Philippopolis, July 28.
I arrived here three days ago on a mission of investigation. Philippopolis, it may be mentioned, is the principal town in that part of Bulgaria which was the scene of the exploits of the Bashi-Bazouks, and is therefore the best or rather the only point at which trustworthy information can be obtained respecting the atrocities now exciting so much indignation in Europe. I found that Mr. Baring had already arrived and commenced the work of investigation. Mr. Schuyler, the American Consul-General, likewise arrived, partly on a similar errand, partly to inquire into the advisability of establishing a vice-consulate, or taking other measures for the protection of a few American missionary families established throughout the country. The other consuls, I find, made reports to their respective Governments some time ago, and are now engaged in collecting further information relating to the insurrection.
It is a curious fact that while the Austrian, Greek, Russian, and French Governments all have consuls in this place, who give minute and detailed reports of everything that happens here, the English Government, which one would think equally interested in receiving prompt and correct information, should have no agent at all. There is an English consul at Adrianople, a very worthy gentleman, but his health is so shattered that he is utterly unfit for service of any kind. It is therefore scarcely astonishing that the English Government should know less of what is passing in Turkey than other Governments, and far less than well-informed newspapers.
When Lord Derby made the statement in the House of Lords that the Government had received no information from the consuls at Scutari, Belgrade, and Galatz about the atrocities of the Bashi-Bazouks, was he indulging in fun at the expense of his noble auditors ? If he had said that the Government had received no information from the consuls at St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Vienna respecting the Dublin riots, he would not have made a more irrelevant statement. As far as the difficulty of communication is concerned, and the time required for the transmission of a letter, Galatz and Belgrade are further away from Philippopolis and the scene of the atrocities attributed to the Bashi-Bazouks than Vienna or St. Petersburg are from Dublin. The consuls in Belgrade and Galatz know absolutely no more of what is passing here than do the consuls in Bordeaux or Lyons. It is therefore to be fairly presumed that until Mr. Baring was sent out, the Government had absolutely no means of obtaining news, except through the papers, and that they will have obtained no direct information until Mr. Baring shall have made his report.
As before stated, I also came with the mission of investigating and making a report. I think I came in a fair and impartial frame of mind. I had determined to see for myself wherever it was possible; to make inquiries, to weigh and compare statements, to carefully sift evidence and get at the plain unvarnished truth, and not allow my mind to be influenced by unsupported assertions on either side. I had looked at the question first from the Christian and then from the Turkish point of view. I had heard the violent assertions of the one party, and the soft-worded apologies of the other, with equal coolness and impartiality, and had especially made a large allowance for the " gross exaggerations of the Christians." I had, in truth, listened to both sides with such equal impartiality that I had grown somewhat sceptical, a state of mind, I take it, peculiarly adapted to the spirit of scientific inquiry. I had besides resolved to keep up this frame of mind to the end. It is generally easy enough to bear the ills of other people, and to be calm and judicial where others' woes are concerned. I am now obliged to confess that I had miscalculated the circumstances.
I have scarcely more than begun the investigation, and the frame of mind I had resolved to maintain at any hazard has already passed away. I fear I am no longer impartial, and I certainly am no longer cool. There are certain things that cannot be investigated in a judicial frame of mind. There are facts which when perceived send the blood through the veins with an angry rush, and cause the muscles to contract in sudden anger. There are things too horrible to allow anything like calm inquiry ; things, the vileness of which the eye refuses to look upon, and which the mind refuses to contemplate. There are facts which repel and revolt; facts which, when you go about among them, fly in your face. Such is the nature of the facts I came to investigate. I have already investigated enough to feel convinced that, except from a purely statistical point of view, further investigation would be unnecessary. Mr. Baring and Mr. Schuyler will probably give us enough statistics, and I shall be ready to accept their figures. The atrocities admitted on all hands by those friendly to the Turks, and by the Turks themselves, are enough, and more than enough. I do not care to go on heaping up the mournful count. When you are met in the outset of your investigation with the admission that 60 or 70 villages have been burned, that some 15,000 people have been slaughtered, of whom a large part were women and children, you begin to feel that it is useless to go any further. When, in addition to this, you have the horrid details of the vilest outrages committed upon women; the hacking to pieces of helpless children and spitting them upon bayonets; and when you have these details repeated you by the hundred, not by Bulgarians, but by the different consuls at Philippopolis and the German officials on the railway, as well as Greeks, Armenians, priests, missionaries, and even Turks themselves, you begin to feel that any further investigation is superfluous.
Mr. Baring, I am informed, will report that in the districts about Philippopolis and Tatar Bazardjik alone there have been about fifty villages burnt, without counting those that have been only pillaged, and that nearly 15,000 people have been slaughtered. This is the lowest estimate, and it does not include the districts about Sofia and those north of the Balkan. The French and Russian Consuls and the railway officials give much higher figures, and would put the number of villages burned at over a hundred, and the killed at 25,000 to 40,000. There are people who put the number of killed at 100,000. For my own part, once the enormous number of 15,000 killed in four days is admitted, I do not care to inquire further. The French Consul and the German railway officials may be right or they may be wrong. Fifteen thousand is enough; for no mere increase in a statement of round numbers can add to the horror of the thing. It is only in the recital of the details accompanying the butchery that the mind can grasp and understand the fearful atrocity of the business. The Greek Consul, who is not friendly to the Bulgarians, tells me of 12,000 wretched women and children marched into Tatar Bazardjik, nearly all of whom suffered the vilest outrages. He tells me of Bulgarian fathers who killed their wives and children in order to put them out of reach of the ferocity of the Bashi-Bazouks. The German officials tell me of the bodies of men cut up and flung to the dogs in villages near their own railway stations; of little children of both sexes maltreated and brutalised until they died ; of a priest, whose wife and children were outraged and slaughtered before his eyes, and who was then put to death, after the most fearful torture, the details of which are too abominable to be re-told. I have the story of a young and beautiful girl, who having found means to obtain the rudiments of an education, opened a school in her native village, and tried to do something for the education of the poor people about her, who is now lying in prison here sick and brokenhearted, whose story is too sad for recital. The French Consul tells me of Bashi-Bazouks relating to circles of admiring listeners how they cut off the heads of little children, and how the dismembered trunks would leap and roll about like those of chickens; and I shut my ears and say, " This is enough ; I do not want to hear any more ; I do not care to investigate any further." It does not matter to me that a few more or less have been committed. You cannot increase or diminish the horror of the thing by mere statements of round numbers. I shall leave the statistics to Mr. Schuyler and Mr. Baring, and shall be quite willing to accept their estimates.
It has been said that these acts were committed by irregular troops, over whom the Government had no control, for whom the Turkish authorities were in no way responsible, and that the latter would, on the contrary, have been very glad to restrain them. Unfortunately, there are many facts connected with the business which show that this view of the case is altogether erroneous. Had the Government really been in earnest in making these protestations, it would have seized some of the principal leaders of the Bashi-Bazouks, some of those who had particularly distinguished themselves by their ferocity, and punished them summarily. Chefket Pacha, for instance, who burned the village of Bazardjik, and slaughtered nearly all of its inhabitants under more than usually revolting circumstances, should have been one of the first to feel the strong arm of the law. But having done all this, he has been promoted to a high position in the Palace of the Sultan at Constantinople. Again, there is the case of Achmet Aga, a captain of a company of Bashi-Bazouks, who likewise distinguished himself by his ferocity. He wished to burn Philippopolis, and was only withheld from doing so by the energetic action of the governor, who has since been removed, and who threatened to attack him with the regular troops. It was he who slaughtered 8,000 people at Batak, and burned 200 women and children alive in the school. He is a low ignorant brute, who can neither read nor write, and yet he has been promoted to the rank of Pacha, and with that exquisite mockery of European demands for justice, for which the Oriental is so distinguished, he has been named a member of the commission appointed to prosecute and punish the Bashi-Bazouks. The reason is clear and simple. These men carried out the wishes and intentions of the Government, if not the positive orders. They did their duty, and have been rewarded. But it has been said that the Bulgarians set the example of committing atrocities, and even Lord Derby, upon the authority of Sir Henry Elliot, made the statement before the House that both sides had been equally guilty in this respect. It might be interesting to learn where Sir Henry Elliot obtained his information. As I have already explained, the English Government had no agent here capable of sending information until the arrival of Mr. Baring. He could not have obtained it from other Governments, for the reason that the various consuls here, with all of whom I have talked, never reported any atrocities on the part of the Bulgarians to their respective Governments. He could not have obtained it from the Turkish Government, for the reason that even the Turkish authorities here do not claim more than 500 Turks killed altogether, of whom the greater part, they admit, were killed in battle, with arms in their hands ; and further, because while they claim some thirty women killed, they have not so far given Mr. Schuyler proof that a single woman or child was killed or outraged. Kiani Pacha told him that the Mudir of the village of Avrat-alan had been killed with his wife and daughter. Mr. Schuyler found, upon inquiry, that the wife of the Mudir was absent in a different part of the country when the fight occurred, and that the report of her death was therefore untrue; while as to the daughter, he learned that the Mudir never had a daughter. But supposing that proof may yet be forthcoming of thirty Turkish women killed—as they may have been in the street fighting—it is very evident that at the time Lord Derby spoke, he had no proof of such a fact, nor the slightest reason for the sweeping assertion that the Bulgarians had shown themselves equal in barbarity to the Turks. The only inference is that he made a perfectly reckless statement, in support of which he had not the slightest particle of evidence ; and this at the moment when Mr. Disraeli was accusing well-informed newspapers, that had taken pains to obtain correct information, of giving credence to exaggerated and unfounded rumours.
It is said that the Bulgarians had no business to rise, that they made an insurrection which was put down with a strong hand, and that they must take the consequences. The best answer to this is the manifesto published by the new Government, after the deposition of the late Sultan, in which it was shown that the misrule and oppression of the late Government had passed the limit of endurance. The extortions and mismanagement of the Government had produced such a degree of misery among the peasantry, that without a change their existence was no longer possible. This, indeed, was the reason for the revolution at Constantinople. And yet Midhat Pacha and his associates are still hanging and imprisoning these poor people for doing what they have shown the Bulgarians were perfectly justified in doing, and for what they themselves have done—revolting against the Sultan. The truth is, that no other people in the world but these Bulgarians would stand for a day the exactions, extortions, oppression, and tyranny to which they have been subjected for centuries. If it were attempted to introduce into England the system of taxation in use here, the people would rise as one man against the Government. Why, then, should we so blame these poor Bulgarians for doing that which we all would do under like circumstances ; why sympathise with the strong against the weak, when the weak are so evidently in the right ?
Mr. Baring went to Batak to-day, and has not yet returned. Mr. Schuyler goes to-morrow, and takes me with him.