I will be discussing the main principles of the Tanzimat and will also have a special focus on the Hatt-i Serif of Gulhane (Gulhane Edict, 1839). I will also explain how the movement represented a continuation of Sultan Mahmud II’s reforms and ways in which the movement differed from his reforms. The “Tanzimat” can be translated to English into “reorganization” and refers to the set of reforms which took place between 1839 and 1876 in the Ottoman Empire. This reorganization of the Empire occurred under the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid I and Abdulaziz. The reforms which were created were modelled after European designs and were created in order to fundamentally transform the Ottoman Empire away from its rule by religion. A lot of the reforms were made to create equal rights for both Non Muslims and Muslims so that they were on level grounds in the society. This was done to create a modernized state in which uniform civil liberties were provided to all members of society.
Sultan Mahmud II played a huge role in directing these modernizing reforms even though most of the Tanzimat occured after his reign as Sultan. He tried to make fundamental mindset changes in the empire to make people be more open to accepting European ideas. Some of the reforms in the Empire which he made included changes in dressing. Government officials were encouraged to wear a western style dress and officers were provided with more European styled uniforms. Many more of the reforms which he made were derived from French law and the Napoleonic Code after the French Revolution took place; much of the youth in the Ottoman Empire started to be educated in France. A policy known as Ottomanism was created in order to make all citizens under the empire equal and was started with the Hatt-i Serif of Gulhane in 1839; equal rights for Muslims and Non-Muslims.
Some other reforms which originated under the rule of Mahmud II included removal of the devshirme system, universal drafting system into the military and attempts to combat corruption within the government. Around the year of 1839, several famous ministers and authors saw the Ottoman Empire in a state of decline as the rule was not centralized and the Empire was ravaged by lost wars, treaties and other growing powers surrounding them. The State government believed that ridding the Empire of the religious court system and making all its citizens equal in terms of the law would help to recentralize its rule. The government believed that equal rights for Non Muslims and Muslims would help to attract more people to move and live within the Ottoman Empire. They also wanted to reduce the interference by neighboring powerful Christian Nations, which would often try to fight for the rights of Non Muslims within the Empire; particularly Russia and Austria.
The Tanzimat reforms were driven by several liberal ministers and scholars and a society of Young Turks. The Edict of Gulhane which was released in the year of 1839, was the first promise of a series of significant reforms that were known as the Tanzimat reforms( “Gulhane” refers to the rose house in the TopKapi Palace). The Edict had been disclosed by the Grand Vizier Koca Mustafa Resid Pasha who was main architect of the Tanzimat reforms. The Edict contained several promises of reform to change the Ottoman Empire’s laws to change the military drafting system, abolish the iltizam system, and provide equal rights to Non Muslim citizens. The millet system had grown so large and autonomous that their power started to threaten the rule of the central state government and these promises were made in order to try and take a step forward to become a unified nation. Although a lot of the promises were made in the Edict of Gulhane, not all of them could be fully implemented due to extreme religious hostility between Muslims and Christians in areas under Ottoman control. By the end of the Crimean war actual legal changes were made to prevent any further interference by Russia in the functioning of the Ottoman Empire; strongly encouraged by neighboring Western countries.
After going through the provisions of the Edict of Gulhane, I saw that there were several progressive and liberal promises which were made to citizens of the Empire. I was able to pick a few significant promises and effects of the Hatt-i Serif of Gulhane which I believed to be the most important. The first clause states that “Every person will enjoy the possession of his property of every nature, and dispose of it with the most perfect liberty, without anyone being able to impede him. Thus, for example, the innocent heirs of a criminal will not be deprived of their legal rights, and the property of the criminal will not be confiscated” (obtained from source 1 of Bibliography). This clause promises the right to property and life for everyone irrespective of his background and religion.
The second clause I chose helped bring about reforms which assured a uniform system of military conscription in which the number of men which are drafted from villages is limited and based off of the size of the population in that particular village. This clause is stated as follows, “The laws relating to the regulations of the military service will be discussed by the Military Council, holding its meetings at the Place of the Serasker. As soon as a law is decided upon, it will be presented to us, and in order that it may be eternally valid and applicable will confirm it by our sanction, written above it with our imperial hand”(obtained from source 1 of Bibliography). Finally I would like to mention the clause that encompasses punishments for crimes irrespective of rank in government or influence, “After that, those from among the ulama or the grandees of the Empire, or any other person whatsoever who shall infringe these institutions, shall undergo, without respect of rank, position, and influence, the punishment corresponding to his crime, after the latter has been fully established. A penal code shall be compiled for that purpose”(obtained from source 1 of Bibliography). There were several other clauses which solidified equal rights for citizens, suitable (no longer fixed salaries) salaries for public servants in the Empire and anti-corruption reforms which were made to centralize rule within the Ottoman Empire.The Edict of Gulhane played a major role in directing the flow of progressive Tanzimat reforms in the Empire which were made in later years to fulfill the edict’s promises.
Some of the effects of the Edict of Gulhane directed reforms which helped the Empire to develop a more immediate relationship with its citizens, improve education and state provided wages for Bureaucrats, and secularization of the state. These reforms helped lay liberal and progressive grounds in the Empire which helped provide a basis for the Young Turk Revolution.