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Until 1908 the government of the Sultan (padishah) was an absolute monarchy in the full sense of the term, there being no counterbalance to its authority. However, the reforms attempted since 1839 in the political and administrative field, often under the pressure of the European Powers, may be considered as a sort of step toward the political transformation of 1908.

The Hatt-i-sherif of 3 November 1839 (26 Shaaban 1255), the first program of these reforms, provided expressly that the national institutions should guarantee henceforth to all Ottoman subjects, without distinction of race or cult, “a perfect security as to their life, honor and fortune.” The reforms especially announced were financial and military, but from 1839 to 1856 few of these reforms were brought about.

A second act, the Hatt-i-humayoun 1 of 18 February 1856 (10 Jomada I 1272), emanating from the initiative of the Sultan, but inspired likewise by the Powers, developed the program of 1839, promising equality of all before the law, respect of property, freedom of worship, equality of taxation, publicity of trials, equality of witnesses, abolition of confiscation and torture, etc. But the majority of these reforms were yet to remain dead letters.

Dating from 1859 the European Powers began to interfere seriously in the internal affairs of the Ottoman Empire. Russian and English projects for reform resulted in the promulgation of a real Constitution on 23 December 1876 (7 Dulkaada 1293) and the first Ottoman Parliament opened on 19 March 1877. But the war with Russia broke out the foħlowing month and subsequently the Parliament was prorogued indefinitely. The Treaty of Berlin of 13 July 1878, which removed important provinces from Turkey, imposed different engagements upon it, bearing notably upon freedom of conscience and of worship, admissibility to public employment, freedom of non-Mussulman communities (Article 62), and “improvements and reforms required by local needs in the provinces inhabited by the Armenians" (Article 61). The Turkish Constitution of 1876, after having remained a dead letter for 30 years, was put back into

1 The Hatt-i-humayoun and the Hatt-l-sherif were rescripts emanating directly from the Sultan and preceded by the formula, “Let it be done conformably to the contents," written in the Sultan's hand.


force by a Hatt-i-humayoun of 2 August 1908, under the influence of the Young Turk party, and within a year afterwards was revised, 19 articles being modified.




ARTICLE 1. The Ottoman Empire comprises the existing territories and divisions and the privileged provinces. It forms an indivisible whole, and can never allow any part to be detached for any reason whatever.

ART. 2. Constantinople shall be the capital of the Ottoman Empire. That city shall possess no privilege or immunity not enjoyed by other Ottoman towns.

Art. 3.3 The imperial Ottoman sovereignty, which carries with it the Supreme Caliphate of Islam, falls to the eldest prince of the House of Osman, according to the rule established ab antiquo. On his accession the Sultan shall swear before Parliament, or, if Parliament is not sitting, at its first meeting, to respect the provisions of the Sheri and the Constitution, and to be loyal to the country and the nation."

Art. 4. As Caliph, His Imperial Majesty the Sultan is the protector of the Mussulman faith; and he is the ruler and padishah of all Ottoman subjects.

Art. 5. The person of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan is sacred and irresponsible.

ART. 6. Liberty of the members of the dynasty of Osman, their property, both real and personal, and the civil list granted them for life by the law ad hoc are under the guarantee of all.

Art. 7.3 Among the sacred prerogatives of the Sultan are the following: The mention of his name in prayers; the minting of money; the granting of high public offices and titles, according to the law ad hoc; the conferring of orders; the selection and appoint

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1 These introductory paragraphs are based upon F. R. DARESTE ET P. DARESTE, Les Constitutions modernes (3d edition, Paris, 1910), vol. II, pp. 319-321.

2 Translation based upon that in the British and Foreign State Papers, 102: gp. 819833. French translation in DARESTE, op. cit., pp. 323–343. English translation of the original Constitution appears in the British and Foreign State Paper, 67 : pp. 683-698. German translation in Paul POSENER, Die Staatsverfassungen des Erdballs (Charlottenburg, 1909), pp. 892–904. The above is a translation of the Constitution as it stood on 1 May 1912, according to the 'Official Almanac (Sal Name) and the

" Official Gazette" (Takvim-f-Vekai).

3 As amended in 1909. The ecclesiastical or canon law. 6 The sentence concerning the oath was added in 1909.


ment of the Grand Vizier and the Sheik-ul-Islam; the confirmation in their offices of the members of the Cabinet formed and proposed by the Grand Vizier, and, if need arise, the dismissal and replacement of ministers according to established practice; the approval and putting into force of general laws; the drawing up of regulations concerning the working of government departments and the method of administering the laws; the initiative in all kinds of legislation; the maintenance and execution of the canon and civil laws; the appointment of persons to the privileged provinces according to the terms of their privileges; the command of the military and naval forces; the declaration of war and the making of peace; the reduction and remission of sentences passed by penal courts; the granting of a general amnesty with the approval of Parliament; the opening and closing of the parliamentary sessions; the summoning of Parliament before its time in extraordinary circumstances; the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies if necessary, with the consent of the Senate, on condition that the elections take place and the Chamber assembles within three months; and the conclusion of treaties in general.

Only, the consent of Parliament is required for the conclusion of treaties which concern peace, commerce, the abandonment or annexation of territory, or the fundamental or personal rights of Ottoman subjects, or which involve expenditure on the part of the State. In case of a change of Cabinet while Parliament is not sitting, the responsibility arising out of the change rests upon the new Cabinet.


ART. 8. All subjects of the Ottoman Empire, without exception, are styled Ottoman, whatever may be their faith or creed. The character of Ottoman subjects can be obtained or lost in the cases specified by law.

ART. 9. All Ottomans enjoy personal liberty, and they are bound not to interfere with the liberty of others.

Art. 10.2 Personal liberty shall be absolutely inviolable. Except for the reasons and in the manner prescribed by the canon and the civil law, no one shall be arrested or punished on any pretext whatsoever.

ART. 11. The religion of the Ottoman State shall be the Mussulman religion; but, while maintaining this principle, the State shall protect the free exercise of all the religions recognized in the Ottoman dominions, and shall maintain as hitherto the religious privileges granted to the various communities, provided that they do not disturb public order and are not harmful to public morals.

1 As amended in 1909.

Art. 12.1 The press shall be free within the limits prescribed by law. It can not be subjected to inspection or examination of any. kind before printing.

Art. 13. Ottoman subjects shall be at liberty to form companies of all kinds for commerce, industry or agriculture, within the limits prescribed by the laws and regulations.

ART. 14. One or more persons of Ottoman nationality shall have the right to present petitions to the proper authority with regard to breaches of the laws and regulations, whether their personal interests or those of the public be prejudiced; they shall also have the right to present signed petitions to Parliament complaining of the conduct of State officials.

Art. 15. There shall be freedom of education. Every Ottoman shall be at liberty to attend any course of instruction, whether public or private, so long as he conforms to the law.

ART. 16. All schools shall be under the supervision of the State. The necessary steps shall be taken, whereby the education of Ottoman subjects may be unified and organized; but there shall be no interference with the religious education of the various communities.

Art. 17. All Ottomans shall be equal before the law, and shall have equal rights in, and equal duties towards, their country, without prejudice to their religious affairs.

Art. 18. A knowledge of Turkish, which is the official language of the State, is essential to the employment of an Ottoman subject in the service of the State.

Art. 19. The government service shall be open to all Ottoman .subjects, according to their capacity and ability.

Art. 20. Taxes which it has been decided to levy shall be distributed among all Ottoman subjects in accordance with the regulations ad hoc and in proportion to the taxable capacity of each person.

ART. 21. To everyone shall be assured the ownership of the real and personal property to which he has a regular title. The real property possessed by any person can not be taken unless the expropriation is proved to be necessary in the public interest and the value of the property is paid in advance according to the law.

Art. 22. The dwelling-place and residence of every person in the Ottoman dominions shall be inviolable. The government may not make a forcible entry into any one's dwelling-place or residence for any reason whatsoever, except in the cases laid down by law.

Art. 23. No one shall be bound to appear before a court not being the competent court under the law on judicial procedure which is to be drawn up.

1 As amended in 1909.

Art. 24. The confiscation of property, forced labor and exactions of money are forbidden; but there are exceptions in the case of taxes regularly levied and measures regularly adopted in time of war.

ART. 25. Except in virtue of a law, no sum of money shall be levied as tax or impost, or under any other name.

ART. 26. Torture of every kind whatsoever is categorically and absolutely forbidden.


ART. 27. Just as His Imperial Majesty the Sultan entrusts the posts of Grand Vizier and Sheik-ul-Islam to men in whom he has confidence, so the other ministers, who are approved and proposed by the Grand Vizier entrusted with the formation of the Cabinet, are confirmed in their offices by imperial irade.

Art. 28. The Council of Ministers shall meet under the presidency of the Grand Vizier. It shall deal with affairs of importance, both home and foreign. Such of its decisions as need the imperial assent shall be put into force by imperial irade.

ART. 29. Each minister shall deal, according to practice and within the limits of his attributions, with affairs concerning his department, and those matters with which he is not competent to deal he shall refer to the Grand Vizier. In the case of matters which need the imperial sanction, those which do not need discussion shall be submitted directly to the Sultan by the Grand Vizier; those which need discussion shall be submitted when they have been discussed in, the Cabinet. The Grand Vizier shall also communicate the decision of the Council of Ministers in cases where the imperial sanction is not necessary. The various classes and categories of business shall be determined by a special law.

The Sheik-ul-Islam shall communicate directly to the Sultan those matters which do not need discussion.?

ART. 30.1 Ministers shall be responsible to the Chamber of Deputies collectively for the general policy of the government and personally for the affairs of their respective departments. Decisions which need the imperial sanction shall only become valid if signed by the Grand Vizier and the minister concerned, who thus accept the responsibility, and countersigned by the Sultan. Decisions arrived at by the Council of Ministers shall bear the signatures of all the ministers, and, in cases where the imperial assent is necessary, these signatures shall be headed by that of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan.

1 As amended in 1909. This sentence was added in 1909.

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