The following article was written in The New York Times at the time of the uprisings in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the “Bulgarian Outrages” committed by Ottoman Muslim troops against Christian villagers.
The piece is, believe it or not, from an editorial in a newspaper that would sooner take the gaspipe than write similar words today. Not only is the content far removed from what the NYT might write today, but their prose then was orders above what passes today for journalism.
Here is a glimpse of free America, late nineteenth century -- head and shoulders above the current low state of the world.
“The Disturbances in Constantinople,” The New York Times (May 20, 1876), p. 6.
The news from Constantinople is undoubtedly even more serious than it appears. Our readers, not familiar with Oriental countries can hardly appreciate the passion of fanaticism which at times burns in the breasts of the lower classes among the Mohammedans. The majority of these have no idea of the progress made by the Western races, or of the inferiority of their country to other modern States. To them the world is as it was five centuries ago, the better part owned or conquered by the “faithful,” and outside regions permitted to be occupied by pagans, infidels, and Jews. The Sultan only needs to wave to the winds the victorious crescent, and to call upon Allah, and go forth, as BAJAZET before him, and scatter the infidel Christians and erect the rule of the prophet over over the world. In their estimation, a Christian is a being who should only be permitted to exist on sufferance, and the presence of a number of Christians in the capital is unendurable in this time of public danger. These ignorant fanatics, led by the Softas, who are versed in the religious writings of the Musselmans, are eager to renew the golden days of the crescent, and one of their leaders has already offered the Sultan to “lay fifty thousand Christian heads at his feet;” a proposition which report says, made even the “man-slayer” shudder.
The masses believe that it only needs the old war cry of “Allah and His Prophet, and the extermination of the infidels,” to put down the wicked rebellion and place Turkey as it was at the era of the battle of Vossovo. The appointment of a Christian to go to Egypt and secure the Turkish troops there for the present campaign have excited this rabble. They have also demanded and obtained the resignations of the Grand Vizier and the Minister of War. This undoubtedly was caused by the yielding of these officials to a united remonstrance of the representatives of the powers against an invasion of the soil of Montenegro.... The Ottoman Government were just about carrying the war into the Balkan Mountains – a step which might have led to a European war – when the Ambassadors interfered. This interference is bitterly resented by the Mohammedan fanatics.
Now, at every mountain pass leading to the country of the Black Mountains a Turkish company of soldiers, embittered by fanaticism to the last degree, faces a band of Christian peasants, animated by the traditional hate of centuries, and eager for the collision. Turks and Christians pass each other daily in the towns of European Turkey, and it needs but one outburst of savage fanaticism among the softas and rabble of Pera to kindle a flame which shall burn throughout the Empire.
We should not be surprised to hear by any telegram of a massacre of Christians throughout Turkey. It is a mistake to suppose that Mohammedanism is dead. It is lifeless among the higher classes. They understand fully the weakness and danger of Turkey. But the ignorant masses and rabble are capable of the utmost excitement and fanaticism for their religion. The European residents of Pera and Constantinople know perfectly what outbursts occur among this proletariat, and how impossible it is for the Government or any power to repress them. They are naturally in terror and excitement. Any such riot and massacre would, however, only hasten the end. The European powers would then be obliged to interfere. They would authorize, in all probability, an Austrian and Russian occupation of the disturbed districts, and Constantinople would be put under the guns. The fleets of the different powers are already concentrated there....
The crescent must pass from the European skies. The intelligent see that the days of the ancient Empire won by conquests five centuries ago are numbered. Only the ignorant hope to preserve it by arousing fanaticism.