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Suspension of Diplomatic Relations with the Porte–The Ahmed Tewfik incident
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Purchase Bill--The Game Laws--Local Option. ENGLAND was half-startled, half-amused on New Year's Day, by an announcement that official relations with the Porte had been suspended. It was hardly possible to believe that any serious consequences could follow from the rupture, and yet so strong a measure could not fail to cause some uneasiness. The Austrian and the German ambassadors, it was said, were exerting themselves to heal the breach between Sir H. Layard and Said Pasha, the Turkish Prime Minister. But the former had put his foot down, after long forbearance, and was not to be moved. He remained in semiofficial relations with the Sultan, but he would hold no official communication with the Sultan's Ministers till certain demands had been complied with.
These demands had reference to an incident petty enough in itself to be the cause of such a commotion. Several months before, a German Missionary, Dr. Köller, had been arrested and searched,
and in a carpet bag which he was carrying was found a copy of a book containing disrespectful remarks about the Mohammedan religion, and two manuscript translations from the New Testament and the Book of Common Prayer. Dr. Köller's papers were seized ; and a Turkish schoolmaster, Ahmed Tewfik, who had been employed to supervise the translation, was thrown into prison, and threatened with the extreme penalty of the sacred law, for having put his hand to an infidel document. So gross a breach of the Sultan's promises of toleration could not pass unnoticed, and as long before as in September Sir H. Layard had demanded the release of Ahmed Tewfik, the restoration of Dr. Köller's papers, and the dismissal of Hafiz Pasha, the Minister of Police, who had ordered the arrest of the Khodja. Satisfaction being put off on various pretexts, our Ambassador had declared that if his, demands were not complied with by December 31, he would withdraw from official relations with the Porte. It was the performance of this threat that produced the startling New Year's Day news to which we have referred.
The breach did not last long; and in the end, Sir H. Layard had to put up with a very incomplete satisfaction. A letter from a “Nonagenarian " in the Times, who was at once identified as the veteran Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, gave a more serious aspect to the affair than it had worn at first. People had been somewhat puzzled by the importance attached to the arrest of the poor khodja till a “Nonagenarian ” explained that Ahmed Tewfik was really a Ulema of considerable distinction, who had been tutor to a member of the Royal family, under Abdul Aziz; and held an important post in the Sultan's grammar-school-a sort of focus of enlightenment in Turkey. The persecution of this man as an apostate and a proselytiser, who had been simply employed as a scholar to correct a translation, was significant as an index to the temper of the fanatical party predominant in the Sultan's councils. It was of the utmost importance, a “Nonagenarian" urged, that they should not be allowed to secure a victory.
The progress of the incident was therefore watched for some days with curiosity, though the general interest quickly subsided when it appeared that the difficulty would be patched up. At the instance of his brother ambassadors, Sir H. Layard consented to a compromise: Dr. Köller's papers, which it was pretended had been lost, were restored. A harsh sentence of death or imprisonment, which had been pronounced on Ahmed Tewfik, was cancelled, and he was deported to the island of Scios, on the pretext that it was necessary for his own safety that he should not be left in Constantinople, exposed to the fury of fanatics among the population. In the official notification of his pardon, the Sultan made no acknowledgment of his breach of promises of toleration. He affirmed that Ahmed Tewfik was punishable under the law of the Koran, but that he owed his pardon to the Sultan's clemency and desire to be on good terms with his allies. Hafiz Pasba was not dismissed, but he