually chosen her side, and is in secret understanding with one party, it is her policy to appear disposed to enter into an alliance with the opposite party; for, having nothing to fear from the ally with whom she is in private understanding, she can bend all the efforts of her diplomacy to the concealment of her hostility to the other party, thus warding off an attack. If Austria were really with France and England, she would be, at this moment, ostensibly Russian: but she is, at this moment, ostensibly English and French, taking care not to commit herself to the cause of the allies in the least possible particular. “Words, words, words.” I concluse from this, among 100 other reasons, that Austria is Russian, and will show herself such on some convenient occasion.


Our Foreign Correspondence.

Champs Elysees, Paris, Nov. 23, 1854.

Mr. Knowlton:—Some weeks ago, the Paris journals affirmed that the Emperor Nicholas had exhausted his resources before the campaign in the Crimea commenced, that he had but 35,000 men in, and around Sebastopol, that he could send them no reinforcements, and that the allied army which originally landed in the peninsula, was abundantly competent to take Sebastopol by a coup de main. It appears, however, from the reports of the English and French commanders, that more than 35,000 Russians were present at the battle of the Alma, that reinforcements to the Russian army have, since that time, been continually pouring in, and that it is now necessary to send a new allied army, equally numerous with the first, to prevent that first army from being crushed by the overwhelming force of Russia!

The question seems now to be, whether the operations of the allies in the Crimea, should be designated as a siege or as a campaign: but certain it is, that if the allies are besieging Sebastopol, the Russians are besieging the camps of the allies. The allies propose to assault the place, but it is well to know—or, if one knows it, to remember—that the proposed assault is to take effect against an outwork only. After the present assault shall have fairly succeeded—and assaults sometimes fail—the allies will be under the necessity of making a breach in the main works, and of carrying by a new assault the place itself. After they have carried the walls, they will have to carry by assault the buildings and streets of the city; for the Russian deserters affirm that every street in Sebastopol is barricaded, and that every house, church, and public building left standing, is fortified. Grant, now, that the allies succeed in all they have attempted, or are attempting, what will be their real gain? The whole north side of Sebastopol neither is, nor has been, invested, as is evident from the fact that reinforcements and convoys of provisions, enter the place unmolested from that side every day: how will the allies take the north side, which is completely separated from the south side by the harbor, if they do not invest it, and make a regular attack upon it—that is, how can they take it if they will make no attempt to take it? The allies attack the south side, because it presents the weakest points, but the capture of the south side does not draw with it the capture of the north side, for the reason that—although guns on the south side may command the batteries on the north side which are at the edge of the water—there is still a powerful detached citadel crowning the hills on the north side, whose guns command the whole south side and the harbor. This citadel is said to be the strongest part of the place, which itself is now acknowledged to be (even on the land side) one of the strongest in Europe, and mark, time presses, for the rigorous winter is at hand.

And it does not follow that the allies may, because they take the south side, destroy the marine stores which were deposited there, or burn the ships of war that are in the harbor; for the store have been to a great extent, transported to the north side; and as for the ships, they may easily be put under water (4 have been sunk already by the Russians) where they would be effectively sheltered from the projectiles of the allies. It would be extremely difficult to approach the water to destroy the sunken ships by means of scientific appliances, for the reason that the harbor is commanded by the citadel already mentioned. It is true the Russians may be put to great inconvenience, for it will be a laborious task for them to raise these ships after the allies retire—nevertheless, it is supposed that a ship may remain six months under water without becoming seriously damaged.

You will notice that the Austrian policy remains unchanged, and that her conduct has been precisely as I foretold it would be. For she is Russian at heat, and, while pretending to neutrality, and even to friendship with the western powers, she protects, by her occupation of the Principalities, the left wing of the Russian army, preventing the advance of Omer Pachs, (who would be insane if he moved forward leaving so doubtful a power free to cut his rear) thus enabling the Emperor Nicholas to send thousands of soldiers, who would not otherwise have been available, to the Crimea. Is it not reasonable to suppose that a knowledge of Austria’s intentions, was one of the determining elements that induced Russia to select its own territories, rather than the neighborhood of Constantinople, for the theatre of the decisive campaign? For the supposition that Russia was really checked on the Danube by the Turkish army last spring, will hardly stand. The affair of Silistria admits of various interpretations.



About Shawn P. Wilbur 2056 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.

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