In alluding to the capabilities of the province for the production of the vine, I might also have mentioned the olive and the mulberry, both of which would thrive. Of these the vine alone, however, has as yet occupied the attention of the agriculturalists; and though it is largely cultivated in the southern and western parts, not one-tenth part of the land adapted to it is thus employed.
The same obstacle which impedes the more extensive cultivation of tobacco, is also in a measure applicable to the manufacture of wine, at least as far as regards its quality. At present quantity is far more considered, and the result is that, in place of manufacturing really valuable wines, they poison both themselves and all who have the misfortune to partake of it. It is only fair to add that one description, which I tasted at Mostar, appeared to be sound, and gave promise of becoming drinkable after some months' keeping. The vine disease, which showed itself some years back, has now disappeared; and the crops, which during six or seven seasons deteriorated to an astonishing degree, have now reassumed their former healthy appearance.
The numerous hills which intersect the province might also be covered with olive groves, and it would be of great advantage to the country could the people be induced to follow the example of their Dalmatian neighbours, who have covered almost inaccessible points of their country with that useful tree.
The climate is well adapted to the nurture of the silkworm, and the mulberry-tree flourishes luxuriantly throughout the province: were these turned to account there can be little doubt that in a few years large quantities of silk might be exported. A few of the natives have reared worms successfully for several years, and the silk thus obtained has been employed for domestic purposes. The disease, which for so many years inflicted such serious loss on the silk producers of Europe, is unknown in the Herzegovina. Whether this immunity is to be attributed to the climate, or the nature of the leaf upon which the silkworm feeds, it is impossible to say, but it is none the less a veritable fact. Cotton might also be grown to a small extent, but the same drawbacks would apply here as elsewhere in Turkey, viz. the difficulty of obtaining, and the high price of labour.
This has been rapidly increasing during the last twelve years. In 1850, a mason or carpenter received five piastres or 10d. a day, while a common labourer obtained 6d. Now the former finds no difficulty in earning 2s. per diem, while the latter receives 1s. 4d. for short days, and 1s. 6d. for long days. The shorthandedness consequent upon the Christian rising, has of course contributed to this rise in wages; but the province was at no time self-supporting in this respect. A large number of scutors or labourers from Dalmatia cross the frontier in the spring, and hire themselves out during the summer months. The decrease in the number of these was, I am told, very perceptible during the Italian war, in consequence of the demand for recruits.
The other products of the country are wool, hides, skins, honey, and wax, which are exported to Austria. Large numbers of sheep and horned cattle are, moreover, annually exported to the Dalmatian markets.
The only manufactures of which I could find specimens were coarse woollen blankets, twist, and carpets. The blankets and carpets are mostly exported to Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Servia. Besides these, a kind of cotton cloth is made in the houses by the women, from imported cotton, and is applied solely to domestic uses, and is not regarded as an article of commerce.
In considering the question of the trade of the Herzegovina, the attention should be directed, not so much to what it actually is, as to what it might be under the fostering care of an enlightened government. And yet, it is not to the producing and consuming capabilities of the province itself that its possible importance in a commercial point of view is attributable, but rather to its position on the confines of the East and West, and to the fact of its containing within its limits the natural outlets for the trade of that portion of the Ottoman empire.
It is, in fact, in its relation to Bosnia, that it is entitled to most attention; and if we deplore that such natural resources as it possesses have not been more fully developed, we have still greater reason to lament that the world is thus debarred communication with the most romantic and beautiful province of European Turkey. It is also the natural route for the commerce of a portion of Servia, whose exports and imports would thus quickly pass to and from the sea. Its value, however, appears never to have been properly appreciated by the Turkish government, and Omer Pacha, in 1852, was the first employe of that power who ever appreciated its importance in a commercial point of view. He appears to have indicated the measures necessary for developing its resources, and for attracting the trade of the neighbouring provinces from their expensive and indirect channel into their legitimate route. The prospects of the province were rapidly brightening under his sagacious administration, when Austria took alarm, and effectually impeded all farther progress by closing the only port adapted for the transmission of its mercantile resources. She thus secures for herself a monopoly of trade, forcing the inhabitants of all the Turkish provinces, in that quarter, to purchase their imports at high prices from her, and to sell their produce to Austrian merchants, who, fearing no competition, themselves determine its price. The object of Austria in thus retarding the development of Bosnia is sufficiently obvious, since that which would be a gain to Turkey would be a loss to herself. And were events so to dispose themselves as to render this probable, she would doubtless find a pretext to justify a military occupation of the country. This she has done on several occasions, and the large force now massed upon the northern bank of the Save only awaits some national demonstration to effect an armed intervention. This is, however, trenching upon another subject, to which I may have hereafter to allude.
Approximate calculations of the trade of the Herzegovina show that the imports amount annually to about 150,000l., while the exports do not produce more than 70,000l. This comparison proves that a very large amount of specie must be extracted every year from the country, for which no material counterpoise exists, since the merchandise imported is to supply the wants of the people, and does not consequently tend to enrich the province. It follows therefore, naturally, that it is becoming daily more poverty-stricken, and in place of advancing with advancing civilisation, it is stagnating or even declining in prosperity.
These imports are computed to amount to about 70,000 horse-loads in quantity, while the transit trade to Bosnia is estimated at 50,000 more. Of these about 10,000 horse-loads are of salt from Dalmatia.
The main source whence these provinces are supplied is Trieste, where large depots exist, established expressly for this purpose. Thither the traders proceed once a year, to lay in a supply of goods for the ensuing twelve months. They purchase at credits varying from six to twelve months, paying high prices for a very indifferent class of goods. These consist for the most part of cotton and woollen manufactures, cotton twist, silks, iron in bars sheets and plates, tin, lead, brass, hardware, glass, sugar, coffee, and other colonial products. Gold lace, velvet, and silks are also imported from Bosna Serai, and silks and some kinds of cotton prints from Constantinople by way of Salonica and Serajevo. Like most semi-civilised nations, the people of Herzegovina are much addicted to showy colours in their dress. Those most in favour are scarlet, green, and blue; but the dyes soon fade, and the cloth is anything but durable. It is invariably of French or German manufacture; is of coarse quality, and is worn next the skin by the country people. In the towns, grey long cloths, dyed dark blue, constitute the principal article of clothing among the Christians, the general character of dress being the same throughout the province. The exports consist of sheep's wool, hides, sheep and goats' skins, furs, and wax, to Trieste; cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, tallow, and eels, to Dalmatia; woollen blankets, red and yellow leather prepared from sheep skins, carpets, tobacco, wine, and fruits, to the neighbouring Turkish provinces. Pipe-sticks are also sent from Bosna Serai, to Egypt, through the Herzegovina, while knives, manufactured at Foulcha from country-made steel, are also sent in considerable quantities to Egypt. All imports and exports pay a duty of three per cent. on their value, and until recently produce exported to the neighbouring Turkish provinces paid the unreasonable duty of ten per cent. This grievous impediment to commerce has, thanks to the efforts of the European Consuls, been abolished, and they now pay the same duty as exports to other countries.
It may be noted, as a symptom of the centralising policy which the Porte is adopting, that the government now farms the customs of these provinces, in place of selling the right of doing so to the highest bidder, as was formerly the case.
Having thus contrasted the actual with the possible condition of the province, we cannot but enquire the causes which lead thereto; and it is impossible to disguise from ourselves, that to mal-administration is primarily attributable this deplorable state of things. Add to this the total absence of all means of internal communication, and we have quite sufficient to cripple the energies of a more industrious and energetic people than those with whom we are dealing. The first object of the government, then, should be to inspire the people with confidence in its good faith, and to induce them to believe that the results of their labour will not be seized by rapacious Pachas or exorbitant landowners; and, above all things, it is necessary that Turkish subjects, even if they are not accorded greater favours in their own country than those of other powers, should at least be placed upon a footing of equality, which is far from being the case at present.
It would appear that the government is really sincere in its intention of making roads through the country generally, and when this is done a new era may be anticipated. In the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, only one road has until very recently existed. It was made by Omer Pacha in 1851, and connects Bosna Serai with Brod, a town situated upon the southern bank of the Save. From Metcovich to Bosna Serai, which is the high road for the trade of the country, the line of route is but a path formed by the constant traffic, and, while always difficult to traverse, is in winter frequently closed altogether. It is indispensable that a central high road should be made, and no point could be more advantageously adopted as a base than the port of Klek, near which asphalte is found in large quantities.
Were a good trunk-road established, connecting that point with Bosna Serai, branch roads might soon be made throughout the province. The nature of the country is not such as would render the difficulty of doing this insuperable, and the rivers over which it would pass are already spanned by good and serviceable bridges, the relics of better days. That the expense attending it would soon be defrayed by the increased traffic is acknowledged by all, and we may therefore hope ere long to see the deficiency remedied.
Government—Mudirliks—Mulisarif—Cadi of Mostar—Medjlis—Its Constitution and Functions—Criminal and Commercial Tribunals—Revenue and Taxes—Virgu—Monayene-askereh—Customs—Tithes—Excise—Total Revenue—Police.
The Herzegovina is divided into fourteen districts or mudirliks, named as follows, viz.:—
Districts Chief Towns No. of Villages in each District Mostar Mostar 45 Duvno Duvno 25 Gliubinski 31 Stolatz Stolatz 22 Trebigne Trebigne 51 Niksich Niksich 28 Tashlijeh Tashlijeh 16 Priepolie 22 Chainitza Chainitza 14 Kolashin 56 Fochia Fochia Gasko Gasko 20 Nevresign Nevresign 14 Pogitel Pogitel 13 [I]Konitza 19
These districts, with the exception of Mostar (which is the seat of the Central Provincial Government), are under the supervision of a Mudir, who is assisted by a Council, a Cadi or Judge, and a Tax-collector. The province is governed by a Mutisarif named from Constantinople, who is subject in certain things to the Pacha of Bosnia. The Mudirs are appointed by the Mutisarif, subject to the approval of the government at Constantinople.
The Cadi of Mostar is a very important personage, and has all the district Cadis under his orders. He is an unsalaried officer, his remuneration consisting of the fees of office, and whatever else he can lay hands on.
The Medjlis, or Council for the province, was selected by Kiamil Effendi, the Turkish Commissioner in 1853, and vacancies have since been filled up by the votes of the majority of their number, subject to confirmation at Constantinople.
The Medjlis consists of about ten native Mussulmans, one Roman Catholic, and one Greek, so that the Christian interests are but indifferently represented.
Appeal can be made against its decision to the Medjlis Kebir at Bosna Serai.
All legal matters are arbitrated by the Medjlis since the abolition of the various tribunals, which were founded in 1857. One of these was for the trial of criminal causes. It consisted of a President, and six members, and another was a commercial tribunal for the settlement of petty commercial disputes. These have both fallen into abeyance; and, seeing that Christian evidence is not accepted in the civil causes, it is difficult to understand how the Christian population could ever have benefited, at any rate by the latter.
* * * * *
Revenues and taxes.—The revenue of the province is derived from the following sources, viz.—
Virgu (income tax).
Monayene-askereh, or the tax paid by the Christians in lieu of military service. It is, however, one of the grievances alleged by the Christians, who declare their willingness to serve; but as many Mussulmans would willingly pay the tax to be exempted from the chance of enlistment, the hardship applies to all parties.
Customs, tithes, excise.
The Virgu is a species of income tax, inasmuch as it is a rate levied ostensibly on the wealth of individuals; but, instead of being a per centage on the income, it has resolved itself into a mere capitation tax, and is ill-adapted, as such a tax must always be, to the relative wealth of individuals. A certain sum was arbitrarily fixed upon to be paid by the province. The government appears to have omitted to enquire whether the wealth of the country would enable it to pay so large a sum as that demanded. In 1853, the tax was divided into three portions, according to the numbers of each persuasion, and has been thus collected ever since.
In the same sweeping manner these sums have been equally apportioned to each household, poor and rich paying alike. Thus the Mussulmans, who possess nearly all the land in the province, and who are generally in affluent circumstances, but who form the smallest portion of the population, pay least. The Virgu has been unscrupulously levied, and has given rise to much discontent, more especially among the Latins, who are the poorest classes.
These complain bitterly, and harrowing stories are told of women, about to become mothers, being compelled to pay the tax on the chance of the infant being a male. Such things may have occurred some years ago, but the spirit of cruelty appears to have died out, or is at all events kept in the background by the Moslems of the present day.
The Monayene-askereh was first imposed when the people were relieved from the Haradj. It is levied on males from fourteen to seventy, and was found so grievous, that the Porte has seen fit to direct that only about one-half of the original amount shall be raised. This alleviation has existed during the last three years.
Customs.—These consist of a duty of three per cent. ad valorem on all imports and exports to and from foreign countries, as well as the same amount demanded under the form of transit dues for goods passing from one Turkish province to another. This has lately been reduced from 12 per cent. to its present rate.
The next source of revenue is the amount realised by the tithes. Since 1858 these have been farmed by the government, but previous to that year they were sold by auction, as in other provinces, to the highest bidder. The arrangement was complicated enough, for they underwent no less than four sales: 1st. In each district for the amount of the district. 2nd. At Mostar, where each district was again put up, and given to the person offering 10 per cent. above the price realised at the first sale. 3rd. At Bosna Serai for the entire province. And lastly at Constantinople,—the highest bidder in this fourfold sale becoming the farmer. This system exposed the tithe payers to much oppression, for it not uncommonly happened that the farmer found he had paid more for his purchase than he could legally claim from the people, so that, instead of 10 per cent., 15 or 20 per cent. could alone remunerate him; and this he found no difficulty in getting, as the government unfortunately bound itself to help him. None but the farmers of the tithes really knew what the produce was, so that any demand of theirs was considered by the government to be a bona fide claim, and was upheld.
The government was frequently cheated, and, further, defrauded of large sums of money, as in the case of Hadji Ali Pacha; but it is a question whether so much will be realised by the present system, since greater facilities exist for roguery on the part of the agriculturalists, to say nothing of the corruptness of its own officials.
The excise consists of a per centage on the sale of wine, spirits, shot, lead, earthenware, snuff, tobacco, and salt; of tolls on produce brought into the towns for sale; of fees for permission to distil, to roast and grind coffee, and to be a public weigher; also of a tax on taking animals to the grazing grounds,[J] and of licenses to fish for eels and leeches: these are caught plentifully in the plain of Gabella when flooded, and are of good quality.
* * * * *
Revenue.—The taxes of the province produce annually about 9,135,000 piastres, taking the piastre at 2d. English.
This sum may be divided as follows: viz.—
Piastres Virgu 1,700,000 Tithes 5,000,000 Monayene-askereh 1,285,000 Customs 600,000 Excise 550,000 ————- Total 9,135,000
The above shows that the province yields to the imperial treasury a yearly sum of about 79,000l. sterling, from a taxation of about 8s. per head on the population. The amount may appear small; but when it is considered that the taxes are not equitably levied, that the heaviest share falls upon the poorest inhabitants, and that a great part of the amount is in direct taxation, it cannot be considered light. The burden, too, weighs with undue severity upon the faithful subjects of the Porte, since they are compelled to pay the share which would fall upon those who have rebelled against the Turkish authority.
There is one branch of the public administration which eminently requires readjustment. This is the police force. Ill-paid and badly organised, it follows as a matter of course that it is inefficient to perform the duties required of it. It is divided into horse and foot, and is paid as follows per month:—
Horse Piastres Binbashee (or Chief Officer) 1,000 per month Uzbashee (or Captain) 600 " Tchonch (Corporal or Sergeant) 250 " Nefer (Private) 150 "
Foot Piastres Tchonch 100 per month Nefer 75 "
The Zaptiehs have frequently duties to perform which should only be intrusted to men of honesty and sagacity, and it is consequently of great importance to render the service attractive to trustworthy men. To effect this the pay, more especially in the lower grades, should be increased, and circumspection used in the selection of recruits. At present this is far from being the case, many men of notoriously bad character being employed, and these are driven to peculation and theft for the means of supporting life. The mounted portion find their own horses and forage, is very dear in many parts of the province.
[Footnote I: Many of the villages on the Montenegrin frontier no longer exist, having been fired by the insurgents.]
[Footnote J: These are principally on the western banks of the Narenta, outside Mostar.]
Omer Pacha—Survey of Montenegro—Mostar—Bazaars—Mosques—Schools—Old Tower—Escape of Prisoners—Roman Bridge—Capture by Venetians—Turkish Officers—Pacha's Palace—European Consulates—Clock-Tower—Emperor's Day—Warlike Preparations—Christian Volunteers—Orders to March.
During the week which intervened between my arrival and the removal of head-quarters to the seat of war, I had several interviews with Omer Pacha. On these occasions he showed much kindness of disposition, and took great trouble to explain to me the arrangements which he made for the prosecution of the war against Montenegro in 1852, and to describe the nature of campaigning in that province.
He expressed himself much pleased with a map of Montenegro which I had presented to him, drawn by Major Cox, R.E., British Commissioner for determining the new boundary line, but detected the absence of one or two traversable paths, the existence of which I found to be correct when I subsequently accompanied the army to those districts. The map, however, I may observe, is very superior, both in accuracy and minuteness of detail, to any other survey which has as yet appeared.
While awaiting the departure of the Generalissimo for the seat of war, to which he had kindly invited me to accompany him, I employed myself in wandering about those crooked byways, and studying the many phases of Turco-European humanity. That my impressions of the town were very favourable, I am not prepared to state; but I believe that in point of cleanliness it is superior to many. It is situated on both banks of the Narenta, in a gorge which opens out into two small plains, at its N. and S. extremities. The eastern and larger part is built on an acclivity, and contains the bazaar, government offices, and the houses of the traders and the richer inhabitants. The western part is occupied by the poorer classes, who are for the most part Catholics, and are employed in agricultural pursuits. The gardens, which supply the town with vegetables, are upon this side, and the soil is more fruitful, though marshy and feverish. On the eastern side it is healthy, sandy, and dry. The dwelling-houses are generally small and comfortless, indifferently built, and roofed with stone. As in India, they are always surrounded with a compound—for it cannot be called garden—which gives the town a rambling and extended appearance.
The shops are small and ill-supplied, and the streets narrow and tortuous, except the two main ones, which are tolerably broad, and run parallel to each other in a nearly straight course N. and S. They have raised footpaths, roughly constructed, and swarming with animal life, as is to be expected in the luxurious East. There are no fewer than thirty mosques in the town, whose minarets give it a beautiful and picturesque appearance, albeit that the buildings themselves are imperfect, and ungainly in architectural detail. The Mussulmans have a school in the town, where Turkish and Slavish are taught. Girls are, however, debarred this advantage, and indeed no institution of any kind exists throughout the province for their training or instruction. The result is that the female population is, if possible, in a lower state of degradation than the male. The religious and secular education of the Christians is as little considered as that of the Mussulmans. Thus the only place of worship which the Greeks possess is a small chapel on the outskirts, to which is attached a school for boys, which is attended by about two hundred children. Since Omer Pacha's arrival during the past year, a peal of bells has been placed in this chapel. The superstition which prevails amongst Turks, 'that bells drive away good spirits from the abodes of men,' renders this concession the more grateful, and it is only another proof that the Mussulmans of the present day are not so intolerant as they are represented. No restrictions, indeed, are placed upon religious ceremonies or public processions of any kind. With regard to church bells, I may add that their use has always been considered tantamount to a recognition of Christianity as the established religion of the place. In some towns, where Christians predominated, the concession had been made long before their introduction at Mostar.
The Roman Catholics have no church in Mostar. Service is performed at the Austrian Consulate, and also at a convent, about two miles distant, where the Bishop of Mostar resides. This circumstance has led to the concentration of the Catholic community in that neighbourhood. The Catholic school for boys adjoins the convent; it is, however, thinly attended, and but indifferently conducted.
The British Consulate being closed in consequence of the absence of the Vice-Consul, M. Zohrab, who was acting as temporary Consul at Bosna Serai, I took up my abode at a khan overlooking the river. The situation was pretty, and the house newly restored; but this did not deprive it of some relics of animal life, which somewhat disturb the equanimity of the new comer, but which he soon learns to regard with indifference. Descending the stairs, and passing through the stable, which is, as is usually the case, immediately beneath the lodging rooms, we must turn sharply to the right; and, after clambering up some rough and broken steps, we arrive at the main street, which runs for about a mile through the centre of the town, varied only by arched gateways placed at intervals along its course. Against the first of these a Turkish sentry indolently leans, if he be not seated on the kerbstone at the corner. Passing through this we come to a second gate, where the peaceful traveller, unconscious of offence, is angrily accosted. The meaning of all this is that he is requested to throw away and stamp upon his cigarette, the old tower on the left being used as a magazine. Round it a weak attempt at a place d'armes is apparent, Omer Pacha having ordered some of the neighbouring houses to be pulled down. Nor was this done before it was necessary, a fire having broken out a short time before in its vicinity. On that occasion the inhabitants destroyed a few houses, and imagined the fire to be extinguished. The wind rose, and it broke out again, taking the direction of the magazine. Upon this, the whole population took to the country, and the prisoners, who were located close by, escaped in the general confusion. Had it not been providentially extinguished, the place of Mostar would have known it no more. The prison is a plain white house, which does not look at all as if it had ever been the sort of place to have long defied the ingenuity of a Jack Sheppard, or even an accomplished London house-breaker of our own day.
The tower to which allusion has been made is built on the eastern side, and immediately above the beautiful bridge which spans the Narenta, and for which Mostar[K] has ever been famous. The Turks attribute its erection to Suleyman the Magnificent, but it was probably built by the Emperor Trajan or Adrian, since the very name of the town would imply the existence of a bridge in very early days. The Turkish inscriptions, which may be traced upon the abutments at the E. end of the bridge, probably refer to some subsequent repairs. At any rate too much reliance must not be placed in them, as the Turks have been frequently convicted of removing Roman inscriptions and substituting Turkish ones in their place. The beauty of the bridge itself is heightened by the glimpse to be obtained of the mosques and minarets of Mostar, washed by the turbid waters of the Narenta, and backed by the rugged hills which hem it in. 'It is of a single arch, 95 ft. 3 in. in span, and when the Narenta is low, about 70 feet from the water, or, to the top of the parapet, 76 feet.'[L]
There is a second tower at the extremity of the bridge on the left bank, which is said to be of more modern construction.
Mostar is not a fortified city, nor is it important in a strategical point of view. The only traces of defensive works which exist are portions of a crenellated wall of insignificant construction. This accounts for the ease with which the Venetians were enabled to take possession of and burn its suburbs by a sudden raid in 1717. 'The town was built,' says Luccari, 'in 1440, by Radigost, Major-Domo of Stefano Cosaccia;' but in asserting this, he overlooks the existence of the Roman road to Trebigne, which is very superior to anything built by either Slaves or Turks, and places its Roman origin beyond a doubt. Some suppose it to be the ancient Sarsenterum. That it was selected by the Turks as the capital of the province immediately after the conquest, and considerably enlarged, appears very probable, and the towers which flank the bridge were probably built at that period or a little earlier, though the eastern one is said to be raised upon a Roman basement.
Continuing our ramble we pass through another gate, and come to an uncomfortable looking hill. We have not to mount far, however, before we approach an archway, with two sentries, rather more alert than the others whom we have seen. Officers are passing backwards and forwards, looking fussy and important, as Turks always do when they get rid of their habitual apathy. In their small waisted coats a la Francaise, surmounted by the inevitable fez, they present a strange combination of the Eastern and Western soldier.
The house in the interior of the court-yard is the palace, usually occupied by the Mulisarif, but devoted, during his stay in these parts, to Omer Pacha, the Serdar Ekrem and Rumili Valessi, or Governor-General of European Turkey. In the vicinity of the palace may be seen the flagstaffs of the Prussian and Austrian Consulates, while that of Great Britain appears at no great distance, and in the rear of the clock-tower, which distinguishes Mostar from most other Turkish towns. Let us now return to the main street, which continues in unbroken monotony for something less than half a mile. If gifted with sufficient patience to continue our stroll out of the town, we come upon the principal burial-ground. On the E. high hills hem us in, while the tiny stream of the Narenta comes winding from the N.
During my stay at Mostar the town was enlivened by the occurrence of the Emperor Alexander's birthday, or the 'Emperor's day,' as it is called. In celebration of this auspicious event, the Russian Consul kept open house, everyone who could muster decent apparel being admitted. After the ceremony of blessing the Muscovite flag had been performed by the Greek Bishop, a select few sat down to a kind of breakfast, which did credit to the hospitality of his Imperial Majesty's representative. Thither I accompanied Omer Pacha, who was attended by a small suite. This was the only occasion on which I ever observed anything like display in the Turkish General. His gold-embroidered dress resembled that of a Marshal of France; his breast was literally covered with decorations, in the centre of which was the Grand Cross of the Bath, and he carried a magnificently-jewelled sword, the gift of the late Sultan, Abdul Medjid. He did not, however, remain long, and on emerging I could not help contrasting the festivities within with the signs of warlike preparation which jostled one at every turn, the first fruits, in great measure, of Russian imperial policy. Strings of ponies laden with forage, and provisions for the army on the frontier, passed continuously, and the streets presented a more than usually gay and variegated appearance. Omer Pacha was throughout indefatigable. Detachments of irregulars arrived daily, some of which were immediately pushed up to the scene of operations; others were retained at Mostar; but whether they went, or stayed behind, he inspected them alike, and was always received with marked enthusiasm. I must not omit to mention that amongst these reinforcements was a body of 1,000 Christians, who, however, were never sent to the frontier. Fine fellows they were, all armed with rifles of native construction. These arms of precision are mostly made in Bosnia, where there are two or three establishments for that purpose.
Thus the days wore on; and, having provided myself with horses, and such few things as are deemed indispensable for campaigning, I was delighted to receive a message from the Generalissimo, on the night of the 13th, intimating his intention of leaving Mostar at 8 (a la Franca) on the following morning.
But before I enter upon my personal experiences in the camp of the Osmanlis, I would fain give some account of the previous history of this agitated province; passing in brief review those causes which combined to foster a revolutionary spirit in the country, and dwelling more especially on the events of the last four years, during which that spirit has so culminated as to convince even the Porte of the necessity which exists for the immediate employment of coercive measures.
[Footnote K: Mostar, from 'Most Star' Old Bridge.]
[Footnote L: Sir G. Wilkinson.]
Bosnia—Turkish Invasion—Tuartko II. and Ostoya Christich—Cruel Death of Stephen Thomasovich—His Tomb—Queen Cattarina—Duchy of Santo Saba becomes a Roman Province—Despotism of Bosnian Kapetans—Janissaries—Fall of Sultan Selim and Bairaktar—Mahmoud—Jelaludin Pacha—Expedition against Montenegro—Death of Jelaludin—Ali Pacha—Revolted Provinces reconquered—Successes of Ibrahim Pacha—Destruction of Janissaries—Regular Troops organised—Hadji Mustapha—Abdurahim—Proclamation—Fall of Serayevo—Fresh rising—Serayevo taken by Rebels—Scodra Pacha—Peace of Adrianople—Hussein Kapetan—Outbreak of Rebellion—Cruelty of Grand Vizier—Ali Aga of Stolatz—Kara Mahmoud—Serayevo taken—War with Montenegro—Amnesty granted.
The history of Bosnia under the Roman empire is possessed of too little interest to call for any particular observation; but, considered as one of the most fertile and beautiful of the European provinces, overrun by the Moslem armies, it is well entitled to the mature consideration of all who take an interest in the important question now at issue, to wit, the fusion of the Eastern and Western worlds.
The immediate cause of the invasion of Bosnia by the Turks, was the dispute between Tuartko II. and Ostoya Christich for the throne of that country. The former called the Turks to his assistance; Ostoya, the Hungarians. A war between these two nations was the consequence, and the Turks gained considerable footing in Bosnia about 1415. Ostoya and Tuartko being both dead, Stephen Thomas Christich was elected King, and was obliged to promise an annual tribute of 25,000 ducats to Sultan Amurath II., thirteen years after which he was murdered by his illegitimate son, Stephen Thomasovich, who was crowned by a Papal legate in 1461, and submitted to the Turks. But having refused to pay the tribute due to the Porte, he was seized and flayed alive, by order of Sultan Mahomet, and at his death the kingdom of Bosnia was completely over-thrown.[M]
Previous to this, the Turks had frequently menaced the Bosnian kingdom, but it was not until June 14, 1463, that they actually invaded the country, to reduce Stephen to obedience. In vain did Mathias, King of Hungary, endeavour to stem the advancing torrent. The Turks carried all before them, until they besieged and took Yanitza, the then capital of the province, and with it the King and the entire garrison. Nor was this effected in fair fight, but through the treachery of Stephen's first minister, who opened the gates of the fortress by night, and so admitted the Turkish soldiers.
With more generosity than was usually shown by these Eastern barbarians, Mahomet agreed to leave the King in possession of his throne on condition of his paying an annual tax to the Porte. The payment of this, as I have said, was evaded by his successor, although the old national manuscripts do not even allow this apology for the barbarous treatment which he experienced at the hands of the Turks. These affirm that the King and all his troops, as well as the townspeople, were invited by Mahomet to hear the official ratification of the agreement. But, at a given signal, the Turkish soldiers, who had been in concealment, fell upon the helpless assemblage, and massacred them in cold blood, shutting up the King Stephen in a cage, where he subsequently died of despair; and thus ended the Bosnian kingdom. That his position was sufficiently hopeless to bring about this calamitous result, can scarcely be doubted; but unfortunately the tomb of Stephen still exists, which proves tolerably conclusively that his death was of a more speedy, if not of a more cruel, nature. An inscription is upon it to the effect, 'Here lies Stephen, King of Bosnia, without his kingdom, throne, and sceptre, and without his skin.' Of all the family of the unfortunate monarch, the only one who escaped was his Queen, Cattarina, who fled to Rome, where she lies buried in the Chapel of Santa Helena.
After the death of Stephen Thomasovich the Turks destroyed Michiaz. The nobles, driven from their estates, fled to Ragusa; and Stephen, 'Herzog' or Duke of Santo Saba, seeing that Turkish garrisons had occupied Popovo, Rogatiza, Triburio, Tzeruitza, and Kerka, became so alarmed, that he offered to pay increased tribute; when, his ministers refusing to consent to this arrangement, he was obliged to send to Ragusa for his eldest son Stephen, and give him up as a hostage to the Porte: he having afterwards abjured Christianity, received the name of Ahmet, married a daughter of Bajazet II., and was made a Vizier. The Kingdom of Bosnia and the Duchy of Santo Saba from that time became provinces of Turkey, the latter under the name of Herzegovina, which it still retains, and which it had received from the title of 'Herzog' or Duke, given by Tuartko to its first Governor.
The apostasy of the Bosnian nobles which occurred shortly after the Turkish conquest, may be regarded as the only event of importance which has since marked the history of these provinces. The deteriorating effects which have ever followed the adoption of Islamism are here conspicuously apparent; for in proportion as the country has sunk into insignificance, so the moral state of the people has fallen to a lower standard. Nor is this so much to be attributed to any particular vices inculcated by the Mahomedan creed, as to the necessary division of religious and political interests, and the undue monopoly of power by a small proportion of the inhabitants. That this power has been used without mercy or consideration must be acknowledged; but be it remembered that
'Their tyrants then Were still at least their countrymen,'
and that the iniquities perpetrated by the renegade Beys cannot be with justice laid to the charge of their Osmanli conquerors. It would, indeed, be strange had four hundred years of tyranny passed over this miserable land, without leaving a blight upon its children which no time will ever suffice to efface.
As years wore on, other and more important conquests absorbed the attention of the Mussulman rulers, and the rich pasture-lands of Bosnia, and the sterile rocks of Herzegovina, were alike left the undisputed property of the apostate natives of the soil. Thence arose a system of feudal bondage, to a certain extent akin to that recently existing in Russia, but unequalled in the annals of the world for the spirit of intolerance with which it was carried out. Countless are the tales of cruelty and savage wrong with which the old manuscripts of the country abound, and these are the more revolting, as perpetrated upon those of kindred origin, religion, and descent. The spirit of independence engendered by this system of feudality and unresisted oppression could only lead to one result—viz. the increase of local at the expense of the central authority. The increasing debility of the paternal government tended to strengthen the power of the provincial Magnates; and the Beys, the Spahis, and the Timariots, stars of lesser magnitude in their way, could not but be expected to adhere to the cause of the all-powerful Kapetans rather than to the transient power of a Vizier appointed by the Porte.
This last-named official, whose appointment was then, as now, acquired by successful intrigue or undisguised bribery, was never certain of long tenure of office, and invariably endeavoured by all the means in his power to remunerate himself while the opportunity should last.
The disregard entertained for life in those times, and the indifference manifested by the Ottoman government for this portion of the empire, often rendered it the safer policy for the Vizier to make common cause with the recusant Kapetans, who were too powerful to be subdued by force, and too wily to be entrapped by treachery or fraud.
But another and more self-subsistent power had taken deep root throughout the Ottoman dominions, and nowhere more than in those provinces which lie between the Save and the Adriatic. 'In Egypt,' says Ranke, 'there was the power of the Mameluke Beys revived immediately after the departure of the French; there was the protectorate of the Dere Beys in Asia Minor; the hereditary authority of the Albanian chieftains, the dignity of the Ayans in the principal towns, besides many other immunities—all of which seemed to find a bond of union and a centre in the powerful order of the Janissaries.' Of all the provinces of the empire Bosnia was perhaps the most deeply imbued with the spirit of this faction, the last memento of that ancient chivalry which had carried fire and sword over a great part of civilised Europe.
But to that same spirit of turbulent independence, the very germ of existence of the Janissaries, and so predominant among the natives of Bosnia, may in a great measure be attributed the successes of the Turkish arms in Europe in the campaign of 1828, an era fraught with danger to the whole Ottoman empire, dangers which the newly-organised battalions of the imperial army would have been unable to overcome but for the aid of the wild horsemen of the West. That the same spirit exists as did in bygone times I do not say; but whatever does yet remain of chivalrous endurance or reckless daring is to be found among the Mussulman, and not amongst the Christian, population.
Towards the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century, affairs assumed so critical an aspect that it became incumbent upon the central government to adopt some coercive measure. Sultan Selim was the first who endeavoured to suppress these turbulent spirits. He was unequal to the task, and fell a victim to their revengeful displeasure. 'Bairaktar, the hero of those times,' was equally unsuccessful, and the imperial authority bid fair to perish from the land; but in those days there arose one who, like our own Cromwell, moulded circumstances to his will, resolute of purpose, fearing and sparing none. But if Mahmoud was stern and inexorable to rebels, he is entitled to more praise than is usually accorded him, for the steadfastness of purpose with which he applied himself to the restoration of system and order, in the place of the chaos which he had himself brought about. And let us not omit to mention the dignified courage with which he prepared to meet the calamities which now crowded thick upon him. With the mere nucleus of a semi-organised army he held out for two years, both in Europe and Asia, without one ally, against the herculean efforts of Russia to overthrow his kingdom.
There are not wanting those who, besides stigmatising him as deceitful and cruel, cast in his teeth that he failed to carry out the schemes of reform, which they consider to have been visionary and unmeaning. But these, while commenting on what he left undone, forget how much he did, and how little aid he received from without. Well would it be for Turkey this day had either of his sons inherited the vigour, the perseverance, or even the honesty of old Mahmoud.
Since the accession of Mahmoud to the throne, Bosnia and Herzegovina have been the seat of perpetual, though intermittent, warfare. Short time did he allow to elapse before he gave unmistakable signs of his determination to effect a radical change in the state of these provinces. With this view he sent as Vizier Jelaludin Pacha thither, with orders to punish with extreme severity all who should show any signs of discontent. This man, who is said to have belonged to the sect of Bektashi, an order of Mahomedan monks, did not live like other Pachas. He neither kept a harem nor a court, and devoted himself exclusively to fulfilling the duties of his mission. To do this more effectually, he used to go about in disguise, visiting even the Christian places of worship, and thus obtaining a real knowledge of the feelings and wishes of the people. Now as he practised incorruptible, inexorable justice, his rule was as popular among the Rayahs as it was odious to the Bosnian nobles, against whose independence all his laws and measures were directed.
Having taken Mostar and Trebinitza by storm, he at length succeeded in subduing the whole country. Although nominally recalled, in deference to a petition preferred by the nobles of Bosnia, Jelaludin was in reality advanced to a more exalted position of confidence. To him was intrusted the conduct of an expedition against Montenegro, which failed; and little more is heard about him until 1821, when he died, as some think, by poison administered by his own hand.
In conformity with a preconceived plan of operations, an expedition was sent in 1820 against Ali Pacha, the most powerful of those who had ventured to throw off the Ottoman rule.
The operations were successful both by sea and land, and at first all appeared to be progressing satisfactorily. But the extraordinary fertility of resource which characterised the old man, saved him once more; and while the Suliots in his pay overran Epirus in 1821, he succeeded in rousing the whole Greek population to revolt. Although he himself fell during the outbreak, the disastrous results which he had succeeded in effecting lived long after him, not only in Greece, but in Bulgaria, Bosnia, and other parts of the Turkish empire.
The death of Jelaludin, and the revolutionary movement which had spread throughout the empire, led to the restoration of the old state of things in Bosnia. The powerful nobles once more resumed their sway, and the few supporters of the Sultan were compelled to fly the country.
The reconquest by the Porte of the revolted countries, and the mighty change which the iron hand of Mahmoud effected in the internal condition and administration of all parts of his empire, cannot be more forcibly described than in the words of Ranke. He says: 'We must recollect that the Sultan succeeded in extinguishing all these rebellions, one after another, as soon as he had put down the most formidable. We will not enquire by what means this was effected: enough to say, that he at last re-established his authority on the Danube, as in Epirus. Even the Morea seemed doomed to a renewal of the Moslem sway. Ibrahim Pacha landed there with the troops from Egypt in 1825. He annihilated rather than subjugated its population, and changed the country, as he himself said, into a desert waste; but at least he took possession of it, step by step, and everywhere set up the standard of the Sultan.'
Having been so far successful, the Sultan adopted a more comprehensive plan.
Mahomed Ali's successful enterprises served as his model from the first. Mahomed Ali led the way in Egypt by the annihilation of ancient privileges, and it was not until he had succeeded that Mahmoud resolved to pursue a similar course.
'A fearful rivalry in despotism and destruction then began between the two. They might be compared to the reapers in Homer, cutting down the corn in all directions. But the vassal had been long engaged in a process of innovation. In spite of the opposition of his Janissaries, he had accomplished his purpose of establishing regular regiments, clothed and disciplined after the European system.' The fact that it was these troops which, after so many fruitless attempts, at last conquered Greece, made a profound impression on the Sultan. He reverted to the ideas of Selim and Bairaktar, and the establishment of regular troops seemed to him the only salvation of his empire. Therefore, on May 28, 1826, in a solemn sitting of his Council of State, at which the Commissioner who had lately been in Ibrahim's camp was present, was pronounced the 'fetwah,' that, 'In order to defend God's word and counteract the superiority of the unbelievers, the Moslems, too, would submit to subordination, and learn military manoeuvres.' The subversion of ancient privileges, then, was the fundamental basis upon which his reforms rested, and to this the destruction of the Janissaries put the finishing touch.
If Mahmoud found difficulty in carrying out his plans at Stamboul, how much more hard must they have been to accomplish in the provinces; and of these, as I have before said, Bosnia was the most strongly imbued with a spirit of independent feudalism.
In Bosnia, therefore, as was anticipated, the greatest resistance to the innovation was experienced.
Upon the death of Jelaludin, Hadji Mustapha had been appointed Vizier, a man of small capacity, and little suited to those stormy times.
He, and the six commissioners who had been sent with him from Constantinople, were driven out, and compelled to take refuge in Servia, whence they returned to Constantinople.
Again the dominion of the Sultan in these provinces appeared to hang upon a slender thread; and indeed it was only saved by the sagacity of a single man.
Upon the ejection of Hadji Mustapha, Abdurahim, the Pacha of Belgrade, was appointed Vizier of Bosnia. Gifted with great penetration and ability for intrigue, he contrived to win over many of the native chieftains, while he worked upon the jealousy entertained by the Prince of Servia for the Bosnian nobles, and thus succeeded in raising a small army, with which he took the initiative in hostilities. Ranke tells us: 'He was fortunate enough to secure the assistance of the Kapetan Vidaitch of Svornik. Svornik is regarded as the key of Bosnia. It seems that the Agas of Serayevo had already conceived some suspicion of Vidaitch, for they were themselves about to take possession of the place. But Abdurahim anticipated them, and Vidaitch admitted him into the fortress.'
A paramount advantage was gained by this. Abdurahim now felt strong enough to speak in a decisive tone in the Bujurdi, in which he announced his arrival.
'I send you from afar,' he therein said, 'O Mahomedans of Bosnia, the greeting of the faith, and of brotherly union. I will not call to mind your folly: I come to open your eyes to the light. I bring you the most sacred commands of our most mighty Sultan, and expect you will obey them. In that case I have power to forgive you all your errors; choose now for yourselves. It rests with you to save or to lose your lives. Reflect maturely, that you may have no cause to repent.'
This proclamation, which may be regarded as a model of terseness and expressive earnestness, had a wonderful effect. Still Serayevo was not gained without a struggle, confined however principally to the citizens within its walls.
Upon gaining possession of the town, the new Vizier carried out to the letter the judgements which he had pronounced against the contumacious. All who were taken in arms were put to death without mercy, and it was not until he had taken a bloody vengeance on his enemies that he consented to make a triumphal entry into Serayevo.
During the feudal times, when the Sultan's authority was more nominal, the Vizier was only permitted to remain a few hours in the capital, whence he returned to his palace at Travnik; but Abdurahim deemed it necessary to establish the seat of government in that very town, which had ever been the focus of feudality and rebellion.
'Thus there was once more a master in Bosnia. No one ventured now to mention the Janissaries. The uniforms arrived; the Kapetans were obedient, and put them on. The whole land submitted to the new regulations.'
Notwithstanding the high pressure system adopted by the Sultan, the spirit of rebellion was still rife, and it manifested itself on the first opportunity that occurred.
The Machiavellian policy of endeavouring to hold both the Servians and Bosnians in check, by pitting the one against the other, was of doubtful expediency; and, as the event proved, tended materially to weaken the imperial cause by depriving it of the aid of the Bosnian irregulars, who had acquired a name for reckless daring second to none. The outbreak of the Russian war was the signal for another attempt to obtain the independence of which Abdurahim had robbed them. At this juncture, too, they displayed the mixture of violence and cunning, so essentially the character of barbarous nations.
From every castle and town, the troops marched to the Eagle's Field, Orlovopolie, close by Bielina, their appointed rendezvous. The Vizier intended soon to repair thither with forces from Serayevo. Whilst preparing to do so, it happened that the people of Visoko, an unimportant place about six German miles from Serayevo, arrived before that capital, instead of marching direct to Orlovopolie, as they should have done. The Vizier sent out his Kiaia, and some of the principal inhabitants of the city, to call them to account for the unauthorised change in their line of march. A Kapidji Bashi, who had just arrived from Constantinople, accompanied the mission, and gave it still more importance; but it was unquestionably a concerted scheme amongst the leading men of Visoko and Serayevo. Thousands of inhabitants had already gone, many no doubt from mere curiosity—for it was Friday, a day on which the Turks do not work—but others with a distinct purpose. When the mission angrily demanded that the force should march off forthwith to the appointed place, some poor inhabitants of Visoko stepped out of the ranks and declared that, without money, they were not in a position to proceed a step farther; that even only to equip themselves, and march as far as they had already arrived, some of them had been obliged to sell their children. The Kapidji Bashi and the Kiaia thought that such language was not to be borne. Without hesitation, therefore, in accordance with the principles of Turkish justice, they ordered their followers to seize the speakers, to take them away, and behead them. The order, however, was not so easy of execution. 'Help, true believers in the Prophet!' exclaimed the men; 'help, and rescue us.' All seized their weapons, the comrades of the prisoners as well as the inhabitants of Serayevo, who were privy to the scheme, and those who were hurried along by their example. The Kapidji Bashi and the Kiaia had not time to mount their horses, but were obliged to run to the city on foot, with bullets whistling after them. The furious armed multitude arrived there with them. The Vizier's force, about two thousand strong, attempted for a while to stem the torrent. They tried to stand their ground wherever they found a position, such as a bridge, a mosque, or a house, but were far too weak to maintain it. Only a small number had time to retire into the fortress, where the Vizier was, and thence they fired with the few cannon they had on the lower town. But the Bosnians, with their small arms, did far more execution, singling out their enemies, and bringing them down with sure aim. The fighting continued for three days. At last Abdurahim found himself compelled to think of his own safety. The Bosnians, who found themselves victorious, would gladly have refused him leave to retire; but the older and more experienced among them, satisfied with the success they had obtained, persuaded the young people to let him go. On the fourth day, a Thursday in July 1828, Abdurahim marched away. He took the road to Orlovopolie, being allowed to take with him the cannons he had brought. There, however, he found that the spirit of disaffection had gained such head, that nearly all the soldiers, whom he had expected to find, had dispersed and gone to their homes. He thereupon repaired to Travnik, and was shortly afterwards replaced by another Vizier of milder temper.
The state of the empire now appeared more settled, both in its domestic and foreign relations, the peace of Adrianople having at any rate saved the capital from fear of an attack. What success the Sultan might have had in his endeavours to consolidate his rule in Bosnia, we are unable to judge; since he found an antagonist to every species of reform in Mustapha Pacha of Scutari, commonly known as Scodra Pacha, the most mischievous, as well as the most powerful, of all the provincial magnates since the fall of Ali Pacha. Young, warlike, and of good descent, he constituted himself the champion of hereditary privileges, and as such virtually threw down the gauntlet to his imperial master. Open rebellion, however, was not the plan which he proposed to himself by which to attain the object dearest to his heart—the re-embodiment of the Janissaries, and the establishment of the old order of things. To this end he consented, in 1823, to make a demonstration against the Greek rebels, but took very good care not to render too much service to the cause which he espoused. Thus, too, when he marched in the autumn of 1828 to the vicinity of the Danube, at the head of an army of 25,000 irregulars, it was not with the intention of attacking the Russians, but rather under the expectation that the necessities of the Sultan would afford him an opportunity of procuring the re-establishment of those 'Praetorian guards of Turkey.' The arrogant pretensions of Scodra Pacha were very strongly exemplified in the attitude which he assumed at the close of the campaign of 1829. Having in the first instance shown much dilatoriness in entering the field, he remained inactive near Widdin during the latter part of 1828 and the commencement of 1829, when, by operating in the rear of the Russians, he might have been most useful to the Turkish Seraskier. The treaty of peace, however, had been signed, and forwarded for ratification to Russia, when Scodra Pacha suddenly electrified both parties by objecting to its terms, and announcing his intention of continuing the war. He even marched to Philippopolis, whence he sent a message that he would arrive at Adrianople within eight days. This naturally caused Marshal Diebitsch some anxiety, since he was unaware of the Pacha's real policy, and believed him to be sincere in his protestations of vengeance against the invaders. A hasty summons was therefore sent to General Geismar, who consequently crossed the Danube at Rachova; and having turned, and subsequently forced, the Pass of Anatcha in the Balkans, easily defeated the Pacha, who made but small resistance. This and the approach of General Kisselef from Schumla put a finishing stroke to hostilities, and Scodra returned home to brood over the ill-success of his undertaking, and plan farther means of working mischief to the hated Mahmoud.
The opportunity soon presented itself. Having succeeded in ridding himself of some of the Albanian leaders, the Sultan applied himself with vigour to the subjection of those in Bosnia who were adverse to his rule. In 1830 he sent uniforms to Travnik, which the Vizier immediately donned. This kindled the spark, and in the beginning of 1831 several thousand insurgents, under the command of Hussein Kapetan, the 'Sonai od Bosna,' or Dragon of Bosnia, attacked him in his fortress, and made him prisoner. So great was the abhorrence professed for the adoption of Christian clothing, that the unfortunate Vizier was compelled to perform solemn ablutions and to recite Moslem prayers, in order to purify himself from contamination. The standard of rebellion was now fairly unfurled, and within a few weeks a force of 25,000 men had collected. At the same time Mustapha Pacha, with 40,000 Albanians and others, made his appearance on the scene of action. Without delay an advance was made en potence, and it was confidently anticipated that Stamboul would fall before the insurgent arms. But the Sultan possessed both a cunning and able lieutenant in the Grand Vizier Redschid. This functionary contrived to dispense bribes so judiciously among the inferior Albanian chieftains, that they deserted en masse to the Turks, and thus rendered it imperative on Mustapha to take refuge in his fortress at Scutari. This he did in the anticipation of speedy relief by Hussein Kapetan and the Bosnians, who, despite the dissuasion of the Servian Prince Milosch, had already marched to the rescue. Hussein's answer to Milosch, as given by Ranke, is very characteristic of the man: 'Take heed to thyself,' he said; 'thou hast but little food before thee: I have overturned thy bowl. I will have nothing to do with a Sultan with whom thou canst intercede for me; I am ready to meet thee, always and anywhere; my sword had smitten before thine was forged.' More modest and unpresuming was the burden of the song which they are reported to have chanted on the march:—
We march, brethren, to the plains of Kossovo, Where our forefathers lost their renown and their faith. There it may chance that we also may lose our renown and our faith; Or that we shall maintain them, and return as victors to Bosnia.
Animated by principles which would have done credit to a Christian host, these undisciplined Mussulmans easily overcame the Grand Vizier's army, partly, it must be acknowledged, by the defection of the Albanians, who had previously deserted the cause of Scodra Pacha. Had they now pushed on, their independence would have been established; but, unfortunately, what the Grand Vizier could not effect by force of arms he brought about by guile. With great tact and cunning he sent emissaries to Hussein, demanding to know the terms which they required. These were the permission to remain in statu quo, with the appointment of Hussein as Vizier. These conditions he was fain to grant, and so far worked upon the Bosnians by private and official stratagem, that they commenced their homeward march, leaving Scodra Pacha to his fate. Shortly afterwards he was compelled to surrender. Individually his life was spared, but his partisans did not meet with the same clemency. For the truth of what I am about to relate I am unable to vouch, but can only give it as it is recorded by the chroniclers of the events of those times. Projectile machines are said to have been erected, and the prisoners, being placed upon them, were flung against a wooden framework studded with great iron hooks, and wherever the body of the unfortunate victim was caught by them, there it hung until he perished by the terrible, torturing, and protracted death.
The destruction of Scodra's power was a great feather in the cap of the Grand Vizier, who now lost no time in undermining the authority of Hussein. In this he was assisted by the imprudence of the latter, who committed the error of admitting Ali Aga of Stolatz into his confidence, a man who had always adhered to the Sultan, and was distrusted accordingly by his compatriots. Universal as was the partisan warfare in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there was no chieftain who had supported the brunt of so many onslaughts as Ali Aga. His castle at Stolatz, although incapable of resisting the weapons employed in scientific warfare, was impregnable in those times, and against such an enemy.
In addition to the distrust engendered by Hussein's intimacy with All, the absence of any ratification by the Porte of the recent treaty of peace tended to produce discord in the province. Taking advantage of this, the Grand Vizier nominated a new Pacha, Kara Mahmoud, a creature devoted to government interest. He invaded the country with 30,000 men, and finally succeeded, in spite of a gallant resistance, in taking Serayevo, the capital. The perseverance which he employed in a sinking cause did credit to Hussein, who was nobly supported by the faithful and brave Al Pacha Vidaitch, who had no less than eight horses killed under him in the battle which took place before the walls of Serayevo.
Kara Mahmoud established himself there, and deposed in succession all the Kapetans except Ali Aga of Stolatz, who had made his appearance at a critical moment of the battle before Serayevo, and thus turned the tables against his former friend, Hussein Pacha.
Having thus far succeeded in his undertaking, Redschid Pacha turned his attention to Montenegro, which had been the source of chronic heartburnings since 1804. The nature of the country, and the want of organisation in the Turkish forces, however, once more enabled the mountaineers successfully to repel the invaders. A more important expedition against them was in contemplation, when the Egyptian war broke out, and the services of the Grand Vizier and his army were required to combat their former ally, Ibrahim Pacha. Previous to quitting the country, the Grand Vizier promulgated an amnesty to all those refugees who had fled into Austria, except Hussein Kapetan, Ali Vidaitch, and Kruppa Kapetan. A firman was subsequently given, permitting even these to return to Turkey, although interdicting their residence in Bosnia. On arriving at Constantinople they received their pardon, and Ali Vidaitch returned to Bosnia; Hussein's fate is more uncertain. From that time until 1849 order prevailed in Bosnia, although, as subsequent events proved, a rebellious spirit still existed amongst the more important chieftains, with whom personal aggrandisement took precedence of the interests of the Sultan, their sovereign.
[Footnote M: Krasinski.]
Hussein Pacha—Tahir Pacha—Polish and Hungarian Rebellions—Extends to Southern Slaves—Congress convened—Montenegrins overrun Herzegovina—Arrival of Omer Pacha—Elements of Discord—Rising in Bulgaria put down by Spahis—Refugees—Ali Rizvan Begovitch—Fall of Mostar, and Capture of Ali—His suspicious Death—Cavass Bashee—Anecdote of Lame Christian—Omer Pacha invades Montenegro—Successes—Austria interferes—Mission of General Leiningen—Battle of Grahovo—Change of Frontier—Faults of new Boundary.
And so time wore on, and Bosnia enjoyed a kind of fitful repose. There and in Herzegovina the feudal system had lost much of its primeval vigour, although a barbarous independence still prevailed, more especially in the latter province, where Ali Aga of Stolatz showed symptoms of forsaking the treacherous fidelity which had secured for him his high position. Whatever feeling of disaffection might have been cherished, either in Bulgaria or Bosnia, was effectually checked: in the former by the judicious tyranny of Hussein, Vizier of Widdin, in the latter by the iron yoke of Tahir Pacha, who fully entered into the Sultan's projects for reform.
The social condition of these two provinces rendered necessary a certain variety in the policy of their rulers. Thus, while Hussein may be regarded as the apostle of political Islamism in Europe, Tahir endeavoured to introduce the European element. He consequently identified himself, to a dangerous extent, with the Christian population, abolishing forced labour, equalising the taxes, and effecting other reforms calculated to upset the old, and establish the Nisame Jedid, or new order of things.
At this juncture the flames of revolutionary war broke forth in Poland and Hungary. The proximity of these countries, and the affinity of their Slavonic origin, could not fail to disseminate the same spirit on the southern bank of the Save. A wild enthusiasm took possession of both Serbs[N] and Bulgares, before which the aged and decrepid Viziers felt themselves powerless.
If it be difficult to realise the position of the Sultan, who thus found himself at variance with his Christian subjects in Bulgaria, and his Bosnian Spahis, the attitude assumed by these factions is equally incomprehensible. Blinded by one insane desire to throw off their allegiance to the Sultan, they espoused the Russo-Austrian cause, demanding their annexation to some Slave country. Thus, by a clever stroke of policy, Austria contrived to secure to herself the cooperation of both the Hungarian and Serb Slaves. And here we may note a curious coincidence, which still farther complicated matters. Whatever may have been their prejudices against the Slavonic Christians, the Bosnian Spahis found it expedient to demand the assistance, not only of the Servians, but of the Montenegrins, the most implacable of foes to the Turkish rule. These at first appeared likely to respond to the summons.
So numerically strong, and so complete, were the preparations for war made by the Bosnians, that, when they took the field under Ali Kieditch, Tahir found it impossible to stem the torrent of rebellion. Never did the prospects of the Porte wear so gloomy an aspect, for there were ranged against it all classes of Slaves and Bulgares, irrespective of religion or denomination. As a last resource government convened a Congress, comprising representatives of all classes of subject Slaves. As might have been supposed, little unanimity prevailed in their counsels, and no tangible advantages were thereby attained. And now a combination of unforeseen circumstances conspired to rescue the Porte from the pressing danger which threatened it. The neutrality preserved by Servia, or rather its Prince, Alexander Guirgievitch, infected not only the Bulgarian Christians, but even the Montenegrins themselves, who actually overran Herzegovina and a portion of the Bosnian frontier during the absence of the Mussulman Spahis of those districts. Undaunted however, by these mishaps, the members of the Congress returned to their homes; and, although powerless to act in concert, succeeded so well in stirring up a feeling of animosity against the government, that the spring of 1850 found the malcontents in a better position than ever for the renewal of the war. But rebellion had now reached its culminating point, and the sudden appearance of Omer Pacha, who threw himself with impetuous daring into the heart of Bosnia, gave a very different colouring to events. To form a just estimate of the difficulties which he had to overcome, ere order could be re-established in this confused chaos, it is necessary briefly to recapitulate the various conflicting elements, revolutionary and otherwise, which had been brought into play, the aim and inevitable result of which must have been the utter destruction of this unhappy empire.
There are those who profess to believe that Russia has no malevolent designs upon Turkey, and who bring forward many plausible reasons in support of their opinion; but this number has very materially diminished since the disclosures which preceded the late Russian war. The character of the Turkish people, their religion, and their social and political institutions, may all have tended to produce the calamitous state of affairs. Yet when we probe the matter to the bottom, there we find the root of all evil—Russian policy and imperial ambition. It is not to say that this monarch or that was desirous of annexing by conquest, and holding by force of arms, a gigantic empire. Such a thought were madness. Far more subtle is the scheme which was, and is, inherent in every Russian ruler. It has been, and still is, their own aggrandisement, direct or indirect, based upon the ruins of Turkey. Ably and laboriously have they worked to effect that which still seems as distant as ever. No sooner were the bloody days of 1828-9 past, than they applied themselves afresh to the work of disorganisation, and in this appeared to succeed too well. They had launched the Slave against the Turk, and then the Christian Slave against the Mussulman Slave, whilst at the same time the Asiatic Turk—the Turk pur sang—was struggling throughout Anatolia against the reformed and European Turk. It now remained to find a pretext to justify her in effecting an armed intervention, that cloak for so much that is arbitrary and aggressive. This was soon found in an insignificant rising of the Bulgarians, brought on by her roubles lavishly dispensed by old Milosch Obrenovitch, the ejected Servian Prince, and the sympathy felt for Kossuth and Dembinski, who had taken refuge at Widdin. This rising, however, which was at first directed only against the Turkish Spahis or landowners, soon acquired more important dimensions, and on January 8, 1850, the three Nahias of Widdin, Belgradchitch, and Verkovats, were under arms. Having failed in an attack upon the fortress of Belgradchitch, they retired and entrenched themselves at different spots in the adjacent country. Better armed and provisioned, and of greater physical courage, the Spahis soon succeeded in overcoming these disorganised masses, and bloody was the vengeance which they took.
'Victors in every encounter,' says Cyprien Robert, 'the Mussulman Spahis began to visit on horseback the villages, more than two hundred in number, which had taken part in the insurrection. The devastation that ensued was worthy of the most barbarous time. Neither age nor sex was spared. All the young were carried off to the vulture-nests of the Spahis of the Balkan. In vain did Redschid Pacha enjoin milder measures; neither he nor the Sultan could check these bloodthirsty tigers. There needed to that end the unexpected arrival of Omer Pacha at Nish. He fell among them like a thunderbolt, and all was silence. The Bulgarians ceased to flee, the Spahis to pursue, and, what was more, the Russian army of Wallachia halted at the moment it was about to cross the Danube. That terrible Omer, the queller of so many revolts, had at Bucharest an opportunity of making his qualities felt by the Russian Generals, and they were completely disconcerted by his sudden arrival at Nish, when they thought he was hemmed in by the insurgent Serba in the gorges of Bosnia, without the means of making his way through them. The Russian troops paused, awaiting fresh orders from St. Petersburg: orders came, and the whole scheme was quashed. Cleverly as the Russian plot had been laid, it was completely baffled by the rapidity of Omer Pacha's movement.' Once again order was re-established. Serayevo was again made the seat of the provincial government, and numerous reforms were brought into force, all of which tended to ameliorate the condition of the Christian population.
Such of the chieftains as refused to make their submission were pursued without mercy, until the province became too hot to hold them. A few, too proud or too obstinate to yield, took refuge in the Herzegovina, where Ali Rizvan Begovitch, then an old man, opened his fortresses to them. But all resistance was vain before the iron will and temperate judgement of Omer. Mostar fell, and old Ali was made a prisoner and sent in chains to Serayevo. That place he never reached, for he was shot, accidentally it is alleged, by a Turkish soldier while on his way thither. The circumstances of his death will hardly bear an enquiry, and do not reflect much credit on the successful Omer, to whom the blame, as well as the glory he acquired in all else, must attach. It is true that the old tyrant fully deserved his fate, since even to this day the enormities which he committed are well remembered. The old tower on the Narenta at Mostar used to look grim with the distorted heads of the prisoners whom he had captured on the Montenegrin frontier. The habit of decapitating the dead was revolting enough, but this aged sinner was not satisfied with that: he used to drive sharp wooden poles through their living bodies, and then leave them to die a lingering and agonising death. Some are said to have survived their impalement as much as forty-eight hours. The example set by the Pacha was readily followed by those about him. Numerous are the tales of murder done by his followers, one of whom vied with his master in deeds of murder and ferocity. This man, the Cavass Bashee, lived entirely by plunder and rapine. A spot was pointed out to me in the valley of the Drechnitza where a Christian was killed by him while stooping down to drink. I also heard an amusing anecdote regarding him, when he was completely outwitted by a poor lame Christian. The latter was riding through a river, where the stream was somewhat rapid. On the river's bank he was overtaken by the Cavass Bashee, who allowed him to reach the middle of the stream, when he ordered him to dismount, threatening to shoot him if he did not comply. In vain he pleaded his lameness; the ruffian was obdurate. Nothing remained but to obey. This he did, and with difficulty reached the opposite bank. The Mussulman followed, but scarcely had he reached the deep water when the Christian, who carried a pistol concealed, drew it, and, aiming at his persecutor, ordered him to dismount under pain of death. So aghast was he at this audacious effrontery, that he not only obeyed, but departed without farther comment, leaving the Christian master of the field. Whether he took warning from Ali Pacha's fate is unknown, but he certainly died in the odour of sanctity, after performing a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Having thus established the power of the Sultan in both provinces, as well as in Bulgaria, Omer Pacha turned his attention to the Montenegrins, whose incursions into the Herzegovina were becoming frequent and audacious. Penetrating the country from two converging points, he defeated the mountaineers on every occasion, who found that they had a very different foe to contend with from those to whom they had been accustomed. Already had he advanced close upon Cettigne, the capital, when the Austrian government interfered. Operations were suspended, and General Leiningen proceeded to Constantinople, where he demanded the total withdrawal of the Turkish forces. This was acceded to, and Turkey thus lost the hold which it had acquired upon the lawless Montenegrins. The idea of Ottoman decay acquired daily fresh strength, and a maudlin sentimentality was excited in behalf of these Christian savages. Taking advantage of this, they made constant forays across the border, stirring up by their example such of the borderers as were disposed to rise, and using force to compel those who would have preferred a quiet existence under the Turkish rule.
Such was the position of affairs when the battle of Grahovo took place on May 13, 1858. Although the affair has been grossly exaggerated, and the blame wrongfully imputed to Hussein Pacha, the military Commander of the Ottoman forces, it cannot be gain-said that the Turkish power was much weakened by the event, and the arrogance of the Christians proportionately increased, while the change of frontier to which it conduced tended rather to aggravate than diminish the evil. The new boundary line was defined by an European mixed commission, which decided on increasing Montenegro by the annexation of territory on the western frontier, including Grahovo, which they had held since Hussein Pacha's disaster. Whether the new frontier is calculated to promote a pacific settlement of the question admits of debate, as the province is penetrated almost to the centre by Turkish territory on either side: this, if it give the latter the advantage in a military point of view, exposes the occupants of the country, flanked by the Montenegrin mountains, to constant visits from their unwelcome neighbours, who dash down, kill, burn, and carry off all that they can lay hands on, and retreat to their fastnesses before the arrival of succour.
[Footnote N: People occupying Bosnia, Servia, Herzegovina, and Montenegro.]
Insurrection of Villagers—Attack Krustach—Three Villages burnt—Christian Version—Account given by Dervisch Pacha—Deputation headed by Pop Boydan—Repeated Outrages by Rebels—Ali Pacha of Scutari—His want of Ability—Greek Chapels sacked—Growth of Rebellion—Omer Pacha restored to Favour—Despatched to the Herzegovina—Proclamation—Difficulties to be encountered—Proposed Interview between Omer Pacha and Prince of Montenegro—Evaded by the Prince—Omer Pacha returns to Mostar—Preparations for Campaign.
We now arrive at that period when rebellion actually broke out among the Christians of the Herzegovina, and when things, in short, assumed the aspect which they now wear.
Before entering upon any account of the various risings which have occurred, I would remark that much blame attaches itself to the Porte, not only because of long years of misgovernment, but also on account of the supineness shown by its officials, who, in the presence of the most positive proofs to the contrary, treated the idea of a rising with supercilious disregard. Frequently whole villages came in to declare that they should be compelled to rise, unless they received protection and support. This was of course promised liberally, but the promises were never redeemed, and so they were driven to rebellion against their will, as a means of safety from the fanatical fury of their lawless co-religionists.
After two years of indecisive skirmishing, in which the Turks, always exposed in small parties, generally fared the worst, the Ottoman government appeared to awake to the necessity for pursuing more energetic measures. This resolution was hastened by the revolt of the villagers of Yassenik, Lipneh, Garevo, Kazantzi, Doulatchi, Vralkovitch, Golia, Krustach, Beronschitzi, Yenevitza, Danitzi, and others in the neighbourhood of Gasko, who joined bands of Uskoks, with whom and the Montenegrins they attacked the blockhouse of Krustach. As a punishment, three of these were burnt by the Turkish troops. The version of the affair given by the opposing parties varies considerably, as may be supposed. The Christians affirm that, after repeated acts of aggression on the part of the Bashi Bazouks, they took refuge in the mountains, but returned thence on being promised protection. That they were one day astonished by perceiving the heights covered with soldiers, who entered and sacked the village of Beronschitzi. No blood was shed, but the six sons of one Simon Gregorovitch were taken before Ali Pacha, who ordered them to instant execution. The seventh son is reported to have been taken to Metokhia, where, after being tortured, he was executed. The people escaped from Yassenik and Yenevitza, but in the former two women are said to have been killed and thrown into the flames of the burning houses.
The whole of these villagers affirm that their only crime consisted in having united with other villagers in posting videttes, to give warning of the approach of Bashi Bazouks and Uskoks.
This somewhat improbable story is denied by Dervisch Pacha, who gives the following account of the matter:—The occupants of twenty-one different villages revolted in the spring of 1859, and interrupted the communications between Gasko and Niksich and Grasko and Mostar. They then attacked those villages occupied by Mussulmans in the plain of Gasko, and made raids into the district of Stolatz, from which they carried off 6,000 head of cattle, the property of the Roman Catholics of that district. They further compelled many Christians to join in the revolt, who would otherwise have remained quiet. Dervisch Pacha therefore sent Ali Riza Pacha, a General of Brigade, to restore order. He, after taking and garrisoning Krustach, advised the rebels to send deputies, to show the nature of the grievances of which they complained. These were sent accordingly, headed by one Pop Boydan, a priest, and a leading mover of the insurrection; but in place of lodging any complaints, the delegates appeared rather in the light of suppliants demanding pardon and favour. Meanwhile the villagers returned, but not to live peaceably—merely with the view of getting in their crops.
While the deputation, however, was at Nevresign, the villages of Lipneh, Samabor, Yassenik, Yenevitza, and Beronschitzi revolted again, and cut off the communications between Gasko, Krustach, and Niksich. They also posted guards along a line of frontier, which they said that no Turk should pass. When called to account by Dervisch Pacha for this breach of faith, the deputies replied that the Christians acted through fear, which feeling was taken advantage of by a few evil-disposed persons for their own ends. They, however, undertook to pacify them, and wrote a letter professedly with that object, but without effect. The disorder increased, and numerous outrages were committed. Seven soldiers were murdered whilst cutting wood about four miles from Metokhia; Ali Pacha's aide-de-camp and five soldiers were cut to pieces between
Niksich and Krustach, and seven other Mussulmans were killed. Still the Turks hesitated to act with severity. They appealed again to the deputies, who wrote another letter, which, as the bearers of it affirmed, only enraged the rebels, who tore it, and trod it under foot. But this affords little proof of the intensity of their feelings, as it has since transpired that an arrangement had been made by the deputies that all letters written voluntarily and in sincerity should bear a private mark; and the letter in question was not so distinguished. Upon the discovery of their treachery the deputies were imprisoned, and energetic measures at once resolved upon. To give these effect, Ali Pacha advanced at the head of a small force, and summoned the rebels to surrender. They replied by firing on the advanced guard. The three villages were then taken, and five men and two women killed, while a few prisoners were made. These last were released, but one died in prison. Such is the story told of the affair by Dervisch Pacha.
It does not appear that Ali Pacha acquired any great credit by his method of conducting the operations. Quitting a strong position in the afternoon, he arrived at the villages to be attacked after nightfall. Having fired them, he was compelled to make a precipitate retreat, which might have been most disastrous, had he been opposed to an enterprising enemy.
With reference to the discrepancy manifested in the two accounts, we may feel assured that both are highly coloured. But the deception resorted to by the rebels, and the simple explanation given by the Turkish officials, would tend to impart to their story the greater appearance of truth. Had the Turks, moreover, wished to avenge the deaths of their soldiers, or to vent their hatred of the Christians, they would have maltreated the people of the first villages at which they arrived, in place of marching seven miles through a difficult country to the borders of a district which had for two years defied their efforts at reduction.