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Roumania Past and Present

Roumania Past and Present
Title: Roumania Past and Present
Release Date: 2006-04-24
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 25 March 2019
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Of the Middle Temple, Barrister-at-Law


Post Tenebras Lux

All rights reserved

[Pg v]


There is no country in Europe which at the present time possessesgreater interest for Englishmen than does the Kingdom of Roumania, andthere is none with whose present state and past history, nay, with whosevery geographical position, they are less familiar.

Only about nine years since Consul-General Green, the Britishrepresentative there, reported to his Government as follows: 'Ignoranceseems to extend even to the geographical position of Bucharest. It isnot surprising that letters directed to the Roumanian capital shouldsometimes travel to India in search of Bokhara, but there can be noexcuse for the issue of a writ of summons by one of the superior lawcourts of the British metropolis, directed to Bucharest in the Kingdomof Egypt, as I have known to happen.' The reader may perhaps attributesuch mistakes as these to our insular ignorance of geography, or to thefact that the proverbial blindness of justice prevented her fromconsulting the map before issuing her process; but the fact remains,that notwithstanding the occurrence of a great war subsequent to thedate above specified, which completely changed the map of Europe,wherein Roumania took a very prominent part and England assisted at thesettlement, there are few intelligent readers in this country who couldsay off-hand where precisely Roumania is situated.

And yet, as already remarked, the country possesses an absorbinginterest for us as a nation. Placed, to a large[Pg vi] extent through Englishinstrumentality, as an independent kingdom, of daily increasinginfluence, between Russia and Turkey, for whom she served for centuriesas a bone of contention, she is now a formidable barrier against theaggressions of the stronger power upon her weaker neighbour, and it issatisfactory to reflect that, so far, the blood and money of Englandhave not flowed in vain. Then, again, the question of the freenavigation of the great stream that serves as her southern boundary isat present occupying the serious consideration of many leading Europeanstatesmen, and the solution of the Danubian difficulty will materiallyaffect our trade with the whole of Eastern Europe; whilst the peaceablecreation of a peasant proprietary in Roumania about sixteen years since,and the advantages which have accrued to her from this social andpolitical reform, present features of peculiar interest for those whofavour the establishment of a similar class of landholders in Ireland.

In treating of these two questions, I have laboured under the greatdisadvantage of not being able to follow current events. It isunderstood that the Danubian difficulty will be settled on the plan,referred to in the text, suggested by Austria for her own advantage,with certain modifications, having for their object the limitation ofher preponderance. My readers will be able to judge for themselves,after reading the brief review of the question, and the references toour own commercial relations with the countries bordering on the Danubein the third and fifth chapters, whether such a settlement is likely tobe final. For myself I cannot believe that any solution will bepermanently satisfactory which interferes with the jurisdiction ofRoumania in her own waters.

As to the land question, it calls up some awkward reflections when itshistory is contrasted with recent and passing events in Ireland. So longas the conquerors in Roumania endeavoured to solve the problem, theirefforts were un[Pg vii]availing. At the Convention of Balta-Liman betweenRussia and Turkey, where 'coercion' was coupled with 'remedialmeasures,' an ineffectual attempt was made to ameliorate the wretchedcondition of the peasantry on the old lines of feudalism; but it was notuntil the country became autonomous and the legitimate representativesof the people took the matter in hand, that an efficient remedy wasapplied. Then, as the reader will find detailed in the followingpages,[1] more than four hundred thousand heads of families amongst thepeasantry came into peaceful possession of a large proportion of theland on equitable terms; and whilst the industrious agriculturist is nowdaily acquiring a more considerable interest in the soil, the landlords,who were merely drawing a revenue from the labour expended upon it byothers, are gradually disappearing. That the prosperity and stability ofthe country have increased through the change is shown in many ways, butmore especially by the enhanced value of Roumanian Governmentsecurities, of which I have been able to append a short statement incontrast with those of Russia and Turkey.[2]

What has occurred and is passing in Ireland the reader need not be toldhere. Possibly the consideration of the Roumanian land question may havegiven a bias to my views on the whole subject, and the excited state ofthe public mind causes me to hesitate in the expression of an opinionwhich may appear to be dogmatic. Still, looking at all thecircumstances—at the partial resemblance between the former conditionof Roumania and the present state of Ireland, at the past history ofIrish reforms (such as the abolition of the Irish Church), at the risingland agitation on this side of the Channel, and at the recentrecommendation of the Canadian Parliament that autonomy should beextended to Ireland—I have been able to arrive at no other conclusionthan[Pg viii] that the measures at present before Parliament may bring temporaryrelief to the peasantry, and temporary, nay let us hope permanentpacification, but that the question will be reopened, coupled probablywith that of 'Home Rule,' and that at no distant period.

There are many other circumstances which warrant us in seeking to obtaina better knowledge of Roumania, but these were the chief considerationswhich induced me last year to visit the country and some of its leadinginstitutions, and to collect the materials which I now venture in thefollowing pages to lay before my readers.

No one knows so well as I do how imperfectly my task has been performed,nor the difficulties with which it has been surrounded, and there areone or two matters of which I should like to unburden myself to thereader. He will probably enquire why I have put the cart before thehorse, giving a sketch of the present condition of the country beforetreating of its past history. The answer is that it was not originallymy intention to deal with the latter at any length; but when I came toread and study the works which have appeared on the subject in Frenchand German (of which a tolerably full list is appended to thistreatise), so many topics of interest presented themselves for thehistorical student that I determined to publish a connected history ofthe country, however imperfect it might be, from the earliest times downto the present day. And in this I was further encouraged by the factthat the attempt has not yet been made in English, excepting in a veryperfunctory manner in Consul Wilkinson's work, published by Longmans in1820, which is now quite out of date. That such a review of Roumanianhistory, condensed as it necessarily is, was sure to be considered verydry by many readers, seemed to be certain; I therefore placed it afterthe description of the country as it exists to-day, and for thosereaders the perusal of the last chapter of that part of the work,dealing with the notabilities of the day, will[Pg ix] probably suffice. But Ibelieve that some matters relating to the Roman conquest of Dacia, thecharacter and movements of the barbarians (of which I have prepared andappended a tabular statement), the subsequent history of the country,its struggles for freedom, and the condition of the inhabitants atvarious periods, will be new to the general student of history andsociology, and if my share has been badly done, it need not prevent himfrom prosecuting enquiries, for which he will find ample materials inthe works of the continental writers to whom I have referred. As regardsthe controverted questions of the descent of the modern Roumanians andthe foundation of the Principalities, I would direct his attention moreespecially to the recent publications of Roesler and Píč, the first anAustrian and the second a Slav writer, where he will find those subjectsfully and warmly debated.

The only other matter on which I desire to give an explanation is myreason for not entering more minutely into what is called 'the EasternQuestion,' nor attempting, as other authors have done, to predict thefuture relations of Roumania in regard to it. An American humourist hassaid, 'Never prophesy unless you know,' and many a writer on Roumaniamust wish that he had refrained from dealing with probabilities, or fromprognosticating the coining events of history. The future of the Eastdepends upon a variety of divergent considerations: upon the relationsof the Government of Russia with its people; the course of events in thenewly acquired provinces of Austria, and the delicate relations betweenAustria and Hungary; the future action of the Prince and people ofBulgaria, the former of whom is at present under Russian influence; uponthe growing power and influence of Greece; and, lastly, upon thepossible, but not probable, regeneration of Turkey. And without speakingfor others, I should feel it presumptuous, under the circumstances, todeal in prophecies.[Pg x]

As to the best policy for Great Britain, however, that is perfectlyclear, and may be summed up in a short sentence. It is to facilitate, bypacific means, the solution of every difficulty and problem as itarises, and wherever it is possible, through our influence, to supportand encourage constitutional government against autocracy and despotism.This we can do with great advantage in our relations with Roumania, andit will be a source of much gratification to me if the information whichI have here attempted to disseminate should have the slightest tendencyin that direction.

Claughton, Birkenhead:
April 20, 1882.

[Pg xi]


I. Geographical and Descriptive 3
II. Geographical—Archæological 20
III. The Navigation of the Danube 30
IV. Topographical, etc. 36
V. Topographical—Commercial 67
VI. Agricultural and Pastoral—The Peasant Proprietary 74
VII. Educational—Ethnographical 88
VIII. Judicial and Penal 100
IX. From the Getæ (about 335 b.c.) to the Close of the Roman Domination in Dacia (about a.d. 274) 115
X. From the Evacuation of Dacia by Aurelian (about 274 a.d.) to the End of the Barbarian Rule (about the Close of the Thirteenth Century) 138
XI. From the Foundation of the Principalities, between the Middle of the Thirteenth and of the Fourteenth Centuries, to the Accession of Michael the Brave, a.d. 1593 161
[Pg xii]XII. The Times and Career of Michael the Brave 170
XIII. From the Death of Michael the Brave (a.d. 1601) to the Deposition of Prince Couza (a.d. 1866) 199
XIV. From the Deposition of Prince Couza (1866) to the Coronation of King Charles (1881) 233
XV. Present Roumanian Leaders and their Policy 258
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