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No. XX. will be published in July 1807.
D. WILLISON, PRINTER, EDINBURGH.
ART. I. The Present State of Turkey; or a Description of the Porno
litical, Civil, and Religious Constitution, Government and Laws, of the Ottoman Empire ; the Finances ; Military and Naval Establishments ; the State of Learning ; and of the Liberal and Mechanical Arts ; the Manners, and Domestic Economy of the Turks, and other Subjects of the Grand Signor, &c. &c. &c.; together with the Geographical, Political, and Civil State of the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia ; from Observations made during a Residence of Fifteen Years in Constantinople and - the Turkish Provinces. By Thomas Thornton. Efq. 4to.
pp. 468. London. Mawman. 1807.
The subject of this work is in an uncommon degree interesting
at the present moment; but we are inclined to bestow par ticular attention upon it, rather from a consideration of the permanent importance of the contents, than because of the temporary attractions which the discussion poffeffes. No general work, of authority, has appeared upon the affairs of Turkey, for a great length of time. Since the publications of Rycaut and Cantemir, important changes have taken place in the state of that extensive empire. The Tableau General of D’Ohffon, is scarcely known in this country; and though exceedingly valuable, so far as it goes, from the author's peculiar opportunities of information, is still very incomplete, that part only having been published which treats of the religion of the Turks. * Mr Eton's book abounds in misa VOL. X. NO. 20.
mportant time. sppeared uporu fic
* We have not had the advantage of consulting this work, but we suppose that it comprehends, under religion, a conliderable portion of the other branches of the subject. The author is an Armenian, born in Turkey, and a tributary subject of the Porte. Mr Thornton, very properly, appeals to his authority, as in most cases preferable to that of other writers, on disputed points.
takes; is evidently written under the impression of a political theo ory, and receives more than its share of mercy, if its misrepresentations are imputed to the influence of such a prepoffefsion. The work now under review, we therefore consider as a valuable accession to statistical knowledge ; and as, on the whole, the best general account of the Turkish empire hitherto published. • We must not, however, disguise from our readers, the labour which they will have to encounter, if they follow our advice, and peruse Mr Thornton's book. It is very ill put together, and badly written. The materials are not used to the best advantage; and we suspect they have been furnished by the collector to some one ignorant of the subject; and by him, according to the fashion of the times, made into a book, with the assistance of former publications on the same subject. If this be the case, Mr Thornton has committed the further mistake of employing an unskilful writer. There is no distinct or convenient arrangement, things are not to be found in their proper placesym-repetitions are frequenta-contradictions not uncommon,-the common benefits of an index are denied to the weary reader;mach of what should be given as part of Mr Thornton's narrative or discusfion, is thrown into the form of criticism upon the writings of his predeceffors, who are, indeed, reviewed in a desultory way, in almost every page. The notes contain a large portion of what belongs, properly, to the text, which is thụs, every where, quite imperfect without them, and very often is materially altered by them. On disputed questions, we can scarcely ever get hold of a clear opinion. This author is wrong, that author is not right; and Mr Thornton gives his own account of the matter, subject to fo many modifications and restrictions, and fcattered over so many parts of his subject, that we do not, after all, fee his meaning, or perhaps find it coincides with the doctrines he has been criticizing. The general dissertations are very meagre and superficial. The style is verbose and full of pretensions to eloquence. Declamation, which is so fo. reign to the object of any scientific work, and so peculiarly misplaced in a statistical treatise, abounds in every page. To it, great facrifices of correctness, as well as conciseness, are evidently made; and we frequently have the impression, that things are said, because the writer had a turn of expression suited to them, and not because they were effential to the elucidation of the subject. To satisfy our readers, once for all, of the manner of writ. ing used by Mr Thornton, we shall extract a part of his long eulogium on the ancient Greeks, introduced professedly for the purpose of contrasting them with their descendants ; but, in some degree also, (as we should suppose), for the sake of its eloquence.
Who are the modern Greeks ? and whence did Conftantine colleet the mixed population of his capital; the herd of dogmatifts and hypo.
an is thus, every ly altered by clear opinion..con gives his over
crites, whom ambition had converted to the new religion of the court ? certainly not from the families which have immortalized Attica and Laconia. They never sprang from those Athenians, whose patriotic ardour could not wait the tardy approach of the Persian army, but impelled them over the plains of Marathon, to an unpremeditated charge, whereby they forced the superior numbers of an invading enemy to seek refuge in the sea. The lofty spirit of Athenian independence could not brook the mild yoke of Persian despotism: they refused to disho. nour the soil of Attica by offering the smallest particle of it as a tribute to a foreign sovereign ; though their enlightened patriotism could, upon a great emergency, rise superior even to the natural attachment, which so powerfully binds men to their native soil : they abandoned their city, with the temples of their deities, and the tombs of their ancestors, to the fury of the barbarians, and embarked on board their navy, what really constituted the Athenian commonwealth, the whole of the Athenian citizens.
. From Athens and the borders of the Iliffus, the seat of literature and science, even when arms were wrested from the hands of its citia eens, the invitation of Conftantine attracted no philosopher. The caa pital, with all its allurements of splendour and luxury, could not come in competition with the more enchanting impressions of groves and garden8 conseerated to philosophy and science : and they continued to ftudy the doctrines of the Porch, the Lyceum, and the Academy, on the fame ground where they were first promulgated, until Theodofius finally expelled them. Still less can the modern Greeks be lupposed the dea scendants of the citizens of Sparta, of those ferocious warriors to whom a ftate of actual warfare was repose, when compared with the intervals. of hoftility, spent in gymnastic exercises, and the most fatiguing duties of the military life. Formed by the rigid obfervance of the laws of Lycurgus, and animated with the warmeft enthusiasm of real patriotism, Leonidas and his small illustrious band, with deliberate resolution, devoted their lives at Thermopyla for the freedom of Greece. But the Spartans were the terror of all the neighbouring states, except those who were their dependent allies. At length the devouring fire of their valour consumed itself; and long before the seat of government was removed from Rome to Conftantinople, the Spartan families, if not wholly extinct, could no longer be distinguished among the mass of fub. miffive subjects of the Roman empire. ' 69. 70. 71.
Such are the principal defects of which we have to complain in the composition of this work. They are no doubt very serious evils, and exceedingly diminish its value. It contains, nevertheless, a great deal that deserves praise. The author is, in general, free from strong prejudices. If he seems to lean a little too much towards the Turks, he fairly states his reasons, and shows that others have exaggerated their defects. He is, in a proper degree, prone to incredulity, where travellers and writers of descriptions have asserted what is unlikely or strange, and is
frequently successful in detecting such tales by their inconsistencies, without having recourse to his own authority as an eyewitness. His opportunities of procuring information, however, have been considerable. He resided at Constantinople fourteen years in the British factory, and fifteen months at Odessa, and made, during that time, occasional excursions to Asia Minor, and the islands of the Archipelago. He enjoyed the acquaintance of the most respectable foreign ministers and their interpreters, and was tolerably well versed in the language. His leisure, which he says was considerable, seems to have been employed in reading the accounts of those who had treated of Turkish affairs, and in detecting their mistakes or misrepresentations. A great part of his book is accordingly made up of such remarks ; and though we are sure that he is frequently led into errors, from the desire of finding other people in the wrong, and sometimes see him differing from them for the sake of objecting, when there is clearly no opposition of sentiments; yet we cannot deny that his pages contain a mass of corrections, which must render the works already in our possession much more valuable. Had he only given his information in a more distinct and orderly manner, and conveyed it in a less ambitious style, so as to have made his meaning more intelligible, we should have been contented with recommending the book to our readers, and only stated the few points on which we differ from him. But the defects of his arrangement, and the contradictions and repetitions through which we have to work our way to the substance of his statements, as well as the declamation in which they are wrapt up, render it desireable that we should digest the most important parts of the information which this book contains in as concise an abstract as the nature of the subject will permit.
In pursuing this plan, we shall make no apology for deviating entirely from Mr Thornton's arrangement. He divides his work into nine chapters. The first contains general remarks on the manners and institutions of the Turks; and the second, professing to trace the rise and progress of the Ottoman power, gives a few short notices of the chief epochs in its history, and then runs into a number of unconnected, and, for the most part, superficial dissertations on the present state and future prospects of the empire. Almost the whole of those two chapters should have come after every other part of the subject had been discussed, The third chapter treats of the constitution, and the fourth of the judicial establishments; although we conceive it is impossible, with any advantage, to separate those two subjects, or to discuss them clearly, without a previous attention to the religion of this theocracy, which is reserved for a part of the seventh