THE FUNDAMENTAL REFORMS REALIZED
DURING THE REIGN OF MAHMUD II (1808-1839) AND THE SYSTEM OF COUNCIL
ADAPTED FROM EUROPE IN THAT PERIOD
Prof. Dr. Ahmed Akgündüz
Mahmud II succeeded in reforming the Ottoman Administrative
Organization of 400 years, which would be completed after Tanzimah
(Reforms). However, that reformation which was merely made of
useless imitation of Europe did no farther than formality. The
majority of the reforms pertained to the central organization of the
Ottoman State. Mahmud II, who felt himself stronger after he had
abrogated the Janissary Corps in 1241/1826, realized the following
significant amendments in the central organization:
Two important supreme councils were established in order to restore
the manner of counsel as the Imperial Council, which formed the core
of the Central Organization, had lost its quality of being a council
and again in order to distinguish the executive and judicial tasks,
which was formerly carried out by the Imperial Council: The first is
Majlis al-Akhqam al-Adliyyah, which was established to execute the
legislative authority and juridical task of the Imperial Council.
That council maintained the judicial aspect of the Imperial Council.
Again that council was charged with the task of introducing any
required codes as well as any arrangements required by the country
in administrative, judicial and financial fields.
The second is Dar al-Shurah al-Bab al-Ali, which was kind of a
supreme executive council. The execution of the administrative
function of the State was thoroughly conveyed to that institution.
The said institutions that were established on Muharrem11, 1254/1837
undertook the former Imperial Councils tasks and the senior
statesmen, chiefly those ministers of the newly-formed ministries,
took part in their meetings as members of those councils. In other
words, both of the councils functioned as legislative and executive
organs. When the Imperial Council lost its function, such
administrative units as composed it also lost their significance and
eventually the manner of ministries which is current today
(ministers and Council of Ministers) began to be assumed. That is to
say, the executive functions of the State were distributed among
- The Office of Principal Executive Officer of Grand Vizier (Sadarat
Qathudalığı) was abrogated and the Ministry of Interior (Nazarah
al-Umur al-Mulkiyyah) was established instead (1251/1835).
- The Office of Chief Executive Assistant to Grand Vizier
(Reisul-Quttablık) was replaced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- The Office of Chawusbashilik of the Sublime Porte was replaced by
the Ministry of Justice (Nazarah al-Daawi, lit. Ministry of
Judicial Pleas) (1252/1836).
- Ministry of Grain and Provisions (Nazarah al-Zahirah) and Council
on Public Works (Majlis al-Umur al-Nafiah) were abolished and they
were replaced by Ministry of Trade (Rabiul-ahir 6th, 1255/1839).
- The Storehouse of Ottoman Cadastral and Other Property Records
(Defterhane) was replaced by Ministry of Finance (Nazarah
al-Maliyyah) in 1253/1838.
- Ministry of Gunpowder Works and the similar military
administrations were replaced by Ministry of War (1251/1835).
Besides, the Deliberative Council of Army was established.
- Those administrative units that look to the internal affairs of
the Palace were restructured under the title of Ministry of Imperial
Palace Service (Nazarah al-Andarun al-Humuyun) (1249/1833).
- Such administrative organizations pertaining to various endowments
were united in 1242/1826 and Ministry of Imperial Foundations was
After the Office of Shaikhulislam also had been accepted as a
ministry, the terms Grand Vizier (Sadrazam) and Grand Vizierate were
replaced with Prime Minister and Prime Ministry in 1254/1838. And
that council composed of all those ministers was titled Majlis
al-Wuqalah and Hayah al-Waqilah, which come to mean the Council of
Mahmud II, who had Taqwim al-Waqai, the first Ottoman official
gazette, published and some legal arrangements as regards to the
army and civil officers of the State, particularly the Penal Codes
for the Army (Qanunnamah al-Jazah al-Asqeriyyah) prepared thus also
became the pioneer of the Tanzimah (Reforms) Movement. Again with
the Imperial Penal Codes as regards to the Legal Functionaries and
Professors of the Canon Law dated 1254/1838 he intended to arrange
officers of courts and sciences that executed the legislative task.
We here regret to state that reforms materialized during Mahmud II
were excluding very few thereof formally rather than radically.
Instead of receiving the science and technology of Europe, they
began to imitate their clothing, and other not-so-pleasant customs.
Therefore, the reforms were not quite liked by public. The statement
of Damad Khalil Rifat Pasha Unless we get like Europe, we shall
have to recede to Asia was misapplied. The hanging of photos of
Mahmud II in government offices, the compulsory wearing of jackets,
trousers and fezzes, even the abolition of the Mehter band and
Mehterhane (Ottoman Military music Organization) just because the
Janissaries had used it and the most important of all, the
introduction of the terms Prime Minister and Minister, in place of
en Sadarah (Grand Vizierate) and Sadrazam (Grand Vizier) were some
examples of that simple and non-fundamental Westernization. Thats
why, in spite of all the reformatory movements, the reign of Mahmud
II was not a period of accomplishments and successes but absolutely
an era of collapse and devastation. As a matter of fact, if radical
reforms had been fulfilled and no deeds had been committed against
peoples beliefs, people would not only have supported the reforms
and also not applauded Ibrahim Pasha the Son of Kavalalı on his
arrival in Kütahya. Briefly, the Ottoman State renounced its own
walk but failed to learn the walk of others during the time of
Mahmud II .
 Jawdat Pasha,
History, v. XII, pg. 193 et seq., 205-216, 277-278, 297-306,
311-322; Ahmed Lütfi, History, v. I, pgs. 253-259; v. III, pgs.
142-146; 156-160; Uzunçarşılı, Central Organization, pgs. 177-179,
374-375; Karakoç, Collection of Codes, Documents on the Era of
Mahmud II; Okandan, The Outlines of our Public Law, v. I, pg. 61 et
seq.; Taqwim al-WaqaI (First Ottoman Official Gazette), I. Tr. no.
73, 106, 125, 140, 163, 180; Akgündüz, Ahmed, The Institution of
Endowments in Islamic Legislation and Ottoman Practice), Ankara
1988, pg. 328 et seq.; Karal, Ottoman History, v. V, pgs. 142-167.