1294) Missionary Cyrus Hamlin Lashes Out

In 1897, a brave and informed university president went against the prevailing and hateful anti-Turkish propaganda of his time. The missionary Dr. Cyrus Hamlin, known for his shattering revelation of Armenian terrorism (as appeared a few years prior in The Congregationalist, and available on TAT; see link at page bottom), decided to give this rare truthful view a reckoning, exposing his own terrible biases.

The footnotes reflect Holdwater's comments.


(The following appeared in The Nebraska State Journal, November 22, 1897.)

The Venerable Dr. Cyrus Hamlin Writes of the Eastern Question.


A Long Array of Facts and Arguments to Show That the President of Brown Has Been Imposed Upon.

BOSTON, Nov. 21.?The recent utterances of President E. Benjamin Andrews of Brown university, in Boston and Chicago, which have been widely reproduced in the daily press and religious weeklies, have induced the Rev. Cyrus Hamlin, D. D., to reply, with special reference to what President Andrews has said concerning affairs in the orient. Dr. Hamlin says:
E. Benjamin Andrews
was a fellow reverend as well, as
well as a historian

The distinguished character of the speaker, and some remarkable statements in the speech make it worthy of careful criticism.

My sixty years' acquaintance with the east, my thirty-five years' residence there as an educator, my close acquaintance with Turks, Armenian, Greeks and Bulgarians; entering their houses, speaking their languages, give me a right to speak on some points which President Andrews has treated superficially.

In the first part of his address he shows his superiority to all American newspaper correspondents. [1]

As an example, he accuses them of knowing nothing of the great protectionist rally in France. The learned president had not read the right newspapers. Had he consulted the Economist, printed in New York, and the Home Market Bulletin, printed in Boston. he would have found all the information he could desire and would have looked upon France as the proper walling[?] ground of the Cobden[?] club.

In the latter part of the address he discusses only the policy of England in Europe and in Africa. We are shocked by his bad taste in the introduction of a profane and indecent ballad about sending Gladstone to hell. Gladstone has had a life of great errors and great virtues. He has taken the wrong side of every great question, but has finally come round to the right. I have heard him in his prime and do not wonder at the honor that is paid to him in England. As he has repented of his sins toward us let us forgive him. He has touched the heart of the Christian and civilized world by his eloquent defense of the distressed, martyred Armenians whom President Andrews evidently despises. It may be that for that reason he sends him to perdition, but he should do it with more decency of language.[2]

The president has done well at the close of his address to draw attention to the fact that England is ever strengthening her strategic points around us. She is repeating the error of 1775 if she thinks to [?] us in our strength which she could not do in our weakness. Commercially and industrially she is destined perhaps to be our enemy. She destroyed our marine in the time of our distress, and it would distress her to see it restored. We must be rivals; let us not be hostile rivals.

But what we are most interested in is the result of his deep sea sounding. "Dropping the plummet deeper he touches certain painful facts" which he is bound to reveal is our expectant minds. It is a new and astounding fact that has been concealed and that he is now commissioned to unfold. It is a fact that he has ascertained upon "diligent and extended inquiry." And the amazing and painful fact is that no Mohammedans have been converted to Christianity, while "most of us suppose that hundreds and thousands have been converted." Again "I fear it would be an error to imagine that any considerable number of west Asian Moslems have turned to our religion." (sic.) This is simply amazing! This puzzles the brain. President Andrews is a man of genius and imagination. Has he taken the products of his imagination for facts? Has he seen visions? [3] Whence his impression that hundreds and thousands of Moslems in Turkey have been converted? And his confidence that the Christian community ("most of us") believe the same? There is no missionary society in all Christendom, since President Andrews was a freshman in college, that has sent a single missionary to the Moslems in Turkey. If there have been any conversions the converts have immediately disappeared; and there have been no reports of any conversions in any missionary or other publications. In any quarterly or monthly or weekly or daily publication. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe stopped public execution, but it is still sure death to a Moslem in Turkey to say openly that the gospels are superior to the koran. [sic] [4]

As no society has labored for any such result. and us there has been no such result, and as nobody has had any such impression in this or any other country, we are forced to believe that the president has dreamed a dream. We do not say this lightly. Joseph and Pharaoh and [Nebuchadnezzar] dreamed dreams from which great events flowed. We would honor this dream, but there is significance in it. It is utterly false and empty as a boy's soup bubble.

A part of this same dream is that no Moslem drinks intoxicants. Back in the country it is true. In the cities, thoughtful Moslems themselves mourn the prevalence of drunkenness among wealthy and official Turks. I was once offered a glass of brandy by a Turk of high official rank. He was surprised that I declined. I demanded his interpretation of the koran on prohibition. He coolly replied, "Our blessed prophet knew nothing of brandy, and every good Moslem may drink as he pleases." Every resident In the cities knows the alarming fact of increasing Moslem intemperance.

Another remark is from the place of dreams that "the Mohammedan society of western Asia and northern Africa is just as solidly Mohammedan today as it was one hundred years ago or over."

To appearance it is so. There is sure death in the renegade. Moslems have declared the teachings of Jesus superior to that of Mohammed, but all such persons have mysteriously disappeared. The good president on this subject should have "dropped his plummet deeper still." There are many facts too many to be here [considered], showing that the Moslems themselves fear the underground change going on. This sultan has strictly forbidden the purchase and reading of the gospels. Some eight or ten years ago, four to five thousand Turkish New Testaments were sold annually to Turks by our colporteurs.[5]

"We have no future," said a venerable Moslem to a missionary. "The future is for you." A young captain in the army once said to the writer. "If there were only freedom for a man to change his religion I would become a Christian at once and bring ten thousand with me." He then narrated a conversation he had with his colonel (Ben? Bashi), who said to him. so would I. But If you speak such words you will be ordered to the Euphrates or some other malarious place. [?} what he meant by the word "malarious" I do not know. [6]

Dr. Cyrus Hamlin

A few months later this interesting man called at my house when I was away. "Tell your father," he said, that the young [?] (captain) who talked with him in Philippopolis is on his way to the Eurphrates." I never heard of him again. Some do secretly buy the gospels at their peril, but as many of our colporteurs are dying or have died in filthy prisons there are fewer opportunities. The enlightened Moslems lie low at the present, for Hamid has raised Moslem fanaticism to white heat. Islam is being undermined by many influences, and the mad PanIslamism of the sultan can save it only so long as Germany and Russia sustain him.[7]

We come now to the learned president's estimate of the Turks and Armenians: "The Turks are the nobler and more moral race."

As the ruling race, wearing all the high official costumes and living upon the labor of five millions of rayahs, Armenian, Greek and Jewish, they naturally have that appearance of superiority which leisure, pride, wealth, station and conscious power give. But what of their character and course in history? [8]

The culmination of their wealth and power was under Solyman [sic] the Magnificent 1520 to 1566. Europe trembled before them. They had the wealth and the industries of the twelve millions of Christian subjects (rayahs.) What use have they made of all these pre-eminent advantages? They have lost nearly all their vast possessions in Europe, Hungary, the Crimea, Romania. Bulgaria, Servia, Boznia. Herzegovina. Montenegro, Greece, with her seven Islands. In Asia, they have lost a large trans-Caucasian territory to Russia, in the Mediterranean and Africa they have lost Cyprus and Egypt to England, and northern Africa to France. For three hundred years they have played a tremendously losing game. All this time the Turkish race has been diminishing. They are three millions less now that they were when Solyman came to the throne, while the Christian races have increased.

While these moral Turks were seizing a thousand choice Christian boys every year and training them up as Moslem janissaries, and were recruiting their harems, ad libitum, from Christian homes, the rayahs were kept In check. The janissaries stopped that In their own interests and the immortalities of the race have been slowly destroying it.

They have lost credit as well as numbers, and domain and character. The sultan lives In great splendor by means of cruel oppressive taxation. But he cannot pay half of 1 per cent on his public debt, and he cannot raise a loan of one penny in any money market In Europe. The sultan knows all this, and proposes to remedy it by his scheme of Panlslamism. He will exterminate his rayahs, Armenians and Greeks, and bring In a fierce Moslem immigration that shall raise the empire to its ancient splendor.

At the time President Andrews was imbibing his notions of the higher nobility and morality of the Turks they had slaughtered at least one hundred thousand of their unarmed and peaceful Christian subjects because they would not deny their faith and profess Islam. They had destroyed 2.403 villages, forcibly converted 246. destroyed [563] Protestant and Gregorian churches, changed 328 to mosques and destroyed seventy-seven monasteries and left in utmost want and destitution [580,000], chiefly old men. women and children, thousands of women and girls outraged by the moral Turks. The outrage of women and girls was too awful for even Lepsius to describe. And this part was mainly by the Turkish soldiery who reserved it for themselves. If afterwards they had killed the agonized victims without torture and infernal sport their morality would have been less satanic. [9]

"But the Turks have great provocation," insists the president. "The Armenians exasperated the Turks much us the Jews do the Germans and Russians." They have never exasperated the Turks, the Turks have exasperated them. Oppression, robbery, outrage of women, sacking and burning of villages have been going on for many years. Full twelve years ago Dr. Barnum of Harpoot wrote me that if this work should go on the Armenian people must all become Moslems or be destroyed and yet in no case except Zeitoun had they ever risen against their oppressors. [10]

Sultan Abdul Hamid
Greek-exterminator, Hamlin says

But it is not by force. It is by cunning and cheating that the Armenians oppress the Turks. The proverb quoted against then is a misfit, for trade and commerce are in the hands of the Greeks. They have always had it, they have it now, and they always will have it unless Hamid can exterminate them, which he is trying to do. The Greeks always hold the ports of trade. [11]

I deny the truth of the accusation brought against the Armenians as being unmitigated cheaters and deceivers. I have had great business experience with them and know them thoroughly.

An oppressed people always develop a certain amount of defensive cunning. I have heard both Greeks and Armenians defend the absolute necessity of this. The Turks, they say, oppress us [12], gather twice the amount of taxes the law allows, take many things by force and a Turk's note is worth very little. If we get a chance to overcharge it is only to get our due. This introduces deception and dishonesty into trade and commerce. But the Armenians, if treated well, are an honest, industrious, faithful people. I affirm it because I have tried them. From 1845 and onward the Protestant Armenians were vigorously boycotted and thrown out of all employments. As a foreigner I could then establish industries, proforma and protect them. They became my employes. [sic] I was responsible for them and my responsibilities became alarmingly great. I had more than fifty Armenians, first and last, not all Protestants, and had they been selfish, cunning men they could have victimized me every month, as our work was with the English commissariat in the old Crimean war. Our payments varied from $30,000 to $50,000 a month. But the whole work was finished with a splendid profit, which went to a church building fund, Those men were faithful and intelligent. I think of them with respect and admiration. I treated them well and demanded good service and to this they responded. The president has unwittingly slandered a noble people.

If he had known that for the last ten years England has done nothing for the Armenian he could have spared his slur and his wit about their raising the devil and trusting to England to get them out.

We must follow the good president a Iittle further.

"The grand Turk, ignorant of those western appliances, judges, juries, courts and jails, sends a horde of Bashi-Bazouks bidding them be thorough according to the merits of the case. They obey with he result that there are no more Armenian outbreaks in that locality, because there are no more Armenians to break out. There you have epitomized much recent history, horrible but perfectly natural."

The amended reading should be: Then you have epitomized much recent falsehood, the truth being horrible and perfectly devilish.

It is true that the grand Turk has no jury, but that he has no judges, courts and jails is "a merry conceit." Of those appliances he has two, and of most three compared with ours. Their Jails may be five to one and their occupants a thousand to one. They are crowded with scores of our teachers, of the Gregorians, priests, deacons, colporteurs, and industrious, worthy men who cannot pay their taxes on property that has been destroyed or "looted," are crowded into these vile places where the atmosphere is most horrible and malarious. [13]With no covering, with poor and scant food, they are happy if some disease takes them away. They can leave any day by saying "Mohammed is the prophet of God," but scores and scores of them are dying every week, martyrs of Jesus. President Andrews must not ridicule such a people. He fears we think too highly of their Christianity. Well, they can die for it. One hundred thousand have been slain, another hundred thousand have died lingering deaths in want and misery indescribable, and unknown thousands have perished in filthy prisons "not accepting deliverance" and thousands are still suffering in the patience of God.

No Bashi Bazouk has been called to the work of plunder, outrage and blood. The Turkish soldiery and the Koordish and Circassian mob have done it all, under the direction of officers. The sultan Is responsible for the whole and it is his work. He would extinguish Christianity and establish Islam.[14]

We have thus discharged a painful duty in controverting every statement made by President Andrews with regard to the Armenians and the Turks.'

How is it that a man so eminent should unsuspectingly fall into such a jungle of absurd falsehoods and misapprehensions?

He has furnished us the key, "He conversed with several gentlemen who knew both the Turks, and Armenians perfectly well."

We have met these same "several gentlemen," who know everything perfectly well. In widely different places and at different times. They are well dressed, have some knowledge of society, are very sociable, will find out almost by intuition your business and what you are after and whither you are going so as to help you if any way opens. They attach themselves to you without your knowing it and you find them most agreeable and communicative on just the subjects you wish to inquire about. Here is a man whose knowledge is clear, positive and always supported by well chosen illustrative facts and descriptions of eminent persons. Why should you wish to go farther? You have history, politics, religion, manners and customs brought right before you.

Especially do these "several gentlemen" rejoice in finding an unsophisticated, intelligent traveller, and if they see that they have gained his ear they proceed to stuff him. They are an amusing people. I had experience with them fifty years ago. Every large hotel will have two or three, and specimens will be found In every large Mediterranean steamer.

At present they are rather monotonous for they all talk in one strain. They talk up the Turks and talk down the Armenians.

The sultan has an immense secret service like the "Third Circle of the Imperial Chancery" so wonderfully revealed to us by the "Revue de Deux Mondes" many years ago. That these gentlemen are in the pay of the sultan there can be little doubt. They all teach one and the same lesson. It is just what we have learned from the good president and which we have shown to be utterly untruthful. [15]

(Thanks to Gokalp)
Holdwater's Notes

1. A superiority that was entirely justifiable, given how American newspapermen threw away the rules of honest journalism, letting their prejudices be their guide, and reporting any atrocity story without bothering to verify them.

2. This would be the same rabble-rousing William Gladstone who declared Turks as "the great anti-human specimen of humanity." This hate-monger certainly did not "repent" his awful racism, and the racism he stirred en masse in others. Hamlin rises to defend Gladstone, as both of these impossibly Christian fanatics were basically of the same mold.

3."Has he seen visions?" Suddenly, the uncomfortable feeling that Cyrus Hamlin would have been perfectly at home as an inquisitor of medieval Europe, branding those he did not like as witches. For the period, the president was not off the mark; the common perception among the masses must have indeed been that missionaries were converting the infidels of the world to their civilized brand of religion, because... that's what missionaries do.

4. No doubt it would have been tough going for a Moslem to go around the village saying "Christianity beats Islam hands down," but... "sure death"? Again the reinforcement of the popular notion that Turks were little better than animals. Sure, there were fanatics who could have taken violent measures, but generally the fate of such converts in the "relatively modern" late 19th century would have been ostracism, eventually to be followed by reluctant acceptance. No different than if a European or American would have gone around in their smaller towns, telling neighbors that "Islam beats Christianity hands down."

5. Hamlin is trying to make it sound like every Moslem would have taken up Christianity if it was not for "sure death." Other than his borderline hysteria, what an interesting parallel to current times. The sultan was aware of the corruptive and divisive measures of the missionaries, and took steps to keep the people together. Similarly, Turkey's flawed "301" law to take those who "denigrate Turkishness" to court is a similarly defensive attempt to combat those who are working to weaken Turkish society.

6. The greater mystery is how Hamlin translated whatever Turkish word used to come up with the uncommon "malarious."

7. Sultan Abdul Hamid had a very bad rap in the Western press, and Hamlin was only too happy to exploit the misperceptions.

8. In an interview from three years prior, Hamlin pointed to the "comparative prosperity" of the Armenians, so his contention here that average Turks had so much leisure, wealth and station reads hollow. (And given Hamlin's example of a few paragraphs back, where a Turk cried the Turks had no future, along with the loss of empire Hamlin will go on to describe, one wonders about the "pride" as well.) Besides, what do these qualities have to do with indications of morality? (Actually, the common view in most societies is that those in the upper classes have a tendency to be less moral; here, Hamlin is trying to sell the reverse.)

9. The holy man went off his rocker here. Lepsius? Is that who he got these statistics from? Besides, it's pretty pathetic that Hamlin is attempting to downplay the superior morality of the Turks, that many Westerners have attested to. One was even a fellow missionary, declaring, "[The Turks] are the most honest and moral of the Orientals."

10. Vartanian, the Armenian historian, wrote in "History of the Armenian Movement": "Ottoman Armenians were completely free in the Ottoman Empire and the Turks were the Armenians' only shelter against Russia guaranteeing their traditions, religion, culture and language in comparison to Russian oppression under the Czars." Hamlin agrees the Russians would be worse for the Armenians, but here he is shamefully presenting a twisted "Armenians are oppressed" picture. (Note his pointing to a fellow missionary as corroborating witness.) And he is closing his eyes to all the rebellions and mischief the Armenians were behind during the mid-1890s. ("...in no case except Zeitoun had they ever risen," he writes shamefully, concluding with the description of the Turks as, of course, "...their oppressors.")

11. The Armenians' tactics of oppressing Turks certainly include cunning and cheating, but not at the exclusion of "force"... as Hamlin was the first to reveal, with his Congregationalist article. Here he is simply being ridiculous by attesting [1] Hamid tried to exterminate the Greeks, and [2] the Greeks had it over the Armenians as the merchants of Ottoman society. (The Greeks had it pretty good as well, but who is to say whether one was more prosperous than the other? Oscanyan wrote in 1857: "This [Armenian] community constitutes the very life of Turkey, for the Turks, long accustomed to rule rather than serve, have relinquished to them all branches of industry. Hence the Armenians are the bankers, merchants, mechanics, and traders of all sorts in Turkey.")

12. Of course, that is what "they" are going to "say," and one who wishes to get a fair picture would not just rely on what one side ... especially a side with such a conflict-of-interest... had to say. The fact of the matter is, the Turks were suffering no less under the excesses of the Ottoman administration. The fact that the government was being unfair, as governments throughout the world have a tendency to be toward their citizens, did not stop most Turks from being honest. Hamlin is a shameless apologist for the dishonesty of the Armenians that most Westerners had come to observe.

"When a Mohammedan gives me his word," said a gentleman who had a long experience of the country, "whether he be a Turk or a Kurd, I can always rely on it. I have never been what is called ' done ' by a Mussulman, although I have had transactions of all kinds with Moslems for years ; but when a native Christian tells me anything, I have cause instinctively to ask myself where the deception lies ? in what direction I am going to be tricked. There are exceptions, of course; but if anyone has many dealings with Mussulmans and native Christians in these parts, he will soon learn that the one may be depended on, and the other will almost to a certainty deceive and cheat you if you give him a chance."

Grattan Geary, '' Through Asiatic Turkey "

13. There is that word "malarious" again. Yes, prison conditions must have been pretty appalling, but before Cyrus Hamlin goes MIDNIGHT EXPRESS on us, let's bear in mind rare was the nation on earth where prisons were a nice place to stay in. Moreover, even today folks get locked up when they can't pay their taxes. (Hamlin must not have had much to do with whatever passed for the "Internal Revenue Service" of his time, given a probable religious exemption.) Furthermore, the reason why his teachers and others got locked up had little to do with the offenses listed; Hamlin's people were spreading the seeds of dissent, and the revolts that Hamlin pretended did not exist.

14. Hardly very "Christian" of the man to have made such serious accusations, when he had no proof. It is most likely Hamlin would have equally been at home today, attending genocide conferences, on the basis of no factual evidence.

15. And doesn't that take the cake. Hamlin doesn't like the president's sources, so he accuses them of being "agents of the Turkish government"! It appears the same question asked here of a contemporary "Christian" needs to be asked of the Reverend Cyrus Hamlin.
© Holdwater
 © www.tallarmeniantale.com
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