CONSTITUTION OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE.
107 Multeka, or religious code of laws.--Canon-nameh, or imperial constitution.--Authority and prerogatives of the sultan.--Laws of succession.--Princes of the blood.--The sultan's vicegerents.--Classes of the ulema.--Order of legal dignities.--Subordination of the priesthood.--Privileges,-- and powers of the ulema.--Grand vizir.--Divan, or council of state.--Sublime Porte, or Ottoman cabinet.--Government of provinces.--Revenues of pashas:--their modes of life:--precariousness of their offices.--Reflections on the sultan's direct interference in government,--in administering justice,--in conducting war.--Subjection of the people.--Political, civil, and religious distinctions.--Means of redress against tyranny and oppression.
The Ottoman empire is governed by a code of laws called multeka, founded on the precepts of the koran, the oral laws of the prophet, his usages or his opinions; together with the sentences and decisions of the early caliphs and the doctors of the first ages of islamism. This code is a general collection of laws relating to religious, civil, criminal, 108 political, and military affairs: all equally spected, as being theocratical, canonical, and immutable; though obligatory in different degrees, according to the authority which accompanies each precept. In some instances it imposes a duty of eternal obligation, as being a transcript of the divine will, extracted from the registers of heaven and revealed to Mahomet: in others it invites an imitation of the great apostle in his life and conduct. To slight the example is indeed blamable, but does not entail upon the delinquent the imputation or penalty of guilt; and a still inferior authority accompanies the decisions of doctors on questions which have arise since the death of the prophet2.1. This sacred deposit is confided to the sultan in his character of caliph and chief imam; and he is invested with the sovereign executive command2.2.
2.1Of the first kind, are the interdictions of the use of wine, the flesh of hogs, the blood of animals, &c, &c.--Of the second kind, are the prohibitions against clothes made of silk, vessels of gold or silver, &c, &c.--and of the third, the opinions respecting the use of opium, coffee, tobacco, &c, &c.
2.2Le texte du cour'ann et celui du hadiss, recueil du toutes les lois orales de Mohammed, portent le nom du nass, qui signifie le texte par excellence, et leurs commentaires celui du tefsir. Le texte de tous les ouvrages théologiques et canoniques qui ont été faits d'après l'esprit de ces deux premiers livres, s'appelle methn; les commentaires qui les accompagnent, scherhh; les explications qui en ont été faites depuis, haschiyé, et celles qui leur servent encore de développement, talikath. Le code multéka qui embrasse l'universalité de la législation religieuse est le résumé de cette immensité d'ouvrages. (Tab. Gén. t. i, p. 336.) For the history and more detailed account of the code multeka, see the introduction to the Tableau Général, p.--124.
109 On matters unforeseen, or unprovided for, by the first promulgators of the law, the sultan pronounces as the interest of religion, and the advantage or honour of the state require. The temporal power of Mahomet over his followers was founded solely on their persuasion of the divinity of his mission2.3; while that of the Ottoman sultans, and of the several chiefs who usurped dominion in the dismembered empire of Mahomet's successors, was derived from conquest or from hereditary pre-eminence, and was intrinsically independent of the Mahometan religion. As, however, the exercise of authority over Mussulmans can be justified only by the actual or presumed delegation of the 110 caliphs, it naturally follows, that, in all nations which have adopted the religion of Mahomet, the political system is modified by laws originally made for the support and propagation of the faith, and is itself subordinate to the religious constitution. The theological law contains a few general precepts, though it by no means prescribes the former mode, of government, in its minute branches, or in cases of ordinary occurrence; and it expressly concedes to the legislation of the prince an absolute authority on all matters which do not relate to the belief, or the practical duties, of religion2.4. His power, in the opinion of their most learned civilians, is restricted only in the observance of the religious institutions; for, in civil and political matters, the law admits such a latitude of interpretation, that his will alone is sovereign, and is subject neither to control nor censure. The code multeka is, however, alone considered as paramount law: the imperial decrees (or khatt'y sherif), of which a general compilation was made by Sultan Soliman under the name of canon nameh, or teshrifat2.5, are considered as emanations from 111 human authority, are susceptible of modification, or even of abolition, and remain in force only during the pleasure of the sultan or his successors. They cannot however be revoked or annulled on slight grounds, or without sufficient reason; for it is believed by the multitude, that what is said or done by the sultans is so firm as not to be retracted on any human account.
2.3See Tab. Gén. t. i, p. 264.
2.4See Tab. Gén. Introduction, p. 44.
2.5See Cantemir, p. 174, note 1. Toderini, t. i, p. 34.
Thus, by the constitution of Mahometan government, not only the executive, but the legislative, power essentially resides in the sovereign. His spiritual and temporal authority are indicated, in the language of the jurists, by the titles of imam and sultan2.6. The Ottoman emperor, who unites under his sacerdotal authority all the Mahometan princes and states of the four orthodox rites, assumes, in virtue of this prerogative, the titles of padishah-islam (emperor of islamism), imam-ul-musliminn (pontiff of Mussulmans) and sultan dinn (protector of the faith)2.7.
2.6See Tab. Gén. t. i, p. 257.
2.7See Tab. Gén. t. i, p. 263. The sunnys, or orthodox mussulmans, are those who follow the rites of the four imams Hanifé, Schafiy, Malik and Hannbel.
The law, indeed, requires that the imam shall be of the race of the Koreish, the descendants 112 of Abraham by Ismael. The defect in the title of the Ottoman sultans is, however, supplied by the resignation of the caliphat, and the cession of all the other rights of the imameth, to Selim the First, by the last caliph of the house of Abbas and the sherif of Mecca, both of whom were descendants of the Koreish by the families of Haschim and Ali, the kinsmen of Mahomet. Independently of these titles, the Mahometan doctors acknowledge the spiritual rights of the reigning family to be legally established by their power and the success of their arms2.8.
2.8See Tab. Gen. t. i, p. 268.
At court, when mention is made of the sultan, the appellation of alem-penah (refuge of the world), is usually added to his title of padishah, or emperor. His loftiest title, and the most esteemed because given to him by the kings of Persia, is zil-ullah (shadow of God); and the one the most remote from our manners, though common among all ranks of his subjects, is hunkiar (the manslayer); which is given to him, not, as has been asserted, because "in the regular administration of government, he executes criminal justice by himself, without process or 113 formality2.9," but because the law has invested him alone with absolute power over the lives of his subjects. The Turkish casuists indeed attribute to the emperor a character of holiness, which no immoral conduct can destroy; and as he is supposed to perform many actions by divine impulse, of which the reasons or motives are inscrutable to human wisdom, they allow, that he may kill fourteen persons every day, without assigning a cause, or without imputation of tyranny2.10. Death by his hand, or by his order, if submitted to without resistance, confers martyrdom; and some, after passing their lives in his service, are reported to have aspired to the honour of such a consummation, as a title to eternal felicity2.11.
2.9Survey of the Turkish empire, p. 30.
2.10See Cantemir, p. 71, note 2. Toderini, t. i, p. 35, note i. "Les vices ni la tyrannie d'un imam n'exigent pas sa déposition." (Tab. Gén. t. i, p. 288.) Rycaut says, that "the grand signor can never be deposed or made accountable to any for his crimes, whilst he destroys, causelessly of his subjects under the number of a thousand a day." (Present state of the Ottoman empire, p. 7.)
2.11Rycaut, p. 8.
The sultan is the universal proprietor of all the immovable wealth in the empire, except the funds destined to pious purposes. He is however restrained, both by law and 114 custom, in the exercise of this right over the property of subjects not immediately employed in the service of the government, and it is only in the default of natural heirs that such property lapses to the crown2.12. The sultan is also the sole fountain of honour: from his pleasure flows all dignity, all nobility, and all power. Birth confers no privileg: he raises to hounour, or debases, whom he pleases: he seldom interposes his authority in the ordinary course of affairs; but he decides upon the conduct of his ministers or his lieutenants with military promptitude, and constant interference of absolute authority, threatening in its denunciations, and rigorous 115 in its exercise, seems necessary for enforcing the obedience of governors, invested with sovereign authority, throughout an empire so widely extended2.13.
2.12Sir William Jones (V. iii, p. 511.) answers in the negative the question, "whether, by the Mogul constitution, the sovereign be not the sole proprietor of all the land in his empire, which he or his predecessors have not granted to a subject or his heirs," because, in the opinion of the lawyers and in the language of the koran, the absolute right of ownership is admitted in proprietors, and acknowledged to descend to their heirs. "Even escheats," he says, "are never appropriated to his (the sovereign's) use, but fall into a fund for the relief of the poor." The law, which is common both to the Mogul and the Ottoman empires, is, indeed, explicit on this point, but it does not seem to affect the question of the sovereign's right of universal proprietorship, for as both empires were ganed by conquest, it follows, that all lands must have been originally held as grants from the sovereign.
2.13Mr. Eton says, (p. 27.) "the forms of administration are purely military. This is so thoroughly the case, that the grand seignior is still supposed to reign, as formerly, in the midst of his camp; he even dates his public acts from his imperial stirrup." I have searched with some care for the authority on which Mr. Eton quotes this fact; but I am still compelled to leave to him the "onus probandi."
It is a constitutional maxim that the Ottoman empire never falls to the spindle2.14. The succession is established in the two principal branches of the families of the Oguzian tribe, the Othmanidæ and the Jenghizians. In case of failure in the Ottoman race, a successor to the empire must be chosen from the sovereign family of the Crim Tartars, which is derived from the same common stock2.15.
2.14"Point de félicité," says the prophet himself, "point de salut pour un peuple gouverné par une femme! Ces paroles sont devenues depuis une loi fondamentale, et une des premières maximes de l'état." (Tab. Gén. t. i, p. 275.)
2.15See Cantemir, preface, p. 14, 15. Rycaut, p. 58. Mignot, t. ii, p. 442. Gibbon however observes (V. xii, p. 58.), that "the kindred of the Ottomans with the Tartar khans of the house of Zingis appears to be founded in flattery rather than in truth." Marsigli (t. i, p. 7.) asserts, that "the Tartar branch, according to the Ottoman constitution and laws, has no title to the throne; but that inheritance, in case of the extinction of the male race of sultans, would pass to the eldest son of the eldest daughter of the last of the Ottoman sultans." Cantemir, however, expressly says, that "they acknowledge no other heirs than those of the male line;" and indeed Marsigli should have known, that the male children of the sultanas, or princesses of the blood, are condemned to death from the instant of their birth. (See Tab. Gén. t. i, p. 286.) Mignot records a curious fact, that in the reign of Ibrahim (A.D. 1640.) the on of the Tartar khan of the Crimea was put to death by the pasha of Rhodes for having said, that if the sultan should die without male issue the Ottoman sceptre would belong to his house. (Hist. Ottoman. t. iii, p. 48.)
116 The empire does not descend in a right line from father to son, but devolves to the oldest surviving male of the Imperial family; as in the instance of the reigning emperor, Selim the Third, who ascended the throne to the exclusion of his cousins, the sons of Abdulhamid, his immediate predecessor. This law, which was intended to guard against the inconveniences of a minor's reign, is so far religiously observed; but the right of seniority, even among princes of mature age, has not always been respected. Osman, the founder of the monarchy, was the first who deviated from its observance: on his death-bed he appointed his second son Orkhan to succeed him, instead of Aladin Pasha, who was set aside, because of his love for retirement, and his attachment to speculative studies2.16.
2.16Tab. Gén. t. i, p. 284.
117 The veneration of the Turks for the reigning family is coeval with the foundation of the monarchy; it has continued undiminished throughout five centuries, and may be considered as the chief, if not the only support of the Ottoman power. The purity of the succession, and the plenitude of power, are guarded by the religion, and the universal prejudices, of the nation. The janizaries, no less powerful and no less licentious than the prætorians, have dethroned, but have never usurped the privilege of electing an emperor. The reaction of the same principle, while it tends to the stability of the throne, contributes no less to the personal safety of the great officers of government. The jealously of the sultan can never been excited against his vizirs or his generals; nor can the ambition of a subject ever dare to aspire above the footsteps of the throne. The imperial majest slumbers in the arms of a minister, who is invested with all the pomp and all the power of royalty; to whom nothing is left to covet except the imperial dignity, and whose precarious existence is dependent on the favour of his master2.17.
2.17"Cum nihil sit amplius, præter imperatorium fastigium, quod eoncupiscere vizirius posse videatur: tunc levissima quaque de causa vel summovetur ab onere, vel interficitur." (Montalbanus, ap. Elzevir, p. 19.)
118 Yet though every motive of ambition and self-preservation, together with the possession of such ample means, may seem to suggest the consummation of treason and rebellion, the Ottoman annals do not record an attempt, or any intimation of an attempt, to transfer the sacred diadem to a private head.
The unity of the sovereignty is essential to the very existence of a Mussulman community. The Mahometan church acknowledges no legitimate form of government except the monarchical, because of the necessary union of the sacerdotal with the temporal power. It admits of no division of authority, no partition of dominion: the sovereign power is irreconcileable with curtailment or association, and like the state which is subject to its sway, is one and indivisible. Cara Mustafa Pasha, the vizir who conducted the siege of Vienna in the reign of Mahomet the Fourth, is indeed accused by historians of the design of assuming to himsel the title of sultan of Vienna, and founding a Mussulman empire in the west. The charge of treachery against an unsuccessful 119 general is easily credited. His attempt is reprobated by the Turks; but the authenticity of the accusation may be questioned, as it rests merely on the report of a rival, and is not supported by the evidence of any overt act2.18.
2.18Cantemir, p. 304.
The presumptive heirs to the empire live in honourable confinement in the palace called eski serai, and are placed by the law under the more especial protection of the janizar aga (general of the janizaries), whose duty it is to guard them from the cruelty or jealousy of the sultan: hence he is honoured by them with the name of lala, tutor or foster-father2.19. The custom of imprisoning the minor princes is repugnant to the spirit of Mussulman legislation, and is a law of the Seraglio dictated by fear and cruelty, the ruling passions of an effeminate tyrant. These victims of corrupt political institution are sequestered from general society, except when they momentarily quit their prison during the festival of the bairam in order to 120 present their homage to the sultan. Sensual gratifications, it has been said, constitute their only enjoyments; but sensual pleasures are an inadequate compensation for the want of liberty, and even these are embittered by the reflection, if men so educated are capable of reflection, that the offspring of their luxury is condemned to be torn from the first embraces of its parents by the hands of an inexorable assassin2.20.
2.19Lord Sandwich says, (p. 210.) that "upon the death of one of these princes, the janizar aga, with the cul kiahyazi, and the two cadileskers, go to the seraglio, where they examine the corpse naked, in order to discover if their are any marks of violence."
2.20"Le jour de la naissance de l'enfant est en même temps celui de sa mort: la sage femme qui le reçoit, est tenue, au risque de sa tète, de ne pas le laisser vivre.--Elle n'ensanglante cependant jamais ses mains; ce seroit un attentat contraire au respect dû au sang royal: mais elle s'interdit ses fonctions; elle ne noue pas le cordon ombilical. Tel est le grenre de mort réservé à ces tendres rejetons du sang Ottoman." (Tab. Gén. t. i, p. 286.)
The sultan's delegates are the sheik islam or mufti, chief doctor and interpreter of the koran and the canonical laws2.21, and the vizir 121 azem or grand vizir, who, as keeper of the seal of the empire, exercises all the temporal authority, and presides over the political administration.
2.21See Tab. Gén. t. iv, p. 496.
The ulema, the guardians of the religion, the administrators and interpreters of the laws, of the empire from which order the mufti is chosen, form a body highly respected and powerful. The venerable title of ulema, insamuch as it signifies doctors or learned men, is common to the whole order, which is however divided into three distinct classes, comprehending indeed the ministers of religion, but distinguishing them from the foukahha, or jurisconsults, who are again subdivided into muftis, or doctors of law, and cadis or ministers of justice; and to these the title of ulema is more peculiarly appropriated.
An error of the first consequence, and which has misled most writers in their speculations on the nature of the Turkish government, is that which represents the ulema as the ministers of religion, exercising control over the minds of men, still more unlimited than that of the Christian clergy in the darkest ages, and in the plenitude of their temporaral power. The functions of the 122 foukahha, the doctors and expounders of the law, are however perfectly distinct and unconnected with those of the imams, or immediate ministers of religion. These do not even belong to the order of the ulema, in the restricted meaning and general acceptation of the word: their service is confined to the mosques, and to the duties and ceremonies of public worship2.22.
2.22This distinction of powers is plainly inferred in the following passage: "Un imam mineur n'a le droit d'exercer par luimeme aucunes fonctions relatives a l'imameth, ni de fair aucun acte juridique; prive de ce droit, il ne peut le deferer ni aux khatibs et aux imams-pretres, pour l'exercise de la religion, ni aux mollas et aux cadys, pour l'administration de la justice." (Tab. Gen. t. i, p. 276.)
The mere recapitulation of the degrees, by which the students of the colleges rise to the highest professional dignities, must show, that the lawyers and the judges are wholly unconnected with the ecclesiastical order; and that they are theologians only inasmuch as the multeka derives its origin from the precepts of the koran, and takes cognizance of whatever relates to faith or practice. The ministers of religion, indeed, receive their education in common with the ulema in the colleges, and together they form the class of students, called softa. When the students 123 have attained a proper age, and have acquired a sufficient stock of learning, it is left to their own choice to devote themselves either to the ministry of religion, the interpretation of the laws, or the administration of justice:2.23 but, when they have once entered upon the ministry, so distinct are they from the body of lawyers, that they are even arranged under a separate jurisdiction. The kislar aga, or chief of the black eunuchs, and not the mufti, is the delegate of the sultan's authority in the ecclesiastical department; for it is he who is superintendant of all the royal mosques, and receiver of their rents and endowments. To each of these he constitutes an officer named mutevelli, or administrator, who collects the revenues, and disburses the necessary expenses for keeping the buildings in repair, maintaining the priests, and providing whatever the splendour of public worship requires.
2.23"Les deux premiers etats n'offrent a l'ambition qu'une carriere assez bornee, mais aussi ceux qui se destinent au troisieme, sont tenus a de plus longues etudes et soumis a des formalities plus rigoureuses." (Tab. Gen. t. iv, p. 487.)
The offices in the Turkish government, partaking of their peculiar policy, cannot be properly compared to any similar ones among 124 Europeans; and much misapprehension has been occasioned by the attempt to render every foreign custom or establishment intelligible by comparison. Cantemir says, we may compare the mufti to the pope, the cazy-asker to a patriarch, the molla to an archbishop or metropolitan, the cadi to a bishop; and to complete the hierarchy, he overlooks the separation of the professions and compares the imam to a priest and the danischmend or scholars to our deacons. With equal propriety he might compare the sovereign manslayer of the Ottomans with the first magistrate, the beneficient father, of a great, enlightened, and high-spirited people2.24.
2.24Cantemir, p. 32, note 10.--The merit of this notable discovery is not due to Cantemir: he is however accountable for the greater absurdity of having adopted it. I find it first mentioned by Leunclavius, (in Turc. imp statu ap. Elzevir, p. 201.) "Lu dovicus Bassanus Jadrensis in hunc modum comparat eos cum nostris ecclesiasticis. Primum, muphtim, dicit esse inter ipsos instar vel papæ vel patriarchæ Græcorum. Quippe juris omnis et sacrorum rex est, uti veteres etiam Romani loquebantur. Huic proximi sunt cadelescheri, id est, supremi judices, qui Arabum Maurorumque lingua dicuntur cadi asker. Bassanus hos cum archicpiscopis nostris comparat. Sequuntur cadü, veluti proximum post archicpiscopos locum obtinent episcopi. Secundum hos sunt hoggie, qui seniores dicuntur, ut Græcis et nostris presbyteri. Excipiunt hoggias talismani, ceu presbyteros diaconi. Ultimi sunt dervisii, qui monachis nostris respondent. Talismani Mahumentanos ad preces interdiu et noctu quinquies dicendas excitant. Clepsydris veteri more Græcorum utuntur, ad distinguenda tam diurna quam nocturna temporum spatia."
125 Much outward honour, and many important functions are bestowed upon the ulema. They are educated under the care of professors, called muderriss, in the academies, called medressés; annexed to the jamis or greater mosques, and chiefly of royal foundation. From these schools are chosen the mehhkémé kiatibi, or clerks of tribunals; naïbs, or substitutes of the judges; cadis, or judges of lesser towns; mollas, or judges of the principal towns or cities; the istambol effendi, judge and inspector general over the city of Constantinople; next to whom are the two cazy-askers, or supreme judges of Romelia and Anatolia, who sit in the divan on the right hand of the vizir: and the highest in dignity is the mufti, who is also called sheik islam, prelate of orthodoxy, and fetwa sahibi, giver of judgements. The mufti always performs the ceremony of girding on the sabre, which answers to our coronation. He alone has the honour of kissing the sultan's left shoulder; and the sultan rises up, and advances seven steps towards him; whereas the vizir, who is met only with three 126 steps, with a more profound reverence kisses the hem of his garment2.25.
2.25Cantemir, p. 36, note 7.--"De tous les grands de l'empire les oulémas du premier ordre, tels que le mouphty et les caziaskers, sont les seuls qui aient la liberté d'aller en voiture. Celle du mouphty est couverte de drap vert, et celles des cazi-askers le song de drap rouge." (Tab. Gén. t. iv, p. 181.)
The ministers of religion throughout the Turkish empire are subordinate to the civil magistrate, who exercises over them the powers of a diocesan. He has the privilege of superseding and removing those whose conduct is reproachable, or who are unequal to the dignified discharge of the duties of their office. The magistrates themselves may, whenever they judge proper, perform all the sacerdotal functions, and it is in virtue of this prerogative, joined to the influence which they derive from their judicial power and their riches, that they have so marked a pre-eminence, and so preponderant an authority, over the ministers of public worship.
From the influence of the ulema with the people, they have sometimes been used by the heads of factions to stir up rebellion, to direct the public opinion against the throne, and to justify usurpation, but though, when 127 united with the janizaries, they may occasionally have thwarted the measures of government, their power is little formidable in itself. The honour and the prerogatives of their order, which form and enviable distinction between the ulema and the other classes of the nation, give them an important rant in the state, and a powerful ascendancy over the minds as well of the court as the people. They pay no taxes or public imposts, and by a peculiar privilege their property is hereditary in their families, and is not liable to arbitrary confiscations. The preservation of these rights and immunities consequently unites the rich and powerful families of the ulema, and makes them forget their mutual jealousies, and relinquish their schemes of private ambition, whenever it is though necessary to guard against a common danger. Despotism has, however, sufficient range without invading their privileges, and the fetwas of the mufti, in unison with the wishes of the government, have never been refused, but when the sceptre was falling from the grasp of an unsuccessful or enervated sovereign.
The power and dignity of the ulema is are said by Sir James Porter to be perpetual and 128 hereditary2.26: but these expressions, if literally understood, may lead to an important error; for the power and dignity are not hereditary in individuals but in the order. Formerly the ulema held their offices for life, but about the end of the seventeenth century they were made removable at pleasure like all other public functionaries. They now hold them only for a year. Each individual enjoys, however, all the privileges of the order, independently of his holding any office, or exercising any public employment2.27. Their power has been much magnified by different writers. Mr. Eton calls them "a powerful priesthood:--the teachers of religion, combining the offices of priest and lawyer:--posessing, like the priests under the Jewish theocracy, the oracles of both law and religion, and uniting in themselves the power of two great corporations, those of the law and of the church." "The Ottoman princes, he says, "committed a political error, when they resigned the spiritual supremacy into the hands of the theological lawyers, who now share with the sovereign the direct exercise of the legislative, executive, 129 and judicial powers;" and he asserts, that "if the sultan were to omit the indispensible preliminary of the fetwa to any political act, the mufti, motu proprio, would declare him an infidel2.28." Sir James Porter considers the ulema as "equal, if not superior to any nobility," and balancing the power of the sovereign. "Their persons," he says, "are sacred," and "they can separately, by availing themselves of the implicit respect of the people and the soldiery, rouse them to arms, mark out the point of limitation transgressed by the prince, and proceed to a formal deposition; nay, of such high importance is their intermediate power in the state, that a grand signor can never be deposed without their concurrence2.29." Peyssonnel also considers the power of the ulema so to counterbalance that of the sovereign as to take from the Ottoman government the character of arbitrary power; for with such a constitutional check there can be no despotism2.30.
2.26Observations on the religion, laws, government, &c. of the Turks, introduction, p. xxxi.
2.27Tab. Gén. t. iv, p. 545.
2.28Survey of the Turkish empire, p. 20, 21, 24, 37, 121.
2.29Observations on the religion, &c. of the Turks, introduction, p. xxxiii.
2.30Strictures and remarks on De Tott's memoirs, p. 208.
De Tott, however, speaks with greater accuracy when he says, that, though indeed 130 the ulema can interpret the law as they please, and animate the people against their sovereign, he, on the other hand, can with a single word depose and banish the mufti, with as many of the ulema as may fall under his displeasure2.31.
2.31Memoirs, V. i, p. 189.
The law, it is said, authorizes the sultan to banish the ulema, but not to put them to death: and if any part of the law could, by the collective or separate efforts of its ministers, be kept inviolate, it certainly would be that article which so much interests themselves; and yet we find, that Murad the Fourth commanded a mufti to be pounded to death in a marble mortar, and justified this extraordinary punishment by saying, that "the heads, whos dignity exempts them from the sword, ought to be struck with the pestle."2.32 Nor is it the respect of the people 131 or the soldiery so implicit, but that they have exercised, in all its atrocity, their sovereign power against the ulema who had incurred their high displeasure. During an insurrection in the reign of Mustafa the Second, not only they put to death, with horrid cruelties, a mufti who had, in their judgment, misled the sultan; but they went so far as to excommunicate him, denied him the rights of sepulture, and delivered his mangled body to be insulted over by the mock ceremonies of a Greek priest2.33. But though there be no positive law which declares the persons of the ulema to be sacred and inviolable, and ancient prejudice, founded on the respect due to religion and its ministers, protects individuals of this order from judicial inflictions entailing infamy or dishonour. Imprisonment or exile are the only punishments to which they are now exposed, unless the enormity of their offence be such as to require severer reprobation, and even 132 then, before government denounces its sentence against the criminal, it compels him to abdicate his profession, and to quit the turban which particularly distinguishes it.
2.32Cantemir, p. 184, note 25.--The fact is mentioned by Cantemir, though he does not quote his authority for it. D'Ohsson acknowledges it to be a popular tradition among the Turks, that this punishment is reserved for criminal or refractory members of the ulema; but he can discover no example in the annals of the Ottoman monarchy of its have been executed. (Tab. Gén. t. iv, p. 604.)
2.33Cantemir, p. 437. De la Motraye, t. i, p. 333.
It is difficult to account for the introduction of the opinion, that the powers of the Ottoman sovereigns and the Mussulman hierarchy are in a state of continual opposition and warfare. "These two powers," says De Tott, "have the same source, and it is easy to perceive the disagreement and contention which must arise, since their right is equal and their interests different."2.34 The abstract power of the ulema, as well as that of every corporation necessary for upholding society under any particular form, must consequently have the same common basis as the monarchical power; the fundamental laws or constitutional usages of the empire. But, though derived from the same source, there is this essential difference between them, that, in the one instance, the constitution, having established the order of succession, interferes no farther in the election of the individual who is to exercise the sovereign authority; while it leaves to the discretion of the monarch the partition and appropriation 133 to individuals of the authority to be exercised by the different members of a corporation: so that, though it be admitted, that the power of the ulema is co-existent with the constitution, no individual of that body can hold it immediately, or otherwise than from the good pleasure of the sultan; nor can he legally exert it independently of, and still less, contrarily to, his pleasure. Can men thus dependent on the caprice of the sultan, not only for their appointment and continuance in office, but for their existence, form a balance to his power, which is founded on the absolute command of the empire, and the influence which its universal patronage must bestow? Rycaut properly estimates this so much vaunted constitutional check. "Though the mufti," he says, "is many times, for custom, formality, and satisfaction of the people, consulted with, yet when his sentences have not been agreeable to the designs intended, I have known him in an instant thrown from his office to make room for another oracle better prepared for the purpose of his master."2.35 And indeed it is 134 admitted by Mr. Eton, that "the power which the sultan has reserved to himself of nominating and deposing the mufti, creates for him, among the ulema, as many partisans as there are candidates aspiring to the pontificate,"2.36 that is, the whole body of the ulema, unless we suppose, that the doctors of islamism, the followers of the ambitious Mahomet, are less aspiring than the humble professors of more self-denying doctrines.
2.34Memoirs, V. i, p. 28.
2.35Present state of the Ottoman empire, p. 6.--An anonymous writer, who appears to have filled the honourable station of bailo, or ambassador from the Venetian republic to the Ottoman porte, in a memoir addressed to the senate, describes the authority of the mufti as a passive instrument in the hands of government. "Id tamen non ignorandum est, hunc Mofftim perpetuo adulari principi et ad ejus placita opinionem suam accomodare, suasque sententias ex temporum opportunitate immutare." De urbe Const. et imp. Turc. relatio incerti apud Honorium in Turc. imp. statu ap. Elzevir, p. 136.
2.36Survey of the Turkish empire, p. 23.
It is inconceivable on what is founded the assertion, that the interests of the ulema are different from those of the sultan: they neither legislate nor execute the laws; but merely expound them, administer justice, and settle differences between individuals, giving sentence according to law, with a latitude of interpretation which is indeed allowed them, but which is regulated by precedent and the usages of their tribunal, and checked by the right of appeal, which in cases of 135 irregularity or injustice, is left open to either party from their decision to the sovereign in council, where the vizir, his representative, confirms or reverses the sentence2.37. Their power can scarcely be supposed to interfere with any act of the sultan, as in cases of treason, or which in any manner regard his authority, he decides for himself without reference or appeal to them. We are told, that the grand signor cannot sign a treaty of peace without their consent2.38; and in the same sense it may be said, that the signature of a minister is necessary to give validity to the proclamation of a Christian prince; but if the sultan require the public sanction of the mufti to any political act, can we doubt whether, if the mufti refused his apporbation, the sultan would hesitate between annulling the act or deposing the mufti? If a successful 136 usurper wish to gloss over his rebellion by a fetwa, would he relinquish the sovereign ty, or not rather re-instate the marble mortar, if the mufti persisted in his loyalty?
2.37"The prime vizir, as he is the representative of the grand seignor, so he is the head or mouth of the law; to him appeals may be made, and any one may decline the ordinary course of justice, to have his case decided by his determination--by virtue of his unlimited power he can reverse the verdict and determine as he pleases." (Rycaut, p. 44.)
2.38"A Constantinople, quelque despotique que soit le grand seigneur, il ne peut souscrire à un project de paix, sans l'avis du mufti et le consentement des gens de loi." (Hist. des négociations pour la paix conclue à Belgrade, t. i, p. 157.)
The object of government in taking the opinion of the mufti on public affairs is solely to ascertain, that the purposed decree of the sultan contains nothing repugnant to the doctrines of religion, or the obligations of the canonical law2.39: but that the fetwa is not an indispensable preliminary is evident; for in the reign of Mahomet the Fourth, when the mufti joined with the dowager empress in protesting against an unjust infraction of the treaty made with the emperor of Germany, his opinion was over-ruled by the vizir and the army; and war, unforunately 137 for the Ottoman empire, was resolved upon2.40.
2.39"To this body," says Sir James Porter, very inaccurately and erroneously, (preface, p. 33.) "the grand signor appeals for a sanction to every important act of state, whether relative to peace or war; and in every criminal cause, even in those in which his own servants are concerned, he cannot take the life of a single subject, without the mufti's decree."
2.40The Ottoman court long deliberated whether they should grant assistance to Tekeli, who had revolted from the emperor of Germany and engaged almost all the people of Hungary in his rebellion, or whether the rebels shoudl be only supported in a private manner, until the twenty years truce, made by Kioprili Ahmed Pasha, should be expired. The latter opinion was approved by all the ulema, togehter with the sultana-mother, who declared it to be unjust to wage war with a prince, who had given no cause of complaint, but had hiterto strictly observed the conditions of the truce. (Cantemir, p. 296.) I willingly take this opportunity of shewing, that breach of faith with Christians is not systematic with the Turks; in contradiction indeed of the assertions of Baron Busbeck (de re mil. cont. Turk. inst. cons. p. 271.) and of Mr. Eton, but in unison with the opinion of the Turkish populace, who attributed to the perjury of the porte the ill success of the expedition against Vienna, and afterwards dethroned the sultan for having broken the peace before the expiration of the truce.
Neither religion, nor the law, nor the political constitution of the empire, impose upon the monarch the obligation of consulting the mufti on the ordinary acts of his government. Piety, or superstitious weakness, or more properly an habitual conformity with established practice, induces the sultan to appeal in general to the approbation of the legal authorities; but in most instances such proceedings are rather dictated by caution and policy, especially in troublesome times, or in novel and hazardous enterprises. The 138 determination of the sultan, if justified by the unanimous opinion of the chiefs of the ulema, obtains more implicit respect from the people; and being thus supported by the authority of divine and human law, removes from the sovereign and his ministers all responsibility as to the evils which may eventually result from it. Princes of more haughty temper and greater firmness of character, such as Selim the First and Murad the Fourth, have, notwithstanding, places themselves above such considerations, and not only neglected these formalities, but treated with disdain the wisdom and the counsels of the mufti and ulema2.41.
2.41Tableau Général, t. iv, p. 513
On the whole, though, when goaded on by a turbulent soldiery against an irresolute or luxurious prince, their holy clamour may have increased the uproar of insurrection, yet never, in any period of their history, did the gentlemen of the ulema, either collectively or separately, motu proprio, dispose of the Ottoman sceptre2.42.
2.42Rycaut (p. 19.) in his account of a popular tumult at Constantinople during the minority of Mahomet the Fourth, gives an instance of the passive compliance of a mufti. "He feared," says he, " that if he gave not his concurrence, he himself should be killed, and the rather because he overheard a discourse to that effect.--Pen and ink being brought, the mufti wrote the sentence."
139 Intelligent travellers, who have latterly observed the actual state of the ulema, have noticed, that their power in the Ottoman government is by no means equal to that which is attributed to them by former writers; but not suspecting any inaccuracy in these representations, they have imagined causes to account for what they suppose to be the declension of their influence. Sir James Porter syas, "they admit no one into their order that is not recommended by some extraordinary merit or favour; not even of the first pasha's family, except one perhaps in a century, and then not without some foundation or claim2.43." But now, says Olivier, "the sultan creates ulema at his pleasure, and these appointments, where favour supersedes desert, have diminished the consideration which they once enjoyed2.44." The fact however is, that the children of mollas are admitted into the body of the ulema with the consent of the sheik islam, even though they have not gone through the regular course of study, nor taken their degrees in 140 the colleges, whereas it requires an express order of the sultan to obtain admission, under the same circumstances, for the children of other families however illustrious from their rank or dignities. But the custom is by no means an innovation, for it has existed as long as the monarchy itself, and the superior offices of the law and the magistracy have been usually filled by privileged members of the ulema2.45.
2.43Observations on the religion, &c. of the Turks, preface, p. xxxiii.
2.44Olivier's travels, V. i, p. 178.
2.45Toderini, t. ii, p. 29.
Such is the theocratical, of Mussulman branch of the Ottoman constitution, which has been hitherto generally considered as forming a check to the absolute power of the sultans. I do not, however, know in what sense it can abe said, that their authority is restrained by the precepts and institutions of the religious code. The sultan may riot freely in wantonness or cruelty. He may murder his father and his brothers, his wives and his children. He may shed the blood, and seize upon the substance, of his subjects, if not directly, at least by methods so little indirect, that no motive nor passion need be disguised. He may indulges the most vicious inclinations without any dread of censure, or control, if, 141 in his general government, he be sufficiently vigilant to provide for the wants, or sufficiently sever to restrain the murmurs and seditions, of his people. If he guard his frontiers from encroachment, if he occupy and reward his soldiery, if he cause justice to be administered in cases where the interests of his subjects only are concerned, his government will be loved, his person will be sacred, his crimes will be palliated, his injustice will be forgotten, and his memory will be dear to his people. Can we then consider as limitations to the exercise of this extensive prerogative, the duty of daily prayers, ablutions, fastings, and public ceremonies; the nature and qualities of food, or the observance of stated periods of festival or penance? In all these ceremonial performances, the sovereign is probably not less devotedly sincere than the most ignorant of his imams: but, if it be otherwise, the case which he might hope to obtain by throwing off these restraints, would be too trivial to be regarded by a politician, or a philosopher, when placed in competition with the prejudices which they gratify and the reverence which they procure.
Montesquieu justly observes, that the seraglio of a despotic prince is always increased 142 in proportion to the extent of his dominions, and consequently the greater his empire, the more is he detached by the seductions of pleasure from the cares of government. The establishment of a vizir is therefore a fundamental law of despotism. That such has been universally the custom of the East, is proved by history2.46, and the concurring testimony of travellers; and still more by a game of eastern invention, the origin of which is lost in the darkness of antiquity. In the game of chess the moves of the king are made solely with a view to his own personal safety, while the vizir (which is the original name of the piece we call the queen) moves rapidly in every direction, and regulates and conducts the campaign2.47.
2.46"And again Pharao said to Joseph: Behold, I have appointed thee over the whole land of Egypt. And he took his ring from his own hand, and gave it into his hand: And the king said to Joseph: I am Pharaoh: without thy commandment no man shall move hand or foot in all the land of Egypt." Genesis, chap. xli, ver. 41, 42, 44.
2.47See Dissertation on the Indian game of chess, in Sir William Jones's works, Vol. i, p. 521--527.
The vizir azem, in the full exercise of his authority, is restrained only by the will of his master, and the fundamental religious laws of 143 the empire. He exercises, over all the subjects of the sultan, the power of life and death, though he is bound to the observance of certain forms when he proceeds against men united with the great or powerful associations of the state. His responsibility is equal to the importance of his office; and the evils which result from the errors of his administration, or from the vicissitudes of fortune, are equally imputed to him. Hence it becomes essentially his duty to exercise a personal inspection 144 into the state of the public markets, and the conduct of the magistrates appointed to superintend the provisioning of the metropolis. His interest, and indeed his safety, depend upon his vigilance in this department of the public service; for, in his official character, he is held accountable not only to the sultan, but to the people, whose resentment, in seasons of dearth and calamity, breaks out, in the first instance, against the person and administration of the grand vizir. In time of war he commands the armies, and a caïmacam, or lieutenant, is appointed in his stead for the home administration2.48.
2.48See Tab. Gén. t. iv, p. 45.--"Nihil aliud vezirio præscribitur, quam ut videat ne imperium aut imperator aliquid detrimenti patiatur." (Montalbanus, in Turc. imp. statu ap. Elzevir, p. 28.) "In illo imperio alia non est auris, ad quam propositiones, responsiones, et mandata, novitates omnes, quæ ex tot regnis nuntiantur, referantur. Ipse solus omnia munera, omnes gradus, officia omnia et honores imperii totius, qui nihilominus infiniti esse videntur, distribuit. Solus audit, solus consulitur, et legatis respondet solus, omnibusque regnis providet, omniaque ipse ordinat: ad postremum ab ipso cuncta civilia, criminalia, politica dependent; neque aliud quam capitis ejus consilium attenditur, attamen in tanta auctoritate, cum timore, ac summo respectu, minimam quamque rem tractat, nempe quia variabilem principis naturam suosque æmulos passas veretur."
145 The vizir azem, whose most important duty is to keep the empire and capital quiet, gives public audience every day in his own divan for the administration of justice, and the decision of controversies among the grand signor's subjects. He is assisted on certain fixed days by the two cazy-askers, or by the istambol effendi, and the mollas of Eyub, Galata, and Scutari. The reïs effendi, among other important duties, performs the functions of secretary of state for foreign affairs, and has subordinate to him in that department the dragoman of the porte, a Greek interpreter, of one of the noble families, whose next promotion is usually to the principality of Wallachia or Moldavia. All the great officers of state remain,during the day only, at the vizir's palace, and superintend the affairs of their several departments.
Those who love to represent the Turks as a horde of barbarians, living without order, without laws, without morality, and sinking under the debilitating yoke of arbitrary power, describe the porte "as a cabinet, not under the guidance of enlightened politicians, but a set of wretches, continually fluctuating between the hope of amassing plunder by means of war, and enjoying it in the tranquility of 146 peace"2.49. We are, however, compelled to acquite them of the absurdity of acting upon such principles; for surely no minister of state was ever so little enlightened as to renounce the soli emoluments of his office for so precarious an advantage as the booty which he might acquire by war and plunder. Indeed we know from better authority, that the Turkish ministers are sufficiently sagacious, and understand so well the interests of their own country that few can over-reach them in their treaties2.50. The failings with which they are reproached, are not peculiar to Turkish statesmen, thought it be admitted, that with them the preservation of their own authority is paramount to every other consideration, and that it is useless to urge the interest of the empire when their personal advantage or safety is endangered2.51.
2.49Survey of the Turkish empire, p. 108.
2.50Rycaut, p. 32.
2.51See Observatrions on the religion, &c. of the Turks, p. 120.
The frequent changes, in the higher departments, occasion very little interruption in the order of public business: the different offices are accurately and minutely subdivided: every thing is transacted with admirable conciseness, exactness, and despatch; and the inferior 147 officers remain when their superiors are removed2.52.
2.52"Ils ne connaissen: point cet encombrement d'écritures, cette multitude de lettres, de placets et de requêtes, qui inondent les cabinets des ministres de l'Europe. Un simple carré de papier renferme l'ordre laconique d'un vézir, qui sanctionne ou rejette un acte. Les commis, assis sur un sopha , les jambes croisées, la pipe à la bouche, fument et écrivent tout à la fois. Un simple carreau leur tient lieu de table, et une petite boite est le secrétaire où ils renferment leur papier, l'encre, et la plume de roseau dont ils se servent, et ils travaillent aussi machinalement qu'ils fument." (Pouqueville, t. ii, p. 202.)
The grand vizir is the ostensible president of the divan or great council, which on solemn occasions is called upon to direct the sovereign by their advice. The sultan himself, though present or suposed to be present behind a curtain or latticed window, takes no active part in their deliberations2.53.
2.53"Dominus ipse--nullam in consilio sententiam profert, sed velo tantum discretus, quod visum adimat, aditum non interdicat, silentio consulentes observat." (Montalban. ap. Elzevir, p. 5.)
148 Formerly the divan was composed, besides the grand vizir, of six officers, called kubbeh vizirs from the hall in the seraglio where they usually hold their sittings. The subordinate members of the divan are now the capudan pasha, or lord high admiral; the two cazy-askers; the grand treasurer of the empire; the second treasurer, chief of the war department; the grand purveyor; and the nishandji effendi, who affixes the tughra, or cypher of the grand signor, to public acts2.54.
2.54I do not offer this as a correct list of the cabinet ministers of the present day: they are so described in an account, printed at Constantinople, of the first audience of M. Verninac, envoy from the French republic to the Ottoman Porte in the year 1796.
The powers of the kubbeh vizirs, or vizirs of the bench, were limited to sanction, though 149 not to direct, the measures of government2.55. Of late years the council has infringed upon the authority, but diminished the responsibility, of the vizir, and has assumed a dictatorial and restrictive voice on questions of public importantce. This change in the system of government, which has been introduced under the name of nizami djedid, or new constitution, was effected soon after the close of the last Russian war by three ministers, the reïs effendi, the minister of the war department, and the validé kiahyasi, steward of the dowager empress. The avowed object of its insitution was the augmentation of the standing army, to be disciplined according to the improved system of European tactics, and supported by the imposition of new and extraordinary taxes. No benefit, however, has hiterhto resulted to the state from this establishment; and indeed it appears to be inconsistent with the constitutional power of the vizir, or that power which 150 best harmonizes with a despotic establishment. I shall not be suspected of pleading the cause of despotism when I declare it to be my opinion (founded on events which I myself have witnessed in Turkey), that more beneficial, or rather less injurious, consequences result from its being maintained in its integrity, than when it is impeded in its progress, and checked in its exercise by institutions so foreign to its nature; institutions which take away the chief and only support of despotism, its promptitude and inflexibility of decisions; which enfeeble the energies of government; create an interest foreign to that of the monarch, and open a wider field for corruption.
2.55The nullity of the constitutional powers of the great council may be judged of from the following passage in Rycaut. (p. 44.) "The vizirs of the bench, because their riches are but moderate, and the office they are in treats not much with the dangerous parts of the state, live long without envy or emulation, or being subject to that inconstancy of fortune and alteration, to which greater degrees of place are exposed."
Mr. Eton, who could have known the grand council only before the infusion of aristocratical principles into its composition, describes it, however as discussing every important act of government, and deciding by a plurality of votes. But Mr. Eton is predetermined that he ulema are priests, and that the interference of ecclesiastics in the affairs of government is both injurious to the subject and odious to the sovereign. In his opinion the folly of submitting to their guidance has, in no instance, appeared more 151 disgustingly conspicuous than in the Turkish nation; and on no scene are the mutual contentions of the sultan and the ulema carried on with more virulence than in the divan, which, "as its members are swayed either by the party of the sultan, or by that of the priesthood, serves to determine the relative power of these two distinct bodies2.56." The cazy-askers, the only members of the ulema who have seats in the divan, are not, however, the representatives of the priesthood, but, as their name imports, the judges of the army; a dignity created by Murad the first, and after the taking of Constantiople, divided between two magistrates by Mahomet the Second. He first summoned them to assist in the deliberations of his council, which until that period had consisted only of four vizirs: but he limited their functions to that of superindending, in the presence and under the control of the grand vizir, the judicial proceedings of his sovereign tribunal. The mufti, though head of the law and the Ottoman magistracy, never attends the divan, as it is thought derogatory to his dignity to exercise any judicial power.
2.56Survey of the Turkish empire, p. 25.
152 The palace of the grand vizir, by a metaphor familiar to most of the Eastern languages is called the porte, or king's gate2.57, and hence the Ottoman court assumes the name of the Sublime Porte in all public transactions. It has been said, that this appellation is derived from the gate of the seraglio, bab-humaïun; and Dr. Dallaway in some degree confirms it by asserting, that the Sublime Porte resembles a bastion2.58. But, though it be true, that, in the east, the gate of a palace is the principal and most magnificent part of the building, and under its vestibule the princes and nobles, like the chief of a horde of Arabs at the door of his tent, exercise hospitality and administer justice; yet the inconvenience of such a situation for transacting the business of a great empire must soon have suggested the necessity of a separate establishment for the vizir. The name of the porte was, however, continued to that part of the city to which the public 153 business was transferred, on account of the sameness of its political uses, and from its continuing to serve as the door of communication between the sultan and his subjects2.59. The Sublime Porte, however, so little resembles a bastion that it even follows the person of the sovereign; and Soliman the First, in conformity with this opinion, when at the head of his army in Persia he ordered an officer convicted of treachery to be sent to him for punishment, directed that he should be brought in irons to the porte2.60.
2.57"Der, mot persan, qui signifie porte, désigne dans tout l'orient la cour d'un prince souverain." (Tab. Gén. t. ii, p. 99.) See also a conjecture on the hundred gates of Thebes, in a note in Volney's Ruins.
2.58See Constantinople ancient and modern, p. 20. The comparison indeed is unfortunate, for there is no part of fortification which the imperial gate less resembles than a bastion.
2.59Mr. Eton, though he had passed through Constantinople, appears ignorant even of the local situation of the palace called the porte. He says "all the business of government is transacted in the seraglio: the council itself is called the divan, and the place of public audience the porte, or gate." "Besides the vizir, all the other great public officers of the empire resident at Constantinople, inhabit the seraglio, or at least have their offices there." (Survey of the Turkish empire, p. 26, 27.) Mr. Griffiths, who was engaged in making observations "on the same subject and occurrences, and at the same time" as Mr. Eton, (see Travels, p. 168.) differs however, in this instance, so far from him in the result of his researches as to mistake the porte or gate, for the port or harbour. (Page 174, line 18.)
2.60See Cantemir, p. 209.
Until the reign of Soliman the First, the sons and brothers of the reigning emperors were intrusted with the government of provinces; but the frequent rebellion of Soliman's 154 children, and the necessity he was under of punishing his fourth son Mustafa with death, occasioned him to ordain by law, that in future they should be confined in the palace, called eski serai, until, in the order of events, they might be called to the succession. The greater governments are now confided to the sultan's lieutenants, who are honoured with the title of beylerbey, or prince of princes, because, being at the head of the military and financial establishments of the viceroyalty, and delegated by the sultan to watch over and preserve the component members of the federation, their authority extends over the governments comprehended as subdivisions of the beylerbeylik, and the lesser provinces which are administered by the pashas, the beys and the agas2.61. All 155 pashas of three tails are called by courtesy beylerbeys, but the title, by way of eminence, is properly conferred only on the pashas of Romelia, Anatolia, and Damascus. The other pashas of three tails have at court no higher title than desdur mukerrem, plenipotentiaries, because they are authorized to issue mandates in the sultan's name, and to affix to them the sultan's cypher within their own jurisdiction2.62. The secondary and inferior governments are distinguished by the names of pashalik, agalik, musselimlik and vaivodalik. Those of the greatest extent are pashaliks, and agaliks are the smallest. Musselimliks are dependencies of the beylerbeys or pashas, and are administered by their deputies. Vaivodaliks, in general, are small districts, or single cities and towns, separate from the greater government as being, in most instances, the appanage of a sultana, or of a great officer of state2.63. But 156 though unequal in point of dignity there exists no subordination, as to matters of police or internal regulation, between the magistrates who preside over the greater or lesser divisions of dominion. Every governor is considered as representing the sovereign within the limits of his own jurisdiction, is invested with his authority, and exercises his prerogatives in all their plenitude. Contentious jurisdiction, the power to determine differences between the subjects, is left to the cadi, in conformity with the fundamental principles of Mussulman government, and in imitation of the practice of the sultan.
2.61See Marsigli, stato milit. dell' imp. Ottom. t. i, p. 19.
2.62See Cantemir, p. 85, note 24.
2.63The agas assume the title of bey, though it properly belongs to governors of a rank superior to their own. The following is the order of precedency: first the vizir azem or grand vizir: next to him the beylerbey, or pasha of three tails, who has also the title of vizir; the pasha of two tails; the bey who is honoured only with one horse-tail; and the aga, or military governor of a district, who has the sanjac or standard, and is thence called sanjac or sanjac-bey in his military character.
Their revenues arise from the rents or produce of lands assigned for their maintenance, and from certain fixed imposts on the cities, towns, and villages, of their district, in some instances levied immediately by themselves, 157 and, in less independent governments, intermediately by officers of the sultan2.64.
2.64See Marsigli, Stato milit. dell' Imp. Ottom. t. i, cap. 49, p. 93
It would be impossible exactly to describe the various means of collecting wealth, employed by governors, exercising such absolute powers. Though despotism may be more severely felt in the provinces, as redress is more difficult, yet we should hesitate before we admit the exaggerated assertion, "that the principal occupation of every pasha is to suck out the very vitals of his province."2.65 The real worth of pashalïks is indeed in proportion to the number of tributary inhabitants with respect to whom, the Turkish officers may abuse their power, and indulge their avarice, so as to extort from them all that exceeds the first wants of life. This matter will however be best elucidated by a particular example, for which I am indebted to a gentleman who held the officer of French consul at Salonica, and who has written on Turkish affairs with more truth, and more intelligence of the subject than any auhtor whose works I have consulted. "The pasha of Salonica," says M. 158 Beaujour, "holds by direct tenure about twenty villages, from which he receives the tenths of their yearly produce; this revenue he farms for about sixty or seventy thousand piastres: he collects, besides, at least an equal sum from casualties: he makes by avanias or extortions, a hundred thousand piastres, and if he be not a man of singular humanity, he gives even a greater extension to this branch of revenue: if he be covetous and rapacious, he absorbs the riches of the country. Mustafa Pasha, brother-in-law to the sultan, who goverened Salonica in the year 1799, remitted to the sultan, his wife, a monthly pension of fifteen thousand piastres: his household establishment consisted of five hundred men, and a hundred and fifty horses, the maintenance of which must have been attended with at least an equal expense. So that the pashalik yielded to him a revenue of three hundred and sixty thousand piastres, (or twenty-four thousand pounds sterling) without having recourse to compulsory or tyrannical measures; for, in the opinion of the inhabitants, he was accounted humane and disinterested, which I also," continues M. Beaujour, "can affirm to be true from my own 159 knowledge and experience of his character and conduct."2.66
2.65Survey of the Turkish empire, p. 52.
2.66Tableau du commerce de la Grèce, t. i, p. 47.
To the Mussulman inhabitants, who are protected by the civil or military associations to which they are united, and whose complaints can always reach the throne, no jurisdiction can be more mild and paternal, no government more humane2.67. The Turkish, as well as the tributary cultivators, pay a quit rent, in consideration of which, the Turks at least, are free and independent.
2.67In the provinces the interests of the Turkish community are protected by a council composed of the ayans, or overseers, who are men of the greatest power and influence in the district. The word ayan properly signifies eyes, and denotes, in a figurative manner, the duties of these public guardians. "On appelle à ce conseil dans les affaires importantes, un ou deux vieillards de chaque orta de janissaires." "Tout Turc est ici (à Salonique) janissaire et tout janissaire est soldat." (Beaujour, t. i, p. 48, 52.) "Chaque art, chaque métier est soumis à des loix particulières; et ceux qui les exercent forment des corporations distinctes et séparées, sous le nom d'essnaf." (Tab. Gén. t. iv, p. 228.)
160 No people are less oppressed, nor less subject to contributions: their conduct is under no control, but that of partial and indulgent law: their rivers, their plains, and their forests are common property; and all have the right of hunting, shooting and fishing.
The mode of life and occupations of a pasha, governor of a province, are correctly described by Dr. Pouqueville, who, during his detention in the Morea as a prisoner of war, lived in the palace of the pasha of Tripolitza, and was employed as physician to his household. "They rise," he says, "at daybreak to perform their morning devotions, which are preceded by ablution. Pipes and coffee are then served. The pasha sometimes mounts his horse, and amuses himself with seeing his pages exercise the dgerid, and sometimes he gives public audiences. He then administers justice in person, and pronounces judgment on whatever regards the public government: he imposes fines or penalties, sentences to the bastinado or the gallows, condemns or acquits, according to his pleasure; for all power is in his hands. At noon, public prayers and dinner: at three hours after mid-day, prayers again, military 161 parade and music. He then enters his selamlik or drawing-room, receives visits and amuses himself with listening to storytellers, or with laughing at the grimaces and antics of his buffoons and jesters, or with chanting verses of the koran. At sun-set prayers and supper, and afterward pipes and coffee. An hour and a half after the close of the day he performs his fifth and concluding devotions; and immediately the military music sounds the retreat, and the whole family retires to rest."2.68 The agas, at least those in Macedonia, reside in their castles, surrounded by a guard of Albanians, and live in a state of constant warfare with each other, like the ancient barons. The victorious aga burns the plantations of his enemy, and carries away whatever he can seize upon, his wives or his cattle. Their ravages are seldom intermitted, or their animosities suspended, except during certain festivals of their religion, which operate in the same beneficial manner, though they occur less frequently, than what was formerly denominated the truce of God, the pious invention of the 162 Christian clergy to restrain the mutual contentions of the feudal nobility2.69.
2.68Voyages en Morée à Constantinople, et en Albanie, t. i, p. 53.
2.69See Tableau du commerce de la Grèce, t. i, p. 56.
All the officers of government owe their appointment to the sole favour of the sultan, without respect to birth, talents, services, or experience. They are deposed or punished without the liberty of complaint or remonstrance; and, at their death, the state inherits their property. Such is the constitution of arbitrary power: but the immediate appointments of the sultan must necessarily be confinded within the narrow circle of his personal acquaintance, which scarcely extends beyond the limits of his palace: the nomination to offices is consequently delegated to his ministers and favourites. It is a fact of public notoriety, that governments of every description are sold at the porte: they are held for the term of one year only, and at the ensuing baïram the leases must be renewed, or transferred to a less parsimonious competitor. In the public registers the precise value of every important post under government is recorded; and the regular remittance of the taxes and tribute is the only acknowledged criterion of upright administration.
163 If the stipulated revenue duly enter into the coffers of government, no inquiry is made whether it has been collected by harsh or by lenient measures, whether it has been extorted by tyranny and oppression from a wretched and diminished population, or willingly contributed from the superabundance of private wealth, as a homage to virtuous administration2.70. Hence it is that governors of distant provinces, availing of the resources of their districts, have, in frequent instances, so firmly established themselves as to resist efficaciously the right of the sovereign to eject or dispossess them. When a pasha, from a sense of his own strength or of the weakness of government aspires to independency, he withholds the contributions due to the porte: he however negotiates while he threatens, and if the attempt fails of checking his insolence by the interposition of a capigi bashi as an executioner, the same officer is commissioned on 164 the part of the sultan to confirm him in his dignity, to sanction, and even to recompense his revolt by conferring on him additional honours. In this manner the pashas of Scutari and Yanina in Europe, and of Bagdad and Damascus in Asia, besides several others, have made themselves independent of the porte, in one sense only, and may perhaps suceed in rendering their fiefs hereditary in their families2.71. This conduct, which in Christendom would be called rebellion, the porte in its parental kindness considers rather as the capirce of a splenetic child. Its maxim is to yield to necessity, and to sooth the undutiful subject, instead of irritating him into avowed rebellion: but the contempt of its authority leaves an indelible impression. While they accumulate honours on the fortunate usurper, they constantly keep in view the heinousness of his offence; and if once his 165 circumspection is lulled to sleep, if once he can be seduced by the allurements of ambition to abandon his strong holds, and to accept of a government of a higher order, the tardy by persevering minister of veneance unexpectedly presnets himself, and terminates his golden prospects in death2.72. On the invasion of Egypt by the French, the pashas of several important provinces were considered as in open rebellion against the porte, yet, though each asserted his independece, none of them refused to obey the summons of government, and to furnish their contigent of troops2.73: nor are they obedient in this respect only; each of them maintains at court his agent or capi 166 kiahya, through whom he regularly remits the taxes, due to the miri, and through whom he solicits, as a token that he has not incurred his sovereign's displeasure, the honour of being legally appointed to collect the haratch, or poll-tax levied on the rayahs, within his own jurisdiction. There are however some fiefs, as well as in Europe as in Asia, which by original donation are hereditary in certain families. Mehemmed Bey was created by Selim the First, beylerbey of Diarbekir, and the province was given to him malikiane, that is, for the term of his own life, and with the privilege of transmitting it by descent to his male children. In this manner Cara Osman Oglu governs at Magnesia in Asia Minor, and the family of the Ghavrinos, who conquered Macedonia, still possess several agaliks in that province by virtue of similar concessions2.74.
2.70"On sçait que les vicerois, pachas, gouverneurs de places, es autres officiers de l'empire Ottoman, sont des fermiers qui, sous peine d'envoyer leurs têtes au trésor royal, sont obligez d' y faire remettre les sommes dont ils sont convenus avec le grand visir. On ne reçoit point d'excuse sur cela. Il faut trouver de l'argent n'en fût-il point; et comme leur vie et leur fortune dépendent de leur exactitude à payer, ils mettent tout en usage pour en venir à bout." (D'Arvieux, t. iii, p. 99.)
2.71"Depuis le règne d'Abdul-hamid, qui est l'époque d'une plus grande accéleration dans la décadence de l'empire Ottoman, les agaliks de la Grèce soni souvent conquis de vive force par des aventuriers Albanais. La Porte donne alors l'investiture qu'elle ne peut refuser. Quelquesuns de ces agas heureux ont même usurpé dans ces derniers tems des vaïvodaliks; et à juger de leur conduite future par la manière dont lils ont débuté dans leur entreprise, il est à craindre qu'ils n'envahissent bientôt des pachaliks." (Beaujour, t. i, p. 12.)
2.72This mode of proceeding is proverbially said by the Turks to be hunting the hare in a waggon drawn by oxen.
2.73Dr. Pouqueville, (t. iii, p. 179.) in describing the preparations for war against the French in the year 1800, enumerates the reinforcements which were to be sent from the different provinces to the grand vizir's army. It is curious, that in the following list he merely recapitulates those provinces, which, in a preceding note, (p. 176.) he had pronounced to be in rebellion.
2.74Cantemir, p. 153. Rycaut, chap. xii, p. 52. Tab. Gen. t. ii, p. 533. Beaujour, Tab. du commerce de la Grece, t. i, p. 11.
It has been said, and no assertion has been more generally credited, that no sooner have they amassed property, than they are cut off by the sultan, in order to enrich his own treasury2.75. 167 It is however difficult to suppose, that avarice, the mere desire of hoarding up trasure, can ever be the vice of an Ottoman sovereign; and it would be difficult to prove, in the whole history of the empire, that a sultan was ever actuated by such a sordid passion. It must be recollected that the miri or public treasury, and not the sultan, is heir to the officers of government. The sultan, whose private wealth exceeds the bounds of his capirce, is restrained from direct misapplication of the public funds, which are reserved for the exigencies of the state. The courtiers, indeed, may inflame the mind of their master against a wealthy pasha, whome they wish to supplant; but unless he errs in making too sparing a distribution of his presents, the courtiers and ministers of state derive more benefit from his gifts, than they could hope from the confiscation of his property.
2.75See Toderini, t. i, p. 60.
In the history of the former ages of the Ottoman empire, we find that the sultans frequently interfered in the ordinary administration of government, and generally headed their armies in person. But whatever advantages the Roman world might derive from the superintendance of such enlightened emperors, as Trajan or the Antonines, the ignorant 168 zeal of the Turkish sultans only heightened the evils and horrors of despotism. What advantage could, indeed, be expected from the superficial inquiry, and hasty decision, of men ignorant of the first principles of justice, intoxicated with absolute power, and whose ears no remonstrance against their own conduct had ever reached, except such as is faintly conveyed in the passive groans of miserable men? A vizir may be checked in the exertion of his delegated authority by the apprehension that truth, or calumny, may disclose, or blacken, his conduct to his master; but the will of a tyrannical monarch can be restrained only by the menaces of religion, and the dread of insurrection, which scarcely enter even into his contemplation, until they are announced by the approach of death, or by the tumults of the populace. Though the sovereign, on his tribunal, be superior to any consideration of personal interest; yet the mind of a despot is not less assailable by motives foreign to the abstract merit of the cause, than that of a plebeian judge. Though he be sincere in the investigation of truth, yet the boldness of conscious integrity may to him appear shameless effrontery; the pertinacity of truth may seem the obstinacy of 169 error; and the confusion of modesty, the confession of guilt. Would calumniated innocence dare to exert her eloquence before such a tribunal? Could she hope to smooth the angry brow, to dispel the cloud of prejudice and to inspire the mind with candour to condemn a precipitate judgment, or to retract a hasty sentence? The despotic judge will appeal in vain for guidance to the learned and the wise. Even the ministers of religion resign the inflexibility of their virtue, and become the obsequious instruments of the will of the monarch. Thus, when Soliman and Peter, the legislators of Turkey and Russia, determined to put their sons to death, they found no difficulty in obtaining the fetwa of the mufti, or the sentence of the patriarch2.76.
2.76"Ahmed the Second affected to appear a lover of justice, though, by reason of his stupidity, he could not perfectly discharge the functions of a judge, and believed everything which his friends, bribed by the contending parties, represented to him." (Cantemir, p. 394.)
In their eagerness to do justice, some of the wisest sultans have been hurried into cruel and disproportioned retaliation. Soliman the First, disappointed in his endeavours to apprehend some Albanians, who had committed theft and murder, ordered all of that nation in Constantinople 170 to be sought after to a man, and put to death, for the crime of their countrymen; and again, because the molla and cadis were killed at Aleppo by the populace, he sent an army, indiscriminately to destroy all the inhabitants without inquiring after the perpetrators of the murder2.77. Theodosius, a wise, human, and Christian emperor, and the republic of Athens, the most enlightened and the most liberal of nations, had precipitately authorized similar excesses. The evils of rashness, in which the sovereign indulges, are aggravated in Turkey by the irrevocability of the sentence. The brow of the tyrant may express, as that of Soliman did to the penetration of Busbequius, the anguish of his mind: but the sultan cannot, like Theodosius, expiate criminality by public penance, or like the Athenians, arrest the execution. May I be permitted to offer this tribute of respect to the memory of this illustrious people! The general assembly of Athens had condemned to death, in one undistinguishing sentence, the inhabitants of Mitylene in the island of Lesbos; but the reflection of a single night produced repentance and remorse: the orders 171 for the execution were already despatched, when the assembly resumed its sitting, to discuss the justice and propriety of its decisions. With what igenuousness did they confess their fault, with what eagerness did they proceed to repair it, and with what celerity was the galley despatched to Lesbos, with the mitigated sentence? How truly great and amiable was this people! The world can produce but this solitary instance of unforced repentance in a popular assembly. When criminality is sub-divided, it is lightly felt; but every Athenian citizen imputed to himself the whole guilt of this public act of injustice, in which he had concurred. Who, from such examples, would wish that absolute power should be confided to the erring judgments of mortals, either separately or collectively? Rather let it riot in the comparatively innocent luxuries of the seraglio, than aim at augmenting the happiness of a nation by the best intended administration of government.
2.77Cantemir, p. 183.
The sense of duty in an Ottoman sultan may be judged of by the objects with Soliman sighed for the ability to accomplish;--the building of the mosque with bears his name, the reconstruction of Valen's aqueducts, 172 and the conquest of Vienna2.78; objects, which, in his judgment, were most highly conducive to the glory of God, the comfort of true believers, and the extirpation of heresy, and error. The sultan still presides, or is supposed to preside, in his own tribunal, ghalibé divan, which is held every Tuesday; but the whole is only the harmless shadow of former usage. The affairs are of little consequence, though every thing is conducted with show, and ceremony, and ostentation. For the edification of the people, and as a convincing proof that the grand signor interests himself in the concerns of his subjects, the vizir is frequently summoned during the course of a trial to attend his sovereign, and receive his instructions as to the sentence. At the beginning of a reign, to impress his good city of Constantinople with a favourable opinion of their new monarch, some human sacrifices are constantly offered. Sometimes a Mussulman, invested with an office of emolument, who may have formerly incurred the displeasure of some of the new favourites, is brought forward, accused by his sovereign of malversation, and beheaded in his presence: 173 or more frequently an infidel, who, by wearing slippers of a forbidden colour, is presumed to have usurped the privileges of the Mussulman people, is punished with death, and trampled upon for three days in the public street.
2.78Busbeq. Epist. p. 264.
When the sultans headed their armies, the fruits of the earth failed, and the face of nature withered at their approach. Busbequius had traversed the conquests of Soliman: "the corn," says he, "which such a calamity has depressed, will never again rear its head."2.79 Their voice was the voice of desolation; their language, extermination and death. "The city," said the agonizing sultan, with heartfelt regret, "the city, whose hearth is to be extinguished, is not yet taken:" and, on his deathbed, he devoutly addresses "the God of all worlds, the sovereign and lord of all creatures, to have pity on the host of the faithful, and graciously assist them, in accomplishing"--this work of hell2.80. According to their belief, no war should be undertaken without a just cause; but the propagation of the faith was the broad mantle, which hid from their sight every unjust and dishonourable motive. Hence their wars have all had the character 174 of religious wars, and they rushed out, glowing with holy zeal, to murder the aged parent, and the helpless infant; but reserved their mercy for the tender maidens, who, as vessels which had providentially escaped contamination, were capable of being applied to holy purposes. To the noble feelings of sovereigns on these glorious occasions, we are to attribute the murderous barbarities of Jenghiz Khan, and the comparative clemency of Tamerlane. The warrior is indeed placed between heroism and crime, and the best conquerors hold but a middle rank between cruelty and justice. We may be shocked at the severities exercised by them, yet since the world has agreed to worship conquerors, we are no less wrong in imputing to them the evils which are inseparable from war, than in expecting from them those virtues which can flourish only in a state of peace. Let us not, however, regret, that, since the decline of the military spirit among the Turks, their sovereigns, somewhat less enamoured than formerly of the glories of warfare, have sacrificed their fame to their repose, and sunk into insignificance in the voluptuous gratifications of the harem.
2.79Busbeq. de re mil. cont. Tur. insut. consilium, p. 273.
2.80Cantemir, p. 215.
The Turks, indulgent to the follies, the vices, and even the crimes of their sultans, 175 are nevertheless severe in arraigning the conduct of those, whom they consider as too much addicted to the pleasures of the chace. I am at a loss to account for an intolerance so singular and so little agreeable to reason, unless perhaps it owes its origin to one of the popular sayings, which are familiarly and generally used in ordinary conversation among the Turks, as among all the eastern nations, although, in many instances, their authority is owing rather to a certain alliteration or a jingle of the words, than to the shrewdness or profoundness of the though. "He that kills a sportsman or a gamester," says the proverb, "shall be accounted a hero:" and assuming this as an irrefragable truth, the ulema, when they were incited to foment a rebellion against the unfortunate Mahomet the Fourth, represented to the people, that the divine wrath against the Ottoman nation was manifest, since the sultan was become so infatuated as to suppose, that the bounds of the Ottoman empire, which had been extended by the labours and the blood of so many Mussulmans, could be defended by hounds and falcons2.81.
2.81Cantemir, p. 337.
176 In the opinion of Mussulmans, the law of the koran is no less binding on the prince than on the meanest of his people. While this law is religiously observed, and history furnishes no instance of its infringement in any essential point, the devotion of the subject corresponds with the unlimited authority of the monarch: every one acknowledges obedience to the absolute power of the sultan, and every one practises it. The rebellion of pashas, as has been shown, is not an abnegation of the sultan's authority; for they always name him with reverence and obey his commands, except when he requires the resignation of their own power, or the weakening of their own stability: their revolt affects only the ministers and courtiers, who indeed suffer by the independence of a pasha, as they are thereby deprived of their dues of office, and the annual presents which they are entitled to on every new appointment. Submission to the sultan, both as spiritual and temporal chief, is universal in theory, but from the remoteness and indistinctness of its proper object, it is naturally transferred to more immediate superiors. Yet we have seen the body-guard of an usurper stopped in the act of taking vengeance on an assassin, by his 177 producing the sultan's mandate for the execution of their master. Armed with this alone, he gains admission into the household, or insinuates himself into the confidence, of a rebel. Relying on no other protection, he disregards the fierce aspects of his myrmidons, and their professions of inviolable attachment: he singles out his object from the midst of them, he aims his blow, and, if it be well directed, the baseless structure of power is in one instant demolished, and the current of popular loyalty, no longer obstructed, re-assumes its legitimate direction. I have heard, that the officers of the sultan proceeding on such commissions have been detected, and have themselves undergone this punishment which they were ordered to inflict: but I recollect no instance of any one having suffered from the effects of resentment after the accomplishment of his errand: like the children of the Spartans, they are punished only for the failure of their stratagems.
The enthusiasm of loyalty may have prompted individuals to romantic proofs of their attachment to the person of their sovereign; but I do not dare to confirm the assertion of Rycaut, that they carry their 178 obedience to such an extreme as to perform whatsoever the sultan signifies to be his pleasure, "though he command whole armies of them to precipitate themselves from a rock, or build a bridge with piles of their bodies for him to pass rivers, or to kill one another to afford him pastime and pleasure."2.82
2.82I do not know whether Rycaut is to be understood as asserting, in the following passage, that he himself had witnessed such extravagancies. "They that have been where they have seen and known the manner of this blind obedience, may well cry out, O homines ad servitutem paratos!" (Present state of the Ottoman empire, p. 9.)
179 The education of the seraglio is represented as the systematic warping of the mind to the principles of slavery; and, as it is asserted, that young men so educated are destined to fill the highest posts of honour and to undertake the government of provinces, it is concluded, that the prejudice of absolute resignation to the will of the sultan is by their means universally diffused throughout the empire2.83.
2.83Rycaut, Present state of the Ottoman Empire, Chap. iii--v.
This however is erronous; for, comparatively 180 speaking, few are selected from among the pages to fill these important situations. Young men, whose chief recommendation in the first instance is their personal comeliness, are admitted into the colleges of the ichoglans, of which one is within the walls of the imperial palace, and the other, called Galata seraï, is in the suburb of Pera. They are educated under the care of masters appointed by the chief of the white eunuchs, capi aga, at the private expense of the sultan: but the object of the institution is not to prepare men for holding the highest offices of the state, but merely to educate pages for the service of the court.
The greatest number of them never quit the seraglio, and some even grow grey in the colleges. Their education favours the requisite attainments of a Turkish courtier: they are taught to please by the graces of their person and manners, and the politeness of their conversation and diction: passive obedience is the lesson which is constantly inculcated, and such severe chastisement is inflicted for the commission of the slightest fault, that he who has passed through the several degrees, may be truly said to have his passions mortified, and his manners 181 moulded to slavery. The highest dignity in the seraglio to which they can attain is that of coltuk vizir, a compound word, which denotes both their actual privilege of supporting the sultan under the arm and assisting him when he mounts on horseback, and also indicates, by anticipation, the rank which they are entitled to hold on their being dismissed from attendence on the emperor's person. Only the pages, who by merit, favour, or length of services have arrived at the dignity of coltuk vizir, have a prospect of being raised on vacancies to the post of pasha of three tails: but though, when they quit the court, they have as much power in their respective pashaliks as other governors, yet they are distinguished by an opprobrious appellation, expressive of their want of experience in civil and military affairs, from those who have raised themselves by their courage and implied virtues2.84.
2.84I may here be permitted to observe, that Gibbon, in his sketch of the Turkish education and discipline (Vol. xii, p. 58-62), has copied too faithfully the errors of Rycaut and the other guides whom he professes to have followed.
The national education, or rather the national manners, by no means, inculcate a slavish disposition. The Ottoman government 182 is, in its exercise, a military aristocracy, where every Mussulman imbibes some portion of the haughtiness of the military character with respect to those who are deprived of the use of arms, but is courtly and civil to his comrades, and obedient and respectful to his superiors. Accordingly we distinguish in the Turks the leading features of aristocracy, not only pride in their port and defiance in their eye, but candour in their character and generosity in their conduct. The disposition of mind generated by aristocracy is unquestionably preferable to that produced by slavish habits; and on the most superficial view, as well as on a more intimate acquaintance with the various classes of men who acknowledge the authority of the Ottoman sultans, we cannot hesitate in assenting to the truth of the remark, that the Turks are the best people in their Empire2.85.
2.85See Observations on the religion, laws, &c. of the Turks, p. 73.
The Mussulman law divides into two classes all the inhabitants of the earth: those who profess the faith of Mahomet are called, without distinction of rites, sects, heresies, or opinions, by the general name of musslim, an arabic word signifying a person resigned 183 to God; the dual of which is musulman, and the plural musliminn: the nations, who deny the divine mission, and reject the doctrine, of the prophet, are confounded under the common denomination of keafir, infidel or blasphemer, a wretch wandering in darkness, whose eyes are shut to the light of revelation. Thus all infidels form but one and the same people. The inhabitants of the Ottoman empire and the nations by which they are surrounded, are, however, discriminated with greater accuracy: the infidels, subject to their dominion and paying the capitation tax, whether Christians, Jews, or Pagans, are called zimmys: strangers, who, relying on the faith of treaties and the acknowledged laws of nations, either pass through their territories or reside within the empire, are called musteeminns, (men who have solicited mercy): it is however presumaable, that such expressions are not meant to convey insult to foreign nations, as they are also applied to Mussulmans travelling beyond the empire or settled abroad: nations unconnected by treaty, or in actual hostility with the Ottoman porte, are described under the common denomination of harby, a word derived from harb, which signifies war. These expressions, 184 which it must be confessed are harsh and unbecoming, are to be ascribed rather to the primitive Mussulmans, from whom they were borrowed, than to the Ottomans themselves, although the Turks, in common with all nations professing the same faith, still adhere to the use of them. The etymology and true meaning of the terms are unknown to the greatest part of the people; and it should perhaps be recollected, in extenuation of the conduct of the Turks in this respect, that modes of expression, scarcely less offensive, have prevailed among the people whom we are taught to admire and to reverence, who distinguished, with no less pride than the Turks themselves, between Greeks and Barbarians, Jews and Gentiles. The Turkish national appellation is osmanli, which we translate Ottoman; the word Turk is not unknown to them, but is applied on to persons of rustic and uncivilized manners. A rayah is an Ottoman subject of any nation, liable to the haratch or capitation tax: the Turkish peasantry are properly comprehended under the general name of rayahs, though, in the modern and more common acceptation of the word, it is restricted to that class of subjects whom the law denominates zimmys.
185 Ghiaour is the opprobrious expression which the Turks address to infidels; but the word appears to have been originally guebre, or worshipper of fire. The Persian heretics are distinguished from the sunni (or orthodox) by the name of schiys, a name odious o the Turks, as they are taught to believe it to be more meritorious in the sight of God to kill in war a single Persian, than seventy infidels of any other religion2.86.
2.86"Alia res est, inquit Rustanus. Nos enim, ne sis nescius, magis aversamur Persas, magis profanos habemus quam vos Christianos." (Busbeq. Epist. iii, p. 126.)
When the inhabitants of a city or a province are dissatisfied with the pasha, they present their complaints at the porte in a memorial or petition, called arz mahzar: but unless they accompany it with a larger sum than the pasha finds it convenient to give for his re-appointment, they seldom succeed in their application for his removal. Contestations of this public nature, as well as those between private individuals, are determined, not by the evidence of facts or the force of arguments, but by the specific quantity of gold which either party can produce in support of his cause. In the capital, inaccessible as the sultan personally is to the 186 complaints of his people (since all memorials on what business soever ought first to pass through the hands of the grand vizir), his attention is notwithstanding sometimes aroused by the clamours, and other unequivocal proceedings of his turbulent subjects. In his passage to the mosque every Friday, he receives, through the hands of one of his attendants, whatever petitions are presented to him. It was in this manner, that M. de Villelongue succeeded in delivering into the hands of Sultan Ahmed an accusation, in the name of Charles the Twelfth, against the vizir and the principal ministers of state, which was supposed to have effected the complete change in the Turkish cabinet, which soon after took place. Rycaut mentions a method of appeal to the grand signor which ancient custom had tolerated, but which I apprehend is now disused, as I have never heard of its being practised. "The aggrieved person," he says, "putting fire on his head, enters the seraglio, runs in haste, and can be stopped by nobody until he comes to the presence of the grand signor, to whome he has licence to declare his wrong."2.87 The method which is most 187 commonly adopted, and which I have seen followed up with the most persevering obstinacy, is to set fire to different parts of the city: when it is discovered, from their frequency, that these fires are not accidental, the sultan is alarmed, inquires into the cause of the public discontent, discovers it through his emissaries from public conversation, and is ultimately compelled to yield to the wishes of the factious. Insurrection is the misfortune to which unlimited power is most subject: it is frequently the work of an instant, the produce of accident; but when once excited, it seldom stops at the redress of grievances: the insurgents must be subdued by force, or the monarch must descend from his throne: happy if he may be allowed to wear out the remainder of his days in the vacant prison of his successor.
2.87Present state of the Ottoman empire, p. 46. Rycaut, who considers himself bound to pray equally for the honour of his Majesty's embassy, and the profitable returns of the Levant Company (see p. 216), highly approves of the compliance of Sir Thomas Bendysh with this degrading and slavish custom. The worthy ambassador, he says, ordered pots of fire to be put on the yards of eleven English ships then in port, in order to represent to the grand signor the grievances suffered by the merchants. Mignot (Hist. Ottom. t. iii, p. 76.) divides the demerit of this measure with the French and Dutch ambassadors, but he attempts to extenuate the humiliation by adding, "Cette flotte présentoit l'idée de la menace plutôt que de la plainte."
Text Archive Home | Book Details | Table of Contents