#20: The Constitution -- hopes and clouds (1908)
Suddenly, July 24, 1908, came the proclamation of the
Constitution. Liberty, Justice, Equality, Fraternity!
Wonderful! Wonderful scenes of joy, happiness, and
friendly feeling! So nice to like everybody! Moslems
and Christians, priests, and representatives of all
creeds, colors, and classes, prominent officials and
common citizens, embraced one another in public, and
fraternized happily in personal and private relations.
Up to the era of the Constitution no newspaper had ever
been published in Marsovan, but with increased freedom,
newspaper men started up in the larger cities along
the coast, and College students wanted to write and
to publish their thoughts also. A student who had done
something with photography and toy types said he believed
he could do the printing and he was right. (He owned and
operated a printing house in New York City later.) The
two small towers of the old main building furnished
admirable editorial sanctums, and a group of Greek
students began to write, manage, print and publish the
first newspaper ever circulated in or from Marsovan, with
careful teacher supervision, assistance and authority.
The Armenians soon occupied the other little tower sanctum
with their similarly creditable publication, "A family
paper issued monthly". Copies of every number of each
paper were filed with government officials, and all was
done with full official information and supervision.
Armenians and Greeks felt that they were accorded a
position in the Ottoman Empire somewhat like that of
the Scotch or the Irish in Britain, or, nearer at hand,
say, like Hungarians and Slavs in the Austrian Empire.
About this time I gave a college address on "Victory
Without War", recounting Austro-Hungarian history and
suggesting without saying a model for Turkey.
After the proclamation of the Constitution, there were
stories in circulation to the effect that these folk
determined to take the difficult, if not desperate,
chance of throwing off the masque and announcing their
return to the faith of their fathers, and this they did,
with stern penalties as a result.
A Stavrili and a neighbor Turk met one day, according
to coffee house talk, and the Moslem said, "We hear
you've turned Christian". "Well", replied the Greek,
"we've always known and you've known that our
forefathers were Christian, and we've decided now
to recognize our heritage and confess ourselves
Christian". "But", the Turk went on, "you've
acknowledged yourself a true believer all the time,
you've stood shoulder to shoulder with me in worship
and offered the same Mohammedan prayers. How did you
think you could deceive God all this time"? "I never
tried to deceive God", replied the Stavrili, "He knew
all the time just what I was. I tried to deceive you,
and in that I succeeded".
NEXT: Russian students and
to "NEOTURKISH ANATOLIA"