The sultan as caliph
Abdulhamid II was born Sept. 21, 1842, Constantinople [now Istanbul, Turkey]. Marc Jones has September 22, 1842. He was an Ottoman sultan or caliph the theocratic absolute monarchy from 1876 to 1909 . As Caliph he was the spiritual head and successor to the Prophet to a large part of the Moslem world, remembering that Turkey via the Ottoman Empire had control of the whole Middle East.
The second son of Sultan Abdülmecid I, came to the throne when his mentally deranged brother, Murad V, was deposed on Aug. 31, 1876. Murad in a series of expensive wars had brought Turkey to edge of bankruptcy with the Empire falling apart, as the European portions were in revolt backed by European monarchs who were looking to expand their territory. While Hamid brought Serbia and Montenegro peaceably back into the fold, the Orthodox portions, agitated by Tsar Alexander II and Russia, were still discontented. This led to the Russo-Turkish Wars 24 April 1877 led by General Mikhail Skoboleff..
After that disastrous war, Abdülhamid he dismissed the Parliament, suspended the constitution in February 1878 and installed a secret police to enforce his control. For the 40 years he ruled from his seclusion at Yıldız Palace, Constantinople, assisted by an expanded telegraph network, severe censorship and countless civil infractions with attendant monetary fees (taxes).
The Turkish government
The French-Swiss system of provinces, arrondissements and cantons was the basis for the Turkish parliamentary system. The sultan chose a vali, or governor general, and all work to the members of the canton flowed through him. There was no idea of free enterprise and independent businessmen who made their own money independent of the state — everyone looked to the Vali for income and wellbeing, much like feudal Europe.
But as the Empire grew more invasive in the populace’s life, and the rise of nationalism took hold, Armenian separatists attempted an assassination coup on July 21 1905. In July 1908 the Young Turks, a group of Westernized secularists, formed & backed by foreign money, deposed the sultan a year later & installed his brother as sultan Mehmed V.
Hamid was sent to Salonika, Greece (the historical home of Alexander the Great) as a state prisoner. When the Greeks during the 1902 Balkan War reclaimed the town, Abdul Hamid returned to Constantinople. there, his presence was problematic and caused many internal rebellions of adherents who wanted to reestablish his regime — so Abdul Hamid was moved to his final home on Smyrna, Anatolia, Greece (now attributed to Turkey) where he died on February 10, 1918.
- Pears, Sir Edin, Life of Abdul Hamid, London: Constable & Co., 1917
- This book is part of the makers of the Nineteenth Century Series ed. by Basil Williams
- Encyclopaedia Britannica: A dictionary of ARts, Sceinces, Literature and Information. Eleventh edition. Cambridge, England at the University Press c. 1911