In transcribing the following passage from The Westminster Review’s article on Turkey I have followed the Hathi Trust Digital Library’s generally accurate online version, corrected errors in the OCR, and added links to material in the Victorian Web. — George P. Landow

Decorated initial O

n looking back on this unparalleled advance of Ottoman power and influence in Europe, it is impossible not to assign a very high importance to the abilities and personal career of the early sultans. It is scarcely too much to assert that no European nation has produced so long a series of great though unscrupu lous rulers as the sultans, with but few exceptions, from Orkhan to Solyman. During reigns, long in years and eventful in re sults, they seemed to possess almost every quality by which ambitious ends are gained by well-calculated means. Plans of conquest successfully carried into execution, new ideas of gov ernment introduced and worked out, though due in part to the creatures and instruments of their will, yet bear upon them the imprint of their directing minds. The tribute-children of Orkhan, the organization of the imperial slaves by Amurath I., the military promptitude of Bajazet, the legislation of Maho met II., and the crowning administration of Solyman, signify an amount of intellectual force with which no other two centuries of rulers will afford material for comparison. The restrictions on their absolute power were merely nominal and were comprised in the observance of religious law, interpreted by the chief Mufti. But this religious law was too useful an ally to be weakened or violated, and the fetva of the Mufti only on rare occasions opposed the will of the sultan. But if their power was not restricted by ministers, their choice of ministers was a wide one. No privileges of birth barred the way to advance ; no jealousy limited the selection.* Though they were always kept in the background, there is no doubt that the early sultans were assisted by general and advisers of more than ordinary ability. Amurath owed not a little of his success to Khaireddin Pacha, and Solyman's friend and vizier Ibrahim Pacha greatly eased his burden of government. In fact, there was at Constan tinople a school of politicians and generals at a time when the political action of the rest of Europe was incoherent and vague. While the training of ministers was not neglected, the initiation of the royal princes into their future duties was excellent and complete. From their earliest manhood they were entrusted with the administration of the provinces, and when they as cended the throne, they were generally mature alike in age and experience. Nor was the choice of ministers and generals conf1ned to slaves or subjects. Ottoman history is full of the names and successes of renegades from other nations, who were attracted to Constantinople by the free scope for their ability and the rich prospect of rewards and honours : out of the ten grand viziers of Solyman, eight were renegades, and among his generals, the proportion, if less, was doubtless great. Their importance in introducing fresh ideas of government or military tactics increased after the period in which the Ottomans lost their early precedence of Europe in these respects. [315-16]

Related material

Bibliography

“The Ottoman Turks in Europe.” Westminster Review. n.s. 67 (1885): 303-28. Hathi Trust Digital Library online version of a copy in the University of Chicago Library. Web. 29 August 2020.


Last modified 29 August 2020