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The Esnaf and the Patrona Halil Rebellion of 1730: A Realignment in Ottoman Politics?

Author(s): Robert W. Olson


Source: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Sep., 1974),
pp. 329-344
Published by: BRILL
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Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. XVII, Part 3

THE ESNAF AND THE PATRONA HALIL


REBELLION OF 1730: A REALIGNMENT

IN OTTOMAN POLITICS?"
BY

ROBERT W. OLSON
(Kentucky)

It is an established fact of Ottoman history that the Patrona Halil


rebellion which occurredin Istanbul in 173o had vast repercussionson
the subsequent social, economic and political history of the Ottoman
Empire.In orderto put the role of the esnafin the PatronaHalil rebellion
into proper perspective, I first wish to cite several authorities'views
which attestto the significanceof the 1730 rebellion.
The PatronaHalil rebellion temporarilyand in some casescompletely
stopped the flow of ideas, literature,ambassadorsand militaryconsultants which had begun to take place between Europe, largely France,
and the Porte during the reign of Ahmet III (1703-1730). The cultural
flowering of this period has been characterizedby calling it the 'Tulip
Period' (Lile Devri) which also indicates the craze developed by
segments of Ottoman society for tulips. But in the opinion of Professor
Ziya Enver Karalthe word tulip was the symbol of nothing less than a
'new mentality'which manifestedin Europe and in the OttomanEmpire
the first serious attempt to undertakethe necessarymeasuresto try to
i) The term esnaf as it is employed in this article follows the definition used by

H. A. R. Gibb and Harold Bowen, Islamic Societyand the West, part I (Oxford, 1965),

EconomicandSocialFunctions
pp. 281-313 and Gabriel Baer,"TheAdministrative,

of Turkish Guilds", InternationalJournal of Middle East Studies (IJMES), vol. i, no. I


(January,I970), pp. z8-0o. I will use the term esnaf as Baer applies it to his 'second'

group of esnaf consisting of artisansand craftsmen,artisan-merchantsand merchants


proper as well as those esnaf or guilds engaged in transport and services. Cf. Baer,
"Turkish Guilds", p. 31-32.

I would like to expressmy thanks to ProfessorsW. Jwaideh, B. Bayerle,B. Jelavich


and C. Jelavich, and especially to C. Jelavich for all of the "kindnesses" which he
demonstrated for me.

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330

R. W. OLSON

understandone another1). In the view of ProfessorKaralthis first


whichappearedso promisingly
periodof secularization
(garphlasmak)
to introduceneededreorganization
and reforminto the Empirewas
put to an end with the outbreakof the 173o rebellion.The Patrona
rebellionbroughtinto being a situationin which those who wished
for reformwere "opposedby the ulema,Janissaries
andthe peopleof
Istanbul"2). ProfessorKaralconcludesthat antagonismbetweenthe
two groupsresultedin a continualstateof instabilityandin the rebellionssubsequentto 1730victoriesresidedwiththe secondgroup.Those
Sultanswho desiredreformtoo ardentlywere deposed,their Grand
Vizerskilled, usuallyin a cruelmanner.A rebellionservednoticeto a
'reforming'Sultanand his ministersthat more imitationof Europe
wouldnot be tolerated.
Anotherview of the significanceof the Patronarebellionis that of
ProfessorNiyaziBerkeswho statesthat the Frenchinfluencedsecular
trendof the TulipPeriodinsofaras it originatedin the rationalistspirit
of the pre-revolutionary
France"gavea religiouscolouringto the antireformmovement.The religious reactionheld the reformationists
responsiblefor the destruction of both din (religion) and devlet(state),
not only because of their alien innovations which undermined the
ancienttradition,but also becauseof their complicitywith those infidels
[Frenchand Russian]who were now threateningMuslim rule from two
sides and from within. Thus a religiously oriented anti-westernmovement becamethe second strandrunningacross the whole history of the
Turkish transformation,in contrast to the Westerniststrand"3) which
had begun duringthe reign of Ahmet III.
According to Professor Serif Mardin, in one of the most recently
expressedviews, the PatronaHalil rebellionis an importantexample of
the cleavage in the center-peripheryrelationsof Ottoman and modern
Turkishpolitics 4). The 'center'in the Ottoman Empire consisted of the
I) Enver Ziya Karal, "Tanzimattan Evvel Garphlasma Hareketleri (i718-1839)"
in the volume TanZimatI (Istanbul, 1940), p. 19.
2) Ibid., p. I8.
3) Niyazi Berkes, The Developmentof Secularismin Turkey (Montreal, 1964), PP. 52.
4) Serif Mardin S., "Center-Periphery Relations: A Key to Turkish Politics?",
Daedalus, vol. ioz, no. i (Winter, 1973), PP. 169-190.

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THE ESNAF AND THE PATRONA HALIL REBELLION

33I

Sultanate,the ulema or learnedreligious class and the elite membersof


the asakir or militaryclass. Mardin stresses that several factors contributed to the strained relations between the center and the periphery
among which were the incompatibility of urban dwellers with the
nomad society of Anatolia, the estrangementof the ruling elite from the
pre-Ottomannobility during the early history of the empire and the
religious orthodoxy (Sunni) of the center and the heterodoxy (Shi'i
sects) of the provinces: an incompatibilitywhich often endedin rebellion
or war. The fact that many membersof the center-the militaryelitewhich at this point were Janissariesand the Sultans' ministers, were
converted Christianscoupled with the organizationof the non-Muslim
communities into millets which provided them with a great deal of
autonomy further alienated the masses from governmental power
centeredin Istanbul.To be sure, as ProfessorMardinrelates,therewere
administrativeand politicallyintegrativeinstitutionsandelementswhich
madethe Ottomangovernmentalapparatusflexibleenough to ameliorate
from time to time the acculmulatedtensionamongconflictinggroups,but
the Patrona rebellion introduced new disruptive urbanelementson a
scale hitherto unprecedentedin the capital which culminated in the
first anti-modernTurkishoutbreak.ProfessorMardinconcludes,
There had been many rebellions in Istanbulbefore, but this [the PatronaHalil
rebellion] was the first to show a syndrome that was thereafteroften repeated:
an effort to Westernizemilitary and administrativeorganizationpropounded by
a section of the official elite, accompaniedby some aping of Western manners,
and used by another interest group [ulema] to mobilize the masses against
Westernization. Turkish modernists have concentrated exclusively upon the
background of political intrigues by statesmenwhich, indeed, was an aspectof
this and similar revolts. However, for a complete picture we should also dwell
on the cultural alienation of the masses from the rulers, of the peripheryfrom
the center. During later phases of modernization, this alienation was to be
compounded 1).

If we accept Professor Mardin'sstatement,the problem still remains


of how to define and anlayze the extent of the culturalalienationof the
masses from their ruler,and, in particular,how the PatronaHalil rebellion of 1730 and the esnafcontributedto this alienation.
i) Ibid.,p. I7 5.

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R. W. OLSON

332

During the course of the Patrona rebellion the rebels and some of
their supporterssucceededfor a short period of time in achieving some
of the highest offices in the Empire with the support of elements,
especially the ulema, which had formerly supported the Sultan. The
rebellion of 1730 in effect caused a realignmentof those groups which
supported or opposed the policy of increased contact with Europe
advocatedby the Sultanand his GrandVizer. The majorsupport of the
Sultanateprior to 1730 had come from the militaryelite and the ulema.
After 173o elementsof the militaryelite, especiallythose opposed to the
introduction of western military methods, and the ulema who were
opposed to the subversion of Ottoman society by Europe began to
collaborate with the anti-Sultanforces whenever they felt it in their
interest to do so. In effect, the post 1730-1731 alignment was much

more volatile than the pre-1730one, because elements of the Janissaries


and/or the ulema could alternatetheir support for the Sultanor for his
opponents depending upon the circumstances and strength of the
Sultan1). The fluidityof the new alignmentis also demonstratedby the
actions of the esnaf or 'petitebourgeoise' of artisansand merchantswho
in 1730 were one of the most vocal opponents of the Sultanand Grand
Vizer. In the spring of 173I the esnafin face of a threatto theirbusinesses by the continuing disordersin the city, threw their support to the
new Sultan, MahmudI (1730-1754),and the last supportersof Patrona
Halil were executedor imprisoned2). Even though MahmudI promised
to rescindthe extraordinarycampaigntaxesimposedby his predecessor,
the newly won allegianceof the esnaf, manyof whom were non-Muslim,
was to be a mainstayof his regime. The switch of allegianceof the esnaf
I) Robert W. Olson, The Siege of Mosul: War and Rebellion in the Ottoman Empire,
Ph.D. Dissertation (Indiana University, 1973), PP. 138-i40.

1720-1743,unpublished

z) For this significantdevelopment see the dispatch of Lord Kinnoull, the British

Resident in Istanbul, dated 4/I 5 April, 1731 in State Papers, (SP) Series 97, volume z6.

Series 97 of the SP records correspondencebetween the British Residents of Istanbul


with the Foreign Secretaryand Foreign Officein London. The SP are deposited in the
Public Record Office in London. For details of this period see Miinir Aktepe,

Patrona Isyan (1730) (Istanbul, 1958): I. H. Uzuncarsllh, Osmank Tarihi, part I


(Ankara, 1956), pp. 204-218 and Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall, Histoire de l'empire
Ottoman, XIV, translated from the German by J. J. Hellert (Paris, 1839), PP. z 19-249.

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THE ESNAF AND THE PATRONA HALIL REBELLION

333

to the Sultan was one of the most sudden and significant changes
resulting from the rebellion of 1730-1731, and it requires some dis-

cussion of the role of the esnaf in the Patrona Halil rebellion itself.
Since the political and social events surroundingthe rebellion of 1730
have been stated in some detail in other works, I would like to confine
my comments to the esnaf and their economic grievanceswhich played
a role in helping to precipatatethe Patronarebellion1).
The treaties of Karlowitz (1699) and Istanbul (1700) turned Ottoman

attention from Southeastern Europe to their eastern provinces and


Persia. This policy culminatedin the reopening of the Persianfront in
1723 which in turn was followed by increasedtaxes, rising food prices
and a scarcityof food supplies. It also necessitatedthe reimpositionof

the so-calledextraordinary
'campaign'taxesof imad-iseferriye,
avartrZ-i
and
fell most heavilyon the esnaf2). The
which
divantye tekdif-idrfiye
reopeningof the easternfront causedan influxof refugeesto Istanbul
which, added to the emigrantsfrom Rumeli, added greatly to the
for thenew
problemof provisioningthe cityandof findingemployment
for warwith EsrefShah,theAfghaninvader,
residents.The preparation
in 1726andthepreparation
fora secondconfrontation
afterthedefeatof
AhmetPasa,the OttomanCommander,
at Anchcanplacedeven more
oppressiveobligationson the reayaof Rumeli and Anatolia3). The
abandonmentof the land by the peasantsaggravatedthe financial
situationof the Porteby reducingthe agricultural
taxesandresultedin
an economic crisis. To combat the crisis mukataalar(state lands)
(landsusuallyheldforlifebyanindividual),
beganto be soldasmalikdnes
a practiceinitiatedafterthe Treatyof Karlowitzto raiserevenue4).Miri
whichwereusuallygrantedfor one, two, or threeyears,began
mukataa
to be grantedfor longerperiodsof time. Rich officialspurchasedthe
as malikdnes
and administered
mukataalar
themas theirown property.
x) Aktepe, Patrona Isyam, pp. 11-2 I.
2)

Ibid.,p. 36.

3) Ibid., p. x i.

4) Ibid., p. 4 Cf. Gibb and Bowen, IslamicSociety,I, pp. 235-275 for land tenure
proceduresduring the eighteenthcentury.

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334

R. W. OLSON

The tax farming privilege fell into the hands of a few rich1). The
supervisors (mutasarriflar)of the malikidnes
frequently sold the taxgatheringprivileges to someone else, always for a higher price than he
had paid. The last person to purchase the tax-gathering rights to a
malikdnewas reduced to force the price of the malikdnefrom the peasants 2). In 1715 the Porte repossessed many lands sold as malikdnes
and resold them as miri (state) land to tax farmers (miiltezim) for a
stated period of time, usually three years. In other words, the Porte
sold land as a malikdneor sold it to a mfiltezim,who paid for his taxgathering right in advance, depending on which method produced the
most revenue.
Even prior to 1723 Ibrahim Pasa had taken measures to reduced
expenditures.One thing which he did was to call theyoklama(roster of
Sipahis) in I715 to save paying the salaries of the Janissaries whose
ulfife or quarterlypaid wages were in arrears3). He also reduced the
salaries of numerous other sections of the army. The Grand Vizer's
measuresof increasedtaxationand of cutting back on the wages of the
Janissaries as well as provincial militia such as the kala muhafizlar
(fortresssoldiers) help to alienatethese two importantgroups of Ottoman society. In 1726 and 1727 the levies of the extraordinarycampaign
taxes for the war with Esref Shahwere demandedfrom a decreasedand
poverty strickenreaya.The financialsituation coupled with the tension
in the city doubtlessly contributedto the conclusion of the treaty with
Esref Shahin the fall of 1727 after which the imad-iseferriyewas cancelled 4). The temporarylifting of the campaigntax did not benefit the
reayaas the tax gatherers,despite ordersto the contraryfrom the Porte,
kept collecting it. Secondly no sooner had the treaty with Esref Shah
been concluded when Nadir Khan, the powerful new militaryleaderof
Persia,appearedas a majorthreatto the easternprovincesof the empire.
I) Aktepe, Patrona Isyanl, p. 4 states, "bes on zengine miinhasir kalarar", but this
must be taken as an exaggeration.
2) Ibid., p. 4.
3) Halil Sahilloglu, "Sivis Yili Buhranlar", Iktisat Fakiiltesi Mecmuast (IFM),
27 (October, 1967-March, 1968), pp. 1o'-'oz.
4) Aktepe, Patrona Isyan:, p. I 1.

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THE ESNAF AND THE PATRONA HALIL REBELLION

335

These economic measuresof the Grand Vizer not only alienatedthe


Janissaries, provincial soldiery, and put increasing burdens on the
reaya, but they also put great demands and restrictions on the esnaf.
During the twelve-year Grand Vizerate of Ibrahim Pasa the esnaf's
complaintshad mounted. Their majorgrievancescenteredon what they
considered to be the three major problems: (i) the continued debasement of the currencyand the problems which accompaniedit (2) the
changes resulting in the guild system of the esnaf because of the influx
of emmigrants from Anatolia and Rumeli (3) the tax (ordu akgesi)
extractedfrom the esnafin times of mobilizationfor war.
The first problem increasedin 1719 when Ahmet III issued a hatt-t
himajun (imperial rescript), which ordered the selling of one silver
dirhem that had previously sold for twenty-one akge, for twenty akge.
The same dirhemwas being sold on the market for twenty-two akge.
By such a measurethe officialprice of the dirhemwas less than the going
street price. The government's idea was to raise the price of the akge.
This policy, in turn, reduced the value of the silver that the people
possessed and which they did not want to give up to the mint at a loss.
The merchantsalso did not want to sell theirgoods at the new valuation.
The mint was soon unable to strike new coins for the lackof silver.The
silver which was on the market soon fell into the hands of Persian
merchantswho took it to Persiawhere it was mintedinto the Abbasi, a
silver coin: 1) Persian merchantsapparentlyplayed a significantrole in
reducingthe value of the akqeand in contributingto the silver shortage.
The merchantswho broughtfood suppliesinto Istanbulwould not accept
akqeswhich contributedto the shortageof food in the city. Additional
monetary woes came in 1723 when the Istanbul money market was
flooded with silver akqesminted in Egypt and which were less than the
standardweight of the akge in Istanbul. This precipitatedthe "problem
of the counterfeitakge" (zuyuf akge meselesi), which further increased
the tension among the merchants, government officials and money
changers (sarraflar).The weak akqe remained a troublesome problem
I) Ibid., p. I9.

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336

R. W. OLSON

from 1716 up to the outbreak of the Patrona Halil rebellion in 1730

1).

The second complaintof the esnaf in the decadepreceding the rebellion of 1730 was the stress placed on their guilds as a result of the
unprecedented influx of people into Istanbul2). During the Grand
Vizaerateof IbrahimPasathe guild systemwas put undergreatpressure.
Among the people flowing into the capital were many artisans who
wished to open their own shops or, at least, to work with a memberof a
guild. Some of the guilds were attractedto the new labor supply andthe
possibilityof paying lower wages. The mastersof the guilds were just as
anxious to keep strict control on the number of journeymenpermitted
to become masters. Ibrahim Pasa also attemptedto tax the previously
untaxed products which were manufacturedby the esnaf in Istanbul.
After much complaintsome of the newly imposed taxes were annulled,
but a few remainedin force until Ibrahim'sdeath in 1730. One of the
first requests of the esnaf to the new Sultan,MahmudI, in 1730 was to
annul the taxes levied by IbrahimPasa.Attempts to tax the esnaf made
them bitterenemiesof the Porte.In face of the new competitionfrom the
provincialartisans,the esnaf took measuresto protect themselves and to
keep non-guild membersfrom producing goods. The esnaf's measures
were partiallysuccessful.The non-guild members,unableto work, provided a united and somewhat organized dissatisfiedgroup capable of
potentialviolence in the city. There was tension not only between guild
andnon-guildmembersbut among the guilds themselves.The mainbone
of contention was that one of the esnaf would begin to produce which,
accordingto guild regulations,was the exclusiveright of anotherguild.
In 1720 the earthenwarepipe makers began to invade the market of
the pots and pans and glass makers,contraryto all guild regulations.
The same thing was happeningamong other groups of esnaf.The guilds
which had previously held together under various difficultiesbegan to
break down in the years just prior to 1730.

Other government measuresincreasedthe esnaf's complaints.In 1726


i) Ibid.,p. 2i.
z) Baer, "TurkishGuilds",and Robert Mantran,Istanbuldansla seconde
moitid
duXVIIe sidcle
(Paris,1962),pp. 287-424.

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THE ESNAF AND THE PATRONA HALIL REBELLION

337

Ibrahim Pasa introduced a new middlemaninto the commerciallife of


the city in an attempt to increase government revenue. The men who
filled the new officewere calleddellalsand were the middle men between
the producers (miistahsiller)and the retailers (perakendeciler).Previously all produce entering Istanbul customs were distributed by
senior membersor stewardsof the guilds. Now, as a result of Ibrahim's
new measure the deldalswere able to act as a wholesaler. The dellals
bought the produce at Istanbulcustoms and sold it to the retailersat the
highestpricethey could exact,splittingtheirprofitswith the government.
The third major complaint of the esnaf was that militarypersonnel,
especiallythe armorers(cebeciler)and Janissaries,were continuallyincreasingtheir esnaf operations.During Ahmet III's reign the Janissaries
had begun even to be cooks of okra!The Janissariesand cebecis would
force the growers of okra to sell their produce at prices lower than the
marketprice. The growers as well as the esnaf were unable to offer any
retaliation against the superior power of the Janissariesand cebecis.
When Janissariesobtained the positions of dellal, the esnaf and the
growers were unableto oppose to them.
The third major grievance of the esnaf and the one most directly
contributing to their unrest was the levying of the extraordinary
campaign taxes with the commencementof the Persian wars in 1723.
As mentioned above the appearanceof Nadir Khan in Azerbayjanin
1730 once again compelled Ibrahim Pasa to impose the extraordinary
campaign taxes. In 1730 Ibrahim Pasa and Ahmet III had begun
mobilizing their forces at Uskiidar in advent of an eastern campaign.
The days stretchedinto months and still the assembledtroops did not
depart for the Persian front. The esnaf who had paid their campaign
taxes felt that they had been deceived and that the government was
spending their tax money for something other than the war against
Persia. Every day they remainedat Uskiidarthe esnaf's wrath mounted
against Ibrahim Pasa. The bitterness of the esnaf was related directly
to their involvement with the army'scampaign.Wheneverthe Ottoman
armyleft on a campaignthe various esnaf and artisangroups attacheda
contingent of men from their respectiveguilds to the army to meet the
22

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338

R. w. OLSON

army'sneedsfor goods andrepairduringthe courseof the campaign.The


esnaf members assigned to the army consisted of secondhand clothes
to blacksmiths(demirciler)who would set up theirtents
dealers(haffaflar)
and follow the campaign. All the expenses of the army esnaf (ordu
esnafi)were paid by the esnaf guilds. For the privilege of selling goods
to the army each guild had to pay a sum of money to the government.
This tax was calledthe orduakfesior armyakgeand was paidby the guilds.
The army akge was paid per haymeor tent that each guild attachedto
the army, but the tax differed according to trade. In 1730 the ordu
ak4esiassessedby the government rose to 360,000 akge on some haymes.
On July 5, 1730 the Kadl (chief judge) of Istanbul sent fermansto the
Aga of the Janissaries,the representativesof the esnaf (esnaf kethuidalar)and the masters(iistalar)of each tradeto set up haymesin Istanbul.
Twenty-seven differentesnafs and eighty-four haymeswere set up for
which the esnaf paid a total of 3,168,800 akge 1).
The orduakjesi assessed in 1730 was much higher than those of

previous campaignsand the esnafwere only able to pay it with difficulty.


Manyesnafwere unableto pay the requestedamountandwent bankrupt.
Those esnaf who did manageto pay were soon disillusioned.Every day
the armyhesitatedat Oskiidarthe lesser possibility of profit which they
had hoped to make on the campaign. The rumors that much of the
ordu akcesi had been embezzled (eklii bel) increased dissatisfaction.
Consequently,in the summerof 1730 the esnaf found themselvesin the
position of having paid extraordinarycampaign taxes plus the ordu
akfesi with a diminishing possibility of recouping their expenditures.
The Janissarieshad closed their shops and joined the army. Many of
them hoped to sell their goods to the army; others had purchased
sufficientgoods to last them throughout the campaign.It was rumored
that the leader of the 1730 rebellion, Patrona Halil, once had been
a secondhandgoods dealer(eskici) who had invested his small amount
of money in hopes of selling the old clothes to the army. PatronaHalil
i) Aktepe, PatronaIsyan, p. 36. Cf. M. Miinir Aktepe, "Ahmad Ill. Devrinde
*ark Seferine I?tirakEdecek Ordu Esnafi Hakkinda Vesiklar", TarihDergisi (TD),

VII, no. io (September, 1954), PP. 17-30.

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THE ESNAF AND THE PATRONA HALIL REBELLION

339

was just one of many disgruntledesnaf and small tradersand when the
army did not move the esnaf and the people did. When the news that
Nadir Shah had capturedTebriz reachedIstanbul the pregnanttension
gave birth to rebellion. On September, 173o, the largest and most
influential rebellion of eighteenth century Ottoman history broke out
and members and leaders of the esnaf were in the forefront of those
spearheadingthe rebellion.
The strengthof the rebelswas such that they were able to demandand
obtain the execution of Ibrahim Pasa who in the eyes of the ulema
representedthe French influencesso hated by them. The deposition of
Ahmet III on October 2, 1730, quickly followed the execution of the
GrandVizer and his two nephews, KethiidaMehmedPasa and Mustafa
Pasa. The deposition of the Sultan demonstratedthe extent of power
that the rebels had obtainedin comparisonto previous rebellionswhich
usually left the Sultan on the throne. Mahmud I's (1730-1754) accession

to the throne was conditioned by his promise to the rebels that the
extraordinarycampaigntaxes would be rescindedand that the palaces
and kiosks constructedby Ibrahim
would be destroyed.The new
Papa
Sultanwas also given to understandthat in his reign the rankingulema
who had been among the main instigatorsof the rebellion would exercise greatpower by virtue of the high governmentofficesto which they
were appointed.
The execution of PatronaHalil and one his chief lieutenants,Manav
Muslu, on November 25, 1730, temporarily lessen the rebels activities
and enableMahmudI to consolidatehis new regime. Patron'sexecution
was significant in that it also served notice that the ulema, led by
Ziijlli Hasan Efendi, the new Seyhiilislam,and two of his chief lieutenants now felt secureenough in their new and restoredoffices to cooperate with the Crimean Khan, Kaplan Giray and with Kabakulak
IbrahimPasa, the men chosen by MahmudI to suppressthe rebellion1).
However, MahmudI, his chief lieutenantsand supporterswere not
granted their wish for quiet becausefour months after the execution of
i) Uzungarsih,Osmani;
Tarihi,IV, part 1, pp. 215-216; Hammer,Histoire,XIV,
pp. 243-245.

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340

R. W. OLSON

PatronaHalil rebellionagain flaredand threatenedto reachthe level of


the previous September 1). The rebellion of March 25, 173I, was trig-

gered by the execution of the Greek butcher, Kasab Yanak,who had


been appointedat the zenith of Patrona'spower, but had not filled, the
position of Hospodar (governor) of Moldavia2). Following the outbreak of March 25, 173 I, severalthousand people were put to death in
efforts to suppress the rebellion3). At one point Sultan Mahmud I,
relying upon the precedentof his predecessorhad to displaythe sacred
banner (Sancak-iSerif), usually unfurled only against foreign enemies,
to quell the insurrection. The Sultan also enlisted the aid of Topal
Osman Pasawho had been instrumentalin pursuingand executingthose
suspected of involvement in the March 25, 1731, rebellion. For his
success in suppressing and executing those allegedly involved in the
Marchrebellion,Topal Osman Pasawas elevatedto the GrandVizerate,
but his short tenureof six months continuedto be filledwith rebellion4)
On July 21, 1731, and September2, 173 1, there were again rebellions;
the July 21 rebellion was accompanied by a conflagrationbegun by
arson of which there were repeatedcases during this period.
It is, however, a statement of Lord Kinnoull, the British Resident
at Istanbul during the Patrona Halil and March 25,
rebellion,
1731

which is of strikingimportanceand great relevance.In his firstreport to


Holles Newcastle, the British Foreign secretary, dated 4/15 April
subsequentto the March 25 rebellion, Lord Kinnoull states that in his
as
i) Ibid., pp. 247-248; Mary Lucille Shay, The Ottoman Empire from I720-1734
Revealedin the Dispatches of the Venetian Baili (Urbana, Illinois), p. 32 states that the
Venetian Baili dated the rebellion as starting on March 26; Hammer states March 24;
Uzungarsli follows Hammer as his date corresponds with Ramazan 15, i143;
Aktepe places the date as March 24; Cf. Faik Resit Unat, Hicri Tarihleri Milddi
Tarihe?evirme Kzlavuzu(Ankara, I959), pp. 78-79.
2) Hammer, Histoire, IXV, p. 241 has an interesting account of this episode and
relates that when Patrona appointed Yanak as the Hospodar of Moldavia the Grand
Vizer protested that the position of Hospodar could not be given to Yanak because he
(the Grand Vizer) had already sold it to Gregory Ghika, a phanoriot. Patrona Halil
replied, "What's the difference between one infidel (gavur) or another?".
3) Ibid., p. 247 puts the number at 7,000 or more; Shay, The Ottoman Empire,
quoting the Venetian Baili places the figure as high as 0o,ooo.
4) Topal Osman Pasa was Grand Vizer for approximately six months; September
10, 1731, to March I , 1732.

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THE ESNAF AND THE PATRONA HALIL REBELLION

341

opinion there were three reasons for the rebellion of March 25: (i) that it

was begun by the rebels who had managed to excape punishment to


avenge Patrona Halil's death (2) that the rebels for fear of further
prosecution by the Sultan decided to strike first (3) that the rebels with
a relativelysmallforce of I, 0oomen did it merelyfor plunder.It is at this
point in his report that Kinnoull make the striking statementthat the
rebels "have so far failed in their attempts that they made the G. Sig.

theJanissaries
that the merchants
and
by showing
[GrandSignor]stronger
unlessheshould
tradesmen
of thecitywill bealwaysreadytojoin in
his.favour
new
some
hatedby
makehimself
1).[Myitalics].
impressions
in that it is evidencethat one of the
The statementis remarkable
groupsmost ardentlyopposedto the SultanAhmetIII in September,
1730,became strong supportersof the new Sultan, MahmudI in or by
March,173I. It is difficultto analyzepreciselythischangein theposition

of the esnafbut severalcouldhavecontributedto it. First,the promise


of Mahmud I to rescind the extraordinarycampaign taxes; secondly
the reopening of the Persian front enabled the esnaf to recoup their
investments in the orduesnafiand it is doubtlesslyalso true that the esnaf
were tired of the constant rebellion which curtailed greatly their
business activities and was extremelydetrimentalto trade. The concern

on the partof the Porteis indicatedby thefactthatwhenAli Hekimoglu


replaced Topal Osman Pasa as Grand Vizer in March, 1732, his first
task was to restore confidence in the currencyand revived trade-two
issues with which the esnafwere greatlyconcerned2).
In conclusion, the switch of the political allegiance of the esnaf
between September, 1730, and March 25, 173I, marked a fundamental

change in the alignment of the 'center' definedby Professor Mardinas


composedof the asakiror militaryelite, the Sultanandhis officialsandthe
ulema as opposed to the 'periphery': reaya or peasants, provincial
notables, millets or non-Muslim communities,the lower classes of the
city and the esnaf or the 'petite bourgeoise' of artisansand merchants3)
I)
2)

Lord Kinnoull's dispatch of 4/15 April, 1731, SP 97, vol. 26.

Hammer,Histoire,XIV, p. 278.
3) Mardin,"Center-PeripheryRelations",p. 169-170.

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342

R. W. OLSON

who at this point in time contained a large portion of Christiansand


Jews 1). Professor Mardin has stated that in Europe confrontations
between the 'center' representedby "Leviathan"and later on by the
nation state and the 'periphery'representedby "the feudal nobility, the
cities, the burghers, and later, industriallabor" led to a series of compromises between the two groups which resulted in "relatively well
articulatedstructures"and "some integration of the peripheralforce
into the center was achieved". Professor Mardinfurther states that the
"confrontationshad varied: conflictsbetween stateand church,between
nation builders and localists, between owners and non-owners of the
means of production. These cross-cutting cleavages introduced a
variety of political identifications which provided for much of the
feasibility of modern Western European politics", whereas "in the
Ottoman Empire before the nineteenth century these characteristicsof
multiple confrontationand integrationseem to be missing. Rather,the
majorconfrontation was unidimensional,always a clash between the
I would seem
center and the periphery" 2). But the rebellion of 1730-173T

to indicatethat the majorconfrontationwas not always unidimensional


and not always a clash between the center and the periphery.It would
appear that after the rebellion 1730-1731 the Janissaries, a group, at

least their leadership,defined as belonging to the 'center'were gravittating toward the peripheryin opposition to the center3). Secondly,the
esnaf which contained a large percentageof Christiansand Jews who
I) It is difficult,if not impossible, to ascertainwhat percentage of the esnaf were
Christiansor Jews and what percentage Muslim. Gibb and Bowen, IslamicSociety,
part i, p. z281state that most tradesand handicraftswere carriedon by both Muslims
and non-Muslims, although certainprofessions such as druggist and house painting
were reserved for Muslims while Muslims controlled nine-tenths of the trade in
foodstuffs. It should be remembered,however, that by the eighteenth century the
most lucrativetrade,that with Europe as well as a large majorityof the internaltrade,
was in the hands of Christiansand Jews. Cf. Gibb and Bowen, Islamic Society, p. 308.
z) Mardin,"Center-PeripheryRelations" p. 170.
3) The placing of the Janissariesin 'center-periphery'schemaof Ottomansociety is,
of course, difficultbecauseit is well known that in the eighteenth centurymany of the
esnaf members were Janissaries.But the leadershipcadre of the JanissaryCorps and
its most active members headed by the Aga of the Janissarieswere still supportersof
the 'center'.

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THE ESNAF AND THE PATRONA HALIL REBELLION

343

belonged to the millets and hence were members of the 'periphery'


began to adhere more strongly to the Sultan-the main force of the
'center'. A corollary of this development, as evidenced by Kinnoull's
report of April, 173 i, is that not only did the esnaf support the Sultan,

but they opposed the Janissariesand the masses who were rebelling.
Thus two groups of the 'periphery'- the esnafand the masses-opposed
each other. This developmentalso resultedin a furtherreductionof the
power of the Janissarieswho could now be balanced off even more
effectivelywith the opposition of the esnaf. This developmentwas also
to aid subsequently the centralizing policies of Selim III (1789-I8o6)
and Mahmud II (1806-1939) during whose reign the Janissaries were

eliminated. The esnaf's support of the Sultan in March, 1731, had the
effect of also increasing the cultural alienation of the masses for the
rulersin that in post-March,1731 Ottomanpolitics the leadershipcadre
of the ulema, who were an acknowledgedinfluence on the masses, and
the masses themselves often opposed a Westernizing or reforming
Sultan, while the esnaf, particularlythose Christiansand Jews engaged
in trade with Europe and other foreign nations, tended to support
increased contact with the West. The reciprocation of the esnaf's
support by the Sultan had the additional consequence of increased
commercial,tax and legal privileges for those Christianesnaf who were
favored in the capitulations; plus the simultaneous prospering of
Christiansand Jews contributedgreatly to the alienationof the masses
from the rulers. Indeed, the Sultan's policy of acknowledging the
support of the esnaf reached the point that in the Istanbul rebellion

and Jews, eitherwillingor unwil1740 the esnaf,includingChristians


ling, were armed by Mahmud I and assisted him in suppressing the
rebellion of that year1). The opposition of the esnaf to the Janissaries
was not a new phenomenon because as early as the reign of Siileyman

the Magnificent(1520-I 566) the guild of the shoemakersreceivedthe


privilegeof punishingall offendersof guild laws with the stipulation

I) This is the subject of a forthcoming article I am writing and which is based


partially on Everard Fawkener's, the then British resident at the porte, highly
relevant dispatchdated January 6, 1742 in SP, vol. 31.

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344

OLSON, THE ESNAF AND THE PATRONA HALIL REBELLION

there was to be no interferenceby officals of the Porte. The shoemakers


received this privilege as a rewardfor their support of Siileymanagainst
the Janissariesx). But, as mentioned above, by the eighteenth century
the situation had changed drasticallyin that many members of the
Janissarycorps were now enrolled as esnaf. The simultaneous membership of men in two organizationswhich, at times, came into conflict
presents several problems. One of the problems is to ascertain if the
esnaf support for the Sultan came equally from Muslim and Christian
and Jewish membersor largely from Christiansand Jews 2). Even if it
did come equally from the Muslim and non-Muslim members of the
esnaf, the fact remains that rich and prosperous Christianand Jewish
esnaf and particularlyarmedChristianand Jewish esnaf would stand out
more as potential targets of hostility in the public eye i.e. masses as
comparedto their Muslim counterpartsin the esnaf. It also poses the
real or hypotheticalpossibility that if some membersof the esnaf who
were still enrolled Janissaries,did at times, actuallyactively participate
as Janissaries,or supported the active Janissaries,it could have raised
the specterof placing Christiansand Jews againsttheir Muslimcounterpartsin the esnaf.
I) Baer,"TurkishGuilds",p. 43.
2) Gabriel Baer, "Monopolies and Restrictive Practices of Turkish Guilds",
Journalof theEconomicandSocialHistoryof theOrient,vol. XIII, Part II (April, 1970),
pp. 156-i 58 maintainsthat guilds confined to a specific community ratherthan mixed
guilds were more evident in the eighteenth century. This would tend to support my
thesis of greater polarizationamong the esnaf vis a vis the policy of the Mahmud x
(1730-1754)

during the period of his reign.

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