xxiv HISTORICAL SKETCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE.
Turkish knowledge. Achmet was soon after deposed, and the patron of printing
deemed unfit to reign.
He was succeeded in 1730 by his nephew Mahomet, the fifth of the name who had
ascended the throne of Turkey, but usually called Mahmoud I. It was in his reign the
celebrated usurper, Thamas Kouli Khan, seized on the crown of Persia, and war was
kindled with the Turks. These nations comprise the two great sects into which the
followers of the Prophet are divided. The Persians hold in abhorrence Abubekir and
Omar, whom the Turks revere; and they adhere to the doctrines of Ali, whom the Turks
abhor. The latter call themselves Swmi, or " the orthodox/' and have no fellowship or
communion with the Rafazir or Shutes, "infidels" or "heretics." They affirm, that Allah
may have mercy on Jews and Christians, but he will have none on the Persians, whom
he hates sixty and ten times as much as the most inveterate infidels. The enmity,
therefore, between the discordant sects of the faithful is even greater than between the
faithful and the infidel. It was the enlightened policy of Thamas Kouli Khan to put
an end to this bloody dissention, and reconcile the different shades of opinion among the
professors of the same religion. It was stipulated as an article in the peace which
followed, that their respective priests should labour assiduously to this end; but, like
all such attempts, it was unavailing, and the enmity is at this day more inveterate
than ever. Mahmoud died in 1754, and was regretted as the least sanguinary of the
But the time was now approaching when the dynasty of the Mohammedans in Europe
seemed hastening to its close. The Russians, ever since the capture of Asoph, on
the Mceotis, by Peter the Great, had never ceased advancing on Constantinople. The
Turkish territories on the north of the Euxine were intersected by vast rivers which fell
into that sea; and the policy of the Russians was, to advance from river to river, and, at
the end of every war, to make the last the boundary of their territory, and secure for
themselves all that lay behind it. In this way Catherine pushed her frontier to the
Dnieper, and built a naval arsenal at Cherson, thereby establishing a naval supremacy
on the Black Sea; and, that her object might not be ambiguous, she caused to be
inscribed on the western gate, "This is the road to Constantinople." Meantime,
the Turkish government seemed to contain within itself the elements of rapid decay.
While all Europe was advancing in the arts and sciences which improve life and
strengthen kingdoms, the Turks alone stood still and refused to move—their ignorance
inveterate, their obstinacy intractable, their cities falling to ruins, their population daily
decreasing, their internal dissensions growing more sanguinary, and, above all, the insolence of the Janissaries without control—interdicting every improvement, paralyzing
every effort, utterly inefficient as soldiers, and formidable only to their own government.
The first step, therefore, was to establish some force to restrain these men, that the
people might be at liberty to follow other states in the march of amelioration: and
this was now undertaken by the reigning sovereign.
Selim III. was the most amiable and enlightened man that had yet filled the throne
of the Osmanli. He succeeded his uncle, Abdal Hamet Khan, whose sons were infants