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THE FRANKS OF CONSTANTINOPLE.
Numbers--Native Franks--Foreign Ambassadors--Roman Cath
olics Protestants-Negligence of Protestant Nations.
1829. I have heretofore estimated the number of Franks in Constantinople at from 4 to 8000. This includes all who wear hats and have Frank protection. No small portion of these are natives of the country, whose ancestors were perhaps from other parts of Europe, or more probably subjects of the Turkish government, who 66 with a great sum obtained this freedom.” Some of this latter class, attain to important situations in connexion with the foreign embassies. Such was the learned M. D'Ohsson, formerly Swedish Ambassador to the Porte, whose view of the Ottoman empire is the most complete that was ever published. He was of Armenian parentage. Most of the Dragomans of the Ambassadors and Consuls are also of native extraction. At present the Ambassadors are not allowed to sell the privilege of foreign citizenship. Numbers however continue to absent themselves from the country for a season, and then return with the Frank dress and protection. I have been assured that the Turkish authorities are often aware of this assumed character, and exercise a strict surveillance over the individuals in question. When the Ambassadors of the three allied powers withdrew from the country, they took occasion to send away a great number of these self constituted
Franks. At present, the Frank population of all classes must be greatly diminished from what it was previous to that event.
The Foreign Ambassadors and the diplomatic body generally, first claim our most particular consideration Besides the Secretary of Legation, and private Secretary, there are usually a number of young gentlemen attached to the family of the Ambassador, who are thus becoming familiar with the business of diplomacy. The Consul General, the Chancellor, &c. have their seperate establishments. In the Chancellor's court, minor cases, both criminal and civil, I believe, are decided, while the more important come before the Ambassador himself. According to a treaty, a Frank, whatever crime he may have committed, is amenable only to the tribunals of his own country. Some part of the Ambassador's palace, answers the purpose of a prison. The palaces are national buildings, erected by their respective governments, on land granted for that purpose by the Porte. A few soldiers are also assigned for the protection and service of the embassy. Whether the Ambassadors are invested by their own governments, with executive as well as with judicial power, I am unable to say.
The intercourse between the members of the diplomatic corps is exceedingly formal and distant. Confined as they are in a great degree to a single neighborhood, alternately watching and watched, and with little society of their own countrymen around them, their situation, whatever may be thought of its political importance, must be far from agreeable. The inmates of the palace are however sufficiently numerous and select, to form one happy family.
The principal Frank merchants here as well as at Smyrna, do business on a commission of two or three per cent. upon both sales and purchases. Some of them amass princely fortunes, and they are often gentlemen of great intelligence. The children of such are sent abroad for education. Under them is a long series of Armenian, Greek, Jewish and Turkish agents, who transact all the business.
A chaplain is attached to the English Embassy at Constantinople, and also to the Consulate at Smyrna. Dr. Walsh, whose entertaining journey from Constantinople to Vienna, has lately been republished in this country, left that situation when Lord Strangford returned to England. Since that time, the Rev. Mr. Leeves, who had previously resided at Constantinople as agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, has officiated as chaplain. From the different gentlemen attached to the Embassy, I received every attention and favor, which I could have expected from my own countrymen under similar circumstances. There were two English physicians at Constantinople, but the number of English merchants is less than at Smyrna. Besides the ladies of the Ambassador, his colleague, and chaplain, there were no others, I believe, who were English born.
In respect of religion, the great body of the Franks are Catholics. The Catholic influence at Constantinople has however been much weakened by the banishment of the Armenian Catholics. Perhaps as a body, the Catholics here are more liberal than their brethren elsewhere. Still there were instances of very
furious persecution of some who were inclining to the Protestant faith. They have a convent and two churches, Vol. I.
which are indulged in the use of bells, by making suitable payment for the privilege. Both here and at Smyrna, considerable division and rivalship exists between the Austrians and French. Their native priests are exceedingly ignorant.
The Russian Ambassador on occasion of some of the principal festivals attended the Greek Churches. I am not aware that he has a private chaplain.
The Protestant influence is not very considerable nor properly concentrated. Their Ambassadors are the English, the Dutch, the Swedish, and ordinarily the Prussian; the last was however a Catholic. The Dutch Ambassador manifested much interest in the case of the converted Jews, and requested an account of their persecutions to send to his friends in Holland. Efforts were making to obtain a chaplain for this Embassy. Mr. Canning lent his countenance, perhaps farther than political men are accustomed, to the operations of Bible and Missionary men. The Secretary of the Prussian Embassy spoke freely of what he considered to be a neglect on the part of the Protestant powers. This was employing Dragomans, Consuls, &c. who were country born, and neither by birth nor religion, attached to the government which they served. He was of opinion that the Porte would look with approbation upon missionary exertions, among its Catholic subjects. Another suggestion which like the preceding was made in his unofficial character, I deem of importance to mention. Whatever might be the objects which our countrymen had in view at Constantinople, whether political or philanthropic, he was of opinion they would be greatly promoted by a critical acquaintance with the Turkish language. The king of Naples, who had lately entered into political relations with the Porte, had with a clearer foresight than the English, sent a number of young men to study Arabic on Mount Lebanon. Three years spent there, (for which, as he said, a thousand dollars per annum, would be sufficient,) might be finished by a residence of six months or a year at Constantinople. They would then be prepared to serve in any capacity, as Secretaries, Consuls, Missionaries, &c. without the intervention of an interpreter.
The civilities which American strangers every where meet with, I also experienced from gentlemen connected with several of the Foreign Embassies. For my own part, while I felt grateful for the respect thus paid to my country, I chose to avoid all unnecessary intercourse with the foreign residents at Pera. I wished not to lose sight of the simple nature of my missionary calling, nor needlessly to excite the suspicions of the Turkish government. Whatever may be true of commercial men, other Americans feel the need of a regular representative of their own nation, through whom thay may appear in Turkey in their own proper character. During the recent difficulties, our connexion with the English, subjected not a few of our countrymen to serious inconveniences. Mr. Gridley's teacher was detained at Cesarea, and his papers are still withheld on the charge of his having been a British Spy. This was in consequence of his having necessarily been called an Englishman in the only travelling passport which I could obtain for
The travelling firman was formerly a document of great importance to any one who wished to visit the