I have heard officials condemn in the strongest terms the laws they are obliged to enforce. There are few persons who are obtuse to the sense of injustice, but at the same time the suggestion has been expressed that an extreme difficulty would be experienced should the taxes be collected in any other form than dimes. I cannot see the slightest truth in this disclaimer of responsibility for Turkish evils, and I believe the present difficulty might be overcome with little trouble by a system of rating the land ad valorem.
The soil and general value of properties in Cyprus vary as in England and other countries according to quality and position. There is land contiguous to market towns of much higher value than the same quality of soil in remote districts; there are farms supplied with water either naturally or artificially, which are far more valuable than others which are dependent upon favourable seasons. Land which formerly produced madder was of extreme value, and should have been adjudged accordingly; but why should not all properties of every description throughout Cyprus be rated and taxed in due proportion? The valuation should be arranged by local councils. The vineyards which produced the expensive wines should be rated higher than those of inferior quality. Gardens should be rated according to their distance from a market; fields in proportion to their water-supply and the quality of the soil. The Cypriotes do not complain of the amount of 10 per cent. taxation under the name of dimes, but they naturally object to the arbitrary and vexatious system of inquisitorial visits, together with the delays and loss of time occasioned by the old Turkish system. "Rate us, and let us know the limit of our responsibility"—that is the natural desire of the inhabitants. If the industries of the country are to be developed they must be unfettered; but if weighed down by restrictions and vexatious interference, they will hardly discover the benefit of a change to British masters.
Some people in Cyprus make use of an argument in favour of the present system of dimes or collecting in kind by tenths, which does not commend itself by logical reasoning. They say, "if you rate the land ad valorem, and establish a monetary payment of 10 per cent., you will simply burden the poor land-holder with debt during a season of drought, when his property will produce nothing. According to the present system he and the government alike share the risk of seasons; if the land produces nothing, there can be no dimes." It does not appear to have occurred to these reasoners that in such seasons of scarcity the taxation could be easily reduced as a temporary measure of relief according to the valuation of the local medjlis or council; but I claim the necessity of artificial irrigation that will secure the land from such meteorological disasters, and will enable both the cultivator and the government to calculate upon a dependable average of crops, instead of existing upon the fluctuations of variable seasons.
The district of Larnaca will offer a fair example of the usual methods of taxation, and as the figures have been most kindly supplied by the authorities of the division, they can be thoroughly relied upon.
The revenues of the district (Larnaca) are derived from the following sources:—
1. Dimes (i.e. tenths of the produce)—in some instances may be paid in kind. 2. Property Tax—4 piastres per 1000 upon the value of immovable property, such as buildings, land, trees; this is classed as 1st class Verghi. 3. Charge upon Income derived from Rents—40 piastres per 1000; classed as 2nd class Verghi. 4. Charge on Trade Profits—30 piastres per 1000; 3rd class Verghi. 5. Exemption from Military Service—this tax levied upon Christians only, at the rate of 5000 piastres for 180 males. 6. Duty upon Sale of Horses, Mules, Donkeys, Camels, and Cattle—1 piastre in every 40 upon price; also tax on goods weighed by public measurer. 7. Tax on Flocks of Sheep and Goats—2.5 piastres per head. This is not levied until the animal shall be one year old.
In 1877 the amount received was—
Piastres. Paras. 1. Dimes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 822,000 2. Property Tax. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221,897 24 3. Rent Charge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20,089 32 4. Tax on Trade-Profits . . . . . . . . . . . 65,340 20 5. Military Exemption. . . . . . . . . . . . . 153,333 25 6. Sales of Animals, Measures, &c. . . . . . . 450,000 7. Sheep and Goats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 200,000 __ _ 1,932,659 101
The return of sheep and goats in the district of Larnaca during the year 1878, and comprising 36 villages, was rendered as 47,841.
The following taxes are payable by inhabitants of Scala and the neighbourhood:—
1. The tithe of agricultural produce, including silk, payable in some cases in kind, in others in money. 2. Tax in lieu of military service, 5000 copper piastres for 180 Christian males. 3. Verghi (a), 4 per 1000 on the purchasing value of houses, land, or immovable property. 4. Verghi (b), 4 per cent. on the rent of immovable property, or houses not occupied by their owners. 5. Verghi (c), 3 per cent. on profits and professions. 6. Tax on sheep, 2.5 silver piastres each. 7. Tax on goats, 2 silver piastres each. 8. Tax on pigs, 3 silver piastres each. 9. Tax on wood and charcoal. Wood for carpenters' uses pays 20 per cent. on the value at the place of production, and a further 5 per cent. on the amount of the tax on coming into the town.
Firewood pays 12 per cent. on the value at the place of production, and a further 5 per cent. as above.
Charcoal pays 2 piastres per 100 okes.
10. Tax on goods weighed, one half para per oke. (In the case of wood and charcoal, hay, chopped straw, lime, and onions, the tax begins at a weight of 50 okes, and at a rate of 5 paras for 50 okes.) 11. Tax on grain measured, 2 paras per kilo paid by the buyer, and 2 paras per kilo paid by the seller. If measured for the sole convenience of the owner, 2 paras per kilo. 12. Octroi. Every load brought from the villages to the town pays a tax of one oke per load, or in money, according to the market rate of the goods. 13. Tax on the sale of mules, horses, donkeys, oxen, and camels in the town, 1 para per piastre of the price. 14. Property tax (municipal) paid by owners:— On houses let to tenants, 5 per cent. per annum. On houses inhabited by the owners, 3 per cent. per annum. 15. Tax on camels (M.) 2 shillings each per annum. 16. Tax on carts (M.) belonging to and working in Larnaca and Marina townships, 1*. each per annum. 17. Corvee. Forced labour on roads four days a year. 18. Shop licences (M.) in classes, 10*, 5*., 2*., 1*., 10 shillings. 19. Wine licences (C.H.) in classes, 25 per cent., 12.5 per cent., 6.25 per cent. on rental. 20. Licences to merchants, bankers, &c., (M.) in classes, 10*., 5*., 2*., 1*. 21. Monopolies. Salt, gunpowder. 22. Custom House duties 8 per cent. on imports, 1 per cent. exports.
Custom House duty on wine, 10 per cent. Custom House duty on imported tobacco, 75 per cent; on home grown, or imported unmanufactured, 10 pence a pound. 23. Stamps, transfer and succession duties. Mubashine. Voted to remain in force until March 1st, 1879.
[Transcriber's Note: Omitted table of villages on page 388 which was hard to read.]
There are other taxes according to the laws of succession upon the death of an individual which I give in the same words as furnished to me by the authority:—
Memorandum of the Defter Hakkani about the Transfer in Succesion of Property.
When a man dies his properties must be duly transferred to his heirs, who must apply to the authorities within six months, in order to have the transfer made.
The transfer is made by giving a new Kotshan (Title), to the heirs in exchange for the Kotshan of the deceased.
The right to the inheritance is stated by the laws as follows:—
1st, To the son or daughter; in want of which, 2nd, to the grandson and granddaughter; in want of which, 3rd, to the father and mother; in want of which, 4th, to the brother from the same father and mother; in want of which, 5th, to the sister from the same father and mother; in want of which, 6th, to the brother from the same mother; and in want of which, 7th, to the sister from the same mother.
The grandson and the granddaughter from right to the inheritance of the share belonging to their father, who may have died before the death of their grandfather; they inherit together with their uncles and aunts as another direct son or daughter of the grandfather.
In all above stated degrees of inheritance, except in the 1st and 2nd, the husband or wife has right to the fourth share of the land left by the husband or wife.
This is for property in land (Arazi).
As to the freehold property (Emlak), the male inhabitants two-thirds and the female one-third; but it is very difficult to enumerate the various shades of division which are always made by the cadis according to the Cheni law; there is no Nizam law in this respect.
All system of endorsment on Kotshan is abolished.
The duty on transfer in succession of a freehold property is half the fees on transfer by sale.
In transferring by sale the fees are 1 per cent. on the value, if this freehold property is a real one (Emlaki Serfi); and 3 per cent. if it is vacouf freehold property (Emlak Meocoofi). Besides this 3 piastres as price of paper, and 1 piastre as clerks' fees (Riataki) are paid for every new Kotshan.
The lands (Arazi) pay 5 per cent. indifferently on transfer by sale and on transfer by succession.
The custom is to value lands at one year's rental, or value of products.
If a house is occupied by the owner no tax on rental is demanded; the only tax demanded in that case being that on the proportionate value.
The proportionate values of real properties are not assessed for a fixed period. Therefore the value, once assessed, can remain the same for many years, or it can be altered in the annual inspections of the Vakouat Riatibs according to an increase or decrease of value that may take place on account of repairs, a general rise of value, or partial or entire destruction by fire, rain, &c.
The poverty of the agricultural classes was so generally acknowledged even by the Turkish administration that it was absolutely necessary to relieve them by some external assistance; it was therefore resolved in 1869 to create an "Agricultural Bank and a Locust Fund;" the principles of this establishment are sufficiently original to attract attention.
In 1871 the Turkish government issued a decree that all cultivators of the ground should pay to the authorities a sum of money equal to the price of one kilo of wheat and one of barley for every pair of oxen in their possession, in order to create a capital for the new bank. The number of oxen would represent the scale of every holding, as they would exhibit the proportion of ploughs required upon the farm, and thus yield an approximate estimate of the area.
This arbitrary call upon the resources of the impoverished farmers was an eccentric financial operation in the ostensible cause of assistance, but it produced a capital of 169,028 piastres. The rate of interest upon loans to individuals, or for particular districts, for the purpose of destroying locusts was 8 per cent. previous to the year 1875, and was increased to 12 per cent. since that period. Receipts for all sums borrowed for the public benefit of locust destruction were signed by the head-men and members of councils of villages.
At first sight the establishment of an agricultural bank sounded propitious as a step in the right direction, but, according to the conditions of all loans, it became usurious, and saddled the unfortunate farmers after a few bad seasons with debts that could never be paid off. If X borrowed 1000 pounds, he received only 880 pounds, as the year's interest was deducted in advance, but he was afterwards charged compound interest at 12 per cent. upon the whole 1000 pounds. Compound interest at 12 per cent. means speedy ruin.
Upon an examination of the accounts, the whole affair represents apparently large figures in piastres, which when reduced to pounds sterling presents a miserable total that proves the failure of the enterprise. As I have already stated, a "bank" could not succeed in Cyprus if it were established specially to benefit the agriculturist; money can always command 10 per cent., while the farmer should obtain the loans necessary for irrigation at a maximum of 6 per cent. if he is really to be encouraged. This can only be accomplished through a Government or National Bank, expressly organised for the purpose of developing the agricultural interests. As the government can obtain any amount at 4 per cent., the National Bank could well afford to lend at 6, especially as the loan would be secured by a first mortgage, to take precedence of all other claims upon the property.
The "Locust Fund" was an admirable institution which has achieved great results. There can be little doubt that throughout the world's history man has exhibited a lamentable apathy in his passive submission to the depredations of the insect tribe, whereas by a system of organisation he would at the least have mitigated the scourge which has in many instances resulted in absolute famine. At one time the plague of locusts was annually expected in Cyprus as a natural advent like the arrival of swallows in the usual season, and when the swarms were extreme the crops were devoured throughout the island, and swept completely from the surface, entailing general ruin. The cultivation of cotton, which should be one of the most important industries, has been much restricted from the fear of locusts, as they appear in May, when the tender young plants are a few inches above the ground and are the first objects of attack.
It is related that when under the Venetians, Cyprus annually exported 30,000 bales or 6,600,000 lbs. of cotton. In 1877 the consular reports estimated the entire produce of the island at 2000 bales of 200 okes per bale, or 1,100,000 lbs., equal to only one-sixth of the original Venetian export.
The steps taken to destroy the locusts have so far diminished their numbers that in certain districts the production of cotton might be largely extended. M. Mattei, and Said Pacha when governor of Cyprus, combined to make war upon the locust swarms by means of a simple but effective method, which will render their names historical as the greatest benefactors in an island that has seldom known aught but oppressors.
The idea originated with Signor Richard Mattei, who is the largest landed proprietor in Cyprus. It is much to be regretted that professional entomologists can seldom assist us in the eradication of insect plagues; they can explain their habits, but they are useless as allies against their attacks. M. Mattei had observed that the young locusts invariably marched straight ahead, and turned neither to the right or left; he had also remarked that upon arrival at an obstacle they would endeavour to climb over, instead of going round it. Under these peculiarities of natural instinct a very simple arrangement sufficed to lead them to destruction. Pits were dug about three or four feet deep at right angles with the line of march, and screens of cotton cloth edged at the bottom with oil-skin were arranged something after the fashion of stop-nets for ground game in covert-shooting in England. This wall, with a slippery groundwork, prevented the insects from proceeding. As they never turn back, they were obliged to search sideways for a passage, and were thus led into the pits in millions, where they were destroyed by burying the masses beneath heaps of earth. If a few gallons of petroleum were sprinkled over them, and fire applied, much trouble would be saved. This is a crude method of insect destruction which could be improved upon, but great praise is due to the efforts of M. Richard Mattei and Said Pacha for having devoted their energies so successfully to the eradication of a scourge which proved its ancient importance from the Biblical registration of a curse upon the Egyptians.
There is a reward given by government for the destruction of locust eggs. Each female deposits two small cases or sheaths beneath the ground, containing thirty or forty eggs in each. The position is easily distinguished by a shining slimy substance. A certain sum per oke is given, and the people gladly avail themselves of the opportunity of earning money at the same time that they destroy the common enemy.
The British administration is keenly alive to the importance of this warfare, and I have frequently met commissioners of districts galloping in hot haste, as though in pursuit of a retreating enemy, towards some quarter where the appearance of locust swarms may have been reported, in order to take immediate measures for their destruction.
Unfortunately the locust is not the only enemy of cotton cultivation, but the (to my mind) abominable system of dimes, or tenths of produce to be valued while growing, restricts the cultivator to an inferior variety that will remain within the pod, instead of expanding when liberated by ripening.
The cultivation of cotton differs according to the many varieties of the plant. Pliny described the "wool-bearing trees of Ethiopia," and I have myself seen the indigenous cotton thriving in a wild state in those parts from whence they were first introduced to Egypt, during the reign of Mehemet Ali, grandfather of the Khedive. It is well known that although comparatively a recent article of cultivation in Egypt, it has become one of the most important exports from that country. Cotton of the first quality requires a peculiar combination of local conditions. Water must be at command whenever required during the various stages of cultivation; and perfectly dry weather must be assured when the crop is ripe and fit to gather. The collection extends over many days, as the pods do not burst at the same period. Some of the most valuable kinds detach easily from the expanded husk and fall quickly to the ground, which entails constant attention, and the quality would deteriorate unless labour is always at hand to gather the cotton before it shall fall naturally from the plant.
It will be therefore understood that, although many soils may be highly favourable to the growth of fine qualities of cotton, there is an absolute necessity for a combination of a peculiar climate, where neither rain nor dew shall moisten, and accordingly deteriorate the crop. Egypt is specially favoured for the production of first-class cotton, as in the upper portions of the Delta rain is seldom known; but the extreme carelessness of the people has reduced the average quality by mixing the seeds, instead of keeping the various classes rigidly separate.
The dry climate, combined with the fertile soil of Cyprus, would suggest a great extension of cotton cultivation, when artificial irrigation shall be generally developed, but so long as the present system of collecting the dimes is continued, the farmer cannot produce the higher qualities which require immediate attention in collecting. During the delay in waiting for the official valuer, the pods are bursting rapidly, and the valuable quality is falling to the ground; the cultivator is therefore confined to the growth of those inferior cottons that will adhere to the pods, and wait patiently for the arrival of the government authority.
Consul Hamilton Lang, in his interesting work upon Cyprus, suggests that the duty should be collected upon export, to relieve the farmer from the present difficulty, which would enable him to cultivate the American high qualities. It is almost amusing to contrast the criticisms and advice of the various British consuls who have for many years represented us in Cyprus with the ideas of modern officials. There can be no doubt concerning consular reports in black and white, and equally there can be no question of existing ordinances under the British administration; but what appeared highly unjust to our consuls when Cyprus was under Turkish rule, is accepted as perfectly equitable now that the island has passed into the hands of Great Britain.
For many years I have taken a peculiar interest in cotton cultivation, and in 1870 I introduced the excellent Egyptian variety, known as "galleen," into Central Africa, and planted it at Gondokoro, north latitude 4 degrees 54', with excellent results. In the first year this grew to the height of about seven feet, with a proportionate thickness of stem, and the spreading branches produced an abundant crop of a fine quality, which detached itself from the seeds, immediately reducing the operation of the cleaning-machine or "cotton-gin" to a minimum of labour. I have been much struck with the inferiority of Cyprian cotton; scarcely any of the crop finds its way to England, but is exported to Marseilles and Trieste. Should Consul Lang's suggestion be carried out, and the duty be taken upon export to relieve the grower from the vexatious delays of the inquisitor or government valuer, there can be no question of immediate improvement. There is no more trouble or expense in producing a first-class cotton than in the commonest variety, when climate and soil are so peculiarly favourable as in Cyprus. If the government continues the system of ad valorem taxation, common sense will suggest that the highest quality would alike be favourable to the revenue and to the cultivator; therefore, in the interests of the country and of individuals, every encouragement should be afforded to the farmers to ensure the best of all species of produce throughout the island. The excellent compilation of Captain Savile, officially and expressly printed for the service of the government, contains the following passages:—
"According to all accounts the taxation of the inhabitants of Cyprus has under Turkish administration been carried out in a most severe and oppressive manner, and the imposts upon certain articles of agriculture and commerce have been so heavy that their culture and export has in some cases been almost abandoned. . . .
"The cultivation of vines for the manufacture of wine has been so heavily and unjustly taxed, that a great part of the vineyards have of late years been turned to other and more profitable purposes, or else have been abandoned, and consequently a branch of agriculture for which the island is especially suited and a remunerative article of commerce is neglected and allowed to decline. An extensive development of vineyards and manufacture of wine should be encouraged, and with this object it has been suggested that it might be wise to free this production from all except export duty.
"Allusion has already been made to the injurious effect of the collection of the tithe (dimes) upon cotton at the time when the crop is gathered, instead of at the time of shipment, and it has been explained how the former method prevents the farmers from growing the best and most remunerative varieties of the plant; this is a matter that requires the attention of the authorities when the re-adjustment of the taxes is considered."
Captain Savile's useful book is an echo of consular statements and reports written in England for government information without any personal experience of the island; but from my own investigations I can thoroughly endorse the views expressed, and I only regret that the miserable conditions of our occupation have rendered such necessary reforms most difficult, as the poverty of the present government of Cyprus cannot afford to run the risk of experimental lessons in taxation.
When criticising and condemning existing evils, it must be distinctly understood that I do not presume to attach blame to individual authorities of the local government: I denounce the arbitrary and oppressive system of TURKISH rules, which, although in some instances mitigated by our administration, still remain in force, and are the results of the conditions that were accepted when England resolved upon this anomalous occupation. I have to describe Cyprus as I saw it in 1879, and in this work I endeavour to introduce the public to the true aspect of the situation "as I saw it;" other people have an equal right with myself to their own opinions upon various subjects, but, should we differ upon certain questions, we shall at least be unanimous in praise of the extreme devotion to a most difficult task in a contradictory position, exhibited not only by the governor, and commissioners of districts, but by all British officers entrusted with authority. If Cyprus were free from the fetters of the Turkish Convention, and the revenue should be available for the necessary improvements, with commercial and agricultural reforms, the same energy now bestowed by the governor and other officials would rapidly expand the resources of the island. We are prone to expect too much, and must remember that at the time I write, only twelve months have elapsed since the day of the British military occupation. No officers understood either the language, or laws, of the people they had to govern; they were for the most part specially educated for the military profession, and they were suddenly plunged into official positions where agricultural, legal, commercial, and engineering difficulties absorbed their entire attention, all of which had to be comprehended through the medium of an interpreter. It is rare that the most favoured individual combines such general knowledge; Turks and Greeks, antagonistic races, were to lie down contented like the lion and the lamb under the blessing of a British rule: all animosities were to be forgotten. The religion of Mussulmans would remain inviolate, and the Greek Church would hold its former independence: freedom and equality were to be assured when the English flag replaced the Crescent and Star upon the red ensign beneath which Cyprus had withered as before a flame; the resources of the country were to awaken as from a long sleep, and the world should witness the marvellous change between Cyprus when under Turks, and when transferred to Englishmen. "Look upon that picture, and on this!" The officers of our army were the magicians to effect this transformation, not only strangers to the climate, language, laws, customs, people, but without MONEY: as the island had been robbed of revenue by the conditions of the Turkish Convention.
In spite of the many abuses which still exist, and which demand reform, there could not be a more tangible proof of the general efficiency of the officers of our army than the picture of Cyprus after the first year's occupation. Although the government has been severely pinched for means, and a season of cruel drought has smitten the agriculturists; with commerce languishing through the uncertainty of our tenure, the Cyprian population of all creeds and classes have already learned to trust in the honour and unflinching integrity of British rulers, which ensures them justice and has relieved them from their former oppressors.
THE DISTRICT OF LIMASOL AND LANDOWNERS.
The port of Limasol will eventually become the chief commercial centre of Cyprus, and in the depression of 1879 caused by drought and general uncertainty it formed a favourable exception to the general rule. It may be interesting to examine the position of the revenue during the years inclusive from 1875 to 1878.
Year. Revenue. Expenditure. Balance. Piastres. Piastres. Piastres. 1875 964,839 164,663 800,176 1876 819,139 172,472 646,667 1877 1,340,643 169,506 1,171,137 1878 1,553,363 161,594 1,391,769
The exports from Limasol have been largely in excess of imports:—
Year Exports Year Imports
1875 77,022 1875 47,325 1876 59,895 1876 50,920 1877 93,805 1877 41,920 1878 101,457 1878 99,714
The principal articles of export from Limasol are wine and caroubs, and the general production of these items has been as follows:—
Year. Okes. Year. Tons.
1875 Wine 4,811,732 1875 Caroubs 8,690 1876 " 3,710,884 1876 " 6,080 1877 " 2,208,617 1877 " 6,520 1878 " 5,795,109 1878 " 4,345
The different descriptions of wine and spirits produced in the Limasol district during the last four years are as follows, values in okes:—
Year. Raki or —————————-Wine.————————— native brandy Commanderiea. Red Wine. Black Wine. 1875 467,711 173,946 85,008 4,056,067 1876 251,298 87,585 56,434 2,815,567 1877 181,269 45,522 38,563 1,943,290 1878 378,694 180,103 133,555 5,102,757
In the year 1878 the goods exported from Limasol may be approximately represented by—
Cotton for Austria . . . . 10,000 okes valued at 500 pounds sterling. Wool for France c. . . . . 9,500 okes valued at 560 pounds. Rags for Italy . . . . . . 77,600 okes valued at 700 pounds. Sumach in leaf for Greece. . . . . 110,000 okes valued at 500 pounds. Black wine for Turkey. . . . 1,850,000 okes valued at 25,000 pounds. Commanderia for Austria . . . . 155,000 okes valued at 2,075 pounds. Caroubs for England, France, Russia, and Italy . . . . 10,000 tons valued at 33,000 pounds. Raisins for Austria, France, and Turkey . . . . 90,000 okes valued at 850 pounds. Skins for Greece . . . . . .9,800 okes valued at 1,025 pounds. Sundries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . valued at 11,000 pounds.
Total value of exports. . . . . . . . . . . . . 75,210 pounds sterling.
The tobacco produced in the districts of Limasol and Baffo and at Lefka, inclusive, is a mere trifle compared to the capabilities of the island:—
In 1875 the crop amounted to 1,395 okes. 1876 " 1,280 " 1877 " 857 " 1878 " 1,731 "
This is only worth enumeration as an example of the utter insignificance of the production, which should be an important item in the agricultural wealth of the island. The greater portion of the tobacco consumed in Cyprus is imported in bales from Salonica, and is consigned to manufacturers who divide and classify the leaves, which are cut, and formed into packets bearing the Custom House stamps, supplied upon purchase. Limasol alone imports about 20,000 okes, which are forwarded from Larnaca, where the duty is paid. No export duties of any description are levied upon goods from this island.
The direct benefit to the Cypriotes conferred by the British occupation was exhibited in the sudden rise of value both in real property and in labour. The rental of houses within the principal towns was trebled, and it would be difficult to establish an average price of land either in towns, or upon the outskirts, as the prices demanded have been in most instances fictitious, representing the desires of the seller, but in no way verifying the actual selling value. I have only heard of a few small plots that have changed hands at quadruple their former estimate, and as a rule there are few buyers during this period of uncertainty respecting the permanence of our occupation; but owners hold out in the hope of an ultimate decision in favour of British absolute possession. In the town of Limasol there has been a decided rise in the general value of property, which is due to the steady improvement of the trade, and does not represent a mere speculative impulse as in Larnaca, which has suffered by a subsequent reaction. The municipal receipts of Limasol have increased from 207 pounds sterling in the twelve months ending 30th September, 1878, to 1718 pounds in the ten months of 1879. This has certainly been due to the energy of Colonel Warren, R. A., the chief commissioner of the district, to whom I am indebted for all statistics connected with the locality.
The position of a district chief commissioner was by no means enviable in Cyprus. The pay was absurdly small, and he was obliged to institute reforms both for sanitary and municipal interests which necessitated an outlay, and increased the local taxation. The population had been led to expect a general diminution of imposts upon the suddenly-conceived British occupation, and the Cypriotes somewhat resembled the frogs in the fable when the new King Log arrived with a tremendous splash which created waves of hope upon the surface of the pool, but subsided into disappointment; they found that improvements cost money, and that British reforms, although they bestowed indirect benefits, were accompanied by a direct expenditure. The calm apathy of a Cypriote is not easily disturbed; he is generally tolerably sober, or if drunk, he is seldom the "WORSE for liquor," but rather the better, as his usual affectionate disposition may be slightly exaggerated, instead of becoming pugnacious and abusive like the inebriated Briton. There are no people more affectionate in their immediate domestic circle, or more generally courteous and gentle, than the Cypriotes, but like a good many English people, they have an aversion to increased taxation. Thus, although the British commissioners of districts vied with each other in a healthy ambition to exhibit a picture of paradise in their special localities, the people grumbled at the cost of cleanliness and health within their towns, and would have preferred the old time of manure-heaps and bad smells gratis to the new regime of civilisation for which they had to pay.
The Greek element is generally combustible, and before the first year of our occupation had expired various causes of discontent awakened Philhellenic aspirations; a society was organised under the name of the "Cypriote Fraternity," as a political centre from which emissaries would be employed for the formation of clubs in various districts with the object of inspiring the population with the noble desire of adding Cyprus to the future Greek kingdom. Corfu had been restored to Greece; why should not Cyprus be added to her crown? There would be sympathisers in the British Parliament, some of whom had already taken up the cause of the Greek clergy in their disputes with the local authorities, and the Greeks of the island had discovered that no matter what the merits of their case might be, they could always depend upon some members of the House of Commons as their advocates, against the existing government and their own countrymen. Under these favourable conditions for political agitation the "Cypriote Fraternity" has commenced its existence. I do not attach much importance to this early conceived movement, as Greeks, although patriotic, have too much shrewdness to sacrifice an immediate profit for a prospective shadow. The island belongs at this moment to the Sultan, and the English are simply tenants under stipulated conditions. Before Cyprus could belong to Greece it must be severed from the Ottoman Empire, and should England be sufficiently wayward to again present herself to the world as the spoiled child of fortune, and deliver over her new acquisition according to the well-remembered precedent of Corfu, the monetary value of all property in Cyprus would descend to zero, and the "Cypriote Fraternity," if householders or landowners, would raise the Greek standard over shattered fortunes.
The total of population within the entire district of Limasol in 1879 represented 23,530, comprising 12,159 males and 11,371 females, of all ages.
The following list is the official enumeration of animals and trees within the same province:—
Cattle. Mules. Horses. Donkeys. Pigs. Goats. Sheep. 6,006 1,812 1,129 4,026 2,138 19,896 11,790
Caroubs. Olives. Walnuts. 267,779 114,413 957
Natural pine and Cyprus forests, with oak, &c., not counted.
Cultivated land. Uncultivated land. 40,642 donums. 114,650 donums. 21,180 donums.
According to this official statistical representation the cultivated land would be in proportion to the population about five donums, or two and a half acres, per individual.
The question of ownership of lands will eventually perplex the government to a greater extent than many persons would imagine, and the difficulty attending the verification of titles will increase with every year's delay.
Before the British occupation, land was of little value, and an extreme looseness existed in the description of boundaries and landmarks. In the absence of fences the Cypriote can generally encroach upon any land adjoining his limit, should it belong to the state. Every season he can drive his plough a few paces further into his neighbour's holding, unless prevented, until by degrees he succeeds in acquiring a considerable accession. The state is the sufferer to an enormous extent by many years of systematic invasion. Forest land has been felled and cleared by burning, and the original site is now occupied by vineyards. The bribery and corruption that pervaded all classes of officials prior to the British occupation enabled an individual to silence the local authority, while he in many instances more than doubled his legal holding. The absence of defined boundaries has facilitated these encroachments. According to an official report this difficulty is dwelt upon most forcibly as requiring immediate investigation. The vague definition in title-deeds, which simply mentions the number of donums, affords no means of proving an unjust extension; such terms are used as "the woods bounded by a hill," or "the woods bounded by uncultivated land," and this indefinite form of expression leaves a margin of frontier that is practically without limit, unless the invader may be stopped by arriving within a yard of his nearest neighbour. My informant, Colonel Warren, R. A., chief commissioner of Limasol, assured me that some holders of land in his district, whose titles show an amount of ninety donums, lay claim to ten times the area. There is hardly a proprietor who does not occupy a ridiculous surplus when compared with his title-deeds, and the encroachments are even now proceeding.
This system of land-robbery was connived at by the officials for a "CONSIDERATION;" old title-deeds were exchanged for new on the application of the holder, and the seals of the venal authorities rendered them valid, at the same time that hundreds of acres were fraudulently transferred from the state. When the intention of a British occupation was made public, a general rush was made for obtaining an excess over the amount defined in the title-deeds, by the swindling method; and the extent to which this plunder was extended may be imagined from the fact that 40,000 such documents were awaiting the necessary signatures when, by the arrival of the British officials, the Turkish authority, who could not sign the deeds with sufficient expedition, was dismissed, and the false titles were invalidated.
The monasteries and the vacouf (Turkish religious lands) lay claim to lands of vast and undefined extent, which are mystified by titles and gifts for charitable purposes, surrounded with clouds of obscure usages and ancient rules that will afford a boundless field for litigation. In fact, the existing government has arrived at the unpleasant position of being excluded from the land, nearly all of which is claimed either by individuals or religious institutions.
The arrangement of this most serious question will stir up a nest of hornets. The equitable adjustment would demand a minute survey of the various districts, and a comparison of the holdings with the title deeds; but what then? It is already known that the holdings are in excess, and where is the legal remedy that can be practically applied? If the actual letter of the law shall be enforced, and each proprietor shall be compelled to disgorge his prey, there will be endless complications. In England, twenty-one years' uninterrupted possession, with occupation, constitutes a valid title. In Cyprus the extended holdings have in many instances been inherited, and have remained unquestioned as the acknowledged property of individuals, while in other cases they have been more recently acquired. The question will comprise every possible difficulty, and can only be determined by a special commission officially appointed for a local investigation throughout each separate district.
This will be a labour of years, and the innumerable intricacies and entanglements will test the patience and HONESTY of interpreters in a country where bribery has always opened a golden road for an escape from difficulty, while our own authorities are entirely ignorant of the native language. It is this lack of natural means of communication viva voce which increases the already awkward position of high officials: the power of speech belongs to the dragoman alone, and a great gulf exists between the English and the Cypriote, who represent the deaf and dumb in the absence of an interpreter. The old song "We have no money," is the now stereotyped response to all suggestions for district schools, but if we are to retain Cyprus, one of the most urgent necessities is the instruction of the people in English. It is not to be expected that any close affinity can exist between the governing class and the governed, in the darkness of two foreign tongues that require a third person for their enlightenment. In many cases secrecy may be of considerable importance, and the conversation should be confined to the principals, but the third person must invariably be present as interpreter, and unless he is a man of the highest integrity he will not lose an opportunity of turning his knowledge of state secrets to account for his own advantage. Throughout the Levant it is difficult to find men who combine the rare qualities necessary for a confidential dragoman; such a person would be invaluable, as he would represent all the cardinal virtues, at the same time that he must possess a natural aptitude for his profession, and a store of patience, with the most unruffled temper. The natives dread the interpreter, they know full well that one word misunderstood may alter the bearing of their case, and they believe that a little gold judiciously applied may exert a peculiar grammatical influence upon the parts of speech of the dragoman, which directly affects their interests. There are, no doubt, men of honour and great capability who occupy this important position, at the same time it is well known that many interpreters have been found guilty; the exceptions proving the rule, and exhibiting the extreme danger and general disadvantage in the ignorance of the native language. It cannot be expected that the English officials are to receive a miraculous gift of fiery tongues, and to address their temporary subjects in Turkish and in Greek; but it is highly important that without delay schools should be established throughout the island for the instruction of the young, who in two or three years will obtain a knowledge of English. Whenever the people shall understand our language, they will assimilate with our customs and ideas, and they will feel themselves a portion of our empire: but until then a void will exclude them from social intercourse with their English rulers, and they will naturally gravitate towards Greece, through the simple medium of a mother-tongue. Limasol must perforce of its geographical advantages become the capital of Cyprus. As I have already described, the port may be much improved. The neighbouring country is healthy, and well covered with trees; the landscape is pleasing, and the new road opens a direct communication with the mountain sanatorium. The most important exports of the island are produced within the district, and, as might be expected, the result of commercial enterprise is exhibited in the increased intelligence and activity of the Limasol inhabitants. It is highly to be desired that this favourable position should become the seat of government. Although the troops in 1879 are camped among the barren rocks beneath the pine-forests upon Mount Troodos, at an elevation of about 5800 feet above the sea, there is no necessity for a station at so extreme and inconvenient an altitude in north latitude 35 degrees. The general unhealthiness of the troops upon the first occupation of the island during the summer and autumn of 1878, determined the military authorities to arrange the new camp at the greatest altitude practicable with a regard to the supply of water, but the experience gained in 1879 proves that a permanent camp, or barracks, may be equally healthy at a lower and more convenient level. This fact would establish an additional advantage in the selection of Limasol for headquarters, as the troops would be in the immediate neighbourhood at all seasons. Colonel Warren, R.A., who had been the prime mover in all the improvements that had been made in Limasol since the British occupation, was promoted on 1st August to the position of chief of the staff under Sir Garnet Wolseley's able successor, Major-General Biddulph, C.B., R.A., and the district thus lost its leading spirit. In reforming abuses and promoting progress, Colonel Warren had not entirely escaped the usual fate of men who are in advance of their age. The unflinching determination to administer the laws without fear or favour to all classes had infringed upon the assumed immunities of the Greek Church, which had always received deferential consideration from the Turkish government, and although actually liable to taxation, the right had never been enforced. This is a curious contradiction to the vulgar belief in Mussulman intolerance and bigotry; the Greek Church not only enjoyed a perfect freedom under the Turks, but the bishops were assisted in obtaining a forced tribute from their flock by the presence of Turkish zaphtiehs (police), who accompanied them during their journeys through the diocese.
An interference with Church property or established rights is certain to create a buzzing of the ecclesiastical bees, who will swarm against the invader with every sting prepared for action. As the case was investigated by a special court of inquiry, and terminated, as might have been expected, completely in favour of Colonel Warren, it is not necessary to enter upon minute details; but, as the plaintiff was the Bishop of Citium, and this first public attack created a peculiar agitation that will probably be repeated, it may be interesting to examine the actual position of the Greek Church as it existed during the Turkish administration.
The Church in Cyprus is represented by an Archbishop and three Bishops as the acknowledged heads. The diocese of the former comprises Lefkosia, Famagousta, and the Carpas districts, while the three Bishoprics are those of Larnaca or Citium, Kyrenia, and Baffo.
The revenues of the Archbishop amount to about 2000 a year, and the necessary expenditure for staff, schools, &c., to 1500. The Bishopric of Baffo is the richest, with a revenue of about 1000; at the same time the outgoings are small, amounting to 300 a year for the payment of his staff, and one-fifth of the expenses of a public school.
The Bishopric of Larnaca or Citium is valued at about 900 a year, but the expenditure is confined to 200. That of Kyrenia is about the same as Citium. There is no possibility of determining an exact figure, as these revenues are dependent upon voluntary payments, which cannot be enforced by any statute; but there is a "Berat" (decree) which invites the local authorities to render the bishops assistance in the collection of their revenues, without the absolute enforcement of any payments. No amounts due to the bishops for either canonical, ecclesiastical, or alms (Zitia), can be recovered through a court of law. On the other hand, the all-powerful countenance afforded by the Turkish government represented by public functionaries (zaphtiehs), who accompanied the bishops during their diocesan visits upon a tour of collection, was a moral influence that succeeded in extorting the unwilling fees. In case of a defaulting village, it is said that a bishop has been known to suspend the functions of the priest until the necessary payments should be completed by his parishioners, who, thus temporarily cut off from all ghostly comfort, hastened to arrive at a pecuniary compromise.
The monasteries are an important institution throughout Cyprus, and there is a decided difference between the monks of these establishments and the general priesthood. The monks are supposed to devote their lives to charitable objects; they are not allowed to marry, and they have a superior education, as all can read and write. On the other hand, the priests are grossly ignorant, and it is computed that only a quarter of their number could even write their own names. These are allowed to marry one wife, but they cannot re-marry in the event of her decease; they are generally poor to a superlative degree, and are frequently obliged to work for hire like common labourers. Should a man desire to become a priest, it is only necessary that he should be recommended by the inhabitants of his village as a person of good reputation that would be suitable for the office: he is then ordained by the bishop upon payment of a fee of about one hundred piastres (or 150), and he is at once at liberty to enter upon his duties. These ordination fees are a temptation to the bishops to increase the number of priests to an unlimited extent, and the result is seen throughout Cyprus in a large and superfluous body of the most ignorant people, totally unfitted for their position.
The monasteries vary in their revenues, as they have derived their possessions at different periods from grants of land, or private gifts, or legacies. In like manner with the bishops, although they cannot legally compel the villagers to pay according to their demands, they assumed a power which by long sufferance had become recognised by the ignorant peasantry, who reluctantly acceded to their claims. I have myself witnessed an altercation between the monks and shepherds on the mountains upon a question of cheeses and goats, which the former claimed as annually due to the monastery; it appeared that prior to the British occupation they had been able by threats to extort this demand, but the shepherds had now determined to free themselves from all payments beyond those which the law compelled, and they resisted the priestly authority, before which they had hitherto remained as slaves. This spirit of independence that has been so quickly developed by the equity of British rule will probably extend, and may seriously interfere with the revenues of the Church, should the population determine to abide by their legal status and refuse the ordinary fees. It cannot be expected that either bishops, monks, or priests regard this change with satisfaction, and in their hearts they may sigh for the good old times of a Turkish administration, when the Greek Church of Cyprus was an imperium in imperio that could sway both the minds and purses of the multitude, untouched by laws or equity, and morally supported by the government.
The most important monastery in the island is that of Kykou; this is situated upon the mountains at an elevation of 3800 feet above the sea, and it comprises an establishment of sixty monks, with a gross revenue from various properties in different portions of the country estimated together with donations at about 5000 per annum. The monastery of Mahera estimates its revenue at 2000; that of Fameromeni at Nicosia, at 2000 without any expenditure, as the three monks, together with one servant, are paid by the extra incomes of the Church. There are many monasteries throughout the island, and all with the exception of Kykou and St. Andrea, at the eastern point of Cyprus, pay a certain portion of their revenue to the bishop of the diocese. The two monasteries I have excepted are perfectly independent of all ecclesiastical control in revenue and finance. Considerable caution will be necessary in arranging the land question with these numerous establishments, which have hitherto enjoyed a peculiar independence. Up to the present time the income of the bishops has been derived from the annual payments from monasteries, by the canonical tax paid by every church; from the alms (Zitia), which is a tax levied upon all crops; from the dish exposed for offerings in church while they officiate, and from various ordination fees and marriage licences. From the inquiries I made in various dependable quarters, the bishops are not generally beloved either by the monks, priests, or public; but this absence of appreciation may be due to the continual demands upon the funds of monasteries and the pockets of the peasantry, more than to any personal peculiarities of character. There are stories of neglect of duty and misappropriation of funds intended for charitable purposes, which I should decline to believe possible among ecclesiastics of such devout principles and high position. The Archbishop is much beloved, and is loudly praised by all classes of the inhabitants, to whom he owes his election as supreme head of the Church after the following manner:-
In the event of death, the vacant see of Cyprus is represented by the Bishop of Baffo, and the new archbishop must be elected by the people. The bishop occupies the position of president of an ecclesiastical council, to which representatives are sent from every district, charged with the votes of the inhabitants in favour of the archbishop. Upon his election, the approval and confirmation of his appointment must be obtained by an imperial decree before the archbishop can officiate. In the same manner every bishop is elected by the people of the district, and their representatives are sent to Nicosia, where the archbishop presides over his council, or court; but the new bishop must also be confirmed in his position by an imperial decree.
Should an archbishop be guilty of any crime, either civil or ecclesiastical, he may be deposed by the head of the Church at Constantinople, acting in conjunction with the Turkish government, at the request of the inhabitants of Cyprus.
Bishops may be deposed by the archbishop, who would in such a case assemble the Synod, composed of the heads of clergy in his presidency. Before this tribunal a bishop would be summoned to appear in case of an accusation, and the trial would take place in open court; the power of punishment or absolution remaining in the hands of the archbishop.
The Turkish government appears to have held a peculiar position in relation to the Greek Church in Cyprus, as, although acting in conjunction and in harmony with the customs of the inhabitants, it reserved the right of supreme authority in special cases; thus at various epochs the Turkish government deposed the Archbishops Chrissanthon and Panareton, hanged the Archbishop Kipriano, and banished the Archbishops Joachim and Damaskino.
From the universal complaints, there can be little doubt that the schools that should be established from funds specially invested for that purpose in the hands of certain monasteries, bishops, &c., are grossly neglected, and it has already been suggested that a commission should be instituted by the British authorities, under the presidency of the archbishop, for a rigid investigation of the resources of all monasteries and the ACTUAL revenue of bishoprics, together with the disbursement of all sums that should have been expended either for education or for charitable purposes.
The tithes exacted by the bishops from the peasantry add seriously to the imposts of ordinary taxation, and there is every probability of a reform being demanded by the inhabitants at the hands of the British administration. When under Turkish rule, the Greek Church enjoyed not only perfect freedom, but an immunity from taxation, as, although they were legally liable, the law was never enforced upon the clergy. The English government has determined upon the observance of all laws by all classes, and the Church has awakened to the fact that there is no exception.
"From the earliest times the Greek Church of Cyprus has enjoyed an especial degree of independence; in the reign of the Emperor Zeno, A.D. 473, exceptional privileges were conceded to the Archbishop of Cyprus, who, although he owns the supremacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople over the orthodox Greek Church, claims to be entirely independent of him as regards Church discipline; he wears purple, carries a gold-headed sceptre, has the title of Beatitude, signs in red as the Greek Emperors were wont to do, and uses a seal bearing a two-headed imperial eagle. It is said that these dignities were conferred in consequence of the fortunate discovery at Salamis of the body of St. Barnabas, with a copy of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which precious relic was sent to Constantinople, and in return the Emperor confirmed the Church of Cyprus in its absolute independence, and gave the archbishop the above privileges."* (*Savile's Cyprus, p. 142.)
St. Paul and St. Barnabas visited the island A.D. 45, and the conversion of Sergius Paulus, the proconsul at Paphos, by their preaching, was the first seed of Christianity implanted in Cyprus at the period when the inhabitants were steeped in heathenism; but some of the superstitions at present existing are hardly less degrading than pagan rites, and in the kissing of the Virgin's cave at Trooditissa for the purpose already described, we can trace an affinity with the ancient worship of Venus.
ON POLICE, FOOD, CLIMATE, &C.
The population of Cyprus is about 200,000, of which number more than three-fourths belong to the Greek Church; nevertheless the minority of Turks completely dominated prior to the British occupation. Although the Cypriote is, as I have described, courteous, gentle, and affectionate in his domestic circle, he is at the same time cunning and addicted to petty larceny, and in all your dealings with these apparently easy-going people you must exercise the same acuteness that is so absolutely necessary in England. There are few great crimes in proportion to the population, nor do we ever hear of such atrocities as those classes of murders which so frequently blacken the page of our modern history. Homicide is more common than actual murder, and is often the result of a sudden quarrel where knives are drawn, and a fatal stab in passion constitutes the offence. Sheep-stealing is the prevalent crime, and is carried on with an amount of hardihood that can only be accounted for from the difficulty of proof. The flocks of goats, &c., roam over the wild and uninhabited area of the high mountains and frequently stray from the shepherd and are lost for two or three nights; by the time they are recovered a certain number may be missing, and it is hardly possible to discover the thief, as the animals have been driven to a great distance. Tracking would be out of the question over the rocky surface, where every small plot of naked soil is trodden into countless footmarks by the innumerable goats which browse upon the mountain slopes. At night the flocks are generally herded within a circle protected by a fence of thorny bushes; sometimes these folds are invaded by thieves during the darkness, and a considerable number are driven off. As the locality would be generally distant from the principal town, and the shepherd cannot forsake his flock for several days to prosecute, the thieves frequently escape, and this immunity encourages them to further depredations. During my residence within the precincts of the monastery, the fold upon the hill within a quarter of a mile of the establishment was thus robbed, and the thieves were never discovered.
The police or zaphtiehs are generally too far from these wild localities to be of any service, and they are at present too few for the proper supervision of the island. A plan is I believe in contemplation to extend this body upon a scale that will render the force efficient as a gendarmerie, which would to a considerable degree relieve the necessity for a permanent European military force. There can be no better soldier than the Turk under British officers. The Christians in Cyprus have an objection to this service, and there is no reason why a military force to combine the duties of police should not be organised, that would be thoroughly acclimatised, and would at the same time be maintained for less than half the expense of English troops. There is nothing to fear from the Turkish population in Cyprus, and they would willingly enlist in our service, and could always be depended upon in case of necessity. The force already organised is an admirable nucleus, and could be rapidly increased; each man finds his own horse and receives two shillings a day inclusive; his clothes and arms being provided by the government. For service in the trying climate of Cyprus the Turk is pre-eminent. I do not see any need for the presence of British troops in this island. The fortresses are all dismantled, the natives are peaceful, and the extremely low price of wine and spirits is terribly adverse to the sanitary condition of the English soldier. The staunch sobriety of the Turk, his extreme hardihood, which enables him to endure great fatigue upon the most simple fare, and his amenity to discipline, together with an instinctive knowledge of arms and a natural capacity for a military profession, render him a valuable material for our requirements in organising a defensive force in Cyprus. Should it be determined that a certain number of British troops shall be retained, they can be spared unnecessary exposure, and retire to the mountain sanatorium during the summer months.
The wages of both artisans and ordinary labourers have risen considerably since the British occupation, as might have been expected. Skilled masons and carpenters can now command from 3 shillings 6 pence to 5 shillings per diem, who formerly could earn a maximum of 3 shillings. Ordinary masons for building walls can even now be obtained for 2 shillings 6 pence and 3 shillings, and agricultural labourers receive 1 shilling. It is probable that should extensive government improvements be undertaken, or large contracts be made by private individuals for public works, the rate will rise from one shilling to eighteen pence, as the demand for labour shall increase. Should schools be established and education become general throughout the island, the result will probably be exhibited by a corresponding advance in wages, as individuals will estimate their value at a higher rate. At present there is no organised system of education for the peasantry, and the few schools are confined to Nicosia, Larnaca, Limasol, Baffo, and Morphu, all of which are supported by original grants, voluntary contributions, the payments of pupils, and by certain sums annually provided by the bishops and monasteries.
The rate of wages should in all countries bear a just proportion to the price of food, and should the habits of the Cypriotes remain unchanged, and their diet retain its simple character, there is no reason to anticipate a rate that would eventually exceed 10 shillings or 11 shillings a week. If we determine upon low wages, we must keep down the price of food. The Turkish administration had peculiar municipal laws upon this subject which are still in force in some localities, but have been abrogated in Limasol. I have already mentioned that the price of meat was fixed at a certain sum per oke, so that good and bad sold at the same figure, and resulted in the inferior qualities being sent to market, while the best never appeared. Fish, fruits, and vegetables were rated in the same manner, and the municipal authorities ruled, and fixed a standard price for everything; good and bad all shared alike. By this extraordinary legislation, which to the English mind is inconceivable, the finest cauliflowers and the most common varieties would sell exactly at the same price; no matter what the quality of vegetables might be, all were reduced to the same level. Fish was simply fish. The best varieties and the most inferior were included in the same despotic law. Salmon and stickleback, turbot and sprat, herrings and soles, would (had they existed) have been sold at so much a pound independent of their qualities. The result was that if your servant went to market to buy a fine species of fish, the seller insisted upon his taking a due proportion of inferior trash that was hardly eatable. "All was fish that came to the net;" little and big, good and bad, fetched the same price.
Such a system would ensure the worst of everything; what gardener would devote his energies to producing fine varieties, if a common field cabbage would rival his choicest specimens at the same price, but at a minimum of labour?
It was evident that the lowest class of vegetables would represent the garden produce, as this absurd rule was a premium for indolence, whereas free competition, that would have assured high prices to the best qualities, would have stimulated the cultivators in their productions. This argument was so indisputable that the chief commissioner (Colonel Warren, R.A.) determined at all hazards to introduce free markets into Limasol; and although opposed to the conservative ideas of his municipal council, he carried out his views of a healthy competition and free and unrestricted trade, which would awaken the Cypriotes to the fact that labour properly directed would ensure the best qualities, that would benefit the producer by securing the best prices.
Self-evident facts in an English community may be utterly misconstrued in Cyprus. The Cypriote has never been accustomed to unrestricted freedom, but like his own ox in the plough, he requires a certain amount of control, and his energies must be directed by a driver or ruler. When the vegetables were assured of a certain fixed price per oke regulated by the authorities, he knew that he would obtain that amount for his produce whether good or bad; accordingly he brought his goods to market. But, when he found that his inferior vegetables would remain unsold, or would realise a mere trifle should a competitor's stall present a superior show, he withdrew altogether from the market, which at length became deserted; and the few who maintained their positions advanced their prices to such an exorbitant degree that vegetables became a luxury in which none could indulge but the rich. The fishermen profited by the reform and only caught sufficient for the minimum demand, but at the same time that they reduced their own labour and consequently the supply of fish, they also took advantage of the new law of free trade, and advanced their prices in extortionate proportion. Instead of the self-evident prosperity that would benefit all classes, the sudden liberty to which the Cypriote was unaccustomed acted diametrically against all English expectations, and for the time ruined the market. This was told me by Colonel Warren himself, and the failure of the apparently wholesome reform is suggestive of the danger that may result in the too sudden enfranchisement of those races which from a long series of oppression are unfit for perfect liberty.
At the same time there can be no doubt that the vexatious and arbitrary systems of taxation pursued in collecting the "dimes" has prevented the extension of market gardens, and were this tax remitted, I cannot imagine any more lucrative occupation than the growth of vegetables of the best quality for the FREE markets of the principal towns.
Some encouragement is necessary in promoting exhibitions, or horticultural shows, accompanied by substantial prizes, in various localities; and I should not be dismayed by the failure of the first well-meant attempt at reform in Limasol.
When I was at Limasol in May the price of cauliflowers was 2 pence the oke (2.75 lbs). Fish was dear at 2 shillings the oke; mutton 8 pence the oke. Beef is seldom eaten by the Cypriotes; potatoes are good, and are usually 1 penny the lb. Flour, best, 8 pence the oke. If a sheep should be purchased alive, and be killed for home consumption, the mutton should not exceed 3 pence per lb. for the best quality, leaving the skin, head, &c., as profit.
There are two varieties of sheep; the fat-tailed species supplies the best mutton, but the wool of both is coarse, and is exported to Trieste and Marseilles to the amount of about 400,000 lbs. annually. A large trade in lamb skins is a necessary result of the slaughter of a considerable proportion of lambs every winter and spring, owing to the usual scarcity of pasturage, which limits the increase of the flocks. The entire yield of skins is absorbed by Trieste and Marseilles.
A sheep in good condition of the fat-tailed species weighs when dressed, without the head, 16 okes, or 44 lbs. Fowls in the country can generally be purchased for 1 shilling each, but they are double that price in the market-towns. Turkeys fetch about 4 or 5 shillings each; pigeons 6 pence; fish is about 2 shillings the oke, or 8 pence the lb.; milk about 4 pence a quart; eggs from 24 to 30 for one shilling.
The grapes are the best fruit in Cyprus; these are really good, and in some instances would compare favourably with the hot-house produce of England. The best varieties can be purchased at the vineyards for less than 1 penny the lb. The above prices prove that the expense of necessaries is moderate, and the actual cost of existence low, but the want of good servants is a serious disadvantage.
At some future time Cyprus will become the resort of delicate persons to escape the winter and spring of England, as the climate of the southern portion of the island is most enjoyable during the cool season. In the neighbourhood of Limasol there are many excellent sites for building, in picturesque spots within two or three miles of the town. At present there is no adequate comfort for invalids, and the hotels are hardly adapted for persons who are accustomed to luxury. The commencement is attended with risk, and it would be dangerous under the existing conditions of the island to build and furnish an hotel with grounds and gardens sufficiently attractive for English visitors. There is no direct communication from England, which effectually debars Cyprus from an influx of travellers. It is necessary to land at Alexandria either from Marseilles or Brindisi, and thence to re-ship in small and uncomfortable steamers, which are by no means suitable for ladies or invalids. The extra expense, and above all the trouble and delay of landing in Egypt and again embarking, together with the cost of hotel charges at Alexandria, are quite sufficient to deter strangers from visiting Cyprus. The first necessary step will be the establishment of direct communication from Marseilles and Brindisi, or from Trieste. In that case, a commencement might be made by a small company of friends who determine to visit Cyprus annually, and to arrange an hotel upon some favourable site near Limasol, which they will themselves occupy, and which can be extended according to future requirements. English people are somewhat like sheep in following each other, and a quiet beginning in this simple but convenient form would quickly develop, and Cyprus would be linked with the beaten paths of tourists. The neighbourhood of Kyrenia is the most beautiful, but during winter it is exposed to severe north winds from the snowy mountains.
So much has been written and spoken against the climate of Cyprus that an unprejudiced account may be acceptable. There are serious disadvantages to those who by their official position are obliged to remain in the low country during the summer months, where the extreme heat must always be prejudicial to the health of Europeans. From the middle of October to May the climate is most agreeable, but the five intervening months should be passed at higher altitudes, which, as I have already described, afford a variety of climates.
Neither Lady Baker nor myself or servants had any climatic ailment throughout our journeys in every portion of the island. A horsekeeper had fever while at Famagousta, but he was a native who had suffered previously, and the fit was a return of chronic ague; my own people never required a dose of medicine although we were living in tents through winter and summer.
The water is generally wholesome, therefore dysentery and bowel complaints are rare; CONSUMPTION IS UNKNOWN; and pulmonary affections are uncommon. Fevers, including those of a typhoid character, and ague from malaria, are the usual types; outbreaks of small-pox have been reduced by general vaccination. The improvement in sanitary regulations will no doubt diminish the occurrence of typhoid fevers, which even now are rare considering the filth of the villages and the generally dirty habits of the population.
Hydrophobia among dogs is very rare, and distemper among puppies is unknown. Pigs are the general scavengers in the Cypriote villages, and the flesh of these filthy feeders is much esteemed by the Christian inhabitants during the winter months. In the monasteries, which, from their great altitude among the mountains, are occasionally snowed up and excluded from communication, a winter supply of stores is laid up during the autumn. The pigs and the fattest goats are killed, and salted in a most peculiar manner. Without removing a bone, the animal is split from the neck along the abdomen throughout, and it is laid completely open like a smoked haddock. Every joint is most carefully dislocated, even to the shoulder-blade bones, and remains in its place. The flesh is neatly detached from every bone, and in this form the carcase is salted, and stretched out in the sun to dry. When prepared it resembles a shield, as it remains perfectly flat, the back presenting a smooth surface, while the inside represents a beautiful specimen of comparative anatomy, every joint dislocated, but secured by the original integument to the socket, and every bone cleanly detached, but undisturbed from its original position. The dried body looks like a surgical preparation carefully arranged for an explanatory lecture.
The common and low quality of food of the lower classes, and especially of the agricultural population, must induce a want of stamina which is unable to resist the fever in malarious districts, and this results in chronic disease of the spleen. I have already described the general protuberance of the abdomen among the children throughout the Messaria and the Carpas districts, all of whom are more or less affected by splenetic diseases. On the mountains a marked difference is observed, as throughout the numerous villages at high altitudes the children are as healthy as those of England, although poorly clad in the home-made cotton-stuffs of the country.
I have already remarked the absence of flannel or other woollen material worn next the skin; the natives prefer their own manufactures to those of Europe, and as they grow the cotton, which is spun and woven into cloth by their own women, there is no actual outlay of coin. Some of the native material is very superior in strength to the machine-made stuffs of Manchester, especially a blue stout cotton with a thin red line that is in general request both for men and women. The only woollen stuff that is manufactured in Cyprus is confined to Nicosia, where the dark brown and immensely thick capotes are made for the winter wear of the common people. A cart-driver during the halt in a winter night simply draws the hood over his head and face, and, wrapped in his long and impervious capote, he lays himself beneath his cart and goes to sleep. Coarse woollen saddle-cloths and bags are also made at Nicosia. The same locality is celebrated for manufactures of silk and gold embroidery, all of which is performed by the hands of women, while the printing of calicoes and the production of morocco leather are local industries confined to the labour of men.
No country is better adapted for silk culture than Cyprus, where the mulberry-tree grows in great luxuriance to the altitude of 5000 feet, and the warmth and dryness of the climate is highly favourable to the silkworm. There is no tax upon the mulberry, and should artificial irrigation be encouraged by the government, this tree should be generally planted throughout the Messaria and all other districts, and a special impulse should be directed to silk development. Formerly the production of silk was an important export to France, but of late years it has decreased to a mere bagatelle. In the spot where I am now writing there are numerous mulberries in a profusion of rich foliage sufficient for the production of two pounds of silk by each tree; but they are entirely neglected, and the same depression in the silk cultivation may be remarked throughout the island.
The numerous wild-flowers, together with the blossoms of oranges and lemons, are highly favourable to bees, of which there are several varieties; but there is no export of wax, which is used within the island for the manufacture of candles and tapers for the various churches. The Cyprian bee-hive is a contrivance which is extremely simple, at the same time that it possesses the great advantage of sparing the bees when the comb is to be saved. I see no reason why this primitive arrangement should not succeed in England, and thereby save countless swarms from destruction.
The hive is an earthenware cylinder about three feet six inches or four feet in length, by ten or twelve inches in diameter; this might be represented by a common chimney-pot. One end is securely stopped by a wad of straw, neatly made in a similar manner to the back of an archery target. This is smeared on the outside with clay so as to exclude the air. A similar wad is inserted at the other extremity, but this is provided with a small aperture or entrance for the bees. In a large apiary twenty or thirty of these rude pipes or cylinders are piled one upon the other in the same manner that draining tiles are heaped in England, and they are protected from the sun and rain by a shed, open only to the front. The bees learn to recognise their several hives without confusion, although the cylinders are exactly alike and closely packed together.
When the comb is fully developed and the honey should be secured, it is only necessary to open a hole in the back, by removing the wad, and to blow smoke through the aperture; the bees escape uninjured from their ordinary entrance. The operator, whose head and face are protected with the necessary veil, and his hands with gloves, now cuts out the honey required, leaving a certain quantity as food for the bees, who will return to their hive when re-adjusted.
When a swarm is captured, the bees are placed in an earthenware cylinder which has been rubbed in the inside with a mixture of honey and wine. The shed is a very important portion of the apiary, as it adds materially to the comfort of the bees by protecting them from the extremes of weather.
Although the cold of the winter seldom attains freezing-point, it is sufficiently uncomfortable when accompanied by rain, and all creatures that are expected to thrive require protection. The climate varies in different localities, but the following meteorological data, that were carefully registered by myself, accompanied by those kindly furnished me by Colonel White, 1st Royal Scots, when chief commissioner of Lefkosia, will afford a dependable basis for any medical opinion.
Thermometer in degrees F. Months. Inches Mean Mean Max. Min. Rainfall 8 AM 3 PM
February, in the plain of Messaria . . 0.80 46 57 68 37
March, in the Carpas district and ditto 1.71 49 60 68 45
April, in the Kyrenia district, the maximum at Morphu . . . . . . . . . . nil. 57 68 83 47
At 7 AM May, in Limasol to 11th inst do. . . . ditto. 64 78 84 76
do. Trooditissa, 4,340 ft. to 31st from 12th . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0.30 56.5 62 73 42
June, Trooditissa . . . . . . . . . . 1.13 66 71.6 78 54
July, do. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0.13 77.6 78 84 65
The fall of 1.13 inch of rain in June took place in one hour and a half, and none of the rain which fell at the mountain range extended to the low country. It will be seen that from 1st February to the end of May only 2.51 inches fell throughout the central and eastern divisions, and very little that was measured in the Carpas district reached the Messaria. There was a fall of about 1.70 inch in January at Larnaca which I had no opportunity of measuring, but inclusive of this quantity the total rainfall from 1st January to the end of summer would not have exceeded 4.21 inches in the lower country.
The month of July is shown to be the highest temperature at Trooditissa, but although the maximum of 84 and the mean at 3 P.M. of 78 degrees may appear high at the elevation of 4340 feet above the sea level, the extreme lightness and purity of the air so far modified the heat that it was never oppressive. The thermometer was suspended five feet from the ground against the trunk of the shady walnut-tree four feet from the tent wall, into which spot the sun never entered.
The water that issued from the rock by a stone spout beneath the arch showed a temperature of 55 degrees and never varied throughout the months of June, July, and August. When the thermometer was above 80 degrees this water fresh from the spout appeared icy cold in comparison.
Colonel White's observations at Lefkosia (Nicosia) for the month of July exhibit an extremely high range, the mean at 9 A.M. = 84.5 Fahr. degrees, and the mean at 9 P.M. = 83 degrees Fahr.; while the daily maximum attains the serious degree of a mean = 108.7 degrees Fahr., the highest point registered being 115 degrees Fahr. in the shade.
Such a temperature will destroy the health of Europeans, and the locality is not suitable for headquarters. The governor of the island might possibly escape to the mountain sanatorium, but the other officials will sicken in their various overheated offices.
The following is Colonel White's original register:-
METEOROLOGICAL REGISTER AT NICOSIA.
442 FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL.
Instruments:—Casella's maximum, minimum, and ordinary thermometers; Negretti and Zambra's large-size aneroid barometer ; 29 feet above ground, all under deep verandah, shaded from the sun, exposed to coolest wind, and 5 feet above the roof of the house. The readings taken carefully.
H. G. WHITE, Lieut.-Colonel Royal Scots, Commissioner, Nicosia. 4th August, 1879
In the foregoing chapters I have endeavoured to describe the present condition of Cyprus, exhibiting the actual resources of the island, together with the numerous disadvantages resulting from a peculiarity of climate, and the total neglect of all public works during the Ottoman rule of three centuries. It will be remarked that nothing of value exists beyond the agricultural productions, which are now precarious through the uncertainty of seasons; the metallic wealth has either been exhausted by the ancient miners, or it remains to be developed; the forests have been destroyed; the harbours have been clogged by silt; the communications are confined to pack animals in the general absence of roads and bridges. Yet, notwithstanding this neglected condition of the island, the revenue has yielded an average of about 200,000 pounds annually, or as nearly as possible one pound sterling per head of the entire population.
An increase of revenue can only result from a corresponding advance in material prosperity, which must depend upon an influx of capital that will develop the agricultural resources upon which Cyprus will mainly depend. There are some few collateral profits that may perhaps increase, such as the sponge fisheries, and a probable discovery of red coral by the employment of the helmet-diving apparatus. At present the condition of the sea-bottom is little known; the sponges, of an inferior-quality, are collected by dredging, and the boats pay a fixed sum for a licence according to the size and construction of the dredging apparatus, varying from 5 to 20 pounds per annum; this yields a small annual revenue of about 1600 pounds, which embraces the entire coast of Cyprus. By careful management the salt might exhibit an increase, but on the other hand, the wine, if relieved from the present extreme taxation, would for the first two or three years ensure a considerable reduction.
No increase of imports can be expected until the general advance of internal prosperity shall enable the population to extend their demand for foreign manufactures. We have seen that the peasantry are contented with the home-made cotton stuffs which they produce without an expenditure of money; and the habits of the agricultural classes are simple, and independent of external aid. It will require many years before the customs of the Cypriotes shall be changed by the intercourse with strangers, and the increase of their wealth, commencing from the zero of poverty, must be the base of future expectations. We generally remark in the advancing desires of communities that women exert a powerful influence in the development of manufactures. The wholesome, and to a certain extent civilising, attention to personal appearance, creates a demand for articles of dress and other little vanities which encourage trade, and by degrees the improvement in every household expands into a new birth of external relations with foreign countries, which induces an increase of imports. The women of Cyprus are completely subjugated to their husbands, and although exempt from the cruelty unfortunately so prevalent among a similar class in England, they are seldom indulged in the love of finery which in our own country is carried to an excess. The baggy trousers and the high hob-nailed boots of the Cyprian Venus will hardly excite the ambition of British manufacturers, and for many years the females will remain in their present position. There are already soap manufactories in the island, and the first groundwork for improvements in personal habits will be ensured by their extension, before the exterior fineries of more civilised communities shall be introduced. We may therefore omit the Cyprian female from the class that would benefit the island commercially, but she will perform her duty in a sensible and simple manner as a good housewife, and thereby assist in the prosperity of her husband the agriculturist. The more pains that we may bestow upon an examination of the resources of Cyprus, the more certain becomes the conclusion that the present and the future depend entirely upon agricultural development.
This fact is patent to all who can pretend to a knowledge of the island, and the question will naturally intrude, "Was Cyprus occupied for agricultural purposes?" Of course we know it was not: but on the other hand, if we acknowledge the truth, "that it was accepted as a strategical military point," it is highly desirable that the country should be self-supporting, instead of, like Malta and Gibraltar, mainly dependent upon external supplies.
If Cyprus belonged to England or any other Power, it would be a valuable acquisition. We have seen that under the Turkish administration it was a small mine of wealth, and remains in the same position to its recent masters.
We pay 96,000 pounds sterling per annum to the Turks, out of an assumed revenue of 170,000 pounds. Therefore, without any trouble or risk, the Turk is receiving 3.25 per cent. interest upon three millions. This establishes an unfortunate precedent in the valuation of the island should England eventually become a purchaser.
If Cyprus can, without undue taxation, afford a revenue of 170,000 pounds, it is palpable that a large margin would be available for those absolutely necessary public works—irrigation, the control of the Pedias river, road-making, harbour-works, bridges, extension of forests and guardians, and a host of minor improvements, such as district schools for the teaching of English, &c. &c. In fact, if we held Cyprus without purchase as a conquered country, such as Ceylon, Mauritius, or other of our colonies, it would occupy the extraordinary position of a colony that could advance and pay its way entirely by its own surplus revenue, without a public loan! This is a fact of great importance—that, in spite of the usual Turkish mal-administration, the island has no debt, but that England has acknowledged the success of the Turkish rule by paying 96,000 pounds per annum as the accepted surplus revenue of this misgoverned island!—which holds upon these data a better financial condition than any of our own colonies.
If the total gross revenue is 170,000 pounds a year, and we can afford to pay 96,000 pounds to the Porte, and at the same time allow the home government to boast in the House of Commons of "a surplus," Cyprus is one of the most lucrative positions, and the Turks can fairly claim a success instead of admitting the blame of mal-administration.
If the Turks by mismanagement can obtain a nett revenue of 96,000 pounds a year, how much should England obtain by good management?
The fact is that, as usual, the English government has been hoodwinked in their hasty bargain. The island can pay its way, and, if free from Turkey, would become most prosperous; but we have inherited an estate so heavily mortgaged by our foolish Convention, that the revenue is all absorbed in interest, which leaves nothing for the necessities of development. The commissioners of districts are over-worked and ill-paid, their allowance of interpreters is quite insufficient to secure the necessary check; and their position is incompatible with the importance of their official status. There is no money for any improvements, and the boasted surplus will just suffice for the payment of salaries and the absolutely necessary items of carrying on a government more in accordance with the position of Greece or Denmark than with the historical reputation of Great Britain.
This financial embarrassment has disappointed the expectations of the inhabitants, who naturally had anticipated brilliant advantages from the reform between Turkish and English administrations. My own opinion may be valueless, but it is shared by many; Cyprus should belong absolutely to England, or we should have nothing to do with it. I repeat the dictum expressed in the introduction; if England is the ally of Turkey and she can depend upon the integrity of that defensive alliance against Russia, there is no need for any station that incurs the obligations of Cyprus; all the Turkish ports would be open to our ships. The occupation of Cyprus would therefore suggest that a far-seeing government had doubted the integrity of Turkey, and had therefore determined to secure a pied-a-terre in a strategical position that would command the east of the Mediterranean. Upon this point opinions will again differ, and I quote the words of one of the most experienced statesmen and an ex-minister of the Upper House, who writes:—
"The objections to Cyprus as a military and naval station are shortly these. It will oblige us to establish a garrison, and therefore to increase and divide our forces in the Mediterranean. There must be barracks, hospitals, store-houses, &c. After all this expenditure Cyprus will weaken rather than strengthen our power.
"Famagousta may be made a good harbour; but how can it be defended? The ships will not be, as in Malta, defended by batteries projecting far beyond the anchorage; Famagousta will require ships of war to defend it, or batteries constructed on the breakwater—a most costly undertaking. As a coaling-station it is not wanted, because colliers accompanying the fleet are much more convenient. If, in short, we are supreme at sea, Cyprus is not wanted; if we are not supreme, Cyprus will be an incumbrance."
I acknowledge the force of a portion of the argument, and no one can more highly respect the distinguished authority I have quoted, who, as an ex-First Lord of the Admiralty of practical experience, must carry the great weight of his ability and position; but I would suggest that Famagousta is underrated. I have already described that powerful fortress, and in its present condition, if mounted with forty-ton guns upon the sea-face, I doubt the possibility of an attack from seaward. The natural reefs which form the sea-wall afford the greatest facilities for batteries a-fleur-d'eau, as their solid foundations require the simple levelling of cement, and a facing of steel plates would complete an impregnable line of casemates that would render the approach by sea impossible.
The advantages of attendant colliers is great as a continuous coal-supply to a fleet, especially during the blockade of an enemy's port; but for a cruising fleet, or for independent vessels, the speed of the colliers would be insufficient, and a line of coaling-stations, at intervals of five days' steaming is in my opinion highly important, in addition to the necessity of docks where ironclad vessels could obtain the necessary repairs after a naval engagement. It is a serious result of modern improvements that the cumbrous and complicated ironclads cannot be repaired in a few days after an action with the enemy by their own carpenters and crews, like the wooden vessels of old, but that docks must be within reach, and all the appliances of the engineers' yards and an arsenal. Without this advantage, Famagousta would be a useless acquisition, and Cyprus would be worthless as a strategical position.