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Out of this skin-deep adherence to Islam the renegade Bosnian nobility forged a powerful weapon for the oppression of their Christian fellow-subjects of the Porte. They did not even condescend to learn the language of the Osmanli, though they took a certain pride in calling themselves Turks, and down to the present day use the contemptuous term “Turkuscha" for the Asiatic Turk, who, as M. Debains somewhat sarcastically observes, generally comes among the Bosnian landowners “either as a mere employé, or a nomad without any property.” Strong in their landed possessions, these “New Mohammedans" long preserved for their country, but only for the benefit of their own class, a kind of autonomy, which the Porte was obliged to allow to such formidable vassals. They assumed the Imperial privilege of exacting the tenth (dîme) in kind on cereals, as a set-off against their Feudal obligation to constitute the militia of the country. By the side of these semi-Royal “ Beys” a smaller class of landowners was developed in the eighteenth century, called “ Timarlis.” These had nothing in common with the old lords of the soil, “being generally,” says M. Debains, “renegades of low extraction, sometimes even Slavs of the Greek Church.” They took possession of lands in the plains, which had been ravaged by the passage of contending armies, and left as derelicts by the Christian cultivators on retiring for safety to the mountains. As the old Nobility waned, and the ranks of the Bosnian Beys were thinned, during the wars with Hungary and the Empire, the great Fiefs became extinct with their lords, and the small proprietors rose on their ruins.
A middle-man between the military lord, the “ Bey” or the “ Spahi,” and the tiller of the soil, or “Rayah,” was introduced under the name of " Tchiflik Sahibi."* He made himself answerable to the Spahi for the collection of the Tenth, and exacted a tax (the “ Tretina,” or Third,) from
* Debains, Bulletin, p. 321.
the cultivator for his own profit; assuming, in fact, very much the position of the Zemindar in the plains of Bengal, under the “ Permanent Settlement” of Lord Cornwallis.* The Dîme (Deseta), or Tenth, was, as M. Debains observes, a real right, a servitude Juris Publici imposed on the whole country. The Mohammedan Slav, however, was not content with this, and, again like the Zemindar, claimed the ownership of the soil tilled by the Christian, whom he thenceforward considered to be only a tenant. The Tchiflik system, so convenient to the pocket of the Mussulman, spread rapidly, and outside the towns almost the whole land of Bosnia is described by M. Debains as having fallen under the double taxation of the Tchiflik Sahibi. The wonder is that the cultivators should have been able to stand this twofold burden so long, rather than that they should at last have turned upon their oppressors. The modes of constituting a Tchiflik were very various; sometimes the Rayah sought the protection of a powerful neighbouring Bey, to whom he sold himself to escape the oppression of some Turk; sometimes a Pasha bastinadoed the cultivators of a village into acknowledging him as their Tchiflik Sahibi, as Ali Pasha did with the villagers of Jadar in 1803.t At other times a forced sale took place, and the Bey overran the village, assessing each plot of land at a ludicrously low price, which the Christian
perhaps his life. It is hardly surprising to learn that the families of those who suffered in this way have preserved the tradition of these sales, much as the descendants of the Jews and Moors expelled from Granada on the final victory of the “Catholic Kings” Ferdinand and Isabella, are said to have still in their possession the keys of their old Andalusian homes.
* Under the "Permanent Settlement,” the Zemindars who were really " the class responsible for the payment of the land reverue, and virtually, therefore,” as Miss Martineau points out, “ the masters of the cultivators and the land, became the proprietors of the soil, but under the restriction that they would not displace any ryot who paid the then existing amount of rent.”—(British Rule in India. Smith, Elder, & Co., 1857. pp. 174-5.)
† Debains, Bulletin, p. 322.
The wave of Revolution which swept over Europe in 1848 swamped the feudal nobility of Bosnia. Till that time they had continued practically the rulers of their country, of which the entire administration was in their hands. Not without a struggle did they succumb to the centralising of power at Constantinople, after three centuries of virtual absolute sway. They met the first attempts at centralisation by turning out the officials sent from the Porte. Omar Pasha was despatched to quell this first " Bosnian Insurrection,” and from this time the doubly powerful class of the lords of the Tithe, and lords of the Soil, disappeared in Bosnia. Then the Porte, fearing lest in its haste to put down insubordination it should have weakened the Mohammedan element in Bosnia and Herzegovina, gave the old lords of the soil, or Beys, the right to the Third (Tretina) of the produce of all possessions which they had enjoyed as Tchifliks, and half the produce of meadow land, on condition that they should pay one-third of the “ Porez," or State tax, while the other two-thirds should remain a charge on the Rayah, or Christian cultivator. After a little while, M. Debains tells us, the Mussulman lords of Tchifliks contrived that the whole of the State tax should fall upon the Christian cultivator. To any complaints which reached the Porte answer was made that this additional tax took the place of the “corvée," till then exacted from non-Mohammedan peasants. A fresh middleman now arose for the collection of this land-tax, under the name of “ Sapuknik,” who farmed the Third (Tretina), and collected it from the cultivator. This new officer made friends with the Zaptieh, or Police, and instead of levying the tax in kind took its price as on the day of in-gathering, and pocketed the difference which there might be between that and the price of the day of payment. So the farmer of the Tenth, and the farmer of the Third, have to this day
agreed together to take away the produce of the soil which he tills from the Christian cultivator.
The very collection of the Tretina, or Third, in Bosnia appears, from the researches of M. Debains, to be an abuse, and the Porte has more than once recognised this fact. In 1830 Reschid Pasha suppressed the tax which the Christian tenants paid to their Arnaout lords in Albania, and that without giving the lords any indemnity. In 1832, Prince Milosch obtained the abolition of the Tenth in Servia. The problem of release from this arbitrary imposition is more difficult in Bosnia, because many of the Tchifliks have become in processs of time the subjects of contracts, and there are even, we are assured, rich Christian merchants in Serajewo and Mostar who are owners of Tchifliks. The principle of suppression, therefore, as carried out in Albania and Servia, could not be applied universally, although, as M. Debains remarks, “ if Turkey fulfilled all the conditions of a good government, the Law might decide that henceforth the owner of a Tchiflik should lose his actual tax in kind, and receive a money compensation which the State should arrange by a system of credit to assist the tenant in paying him.” But notwithstanding Midhat Pasha's elaborate Constitution, and notwithstanding the first session of the “Grand Council of the Ottoman Empire,” or we might even say in consequence of the fatal flaws in that Constitution, and of the first results of the Council's deliberation, Western jurists and statesmen are hardly likely to accept the Porte as a Power"fulfilling all the conditions of a good government." In - proof of this we need only refer our readers to a very full and interesting discussion of the present position of the Eastern Question in its relations with International Law from the pen of M. Rolin-Jaequemyns, in a recent number of the “Revue de Droit International."'*
Perhaps if the Conference at Constantinople had been con
* Revue de Droit International, Brussels, Bruylants-Christophe, 1876, No. II.
pp. 293, et seqq.
ducted more on the lines suggested by M. Rolin-Jaequemyns, its chances of success in establishing peace might have been increased. One of the points on which he insists as requiring to be carried out by the Great Powers or their Commissioners, is the abolition of the farming of the taxes, and the reform of the whole system of taxation in the Turkish Empire. What this taxation is in Bosnia, and how it must lie as a deadweight upon the cultivators of the soil, we have endeavoured to shew from the testimony of impartial observers. M. Debains and M. Rolin-Jaequemyns plead, with Count Andrassy, for the restoration to the Bosnian peasant of “the beneficent feeling of proprietorship.” It is not much to ask for a long oppressed race, but no amount of Paper-Constitutions can satisfy a demand, which is only a demand for strict justice. What the Bosnian cultivator has seen granted to his more fortunate kinsmen in Croatia and Dalmatia ought to be granted, he cannot but feel, to himself. There have been times when the influence of the renegade nobility of Bosnia at the Sublime Porte was very great, but the most complete outward assimilation of Mohammedanism, although leading them to become devoted and trusted subjects of the Ottoman ruler of the New Rome, seems never to have extinguished in them the feeling of kinship with all members of the Slavonic Family. When Yaroslav Laski, brother of the Reformer, John à Lasco, was at Constantinople, endeavouring to obtain Turkish support to place John Zapolya on the throne of Hungary in succession to Louis Jaghellon, the Slavonic language was as familiar at the Porte as Turkish. The Grand Vizier, Ahmet the Herzegovinian,] was a Bosnian, and another Mohammedan Bosnian, Mustapha Pasha, spoke the following remarkable words, which. Laski records in his Diary. “We are of the same nation : you are a Lekh (Pole), and I am a Bosnian ; it is therefore a natural affection for a man to love his own nation more than another."* In 1528 this feeling
• Krasinski, op. cit., pp. 108-110.