#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.

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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.

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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 shadows (1910)

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