LEAVING Constantinople I took the Austrian boat, which started at one in the afternoon and reached Varna at half-past two in the morning. Where the Bosphorus opens into the Black Sea the coasts of Europe and Asia appear equally sad and desolate. I saw nothing but forts and a few fishermen's huts. Cannons and poverty; admirable situations abandoned or laid waste by men; that is the picture of Turkey.
Crossing the Danube I admire the immense, majestic expanse of water, wider than the Bosphorus. Seafaring vessels ascend it with all sails set. Rustchuk was seen to the left on some reddish hills overlooking the river. A small steamer took us to Giurgevo, where the Eastern Express was waiting. Giurgevo consists of low houses of one story, like the Hungarian villages, but they are clean and in good repair, and I see no ruins. It is easy to perceive that we are no longer under Turkish rule. How different from Stamboul!
The Roumanian farms that I went through before Bucharest are better cultivated than those between Varna and the Danube; there was less waste ground, the maize land was better tilled, the corn was freer from weeds. The men working in the fields were dressed in white woollen clothes, with a sheepskin kalpac on their head, and the women wore a long tunic with a bright-coloured apron.
Page 337Here and there were clumps of fine trees, such as are never seen in Turkey, where the sole idea is to turn everything into money. My first impression of Bucharest was prepossessing. Except in the central streets, like Calea Mogochoi, called since the taking of Plevna the street of Victory, the houses have only one story and are detached: a large door gives access to a garden which contains the dependencies and the kitchen, often connected by a passage with the house.
The view from the top of a tower shows the roofs lost in foliage, recalling Moscow seen from the Kremlin; but in the centre, where land is dear, they are now building lofty houses as in Paris. The Grand Hotel is good, clean, even elegant, but everything is excessively dear; the more extraordinary as food is fabulously cheap: a leg of mutton costs 1s. 8d., a fowl 10d., a turkey 1s. 8d. ; there is a good supply of fish from the Danube at a very low price; sterleton is excellent. The wines of the country are pleasant, and are sold at 2d. or 3d. a litre. I was astonished that some Swiss had not yet established the hotel-pensions, where comfort may be obtained at moderate prices, as in Italy and Spain.
My first visit was to the English Minister, Sir William White, for whom I had an introduction from the Foreign Office, signed by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice. Sir William is exceedingly witty, a most amusing talker, and devoted to Liberal ideas; no one knows Roumania so thoroughly as he. He wished to take me at once to see the President of the Council, M. Bratiano, but the Prime Minister's son told us that his father had had a serious fall and the doctors ordered rest. We went to tea with M. Demeter Stourdza, Minister of Foreign Affairs; he is one of the most eminent men of this country. I found at Madame Stourdza's a salon, a true salon, that reminded me of Madame Minghetti's in Rome; she has the art of talking and, rarer still, of making others talk; she leads the conversation to interesting subjects, much above the usual trivialities, without the least touch of the blue-stocking or the pedant.
She talked much of Queen Elizabeth whom she adores. Page 338Unfortunately I cannot see her, for she is with her family at Neuwied. Madame Stourdza gave me Carmen Sylva's books, "Les Pensées d'une Reine," containing profound, courageous, well-expressed maxims; the "Legendes des Karpathes," Pelesch-Märchen ans Carmen Sylva's Konigreich;"Pilgrim Sorrow." By CARMEN SYLVA. Translated by HELEN ZIMMERN. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1884. and a poem on the Wandering Jew in German, strangely and startlingly poetical, and piercing the problem of human life to its depths.
Carmen Sylva—the Queen's nom de plume—delights to live in the wild valleys of the Carpathians, "where the primitive forest crowns the riven rocks, over which the rushing torrents fall"—
M. Stourdza spoke with great satisfaction of the financialPage 339condition of Roumania, which, like Italy, has attained a balance of expenditure, and they have even put by 60 million francs. All the Government services are well worked, and the State regularly pays everything that it owes. Great progress has been made in the last ten years.
In the Grand Hotel I met General Brialmont, a fellow-member of the Academy of Brussels. The King had sent for him, and saw him every day to discuss and prepare a plan for building forts round Bucharest. Since the death of Todtleben, he is certainly the greatest designer of fortifications in Europe. He spoke of his plans with enthusiasm. Bucharest, he says, will be even better defended than Antwerp, thanks to a series of detached forts, with moveable iron-clad batteries, like those of turret ships. The chief point is how to protect the guns and men more completely. The effects of the present explosive bullets are so terrible that unprotected cannon would be soon knocked to pieces. Bucharest will be made an impregnable intrenched camp, where the Roumanian army can hold in check forces ten times greater than their own, and even close the road to a Russian army.
Roumania, like Belgium, is open for the passage of belligerents, and she cannot defend her neutrality against the stronger of the two. She is compelled to let the army pass through, and even to consent to an alliance. Under such conditions, the independence of the country does not exist. It is important to command the Danube here, as it is necessary in Belgium to bar the valley of the Meuse. It is said that neighbouring States have taken offence at these projects, I do not believe it; enable the small States easily to defend themselves, and it is a guarantee of peace; the great ones will be less likely to attempt an attack!
I was brought round to the General's opinion; Roumania is weak, and a prey to be coveted by Russia and Austria alternately. But, when able to repel aggression, she would prevent her ambitious neighbours from regarding her as an easy prey, and would also be a barrier hindering their attempts upon each other.
Page 340In 1859, the reunion of Wallachia and Roumania was opposed in England by Palmerston and Disraeli; it was defended, then as now, by Gladstone and also by Lord Robert Cecil, now Lord Salisbury. In his first speech on the Eastern Question, he said: "If Europe supports the claims of Turkey, the Principalities will be left to the mercy of the Turkish Government, the most oppressive and rapacious of Governments. Whilst Turkey is still standing they will be under this rule, and when she falls, as fall she must, they will be a spoil, which the other Powers will divide amongst them; I hope that the House of Commons will, under these circumstances, show itself the friend of liberty.… An opportune moment, which may never return, now presents itself, of supporting the principles we revere, of establishing the institutions to which we owe our happiness, and of ensuring the liberty and well-being of a large number of our fellow creatures."
Disraeli reproached Lord Robert Cecil with trying to create a " fantastic kingdom " and "a phantom of independence." We can see now how much Disraeli was mistaken, and how right were Lord R. Cecil's views. His words are now exactly applicable to the reunion of Bulgaria and Roumelia. Had he recollected them at Berlin, he would not have helped to annul the Treaty of San Stefano. A State able to live, capable of self-defence, a second Roumania, should have been constituted beyond the Danube, and present and future complications would have been avoided. Fortunately, at the present time, Lord Salisbury seems no longer to forget the words of Lord Robert Cecil in 1859.
King Leopold had kindly given me a letter of introduction to King Charles, who received me in his Villa Cotroceni, a little way out of Bucharest, it was formerly a convent, with the church still remaining, as was the former royal residence of Pelesch at Sinaia. The King received me most graciously; he spoke with enthusiasm of his "good brother" Leopold, who had showed himself to be worthy of his illustrious father. King Charles was in uniform; he had the upright. Page 341bearing of a Prussian officer, slender, decided in his movements, and young looking. He was in all respects a fine man. When I told him how much I admired the beautiful trees in the Cotroceni Park, he answered, "Indeed, I adore fine trees; I plant them, and get them planted, whenever I can; they are the great want in our very fertile plains. I would not have them cut down at Pelesch even to open the view; they are the great beauty of the Carpathians. I have just returned from an excursion in almost unknown parts of the chain, where I encamped amidst true virgin forests. If you had been here a few days sooner I would have carried you off. It was splendid; we saw, lying on the ground, enormous trunks, reaching up to one's shoulder; we were transported to the heart of primitive nature, to the Urwald, as the German so truly says."
He spoke of the Semitic question, which is always under discussion in Roumania. "The West," he said, "and you authors are very unjust to us in this respect. Need I to tell you that I am not prejudiced against the Jews? I have just returned from the fêtes at Jassy, where the population is three-quarters Jewish, and I have nowhere received a warmer welcome. I am the first to recognize their commercial aptitudes, of which I have had a recent proof. In our last great manceuvres it was proposed to entrust the supply of food to Christians. The first day the provisions came; the second day everything was late; on the third, the whole army was dying of hunger. I was forced to make a hasty appeal to the Jews. In the last campaign of the Russians beyond the Danube, the Jewish providers saved them from many sufferings; they had always everything they wanted, from a bottle of champagne for the officer to cheap tobacco for the soldier's pipe. The Israelites have great qualities; they are intelligent, energetic, economical, but these very qualities make them dangerous for us on economic grounds. Rightly or wrongly, the fear here is that by degrees they will get the whole land into their hands."
Page 342King Charles has thoroughly understood and carried out the part of a constitutional monarch; he and his people are very happy together. The parlimentary régime has given rise, here as elsewhere, to painful crises and difficult situations; but if the sovereign keeps himself in the elevated sphere which ought to be his, far above these miseries and intrigues, occupying himself with the permanent interests of the country and favouring all improvements, he will keep his popularity intact, and the nation will be obliged to take the blame of its own mistakes. Louis Philippe never understood this, and he lost his crown. The King of Denmark does not understand it now, and he is at open war with his people, who are the best in the world. If Prince Alexander would imitate his Roumanian neighbour, he would no longer have to complain of the Bulgarians.
M. Nicolas Xenopol, one of the editors of the Liberal Progressist paper, Le Romanul, most graciously offered himself as my guide during my stay here. He presented me to Rossetti, who as President of the Chamber exerted large and well-merited influence. This illustrious patriot, whose dramatic escape in 1848 has been so well told by Michelet in his "Legendes du Nord," was very vigorous; his hair was of silvery whiteness, but his keen and almost hard black eye, revealed a strong will and sincere mind. He died last year. "Roumania," he said, "has made wonderful progress in the use of free institutions. The country governs itself; we enjoy, without restriction, the most perfect liberty, and, as you see, our political life flows peacefully on, as in Belgium, with no other storms than those raised in the House by the different parties, but that does not disturb the country."
The Roumanian Parliament, imitating the wisdom of the Hungarians, who have retained M. Tizsa as Prime Minister for a long time, has kept M. Bratiano in office, to the great advantage of regular progress and good administration.
The Roumanian Constitution guarantees perfect liberty to its citizens in the most absolute manner. It is an almost exact fac-simile of the Belgian Constitution. Page 343"Equality before the law, Art. 10.—No distinction of class or privilege, Art. 11.—Personal liberty guaranteed, Art. 14.—The home inviolable, Art. 15.—Neither confiscation of goods nor penalty of death, except under the military penal code, Art. 16, 17.—Liberty of conscience and worship, Art. 21.—The civil authority the sole source of the civil acts of the State, Art. 22.—Free education, primary education gratuitous and compulsory, Art. 23.—Complete liberty of speech and press. No preliminary censure nor permission. No preventive measure. Misdemeanours of the press to be tried before a jury, Art. 24.—The secrecy of letters guaranteed, Art. 25.—The right of holding peaceable and unarmed meetings, Art. 26.—Right of association, Art. 26.—Right of petition, Art. 27.—Government officials liable to the lawsuits of the injured parties, without preliminary authorization, Art. 29.—All power emanates from the Nation, Art. 31.—The legislative power exercised by two elected Chambers, and by the king, Art. 32.—All taxes and the civil list to be voted beforehand, Art. 108-115.—A Cour des Comptes as in France, Art. 116.—Chambers to meet lawfully, Nov. 15th, and not to be adjourned more than once in a session, Art. 95.—Any revision of the Constitution to be voted by both Chambers, and carried out by a Congress of the two re-elected assemblies, and no change to be adopted which does not carry two-thirds of the votes, Art. 128.—The senators and deputies elected by three groups, into which the electors are divided in proportion to their fortune. Every Roumain is an elector who pays a tax, however small, and also every man who has received a given standard of education."
I know of no more liberal Constitution. The division into groups seems arbitrary, but it is perhaps justified by the still restricted diffusion of instruction and political capacity. It is to be regretted that fixity of office for the judges has not been adopted; it is indispensable to equitable justice, withdrawn from all illegal influences.
I breakfasted with M. Aurelian, the Minister of Education and Director of the Agricultural School established at Page 344the gates of the capital, to the left of the Chaussée. He is the author of a very good notice on Roumania, sent to the Paris Exhibition of 1867, and of several other writings. He has a thorough knowledge of the rural economy of his country. The school is a fine building, with good classrooms, laboratories, and stabling. They make experiments on the best succession of crops. The Norfolk system and a septennial rotation are the most in favour. Fodder plants, beet-root, and Swedish turnips, trefoil, lucerne, sainfoin flourish wonderfully well. The best means of enriching Roumania, seems to me to be, instead of growing wheat, which American and Indian competition brings down to a low price, to enormously increase the growth of fodder of all kinds, and to double the number of animals and improve the breed. In the nursery grounds the ailanthus, the lime-trees, the acacias, and even the conifers have shot up enormously; trees must be planted everywhere to beautify the country, to attract the rain in summer, and to give shelter from the cold winds in winter. For lack of wood, the peasants burn straw or dung! This is deplorable, and reminds one of the East. Enough attention is not given in the school to the improvement of the bovine race, which should be the chief source of riches here.
The emancipation of the peasants in 1864 put them in a worse position, as in Russia. In former times the rural class included peasant proprietors, called mochenéni in Wallachia, résèchi in Moldavia, living and working in family communities, and the peasants under enforced labour, who cultivated the lands belonging to the State, the Church, or private owners, giving a certain number of days' work—clavachi—to their territorial lord, and tithe of the raw produce. The lord granted them a plot of ground proportionate to the number of animals that they owned. They had also rights of pasturage in the forest, formerly communal property, but which had passed by degrees into the hands of the lord. The law of emancipation conceded to them a third of the land, in lots of from three to six hectares, Page 345free from all payments, except an indemnity of about £4 10s. per hectare, paid to the proprietor by the State, and repayable by the peasant in fifteen annuities. More than four hundred thousand families became landowners in this way,In the first redistribution each lot comprised about 3 hectares (70 acres) for 279,684 families in Wallachia, and 5 hectares for 127,214 families in Moldavia, i.e., a total of 406,898 families who are estimated to have had the eighth of the land divided amongst them. but the size of their farms, which formerly increased in proportion to their resources, is now strictly limited, and with their extensive system of cultivation it is insufficient. They are therefore obliged to work on the latifundia of the large proprietors for a part of their too small produce, so they are very poor.
According to Mr. James Samuelson's "Roumania" (1882), a third of the peasants have repaid the whole, the rest still bear the weight of the debt contracted in 1864. They are also obliged to buy wood and pay for the pasturage, as the Russian serfs were formerly, which is a great hardship. Immense domains are still owned by the State, and propositions for dividing them amongst the peasants are often made; but it would be necessary, as in Bosnia, Servia, and several American States, to introduce the "Homestead Law" which protects, against distraint, the house and grounds of each farm labourer's family. It would be well to read on this subject M. Rudolf Meyer's instructive book, "Heimstätten." This Homestead Law would limit the "Semitic monopoly" of the land which is so much dreaded in Roumania. The plots of the peasants have been declared inalienable, but only for thirty years.
M. Aurelian thinks that if the peasants thoroughly cultivated their own grounds, they would not need to hire themselves as labourers for insufficient pay. He also thinks that by association, which they very well understand, they would be able to buy, in common, agricultural machinery, manure, and even the lands of ruined proprietors when for sale. Already we see that the inhabitantsPage 346of certain communes have joined together to rent a large farm or to take on the metayage system. They divide it between them, and each pays a share of the rent in proportion to how much he cultivates and the number of animals he keeps. It is something like the Scotch "township." We find also an association for pasturing the flocks, as in Switzerland and the Jura: those who own the cows send them to the common pasture, choose the herdsmen who attend to the milk and butter, and divide the produce amongst the associates in proportion to the number of their animals and their average yield.
In a very thorough comparative study on the emphyteutic tenure M. G. Tocilesco speaks of the agrarian communities of résèchis, which descend, in his opinion, from the veterans to whom the princes, after the example of the Roman emperors, conceded rewards for military prowess. The résèchis have kept the collective ownership of the soil till our own days. The community constitutes a civil person owning the lands. This is also recognized by the law. Article 8 of the Code of Procedure is thus expressed, " The generality of the mosnénis (cetele de mosneni or obstea resecilor) shall be brought to the courts of justice by one collective citation."There is further information on this subject in the circulars of the Minister of Justice for Wallachia in 1849, Nos. 2,579 and 2,581. in M. Brailoin's collection of laws, "Legiurea Caragea," &c., second edition, Bucharest, 1865, p. 442 and on.
"In 1875," said M. Tocilesco, "when I was engaged in the duties of barrister on behalf of the Roumanian State, I had occasion to look through some very old and curious documents belonging to most of the résèchis of Ivanesti, in the department of Racova, which were engaged in a lawsuit with the State. It is so difficult to divide a hereditary succession amongst the résèchis that it has passed into a. proverb; indeed, it is necessary to trace the genealogical tree of each of the families who compose the résèchie through several centuries back to the ancestor (batranul, mosuil) who received the original grant of the land.Page 347Résèchis are very numerous in the Va-Sloni districts. Stephen the Great made many grants of land here after the memorable victory over the Turks in the valley of Racova. The victors of Grivitza at the siege of Plevna in 1877 were from the district of Va-Sloni.
There is no country in Europe so well fitted as Roumania for rich agriculture. It is like Lombardy, but of double size. To the north instead of the Alps rises the high chain of the Carpathians, whence flow, through numberless valleys, many streams, following the slope of the ground southwards towards the Danube, which here replaces the Po. At the foot of the Carpathians commences the region of hills, stretching from east to west; they descend with a gentle slope till they lose themselves in the great Danubian plain. This plain is made of yellow clay, which is very fertile, and, near the river, of a belt of the famous black soil that constitutes the wealth of Southern Russia. The district within the bend made by the Danube before entering the Black Sea recalls the plains of Lower Venetia, but instead of the admirable crops between Padua and the lagoons we find here a great steppe, the Baragan.
The only drawback to this admirable amphitheatre is that it opens towards the east, that is, towards the Russian steppes, whence the cutting north-east wind, which blows for a hundred and fifty-five days of the year, brings drought and cold, without any forests to arrest its disastrous effects.
The surface alluvium of the low country seems to indicate that it has been deposited in the bed of a sea. The tertiary strata predominate on the side of the Carpathians; the summits are of secondary rocks, chiefly calcareous, which yield beautiful marble and good building stone. In the plain there is no gravel to make roads, nor even a pebble as large as one's fist. As wood is very scarce building materials are not to be found; they might make bricks, but there is no fuel to bake them, so there is nothing for building the houses but wattling coated with clay.
Would it be impossible for Roumania to acquire the Page 348agricultural wealth which has made Lombardy the garden of Europe? Certainly not, but it would be well to imitate what the inhabitants of the valley of the Po have done since Roman times, and apply here the proceedings sung by Virgil, and which Tacitus reproved the Germans for neglecting. Arthur Young, in his notes of his Italian journey, tells us that when he saw at La Scala one evening a crowd of beautiful women with elegant toilettes and resplendent jewels, he thought of the farms he had visited in the morning, and said to himself, "It is, however, from the milk and cheese of their cows that all this display of wealth and luxury springs."
In Lombardy all the rivers which rise in the Alps and the lakes are dammed, shut up in canals, then distributed all over the country, so that it may be irrigated at will, and thus creating wonderful fertility and enormous wealth. In Roumania the watercourses do much harm, and no good; they are an obstacle to the use of the roads, they wash down their banks, carrying away the alluvial soil, and, as they approach the Danube, forming marshes which produce fever. The first thing to do would be to study the existing hydrographic régime and the means of distribution, as in Lombardy. This supposes that the cultivators are willing to grow crops that require watering. But how beneficial would water and trees be in a country where for four months of the year no rain falls except during some rare storms, and where everything is burnt up by the pitiless sun!
In Roumania—without including the Dobrudja—out of 12,000,000 hectares 5,708,945 are under cultivation or are used as pastures, and 2,000,000 are forest; the remainder is unproductive, but that is the fault not of nature, but of man.
According to a well-written work by M. Aurelian, "Terra Nostra," Bucharest, 1880, completed by the recent data of M. Paul Dehn, "Deutschland im Orient," the crops are estimated as follows: Wheat, 559,560 hectares, producing 895,287 tons, of an average value of 221,900 francs, of Page 349349 which 400,000 tons are exported; rye, 110,775 hectares, producing 110,162 tons, worth £320,000, of which 78,111 tons are exported; barley and oats, 356,894 hectares, producing 694,823 tons, worth £1,880,000, of which 413,665 tons are exported. Maize, the principal food of the people, either stewed as porridge into mamaliga, the Italian polenta, or baked into a cake and fried in small pieces, takes as much room as all the other cereals together, 1,034,755 hectares yielding 1,885,025 tons, worth £6,000,000, of which 636,831 tons are exported.
Domestic animals are relatively numerous. There are 2,557,381 horned heads, of which 111,943 are buffaloes, 1,053,403 pigs, and 4,758,366 sheep and goats. Pigs and sheep only are exported to the number of 275,062, worth about £400,000, to which may be added an average of £240,000, for wool.
The vine flourishes well in the hilly region at the foot of the Carpathians. There are about 100,000 hectares of vineyards, yielding from 500,000 to 1,000,000 hectolitres. The wines of Delu Mare and of Dragaschani in Wallachia, and that of Odobesci and Cotnar in Moldavia are both good and cheap. I drank excellent Dragaschani at the Grand Hotel at Bucharest. Viticulture, and especially the method of making the wine, need much improvement. All kinds of fruit trees, apricots, peaches, with hard fruit, and particularly cherries, flourish wonderfully well; and if the peasants would take the trouble to plant them round their cottages they would gain an increase of income from them, besides the pleasure of a wholesome and agreeable dessert. But they would have to bestow work which would not be productive for some years, and it is too much to expect a spirit of foresight here; they do as their grandfathers did, and no more. Still, in the hilly region and throughout Moldavia there are many plum trees with violet fruit, used to make a kind of brandy called tzonica, which the peasants sometimes drink too freely.
King Routine also hinders agricultural improvement; the method of tenure is so detestable that it would have Page 350ruined even the Far West of America. The landowners in Wallachia, with the exception of some rich proprietors or Greek financiers, never farm their own land; they let it to large contractors or middlemen, like the mercanti di campagna of the Agro Romano, who sublet it to the cultivators. These contractors have no capital, except perhaps sometimes some carts or steam threshing machines, which they lend to the cultivators at a stated price. The peasant tills, besides his own portion of land received at the emancipation, the rest of the proprietor's property, retaining for himself half the produce. It is therefore a metayage, but no one invests any capital; the tenant labours, sows, reaps, thrashes the corn and takes it to a port on the Danube or the nearest railway station. The proprietor gives up his half to the contractor for a fixed sum, reckoned according to the average revenue of the land; only as the Roumanian proprietor has almost always need of cash in hand for his expenses at Bucharest, travelling or gambling, he agrees to take less in order to obtain ready money. Thus the contractor fleeces both the parties whom he deals with, to say nothing of the poor land, which is robbed pitilessly by every one.
The mode of culture is that described by Liebig as Raub-Kultur, ruffian-culture, constantly taking but never restoring. The ground is turned over by a great wooden plough which has not changed since Trajan's time; it tears the surface, without making regular furrows; the wheat or maize, sown amidst the mounds growing amongst weeds of all kinds, is small and poor. So it is sold at a lower price than American wheat, and does not always even find purchasers. The only weeding of the soil which clears the ground a little is that given after the earliest leaves of the maize have shot up. The ground is never manured, and the straw is burned on the spot, or feeds the fire of the steam threshing machine. Near Bucharest there are large quantities of horse manure; when this is dry it is used for fuel; high treason against nature and humanity. If it has ever been true that wheat required no manure, it is no Page 351longer so. If it were well spread over the land, plants used in manufactures such as tobacco, hemp, chicory, and hops, &c., would soon double or treble the revenue of land.
When the harvest is gathered the land is left for pasture, until spontaneous vegetation replaces manure. However rich the land may be it is finally exhausted, especially if, by the increase of population, the crops are grown at shorter intervals, to supply the larger demands either of home or foreign consumption. The cultivator needs no litter for his animals, and has no manure, because they wander about in the open air both summer and winter; they have no stables, it is seldom that they have even a slight shelter. Yet the climate is very severe, and as extreme as in Southern Russia; the thermometer rises to 30°or 40° (Centigrade) above zero in summer and falls 25° to 30° in winter. Nothing can be more pitiable than to see, in January and February, the horses and cows crowding together, and turning their backs to the driving snow which scourges and half buries them; sometimes they die from hunger and extreme cold. Very little fodder is preserved, the carefully constructed hay-stacks of our Western countries, promising good food for the cattle, are nowhere visible; their only food is the straw of the maize, which they scratch from under the snow, or get from a bundle placed within their reach. Under these conditions the products—I do not say of the stable, for there is none, but of the domestic animals—are almost nothing. There is no question of butter, the cows are always thin; at the end of the winter they are mere skeletons.
The ox is valued rather as a beast of burden than for its flesh; it is imported from Russia, from whence they not unfrequently bring also the cattle plague. The pig is a kind of little wild boar, very good to eat, but of light weight. The sheep of the Carpathians and of the Baragan make very good mutton. The Tsigay breed is so good that the Sultans of old ate no other kind. Only what profit can there be when an entire leg is sold in Bucharest for Is. 3d. Page 352to 1s. 8d.? The horses are small, slight, strong to resist fatigue and changes of climate, not requiring much care, but, for want of shape and size, they are of very little value. A few are exported into Transylvania; but, on the other hand, better ones are imported from Russia, and amongst them the fine animals that may be seen harnessed to the hired carriages at Bucharest. Formerly, according to Demetrius Cantemer, a Turkish proverb said, "A Moldavian horse is the best of all."
The Spanish system of mesta, that is, of the periodical emigration of folds, is still practised in Roumania, as in some parts of Southern Italy. In the summer the shepherds lead their flocks into the Carpathians to feed on the succulent grass of the mountains, and they bring them back to the plain for the winter. The Tzintzars of Macedonia come here to buy thin cattle; they fatten them on the rich pastures of the inundated meadows by the Danube, then they slaughter them to dry the meat, which is, as pastrama, accompanied with the dry fish of the Danube, and boiled maize flour (mamaliga), their favourite dish.
The mulberry-tree can bear the winters, and so the cultivation of the silk-worm is possible; they have been here from time immemorial, and have produced the silk which made the dresses of the wives of the boyars. For a time Roumania even exported some eggs of the precious silkworm to the West, but this trade was killed by adulteration and the competition of Japan which led to a fall of prices.
With wheat at eighteen or twenty francs the hundred kilogrammes, what income can be returned by land so badly cultivated? The difference between the price where it is grown and where it is sold is too great, not only on account of the high freight, twenty to thirty francs per ton from Braila to London or Havre, whilst from New York it is only ten or even five francs to the same ports, but on account of the perquisites of subordinates, contractors, merchants, speculators. Unless Roumania can improve the quality of her wheat, American competition will banish. it from the ports of the West.
Page 353However, in visiting some large home farms under their owners' supervision, like that of Maratchesti, which belongs to M. Negroponte, we see what success can be achieved in this country, blessed of heaven, as to its animal and vegetable productions, splendid corn, English sheep, as happy and fat as if they were at home, pretty Hungarian horses, fruits of all kinds. Ah ! if only the proprietors wished it, this country would become a paradise; but there is a terrible obstacle—absenteeism, a worse scourge than even the Turks.
It is unfortunately too easily explained, for it must be confessed that the country has been rendered uninhabitable to a cultured man.
Nothing can be more melancholy than this vast expanse of cornfield in Lower Roumania—no verdure, no meadow, no trees. In the summer the steppe, intersected with dusty roads, is quite yellow from the powdery clouds raised by the traveller's carriage on the slightest breeze; in winter, it is an immense deserted snow-field. The villages give the economist, philanthropist, and artist the heartache: the one sees that nothing is managed for the production of wealth; no capital is accumulated; there are no farm buildings; a few agricultural implements, but of the worst kind; very few stores, and not even firewood. The philanthropist sees that these dwellings offer a picture of complete destitution, the consequence of hereditary enslavement and excessive pressure by the strong upon the weak; the hut is of mud coated with clay; sometimes it is half hidden in the ground, and then it is at least warm in winter and cool in summer. After the square part which is to serve as a lodging has been hollowed out, like a kind of cave, a great fire is made of straw, the clay bakes almost into brick, and forms a hard and dry coating; the hole is roofed in with a slight timber framework, covered with thatch and reeds. There is hardly any furniture, only a few stools, but always a large chest to hold the dresses for festivals; generally there is no chimney, and the smoke escapes as it can through the chinks in the roof; this is considered healthy, and it Page 354really has antiseptic properties, for it drives the flies away from the bacon and the mosquitoes from their usual victims, which is most valuable. To sum up, there is neither ease nor comfort. The hut of the negro in Central Africa is better made for satisfying the needs of life. This is the fate of the descendants of Trajan's colons, who speak the language of the kingly nation, and who for seventeen hundred years have constantly cultivated this land, the most fertile in the world!
The artist suffers also because the appearance of these villages and farms is of depressing uniformity. Except in the parts sown with maize, the whole soil is yellow and the houses of mud and clay have the same dull and dismal tint. Sometimes, failing trees to shade the front of the houses from the great heat of the sun, their branches with their leaves dead and withered are raised before them on posts. Nowhere is a gay or bright colour to be seen; I recollect nowhere except on the Castilian plains such a desolate landscape. How is it likely that the landlord will live on his estate when he finds there neither shade, nor water, nor pleasant view, nor society, nor occupation of any kind, because the land is so badly farmed by the peasants, and with no variety of crops? Nothing there but a desert, a burning sun, and clouds of dust. Like the noblemen of Southern Italy and Sicily, they fly to the towns, the bathing places, or the gambling tables. The Roumain, like his ancestor the Roman, and most of the Greco-Latin nations, prefers city life.
Everything has yet to be done here, and first, the aspect of the country should be transformed by plantations; meadows and lawns artificially watered; parks should be made, plain, rustic, but comfortable, houses built; and this should be done everywhere at once, so that, as in England, the dwellers there may enjoy social intercourse with their neighbours, which is indispensable to the happiness of the Roumains, men and women, especially the latter, for like the Parisians, whose fashions they endeavour to follow, they are very sociable and dislike solitude.
Page 355It is only when the country has been made pleasant to look at and to live in, that the proprietor will settle there, and to effect this transformation capital must be realized. Then an occupation for both the squire and his wife is essential; the right one is clearly indicated, and there is nothing more worthy of the dignity of man than to beautify and improve his property. Thus did the Romans, in the time of the Republic, like Cato: as Cicero has so well said, "Nihil est agriculturâ meluis, nihil uberius, nihil dulcius, nihil homine libero dignius" ("De Off." I., 42). ("Nothing is better, more profitable, more pleasant, more worthy of a free man, than agriculture.") And these beautiful words of praise that the Roumain noblemen ought all to adopt as their motto, " Voluptates agricolarum mihi ad sapientis vitam proximè videntur accedere." (" The pleasures of him who cultivates the ground are almost equal to those of the sage.") Listen also to Horace: "Happy is he who works the paternal domain with his own oxen without being encumbered with any debts." "Solutus omni fœnore" (Epode II.).
What a pleasure, what a benefit, what a patriotic task to transform a whole canton by means of effort and intelligence! It is for attempts of this kind that the State and public opinion should reserve honours and rewards. But the great obstacle reappears; to improve the cattle, to get good implements, to introduce a more rational rotation of crops, to replace the somewhat unremunerative culture of wheat by that of plants used in manufactures, money is wanted, always money! And the Roumain landowner has none; far from being solutus omni fœnore, he has too often to pay high interest upon a heavy mortgage, and generally his income is disposed of before he gets it. It is for the influential men to persuade the well-to-do classes to interest themselves in agriculture. Examples may even be found at home, in the country itself, particularly in Moldavia; it is said that already they have there hundreds of threshing machines, and more than 50,000 English and American ploughs.
Page 356Improvement in agriculture might partly be also brought about by the initiative of the peasants, improving their dwellings and surrounding them with orchards, planting trees for shade, building stables and gaining manure which would improve the growth of fodder plants and enable them to make butter, which is always dear and much sought after. To do this they must be made to understand that there is a happier existence than that of eating enough mamaliga and sleeping on the ground in a hovel; this knowledge must be given by the schoolmaster and the pope, who would also need to be prepared for this economic apostolate.
It is not surprising that the peasants are still in the bonds of old habits. Before 1864, without being serfs or adscripti glebæ, they were bound to pay rent in work claca, or in kind, szima. As we have said, they have not only been made wholly free, but have also received, by the new law, from three to six hectares of land, according to the number of animals that they own, enabling them to cultivate their little property. The man with no cattle only received the minimum; he who had two oxen, four hectares; and he who had four, five to six hectares.
Upon a farm of this size in Flanders a family would live in comfort and even save a little; for butter, meat, flax, chicory, colza, forced potatoes, would bring in from £160 to £200. But with the extensive system of culture practised here, they do not get a living. The cultivation of the beetroot for sugar has been attempted, and large works erected on the estate of Chitilla, close to Bucharest, with the capital of Prince Bibesco, the landowner, and that of Cail and Co. who supplied the machinery. Another was set up at Sascut; sugar was manufactured, but did not return the profit hoped for. Is this astonishing when the price of the product has fallen one-half, and when everywhere industries are ruined by excessive cheapness?
The manufacture of sugar, exempted from certain excise duties, meets two obstacles here neutralizing this favour: the persistent drought of the summers, which sometimes Page 357arrests the growth of the beet-root, and the high price of fuel. There is a scarcity of wood everywhere, and English coal with a freight of from twenty to thirty francs per ton is three times as dear as in France. Most of the sugar comes from abroad; 7,646,000 kilogrammes in 1882, of which 5,236,000 were imported from Austro-Hungary.
Throughout the whole region of the Carpathians, Roumania possesses the most beautiful forests of Europe, and still she has no wood! In the large mountain forests between Yerciorowa and the Butchech, whilst climbing the peaks or hunting the bears, I have often seen trunks, large enough to support a gun, lying on the ground, and also the stems of beeches and pines, straight and tall like cathedral pillars, and yet in the list of imports for 1882, I saw fifteen millions for " wood and wooden articles." This is no cause of surprise; trees have been ruthlessly destroyed throughout the plain, and the magnificent Carpathian forests are inaccessible. The first thing to be done is to imitate the Hungarians and plant acacias everywhere; they thrive well in this fertile and dry alluvium.
Financially, Roumania has made wonderful progress. For the last ten years we might say that war, which ruins other nations, has enriched this one. The interest regularly paid on first-class loans or bills under discount used to be not less than 10 to 12 per cent. But in 1873, the first Roumanian Credit Foncier Company was established, which, at the end of 1883, had issued obligations to the amount of about 91,000,000 francs, partly at 7 per cent. and partly at 5 per cent. The National Bank of Roumania has rendered yet more signal services by rescuing the native trades from the clutches of foreign bankers. Established in 1882, with a capital of 30,000,000 francs (12,000,000 francs being subscribed by the State, which thus became a partner in the undertaking), it has brought down the rate of discount to 6 and even 5 per cent. It has branches at the chief towns—Braila, Jassy, Galatz, Kraïova; and its note circulation has reached some 80,000,000 francs.
The revenue of the State has doubled, without any Page 358heavier charges having been laid on the country. In 1871, it only amounted to £2,640,000, and in 1882, to £5,080,000. The tax on tobacco returned £20,000; made a monopoly, it would return £640,000. Alcohol returned £280,000 instead of £60,000; customs, £640,000 instead of £320,000; the land tax, £320,000 instead of £160,000, and so on. It is strange that in this time of universal deficit Roumania has a balance in hand; it is true she will not keep it long, a productive use has been found for it; it will be used to fortify Bucharest!
By an excellent operation the State has obtained possession of the railways, by purchase after the failure of the famous banker Strousberg. A dangerous pretext for foreign interference is thus removed. The iron-roads have become one of the methods employed by the great States to subordinate the small ones.
Petroleum may also become a source of wealth to Roumania. The oily region on the south slope of the Carpathians occupies a considerable space, but no one knows its exact limits; it is probably the continuation of that in Galicia and Hungary. The most abundant springs are found in the districts of Prahowa, Dimbowitza, and Buzen. The upper strata only have been worked. The deepest sounding has not gone below 240 metres, and it is thought that lower down, the production would be greater and more regular. According to M. Paul Dehn, from whom I take these facts, two kinds of oil are procured—one rather thick, pacura; the other, more limpid, contains 78 per cent. of lamp oil. Large quantities are exported into Hungary—14,000 tons in 1882. The total production is estimated at 30,000 tons. It satisfies the home demand; for in 1883 only 730 tons were imported; it is protected by high duties; five francs for raw petroleum and thirty francs for refined, per 100 kilogrammes. However, that is not enough to ensure profits. Three foreign companies work the petroleum springs—an Austrian company, near Kolibaschi, but it paid too much for the property; a German company near Plojesti, but it is said to be too expensively managed; Page 359lastly, an English company, which is too far from the railway. They say that they have lost more than £160,000 in two years. There is plenty of petroleum, but the competition of Pennsylvania and Bakou make the prices too low. Roumania would do better to keep her mineral oil for the time when it will be exhausted elsewhere.
The mines of rock salt at Slanic and Telega, are as good as those of Maros Ujvai in Transylvania, and of Wielitzka in Galicia; they seem inexhaustible and are very easy to work. The State manages them, and employs there those who are sentenced to hard labour. In 1882, 21,916 tons were exported, worth more than £40,000. Bulgaria took 11,153 tons, and Servia 9,098. As the duty was lowered in 1883, to the price of forty francs per ton, this export trade will greatly increase.
Roumania lacks capital for the improvement of agriculture, which must certainly continue to be the principal source of her wealth, and yet she tries to divert it to manufactures, artificially protected and helped. It seems to be thought all through Eastern and Southern Europe that a country is not civilized and prosperous till it possesses extensive manufactures. Do they not see that the workmen crowded together in the factories of large towns, must be necessarily badly lodged, and are also exposed to the strikes and lock-outs which result from periodical crises? O fortunati nimium si sua bona norint agricolæ! It should be clearly understood that capital cannot be used for two things at the same time. If by premiums you direct it arbitrarily towards one industry or other, it is necessarily impossible that it should be used to fertilize the soil. Two cloth factories have been established—one at Neamtzu, the other at Peatra-but the cloth is used by the troops; also a large paper mill at Bacan, with a capital of £120,000, to which a special law has ensured the right of furnishing all the paper required by an administration already almost as fond of red tapeism as those of the West.
There, however, is one manufacture which prospers, not only without help from the State, but notwithstanding Page 360heavy taxes; it is brewing. Gambrinus truly is extending his empire throughout the world, from north to south, from east to west. In 1883, there were twenty-seven breweries, and foreign beers were imported to the value of about £16,000. The duty payable to the State is 20 francs per hectolitre, with 15 francs more at Bucharest, as town dues, whilst it is only 22 francs in Paris, 10 francs at Vienna, 3 francs at Munich, and 1 franc 50 cents at Berlin.
The domestic industries play a considerable but unnoticed part in the fabrication of all that is useful to man; for, in the country, the peasants make almost all their furniture, their tools, and their agricultural implements, and the women weave and fashion the clothes of the whole family. But what is called business is in the hands of foreigners, because, so far, the young Roumains have preferred a place in the administration, the army, or the magistracy. The French and Belgians have had for a time the monopoly of the Bank; they started successively the Bank of Roumania in 1879, the Roumanian Credit Mobilier, in 1881, and the Roumanian Société de Construction in the same year. French capital has also formed a Gas Company, a society for artificial basalts and other less important undertakings. The English and Greeks preponderate in Galatz and Braïla, ports of the Danube, to superintend various imports, but especially the export of wheat. An English firm, The Soulina Elevator Company, has recently set up an elevator on the American model, by the river, to load the corn. It is the English who have made the railway Tchernavoda-Küstendjeh, across the Dobrudja, and the Rustchuk-Varna line, which is a branch from the Vienna-Constantinople line of quick trains until the line viâ Sophia is completed.
The Greeks take an important commercial position, and as the Phanar formerly dominated in Roumania, several great Phanariote families retain large estates there. The Swiss are here, as everywhere, very good shopkeepers, well up in local needs, economical, simple, and doing good business in a straightforward way. The Hungarians are Page 361very numerous, and most of the best servants are of that nationality. The cooks and coachmen come from Transylvania. Amongst the masons are many Italians, and Germans are in every trade.
It is incredible that the Roumains, an essential agricultural people, have never thought of cultivating vegetables for their capital; if Bulgarians did not come every year to plant them in the neighbourhood, they would be without a salad or a carrot. These Bulgarian market gardeners return every spring with the swallows, and go home for the winter with well-filled pockets. This fact alone is enough to show what a great effort must be made before thorough cultivation will be introduced into Roumania.
Must we reckon the Jews as foreigners? Yes; for the legislation looks on them as such, at least, unless they become naturalized, which is not easy; however they form a tenth of the whole population of the kingdom, a quarter of that of Moldavia taken alone, and six-tenths of that of its capital, Jassy. The question of the Jews is more difficult here than can be imagined in the West. Every one talks to me about it, from my hotel-keeper to the Minister and the King. I must therefore refer to it.
Toleration and the equality of rights and races are principles which no one thinks of disputing; but, they said to me, " Can we see without fear the inauguration of an order of things in which all the property, land, houses, factories, railways, will belong to the Jews, and in which we, Roumains, will be their tenants, valets, workmen, their subordinates always in everything ?" In the economic combat the Jew will as certainly swallow the Roumain as the spider the fly.
The Roumain is brilliant, intelligent, less given to work than to spend, without foresight, always ready to run into debt to gratify the whim of the moment. The peasant sells his harvest to the wine-shop that he may have brandy; the nobleman mortgages his lands that he may go to Paris or Mehadia. The Jew is economical, prudent, always on the watch for a good bargain, by means of the irresistible power Page 362in a country of burdened landowners cash; is the mainspring of business.
Throughout the world the Jewish race has, in proportion, more philosophers, poets, artists, authors, and especially more journalists, an enormous superiority in these times when the Press is not the fourth but the first Estate. Armed with this superior intelligence, the definite victory of the Jew is inevitable, if open competition and equal liberties and rights are allowed. Put oil and water in a bottle, shake it, mix it as much as you please, they will never blend; as soon as the bottle is still, the oil floats. So it is with the Jew in the East. Considering only increase of wealth, it cannot be regretted that the most energetic race, the most capable of producing wealth should take the place of a race less inclined to increase capital, only we understand that the race destined to be eaten up, or at least subordinated, does not submit willingly, but tries to defend itself.
The Great Powers, moved by the demands and complaints. of the Jews, compelled Roumania, by the Treaty of Berlin, to admit equality before the law, for every one, without. religious distinction. Also the Roumanian Constitution, modified in 1879, proclaims in Article 21, that "liberty of conscience is absolute;" and in Article 7, that "the difference of religious beliefs and confessions do not constitute, in Roumania, a hindrance to the exercise of civil and political rights." Certainly this is all that can be desired; the Constitutions of the freest States contain no more complete guarantees. But Section 5, of the same Article says, "Only the Roumains, or naturalized Roumains, can acquire landed property in Roumania." Now, the Jews are considered to be foreigners, certainly they may become naturalized; but naturalization is only obtained by a legal decision, after a regular request following on "ten years' residence and service rendered to the country." Therefore the Jews can only gradually acquire the Roumanian nationality. This will give the Roumains time to prepare for the struggle for existence upon economic Page 363grounds ; nevertheless, if they do not wish to be driven from every position in the social world, they must work more.
The Minister Bratiano said, in a speech on the reform of the magistracy, Jan. 26, 1884: "We ought to work twice as much as we do, at least as much as the foreigners with whom we are in competition; look at Gladstone, who is seventy-five years of age, he works fourteen hours a day, and requires his assistants to do as much. Do you know why every one here wants an office in the State? Because, instead of ourselves working or superintending our land, we prefer to let the whole thing to an agent, so that we may amuse ourselves abroad. Look at our cafés, our casinos, our public gardens; they are always filled with unoccupied landowners, and especially with employés."
When, by the Treaty of Berlin, Russia compelled Roumania to cede a part of Bessarabia to her, in exchange for Dobrudja, the Cabinet of Bucharest protested energetically and persistently. This strange method of recompensing the valuable help which they had given to the Russian army at Plevna, has left in the hearts of the Roumains a feeling of bitterness and rancour against Russia which will not be easily effaced. At the same time, it is certain that Roumania has gained by the change. The Dobrudja has had a detestable reputation since the Crimean War, when, through fevers and sickness, it became the grave of so many Frenchmen. However, it consists of moderately high hills, covered with herbage suitable to feed the flocks, and of fertile valleys where there is nothing to prevent good cultivation. The German colonies which have established themselves at Kataloï, Atmadscha, Koscholak, and Tanhri-Verdi, have sufficiently proved it; they have built nice villages with good well-ordered houses, and well-cultivated fields which are a contrast to the huts of the Bulgarians and Tartars who surround them. As a Bucharest professor in Nacian shows in a very interesting book entitled "La Dobrudja economique et Sociale." Two-thirds of the country seem to be capable of growing everything, and especially very good vines upon the lower slope Page 364of the hills. The Dobrudja could easily support half a million of men; unfortunately it is rapidly becoming depopulated. The Mussulmans emigrated in large numbers to escape the conscription, and the shepherds of Roumanian tongue, the Mokanes, who come from Hungary, are not enough to replace them. The population has fallen from 250,000 to 170,000 souls. However, Küstendjeh, upon the Black Sea, has already become a fashionable bathing-place. If they were to make a bridge over the Danube, and to improve the port, this town would become the principal port of Roumania; for it is never frozen, as the Danube often is at Galatz and Braïla.
To sum up my impressions, Roumania reminds me of Belgium in many respects, by her love of liberty, by her institutions, and by the aims of her sovereign and statesmen; only, as instead of 29,451 square kilometres, her territory measures 129,947, and she has only 40 people to a hundred hectares; she ought to become three or four times more populous and powerful, and she will, if she continues to be well governed. Let her guard against envying her neighbours or mixing with foreign politics, except in self-defence, and let her especially endeavour to develop her natural resources and her future is assured.
M. Aurelian took me to see a primary school, situated near a pretty new church, and having a well-planted garden before it. The class-rooms and scholastic furniture are like what we have in our good schools in the West; but I was much interested by the military exercises, which the children executed with precision that reminded me of the pupils at Berne. They wore the uniform of the soldiers of the territorial army of grey cloth, with a red belt and an Astrakan kalpac, and each one was armed with a little wooden gun. In this way they prepare good recruits for the territorial army.
I owe to M. Aurelian complete tables showing the condition of primary education during the year 1881-82. I give the following figures: Primary rural schools, 2,459 pupils—boys, 74,532; girls, 8,544. Town schools, 271; Page 365boys, 23,832; girls, 12,989. General total, 119,897, for a population of 5,376,000. A pupil to each 44 people is very little. The number of girls who go to school in the country is lamentably small. How different from the Scandinavian countries! The establishments of middleclass education are relatively much fuller. Seven grammar schools, with 160 professors and 2,108 pupils; 9 gymnasiums, with 180 professors and 2,098 pupils; 9 seminaries, with 99 professors and 1,512 pupils; 8 normal primary schools, with 85 professors and 741 pupils; 5 schools of commerce, with 56 professors and 772 pupils; 12 superior and professional schools, one of which is a normal school for girls, with 119 professors and 1,459 pupils; 28 special schools of different kinds, with 199 professors and 2,085 pupils. Two universities, one at Bucharest, the other at Jassy, with 87 professors and 693 students, including four girls—one of whom is studying literature, one science, and two medicine. It is the same here as in Greece; education is widely spread in the middle class, but very little amongst the people, especially in the country.
Some years ago the financial condition of Roumania was deplorable, and there was often as much trouble to get payment from the Treasury as in Constantinople. Now there is often a surplus, and the Budget of 1884 is a balance: 125,000,00 francs in receipts and as much in expenses. The entire debt is not very heavy, 619,000,000, 345,000,000 of which are represented by the value of the railways belonging to the State; the remainder 274,000,000 is the only real debt! The monetary system is like that of France, except that the franc is called leu. The organization of the army is according to the old Prussian type; a small army of 18,532 men and 2,945 horses under arms, but numerous and well-exercised reserves in the territorial army which numbers 100,000 men. King Charles, much taken up with military matters, has given to his troops the soldiery qualities, spirit, and solidity, as was proved at Plevna.
M. Lavertujon, the French Commissioner in the European Page 366Commission for the Danube, has given me some very interesting details about this institution. I have a great admiration for it; I see in it the first example of what may be done in the future, by a cordial understanding between civilized nations desirous of securing international action profitable for all. How many useful things might be carried out this way by common effort, which are never realized, because no one of them should derive a direct and exclusive advantage!
The European Commission was the outcome of the resolutions of the Treaty of Paris in 1856, which guaranteed in the most solemn manner the liberty of the river, and which also decided that material improvements must be carried out to make it navigable. Neglected since 1828, its three principal mouths were all choked up. The Commission consisted of delegates of the Great Powers which had taken part in the Treaty of Paris; a Roumanian delegate had been recently added to the number. They obtained a revenue by the enactment of tolls which allowed them to execute the works necessary for deepening the Soulina arm, and then, which was also essential, to guarantee security and to put an end to the abominable trade of the "wreckers," and to the pillages of all kinds to which the vessels were exposed. The Commission has thus all the attributes of a State—a territory, the delta of the Danube as far as Braïla, a flag, a budget; it enacts navigation and police laws, and carries out the execution of works, and it is thus an international State, created for the good of commerce and of all humanity. The success of the works executed by the Commission can be appreciated by the statistics published regularly concerning the number of ships in and out, their tonnage, the depth of the mouth at Soulina at different seasons, the level of the water at points formerly the most dangerous, the number of shipwrecks, &c. We must not forget that before these works, the mouths of the Danube were impassable, and the views taken by artists showed on all sides the masts of ships which had sunk to the bottom.
Page 367A Conference met in London in March, 1883, which was only, according to its own decisions, a continuation of the Congress of Berlin, accorded the Commission of the Danube a new life of twenty-five years. Also, it wished to create a similar government for the Middle Danube, between Galatz and the Iron Gates, giving to Austria power to remove this obstacle. A mixed Commission should be formed, furnished with similar powers to those of the Commission of the Delta. In this Commission, although she is not a riverside State, Austria should have had the preponderating influence, in virtue of her considerable interests on the Upper Danube. In consequence of the absolute resistance of Roumania this scheme has remained a dead letter until this day. In a speech from the throne, November 15, 1881, King Charles said: " We accept the severest regulations, and the most rigorous oversight for their application; but we expect that in Roumanian waters this oversight shall be exerted by the Roumanian authorities."
This debate created the greatest excitement at the time I was, at Bucharest. The Minister Stourdza had published an account, which was very well written, for proving the rights of his country. MM. de Holtzendorf and Castellani, eminent authorities on international law, had decided that the sovereignty of Roumania on her own territory was unimpeachable. The Austrian and Roumanian papers gave themselves up to such violent polemics, that one could only fear the consequences. Since then peace has been made. The question slumbers, but the Commission which would have executed such useful works does not exist. Might not -the rights that had been granted to the Commission of the Middle Danube be given to the Commission of the Delta, the riverside States putting the regulations in force on their own territory? This system, though less rigorous, would still be efficacious, for the European Commission would denounce throughout Europe the State which should fail to carry out its obligations.
At the moment of finishing my journey, I am again met with the question of nationalities, which has haunted me Page 368since I crossed the Austrian frontier. We do not meet with it in the interior of Roumania, but in the neighbouring countries; for more than four millions of Roumains live in Transylvania and the Banat in Hungary, and in Russian Bessarabia, &c. I hear sharp complaints against the methods of repression, and even of persecution, used by the Hungarians to Magyarize the Wallacks, and I have received a very curious document on this subject. It is a memorandum published by the committee which was elected on the 14th of May, 1881, by one hundred and fifty-three delegates of the Roumanian electors of Transylvania and Hungary. The historic proofs of the rights of the Roumanian nationality, the grievances that should be redressed are explained in detail. In conclusion, here are the demands of this committee that might be called truly-national:—lst. Autonomy of re-constituted Transylvania. 2nd. The use of the Roumain language in the government and law courts of the districts inhabited by Roumains. 3rd. Roumain officials wherever Roumain is spoken. 4th. A revision of the law of nationalities, or a faithful execution of the existing law. 5th. Autonomy of churches and denominational schools, abrogation of laws contrary to national development. 6th. Universal suffrage, or a vote for each ratepayer. Three millions of Roumains would then make the same complaints heard on the east, as two millions of Croats do on the west of Hungary.
To these complaints, and to the equally keen ones of the Transylvanian Saxons, M. M. Ambros Nemenyi, member of the Hungarian Parliament, has answered with much moderation, and quoting facts, in a book called "Hungarieae Res" of 1868, he shows first that in virtue of the law for the equal rights of nationalities (Gleichberechtigung de Nationalitäten), it is the communes or local school authorities which decide the language to be used in education and administration. In consequence of this, from the 15,824 schools. in Hungary in 1880 (not including Croatia), 7,342 only used the Huagarian language, and 8,482 used other languages.
In a recent and most impartial pamphlet, " Die Sprachenrechte Page 369in den Staaten gemischte Nationalitat," M. Adolph Fischoff shows that the Hungarian law of 1868, on the Gleichberechtigung, is that which is the fairest to the rights of the different nationalities. The law of 1863 concerning the nationalities in Transylvania asserts: Art. 1, The three languages of the country are Hungarian, German, and Roumanian.—Art. 2 to 9, In regard to justice or administration, each party may use any one of these three languages.—Art. 11, The municipal councils decide which shall be the official language.—Art. 18, In the schools of all degrees, those who have the duty of supporting and directing them decide the language to be used.—Art. 19, It is the same in the churches.—What can one ask for more?
The Non-Magyars always complain of the Magyars, such is the sad and disquieting fact: the cause is easy to discern; each pursues an opposite ideal. The Hungarians wish to form a unified kingdom, with a parliament in the English fashion, and, consequently, they endeavour to lessen all peculiarities in institutions, languages, customs, and ideas; and that may be understood, for these Gothic institutions oppose intolerable barriers to the rapidity of movement demanded by the modern situations. The Non-Magyars, on the other hand, wish to preserve everything that will lessen the power of the central authority and of Magyarism.
I shall repeat what I said with respect to Croatia. The Hungarians ought frankly to accept federalism in Transleithania as the Germans ought to do in Cisleithania, and the more so because the situation is much more dangerous. The Magyars can no more hope to Magyarize the Croats, who, having Servia and Bosnia close by, will no more assimilate than the Wallacks, supported by young Roumania, which will also develop. What a danger when the day comes to defend the country, to have for enemies these nationalities within the country itself! I saw in Transylvania, in 1867, the blackened ruins of Hungarian castles, burned by Wallack peasants. The Parliament of Pesth has suppressed the autonomy of Transylvania, which dated from before the year 1000, and which had its glorious past, Page 370as the English Parliament destroyed the autonomy of Ireland. England would re-establish it now, but what perils would follow the bitter memories of the past !
Look on the contrary, the Swiss Canton Tessin. It is completely Italian. Italy is united, free, glorious, even prosperous in some respects, and yet the Italians of the Tessin do not ask for annexation to Italy, they prefer to remain a canton of the Swiss Confederation. Act in such a way that the Croats, the Servians, and the Wallacks may be equally attached to the crown of St. Stephen; but it is only by federation that you will obtain this result.
There are two movements at work in the world, centripetal and centrifugal—the one the fusion of races produced by the facility of communication and similarity of customs and laws; the other of decentralization, brought about by the wish of nationalities, provinces, and towns to govern themselves.
I will say a few words in conclusion on the policy followed by the Great Powers in the East. The two rivals, Russia and England, have often acted contrary to their own aim. Russia has made great sacrifices both of men and money to free the Slavs, but by wishing to interfere in their internal affairs she has lost the fruits of her efforts. England has not understood that her own interest commands her to favour the creation, in the Balkan Peninsula, of States sufficiently strong to maintain their independence.
Austro-Hungary, on the contrary, has advanced with prudence and perseverance in the path of a kind of economic supremacy, which is realized by railways and treaties of commerce. She monopolizes three-quarters of the traffic of the new States of the Peninsula, she has therefore the greatest interest in obtaining for the provinces still under the Porte, and especially to Macedonia, the order and security necessary for the development of their wealth, from which her trade would reap all the benefit. That is what she does not seem to see very clearly. Recently, January, 1886, Count Andrassy has shown in graceful Page 371words in the Hungarian Parliament, that Austro-Hungary ought to protect her young nationalities which are forming in the Peninsula, and, now, to recognize the union of Bulgaria and Roumelia.
France has shown more coherency in her Oriental policy. Except at the time of the Crimean War, a mistake to be imputed to the dynastic interest of Napoleon, she has always protested in favour of the rayas.
The path to be followed by Italy is indicated by her origin and commercial interest; she ought to support the constitution of autonomous nationalities which will be some day united by a federal bond. Certain egotistical and low-minded aims appear to turn her sometimes away from this line of simple, generous conduct, in conformity with her real interest.
As to Germany, she has only one idea—to favour the expansion of Austria, so as to render an alliance between the two empires more necessary and profitable.
M. de Blowitz, again expressing the general opinion, believes that a great European War will take place to decide who shall have Constantinople. The States fight so frequently without any reasonable motive, that this abominable conflict may come to pass, but what I cannot believe is that it will be fatal. To prevent it, it would be enough to apply to the provinces of European Turkey, 23rd Article of the Treaty of Berlin, interpreted in the sense of the system in the Lebanon; Albania, Macedonia, the province of Adrianople, endowed with a real autonomy, would develop without trouble, and without provoking foreign interference. In Constantinople a mixed Administration would manage the municipal interests. The sovereignty of the Porte would be maintained; its revenues would increase in consequence of the growing prosperity of its subjects. Then, if the Ottomans accommodated themselves to this system of liberty and equality, their position would be strengthened; if not, they would be slowly eliminated by elements more capable of adaptation to modern methods. There would be a slow progress, an insensible transformation which Page 372would bring about a new order without the fearful crisis of a general war.
As I finish this volume, it is affirmed that the idea of an Oriental Confederation begins to find favour in the governmental spheres of Constantinople, and even with those of Vienna and Pesth.