Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/138

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Mohammad, and is a premonition of the new paths along which the empire is about to travel. It is a significant fact, that no sooner has the Vezirate reached a high elevation, than the influence of the harem begins to make itself felt for the first time in Ottoman history,—and as an influence hostile to the Vezir.

The income of the Ottoman State at the beginning of the sixteenth century was probably about four million ducats; and it went on increasing with new conquests till, towards the middle of the century, it seems to have approached ten millions. The head of the financial administration was the Defterdar of Rumelia, to whom those of Anatolia and, afterwards, of Aleppo, were subordinate. About three-fifths of the revenue were produced by the kharaj or capitation tax, levied on all unbelieving subjects with the exception of priests, old men, and children under ten. It does not seem to have been oppressive, it was generally paid with docility; and the duties on exports and imports were so reasonable that commerce, which was mainly in the hands of Christians, was in a flourishing condition. The worst feature in the fiscal system of the Turks was the stupid method employed in levying the land-tax (incident on all landowners without distinction of creed), which might amount to much more than a tithe of the produce. The farmer was not allowed to begin the harvest, until the tax-gatherer was on the spot to watch over the interests of the treasury, and he was forbidden to collect the produce until the fiscal portion was set aside. Apart from the incidental waste of time and injury to the crops, the inevitable consequence of this system has been that agriculture has never improved; certain primitive methods of work are prescribed by the law, and these and no others must be followed under the tax-officer's eye. Another weak point in the financial system has been the depreciation of the coinage, a process which had set in at least as early as the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Until the empire began to decline and the system became established of leaving the provinces to be exploited by officials who had paid heavy sums for their posts, the condition of the subject Christian population as a whole was perhaps more prosperous under Turkish rule than it had been before. The great oppression was the tribute of children, but even this was thought to have some compensations. Greeks, Albanians, and Servians rose to the highest positions in the State. Christians and Jews were, as a matter of policy, suffered to exercise their religions freely—a toleration which might indeed at any moment be withdrawn. In nothing had Mohammad shown astuter statesmanship than in his dealings with the Greek Church. He knew the "Romaic" language well, and had sounded the nature of the Greeks of that age; he was well aware how they were absorbed in narrow theological interests, utterly divorced from the principles of honour and rectitude, which they were always willing to sacrifice in order to gain a victory for their own