Gladstone and the Bulgarian Atrocities
George Horton, Excerpted from George Horton, The Blight of Asia (Indianapolis, 1926) ch II.
In the list of massacres antedating the colossal crimes which have come under my own personal observation, is cited the killing of 14,700 Bulgarians in 1876. This butchery of a comparatively few—from a Turkish view-point—Bulgarians, some fifty years ago, provoked a splendid cry of indignation from Gladstone. As this narrative develops and reaches the dark days of 1915 to 1922, during which period whole nations were wiped out by the ax, the club and the knife, and the Turk at last found the opportunity to give full vent to his evil passions, it will appear that no similarly effective protest has issued from the lips of any European or American statesman.
The curious feature is that, owing to the propaganda carried on by the hunters of certain concessions, an anti-Christian and pro-Turk school has sprung up in the United States.
In A Short History of the Near East, Professor William Stearns Davis, of the University of Minnesota, referring to the Bulgarian atrocities 1876, says:
What followed seems a massacre on a small scale compared with the slaughter of Armenians in 1915-16, but it was enough to paralyze the power of Disraeli to protect the Turks. In all, about twelve thousand Christians seem to have been massacred. At the thriving town of Batal five thousand out of seven thousand inhabitants seem to have perished. Of course neither age or sex was spared and lust and perfidy were added to other acts of devilishness. It is a pitiful commentary on a phase of British politics that Disraeli and his fellow Tories tried their best to minimize the reports of these atrocities. They were not given to the world by official consular reports, but by private English journalists.
The above is interesting, as it illustrates a quite common method of government procedure in such cases. The Tory does not seem to be a unique product of British politics.
While I was in Europe recently, I talked with a gentleman who was in the diplomatic service of one of the Great Powers and was with me in Smyrna at the time that city was burned by the Turkish army. This gentleman was in complete accord with me in all details as to that affair, and asserted that his Foreign Office had warned him to keep silent as to the real facts at Smyrna, but that he had written a full memorandum on the subject, which be hopes to publish.
It is significant that the Turks in 1876 were championed by Jews, while to-day such Jews as Henry Morgenthau, Max Nordau and Rabbi Wise are prominent among that group of men who are raising their voices in behalf of oppressed Christians. It is due to their influence, and to the voices of such senators as King of Utah and Swanson of Virginia, that confirmation of the Lausanne Treaty has been deferred until the blood on the bayonets and axes of the Turks should get a little drier.
Speaking of Disraeli, Gladstone wrote to the Duke of Argyle: “He is not such a Turk as I thought. What he hates is Christian liberty and reconstruction.”
The Bulgarian massacres were made known by an American consular official, and denounced by Gladstone in a famous pamphlet. They led to the declaration of war by Russia, the treaty of San Stefano and the beginning of the freedom of Bulgaria.
In a speech at Blackheath in 1876, Gladstone said:
You shall retain your titular sovereignty, your empire shall not be invaded, but never again, as the years roll in their course, so far as it is in our power to determine, never again shall the hand of violence be raised by you, never again shall the flood gates of lust be opened to you.
In his famous pamphlet, Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East, we have the following, a thousand times truer to-day than when it was written:
Let the Turks now carry away their abuses, in the only possible manner, namely, by carrying off themselves. Their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Blmhashis and Yuzbashis, their Kaimakams and their Pashas, one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the province that they have desolated and profaned. This thorough riddance, this most blessed deliverance, is the only reparation we can make to those heaps and heaps of dead, the violated purity alike of matron and of maiden and of child; to the civilization which has been affronted and shamed; to the laws of God, or, if you like, of Allah; to the moral sense of mankind at large. There is not a criminal in an European jail, there is not a criminal in the South Sea Islands, whose indignation would not rise and over-boil at the recital of that which has been done, which has too late been examined, but which remains unavenged, which has left behind all the foul and all the fierce passions which produced it and which may again spring up in another murderous harvest from the soil soaked and reeking with blood and in the air tainted with every imaginable deed of crime and shame. That such things should be done once is a damning disgrace to the portion of our race which did them; that the door should be left open to the ever so barely possible repetition would spread that shame over the world.
We may ransack the annals of the world, but I know not what research can furnish us with so portentous an example of the fiendish misuse of the powers established by God for the punishment of evil doers and the encouragement of them that do well. No government ever has so sinned, none has proved itself so incorrigible in sin, or which is the same, so impotent in reformation.
The time will never come when the words of Gladstone, one of the wisest of English statesmen, will be considered unworthy of serious attention. The following characterization of the Turk by him has been more aptly verified by the events that have happened since his death than by those that occurred before:
Let me endeavor, very briefly to sketch, in the rudest outline what the Turkish race was and what it is. It is not a question of Mohammedanism simply, but of Mohammedanism compounded with the peculiar character of a race. They are not the mild Mohammedans of India, nor the chivalrous Saladins of Syria, nor the cultured Moors of Spain. They were, upon the whole, from the black day when they first entered Europe, the one great anti-human specimen of humanity. Wherever they went a broad line of blood marked the track behind them, and, as far as their dominion reached, civilization disappeared from view. They represented everywhere government by force as opposed to government by law.—Yet a government by force can not be maintained without the aid of an intellectual element.— Hence there grew up, what has been rare in the history of the world, a kind of tolerance in the midst of cruelty, tyranny and rapine. Much of Christian life was contemptuously left alone and a race of Greeks was attracted to Constantinople which has all along made up, in some degree, the deficiencies of Turkish Islam in the element of mind!
To these words of Gladstone may appropriately be added the characterization of the Turk by the famous Cardinal Newman:
The barbarian power, which has been for centuries seated in the very heart of the Old World, which has in its brute clutch the most famous countries of classical and religious antiquity and many of the most fruitful and beautiful regions of the earth; and, which, having no history itself, is heir to the historical names of Constantinople and Nicaea, Nicomedia and Caesarea, Jerusalem and Damascus, Nineva and Babylon, Mecca and Bagdad, Antioch and Alexandria, ignorantly holding in its possession one half of the history of the whole world.
In another passage Newman describes the Turk as the “great anti-Christ among the races of men.”