Imatges de pÓgina

and requiring to be supported. The nomad families preserved this patriarchal system in its original purity, and the settled agricultural population have adapted it to their altered condition. The chief among the latter occupies the same place and has the same unlimited influence which the clan or family system gives to the head of the tribe. Whenever this system began to decay it was revived and restored by the irruption and conquests of some nomad race. These nomad races contain the vital elements of the Eastern character, and have acted the part of regenerators in its history. The shepherd and warrior tribes of Arabia, Kurdistan, and Tartary have played in turn this important part, and have successively created the Arabian Khalifs, the Seltzuck Sultans, and the Ottoman Empire. By each of these fresh irruptions, new blood was infused from the heart of the East into the decayed and corrupted limbs; and each invasion was followed by a period of brilliancy and greatness. But the regenerators did not bring any new principle with them. Their ideas did not extend beyond the traditionary maxims of the kindred tribes whom they subdued; so that they were only able to produce a temporary renewal of action, without originating any new development. Hence the successive brief intervals of splendour were followed by new decay. Of this we have a striking instance before our eyes. The successor of Othman, whose ancestors made the world tremble, is now reduced to that state of exhaustion which history tells us was the fate of the latter Khalifs and Seltzuck Sultans; and if his sway were to cease to-morrow, similar results to those which history tells us occurred under the like circumstances would follow; he would leave society in the same state in which it was when, five centuries ago, his race began to rule.

The absence of individuality, which is the basis of the Eastern character, has produced the want of energy out of which grows the idea of fatalism. Energy must have an aim and a motive. These can only exist where individuality has impressed its distinctive marks upon a character, and raised in it the desire to have that character recognised by others. Where this is wanting there will be no exertion, and the virtue of passive contentment is at its highest perfection. Such is the case to a great degree in the East. If contentment be synonymous with happiness, the East certainly comprises the greatest number of happy beings. There are there but few of those cravings and heart-burnings, --- those mortifications and disappointed bopes, — which embitter so many Western existences. The Oriental can see no reason or propriety in work so long as he has enough to satisfy his limited


wants. Hence the merchant, as well as the artisan, the fellah and the workman, leave their daily toil as soon as they have had the good luck to earn the few piastres which they require to purchase their evening meal, and after it to enjoy their “rahat,' repose. The Oriental cannot conceive any pleasure to be derived from action in itself. He works only to be able to repose, and smiles at the running and hurrying European, who reposes only to gain new strength for work. The Oriental is able and willing to go through an incredible amount of exertion, in order to attain that blissful state of conscious inactivity which ceases to be a negation with him, and in fact becomes a positive pleasure ; but for steady continued labour, he is totally unfit and indisposed. Even the activity of the hardy Bedouin and Tartar Nomad is limited to short intervals, and the main part of his existence is spent in that dreamy repose to which his sky and his shepherd occupation alike invite him. These short intervals occur at the time of their migration from the south to the north, and vice versa,—then he toils at least as hard as his camel, but when the tent is pitched he rests, and revels in the wanderings of indistinct thought.

Want of individuality, with its consequences — equality, despotism, immutability, and absence of energy—are then the characteristic features of the Mahometan East. These characteristic features are there, as every where else, effects of the influence of race, climate, religion, and political history, — the two latter being as much effects as causes.

Three primary races share amongst them the Mahometan East - the Arab, the Turk, and the Persian. Each possesses its subdivisions. Although different in outward appearance, and without the slightest affinity in language, there is a remarkable resemblance in the characters and the ideas of these three families, an unity or family likeness which distinguishes them from all other races. This unity is only active, when placed in opposition to the West. In itself it is passive. It is rather a neutral state of undeveloped differences than a real identity, more an absence than a similarity of outward characteristic marks.

This undeveloped national character is the natural consequence

of the absence of a national union. Each one of these three races forms a sort of conglomerate, in each of which even language, divided as it is into numerous dialects, can hardly be said to form a complete bond. They more nearly resemble a number of kindred families living in each other's vicinity, and holding connexion with their immediate neighbours only, but having no consciousness of a common feeling with the rest.

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This is the consequence of what we have observed of the condition of individuals in the East. In both cases the same absence of individual peculiarity is apparent. The races, as well as the individuals, continue in the primitive state in which habit is all powerful, and neither one nor the other rises to the independent action which emanates from reflection. Both are, therefore, undeveloped and characterless.

If we study the physical characteristics of these Eastern races, we find nothing in their outward appearance, nor in the structure of their heads, which explains the great difference between them and the Occidental nations. On the contrary, some Easterns equal, if they do not surpass in these respects, the most favoured Europeans. But whatever their mental conformation may be, it remains unaffected by admixture with foreign races, and is now what it was at the beginning.

The Eastern nations have always struggled after purity or isolation of blood. Not only have they rejected all union with Western races, but they have kept up a system of exclusion among themselves, amounting to a positive antipathy, scorning all contact with other families. This proud abnegation is preserved unmitigated to the present day, and extends to the very lowest ranks of society. Their mutual aversion is indeed carried so far, that it ceases not between married people; so that when a Turk takes an Arab wife, she, in the pride of her desert blood, never calls her husband by any other name than the Turk,' and the children follow the example of their mother, regarding their father almost as a stranger. The horror of all contact with foreign blood, and the corresponding pride of race, spring from the same source — the strong patriarchal feeling

which binds together all members of the same family or tribe. They are born, live, and die together; and, what is equally important, all these events happen on the spots which their race have inhabited for ages. This adherence to kindred and soil is a distinctive feature of the East. It is preserved under all circumstances, and we can as little account for it as for the contrary tendency to expansion in the West.

The climate, and other physical conditions, under which these races have been bred, have powerfully affected this phenomenon, although they do not explain it. We find that extremes of climate are alike unfavourable to the development of race. In the extreme north, the overpowering influence of natural forces repulses all human exertion; and again, in the extreme south, there is no stimulant to call it forth. Stagnation is the consequence in both cases. In one, nature is too unkind; in the other, too favourable. In the greatest part of the territory inVOL. XCVIII. NO. CC.



habited by the Mahometan races, the soil yields all that is required by the scattered population, almost without exertion on their part. The mild climate not only dispenses with many wants belonging to a less favoured sky, but seems also to restore with less difficulty the consumed vital powers. We cannot but be astonished at the frugality of Eastern people, amounting, according to our ideas, nearly to starvation. * A cupful of camel's milk and a handful of dates impart to the Bedouin Arab strength enough to walk or ride for sixteen or more hours in a day. Under these circumstances, to which must be added from six to nine months of enervating heat, it is not surprising that all vigour is prostrated, and a sort of dreamy condition produced, which enchants and absorbs the vital forces of the man.

We can best understand how much in the Oriental character is to be attributed to these physical conditions, if we observe the change which slight variations in climate and soil have produced in these races themselves. The most striking distinctions are those observable between the mountaineers and the inhabitants of the plains; and again, between the settled and the nomad populations. In both cases, the marked transition is so gradual, and follows so clearly the changes in the character of the soil and the climate, that it can only originate in these

Let us take Syria as an example. The whole native population from the coast of the Mediterranean to the Tigris belong to the same race and speak the same language, and yet what a marked difference exists among them. The towns on the coast have indeed been too much exposed to foreign influence to be fair specimens of this difference; but contrast the tall, athletic, and fierce-looking inhabitant of Lebanon with the mean, clumsy, and enervated villager of the plains of Aleppo and Damascus; - and again, compare the latter with the Bedouins, whose aquiline features, flashing eyes, and slender and muscular body, proclaim a variety of character, which, on the first glance, it is impossible to misapprehend.

Both the mountaineer and the free son of the desert have to encounter difficulties in procuring the necessaries of life, from which the inhabitants of the luxuriant plains are altogether exempt. These difficulties require and provoke much greater energy, and exert a considerable influence on the social existence and moral qualities of the two former. A certain degree of independence, totally unknown to the fellah in the plain, is the result. But this feeling of independence does not become individual; it belongs only to the clan in the mountains, or to the tribe in the desert. The Bedouin, Druse, or Metuali, in


dividually, is the same cowardly fellow as the Alepine or Damascene, having no self-reliance or self-independence; but, in connexion with his tribe or clan, he exhibits a strongly marked personal feeling, and the whole tribe or clan forms a composite body, conscious and jealous of its rights, and ready to uphold them against any encroachment. This, the frequent feuds among the tribes of the desert, and the rivalries of the Sheik families in the district of Lebanon, sufficiently prove. Both have been able to maintain a considerable amount of resistance against all attempts to subjugate them. The expedition of the Mushir of Damascus against the rebellious mountaineers two years ago, and a similar attempt at present, are a proof that their spirit, though sometimes subdued in appearance, is far from being broken in reality.

But these slighter differences of climate and soil, which nevertheless influence the character of the mountaineers and the pastoral nomads, are not sufficient to change their Eastern nature. Though, in a less degree, they are still under the influence of those physical conditions which give so strong a bias to the life of the Eastern races. They likewise need small efforts to satisfy their limited wants; small indeed compared with those of the European. Their country is so scantily inhabited, that it will probably be ages before the increase of population overpowers the benignity of nature, and forces them to greater exertions. They therefore are not subject to those natural stimulants which awaken industry, and create the energy which is essential to further development.

If such be the case with the hardiest of the Eastern tribes, we may reasonably expect a religious and social system corresponding to this state of body and mind. Partly, then, as a consequence, partly as an expression of the peculiar character of the Eastern races, moulded and modified by physical causes, Mahometanism arose,- the greatest and most distinctive feature of the East at the present day.

The less individuality is developed, the greater and the more extended must be the sway of authority. Hence we discover in the East, existing from the earliest times, those all-absorbing theocratical powers which influenced and regulated the minutest functions of individual life. The Eastern races had not come to maturity, and, consequently, felt the need of a director and precise guide. They found both in Mahometanism.

We are apt to judge historical events either from our own isolated point of view, or, at least abstractedly, without considering the tendencies of the times, and the circumstances when they occurred. Until lately, this was the mode adopted with

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