1839-1876 - The Tanzimat Era

"Tanzym" is the Arabic for organisation, and is derived from the verb "nazam," to arrange. Tanzimat, as we are abjut to use it, is generally employed to describe the collection of those laws, regulations and reforms which were introduced in Turkey during the nineteenth century, with the object of reorganising her law and institutions on a basis which would be more in accordance with that already established in European States. The Tanzimat was the result of the intervention of the European Powers in the internal affairs of Turkey; and was largely brought about by the fear entertained by the Turkish rulers that, if they did not conform to the wishes of the Powers, her European territory might be absorbed by one or other of her powerful neighbors.

The first step toward this intervention, by a European State in the internal affairs of Turkey, was initiated by Louis XIV in connection with the history of the French claims to Protection and the Capitulations of 1673 and 1740. This had been followed by the invasions of Austria and Puissia in 1736; and from that date onwards the intervention of Europe in Turkish affairs had become a general practice. The interest of Europe in Turkey ceased to be purely commercial, and became exclusively political; although the intervention itself was disguised under the pleas of religion and commerce.

To understand the full application of the expression Tanzimat it will be necessary to consider certain aspects of the Mohammedan Law. The chief characteristic of Mohammedan Law is that it is considered to be of divine origin. The chief source of this law is the Koran. From the purely legal point of view it is abundantly clear that this system of law is entirely unsuited to the requirements of modern .civilisation. Mohammedan Law, as it existed in the tune of Mohammed, and for some centuries after, may have been quite sufficient for the needs of the people for whom it was originally intended. But as a working legal system, to be applied to the business and commercial life of a modern state, it was absolutely inadequate. And a state cannot continue to exist within Europe which has, as the fundamental axiom of its law, the principle that the law is unchangeable.

The chief fault in the Tanzimat in Turkey was that the reforms projected were introduced with too much haste. The East is essentially conservative, and the Mohammedan religion tends to intensify this conservatism; the great mistake was in not taking the religious prejudices of the people into consideration. Reforms, when they affect the social life of a people, should be introduced gradually, and should never be of such an extensive character that it is entirely beyond the powers of the people to assimilate them. The apparent success of Mohammed Aly, in the attraction of European interests towards Egypt, encouraged the Sultan to hurry forward his reforms. But Mohammed Aly's success was more apparent than real, since his reforms suffered from the same defect of haste. For one reason or another the reform expected from the Tanzimat did not come, or if the desired effect was achieved for a time it soon passed.

The Tanzimatl was initiated by Sultan Mahmoud II., and the first scene was the destruction of the Janissaries on 15 June 1826. The Janissaries had been got rid of certainly, but before the country was provided with an army to take their place. Turkey was defenceless; and as the Janissaries were intimately connected with the whole system of government, a new organisation of practically the whole administration was necessary. Turkey was not prepared for any such sudden change as this. The Sultan communicated a whole series of reforms affecting the army, the police, various parts of the administration, but especially the Treasury and the methods of taxation.

The people were, however, mistrustful, fearing that these reforms were directed against their religion. The Ulemas were at first suspicious, but soon, owing to the want of tact of the Sultan, became actively hostile. The Grand Mufti remonstrated, but was told that his duty was entirely confined to the exercise of religion, and that he had no right to interfere in the direction of the state.

On the top of this came the events which led to the battle of Navarino-the Protocol of London, and the Treaty of Adrianople, 14th September 1829 - events which were immediately followed by the successes of Mohammed Aly in Syria. The Powers had to be called in to suppress the rebel, but their intervention led to the practical separation of Egypt from Turkey. Mahmoud's schemes had failed in every respect, and the only lasting events of any importance were the signing of Commercial Treaties with England, France, and Austria in 1838, and the promulgation of Quarantine Regulations. These Commercial Treaties mark the definite separation of the two divisions of the Capitulations; henceforward the commercial concessions and privileges were absolutely distinct from the Capitulations proper. The signing of the Quarantine Regulations is of interest, as these regulations are strictly opposed to the doctrines of Islam.

Although the reforms proposed by the Tanzimat had long been the earnest desire of Sultan Mahmud, they were not carried into effect until the accession of his son Abd-ul-Medjid, on the 1st of July, 1839. Four months later, on the 3rd November, the Tanzimat was established by the celebrated Hatti-Sheriff of Giilhanie. In spite of opposition the army was remodelled in 1843 after the French system; reform of the financial system of the state was recommenced; Mixed Courts were organised in 1847, and important changes were introduced into the procedure of these courts. In Mohammedan Law written evidence is not recognised as in European legal systems, hence several of the special rules in the Capitulations as to the bindingness of a contract for which there was written evidence; this principle was adopted in the new courts, and the right of a Christian to give evidence against a Mohammedan was admitted. These Mixed Courts were nominally commercial courts, but their powers also extended to certain civil cases. This was followed in 1850 by the promulgation of a Commercial Code based on the model of the French Commercial Code. And then in 1852 a Firman was promulgated reorganising the Provincial Administration. With this Firman ended the first stage in the history of the Tanzimat, which was now suspended by the Crimean War. In spite of failures, a certain advance had been made; many reforms had been abandoned; the Rayah and Moslem were still widely separated, and the Rayah still occupied a subordinate position; but reforms had been attempted, and the minds of Mohammedans prepared somewhat more for reform in the future. But, above all, Mixed Commercial Courts had been established and were doing good work in many of the principal towns of the empire.

The second stage in the history of the Tanzimat in Turkey commenced, after the conclusion of the Crimean War, with the Treaty of Paris of 1856. One of the principal objects of the Tanzimat had been the recognition of the principle of equality between Mohammedan and Christian subjects.

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