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the last two centuries, they would have quickened and matured the progress of knowledge, and the art of governing, by throwing light on the spirit and tendency of laws; they would have checked the spirit of officious interference in legislation; have softened persecution, and expanded narrow conceptions of national policy. The happiness of a nation would have been proclaimed by the fulness of its garners, and the multitudes of its sheep and oxen; and rulers might sometimes have sacrificed their schemes of ambition, or their unfeeling splendour, at the detail of silent fields, empty harbours, and famished peasants.
WITTMAN’S TRAVELS. (E. Review, 1803.)
Travels in Turkey, Asia Minor, and Syria, &c. and into Egypt. By William Wittman, M.D. 1803. London. Phillips.
DR, WITTMAN was sent abroad with the military mission to Turkey, towards the spring of 1799, and remained attached to it during its residence in the neighbourhood of Constantinople, its march through the Desert, and its short operations in Egypt. The military mission, consisting of General Koehler, and some officers and privates of the artillery and engineers, amounting on the whole to seventy, were assembled at Constantinople, June, 1799, which they left in the same month of the following year, joined the Grand Vizier at Jaffa in July, and entered Egypt with the Turks in April, 1801. After the military operations were concluded there, Dr. Wittman returned home by Constantinople, Vienna, &c.
The travels are written in the shape of a journal, which begins and concludes with the events which we just mentioned. It is obvious that the route described by Dr. Wittman is not new : he could make no cursory and superficial observations upon the people whom he saw, or the countries through which he passed, with which the public are not already familiar. If his travels were to possess any merit at all, they were to derive that merit from accurate physical researches, from copious information on the state of medicine, surgery, and disease in Turkey; and above all, perhaps, from gratifying the rational curiosity which all inquiring minds must feel upon the nature of the plague, and the indications of cure. Dr. Wittman, too, was passing over the same ground trodden by Bonaparte in his Syrian expedition, and had an ample opportunity of inquiring its probable object, and the probable success which (but for the heroic defence of Acre) might have attended it; he was on the theatre of Bonaparte's imputed crimes, as well as his notorious defeat; and might have brought us back, not anile conjecture, but sound evidence of events which must determine his character, who may determine our fate. We should have been happy also to have found in the Travels of Dr. Wittman a full account of the tactics and manoeuvres of the Turkish army; and this it would not have been difficult to have obtained through the medium of his military companions. Such appear to us to be the subjects, from an able discussion of which, Dr. Wittman might have derived considerable reputation, by gratifying the ardour of temporary curiosity, and adding to the stock of permanent knowledge.
Upon opening Dr. Wittman's book, we turned, with a considerable degree of interest, to the subject of Jaffa; and, to do justice to the Doctor, we shall quote all that he has said upon the subject of Bonaparte's conduct at this place.
“After a breach had been effected, the French troops stormed and carried the place. It was probably owing to the obstinate defence made by the Turks, that the French Commander-inChief was induced to give orders for the horrid massacre which succeeded. Four thousand of the wretched inhabitants who had surrendered, and who had in vain implored the mercy of their conquerors, were, together with a part of the late Turkish garrison of El-Arish (amounting, it has been said, to five or six hundred) dragged out in cold blood, four days after the French had obtained possession of Jaffa, to the sand hills, about a league distant, in the way to Gaza, and there most inhumanly put to death. I have seen the skeletons of these unfortunate victims which lie scattered over the hills; a modern Golgotha, which remains a lasting disgrace to a nation calling itself civilized. It would give pleasure to the author of this work, as well as to every liberal mind, to hear these facts contradicted on substantial evidence. Indeed, I am sorry to add, that the charge of cruelty against the French generally does not rest here. It having been reported, that, previously to the retreat of the French army from Syria, their Commander-in-Chief had ordered all the French sick at Jassa to be poisoned, I was led to make the inquiry to which every one who should have visited the spot would naturally have been directed, respecting an act of such singular, and, it should seem, wanton inhumanity. It concerns me to have to state, not only that such a circumstance was positively asserted to have happened, but that, while in Egypt, an individual was pointed out to us, as having been the executioner of these diabolical commands.”—(p. 128.)
Now, in this passage, Dr. Wittman offers no other evidence whatever of the massacre, than that he had seen the skeletons scattered over the hills, and that the fact was universally believed. But how does Dr. Wittman know what o those were which he saw 2 An oriental camp, affected by the plague, leaves as many skeletons behind it as a massacre. And though the im. bury their dead, the Doctor complains of the very little depth at which they are interred; so that jackals, high winds, and a sandy soil, might, with great facility, undo the work of Turkish sextons. Let any one read Dr. Wittman's account of the camp near Jaffa, where the Turks remained so long in company with the military mission, and he will immediately perceive that, a year after their departure, it might have been mistaken, with great ease, for the scene of a massacre. The spot which Dr. Wittman saw might have been the spot where a battle had been fought. In the turbulent state of Syria, and amidst the variety of its barbarous inhabitants, can it be imagined that every bloody battle, with its precise limits and circumscription, is accurately committed to tradition, and faithfully reported to inquirers? Besides, why scattered among hills If 5000 men were marched out to a convenient spot and massacred, their remains would be heaped up in a small space, a mountain of the murdered, a vast ridge of bones and rottenness. As the Doctor has described the bones scenery, it has much more the appearance of a battle and pursuit than of a massacre. After all, this gentleman lay eight months under the walls of Jaffa; whence comes it he has given us no better evidence 2 Were 5000 men murdered in cold blood by a division of the French army, a year before, and did no man remain in Jaffa, who said, I saw it done—I was present when they were marched out—I went the next day, and saw the scarcely dead bodies of the victims? If Dr. Wittman received any such evidence, why did he not bring it forward 2 If he never inquired for such evidence, how is he qualified to write upon the subject? If he inquired for it and could not find it, how is the fact credible 2 This author cannot make the same excuse as Sir Robert Wilson, for the suppression of his evidence; as there could be no probability that Bonaparte would wreak his vengeance upon Soliman Aga, Mustapha Cawn, Sidi Mahomet, or any given Turks, upon whose positive evidence Dr. Wittman might have rested his accusation. Two such wicked acts as the poisoning and the massacre have not been committed within the memory of man; — within the same memory, no such extraordinary person has appeared, as he who is said to have committed them; and yet, though their commission must have been public, no one has yet said, Vidi ego. The accusation still rests upon hearsay. At the same time, widely disseminated as this accusation has been over Europe, it is extraordinary that it has not been contradicted in print; and, though Sir Robert Wilson's book must have been read in France, that no officer of the division of Bon has come forward in vindication of a criminal who could repay incredulity so well. General Andreossi, who was with the First Consul in Syria, treats the accusations as contemptible falsehoods. But though we are convinced he is a man of character, his evidence has certainly less weight, as he may have been speaking in the mask of diplomacy. As to the general circulation of the report, he must think much higher of the sagacity of multitudes than we do, who would convert this into a reason of belief. Whoever thinks it so easy to get a truth in the midst of passion, should read the various histories of the recent rebellion in Ireland; or he may, if he chooses, believe, with thousands of worthy Frenchmen, that the infernale was planned by Mr. Pitt and Lord Melville. As for us, we will state what appears to us to be the truth, should it even chance to justify a man in whose lifetime Europe can know neither happiness nor peace.