Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

A Citizen of the World

page break

A Citizen of the World.


SSir Donald Mackenzie, K.C.I.E., whose career suggests to us the above title, was born on the 11th of November, 1841. He was educated at various private schools, the last he attended being at Montgrennan in Ayrshire. He had lost both his parents before reaching his tenth year, and having no brothers, sisters, or other near relations who took a special interest in him, he was left very much to his own devices early in life. He had great difficulty in choosing a profession, and even recently has been heard to say that he has not quite made up his mind on the subject.

As a boy he was indolent, and his dislike to reading extended not only to all manner of school-books, but also to works which boys commonly read with avidity, He was willing to receive knowledge in other ways however, and fond of collecting orally all sorts of curious out-of-the-way information. It was perhaps fortunate for him that he was not very studious at this time and page 37 delighted rather in out-of-door exercise, for he was delicate and required muscular force rather than cerebral excitement.

When about sixteen he underwent a change physical and intellectual. He gradually became very robust, and at the same time developed an insatiable appetite for study. His intellectual tastes, however, did not take any very definite direction, but they were sufficiently comprehensive, for, with boyish naiveté, he formed a scheme for making himself thoroughly acquainted with all branches of human knowledge. His guardians being wiser in their generation and more practical, insisted on his choosing some sort of profession, suggesting the army, the bar, medicine, civil engineering, etc. In order to get rid of their well-meant importunities he announced that he should prepare himself for the Scotch Bar. His reason for making this choice was that it secured for him the longest preliminary training—six years at the university. He began in the University of Glasgow, but was there only one term, after which he went to Edinburgh, where he remained for over five years. While keeping in view his boyish encyclopedic programme, he devoted his attention chiefly to the philosophic branches—metaphysics, ethics, psychology, etc., and at his M.A. examination he "took honours" in those subjects. He did not continue this line of study, for he had gradually come to the conclusion that metaphysics was a cul-de-sac, that philosophical page 38 studies were of little use except as a means of mental training, and that philosophy was interesting merely from the historical point of view. He had leanings also at this time towards natural science, and occupied himself with chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and medical jurisprudence.

In 1862 he began to travel on the Continent in summer, attending the Edinburgh University in winter. His first tour was confined to France, Belgium, Italy, Holland and Germany, His second tour included Austria, Turkey and Greece, and when returning home by the Lower Danube he caught a very persistent malarial fever, which had an important influence on his movements for some years. After vainly trying for many months to get rid it in England, he was ordered by his doctors to try a change of climate. Paris was suggested as a place of residence and in order to utilise his time he entered as a student at the Ecole de Droit. A year's study at this establishment convinced him that the French law schools were far inferior to those of Germany, and he accordingly went in 1866 to the University of Berlin. Here he continued his studies in Roman law for two years, when the Austro-Prussian war and the consequent changes in Germany drew his attention to political affairs. He had arrived in Berlin a few days after Blind's attempt on the life of Bismarck, and had noticed then that the Chancellor was unquestionably the most hated man in Germany; while three page 39 or four months afterwards, when the Battle of Königsgrä tz had been fought, he had become undoubtedly the most popular.

The autumn of 1868 was devoted to a tour in America, whence Sir Donald returned to his legal and and political studies in Berlin. In the following year he removed his head-quarters to Heidelberg, where, after a few months he passed his examination as Doctor of Civil and Canon Law. When preparing for his examination he had made the acquaintance of one of the Professors, Dr. George Asher, and had been struck by the originality of his views on Roman Law and Roman History, and a project was gradually formed of writing with him a very learned and very thorough work on the aristocracy of ancient Rome. According to the programme the first thing Sir Donald had to do was to look through the whole of the Latin literature, and all the Latin inscriptions, and to note the names of all persons who had filled any public offices. Gradually he began to perceive that the work on the lines laid down, would occupy at least one life-time of average length, and his sympathies were more and more drawn to another subject—primitive institutions in general, and those of the Aryan races in particular. With the view of investigating this subject thoroughly he began to study Sanscrit and the ancient systems of Hindoo jurisprudence. Here again was a subject of study for at least a life time, but the prospect did not frighten him this page 40 time, for he had now pretty well decided to devote his life to study in Germany, and in order to give himself a sort of social status he determined to qualify for the position of a Privat-Docent, or honorary professor of comparative law. His dissertation for this purpose was already begun when the whole course of his life was suddenly changed by an invitation he received to visit some friends in St. Petersburg.

During his studies in primitive institutions, Russia had often crossed his path. In Haxthausen's great work he had learned something of the mir or village-community, and in a smaller work by the same author called "Transcaucasien" he had heard of a wonderful tribe called the Ossetes, who were supposed to be, as it were, a little stagnant pool left high up in a secluded valley of the Caucasus, by the great Aryan wave of migration as it rolled westward into Europe in pre-historic times. Haxthausen did not give much information about this wonderful people, but he said enough to suggest that (thanks to their long centuries of isolation) they still retained in good working order those primitive institutions which Sir Donald was laboriously endeavouring to construct out of the meagre fragmentary remarks of ill-informed ancient authors. The effect of this discovery may be readily imagined. It was as if some naturalist who for years had been endeavouring to reconstruct the skeleton of a Dinotherium were suddenly told that if he went to a secluded valley not far off he would find a whole herd page 41 of antediluvian monsters strolling about peacefully in the bright sunshine. What a chance had our enthusiast! He would get miles ahead of all rivals by simply describing accurately what he had before his eyes. He was younger then, and more sanguine than now and believed that he was about to make a "hit" such as Sir William Jones made by the discovery of Sanscrit. But in order to understand those wonderful Ossetian institutions he must understand the Ossetian language, which might turn out to be primitive Aryan speech; and in order to acquire the language of that barbarous tribe, he must learn the language of the only civilized people in contact with them—the Russian. This might be done by accepting the invitation to St. Petersburg; so it was accepted, and he arrived on the banks of the Neva early in 1870.

The banks of the Neva is not a convenient place for learning Russian for anyone able to speak fluently the principal West European languages. He convinced himself of this very soon, and after a few months he left the capital of the Czars and settled in a remote village in the province of Novgorod, as is related at considerable length in the opening chapters of his "Russia," In proportion as he became better acquainted with the Russian people he became more and more interested in them, and he determined to spend a year in studying their peculiar character and institutions, but at the end of the year he found he did not understand them quite so well as he had imagined he did at the page 42 beginning. Another year had to be devoted to the object in view, and again he found that he had made much less progress than he had anticipated. It was not till he had been six years in the country that he felt he could speak with authority.

During the last two years of his stay he had put his materials in shape, and when he returned to England in the last days of 1875, he brought with him a gigantic mass of manuscript, which contained a very full description of the country, with copious historical details and no end of statistics. Having devoted six of the best years of his life to the work, and feeling an intense interest in the subject, he was entitled to hope that his countrymen would share his enthusiasm and appreciate the result of so much conscientious labour, but at first he was doomed to disappointment. "The Trade" did not believe that such a work could succeed. One leading publisher told him frankly that his book might be well adapted for Germans, but that it was altogether unsuited to the English public; and another great authority declared with equal frankness that if the manuscript were published, not a man, woman or child would ever read the ponderous volumes.

Under these circumstances he abandoned the idea of publishing in the ordinary way and thought of having a small volume printed for private circulation. For this purpose he began to boil down the big manuscript into modest dimensions and when the process was about three-fourths completed he unex- page 43 pectedly received from Messrs. Cassell a proposal to write a popular book on Russia in two volumes, The idea of writing in a popular style was not at all in accordance with his German notions as to how a book should be written, but after a long discussion with the literary adviser of the firm he consented to write a serious work in a popular style, and undertook to deliver the manuscript in four months. In making the agreement he was no doubt influenced by the desire of utilising his materials; and it was natural that he should also wish to show his friends that he could write in a popular style if necessary. Having the whole material at his fingers' end he had no difficulty in fulfilling the terms of his agreement. By the end of the four months the work was already in type. A few weeks were devoted to the correction of the proof-sheets, and on the 1st of January, 1877, the two volumes appeared. On the day of publication the whole of the first edition was sold, and several editions more were sold as fast as they could be produced.

The reviewers were enthusiastic. Even the authority above-mentioned, who had predicted that no man, woman, or child would ever read the book, now remarked, when reviewing the book in its popular form (in the Fortnightly Review): "Here we must leave this valuable and instructive book. It is one of the stoutest and most honest pieces of work produced in our time; and the man who has produced it may securely enjoy the reflection which is by no page 44 means given to all of us, that even if he never does anything more, he will not have lived for nothing."

The American edition had perhaps as great a sale as the English one, and of the Tauchnitz edition a large number of copies were sold. How many translations were made into foreign languages cannot with certainty be said, because they were made for the most part without the author's permission, but he has seen translations in Hindi and Punjabi, French, German, Danish, Swedish, Russian, Hungarian, Croatian, Turkish (in part), Persian, Hindustanee, Bengalee. These translations were made without even a suggestion of the author. When an enterprising publisher in Lucknow asked permission to publish translations in the Indian vernaculars he was dissuaded by the author on the ground that they would probably not pay, but he persisted in his intention and afterwards communicated the fact that he had no reason to regret the venture.

About six months after the publication of "Russia" (in June, 1877) Sir Donald was offered the post of Times correspondent in St. Petersburg, and after some hesitation he consented to try it for a month or two. Personally the position was not at that time a pleasant one. The Russo-Turkish war was going on and public opinion in Russia was greatly excited against England by the hostile attitude of the Disraeli Cabinet, and by the fact that several Englishmen were serving in the Turkish army. By certain of the Russian newspapers page 45 Sir Donald was abused as an enemy of the Fatherland, whereas in England he was regarded as a Russophil, and as almost a traitor to his country. He suffered, in short, the common hardship of those who attempt to hold the balance fairly between two excited hostile factions; but he stuck to his post for about a year, and would probably have remained longer but that he unfortunately excited the suspicions of the secret police. Certain disclosures had been made in the Times regarding the policy and intentions of the Russian Government, and it was suspected, perhaps not unnaturally, but altogether unjustly, that he had obtained information by bribing officials in the Russian Foreign Office. Soon he discovered that he was being carefully watched His Russian servant informed him that "some wicked people who evidently wanted to rob him" had offered him money and questioned him about Sir Donald's habits, and that one or two of them who hung about the door when Sir Donald was at home, always followed him when he went out. In the course of a few days he came to know these two personages by sight. Both had strongly marked Jewish features, and he found that they followed him about wherever he went. He had no reason to fear disagreeable consequences for himself, but he was afraid of compromising his Russian friends, and he accordingly sent in his resignation to the Times. In reply he was asked to go to Berlin for the Congress which was then about to assemble, and when that body dissolved a month later, he was re- page 46 quested to transfer his headquarters to Constantinople.

From July 1878 until September 1884, he remained in Turkey, studying the Eastern Question from the point of view of the Turks, and of the young nationalities who aspire to take their place. Again he was indicted of gaining information by bribery, and again the accusations were unfounded. In his opinion good information can be better obtained by other means. The Porte and the Palace tried in vain to discover what these means were, and the irritation in high quarters was at one time so great that he received a friendly warning never to go out at night unarmed.

During those six years he travelled from time to time in Bulgaria and some of the provinces still left under the direct rule of the Porte, and he spent one winter among the southern Slavs of Austria. When the Organic Statute was being elaborated for Eastern Roumelia, by the International Commission, he lived in Philippopolis in constant communication with the Commissioners, When the Rhodope insurrection was going on he passed through the disturbed districts, and when Prince Alexander of Bulgaria made his coup d'état he was present at the proceedings, and had a long interview with the Prince next morning.

He was in the island of Scio during the great earthquakes, when four thousand people perished, and he was present at the famous trial of Midhat Pasha, when he and the two brothers-in-law of the Sultan were condemned to death for the assassination of the page 47 Sultan Abdul Aziz, Immediately after the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir he went to Egypt, and was present at the trial and condemnation of Arabi and the other leaders of the insurrection. He remained in the valley of the Nile for six months, and published the results of his investigations in a volume entitled "Egypt and the Egyptian Question."

In September, 1884, he unexpectedly received a letter from Lord Dufferin, who had just been appointed Viceroy of India, offering him in very flattering terms the post of Private Secretary. The Designation is rather a misnomer, for the official in question has nothing to do with the Viceroy's private affairs. He is the link of connection with the various departments of State and with the outside world, his chief duty being to take as much of the drudgery as possible off the shoulders of his chief, so that the latter may have time to think. In an Empire containing over 250 millions of inhabitants, and possessing a highly cen tralised administration, the amount of work can be readily imagined. It will here be interesting to refer to a speech made by Lord Dufferin at the Mansion House on the 29th May, 1889, In the Times of the following day Lord Dufferin is reported to have said; "If the late Viceroy of India has survived the labours of his office and lives to dine with the present Lord Mayor of London it is because he had in Sir Donald Wallace an incomparable Private Secretary, who relieved him of half his labours, who enjoyed everybody's page 48 confidence, who completely effaced himself, and worked eighteen hours a day," For the Viceroy's Private Secretary there are no holidays. During the tours which were made in spring and autumn, Sir Donald's railway carriage and his tent were fitted up as his office, and even when out tiger shooting the daily work was regularly forwarded by telegraph and special messengers. Sir Donald Wallace was Private Secretary at a time when the Viceroy had many serious difficulties to grapple with First, he had to deal with complicated agrarian questions in Bengal and other provinces. Then he had the Russian menace on the north-west frontier, which threatened at one moment to lead to hostilities. Next came the annexation of Upper Burmah, and the reorganisation of the annexed territory in question. The unavoidable establishment of a protectorate over the Shan States necessitated some delicate negotiations with Siam, On the northwest the increasing proximity of a European Military Power made it necessary to construct strategic railways and put the frontier in a proper state of defence, and all this had to be done in the midst of the greatest financial difficulties, caused by the ever-increasing depreciation of silver in all the markets of the world, A fall of one penny in the average annual value of the rupee meant a loss of one million sterling to the Indian Government. The internal political agitation too (a legacy from Lord Ripon's administration) had also to be dealt with carefully and judiciously. Altogether page 49 Lord Dufferin had enough to do, and we have quoted his own words as to the services of his Private Secretary.

When Lord Dufferin retired at the end of four years, and Lord Lansdowne was appointed, Sir Donald Wallace was asked if he would take a new term of office, but he declined. He has an iron constitution, insensible to climate, independent of physical exercise, and capable of almost any amount of work, but his doctor was of opinion that he would either break down before the end of the term, or that he would carry on to the end and be useless for the rest of his life. He had already learned as much about India as he cared to know, and therefore did not feel inclined to make the medical experiment. He remained, however, a few months as Private Secretary under Lord Lansdowne, and then came home through Persia, Central Asia, and Russia. An account of his ride through Persia was published in the English Illustrated Magazine (in the July, August, and September numbers), under the title of "Overland from India."

He arrived in England in June 1889, and started in the following February for south-eastern Europe. His object was to get into touch again with the young nationalities of the Balkan Peninsula, The simmering insurrection in Crete took him to that island, and he spent some weeks in investigating the origin and real character of the movement. In spite of the bellicose declarations and predictions daily dinned into his page 50 ears by the agitators, he came to the conclusion that there would be no disturbances for some time to come, and accordingly he went over to the mainland, and made a short tour in the Peleponnesus. Thence he proceeded to Athens, where his conclusions about the probable course of events in Crete were confirmed by conversations with Mr. Tricoupis and other leading politicians Mr. Tricoupis was evidently determined not to allow his great schemes for developing peaceably the resources of his country to be compromised by foreign complications. Sir Donald thought it well, therefore, to move on to Bulgaria, but before he had been long in Sofia symptoms of disturbance appeared among the Armenians, and some of their friends in England tried to convince the British public that a serious insurrection in Armenia was imminent. A stay of three weeks in Constantinople sufficed to convince him that it was a mere flash in the pan, and that a political agitation, the centre of which was in London, could only have the effect of increasing the sufferings of the unfortunate people in whose interest it was supposed to be carried on. He returned, therefore, to Sofia, where he had renewed his relations with his old Bulgarian friends. His conversations with Prince Ferdinand, Mr. Stamboloff, and other Bulgarians were of great use and interest. Having obtained a clear conception of the present political situation he passed on to Belgrade, but before he had quite found his bearings in the world of Servian page 51 politics he was unexpectedly requested by the British Government to go out to India for the purpose of accompanying the Cesarevitch as Political Officer on a tour in India and Ceylon. He felt considerable reluctance to accept this mission because it interrupted him in his studies; but pressure was brought to bear on him and he finally consented. The tour in India had very little interest for him because he had been over the ground before in analogous conditions, but the visit to Ceylon was a new and agreeable experience for him. Fortunately for his peace of mind and comfort the Cesarevitch turned out to be everything that could be wished, and this being so there was not the least difficulty of any kind. The stories which have been published about him and his suite being in constant terror of assassination are pure inventions. Sir Donald Wallace never saw the slightest symptoms of terror or even of anxiety in any member of the party.

Sir Donald's mission terminated at Colombo on the 23rd of February t when he started for Egypt, and after remaining there for about a fortnight he returned to England.