1844 the Edict of Toleration

An abstract of the Parliamentary paper on this subject is given, as follow, by Rev. Edward

Bickersteth: —

“The papers entitled ‘Correspondence Relating to Executions in Turkey for Apostasy from Islamism,’ were presented to Parliament, May 3, 1844, and having come before me through the kindness of Lord Ashley, I give the following abstract of them. The correspondence occupied a considerable part of a year — from Aug. 27, 1843, to April 19, 1844.

“The difficulties in the way were thus stated by the Grand Vizier, Aug. 24, 1843: ‘The laws of the Koran compel no man to become a Mussulman; but they are inexorable, both as respects Mussulman who embraces another religion, and as respects a person, not a Mussulman, who, after having his own accord publicly embraced Islamism, is convicted of having renounce that faith. LO CONSIDERATION CAN PRODUCE A COMMUTATION OF THE

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, TO WHICH THE LAW CONDEMNS HIM WITHOUT MERCY. The only mode of escaping death is for the accused to declare that he has again become a Mussulman.’ The same difficulties were pressed Dec. 1, 1843, when our Ambassador was assured, that although the Porte wished to avoid any recurrence of the atrocity, yet as such executions were obligatory under the law, considered by Mohammedans Divine, it would be embarrassing to give an official declaration. And again, Feb., 10, 1844, the Ottoman Minister for Foreign Affairs drew a strong line of distinction between custom and Divine law, intimating that a law prescribed by God Himself was not to be set aside by any human power; and that the Sultan in attempting it might be exposed to a heavy, perhaps even a dangerous, responsibility.

“The causes of this intervention of the European Powers are remarkable. In August, 1843, an Armenian youth, who after, under fear of punishment, becoming a Turk, had returned to his Christian faith, was put to death. This called for the interposition of our Government and its serious remonstrances, and produce in November, 1843, some promises of termination such affairs without capital punishment. In December, however, a young Greek, who had become a Mussulman, having returned to his own creed as a Greek Christian, at Biligik, adjoining to Brussa, was executed. This taking place in the midst of the correspondence, called forth Lord Aberdeen’s decisive letter of Jan. 16. Thus we are indited to the faithfulness of the Greek and Armenian martyrs for this remarkable change. The energy put forth to accomplish this change required the concurrent exertions of the five European Powers — Austria, Prussia, France, Russia, and England.

“The able dispatch of Lord Aberdeen of Jan. 16, 1844, is peculiar, and very honorable to our country. It is as follow, — “‘ Despatch to Sir Stratford Canning, our Ambassador at the Porte, from the Earl of Aberdeen.”‘                                 Foreign Office, January 16, 1844.

“‘Sir, — I have received your Excellency’s despatch of the 17th of December, reporting that a Greek had been executed near Brussa as an apostate from Islamism, and enclosing a copy of the communication which you had directed Mr. Dragoman Frederick Pisani to make to the Porte in consequence of that transaction.

“‘I have to stat to your Excellency that her Majesty’s Government entirely approve the promptitude with which you acted on this occasion. But the repetition of the scene of this revolting kind so soon after that which had, in the course of last summer, excited the horror and indignation of Europe, evinces such total disregard, on the part of the Porte, for the feelings and remonstrances of the Christian Powers, that it is incumbent upon Her Majesty’s Government, without loss of time, to convey their sentiments on the matter still more explicitly to the knowledge of the Porte. They take this course singly, and without waiting for the co-operation of the other Christian Powers, because they desire to announce to the Porte a determination which, though, it doubtless will be concurred in by all, Great Britain is prepared to act upon alone. Her majesty’s Government fell,too, that they have an especial right to require to be listened to by the Porte on the a matter of this nature; for they can appeal to the justice ant to the favour with which the vast number of Mohammedans subject to British rule are treated in India, in support of their demand that all persons, subject of the Porte, and professing Christianity, shall be exempt from cruel and arbitrary persecution on account of their religion, and shall not be made the victims of a barbarous law, which it may be sought to enforce for their destruction. Whatever may have been tolerated in former times, by the weakness of indifference of Christian Powers, those Powers will now require from the Porte due consideration for their feelings as members of a religious community, and interested as such in the fate of all who, notwithstanding shades of difference, unite ina common belief in the essential doctrines of Christianity; and they will not endure that the Porte should insult and trample on their faith by treating as a criminal any person who embraces it. Her Majesty’s Government require the Porte to abandon, once for all, so revolting a principle. They have no wish to humble the Porte by imposing upon it an unreasonable obligation; but as a Christian government, the protection of those who profess a common belief with themselves, form persecution or oppression, on that account alone, by their Mohammedan rulers, is a paramount duty with them, and one form which they cannot recede.  Your Excellency will therefore press upon the Turkish Government, that if the Porte has any regard for the friendship of England — if it has any hope that, in the hour of peril or af adversity,  that protection, which has more than once saved it from destruction, will be extended to ti again, it must renounce absolutely, and without equivocation, the barbarous practice which has called forth: the remonstrance now addressed to it. Your Excellency will require an early answer; and you will let the Turkish Ministers understand that if that answer does not fully correspond with the expectations which Her Majesty’s Government entertain, your Excellency is instructed to seek an audience of the Sultan and to explain to his Highness, in the most forcible terms, the feelings of the British Government, and the consequences, so injurious to Turkey, which a disregard for those feelings will involve. Her Majesty’s Government are so anxious for the continuance of a good understanding with Turkey, and that the Porte should entitle itself to their good offices in the hour of need, that they wish to leave no expedient untried before they shall be compelled to admit the conviction that all their interest and friendship is misplaced, and that nothing remains for them but to look forward to, if not promote the arrival of, the day when the force of circumstances shall bring about a change which they will have vainly hoped to procure from the prudence and humanity of the Porte itself. “‘Your Excellency will seek an interview with the Reis Effendi, and having read to him this despatch, leave a copy of it, with an accurate translation, in his hands.

“‘I am , etc., (Signed) ABERDEEN.’”

Count Nesserode’s despatch of February 27, 1844, on the part of the Russian Government, is instructive as opening out the weakness of the Ottoman Government. “it is the Emperor’s intention that you should declare to the Ottoman Porte, in the form of friendly counsel, that we positively expect no longer to witness executions which array against it the indignation of all Christendom. It is with a view to its own interest, that we address to it this demand. The Porte must not delude itself with regard to the elements now in state of fermentation in Turkey. Instead of alienation from itself the feelings of the Christina population, the Ottoman Government ought more than ever to labour to conciliate them to itself.”

The magnitude of the question is thus forcible stated, February 22, 1844, by the Turkish minister. “No fresh step was requisite to make us sensible of the importance of this question, with which we are deeply impressed. We are dealing with it with all the seriousness and all the care which its gravity requires. Yes, what your respective chiefs say is true; this question has its political as also its religious side. It is requisite, in fact, that we should separate ourselves from the nation, or other wise from the Christian Powers; those are tow great evils to be equally avoided. The Sultan has commanded that this question shall be discussed in the council of Oulemas, which will be opened on next Saturday, at the Sheik-ul-Islam’s, to which the Gazi-Askes, and the other principal persons among the men of the law will be summoned; after which the council of ministers will again apply themselves to it. Do not suppose, however, that we have confined ourselves to direction their attention, purely and simply, to the question as it regard religion; we have likewise submitted to them the protocols of the conferences, the despatches of the two Governments, and even the extract of the newspapers which have discussed this question and we shall likewise communicate to them the instruction which you have just delivered to me, and which, although superfluous as far as the Porte is concerned, may still add to the impression produced by the other documents in their hands.”

In communication the Queen’s approbation, April 19, 1844, to Sir Stratford Canning, Lord Aberdeen ends the correspondence with these words, “You have brought to a successful close a question of which the importance cannot be too highly rated,” Even will show the truth of these words.

The Porte, even on the 14th of March, 1844, would have put off the European Powers with a statement that the law did not admit of any change; but such measures as were possible should be taken. The Ambassadors of the European Powers refused to receive this.

At length, on the 21st of March, 1844, the question of religious execution was, as our Ambassador observes, “happily and, to all appearance, conclusively settled. The concession has been obtained with great difficulty by your lordship’s instructions, to overcome the obstacles which were raised against us.”

He inclosed in this letter the following “Official Declaration of the Sublime Porte, relinquishing the practice of Executions for Apostasy.”


“It is the special and constant intention of His Highness the Sultan that his cordial relations with the High Powers be preserved, and that a perfect reciprocal friendship be maintained, and increased.


“March 21, 1844. “

to this must be added the following “declaration of His Highness the Sultan to Sir Stratford canning, at his audience on the 22nd of March 1844.

“Henceforward neither shall Christianity be insulted in my dominion nor shall Christian be in any way persecuted for their religion.”

“the date of the official declaration, March 21, is very remarkable: being in fact THE FIRST DAY OF NISAN, the first sacred month of the Jews. And this is the more remarkable, as IT IS CONNECTED WITH THE TERMINATION OF THE REMARKABLE DATE OF 2300 YEARS.”

“It will be observed that Ezra is very specific in stating the date B.C. 457. On the first day of the first month begun he to go up from Babylon (Ezra 7:9) B.C. 457. And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month (Ezra 10:17). The whole time of the return and restoration taking exactly a year.”

The prophecy of this period is in these words ( Dan 8:13,14) Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. (For the proof of this being the period of 2300 years, the reader is referred to Birks’ “Elements of Prophecy,” pp. 256-363) Ezra’s commission for the restoration of the sacrifice ( Ezra 7:15; 8:35) was 457 years B.C. The period of a year was occupied in his return, and the cleansing of the sanctuary, that is to B.C. 456 (Ezra 7:9; 10:17.) The restoration of sacrifice continued with slight exceptions, to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, since which Jerusalem has been trodden down of the Gentiles, to the period of March 21, 1844; this period according to the Jewish year, ending March 20, 1844; makes 2300 years; and on the 1st of Nisan, 1844, the power of the Mohammedans to persecute Christianity passed away, and liberty is given for Christian worship, the true cleansing of the sanctuary. THIS IS THE MORE REMARKABLE ALSO AS THIS IS THE 1260th YEAR OF THE HEGIRA (the date fixed by the Mohammedan Anti-christ as the rise of this branch of the Apostasy) and so the closing year in Mohammedanism of that remarkable prophetical period, 1260 years. In a letter form Tangiers, dated June 20th, 1844, given in the public journals, speaking of the difficulties besetting the kingdom of Morocco, it is stated, “It seems that the Moors have always had foreboding of this year, For a long time they have been exhorting each other to beware of 1260 (that is, of the Hegira), which according to our reckoning is the present year.”

“it was a common remark in Egypt in 1839, ‘The spirit of the Arab is gone.’ Events in Sidon, Acre, Persia, India, Affghanistan, Bokhara, Algiers, illustrate the same view.”

“Anther material point connected with this event is the passing away of the Turkish Woe. It is the general voice of Christian interpreters, that the sixth angel sounding the second Woe Trumpet, describes the Turkish Woe. We have in this event a most remarkable feature of the ending of that woe. The importance of this fact will be seen by the prophecy Rev. 11:14-18 “The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.  And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, We are therefore clearly on the verge of these great events.” — Bickersteth, “Guilde to the Prophecies,” Ninth Edition p. 344.

From Approaching End of the Age by H. Grattan Guiness page 407

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