Page images

importance on the Rights of Europeans in Turkey and Egypt.* M. Gavillot claims, and we think justly, to have proved, by the texts which he prints, that the Capitulations, far from being spontaneous concessions on the part of the Ottoman Sultans, were true synallagmatic conventions, stipulating, from the date of the Venetian Capitulation of 1454, and the first French one in 1535, down to that of 1740, already cited, for reciprocity of engagements between the contracting parties. This last view seems to us to be as natural as we believe it to be correct.

Let us now look a little into the language which was used by the “protector and master of Holy Jerusalem, the sovereign of the three great cities of Constantinople, Adrianople, and Broussa, and of Damascus, fragrance of Paradise," on the occasion of his convention with Louis XV. in 1741. We find from M. Gavillot, whose text is before us, that the Sultan recites the fact that the French “Emperor," his " sincere and ancient friend,” had sent to the Sublime Porte a letter containing testimonies of his most perfect sincerity and affection; and that, further, in this letter there was question, in consideration of the sincere friendship and special attachment which France had always testified to the Imperial House of Othman, of renewing, during the happy time of the then Sultan's glorious reign (pendant l'heureux temps de notre glorieux règne), and of strengthening and explaining, by the addition of fresh articles, the Imperial Capitulations already renewed in the year of the Hegira, 1084 (A.D. 1673). “Which Capitulations,” says Sultan Mahmoud, “had for their object that the Ambassadors, Consuls, interpreters, merchants, and others, French subjects, should be protected and kept in all repose and tranquillity (que les Ambassadeurs, Consuls, interprètes, négociants, et autres sujets de la France, soient protégés et maintenus en tous (sic) repos et tranquillité);"

[ocr errors]

* Essai sur les Droits des Européens en Turquie et en Egypte. Par J. C. Aristide Gavillot. Paris : Dentu, 1875.

and, lastly, it had come to the Imperial knowledge that conference had been held on these points between the French Ambassador and the Ministers of the Sublime Porte (qu'il a été conféré sur ces points entre ledit Ambassadeur et les Ministres de notre Sublime Porte). Things being thus prepared, the Pillar of Justice, desiring to promote the activity of commerce, and the safety of those coming and going to and fro, not only " by these presents did confirm, in all their extent, the ancient and renewed Capitulations, and the fresh articles thereof;" but in order to procure still more peace for merchants and activity for commerce, did accord exemption from the right of Mézétérie (a Custom-house tax imposed in Constantinople), as well as several other points concerning commerce and the security of travellers, which had been “in due and proper form discussed, treated, and regulated in the various conferences held for this end between the said Ambassador (Louis de St. Sauveur, Marquis de Villeneuve) who was furnished with sufficient powers, and the persons named on the part of the Sublime Porte" (discutés, traités et réglés en bonne et due forme dans les diverses conférences qui se sont tenues à ce sujet entre le susdit Ambassadeur, muni d'un pouvoir suffisant, et les personnes proposées de la part de notre Sublime Porte).

The conclusion of the whole matter is that the Sultan declares “we have accorded our Imperial ratification (notre signe Impérial) for the execution of the newly agreed articles, and, consequently, the old capitulations having been faithfully transcribed and set down word for word at the head, followed by the articles newly accorded; these present capitulations have been remitted and consigned into the hands of the said Ambassador, and for the execution thereof the Imperial mandate has gone forth."

We have been thus particular in laying before our readers the exact terms of the Capitulation of 1740, even at the risk of seeming somewhat tediously particular, because we are


unable to see that any language could have been more deliberately chosen to express the fact that it was Bi-lateral Contract, and also because we believe this language to be but little known. For ourselves, we must repeat, the statements setting forth the diplomatic meetings and discussions over the terms of the Capitulation are such as unequivocally mark it as an Agreement or Treaty between two High Contracting Powers; in a word, it is a synallagmatic convention. And we agree further with M. Gavillot, in thinking that the Capitulations constitute a sort of International European Code, the common patrimony of all the Christian Powers.” That such a “patrimony" should be clung to with tenacity, even where a Christian Power may temporarily occupy the anomalous position of administrator of a portion of the government of the Sublime Porte, is to us at least no matter for wonder in the face of the unquestioned rottenness of Ottoman justice, and the equally unquestioned antagonism between the Frank and the Moslem. There may be room for wonder that the British Government should ever have thought it would be otherwise, and that it should have assumed, as apparently it did assume, that the mere hoisting of the Union Jack, and the cheering of a few holidaymaking natives, would transform the nature of the Cadi, the Zaptieh, and the Defterdar, and that each would henceforth be a new and uncorrupt man.

Heu, sancta simplicitas!" How art thou deceived ! But it may be questioned whether our Government ought not to have read not merely its Finlay and its Freeman, but its contemporary history. Had the story of the First Ottoman Parliament been duly studied by those who sent out admirals and generals to administer civil government amidst the marshes of Larnaca and Nicosia, they might have remembered the pathetic cry, "Who will deliver us from the Defterdar ?" And this, be it remembered, for the point is a very important one, was the cry of the Mohammedan

[ocr errors]

members of the First Parliament of the Ottoman Empire. If anything could put life into the rapidly declining descendant of Othman the bone-breaker, it would be the outspoken demand for reform on the part of the still dominant caste, the Turkish minority in the Ottoman Empire, who are themselves all that remain of what was once a body instinct with life.

So far are the Western Powers from being likely to give up readily the protection afforded to their subjects by the Capitulations that, as M. Louis Renault observes in his Paper on the Egyptian Judicial Reform, they have even been accused of stretching those rights. One of the gravamina of the Egyptian Government, in fact, was that the Consular Jurisdiction had been greatly extended by encroachments on the Capitulations. These encroachments, assuming their reality, are certainly evidence of European distrust of the local courts in Mohammedan countries. And this distrust, says M. Renault, was so great that the Viceroys themselves respected it, and endeavoured to meet it by the creation of special commissions for the judgment of suits against foreigners. M. Renault sets forth in the strongest language the fact that the Egyptian Government was obliged to yield to the feelings of the Europeans who, he says, “would certainly never have gone before the local courts either in civil or criminal cases." These statements, it should be noted, are based on the Diplomatic Documents published by the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs in November, 1869, and January, 1875. It should also be remarked that the various governments which agreed to the suspension of the Consular judicial privileges of their respective nationalities, in order to give the proposed International Courts a fair trial, only agreed to that suspension as a temporary measure during the period of five years for which the appointments of the judges were made. The rights guaranteed by the Capitulations are therefore not extinct, even in Egypt, but only suspended

[ocr errors]


for a definite period, at the expiration of which they will ipso facto revive,* unless a further suspension be then decreed. In Cyprus, however, nothing of this sort has taken place. The Sultan is still “ Lord of Cyprus ” as he was in the days of Louis XV., and he has not consented to the establishment of any International courts in Cyprus. On the other hand the Western Powers have in no case known to

to us suspended any of the rights and privileges accruing to their Consuls and their subjects in Cyprus, or indeed in any other part of the Levant, save Egypt. The conclusion therefore is inevitable, to our mind, that wheresoever throughout the Ottoman Empire the Capitulations have not been " totidem verbis," suspended or abrogated, there they are still in force. And for Great Britain to assume the opposite would be, apart from the grave questions of Law and Fact, a very ungracious return towards at least one of her nearest neighbours on the Continent. For it was very properly pointed out by M. Louis Renault, long before the British administration of Cyprus was dreamed of, that in the first French Capitulation with the Porte, that of 1535, Francis I. caused the insertion of clauses reserving similar rights and privileges for the Pope and the King of England. But neither King nor Pope took advantage of these rights, and for a long time, says M. Renault, the French flag protected the commerce of all Europeans trading with Turkey. We do not, even after the answers given in the House to the questions of the honourable member for Chelsea, know very much about the way in which the Action against Mt. di Cesnola was brought. So far as we can understand, it must have been a mixed action, partly concerning moveables, partly immoveables. It might be interesting, as a

* After the expiration of five years, " if experience is not favourable to the practical utility of the Judicial Reform, it shall be lawful for the Powers either to return to the old state of things, or to make new arrangements with the Egyptian Government.” Renault, op. cit.

« PreviousContinue »