Support Site Improvements

Historical Sketches: Volumes 1 To 3 -Blessed John Henry Newman

THE following passages, as being upon the subject of the foregoing Lectures, are extracted from the lively narrative of an Expedition to the Jordan and Dead Sea by Commander Lynch, of the United States Navy.

1. He was presented to Sultan Abdoul Medjid in February, 1848. He says: “On the left hung a gorgeous crimson velvet curtain, embroidered and fringed with gold” [the ancient Tartar one was of felt], “and towards it the secretary led the way. His countenance and his manner exhibited more awe than I had ever seen depicted in the human countenance. He seemed to hold his breath; and his step was so soft and stealthy, that once or twice I stopped, under the impression that I had left him behind, but found him ever beside me. There were three of us in close proximity, and the stairway was lined with officers and attendants; but such was the deathlike stillness that I could distinctly hear my own footfall. If it had been a wild beast slumbering in his lair that we were about to visit, there could not have been a silence more deeply hushed.”

2. “I presented him, in the name of the President of the United States, with some biographies and prints, illustrative of the character and habits of our North American Indians, the work of American artists. He looked at some of them … and said that he considered them as evidences of the advancement of the United States in civilization, and would treasure them as a souvenir of the good feeling of its Government towards him. At the word ‘civilization.’ pronounced in French, I started, for it seemed singular, coming from the lips of a Turk, and applied to our country.” The author accounts for it by observing that the Sultan is but a beginner in French, and probably meant by “civilization” arts and sciences.

3. He saw the old Tartar throne, which puts one in mind of Attila’s queen, Zingis’s lieutenant, and Timour. “The old divan, upon which the Sultans formerly reclined when they gave audience, looks like an overgrown four-poster, covered with carbuncles, turquoise, amethysts, topaz, emeralds, ruby, and diamond: the couch was covered with Damascus silk and Cashmere shawls.”

4. “Anchored in the Bay of Scio. In the afternoon, the weather partially moderating, visited the shore. From the ship we had enjoyed a view of rich orchards and green fields; but on landing we found ourselves amid a scene of desolation.… We rode into the country.… What a contrast between the luxuriant vegetation, the bounty of nature, and the devastation of man! Nearly every house was unroofed and in ruins, not one in ten inhabited, although surrounded with thick groves of orange-trees loaded with the weight of their golden fruit.”

“While weather-bound, we availed ourselves of the opportunity to visit the ruins [of Ephesus]. There are no trees and but very few bushes on the face of this old country, but the mountain-slopes and the valleys are enamelled with thousands of beautiful flowers.… Winding round the precipitous crest of a mountain, we saw the river Cayster … flowing through the alluvial plain to the sea, and on its banks the black tents of herdsmen, with their flocks of goats around them.” As Chandler had seen them there ninety years ago.

5. “The tomb of Mahmood is a sarcophagus about eight feet high and as many long, covered with purple cloth embroidered in gold, and many votive shawls of the richest cashmere thrown over it.… At the head is the crimson tarbouch which the monarch wore in life, with a lofty plume, secured by a large and lustrous aigrette of diamonds. The following words are inscribed in letters of gold on the face of the tomb:—‘This is the tomb of the layer of the basis of the civilization of his empire; of the monarch of exalted place, the Sultan victorious and just, Mahmood Khan, son of the victorious Abd’ al Hamid Khan. May the Almighty make his abode in the gardens of Paradise! Born,’ etc.”

“From the eager employment of Franks, the introduction of foreign machinery, and the adoption of improved modes of cultivating the land, the present Sultan gives the strongest assurance of his anxiety to promote the welfare of his people.”

San Stefano “possesses two things in its near vicinity, of peculiar interest to an American a model farm and an agricultural school. The farm consists of about 2,000 acres of land, especially appropriated to the culture of the cotton-plant. Both farm and school are under the superintendence of Dr. Davis of South Carolina.… Besides the principal culture, he is sedulously engaged in the introduction of seeds, plants, domestic animals, and agricultural instruments. The school is held in one of the kiosks of the Sultan, which overlooks the sea.”

At Jaffa, Dr. Kayat, H.B.M. Consul, “has encouraged the culture of the vine; has introduced that of the mulberry and of the Irish potato; and by word and example is endeavouring to prevail on the people in the adjacent plain to cultivate the sweet potato.… In the court-yard we observed an English plough of improved construction.”

He speaks in several places of the remains of the terrace cultivation (vid. above, p. 128) of Palestine.

6. “We visited the barracks, where a large number of Turkish soldiers, shaved and dressed like Europeans, except the moustache and the tarbouch, received us with the Asiatic salute.… The whole caserne was scrupulously clean, the bread dark coloured, but well baked and sweet. The colonel, who politely accompanied us, said that the bastinado had been discontinued, on account of its injuring the culprit’s eyes.”

… “Here,” in the Palace, “we saw the last of the White Eunuchs; the present enlightened Sultan having pensioned off those on hand, and discontinued their attendance for ever.”

“In an extensive, but nearly vacant building, was an abortive attempt at a museum.”

“It is said, but untruly, that the slave market of Constantinople has been abolished. An edict, it is true, was some years since promulgated, which declared the purchase and sale of slaves to be unlawful; the prohibition, however, is only operative against the Franks, under which term the Greeks are included.”

7. “Every coloured person, employed by the Government, receives monthly wages; and, if a slave, is emancipated at the expiration of seven years, when he becomes eligible to any office beneath the sovereignty. Many of the high dignitaries of the empire were originally slaves; the present Governor of the Dardanelles is a black, and was, a short time since, freed from servitude.”

“The secretary had the most prepossessing countenance of any Turk I had yet seen, and in conversation evinced a spirit of inquiry and an amount of intelligence that far surpassed my expectations.… His history is a pleasing one. He was a poor boy, a charity scholar in one of the public schools. The late Sultan Mahmood requiring a page to fill a vacancy in his suite, directed the appointment to be given to the most intelligent pupil. The present secretary was the fortunate one; and by his abilities, his suavity and discretion, has risen to the highest office near the person of majesty.”

Copyright ©1999-2023 Wildfire Fellowship, Inc all rights reserved