Page images

arise they will be in a position to increase their contributions to 10,000,000l. per annum.

For these reasons Great Britain can afford to continue the economic war of armaments upon the existing lines with the almost certain prospect of a greater power of sustained effort than any other nation. The overthrow of Napoleon was very largely due to the prolonged resistance which our financial resources enabled us to offer a century ago; and, if our present resources are conserved and applied to their proper purposes, there is every reason to hope that we may be able to maintain our position. But we must not underrate the financial resources of our rivals at sea, and we must be prepared to make further sacrifices to maintain our supremacy. Even a successful war with the second great Naval Power might well cost this country in one shape or another 500,000,000l., the bulk of which would be irrecoverable by way of indemnity; while the pecuniary loss and suffering which would result from an unsuccessful conflict with such a Power could not be measured.

If the national finances are skilfully administered, Great Britain might, without straining her resources to the breaking-point, materially augment the present rate of her expenditure on armaments; and, when the Overseas Dominions have fully developed their schemes of naval defence, it should be quite within the bounds of possibility for Great Britain to raise the level of her expenditure on the army and navy to eighty-five or even ninety millions for whatever period it might be found necessary to do so. An expenditure at this rate should enable us to attain such a preponderance of strength that it would be an act of supreme folly for any Power to attack us. The Great Powers of Europe cannot go on piling up their expenditure on armaments for ever; and, if we make it perfectly clear to our rivals that we are able and willing to expend whatever sums may be necessary to maintain the command of the seas, there is ground for hope that international politics may enter upon a more settled phase than they have occupied since the sea-power of Germany became a factor in the politics of the world.



ATHWART the confusion which now reigns in Constantinople it is hard to discern the issues at stake, or even to distinguish the principal actors from the instruments. Strong bias and wild passion impair the judgment and ruffle the temper of the annalist as well as of the dramatis persona in the national tragedy which is being played before a half-heeding world. Most things are envisaged out of perspective; public men are weighted with wrong motives; the very nation is become inaccessible, invisible, almost inaudible, to the public of the West. Turkey is now impersonated by a body of men whose motives may well be patriotic, but whose public acts can hardly be justified by ethics, or explained by political expediency. The predominant trait of the members of the Secret Committee which now holds sway in the Empire is all-absorbing solicitude for their own safety, which they identify with the furtherance of the national weal. This ever-present care is the central hinge of their policy, domestic and foreign; it is the decisive factor in Turkey's destinies to-day.

Some three years ago the Young Turkish Committee inaugurated their rule to the accompaniment of tumultuous plaudits; they are ending it to-day in an outburst of general execration. At first men took them on trust; and reasonably; for, although their intentions were obscure, they had a brilliant record-the overthrow of Hamidism which they had accomplished with the help of the army. Until that aim was attained the Committee had been a secret revolutionary society, including among its members bombists and dare-devils whose main qualifications were ability and readiness to keep secrets and take lives. But once the revolutionary feat was achieved, honest, plain-dealing patriots-among them Colonel Sadik Bey-proposed that the Secret Society should now step aside and make way for open government. But the more violent members of the sodality, reckless spirits better able to kill than to govern, were for holding fast the reins of power and enjoying the sweets without bearing the responsibilities of office. And their wishes prevailed. Thenceforward the Secret Committee became double

faced like Janus. It continued to be a revolutionary agency, and as such employed the bullet and the dagger as in the days of Abdul Hamid; but it was also a political board, choosing and overturning Cabinets, marshalling its parliamentary deputies like so many soldiers, and determining the policy of the Empire. The main results of this direction were the dangerous tension with France and the Powers of the Triple Entente; the massacres of Armenians at Adana; the risings and rebellions in the Yemen and in Albania; the loss of Tripoli and the inchoate disruption of the Empire.

Very soon the Committee which is answerable for these disasters and crimes began to lose ground in the eyes of the best elements of the nation, owing to its frantic endeavours to dissolve the Greeks, Bulgarians, Arabs, Albanians and other nationalities, and merge them all in the Turkish race. From the statesman's angle of vision a childish but fatal freak, this measure may well have seemed a clever expedient to politicians who take only short-sighted views and pursue merely party interests. For the army, whence the Secret Committee drew its strength, was composed exclusively of Moslems, and chiefly of men of Turkish race. And, as it was they who had overthrown the despotism of Abdul Hamid and were maintaining the independence of the nation at the risk of their lives, they were pleased to reflect that they would reap where they had sown. The Secret Committee and the army, therefore, went hand in hand. Voices were at times uplifted against this glaring breach of faithvoices of fair-minded men whose sense of justice had not been contracted by the narrowing interests of cliques and parties. These dissentients pointed out that the Turks were not the majority of the nation, nor the Atlas on whose shoulders the Empire rests. The Arabs are more numerous than the Turks, and much more cultured. The wealth-makers of the Empire are the Greeks, the Armenians, the Bulgars. In a word, the elements of the political community are many and heterogeneous; and all of them possess claims to consideration which it would be suicidal to disallow. One by one these nonconformists were hustled out of the Committee and the party. Colonel Sadik Bey, who is regarded as one of the first and most enterprising founders of the original Com

mittee, was persuaded to remain in it until, losing hope of reforming the members, he too was obliged to go. The officers alone, although disconcerted by what they saw and heard, still remained faithful to the Secret Society in whose patriotism and foresight they continued to place implicit trust. They argued that a Committee which undertakes to govern an Empire must perforce be allowed a large measure of initiative and discretion. They themselves lacked the leisure and the training indispensable to a sound political judgment, and were keenly alive to their limitations. Hence they took the men of the Secret Junta, among whom there were still some patriots of clear conscience and sharp vision, at their own high estimate. It was late last year when the outbreak of the war with Italy at last furnished them with a criterion which enables even the plain man to gauge aright the real worth of these self-appointed rough-hewers of a nation's destinies.

However leniently one may judge the Committee, it is impossible to blink the close causal nexus between its impolitic action in Tripoli and the Italian expedition against that vilayet. If a secret ally or a venal instrument of King Victor Emmanuel's Government had had that province denuded of troops six months before the outbreak of the war, one might justly compliment him on his well-timed efforts to render the Italian invasion successful. And that was the effect of the Committee's measures, whatever its motive. Abdul Hamid, self-centred though he was, had always taken care to keep in Tripoli a sufficient number of land forces to repel a foreign incursion. And so long as the standard laid down by him was maintained it was certainly difficultsome experts say impossible--for Italy to occupy the province. But the Cabinet which the Secret Committee had nominated, and was prompting, actually withdrew the troops from Tripoli and transferred them to the Yemen to quell a rebellion there which its own shortsightedness had conjured up. That was Italy's opportunity; and she has profited by it to the full. Without that act of political unwisdom the war might never have broken out, or, if it had, it would not, perhaps, have ended in the annexation of the province. The main facts can be grasped by everyone; and the quidnuncs in the

bazaars of Stamboul and the pedlar on the streets of Scutari are able to draw the inevitable inferences.

Since November last the speed with which the Committee has been losing ground is vertiginous. At first outside supporters fell away; then whilom fervid partisans in parliament grew hostile; and at last army officers kicked against the pricks. As a direct consequence of these defections the political clubs in the provinces which were affiliated to the Committee have dwindled perceptibly in number. Many for lack of members have had to dissolve; others have become bankrupt. To-day there is not a single club faithful to the Secret Committee in all Syria. Throughout the Empire the followers of the Committee are in such a small minority that the Committee itself would probably wind up its affairs and give place to open and responsible government were it not for the mortal fear which its members entertain that they will be dealt with for their palpable deeds even as they dealt with their opponents for mere words or supposed thoughts. The struggle has now become a matter of self-defence, of life and death, for the Committee, whose members are ready to provoke civil war and its consequences rather than expose themselves to the risk of imprisonment or ignominious death. But deeper influences are now at work than any which the Committee can command. The Christian racesGreeks, Armenians, Bulgarians-heretofore at sixes and sevens amongst themselves, have for some time past united against 'government by conspiracy'; and they have proved eminently successful in keeping liberal thought and generous aim aglow despite the desperate efforts put forth by the Committee to extinguish them. But luck and cunning enable the telegraphists, schoolmasters, physicians, salesmen, and officers of Salonica to hold on to the reins of power yet awhile. For the war has silenced active opposition, while office and its emoluments form a strong cement which binds the followers and their invisible leaders.

The method pursued by the head centre of the organisation is the old-world way of judiciously using money and money's worth. Influential individuals are set in positions where they can exercise their influence and the power combined with it to the best advantage

« PreviousContinue »