Mehmed Memduh
(b. 1839; d. 08.04.1925)
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M.M. was born in 1255/1839-40, as the son of Mustafa Mazlum Fehmi Paşa (d. 1278/1862) and Fulane Hanım (d. ?), both of whom were originally from Candia (Heraklion/Qandiye) in Crete (Girid). He used the name Memduh as his sobriquet in the offices of the Sublime Port, and Fa’iq in his poems.

M.M.’s family relations appear to have played a decisive role in his future life. His father was a distinguished bureaucrat, whose last appointment was to the High Council (meclis-i vala). His father-in-law, Mustafa Na’ili Paşa (d. 1288/1871), served as governor of Crete (1256-67/1841-51), later as president of the High Council of Justice (meclis-i vala-yı ahkam-ı adliyye) (1268-69/1852- 53), and twice as grand vizier (1269-70/1853-54 and 1273-74/1857).

Having studied at the high schools of Bayezid and Valide, M.M. obtained the degree of master-clerk (hace) when he was 7, and then that of fourth grade at the age of 9, when his father was the chief of justice (deavi nazırı). In 1271/1854-55, when his father was the undersecretary of the Grand Vizierate, M.M. started his apprenticeship at the office of the chief secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (mektubi-i hariciyye odasına çırag), where he remained for six years, without a salary, and was conferred the third grade. After the accession of Sultan Abdülaziz (16 Dhulhijja 1277/25 June 1861), his father was appointed minister of imperial treasury (hazine-i hassa nezareti) and steward to the royal mother (valide sultan kethudası), and M.M. was awarded a high salary of 15.000 guruş as a secretary at the palace. He attained the degree of examining official (mümeyyiz) and was conferred the Mecidi order of the third degree.

M.M. was later appointed to the receiving office (amedi odası) of the Sublime Porte (1278/1861-62) and served as a scribe to the special assembly of ministers (Encümen-i mahsus-ı vükela) (1288/1870-71), the chief secretary at the Ministry of Education (Rajab 1289/September-October 1872), the chief secretary of the Grand Vizierate (1292/1875-76), and the chief secretary of the Ministry of Finance (1293/1876-77). After his position at this office ended in 1295/1878 due to an administrative reorganization, he was reassigned first to the Council of Financial Affairs (26 Dhulhijja 1298/19 November 1881), then to the State Council (3 Muharram 1300/14 November 1882). Having received a Mecidi order of the second degree (26 Ramadan 1300/31 July 1883), and a High Ottoman order of the second degree (26 Rabi II 1304/22 January 1887) he served as a member of the special commission established under the State Council to examine the Military Penal Code (28 Jumada I 1299-29 Muharram 1304/17 April 1882-28 October 1886), in the Supreme Court of Appeal of the State Council (8 Shawwal 1300-25 Shawwal 1304/12 August 1883-17 July 1887), in the Commission for the Selection of Civil Servants (İntihab-ı me’murin qomisyonu) (1 Jumada I 1302-24 Shaban 1302/16 February 1885-8 June 1885), and in the committee created to formulate the budget of the municipality of Istanbul (şehremaneti) (20 Rajab 1303-5 Dhulqada 1304/24 April 1886-26 July 1887).

M.M. was appointed governor-general (vali) of Qonya (23 Shawwal 1304/15 July 1887) with the rank of bala, and then of Sivas (8 Shaban 1306/9 April 1889), where he was relieved of duty by the sultan upon complaints of his unjust and oppresive administration from the local Armenians (23 Rabi II 1310/14 November 1892). After the establishment of his innocence in the Armenian affair, M.M. was reassigned to the governor-generalship of Anqara (Ankara) (4 Jumada II 1311/13 December 1893). After his appointment to the office of the vizierate (25 Muharram 1312/29 July 1894), he became the minister of interior affairs (dahiliyye nazırı) (18 Jumada I 1313/6 November 1895), in which capacity he served for thirteen years. Following this appointment he obtained several Ottoman, German, Bulgarian, Russian, and Iranian medals and orders, and was given special assignments by various commissions. Despite always remaining one of the close companions of Abdülhamid II, he was never appointed grand vizier.

Although M.M.’s works indicate that he regarded the constitutional movement favorably, he resigned voluntarily from the Ministry of Interior Affairs following the announcement of the Second Constitution (3 Rajab 1326/30 July 1908). Three days later he was arrested and then exiled, first to Prinkipo Island (Büyükada), then to the Island of Chios (Saqız), where he was compelled to reside until the Italian occupation (1329/1911), and finally to İzmir. Following his release in the amnesty of 1330/1912, M.M. returned to Istanbul and spent the rest of his life in seclusion at his waterside residence in Kireçburnu. He was paralyzed for the last two years of his life, and he died at the age of 86 on 3 Ramadan 1343/9 April 1925. He was buried in the garden of the convent of his sheikh İsmet Efendi in Çarşamba-Fatih (Istanbul) in accordance with his will.

İnal describes M.M. as an arrogant figure who always claimed to have played an important role in any event of significance — although İnal’s judgment may have been colored by the fact that his father was dismissed from the governorship of Denizli by M.M. when he served as the minister of interior affairs.


His duties as an active official during Abdülhamid II’s reign and the first years of the Second Constitution gave M.M. the opportunity to personally witness, better understand and more easily explain the political, social, and financial events of that period. However, he refrains from describing and explaining the period where he was the decision-maker, and he likewise omits information which might cause him difficulties. When it is impossible for him to withhold the facts, he tends to defend himself vehemently. He records and analyzes a train of events and tries to find why things were as they appeared to be. He often attributes sense to the natural and providential phenomena in order to understand and explain political or social events. Referring to M.M.’s abundant use of puns, wordplay, rhyme, and metaphors, İnal argues that for M.M. the word is more important than the meaning. M.M.’s style becomes especially elaborate when he addresses the Sultan. M.M.’s texts were conceived as works of high literary art and include considerable amounts of Arabic and Persian vocabulary.

Feveran-ı Ezman

A pamphlet of 13 pages completed on 2 Shawwal 1326/28 October 1908, this work consists of the author’s analyses of the political and economic events of the periods of the Reform (Islahat) (1272-93/1856-76) and the First Constitution (1293/1876), and deals with the reign of Abdülhamid II (r. 1293-1327/1876-1909) and the period of the Second Constitution in a more general manner. M.M. criticizes the administrative and political mentality during the reign of Abdülhamid II.

Yemen Qıtası Haqqında Bazı Mütala’at

This work is an account of the policies devised to prevent revolts and thereby secure the future of Yemen. It includes copies of M.M.’s memoranda written to the grand vizier and the sultan in the capacity of minister of interior affairs; the dispatches sent to Yemen; the ciphered telegrams, petitions, and letters sent from Yemen; and the reports written by the committees put together to resolve the Yemenite affairs. A copy of the memorandum recommending reforms in the province of Yemen (Yemen vilayetine aid layiha-i ıslahiyye) is included at the end of the book.

Sera’ir-i Siyasiyye ve Tasavvulat-i Esasiyye

Written as a self-defense and sent to the Parliament on 18 Ramadan 1326/14 October 1908 upon his arrest, the work not only provides an account of M.M.’s family background and his own activities, but also describes briefly and with an ornate language the pre-Tanzimat and post-Second Constitution periods.

Esvat-ı sudur

Completed on 23 Shaban 1330/7 August 1912, Esvat-ı sudur is a biographical work providing information on thirty-three grand viziers between the reigns of Abdülmecid (r. 1255-77/1839-61) and Mehmed V (r. 1327-36/1909-18). M.M. does not provide information on the lives of these figures prior to their grand vizierate. Thanks to his acquaintance with Ottoman high officials during his fifty years of service, M.M.’s reports on what he heard and saw contain many personal details and add to the originality of the work. The autobiographical information provided by Esvat-ı sudur is limited. M.M. claims to have often played an important role in decisions made concerning the appointments of some grand viziers close to Abdülhamid II, and important state affairs, such as the convening of the Council of Ministers (meclis-i vükela) to discuss the promulgation of the Constitution in 1909.

The appendix to the work includes a response to the memoirs of Said Paşa (d. 1332/1914) as well as copies of several official documents concerning the Second Constitutional period. M.M. utilizies florid language and does not cite his sources.

Mir’at-ı şu’unat

Focusing on the domestic and foreign affairs, particularly on matters during the reigns of Mahmud II through Murad V (r. 1293/1876) having to do with Egypt, M.M. provides information on the attitudes of the ministers, especially those of Mustafa Reşid Paşa (d. 1274/1858) and cli Paşa (d. 1288/1871). Mir’at includes six diplomatic letters exchanged between the Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian empires concerning the Hungarian nationalist affair; the letters of resignation from grand vizierate of Fu’ad Paşa and from the Council of State of Midhat Paşa; two petitions sent to the sultan and the corresponding responses during the grand vizierate of Husrev Paşa; and finally, copies of forty-one original documents concerning various political issues. Although written immediately after M.M.’s dismissal from the secretariat of the grand vizier, the work was published with a delay of thirty-three years due to censorship during the reign of Abdülhamid II.

Tasvir-i Ahval, Tenvir-i İstiqbal

Written at the very beginning of the Young Turk Revolution and based on M.M.’s eyewitness account of events, this work was completed on 14 Dhulhijja 1326/7 January 1909. In the first part, M.M. examines the regime of Abdülhamid II, the preparation and proclamation of the Second Constitution, and, briefly, the evolution of the institution of the caliphate. The second part includes M.M.’s thoughts on the future, his analysis of the reforms during the reigns of sultans from Selim III (r. 1203-1222/1789-1807) to Abdülhamid II, and a brief discussion of Freemasonry. The first part is original, whereas the second part lacks historical significance and includes inaccurate information on the grand vizier Said Paşa.

Haller İclaslar

Intended as a book of admonitions for future generations, Haller İclaslar provides information on accessions, dethronements, abdications, causes of death, as well as burial places of Ottoman sultans from Murad I (r. 762-91/1361-89) to Abdülhamid II. Himself an eyewitness to events concerning Midhat Paşa and to the dethronements of Abdülaziz and Abdülhamid II, M.M. also utilized various primary and secondary Ottoman sources without mentioning their titles. The work’s ornate language includes numerous Arabic and Persian expressions.

Quvvet-i İqbal Alamet-i Zeval

Completed on 18 Ramadan 1327/3 November 1909, the book deals with the political events of the First Constitutional period, the reign of Abdülhamid II, the Second Constitutional period, and especially the upheaval of 31 March (1325/13 April 1909). The work analyzes the political and administrative aspects Abdülhamid II’s character and thought. Based largely on M.M.’s personal experiences, the book includes six letters to the sultan concerning various matters and is characterized by the author’s efforts to analyze the relations between officials and their superiors, as well as the high bureaucrats with the Sultan Abdülhamid II. Although he cites natural phenomena as having contributed to the dethronement of Abdülhamid II, M.M. quite often claims to have played an important role in most of the social and political developments he describes. M.M. discusses the causes and results of the events of 31 March and lists ten factors that led up to the events.

Miftah-ı Yemen

Written in Chios and completed on 11 Shaban 1327/28 August 1909, Miftah-ı Yemen describes the conquest of Yemen (945/1539) and the reforms carried out there in order to prevent revolts, and gives a short history of Sana’a castle.

M.M.’s numerous nonhistorical works include: Nöro Fiziq. An unpublished translation of Adolphe Ganot’s Neuro Psyhique (Paris, n.y.) into Ottoman Turkish, made before 1879. The translation is lost. Fiziq Elemanter. An unpublished translation of Adolphe Ganot’s Traité élémentaire de pyshique (Paris, 1855?) into Ottoman Turkish, made before 1879. The location of the manuscript is unknown. Tercüme-i Hikaye-i Jöneviev. A translation of Alphonse de Lamartine’s Geneviève, histoire d’une servante (Paris, 1850) published in 1285/1868-69 [Istanbul?]. Eser-i Memduh. A work arguing the superiority of “the pen” to “the sword” (Istanbul, 1289/1872-73), dedicated to Pertev Paşa, the governor-general of Qastamonu. Berg-i Sebz. Also found in M.M.’s Divan, this is a 22-page work containing eulogies and lyric poems, published as a lithograph (Istanbul, 1289/1872-73). Divan-ı Eşar, or Collection of Poems, was published twice in Istanbul (1332/1916; 1338/1922). Bedayi-i Asar. A collection of sample letters (Istanbul, 1330/1914-15).


1) Feveran-ı Ezman
Editions: 1) Istanbul, 1324/1909-10. 2) Tanzimattan Meşrutiyete; vol. 2: Kuvvet-i ikbal-alâmet-i zevâl. Tasvîr-i ahvâl-tenvir-i istikbâl. Feverân-ı ezmân, ed. by Ahmed N. Galitekin (Istanbul, 1995), pp. 161-178 (in Modern Turkish).

2) Yemen Qıtası Haqqında Bazı Mütala’at
Editions: 1) Istanbul, 1324/1908-09. 2) Istanbul, 1325/1909-10; with the title Yemen Islahatı ve Bazı Mutala’at.

3) Sera’ir-i Siyasiyye ve Tasavvulat-i Esasiyye
Edition: Istanbul, 1328/1912-13.

4) Esvat-ı sudur
Edition: Izmir, 1328/1912-13.

5) Mir’at-ı şu’unat
Editions: 1) Izmir, 1328/1912-13; 2) Tanzimattan Meşrutiyete; vol. 1: Mir’ât-i şuûnât, ed. by Hayati Develi (Istanbul, 1990) (in Modern Turkish).

6) Tasvir-i Ahval, Tenvir-i İstiqbal
Editions: 1) Izmir, 1328/1912-13; 2) Tanzimattan Meşrutiyete; vol. 2: Kuvvet-i ikbal-alâmet-i zevâl. Tasvîr-i ahvâl-tenvir-i istikbâl. Feverân-ı ezmân, ed. by Ahmed N. Galitekin (Istanbul, 1995), pp. 97-158 (in Modern Turkish).

7) Haller İclaslar
Edition: Istanbul, 1329/1913-14.

8) Quvvet-i İqbal Alamet-i Zeval
Editions: 1) Istanbul, 1329/1913-14. 2) Tanzimattan Meşrutiyete; vol. 2: Kuvvet-i ikbal-alâmet-i zevâl. Tasvîr-i ahvâl-tenvir-i istikbâl. Feverân-ı ezmân, ed. by Ahmed N. Galitekin (Istanbul, 1995), pp. 13-96 (in Modern Turkish).

9) Miftah-ı Yemen
Edition: Istanbul, 1330/1914-15.

General Bibliography: Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (Istanbul), DH.SAİD, 1/84. Yahya Kemal Beyatlı. Mektuplar Makaleler (Istanbul, 1977). İbnülemin Mahmud Kemal İnal. Son Sadrazamlar, vol. 3 (Istanbul, 1982). “Memduh Mehmed Paşa.” Türk Dili ve Edebiyatı Ansiklopedisi, vol. 6 (1986), 245-246. Şükrü Hanioğlu. Bir Siyasal Örgüt Olarak İttihad ve Terakki Cemiyeti ve Jön Türklük (Istanbul, 1985). İbnülemin Mahmud Kemal İnal. Son Asır Türk şairleri, vol. 3 (Istanbul, 1988). Yılmaz Öztuna. Devletler ve Hanedanlar, vol. 2 (Ankara, 1989). Ömer Faruk Şerifoğlu. “Mehmed Memduh Paşa.” Yaşamları ve Yapıtlarıyla Osmanlılar Ansiklopedisi, vol. 2 (1999), 150-151. Sinan Kuneralp. Son Dönem Osmanlı Erkân ve Ricali (1839-1922): Prosopografik Rehber (Istanbul, 1999). Zekeriya Kurşun. “Mehmed Memduh Paşa.” Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi, vol. 28 (2003), 495-497. Selim Aslantaş. “Bir Osmanlı Bürokratı: Mehmet Memduh Paşa.” KÖK Araştırmalar, 3/1 (2001), 185-202. A. Teyfur Erdoğdu. Dahiliye Nezareti Teşkilat Tarihi (1836-1922). PhD Dissertation (Hacettepe University, Ankara, 2005).

Selim Aslantaş and A. Teyfur Erdoğdu
June 2013