The Capitulation Sand the Ottoman Legal System | Ottoman Empire | Consul (Representative)
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THE CAPITULATIONS AND THE OTTOMAN LEGAL SYSTEM

STUDIES
IN ISLAMIC LAW
AND SOCIETY
edited by
Ruud Peters and Bernard Weiss
volume 21
THE CAPITULATIONS AND THE
OTTOMAN LEGAL SYSTEM
Qadis, Consuls and Beratls in the 18
th
Century
BY
MAURITS H. VAN DEN BOOGERT
BRILL
LEIDEN

BOSTON
2005
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Boogert, Maurits H. van den.
The capitulations and the Ottoman legal system : Qadis, Consuls and Beratls in the 18
th
Century/
by Maurits H. Van den Boogert.
p. cm. (Studies in Islamic law and society, ISSN 1384-1130 ; v. 21)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 90-04-14035-2 (alk. paper)
1. Capitulations. 2. Exterritoriality. 3. Privileges and immunitiesTurkeyHistory18th
century. 4. AliensTurkeyHistory18th century. 5. Merchants, ForeignLegal status,
laws, etc.TurkeyHistory18th century. I. Title. II. Series.
KKX2290.B66 2005
349.56109033dc22
2005042154
ISSN 13841130
ISBN 90 04 14035 2
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Aan mijn ouders en Monique
CONTENTS
List of Figures and Tables ........................................................ xi
Abbreviations .............................................................................. xiii
Acknowledgements ...................................................................... xv
Introduction ................................................................................ 1
Early Studies of the Capitulations ........................................ 4
An Historical Survey .............................................................. 7
The Juridical Approach ........................................................ 9
Methodology ............................................................................ 11
Published Texts ...................................................................... 15
Chapter One The Sultans Promise .......................................... 19
Sacred Capitulations .............................................................. 19
Fermans and Berats .................................................................. 24
Revocation .............................................................................. 26
Mstemins ................................................................................ 30
Tax Exemptions ...................................................................... 32
Jurisdictions ............................................................................ 33
Consular Jurisdiction .......................................................... 34
European Consular Regulations ........................................ 38
The Qadi ............................................................................ 42
The Imperial Council ........................................................ 47
Chapter Two The Protection System ........................................ 63
Ottoman Protgs .................................................................. 64
Dragomans .......................................................................... 64
Sons and Servants (hizmetkrs) ............................................ 67
Warehousemen (mahzencis) and Brokers (simsars) .............. 70
Moneychangers (sarrafs) ...................................................... 72
Haratch Papers ................................................................ 73
Commercialisation .................................................................. 76
An Ambassadorial Perquisite ............................................ 77
The Price of Protection .................................................... 79
Prots .................................................................................. 82
Recruitment ........................................................................ 84
The Numbers of Protgs ...................................................... 85
A Survey .............................................................................. 86
Instruments of Imperialism? .................................................. 92
Bureaucratic Procedures .................................................... 93
Western Policies .................................................................. 97
Ottoman Policies ................................................................ 105
The Legal Status of Beratls .............................................. 112
Chapter Three Avanias: Misrepresentations of the Ottoman
The Legal System .................................................................. 117
Historiography ........................................................................ 118
Avania: Denitions and Origins ............................................ 122
Avanists ...................................................................................... 126
The Making of Avanias .......................................................... 129
Case Studies ............................................................................ 133
The European Perspective: Summaries of Nine
Avanias .............................................................................. 133
Analysis: The Ottoman Legal Perspective ........................ 141
Conclusion .............................................................................. 155
Chapter Four The Division of Estates
The Capitulations .................................................................. 159
Standard Procedures .............................................................. 163
Possible Complications: Ottoman Wives .............................. 168
Merchant Strangers ................................................................ 172
Possible Complications: Witnesses ........................................ 174
The Estates of Dragomans .................................................... 175
Possible Complications: Heirs Who Converted to Islam .... 177
A Case Study: The Estate of Dimitri Dallal ...................... 179
Actors .................................................................................. 180
Legal Issues ........................................................................ 182
Strategies .............................................................................. 185
Outcome: Abdullahs Claim .............................................. 188
Outcome: Yusuf s Claim .................................................. 191
The Division of Part of the Estate .................................. 198
Conclusion .......................................................................... 200
Appendix .............................................................................. 202
viii cox+rx+s
Chapter Five Bankruptcy ............................................................ 207
The Capitulations .................................................................. 208
An Unhappy Aair: The Ideal Bankruptcy .................... 213
Standard Procedures .............................................................. 217
Possible Complications: Fugitive Bankrupts .......................... 218
Possible Complications: Ownership of Consignments ........ 220
Bankrupt Merchant Strangers and Ottoman Protgs ........ 224
A Case Study: The Bankruptcies of Four Ottoman
Warehousemen (1763) ........................................................ 226
Legal Issues ........................................................................ 226
The Legal Position of the Consul .................................... 227
Interested Parties ................................................................ 230
Legal Strategies .................................................................. 235
a. Dealing with the Consulate ...................................... 235
b. The Porte .................................................................. 242
c. The Qadi Court ........................................................ 248
i. Court Supervision ................................................ 249
ii. A General Session in the Islamic Court .......... 253
iii. Individual Trials in the Islamic Court .............. 256
Conclusion .......................................................................... 259
Appendix ............................................................................ 262
Chapter Six Theft
Theft in the Ottoman Legal System .................................... 263
A Case Study: Legal Disputes in a Partnership of Beratls
(17811788) ........................................................................ 263
Interested Parties ................................................................ 267
Legal Issues and Strategies ................................................ 270
Outcome: The Caravan Conductor .................................. 278
Outcome: Yusuf Dwek Cohen .......................................... 280
The Appeal and Its Aftermath .......................................... 291
Conclusion .......................................................................... 299
Chapter Seven Conclusion .......................................................... 303
Archival Sources ........................................................................ 307
Selected Bibliography ................................................................ 309
Index ............................................................................................ 315
cox+rx+s ix
LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES
Figures
1. The Capitulations and Buskens Islamic Legal
Triangle ................................................................................ 59
2. The Capitulations within Buskens Islamic Legal
Triangle ................................................................................ 61
Tables
1. The numbers of berats in circulation in the Ottoman
Empire .................................................................................. 88
2a. The numbers of French berats in Istanbul, Izmir, and
Aleppo .................................................................................. 88
2b. The numbers of British berats in Istanbul, Izmir, and
Aleppo .................................................................................. 88
2c. The numbers of Dutch berats in Istanbul, Izmir, and
Aleppo .................................................................................. 88
3. An Ottoman survey of 17934 .......................................... 90
4. Expenses incurred in the avania of Si[gn]ore Verschuer
on account of the green slippers of his wife .................... 144
5. Account of the charges of which Mr [Edward] Staord
disbursed to prevent greater mischief about the death
of his servant, [Constantinople] April 1714 ...................... 149
6. Account of expenses in clearing an avania [1 Marzo
1715/6] ................................................................................ 150
7. Enregistrement du Compte du Chancellier dHollande
Lhoirie de Dimitry Dallal Drogman Barattaire
dHollande. Doit pour fraix de Chancellerie scavoir ...... 202
8. Account of the [division of part of ] estate of Dimitri
Dallal .................................................................................... 204
9. Nota delli debiti di Germanos & Gibrail Sader &
Anton Diab, 8 August 1762 .............................................. 262
ABBREVIATIONS
A.DVN.DVE Bb- saf DefterleriDvel-i Ecnebiye Defterleri
(Registers of the Grand Vizier-Registers of Foreign
Nations), in BOA
BL British Library, London
BNA British National Archives, Kew (formerly: Public
Record Oce)
BOA Ba{bakanlk Osmanl Ar{ivi (Archives of Prime
Ministers Oce, Ottoman section), Istanbul
Bronnen II Bronnen tot de geschiedenis van den levantschen handel [Sources
on the History of (Dutch) Levant Trade] Tweede deel
[Part II]: 16611726 K. Heeringa ed., (The Hague,
1917)
Bronnen III Bronnen tot de geschiedenis van den levantschen handel. Derde
Deel [Part III]: 17271765, J.G. Nanninga ed., (The
Hague, 1952).
Bronnen IV/i Bronnen tot de geschiedenis van den levantschen handel. Vierde
Deel [Part IV]: 17651826 Eerste stuk [Vol. i], J.G.
Nanninga ed., (The Hague, 1964)
Bronnen IV/ii Bronnen tot de geschiedenis van den levantschen handel. Vierde
Deel [Part IV]: 17651826 Tweede stuk [Vol. ii], J.G.
Nanninga ed., (The Hague, 1966)
CAS Consulaatarchief Smirna (Archives of the Dutch con-
sulate in Izmir), in DNA
CDG Collectie Dedem van de Gelder (Private Archive of F.G. van
Dedem van de Gelder, Dutch ambassador in Istanbul
17851810), in DNA
CH Cevdet Hariciye, in BOA
Cod. Or. Codex Orientalis, in ULL
DNA Nationaal Archief, The Hague (formerly: Algemeen
Rijksarchief )
ED Ecnebi Defterleri (Foreign Registers), in BOA
Eg. Eggerton Collection, in BL
EI
2
The Encyclopaedia of Islam2nd edition ( Leiden,
19602003)
HH Hatt- Hmayun (Imperial Rescripts), in BOA
HMC Historical Manuscript Commission (in BNA)
JESHO Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
LAT Legatiearchief Turkije (Archives of the Dutch Legation
in Istanbul), in DNA
LH Levantse Handel (Levant Trade Files), in DNA
Propaganda Archives of the Sagra Congregazione De Propaganda
Fide, Rome
SC Scritture Riferiti nei Congressi (Documents referred to
Congregations), in Propaganda
SG States Generals archives, in DNA
SP State Papers, in BNA
ULL University Library, Leiden
xiv .nnnr\i.+ioxs
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This study is to a large extent based on the research I did for my
doctoral dissertation, which I defended in Leiden on 8 November
2001. The focus of the thesis was much dierent from the present
volume, however, which took me almost a year to write. Several
people have been immensely important in both phases of the process,
and I want to acknowledge my debt to them here.
Alastair Hamilton and Alexander H. de Groot supervised my the-
sis. Their expertise, enthusiasm and encouragement went far beyond
the call of duty, and my debt to them is immeasurable. The same
is true for Kate Fleet who has been a constant advisor and friend
for years. Remke Kruk, Erik-Jan Zrcher, Han den Heijer and Jan
Just Witkam raised questions at my viva that continued to resonate
in my mind throughout the work on this volume. This is also the
case with Lon Buskens, whose ideas I have used here, and whose
friendship I value greatly.
During the rewriting process Jan Schmidt has corrected the type-
script expertly in too many places to mention. His eorts have saved
me many embarrassments, for which I am deeply grateful. The mis-
takes still left are all mine. The reason for reviewing my research
from a new perspective in the rst place was Ruud Peters oer to
publish my book in the present series. As an historian without any
formal training in law, I felt, and continue to feel, honoured by his
proposal. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to publish this series,
although it is also quite daunting. I also want to thank Antonis
Anastasopoulos for sending me his unpublished paper on Dimitrios
Bekallas of Karaferya, and Elena Frangakis-Syrett and Colin Heywood
for much encouragement and advice. At Brill Trudy Kamperveen
and Boris van Gool kindly put up with the delays and kept me on
track.
Four friends deserve to be mentioned here separately. When my
laptop computer crashed halfway through writing this book, John
Robbemond brought it back to life. He saved the project and still
keeps back-ups of all my les. Laila al-Zwainis knowledge of Islamic
law has often been my safety net. Heleen Plaisier witnessed the entire
process of writing the thesis, hating it, and taking up the process
once again, remaining supportive throughout. Brother-in-arms Thurstan
Robinson read early drafts of this book and made valuable comments.
I also want to thank my most loyal supporters. My parents, Leo
van den Boogert and Jenny van den Boogert-Boslooper, uncondi-
tionally supported all my eorts and visited me wherever the archival
trail took me. My brother, Leon, and his wife, Janette, sponsored a
trip to China for much needed R&R, looked after me and Monique
in Singapore, and always took an interest in my obscure endeav-
ours. Finally, I owe more to Monique Hogenkamp than words can
express. Zij maakt het verschil.
Funding
The research for this book was made possible by a PhD-position at
the Research School for Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies
CNWS in Leiden. During this period I was awarded several travel
grants from the Dutch Council for Academic Research (NWO) in
The Hague. At an earlier stage I have beneted from grants from the
Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies, Newnham College, Cambridge;
the Dutch Institute in Rome; the Scholten Fund; and the Dr. C. Louise
Thijsse-Schouten Fund.
MvdB
Leiden, March 2005
xvi .ckxovrrrorvrx+s
INTRODUCTION
Several hours before sunrise on Saturday, 26 January 1754, the mer-
chant Jan Hendrik Meijer left his house in Pera, the diplomatic quar-
ter of Istanbul, never to be seen again in the Ottoman capital. He
left behind his wife and two bankrupt rms, taking with him a con-
siderable amount of money and diamonds belonging to his business
partners father. Meijer was a member of the Dutch community in
Istanbul, which he had served as treasurer for several years. The
Dutch embassy was left to sort out the chaos of the two rms, to
make arrangements for the deserted wife and for Cornelis van der
Oudermeulen junior, the underage business partner who had been
robbed of his fathers capital.
The ambassador, Elbert de Hochepied, was particularly worried
by the fact that the creditors of the two rms included several
Ottoman subjects. The young van der Oudermeulen only made
things worse by using force to retrieve jewellery and letters of credit
Meijer had given his Jewish broker as surety for his debts. Although
the value of the jewels was added to Meijers estate and could thus
be seen as benecial to all creditors, the Ottomans among them
were not reassured by these actions. They threatened to take van
der Oudermeulen to the Islamic court, by which action he would
certainly have been imprisoned the ambassador thought. The cred-
itors insisted on being repaid in accordance with the law of the
land, which de Hochepied knew favoured them over foreign cred-
itors. Moreover, the ambassador referred to an article in the French
capitulations of 1740
by which they [the French] commit themselves to compensate the peo-
ple of the land [rst], regardless of the other creditors. And although
we do not have this article in ours, we are nevertheless obliged also
to honour it, like everybody else, because our capitulations [of 1680]
say that we will be allowed everything the French, English and other
nations are allowed and awarded, and while we often use this to our
advantage, the Court claims that in these matters we have to act in
accordance with this article too.
1
1
DNA, States General 6957: Elbert de Hochepied to Fagel, 16 February 1754.
For the present study on the legal status of Westerners and their
protgs in the eighteenth century, several aspects of the Meijer-inci-
dent are of interest. Even this brief summary of the case aords a
rst glimpse of the procedures and problems involved in bankrupt-
cies of foreign merchants in the Ottoman Empire. For example, the
procedures involved in bankruptcies have received surprisingly little
scholarly attention. Even more important is the fact that we see the
Dutch ambassador turning to the texts of the capitulations for guid-
ance in a serious legal crisis. Not only does he mention a specic
article, he also draws attention to the connections between the var-
ious charters of privileges granted to European nations. The Ottomans
honoured the principle of the most-favoured-nation, which meant
that the Dutch also enjoyed the privileges granted to France (and
vice-versa). In this case, however, the principle evidently worked
against them. The implied hierarchy between the law of the land
and the capitulations is noteworthy as well. The creditors could claim
preferential treatment on the basis of Ottoman laws for all they
wanted, it was the fact that the French capitulations supported them
that mattered. The ambassador emphasizes the exclusive authority
of these texts and suggests that the Porte agreed with this view.
These points will be discussed in more detail elsewhere in this study.
Here attention must rst be drawn to a signicant error in the
Dutch ambassadors letter to his superiors: The article of the French
capitulations of 1740 referred to by the Dutch ambassador did not
exist. The only stipulation concerning bankruptcies, article 53, states
that the debts of a bankrupt should be paid from the balance of his
estate. It could be regarded as a specication of the more general
article 22, in which the personal responsibility and liability of debtors
and their guarantors are emphasized. Nobody should be forced to
pay another mans debts, even if he was a fellow countryman, for
example.
2
There is no reference whatsoever to any procedures for
the division of the estate. De Hochepied may honestly have believed
that it did, but we cannot rule out the possibility that he deliber-
ately lied in order to cover himself against future complaints in case
the incident escalated later. If circumstances called for such drastic
actions, the ambassador would probably give in to the Ottoman
2 ix+nortc+iox
2
For a more comprehensive discussion of this and other capitulatory articles, see
Chapter One.
creditors demands to the disadvantage of the European creditors.
Should complaints about the ambassador subsequently be addressed
to the Dutch States General, at least he would have forewarned
them. Whatever his motives may have been, in an ocial letter to
the States General of the Dutch Republic the ambassador gave an
account of the capitulatory system that is incorrect on an important
point.
The Dutch ambassadors mistake (or deception) does not appear
to have been discovered by the States General. The Dutch govern-
ment undoubtedly considered the ambassador an authority on mat-
ters Ottoman, whom there was no reason to doubt. Even if a
translation of the French capitulations of 1740 were available in The
Hague, it seems unlikely that anyone would have checked to see if
the article was indeed in the text. Similarly misleading statements
from other Western diplomats about the texts of the capitulations
and the capitulatory system as a whole generally also seem to have
gone unnoticed by their superiors.
3
Ambassadors accounts were all
too often accepted at face value. Many modern students of the
Ottoman capitulations have done the same. Those who were inter-
ested in their legal aspects generally studied only (translations of ) the
texts, while those whose interests focused on diplomatic and com-
mercial relations seldom consulted the texts to correlate practice with
theory.
The three principal themes of this study are the perception, the-
ory and practice of the capitulatory system in the Ottoman legal sys-
tem in the eighteenth century. The Meijer case alone indicates that
perceptions about this system found in the Western sources must be
treated with caution. An examination of the text referred to by the
ambassador brought to light a dierence between his own ideas about
the capitulations and what the texts actually said. How bankruptcies
of foreign merchants in the Ottoman Empire were handled in prac-
tice was a dierent matter altogether again, which did not neces-
sarily conform to the theory of the capitulations, or the perceptions
ix+nortc+iox 3
3
In this study several examples of ambassadorial disinformation will be discussed
later. For a published example, see Colin Heywood, The Kapudan Pasha, the
English Ambassador and the Blackham Galley: An Episode in Anglo-Ottoman Maritime
Relations (1697) in: Elizabeth Zachariadou (ed.), The Kapudan Pasha, His Oce and
His Domain (Crete, 2002), 409438, esp. 419.
of Western diplomats. The extent to which theory, practice and per-
ception diered often depended on the interaction between the ambas-
sador or consul on the one hand, and the Ottoman judiciary on the
other. This interaction therefore takes a central place in the present
study.
Early Studies of the Capitulations
The study of the Ottoman capitulations has long been more popu-
lar among students of international law than of history. Roughly
between 1850 and 1950 a considerable number of juridical studies
appeared on Ottoman foreign relations and the documents on which
they were based, the ahdnames, or capitulations. Many were doctoral
dissertations submitted at universities across Western Europe. The
authors of these early works on the Ottoman capitulations had var-
ious, sometimes opposite, motives for writing them. Most Western
authors justied their eorts by pointing to the Eastern Question
and the good use to which diplomats might put their work. This is
particularly true for diplomatic manuals that also appeared in this
period, which aimed to provide a clear and concise discourse on the
duties and legal capacities of consular personnel in the Levant.
4
Around the turn of the century three Dutch students presented
theses on legal issues connected with the capitulations that they con-
sidered economically and politically relevant for their time.
5
Johannes
van Oordt foresaw an increase in commercial relations between his
country and the Levant, which would make his work useful for Dutch
4 ix+nortc+iox
4
See, for example, Jac. Wertheim, Manuel a lusage des consuls des Pays-Bas prcd
dun aperu historique sur ltablissement du consulat nerlandais a ltranger et de la lgislation
depuis son origine jusqu nos jours suivi dun recueil de documents ociels (Amsterdam, 1861).
5
van Oordt, De privaatrechterlijke toestand van den Nederlandschen koopman in de landen
van den Islam [The status of Dutch merchants in the countries of Islam according
to civil law] (Leiden, 1899); Joekes, Schets van de bevoegdheden der Nederlandsche consuls
[Essay on the authority of Dutch consuls] (Leiden, 1911); Kramers, Strafrechtspraak
over Nederlanders in Turkije [Criminal Justice for Dutchmen in Turkey] (Amsterdam,
1915). The works of van Oordt and Kramers were doctoral dissertations at the
Faculty of Law of Leiden University. Joekes submitted his thesis in the Faculty of
Political Science of the same university. Also see F.E. Embrechts, Over den invloed
van het Europesche volkenregt op de internationale betrekkingen der Ottomannische Porte [On the
Inuence of the European Law of Nations on the International Relations of the
Ottoman Porte] (Utrecht, 1858).
merchants and diplomats abroad. The intended readership of A.M.
Joekes and J.H. Kramers, the well-known Orientalist, clearly con-
sisted of diplomats and politicians. Their doctoral dissertations did
not have an exclusively academic purpose. Their aim was aptly sum-
marized by another author, A. Schopo, who hoped to render a
service la science historique, aux hommes politiques en gnral
et aux diplomats en particulier.
6
Some of these studies focused on
one particular area, like the work of G. Plissi du Rausas, the direc-
tor of the French Law School in Cairo, whose focus is on nine-
teenth-century Egypt.
7
The men of politics and diplomacy these
authors had in mind were almost certainly Europeans.
Students of the capitulations from the world of Islam had a sim-
ilar readership in mind. They, too, pointed to the Eastern Question
to justify their eorts, but with a radically dierent aim. At the end
of 1918, just after the end of the First World War, the Turk Mahmud
Essad submitted his licentiate thesis in the Faculty of Law of the
University of Fribourg. In this book the author argued for the abol-
ishment of the capitulations, a system he considered incompatible
with the dignity of his country. Essad proposed to introduce a mod-
ern constitution in the Ottoman Empire, instead. By the time the
thesis was published, ten years later, the author happily noted that
many of his ideas had been implemented already in the recently
established Turkish Republic.
8
Another passionate advocate of the
abolition of the capitulatory system was Habib Abi-Chahla. His doc-
toral dissertation, a fervent denunciation of the injustice of the capit-
ulations, was published in Paris in 1924. Already in the preface the
author cries out: Combien de fois mes compatriotes se sont-ils ton-
ns de ce que ceux du dehors, quon appelle encore les francs,
bncient des privilges exorbitantes dont ils supportent les charges
redoutables?
9
In contrast with his Turkish colleague, the Arab Abi-
Chahla saw no reason to be optimistic about the future, because,
ix+nortc+iox 5
6
Schopo, Les rformes et la protection des chrtiens en Turquie 16731904: Firmans,
brats, protocoles, traits, capitulations, conventions, arrangements, notes, circulaires, rglements,
lois, mmorandums, etc. (Paris, 1904), Prface.
7
Plissi du Rausas, Le rgime des capitulations dans lEmpire Ottoman (Paris, 19101911).
8
Mahmoud Essad, Du rgime des capitulations ottomanes: Leur caractre juridique daprs
lhistoire et les textes (Istanbul, 1928).
9
Habib Abi-Chahla, Lextinction des capitulations en Turquie et dans les rgions arabes
(Paris, 1924). [5].
according to him, the unjust capitulatory system continued unabated
in many locations.
Their dierent political agendas notwithstanding, these works about
the capitulations have much in common. The ahdnames discussed in
them are primarily those of the nineteenth and early twentieth cen-
turies. The system these authors studied was still in operation, so
they wrote predominantly about contemporary issues. Moreover, their
studies display an almost exclusive emphasis on texts, the authors
views on consular jurisdiction based predominantly on the capitula-
tions. There was consensus among these legal scholars that the capit-
ulations were binding, and that discussions about their interpretation
should be based on the texts alone. According to these works there
was little dierence between the legal status of Westerners and that
of their protgs, who were locally recruited non-Muslim subjects of
the sultan. Despite the fact that several authors had personal expe-
rience with the capitulatory system, references to practice are scarce.
The discussions of consular jurisdiction generally remain abstract,
and the descriptions of the system tend to be normative.
By focusing exclusively on the ahdnames as international treaties
concluded between rulers, these authors disregarded their second
function. The capitulations not only governed international political,
diplomatic and commercial relations, they also regulated the Ottomans
contacts with foreigners within the Ottoman Empire.
10
Politics and
trade went hand in hand from the beginning. Merchants from the
West made the rst contacts with the Turk, requesting certain
privileges from the sultans to guarantee their personal safety in Muslim
territory. In the early period trade was more important than per-
manent political relations, but this gradually changed when the Eastern
Mediterranean came under Ottoman rule.
6 ix+nortc+iox
10
I realize that foreigners is a much wider category that the group I aim to
study, i.e. the subjects of those, predominantly Western European, countries who
enjoyed capitulatory privileges. On other foreign elements in Ottoman society, see
Svetlana Ivanova, The Empires own Foreigners: Armenians and Acem tccar in
Rumeli in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in: Maurits H. van den Boogert
and Kate Fleet (eds.), The Ottoman Capitulations: Text and Context (Rome, 2003), 115148.
An Historical Survey
A brief historical survey of the development of the capitulatory sys-
tem is useful at this point. Originally the Ottoman sultans granted
the ahdnames unilaterally to the sovereigns of foreign countries who
sent envoys to the Sublime Porte to apply for trade privileges. The
sultans awarded capitulations on the applicants explicit promise to
maintain peaceful relations with the Ottoman Empire, on the under-
standing that any violation of this promise might lead to a unilat-
eral revocation of the privileges. The ahdnames were intended to
stimulate trade with the West, and to regulate the presence of com-
munities of foreign merchants in the Ottoman domains. Immediately
after the fall of Constantinople Mehmed the Conqueror granted
capitulations to the Genoese community of Galata, across the Golden
Horn.
11
Later the Venetians were also accorded commercial privi-
leges in the Ottoman domains. Merchants from Genoa and Venice
would long continue to dominate the trade between the eastern and
the western parts of the Mediterranean, but the arrival of French
ambassadors in Istanbul in the early sixteenth century heralded the
coming of a new era of Ottoman relations with the West.
12
In the sixteenth century the Ottoman sultans granted France and
England capitulations, and the Dutch Republic followed at the begin-
ning of the seventeenth century. The eighteenth century witnessed
a dramatic increase in the number of foreign powers that applied
for commercial privileges for their subjects. In 1718 the Habsburg
Emperor was granted capitulations, and Sweden followed in 1737.
Three years later the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies obtained its own
ahdname. Also in 1740 France acquired considerable extensions of its
privileges with the renewal of its capitulations. In 1747 the subjects
of Tuscany were accorded trade privileges in the Levant, while
Denmark got its own capitulations in 1746. Fifteen years later Prussia
was granted an ahdname. Russia entered the system in 1774 after the
treaty of Kk Kaynarca, while Spain established formal relations
with the Porte in 1782.
13
ix+nortc+iox 7
11
Halil (nalck, Ottoman Galata, 14531553, in: Edhem Eldem (ed.), Premire
Rencontre Internationale sur lEmpire Ottoman et la Turquie Moderne (Istanbul, Paris, 1991),
17105reprinted in his Essays in Ottoman History (Istanbul, 1998), 271376.
12
Kate Fleet, European and Islamic Trade in the Early Ottoman State. The Merchants of
Genoa and Turkey (Cambridge, 1999).
13
Re{at Ekrem, Osmanl muahdeleri ve kapitlsiyonlar 13001920 (Istanbul, 1934).
An important capitulatory privilege allowed foreigners to recruit
Ottoman subjects as interpreters. Using Italian for communication,
they acted as intermediaries in the broadest sense of the word. The
Europeans knew them by the title of dragoman, a loan from the Arabic
tarjuman (interpreter). Not only did the dragomans interpret and trans-
late Ottoman speech and text into Italian, and vice versa, but they
also guided their foreign employers through the mazes of Ottoman
protocol, gave advice, gathered intelligence, and mediated in disputes
between Europeans and Ottomans. On the basis of the capitulations
and their own deeds of appointment (berats) the dragomans enjoyed
the same scal privileges as the foreigners, something that made their
post attractive to non-Muslim Ottoman merchants. The arrangement
by which these Ottoman interpreters were aliated to foreign embassies
and consulates is commonly called the protection system.
14
When the balance of military power shifted to their advantage,
the Western powers and Russia started to use the capitulations against
the Ottoman Empire. The date of the turning point is controver-
sial, but most authors x it at the end of the seventeenth century,
implicitly marking the eighteenth century as an era of decline. In
this period the Ottoman authorities are generally believed to have
felt that they could no longer revoke the privileges they had granted
unilaterally, being frequently faced with foreign demands they could
not refuse. The protection system is often considered symptomatic
of this development. What started as a privilege that enabled for-
eigners to employ Ottoman subjects as their interpreters (dragomans)
is generally thought to have evolved into a system by which embassies
and consulates illegitimately extended diplomatic immunity to grow-
ing numbers of Ottoman non-Muslims. The Europeans allegedly sold
innumerable berats to Ottoman subjects who were not actually employed
as dragomans, but enjoyed their privileges nonetheless. The Ottoman
treasury reportedly suered dramatically from this state of aairs. As
foreign powers became increasingly important in the governing of
the Ottoman state, its subjects felt more and more disadvantaged
and discriminated against, as Abi-Chahlas testimony has already
illustrated.
8 ix+nortc+iox
14
The system is also called the protg system; See Salhi R. Sonyel, The
Protg System in the Ottoman Empire and its Abuses, Belleten LV/214 (1991),
675686.
Another result of this historical development must also be empha-
sized here: the unity of the capitulatory system. Each foreign nation
received its own ahdnames, but their contents were always linked to
the charters of privileges of other foreign communities. The most-
favoured-nation clause, already mentioned above, guaranteed that all
privileges granted to one befriended foreign community also applied
to all the others. This meant that, in principle, in the eighteenth
century there was no dierence in legal status between, for exam-
ple, a French and a Swedish merchant. As far as the capitulations
were concerned, all foreigners enjoyed the same legal status in the
Ottoman Empire.
The Juridical Approach
Echoing Western sources, many scholars have claimed that the
Europeans enjoyed complete legal autonomy in the Ottoman Empire
and were immune to the Ottoman justice system. Since their pro-
tgs enjoyed the same privileges, it has been claimed that berats
nullied the sultans authority over them.
15
One of the most recent
proponents of this view is Yoram Shalit, whose book on non-Muslims
and foreigners in Aleppo and Damascus in the eighteenth and nine-
teenth centuries sets out to prove that the Ottoman administrative
and legal systems systematically discriminated against these groups.
16
Shalit also refers to the capitulations, and summarizes the articles
concerning the legal status of foreigners. The author mentions the
jurisdiction of the consul, emphasizing that the Ottoman judiciary
had no right to interfere with the consular legal procedures, even if
foreign merchants invited them to. He acknowledges the fact that
some cases should be referred to the Sublime Porte, but he inter-
prets this as a safeguard for consular jurisdiction. Shalit thus con-
cludes that the Westerners had an extraterritorial position on the
ix+nortc+iox 9
15
Bruce Masters, The Sultans Entrepeneurs: The Avrupa Tccaris and the Hayriye
Tccaris in Syria, IJMES (1992), 579597, esp. 579.
16
Yoram Shalit, Nicht-Muslime und Fremde in Aleppo und Damaskus im 18. und in der
ersten Hlfte des 19. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1996). This aspect of the book is similar to
the central thesis of Karl Binswanger, whose work is neither referred to, nor is it
found in the bibliography, however. Binswangers views are discussed below, in
Chapter Three.
basis of their exemption from the Ottoman tax and legal systems.
17
The authors discussion of the privileges of foreigners is based on
the controversial rst French capitulations of 1536, the existence of
which has yet to be proved denitively.
18
Although several articles
of this text also appear in later capitulations in a slightly dierent
form, the text of 1536 does not accurately reect the legal privileges
of Westerners in the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth and nine-
teenth centuries. Moreover, Shalit did not consult any Ottoman
archival sources, relying exclusively on Arabic chronicles, and French
and English archives.
This isolationist view on the legal position of Westerners in the
Ottoman Empire seems to be based on a number of suppositions.
The rst is that the capitulations granted foreign subjects legal exemp-
tions to the extent that they practically enjoyed extraterritoriality.
19
Consequently, Islamic courts in the Ottoman Empire had no juris-
diction over foreign nationals. It is also widely believed that the pro-
cedures by which non-Muslim Ottoman subjects could obtain foreign
protection were beyond the controls of the Ottoman authorities. The
protection system was a scheme devised and implemented by for-
eign diplomats. The privileges extended in this way to non-Muslim
Ottoman subjects were the same as those enjoyed by foreigners, so
these protgs also had an extraterritorial status. According to this
view the Ottoman judiciary thus lost its jurisdiction over Ottoman
subjects who obtained foreign protection.
An important question of this study is whether Western commu-
nities in the Ottoman Empire were part of the Ottoman legal sys-
tem, or were separate from it somehow. This leads us back to the
capitulations, and raises a number of additional questions about their
practical limitations. Firstly, what were the practical boundaries of
consular jurisdiction? Within his community the consul may be
assumed to have had sucient authority to keep its members on the
10 ix+nortc+iox
17
Shalit, Nicht-Muslime und Fremde in Aleppo und Damaskus, 20.
18
Ibid., 1819. Shalit relied on J.C. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle
East. A Documentary Record. Volume 1: 15351914 (Princeton, 1975), 502. On the con-
troversy over this text, see J. Matuz, A propos de la validit des capitulations de
1536 entre lempire ottoman et la France, Turcica XXIV (1992), 183192.
19
Imtiyzt ii. The Ottoman Empire (H. (nalck), EI
2
, 11791189; Ibid., The
Status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch under the Ottomans, Essays in Ottoman
History, 195214, esp. 204 (reprinted from Turcica XXIXXIII (1991), 407436).
straight path as much as possible, but what if members of dierent
foreign communities came into conict with each other? How did
it work when a dispute involved a foreigner and a subject of the
sultan? Another important issue concerns the legal status of the
Ottoman protgs of Western embassies and consulates. Was it really
true that Ottoman subjectsindigenous Christians and Jews, but
Ottoman subjects neverthelesscould somehow obtain extraterrito-
riality through foreign embassies and consulates? If this was indeed
the case, how did it aect the consular legal system? And, nally,
how did foreign jurisdiction interact with the Ottoman judiciary in
cases involving both protected and ordinary Ottoman subjects?
Methodology
Before an attempt can be made to answer these questions issues of
methodology must be addressed. Both the Ottoman and Western
sources contain innumerable references to legal conicts. The Ottoman
Registers of Foreign Nations, for example, primarily consist of (sum-
maries of ) fermans issued in response to complaints and petitions from
foreigners throughout the Ottoman Empire. The Western diplomatic
records contain an equally large number of references to legal conicts
and dispute resolution. The degree of overlap is impossible to estab-
lish with certainty, but it is clear that not all complaints found in
the Western records were passed on to the Porte. Sometimes ambas-
sadors considered it unwise to le complaints at a particular time,
because larger issues were on the agenda, an unsympathetic ocer
was about to be replaced by someone who might be more positively
inclined, or too many petitions had already been led recently.
20
Moreover, only serious problems were recorded to begin with, which
means that the disputes on record probably represent only the tip
of the iceberg. The invisible part consists of instances in which foreign
merchants and consuls on the one hand, and qadis and other Ottoman
authorities, on the other, cooperated without any problem. Conicts
are thus over-represented in our sources, which do not necessarily
ix+nortc+iox 11
20
For an exceptionally informative letter about such considerations, see ENA,
SP 110/29: 16, 15 July 1749, [Ambassador James] Porter to Consul & Factory at
Aleppo.
oer a representative image of everyday contacts between foreigners
and Ottomans.
This study is based on both Ottoman, Dutch and English archival
sources consulted in Istanbul, The Hague and London, respectively.
In the latter two archives I have also found a great deal of relevant
Ottoman material. One of the principal dierences between Ottoman
and Western sources is their style. Ottoman fermans, for example,
tend to be formulaic summaries of the specic circumstances in
response to which they were issued. The documents commonly men-
tion who requested their issue and for what reason. An imperial
order in response to the situation then follows, along with an exhor-
tation to comply with the command. For example, a foreign mer-
chant somewhere in the Ottoman Empire might complain that a
local tax agent forced him to pay double taxes on his merchandize
imported from Europe, contrary to the capitulations, whereupon the
Porte issued a ferman forbidding this. Such fermans, which are an
important source for this study, thus represent the nal step in a
decision-making process, the earlier stages of which have often either
not been recorded, or have not survived. Sometimes the Porte issued
contradictory orders, making it dicult to determine its policies.
21
The Western sources, by contrast, usually lack the focus that char-
acterizes the Ottoman documents. Diplomatic letters to and from
the Levant tend to contain a multitude of references to a wide vari-
ety of on-going aairs. Long lines of communications often meant
that ambassadors and consuls had to fend for themselves and obtain
approval of their actions from their superiors later, which naturally
inuenced their reports. Moreover, policies are generally easy to iden-
tify, but they were often short-lived, and could change rapidly on
the basis of new information, rumours, or reconsideration. Contrary
to the Ottoman sources, personal accounts and interpretations abound
in the Western correspondence. Some ambassadors had close per-
sonal contacts with high Ottoman ocers, while others preferred to
fraternize only with fellow Westerners. Despite this great variety of
voices in these sources, they convey a remarkably constant and
consistent view on the capitulations in relation to the Ottoman legal
system.
12 ix+nortc+iox
21
Cf. Karen Barkey, Bandits and Bureaucrats. The Ottoman Route to State Centralization
(Ithaca, 1994).
The Ottoman and Western text corpuses thus have radically
dierent perspectives, something I have attempted to incorporate in
this study. The European and Ottoman views on the ahdnames are
therefore as much part of this study as the functioning of the capit-
ulatory system itself. This is particularly true for the rst three
chapters.
The rst chapter opens with a discussion of several aspects of the
ahdnames that received little attention from scholars in the past, but
are vital for our understanding of the capitulatory system. They
include the concept of Sacred Capitulations, the revocation of these
texts, and the role of other documents. I will subsequently focus on
the privileges the European communities in the Ottoman Empire
enjoyed, with an emphasis on the legal position of foreigners. At the
end of Chapter One I will discuss a theoretical framework within
which we can interpret the legal position of foreigners in relation to
the Ottoman legal system. The second chapter is devoted to the sta-
tus of Ottoman non-Muslim protgs. While dragomans were the
most important protgs, there were others who obtained foreign
protection, too. Their privileges will be examined, as well. Furthermore,
I will quantify the growth of the protection system in an attempt to
establish how many people fell under consular jurisdiction through-
out the eighteenth century. Finally, Chapter Two contains a discus-
sion of the European and Ottoman policies vis--vis the extension of
capitulatory privileges to Ottoman subjects. Chapter Three oers an
analysis of the phenomenon of avania, a key term in Western accounts
of the Ottoman justice systemespecially its perceived capricious-
ness. I will analyse several case studies of incidents from all over the
Ottoman Empire that were labelled avanias in Western sources within
the context of the Ottoman administrative and legal system.
The methodology of case studies is even more prominent in the
second part of this study. It consists of three detailed case studies of
legal disputes involving foreigners and non-Muslim protgs. The use
of case studies is normal for students of legal history, but it is not
a fashionable methodology among historians of the Ottoman Empire.
Edhem Eldem, for example, has argued that we should not devote
too much attention to individual cases, which may be colourful, but
are often not representative. It is on the structural problems and
developments that the historian should focus, according to Eldem.
22
ix+nortc+iox 13
22
Edhem Eldem, French Trade in Istanbul in the Eighteenth Century (Leiden, 1999),
229 n. 14.
For the determination of the practical boundaries of consular juris-
diction in the Ottoman context, however, case studies are indis-
pensable. These boundaries were dened and redened by individual
disputes that challenged (xed ideas about) them.
Our cases have several things in common. Firstly, their principal
location is Aleppo, although the Porte was important in the rst two
cases, and the cadi court in Basra had a major inuence on the
third. Because Aleppo is one of the most studied cities in the Ottoman
Empire, focusing on cases there enables us to identify local circum-
stances that inuenced the dynamics between the jurisdictions of con-
suls and qadis. All three cases date from the second half of the
eighteenth century, a period generally believed to have been char-
acterized by declining Ottoman control over the capitulatory system.
Their number is obviously too limited to justify rm conclusions, but
these cases will shed some light on the extent to which the practi-
cal implementation of the capitulations changed in this period. These
cases predominantly concern the Dutch and English consulates.
According to the capitulations all foreign communities had the same
legal status, so in theory an analysis of Dutch and English examples
are also relevant for the French, the Danes, and all other foreign-
ers with capitulatory privileges. It is possible, however, that the imple-
mentation of these privileges was somehow aected by the geopolitical
importance of these countries for the Ottomans. By the eighteenth
century the Dutch Republic had long lost its political and military
importance in the Eastern Mediterranean, while Great Britain would
become one of the most dominant powers in the region at the end
of this period. Our cases will therefore also indicate whether or not
this made any dierence in the practical implementation of their
legal privileges in the second half of the eighteenth century.
Finally, the selection of these cases requires an explanation. To a
large extent the material itself determined this choice. In both the
Ottoman and European sources one nds innumerable references to
legal disputes. Sometimes they are mentioned only in passing, remain-
ing outside of the scope of the sources, and hence beyond the grasp
of the historian. Other conicts of a legal nature are described some-
what more extensively, providing us clues about the substance of the
dispute, or the procedures followed. Sometimes only a complaint has
remained, sometimes just the verdict, or a description of an inter-
mediate phase. Taken together these snippets of informationmaybe
14 ix+nortc+iox
comparable with the pottery shards found by archaeologists
23
pro-
vide an image of the legal status of foreigners and their protgs in
the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth century, and I have included
several as context for my case studies. It is, however, the cases I
found more or less complete and intact that I put on display. My
aim to present three thematically dierent cases further narrowed
down the available corpus.
Published Texts
During the nineteenth century a number of compendia of texts were
published that remain valuable instruments for comparative research
on the capitulatory system. The rst is E. Charrires monumental
collection of French treaties and capitulations, whose text of the con-
troversial French capitulations of 1536 I have relied on.
24
The col-
lection of relevant documents by Ignace Baron de Testa is useful,
but this compendium, too, exclusively concerns French-Ottoman rela-
tions. The same is true for the contemporary, more concise com-
pendium by F.A. Belin.
25
For this study I have primarily used Gabriel
Efendi Noradounghians work, which, by contrast, contains the most
important treaties and capitulations concerning a large number of
Western European powers. Most of the texts are French translations
of the original Ottoman, but some occur in Italian. A collection of
texts gathered by a former Ottoman ambassador to London, Musurus
Pa{a, formed the basis of the work by Noradounghian, who has also
done extensive research in the archives of the Ottoman state and
several European states, using published texts, chronicles and the
works of Hammer, dOhsson and other prominent authors, too.
26
Useful as these collections are for comparative purposes, they do
ix+nortc+iox 15
23
The comparison between archival research and archaeology has been used
before, for example by Dick Douwes, Justice and Oppression: Ottoman Rule in the Province
of Damascus and the District of Hama, 17851841 (PhD Dissertation: Nijmegen, 1993).
A reworked version, called Ottomans in Syria. A History of Justice and Oppression was
published by I.B. Tauris in 2000.
24
E. Charrire (ed.), Ngociations de la France dans le Levant I (Paris, 1848).
25
Ignace baron de Testa, Recueil des traits de la Porte Ottomane avec les Puissances
trangers depuis le premier trait conclu en 1536 . . . (Paris, 18641898); F.A. Belin, Des
capitulations et des traits de la France en Orient (Paris, 1870).
26
Gabriel Eendi Noradounghian, Recueil dactes internationaux de lempire ottoman I:
13001789 (Paris, 1897).
not oer the Ottoman texts of the relevant documents, which are
indispensable for the present study, because, as Noradounghian
explains, lorsque les parties contractantes ont invoquer ces Traits,
elles ont recours au texte turc, les traductions, mme ocielles, ntant
pas reconnues comme faisant loi.
27
Modern editions of some texts
are available. For example, Dariusz Koodziejczyk has recently pub-
lished an impressive edition of Ottoman-Polish ahdnames, oering
transliterations of the Ottoman texts with English translations and
facsimiles of a considerable number of texts. Hans Theunissen has
produced a similarly learned edition of Ottoman-Venetian capitula-
tions from their initiation to 1640, which can be consulted online.
28
An Ottoman publication that contains various texts of capitula-
tions is Feridun Begs Mn{eat-i Selatin, which was continued by oth-
ers after the authors death in 1583. This work should be treated
with some caution, however, because some of the texts included were
ctitious. At the end of the nineteenth century a large number of
relevant texts was printed in the Muahedat Mecmuas. Despite the fact
that it is often unclear on the basis of which sources these texts were
published, and that not all texts were printed in full, this is an impor-
tant publication for comparative research.
29
Alexander de Groot has published a critical edition of the Dutch
capitulation of 1612, along with an analytical description of the mis-
sion of the rst Dutch ambassador to the sultans court. This text
was renewed only once, in 1680, and this text remained valid until
the capitulations were abolished. A comparison of the two texts shows
that the latter is more accurately described as a conrmation of exist-
ing privileges, the contents being identical to the text of 1612.
30
The
16 ix+nortc+iox
27
Ibid., Prface.
28
Dariusz Koodziejczyk, Ottoman-Polish Diplomatic Relations (15th18th Century). An
Annotated Edition of 'Ahdnames and Other Documents (Leiden, 2000); Theunissen, Ottoman-
Venetian Diplomatics: The 'Ahd-Names. The Historical Background and the Development of a
Category of Political-Commercial Instruments together with an Annotated Edition of a Corpus of
Relevant Documents has been published on the Internet. See the Electronic Journal of
Oriental Studies of Utrecht University, the Netherlands, at www.let.uu.nl/oost-
ers/EJOS/EJOS-1.2.html. See the bibliography there for earlier editions of these
texts. Also see Gkbilgin, M. Tayyib, Venedik devlet ar{ivindeki Trke belgeler
koleksiyonu ve bizimle ilgile di<er belgeler, Belgeler VVIII (19681971) 912, 1152.
29
Feridun Beg, Mn{eat-i Selatin (Istanbul, 1741275/1858); Muahedat Mecmuas
(1294/1877); About reliability of the former work see Feridun Beg ( J.H.
Mordtmann[V.L. Mnage]), EI
2
, 881882.
30
A.H. de Groot, The Ottoman Empire and the Dutch Republic. A History of the Earliest
rst ahdname granted to England in 1580 has been edited by Susan
Skilliter, who published other relevant documents from the earliest
period of Anglo-Ottoman relations at the same time. Necmi lker
has published transliterated texts of the capitulations granted to
England in 1580, 1601 and 1675, without the Ottoman originals.
31
An excellent German edition of the rst Prussian ahdname of 1761
exists, consisting of a translation with a facsimile.
32
Finally, an arti-
cle by Viorel Panaite, whose work in general oers valuable com-
parative material for the present study, contains transliterations of
articles about the legal status of merchants from the Ottoman-Polish
ahdnames in the seventeenth century.
33
No critical edition seems to exist of arguably most important text,
i.e. the French capitulation of 1740. Apart from the Muahedat Mecmuas,
I have therefore relied on the French Ecnebi Defteri 29/4 in the
Ba{bakanlk Osmanl Ar{ivi in Istanbul. Another Ottoman copy of
this text, in MS 780 of the Eggerton collection in the British Library,
also contains a contemporary French translation, which I have used.
It is on these Ottoman primary texts that we must base our assess-
ment of the privileges awarded by the sultans to foreigners and their
protgs.
ix+nortc+iox 17
Diplomatic Relations 16101630 (Leiden/Istanbul, 1978). For a French translation of
the text of 1680, see Noradounghian, Recueil I, 169181.
31
S.A. Skilliter, William Harborne and the Trade with Turkey 15781582. A Documentary
Study of the First Anglo-Ottoman Relations (Oxford, 1977); Necmi lker, XVII. Yzyln
ikinci yarsnda (zmirdeki (ngiliz tccarna dair ticar problemlerle ilgili belgeler,
Belgeler XIV (19891992), 306308 [1580], 309311 [1601], 312314 [1675]. lker
republished the same texts, again without facsimiles, in his XVII. ve XVIII. yzyllarda
(zmir {ehri tarihi I. Ticaret tarihi ara{trmalar (Izmir, 1994), 126 .
32
Helmuth Scheel, Die Schreiben der trkischen Sultane an die preuischen
Knige in der Zeit von 1721 bis 1774 und die ersten preuischen Kapitulationen
vom Jahre 1761, Mitteilungen des Seminars fr Orientalische Sprachen zu Berlin. Zweite
Abteilung, Westasiatische Studien XXXIII (1930), 182.
33
Viorel Panaite, The Ottoman Law of War and Peace. The Ottoman Empire and Tribute
Payers (Boulder, 2000); Ibid., Islamic Tradition and Ottoman Law of Nations,
Archus IV/4 (2000), 123140; Ibid., The Status of Trade and Merchants in the
Ottoman-Polish 'Ahdnmes (16071699), Archv orientln. Supplementa VIII (1998),
275298; I am grateful to Dariusz Koodziejczyk for bringing Panaites work to my
attention and to Colin Heywood for giving me some of this authors articles.
CHAPTER ONE
THE SULTANS PROMISE
The privileges the European mercantile communities in the Levant
enjoyed were based on two promises, one from the sultan, the other
from the sovereign to whom the ahdname in question was granted.
The beneciaries vowed that they would maintain peaceful relations
with the Sublime Porte and its subjects in general, and not capture
and enslave Ottoman mariners and merchants in particular. On the
condition that they kept their word, the sultan in his turn guaran-
teed the implementation of the privileges codied in his letter of
promise.
1
This chapter focuses on several aspects of the contents of
the capitulations that have not been suciently examined before.
For this study the question of which jurisdictions the ahdnames rec-
ognized is particularly important, forming the subject of the second
part of this chapter. The rst part deals with ve other relevant
aspects of the capitulatory system: berats and fermans as additional
documentary evidence; the revocation of privileges; the denition of
foreign communities; and the tax exemptions granted by the sultan.
First the dynamics of the system need to be examined, starting with
the notion of sacred capitulations.
Sacred Capitulations
In his study on Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania under Ottoman
rule, Panaite has extensively discussed the Islamic legal prescripts
concerning the honouring of pacts, a principle called pacta sunt ser-
vanda in the West. Referring to the Koran and other sources of
Islamic law, the author argues that in principle pacts must be hon-
oured according to {eriat. The jurists specify various reasons for which
the Islamic ruler may legitimately break pacts, but Panaite empha-
1
The Arabic 'ahd, promise, with the Persian nme, letter. On the various terms
used for these texts, see Koodziejczyk, Ottoman-Polish Diplomatic Relations, 3234.
sizes that the Ottomans always felt the need to justify their actions
on the basis of {eriat when they broke treaties.
2
This section focuses
on Western ideas about the sanctity of pacts concluded by the
Ottomans, which is epitomized by the recurrence of the phrase
sacred capitulations in Western diplomatic correspondence.
3
These words also occur in contemporary translations of Ottoman
texts, which might suggest that it was used by the Ottoman chancery,
too. Speaking about the late seventeenth century Panaite argues that
in this period of military decline took place the transition from the
holy war to holy peace, due to the fact that in the Ottoman chancery
the attribute sacred (mbarek) was regularly joined to the term peace
[sulh].
4
The word mbarek was undoubtedly used in this context to
emphasize that the peace was in conformity with Islamic law. It
would seem possible, therefore, that a similar term was used to legit-
imise the grant of ahdnames. A comparison of contemporary transla-
tions with the original Ottoman texts suggests that this is not the
case however. A letter by the }eyhlislm in Istanbul to the qadi of
Aleppo of 1731 is a case in point. The Italian translation of the doc-
ument suggest that even the highest religious ocer in the Ottoman
empire attributed divine sanction to the ahdnames, the implementa-
tion of which he recommended to the provincial Islamic judge.
However, a comparison with the Ottoman text reveals that sacre
capitulationi is a translation of ahdname-i hmayun, which means noth-
ing more than imperial capitulations.
5
The same procedure is found
in documents translated from Western languages into Ottoman. Some
petitions to the Porte occasionally speak of sacred capitulations in
the originals, but in the Ottoman translations this phrase is rendered
as ahdname-i hmayun.
6
20 cn.r+rn oxr
2
Panaite, The Ottoman Law of War and Peace, 284291.
3
Vera Constantini, Il commercio veneziano ad Aleppo nel settocento, Studi
Veneziani XLII (2001), 143211, esp. 154: Nei documenti veneziani del Settecento,
le Capitulazioni vengono raremente nominate senza laccompagna-mento dellaggettivo
sacre.
4
Panaite, The Ottoman Law of War and Peace, 79.
5
DNA, LAT 1095, 78: Letter of recommendation by the }eyhlislm, Drri
Mehmed Efendi, in Istanbul to the qadi of Aleppo [1731], Ottoman with Italian
translation. The same translation of ahdname-i hmayun as Sacre Capitulazioni is
found in NA, LAT 1118: Ilm [1760s], Ottoman with Italian translation. On this
}eyhlislm see Drrzade ( J.R. Walsh), EI
2
, 629630.
6
DNA, LAT 1095, 5253: Italian translation of a letter by the Dutch ambas-
sador, Cornelis Calkoen, to the msellim of Aleppo, 18 November [1731].
The phrase sacred capitulations is a meaningful metaphor. In
the minds of the Europeans, their privileges in the Ottoman Empire
were practically written in stone. They were denitive and immutable
and any violation of these sacred texts carried the connotation of
sin. The capitulatory corpus formed the sole legal basis for the sta-
tus of foreigners in the Ottoman Empire, most Europeans believed,
and few ever expressed any doubt that the interpretation of the ahd-
names that was the most favourable to the foreigners was the only
legitimate way of reading them.
In the eyes of the Westerners the ahdnames were superior to any
other law of the land. Support for this view could be found in
the capitulations, which generally stated that commands of prior or
ulterior date should not be listened to if they were contrary to the
capitulations.
7
Despite the fact that this order was undoubtedly meant
to reinforce particular privileges, taken out of context it appeared to
conrm the Europeans ideas about the primacy of the capitulations.
At the same time the foreigners frequently solicited the issue of
Ottoman decrees that amended and extended their privileges.
Conrmations of existing privileges were also important, because
their implementation by provincial and local authorities often depended
on them. The ahdnames thus were nor immutable, and amendments,
clarications, and, sometimes, revisions were part of the on-going
process of keeping the texts in tune with reality.
The fact that the ahdnames allowed various interpretations was an
uncomfortable reality for the Europeans to face. If an interpretation
of the capitulations that was unfavourable to the Europeans could
be argued on the basis of the text just as easily as a favourable inter-
pretation, they might lose the argument. This could create a prece-
dent on the basis of which other unfavourable decisions might follow,
which might lead to a gradual erosion of the privileges codied in
the capitulations. This was to be avoided at all cost, the European
diplomats thought. However, even the ambassadors occasionally had
to admit that unfavourable interpretations were not necessarily unrea-
sonable, or unjust. Paradoxically the solution to this problem was to
avoid too specic references to the capitulations in communications
with the Ottoman authorities altogether. The English ambassador,
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 21
7
See, for example, article 25 in the French capitulation of 1604, quoted below
on page 21.
Sir James Porter, conrms this explicitly in a letter to the English
consul and factory in Aleppo. The community in Aleppo had com-
plained to Porter about the unwarranted demands of the Ottoman
collector of customs duties (emin-i gmrk), who wanted the English
to pay the duties on silk in Dollars. Instead of 10 ake he demanded
three thirds of a Dollar per bale. Article 64 of the renewed English
capitulations of 1675 stated specically that the duty on silk was 10
ake per bale.
8
At the time the exchange rate was 14 ake to the
Dollar, more or less the sum demanded by the emin-i gmrk, but in
the meantime the exchange rate had changed. By 1747 it was 120
ake to the Dollar, making the duty of 10 ake not three thirds, but
one twelfth of a Dollar. The devaluation of the kuru{ (which con-
sisted of 40 ake) had been to the advantage of the English, but it
decreased the revenues of the tax collector. The English community
thought that an imperial decree ( ferman) on the basis of the capitu-
lations reiterating their privileges in detail would prevent the cus-
tomer pursuing the matter further, so they asked the ambassador
to obtain the decree. Porter agreed that this development had to be
stopped, but he did not consider it wise to point to specic articles
of the capitulations. He explained this as follows:
The capitulations were renewd by J[oh]n Finch in the year 1675 and
several parts of them were amended & explaind, this was the end of
that renewal. In a translation I have [had] made here, as well as in
an English one branchd out into articles, the rst branch or article
is a pure recital of the dutys goods should pay as agreed upon in
1653. It is there said specically that silk shall pay 10 Osmanys per bale &c.
9
In the second branch or article which seems to relate merely to
1675 one would conclude that it annuls the former, and substitutes 3
per cent for all goods exported and imported, as if that duty implied the
whole, for if that second branch is only a continuation of the recital
made in the rst, what doth it mean? Something or nothing, if the
former it is an addition to the 10 Osmanys which were also exacted,
if the latter it is absurd.
This I say I suspected a delicate diculty, for with the Reis Efendi
10
22 cn.r+rn oxr
8
. . . ve haririn her dengine onar Osman . . . alnup. lker, XVII. Yzyln . . . bel-
geler, 261320, esp. 312.
9
Original underscoring. In the same letter Porter writes: . . . call it Aspers [ake]
or Osmanys, it is the same thing.
10
The reislkttab, the Ottoman chancellor who acted as a kind of Foreign
Secretary. For an overview of the development of the Ottoman chancery from c.
1700 in general, and this oce in particular, see Virginia Aksan, An Ottoman Statesman
in War and Peace. Ahmed Resmi Efendi 1701783 (Leiden, 1995), 123.
full of metaphysical criticism, he is the rst man in this country to lay
his nger on such a dilemma, the consequence of which must have
been the subjecting the whole Trade of the Levant to a duty of 3 per
cent and even on that valuable branch you mention.
Porter admitted that the English had been fortunate. If the exchange
rate had changed to their disadvantage, they would also have had
to pay the exact sum mentioned in the capitulations. Nevertheless,
the ambassador did not want to risk alerting the Porte to the ambigu-
ous meaning of the subsequent capitulatory article for fear of neg-
ative consequences for the English Levant trade. Porter thus reported
that these considerations made me think it best to limit the complaint
to general grievances, and to have the ancient custom & capitulations
ascertained without entering into the consideration of the value of
money, which would have led us into a long discussion and in the
meantime have been a vast expense by the detention of the ships.
11
Ambassador Porters ideas were strongly supported by the Levant
Company. So much so that the company even complained to the
ambassador when he obtained from the Porte an authentic copy of
the Ottoman text of the English capitulations for the consul in Izmir,
Samuel Crawley. In a letter to Porter the Levant Company remarked
that
if those he [Crawley] had were legible, we could have wished that he
had been contented with them, for We think that the less Use there
is made of them, they have perhaps the more Force, as it is often a
happy circumstance when a Turkish Governor does not exactly know
the utmost extent of his Power, least he should be inclinable to go as
far as ever he can.
12
On the one hand the capitulations thus were sacred to most
Europeans in the Ottoman Empire, and ambassadors, consuls and
merchants did their utmost to uphold the privileges they thought
they were entitled to. On the other hand, when they beneted from
ambiguities in the texts, the same foreigners were often reluctant to
base their arguments on their charters of privileges, lest the Ottoman
authorities discover loopholes. This approach to the capitulations is
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 23
11
BNA, SP 110/74 (IV): Porter to the Consul and Factory of Aleppo, 18 April
1747.
12
BNA, SP 105/119, 1: The Levant Company, London, to James Porter, 28 July
1758.
characteristic of Europeans in the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth
century. They clung to the notion that the ahdnames were immutable,
while incessantly seeking to extend their privileges at the same time.
In practice most ambassadors and consuls took more pragmatic posi-
tions, but these are seldom reected in the ocial correspondence.
Only if we dig deeper, do traces appear of the ways in which the
apparent gap between the Europeans expectations and the Ottoman
perception of their privileges was bridged. Before we turn to the
practical aspects of the capitulations, however, I want to make two
important points about the capitulatory system. Firstly, it was not
based exclusively on the ahdnames, but on several other kinds of impe-
rial orders as well. Secondly, the Porte retained the right to revoke
all these documents at any time. These points will be discussed fur-
ther in the following paragraphs.
Fermans and Berats
In the Introduction I have argued that the ahdnames formed a net-
work of interconnected charters of privileges. The capitulations codied
basic arrangements that enabled foreign merchants to reside in the
Ottoman Empire indenitely without becoming subjects of the sul-
tan. Merchants of nations without capitulations of their own either
had to obtain them, or operate under the ag of a nation that did
have formal relations with the Porte. In that sense the ahdnames were
a sine qua non for international trade.
Capitulations could also be renewd, amended & explaind, as
Porter phrased it. Upon the accession of a new sultan, he usually
conrmed the orders issued by his predecessor as part of the cere-
monies. This conrmation included the capitulations, which remained
valid and unchanged under the new ruler. When a European power
wanted to change, or, more commonly, extend its privileges, a renewal
was necessary. In contrast to a conrmation, a renewal entailed pro-
longed discussions with the highest Ottoman ocials and a consid-
erable investment in the form of fees and gifts. When in 1680 the
rst Dutch capitulations of 1612 had to be renegotiated, the costs
were so high and the result so disappointing, that the Dutch ambas-
sador considered the whole procedure a form of extortion (avania).
13
24 cn.r+rn oxr
13
DNA, SG 12578.55: True account or report . . . in the form of a diary writ-
In the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth century only the
French and the English obtained several renewals with numerous
additional privileges. On the basis of the most-favoured-nation prin-
ciple these privileges also applied to all other foreigners, but this was
not automatically the case. Whenever a new privilege was codied
in a renewed ahdname, the ambassadors of other nations had to apply
to the Porte for fermans conrming that the privilege also applied to
their merchants. The other nations thus eventually proted from the
numerous French renewals and extensions of privileges, but the advan-
tage for the French was that for a short period they alone enjoyed
them. The fact that it was important to have copies of the ahdnames
of other nations is illustrated by the chancery archive of the Dutch
embassy in Istanbul, which included translations of the capitulations
of England (1675), Sicily (1740), and Denmark (1746).
14
The period between the acquisition of a nations capitulations and
their renewal is also important. The Europeans applied for fermans
constantly, and the Ottoman registers are thus lled with summaries
of them. In many cases these orders merely conrmed a capitula-
tory privilege, explicitly naming one or more foreigners as beneciaries.
Other imperial decrees explained ambiguous articles, or applied exist-
ing stipulations to new situations. Many concerned trade. Whenever
a new tax was introduced, the Europeans had to obtain new fermans
exempting them. Both the Ottoman and the ambassadorial chanceries
charged fees, which were paid by the individual merchants if only
they proted from the ferman. When the orders served the interests
of the entire community, the expenses were charged to the com-
munal treasury. Recurrent problems for which new fermans had to
be obtained repeatedly were thus expensive for the European com-
munities. The accumulation of such problems could be a reason for
a foreign community to invest in a renewal of the capitulations, with
additional articles addressing these issues.
Two forms of berats, Ottoman deeds of appointment, were also
part of the capitulatory system. The European consuls and vice-con-
suls were appointed by their home authorities, but without an Ottoman
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 25
ten about everything that happened after 14 August 1680, in relation to the ava-
nia that befell the whole Dutch nation in the Levant. The result was disappoint-
ing because the text of 1680 was virtually identical to that of 1612 and did not
contain any new articles.
14
DNA, LAT 1042.
deed of appointment they could not function. The same is true of
the berats issued to the dragomans in actual service and the hon-
orary dragomans, or protgs. Generally recruited from the non-
Muslim subjects of the sultan, they received extensive privileges. Every
consul, dragoman and protg needed an individual deed of appoint-
ment conrming his privileged status. They usually applied for a
conrmatory ferman, too.
15
As an incident described in the next chap-
ter will show, consuls who attempted to assume their oce without
having their berat, could well get in trouble with the Ottoman author-
ities. These consular and dragomans berats contained articles that
were not in the capitulations, eectively elaborating on them. For
example, the early consular berats emphasized that the foreign mer-
chants should accept the authority and jurisdiction of their own con-
suls, without being obstinate and opposing (inad- mhalifet etmeyeler).
16
By the eighteenth century consular authority was rmly established,
and this article no longer occurred in consular berats. Other clauses
reecting currant issues at the time then appear, like the prohibi-
tion to purchase or own real estate or land in the Ottoman Empire.
This rule was only introduced in consular berats at the end of the
eighteenth century.
17
Any examination of the capitulatory system
therefore has to take these documents into account as well.
Revocation
The right and the capacity of the Sublime Porte to revoke the priv-
ileges of foreigners and their protgs are seldom acknowledged in
the relevant literature. The ahdnames were part of the Ottoman admin-
istrative and legal system. All ocial documents were issued by the
26 cn.r+rn oxr
15
See, for example, BOA, A.DVN.DVE 81/70, end Cemaziylevvel 1183/22
September1 October 1769; BOA, A.DVN.DVE 99/2, end Zilhicce 1195/816
December 1781 and DNA, LAT 1090, docs 4, 1216, 1820, 26, 33, 37, 47.
16
UBL Cod. Or. 1228, f. 169; Quoted from the berat of Cornelis Witsen, appointed
Dutch consul in Aleppo mid Safer 1039/29 September-8 October 1629. On ques-
tions of (the lack of ) consular authority, see the articles by Rhoads Murphy and
Merlijn Olnon in Alastair Hamilton, Alexander H. de Groot and Maurits H. van
den Boogert (eds), Friends and Rivals in the East. Studies in Anglo-Dutch Relations in the
Levant from the Seventeenth to the Early Nineteenth Century (Leiden, 2000).
17
DNA, Collection De Hochepied, 16111956, no. 86: [Contemporary] traduc-
tion du Brat du Consul de Smyrne et ses dpendances pour le Citoyen Lanmond,
Consul de la Rpublique Franaise, 25 Rebilevvel 1210/8 November 1795.
Imperial Chancery, and without the Imperial cypher (tu<ra) and other
Ottoman marks of authenticity, these texts had no authority. It was
also in the Portes power to revoke these documents, collectively or
individually. Even individual privileges could be revoked.
18
The capitulations were granted on the condition that the beneciaries
honoured their promise to maintain peaceful relations with the
Ottoman Empire. The most serious violations of this pledge of peace
generally occurred at the hands of privateers, who commonly had
little regard for the laws and international agreements within which
they were supposed to operate. Both the Porte and the European
authorities explicitly considered acts of piracy a threat to the stabil-
ity of political and commercial relations.
19
However, piracy seldom
led to a breakdown of diplomatic relations, something that only hap-
pened when war broke out.
Napoleons invasion of Egypt in 1798 shows which measures the
Ottomans took against the enemy in their midst in times of war.
Throughout the empire French nationals were arrested and put in
prison, where many of them remained until France agreed to with-
draw its troops from Egypt in 1802. The ambassador and consuls
shared their fate. These developments also aected the Ottoman pro-
tgs of the French embassy and consulates, for their berats were
revoked collectively. The Ottoman administration of French aairs
was suspended altogether between 1798 and 1802.
20
The Dutch also suered from the war between France and the
Ottoman Empire. Meanwhile the Dutch Republic had been invaded
by the French armies, and had been turned into the Batavian Republic,
a satellite state of France. The Batavian Republic had its own ambas-
sador at the Porte, but his countrys ties with France dragged it into
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 27
18
The Dutch were confronted with this as late as the beginning of the nine-
teenth century. See Gaspard Testa [in Istanbul] to Goldberg, 15 January 1816:
[Your Excellency] ne doit pas ignorer, que daprs nos capitulations avec la Porte
existant depuis lan 1612 ce privilge est accord notre pavillon sur le pied des
autres nations commerantes, mais par le laps du temps, qui stait coul sans que
nos navires en protassent, cette concession tait regarde comme nulle . . ., Bronnen
IV/ii, 882.
19
Maurits H. van den Boogert, Redress for Ottoman Victims of European
Privateering. A Case against the Dutch in the Divan-i Hmayun (17081715), Turcica
33 (2001), 91118.
20
BOA, CH 1309, 15 }aban 1213/22 January 1799. The four-year gap can
clearly be seen in BOA, ED 27/2.
the conict with the sultan. The ambassador was allowed to with-
draw to Belgrade to await further developments, but the situation
aected Dutch communities throughout the Ottoman Empire.
Consulates were closed, and consular personnel lost their privileges
and risked imprisonment. These measures were not taken sponta-
neously by provincial authorities, but were ordered from Istanbul.
The Porte sent orders to numerous Ottoman centres of trade to
report about the presence of any French or Dutch subjects.
21
The
central authorities also announced that the berats of all protgs of
these nations were revoked, a measure that is traceable in the Ottoman
Foreigners Registers, where entries for consular and dragomans
berats were crossed out. Contrary to their French colleagues, the
Dutch/Batavian consuls were not imprisoned in retaliation for the
French invasion of Egypt, and some were able to maintain their
positions to some extent.
22
More limited measures could aect groups of protgs. At the end
of 1764 the Porte wanted to curb the European practice of employ-
ing non-Muslim Ottoman subjects as vice-consuls. By this time the
Ottoman authorities had xed maximum numbers of dragomans for
every capitulatory nation, but no limit was imposed on the number
of vice-consulates. In the Ionian Islands, in particular, this had lead
to an increasing number of indigenous merchants acquiring the sta-
tus of foreign vice-consul. This development should not be overesti-
mated, as they probably numbered only several dozen individuals
per foreign power, but the Ottoman authorities objected, neverthe-
less. In order to end this practice the Porte literally struck their con-
sular berats from the records in 1764, but due to a lack of enforcement
in subsequent years, the ranks of the vice-consuls in European ser-
vice swelled again later.
23
28 cn.r+rn oxr
21
See for the Ottoman documents about this procedure BOA, CH 264, begin-
ning Ramazan 1213/615 February 1799; Ibid., 1140, 19 Muharrem 1214/23 June
1799; Ibid., 1246, 18 Ramazan 1213/23 February 1799; Ibid., 1309, 15 }evval
1213/22 March 1799; Ibid., 1666, 21 Ramazan 1213/26 February 1799; Ibid.,
1807, 9 }evval 1213/16 March 1799. I am grateful to my friend and colleague
(smail Hakk Kad for providing me with these documents.
22
Jan van Maseijk, the Batavian consul in Aleppo, for example, adopted Prussian
protection and actively interceded with the authorities in Aleppo on behalf of the
French prisoners. DNA, LAT 167, letters by Van Maseijk to (probably) ambassador
Van Dedem van de Gelder dated 18 July 1799 and 11 April 1800 (in French).
23
BOA, ED 22/1, 350/1518, 26 Zilkade 1171/1 August 1758, marginal note
The individual revocation of capitulatory privileges was also pos-
sible. In Chapter Two the example of Jirjis Aida, a dragoman of
the English consulate in Aleppo, will show that corruption charges
could be a reason for the withdrawal of a dragomans berat. Such
incidents were rare, however. Until the early nineteenth century most
dragomans held their appointments until they were dismissed, gave
them up voluntarily, or died.
In 1806 numerous dragomans lost their berats due to an Ottoman
policy change. A sultanic writ ordered all protgs of France, Great
Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia who did not reside in the same
place as the consulates with which they were formally connected to
return to their stations. Disobedience would lead to the revocation
of their berats. Despite protests from the ambassadors of these nations,
the Porte acted on its threat, and withdrew several dozen berats when
their holders did not comply with its wishes.
24
The Europeans hold on their privileges was rm, but external
developments could weaken, or even break it. The Sublime Porte
was able to suspend the capitulatory system unilaterally, if circum-
stances called for such drastic steps. It could revoke the privileges of
communities as a whole, but the same was true for individual berats,
too. The Porte did not take these measures lightly, but the fact that
it could and did take them during the second half of the eighteenth
century indicates that the capitulatory system was still controlled by
the Ottomans in this period. The military balance of power had cer-
tainly shifted in the Europeans favour by this time, but the day-to-
day relations between Westerners and their Ottoman environment
were still ruled by the Portes orders in the form of capitulations,
berats and fermans. It is time now to turn our attention to these texts
to delineate the boundaries of the capitulatory system.
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 29
dated beginning Cemaziyelevvel 1178/27 October5 November 1764 (Dutch vice-
consul in Athens); Ibid., 381/1649, 12 Cemaziyelevvel 1176/29 November 1762,
marginal note of the same date (Dutch vice-consul in Negropont); ED 35/1, 86/224,
14 Cemaziyelahir 1153/7 August 1740, marginal note of the same date (English
vice-consul in Chios).
24
BOA, ED 27/2, 169/806, beginning }evval 1221/1221 December 1806
(Salonica); 169/807, 3 Cemaziyelevvel 1221/19 July 1806 (Yanina and Narda);
169/809, end Cemaziyelevvel 1221/615 August 1806 (Izmir). Eleven more entries
were crossed out on these pages of the register. The Ottoman measures are also
mentioned in the records of the Capuchin missionaries. Archivum Generale Cappucini,
Rome, A.D. 106 I (16261834), 208.
Mstemins
What it was exactly that the sultans promised befriended foreigners
must be determined on the basis of the ahdnames, supplementary fer-
mans and the consular and dragomans berats. Together they form
the documentary basis of the capitulatory system. They cover a wide
range of issues over an extended period of time. Since the focus of
this study is the Europeans interaction with the Ottoman legal sys-
tem in the eighteenth century, I will focus on the legal aspects. Other
aspects will be discussed in more general terms.
The privileges the Ottoman authorities granted communities of
foreign merchants can be divided into three categories. The rst is
a group of arrangements concerning the basic conditions of foreign
life in the Levant, while the second concerns trade related privileges.
The third category is that of the articles regarding the position of
Westerners and their protgs vis--vis the Ottoman legal system.
The capitulations applied to a group of merchants, the members
of which were not individually named in the text, and remained
valid as long as the foreigners maintained friendship and peace with
the Ottoman state. This meant that, in theory, individual merchants
arriving in the Ottoman Empire from countries with which the Porte
maintained diplomatic relations did not have to apply for an indi-
vidual safe-conduct (aman) anymore. Their sojourn was also not lim-
ited to a prescribed period. The controversial French capitulations
of 1536 contains an article (no. 14) that limits the French merchants
stay to a period of ten consecutive years, but it appears in none of
the later capitulations, French or otherwise.
25
This was a departure
from the prescripts of Islamic law, which limit the validity of aman
to one lunar year. The beneciary of aman, mstemin, who stayed
longer in the lands under Islamic rule, automatically became a zimmi,
a protected non-Muslim subject of the sultan. Although this limita-
tion does not occur in any of the capitulations granted after 1536,
it remained a sensitive issue at least until the beginning of the nine-
teenth century. In the fetva collection of Mehmed el-Kadusi, which
was written in 1808 and appeared in print in 1822, several opin-
ions are found concerning foreigners buying land subject to the land-
30 cn.r+rn oxr
25
Noradounghian, Recueil, I, 87; Cf. Charrire, Ngociations, 283294.
tax. If they stayed long enough to cultivate the land and harvest the
crop, in theory they became subjects of the sultan. In practice this
rule does not seem to have been enforced, but people apparently
continued to seek the advice of jurisconsults over the legal status of
foreigners at least until the nineteenth century.
26
The capitulations were probably not a continuation of the classi-
cal practice of aman,
27
but the fact that the Ottomans adopted the
terminology of aman indicates their desire religiously to legitimise con-
troversial practices. Judging from the diplomatic correspondence this
doctrinal weakness does not seem to have provoked many Ottoman
qadis or muftis to reject the capitulations.
28
Although research on
fetva collections of Ottoman }eyhlislms from the seventeenth to the
nineteenth century has not yielded any rulings on the validity of the
ahdnames, there is evidence that }eyhlislms not only condoned them,
on occasion they actively assisted the Europeans.
29
A letter by }eyhlis-
lm Drri-zade Mehmed Efendi in 1731 in which he explicitly rec-
ommended the qadi in Aleppo to respect the imperial capitulations
has already been mentioned above, but other examples are also
known. In the early seventeenth century, for example, the }eyhlis-
lm, Yahya Efendi (d. 1053/1644), wrote a letter to the Dutch States
General conrming the appointment of the rst Dutch ambassador
to the Porte. At the end of the eighteenth century Drrizade Mehmed
Arif Efendi, }eyhlislm from 1792 to 1798, wrote a letter to an
Ottoman ocer in Ankara in support of French traders there.
30
Theoretical limitations of the concept of aman generally seem to have
been irrelevant in practice.
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 31
26
M. Bianchi, Recueil de Fetvas, crit en turk et en arabe, par Haz Mohammed
ben Ahmed ben Elcheikh Moustafa Elkedousy, imprime Constantinople en 1822,
Journal Asiatique IV (1824), 171184.
27
'Amn" ( J. Schacht), EI
2
, 429430. Also see below, p. 56.
28
For a rare example of a qadi who did challenge the Islamic theoretical basis
of the capitulations in Izmir in 1686, see Merlijn Olnon, Towards Classifying
Avanias: A Study of Two Cases involving the English and Dutch Nations in
Seventeenth-Century Izmir, in Hamilton et al. (eds), Friends and Rivals in the East,
169, 170, 172.
29
Hilmar Krger, Fetwa und Siyar. Zur internationalrechtlichen Gutachtenspraxis der osman-
ischen Seyh l-Islm vom 17. bis 19. Jahrhundert undert besonderer Bercksichtigung des Behcet
l-Fetv" (Wiesbaden, 1978).
30
UB Leiden, Cod. Or. 1090, f. 48b, (Yahya Efendis letter, undated); ibid., Cod.
Or. 1354, f. 3a [late December 1797, or early 1798] (Mehmed Arif Drrizades
letter).
The capitulations also guaranteed foreigners safety of person and
property. Protected foreigners were allowed to travel freely by land
and by sea. They were not to be taken captive and sold as slaves,
if they travelled on ships of hostile powers that were seized by
Ottoman corsairs. If they were shipwrecked, their possessions were
to be returned to them. If they wished to return to their home coun-
try, no one should prevent them from leaving, provided they had
paid their debts, or made arrangements for their payment. Other
articles enabled foreign merchants and diplomats to a large extent
to live the lives they were used to. They were allowed to produce
and consume wine in their houses, for example, although this was
a capitulatory article for which many Europeans annually obtained
a conrmatory ferman. Most foreigners retained Western dress, a priv-
ilege guaranteed by both the capitulations and the consular berats.
They were also allowed to conduct religious services in the privacy
of their own homes and in consular chapels.
A privilege of fundamental importance concerned the establish-
ment of consulates and vice-consulates in Ottoman centres of inter-
national trade. During the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries the European presence remained limited to Ottoman port
cities, like Istanbul, Smyrna (Izmir), Beirut, Acre, and Sidon. Noticeable
exceptions were Aleppo, the terminal of caravan routes from the
Persian Gulf, and Ankara. The consuls were appointed by their home
authorities, but needed to be able to show their Ottoman berat to
the local authorities in order to be able to function in oce. As long
as the consuls and vice-consuls were foreigners, the Portes conrmation
of their appointment was a formality, but this changed when the
Europeans increasingly appointed local non-Muslim Ottoman nota-
bles vice-consul in the course of the eighteenth century. As we have
seen, at the end of the century the Porte revoked the berats of a
large number of these vice-consuls, but the policy did not have a
lasting eect.
Tax Exemptions
Befriended foreigners enjoyed extensive tax exemptions in the Ottoman
Empire. They were exempt from paying bac, a transit tax, the mas-
dariye tax on exported goods, and all tekalif-i rye, or non-canonical
32 cn.r+rn oxr
taxes.
31
The exemption from these taxes was also mentioned in the
consular and dragomans berats. Naturally the decrease of the gen-
eral customs tari from ve to three percent was of considerable
importance for the foreign merchants commercial activities. Symbol-
ically, the most important exemption was from the poll tax levied
on all adult non-Muslim male subjects. Called cizye in the classical
terminology, the Ottomans generally referred to it as hara, a land
tax in the classical legal texts. Most European merchants could eas-
ily have aorded to pay the highest of the three hara categories,
which amounted to about eleven kuru{ per tax-payer throughout the
second half of the eighteenth century, but the symbolic value of the
tax was undoubtedly more important. Paying the hara was to accept
Ottoman rule, and it therefore epitomized the dierence between a
privileged foreigner and a tributary subject of the sultan.
32
Tax exemptions determined the foreigners legal status, too. The
Ottomans distinguished two legal classes, despite the fact that this
distinction was not rooted in Islamic legal theory. The military class
(asker ) did not have to pay taxes, in contrast to the common sub-
ject class (reaya) who did pay taxes. As Colin Imber states the basic
legal divide was not, as in Hana law, between Muslim and non-
Muslim, but between taxpayers and non-taxpayers. He also calls
tax-exemption perhaps the most important marker of legal status
in the Ottoman Empire.
33
Jurisdictions
Kate Fleet has shown that in the fourteenth century four types of
court ruled on matters aecting Genoese merchants in Turchia,
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 33
31
In Noradounghians translation of the French capitulations of 1740 the words
tekalif-i ryye are translated as impts arbitraires, but Bianchi notes (note V) that
this is conducive to error. Bianchi points out that lourf est le complment du cheri
et nest plus arbitraire que nos lois et rglements Noradounghian, Recueil, I, 301302.
32
Djizya ii-Ottoman (Halil (nalck), EI
2
, 562566, esp. 564. Also see Henry
Grenville, Observations sur letat actuel de lempire ottoman Andrew S. Ehrenkreuz (ed.)
(Ann Arbor, 1965), 3440. In 1755 one could buy 11 kg of rice with 11 kuru{, but
in 1789 the same sum bought only 3 to 4 kg. DNA, Collection 46, no. 7, Note
de la dirence des prix . . . 1755 . . . 1789.
33
Colin Imber, Ebus-su'ud. The Islamic Legal Tradition (Edinburgh, 1997), 77, 116.
the lands under Turkish rule. Firstly, there was the consul, who adju-
dicated all disputes between Latins. His judicial control [over the
Latins] was complete, including imposition of any punishment he
thought t including the death penalty and imprisonment. He was
entitled to assistance from the beyliks of Mente{e and Aydn, if he
needed it. Any claims from Turks against Latins should be addressed
to the consuls court, or to the second type Fleet describes, the
Genoese courts in Chios, which Turks occasionally turned to with
claims against Genoese subjects. Thirdly, she has found evidence of
Turkish courts ruling on complaints from Latins against Turks. Finally,
and most surprisingly, Fleet has found evidence of mixed courts, a
phenomenon most people associate exclusively with the nineteenth
century. This arrangement, which was codied in the 1348 treaty
concluded between the Sancta Unio and Aydn, entailed the joint
adjudication of disputes by the consul and the naib.
34
Which of these jurisdictions were relevant in the eighteenth century?
When it comes to the degree of legal autonomy foreigners enjoyed
in the Ottoman Empire, Western sources are generally unreliable.
Merchants and diplomats from the West commonly exaggerated the
solidity of the guarantees codied in the ahdnames. To establish what
it was exactly that the sultans promised, we must examine the
Ottoman texts of the capitulations and compare them with Western
translations.
Consular Jurisdiction
Early works on Western mercantile communities in the Ottoman
Empire invariably mention the duties of the consuls, but only in the
most summary way. According to these studies the consul was le
rpresentant de lauthorit royale, un juge, un protecteur, un guide.
35
34 cn.r+rn oxr
34
Kate Fleet, Turkish-Latin Diplomatic Relations in the Fourteenth Century:
The Case of the Consul, in Fleet and van den Boogert (eds), The Ottoman Capitulations,
3243.
35
Paul Masson, Histoire du commerce franais dans le Levant au XVII
e
sicle (Paris,
1911)reprinted New York, 1967, 445446. Woods words are strikingly similar:
the consuls were thus the representatives of the Companys authority, as well as
judges, protectors, and guides. Alfred C. Wood, A History of the Levant Company
(Oxford, 1935), 219220.
In this paragraph the boundaries of the consuls role as judge will
be delineated, something that has not been adequately done before.
Article 3 of the controversial rst French capitulations of 1536
established the outlines of foreign consular jurisdiction. The French
king was allowed to appoint an ambassador to the Porte and con-
suls in provincial Ottoman centres of trade. These ocers had the
authority to adjudicate all civil and criminal cases among French
subjects in their place of residence according to their own customs.
The Ottoman qadis and suba{s should not interfere with these cases,
unless the ambassador or consul specically requested Ottoman assis-
tance to force disobedient French merchants to respect consular legal
rulings. Whenever qadis adjudicated disputes between French sub-
jects without explicitly having been asked to by the French author-
ities, the verdicts of the qadis were null and void.
36
This article was
largely repeated in the French capitulations of 1569, and it is also
found in the rst ahdname awarded to the English eleven years later.
The possibility for the ambassador and consuls to request the assis-
tance of the Ottoman authorities to enforce their orders is not men-
tioned in these, and subsequent, capitulations, however. The Ottoman
text of the English capitulations of 1580, for example, reads:
ve e<er (ngilterelinin biri ile nizalar olsa mezbur elileri ve konsoloslar detler-
ince faslederler, kimesne mani olmaya.
and if the English should have disputes one with the other let their
aforesaid ambassador and consul decide [them] according to their
usage; let no one hinder [them].
37
Later texts explicitly mention that cases of murder also fell under
the jurisdiction of the ambassador and consuls, provided both the
victim and the killer were members of the same foreign community.
In the Dutch capitulation of 1612 these cases are called dem diyet
da"valar, blood and blood money cases.
38
Until 1740 no capitulatory arrangements existed for the adjudi-
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 35
36
Noradounghian, Recueil, i, 84.
37
Skilliter, Harborne, 88. Transliteration based on lker, (zmir, 308.
38
For the French capitulations of 1569 (art. 12) and 1673 (art. 16), see
Noradounghian, Recueil, i, 92 and 139. For the capitulations of Genoa of 1665 (art.
15) and the English one of 1675 (art. 16 and 42), see Ibid., 101, 149, 156. For the
Dutch capitulations of 1612 (art. 5), see De Groot, The Ottoman Empire, 237 and
251.
cation of disputes among members of dierent European nations.
Article 52 of the French capitulations of that year stipulated that
Sil arrive que les consul et les ngociants franais aient quelques con-
testations avec les consuls et les ngociants dune autre nation chrti-
enne, il leur sera permis du consentement et la rquisition des parties,
de se pourvoir par-devant leurs ambassadeurs qui rsident ma Sublime
Porte, et tant que le demandeur et le dfendeur ne consentiront pas
porter ces sortes de procs par-devant les pacha, cadi, ociers ou
douaniers, ceux-ci ne pourront pas les y forcer ni prtendre en pren-
dre connaissance.
39
This article formalised a long tradition. The European communities
had long dealt with disputes among members of dierent nations by
referring complicated matters to their ambassadors. On the basis of
the forum rei principle the rules of procedure dictated that conicts
be brought before the consul of the defendant.
40
Appeals should be
led with the ambassador of the defendant. The capitulation of 1740
did not codify any of these rules, merely acknowledging the juris-
diction of ambassadors in such matters. At the same time the arti-
cle allows the possibility that foreigners brought their disputes before
the Ottoman judiciary. This article thus does not strengthen the legal
privileges of foreigners, but subtly introduces the option of having
cases between members of dierent foreign communities tried before
the Ottoman authorities. It is especially signicant that the Ottoman
judiciary were only forbidden to assert their jurisdiction if both the
claimant and the defendant refused the have the case tried by them.
This suggests that if either party turned to the qadi or the beylerbeyi,
the foreign ambassadors could no longer claim exclusive and auto-
matic jurisdiction.
The Europeans tended to emphasize that these articles assigned
exclusive authority over all legal disputes involving Westerners to
their ambassadors and consuls, while in fact these texts clearly limit
consular jurisdiction to cases exclusively involving members of for-
eign communities. This raises the question of how foreign commu-
nities were dened in the capitulations.
While the ahdnames invariably mentioned all the territories of the
36 cn.r+rn oxr
39
Ibid., 290.
40
Bianchi points this out in note XXIII to Noradounghians translation. Ibid.,
304.
rulers whose subjects beneted from the privileges awarded by the
sultan, the group of beneciaries was not limited to people origi-
nating from these areas. Several capitulations explicitly allowed their
beneciaries to extend protection to merchants from nations that did
not have formal relations with the Porte. They were generally referred
to as merchant strangers in the Western sources. After France had
obtained its rst capitulations, every non-French merchant arriving
in the Ottoman Empire automatically fell under the authority of the
French ambassador and consuls, to whom they had to pay consular
duties. The Venetians, who had had their own capitulations for a
long time, were the only exception. When William Harborne pro-
cured an ahdname for England in 1580, the French diplomats in the
Levant not only lost their English clientele, the English also claimed
the right to allow Dutch merchants to conduct trade under the
English banner. The French fervently objected to this development,
and several disputes ensued over who had authority over the Dutch.
The Porte settled this matter in 1604, when the French obtained a
renewal of their capitulations. A separate act appended to the capit-
ulations of 1604 determined that all foreign nations that do not
have ambassadors at our Felicitous Porte fell under the French
capitulations.
41
In the course of the seventeenth century, however,
this additional clause became a dead letter. The proliferation of capit-
ulations rapidly enlarged the circle of capitulatory nations, and those
merchant strangers that remained were free to adopt the protection
of any consul they liked.
Most nations in the Levant thus comprised merchants from the
areas ruled by the sovereign who had been granted capitulations by
the sultan, as well as an undened group of other Western mer-
chants. Apart from the fact that the merchant strangers paid higher
consular duties, their status was the same as that of the regular mem-
bers of foreign communities in the Ottoman Empire.
Besides these Westerners the foreign communities also comprised
protected non-Muslim Ottoman subjects. They were the consular
dragomans who actually served as interpreters; the honorary drago-
mans (beratls) who enjoyed the same status without doing the job;
indigenous brokers, moneychangers and warehousemen, and the
immediate family of these protgs. Their connections with the foreign
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 37
41
Ibid., 108110.
communities will be discussed in the Chapter Two. For now suce
it to say that they, too, belonged to the ill-dened foreign nations
over whose internal conicts the consuls and ambassadors tended to
claim exclusive jurisdiction.
European Consular Regulations
The legal customs in accordance with which the foreign consuls and
ambassadors should adjudicate disputes among members of their
communities were not specied in the capitulations. In this respect
the Porte thus granted the Europeans full autonomy. This did not
mean that the consuls and ambassadors could resolve disputes as
they saw t. Each country had its own laws and regulations for such
matters, the basic premises of which were similar. Western consuls
in the Levant had several ocial capacities. They represented their
country before the local Ottoman authorities. At the same time they
were the agents of the national governing body of Levant trade, and
had to enforce its regulations. They often also represented a college
of admiralty in strictly maritime matters, such as the sale of corsairs
prizes.
42
Finally, they acted as judges of conicts among members of
their own communities. The ahdnames only mention the last of these
functions, creating a framework for consular legal procedures with-
out prescribing the legal norms that should be applied. These pro-
cedures were based on individual acts of delegation of authority by
the governments of France, Great Britain, the Dutch Republic and
so on, but they were nevertheless similar for all foreign nations in the
Levant.
In France the Levant trade was reorganised by Jean-Baptiste
Colbert. Originally the French consulates in the Levant were granted
by the king as hereditary appendages, but this changed with the
reforms of Colbert and those of one of his successors, Louis Comte
de Pontchartrain. Colbert gave the Provence the monopoly on French
Levant trade. Marseilles thus became the ocial centre of French
commercial trac with the eastern Mediterranean. The Chambre
de Commerce, a body of merchants who supervised the implemen-
38 cn.r+rn oxr
42
Jean-Marc David, Lamiraut de Provence et des mers du Levant unpub-
lished doctoral dissertation, Universit dAix-Marseille, 1942, 299305; Van den
Boogert, Redress for Ottoman Victims of European Privateering.
tation of national trade policies in the Levant, and the Admiralty of
the Provence, which was responsible for all naval aairs, both resided
in the city. In 1691 the Comte de Pontchartrain initiated another
reform, after which the king appointed the French consuls in the
Levant, and the Chambre de Commerce paid their salaries. In civil
suits, the verdict of the French consul was provisional, as appeal was
possible to the provincial parliament of Provence. In criminal mat-
ters appeal against the consuls verdict was only possible when cor-
poral punishment was involved. In that case, the consul was only
authorized to report the crime, and to send the culprit home in
shackles by the rst ship that set sail for France. The suspect was
then judged by ocers of the admiralty of Provence in the rst
French port where the ship would call.
43
The English Levant trade was also a monopoly, originally held
by a group of twelve merchants on the basis of a royal charter issued
in 1581. The Levant Company was given the authority to make laws
and ordinances in order to regulate and stimulate trade. It had to
work in close cooperation with the admiralty, and it paid for the
use of ships and mariners. Originally the king appointed the English
ambassadors, but later this was taken over by parliament. The char-
ter was renewed in 1592, after the Levant Company and the Venice
Company had joined forces, and again in 1604. The earliest English
consuls in the Levant were appointed by the ambassadors, but hence-
forth by the Levant Company. It was also given broader authority
to punish interlopers and disobedient members, and the Company
was guaranteed the assistance of Englands ocials in the mainte-
nance of its rights and privileges. Disputes were to be tried by the
consuls and ambassadors, with the option of appeal before the rul-
ing body of the Levant Company.
44
In maritime aairs the High
Court of Admiralty was the competent court in England.
In the case of the Dutch Republic the highest body of government,
the States General, delegated authority to its consuls in a number
of decrees starting in 1612, the year in which the Dutch obtained
their rst ahdnames. The foundation of the College of Directors of
Levant Trade and the Navigation of the Mediterranean in 1624
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 39
43
David, Lamiraut, 304305.
44
Wood, A History of the Levant Company, 219220.
created a bureaucratic apparatus that supervised the implementation
of the States Generals orders. The college was located in Amsterdam,
and consisted of notable merchants who generally had experience in
many areas of the Dutch overseas enterprise. On the authority of
the States General the Directors corresponded with the Dutch ambas-
sador in Istanbul, as well as with consuls throughout the Mediterranean.
Later similar colleges were established in other Dutch cities, but the
one in Amsterdam remained the most important. In contrast with
the English Levant Company (and, for that matter, the Dutch East
India Company) the Colleges of Directors were not given a trade
monopoly. The Directors did not have the authority to make laws,
and their policies had to conform to the principles of free trade her-
alded by the States General. The Directors adjudicated disputes
between consuls and merchants abroad, but their verdicts had to be
conrmed by the States General, which also appointed the ambas-
sador in Istanbul and the Dutch consuls. Like the Chambre de
Commerce and the Levant Company, the Dutch Colleges of Directors
had close ties with the colleges of admiralty, with which they shared
the responsibility for the safety and equipment of ships destined for
ports beyond the Straits of Gibraltar. In 1675 the States General
adopted a regulation for trade with Istanbul and Izmir alone, but
in practice it was valid for other locations as well. Only in 1741 was
a slightly extended regulation adopted that was formally valid for all
Dutch communities in the Ottoman Empire.
45
The authority delegated to ambassadors and consuls was broadly
similar for all three countries. They were allowed to sequester inher-
itances of countrymen who had died in the Levant without leaving
a will and to arrange for them to be consigned to the heirs. The
ambassadors and consuls also had notary powers, enabling them to
register contracts, witness statements, bills of lading, wills, and other
such documents that were important for the merchants, factors and
captains. These documents had the same legal validity as documents
drawn up in France, Great Britain or the Dutch Republic, provided
they were signed and the chancellor registered them properly in the
presence of witnesses. In matters of criminal law ambassadors and
consuls had very limited authority. They were only allowed to have
40 cn.r+rn oxr
45
Van Oordt, De privaatrechterlijke toestand, 4453.
oenders arrested and deported home to stand trial there. The home
authorities of all three nations also reserved an important role for
the assembly of merchants, which should be held regularly. The con-
sul had to consult the congregation of merchants in extraordinary
circumstances, and varying numbers of them acted as assistant to
the consul. These assessors were part of a system of checks and bal-
ances, which was meant to prevent the consul abusing his oce.
The most important rule of procedure determined that in conicts
between members of dierent European communities the case should
be brought before the consul of the defendant (the forum rei princi-
ple). Suits should be led in writing, so that they could be recorded
in the consular chancery registers. The claimant could do this in
person, but if he belonged to a dierent nation than the defendant
he could also ask his own consul formally to represent him, where-
upon a dragoman would le the complaint. The defendant was sub-
sequently given some time to respond in writing or orally. In either
case a written record was made, which mentioned the date of the
reply and the names of at least two witnesses of the proceedings.
The European consuls accepted Ottoman legal documents as evi-
dence. The consul could decide to deal with certain matters with-
out a hearing, inviting further written arguments from both parties
on the basis of which he would pass judgment. In most cases sev-
eral written charges, counter-charges and retorts were exchanged
before the consul decided that he had sucient information to reach
a verdict. The consul could also organise a hearing where the par-
ties could present their case, or order a council of arbitrators to be
established, the members of which were appointed by both parties.
The consuls often chose the latter method, upon which they merely
ordered the implementation of the arrangements proposed by the
arbitration committee. Appeal was only possible to the ambassador
of the defendant, whereby the claimant was supported by his own
ambassador. The ambassadors often gave verdicts on the basis of
the written statements taken during the original consular procedure,
but sometimes oral arguments were also presented by proxies of the
parties involved.
An example of a dispute that was rst adjudicated by the consul
and subsequently by the ambassador began in Izmir at the begin-
ning of the eighteenth century. The case was led by the heirs of
the former English consul in Izmir, William Raye. They demanded
payment of a sum of 4,800 kuru{ plus interest from the rst dragoman
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 41
of the consulate in Izmir, Paulo Homero. The debt, which Homero
refused to pay, seems to have originated from the rent of a dwelling
house in Izmir, which must have been owned by Raye. The claim
was based on a written acknowledgement of debt given by Homero
to Raye on 11 March 1692. The interest demanded was ten per-
cent per annum from 1 January 1692. On 12 November 1705 the
English consul in Izmir, William Sherrard, ruled in favour of his
predecessors heirs. He ordered his dragoman to pay 11,400 kuru{,
the original sum plus interest until 1 October 1705. Homero appealed
to the ambassador, Sir Robert Sutton, who conrmed the consuls
verdict in April 1706. Any revenue the heirs of Raye had received
in the meantime from renting out the house to others was to be
deducted from the sum Homero was ordered to pay. Although
Homero lost in this particular case, a later dispute involving his heirs
indicates that protgs were not necessarily at a disadvantage in such
procedures.
46
It was understood that the parties should accept the nal verdict,
and comply with it without delay. The involvement of the Ottoman
authorities in matters under consular jurisdiction by one of the par-
ties under consular authorityeither during procedures or after
themwas considered unacceptable by most European representa-
tives, but no formal penalties existed to prevent members of the
communities having recourse to a qadi.
The Qadi
In recent years the use of court records (sicill ) has become increas-
ingly popular among historians and students of the theory and prac-
tice of Islamic law.
47
These records shed light on the important role
of the courts in Ottoman society. The Ottoman qadi was both Islamic
judge and civil administrator at the same time. His primary task was
to run the main mahkema, the court that dispensed justice according
to the Hana school of Islamic law ({eriat). The judge dealt with
criminal and civil matters, as well as with morals. The qadi had a
42 cn.r+rn oxr
46
PRO, SP 105/178: 279280; PRO, SP 105/182: 98100, 1 April 1732: His
Excellency [George, Earl of Kinnoull]s Decree & Order in the dispute betwixt Mr
Consul Boddington & Sig.r Georgio Homero.
47
For a survey of relevant literature, see Suraiya Faroqhi, Sidjill, EI
2
, vol. IX,
53945.
sta, the size of which depended on his post. In most centres of
international trade this sta seems to have included deputy judges,
interpreters, bailis, scribes, dividers of estates, and investigators, who
were usually of local descent and held oce for many years. They
formed the courts stable and experienced cadre that was headed by
the qadi, who was generally appointed for one year only. The judge
adjudicated conicts between spouses, heirs, business partners, neigh-
bours, debtors and creditors, etc. After informal attempts to solve a
dispute had failed, it was usual for the parties to turn to a court for
a decision; litigation was common among Ottoman subjects. The
qadi also supervised the administration of religious endowments (vakfs),
and he was the legal guardian of those who had no one else, such
as orphans and brides without a guardian. One of the ocers of
the court arranged the division of inheritances, sealing the property
of those who had died, calculating the taxes due to the state, and
supervising the division of the remainder among the heirs. Finally,
the mahkema also had a notary function. People registered all kinds
of deeds and agreements there, from marriage contracts to those
concerning loans and real estate transactions. Muslims and non-
Muslims alike used the court for this purpose, and Europeans could
do so too.
Recently Ergene has emphasized the role of the qadi as media-
tor. The qadi conveyed the orders of the Porte to the local com-
munity, as well as the communitys complaints and petitions to the
Porte. Moreover, he mediated in local disputes between the military
class (asker ) and common subjects (reaya). When conicts arose among
members of the subject class, he generally also attempted mediation
before the case was formally brought before the court. Ergene has
also shown that not all courts had the same functions. The judicial
functions of some courts were more pronounced than those of oth-
ers, administrative and notary duties dominating the operations of
the latter. Furthermore, Ergene has pointed to a number of lacunae
in our knowledge of the Islamic courts, which cannot be lled on
the basis of the court records. We know little about the actual court
sessions, for example. Nor is it always clear how much time passed
between the various stages of litigation, as the records generally give
compressed accounts of the procedures.
48
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 43
48
Bo<a A. Ergene, Local Court, Provincial Society and Justice in the Ottoman Empire.
Legal Practice and Dispute Resolution in ankr and Kastamonu (Leiden, 2003), passim.
While the position of non-Muslims in the Ottoman courts has
received considerable scholarly attention, the use made of the Islamic
courts by foreign merchants has not. This is surprising, because the
court was as indispensable a part of the Ottoman commercial infra-
structure for them as for their local competitors and partners. The
ahdnames invariably contain an article recommending that Western
merchants use the court to register their transactions. As we have
seen the capitulations explicitly assigned jurisdiction over disputes
involving both Ottoman subjects and foreigners to the qadi. Further-
more, it was specied that the qadi should only accept written proof
in claims against Europeans. The relevant articles read:
ve (ngiltere ve ana tabi olan yerlerin bazargnlar ve tercmanlar ve konsoloslar
memalik-i mahrusemizde bey {ira ve ticaret ve kefalet hususlarnda ve sair umur-
u {er"yye oldukta kadya varup sebt-i sicil ettirp veya hccet alalar, sonar niza
olursa hccet ve sicille nazar olunup mucibi ile amel oluna.
Bu ikisinden biri olmayup mcerred {ahid-i zor ikamet eylemekle hilf- {er " kavm
da"va ederlerse mademki kadlardan hccetleri olmayup ve sicilde mukayyed bulun-
maya, ann gibi tezvir ettirilmeyp hilf- {er olan da"valar istima olunmaya.
And whenever merchants and interpreters and consuls of England and
the lands which are dependant upon it are engaged in the aairs of
selling and buying and trade and guarantee and other matters admin-
istrated by the Holy Law in our well-protected dominions, they shall
go to the cadi and have him register [the matter] in his book (sicil )
or else they shall take a certicate (hccet). Afterwards, should a dis-
pute occur, let the certicate and cadis book be inspected and action
taken according to it.
Should neither one of these two [proofs] exist and they bring an alle-
gation, contrary to the upright Holy Law, solely by making false wit-
nesses stand, as long as they have no certicate from the cadis or else
[the matter] shall not be found registered in the cadis book, let not
such men as these be allowed to deceive and let not their allegation
which is contrary to the Holy Law be heard.
49
44 cn.r+rn oxr
49
Quoted from the English capitulations of 1580, articles 10a and 10b; Skilliter,
Harborne, 88 (Skilliters transliteration has been modied); lker, (zmir, 307. Because
lker omitted article 7 of the text, in his edition these articles are erroneously num-
bered 8 and 9. The article rst appeared in the French capitulations of 1535
(art. 3). Also see the French privileges of 1569 (art. 6), those of 1604 (art. 36 and
37), the capitulations of Genoa of 1665 (art. 18), the French ahdname of 1673
(art. 29), the English one of 1675 (art. 9), the Dutch ones of 1612 and 1689 (both
art. 30), and the French capitulations of 1740 (art. 23). Noradounghian, Recueil, I,
84; 91; 100; 130; 141; 148; 176; 284 respectively.
These stipulations unambiguously recommend that the Europeans
should use the notary function of the Islamic court for the registra-
tion of their business transactions. In case disputes arose later, the
Europeans could then produce evidence issued by the court itself in
support of their case. It was the qadi who had jurisdiction over com-
mercial disputes between foreigners and Ottoman subjects. Furthermore,
the capitulations reected a practical development in the Islamic
world that was at odds with legal theory, the ascendancy of written
documents over witness statements.
50
European records were not accepted in the Ottoman courts. The
function of the ambassadorial and consular chanceries for foreigners
and their protgs was similar to that of the sicill for Ottomans.
Commercial contracts, deeds of partnership, protests, wills and all
kinds of other ocial documents were registered in chancery for
legal purposes. The form in which witness statements and claims by
creditors were generally recorded was clearly inspired by Muslim
practice rather than European customs, mentioning, for example,
{uhud al-hal. Nevertheless, these documents were not acceptable evi-
dence in the qadi courts.
51
This made obtaining hccets from these
courts all the more important.
Islamic law has no punishment for perjury, nor for giving false
evidence, although according to some authorities only, the false
witness is severely beaten and imprisoned.
52
This explains why the
ahdnames do not prescribe any punishment for false witnesses. The
Porte could only attempt to reduce the risk of perjury by encour-
aging qadis to favour written records above the testimony of wit-
nesses. The jurists were careful not to ban the use of witnesses in
cases involving foreigners altogether, but whenever the practice is
mentioned in the capitulations the courts are warned not to accept
false witnesses. This is also the case with the article concerning accu-
sations against foreigners of having insulted Islam.
53
The relevant
stipulation in the English capitulations of 1675 is especially noteworthy,
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 45
50
On this development, see Jeanette Wakin, The Function of Documents in Islamic
Law: The Chapters on Sale from Tahws Kitb al-shurt al-kabr (Albany, 1972).
51
[Neither] Frankish laws, nor documents have any place in the law and jus-
tice of this land. D.A. de Hochepied to the States General, 30 June 1753, in
Bronnen III, 259260 (my translation from the Dutch).
52
Joseph Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford, 1964), 187.
53
This article is quoted in Chapter Three.
because it diers from those found in other ahdnames. The text of
1675 not only orders the courts not to let false witnesses stand, but
also that such cases should be referred to the English ambassador
for adjudication.
54
This assignment of jurisdiction over such com-
plaints to the English ambassador is unique to the capitulations of
1675. It is found in no other text, and does not appear to have had
any impact in practice.
The emphasis on written records is also evident in other capitu-
latory articles. For example, Western merchants who had paid cus-
toms duties on their merchandize in one place, and subsequently
transported it to a second location to be sold, should not be required
to pay customs duties on the same goods for the second time. A
common capitulatory article ordered the Ottoman customs agents to
accept the certicates of payment (tezkeres) that the foreigners had
been given after they had paid the customs duties the rst time, and
not to make further demands on them.
55
Another important safeguard of Western interests was the rule that
cases involving foreigners could only be tried in the presence of a
dragoman. In the Dutch capitulations of 1612 we nd the article
formulated as follows:
Nederlandalunun ile bir kimesnenin nizai olsa kadya vardkta Nederlandalunun
tercmanlar hazr bulunmazsa kad da"valarn istima etmeye e<er mhim masla-
hatda ise gelince tevakkuf oluna ve amma anlar dahi taalll etmeyb tercmanmz
hazr de<ildr diye avk etmiyeler
If, in the case of a dispute [with a Dutchman], someone goes to the
cadi and the dragoman of the Dutch is not present, the cadi may not
hear the case. If it is about important aairs, the case shall be adjourned
till the coming [of the dragoman]. But they may not seek an excuse
and try to cause delay by saying our dragoman is not present.
56
46 cn.r+rn oxr
54
Si quelquun calomnie un Anglais, en laccusant de lui avoir fait tort, et en
produisant de faux tmoins contre ledit Anglais, nos juges ne lcouteront pas, mais
la cause sera renvoye lAmbassadeur, an quil en dcide, et ledit Anglais pourra
toujours avoir recours la protection de lAmbassadeur. Noradounghian, Recueil,
I, 149.
55
See for example the French capitulations of 1535 (art. 11), of 1673 (no. 10 of
the new articles), and of 1740 (art. 57). Noradoughian, Recueil, I, 8687, 145, and
291292 respectively.
56
De Groot, The Ottoman Empire and the Dutch Republic, 242 (transliteration), 255
(translation). Article 36 of the Dutch capitulations of 1680 is identical to the text
quoted.
The versions of this article in the French capitulation of 1569 and
the English one of 1580 added that [they] shall hold their inter-
preter in readiness (tercmanlar ihzar edeler). Again the English capit-
ulation of 1675 deviates slightly from the other texts, article 24
stipulating that a dragoman, the consul or the ambassador should
be present in court.
57
The Imperial Council
The divan- hmayun, the Imperial Council, functioned both as the
Ottoman cabinet and as the supreme court of the empire. In its
capacity as Supreme Court, the Imperial Council was presided over
by the grand vizier, who passed sentence in lawsuits and trials on
the basis of both Islamic law ({eriat) and state law (kanun). The kadasker
of Rumeli, who sat next to the Grand Vizier on his right, and the
kadasker of Anadolu, who sat to his left, were permanent members
of the divan- hmayun. Occasionally they, too, passed sentence. In
front of them the avu{ba{ stood, whose principal ocers formed
two curved lines from the Grand Viziers seat to the end of the hall,
where Janissaries took over. Behind these lines of avu{es were rep-
resentatives of various corps of the Porte. To the Grand Viziers left
the ocers of his household were lined up.
The complainants were divided in groups, the men separate from
the women, the non-Muslims standing behind the Muslims. After
their complaints had been read out loud by one of two matres des
requtes, the complainants personally had to explain their case fur-
ther. The Grand Viziers apparently swiftly gave sentences. The matres
des requtes wrote them down on the petitions, which were subse-
quently signed by the Grand Vizier. He usually referred ordinary
cases back to the qadi courts, as well as cases that required further
examination. On certain days of the week the two kadaskers, the qadi
of Istanbul, and the qadis of Galata, Eyyb and skdar also attended
the Imperial Council, and were allowed to discuss cases referred to
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 47
57
Skilliter, Harborne, 88 (art. 16); Noradounghian, Recueil, I, 9192 (French, 1569,
art. 11) and 151 (English, 1675, art. 24). Cf. article 4 of the French capitulations
of 1535, article 11 of that of 1569, article 16 of the English capitulations of 1580,
and article 65 of the French capitulation of 1740. Noradounghian, Recueil, I, 84,
9192, 294, respectively.
them there. Sessions of the divan- hmayun lasted two to three hours.
58
In theory every subject of the sultan, whether rich or poor, Muslim
or non-Muslim, and of whatever social class, could bring cases to
the attention of the Imperial Council.
59
In practice, however, getting
a case heard by the divan- hmayun must have required a substan-
tial nancial investment. After all, documentary evidence usually had
to be procured in the form of certied deeds from qadi courts, and
the complaint had to be led with the Council, which meant that
the complainant either personally had to travel to the Ottoman cap-
ital, or appoint a procurator.
60
It seems safe to assume that this lim-
ited the accessibility of the Imperial Council, but to what extent
remains unknown.
According to the capitulations, certain cases could only be brought
before the divan- hmayun, and not before the qadi courts. They
included various types of cases involving foreigners. Article 5 of the
French capitulations of 1536 assigns jurisdiction over all cases in
which Frenchmen were accused of murder exclusively to the Imperial
Council, where the testimony of a subject of the French king and
of a non-Muslim subject of the sultan was valid, one against the
other. In the absence of the divan- hmayun, the principal lieutenant
of the sultanprobably a reference to the kaimmakamshould deal
with such cases.
61
Although this article appears in no other capitu-
lation, it marks the Portes intention from an early age to retain
jurisdiction over complex cases involving foreigners. Later ahdnames
assigned jurisdiction to the divan- hmayun over all cases exceeding
4,000 ake;
62
all cases involving consuls and dragomans; and all revi-
sions of sentences passed by qadis.
The rst capitulations that stipulated that claims exceeding the
value of 4,000 ake should only be voiced before the divan- hmayun
were those awarded to the English in 1601. Article 4 of this text
reads:
48 cn.r+rn oxr
58
Mouradgea dOhsson, Tableau gnral de lempire othoman (Paris, 17881820), iii,
362363.
59
Uriel Heyd, Studies in Old Ottoman Criminal Law, V.L. Mnage (ed.), (Oxford,
1973), 224226; Diwan-i Humayun (B. Lewis), EI
2
, 337339.
60
Van den Boogert, Redress for Ottoman Victims of European Privateering,
9496.
61
Noradounghian, Recueil, I, 84.
62
Invariably called Aspers in the Western sources.
(ngiltere taifesi ve (ngiltere bayra< altnda yryenlerin da"va ve husumeti vaki
oldukta, tercmanlar yahud vekilleri hazr olmaynca hkkm da"valarn istima
etmeyp ve drt bin akeden yukarda olan da"valar Asitane-i Saadetimde istima
oluna.
63
An English translation of this ahdname is found among the papers of
John Sanderson, the English traveller and treasurer of the Turkey
Company. It reads:
Item, that all Englishmen, and others under the English banner, hav-
ing any dierence or suite, the same shall not be heard or adjudged
[by the qadi], except [when] their drogermen or procurators be pre-
sent. And also, if the same suite doe amount to more then the sum
of 4000 aspers, it shall be heard and determined in no other place,
but sent up hither to my happy throne.
64
The words . . . it shall be heard and determined in no other place
. . . are not in the Ottoman text, but apart from this, it is clear
from this contemporary translation that cases against the English
worth more than the specied sum could not be tried by ordinary
courts, but fell exclusively under the jurisdiction of the divan- hmayun.
Despite serious ination in the Ottoman Empire, the sum of 4,000
ake was never adjusted to modern realities and appeared unchanged
in subsequent capitulations.
65
The second type of case that, in theory, could only be heard by
the divan- hmayun consists of all claims against consuls and drago-
mans. The rst capitulation in which this article appeared was that
granted to France in 1604. Article 25 reads:
Ve tacirlerinin ahval in nasb eyledkleri konsoloslardan baz kimesneler da"va
etdklerinde kendlerin habs edp evleri mhrlenp taaddi eylemiyeler konsoloslar
ile da"vas olanlarun hususlar ile Asitane-i Saadetimde istima oluna ve zikr onlu-
nan mevaddun hilfna mukaddem muahhar emr-i {erif ibraz olunursa istima
olunmayub ahdname-i hmayunum mucibince amel oluna.
66
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 49
63
lker, (zmir, p. 309. Cf. Feridun Beg, Mn{eat-i Selatin, ii, 474.
64
William Foster (ed.), The Travels of John Sanderson in the Levant 15841602 (London,
1931), 284. I have slightly modernized the spelling.
65
The article is also found in the French capitulations of 1673 (art. 12) and 1740
(art. 41), and the English one of 1675 (art. 24 and 69). Noradounghian, Recueil, I,
145, 288; 151, 167, respectively. The article is not found in the Dutch capitula-
tions of either 1612, or 1680.
66
Cf. de Groot, The Ottoman Empire, 238, 251. The text of this article in the
Dutch capitulation of 1612 is almost identical to that of the French of 1604.
When any persons enter upon a lawsuit against the consuls appointed
for the merchants aairs, the consuls may not suer damage by being
put under arrest or having their houses sealed. Their lawsuits involv-
ing consuls must be heard at our Threshold of Felicity. If imperial
commands of prior or ulterior date contrary to the aforementioned
articles be produced, they will not be heard, [but] the procedure will
be according to our capitulation.
67
This privilege was also included in several later ahdnames. Article 22
of the French capitulation of 1604 extended this privilege to the
dragomans, too.
68
It was also reiterated in the berats the consuls
received from the Porte to conrm their appointment.
69
Moreover,
the French capitulations of 1740 added that no complainant could
force a consul to appear before the court in person, dragomans being
allowed to appear on his behalf.
70
In the most extensive ahdname issued in the eighteenth century,
granted to the French in 1740, we also nd an article (no. 71) con-
cerning revisions of cases that had already been tried by qadis.
Frane tccr ile hrn beyninde vuku bulup bir defa {erile fasl ve
hasm ve hccet olunmas maddelerinin vult ve kudt ve sir zabtn
taraarndan tekrar istim ve fasl olunmas hussu rde ve bi-d-defaat
vki olup bu takdirce o gn fasl olunan davdan emniyetleri olma-
d<ndan mad bir mahalde fasl olunan davnn yine ol mahalde hilafna
hkm olunur imi{ dey inh olunma<la ber vehi muharrer Frane
tccr ile harn beyninde zuhr edp bir defa {erile fasl ve hkm ve
hccet olunmu{ dva ol mahalde grlmeyp ve tekrar ruyet olunmak
istid olunur ise Frane elisine ihbr olunmakszn ve eli-i mumi-
leyhin (ve) konsolosdan ve mddei aleyhden cavab ve keyyyet-i ahvlin
shhati haberi gelmeksizin iddi ve mddei aleyhi ihzr in emri {erif
virilmeyp ve mb{ir ve v{ dahi gnderilmeyp o gn huss(u)
istifhm ve ilm olunma<a vef edecek vakit tayin olunmak ciz ola
ve bu gn davnn tekrr istim fermn olunur ise Der Aliyyemde
50 cn.r+rn oxr
67
ULL, Cod. Or. 1137 (1) [Copy of the French capitulation of 1604], f. 6r. Cf.
Feridun Beg, Mn{eat-i Selatin, ii, 490494.
68
E.g. those of the Dutch Republic of 1612 and 1680 (both art. 6); of Genoa
of 1665 (art. 13); of England of 1675 (art. 25); and of France of 1740 (art. 16).
Noradounghian, Recueil, I, 98, 152, 173, 283, respectively. The article that extended
all privileges of the Franks to their dragomans, as well, is found on p. 98. For
this article in the Dutch capitulation of 1612, see De Groot, The Ottoman Empire,
238, 251.
69
J.L. Bacqu-Grammont, Un bert (art. 8).
70
See article 48 of the French capitulations of 1740 in Noradounghian, Recueil,
I, 289.
ruyet ve kat ve hasm olunmasna dikkat olunup ve bu bbda Franelye
tbi olanlarn bi-n-nefs gelmeleri ve yahut yerlerine vekili {eri nasb
eylemeleri ciz ola ve Devlet-i Aliyyeme
71
tabi olanlar Franelu ile dava
saddedinde olduklarnda mddeilerin {eri senedt ve temessktlar
olmaduka davlar istm olunmaya.
72
A contemporary French translation of this article reads
Les aaires qui naissent entre les negocians franois et autres person-
nes tant vue fois juges et termines juridiquement par hudjet [hccet]
il arrive que les pashas, cadis et autres ociers veulent les revoir de
rechef de sorte quil ny auroit plus de sret pour un procs dj
dcid et il nous auroit mme t reprsent que savoir vu procs dj
dcid dans vu lieu il intervenoit de jugements contradictoires aux pre-
miers savoir le cas spci cy dessus les procs que les Franois auront
avec dautres personnes ayant t vue fois vus et termins juridique-
ment et par hudjet ils ne pourront plus tre reus sur led. lieux et si
vu requiert de faire de nouveau revoir ces procs on ne pourra pas
donner des commandements pour faire comparatre les parties avant
que den donner connoissance lambassadeur et lon attendra la
rponse des consuls sur les informations quon leur demandera sur
laaire en question on ne pourra pas non plus envoyer des chavus
[avu{] ny des mubachir [muba{ir]. Et il sera x un temps comptent
pour prendre les informations ncessaires et sil en expdi des com-
mandements pour revoir les procs ils ne pourrons tre vus et dcids
qua la Sublime Porte ou il sera apport toute sorte dattention pour
leur dcision et il sera libre a ceux qui sont dpendons de la France
de comparatre en personne ou de constituer en leur place un pro-
cureur dment autoris dans les procs que ceux qui sont dpendant
de notre Sublime Porte intenteront contre quelque Franois; si le
demandeur nest muny de quelque pice juridique et de temessuk
[temessk] billets le procs ne sera point cout.
Only the commercial treaty signed with Russia in 1783 contains a
similar article. This article, too, emphasized that retrials were only
possible in exceptional cases. The ambassador had to be informed
beforehand. The consul was responsible for supplying all the infor-
mation he had about the case, but no suba{ (commissaire) or other
ocer should be sent to force him to appear before the court.
Revisions of cases that had been adjudicated before could only take
place in the divan- hmayun, where the case would be reviewed on
the basis of legal documents.
73
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 51
71
Muahedt Mecmuas i (1294), 30: Aliyyeye.
72
BOA, ED 29/4, 131, esp. 26.
73
Noradounghian, Recueil, I, 370.
In theory the division of jurisdiction over cases involving Europeans
thus was clear. Disputes and trials concerning only foreigners and
their protgs were resolved and adjudicated by their ambassadors
and consuls. In principle the qadi handled commercial disputes
between Ottoman subjects and members of Western communities in
the Levant, but cases involving a sum exceeding 4,000 ake should
be referred to the divan-i hmayun. Complaints against consuls and
dragomans should be led exclusively with the Imperial Council, no
matter how small the sums involved.
Towards an Islamic Interpretative Framework
In the previous section we have seen that the capitulations did not
grant foreigners immunity from the Ottoman legal system. The texts
clearly delineated the jurisdictions of the qadi and the Imperial
Council. This contradicts the common view that European com-
munities in the Ottoman Empire enjoyed unprecedented auton-
omy.
74
How should we interpret the place of foreign capitulatory
communities in the Ottoman legal system? An examination of the
position of indigenous non-Muslims is useful here for two reasons.
Firstly, some scholars have compared the status of foreigners in the
Ottoman Empire with that of zimmis. Secondly, the position of indige-
nous non-Muslims is relevant here, because it forms the background
of the Ottoman protgs who were part of the Western nations in
the Levant.
Zimmis in the Ottoman Legal System
A summary of the position of non-Muslim subjects according to the
prescripts of Islamic law is found in the work of Shaykh al-Damanhuri
(d. 1778). He emphasised the subordinate status of non-Muslims
under the rule of Islam, focusing mainly on prohibitions. For example,
They must not assist an unbeliever against a Muslim, Arab, or non-
Arab; or indicate to the enemy the weak points of the Muslims, such
as the Muslims unpreparedness for battle. The dhimmis must not imi-
52 cn.r+rn oxr
74
Daniel Goman, Ottoman Millets in the Early Seventeenth Century, New
Perspectives on Turkey 11/1994, 154.
tate the Muslims in garb, wear military attire, abuse or strike a Muslim,
raise the cross in an Islamic assemblage; let pigs get out of their homes
into Muslim courtyards; display banners on their own holidays; bear
arms on their holidays, or carry them at all, or keep them in their
homes. Should they do anything of the sort, they must be punished,
and the arms seized.
75
Moreover, all adult non-Muslim males had to pay the cizye, the poll
tax, and other extra levies. According to the jurists, the non-Muslims
were clearly second-class citizens, something scholars have tended to
emphasise.
76
The Ottomans incorporated the indigenous Christian and Jewish
communities in what is known as the millet system, an administra-
tive system based on religious aliation. (nalck has argued that four
periods must be distinguished concerning the zimma. The rst period
comprised the establishment of Ottoman rule until the conquest of
Constantinople in 1453, when the second period started. This clas-
sical period ended at the end of the seventeenth century, when the
rst signs of decentralisation appeared. The eighteenth and nine-
teenth centuries until 1856 formed the third period, while the fourth
and nal period ended with the treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
77
Prior
to the nineteenth century, when the non-Muslim communities acquired
a decidedly political function, the millet system does not appear to
have been very systematic.
78
Daniel Goman has shown that the
Ottomans used the word millet referring to all kinds of groups, some
religious, others occupational.
79
While millet seems to have covered
communities as a whole, e.g. all Christians in the Ottoman Empire
(or in a particular location), the word taife was used in reference to
specic sub-groups, for instance the taife of the Maronites of Aleppo.
80
Only in the nineteenth century did the meaning of the term millet
become limited to the ocially recognized Christian and Jewish
communities.
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 53
75
Al-Damanhuri, Iqamat al-hujja al-bahira ala hadm kanais Misr wal-Qahira; quoted
in Bat Yeor, The Dhimmi. Jews and Christians under Islam (Rutherford, 1985), 202204.
76
Yeor particularly does this. Ibid., 5257, 132. Also see the work of Shalit and
Binswanger, referred to in the next chapter.
77
(nalck, The Status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch under the Ottomans,
196199.
78
Bruce Masters, Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World. The Roots of Sectarianism
(Cambridge, 2001), 61.
79
Goman, Ottoman Millets in the Early Seventeenth Century, 139141.
80
Masters, Christians and Jews, 6165.
Traditionally Metropolitans and Patriarchs headed the two estab-
lished Christian communities, the Greek Orthodox and the Armenians,
while the millet of the Jews had Chief Rabbis. These leaders of the
non-Muslim communities were appointed by the Porte and received
deeds of investiture (berats), which codied the privileges of their
oce. They were recognized as the spiritual leaders of their com-
munities, as well as their chief representatives in secular matters, like
taxation. The Ottoman authorities levied taxes on the non-Muslim
communities in the form of a lump sum, which was subsequently
divided among the tax-paying members by the leaders of these com-
munities. In theory there were three categories of taxpayerswith
low, middle and high ratesbut in practice the poor paid little or
nothing, while the wealthier members of the community contributed
a larger share than the one formally levied on them.
The non-Muslim authorities did not operate in a legal or admin-
istrative vacuum. On the contrary, they were incorporated in the
Ottoman systems. According to a sixteenth-century berat issued to
the Greek Orthodox patriarch, he was allowed to levy taxes on the
members of his community, but when they refused to pay, he had
to turn to the Ottoman authorities to have his privileges enforced.
An imperial order commanded the qadis to make your investiga-
tions [into this matter] in accordance with the shar'a. You will let
him collect in full the back payments . . . which will be established
by your examination.
81
Not only concerning tax matters did the non-Muslim communi-
ties ultimately fall under the authority of the qadi. This was also the
case with their legal privileges, which seem to have been limited to
matters of family law. The Ottoman berats of the non-Muslim cler-
ics did not prescribe the manner of adjudication. The precise extent
of their legal privileges thus is dicult to establish, but according to
the Russell brothers,
in temporal aairs, the Bishop exercises a certain degree of jurisdic-
tion, but has no power to inict any other punishment than ecclesi-
astic censure, or excommunication. In contested matters of property,
when the parties are not content with his decision, the aair is car-
ried to the Turkish tribunal.
82
54 cn.r+rn oxr
81
(nalck, The Status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch under the Ottomans,
215.
82
Alexander Russell, The Natural History of Aleppo, Patrick Russell (ed.) (London,
1794), ii, 39.
On the local level each community appointed its own public agent
(vekil ), who was responsible for the communal nancial administra-
tion, and who acted as spokesman vis--vis the Ottoman authorities.
The vekil was elected in an assembly of the notables of his commu-
nity and was conrmed in oce by the qadi or the governor-gen-
eral. During the investiture ceremony he received a fur robe, a
garment the Ottomans used in other such ceremonies, too. In areas
where Turkish was not the dominant language, prociency of it was
a requisite for this salaried oce. It was the vekil who xed the divi-
sion of communal taxes among members of his community. Although
the oce conferred a certain social status on its holder, as a prin-
cipal representative of his community he also risked imprisonment
by the Ottoman authorities in case of disputes.
83
In eighteenth cen-
tury Aleppo there was also a chief deputy of the four communi-
ties (tevaif-i erbaa ba{vekili ), who negotiated the lump sums of, for
example, the cizye with the Ottoman authorities. He subsequently
distributed the agreed sum over the communities concerned, where
the communal vekil made the practical arrangements.
84
At rst glance there appear to be several similarities between the
position of the zimmis and Europeans. Both types of communities
were invariably referred to with the terms millet and taife. Both sys-
tems had a chief representative in Istanbul, with subordinate repre-
sentatives throughout the Ottoman Empire. Like the principal clerics,
the consuls needed berats from the Porte. In ceremonies of investi-
ture the Ottomans oered fur robes to agents of zimmis and for-
eigners alike. Furthermore, these diplomatic agents were allowed
jurisdiction over the members of their communities, just like the non-
Muslim clerics.
These similarities seem to have convinced Mehmet Bulut that the
status of foreigners in the Ottoman Empire was comparable with
that of the non-Muslim millets. According to the author, each mer-
chant was legally attached to a millet, and consequently, to a covenant
countrys ambassador. The legal status of the harbi merchants could
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 55
83
Ibid., II, 41.
84
Masters, Christians and Jews, 6465. It is not clear from Masters account whether
or not this oce existed elsewhere, too. On the organisation of Jewish communi-
ties, see Cohen, Amnon, Communal Legal Entities in a Muslim Setting; Theory
and Practice: The Jewish Community in Sixteenth-Century Jerusalem, Islamic Law
and Society 3/1 (February 1996), 7590.
be evaluated in this context. The text is somewhat confusing, because
the author here uses the term harbi, someone with the legal status
of enemy, where he seems to mean mste"min, protected foreigner.
85
The comparison between zimmis and mste"mins is not new. The Greek
legal historian N.J. Pentazopoulos, for example, had made the con-
nection earlier. (nalck has categorically rejected the comparison,
asserting that Pentazopoulos went in a totally wrong direction when
he compares the privileges in berats for Patriarchs with those given
to non-Muslim rulers with extraterritorial rights.
86
(nalcks rejection
seems to be based on his perceptions of the legal position of the for-
eign communities, which enjoyed, in his opinion, extraterritoriality.
On the basis of the texts of the capitulations alone I have argued
that this characterization requires revision. Whether the similarities
or the dierences between the two types of communities are domi-
nant remains open to interpretation. For the present study it is more
interesting that these communities illustrate the Ottomans ability to
make special arrangements for non-Muslim and foreign communi-
ties in the rst place.
Of course it was not the Ottomans who devised the zimma, which
is rooted in much earlier times. The ahdnames, however, in this form
were peculiar to the Ottoman era, even if they were modelled on
similar practices of earlier periods.
87
The capitulations continued to
develop throughout the Ottoman period, as much on the initiative
of the Porte, as of the foreign nations. This was not the only evi-
dence of the exibility of the Ottoman system. Recently Svetlana
Ivanova has shown that the Ottoman authorities made special arrange-
ments for itinerant and resident Armenian and Acem merchant com-
munities on the Balkans. For example, these Armenians were subject
56 cn.r+rn oxr
85
It is possible, however, that the author actually thought that foreigners and
zimmis had the same status, for he erroneously states that the legal status of the
indigenous Ottoman millets were dened by the capitulations. Mehmet Bulut, Ottoman-
Dutch Economic Relations in the Early Modern Period 15711699 (Hilversum, 2001),
53, 55.
86
(nalck, The Status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch under the Ottomans,
204205. Footnote 36 has . . . those given by non-Muslim rulers . . . (my italics),
but this must be an error.
87
Theunissen has argued that the ahdnames were based on earlier systems. De
Groot has recently argued that they were Ottoman inventions. Theunissen, Ottoman-
Venetian Diplomatics, passim; A.H. de Groot, The Historical Development of the
Capitulatory Regime in the Ottoman Middle East from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth
Centuries, Fleet and van den Boogert (eds), The Ottoman Capitulations, 146.
to a single tax levy paid to the state instead of their cizye. On the
basis of decrees from the Porte and other administrative documen-
tation Ivanova concludes that they show indisputably the institu-
tionalisation of the communities of such migrant Armenians as
independent corporate units among the rest of the reayya and dis-
tinguished from the local Armenians, permanently settled in the
region.
88
Another striking example of the versatility of the Ottoman admin-
istration is found in several extraordinary documents published by
Colin Heywood, which concern the status of the two chief conspir-
ators of the betrayal of Grabusa to the Ottomans in 1691. These
men, Captain Lucca della Rocca and his lieutenant Francesco Peroni,
defected to the Ottomans, who rewarded them for their actions with
a daily salary from the Porte. Such a reward was in accordance with
Ottoman practice, but was also meant to convince others to follow
the example of these two men. Della Rocca and Peroni received a
berat from the Porte that put them in charge of such a prospective
community of defectors:
Europeans, whether on land or sea, who in emulation [of them], come
over to them from enemy fortresses or ships or defeated units in the
eld, shall be under the command of the aforesaid, and shall be given
their regulation amounts of pay and allowances and uniform, and their
discipline shall be reserved to the aforementioned. Let them be pun-
ished under the authority of the aforementioned on their committing
a crime, and let there be no interference on the part of any other
person.
89
The mention of a uniform and of discipline suggests that the Porte
had in mind some kind of military unit composed of defectors from
the West, but the way it should be organized is reminiscent of the
organisation of the indigenous millets and Western communities in
the Ottoman Empire. This community of defectors does not seem
to have materialized, but the fact that the Ottomans devised such a
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 57
88
Svetlana Ivanova, The Empires Own Foreigners: Armenians and Acem tc-
car in Rumeli in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, van den Boogert and
Fleet (eds), The Ottoman Capitulations, 121, 122.
89
Colin Heywood, All for Love?: Lucca della Rocca and the betrayal of Grabusa
(1691) (Documents from the British Library Nme-i Hmyn Defteri, Jan Schmidt
(ed.), Essays in Honour of Barbara Flemming (Cambridge, MA, 2002) [= Journal of Turkish
Studies/Trklk Bilgisi Ara{trmalar 26/I (2002)], 353372, esp. 366.
plan is a measure of the exibility with which they attempted to
incorporate alien elements in their administrative systems.
The Islamic Legal Triangle
In a concise article Lon Buskens has argued that students of Islamic
legal systems should always keep in mind the Islamic legal trian-
gle, which connects Islamic law, state law and local customs. Instead
of the popular binary opposition of theory and practice, the author
put forward this triangular model in order to emphasize the plural-
ity of legal norms. Buskens acknowledges that the domain of local
customs is dicult to dene, but that an Islamic idiom dominates
all three legal spheres of the triangle. In this model the emphasis
is on the necessity of considering the dierent domains in relation-
ship to each other, instead of viewing them as isolated entities.
According to the author pre-modern Islamic states had only limited
control over the contents of Islamic law, the ulema being the princi-
pal developers of legal rules. The state could try to direct the course
of legal thinking, as in the Ottoman Empire, but in general this did
not lead to independent state legislation. Furthermore, the state hardly
had the power to impose these ocial interpretations of the shar'a
on the population. In practice, local customs often played an impor-
tant role in the regulation of daily life. [. . .] This accommodation
between the state and Islamic law, and local customs, was charac-
terized by considerable exibility and dynamism.
90
I propose to
apply this model to the Ottoman legal system and the position of
the capitulations in relation to it. The common view that the capit-
ulations were outside it can be visualised as follows (see Fig. 1).
The only adaptation of Buskens triangle I would suggest, is to
add the ahdnames to the domain of legal customs, instead of giving
them a place outside the Ottoman legal system. This results in an
Islamic framework within which we can interpret the dynamics
between the jurisdiction of consuls and ambassadors, that of the
Ottoman judiciary, and the prescripts of Islamic law.
58 cn.r+rn oxr
90
Lon Buskens, An Islamic Triangle. Changing Relationships between Shar'a,
State Law, and Local Customs, ISIM Newsletter 5/00, 8.
I also think the Ottoman state did more than direct the course of
legal thinking, as Buskens argues. The Ottoman rulers incorporated
the judiciary in its administrative system in an unprecedented fash-
ion, thus controlling not only the appointments of judges at every
level of society, but also their training. In the Ottoman Empire the
Islamic legal component of Buskens triangle was represented by the
}eyhlislm, qadis and local muftis, who were all trained in the medrese
system established by the state, and depended on salaried positions
assigned by the Porte. Colin Imber has shown that the sixteenth-
century }eyhlislm Ebus-Su'ud systematically interpreted the pre-
scripts of Hana fkh in such a way that they did not obstruct
established practice. The eminent Ottoman jurist eectively made
Islamic theory subordinate to (political) realities, transferring impor-
tant legal issues from the realm of {eriat to that of siyaset.
91
This does
not mean, however, that the state dictated all their decisions, or sup-
pressed creativity and innovation. Haim Gerber has convincingly
argued that local muftis were an important link in the process of
mediating between the needs of a developing society, and legal pre-
scripts that are still often considered immutable.
92
The Ottomans also established a hierarchy of legal courts that
was unknown in Islamic law. The divan- hmayun was a political
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 59
91
Imber, Ebus-su'ud.
92
Haim Gerber, Islamic Law and Culture (Leiden, 1999).
Islamic Law
( {eriat)
State Law
( kanun)
Legal customs
Fig. 1. The Capitulations and Buskens Islamic Legal Triangle. Unbroken line: Buskens
model. Dotted Line: the traditional view on the place of the capitulations.
Capitulations
council, but it functioned as a kind of Ottoman Supreme Court, as
well. The Imperial Council consisted mainly of jurists, but it was
presided over by the Grand Vizier, which symbolized the primacy
of state interests. Anyone who felt wronged by the decisions of the
Ottoman judiciary at a lower level could appeal to the divan- hmayun.
This, at least, was the theory. In practice the qadis had a key posi-
tion in the legal system. Judges on the basis of Islamic law on the
one hand, they were state administrators on the other. In the latter
capacity they were responsible for upholding state regulations, kanun,
a responsibility they shared with the military authorities in their legal
district. Although much remains unknown about the practical func-
tioning of local courts in the Ottoman Empire, recent studies have
emphasized the role of the qadi as mediator between power factions
at the local level, and between the Porte and the population.
93
The importance of local legal customs and circumstances that
inuenced the course of justice in the Ottoman Empire has not been
studied extensively, to the best of my knowledge. The cases described
in this study will shed some light on this legal domain, in which I
propose to situate the capitulatory privileges that determined the
legal status of foreigners and their protgs. The ahdnames, clearly
instruments of state law, allowed the Western ambassadors and con-
suls to adjudicate legal matters among themselves according to their
usage (detlerince faslederler).
94
The capitulations thus created a domain
within which the Europeans could be considered autonomous, but
the texts clearly delineated the boundaries of this domain. Within
the framework established by the ahdnames the Western communities
applied common legal norms that were not mentioned in the capit-
ulations. The forum rei principle, and the doctrine of double jeop-
ardyboth of which will be discussed in this studyare examples
of such rules. When outsiders became involved in legal disputes of
Europeans or their protgs, however, the other two legal domains
could assert themselves. The model can then be visualized as fol-
lows (see Fig. 2).
60 cn.r+rn oxr
93
Ergene, Local Court, Provincial Society and Justice in the Ottoman Empire.
94
Quoted above, page 35. Cf. the Dutch capitulations of 1612, article 5 of which
speaks of ayinleri, their customs. De Groot, The Ottoman Empire and the Dutch Republic,
237 (Ottoman text), 251 (translation).
Fig. 2. The Capitulations within Buskens Islamic Legal Triangle.
By interpreting the consular juridical practices as a form of legal
customs, we can see them as something not in opposition to, or
divorced from, the other two angles of the Ottoman legal triangle,
but in constant negotiation with them. In this way Buskens model
provides an Islamic alternative for the Euro-centric discourse of antag-
onism that pervades the Western sources, which is characterized by
an implicit, but inescapable, sense of us Europeans versus them
Ottomans.
+nr str+.xs rnovisr 61
Islamic Law
( {eriat)
State Law
( kanun)
Legal customs
incl. consular
legal practices
CHAPTER TWO
THE PROTECTION SYSTEM
The previous chapter has shown that the capitulations did not unequiv-
ocally delineate the boundaries of foreign communities. The Ottoman
protgs of these foreign communities are easier to dene with pre-
cision. This group consisted of dragomans, warehousemen, brokers
and moneychangers. Ali (hsan Ba<{ has published a concise study
that deals with the role of non-Muslim merchants in Ottoman trade
between 1750 and 1839.
1
On the basis of Ottoman, British and
French archival sources the book oers the best survey to date of
Ottoman perceptions of the protection system, providing a number
of relevant (transliterated) documents in the appendix. Ba<{ has made
a valuable contribution to our understanding of Ottoman policies on
protection, but he did not investigate the implementation of the capit-
ulatory privileges. He thus elaborates on existing visions of the pro-
tection system, without testing them. Moreover, the author has
disregarded the one source on the basis of which the protection sys-
tem can be studied systematically and for an extended period: the
ecnebi devletler defterleri, the Registers of Foreign Nations, which have
proved invaluable for the present study.
The rst part of this chapter is devoted to a discussion of the
privileges of the Ottoman members of foreign nations. Again the capit-
ulations are the principal source of privileges awarded to the foreign
communities in the Ottoman Empire, but with regard to their Ottoman
dragomans and protgs berats and additional fermans are at least as
important. In the subsequent paragraphs the commercialisation of
foreign protection will be examined in order to establish the extent
of the system. What was the aim of the increase in number of pro-
tgs? Who determined the limits? And, nally, was this part of
Western imperialist policies to weaken the Ottoman Empire? It is
to these questions that we turn after a discussion of the dierent
types of Ottoman protgs in the foreign communities in the Levant.
1
Ali (hsan Ba<{, Osmanl ticaretinde gayri mslimler. Kapitlasyonlar beratl tccrlar
Avrupa ve Hayriye tccrlar (17501839) (Ankara, 1983).
OTTOMAN PROTGS
The most important protgs were the dragomans, the salaried non-
Muslim interpreters serving foreign ambassadors, consuls and mer-
chants, but other kinds of Ottoman protgs were connected with
foreign communities, too. They were warehousemen, brokers, or
moneychangers. All were indispensable middlemen, but they did not
all enjoy the same status. Another group that needs to be taken into
account here consists of ambassadorial and consular personnel, who
sometimes enjoyed a more privileged status than they were entitled
to. Technically the Janissary guards the ambassadors and consuls
employed were also protgs. They were the only Muslim protgs,
who, in theory, enjoyed the same privileges as the dragomans. In
practice this seems to have been a dead letter, however. For this
reason they will be left out of the following discussion, although they
do appear in some of the privileges quoted, particularly those shared
with the dragomans.
Dragomans
The ahdnames contain several articles with regard to Ottoman sub-
jects connected with foreign communities. The most fundamental
privilege stated that ambassadors and consuls could employ anybody
they chose as dragoman. In the Dutch capitulations of 1612 (art.
10) this is formulated as follows:
Ve elileri ve konsoloslar istedkleri yasaklar ve olageldi zere murad edindik-
leri kimesneleri tercmanlkda istihdam eyliyeler yenierilerden ve gayrdan istemedik-
leri hizmetlerine kar{myalar
Their ambassadors and consuls may employ the consular guards they
desire and those persons whom they wish to procure, following usage,
as dragomans. But no one of the Janissaries, or anyone else who is
not needed, may interfere with their [entrance into foreign] service.
2
This article suggests that foreign representatives were free to employ
anyone they liked as interpreters without restrictions, but in fact this
64 cn.r+rn +vo
2
De Groot, The Ottoman Empire, 238, 251 (1612); Cf. the Dutch capitulations of
1680 (art. 10) and the English capitulation of 1675 (art. 28) in Noradounghian,
Recueil i, 152 (1675) and 173174 (1680), respectively.
was not the case. First of all, the choice of dragomans was restricted
to non-Muslims. Because the Europeans shared the Portes prefer-
ence in having non-Muslims function as commercial middlemen, this
limitation was not problematic. The article also indicates that Ottoman
subjects apparently sometimes tried to interfere with the recruitment
of dragomans and Janissaries. In the English capitulations of 1675
this is emphasized in the command that no one should meddle in
these aairs by force (cebren).
3
Furthermore, this capitulatory arti-
cle implies that there was no limit to the number of interpreters the
foreign ambassadors could employ. In practice the Ottoman gov-
ernment did impose such limits, which, in the second half of the
eighteenth century, were also reected in the texts of capitulations.
The ahdname granted to Sweden in 1737 (art. 5), for example, specied
that the ambassador could appoint four consuls and one dragoman.
4
The Danish representative at the Porte was allowed four dragomans,
and one for each consul he appointed. The capitulation granted to
Prussia in 1761 (art. 4) specied the same limitations.
5
On the basis of article 22 of the ahdname granted to France in
1604 dragomans enjoyed the same privileges as their foreign employ-
ers. I will rst quote the translation of Noradounghian, followed by
the Ottoman text found in Feridun Beg.
Voulons et nous plait que les interprtes et truchements [i.e. drago-
mans], qui seront les ambassadeurs dicelui empereur, soient francs et
exempts de payer tailles et tous autres subsides quelles quils soient.
The words soient francs are somewhat confusing. Does this mean
that all dragomans should be Europeans, i.e. that the employment
of Ottoman subjects was implicitly forbidden? Or does this mean
that dragomans should be considered Franks? These questions dis-
appear upon examination of the Ottoman text, in which the words
are absent:
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 65
3
The Ottoman text of the English capitulation of 1675 reads: ve (ngiltere elileri
ve konsoloslar istedikleri yasaklar ve murad eyledikleri kimesneleri tercmanlkdan istihdam edb
yenierilerden ve gayriden e<er kullarm ve e<er gayriden cebren kimesne hizmetlerine kar{maya.
Heywood, A Buyuruldu, 128 n. 2.
4
In the light of other capitulations, probably one for himself and one for each
consul he appointed.
5
Noradounghian, Recueil i, 241 (Sweden), 311 (Denmark, 1746, art. 8), 317
(Prussia).
Ve elileri hizmetinde olan tercmanlar olageldi zere haradan ve kassablktan
ve sair tekalif-i ryyeden muaf olalar.
6
And let the dragomans in the service of the ambassadors be exempt
from [payment of ] the poll tax, the slaughter tax, and other custom-
ary levies.
The article also occurs in the French capitulations of 1673 (art. 14)
and 1740 (art. 43), the latter text indicating that this privilege was
universally applied, despite the fact that it does not appear in many
other ahdnames.
7
The article awarding dragomans equal rights is absent in the
English capitulations of 1661, but another article of this text is worth
quoting, because it deals specically with the estates of dragomans:
And the interpreters of the Embassadors of England being free by the
articles, declared in the antient Capitulations, of all Angaria, or Taxes
(tekalif-i ryye); by vertue also of this present Article, when any of the
said Interpreters die (mrde olma), their goods, or Estate shall not be
subject to the Custom (kassam), but shall be divided amongst the
Creditors and, Heirs.
8
This article is important, because it is not mentioned among the
privileges commonly found in dragomans berats. In these warrants the
tax exempt status of the beneciaries of the documents was empha-
sized above all. No poll tax (hara), extraordinary levies (avarz), butch-
ery tax (kassabiye or kassab akesi ), or non-canonical taxes (tekalif-i ryye)
should be demanded from dragomans. The masdariye tax levied on
exported goods also did not aect dragomans. Interpreters serving
the embassies in Istanbul were allowed to make wine from grapes
grown in their own gardens, and neither the Superintendant of Wines
nor anyone else was allowed to demand the cask tax ( fuci akesi ).
66 cn.r+rn +vo
6
Feridun Beg, Mn{eat-i Selatin ii, 490494, esp. 492. Cf. ULL, Cod. Or. 1137,
which is identical to this text except for the word kassabiyyeden where Feridun Beg
has kassablktan.
7
Noradounghian, Recueil I, 139, 288.
8
Colin Heywood, A buyuruldu of A.H. 1100/A.D. 1689 for the Dragomans of
the English Embassy at Istanbul (Notes and Documents on the English Dragomanate,
I), i<dem Balm-Harding and Colin Imber (eds), The Balance of Truth. Essays in
Honour of Professor Georey Lewis (Istanbul, 2000), 124144, esp. 129. The article was
also included in the English capitulation of 1675 (art. 46). Noradounghian, Recueil,
I, 157.
Another important article found in dragoman berats ordered that sol-
diers could not be billeted on the houses of dragomans.
9
Several privileges concerned travel. Dragomans were exempt from
paying customs and transit taxes on provisions, clothing and furni-
ture. At inns and postal stations along the roads nobody should inter-
fere with their possessions and provisions, and imperial couriers were
forbidden to demand the courier tax from dragomans and their ret-
inue. For their safety the interpreters were also allowed to wear a
white turban, which was usually reserved for Muslims. Furthermore,
on the basis of their berats dragomans could carry a sword, a bow
and arrows, and other weaponry.
10
The capitulations stipulated that
members of foreign nations were free to travel anywhere they liked
within the Ottoman domains, and these standard articles of drago-
mans berats suggest that interpreters also enjoyed this privilege. This
is not the case, however. The capitulations notwithstanding, all for-
eigners and their interpreters also needed special travel permits. These
permits, called yol emri or yol hkm, mentioned the travellers point
of departure and his destination, and ordered all Ottoman authori-
ties along the route to respect the privileges of the bearer of the
document.
11
Sons and Servants (hizmetkrs)
Not only holders of berats beneted from them. The tax exemptions
and other privileges were valid for those serving as dragoman, as
well as his sons and servants (tercmanlk hizmetinde olanlar ve o<ullar
ve hizmetkrlar).
12
The sons and servants of a dragoman thus shared
his privileged status. From the Western diplomatic correspondence
it is clear that this was not limited to minor sons. Adult sons of
dragomans were considered protgs as much as their father, for as
long as he continued to hold his berat. If he gave it up, was dis-
missed, or died, the sons instantly lost their status, too. Grandsons
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 67
9
For published texts of dragomans berats, see Herman Almkvist, Ein trkisches
Dragoman-Diplom aus dem vorigen Jahrhundert (Uppsala, 1894); Ba<{, Osmanl ticaretinde
gayri mslimler, 109; lker, (zmir, 125.
10
Ibid.
11
BOA, ED 51, Tercman-i dvel.
12
DNA, LAT 1090, berat of Yor<ak son of Mikhali, a dragoman of the Dutch
embassy, dated 2 }evval 1149/3 February 1737.
of dragomans did not share their grandfathers privileges, despite
occasional attempts by dragomans to accomplish this.
13
The Ottomans never imposed a restriction on the number of sons
to whom a dragomans status was extended, but in the course of
the eighteenth century the number of servants that could be regis-
tered as protgs was limited to two. In the Western sources these
servants are often referred to as rmanlis ( fermanls, i.e. holders of
a ferman). This term reects the Europeans generally imperfect under-
standing of Ottoman chancery practice, for the word ferman simply
means order. The word was used for a wide variety of Ottoman
documents, but not, it seems, to indicate the servants of beratls. For
that purpose the Ottoman clerks reserved the word hizmetkr (ser-
vant). The documents the Ottoman chancery issued as a record of
the status of dragomans servant were called muaf emri (exemption),
or simply emr-i ali (high command). The dragomans privilege of hav-
ing two servants who shared their status was anchored in berats
throughout the eighteenth century.
Berats thus extended the privileges of their holders to their sons
and servants, but brothers were not included. For this reasons some
beratls registered one or two brothers as their servants, while
nephews and sons also appear in this capacitythe latter in spite
of the fact that they should benet from their fathers berat in any
case. For example, both the hizmetkrs of Samuel son of David Murad
Cohen, a protg of Prussia in Aleppo, were his brothers. A beratl
of the Swedish consulate in Salonica had his brother and his brothers
son registered as his servants.
14
The Ottoman registers show that this
occurred regularly. Possibly family members jointly invested in a berat,
registering one of the investors as its principle holder and the other(s)
as his ocial servant(s).
European sources indicate that no master-servant relations existed
whatsoever between many holders of berats and the persons regis-
tered as their servants. For example, in 1790 a Dutch protg in
Aleppo, Yusuf Araqtunji was dismissed from Dutch protection after
68 cn.r+rn +vo
13
DNA, LAT 384, Alexander Drummond [Dutch vice-consul in Aleppo] to Elbert
de Hochepied [Dutch ambassador], 22 June 1752; Ibid., LAT 175, 343244 (sic):
de Hochepied to Drummond, 17 August 1752 (Both in French.)
14
BOA, ED 51, Tercman-i dvel, 117/307, 117/308, mid }evval 1194/1019
October 1780; Ibid., 84/169, 84/170, end }evval 1190/311 December 1776. Cf.
Ibid., 27/65, 27/66, mid Receb 1191/1524 August 1777.
complaints about his drinking habits had reached the Dutch consul.
His hizmetkrs were his own brother, Jibra"il Araqtunji, and a cer-
tain Hanna Badrus. In order to punish only the oender the Dutch
consul dismissed him, but arranged for the two servants to remain
under Dutch protection as titular servants of the new holder of the
berat.
15
Another honorary dragoman of the same consulate, Mordecai
David Cohen, only had one servant registered under his berat, because
the document for the other had expired and never been renewed.
The Dutch ambassador decided to ll the vacancy by applying for
a travel permit in the name of one Pavlaki son of Mikhalaki, enabling
him to travel in the Archipelago untroubled.
16
There is no evidence
of any connection between the two men. Another example in which
any employer-employee relationship was lacking again comes from
the Dutch consulate in Aleppo. One of the ocial servants of its
Greek Catholic rst dragoman, Nasrallah A"ida, was a rabbi called
Ifraim son of Salomon Lagniado. The rabbi had bought the oce
from Aida in 1783.
17
The Porte objected to the sale of the status of dragomans ser-
vant, but the European ambassadors and consuls continued the prac-
tice, nevertheless. Their strategy is revealed in a letter from the Dutch
ambassador, Reinier Baron Van Haeften, to the consul in Aleppo,
Van Maseijk. The nobleman wrote that
with respect to the berat, I must observe, that when one wants two
fermans connected with it, the names of the two persons
18
must not
be mentioned in it [immediately], while in all only three and not ve
people can be registered. In accordance with a common abuse, [the
holders of ] the fermans are passed o as the servants of the beratli.
The ambassador further promised to award the consulate in Aleppo
more berats in the future, so that the number of patents in Aleppo
would get back to its old level. But Van Haeften insisted that the
consul act strictly in accordance with his instructions in this respect,
notably
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 69
15
DNA, LAT 774, Nicolaas van Maseijk aan Van Haeften, 26 May 1780; Ibid.,
18 July 1780. BOA, ED 22/1, 430/1872, 3 }a"ban 1194/4 August 1780; Ibid.,
467/2062, mid Cemaziyelevvel 1204/27 January5 February 1790.
16
DNA, LAT 774, N. van Maseijk to Van Haeften, 7 November 1781.
17
Ibid., N. van Maseijk to Van Haeften, 24 April 1783. Cf. BOA, ED 22/1,
443/1931, evahir-i Cemaziyelahir 1197/413 May 1783.
18
The text has the word Neers, from the Turkish nefer, person.
that you make sure that you act as I have indicated, and relay the
name of the Baratair without mentioning the [names of the] two
Firmans of the berat, as we want to pass them o as the beratlis
domestic servants.
19
In the second half of the eighteenth century the status of hizmetkr
was thus being sold to people who were not meant to benet from
the dragomans privileges. The patents were intended for Ottoman
intermediaries who could facilitate commerce with Western Europe.
The fact that dragomans enjoyed reduced customs taris and were
exempt from other trade related taxes indicates whom the Porte
intended to serve as intermediaries. Contrary to those intentions, in
the second half of the eighteenth century foreign protection was
increasingly sold to artisans and shopkeepers. When a proper berat
was too expensive, they often resorted to the purchase of the status
of servant of a dragoman, which gave them the same privileges at
a lower price.
Warehousemen (mahzencis) and Brokers (simsars)
While the dragomans in the service of embassies and consulates gen-
erally performed the tasks of interpreters and councillors in all mat-
ters Ottoman, the Europeans also needed specialized guidance in the
Ottoman commercial infrastructure. Many dragomans in consular
service were clearly knowledgeable about (or even personally active
in) international trade, but many individual merchants preferred to
employ middlemen of their own. In the Western sources various
names for them appear, like warehousemen (mahzencis)
20
and brokers
(simsars; sensals in French). Like the dragomans, they were invariably
Ottoman Christians and Jews. The scribes (scrivans) the foreign mer-
70 cn.r+rn +vo
19
DNA, LAT 752, 5966, doc 2, Van Haeften to Van Maseijk, 18 November
1781.
20
Although I have not come across the term mahzenci in many Ottoman docu-
ments, it is used in connection with Yusuf Karali, the warehouseman of the French
merchant Thomas Vailhen in Aleppo, in ULL, Cod. Or. 1354, f. 6ab. On Karali
see infra, Chapter Four, and M.H. van den Boogert, Tussen consul en qd: De
juridische positie van dragomans in theorie en praktijk, Sharqiyyt 9/1 (1997), 3753,
esp. 4849.
chants commonly employed were often young Europeans learning
the trade, but occasionally they, too, were Ottoman non-Muslims.
The capitulations did not award the warehousemen, brokers and
scribes any privileges, but they used to acquire them nevertheless. It
is not clear when this process started, but by the middle of the
eighteenth century these middlemen, too, enjoyed the tax exemp-
tions of foreigners and dragomans. A ferman of 1751 prohibited the
demand of money contrary to the capitulations from simsars in the
service of French merchants travelling between Aleppo and the coast,
on the grounds that the goods they carried belonged to the French.
21
Five years later another imperial order stated that the same brokers
were exempt from all non-canonical taxes, just like dragomans and
foreigners were. A ferman from the beginning of April 1757 added
the exemption from the poll tax.
22
There is no evidence that suggests that these privileges extended
to the sons and servants of warehousemen and brokers as well, as
was the case with dragomans.
23
In theory their position was not
hereditary, although in practice sons tended to succeed to the positions
of their fathers. The families supplying the foreigners with middle-
men evidently attempted to monopolize these positions, claiming the
exclusive right to them ( gedik). While many merchants probably pre-
ferred to recruit their brokers and warehousemen among the non-
Muslim families they were familiar with, they objected to the monopoly
these families tried to establish. This is reected by the inclusion in
the French capitulation of 1740 of a new article (no. 60) that stip-
ulated that
Si certains de la nation juive et autres prtendent dhriter de lem-
ploi de censal, les marchands franais se serviront de telles personnes
quils voudront; et lorsque ceux qui se trouveront leur service seront
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 71
21
. . . mugayir-i ahdname-i hmayun ake talebi . . . BOA, ED 342/11, 57/283, end
}evval 1164/1210 September 1751.
22
Ibid., 112/725 end Receb 1169/2130 April 1756: Ibid., 121/797, mid Receb
1170/1120 April 1757.
23
For hkms about the status of simsars in general, see BOA, ED 342/11,
62/321, beginning Rebilevvel 1165/1827 January 1752 (Crete); Ibid., 106/680,
mid Muharrem 1169/1726 October 1755; 154/966, end Rebilevvel 1172/22
November1 December 1758 (Sidon); 168/1028, beginning Muharrem 1173/25
August3 September 1759 (Izmir). For hkms for individual brokers/warehouse-
men, see Ibid., 58/291, mid Zilka"de 1164/110 October 1751 (Tripoli).
chasss, ou viendront mourir, on ne peut rien exiger ni prtendre
de ceux qui leur succderont, sous prtexte dun droit de retenue,
nomm ghdik, ou dune portion dans les censeries, et lon chtiera
ceux qui agiront contre la teneur de cette disposition.
24
Whether or not this capitulatory article had any eect on the selec-
tion of middlemen in practice is not clear. We do know that sev-
eral of these middlemen obtained dragomans berats eventually, which
suggests that the status of interpreter remained more attractive.
Moneychangers (sarrafs)
One of the things the Porte hoped to gain from the capitulations
was the import of bullion. Not without reason the privilege to import
cash currency is found among the rst articles of many ahdnames.
25
Merchants from Western Europe imported large sums of money of
various types and weights into the Ottoman Empire, with which to
purchase the goods they sent home. The complexity of exchange
rates among foreign coinage and from Western to Ottoman currency
made the services of moneychangers indispensable. Moreover, in the
absence of banks the moneychangers usually acted as moneylenders
as well. In the eighteenth century the trade seems to have been dom-
inated by Jews, but Ottoman Christians, particularly Armenians, are
known to have operated as sarrafs too.
26
Despite their importance for the ow of international trade, money-
changers and moneylenders do not seem to have enjoyed a privi-
leged status. They are not mentioned in the capitulations, nor have
I found Ottoman documents that suggest that the sarrafs acquired
privileges in the same gradual way as the other middlemen did. The
fact that moneychangers appear among the ranks of dragomans in
the eighteenth century indicates that this was the surest way for them
to obtain a privileged status.
27
72 cn.r+rn +vo
24
Noradounghian, Recueil, I, 292293.
25
Feridun Beg, Mn{eat-i Selatin, ii, 492 (France/1604, art. 9); Noradounghian,
Recueil, I, 126127 (Genoa/1665, art. 4), 137 (France/1673, art. 4).
26
On the importance of Jewish brokers, moneychangers and moneylenders in
eighteenth-century Izmir, see Elena Frangakis-Syrett, The Commerce of Smyrna in the
Eighteenth Century (17001820) (Athens, 1992), 8889. Also see Onnik Jamgocyan,
Une famille de nanciers armniens au XVIII
e
sicle: les Serpos in Daniel Panzac
(ed.), Les villes dans lempire ottoman: Activits et socits I (Paris, 1991), 365391.
27
BOA, A.DVN.DVE 138, doc. 19, [1749]. Cf. BOA, ED 27/2, 96/391, 9
}evval 1162/22 September 1749.
Haratch Papers
The nal group of people that enjoyed certain capitulatory privi-
leges consists of the servants of ambassadors and consuls. Their priv-
ileges were the most limited, but in practice the distinction between
their status and that of dragomans may not always have been clear
to, and thus enforced by the Ottoman authorities. This development
is worth examining here, because it yields the earliest evidence of
the status of dragomans being conferred on people who did not actu-
ally hold the oce of interpreter.
Special arrangements existed for a number of the embassy sta
with regard to the payment of the poll tax levied on all male non-
Muslim subjects of the Ottoman Empire. This arrangement occurred
through what are called haratch papers in the western sources.
The procedures involved are illustrated by documents published re-
cently by Heywood concerning the English embassy in Istanbul at
the end of the seventeenth century.
28
The exemption from payment
of hara for a maximum of ten of the ambassadors household was
anchored in the English capitulations of 1661 in the following article:
Ve kral-i m{ara ileyh Asitane-i Saadetimin sadakat zere dost olmala, sdde-
i saadetime mukim olan elisinin dah yalniz on nefer hizmetkr herhangi millet-
den olursa muaf olub rencide olunmya
Since the aforementioned king in terms of voluntary benefactions is a
friend to My Lofty Porte, of his ambassador residing at the Threshold
of Felicity only ten servants of whichever community will be exempt
and may not suer damage.
29
For this privilege to be eective, ambassadors needed to submit a
petition to the reislkttab listing the names of the ten men who were
to be exempted from payment of the poll tax. The petition pub-
lished by Heywood dates from 1689 and contains the names of six
registered dragomans (beratls) and four others. In response to the
ambassadors request a buyuruldu was issued conrming their exempt
status. As far as the collectors of the poll tax were concerned, all
ten men should thus be considered tercmans, a title also attributed
to them in the Ottoman text. Despite the fact that its meaning was
clearly limited to this particular context, the application of the title
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 73
28
Heywood, A buyuruldu, 125144.
29
Ibid., 129 n. 4.
dragoman to all men on the list was misleading. Moreover, in an
accompanying letter from the ambassador, Sir William Trumbull,
liberally speaks of an exemption from all the unjust taxes and
imposts for my dragomans.
30
Deliberately or not, the ambassador
failed to acknowledge the dierence in status between the six actual
beratls and the four beratsz, embracing them all as equal employees.
It may well have been this form of protection that gave rise to
the rst alarming accounts of the increasing number of foreign pro-
tgs, which date from the end of the seventeenth century. According
to one account the Ottoman tax farmers claimed that the suburbs
of Galata and Pera had come to be peopled very largely by privi-
leged persons. According to the same source these Ottoman ocers
exaggerated their complaints in order to beat down the Farm, i.e.
to reduce the price they paid for their positions. Nevertheless, the
Porte took these claims seriously enough to order an investigation
as early as 1677. As a result it was ordered that all dragomans berats
had to be renewed, a measure that did not necessarily limit their
number, but did cost the protgs extra money.
31
The suggestion
that the foreign quarters of Istanbul were inhabited largely by pro-
tgs in this period more likely reected common fears about the
system getting out of hand, than excesses already occurring.
Like the embassies, consulates throughout the Levant also conrmed
the general tax-exempt status of dragomans simultaneously with the
registration of one specic tax privilege for other servants of the con-
sulate. A list of the names of the Persons given in, in a List to the
Haratchgee
32
freed by the [English] Consul [in Izmir] from the Duty
of Haratch from 1702/3 illustrates this procedure. The rst six
names are those of the dragomans who were in active service, fol-
lowed by four names of sons of Druggermen. They were not, in
fact, the sons of any of the former six dragomans, although two of
them can be connected with a protg mentioned in the Ottoman
records of this time.
33
Subsequently, a list of twelve men is given.
74 cn.r+rn +vo
30
Ibid., 140.
31
G.F. Abbott, Under the Turk in Constantinople. A Record of Sir John Finchs Embassy
16741681 (Oxford, 1920), 266.
32
Haraci, the collector of the poll tax.
33
They were Moses and Abraham Arditi, the sons of Ifrahim Arditi, whose berat
was registered on beginning }evval 1108/23 April2 May 1697 (BOA, ED 35/1,
62/50). After Ifrahims death, the patent was transferred to Moses (Ibid., 68/88,
They included the broker of one of the dragomans, the consuls
butler and junior butler, his gardener, cook and assistant cooks, an
assistant of the consular chaplain, a barber, and a certain Giovanni
di Crokio, ddler. Also on the list was Nicolo di Manoli, a baker,
who probably operated the consulates own oven.
34
Finally, seven
servants of the dragomans are listed as having been freed from
the payment of the poll tax. The total number of people mentioned
is 29.
35
The list was submitted to the Porte through the embassy in
Istanbul.
Two groups can be distinguished on this list, the rst consisting
of the actual dragomans, their servants, and the dragomans sons,
the second of other consular personnel. The rst group enjoyed all
the privileges associated with dragomanship, while the second were
free from payment of the poll tax only. For the rst group the
list conrms an existing privilege. For the second group its function
is closer to that of a receipt, since the tax was in fact paid for them.
Throughout the Levant, European consulates made this arrangement
for their Ottoman sta. For example, every year, upon the arrival
of the English ships carrying cloth to Izmir, the collector of the poll
tax received fteen pikes of cloth on behalf of the protgs, which
were debited to the Levant Companys account with the consulate.
36
The Dutch in Istanbul and Aleppo did the same thing, as did the
French in Salonica.
37
The Ottoman authorities were aware of the danger that others
might also claim benet from this arrangement. This is clear from
a letter the Porte sent to the cadi in Izmir in 1697, which names
ve servants of the British consul in the town who were exempt
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 75
mid }a"ban 1117/28 November7 December 1705, where the fathers name is given
as Ibrahim). After Moses death, the document went to Abraham Arditi, but whether
this was his brother, or even a son, is not clear (Ibid., 25 }a"ban 1133/21 June
1721).
34
BNA, SP 105/334: f. 101 r. [dated the end of Gemazielula 1087/110
August 1676].
35
Ibid., f. 112r.113v.: The names of the Persons [. . .] January 1702/3. For a
similar list for the year 1735/36, see Ibid., f. 117 r.
36
Ibid., f. 59v: Presents usually given in Smyrna . . .
37
DNA, LH 164 (i), Nota . . . hollands Consulaed in Aleppo [ January to December
1738, 1739]; N.G. Svoronos, Le commerce de Salonique au XVIII
e
sicle (Paris, 1956),
152. The English later substituted the customary presents in kind for cash payments
after nancial reforms in the organisation of the British Levant Trade. BNA, SP
105/217B: Peter Tooke, Treasurer at Constantinople, to the Levant Company, 25
October 1784. The Dutch did the same. DNA, LAT 1342, Folders 1772, 1776,
1778, 1784.
from payment of hara. The central authorities warned that the sta-
tus of these ve should not prevent the judge from demanding pay-
ment of the tax from anyone else, even if they claimed also to be
exempt. Be sure not to protect anyone other than his proper ser-
vants, the command repeated.
38
Injunctions like this notwithstand-
ing, it must have been dicult for subordinate ocers in the provinces
to decide which document was valid when they were confronted
with contradictory evidence. Some Ottoman documents call people
dragomans, who were clearly not. As a result people with legally
marginal connections with a foreign embassy or consulate were implic-
itly presented as full protgs. The holders of mere haratch papers
were thus sometimes awarded more comprehensive protection. While
the number of people involved was limited and the eects may not
have been severe, these practices were conducive to abuses of the
capitulations, and may well have formed a precursor to the appoint-
ment of honorary dragomans.
39
The next paragraphs focus on
another development with more serious consequences. It has gener-
ally been considered abusive, but was not in itself: the commercial-
isation of foreign protection.
COMMERCIALISATION
In the course of the eighteenth century, European protection became
a commodity. Aliation with a foreign embassy or consulate could
be purchased from those institutions for large sums. The arrange-
ment was open to non-Muslim Ottoman subjects only. To distin-
guish the dragomans in actual service from their nominal colleagues
who had bought only the title, the Europeans generally called the
latter honorary dragomans. Sometimes the titular interpreters were
referred to as Beratlees (beratls), despite the fact that serving drago-
mans held berats, too. The Ottoman sources make no distinction
76 cn.r+rn +vo
38
BNA, SP 105/334, 28: Ottoman text (12 Cemaziyelahir 1109/26 December
1697), with Italian translation.
39
Propaganda Fide, Rome: ACTA 131 (1761) f. 400r.406r. (in French): Report
by the Vicar Apostolic in Izmir of 3 December 1760 stating that consular servants
with only haratch papers had unjustly escaped punishment after having broken
the law, because dragomans in the service of their consulates interceded with the
Ottoman authorities in their defence, a form of representation to which they were
not formally entitled.
between the two types of dragomans, using the word beratl for both.
In this study the term dragoman(s) will be used exclusively with
reference to interpreters who actually served embassies and con-
sulates. The term protg(s) will be used as a synonym for what
the Western sources call honorary dragomans, i.e. those who were
dragomans in name only. Finally, the word beratl(s) will be used with
reference to the entire group of active interpreters and honorary
dragomans, who all enjoyed the same privileges.
Although the protection system is widely believed to have grown
out of all proportion, the process has scarcely been studied. In the
following paragraphs the allocation of berats, the recruitment of pro-
tgs, and the price of protection in the eighteenth century will be
discussed. Furthermore, the system will be quantied for the eight-
eenth century, and we must confront the question of whether there
were Western imperialist designs behind this increase in the num-
ber of protgs.
An Ambassadorial Perquisite
The sale of berats was an ambassadorial privilege with which foreign
diplomats at the Porte supplemented their salaries, which were often
insucient to cover their expenses. Because the lifestyle of these
diplomats was meant to reect the splendour of the courts they rep-
resented, many lived beyond their means. They lived in palatial res-
idences along the central street of Galata, with large households
consisting of their own families, as well as housemaids, valets, gar-
deners, grooms, and other servants. Another member of the house-
hold was the ambassadors private minister, chaplain or priest. The
Dutch ambassador, Cornelis Calkoen, for example, had a retinue of
38 people, while those of his French, British and Venetian colleagues
consisted of some 78, 55, and 98, respectively.
40
The non-Ottoman
members of the sta usually received housing on the embassy premises,
and they would dine at the ambassadors table. Dinner parties for
colleagues and other distinguished guests were recurrent events on
the social calendar, as were return visits. A summerhouse in one of
the villages surrounding Istanbul seems to have been an inevitable
requisite. Regular trade activities could not alleviate the nancial
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 77
40
G.R. Bosscha-Erdbrink, At the Threshold of Felicity: Ottoman-Dutch Relations during
the Embassy of Cornelis Calkoen at the Sublime Porte 17261744 (Amsterdam, 1977), 119.
diculties of ambassadors, as they were not allowed to engage in
commercial enterprise on their own account.
In the light of these circumstances it is not surprising that the
European representatives at the Ottoman Porte should have tried to
make the most of their emoluments, which included the sale of drago-
mans patents. It was not the European trade authorities, but the
Porte that made this source of extra income available to the ambas-
sadors. It is not clear when the rst honorary dragoman was
appointed. According to one English source the sale of titular drago-
manships only started in 1737, but another states that these Baraats
are a perquisite, that has belonged to the Embassy from its rst insti-
tution.
41
From the embassy registers it becomes clear that Dutch
exploitation of the protection system became important only during
the term of Calkoen (in oce 172644), but for earlier periods the
records are admittedly scant.
42
The same is true for the English.
Although, in the words of one British ambassador, no servants of
a Crowned Head should ever be permitted to eat any bread, but
that of their employers, few ambassadors could aord to stick to
this rule.
43
Since the distribution of berats was a prerogative of the ambas-
sador, he personally made decisions about the allocation of patents,
and he xed their price. He also beneted most from the sale of
berats. According to Calkoen, the Ottoman authorities raised the num-
ber of dragomans per ambassador on their own initiative. This mea-
sure was meant to reect the esteem in which the ambassadors
personally were held at the Porte. Although the Dutchman claims
that the patents were not awarded nomine publici aut ocii, the num-
ber of protgs an ambassador was awarded almost certainly reected
his political importance as well. The French ambassador was thus
granted more extra berats than anyone else, while the British ambas-
sador had fewer protgs than his French colleague, but more than
the Dutch representative.
44
The allocation of berats was the ambassadors most important con-
tribution to the recruitment of protgs. During most of the eight-
78 cn.r+rn +vo
41
BNA, SP 105/118, 98: The Levant Company to Sir James Porter, 19 January
1748; BNA, SP 110/86, doc. 12: Murray to the Earl of Shelburne, 17 August 1767.
42
On Calkoens embassy, see Bosscha-Erdbrink, At the Threshold of Felicity.
43
BNA, SP 110/86: John Murray to the Earl of Shelburne, 17 August 1767.
44
Bosscha Erdbrink, At the Threshold of Felicity, 202; Bronnen III, 82, Calkoen to
the burgomasters of Amsterdam, 27 May 1736.
eenth century the demand for protection was higher than its sup-
ply. This means that for every new berat that was issued, or every
existing one that became vacant, prospective buyers were known to
exist throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. The ambassador per-
sonally decided to which consulate or vice-consulate a diploma was
allocated, usually taking this decision before inquiring about specic
candidates with the local (vice-) consul. Naturally, if the need sud-
denly arose for a dragoman in the active service of the embassy or
some consulate, this was given priority. Where honorary drago-
manships were concerned, the ambassador needed to balance the
demands of the large consulates, like the one in Izmir, with the inter-
ests of the smaller ones, like those in Cyprus, and the Ionian islands.
In general, the small consulates and vice-consulates were granted a
maximum of one dragoman, and one or two protgs. The num-
bers of dragomans and beratls connected with the larger consulates
varied, as will be discussed in more detail below. Most ambassadors
claimed to be guided by established practice, i.e. the policies of their
predecessors, but this did not prevent the price of protection from
rising over the years.
The Price of Protection
Most ambassadors considered the trade in berats a welcome addition
to their income, and they disposed of the documents as generously
as the Ottoman chancery allowed. The prots involved were sub-
stantial, for on top of the expenses incurred in the procurement of
a berat from the Ottoman chancery the ambassadors charged hun-
dreds of kuru{ for their own benet. A note in Italian about the costs
of procuring a dragomans diploma issued to the Dutch embassy in
1748 mentions the following expenses in Lion Dollars (Ld):
al Res E. (to the reislkttab) Ld 60:
al suo Kichudar (to his bookkeeper [kisedar]) Ld 40:
alli suoi domestici (to his servants) Ld 22:
Per calemi (for chancery fees [kalemiye]) Ld 30:
Per la Carta (for paper) Ld 3:
Per il Tour (for the tu<ra) Ld 2: 90
al Drag.
o
della Porta (to the Dragoman of the Porte) Ld 50:
Ld 207: 90
45
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 79
45
In the Dutch documents the exchange rate of the Lion Dollar to the Ottoman
The chancery expenses had risen to about 500 kuru{ by 1766, a sum
that remained stable at least until 1780.
In 1751 an English source blamed the rise of the price of drago-
mans berats on a French dragoman who had made the reislkttab
believe that the ambassadors received 1,500 kuru{ per document.
Wanting a share of this sum, the Reis Efendi subsequently raised
the chancery costs, according to this account.
46
This suggests that
the Ottoman authorities were aware of the fact that the ambassadors
sold their surplus berats, i.e. those documents not needed for drago-
mans in the service of the embassy or consulates, but did not know
how much they fetched exactly. This source furthermore suggests
that the alleged informer of the Porte had exaggerated greatly by
mentioning an average price of 1,500 kuru{, but this was not in fact
the case. During the second half of the eighteenth century a full
berat with privileges for two servants sold for at least ve times the
sum of chancery expenses. According to the French traveller Volney,
a dragomans patent fetched as much as 5,0006,000 kuru{. DOhsson
mentions prices between 2,500 and 4,000 kuru{, while Dutch and
English sources from the period indicate a price level of 2,5003,000
kuru{.
47
In addition to the price of the patent itself, a beratl paid further
charges when he needed to have it renewed at the accession to the
throne of a new sultan. In 1765, Dutch protgs were each charged
300 kuru{ for this service, but after 1780 they paid no less than 1,500
kuru{ for renewals, which included the Ottoman chancery fees. By
the beginning of the nineteenth century, around 1,000 kuru{ had to
be paid for the status of hizmetkr under Dutch protection, the renewal
of which generally cost 400 kuru{. By then a full berat with two
hizmetkrs cost as much as 4,500 kuru{.
48
80 cn.r+rn +vo
kuru{ was usually 1:1. Appendix to DNA, LAT 596: Rigo to the ambassador, 16
July 1748, Nota delle spese alla Porta per la spedizzione dun Beratto cons.
es
data
dal med.
o
Drag.
o
[Rudolph Bragiotti].
46
BNA, SP 105/118, 215: The Levant Company to Sir James Porter, 15 November
1751. The Levant Company had probably received this account from Porter himself.
47
BNA, SP 110/87: Murray to Mr. Hays [consul at Smyrna], 8 July 1766; Ibid.,
Murray to Henry Preston Esq. [Aleppo], 28 October 1766; DNA, LAT 752, 3637,
Ambassador Van Haeften to consul Van Maseijk, Aleppo, 7 August 1780; C.F.
Volney, Voyage en Syrie et en Egypte pendant les annes 1783, 1784 & 1785, II (Paris,
1790), 391; dOhsson, Tableau gnral, III, 461.
48
Bronnen III, 912: N. van Maseijk to Dedel, 26 September 1765; DNA, LAT
To put the prices of berats into perspective, the following expenses
give an indication of the purchasing power of the Ottoman kuru{ in
this period. For the price of a berat in 1763 (c. 2,000 kuru{), one
could buy some 150 pikes of linen on the market in Izmir. For the
same sum one could rent 111 modest storage rooms in the town for
a whole year. Alternatively, the money could be invested in 16 cas-
kets of German Moselle wine, which would yield over 3,200 bottles.
For 2,000 kuru{ one could also buy 666 tickets in the lottery run by
a dragoman called Gallo, and have money left for four bottles of
local wine, which went for 1820 ake, or about half a kuru{, each.
49
In Aleppo, for the price of a full berat one could purchase ve Turkish
riding horses of 250300 kuru{ each. In order to have them taken
to Istanbul to be sold, another 100 kuru{ per horse needed to be
invested in grooms and fodder, for the slow caravan trip to the
Ottoman capital could take up to forty days. Arabian thoroughbreds
were available in Aleppo for 500600 kuru{, so that two could be
purchased and sent to Europe for under 2,000 kuru{. During the rst
half of the eighteenth century the total annual expenses of the Dutch
consulate in the Syrian city were not much higher than the price of
a single berat, while in the second half of the century 2,000 kuru{
more than covered its expenses for a period of six months.
50
In other
words, the purchase of a berat constituted a substantial investment
for its holder.
Although large sums thus were paid for berats, their holders did
not own them. Strictly speaking, it was only the usufruct of the
patents that was being sold by the ambassadors. Therefore in the-
ory the dragomans diplomas could not be given as bond, nor could
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 81
752, 3840: Van Haeften to Van Maseijk, 25 September 1780. DNA, LAT 975,
aanwinsten 1894, no. 1bbbb; DNA, Collection 46, 109: Account between Jan van
Maseijk and Van Dedem, signed Aleppo 15 September 1803. Ba<{ notes that the
British ambassador Liston sold berats for 2,5006,000 kuru{ in 1795; Ba<{, Osmanl
ticaretinde gayri mslimler, 29.
49
DNA, CAS 527: Ledger of personal income and expenditures of Abraham
Keun, a Dutch merchant in Izmir, 17611773, 2, 4, 21, 45, 47, 48; DNA, LAT
1342, File 1762, Elbert de Hochepied to Thesaurier Bongard, 3 April 1762.
50
The price of horses is mentioned in N. van Maseijk to Dedel, 26 September
1765, in Bronnen IV/i, 9. On the costs of the consulate, see DNA, LAT 1342,
Folder 1772: Account of expenses of the Aleppo consulate, 1 September 1775 [from
1 January to 30 June: 1804 kuru{ and 74 ake]; DNA, LH 247, Treasury accounts
Aleppo: Expenses for 1744 (1887 kuru{ and 64 ake, 1745 (1946 kuru{ and 13 ake),
and 1746 (1950 kuru{ and 23 ake).
they be sequestered or sold for the benet of creditors against their
holders will.
51
This is also the reason why berats could not formally
be inherited, despite the fact that in practice they were often passed
on to one of the holders relatives. The dragomans berats were also
not the property of the foreign diplomats who sold them. They were
Ottoman documents of appointment, which had been issued by the
imperial chancery in Istanbul, and which could thus be revoked by
the Porte as well. This reality was dicult to accept for the ambas-
sadors, and indignant protests followed the occasional suspension or
revocation of the privileged status of individual dragomans by the
Ottoman authorities. The same measures could be taken by the
ambassadors themselves, but arbitrary dismissals were discouraged
by the fact that beratls from whom protection had been withdrawn
could turn to the Porte to demand redress.
52
Although Ottoman
revocations and withdrawals of protection by European ambassadors
were rare, their occasional occurrence underlines the precarious hold
the protgs had on their privileges.
Prots
When a patent was sold to a protg in Istanbul, almost the entire
prot was for the ambassador. The sums involved should not be
overestimated. The British ambassador, John Murray, stated that he
made a net prot of 250 per berat, selling only one per year on
average.
53
The diplomatic sources show that ambassadors bargained
like any other merchant, initially quoting high prices, but often set-
tling for lower sums. The highest prices paid for berats in one loca-
tion were cited as the standard when they were oered somewhere
else. A letter from Murray to the consul in Izmir, Anthony Hayes,
82 cn.r+rn +vo
51
In practice beratls did occasionally sell their patents voluntarily to settle debts.
In 1758, for example, the berat of an Austrian protg in Aleppo, Narallah Arkash,
was sold to the highest bidder in order to pay his debt to Patrick Russell, the
Levant Company physician. BNA, SP 110/62 (i): f. 4r, 11 September 1758.
52
See for example, a complaint by a former British dragoman, Haccadur de
Serpos, against his dismissal. (BOA, ED 35/1, 120/413, 10 Ramazan 1178/3 March
1765.) The Grand Vizier urged the ambassador, Murray, to reimburse the costs of
his berat, or to reinstate the man. BNA, SP 110/86, Murray to the Earl of Shelburne,
1 June 1767; Ibid., Murray to the Earl of Shelburne, 15 September 1767.
53
Ibid., Murray to Henry Grenville, 16 January 1766; Ibid., Murray to the Earl
of Shelburne, 17 August 1767.
illustrates these points. The sale of a berat had been discussed in their
correspondence earlier, and a bid had evidently been made for it.
Murray sent the following answer.
With regard to the price of the Berrat, they tell me here, it is too
low. My Druggerman tells me, there is an expence of 500 Piastres
[kuru{] to procure it, which I have already issued out, as the command
for the 3 per cent augments the expence. The Druggerman likewise
tells me, that it is usual to pay him 100 Piastres, besides the fees to
the secretary. If M. Micalaki Veledi Nicolo Patrichi proposes paying
all these fees exclusive, I should approve of the bargain, otherwise the
Druggerman tells me 1000 Cecchins [Venetian Cecchini of 4 kuru{] is
the common price; & the person may be assured that the English pro-
tection is at present in high esteem at the Porte. Notwithstanding as
I am persuaded you have my interest at heart I shall leave the whole
transaction to your management & the Berat shall be sent by the rst
opportunity, [. . .] so that I can only repeat, do your business & remit
the money as soon as convenient to you.
54
Murrays claim that the simultaneous application for another Imperial
Command (a conrmation of the general customs tari of 3% ad
valorem for another protg) increased the expenses of the berat on
oer was simply false. Possibly the ambassador wanted to suggest
that he was already accepting a loss on the transaction. When Patraki
countered that he could buy a berat for a third of the quoted price
elsewhere, Murray merely replied that British quality did not come
cheaply. In the end Patraki bought Murrays patent for 2,600 kuru{,
instead of the 4,000 demanded by the ambassador initially.
55
In the
meantime the name of Mikhalaki son of Niqulu Patraki had already
been registered in the Ottoman records as the new holder of the
berat on 6 July 1766, despite the fact that negotiations about its price
still continued at the time.
56
This example also sheds light on the mediating role of consuls in
the sale of berats. When the beratl or hizmetkr lived outside the
Ottoman capital, and was under the jurisdiction of a consulate, the
ambassador shared the prots with the consul. Dutch consuls received
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 83
54
BNA, SP 110/87: Murray to Hays [consul at Smyrna], Constantinople 8 July
1766.
55
Ibid., Murray to Henry Preston [Aleppo], 28 October 1766 mentions a price
of 2,700 kuru{, but this is corrected in the subsequent letter, of 29 November.
Patrakis blu is mentioned in Ibid., Murray to Hayes, 6 August 1766.
56
BOA, ED 35/1, 121/415, 28 Muharrem 1180/6 July 1766.
100 kuru{ for every berat that was allocated to their consulate.
57
It
seems that the English did not share in the prots of the berat trade
of their ambassadors until the third quarter of the eighteenth cen-
tury, when the Levant Company awarded the consul in Izmir a
share of about 50 per cent.
58
Not only did the consuls often supply
the actual protection that was sold, they were essential for the ini-
tial recruitment of most protgs. Although the ambassador made
the nal decision about appointments and collected most of the
money paid for them, he often relied on his consuls to recommend
suitable candidates.
Recruitment
Ottoman subjects who wanted to procure a berat, or become (nom-
inal) hizmetkrs, applied for the relevant documents with the embassy
or consulate of their choosing. The dragomans of those institutions
played an important role in the selection of prospective protgs,
since their local networks enabled them to gather information about
candidates they did not already know as members of their religious
community, or through commercial contact. They probably also
received a part of the prot for their advice. Existing dragomans
tended to favour applications by their own relatives. The Europeans
were generally conservative in their choice, preferring members of
families they already knew. Despite the fact that berats ocially were
not hereditary, they were thus often handed down from father to
son, nevertheless.
59
In this way so-called dragoman dynasties came
into being, the best known of which were the Testa, Chirico, Crutta,
and Pisani families of Istanbul, which had western origins.
60
Outside
84 cn.r+rn +vo
57
Bronnen III, 912, N. van Maseijk to Dedel, 26 September 1765.
58
BNA, SP 105/120, p. 173: The Levant Company, London, to Consul Hayes
at Smyrna, 28 February 1777; Ibid., 181183, esp. 182: The Levant Company,
London, to Ambassador Robert Ainslie, 16 May 1777.
59
E.g. BOA, ED 22/1, 233/923, 15 Cemaziyelevvel 1136/10 February 1724
[Aleppo]; 256/1039, beginning }evval 1144/28 March-6 April 1732 [Izmir]; 491/2187,
8 }evval 1211/6 April 1797 [Cyprus]; ED 96/1, 89/65, beginning Zilka"de 1166/30
August8 September 1753 [(skenderun]; ED 27/2, 138/623, 15 Zilka"de 1190/26
December 1776 (marginal note) [Sidon].
60
A. Gautier, LOrigine des dynasties de drogmans, BAAEDINALCO (Oct. 1992),
312; A.H. de Groot, Dragomans Careers: The Change of Status in some Families
the Ottoman capital the same process gave rise to smaller dynasties
of dragomans and protgs. In Izmir, for example, members of the
Greek Homero family enjoyed the protection of several consulates
throughout the eighteenth century. The oce of rst dragoman of
the British consulate in the town was often taken by a scion of this
family, or by one of their closest rivals, the Greek Abro family. In
Aleppo, members of the Maronite Karali and Sadir families, and
the Greek Catholic Dallal and A"ida families were under French,
British, and Dutch protection throughout the period.
The Numbers of Protgs
In the historiography of the protection system one specic passage
from the twentieth-century Arabic chronicle of Aleppo by al-Ghazzi
is often quoted. It concerns a report by the governor-general of the
city in 1793, Sleyman Feyzi Pa{a, in which he claimed that 1,500
men enjoyed foreign protection in the city, which allegedly had a
negative eect on local tax revenues. The chronicle has long been
considered as giving at least an approximate idea of the size of the
protection system.
61
Recently Bruce Masters has cast doubt on the
number mentioned by al-Ghazzi, using Ottoman reports to suggest
that a much smaller group of protgs was connected with foreign
consulates in Aleppo at the time.
62
Although this correction is valuable,
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 85
connected with the British and Dutch Embassies at Istanbul 17851829, Hamilton,
et al. (eds), Friends and Rivals, 223246.
61
Kamil al-Ghazzi, Nahr al-dhahab ta"rkh alab (Aleppo, 19231926), iii, 242.
Bruce Masters, The Origins of Western Economic Dominance in the Middle East (New York,
1988), 97, 108; Bernard Heyberger, Les chrtiens du Proche-Orient au temps de la rforme
catholique (Rome, 1994), 257 n. 26; Alfred Schlicht, Frankreich und die syrische Christen
17591861: Minoritten und europischer Imperialismus im Vorderen Orient (Berlin, 1981),
128, on the basis of Hamilton Gibb, Harold Bowen, Islamic Society and the West. I:
Islamic Society in the Eighteenth Century ii (Oxford, 1950), 310311. Also see Salhi R.
Sonyel, Minorities and the Destruction of the Ottoman Empire (Ankara, 1993), 110; (nalck,
Imtiyzt, 1187; Ba<{, Osmanl ticaretinde gayri mslimler, 44.
62
Masters, Christians and Jews, 79. Earlier Masters called the number mentioned
by al-Ghazzi undoubtedly grossly inated. See his The Sultans Entrepreneurs:
The Avrupa Tccaris and the Hayriye Tccaris in Syria, IJMES 24 (1992), 579597,
esp. 587.
Masters statistics are limited to Aleppo only. The following system-
atic examination of several Ottoman registers concerns the entire
Eastern Mediterranean, giving reliable numbers of Ottoman protgs
throughout the eighteenth century for the rst time.
A Survey
The Ottoman ecnebi devletler defterleri oer valuable statistical material
about beratls. In these volumes the clerks of the Ottoman chancery
systematically registered summaries of berats and other documents
that were issued to the foreign ambassadors. Separate accounts were
kept for each foreign power, containing thousands of entries in more
or less chronological order. Appointments of foreign consuls in the
Ottoman Empire were conrmed by a deed issued by the Ottoman
chancery, without which no one could actually take oce. Dragomans
could also only claim the privileges belonging to their station after
they had received their Ottoman warrant of appointment. In prin-
ciple all these documents were registered in the Ottoman chancery.
In the following census three registers concerning Great Britain,
France and the Dutch Republic have been consulted, all of which
cover the entire eighteenth century. The volumes for Great Britain
and France are so-called ni{an defterleri, which contain almost exclu-
sively notes about the deeds of appointment of consuls and drago-
mans. The ledger concerning the Dutch Republic is a so-called
ahdname defteri, or Capitulations Register, in which deeds of appoint-
ment are found alongside other kinds of documents issued by the
central chancery, such as hkms, buyuruldus, and, occasionally, ahd-
names. For every appointment a separate document was issued, and
registered. Because the Ottoman registers for foreign matters were
organised chronologically, it is possible to count the numbers of
dragomans in specic periods. The fact that berats needed to be
renewed periodically resulted in clusters of records of renewals within
the registers, and it is on the basis of these groups that the follow-
ing census was taken.
On his accession to the Ottoman throne a new sultan usually
conrmed the appointments made by his predecessor explicitly. For
foreigners this meant that all berats issued to their consuls, drago-
mans and protgs under the previous sultan had to be re-applied
for. Originally, the old documents did not need to be returned to
86 cn.r+rn +vo
Istanbul, but in the course of the eighteenth century this did become
necessary. Renewals were recorded both in separate entries in the
ecnebi defterleri, and by interlinear notes over existing records. The
separate entries rst mentioned the reason for issuing the document,
i.e. the accession to the throne of a new sultan. Subsequently the
name of the person who was conrmed in oce, the nature of that
oce, and the date of his original appointment or of the previous
renewal were recorded. Finally, the entries were dated. Interlinear
notes above existing records would simply state that because of the
accession to the throne the berat was renewed.
63
Most berats were
conrmed within a year of the accession of a new sultan.
The three registers studied here yield a total of 1,174 summaries
and copies of berats, 271 in the Dutch register, 440 in the one for
Great Britain, and 463 under French protection. The sample cov-
ers the entire eighteenth century. In order to establish how many
Ottoman beratls these three foreign powers had during this period,
I have taken the years during which a new sultan took the throne
as points of reference. Within a year of each accession most drago-
mans patents were renewed, which makes it easier to count them.
The data concerning the period of Mustafa IIs accession to the
throne, on 6 February 1695, are incomplete, so this census starts
with his successor. The nal probe period coincides with the begin-
ning of the reign of Sultan Selim III, who ascended the throne on
7 April 1789. Close attention was thus given to the years immedi-
ately following the accession of the sultans Ahmed III (22 August
1703), Mahmud I (2 October 1730), Osman III (14 December 1754),
Mustafa III (30 October 1757), Abdlhamid I (21 January 1774),
and, nally, Selim III. A survey of these periods in which the berats
issued to European protgs were renewed by the Ottoman author-
ities yields the following statistics, in which the dragomans in active
service are also included (see table 1).
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 87
63
Culus-i hmayun in berat tecdid olunmu{tur; Note above ED 35/1, 118/399, ter-
cman eli, 2 Ramazan 1174/7 April 1761; The next document, 118/400, tercman
Mora, 25 Ramazan [1]174/30 April 1761, has the same renewal note, but is dated
12 Rebilevvel [1]189/12 June 1775.
Table 1. The numbers of berats in circulation in the entire Ottoman Empire.
1115/1703 1143/1730 1168/1754 1171/1757 1187/1774 1203/1789
France 35 41 48 46
64
51 46
Gr. Britain 15 34 45 43 43 43
Dutch Rep. 24 28 26
65
30 29 34
Source: BOA, ED 27/2 (France), 35/1 (Great Britain), 22/1 (Dutch Republic).
The distribution of berats over the three traditionally most prominent
Ottoman centres of trade with the West, Istanbul, Izmir, and Aleppo
breaks down as follows (see tables 2ac).
Table 2 a. The numbers of French berats in Istanbul, Izmir, and Aleppo.
France 1115/1703 1143/1730 1168/1754 1171/1757 1187/1774 1203/1789
Istanbul 11 17 12 15 9 14
Izmir 8 8 5 4 4 6
Aleppo 2 7 8 10 5
66
Table 2 b. The numbers of British berats in Istanbul, Izmir, and Aleppo.
Great Britain 1115/1703 1143/1730 1168/1754 1171/1757 1187/1774 1203/1789
Istanbul 10 14 16 11 11 10
Izmir 1 6 3 5 7 6
Aleppo 2 5 11 13 10 14
Table 2 c. The numbers of Dutch berats in Istanbul, Izmir, and Aleppo.
Dutch 1115/1703 1143/1730 1168/1754 1171/1757 1187/1774 1203/1789
Republic
Istanbul 15 16 7 3 5 5
Izmir 6 7 6 10 7 9
Aleppo 1 2 7 9 14 12
88 cn.r+rn +vo
64
Cf. BOA, ED 27/2, 202/946, undated entry, document directly above dated
7 Safer [1]172/10 October 1758, which mentions the total of 52 beratls for the
French. The entry is identical to that concerning the French of BOA, A.DVN.DVE
138, doc. 19, with the exception of the name of sarraf Musa w. Isak, which is
crossed out in the ecnebi defteri. The British ecnebi defteri notes 50 beratls; ED 35/1,
174/691, 7 Safer 1172/10 October 1758.
65
This number is incomplete. Before the Dutch had renewed all their berats after
the accession to the throne of Osman III, the process started over again after
Mustafa III had succeeded to the throne.
66
Cf. Heyberger, Les chrtiens du Proche-Orient, Annexe 5, which mentions a total
of 6 beratls of the French consulate in Aleppo in 1780.
These gures show that at the beginning of the eighteenth century
Istanbul was the most important centre of foreign protection. In the
case of the French Izmir was a close rival, but in subsequent years
the dierence became more pronounced. The British ambassadors
also had the most protgs in the Ottoman capital, a number that
briey reached a peak in the middle of the eighteenth century. Dutch
protection was likewise concentrated in Istanbul at the beginning of
the century, but the importance of the capital decreased steadily. At
the end of the eighteenth century the original number of 15 had
been reduced by two thirds. The importance of Aleppo as a centre
of protection increased dramatically, while the role of the city in
international trade declined during the same period. It is unclear
whether or not any connection existed between the two develop-
ments. The ascendance of Aleppo illustrates the process of the decen-
tralization of protection as a whole, for beratls were appointed not
only in this Syrian city, but in the Archipelago, and Palestine as
well. In places like Durazzo (Durrs), Salonica, Patras and Cyprus,
dragomans began to be appointed, some of whom actively served
consulates there, while others were honorary dragomans. In the
course of the eighteenth century the number of beratls therefore
increased, and the geographical scope of the protection system widened.
These statistics show that the number of beratls protected by the
ambassadors of these three countries increased steadily in the course
of the eighteenth century, but the actual numbers were lower than
has often been assumed. DOhsson has claimed that the number of
protgs was xed between 30 and 40 per ambassador until the reign
of Sultan Mustafa III, when this number was doubled in favour of
all embassies, but there is no sign of this in the Ottoman regis-
ters.
67
Our gures indicate that the total number of beratls probably
varied between 200 and 300 for the entire Ottoman Empire at the
end of the eighteenth century. This is conrmed by a series of
Ottoman surveys of the beratls of nine foreign powers in 17931794
on the basis of which table 3 has been made.
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 89
67
DOhsson, Tableau gnral, iii, 460.
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Russia is notably absent from the survey. One of the Ottoman
reports in the series on which table 4 is based is devoted to the
Moskovlu tercmanlar, but it contains only three names.
69
These three
dragomans were appointed after the Treaty of Jassy had been con-
cluded with Russia on 9 January 1792. Russia had so few protgs
because every time a war with the Ottoman Empire broke out the
Porte revoked all Russian berats. The limited number of registered
Austrian beratls is probably due to the same reason.
It remains dicult to assess the actual number of people who
beneted from the privileges of berats, even on the basis of the pre-
vious survey. If we assume that every bearer of a dragomans diploma
had two servants then the multiplication factor is at least three.
The number of dragomans sons is more problematic. We cannot
simply assume that every dragoman hadto mention a random
numberve sons, and even if they did, they often became beratls
in their own right once they reached adulthood. The safest conclu-
sion is that every berat exempted an entire household, the average
size of which is uncertain. Only recently some research has been
published about family history in eighteenth-century Aleppo, but this
deals exclusively with the Muslim elite and the applicability of its
conclusions to the households of non-Muslims is unclear.
70
Reliable
information about the size of households of non-Muslims in general
is necessary for an accurate assessment of the impact of the protec-
tion system on the collection of taxes. Without it, we can only spec-
ulate that those who could aord to purchase a berat probably belonged
to the social-economic elite of the non-Muslim communities, and
that their contributions to communal taxes would thus have been
considerable. The fact that these communities are known to have
occasionally sued their own privileged members for payment seems
to conrm this impression, but more detailed research is necessary
for a more reliable assessment.
71
Despite these uncertainties it is use-
ful to establish that even if every berat exempted ten adult men
the dragoman, his two servants and no less than seven sonsfrom
paying taxes, the total at the end of the eighteenth century came to
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 91
69
BOA, HH 9779-F.
70
Margaret L. Meriwether, The Kin Who Count. Family and Society in Ottoman Aleppo,
17701840 (Austin, 1999).
71
Masters, Origins, 108 n. 81.
about 2,500 for the entire Eastern Mediterranean. The protection
system was thus a much less widespread phenomenon than has gen-
erally been assumed.
INSTRUMENTS OF IMPERIALISM?
In his authoritative article on the capitulations in the Encyclopaedia of
Islam, (nalck suggests that Western powers consciously abused their
privileges of protection for imperialistic aims.
72
A scholar analysing
modern Turkish views and uses of the past has observed recently
that a similar outlook on the decline of the empire during the last
centuries of the Ottoman period still prevails in the modern Turkish
collective memory. According to this view
weakness at home led to the encroachment of ambitious and strong
foreign powers who succeeded in infringing upon the Empires sover-
eignty and territorial integrity. They took advantage of the Capitula-
tions and the protection they had over non-Muslim communities, and
interfered in the internal aairs of the state at every opportunity.
73
On the basis of the assumption that there were many thousands of
protgs, it has been suggested that the protection system was an
instrument of Western imperialism. This view suggests that the Western
powers considered their non-Muslim protgs a kind of fth column
within the Levant. In this chapter so far we have seen that the notion
that Western ambassadors and consuls took full advantage of the
protection system, and even abused it, was correct. Whenever they
could, they sold berats and the documents conferring the status of
dragomans servant to the highest bidder. The extent to which they
abused the privilege of protection was more limited than is com-
monly thought, however. This conclusion in itself considerably weak-
ens the notion of berats as instruments of imperialism, but it is useful
to dispel this view more comprehensively. An investigation of the
political aspects of the protection system might seem out of place in
this study, but the issue must be addressed here nevertheless, because
92 cn.r+rn +vo
72
(nalck, Imtiyazt, 11861187.
73
David Kushner, Views and Uses of the Past: The Turks and Ottoman History,
i<dem Balm-Harding and Colin Imber (eds), The Balance of Truth. Essays in Honour
of Professor Georey Lewis (Istanbul, 2000), 239249, esp. 240.
it touches upon the legal status of Westerners and their protgs,
too. At least one of the interested parties feared that growing masses
of protgs might take up too much of the consuls time, and could
well clog the wheels of consular justice.
The notion that the protection system was used by Western pow-
ers as an imperialist instrument is based on several assumptions that
must be made explicit here. First of all, it has often been presumed
that the Western representatives controlled the issue of berats. Secondly,
it is a common assumption that there were secret policies behind
the allocation of dragomans diplomas. Thirdly, this view presup-
poses that the Porte could do nothing to stop this development. In
the following paragraphs the validity of these suppositions will be
examined. Subsequently, the opinion of several experts of the late
eighteenth century will be discussed in place of a conclusion.
Bureaucratic Procedures
Two stages can be distinguished in the bureaucratic procedures involv-
ing the application for a dragomans berat, that involving the Western
ambassadorial and consular chanceries, and that involving the cen-
tral Ottoman chancery.
As we have seen, non-Ottomans who wanted to acquire foreign
protection had to turn to either the consulate, or to the embassy of
his choice. If an application was granted, negotiations about the price
started. Once the prospective protg had reached an agreement
with the ambassador over the price of the berat, he paid the money,
which, if he lived outside the Ottoman capital, was remitted to the
ambassador through the nearest consulate. After the berat had reached
the embassy, the chancellor registered the document in the embassy
records. Subsequently he dispatched the berat to the consulate to
which the new protg formally belonged. For the dispatch of doc-
uments that needed to be delivered with urgency, the ambassadors
could apply to the Porte for an Ottoman courier (ulak). The European
representatives used this channel only when the beneciary of the
documents in question was prepared to pay the costs. In most cases
the documents were dispatched along with the regular correspon-
dence by a Janissary of the embassy, or they were entrusted to
European travellers. The nal destination of any berat was the con-
sular chancery, as it was never actually handed over to its formal
holder. Although certied copies could be obtained from the scribes
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 93
of provincial courts outside the Ottoman capital, the European con-
sulates kept the original records of the status of their protgs.
74
Whenever a dragoman or protg ran foul of the Ottoman author-
ities, the Ottoman ocials had to turn to the consulate for proof of
the mans privileged status. If they wanted to withdraw or suspend
someones privileges, the same procedure was necessary. This may
well have been the reason why the documents were kept in the
chancery in the rst place, for consuls occasionally reported that
Ottoman governors tried to conscate the dragomans berats in order
to force them to pay taxes from which they were exempt.
Ottoman chancery procedures partly preceded those of the
Europeans. The European ambassadors would not have had any
berats to distribute without the Porte. This point deserves extra empha-
sis, because is has often been claimed that the Europeans distrib-
uted patents of protection without the Portes knowledge. Both Western
and Ottoman sources contradict this view, but it continues to sur-
vive in the historiography of the Ottoman Empires foreign relations,
nevertheless. It is useful, therefore, to examine the Ottoman proce-
dures involved in some detail.
When the Porte granted an ambassador a new berat for a drago-
man, the news would reach the embassy through its interpreters in
active service. Foreign ambassadors were commonly presented with
several new patents as a gift during their rst audience with the sul-
tan, but they may well have solicited the issue of extra patents as
well later.
75
The procedures described above then started. Once it
had been determined who would be appointed dragoman, his name
was passed on to the Ottoman chancery so that the berat could be
issued. Patents already in circulation usually became vacant upon
the death of their holders. Foreign protection could also be revoked
by both the Porte and the ambassadors, but death was the most
94 cn.r+rn +vo
74
For such copies of fermans see DNA, LAT 1090 docs 26, beginning Cemaziyelevvel
1156/23 June2 July 1743, and 53, 27 Rebilevvel 1172/28 November 1758. The
rst document does not have a tu<ra, and was authenticated by the signature and
seal of the qadi of Salonica, Imad Hasan Efendi Zade. The second is a legalized
copy authenticated by the qadi of Izmir, Mehmed Nurallah Sarizade. On legal-
ization signatures, see Asparouch Velkov, Signatures-formules des agents judiciaries
dans les documents ottomans charactre nancier et juridique, Turcica. Revue des
tudes turques 24 (1992), 193240.
75
Bronnen IV/i, doc. 74, 9293, Van Holst aan . . ., Directeur van de Kamer
van Rotterdam, 9 April 1768.
common reason for the transfer of dragomans berats. Because they
were strictly personal documents, the patents could not be inherited,
or sold by the heirs. When a beratl died, the consulate sent the
patent back to the embassy in Istanbul, where procedures were sub-
sequently started for the re-issue of the document.
Standard procedures existed for the appointment of dragomans
and for the transfer of tercmanlk berats. Two types of documents
were involved in the process. The rst were memorandums, which
were composed according to a standard format. With these documents
the Europeans informed the Porte of changes regarding particular
berats, for example the death of their holder. Another memorandum
of the same type subsequently announced the name of a possible new
holder of the document. Finally, a petition (arz or arzuhal ) requested
that, in the light of the change announced in the rst memoran-
dum, the berat in question be transferred to the person named in
the second. The memorandums were written by the Ottoman scribes
whom the European embassies employed specially for the composi-
tion of these and other petitions to the Porte. Finally, the seal of
the ambassador was stamped on the document (often on the back),
before it was submitted to the Porte.
76
The issue of a berat was often followed by a decree that conrmed
it.
77
Both the berats and their conrmatory orders were registered in
the ecnebi defterleri. Most entries consist of a summary of about ve
lines, the structure of which corresponds to that of the actual doc-
uments. First, mention is made of the petition led on behalf of the
ambassador under whose jurisdiction the appointee would come.
Sometimes the name of the ambassador is included. Then the place
of residence of the appointee is noted, followed by the nature of the
oce, i.e. consul or dragoman. When a berat was already in circu-
lation, its previous holder was usually mentioned next, with some
indication of the reason for his loss of oce. The most frequently
recurring phrase indicates that the ocer in question was dismissed
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 95
76
The documents were not signed by the ambassador, but ended with the stan-
dard signature al-dai eli [. . .] (the supplicant, the ambassador of [. . .]). Only the
French memorandums usually mentioned the name of the ambassador.
77
The form and structure of these fermans from the eighteenth century were sim-
ilar to the documents described by Uriel Heyd, Ottoman Documents on Palestine
15521615. A Study of the Firman according to the Mhimme Defteri (Oxford, 1960), 712.
without mentioning the reason.
78
Consuls usually lost their oce
when their term was complete, but only in the Ottoman registers
for France is this reected in the texts.
79
After the former holder of
the oce had been noted, the name of the new appointee was
recorded. Finally, it was stated that the decree had been issued with
reference to the capitulations. The entries end with the date, which
was written in Arabic, and was invariably placed to the left under
the text.
Most entries of this kind have marginal notes written above the
text. These notes are cross-references to other entries in the regis-
ter, oering information about subsequent procedures with regard to
the appointment in question, such as renewals, the transfer of the
oce (again), or the cancellation of the document. These notes made
the registers easy to consult. Once the Ottoman clerks had found
one relevant entry, the marginal notes made it possible to trace sub-
sequent developments aecting an individual berat. Several other ele-
ments further facilitated the use of these records. First of all, the
dates of appointment of the Grand Viziers and reislkttabs were
noted. This made it easier to nd documents that were known to
have been issued during the tenure of a particular ocer. In order
to distinguish the berats of consuls from those of dragomans, notes
were often added in the margin, written in red ink. These notes also
indicated the place of residence of the appointee. For example, the
words eli tercmanl< introduce an entry concerning the appointment
of an ambassadorial dragoman, as does the note [eli ] yannda terc-
manlk (dragomanship under [the ambassador]). In some registers
berats were further marked with three dots in a triangular form, which
were placed in the margin. The consistency with which these marks
were used, depended on the scribes. At the beginning of the eigh-
teenth century the registers of each foreign nation were kept by one
particular Ottoman clerk.
80
96 cn.r+rn +vo
78
ref olmakla . . ., by being removed . . . Cf. BOA, ED 22/1, 242/967, 18
Ramazan 1140/28 April 1728: Konsolos teyin olan [. . .] Pilkington nam beyzade azl ve
ref olunub . . . Jean-Louis Bacqu-Grammont, Un bert de Mahmd I
er
portant nomina-
tion du consul gnral de France en gypte en 1736, Tarih Enstits Dergisi XII
(19811982), 259278.
79
The text than has the words madd tamam (his term is complete). BOA, ED
27/2 (France), 93/375, 8 Receb 1159/27 July 1746 (Sidon); 93/376, 11 }aban
1159/29 August 1746 (Anapoli).
80
The accounts of the presents given during the rst audiences with the sultan
Until the middle of the eighteenth century the servants of drago-
mans were not registered in the Registers of Foreign Matters in
Istanbul. In this period records of berats were usually followed by a
summary of the order that conrmed its contents. If servants were
mentioned at all, it was in a general fashion and not by name.
81
From about the middle of the eighteenth century records of the
names of servants of beratls systematically appear in the Ottoman
registers.
82
The Ottoman registers show that the protection system was an
integral part of the Portes administration of the foreign communi-
ties in its domains. Contrary to the common view, as the number
of protgs increased, so did the Portes ability to monitor the process.
Its registers were well kept and easy to consult, so that any com-
plaints about the system could be veried eciently. In the para-
graph after the following I will examine how the Ottoman authorities
made use of their records, but rst we must turn to the suspected
Western policies behind the increase in the number of protgs.
Western Policies
Some Western ambassadors knowingly sold hizmetkrships to people
for whom the Porte had not intended them. The principal question
here is whether or not they were executing secret policies of their
home authorities. The documentary evidence points to a negative
answer.
It has already been shown that the sale of berats and the accom-
panying documents for dragomans servants was a personal perquisite
of the ambassadors. Just how personal this emolument was, is illustrated
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 97
of the British ambassador, Abraham Stanyan (17171730), and the French ambas-
sador Jean-Baptiste-Louis Picon, vicomte dAndrezel (17241727) both mention the
scribe who keeps the registers of the nation. DNA, LAT 1090.
81
BOA, ED 22/1, 212/829, 23 Cemaziyelevvel 1129/5 May 1717, ni{an record-
ing the transfer of the berat of the late Musa son of Dantura in Izmir to Hovan
Markar son of Ovanes; conrmed by 212/831, same date (hkm). Cf. 221/881, 9
Receb 1132/17 May 1720 (ni{an), conrmed by 221/883, mid Receb 1132/1928
May 1720 (hkm); 233/923, 15 Cemaziyelevvel 1132/25 March 1720 (ni{an),
conrmed by 233/924, same date (hkm); Ibid., 210/821, 12 Rebilahir 1129/26
March 1717.
82
See, for example, BOA, ED 22/1, 451/1965, end Receb 1199/30 May8 June
1785 (Aleppo); 469/2073, beginning Receb 1204/1726 March 1790 (Istanbul);
469/2074, beginning Receb 1204/1726 March 1790 (Patras).
by the fact that the Dutch ambassador, Colyer (in oce 16841725),
allowed his sister to coordinate the sale of the Dutch berats. One of
his successors, Elbert de Hochepied, delegated part of the same task
to his wife.
83
The ambassadors of other nations, too, pursued their
own interests with the issue of berats. Only in the second half of the
eighteenth century did the Levant Company unsuccessfully try to
take control over the protection systemnot to exploit it for impe-
rialist aims, but, on the contrary, to curb it.
The earliest intervention I have found of the Levant Company
concerning the honorary dragomans dates from 1746. The English
consul in Aleppo and his foreign colleagues had sent a complaint to
the Porte, because the governor-general of the city had extorted
3,000 kuru{ from the honorary dragomans of the European nations
on the grounds that they had not paid the poll tax. The Levant
Company ordered that all expenses of this procedure should be paid
by the protgs themselves. Moreover, the Company suggested that
the best way to prevent these incidents recurring was not to issue
any more berats in the future.
84
Two years later the Levant Company
wanted to establish a limit on the number of protgs, but the ambas-
sador, Sir James Porter, dismissed the idea out of hand. It is clear
that the Company did not like this ambassadorial perquisite, which
it considered a great and new Evil.
85
In 1760 the Levant Company again reacted to reports of Ottoman
concern over the protection system. The governor and company
wrote an alarmed letter to the ambassador, which is worth quoting
here in full:
May it please your Excellency
We have for some time past observed with great concern the many
opportunitys taken by the Porte to express a Jealousy about the
Numbers of their Christian Subjects protected by the Frank Nations,
and now we beg leave to lay our fears in this respect before your
Excellency, not doubting but that the many commands, Avanias
86
&
98 cn.r+rn +vo
83
Bronnen III, 8084, doc. 78, Calkoen to the burgomasters of Amsterdam, 27
May 1736; Ibid., 221, A.M. de Hochepied, ne Boelema, to Rigo, 24 May 1749;
Ibid., 351352, doc. 285, D.A. de Hochepied to Mrs De Hochepied-Boelema, 18
June 1756.
84
BNA, SP 105/118, 32: The Levant Company to Consul Pollard at Aleppo,
14 November 1746.
85
Ibid., 98, The Levant Company to Porter, 19 January 1748.
86
On avanias, see Chapter Three.
Claims, of late proceeding from that Jealousy have rendered an object
of your attention & that Our sentiments on a Point that so nearly
concerns Us will be acceptable to Your Excellency.
The Command last year which Your Excellency informed Us was
communicated to all the Foreign Ministers, to withdraw their protec-
tion from all Raias [reaya] except Drugomen & such who are con-
ceded to them by Berrato: The opportunity taken since, in the Command
sent to all the Scales to take a list of the Franks their possessions &c,
to renew the many Firmans, the Consuls should protect none of the
Grand Signors subjects that were not Baratlees in their Actual Service,
and the exorbitant sums exacted at Tripoly & Latachia with an high
hand for the Chioadar [uhadar, footman] who brought that Command
are alarming circumstances & seem strongly to prove what Your
Excellency mentioned to Us in April 1759, that the Porte is displeased
with the shameful abuse of Protection at the Scales.
As Your Excellency informs Us that this Command was intended to
check the Authority of the Consuls & that it was not very easy to get
a Command to prevent the like demand for Chioadars, it much behoves
Our Consuls at this time to Use their Powers with great caution in
the protection of the Grand Signors subjects, a Power which at all times
ought to be exercised with great discretion, but in such times as these,
if it is not used very sparingly, the having so much to ask for others
must be of very great prejudice to Our own aairs whenever they
require any application to be made to the Porte.
What adds much to Our fears is that this enquiry about Protections
was begun & carryed on by a Vezier who had been Pasha at Aleppo.
From all these circumstances we humbly apprehend that the exceed-
ing in Protections to the Grand Signors subjects will greatly endanger
Our Own Privileges.
We therefore request Your Excellency to Use every means in your
power to prevent the growth of this evil & in particular to give orders
to our consuls to be very attentive not to exceed proper limits in pro-
tecting Honorary Drugomen or their Dependants, for We apprehend
that the badness of the times makes these Honorary Drugomen nd
out new ways of using that Protection both with regard to themselves
& others connected with them, which we beg leave to submit to Your
Excellencys consideration.
87
Although politely formulated, this letter did not convey requests, but
orders. This time not only the ambassador was notied of the Levant
Companys wishes, the English consuls throughout the Eastern
Mediterranean were ordered to submit complete lists of their pro-
tgs distinguishing the acting & the Honorary Drugomen & also a
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 99
87
BNA, SP 105/119, 6465: The Levant Company to Porter, 12 September
1760.
List of such persons as are protected by each Drugoman distin-
guishing whether they are their real servants or in what other con-
dition or circumstances they are. Furthermore, from then on the
Company had to be informed whenever a dragoman died, or a new
one was appointed.
88
From one of the consuls the Levant Company
also demanded a translation of a dragomans berat. If those of hon-
orary dragomans were dierent, he was to send a translation of one
of them to London, too.
89
The English authorities thus do not seem
to have known which privileges the dragomans berats conferred upon
their holders prior to 1760.
From that time onwards the Levant Company closely monitored
the issue of berats by the English ambassadors and their consuls. Its
comments on the appointments of new protgs leave little doubt
about the Companys opinions. In 1763 the consul in Aleppo, William
Kinloch, received a letter in which the Levant Company declared:
We observe that you have got a new Honorary Druggoman, one
Hanna Abdini, which we are sorry for.
90
The Company was clearly
trying to wrest this emolument from its representatives in the Levant,
and Kinloch may well have been a casualty of this struggle. By the
end of 1765 he had been appointed charg daaires in Istanbul,
after the ambassador, Henry Grenville, had been recalled home.
Evidently irritations had mounted over the years between Kinloch
and his superiors, who acknowledged that the former seems to think
very dierently from Us with regard to honorary Druggomans, we
esteem their great Number to be highly detrimental to our Aairs
& expect that there will be no increase of them in your time.
91
It
is not clear how Kinloch responded to this implicit order not to
exploit his ambassadorial prerogative, but it seems unlikely that he
was compliant. Six months later he was suddenly dismissed from his
post, because he had greatly oended the Levant Company some-
how.
92
In the end the Levant Company never succeeded in wrest-
ing the appointment of protgs from their ambassadors, despite its
100 cn.r+rn +vo
88
Ibid., 66: The Levant Company to Consul Crawley, Smirna & to Consul
Kinloch, Aleppo, 12 September 1760. The same letter was sent to Consul Turner
in Cyprus, and Consul John Abbott in Tripoli (Syria).
89
Ibid., 67: The Levant Company to Edward Purnell, vice-consul in Latakia
(Syria), 12 September 1760.
90
Ibid., 126: The Levant Company to Kinloch, 25 March 1763.
91
Ibid., 177178: The Levant Company to Kinloch, Agent at Constantinople,
10 December 1765.
92
Ibid., 197198: The Levant Company to Kinloch, 1 July 1766.
repeated attempts. Kinlochs successor was initially more reluctant
to sell berats, but he, too, eventually sold each extra dragomans
diploma he was granted by the Porte.
The French claim to be the champion of Catholicism in the Levant
has been much studied, and some scholars have suggested that the
issue of berats was an aspect of this policy. In my opinion there is
insucient evidence for this claim. Like their colleagues, the French
ambassadors, too, were motivated by nancial considerations where
the protection of Ottoman non-Muslim subjects was concerned. The
instructions they received from the French government clearly ordered
them to continue the role of France as the protector of the Catholicism,
but they do not mention as an instrument the issue of berats, which
was a personal privilege of the ambassadors. The only dierence
from most other embassies was that candidates for French protec-
tion were occasionally suggested by the Propaganda Fide in Rome.
93
Even then, French commercial interests always came rst, and rec-
ommendations that might jeopardize them were politely rejected.
94
Most French ambassadors and consuls doubtless preferred to have
Catholic protgs, and those with good credentials probably had an
advantage over other candidates, but this did not mean that France
protected Catholics exclusively. In Istanbul, in particular, a consid-
erable number of berats connected with the French embassy was held
by Jews.
95
There is insucient evidence to conclude that France sys-
tematically used the protection system as an instrument of prose-
lytisation.
96
In principle the recommendations from Rome were
obviously inspired by the claim of the French kings to be the pro-
tectors of all Catholics in the whole Ottoman Empire, but in prac-
tice this was a dierent matter altogether.
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 101
93
Propaganda Fide, Rome, SC Maroniti 4 (17281736), f. 374r. mentions the
recommendation of a Maronite from Aleppo for the post of dragoman of the French
consul in Sidon on 20 December 1732. Other cases are mentioned in SC Maroniti
6 (17411752), f. 144 . and SC Maroniti 8 (17611772) f. 905r.
94
Ibid., SC Maroniti 7 (17531760), fos 128129, Copie de la lettre de Mr.
Rouill, Ministre et Secretaire dEtat au Cardinal De Tencin (?) du 29 Avril 1754.
95
BOA, A.DVN.DVE 138, doc. 19; However, Heyberger, Les chrtiens du Proche-
Orient, annexe 5, shows that the vast majority of the protgs of the French con-
sulate in Aleppo in the years 1769, 1771, 1772, 1775, 1776, and 1780 were
Roman-Catholics.
96
Robert Haddad, Syrian Christians in Muslim Society. An Interpretation (Princeton,
1970); Schlicht, Frankreich und die syrische Christen, 128.
The claim to a kind of protectorate over all Catholic communi-
ties in the Levant was a central component of French policy in the
Ottoman Empire, and it appears prominently in the instructions
given to French ambassadors in Istanbul.
97
The idea, which can be
traced back to the times of the crusades, was rst reected in the
capitulations awarded to France in 1604, the fth article of which
granted free movement to priests, monks, and pilgrims in the Holy
Places in Jerusalem. The capitulations of 1673 extended this privi-
lege to pilgrims from countries that did not have formal relations
with the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, France was recognized as the
guarantor of the safety of all Catholic clergy in the Levant. At the
same time the Porte retained for itself the right to decide who should
have custody of the Holy Places.
98
One of the greatest French suc-
cesses in this respect was the transfer of custody from the Greek
Orthodox to the Greek Catholic clergy in Jerusalem in 1690. The
French interest in the situation of Maronite churches elsewhere in
the eastern Mediterranean is well documented, too, but the grant of
dragomans berats was not an instrument used to help them.
99
France claimed to represent the interests of all Catholics, which
was a much larger group than the French community alone, and
even less dened. It included foreign missionaries, priests and pil-
grims, but also the clergy and members of the Catholic factions of
Christian communities throughout the Ottoman Empire. In theory,
the magnitude of the French claim grew in direct proportion to the
number of Catholic converts in the Levant. The notion that the
French ambassadors considered themselves entitled to intercede with
the Porte in connection with any issue touching Catholic interests
undermined Ottoman sovereignty to an extent that the protection
system never did. However, in reality the French were unable to
eectuate its protection on such a large scale. In the end it was not
France, but Russia that took the concept of communal protection a
signicant step further.
102 cn.r+rn +vo
97
Pierre Duparc, Recueil des instructions donnes aux ambassadeurs et ministres de France
depuis les traits de Westphale jusqu la Rvolution Franaise (Paris, 1969).
98
Feridun Beg, Mn{eat-i Selatin, II, 491; Noradoughian, Recueil, I, 136145, esp.
137 (art. 2), 143144 (new articles no. 1).
99
Jan Schmidt, French-Ottoman Relations in the Early Modern Period and the
John Rylands Library MSS Turkish 45 & 46, Turcica, 31 (1999), 375436, esp.
393398, 401402.
In the second half of the eighteenth century the religious policies
of France in the Levant weakened as those of Russia became stronger.
While the French kings claimed a protectorate over the Catholics,
the rulers of Russia were the champions of the Greek Orthodox
Church. The general importance of the treaty of Kk Kaynarca
of 1774 in this matter is undisputed. As it was concluded after a
Russian victory over the Ottoman armies, it marked a momentous
shift in the international balance of power. The treaty gave Russia
direct access to the Black Sea, and by its acknowledgment of the
independence of the Tartars it cleared the way for Russias annex-
ation of the Crimea. The principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia
remained under Ottoman suzerainty, but Russia was given a special
position there. Russian merchants gained free passage to the Mediter-
ranean, and could travel there by land and over sea as a result of
the treaty. The Russian right to permanent representation at the
Porte, and to the establishment of consulates throughout the Ottoman
Empire was also rearmed. The treaty, therefore, denitively estab-
lished Russia as an international power to be reckoned with in the
East, and it seriously weakened the position of the Ottoman Empire.
The treaty has also long been thought to have granted Russia the
right to protect the interests of the Greek church in the Ottoman
Empire, which was not actually the case.
The signicance of the treaty was not lost on contemporary
observers, one of whom thought that the total dominance of Russia
in Asia Minor was imminent and inevitable, and that the Greek
Orthodox subjects of the sultan would support this development. The
observer in question was an Austrian diplomat, Franz Thugut, who
has been revealed by Davison as the source of the interpretation of
the treaty that has dominated the debate about it for two centuries.
100
Davison has authoritatively rejected the idea that the treaty gave
Russia any kind of protectorate over Ottoman Christians. Contrary
to popular opinion, the relevant articles were precise and clear.
Moreover, Davison has shown that these articles were not of great
importance to Russia when the treaty was negotiated, and that they
were inserted on the initiative of the chief Russian negotiator. Once
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 103
100
Roderic H. Davison, Russian Skill and Turkish Imbecility: The Treaty of
Kuchuk Kainardji Reconsidered, Roderic H. Davison, Essays in Ottoman and Turkish
History, 17741923. The Impact of the West (London, 1990), 2950.
the treaty had been concluded, however, Empress Catherine II issued
a manifesto emphasizing the guardianship over Christians in the
Ottoman Empire that Russia had secured. The Russian government
also published a French translation of the treaty which stretched its
meaning subtly but signicantly. This hoaxas Davison calls it
was extremely successful, because the Russian translation into French
became the working text of the treaty throughout Europe. The fact
that there was no legal basis for the Russian claim to guardianship
over Ottoman Christians did not prevent Russia stating it. By this
time the treaty of Kk Kaynarca had become a pretext for Russian
imperialism. It culminated in the Crimean War (18541856), for
which Russias assertion of a right to protect the Orthodox Christians
was a casus belli.
An important conclusion from Davisons analysis of the treaty of
Kk Kaynarca and its various interpretations is that the treaty
was not the result of Russian policy, but was one of its sources instead.
The article thus traces the transformation of the treaty from the
actual text to being a mere pretext for imperialist aims.
The Interpretative Agreement of 10 March 1779 granted the
Russians additional commercial privileges. In the present context the
most important one implied that Greeks could sail the Black Sea
under the Russian ag. This clause was also included in the Treaty
of Jassy of 1792. Moreover, the Greeks were allowed to remain in
previously Ottoman territories that had come under Russian rule.
Thus Greek vessels, with Greek captains and crews, were sailing
under the Russian ag, claiming the privileges that Russian ships
were entitled to on the basis of the Russo-Ottoman treaties. During
the rst half of the nineteenth century the Russians were reported
to encourage Ottoman Greeks conducting business with the north-
ern shores of the Black Sea to call themselves Russians. British reports
from Trabzon noted that Russia was appointing Ottoman subjects
as agents everywhere along the coast and in the interior, and that
interpreters and other Ottoman employees of Russian consulates were
receiving medals, money and jewelry from Russia. The British rep-
resentatives estimated that thousands of Ottoman Christians were
under this new type of Russian protection by the middle of the nine-
teenth century. In the second half of the century Great Britain and
France adopted the same policy.
101
104 cn.r+rn +vo
101
Salhi R. Sonyel, The Protg System in the Ottoman Empire and its Abuses,
Belleten LV/214 (December, 1991), 676868, esp. 678 .
While the tenor of foreign dispatches from the Ottoman Empire
accurately chronicled the development of western imperialism there,
the numbers they mention should not be accepted at face value.
Many questions about the logistics and practical implementation of
these imperialist policies in the nineteenth century remain unan-
swered, but it is clear that we are dealing with a kind of protection
dierent from that of the eighteenth century. Contrary to widely
held views about the protection system the sale of berats was not an
instrument of Western imperialism in this period. It started as an
ambassadorial perquisite, a nancial emolument granted them by the
Porte as a token of its appreciation. The numbers of protgs grad-
ually rose in the course of the eighteenth century, but there is no
evidence that this was part of secret expansionist designs on the part
of the Western Levant trade organisations. On the contrary, one of
these home authorities, the Levant Company in London, repeatedly
attempted to put a stop to the increase of British protgs, whom it
clearly considered a liability, rather than an asset.
Ottoman Policies
The central Ottoman authorities were aware of the possible dangers
of the protection system even before the eighteenth century. As early
as 1677 Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pa{a issued a fer-
man against the excessive sale of titular dragomanships by European
ambassadors and consuls after an ocial inquiry into the practice.
102
The Porte took similar steps throughout the eighteenth century. As
we have seen earlier the suspension of all berats of both consuls and
protgs in times of war was an eective instrument, but it did lit-
tle to stem the structural growth of the number of beratls in the sec-
ond half of the eighteenth century. Other measures clearly did have
an eect on this development, albeit a limited one.
The Ottoman authorities are known to have investigated and taken
measures against the excessive proliferation of dragomans berats
throughout the second half of the eighteenth century. In 1758, for
example, the Ottoman authorities conducted a survey of the num-
bers of protgs of all foreign embassies and consulates in the Ottoman
Empire. It was not the numbers of protgs the Porte objected to,
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 105
102
Abbott, Under the Turk in Constantinople, 266267.
but their concentration in certain cities. For example, Austria was
considered to have ventured beyond the point of moderation (hadd-
i itidal ), because the Austrian vice-consulate in Aleppo had nine
beratls, where the Porte regarded two as enough. In Salonica the
Austrian vice-consulate had three dragomans, one too many in the
eyes of the Porte.
103
It was details like this that the Porte took mea-
sures against at this point, not the numbers of protgs. On 10
October 1758 a decree was issued, ordering that the ocers of the
Ottoman chancery should henceforth check the registers each time
an application was submitted by a foreign embassy for the issue of
a dragomans berat. Patents that became vacant after their holders
had died or retired should not be re-issued until the numbers of
protgs of all nations were reduced to their appropriate levels.
104
The new system (nizam-i cedid) aected seven berats held by Swedish
protgs, eight by Austrian protgs, and eight by Sicilian beratls, in
all, 42 out of the 218 patents that were in circulation. The chancery
ocials eagerly complied with the order, even blocking the re-issue
of nine berats held by French protgs, nine by British beratls and
one by a Dutch protg, despite the fact that the order did not con-
cern these nations.
105
In 1766 another investigation into the number of protgs was
reported, but its only result seems to have been the issue of a decree
forbidding the protection of people without berats.
106
It is clear from
the Western correspondence that it became more dicult for the
ambassadors to obtain berats. Dragomans diplomas with two exemp-
tions for hizmetkrs were especially dicult to get. In 1767 Murray
wrote that, with regard to the Command for two servants, the Reis
Eendi is determined to abolish them, as he says it is making three
106 cn.r+rn +vo
103
BOA, A.DVN.DVE 138/19.
104
BOA, A.DVN.DVE 81/40 (= BOA, ED 35/1, 174/691) refers to the decree
issued 7 Safer 1172/10 October 1758. The document is undated.
105
For example, on 7 Safer 1172/10 October 1758 a marginal note was writ-
ten above the record of the berat of a British protg, Kazar son of Arutin, which
stated that the document should not be re-issued (BOA, ED 35/1, 108/339). It
had been issued originally after 1730/1. After the berat had become vacant, it was
kept in the Ottoman chancery, which was noted on 24 Rebilevvel 1189/24 June
1775 (Ibid., 108/339). The entry in the register was crossed out, and the word
terkin (cancellation) written across it.
106
BNA, SP 105/119, 219: The Levant Company to Hayes [Izmir], 15 May
1767.
Drugomen instead of one.
107
Although it did not come to such dras-
tic measures, the central Ottoman authorities continued to attempt
to prevent the number of hizmetkrs getting out of control. At the
end of 1781 the Porte sent a decree to all foreign embassies mak-
ing it clear that beratls were only entitled to two servants. It was
also announced that new berats would only be issued after the old
documents had been handed in. It was dicult to miss the central
issue of the document, as the text repeats the message no less than
six times. On the same day another decree stated that the applica-
tions for travel permits ( yol emris) would henceforth be checked more
closely to ensure that only registered hizmetkrs could obtain them.
108
For a number of years the Ottoman chancery had been keeping a
separate register for travel permits, but the problem was that the
legitimate hizmetkrs used travel permits to disguise the fact that they
actually lived in a dierent location from the beratls they nominally
served.
109
Five years later, on 12 May 1786, the Porte dispatched a mem-
orandum to all foreign diplomatic representatives in Istanbul about
the abuse of the protection system. According to the document, many
honorary dragomans only had a vague idea of what the oce they
formally held entailed. The system was not meant for people like
them, artisans, cloth salesmen, shopkeepers, and gold and silver smiths
who carried out minor trade in the khans. They had obtained berats
in large numbers, while they had no connection whatsoever with
foreign consulates. Only when they were in trouble did they turn to
their consul. As beratls were entitled to two servants, so these arti-
sans and shopkeepers also duly registered their hizmetkrs, whose con-
nections with the consulates were likewise theoretical. The Porte was
determined to put an end to this practice. For this reason it had
issued an order that all those who had berats should wear the uni-
form of dragomans and that they should be put to work in that
capacity under the supervision of their consuls. They were forbidden
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 107
107
BNA, SP 110/87, Murray to Hayes, 25 May 1768. Cf. DNA, LAT 664:
Nicolaas van Maseijk to Dedel, 10 October 1766; Ibid., same to same, 15 January
1767.
108
BOA, ED 22/1, 2/5, 13 Muharrem 1196/29 December 1781; Ibid., 2/6,
same date.
109
Ba<{, Osmanl ticaretinde gayri mslimler, 3132. The register referred to is BOA,
ED 51.
to interfere in the business of the guilds, to be active locally as ihti-
yarlar ( pir or {eyh of a guild), and to become tax farmers. Moreover,
they were not to disgrace the foreign nations to which they belonged
in any way. The hizmetkrs, many of whom were abroad on the pre-
text of consular business, were to return to the location where they
were registered. The ambassadors were pressed not to apply for berats
for such people any more. The protgs were given two months to
comply with the order. The status of any beratl or hizmetkr who
failed to report to his consul for active duty as dragoman would be
revoked. Protgs who were caught acting as ihtiyar, or tax farmer,
or meddling in local matters in another way would have to face the
same consequences. Judging from a reference to labourers from
Chios the memorandum was probably inspired by the situation in
Izmir, but an inquiry into the protection system in Aleppo a few
years later would reveal the same problems.
110
The measure clearly had an eect on the protection system. Three
years after the issue of the memorandum, the Dutch ambassador,
Van Dedem, complained to his consul in Aleppo that not a single
berat had been sold to an inhabitant of the city for some time, urg-
ing the consul to try harder. The consul explained that the Portes
stricter policies deterred the Ottoman merchants of Aleppo from
acquiring foreign protection. Since 1786 no Dutch berats under the
new system had been assigned to the city, and the consul suggested
that the ambassador send him an example of such a document,
which can be shown to those people who have negative ideas about
them. He also hinted that the ambassador might want to consider
a changei.e. decreasein the price of berats in order to make them
more attractive to prospective protgs.
111
In other words, a drop in
the supply of patents did not lead to an increase in prices, since
demand apparently also slackened, at least in Aleppo.
Despite other inquiries into the number of protgs in the nal
quarter of the eighteenth century, between 1758 and 1806 the Porte
cancelled less than a dozen berats as a result of its measures to curb
the growth of the protection system.
112
While this is an insignicant
108 cn.r+rn +vo
110
DNA, CAS 127: Traduction de lextrait dun expos que la Sublime Porte
vient de communiquer ministeriellement tous les Ministres Etrangers ce 12 Mai
1786.
111
DNA, LAT 1266: Jan van Maseijk to Van Dedem, 4 February 1789 (in
French).
112
E.g. BOA, ED 35/1, 108/339, cancellation after death 24 Rebilevvel 1189/24
number, it shows that the Porte was aware of the development of
the protection system, and attempted to redress imbalances. Moreover,
the Ottoman authorities managed to slow down the increase of the
protection system, and the ambassadors were nding it increasingly
dicult to make money from the sale of berats. The Portes most
eective operation to curb the excessive increase of the number of
Western protgs occurred at the beginning of the nineteenth cen-
tury, the period during which the Ottomans are generally thought
to have lost their grip on the protection system altogether.
A hatt- {erif issued at the beginning of 1806 repeated the policy
set forth in the decree of 1786, and now the Porte actually began
to enforce it. According to the Dutch consul in Izmir the beratls and
hizmetkrs in the city had continued to pursue their small arts and
trades in the local markets, maintaining the shops and warehouses
the Porte had ordered them to give up if they wanted to keep their
privileged status. Hizmetkrs who ocially resided elsewhere had also
remained in Izmir, ignoring the order to go to the place of resi-
dence of the beratls whose servants they were supposed to be. In
Istanbul, also, the authorities endeavoured to determine who were
ordinary subjects of the sultan, who were actually foreigners, and
who belonged to the European communities as protgs.
113
It was
probably the most successful measure the Porte had ever undertaken
to curtail the protection system, but it marked the changing rela-
tions between the Ottoman authorities and the western ambassadors
in Istanbul at the same time.
The sultanic writ of 1806 ordered all beratls and hizmetkrs of
France, Great Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia who did not reside
in the same place as the consulates they nominally served to return
to their stations. If they disobeyed the order, they would lose their
privileges and again become ordinary Ottoman subjects. The Porte
asked the ambassadors of these ve countries to call upon their pro-
tgs to comply with the order, but they protested, saying they needed
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 109
June 1775 (crossed out); 131/485, cancelled 25 Rebilahir 1198/18 March 1784
(crossed out); 133/504, cancelled after death end }aban 1213/28 January5 February
1799 (crossed out); ED 27/2, 117/500, cancelled 21 }aban 1217/17 December
1802; 117/501, cancelled 21 }aban 1217/17 December 1802 (crossed out); 135/600,
cancelled 22 }aban 1217/18 December 1802; 135/601, cancelled 29 Zilhicce
1217/22 April 1803.
113
Bronnen IV/i, 724: Jacques de Hochepied to the Directors, 2 July 1806.
to consult with their governments. The Ottoman authorities then
had the decree announced publicly in Istanbul, Edirne, and Salonica,
ordering all concerned to comply with it before 3 May, or else lose
their privileges. This measure was primarily directed against Russia,
which was widely believed to have recruited 200,000 protgs.
114
These numbers remain unsubstantiated, and are probably an indi-
cation of the concerns of the Ottoman authorities, not of the actual
situation, but the Russians got the message. The British ambassador,
Charles Arbutnoth, attempted to mediate between the Porte and his
Russian colleague, in order to prevent a rupture between the two
states. Despite all foreign protests, the Porte persisted in its imple-
mentation of the sultanic writ, ordering the oces and warehouses
of all protgs sealed. As a result of this measure many beratls and
hizmetkrs returned to their ocial stations, while others relinquished
their privileged status. The Registers of Foreign Matters, in which
dozens of berats were struck o the record, bear witness to this. In
July 1806 the English, for example, lost fourteen of their beratls in
Aleppo in a single day. Around the same time beratls of Great Britain
in Istanbul, Izmir, Crete, Salonica and Morea lost their status.
115
The French lost more protgs than anyone else in the Ottoman
capital, where at least eight berats were cancelled, but numerous
patents of French protgs were also revoked or handed in in Izmir,
Yanina and Arta, Salonica, and Aleppo.
116
The Portes increased vigilance with regard to the protection oered
by foreign embassies and consulates coincided with the emergence
110 cn.r+rn +vo
114
Johann Wilhelm Zinkeisen, Geschichte des osmanischen Reiches in Europa VII (Gotha,
1863), 396398.
115
BOA, ED 35/1, 139/572, 5 Cemaziyelahir 1221/20 August 1806 (Izmir);
140/583, Muharrem 1222/11 March9 April 1807 ( Morea); 140/588, end
Cemaziyelevvel 1221/615 August 1806 (Izmir); 140/590, }a"ban 1221/14 October
11 November 1806 (Salonica); 141/594, 5 Cemaziyelevvel 1221/21 July 1806
(Istanbul); 141/595, end Cemaziyelevvel 1221/615 August 1806 (Crete); 141/596,
Muharrem 1222/11 March9 April 1807 (Morea). The following berats were all
revoked on 5 Cemaziyelevvel 1221/21 July 1806, all in Aleppo: ED 35/1, 138/561,
138/562, 138/563, 138/564, 138/565, 139/569, 139/570, 139/574, 140/581,
142/598, 142/603, 143/604. The dates mentioned are those of their cancellation.
Most entries were crossed out in the register, but they are still legible.
116
BOA, ED 27/2, 169/806, beginning }aban 1221/1423 October 1806
(Salonica); 169/807, 3 Cemaziyelevvel 1221/19 July 1806 (Yanina and Narda);
169/809, end Cemaziyelevvel 1221/615 August 1806 (Izmir); Eleven other entries
were crossed out in these pages of the register, some with reference to the nizam-i
cedid (e.g. 169/807, 169/808), but the notes of their cancellation are undated.
of a competing system of patents and privileges by the Ottoman
state. While the system of the so-called Europe merchants (Avrupa
tccar) had been initiated in August 1802, the issue of this new type
of berat seems actually to have begun only in 1806, the year the
Porte revoked so many dragomans patents. It oered a limited num-
ber of non-Muslim merchants a status similar to that enjoyed by the
protgs of foreign embassies and consulates. The Porte thus eectively
created its own parallel protection system, which was extended to
Muslim merchants a few years later with the organisation of the
Hayriye tccar. A notable dierence between the beratls of the embassies
and consulates and the protgs of the Porte was that the latter were
liable to the payment of hara, but the low sums involved suggest
that the tax was predominantly symbolic. It is an indication that, as
Masters has concluded, one of the principal aims of the establish-
ment of the Avrupa tccar was to regain Ottoman sovereignty over
those non-Muslim merchants who had previously sought foreign pro-
tection. Although the success of this measure varied from place to
place, for a short period the Porte succeeded in creating a system
that was attractive enough for members of Aleppine families for-
merly under foreign protection to enrol in it themselves.
117
Throughout the eighteenth century, the Ottoman state kept a close
eye on the numbers of protgs connected with foreign embassies
and consulates. The modest eect of the Portes policies must be
attributed to several factors. First of all, the buyers of berats were
willing and able to exploit the system to their own advantage by
selling nominal hizmetkrships, whereby they quickly recouped part
of the sum they had invested in their patents. This went against the
spirit of the protection system, but that was probably none of their
concern. The ability of the protgs to abuse the system was linked
to the inability of the Ottoman authorities to enforce new policies
and to prevent hizmetkrs living in dierent locations from the beratls
they nominally served. The fact that the oces of Grand Vizier and
reislkttab tended to rotate rapidly, sometimes changing twice in one
year, may have had a negative eect on the implementation of
Ottoman policy. Finally, the resistance of foreign ambassadors and
consuls to reforms of the protection system also thwarted the Portes
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 111
117
Masters, The Sultans Entrepreneurs.
policies. Despite the limited eect of many of the measures taken
by the Ottoman authorities, it must be remembered that the num-
ber of berats in circulation at the end of the eighteenth century did
not exceed 250, a total that was much lower than has generally been
thought heretofore. The Porte was certainly aware of the gradual
growth of the number of foreign protgs, but its own inquiries
showed that the system had not got out of hand, despite reports to
the contrary.
The Legal Status of Beratls: Expert Opinions
The following discussion of a document from 1797 serves as a con-
clusion to this chapter. It concerns a questionnaire about the legal
status of the Ottoman protgs of foreign communities sent to chan-
cellors of the embassies and legations in Istanbul of Prussia, Venice,
Sweden, Spain, Austria, Russia and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Although the document is found in the family archives of the Dutch
ambassador Van Dedem van de Gelder, it is not exactly clear who
formulated the questions posed to these ocials, or why.
118
Six ques-
tions touching upon several fundamental aspects of the protection
system, including the legal status of Ottoman protgs, were put
before the chancellors. The rst to answer them was Michel Bosgiovi,
the chancellor of the Prussian legation, with whose opinions three
of his colleagues agreed completely. Here the questions and answers
will be presented together.
Q: If a berat or a ferman [i.e. an order exempting a dragomans ser-
vant] becomes available in Izmir, or in another port of the Levant, is
it the ambassador resident at the Porte who may dispose of it as he
sees t in favour of someone else, or is it the consul of the same nation
or someone else [who can dispose of it]?
A: The berats and fermans belonging to them [i.e. the protgs] were a
privilege the Sublime Porte accords directly and personally to the
ambassadors of the respective nations residing at [the Porte]. Nobody
else has the right nor the ability to dispose of the said diplomas when
they are available, or when they have to be assigned for the rst time.
112 cn.r+rn +vo
118
DNA, DGC, 23. The answer of Bosgiovi is undated, but that of Francesco
Alberti, the secretary of the Venetian embassy was dated 11 March 1797. The oth-
ers followed in subsequent weeks, Giacomo de Marini Reggio of the Sicilian lega-
tion being the last on 17 April 1797.
Bosgiovi and his colleagues thus conrmed the notion that the berats
formed a personal emolument of the ambassadors, and nobody else
not even the home authorities of the ambassadorshad the right or
the ability to appropriate this privilege.
Q: If a beratl or servant [rmanli ] established in Izmir or elsewhere
is involved in a legal suit with a European [Frank] or a beratl or
servant of another nation are they to be tried in the rst instance by
his consul in the same way as a national?
A: Every holder of a berat or ferman immediately comes under the pro-
tection of the ambassador who has granted him his diploma. Conse-
quently, he is admitted to the enjoyment of the nations prerogatives,
right and privileges, and therefore in all cases of disputes and discus-
sion with a European or with a protg of another nation, he must be
judged and sentenced according to the laws of that nation.
In other words, the beratls fell under consular jurisdiction in the
same way as foreigners, and any disputes between them and for-
eigners or protgs of other foreign communities fell under consular
jurisdiction. The emphasis on the limitation of the consuls jurisdic-
tion to disputes among foreigners and/or protgs is clear. By impli-
cation in all disputes involving common Ottoman subjects, the consul
did not automatically have (sole) jurisdiction.
The vice-chancellor of the Spanish embassy, Comidas de Carbog-
nairs, objected to Bosgiovi answer because it suggested an undened
nationality and equality of privileges which the Spanish ocer
considered principally incorrect. He stated that only because they
were protgs, did the beratls and their servants fall under consular
jurisdiction. Two of his colleagues who were sent the questionnaire
after De Carbognairs, agreed with his comments. This alternative
opinion did not drastically dier from the view of Bosgiovi in prac-
tical terms, but the Spaniard correctly insisted that the protgs only
enjoyed the same privileges as foreigners as long as they were pro-
tected.
Q: If a consul established in Izmir or elsewhere has passed a sentence
against a beratl or servant of his own nation, and the latter procras-
tinates or disobeys the execution [of the sentence] within the prescribed
term, is it not absolutely necessary for the aforementioned consul,
should he not have the power to constrain him, to employ force to
have his sentence executed; or should he ask, and wait for the per-
mission and a special order of the ambassador of his nation to the
Ottoman Porte to be able to have his sentence executed?
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 113
A: The consuls established in the ports of the Levant represent their
ambassadors in the consular duties of their jurisdiction, therefore they
have absolute power to pass sentence against beratls and other pro-
tgs of their community who are established within [the area of ] their
jurisdiction; [they also have the power] to enforce the execution of the
said sentence[s], even by way of force, without being obliged to ask
for an order and permission from the ambassador, unless it is pre-
ceded by an appeal concerning the rules.
This view of the jurisdiction of foreign consuls is consistent with their
consular berats, as well as the regulations and laws of their own gov-
ernments. Again the vice-chancellor of the Spanish embassy disagreed
with his Prussian colleague, arguing that on no condition was appeal
to the ambassador possible before a sentence was passed. On the
remaining points, all seven chancellors were in agreement.
Q: If a beratl or servant considers himself aggrieved and oended by
the sentence of his consul, can he appeal against it; and in such a
case, which is the tribunal of the competent judge at which he must
[le] appeal in the second instance [against] the sentence of his consul?
A: The beratls and servants have the right to appeal against the sen-
tence of a consul to the superior tribunal of the ambassador in Istanbul,
observing the usual formalities of appeal.
Again we see that the arrangements codied in the capitulations with
regard to adjudication in the rst and second instance were still in
force at the end of the eighteenth century.
Q: Should a beratl or servant be considered the absolute owner of his
diploma, or rather an insecure possessor and usufructuary of the priv-
ileges attached to it?
A: The beratls and servant are not, and should not be considered the
absolute owners of the documents granted to them, so they cannot
estrange [them], nor dispose of them in any way imaginable; but [they
can only] simply, by virtue of the same [documents], enjoy during
their entire life, and depending on the circumstances, the privileges
and immunities expressed and contained in them.
The answer to the nal question conrms that to the rst, empha-
sizing that the holders of berats did not own them and only enjoyed
the concomitant benets.
Q: If someone is the creditor of a beratl or servant, can he sequester,
seize, and take hostage his diploma as security for the debt, and can
such a diploma be mortgaged for a debt or for any other reason?
114 cn.r+rn +vo
A: The aforementioned beratls and their servants, as usufructuaries of
their diplomas, and consequently being temporary holders, cannot mort-
gage for any reason their diploma; and similarly it is not possible to
sequester [the diplomas] because of a [contractual] commitment or
private debts of the usufructuary holder of the diploma, which as dei-
commis belongs incontestably to the ambassador in question.
Of these six questions the third was the most fundamental, and the
comments of the Spanish vice-chancellor are especially important.
Ottoman protgs were not naturalized foreigners, and therefore only
enjoyed their privileges as long as they had got a berat. The answers
to questions 5 and 6 conrm this further. This conclusion corre-
sponds with the view of the English ambassador, Sir Robert Ainslie,
who lectured his Prussian colleague about the status of protgs in
the course of a dispute between two British merchants in Istanbul
and a Prussian protg as follows:
You say, Sir, that Mr. Figa is a naturalized Prussian, because he has a
berat, and because he is a dragoman. Well, a European [Franc] does
not need a berat, and all beratls are honorary dragomans. Its the title
that the Porte grants to subjects of the Grand Signor, who obtain,
either by payment, or by other means, the protection of foreign ambas-
sadors. These berats are sometimes revoked, when they conduct them-
selves indignantly; in other words, they never cease to be subjects of
the sultan [Rajas].
119
This point cannot be overemphasized. The Ottoman protgs of for-
eign embassies and consulates may have enjoyed the same privileges
as foreigners, but they always remained Ottoman subjects at the
same time. This had a profound inuence on the way in which dis-
putes involving protgs were resolved, as the case studies of the fol-
lowing chapters show in more detail.
+nr rno+rc+iox svs+rv 115
119
BNA, SP 105/186, 207209: Sir Robert Ainslie to De Garon, 30 March
1777 (in French). The underscoring appears in the original document.
CHAPTER THREE
AVANIAS: MISREPRESENTATIONS OF THE
OTTOMAN LEGAL SYSTEM
When the British ambassador, Heneage Finch, was about to leave
Istanbul for home in January, 1669, after a stay of eight years in
the Ottoman capital, he wrote: I thank God, that I am going, and
soon shall be far away from the thousand dangers which here trou-
ble mind and body: plague, earthquakes, loneliness, re, avanias.
1
The last of these perils forms the subject of this chapter.
The word avania occurs frequently in the Western diplomatic cor-
respondence and travelogues of the seventeenth and eighteenth cen-
turies, and it has found its way into modern historiography, too. No
standard denition of the word exists, but it is commonly under-
stood as a synonym for extortion, which is probably also what
Finch meant. In Western sources, and even in some modern sec-
ondary literature, the word has become synonymous with the capri-
ciousness of the Ottoman administration and legal system. For this
reason alone the phenomenon of avanias deserves a place in this
book, but there is even more to learn from it. An examination of
some incidents labelled avanias in the Dutch and English sources
reveals that several of them are easily recognizable as legal disputes.
The fact that the foreigners involved at the time considered the out-
come of these cases unjust should not prevent us from re-examining
them with specic attention for the procedures followed and the
Ottoman ocers who implemented them.
An obvious starting point is the examination of the denitions of
avania found in the relevant literature. Subsequently an analysis of
the Western terminology and procedures of avanias is necessary. What
do the regulations of the English Levant Company say about them,
for example? Who decided what constituted an avania, and how was
1
HMC, Report on the Manuscripts of Allen George Finch, Esq. Of Burley-On-The-Hill,
Rutland i (London, 1913) (hereafter: Finch), 518, The Earl of Winchilsea to Sir John
Finch, 2030 January 16689. Finch was in oce from 1660 to 1669.
the decision taken? In order to answer these questions a number of
case studies will be presented, followed by an analysis. The sums of
money the Westerners paid to resolve avanias will also be taken into
account, because they shed further light on the Ottoman ocers and
the procedures involved. But rst, I will discuss the relevant literature.
Historiography
Not a great deal has been written about avanias. Countless travel-
ogues and diplomatic reports from the Ottoman Empire mention
them, but scholarly analyses of them are rare. In the seventeenth-
century volume of his classic Histoire du commerce franais dans le Levant,
Paul Masson opens with the period of what he calls commercial
anarchy between 1610 and 1661. The rst chapter deals exclusively
with avanias. He denes them as sums of money the pashas claimed
from the merchants in the ports under the most diverse pretexts,
pretexts that were unjust most of the time, and sometimes extremely
bizarre.
2
Massons denition speaks volumes. It identies the cul-
prits as the pashas and denies their claims against the French any
possible legitimacy. The generic term pashas is not explained fur-
ther. In subsequent pages the Ottomans ocers venality and hos-
tility towards foreigners are given as explanations for their behaviour.
Protesting on the grounds that certain actions were violations of the
capitulations was often futile, Masson suggests, and could only be
eective in combination with the threat of a complaint to the Porte.
Even then the Westerners had to be lucky, according to the French
author. If the pasha had friends at court, ocial complaints usu-
ally backred. A protracted procedure before the divan- hmayun
would then ensue, which was better avoided.
3
Massons approach to
the subject is unquestionably outdated, but his denition of avanias
was shared by most of his contemporaries.
4
118 cn.r+rn +nnrr
2
Paul Masson, Histoire du commerce franais dans le Levant au XVII
e
sicle (Paris,
1896), 1.
3
Ibid., 223.
4
Cf. W.E. van Dam van Isselt, Avanin in de Levant (16621688), De Navorscher
56 (1906), 525577. Also see Grard Tongas, Les relations de la France avec lempire
ottoma durant la premire moiti du XVII
e
sicle. lambassade a Constantinople de Philippe de
Harlay, Comte de Csy (16191640) (Toulouse, 1942), 144: La cupidit des pachas
tait la principale cause des avanies.
In his History of the Levant Company Alfred Wood calls avanias a
regular source of income to the local ocials. He continues that
in theory the merchants were adequately protected against such injus-
tice by their capitulations, which, on paper, combined guarantees for
security with an unusual degree of independence. But they rested only
on the generosity of the sultan, and, in practice, their observation was
governed by the discretion, and even more by the weakness of the
Turkish government.
5
According to Wood, the capitulations were tenuous agreements, the
observation of which was always uncertain. The basic premise is that
the Ottoman government was either unable or unwilling to enforce
properly the privileges it had awarded foreigners. This pessimistic
view of the capitulatory system is often found in the Western cor-
respondence with the Levant and both Masson and Wood seem to
have accepted it at face value. In the eyes of these authors avanias
occurred because of the weakness of the central authorities and their
inability to enforce theirs commands in the provinces. In other words,
these authors considered avanias a symptom of the decline of Ottoman
state authority and the centres loss of control over provincial rulers.
The German scholar Karl Binswanger had a similar view on what
he called invanias, but his approach is dierent from other scholars.
In an attempt to formulate a new denition of the term zimmet (Ar:
dhimma),
6
Binswanger investigated the status of non-Muslims in gen-
eral in the Ottoman Empire of the sixteenth century. His research
thus focused primarily on the legal status of the Jewish and Christian
subjects of the sultan, not on foreigners from the West. Binswanger
was chiey preoccupied with proving that the zimmet was an agree-
ment the Muslims did everything in their power to thwart. The
author considered avanias proof of the Muslims unwillingness to hon-
our the arrangement.
7
The fact that Binswangers book is seldom
referred to in modern studies on the status of non-Muslims in the
Ottoman Empire implies that it is either not widely known, or its
radical views are not taken seriously.
8
There is, in any case, reason
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 119
5
Alfred C. Wood, A History of the Levant Company (Oxford, 1935), 232233.
6
Dhimma (Cl. Cahen), EI
2
, 227231.
7
Karl Binswanger, Untersuchungen zum Status der Nichtmuslime im osmanischen Reich
des 16. Jahrhunderts mit einer Neudenition des Begries imma (Munich, 1977), 3739;
321322.
8
For an indication of how Binswangers book was received, see Hans-Jrgen
Kornrumpf s review in Sdost-forschungen 39 (1980), 492495.
to question the solidity of Binswangers methodology. For example,
his analysis of the term avania relied exclusively on denitions found
in sixteenth-century Western travelogues. The author made no attempt
to assess the anti-Islamic biases frequently encountered in these works,
nor does he seem to have examined individual cases of avanias men-
tioned in them. Furthermore, Binswangers argumentation is weak
at some points. For example, out of the nine reasons for revoking
the zimmet that he identied in the Islamic law books, only three
seemed to be relevant for avanias: the seduction of Muslims to
apostasy; insults to God, the Koran or Islam; and adultery with
Muslim women. The six other grounds for annulment of the zimmet
were not, as far as Binswanger was able to establish, common pre-
texts for avanias. The author did not come across avanias caused by
non-Muslims taking up arms against the Muslims; refusing to sub-
ject to the Muslim authorities; refusing to pay the poll-tax, com-
mitting highway-robbery; or collaborating with the enemy. Interestingly,
Binswanger also did not nd avanias in connection with the murder
of Muslims. The author clearly felt he had to explain why only three
out of nine pretexts appeared relevant for avanias. The reason, he
argued, was simple: the other six accusations were too dicult for
the Muslims to prove, and, more importantly, non-Muslims could
less easily be tricked into these compromising situations!
9
The open fashion with which Binswanger discards data that might
contradict his theories disqualies the books principal conclusions.
The study is useful, nevertheless, because of its legal perspective and
some of its results. It is interesting, for instance, that the author
identies the conditions under which Hana legal scholars consid-
ered the annulment of the zimmet legitimate. This means that indi-
vidual non-Muslims could lose their zimmi status if they violated the
pact in the eyes of the jurists. From a strictly legalistic point of view
some procedures labelled avanias in Western sources might, then,
have been unjust according to their reporters, unlawful these pro-
cedures were not as far as Islamic law was concerned. This funda-
mentally changes the perspective on at least some so-called avanias.
120 cn.r+rn +nnrr
9
Binswanger, Untersuchungen zum Status der Nichtmuslime, 321: Waarum kommen
die Punkte 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, und 9 nicht in Invania-Muster vor? Die Antwort liegt in
diesem Muster selbst begrndet: es ist klar, dass diese Punkte als Gegenstand einer
Anklage schwieriger zu beweisen sind, aber vor allem kann eine solche Handlung
dem imm nicht untergeschoben, bzw. er kann dazu schwerlich verleitet werden!
Olnon has recently challenged the common notion that avanias
were illegitimate procedures by denition. His analysis of two ava-
nias from mid-seventeenth-century Izmir shows that neither incident
should be considered examples of Ottoman injustice, as Western
sources suggest. The stereotype of the Ottoman legal system as arbi-
trary does not do justice to the complexity of most cases labelled
avanias. European merchants, consuls and ambassadors reporting ava-
nias to their home authorities were more concerned with justifying
their conduct than with the accuracy of their accounts. Olnon rightly
warns us not to rely exclusively on these European accounts, and to
interpret avanias within their context.
10
He emphasizes that negotia-
tions often took place during which incidents could still take a rel-
atively positive turn, and if they did not, the Europeans themselves
were sometimes clearly to blame. Olnons argument that avanias were
not necessarily arbitrary violations of the capitulations is convincing,
and is supported by the distinction the Western authorities of Levant
trade made between national and personal avanias. The Ottomans
were blamed for incidents of the rst category, while for incidents
of the second kind the individual victims were held responsible.
11
Unfortunately Olnon does not oer further classications of, or
approaches to the phenomenon of avanias as a whole. His principal
contribution lies in the introduction of case studies, the analysis of
which sheds light on procedures of dispute resolution that were often
omitted from ocial accounts.
Our survey of literature dealing with avanias has shown, then, that
Masson considered them inuential enough to characterize the ear-
liest period of French contacts with the Levant as one of anarchy.
Wood suggests that, in the face of rapacious avanias by Ottoman
ocials, the capitulations were little more than a paper tiger.
Binswangers argument that avanias were proof of the Muslims uni-
versal malevolence vis--vis non-Muslims can condently be rejected.
Interestingly, however, from his material we can draw the conclu-
sion that many procedures called avanias by Western observers were
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 121
10
Merlijn Olnon, Towards Classifying Avanias: A Study of Two Cases involv-
ing the English and Dutch Nations in Seventeenth-Century Izmir, in Alastair
Hamilton et al. (eds), Friends and Rivals in the East, 159186.
11
This distinction is also noted by Daniel Goman, Britons in the Ottoman Empire,
16421660 (Seattle/London, 1998), 130, 208.
rmly rooted in Islamic law and thus perfectly legal from the Ottoman
point of view. Olnon has taken a valuable step towards a new inter-
pretation of avanias by focusing on the procedures involved, and by
adopting an Ottoman perspective to analyse them. Now it is time
to turn our attention to the primary sources and take a fresh look
at the terminology of avanias.
Avania: Denitions and Origins
According to Alexander and Patrick Russell, the British physicians
in Aleppo around the middle of the eighteenth century, the word
[avania] is Italian, meaning literally an undeserved injury. It is univer-
sally used in the Levant, and applied to all oppressive, or unjust
exactions under false pretences. Its purported Italian origins notwith-
standing, the Russell brothers also give an Arabic spelling for the
word: Naua.
12
The most important aspect of avanias that this denition
conveys is the perception of injustice. The Russells use no less than
four adjectives to emphasize this: undeserved, oppressive, unjust
and false. The Scotsmens work is widely considered one of the
most reliable Western accounts of Ottoman society in the pre-mod-
ern age, because of its scholarly detachment and unbiased approach.
The Russells denition of avania represents a rare lapse in judge-
ment, which has probably gone unnoticed until now, because mod-
ern denitions tend to agree with it.
(nalck asserts that the word avania was derived from the Arabic
'awn, anything extorted, and that the attitude of the central gov-
ernment to the extortion of avanias by pashas varied according to
the circumstances and the prevailing climate of relations with the
nation involved.
13
Like Masson, (nalck thus suggests that gover-
nor-generalsthe beylerbeyis, whose oce was marked by the title
pashawere responsible for avanias and that the central Ottoman
122 cn.r+rn +nnrr
12
Russell, The Natural History of AleppoPatrick Russell ed., i, 316. In volume ii
of this edition (p. 41), the communal taxes levied on the Ottoman millets are called
avanias, as well.
13
Imtiyzt (Halil (nalck), EI
2
, 1181. Also see his contribution to Halil (nalck
with Donald Quataert (eds), An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire
13001914 (Cambridge, 1994), 9409, esp. 191 (in the section International Trade:
General Conditions).
authorities did not necessarily disapprove of their actions. Sharing
this view, Abraham Marcus notes that the ocials had a familiar
repertoire of income extension devices to serve their ends: subject-
ing groups to exactions on contrived pretexts, a practice commonly
known as 'awn (or avania, as the Europeans in the region called it);
issuing intolerable orders with the purpose of obtaining payments for
rescinding them; and making various services and benets depen-
dent on bribes and exorbitant fees.
14
Goman has recently dened
the word avania as an irregular and possibly crippling levy and
an extraordinary demand for monies.
15
Finally, Franois Charles-
Roux has characterised avanias as a form of blackmaila sum of
money extorted from the nation [community] under the threat of
persecution.
16
These denitions reect the majority opinion, but
alternative views have also been put forward. De Groot, for exam-
ple, speaks of so-called avania (nancial retribution of an incidental
nature, vulgo extortion).
17
This denition suggests that avanias were
not a structural phenomenon but had an incidental nature. Moreover,
by calling them a form of retribution, De Groot implies that the
Europeans brought such incidents upon themselves somehow. Despite
this and other alternative denitions, the majority of historians today
still interpret avanias in the same way as Westerners did in the eight-
eenth century, as proof of the unreliability of the Ottoman admin-
istrative and legal system.
The notion that the etymology of word avania must lie somewhere
in the Eastern Mediterranean is still current, although its exact ori-
gins remain unclear.
18
Neither Western nor Middle Eastern languages
oer obvious possibilities for the words etymology, but modern schol-
ars tend to assume that it was derived from an Arabic term. In itself
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 123
14
Abraham Marcus, The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity. Aleppo in the Eighteenth
Century (New York, 1989), 95.
15
Goman, Britons in the Ottoman Empire, 56, 141.
16
F. Charles-Roux, Les Echelles de Syrie et de Palestine au 18
me
sicle (Paris, 1928),
8687; quoted in Yeor, The Dhimmi, 55, where avanias are discussed in a section
on avarz.
17
Alexander H. de Groot, The Dragomans of the Embassies in Istanbul,
17851834, Geert Jan van Gelder and Ed. de Moor (eds), Eastward Bound. Dutch
Ventures and Adventures in the Middle East. (Amsterdam/Atlanta GA, 1994), 130158,
esp. 154.
18
Aldo Gallotta, Alessio Bombaci, The History of avania in Barbera Kellner-
Heinkele and Peter Zieme (eds), Studia Ottomanica. Festgabe fr Gyrgy Hazai zum 65.
Geburtstag (Wiesbaden, 1997), 5373.
the idea that Europeans might have borrowed an Ottoman term
be it Turkish, Arabic, Persian,
19
or otherwiseis plausible. Plenty of
names of Ottoman oces, textiles, taxes and legal terms are found
in the Western correspondence from the Levant. The orthography
generally reects how the Ottomans words sounded to the foreign
ear. Common examples are haratz or garatz (hara, poll-tax),
hattesherif (hatt- {erif, handwritten order of the sultan), illam
(ilm, report) and hoggiet (hccet, legal deed). These words were
so much part of the vocabulary of every-day life of Westerners in
the Ottoman Empire that they also found their way into the letters
and reports they sent home.
20
It is important to note that the actual
Ottoman terms were indeed universally used throughout the seven-
teenth and eighteenth centuries, so there is no reason to doubt the
correspondence between the Ottoman originals and the European
loans. This is not the case with avania and 'awn, however. Nor do
the Ottoman documents appear to contain any similar words, which
might correspond with avania.
An Ottoman document in which one might expect to nd the
Turkish equivalent for avania concerns the unwarranted demands
made on behalf of the admiral of the Ottoman navy on British ships
at the end of the seventeenth century, a clear violation of the capit-
ulations. The soliciting of presents seems just the sort of thing that
merited the label of avania, but the Turkish text of the ferman address-
ing the issue simply states that
Kapudanm . . . (brahim Pa{a . . . tarafndan (ngiliz gemilerinden hilf- ahd-
name-i hmayun pi{ke{ ve hedaya talebiyle rencide olundu<un bildirb . . .
Having been informed that English ships were bothered by my admi-
ral . . . (brahim Pa{a with demands for gifts and presents contrary to
the capitulations . . .
124 cn.r+rn +nnrr
19
Edhem Eldem states that avania, probably derived from the Persian avan (bully,
brute), was one of the most frequently used terms to describe the abuses and extor-
tions experienced by European merchants at the hands of Ottoman ocials. Edhem
Eldem, Istanbul: from Imperial to Peripheralized Capital, in Edhem Eldem, Daniel
Goman, and Bruce Masters, The Ottoman City between East and West. Aleppo, Izmir,
and Istanbul (Cambridge, 1999), 160.
20
For a list of Ottoman terms that often appear in Western sources, as well as
a list of Turkish expressions that occur specically in Dutch sources from seven-
teenth- and eighteenth-century Ankara, see the nal pages of Jan Schmidt, Dutch
Merchants in 18th-Century Ankara, Anatolica XXII (1996), 237260.
The English ambassador had demanded that a ferman be issued for-
bidding this practice, which was granted by the Porte. Further on
in the document the Ottoman navy was told in no uncertain terms
that such practices were forbidden, but none of the words used even
resemble avania.
21
The same is true for other Ottoman documents
concerning the harassment or molestation of foreigners.
22
Documents concerning the execution of a Maronite dragoman in
the service of the Dutch consulate in Aleppo for killing a shepherd
illustrate how the word avania crept in during the translation process.
This avania will be discussed in more detail below, but the docu-
ments involved must be mentioned already at this point. They include
the Ottoman translation of a petition to the Porte by the Dutch
ambassador, a report by the qadi of Aleppo sent to Istanbul to
explain the incident, and the Ottoman governments response to the
ambassadors petition. A letter about the issue from the nekible{raf
in Istanbul to his substitute in Aleppo has also survived. None of
these texts in Ottoman Turkish contains the word avania, but one
of the Western documents does. It is interesting therefore to com-
pare this document with the Turkish translation, paying particular
attention to the use of the word avania. The Dutch ambassadors
petition rst recounts his version of events, pointing out that the
aair was a violation of European privileges. The Italian original of
the petition states that:
Ora dunque facendosi dellavanie al Dragomano del Nostro Console di Nederlanda,
dimorante nella Citt dAleppo dicendoglisi voi avete fatto moriri una Persona, che
di ci il passato Governatore di Aleppo, Eccellissimo Mustaa Pascia, senza far
ragvoglio [sic] alla Fulgida Porta, fec contra lImperiali Capitulazioni impicare
il nostro Draghomano . . .
23
Avanias were thus committed against the dragoman of our consul of
the Netherlands, residing in the city of Aleppo, saying you have killed
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 125
21
Necmi lker, XVII. ve XVIII. Yzyllarda (zmir {ehri tarihi I: ticaret tarihi ara{trmalar
(Izmir, 1994), 9293.
22
See, for example, two hkms from Murad II ordering Ottoman ocials not
to molest three Englishmen (Skilliter, Harborne, 214217, 241), and several safe-con-
ducts (Ibid., 240, 242, 234). None of these documents contain the words avania,
'awn, or any similar term. Also see ENA, SP 110/88: 193r192r (Ottoman),
192v191v (Italian): Ferman, dated beginning Safer 1100/25 November4 December
1688, chastising the dragoman of the mahkema in Aleppo, Arslan elebi, for med-
dling in the aairs of the English community and extorting money from the English.
Neither text contains the word avania or anything similar to it.
23
DNA, LAT 1095, 6263: Suplica [1731].
a man, on which [accusation] the former governor of Aleppo, his
Excellency Mustafa Pa{a, without having recourse to the Sublime Porte,
had our dragoman hanged . . .
The Ottoman translation of the petition reads:
Medinet-i Halebte mukim Nederlanda konsolosumuzun tercmann itham ve katl-
i nefs eyledn diye iftira ve musabiqan Haleb valisi saadetlu Mustafa Pa{a hazretli
Asitane-i Saadete arz ve havala etmedi hilf- ahdname-i hmayun tercmanmz
salb etmekle . . .
24
Mustafa Pa{a, the former governor of Aleppo, accused a dragoman of
our Dutch consul residing in the city of Aleppo and slanderously sug-
gested that you have killed [a man], but he did not [write] a peti-
tion and send it to the Porte, but by hanging our dragoman contrary
to the Imperial Capitulations . . .
The Italian avanie, the plural of avania, was translated into Ottoman
with the words diye iftira, slanderously suggested, which appear in
a similar context in other documents.
25
These examples suggest that the word avania was, or had become,
an exclusively Western term by the beginning of the eighteenth cen-
tury. If the word was derived from the Arabic 'awn (or a similar
word) to begin with, it was not, or no longer, the term used by the
Ottomans to describe the incidents it covered in the eyes of the
Europeans in this period.
Avanists
The previous section has shown that the occurrence of the word ava-
nia in Western translations of Ottoman documents should clearly be
treated with suspicion, but some are worth quoting here, neverthe-
less. Consider, for example, the translation of article 72 of the French
capitulations of 1740, published in the memoirs of the French ambas-
sador, the Count de Saint-Priest:
126 cn.r+rn +nnrr
24
Ibid., Ottoman text between pages 63 and 64 on folios without pagination.
25
Susan Skilliter translated the phrase diye iftira in the English capitulation of
1580 (art. 11) as [to] calumniate. Skilliter, Harborne, 88. The same words are used
in the English capitulation of 1601 in Feridun Beg, Mn{eat-i Selatin, 476. This early
eighteenth-century translation of diye iftara for avania is also consistent with the Regola
del parlare Turcho referred to by Bombaci. Gallotta and Bombaci, The History of
Avania, 72. The authors do not mention the date and place of publication of this
Regola and I have been unable to identify it.
On nous aurait aussi reprsent que, dans les procs qui surviennent,
les dpenses qui se font pour faire comparatre les parties, et pour les
pices ordinaires, tant supportes par lui qui a le bon droit, et les
avanistes qui intentent des procs, ntant soumis aucun frais, ils sont
invits par l faire toujours de nouvelles avanies; sur quoi, nous
voulons qu lavenir, il soit permis de faire supporter les susdits dpens
et frais par ceux qui oseront intenter contre la justice un procs dans
lequel ils nauront aucun droit: [. . .]
26
In the Ottoman legal system the party most favoured by the out-
come of the trial (lui qui a le bon droit) paid the court fees and other
expenses. This made the ling of frivolous claims an attractive form
of harassment, because even if the case was decided in favour of the
accused, he still had to foot the bill. At the request of the French,
this article was therefore introduced in the French capitulations of
1740, stating that when people brought suits contrary to justice,
the qadi should demand payment of the courts expenses from them,
instead of the party who had been wrongly accused.
This article is interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it illustrates
the dynamics of the capitulatory system, since the addition of the
article clearly aims to prevent from recurring certain negative eects
of Ottoman legal procedures the French had experienced in the past.
Secondly, the article shows how the system could be abused to cre-
ate an avania. Finally, and most importantly, it shows that anyone
could be responsible for an avania. All one had to do was le an
unfounded complaint at the courthouse. The words les avanistes clearly
refers to anyone who did this.
A letter written by the Dutch consul in Aleppo in 1767 indicates
that the problem addressed by this article in the French capitula-
tions of 1740 still existed almost two decades later. In the document
the consul identied two ocers of the citys central Islamic court
as avanists. They were Mustafa Efendi, the chief clerk of the court,
and Bekir A<a, the avu{lar a<as, or leader of the courts ushers.
These ocers, who were reportedly in league with the citys gover-
nor-general, were held responsible for several unspecied avanias.
27
Relatively little is known about the role of ocers of this level in
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 127
26
M. le Comte de Saint-Priest, Mmoires sur lambassade de France en Turquie et sur
le commerce des Franais dans le Levant, (Paris, 1877), 512513. My italics.
27
DNA, LAT 664: Nicolaas van Maseijk to Willem Gerrit Dedel, 24 November
1767.
the court procedures, but as chief clerk the former was probably
responsible for the registration of complaints. The capitulations con-
tained explicit orders not to accept claims without proper docu-
mentation, which implies that a check took place before cases actually
came to court. In practice this check was probably the responsibil-
ity of the courts chief clerk. Therefore it seems likely that the Dutch
consuls complaint concerned Mustafa Efendis acceptance as legiti-
mate of complaints that, in the eyes of the Dutchman, should have
been rejected out of hand on the basis of a lack of documentary
evidence. The leader of the courts ushers was probably responsible
for the delivery of the summons to appear before the qadi, which
might explain his role in the scheme the consul complained about.
With the support of the governor-general these men thus seem to
have facilitated avanias, rather than personally causing them.
The word avanist was not only used in connection with Ottoman
ocers. The seventeenth-century French traveller and diplomat
Laurent Chevalier dArvieux mentions an incident in 1683 in which
the Armenian cook of a French merchant had accidentally burned
himself. After seeing the wounds, the cooks brother threatened to
go to the qadi to demand compensation from the French. DArvieux
refers to this man as an avaniste, despite the fact that no actual ava-
nia seems to have occurred.
28
Another example of this wider mean-
ing of the word avanist is found in a letter written by the English
ambassador, John Murray, of 1769. He wrote that I am sorry to
say [it], but the Turk is not the only Avanist in the Country.
29
Here the word avanist does not refer to anyone involved in avanias,
but has a more general meaning. In fact, this statement refers to
the unreliability of the ambassadors own interpreters. Murray seems
to have thought that their conduct made him more vulnerable to
Ottoman pressure, instead of shielding him from it. Avanist here
clearly meant (potential) troublemaker of any kind.
The word avania itself thus also spawned a new technical term,
avanist. The use of this term in our sources shows that it was applied
to various Ottoman ocers, and sometimes also to common non-
Muslim subjects of the sultan. Anyone who might cause an avania
128 cn.r+rn +nnrr
28
Laurent Chevalier dArvieux, Mmoires du Chevalier dArvieux (Paris, 1735), V,
404405.
29
BNA, SP 110/86: John Murray to Lord Stormont, 3 January 1769.
risked being branded an avanist. The most important conclusion we
can draw from this is that not only senior Ottoman ocials were
responsible for the instigation or execution of avanias, as most mod-
ern denitions of the word maintain.
The Making of Avanias
Who decided what constituted an avania? What were the procedures
involved? Because the term avania does not seem to occur in the
Ottoman sources of this period, it is only logical that we turn to the
European records for answers.
The Europeans in the Ottoman Empire distinguished personal
from national avanias. The Levant Company regulations of 1679
concerning avanias show the dierence between the two categories.
The rst sentences read:
That no Avania or pretence whatsoever happening in Turkey be
adjudged National, where the same ariseth by the default or misde-
meanour of any particular person or persons, in which case the per-
son or persons so oending shall bear his or their own Avania at his
or their own cost, and Expence;
30
According to the Levant Company an avania was a pretence by
denition, but Englishmen could clearly be held responsible for them
nevertheless. Only when no individual member was to blame for the
occurrence of an avania, should the English communities in the Levant
consider it a national aair. Avanias that were considered national
were paid from the treasury of the community. The money was paid
from the revenues of the consular duties paid by the merchants on
imported and exported goods. As the English ambassador wrote in
relation to an avania in Izmir in the year 1663, what indeed doe
they pay their consulage for, but to be protected?
31
The Dutch and
French communities in the Ottoman Empire had similar arrange-
ments, also distinguishing personal from national avanias.
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 129
30
BNA, SP 105/178, 262263, An order of the Levant Company concerning
Avanias, Made the 19th of May 1679.
31
HMC, Finch, 379382, esp. 380: The Earl of Winchilsea to Sir Heneage Finch,
5 June 1665. The avania concerned one Weymouth Carew, an English merchant
in Izmir, but the circumstances of the case are unclear.
Whether a certain incident was a personal or a national ava-
nia was usually determined by the consul and the assembly of the
merchants on the basis of the home authorities regulations. For
example, the Dutch governing body, the States General,
have on 7 October 1675 adopted in their own statute the rule that
the consul, deputies, and the entire nation should judge any extraor-
dinary cases that may occur, which, respecting this resolution, was also
done in this case by the Gentlemen Directors.
32
The Directors of the Levant Trade, whose headquarters were in
Amsterdam, thus had the authority to review the decisions made by
the ambassador or consul and the local community of Dutch mer-
chants. In the end the States General retained the right denitively
to determine which incidents were paid from communal funds. The
Dutch authorities did not prescribe decision-making procedures, con-
trary to their English counterparts.
The English regulations were more detailed than those of the
Dutch:
And if it shall happen to be doubtful whither an Avania be personal
or National, The Lord Embassadour or respective Consuls in the
Factories of the Company & such as have license to Trade, and the
sons & servants of Freemen/Excepting those who are particularly con-
cerned in such Avania/& shall oer a voluntary Oath to be taken by
them & shall take the judgements & opinions of all those who do take
the said Oath and according to the plurality of such votes the case
shall be accounted to be either Personal or National; but still with ref-
erence to the Company at home to be nally determined as the Company
themselves shall judge.
33
The dierences between the English and Dutch regulations were
largely due to the dierent forms of their trade organisations. Until
the middle of the eighteenth century the Levant Company had a
monopoly it was anxious to protect. Hence the precise rules about
who was entitled to vote in this procedure. Those who could vote
rst had to take an oath, probably swearing that they did not have
any personal interests in the matter under consideration. Although
this vote is called voluntary, the opinion of anyone who refused to
130 cn.r+rn +nnrr
32
DNA, LH 239: Document concerning the discharge of extraordinary avanias,
1708.
33
See footnote 30.
take it was not to be taken into consideration. Decisions were based
on a simple majority of those who had taken the oath.
The possibility to have an incident declared a national avania
was only meant to function as a safety net, and a system of checks
and balances existed to prevent its abuse. On the local level this was
the responsibility of the consul. If an individual member of the nation
was confronted with a claim he considered unjust, he could report
it to the consul as an avania. It was thus the victim of the avania
who usually asked for it to be declared a matter of national con-
cern. If the consul thought the individual himself was to blame for
what had happened, he could dismiss the request and refuse to call
an assembly. The applicant could appeal against this decision to the
ambassador. Similarly, when the consul considered the incident clearly
unjust, he could apparently declare it a national avania without con-
sulting the community of merchants rst. In most cases, however,
the consul called an assembly of the nation to discuss the matter.
The minutes of such meetings show that each participant was asked
for his opinion. When the discussions had ended, the consul for-
mulated the decision on the basis of the majority opinion.
In the Dutch consular system the impartiality of the consul was
ensured further by the election of several deputies (assessoren) by the
assembly of the nation. The deputies assisted the consul, while super-
vising his oce at the same time. With all foreign communities in
the Levant, appeals to decisions of the consul and nation could be
led with the ambassador, who would either review the matter per-
sonally, or delegate the task to one of his ocers. The ambassador,
in his turn, answered to the home organisation for the Levant trade,
which reviewed all avanias declared national. In case of a dis-
agreement between the community in the Ottoman Empire and the
organisation of the Levant trade over such a declaration, the sover-
eign had the nal word.
34
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 131
34
In 1665 the English ambassador, Finch, refused to accept the decision of the
Levant Company that an avania that occurred in Izmir in 1663 had been declared
national without good reason. He wrote that he would disregard the Companys
orders, unless the King conrmed them. In this case it seems the victim had oered
to pay the avanias himself and leave the Levant, but the community decided oth-
erwise regarding the case as a violation of the capitulations. It was thought that
the Ottomans would construe the innocent Englishmans departure as an admis-
sion of his guilt, which would create a dangerous precedent. HMC, Finch, 381.
Since every reported avania was judged on its own particular cir-
cumstances, it is dicult to determine which criteria the members
of foreign assemblies in the Ottoman Empire who had to classify
such incidents used. Everyone was supposed to put the national inter-
est before any other considerations, but in practice personal sympa-
thies must have played a role that is impossible to measure. Cases
were invariably declared national when what had happened was
considered a violation of the capitulations. This remains a vague cri-
terion, because the texts of the ahdnames generally allowed various
interpretations. In the same way avanias were considered personal
if the victim could not reasonably be held accountable for the inci-
dent. When reported avanias were not clear-cut, it came down to the
personal opinions of the members of the assembly. In those cases it
seems that, if an incident was considered random, and it could have
happened to anyone, it was declared national.
35
The procedures by which incidents were labelled avanias were
exclusively European. Any member of a foreign community could
present a case as an avania to his consul or ambassador asking to
have it declared national, which meant that he was compensated
for the expenses from the treasury. The consul or ambassador decided
if the case needed to be voted on or not. If he considered it clear-
cut, his decision was enough to settle the issue until the assembly
conrmed it at a later date. Once a victim had presented an inci-
dent as an avania, the label stuck. The only distinction made was
between personal and national avanias, the former being payable
by the victims themselves, the latter being recognized as unavoid-
able examples of Ottoman injustice for which the payment of con-
sular duties formed a kind of insurance. It would be preferable not
to consider cases declared personal avanias avanias at all, but we
cannot for the sake of analytical convenience ignore the fact that
the Europeans in the Levant applied the term to both categories. In
the remainder of this chapter I propose to examine examples of both
types of avanias.
132 cn.r+rn +nnrr
35
Ibid., 300: The Factory of Smyrna to the Earl of Winchilsea, 31 December
1663.
Case Studies
Despite the frequency with which avanias occur in Western sources,
few case studies have been published. Two examples are discussed
in Olnons article, and in a Dutch publication of 1906 several more
are described, but not analysed.
36
Shalit briey mentions three ava-
nias as proof of the systematic suppression of foreigners by the
Ottoman authorities.
37
Our investigation of this phenomenon requires
qualitatively and quantitatively more substantial data. This section
oers only nine examples of avanias found in Dutch and English
archives. Naturally this is still too small a sample to serve as a basis
for solid conclusions. Their presentation has two aims. First, to iden-
tify the variables, that, added up by the victims and the assembly
of the nation, resulted in the application of the label avania. Second,
I will apply the Islamic legal approach proposed in Chapter One to
test whether it furthers our understanding of Ottoman mechanisms
of justice.
The European Perspective: Summaries of Nine Avanias
An inventory of the resolutions of the Dutch States-General in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries yields the rst four references
to avanias, the others were reconstructed from English sources, as
well.
38
Case 1. On 1 December 1663 the States General allowed the Directors
of the Levant Trade to levy the sum of 200,000 Guilders from the
Dutch mercantile communities throughout the Levant to pay the
avania of the ship Keizer Octavianus. This rst example of an avania
concerns the surrender of his ship and cargo by a Dutch captain
who was caught unaware by several Maltese corsairs, while he was
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 133
36
Van Dam van Isselt, Avanin in de Levant (16621688), 525577. The author
approached the subject in much the same way as Masson. Cf. supra, 12.
37
Shalit at one point inexplicably equates avania with kasabiyye, but elsewhere he
calls avanias erpresserischen Forderungen. Shalit, Nicht-Muslime und Fremde in Aleppo
und Damaskus, 19, 278. The cases are found on pages 279280.
38
DNA, LH 235. This volume has neither page nor folio numbers. Since mat-
ters were registered chronologically, the references to the following examples are
traceable by their dates.
lying at anchor o the Egyptian coast. Not a single shot was red
during the surprise attack, during which only the ships cargo was
taken. These goods were destined for Istanbul and partly belonged
to a number of high-ranking Ottoman ocers in Egypt. The cap-
tain of the Keizer Octavianus did not report the incident to the Egyptian
authorities, but quickly lifted anchor and sailed o instead. The own-
ers of the robbed goods held the Dutchman responsible, suspecting
him of being in league with the corsairs. In his absence they laid
their claim before the divan-i hmayun in Istanbul, where the Dutch
resident in the Ottoman capital represented the Dutch captain.
Assigning responsibility for the loss of the cargo to the Dutch gov-
ernment, the Imperial Council sentenced the Dutch resident to pay
an enormous sum to reimburse the Ottoman victims. In order to
raise this sum a tax was levied on all Dutch communities in the
Levant. The Dutch considered the whole aair highly unjust, claim-
ing that the Ottoman government had been misled by the Egyptian
victims of the corsairs. The Dutch in the Levant clearly thought that
the Egyptians had instigated this avania.
39
The scale of this event and
the fact that it aected all Dutch merchants throughout the Eastern
Mediterranean makes this the national avania par excellence.
Case 2. On 18 December 1698 the ruling body of the Dutch Republic
made arrangements for the payment of an avania levied on account
of a soldier on the ship Admiraal Tromp who had done something to
a Turkish woman. Little is known about this avania, but it was
evidently an incident on a much smaller scale than the previous one.
It seems that a Dutch soldier had arrived by ship in (skenderun
(Alexandretta), Acre or Cyprus and had given oence to a Turkish
woman, which probably means that she was a Muslim. What he did
exactly is not mentioned in the sources, but the considerable ne or
bribe of 7,000 Dutch Guilders is. This was four times the annual
expenses of the Dutch consulate in Aleppo around this time.
40
Since
the States General paid the sum, it was evidently declared a national
avania.
134 cn.r+rn +nnrr
39
Several documents about this case were published in Bronnen II, 444459.
40
DNA, LH 235; Expenses of the Dutch consulate in Aleppo in 1697 amounted
to 1,748 Guilders. DNA, LH 162 (1), Nota der onkosten . . . (Account of the
expenses of the consulate).
Case 3. Our third brief example of an avania was registered on 24
October 1709, when the Dutch government ordered their consul in
Livorno to reach an agreement with an Ottoman emissary, allow-
ing him to draw the funds required to pay this avania from the trea-
sury of the States-General. The reference concerns a case similar to
that of the Keizer Octavianus, but this time the corsairs in question
were Dutch. They had raided a number of French ships, capturing
both cargo and Ottoman passengers. In contravention of Dutch
agreements with the Ottomans, the corsair captains sold the pas-
sengers as slaves. The victims, the owners of the goods captured as
well as some of the slaves who survived, eventually complained to
the divan-i hmayun. The Ottoman government sent an emissary to
Livorno, where some passengers were still held prisoner, in order
to demand their release from the Dutch consul there. Although the
Dutch government did not think the Ottoman authorities had a case,
they decided to order the consul in Livorno to negotiate a com-
promise to prevent further escalation of the dispute.
41
The Dutch
ambassador in Istanbul eventually settled the case several years later
and the expenses were paid from the national treasury.
Case 4. The fourth summary of an avania from the Dutch States-
Generals registers is dated 1 October 1753, when a letter from the
ambassador in Istanbul to the Dutch rulers was read in an assem-
bly. It concerned the avanias against the Dutch consul in Aleppo
caused by his English colleague. The context of this case is dierent
again. For several years the Dutch consulate in the Syrian city of
Aleppo had been in the care of the English consul there. In 1753
the States-General appointed an arrogant, young Dutchman to the
post. He travelled to Syria to take over the consulate from his English
colleague, instantly demanding to be recognized as consul. This was
counterproductive, because he had not yet received his Ottoman
deed of appointment (berat). The English consul refused to relinquish
the post until had he received ocial conrmation of his dismissal,
raising the Dutchmans anger. When the new consul subsequently
applied for his ocial audience with the Ottoman authorities despite
the fact that he had not received his berat yet, the governor-general
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 135
41
For a more extensive discussion of this and other such cases, see van den
Boogert, Redress for Ottoman Victims of European Privateering, 91118.
of Aleppo admonished him for his impatience. The English consul
reported that the Ottoman authorities had forced the Dutchman to
pay a ne, which would constitute an avania, but the alleged victim
denied this. If it had been true, the Dutch ambassador would have
withdrawn his support of the consul, which indicated it would undoubt-
edly have been considered a personal avania.
42
Case 5. In 1693 an avania occurred in Aleppo due to a pair of green
slippers belonging to the wife of one Richard Verschuer. According
to an account by Verschuer, his wife had gone to the bazaar to
have her worn slippers mended when he was out of town. Mrs
Verschuer approached a shoemaker and showed him her slippers,
asking him to mend them. The man instantly became enraged at
the request. The shoemaker turned out to be a {erif, a descendent
of the prophet Muhammad, who allegedly removed the Dutchwoman
from his shop, taking her to the nekible{raf, the leader of the e{raf
in Aleppo. The nekible{raf turned to the qadi, ling a complaint
about the foreign womans conduct. In the meantime a crowd had
formed, which threatened to stone Mrs Verschuer. Eventually the
interpreter of the Dutch consul, Jacob Cohen, intervened on her
behalf. He agreed to the payment of some 519 Lion Dollars, bring-
ing the incident to an end. The Dutch merchant had to pay this
severe avania, as he labelled it, from his own purse.
43
This case
will be analysed in more detail below, as will the following three.
Case 6. A case involving the British community in Istanbul is also
worth mentioning here. In May 1714 the British merchant Edward
Staord reported that about a month earlier one of his servants, an
Armenian man called Zacharia, being under distracted thoughts
hadin a suspected suicidedrowned in Staords cistern. The
Englishman had instantly paid the qadi, his naib and other ocers
of the local court to prevent an avania. He also paid several wit-
nesses to prove him [Zacharia] non compos mentis. Others who
136 cn.r+rn +nnrr
42
This case is discussed in M.H. van den Boogert, European Patronage in the
Ottoman Empire: Anglo-Dutch Conicts of Interest in Aleppo (17031755) in
A. Hamilton et al. (eds), Friends and Rivals in the East, 187221, esp. 203205.
43
DNA, LH 161 (2); Notulen van de vergadering . . . (Minutes of the assem-
bly . . .), 6 October 1693; Ibid., Richard Verschuer to the consul and nation,
7 October 1693.
received money included the Imam of the Parish and the witnesses
whose names were mentioned in the hccet that was drawn up in
court about the incident. Staord also rewarded the widow and her
children for conrming that he [Zacharia] had before attempted to
make away with himself. Moreover, he spent money on the funeral
and additional legal deeds to prevent future lawsuits. Several years
earlier Staord had had to pay twenty kuru{ to prevent an avania
when an irregular Ottoman soldier (levend) had been murdered near
his house, but in 1714 he claimed to have spent 137 kuru{. This was
still a small sum compared with the 2,500 kuru{ that one Alexander
Jacob had reportedly paid for a similar avania in the past, but Staord
applied for reimbursement from the communitys treasury nevertheless.
In a general court of the British nation in Istanbul the chancel-
lor read Staords petition out loud, as well as the Levant Company
order of 19 May 1679 about avanias quoted above. Staord claimed
that he had incurred these preventive expenses on the advice of
Giorgio Timoni and Luca Chirico, the ambassadors rst and sec-
ond dragomans. At the request of the council the claimant and
Timoni publicly swore that their version of events was true. According
to the regulations the council had to decide whether the avania was
a communal (national) burden or an individual one. The mer-
chants unanimously declared it a national avania. Moreover, the coun-
cil awarded him another 20 kuru{ as compensation for the earlier
incident. Formally the Levant Company still had to conrm these
decisions, but Staord received the money without delay.
44
Case 7. Less than two years after Staords request, three British
merchants in Istanbul submitted a similar petition to the ambassador.
Robert Constantine, Robert Stamper and Dudley Foley reported that
a corpse had been found in the vicinity of their houses. In order to
clear the avania with the local authorities, the sum of 608 kuru{
had been spent. This sum was split into eleven shares. The houses
of Stamper, Constantine and two Italian merchants contributed two
shares each, paying a total of 442 kuru{ and 24 ake.
45
The share of
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 137
44
The council consisted of ten British merchants and was presided over by the
ambassador, Sir Robert Sutton. BNA, SP 105/179, 5656, Petition by Edward
Staord to Sutton, 11 May 1714; Ibid., 566, A general court held in Pera of
Constantinople, 11 May 1714.
45
The houses involved were those of Bernardo di Negri and another, probably
the three Britons came to 221 kuru{ and 8 ake, for which they
demanded compensation from the communitys treasury. The mer-
chants knew that they could probably not have been forced to play
blood money on the basis of Islamic law, but they feared that their
refusal to cooperate might lead to public unrest in the neighbour-
hood. Moreover, the claimants feared that the matter would come
to the attention of the Grand Vizier who is a declared enemy of
all Franks & Christians, would immediately upon his rst notice of
the matter of fact turn them all out of their houses & very proba-
bly cast some infamy upon them, no body knowing what mischief
his humour might suggest to him. The three merchants had thus
clearly incurred the expenses in the interest of the entire British com-
munity, they argued. One of their colleagues countered that the men
would never have been involved in the rst place if the dragoman
had not meddled in the aair, but he failed to convince the rest of
the council. The case was declared a national avania with a major-
ity of votes.
46
Case 8. Twelve years after the avanias in Istanbul another case involv-
ing the death of an Ottoman subject occurred in Aleppo. The Dutch
consul in Aleppo, Danil Boumeester, reports that he was on a leisure
trip in the countryside with a group of English merchants. Hanna
Jarah, a Maronite dragoman of the Dutch consulate, accompanied
the party. According to Boumeester lightning struck an Ottoman
shepherd pasturing his herd, killing the man. The Europeans sim-
ply happened to be around, but had nothing to do with the shep-
herds death. Nevertheless, Jarah was arrested and imprisoned soon
afterwards for murdering the man. A concerted eort by all European
consuls residing in the city soon led to Jarahs release, but later the
Dutch dragoman was taken into custody once again. The consuls
were reportedly told that this was necessary to prevent the populace
of Aleppo turning against the Maronite interpreter. The European
representatives agreed to this form of protective custody after reassu-
rances from the governor-general about the prisoners safety. Despite
138 cn.r+rn +nnrr
Italian, merchant, called Carli. The two houses contributing smaller shares (the rea-
son for which is not explained) were those of Francesco Bragiotti, and someone
called Pagano.
46
Account of expenses in clearing an avania [1 Marzo 1715/6]; BNA, SP105/179,
783. For the full text, see below, 23.
the beylerbeyi s guarantees, however, Jarah was subsequently taken to
the citadel of Aleppo and strangled to death. His corpse was hung
up for everybody to see wearing the full dress of a dragoman, to
the shame and ridicule of all Frankish nations. Adding even more
insult to injury the qadi furthermore sequestered 180 kuru{ from
Boumeester himself, and 150 kuru{ from Jarahs widow.
47
Case 9. The nal summary of an avania also concerns a dragoman
in Aleppo, this time of the English consulate. In the rst half of May
1767, Jirjis Aida, the First Dragoman of the English consulate in
Aleppo was arrested and incarcerated in the citadel of Aleppo for
the second time in his life. He was ocially accused of having
assisted the Chelebi Eendi, or Chief of the Green Heads,
48
now
exiled to Prusa [Bursa], in oppressing the Mahometan subjects, but
it is generally imagined, that his oence is his riches, as he is a man
that has carried on a very large trade for many years & is supposed
to be the richest man in the place. elebi Efendi was the name
by which Muhammad Tahazade, several times the nekible{raf of
Aleppo and probably the most powerful man in Aleppo of this period,
was commonly known. His close business connections with Aida,
undoubtedly the most powerful non-Muslim in the city, will be dis-
cussed in some detail below. Although there were rumours that the
dragoman would be sent to Istanbul to stand trial, this does not
seem to have happened.
49
Aida remained imprisoned in the Aleppo
citadel for a period of some sixteen months before he was released
at the end of July, 1768. During that period the ambassador repeat-
edly pleaded his case with the Ottoman authorities, while Aida had
also employed his personal network to aect his release.
50
The fact
that no trial ever took place strengthened the English conviction
that the dragoman had been arrested on trumped-up charges. In a
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 139
47
The Dutch version of events is mentioned O. Schutte, Repertorium der Nederlandse
vertegenwoordigers residerende in het buitenland 15841810 (The Hague, 1979), 358, and
in Bronnen III, 30 n. 3, 31.
48
The Green Heads were the e{raf, on account of their green turbans.
49
DNA, LAT 664: N. van Maseijk to Dedel, 15 May 1767 (in Dutch). On
elebi Efendi Muhammad Tahazade, see Margaret L. Meriwether, The Notable
Families of Aleppo, 17701830: Networks and Social Structure. Unpublished PhD disser-
tation, University of Pennsylvania, 1981, 25, 238, 249.
50
The Aga of the Janisaries is Aides friend & he has many that are ready to
do him justice . . .; BNA, SP 110/87: Murray to Preston, 11 July 1767.
letter to Aida the ambassador wrote: your Capacity & your Industry
have brought upon you the Envy of your idle Neighbours.
51
In the
eyes of the directors of the Levant Company Aidas case was from
his] supposed great riches easy to be accounted for by any person
that has had the word Avania explained to him.
52
Some preliminary conclusions can be drawn from these summaries,
despite their limited number. They show, for example, that the label
avania was applied to a wide variety of cases spread over the entire
Eastern Mediterranean. The scale of the incidents varied. The rst
and third cases are large incidents that involved the Dutch com-
munity in the Levant in general. The cases of the Keizer Octavianus
(no. 1) and the Ottoman slaves in Livorno (no. 3) display a combi-
nation of aspects of international trade, law, and politics. Both cases
eventually reached the divan- hmayun, where a mix of legal and
political considerations determined their resolution. Interestingly, nei-
ther case constituted a violation of the capitulations by the Ottoman
authorities.
53
The second and fourth cases had a more limited scope,
involving, it seems, only a few people. About incident number 2 too
little information has survived to allow rm conclusions from it, but
it is clear that the incident involved only two people, one Dutch
mariner and one, probably Muslim, woman. Moreover, it must have
been considered a national avanias, because the States-General bore
the nancial consequences. None of the rst three accounts of ava-
nias thus unequivocally conrms the common notions about avanias.
The fourth incident may not actually have been much of an inci-
dent at all. Even reports of avanias were potentially harmful to a
consuls reputation, so this might have been little more than a mali-
cious rumour. Regardless of whether it really was, or not, the report
conforms with the stereotype of the beylerbeyi initiating an avania. The
nal ve cases summarized above cast more doubt on the validity
of received wisdom about avanias. They will be analysed in more
detail in the next section.
140 cn.r+rn +nnrr
51
ENA, SP 110/87: Murray to Mr. George Aid, 27 May 1767. Like other let-
ters from the ambassador to Aida this one was sent in Italian, he not under-
standing English. Cf. ENA, SP 110/87: Murray to M. Aide, 11 July 1767.
52
ENA, SP 105/119, 247: The Levant Company to the Pro-Consul & Factory
at Aleppo, 5 February 1768.
53
van den Boogert, Redress for Ottoman Victims of European Privateering,
passim.
Analysis: The Ottoman Legal Perspective
In Chapter One I have argued, after Buskens, that state law (kanun)
was the dominant element in the Ottoman legal system. In theory
even the sultans were subject to the prescripts of {eriat, but in prac-
tice the Ottoman authorities had no qualms about adjusting theory
to legitimise practice. The Europeans legal regulations and consular
practices of dispute resolution were un-Islamic and thus had no obvi-
ous place in the Ottoman legal system. I have argued that the
Ottomans used kanun (in the form of the capitulations) to incorpo-
rate the European juridical customs in the Ottoman legal system.
Under certain circumstances the Europeans were allowed to settle
disputes among themselves. The most important condition was that
these practices not be contrary to {eriat, an ill-dened criterion, the
signicance of which escaped most Europeans. In this section I will
analyse ve of the avanias summarized above by applying an Ottoman
legal perspective as an alternative to the Euro-centric approach of
many of the available sources.
In this section each individual case will be examined on the basis
of the following questions. What is the legal issue involved? Do the
capitulations apply to this problem, and, if so, what do they say?
Finally, what was the role of the chief representatives of the Ottoman
legal system, the qadi and the beylerbeyi ?
The rst casenumber 5 of the previous sectioninvolved a
Dutchwoman and a shoemaker in Aleppo. The problem was the
colour of her slippers, which were green. Green was the colour of
Islam, which adorned the turbans of the descendants of the prophet
Mohammad (e{raf ), who for this reason are often referred to in the
English sources as Greenheads. Non-Muslims were not allowed to
wear green, because it was considered an insult to Islam. The Ottoman
authorities generally do not seem to have enforced this rule. Foreigners
in Istanbul and Izmir never had any problems of this kind, the
Dutchwomans husband pointed out in vain.
54
Insulting Islam or the
prophet Muhammad was a violation of the zimmet, as Binswanger
has shown. The Dutchwoman was not a zimmi, but a mstemine, so
what do the capitulations say about this issue?
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 141
54
DNA, LH 161 (2); Richard Verschuer at Larnaca, Cyprus, to the Dutch nation
at Aleppo, 16 April 1694.
Neither the Dutch capitulation of 1612, nor that of 1680, con-
tains an article about this type of incident, but article 11 of the
English capitulation of 1580 is of interest here:
Ve baz kimesneler bize {etmeylednz diye iftira idp {ahid-i zor ikamet eyleyp
mcerred celb ve ahz in hilf- {er-i kavim rencide ve remide eylemek istedik-
lerinde men olunalar
And when people calumniate, saying: You have insulted us, (and)
make false witnesses stand, wishing to aict and aright, contrary to
the upright Holy Law, solely for the sake of extortion, let them be
prevented.
55
On the basis of the most-favoured nation clause, found in article 40
of the Dutch capitulations, the Dutch victims of this particular ava-
nia could have invoked the English article. However, this meant that
the couple would have had to appear before the qadi in a formal
suit brought against them by a {erif, who could probably have pro-
duced the two reliable Muslim witnesses needed for a conviction.
Moreover, the non-Muslim foreign woman involved did not deny
the charges, but argued only that this particular rule of Islamic law
was hardly ever enforced.
Whether or not insulting Islam was a legitimate reason for revok-
ing aman according to {eriat in this case, it is signicant that the
Dutch consulate and the assembly of the nation do not appear even
to have considered invoking the capitulations in this case. The Dutch
in Aleppo clearly blamed the couple itself for what had happened.
This suggests that the Dutch community knew and accepted this
basic prescript of Islamic law, expecting all its members to honour
it, or bear the nancial consequences of giving oence. This was
therefore a personal aair, for which the Dutch community did
not hold the pasha responsible.
Although the Dutchwoman was reportedly dragged before the
qadi, the incident did not go to trial. A dragoman of the Dutch
consulate quickly negotiated a settlement, agreeing that the couple
paid a considerable ne to end the matter. How large a sum was
519 Lion Dollars in 1694? Changed into Ottoman currency the
142 cn.r+rn +nnrr
55
Transliteration by lker, (zmir, 307; Translation by Skilliter, Harborne, 88, 235.
The words solely for the sake of extortion is a translation of . . . rencide ve remide
eylemek istediklerinde, literally wanting to cause damage and hurt.
amount stayed the same, so it is useful to know that a sum of 500
kuru{ represented a small fortune for Ottoman Aleppines.
56
This is
illustrated by the fact that with this amount one could buy almost
35 standard camel loads (kantars) of grain in Aleppo around this time,
which came close to 7,000 kilos.
57
The sum paid by Verschuer to
put an end to the controversy over his wifes slippers thus was indeed
considerable. To whom did the money go?
From the summary of the case above we have seen that the
Ottoman parties involved in this incident were a {erif, the nekible{raf,
and the qadi. The fact that a crowd had formed which threatened
to stone the Dutchwoman also made it a matter of public order,
which fell under the authority of the beylerbeyi. The following account
of the expenses of this incident (table 4) shows which of these ocers
were included in the settlement.
The qadi received 150 Lion Dollars/kuru{. His subordinates, his
lieutenant, deputy, servants, and Janissary as well as the doormen
of the courthouse, were paid a total of almost 48 kuru{. In all, the
qadi and his men received 40 per cent of the total sum. The
nekible{raf received the same sum as the qadi, with an additional 17
kuru{ for expenses, in all 32 per cent of the total. The interim gov-
ernor-general of Aleppo (msellim) and his ocers received a total of
100 kuru{, c. 20 per cent. Seyyid Ahmad, {eyh-i hare, was probably the
leader of the neighbourhood where the incident happened. I have
been unable to establish who Esad elebi was, but he may have
mediated in the matter. Since he had a scribe and two dragomans,
he must have been a senior ocial whose oce brought him into
contact with the foreign communities in Aleppo. Hseyin avu{ was
mostly likely a messenger in the service of the interim governor-gen-
eral. The remaining name, Seyyid Ya'qub, was probably that of the
shoemaker whose confrontation with Mrs Verschuer set this incident
in motion.
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 143
56
Masters, Origins, 61.
57
Calculations based on Masters, Origins, Note on Weight and Currency Terms
(no page number) and page 113, where the average price of one kantar of grain is
said to be between 10 and 20 kuru{ in the period 16001750. For this calculation
I have xed the average price at 15 kuru{ per kantar.
Table 4. Expenses incurred in the avania of Si[gn]ore Verschuer on
account of the green slippers of his wife.
To the qadi Uzun (smail Efendi 150
To his kahya 30
To the naib 15
To the servants of the qadi 5
To Es'ad elebi 10
To Ahmed elebi, his scribe 10
To his two dragomans 3
To the principal Janissary of the qadi 7: 40
To the yasak (? Jessakie) 7
For two medini per p.rae
58
7: 40
To the doormen of the [Court of ] Justice : 40
To the leader of the e{raf 150
To Seyyid Yaqub 10
In the hands of the leader of
the e{raf for expenses of his oce 17: 40
To the {eyh-i hare called Seyyid Ahmad 5
To the msellim 50
To his kahya 15
To Husayn avu{ 10
To the shahnader
59
of the msellim 5
To his other servants 10
Lion Dollars 518
For the exchange of seven sequins 1: 60
In all 519: 60
Source: DNA, LH 161 (2): Onkosten gedaen voor de avanie van Signore Verschuer
wegens de groene muylen van synes vrouw.
The sums paid by Verschuer in 1694 to conclude the avania on
account of his wifes green slippers aord a glance at the mecha-
nisms of dispute settlement that were used. More than 90 per cent
of the money went to the three branches of local government whose
support for the settlement had to be secured. Because the case con-
144 cn.r+rn +nnrr
58
I have been unable to determine the meaning of these words. The abbrevia-
tion might mean Piasters, but even then it is not clear to me what justied this
charge.
59
The spelling is clearly shahnadar, but elsewhere the similar word chasnadar appears,
which is almost certainly an abbreviation of hazinedar, treasurer. According to
Redhouses Turkish and English Lexicon, 845, the word hazne was short for hazine.
cerned a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad the support of the
nekible{raf for the settlement was indispensable. The e{raf formed a
large and inuential group in Aleppo and their leader was undoubt-
edly asked to ensure that no further claims against the Dutch com-
munity arose from this incident after the settlement. The msellim
and his men were responsible for enforcing the arrangement among
the rest of the inhabitants of Aleppo and they received 100 kuru{ for
their cooperation. Finally, the largest share went to the qadi and his
subordinates, whose involvement was evidently the most important
legitimisation of the settlement.
This aair may have been unjust in the eyes of the self-proclaimed
victims, but it was neither a violation of the capitulations, nor a shin-
ing example of the injustice of the Ottoman legal system. Even the
Dutch community in Aleppo blamed the couple involved themselves.
A dragoman of the consulate prevented a trial by negotiating a set-
tlement. The sum the couple had to pay did not constitute extor-
tion, and although the pasha was included in the settlement, he
had nothing to do with the original course of events.
Our second case did go to trial. It is interesting because it sheds
light on Ottoman criminal procedures involving members of foreign
communities, about which I have found relatively little material. It
concerns case number 5 of the previous section, where a dragoman
of the Dutch consulate in Aleppo was executed for the death of a
shepherd, who died after having reportedly been struck by lightning.
The case was not as simple as the Dutch consul represented it,
however.
The Ottoman documents present a dierent version of events.
According to a report by the qadi of Aleppo the incident happened
on 7 Rebiylahir 1143/20 October 1730, when the Dutch consul,
his dragoman and a number of Englishmen were in the countryside.
At the same time Seyyid Mehmed ibn seyyid Ali was pasturing his
herd in the area, when he was hit in the head by a stray bullet red
from the harquebus of one of the Europeans. The wound was not
instantly fatal. The dragoman, Hanna Jarah, reportedly reached the
shepherd when he was still alive, because the man begged him for
his life. Nevertheless, Jarah was said to have pushed the wounded
man into the river, whereupon he drowned. Two Muslim witnesses
conrmed the account, which was related to the court two days after
the event by Husayn ibn seyyid Ali, a cousin of the victim. The
authorities subsequently specially obtained a fatwa, which recommended
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 145
that the dragoman be sentenced to death in retaliation for what he
had done. The dragoman was subsequently sentenced to death by
hanging.
60
Jarah was probably arrested soon after the incident had been
reported to the authorities. A concerted eort by the Dutch consul
and his colleagues resulted in the dragomans temporary release, but
he was soon arrested once again. The Dutch consul was told that
this done to protect the dragoman against the rage of the populace.
Another Ottoman document records the extent of this civil unrest.
It is a petition to the Porte signed by fourteen notables of Aleppo,
all descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. This document reported
that the popular unrest as a result of the case had been orchestrated
by the nekible{raf, Seyyid Umar Efendi. According to this document,
Umar Efendi had called upon everyone to follow the standard of
the Prophet Muhammad and join him en masse to the courthouse in
order to get the Dutch dragoman sentenced to death. The petitioners
had refused to join the crowd, stating that the matter was the qadis
business. Nevertheless, Seyyid Umar had raised the standard of the
prophet and continued his quest, inciting serious popular unrest. He
directed the crowd to the governor-generals palace. The mob report-
edly wrecked several markets and khans, even killing several Muslims,
e{raf as well as others. There is no corroborating evidence for this
nal claim, which seems to have been intended to spice up the com-
plaint. It seems that these e{raf seized the opportunity of the Dutch
complaint to the Porte to try to get rid of the leader of their fac-
tion, but without success.
61
The capitulations did not apply in this case, because acts of vio-
146 cn.r+rn +nnrr
60
. . . hususiyyen sadr olan fetva-yi {eriyye mucibinci mestur Hanna yerine ksasan katluhu
hkm etmeleriyle mastur Hanna {eran katl olunma<n . . . DNA, LAT 1095, The Ottoman
text of this hccet-i {eriyye is found on the folios between pages 5556 and 5758.
For the Italian translation, see Ibid., 5658, un scritto p. Giustitia fatto circa il
soprad.
to
aare, venuto da Aleppo [dated] nel giorno decima della Luna di Rebiul-
sani 1143 di nostra salute, circa li 22 Ott.
re
1730. The names of the witnesses
were Sulayman ibn Halil and Hasan ibn Janiyula.
61
DNA, LAT 1095, Halebten gelen mahzarn surettir, on folio between pages 5556.
The Italian translation is found on 5556. The nekible{rafs superiors clearly did
not take the account seriously, because the }eyhlislm and the nekible{raf of Istanbul
merely warned him not to violate the privileges of the Dutch community. DNA,
LAT 1095, Ottoman texts on unnumbered pages between 7778 and 7879: The
}eyhlislm, Mehmed [Efendi], to the nekible{raf in Aleppo, undated; Ibid., same
pages: The nekible{raf in Istanbul to his deputy in Aleppo, undated.
lence cancelled all privileges guaranteed by the ahdnames. The promise
of friendship and peace on the part of the beneciaries of capitula-
tions was a fundamental condition for the grant of privileges on the
part of the sultan. It was this promise that made the extension of
aman permissible according to Islamic law. Naturally the killing by
a non-Muslim of a Muslim constituted a violation of the condition
and promise of peaceful conduct. Moreover, the capitulations only
awarded jurisdiction to consuls and ambassadors in criminal matters
exclusively involving members of their own community. In this case
a {erif was killed, who was connected neither with the Dutch nation,
nor the English. Even according to the capitulations, therefore, the
Ottoman authorities had jurisdiction over this case.
From the Islamic legal point of view, the case was clear-cut. A
cousin of the victim brought the case before the qadi. It was thus
the next-of-kin of the victim who led suit against the alleged killer,
which is in accordance with Hana legal theory and Ottoman legal
practice, where homicide is categorized as private prosecution. The
next-of-kin of the murdered man was entitled to demand that his
killers life be taken in compensation for their loss. If the family for-
gave the killer, or agreed to an alternative punishment, the killer
could not be sentenced to death.
62
In this case the cousin of the vic-
tim demanded Jarahs blood. The conrmation of this version of
events by two reliable Muslim witnesses, also e{raf, was sucient to
establish guilt. Whether or not Jarah had been oered the possibil-
ity to speak is not clear from the documents, but in any case it
would have been the word of one non-Muslim against that of three
e{raf. The authorities subsequently specially obtained a fatwa, which
recommended that the dragoman be sentenced to death in retalia-
tion for what he had done.
The Jarah case appears largely to have conformed to Hana pre-
scripts.
63
Only the nes imposed on the Dutch consul and the con-
victed dragomans widow after the execution do not seem justiable
by law. These nes cannot be considered blood money (diyet), because
the payment of compensation could be an alternative for capital pun-
ishment, not an addition to it. With some imagination it may argued
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 147
62
Ibidem.
63
Imber, Ebus-su'ud, 236 .; also see his Why You Should Poison Your Husband.
A Note on Liability in Hanaf Law in the Ottoman Period, in Colin Imber, Studies
in Ottoman History and Law (Istanbul, 1996), 253261.
that the qadi used his discretionary powers to make the consul liable
for corrective punishment (ta"zir), substituting a ogging with the pay-
ment of a ne. Similarly, it is possible that the money demanded
from Jarahs widow was meant to cover legal fees. In the absence
of more sources these explanations necessarily remain conjectural. If
there was any truth to the report about the nekible{raf s actions,
concerns about public order may well have become mixed with
strictly legal considerations, but the case against Jarah was legally
solid and procedurally correct. The foreign communities in Aleppo
at the time considered the punishments in this case excessive, but
there is no reason to regard the Jarah case as an Ottoman infringe-
ment of the capitulationsunless it really was lightning that killed
the shepherd.
The two similar avanias involving British merchants in Istanbul
(summaries 6 and 7 of the previous section) revolved around the
legal issue of communal liability. If a corpse was discovered mur-
dered somewhere and the person had apparently died under extra-
ordinary circumstances, it was Ottoman policy to hold the entire
neighbourhood collectively responsible. If no culprits were found, the
neighbourhood as a whole had to pay the blood money.
64
The two cases in Istanbul occurred several decades after an arti-
cle addressing this issue appeared for the rst time in the French
capitulations of 1673. It stipulated that
Et sil arrive quon te quelquun dans des quartiers ou sont les Franois,
Nous deendons quils soient molestez en leur demandant le prix de
sang [diyet], si ce nest quon prouve en justice que ce sont eux qui
ont fait le mal.
65
On the basis of the most-favoured nation clause in their own capit-
ulation of 1675 (art. 18), the English merchants could have invoked
the article in the French capitulations. One of the dragomans of the
embassy went to the Porte on a daily basis, and, in theory, he could
have applied for a ferman exempting the English from the payment
of diyet under these circumstances. If they had done this immediately
after the rst incident, the ferman could also have been used the sec-
148 cn.r+rn +nnrr
64
See Heyd, Studies in Old Ottoman Criminal Law, 106 and 115. These mechanisms
of justice have been described in some detail for Aleppo in Marcus, The Middle East
on the Eve of Modernity, 322 . Cf. Bianchis notes about this in Noradounghian,
Receuil, I, 304.
65
Ibid., 145. It was the thirteenth of the new articles included in this capitula-
tion. Noradounghian has numbered them separately.
ond time. This is not what happened, however, because the English
nation chose to pay 745 kuru{, instead.
In the rst case the largest share was clearly spent on legal pro-
cedures (see table 5). The qadi, his substitute (naib) and other ocers
of the mahkema are mentioned, as well as witnesses to the hccet by
which the drowned servant was declared non compos mentis. Unfortunately
the sum paid to these ocers is not further specied for the indi-
vidual ocers, but it constituted 68 per cent of the total. Moreover,
legal deeds were also drawn up to ensure that no future claims would
result from the incident. Court fees accounted for another 16 per
cent of the total.
Table 5. Account of the charges of which Mr [Edward] Staord
disbursed to prevent greater mischief about the death of his servant,
[Constantinople] April 1714.
Accompt of expenses made on occasion of my servant
Zacharya drowning himself in my cistern.
To the molah [qadi], Naip [naib] & other ocers of
the Mechemee [mahkema], witnesses to prove him non
compos mentis, the Imam of the Parish & other witnesses
to the Hoggiet P. 93:60
To the widowe, guardian of his children to persuade
them to confesse him distracted & that he had before
attempted to make away with himself & other collateral
circumstances P. 12:00
More to them charges of his funeral P. 10:00
For several Hogiets made with them to release me from
all future demands P. 22:00
[total:] P. 137:60
Source: BNA, SP 105/179, p. 565.
For both cases it is useful to put the sums mentioned into perspec-
tive. What was the purchasing power of 137 kuru{ in Istanbul in
1714? It was the price of some 78 Istanbul pikes (c. 53 meters) of
Florentine satin of prime quality, or almost 40 pikes of ne Dutch
broadcloth in white or red. The same sum purchased 17.25 okka
(48.3 lb.) of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves. The sum of 137 kuru{ was
more than two years salary of the Turkish scribe in the service
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 149
of the Dutch embassy. The dragomans of the embassy received
roughly this sum to cover their ferry expenses for the trip between
Galata and Istanbul proper for a period of two years and eight
months.
66
In other words, 137 kuru{ was no fortune, but by local
standards certainly a considerable sum. By the time Constantine,
Stamper and Foley spent 608 kuru{ in the Ottoman capital two years
later in order to avert an avania, these prices do not seem to have
changed signicantly.
For the case involving the three English merchants in Istanbul in
1715/16 an account of expenses in clearing an avania has survived,
which is reproduced in table 6.
Table 6. Account of expenses in clearing an avania [1 Marzo 1715/6].
67
To the voyvoda of Galata 300
To Turks of three neighbourhoods, Imams, and others 115
To the mumi
68
ocer of the topu from Stamper & Foley
4 pikes of cloth and one Sequin 23
To another neighbour one ar{lk [?]of cloth and a good cut
69
11
To the ocers of the voyvoda in all 15
To Abdullah, the kahya of the voyvoda 16
To the voyvoda of the Four Streets 16
To the suba{ and his ocers 10
To the scribe of the ilm and others 10
To the sons of Hseyin A<a 8.5 pikes of Mahud cloth @ 4 Piasters 34
To their cousin 4 pikes of cloth 12
To the aforementioned sons of Hseyin A<a in cash in new zolota
70
40
Added to a sample
71
and a pair of spectacles 6
608
Source: BNA, SP105/179, p. 783.
150 cn.r+rn +nnrr
66
The Istanbul pike (ar{u ar{n) measured 0.68 meters. See Eldem, French Trade,
35 n. 5. These prices were taken from DNA, LH 240, Account book of the Dutch
embassy treasury in Istanbul, 17101724. The cloth prices concern the expensive
quality that the Dutch presented in gifts to senior Ottoman ocials.
67
My translation from the Italian.
68
Redhouse, A Turkish and English Lexicon, 2037 mentions mumcu, a matchlock-
man; especially when employed as a body-guard.
69
The text has ciaescirlik, which might mean ar{lk, (standard) market measure.
In Turkish the Italian word mano was gamblers slang for money or a share (of
money). Redhouse Turkish-English Dictionary (Istanbul, 1997), 730. I gratefully acknowl-
edge the help of Jan Schmidt and Elena Frangakis-Syrett with these terms.
70
1 zolota = 30 Para; 40 Para = 1 kuru{. Since 40 kuru{ are mentioned here, the
actual sum paid was 53 zolota and 10 Para.
71
mostra; probably of cloth.
More than half of the sum paid by the English merchants went to
the oce of the voyvoda of Galata (54.44 per cent). He personally
received 300 kuru{ (39.34 per cent) while his lieutenant, Abdullah,
was paid the relatively small sum of 16 kuru{ (2.63 per cent). Other
unnamed ocers of the voyvoda received 15 kuru{. The voyvoda of the
Four Streets, the Western nickname for the Beyo<lu quarter of Galata,
also received a modest sum. The suba{ and his men, who were part
of the executive branch of the Ottoman administrative and justice
system, probably had to see to it that the settlement was enforced,
which explains why they, too, received money. The payment made
to an ocer of the Master General of the Artillery (topu) may indi-
cate that he was somehow personally involved, but it is also possi-
ble that the proximity of the Imperial Canon Foundry (tophane-i amire)
made it expedient to include a representative of the military in the
settlement. The list of ocial charges ends with the entry of 10 kuru{
paid to the scribe who wrote the ocial report about the matter
and unspecied others. The other expenses all concerned the fam-
ily of one Hseyin A<a, presumably the man whose corpse was found
in the vicinity of the English merchants residences. They make up
15.13 per cent of the sum paid by Constantine, Stamper and Foley.
At the top of the list of expenses the sum of 115 kuru{ (18.91 per
cent of the total) appears. The money was paid to unidentied Muslim
inhabitants of three neighbourhoods, imams and others. The reason
for their payment is not mentioned, but the entry is similar to one
in the nancial account of the Staord case, in which witnesses,
imams and neighbours were compensated for their testimony.
The British merchants involved in these cases admitted that they
probably would not have had to pay any blood money, but they
did so, nevertheless. In the rst case the English merchant, Edward
Staord, had had negative experiences with this kind of cases before,
and wanted to prevent matters from getting out of hand once more.
This implies that the capitulations had not worked before, and Staord
had little faith in a positive outcome this time. This was the reason
for paying the money he presented before the British assembly, at
least. Moreover, he had incurred the expenses at the advice of
Georgio Timoni and Luca Chirico, the First and Second Dragomans,
respectively, of the British Embassy.
72
Although the majority of the
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 151
72
BNA, SP 105/179, 566, A general court held in Pera of Constantinople May
11 1714 presiding his Excellency Sir Robert Sutton.
assembly declared the aair a national burden, there was one dis-
senter. This merchant, Ralph Pemberton, claimed that the corpse
had been found in the grounds of the residence of one Bernardo di
Negri, who would have been the only one to suer from it, if Chirico
had not stirred in this business without instructions from the ambas-
sador. Pemberton claimed that the dragoman had attempted to set-
tle the matter quietly with the neighbourhood and the voyvoda of
Galata. The rst secret meeting about the matter had taken place
in the house of Francesco Bragiotti, Pembertons own scribe. Chirico
decided it would be wise not to take any chances of popular unrest
and the Grand Vizier hearing about the case, and advised the
Englishmen to pay the blood money, despite the fact there was
no legal obligation for them to do so.
73
In the second instance the three merchants argued that the Grand
Vizier was so much inclined against the English that he might seize
any opportunity to ruin them. The principal consideration in this
case seems to have been that under normal circumstances the
Englishmen could have obtained an exemption from payment, but
the animosity of the Grand Vizier made it inadvisable to apply for
such a document at that particular time. The British nation in Istanbul
evidently blamed the Grand Vizier for this, declaring the aair a
national avanias, despite the fact that no ocers of the Porte
were even involved in the matter. Essentially, the English in Istanbul
in these years did not trust the Ottoman authorities to honour the
capitulations.
Distrust of the Ottoman legal system was at the centre of the nal
case study (summary no. 9), too. The First Dragoman of the English
consulate in Aleppo was apparently arrested on corruption charges,
but no trial ever took place. The suggestion that this was yet another
example of Ottoman injustice does not hold up under scrutiny, how-
ever. There was nothing illegitimate or unpredictable about the con-
duct of the Ottoman authorities in this case. The English ambassador
was even told about it in advance. Some two weeks before the arrest
the ambassador, John Murray, was discretely advised to withdraw
152 cn.r+rn +nnrr
73
Ibid., 776779, A Court about the avania made on Messrs Constantine &
Stamper [18 February 1715/6]. For a ctionalised account of a similar interven-
tion by a dragoman, see Edhem Eldem, Istanbul: from Imperial to Peripheralized
Capital, 135206, esp. 142147.
his protection from Jirjis Aida, because he was about to be arrested.
The warning came from the Chief Dragoman of the Porte, (skarlat
Karaca, a former dragoman of the Dutch ambassador.
74
Murray sur-
mised that Karacas message had been sent with the acquiescence
of both the Grand Vizier and the reislkttab, so he sent a petition
to the latter
to beg, that the Porte would not proceed to any act of violence a-
gainst an English Drugoman without rst permitting him to answer
the accusation against him; that if the Porte would permit me, I would
send for him to Constantinople, or that I would submit, that his process
should be made at Aleppo in presence of the Factory & that in case
it was proved that he had been guilty of any crime against the State,
I should immediately withdraw my protection; but that I hoped that
the Porte would not in the meantime do any act to oend the Law
of Nations, more especially against so good a friend as the King of
England: to which the Reis Eendi answered, very well, very well, I
intended to do the Ambassador a favour, but if he is not sensible of
it, I cant help it. What the Porte will do in consequence of this, I
know not, as their proceedings are incomprehensible. One day they
say one thing & the next another.
75
Naturally the direct speech in Murrays letter cannot be accepted at
face value, and sucient proof has already been given of the Western
notion that the Ottomans were unreliable, but several other aspects
of this fragment make it worth citing. Firstly, this is one of the ear-
liest references to the law of nations I have found in Western
diplomatic correspondence from the Levant in the eighteenth cen-
tury, a period when the phrase was apparently seldom used. Secondly,
the ambassadors presentation of the problem as an international
incident is a strategy that was frequently used by Western diplomats
in Istanbul. It stems from the notion that the king was represented
by the ambassador, the ambassador by the consul, and the consul
by the dragomanso that in the end the arrest of an Ottoman sub-
ject in English service was considered an aront to the King of
England. Finally, Murrays proposal about legal procedures is note-
worthy. The ambassadors suggestion that the English community in
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 153
74
Schutte, Repertorium, 322.
75
ENA, SP 110/86: No. 8: Murray to the Earl of Shelburne, Constantinople, 2
May 1767; Cf. ENA, SP 110/87: Murray to Mr Preston, Constantinople, 20 April
1767.
Aleppo should rst be allowed to assess the strength of the case
against Aida implies that he did not trust the Ottoman judiciary to
have good reasons for the arrest. He also claimed a degree of legal
autonomy far beyond the privileges of the capitulations. Murrays
account thus misrepresents both the Ottoman legal procedures and
the juridical status the English enjoyed on the basis of the capitulations.
The ahdnames stipulated that lawsuits against consuls and drago-
mans could only be heard by the Imperial Council in Istanbul, but
in this case the Porte soon revoked Jirjis Aidas dragoman status.
Within a month of his arrest, Aidas berat was cancelled and liter-
ally struck from the record at the end of June 1767.
76
This process
began in Aleppo directly after the arrest, around the middle of May.
Dragomans berats were commonly kept in the consular chancery, so
the beylerbeyi demanded that the English consul hand it over. The
consul, William Preston, initially refused to surrender his dragomans
berat, but he gave in after both his Dutch and French colleagues had
advised him to cooperate. They feared that a refusal might endan-
ger Aidas family, while cooperation might gain him some credit. In
any case, the governor-general was much too powerful for the English
consul to defy. Aidas berat was thus surrendered by a deputation
of dragomans from the English, Dutch and French consulates.
77
From
that moment onwards Aida ceased to be a British protg. The can-
cellation of his berat ocially reduced him to a common subject of
the sultan, which unequivocally gave the Ottoman authorities full
jurisdiction over Aida.
Not only did the English ambassador misrepresent the Ottoman
procedures, he ignored them, too. Murray continued to represent
Aidas interests regardless of the fact he was no longer the First
Dragoman of the English consulate in Aleppo. Murray continued to
use his oce to defend someone whose ties with the English com-
munity had ocially been severed. There was nothing in the capit-
ulations that justied this, but the Porte apparently condoned it. In
the eyes of the English ambassador his conduct was proved right by
the ocial re-instatement of Aida as dragoman in Aleppo on 20
154 cn.r+rn +nnrr
76
BOA, ED 35/1, 109/347, tecdid culus 1 Safer 1171/15 October 1757, see the
marginal note saying that, on the basis of an imperial order of 24 Muharrem
1181/22 June 1767, Aidas berat was cancelled (battald).
77
DNA, LAT 664, Nicolaas van Maseijk to Dedel, 15 May 1767.
July 1768, but he had in eect stretched his jurisdiction beyond its
ocial limitations.
78
This is precisely what the Europeans frequently
accused Ottoman ocers of doing.
Conclusion
There were undoubtedly Ottoman ocers of all levels who abused
their oce to extract money from the people under their jurisdic-
tion. Their victims were not only common Ottoman subjects, for
occasionally the Europeans suered such unjust demands, too. It has
become received wisdom that avania was the common technical term
for these extortionate demands, particularly at the hands of senior
Ottoman ocials, the pashas. The term avania is widely believed
to stem from an Arabic, Persian, or Turkish word with connotations
of injustice. This chapter has challenged these common notions.
The European sources from the eighteenth century proclaim most
avanias violations of the capitulations. Contemporary consular regu-
lations were conducive to this form of one-sided, often distorted,
accounts of encounters with the Ottoman judiciary. It literally paid
to paint a grim picture of the unreliability and injustice of the
Ottoman administrative and legal system. If a majority of ones nation
accepted this version of events, the expenses were reimbursed from
the Company coers. I aimed to balance this Euro-centric, antago-
nistic view on avanias with an Islamic legal approach, based on the
notion that the capitulations were part of the Ottoman legal system,
not a separate system divorced from it. This chapter thus attempted
to reinterpret avanias in terms of legal jurisdictions by identifying
Western perceptions of Ottoman injustice, and testing them on the
basis of the capitulations, Islamic legal theory and Ottoman kanun,
and legal practice.
The two central questions in the analysis of incidents labelled
avanias by the Europeans above were, rst, was a certain case a vio-
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 155
78
BOA, ED 35/1, 109/347, tecdid culus 1 Safer 1171/15 October 1757, see the
second marginal note to this document, which mentions that Aida had been for-
given and re-instated on 5 Rebiylahir 1182/19 August 1768. Cf. Ibid.: 123/423:
5 Rebiylevvel 1182/20 July 1768.
lation of the capitulations? And, second, what was the role of the
two most important representatives of the Ottoman legal system on
the local level, the qadi and the beylerbeyi? The number of cases pre-
sented in this chapter is admittedly small and limited to a few loca-
tions. Egypt, for example, where Westerners reported many avanias
throughout the period, does not appear in this discussion.
79
Nevertheless,
I believe that one fundamental conclusion can be drawn from them:
Avanias rst and foremost reect the Europeans perceptions of the
Ottoman justice system based on their preconceptions about their
own legal privileges. Many foreigners, including ambassadors and
consul, had inated ideas about the degree of legal autonomy they
enjoyed within the Ottoman Empire. Few of them were suciently
familiar with Islamic legal prescripts and indigenous mechanisms of
justice to understand the Ottoman legal system in general, or their
own place within it in particular. Miscommunication and misunder-
standing were a common result, sometimes leading to serious incidents.
These incidents were not necessarily violations of the capitulations.
In the Aida case we have seen that the English ambassador claimed
legal privileges he was not entitled to according to the capitulations,
while the English nation in Istanbul preferred a nancial settlement
with the authorities in Galata to petitioning the Porte for the ahd-
names to be enforced to the letter.
Most European diplomats and merchants systematically interpreted
the capitulations in their own favour, regarding them as the sole
basis for their legal status. Dierent interpretations, like those of the
Ottoman authorities, were rejected out of hand. This dogmatic
approach to the capitulations created a tension between theory and
practice, often making them dicult to reconcile. The common
Ottoman solution of settlements was equally dicult to explain,
because concessions might be considered confessions. Moreover, nego-
tiations might erode the privileges of the capitulations, many Europeans
seem to have feared. In practice, however, this method of dispute
resolution facilitated the implementation of the capitulations. In most
of the cases discussed above some sort of arrangement was eventu-
156 cn.r+rn +nnrr
79
Masson, Histoire du commerce . . . au XVII
e
sicle, 7, 1112. On page 19 Masson
states that lEgypte fut la terre classique des avanies. This was echoed by Tongas,
Les relations, 152: Lchelle du Caire fut par excellence la terre des avanies.
ally mutually agreed upon. The fact that Westerners tended to label
these arrangements avanias should not prevent us from identifying
settlements as a pragmatic method of dispute resolution between
Ottomans and Europeans that was more common in this period than
many Europeans cared to admit.
visnrrnrsrx+.+ioxs or +nr o++ov.x rro.r svs+rv 157
CHAPTER FOUR
THE DIVISION OF ESTATES
The rst chapter of this study oered a brief outline of the relevant
legal theory concerning the estates of foreigners and beratls on the
basis of the capitulatory privileges and other Ottoman prescripts.
Together with additional imperial decrees the ahdnames formed the
corpus of normative texts in accordance with which the Ottoman
judges and other ocers should treat members of Western commu-
nities. The present chapter will focus on the practical implementa-
tion on these regulations with regard to estates.
Even within individual foreign nations in the Ottoman Empire we
should distinguish three types of estate. The rst was the estate
belonging to a proper member of a certain community, i.e. a French
member of the French nation, or an Englishman of the English nation.
In that case the consul was generally familiar with the relevant pro-
cedures, as well as with the person who had died. Wills were often
registered in the consular chancery, which made it easier to estab-
lish whether it existed and what its terms were. There were several
possible complications, like the status of Ottoman wives, but in gen-
eral procedures were fairly straightforward. Matters were often more
dicult when merchant strangers died. These foreigners did not
conduct trade under the ag of their own country, but joined other
nations in the Levant. For example, many Dutch communities in the
Ottoman Empire also had German members. The Dutch also pro-
tected Portuguese Jews in this way. They were considered Dutchmen
to all intends and purposes, but, when they died, their estates had
to be divided according to the customs of their real place of origin.
The third type of estate belonged to the dragomans and protgs of
foreign embassies and consulates. Their estates fell under consular
jurisdiction, too.
This chapter will argue that the basic procedures were the same
for all three types of estate, but their implementation was often more
complicated in the case of beratls than of Europeans. For this rea-
son the chapter is divided in two sections. The rst section oers a
concise analysis of the procedures and problems of each type of
estate. Brief practical examples from the eighteenth century will illus-
trate this rst section. The second part of the chapter consists of a
case study of the division of the inheritance of one particular drago-
man. This case will be discussed and analysed in detail, with the
aim of oering rare insights into the dynamics between consul and
qadi concerning the estate of a non-Muslim Ottoman dragoman.
The Capitulations
Guarantees that the Muslim authorities would not conscate the
estates of deceased foreigners predate the Ottoman period. A treaty
between the Mamluk Sultan al-Mansur Qalawun and King Leon III
of Lesser Armenia of 1285, for example, arranged for the estates of
Muslim merchants who had died in King Leons territory to be deliv-
ered to the representatives of the Mamluk sultan, and vice versa.
1
The Ottoman capitulations also oered guarantees of this kind. Article
9 of the English capitulation of 1580 conveys a fundamental privi-
lege enjoyed by foreigners in the Ottoman Empire:
Ve e<er biri mrde olsa, esbab ve emvalin kime vasiyet ederse ana verile, vasiyet-
siz mrde olsa konsoloslar marifeti ile ol yerle yolda{na verile, kimesne dahl eyle-
meye, araya girmeye.
And if one of them [i.e. the English] should die let his goods and
properties be given to whomsoever he has bequeathed them;
2
should
he die intestate let [the eects] be given to that persons compatriot,
3
with the cognisance of their consul: let no one interfere.
4
160 cn.r+rn rotn
1
P.M. Holt, Early Mamluk Diplomacy (12601290): Treaties of Baybars and Qalwn
with Christian Rulers (Leiden, 1995), 93105, esp. p. 101 (art. 11).
2
The translations of some ahdnames state that the goods should be handed over
to the executors of the estate, but this is an incorrect translation of the words kime
vasiyet ederse. See, for example, Noradounghians translation of the French capitula-
tions of 1740, art. 22 (Recueil, i, 284), and M. Bianchis correction in note VIII on
page 302.
3
Literally: fellow-traveler.
4
lker, (zmir, 307; Skilliter, Harborne, 88. Not only foreigners from Western
Europe enjoyed this privilege, so did itinerant merchants from Persia conducting
trade in the Ottoman Empire. See Ivanova, The Empires Own Foreigners: 118,
122123.
Over the years this article was elaborated several times. Two arti-
cles from the English capitulation of 1601 (articles 6 and 7), quoted
here from a modern edition, illustrate this process:
(ngiltere ve (ngiltere bayra< altnda yryenlerden biri mrde olsa ahdnameye
muhalif emval ve erzakna beytlmalciler mal- gaibtir diye dahl etmeyeler.
Ve kassamlar ve kadlar tarafndan resm-i ksmet talep olunmaya
5
Sandersons contemporary translation of the second of these two arti-
cles shows that even modern editions of capitulations cannot always
be accepted at face value. The article is signicantly longer in
Sandersons version:
Item, that if any Englishman or other under their banner, havinge any
goods or faculty, shall dye within my dominions, the Petimaghae [beytl-
malc], or others of my ocers, shall not meddle therewith, sayinge
they are the goods of the dead (or absent).
Item, that all such commandments that are heretofore, or shall be
hereafter, granted to the English nation, or any other under their ban-
ner, which are for their good and benet, it shall be of eect and
force, [and] that it may not seeme to infringe this our capitulations;
and that the Casamees and Cadies shall not demand the tenth, called
Cismett.
6
It is not the seventeenth-century translation, but the modern edition
of this text that is unreliable here, from which several lines have
been omitted, which, as Sandersons translation indicates, precede
the injunction to the qadis and kassams not to demand taxes.
7
These extended articles from the English capitulation of 1601 make
it clear that anyone conducting trade under the English ag was also
covered by the capitulations. Furthermore, they specically state that
qadis, kassams (the dividers of inheritances), and beytlmalcis (ocers
of the sc) should not interfere with the estates of foreign merchants
who had died. The tax on the partition of estates (resm-i ksmet) should
not be demanded in these cases. This order was reiterated in a sep-
arate article (no. 27) when the English capitulation was renewed in
1675.
8
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 161
5
lker, (zmir, 310, articles 6 and 7.
6
Foster (ed.), Sanderson, 284. In a footnote Foster explains faculty as pecu-
niary means.
7
These lines read: ve (ngiltere taifesine verilen evamir-i {eri ve {imden sonra verilecek
ahkm-i muni muhakkem ve-muakked olup taife-i mezbureye ve sancaklar altnda yryenlere
daima ne ve faidalu ola. See Feridun Beg, Mn{eat-i Selatin ii, 474.
8
Noradounghian, Recueil, i, 152.
In the course of the eighteenth century the Porte granted capitu-
lations to several smaller powers, the scale of whose commercial rela-
tions with the Ottoman Empire was too modest to justify the
establishment of a large number of consulates. Denmark, for exam-
ple, received its own ahdname in 1756, but there were few Danish
consuls in the Levant. The diplomats of both sides must have foreseen
this, for the capitulation of 1756 specically addresses the possibility
that a Danish merchant might die in an area without Danish rep-
resentatives. In that case the nearest qadi was ordered to collect the
eects of the deceased, seal and guard them, and send them to the
Danish ambassador in Istanbul. The qadi was not allowed to levy
any taxes on the estate or demand fees for his services.
9
The Prussian
capitulation of 1761 (art. 6) furthermore ordered the qadi to draw
up an inventory of the estate before sending it to the ambassador.
10
These privileges were in conformity with the principles of Hana
theory. One of the Ottoman Empires most popular reference books
of Islamic law, Ibrahim al-Halabis Multaqa al-abhur, oers a concise
discussion of testaments by non-Muslim subjects. The rules were basi-
cally the same for Muslims and non-Muslims. The most important
principle was that only one-third of the estate could be bequeathed.
The remainder should be divided among the heirs on the basis of
the laws of succession in which xed shares are allotted to strictly
circumscribed categories of heirs. This rule also applied if a Christian
or Jew had converted his house into a church or synagogue, and
the value of the house represented more than one third of his pos-
sessions. Regardless of the testators wishes, the converted house
remained part of his estate. Anyone could benet from bequests,
provided they lived in the Ottoman Empire. It was therefore not
possible for non-Muslim Ottoman subjects to legate parts of their
possessions to family members living abroad. The sole exception to
these rules concerned the estates of foreigners (mste"mins). They were
allowed to leave a will and testament beneting anyone, regardless
of whether they resided in the Ottoman Empire, or elsewhere.
11
162 cn.r+rn rotn
9
Ibid., I, 313 (art. 13). Polish merchants in the Ottoman Empire enjoyed exactly
the same privileges. See Panaite, The Status of Trade and Merchants in the
Ottoman-Polish 'Ahdnmes (16071699), 275298, esp. 285286.
10
Noradounghian, Recueil, i, 318.
11
Ibrahim al-Halabi (d. 1549), Multaqa al-abhur (s.l. [Istanbul], s.d.), 205. For a
translation into French of this section and the important glosses, see DOhsson,
Tableau gnral, iii, 129.
The articles in the capitulations concerning the estates of deceased
foreigners unambiguously assign jurisdiction over them to the con-
sul, or, in his absence, to the ambassador of the nation in question.
According to the ahdnames these diplomats then had to hand over
the estate to the rightful heirs. There was an intermediate stage in
this procedure that is not mentioned in the capitulations, however.
The estate of merchants who had been active in trade right until
the time of their death tended to be burdened with nancial oblig-
ations. Loans contracted by the deceased had to be paid o before
the estate could be sent to the heirs. Naturally it was also in their
interest that debts due to the estate were collected. More often than
not the debtors and creditors of the estates of foreign merchants
included Muslim and non-Muslim Ottoman subjects, with whom it
was not always possible to negotiate amicable arrangements. It is at
this point that the jurisdiction of the qadi prevailed in his capacity
as adjudicator of commercial aairs.
Standard Procedures
When a Western resident in the Ottoman Empire died, in princi-
ple the embassy or consulate concerned made the arrangements con-
cerning his or her estate. The procedures were the same for everyone,
regardless of social or diplomatic status. The estates of ambassadors,
consuls, and merchants(s widows) thus were all handled in the same
way. With regard to succession the following questions were impor-
tant: Had a will been drawn up? Had the deceased had been mar-
ried? If so, to another foreigner, or to an Ottoman subject? Were
there any surviving children or grandchildren? These questions were
preceded by issues of procedure. First it had to be established whether
the estate had debts in excess of its assets. If this were the case, it
would probably complicate consular procedures. The origins of the
creditors were also signicant. If the deceased had a large number
of Ottoman creditors, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, there was
a greater chance that they might seek the help of the Islamic court.
According to the capitulations estates had to be handed over to
the heirs, but in practice the consulate or embassy concerned made
the necessary administrative nancial arrangements rst. Creditors
of the estate had to be paid, and debts owed to it collected. The
costs of the funeral were also deducted from the balance of the
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 163
estate, as were the chancery fees for these services. Sometimes parts
of the estate, most notably real estate, were sold by the consulate
or embassy on behalf of the heirs. This could be done to raise the
necessary capital to pay the debts of the estate, or to prevent dis-
putes among the heirs over the division of ownership.
12
Only after
these procedures had been concluded, was the balance of the estate
handed over to the heirs.
An important step in this process was making an inventory of the
estate. After a foreigner had died, his or her possessions were sealed
on the authority of the consul or ambassador in question as soon
as possible. The chancellor of the consulate or embassy usually per-
formed this task, accompanied by one or two dragomans, and a
Janissary guard. Subsequently he made an inventory of all the pos-
sessions of the deceased, or appointed someone else to do this. Making
an inventory was generally a time-consuming process. Every single
item of clothing had to be recorded, as well as furniture and unsold
merchandise. Moreover, every title of every book was usually cata-
logued. The lists of possessions were subsequently registered in the
records of the chancery. One example of a typical inventory should
suce to illustrate the procedure. It concerns the estate of David
Francis De Bezancenet, the British vice-consul in the Syrian port of
Latakia, who died in 1778. The ten-page inventory was introduced
in the chancery of the British consulate in Aleppo as follows:
1778 Registerd per order & on act of D.A. Sciperas, assign to the
estate of D.F. De Bezancenet late Consul [sic] of Latachia deceased.
Latachia the 9th September 1778.
Inventory of Household Furniture, wearing apparel, Goods & Merchan-
dize found in the house, apartments & warehouses of David Francis
De Bezancenet Esq.
r
late British consul at Latachia deceased on the
30.th August 1778, and made over to M.
r
Dominick Anthony Sciperas
by order of the Consul & British Factory of Aleppo as p. their Letter
to us dated the 4 September 1778.
13
164 cn.r+rn rotn
12
See, for example, DNA, CC, 556 for an Italian translation of a hccet from
the Islamic court of Galata, dated 27 evval 1154/5 January 1742. It recorded the
sale of a house in the village of Belgrade that belonged to Dionis Houset, a Dutch
merchant who had died in his house in Hseyn A<a mahallesi, just outside Galata,
in the spring of 1742. The house was sold on behalf of Housets heirs to the Dutch
ambassador for 1,000 kuru{.
13
BNA, SP 110/62 (ii), fos 270v275r.
This entry is followed by a brief note on the vice-consuls furniture.
Three subsections are marked in the document under the headings
Wearing Apparell, Catalogue of Books and Temezooks. The
list of temessks (written acknowledgements of debt) is followed by a
list of eects supposed to be Pawns found without any notes or
Temezooks. The catalogue of books is followed without pause by
a list of kitchen apparel and other domestic articles of limited mon-
etary value, such as One Tin Watering Pot without a Nozle and
One Shelf Pidgeon Hole. On behalf of De Bezancenets assign,
Sciperas, two British merchants, John Boddington and Henry Shaw,
14
made the inventory over a period of six days with the help of the
vice-consuls local broker.
15
After an inventory had been made of the estate, the next stage
consisted of paying the creditors of the estate, and collecting debts
owed to it. Creditors tended to come forward to state their claims
on their own initiative as soon as someones death became public
knowledge. They had to visit the chancery of the consulate or embassy
concerned, where their claims were registered usually in the origi-
nal language in which they stated them. For this reason the Western
chancery records often contain entries in Turkish, Arabic, Armenian,
Greek and Hebrew, accompanied by full translations or summaries
of their contents. Examples of this part of the consular procedures
abound in the case study of this chapter and those of the following
two chapters.
The collection of money owed to estates tended to be more dicult
than paying its debts. If the debtors were Europeans, or beratls under
European protection, the foreign representatives had several instru-
ments at their disposal to collect debts. If the debtor belonged to
the same community as the person to whom he owed the money,
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 165
14
The names are abbreviated Bod. And Sh., but this seems the most likely
identication.
15
Cf. BNA, SP 105/179, 92102: An inventory of what found in the Magazines
of the deceased Mr Thomas Savage in Galata of Constantinople on the 9th of
February 1708/9; Ibid., 759765: Inventory of all the Goods, Eects, Wearing
Apparell, Books, Letters & Writings found in M.
r
Robert Glovers Chamber [in
Istanbul] after his death, which happened on the 12 December 1715; DNA, LAT
1063, 129143: [Estate of Jan David Reuter, minister of ambassador Calkoen, who
died at Pera on 29 December 1724]; DNA, LAT 1064, 7072 [Estate of Daniel
van der Sanden, Dutch merchant in Ankara, dated 1/12 October 1731.
the assigns or the consul (or ambassador) rst called upon the debtor
to repay the debt. If he refused, or denied owing anything, the con-
sul or ambassador could have goods belonging to the debtor of a
proportional value sequestered, provided there was sucient written
proof against him. If the debtor belonged to another foreign com-
munity, the consul or ambassador could request his counterpart to
do the same. Ottoman merchants without connections with foreign
embassies or consulates fell outside consular jurisdiction, so they could
not be forced to pay their debts in this way. Some pressure could
be applied by pronouncing a boycott (battelation). This meant that it
was forbidden for merchants of the community proclaiming the boy-
cott to have any commercial dealings with the person boycotted. In
theory Ottoman merchants who conducted international trade were
sensitive to this measure, but actual success depended on the sup-
port it received from the other foreign communities as well. The
most eective way to force these debtors to pay was to sue them
before the Islamic court, but it is not clear if this was a common
course of action for assigns or heirs of European residents in the
Ottoman Empire.
Estates of Europeans were often sold, either partly or completely,
in the place where they had died, instead of being divided among,
or sent to, the heirs. Sometimes real estate or furniture was sold to
generate cash currency, with which debts and expenses could be
paid, but often the entire estate was sold by public auction. These
sales were generally organized by the embassy or consulate involved.
They were announced beforehand in all public quarters, and
prospective buyers could undoubtedly inspect the articles on oer
before bidding started.
16
The auctioneer, an ocer of the consulate
or embassy, or someone appointed by the heirs, had a list of all the
goods, and recorded the prices they fetched in the margin. After the
sale this list was copied in the chancery registers. The proceeds of
the auction were recorded too, before they were added to the bal-
ance of the estate. Transparency was a major advantage of this pro-
cedure. While it was possible to have furniture, merchandize and
jewelry valued by experts, the value of many other eects, like cloth-
166 cn.r+rn rotn
16
. . . lha fatta metter al Incanto Publico facendola p. qualche tempo procla-
mare p. tutte le Publiche Contrade . . . DNA, CC, 556, translation of a hccet from
Istanbul dated 5 Ramazan 1143/14 March 1731.
ing, was more dicult to estimate. Moreover, creditors or heirs dis-
appointed with the estimates might voice suspicions of fraud, which
could attract the attention of the Ottoman judiciary. Although the
valuation of unsold goods remained problematic, the proceeds of
public auctions were more dicult to manipulate, because all inter-
ested parties could witness the procedures. It was probably for this
reason that the creditors of an estate themselves sometimes insisted
that all goods be auctioned publicly.
17
Some people had the opportunity to arrange their own aairs and
draw up a will before they died. Then the ocers of the embassy
or consulate only had to ensure that the conditions of the will were
honoured, and oer the heirs assistance whenever possible. This was
the case, for example, with Simon van Breen, a Dutch merchant
who had resided at Edirne for several years. He drew up his last
will and testament in his house in Pera on 11 August 1727 in the
presence of two witnesses. Van Breen was bed ridden, but compos
mentis. He rst revoked his previous will, which he had drawn up
on 20 March of the same year in the presence of the former French
consul in Edirne. Van Breens second wife, the daughter of a French
merchant, would get her dowry of 536 kuru{ back, as had been
agreed upon in the marriage contract registered in the chancery of
the French embassy on 19 July 1718. She also received the 233 kuru{
the couple had inherited from her father, in accordance with the
division of the estate registered in the French chancery in Pera on
4 July 1720. Finally, she inherited 500 kuru{ for her maintenance,
also as stipulated in the marriage contract. Van Breen also left his
widow everything he had given her during his life, sans que ses
Enfants puissant sy opposer, ni les rechercher. Van Breen had been
married before, to Eva Chavan, who had died. Their son, Justinus
van Breen, inherited 800 kuru{. Forty kuru{ went to the fund in
Istanbul for the deliverance of Dutch slaves, and Van Breen left
small sums to his servants. The remainder of his possessions the
Dutchman left to his three children by his second wife, Abraham,
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 167
17
This is what happened, for example, after the death of the widow of the late
Dutch ambassador Colyer, on 12 March 1730. Her debts exceeded the estimated
value of her estate, so the creditors secured a public auction through the inter-
vention of the kahya of the qadi of Galata. The auction was still organized by the
embassy. DNA, LAT 1063, 232234: Nota delli Mo[b]ili et altri Eetti della defunta
Madama Vedova Colyer . . . [16 March 1730].
Angelique and Marie Elisabeth van Breen. Angelique also inherited
the small golden bracelets she always wore, without her brother and
sister being able to claim them. The Dutch merchant died the same
evening he had changed his will. The chancellor of the embassy
made an inventory of the estate, which was sold by public auction
at the request of the widow over several days within three weeks of
Van Breens death.
18
Possible Complications: Ottoman Wives
Matters of inheritance were often more complicated when a European
merchant had married an Ottoman wife, and had children by her.
In many ways, the legal position of Europeans in this situation seems
to have been better than in their home countries. Divorce, for exam-
ple, was much easier in the Ottoman legal system than it was any-
where in Europe. According to DOhsson, the European husbands
could simply repudiate their Ottoman wives, or abandon them by
leaving sultans territory. Europeans did not need permission for leav-
ing, but their Ottoman wives did.
19
When foreign merchants died,
however, the arrangements concerning their estate were often less
advantageous, for they could not simply be sent home without fur-
ther trouble to the diplomatic representatives in the Levant. From
the European point of view the estate itself unquestionably remained
under consular jurisdiction, but the fate of the indigenous widow
and her children was less certain. The continuation of their privi-
leged status seems to have depended chiey on the willingness of
the ambassador or consul to protect them for the time being. From
the perspective of the Ottoman authorities there was no question
about the status of the widow and children. They remained Ottoman
subjects as a matter of course, while the status of the inheritance
was more likely to be a bone of contention. Merlijn Olnon has
168 cn.r+rn rotn
18
DNA, LAT 1063, 911, 1222, 3238, 188190.
19
DOhsson, Tableau gnral, iii, part 2 (Paris, 1820), 17. It must be noted here
that dOhsson seems to have clung to the theory of Islamic law, even when estab-
lished practice was dierent. For example, he states that safe-conduct (aman) could
not legally exceed a one-year period, after which the beneciary would automati-
cally become a subject of the sultan. In practice, however, the mustamen status of
foreigners was generally valid indenitely. Only in rare cases was this challenged
by the Ottoman judges, as in the case of Samuel Pentlow, described below.
recently described a fascinating example of a conict that arose out
of this conict of interpretations. The case concerns the estate of
Samuel Pentlow, a British merchant in Izmir, who died in 1678.
Pentlow died one year after the Ottoman authorities had issued
a ferman, which eectively stated that European men who married
Ottoman women thereby lost their status as protected foreigners,
and became ordinary subjects of the sultan for all practical purposes.
In a period in which English relations with the Porte were gener-
ally troublesome, Pentlows death resulted in a dramatic conict. It
is clear from Olnons reconstruction of events that the English them-
selves were largely to blame for the clash of Ottoman and European
jurisdictions in the settlement of Pentlows estate. Problems arose
when the English arranged to send the widow and children to
England, where Pentlow had also left an estate. Clumsiness on the
part of the Englishmen entrusted with these arrangements led the
Ottoman authorities to obstruct the departure of Pentlows family.
From the Ottoman perspective it was perfectly reasonable to object
to the unauthorized departure of the Ottoman widow, but the sta-
tus of the children had long been less clear. However, the ferman of
1677 even declared Pentlow himself an Ottoman subject, automati-
cally solving the problem concerning his children. In Pentlows case
the Grand Vizier even applied for a fatwa from the }eyhlislm, who
advised that the penalty for unauthorized departure from the sul-
tans dominions was the conscation of all their possessions. The
Grand Vizier thus made an eort to prove the legitimacy of his own
conduct. In the end, from the point of view of Ottoman law, the
seizure of Pentlows estate by the Ottoman authorities was perfectly
legitimate, but at the same time it went against everything the English
thought the capitulations guaranteed. Ironically, the aair only came
to an end after Pentlows Ottoman widow had strategically used her
status as an Ottoman subject. When she announced her intention
personally to apply to the sultan for justice, the Grand Vizier report-
edly became milder. The prospect of a mother with children decry-
ing the consequences of his actions to the sultan appears to have
made him lower his nancial demands on the English. This enabled
the English nation in Izmir collectively to meet the Grand Viziers
demands, which ended the aair.
20
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 169
20
Olnon, Towards Classifying Avanias, 159186, esp. 174185. Additional details
from Abbott, Under the Turk in Constantinople, 266277.
Several decades later another dispute brought back memories of
these problems. When the Ottoman wife of a foreign merchant had
died, custody over the children could lead to problems as well. This
is illustrated by a custody battle before the divan-i hmayun between
another member of the Van Breen family, Anthony, and his mother-
in-law from his rst marriage, which took place in 1710. Anthony
van Breen had conducted trade in Ankara for some time before set-
tling in Istanbul. His rst wife was his cousin, Clara de Brosses, the
daughter of Franois de Brosses. Anthony van Breen and Clara de
Brosses had two daughters, who remained with their grandmother
after their mother had died. Van Breen apparently refused to pro-
vide for his daughters and mother-in-law, who was also his mater-
nal aunt. The old woman was reportedly destitute, something for
which De Brosses had already been reprimanded by the Dutch
ambassador. The scandal became worse when van Breen remarried,
to the daughter of a Dutch colleague. He subsequently forcibly
removed his two daughters from the custody of their grandmother,
evicting her from the lodgings in which she was staying in Istanbul.
Moreover, he did not allow her to see the children anymore. When
the younger child subsequently died, the widow De Brosses submit-
ted an arsuhal, or petition to the Grand Vizier in a plenary meet-
ing of the divan- hmayun, begging to be awarded custody of her
daughters daughter until she reached the age of seven, correctly
claiming that this was in accordance with the laws of the land.
21
The Grand Vizier issued a buyuruldu ordering the parties to appear
before his tribunal. A avu{ appeared in the Dutch embassy to demand
cooperation with the procedure. He was accompanied by the widow
De Brosses who renounced Dutch protection, proclaiming herself a
subject of the sultan. She also made veiled threats that she might
convert to Islam, which would considerably complicate matters for
the ambassador. The case would be heard by the divan- hmayun on
the next day and the ambassador ordered one of his dragomans to
attend the hearing. After having questioned a number of witnesses,
the qadi of Galata, who adjudicated the matter, subsequently awarded
the custody of the girl to her grandmother, ordering van Breen to
170 cn.r+rn rotn
21
In matters of child custody Islamic law favours the maternal line. In the absence
of both parents, custody rst transfers to the maternal grandmother. DOhsson,
Tableau gnral iii, 104.
hand over his daughter in the presence of witnesses. Furthermore,
the widow De Brosses demanded restitution of her daughters dowry,
as well as alimony for the maintenance of her granddaughter. She
also demanded ownership of the slave girls her daughter had had.
I have not found any traces of later developments concerning these
later claims, but it is clear that they embarrassed the Dutch embassy
profoundly.
The widow De Brossess actions may have gone against all unwrit-
ten rules among Europeans, she merely used her dual status, like
the widow Pentlow. The widow De Brosses had been born in the
Ottoman Empire, the daughter of immigrants from Geneva. On reli-
gious grounds many Protestant Swiss joined the Dutch nation in this
period, for lack of capitulations of their own. The parents of the
widow De Brosses may well have done the same, but by renounc-
ing Dutch protection in the presence of the Grand Viziers avu{ she
reduced her own status to that of common Ottoman subject. Her
strategy was successful, as that of Pentlows widow had been earlier.
Within the Ottoman legal system the procedures were perfectly legit-
imate, but this did not prevent the Dutch blaming the Grand Vizier
for everything. The Dutch interpreted the incident as evidence of
the evil intention of the present Grand Vizier to bring the European
merchants who are married to women of this country under the law
of the land as much as possible on every occasion. This policy
reminded them of the dangerous government of Grand Vizier
Kara Mustafa Pa{aan indication that the Pentlow case may have
lingered in the collective memory of foreign communities for several
decades.
The imperial command of 1677 did not establish a lasting prac-
tice. The Pentlow case notwithstanding, European merchants con-
tinued to marry women from the Ottoman Christian and Jewish
communities. This is illustrated by an Ottoman survey of the French
community in Istanbul in the autumn of 1759. It shows that thir-
teen out of the nineteen Frenchmen listed had married local women,
despite objections against this practice from both the Ottoman and
the French authorities.
22
In general this seems to have aected neither
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 171
22
BOA, A.DVN.DVE 101/48, Ottoman survey dated 11 Safer 1173/4 October
1759. The document is divided in three columns, the rst for married Frenchmen
owning real estate, the second for bachelors owning real estate. The third column
was for mstamen tercmanlar owning real estate and married Frenchmen without real
their status, nor that of their children, although the Ottoman author-
ities did periodically issue orders similar to that of 1677. At the end
of 1791, for example, a ferman was issued which declared that
Europeans were not allowed to own real estate in the Ottoman
domains; that Europeans who had married Ottoman wives before
the order was issued remained European, but that henceforth
Europeans marrying local women would be considered as Ottoman
subjects by the Ottoman authorities; and, nally, that all dragomans
berats issued after 1781/82 were revoked collectively.
23
None of these
measures were put into practice universally and consistently, but their
recurrence illustrates the on-going concern of the Ottoman admin-
istration with these matters.
Merchant Strangers
The term merchant strangers originally referred to traders from
Western powers that did not have diplomatic relations with the Porte,
who joined another foreign nation in the Levant. In the course of
the eighteenth century more and more European countries estab-
lished formal relations with the Ottoman Empire, reducing the num-
ber of unaliated merchants in the Levant. In the eighteenth century
traders belonging to one nation occasionally switched to another.
While they were not called merchant strangers anymore, the prob-
lems that could occur in connection with their estates were the same.
A document concerning the physician Andrea Freudenreich sheds
light on the diculties sometimes encountered with the estates of
Western protgs who had died. This doctor seems to have arrived
in Istanbul in the second quarter of the eighteenth century and
became the personal physician of the Dutch ambassador, Calkoen.
Later he served high Ottoman ocials in the same capacity. He
172 cn.r+rn rotn
estate. For the French authorities injunctions against marriages with Ottoman
women, see Masson, Histoire de commerce . . . au XVIII
e
sicle, 156157. It was also for-
bidden by the French authorities for Frenchmen to own real estate in the Levant.
23
Ferman of 7 Rebiylahir 1206/4 December 1791. The French translation of
this text was published in Bronnen IV/i, 480482.
married a local, probably Greek, lady named Balazitsa, with whom
he had several children. Freudenreich seems to have died on or just
before 23 March 1779. His will, dated 28 November 1760, was
found among his possessions. Freudenreich and his family had always
been considered Dutch, but after the physicians death questions
about his nationality arose that aected the division of his estate.
Unsure of how to proceed, the embassy solicited legal advice from
the home authorities. The answer oers valuable insights in the rel-
evant procedures.
According to the authorities the rst step was to determine on
what grounds the deceased and his widow were considered Dutch.
Was this because they had been part of Calkoens retinue, or for
some other reason? If the Freudenreich family was rightfully con-
sidered Dutch, it was crucial to establish where the doctor, or his
wife, had resided in the Dutch Republic before they settled in the
Ottoman Empire, because the estates of Dutch subjects abroad should
ocially be arranged according to the local customs of their origi-
nal place of residence. These customs varied from province to province,
and even within each province dierent rules were often observed
from one city to another. Moreover, Freudenreich and his wife might
have chosen their own method of succession, which could be recorded
in a prenuptial agreement, or in their will. If they had, this aected
not only their own estate, but also those of any of children who died
ab intestat. Having listed these diculties, the home authorities sug-
gested a simple solution. The estate amounted to 3,000 Pezos (prob-
ably Spanish Reals-of-Eight) of which the mother should receive half.
The remaining half should be divided among the children, sons and
daughters receiving equal shares. The authorities acknowledged the
fact that some local customs excluded the widow from the arrange-
ment altogether, but they considered the proposed solution more
equitable. A mutual consent will end all questionable procedures,
and therefore it is advisable to settle all aairs.
24
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 173
24
DNA, LAT 1084, doc. 47, undated [probably 1779/1780].
Possible Complications: Witnesses
We have already seen that the Ottoman legal authorities could
become involved with the estates of foreigners who had died in the
sultans domains. When this happened, problems could arise when
the only witnesses were non-Muslims. This problem was already
addressed in the Kitab al-Siyar of Shaybani (d. 189/804). This author-
itative treatise on international law stated that the property of mstemins
who had died in the lands of Islam, leaving behind property there,
while their heirs were outside the areas ruled by Muslims, should
be held in custody until the heirs arrived to claim it. The estate
should not be handed over without evidence to prove their claim to
the inheritance, however. This provokes the question
If the evidence were provided by the Dhimms, should their testimony
be accepted?
He replied: I should say no on the basis of analogy, but on the
basis of juristic preference [istihsan] their testimony should be accepted
and property that has been left should be handed over to the heirs,
if they attest that they do not know of any other heirs of his.
The Siyar makes it clear that a letter from the ruler of the terri-
tory from which they came identifying the heirs would not suce.
If the ruler stated that witnesses had conrmed the claim of the
heirs, this did not make the letter any more acceptable, even if the
witnesses had been Muslims. The evidence had to be produced in
the lands of Islam.
25
A ruling by Ebus-su'uds suggests that these rules also applied in
the Ottoman Empire. A case brought to the attention of the Porte
in 1543 complicated the matter, however. It concerned the estate of
a merchant from Ragusa (Dubrovnik) who had evidently died in the
Ottoman Empire. In response to a petition the Porte ordered that
it should be investigated if Muslim witnesses could be found. Some
interpreted the decree as a rejection of equity, but others were not
sure what it meant. Had the decree been intended as a precedent
for all similar cases or was its application limited to the one partic-
ular case? Because an earlier fatwa by Ebus-su'ud had not suciently
claried the matter, the }eyhlislm turned to the sultan.
174 cn.r+rn rotn
25
Majid Khadduri, The Islamic Law of Nations. Shaybns Siyar (Baltimore, 1966),
167168.
When the petition was presented, [the Sultan] decreed: They should
act according to equity. The phrase: Let Muslim witnesses be found
was specic to the Ragusan because, in this claim, there was under-
stood to be fraud.
26
The most signicant conclusion that we can draw from this is that,
with regard to estates of foreign non-Muslims, Ottoman judges should
generally accept the testimony of other non-Muslims on the basis of
istihsan. Only when there were suspicions of fraud did the Porte insist
on Muslim witnesses. This was important not only for the estates of
Westerners, but also for those of their dragomans and Ottoman
protgs.
The Estates of Dragomans
What were the procedures when dragomans or beratls died? According
to the capitulations did their estates fall under the foreigners privi-
leges, or not? And if so, according to whose principles was the estate
divided? The answers to these questions must be sought in the capit-
ulations, as well as supplementary fermans.
Few formal arrangements concerning the status of dragomans
existed before 1661. In that year Sultan Mehmet IV granted the
English ambassador, Finch, several new privileges. Article 65 of the
renewed capitulations stipulated that when a dragoman died his estate
was exempt from the division tax (resm-i kismet) and that it should
be divided among his creditors and heirs.
27
The English capitula-
tions of 1675 contained a signicant amendment to this article. In
case a dragoman died article 66 stipulated that
should he be a subject of our Dominions, they [all his eects] shall
be delivered up to his next heir; and having no heir, they shall be
conscated by our scal ocers.
28
It seems more likely that this extra clause reected established prac-
tice, rather than forming a departure from it. It may well have been
added in response to a specic conict over the estate of a drago-
man who had died without heirs, but it may just have easily have
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 175
26
Imber, Ebus-su'ud, 108109.
27
This article has been quoted in full in Chapter One.
28
Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East I, 28.
had an exclusively symbolic function. In any case, this extended arti-
cle explicitly rearms the status of Ottoman dragomans in European
service as subjects of the sultan.
The French capitulations did not have any articles that explicitly
addressed the problem of the estates of dragomans who had died,
but in 1673 they were rmly placed under consular jurisdiction nev-
ertheless. This occurred on the basis of one of the new privileges
secured for France by its ambassador to the Porte, de Nointel. The
nal article of the extended capitulations of 1673 stated that all the
privileges enjoyed by the French were now also valid for their drago-
mans (art. 53). Neither the Dutch capitulations of 1612, nor those
of 1680 included any articles about the status of dragomans estates
after their death. Only in 1702 did the Dutch embassy obtain a fer-
man from the Porte that addressed the issue, after problems had
arisen in the wake of the death of Dutch dragomans in Chios and
Izmir. In an order addressed to the qadi of Chios and the deputy
qadi of Izmir, the Porte stated that France and England had long
enjoyed the privilege that the Dutch formally lacked, but which had
always been applied to them too. This imperial order now made
this ocial. Referring to the English capitulations of 1675 the fer-
man repeated that when a dragoman of English origin died, his estate
fell under the authority of the English ambassador or consul. When
the dragoman in question was an Ottoman subject, the estate should
be handed over to his heirs. Only if there were no heirs, were the
ocers of the beytlmal allowed to claim the estate for the Ottoman
treasury.
29
The ferman was based on the most-favoured nation clause,
which stipulated that when any nation was granted a privilege that
was more advantageous than that enjoyed by others, the new, more
favourable text was valid for all capitulatory nations. On this basis
France had evidently long ago been acknowledged by the Ottoman
authorities as a beneciary of article 66 of the English capitulations
of 1675, and now so was the Dutch Republic.
176 cn.r+rn rotn
29
DNA, CC, 555, Italian translation of a ferman dated 15 }evval 1113/15 March
1702.
Possible Complications: Heirs Who Converted to Islam
The division of estates of Ottoman dragomans and protgs could
get complicated when one of the heirs converted to Islam and
attempted to renegotiate on the basis of this new legal status. This
is illustrated by the inheritance of one Aci Hizr son of Yusuf, an
inhabitant of Izmir, who died around 175657 (1170 A.H.). He left
one adult son, Yusuf, and two adult daughters, Sophia and Marya.
Before the inheritance was divided, Sophia also died, leaving a hus-
band, three adult sons and an adult daughter. It was Sophias eldest
son, Kiriaco, who contested the division of the inheritance of his
grandfather in court, accusing his uncle of having appropriated part
of the estate illegally. Eventually the two parties reached an amica-
ble settlement (sulh), which was recorded in a deed of partition (hc-
cet tereki ). Twenty-seven years after his grandfathers death, however,
Kiriaco again sued his uncle over the inheritance. The qadi of Izmir,
Mustafa Pa{azade Mir Mehmed, rejected Kiriacos claims out of
hand, considering the earlier settlement denitive. According to a
letter to the Dutch ambassador, the judge described Kiriaco as
someone who caused avanias in this hccet. A ferman from the Porte
reportedly conrmed this assessment. Kiriaco subsequently converted
to Islam, and attempted to have the case re-opened at the orders
of the Porte. In an attempt to thwart these designs, Yusuf, who
had become a Dutch protg in the meantime, subsequently asked
the ambassador to obtain another ferman conrming the earlier
procedures.
Several documents about this case have survived. Apart from a
letter in French by Yusuf s procurator to the Dutch ambassador,
Van Dedem van de Gelder, I have found authenticated copies of
the hccet, of a buyuruldu, and two fermans. The hccet shows that the
qadi based his decision on the existence of a deed of partition, which
had been registered in the court. The buyuruldu conrmed this hc-
cet, repeating its entire text almost verbatim. The two fermans also
reiterate the text of the legal deed, with slight additions. None of
the four Ottoman documents about this case contain the word ava-
nia or any similar Ottoman term. The hccet merely states that the
qadi granted Yusuf s request that it be recorded that Kiriaco had
no case against him. Nothing further is said about Kiriaco, or his
behaviour. The rst ferman called his actions in violation of the Holy
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 177
Law and contrary to a legal deed forbidding his unjust harassment.
30
The second ferman summarized the preceding procedures, mention-
ing all three previous texts. Moreover, this nal ferman mentioned a
search among the fatwas of the }eyhlislm about this case.
31
Finally,
the case was even discussed in the divan-i hmayun. There all the doc-
uments were reviewed once again, and a nal verdict was passed
against the claimant. Interestingly, only the nal ferman acknowledges
the special status of the accused. The rst section, which reiterates
the contents of the hccet and subsequent developments, merely calls
him the aforementioned Yusuf , but in the second half of the doc-
ument this changes into the aforementioned dragoman. This is the
only indication that the Dutch ambassador, Van Dedem van de
Gelder, may have interceded with the Porte on his protgs behalf,
despite the fact that there is no word about this in the text.
32
Several aspects of this case are interesting, apart from its conrmation
of a central argument of the previous chapter. First of all, this non-
Muslim family evidently made use of the Islamic court to register
the initial partition of the estate. Unfortunately this document does
not seem to have survived, but it was essential for the lawsuits that
ensued later. Partly on the basis of this document the qadi in Izmir
rejected the claims against Yusuf in the rst instance. The fact that
the claimant had converted to Islam and the accused had become
a protg of the Dutch embassy in the meantime probably explains
why this case concerning the estate of a non-Muslim was even even-
tually discussed in the divan- hmayun. All the deliberations of the
Ottoman authorities were clearly based on Islamic legal principles,
as the consultation of the fatwas of the }eyhlislm illustrates. Never-
theless, the nal judgement was not in favour of the convert to Islam.
These legal procedures, which ended in the Ottoman Supreme
178 cn.r+rn rotn
30
. . . hilf-i {ar {erif ve mugayir hccet {ariyye zahir olan mdahila ve taaddi men ve ref
edersin.
31
. . . davasna muvafk eyhlislmdan fetava- {eri verildi<en buldurub.
32
DNA, LAT 1321: 1803: Pices relative aux prtensions malfondes de Kiriaco
di Arpadi contre son Cousin Joseph Tor Chudir Barattaire Smirne. The le con-
sists of a cover letter by Giuseppe Dissindiri to [ambassador] Van Dedem van de
Gelder, 28 February 1803 (in French), with authenticated copies of a) a hccet dated
21 Rebiylevvel 1217/22 July 1802; b) a ferman dated end Rebiylahir 1217/2129
August 1802; c) another ferman dated end Zilkade 1217/1524 March 1803; and
d) a buyurultu dated 17 Receb 1218/2 November 1803.
Court, thus conrmed the capitulatory principle that legal disputes
should be adjudicated on the basis of written evidence. Having
authenticated documents issued by a qadi court in support of ones
case clearly strengthened it. In the case of the estate of Aci Hizr
justice seems to have prevailed in the end, but for Yusuf it proba-
bly meant that part of his capital was sequestered for a long period
of time. Moreover, in the Ottoman legal system the party that won
usually had to pay the court fees. If this was also the case here, the
suits against him may well have cost Yusuf a considerable part of
his inheritance.
The rst part of this chapter necessarily remains impressionistic,
because it is impossible here to discuss all possible courses of events
concerning the estates of members of foreign nations in the Ottoman
Empire in the period under study. Still this section has shown that
even when the capitulations seemed unequivocally to assign exclu-
sive jurisdiction over foreign estates to the consul or ambassador in
question, in practice the Ottoman judiciary could become involved,
nevertheless. Only when all parties involved belonged to foreign
nations could European diplomats expect to be able to handle the
case as they saw t. When any of the parties petitioned the Porte
in their capacity as subjects of the sultan, asking the Ottoman author-
ities to intervene, consuls and ambassadors could no longer take their
own privileges for granted. The following case study supports this
conclusion.
A CASE STUDY: THE ESTATE OF DIMITRI DALLAL
This case concerns the estate of a dragoman, a non-Muslim subject
of the sultan under foreign protection. The principle question con-
cerns jurisdiction. Did the estate continue to fall under the jurisdic-
tion of the consulate in question, or did it fall under Ottoman
jurisdiction because the family of the deceased dragoman was no
longer considered privileged? Did the authorities of the dragomans
own taife have any authority concerning the division of the estate?
Which procedures were followed in such cases?
Some 25 years passed before the denitive arrangements con-
cerning the estate of Dimitri Dallal, a dragoman of the Dutch con-
sulate in Aleppo, had nally been made. The remainder of this
chapter will primarily focus on three aspects of this complex case.
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 179
First, the settlement of the estate, which included the collection of
debts owed to it, and the payment of its creditors. Secondly, a num-
ber of ensuing disputes among the heirs will be examined. These
concern claims of ownership of parts of the estate by individual heirs
and others. Finally, the actual division of part of the estate will be
analysed.
Actors
Dimitri son of Jirjis Dallal lived in the Sisi neighbourhood of the
predominantly non-Muslim quarter of Jdayda in Aleppo. He seems
to have been a member of the Catholic faction of the Greek Church
in the Syrian city, which used Arabic as a liturgical language. The
date of Dallals birth is unknown, but he was probably at least 60
years old when he died. Dallal became an honorary dragoman of
the Dutch consulate in Aleppo at the end of June 1735.
33
Being an
honorary dragoman must have been protable for Dallal, for in the
1740s he contributed considerable sums in order to keep aoat the
Dutch consulate in Aleppo. The aim of this arrangement, by which
several Ottoman protgs funded the consulate for several years, was
clearly to prevent the loss of their scal privileges, such as the reduced
customs taris codied in the capitulations.
34
What little additional
evidence we have about him, suggests that Dimitri Dallal was an
astute businessman with a thorough knowledge of Islamic law and
the intricacies of the local marketplace.
35
Using these skills Dimitri
Dallal seems to have amassed considerable wealth, which was inher-
ited by his family when he died on 16 December 1755.
During the nal years of his life Dimitri Dallal does not seem to
have been active in trade himself. Instead, he probably only invested
in the trade conducted by his sons. Father and sons kept separate
180 cn.r+rn rotn
33
BOA, ED 22/1, 272/1110: 28 Muharrem 1148/20 June 1735, transfer of berat
from Ilyas Tawtel w. Jurji to Dimitri w. Jirjis [Dallal]; Ibid., 348/1511: 11 Rebiylevvel
1171/23 November 1757, transfer of berat from Dimitri w. Jirjis to [his son]
Zakhariyya [Dallal]. Also see DNA, LAT 1091/47: Firman pour le drogman du
consulat dAleb anne de lHegire 1168/175455 [Dimitri w. Jirjis.]
34
I have described these developments in my article on European Patronage in
the Ottoman Empire in Hamilton ed al. (eds) Friends and Rivals in the East.
35
For an indication of Dimitri Dallals skills in the Islamic court, see M.H. van
den Boogert, Consular Jurisdiction in the Ottoman Legal System in the Eighteenth
Century, Van den Boogert and Fleet (eds), The Ottoman Capitulations, 6071.
accounts of these transactions. After Dallals death only his son,
Yusuf, had access to his fathers business records, which he took with
him to Istanbul. Neither the other heirs, nor the consulates involved
appear to have been able to examine these records, which seriously
complicated the division of the estate.
Dallals heirs were his widow Qudsiyya; his three daughters, Maria,
Cicilia and Irina; and his three sons, Yusuf, Zakhariyya, and Abdullah.
Qudsiyya was Dimitris second wife, and she was probably not the
mother of his sons. Dimitris rst wife, Elena, had presumably died
before him. At the moment of Dimitris death, his sons had long
reached adulthood, as had at least one of his grandsons. None of
his sons had berats of their own when Dallal died, but afterwards all
three acquired one. Dimitri Dallals own berat as Dutch protg in
Aleppo was transferred to his second son, Zakhariyya, while Abdullah,
the youngest, obtained a patent from the vice-consulate of Ragusa
in Aleppo in 1756. In 1757 Yusuf Dallal became a protg of the
envoy of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in Istanbul.
36
It is useful also to introduce the European consuls involved in this
case. Dimitri Dallal had been a protg of the Dutch consulate, and
his second son, Zakhariyya, was subsequently awarded his fathers
berat. For these reasons the consuls of the Dutch nation were impor-
tant throughout. Because the case dragged on for a long period, no
less than four Dutch consuls must be mentioned here. The rst was
Matthias van Asten, Second Secretary to the Dutch ambassador in
Istanbul, Elbert de Hochepied. The ambassador sent Van Asten to
Aleppo in 1755 to take over the consulate from Hendrik Haanwinckel,
who ed to Lebanon in a vain attempt to escape his creditors. Van
Asten was acting consul in Aleppo until 1756, when he returned to
Istanbul, where he became charg daaires of the embassy at the
beginning of 1763. After Van Astens return to the Ottoman capi-
tal in 1756 the Dutch consulate in Aleppo was taken over by Jan
van Kerchem, who held the post until his death in July 1760. Van
Kerchems business partner, Jan Heemskerk jr., succeeded him to
the consulate in 1760. Heemskerks fate will be discussed in detail
in the next chapter. Suce it to say here that he retired in 1763.
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 181
36
BOA, ED 96/1, 92/91: Appointment of Halebl Yusuf w. Dimitri [Dallal], 29
aban 1170/19 May 1757; Ibid., 98/130: transfer of berat in Istanbul to Mikhail
w. Yusuf [Dallal], 5 Muharrem 1189/8 March 1775.
His successor was Nicolaas van Maseijk, under whose consulate the
Dallal case was nally closed. Besides these consuls, the First Dragoman
of the Dutch consulate, Antun Bitar, was also important. Bitar func-
tioned as interpreter to the consulate for most of the period of the
disputes over Dallals estate, and as agent for some of the heirs for
a short time.
Because Dimitri Dallals two other sons also became beratls, the
consulates to which they were nominally connected should be men-
tioned here, as well. Abdullah Dallal, the youngest son, became a
protg of the vice-consulate of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) in Aleppo in
the autumn of 1756. Since Ragusa did not maintain an indepen-
dent consulate of its own in Syria, the Venetian consul, Gerolamo
Brigadi, also acted as Ragusan vice-consul in this period. The chan-
cellor of the combined Venetian-Ragusan consulate, Pietro Corella,
and one of the consulates dragomans, Hanna Dib, also had a role
in the Dallal case. In 1757 Yusuf Dallal became a protg of the
envoy of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in Istanbul. Sicily did not
have a consulate of its own in Aleppo, either. During this period
the French consul, Pierre Thomas, also acted as Sicilian vice-consul
in Aleppo. He reported directly to the Sicilian Minister in Istanbul,
the Count of Ludolf, whom we will encounter towards the end of
the case.
Legal Issues
After 1757 all Dimitri Dallals heirs were under European protec-
tion, so in theory it was clear that consular jurisdiction should apply.
Because Dimitri Dallal had been a dragoman of the Dutch, and his
second son became the next holder of the berat his father had held,
the Dutch consulate could claim jurisdiction in this matter. The capit-
ulations assigned jurisdiction over the estates of members of a for-
eign community to the consul concerned. Only the English capitulations
of 1675 (art. 66) explicitly conrmed that this privilege included the
estates of dragomans, but this was generally considered to be the
case anyway. Thus it was the Dutch consulate to which creditors of
Dimitri Dallal should address their demands. Dragomans in Dutch
service in their turn would demand that debtors pay what they owed,
threatening them with litigation in the qadi court, or in Istanbul, if
necessary. The capitulatory privilege stipulating that cases concern-
ing consuls and dragomans involving more than 4,000 ake should
182 cn.r+rn rotn
only be heard by the divan- hmayun was generally considered favourable
for the Europeans in cases like this. After all, on the initiative of the
consul lawsuits could be moved to Istanbul, where the embassy would
simply take over the monitoring of the proceedings. For the accused,
however, this meant having personally to travel to Istanbul, or to
appoint someone as agentall of which cost time and money. It
was generally in the best interest of all parties that the case be con-
cluded locally.
If jurisdiction was so clearly dened, then why did it take 25 years
to settle Dallals estate? The principle reason was that two of Dallals
sons each claimed to own goods that the other heirs and the Dutch
consulate considered part of the estate. At this point it is useful briey
to discuss what happened in the rst year after Dimitri Dallals death.
Initially the Dutch consulate agreed with the heirs that the latter
would make all arrangements themselves without help from the con-
sulate. The eldest son, Yusuf, went to Istanbul soon after his fathers
death, to attend to business matters there. He took his own business
administration, which included the accounts of his father, with him.
He gave his two brothers power of attorney, authorizing them to
make an inventory of their fathers estate in Aleppo. In the follow-
ing year several disputes arose among the heirs. This discord among
the heirs made a consular intervention necessary in the interest of
the creditors of the estate. The Dutch consulate therefore ordered the
sequestration of Dimitri Dallals possessions. This meant that ware-
houses and rooms in private residences, which contained goods belong-
ing to Dallal, were sealed on the authority of the Dutch consul. Parts
of the family home were also closed as a result of this procedure,
while the relatives continued to live in the house. Subsequently, the
creditors and debtors of the estate were called upon to present them-
selves in the chancery of the Dutch consulate, so that their claims
and debts could be registered. Creditors tended to be more inclined
to cooperate than debtors. For this reason consuls could ask their
colleagues to sequester goods belonging to the estate in the hands
of members of their nations. The chancery fees charged for these
measures were paid from the balance of the estate (see Table 7).
The rst claim that obstructed a swift division of Dimitri Dallals
estate was voiced by his youngest son, Abdullah. Just before his father
had died Abdullah had returned from Basra with textiles of various
kinds and qualities, and of an unspecied quantity of pearls. The
value of the textiles is not mentioned, but the pearls alone were
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 183
worth some 14,000 kuru{. The capital Abdullah had needed to buy
this merchandize had been supplied by his brother, Yusuf, and
by his father. After his return from Basra, he had therefore handed
over the cloth and the pearls to Yusuf. When the Dutch consulate
sequestered all Dimitri Dallals possessions after his death, this mea-
sure included the goods from Basra, which were stored in Khan al-
Wazir. After his fathers death Abdullah was reluctant to admit that
his father and brother actually owned the goods, but he did even-
tually after repeated summons from the Dutch consul.
37
After Abdullah
Dallal had become a beratl of the vice-consulate of Ragusa in the
autumn of 1756, however, he changed his mind and claimed that
the goods from Basra belonged to him, and were not part of his
fathers estate.
38
Already before Abdullahs claim had surfaced, the heirs in Aleppo
started to suspect that Yusuf might have an agenda of his own. This
began when more than a year had passed since Yusuf s departure
to Istanbul, and he refused to return to Aleppo. Soon afterwards
Yusuf Dallal openly claimed that the goods kept in Khan al-Wazir
were his alone, and did not belong to his fathers inheritance. He
claimed that his father had retired from the business fteen years
prior to his death, leaving him, Yusuf, in charge of his aairs. Accord-
ing to Yusuf, his father had already given all his sons their part of
the inheritance during his lifetime, which amounted to 25,000 kuru{
each. While his brother Zakhariyya had gone bankrupt twice already
by the time his father died, Yusuf boasted more success. He claimed
that all goods that were sequestered by the Dutch after his fathers
death (the value of which he estimated at 100,000 kuru{) actually
belonged to him. He was willing to return the original sum of 25,000
kuru{ to the estate, but only on the condition that his brothers do
the same.
39
Although the sequence of events is not clear, Yusuf prob-
184 cn.r+rn rotn
37
DNA, CAS 320, f. 23, Lett. B, Enregistrement du compte des marchandises
quAbdulla Dallal apport avec luy de Bassora, especially the Fattura delle mer-
canzie venuta di Bassora con Sig.
r
Abdulla glio del defunto Dimitrius Dallal e
consignato in mano del suo fratello Sig.
re
Giuseppe Dimitrius Dallal.
38
A comprehensive account of Abdullahs claim is found in DNA, CAS 320,
Memoire instructif de ce quil est pass au sujet de luzurpation quAbdullah Dallal
drogman barrattaire de Raguze voulloit faire de rien par luy apport de Bassora
en 1755 au prejudice des heritiers de Dimitry Dallal deced au barrat de drogman
de Leur Hautes Puissances . . ., 20 Janvier 1758.
39
DNA, LAT 1118: Informatin.
ably stated these claims after he had obtained a berat from the Sicilian
embassy.
Both claims concerned ownership, for which proof was obviously
required. When unequivocal proof was produced, claims could be
dealt with swiftly. This is illustrated by the claim by a certain }ukri
}amuni, concerning a number of precious stones and other goods
that Abdullah Dallal had brought from Basra to Aleppo for him.
After Dimitri Dallals death, these goods had been sequestered along
with everything else, but }amuni had failed to come forward directly.
Only some eight years later did the claim come to light. Dimitris
widow and three daughters appointed Hanna al-Antaki, a beratl of
the British consulate, to settle the }amuni claim. The ownership of
the stones in question was relatively well documented. A letter writ-
ten by Abdullah Dallal in which he acknowledged }amunis owner-
ship was found in the records of the Dutch consular chancery.
Moreover, another local merchant, Yusuf Aida, testied that Abdullah
Dallal had personally told him in Basra that the stones belonged to
the claimant. Thus, Hanna al-Antaki decided that the stones should
be handed over forthwith, despite Yusuf s absence and Abdullahs
objections. Al-Antaki personally accepted full responsibility for the
decision. As a result on the morning of 29 December 1763 the pre-
cious stones and other goods were handed over to }amuni or his
heirs, eight years and two weeks after Dimitri Dallals death.
40
Despite
the fact that this claim surfaced years after the Dutch consulates
appeal to creditors to come forward, the matter was arranged with-
out delay, because it was well documented and there was additional
testimony by a witness. I have not found any evidence that the
arrangement was challenged by anyone later.
Strategies
Which options did the parties involved have to pursue their indi-
vidual claims? We should distinguish four separate parties here. There
was Abdullah Dallal, the rst son to state claims on the estate to
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 185
40
BNA, SP 110/62 (1), fo 79r.: Questo giorno 28 Decembre 1763 . . .; Ibid.,
f. 159r, Registerd at the request of Sciochri Sciamuni 29 Dec. 1763 [Act of procu-
ration of Hanna b. Abdallah al-Antaki, in Arabic], and a short note in Italian
concerning the testimony of Yusuf Aida; BNA, SP 110/62 (i), f. 81r.: Il giorno
29 Decembre 1763 [. . .]
the disadvantage of the other heirs. Then Yusuf did the same, claim-
ing ownership of the bulk of what the others considered his fathers
estate. The rest of the heirsDallals widow, daughters, and second
son, Zakhariyyaformed the third interested party. The fourth party
was the Dutch consulate. In theory the consulate acted on behalf of
all the heirs and the creditors of the estate, but it also had an agenda
of its own, which inuenced its actions.
From a strictly legal point of view the best strategy for both
Abdullah and Yusuf was to present unequivocal proof of their claims
in the form of written evidence, or witness testimonies. Abdullah
presumably had his own business administration, excerpts from which
were acceptable as evidence in consular procedures. Yusuf had taken
the administration of both his own commercial activities, and those
of his father, with him, so he, too, should have been able to pro-
duce written evidence of some kind. Neither did so. Instead, they
resorted to the other means at their disposal to pursue their claims.
I can think of two possible reasons for this, but they necessarily
remain speculative. It is possible that neither party actually had the
proof needed to substantiate their claims, since many transactions
between father and sons were not formally recorded. It is equally
possible that an inspection of the business records could bring to
light dealings or funds they preferred to keep quiet. Whatever their
motives, the pursuit of their claims was not based on the presenta-
tion of evidence, or on a strategic use of their privileged status as
beratls. The fact that the estate remained sequestered in the mean-
time had nancial consequences for all heirs, but this possibly made
protracted litigation a viable strategy for those who could aord to
wait for their inheritance. If they waited long enough, the others
might have to make concessions, because they simply needed the
money.
On the basis of his berat Abdullah was entitled to legal aid from
the Ragusan vice-consul, Brigadi. This considerably strengthened his
case, because it potentially elevated his claims to a diplomatic dis-
pute. Much depended on the experience and common sense of the
consul involved in these matters, and Abdullah Dallal seems to have
beneted from the fact that Brigadi had only been consul for a year
or two when this matter arose. A more experienced consul would
probably have been more reluctant to get involved in Abdullahs
battles with his relatives. In any case all correspondence between
Abdullah and the other heirs now had to go through their respec-
186 cn.r+rn rotn
tive consulates. This considerably delayed procedures, putting pres-
sure on those parties who wanted the disputes resolved quickly, either
for personal reasons, or because they needed their share of the inherit-
ance. At the same time Abdullah remained a subject of the sultan.
He could therefore still take cases to the qadi court, or apply for
them to be heard by the divan- hmayun. The Europeans expected
him to respect the, often unwritten, rules of dispute resolution among
foreigners in the Ottoman Empire, which meant keeping the Ottoman
judiciary out of the matter, but they could not actually stop him
turning to the qadi, or other Ottoman ocers.
Yusuf s position was similar to that of his brother, Abdullah, in
the sense that his Sicilian berat entitled him to assistance from the
Sicilian embassy. A signicant dierence was that he was connected
to the embassy, and not to the vice-consulate in Aleppo, because
this made Istanbul his ocial place of residence. This is important,
because the forum rei principle provided that the ambassador or con-
sul of the accused rule on the case. The Sicilian envoy in the Ottoman
capital should therefore adjudicate cases led against Yusuf Dallal.
In other words, it could be in Yusuf s interest to become the accused
in disputes with his relatives over the inheritance, because it would
transfer jurisdiction from the Dutch consul in Aleppo to the Sicilian
envoy in Istanbul.
Dimitri Dallals female heirs acted in concert with his second son,
Zakhariyya. In principle the Dutch consulate guarded their interests,
but the consulate was also responsible for those of the creditors of
the estate. The heirs therefore also appointed agents who acted exclu-
sively on their behalf and in their interest. Initially they chose Jirjis
Aida, the First Dragoman of the British consulate in Aleppo, as
their agent. Aida was one of the most powerful non-Muslims in
Aleppo, but in this case he only acted as agent for the heirs for a
short period. When the claims of Abdullah and Yusuf surfaced, this
group of heirs transferred their power of attorney to Antun Bitar,
the First Dragoman of the Dutch consulate. Like Abdullah and Yusuf
Dallal, in principle these heirs were expected to play by the European
rules and keep the Ottoman authorities out of the matter as such
as possible.
The Dutch consulates task was to look after the interests of Dallals
heirs, as well as those of his creditors. This was not only important
for these two groups, but also for the reputation of the consulate
itself. It was essential for the Dutch to keep developments rmly
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 187
under control, and vigorously to guard their own consular jurisdic-
tion. From the perspective of the Dutch consul the only acceptable
reason for applying to the Ottoman authorities was to obtain con-
rmation of his own jurisdiction over the case. This could lead to
conicts of interest, if their protgs considered involving the Ottoman
authorities as potentially benecial to their case.
Mediation was always a possible method of dispute resolution, and
in this case, too, it was attempted several times. The critical condi-
tion for success was the sincere promise of all parties beforehand to
accept the outcome of the mediation, because forcing the parties to
keep their word was often dicult. In this case that would require
either the cooperation of all consulates and embassies involved, or
enforcement of the agreement by the Ottoman authorities, an unat-
tractive option for most European representatives.
Outcome: Abdullahs Claim
The Dutch consul, Van Kerchem, denied Abdullahs request to be
assigned the goods he claimed as his personal property. To end the
matter, the Dutchman proposed to divide the inheritance himself.
For this reason he applied to his French colleague, Thomas, to send
someone to assist him with the task. Thomas also acted as vice-
consul for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and in that capacity
had jurisdiction over the Sicilian beratl, Yusuf Dallal. The Frenchman
refused to cooperate with Van Kerchems plan, however. Instead,
he sent a petition to the Sicilian ambassador at the Porte asking for
either a representative, or for Yusuf personally, to be sent to Aleppo
to see to his fathers aairs.
41
Around 20 December 1757, Abdullah appeared in the local qadis
court. According to the Ragusan vice-consul, Abdullah had been
summoned to court by his creditors, and thus had not taken the ini-
tiative to turn to the qadi himself. This implies that the Ragusan
protg, who had been active in trade independently from his father
and brothers, had diculty repaying his own creditors. Hanna Dib,
188 cn.r+rn rotn
41
DNA, CAS 320, fos 67, Lett. F, Supplica delli eredi di Dimitry Dallal drago-
mano barratario dolanda . . . 10 Decembre 1757; fos 78, Lett. G, Messa delli
siggilli secondo la domanda qui sopra; f. 8, Lett. H, Signicazione della supplica
qui dietro allIllmo Sig.
re
Console di francia.
the rst dragoman of the Venetian and Ragusan consulates, repre-
sented Abdullah in the mahkame. Dib argued that Abdullah was able
to satisfy all of his creditors, but that the Dutch unjustly denied him
access to his possessions. However, according to an account of Antun
Bitar, the Dutch dragoman, Abdullah had turned to the court to
claim ownership of the cloth and pearls that were kept under the
Dutch consular seal. After his appearance in court, Abdullah went
to the house of his father and brother in the company of Pietro
Corella, the vice-chancellor of the Venetian-Ragusan consulate, and
some of his creditors. He was met there by Bitar, who was acting
both in his capacity as the procurator of the other heirs, and that
of First Dragoman of the Dutch consulate. According to Bitar, he
prevailed upon Corella to keep the qadi out of the matter. He con-
vinced the Venetian by pointing to the articles in the capitulations
concerning consular jurisdiction, which explicitly stated that the
Ottoman authorities should not meddle in conicts like these. Informal
discussions about an amicable settlement of the dispute between rep-
resentatives of the Dutch consulate and Corella did not lead to a
solution, however.
42
In the nal days of December 1757 a correspondence ensued
between Van Asten and Brigadi about the validity of the capitula-
tions in this matter. The debate clearly shows the Venetians inex-
perience. According to Brigadi, who should represent the interests
of Abdullah Dallal, the Dutch consul was extending his protection
to the widow and daughters of Dimitri Dallal, who were reaya, ordi-
nary subjects of the sultan not entitled to capitulatory privileges.
While it was in Abdullahs interests to have the sequestration of the
estate by the Dutch consulate lifted, Brigadis argument that pro-
tgs lost their privileges upon death undermined a fundamental priv-
ilege codied in the capitulations. The Dutchman denied these claims
by pointing to the capitulatory article that gave ambassadors and
consuls jurisdiction over the estate of deceased members of their
nation. Van Asten maintained that he did have authority over the
goods in question until the estate had been settled and the inheri-
tance was nally divided. Although the text of the capitulations is
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 189
42
Ibid., fos. 1113, Lett. L, Fatti successi colla giustizia turca nella casa di
Dimitry Dallal . . . 22 Decembre 1757. At these informal discussions, which took
place in Dimitri Dallals house, Antun Bitar was accompanied by Butrus Tarablusi,
the second dragoman of the Dutch consulate, and Jacobus Zijen, its chiaux.
not very explicit about these matters, Van Astens case seems to be
stronger, since among Europeans the estate commonly remained
under consular jurisdiction until its division.
43
Not much later Dimitri
Dallals berat was transferred to his son, Zakhariyya, which made him
a Dutch protg. This appointment unequivocally justied Van Astens
involvement, but the argument with Brigadi over jurisdictions con-
tinued unabated.
44
To prevent Brigadi challenging Dutch jurisdiction before the local
authorities, Van Kerchem applied to them rst, on 22 December
1757. During this time a new governor-general was due to arrive in
the city, so the Dutchman applied to the msellim, requesting that
the local court be ordered to stay out of the matter. Although Van
Astens request was granted, it had the opposite eect, because the
kahya of the qadi had his own seal placed on Dallals storage rooms
next to that of the Dutch consul. On 24 December, the day after
the new governor-general had arrived, this error was redressed, and
the Dutch were issued a buyuruldu stating that this was a conict
among Europeans and should remain so.
45
The vice-chancellor of the Venetian and Ragusan consulates again
tried to conclude an amicable settlement, but this time he negoti-
ated directly with the other heirs in Aleppo. They were inclined to
allow Abdullah an advanced payment on his share of inheritance,
on the condition that someone stood surety for him. Hanna Dib
oered his services, but the majority of the heirs rejected him, pre-
ferring a fully independent guarantor. When no one else could be
agreed upon, the whole arrangement was cancelled, despite the need
of the other heirs for advanced payments for themselves as well.
In the rst week of January 1758 another change in the local
Ottoman administration led to the conclusion of the dispute. The
governor-general had dismissed his kahya and appointed someone else
to the oce. This time Brigadi was the rst to turn to the Ottoman
190 cn.r+rn rotn
43
Ibid., f. 11 [sic; actually 9], Lett. I, Protesto fatto dallIll.mo Sig.
re
Console
dolanda allIll.mo sig.
re
vice-console di ragusi, 22 Decembre 1757; fos 1110, Lett.
K, Risposto del protesto qui sopra, 22 Decembre 1757.
44
BOA, ED 22/1: 348/1511, The transfer is dated 11 Rebiylahir 1171/23
December 1757; DNA, CAS 320, f. 14, Lett. N, responsa [by Van Kerchem] al
protesto qui dietro, 11 January 1758; fos 1416, Lett. O, Signicazione fatta
dallIll.mo Sig.
re
Brigadi . . ., 12 January 1758; fos 1617, Lett. P, Risposta [by
Van Kerchem] della signicazione qui sopra, 12 January 1758.
45
DNA, CAS 320, Memoire instructif [f. 5].
authorities. On 8 January his dragomans presented Abdullahs case
before the new kahya, who was ignorant of its history. He therefore
summoned the dragomans of the Dutch consulate to appear before
him on the next day, but they turned to the beylerbeyi himself instead,
who decided to rule on the case personally. In the following days
both parties presented their cases, after which the governor-general
passed sentence on 12 January 1758. The beylerbeyi ruled that the
disputed goods were part of the estate. Because the estate fell under
Dutch consular jurisdiction, he allowed Van Kerchem to sell the
goods in his care.
46
In principle the claim of Abdullah Dallal may have been a mat-
ter between the Dutch and the Ragusan consuls, but the Ottoman
authorities in Aleppo had a decisive role in the conclusion of the
conict. The Dutch denunciation of Abdullahs submission of his
case to the qadi as a violation of the capitulations is a misrepre-
sentation of the facts. Abdullah was fully entitled to turn to the
Ottoman authorities, because he remained an Ottoman subject, even
after having acquired a berat. The fact that the Dutch consul thought
this undermined his own authority did not make Abdullahs forum
shopping illegal, or even irregular. Regardless of whether the Ragusan
vice-consuls accusation that his Dutch colleague had bribed the
Ottoman authorities is true, or not, the decision of the governor-
general of Aleppo to uphold Dutch consular authority over the estate
of its dragoman was in line with the tenor of the capitulations, as
well as with European custom in the Levant.
Outcome: Yusuf s Claim
At the beginning of 1758 the female heirs of Dimitri Dallal and his
second son, Zakhariyya, sent a petition to the central Ottoman
authorities. They stated that Yusuf had ed from Aleppo after his
fathers death, and requested that he be sent back to Aleppo against
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 191
46
An undated document from the English chancery records (BNA SP 110/62
(1), 3), which states that Zakhariyya Dallal was accused in court of fraud by his
brother, Abdullah, probably refers to this trial. It mentions Bakir b. Abdurrahman,
hacc Yahya b. Qurna, hacc Muammad b. Qurna, hacc Ahmad b. Qurna, and a
Mulla Ibrahim Cateb [Katib] as witnesses, as well as Butrus Tarablusi, Jirjis w.
Hanna Qirmiz, and Antun w. Nimatallah Ghadban. Ghadban was a Swedish beratl.
BOA, Cevdet Hariciye 6002, undated.
his will if necessary. The petition was reportedly supported by let-
ters from the governor-general of Aleppo, and from the citys muhassl
and nekible{raf.
47
Probably in response to this petition, the Porte sent
a avu{ named Abdalhalim al-Ghannam al-Asker to Aleppo to gather
information about the inheritance of Dimitri Dallal.
48
By this time
Yusuf had acquired the status of dragoman of the ambassador of
the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in Istanbul, which enabled him to
refer to the capitulatory article stating that lawsuits against drago-
mans could only be tried in the divan- hmayun in Istanbul when
more than 4,000 ake were at stake. Using the privileges of his newly
acquired status, Yusuf Dallal not only denied the charges brought
against him, but he also voiced counter claims.
Yusuf s principle claim was that his father had consigned all his
business to him fteen years prior to his death, and that all the
goods found in his fathers house, where he and his wife also lived,
actually belonged to him. He estimated the value of these goods at
200 purses, or 100,000 kuru{. In Yusuf s eyes the sale of the goods
by the Dutch consul in Aleppo had been illegitimate. He blamed
his brother, Zakhariyya, a Dutch protg, and the rst dragoman of
the Dutch consulate, Antun Bitar, for the loss he had suered from
it. Yusuf demanded that both be summoned to Istanbul to appear
in the divan- hmayun. This defence and counter-suit, which was sent
to the Porte through the oces of the Sicilian envoy, resulted in the
issue of a ferman ordering the case to be tried in Istanbul. Instead
of Yusuf being forced to return to Aleppo, Zakhariyya Dallal and
Antun Bitar were now summoned to the Ottoman capital. A kapcba{,
Osman A<a, was sent to Aleppo to deliver the ferman, which was
issued before May 1758. Since virtually the entire Ottoman admin-
istration of Aleppo had supported the petition of his adversaries,
Yusuf Dallal must have had powerful patrons at the Porte who
secured the ferman in his favour.
192 cn.r+rn rotn
47
The response to the petition in Istanbul (BOA, CH 8594, Cemaziyelahir
1171/10 February10 March 1758) is too damaged for consultation. However, the
documents contents, and the response to it are mentioned in a draft version of a
Dutch petition to the Porte, which probably dates from the rst half of 1758; DNA,
LAT 784 (in French).
48
Cf. Antonis Anastasopoulos, Building Alliances: a Christian Merchant in
Eighteenth-Century Karaferya (Forthcoming), where an ocer is sent out from
Istanbul to Karaferya to investigate the complaints of a beratl of the British con-
sulate in Salonica in 1765.
The arrival of Osman A<a and the ferman he delivered, seem to
have been an unpleasant surprise for the avu{ who had investigated
the matter during the rst months of 1758. He disagreed with the
central authorities decision adamantly. In a lengthy and detailed
report, Abdalhalim avu{ advised the Porte to reverse its recent
decision, and to delegate jurisdiction to the local court in Aleppo.
49
The report systematically addressed the claims of Yusuf Dallal. The
imperial agent rejected Yusuf s claim that he alone was the rightful
owner of everything that had been seized from his fathers residence.
According to the investigator this was well known in Aleppo to be
untrue. The estimated value of 100,000 kuru{ for the capital in questi-
on was a gross exaggeration, according to Abdalhalim avu{, who
had investigated the matter personally. He also reported that there
was no reason to question the legitimacy of the sale of the goods.
The procedures followed by the local authorities in this matter had
been a model of cooperation between the heirs, the Ottoman admin-
istrators, and, at the insistence of the former, the Dutch consulate.
Yusuf Dallals wife had been given the goods she had claimed, or
a part of them, before the rest of the conscated properties had been
sold. Even the consuls of Ragusa and the Kingdom of the Two
Sicilies had been invited to attend the sale on behalf of their prot-
gs, said Abdalhalim avu{. Finally, he contradicted Yusuf Dallals
accusations against Antun Bitar. The Dutch dragoman had not been
in oce yet when Dimitri Dallal died, so he could not have had a
hand in any of the consular measures to which Yusuf Dallal objected.
Bitar had not even been in Aleppo in this period, but in Latakia,
where he spent some two years.
50
Moreover, Bitar enjoyed an excel-
lent reputation in Aleppo, and in the experience of Abdalhalim avu{
he had always fullled his duties as dragoman conscientiously. This
in contrast with Yusuf Dallal, who was generally known in Aleppo
as unreliable and whom the author of the report calls a liar and a
troublemaker.
51
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 193
49
DNA, LAT 596, folder D, Espiegazione dun memoriale del cadij [sic] per la
Seneriss:
ma
Porte in Constantinopoli [25 }aban 1171/4 May 1758] (without Ottoman
text).
50
This is conrmed by a declaration in Italian registered by the heirs of Dimitri
Dallal in Aleppo on 19 April 1758: BNA, SP 110/62 (1): 2r.
51
The text has buggiardo (liar) and avanista, a word denoting someone who causes
avanias. The term avania is used rather indiscriminately in the Western sources, and
Abdalhalim avu{ recommended that the qadi in Aleppo adjudi-
cate the disputes over Dimitri Dallals estate. The envoy noted that
numerous reliable and knowledgeable witnesses were available there.
Furthermore he argued that it would be prejudicial to many if the
case were moved to Istanbul, while its adjudication in Aleppo only
inconvenienced Yusuf Dallal. Apart from the legal arguments the
report oered in favour of the court in Aleppo, its contents in gen-
eral were clearly detrimental for Yusuf Dallal. Further pressure on
the Porte to delegate authority in this matter to the local qadi came
from the Dutch ambassador.
52
Possibly as a result of mounting oppo-
sition, Yusuf Dallal decided to accept mediation.
Few details about the actual mediation process are known, which
took place in Istanbul. It is not clear, for example, who took the
initiative, and whether or not the Ottoman authorities were involved
in any way. We do know that Yusuf Dallal had apparently dropped
his complaints against his brother, Zakhariyya, for only Antun Bitar
took part in the settlement. Bitar was represented in Istanbul by his
servant, Nimatallah son of Jirjis. The accusations levelled against the
Dutch dragoman were the following. Yusuf Dallal accused him of
illegitimately seizing pearls, textiles and precious stones from his room
in Khan al-Wazir in Aleppo, and from his house in the Sisi quar-
ter after Yusuf had gone to Istanbul. According to Dallal, the value
of these goods amounted to 22,802.5 kuru{. He also demanded pay-
ment of 4,500 kuru{ for two letters of credit, which Bitar had allegedly
removed along with the other goods. In the Ottoman capital it was
agreed that Bitar would pay 2,500 kuru{ to Dallal to settle the demand
of the letters of credit. Nimatallah reportedly stood surety for this
sum in case Bitar refused to pay. About the claim concerning the
pearls, textiles and precious stones, it was agreed that Dallal would
le suit before the qadi in Aleppo.
Thus, the local court in Aleppo was again asked to rule on a dis-
pute relating to the estate of Dimitri Dallal. The case came to court
on 17 December 1763, almost eight years after the dragomans death.
The judge was confronted with two contradictory, but unsubstanti-
ated, versions of events. Dallal referred to the terms agreed after
194 cn.r+rn rotn
here the general translation of troublemaker seems most appropriate. Cf. above,
Chapter Three.
52
DNA, LAT 784, Draft version of petition, undated (in French).
mediation in Istanbul, but could not produce any documents in
support of his claim. Bitar maintained that all disputes between the
claimant and himself had already been settled at the beginning
of 1762. This had allegedly taken place around the beginning of
March of that year, when Yusuf Dallal arrived in Aleppo as a mem-
ber of the retinue of the new governor-general, Bekir Emin Pa{a al-
Mutabbakh.
53
The mediation was said to have taken place in the
house of Bekir Pa{as personal physician. The Dutch dragoman was
given two days to produce written evidence of his claim, but could
not do so. It was the word of one man against another, and the
qadi decided not to rule on the case. At the insistence of Nimatallah
and Bitar an account of it was drawn up nevertheless. Aleppos
muhassl and interim governor-general, nekible{raf elebi Efendi, and
several others of the citys ocers and notables acted as the courts
witnesses, which suggests that this was a high-prole case.
54
In the wake of this undecided court session, the Dutch consul,
Nicolaas van Maseijk, appealed to the citys governor-general, Bekir
Pa{as successor, Mustafa b. Ahmad Damad Pa{a.
55
According to
Van Maseijk, Yusuf Dallal had tried to recruit false witnesses in sup-
port of his case, and had bribed ocers of the Islamic court to
declare them reliable. Two of the witnesses allegedly turned out to
have been in Diyarbakr at the time of the events about which they
were supposed to testify. When he had applied to the mufti for a
fatwa, Dallal was reportedly turned away. In the meantime he had
had Bitars servant arrested and imprisoned by the tufenkiba{, the
head of the governor-generals personal guard, a treatment usually
reserved for defaulting creditors. On the basis of Bitars berat, how-
ever, this treatment of his servant was not allowed. The consul con-
sidered these actions harassment, and argued that his own reputation
suered from them. For this reason he requested that the governor-
general put an end to Dallals campaign against the rst dragoman
of the Dutch consulate.
56
In response to the Dutchmans petition,
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 195
53
al-Ghazzi, Nahr al-dhahab iii, 236.
54
DNA, LAT 1124: Translation of an ilm by the qadi of Aleppo, dated 13
Cemaziyelevvel 1177/19 November 1763.
55
al-Ghazzi, Nahr al-dhahab iii, 237.
56
DNA, LAT 1124, Traduction dun memoire present par Mr le Consul
Heemskerk Mustapha Pacha Gouverneur dAlep. Although this document is
undated it refers to events, which happened in Aleppo at the end of December
1763. Heemskerk left the Levant on 26 December 1763 on a ship from Istanbul,
Mustafa Pa{a ordered the release of Bitars servant. He also made
it clear to Yusuf Dallal that he did not want to hear of the case
again.
57
Yusuf Dallal had exhausted all possibilities for demanding justice
within the Ottoman administration, both in Istanbul and in Aleppo.
This left him only one option, that of turning to the Sicilian min-
ister in Istanbul. In his rst letter to the count of Ludolf, of 19 June
1764, Dallal briey explained his situation. He omitted most of his
failed attempts to obtain satisfaction by way of the Ottoman justice
system, and emphasized the injustice of Aleppos governor-general.
A second letter quickly followed, on 9 July, in which Dallal requested
that Ludolf demand payment of 27,302.5 kuru{ directly from Van
Maseijk, who was now briey in Istanbul.
58
The Sicilian minister did
not turn straight to the Porte to obtain its support, as Dallal may
have wanted. Instead, Ludolf, who had been in contact with the
Dutch ambassador about the case since 1763,
59
gave Van Maseijk
the opportunity to respond to Dallals letters.
Dallal was evidently less comfortable with foreign diplomatic rules
of engagement than he was with the Ottoman legal system, for his
own petitions oered arguments against his case. According to the
unwritten rules of the European communities in the Levant, Dallal
should have turned to the Dutch consul in Aleppo with his claims
against the consulates rst dragoman. Appeal against the consuls
verdict would have taken the case to Istanbul, where the Dutch
ambassador should rule on it. Only then would the Sicilian minis-
ter formally be entitled to become involved in the matter. Yusuf
Dallal had not followed these procedures. The course he had taken
instead now became a liability, the evidence of which can be read
in his own letters. First, Dallal had admitted having engineered the
arrest and imprisonment by the Ottoman authorities of the servant
196 cn.r+rn rotn
where he had travelled from Aleppo before June of the same year. O. Schutte,
Repertorium der Nederlandse vertegenwoordigers in het buitenland 15841810 (s-Gravenhage,
1979), 353. It must therefore have been his successor, Van Maseijk, who presented
the petition.
57
DNA, LAT 1124, Copia [N.1], Hazi Jusuf dragomano onorario di Napoli,
in Istanbul, to Ludolf, envoy of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, 19 June 1764
[in Italian].
58
Ibid., Copia N.2: Hazi Jusuf to Ludolf, 9 July 1764 [in Italian].
59
DNA, LAT 602, [The Dutch ambassador] to Heemskerk, 26 March 1763 [in
Dutch].
of a fellow dragoman in European service. In the eyes of most
Europeans in the Levant this was an unforgivable violation of the
capitulations. The Dutch consuls request to the governor-general to
have the man released must have seemed more than reasonable to
the Sicilian envoy, but Dallal had decried the act as unjust. On top
of this, Dallal had asked the envoy to demand payment from a con-
sul of another nation of a sum owed by one of the consuls drago-
mans. This meant that one man was held responsible for another
mans debts, something the capitulations expressly forbade. Finally,
the tone with which Yusuf Dallal had proposed the Sicilian envoy
breach all diplomatic protocol must have seemed insolent to Ludolf.
Fully observing diplomatic protocol, Van Maseijk pointed out all
these things except the last in his carefully worded response.
60
Dallal composed another letter in which he countered several of
Van Maseijks arguments. For example, he explained that the ser-
vant whom he had had arrested had stood surety for Bitars debt
to him. Since imprisonment of defaulting debtors or their guaran-
tors was a common instrument in the collection of debts in the
Ottoman system, Dallals initiative was not as outrageous as it seemed
in European eyes.
61
Although this was true, the argument could
hardly have won the Sicilian envoys sympathy. The case subsequently
disappears from the Dutch records for a number of years, which
probably means that Ludolf took no ocial action in the matter.
Only briey did the conict between Yusuf Dallal and Antun Bitar
resurface at the end of 1779, some 24 years after Dimitri Dallals
death. By October of that year a nal agreement between the two
beratls had been reached. Neither the ocial correspondence, nor
the chancery records of the Dutch consulate mention the circum-
stances of the arrangement, about which nothing is known, apart
from the fact that an ocial deed of quittance was exchanged between
Dallal and Bitar.
62
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 197
60
DNA, LAT 1124, Van Maseijk, in Istanbul, to Ludolf [undated, in Italian].
61
Ibid., Copia N.3: Hazi Jusuf to Ludolf [undated, in French].
62
DNA, LAT 774, Van Maseijk to Van Haeften, 13 October and 1 December
1779; LAT 752, Van Haeften to Van Maseijk, 10 November 1779.
The Division of Part of the Estate
Before all the disputes arose among the heirs of Dimitri Dallal, part
of his estate was divided seemingly without incident. This procedure
is worth describing briey here, because it sheds further light on the
exibility of legal practices in this period.
A year after the initial procedures by the Dutch consulate described
above, the English consul in Aleppo sequestered the sum of 11,303
kuru{ and 55 ake from a member of his nation, Thomas Vernon. The
Englishman had owed this sum to Yusuf Dallal for unspecied goods
he had bought from him. By that time Yusuf was still in Istanbul,
and refused to return to Aleppo to attend to his fathers aairs.
Despite the fact that Vernon had stated that he owed the money to
Yusuf Dallal, the other heirs considered it part of Dimitris estate.
There is no evidence that Yusuf ever complained about this, so the
sum might indeed have belonged to Dimitris estate. It was deposited
in the British chancery on 11 January 1757.
63
While most of the
estate remained sequestered pending disputes among the heirs, this
sum was unencumbered by claims by others. For this reason, it was
divided separately from the rest of the estate. The procedures fol-
lowed by the Dutch consulate and the heirs can be considered a
model for the manner in which the entire estate might have been
divided. In the absence of information about the nal partition, we
should analyse the procedures surrounding this small share in more
detail.
The British consulate rst paid the British creditors of both Yusuf
and Dimitri Dallal, including Alexander Drummond, the English
consul, himself. Most of these debts resulted from delayed payments
of commercial transactions, or from loans extended by British mer-
chants at interest. What money remained the English consulate
handed over to the Dutch, who continued the process of repaying
father and sons creditors. The Dutch chancery had also incurred
several expenses after Dimitris death, the total of which, 127:40
kuru{, was also deducted from Vernons sum. Finally, the payment
of 52 kuru{ made for two months rent of two rooms in Khan al-
198 cn.r+rn rotn
63
The reason for the delay is not mentioned, but it is possible that payment
only became due a year after the call for sequestration. Yusuf never contested the
sequestration of this sum as part of his fathers estate.
Wazir in which Dimitris estate was kept, was deducted. From the
original sum of 11,303:55 kuru{ which Thomas Vernon had handed
over to the British consulate, only 2,089:60 kuru{ remained.
64
This
sum was considered part of Dimitri Dallals estate.
Dallal does not seem to have left a will, so his heirs and the Dutch
consulate had to come to an agreement themselves. One might expect
the heirs, all members of (probably the Catholic faction of ) the Greek
community of Aleppo, to apply to their church to help divide the
inheritance in accordance with its prescripts, but this was not the
case. No clerics of the Greek taife were involved at all. As Table 8
shows, the 2,089 kuru{ and 60 ake were divided secondo luso. Dimitris
widow, Qudsiyya, received 261:17 kuru{, which equalled one-eighth
[share], according to custom. His three daughters each received a
ninth share of the remaining sum, which came to 203:13 kuru{ each.
The three brothers inherited double the amount their sisters had
received. Zakhariyya and Abdullah personally collected their shares
of 406 kuru{ and 27 ake each, while that of Yusuf was kept on depo-
sit in the Dutch chancery until he returned to Aleppo to collect it.
Thus, the division of the money among the heirs, which was said
to have been in accordance with custom, in fact conformed to the
shares prescribed by Islamic law. Because children had survived, the
widow received one-eighth of the total net sum. The remainder was
divided among the children, whereby the men were allotted double
the share of the women.
In the absence of information about the nal partition of the inher-
itance, that of the sum Vernon had owed must be considered indica-
tive of the usual procedures. It is not surprising that a number of
creditors were paid rst, or that the British and Dutch consulates
deducted their own expenses before releasing the remainder of the
sum to the heirs. More remarkable is the allotment of Islamic shares
of the inheritance among Greek Catholic heirs under consular super-
vision. Other examples of divisions of the estates of dragomans indi-
cate that this was not an uncommon procedure.
65
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 199
64
The receipt was written in Ottoman Turkish by Mehmed A<a, and is dated
1 M 1170/26 Sept. 1756. See DNA, LAT 664 Extract du Registre de la Chancellerie
Neederlandoise de cette Ville dAlep sous Lettre C a F:
o
106, 15 February 1757
[p. 5].
65
See documents concerning the division of the inheritance of Haccadur Hadid
in Aleppo in 1782; BNA, SP 110/65, fos 6970; and those with regard to the
inheritance of Antun Balit in 1793; SP 105/189, 596597, 604605, 614615.
Conclusion
Several legal mechanisms contributed to the division of Dimitri Dallals
estate and the settlement of disputes over it. These incidents shed
light on the practical limitations to consular jurisdiction, the possi-
bility of beratls to practice forum shopping avant-la-lettre, the role
of the central Ottoman authorities in legal disputes of this kind, and
customary procedures for dividing estates among non-Muslims.
The concept of exclusive European jurisdiction over matters involv-
ing Europeans or their protgs depended to a large extent on the
consuls and ambassadors involved working in concert. For example,
the Dutch managed to keep the settlement of Abdullahs claims under
consular jurisdiction, despite an attempt to involve the qadi court in
Aleppo, but only because the Ragusan vice-consulate eventually
decided to compel its protg, Abdullah, to cooperate. Dutch attempts
to force Yusuf Dallal to do the same failed, because solidarity between
consuls was impossible in this case; the vice-consul of Sicily claimed
to lack the authority to put pressure on Yusuf Dallal, whose berat
was directly connected to the Sicilian embassy. In the quarrel between
the two consulates over who had jurisdiction, both turned to the
Ottoman authorities in Aleppo, but their aim was clearly to obtain
conrmation of their own authority.
It is not clear whether Abdullah was summoned to court by his
creditors, or if went to the Islamic court to claim ownership of the
goods of his own accord. Abdullah stuck to the former version of
events, the Dutch suspected the latter was true. In the case of Yusuf
Dallal there can be no doubt that he continuously preferred to pur-
sue his claims through the Ottoman legal system, instead of the con-
sular courts. Only when his options in the Ottoman system had been
exhausted did Yusuf try to involve the Sicilian embassy. This could
be considered a form of forum shopping, in which a party deter-
mined which legal forum was most likely to grant his claim and sub-
sequently attempted to have jurisdiction over the dispute moved
there. In the eyes of most European representatives this was unac-
ceptable behaviour from any member of their community, be they
Europeans or beratls, but from a strictly legal point of view there
was nothing illegitimate about it. Apparently unable to win his case
on the basis of solid proof, Yusuf Dallal simply used all the instru-
ments at his disposal on the basis of his double status as beratl and
Ottoman subject.
200 cn.r+rn rotn
The Ottoman authorities had an important role in the settlement
of Yusuf s claims. In response to a petition from the heirs in Aleppo,
the Porte sent an agent to the city to investigate the matter. Even
before this agent had submitted his report, which favoured adjudi-
cation by the qadi in Aleppo, the Porte subsequently decided to have
the case adjudicated in Istanbul. After the Dutch ambassador had
petitioned the Ottoman authorities to reconsider, and further pres-
sure had been put on Yusuf Dallal, the latter nally accepted medi-
ation. This resulted in a partial settlement, with the agreement to
lay the remaining disputes before the qadi in Aleppo. Due to a lack
of proof the ensuing court session ended undecided, but it does seem
to have put an end to Yusuf s options to pursue the matter further
through the Ottoman legal system.
Finally, it is interesting to consider the actual division of Dimitri
Dallals estate. Despite several disputes over the inheritance, the heirs
were able to divide part of the estate without the involvement of the
Ottoman or European authorities. In many ways, the Dutch con-
sulate had a role similar to the one the qadi usually had in such
matters. Foreign supervision gave the heirs the freedom to decide
among themselves how they wanted to divide the estate. Paradoxically,
they chose to follow the same rules the qadi would have applied,
allotting each non-Muslim heir Islamic shares of inheritance.
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 201
APPENDIX
Table 7. Enregistrement du Compte du Chancellier dHollande Lhoirie
de Dimitry Dallal Drogman Barattaire dHollande. Doit pour fraix de
Chancellerie scavoir.
Pour lActe de Comparution des heritiers de Dimitry &
Copie P 5:
pour idem concernant la demande des papiers dy celluy
& Copie 5:
pour avoir lev le sceau a lappartement ou Etoient les
papiers rescell lActe sur ce fait & Copie 10:
pour avoir scell un mouchoir ou les papiers ont rest en
Depot avec lActe & sa Copie 7:40
pour lActe de procuration faite par divers heritiers en faveur
du S.
r
Giorgios Aide & sa Copie 7:40
pour lActe dInterpretation faitte a Youssef sur la redition de
Compte, sa responce & Copie 5:
pour avoir scell les magazins au Camp Vezir & divers
appartemens a la Maison de Dimitry, lActe & Copie 7:40
pour lActe Interpellation & xation de terme faite a Youssef
pour donner le compte de son Pere avec la Copie 5:
pour lActe de manquement de comparution de Youssef &
Copie 5:
pour lActe de requisition aux Sieurs Consuls pour faire
sequestrer entre les mains de leur nation aux ce [?] quil
pouroient devoir a Jusef avec la Copie 5:
pour lActe dInterpellation faite a divers marchands
armeniens pour la sequestration comme dessus & Copie 5:
pour lActe de comparution dy eux [?] avec la Copie 5:
pour lActe de recherche dela personne de Usuf & Copie 5:
pour lActe de comparution de Zacharia, demendant sequestre
de 2. Balles soyes avec la Copie 5:
pour le sequestre fait a lAga du Kantabrak 2:40
pour lActe de Protestation & Copie fait par Monsieur Van
Asten contre le manquement dobeissance de Youssef 5:
pour avoir mis le sceau a un appartement de Youssef & lActe
sur ce pass 5:
pour avoir lev le sceau a un appartement ou Etoient des
Arbres dorange 2:40
pour avoir rescell le dit appartem:
t
& lActe sur ce
pass 5: 7:40
pour lActe de comparution dAbdulla ls de Dimitry 2:40
pour lEnregistrement du Compte des merchandises quil
avoit apport avec luy de Bassora 2:40
202 cn.r+rn rotn
pour avoir descell une chambre ou etoit du tabaq &
rescell 5:
pour avoir descell 3 Chambres pour transporter dune a
lautre de meubles & les avoir Rescells & pass la dessus
un Acte 7:40
pour lActe dapprobation du S:
r
Georges Ayde nayant peu
Etre present a louverture des dittes Chambres 2:40
pour lActe de comparution du S:
r
Ayde, Zacharie &
Abdalla demandant le sequestre de Michael 2:40
pour celluy des dits demendant sequestre E[ntre] mains de
Seid Abdul Kader 2:40
P 127:40
Jay recu payement du Compte cy dessus Jusques au dit Jour de la comparution
du Turk Seid Abdelkader, a Alep, le 16 fevrier 1757. Sign a loriginal Longis
Chancellier
Source: DNA, LAT 664.
+nr ri\isiox or rs+.+rs 203
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.
CHAPTER FIVE
BANKRUPTCY
At the beginning of 1713 the English rm of Woolley & Cope went
bankrupt in Istanbul. The French house of Le Roy & Gasan, also
established in the Ottoman capital, suered this fate in 1740. In the
same year Boisson & Co., a French rm in Salonica, declared bank-
ruptcy. The English vice-consul in the Syrian port of Latakia, a
Dutchman called Daniel Boumeester, was forced to do the same in
1758. About ten years later Richard Usgate, the English consul in
the Palestinian town of Acre, went bankrupt.
1
This list is by no
means complete. Bankruptcies were as common a phenomenon in
the Levant as everywhere else where trade was conducted. Merchants
from all foreign communities in the Ottoman Empire were con-
fronted with them in all periods. Bankruptcy was an occupational
hazard that could be caused as much by personal mismanagement
on the part of the bankrupt, as by external factors beyond his control.
In a region where cash money was invariably scarce credit was
an inevitable instrument of trade, but it could complicate the bal-
ancing of accounts. A merchants ability to pay his debts often
depended on the ability of his own debtors to do the same. A com-
bination of defaulting debtors and creditors demanding instant pay-
ment thus could easily ruin a trader. Insolvency, the inability to meet
the demands of creditors, did not necessarily lead to bankruptcy,
because creditors could allow insolvents to continue in business with
the aim of paying their debts. If the creditors were divided, how-
ever, and the debtor was unable to negotiate an arrangement with
them, he was generally forced to declare bankruptcy.
Despite the fact that bankruptcies were an integral part of the
1
ENA, SP 105/179, 495, 9 April 1713 (Woolley & Cope); Ibid., SP 110/72 (iii),
f. 589: Daniel Boumeester, Latachia, to Alexander Drummond, Colvill Bridger,
Nathaniel Free, Jasper Shaw, Thomas Vernon, David Hays and George Aidy [i.e.
Jirjis Aida], Aleppo, 3 November 1758; Ibid., SP 110/29, f. 242, Richard Usgate,
Acri, to Consul & Factory at Aleppo, 21 August 1778; Bronnen III, 140 n. 2; Ibid.,
12526, 13132, 15455.
conditions of trade in the Ottoman Empire, the legal procedures
involved have received little scholarly attention. Economic historians
tend to focus on larger developments, rather than individual inci-
dents. From that perspective references to bankruptcies often merely
illustrate a noticeable decline in the fortunes of a particular nation.
2
In the case of bankruptcies, the historian of the legal status of for-
eigners and their protgs in the Ottoman Empire is invariably faced
with the problem that most records have been lost. Only the cases
that required the involvement of the consul or ambassador appear
in our sources, and they tend to be the complicated ones. While it
is thus relatively easy to nd bankruptcies that sent shockwaves
through the foreign communities, it is more dicult to reconstruct
the procedures followed in less conspicuous cases. This chapter rst
oers a tentative survey of the procedures and possible complica-
tions of bankruptcies occurring in foreign communities in the Levant.
This survey is followed by the detailed description and analysis of
four connected bankruptcies that took place in Aleppo from 1763.
The Capitulations
Cash currency was often in short supply in the Ottoman Empire
and transactions on credit were the rule, so it is only logical that
the capitulations should address the issue of debts incurred by for-
eigners. The most important principle was that no one should be
forced to pay the debts of another, unless he had agreed to stand
surety beforehand. To turn again to the English capitulations of
1580, articles 8 and 12 stipulate that
E<er (ngilterelnn birisi medyun olsa, deyni borludan taleb oluna, kel olmyacak
ahar kimesne tutulup taleb olunmaya.
Ve bunlardan biri medyun olsa veya bir vehile mttehim olup gaybubet eyeleye
anun iin kefaletsiz ahar kimesne tutulmaya.
208 cn.r+rn ri\r
2
I am aware of only two exceptions: Bosscha-Erdbrink, At the Threshold of Felicity,
187193 mentions several bankruptcies. Jan Schmidt, Dutch Merchants in 18th-
Century Ankara, 23760 [reprinted in his The Joys of Philology 1, 301328, to which
I refer here] discusses one of the cases mentioned by Bosscha-Erdbrink in more
detail. Neither focuses specically on the legal procedures, however.
If one of the English should fall into debt, let the debt be claimed
and taken from the debtor; no other person, as long as he is not stand-
ing bail, shall be arrested and sued.
And should one of these people fall into debt or be suspected [of
a crime] in some way and abscond, let no other person, who is not
standing bail, be arrested on his behalf.
3
Articles of this tenor appear in all the capitulations, from those of
the sixteenth to the end of the eighteenth century.
4
Some of these
later texts repeat the emphasis on the importance of written evi-
dence to prove that someone had stood surety for someone else.
5
The capitulation granted to Genoa in 1665 was the rst to mention
explicitly that this clause also applied in cases of bankruptcy.
6
In a
similar fashion the French capitulations of 1740 (art. 53) stipulated
that that the debts of a bankrupt should be paid from the balance
of his estate. It also declares that ambassadors, consuls and others
who have not stood surety cannot be held responsible. It is a reitera-
tion in a more specic context of article 22, which stresses the per-
sonal responsibility of debtors and their guarantors.
7
Letters of credit were an instrument of trade and nance that
became so widespread in the Ottoman Empire that inevitably arti-
cles concerning their non-payment eventually appeared in the ahd-
names. Article 66 of the French capitulations of 1740 reads
Lorsque notre miri ou quelquun de nos sujets, marchand ou autre,
sera porteur de lettres de change sur les Franais, si ceux sur qui elles
sont tires ou les personnes qui en dpendent ne les acceptant pas, on
ne pourra sans cause lgitime les contraindre au payement de ces let-
tres, et lon en exigera seulement une lettre de refus, pour agir en
consquence contre le tireur, et lambassadeur de mme que les consuls
n.xkntr+cv 209
3
Skilliter, Harborne, 88; lker, (zmir, 307.
4
See, for example, the French capitulations of 1535 (art. 6), 1569 (art. 4), 1604
(art. 34 and 39), 1673 (art. 27 and 32), and 1740 (art. 22). Noradounghian, Recueil,
i, 85, 90, 100101, 141, and 284.
5
E.g. the French capitulation of 1604, art. 39. Feridun Bey, Mn{eat-i Selatin, ii,
490494.
6
Noradounghian, Recueil, i, 130. The clause is also found in the English capitulations
of 1675 (art. 58), the Dutch ones of 1612 and 1680 (art. 28 in both texts), the
French capitulation of 1740 (art. 53) and the treaty with Russia of 1783 (art. 69).
7
Belin, Des capitulations, 101. Article 22 of the capitulations of 1740 is the same
as article 34 of the French capitulations of 1604 and article 23 of those of 1673.
Cf. the corresponding article 28 in the Dutch capitulations of 1612 in De Groot,
The Ottoman Empire and the Dutch Republic, 254.
se donneront tous les mouvements possibles pour en procurer le rem-
boursement.
8
This article was obviously introduced to prevent foreign merchants
being forced to pay letters of credit drawn on them without prior
notice, or by people they did not know or trust. Like the articles
concerning debt, this new article aimed to regulate the payment of
money owed, directly or indirectly, by Westerners to Ottoman subjects.
The imprisonment of foreigners is an issue closely connected with
their contracting debts, because defaulting on a debt was a common
reason for imprisonment in this period both in the Ottoman Empire
and in Western Europe. We have already seen that the capitulations
prohibited the arrest of consuls and dragomans, claims against whom
couldin theoryonly be tried before the divan- hmayun. This priv-
ilege was included in a capitulation for the rst time in 1604.
9
For
more than 130 years it remained unchanged, but then the scope of
the article was somewhat extended. Only two capitulations docu-
ment this development, the French of 1740 and the Spanish of 1782.
Article 70 of the former text states that
Les gens de justice et les ociers de ma Sublime Porte, de mme que
les gens dpe, ne pourront sans ncessit entrer par force dans une
maison habite par un Franais; et lorsque le cas requerra dy entrer,
on en avertira lambassadeur ou le consul, dans les endroits o il y
en aurait, et lon se transportera dans lendroit en question, avec les
personnes qui auront t commises de leur part; et si quelquun con-
trevient cette disposition, il sera chti.
10
The ahdname granted to Spain in 1782 contains an abbreviated ver-
sion of the same privilege, which forbids Ottoman ocers from
imprisoning any subject of the Spanish crown unnecessarily.
11
It
should be noted that these articles did not extend the protection
enjoyed by consuls and dragomans to all foreign merchants and their
protgs. In theory the fact that ambassadors now had to be informed
beforehand when provincial authorities intended forcibly to enter a
foreigners residence seriously limited these authorities jurisdiction.
210 cn.r+rn ri\r
8
Noradounghian, Recueil, i, 294.
9
See above, page 21; Cf. The English capitulations of 1675 (art. 25) in
Noradounghian, Recueil, i, 152.
10
Ibid., 295.
11
Ibid., 346.
In practice, however, the article was probably vague enough to keep
local balances of power intact.
Imprisoning a debtor in order to force him to pay was a com-
mon procedure in Islamic law. The qadi did not take the initiative
to imprison defaulting debtors, acting always at the request of the
creditor, instead. According to the jurists, if the debtor had remained
in prison for two or three months and he could prove that he had
no property, the qadi should release him. After the bankrupts release
his creditors could immediately pursue him for payment again, but
they could not prevent him travelling or conducting trade. The qadi
could also grant the bankrupt respite until he could pay his debts,
in which case his creditors had to wait. Colin Imber states that upon
his release from prison, the debtor was issued a certicate of bank-
ruptcy (hccet-i is), which indicated whether or not the qadi had
granted him respite.
12
While Imbers view may be an accurate reection
of Islamic legal theory, it seems that in practice the Porte could issue
a declaration of insolvency (mis ferman) that released the bankrupt
from the obligation to pay his creditors and took away their ability
to sue him further. This practice, which is mentioned in a docu-
ment from the Dutch embassy in Istanbul of 1740, is conrmed by
DOhsson, who states that les cranciers perdent le droit de sur-
veillance (mulzemet), lorsque le dbiteur obtient son largissement
titre de faille.
13
Unlike elsewhere in Europe, in the Ottoman Empire there were
separate prisons for the detainment of defaulting debtors. In this
respect the late eighteenth-century English traveller and prison reformer,
John Howard, considered the Ottoman Empire an example for his
native country. He wrote: In those cities which I have seen in
Turkey, the debtors have a prison separate and distinct from those
of felons. Without such a separation in England, a thorough refor-
mation of the gaols can never be eected. In Scotland and the
Dutch Republic the imprisonment of debtors was also common prac-
tice, but there they were not separated from the prisons general
population, either.
14
n.xkntr+cv 211
12
Colin Imber, Four Documents From John Rylands Turkish MS No. 145,
Tarih Dergisi, XXXII (1979), 173186; reprinted in Colin Imber, Studies in Ottoman
History and Law (Istanbul: The Isis Press, 1996), 161174.
13
Bosscha-Erdbrink, At the Threshold of Felicity, 189 n. 110. DOhsson, Tableau
gnral, iii, 177179.
14
John Howard (17261790), An Account of the Principal Lazarettos in Europe with
It seems that for a long time conversion to Islam was a way by
which Westerners could clear all their debts. Conversion was, most
capitulations stipulated, only legal when the convert acted voluntar-
ily and while fully compos mentis. Furthermore, the conversion to Islam
had to take place, or be conrmed, in the presence of the consul,
or a dragoman in the service of the converts (former) community.
Article 48 of the Dutch capitulation of 1612 stated that the convert
should hand over to the consul those goods belonging to others, so
that they could be returned to their owners.
15
In subsequent ahd-
names nothing is said about debts, until the Kingdom of the Two
Sicilies obtained its own capitulation in 1740. Article 12 of the text
stipulated that the convert was obliged to pay his debts from his
possessions, and in case he held goods belonging to others, they
should be consigned to the Sicilian ambassador so that they could
be returned to their rightful owners. The same article is found in
the French capitulation of 1740, and those awarded Denmark in
1746 and Spain in 1782.
16
Only in the second half of the eighteenth
century did the ahdnames thus state explicitly that converting to Islam
would not solve a foreign merchants nancial problems.
The capitulations are noticeably silent about the role of the Islamic
courts in the bankruptcies of Western merchants. I have found only
one relevant capitulatory article, number 73 of the English capitu-
lations of 1675. It states that
(ngiltere tccarlarnn bir kimesne zerinde olan hakk da"va ve {erle mba{ir mar-
ifetiyle tahsir olundukda tahsil olunan akeden mahkemelerde verildi<i zere yzde
iki ake mba{ire ve avu{a resm ziyade bir aka ve bir habbe taleb olunmaya.
17
If there is a legal case against an English merchant and he has been
declared bankrupt with the agreement of the court usher, the usher is
entitled to two percent of the recovered money, and the avu{ to no
more than the established rate and not one kernel more.
18
212 cn.r+rn ri\r
various papers relative to the Plague; together with further observations on some foreign prisons
and hospitals; and additional remarks on the present state of those in Great Britain and Ireland
(2nd edition with additions, London, 1791), 62, 72, 76, 125.
15
De Groot, The Ottoman Empire, 244, 257; Cf. article 61 of the English capitu-
lations of 1673 in Noradounghian, Recueil, i, 165.
16
Ibid., 273 (Sicilian/1740); 295 (French/1740), 313 (Danish/1746), and 347
(Spanish/1782).
17
lker, (zmir, 313.
18
According to Noradounghians translation it was the courts avu{ that per-
formed this service, not the mba{ir: Recueil, i, 168.
This article suggests that English consuls occasionally cooperated with
Islamic courts in order to settle the aairs of bankrupt Englishmen.
The arrangement must have been common enough to have it included
in the capitulations, and to x the fee (resm) of the Ottoman court
ocials. The texts indicates that the mba{ir (court usher) was in
charge of the administration of bankruptcies. The role of the avu{
is not clear, but he may have announced bankruptcies publicly, call-
ing on all interested parties to come forward. Interestingly, the arti-
cle recurs neither in any of the subsequent English capitulations, nor
in those of other nations.
The ahdnames protected Western merchants and their protgs from
unexpected nancial demands as a result of debts incurred by oth-
ers. Only those who had stood surety for a debtor could be held
liable for payment of a debt. The capitulations were clear in this
respect. The imprisonment of debtors was a common method to
force them to pay what they owed, and foreigners in the Ottoman
Empire were not exempt from this practice, which was equally com-
mon in their home countries. For a long time conversion to Islam
seems to have oered an escape route for desperate debtors, but
eventually this loophole was closed, too. Foreigners in dire straits
could always turn to their consuls and ambassadors for help, but
when they owed money to Muslims or to non-Muslim subjects uncon-
nected to any foreign community, there was always the chance of a
lawsuit in the qadis court.
An Unhappy Aair: The Ideal Bankruptcy
On 25 January 1763 Thomas Lansdown, an English merchant in
Aleppo, wrote to one of his patrons and creditors in London that
for my own part, I am quite ruined & undone & shall not have
an Asper [ake] in the World remaining as the Eects I have in
England must be appropriated to the payment of my creditors &
even with those I much doubt if there will be more than 50 percent
for them.
19
Lansdown wrote this latter two days after he had declared
bankruptcy. His downfall was caused by the bankruptcy of his two
n.xkntr+cv 213
19
ENA, SP 110/37, f. 154v: Thomas Lansdown to Mr Jonathan Brideoake,
London, 25 January 1763.
Maronite warehousemen, the brothers Yusuf and Antun Sadir, which
will be analysed in detail later in this chapter. As we will see the
bankruptcy of the Sadir brothers turned into a nightmare for the
consulates involved, but that of Lansdown, by contrast, was proba-
bly how the European representatives in the Ottoman Empire wished
all bankruptcies would be. It is useful therefore here to examine the
procedures involved, which also shed light on the personal side of
bankruptcies that seldom nds its way into scholarly studies.
Davis classic study of English trade with Aleppo is partly based
on Lansdowns correspondence, so there is no need to discuss his
career here.
20
The most important aspect of his business is that he
worked both as a factor (agent) for merchants in England, and as
an individual merchant on his own account. Negative economic
developments and the bankruptcy of several of his patrons weakened
Lansdowns position considerably, but until the beginning of the
1760s he still thought his luck would change. At the beginning of
1763, however, his two warehousemen, Yusuf and Antun Sadir, went
bankrupt. At an earlier stage the Englishman had agreed to stand
surety for the sum of 40,000 kuru{ to enable them to continue in
trade, but this eventually worked against him.
21
Due to the close
business connections with them, the bankruptcy of the Sadir broth-
ers also ended their employers career.
Lansdowns correspondence shows that the Englishman was uncer-
tain about his ability to pay his creditors. This was the result of a
method of conducting trade that was typical of foreign merchants
in Aleppo, and probably the rest of the Levant, too.
22
The foreign-
ers needed locally recruited warehousemen and brokers, who spoke
the language(s) of the marketplace and were familiar with its mech-
214 cn.r+rn ri\r
20
Lansdowns career is described extensively in Ralph Davis, Aleppo and Devonshire
Square: English Merchants in the Levant in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1967), 9495.
Davis incorrectly dates the bankruptcy in 1765 and does not mention the Sadir
connection.
21
ENA, SP 110/37, f. 162v163r: Lansdown to Samuel Touchet, London, 14
February 1763.
22
Elena Frangakis-Syrett, Networks of Friendship, Networks of Kinship: Eighteenth-
Century Levant Merchants, Eurasian Studies I/2 (2002), 183205, esp. 18788, indi-
cates that the trading method described was common practice throughout the Levant.
The Dutch consul, Heemskerk, employed the same method in his dealings with his
own warehousemen, as we will see below.
anisms. Most European merchants personally kept the records of
their transactions with other Europeans and their business contacts
abroad, or they employed a European scribe for this part of their
commercial administration. It seems that separate accounts were held
by the Ottoman warehousemen, who were responsible for all deal-
ings with local Muslim and non-Muslim merchants. The foreign mer-
chants tended to settle their accounts with their own employees
regularly, but in the meantime the warehousemen and brokers seem
to have enjoyed a great deal of autonomy. Lansdowns business
administration consisted of two sections, the one he kept himself,
and the one held by his warehousemen. This initially complicated
matters somewhat when Lansdown was forced to declare bankruptcy,
because Yusuf and Antun Sadir went into hiding, taking their busi-
ness accounts with them. Luckily for the Englishman they were soon
arrested, so that he would at least be able to calculate the negative
balance with some accuracy.
Another common practice among foreign merchants in Aleppo
saved Lansdown the disgraces of imprisonment and lawsuits before
the consular tribunal, and possibly the Islamic court. Foreign mer-
chants created a legal barrier between themselves and their ware-
housemen by forcing them to conclude most transactions in their
own name. For example, if an English merchant wanted to buy silk,
he ordered his warehouseman to purchase the desired quantity for
a certain price. In this transaction it was not the Englishman, but
his warehouseman who was legally the buyer. If the contract was
registered in the local court it did not mention the foreign mer-
chants name, despite the fact that the transaction occurred at his
orders. Once the warehouseman had bought the silk, he instantly
sold it to his employer. This constituted a separate transaction, which
was generally not recorded in the local court.
23
Lansdowns business methods ensured that he had no Ottoman
creditors, other than his own warehousemen. All his creditors were
English or French colleagues, the First Dragoman of the English
consulate the only exception. Moreover, there were no suspicions of
fraud or embezzlement on the part of the Englishman, who was fully
n.xkntr+cv 215
23
Davis, Aleppo and Devonshire Square, 243, 245. On the role of non-Muslim inter-
mediaries in sales and barter transactions of Europeans in Izmir, see Frangakis-Sy-
rett, The Commerce of Smyrna, 8790.
prepared to cooperate with his creditors to pay them as much as
possible. In fact he was considered as much a victim of his ware-
housemens bankruptcy as their other creditors. The combination of
these factors made Lansdowns bankruptcy a model procedure in the
eyes of the Europeans. There was no risk of any interference by the
Ottoman authorities, the bankrupt was not to blame for his predica-
ment, and he was willing to cooperate. Lansdown was spared the
disgrace of imprisonment in the consular gaol, and did not have to
witness all his possessions being seized by the consulates ocers and
sold by public auction. Instead, he was allowed personally to make
all the necessary arrangements. There was only one restriction. Until
he had reached an agreement with his creditors, all his merchan-
dize and everything sent to him on arriving ships was detained on
the orders of the consul. This meant that Lansdown was unable to
continue in trade without the consent of all his creditors, whom he
was allowed personally to inform about his bankruptcy. Nevertheless,
what Lansdown repeatedly characterized as an unhappy aair did
not have a happy ending for him.
24
Almost eleven months after he
had declared bankruptcy a dispute arose among Lansdowns credi-
tors in London over the ownership of unsold merchandize found in
his warehouse in Aleppo. Estimating that the resolution of this dis-
pute would probably take several months, Lansdown handed over
all his possessions and accounts to the chancellor of the British con-
sulate, and returned to England.
25
The bankruptcy of Thomas Lansdown was a personal tragedy,
and the losses suered by his creditors were signicant. Nevertheless,
from the point of view of the English consulate, the aair could not
have been more pleasant. There were no high-prole lawsuits that
might be detrimental to the reputation of English trade in general
and no confrontations with the Ottoman authorities over who had
jurisdiction. The case was arranged by the bankrupt himself, who
personally informed, and negotiated with his creditors. When a dis-
pute eventually erupted among the creditors, this happened in London.
The consul in Aleppo could simply await its outcome. This is how
216 cn.r+rn ri\r
24
ENA, SP 110/37, f. 183: Lansdown to Benjamin Barker, Galata, 14 June
1763.
25
Ibid., f. 193r194r: Lansdown to Isaac & John Hughes, London, 10 December
1763.
foreign consuls preferred such incidents, but more often than not it
was necessary to follow procedures more stringently.
Standard Procedures
The consular administrative procedures concerning bankruptcies
resembled those concerning estates of members of foreign commu-
nities in the Levant. In both cases ocers of the consulate sequestered
the nancial administration of the person(s) involved. With estates
this was in the interest of the heirs (who did not always appreciate
such measures, as the Dallal case has shown), while with bankrupt-
cies the procedure aimed to guarantee the interests of the creditors.
Just like with estates, the ambassador or consul usually appointed
two or three trustworthy members of the nation who were not
involved in the case to investigate the books of account and calcu-
late the exact extent of the debts accumulated by, and the assets
due to, the bankrupt. Naturally they could call on the dragomans
to assist them with nancial papers in Arabic, Ottoman Turkish,
Armenian, or Hebrew. We have already seen that (parts of ) estates
were often sold by public auction, either to generate cash to repay
debts, or to facilitate the division of the estate among the heirs. With
bankruptcies, too, the possessions of the bankrupt were commonly
sold publicly. The funds raised in this manner were used to pay the
creditors. Both with estates and bankruptcies the chancery fees of
the embassy or consulate involved were subtracted from the balance
rst. The kinds of documents found in the registers of consular
chanceries concerning bankruptcies were also similar to those con-
cerning estates: inventories of possessions, temessks, claims by creditors,
lists of chancery fees, witness statements, deeds of sequestration, etc.
Most European embassies and consulates in the Ottoman Empire
had a fortied room on the premises that could be used as a prison.
Bankrupts were often incarcerated there, when they were suspected
of wanting to escape their creditors by eeing. It was probably the
dragomans and the Janissary guards who made the arrests ordered
by the consul.
The registration in the consular chancery of claims by creditors
started as soon as bankruptcy was declared publicly. Although they
varied in length and detail, claims always mentioned the name of
the creditor, the sum or goods he or she was owed, and the existence
n.xkntr+cv 217
of either written or oral evidence of the claim. Every claim was
recorded in the chancery along with a translation or a brief sum-
mary. When a bankruptcy was not controversial and the creditors
did not challenge consular authority, every creditor was oered a
dividend upon registration. This was a down payment, which might
later be supplemented after the nal balance of the estate had been
calculated. To accept the dividend was eectively to acknowledge a
substantial loss on the original debt. As long as there were no suspici-
ons of foul play, most creditors accepted the dividend oered, know-
ing that the chances of fully recouping money owed by a bankrupt
were small. When creditors were unable to collect their dividend, or
to have it collected for them by a formally appointed agent, the
money was kept in the chancery on deposit. The share of those who
rejected the dividend was sometimes also kept on deposit until it was
accepted, but the consul could rule that whoever rejected the settle-
ment was not be entitled to anything at all. When the consular
procedures could continue unchallenged by creditors, and without
the involvement of the Ottoman authorities, the concluding step in
the process was the calculation of the nal balance of the estate.
Sometimes a nal dividend was paid to the creditors, after which
the case was closed. Thomas Lansdowns hopes of being able to pay
his creditors half of what he owed them were optimistic. In general
it seems that creditors of bankrupts had to accept repayment of only
a quarter of the sum they were owed, or even less. The creditors
of Yusuf and Antun Sadir, for example, were eventually paid a total
dividend of 10% in three instalments.
26
Possible Complications: Fugitive Bankrupts
Originally the consul not only had the function of chief representa-
tive of a community of foreign merchants, his presence was also
meant as a guarantee. Prior to the Ottoman era the consul was thus
considered to stand surety for the actions of all merchants under his
authority. This meant that the consul could be held personally liable
for the payment of debts left by traders of his community who had
ed their creditors. The Ottoman capitulations of the sixteenth cen-
218 cn.r+rn ri\r
26
ENA, SP 110/62 (ii), 234.
tury onwards only reect this in articles that emphasized that the
rule no longer applied. No one should be held liable for the pay-
ment of anothers debts, unless he had stood surety out of his own
free will, the ahdnames stipulated. While the consuls and ambassadors
were thus no longer nancially liable for fugitive countrymen who
were trying to escape their creditors, few things were more embar-
rassing for them. The European sources show that the ambassadors
and consuls clearly felt more vulnerable to Ottoman interventions
(interference) under such circumstances. Moreover, their concern
about the reputation of the nation suggests that the marketplace con-
tinued to hold the diplomats partly responsible for the conduct of
the merchants under their authority.
Few fugitive bankrupts seem to have successfully escaped their
creditors. Pietro Leystar, a bankrupt Dutch merchant in Ankara, for
example, attempted to ee in 1739. His horses were saddled and
packed, and his valet was awaiting their departure, when Leytstars
Armenian broker appeared and prevented the escape. The broker
had been informed about the bankrupts intentions by vigilant cred-
itors. The Dutchman was arrested, as was his Dutch associate.
27
In
October 1755 the Dutch consul in Aleppo, Haanwinckel, was ini-
tially luckier. He was almost caught in the act by his dragoman, but
the consul convinced him that he was riding out to meet his suc-
cessor halfway on the journey from the coast. Haanwinckel succeeded
in eeing to Mount Lebanon in the company of a consular Janissary,
his falconer and his servant, taking with him his most important
account books to copy them for his own information and justication.
The Dutchman evaded arrest for several months, but was eventu-
ally caught on board a ship that had sailed from Palestine for Malta,
but had made a detour to (skenderun rst. From the port Haanwinckel
assisted the Dutch consulate in Aleppo with the necessary arrange-
ments, and died soon afterwards.
28
European consuls had the authority to arrest and imprison mem-
bers of their own communities, but occasionally they requested the
assistance of the Ottoman authorities too. Only the disputed French
capitulations of 1536 contained an article that explicitly gave the
ambassador and consuls the right to apply to the suba{ for help in
n.xkntr+cv 219
27
Schmidt, Dutch Merchants in 18th-Century Ankara, 314.
28
Bronnen III, 34041, 342.
these matters. The fact that it did not reappear in any subsequent
capitulation did not prevent the Europeans turning to the Porte for
an arrest warrant if necessary. This was the case in the Leytstar
bankruptcy in 1740, for example, when the Dutch ambassador applied
for a ferman ordering the arrest of Leytstar, his associate, and their
three Armenian brokers. The order was delivered in Ankara by a
avu{ of the Porte, who also escorted the prisoners back to Istanbul.
Interestingly, they were not handed over to the Dutch ambassador,
but were incarcerated in an Ottoman prison.
29
In 1754 the Dutch
embassy again applied to the Porte for an arrest warrant. This time
the fugitive was Jan Hendrik Meijer, the bankrupt former treasurer
of the Dutch nation in Istanbul, who is mentioned in the Introduction.
The warrant ordered the Ottoman authorities along the Dardanelles
(Meijers most likely escape route) to arrest the fugitive and hand
him over to the Dutch ambassador, in order to be, as the contem-
porary translation reads, expdi la Sublime Porte, n quil
rpond ses cranciers et satist ses correspondents. Meijer would
thus eventually have been brought before the divan- hmayun if he
had been found, but he got away.
30
Possible Complications: Ownership of Consignments
One of the most common complications of bankruptcies in the
Ottoman Empire concerned the ownership of goods consigned to a
bankrupt merchant by his principals. Unless it could be determined
exactly who owned which unsold merchandize in the bankrupts
warehouse, it was considered part of the bankrupt estate, which was
divided among all creditors. This often led to conicts of interest
between local creditors and those overseas.
220 cn.r+rn ri\r
29
Bosscha-Erdbrink, At the Threshold of Felicity, 188; Schmidt, Dutch Merchants
in 18th-Century Ankara, 314.
30
DNA, LAT 1160, Commandement address tous les Juges qui se trouvent
vers les Dardanelles, et lentour des mmes dans toutes les Isles et Jurisdictions,
comme aussi tous les ociers de Police; et autres qui se trouvent lentour de
ces endroits par mer et par terre. [Translation of the arrest warrant for Meijer,
issued the end of Rebiylahir 1167/c. 15 February 1754]. Meijer ed to Rome,
where he was eventually arrested for tax evasion and identied as the fugitive from
Istanbul. He was convicted on appeal, but this verdict was later overturned. By this
time Meijer had died in prison and his estate was conscated by the Papal author-
ities. DNA, LAT 453.
Most European merchants in the Levant conducted trade both on
their own accounts, and, as agents, on those of principals abroad.
These principals sent merchandize to their agent to be sold in the
Levant. Bills of lading specied the nature and quantity of the goods,
which bore ownership marks identifying the principals. When the
ship carrying the cargo arrived at its destination, the agent collected
his consignments from customs, paying the necessary duties on them.
The transfer of the merchandize from the principal to the agent did
not entail a transfer of ownership. The agent merely sold it on his
principals behalf in the same way a broker or auctioneer can sell
goods without personally owning them. Legally, therefore, the con-
signments remained the property of the principal, also after the agent
had taken possession of them. This is where the problem started,
nevertheless.
Upon receiving the merchandize the agent had to ascertain that
it was undamaged. This meant removing the packaging, which also
bore the marks of ownership. This procedure probably happened
immediately after the goods had been unloaded from the ship and
before they were declared to customs. Therefore, by the time the
merchandize reached the customs agents it was already dicult to
determine precisely which bales and packets had been sent by which
principal. Bills of lading could easily solve this problem at this stage,
but for the payment of customs duties it was not important. Once
the goods had arrived in the agents warehouse, however, they were
stored together with all his other stock. Considering the fact that
prospective buyers had to be able to inspect the goods, most of the
original packaging was probably removed. After this nal stage of
the transfer of the merchandize it was very dicult to determine
which individual bales of cloth belonged to which principalwhich
was precisely what was needed when the agent had gone bankrupt.
In cases of bankruptcy Western ambassadors and consuls tended
to appoint commissioners who had to draw up an inventory of all
assets. Unsold merchandize commonly formed one of the most impor-
tant assets of a bankrupt estate. Goods that were immediately rec-
ognizable as the property of principals overseas were kept aside, but
when there was doubt about the ownership of certain goods, they
were counted as assets. Naturally the owners abroad often protested
against this, but their claims inevitably only arrived several months
after the declaration of bankruptcy. By this time most local credi-
tors had already collected the rst down payment, which was xed
n.xkntr+cv 221
on the basis of the balance of the bankrupt estate calculated by the
commissioners. Claims from overseas could therefore have a nega-
tive eect on the nal percentage of reimbursement of all other cred-
itors, who had relinquished their rights to pursue the bankrupt further
when they accepted the rst down payment. The prospect of loos-
ing the remainder of the reimbursement often led to protests by local
creditors.
Sequestration was a common instrument with which creditors could
attempt to secure maximum repayment. There were two stages in
this procedure. First the creditor had to state his claim on part of
the property of the insolvent or bankrupt to the ambassador or con-
sul concerned, who had the authority to act on it. Consuls and
ambassadors could also sequester goods pre-emptively, if they expected
members of their community to benet from this measure. They did
this by issuing a writ of sequestration, ordering the actual seques-
trators to separate the goods in question from the rest of the estate.
If bankruptcy had already been declared, this meant that the goods
were already under a general sequestration, and a specic seques-
tration was added. In case of insolvent estates, the sequestrators prob-
ably removed the goods and stored them in the embassy or consular
house pending further procedures. The sequestrators generally included
the chancellor of the embassy or consulate, a dragoman, and a
Janissary guard. Protocol dictated that sequestrations of goods belong-
ing to members of other foreign communities were led with their
ambassador or consul. If multiple sequestrations were issued on the
same goods, the determination of ownership could seriously delay
the rest of the bankruptcy procedures. In that case the ambassador
or consul could order that the goods in question should be sold, and
the revenue of the auction kept in the chancery.
31
In the case of Thomas Lansdown all the quarrelling creditors were
English, so the disputes among them were eventually resolved in
London. Lansdowns most important principals, the company of Isaac
& John Hughes, claimed to own a quantity of unpacked woollen
cloth found in the bankrupts warehouse, and they had obtained a
statement from the Attorney General in support of their claim. The
other English creditors in London disagreed, arguing that the tex-
222 cn.r+rn ri\r
31
See, for example, the bankruptcy of the Greek rm of Gio. Avierino & Co.
in Izmir in 1786. Bronnen IV/I, 39192.
tiles should be sold for the benet of all creditors. The dispute arose
about ten months after Lansdown had declared bankruptcy. It took
another seven years to settle it. At the end of 1770 an arbitration
committee of ve members of the Levant Company eventually assigned
ownership of the disputed bales of cloth, which had been kept in
Aleppo all these years, to the Hughes brothers. There were two con-
ditions. Firstly, they had to withdraw the bill they had led in the
kings High Court of Chancery. Secondly, the Hughes brothers had
to pay all their own expenses of the legal procedures. The other
creditors also had to pay their own expenses.
32
Even when contro-
versies arose among creditors of the same nationality protracted
procedures could thus ensue.
Bankruptcies were especially dicult to manage for the ambas-
sador or consul responsible when creditors belonging to more than
one foreign community in the Levant were involved, or creditors
residing abroad. Because merchants involved tended to voice their
claims through their own representatives, the bankruptcy of an indi-
vidual merchant could easily turn into a diplomatic conict between
various consuls or ambassadors. This is what happened, for exam-
ple, in Istanbul in 1740 with the bankruptcy of the Venetian rm
of Gad Conegliano, Treves & Co., which conducted a great deal of
trade with the Dutch Republic. When the rm went bankrupt, some
of the unsold merchandize found among its stock belonged to Dutch
principals. Despite the fact that these goods were allegedly recog-
nizable as the property of Dutchmen, the Venetian ambassador
declared them part of the assets of the bankrupts. Moreover, the
Venetian ambassador had reportedly assigned ownership of the goods
the rm had recently dispatched to the Dutch Republic to Ottoman
creditors. Furthermore, the ambassador had told these creditors that
the Dutch in Istanbul were responsible for retrieving these goods.
Both measures favoured the local creditors at the cost of the Dutch.
The Dutch ambassador, whose accounts are the only sources I have
been able to consult, was outraged by his Venetian colleagues con-
duct.
33
Not only did the decisions harm Dutch interests, the Venetian
n.xkntr+cv 223
32
ENA, SP 110/37, f. 193 r194 r: Lansdown to Isaac & John Hughes, London,
10 December 1763; Ibid., SP 110/72 (iii), fos 504505, [Sentence of arbitration
dated 15 December 1770].
33
Calkoen to Fagel, 26 November 1740 and 9 December 1740, in Bronnen III,
14042, 14243, respectively.
diplomat had taken them without consulting with his Dutch coun-
terpart. The correspondence of the Dutch ambassador is full of Latin
legal terminology in support of his argument that the entire bank-
ruptcy was fraudulent and all subsequent procedures should conse-
quently be considered invalid. The Dutch ambassador probably aimed
to impress his superiors with his knowledge of the law, but his argu-
ments were irrelevant in the Ottoman context. Instead of referring
to concepts of Roman and canonical law, the Dutch diplomat should
have reasoned on the basis of Islamic law. The Venetian ambas-
sadors proclamations may have led some creditors of the bankrupt
rm to attempt to pressure Dutch merchants in Istanbul to reim-
burse their losses. It was unlikely, however, that the Islamic courts
would have supported them solely on the basis of the Venetian diplo-
mats statements. The Dutchman may not have been familiar enough
with Ottoman legal procedures to know this, or, if he was, he may
not have trusted the Ottoman courts. In any case this incident illus-
trates one of the diculties that could ensue over the ownership of
consignments to bankrupts, while it again brings to light the diculties
many Western diplomats had with the Ottoman legal system at the
same time.
Bankrupt Merchant Strangers and Ottoman Protgs
Bankruptcy procedures for merchant strangers and protgs were the
same as those for other members of the same community. The
ambassador or consul had full authority in these matters. This is
illustrated by the verdict of the English consul in Aleppo, Alexander
Drummond, concerning the bankruptcy of Mikhail Shidyaq, a Maronite
beratl, which provides valuable information about the personal cir-
cumstances of the event at the same time.
Whereas Michael Shudiac was on or about the 15th day of September
1755 declared Bankrupt, he was incarcerated the 16th day of the said
month where he remained till the 30th day of January 1756 that his
creditors might have sucient time to enquire into his aairs, and to
bring proofs of their several allegations, but no sucient evidence of
any crime cognoscible by us being adduced, on the said 30th day of
January public notice was given to the several consuls, for the behoof
of their national subjects or protected, likewise to the natural subjects
of the Grand Sig:
r
that the friends and relations of the said Michael
Shudiac [Shidyaq], out of compassion to his wife and tender infants,
224 cn.r+rn ri\r
were willing to contribute, such a certain sum as shoud amount to
25 p.Cent of his debts, providing the said creditors woud grant a full
acquittance to the said Michael Shudiac, so as he might be unmo-
lested, at liberty to labour in an honest way for the bread of himself
and family. Till the 20th of last month was given for further inquisi-
tion, and determination, several persons not having accepted of the
above generously compassionate oers, they cannot be entitled to them.
These are therefore decreeing and ordaining the said Michael Shudiac
to be liberated, or released from Prison on the 9th day of this month
having made oath before the Reverend Father Giovanni son of Curi
Nameh [Yusuf w. khuri Nimatallah] that all he has declared to his sev-
eral creditors is true, and that he has not directly nor indirectly secreted
any part of his eects. But shoud any person be unsatisfyed with the
legal requisites which have been performd & require his connement
being continued, he shall be obliged /he shall be obliged/ to grant
the said Michael Shudiac such a daily allowance, to be paid p. advance,
as shall be sucient for the nourishment of himself and family, in a
proportional way to his former condition, according to Law. Given at
Aleppo 6 day of April 1756.
Alexander Drummond, Consul
34
This verdict sheds valuable light on the consular procedures of impris-
onment of bankrupts. Shidyaq was imprisoned to allow his creditors
to investigate his bankruptcy and establish whether or not it was
fraudulent. When nothing untoward appeared to have happened, the
English consul announced his intention to release him. Shidyaq had
already spent three and a half months in the consular gaol. The
creditors were subsequently given another six weeks for further
enquiries. No complaints were led against the bankrupt, who still
had to swear an oath before a local priest declaring that his had
not defrauded his creditors. Only then was Shidyaq released, three
days after the consuls verdict. The Maronite beratl was saved by his
friends and relatives, who paid a quarter of his debts in return for
a full quittance from his creditors.
In the rst part of this chapter I have discussed several aspects of
bankruptcies that had not been suciently studied hitherto. The most
common complication concerned the ownership of consignments to
merchants who had gone bankrupt by the time the goods arrived
in the Ottoman Empire. This often resulted in disputes between con-
suls and ambassadors of dierent European nations, in which the
n.xkntr+cv 225
34
ENA, SP 110/72 (iii), f. 548.
Ottoman authorities sometimes became involved, too. The problem
of eeing bankrupts was also signicant. Communal liability was nor-
mal in Ottoman society, and the fact that Western nations were
exempt from this on the basis of the capitulations must occasionally
have frustrated Ottoman creditors and the Ottoman authorities.
Nevertheless, many bankruptcies of foreign rms and factors in the
Levant appear to have been settled without noteworthy problems.
The case of Thomas Lansdown is an example of smooth procedures,
but the bankruptcy of his warehousemen and their brothers show
just how dierent a turn these events could take.
A Case Study: The Bankruptcies of Four Ottoman Warehousemen (1763)
On 22 January 1763 Jarmanos Sadir, a Maronite warehouseman
employed by the Dutch consul in Aleppo for his private business,
declared bankruptcy. This set in motion three other accounts of
bankruptcy, those of his brothers, Yusuf and Antun Sadir and his
own business partner, Antun Diyab. The settlement of these cases
oers valuable information about the interaction between Ottoman
and consular jurisdictions, and about the eective status of the capit-
ulations in matters of considerable complexity. Important questions
concerned the management of the bankrupt estate (who had juris-
diction?), the legal limitations imposed on the bankrupt, and the posi-
tion of the consul. The remainder of this chapter will focus on the
parties involved in these bankruptcies, the legal issues, the various
strategies the parties could adopt, and the outcome of the numer-
ous legal procedures.
Legal Issues
A brief summary of the basic procedures and principles of jurisdic-
tion is useful at this point. When Europeans or their protgs went
bankrupt, in principle the consul concerned had jurisdiction. It thus
was the consul who appointed someone curator of the bankrupt
estate, in many cases the chancellor of the consulate. This curator
(sometimes more than one was appointed) was responsible for the
maintenance and administration of the bankrupt estate, and even-
tually for the organisation of its settlement. In the Ottoman legal
system the settlement of bankrupt estates was performed by the qadi,
226 cn.r+rn ri\r
or someone appointed by him, but the capitulations granted for-
eigners the privilege of making arrangement according to their own
laws and customsprovided, as always, that only foreigners and their
protgs were involved. When Muslim or other Ottoman creditors
were involved who rejected the consuls jurisdiction, the qadi could
take over jurisdiction at their request. If this resulted in disputes
between the consul and the qadi, the governor-general determined
who had jurisdiction.
In cases of bankruptcy the repayment of as large a share of the
bankrupts debts as possible was the principal aim of both the con-
sular and Ottoman authorities. For this reason they tried to secure
payment of any debts owed to the bankrupt, and to verify claims
by creditors. In both cases proof was needed in the form of written
documentspreferably drawn up in a qadi courttestimony of reli-
able witnesses, or a combination of both.
For the consular authorities the enforcement of their authority was
often dicult when debtors or creditors from other foreign nations
were involved. Success then depended on the cooperation of their
fellow consuls. The leaders of foreign communities could force neither
Ottoman debtors to pay, neither creditors to accept a settlement,
without help from the Ottoman authorities. Moreover, Ottoman cred-
itors could not be prevented from appealing to the local authorities,
which the Europeans tended to want to keep out of such matters.
Sadir and Diyab were under Dutch protection, so in theory their
bankruptcy fell under the jurisdiction of the Dutch consul, Heemskerk.
The Dutchman was also their employer, however, and one of their
principal creditors. In the eyes of most of the other creditors this
created a conict of interests, but Heemskerk disagreed. His juris-
diction was further threatened when rumours of fraud started to cir-
culate in connection with this bankruptcy, and open accusations were
levelled against the Dutch consul. Because the consul had a central
role in the settlement of bankruptcies among Europeans and their
protgs, it is useful rst to examine here the legal position of for-
eign consuls in the Ottoman Empire.
The Legal Position of the Consul
In the eighteenth century the concept of diplomatic immunity had
yet to develop fully and was neither accepted nor implemented uni-
versally. Nevertheless, European consuls in the Ottoman Empire did
n.xkntr+cv 227
enjoy more privileges than their countrymen there. These privileges
were codied in the capitulations and the consular berats.
As early as 1604 the French capitulations stipulated
Que les consuls franais qui sont tablis par les lieux de notre empire
pour prendre soin et sret diceux traquants, ne puissant pour quelque
cause que ce soit tre constitus prisonniers, ni leurs maisons scelles
et bulles; mais, commandes que ceux qui auront prtention contre
eux seraient renvoys notre Porte, o il leur sera fair justice.
35
As we have seen, the capitulations granted to Genoa in 1665 (art.
13) almost literally echoed the French article of 1604, and further-
more elaborated on it by adding that in lawsuits against consuls
before the Porte the ambassador concerned should represent his con-
sul. The Italian text reveals that this privilege was granted to pre-
vent ambassadors and consuls being held liable for debts incurred
by their countrymen.
36
Articles of this nature occur in many capit-
ulations issued throughout the eighteenth century.
37
As we have seen, the capitulations awarded to France in 1740
also stipulated that ocers of the Ottoman judiciary should notify
the ambassador or consul beforehand when they intended forcibly
to enter the residence of one of their subjects. The Spanish capitu-
lations of 1782 appear to take this privilege one step further. The
text ordered that the Ottoman judiciary should not imprison any
subject of Spain. If this occurred, nevertheless, the prisoner should
be handed over to the consul of ambassador upon his request with-
out delay. From the context of the article it is clear this only applied
to cases which exclusively involved Spaniards or their protgs, and
does not give this entire groupand by extension, all foreigners
under the capitulatory systemimmunity of arrest by the Ottoman
authorities. The articles implications thus were not as wide as it
might seem at rst glance.
38
The French capitulations of 1740 (art. 48) also stipulated that no
consul could be forced to appear personally before the qadi. In cases
228 cn.r+rn ri\r
35
Noradounghian, Recueil, 98 (art. 25).
36
Ibid., 129.
37
E.g. the Dutch capitulations of 1612 (art. 6); the French of 1673 (art. 17); the
English of 1675 (art. 25); the Dutch of 1680 (art. 6); the French of 1740 (art. 16);
and the Russian of 1783 (art. 57). De Groot, The Ottoman Empire and the Dutch
Republic, 251; Noradounghian, Recueil, 139, 152, 173, 283, 368, respectively.
38
Ibid., 283, 347.
brought before the qadi against the consul, his dragoman was allowed
to appear on his behalf.
39
Interestingly, this article allows the possi-
bility that consuls be summoned to the qadi court, and that cases
against them be heard there. This contradicted, and undermined,
the article quoted from the French capitulations of 1604, which
ordered that all cases against consuls should be moved to the Porte.
The possibility to turn to the Ottoman authorities in disputes involv-
ing consuls is further strengthened by another article in the French
capitulations of 1740 (art. 52), which formalized the custom among
Europeans to put disputes between (the representatives of ) dierent
Western nations before their ambassadors. It added that
tant que le demandeur et le dfendeur ne consentiront pas porter
ces sortes de process par-devant les pacha, cadi, ociers ou douaniers,
ceux-ci ne pourront pas les y forcer ni pretender en prendre con-
naissance.
40
Does this mean that only when both parties refused to accept the
involvement of the Ottoman authorities, the governor-general and
all other Ottoman ocers were not allowed to interfere? The text
certainly allows this interpretation, and in practice the invitation by
one of the parties was often justication enough for the Ottoman
authorities to get involved.
While the capitulatory articles concerning the inviolability of Western
consuls increasingly left room for conicting interpretations as the
eighteenth century progressed, consular berats were unambiguous
throughout the period. They reiterated explicitly that no consul should
be arrested by the Ottoman police, and that the Ottoman authori-
ties were not allowed forcibly to enter a consuls residence.
41
n.xkntr+cv 229
39
Ibid., 289.
40
Ibid., 290.
41
DNA, Family archives De Hochepied, 86: Contemporary traduction du Brat
du Consul de Smyrne et ses dpendences pour le Citoyen Lanmond, Consul de la
Rpub.e F.se, dated 25 Rebiylahir 1210/8 November 1795. These articles already
appeared in earlier consular berats: see Bacqu-Grammont, Un bert de Mahmd
Ier, 259278, articles 3 and 5, respectively. At the end of the seventeenth century
one of these articles already appeared in a berat issued to the English consul in
Izmir, William Raye: . . . ve konsolos elilerinin vekilleri olmagla asla habs olun-
mayub ve evleri mhrlenmeyb ve kendleri aranmayub . . ., the contemporary
translation of which reads: And the Consuls being Vekils of the Ambassadours
shall upon no account be put in Prison, neither shall their Houses be sealed up,
neither shall their Persons be Sought after, ENA, SP 105/334, fol. 1vdated
Neither the capitulations nor the consular berats contained any
rules or guidelines that were aimed to prevent conicts of interest
between the consuls capacity as judge and his private interests. For
the consuls of most Western countries this was not necessary, because
the trade authorities forbade them to conduct trade on their own
account, to engage in money-lending or to participate in other risky
activities. In theory this should prevent them having to adjudge dis-
putes in which they had a nancial interest. The French and English
trade authorities issued several regulations of this kind, but the evi-
dence suggests that many Western representatives in the Ottoman
Empire ignored or circumvented these rules. The Dutch system was
dierent, because Dutch consuls (but not the ambassadors!) were
allowed to engage in commercial activities. It is surprising that the
situation did not lead to conicts of interest more often, but the fact
that it did not explains why there were neither precedents nor guide-
lines when the problem arose during the consulate of Jan Heemskerk
junior at Aleppo.
Interested Parties
This chapter focuses on the connected bankruptcies of four ware-
housemen in European service in Aleppo in 1763. They were the
three brothers Yusuf, Antun, and Jarmanos Sadir, and Antun Diyab,
all members of the Maronite taife. All four were active in trade both
on their own, individual accounts, and in association with one another.
Legally they constituted four separate accounts of bankruptcy, but
here they will be discussed as two couples. Due to the closeness of
their business connections and the fact they were both under British
protection, the cases of Yusuf and Antun Sadir will be dealt with
together. The same is true of Sadir and Diyab. Although Jarmanos
Sadir, a Dutch beratl, had strong connections with his two brothers,
his principal business associate was Diyab, who was also under Dutch
protection.
Little is known about the warehousemen themselves, apart from
the dates of their appointment as honorary dragomans. A berat for
230 cn.r+rn ri\r
beginning Rebiylevvel 1089/beginning April 1678. For Merlijn Olnons edition of
this document, from which I have quoted, see http://members.chello.nl/m.olnon/
archive/berat_raye.htm.
Antun w. Hanna Sadir was issued on 13 January 1755 in the Ottoman
chancery and registered in the British embassy records on 5 March.
42
Yusuf Sadirs berat was issued on 7 March 1756, and registered in
the British chancery on 31 March.
43
Their brother Jarmanos came
under Dutch protection on 3 March 1761, but he entered the ser-
vice of Heemskerk at least a year earlier. Antun w. Jirjis Diyab fol-
lowed ve weeks later, on 10 April 1761.
44
Yusuf and Antun Sadir were employed as warehousemen by the
English factor and merchant Thomas Lansdown, whom we have
already encountered. Jarmanos Sadir and Antun Diyab were the
warehousemen of the Dutch house of Heemskerk, Van Maseijk &
Company, whose rst partner was the Dutch consul, Jan Heemskerk
junior. At the age of twenty-two, this son of a merchant from
Rotterdam arrived in Aleppo on 1 March 1757 as the new associ-
ate of Jan van Kerchem, who was Dutch consul at the time. After
Van Kerchems death, the States General appointed Heemskerk
Dutch consul in 1761.
45
Not much is known about Heemskerks mer-
cantile career, since his capacity as a merchant is eclipsed in the
available sources by his role as consul. At an uncertain date he
formed a new partnership with his countryman Nicolaas van Maseijk,
who had arrived in Aleppo in the spring of 1755.
46
During this
period the Dutch nation in Aleppo, which had languished some two
decades before, was still small with its four or ve merchants, but
it was no longer threatened with abandonment by the Dutch autho-
rities. In contrast to the preceding decade, Anglo-Dutch relations in
Aleppo were good in the 1760s.
47
The complicated scandal that
n.xkntr+cv 231
42
BOA, ED 35/1, 95/274: 29 Rebiylevvel 1168/13 January 1755; ENA, SP
105/183, [no page number], 5 March 1755: Granted honorary Druggerman to
Sig:r Antonio Sader at Aleppo.
43
BOA, ED 35/1, 104/320: 5 Cemaziyelahir 1169/7 March 1756; ENA, SP
105/183, 31 March 1756: Granted [. . .] to Useph Figlio di Hannah Sader at
Aleppo.
44
Two Ottoman documents mention the period of three years in which Jarmanos
Sadir worked for Heemskerk. BOA, A.DVN.DVE 138, doc. 18, undated petition
by Mustafa Pa{a, the beylerbeyi of Aleppo; Ibid., doc. 20, end }evval 1176/513
March 1763. For his berat, see BOA, ED 22/1, 370/1611, 26 Receb 1174. For
that of Diyab, see Ibid., 408/1768, 5 Ramazan 1174.
45
Schutte, Repertorium, 353.
46
Schutte seems to have been unaware of Nicolaas van Maseijks rst term in
Aleppo, since his biography of him only starts after his return from the Dutch
Republic, in 1763. Ibid., 354.
47
On Anglo-Dutch relations in the 1750s, see Van den Boogert, European
Patronage in the Ottoman Empire, 196202.
ensued after Heemskerks warehousemen did not result in the con-
suls own bankruptcy, but it did end his Levantine career.
Within a year and a half of their appointment, Jarmanos Sadir
and Antun Diyab had accumulated considerable debts. At the begin-
ning of August 1762, they made a list of their creditors, whom they
owed a total of 215,602 kuru{.
48
The immediate cause of this calculati-
on is not clear. Since only debts are listed, and nothing is said about
assets, it is impossible to calculate the balance of the partnership,
which also included Jibrail Sadir. Within six months of composing
the list of creditors, Jarmanos Sadir came to the conclusion that he
could not meet his nancial obligations any longer. On 22 January
1763 he declared himself bankrupt. The bankruptcy of his brother
Jibrail probably followed immediately, or very soon after, but none
of our sources provide any details. Yusuf and Antun Sadir had stood
surety for their brothers for some 85,000 kuru{, a guarantee they
could not make good when Jarmanos business collapsed. Yusuf and
Antun Sadir therefore also declared bankruptcy, dragging their
employer, Lansdown, down with them.
Very little is known about the creditors of Yusuf and Antun Sadir,
except for el-hacc Abdalqadir Amiri, a prominent member of a notable
Muslim family of Aleppo.
49
The sources do not specify how much
the Sadir brothers owed him, but Amiri seems to have claimed
ownership of their houses, which were eventually sold for some 2,500
kuru{.
For the partnership of Jarmanos Sadir and Antun Diyab a list of
creditors dated August 1762 has survived, which lists 35 names (see
Table 9). The smallest debt mentioned amounted to 39 kuru{, while
only six other creditors were owed less than 1,000 kuru{. Here only
some of the largest creditors will be mentioned by name, because
of their role in the settlement of the bankrupt estates. Hac Musa b.
Hasan Amiri was owed 35,000 kuru{, making him the largest of the
sixteen Muslim creditors. The largest non-Muslim creditor was Jirjis
Aida, the First Dragoman of the English consulate, whom Sadir and
Diyab owed 48,000 kuru{, part of which on account of debts of Yusuf
and Antun Sadir. Thomas Lansdown was a creditor of Sadir and
232 cn.r+rn ri\r
48
DNA, LAT 624, Nota delli debiti di Germanos & Jibrail Sader & Anton Diab
[8 agosta 1762]. See the Appendix, doc. 9.
49
On the Amiri family, see Meriwether, The Notable Families, 133134.
Diyab for some 17,600 kuru{, a sum owed by Yusuf and Antun Sadir
for which Jarmanos had stood surety. The largest European credi-
tor after Lansdown was a Frenchman, Jean-Franois Pons, who was
owed almost 11,500 kuru{.
50
It is also interesting that both the English
consul, William Kinloch, and his Dutch colleague, Heemskerk, are
found on the list. Six months before the bankruptcy of Jarmanos
Sadir the Englishman was owed over 3,000 kuru{, while the debt to
the Dutchman amounted to some 7,500 kuru{.
After Jarmanos Sadir had gone bankrupt, his principal associate,
Antun Diyab, attempted to remain in business. With the help of the
Dutch consul and chancellor, Diyab drew up a document which
stated that his partnership with Jarmanos Sadir had been dissolved
six months earlier. Sadir was apparently forced by his consul and
employer to sign the statement, on the basis of which the Dutch
claimed that Diyab was unaected by the bankruptcy. Not surpris-
ingly, none of the creditors accepted the obviously fraudulent deed.
Heemskerk and Diyab even seem to have attempted to bribe the
principal creditors, but this ploy also failed. When the pressure rose
on Diyab to pay his debts, he, too, declared bankruptcy.
51
Soon after the bankruptcies became public Jarmanos Sadir was
arrested on the authority of the Dutch consul and imprisoned in the
consular jail to prevent him escaping his creditors. His two broth-
ers, Yusuf and Antun, instantly both absconded & have taken away
all their Books & Outstanding Notes Cash &ca. Fleeing was sel-
dom a successful strategy for bankrupts, and the Sadirs under British
protection, too, were soon found and arrested.
52
They were incar-
cerated in the pavilion of the English consular house in Khan al-
Jumruk, where they remained for at least four months.
53
Their business
administration was also seized. The books of Jarmanos were likewise
n.xkntr+cv 233
50
For Pons career, see Katsumi Fukasawa, Toilerie et commerce du levant au XVIII
e
sicle dAlep Marseille (Paris, 1987), 8485.
51
DNA, LH 165, folder 1763, Heemskerk to the Directors, 29 April 1763; DNA,
LAT 1118, Petitions by Franois Pons to Heemskerk, 4 March and 21 March 1763.
52
ENA, SP 110/37, f. 154v.: Thomas Lansdown to Mr Jonathan Brideoake,
London, 25 January 1763.
53
Ibidem, f. 183, Lansdown to Benjamin Barker, Galata, 14 June 1763; ENA,
SP 110/62 (i), [no page number] Chancery note, 27 January 1763; ENA, SP 110/62
(i), page 131, Chancery note, 6 June 1763. Jarmanos Sadir and Antun Diyab were
secured in the Dutch consular khan. It is not clear how long they remained in
prison.
recovered within days of his arrest, and were put in a bag which
was secured with seals of wax imprinted with the consular signet.
54
The sequestration of written evidence went hand in hand with
that of the bankrupts possessions. In the case of Jarmanos Sadir and
Antun Diyab, the khan in which Heemskerk lived and conducted
his business had to be searched and an inventory made of all goods
that might belong to them. The same procedures were applied to
the private residences of the bankrupts in the Jdayda quarter of
Aleppo. Within days of their bankruptcies, several rooms in the
houses of Sadir and Diyab were sealed o.
55
Moreover, the French
consul was asked to sequester cloth that was stored in the ware-
house of a French merchant, but which belonged to Heemskerk or
his warehousemen.
56
The English chancellor, Eleazar Edwards, fol-
lowed similar procedures, sending an order to Baghdad on 25 February
1763 to have goods belonging to Yusuf Sadir sequestered. Together
with one of the dragomans, Edwards also sealed o parts of the
houses of Yusuf and Antun Sadir and their families. On the order
of Consul William Kinloch even the apparel and jewelry of Yusuf s
wife were sequestered. Her protest was duly recorded.
57
The fate of the family of bankrupts is seldom explicitly referred
to in the sources. Presumably the wife and children of a bankrupt
beratl were granted a modest allowance for their livelihood, but there
is no evidence of such arrangements. It is clear that they were allowed
to continue to live in their house, provided they did not enter the
parts that were sealed o unless they were specically ordered to do
so. Antun Sadirs wife, for example, received orders from the Bri-
tish consulate to continue in the house and be responsible if the
seals were broke open and to water the orange trees. Such main-
tenance activities were actually the responsibility of the consulate,
since it was as much in the interest of the consulate as in that of
the creditors involved that the value of the estate be as high as possi-
234 cn.r+rn ri\r
54
Jarmanos French creditors claimed that the individual books should also have
been bound with rope before being put in the bag. Distrusting the Dutch consul,
they insisted on putting a French seal next to his. DNA, LAT 1118.
55
DNA, LAT 1118, Extrait des Minutes de la Chancellerie du Consulat dhol-
lande de cette ville dAlepo & ces dpendances . . . 1 June 1763.
56
DNA, LH 165, folder 1763, Memorie van dH
r
Heemskerk van Aleppo 1765,
page 17.
57
ENA, SP 110/62 (i): p. 124 [?]/f. 63r, Charges attending the Aairs of Juseph
& Anton Sader, British Honorary Drugomen & Bankrupts.
ble. Thus, on 23 March 1763, a room in Yusuf Sadirs house was
opened to inspect the damage rain had done to the divan. On the
same day Antun Sadirs orange trees were moved outside, while on
19 May, the British chancellor and dragoman by order of the con-
sul went to air Josephs furs. The estate was charged a total of 45
kuru{ for these services.
58
Legal Strategies
The interested parties have been introduced in the previous section.
In the following pages the legal strategies they adopted will be
analysed. The individual claims will not be discussed separately, but
in sections based on the way they pursued their claims, i.e. by nego-
tiating with the consulate concerned, by turning to the local Ottoman
authorities, by turning to the Porte in Istanbulor by trying several
of these strategies. This allows us to assess which legal strategies were
the most successful under the circumstances.
a. Dealing with the Consulate
The bankruptcy of Yusuf and Antun Sadir had been caused by that
of their brother, Jarmanos Sadir. The fact that Jarmanos bankruptcy
was possibly fraudulent did not make that of his brothers under
British protection suspect. There were no legal grounds for com-
plaints against the British consulate, or the bankrupts themselves, so
there was nothing else that most creditors could do but to accept
the consular settlement. The creditors of Yusuf and Antun Sadir
who registered their claims in the British chancery included family
members, fellow beratls of the same consulate, protgs of others,
and non-Muslims without any connection to Western consulates. For
example, Zakur w. Abdullah Sadir and Antun w. Mikhail Sadir
cousins once removed of the bankruptscame forward with a claim
of 146 kuru{ which had never been put on paper. Since two wit-
nesses conrmed it, the chancellor accepted and registered their
claim.
59
Two other creditors, the Venetian protg Azar Qatarmiz
and his daughter, Miriam, were able to show temessks that proved
n.xkntr+cv 235
58
Ibid.
59
ENA, SP 110/62 (1), p. 231/f. 115r, Arabic text with Italian translation, dated
14 November 1764.
their claims. The former was owed 869 kuru{, the latter 2,120 kuru{,
the remaining half of the original debt.
60
Our nal example con-
cerns Yusuf, heir to his father Hanna Qirmiz, who claimed a debt
of 849 kuru{ owed to his late father, for which no temessk was ever
drawn up. Again the claim was only registered after two witnesses
had conrmed it.
61
All these creditors accepted the consular arrangements, receiving
a rst down payment upon registration of their claims. They seem
to have had few alternatives. Many of the creditors registered in the
British chancery probably had more to lose than to win by chal-
lenging the consular arrangements. The British consul could threaten
to revoke the berats of protgs who undermined consular jurisdic-
tion, while the consuls of other nations could do the same with their
own beratls who disregarded the unwritten rules among Western
communities in the Ottoman Empire. Even those creditors who lacked
direct connections with foreign consulates were not necessarily imper-
vious to the pressure they could exert. After all, if the British con-
sulate announced a boycott (battelation) against them, this would make
it very dicult to continue doing business with European merchants
in the city and their middlemen. Considerations like theseon top
of the fact that in itself the bankruptcy of Yusuf and Antun Sadir
was not controversialprobably encouraged most creditors to accept
the consular settlement.
The bankruptcy of Jarmanos Sadir and Antun Diyab was dierent,
because it was suspect from the beginning. For this reason there
appear to have been no creditors who simply turned to the Dutch
consulate and accepted a preliminary down payment. As we will see
below most creditors in this case turned to the qadi in Aleppo with
their claims. Nevertheless, in the case of Sadir and Diyab, too, there
were creditors who preferred to deal directly with the consulate,
without involving the Ottoman authorities. They were not only
Europeans, but also powerful Ottoman creditors. The sources reveal
that only the Ottomans, three tax collectors and elebi Eendi, man-
aged to come to an agreement with Heemskerk.
236 cn.r+rn ri\r
60
Ibid., illegible page number, two Arabic temessks dated 3 Adar 1762 and mid
}aban 1175. Although the documents were clearly private, and not registered in
court, both mention several {uhud al-hal, who are also referred as such.
61
Ibid., p. 221/f. 110r., Arabic text with Italian translation, dated 23 October
1764. One of the witnesses, Antun w. Nimat Hasruni, also conrmed the claim by
the bankrupts distant cousins.
Just three days after Jarmanos Sadir had declared bankruptcy, the
French merchant Jean-Franois Pons, together with his colleagues,
Jean-Paul Magy, Jean-Pierre Augier, and Michel Gilly, already accused
Heemskerk of treachery ( fourberie). In their opinion Heemskerk had
contributed to the bankruptcy in two ways, by embezzling goods
belonging to his warehouseman, and by paying him less than cur-
rent market prices for silk Sadir had purchased for him. The Dutchman
always insisted that his warehousemen bought the goods on their
own account rst and subsequently sold it to him in a separate trans-
action, a method to which we will return below. The Frenchmen
now accused Heemskerk of paying 17 or 18 kuru{ for silk Sadir had
purchased for 22 ake per unit. Not only did they level these accu-
sations directly to Heemskerk in the Dutch consular residence, they
also formalized them by starting a correspondence with the Dutchman
via the French consulate.
62
In response to these claims Heemskerk oered to have these mat-
ters resolved by arbitration, but the Frenchmen rejected this out of
hand. The reasons for this rejection are easy to reconstruct. Their
acceptance of arbitration automatically meant that they would have
to accept its outcome, which was uncertain. The merchants accusations
were based on the testimony of the bankrupts themselves, and they
must have felt that their case was strong enough to take to any
court. There thus was no reason for them to place the matter into
the hands of arbiters. It was probably considerations like these that
led the Frenchmen to reject Heemskerks arbitration proposal.
The French merchants actively cooperated with other creditors,
including both foreigners and notable Ottomans. For example,
Muhammad A<a, a scion of the notable family of Kabkabo<lu, acted
in concert with the foreign creditors. The bankrupts owed him over
4,200 kuru{, as the list of their debts drawn up in 1762 shows. The
same is true for el-hacc Yahya Usays al-Mausuli, who was owed 8,500
kuru{ in payment for a quantity of white silk he had sold the bank-
rupts. These creditors did not immediately turn to the Ottoman
authorities, but tried to nd alternative solutions. At the end of
February 1763, for example, a general assembly of Sadir and Diyabs
n.xkntr+cv 237
62
DNA, LAT 1118, Answer by Pons (via the French consulate), dated 5 March
1763, to a letter by Heemskerk of 25 February.
creditors met twice in the British consulate. No results seem to have
come from these meetings, apart from protests against Heemskerks
attendance at them in the capacity of a creditor rather than in that
of the competent consul, but the concerted eorts to come to some
agreement with the Dutchman are worth mentioning in themselves.
63
The Western creditors of Jarmanos Sadir and Antun Diyab ini-
tially followed consular procedures, demanding that Heemskerk com-
pensate their losses. They were supported by their own consul, Pierre
Thomas, but there was little he could do to change his Dutch col-
leagues mind. Their attempts to deal directly with the Dutch con-
sulate had failed, but others were more successful.
In 1762 three tax collectors, Ismail b. Ahmad, the collector of the
annual tax revue (saliyaneci ) of the Crimea and a avu{ of the Porte,
Ali avu{ b. Sleyman, the saliyaneci of Nafplion, and Hasan avu{
b. Ali, who was a cebeci saliyaneci, had made use of the nancial ser-
vices of Jarmanos Sadir.
64
Ismail avu{ consigned 4,000 kuru{ to the
warehouseman, the sum of 2,120 kuru{ was deposited by Ali avu{,
while Hasan avu{ entrusted Sadir with 2,500 kuru{. Jarmanos thus
received a total of 8,620 kuru{, for three specic purposes. First, an
unspecied part of this sum should be changed into gold coins.
65
The second part was meant to allow the ocers to draw bills of
exchange on Sadir.
66
The third part of the entrusted sum would
remain on deposit with the warehouseman, who was probably paid
commission for its safekeeping.
When Jarmanos Sadir went bankrupt at the beginning of 1763
the three Ottoman ocers could easily have turned to the authori-
ties in Aleppo, or to the Porte, in order to reclaim their deposits.
This is not what they did, however; they turned directly to the Dutch
238 cn.r+rn ri\r
63
DNA, LAT 1118, Extrait des Minutes de la Chancellerie du Consulat de
France Alep [30 May 1763]. This le also contains two petitions by Pons, dated
4 March and 21 March 1763, along with Heemskerks replies of 8 March and 28
March 1763, all in French.
64
DNA, LAT 1118, No. 4, Ottoman text dated 1 }evvel 1176/15 April 1763,
with an Italian translation which mentions Ismail Ciaus Saliangi Cherem [a mis-
reading of Krim saliyaneci] glio di Ahmad, Ali Ciaus Saliangi Anapoli glio di
Soliman, Hassan Ciaus Saliangi Giabagian [i.e. tax collector of the armourers of
the Janissary corps] glio di Ali.
65
The Italian translation has parte per scambiarli in Zecchini, suggesting Venetian
sequins (in Ottoman yaldz altunu) are meant.
66
The Italian translation has per fare Polizze.
consulate, instead. To facilitate procedures they appointed an agent
to make the necessary arrangements on their behalf. This agent was
not a local Janissary, nor even a Muslim, but the chancellor of the
Dutch consulate, Jean Gollmart.
67
Six weeks after they had regis-
tered their claim, the three Ottoman ocers were given 8,620 kuru{
worth of cloth from Sadirs estate. The payment was duly registered
in the qadi court. The hccet that was drawn up of this consignment
states that the arrangement was made to avoid a deciency in the
salaries (emval-i mevacibe keser ve nuksan terettb olmamak). This suggests
that the third aim of the funds placed in Jarmanos care was the
payment of the Janissaries salaries, which would certainly explain
the extraordinary swiftness with which the consignment was arranged,
since it was in the interest of everybody concerned to avoid riots by
underpaid Janissaries in Aleppo. It also explains why the name of
Ahmad A<a, Aleppos muhassl and mtasellim, appears on the hccet
as one of the courts witnesses.
68
These tax collectors were extraordinary creditors, for whom the
Dutch consulate quickly made an extraordinary arrangement. The settle-
ment with the tax collectors was controversial, because the French
creditors considered it prejudicial to their own interests, but it had
the support of the Ottoman administration. If the Dutch home author-
ities should disapprove of this preferential payment, the consulate
could easily argue that preventing Janissary unrest was for the com-
mon good.
In contrast to the rst arrangement between an Ottoman credi-
tor of Jarmanos Sadir and the Dutch consul, the second beneted
the other creditors, because it was paid by Heemskerk himself. It
was a settlement between the Dutchman and elebi Eendi, which
was brokered by Jirjis Aida, the First Dragoman of the British con-
sulate in Aleppo.
n.xkntr+cv 239
67
This procuration took place between 22 January 1763, the date of Jarmanos
bankruptcy, and 26 January, when Gollmart declared that he was busy with mat-
ters qui mont procur les Chious du GG: SS: [i.e. the Grand Signior, the sul-
tan]. DNA, LAT 1118, Extrait des Minutes de la Chancellerie . . . 1 Juin 1763
[statement by Gollmart].
68
Other witnesses mentioned on the hccet were elebi Eendi, the serdar, and
members of the Kawakibi and Trabulsi families. The three Ottoman ocers collec-
ted the cloth assigned to them in the afternoon of 3 March 1763 in order to have
it sold by public auction. DNA, LAT 1118, Extrait des Minutes de la Chancellerie
du Consulat de France Alep [30 May 1763].
At the end of 1762 Heemskerk agreed to three barter transactions
brokered by his warehouseman, Jarmanos Sadir, and his brother,
Jibrail.
69
The other party was elebi Eendi, who used Jirjis Aida
as his broker. In return for broadcloth and iron, Heemskerk would
receive cotton from elebi Eendi. The Dutchman was interested
in the deals, but insisted that his warehouseman should not broker
the deal, but actually be the seller himself. This meant that Jarmanos
Sadir rst had to buy the cotton from elebi Eendi on credit, and
then resell it on his own account to Heemskerk. This method was
also commonly used by British merchants in Aleppo, who nominally
sold the cloth they received from England on credit to their ware-
housemen, while buying silk on credit through them at the same
time.
70
In this way, the amount of cash needed remained limited.
More importantly, the arrangements created a juridical buer between
the original seller, in this case the powerful elebi Eendi, and the
eventual buyer, Heemskerk. Sadir agreed to the conditions of the
Dutch consul, so the deals, only the rst of which was recorded,
were conrmed. Before all the transactions could actually take place,
however, Jarmanos Sadir went bankrupt.
Muhammad b. Ahmad Tahazade, who was generally known as
elebi Eendi, was probably Aleppos most prominent nekible{raf of
the period. Not only did he lead the political faction of the e{raf sev-
eral times, he was also active in international trade.
71
Jirjis Aida was
a Greek Catholic merchant, who had inherited considerable real
estate in the city from his father. He was also active in international
trade on his own account, serving as First Dragoman to the British
consulate at the same time. Aidas ties with the British consulate
did not prevent him acting independently in this matter, for the
dragoman was simply too powerful for the British consul to control.
The connection between Aida and elebi Eendi contributed to
this. Heemskerk characterized elebi Eendi as Aidas great pro-
240 cn.r+rn ri\r
69
The principal source for this settlement is DNA, LH 165, folder 1763, Heemskerk
to the Directors, 29 April 1763.
70
Lansdown had used the same method with more success, as we have seen
above. Davis, Aleppo and Devonshire Square, 243, 245. On the role of non-Muslim
intermediaries in sales and barter transactions of Europeans in Izmir, see Frangakis-
Syrett, The Commerce of Smyrna, 8790.
71
On elebi Eendi, see Meriwether, The Notable Families, 7879, 192193, 248,
249, 250; Marcus, The Middle East, 8384, 87, 133.
tector.
72
When elebi Eendi was exiled to Bursa a few years later,
Aida was also arrested on the charge of having assisted the Chelebi
Eendi in oppressing the Mahometan subjects.
73
The two power-
brokers thus appear to have operated together more often.
Soon after the bankruptcy of Jarmanos Sadir had become public,
elebi Eendi and Aida put pressure on the Dutch consul to pay
o the cotton he had agreed to barter with them via his ware-
housemen, the details of which are irrelevant here. Heemskerk referred
to the conditions of the transaction, claiming that his warehouseman
should be held responsible, since he had concluded the transaction
with Aida. The British dragoman disagreed, saying that doing busi-
ness with a warehouseman was the same the thing as dealing with
his principal. During a heated argument between the British drago-
man and the Dutch consul in the latters residence, Antun Diyab
intervened and prevailed upon his employer to give in to Aidas
demands, since he and elebi Eendi formed too powerful a cou-
ple to resist successfully. Subsequently, Heemskerk grudgingly agreed
to full the terms of the unwritten agreements between Jarmanos
Sadir and Aida, in which the Dutchman had not legally been a
party.
Heemskerks strategy to distance himself from the deals had failed.
elebi Eendi and Jirjis Aida may not have had any legal basis for
their claims, but they threatened to obtain a fatwa sentencing
Heemskerk personally to pay the debts of his warehousemen, nev-
ertheless.
74
The Dutch consul took this threat seriously and was even-
tually convinced that these men were simply too powerful for him
to oppose. For the other creditors of Jarmanos Sadir this arrange-
ment was benecial, because the bankrupts obligations to elebi
Eendi were now taken over by Heemskerk.
In the case of Sadir and Diyab the only creditors who dealt directly
with the Dutch consulate were those powerful enough to circumvent
consular procedures altogether: three tax collectors whose deposits
with Jarmanos Sadir included the Janissaries salary, and elebi
Eendi, the powerful nekible{raf of Aleppo. Heemskerk was unable
n.xkntr+cv 241
72
DNA, LH 165, le 1763, Heemskerk to the Directors, 3 March 1763.
73
ENA, SP 110/86: No. 9: Murray to the Earl of Shelburne, Constantinople 1
June 1767.
74
DNA, LH 165, le 1763, Heemskerk to the Directors, 3 March 1763.
simply to reject their claims and was forced to deal with them. The
Porte in Istanbul oered the rest of the creditors another way to
pursue their claims on the estate of Sadir and Diyab, because it soon
revoked the Dutch consuls jurisdiction in this case.
b. The Porte
In connection with the Sadir bankruptcies six separate petitions were
sent to the Porte, one by Abdalqadir Amiri, a creditor of Yusuf and
Antun Sadir; one by the qadi of Aleppo; one by its governor-gen-
eral; one by the Dutch consul; and one by el-hacc Sulayman b.
Muhammad Shaykh, a creditor of Sadir and Diyab. The aims of
the rst ve petitions to the Porte will be discussed in this section,
the last will follow in a later section.
Most creditors of Yusuf and Antun Sadir accepted the British con-
sular settlement of their bankrupt estate, but el-hacc Abdalqadir Amiri
did not. The other creditors consented to being repaid no more than
10% of what the bankrupts owed them, but Amiri refused to accept
this situation. In order to raise the money for the dividend, the
English consulate had had the bankrupts houses sold, among other
things. Amiri claimed these houses, and although the legal basis of
his claims is not specied in the sources, we know that he attempted
to have all sales of the Sadir brothers possessions reversed. He did
this by sending a petition to the Porte, contesting English consular
jurisdiction over the bankrupt estate of the Sadir brothers altogether.
Amiris letter was not the rst report about this matter that reached
Istanbul. Already in the second week of March 1763 the qadi of
Aleppo had sent a report to the Porte about the bankruptcy of the
four Sadir brothers, asking that jurisdiction in this matter be assigned
to him.
75
At the same time the governor-general of Aleppo sent a
petition of his own to Istanbul, proposing that neither the consuls
nor the qadi, but he himself be assigned jurisdiction.
76
Amiris peti-
tion to the Porte, which supported the qadis earlier request, can
only have strengthened the view in Istanbul that these cases deserved
special attention.
Amiris actions came at a bad time for the British consulate, which
was responsible for the bankrupt estate of Yusuf and Antun Sadir.
242 cn.r+rn ri\r
75
BOA, A.DVN.DVE 138, doc. 20, end }evval 1176/513 May 1763.
76
Ibid., doc. 18. Cf. below, page 246.
The consul, Kinloch, had set out for Istanbul to act as charg daaires
after the ambassador, Henry Grenville, had been recalled. In Kinlochs
absence the oce of British consul was attended to by a council of
four merchants, David Hays, Charles Smith, Jasper Shaw, and Henry
Preston, the treasurer of the nation.
77
It was their intention to attend
collectively to the tasks of the consul, but according to Grenville the
central Ottoman chancery in Istanbul refused to issue a consular
berat for four. Before his departure he had therefore applied for the
berat to be granted to Preston. The Levant Company supported this
initiative and appointed Preston Pro-Consul in Aleppo, until Kinloch
returned or a successor was found.
78
It was during this time when the English factory in Aleppo o-
cially lacked a proper consul that it became known that Amiri had
obtained a ferman which annulled the sale of the Sadirs houses and
enabled the local court to retrieve the dividends that had already
been paid to the other creditors, despite the fact that the previous
qadi had agreed with the procedures. According to English reports,
ocers of the mahkema in Aleppo immediately put pressure on the
buyers of Yusuf Sadirs house to comply with the Imperial decree.
They were soon ready to vacate the house and return the deed to
the consulate, but only on the condition that the 2,500 kuru{ they
had paid be returned to them. Since the English were unwilling to
reverse laborious procedures that had taken eighteen months and to
start all over again under the supervision of the local court, they
vainly confronted the qadi with his predecessors approval. Amiri
won the argument by stressingas the imperial order he had obtained
erroneously conrmedthat the Sadir brothers were not actually
dragomans, and hence their estate was not protected by the capi-
tulations. In light of this argument the qadi pronounced the con-
n.xkntr+cv 243
77
ENA, SP 110/29, f. 108r: Eleazar Edwards to George Baldwin, Acri, [ ]
September 1765.
78
Provisional appointments by the English in this period were commonly marked
by the prex Pro-. There is no trace of Prestons appointment in ecnebi defteri 35/1
in which William Clark (in oce 17681770) is recorded as the immediate suc-
cessor of William Kinloch (in oce 17591766). ENA, SP 110/29, fos 118v119r,
Levant Company to Treasurer & Factory at Aleppo, 10 December 1765; BOA,
ED 35/1, 116/389, 19 Gemaziyelevvel 1172/17 January 1759 (Francis Browne to
Kinloch); Ibid., 122123/422, 15 Rebiylevvel 1182/30 July 1768 (Kinloch to
Clark).
sular settlement procedures to be in contradiction with Islamic law,
and ordered the implementation of the Imperial command.
79
The English sought support against Amiris actions both in Istanbul
and in Aleppo. First they asked Kinloch at the British embassy to
review the procedures once again, and intercede with the Porte if
possible. This did lead to the issue of an Imperial decree of some
sort, but the First Dragoman, Jirjis Aida, considered it useless.
80
In
Aleppo the help of the French and Dutch consuls was solicited on
the grounds that the Imperial orders were detrimental to all Europe-
an creditors of the Sadirs, and possibly to European privileges in
general. The Dutch consul, Heemskerks successor Van Maseijk, refu-
sed to get involved, probably because they were business associates.
The French consul, Pierre Thomas, actively supported the English.
With Thomas help the English factors applied for an imperial com-
mand conrming the consular procedures. It was the Frenchman
who explained to the charg daaires in Istanbul, Kinloch, what
kind of command was required:
Le commandement [obtained by Amiri] tant contraire aux privilges
des Capitulations, il en rsulte un tort considrable aux Francs qui se
trouvent intresss dans la Faillite des dits Saders et pour empcher
toutes les dmarches quHadgi Abdelkadir peut faire, on demande un
commandement qui porte que le Defter des Dettes et des eets des
susdits Sader (qui etoient alors Dragomans) & qui a t authoris par
un Bujurdi du Basha & par le scelle du Caddy, sera conrm & que
tous le cranciers ayent sy conrmer & que ce Procs ne pourra
plus tre entendu Alep malgr tous les Commandements antrieurs
ou postrieurs quil pourroit y avoir ce sujet.
81
Amiri challenged the applicability of the capitulations on the grounds
that the Sadir brothers were not actually dragomans. He was right
in the sense that Yusuf and Antun Sadir did not serve the British
consulate as interpreters, but because they possessed dragomans berats
the Sadir brothers legally were dragomans, even if they actually
244 cn.r+rn ri\r
79
ENA, SP 110/29, fos 112113, The Factory at Aleppo to Kinloch in Istanbul,
27 November 1765.
80
Ibid., fos 110v111v: Henry Preston, David Hays, Charles Smith, Jasper Shaw
in Aleppo to Kinloch in Istanbul, 20 November 1765. I have not found this fer-
man in the Ottoman records.
81
ENA, SP 110/29, fos 112r113v, Preston, Hays, Smith and Shaw in Aleppo
to Kinloch in Istanbul, 27 November 1765.
worked as warehousemen. Amiri turned to the Porte with his chal-
lenge, and it was also to the Porte that the British consulate turned
to have its jurisdiction rearmed, after the local court had refused
to conrm the approval of its procedures by both the previous
governor-general and qadi of Aleppo. This appears to have resulted
in a stalemate that lasted about a year, during which nothing was
recorded about the case in the British chanceries in Istanbul and
Aleppo. Many questions must therefore remain unanswered. For
example, it is not clear how long Antun Sadir remained in the cus-
tody of the qadi after his escape from the British consular prison.
Nor is the fate of his brother, Yusuf, in this period recorded in our
sources. We only know that both died within a year and a half of
their bankruptcy.
82
Little else was recorded about the bankruptcy of the two broth-
ers until 24 November 1766, when the consul and factory in Aleppo
reported to the new English ambassador, John Murray, that the case
was closed. Amiri had reportedly been appeased with the help of
Cheleby & Trabolsi Eendi and a third mediator, one Ahmad
Ghumaa.
83
elebi Eendi has already been introduced. The second
identiable mediator was Muhammad Trabulsi, a former mufti of
Aleppo who, like elebi Eendi, was appointed nekible{raf of the
city several times during this period.
84
Their silent diplomacy, which
has left no further traces in the available sources, nally resolved the
conict at a cost of about 4,000 kuru{.
85
It is not clear how much the Sadir brothers owed Amiri, but we
know that he claimed their houses, which represented a value of
some 2,500 kuru{. If Amiri had accepted the consular arrangements,
he would only have received about 10% of this sum, amounting to
little more than 250 kuru{. Some of the 4,000 kuru{ that was paid
for the mediation undoubtedly went to the three mediators. It seems
likely that Amiri would have received a substantial part of it, but
n.xkntr+cv 245
82
BOA, ED 35/1, 120/410, 9 Zilkade 1177/10 May 1764 (Antun Sadir); Ibid.,
120/412, 21 Cemaziyelahr 1178/16 December 1764 (Yusuf Sadir). These are the
dates on which the transfer of their berats was registered, so they probably died sev-
eral months earlier.
83
ENA, SP 110/29, f. 121, Consul & Factory at Aleppo to ambassador Murray,
24 November 1766. Murray was in oce 17651775.
84
Meriwether, The Notable Families, 25, 238, 249.
85
ENA, SP 110/62 (i), 234.
even if the sum was split in four equal shares, one for each medi-
ator and one for Amiri, the latter would still have recouped four
times what the consulate had been able to oer. Challenging the
jurisdiction of the English consulate via the Porteeven on the basis
of false argumentsthus appears to have paid in this case.
Amiris success in his use of the Porte is in stark contrast with
Heemskerks eorts to do the same. The two earliest reports from
Aleppo to the Porte focused on the bankruptcy of Jarmanos Sadir
and both mentioned the Dutch consul, Heemskerk, explicitly. The
Islamic judge and administrator outright accused the Dutch consul
of foul play. The consul, he wrote to Istanbul, considered the case
to fall under the capitulations, but the qadi disagreed and asked to
be assigned jurisdiction himself.
86
In his contemporaneous letter the
governor-general of Aleppo, Mustafa Pa{a, likewise blamed the bank-
ruptcy of Jarmanos Sadir on Heemskerk, emphasizing that the
Dutchman was also a creditor of his own warehousemen. The Pa{a
reported that the Dutch consul refused to have the case heard by
the local court and implied that this might harm the interests of the
Muslim creditors. The governor-general claimed that business had
been good for the Sadir brothers, and that the unexpected bank-
ruptcies must therefore have been fraudulent. Instead of allowing the
Dutch to apply their own laws to the bankrupts, Mustafa Pa{a asked
the Porte to assign jurisdiction in the bankruptcies to him.
87
The Dutch sources conrm that the local authorities in Aleppo
had been in contact with the consul from the beginning. Soon after
the French creditors had rst openly accused him of embezzlement
(within a week after Jarmanos Sadirs bankruptcy) Heemskerk had
turned to the governor-general of Aleppo with repeated requests to
uphold the capitulations and guarantee his consular privileges. At
the same time he obtained letters of support from senior ocial at
the Porte through the Dutch embassy in Istanbul.
88
Possibly encour-
246 cn.r+rn ri\r
86
BOA, A.DVN.DVE 138, doc. 20, end }evval 1176/513 May 1763.
87
Ibid., doc. 18. The document is undated, but it refers to the qadis report,
which means that it was probably written around the same time. They even seem
to have been composed jointly, since the wording is identical in several passages of
the two documents. The pencil note dating Mustafa Pa{as petition to 1175 A.H.
(17623) is therefore probably incorrect.
88
The authors are identied as Jusuf Eendi Rusnamesi and Arab Zade, rst
Ulema. The ruznameci was a high treasury ocial. The rst of the ulema was
possibly the }eyhlislm. DNA, LH 165, Memorie van dH
r
Heemskerk van Aleppo
1765 [Copia], 12, 20; DNA, LAT 602, Van Asten to Heemskerk, 3 March 1763.
aged by this sign of support from the Ottoman capital, Heemskerk
announced to the authorities in Aleppo that he had decided to appeal
directly to the Porte. The beylerbeyi advised against this step, saying
the people of Aleppo might rise against the Dutchman, under the
impression that he was trying to escape his responsibilities.
89
Heemskerk
knew that at this time the beylerbeyi was awaiting the Portes reply
to his petition asking for the aairs of the Sadir brothers to be put
in his own hands.
90
The governor-general reportedly used all means
at his disposal to prevent Heemskerk leaving Aleppo, without actu-
ally arresting the consul, which was against the capitulations. The
Dutchman wrote to the embassy that
thinking I wanted to leave last night, the tufenki ba{ and the serdar
[yesterday] had the order [of the governor-general] conveyed to the
odaba{ of my khan and to the [consular] Janissaries, that they should
not let me leave without warning them rst, and this morning I heard
that guards have been posted at all the [city] gates.
91
The Dutch charg daaires in Istanbul Van Asten was surprised that
the consuls use of the capitulations was not just a tactic, but that
his intentions were genuine. Van Asten thought it was inadvisable
for Heemskerk to execute his plan, since it might do more harm
than good to the consul personally, and to the Dutch community in
Aleppo in general. Van Asten clearly stated he would not cooper-
ate without rst consulting the Dutch States-General about the issue.
92
This was not the answer Heemskerk had hoped for, and it delayed
his decision to leave Aleppo.
The alarming reports from Aleppos two most important admin-
istrators and the others petitions from the city eventually led to the
issue of a ferman which ordered that the bankruptcies of the Sadir
brothers and Antun Diyab be examined and adjudicated locally by
the qadi. The imperial decree, which was addressed to Mustafa Pa{a
and the qadi, arrived in Aleppo in the second half of April 1763.
93
n.xkntr+cv 247
89
Ibid., Extract uyt een Brief . . . [3 March 1763].
90
DNA, LAT 602: Van Asten to Heemskerk, 26 March 1763 (in Dutch).
91
DNA, LH 165, folder 1763, Extract uyt een Brief . . . 3 March 1763 (in Dutch).
The tufenki ba{ was the leader of the beylerbeyis personal infantry guard. The odaba{
was subordinate to the a<a, the superintendent of the khan on behalf of the owner.
92
DNA, LAT 602, Van Asten to Heemskerk, 26 March 1763.
93
BOA, ED 22/1, 383/1660, mid Ramazan 1176/26 March4 April 1763;
DNA, LH 165, folder 1763, Heemskerk to the Directors, 23 March 1763; Ibid.,
same to same, 23 April 1763 (both in Dutch).
The Porte thus had rejected Heemskerks request to be heard by
the divan- hmayun, preferring to let the local Islamic court deal with
the case. At rst glance this appears to be a violation of the capit-
ulations, which, after all, gave the consul and his dragomans the
right to appeal to the Imperial Council in cases involving more than
4,000 ake. The context of this article in the capitulations, however,
reveals that this privilege was intended to protect the consul and his
dragomans against frivolous litigation. In this case it was clear that
the allegations against the consul were not fabricated. The arguments
in favour of adjudication in Aleppo were the same as in the previ-
ous chapter, where an investigator of the Porte had argued that reli-
able witnesses were easier to nd there than in Istanbul.
94
Adjudication
in Istanbul would inconvenience many, while only the Dutch con-
sul claimed to suer damage when legal procedures took place in
Aleppo.
The Portes involvement in these bankruptcies did not end with
its decision to assign jurisdiction over them to the qadi in Aleppo.
At the beginning of September 1763 the reislkttab told a dragoman
of the British embassy that the Ottoman authorities were paying
close attention to the way the aairs of Yusuf and Antun Sadir and
of Jarmanos Sadir and Antun Diyab were handled by their respec-
tive consulates. The Dutch were reportedly threatened with punitive
measures, while the British were merely told to do everything in
their power to clear up any form of theft concerning the bank-
ruptcy of Yusuf and Antun Sadir.
95
All eyes were on the Islamic
court in Aleppo.
c. The Qadi Court
Mediation between Abdalqadir Amiri and the British consulate ended
the settlement of the bankrupt estate of Yusuf and Antun Sadir. In
the case of Sadir and Diyab a number of Ottoman creditors, three
tax collectors and the powerful elebi Eendi, managed to come to
an agreement with the Dutch consulate at an early stage. All other
claims had to wait until it was clear who had jurisdiction in this
248 cn.r+rn ri\r
94
See Chapter Four, page 192194.
95
DNA, LH 165, folder 1763, Note de la Communication faite a Mons:
r
LAmbassadeur dAngeleterre & Mons:
r
Le Charg des Aaires dhollande par voije
des Drogemans des susdites Nations ce 5:
e
7bre 1763.
matter. Heemskerk had tried to have the case moved to Istanbul,
but the Porte had decided otherwise. From this moment it was no
longer the interested parties who determined how they might pur-
sue their claims, but the local Islamic court that determined the
course of events. For this reason the following section is not arranged
by the individual strategies of the bankrupts and their creditors, but
by the procedures the qadi dictated.
i. Court Supervision
The authorities in Aleppo did not take action immediately, but
allowed two months to pass after the ferman had arrived. By that
time Antun Sadir was no longer in the custody of the British con-
sulate, because he had escaped and turned himself in at the mahkema
in the second week of June 1763. Lansdown reported to one of his
own creditors that
[o]ne of my warehousemen has made his escape from the Consulary
house & has told the Turk creditors that they may prove the debts
before the Caddi & he is now a prisoner with him at the Mackamy
[mahkema]. The Basha has likewise begun to intermeddle in their embroils
& tis said he has with in these few days received a command from
Stambole [Istanbul] to procure the Turk [Muslim] creditors payment
for what is owing them by Useph & Antone Sader, so I fear the great-
est part of what remains will be eaten up by the Basha & Caddi &
little or nothing will be divided among the creditors & there is no
knowing how long it may be before this unhappy aair will be ended.
96
Antun Sadir had preferred the Islamic court to the English consulate
from the start. Already at his arrest by the First Dragoman of the
English consulate, Sadir had dramatically exclaimed: O people of
Muhammad, I want to turn to the law of Islam, but they wont let
me!
97
Some unnamed Muslim creditors reportedly supported Sadirs
plea, but consul Kinloch refused to hand him over to the qadi. The
fact that these creditors turned to the British consul in the rst place
indicates that they accepted his authority in the matter, which probably
n.xkntr+cv 249
96
ENA, SP 110/37, f. 183: Lansdown to Benjamin Barker, Galata, 14 June
1763.
97
ENA, SP 110/62 (i), 131: Statement by First Dragoman of the English con-
sulate, Niqula Fakhr, dated 6 June 1763, also signed by Henry Preston, Charles
Smith and al-Hamid [?] Ibrahim Ubari. In the Italian text only this quotation is
noted in Arabic as well.
explains why the Ottoman authorities did not intervene at this stage.
After having spent more than four months in prison, however, Antun
Sadir directly involved the Islamic court of Aleppo by escaping from
the consular gaol and turning to the qadi.
What could Sadir have hoped to achieve? Maybe he hoped that
the qadi might help him come to some sort of agreement with his
principal creditors that would allow him to continue in business under
their supervision, which might enable him to repay them in full even-
tually. Or he may have hoped that being declared bankrupt by the
qadi would wipe out his debts altogether. According to Joseph Schacht
if the debtor is released from prison as being unable to pay, he is
declared bankrupt (muis); it is contested whether this wipes out his
debts, or whether the creditor or creditors may still resort to self-help
by watching over his person and taking from him the surplus of his
earnings.
98
In the absence of further evidence we can only speculate about Antun
Sadirs motives, but it is clear that he had nothing to lose by tak-
ing this course of action. The impartiality of the Dutch consul was
questionable, to say the least, and it was not in the interest of the
British consulate to challenge another consulates jurisdiction in a
bankruptcy connected with one under its own authority. After all,
the settlement of the bankrupt estate of Yusuf and Antun Sadir was
proceeding relatively smoothly at this time. Moreover, William Kinloch
was himself a creditor of Jarmanos Sadir for more than 3,000 kuru{,
so it was also in his personal interest not to get involved in his capac-
ity as British consul, too.
99
The 4,000 ake clause in the capitulations
also did not help the Sadir brothers. Invoking their capitulatory right
to a trial in Istanbul was costly and there was little reason to expect
a sympathetic ear from the Porte after the reports it had already
received.
100
It is therefore not surprising that when Antun Sadir man-
aged to escape from the British consulates prison, it was to the qadi
that he turned himself in.
Antun Sadirs escape to the Islamic court is signicant because it
provided the Ottoman authorities with rst hand information about
the course of events. Lansdowns warehouseman denounced the fraud-
250 cn.r+rn ri\r
98
Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law, 197198.
99
See Table 9, page 164.
100
See above, page 246.
ulent circumstances surrounding his brothers bankruptcy, incrimi-
nating Heemskerk and Diyab. Sadir thus gave the Ottoman author-
ities sucient grounds to adjudicate the disputes over the bankruptcies
themselves, but the qadi chose not to at this stage. Instead, he del-
egated further examinations of the evidence to a number of arbiters
who operated under his supervision.
On 28 June 1763 the creditors of Sadir and Diyab held a closed
meeting in the house of Thomas Lansdown at the Ottoman author-
ities initiative. The meeting was led by unnamed Turkish [i.e.
Muslim] arbiters who have no interest as creditors appointed by
the qadi. Also present were the four bankrupts, the First, Second
and Third Dragomans of the Dutch consulate, the Dutch chancel-
lor, and the English First Dragoman, Jirjis Aida. During this meet-
ing, Jarmanos Sadir and Antun Diyab answered a number of allegations
levelled against them on a previous occasion by Yusuf and Antun
Sadir.
101
Fact-nding seems to have been the principal aim of the
meeting.
The governor-general and the qadi of Aleppo subsequently ordered
the creditors of Sadir and Diyab to examine the bankrupts accounts
on Saturday, 16 July 1763. This second meeting took place in the
house of the merchant Abdullah A<a Mirozade, who appears to
have been one of the arbiters.
102
On the orders of the local author-
ities the meeting was attended by a certain Seyyid Bakri, by Abdur-
rahman A<a Qurna, the French merchants Reinaud and Bernard,
and the English merchants David Hays, Charles Smith and Colvill
Bridger. Also present were the Frenchmen Pons and Magy, as well
as Lansdown, the First and Second Dragomans of the French, the
English and the Dutch nation, and Antun Diyab and Jarmanos Sadir
themselves.
103
Although the meeting was called to examine the accounts of Sadir
and Diyab, little seems to have come of this. Instead, the bankrupts
were confronted with Seyyid Bakris claim that they had made a prot
n.xkntr+cv 251
101
DNA, LAT 1118, Estrato autentico della Cancellaria Neederlandese di questa
Citta di Aleppo & le sue Dippendenze . . . [20 Iuglio 1763].
102
Although Miro is neither a Turkish nor an Arabic name, this is how it appears
in the European sources. I have found no Ottoman or Arabic text in which the
man is mentioned.
103
DNA, LAT 1118, Noi sottoscritti Mercanti Inglese . . . dated 16 July 1763.
Although the document is unsigned, it is clear from surrounding documents that it
was written by Smith and Bridger on Heemskerks request. Their account of the
meeting was conrmed by all four dragomans in Dutch service at the time.
of 7,000 kuru{ on a load of unspecied textiles that he had sold to
them. Sadir denied this, claiming that he could prove that they had
suered a loss of 1,137 kuru{ on the transaction instead. The records
of the buyers, the French merchants Jouve and Cuzin, would prove
his case, he claimed. The creditors seem to have been insensitive to
these arguments, however. Instead of examining the bankrupts busi-
ness records, they demanded an acceptable settlement. According to
previous calculations the estate of Sadir and Diyab was worth 23,000
kuru{ while their debts amounted to 190,000 kuru{. This meant the
creditors could expect a 12.1% dividend, but they did not consider
this satisfactory. They demanded 25% from the Dutch consul, who
would have to supply the remaining 24,500 kuru{. It was thought
that the bankrupts should be able to repay their employer over a
period of two or three years. A dividend of 25% was justied accord-
ing to the English rst dragoman, Jirjis Aida, who claimed that
Yusuf and Antun Sadir would also pay their creditors this percent-
age.
104
The French also supported this demand, which was presen-
ted to the two dragomans of the Dutch consulate. The dragomans
returned to the meeting with Heemskerks reply, the translation of
which was read aloud. According to the consul, the meeting had
been called to examine the bankrupts accounts in order to verify
the consular investigation. He atly refused to discuss the demand
of a 25% dividend. By taking this position, Heemskerk further antag-
onized his warehousemens creditors, who were already suspicious of
his role in the scandal. As a result, the creditors sent a report to
the governor-general and the qadi stating that Jarmanos Sadir and
Antun Diyab were thieves and that they were guilty of embezzlement.
105
Even after the Porte had assigned jurisdiction to the qadi in Aleppo,
the Islamic court gave the interested parties several months to reach
an agreement without its direct involvement. Only after this had
failed did the qadi order a general session in his court in order to
examine the numerous claims against the Dutch consul and his ware-
housemen.
252 cn.r+rn ri\r
104
This was a (deliberate?) exaggeration. The creditors of Yusuf and Antun Sadir
only recouped 10%.
105
. . . che questi Germanos Sader e Antonio Diab sono furbi, e che hanno man-
giato il bene delli Genti . . . DNA, LAT 1118, Noi sottoscritti Mercanti Inglese . . .
ii. A General Session in the Islamic Court
About a week after the meeting of 16 July, a hearing took place in
Aleppos mahkema.
106
The high-prole hearing was attended by sev-
eral of the highest ocers in Aleppo, including the muhassl, ndkrl
Eendi, the serdar, Umar A<a, and elebi Eendi. Also present were
creditors from several notable Muslim families. Shouts from the audi-
ence claimed that possessions of the ummat Muhammad (the com-
munity of Muhammad, i.e. the Muslims) had been embezzled, loudly
demanding justice.
107
Although this phrase was clearly meant to
inuence the Islamic judge, his judgement appears to have been
unaected by it. The case proceeded as follows. After the bankrupts
had been identied, three creditors came forward with their claims.
The rst was Muhammad A<a Kabkabo<lu, who claimed that Sadir
and Diyab owed him in excess of 4,000 kuru{. If any evidence was
referred to, it is not mentioned in the account of the hearing. The
qadi relegated the second claimant, el-hacc Sulayman b. Muhammad
Shaykh, to a separate lawsuit, despite protests from the audience.
The third creditor who came forward was el-hacc Yahya Usays, who
claimed to have sold white silk to the Dutchman for 17,000 kuru{,
half of which had been paid to him by the consul, leaving 8,500
kuru{ still due. Sadir replied that only half of the transaction had
been for consul Heemskerks account, the other half being for him-
self and his brothers. This was denied by both Yusuf and Antun
Sadir and Usays. In the end the deed of sale was found and read
out loud in court. Since it conrmed Jarmanos claim, the qadi
proclaimed that el-hacc Usays had no case against the Dutch consul.
The qadi subsequently asked the bankrupts where all their money
had gone. Jarmanos replied that the preceding six years had been
characterized by illness, misery, death, adversity in trade, war in
Europe, plague and similar circumstances. As a result, Sadir claimed
that they had had to pay high interests, had lost many creditors,
and suered losses in trade. The qadi repeated the claim voiced by
Seyyid Bakri at a previous meeting, that Sadir and Diyab had made
n.xkntr+cv 253
106
An eyewitness account of this meeting is found in DNA, LAT 1118. The
unsigned document is in Italian and is dated 23 July 1763. The following passages
are based on this document.
107
For other examples of unruly behaviour in court, see Amnon Cohen, Le
Rouge at le NoirJerusalem Style REMM 5556 (1990/12), 141149; and Ergene,
Local Court, Provincial Society and Justice in the Ottoman Empire, 133138.
a prot of 7,000 kuru{ on a transaction, involving textiles. In vain
did Sadir again deny the claim. Apparently in response to shouts
from the audience, the qadi summoned Yusuf and Antun Sadir,
whose testimony would be crucial to the case.
On the stand Antun Sadir testied that in the week preceding the
bankruptcy merchandise belonging to Sadir and Diyab had been
removed from their storage rooms and transported to secured cham-
bers belonging to Heemskerk under Diyabs supervision. Moreover,
he claimed that goods entrusted to his brother Jarmanos and to
Diyab by unidentied Muslims were hidden in the Honey Khan.
108
Antun Diyab acknowledged this nightly transport of goods to the
consular storerooms, but denied any wrongdoing. He explained
that he had calculated the balance between him and Sadir and
their employer that evening. When the consul discovered how much
he was owed by his warehousemen, he had ordered Diyab to settle
their debts immediately. The warehouseman therefore consigned to
Heemskerk the equivalent in kind of the sum he was owed. According
to the testimony of the principal porter of the khan, that night he
and his colleagues moved 160 bales of broadcloth, 20 barrels of
sugar, 2 barrels of cochineal, the same quantity of indigo, 90 bales
of unspecied textiles, 6 cases of hats, as well as three rooms full of
wood. A similar statement was recorded from the odaba{ (supervi-
sor) of the Dutch consular khan, and the consuls scribe. The total
value of these goods was estimated at 120,000 kuru{.
Once the rumours of suspicious nocturnal movements of goods
had been conrmed before the court, the Dutch consul was given
three days to meet the creditors demands for a fair nancial set-
tlement. If he failed to comply, the Porte would be notied of the
courts damaging conclusions. Yet the Dutchman persisted in his
refusal to accept the competence of the local court, demanding a
hearing before the Grand Vizier to vindicate himself. After their ulti-
matum had lapsed, the local authorities thus sent a report to Istanbul
254 cn.r+rn ri\r
108
Jarmanos Sadir and Antun Diyab later continued to deny that the transfer
of these goods was illegal. In a hccet (of which I have only found the Italian trans-
lation), they stated that . . . che Corso voce ne tempo del nostro fallimento che il
Console sud:
o
Heemskerk aveva pigliato dal nostro Ben[e] certe mercanzie, non e
di nulla verita . . .. DNA, LAT 1118: Translazione del Hogget del Debito di
Germano Sadir e Antonio Diab, 21 Giamadi Elawal 1177/27 November 1763.
to complain about the consuls actions.
109
At the beginning of
September, the dragomans of the Dutch and British ambassadors
were told by the reislkttab that the Grand Vizier was favourably
disposed towards the petition he had received from Aleppo. He
ordered the Dutch to hand over the goods that had been moved at
night on Heemskerks orders, threatening to close Aleppo to Dutch
trade if his orders were not followed.
110
Some two months later, on 21 November 1763, a joint statement
was registered in the local court of Aleppo on behalf of 30 credi-
tors of Jarmanos, Jibrail, Antun and Yusuf Sadir and of Antun Diyab.
This group consisted of most of the prominent Muslim creditors, the
French and British merchants involved, and of the Christian and
Jewish Ottoman creditors, including the British First Dragoman Jirjis
Aida. First they briey mentioned the bankruptcies in question, and
referred to both their report to the Porte and the Imperial Command
they had received in reply. Then they declared that they had become
convinced that the controversial nightly transportation of goods to
the Dutch consuls storage rooms had concerned only his own goods,
to which the creditors of Sadir and Diyab were not entitled. They
renounced all previous claims against the consul and unequivocally
stated that there were no disputes between them and the Dutchman.
Heemskerk was given a lengthy hccet, which was authenticated by
the qadis seal, and signed by the citys most important Ottoman
ocials. Among them were elebi Eendi, and el-hacc Ahmad A<a,
who was both muhassil and mtesellim at that moment, as well as one
member each of the notable local Muslim Fansa, Tahazade, Trabulsi,
Kawakibi and Imadi families. The serdar of Aleppo and several lesser
ocials, such as the dragoman of the mahkema, are also mentioned
as witnesses.
111
Although the deed of quittance does not mention a
n.xkntr+cv 255
109
A translation of this document is found in DNA, LAT 1118, Copia della
translazione dei principali punti del Hailam [ilm] fatti nella Giustizia Turca . . .
[undated], where the testimony of Shukri Diyab is given in full. Our estimate of
the value of these goods is also from this document. Cf. DNA, LH 165, folder
1763, Estratto vicino del Hailam che hanno fatto nella Giustizia Turcha nel Mese
di Iuglio 1763 e toccante lAssemblea del 23 Iuglio dello Primati.
110
DNA, LH 165, folder 1763, Note de la Communication . . . 5:
e
7bre 1763.
111
DNA, LAT 1092, doc. 1092/36, Ottoman hccet dated 15 Cemaziyelevvel
1177/21 November 1763. DNA, LAT 1118 contains the Translazione del Hoggiet
di dierenzione del Sig:
r
Console delle Calunie che gli Erano fatte; e quietanza di
tutti li Creditori di Germanos Sader, Anton Diab Bancherotte.
nancial settlement, Heemskerk claimed to have paid the creditors
of his warehousemen the sum of 10,130.96 Lion dollars for it. He
claimed to have done this in order to protect Dutch interests in
Aleppo in general, and sent a request to the Dutch Directors of
Levant Trade for reimbursement of his expenses. Heemskerk was
convinced that the aair was qualied as a national avania, a crisis
which aected the entire nation in Aleppo and which should there-
fore be paid by the Directors.
112
The unsigned eyewitness account of this meeting, on which this
discussion is largely based, is interesting because an image of the
qadi court emerges from it that is seldom found in Western sources.
113
The court was evidently lled with people, Muslims, non-Muslims
and foreigners alike, who all had an interest in the procedure. Some
of the Muslims present made loud and emotional appeals to the qadi
to punish the embezzlement of goods belonging to the umma of
Muhammad. The qadi appears to have dealt with these outcries in
a dispassionate manner, rejecting some claims after a brief inquiry,
while relegating others to separate trials. Only when he had solid
proof of embezzlement on the part of the Dutch consul did he sen-
tence him to meet the creditors demands. This contradicts the stock
image of the unreliable qadi found all too often in Western diplo-
matic sources of the period. The adjudication of the remaining claims
strengthens this conclusion.
iii. Individual Trails in the Islamic Court
While an agreement had now been reached with the majority of the
creditors, three individual creditors remained. The rst was el-hacc
Sulayman b. Muhammad Shaykh, whose claim was relegated to a
separate lawsuit by the qadi during the hearing at the end of July.
Sadir and Diyab already owed 13,000 kuru{ by August 1762 and the
debt may well have increased later. The others were el-hacc Musa
Amiri, and el-hacc Abdalwahhab Homsi elebi. Amiri was due at
least 35,000 kuru{, which made him the second largest creditor of
256 cn.r+rn ri\r
112
Bronnen III, 482483, n. 2, referring to DNA, LH 165 (A copy of Heemskerks
request for reimbursement by the Directors of Levant Trade, in the folder for 1763).
Also see LH 165, 29 April 1763, 24 September 1763, Heemskerk to the Directors.
The claim does not seem to have been successful.
113
DNA, LAT 1118.
Sadir and Diyab after Jirjis Aida. Homsi elebi was owed almost
4,000 kuru{.
The case of el-hacc Sulayman b. Muhammad Shaykh involved a
quantity of silk, which the Ottoman merchant initially denied hav-
ing sold at all.
114
Instead, he claimed only to have left it with Jarmanos
Sadir on deposit. During the hearing at the end of July, Sadir pro-
duced written evidence of the sale and when it appeared that Heem-
skerk had bought a substantial part of the silk from his warehouseman,
the qadi decided that el-hacc Sulayman should take the consul to
court instead of his warehouseman. The Dutchman refused to appear
in court, however, asserting his capitulatory right to be tried only in
Istanbul. El-hacc Sulayman then sent a petition to the Porte, in reply
to which Heemskerk was ordered to accept the local courts author-
ity in the matter. The case nally came before the court at the end
of November 1763, when Heemskerk had already left Aleppo and
the Ottoman claimant was not in Aleppo either. Although no procu-
rator is mentioned for el-hacc Sulayman, at a previous stage he had
apparently produced an extract from the registers of the collector of
the kassabiye tax which mentioned Heemskerk as the buyer of the
silk in question. Obviously, this document supported el-hacc Sulaymans
claims against the Dutchman. Heemskerk was represented by his
First Dragoman, Antun Bitar, who produced adavits from the col-
lector of the kassabiye, from a silk weigher, and from several Ottoman
merchants. The tax collector testied that it was customary for mer-
chants who had a berat to register transactions between them under
the name of a foreigner, to avoid both parties having to pay duties
on the sale. This was conrmed by the silk weighers statement.
Moreover, a group of merchants stated that el-hacc Sulayman had
sold the silk to Jarmanos, Yusuf and Antun Sadir, and not to
n.xkntr+cv 257
114
On the basis of evamir-i sultaniyye kept in the records of the mahkema of Aleppo,
Rhoads Murphey notes that the precise quantity was 833.83 batmans of silk, sold at
the current price of 22 kuru{ per batman. Of the total value of 19,000 kuru{, Murphey
claims only roughly one-quarter had been paid. Rhoads Murphey, Conditions of
Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean: An Appraisal of Eighteenth-Century Ottoman
Documents from Aleppo, JESHO 33 (1990), 3839. Alternative quantities are men-
tioned in DNA, LH 165, folder 1763, Copije van een advijs gesonden door den
Heer van Asten van Const. aen den Heer Consul Heemskerk in Aleppo [undated
(September 1763) in French and Italian.] and Ibid., LAT 1118, [unsigned account
of the court session in Italian, dated 23 July 1763].
Heemskerk. On the basis of this testimony, the qadi denied the claim
of el-hacc Sulayman, and issued a deed to this eect.
115
Little is known about the circumstances of the nal case against
the former Dutch consul that came to court in Aleppo. El-hacc Musa
Amiri was the brother of Abdalqadir Amiri, who attempted to have
the consular settlement of the estate of Yusuf and Antun Sadir
reversed. His name already appears on the list of creditors of Jarmanos
and Jibrail Sadir and Antun Diyab in August of 1762, where a credit
of 35,000 kuru{ was registered. Homsi elebi also appears on this
list, with 3,975 kuru{ to his name. Together they led a lawsuit the
only evidence of which that has survived consists of the hccet the
qadi issued as a result. Although I have found no references to this
case in the Dutch records, the consulate was certainly aware of it,
because goods were kept sequestered in connection with the claims.
These unspecied goods were kept under Heemskerks seal in two
rooms in the Khan of Ubayd elebi, in a room in the portal build-
ing of the Khan al-Harir, in four rooms in the house of Jarmanos
Sadir and in three rooms and a safe in Antun Diyabs house. In
court the two creditors proved that they were entitled to 38,941
kuru{, and they had also obtained an Imperial Command in support
of their claim.
116
By this time Heemskerk had left Aleppo, and his
business partner, Nicolaas van Maseijk had succeeded him as Dutch
consul. Thus, on 5 December 1763, it was Van Maseijk who was
ordered by Aleppos msellim and muhassl to hand over the sequestered
merchandise to el-hacc Ali Eendi, the kahya (steward) of the qadi.
117
The consul complied with this demand on the same day, and received
a hccet from the court as evidence.
118
The Islamic court thus adjudicated the nal two claims against
the Dutch consul. In both cases the claimants were notable Muslims,
but this did not mean that their case was automatically stronger than
258 cn.r+rn ri\r
115
DNA, LAT 1118, No. 3, Ottoman text, dated mid Cemaziyelevvel 1177/26
March-4 April 1763. It is accompanied by a Translazione del Ilam contro Haggi
Soliman glio di Mehemed Scieke.
116
According to the Nota delli debiti they were owed 34 kuru{ more.
117
DNA, LAT 1092, doc. 44: Order by the qadi and the interim governor of
Aleppo, in Ottoman Turkish, dated 29 C I [1]177/5 December 1763; See LAT
1118, for the Traduzione del Murassall del Caddi.
118
DNA, LAT 1118, Translazione del Hogget del Chiaja del Cadi [Italian, with-
out Ottoman text].
that of the Dutchman. The rst claimant even lost his case, because
it did not concern the consul, but his warehousemen. Here the qadi
disregarded written evidence that supported the claim in favour of
the testimony of witnesses that conrmed a common practice among
merchants in Aleppo. It is not clear if the claimant pursued the mat-
ter further, for the sources are silent about all matters involving these
bankruptcies from this point.
Conclusion
There were countless bankruptcies in the Ottoman Empire in the
eighteenth century which only involved Westerners and protgs of
their embassies or consulates. Some merchants simply limited their
commercial relations to fellow Europeans, while others successfully
used their brokers and warehousemen to create legal buers between
themselves and the Ottoman marketplace. The capitulations assigned
jurisdiction in such matters to the consul concerned, or, if the bank-
ruptcy occurred in Istanbul, to the ambassador. In those cases the
consulate of the bankrupt was responsible for the sequestration of
his estate, for the safe-keeping of any assets, and for collecting debts
owed to the estate. All Western consulates and embassies in the
Ottoman Empire followed the same standard procedures for bank-
ruptcies, which had developed among the foreign nations there through
the years.
Even when all creditors belonged to the same community, there
were several possible complications. For example, bankrupts might
try to escape their creditors by eeing from their place of residence,
or from the Ottoman Empire altogether. The ownership of con-
signments was generally dicult to establish, and often the subject
of protracted disputes among the creditors. Such factors complicated
matters for the consulate, but its jurisdiction was generally secure.
It is interesting that one seldom nds references in the eighteenth-
century sources to the application of national laws, even when all
creditors belonged to the same community as the bankrupt. These
laws were probably only relevant when creditors pursued their claims
in the native country of the bankrupt. This was the case, for exam-
ple, with Thomas Lansdown. Most of the arrangements in connec-
tion with his bankruptcy were made in Aleppo, where the British
consulate followed standard Levantine procedures. Only when sev-
n.xkntr+cv 259
eral of his creditors from London decided to lay disputes among
themselves before British courts in England did English law actually
become important.
Consular jurisdiction over bankruptcies of Western merchants or
Ottoman beratls was not always self-evident. The consul settled all
bankruptcies and adjudicated ensuing disputes only as long as all
interested parties belonged to the same consulate, or to other Western
communities. The capitulations explicitly mentioned the jurisdiction
of the qadi, as well as the divan- hmayun. In the eyes of the Ottoman
authorities anyonealso foreign merchantshad the right to apply
to the Islamic court in his place of residence or to the Imperial
Council in Istanbul. Any of the interested parties could therefore
attempt to circumvent or challenge consular jurisdiction by turning
to the Ottoman authorities. In the eyes of most Western consuls and
ambassadors this was a violation of the capitulations, but it was fully
in accordance with the Ottoman legal system. In none of the ahdnames
the Porte had ever relinquished its right to reassign jurisdiction, when
this was in the interest of Ottoman subjects.
Jan Heemskerk jr. personied the common Western notion that
consuls and ambassadors in this period enjoyed more extensive priv-
ileges than they actually had. Heemskerk thought that his dignity as
consul would take precedence over the interest of the creditors of
Jarmanos Sadir and Antun Diyab. The Dutchman was also the bank-
rupts employer and one of their creditors, but the Dutchman denied
this constituted a conict of interests. Moreover, the consul had trig-
gered the bankruptcy of his own warehousemen by extracting instant
payment of their debts to him, taking away what assets they had
left, whereby he eectively forced them to declare bankruptcy. The
creditors of Sadir and Diyab considered the nocturnal transfer of
the warehousemens goods to the storage rooms of the consul, which
Heemskerk considered legal payment, a form of embezzlement. In
the Dutch consuls eyes none of these factors carried enough weight
to aect his jurisdiction over the bankrupt estates of his own employ-
ees. The Ottoman authorities disagreed with the Dutchman and reas-
signed jurisdiction to the qadi in Aleppo, who appears to have acted
conscientiously and even-handedly.
Even after the Islamic judge had been assigned jurisdiction he
allowed the creditors to negotiate a settlement out of court. Only
when this failed did the qadi hold a series of hearings during which
260 cn.r+rn ri\r
he adjudicated several claims. Each case was examined individually
and judged on its merits. As a result he rejected the claims of some
creditors, while supporting those of others. The Dutch consul was
alone considering the Portes decision an injustice. None of his fel-
low consuls involved, the English and French, denounced the actions
of the Ottoman government as a violation of their privileges. Neither
forbade the members of their nations from laying their claims against
Heemskerk before the Islamic court. On the contrary, the other
Western consulates and the European creditors acted in concert with
the Ottoman creditors, Muslims and non-Muslims, and welcomed
the intervention of the Ottoman authorities.
Although these bankruptcies by themselves were not exceptional,
the conduct of the Dutch consul was. Heemskerk thought his status
as consul made him immune to the Ottoman legal system. It was
this conviction that motivated his actions. By clinging to this mis-
guided view without adjusting it out of pragmatism or self-preser-
vation, the Dutch consul explored the limits of Western legal autonomy
in the Ottoman Empire. Foreign nations did enjoy a degree of legal
autonomy provided only Europeans or their protgs were involved,
but they ultimately remained subject to the Ottoman legal system.
When the interests of Ottoman subjects were at risk the Porte asserted
its authority and imposed its own laws on foreign residents. This
case shows that such drastic measures were not necessarily harmful
to the interests of the Western creditors involved. There was also no
sign of erosion of the capitulatory privileges. Heemskerk left Aleppo
and the Levant, and his successor, Nicolaas van Maseijk, took over
the consulate.
119
The capitulatory system continued to function as
before, these bankruptcies had just revealed some of its limits, as
well as its place within the Ottoman legal system.
n.xkntr+cv 261
119
At his own request the Dutch States General dismissed Heemskerk from his
oce on 20 June 1763. The Dutchman left the Levant at the end of that year and
returned to Amsterdam where he became a successful merchant and insurance
agent. He died on 9 March 1799. Schutte, Repertorium, 353.
Table 9. Nota delli debiti di Germanos & Gibrail Sader & Anton Diab,
8 August 1762.
A Seid Dervis [b. sayyid Hasan] Piaster 3.787,
Seid Hassan Hamui 1.305,
Seid Mehemet Gannam [Ghannam] 3.485,
Seid Abdalla 1.250,
Seid Juseph Entachi 1.363,
Seid Arabi 1.100,
Seid Ali [b. 'Ayrut?] 2.034,
Seid Mehemed Diarbekirli 250,
Haggi Musa [b. el-hacc Hasan] Emir [Amiri] 35.000,
Hassan Cialabi [avu{ ba{?] 1.250,
Haggi Abdelvahab [Homsi] 3.975,
Mustafa A<a 2.000,
56.808,
A Haggi Jehje [Usays] Mussoli 8.540,
Mahomed Aga [Kabkabo<lu] 4.284,
Mmo. Sig. Console Inghilterra [William Kinloch] 3.180,
Sig. Heemskerk, Maseyk & Co. 7.539,
Sig. [ Jean-Franois] Ponz 11.487,
Sig. [ Jean-Paul] Magy 8.677,
Sig. [Michel] Gilly 2.244,
Sig. [ Jean-Pierre] Augier 3.636,
Sig. Giorgio Ayde [ Jirjis Aida] 13.000,
Sig. Giorgios Asiun [w. Khaccadur] 2.520,
Elias & Anton Gadban [Ghadban] 636,
Pietro [glio di Samaan] Simonetti 407,
Azar Cadid 834,
123.792,
A Name Diarbekirli 2.170,
Sig. Casia 196,
Salamon Ragivan 3.407,
Jacob Agiami 217,
Sig. Namet pstr 39, Haggi Ali 1.258, 1.297,
Haggi Solaiman pstr 13.000, [el-hacc Sulayman b.
Muhammad Shaykh]
Michel Entaki 18.900, 31.900,
162.979,
A Sign Lansdown per sicurta a conto di Juseph & Anton Sader 17.623,
A Sig. Aide per Sicurta a conto di detti 35.000,
215.602,
Germano Sader
Anton Diab
sino 8 agosta 1762
Source: DNA, LAT 624.
262 cn.r+rn ri\r
CHAPTER SIX
THEFT
The third and nal case study I propose to examine is dierent from
the previous two. Deaths and bankruptcies of members of foreign
communities and their Ottoman protgs occurred frequently enough
to allow a preliminary survey of possible complications and other
relevant aspects to precede each case that was studied in detail. That
is not the case here. Although petty theft must have happened with
some regularity, I have found precious few records of litigation over
it. This does not mean that the present case study should be dis-
missed as unique, and therefore unrepresentative. What makes this
case worth examining is the fact that it confronted several European
consuls and ambassadors with a problem that was not mentioned in
the capitulations. Although the Ottoman authorities did not inter-
vene in the consular procedures, which took place in Aleppo and
Istanbul, the qadi of Basra had a signicant inuence on their out-
come, nevertheless. This case sheds valuable light on consular legal
procedures in the Ottoman Empire in general, and the application
of the principle of double jeopardy and the use of arbitration as an
instrument for dispute resolution in particular. It also conrms the
importance of the parties involved, whose individual strategies could
seriously aect the course of justice.
Theft in the Ottoman Legal System
Amputation of the hand as the xed penalty for stealing is proba-
bly the most well known rule of Islamic law outside the Islamic
world. The fact that most Islamic jurists have systematically reduced
the practical applicability of this Koranic injunction from an early
age is not common knowledge. As Colin Imber has shown, in the
Ottoman period the rule was removed from the sphere of practical
law by dening theft in a way that obstructed its implementation.
Taking the view that the xed penalty was meant as a deterrent,
the jurists formulated a very restrictive denition of theft, which vir-
tually ruled out convictions. Imber points out that the usual stan-
dard of proof in Hana law is two male eyewitnesses, or one man
and two women, which would be very dicult to achieve for an
oence which the jurists dene as taking by stealth. Moreover, the
legal scholars distinguished two types of custody, the rst a place
such as a house or a room, which is custody by denition, and cus-
tody by a guardian, such as when a person is sitting with his goods,
or sleeping with them under his head. Theft from custody did not
incur amputation.
There were other conditions that relegated the issue of theft to
the realm of legal theory, too, divorcing it from practice to all intends
and purposes. The Hana scholars preferred to dene acts of theft
as usurpation. Damage and redress became the central issues in cases
of misappropriation, the principal aim being to restore the status
quo ante between the individuals concerned, by ensuring that the
compensation given is precisely equivalent in value to the loss suered.
The theorists disregarded the issue of intent, reducing theft to a pri-
vate matter between the two parties.
1
In practice theft was a mat-
ter of public order, too. Jurists therefore began tacitly to support the
notion that governors had authority over cases of theft and usurpa-
tion, making them subject to discretionary punishment. This devel-
opment is clearly reected in Ottoman secular law, kanun, where
nes and ogging were introduced as penalties for these oences.
Moreover, criminal intent was developed as a legal principle.
The protagonist of Imbers study, the }eyhlislam Ebus-Su'ud
(c. 14901574), determined that the normal standards of proof do
not apply to theft. In response to a question about the proper way
to question suspects of theft, Ebus-Su'ud quoted an anecdote about
Ali, the fourth Caliph. A group of people had taken the son of a
Muslim to another district, but the boy had gone missing. When the
judge questioned the people who had accompanied the boy, they
denied being responsible for his disappearance. Unsure of how to
proceed, the judge asked the Caliph for advice. Ali summoned the
people involved and questioned them separately one by one, asking
each to describe for every stage of the journey what the boy was
264 cn.r+rn six
1
Imber, Ebus-Su'ud, 213220. Imber lists many more such restrictions. I have
limited my summary to aspects that are relevant to the principal case study of this
chapter.
wearing, what the suspect himself ate, and other detailed questions.
The Caliph had all contradictions in their statements written down
and subsequently confronted the suspects with these contradictions
in a joint hearing, whereupon they could no longer deny their guilt
and confessed. This kind of ingenuity is a requirement of the case,
Ebus-Su'ud added. Imber points out the two purposes of the story.
First, it legitimised the transfer of such cases from the Islamic courts,
personied in the story by the judge, to the administrative authori-
ties, here in the person of Ali. Second, it introduced non-canonical
methods of criminal investigation. Moreover, the story indicates that
in cases of theft (or, in this case, abduction) it is no longer the vic-
tim who must produce evidence against suspects, but the adminis-
trative authorities on whom the responsibility of the investigation
and punishment of thieves rests.
2
Under the Ottomans theft was thus largely transferred from the
competence of the {eriat courts to the jurisdiction of the administra-
tive authorities. Compensation for damages remained the principal
aim, but the authorities could impose additional punishment, too, in
the form of nes or ogging. Thieves could even be executed by
administrative decree for fomenting corruption, a phrase from the
Koran, which, as Ergene has shown, was occasionally used by the
courts to convict, even if there was insucient formal proof against
the suspect.
3
There are no provisions about theft in the capitulations. Several
texts contain an article about murder, which may have stood for
any kind of criminal case. The principal criterion seems to have
been whether the parties were all technically foreigners, or Ottoman
subjects were involved, as well. A provision about this matter is found
for the rst time in the French capitulations of 1673, which unam-
biguously assigned jurisdiction over murders committed among the
French to the French ambassador and consuls. The English capitu-
lation of 1675 stipulated that when an Englishman committed mur-
der or any other crime, and a lawsuit was led against him with
the Ottoman authorities, the Ottoman ocers should not proceed
without the consul or consular dragoman, but adjudicate the mat-
+nrr+ 265
2
Ibid., 223224.
3
Ergene, Local Court, Provincial Society and Justice in the Ottoman Empire, 152161,
225.
ter in concert with them.
4
The English text is not a contradiction
of its French predecessor, but an addition to it. The privileges awarded
the French were clearly limited to cases among members of the same
nation. The English capitulation of 1675 was not, and should be
interpreted as a provision in case foreigners murdered Ottoman sub-
jects, or committed other criminal acts against them. This article
also appears in the French capitulation of 1740 in a slightly dierent
form. It is worth quoting Noradounghians translation of this article
(no. 65) here.
Si un Franais ou un protg de France commettait quelque meurtre
ou quelquautre crime, et quon voult que la justice en prit connais-
sance, les juges de mon empire et les ociers ne pourront y procder
quen prsence de lambassadeur et des consuls, ou de leurs substituts,
dans les endroits ou ils se trouveront; et, enn quil ne se fasse rien
de contraire la noble justice ni aux capitulations impriales, il sera
procd de part et dautre avec attention aux perquisitions et recherches
ncessaires.
5
Bianchi has notes that in the nineteenth century this article was erro-
neously considered proof that the Ottoman tribunals had not juris-
diction over Frenchmen, because they could only take notice of cases
involving them if the French wanted them to. According to Bianchi,
daprs le texte turc, la seule interprtation vraie et littrale est:
lorsque la justice voudra en prendre connaissance. It thus was
the Ottoman judiciary who decided whether or not to take notice
of such cases, not the French, as this translation suggests.
6
Other capitulatory stipulations concern the adjudication of dis-
putes among members of dierent foreign nations. The Europeans
had long established that appeals to consular verdicts could be led
with the ambassador, but this rule was only included in the capitu-
lations in 1740.
7
The custom that disputes should be led with, and
adjudicated by the consul or ambassador of the plainti was also
well established among Europeans in the Levant, despite the fact
that it is not found in any of the ahdnames.
266 cn.r+rn six
4
Noradounghian, Recueil i, 139; Cf. Ibid., 156 (English capitulation of 1675, art.
42), 282 (French capitulation of 1740, art. 15).
5
Ibid., 294.
6
Ibid., 305.
7
For the relevant article, see Chapter One.
Case Study: Legal Disputes in a Partnership of Beratlis (17811788)
In the third and nal case study the activities of the protagonists
focus on the overland trade from Aleppo to the east. At the begin-
ning of the 1780s Yusuf Dwek Cohen, a Jewish dragoman of the
Dutch consulate, and Minas Uskan, an Armenian protg of the
British consulate, engaged in trade with Baghdad and Basra together.
Using the caravans that continued to cross the deserts, in 1781 they
sent several loads of merchandize as well as specie to Iraq, but some-
where along the way part of the money disappeared. This resulted
in litigation before the Islamic court in Basra, the Dutch consul in
Aleppo, and, nally, the Dutch ambassador in Istanbul. The law-
suits over the missing money went hand in hand with a dispute
between Uskan and Dwek Cohen over the conditions of one par-
ticular commercial transaction they had concluded with one another.
The two disputes oer a nal illustration of the interaction between
Ottoman and European mechanisms of justice in the Levant in the
eighteenth century, oering rare information about rules of procedure,
the application of the doctrine of double jeopardy, and the personal
and local circumstances that inuenced consular legal practices.
Interested Parties
Almost nothing is known about Minas Uskan, other than that he
was an Armenian protg of the English consulate in Aleppo with
the status of hizmetkr. It is not clear under whose berat he was reg-
istered, nor do we know when his connection with the British com-
menced. Uskan operated as an independent merchant, whose
correspondents in Basra and Baghdad were fellow Armenians.
8
At
no point do our sources allude to a beratl with whom he may have
been connected. It therefore seems likely that Minas Uskan was actu-
ally only the nominal servant of some British protg. He appears
never to have been in the active service of the English consulate,
contrary to his business partner.
Yusuf w. Simeon Dwek Cohen probably settled in Aleppo at the
beginning of the 1770s, coming from Damascus. He became a pro-
+nrr+ 267
8
On the Armenian communities in this period, see Avedis Sanjian, The Armenian
Communities in Syria under Ottoman Dominion (Cambridge, 1965).
tg of the Dutch consulate in Aleppo on 17 April 1772.
9
At the
beginning of 1780 he was seconded to the Venetian consulate by
the Dutch consul, but the objections of the Venetian ambassador
against a Dutch protg in the service of the Serenissima soon ended
the arrangement. Dwek Cohen remained an honorary dragoman
until 1795, when he became First Dragoman of the Dutch consulate
in Aleppo.
10
His commercial activities were directed both west and
east. He conducted his trade from an unknown khan in Aleppo, with
the help of his odaba{, Ishaq w. Harrari, who supervised his busi-
ness in the khan. His ocial hizmetkrs were the Syrian Christian
Azzuz w. Azar Shami, and a Maronite called Jurji w. Ayyub, but
it is not clear if there was actually any connection between Dwek
Cohen and his servants.
11
The earliest record I have found of Dwek Cohens business activ-
ities dates from 1775, when the English vessel The Duke of Genoa
arrived in Istanbul from Iskenderun. Among its cargo were 22 bales
of textiles from Bengal, which had been loaded by one Stefano
Caleve in Iskenderun. The goods were marked ID and TS, the ini-
tials of the owners of the goods, Yusuf Dwek Cohen, and Thomas
de Serpos, the addressee of the cargo in Istanbul. When the ship
arrived in the Ottoman capital, it became clear that two bales had
been drenched in seawater and were damaged. Of one bale belong-
ing to Dwek Cohen, 67 pieces with a value of 296 kuru{ and 38 ake
had become worthless, while De Serpos had lost only 17 pieces with
a total value of some 37 kuru{. An Armenian and a Greek merchant
inspected the goods and stated that the owners were entitled to
compensation.
12
Although this is not stated explicitly, the two mer-
chants were probably compensated for their loss either by the cap-
tain of the English vessel, John Chesell, or by its owner. After all,
the transporters of the merchandize were responsible for its safety
during the trip.
268 cn.r+rn six
9
BOA, ED 22/1, 405/1753, 14 Muharrem 1186/17 April 1772.
10
DNA, LAT 774, N. van Maseijk to Van Haeften, 12 and 17 April 1780;
DNA, LH 167 (le 17941795).
11
BOA, ED 22/1, 428/1851, mid Receb 1193/25 July3 August 1779. Cf.
DNA, LAT 774, N. van Maseijk to Van Haeften, 9 December 1779, which speaks
of Abdulaziz w. Azar Shami, di Nazione Soriana; BOA, ED 22/1, 432/1869,
beginning Cemaziyelevvel 1194/514 May 1780.
12
BNA, SP 105/186, 102103, 20 July 1775 [in Italian].
In later years Dwek Cohen and De Serpos maintained a com-
mercial correspondence while they also engaged in trade with other
partners. One of Dwek Cohens other associates was Minas Uskan.
The Dutch beratl and the English hizmetkr were equal partners, and
both conducted trade on their own account and in partnership with
others at the same time. Each kept his own books and after every
transaction the balance between them was calculated and settled.
There was no common capital. Goods were acquired either by mutual
consent or by one of the partners who bought them on his own
account rst, subsequently oering the merchandize for sale to the
partnership. In those cases the conditions of the transfer of owner-
ship, like the price of the goods, discounts, and exchange rates, were
discussed beforehand. Only when both partners agreed, were the
goods formally acquired by the partnership.
It is useful here also to introduce the Dutch consuls who eventu-
ally became involved in the disputes between Uskan and Dwek
Cohen. Nicolaas van Maseijk had arrived in Aleppo in the spring
of 1755.
13
He had close connections with the British community in
the city. For example, in 1757 the English merchant Thomas Vernon
lodged with Van Maseijk, also dining at his table.
14
He returned
to the Dutch republic at an uncertain date. He was subsequently
appointed consul at Aleppo in 1763, arriving there for the second
time at the end of 1764. He would hold the oce for twenty years.
Despite the fact that the Dutch Republic and Great Britain were
ghting the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War all over the world between
1780 and 1784, in Aleppo Nicolaas van Maseijk continued to main-
tain close relations with the English there, attending services in the
British chapel with his wife on Sundays. Before the disputes between
Uskan and Van Maseijk were concluded, Van Maseijk died on 28
February 1784.
15
His son, Jan, was his successor as Dutch consul.
Jan van Maseijks connections with the British nation were even
stronger than those of his father. He was born in Aleppo on Christmas
+nrr+ 269
13
Schutte seems to have been unaware of Nicolaas van Maseijks first term in
Aleppo, since his biography of him only starts after his return from the Dutch
Republic, in 1763. Schutte, Repertorium, 354.
14
BNA, SP 110/74 (ii), Van Maseijk to Vernon, 9 May 1757 (in English). Vernon
annually paid 500 kuru{ for board. It is neither clear when the arrangement began,
nor when it ended.
15
Schutte, Repertorium, 354.
Day 1758, the second son born in the town to Nicolaas and his
English wife, Elizabeth. He was baptized in the British consular
chapel on 16 September 1759, the English merchants Bridger and
Kirkhouse being the sponsors. Before he was ten years old Jan van
Maseijk spoke Dutch, French, English, Italian, Arabic, and Armenian.
Soon after his father died, he called an assembly of the Dutch nation
and had himself appointed Dutch consul pro-interim, an arrange-
ment that was approved by the States-General at the end of 1784.
He also acted as vice-consul for Naples, Sweden and Denmark in
Aleppo.
16
The connections of Nicolaas and Jan van Maseijk are rel-
evant for this case, because the British consulate was also involved
in it, since Minas Uskan was its protg.
Legal Issues and Strategies
In July 1781 Uskan and Dwek Cohen sent fteen cases of mer-
chandize and three cases of specie to Basra. Half the cargo con-
sisted of tinsel (lametta), the other half of false coral.
17
The merchandize
belonged to Uskan and Dwek Cohen, each owning 50%. The goods
were gathered in Dwek Cohens khan, where they were packed in
bags, put in crates, nailed shut and secured by ropes and chains.
Each crate contained two cases, making a total of nine loads. The
Jewish dragoman arranged for packers, as well as porters who would
transport the crates to the point of departure of the caravan to Basra
in the company of a caravan conductor.
18
While Dwek Cohen took
care of the practicalities in Aleppo, the correspondents of Uskan
were responsible for the sale of the goods in Basra, the proceeds of
which they would remit to Aleppo by caravan. Nine cases were
addressed to Maghak w. Serkis and Kevork w. Der David, Uskans
business partners in Basra, while the remaining nine were addressed
to other correspondents there. Uskan announced the shipment
to them by letter, in which he revealed the Armenian abbreviations
by which the crates could be distinguished from other cargo in the
caravan.
270 cn.r+rn six
16
BNA, SP 110/74 (iv), John van Maseijk, Aleppo, to E. Edwards at Tripoly,
27 April 1768 (in English). Schutte, Repertorium, 354.
17
The word lametta is translated as clincant (Fr: clinquant = tinsel) in DNA, LAT
1266, Mokdevi Calostian to ambassador Van Dedem, 30 August 1786 (in French).
18
DNA, LAT 774, Estratto del giornale del Sigr Jusef Dueck.
Before the cases left the khan Uskan supplied bags of money of
various currencies, which were placed in the nal three cases. It was
customary for merchants in Aleppo to transport money in this way,
and Dwek Cohen regularly organised the dispatch for others. At an
unknown date he handed over the eighteen cases belonging to his
company with Uskan to a caravan conductor called Muhammad al-
Shai al-Makkari al-Najdi, a member of the Muntak tribe.
19
The
loads were transported with three horses supplied by someone in
Dwek Cohens service, and escorted by the caravan conductor and
his assistants. Besides the eighteen cases belonging to his company
with Dwek Cohen Uskan also sent a case and a half of silk with
another conductor of the same caravan. The silk was addressed to
two Armenian merchants, who had invested money in it.
Upon the arrival of the caravan in Basra, Maghak and Kevork
received all the nine cases Uskan had sent to them, as well as the
one and a half cases of silk. First, the silk was examined and sent
on to the two investors. Then the cases transported by Muhammad
al-Shai were inspected and opened. This took place in the presence
of four Armenians from Julfa, and four Muslim packers who were
frequently employed by William Digges La Touche, the agent of the
East India Company (EIC) in Basra. According to Uskans letter,
the last three cases should contain money instead of merchandize.
Case 16 should contain two purses, one belonging to Uskan, the
other the property of Stefan Der Raphael. Case 17 was supposed
to contain three purses, one of which was owned jointly by Uskan,
Maghak and Kevork. The other two purses in case 17 belonged
partly to Stefan Der Raphael, and partly to Mokdevi Calostian, a
merchant living in Istanbul. Case 18 should contain two purses, one
belonging to Uskan, the other to two other Armenian merchants.
When the three cases were opened, however, number 16 turned out
to be empty, except for a bundle of dried spices and some paper.
What should have been in case number 16 was found in case 17.
The nal case, number 18, contained the two purses that it was sup-
posed to. This meant that the three purses that should have been
+nrr+ 271
19
This man will henceforth be referred to as al-Shai. DNA, LAT 1266: Extra
Aanwinsten 1894, No. 96: doc 9, David Hays to Nicolaas van Maseijk, 19 May
1783 (in Italian) refers to the Montefeek. Redhouse, Turkish and English Lexicon
locates this Bedouin tribe at the lower Euphrates.
in case 17 were missing. It is not clear how much money Uskan
had been sent East in all, but detailed accounts of the missing sums
have survived. In all, it amounted to some 9,140 kuru{, in which
Minas Uskan had a 40% share, the remainder belonged to Maghak
and Kevork.
20
In legal terms the disappearance of the money constituted theft
from custody by a guardian, so could this guardian be held liable?
At rst sight there appear to be analogies between the case of the
missing money and the above-mentioned incident involving two bales
of Indian textiles, which Dwek Cohen had sent to Istanbul via an
agent in Iskenderun. The agent had consigned the cargo to an English
captain, who took it to the Ottoman capital. Upon their arrival two
bales turned out to be drenched in seawater, and the captain was
held responsible. By analogy, in the case of the missing money it
was Minas Uskan who sent it to Basra. Dwek Cohen acted as mid-
dleman, consigning the money to the caravan conductor. Part of the
cargo was missing after the caravans arrival in Basra, so it could
be argued that the caravan conductor was responsible. This is the
point where the analogy does not hold, however. When the two wet
bales of textiles were unloaded in the docks of Istanbul, they were
probably considerably heavier than the others, and water may even
have dripped from them. Even if the water had dried by the time
the ship was unloaded, it would probably have left considerable stains
on the packaging cloth. In Basra there was no such external evi-
dence of anything being amiss. When Muhammad al-Shai handed
over the cases to the correspondents of Minas Uskan, they appeared
to be in proper condition. The money had been dispatched in crates,
which were nailed shut and secured with ropes and chains, so this
did not raise any suspicions that anything might be amiss. In eect,
there was no evidence of theft at all, let alone anything that pointed
to the caravan leader.
The ensuing disputes over the missing money would focus on the
question of who had stolen it. The possibilities were limited. Either
the money had disappeared in Dwek Cohens khan, or it had hap-
pened en route between his khan and Basra. If the rst were true,
the Jewish dragoman, his son or his odaba{ must have done it; if
272 cn.r+rn six
20
Ibid., doc. 7, 28 February 1783 (in Italian); BNA, SP 110/65, 167172,
27 February 1783 (in Italian).
not, the caravan conductor must have been responsible. All parties
seem to have accepted that there had been money in the rst place,
despite the fact that this, too, would probably have been impossible
to prove in court because the money had been handed over in the
privacy of Dwek Cohens khan without witnesses to support Uskans
version of events. The dragoman of the Dutch consulate never adopted
this used this argument, however, and there is no point speculating
how it might have eected the case if he had.
Which strategies could, and did, the interested parties adopt?
The rst priority for Maghak and Kevork was to register the dis-
crepancy between what they had expected to receive and what had
actually arrived. They did this in an adavit written in Armenian
on 14 September 1781 and signed by witnesses. They sent the doc-
ument by the rst messenger to Uskan in Aleppo, along with an
Italian translation made in Basra.
21
The merchants could immedi-
ately have turned to the Islamic court, but they probably did not
do so, because it was possible that there was some misunderstand-
ing, or a change of plans about they had not been notied on time.
When the news reached Aleppo, in October 1781, Uskan con-
fronted Dwek Cohen with it. The British protg was not only con-
vinced that the money had been stolen, but also that it could only
have taken place in Aleppo, since the recipients of the cases had
noticed nothing untoward about the packaging. Dwek Cohen ques-
tioned his son and his odaba{ about the matter, and vouched for
their conduct. Uskan suggested that they put further pressure on the
warehouse supervisor in order to establish the truth, but Dwek Cohen
would not allow it, arguing that the man was a protg of the
Venetian consulate. This meant that the Venetian consul would have
to give his permission if Uskan wanted to question him. When Uskan
asked Dwek Cohen what he thought had happened, he answered
that he had been told that the caravan conductor to whom they
had entrusted the eighteen cases had stolen the money. A Muslim
inhabitant of the Bab al-Nurayb area, one Abdalqadir b. Shaykh al-
Jub, had told Dwek Cohen that Muhammad al-Shai had taken the
+nrr+ 273
21
DNA, LAT 1266, doc. 1 (in Armenian, with witness clauses in Arabic). An
Italian translation of the document was made by Giuseppe Bethlehem, an Armenian
graduate of the Sagra Congregazione De Propaganda Fide in Rome, who seems
to have been the brother of one of the witnesses. Two other Roman Catholic
Armenian priests conrmed the accuracy of the translation.
cargo to a house in Aleppo, where a carpenter had opened and
resealed the cases for him. Abdalqadir had heard this from the wife
of the owner of the house where it had allegedly taken place. Dwek
Cohen had been told this in the presence of two Muslim witnesses.
22
Uskan gave Dwek Cohen three days to nd the carpenter in ques-
tion, but the man had reportedly left Aleppo with the caravan to
Mecca immediately after having helped Muhammad al-Shai. The
two witnesses were useless, because they had only witnessed the
rumour being spread, not the crime involved.
Several things about Uskans conduct are interesting. He evidently
did not completely trust his business partner, for he instantly assumed
that Dwek Cohen or his personnel had stolen the money. This is
conrmed by the fact he took a witness with him to the meeting
with Dwek Cohen. Uskan had asked Stefan Ajami to accompany
him. Ajami was a beratl of the Dutch, but his loyalties lay with the
English community in Aleppo.
23
Moreover, by forcing his partner to
substantiate the rumour about the caravan conductor, he placed the
burden of proof on Dwek Cohens shoulders. This was not the behav-
iour of a merchant who trusted his business partner implicitly until
he had good reason to do otherwise. Furthermore, despite the fact
that the rumour about the caravan conductor was unconrmed and
there were no witnesses anymore, both Uskan and Dwek Cohen
passed it on to others, including the Armenian merchants corre-
spondents in Basra. It is also interesting to consider what Uskan did
not do. If he instantly suspected his partner of theft, he should, accord-
ing to the customs of Western communities in the Ottoman Empire,
have led a complaint with the Dutch consul in Aleppo. He did not
do this until much later, and he also did not attempt to get per-
mission to question Dwek Cohens odaba{ further.
The lack of any proof concerning the disappearance of the money
did not prevent Uskans associates in Iraq considering Dwek Cohen
274 cn.r+rn six
22
Ibid., doc. 14, Account by Ilyas Antun Aida and Stefan Ajami of the meet-
ing with Dwek Cohen, dated October 1781 (in Arabic, with Italian translation No.
3); For the ocial record of the rumour, see ibidem, doc. 22, Statement dated 9
S 1198/3 June 1784 (in Arabic). The authors dated the encounter with Abdalqadir
ibn Shaykh al-Jub in the month Zilkade 1195/19 October17 November 1781.
23
DNA, LAT 1125: Van Haeften to Meerman Van Goes, Advocate General of
the VOC in Amsterdam, 14 April 1781; Ibid., extract from a letter by Matlub
Rahamim in Aleppo to De Serpos in Istanbul concerning the overland mail (undated,
in French).
guilty of theft. In the second week of February 1782 Dwek Cohen
received a letter from Stefan Der Raphael, an agent of the EIC in
Baghdad. The author had sent it to Uskan via an agent of Stefan
Ajami, with orders to pass it on to Dwek Cohen. The EIC agent
had come to the conclusion that Dwek Cohen had committed the
theft, and threatened him with protracted lawsuits unless he reim-
bursed the money immediately. Der Raphael warned that he would
use both his ocial and personal connections to ruin Dwek Cohen.
If necessary, he would also instruct his brother, Ovanes, who lived
in Trieste, to travel to Istanbul and sue the Dutch dragoman there.
Ovanes, who was said to have had experience in English courts after
suing an English general stationed in Bengal, was even prepared to
go on to the Dutch Republic to seek redress for his brother if he
did not return the missing money.
24
There was little Dwek Cohen could do against these developments.
As a protg of the Dutch consulate he was entitled to legal aid,
but the jurisdiction of the consul did not extend to Baghdad, where
the author of the threats resided. The dragoman turned to the con-
sulate, nevertheless. On the assumption that only Uskan could have
fanned Der Raphaels suspicions, Dwek Cohen led a complaint
against his former business partner with his consul. The Dutch drago-
man considered the treatment by the EIC agent an unwarranted
insult to his reputation, especially because Uskan had not led any
ocial suit against him.
25
The Armenian protg answered that it
was only logical that Der Raphael be upset, because he had suered
a great nancial loss. He admitted that he had not yet led a for-
mal suit against his Jewish partner, because he was still preparing
his case. A copy of this response was sent to the Dutch consulate,
along with a letter from the English consul, John Abbott, in which
he stated that he had read the covering letter from Der Raphael to
Uskan, where the EIC agent had threatened Uskan with legal pro-
cedures if he refused to pass on the principal message to Dwek
+nrr+ 275
24
DNA, LAT 774, Traduzione del Vero Senso di Lettere in Idioma e Carattere
Arabo dal Sig.r Stephan Der Raphael, e diretta a Jusef Duek Turcimanno Barattario
dOllanda in Aleppo, consegat aperta, e senza sigillo dal Sig.r Azzari, servitore
del Sig.r Stefan Ajemi Turcimanno Barattario dOllanda, il di 13. Febr.ro 1782.
25
BNA, SP 110/65, 17 contain a copy of the Italian translation of Dwek Cohens
protest. It was registered on 15 February 1782, and Uskan was notied of it three
days later.
Cohen. In light of this threat, Abbott considered Uskans decision
to hand over the letter to the Jewish dragoman justiable.
26
The
English consuls opinion ended this particular matter, but many sim-
ilar skirmishes followed in the course of the conict.
Sometime in the course of the disputes the correspondents of
Uskan in Iraq laid a sequestration on the goods the partnership of
Dwek Cohen and Uskan had sent to Basra. The reason for the
sequestration was their suspicion of Dwek Cohens involvement in
the disappearance of the money, and the measure indicates their
expectation that the dragoman would be proven guilty in due course.
By putting a formal claim on his share of the goods at an early
stage, Uskans correspondents must have hoped to secure reim-
bursement for their losses. Once Dwek Cohen had been convicted,
they probably expected to be assigned ownership of his goods. Dwek
Cohen held Uskan responsible for the sequestration, which prevented
the goods from being sold and which seriously tarnished his repu-
tation, as it was a formal indication of the suspicions against him.
Uskan denied having ordered the measure, however, suggesting that
his correspondents had acted on their own initiative.
27
By this time Uskan and Dwek Cohen communicated through their
respective consulates only. Statements and documents of Uskan were
rst led with the English consul, who would order the chancellor
to register them in the chancery records and pass on a copy to the
Dutch consulate. The Dutch consul, Nicolaas van Maseijk, then
ordered his own chancellor to register the in-coming letter and to
have a copy delivered to Dwek Cohen. The Jewish protgs response
followed the same route in reverse. The advantage of this procedure
was that both consulates gathered similar dossiers of relevant docu-
ments on the basis of which the dispute would eventually be settled,
but the chancery expenses for Dwek Cohen and Uskan increased
with each statement that was registered and every copy that was
issued.
A second dispute between the two business partners further stim-
ulated the ow of petitions and complaints. It concerned the costs
276 cn.r+rn six
26
BNA, SP 110/65, 710, 22 February 1782, reaction by Uskan with Abbotts
message attached, dated 25 February.
27
BNA, SP 110/65, 105106, continued on 162165, 5 February 1783 (Dwek
Cohens proposal); Ibid., 167172 (Uskans reaction).
of the merchandize they had sent to Basra on account of their com-
pany. On 16 April 1782 Uskan led a petition with his consulate,
openly accusing Dwek Cohen of having lied to him about the terms
on which he had originally acquired the goods.
28
The deals by which
Dwek Cohen had obtained the goods he later oered to his part-
nership with Uskan were complicated. They were barter transactions
in which the goods exchanged were not valued with legal precision,
as Islamic law prescribes to ensure that commodities bartered were
of equal value. Furthermore, Dwek Cohen had bartered these goods
together with another business associate, who worked for a French
rm as a warehouseman. They had exchanged a quantity of cotton
they jointly owned for a variety of merchandize, including tinsel and
false coral, owned by a British merchant, David Hays. They received
a 15% discount on the deal, having paid 6% agio. Six months later
the Dutch protg sold the tinsel and some pieces of false coral to
his company with Minas Uskan, oering them at a discount of 10%
and 5.5% agio. Uskan accepted the terms, and the goods were trans-
ferred to the company without a written sales contract. Both part-
ners registered the transaction in their own account books.
29
According to Uskan his partner had oered the goods to their
company, saying that he had bought them at the same terms he
was oering to their company. When the English protg later heard
from Hays that this was not the case, he accused Dwek Cohen of
lying and demanded that his account books be examined. According
to Islamic law the legitimacy of sales depends largely upon the dis-
closure by the seller of the terms on which he has bought the goods
on oer. The emphasis on openness between the parties of a sale,
which should prevent illegitimate gain, was relevant for all mer-
chantsMuslims, non-Muslims, and Europeans alikein the period
studied here.
30
In terms of Islamic law Uskan accused his partner of
acting in bad faith, and not fully disclosing all information relevant
to the transaction. For unknown reasons he did not bring the case
+nrr+ 277
28
Ibid., 1113, 16 April 1782, petition by Uskan (in Italian).
29
Ibid., 19 April 1782, reponse by Dwek Cohen to Uskans petition of 16 April
[= BNA, SP 110/72 (i), fos 47r50r] (in Italian).
30
A. Udovitch, Islamic Law and the Social Context of Exchange in the Medieval
Middle East, History and Anthropology 1 (1985), 445465.
before the Islamic court, however, preferring to pursue the matter
through the consular justice system.
Neither of the disputes between Yusuf Dwek Cohen and Minas
Uskan was ever heard by the qadi in Aleppo. A Muslim court had
a profound inuence on the settlement of some of their conicts,
nevertheless, because Uskans business associates in Iraq went to the
qadi in Basra in connection with the missing money.
Outcome: The Caravan Conductor
Kevork and Maghak led a suit against the caravan conductor,
Muhammad al-Shai, in the Islamic court in Basra on 31 December
1781, three and a half months after the theft had been discovered.
This was before Uskan had ocially accused Dwek Cohen of being
the culprit, and after the rumour from Aleppo about the involve-
ment of the caravan conductor had spread. In court the two Armenian
merchants concisely recounted the circumstances of the case, men-
tioning the partnership between Dwek Cohen and Uskan, the three
numbered cases, and the discovery that the contents of one case
were missing. They explicitly stated that it was Dwek Cohen who
had voiced suspicions against the defendant, who had allegedly opened
the cases in Aleppo with the help of a carpenter.
According to the aforementioned Yusuf, the Jew, after he had col-
lected the cases from the khan, Hammad [sic] b. Shai al-Nadji al-
Makkari went to a house where he [stayed] in Aleppo, bringing with
him a carpenter to do what it is he [i.e. the carpenter] does. The
aforementioned Hammad subsequently took the three cases to Basra,
and handed them to us. Then a group gathered, which included the
Muslims Rajab b. Farhan and Sabar b. Shihab, the porters of the con-
sul, and the three aforementioned cases were inspected and examined
in the presence of the Armenian Christians khawaja Ovanes, the assis-
tant of al-khawaja Arutin, and khawaja Ilyas al-Sarraf. [They stated:]
We opened the three cases, taking notice of the rmness of the ropes,
the nails, and the chains which had been applied in Aleppo. [When
the cases had been opened] we saw that the Dirhams that should have
been in case number 16 had been transferred to case number 17, and
that those that should have been in case number 17 had disappeared
without a trace. [. . .]
The judge (hakim), whose name is recorded [Ismail al-Qadi], ques-
tioned al-Makkari about the [disappeared] sum, and he answered:
When I collected the cases from the khan of Yusuf w. Dwek, the
Jew, they were sealed and secured with iron nails and rope, and I
278 cn.r+rn six
have taken them directly to the tent, and not to my house, nor to any
other place. Then he was asked to present evidence for his claim,
whereupon he presented two reliable witnesses, Husayn b. Haz and
Sulayman b. Ariti. When they were questioned, they stated: We declare
before God, that the defendant, Hammad b. Shai al-Makkari al-Najdi,
when he collected the aforementioned three cases from the khan of
the aforementioned Jew, directly went to the tent in our company. To
this we testify. That morning we loaded the cases [on the camels]
together, and we set o for Basra, and we did not unload them any-
where.
The qadi accepted the witnesses as reliable, ruling that no evidence
had been produced to show that Muhammad al-Shai was responsi-
ble for the disappearance of the money. He issued a hccet to this
eect, a copy of which was dispatched to Aleppo, probably by Uskans
correspondents.
31
The fact that the qadi heard this case was probably because the
plaintis chose to le their suit in his court. The Ottoman jurists
may have transferred theft from the realm of {eriat to that of siyaset,
but the qadi represented both. Moreover, it was qadi who heard the
case and ruled on it, but the secular authorities were also well rep-
resented, because the highest administrators of Basra attended the
court session. The interim-governor of the city, the chief of customs,
the head of Basras treasury, and a representative of the military
even acted as the courts witnesses ({uhud al-hal ) on this occasion.
The Shaite mufti also attended the court session in this capacity.
Their names were duly recorded in the right-hand margin of the
record of the proceedings.
32
It is noteworthy that neither the word theft (sarika), nor thief (sarik)
is mentioned in the document. The caravan conductor is merely
accused of taking a carpenter with him to his place of residence in
Aleppo so that he [i.e. the carpenter] would do what it is that he
does (A: li-ya'mal ha ma ya'malu). The role of the qadi is of interest,
+nrr+ 279
31
DNA, LAT 1266, Extra Aanwinsten 1894, No. 96, Doc. 2: Uncertied copy
of a hccet issued by the Islamic judge of Basra on 15 Muarrem 1196/31 December
1781. It is accompanied by a translation in Italian made by one Giuseppe di
Giabur, an odaba{ (supervisor of a khan), on 3 August 1784.
32
Ibid.; their names were Ismail A<a, kaimmakam balad al-Basra; Mustafa Pa{a,
emin gmrk al-Basra; el-hacc Muhammad Efendi, defterdar-i Basra; Hseyin A<a ibn
Ali, ser ayan serdenkedi (a corps of voluntary storm-troopers, belonging to the Janissary
corps); and Ya{in Efendi, mufti al-Shayya bi-madinat Basra.
too. Apart from listening to the veiled accusation and summoning
the suspect, the qadi appears to have remained rather passive. On
the authority of Ebus-Su'ud he could have exercised greater ingenuity
in his questioning of the witnesses, instead of accepting their reliability
at face value. After all, they could just have easily been the cara-
van conductors accomplices to the crime. Maybe the case was sim-
ply too weak, having been led by two non-Muslims in Basra solely
on the basis of a rumour heard by another non-Muslim in Aleppo,
but in the absence of further evidence this remains conjectural.
The qadis verdict left few possibilities for subsequent litigation
against Muhammad al-Shai, whose lack of connections with the
Dutch and English consulates in Aleppo made him immune to the
consuls authority. Moreover, the Europeans honoured the doctrine
of double jeopardy, the legal principle that no one could be tried
for the same oence twice. Although some continued to suspect him
of the crime, the caravan conductor was thus excluded from further
litigation.
Outcome: Yusuf Dwek Cohen
The fact that Dwek Cohen was the only suspect left who could be
sued in connection with the missing money did not expedite mat-
ters. It seems Uskans principal tactic was to delay procedures, keep-
ing suspicions against Dwek Cohen alive without actually acting on
them. His aim was probably to tarnish the Jewish dragomans rep-
utation over such a prolonged period, that it was more expedient
for him to pay o a charge he was innocent of than to have doubts
cast on his trustworthiness any longer. In the controversy over the
conditions of one particular transaction it was not Uskan who was
responsible for the delay, however, but the Dutch consul.
According to Dwek Cohen Uskan had no reason to whine about
the terms of the deal, which were fair in his opinion.
33
Despite the
Dutch dragomans protests, he had to show his account books to a
delegation consisting of the chancellors and First Dragomans of the
Dutch and English consuls. Since Dwek Cohen kept his accounts in
Hebrew, the dragomans made Italian translations of them. These
280 cn.r+rn six
33
BNA, SP 110/65, 19 April 1782. The Italian verb lagnare is used.
conrmed that Dwek Cohen had sold the goods to his partnership
with Uskan on terms dierent from those on which he had procured
them. The crucial question remained of whether or not Dwek Cohen
had told this to Uskan. The Armenian merchant claimed that he
had, while Dwek Cohen denied it. Both sides reiterated arguments
in support of their claims, but produced no proof.
34
Through the summer of 1782 Minas Uskan and Yusuf Dwek
Cohen continued to le petitions, responses, and new recriminations
with their respective consulates. In view of the mounting chancery
expenses, on 27 August Dwek Cohen proposed to his consul that
the disputes be settled by arbitration. He suggested that he and
Uskan each appoint two jurors, the fth to be nominated by the
Dutch consul, if necessary.
35
Consul Van Maseijk did not adopt Dwek
Cohens proposal, but asked two French merchants to review the
evidence instead. On 24 September 1782 Jean Franois Pons and a
countryman called Belleville advised the Dutch consul that they
agreed with Minas Uskan. In their opinion Dwek Cohen should be
forced to recalculate the costs of his deal with Uskan and compen-
sate him. Moreover, the Jewish dragoman should pay all chancery
expenses incurred by Uskan in the course of the dispute.
36
Nicolaas
van Maseijk rejected the French verdict, however, judging it too
harsh on Dwek Cohen. The rst attempt at arbitration thus failed,
because the Ducth consul refused to implement the outcome.
On 5 February 1783 Dwek Cohen repeated his request for arbi-
tration of all his quarrels with Uskan. Preparations for the proce-
dure had already been made in Istanbul. One of the other owners
of the missing money, Mokdevi Calostian, had led a petition with
the Dutch ambassador asking him to arrange the arbitration. The
ambassador had entrusted the Danish charg daaires, Hbsch and
Timoni, with the preparations, and two dates had already been pro-
posed. Dwek Cohen had appointed Thomas de Serpos as his agent,
and emphasized that he wanted all disputes to be decided at once.
Uskan rejected the procedures in Istanbul that Calostian had initi-
ated on his own accord without consulting him. According to the
+nrr+ 281
34
Ibid., pages 3234, and DNA, LAT 774, 1522, 3442.
35
BNA, SP 110/65, 7779.
36
DNA, LAT 774, Verdict of Belleville and Pons, 24 September 1782 (in
French).
English protg the case of the theft of their money was a criminal
oence, which could not be resolved by arbitration. More impor-
tantly, he still had not yet led an ocial complaint against Dwek
Cohen, so formally there was no dispute between them on account
of the stolen money.
37
In light of the complications of the disputes
and the diculties in obtaining the cooperation of both parties, the
ambassadors of the Dutch Republic and of Great Britain sent the
cases back to Aleppo where the Dutch consul should adjudicate them.
In May 1783 the English Pro-consul in Aleppo, took the initia-
tive in the disputes between Uskan and his partner, ignoring the fact
that the matters were not under his jurisdiction. He called an assem-
bly of merchants to convene in his own residence on 19 May. The
Englishman asked Van Maseijk to bring Dwek Cohen to the meet-
ing as well. The Dutchman was not certain how to respond. He had
received orders from his ambassador to settle the aair with the
British consul, Abbott, but he was not sure if the home authorities
would approve of cooperation with the Englishman. Dwek Cohen,
who had found out about the assembly before the Dutchman could
inform him of it ocially, ended Van Maseijks dilemma by announc-
ing that he had no intention of appearing before the council. The
consul attempted to persuade Dwek Cohen to change his mind by
promising that he would not pass sentence against him if he attended
the assembly, but to no avail.
38
Minas Uskan continued to take his time to prepare his case. In
the process the Dutch dragomans early suspicions of the caravan
conductor had come under close scrutiny. The rumour on which he
had based his accusation had proved unreliable. Uskan even claimed
to have evidence that unnamed persons had oered money for false
testimonies incriminating the caravan conductor.
39
The statements
were meant to undermine Dwek Cohens reputation, but they kept
alive the suspicions against Muhammad al-Shai at the same time.
282 cn.r+rn six
37
BNA, SP 110/65, 105106, continued on 162165, 5 February 1783 (Dwek
Cohens proposal); Ibid., 167172 (Uskans reaction).
38
DNA, LAT 774, N. van Maseijk to Ambassador Van Haeften, 18 May 1783
(in Dutch).
39
BNA, SP 110/65, 243 (Arabic text), 244245 (Italian translation), Statement
by one seyyid el-hacc Qasim ibn Junayd Tuma describing how he had been oered
money for a false testimony, which he had refused. The names of three witnesses
(shuhud al-hal ) were also registered.
The caravan conductor was aware of this, and he confronted the
Jewish beratl with it a year and a half after the case had come before
the court in Basra. Personally appearing in Dwek Cohens khan, the
caravan conductor demanded the dragoman either voice his suspi-
cions formally, or stop inciting people against him. In fact Uskans
investigation was responsible for the continuing rumours, but Dwek
Cohens refusal to answer his unexpected guest and to appear before
the council probably strengthened suspicions against him.
40
Only on 21 June 1783, some twenty months after the money
belonging to the Armenian merchants had disappeared, and sixteen
months after registering his protest against Dwek Cohen, did Minas
Uskan ocially accuse his partner of being responsible for the dis-
appearance of the money.
41
Contrary to common procedure, he led
his complaint with the British Pro-Consul instead of his Dutch col-
league. Uskan accused Dwek Cohen of having stolen the money he
had entrusted him with. He reasoned that the cargo had reached
Basra in proper condition, since his correspondents had noticed noth-
ing untoward when they had collected the cases, nor when they had
opened them. The caravan conductor had proved his innocence by
producing two witnesses before the court of the qadi in Basra. Uskan
reasoned that the theft could thus only have taken place in the khan
of Dwek Cohen in Aleppo. It was even reported that Dwek Cohen
had acknowledged his responsibility for the disappearance of the
money in a letter to his correspondent in Istanbul, Thomas de Serpos.
The dragoman allegedly admitted to De Serpos that he might have
sent the money to Bengal instead of Basra by mistake. Mokdevi
Calostian, the representative of Uskan at the appeal, had personally
heard this from De Serpos, and he had notied Uskan.
42
The charge of theft was dicult to prove. The plainti needed
witnesses who would testify that Dwek Cohen had engineered the
+nrr+ 283
40
DNA, LAT 1266, Extra Aanwinsten 1894 No. 96, doc. 11: Estratta dai Registri
della Cancellaria Brittanica in Aleppo, attestazione No. 4; Ibid., doc. 12: Attestazione
No. 5: [Translation of a declaration by two witnesses of the confrontation between
al-Nadji and Dwek, 29 C II 1197/1 June 1783.]
41
Ibid., doc. 1, [Memorial by Uskan addressed to the ambassador of the Dutch
Republic and Great Britain], 21 June 1783 (in Italian).
42
BNA, SP 110/65, 251, Undated letter by Calostian to Uskan (Arabic text),
251252 (Italian translation). The translation was made by Niqula Fakhr on 6 April
1783, and registered in the chancery on 3 October 1783.
disappearance of his partners money. In the previous case study the
supervisor of the Dutch consuls khan had witnessed the illicit removal
of goods, and was willing to testify to this. Dwek Cohen, however,
refused to let his opponents interrogate the odaba{ of his khan on
the grounds that he was a protg of the Venetian consulate. If
Uskan wanted to interrogate the warehouse supervisor he needed to
apply to the Venetian consul for permission rst. Dwek Cohens son
also worked for him, but he was protected by the Dutch consulate
on the basis of his fathers berat, and could also only be questioned
with his consuls permission. Uskan incorrectly claimed that Dwek
Cohens odaba{ had long been a British beratl, who had been forced
by his principal to exchange his patent for a berat from the Venetians
specially to elude British consular jurisdiction in this matter.
43
This
accusation would later backre on Uskan.
The Armenian protg further emphasized that Dwek Cohen had
initially accused Muhammad al-Shai of the theft, claiming that the
caravan conductor had returned to Aleppo to answer the suspicions
that Dwek Cohen was sustaining against him. As soon as the man
had arrived in town, however, the Jewish beratl had denied contin-
uing to believe that he was guilty of the theft. The plainti consid-
ered this contradiction an indication of Dwek Cohens guilt.
44
In a
similar fashion, Uskan tried to make the most of alleged contradic-
tions in other statements by the defendant. For example, Dwek Cohen
maintained that he had personally placed the rst four purses of
money in cases 16 and 17 in Uskans presence, and that he had
also witnessed their sealing. According to Stefan Ajami and Ilyas
Antun Aida, however, Dwek Cohen had told them that Uskan had
not been present when he put money in cases 16 and 17. This was
in line with Uskans own version of events. The Armenian therefore
reasoned that the theft could only have taken place in the khan of
Dwek Cohen, and that his suspect behaviourthe contradicting state-
ments, the accusation of the caravan conductor, which was later
retractedproved his guilt. The formal accusation nally made it
possible for the Dutch consul in Aleppo to adjudicate the protracted
dispute, but again it was the British Pro-Consul who took the rst
step in order to end the conict.
284 cn.r+rn six
43
DNA, LAT 664, Mmoire justicatif , 13.
44
Ibid., 5.
Hays organised another hearing before a council of merchants.
This time his Dutch colleague would not take no for an answer.
Acting more forcefully than earlier, Van Maseijk obliged Dwek Cohen
to attend the hearing in Hays house on 3 September 1783. Hays
had chosen the ten members of the council, which consisted of two
local non-Muslim merchants, six notable Muslim merchants, and two
Frenchmen.
45
Also in attendance were Nicolaas van Maseijk and
Minas Uskan. The meeting was presided over by David Hays, the
new British Pro-Consul, who was uent enough in Arabic to con-
duct the entire meeting in this language. The rst question to the
merchants was whether or not there remained any accusations against
Muhammad al-Shai. The caravan conductor was also present at the
hearing, having been assured beforehand that he could not be tried
twice for the same crime. The council answered that Dwek Cohen
had voiced such accusations, but that the council considered al-Shai
free and beyond reproach. The council was then asked whether or
not they thought it was possible for a thief to open the crates in a
house, as Dwek Cohen had claimed the caravan leader had done.
The merchants stated that they thought this was impossible. Finally,
Dwek Cohen was questioned about the packaging process. While the
Dutch protg claimed that Minas Uskan had been present when
the rst two crates had been sealed, others had testied to the con-
trary. Dwek Cohen repeated his own version of events, pointing out
that the cases had been marked with Armenian signs. Since Uskan
had notied his correspondents about these identifying marks, only
he could have placed them on the crates, Dwek Cohen argued. The
foreign consulates had no jurisdiction over the caravan conductor,
and even if this had been dierent, the principle of double jeopardy
prevented a retrial. By publicly supporting the acquittal of the car-
avan conductor, the council prevented him turning to the Ottoman
authorities, clearing the way for further consular litigation at the
same time.
Yusuf Dwek Cohen had been forced to attend the hearing against
+nrr+ 285
45
Their names of the non-Muslims were Yusuf Turra and Stefan Ajami. The
Muslims were el-hacc Muhammad Qurna elebi, el-hacc Bakr Miri elebi, seyyid
Yusuf Arabi Katib elebi, al-hacc Ibrahim elebi, al-hacc Umar Walid, and el-hacc
Ahmad Hashim elebi. The French merchants were Jean-Franois Pons and Michel
Germain. See Meriwether, The Notable Families of Aleppo, 322, 350356 for genealo-
gies of the Miri and Qurna families respectively.
his will by his own consul, after initially refusing to appear because
the arrangement was in contravention of the normal procedures.
After all, in disputes between members of dierent foreign commu-
nities, the conict was always brought before the consul of the defen-
dant. By allowing the hearing to take place in the British Pro-Consuls
house under his own chairmanship, and by leaving the selection of
the members of the council to Hays, Van Maseijk had abandoned
a number of basic principles. Standard procedures emphasized that
the burden of proof lay with the plainti, forcing him to convince
with legal arguments a consul who presumed the defendant inno-
cent in principle. Van Maseijk may have wanted to prevent a dis-
pute between protgs from disturbing peaceful Anglo-Dutch relations
in the city, but by relinquishing his own consular jurisdiction the
Dutch consul failed to meet his obligations toward his protg. Van
Maseijks presence during the hearing had oered Dwek Cohen no
guarantee of consular intervention on his behalf because Van Maseijk
did not understand Arabic.
46<