Provincial Power-Holders and the Empire in the Late Ottoman World

Conflict or partnership?

Authored by: Ali Yayc?o?lu

The Ottoman World

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  December  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415444927
eBook ISBN: 9780203142851
Adobe ISBN: 9781136498954


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In the summer of 1809, during the worst days of the Ottoman–Russian war, the need for ready cash to provision the imperial army on the Danubian frontier was crucial for the Ottoman authorities. Owing to a persistent budget deficit, the money left in the treasury was far from sufficient to meet the escalating expenses of the battlefield. The Imperial Council recommended that Mahmud II (1808–39) borrow the necessary amount from four of the great provincial power-holders of the empire. In his report, the acting grand vezir wrote to the sultan:

Tepedelenli Ali Pa?a, the governor of Egypt [Mehmed] Ali Pa?a, the Cabbarzades and the Karaosmanzades are holders of wealth and affluence. Each of them has the capacity to send a couple of thousand kises of akças. In fact, they owe their wealth to the Exalted State. For that reason, in such a [troubled] time, it is obvious that it is a duty incumbent upon them to help [the Exalted State]. However, if their assistance were to be asked through ordinary sultanic orders, because of their temperament, they would put forward several excuses in order to escape from sending it. For that reason, it would be [more prudent] if your Majesty were to write special letters to each of them without informing the servants of the state about these letters. In these letters, if Your Majesty were to express his judicious imperial opinion, and to ask in his own imperial hand if they would ‘send that amount of akçes to my imperial abode, to be spent in the campaign of the army which is to expel the enemy of our faith that is attacking the empire from various sides’; if these letters were to be enclosed together with imperial decrees and to be conveyed to each of them by palace stewards, and if the money were to be requested in similar fashion, it would be very likely that they would show urgent obedience to the sultanic orders, and to deliver the necessary amounts. Sending that kind of imperial letter to the servants of the sultanate will not damage the glory [of the sultanate]. In the past, there were occasions on which such aid was requested. We cannot think of any other alternative in order to obtain money from outside sources. 1

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