Page images

of itinerant swindlers, who came now and then from Mahon, Leghorn, or the Greek islands, stayed long enough to spoil the Egyptians, then broke and disappeared. Everywhere the French had supplanted us; and even the Dutch, though to a much inferior degree, flourished upon our decay.

French energy, guided by intelligence, was the chief cause of our discomfiture. But other causes contributed to it. Our wars with Spain and France interfered in many ways with our trade in the Mediterranean; for instance, in 1739 not a single bale of English cloth reached Constantinople, and in 1744-48 the Levant Company had to pay the Turks upwards of 10,0001, for depredations by English privateers. A more permanent source of mischief was the policy of the East India Company, which, since the latter part of the 17th century, persisted in exporting woollen goods to Persia. Sometimes those goods, bought by Armenian and other native traders at Bassora, were even carried to Syria and there sold at a rate at which the Aleppo factors could not afford to sell theirs. Why the East India Company should engage in a trade which could only be carried on at a loss, it is not easy to explain. According to the most plausible hypothesis, its object was to beat the Dutch out of Persia, even at the cost of hurting the English in Turkey. But, whatever the motive may have been, the result was to divert the Persian and Syrian silk, for which cloth was mostly bartered, into other channels, and to deprive the Levant merchants of a commodity which they described as the life of their business. For this reason, in 1740 and 1750, the Levant Company opposed the Bills then before Parliament, empowering the Muscovy Company to import Persian silk from Russia. These Acts, like a later Act authorising the free importation of cotton into England, were significant of the demand, which was beginning to grow imperative, that there should be no obstruction to the supply of raw materials for manufactures. The tendency of the age from which this demand sprang found another expression even more directly prejudicial to the interests of the Levant Company.

Privileged societies had never been popular in England. From the time of Queen Elizabeth the cry was heard



that trade in general, and the trade of woollen goods in particular, should be free; and it was in compliance with this cry that, under James I, the Levant Company had enlarged itself by the admission of new adventurers. About the middle of the 18th century the ancient jealousy revived. · In 1744 an eminent citizen and influential politician declared in Parliament that all companies were pernicious and should be abolished. His sentiments met with loud applause in and out of Parliament; and the Turkey Merchants were selected as the first victims. The Company managed to save its Charter, but was obliged to modify its by-laws. On the ground that annual shippings restricted navigation, Parliament resolved that every member of the Company should in future be free to ship goods to Turkey at whatever season he thought proper. Ten years later, in obedience to the same clamour against monopolies,' Parliament enacted that, instead of being confined to citizens of London and noblemen's younger sons, the Company should be thrown open to all British subjects on payment of 201.; and, to use the words of a contemporary zealot, that all the members should be secured from the tyranny of oppressive by-laws, contrived by a monopolising cabal.'

That these enactments were well-intentioned need not be disputed; that they proved ineffectual and even harmful is shown by the event. But Parliament did not stop there. As the Levant Company had now become more diffuse, it was felt that it would be less

for it to enforce the old regulations against the Plague. Hence, there being no proper quarantine system in England, a summary law was passed, forbidding all ships from infected ports to approach our shores. The upshot was that the English were often compelled to suspend their trade with Turkey, while the French, thanks to their excellent lazaretto at Marseilles, were able to carry on theirs with perfect security. A few attempts were made to combat French ascendancy at its root by improving the quality and reducing the price of English cloth, but without success. The wool passed to the English manufacturers through so many hands, and wages were so high, that, though the article might be almost as good as the French, it cost a great deal more.


In 1768 Parliament, to prevent a total collapse, made the Levant Company a grant of 50001. But the relief, inadequate at best (the Company's debt at Constantinople alone amounted to over 10,0001.), was neutralised by the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War. During the six years that hostilities lasted, all the Frank residents went in constant dread of massacre at the hands of a mob infuriated by defeat and insurrection. The Turks believed that the whole of Christendom was in league against them, and their animosity was particularly directed towards the English; for, not to mention other proofs of England's Russophile attitude, Britons distinguished themselves in the service of the Russian fleet, which blockaded the Ottoman coasts and took a prominent part in the destruction of the Sultan's navy at Chesmé. The Porte, it is true, anxious not to add to its enemies, heaped civilities upon the English ambassador, John Murray, granting him everything he asked for the protection of English subjects. Indeed, at moments the Porte appeared inclined to accept England's mediation;

l and the ambassador hoped to obtain for English goods exemption from the misteria duty-a concession which would have put our trade on an equal footing with the French. But it is clear from Murray's delirious despatches that the Sultan's Ministers only played with him; and the French, whose neutrality was as benevolent towards Turkey as ours was towards Russia, continued to enjoy preferential treatment.

Just then Sir James Porter, a diplomatist with wide commercial experience, who, during his embassy at Constantinople (1747–62) had studied the problem on the spot, published his 'State of the Turkey Commerce considered from its Origin to the Present Time.' The main object of this eminently instructive work was to point out the circumstances to which the French owed their superiority, and to urge upon the English the adoption of the same protective methods. But no one listened. The current had set in too strongly against protection ; and those on whom depended the preservation of the Turkey trade were no longer much interested in the support of it. For the decline of English enterprise in the Levant synchronised with rapid progress elsewhere, While the French elbowed us out of the Ottoman Empire,


annexed their Indian and American colonies. Absorbed in the exploitation of those vast areas where we were masters, our capitalists and legislators paid little attention to a part of the world where France, through her geographical vicinity, diplomatic influence, and more efficient organisation, was too powerful a rival. Thus nothing was done to arrest the decadence of the Levant Company. In 1788 our exports to the whole of the Ottoman Empire were valued at only 47,8381., while those of France to Syria alone amounted to a quarter of a million.

The disorganisation of France owing to the Revolution, and the assumption by England of the rôle of Turkey's protector, did not stimulate English commerce with the Near East to such an extent as might have been expected or as is commonly imagined. In 1792 our exports to Turkey were estimated at over 273,0001. ; but of this sum only about 99,0001. represented British merchandise; the rest consisted of foreign goods carried out in British ships. In 1800 also we exported nearly 167,0001. worth of goods, but these included such an occasion | item as 170 cannon. The truth seems to be that the Levant Company was too old a body to adapt itself to new conditions. It languished on till 1825, and then succumbed to nature's law.

Its end was dignified, as became an aristocratic corporation with a pedigree two and a half centuries old. In announcing to the Turkey Merchants the decision to take away their Charter, the British Government explained that the measure resulted solely from considerations of public expediency, and in no degree from any disrespect or disposition to impute any blame to their past administration.' Thereupon the Turkey Merchants met for the last time, and, after making a handsome provision for their disbanded servants, surrendered their

their privileges and quietly dissolved themselves.


Vol. 233,--No. 463.

2 A

Art. 7.-WOMEN AND THE CHURCH. 1. The Ministry of Women. A Report by a Committee

appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, with

appendices and illustrations. S.P.C.K., 1919. 2. Report of the Joint Committee on the Ministry of Women

to the Convocation of Canterbury, 1919. 3. The Ministry of Deaconesses. By Deaconess Cecilia

Robinson, New Edition. Methuen, 1914. 4. Women and the Church. By R. H. Streeter and

E. Picton Turbervill. Fisher Unwin, 1917. 5. Women and Church Work. Edited by Cyril C. B. Bardsley. Longmans, 1917.

. 6. Women and the Church of England.

By A. Maude Royden. Allen and Unwin, 1917. 7. Women in the Administration of Missions. By M. C.

Gollock. International Review of Missions, No. 4. 1912.

MANY things have combined of late years to give prominence to the work done by women for the Church, and in consequence to call for new consideration of their position in it and of the functions that may be entrusted to them. They have been given work of many different kinds, and the need for their co-operation has been increasingly felt in past years, but they have had neither place nor authority in the Councils of the Church or the parish, and their position has been considered inferior to that of the most inexperienced curate. In consequence, the highly educated university woman has not seen in church-work thus organised a sufficient sphere for her energies, and has turned to other careers which offered more responsibility and independence.

The suffrage movement, with its emphasis on the right of women to claim opportunity for the full development and free use of all their powers in the service of the State, naturally called fresh attention to their subordinate position in the Church. When the new demands made upon them by the war revealed in them latent and unexpected capacities, the restlessness of women at being restrained in any direction increased. It was not that they desired to assert themselves or to make new claims in order to satisfy new ambitions. No doubt some were actuated by personal motives, but the

« PreviousContinue »