chapter  16
20 Pages

Young Turks, Freemasons and Jews

It is related that when Kamil Pasha was Ottoman grand vizier at the beginning of 1913, he complained of lack of support from the British ambassador, Sir Gerard Lowther, and exclaimed in despair: 'Alas, where is White, where is Currie?'l Kamil Pasha's bitterness over Lowther's attitude was certainly justified, but it is most doubtful whether his nostalgia for White and Currie has any historical warrant. In fact, whether we look at British policy towards the Ottoman empire from the morrow of the congress of Berlin to the eve of the first world war, or whether we examine the attitude of successive British ambassadors in Constantinople during the same period, our dominant impression is likely to be quite negative. On the very morrow of the Cyprus convention of 1878, by which Britain engaged to join the Sultan in defending Ottoman possessions in Asia 'by force of arms', mutual disenchantment was already apparent. The British government on the one hand found itself unable or unwilling to give financial or other support to Abd alHamid, and on the other suspected that the sultan was not in earnest about those' necessary reforms' which he had bound himself by the Cyprus convention to introduce. By the end of 1879, British influence was at a low ebb in Constantinople, and the pro-Ottoman Layard had, as Salisbury put it, 'lost his temper with the Sultan, and like a Portuguese sailor in a storm is disposed to beat the idol he worshipped'.2 Anglo-Ottoman relations thereafter remained tepid. The British occupation of Egypt, on the one hand increased Abd alHamid's suspicion of his ostensible ally, and on the other considerably decreased British interest in an Ottoman alliance.3 British attitudes toward Abd aI-Hamid became one of increasing dislike and mistrust: he was believed to be cynical about reforms and to propagate a mischievous and possibly dangerous Pan-Islamism. The Armenian troubles of the 1890s served to give him, in addition, a sinister reputation as an unscrupulous and bloodthirsty despot. It was now thought practically useless and morally wrong to have any truck with 'Abdul the Damned', and the 'unspeakable Turk' was undoubtedly the wrong horse to have backed in the Crimean war and in 1876-8. 'I believe,' Salisbury wrote in 1898, 'that under the guidance of Palmerston and Lord Stratford de Redcliffe we made a grave blunder in deserting the alliances of 1805. We sacrificed the alliance of a Power that was growing, for a Power that was evidently decaying.' 2 Fear of Germany finally brought about an

entente with Russia some nine years after the date of Salisbury's letter. This entente was bound to, and did make, Anglo-Ottoman relations more difficult and ambiguous than ever.